[Marxism] India's flexible Communists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 16 14:04:07 MDT 2004


NY Times, May 16, 2004
Communists From India Seek the Help of Capitalists
By DAVID ROHDE

CALCUTTA - On a recent Friday morning, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, chief 
minister of West Bengal State and a senior leader of the Communist Party 
of India (Marxist), met with an executive from an icon of American 
capitalism, the I.B.M. Corporation.

"Outsourcing is a must in this era of globalization, and we want to take 
advantage of this opportunity," Mr. Bhattacharjee told the corporate 
executive. "We want you to help us."

I.B.M. is one of a half dozen multinational corporations that have set 
up shop recently in West Bengal, a state governed by Communists for 26 
years. They are part of Mr. Bhattacharjee's unorthodox effort to create 
a "new Calcutta" of software parks, factories and American-style malls 
whose development will be an example for the rest of India.

"I can humbly claim that our model is the best in the country," he said 
in an interview, a portrait of Lenin hanging on the wall behind him.

[Unexpected results on Thursday in national elections suggested that 
this party - one of three Communist parties in India - could play a 
pivotal role in determining India's future economic policies. In an 
upset, an alliance led by the Congress Party leader, Sonia Gandhi, 
defeated Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's governing Hindu 
nationalist coalition.

[The Congress alliance does not have enough seats to form a majority in 
Parliament and is expected to ask the Communists, who won a record 43 
seats, to join its government. The Communists' showing made them the 
third largest party in Parliament.]

At times, the Marxist party has taken stands that could discourage the 
foreign investment that has helped give India one of the fastest growing 
economies in the world. Mr. Bhattacharjee's Communists say that 
"employment generation" must be a focus of economic policy and that 
profit-making state enterprises should not be privatized. They also 
oppose the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"The philosophy of the World Bank and I.M.F. is they want globalization 
in favor of the rich countries at the cost of third world countries," 
Mr. Bhattacharjee said. The United States and Europe should be forced to 
end their own agricultural subsides and open up their agricultural 
markets, he added, before poor countries do the same.

He said his recipe for growth avoided the uneven development that 
plagued other parts of India, where high technology urban centers thrive 
and rural areas stagnate. Seventy percent of India's one billion people 
still live in the countryside and rely on agriculture for their livelihood.

In West Bengal, the party has enacted sweeping land reform for farmers, 
heavily invested in small-scale manufacturing and attracted capitalist 
titans like Pepsi, Mitsubishi and I.B.M.

Mr. Bhattacharjee has also hired a team of consultants from the American 
firm McKinsey & Company to help attract foreign investors. He has 
convinced local Marxist labor unions to end nearly constant strikes that 
paralyzed the city. He also has encouraged investors to open glistening 
American-style malls, where young middle-class Indians buy Levi's jeans 
and Nike sneakers.

The party's political opponents contend that it has sold out its 
principles, inflated its economic success and used coercion to dominate 
the state. Critics contend that opponents are ostracized and have even 
been killed.

"In the village, if you are against the Communists, no barber will cut 
your hair, a sort of social boycott," said Bobby F. Hakim, secretary for 
the Trinamool Congress, the state's main opposition party. "They have 
totally destroyed this democratic system in West Bengal, especially the 
countryside."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/16/international/asia/16beng.html

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