Ukraine and the Indian Left: A response to Sumanta Banerjee

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The illuminating article in Countercurrents (November 1, 2022) by Mr. Sumanta Banerjee, “Leftist  response  to  the  war  in  Ukraine”, deserves discussion as it focuses on (1) the most burning issue of the moment – the Ukraine War, (2) the Indian Left’s position on the issue, and (3) a few observations on Stalin and Mao.

Mr. Banerjee begins with a question:

“How is the Left facing the multi-dimensional complex challenges thrown up by the [Ukraine] war and the ravages that it is heaping upon its people?”

Then, he refers to Arundhati Roy: The “Left’s dilemma as ‘tortuous yoga asanas’ – some pretty drastic seeing and unseeing – depending on where you have decided to place yourself.”

He also refers to political commentator Achin Vanayik: An interesting analysis of the international Leftist response to the war in Ukraine, where he puts the Leftists into four categories.”

Then, he focuses on the Indian Left by referring to the reactions by the CPI (M-L) Liberation, CPI (M), CPI, and CPI (Maoist) to the Ukraine War.

What the problem he has found in the statement of the CPI (M-L) Liberation he has quoted?

The same question with the rest of parties’ statements he has referred?

Do they, or any of the parties referred by Mr. Banerjee, stand for Russia’s position in Ukraine? Do they deny the right to self-determination of the people in Ukraine?

Probably, if not wrongly understood, Mr. Banerjee’s problem is, as he says in his article: “They [the Indian Lefts] blame it on NATO’s expansionist designs on the borders of Russia.”

He finds, as he writes: “In this Leftist argument, we discern a rather sneaking tendency in favour of Russia – depicting it as a victim of NATO’s expansionist designs.”

Does Mr. Banerjee like to deny NATO’s moves, (1) which were going for years, (2) which were provocative, aggressive and deceptive (3) many of which were military, and (4) which were rescinding promises made?

And, does he consider the Ukraine War emerged suddenly, out of the air, since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine? Was there any other development prior to the Russian move? Shouldn’t the on-going war be seen with its full background?

And, does he like to deny that the NATO is the world’s biggest war alliance today, and most aggressive, most expansionist and imperialist?

Does he like that the Indian Left shouldn’t talk about the imperialist moves, and shouldn’t oppose imperialism?

Does he mean that opposing imperialism is synonymous to supporting Putin/Russia? And, should the Left oppose only Russia, and shouldn’t mention NATO’s war?

Does Mr. Banerjee like to deny the fact that today, the world is on the brink of world war? Effectively, parts of a world war have already begun playing respective roles, and there, in this context, imperialism is making provocative, aggressive moves. Europe, the landmass that witnessed much bloodshed in earlier two World Wars, has again begun bearing suffering. Millions of people in Europe are suffering – escalating energy poverty, inflation. Can this be ignored?

Then, shouldn’t Mr. Banerjee suggest the correct wording of a resolution/statement to be adopted by the Lefts in India that properly and correctly tells about the situation and today’s tasks? Why doesn’t he propose (1) oppose all imperialist wars and its preparations in all forms in all lands, (2) immediately cease all military activities by all parties in all lands, (3) withdraw all nuclear arsenals, weapons and delivery mechanism from all lands, (4) stop all imperialist military aid, and (5) oppose and disband Nazi/Fascist forces in all forms in all lands?

Mr. Banerjee could have accused the Left parties he has referred to as meek in wordings in their statements/resolutions that oppose/denounce/condemn the war and imperialism.

The “sneaking tendency” he has found, and said in his article, is subjective. It is his judgment. The Left in India may locate “sneaking tendency favoring the NATO” in his article also, if they critically evaluate his article.

Mr. Banerjee finds, as his article says about “response of the Indian Left to the Ukraine war,” the Left is “mainly blaming the US”.

Sounds strange! Who’s to blame? Should it someone else who’s not the main actor, not the main instigator, not the main financier of war? Does Mr. Banerjee feel a bite, a pinch while the main imperialism, the main player in this imperialist war is blamed? Where does Mr. Banerjee’s sympathy sleep?

No, you’re not pro-imperialist. Your anti-imperialist position is unequivocal, staunch and stubborn.

The problem is with an attitude: Left bashing – whip the Left.

No doubt, the Left carries a huge burden of failures, limitations, incapacities, setbacks, condemnable acts. But, it’s not the only fact. Along with these, the setbacks, the failures, etc., the Left has achieved something, a little, a bit, if not a lot. And, all the failures, setbacks, etc. had a certain perspective, a context, which includes factors including historical development and development of class. A lot of Left bashing has been done by many. Now, propose, suggest, show by application alternatives to asanas.

The four categories that the revered political commentator/analyst has found and Mr. Banerjee refers to, appears problematic to them. It may be. It may not be, also.

There’re condemnations of Stalin, as is accusation made, his dictatorial practices, he directed all communist parties in all lands. There’re sayings that most of the Left camp once positioned their umbrellas according to the rains that fell either in Moscow or in Peking, today Beijing.

Now, what’s the problem if the Lefts in countries have diversified positions? Should any scholar expect that the Left in Serbia will have the same position as of the Left in Nigeria or Nicaragua, or Cuba or Venezuela or India or Iran or Poland or the UK? Is it possible to have same position in all lands at the same time? Are not differences there in terms of context, class alignments, political situation, imperialism’s and dominating capital’s role, etc.? It has to be seen whether or not fundamental questions like class and class struggle, imperialism, democracy, not he democracy imperialism propagates and tries to impose, etc., are compromised/diluted. So, does it matter what different positions one analyst finds or not? The matter is which position is correct or which one is wrong.

What’s wrong with a Left party in India if the party condemns warmongering by imperialist powers? What’s wrong if the party demands cessation of an imperialist military alliance’s expansion? Do those go against likings of Mr. Banerjee? Shouldn’t that party demand dissolution of imperialist alliances? That dissolution hasn’t been demanded. That’s the shortcoming of the parties’ position expressed in the statement Mr. Banerjee has quoted.

What’s the problem if CPI (M) demands immediate cessation of military hostilities? Is it a problem that the NATO has also to cease hostility?

What’s the problem if CPI demands halting of further advance by the Russian forces, and immediate declaration of ceasefire?

What’s the problem if CPI (Maoist) demands immediate halting of war by Russia; NATO should not make Ukraine its part, and demilitarization of all areas?

Haven’t these parties, as Mr. Banerjee has cited, made these statements?

Doesn’t Mr. Banerjee want these: cessation, demilitarization, etc.?

Mr. Banerjee goes back to some sort of background: Russia’s Crimea annexation, etc. He prefers to forget NATO’s years-long military involvement in the land named Ukraine. This involvement included NATO training and arming Ukraine military. He finds “Putin’s aggressive impulse”, but he doesn’t find NATO’s aggressive expansion. Is it a correct approach, or a one-sided approach? With this approach, Mr. Banerjee makes an announcement regarding a right, as he writes, “we [he and his friend, probably] have every right to suspect that Putin’s ‘military operation’ in Ukraine, is yet another manifestation of his policy of territorial expansion.” Suspicion isn’t bad, as it leads to investigation – a scientific approach. But, with such partial finding, only Putin’s policy, he relinquishes his right to suspect the imperialist camp’s policy – loss of a scientific approach. Imperialist policy is clear to Mr. Banerjee. So he has no suspicion regarding that policy.

His criticism of the Indian Left parties, as he writes, is the parties’ refusal to condemn killing of Ukraine citizens, etc. Shouldn’t the criticism also include the issues of imperialist war, war-efforts, pumping of billions of dollars of weapons, steps to escalate the war, etc.? Aren’t these ground level facts? Does he like to ignore these facts? Mr. Banerjee should search answer to the question: Why imperialism is spending so much in its war in Ukraine? Does that spending, the real meaning, take out the reason to oppose imperialism? Or, the opposite?

He writes the Indian Left parties “come out with mealy-mouthed expressions like ‘deeply concerned,’ or ‘grave concern,’ or request for “the establishment of peace.”

What should they call for? Shouldn’t they go for demanding dissolution of all imperialist war alliances?

Mr. Banerjee writes: “The Indian Left is indulging in a half-hearted criticism of Russian invasion of Ukraine, and is reluctant to condemn Russian atrocities in Ukraine.”

How has he measured the heart of the Indian Left? Shall he divulge the unit of measurement? He has to, to substantiate his claim, present some sort of evidence.

Moreover, has he told about the need, requirement, demand of this time – the condemnation and opposition of the imperialist war in Ukraine, imperialist machinations prior to instigating this war?

His problem with the Left camp is much deeper. Mr. Banerjee has reached to the days of Stalin while discussing the Indian Left’s present day position on the Ukraine War.

To him, Mr. Banerjee, the entire system of Soviet, or let’s say, the revolutionary project of the proletariat in Russia, as Mr. Banerjee writes, achieved “removing poverty” and “equitable distribution of resources”.

Here’s a little problem with Mr. Banerjee: The Soviet system’s first and foremost achievements were political power of the exploited, dissolution of means of exploitation – it was, may be with many limitations and setbacks, an expropriation of exploiters. Success in the war against poverty, etc. followed those acts. For the first time in human history, the exploited successfully wrenched political power, challenged finance capital, and declared rights of the toiling masses. It was humanity’s one of greatest marches for having a humane world. Mistakes, errors, wrongs, obviously, accompany such a great project by a class that was pressed to the dust with suppression and ignorance in a no-rights environment. Expecting no-error in such a historical march on a socio-political-economic reality is a foolish idea about society and class struggle. With such ignorance, none should enter into the business of making comments on society, politics and revolution.

So, Mr. Banerjee makes the mistake, as he writes, the achievements of the Soviet system of socialism under Stalin were “besmirched by suppression of political dissent and violation of human rights.”

Is any socio-political-economic system evaluated by (1) a single act, (2) by an act of a single period, (3) acts of a single leader? Shall Mr. Banerjee evaluate other socio-political-economic system with his preferred method? That, even if he likes, will be a foolish act, an act by a person knowing nothing either about society or about politics or about economy or about struggle between classes or about political power of a class.

Thus Mr. Banerjee makes another mistake. He finds Putin in the same group of Stalin, as he argues: The same Stalinist model of repression is being followed today in Russia by Putin. He [Putin] was trained by the KGB – the notorious intelligence and surveillance agency that was shaped by Stalin.”

So, according to the argument presented by Mr. Banerjee, Hitler was “not” a Nazi leader, as, Hitler was trained as a corporal, a motor cycle riding messenger, in the German army of the WWI, and at that time Nazi philosophy was not imparted to the soldiers and corporals; and Jinnah pursued Congress politics for partitioning the sub-continent, as he was a Congress politician before joining the Muslim League; and Chiang Kai-shek pursued politics of Sun Yat-sen, as Chiang was in the same party, which was organized by Sun Yat-sen; Putin is Boris Yeltsin’s shadow as Putin was once BY’s close associate, chosen successor. The argument can move on further and further with many instances from politics in many countries, if Mr. Banerjee’s argument is accepted. No more is the need.

How shall Mr. Banerjee identify a bourgeois political system, if he finds the system’s model of repression “Stalinist”?

What Mr. Banerjee, knows, but likes to forget now, is there’s a gulf of difference between Stalin’s politics and policies and Putin’s schooling and politics, between the interests, whatever class(es) those be, Stalin was connected to or was based on and the interests Putin is connected to or based on. Shouldn’t scientific analysis follow such an approach? Otherwise, the analysis, how much filled with rage and hatred that don’t matter, turns like the analysis a group of ghost-chasers in this sub-continent follow to deceive easy-going commoners.

Mr. Banerjee extends his analysis or comment to Mao, as he writes, “devastations brought upon the Chinese people by the same Mao’s adventurist experiments like the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.”

How does Mr. Banerjee ascertain that the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were experiments, weren’t economic and political imperatives in a certain economic, political and class context in a certain period? Why not check the situation the party was going through or facing? If those were experiments, then, why not accept that errors are normal in any experiment, not only in controlled condition in lab, but also on open socio-economic-political field? Should any one expect error-tight experiment? Even, with whatever errors, should the entire be cancelled? Is it logical to define an entire policy as “adventurist” on the basis of a certain error in a certain time? Adventurism dooms – historical experiences tell this fact. But, ultimately, Mao has not doomed.

Mr. Banerjee makes confusion, as he writes, “these two states” [Soviet Union and China] “had often operated as a fascist style under the garb of ‘communism’.”

Mr. Banerjee knows it well that neither of these two states claimed communism has been established in the countries. The two were at different stages of development. Mao began with New Democracy, different from socialism, and far away from bourgeois democracy. Soviet Union went through different phases. Fascist states will laugh at Mr. Banerjee if he tries to group Soviet Union and China with those states. The fascist states will not accept Soviet Union and China into their group. The economic base, the class base on which fascist states stand are different from the class and economic bases Stalin-led Soviet Union and Mao-led China were standing. The rise of the Third Reich under the Nazi Hitler’s and the Nazi party’s leadership was in a certain context, with a number of factors. Nazism/fascism is not determined by extent of torture, persecution. Nazism/fascism, one of the most hated ideologies, evolves with certain forces in economy and politics of the dominant classes. Making sweeping remark is different from analyzing a state – it should be maintained. Sweeping remarks can be used for bashing a camp or a person or leader, but the remarks go down the drain in ultimate analysis.

Further discussions on the issue, it’s hoped, will continue with a response from Mr. Banerjee; and that discussion will be concrete if he presents a draft resolution/statement, as an example of what should be written or told, on the Ukraine War question.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.


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