Thursday, July 29, 2010

My, My!!

Opinions are often merely worth a dime a dozen(yes, I also write a blog) and those who work for newspapers and write in them ought above all to be conscious of this fact while spouting their infinite wisdom for the benefit of unsuspecting readers. That it does not happen, sadly enough, is yet again proved by an opinion piece that appeared in The Telegraph today which mocks CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat's usage of the term "my party".
Part pop-psychology, part senseless nitpick and all selective citation of history, the article harps on and on about why Karat uses the word my. Now any sane person who has talked to communists from anywhere in India would know that activists from your average SFI enthusiast to hard-core workers use the phrase "my party" without presuming, one hopes, to own the party. But let's take away the personal experience element and refer to the journalist's bible..fact!
A random search on google for 'my party' reveals quite a few uses of the dreaded 'my' with reference to communist parties. There is a John Boyden from Ontario, a candidate for the communist party, who uses the word "my party". An article on socialism in the United States refers to a slogan that went "My Party, right or wrong, my Party!”.
And oops..
"..We have much better historical justification in saying whether it is right or wrong in certain individual concrete cases, it is my party.... And if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us thinks unjust, he will say, just or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end."
That was err...Leon Trotsky and that too at a time when he was losing hold over the organisation. Not Stalin I admit, but still...
But facts aside, what sickens one in the article is the unbelievable smugness that permeates the article which rests on basically..nothing!

For instance:
"Many believe that he forces his own views on the party and often transgresses the party’s injunction to lead a simple life. These are the perceptions, and without access to the secret archives of the CPI(M), I am not even suggesting that they are necessarily true.But Mr Karat’s description of the CPI(M) as “my party” only confirms, in a bizarre way, the general impression about his arrogance and the suspicion that he runs the party according to his own whims and fancies"

"Many believe"? "General impression"? "Secret archives"? And in between, the arrogant "I am not even suggesting.."
There is of course, the typical psycho-analytical babble about illusions of control and so on. I am surprised there was no reference to a Mr. Karat's possible hatred of his father.
Now I am not arguing that Prakash Karat is not an arrogant man or that he is the leader of India's greatest party. All I am wondering is how an individual who gets the opportunity to analyse an issue in a newspaper chooses to do so in such a flimsy, baseless way while trying to give the impression of sounding 'intellectual' and sarcastic(?). I realise opinion journalism(as the name would suggest) ought to give space for opinions but does that mean someone gets to air the journalistic equivalent of a cheap party trick in a nationally respected newspaper? It's something to think about, I guess, while we all(including I myself) whine about the decline of standards of the Indian media.
Funnily enough, the author jeers at Mr. Karat's learning Marxism "at the feet of Victor Kiernan"and his being trained in"the Stalinist school of falsification". Funnily enough, Professor Victor Kiernan left the Communist Party in 1959 apparently disgusted at the 1956 suppression of the riots in Hungary by Soviet Russia, which I think, would qualify in the world of the author, as a Stalinist tactic. But of course, one would have to do a basic fact-check to find that out...Sigh.

P.S. I have deliberately not referred to the identity of the author or his politics or his past record so that I could in an 'anti-postmodern' sort of way, merely focus on the article.


an idiot without ideals said...

Umm, you got it a bit wrong dear. Mukherjee is not "jeering" at Karat for having been Kiernan's student: read this; that is one of the reasons why he ends his article with "Alas poor Yorick". And yes, I do agree the casuist nature of the article but when he is talking of the "general impression" it's not all his own fancy. Now, I've never spoken to a CPM leader but had intense, as it were, discussions with some SFI student leaders at college (who must have counterparts, I guess, in the higher party echelons, too) and it is this section of opinion Mukherjee is hinting at, especially in Bengal. Before you jump to another conclusion, let me tell you I'm not talking about Calcutta-based leaders but young men and women from the 'humblest' villages of Bengal. And this is not necessarily the section which is pro-Basu: many students of this section couldn't think of Jyoti Basu but as a "haaraami" (not my words, trust me) despite agreeing to his redoubtable role in sustaining CPM's rule in the state. As for your "anti-postmodern" claim, well, difficult to comment on, especially after the Death of the Author.

Prasanth said...

@idiot(now i don't mean that of course ;)
The post was never about Prakash Karat. He could be arrogant and he could be a disaster as far as the party is concerned. All I found sort of baffling was that the whole opinion piece hinged on one argument..Prakash Karat said "my party."
My point was merely that the contention that "Mr Karat thus said that the CPI(M) belongs to him." is utterly lame and cannot be substantiated one bit through that line of argument even as an opinion.
Now I would understand if the opinion piece began with a reflection on the phrase and moved on to, as you mentioned, interactions with party workers or sympathisers.But no..the author has to refer to the Oxford Dictionary and the Collected Works of Stalin.
It just doesen't make sense no?

PS. As for my "'anti-postmodern' claim", it doesen't need a comment. That i claim to be so while writing a blog post on the internet is comment enough. ;)