The Party Left and Aap: Satya Sagar

GUEST POST by Satya Sagar

“Comrade! There is a man dying of thirst at the door. What is the Party line on giving water to thirsty people?”

There was a moment’s silence at the other end of the telephone and then the Great Ideologue said, “That is reformist activity. Tell him we can give our lives for the Revolution but cannot- as matter of policy- give water to the thirsty”

“But Comrade, he will die at our doorstep if we don’t give him water. Think what the bourgeois media will say then”

“You are right. Positive media coverage is important as that is the only way we reach the masses these days. But before you give him water to drink first ask him whether he believes in public or private supply of water”

“Comrade, he says he does not see any difference between the two. Right now both are denying him the right to drink water”.

“Fair enough. Ask him then to shout a slogan condemning global Imperialism’.

“He is too weak to shout anything, he can barely speak Comrade”

“Tell him to whisper to you his position on Capitalism or clarify his stand on Secularism. We can’t be accused tomorrow of having saving the lives of free marketeers and religious fundamentalists”

“Comrade, the man says he believes in God but since HE is out on vacation he has turned to the Party for help”.

“Aha! I suspected as much, an opportunist!  A defector from the Party of God knocking on our doors.  We will have to discuss this in the Politburo”

“When will the Politburo meet and decide Comrade?”

“Well, half of the members are on vacation, just like God, so I can’t say for sure”

“Comrade, the man is threatening to go to a new political Party around the corner that is giving water to the thirsty without asking any questions at all”

“What kind of Party is that? What is their position on Neo-Liberal Economics or the National question? “

“Comrade, they say they don’t have a position of their own on these things?”

“What? How do we know what they stand for?”

“Well, they say they don’t want to stand around doing nothing so they don’t believe in ‘stands’. They claim they will consult the people to find out what they want and do accordingly?”

“The people? You mean the masses? What do these illiterates know about social change or economics? This is a complete dumbing down of politics to the least common denominator! They are taking a moral position without any intellectual content. Don’t they know it is the Party that has to tell the people what to do. We are the ones who have to lead the masses, not the other way around. As Comrade Lenin pointed out in 1916, a year before the Great October Revolution, blah, blah, blah……”

“Comrade, the man  who wanted water is now dead. He stopped breathing just a few seconds ago.”

“ Hmmm….See, this is what the combination of financial capitalism and comprador bourgeoisie does to the common people – kills them by denying even basic needs. Take out his corpse around the city in protest against the System! Show everyone how cruel Capitalism can be and arouse the masses to join the Revolution”

“Comrade, you can take out the procession on your own and while you are at it please jump into the funeral pyre with your Politburo! I am going off to join the new Party in town. They may not have any grand positions but at least they have some action on thirst!!”

Satya Sagar is a public health activist and writer based in Santiniketan, West Bengal. He can be contacted at


32 thoughts on “The Party Left and Aap: Satya Sagar”

  1. Absolutely true of the left in India. Stale self righteousness and stagnation that has never yielded anything but more self righteousness and stagnation. They certify if you are a liberal or not just like the right wing certifies if you are a nationalist or not. In this age there is cure for this sort of retardation.

    1. What else has the Left been doing here or elsewhere? Talk in abstractions about party, people, masses, etc.; ignore or neglect the person in need unless he is ‘ our very own’; claim monopoly to esoteric knowledge about what people want; and in the name of people, brazenly control power.


  2. Very well written indeed. Brought a smile to my lips but also a drop of tear to my eyes. The author has perfectly brought out how the mainstream left movement in India degenerated through blind adherence to an unchanging ideology. Similar views were expressed in an interview by Amartya Sen a week back.

  3. A very poor attempt at wit! Agree with Subhash Gatade…everyone wants to jump onto the bandwagon for a two-bit fame…This is not to say that there is nothing problamatic about organized left …but its stress on theory is not one of it…If at all, one can blame it for not having a theory for the current conjuncture…As for the parody(sic!)..the writer would have done well to use some other example..considering that in no way can the organized left be blamed for controlling water (presumably a metaphor for either “resource”, or a more nuanced “aspiration”)….If the metaphor is to be interpreted literally, as a material resource that is being denied, then the history of left struggle for natural resources (btw, POSCO struggle is being led by organized left)…On the other hand, if the metaphor is to be used for “aspirations”..the mainstream left cannot be blamed for trying to control peoples aspirations…At best they can be blamed for failing to theorize or articulate them…

    1. “At best they can be blamed for failing to theorize or articulate them…”

      Theorizing and articulating (and even passing wonderful acts in parliament) are great accomplishments indeed – we need more of these ! Alas, there is the minor hiccup that implementation of these beautiful theories is, shall we say, not ideal ?

    1. Only if it have national aspirations this can not be said for state parties…….they need not to have any ideology and it would be better not to have any(for state parties ONLY)….

      1. even “state parties without national aspirations, need to take a stand on issues – atleast state issues which will clearly show their line of thought. how else can you know what they stand for?

  4. Rightly highlighted the left disconnect with people and ground reality. If peoples are not with you or they don’t have trust in you then how come you declare as the champion of people? It is a good mimic on current affairs of left politics.

  5. “They may not have any grand positions but at least they have some action on thirst!”
    A world exists outside Delhi and there are many other urgent issues than ‘corruption, corruption’ and it would be interesting to see where ‘some (blind, populist) action’ would lead the ‘new’ comrades.

    1. Whether outside or inside Delhi, a thirsty person still needs water.
      What “blind, populist actions” are you talking about ?

      1. The writer neither knows Marxist stand nor AAP stand. And yes, AAP has a stand along with other matters, on economy that capitalism without corruption is fine and possible which is either naive or a cover up. Marxism believes in revolution only when mass consciousness rises to that level. And it was Lenin who said that it is important to give food to a hungry beggar first and then discuss how to remove hunger from society.

        1. Lenin may have said that, but today’s left leaders in India certainly do not say that. For them the importance of making grandiose statements is more. This is exactly what the author has pointed out. Similarly, Mr Amartya Sen stated in an interview a few days ago that the Left parties are more concerned with fighting irrelevant, distant enemies and less concerned with fighting for the rights of the common man on the ground.

  6. पार्टियां और भी आएँगी…
    … और फिर नई पार्टी में जाकर ‘उसने’ खूब पानी पिलाया,
    एक को नहीं, हज़ार को। हज़ार को नहीं, सौ हज़ार को;
    गंगा भी मोड़ लाया, जमुना भी मोड़ लाया;
    सारी नदियाँ ही नहीं, सागर भी जोड़ लाया।
    पानी ख़तम होने को आया, प्यासों की क़तार नहीं,
    शुरू होने लगा फिर, पानी का व्यापार वहीँ।
    प्यासे फिर मरने लगे; मच गयी फिर त्राहि त्राहि,
    इधर फिर शुरू हुई एक नयी पार्टी की वाह-वाही –
    700 नहीं, हम साढ़े 700 लीटर पहुंचाएंगे,
    सदियों के भ्रष्टाचार को हम मिनटों में मिटायेंगे।
    ये देखा तो ‘उसने’ फिर सोचा…
    कि कामरेड क्यों पूछ रहे थे कि वो पहला आदमी प्यासा “क्यों” था…

    1. Vaibhav’s poems poignantly beautiful response to Sagar’s parody and Valecha’s clarification nuances Indian Party- Left Degeneration from ideological defect as well as ideology of AAP non-ideology.

  7. since so many jokes are being made at the expense of the AAP why can’t a few be made at the expense of the left!! look no one is saying that the AAP is going to bring about a revolution or that it does not have huge obstacles to overcome. as Aditya in another post and its subsequent comments has said even after listing all the problems that the AAP as a liberal democratic party in a capitalist system is bound to face one does have to marvel at the way in which the AAP has been able to come to power in Delhi on a limited agenda of anti-corruption and free/cheap services. why did a fair portion of the people of Delhi believe that the AAP would be able to deliver these promises and so voted for them? that is what should be our point of enquiry and if possible we should try and learn some lessons from this rather than trot out all the huge obstacles that are bound to surface as time passes to prevent the AAP from fulfilling its promises. After all if the AAP fails then it is not only its failure but also that of mass democracy in this country. revolution as a concept has become suspect. the revolutions that did take place did not ensure mass democracy. if liberal democracy is flawed then so are the post revolutionary states that we have seen. even if one dismisses the satire of Satya regarding the derision of the left towards the masses as overdone, the fact remains that nowhere in the socialist countries have the masses been respected in the post revolutionary phase. the Bolsheviks infamously executed enmass the very sailors of Kronstadt who had ensured its victory in the revolution when the latter began raising the issue of soviet democracy at the grassroots. the AAP is not the final solution to our woes but definitely it has a lot to teach us about mass mobilisation. and it may also as time passes be able to teach us a lot about how to govern well. after all the parliamentary communist parties have not exactly done themselves proud in their stints in governance.

  8. Great for laughs. All jokes that make us self-reflexive should be welcome. Brahmanism like all other intellectual traditions does in various forms pervade our left as well.

  9. None can block the way of revolution, everything has its down falls. Be optimist and choose a correct line of action. If marxist parties do not run on the right way, capitalism is not its alternate.

  10. Actually in Latin America, all the leftist leaders tarted distancing from Leninism and embraced new brand of eco-sustainable direct democracy based agenda. Most of them have been vocal and critical of fascism unleashed by Leninist right from the time of Lenin who destroyed constituent assembly after being defeated at the hand of socialist and claimed one party dictatorship as “revolution”.

    However in India, leftists have a colonial hangover. They could not digest the truth that Lenin was a right wing deviation in large scale of leftist movement of the world. If anybody has harmed the progressive leftist movement, it was Lenin by destroying the democratic norm.

    Anyhow, this is an excellent piece of satire. I translated it into Bengali with some addition of my own touch:

  11. Dear mr sagar

    Your article preceded the stupidity on the streets of Delhi, I presume. I just wanted to remind you that this is what the lack of an ideology leads one to. The ‘public’ has no single view, and often, when it does, that view isn’t entirely correct. It is the job of the politician, driven by self-interest or ideology, to judge the merits of the claims made. The aap might call itself an umbrella coalition of ideologies… That would be ok. But by replacing ideology with the notion that the People(whoever they maybe) decide, they’ve set themselves up as an object lesson in the dangers of majoritarianism. It’s also ironic that when their self-interest was threatened, a larger majority of delhiites decided that this particular dharma wasn’t really worth it. So the aap,sut perforce lurch from position to position, unable to figure out which majority to satisfy. What’s missing is an ability to critique public opinion, and that’s the vale of ideology

    1. My satire on the left was about the way their leadership uses ideological purity as a bureaucratic excuse for inaction and not about the fact that they have an ideology per se. I was only emphasising what Marx said long ago that it is not enough to emptily contemplate about the world with the point being to change it.

      I don’t think it is possible for anyone to be devoid of ideology. Whether one claims to have one or not all of us understand the world through the lens of one ideology or the other. The question is of how this ideology is put to practice and for what purpose.

      The problem with the incident at Khirki village was not about consulting people on what they want, which is good practice in every context and the bedrock of any true democratic process. The trouble was that the retrogressive ideological bias of the locals against the Africans in the area matched that of the AAP leader and his followers who landed up there. Compounding this bias was the fact that the processes the AAP leader and his supporters followed were both uncivilized and unlawful. Like other politicians, in this case too, the AAP leader was convinced that since his ideology or cause was ‘right’ he could use whatever means he wanted to achieve his goals.

      The indifference to law, the Constitution or even simple human decencies is a deep rooted cultural problem in this country and not confined to AAP, which is still a fledgling organisation in these matters. After all when it comes to lack of process and respect for law the biggest violators in this country are precisely those parties that claim to have grand ideologies. Whether it was the 1984 pogrom against the Sikhs by the Congress, the 2002 massacre of Muslims by the Sangh Parivar or the CPM’s bloodbath in Nandigram in 2007 – it was all about politicians willing to indulge in barbarism because they were convinced they were ‘right’.

      One of the curious incidents that happened during the Nandigram episode was the ‘mooning’ of Medha Patkar by DYFI cadre, who basically dropped their pants and flashed their bums at her as her car passed by. One could make out of course they were very upset with her for criticizing the Left Front government but one also wonders which fine point of Marxist ideology inspired such a show of ass by the comrades?

    2. I agree entirely VK…People like Sagar and Aditya nigam who have been at the forefront of critiquing the mainstream left (read CPM)…want to throw the baby with the bathwater..sometimes i feel that we need a separate theory of “comprador class” to accommodate these post-modern anti-ideology intellectuals..but this media belongs to them with a few honorable exceptions like Shuddabrat…so don’t know if you will get to read my response…

      1. Which is the baby? Maybe I could not see it as I threw out the bathwater? Do please tell. And I have a long-standing open invitation to all Marxists to enter into an open debate. Perhaps, Milind you could start by sending Kafila a theoretical piece to kick off the debate against ‘compradors’ like me. I promise that it will be published. There is only one condition: You have to produce an argument against an argument and not ad hominem attacks and name-calling. And of course, sneering sounds like ‘wow’ and ‘tut tut’ are not arguments – which is what one of your earlier comments that got moderated out was. As it happens, some fellow Kafila-ites pass all comments on their posts. I am among those who do not, because just sounds and noise, in my opinion, do not add anything to the debate. Some of us spend a lot of time in moderating comments because we are interested in taking the debate forward and not endlessly debating basics. So please send us a piece – this is an open invitation.

      2. Milind, I don’t want to throw out the baby in the CPM with the bathwater of its political record. This baby is a victim of infanticide by its own parents and all that needs to be done is to give it a decent burial. Your idea that all those who are critical of the mainstream left belong to some ‘comprador class’ is in line with the Party’s habit of mistaking sheer abuse for criticism. You are welcome to go ahead and write your theory on this subject for the education of your comrades and my entertainment.

        1. Dear Sagar, I am not a party member..I know of however, or have heard about, at least in maharashtra (where i belong), of some who are utterly selfless in commitment and exemplary in sacrifice…who have been persecuted, tortured and languished in jails…I am likewise aware that there are those (in WB?)…who perhaps out of hubris and corruption that power breeds, have shamed the ideals that the party is supposed to represent…A bit about me…i am a grassroots person…who has some understanding of theory but with little claim to being a theoretician (so no theory will be forthcoming from me…I was voicing the need for one, not claiming to have one ready)… However, i do plead guilty to giving vent to my emotion…after reading your (and Aditya Ns) pieces…..Moreover using terms like comprador class is simply not acceptable and i should not have stepped out of line to such an extent. I am really sorry about that.. Just so you know, i have followed your earlier pieces with great interest and for much as I have done Aditya Nigams and as well as those of someone like Prabhat Patnaik, Aijaj Ahmed etc (outside of Kafila)…My response came more out of a sense of frustration.The problem someone like me finds as being immensely worrisome, is that those on the left…whether belonging to mainstream sect or outside of it (such as you)…find it so difficult to overcome this divide by keeping channels of dialogue open..often preferring to disparage each other rather than engage in mutually constructive criticism.In the context of APP and your writings, my moot point is, why waste time engaging with a party whose ideological moorings (if any) are based on notions of vigilantism, which reduces politics to “naming and shaming” , and, where the (if reports are to be believed) membership is largely consisting of people who would like to see Modi at the helm? Prabhat Patnaiks recent piece was , to my reading at least, an anguished response..(hopefully this is not the “entertaining” part of my response), and, in a manner of speaking , a call for mutual engagement …a dialogue..of the kind i mention above. Unfortunately the response was not forthcoming (again to my reading ) either through your satire or Nigams article. I think there is much to be gained by burying this mutual suspicion. I certainly think Patnaiks call to public intellectuals like you needs to be taken seriously….as events in Kirkee seem to suggest…

  12. Milind, Thanks for very graciously taking back the ‘comprador’ comment. My apologies to you too for insinuating you were a member of the CPM! I also believe there are many comrades who are doing very good work and my satire was aimed at the party ideologues and not at the cadre at all. There is no disagreement with the call for debate and dialogue or for more intellectual engagement either, except that it should be done with a view to help change existing realities instead of creating more excuses for inaction.

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