[This is my response to the article by Prabhat Patnaik circulating over on the Net. His original article can be read at the end of this response. We have reproduced it in full. – AN]
This piece could be read as a letter addressed to one of my former, esteemed, ideologue-theoreticians. As young students in the 1970s and 1980s, we often went to listen, starry-eyed, to this soft-spoken theorist expound on what we thought were complex issues of our times and come back mesmerized. Yes, Prof Prabhat Patnaik (PP) was one of our idols. Today he fell and smashed himself. And then something strange happened: the broken pieces rearranged themselves to reveal a frightful other face – the face of comrade stalin.
Since Patnaik has referred to all critics of the CPM as “anti-Left intellectuals”, and has also specifically referred to the letter signed by some of us (including me), I think it would not be wrong to assume that the entire article is also addressed, among thousands of others, to me (though I may be pardoned for assuming that a nacheez like me should even exist on his radar!). Since all those who had signed the statement may have their own responses to PP – and some might not legitimately wish to stoop to the level this once-saintly figure has – I must speak for myself here.
Sometime ago, former West Bengal finance minister and marxist economist Ashok Mitra had written a piece on the happenings in Nandigram. It appeared in Ananda Bazar Patrika and was subsequently translated into English and widely circulated. In that piece, Mitra had suggested “prominent economist and party comrade of the stature of Prabhat Patnaik is hounded” by the party leadership in Alimuddin Street. In a way, we sort of knew it; rather, we hoped it would be true. An intellectual like Prof Patnaik cannot possibly be a cog in the stalinist machine, even though he may have stepped in to sign dubious statements not so long ago. We had assumed that given the political history of stalinist Marxism with intellectuals who were maligned, denigrated, humiliated and finally put before the firing squad, Patnaik had made his ‘existential choice’ a la Georg Lukacs. Lukacs, one of the most brilliant philosophical minds, decided to remain in the ranks (the ‘camp of the people’, in Patnaik’s words) and become the voice of stalinism for decades thereafter. Need we recall the whole list of such people – intellectuals – who were thus repeatedly destroyed? And do we need to tell you that so far only fascism or Nazism has been able to compete with the communist record.