[We have received this second statement by Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and other signatories of the earlier letter on Nandigram. As will be evident, in this letter the authors have made some clarifications in response to the reactions they received from a range of people in India.
However, in the meantime, there has been a misrepresentation of what we thought was a private response from Prof Chomsky to the signatories of the statement issued by some of us (See the post Response to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et al on Nandigram). For instance, see the comment by Hindol Bhattacharya on the above post. Regarding that comment, we must clarify one point here: Prof Chomsky’s letter to us explained the situation in which he had felt compelled to issue the first statement, his explanation being that an earlier private email correspondence with some individual supporter of the ‘opposition’ had extracted one part of that correspondence and it was ‘used as a slogan in demos’. The person concerned could probably better clarify this situation, which is indeed unfortunate. We refrained from publicizing Prof Chomsky’s response to us, given this previous misuse by somebody of his private correspondence.
However, Mr Bhattacharya has now produced an extract from another mail (private? public? we do not know) supposedly from Prof Chomsky which runs thus:
“The statement that you saw has been grossly misinterpreted by segments of the Indian left. As those who responded know, but didn’t say, the statement was issued after members of the opposition took a phrase from a letter of mine expressing concern but saying that I did not know enough to support them, and manipulating it into a statement of support. The statement that I and others signed was in part a reaction to this misrepresentation.”
This is truly astonishing, for he wrote to us AFTER we sent him our response – as a response to our response. The charge therefore of “our knowing but not saying” is entirely unfounded. There are several different voices raising questions about the CPM – it is simply convenient to conflate all of them as “the opposition”.
The new statement by Chomsky et al is published below:]
We are taken aback by a widespread reaction to a statement we made with the best of intentions, imploring a restoration of unity among the left forces in India –a reaction that seems to assume that such an appeal to overcome divisions among the left could only amount to supporting a very specific section of the CPM in West Bengal. Our statement did not lend support to the CPM’s actions in Nandigram or its recent economic policies in West Bengal, nor was that our intention. On the contrary, we asserted, in solidarity with its Left critics both inside and outside the party, that we found them tragically wrong. Our hope was that Left critics would view their task as one of putting pressure on the CPM in West Bengal to correct and improve its policies and its habits of governance, rather than dismiss it wholesale as an unredeemable party. We felt that we could hope for such a thing, of such a return to the laudable traditions of a party that once brought extensive land reforms to the state of West Bengal and that had kept communal tensions in abeyance for decades in that state. This, rather than any exculpation of its various recent policies and actions, is what we intended by our hopes for ‘unity’ among the left forces.
We realize now that it is perhaps not possible to expect the Left critics of the CPM to overcome the deep disappointment, indeed hostility, they have come to feel towards it, unless the CPM itself takes some initiative against that sense of disappointment. We hope that the CPM in West Bengal will show the largeness of mind to take such an initiative by restoring the morale as well as the welfare of the dispossessed people of Nandigram through the humane governance of their region, so that the left forces can then unite and focus on the more fundamental issues that confront the Left as a whole, in particular focus on the task of providing with just and imaginative measures an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism that has caused so much suffering to the poor and working people in India.
Michael Albert, Tariq Ali, Akeel Bilgrami, Victoria Brittain, Noam Chomsky, Charles Derber, Stephen Shalom