The occasion for these reflections is provided by two books placed before me for review, both effectively dealing with the beginnings and ends of the Left Front in West Bengal. One is straightforwardly and directly personal: Debraj Bhattacharya’s Exploring Marxist Bengal, a good-humoured if at times self-indulgent memoir that narrates a progressive disillusionment with the CPI(M), the ‘left’, and with claims to ‘progressive’ politics among his generation… The second, NO FREE LEFT, by the prolific communist aristocrat Vijay Prashad, promises no less than a narrative and analysis of ‘the past of Indian Communism and an assessment of its future’, which again cannot be written, as he proudly tells us, invoking Antonio Gramsci, ‘without writing a “general history of a country”’. Prashad’s account comprises a series of banalities written in prophetic tone, the latter attributable to his taking upon himself the role of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, a role apparently acquired backwards via Hegel and Schlegel – and he is keen on asserting his right to write as a philosopher who is not a mushroom…
Author: Benjamin Zachariah
Benjamin Zachariah read history at Presidency College, Calcutta and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he completed his PhD in 1999. He is the author of Playing the Nation Game: the Ambiguities of Nationalism in India (2011; 2nd edn 2016); Developing India: an Intellectual and Social History, c. 1930-1950 (2005, 2nd edn 2012); Nehru (2004); and is a senior research fellow at the University of Trier, Germany. His current research relates to the politics of historiography and the histories of Indian engagements with fascism.
Those who have not been around academic circles, have not heard of General Dyer, not watched The Namesake, nor confused Partha Chatterjee with his namesake, might be wondering what the fuss about Professor Partha Chatterjee is about. Parthada recently referred to the justification of using a human shield by the Indian Army in Kashmir as the General Dyer moment of the independent Indian state’s army.