Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Ratan Tata’s open letter ( to the citizens of Bengal, published in most of the dailies of West Bengal on 17th October last has definitely created an interesting situation. After the stun wore off it was found that most of the few reactions that came out were of mute sort. Let us not worry much with the contents of the letter. At different times Ratan Tata made many such statements. What is remarkable this time is Ratan’s frank show of interest in West Bengal’s politics. Very few people in this country who roam around the world of high capital find this activity interesting. Ratan Tata apparently belongs to this minority group. Ratan Tata heads world’s one of the most important capitalist organizations. It can hardly be expected that he would unnecessarily indulge in infantilism of getting pleasure from letter writing. He is one of the most erudite businessmen of India. He spent lots of years at one of the best universities of the USA, entry to which is not governed by donations from paternal inheritance, maternal uncle’s pull or Arjun Singh’s Scheduled caste quota. Entry to which is very strictly on merit. It is to be noted that on the same day Cornell University’s web site came out with the news that Tata Education Trust has donated to Cornell University a grant of 50 million dollars. 25 million for a research in depth on India’s food production problems, nutritional problems and problems related to hunger in India. Other 25 million for enhanced scholarship and assistance to Indian and other deserving students joining the university. Mr. Tata was an outstanding alumnus of Cornell.

Here no paean is intended for Mr. Tata. Let us take a look at the things from a classical angle. By all parameters Ratan Tata is a bourgeois. A bourgeois is the representative of the newest mode of production, capitalism has thrown up .Let us be very clear bourgeois is not an abusive term, as some half baked Marxists with a dismal sense of history wants to suggest. Whatever science and history we are dabbling with are the results of six hundred years of bourgeois development. Abut a decade or two back I suddenly had a feeling that different editions of Communist Manifesto bore the subtle signs of predilections of the individual editors in different editions. Not major occurrence, but very important to take note of. After the words “hitherto existing society” (page 2, paragraph 1) some editions do not care to bear the footnote mentioning Morgan’s reference to primitive communistic society. In some editions in the concluding paragraphs there are lines suggesting that confronted with the insoluble contradictions presented by the existing mode of production some sections of enlightened bourgeoisie may cross over to the cause for a change as demanded by the working class. In some editions we do not find such lines.

There is a possibility that there were some such lines. It does not compromise the contentions of the manifesto. There are myriad sections of capitalists who keenly follow the developments in the workers’ movements. We read in Howard Fast’s Being Red a few American industrialists who were in the same ship while sailing to England asking Howard Fast whether he followed the Wall Street Journal regularly. While Fast confessed that he did not they tell him that they regularly followed the Daily Worker the mouthpiece of the American communist party? Even in this age of bourgeois decadence there are elements of bourgeoisie who could be concerned about the future of mankind. And Mr. Tata could be one of them who are concerned about West Bengal. There is no cause of uproar. The contradiction is that Ratan Tata is not addressing the Bengalis of Bengal renaissance period. He is addressing a people smitten with history’s most touching tragedies. His efforts become pointless in the face of the dialectics of the situation, which he fails to appreciate.


shamik said...

These are turbulent times and their is haze around what is right and what is wrong. If turning away the Tata project meant a loss of economic opportunity to West Bengal a section of the society went for it. Can only point out how strong emotions have got harboured against the ruling left and how poorly the ruling left especially CPM is able to communicate with the mass or amongst its left fron partners who sabotaged at many points of time. While Ratan Tata spoke to the people of Bengal to 'decide' the same were having no platform to voice, were caught in to the quagmire of the election targeetted politics of the left and the right.
Whether Ratan Tata is interested in West Bengal Politics oir not I do not knowe or even may think that he is not really so; but his statement to me sounded very apolitical where he called a spade a spade and without going round and round, spelled out clearly why is he taking out the nano project. For once an industrialist did not play politics of being in the middle and balancing powers and came out frank and open with his views. Now politicans would love to paint that with as many colours they have.

Sonal Das Chauhan said...

A commendable writeup on the recent economic development in India in this stage of global financial falls n then a bounce bk situation.
Industrial revolutions are always embellished by social controversies across the world.
Some are highlighted like the Singur movements,while the others get overshadowed by their politcal governance of that particular country-like the N-S. Korean economies,all the other third world countries,even some north eastern european countries.
Well, still as quoted, very few concerned capitalists do have the sentiments to face these political turmoils and remain rooted to the projects and their countires in the age of globalisation.

Old Man River said...

re existing 2 comments of shamik nd sonal.these re very intelligent and i accept them with little reservation.everyone has to be political although in the field of profession people have to choose differently. its heartening to find sonal is an iceberg.she could be hugely useful if she gets engaged in more serious reading and writing.points she wants to make will come out more sharp and focussed.thanks all the same.

Rhett said...

Yes, indeed. I quite agree with you.

That said, the issue was not as simplistic but multi-faceted. As you would be aware of I am sure. Let me just write down the other viewpoint:
The sad truth is that people in Singur and Nandigram were shot at with impunity and their lands grabbed by the Govt and they wanted their justice and revenge. It was very difficult if not impossible to reconcile that cause with the need for development in the state. They happened to become mutually exclusive events, isn't it? That is the way I see it.