Coronavirus Forced CPI(M), Party That Once Protested Against Computers, to Meet Virtually
Sitaram Yechury attens the first CPI(M) polit bureau meeting on Wednesday via video conferencing | Image credit: Twitter
While the world continues to find new ways of social distancing in order to resume normal life in times of coronavirus, political parties in India are trying to take the pandemic in their stride. And in this brave new world, the old comrades of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) seem to be turning over a new leaf by adapting to new technology.
On Wednesday, CPI(M) embarked upon its first Polit Bureau meeting on video conference since its inception in 1964.
Taking to the microblogging site Twitter, party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury posted an image of himself while connected to other members of the party through his laptop.
"Our Polit Bureau meeting was held yesterday, in very different circumstances than usual!" Yechury posted on Thursday.
Our Polit Bureau meeting was held yesterday, in very different circumstances than usual!Our Communique with details of all that was discussed, will follow at 4pm today. #PressConference On https://t.co/ZTDa2Rd0pD pic.twitter.com/NXWK9Sqnpt— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) June 3, 2020
Even though CPI(M) isn't the only party to be shifting to the digital world and high-tech apps for communication, the move appears rather historic for a party that had once opposed the introduction of computers in offices.
The incident dates back to the 1970s when the CPI(M) had supported employee unions in protesting against the introduction of computers and upgraded technology in banks. The rationale was that technology would usurp human jobs and reduce employment, making it the perfect tool for the communist party to safeguard workers' rights (and their votes).
Years later, in an interview to Far Eastern Economic Review in 2004, then Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitted that the anti-computer protests that the leftists had led were indeed "foolish".
"That was in the 1970s...that was foolish, foolish. It started when they were going to introduce computers in banks and (insurance companies). Their employees protested and we supported it. But how can you stop modern technology? Nowadays, they have understood...We have entered a century where industries will be talent-based," Bhattacharjee told the journal.
This was also the time when CPI(M) had been trying to revamp its image as a business and IT-friendly state. Computers were no longer tools of capitalism but the vehicles of development. But after years of resisting technology and foreign investment, the shift came a little too late in terms of Bengal's economic and infrastructural growth.
The party, which ruled West Bengal for 34 years before giving way to Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress in 2011, has been on political backfoot since with the latter dominating two state elections back to back. Even as Kerala continues to be a strong bastion of the Left, currently under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, analysts have often claimed that the party's refusal to change with times and adapt to new strategies or even faces in top party leadership has led to the stagnation of the Left across other parts of the country, including West Bengal.
But with the pandemic, it seems the party has decided to keep up with the times. On Thursday, Yechury addressed the nation through a press conference via Facebook. Despite the new medium of communication, however, the demands of the party reflected an older ethos as it called for country-wide protests on June 16 to ensure immediate cash transfers and free foodgrains to the poor.