January 24, 2020
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Her Red's Sexy

Old commies should immediately adopt Arundhati Roy as one of their trendy new avatars. The class struggle might become much sexier than saffron.

Her Red's Sexy
The next time the CPI(M) Politburo meets, it should give a vote of thanks to Arundhati Roy. Even as Left politics passes into utter irrelevance, the Left’s favourite cause—nuclear disarmament, capitalist expansion and superpower imperialism—have become fashion statements, courtesy Roy’s pen.

Roy’s foray into social science, after her previous career in acting and writing film scripts, is an extremely important phenomenon. It’s akin to Ritu Beri singing the Internationale. It’s like Naomi Campbell reciting the Communist Manifesto. The market is supposed to shatter caste-based privileges. And here is a fitting example of how powerful market forces, with Roy at their helm, have smashed the brahminical exclusivism of the Left’s intellectual citadels. It’s show biz time at the National Archives!

No wonder academics and other serious folks are wringing their hands in confusion. Their exclusive space has been usurped by sheer glamour. Academic discourses have been dumbed down for mass consumption by a globalised Joan of Arc.

Which is why Sitaram Yechury and Harkishen Singh Surjeet should seize the opportunity provided by Roy if they want to combat Hindutva.

Today, the Left faces a serious threat to its dominance over India’s intellectual life. History is being challenged and rewritten.

Only in West Bengal and Kerala are people still proud to be communists. The CPI no longer has the status of a national party and the CPI(M), after its historic blunder in not allowing Jyoti Basu to become prime minister, has faded rapidly into the margins. The middle class, now sold on Hindu chic and the free market, perceives all lefties as moth-eaten jholawalas whose prose is impenetrable and whose day is past.

But Roy’s a contemporary role model because she’s made so much money. Hers is one of the more sensational Get-Rich-Quick stories of the decade. She’s written a single magnificently selling chicken-soup-for-the-soul book that seems to work best in translation. She looks lovely and repeatedly wins awards. And wonder of wonders, even after her triumph in the capitalist marketplace, her essays echo the arguments of Das Kapital.

Thus she’s blazed a trail for the CPI(M). Old commies should immediately adopt her as one of their trendy new avatars. If they do, the class struggle might become much sexier than saffron.

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