President Xi Jingping&’s war on corruption, a crackdown within the party that began with his assumption of office after the CPC&’s Third Plenum (October 2012) , is said to be complete. The “biggest party tiger”, so called, has met his downfall with Thursday&’s verdict in the most sensational corruption case since the Communists came to power in 1949. Zhou Yongkang, the former deputy security chief, has been jailed for life.
At 72, a leading light of the party hierarchy is now a victim of Xi&’s cleansing. As the grim message resonates through the ranks of the cadres, there is a lesson to be drawn by comrades nearer home… at least theoretically and if in less severe terms. For the past five years, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is still groping on how to initiate the process of what it calls “course correction”. The discourse has led nowhere; on the contrary, occasional fulminations by leaders have alienated the deviants. And the effect has been damaging enough both in Bengal and in Kerala.
The party in China has addressed the problem of deviance and corruption, an imperative that is no less critical than the gradual switchover to a market economy. While the economic construct has influenced the political philosophy of a section of the party in India, notably in Alimuddin Street, the first imperative has proved to be almost intractable. It had done the party in, both in 2009 (Lok Sabha) and 2011 (Bengal Assembly) election… and sad to reflect, the lesson has still not been learnt. That said, the analogy with the CPC may not be wholly appropriate; in a multi-party system the CPI-M cannot introspect beyond a point.
In less than three years of the Third Plenum, Mr Xi&’s crackdown has been as severe as it has been effective. Zhou Yongkang was found guilty of taking bribes, abuse of power and intentionally leaking state secrets. The chief cause of surprise must be that he remained in the hierarchy in the post-Mao era despite the serial charges against him… and till the Third Plenum in October 2012, when he is said to have disappeared from public life.
This was not wholly unexpected because he was a political rival of Mr Xi and is now the highest-ranking party member to be found guilty of corruption. He was expelled from the party last December and charged in April. The verdict, therefore, was inevitable. Mr Xi&’s anticorruption drive has targeted both high-profile “tigers” of the Communist Party and “flies” in the lower rungs. Zhou was gracious as he admitted to his guilt; what else, though, could he have done?