Relevance of the Left Has Increased

M. Rajan

After the parliament election all the political forces of the right are making a systematic campaign that the left has become irrelevant. But actually it has increased because the new government is on the path of pursuing the neo-liberal policies more vigorously. The Narendra Modi Government has completed only a short-spell. But people have already begun to feel the pinch. The struggles will naturally develop.

Modi Government on the path of the UPA Government.

The emerging domestic political situation in India is in line with global developments. The NDA government under Narendra Modi came to power in India exploiting the widespread dissatisfaction of the people against the neo-liberal policies of the previous congress led UPA Government. But under pressure from the deepening economic crisis, the Modi government is compelled to pursue the very same policies of the Manmohan Singh government. Speaking at a meeting of BJP workers, in Panaji, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a warning that the government is forced to take harsh measures in order to strengthen a tottering economy. The previous Manmohan Singh government was also claiming that it cannot but raise the price of petrol, diesel, cooking gas etc. because of the heavy fiscal deficit and increasing financial liabilities. When the BJP was in the opposition they opposed such policies. But now the same policies and the same arguments are put forward by the BJP government. It is very clear that, whether it is Congress or BJP, they are trying to resolve the economic crisis at the expense of the working class and other common people. Raising the railway ticket charges and the freight charges heavily the BJP government is claiming that it is only implementing the decision taken by the previous UPA government. The BJP government is opening up core sectors like Defence, Railways, Banking and Insurance to FDI, in continuation of the policies of the previous government. Thus the anti people character of the bourgeois landlord state and the Government of India is becoming clearer.

The working class is getting more class conscious.

It is reported that the Sangh Parivar organisations like the Swadeshi Jagaran March, BMS, Kisan Sangh met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and expressed their opposition to the economic policies of the Modi government. They have warned the government that if it is going to pursue this policy of succumbing to the pressure from foreign investors and Indian corporate houses, they will be forced to join agitations against it. During the UPA regime, all the central trade unions including INTUC and BMS unitedly fought against the same kind of policies pursued by that government.

The central trade unions are now forced by the BJP government to re-enact the struggle with added vigour. The clear majority of BJP and the strongman image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to be used to strengthen the attack on the people. This attack calls for more united resistance of workers, peasants and other toiling people. It means that the social conflict is going to sharpen.

While the leadership of both the Congress and BJP pursues the very same policies the working class owing allegiance to different political parties including the Congress and BJP are forced to come out unitedly against it. Thus the class character of the social conflict is becoming more evident. This helps the growth of not only class unity but also class consciousness.

The Weakness of the Left

But the main weakness is that the Left, which is expected to lead the working class and other toiling masses in this sharpening social conflict, got considerably weakened in the last elections. More accurately speaking, the Left was getting weakened for the past several years. By the heavy setback in the 2014 parliamentary election it was compelled to publicly admit that deep introspection and course correction is necessary. Both in the CPI (M) and the CPI inner party conflicts are developing in their attempt to have a self critical assessment. It appears that in these inner conflicts, in the CPI (M) as well as in the CPI, all the conflicting sides are making only superficial assessments. They say that the gap between party committees and the common man has widened. The same assessment can be seen in several earlier election reviews also. But they did not succeed in correcting it. The reason is that they are not prepared to go deeper into the question. Why did the gap occur? Why is it widening resulting in bigger setbacks? Some of the groups inside these parties point out wrong selection of candidates as the reason for the setback. Yes, wrong candidates contribute to the bigger failure. Then again the question comes, what is the thinking of the higher party committees that led to the selection of wrong candidates? Others think that the party committees did not work with dedication. Yes, that may also contribute. But why are the party committees not as committed as they should be?

Another line of argument is that the Left got weakened because of the rightist propaganda. The Hindutva forces effectively campaigned for their ideology and they were able to capture the imagination of the people. The corporates and the media through its sustained campaign tried to project Modi and the BJP as the winning force and the people were carried away by that campaign. These are superficial realities. But again the question is why the left was not able to face that propaganda successfully? Is the left intrinsically incapable of this or the left could not do it because of its failures? In order to identify the root causes, the Communist parties have to have deeper introspection.

Actually the left is intrinsically capable of facing and defeating any sort of propaganda or campaign by the right, because the left represents the truth. Lenin said “Marxism is invincible because it is true”. Marxism is a scientific ideology that represents the growing forces of history. History is rich with the experiences of people’s struggles against exploitation and for democratic rights. People fought against slavery and succeeded in abolishing that inhuman system. Afterwards struggles against feudalism developed which ended up in the abolition of feudal exploitation and the establishment of formal democratic rights under capitalism. But capitalism being another exploitative system the formal democracy for the exploited majority becomes meaningless when even basic necessities are denied to those under the system. Therefore just as the struggle against slavery led to the development of feudalism, the struggle against the capitalist system also has to develop. Every time these struggles culminated in the establishment of a superior system. Marxism represents this onward march of history. That march cannot be defeated by outdated systems and its protectors.

The Left cannot be defeated by the Right

The left is growing not at the mercy of the right. The left is growing through the fight against the right, by defeating the right. Therefore the left cannot be defeated by the right. Sometimes, the right may be able to inflict some temporary setback on the left. But the left can survive it, it also can grow and ultimately defeat the right, since the left is upholding historical necessity. It means that the left gets defeated because of the left itself, its wrong practices, its deviations.

It is meaningless to say that the USSR was destroyed by the machinations of imperialism. To machinate against the socialist system is the class interest of imperialism. They will do it. It was the responsibility of USSR to be vigilant against such machinations. That vigilance was lost because of the revisionist tendencies that gained supremacy in the Soviet party. That was the cause of the defeat of USSR.

Just like that, the CPI (M), CPI etc. got weakened and defeated because of their deviations. The Communist Party is the revolutionary party of the working class. Unlike other parties the Communist Party stands for the abolition of the existing capitalist social order. If this basic, fundamental objective of abolition of the present system is abandoned or given secondary importance that leads to deviations. Then reforms within the existing systems become the only or prime objective. That leads to reconciliation with the existing capitalist system. Then all the vices of the capitalist system creep into the communist party. By a deeper analysis it can be seen that abandonment of the revolutionary goal is the basic cause of the setback to the left in India.

Parliamentarism: The bane of the Left

In India, it is the parliamentary illusion that led to the abandoning of the revolutionary goal. The leadership of the undivided Communist Party of India assessed that the Indian National Congress, the main party of the ruling class, is led by progressive elements and meaningful reforms can be implemented if the working class and the Communist Party allied themselves with those elements. In 1964, a section of the party who are opposed to this assessment left the party and formed the CPI (M). The illusion about the Congress Party increased with the Congress split in 1969 and with the faction led by Smt. Indira Gandhi getting dominance. The CPI supported the Indira Congress. This led them to support the internal emergency and denial of democracy by the Indira Gandhi led government. This led to the isolation and defeat of the CPI and the CPI was ultimately forced to withdraw from the alliance with Indira Congress in 1980 and join the CPI(M) led left political alliance.

The CPI (M) from the very outset decided to give importance to extra parliamentary struggles against the ruling class policies and tried to use parliamentary forums as instruments of struggle. Being in the forefront of the struggle, the CPI (M) gradually strengthened wherever it led the struggles of the people, and became the biggest Communist Party in the country. In Bengal, Kerala and Tripura it became the biggest party. But this growth through extra parliamentary struggle gradually strengthened a tendency in the party units of these influential states to indulge in parliamentary activities. The possibility of forming state governments under the party’s leadership engendered parliamentary illusions among the common masses. It was the duty of the party to fight these illusions. But the simultaneous growth of the desire for parliamentary positions in the top leadership of the party disarmed the leadership itself. Thus parliamentary tendencies gradually strengthened in strong party units. This became evident when in 1979 the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) argued for continued support to the disintegrating, anti-people government of Morarji Desai in the name of protecting the Left Front government in the state. In Kerala the tendency expressed itself when in 1984 important leaders of the state demanded a continued alliance with a faction of the Muslim League to successfully face the elections, when the national situation was such that such an alliance would weaken the fight of the working class against the growing Hindu communal forces. In both the cases the party central leadership took correct class positions and defeated the wrong tendencies.

But gradually the parliamentary tendencies gained dominance even in the central leadership. An important instance was the interest shown by General Secretary Harikishan Singh Surjit and Jyoti Basu in 1996 to accept the prime-ministership in the then central government dominated by bourgeois parties. Even though it was defeated in the central committee of the party, it got considerable support among the CC members. Surjeet and Jyoti Basu pursued their agenda and brought about basic changes in the 1964 party programme. In the revised party programme, approved in 2000, the basic objectives of the people’s democratic revolution were diluted. The statement in the 1964 programme that “foreign capital will be taken over” was removed and instead the 2000 programme says that “in order to raise productivity and improve technology foreign capital will be allowed”. From the statement in the 1964 programme, that “landlordism will be abolished without compensation”, the portion “without compensation” was deleted in the 2000 programme. It implies the new approach of the party is to have a negotiated settlement with landlords. A new statement was added in the revised programme which reads that “The economy under people’s democracy will be a mixed economy”. Thus the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-monopoly task of people’s democratic revolution was diluted.

Article 112 of the 1964 programme says that “Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic state and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and the peasantry, the party will utilise all the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people. The formation of such governments will give great fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the democratic front. It however would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The party therefore will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need of replacing the present bourgeois landlord government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising all opportunities for forming such governments of a transitional character which give immediate relief to the people and thus strengthen the mass movement”.

The above article 112 of the 1964 Programme considers the state governments led by CPI (M) as governments of a transitional character which can implement the modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people. But in the amendment made in 2000 party special plenum all these three words i.e. “transitional”, “modest” and “immediate” were removed; instead such governments were given the qualification that they can implement alternative policies within the existing framework. It means that the concept embodied in 1964 Programme of using such governments as an instrument of struggle at the hands of the people was given a go by and the CPI (M) began to consider these governments as governments which can implement alternative policies and thus extend meaningful relief to the people and therefore they need not be considered as transitional. This parliamentary illusion gained its influence in the CPI (M). The party began to give emphasis to continuing in such governments as long as possible. For that the party began to claim that the CPI (M) led governments can really solve the problems of the people within the existing social system. To realise this claim the party led governments began to compromise with the neo-liberal policies. Thus the Bengal, Kerala governments began to implement policies which they had opposed earlier, like self-financing education, contractualisation, SEZ, corporatisation of State Electricity Boards etc. Thus the CPI (M), CPI etc. lost their identity as fighters against the anti-people policies of the ruling classes. The Singur, Nandigram incidents, in which the CPI(M) came into open conflict with the common people in these areas, who were its own supporters, was the high point in this de-generation.

The right deviation in the form of parliamentarism is the root cause of the defeat of the left. When the party succumbed to parliamentarism, it made compromises with the capitalist system. This resulted in the growth of bourgeois tendencies in the party. Party leaders began to go after power and positions. Many of them tried to amass wealth, like leaders of bourgeois parties. The leaders themselves promoted groupism to protect their vested interests. Thus by policies as well as the life and conduct of party leaders, the left parties lost their identity and people began to consider all the parties alike. It is this atmosphere of depoliticisation that became a fertile ground for the growth of alien influences among the working class and peasantry, even in the left bastions of the country. This led to the expansion of BJP, SDPI etc. The depoliticised minds of working class will also get influenced by the bourgeois propaganda for strong government and a “strong leader". In short the BJP could exploit the resentment of the common people against the policies of the Congress government because of the weakness of the left in not being in the forefront of the struggle against those policies.

If the left is able to correct the weaknesses caused by its parliamentary deviation, it can play its leadership role in the developing class struggle. It must be remembered that in spite of all the media support and Hindutva propaganda, the BJP could muster only 31% of the votes polled. Even that support began to wane because of the anti-people policies of the Modi government. Even the Sangh Parivar organisations were forced to register their protest. It means the left space is increasing in Indian politics. Whether the left parties will be able to unite the working class and other common people irrespective of their political affiliation and lead their struggle and thus occupy this left space depends mainly on their willingness to come out of the stranglehold of bourgeois parliamentary illusion.

But some newspapers reported that the CPI (M) had now come to the conclusion that it was wrong to have seen the BJP and the Congress as equally dangerous. It means that on the spurious plea of isolating the BJP the CPI (M) wants to ally with the Congress. It was an argument raised by Somnath Chatterjee against the withdrawal of support to the first UPA Government in 2008. At that time the CPI (M) rejected that argument. But now they want to follow it. The argument of Somnath Chatterjee and the present vacillation of the CPI (M) emanates from the wrong conclusion on the subject in the political resolution passed by the 16th Congress of the party. The resolution says that the central task of the party is to defeat communalism and the BJP. Communalism is a tactic of the BJP to come to power. The Congress claims to be secular but hobnobs with all communal forces to retain power. There is no doubt that the struggle between these two parties has to be made use of to advance the interest of the working class. But how? In this case we can draw correct direction from the history of the CPI(M) itself. In 1969 when the Congress split into two factions, Indicate and Syndicate, the Indicate under Indira Gandhi adopted certain progressive slogans like bank nationalisation and stoppage of privy purses and the Syndicate proposed repressive measures against the working class movement and the communist party, in order to overcome the economic and political crisis faced by the ruling class at that time. Then both the CPI (M) and CPI took a position helpful to Indira Gandhi by supporting her presidential candidate VV Giri. But the difference was that the CPI supported Indira Gandhi under the illusion that her progressive slogans can be strategically taken use of by the working class. Their wrong conclusion led them to support all the anti-people measures subsequently taken by her and ultimately the national emergency declared on 26th June 1975. After the election defeat in 1977, in the Bhatinda Party Congress, they were forced to admit that it was a mistake. At that time Com. EMS told them that self criticism is not sufficient. He told them to go deeper and find out the policy deviation that led them to this wrong decision. What he meant was that it is the wrong assessment in the 1964 Bombay programme of the CPI, that the Indian ruling class is led by the progressive national bourgeoisie, is the root cause of their wrong decision. When the CPI wrongly found a strategic opportunity in the Congress split, the CPI (M) rightly concluded that Indicate and Syndicate represented the same ruling class interest and therefore the difference between them has only tactical importance. Without any strategic illusion the CPI (M) supported the progressive tactics adopted by Indira Gandhi. It was only a counter tactics to the ruling class tactics. Therefore when Indira Gandhi began to attack the rights of the working class the party had no hesitation to come out openly against it. Also, since the CPI (M) found only tactical relevance in the Congress split, the CPI (M) had no difficulty in allying with the erstwhile Syndicate, which had then merged into the Janata Party, in the struggle against national emergency. But the CPI (M) had no illusion about the Janata Party also. Therefore, while the Socialist party merged in the Janata Party, the CPI (M) retained its working class identity and joined the struggles. After the election in 1977, the CPI (M) supported the Morarji Desai government to establish democracy. But the party not only refused to take part in the government but also rejected the suggestion that it be part of a common minimum programme. It means that the party refused to associate with the government in any way. When the government brought a new industrial relations bill restricting the rights of the working class the party came out openly against it. When the Janata party government degenerated through internal controversies, anti-people policies and RSS influence, the party decided to support the no confidence motion put forward by other opposition parties and a section of Janata party. The CPI (M) could adopt these flexible tactics and come out with flying colours because it entertained no illusion on either section or party of the ruling classes.

Particularly in Bengal, it was argued for continuous support for the Moraiji Desai government on the plea that if the Morarji government was defeated, the authoritarian forces led by Indira Gandhi would come back to power and even dismiss the Jyoti Basu government in Bengal. But the CPI(M) central leadership took the correct position that democracy cannot be protected at all times by the mercy of a section of the ruling class. It is the strength of the working class that is important in ensuring democracy. Therefore the independent working class politics should never be compromised. Without compromising it we can make use of the differences among the ruling classes.

If that lesson is applied in the present case, the CPI (M) should not analyse the Congress as comparatively better than the BJP. Such an analysis will lead the party to tailing behind the Congress and thereby compromising its working class identity. When the Congress was in the government the CPI (M) naturally had some floor co-ordination with other opposition parties including BJP. Just like that now the left can have floor co-ordination with Congress in opposing the wrong policies of the BJP government. But the left should remember that the anti-people policies of the Congress is fresh in the memory of the people and it is the duty of the left to use it to educate the people that BJP and Congress represent the same class and the same policies and our task is to develop an alternative to those class interest and policies. It is our experience that wherever class struggle and the working class movement is strong, communal influence will be weak. Therefore even while opposing the communal forces in alliance with other democratic sections, our main emphasis should be to develop the working class and peasant movement on their day to day issues and raise their political consciousness through their struggle. An alliance with the anti-people Congress will only weaken the working class identity of the party. Therefore the 16th Congress conclusion that communalism is the main danger was wrong and the support to the UPA had only weakened the CPI (M). It is that dent in the image of the left that created a depoliticised mindset even among the working class, which was easily made use of by the political and communal slogans of the BJP. Therefore the self criticism in the CPI (M) (and in the CPI) should lead them to abandon parliamentary illusions and stand firm on class struggle. The big defeat demands basic course corrections.

Note: M. Rajan is a member of the Politburo and Secretary of the Kerala State Committee of the Marxist Communist Party of India (United)

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