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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 11, March 11, 2023

The Red Roar: Promises and Possibilities | Shubham Sharma

Saturday 11 March 2023


by Shubham Sharma *

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation’s eleventh party congress concluded its final session on 20th February 2023. The five-day long event saw the city of Patna being painted red and marked the arrival of party delegates and guests from across the world. The event took place at a time when bourgeois democracy in India is serving its comeuppance at the hands of the communal-fascistic RSS-BJP, and its seems that there is no easy way out. However, it was this very sense of despondency that the party congress ended up mitigating.

The congress marked the coming together of all left parties on the second day and opposition parties on the third day. Among the left leaders the Communist Party of India (CPI) delegate Pallab Sengupta called for a ‘united Communist Party’ since the issues that led to the division of the party in mid-sixties and later in early and mid-seventies do not exist anymore. He was absolutely right on this. The division of the communist movement in India has done the greatest damage to Indian polity because the much necessary left pole which could have countered the rise of the right went missing. The foam of the socialist movement too dissipated with many of them choosing to go with the RSS-BJP and the remaining few making a mockery of caste annihilation by doing away with the most fundamental task envisaged by Lohia and Co. i.e., radical land reforms. The best example of this is the state of Bihar where both Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar reneged on the question of land reforms. Lohia had wanted each villager to own a piece of land (however small) and called for a land ceiling of three acres.

Far from his vision, the Bandopadhyay Commission report (2008) that spelled out the need for allotting between one acre and 0.66 acre of ceiling surplus land to landless labourers accounting for 16.68 lakh households was not implemented in Bihar. And this reluctancy was apparent when large landowners (0.01 percent of the population) owned a colossal 19.76 lakh acres of land! The report was not even brought out in public.

The failure of the socialist movement to deliver on its promises led to the rise of the RSS-BJP as a formidable political pole. Although the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (Liberation) has been consistent with the demand for land reforms and implementation of the Bandopadhyay Commission’s report, a united Communist Party (had there existed one) would have been able to challenge the chicanery of the socialists and the rising communalism of the RSS-BJP.

G. Devarajan of the All-India Forward Bloc (AIFB) pointed out to the miasma of the non-translation of votes to the left parties despite their overwhelming presence in trade unions and peasant bodies. The reasons for these are two-fold. Firstly, the scattered nature of the communist movement never allows it to become a national alternative at the ballot for the voters. And since a worker or a peasant is much more than a person on the lowest rung of the class ladder, his/her caste, local political dynamics, linguistic and ethnic affiliation and religion comes to determine his/her electoral choice. Bourgeois parties have understood this much better than the Left and are exploiting it to the fullest. Lately, foreign policy and the international status of India has emerged as a strong motivation for the electorate. Journalist Snigdhendu Bhattacharya has brought this new fascination out in a report (2021) wherein a 28-year-old owner of a small grocery shop in a small town of North Bengal, despite his criticism of the economic policy of the Centre, ended up voting for Modi. He admitted ‘‘It is true that the economy has gone to the docks and important government institutions like banks, railways and the LIC are being sold…but Modi has travelled the world and made friends for India all around. These friends will come handy in case India ever has trouble, especially with external forces, say China or Pakistan.” This, unfortunately, is true for most of India.

Secondly, the lack of a common pool of resources, in terms of both cadres and money, hamstrings left parties from taking on bourgeois parties electorally. As a result of which short term and long-term alliances with bourgeois parties become the norm which leads to a common perception among the masses that the left parties are at best coattails of the dominant party in the state or the national level. A united party will automatically fill this crucial gap.

A united Communist Party must have a program that goes beyond the ‘stagist theory’ of revolution. It has been a century since the red seeds were implanted on the Indian soil, yet the left parties have collectively failed to get more than sixty seats in the Indian parliament so far. The program of a direct transition to socialism should be adopted as opposed to any ‘stage’. The lesson for this comes from the experience of the Bolshevik Revolution itself. Within nine months of Kerensky’s failure to proceed with land reforms led Lenin to call for a ‘all power to the Soviets’ and a ‘socialist revolution.’ In Lenin’s scheme of things, a socialist revolution was not a stage for which the toiling masses would have to wait but an actual movement of things wherein the greatest majority would have its stake.

In India, the bourgeoisie has reneged on land reforms for seventy-five years! Does it not call for a socialist revolution? The logic of stages of revolution had some currency in an era when imperialism existed and disallowed the development of productive forces in the colonies leading to the presence of a miniscule working class and a divided peasantry. In today’s India, the formal and informal working classes are deeply linked to capitalist development. In the agrarian sector too, capitalism has flourished along with concentration of land with big landlords and capitalist farmers on one hand and a beleaguered middle peasantry, tenants and landless labourers on the other.

The word ‘socialism’ is part of the Preamble to the Indian constitution and it is both undefined and unimplemented in the truest revolutionary sense. The left must make the maximum out of it. The success of Hindutva today is because it is giving to its voters and supporters a maximalist program of Hindutva. And it is this ideological relentlessness that is making it gain a unilateral dominance on India’s hitherto non-ideological political turf. This hegemony could only be broken by a united Communist Party with a maximalist program of socialism.

(Author: Shubham Sharma is a Research Scholar at Department of Political Science University of Connecticut, USA)

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