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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 25, June 6, 2009

Rebuilding the Left and Renewal of Socialism

Saturday 6 June 2009, by Chaturanan Mishra

The heavy defeat of the Left, particularly the Communist Parties, in the general election to Parliament has posed a serious problem of renewal of socialism and rebuilding the Communist Parties. Ordinarily this defeat should lead to thorough and sharp inner-party discussion but it is difficult to say if that would be possible due to the democratic centralism of party functioning which restricts inner-party democracy.

Any big change is possible only when it comes from the top leadership. This big defeat clearly demonstrates that the political line of the party was wrong. It was not only the slogan of building a ‘Third Front’ with the help of unprincipled regional political parties, many of them based on caste-lines. One does not know if the leaderships of the Communist Parties realise that when they go into one electoral battle in the company of one party and change it in the next election and again go back to the old party, educated, experienced and elderly people in general look upon the Communist Parties as opportunists.

There is also the misconception in the leaderships about the Front itself. They think that the tor-jor of the political parties is a Front. According to Marxist thinking as defined by the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, the concept of Popular Front is based on mass struggles and a common programme (which at that time had identified Hitler’s fascism as the main enemy). The present Third Front slogan given in this election has neither the background of joint mass struggles nor the commonness of a broad programme which should have created an alternative social and political block, capable of uniting all the people’s struggles taking place in different parts (and even with those who are not attached to any party but are against neo-imperialism) into one big torrent for political change as in Latin America. It is because of this that some 15 years ago when the CPI National Executive decided on the Third Front slogan, I opposed it.

Creating a social along with a political block has become essential due to the rise of the OBC parties after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. The advanced sections of the OBCs neglected the most backwards of the OBCs. The latter were not even taken care of by us. The Scheduled Castes are still discriminated against but we don’t take up that issue at the State level. When lakhs of farmers committed suicide even then we did not launch any movement. Though my memory often fails me due to advanced age, I think that not a single sustained Statewide movement on any burning issue was launched by the Communists in the last twenty years. Today Statewide or nationwide struggles have become imperative and not merely local struggles. The worst was when, while supporting the UPA Government for four years, the Left did not organise any movement against Hindutva and not even against the mass killings of Muslims by the Narendra Modi Government in Gujarat; instead Modi was allowed to become a hero in the last election campaign. Such movements could have been possible by drawing the Congress members into these because despite all its defects the Congress remains the largest secular force. Only press and TV statements cannot help build the Communist Party.

DURING the present recession there is a worldwide feeling that the capitalist system needs to be changed; however, even in this situation there is no broad working class or Left movement demanding such a change. This is necessary because in India too workers are really affected by the global crisis and are already being retrenched while many more are likely to be affected shortly—all of them should be brought out on the streets. Instead demonstrations or general strikes are being organised on the national plane mainly on issues affecting public sector employees. This may help the capitalist government to carry out some changes in the banking, financial and market rules and thus keep the capitalist system intact. This is happening not only due to the absence of a political line but due to the wrong functioning of the Left.

The Left in our country is badly divided. The largest Communist Party is against uniting the Left or Communists into one big party. This weakness must be overcome to build up the Left into a national force like the Congress and BJP.

The Left parties must unite their trade unions into one organisation and try to unite with other trade unions. Due to sectarian policy and approach every Left party has formed its own trade union. Before the Second War the AITUC was the only all-India trade union in which Congressmen, Socialists, Communists, independents all worked together. When others were in jail due to the ‘Quit India’ movement, the Communist Party through its three-fourths majority in the organisation at that time forced the ‘People’s War’ line at the Madras session of the AITUC, and this gave the Congress and Socialists the opportunity to form their all-India trade union centres. Even recently when the AITUC and HMS merged into one organisation it was the CPI leadership which broke that unity. This line of the Left is against the principal slogan of Karl Marx—Workers of the World, Unite!

Similar is the case of the Kisan Sabha. From 1936 onwards the Communists, Congressmen, Socialists, independents all worked in one organisation and it was a force to reckon with on any issue related to the kisans. Now the organisation is divided and doesn’t function democratically. The Secretary and President at the all-India level are virtually nominated by the party concerned and therefore other kisans don’t join it. As a result no mass action has been undertaken by the Kisan Sabha despite the serious crisis prevailing in the agrarian sphere.

Because of this wrong policy mass organisations are no longer functioning as mass organisations and new elements are not joining them. The old persons—leaders and activists—are dying. In the CPI weekly Mukti Sangharsh every issue has an obituary report.

The All India Students Federation too was split due to the ‘People‘s War’ line and a respected top leader of the CPI rationalised it by saying that such a split had become a historic necessity.

The World Federation of Trade Unions was split on the ground that the Marshall Plan will enslave Europe. Nothing of the kind happened. Europe is free but the split remains.

Hence it is most essential that the policy with regard to the mass organisations be changed. Apart from the political line these organisational methods must be corrected to build a broad social, democratic, political National Front; otherwise the two-party system that is developing in some States may emerge at the national level as well.

OF all the political parties the Leftist organisations understand best the machinations of neo-imperialism such as tightening international conditions through the IMF and other financial structures, artificially declining commodity prices by giving high subsidies, using tax heavens, resorting to protectionist policies so as to reduce our exports and send back our immigrants etc. The Stiglitz Commission, set up by the United Nations, has presented concrete suggestions on how to solve the global recession by going for the formation of a new IMF and other financial structures, a new global reserve system and reserve currency, creation of a global financial regulatory authority etc. under the UNO. This calls for an international movement like the non-aligned movement. The Government of India must be forced to launch such a movement. Besides the Left, the Congress party is still the largest party of anti-imperialism in spite of having accepted the Washington Consensus that caused such havoc. Communists have to find ways to involve the Congress and other anti-imperialist forces in this exercise. For that purpose the present blind anti-Congressism in the Left must be given up. Blind anti-Congressism once made us eyeless and resulted in our declaring the Indian independence as false. Blind anti-Congressism today will only bring grist to the mill of the neo-liberal forces and strengthen their motivations.

In a democracy a coalition government sometimes becomes inevitable. That is why the Left parties are joining coalition governments in Europe and Latin America. The Indian Left must change the policy of non-participation in coalition governments at the Centre as we did in the last UPA Government. After all, Left Front governments in different States are also functioning in coalition with the Central Government as they act under the Planning Commission and various other Central Government directives.

Because of the neglect of regional problems by the Centre and the new awakening in the depressed classes several regional parties are getting represented in Parliament and thus Parliament is getting fragmented. This is further leading to increasing corruption. In view of the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, growing terrorism, the Chinese threat, turmoil in our neighbouring countries, rise of Hindu communalism, global recession etc. in the last parliamentary election people voted in large numbers for the Congress so that a strong Central Government is formed to tackle all these problems. This was not realised by the Left till the results were out. Further, due to malfunctioning and maladministration of the Leftist governments in West Bengal and Kerala the Left parties lost their traditional attraction. To attract the public the Left governments must function in an ideal manner and serve the people in a better way.

The self-dissolution of the Soviet Union has posed a major problem of renewal of socialism. China is no Soviet Union and capitalism is also developing there. Nowhere is the working class politically mature to run the state from the inception. After several decades the digitally run machines, Information Technology, genetic engineering and spectacular developments in biotechnology etc. may help to develop a new, well-educated working class. And socialism too can gain from this phenomenon.

However, after the present global recession there is now an allround new feeling of bringing about inclusive growth. Large sections of the middle class and intellectuals are favouring inclusive growth. Even our Planning Commission has adopted the strategy of realising inclusive growth. The Congress party, including the Prime Minister, is speaking of it. Only the people who are to benefit most from inclusive growth, that is, the working class, unorganised workers, rural poor and small farmers etc., are unaware of this. It is therefore most urgent now to define inclusive growth as jobs for all, housing, education, pension, medical facilities, child care, maternity benefit, development of agriculture, agrarian reforms, rural industries, exploitation of solar energy, measures for checking corruption, administrative reform to make the administration pro-poor, etc., and draft a national charter of demands to be propagated all over the country for launching a nationwide movement on that basis to force the Central Government to implement the charter. It will be difficult for any party to oppose it and it will garner mass support.

In this process a broad National Front challenging the Congress and BJP at the policy level will take shape. Inclusive growth will pave the way for a new type of socialism.

The author, a veteran CPI leader, was the President of the AITUC for same years, and functioned as the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Government at the Centre (1996-98).

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