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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 28, July 2, 2011

CPI-M, Now An Apologist Of Neo-Liberalism, Faces A Bleak Future

Sunday 3 July 2011, by Barun Das Gupta




Understanding CPI-M: Will the Indian Left Survive? by Diptendra Raychaudhuri; Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Rs 595.

The book, written before the debacle of the Left Front in West Bengal and the defeat of the LDF in Kerala, both led by the CPI-M, is one that helps understand the changing character of the Left in India and the direction it is taking. The book begins with the traumatic shock the CPI-M received after the 2009 Lok Sabha poll results were announced. The author says in the 45 years since 1964 the party had a major influence on the Central Government for ten years and “mild influence” for another fifteen years. The influence was based not so much on the organisational strength of the party but due to the combination of political forces during the period. The importance it enjoyed was a ‘simulated’ one.

The party reached the zenith of its influence on the Indian polity in 2008. But it all changed when it took the fateful decision to break with the UPA Government on the question of the Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation Deal. The party believed it would be able to dislodge the government from power at the Centre by knocking together a ragtag alliance of disparate parties. The poll results shattered that hope. It exposed that the influence the party thought it enjoyed was “illusory for it did not stem from a wide mass base or admirable capacity to launch a nationwide movement”. (p. 9) However, it was the party’s stength that had put the party in power in three States. But being in power for a long time resulted in the CPI-M facing the compulsion of “adjusting with the system”. The party started changing and in the end it realised it was “ideologicaly defeated and... was on the path that was not Centre-Right but more Right than that”. “In Bengal, they did it not with a sense of shame, but with (a) sense of pride” (p. 216) and “many believed the Left actually colluded with the Tata Motors …” (p. 13)

What did it all lead to? “A section of Leftists started arguing that PSUs had to be divested and the thought of developing new PSUs became a sin. The intellectual paucity of the Left leaders finally crushed all their convictions. In the eyes of a section of the leaders the fight against imperialism became redundant, pro-poor policies became unnecessary and the new mantra became market, investment, globalisation.”

In plain language it means that despite all its revolutionary thundering against “American imperialism”, the party had actually become an apologist of neo-liberalism, aggressively pursued by the United States through the instrumentality of the World Bank and IMF. In fact tracing the course of the slow metamorphosis of the CPI-M (and to an extent almost the entire gamut of the Indian Left) from being a self-claimed “vanguard of the proletariat” to a shameless apologist of neo-liberalism should be an interesting subject of study for a historian or a social scientist. One reason perhaps is that the leader-ship of the CPI-M (and other Left parties) came from the petty bourgeoisie who never de-classed themselves but retained all the vices and class charcteristics of the petty bourgeoisie. The fascist tendencies now being shown by the CPI-M in dealing with workers’ and peasants’ movements can be traced to this. The social base of fascism is always the petty bourgeoisie.

THE book devotes an entire chapter on the “curious case of love for the Congress”. It sets out in detail how the undivided CPI and later the CPI-M and CPI had all along failed to take a clear stand either on the Congress or on the role of the national bourgeoisie from before independence. The “historic legacy of vacillating between anti-Congressism and pro-Congressism has finally gobbled the CPI-M” and “now it is fighting the threat of extinction”. Further on, he says: “A peculiar problem of the Leftists is they cannot see what is obvious. They invent things that are not real. You cannot show them what reality is.” (p. 216) Judging by the reaction of the party after its defeat in the recent Kerala and West Bengal Assembly polls, particularly in Bengal, few would disagree with the author.

Raychaudhuri argues that CPI-M has now become a party which has a total lack of political direction or understanding. He quotes Sitaram Yechury’s facile explanation (November 21, 2009) of the party’s defeat in the parliamentary elections: “We have said that the Third Front we proposed was not credible. That was why we lost.” This was quite naïve, he says.

What future does the party have? “Before the naked eyes, the Left stands as the most oppor-tunist political force. The Congress does not go with the BJP. The BJP does not go with the Congress. But the Left has gone with both these parties.” He gives instances—from supporting the SVD governments with Jan Sangh as a constituent in the 1960s to supporting, in 1989, the V.P. Singh Government “which was entirely dependent on the BJP”. Similarly, the Left supported and participated in the United Front Government which was dependent on Congress support.

The author believes that the CPI-M has only an “outside chance” to grow, in the next two decades, in States apart from the three where it has a foothold till now. Many would think it quite unlikely. In the States where it once had more than a mere foothold, it has been marginalised. And even during the heydey of their bonhomie with the UPA at the Centre, Prakash Karat and company did precious little to take advantage of the situation to spread the party in the vast Hindi heartland. The CPI-M has lost the ground it held and failed to make fresh ground. And with a neo-liberal outlook you cannot attract the people. What future does such a party have?

The reviewer was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Dasgupta.

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