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Mainstream, Vol. XLIX, No 29, July 9, 2011

Debacle of the Left: Five Observations

Sunday 10 July 2011, by Pramothes Mukherjee


The following, according to the author, is a first evaluation of the people’s mandate in the West Bengal Assembly Election 2011.

It is my first observation that the Left Front lost the battle in 2011 (and) so the Trinamul won the battle. The Trinamul is not a positive alternative to the Left Front. The Trinamul is not a party, but a conglomeration of destitutes from different parties. People did not vote for the Trinamul but they voted against the CPI-M or better to say against the CPI-M-led Left Front. That is why the Trinamul, in alliance with the Congress and SUCI(C), under the connivance of the Right reactionary and ultra-Left forces, won the battle. The spectacular success of the Trinamul is due to the unprecedented failure of the Left Front Government during the last three-and-a-half decade rule in the State of West Bengal.

My second observation is that Mamata Banerjee is not a democrat. She does not have any philosophy. She was brought up in politics in the company of the Sanjay Gandhi brigade. She was a cog of the “gang of four”, namely, Priyaranjan-Somen-Subrata-Mamata in the camp of stormtroopers of the West Bengal Yuva Congress. She was selected to dance on the bonnet of a car before Jayaprakash Narayan on April 18, 1975.

According to Asru Kumar Sikdar [Frontier, August 8-14, 2010, ‘The Spectre of Change’],

Though nominally an upper-caste Hindu, she (Mamata) does not come from an upper class family, does not possess any pedegree or degrees from Ox-bridge or Harvard, not even a minor degree from Presidency College. She did not have any god-father.

Her rise may be regarded as the rise of the poor and subalterns, but there is no doubt that her rise is a phenomenon which contains the seeds of “Fascism”. Here, in the name of so-called ‘change’ in the State system it is the spectacular triumph of Fascism over democracy.

My third observation is that the alienation of the Left parties from the people is the root cause for their failure in the election. The people’s movement was the origin of the Left Front in 1977 in West Bengal. ”Permissibility was accorded to the Left parties for joining the State Government in West Bengal, Kerala and subsequently in Tripura in a capitalist productive system under the capitalist Constitution of India on the condition that the Left parties would utilise the State Government machinery to expand the Left and democratic movement all over India, which would provide a great fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working class people.”

It started in the form of a new mass movement for more “Financial Powers to the State” (Vide the Recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission) and it gained momentum through land reforms, Operation Barga, expansion of irrigational facilities, etc. in rural areas. But, for reasons not known to us, the wave of class struggle and mass struggle was lost in the ‘quicksand’. Defence of government became the chief concern of the CPI-M-led left Front Government.

Under the given conditions in the eighties, closure of factory since the mid-sixties became the main reason for economic stagnation, hunger, poverty and total frustration in the life of the working class people in Calcutta and suburban areas on either side of the River Hoogly. Everybody thought of the government but nobody thought for workers and their class struggle. There was no movement for the confiscation of the land locked by the owners of the closed factories. Workers turned victims of lay-offs, closures, starvations and hunger. Obviously, the vote-bank of the Left began to shift from the town to village. Thus the town people distanced from the Left Front.

A Communist Party, when alienated from the people, begins to be governed by the bureaucratic mechanism within the four walls of the party office. Democratic centralism, the only Leninist principle of Communist Party organisation, has been substituted by many of the (alienated) party bosses on the line of mechanical bureaucracy. This brings about the dictatorship of the party bosses and allied favouritism, corruption, etc. As a result party office buildings are burning in many places of the district in consequence of the people’s anger and hatred for politics.

APART from all these features of and reasons for the Left’s debacle in the election, it should be kept in mind that the NEP-1991 and the New Industrial Policy had a very important role to play in this respect. The year 1991 is a water-shed in the contemporary history of the world which saw the fall and disintegration of the Soviet Union and aversion to socialism. A large part of intellectuals had began to shift from the socialist camp to the camp of non-socialist ideas based on private capital and free enterprise, etc. This was the real beginning of the Left’s debacle in philosophy, literature and social sciences which has ultimately been reflected in the Election of 2011.

The advent of the neo-liberal economy (LPG) has a serious impact upon the Indian economy as well as Indian Left politics. Read the dialectic: the CPI-M and Left allies are seriously fighting against the neo-liberal economy (SEZ etc.) all over India whereas they are implemen-ting those neo-liberal economic policies (SEZ, chemical hub, acquisition of land etc.) in West Bengal. They have gone down not for resisting the LPG-policies but for implementing the LPG-policies in West Bengal “ trampling upon the rights and interest of the rural poor and the labouring peasantry...”.

In consistence with the NEP (1991), the south-western States of India made an advance in respect of industry, urbanisation, electronic hubs and centres etc. The Left in West Bengal could not utilise the opening of window for industrial development. They could not avail themselves of any alternative means of industrialisation (state capital). Such a moribund state of industry and economy was a curse to the people and govern-ment.

In order to avoid such a moribund state of affairs Com Jyoti Basu, then Chief Minister of West Bengal, under compulsion of circumstances, moved a resolution on the industrial scenario (for its rejuvenation) in July 1994, in the Assembly (West Bengal). With a few exceptions this resolution 1994 was adopted and the new opening was utilised by the successor Chief Minister, Com Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in 2006. Introduction of private capital, major compromises with corporate houses, MNCs and foreign companies were made on a significant scale. This became fatal for the Left Front.

The fifth and final observation is that the Salt Lake Electronic Complex, IT sector, software engineering activity attracted the eyes of the people, even critics. A new middle class was born depending on the ultra-modern means of production. Such a rise of sophisticated technocrat and highly advanced young working class is an important factor in Indian society. The Left was cut off from and quite ignorant of the rise of this new class. There is no bond between this new variant of technocrat workers and the old, traditional working class people. There is no unity of thought, no unity of action between the two segments of the working class in the trade union movement. The lacuna in the trade union movement is the reason for the ultimate detachment of the rising middle-class intelligentsia from the Left movement.

Today’s defeat in the election is nothing but the reflection of all these frustrations in human activity. But life never stops.

The Left is not dead but defeated for the time being. Only the Stalinist way of functioning is not the authority of the mainstream of Leftism. Left unity should be re-defined. At the same time only to criticise the decision-making authority of the CPI-M is not the Leninist way to stabilise Left unity. There is the imperialist decision to isolate the CPI-M from the Left bloc in order to dismantle the Left bloc as a whole as we have seen in the dark days of the seventies. So, the task of the day is to integrate all the Left forces, including Left-thinking people, to rebuild the broader unity of the Left Front on the basis of unity and struggle of the working class people. That is the only way ahead for the Indian left.

In a capitalist system, contradictions are bound to manifest. One man-one vote in a multiparty democratic system is not the solution for the poor people.

The low-brow Mamata, now glorified as a subaltern leader, is not the answer to the demands of West Bengal. M.G. Ramachandran, the father of Sub-altern consciousness in South Indian politics was the Chief Minister of Madras for 11 years. But the society did not undergo any change. The fate of the poor people remained unaltered.

So, it can be refered to what Lenin said: “Get the lessons from the debacle and go deeper into the masses.”

Finally, I like to quote a long stanza from the history of the rise-and-fall of Lech Walesa in Poland:

“Lech Walesa, the son of a carpenter, repre-sentated the Trade Union Solidarity and had been a labour activist for at least 20 years before his election as President. In 1983, Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize and his rising star resulted in election victory in 1990 which he construed as a mandate to reorganise the Polish economy on free market lines... while Lech Walesa’s domestic popularity declined he lost a re-election campaign in 1995.”

If the rise of Mamata is compared with the rise of Lech Walesa, then the fall of Mamata is inevitable as the fall of Lech Walesa within five years. A Revolutionary Socialist may believe in such a historical connotation.

Pramothes Mukherjee is a former Rajya Sabha member and a leader of the RSP in West Bengal.

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