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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 46

Complications of the Present Political Situation

Saturday 3 November 2007, by Chaturanan Mishra

The main reason behind the Left parties’ support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2004 so as to enable the latter form the government at the Centre was the threat of the BJP, a source of communal fascism, riding to power again. There are other parties, the regional ones, having MPs, but many of them have no such rigid condition against going with the BJP although they are not comunal as the BJP and Shiv Sena. And then there was the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP); but such an NCMP with the Congress would have been possible in the past as well but the Left never tried for it. The Congress, incidentally, is also a political party which never joined hands with the BJP to form a government.

Despite this threat of the BJP, during the last three years of the UPA Government no national campaign against the forces of communal fascism was unitedly launched by the UPA and the Left. By such a joint mass movement of the UPA and the Left the communal forces, including the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), would have been cornered at least on the issue of the Gujarat mass murder of Muslims by the Narendra Modi Government. The Supreme Court did something about this but not the UPA Government nor the UPA and the Left jointly. There are certain provisions in the Indian Constitution which could have been used against the perpetrators of the savage communal pogrom in Gujarat. The International Court of Justice too was not moved for the purpose though sufficient materials were collected by the NGOs working on this issue.

If the BJP weakened today it is because of its own contradictions, not because of any anti-communal mass mobilisation which would have brought the Left and secular forces nearer to each other while simulatenously helping to strengthen the latter’s secular crdentials and proclivities.
The unmistakable fact is that the communal danger posed by the BJP remains even today; and it would remain if elections are to take place tomorrow on the main issue of India hurtling closer to the USA.

Why is there a Pro-US Feeling in India?

THE anti-US feeling is not so strong in India. In a world opinion poll it was found that India has the largest number of people with a pro-US orientation. Even during the US attack on Iraq when there were worldwide massive protests against Washington’s action, the protests in India were poor almost everywhere barring Kolkata. (Nirmalanshu Mukherjee, Religion in Indian History, p. 269) The Indian bourgeoisie, be they in the Congress or the BJP, are united on the issue of approach to the USA. There is a strong Indian lobby in the US and this works to keep New Delhi close to Washington. Even the affluent middle class growing in India happens to be pro-US. The Indian corporates are gaining due to globalisation. (Globalisation has given a new lease of life to capitalism unlike in Lenin’s time when capitalism was in crisis. Capitalists are on the growth path everywhere. That is why even the CPM, which is against the national bourgeoisie, is now inviting foreign MNCs to States like West Bengal where they are enjoying State power. The CPM has come a long distance—from their old slogan “Tata-Birla ki Sarkar Nahin Chalegi†they are now busy rolling the red carpet for the Tatas.) Their profiles have increased many fold. Their sales have increased many times and, specifically, their sales have increased not by exports as in China but in the domestic market and therefore India is in the comfort zone in the recessionary world, according to various international studies. (Newsweek, October 22, p. 38) A number of Indian corporations are now in the Fortune 500 club.

The GDP growth for the last three years is seven to nine per cent. The media owned by the corporates is therefore pro-US. The economic situation is to the satisfaction of the class that the BJP and Congress represent.
On the political front our border dispute with China is not only continuing but despite India’s support to China on the Tibet and Taiwan issues China occasionally makes fresh claim on Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Sikkim which creates irritation among the people in general. The Left may not raise this issue but this development helps in generating pro-US thinking. Between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Chinese are closest to Pakistan.

The recent improvement in Pakistan-India relations is because of the USA threatening President Musharraf to fight the terrorists or face the US. Preident Musharraf spoke of this warning from Washington quite openly.

More important for India is the threat from the Taliban which is again gaining ground in Afghanistan. President Karzai of Afghanistan and the US are trying to strike some kind of settlement with the Taliban. The pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan are very strong. They have two State governments with them in the country. Ms Benazir Bhutto has herself faced their wrath on her arrival on October 18 and had a narrow escape. Without the help of the US India is not in a position to defeat the joint Taliban-Pak terrorist attacks in Kashmir. After the Gujarat genocide several parts of India are facing terrorist attacks. This is the contribution of the BJP’s anti-Muslim tirade. This situation facilitates Indians to become pro-US.

Now the Soviet Union is not there and China cannot play the role of the Soviet Union so far as India is concerned.

Two Illusions

TWO illusions persist in India. One is that the Indian bourgeoisie will surrender to US imperialism and India will become slave of the strongest Western power. In the pre-independence days it was thought that it will surrender to British imperialism and thus when freedom came it was said to be a false one. When the Dunkel proposal came and India joined the WTO, then also it was said that India will be enslaved. Hence a ‘save independence’ movement was launched.

It is to be understood that there is no such threat nor is it possible to enslave a country like India. The US attempts made to enslave Vietnam and Iraq failed miserably.

The second illusion is that if India joins America it will prosper like South Korea, Japan and China. But even South Korea had to openly defy America on the question of trying to unify the two Koreas, that is, no war with North Korea. China and Japan have different histories which cannot be explained in the space of a brief article. The best example is South America which did for decades whatever the Americans prescribed for them but in the end the situation became so bad that in the free elections in the continent one country after another is electing Left-oriented governments. America is also isolated in the entire Muslim world. In Europe too British Premier Tony Blair had to go because of his pro-Bush policies. The new President of France is of course pro-US and the same holds true to some extent in the case of the newly elected German Chancellor. Yet the anti-war feeling is prevalent everywhere. It is needless to narrate the postures being taken by Putin’s Russia and China. They have formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which is said to be the NATO of the East.

Having opted to sail with the USA India too has become friendless in the world. Due to the US India’s relations with Iran have also gone sour. I hope our own External Affairs Minister’s inability to meet the Russian Foreign Minister while in Moscow was not the consequence of our strategic defence arrangement with the USA and the four-power (Australia, Japan, Singapore and the US) joint naval exercise with India in the Indian Ocean. India’s isolation in the world and the country being declared pro-US are not in the best national interest of India. We should not lose whatever we gained during the Nehru-Gandhi days. This does not mean we go anti-US the whole hog. Normal friendly relations with the US on the basis of equality should be developed. The US is highly developed in science and technology, their research system is of a very high quality. They are also in need of our bright, English-speaking intelligent boys and girls. And then our labour is cheap. They want to outsource business to India for that very reason. All these constitute the foundation of the US’ ongoing cooperation with India.

The world situation is changing. Even in the US a feeling is growing that dictating terms to other countries as is being done by Washington at present will not be possible beyond a point. The world is developing such as to throw up centres of multipolarity. The days of one superpower dictating terms to others are fast fading. The European Union is evolving as one centre with a policy for the Middle East different from that of the USA. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has already taken shape. The African Union is also developing as a centre defying Britain and other European powers on the issue of empowerment of the ‘Blacks’, the original residents of African countries, that is, by giving them lands taken from the Whites as has been done by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or making them shareholders in the European companies of African countries. When the British PM said he will not attend the Euro-African meeting if Mugabe joins it, Africa unitedly said that in that eventuality they all will boycott the meeting.

In such a situation India must not miss the opportunity of developing into another centre; but this cannot be done by becoming a junior partner of the USA.

Failure of the Left

VERY often the Left parties speak of the danger of Hindu communal fascism. If that is really so, then the remedy, according to the Seventh Congress of the Communist International (Comintern), is the building of a Popular Front. Instead of developing the Popular Front the Leftists are themselves divided into several parties and functioning like religious sects, each speaking of theoretical differences with others. They claim to be Marxist. Marx’s central slogan was—‘Workers of the world, unite!’ But each of the Leftists has a splinter group in the trade unions. Even in Bengal, where they are in power for three decades, they don’t allow the trade unions to merge into one solid union. When the people see the Left so badly divided they don’t get attracted towards the Left. In Comrade P.C. Joshi’s days when a mass organisation like the Kisan Sabha was formed, it consisted of Socialists, Congressmen, Communists, individual personalities like Swami Sahajanand, Indulal Yagnik, Prof Ranga etc. but now every party has its own Kisan Sabha. Similarly originally people of all parties were in he AITUC but now the organisation has split into so many groups. So what to talk of the Popular Front, even mass organisations are hopelessly divided. How can the people be attracted towards the Left in this scenario?

Communist Parties are passing resolution after resolution to expand into north-western-central India but have hitherto failed to do so. This is because the situation has changed but the Left parties repeat the old slogans and thus get no response. To rally the people with new slogans in the new situation one needs to work at the grassroots and rouse the people as we did in the old days. Now the party forum is there from the branches to the local and district committees but leaders don’t go the grassroots. Corruption is rampant even at the block and panchayat levels and can be tackled only locally. For this the Left can be helpful. A great opportunity came for the Left to organise people with the help of the Rural Employment Guarantee Act but they failed to do so.

The Leftists have their forum but they address committee and GB meetings or mass meetings comprising only of their own people. Leaders are not in a position to understand that unless they draw non-Communists towards them they can achieve no success in their endeavours and for drawing non-Communists one has to give up sectarianism and adopt a broadbased mass line. For more than two decades because of this weakness the Left has failed to organise sustained democratic actions of masses of people at the State level what to talk of national level actions. This is our main weakness. Now on local issues people spontaneously react themselves and hence the need is of State level and national level actions. By exercising their vote people change the governments and hence they want a party which can replace the government. The divided Left parties are therefore rejected in places outside the three States in which they have their own base and government, that is, West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.

But the communal forces, specially the Hindu communal forces, utilise every religious function for their purpose. Yet the Left parties, except in Bengal where they join the Durga Puja, do not participate in religious functions which are confined to religion. In Delhi the BJP during Ramlila burnt the effigy of Karunanidhi and propagated the view that the Rama tradition is in danger because of the Congress-Left, as also the UPA Government at the Centre. My experience is this: during Ramnavami processions in Giridih the BJP boys used to create scenes when passing through Muslim localities but when the Communists also started joining the Ramnavami processions the BJP stopped creating trouble. The Left parties need to decide what to do to check communal propaganda during mass religious functions.

I have another experience of helping Dalits to offer puja in a temple. This was opposed by caste Hindus despite my repeated appeals to them. Then being on MLA I asked the SP to allow them to perform puja and he did so. But in the next election the caste Hindus of that area openly told me that for this act on my part they will not vote for me. This question is still there in many places. Untouchability is also there. Now the OBCs are more aggressive against the Dalits. Dalits themselves also observe casteism. The Left can take up this issue on a mass scale. The new awakening in Dalits will help end discrimination against them. The Brahmins’ acceptance of Mayawati as a leader is a sign of the changing times.

The problem of OBCs versus upper castes was always there but the Left did not take it up as it should have. It was Dr Lohia who first raised it and in Bihar Karpoori Thakur as the Chief Minister worked in favour of the OBCs but he gave reservation to women and the poor of the upper castes as well, even as he restricted it for those who were Income Tax payees. When the V.P. Singh Government implemented the Mandal Commission report there was social upheaval in Bihar and UP. Now every caste has awakened. Either singly or in groups with other similar castes they want their castemen to become MLAs, MPs and Ministers. They say only through this can they ensure their caste identity. In a State like Bihar the CPI base got eroded because of this reason. Even now the Left parties don’t realise that this social contradiction is sharper than the economic contradictions like those originating from lack of land reforms for which repeated resolutions are passed but without any response. The formation of the Popular Front could have helped to uplift backward, tribal and Dalit leaders and kept them within our fold. There is also a new awakening among the Muslim youth, boys and girls. But we fail to draw them towards us and utilise their services to fight communalism.

The entire agricultural sector (including even the rich peasantry) is facing a serious crisis. In a survey, 40 per cent farmers have desired to quit cultivation if they get alternative job. They now want irrigation, soil testing, suitable fertiliser, cheap credit, proper suggestion for favourable crops, adequate price, chains of cold storage and other necessary technology to raise productivity and minimise wastage. At present 33 per cent vegetables, fruits and flowers get spoilt—and this is equal to the total agricultural production of Australia. The Left parties fail to take up this issue even when thousands of farmers commit suicide. Now corporates are entering agriculture claiming to take up the farmers’ cause and instead of workers-peasants front we have an emerging corporate-rich farmers front. But the small farmers’ problems remain unresolved.

During the period of globalisation when the consumer price rises it is the unemployed and poor people who suffer the most. Organised workers are also attacked but they also offer resistance. Trade unions concentrate on organised workers. Despite three years of the Left-supported UPA Government at the Centre, even the minimum facilities for the unorganised could not be achieved. Likewise Indian agriculture suffered the most after globalisation and the country joining the WTO.

Globalisation can be used for the benefit of mass of the people through global actions but the world trade unions and Communists do not fully participate in the World Social Forum movement or anti-war agitations. Their full scale participation in such movements can help a lot on this score.
There are several other similar issues where the Left parties have failed to garner success to the detriment of the toiling people.

The author, a veteran CPI leader, was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Government at the Centre (1996-98).

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