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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 39, New Delhi, September 19, 2015

Left in Kerala: Have the Comrades abandoned Serious Introspection?

Sunday 20 September 2015


by Suresh Jnaneswaran

Listening is a virtue that comrades should assiduously cultivate. The distinction between listening and hearing has been pithily characte-rised by Roland Barthes as, “Hearing is a physiological phenomenon; listening is a psychological act”. Is listening to the petite bourgeois or non-card holder anathematic to the comrades self-esteem? Should an oracular posture of infallibility run them down over the Indian subcontinental landscape?

Change is the essence of history but our comrades willy-nilly refuse to change out of ideological doggedness or perhaps out of empirical ignorance. The foisted intellectual biases of Western Marxism and generic inability to glue with Indian realities, inter-alia,remind us of Hans Georg Gadamer’s averments on ‘precon-ceptions and prejudices’ in spite of secondary interventions. It also gives us a commonsensical vision of the alienation of the Left at crucial junctures of history.

Inexorably the retreat of the Left is assuming alarmingly ubiquitous proportions. Kerala alone stood out defiantly—but today it is unsure and fidgety. The organisational strength is still there to intimidate real and imagined opponents; however the ‘slow rot’ and ‘wilt’ is evident to even its purest pedigreed and thorough-bred comrades. The moody silence, the sulk and brood is there for those who seek to ‘see and hear’ from the lowest organisational hierarchy moving upwards in a frustrating spiral. It is this discontent that its ambitious rivals would look to capitalise on.

The newcomers, even if they are the saffron hordes, not the Germanic, have a greater sense of purpose and energy than the enervated Left. What happened to Rome when faced with Barbarism can happen to Kerala too. The formidable red bastion of Kerala has been ruptured by its own comrades—peasants, workers, service organisations, youth, intellec-tuals, et al. How else are we to comprehend, through a social-science analysis, the latest electoral debacle of the Left at Aruvikkara in Kerala? The Congress got it votes—good for secularism and socialism! Where did the BJP votes come from? Where did the CPM votes go? Answers to these questions do not need an abstruse philosophical elucidation. What happened to the ‘Carlylean heroes’ of the CPM? The strategist and martinet Comrade Marshal could not marshal the votes of even his own ilk.

The charisma of the veteran war horse, in perhaps its last phase of rigorous campaigning, was lost to the voters. The much-maligned and blasphemed ‘veteran comrade’ of Kerala though still attracts and sensitises the public’s emotional cord at the hustings, failed to get the expected votes. Day in and day out the Party derides the veteran comrade of Punnapra-Vayalar vintage and then expects his public supporters to turn amnesiac and vote for the Party! How can this contradictory emotional sympathy be possible enmeme temps (at the same time) for the veteran Party underdog and his Party persecutors? As a CPM ‘hero’ he would have been effective, but as a CPM ‘official discard’ he became ineffective. Who is to blame for this disgusting turn of events in the Party—provoking and challenging the commonsense of the voters?

Ideologically the Left is crippled with no intellectual or mass programme in proximate visibility. Organisational strength is bound to dissipate in the absence of ideological strength and clarity on core and peripheral issues alike. Even the plank of ‘corruption’ could not be used effectively not because the masses empathised with corruption but because the LDF’s record in governance, wherever they made their presence felt, was conspicuously abhorrent. The Left demonstrably lacks, even the ethically and morally appealing, but ideologically deficient, programme of the AAP. Where has the much- acclaimed progressive culture of the Left vanished? How did it allow itself to be swamped in casteism, feudal pretensions—with local leaders arrogating to themselves the role of potentates in their fiefdoms, nepotism, mafia links, corruption, et al? Corruption, organisa-tionally and individually, carries the same stink and venality and cannot be sanitised or justified by the former rationale.

The minority communities who prop up the Congress for their own ends of survival, relevance and sectarian aggrandisement also need to realise that it was historically the Left that kept communalism, casteism and corruption at bay more effectively than the secular bourgeois parties by providing them with the narrative to uphold secularism and harbour minority interests. The lay public generally does not cogitate on their electoral choices taking into consideration abstruse nuances of political philosophy—their concerns are largely mundane. However, in Kerala, over and above day-to-day problems of sociology, environment and economics, political philo-sophies prove decisive. Caste determinism can prove crucial but assumes political criticality in the space vacated by ideology, not otherwise. This has happened in Kerala when the first Communist Ministry was voted to power as the ‘Rammanohar Lohia theses’ adumbrated with clarity.

The Left has no escape but to introspect and correct its political strategies vis a vis its failures. Seeking shelters in quantitative analysis and attritive polemics is not going to take them far. The quintessential problem is not in arithmetic but in overall ideological and psycho-cultural perceptions. The earlier it learns from its own history, the better for Kerala and its people.

Dr Suresh Jnaneswaran is a Professor and the Head, Department of History, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram. He is also the editor of the Journal of Indian History: Journal of Kerala Studies.

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