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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 32

Confidence Motion and Communists

Wednesday 30 July 2008, by Chaturanan Mishra

I don’t mind Communists voting with the BJP because I think in the parliamentary system such a situation is unavoidable particularly as the BJP has acquired the position of one of the biggest all-India parties. But this time it was our own creation. We demanded a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. Communists did not realise that their withdrawal of support to the Manmohan Singh Government will please the corporate sector and they will do their best to see that the Manmohan Government wins the trust vote. They did not conceal it and openly spoke of it in the media. Hence bribing the MPs was a foregone conclusion and it happened. While supporting the Union Government, Communists did not try for any law to check this kind of phenomenon to the extent possible. In fact Communists did not seek to frame such a law and bring about administrative reform to check allround corruption from top to bottom in the administration and government. It was not in our agenda though people suffer most because of this development. This is not the first time that legislators have been purchased.

It is high time now to review our stand of not joining the government and supporting it from outside though the Communist leaders were attending the lunches and dinners hosted by the government. In Europe, Communists are joining coalition governments. This time it was possible to have five or six Cabinet members and in that case they could have done a lot for the people including checking the price rise. This is my experience as the Union Agriculture and Food Minister. During the UF Government under I.K. Gujral, a movement helped by the State governments of Punjab and Haryana was organised in those two States for not selling wheat to the government. Even the Maharashtra kisan leader, Sir Sharad Joshi, was in Punjab to lead this movement. The price of flour went to Rs 12 per kilo when I was given charge of the Food portfolio as well. The Agricultural Prices Commission had increased the price of wheat to Rs 35 per quintal but when I took charge of the Food portfolio I gave a bonus of Rs 60 per quintal; so it was increased to Rs 95 per quintal and farmers began selling wheat to the government to the utter disappointment of the State governments and Sri Sharad Joshi. I am sure if Communists would have been in the current UPA Government the present high price of food articles would not have happened. Unfortunately the Communists did not make the high price of food the main reason for their withdrawal of support to the government. They made the nuclear deal, which the people were unable to understand, the main issue.

Making the nuclear deal with America the main issue of withdrawing support is based on an old thinking of the Communists that a country led by the bourgeois party can once again be enslaved. This thinking originated in the Sixth Congress of the Communist International although the Comintern’s Seventh Congress corrected it by giving the call of building Popular Fronts. Due to this old and wrong thinking eminent leaders of the freedom struggle were called British agents, there was no participation of Communists in the ‘Quit India’ movement of 1942, and the freedom that dawned in 1947 was described as false independence. That thinking persists and this time we were told that by implementing the nuclear deal with the US India will lose its freedom. The fact is that as the baby has been delivered, it cannot be put back into the womb again; likewise India cannot be enslaved once more. Moreover the defects in the Indo-US deal could have been minimised, if not removed, had the Left parties’ representatives been in the Cabinet.

Communists are again speaking of a Third Front. This is an old slogan. When the CPI advanced this slogan a decade back, I told the party’s National Executive that it is not feasible. Communists join hands with such parties and time and again break up the alliances in the name of struggle, but such struggles never take place—so people call us opportunists; as a result we are losing our base in the heartland of the country. Now we talk of farmers committing suicides. But who prevented us from launching a sustained movement in those areas where the suicides are taking place even when we were supporting the government for over four years? The Communists supported a Congress-led government at the Centre but never launched any joint mass movement with the Congress even against communalism. Despite its mistakes the Congress is still the party having the largest segment of secular forces. It has never participated in any government wherein the BJP is a partner. It has a long record of this tradition. That is not realised.

If the Communists want to have an effective say in national politics they should first form a united party of the Left. They should first merge all their mass organisations in one trade union, one kisan sabha and the like, and allow non-Communists to join such mass organisations as had happened when those were first organised. Judging by the present stand of the Left their thinking seems to be that in the present birth they will have only an ideological struggle and in the next birth they can think about an all-India political organisation. By uniting and organising State level mass movements alone can we build a Left base that would play an effective national role.

The author, who was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Government at the Centre (1996-98), functioned as the AITUC President for several years.

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