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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 49

Left Alternative and the Struggle for Toilers’

Democracy and Socialist Revolution

Tuesday 25 November 2008, by Pramothes Mukherjee

[(The following article was written on the occasion of the national anti-imprialist seminar, organised by the RSP in New Delhi on August 9, on the role of the Left in the present situation. It was not presented there but the author gave it for publication in Mainstream. Regrettably it could not be used earlier due to space constraints. —Editor)]

“My son Dr Binayak Sen is today held in jail, a victim of extreme injustice. As patriot, he devoted his entire professional life to the untiring service of the poor—a record acknowledged by the PAUL HARRISON AWARD. He is charged with being a Terrorist waging war against the state. Should I remain a victim of injustice even at this age?”
- —Anusuya Sen, the mother of Dr Binayak Sen

Introduction

August 9, 1942 is a memorable day in the history of the freedom movement of India. For the first time Gandhiji had a change in his attitude towards the war after the failure of the Cripps Mission. The AICC met in Bombay on August 7, 1942 to endorse the Wardha Resolution, historically known as the “Quit India Resolution”. On the morning of August 9, 1942 Mahatma Gandhi along with his colleagues and AICC leaders were arrested and removed to jail, where-from he gave a clarion call “Do or Die”. The arrest of Gandhi was followed by peaceful and non-violent demonstrations in the shape of hartals, processions and protest meetings. Concerted outbreaks of mob violence, arson, murder and sabotage took place. The people of Midnapore (Bengal) played a heroic role in the movement to form a National Government at Tamluk under the leadership of Ajoy Mukherjee; there was also a Provisional Government at Balia (UP) under the leadership of Chitoo Pandey. But the people’s triumph was shortlived. Yet history pays homage to the soldiers who laid down their lives as martyrs to the cause of their country’s freedom. I congratulate the organisers on their choosing the date of August 9 for holding an anti-imperialist seminar at New Delhi.

Run-Up to the Present Day

BEFORE we proceed to dwell on the captivity of the Indian economy in the chains of international capitalism, we have to take into consideration the stock of the world situation as prevailing after the disintegration of the socialist camp in 1991 as well as in the current unipolar world headed by US imperialism and monopoly capitalism.

The year 1991 marked a watershed in the contemporary history of the world. The decade of the 1990s also witnessed rapid progress of globalisation and global capitalism following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. With the advance of super technology based on computer-electronics, the key forces (that is, computer, internet, mobile and dot com boom) played a very significant role in shaping the destiny of the industrially developed world. The internet revolutionised the modern culture, market economy and the medium for globalisation.

The advent of the twentyfirst century with the high ideals of the “Bolivarian Revolution”, after the name of Simon Bolivar, was highly significant for the people’s journey for “turning-to-the-Left” in Latin America. The whole international situation that has developed today shows that socialism has not yet ceased to be a force in history. Rather, socialism is a movement around the globe against the exploitative capitalist system.

Only China and Vietnam, two socialist countries, are currently experimenting with economic reforms which open their doors to global capitalism (with state control).

The most important feature of the current global reality is the WTO which was instituted in 1995 as the crown jewel of international capitalism to cover global trade in goods and services and also intellectual property rights. Students and youth, workers and farmers, women and poor people of the world are standing up against the policies of the WTO and globalisation. “Seattle” was a turning point in the modern history of the human struggle against globalisation. After the Seattle collapse, violent protests against the G-8 in Genoa (Italy), Cancun, etc. show the onward march of the protest by the working class people. We offer our red salute to the South Korean farmer-activist, Lee Kyang Hae, who killed himself during a protest in Cancun on September 10, 2003.:

Beatle’s “Our world is not for sale, my friend just to keep you satisfied”

What RSP Stands For

IN the prevailing international situation, “it shall be one of the principal tasks of the RSP to make a special endeavour to unite all truly revolutionary socialist political trends in the international working class movement in different countries on the basis of a common programme of mass action and common approach to the major ideological and political issues.”
- (World Crisis and Socialist Revolution—RSP Theses, New Delhi, December 9, 1972, p. 58)

India at the Dawn of 21st Century

“The trembling light,
- This night bitten Dawn,
- This is not the Dawn
- We waited for so long
- This is not the Dawn
- Whose birth was sired,
- By so many lives, so much blood.”
- (An Elusive Dawn by Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

At the dawn of the twentyfirst century, India is still besieged by its past—a decaying society and a deteriorating economy. “From Baluchistan to Manipur, and from Assam to Sri Lanka—there are insurgencies and civil war. Partition is the root cause of all these evils. Partition was a crime against all the people of the subcontinent and British imperialists, with their flawed policy of divide-and-rule, made certain that some major issue was left behind to ensure continued hatred and strife.”1 Partition of the country was done on the basis of the Two-Nation Theory. Two flashpoints appeared there:

a) People of Pakistan had to tackle the problem of unity of Pakistan. Religion could not keep the country united.

b) People of India had to face the problem of preserving secularism and multi-party democracy in India. But the breakdown of the constitutional machinery on December 6, 1992, with the demolition of the Babri mosque, left a question-mark on the body of secularism.

The two wings of the Indian bourgeois ruling class have destroyed the social fabric. The Congress-I (one wing) could not uphold the high ideal of secularism and parliamentary democracy. The BJP (the other wing) has favoured (Hindu) majoritarianism thereby destroying the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution. But the wings of the Indian bourgeoisie have been working for national and international monopoly capital at the behest of US imperialism. During their rule, they could not protect the country’s economic sovereignity in respect of bank insurance, industry, defence, nuclear research, etc.

This part of the political analysis shows that bourgeois democracy and capitalism in India have entered a permanent phase of instability and political crisis which cannot be resolved and overcome within the framework of the weak and under-developed capitalist structure of the country. The crisis management of the last two decades of the eighties and nineties of the last century emphatically indicates the instability of and contradictions among the bourgeois ruling class headed either by the Congress-I or the BJP in compliance with US imperialism.

At this opportune moment, the Left as a whole could appear on the Indian political scene as a third alternative to replace the rival factions of the traditional bourgeois parties like the Congress-I or BJP. But as a matter of fact, the CPI stood by the Congress-I and the CPI-M offered support to the progressive section of the bourgeoisie—the Janata Party headed by Morarji Desai. During the upsurges of the seventies, the Communist Parties and the Left as a whole were playing parliamentary games either with Indira, or with Desai, Charan and others. On the other hand, a large section of the fighting people kept themselves ready to stand for class struggle in different parts of the country:

The rise of a new wave of class struggle sharpened the contradiction. It also strengthened the existing revolutionary wings and created new revolutionary wings in the political and trade union organisations of the Indian proletariat. 2

Betrayed in 1947 and brutalised by partition, the successive generations of working class people have grown up to believe that there is a universal law for class struggle to continue until the abolition of the class-divided society and the establishment of a new socialist order on the basis of the Marxist-Leninist line of social change.

Under the given circumstances Comrade Tridib Chowdhury declared:
That is why it has become historically urgent for the entire Left movement and for the Marxist-Leninist parties in the country to make vigorous and united efforts to seek to build up and project before the people an Authentic Left Alternative on all India basis, in order to provide a new leadership capable of replacing the rival factions of the traditional bourgeois parties, Congress and non-Congress (that is, the BJP). Unless the Leftist parties agree to work together with this major end in view, the Indian people cannot be led out of the vicious circle of capitalist underdevelopment, alround misery and starvation, within which they have been moving since independence and before.3

The Demand for a Homeland

THIS is the most characteristic feature of the freedom movement of India (that is, separate electorate for separate homeland under the imperialist design of the divide-and-rule policy) Even after independence, the same demand by the minorities (linguistic, religious, caste and tribal) is prevailing in the social movement.

A) The demand by Indian Muslims, before 1947, for a homeland was a driving force among Muslims living in Hindu majority areas of northern and western India.

B) The demand for linguistic homeland (States) was the driving force in Indian politics in the 1950s (vide reorganisation of States).

C) A demand for Sikh homeland by Sikh leaders who conceived of India as having three nations: the nation of Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.

D) The demand for a homeland by the various tribes in North-East India was initially rejected by the Government of India, which led to longest insurrectionary movement in India.

E) The demand for a homeland persists in several tribal areas of India—notably in the Munda-Oraon Ho-Santhals region of Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal.4

Gorkhaland Agitation

STUDENTS of history are well acquainted with the process of Balkanisation. Balkanisation states reveal the fact of departure from the mainstream of the central organ of society. Today the people of India and the world are experiencing terms like secessionism, greater autonomy within a State, separate state, etc. People of North Bengal have been experiencing the Naxalbari movement, Gorkhaland agitation, separate State of Kamtapuri, Greater People of Cooch Behar movement in successive decades.

Among these four, the Gorkhaland agitation has taken a new political dimension. The Gorkha demands varied from greater political autonomy within West Bengal to a separate Gorkha State—Gorkhaland—in India. The issue was settled in mid-1988 with some financial and administrative control granted to Gorkha leaders within the parameter of the Constitution. But, today the rise of an able middle class and a new generation of Gorkha leaders is a new social phenomenon, and they are seeking recognition and identification of their own.

We have to keep it in mind that the geography of Darjeeling has strategic importance because of its proximity to China and it has economic importance because of wood, tea plantation and tourism.

Failure of the Left

INDIA’S former President, K.R. Narayanan, was a Dalit, yet the fate of the Dalits remain unchanged. A total of 160 million Scheduled Castes who call themselves Dalit are still consigned to the state of agricultural labourers and illiterates. They are victims of the caste system. The bourgeois ruling class as well as the Left parties have failed to fulfil the aspirations of the depressed social classes and minorities.

What the tragic spectacle of Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, Madhya Pradesh, and other parts of the country shows is the pitiable condition of the Scheduled Castes, Dalits and minorities, rural poor, urban lumpens and in general the unfortunate condition of the common man. We find the tension and conflicts between the upper-caste and lower-caste Hindus, and also between the oppressed Scheduled Caste and other castes of society. The persisting carnage in Assam (conflict between Assamese-Bengali people) is a black spot in the history of the civilisation of North-East India. In brief when we consider the particular case of Assam in the context of the politics of sub-nationalism we see the picture of disaster, hatred, murder and the loss of life and property. The bourgeois ruling party or combination headed by the Congress-I could not manage the conflict during the decades of the eighties and nineties of the past century.

The Assam accord or the division of the North-East into seven sister States could not resolve the issue of communal discord, the threat of disintegration of the nation, terrorism, secessionism, caste conflict, etc.

The Left as a whole could not utilise the basic opportunities of parliamentary democracy nor were they able to launch class struggles on the soil of such conditions in the interest of the toiling people.
It is for this reason that the RSP had been consistently calling for the formation of a united front of genuinely Left parties of Marxist and socialist orientation and its projection as the third political alternative on the national plane to both the UPA headed by the Congress-I as well as the NDA headed by the BJP.5

Left Front: An Evaluation

“THE united left front of RSP’s conception is in other words a political concept, the first necessary step towards the formation of Toiling Peoples’ Democratic Front of Leftist and working class parties and of Left-led class and mass organisation, which would eventually lead the country and people through the historical goal of overthrow of capitalism and proletarian socialist revolution.”6

RSP and Maoism

MAOISM is a variant of Marxism-Leninism derived from the teachings of the Chinese Communist leader, Mao Zedong. In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Maoism was part of the official doctrine of the CPC upto 1976, and since 1978, that is, the advent of Deng Xiaopeng’s market economy-dominated reforms, the concept of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has been dominating politics and economy in that state.

Maoists deem Stalin as the last socialist leader of the Soviet Union. They believe that capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and in China under Deng Xiaopeng.

In Marxism-Leninism, the urban proletariate is seen as the source of revolution. But Mao focused on the peasantry as the main revolutionary force, and agrarian revolution was underlined as the priority task for social change. Maoism contains an integral military doctrine (guerrilla action).
The concept of multi-class political structure of New Peoples’ Democracy as an intermediate transition stage between capitalism and socialism, the notion of “non-antagonistic” contradictions between the national bourgeoise and the working class, the projection of the idea of winning over the national bourgeoise to accept socialism through ideological remoulding—all these derive from the orginal Maoist theses of New Demcoracy or People’s Democracy.

The RSP, in its Patna theses, underscores the urgency of the party’s struggle against these ultra-Left opportunist tactics and of misguided adventurist form of armed action without the support of mass political struggle.7

Yet, the dedication, sacrifice and valued contribution of the romantically-minded youth in the extra-parliamentary political process of the Maoist movement spreading over India should be brought into the formation of a broadbased toiling people’s Left and democratic movement under the fold of the Left Alternative.

RSP and CPI (Maoist)

MAOISM is an international phenomenon today. The Communist Party of Peru, known as Shining Path, was the first grouping to officially call itself ‘Maoist’. It was followed by other groups which advocate People’s War in the Third World. It became a significant political ideology to defeat the Royal Nepalese Army and the supporters of monarchy. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), under the leadership of Prachanda, has conditionally halted its armed struggle, thereby participating in the politics of the National Assembly.

In India, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has been fighting a protracted war. It was formed by the merger of the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) on September 21, 2004. They have expanded their range of operation over half of India and is listed by the Prime Minister as “the greatest internal security threat” to the Indian Republic.

Granaries of landlords were ransacked in Naxalbari and records of people’s debts to money-lenders were burnt. The mass appeal of the movement was partly based on these attempts to achieve justice through direct action.

Today, as important actions show (Modhuban on June 23, Giridih on November 11, Jehanabad on November 13) the emphasis of the Maoist movement in Bihar is on targeting the police and the state institutions. They remain silent on crucial matters related to the people.8

There is no wonder that the Maoists have penetrated deeply among the tribal people and in the forest areas.

RSP and UPA Government

THE UPA has won the trust-vote in parliament but lost the trust of the nation.

India has a long tradition as a pioneer in the movement for world peace, disarmament and non-alignment. The Government of India did not sign the NPT and CTBT. On the country’s own initiative the success of the Pokhran Test-I in 1974 and Pokhran Test-II in 1998 have lent a dignified status to India in the world nuclear fora. India can claim to be a member of the aristocratic nuclear club.

On July 5, 2005, the India-US Defence Agreement and on July 18, 2005, the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement were concluded in Washington clearly to indicate India’s subservience to US imperialism and amounted to a complete sell-out of our nuclear sovereignity and non-alignment policy.
In addition to this, the economic policies pursued by the UPA Government headed by the Congress-I in the name of globalisation reveal the government’s attitude of surrender to the WTO and US imperialism. The uncontrolled rise of prices of petro-products, daily necessities has made the life of the common man miserable. The employment situation is worse. The nine per cent GDP growth (or more) is meaningless to 90 per cent of the people of this country. The poor farmers at Vidharbha (Maharashtra), Andhra Pradesh, and in different parts of India are committing suicides falling into the debt-trap or death-trap.

Moreover, after the fractured verdict of the people in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, the Left parties as a whole supported the UPA headed by the Congress-I in order to form a secular (non-BJP) democratic government on the basis of the NCMP. The sad experience of the running of the ruling coalition and the failure of the UPA Government to tackle the volatile situation in India compelled the Left parties to withdraw support from the government. The UPA won the trust of vote in Parliament, because the SP, RJD, DMK voted in favour of the Congress-I. They love secularism but prefer to stay in power. This signifies the failure and futility of the so-called theory of secular and democratic front with parties like the SP, RJD, DMK.

So, any Third Front or electoral adjustment with any one wing of the rival factions of the bourgeois parties (Congress and BJP) is not enough, not competent to meet the demands of the people and the current situation.

Rather, the prevailing situation demands the toiling people’s democratic front on the basis of the unity of struggle under the leadership of genuine Left parties (with the help of class-struggles and broadbased mass struggles) to project before the people a Third Political Alternative to both the wings of the bourgeois parties (the Congress-I and BJP).

[This article has been written on the basis of the Political Theses as postulated by Comrade Tridib Chowdhury at the National Conference of the RSP, Calcutta, April 6-11, 1980.]

FOOTNOTES

1. Lalkhan, Partition: Can it be Undone?
- 2. Lalkhan
- 3. Political Theses of the RSP National Conference, Calcutta, April 6-11, 1980, p. 15.
- 4. This section is based on Themes in Politics by Prof Partha Chatterjee
- 5. The Left Alternative : RSP Theses, Calcutta, April 6-11, p.16.
- 6. Ibid., p. 31.
- 7. World Crisis and Socialist Revolution : RSP Theses, New Delhi, December 4-9, 1972, p.56.
- 8. Economic and Political Weekly.

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