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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 21, May 14, 2011

The Left Really Matters

Tuesday 24 May 2011


We have no hesitation to agree with Prabhat Patnaik that significant transition has taken place in India from those days when it was reduced to a colony of British imperialism, especially during the 20th century, under the long democratic revolution starting from the time of the First War of Independence of 1857, and which is still continuing. We also agree with him when he says that the Indian democratic revolution today is faced with the prospects of being overwhelmed by the counter-revolution which is gaining strength day by day. But we basically disagree when he says that the main reason for this lies in the shift in the position of the bourgeoisie during this period. In this manner he is trying to conceal the fact that the Indian bourgeoisie had and still have a consistent class character and it was in recognising this that the Communist leadership in India committed serious mistakes from the very beginning, leading to the democratic revolution getting stalled.

The Communist International documents, during its formative years, have pointed out that the emerging bourgeoisie in the countries under colonial domination are collaborating with the imperialist bourgeoisie. They have no indepen-dent character, are comprador in character and are incapable of leading the democratic revolution to its completion. During the long period of democratic revolution the activities of this class repeatedly proved the correctness of this analysis of the class character of the Indian boiurgeoisie by the Comintern. Even to raise the slogan of ‘purna swaraj’ the CPI and other anti-imperialist forces had to wage a relentless struggle, as the bourgeois leadership of the Congress and Muslim League were satisfied with the dominion status. The Indian bourgeois class consistently collaborated with the imperialist classes and even after the transfer of power they had no hesitation to keep India within the British Commonwealth and to adopt almost all the provisions of the 1935 Government of India Act in the Indian Constitution. The ‘inherited’ British Indian state is maintained without any basic changes even today.

The economic history of the country during the colonial period and thereafter shows that in the economic and technical fields the Indian bourgeoisie had no hesitation to integrate itself with the global imperialist economic system in all fields. The histories of the Indian industrial houses like Tatas, Birlas etc. prove this. During the post-Second World War years, when the imperialist system under the leadership of US imperialism transformed its colonial system of hegemony and plunder with neo-colonial forms of plunder, the Indian bourgeoisie had no hesitation to adjust to this change. Even while they were trying to use the possibilities of manoeuvre between the imperialist camp and the socialist camp for their favour, the Indian state became a member of the IMF, World Bank, UN and signed the GATT Treaty integrating itself with the neo-colonial world system.

Maintaining their consistent character, as soon as the US-led imperialist forces embraced the neo-liberal policies abandoning their hitherto Keynesian policies, the Indian bourgeoisie and their Indian state had no hesitation to impose them in this country as ruthlessly as possible. As a result, all the hitherto welfare policies have been thrown away and the public sector is reduced to a mere skeleton of what it was. The ‘formal abridgement of democracy’ initiated by the Indira Gandhi Government is now taken to unprece-dented fascicisation of the state in spite of the fact that as a result of people’s struggles no formal ‘revision’ of the Constitution has so far taken place. We have full agreement with the explanations given by Prabhat Patnaik regarding the anti-people, anti-democratic changes that are taking place in myriad forms. The imperialist bourgeoisie at the international level and the comprador bourgeoisie in the countries under neo-colonisation like India are proving how consistent they are in pursuing the imperialist globalisation and neo-liberal policies to perpetuate the rule of the imperialists and their lackeys. It is surprising how such a renowned economic pundit and Marxist ideologue like Prabhat Patnaik fails to recognise this fact and asserts that all these changes are taking place because the bourgeoisie betrayed! Is Prabhat Patnaik having the illusion that even after what Lenin taught in the ‘Colonial Thesis’, the bourgeoisie in the neo-colonial countries will carry the democratic revolution forward?

As Prabhat Patnaik asserts, indeed the essence of the project of the big bourgeoisie is to depoliticise and disunite people, convert them into atomised empirical entities, rob them effectively of any subject role, and enfeeble them in the matter of defending their democratic rights. But what Prabhat Patnaik refuses to admit is that it was the character of the big bourgeoisie always. And Prabhat Patnaik is mystifying and confusing his readers for the purpose of justifying that the Left, that is the leadership of the CPI-M which he faithfully follows, has never changed its basic class position on the regime of the democratic rights of the people, as he states. According to him, the Left in India, notwithstanding its many mistakes, has consis-tently stood for the carrying forward of the democratic revolution. Again, in spite of the ‘tragic’ episodes of Nandigram and Singur, “they do not represent an iota of shift on the part of the left to any alternative, abridged regime of rights”.

How can Prabhat Patnaik dare to repeat such falsehoods when the history of the last five-six decades of the communist movement in the country, which according to him is that of CPI and CPI-M leaderships, is a history of class betrayal and class collaboration which is one of the basic reasons for the severe setbacks sufered by the people’s movement leading to the abridgement of the regime of rights of the people! While the bourgeoisie did not make an iota of change in their class character (rather they became more ruthless in pursuing them) during these decades and consistently followed their comprador tasks, it was the ‘Left’, the CPI and CPI-M, which basically shifted from Marxist-Leninist positions and helped the Indian state to pursue its counter-revolutionary policies. [Here it needs mention that the Naxalbari movement which came up challenging the revisionist CPI and neo-revisionist CPI-M leaderships during the 1960s also failed to lead the people’s movements with revolutionary orientation due to its sectarian line which is still pursued by the CPI (Maoist).] If Prabhat Patnaik bothers to examine a few instances of past history, it will not be difficult for him to find out this fact.

During the independence struggle, the failure to correctly analyse the comprador character of the Indian bourgeoisie repeatedly defeated the CPI leadership to establish the leadership of the working class in the national movement in spite of the numerous anti-feudal and working class struggles with great sacrifices by the Party at various levels. Again, after the transfer ofpower in 1947, in the name of correcting the Left deviation of the 1948 Calcutta thesis, in spite of the correct orientation provided by the 1951 Party Programme and tactical line, refusing to recognise the comprador character of the bourgeoisie, the CPI leadership went on pursuing a Right opportunist and class collaborationist line leading to many setbacks and the 1964 split in the movement. After the split, though the CPI-M was born with assurances to pursue the line of People’s Democratic Revolution, it soon embraced a Centrist line leading to degeneration to parliamentarism and formation of opportunist united fronts to come to power in Bengal and Kerala in the 1967 elections.

AFTER coming to power in these States, it refused to implement agrarian reforms based on the land-to-the-tiller policy and instead pursued the ‘land reforms from above’ policy including land ceilings promoted by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations-like imperialist agencies to facilitate intervention of capital, market forces and technology provided by the MNCs in the agrarian sector. When the CPSU leadership degenerated to revisionist positions and took the Soviet Union to the capitalist path, like the CPI, the CPI-M also refused to recognise it and went on upholding it as a socialist country till it disintegrated in 1991. When the major contradictions in the country intensified and the bourgeois parlia-mentary system was in crisis leading to a vertical split in the Congress in 1969 on the one hand and intensification of the people’s struggles on the other, instead of trying to build a Left alternative to the ruling system, like the CPI, the CPI-M also supported the Indira Gandhi-led government, helping it to survive the crisis. When the Indira Gandhi Government went on intensifying its authoritarian policies finally declaring the Internal Emergency in 1975, if the CPI became its apologist and slavishly supported her, the CPI-M refused to organise a resistance movement against it in the name of ‘protecting the party’, as criticised by P. Sundarayya, the then General Secretary, in his resignation letter. This erroneous line provided opportunity for the Rightist forces led by the Jan Sangh and then the BJP to utilise the anti-Congress sentiments increasing in the country.

And, once the BJP emerged as the main Opposition with its communal fascist policies, both the CPI and CPI-M, in spite of the Congress Government in 1991 imposing the imperialist promoted neo-liberal policies, intensifying the neo-colonisation of the country, in the main reduced its policy to supporting the Congress in the name of opposing communal fascism. The role of the CPI-M-led Left Front of supporting the UPA Government following the 2004 elections in effect further marginalised their political and organisational influence, helping the forces of counter-revoluition to increase their influence and power. As Prabhat Patnaik states, while the uniqueness of the Left consists in the fact that it is opposed to all this (anti-people policy of the Indian state), and its agenda on the country is to unite and politicise the people, which alone can make them capable of defending their democratic rights, the Left Front led by the CPI-M in effect became the apologist of the neo-colonial policies pursued by the Indian state and its executioners in the States where it was in power. Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh happened as it tried to suppress the people’s resistance to the neo-liberal policies imposed by the LF Government. These cannot be brushed aside as just some ‘tragic episodes’. Many such things happened in Kerala also where Prabhat Patnaik is the Vice-Chairman of the Planning Board. If the LF feels insecure and is afraid of suffering setbacks in the elections in these States, it is because it has abandoned the Left policies and embraced the imperialist-promoted neo-liberal policies faithfully speeded up by the ruling class parties and their fronts at the Centre and in the States.

As Prabhat Patnaik and petty-bourgeois intellectuals like him are camp followers of the LF led by the CPI-M, they refuse to recognise the role played by the CPI-M-like forces, abandoning the revolutionary theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism, in facilitating the counter- revolutionary policies pursued by the ruling classes and their political representatives through the Indian state. And to justify the class collabo-rationist line of their leaderships they create new theories that the democratic space is shrinking due to the ‘bourgeoisie changing their positions’. In this manner, they are glorifying the rotten history of the bourgeoisie in India and denying the role of the proletariat in creating a new history, thereby further distancing them-selves from the Marxist-Leninist positions. They refuse to recognise the class content of communal fascism which is one of the tools employed by the imperialists and their lackeys to perpetuate their hegemony and that even while the Congress claims to oppose the communal fascism of the Sangh Parivar, it was/is pursuing its own brand of ‘soft Hindutva’ right from the time of the independence struggle and following transfer of power, appeasing all brands of communal forces to perpetuate the ruling system.

As Stalin is correctly quoted by Barun Das Gupta, the CPI-M is perishing as it has shut itself in its narrow party shell, has severed relations with the concrete reality and the masses and is covered with bureaucratic rust under the social democratic political line it is pursuing. However hard they try, Prabhat Patnaik-like opportunist ideologues cannot save it through this type of theorisation based on falsification of history. Instead of saving it from its degeneration, they themselves are helping the speeding up of this degeneration.

(Courtesy: Red Star: Platform for Communist Revolutionaries)

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