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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 47, November 12, 2011

Urgent Need for Left Unity and Coordinated Progressive Action

Saturday 12 November 2011, by S G Vombatkere


The following is an appeal Major General (retd) S.G. Vombatkere sent to the leaders of the Forward Bloc, CPI-ML (Liberation), CPI (Maoist), CPI-ML (New Democracy), RSP, CPI, CPI-M, CPI-ML (K.N. Ramachandaran), PDS, UCPI, SUCI (C ), Socialist Party (India), Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Loktantrik
Samajwadi Party (Raghu Thakur).

Dear Comrades of All Left parties, groups and persuasions,

I address you in all humility as a Left-leaning person with abiding faith in the Constitution of India with its democratic, secular, socialist character, and in the good sense of the suffering poor millions of India. This Appeal for Left Unity and Coordinated Progressive Action is made to All, because the Left forces are fractured and divided, and are today very weak. In times when corruption is so widespread it is creditable that even the Left’s political rivals acknowledge that corruption in the Left is low. It is for this, among other reasons, that Left-minded people, namely, workers, peasants, middle- and lower-middle class people and intellectuals, have been looking up to the Left parties with hope. But they have been disappointed and are disspirited and inactive. They need to be rallied and energised.

It appears that the Left parties have not introspected sufficiently and are possibly also in denial. True success in elections, without resort to money- and muscle-power, can only come with genuine support from the poor who constitute over 80 per cent of India’s population. And this genuine support will only come when they believe that Left programmes will benefit them, and not the corporates. Left groups which resort to armed militancy no doubt have their reasons, but violence always results in ordinary people being suspected by both sides, thus getting caught in the cross-fire between the government’s police forces and the armed cadres, leading to untold suffering of the majority in the conflict area. Such violence always escalates and it is the poor people on both sides who get killed or wounded, while the corporates who control the government and senior government officials are secure in distant places to continue their corrupt practices.

Left parties and groups which believe in electoral democracy and also those which subscribe to armed militancy, need to introspect on the reasons for their lack of success, their mistakes and failures. They need to re-strategise and engage with the huge numbers of ongoing non-electoral political movements and agitations across India for the people’s primary rights over land, water, forests and livelihoods, which are yearning for electoral support. The Left forces need to re-group and engage with each other. This Appeal is directed in all humility to those who, after introspection and reappraisal, agree to adopt a positive and coordinated approach without recriminations or rancour, to create a New Left which will strengthen the democratic processes as a means to making India a genuinely secular and socialist Republic according to the Constitution of India.

To this end, the present situation is briefly analysed to emphasise the extreme urgency of this Appeal, followed by the details of this Appeal.

The Present Situation

TODAY, the Congress party stands discredited because of one or more of the following: (i) rising inflation and cost of living as a result of its neo-liberal economic policy for development, (ii) huge corruption in the Union Government and the “honest” Prime Minister’s inaction or reluctance to take action against corrupt colleagues, (iii) growing intimacy with corporate bodies and corporate bosses whose interference in governance and choice of Ministers (Radia tapes) is exposed, (iv) suspected “sell-out” to the USA’s corporate interests in nuclear and bio-technology fields, (v) Dr Manmohan Singh being an ineffectual PM because of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and (vi) discard of external affairs policy of non-alignment, and India’s strategic treaty (military, nuclear, biotechnology, etc.) with the USA at the cost of India’s economic and political indepen-dence and historic regional alliances and friend-ships. Additionally, the Congress party has internal problems, especially with some of its Andhra Pradesh members demanding a separate Statehood for Telengana. Thus, some analysts predict that UPA-II will not return to power in the next general elections, while others guess that it may not even complete its present term.

The Opposition BJP stands discredited because of one or more of the following: (i) huge corruption in BJP-ruled States, (ii) lack of leadership and coherence within the party, (iii) its economic policy and pro-USA tilt being essentially the same as that of the UPA with the failure of its “Shining India” policy when in power as the NDA Government, and (iv) its “Hindutva” character, its penchant for raising the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, and its barely hidden anti-Muslim policy. Additionally, it has internal problems because of an internecine power struggle between factions. Thus its success in winning a majority on its own or even with a coalition in the next general elections is unpredictable, even if the Congress “scores a self-goal”.

The Constitution of India constitutes India “into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic”. The words “socialist” and “secular” were inserted by the 42nd Amendment effective January 3, 1977. The UPA clearly negates the “socialist” part and, in some quarters, is seen as pseudo-secular with a streak of fascist-like centralised control. Starting with the New Economic Policy of 1991 adopted during the Congress Government of Mr Narasimha Rao, India was consciously changed into the capitalist republic which it is today, even though the word “socialist” survives in the Constitution. The BJP-led NDA also negates the “socialist” word in the Constitution because its economic policies and inclinations are no different from the UPA’s, but additionally it also negates the word “secular” because of its past, its unstated communal policies and demons-trated links with the RSS.

With the ruling coalition and the Opposition both suffering from constitutional and ethical poverty and being their own worst enemies, other national parties not being in a position to come into power, and regional parties being focussed regionally, there is strong likelihood of a political vacuum at the Centre. The probability of a hung Parliament and a constitutional crisis bodes ill for India. Therefore the vacuum needs to be filled by political forces that support the Constitution of India and the socialist, secular, democratic functioning that it prescribes. There is dire and urgent need to combine socialist economics and the politics of decentralisation, equity and social justice to reach out to the vast majority (80-85 per cent) who are below or just above the so-called poverty line. This and only this can stem the growing violence in society, not the increase of police or military force to silence dissent and protest in civil society.

There is a general public loss of faith in the political leadership across the board. This is aggravated by the fact that there is no rallying point (like “oust the British” during the Independence movement) or policy provided by a political party with appreciable electoral strength.

Threat Perception

THE internal threats are, briefly, fascism, communalism and neo-liberal economics, all enabled by hi-tech surveillance (including the UID Aadhaar scheme and the National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID) to further the agenda of the politician-bureaucrat-policeman-mafia-corporate nexus.

The external threats are economic, political and military from neighbouring, regional or distant countries, and cannot be neglected.

Appeal for Left Unity

IN the absence of the political vacuum being occupied by the Left forces, a state of anarchy and general chaos will inevitably follow. This will provide opportunity for fascist and communal elements to consolidate and take control, leading to irreversible collapse of the Constitution and of the Union of India.

Even if the above prediction of political vacuum is wrong, and either the Congress or BJP seize power at the Centre, it need not be emphasised that the vast majority peasant and working poor of India will not be benefitted by either of them. The “winning” Congress or BJP will aggressively pursue the neo-liberal agenda and almost all the people of India will lose heavily in more ways than one. Thus again, the need for unifying and strengthening the Left forces is both dire and urgent.

The present Left forces are fractured and divided on ideological lines and personality-based differences. It is this condition of Left forces that has enabled the communalism- and fascism-oriented Rightist forces to gain strength and permeate the polity. With a strong Centrist force like the Congress of some years ago (albeit favourably inclined toward the corporates) the Rightist elements were under check, but with the present Rightward lurch of the Congress and its inept politicians, there will be little check on the Rightist forces unless the Left forces unite to counter them and then roll them back.

This, therefore, is a fervent appeal to all Left parties (communist groups of all persuasions and shades and socialist groups) which support the Constitution of India and the socialist, secular, democratic functioning that it prescribes to make a time-bound examination of this brief document and arrange a meeting with the single agenda of how Left unity can be achieved within an agreed time frame.

In connection with the foregoing, the under-signed is willing to interact with any or all if called upon to do so.

Mysore S.G. Vombatkere

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