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Mainstream, VOL L, No 31, July 21, 2012

People’s Expectations from the Left

Friday 27 July 2012

by Nitya Gopal Basu

India is in the grip ever-increasing political doldrums. Regional political parties with their narrow vision of regional interests are reaping dividends taking full advantage of the weakness of decision-making of the second UPA Government. Regional politics, coupled with the limitations of coalition politics, has become a stumbling block for carrying out many of the positive steps for economic growth and expanding the horizon of international friendship (like the holding up of the Teesta water-sharing agreement). In the name of federalism the installation of a strong infrastructure to fight both internal and external terrorism is being stalled. All these are going on in the name of federalism. The result is that internal terrorism is expanding, and the will to curb external terrorism is weakening.

In these circumstances, innumerable Left-minded people expected that the all-India Left parties, especially the CPI and CPI-M, through their respective Party Congresses would come out with new strategy and tactics and organisational practices to strengthen national integrity and isolate the divisive and communal forces. It was expected that after proper dissection of the mistakes of the past policy and actions, they would come out with a perspective to unite all patriotic forces with the bulwark of peasantry as the dominant force for change to establish a society of justice and humanitaria-nism by isolating the divisive and communal forces; and it was thought that the Left forces would also strive to set up a National Platform of unity and integrity.

Because of past mistakes the space for the Left parties (CPI, CPM) has been increasingly squeezed. At the all-India level the Left’s presence is microscopic. In Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Bihar, UP, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, the Left parties had notable presence in the past but today there is practically no presence of the Left forces there organisationally, although there is no dearth of Left-minded people. Even in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, where the Left was organisationally dominant, the dominance is declining. If this process continues, here also its position is likely to be the same as what has happened in Bihar, Assam and Punjab.

It was expected that the CPI, CPM would come out of their shell of dogmatism and Stalinism. But because of the urge to stick to the present leadership’s position, in the name of new outlook and new policy, the two parties have only poured old wine in a new bottle. Without analysing how the toiling people would benefit, the Left parties did not join the UPA Government and then failed to discern the fall-out of withdrawing support from the UPA on the question of nuclear energy. The Left parties declared to fight both the Congress and BJP and consolidate the Left forces. This is the old policy of Karat, Buddha, Biman. Keeping their eyes closed to the reality and without realising that they would hardly get any space for expanding the Left forces without others’ help, they took the plunge. The cardinal questions they failed to answer were: do you have the strength to fight the Congress and BJP simultaneously? If not, who should be targeted first?

For the last twenty years or so blind anti-Congressism had led to the attempts of forming a “Third Front”, sometimes projecting Mayawati, sometimes Jayalalithaa as the future Prime Minister. All these attempts reflected the bankruptcy and immaturity of the present Left leadership. If they accepted it, then Karat, Buddha, Biman, Nirupam and others would have been forced to give up their present leadership position which they were not prepared to countenance.
Without any attempt to build up a strong peasant movement for the injustice meted out to them, without any attempt to build an anti-corruption movement, the Left supported the BJP-inspired “Anna Movement”. But the result is that they have been left by the wayside-Blind anti-Congressism has occasionally led the Left closer to the BJP, the real face of communalism.

To adopt any new policy in the context of the present socio-economic scenario in India we are to give up the idea of establishing socialism or people’s democracy in the immediate future. Rather we should endeavour to transform the present society into a society of “social justice and equity”—a society free from corruption, where everyone would get adequate food for survival, a shelter to live in, adequate healthcare facilities, where children would not die due to malnutrition and/or lack of medical facilities and portable drinking water, a society where skilled or unskilled young people would not be frustrated due to unemployment and indulge in anti-social activities, a society where different monolithic groups of people would get their own identity and respect.

To transform the present society to the above state who can be the nodal forces? By and large the peasantry would be the agents of change along with industrial workers in unorganised sectors, like workers in construction activities, day labourers, rickshaw and cart pullers, and workers in small factories, as they all are the stakeholders of change. Middle class young people can easily understand the state of social injustice and can be a part of the army of social change so long as the specte of unemployment haunts them. Industrial workers in organised industries are relatively better-off than others, have developed a vested interest in the continuation of the present social system. Contrary to our dogmatic assertion that “industrial workers, particularly in the organised sector, would be the vanguard of social change”, they would be the last to jump into this bandwagon of the army of social change, consisting of the peasantry and young section of the middle-class with unemployment looming large before them. Workers of small unorganised industries, when they join this prospective army of change, it would become an unvanquished force of change.

To accomplish this task of organising the vast pleasantry, we are to spread a large number of committed political workers in every nook and corner of the country. Can we achieve this without the help and cooperation of other political forces? Do we have enough space of our own to penetrate the vast rural India? Thus the need of the hour is the democratic unity of the Left and Left-of-Centre democratic forces to isolate the communal forces headed by the BJP, Muslim League and leaders of the mosques and Hindu shrines.

In this broad democratic secular platform the Indian National Congress would be a distinct, but occasionally vacillating, ally of the Left. The Congress itself is a secular platform Right-Centre of the Left.

Because of the very nature of the Congress it is possible for the Left forces to influence its policy; this is true particularly of the Left-of-Centre forces within the party. This happened in the past during the Nehru era. Blind opposition to the Congress by the Left forces would drive them towards the Rightist and communal forces and compromise with them to retain its power. The policy of blind anti-Congressism would not help to consolidate the forces of social change—rather it would strengthen the communal forces like the BJP and other divisive forces.
About the regional parties, we have to realise that these parties thrive on regional interest, uneven regional development, lack of equitable justice and identity. The reasonable regional demands and identity should be addressed seriously. But these regional parties can never be long-term dependable allies, as they have a narrow regional interest. They can ally with any force if it helps them to achieve their myopic goals.

So far as West Bengal is concerned, the rise of Mamata Banerjee and the one-person party Trinamul Congress is the contribution of the Left Front Government, particularly the CPM. The acts of commission and omission, misdeeds, the CPM’s control of every aspect of social life, terror tactics to subjugate the voices of dissent, and all-pervading party hegemony, demolition of democracy, creation of a ruling coteries—all these alienated the general public from the ruling Left party. The more they became isolated from the general public, the more they started coining such inexplicable slogans like “better or more developed Left Front is our alternative” and “agriculture is our base and industry is our future”. Their overzealous endeavour for indus-trialisation led to forcible acquisition of land coupled with terror and physical annihilation of the Opposition. Fear psychosis led to the destruction of the fabric of democracy, marshalling anti-social lumpens to gag the voice of the Opposition and democracy. The result: it alienated not only the people of different cross-sections, even the intellectuals who by and large had Left inclination and were friends of the Left Front Government and a large section of the civil society having a commitment to social change went against the continuation of the Left Front Government and its regressive anti-people policies. Mamata Banerjee appeared on the stage as the valiant crusader against the CPM’s misdeeds and the forcible acquisition of land of the agriculturists. People’s alienation from the Left Front Government, coupled with the withdrawal of Left support from the UPA, brought the Congress closer to the Trinamul and the Election Commission’s strong-arm tactics backed by the Central Government led to the ouster of the Left Front Government through a peaceful parliamentary election. The crusader against the misdeeds of the Left front Government, Mamata Banerjee, once in power, has been pursuing the same anti-democratic policy of the Left Front. The Trinamul Congress is a one-person party, having no control over the lumpens and antisocial elements that are flocking to it. Gimmicks do not last long. The one-point crusade against the CPM ousting it from power with others’ help is one thing but running the State administration is different. If self-seekers and opportunis throng the party and if the party dictator’s right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, how long can she run the show?

It is quite possible that the Mamata Government would not last a full five-year term. But the question is: who would fill the vacuum? Unless the CPI, CPM change their strategy and tactics it is hardly possible for them to regain the people’s support and confidence. The CPM must come out of the Stalinist shell of organisation and Karat’s dogmatic view of anti-Congressism, and the inclination to find the ghost of imperialism in every international agreement of compromise and reconciliation. If it establishes real democracy within the party by giving up “Democratic Centralism” and “dogmatic anti-Congressism”, it must also forsake the idea of consolidating only “Left unity” and Left unity alone. Though such unity is necessary that is not sufficient. A broad platform of secular forces and forces of social justice and humanitarianism is the need of the hour. The Congress is a dependable, though vacillating, ally in this endeavour. To accomplish this task the top leaderships of the CPM and CPI have to be changed and a kind of working unity of the CPM and CPI has to be forged.

In the international scenario, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, there is no one centre upholding international solidarity and the lofty ideal of internationalism. Every country is pursuing its policy based on its national interest. International brotherhood follows one’s own national interest. Imperialist forces have become more aggressive to increase their hold on the people at large as world powers, and are being resisted by the forces of nationalism. The aggressive designs of the imperialists have to be thwarted through consolidation of world opinion against them from different international platforms and reorganising the “World Peace Movement” as in the post-World War II period in the past. In every move of the Western countries we should not see the ghost of imperialism and their aggressive design. No person believes or accepts this type of search for ghosts. For our national interest we have to get their help and assistance, since the major resources of the world are at their disposal. But while seeking help from them we should carefully guard our own national interest.

The author was an active member of the communist movement from 1947 to 2002; thereafter he has been a well-wisher of the Left movement. Presently he is working as the General Secretary of the Forum for People’s Initiative.

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