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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 12 New Delhi March 10, 2018

Tripura: Time for Left to Reorient

Monday 12 March 2018, by Anil Rajimwale


Lenin said, practice is the criterion of truth. Tripura has forcefully underlined the need for a drastic reorientation of the tactics, even strategy, of the Left and the Communists in particular. Tripura has again emphasised what was already clear. It has proved that the democratic forces must reject a narrow-minded and sectarian approach, reorient and adopt a broad attitude.

The Tripura poll outcome shows what should be done and what not, as was in West Bengal earlier. The result there and elsewhere in India since 2014 has shown the harm done by a narrow outlook, and the necessity of the broadest possible political and civil unity/cooperation/adjustment to roll back Rightwing communalism, bring India back in the direction of democracy, and draw it back from the brink of communal-fascism.

The results are not much of a surprise, not unexpected; many in the Left were expecting these. Only the margin was beyond expectation. It was but a continuation of the process that began in West Bengal. The next is Kerala. It does not need much profound political wisdom to understand that cooperation/understanding between the Left, Congress and other democratic forces in Tripura would have prevented this result. There is not a big difference between the winners and losers. This is also true of many other places and States where elections have taken place.

At the broader all-India level, unity or cooperation of the Left, democratic and secular progressive forces is urgently called for.

It is really the time, the precise time, when the Left should take up the initiative and mobilise vast sections of the progressive and democratic forces all over the country. It is this role which the Left is refusing to play, particularly some sections of it, to the detriment of the democratic camp.

The Left and democrats must now save Kerala.

Firm Foothold for the Rightwing

The results carry serious implications for the future. It is the further spread of the Sangh Parivar to hitherto uncharted areas, putting the pregressive forces on the defensive. The fall of Tripura is the main cause for such an advance by the Right. The Rightwing, led by the BJP/RSS, have not only got a firm foothold in the North-East for the first time after independence. It has over-thrown a well-established Left in its bastion in Tripura, ruling for more than two decades, in a direct battle. They, the Rightwing, have worked systema-tically to this end. Let us give credit to them.

One wonders what exactly the Left was doing in Tripura and the North-East. It is intriguing that there was little or no participation of the Central leaders of the Left in the Tripura election campaign, while the BJP-RSS had thrown its full force and weight in the battle. Why did the Left leaders from the Centre not camp there? Why were their strength not mobilised? Obviously they thought, complacently, that they would win, even if with a reduced majority. How could such a serious miscalculation be made? That too by such experienced and mature (?) leaders? The Left has failed to understand the new developments, new forces, new generation, the youth and changes in the social composition even while it was ruling for two-and-a-half decades.

What should a Marxist and Leninist do? Go back to the basics of Marxism, and learn the Leninist tactics, use Leninist methods of analysis. See how Lenin studied the development of capitalism in Russia, how he developed and changed the tactics of the RSDLP during the Russian Revolution. The Left and Communists have learnt nothing from the 100 years of the Russian Revolution just celebrated; a pity, really.

The society in the North-East and Tripura has undergone basic socio-economic and cultural changes over time. They are part and parcel of the Indian and world society. And an important change is the emergence of new generations of youth, who are totally isolated, even alienated from the Left and democratic movement.

One feels that the communist movement and the Left has complacently given up the initiative it had, and its substantial influence. After all, the Left was and is very strong in Tripura. It is strong in Manipur, and has substantial influence in Assam and Meghalaya. The simple thing was to build upon it. Instead, they remained a silent spectator of events, they suffered from, what Lenin called, ‘voluntarism’.

It beats the political/ideological common sense that the Left ‘did not know’ that the RSS and Sangh Parivar were making inroads in the North-East. It is no use blaming them (the Right); they are doing their job. But why is the Left not doing its job? Why did it not take timely steps to meet this threat and prevent the RSS-BJP spread? What is the explanation? Those claiming to be scientific socialists are proving to be far from having any scientific understanding of the political situation. There are no doubt complications of the local tribal and other separatist outfits, but that applies to other parties too.

The Left has to understand that the BJP-RSS are not Congress. Once they come to power, they will do everything to maintain themselves and not allow others to rule. They will decimate and destroy the democratic forces, and use Rightwing reactionary methods to entrench themselves. It is a gross mistake to have allowed the RSS-BJP to make inroads and get a foothold in Tripura. The Left will regret it.

Role of Left Bastions

What is and should be the role of the Left bastions and bases? What the Indian Left has done is to withdraw from its own territories and cede ground to the Rightwing reaction.

The Left and Communists had, and continue to have, powerful bases in Kerala, Bengal, Tripura, Manipur, Bihar, AP, Tamil Nadu, Punjab etc. The governments and bases certainly should have been used to spread to other States. But the Left had no all-India strategy to this end. This was a gross political mistake. 

Besides, not long ago, the Left had 62 MPs, who held the decisive lever to the fate of Indian politics. The Left held the key to India’s political future. They could have used this number and position to prevent the Rightwing communal forces from coming to power, and gone ahead by establishing themselves and spreading their footprints and thus even come equal with the Congress.

But blind anti-Congressism prevented it. They decided to withdraw the support to the UPA-I on a non-issue, and thus opened the floodgates for Rightwing reaction.

Give up Blind Anti-Congressism

This is a crucial question today, the question of cooperation with the Congress and other democratic forces. There is a serious division among Left, democratic and progressive forces today. Everybody talks of unity of ‘secular’ forces but will not take a single concrete step in that direction. Why? What prevents it? Some Left forces agree that there is a danger to the country from communal and Rightwing forces, they even talk of unity in this regard. Every sober and sensitive party, fully conscious of the dangers from fascistic trends, is feeling the need for unity or cooperation and understanding. What prevents them from coming together or cooperating and reaching an understanding with each other?

It is blind anti-Congressism on the part of some Left forces that prevents such an unity and thus helps the growth and spread of Rightwing reaction. This should be realised and corrected.

It has to be understood that the BJP-RSS are aiming to establish a one-party rule, wherein there will be no room for any other party. They are moving towards a highly centralised communal-fascist one-party rule, with a unified command in the armed forces; they are trying to or preparing to change the Indian Constitution in a reactionary communal manner. They are trying to eliminate or reduce in size all the Opposition parties, and thus render them incapable of fighting. They are forcing the pace of events in this direction. This applies to all the Opposition without exception. They want the ‘2019 poll’ to be held exclusively under their control and supervision. The ruling party wants to separate the various parties one by one and destroy them.

What we need today is the broadest possible front against the forces of Rightwing reaction and communal-fascism. Serious and well-thought-out policies and tactics have to be evolved.

The objective situation for the Left and democratic parties is very favourable.

The biggest hurdle in the unity of the Left, democratic and secular forces is blind anti-Congressism among a section of the Left and some regional parties. This is really strange and unfortunate. Even while agreeing that the RSS-BJP pose the main danger, and are destroying the secular fabric and democratic structure of the country, some leaders and parties refuse to reach an understanding with other ‘bourgeois’ forces, in particular the Congress. They do not realise the magnitude of the harm they are doing.

The Congress is the largest and pan-Indian secular force, which was born out of the freedom struggle. Many of the progressive achievements, which are being destroyed by the reactionary forces today, and which we are fighting to save, were achieved under its rule. Of course, the people and progressive forces played a big role in it.

It goes without saying that the Congress is certainly responsible for many misdeeds and crises in the country during its long rule. It must be criticised for those and struggled against. Such a struggle is essential to further democratise the system. But that does not mean that the Congress and BJP should be put in the same bracket. They are not the same. The Congress is a secular and democratic party, while the BJP-RSS represent a communal-fascist combine, with a Rightwing communal ideology, drawing inspiration from fascistic thought. No other party has the ‘RSS’ as its base or guide. Therefore, even while fighting against the wrong policies of the Congress, the political parties must adjust or cooperate with it on the question of fighting the main danger from Rightwing reaction.

The CPI has correctly said that the coming to power of the BJP is not a simple change of one party by another. It is for the first time that a Rightwing reactionary party has come to power with absolute majority. This Rightwing party displays trends of a fascist nature or is communal-fascist. From such an analysis the task flows. The CPi has also given a timely call for the formation of a broad secular, democratic and Left platform to fight the communal fascist threat.

A united front of all the progressive forces, including the Congress, is the need of the hour. They should include the regional parties and all possible forces. Mamata Bannerji’s TMC has done well to stand up to the BJP, as also Laloo’s RJD and many other parties and forces. Even the allies of the BJP like the Shiv Sena and TDP are uneasy and have come out openly against it. There is widespread discontent against the BJP rule in the country. Even the entrepreneurial class and MSME sections are angry. The youth and middle classes are getting disillusioned.

In such a situation, the Left should discharge its historical political duty by giving a call to all the progressive and democratic forces to come together in a broad coalition with an understanding to roll back the Rightwing communal danger. This is the main task and job of ‘Left unity’. Left unity is not abstract; it is concrete. And this is its concrete duty; only then can it grow.

This does not mean that there are no differences within the proposed broad front. This also does not mean that the partners/constituents of the democratic camp should not criticise one another or should give up their respective independence. But this should not stand in the way of a democratic mobilisation by the Left.

It should be realised by everybody that the RSS-BJP combine wants to destroy the Left, Congress, regional parties, groupings etc. one by one, separately, by sowing the seeds of disunity among them. Any disunity on this question, and on the question of the defence of the Indian Constitution only helps Rightwing reaction and the corporate houses.

One hopes that the differences within the CPI-M are solved in a positive manner. That is important in the present situation. It is unfortunate that the question of understanding with, of ‘going with’, the bourgeois parties, particularly the Congress, should be a point of discussion and debate at the present juncture. The question is settled already by the objective events and situation. There is no other go for the progressive forces except to mutually adjust and cooperate, if not form a formal front. Maybe tomorrow even a broad and formal loose front will be necessary. The objective situation demands that all of them come together. Even the TMC and Shiv Sena should be asked to play their part, even if a limited one. The Left should not shirk from such an initiative. It will only help the Left to grow and play its due role in the mainstream of national politics. Without such a role you cannot hope to grow.

There is a vast experience in our country and outside on this question. Lenin did not shirk from aligning with the bourgeois forces: he said to all such forces: ‘let us march separately but strike together’ (against the main enemy)! Mao gave the slogan of ‘coalition government’ with precisely those forces against which he was waging an armed struggle (in 1946). Georgi Dimitrov was the greatest proponent of a united anti-fascist and anti-imperialst front (in his 1935 thesis). It was this thesis and front, formal and informal, which made it possible to defeat Nazism and fascism.

Situation Grim 

India stands at a serious juncture; the situation is grim. History will not spare the democratic and Left forces if they do not come together. Very little or no time is left. The Rightwing corporate communal forces have penetrated the state, society, education, science, technology, all the institutions, universities and schools, media, and partially the minds and consciousness of the people, particularly of the youth. Communalisation, financialisation and fascistisation of the society is growing apace. Rightwing reaction has the government. Now it is penetrating the state and civil society.

The secular, democratic and Leftwing progressive forces must now come together to save the country. All other contradictions and differences are within it, not outside, and they can be fought out later.

The author is a Marxist ideologue.

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