Mainstream

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2012 > Left at the Crossroads

Mainstream, VOL L, No 16, April 7, 2012

Left at the Crossroads

Friday 13 April 2012, by Kripa Shankar

The tragedy of the communist movement in India has been that it wholly depended on the Soviet Union for guidance and considered any directive from it as the last wisdom which could not but be accepted as a religious tenet. The Soviet Union was only pursuing policies in its own interest and had nothing to do with promoting revolution in other countries but the Communists were made to believe otherwise.

When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union it asked the Indian Communists to support Britain as it was also opposed to Germany. The Communist Party of India (CPI) opposed the ‘Quit India’ movement of 1942 and got alienated from the people and lost the opportunity of becoming a big force in the anti-imperialist struggle unlike the Communist Party of China which by opposing Japanese imperialism became a decisive force and captured power in 1949.

After the end of the Second World War the Soviet Union found that imperialist powers were conspiring to weaken it. It considered the governments in newly independent countries like India as lackeys of imperialist powers. Hence it gave a call for overthrow of such governments by any means which included armed struggle. The CPI, as a loyal contingent of the Soviet Union, went the whole hog in implementing this adventurist path and was badly bruised.

In the meantime there was a U-turn in the thinking of the Soviet leadership in 1950. It found that governments in such countries, particularly India, were anxious to cooperate with the Soviet Union in developing their countries and were not lackeys of imperialism. The Soviet Union, by cultivating such countries, could win them to their side. This would be a great setback for imperialism and an enhancement of the power and influence of the Soviet Union.

Now the CPI was asked to form a united front with the bourgeoisie to fight the machinations of imperialism. The CPI, which till the other day was carrying on a final assault on the Government of India, had no alternative but to follow the Soviet line of forming a united front with the bourgeoisie and collaboration with it.
Once the Soviet Union found that the Indian Government was its ally, the former only wanted the CPI to strengthen this alliance. Gone was the role of the CPI as a vanguard for fighting for a radical transformation of the country. Its whole purpose was to now act as an appendage of the bourgeoisie. The only activity left for it was to take part in elections to increase its representation to retain its relevance for which it could take up popular issues but the direction was clear: it had to exist as an ally of the bourgeoisie.

Thus began the downhill journey making it ultimately a bourgeois party. The leadership of this party came from the same colonial bourgeoisie which became the ruling class in the post-independence period. Hence it readily adjusted to the new role. The division that took place in the CPI in 1964 was not for any ideological reason but as China had emerged on the scene there was a rivalry with the Soviet Union to become the leader of the communist movement. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) came into being after the division. It drew a bigger section of party cadres as it appeared more radical. But once the CPM came to power in West Bengal as the leader of the Left Front with an absolute majority and remained in power uninterruptedly for more than three decades, its metamorphosis as a bourgeois party became quite manifest.

Its record shows that it metamorphosed into a party of the Establishment upholding the status quo. Its entire effort was to induce international capital and Indian corporations to invest in West Bengal. Firing on unarmed peasants in Nandigram who were opposing land acquisition and in which 14 persons were killed on the spot, shows the extent to which it could stoop to woo the capitalist class. The budgetary expenditure on police all along used to be higher than on agriculture and all allied activities. It used to be twice that on power or industries. The 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution have empowered the States to devolve power and finance to the Panchayats and Municipalities so that they may function as “institutions of self-government”. But the government was loath to move in this direction as was the case with other State governments where bourgeois parties were in power. It had a lower tax ratio and depended on borrowings to finance its ever rising interest burden which took away one-third of its revenue. It became the highest indebted State in terms of per capita state debt. It was not willing to allot adequate funds to undertake public works which could provide jobs in the State. It was opposed to extend cheap bank loans to the poor to undertake some remunerative activity despite high unemployment rate in the State.

ALTHOUGH the party feigned that it was opposed to the neo-liberal policies of the government at the Centre, yet it supported the UPA Government from outside during 2004-09. Outside support was only a facade as both were pursuing the same policies. When it withdrew support to the UPA Government in 2009 on the issue of the nuclear deal, it made hectic efforts to form a Third Front with all sorts of casteist and discredited parties. Not that these parties were against the neo-liberal policies but it could provide an opportunity to CPM to play a pivotal role in the prospective new government. But this could not materialise.

The working of the CPM-led Left Front Government in West Bengal has clearly shown the depths of its degeneration and its decadence. Not only did it abandon any programme of non-capitalist transformation but appeared to be indifferent to even any bourgeois transformation in an erst-while retrograde colonial structure which had many remanents of the feudal order. A forward-looking bourgeoisie would take steps to reduce land concentration, remove illiteracy, superstition and bigotry. It would step up investment in agri-culture in a massive way and also in infrastruc-ture and human capital. But in West Bengal bud-getary resources were diverted towards non-developmental heads like organs of state, interest payment and salary to a parasitic class. The CPM-led government in West Bengal could at best be characterised as that of a near decadent bourgeois government depending on international finance capital to bail it out as is the case with the mainstream bourgeois parties like the Congress or BJP etc.

What are the lessons for the genuine Left for emerging as a powerful force in the given situa-tion? The first and foremost is to discard the line of collaboration with the national bourgeoisie in the name of fighting imperialism. Indian capital as a junior partner has embraced international finance capital in its search for profits with open arms.

The Indian Left should revert back to the path of struggle against the ruling bourgeoisie in a sustained manner by mobilising the people to come out on the streets with a non-sectarian app-roach. The recent phenomenon of Anna Hazare shows that people are prepared to come out on the streets provided there is a correct leadership with correct slogans. They are also disillusioned with various so-called Left parties whom they rightly consider as part of the ruling class. The genuine Left has to go to the masses to educate and organise them and to prepare them for a conti-nuous struggle. The people have to be educated that it is by struggle that people’s power can be established. Elections cannot bestow this power to the people. The new Left party, while giving no call for boycott of elections, will not get itself involved in the quagmire of elections. There should be relentless mass upsurge to force the ruling classes to retreat. The need is to build a new Left party which will build people’s power to eventu-ally take over the state.
Capitalism has brutalised man and should give way to a new order where man is friend of man and what is produced by the collective labour is shared in an egalitarian manner. To usher in such a society, missionaries are required seeking nothing for themselves but fighting for people’s power at all levels which will not only end all types of oppression and injustice but create a situation where nothing that is ugly and dehumanising will exist. It is for this vision that the missionaries will tread in all directions for the establishment of people’s power. It was the absence of such people’s power that explains the collapse of the Soviet Union and emergence of new power elites in China, North Korea, Cuba etc. Building this people’s power as an instrument of radical change is the primary task of the new Left. Going to the people to educate, organise and fight for their cause is the basic task. It is only on the crest of a mass upheaval that a new power equation can emerge to dethrone the ruling classes.

The author is an Honorary Fellow, G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted