Mainstream, VOL LII, No 47, November 15, 2014
A Wide Gap yawns between the BJP and Congress
It’s called the Communists’ Decline and Fall
Sunday 16 November 2014, by
In the midst of all the churnings that are transforming India’s political space, no one is talking about the Communist Parties. Obviously no one cares. The decline and fall of this once promising movement has been so steady and so
foreseeable that they present a sad chapter in history. In a situation where the Congress was detested and the BJP was distrusted, it was no small achievement for the Left to reduce itself from 60 seats in Parliament to 12. The CPI-M
leaders were forced to admit that they had failed to "modernise the party’s ideology".
The Communist Parties in other countries changed with the times and in keeping with the genius of each country. China is the best example. They began as professed Marxists, then expanded to Marxism-Leninism, finally ending up with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. The Chinese Communists specifically kept Stalinism at arm’s length because they saw Stalinism as too Russia-centric. Which was true.
Indian Communists missed that point and embraced Stalinism with doctrinaire fidelity. Unlike the Chinese, they never thought of communism with Indian characteristics. The result was that the middle class and intellectual types, who were attracted by the idealism of social equality, gradually moved away. One of India’s most respected Communist intellectuals, Mohit Sen, provided a rare insight into the price India’s Left movement paid for its fascination with Stalinism. Saying that “dogmatism, sectarianism and inhumanity were at least as much a part of Stalin as Leninism”, he pointed out: "While Lenin and Leninism triumphed when they were most themselves, the triumphs associated with Stalin occurred when those actually leading such parties disobeyed him and returned to Lenin.” Sen cites this disobe-dience as the reason for the victory of the Chinese, Yugoslav and Vietnamese parties as well as for the “spectacular advance” of the Italian and French Communist Parties.
Actually Mohit Sen’s A Traveller and The Road should be prescribed reading for India’s remaining comrades. Lenin, he says, understood the strength and positive nature of nationalism while being aware, also, of the menace of nationalism degenerating into chauvinism.“In India the Communists were patriots... but they were not nationalists. They did not know India.” Sen rejects Mao’s policy of Sinicising Marxism, arguing that the right thing was to be Communist and Chinese. “Ho Chi Minh achieved this. So did P.C. Joshi and S.A. Dange.” But the Joshis and Danges were denounced. In the process, the CPI-M and CPI became mutually hating parties.
In due course power did to the Communists what it does to all parties: It corrupted them. Comrade Ministers and party bosses in West Bengal and Kerala became votaries of the good life. Worse, the CPI-M’s name got tied up— rightly or wrongly is a different issue—with the politics of violence. When the current party Secretary, Prakash Karat, made peace overtures to the breakaway group SUCI (Socialist Unity Centre of India), the latter’s published reaction was that 161 SUCI workers had been murdered during the Left Front rule in West Bengal. In Kerala the public associates the “Kannur Lobby” of the party with the murder of several dissenters. Hundreds of thousands of disillu-sioned party cadres have left, many of them to join the BJP’s inviting pastures in a kind of reverse cultural revolution.
Admitting the setback the party has suffered, the CPI-M leadership said: “The next party Congress is coming up in April 2015. By then we will have a crystal-clear idea of what should be our line of action.” Reports are already out suggesting that the line of action will be to protect the leadership from blame for the party’s decline. There will be no commonsense line because the leadership consists of academics and theoreticians, not people with grassroots involvement in people’s problems. What is needed is a recognition of the ground realities that have developed in India in the last couple of decades. An aspirational generation has emerged with middleclass dreams of peace and economic opportunities. Only a modernist leadership that will identify itself with this new India can have any relevance.
Gapingly vacant is the space between the Rightwing BJP and the reactionary Congress (reactionary because it still swears by the dynastic principle of power). The Communist Parties have failed to fill this space because they have not progressed beyond the 1950s-1960s. Perhaps the term “communist” itself has been overtaken by time. Europe’s idea of Social Democrats may be more in tune with the modern world. India’s misfortune is that from the ranks of those who profess socialism not one Deng Xiaoping has emerged.