Mainstream, VOL LIV No 17 New Delhi April 16, 2016
Defence of Constitution and Democracy: Need for Democratic Unity
Friday 15 April 2016, by
History often teaches through events the lessons not learnt through theory. To forget the serious history of Germany, Italy and Europe of the 1930s and other events is a serious lapse on the part of the progressive forces. The JNU events, particularly those related to Kanhaiya, and events elsewhere in India have once again strongly emphasised the need for the broadest cooperation of the progressive forces. The recent events in fact reflect the deeper processes going on in the political and civil society. The ominous developments of Right-wing communal assault in the country are mainly the result of the disunity of the democratic and progressive forces.
Conflict between Progress and Reaction
A number of events have merged together to create the present situation. At the centre of the crisis is the grave danger to Indian democracy. What is at stake is the very achievement since the country’s independence including demo-cracy, freedom, the basic principles of the Indian Constitution, the progressive Nehruvian frame-work of the Indian economy, the public sector, India’s self-reliance, secularism, our composite culture, the education system, the very concept of nationalism, and so on.
The history of post-independence India cannot be understood if we do not recognise the conflict between the forces of progress and reaction as the central contradiction of indepen-dent India. It was around the above-mentioned questions that the central axial battle was fought. There were other questions too, like the abolition of the princely states and the feudal relations, nationalisation of basic industries and private monopoly banks, basic land reforms and so on. India is what it is today precisely because these policies could be implemented through zig-zag political, ideological and cultural-economic struggles. This strategic direction has to be kept in view.
The underlying feature has been a large area of unity and cooperation between generally progressive and democratic forces including the Left. Both the reactionary and progressive strategies have largely been formulated around these basic issues. It is the progress which has succeeded in creating a modern nation and nationalism with a strong economic, cultural and political democratic parliamentary base.
Otherwise our country would have become a fragile entity like Pakistan or such other countries.
Therefore, ideological and theoretical battles must not be underestimated by any means.
The Right-wing and the far Right have developed their own strategies keeping precisely these hurdles in their view and have systemati-cally strengthened themselves.
Disunity in the Democratic Camp
The Indian Constitution provides certain basic rights and means to the people of this nation. Its four basic principles are expressive of the endeavour of the nation: republicanism, sovereignty, secularism, and socialism. These four flow from long ideological struggles to develop and sustain the Indian nation.
The Indian Constitution is an unique institution and document in the whole world. It is the concentrated expression of India’s freedom struggle. It is also a negation of the concept of nationalism based on communalism. It showed that there can be no nationalism in our country based on religion.
The Indian Constitution is the only one in the world to provide voting rights to whole of the adult population on a single date, that is, January 26, 1950, irrespective of caste, class, community, sex, economic status etc. These rights were at one go. No other Constitution has done so.
Consequently, governments and parties have come and gone, replaced and formed by the popular will. No other country in the world has the phenomenon of so many types of governments in the States and at the Centre with so many parties, including the regional ones, singly or in coalition, and still working.
Popular vote is a powerful weapon of people’s aspiration and struggle and of the nation. Along with the public sector-based economy, this constitutes a firm base for India.
It is this identity and the differences within the identity that are under attack today. It is unfortunate that certain elements and thoughts among the sectarian and extreme Left have only helped the extreme Right by consistently refusing to recognise the realities, for example, of the power of the parliamentary structure and path. The Indian Constitution has a great capacity to change our society in the progressive direction. The narrow-minded sectarian tendencies have refused to bring the democratic forces together; they did not understand the social transfor-matory nature of the Indian Constitution. Consequently they made serious concessions to the Right-wing and extreme Right-wing strategies.
It is a strange tactic first to underestimate and bring communal reaction to power, and only then wake up to the situation and wage a rather delayed fight.
Ideological and practical anarchism is no replacement for scientific analysis of social events. Still there is time for all the democrats and the Left to come together.
It is this which is being emphasised today objectively. Democratic and ‘bourgeois’ parties and formations were declared ‘untouchables’. They should no doubt be blamed for much of the country’s problems in many areas. But no political and ideological force, including the Congress, can be untouchable in certain contexts. Most of these forces are closely related with the traditions of India’s freedom struggle. The democratic forces must adjust and cooperate with each other to defend the basic progressive achievements of India, its politics, religious freedom and culture.
It is essential to conceptualise and theorise the strategy and tactics of cooperation and united front. A historic bloc of healthy forces is the only answer to the deepening crisis domi-nated by communalism. Theory encompasses the lessons of history for the sake of the present. If ignored or forgotten, one has to start afresh. This is a serious lapse in the theory and practice of the progressive and democratic forces including those of the Left.
Disunity among the democratic forces always helped Right-wing reaction and the anti-democratic forces. This has been the lesson of history. Let us hope that the lessons are learnt and kept in mind.
The developments around the questions of nationalism, educational freedoms, the JNU affair and West Bengal elections have shown a tendency of the democratic forces, including the Congress, to come nearer to each other and speak with one voice on certain questions.
Saving Democracy and the Nation
The tasks are serious, even grim. First, the achievements of the freedom movement have to be saved. Second, all the progressive achieve-ments and policies of the post-independence India have to be protected and saved; these include those in the field of education, which also is an ideological field; the public sector has to be saved, the progressive armed forces must not be allowed to serve the reactionary forces. In our country the Army has played a glorious role in defending the nation from the US-inspired designs of balkanising India and dismembering it so as to transform it into a Western military base. Our Army has also helped to fight the aggressive designs of the dictatorships in Pakistan and anti-democratic tendencies there and in other neighbouring countries. The Indian Army can now boldly look up even to the Chinese military power. It is also a force defending the Indian nation. The Army is a serious bulwark in the struggle against terrorism.
Third, whatever has been lost in this period is to be restored. Fourth, the democratic forces have to move forward again by uniting all the progressive, secular and Left forces. It is a huge task to set the country once again on a proper democratic course.
It has to be realised by the Left and progressive forces that the nature of government at the Centre is of crucial importance for the future of the country. A progressive and secular dispensation at the Centre creates a favourable atmosphere for advancing ahead, and at the same time for class and mass economic and political struggles.
But if the combination of political forces in power is communal and regressive, that creates disruption and hurdles on the path of progress and much is lost. The agenda of the country then is set along communal, divisive and disruptive lines, in which the urgent political, social and economic issues are thrown into the background. One keeps discussing only religion, culture, caste and community in an obscurantist manner, and not in terms of the economic direction or policies or reorganisation. Much time and energy is wasted thus.
The agenda of the nation should be set by the progressive forces. The democratic, progressive and secular gains that have been registered provide a launching pad for further development.
The author is a Marxist ideologue.