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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 19 New Delhi April 28, 2018

Indian Communists in Summit

Saturday 28 April 2018, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

The talk of polarisation has become very fashionable nowadays. Even Sri S.K. Patil has been talking about it—and many others have been toying with it or dreading its consequences. For a party as amorphous as the Congress, polarisation of political forces can only mean split in the organisation, for the polarised forces inside the Congress will seek to link themselves up with the like-minded forces outside.

Naturally such a prospect can hardly enthuse a Congressman thinking in terms of the unity of his party: at the same time, the Congressmen with a definite political bias—whether towards the Right or towards the Left—are realising more and more that with the rapid disintegration of the old organisation, particularly during the last three years, there is no escape from this polarisation. In a sense, polarisation in this specific context implies certain maturing of political forces, that in the name of unity, a phoney solidarity of different and conflicting social forces must not continue for too long.

As the crisis-point in the Indian economy is being reached while the political initiative is slipping out of the hands of the traditional leadership of the Congress, the crucial question is coming up: who or which forces will be stepping into the breach? In terms of current political clichés, the main question is: how is the vacuum created by the crack-up of the Congress, going to be filled in?, Filling in the impending vacuum has thus become a major preoccupation of non-Congress political forces.

In the Right, the urge for consolidation could be seen in the current conclave of the Jana Sangh, the Swatantra and the BKD. Whether they will be able to hammer out a common line to go in for a merger it is too early to predict, as they have got so many points of difference among themselves. No doubt, such a Right consolidation will hearten Sri Patil’s tribe inside the Congress. It is not necessarily a case of the Right inside the Congress breaking away from it and joining the Right consolidation outside: it is equally possible that the Right inside the Congress will exploit the Right outside to operate as a pressure group to lobby and make policy changes on behalf of the Right.

If the Right can have the realisation about the urgency of consolidating its own forces, it is equally necessary that the Left should also wake up to its responsibilities and opportu-nities. The euphoria of anti-Congressism—made into a theory by Dr Lohia—confused the Left, at least temporarily in the exciting months following the 1967 General Election, to have the naive and totally unrealistic perspective that any ganging up of the non-Congress parties would automatically help the emergence of a viable, progressive alternative to the Congress. The theory was that if the Congress Colossus could be pulled down, the consequent anarchy would throw up the leadership that would be able to replace the Congress.

This anarchic concept of the Congress collapse led to the most grotesque alignments of forces, in which the Communists and the Jana Sangh came together to run coalition Ministries. Though shortlived, this experiment did a lot of damage to the standing of the Communists, and it was a wholesome change to note that two years later, in the mid-term elections, the CPI proclaimed its uncompromising opposition to the Jana Sangh.

It is in this background that one has to note the signs of sober realism dawning on the Left. Despite the defeat of the merger proposal at the recent SSP conference at Jabalpur, the explorings for a closer rapprochement between the SSP and the PSP are bound to continue.

More significant has been the last week-end’s talks in Calcutta between the leaders of CPI and CPM. Almost exactly five years after the split in the Communist Party in the summer of 1964, the top leaders of the two Communist Parties officially met and exchanged notes on the current political developments in the country. For sometime past, a section of the CPM leadership has been known to be worried about the developments at the Centre, whether the collapse of the present set-up would make way for a Rightist take-over—not necessarily a coup but a political domination by the Right; and with a touch of realism some of the CPM leaders did indicate a differentiated approach towards the confirmed Right like Patil-Morarji axis from one towards Smt Gandhi—a stand which seemed to smoothen the differences, at least on some major aspects of the present developments, between them and CPI. On the part of the CPI too, the permissibility of coalition with Right parties like the Jana Sangh—even if temporary—has been finally abandoned as harmful.

The urgency of the two CPs coming together was underlined by the complicated problems facing the United Fronts in Kerala and West Bengal. The bitter wranglings in Kerala did no good even to its strongest component, while confusion would soon have been writ large on the masses. To a lesser extent, the problem of proper functioning of the United Front and of the Front Government has been coming up in West Bengal as a whole. The point to note is that in a multi-party combine, the responsibility of the two Communist Parties, whatever their respective strengths, can never be ignored. In fact, they constitute the kernel of such a Front and thereby draw others in, extending upto sections whose antipathy towards the Right leads them to joining hands with the Left.

It is in this context that the Joint Communique of the two CPs assumes significance because it enjoins that “efforts must be continued for improving the relations between two parties” and also—obviously on this basis—their relations with other parties inside the Front.

A disturbing feature of the United Front regimes both in Kerala and West Bengal has been the growth of intra-party tensions leading to clashes between the followers of different parties. The reasons for this are yet to be detected: according to some of the leaders in West Bengal, this is but a temporary phenomenon and is due to the fact that all the parties in the United Front are rapidly expanding their bases and as such coming into clash with each other. There is also the other theory that finding that the United Front regimes have now come to stay, anti-social elements were rather eager to sneak into the different political parties constituting the Front. How far this is borne out by facts is not yet clear.

What is however important to emphasise is the need for every party of the United Front to be very alert and vigilant regarding infiltration of undesirable elements into its ranks; while, there should be a set of guidelines for the evolution of mutual relations between the parties constituting the Front. The battle for winning over the masses is not yet over; for instance, in West Bengal, the Congress even at the mid-term poll could register 40 per cent of the polled votes in its support. Through the process of mass mobilisation and mass activity it is possible to win over new sectors through the unleashing of new struggles of social significance. Such struggles have to be conducted in a manner that the components of the United Front themselves do not come into conflict with each other or at least try to minimise the arena of conflict, On this score also, the Joint Communi-que of the two CPs commands importance in sofar as it has emphasised the urgency of “prevention of clashes as well as to the elimination of the atmosphere that gives rise to them”.

A feature of the tension inside the United Front particularly in Kerala has been the hurling of uninhibited accusations against each other by the members of the Front. On this point too, the Joint Communique has urged the “avoidance of unfounded accusations”. It would however, be naive to think that the differences between the two Communist Parties would disappear overnight. There are many points of very serious difference, both ideological and political; they need thrashing out in debates and in the crucible of experience and also through continuous process of appraisal and re-appraisal of the fast developing situation. For an objective and dis-passionate treatment of these problems, it is necessary to avoid polemics which are loaded with bitterness, thereby vitiating the possibility of persuasion. In this respect too the Joint Communique’s assurance that the leadership of the two CPs would be meeting from time to time to continue discussion on problems of mass movements and united action would certainly be regarded as a piece of good news for the Left as a whole. For it is through clarity of understanding and unity in action between the two Communist Parties that the Left as a whole in this country will stand to. gain and would be able to forge the much broader democratic unity which alone can not only withstand the attack of the Right, but over-power the Right and disarm it as a political force on the national plane.

There is one aspect of the mutual relations between the two Communist Parties which is not touched in the Joint Communique though it must be a live issue in the minds of the leadership of the two Communist Parties. This is with regard to the attitude towards Extremists, popularly come to be known as Naxalities.

The point of minimum agreement between the two Communist Parties on this issue is that they both repudiate the present Chinese approach towards the Indian reality; obviously the political line of the Naxalites—the dominant section of which swears by Mao’s Red Book and the Peking line—is unacceptable to both the Communist Parties.

At the same time it would be a mistake to underestimate the amount of militant ardour and enthusiasm, particularly among the young, that the spectacular line of Naxalites has been able to mobilise. For the Communist movement to grow and thrive in this country, it is necessary to harness this militancy and channelise it along purposeful lines. It is a sorry reflection on the handling by the two CPs of the militant youth that the Naxalites have been able to mobilise a good section of it.

The need for patient persuasive drive, for debate and discussion, for political education and assimilation of revolutionary experience, is as great in India ten. as it was thirty years ago when the whole band of revolutionary youth could be won over from anti-imperialist militancy represented by what is called Terrorism, to the more scientific revolutionary guide to action provided by Marxism. It was that patient crusade against wrong politics in the thirties that in a way helped to stabilise the base of the Communist movement particularly in a region like Bengal. A similar crusade is needed today to win over the new revolutionary youth, despite their flaunting of the portraits of Mao and Lin Piao in the streets of Calcutta.

As the two CPs actually come to grips with this problem, they will realise that it essentially demands a patient political struggle rather than police action or branding them wholesale as anti-social.

May 27 N.C.

(‘Political Notebook’, Mainstream, May 31, 1969)

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62