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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 35

Role of the Left in the Changing Political Scenario

Tuesday 19 August 2008, by TJ Chandrachoodan

The following is the concept paper presented at the national seminar, organised by the RSP on the role of the Left in the prevailing situation in the country. The seminar, chaired by veteran RSP leader Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, was addressed by the General Secretaries of the CPI and CPM and representatives of the CPI-ML (Liberation), Forward Bloc, CPI-ML (Red Flag), and several Left-oriented individuals including the Mainstream editor.

It is a widely accepted fact that India as a nation is passing through a most critical phase in its post-independence history. Caught as it is in the vortex of sweeping changes in the global neoliberal economic and political arena, India is increasingly subverting itself as a vulnerable target of the imperialist-driven globalisation projects. This has at one level resulted in the growing subservience of the nation’s freedom to formulate its foreign policy even to the dictates of the US hegemonistic rule and at another in the reformulation of the national economic agenda in tune with the prescriptions of the Washington Consensus.

At its 18th National Conference, held at New Delhi on February 23-24, 2008, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) had clearly pointed to the disastrous consequences of these twin processes of subversion of the country’s economic sovereignty and the traditional non-aligned foreign policy. Pointing to the futility of dependence on parties such as the Congress or BJP to resolve the woes of the toiling millions of this country, the RSP had also underscored the historic need for a broad framework of unity among the Left parties, groups and like-minded intellectuals which would act as the foundation for a true Left Alternative at the national level. Such a broader unity of the Left will challenge the pro-imperialist neo-liberal, Indian National Congress (INC) and the Right-wing, communal, Hindutva-driven Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The 18th National Conference of the RSP cited various specific reasons to strive for a broadest possible Left Front which will act as a fulcrum in organising the mass and class struggles to advance the cause of the vast majority of the toiling masses of our country who are virtually at the front with an ominous disaster following the rampant and indiscriminatory onslaughts of the moribund and decadent capitalism and imperialism. According to the RSP, the consolidated block of the Left will not act in any sectrian manner whatsoever, but will sincerely strive to encompass the masses of the poor to continuously intensify the class and mass democratic actions against ruthless exploitation and consequent deprivation of these millions of their basic minimum necessities to live a human life.

Nevertheless, we mention that such Left block will be free to synergise the movements taking the help of the democratic secular political outfits on an issue-to-issue basis and thus form a massive platform to thwart the most derogatory anti-people invasion of the dispensation of globalisation.

In fact, the four Left parties in particular had to undertake a great risk by supporting the Indian National Congress-led UPA alliance to form the government at the Centre after the fractious verdict of the 2004 general elections. This was the risk of being viewed as supportive of the nefarious economic designs of the Dr Manmohan Singh Government. This decision of supporting the UPA alliance was on the strictest basis of the Common Minimum Programme, as envisaged by the UPA, and to keep the necromantic communalist RSS and its political wing, the BJP, at bay.

In reality, the UPA Government took the Left parties for a ride while promulgating the Special Economic Zone Act, 2005. The government also refused to strengthen and universalise the Public Distribution System (PDS) across the country. The government further rejected the well-ordained suggestions to at least soften the ugly impact of the unprecedented rise in the prices of petroleum products. The government blatantly refused to augment the Essential Commodities Act, which was badly diluted by the earlier BJP Government rendering this piece of legislation a toothless one. This reluctance of the UPA Government has resulted in rampant hoarding and black marketeering by the most unscrupulous businessmen, including some of the big national and multinational corporates. Even the pro-people State governments could not resort to any well-meaning punitive actions against the hoarders and black marketeers in the absence of a proper Act. Such has, of course, resulted in further soaring price rises of all essential commodities.

The UPA Government has time and again trampled the professedly solemn declarations made in the National Common Minimum Programme. There are examples galore where the government has resorted to or attempted to ride roughshod over the NCMP. Their acts of wilful omission and commission have resulted in an ominous doom to the lives of the common toiling masses of the country.

As a matter of fact, the Left parties could succeed in pursuing the UPA Government to at least enact a very few historic legislations to effect the Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information Act and the Rights to the Adivasis or Tribal people on the Forest. Besides these, the Left could somehow stall a number of nefarious attempts of the government to further liberalise the key core financial sectors like Banks, Insurance etc. The government also could not privatise and/or sell the Public Sector Undertakings as was indiscriminately practised by the earlier NDA Government.

However, we have been witnessing widespread struggles in different parts of the country protesting against the indiscriminate and rampant land acquisition for setting up the Special Economic Zones and/or big industries at the behest of the big or monopoly capitalists, both national and multinational. Instead of ensuring sizeable public investments in the agricultural arena, the government has, at long last, introducted a sort of Debt Waiver Scheme.

Despite such scheme being a major intervention to liberate a section of the farming community from the suffocating debt burden, this could not exert the desired impact since it has come too late in the day and, moreover, such a waiver scheme does not address the most horrifying agony of a vast majority of the small and marginal farmers who had to borrow from the private unscrupulous money lenders. The UPA Government was never sincere to resolve the crises of the agriculture which is the mainstay of livelihood of a vast majority of our population. The debt trap-ridden farmers have continued to commit ignominous suicides unabated.

The Congress-led UPA Government has never been sincere enough to affront the Hindutva brigade head on, even on the issue of cleansing textbooks taught in the schools across the country. These textbooks are fraught with the patently Right-wing fundamentalist contents. The Congress failed to pose any challenge to alter the situations in the BJP ruled States like Gujarat etc. On the contrary, the Congress has miserably failed in many other States due to their dubious attitude towards communalism and the stark anti-people economic policies. The people at large have been completely disenchanted with the present UPA Government.
The UPA Government, while it utterly failed to come up to the expectations of the common people of this country, has been stubbornly insistent in pushing the most derogatory 123 Agrement or the infamous Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Treaty with the USA. This was virtually the last straw on the camel’s back. The UPA Government acted in complete contravention to the NCMP.

Nevertheless to mention that this treaty is primarily to push India, a sovereign country, to subserve the hegemonistic US imperialism and abrogate its independence to formulate and pursue an independent foreign policy even, there are besides many other horrendous adverse impacts.

When the Left’s determination to prevent the UPA Government from signing the Indo-US nuke deal became evident, a Joint UPA-Left Committee was formed to examine the issue and to find out whether a consensus on the deal was possible. In all the nine meetings of this Committee the only decision arrived at was that the government will not operationalise the deal without a consensus being arrived at with the Joint Committee. The Left parties openly declared that if the UPA Government unilaterally proceeded to operationalise the nuke deal, the Left parties will immediately withdraw support to the goverment.

Discarding all the decisions of the Committee, the Prime Minister unilaterally declared the Government of India’s decision to operationalise the Indo-US nuke deal on July 7 in Tokyo and on July 8 the Left parties meeting at New Delhi decided to withdraw their support and on the very next day the four Left party leaders met the President of India to officially inform the head of state the Left’s decision of withdrawal of support to the government, and also to appeal to the President to direct the Prime Minister to summon the Lok Sabha and seek a Vote of Confidence.

The Left parties stood firmly against the government and voted against the trust vote. But by offering positions of power, monetary inducements, all kinds of temptations and political horse trading the UPA managed to win the confidence vote. July 22, 2008 will be noted as a black chapter in the annals of Indian history.

THE present changing politico-economic situation of India calls for protracted and deep introspection within the Left about the long term and short term goals. While the CPI-M and CPI have placed greater emphasis on the concept of a “Left Democratic Alternative” or a Third Alternative to the Congress and the BJP comprising mostly of regional parties, the RSP has all along taken the position that maximum possible emphasis must be on “Left Unity” and that any “Third Alternative” of the future must have the Left parties as its fulcrum. In our modest consideration, we cannot afford to traverse any other path of action on the plea that the “Left Alternative” is a “distant possibility”. Our experience has clearly indicated that unless and until the Left garners more strength on the basis of people’s democratic movements, we shall not be able to significantly impact upon the policy trajectory of the bourgeois political parties.

It remains a fact that in reality, the Left’s sphere of influence is quite limited to certain pockets and regions and the vast number of the Indian masses still reamin outside its ambit. It is this reality that justifies the formation of a broad Left Platform which would include not just the four Left parties, namely, CPI-M, CPI, RSP and All India Forward Bloc, but other like-minded Left parties, groups and even individual Left intellectuals.

We are also open to learning lessons from the developments in our neighbourhood in our pursuit to ameliorate the sufferings of the peopole of our country. The experiences of the changing political situation in Nepal, where the centuries-old monarchy could be pulled down to facilitate progressive democratic changes, must be carefully discerned. We, in the RSP, feel that there are important lessons to be learnt from Nepal. These developments must be carefully observed, particularly in the context of the swathe of the Left extremist insurgency being witnessed in our country.

The RSP has all along maintained that both Right reformism and Left adventurism are inclined to promote the interest of imperilism and capitalism. But we msut be carefull in our attempts to win back the confidence of thousands of Maoists and Naxalites of different hue to the mainstream of the Left movement of the country. This may not be an easy objective to be accomplished. We might have to intensify our well-ordained struggle against Right reformism with renewed vigour. A considerable number of self-sacrificing brave young men and women, with whom we may be ideologically quite different, are with the extremists, but we cannot in anyway underestimate the entire situation.

Left adventurism provides an easy justificiation for the ruling classes to organise counter-terror groups and unleash repressive measures to throttle the democratic voice of the people at large. Our experiences in the States like Chattisgarh, Jharkahand, Bihar, Orissa etc. vindicate the apprehension of ours. We can in no way ignore this. We are, of ocurse, altogether against indivdual annihilations and or such acts which tantamount to a terror strike without being preceded or succeeded by the oganised people’s democratic participation. Even though the extremists are a politcallly misguided lot, we should not treat them as prodigal sons, but try our level best to bring them back to the fold of the Left democratic mainstream.

This situation places a twin task on the mainstream Left paries in the country to try hard to be ideologically stronger and credible and to work towards winning the misguided extremists to the right path of revolutionary socialism. The 18th National Conference of the RSP had placed on the party the responsibility of augmenting the mainstream Left movement by bringing the extremists over to its side.

We consider this a historic opportunity for the Left parties and all like-minded groups and individuals to come together on the same platform to forge a broad Left Platform that would not only reflect the aspirations of large sections of the Indian population, but also ensure that the oppressive economic, political and administrative strategies of the ruling elite will not go unchallenged. Divergent perceptions about the stage of the Indian revolution, the character of the Indian bourgeoisie and the relative merits of the democratic forces in the country may and can vary, but there must be a common goal that separates the bourgeois parties from the Left, fundamentally on the basis of the Left’s commitmnent to the restoration of the socialist moorings of the Indian economy and polity, implementation of land reforms across the country, pursuit of independent foreign policy, fight against the UPA Government’s evil designs for making India a vassal state of the US and a firm faith in peace, democracy and egalitarian progress.

The author is the General Secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India.

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