VOL XLV No 01
For Left Expansion in the Hindi Region
by Chaturanan Mishra
Tuesday 24 April 2007
New Age has published a critical article from noted journalist Praful Bidwai regarding the CPM and CPI headlined “Tight-rope Walk with UPA”. It is a welcome feature that New Age allows such views to be published in its columns. If some other persons do so then the Communist leadership will come to know what others are thinking about them. It has become urgent to break out of the narrow circle of the communist movement. Bidwai thinks the CPM and CPI need serious introspection on their political functioning and internal structure if the Left is to establish its distinctive political identity. He says three questions demand serious consideration. The first is setting an example of good governance in West Bengal and Kerala; the second is how it is planning to build a base in the Hindi belt; and the third, how it wants to rejuvenate itself through induction of new cadres.
The CPI expanded fast in Bihar among the OBCs and Dalits when the land struggle, batedari, homestead and the issue of gairmajarua am land etc. were taken up by the party. It was so in eastern and central UP as well. Soon after that Dr Lohia’s slogan of pichhra pabe saw mein sath, that is, backwards should get 60 per cent, was raised. This worked among the backwards and Dalits. We failed to analyse the caste system and its deeprooted influence upon the people. Caste atrocities and insult to the lower categories were there and in some cases these were also taken up by Communists on the local plane. In Bihar, Karpoori Thakur as the Chief Minister introduced 24 per cent reservation for backwards and also for the poor upper caste and women but income tax payees were debarred. He created two categories of OBCs in which the most OBCs were one category. The CPI supported it but the credit went to Karpooriji as we had never launched any campaign or struggle on this issue.
Then came the Mandal Commission report. The CPI supported this too but did not launch any movement. When V.P. Singh implemented it there was a social upheaval in Bihar and UP; the CPI supported it but the movement went along caste lines led by Lalooji and eroded the base of the party. Communists could not chalk out any alternative policy. Even many Communist leaders from the backward sections joined Lalooji. Lalooji did not mention most OBCs and hence the upper level of the OBCs, especially some Yadavs, got the cream. Lalooji ruled the State for fifteen years.
There was widespread feeling of discontent among the most OBCs on this but again we failed to understand this phenomenon. Nitishji used it and introduced reservatioin for most OBCs and women in the panchayat elections. This has created a new situation in Bihar. Women are occupying fifty per cent seats as heads of panchayats. The Left does not have any role in this. This social contradiction proved to be sharper than the economic contradiction on which plank the Left had conducted its campaign.
All these developments strengthened caste politics. There is no social or political campaign to check this politics. The Left has failed to organise any mass movement for the abolition of the caste system. The issue is complicated as every caste wants its own MLA, MP and Minister to strengthen its caste identity. In this situation OBC and Dalit cadres ought to be promoted to high posts so that these sections of people feel that their brethren are leading the movement. Similarly women and Muslim cadres need to be promoted. There is resistence against this move on the ground that is a casteist move. A decade back it was suggested in the CPI that we should recruit one hundred Dalit wholetime cadres and maintain them but this was not accepted. No movement for social equality in Dalit interest has been launched. The Dalit mood is changing fast as the recent movement in Maharashtra clearly shows. And the Sachar Committee report necessitates close contact with the Muslims in a bid to remove their sense of alienation.
In the changed circumstances the immediate need is to take up the cause of the people below the poverty line (BPL). BPL consists of all castes. In the Bihar Assembly in 1975 it was my resolution for old-age pension which was accepted. The Patna Congress of the CPI decided to give prominence to the BPL movement in 1986. The Second Labour Commission’s recommendation also insisted for the same. Taking up the cause of the BPL people will create a new base for the Left especially in the Hindi area where there is the largest concentration of such persons. The Left could not play any significant role in implementing the Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
The Left parties pass resolutions, issue statements, organise rallies and dharnas but there is no sustained struggle as a result of which neither is a base created nor are new cadres forthcoming. For building a base in the Hindi belt a new approach is needed. The Left must unitedly and in a broad way organise kisan struggles on burning issues. A divided Left has no attraction. The kisan movement must attract non-Communists on a big scale. Left leaders must plunge into struggles like Medha Patkar. In the olden days there were local or district level problems and hence district level movements worked. Now the problems are State or national level ones. Hence sustained movement at the State level is needed. Gandhiji used to have all-India struggles every ten years and thus succeeded in having Congress organisations in every part of the country. The Left has no such vision in spite of the fact that the Left parties are in existence and operation for eighty years.
Take the example of corruption which is prevalent from the Panchayat-Block level to the State or national level and Members of Legislatures also indulge in the practice. Unless a new consciousness is roused among the mass of people and sustained struggle is organised against corruption at the State level, the malaise cannot be reduced leave aside removing it. Likewise justice is so delayed that the downtrodden people have lost faith in the system of justice delivery. Now it is these sections who are getting attracted towards the Maoists. It is generally in communist bases that the Maoists have sprung up. Their arms bring immediate solution to individual cases. But to carry out reform in the judicial system, in educational institutions, in hospitals, employment etc. requires mass action at the State level. If these new issues are taken up new cadres will be attracted to the movement.
Organisational narrow-mindedness that the party will nominate the Kisan Sabha Secretary or President should be given up and broad mass organisations developed. In the past land struggle was the main issue. Now raising productivity, profitability of crops, price of produce, price of inputs, sustainable technology, import and export policy, irrigation and cheap credit etc. have emerged as the main issues even for marginal and small farmers, and the kisan leaders have to study them crop-wise; and they have to organise farmers crop-wise. Only then can one attract farmers for the kisan movement. What is imperative is a national approach that is missing.
On the trade union front too a national approach is needed even though the fight for the workers’ cause remains the principal issue. The country is facing a coal crisis. Coal is imported which means that employment is being exported. In the form of import of coal the foreign private sector is being tolerated. In Indian conditions employment is the main issue. There is a power crisis. The trade unions do not fight for tackling such problems and crises. Earlier we used to study the balance-sheet only from the workers’ point of view; now we should study from the consumers’ point of view as well. In a democracy the combined movement of workers and consumers will have a great effect. Trade unions are unable to improve the work culture of many public sector units and unable to fight corruption in administration. In trade unions we do not have Sunita Narains to expose the multinationals. Globalisation has given a new lease of life to capitalism. It is not in crisis as it was in the last leg of the twentieth century. Now everywhere there is growth of GDP. In the newly independent countries, that is, the developing states, industrialisation is the need of the hour whether in the private or public sector. The growing middle class is in need of industrialisation. Hence the trade unions have to play a new role. Only then can the working class fight against the ills of globalisation. Divided trade unions cannot fight the ills of globalisation. At least the Left trade unions must merge into one solid organisation starting from Bengal to project this as an example in other States. The issue of AITUC-HMS merger must again be brought back on the agenda of the day.
In the period of globalisation the exploitation of developing countries continue mainly through unequal trade. If China, India, the ASEAN and also Japan form an Asian Market, that will be larger in size and magnitude than the one in Europe and should be able to contest successfully with the USA and Europe. This is what the Indian bourgeoisie is striving for. This shows, even if indirectly, that the Indian bourgeoisie is still palying an anti-imperialist role. Hence the thinking in a section of the Left that the Indian bourgeoisie has gone over to imperialism is not correct. Let us not forget that in the past such an understanding did immense harm to the Left which even went to the extent of describing the freedom we had attained as false.
The massacre of Muslims in Gujarat warrants a joint national anti-communal campaign by the Left and secular forces. The UP municipal election and the by-elections in Bihar are a warning for the Left and secular forces. There is still time to act. Soon we shall be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1857 War of Independence. It was confined to the region spainning Delhi and Patna. The south, west and east India did not join it. Casteism was another weakness for which we lost the 1857 war for independence. Today too secular national parties have been weakened. Communalism and casteism are raising their ugly heads. The Left has the bounden duty to oganise all secular forces to fill up the vacuum and effectively combat the divsive forces. For that very purpose the Left must unitedly build a strong organisation in the Hindi belt through adoption of innovative methods.