The alternative set of policies in the Left armoury, the ideology of the Left and its sense of the present are the best weapons for combating the Sangh Parivar rule, although this is an unpalatable fact and lies contrary to this truth are being fed into popular consciousness in numerous ways.
The decimation of the Left in parliamentary electoral terms and the fall of the Left Front rule in Bengal, in the national context; and the earlier collapse of the socialist experiment in the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the morphing of the socialism currently underway in the Peoples Republic of China are all held out as signs of the atrophy of communism and the ideology of Marxism, Socialism et al. Now it is being tom-tommed from roof tops that the Left has been consigned to the dustbin of history; it has lost its preeminence in national politics, because it has lost eminence in Bengal. The Left has lost its raison d’etre and so on.
On the basis of these tragic turns in the history of mankind, the forecasts of implosion of the communist parties in India are freely made. To put the record straight, it needs reiteration here that these assessments are widely off the mark.
Let us ignore here the following facts that:
The communist movement and the party operate in India under severe constraints. These constraints operate in a different way when the communists are elected to power through elections in states like Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
The primary reason for the present state of affairs in the country – which is the pursuit of capitalist path in the first decades after independence and switching over the IMF loan with its stringent conditionalities in the 1960 and then moving on to instituting a full scale neo-liberal regime from the 1990s onwards.
The Sangh Parivar rule is the result of the shift in ruling class choice from the Congress to Sangh Parivar.
The Congress, as the dominant political organisation in the country, adopted a combination of three different approaches to curb the Sangh Parivar:
a) Initially, the Congress, all through the freedom movement and in the early years of Independent India, tolerated the Sangh Parivar in the hope of taming it;
b) Since the 1980s, the Congress tried to hijack the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva project, with a softer orientation.
c) Since 1990s, the Congress plumped totally for the neo-liberal framework and made thing easier for Sangh Parivar
In any case, let me be the devil’s advocate and concentrate only on the affairs of the CPI (M) barring everything that happens outside in the world and within our own country, and grant the critics that the CPI (M) at least in Bengal is on the verge of implosion.
What has happened so far, after the collapse of the Left at the hustings in Bengal – which itself was achieved through unspeakable terror – is far worse than the earlier version of ‘anti-communist storm’ that visited Bengal in the years of Siddharth Shankar Ray’s rule (1972-1977).
The Left in Bengal had a free hand in dealing with its affairs within Bengal for a very long period, particularly from 1977 onwards, in view of its particular history. The Left in Bengal grappled with the problems in the best manner it could in the given circumstances; whereas the party units in other regions of the country (barring Kerala and Tripura) cannot even organise campaigns freely on socio-political issues without running into innumerable hurdles, then or even now. In Bengal particularly, there have been errors of judgement, errors of leadership; the party slipped and the opponents, waiting on the wings, opened the breach for a full-scale war on the Left. The attempt to follow the ‘neo-liberal path with Left characteristics’ in Bengal is lost. There can be no neo-liberalism with Left characteristics.
Leaving that aside for a moment, what is now underway in India is a veritable counter-revolution of the Right with the Sangh Parivar in the vanguard, with the support of the financial-industrial oligarchy. Who is responsible for this denouement; is it the Left, the Congress or the Sangh Parivar? To whom one can apportion the major responsibility for the current mess?
All this has come to pass as a result of the acts of omission and commission of the Congress and the Sangh Parivar in large measure; both are partners in the crime. The BJP is not even a political party in the sense of having its own constitution, vision and programme; the BJP is just an affiliate of the RSS, the political arm of the RSS and a part of the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh Parivar and the Modi-Shah duo are now leading India to another round of horrendous fratricidal warfare.
The Left is responsible only in so far as it has not been able to strengthen itself to stop this downward slide from the 1960s.
So far the congress and BJP have shared the same ideology but their methods were different. The ruling class has chosen the Sangh Parivar against the Congress for now. The chances of a comeback for the Congress depend upon the preferences of the ruling classes or how far it is ready to move away from its traditional class moorings. The ruling class has dumped the Congress. Will the Congress dump the ruling class…!
The Left has the ideology to beat the sangh parivar and the people will have to forge the Left as their weapon of struggle against the sangh parivar; there is no other option open to them. The Left is a spent force. The Left cannot be wiped off so easily and this is neither possible nor desirable, from the point of view of the people. Consider for a moment the decimation of the Left will work out to whose benefit.
If the implied message for the Left is that it should strive to get co-opted, don the neo-liberal colours in full splendor, turn into a social democratic demagogue; that is tantamount to committing hara-kiri for the Left. The critics of the Left should dispel any illusion, if they have; that the Left, like the famed Socrates of yore would quietly drink the poison hemlock. Having said that, the Party needs to be in step with the time, more alert and vigilant, which is not the same thing as becoming a part of the establishment; rather the Left should be more anti-establishment oriented. The blunder of the Left, at any time in the past was the ‘neglect of the patient ‘communist work’, nurturing illusions of revolution through spontaneity, getting enmeshed in ‘neo-liberal’ fantasies of its own, in fantasies of ‘revolution round the corner’, in parliamentary cretinism or illusions of power through the parliamentary path alone, or ‘armed struggle as the single most effective solution to all the ills in our midst’.
The Left has to re-organise and also ‘re-envision socialism’, learning to dissent from the United Front adhering to its independent stance at the same time. The Left should also learn to respect dissent within ranks learning to groom educate and protect the cadres; so far the cadres do all this by themselves and when the storm comes they are on their own.
The Left, like the Prometheus cursed by the Gods, has been cursed by the ruling class for it knows their secrets; and continues to remain bound. The people have to free their Prometheus. Any resistance to Sangh Parivar hegemony implies at the same time weaving an alternative set of policies to move away from the neo-liberal framework in stages.
Viswanathan Ramchandran is an observer and student of national and international issues concerning History, Politics, Economics, Culture and Social Sciences. Some of his book reviews were published in ‘Social Scientist’ and ‘Counterpunch’