2019 elections have hit the left parties harder than even the Congress. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about the Congress Mukth Bharat, historically the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janatha Party wanted a Communist Mukth Bharat for definite. That is their stated long standing ideological position. They seem to be achieving this with a comprehensive understanding.

The communists, the world over, except in China and Nepal, lost the ground without adapting to the changing conditions of the world and also the specific nations. When the global working class saw some benefits in cultural and economic globalization the communists remained strongly struck to their anti-globalization stand with a new phraseology called opposition to Neo-liberal economic model.

They never examined what cultural changes were taking place within in the underdeveloped countries with globalization. Unfortunately the global left has not produced significant adoptable theoreticians to understand the connection between culture and economy. Though Christopher Caudwell and Antonio Gramsci did some work on culture, nobody in the left ranks studied the deeply embedded relationship between religious culture and economic development and underdevelopment. More particularly in India the cultural realm has been playing a critical role, as it is a very ancient civilization.

Sociologists like Max Weber in the West indicated how development of capitalism was linked to the protestant ethic. The Indian communists could have elaborately studied about the role of Brahminism in India’s underdevelopment.

When Ambedkar was writing about Brahminism they were attacking him or ignoring him without examining his thesis. Brahminism is a major cultural institution of India.

If anybody from the communist ranks made new experimental attempt to study culture seriously they expelled such persons as reactionary. I have such experience myself.

The Indian communists have shown least interests in understanding culture. After 1990, when the Mandal and Kamandal movements were shaking the country and culture and were weakening the Congress, as it was seen anti-Mandal and also anti-Kamandal, the communists remained political ostriches looking for a revolution in the deeper sand.

They hardly studied what was happening in the Ambedkar-Phule driven Mandal ideology. They hardly studied what was Sri Ram doing on the ground as political agent of Hindutva politics. They appeared to stand against Kamandal without entering into an alliance with its opposite. They never engaged with religion seriously.

Their leaders and intellectuals remained on the same page suspecting Ambedkar and Golwalker as outdated caste and communal bigots. Now Amabedkar and Golwalkar have occupied the intellectual space, which no communist intellectual could think of.

In the recent past they appeared to have moved closer to Ambedkarites, but their serious political decisions show that they have not yet assessed his role in the past and in the future. The top CPM leadership’s approach to Bahujan Left Front that was formed by many organizations under the leadership its Telangana state unit clearly shows that they have hardly reconciled with Ambedkarism.

They have a serious problem with consistency of a leader or thinker. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar were not consistent but were creative and adoptive thinkers and leaders. The communist stream did not produce a thinker of their stature because of their ‘dying culture’ of consistency. No creative thinker could remain consistent with ideas. As the society keeps changing ideas also keep changing. But the communists are consistent from 1925 till date. This is not theoretical living but it is theoretical death.

Their post 2019 election predicament shows that they have no faith in experiments in politics. According to them failure or success should happen as per the written document—called Manifesto. Their manifesto is a document of anti-colonialism. They never realized that neither the BJP nor new cultural political forces that emerged, as regional parties that work around language, region and caste, are not operating around anti-colonial hang over.

Their fear about purity of communist ideology is a safe zone for the BJP/RSS to dub them as anti-national and bury them in the sand they are trying to hide. The sad part is if the present trend continues they die without even producing a thinker of creative brain from their ranks. But any thinker to emerge from Indian soil one must study the Indian culture from its depth.

They do not laugh in pleasure and do not weep in pain. Culture constitutes both. They should start weeping now so that a laughing time comes. Otherwise only death comes.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author


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  1. S V Rajadurai Manojharan says:

    As always, Kancha Ilaiah has come out with yet another brilliant analysis of the the deep rooted causes of the Left’s failure in India. We are yet to see a thinker of his staure in the Communist ranks. Yet, he should have mentioned the contributions of Periyar in the struggle against Brahminism. His ideas, though diluted by the parties claiming to follow him, have played a crucial role in preventing the BJP from securing a single seat in the parliamnetary election in Tamil Nadu.

    S V Rajadurai

  2. guenter meisinger says:

    I wonder why the author was considered as brilliant. I think, he is only right in siding with ambedkar and the view, that class issues in india cant be solved without bringing the caste System to an end first. but the rest of his analyses i do find superficially, the positive hint to China and Nepal even scandalous, so that in the end he dont offer much more theoretically than the CP´s. for example, i do find it funny, that he blames the CP´s for keeping the purity of communist theory since 1925. in absolute opposite, they only kept the purity of the anticommunist Stalinist ideology since then. so here i post the half of an longer article, which i do consider as an better explaination for their debacle:

    Stalinist CPM and CPI suffer meltdown in India’s national election

    By Deepal Jayasekera
    27 May 2019

    Under conditions of mounting working class opposition to India’s Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government and to the ruinous outcome of three decades of “pro-market” reform, India’s principal Stalinist parties—the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM and the smaller, older Communist Party of India (CPI)—have suffered an unprecedented electoral debacle.

    Together, the CPM and CPI will have just five of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower and more powerful house of India’s bicameral parliament—3 for the CPM and 2 for the CPI. Their partners in the CPM-led Left Front electoral alliance will have none.

    This is far and away the smallest ever “Left” presence in the Lok Sabha and places in jeopardy the CPM and CPI’s official status as “national parties.” In India’s first post-independence election, the CPI won 16 seats, making it the Lok Sabha’s second largest party, after the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress Party with 364. As recently as the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-9), the CPM had 43 MPs and the Left Front with some sixty members was the third largest bloc in the Lok Sabha.

    Since then, the Stalinists’ base of support in the working class and among the rural poor has hemorrhaged. In each subsequent national election the Stalinists’ Lok Sabha delegation has been effectively halved. The CPM’s share of the national vote has plummeted from 7.7 percent in 2004, when it polled more than 30 million votes, to 5.3 percent in 2009, 3.25 percent in 2014, and less than 2 percent (final figures have yet to be released) in 2019.

    The CPM and CPI have reaped the consequences of their role in politically smothering the working class and enforcing the ruling class’s post-1991 drive to transform India into a cheap-labour haven for global capital. This has included propping up a series of right-wing Indian governments, most of them Congress-led, that have implemented “pro-market” reform and pursued ever closer relations with US imperialism. Moreover, in the states where they have formed the government, the Stalinists have themselves implemented “pro-investor” policies, while dismissing socialism as “a far off cry,” to use the infamous words of the late West Bengal Chief Minister and CPM Politburo member Jyoti Basu.

    Whereas decades ago the Stalinists justified their shackling of the working class to various capitalist parties in the name of supporting the “progressive” faction of the national bourgeoisie against the “feudal,” “pro-imperialist” wing, for the past three decades they have argued that India’s workers and toilers should support the Congress—until recently the Indian elite’s preferred party of government—and a host of regional chauvinist and caste-ist parties as the only way to block the Hindu supremacist BJP from power.

    With the working class prevented by the CPM, CPI and their affiliated union apparatuses from advancing its own socialist solution to the mounting social crisis, the Hindu right has been able to exploit popular frustration and anxiety over chronic poverty, economic insecurity and rampant social inequality. Indeed, after three decades in which the Stalinists suppressed the class struggle, claiming that workers must “defend democracy” through parliamentary combinations and electoral alliances with the parties of their bourgeois class enemy, the BJP and Hindu right are stronger than ever.

    In the just completed election, the Stalinists once again sought to drum up support for the Congress, its United Progressive Alliance, and a host of other right wing, popularly discredited bourgeois parties in the name of bringing to power a “democratic, secular alternative”—i.e., a right-wing, big business government. All of these parties make their own reactionary communalist and caste-iest appeals and all of them—and this goes for the Stalinists as well—hailed Modi’s provocative and reckless February 26 air strikes on Pakistan, which nearly resulted in all-out war. And all are as committed as the BJP to India serving as a cheap-labour hub for global capital and a junior partner of US imperialism in an anti-China Indo-US “global strategic partnership.”

    After decades in which they have functioned as a part of the bourgeois establishment and have been complicit in the assault on the working class and oppressed toilers, the CPM’s and CPI’s claims to represent a “pro-people” alternative, let alone socialism, cut no water with working people.

    In the three states traditionally considered as the Stalinists’ electoral bastions and where they have repeatedly formed the state government—West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala—the CPM and CPI won just one seat. Their four other Lok Sabha victories came from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where they entered into a right-wing electoral alliance led by the right-wing Tamil regionalist DMK and supported by Rahul Gandhi and his Congress Party.

    In West Bengal, where the CPM-led Left Front formed the state government for 34 consecutive years ending in 2011, the Stalinists suffered a complete rout. Not only did they lose their two remaining seats, but in 41of the 42 constituencies their candidate lost their deposit.

    The CPM’s vote share shrank from 22.7 percent in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014 to just 6.3 percent, and that of the Left Front as a whole from 29.9 percent to just 7.5 percent.

    At the end of the last decade, the right-wing demagogue Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress (TMC) were able to exploit mounting opposition to the Left Front government’s ruthless imposition of pro-investor policies. This was exemplified by the lethal police and goon violence the Left Front government unleashed in 2007 against small farmers in Nandigram protesting the expropriation of their land for a big business Special Economic Zone, and its outlawing of strikes in IT and IT-enabled sectors.

  3. guenter meisinger says:

    karl marx about globalisation: “The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country… All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are destroyed by new industries whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised countries, by industries that work up raw materials drawn from the remotest zones, industries whose products are consumed in every quarter of the globe… The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarous, nations into civilisation.”

    At the time this was by no means a statement of the obvious. Only one country, Britain, could be regarded as seriously industrialised in 1848. Britain was then responsible for 40% to 50% of all the world’s industrial production. Even so, an aerial survey of Britain would have shown industry concentrated in a few counties, with vast swathes of the landscape apparently unaffected by the transformative power of capitalism. In its time the Manifesto was a prophetic document.——- the enemy is not globalisation, but capitalism. also wrong the quest, united europe, yes or no? the quest should be: a united capitalist or socialist europe? the EU as an imperialist project, or an people´s project?

  4. Prabhakar JV says:

    It’s great