What is left of left?
The political left in India does not have an articulated view about people's rights to self-determination. See the case of 'Gorkhaland' movement: the Left front tried to do what Mamata Bannerjee has done much more efficiently. They only botched up their efforts. They followed Bengali chauvinism with an eye on the vote bank. In fact even on economic issues they have no stand other than the the statist approach. If one goes through the party documents one will find, for example, that though CPIM had opposed SEZ on principle, the states ruled by them were allowed to introduce SEZ because they had to ensure a good growth rate. The Political and Organisational Report of the CPIM, adopted at the 19th Party Congress, Coimbatore, 2008 had a section 'On Left Front Governments: experience and role in the current situation'. This stated "The entire Party has to understand the role played by the CPI(M)-led governments and the constraints they face. Failure to do so leads to exaggerated expectations. In a situation where the three states are advanced outposts and where the Party and the Left have been unable to advance forward building the Left and Democratic Front, it is unrealistic to expect the Left-led governments to initiate any basic changes. With the neo-liberal framework and the liberalization offensive our governments have been defensively responding to protect whatever gains we have made and to bring about some development and provide relief to the people. While running state governments, the policies and steps taken must be viewed in the light of the all-India tactical line and policies that we advocate." The double-speak was there for all to see. Analysing the situation this section said almost in so many words that the Left had never expected to be allowed to retain power in states for long. The resilience of the system surprised them. So they had to change their attitude to governance and generate employment, growth, etc. instead of just functioning as an aid to people's mobilisation. And it was clear that the left had no alternate vision of development within the existing framework.
In truth, the left in the country has largely failed to think of democracy with a difference. The lack of imagination stems from a derogatory attitude towards the use of democratic institutions. Probably a participatory democratic framework is anathema to the idea of a vanguard party. The lack of faith in participatory democratic decision making leads to undermining ethnic and nationalities questions. It has to either borrow wholesale some 'classical' writing, written in a totally different context or it has to take a decision with an eye to the perceived reactions of the majority vote bank.
Pranab Kanti Basu
Vol. 46, No. 33, Feb 23 - Mar 1, 2014