Bourgeois democracy has
various forms. In the Birtish
model that India has adopted, members of the Parliament are elected and the person who secures the confidence of the majority of the members of the lower house, i.e. the Lok Sabha, becomes the Prime Minister. Although the choice of the Prime Minister does not depend on the upper house, i.e. the Rajya Sabha, both houses have a role in passing a law or act. In the USA on the other hand, the President is elected directly. The two houses there have roles in framing the law and in taking important decisions. Without a majority of his party in these two houses, known as the Congress and the Senate, it is very difficult for the President to administer the country. In many countries, some differences from these two models are noticeable, but these two types are the principal ones in the bourgeois democratic system.
Bourgeois democracy, whether it takes a parliamentary or presidential form, is in essence an instrument of bourgeois dictatorship. The bourgeoisie have adopted this form through many trials and errors. Its advantage is that although in essence it is an instrument of bourgeois dictatorship, its form is democratic. Here each citizen commands just one vote, and the Prime Minister or the President is elected by the voters. That is why it can be projected as ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’. Injection of this thought into the people is extremely important for the maintenance of class rule in a peaceful environment for a long period and for perpetuating class exploitation.
But bourgeois democracy, in its parliamentary or presidential form, is not the only from of bourgeois dictatorship. History is replete with examples of other forms, in which universal franchise and free election, equality before law, freedom of speech and that of the press etc are curbed. In Europe of the 1930s, this type of rule was called fascist rule. It is certainly true that bourgeois democracy is the best form of continuing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, because bourgeois fascism destablizes the entire system and destroys its balance. Yet the bourgeoisie sometimes impose fascist rule when continuing to rule become impossible within the framework of democracy.
If fascism is established or whan it becomes a real possibility, the working class has to oppose it. The reason is that fascism robs the working class of all its political rights and increases the burden of exploitation on the working class in an uninhibited manner. The best environment for the working class to organize itself is bourgeois democracy. Under bourgeois democracy, it can use the various labour laws and organize itself in principally legal and peaceful ways. In a bourgeois democracy, the working class through its struggles tries continuously to expand the democratic space, such as the right to work, right to food, right to education, right to health, right to pension and other social security measures. While engaged in these struggles, it organizes itself as a class and prepares for the seizure of power. A bourgeois-fascist system takes away all his legal rights and pushes it to a state of helplessness. But fascism deprives not only the workers of their rights, it takes away the rights of all sections of the people. Its attack is directed against the entire petty bourgeoisie, one section of the bourgeoisie and other middle classes. In consequence, the possibility arises of having many classes and strata as allies in the struggle against fascism. The working class has to utilize this possibility in accordance with reality.
Do these questions have any importance in the present political situation of India? Does the ascent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in Delhi in 2014 represent just a change of power from one ruling class party to another, or there is something else in it? There are many among the leftists who share the opinion that the people, disenchanted with the misrule of one party, have enthroned another. The second stream of thought is that owing to the failure of the Congress to fully implement the reform programme, the Indian big bourgeoisie, supported by imperialism, have spent many billions of rupees for bringing Modi to power and their known propaganda media have backed Modi. To these have been added the organization of the Sangh Parivar and the well-planned riots organized by them before the polls. Despite all these, the BJP did not get more than 31% of votes, but this has been enough for them to secure an absolute majority in the parliament under the existing electoral system, in which there is no provision for proportional choice. Now it is using this in majority to destroy the secular fabric of the country and to quicken the pace of reforms. Hence the democratic system of India is under attack and there has arisen the real danger of communal fascism. It is this difference in the evaluation of the situation that has given rise to differences among the leftists regarding the tasks in the present situation. In West Bengal, sixteen big and small leftist outfits have formed an alliance against communalism. They oppose the reform programme (e.g. privatisation of banking and insurance, abolition of the NREGP, change of labour legislations in favour of the capitalists, modification of the Land Acquisition Act in the interests of the corporate bourgeoisie etc). At the same time, they oppose the saffonization of education and culture, and the incitement, with official assistance, to communal riots by the Sangh Parivar. The unified programme adopted by them on the basis of this fundamental unity is positive.
On some issues, there are differences among these sixteen organizations. If the danger of communal fascism is a real one, it becomes necessary to take initiative in forming an alliance or programmatic unity with not only the leftists, but also with other democratic and secular forces. In Indian history it has been found during the struggle for national independence as also in the post-independence period many forces, many non-leftist forces too have stood for secularism and democracy. Such forces exist even today. Besides, the Indian people in general have borne a pluralistic cultural tradition for long. It is possible to develop the anti-communal mass movement through the maintenance and expansion of that tradition. In order to do so, only a leftist unity is not enough—what is necessary is a unity of all shades of democratic and secular forces. The meeting that was held on 22 November 2014 in the Academy of Fine Arts Hall in Kolkata was a meeting with such an orientation.
In the leftist circles, there is an outlook that equates communalism with fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism may be defined as a doctrine that hinders the expansion of democracy within that community. For example, the Brahmins are regarded as superior human beings in the Hindu religion and social status and economic power of various varnas are determined according to a stratified structure. This religious doctrine does not give the sudras and women any political right. This is an obsolete notion in the modern democratic milieu, but the Hindu fundamentalists wish to preserve it in various ways. Islam is relatively democratic since it regards all men as children of God and grants equal social status. But this religion too does not recognize equal rights of women both in theory and in practice. That is why an expansion of democracy in society requires an uninterrupted struggle against fundamentalism.
On the other hand, communalism is a doctrine that spreads hatred towards other religions and foments communal tension. This tension sometimes assumes the form of violence and leads to loss of countless lives. India has seen many large communal riots before and after independence. This riot took the form of genocide in Nellie of Assam in 1983, in which several thousands were killed in one night. The anti-Sikh riot of 1984 was also such an episode. Similar genocidal attacks on Muslims in Gujarat after the Godhra incident took place with the full support of the state government.
It is certainly bad if the majority community uses the weapon of communalism and it is equally bad if the minority community too applies it. But in a country like India, where Hinuds form the majority, Hindu communalism is more dangerous because it aggravates minority communalism. In order to unite the working masses and thus to strengthen the forces of social progress, leftists have always to fight communalism. But today's situation is different. Faced with the all-round crisis of capitalism, the ruling classes are trying to impose the burden of this crisis on the working classes, and for this purpose, the Indian big bourgeoisie, in collusion with the forces of Hindu communalism, have brought Narendra Modi to power. After his enthronement Modi is all out to serve the big bourgeoisie, his real employers. The danger of communalism has assumed a different dimension under these circumstances. If the Sangh Parivar succeeds in acquiring what it aspires, it will mean the wiping out of the democratic and secular structure of India, which will pave the way to fascism.
There are some relations between communalism and fundamentalism, but it is a gross mistake to identify one with the other. A person may perform religious functions with great devotion according to his own faith, but if he does not try to impose it on others or does not try to arouse hatred against human beings of other faiths, he cannot be called communal although he may be called a fundamentalist. India has given leaders like Maulana Azad, who was a devout Muslim but never compromised on the question of secularism.
The vast majority of Indians have religious beliefs of some kind or other. Unable to trace the reasons for their sufferings in the real world, they seek a solution in an illusory world (the other world, heaven or bahest). This is the genesis of religious belief. This belief cannot be made to disappear with one or two speeches. People still have to coexist with religion for long and as long as religious beliefs exist,religious fundamentalism of different degrees will also be there. Those fighting for democracy will have to struggle against this fundamentalism, but its type and method will have to be different. Often it has to be indirect rather than open and direct.
On the other hand, when communalism takes a violent form, it has to be confronted openly. Although leftists are ordinarily opposed to state intervention in settling disputes among the people, they seek this intervention in times of riots.
In today's India, the corporate-Hindutva alliance is proceeding towards the establishment of fascist rule under the umbrella of Hindu communalism and a situation has arisen for moblizing all leftist, democratic and secular forces in order to defeat it.
There is another aspect of the question of communalism. Sometimes it assumes voilent forms and erupts in mutual slaughter among communities. But communalism has another side, which operates almost silently. That is deprivation of religious and linguistic minorities, some other marginalized communities or backward castes and adivasis. If particular communities can be confined to a state of backwardness and to hard physical labour with low wages, it is generally helpful to exploitation. That is why even in an advanced capitalist country like the USA, blacks and immigrants are kept in a state of deprivation and pushed to a position of marginalization. West Bengal has seen no large communal riot after 1964, but soft communalism continues to exist here. Muslims constitute 26% of the population of this state, but their presence in higher education and government jobs is negligible. There are some historical reasons for this backwardness The State should have taken special initiatives for removing this backwardness. and ensuring equal rights. It has not been done in West Bengal. On the contrary, a policy of active discrimination has been pursued. The record of the leftists of this state in opposing aggressive communalism is not bad, but the problem of soft communalism has escaped their notice. In 2010, they discovered that the Muslim community was backward and hence they should be given 10% reservation. This could have been done in as early as 1977. The Trinamul Congress is now running the government in West Bengal. During its rule, no effective step has so far been taken for improving the material conditions of the Muslims, and even the 10% reservation has not been implemented. But through some token steps, this government has achieved some success in projecting itself as the friend of Muslims.
May the Trinamul Congress be considered a positive force in the fight against communal fascism? This question defies an easy answer. The way the TMC has started an all-out attack on democratic rights after coming to power makes it difficult to consider it an ally in any democratic movement. But the situation has changed somewhat after Modi's ascent to power at the centre. Recently, the TMC, the Congress, the Left Front and the SUCI have adopted two all-party resolutions in the West Bengal assembly. One is on the curtailment of the NREGP, and the other is on communalism. This is positive. But if the TMC and its government do not stop their attacks on the democratic rights of the people, untiy with them will remain confined to the assembly and the parliament, and not spread at the lower level. Besides, it has to be borne in mind that the TMC were twice partners in the NDA government and it is this outfit that gave the BIP footholds in West Bengal. Now, the space that the BJP has been obtaining in West Bengal in a limited measure is due to the TMC's terror campaign. Some people, although not believing in the communal politics of the BJP, are taking its shelter in order to obtain some democratic space. Notwithstanding all these, it would not be correct to equate the BJP and the TMC. In today's India, the BJP led by Narendra Modi is the principal political force advancing corporate interests and the ideology of Hindutva. Naturally, it should be the principal target of the Indian masses, and towards other parties, the policy of unity and struggle has to be taken up in different degrees.
[courtesy : Deshkal Bhabna, 5 December, 2014]
Vol. 47, No. 32, Feb 15 -21, 2015