While the official left somehow maintains media focus
because of electoral politics, the far left looks less fortunate to have
their presence felt even during election seasons in some crucial states. Given the present state of affairs their boycott slogan makes little sense as it has become almost ritualistic, implying the limits of armed struggle. Appeal for boycott even in areas like junglemahal where once the boycottists managed to threaten the system has no takers. They never explained properly the logic behind boycott slogan. And even now their voice is so feeble that it doesn’t reach the targeted audience—the most impoverished and marginalised sections in society. And in too many cases this has led to a separation between the original ideas of Revolution and the armed fighters. They have got stuck in their own ‘‘fixed particulars’’. Revolution is now variously defined—and redefined—in the fast changing national and international scenarios. Old slogans are obsolete but newer ones are not emerging, creating a kind of stalemate, both for armed campaigners and peaceful demonstrators in the streets as well. For the official left revolution is something that won’t take place in India—so it is better to become complicit in neo-liberal swan-song of ‘development’. It’s not really the case with the far left but they are totally isolated from the masses and their language of communication is so archaic that it is unlikely to motivate masses in their millions despite tremendous sacrifices they are making for the cause of liberation. Their organisational penetration among different sectors of society is so limited that even the oppressed don’t identify their class interests with their call for social change. Not that the situation was radically different for the middle class people in the sixties and seventies and yet they responded positively to the call for a better society. Things are pole apart today in the sense that the same middle class doesn’t see any viability in revolutionary prospects. Abstract sloganerring cannot deliver. Nor do people pin much hope on the official left for change through elections. These days people don’t really demarcate between what is left and what is not left. In electoral politics it is meaningless to talk of left and right. Communists now play second fiddle to anti-communist forces and yet they think they are leftist by birth. It’s no problem for the CPM-led left front to ally with the Congress party—the age-old house of money-bags—to fight polls. They are united to loot the exchequer—after all parliamentary exercises in essence are all about how efficiently and deceitfully to loot the exchequer with a signboard of social welfarism. They were somewhat emboldened ideologically after the electoral success of left forces with socialist agenda in some Latin American countries.
But Latin American leftism too seems to have reached a plateau with no hope for a major break-through in any part of that globe. Surprisingly, the piece of villain is oil, rather obnoxious fall-out of oil economy. In Venezuela, the fall in oil prices in global market illustrated how much ‘‘building socialism’’ had meant an oil-funded welfare state, and how dependent it remained, to further its 21st century socialist agenda, on the market, mainly manipulated by America and its ally Saudi Arabia.
The price of oil has fallen 70 percent in less than two years. Everybody blamed it on high prices in the ’70s for the global economic crisis. Now everybody is blaming it on low oil prices for economic slowdown across the world. No doubt systematic fall in prices is proving economically disastrous from Russia to Nigeria to Venezuela. Worldwide an estimated 250,000 oil industry workers have lost jobs and many other people are being hit by oil-induced slowdown.
The world economy continues to show no sign of recovery from the meltdown of the ’80s. Crisis has now hit oil importing China, otherwise billed as the powerful engine of growth only the other day. Crisis in China—rather decreased demand in Chinese market—has set in motion a chain reaction because exporters from Europe to Africa to Lain America find no buyers. That is one reason the price of oil has been falling coupled with the unprecedented rise in oil production in the US and other non-traditional oil producing fields. In the end it is America that matters in regulating the agenda of the right and the left as well.
The decimation of jobs in some regions shows starkly how, whether the prices of oil is high or low, either way is a catastrophe for the common man. Low oil prices stimulate more consumption of oil. High prices encourage investment in production of most environmentally damaging sources of fossil fuels. So they are resorting to shale oil fracking and tar sands mining, defeating the very action programme to arrest global warming.
The hard reality is that even without being directly related to oil economy, Latin American leftism is failing as it shows the symptoms in Bolivia. A referendum which would have allowed Bolivarian President Evo Morales to run for another presidential term was narrowly defeated, 52% to 48%. In truth the social upheaval carried out by Bolivia’s impoverished masses in 2000-2005 was demanding a far deeper social transformation than Morales and his party were prepared to undertake. In other words limitation of electoral success is all too apparent, atleast in Venezuela and Bolivia.
In electioneering the left in India like their right and ultra-right counter-parts, has made ‘development’ as their sole agitational plank to influence voters. The left in particular is somewhat eloquent about industrial development and their idea of fighting joblessness. They seldom bother about dynamics of oil economy and its overall impact on job situation. They think they could develop industry in isolation and that too in this age of oil-driven economy. But ‘development’ populism cannot work. Rightist forces have already taken over just enough populist rhetoric from that old, unprincipled Left to became a growing force throughout India.
Vol. 48, No. 41, Apr 17 - 23, 2016