Movement Sans Ideology


Arvind Kejriwal has written a small book 'Swaraj', which is being distributed in English and Hindi for the last one year. The cover of the book has a quotation of Anna declaring this book 'a manifesto of our movement against corruption and for systemic change'. It is a good critique of the evils of centralized governancee. It also points out the shortcomings of present day Panchayat Raj and calls for empowering Gram Sabhas, Mohalla Sabhas and people at grassroots level. There can be no disagreement with it. But is that all?

There is no mention of economic policies in this 'Swaraj'. It does not touch globalization or imperialism. It does not question the present day development model or the consumerist culture promoted by capitalism. It does not talk of corporate loot or the way people all over the world are being uprooted for corporate profit. It does not comment on global warming or the environmental catastrophe created by modern civilization. It does not question the LPG policies being followed by Manmohan Singh & company. It is silent on caste and gender questions. It does not have any comments on communalism, sectarianism or intolerance growing around communities. It does not discuss the agricultural crisis in India leading to a large number of suicides every year or the growing casualisation, exploitation and repression of labour. People in India and all over the world are fighting on various issues which are not limited to corruption only. But the 'Manifesto' is silent on all of them. At best, it says, empower the people, everything will be all right. It is a cure for all.

It is difficult to swallow this 'Rambaan' medicine. Can Gram Swaraj work in isolation? Will administrative decentralization be successful without economic decentralization? When corporate power is growing and global market is penetrating even in the remotest areas destroying further the village society (which was never a homogeneous one), will the Gram Swaraj work? And can you ignore the question of social justice, so important in the Indian context? Aam Admi Party (AAP) has formed 22 committees to formulate its policies on various issues. Experts, not necessarily from within the party, were invited to provide inputs for that. But a Party document cannot be a compilation of diverse views.

Aam Admi Party has announced that it will not participate in assembly elections in four out of five states (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Meghalay) to be held in November and concentrate on Delhi. Perhaps it may be strategically correct, given its good following in Delhi and fragile organization in other states. Delhi being a metropolitan city has a large middle class which seems to be the main base of AAP. But whenever it will try to expand to the rest of India, what will be its base? For creating an electoral alternative at broader level, middle class will not be sufficient. Their votes are few. If it wants to attract farmers, workers, artisans, fishermen, Dalits, tribals, backward classes, minorities, women, youth or ethnic groups, it has to take up their issues. Raising issues of corruption will not suffice. And if it does not want to fool the people like other parties, it has to build an mutually consistent set of ideas analyzing their problems and offering solutions. And that is what is called 'ideology'.

For some time, there is a fashion to reject ideology or make a fun of it. To some extent, it is a result of degeneration of ideological movements, whether communist, socialist, Gandhian or Ambedkarite. But one cannot escape it. One can disagree with a particular ideology. One can decide not to be dogmatic and keep one's ideology flexible, open to new ideas and lessons. One can continuously examine and review it and improve upon it. Even those who claim to have no ideology have a hidden ideology and mostly it is a status-quoist one. Any party, organization, group or movement that wishes to change the present system has to clearly spell its ideology. Ideology alone cannot build a movement. It also requires a good leadership, mass mobilization, proper strategy and circumstances mature for it. To use a phrase from mathematics, it is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Ideological clarity provides a movement a vision, a spirit and preparedness for long term struggle. But that is lacking in movements led by Anna and Kejriwal.

Both of these movements swear by Mahatma Gandhi and their followers wear Gandhi caps. Anna is being presented as a second Gandhi. But Gandhi was never limited to a single issue. In fact, it was he who broadened the freedom movement. He took up issues of exploitation of farmers, Charkha (technology), tax on salt, untouchability, education, language, liquor, hygiene and many other issues which had no direct link to the question of freedom from British occupation. And for that he tried to chalk out a comprehensive blueprint of Swaraj. Throughout his life, he engaged in ideological debates. In fact, he loved to do that. It is not correct to compare Anna with Gandhi or JP.

If movement led by Anna and Kejriwal can chalk out their ideology or at least move towards that, it will be  beneficial to them as well as to the nation. Otherwise their future is doubtful. History is full of instances of many movements and upheavals which could not sustain themselves because they had no clear ideological vision.

Vol. 46, No. 12, Sep 29 -Oct 5, 2013

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