A Deadly Disease

For the Marxist left it is really difficult to decide whether it is the best of times or it is the worst of times. Their inability to face history is proverbial. They have so far failed to do justice to the past. Nor will they be able to do it to the future. What all they do is not to swim against the current while going philosophical to avoid confrontation with their adversaries. Their subjective world does hardly reflect the objective reality. ‘Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have nothing new to offer’. That was Chief of Communist Party of India (CPM)—Prakash Karat. While speaking to the press the other day CPM top boss didn’t take pains to explain whether they would offer anything new after the crucial 2014 Parliamentary Poll. The hard fact is that people don’t take their election pledges seriously anymore because of their tailism to Congress that became obnoxiously naked during the Indira regime. Having failed to articulate new slogans capable of motivating people in their millions to revolt against the system, they always theorise their strategy of inaction under one plea or another.

In the sixties Congress lost its monopoly of ruling power across India and the prospects of coalition governance became a permanent feature in Indian polity, opening opportunities for small parties to enjoy parliamentary comfort in Delhi without much efforts. The late CPM ideologue Namboodiripad was an ardent advocate of coalition government in states and at the centre as an irrevessible trend in Indian politics. Since then they have been theorising and re-theorising this alliance culture and formation of government even by abandoning principles as a ‘tactical weapon’ to further ‘social revolution’, even of their kind. After four decades of tailism and reacting to spontaneity, all in the name of combating greater danger threatening the country, they no longer nurse the utopia of people’s democratic revolution as charted in their party programme. They always keep their cadres busy round the year from village level bodies to parliamentary polls. If there is no election, they are jobless. For them vote is not for ‘revolution’ but ‘revolution’ is for vote only. They have virtually reduced a mass-based party to an election-oriented party like ‘myriad Janata formations’. They have nothing new to offer other than promising a clean and transparent administration which is a rare commodity in India’s parliamentary culture.

Even on this count they now face real challenge from the emergence of a new phenomenon—Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

CPM and its so-called left allies represent what may be called euro-communist tendency with Indian characteristics. They cannot avert the fate of euro-communists who no longer matter in electoral politics in European countries. Even the once powerful Italian and French parties are today apology of communist movement though at one stage they contributed profoundly to ideological debate in international communist movement, sometimes challenging the Moscow orthodoxy and charting alternative path. Marginalisation of communist parties is a hard fact, they are yet to get rid of ideological wilderness they have been in for so long, making their revival in the old framework impossible but new ideas are not emerging. So they move in a circle of status quo, defending always the indefeasible and talking turkey in face of mass apathy.

It sounds ludicrous when party bosses of CPM talk about alternative politics. The reason is simple: they won’t be any alternative to bi-polar reality in Indian politics in the foreseeable future. For one thing the so-called national parties too have long lost their national character. Perhaps this development tempted the Namboodiripads to theorise on ‘coalition government’ as a permanent strategy instead of a short-term tactical move to reach a long-term goal. With their limited and declining mass appeal and that too in two or three states, it is a matter of time that they will be out of national scenario completely. If they don’t grow, they are bound to lose whatever political relevance they still have. India has witnessed rise and demise of many electoral parties during the last there or four decades. If communist parties are still showing some ‘resilience’ in some pockets, it is because of their past mass work and some glorious anti-feudal struggles in the fifties and early sixties that influenced and inspired labour and peasant organising across the country. Over the years they transformed these mass bases developed during anti-establishment movements into electoral bases. And they are paying for it. Their Marxism revolves around election. If there is no election—or for that matter electoral set-backs—they find it difficult to make their voice heard even in the media, not to speak of the streets. If they are enjoying parliamentary privileges in a tiny state like Tripura it is because once they fought for tribals—the most neglected and isolated indigenous people in their homeland—to build mass bases.

National parties have no national agenda. As for CPM and their allies they too try to become national only by vaguely criticising two major mainstream parties. Their attack on neo-liberal policies—and both Congress and BJP are champions of neo-liberalism—mocks at themselves. They were no less fanatic than Congress and BJP in implementing neo-liberal policies scripted by transnational corporations when they were in power in Kerala and Bengal.

All their tall talk of third alternative which, however, is nothing new in political culture, means a government of motley crowd with divergent ideologies and narrow ‘territorial nationalism’. Among all forms of sub-nationalism ‘territorial nationalism’, rather small nationalism, is the most dangerous though it has tremendous emotional appeal, especially in a country like India. Come what may they have already missed the bus and they will have to wait for another season to get their ‘dream’ realised.

Vol. 46, No. 42, Apr 27 - May 3, 2014