Expanding The Club

Permanent paralysis is the left’s destiny. So it seems. They have so far failed to create a left-wing political project so they can oppose the right-wingers now in power. They all live in their own particular realities of politico-economic environment and they all would like to interpret theory and practices to suit their strategy of in action. As they find no valid reason to break with their status quo-ist approach to the ground reality, the May poll disaster has just panicked them to such an extent that they have taken the self-destructing process as irreversible. They are so overwhelmed by opposition to minor issues as to lose sight of the actual human forces. They are more concerned about dead capital (things and commodities), not living capital (people)! Shackles that bind them to the corrupt electoral democracy are so deep rooted into their psyche that they cannot ensure their political existence without talking in terms of electoral gains or losses.

True, revolution is not shaking the old ideas of social change anywhere in the country but they refuse to get out of petrified thinking despite the fact that people across the world are ready to respond to alternatives if they are so motivated. Even in conservative societies in backward East and in advanced West today’s youth look more in tune with Tahrir Square and Pussy Riot. The right to free expression is a universal cry. But it is not so in India’s highly regimented communist left culture. Maybe it is a communist legacy throughout the world. The Chinese communist rulers called an abrupt halt to the ‘100 flowers’ campaign. Mao’s original speech ‘Let 1000 flowers bloom, let 100 schools of thought contend’ was intended for intellectuals only. And today they have ruthlessly restricted and suppressed even the limited freedom of expression. The 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square just passed off silently in some corners of the globe. The problem of communist left in India, however, lies somewhere else.

Having failed to overcome the after-shocks generated from electoral wash-out in their traditional citadels, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)—the big brother in the so-called left front—has begun to talk turkey. It sounds odd that they are now thinking the unthinkable—expanding membership of their exclusive elite club, possibly by inducting the eternal prodigal SUCI (Communist) and a few naxalite outfits that speak of revolution, rather revolutionary social change, but behave in every other way like the official left. In truth what they want is a kind of accommodation and reversal of antagonistic attitudes towards fellow travellers, hopefully to thwart the possibility of physical liquidation which is very real in some areas. Whether an extended left family can arrest their decline and end mass alienation is open to question. After all they have no alternative vision to offer.

Mass organising on popular issues is not on their agenda. It was not even in the immediate past. Last time they showed enthusiasm and eagerness to organise masses, particularly rural masses was in the much publicised ‘Operation Barga’ programme decades ago. But it was an official exercise though they reaped some partisan gains which they lost in no time because they didn’t want to go beyond half-hearted reforms. Old slogans cannot revive the spirit of fighting but new slogans worth the name, are not emerging. If they have no answer to neo-liberal problem, then they are part of the problem. They simply don’t know how to make them relevant once again as it was the case in the ’50s and ’60s.

Whether they like it or not right-wing surge at the moment is a global phenomenon. Religious Right, Sectarian Right, Conservative Right—all are doing brisk business!

Nobody is safe in the on-going turmoil under the sun throughout the world. Even the British Labour Party is finding it difficult to keep their hold on their traditional constituency. The Right now dominates the European Parliament. The surprising victory for the Right—where Britain’s own United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), formed in 1993, made unprecedented electoral gains—signifies not merely disillusionment of the electorate with mainstream politics, but growing intolerance across Europe. A racist party—UKIP—that has been firmly Eurosceptic since its inception, views membership in the European Union as the cause of a myriad of social ills from illegal immigration to mounting unemployment. And voters are swayed by their rhetoric. In reality UKIP out-paced the Labour Party opposition in securing almost 30% of votes for the European Parliament. Strangely this UKIP is opposing wages, paid vacations, working time directives and maternity leave. And yet people are voting for it and they are winning with aggression by choosing to drum up racism and crude nationalism.

Whatever the case, the saffron right in India has thrown down the gauntlet to the only force now capable and willing to take them on, the far left. It’s upto them to answer the challenge. Electoral permutations and combinations as perceived by the official left by expanding their elite club, without showing any resolve to smash the status quo won’t work.

Vol. 47, No. 4, Aug 3 - 9, 2014