Leftism on Trial

Saffron Symbolism in Red Bastion

Arup Baisya

The episodic event of demolition of Lenin's statue has been reenacted from the erstwhile USSR, the holy land of leftism, to the state of Tripura, a small hinterland of Indian nation. People of the state consciously or unconsciously acquiesced with this onslaught on the symbol of left politics. Symbol always represents content. When the content of working class politics is nullified, the people cannot bear its imagery in their hearts and minds. This is what has happened in Tripura. The rejuvenated fascist forces with diabolically opposite content have replaced the decadent left in power. This was not the case in West Bengal where TMC snatched power from Left Front through an arduous struggle for the rights of the people. TMC grasped some of the content of the left without internalising these ideologically. The content and ideology in two different continuums are creating inner conflict within the TMC formations. In Tripura, the victor is waving aloft the symbol of fascist ideology for the entire nation to see. Almost fifty years ago, Indian nation saw the flag of the revolutionary toiling masses from Naxalbari, a small village of North Bengal and this time the flag of the counter-revolution completing its full circle is visible from Belonia, a small town of Tripura. This is a shift from village to town. This also marks the beginning of the end of second round. The fascists know this and this explains their aggressive posturing on left's dethronement. The hinterland may raise another red flag with symbol of Lenin's image at the core when the fascists are losing ground in mainland. But to surmise this to happen, the deviations in left's journey need to be identified and make the people aware of these deviations for rectifications. The left practitioners should not pretend that they are the repository of all knowledge and should follow the Marxist tenet of learning from the masses. This is one of the major follies of the Indian left practitioners that they never articulate their mistakes in public domain. The conspiratorial secrecy eats up the vital of the functioning of the party. How one can expect communist overture from the present CPIM 'Bengali Bhadralok' leadership who criticises Mamata Govt for promoting Kamtapuri language and alleged minority fundamentalism, even after the sudden fall from their cherished citadel of power in Tripura.

The communist party came to power depending on the bright legacy of democratic struggle of Tripura tribals. Jamatia revolt (1863) based on not-to-pay taxes was one of the important democratic movements against the autocratic administration of the feudal lord. The revolt shook the very basis of the unconditional support to the feudal lords. The Reang Revolt (1942-43) led by Ratanmoni Roatia created a great shake in the history of the democratic movement. The swadeshi movement in Bengal (1905) had influenced the people of Tripura. The social reform movement (1946-49) of the Lushais had been started against irrational power of the Lushai chiefs under the banner of "Tripura Lushai Union' and succeeded in abolishing it. The Janashiksha movement (1945-1948) under the banner of "Tripura Janasishiksha Samity' led by Biren Dutta, Nilmani Debbarma, Dasarath Deb and Sudhanwa Deb-barma was a milestone in the history of Tripura. However Janasaksiksha ceased to exist in 1948 when communist party was banned. This movement was spearheaded for mass education and against the squeezing of the tribals by Mahajans. Partition brought with it many complications due to loss of fertile land and refugee influx. Communist party of India decided to launch armed resistance against the conspiracy of merging Tripura with Pakistan and "Tripura Rajya Mukti Parishad" came into existence in 1948 and Dasarath Deb and Aghor Debbarma were elected as the president and general secretary respectively. Parishad started agitation against the Dewani rule and the military rule in the entire Khowai Division. Its movement was spearheaded to resist subjugation by violent means. The guerilla unit known as Santi Sena Bahini and tribal women's force as an auxiliary force of the guerilla unit was also formed. For long the royal army and officials used the poor tribals in the rural areas especially in the hills as forced labourers to transport the baggages of army and the officials from one hill to another. Especially the tribal womenfolk were awfully victims of this practice which is known as Titun in the local languages. Women revolted against this practice and three tribal girls killed in police firing in the Padmabil incident which took place in the first part of 1949. Titun was thereafter abolished.

The Gana Mukti Parishad (GMP) and its leaders like Dasarath Debbarma laid a strong base for the formation of the CPI and later CPI(M). The GMP formed in May, 1948 and led the struggle on the political, economic and social issues of tribal community. It led armed resistance against state repression from late 1948 to 1951. Post 1951, it adopted the path of mass movement and started participation in electoral politics. In this phase, the state saw a huge influx of Bengali Hindu refugees and this has its ramification in changing Tripura's demographic profile. The percentage of tribal population reduced from 50.1% in 1941 to 28.9% in 1971. The left in this period rightly fought for the rights of the refugees as well as protection of land and identity of the tribals. Based on this struggle, CPIM led left front came to power in 1978. In the initial phase of left rule, few democratic measures were taken. Tribal area autonomous district council was formed under seventh schedule and Kokborok was made official language in 1979. The autonomous district council was finally brought under sixth schedule in 1984. But the parliamentary cretinism and politics of class compromise also started germinating with the ascendance to power. After ascendance to power, the left eschewed the politics of class struggle. Instead of decentralisation of power, full autonomy to the tribals, consolidation of toiling masses cutting across community line, instilling communist ideology and world view within tribal rank and files, they started imbibing the art of managing various power groups in good humour. The vibrant people's movement which gave rise to the left support base was allowed to die down. The progressive political debate within the masses came to a standstill. The party headquarters and the party committees started filling the vacuum created from the withdrawal of people's active participation in political life. Through the two tired Panchayati Raj initiated by the left front, the party hegemony started extending to the grass-roots. This opened up the space for reactionary politics in the masses. The ruling class tactics of playing the soft Bengali chauvinism on the one end and tribal sectarianism on the other were played out to woo the voters for electoral gains. It is important to note that only two years after the left's ascendance to power, in 1980, Tripura witnessed an ethnic riot causing a divesting political dynamic in the state. A section of militant tribal wing TUJS went to underground and in 1989 volunteers of TNV returned to the mainstream of life. But the tribal rebellion did not end.

This parliamentary cretinism and politics of class compromise have now developed to its full form and this has been actually rejected by the people in competitive electoral politics. From 1978 to 1988, left front ruled two terms under the chief Ministership of Nripen Chakraborty. Left Front again came back to power in 1993 with Dasarath Deb as CM, and Manik Sarkar became CM for the first time in 1998. Tripura had a mixed experience in Manik Sarkar's terms in office. Manik Sarkar's term in left rule started with paradigm shift in left approach in consonance with policy framework of the centre. The Tripura Government adopted the overall neo-liberal economic policy of the centre and implemented it with a human face of welfarist planning. The space for welfare measures within the garb of neoliberal policy drive was available for the left government because of its peripheral geographical position, insignificant presence of big capital and rudimentary phase of look east policy that demands adequate infrastructure and skilled labour. Within this policy framework, the centre and the ruling Congress party allowed the left front Government to function on its own without any disturbance and hindrance and in return, the left front did not raise the slogan of 'more power to the state'. This is the external dimension of the class compromise and deviation from left politics. The internal dimension of class compromise started much earlier when the Left Front came to power for the first time and the continuation of this politics led to the abject surrender to the forces of neo-liberalism. The transition of Tripura politics has occurred from the struggling left to centrist over a period of time and now, it has shifted to extreme right. The left's huge support base is actually a docile mass under the spell of a hegemonic control of the party which regulates the selection process of beneficiaries of government schemes by the grass-root government and Panchayati Raj institutions. By negating the concept of people's rights and empowerment, the process of uplifting the people's consciousness has been negated. The much publicised improvement in human development index was achieved by the Manik Sarkar Government through the implementation of neo-liberal policy with human face. Manik Sarkar Government was appreciated even by the present BJP Government at the centre for strictly adhering to Tripura Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2005. The projects like natural resource management, poverty alleviation programme were initiated with the help of foreign fund from Japan and Germany. The increased debt burden, reduced central Government financial support and neo-liberal policy of fiscal responsibility handicapped the Government from participating in job creation. Furthermore, Tripura Government pursued the PPP model in various projects at the behest of the centre, and the ramification of this PPP model is the further depletion of the public resources due to increasing public liability for private profit. The economic model pursued by the Manik Sarkar Government was in essence a model of jobless growth. Thus the un-employment situation in the State has assumed alarming position. Total job seekers in the Employment Exchanges of the State were 6,62,756 in March 2015, which further increased to 6,93,516 in March 2016. Increase in population and consequent addition to the labour force, the supply side of labour force continues to outstrip the demand resulting in rise of unemployment and under employment at an alarming rate in the State. Due to improvement in human development index, the number of skilled labour also increased. Average land holding size of the state is 0.97 hectare. 90% of the cultivators are either small or marginal. In the industrially backward state it has created heavy pressure on agricultural land, as only 27 percent of the total area of the state is available for cultivation.

Whatever political empowerment was achieved by the SC-ST-OBCs especially by the tribals at the initial phase of the left rule was decimated by this economic model of development and politics of class compromise.

The saffron brigade with their power at the centre struck a decisive blow at this Achilles' heel of skewed left politics and will lead this same policy framework adopted by the left front to its extreme logical end, and thus impoverishing the entire oppressed masses as cheap labour for their policy persuasion of neo-liberalism, act east and politics of exclusion. Only the left politics of class struggle and people's resistance along with the broadest unity of the democratic forces can save the masses from all out reactionary economic-political and ideological onslaught.

Vol. 50, No.37, Mar 18 - 24, 2018