Autumn Number 2019

How To Combat Communalism

Mass Movement is the Answer

Badruddin Umar

The question of class has always been intricately linked with the problem of communalism in India, but the manner in which it has raised its head today has never been seen before. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections communalism and class exploitation have subsumed public interest, the interests of farmers and workers to establish hegemony in the political arena. In these elections, communalism at its most vile incarnation namely Hindutva has managed to crush public interest and ensure its own triumph. These forces have influenced the citizens to vote for the BJP against their own interest. This is nothing less than a mega tragedy in Indian politics.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP propelled by a massive campaign funded by thousands of crores that the party had managed to obtain from Ambani and the Tatas etc. made a lot of commitments to the citizens of India which it subsequently failed to fulfil. To top it, the party's government led the country and its people into major economic distresses. Promises made to the farmers were not kept and this led to significant crisis in agriculture. Consequently, there were farmers' agitations against the government across the length and breadth of the country. Lakhs of farmers participated in huge political processions and protest rallies in Delhi, Mumbai and other major Indian cities during the buildup to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The majority of these agitating farmers are poor and Dalits from the lower echelons of Hindu society. The reasons for these protests are a deterioration of the living and economic conditions during the currency of the BJP government. Not only farmers but also workers and members of various professional categories have participated in protest and resistance programmes during the same period.

Despite agitations and protests, significant sections of farmers and oppressed masses voted for BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It must be pointed out that votes for BJP are votes for communalism and Hindutva. Therefore, these voters have completely misread the class character of the communal and Hindutva forces. In spite of agitations and protests the lack of class consciousness amongst toiling masses resulted in their failure to realise the class character of the oppressive and pauperising measures unleashed on them.

The main reason for BJP's success in differentiating Hindutva ideology from the class question is due to a failure and the willful refrain of the left parties and other likeminded elements to foreground the class question as a counter to the Hindutva ideology and communal forces. Therefore the left campaign and programmes have been bereft of a focus on the class interests of the farmers and workers and this worked to the advantage of the proponents of the Hindutva ideology forces.

This situation is dangerous for Indian democracy. It is not only dangerous but also alarming. The reason being the present rise and spread of communalism among Indian people has obfuscated and mislead the struggle for the protection of the class interests of the Indian people. The failure of the Indian people to see their class interests in proper light have led to a defeat of their just struggles. It is a fact that that the politics of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has evolved over a long period on the basis of caste. Consequently the Congress party has been politically vanquished from these two major states. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections the BJP made developmental commitments to the lower caste Hindus and Dalits of these two states. However, subsequent to the polls, the BJP government failed to live up to its electoral commitments. More surprising was the BJP's victory in Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections that followed. But the BJP government did not fulfil its promises. Moreover, conditions of poor farmers and Dalits deteriorated. So they had voted against the BJP in some constituencies during the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections. Based on this trend it was expected that their votes will cause a significant defeat of the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, the results proved otherwise. BJP won a massive mandate from Uttar Pradesh! Influenced and misled by Narendra Modi's Hindutva and communal campaign the farmers and Dalits voted for the BJP. The root cause for this mandate must be analysed. However, after the 2019 elections the analyses that emanated from India have not given adequate importance to this aspect. The bankruptcy of the left parties and others in this respect is visible to the naked eye.

Not only political parties, a majority of influential Indian commentators, litterateurs, historians and intellectuals have lectured, issued statements and written articles on the BJP's oppression, encroachment on human rights and its attempt to throttle democracy etc.. They have forcefully protested against the killings of established journalists, writers and intellectuals. However, like the political parties they have skirted the class question. Consequently, a realistic representation of Narendra Modi's communal ideology has remained sheltered from public eyes. Their protests have failed to influence the impoverished citizens of the country although the majority of the voters belong to these strata of the society. Resistance and protests from intellectuals could not influence the voters to cast their votes against the BJP.

The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections exhibited the stage and position of peasant and working class politics in India within the broad spectrum of politics that is based on class contradictions. In West Bengal, the Left Front led by the CPI(M) enjoyed uninterrupted power for 34 years. However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections they could not win a single seat. In other words, the token class based politics that remained in West Bengal is not there anymore and has been all but exterminated. The scenario in the rest of the country is no different and they managed to win 3-4 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. This is not a sudden outcome. Rather, it is a result of prolonged indulgence with bourgeois parliamentary politics in the states of West Bengal, Kerala and the rest of India. The void thus caused in the field of class based politics has been filled up by extreme rightist and reactionary communal politics. In India, among progressive intellectuals and democratic forces the question of class has receded to the back ground and this is reflected in their statements pronouncements and programmes of resistance. Although they have protested vociferously and resisted vigorously the class question has been singularly absent in these efforts and remains so till now. Consequently their protests and resistance have had no impact on the Lok Sabha elections. If anything with no alternatives to guide them, disgruntled and protesting farmers, workers and impoverished citizens found it convenient to ignore the BJP's misdeeds and vote for the Hindutva ideology. There are no other explanations for these election results.

Muslim League had proclaimed the Two Nation theory and demanded the creation of Pakistan on its basis. However, Congress since the 1940s till 1947 and in the post-independence period had followed the Two Nation theory without proclaiming its allegiance to the same. Therefore Muslims became second class citizens in India during the Congress regime. In case of jobs, although Muslims were more than 15% of the population they had less than 2% of the jobs. The situation in West Bengal is the worst. Post-independence, the Congress party was in power and then there were 34 years of continuous government by the CPI(M) led Left Front and yet in a population of which more than 30% are Muslims their representation in jobs is less than 2%! So will it be wrong if one concludes that the Left Front's attitude towards Muslims was no less communal than that of the Congress? Will it be wrong to conclude that Muslims in West Bengal have remained second class citizens in West Bengal like they were during the Congress regime? Therefore Narendra Modi and the BJP have not fallen from the sky. Is the communal politics of Narendra Modi and Hindutva ideology not a continuation of and consistent with the tradition of bourgeois parliamentary politics in India? Is the BJP not a result of the politics practised by Congress party or even the CPI (M)?

In 1948, the CPI suddenly at its second Party Congress gave a call for revolution and indulged in acts of violence. The call for revolution was not backed by any theoretical analysis or organisational preparedness. As a result the attempted "revolution" collapsed within two years and the organisation was all but destroyed. In the 1950s, the CPI entered the domain of parliamentary politics and the politics of class struggle and revolution was pushed to the background. If not as a revolutionary force, the CPI managed to gain strength as a force in parliamentary politics in the states of West Bengal and Kerala where they later came to power. In West Bengal, the CPI (M) led Left Front enjoyed uninterrupted power for 34 years. In the process of being in power and competing with other political forces in the domain of parliamentary politics they strayed away from the politics of class struggle. The crisis that arises within any political party participating in parliamentary politics affected the CPI (M) too. Therefore, they lost power in 2011 and they have almost gone extinct since then.

Within the domain of parliamentary politics it is impossible to carry out class struggle. All political parties take cognisance of the boundaries parliamentary politics while participating in the same. The CPI (M) and the CPI did likewise. As a result they lost touch with the interests of farmers and workers at the grassroots level. On the other side, Communists who stayed out of the realm of parliamentary politics and believed and still believe in the politics of class struggle strayed into 'Maoism' and participated in armed struggle without any organisational work among farmers and workers. Their struggle is limited to their base areas inside forests inhabited by Adivasis. They have intermittently engaged their fire power with armed para-military and police forces of India and have killed some in combat. However, they have not been able to cause any damage to a strong capitalist state like India. The state has effectively tackled the armed struggle of the Maoists. A variant of this form of armed struggle was practised during the Naxalbari movement and as a result that movement ended up pathetically unsuccessful.

A revolutionary class struggle can only move forward if the numerous farmers inhabiting the plains of India and workers are organised. At the moment there is a lack of such organisation. During the British period, the CPI had managed in a limited way to build a revolutionary organisation amongst farmers and workers but nothing comparable exists now. It is normal that this situation will have its impact on Indian politics. As a result, whatever be the failures to keep the promises made to the people by the Narendra Modi led government of the BJP and forces of oppression unleashed by them; no effective resistance has emerged to confront it. The 2014 and 2019 electoral victory of the BJP can be attributed to this root cause.

This basic analysis is absent in the writings of progressive Indians or revolutionary intellectuals, litterateurs, historians and politicians. Today, such an analysis is the main task of Indian revolutionaries. Without such an analysis a novel politics of class struggle cannot be launched. From this angle, the Indian revolutionary Socialist movement has reached a crisis stage. It is more like an identity crisis. A novel politics of class struggle cannot be organised within the boundaries parliamentary politics or following the Maoist line. Without class struggle it is well- nigh impossible to confront the Indian capitalist and imperialist state and organise a socialist struggle to emerge victorious with the establishment of a socialist state in India.

In India, communalism has extensively penetrated every available pore of the society and this is reflected in the 2014 and 2019 electoral victories of the BJP. This can only be effectively confronted by organising a politics of class struggle. In the absence of a politics of class struggle in India it will be impossible to exterminate the influence and defeat the extreme rightist and fascist BJP and RSS and similarly inclined Hindutva organisations. If the present situation continues then in the next elections BJP will again raise the slogan of Hindutva and manage to mislead farmers and workers and overwhelm them with their brand of politics.

(Mashik Sanskriti, July 2019, translated from original Bangla by a correspondent)

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Autumn Number 2019
Vol. 52, No. 13 - 16, Sep 29 - October 26, 2019