Reinventing Leftism

Left, Right, Left

Devabrata Sharma

The Left Movement in the country should be celebrating its centenary some time now. Whether it would be a year of celebration or introspection is yet to be seen. Whether or not it is admitted or accepted, that celebration should be accompanied by introspection. Surely there are many heroic, glorious, memorable things to remember and cherish but it is equally true that there are many grey areas which demand soul-searching and brain-storming. On the eve of Centenary Year of Communist Movement in India, it can be fairly concluded that there is no immediate possibility of seizure of power by the Indian Left in the foreseeable future. It is in sharp contrast to the fact that the Russian Communists had seized power in 1917, i.e. more than a century ago, and their Chinese counterpart also seized power in 1949, i.e. more than seven decades ago. Surely something has gone seriously wrong with the Indian Left. Revisionism, parliamentary cretinism and economism have always been the bane of Indian Left. Ever since the Telengana Movement was betrayed by the revisionist CPI leadership, who danced to the tunes of Nehru's Socialist bandwagon, the road of armed revolution was firmly shut up by the Official Marxists (OMs). The leadership preferred to play second fiddle to the so-called national bourgeois leadership, which was in reality a comprador bourgeois leadership in close alliance with the vested big feudal interests. The Communist Party of India (CPI) was later vertically divided into the CPI and CPI(M), not so much on the basis of any fundamental ideological difference but on the basis of allegiance to two foreign communist parties, viz the CPSU and CPC. Revisionism and parliamentary cretinism continued to hold sway over both the factions of the communist party while the Indo-China War of 1962 further deteriorated the relation between the factions. Late sixties of twentieth century saw many remarkable developments in the Left Movement of India; while the CPM came to power in Bengal, first as part of a united front ministry and later as Left Front, it relegated itself to being a part and parcel of the status quo, the existing system. Revisionism came to full circle with its gunning down of 11 peasants in Naxalbari on 25th May, 1967. The growth of the Naxalbari movement, on the contrary, signalled the emergence of an entirely new brand of Radical Left in India. It shunned parliamentary path, called for armed insurrection for agrarian revolution and analysed the Indian State character as semi-colonial and semi-feudal. The massacre of the Naxalites, executed by the state with Congress and CPM as its political outfits, however, failed to annihilate the path of Naxalbari. The CPI(ML) was born as a stern rebuff to right revisionism. That it itself indulged left adventurism is another matter. The Indian Left(official marxists), wherever they have come to state power, have behaved like Stalinists, building up Stalinist oligarchy in the name of organisation. Centralism is given prime of place in the 'Democratic Centralism' set up, thus burying the democracy part. The party, controlled to the hilt by a chosen few, shuts out life force, even breathing space for the cadres, workers and followers. The lower committee is controlled by the higher committee, the central committee by the Politbureau, the Politbureau by the General Secretary, and so on and so forth. A massive, all-engrossing, omnipotent, omnipresent bureaucracy is the end-product. It kills creativity and imagination, spontaneity and last, but not the least, democracy itself. The Indian traditional Left, often jocularly called the Official Marxists (OMs) have never been able to cross the Luxman Rekha of Brahminism. The Indian Left leadership has been overwhelmingly uppercaste, with some honourable exceptions. So, both in the party and the governments they lead, there has been an overwhelming majority of uppercaste people. The near-absence of lower castes, dalits, adibasis, minorities in the leadership is proportionate to and reflective of the policies these parties adopt. The present predicament of the Indian Left is reflected in the fact that it has failed or rather refused to see caste (jativarna), along with the edifice of religion gender-ethnicity-nationality as basically a class structure. That caste is not only in the superstructure but also in the base is not realised/admitted by the Indian bhadrolok left. The uniqueness of India, with its millennia-old caste-class structure, is missed by the conventional, conservative left. The PCC, CPI(ML) was the first organisation to make a radical departure from this position. It went so far as to declare anti-caste struggles (and hence struggles of dalits, adibasis, OBCs, minorities, other ethnicities and nationalities) an integral part of class struggle in this country. This thesis found few takers, pushing the PCC to the position of a 'pariah', an untouchable to in the Indian Left Movement. Of late there have been some changes in this regard. More and more left organisations have come forward to support dalit-adibasi struggles and to raise their issues. But unfortunately they are still unable see through the truth that supporting these struggles or raising these issues is not a tactical but a strategic question, a question of policy, based on principle. The inevitable collapse of soviet social imperialism left several Indian left organisations orphaned. Now several organisations, unable to do politics without overseas patrons, guardians and mentors, have taken to capitalist China to back them. They seem oblivious of the fact that post-Tiananman Square it is well-nigh impossible to deny the capitalist nature of China-even if one fails to recognise the capitalist seizure of power by Liu-Shaochi-Deng Xiao Ping clique just after the death of Mao. More than three decades of continuous 'Left' rule in West Bengal and now-on and-now-off-Left rule in Kerala and Tripura led to a complete ossification of the party apparatus and suffocation of inner-party democracy. Though the inevitably violent nature of the Left party organisation and the state apparatus controlled by it was obvious and apparent from the days of massacre of Anandamargis on Bijon Setu, and the most heinous massacre at Morichjhapi, it came a full circle in Singur and most importantly at Nandigram. The Tata capitalists in Singur and Dow Chemicals of USA, under the garb of an Indonesian Firm at Nandigram were the inspiring forces of a violent anti-peasant, pro-capitalist holocaust. Finally the end of 'Left' rule in Bengal became imminent. That collapse was not surprising, but only expected. But what is more surprising is the fact that even after several years of that collapse there has been no serious and significant soul-searching within CPM in particular and the left as a whole. The meanings of industrial development, its relation with agriculture and environment, the question of use of force against the people by the state for some professedly 'noble' cause are not questioned, addressed and challenged in the expected way, leading to the question, 'Whither Indian Left'? Regionally speaking, the Official Marxists, led by the CPM in the eastern part of the country, have not challenged regional ruling or dominating ideologies in a formidable way. For example the Bengali uppercaste led Bengal CPM had always opposed and suppressed the Gorkha-Jharkhandi-Kamtapuri movements of Bengal, while neglecting dalits, OBCs and Muslims to the extent possible. It had played a Bengali chauvinist politics vis-a-vis the Assamese also. The repeated Assamese-Bengali riots cannot be understood only in terms of aggressive, violent Assamese Chauvinism; Bengali Chauvinism had played its part and for several decades Bengal CPM provided the fodder for the Bengali Chauvinist propaganda machine. But in a queer about-turn the leaders in Assam changed tunes after the Assam Movement which took away the lives of dozens of party activists. Now the OM jargon in Assam is more suited to Assamese chauvinism, than ever. It is awkward, to say the least. Because the Assamese uppercaste chauvinists, like their Bengali counterpart, are equally infamous not only for their anti-Bengali politics but for their forceful suppression of Muslims, Adivasis, even tribals. Now some party workers even sing paeans to the great authority of Assamese chauvinism, Ambikagiri Raychau-dhury, a proponent of violent chauvinism. Such acts of playing second fiddle to regionally/ locally (and also nationally) dominant ruling class ideologies and politics have made the question much more relevant: 'Whither Left Movement'? The Left in West Bengal is in a quandary, with no hope of recovery in near future. The OM is so badly decimated by the TMC juggernaut that the former is even unable to dream of a solitary comeback. So they played second fiddle to the Hindu Right in the last elections, thus giving birth to the apt coinage 'Ram Bam'! This time around the OM in Bengal seems to be in no mood to learn from its suicidal policies of supporting BJP against TMC in a discreet way. This has taken a heavy toll of its big mass base with the ruins also slipping from under its feet. While the Left in Bihar has acted wisely by forming the Mahajot, the question remains, 'Whither Left (at least the OM) in Bengal'? Last, but not the least, the collapse of Socialist states the world over, has raised serious questions about the future of socialism as a whole in this planet. To conclude, the Indian Left cannot rise from this morose, if it does not—reinvent itself as a struggling peoples' force to wash away all the degenerative bureaucratic revisionist vices in the rising tides of peoples' movement, reinvent itself by doing away with the all Stalinist bureaucratic edifices and mindset to give space to new leadership and new ideas, reinvent itself from the typical Brahminical mindset by coming out in support of minority-regionally and religiously persecuted people and in opposition to the caste-class complex, reinvent itself by standing in support of agriculture vis-a-vis forced industrialisation, for environment against destruction of nature, for socialism through the New Democratic Route as opposed to bureaucratic-military kind of forced socialism, by giving stress in the 'democratic' component of democratic centralism, than the 'centralism' component. Hopefully , this is the time of a full scale crisis of global capitalism. All kinds of peoples' movements are breaking out in all parts of the country. Now is the time that Indian Left can reinvent itself, like a phoenix, from its own ashes, and emerge stronger by baptising itself by blood and fire in the peoples' movements. Then and only then, can it hope to look beyond the present morose, towards a new horizon.

Vol. 53, No. 22-25, Nov 29 - Dec 26, 2020