Left–Self-Introspection Needed

Bharat Dogra

Left forces have generally been a source of hope and justice, but at certain junctures of history and in certain places these have also been a source of despair and injustice. Human beings are at a critical stage of their history, and one needs cooperation and help of all forces who can contribute to creating a better and safer world. To help them in contributing to this with more certainty and capability and also to increase their own strength and resilience, left forces in various countries need to undertake significant internal reforms based on a process of sincere self-introspection. This will also help left forces to attract many new members and supporters.

Some left groups continue to offer generous praise to certain powerful individuals of history whose deeds are associated with the unfortunate death or killing of millions of persons. In some cases names of such persons are even pre-fixed to the commonly used names of certain left groups and parties. How can this be justified? This will repel many young persons who have read their history well. The response that the atrocities of these powerful persons are greatly exaggerated in books written by capitalist scholars is not an adequate response as such allegations have also been made by independent and unbiased scholars on the basis of careful study. If for the sake of argument it is agreed that the number of those who died in such atrocities is only half or even just one-fifth of what is mentioned in many scholarly works, even then expressing support for persons responsible for them, even to the extent of tagging their name to the name of their group, cannot be justified. So this is clearly one aspect on which introspection and reform is needed.

Secondly, environmental issues are increasingly becoming more important but the response of the left to incorporating these issues and adjusting well with the main agenda of justice and equality needs much more consideration. Of course one is aware of the great contribution made by some left scholars to the study of environmental issues in recent times, but in terms of the adequate incorporation of these issues in left-led struggles, or in government programmes when left government are formed, there is much that remains to be done.

Thirdly, and related to this, there does not seem to be adequate comprehension of limiting economic growth beyond a point and emphasising the virtues of frugality and simplicity among supporters and in programmes. Of course, several left leaders set a great example of austerity in their personal life due to their commitment to their parties, but this is different from incorporating simplicity based on environmental ethics in their ideology and programmes.

Fourthly, (again a related concern), spirituality related issues, including looking at spirituality as a source of strength, have been generally ignored by the left. This makes it difficult to take in properly the learning from some of the greatest leaders of humanity. In the specific India context, this writer would like to mention great spiritual leaders like Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak who have powerful and important messages for any agenda based on justice and equality.

Next, the question of farmers, rural communities and their sustainable livelihoods do not appear to be very satisfactorily addressed by left forces. This leads to the larger question that in terms of the overall development and environment agenda, while some of the priorities of the left based on justice are of course very correct, it has to reset and reconsider several other aspects of its priorities. While some of the critiques of existing development path coming from the left have been very strong and effective, similar clarity needed while articulating an alternative path development is less visible.

There is need for violent left groups to reconsider their approach and introspect how in changing conditions peaceful paths of change have become more relevant and important.

Sincere introspection along these lines and initiating reforms based on this will help the left forces to be stronger and more united and to make a more definite contribution to creating a better and safer world in these exceptionally difficult times.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 53, No. 46, May 16 - 22, 2021