In the battlefield of politics and ideas, the “Right”, which consists of capitalist policies with fundamentalism based on religion, ethnicity, race, etc. is the natural contender against the “Left”, which believes in keeping “people before profit” with an inclusive agenda for all sections of society, regardless of identity.
This battle is bound to happen in any society or nation if both forces exist in considerable strength. But the Indian condition spells a different scenario. CPI(M), the largest left party has decided to take on the BJP-RSS alone. Though this post, I wanted to elaborate how this decision is merely a dogmatic approach which considers words of Marx and Lenin as the unchallengeable rule of law.
The best example on the issue to confront the force of fascism can be taken from world history. The example is from WW-II in which the fascist power (Axis Power) led by Adolf Hitler was defeated by Allied power (Britain, USA, USSR) led by Joseph Stalin. This marks an epic imprint of the Left’s victory over the Right. But on the other hand, an important lesson must not be forgotten – that the alliance of Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin did not result in respective leaders’ ideologies being demeaned.
In short – Joseph Stalin did not become a “bourgeois” when time demanded him to defeat the fascist force allying with hardcore capitalist leaders. This example should be taken as reference when it comes to understanding the socio-political equations of India, where presently, the rightist force led by the BJP-RSS is heavily acting in haste to overhaul the existing parliamentary democratic system by a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra”.
The upsurge of the Left and the Right in India’s sociopolitical context was in the same year of 1920’s. The most dynamic feature of our nation is its diversity which has a syncretic, heterogenic culture with people of a different identity. But let us not forget that this diversity is the biggest target of Hindutva sociopolitical force of the BJP-RSS.
The Indian left led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M) has been the biggest ideological challenger to the BJP-RSS to date. It is moving ahead to be a political contender too, in upcoming Tripura state assembly elections. Post-1991, neo-liberal policies became a political tool, but there was constant growth along with the expansion of communal forces which today, has covered the journey from the margin to the centre in power politics.
The impact of neo-liberal policies was seen as a threat, but the rising strength of communal parties was not taken seriously both socially and electorally. According to the CPM led Indian left political understanding the ruling class character of two mainstream parties BJP and Indian National Congress (INC) is the same. Both of them have unleashed neo-liberal policies on people of India having a soft corner for rich corporates.
In short, both the BJP and the INC are hallmarks of capitalism and imperialism. But they have only one difference when it comes to being religious fundamentalist organization whose aim would be to establish the ideological hegemony of Vedic-Brahmanical Sanskrit brand of Hinduism over the whole society.
Neo-liberal policies have widened the gap between rich and poor resulting into the worst form of economic inequality, but the phenomenon of mob lynching, a surveillance state, open attack on religious minorities and threats to change the constitution were never a tradition our nation’s politics.
It proves that for majoritarian politics, the first aim is to polarize society on hegemony, hate with vilification of religious minorities and lower castes and secondly to unleash of neo-liberal policies favouring the rich corporates. For example, the cow-related violence which never happened on a rampant basis in nation’s post-independence time is the norm today.
The idea of capitalism is the second priority for the RSS-BJP as the important task remains to make secular, democratic, republic, a Hindu Rashtra. If a person remains alive then only he/she can oppose the neo-liberal policies. By this, the narrative of considering this regime as an authoritarian rule is just a misunderstanding of Indian conditions.
One can easily say THAT the incidents mentioned above cannot happen in a society where a left political force exists. But it is a reality of today’s India. How did this situation come?
A number of issues which I feel CPI (M) led the Indian left has failed to understand which made the RSS-BJP a potential threat to our democratic, secular fabric are as follows- first, the beginning of the 1990s had three major incidents internationally and nationally. It started with the downfall of Soviet Union with India’s movement towards a free market type economy and nation witnessed the emergence of self-confident and self-assured right-wing Hindutva Rashtravadis who succeeded in hurting the whole structure of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
During the worldwide crisis of left politics, the existence of left politics became a hope in third world countries like India and Latin America. In this period, India also underwent the current of Mandal-Kamandal-Bhoomandal with which renovation of left ideology by left parties did not take place whose result was ignorance of the caste issue when compared to the class struggle. This late recognition created a space that was filled up by parties like Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party and Bhartiya Janata Party.
The chance to grow and impregnate the roots of society as it had constantly used the card of religion and caste to polarize the masses which had a two-dimensional effect. One, the replacement of politics of social justice with politics of polarization and the second is the establishment of the electoral base which is sometimes referred to as a ‘vote bank’. This social engineering of RSS-BJP was not keenly observed.
On contrary to this absence of mainstream organized left movement in Hindi-heartland gave clear way for the strengthening of right politics. Second, the Mandal issue was just seen as caste-based reservation, but it also covered Land reform, skill development, the Industrial development which did not resonate in the form of mass movements in North, East and Western part of India except traditional left bastion of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
In 2004, the initiative of World Social Forum (WSF) undertaken by the Indian left taking along civil society group was a path-breaking step. This alliance had a synergy of combination which could have been a counter for BJP’s social engineering, but unfortunately, this broader alliance of sociopolitical force did not see the light of the day. This also led to deflection of youth section towards the civil society and not towards the politics of CPM.
The above-mentioned issues directly contribute in making of a suitable ground where communal force breed and continue to divide people by identity using the youth section which technologically is sound and suitable as the primary tool.
The debate in nation’s largest left party whether to have any direct or indirect alliance with the INC and other secular, democratic parties shows the inability to realize the reality of Indian conditions. Even during last central committee meeting party’s Kerala unit did something unique but in haste to defeat the draft put up by CPM
General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury. Kerala state CITU president P.K. Gurudasan, a staunch Karat loyalist, who fainted during the CPI(M) Ernakulam district conference and was admitted in the ICU of one of Kochi’s private hospitals, was discharged and flown to Kolkata where he was admitted to a nursing home. Gurudasan, 82, was unable to attend the first two days of the central committee meeting. By Sunday evening, when it was clear that the central committee was going to vote, the party’s Kerala unit the majority of them Karat supporters ignoring the advice of doctors, discharged the veteran CITU leader from the nursing home and made him vote in favour of Karat group.
This shows the deep root of dogmatism and stubbornness within a section of nation’s largest left party. The method of either by hook or crook is not a noble step when it comes to standing with its people against the biggest crisis. The party’s democratic centralism never witnessed such mandatory voting in which an ill comrade is made to vote.
In the last meeting of CPM’s Central Committee, leaders from eight states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh, Karnataka, J&K, Uttar-Pradesh stood in favour of Sitaram Yechury for indirect and direct understanding with secular, democratic force led by INC. Can this opinion, understanding of different states be rejected where BJP is in power having a potential polarizing capacity?
Before forging any direct or indirect alliance with INC led secular, democratic forces, mainstream Indian left parties must merge together to become a single strong Left force against the Right. The nature of ruling class in India is not just capitalism but has a strong, widespread communal approach which directly targets the heterogeneous civilization, religious unity and inclusive idea of India.
Their network works well among different sections of society which is far more than a political challenge. The unexpected and unprecedented expansion of the right-wing social forces in India in the twenty-first century deserves special attention and analysis. It is the subjective failure of the Left which led to overturning of the political landscape to rightist politics.
The Indian Left led by the CPM has to provide a coherent, robust alternative vision on the idea of India. To confront politics of right in the upcoming time, the left has to understand that the oppressed sections of society belong to lower castes and lower class members which should transform into a mass movement. Practical politics on correlating economic condition and caste oppression is the sole answer to RSS-BJP’s divisive politics. The ideological renovation of the left parties is yet to be done which alienates them when it comes to counter the combination of communal-capitalist politics.
In this context, I want to recollect Lenin’s speech from 1919, in which he said, “In this respect you are confronted with a task which has not previously confronted the Communists of the world: relying upon the general theory and practice of communism, you must adapt yourselves to specific conditions such as do not exist in the European countries; you must be able to apply that theory and practice to conditions in which the bulk of the population are peasants, and in which the task is to wage a struggle against medieval survivals and not against capitalism.”
Here the question for the left should not be the alliance with any ruling class party or not but the concern should be to save the nation from a monstrous threat of communalism joining hands with all secular, democratic forces keeping people’s interest above organizational interest. My stand is to carry forward practical politics with a concrete analysis of concrete situations. If at any indirect alliance is undertaken that will have the economic alternative as a base of understanding of which UPA-1 is an example.
Leftism not only means keeping people before profit but it also symbolizes a strong contender against the Rightist fundamentalism. In India, this cannot happen without a broader unity of sociopolitical forces. And if this doesn’t happen the message is clear for the common man- the moment left becomes independently strong it shall come to rescue the victims, till then continue to suffer due to your identity (caste and religion). The rigid and dogmatic understandings of the Indian left and the CPI (M) need a rethink to expand its reach among the people.