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Realigning classical ideology

Reminiscing the great October Revolution, communist parties are scavenging for a fresh agenda.

 Nitya Chakraborty |  2017-11-30 15:42:25.0

Realigning classical ideology

One hundred years have passed since the historic October Revolution in Russia that overthrew the old oppressive regime and established the world's first socialist state, led by the workers and the peasants. The ten decades since then have witnessed tumultuous developments in the world, including the second world war; the founding of the socialist states in eastern Europe, led by the respective communist parties in the wake of the defeat of Hitler's Germany in the second world war; the victory of the Chinese Revolution in 1949 under the leadership of the Communist Party; the emergence of the first Communist Party-led government in Latin America, in Cuba, spearheaded by Fidel Castro; Vietnam's magnificent victory against the USA in 1975; followed by victories of the communist forces in Laos and Cambodia.

In the sixties and early seventies, the anti-Vietnam war movement galvanized the young students in Europe and USA, as also in other parts of the world. The message of social emancipation and the movement for a better and equitable society appealed to the people. In 1960, 81 communist parties of the world issued a declaration to take forward the battle for socialism with a united front. But, inside the communist movement, especially in both Soviet Union and China, things were not going well. The essence of socialist principles and practices were being ignored. The 1956 Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party witnessed the then General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev's strong denunciation of Stalin's actions. The sixties saw a bitter picture of the Mao regime in China, during the years of Cultural Revolution. Nobody was talking of the spirit of the communist unity focused on the 1960 declaration. In 1979, there was a war between China and Vietnam, something no communist could think of.
While China opted for a nationalist path of its own from 1978 onwards, under Deng Xiao Ping, giving a massive push to modernisation and industrial development based on the rural base prepared by Mao, the Communist Party under Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982) lost its moorings. The Soviet state missed the technological revolution, especially the telecom resurgence of the seventies. There was stagnation and when the Brezhnev era ended, the CPSU leadership was directionless. Mikhail Gorbachev took reins of the Party in 1985 but his pro-democracy ideas based on glasnost and perestroika did not take into account the ground reality of whether the Party was in a position to navigate this new approach to democracy, amidst the continuous interventions and pressures from the Americans. The 1986 party congress formalised Gorbachev's roadmap for new socialism but it triggered off political convulsions, for which Gorbachev was not ready. The Berlin wall fell in October of 1989 and soon the eastern European states started crumbling. Finally, in 1991, Gorbachev was forced to resign and the socialist Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Soviet socialism collapsed 74 years after the 1917 revolution.
In the last 26 years since 1991, there has been extensive introspection by the communist parties in all parts of the world. Marxists of different hues have tried to analyse what went wrong. There are differences in approach; but on one issue, there is an agreement. The Soviet model was not an ideal one. The first socialist regime failed to adapt to the changes that were needed. Capitalism has not won; it had a temporary victory for some time after 1991. There is no alternative to socialism and this ideal will remain vibrant as long as there is inequality in society and the exploitative system continues to thrive. On November 1, this year, representatives of over 150 communist parties and other left parties believing in socialism, met in Moscow for a week-long centenary celebration and they resolved to continue the struggle for socialism taking into account the new global realities and the local factors of each country. The discussions were very frank and transparent and they all agreed that there was no need to hide the genuine lapses in the functioning of the communist parties. The participants felt that no model of socialism can be copied and after one hundred years, the lesson is that each communist party has to work out its own specific strategy for adoption in their respective countries, based on the local ground realities. It was also decided that a follow-up meeting will be held in Greece in 2018.
What is significant about this conclave of the communist and the Left parties is that the mainstream communist parties are open to having a dialogue with other streams of the Left who are ready to fight for a better world. The imperialism is in deep crisis right now and is not united. President Trump is representing the worst forms of rightwing conservatism and he is being opposed by the European Union including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In Britain, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn is fighting for a pro-people programme and he has received the support of the Communist Party of Britain. In the USA, the CP of USA has successfully worked for a broad front against President Trump. Due to the intensive campaigning by Bernie Sanders, socialism is now again popular among the US youth. In Spain, PODEMOS is emerging stronger with its pro-left policies in Latin America, the CPs are cooperating with a number of pro-left governments though they also fight the economic policies, whenever that is needed.
All the progressive forces are feeling that in the 21st century, there has to be a new agenda for communists and the left forces and the groups which are opposed to the capitalist policies have to be brought under the umbrella of a common movement against the rightist forces. Parliamentary democracy is now a vital part of the world system and the Left, including the communists, now have to work for making use of the parliamentary democracy for furthering the interests of the underprivileged. The issues of human rights and protection of the environment apart from the empowerment of women should be the new focus areas.
When it comes to India, the lessons from the October Revolution are well laid out. The two communist parties have to work assiduously to forge a unity of the political forces. There needs to be the formation of an all-out anti-BJP front including the Congress, which can oust the NDA government in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The CPI is already of this view. The Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has shown maturity in his recent campaigning in
Gujarat, by focusing on the urgent economic issues faced by the people. The CPI(M) leadership under General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has to do away immediately with the concept of maintaining equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP, so that a minimum programme can be evolved by the anti-BJP forces including the Congress, without losing any time. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has asserted that the 2019 elections have to be turned into a battle of Modi versus the rest and for making that into a reality, a close collaboration of the Congress, Left and the regional parties is essential. That will be the best lesson for the Indian Left from the October Revolution.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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