What is left of the Left?
Parliamentarism has eaten away the vitals of both the institutional non-communist left and the two Establishtarian communist parties of the country. This 2014 poll debacle of the communist and the Left block bears a stark message for future of the left political movement of the country: and that is extinction. Of course, this is a message that has been borne by the poll winds – the only time when the liberal democratic model of the India state seeks a staged renewal of its mandate to rule.
But then, because the communist parties are stuck in the quagmire of the Indian electoral process, the message of their fast dwindling timescale of their demise had to come from the same process.
It has largely made the objective messages of this election and the phenomenal BJP victory, like a huge caste Hindu consolidation that has even blunted the effectiveness of the Muslim vote, which would be mundane by the time they were to figure in the party reports to be presented in the next few months, thus making those presentations really not the worth the paper its written on.
For, the malaise of the official Left was far more deep-rooted and, like advanced cancer is metastasising to the parts of their bodi-politik that were hitherto less affected areas of the labour front or the youth and women fronts of the party. But more of that later. Self-evidently, the symptoms of the disease afflicting these parties are now manifesting in a way that a true Marxian scientific analysis would have brought out much earlier. As a result of the close examination of the Paris Commune, Marx had averred that the working class solidarity and its democratic exercise was close to the true form of working class socialist/communist State.
The class analysis of the official Communist bureaucracies shows uniformly the absence of a working class leadership or representation of marginal communities of an Indian circumstance like the Dalits, Muslims and the tribals. Instead we see a gentrified petit bourgeoisie concentration of group interests in the leadership. It used to be said that there was peculiar nature of the left, the Indian labour movement: that while the working class would mobilise under the umbrella of a AITUC or a CITU and struggle for their wages, compensations and their rights, but, but, they will still not vote Left in the general or state legislative polls. No one from the left would go beyond the obvious – that the Left did not have a political presence in the Hindi heartland of the country or in southern India beyond Kerala.
Yet, why is it that the working class who would people the ranks of the labour organisations, which were really the frontal organisations of these political parties could not be inducted into the latter’s ranks, was beyond the pale of the study or action of Left political leaders.
This distinction engulfed the senses of the Left leadership so much that they could only think of technical solutions to leadership problems. This was reflected in the Salkia Plenum of CPI (M) in 1979, which had pledged to extend the party’s political extension in the Hindi heartland.
However, the fact that the resolutions of the Plenum have remained largely in the realms of esoteric ideas is evident even in this election. Significantly, the CPI (M) – still the largest communist party of the country – general secretary, Prakash Karat was tasked for looking after the electorally significant Uttar Pradesh.
The decline of the Left parties, and the CPI(M) and CPI had to begin from states where they were dominant. So, the decline of the Left Front rule in West Bengal have become a major factor for the block’s existential crisis. But why did it have to happen this way? The communist leading lights in the state like Jyoti Basu, and after the death of Pramode Dasgupta, the likes of Anil Biswas, had consciously decided not to change the class character of the ruling classes in the countrysides, thus continuing with the same oppressive classes that wielded power during the Congress Party regimes. Though the Left Front in the state had ushered in limited land reforms and a wider tenurial reforms, it was done in way that did not dare to challenge status quo ante in terms of the rural class pyramid.
These ruling classes also co-opted themselves unchallenged into the new spoils system of office. Result, when it robbed the revolutionary spirit of the Left parties, the residents of the various party headquarters began to sense an entirely new comfort level with the status quo. They shared the spoils with these agents who were the legacies of the successive Congress Party regimes in the state, who kept them in situ.
After Basu’s retirement from the CM-ship and Anil Biswas’s death, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharya wanted to take a post-Soviet Union and a clear Chinese experimentation with modernising socialism beyond the precepts of Marx, he took the route of doing it with the help of the government bureaucracy, thus nullifying any role of the party. Did he know that the party-front he lead was not capable of delivering the messages of his methods? Doubtful.
At the end, it produced a result that eviscerated the state Party and the Front and possibly bring closer to the demobilisation (in the military sense) of the CPI (M), thus producing an effect knock-on effect at the all India for all the Leftist parties. How they now should redefine the future is a subject of another ‘In the line of Fire’.
The author is a senior journalist