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China, Violence, Dalits: CPI(M) Must Introspect What It Really Stands For

It took the party almost six decades to elect a Dalit leader to its highest decision-making body.

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The 23rd congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) made news by inducting Ram Chandra Dome, the first Dalit face in its highest decision-making body, in its history of six decades. It shows how late the party is even by the standards of the non-revolutionary parties. Apart from that, nothing emerged from the party congress to ignite a national discussion on the political future of the country – or the party, or the Communist movement. Why does the party not inspire confidence in the people when it says that it wants to be the fulcrum of the battle against the fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? Its answer lies in the political resolution of the party, which was discussed and approved by the party congress.

A political party that still describes China as ‘socialist’ and with reverence should not expect people to take it seriously when it swears by democracy in India. Similarly, a party that does not even mention the repression of Uighurs in China should not expect people to believe it when it claims that it stands for the rights of minorities in India.

Communist parties, being primarily internationalist, cannot have one attitude towards the minority question in the ‘socialist’ countries and a different attitude in their own country, in this case, India. Similarly, a party that cannot criticise, let alone condemn Russia, for waging war on Ukraine cannot claim to be representing the values of peace.
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One-Party Rule in China vs BJP's Ambitions in India

So, the fundamental problem with the CPI (M) is its ambivalence towards the main question the world is grappling with – how to practise democracy and how to combat majoritarian tendencies that seek to erase diversity are these main issues. It has to be an unqualified ‘yes’ for democracy in the true parliamentary form with political parties contesting each other.

If the one-party rule in China is fine, you cannot question the ambition of the BJP of turning India into a mirror image of China. After all, the Chinese Communist Party is a Han nationalist party and has been trying to homogenise China by imposing the Han culture and its way of living on all communities of China. How different is the Chinafication drive of the CPC from the campaign of the BJP in India to Indianise Islam or other non-Hindu religions and communities?

Some can say that these questions hardly matter in the national affairs of our own country. So, moving to the ground, where the congress was taking place, we again see half-truths and lies being uttered. The party congress took place in Kannur. The place is known for bloody battles between the CPI(M) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). While the party talked about the violence of the RSS, it remained silent about its own violence. As even people from the West Bengal would testify, the CPI(M) uses violence as a method to maintain its dominance.

Thirty-seven years of the Left Front rule were also the years of the violent dominance of the CPI(M) in West Bengal. When it complains of attacks against its cadre in Tripura and Kerala or even West Bengal, where it held the monopoly over violence for more than three decades, it sounds like a defeated party complaining as it has lost its muscle power.

The Kannur congress could have been a good opportunity to discuss the evil of political violence. A sincere and honest enquiry could have led the party to do some self-criticism as communist parties claim to do when they want to correct themselves.
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Lamenting Won't Do, Action is Needed

The main problem with the CPI(M), like other political parties seeking to fight the BJP, is that they have become organisations concerned only with fighting elections. They suffer from parliamentarianism in its worst form. The inability of the CPI(M), and other left parties as well, to even identify the areas of struggle and lead them has a lot to do with the ideological smugness with which they look down upon other political forces.

They need to think about why they could not organise and lead the struggles of Dalits, Adivasis and even minorities. Why have they been reduced to a state where their leaders are invited only as speakers on different occasions in such movements? They are seen everywhere expressing solidarity, but not conceiving, organising and leading any meaningful struggle. Does this have something to do with their programmatic understanding, that all they have to do is to wait for the revolutionary moment to appear?

The political resolution reads like a long lament. It is as if the CPI(M) has no resources to respond to the attacks on its workers in Tripura, West Bengal or elsewhere. How can a party that cannot even defend its workers expect new people to join it?

The fast-changing nature of capitalism and workers should have led to at least a discussion on how workers’ politics should be organised. But a weather-beaten trade union rhetoric refuses to give space to honest conversation.

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The Notion of Ideological Supremacy

Despite the clenched fists captured by cameras, one could see that there was no tension there. The idea of ideological supremacy creates a make-believe world where the CPI(M) thinks that other democratic forces have to join ranks with it or make quixotic claims. The organisational lethargy has its source in ideological laziness, which does not allow the party to engage with fresh ideas.

The party congress could have been an occasion for the party to renew itself and think creatively about the ideas of democracy and socialism. As one can see, the party chose not to do that as it requires asking tough questions to oneself, by leaving the comfort of the idea of an international socialist world, and accepting a new attitude towards the question of violence and ideological hegemony. Unless the party engages with these issues honestly, there is no hope for rejuvenation.

(The writer teaches at Delhi University. He tweets @Apoorvanand__. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  CPI(M)   Dalit   Dalits 

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