‘CPM’s Refusal to Change With Time is Making Left Weaker’
There should be no shame in losing power after 25 years in government but CPM’s defeat in Tripura is being treated as death blow to Left parties in India. More than the CPM’s defeat, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in Tripura that is surprising and historic.
In the previous elections, the BJP had gotten merely 1.5 percent of the votes, and this time it is going to form the government with two-thirds majority. This marvel should be commended. While this is proof of the BJP’s organisational strength, it is also testament to the fact that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s hunger for victory is unmatched in Indian politics today.
Whether they will be able to repeat this miracle in 2019 or not is a million-dollar question. But for me, the bigger question right now is whether the Left’s defeat in Tripura has sounded the death knell for its ideology in India.
When I started working as a journalist after completing my studies at JNU, my editors assumed that I must be a communist, and assigned me as a reporter to cover the Left parties. The truth was that during my time in JNU, I was a strong opponent of communism, especially the CPM. But since I was assigned the beat, I started covering the Left. And I can say that it gave me an opportunity to see communism closely.
Certain incidents in the recent past are proof of the fact that a party or organisation that does not evolve with time falls victim to it.
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There was a time when the world was divided into two blocks. One side was of the proletariat, of communism, and the other side was capitalist. Both were out to eradicate each other. They were mortal enemies.
In 1990, the world changed.
Suddenly, the communist forts collapsed. The bastion of communism, the Soviet Union, was wiped out from the world map, and the countries that emerged in its wake had nothing to do with communism. The other powerful communist nation, China decided that after the death of Mao Tse Tung, they needed to move forward on the path of development and success, even if that meant going through the capitalist route.
That is, on a ideological level communism wasn’t a “golden dream” anymore. And when the dream of an ideology dies, that ideology itself also eventually gets consigned to dust. In India, the Left remained stuck and refused to evolve.
It is true that at one time, in the Indian context, the Left did change itself. They left the path of a communist revolution and adopted democracy; they set aside the struggle of the proletariat and took up parliamentary traditions. As a result, they gained a stronghold in three states, and on an ideological level, influenced the Indian psyche across the board.
But today, they are growing weaker by the day in Bengal and any hopes of resurrection are fading out.
In the past 20 years, the CPM has made two stupid mistakes.
First was in 1996, when the United Front wanted to make West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu prime minister, and Basu himself wanted to be PM. Party general secretary Harikrishan Singh Surjeet also supported the idea, but under the leadership of Prakash Karat the party rejected the proposal. After the first rejection, the United Front asked the party to reconsider but the proposal was rejected yet again.
Much later, in an interview, Basu admitted that this was the party’s biggest mistake.
At the time, the CPI had just joined the government. Indrajit Gupta, who was the general secretary of the party, became home minister and the party’s other big leader, Chaturanan Mishra, became agriculture minister. The CPM decided to support the government from the outside.
In 2004, when the Congress-led coalition came to power after the BJP’s unexpected defeat, the CPM had 63 MPs. They once again strongly supported the Manmohan Singh government. The Left accent on the government was going well till the issue of the nuclear deal with the USA came up. The CPM then unsettled the fairly stable government and withdrew its support.
In 1996, they didn’t join the government but strongly stood by it. In 2008, the country saw how the CPM destabilised the government over a minor issue. This mistake proved fatal for the CPM. The biggest affect this had was in Bengal where Mamata Banerjee ousted them.
The generation of Jyoti Basu, EMS Namboodiripad, and Harkishan Surjeet had flexiblity, and based on that, they would adjust the ideology as per the situation. But as soon as Karat and Yechury became powerful in the party, the party got confined in the annals of ideology.
In Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya wanted to use capitalism after becoming the chief minister; he wanted to open up the markets further, wanted to call in big industrialists for industrialisation, but the party didn’t let him do it.
Somnath Chatterjee was well respected in Parliament. If he had remained Speaker, the party wouldn’t have lost anything. Then in 2009, the country rejected the CPM. The Congress’ seats increased.
Even today, the CPM is suffering from the same stupidity. Let me give two examples:
One, Yechury is a great orator. His presence in Parliament adds to its stateliness; he adds strength to the Opposition. The CPM has a rule that no leader can be an MP in Rajya Sabha for more than two consecutive terms, so the party refused to nominate him for a third term. Right now, the Parliament really needs people like Yechury.
Two, sectarianism is spreading across the country. The threat of fascism is looming large. In times like these, it is important that secular forces come together, but the CPM has refused to reach any kind of compromise with the Congress. According to them, the BJP and the Congress are similar forces.
Here, it is important to remember that in 1989, when the winds were blowing against the Congress because of the Bofors scandal, the same CPM had reached an understanding with the BJP. VP Singh’s government had the BJP support on one end and the Left support on the other.
Today, there is a major threat to the country. The Modi government and the RSS are working hard to clear out communist ideology from the country. Whether it is JNU or Jadavpur University, there are efforts to label it anti-national.
The RSS belives that until communists are not eradicated from the country, its own Hindutva ideology won’t be able to hold much sway over the country’s thinking. Hence the danger isn’t just to secularism.
The danger is to communism as well – on both the political and the ideological levels. They need to understand that this fight is the most important fight since independence.
They will have to let go of old Cold War grudges. Capitalism has won the fight over markets. Indian communists need to realise this. In societal analysis, words like bourgeoisie and proletariat have lost their meaning.
Today, their fight is with forces that are unparalleled in their organisational capacity. They have immeasurable amounts of money. Their leadership is in the hands of people who know no mercy and can do anything to win.
This can be combated only with extraordinary thinking and a capacity to adapt. Otherwise, the Left should get ready to read its obituary.
(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B.This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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