‘End of the Left’ in India? Statement by Leftists after recent election results

Text of statement by Jairus Banaji, Sukumar Muralidharan, Dilip Simeon, Satya Sivaraman and Rohini Hensman endorsed by 224 others.

In a minor replay of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Indian media have been gloating at the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal especially and have repeatedly suggested that this signals the ‘end of the Left in India’. Even at the best of times our news channels tend to avoid serious analyses of the underlying trends within the country, since they have transformed the news itself into a form of entertainment on models surpassed only by the U.S. news networks.

For its part the CPI(M) leadership has been at pains to minimise the significance of the defeat (in Bengal especially) and said that it would be wrong to write off the Left. For them ‘the Left’ means the Left Fronts in Bengal and Kerala and of course chiefly the CPI(M) itself.  They stress the fact that they still retain a considerable vote share, just over 40% in West Bengal for example, and there is indeed some truth in this claim.

We the undersigned beg to differ sharply from both the positions stated above. To begin with, the Left in India is not the Left parties alone and therefore the defeat of the Left parties does not mean the defeat of the Left. The Left in India has never been reducible to these large parliamentary fronts and party machines, much less to the groups embattled in the forests of India, but has always been a much wider spectrum of organisations, movements and forms of struggle that range from the hundreds of left-wing trade unions that exist in the country in all the major industrial centres, unions that are essentially independent of party control and seeking today to form a national federation, down to the dozens of popular campaigns and the organisations connected with them.

These campaigns have fought consistently on issues such as displacement at major sites like the Koel Karo dam, the Baliapal missile range, the Hirakud dam, the Sardar Sarover project, etc., and there has been and continues to be mass opposition to the forced acquisition of land by industrial capital (POSCO, Vedanta, Jindals, the Tatas, Ambanis, and so on) in different parts of the country.  There have also been militant resistance movements to SEZs, most notably in Bengal itself (at Nandigram and Singur).

There have been grassroots campaigns for the Right to Information (RTI) and for rural employment schemes. There have been movements and campaigns against communal violence and for justice for the victims of the violence that politicians have repeatedly instigated, notably, the horrific massacres in1984 (Delhi), 2002 (Gujarat) and 2008 (Kandhamal in Orissa).  There have been movements of resistance to the hideous injustices and violence of the caste system; to the oppression of women; to homophobia; and against the forcing of millions of children into wage-slavery. There has been a strong culture of human rights organisations in India and fearless investigations into the atrocities committed at all ends of the political spectrum. There are many cultural and political groups that exist that have never identified or associated with the politics and the peculiar left traditions of the CPI(M) that are still largely moulded by the discredited legacies of Stalinism.

We feel that the defeat of the parliamentary left should mean space for a stronger left movement, a ‘new left’ if you like, that reflects the aspirations of the mass of people more creatively, with more imagination and greater integrity. There is too much deprivation and misery in the country for the media or the middle classes to seriously be able to delude themselves into thinking that popular resistance will cease with the defeat of the Left Fronts.  As long as ordinary people are subjected to violence, to oppression and the most appalling poverty, as long as they are denied homes, health services, proper nourishment, decent jobs, denied land for survival, and denied social, political and sexual equality, there will be resistance and opposition.  Indians will not settle down passively into the dream images purveyed by TV advertisements, and with the massive depletion of public policy in areas like health and employment they are certainly not about to become one big smiling middle-class family.

The reality is that dispossession continues on a large scale; the culture of communal hatred, violence and conspiracy still thrives in the background waiting to strike again; and large parts of the country are under military occupation. Police brutality continues unabated, lakhs of court cases lie unattended, thousands of people remain in jail as under-trial prisoners, and hundreds of victims of caste and communal violence wait hopelessly for justice. Communal, caste and sexual bias is still endemic at various places in the state apparatus.  And by all the social indicators India remains one of the worst performing countries in the world.

So it is premature of ‘write off’ the Left but not because the Left Front has retained substantial vote shares in Kerala and Bengal. Votes have never been a real marker of the strength of a political movement and its culture. Indeed, the Left Front parties now have a historic opportunity to transform themselves,  starting with a conscious effort to introduce more democracy in their ranks and a culture of open debate. Whether their leaderships want such a radical overhaul is doubtful, since even the elementary requirement of accountability for the recent debacle is currently being evaded.

However, regardless of their evolution, it is clear that as long as Indian democracy survives and survives in its broken state as a system unable to nourish the mass of its population or live without violence and the subjugation of whole communities, the Left outside parliament, the left as a culture of democracy and resistance, a network of movements and organisations, and a new more vigorous set of campaigns, will continue to flourish.  A younger, more radical generation will undoubtedly be attracted to it and to its values of solidarity, equality, freedom and opposition to capitalism both in India and worldwide.

Jairus Banaji, Sukumar Muralidharan, Dilip Simeon, Satya Sivaraman, Rohini Hensman

The statement, issued on Facebook on 19th May, has also been signed/endorsed by:  Omen Achom, Levin Ahmad, Nesar Ahmad, Riaz Ahmed, Suhail Akhter, Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Aniket Alam, Arshad Alam, Mahtab Alam,  Julian Alford, Anjuman Ali, Sharib Ali, Anirban Bandyopadhyay, Arindam Banerjee, Debabrata Banerjee, Partha Banerjee, Sreenanti Banerjee, Sanjay Barnela, Madapathi Channa Basavaiah, Amita Baviskar, Peter Beattie, Cedric Beidatsch, Preeti Bhat, Varuni Bhatia, Sayan Bhattacharya, Debashish Bhattacherjee, Sandeep Bhushan, Abhisek Bisoy, Madhumita Biswal, Samarendra Biswas, Ishan Bose, Satya Brata, Vivek Chachan, Baidurya Chakrabarti, Indranil Chakraborty, Uday Chandra, Garga Chatterjee, Sandeep Chatterjee, Bibek Chattopadhyay, Kamal Chenoy, Ajith Cherian, V. K. Cherian, Mayur Chetia, Ramachandraiah Chigurupati, Bennet D’Costa, John D’Souza, Karthikeyan Damodaran, Hari Das, Meghna Dass, Vidyadhar Date, Anisha Datta, Dayita Datta, Mihir Desai, Meena Dhanda, Robin Dharmaratnam, Pranoo Deshraju, Elliott Eisenberg, Rajkumar Eligedi, Pradeep Esteves, Dave Ankit Ferri, Paul Field, Vikram Gaadida, John Game, Satya P. Gautam, Ammar al-Ghabban, Arundhati Ghosh, Pothik Ghosh, Rupen Ghosh. Sikha Ghosh, Sandhya Gokhale, Meena Gopal, Rama Hansraj, Bonojit Hussain, Jamil Iqbal, Ashutosh As Is, Ajit Ithikkat, Akash Jha, Ammu Joseph, Minto Joseph, Apoorva Kaiwar, Sanjay Kak, Kalpana Karunakaran, Sreekanth Kappillil, Harsh Kapoor,   Ravinder Kaur, Rauha Khalid, Sabah Khan, Rajiv Khanna, Abdul Haleem Kidwai, Jamal Kidwai, Prakash P. Koshy, Koteswar Rao Kota, Michael R. Kraetke, Shekhar Krishnan, Suchita Krishnaprasad, Uma Krishnaswami, Karthik Krishnaswamy, Sławomir Królak, Mangesh Kulkarni, Avinash Kumar, Kundan Kumar, Manmohan Kumar, Rajiv Kumar, Sahil Kumar, Bobby Kunhu, Rebecca Kurian, Christopher Laffernis, David McInerney, Shalini Mahajan, Sampad Mahapatra, Beni Majaw, Deity Majaw, Abhik Majumdar, Arnab Majumdar, Sadique Pk. Mampad, Freny Manecksha, Rajses Mala, Mukul Mangalik,  Anant Maringanti, Feroz Mehdi, Hormazd Mehta, Nivedita Menon, Bindu Menon, James Michael,  Amitabh Mishra, Anand Mishra, Rasmi Ranjan Mishra, Shibaram Mishra, Srimoy Mitra, K. G. Mohan, Anjali Monteiro, Sumathi Murthy, Luddite Ned, Tarun Guha Neogi, Smriti Nevatia, Aditya Nigam, Alf Nilsen, Bhargav Nimmagadda, Chittibabu Padavala, Dharam Pal, Rajiv Pandey, Himanshu Pandya, Sudarshan Papanna, Prashant Pastore, Sujeet Patil, Mike Pearn, Gautam Pemmaraju, Jahnavi Phalkey, Charlie Post, Suman Poudel, Aseem Prakash, Shree Prakash, Ananta Prasad, Sundaram Pugwash, Bharat Punjabi, Chandramani Raj, Shamik K. Rakshit, M. V. Ramana, Lalita Ramdas, Dwijen Rangnekar, Ranjit Ranjith, Adhiraaj Ray, Bodhisatwa Ray, Chandrashekar Reddy, Arka Roy, Indrajit Roy, Rahul Roy, Saroj Sabat, Anoop Saha, Lawgaone Sahara, Cssalil Salil, Jillett Sarah Sam, Anindya Sanyal, Aditya Sarkar, Dwaipayan Sen, Jhuma Sen, Sukla Sen, Uditi Sen, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Chayanika Shah, Svati Shah, Siddharth Shanbhag, Jyotirmoy Sharma, Mansi Sharma, Rakesh Sharma, Surabhi Sharma, Aaditto Shen, Ajinkya Shenava, Cubbykabi Sherman, Maria Shipka, Jaya Shobaneshwari, Medha Shriram, Ruchita Shrivastava, Ruchi Shroff, Garima Singh, Mahesh Kumar Singh, Richa Singh, Subir Sinha, Sriram Srirangam, Megha Sud, Ashwini Sukthankar, Sulekh Suman, Chirag Suvarna, Daniel Taghioff, J. Jagadish Thaker, Prativa Thomas, Rashmi Varma, Umesh Varma, Deepak Verma, Vidya Venkat, Kandamath Manayilvalappil Venugopalan, T. K. Vinodan, C.K. Vishwanath Vishwanath, Rustic Wanderer, Judy Whitehead, Tahmidal Zami, Maung Zarni, Sanil Zenbuddha.

38 thoughts on “‘End of the Left’ in India? Statement by Leftists after recent election results”

  1. I am in absolute agreement that the “left” goes much beyond CPI(M) and any other political party. Over the past fifteen years, the importance of pro-people policies has been reflected in NDA’s electoral defeat after its “india shining” campaign, TDP’s loss in Andhra Pradesh, UPA’s return to power with its “aam admi” focus…
    Do I see farmers getting very angry over Mayawati’s ruthless land acquisition these days? The parties may crumble, but peoples’ struggles, the ideals of welfare will not disappear as long as there is poverty and inequality in the country.
    I did attempt a minor analysis based on an experience at my university
    http://ruhisonal.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/whats-left-and-whats-lost-an-outsiders-view-of-bengal-elections/

  2. Mamata Banerjee herself has stated that she is not against the Left. Rather she respects the Left but not the CPI(M)-brand Left. The Left, permit me to state, should not go for the obvious that the new government would bring in ‘semi-fascist’ or’ fascist’ terror (I disagreed with this loose formulation about the atrocities let loose by the Congress in the 1970s. Many Congress workers were dumped under MISA too). Let’s wait. Who thought there would be about 800 deaths in police custody and 450 in jail custody during the 34 years of CPI(M)-led Left regime?

  3. As somebody who identifies himself as a non-Leftist, I would like to note that there is a difference between the objectives to be pursued by society and the policies that are used to pursue those objectives. If one identifies the “Left” with the objectives, as this article seems to do, then obviously the elections are hardly an end to the “Left” because even I agree with most of the objectives that are outlined in the article. I suspect I am not the only “non-Leftist” who feels this way.

    My disagreement, however, with the Left (of whatever type) concern the policies that are often espoused by them, not the objectives. Perhaps I am mistaken but sometimes I get the feeling that there is no space in the Left for disagreement solely on the policies. A disagreement on policy is often interpreted as a disagreement on the objectives themselves. I suppose the same can be said of the “Right” too and I think this is a very unfortunate aspect of our polity.

    At any rate, I don’t know who claims that the elections are the “end of the Left” but in Indian politics, it would be most unwise to call an “end” to anything.

  4. At this moment the left in India is divided into multiple groups and parties who mostly fighting with each other and do not hesitate to join hands with other political parties in order to win their battle against their enemy party/group in the left. Example – CPIM vs Maoists, SUCI joining TMC, etc. Because of this the left movement in India is weak and is facing a serious risk of extinction. The need of the hour is for all left formations (parties or otherwise) to develop a common minimum programme. Sinking all differences is not possible but a common minimum programme is possible. The focus should be on fighting against corporate plunder, SEZs, US imperialism, religious fundamentalism and denial of land rights, food, education and basic health to poor people of the country rather than on finishing each other off. I would also add fighting for a true panchayati raj rather than the sham panchayati raj that exists in our country at the moment. In short, the move should be from competition towards collaboration.

    It is important that the “new left” does not become a third left, and exhausts in energies by fighting against the existing leftist political parties in the country. In that case there will be nothing “new” about the “new left”. I also look forward to concrete action points as the next step. It will be easier to agree or disagree with the “new left” once the specific action points are available.

  5. Left in India is not the Left parties alone and therefore the defeat of the Left parties does not mean the defeat of the Left

    Can’t agree more. For one thing, the parties that defeated the ‘Left’ – Congress and Trinamool – are as leftist as the so called Left parties themselves. At most they differ in the shade, that is, shades of black.

    But what the authors either don’t know or pretend not to, is that in India, all non-Left parties are banned by law. A party that doesn’t swear by socialism can’t get registered in the country. Believe it or not, ALL parties including the goon Senas of the Thug-ray clan are left parties.

    In this country, election is the Hobson’s choice of throwing out one socialist, statist, big-government party and installing another socialist, statist, big-government party. The rulers in Delhi and the Maoists in the jungles essentially profess the same ideology.

  6. Mostly agree with what has been said. And also agree to the fact that there is a need for a re-vitalised Left and the need, by all means, is more vital at this stage of Bengal’s growth in particular and India in general. However, sadly, the Left has let down its followers in the past decade (I don’t want to go into specifics at this stage). And what is more saddening, disconcerting and worrying is the vast majority and responsibility that has been placed on the newly elected alternative in W. Bengal. It is a new party with very little proven and tested experience in governance and a party that has mostly shown disruptive methods of protests that often seen to boarder brinkmanship. Coming back to the moot point having seen politics in India over the last decade or so I feel that Left needs to see this “voted-out-of-power” as a change away from the usual and away from a certain arrogance that had crept into governance. Idealism is one thing but seeing the so called ‘poor’ states begin to proposer around you and see the decay setting in where you live the people of W.Bengal voted for a change and that has been long being yearned for (I am sure the Left felt it too and could little much to change that in the last two years). However much people may argue against these vital and perhaps the most definite “needs” of the people i.e. health, education and opportunity for employment–the key indicators of a healthy and of a vibrant state, this was not to be in Bengal for almost a decade (juggling figures, to prove the contrary, by the state will not hoodwink all). There was a major sense of despondency within the state and particularly so in the rural belt. So when one reaches that level of despondency one just “throws” out everything and this time it seems to have been the governance of the left. However, I feel that this not the end of the road for the left. As stated earlier its current relevance can not be overstated. But it is certainly time to re-think and most importantly reduce the “average age of leaders” within the party and left ideology made popular specially with the younger generation. Without new and ideas relevant to the current generation constructive opportunities to serve the propel will not emanate. And this is a must for any party or ideology to remain relevant to the present day needs and aspirations of the people.

  7. Do groups and movements that challenge the state on specific issues are part of the left. Is a movement by farmers against land acquisition that has a single agenda will be called as a left movement. Often big farmers are up against such acquisitions but many use that to bargain for better prices than to oppose the policies. So such movements cannot considered as left movements but can be labelled as movements that oppose some policies of the state. Most of the campaigns and movements that are up against the state do not think beyond specific issues that are of interest to them. So calling them as part of left or as left movements is misleading. Yet this clarity is found wanting in this statement as it fails to categorize what is left in India of these times.
    ‘the left as a culture of democracy and resistance, a network of movements and organisations, and a new more vigorous set of campaigns, will continue to flourish. ‘

    What do they want to achieve in the end. Endless resistance or capture of power to transform the society and policy. CPI and CPI(M) have ideology and objectives that have been made public. But about this so called new left nothing much on these are known.For example it will be naive to brand all the movements that oppose some policies of the state as anti-capitalist movements. The statement is not clear on such issues. It sounds ‘politically correct’ and does not go beyond that. Perhaps it may give some smug satisfaction to some.

    1. Clearly, Ooh OTOH, you are a great one to talk about smug satisfaction.
      Please read the history of the Left from the 19th century to the new 21st century movements. Stalinism, in whatever form, (and ‘Lenin’ after Stalin is stalinism as well) was a mere episode in the global history of the Left. A disastrous episode, undoubtedly, but just one episode. And it has at the end of the day, produced only a more revitalized capitalism. So, please excuse us if we cannot see that as a programme (ideology, capture of state power etc) as something worth emulating. Neither 19th century movements that are now grouped as ‘utopian socialist’, ‘anarchist’, ‘anarcho-syndicalist’, nor the early 20th century movements that expressed themselves in the form of council communism or the early soviets – nor even the late 20th century and 21st century movements from the Zapatistas in Chiapas or the Movement for Socialism in Boivia nor indeed the PT in Brazil follow the logic of stalinism or of a programme and so on. Most of them have emerged out of a search for a different kind of Left, often from within movements from below. Some do contest for power while some others like the Zapatistas shun it. There is no programme laid out by an handful of self-professed leaders of the vanguard on behalf of all humanity here, unlike in your much-tomtommed and now-defeated model. The ‘programme’, in most of these instances, emerges in the course of the movement and not from the heads of nine politburo members who, by god knows what grace, decided that they knew the interests of humanity best!

      Smug satsifaction, indeed! The arrogance and the self-righteousness with which you and your comrades speak even now (even if anonymously), after repeated defeats, who could surpass you in your smug self-satisfaction?

  8. A much needed statement. The frenzied utterance of the media– ‘the left is dead’ needs to be resisted and appropriately rebutted. I also agree with Debraj’s post above. The party left as it exists now is so fragmented that the broader thrust of left movement suffers terribly. A common minimum programme needs to be drawn and hopefully after this colossal defeat, the left parties shall revisit the prospect of doing so (or I am just being foolishly hopeful). I expect another article/essay on the subject calling for a greater left unity soon. And yes, as far as the broader left movements are concerned, they shall not perish by the simple assertion or demand of a bourgeois media sold out to corporate interests eons ago.

    On another note, it is not just the cry of ‘left is dead’ that is unsettling. The media circus post Mamata’s entry to the lalbari is nauseating. Print and broadcast media in Bengal are completely sold out. Watch Star Ananda to get the feel of it. Another byte of sycophancy from an ace ‘journalist’ and ‘television anchor’ a few days before declaration of the results–‎’I file this away as a future trump card. Other journalists may have eaten with Mamata, travelled with Mamata, stayed with Mamata. But how many have gone to the loo with Mamata Banerjee in the middle of a deserted North Bengal landscape?’

    The left isn’t united, but the media is, in sycophancy. I am not even surprised.

  9. The implication of this timely letter seems to be that what unites the extra-parliamentary “Left” is some kind of opposition to the rapacious status quo. Yet surely in order to be deeply transformative, a movement or network of movements has to have a positive vision of a future state of affairs beyond mere issue-based amelioration? I fear a broad ethic of solidarity and equity won’t do. Dare I say that there is a strategic need for a “programme”?

    Such a vision would of course have to be flexible enough to evolve and capacious enough to include, but I can’t help feeling that unless those on the Left, globally, get busy constructing an alternative vision of democratic society that is capable of going toe-to-toe with the hegemonic narrative, it is consigning itself to the negative moment of the dialectic, so to speak. It is precisely to such an ailment that the parliamentary Left, finally and mercifully, succumbed.

    Let us not be too traumatized by the legacy of Stalin to erect any kind of programmatic politics. We know that history. We will not repeat it. We don’t know what is best for humanity, but that oughtn’t stop us from trying to figure that out, together. Bizarrely, the edict to wait for a programme to emerge “from below” echoes the neoliberal creed of “spontaneous order”, as if all other efforts are definitionally prone to regression. That they tend to regression is an historical rather than logical fact. But history is not fate, else politics would be impossible.

  10. Day before yesterday, a few hours after i read this particular post on Kafila, something happened that served to illustrate to me, why is it so vital that Left continues to flourish in the neoliberal, consumerist society of ours as a ‘culture’, as a social ideology.
    I had accompanied a friend to one of the ubiquitous stores of a major Indian retail chain in a mall and while we were standing towards the tail of a long queue at the bill payment counter, we suddenly heard a loud, hectoring voice much ahead in the queue. naturally, heads turned and it soon became clear that a gentleman-a customer-was yelling at the adolescent at the cash counter for apparently being impolite to his wife! the gentleman kept reiterating in a threatening voice that the store employee was not well-mannered enough-perhaps he expected the latter to be utterly obsequious in his demeanour-while other people stared at the young man. Not satisfied, he(the customer) made the store manager to come to the counter and noisily complained to him while the one at whom he was vituperating, with a nervous, bowed head continued his work.
    It was a common scene but it reminded me of a scene from J.B. Priestley’s play ‘An inspector calls’ set in early 20th century England in which a wealthy young woman gets a store employee fired for committing the absolutely intolerable crime of being cheeky towards her! In today’s age of hyper materialism characterised by growing consumerist aspirations, increasing informalisation of workforce and rising difficulties at unionisation, Leftism as a cultural force is an absolute sine-qua-non to enable workers-and not blue collar ones alone-to claim their right to decent work.

  11. ‘Left in India is not the Left parties alone and therefore the defeat of the Left parties does not mean the defeat of the Left.’
    This is much more than than an assurance. This has to be the only truth on the subject. But again, this is not the whole truth. The election result may not mean disaster to the optimist intellectuals mostly sitting at a distance from the scene of actions! But think of those 19.6 million voters who chose to vote for the Left Front in Bengal or the cadres ( not Harmads, if there are any) who believed in parliamentary left politics ( Stalinists or not!), those who like to see and serve a visible form of a Party and there is no reason to doubt their integrity! As the authors asserted, the left undercurrent will very much be there and may now have a cool time to reorganise in the right direction, but there is a definite need of a large scale, visible, organised, accountable front to consolidate all that is ‘left’ in the country. For a long while, CPM(I) led Left Front appeared to be face of these left democratic forces. Now there is an erosion on its banks that need to be breached and mended. You can not bring a new model in such movements the way you bring, for example, a mobile phone set in the market. I personally think that the Left Front has been doing an excellent job in resisting several anti people policies of the central governments for which they need all support from all the left forces, visible or covert, in the country.

  12. Firangi,
    You have raised some very important issues and it is not possible to respond adequately to them in this small comment. The task of rethinking which you and John McQ raise, is certainly the highest priority for those who are still moved by some sense justice in our own present and responsibility towards later generations. And most certainly, this task is being addressed by different people in different ways: practically, by experimenting with different forms of organization and movement; with different forms of economy and ownership that seek to build the foundations of a postcapitalist world right away; intellectually, by reì-examining the legacy of the past and finding resource for the future, and by a critical engagement with these new forms of movement and organization, as well as with history.
    However, I do not agree with you that the only alternative to the ‘top-down’ stalinist or state-socialist model is (or can be) a ‘neo-liberal’ model (which you say when you sarcastically put expressions like ‘from below’ and ‘spontaneous,’in quotes). The difficulty with many of us is that we have been and remain trapped in these false choices presented by the 20th century experience.
    For one thing, the antistatist imagination has long been part of the radical movements from anarchism, anarcho-communism, radical libertarianism and even some strands within the marxist tradition. Their history and the important ideas that emanated from it have spurred Marx’s own imagination when he talks of the society of associated producers. Leninism was not the inevitable destiny of Marx’s thought – even though it has had an important role to play in 20th century anticolonial struggles. Secondly, not all political traditions ascribe to the state and the political Centre, the decisive value that western traditions do. India, for one, has had a long political tradition where, ‘the political’ (if one may anachronistically call it that) was always kept marginal to ‘the social’ – social order was maintained, both in some important strands of the Hindu as well as the Buddhist traditions (which extends to other parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia) in a way where the sovereignty of the state was not the central political question. Indeed, despite the centrality of the state in its politics, Chinese political and strategic thought too moves decisively away from this idea of a ‘model’ to which the world must be made to conform. Our upbringing in the traditions of western political and social thought blinds us to these other forms where change can be thought of differently, and where, it may take much longer to accomplish but is more durable. You just have to look at the state of 20th century socialism to see what the rapid change was all about and how ephemeral it was.

    Secondly, the really difficult questions that most left commentators here (in this and other posts) refuse to countenance relate to the question of why, at one particular historical moment, neo-liberalism succeeded? It is all to easy to put it down as a conspiracy but that really throws no light on the basic questions at hand – including its attraction among large sections of middle class people. The question is really not one of neo-liberalism but that of life itself, which resists the attempt by planners, state elites, vanguards and what have you, to categorize, classify and fix the place of people and things. The old tyranny of blueprints consisted mainly in the fact that it fixed things once and for all (or wanted to) while things were actually changing: (i) the old factory system that was changing under the combined impact of technology (which the Old Left opposed despite its faith in ‘Progress’) and the strategic shift that employers and corporations started making as a consequence of that. (ii) Middle class aspirations were drastically changing and the continuous deferral of current consumption for some future good was turning out to be problematic. Not all of it can be called consumerism – though I will say that even consumerism must be taken seriously for there are complex articulations of desire that are often directly political (say the call for dalit capitalism). (iii) More importantly, workers’ aspirations themselves were changing – they do not want to remain workers bound to a particular factory or vocation etc, nor want their children to simply continue to be workers – but the trade unions and left parties wanted to fix them in their position as workers. Permanently. To many then, neo-liberalism also came as a kind of opportunity wherein old rigidities started breaking up, and whether we like it or not does not matter.

    Finally, The identity of the worker itself was unravelling and questions of caste, gender, community were emerging as ways of articulating demands for dignity and recognition. No ‘Programme’, drawn up by vanguards and political and state elites could anticipate these new articulations. And so movements started learining the hard way, moving away from the ‘tyranny of blueprints’.

  13. While agreeing broadly with this timely, succinct and powerful statement (and learning much from the sensitive discussion that ensued), I wish to express a few reservations as well as to the thrust of the statement, especially with regard to the message from elections.

    To begin, some factual comments are in order. It is a matter of record that, throughout the 34 years of left rule, first the Congress alone (until 1997) and then the Congress and Trinamool combined always retained about 41% of votes in WB. It is just that the left managed to secure about 49% at its peak and the opposition vote was fragmented. For those who may not remember, there was considerable anxiety in the left front about the prospect of losing the election before the 2006 assembly elections as well. The government was already widely unpopular by then; also, the election commission was determined to weed out forced voting, ‘scientific’ rigging, and the like. However, on the eve of the elections, I still remember Sitaram Yechury reassuring himself, the party, and the partners (and the gathered reporters) that the 49% will be retained. It so happened that he was right and the front won handsomely, detailed reasons for which need not concern us here.

    In general, the voters remembered the first 15 years of left rule when the front functioned not only as a genuine welfare-dispenser, it acted as a force of resistance as well (within the obvious limits of provincial state-power). It is important to remember that anarchist and extremist elements disappeared from the scene and most of left-of left-front voices were reduced to human rights activities which are in any case required under any dispensation of the state. After the first 15 years, the voters continued to support the front, albeit increasingly grudgingly (just as we in Delhi mostly vote for Congress with shaking fingers) until the breaking point reached with Singur and Nandigram, and the front was fully unmasked. But then it is the voters which threw the left-rule out of power, not meetings of intellectuals in Kolkata Press Club and elsewhere. It is right that voting is not always a hallmark of real political culture of people (e.g., the vote for Congress in 1984 or for Modi in Gujrat, but then which political process is?), it is also a historical fact that, when other things are equal, voting is mostly a hallmark of real popular will. We cannot both assemble to discuss the electoral defeat of a tyranny in 1977, 2004, and now, while raising eyebrows about the essential salience of elections when they are free and fair encouraging massive turnouts.

    Elites, extremists, and fascists, with considerable overlap between them, are generally uncomfortable with elections for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, some otherwise radical intellectuals also fall prey to this falsity. Elections are messy, there are too many issues, too many conflicting interests and aspirations, too much dust and grime, far too many compromises on the ground. They lack the pristine character of an unfolding blue-print. It is no wonder that intellectuals, left-right-center, whose historical job it is to furnish those blue-prints are uncomfortable with the lack of clarity. They do not generate ‘narratives’. And since intellectuals typically come from the priviledged class, they really do not need the elections. So, community-based people’s movements, direct actions ensuing from the grassroots, and related forms of resistance look attractive because these can be typically placed under subaltern narratives (=blue-prints), and, on favourable occasions, can even be led. When the organised, parliamentary left vacates the space, it is really the intellectuals who take over.

    I am not rejecting the immense value of these grassroots resistance movements, with or without intellectual participation, some of which is listed in the statement. They are an essential ingredient, forever, for forcing an issue, bringing the state down to its knees, and ultimately intervene in the electoral process. In that sense, Nandigram was essential for the 2011 vote; but then Nandigram would have remained just an un-empowering event without the vote. The range of popular movements listed by Aditya are impressive. But they are few and far between and require extraordinary circumstances to come into being. Most importantly, none of them ensured any lasting empowerment and welfare of the people, not even for the communities from which they arose.

    In that sense, empowerment requires access to power; in this case, access to state power. So, for once, I am in agreement with the maoists. The only issue is: who gets to have that access? In a direct fascist rule, the vast masses of population have no access to state power at all. Hence, as in Nepal, vicious autocracies need to be thrown out with armed struggle to establish people’s access to the state. But this certainly has to be the last resort because revolution, as they say, is the other face of counter-revolution, and people have to suffer massively in either case.

    An electoral democracy, if it is available, is the only non-catastrophic method of ensuring progressive empowerment and welfare of people known to the current state of civilisation. Its real genius is the one that was outlined: it is essentially decided without any blue-print, dozens of manifestos and CMPs notwithstanding. In that sense, especially in the wonderful heterogeneity of Indian political culture, the electoral system is indeed as close to ‘anarchism’ as we can get.

    How the broad left adjusts itself to this fundamental feature of Indian democracy is not yet clear despite 34 years of alleged left-rule. If the left is to survive its current marginalisation, avenues must again be found to expand the scope of grassroots resistance to align it with the electoral process. Sonia Gandhi and Nitish Kumar are currently engaged in precisely this activity not by joining grassroots movements but by co-opting them, the usual ploy. The point is, they are compelled to even this restricted activity because there is the vote. They would be thrilled if the maoists are in fact able to render the electoral process infructuous in large parts of the country. The army will take over cheerfully. Sorry about the length.

  14. I don’t know why I feel so confused even after completely agreeing to the basic tone of the statement. Who is “Left”? And who is left out of “Left”?

  15. The binary between the top down model and the neo-liberal model is certainly a false one. In India there has been some experiments with decentralised governance and fortunately the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution does give the constitutional validity to local governance in the forms of panchayats and municipalities. Unfortunately serious attempts at devolving Funds, Functions and Functionaries to the local government has been singularly lacking in India and for obvious reasons. The only exception is Kerala under EMS although everything about Kerala’s panchayats is not perfect. Hence there is a scope for a “new left” to look at the 73rd and 74th amendment of the Indian constitution and see whether it provides them a cause worth fighting for. Of course this may include fighting for an amendment to the Schedule IX of the Constitution and coming up with a legislation even better than the two amendments mentioned above. Along with this I would also like to mention the cause of proper implementation of PESA. Together they probably mean a vastly different model of governance that is very different from the top-down statist model as well as the neo-liberal model.

  16. “The question is really not one of neo-liberalism but that of life itself, which resists the attempt by planners, state elites, vanguards and what have you, to categorize, classify and fix the place of people and things.”

    The irony of this statement, Aditya, is that it militates against answering the critical question you pose viz. the very success of neoliberalism. And irony compounded, you echo Hayek again, despite yourself, in romanticizing the recalcitrance of society to “planning”; if only the subaltern historians realized that they were so fully participating in the neoliberal epoch.

    This epistemological stance obscures a simple historical truth, something Polanyi understood long ago: “There is nothing natural about laissez-faire; free markets could never have come into being merely by allowing things to take their course…laissez-faire itself was enforced by the state.”

    This is not so much a question of the centrality of the state but the institutional expression of a political vision. There is nothing conspiratorial here, merely the fact of a tremendously successful political project that was born out of a coherent vision but executed by winning a battle of ideas and interests across the constituencies that you mention.

    Its success was to think of a blueprint as vision rather than a set of operational details; it had no trouble talking the talk of laissez-faire while using the state and other institutions to actively construct their vision. In short, neoliberalism had a vanguard, but it wasn’t simply top-down. It was armed with an ideological configuration that had hegemonic potential.

    So the core of the matter is not the state. It is the conception of what a political programme in a historico-political context entails. And while I completely sign on to an ethic of experimentation over the sterile determinism that a hackneyed notion of blueprints entails, that is still not enough. It is not a matter of anticipating everything, it is a matter of having a vision adequate to the temporal nature of life. As another wise man said, “Programmatic thinking is music, not architecture.”

  17. Agree with Firangi on most counts. The Left does need to incorporate within its politics an alternate vision of future states of affairs. While the Resistance is almost vital to safeguard the little that the marginalized have, it is always important to keep in mind that the ‘little’ almost always is close to the bare minimum. Restorative politics of the non-parliamentary (NP) left needs a move on to incorporate some visions of well-being.
    But to suggest, as Firangi does, that recalcitrance to planning is a Hayekian echo is to reduce all pluralist, non-statist visions to being unsuspecting victims of the neo-liberal hegemon. The NP left may be short of, yet, of multiple, pluralist, institutional expressions of political vision/s, but one thing it is surely not – it is never unsuspecting.

    1. Anarchism, with its roots in Bakunin and championed by the likes of Chomsky today, never talked of a vision and ideal emerging as we go along -ephemeral end evolving evry minute .
      It had a vision – a blueprint for the future – which essentially talked of a non-Statist Society – where the People and not the Party will be the prime arbiters . The Party will remain as a guide ,as an organizer .
      Its vision and ideals left no scope for private ownership, no scope for economic exploitation, no scope for consumerism.
      Reducing it to a soico-political vulgarized version of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is to keep everything indeterminate in life – the Society of the future, the forms of struggle, the economic structure of collective ownership.
      While Stalinism needs to be discarded, what is being espoused here will not take us anywhere – and that is not what the signatories intended to convey .

      Upal

  18. Change is the need of every society.Left has ruled west bengal for 30 plus years and have not done anything.They talk about poor yet shake hands with tata.

  19. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Gen Secretary, of CPI(ML) in is analysis of the Left Front debacle in West Bengal has to say this:
    Let us look at the context and circumstances of the CPI(M)’s ouster in West Bengal. Its government has not been toppled by a hostile Centre. Nor has the ouster been scripted by the Tatas or some major corporate lobbies for being denied entry into West Bengal or being driven out of West Bengal through militant trade unionism. What has cost the CPI(M) its flagship state is not a feudal backlash against the party’s much-trumpeted record of land reforms. Nor is it a revolt of an upwardly mobile middle class angered by the non-fulfilment of its consumerist dreams of globalised grandeur. On the contrary, it is essentially a peasant rebellion on the good old plank of land, livelihood and democracy which has gone on to produce this most spectacular electoral drubbing for the CPI(M).

    If the dominant media analysis of the CPI(M)’s West Bengal debacle is totally misplaced, and the therapy suggested mischievously motivated, the CPI(M)’s own response is nothing but characteristically evasive and hollow. Ever since the peasant protests started in Singur five years ago, the CPI(M) dismissed it as an anti-industry campaign and accused whoever stood by the protesting peasants of Singur of being a Narodnik or Luddite. When Nandigram happened, the CPI(M) called it an anti-Left conspiracy hatched jointly by the far-right and the ultra-left. When Lalgarh revolted against police atrocities, the CPI(M) made common cause with the Centre to unleash a combined paramilitary campaign. It is only after the drubbing in Lok Sabha elections that the CPI(M) started admitting that something had gone wrong and promised to rectify and bounce back… no sincere apologies tendered for the forcible land acquisition in Singur or the massacres in Nandigram and certainly no attempt at course correction. This is why Nandigram was repeated in Netai and CPI(M) leaders continued to make arrogant boasts and several leaders went on to deliver vulgar sexist speeches reflecting a feudal-patriarchal mindset all through the election. The debacle in the Lok Sabha election was reduced to a simple statistical deficit of only 11 lakh votes and words went around that the deficit could easily be neutralized by ensuring a few additional votes in every booth!

    Dipankar points out that a few years ago, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had become the greatest darling of the corporate media, much like Chandrababu Naidu in his heyday or Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar in their current phases. Some media houses had even enthusiastically elevated him to a new brand of Left politics in India, ‘brand Buddha’ as they fondly called it.
    The CPI(M) has not gone down in West Bengal resisting the LPG policies, for example. On the contrary, it has just paid the price for daring to implement those policies by trampling upon the rights and interests of the rural poor and the labouring peasantry as Dipankar observes in his article to be published in the forthcoming issue(June) of Liberation.
    https://groups.google.com/group/greenyouth/browse_thread/thread/7f813f2cdd8d8840?hl=en
    The criticism of the CPI(M) and the allied Left parties by the General Secretary,CPI(ML), of the formers’ serious failure to introspect seem to match the conclusion of the
    “.. Statement by Leftists after recent election results” :
    Whether their leaderships want such a radical overhaul is doubtful, since even the elementary requirement of accountability for the recent debacle is currently being evaded.

  20. I agree whole-heartedly with the observations made. Leftism as a cultural undercurrent in every society can never be subjugated by any force on earth, however evil could it be. History has the evidence. But this is perhaps quite natural a social reality. There should be our conscious efforts to afford some form to this phenomenon. There remains the challenge! Otherwise, it remains, I’m afraid, a formless intangible romanticism heavily resembling the philosophy of social automotion and fate. If CPI(M) and the like are not the only or real left, won’t we try to find out who are and work for a massive left consolidation! Changing the world always remains more important than to think of changing it in the most normative way!

  21. I would be happy to agree with Dipankar Bhattacharya’s analysis as brought out by Venugopalan in his comments above. Peasants’ rebellion if it is , it looks very promising. But how does it really explain the drubbing at Kolkata, where many of the stalwarts had to bit dust! There has to be much more than what Dipankar loves to believe. I am sure that all kind of forces took the opportunity to dump the LF for different reasons. Buddhadeb and Prakash Karat both made their mistakes , the former overlooking the peasants’ sentiments in hobnobbing with capital and Karat underestimating the pride and prejudice of INC. Loads of floodwater entered through these two breaches and broke the bastion of the LF. Again, the result may be appreciated as good riddance in different sectors for different reasons. One thing is sure that Mamata was a ‘Shikhandi’, a very able Shikhandi to topple such a longstanding ‘Achalayatan’. But now that her job is done, what next! May be that will be the burning question in many minds.

  22. Some observations on these proponents of new ‘left’ and those who signed it:

    1. “The Left in India has never been reducible to these large parliamentary fronts and party machines…but has always been a much wider spectrum of organisations, movements and forms of struggle”

    Historically, the formation of the communist party has occurred through crystallization of such struggles (and forces that participated in such struggles); that phenomenon is not a reduction; rather it is the opposite of it. On the other hand, what any “wider spectrum of organisations, movements and forms of struggle” in isolation of organised left movement have achieved can be seen by anybody.

    2. “hundreds of left-wing trade unions that exist in the country in all the major industrial centres, unions that are essentially independent of party control”

    It is essentially a post-modernist position, trying to disconnect a mass front from the Left party. An organisation (here trade union) can still be “left-wing” even without the perspective of objective condition – the context of class struggle and imperialism (imperialism is one distinct theme that never comes in the statement). This is the hallmark of post-modern ‘leftism’.

    3. “We feel that the defeat of the parliamentary left should mean space for a stronger left movement, a ‘new left’ if you like, that reflects the aspirations of the mass of people more creatively, with more imagination and greater integrity.”
    NGO language is easily noticeable: “mass of people” (no mention of the word class, anywhere in the article actually), “creatively”, “imagination”, “integrity”.

    It also calls for a celebration of such defeat of Left (at least passive celebration), celebration of TMCs victory hence.

    4. “So it is premature of ‘write off’ the Left but not because the Left Front has retained substantial vote shares in Kerala and Bengal. Votes have never been a real marker of the strength of a political movement and its culture.”

    Those nearly 2 crore voters who voted for the Left Front are politically irrelevant! Hence, so are those many thousands among those voters who are active workers/members of the Party. This political misreading creates insensitivity (a non-left character): not a single word against TMC violence, pre-poll and post-poll, on Left Front cadres/members/sympathizers (mostly poor people and deprived sections).

    Last, but not the least, the glorification of “wider spectrum of organisations”, such rainbow “movements and forms of struggle”, ‘disinterest’ in state-power, shows a kind of NGO/Post-modernist anti-left politics in the garb of ‘leftism’, which makes it quite acceptable/tolerable for Indian ruling classes and particularly the imperialist world-order (who are the major funders of these brands of NGO ‘radicalism’, which is hoped to replace revolutionary left politics). Among the elites too, this ‘radicalism’ is well accepted as long as it does not challenge the conditions leading to and preserving their elitism and such ‘radicalism’ doesn’t require too long a fight (capturing state power is too long and arduous, but remaining only as voices and culture of protest is instant; and attempt to capture state power can be conveniently abused in the name of Stalin as Stalinism).

    1. Sourindra,

      I do not think that is what the signatories intended. (though I may not be the right person to speak on their behalf).
      Obviously capture of State Power has to be high on anyone’s agenda because just conducting perpetual “movements” and “experiments” (Aditya’s brand of Anarchism) wil not feed empty stomachs.
      What they perhaps mean here is that the millions of protests (some of them unorganised and spontaneous) cannot and should not be disregarded , but coordinated and co-opted. Lets face it , the Left Establishment – basking in the arrogance of ruling two Sate Governments – never learned to respect any Left force outside the confines of their Party which proved to be self-defeating in the long run.
      A relook at this sectarianism is overdue – otherwise it can have disastrous consequences for the Left movement . By adopting the same sectarian viewpoint, you are only serving the interests of the Ruling Class and Imperialists.

      Upal

      1. Upal,

        I would take your comment as your opinion what the authors of the article should say. That their statement did not actually coincide with your view has multiple evidences. Notice the word “reducible” in the sentence “The Left in India has never been reducible to these large parliamentary fronts and party machines…”. Also notice the sentence “We feel that the defeat of the parliamentary left should mean space for a stronger left movement”; it simply means defeat of the Left (I have reservation against the term “parliamentary” Left; its a reduction of the Left, coming out of misreading of the politics of the Left) is necessary for the rise of the new ‘left’ – establishing a direct conflict between the Left and the new ‘left’. It is this sectarian attitude that needs to be understood and condemned thoroughly.

        I want to clarify that I never asked to disregard various grievances taking shape of protests; rather I agree completely with you that such should be “coordinated and co-opted” (the new ‘left’ will thoroughly disagree with this view that such protests should be brought within Left’s struggle and led by the Left; and that is one of their central arguments). My argument in previous post that “Historically, the formation of the communist party has occurred through crystallization of such struggles” should be proof enough of this opinion of mine.

  23. Couldn’t agree more with the spirit of the statement, and it is heartening to see the number of endorsers. Statements critical of the parliamentary left have been coming out with some regularity, at least since Nandigram. Good. But what’s next?

    Firangi is right to say “It is not a matter of anticipating everything, it is a matter of having a vision….” The non-party left’s critique of the status quo, and our affective investment in the presence of multifarious pockets of radicalization, will need to be matched up with not only a vision, but a platform.

    Given the historical record, we rightly have a healthy skepticism of programmatic decrees issued from on high. But for how long can we continue to pose the fragmented, uncoordinated, decentralized networks of resistance as our answer to the top-down bureaucratic centralism of the official left?

    It seems to me that sooner or later, a move to cohere these forces into an effective political force will be necessary. Such “massive left consolidation” (Manipadma Datta, above) is, I would argue, the order of the day. The question of course, is: who will take the lead?

  24. The debate about the devastating defeat of the left front in West Bengal, the non-party left, the grassroots movement is interesting and instructive. I believe there is no essential contradiction between the role of the left parties constituting a left front and non-party left working with the social movements. Any left party anywhere cannot have the autonomy and the freedom and intellectual imagination and daring available to non-party left or non-party radicals, including grassroots social activists. The former has to work and function in a certain fixed framework with little or no scope for experimentation and innovation. The party is inevitably guided by a hierarchy which inevitably produces a bureaucratic culture and tight discipline. The party workers or cadres thus inherit a given ideological personality which by definition is bound to be a limited personality in terms of thrust and initiative. But that is a big advantage in terms of organisational cohesion, clarity of thought, decisive action, collective functioning and absence of confusion and disadvantage in terms of creating ‘new’ ideas or reinterpreting old ideas pertaining to ideology and organisation from forgotten old texts or through comparative perspectives, indulging in meaningful debates, discussions, engaging with dissent, cultivating doubt which are the intellectual stuff of the non-party social activist or leftist, though they have the disadvantage of involved in de-individualised collective comradely functioning as distinct from ‘thinking’, theorising, critiquing which are the strong points of non-party radicals
    The 34-year left front rule in West Bengal, first of all, was a contradiction in terms of the assumptions of parliamentary democracy in which alteration in government is an important requirement. In Kerala there is always a fierce competition between the two fronts, one led by the CPI-M and the other led by the Congress. The general pattern is one front rules for five years and the other sits in the opposition for five years. A stint in opposition gives an opportunity to the concerned party to undergo self-criticism and undertake course correction. If this pattern of five year change had taken place in West Bengal, the state of the party would have been much better. No party can rule for eternity. In these 34 years people in West Bengal had no viable alternative and this time they had one and that clinched the defeat of the left front, though it was extremely harsh, unlike the Kerala one.
    The social movements, the non-party left individuals and groups cannot form governments and people and society need governments and left parties, like any other party of any other colour can fulfill this political need. But the non-party left and social and grassroots activists can considerably contribute in influencing the policies of the governments-left or non-left- through criticism, direct action and if necessary through mass mobilisation and agitation. The roles are complimentary. The left parties can and do learn from the non-party left groups and the latter also can learn from the former. This is a mutually satisfying interactional relationship between the two. Why should the non-party left seek total or partial endorsement of its agenda from the left parties and it is the same other way around. The charge of arrogance and self-righteousness leveled against the left parties is not very convincing and in any case arrogance cannot be the reason for the defeat of the left front in West Bengal. Arrogance is not an analytical category. It cannot explain the defeat in West Bengal and the defeat by a very narrow margin in Kerala. Arrogance at best is an attitudinal phenomenon and it can also by invoked in describing the attitude and approach of the non-party left.

  25. @Arunima Chakraborty.

    Not sure whether you inquired about that gentleman’s profession. I can hazard a guess with a very high probability of being right: he is a government bureaucrat.

    You can get a private employee who misbehaved with you fired. Try that at a government office. The sarkari babus have goofed up royally – they sent your passport to Cochin instead of Bangalore, though nothing resembling ‘Cochin’ is there in your address. You ask the august individual occupying the ‘chief passport officer’ chair politely when you could get the passport back. He throws a tantrum and nearly assaults you as if it is you who made the mistake. You do nothing except cower in fright. You can’t do anything.

    The enduring legacy of the culture and politics of the Left (the only one allowed legally in the country by the way) is union thuggery in the organized sector, an arrogant, corrupt, rent-seeking bureaucracy and an avowedly unicultural elite occupying the rarefied heights of the ‘intelligentsia’ in the garb of multi-culturalism.

  26. Who is left?
    I am personally associated with a left environment and activities since last 35 years. I have seen time and again many social activities, struggles and resistances outside the ambit of left. At present, the emergence of Trinamul Congress represented by Mamata Banerjee as an alternative of parliamentary left also materialised mostly from outside the ‘left’ in broader sense of the term. The aspirations, movements and resistances of a large section of powerless people including the hawkers, auto-drivers, evicted communities, dalits-minorities and marginalised people (like Matua), landless and migrated village people, who had suffered most due to the party hegemony of the Left front in power (especially in the last two decades), expressed their choice through the secret ballot in favour of Mamata Banerjee. I do not like to exaggerate it to the extent of characterising it as a ‘rise of the subaltern’.
    Let us share an experience from Bengal.
    Today, on 28th May 28, 2011, there is a protest meeting against the murder of Tapan Dutta, organised by Nagarik Mancha, Ganaudyog and 12 other organisations. Tapan Dutta was a leader of Trinamul Congress in Howrah. At the same time he was a great fighter for saving the wetlands in Bally-Jagacha area of Howrah from the clutches of the nexus of previous left front government, corporate-promoter-contractors and mafias. In spite of his Trinamul identity he formed ‘Save Wetland Committee’ in his locality. He was killed on 6th May. Now, could we brand him as ‘new left’ or left outside parliamentary left? If we do it, I think it would be harmful for the movement from the perspective of social and political changes.
    So, I think we should reconsider our concept about ‘left’.

  27. For all concerned and the signatories of the above statement, I would like to underline it here, that my appreciation of the above statement of Social network site ‘Facebook’, has been wrongly interpreted as my endorsement/signatory for the same. I urge upon the administrator of this site to kindly remove my name from the list of the above signatories.

  28. There are some people who think that land reforms doesn’t mean much or if it is done by organised left then it should not mean much. Some People who think it is only their arm-chair intellectualism and seminars that stopped communal fascist forces in India. Some who dont want to see the UDF in Kerala preparing to allow private practice for medical college doctors which the LDF banned in it’s term. Some who believe that 360 mostly dalit, adivasi, school teachers who are killed by Maoists as not capable of being part of revolution. Some who cannot count 12 communist party workers killed soon after the bengal elections. Some who never understood what it is to face RSS in Kannur. Ask Com.Ashraf-he might tell you. Some still grappling with how BJP failed to rise in a state bordering a nation composed of a community which was taught from childhood to be treated as our óther ‘. Some who simply want to jump from what they think as ‘sinking ship’. Some who never want to see TNUEF and KVPS and what they could mean and how could that be strengthened further. Sme who still want to argue that an increase of vote share in Malappuram from 21% vote in 1957 to 43% in 2011 in a 70% muslim dominated district as evidence of it’s communal character. Some who are as essential to liberal democracy as it’s ‘critical other’ while they fantasize themselves as red guards. Some who fashionably associate with splinters that even after 40 odd years doesn’t count support even from .15% of the population. Who think that they can bring revolution writing critiques of organised left and CPIM. Some who would like to consider the labour expliotation by Maoists as war-time necessity. And yet can’t understand their own status, when the fact stays that unless they are in dialogue with the organised left, there aren’t much people in India which would like them to call ‘left’. Even if all of them are going to die together while returning from a latest leftist seminar bashing against organised left, their wont be much of people who will think that their prospects are probably looking bleak. Some people who are still bewildered how still left managed to garner 41% of vote in Bengal. Prople who would rather stand with Kishenji and his ilk who commended Upper Class Mumbai-ites for abiding their election boycott call- traces of passive revolution in India!!!!. To all those people what else can I say—try to form your own trade union….!!

  29. Though it’s late, here’s some observations on the statement mainly and not so much on the comments.

    The statement contains several features of interest for me( and many of my colleagues, I guess). As someone who was once very much part of the ‘traditional/ mainstream/ left’ and has been associated with a mass process tilting towards the ‘new left'(as claimed by the statement) for more than last 10 years and that too in a state ruled by the ‘old left’, some issues can be perhaps be raised. The ongoing discussion is politically instructive and important to me as a ‘practising member of the new left’, if that means anything.

    I completely agree with the position that the traditional left parties do not exhaust the ‘left’ potential in the country, and therefore an electoral reverse should in no way be treated
    as the demise of the left in general. Universality of political definitions scares me these days, and therefore deliberately ignoring the moot q.’what’s left’, let me go straight to the all important issue of whether social movements and non-party trade unions can be termed as
    ‘left’–especially as an alternate construct/replacement of the ‘mainstream left’ . Whatever I say comes directly from our niche praxis in the forests of Bengal and India and shared experiences from across similar other niche/sectoral/issue-based praxis.

    I think that it will be premature to associate any single set of universal/pre-assumed values/value-sets with the ongoing social movements in India: these come in all sizes and shapes, so to say. and come out of incredibly heterogeneous contexts. Most of these have
    no political articulation beyond the immediate issues of struggle, and even those with clearer and stated political positions seldom succeeds to connect their programmes with
    their declared politics, the political awareness(here awareness about the stated political objectives of the organisation/process/movement) rarely or never going beyond
    some of the middle class leaders already versed in ‘left’ lexicon. Citing examples here is not possible, but let me give this one instance. Our own process with the forest dwellers started with some sort of a organisational structure(all social movements are not anarchic, neither fund-driven NGOs) and a clear set of political objectives in our Constitution. We even circulated a draft ‘political document’ during our first 2002 Conference in Nagpur, held political discussions etc.

    To the best of my knowledge, the regional/local processes associated with our all-India forum did not try to impose this politics on their respective members simply because the local and immediate necessities of the niche issue always came first and there’s often no space for ‘greater’ politics. The result was that the regional processes went their own lose and separate way and many of them still lack any coherent perspective on the key issue of
    how to look at the state–that is to say, they couldn’t make up their minds on whether the state’s an enemy or an alley. Confusion reigns supreme as to what to expect from the Government and what not; the strategies range from participating in the electoral process
    as part of established parties in fray, both left and non-left, lobbying at state and national levels, the usual memorandums and dharnas, and sometimes, entrenched, consistent ground level struggles against mainly the state.

    All social movements platforms operating at the national level contain similar stories, at least, the process part. Of late, a general stance against globalization, market economy and land-acquisition for capitalist development is emerging; but is this sufficient to make the movements left? Land struggles in today’s India contain both the feudal and the rich peasantry along with the landless and adivasis, a single movement can bring together
    these essentially antagonistic class forces. As long as the issue’s alive, the unity may or may not hold. But once that’s settled(as in Nandigram), the struggle evaporates, and the process gets sucked up in the political mainstream.

    While the issue’s more complex( as in our case in North Bengal, where we are demanding–and sometimes even physically asserting–people’s control over resources, and championing the cause of Gram Sabha), the struggles can sustain. But it’s difficult, to say the least. On one hand, there’s almost non-stop pressure from the state. On the other, there’s
    relentless opposition–punctuated by bouts of total avoidance–from all the political parties,
    left and non-left alike. How long a regional/local struggle sustain itself in this condition? How long before it disintegrates and/or is suppressed?

    With my many comrades I share a belief in optimism(here it translates into a belief in
    left)–surely this can’t continue? Surely something better is in the offing? Objectively speaking, there’s no doubt that the social movements taken together represent an emerging political force, and in many cases, such movements are nothing but class struggle. Branding these movements as essentially anarchic,post-modern,radical NGOists etc will not help us
    in politically assessing the diverse organisational dynamics and vibrancy of these processes. Neither, I’m afraid, generally discovering a left in them. At least, not yet.

    A left re-build in India, will need to address and include a wide range of processes and issues, including the social movements and non-party trade unions, sections of the mainstream left, and even people now working under the banners of the Maoist Communist Party and other non-electoral left. It will not be a single or monolithic process. It will not be
    an exclusive elitist process. Functional and/or area-specific alliances between various asymmetric processes can lead to an Indian left one day.

    I genuinely think that the statement in question marks a path(one of many) of this long journey together. At the same time I’ll also like to see closer interactions between the left thinkers and the processes on ground they think as left(or, with left potential, as many of us think). We need to talk.argue, and learn to work together to know each other.

    The left is there and not there. The left is decimated and alive. It has to be re-built piece by piece,block by block. At some point of time we may not even call it left. At some point of time we may not call it by any name whatsoever. The necessity is to keep challenging the
    staus quo, ro keep the struggles going. And, as far as possible,together.

  30. Thanks Soumitra, for this very thoughtful response. I an in complete agreement with you and am even convinced that there is no need to necessarily keep flaunting or wearing ‘leftism’ on our sleeves; the important thing is to keep the struggles going. Well said:)

  31. leftist political parties have been lost their significance due to surrender to neo liberal economy and it became a platform of educated middle class .they do not speak for peasant and working class from last decade…so they lost lost their primary support…

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