Guest Post by Nayan Jyoti
SOME QUESTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF MASS ORGANISATIONS OF CPI(ML)LIBERATION, CPI, CPI(M) & OTHERS INVITING CONGRESS, RJD, JD(U) TO DEFEND ‘SECULARISM, INDIAN CONSTITUTION, INDIAN NATIONALISM’
Janta Dal (United) leader Ali Anwar, in an ‘united’ program in Jantar Mantar on 19th March had a frank admission to make in the first 15 minutes of his speech: “Elections ki hi baat se shuru kare, to haan, hum sab milkar Modi ko harayenge” (“If we begin with the question of elections, yes, we will unite to defeat Modi together”). He was indicating a plain and simple ‘unity’ of convenience for elections, of a converging pole in Indian politics. He indicated: “Bihar assembly elections are waiting to happen.” He of course, remembered the theme of ‘secularism’ for the event and said, “now I will say a few ideological things” and did utter a few lines against the BJP-RSS.
Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on 19th March thus saw a (not very?) strange unity. Various “civil society and secular political parties, victims, artists, intellectuals” came together to organize an Exposing 300 days of Modi’s Rule program. Many of the organizers included mass organisations of the Left like AISA, AICCTU, AIPWA connected with CPI(ML)Liberation, and SFI, AIDWA, CITU, DYFI, AILU connected with CPI(M), and AITUC, NFIW, PWA related to CPI, among others. In these dark times of achhe din, where unity and collaboration of various left, democratic and progressive forces has come up with renewed necessity to fight the present regime, it becomes important for us to interrogate such attempts without any sectarianism. An important question that requires asking here is the basis of these ‘Unities’ and Forums being variously attempted. ‘Unity’ is definitely required in these times of combined attack of brutal neoliberal and communal attack, but standing on what ground, and in what direction?
Talking of ‘secular unity’ and releasing a report, one was more than a little surprised to see Ajay Maken (Delhi Congress Chief), Digvijay Singh (General Secretary of AICC), Ahmed Patel (MP and senior Congress leader close to Sonia Gandhi), Shobha Oza (Mahila Congress president) talk of fighting communalism as a “secular political party” in the program in Jantar Mantar. In the list of speakers released for the Program, were RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, JD(U)’s Ali Anwar and KC Tyagi (Chief General Secretary and National Spokesperson), JD(Secular)’s Kunwar Danish, Amarjeet Kaur (CPI’s National Secretary), Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechury (Politburo members, CPI-M), Kavita Krishnan (Politburo member, CPI-ML-Liberation) and Rajiv Dimri (Central Committee member, CPI-ML-Liberation).
While speakers in a joint program need not necessarily agree with whatever any other speaker says, the point here is neither about the speakers only, nor is the concern merely about a single program. The question is about the ‘unity’ exhibited and projected with so-called ‘secular forces’, and the understanding and intent of this unity and alliance. That the CPI and CPI(M) are practiced in this nature of ‘unity of secular and forward-looking forces’ with appropriate division of labour among them has seen a long-seen history. It has a clear meaning for them: not seek relevance in and through the ground of struggle but through parliamentarism, and tailing of the Congress, not only in various instances like UPA-I, but as a strategic understanding of this tailing as a pole in Indian politics evolved and implemented throughout its history. This continues even after its rout in Bengal, and many intra-Party debates and report on political-tactical line adopted recently in its CC meeting in January this year. In the ‘Third Fronts’ and ‘Fourth Fronts’, “forward-looking” has meant plain and simple looking forward to the parliamentary elections without any pretensions of being with peoples’ movements and calmly implementing neoliberal policies and politics of social (in)justice, not excluding casteism and ‘communal cards’.
What is surprising at present though is the prominent presence of mass organisations connected to CPI(ML)Liberation like AISA, AIPWA, AICCTU and others, in joining hands with the CPM in inviting the Congress, RJD, JD(U) to come together to “reiterate faith in the values of the Indian Constitution…and restore the values of Indian nationalism”, and prominent listing of their Politburo and Central Committee members as speakers. While CPM has shown its Singurs, Nandigrams and a consistent practice of anti-people policies and practices, CPI(ML)Liberation can be seen in some peoples’ movements. It thus comes as a natural question at this juncture to ask, whether this is a ‘mistake’ which happened to happen, or should we understand that this as a ‘starting point’ of such unity/compromise with the Congress- a tendency which is rapidly taking form in the last few years?
We have to ask this question, as for those organizing, allied to and part of peoples’ movements for life-livelihood and ideologically committed to a socio-economically transformative politics, have a shared concern in the primary meaning of resistance emerging in and through the ground of struggle to Modi sarkar and what the regime embodies. Many organisations in the past which emerged related to peoples’ struggles, have found themselves maneuvering and dumping these very struggles into the confines of the colossal parliamentary and legalistic mess that this “democracy” is today: a co-opting of movements in the name of fighting communalism and neoliberalism or whatever suits fit – not ‘elections for movement’ as some of them still say, but movements (if any) for elections. What is also unfortunate is that many genuine left, progressive and democratic voices who are present at various instances in peoples’ movements with their understanding, capacities and limitations, are sought to be leveraged in this game of parliamentary positioning and repositioning.
Returning to the point of direction of this ‘unity’, when a few days ago, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi led a well-covered march of 14 opposition parties on the Land Acquisition Bill, she said, “progressive, secular, democratic and forward-looking forces are determined to defeat the Modi government’s design to promote divisions and social disharmony”. It is of course no surprise that other Congress-men are keen to be again seen wearing the above words Sonia Gandhi uses. But when faced with situations of the play of communalism combined with the logic and requirement of capital’s interests, for those attempting to build resistance standing in the ground of struggle today, it has hardly been a thing-to-miss that anti-BJP/RSS doesn’t automatically mean ‘secular’, progressive or democratic. The Indian National Congress, which communalized the entire State apparatus in the early and middle 1980s on an unprecedented scale through organizing the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom and subsequent cover-up of the guilty, cannot certainly be counted among allies in any struggle against communalism by any stretch of the imagination. As Sumit Sarkar says, “All this directly prepared the ground for the Ram Janmabhoomi blitzkrieg of the Sangh Parivar, now spearheaded by the VHP. It must not be forgotten that it was the Congress government that updated the Ramayana epic into a pseudo-nationalist TV serial, and allowed access in 1986 to the idols installed inside the Babri Masjid by stealth and administrative collusion in December 1949, under an earlier Congress regime.” When riots happened in Trilokpuri this time, just before the Delhi assembly elections, people have not forgotten that it were the same streets and areas which saw the worst of the Congress’s brand of ‘secularism’. The late 80s gave prepared the ground not only for the RSS, but also more importantly for the implementation of neoliberal policies in 1991 by the Manmohan budget, which the BJP now is merely extending. The lethal mixture of neoliberalism and rising fascist tendencies which are on full play currently, have been brought about by the Congress as a faithful servant and able representative of capitalist class interests. And this is no new story, but has been so since before 1947 and continuing till date. The present seeming inability of the Congress to bring in ‘development’ as during the last elections is only a small tiff with the requirements of capitalists who are impatient with the pace and force with which they expect their profit margins to be addressed, and Modi’s 56-inch chest gave them another choice for the present.
Variously described and debated, there is a broad consensus today that with corporate-power and RSS-backed Modi sarkar completing 300 days in a few weeks, we are witness to an ever-more open play of an aggressive form of neoliberal developmental terrorism combined with active support by the entire State machinery to the fascist organisation RSS’s Hindutvisation of public sphere (over 600 instances of decentralized communal violence, according to the Report released in the program) with its anti-minority, anti-Dalit, anti-women and anti-sexual minorities agenda, its jingoist nationalism and so on. As in the entire country, in Delhi just after the last Lok Sabha elections, regular instances of communal polarization, hatred and rioting engineered by the RSS were coming to the fore- Bawana JJ Colony, Trilokpuri, Noore Elahi, Ghonda, Madanpur Khadar being a few instances. During this, we saw that even given differences in political understanding of approaching the question of secularism itself among others, many left, democratic and progressive forces and individuals became collaboratively active in building resistance and standing in solidarity with the local resistance against the communal forces. It was acknowledged again that to organize (and organically be with) peoples’ resistance against this regime and system of exploitation-oppression which it perpetuates thus assumes great political significance.
The need to fight the politics which the fascist organisation RSS embodies is a pressing need, combined as it has become in complex ways with the requirements of capital. The struggle for the ending the regime of exploitation, oppression, injustice, and for values of equality, dignity and democracy, must be well-considered, multi-pronged and strong. But in no way can it be divorced from the need arising in and through the ground of struggle and peoples’ democratic aspirations, from the anger brewing in the factories, fields, streets and slums. And this certainly cannot be done with the Congress. The 300 days of Modi were not only days of attack on the masses, it were the days of struggles simmering and at times bursting out in the ground too. As we approach the 84th martyrdom day of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh and his comrades, we require renewed inspiration for organized initiative as embodied in their revolutionary ideas. Against the current complete servitude to capitalist interests and rising fascist tendencies that is enforced upon the toiling masses by the ruling dispensation, we must be united with the everyday pain and struggles of the toiling classes, and organize their anger in ways in which cowards like the RSS who fear this collective power, can never do.
Nayanjyoti is a political activist based in Delhi.