Guest post by PRASENJIT BOSE
Far from transparently and decisively resolving the issues which plague the Party and the Left movement in India, the twenty first Congress of the CPI(M) has yielded a schizophrenic outcome. The purported ‘political line’ adopted by the Party Congress and the ‘unanimous’ choice of the new general secretary are quite contradictory, which will only perpetuate the ideological-political incoherence that has gripped the CPI(M) and may further contribute to its organizational disarray.
When the central committee of the CPI(M) met in October 2014 to discuss a medium term ‘review of the political tactical line’ (PTL) in the light of the electoral reverses suffered by the Party, a politbureau (PB) member had moved a dissent note on the document presented by the PB. That note had argued against the very need to review the PTL and had instead held faulty implementation of the political line driven by ‘subjectivism’ of the leadership mainly responsible for the setbacks suffered by the CPI(M), alongside persistent organizational deficiencies. The elevation of the dissident voice within the outgoing politbureau as the new general secretary of the party raises the question whether the ‘review of the political tactical line’ and ‘political resolution’ adopted in the Congress have the support of the majority within the party? Or will the ‘political line’ adopted in the Party Congress give way over time to political opportunism in the name of ‘flexible tactics’, with the CPI(M) joining hands with the discredited, anti-people Congress in the name of fighting the communal, big corporate-backed, reactionary Modi regime?
Shorn of the baggage of obtuse polemics, the contending positions within the CPI(M) were as follows. One section felt that an important reason behind the stagnation and decline of the party was because of the short-termist alliances and compromises it made with mainstream non-Left parties at the cost of its own independent strength. The key objective of building a Left and democratic alternative at the national level has got jettisoned in the pursuit of the elusive ‘third front’ or having understanding with the Congress at different junctures. The policies pursued by the Left Front government in West Bengal have also come under criticism, especially the Nandigram fiasco, which self-admittedly had ‘compromised’ the image of the party. On the basis of such diagnosis, the line proposed in the political resolution was of fighting against the BJP regime, opposing the Congress, fighting against state governments run by regional parties, building the independent strength of the party and rallying the Left and democratic forces on the basis of Left unity.
The West Bengal unit of the CPI(M), on the other hand, does not subscribe to this understanding. A review report placed in the West Bengal state conference on the three decades of Left rule defended the industrialisation and land acquisition policies of the government and termed Nandigram as a mere ‘exception’. Rather than honestly admitting their myriad failings on political, developmental and administrative fronts, the Bengal leadership has always attributed its decline in the state to the Left’s withdrawal of support from the UPA-I government in 2008 on the nuclear deal issue, which had supposedly facilitated a TMC-Congress alliance. It is this understanding which has also been articulated by the dissent note earlier submitted by the new general secretary, when he blamed the ‘subjectivism’ of his predecessor in taking such decisions. As the way ahead, the Bengal leadership of the party is also in favour of a renewed relationship with the Congress both in the state and the centre, which could be seen in the support extended to Pranab Mukherjee in the 2012 Presidential elections. They also want to keep the door open for alliances with regional parties, like in the past.
At the heart of the party congress deliberations was this debate between the independent, Left unity line versus the pro-Congress, or rather the all-in-unity (except TMC) against BJP line. The outcome is a hotchpotch where the political resolution is advocating Left unity against BJP, Congress and other mainstream parties while the new general secretary, backed by the Bengal unit, favours unity with the Congress and other secular parties. This is a recipe for more confusion and rifts in the days to come.
It is difficult for well wishers of the Left to feel enthusiastic when the new general secretary of the CPI(M) says that the twenty first congress was a “congress for the future”; because most people on the Left, while being deeply distressed and angered by the doings of the Modi regime, would not see a very bright future of the country under another Congress-led government either, especially one headed by the son of the Congress President. Notably, besides hinting at coming closer to the Congress and other opposition parties within parliament, the new general secretary has not been able to articulate any fresh, unorthodox ideas to revive the party and unite the Left. It is difficult to conceive that such revival can happen simply through parliamentary manoeuvres.
Given the extent of the crisis it is facing in India today, the Left needs strong doses of ideological renewal, political clarity and organizational overhaul alongside participation in vibrant mass movements. Unfortunately, that is not the direction that the CPI(M) seems to be taking. The ideological resolution adopted in the last party congress still stuck to the failed models of socialism of the past century, continuing to eulogise the authoritarian, apolitical developmentalism of the Chinese regime and hailing the dynastic military dictatorship of the DPRK as socialist. How can the youth get attracted anymore to such shibboleths passing for ideology? Politically, the party continues to remain caught between half hearted attempts at Left unity and the pro-Congress line of the Bengal leadership, which acts as a smokescreen to conceal their own failings. This ideological stasis and political rudderlessness has robbed the party organisation of motivation and fighting capacity, especially in Bengal where it is faced with a stiff political challenge, including aggressive physical attacks from the ruling TMC. In the backdrop of the continued organisational erosion at the grassroots, the clichéd rhetoric of the Left leadership against electoral malpractices sounds more like bluster.
The CPI(M) and the Left are in dire straits and short-cuts are simply not going to work. The people, especially in West Bengal, are getting impatient at the failure of the CPI(M) and the Left to play the role of an effective opposition and build movements on people’s issues. Neither are they going to wait forever, nor will they accept old wine served in a new bottle.