CPI(M)’s 21st Congress – A Schizophrenic Outcome: Prasenjit Bose

Guest post by PRASENJIT BOSE

Lost on the high seas?,
Lost on the high seas? Image courtesy CPI(M) 21st Congress site

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.

9 thoughts on “CPI(M)’s 21st Congress – A Schizophrenic Outcome: Prasenjit Bose”

  1. Thank you for a clear and comprehensive account of the (non) movement that the CPI (M) has planned once more under their dubious GS with complicity of the WB State Committee, during their latest Party Congress. It is time for a new left movement to grew out of the current India reality – a New Left that will have the courage to throw these tired (and brain-dead) apparatchiks into the ‘dustbin of history’.


  2. Would like to remind Comrade Bose of the famous analysis of Fascism by Dimitrov.

    “Fascism is not a form of state power “standing above both classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie,” as Otto Bauer, for instance, has asserted. It is not “the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie which has captured the machinery of the state,” as the British Socialist Brailsford declares. No, fascism is not a power standing above class, nor government of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen-proletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself. It is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations.
    The development of fascism, and the fascist dictatorship itself, assume different forms in different countries, according to historical, social and economic conditions and to the national peculiarities, and the international position of the given country. In certain countries, principally those in which fascism has no broad mass basis and in which the struggle of the various groups within the camp of the fascist bourgeoisie itself is rather acute, fascism does not immediately venture to abolish parliament, but allows the other bourgeois parties, as well as the Social-Democratic Parties, to retain a modicum of legality. In other countries, where the ruling bourgeoisie fears an early outbreak of revolution, fascism establishes its unrestricted political monopoly, either immediately or by intensifying its reign of terror against and persecution of all rival parties and groups. This does not prevent fascism, when its position becomes particularly acute, from trying to extend its basis and, without altering its class nature, trying to combine open terrorist dictatorship with a crude sham of parliamentarism.

    The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie — bourgeois democracy — by another form — open terrorist dictatorship. It would be a serious mistake to ignore this distinction, a mistake liable to prevent the revolutionary proletariat from mobilizing the widest strata of the working people of town and country for the struggle against the menace of the seizure of power by the fascists, and from taking advantage of the contradictions which exist in the camp of the bourgeoisie itself. ”

    Perhaps the failure of the CPM and other Leftist parties to undertand this crucial distinction between the BJP and Congress has facilitated the demise of the Left?
    And Congress does not mean Rahul Gandhi only. It ha s also implemented MGNREGA , Forest Rights act, Land Acquisition Act – which the BJP now plans to demolish brick-by-brick.

    Perhaps we need to say goodbye to PK’s dogmatism , and SY can provide some Leadership in this direction – whatever his opponents may feel ??

    Am confused, but we need a robust debate .



  3. The issue with Prasenjit and his ilk is this – they are now out in the open and free to organise an alternative Left movement. They may also unite all the non-CPI/CPIM left components to initiate a people’s movement. They are not doing that. In fact, the only activity they are engaged at is criticising the CPIM for whatever they are doing. The same political rudderlessness has robbed Prasenjit and his ilk developing & implementing an alternative porgram for the Left.


  4. While the old left is facing an existential crisis the new left has not emerged as an alternative. The non-Left Front left in India is too fragmented and cannot be expected to grow rapidly. So where does it leave the leftists of all hues and what choices they have.


  5. Scenario of Kerala sector also needs to be taken into account. Hope that SY could spread the message that Cruelty is not an integral character of leaders. Number of anti-social “comrade” leaders have been on rise for the past decade with the silent support of PK, and with open encouragement from PV and the present state leadership. This has created a mass hatred towards the organization as a whole. Individual leaders have made so much harm that no ideology could correct! Probably a behavioral correction crash course is the need of the hour before discussions on “PTL” etc. People friendly leaders, People friendly attitude, and soft spoken comrades dedicated to the movement….! Where are they? Or is the ultimate aim in collecting Capital for the Party, as they would say?


  6. I have, after a very long time, found an opportunity to vent out my anguish at a place where neither there is a fear of being immediately countered in all senses possible nor is there a moment of being denied from being heard. I have things to say and I will not stop unless I say it.
    So, after reading the main articles and all comments given above only the last one which mentions the decaying state of Left in Kerala, I think, has appealed me to some extent being close to the reality of the present time. The meaning of Left is unconsciously understood as CPI (M) in Bengal and Kerala. But the question is why Tripura has not caught the attention neither of Prasenjit Bose’s writing nor of the commentators ? Well, there must be some reasons. Let’s not go in them, means let’s not talk about leaders like Manik Sarkar. Let’s get stuck in Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury who have established themselves as nothing more than like upper caste, class intellectually arrogant personalities trying to emerge as cult which stands, as all of us believe, against the spirit of socialist ideas.
    The debate of the Left has been put aside as there is no debate of Left issues are seen being fought. What are the main issues which have bothered Left for long decades seems to be just ‘the issue of alliance’. One group says, under the garb of extending the debate, to remain in alliances and others who oppose have no support of PB members and no such whip is possible to be issued also unless they are convinced.
    Left seems to be ignorant of this development that how are the lives of the people becoming difficult day by day and how even then they are feeling more disassociated on the basis of agenda brought to them. So, they are movements going which are being fought by oppressed by masses, and Left boasts of leading them playing a game of tomfoolery we can see it happening in the Maruti Suzuki workers rights issue. Where are the strong support of the Left ? How many times have CPI(M) support trickled down to the people who are dying out of hunger and fight at these places? All those people who stand with them in the support are, no doubt, socialist and progressive but when the Whip of the Party is released to fight against ?
    The same secular, nationalist and democratic Left Party as ‘Com.Prabhat Patnaik attentively quotes’ has not been able to take a position on Caste. Not only this, all such parties who have emerged after taking up the question of caste under the notion of ‘social justice’ have been acknowledged more or less as an outcome of ‘Identity politics’ by the same Left party which actually is synonymous with ‘casteist politics’. Ironically, the same Left’s ideas have boiled down into looking for an alliance with these parties as we recently witness the debate of ‘Janata Parivaar and Left merger’.
    CPI(M) have done so many historical errors and the trend is still on the rise, as we notice and decode the interview given by new General Secretary Sitaram Yechury of the party.
    Unfortunately, even after facing the time of crisis Left seems to be reluctant on choosing the sides in the time when fight has become much worse than before and person like Prasenjit Bose has raised concern but that has also remained influenced by approach of self-interest ideology as I take into my cognizance the age of Prasenjit Bose into politics and the age of decay of the Left party which he enjoyed for quite a long time exactly in the same Bengal enjoying the politics of ‘Bhadralok’ than doing the mass movements and their politics.


  7. This is certainly a situation worth wondering that the Left in this country is still unable to understand where they went wrong.Left should have been synonymous with the fighting spirit of the working class but they seem content to be ‘seriously’theorising on the possibilities of working class movements only and its counter agents.We need not only an ideological base to do our politics but sincerely come on the ground from the perceived victories and moral high ground.The poor people of this country who are strained under the policies of neo-liberalism need a vanguard who is with them marching ahead which is nowhere in sight which is really painful.Comrades how many meetings will you call to just understand the face of the state and discuss on tactical lines of course correction.When the rot is not only visible but the stink is realisable from a distance the left led by CPI[M] seems to be oblivious of all this.I see the biggest politics of opportunism by the brahmanic left in india and sometimes pause to reconsider the allegation that why there are no leaders in pollit bureau and higher decision making bodies of the left parties from the different caste and ethnic groups of india.This takes me to one of my friend’s saying that brahmins have always been ahead in doing or initiating any new venture of social and political import so Brahmins are ahead in even criticising brahminism!

    At a time when the subversion of the nature of development is on the rise to suit the vested interests of a few at the cost of others the left should not only enlighten the people through efficient criticisms and discussions in the parliament but their incessant participation in the social movements of the people should be the way forward.But i find the Bengal unit of CPI[M] only having remorse of leaving congress party as the reason behind their rot.This smacks of their willingness to grab power back in the state only and no further change.

    I sincerely believe that the Left should go to teeming millions of people who are struggling day and night for their liberation without any support.One does not need to go far to seek such examples.The ISI private guards in JNU are denied holidays on Sunday and even not paid for that.If this consists of labour reforms then the left should think where it stands in a left campus as this symbolises the microcosm of the larger situation in India at present.


  8. On a even cursory observation, one can see that leftist organisations are active in almost every state agitating about different but interrelated issues. I have often wondered why don’t they come together and announce a coalition, like syriza, if not a party. I have often felt that kafila should take a lead on this issue. They need not lose their individual identities but merely add on their reports,articles and website a postscript identifying them as members of such a coalition. That’ll Atleast make people familiar with their names and possibly present an alternative to the current parties. If only!


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