On the Ongoing Debate in CPI(M): Dheeresh Saini

Guest Post by DHEERESH SAINI

“In India today, neither has fascism been established, nor are the conditions present — in political, economic and class terms — for a fascist regime to be established. There is no crisis that threatens a collapse of the capitalist system; the ruling classes of India face no threat to their class rule. No section of the ruling class is currently working for the overthrow of the bourgeois parliamentary system. What the ruling classes seek to do is to use forms of authoritarianism to serve their class interests,”

-Prakash Karat

When CPI(M) was under the stewardship of now deceased, voluntarily or forcefully retired leaders, young leaders-workers would say that when young leaders (who were actually middle aged then) like Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury take over, the party would zoom on to its real revolutionary track. Karat was always considered more principled and genuine between the two. Yechury has now succeeded Karat as the topmost leader. Meanwhile, the situation of the party that prided itself in waging nationwide struggle against the fascist forces went from bad to worse in West Bengal considered as its fort. In the present scenario, any party considered as progressive or secular, would be bound to face such situation. But it is disappointing to see CPI(M) hog the headlines, in such tough times, on account of constant tussle between its two stars considered most resplendent.

Even one of the oldest leaders Achyutanandan had to face public ignominy many a times. It became impossible to brush these  open machinations aside as yellow journalism or cynicism, when about three months ago Central Committe member and General Secretary of AIDWA Jagmati Sangwan came out of the Central Committee’s meeting fuming and announced her resignation from all party posts and membership in presence of media. While discussing the staggering loss in West Bengal Assembly elections, Jagmati objected to the verbiage used in the resolution related to alliance with Congress, By using mild words, according to Jagmati, there was an attempt to cover up the mistake committed in Bengal. It was also believed that Jagmati turned so aggressive because she belonged to Karat camp. By the way, in Jagmati’s case too, the party repeated its tradition of expelling those who have themselves resigned. A discord continued to exist within the party over this issue of alliance with Congress. But, amidst the ongoing discussions about legitimacy or otherwise, of alliance with Congress, Karat issued a certificate to BJP and Sagh Parivar that “In India today, neither has fascism been established, nor are the conditions present — in political, economic and class terms — for a fascist regime to be established……. What the ruling classes seek to do is to use forms of authoritarianism to serve their class interests,”

This statement by a top leader of India’s largest Communist Party was naturally numbing. And this was not a matter of a sudden ‘slip of tongue’, it was duly published as an opinion piece in a newspaper. According to Outlook Hindi –

Irfan Habib had questioned party’s political-tactical line in a scathing letter written to CPI(M) politburo. Irfan Habib feels that ‘CPI(M) should think about ways to stop fascist forces like BJP and Sangh Parivar and should not indulge in meaningless discussion about Congress.’ In its response, Prakash Karat has opined that ‘ “In India today, neither has fascism been established, nor are the conditions present — in political, economic and class terms — for a fascist regime to be established. There is no crisis that threatens a collapse of the capitalist system; the ruling classes of India face no threat to their class rule. No section of the ruling class is currently working for the overthrow of the bourgeois parliamentary system. What the ruling classes seek to do is to use forms of authoritarianism to serve their class interests. In these situations, CPI(M) does not need anybody. CPI(M)’s like of class-struggle is enough.”

Karat could have simply said that an alliance with Congress makes no sense in the light of all the past experiences like electoral alliance in West Bengal,supporting the UPA Government and the Congress’ political-economic policies. CPI(M) does not need anybody. He could have juxtaposed the traditional dictum that CPI(M)’s line of class-struggle is enough. Was it not going to be enough to oppose potential alliance with Congress?  But he, perhaps, just needed to issue a certificate to BJP-RSS and it seems unlikely that he was unaware that this very thing would be in the spotlight and would lead to controversy. The question is- what was the reason behind it. Did he intend to pass on a message to Hindu people amidst the widespread influence Sangh’s Hindutva movements yield all over the country. After all, all the parties that are known as secular have acknowledged that in the changed circumstances, a very strict principled stand on the matter of atrocities against the Muslims is futile in terms of electoral politics. CPI(M) had failed to regain poor Muslim masses’ confidence in West Bengal Assembly elections. In Kerala, P. Vijayan, who is considered to be Karat’s confidante, had expressed commitment to turn Kerala into ‘A Truly God’s Own Country’ in newspaper advertisements even before he was sworn in. Sangh’s growing influence in South would have led Vijayan and Company to feel that they may have to take on BJP and not Congress in future Kerala. There is probably some reason why, on one hand, Kerala’s CPI(M) government is taking tough measures about Sangh’s Shakhas and, on the other, Karat is writing suchwords in party’s Malyalam mouthpiece that has biggest circulation in the state.

Despite all ups and downs witnessed, its disturbing to think about the blow this would have delivered to the secular activists who have maintained a relationship of hope with CPIM and outsiders who believe in the Party. Party’s Central Committee or the General Secretary could have quickly steered clear of karat’s statement. But the cliched ‘It’s his personal opinion and the party does not agree with it’ was also not resorted to. Some were of the opinion that Karat’s statement was part of the onging turmoil related to top leadership. But instead of responding, West Bengal unit too kept mum. Does it mean that the West Bengal unit and Yechury, who is considered its patron, were afraid that openly contending Karat’s statement may generate a debate that can alienate West Bengal’s Hindu Elite and Hindu middle classes? Whatever the compulsion was, has party leadership’s silence not put Karat’s statement (which, according to a very senior comrade, is like a bad patch on Karat’s face ) right on the party’s face? Shouldn’t we believe now that this is the party line?

‘The line of class-struggle is enough’ has broad appeal for leadership from mostly every region. While the fascist gangs are carrying out mass murders and rapes as festivities wherever, whenever and for no reason as they please, constitutional institutions are being rendered meaningless, it is probably more convenient to shout slogans like ‘Long Live Workers’ Unity’’ and then shut your eyes. Otherwise what was the reason that even the party cadre went silent on their leader’s statement? After all, isn’t protesting also a cardholder’s obligation? But a vast section of intellectuals that itself was saying consistently that a fascist siege is complete and it is unprecedented in many ways that democracy has been turned into a farce even without imposing Emergency, that the fascists have abducted the conscience of our masses, that the media and many domestic-foreign capitalist clans, so many crooks and various lumpen groups are standing beside the fascists, that the country has been put on war-hysteria, that the conditions in many states have turned as if a war is on against the masses themselves, that the dignity of country, all the resource have been put on mortgage, so and on so forth.Yes, a vast section of intellectuals, that was warning us against the fascists, suddenly got petrified. In the wake of party leader’s statement, were they required to delete all that they had written or said earlier?. Were they obligated to collect arguments in defense of that statement? Or they had to die an asphyxiating death as always, just like Bhishm for being bound to Hastinapur’s throne.

But when long practice compels big names to keep mum, somebody still speaks up. JNUSU’s former president Kanhaiya said – ‘A senior leftist leader, who is also a former president of JNUSU, has said that Modi government is authoritarian but not fascist. My advice to this comrade is to retire and go to New York if he doesn’t wish to fight anymore, we will fight our own battle.”  Whatver the second or third rung people were made to say in response to this, was full of fret and fume, like ‘Kanhaiya, a rookie, a poster boy, over-exuberant, got into sudden limelight, needs to understand his limits, fascism, fascism, huh, bourgeois’. But Kanhaiya himself is undergoing struggle and torment, so making fun of him was proving counter-productive. This was the same Kanhaiya, whom the CPI(M) was so eager to be on their election campaigns. The fact of the matter is, neither this young man’’s present struggle nor his question would become meaningless, even if his future goes decadent. In fact, Kanhaiya’s words of advice had hit hard. A gentleman wrote that should we compromise Congress with corrupt regional parties as advised by Kanhaiya. It could have been asked that wasn’t your party doing the same thing all along? But what was remarkable is, in the phrases used in responding to Kanhaiya, communalism was being referred to as a false alam. The strike of September 2nd was being invoked that struggles of labour i.e. class-struggle is the only way. Midlle class issues cannot be given preference. This was the pinnacle of intellectual decay, betrayal and shamelessness. All those killed in mass murders, raped women, children thrown in raging fires, were they all a middle class issue?

Jairus Banaji’s scathing response to Karat was also met with silence for several days. Now Vijay Prashad has finally come up with a rejoinder, but that too dodges the basic question and talks about September 2nd Strike, class struggle and definitions of fascism. You would remember that in the aftermath of Babri demolition, firstly before the BJP’s coallition goverment in Center and then after Gujarat violence, until Modi became the head of a full majority government, it was said that the country is so diverse and her secular framework is so strong that the BJP would never gain enough majority to call the shots. Talking about Modi itself gives more strength to him, this was the advice going around. Karat and his intellectual team are not only repeating the same things now, but are coming up with ridiculous things anew.

“There is no imminent crisis to the fractured and complex Indian bourgeoisie, nor is there any indication that the BJP government has the stomach to move against the Constitution or even towards an Emergency regime. The BJP pushes its right-wing agenda, but it is hampered by a host of political adversaries – not only political parties, but also pressure groups and mass sentiment that will not allow it to enact its complete agenda. The fact that one hundred and eighty million workers went on strike shows that there remains wide opposition to the BJP’s ‘labour reform’ agenda, one that is otherwise quite acceptable to large sections of the parliamentary opposition (including the Congress Party).”

Though this has been answered above and there is really no need to repond that there are possibilties that the BJP will move against the Constitution or will impose Emergency. And is it necessary to impose Emergency to do all this? Whatever was written or said by your leaders and intellectuals in the past and those pages from your newspapers, shouldn’t all that be put in front of you? Is there a need to talk separately about the current circumstances and outcomes of regional parties and pressure groups? And mass sentiment? Isn’t all this being played in the name of mass sentiment? Aren’t people being murdered in their own houses in the name of same mass sentiment? Do you remember that ‘the collective conscience of society’ was invoked even in a ruling for capital punishment?

 Now you come up with a discovery that the ideology of RSS is not fascist but semi-fascist. Because “it can never hope to achieve hegemony over the popular imagination, but has to impose its fascistic ideology from above, through the institutions, by manipulation of the media, by deceit rather than by the creation of conviction.” I wish just this part were true. Sangh has always belived more in ‘popular imagination’ than occupying media and various institutions. Or one can say that it was this path that enabled Sangh to reach this position where capitalist forces and the USA can trust that the BJP has better potential than Congress to implement their agenda without any inhibitions. By influencing popular imagination or by synchronising with the trash which was already lying there, Sangh has been able to attain the position where it can occupy and operate various institutions. The reality is- in spite of being such a big party with a history of struggles, CPI(M) and other secular forces have failed spectacularly on this front.

“Fissures along caste and regional lines are too deep to allow the RSS to dig its roots into the Indian popular imagination. If it elevates Hindi, it will alienate Tamils. If it pushes the Ram Mandir, it does not speak as loudly to Bengalis as those who read Tulsidas. The BJP – the electoral arm of the Parivar – finds it hard to break into regions of India where the RSS is not as powerful. It makes alliances. These are opportunistic. These alliances strengthen the BJP in Delhi, but do not allow it to penetrate the popular consciousness elsewhere.”

You got to be naive to believe all this. Sangh has been the biggest benficiary of the fissures along caste and regionalism. Despite its proclaimed hatred for Dalits and backwards and principled opposition to reservations, Sangh has proved time and again that it has the potential to utilize them in its campaigns. It can use hatred towards one caste In one part of a region and hatred towards another caste in other part of almost the same region. The study of riots in Haryana and Western UP could be helpful to you. North-East, Bengal, South, where is it that it’s not strong? In fact, the kind of creation or utilization of common sense that Sangh has done and the kind of material that consistently disseminated via Whatsapp and other Social Media and the effect it has, don’t you have any idea of that? It’s not that there were (or are) no possiblities altogether, but either no work was done on this front in earnest, or was carried forward in passing.

“When the BJP is on the RSS’s (and VHP’s) turf, then matters are different. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002 took place in a setting where the RSS and the VHP had prepared the terrain.”

What can be said about this? Where exactly is the BJP not on RSS’s (and yes, VHP is the same) turf? Wherever the BJP doesn’t seem strong on its own, there too, RSS is either in process of laying the turf or has already done so. Aren’t you aware that this is the case in the North-East, in Kerala and Bengal as well? Many a times, it tactically allows other parties to play on the same turf.

Who would object to your preference to wage a solitary struggle and shun liaising with Congress?  Under question is this line of yours-

“In India today, neither has fascism been established, nor are the conditions present — in political, economic and class terms — for a fascist regime to be established. There is no crisis that threatens a collapse of the capitalist system; the ruling classes of India face no threat to their class rule. No section of the ruling class is currently working for the overthrow of the bourgeois parliamentary system. What the ruling classes seek to do is to use forms of authoritarianism to serve their class interests,”

and your arguments in its defence. On the pretext of ‘the line of class struggle is enough’, you kept turning blind eye to questions of Dalits and women. They were conspicuous by their absence from your leadership and you kept losing credibility among those sections in spite of various struggles you waged. A question was posed to you consistently and now more so with reference to Sachchar Commission’s report, that why the condition of Muslims and other weaker sections remained pitiable in West Bengal even though you ruled it for so many years. And where were you when terrifying oppression commenced in tribal areas? Soni Sori was not a Naxalite. If she were a Naxalite or even a Sangh activist, why did your Women’s cell kept quiet even after the ghastly act of shoving stones in a woman’s vagina had attracted media attention? What is the reason that despite your large posse of intellectuals, it would be silence all over on complex issues and you couldn’t stand authentic voices like Arundhati Roy’s? Do you know that credibility is the thing that is more valuable for the Left than forming the government? And are you aware that you are losing the very thing in the recent episode?

As far as September 2nd Strike is concerned, Vivas to you! But if you use this and the participation of ‘one hundred and eighty million’ people in it to defend Karat’s line, which seems to be the party line now, you will have to be reminded that it comprised a section of that middle class and those who have become upper class by the dint of money earned in government jobs, and in the name of not giving prefrence to which, your people claim that communalism is a false alarm. And in spite of their participation in the strike and shouting slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, this section does not have these questions in its priorities. A larger number of those who cry ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ for wage hike has been voting for the BJP. This is true, to a certain extent, for the weaker sections of working class as well. The reason behind saying all this is not to put a question mark on the movement, but to remind that you cannot use this as an excuse for and defence of veering down a wrong path.

(Translated from the original Hindi article by Dheeresh Saini)

3 thoughts on “On the Ongoing Debate in CPI(M): Dheeresh Saini

  1. Shamsher Singh

    So what are Mr Dheeresh Saini’s views on the character of the current regime in India? Which are the forces or political entities which he thinks should be brought together to fight this fascist/authoritarian, he can also pick his own terminology and define it for us, electorally and beyond? I think it will be good if he shares his position on the issue of having/not having an alliance with Congress rather than making the ongoing debate about two leaders or camps within CPI(M).
    I am amused to read that he expects Karat to write and articulate in his words and then expects a statement (in his own words and sentence) from Yechury.
    It would have been also useful for him to read and understand the arguments made by Vijay Prashad in his rejoinder to Banaji.

  2. One need not worry about what is transpiring between the two stars of the CPM.The only concern is what will happen to the party itself.Its history is replete with numerous twists and turns,Its leadership and cadre has all along stumbled and survived somehow.the fate it has met during the last a few years was overdue.I think it should be left to itself

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