There is no way of discussing the ongoing crisis in AAP without being blunt and frank. The terrain of politics is, after all, a brutal and treacherous one. So let me put it without mincing words. The ongoing crisis in AAP is not just about ‘differences of opinion’ or ‘toleration of dissent’ but a power struggle. And before squeamish liberal stomachs start churning, let me also add – power struggles are not always only about power in and of itself. Sometimes they are, but quite often they have to do with alternative visions, imaginations and of course, contrary interests. It is only likely that every serious political party or organization will, if it has any life in it, be faced with a struggle over any or all of these matters, for what is politics if not about steering the party/ movement in the direction one understands to be the best course. And these alternative visions, imaginations, policies and interests are inseparable from the position of individual personalities involved. Individual ambitions are pretty much the stuff of politics and it is unrealistic to expect to see a politics without all of this. The will to power is not exactly a self-effacing virtue.
For this reason, factions and platforms are inevitable in all political formations and it is best to recognize them as legitimate entities and have open public debate, on matters at stake. These cannot be matters of concern to only a small group of leaders in the National Executive and Political Affairs Committee (in AAP’s case) or in Politburos and Central Committees (in the case of communist parties). So, if collective deliberations are important in the apex committees, they would do well to be preceded by a public debate among different tendencies within the organization. At one level, this means moving away from the party-form itself to the form of a platform or coalition, where the different groupings and ideological currents are honestly and openly recognized, as are the personal inclinations and angularities of each individual leader.
This longish preface should make it very clear that my concerns here have nothing to do with the usual liberal platitudes about ‘amicably and democratically’ resolving ‘difference of opinion’. A political movement or party is not an academic seminar. Every such struggle, in the final analysis, is a power struggle – so is the current one in AAP. And there can be no doubt that both sides in this conflict are deeply involved in it. Decoding the stakes in the absence of a clear public debate, apart from selective leaks in the press, is not an easy task. But it does not involve rocket science either. One can read the signs, one can read between the lines of the narratives from both sides that have emerged, howsoever partially, in the media. What follows below, though, is a reading quite different from the ones inundating the media about intolerance of dissent. Continue reading Reading the Power Struggle in AAP