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. Continue reading “On the Ongoing Debate in CPI(M): Dheeresh Saini”

The Left Non-debate on Fascism or How Not to Fight the Hindu Right

History never repeats itself. Neither as tragedy, nor as farce. Every historical situation is a singularity, a product of its conjuncture and the opening out of different possibilities – thus irreducible to any other. What becomes farcical is the attempt of historical actors to borrow their slogans, icons and ideas from specific pasts and their attempt to reenact them in conjunctures that are radically different. Indian communists, of course, have long had a penchant for re-enacting (or believing they are re-enacting) other histories and other revolutions. And yet, more often than not, they have simply operated on the margins, engaging in violent and heated debates, as if the course of history depended on how these debates were resolved – while other historical actors took centre-stage, actually steering the course of history.

For decades Indian communists debated the ‘class character of the Indian state’ and even though their descriptions of its effects often differed little (except for an emphasis here or an emphasis there), they themselves split many times over in trying to name the beast. They became one another’s bitterest enemies, throwing about labels like “revisionist”, “neo-revisionist”, “sectarian”, “adventurist” and so on. Ask the CPI, CPI(M) or CPI(ML) Liberation, who fought the 2015 Bihar elections together and are trying to come together on issues of common concern today, how invested they are in those characterizations and how relevant they find them for their joint activity today? The really honest answer would have to be that it is of no relevance, whatsoever,  whether the state is described as that of the national bourgeoisie, the bourgeois-landlord alliance or as a semi-feudal and semi-colonial one – especially where it concerns joint or common struggles. Indeed, many communists might cringe today if reminded of these characterizations over which not just barrels of ink but precious blood has been spilt in the past. And so it happened, that while communists occupied themselves with all this bloodletting, history passed them by. Not once or twice but repeatedly.

There is a sense of deja vu therefore, when the official Left (at least the CPI(M) and CPI) and many left intellectuals suddenly seem bent upon tearing each other to bits in simply trying to name the Modi/RSS/BJP phenomenon (hereafter referred to as Sanghism – a term I have explained elsewhere). It seems it is necessary to first “correctly” characterize the phenomenon before any fight can even be conceived – even though, I suspect, there will be little difference in the way the different protagonists actually describe it.

Kick-starting this great non-debate, former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat wrote in The Indian Express, a piece so befuddling that it left many people gasping: The Sanghist/ Modi dispensation, according to him, is “right -wing authoritarian” but not “fascist” and hence there is no need for broader resistance against it (my paraphrase of what is in fact a simple question of whether or not to have an electoral alliance with the Congress!) What was worse, he referred to what he called the “classic definition” (yes, definition!) of fascism, in order to make his point. What was simply a formulation made by Georgi Dimitrov and the Comintern in a specific context, is turned into a definition. Here is Karat’s “definition”: Fascism in power is “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” From this definition, he then proceeds to make his deductions about present day India:

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.

Every bit of this statement is an instance of formulaic thinking. As Jairus Banaji pointed out in a sharp riposte, calling Dimitrov’s formulation a “classic definition” is merely a way of suggesting that it was a code graven in stone, and therefore, not open to any critical scrutiny or examination. After all, how can you debate a definition? Banaji, in fact, made an important point in his response: fascism is not merely a conspiracy of finance capital but as later Marxists like Arthur Rosenberg and Wilhelm Reich repeatedly insisted, it was, above all, a mass movement. If one seriously ponders the implications of this claim, fascism’s relationship to capital – finance or otherwise – can hardly be seen as simple and straightforward any more. We will return to this point later. Continue reading “The Left Non-debate on Fascism or How Not to Fight the Hindu Right”

The Singur Judgement, End of Neoliberalism and the CPI(M) Comedy Show

The Supreme Court verdict on Singur land acquisition that eventually signaled the beginning of the end of CPI(M)-led Left Front’s 34 year long rule in West Bengal, has come as a breath of fresh air. It is especially so, because the advent of the Modi government at the Centre had succeeded in reinstating the logic of corporate development, brushing aside all concerns regarding environmental clearances to land acquisition, despite its attempts to undo the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 (LARR 2013), being effectively rebuffed. The implications of the Singur judgement go far beyond West Bengal, for the argument made by Justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra underlines one thing starkly: the “brunt of development” should not be borne by the “weakest sections of the society, more so, poor agricultural workers who have no means of raising a voice against the action of the mighty State government.” While the 204 page still waits to be read more closely, it is clear that the break that the Singur-Nandigram moment had already initiated in the neoliberal consensus among the political and state elite in 2006-7, continues to acquire legitimacy. Even the 2013 Act was a consequence of that break. The SC verdict recognizes that ‘growth’ and industrialization’ do not come without costs and who pays for those costs remains a key question at the end of the day.

Continue reading “The Singur Judgement, End of Neoliberalism and the CPI(M) Comedy Show”

Democratic Centralism – Public Issue, Private Debate: Rajinder Chaudhary

Guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY

Recent expulsion/resignation of Jagmati Sangwan from CPI(M) is reflective of organizational structure and functioning of the left. It has implications beyond the immediate specific issue of whether alignment of Party with the Congress in recently held Vidhan Sabha elections in Bengal was right or not, or for CPI(M) itself. At stake is principle of ‘democratic centralism’.  Jagmati Sangwan episode has reminded me of an episode of my student days in Panjab University in early 80’s. I was convener of ‘Democratic Students’ Forum’ an independent left leaning student group on the campus (with no link with any political party as such). I was convener but found that my opinion was most often than not a minority opinion. So, effectively I was doing things, implementing decisions that I did not agree with. After many months of very intense work, I expressed my desire to be relieved of the responsibility. This was not accepted. Friends tried to persuade me to change my mind and continue with the responsibility as I ‘was making very valuable contribution’. Organisational colleagues were also personal friends, rather the only personal friends. One had no life beyond the organization. So, there was both organizational as well personal/emotional appeal to continue with the post but I found it was too much to carry out decisions with which one personally differed on grounds of principle. I requested at least a break, a breather from hectic schedule for some time. But rather than accepting my request/resignation from the post of convener, I was “expelled” from the organisation.  And this was just a small, independent left leaning student group that called itself ‘democratic students’ forum’ rather than a unit of a communist party, which goes on to indicate that the problem is rather deep rooted and wide ranging. (I have cross checked my memory of this episode with some other key participants of this incident.) Continue reading “Democratic Centralism – Public Issue, Private Debate: Rajinder Chaudhary”

The ‘Congress Question’ in the CPI(M) and the Problem of Historical Relevance

The CPI(M) is currently being rocked by an internal ‘debate’ over what has emerged, to put it in somewhat old-style communist speak, the ‘Congress Question’. I put the word ‘debate’ in quotation marks because, there is a touch of innocence to the way positions in support of a possible alliance with the Congress are being expounded by respected, senior intellectuals like Irfan and Sayera Habib in their letter to the party politbureau or Badri Raina in his article in a leading newspaper. These statements follow the dramatic exit of another widely respected Central Committee (CC) member, Jagmati Sangwan, from the party for precisely the opposite reason – of the CC going soft on the Bengal CPM for having gone against the commonly arrived at understanding in allying with the Congress. There is undoubtedly a potential debate here but since the common reference point in both – the Habibs’ letter as well as in Raina’s article – happens to be the recent election in West Bengal, one cannot help feeling that it is either a  ‘debate’ over a non-problem or is, at best, a question badly posed.

I say this for two reasons. First, the West Bengal CPI(M) [henceforth CPM-WB] is not really fighting any principled battle – all its exertions in West Bengal, contra Irfan and Sayera Habib, are directed, not against the proto-fascist Modi regime but against the Trinamool Congress whose local party apparatus is substantially what it has inherited from the CPM-WB itself. In the present context of West Bengal, what is urgently required is a different Left platform (with different faces that speak a different language) that can take the place vacated by the CPM-WB. In the absence of any such alternative, nothing can prevent the BJP from emerging as the main opposition party – and if that happens, that will be the end of any kind of Left politics for a very long time to come. A ramshackle CPM-Congress alliance as the opposition to the TMC is the surest way of making the Left (even in name) irrelevant in the state’s politics. The CPM-WB’s desire for an alliance with the Congress is motivated not by the need to defeat the Modi regime’s incursions but rather to return to power any which way. This seemed such a distant dream before the elections that the latter was prepared to go into an alliance with the Congress and entertain the possibility of a joint Congress-CPM-WB ministry, even as junior partner, were electoral fortunes to be reversed by the coming into being of the alliance. Thankfully, this possibility seems ever so remote now, following the election results, despite the alliance that we need not worry about it anymore. Continue reading “The ‘Congress Question’ in the CPI(M) and the Problem of Historical Relevance”

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? Continue reading “CPI(M)’s 21st Congress – A Schizophrenic Outcome: Prasenjit Bose”

The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by RAVI SINHA

…it takes an error to father a sin. ─ J. Robert Oppenheimer[1]

Future historians of India may well describe the past year as a year of political sin. This was the year in which the man who had earlier presided over the Gujarat Carnage was awarded the ultimate prize. The year saw an election that touched a new low marked by shallowness, vulgarities and lies – in no small measure by the labors of the man himself. Equally appalling have been the exertions of a large class of literati and glitterati to portray philistinism and inanities spouted by the most powerful mouth as wisdom of a visionary leader.

An entire country seems to have gone blind – unable to see that the emperor has no clothes. In this age of incessant television it should be obvious to anyone that the supreme leader does not carry conviction even when enunciating relatively higher banalities. He is at his natural best only when he mocks someone as a shehzada or slanders and vilifies an entire community through phrases such as ame paanch, amara pachees. It is an irony of history that the republic which had Nehru as its first prime minister has one now for whom even common mythology is too cerebral. He must vulgarize Pushpak Viman and Ganesha and reduce them to quackeries of aviation and surgery.

Misfortune of the nation goes beyond the man. Forces of the diabolic housed in the hydra-headed Parivaar can now accomplish the impossible. They can now occupy the political center stage without leaving off the lunatic fringe. They can adopt Gandhi without renouncing Godse; erect world’s tallest statue of a leader who had punished their forefathers for assassinating Gandhi; even co-opt Bhagat Singh without batting an eyelid about what he stood for and what he had to say about ideologies like theirs. They can further refine the art of doublespeak. Their “statesmen” can pave the way for corporate plunder and call it sab ka vikas (development for all). Their “ideologues” can advocate sab ka saath (inclusion of all) by exhorting Hindu women to give birth to a minimum of four children each, lest Hindus are reduced to a minority “in their own country”. Continue reading “The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha”