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”

Democratic centralism – ‘freedom of thought (sic.) and unity in action’? Rajinder Chaudhary

This is a guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY; you can view his previous post on democratic centralism, on Kafila here.

The title of this note uses a quotation from ‘On Democratic Centralism’ by Com Prakash Karat carried in The Marxist, XXVI, 1, January-March 2010. This piece by the then General Secretary of the CPI(M) and the constitution of CPI(M) available on its official site (as updated in October 2015) throws interesting insights into operationalisation of the principle of democratic centralism, which recently once again came into public view in the Jagmati Sangwan episode. (All quotations henceforth are from either of these two documents.)

            Prima facie ‘unity in action’ appears quite desirable but is it really so in all situations? Does it require to ‘bind the entire collective into implementing that decision’ in all situations as Karat argues, or ‘the individual shall subordinate himself to the will of the collective’ as article XIII 1(b) of party constitution requires? Do all actions-decisions that a communist party undertakes in a parliamentary democracy like ours are of the war like situation requiring marshalling of all resources without exception? Obviously, all organisational decisions cannot be equally crucial to require binding the whole organization to it. Why can’t there be freedom of action where some members or units decide to focus on health issues and others on educational issues, and some may refrain from either? Why can’t some members/units try particular tactics of organization, follow a calendar of their own and others a different one? If it sounds that one is stretching the centralism aspect a bit too far, it may be noted that Karat points out that the ‘democracy is practiced, before the conference when the political line is being formulated. Centralism comes in when the line is being implemented’, ‘when the party is formulating its policies, at the time of conferences etc., there will be democracy in action, free discussions within the party forums. Once a call for action is given, the aspect of centralism will predominate’. As if defining the political line once in three years, clinches everything and thereafter, on no other issues independent and dencentralised decisions can be taken. In fact article XXXIII of the party constitution, makes it explicit that democratic centralism means “the centralised leadership based on inner-Party democracy under the guidance of the centralised leadership”. There is a whole article on “Inner-Party Discussions” (article XXI) which states thatState Committee can initiate inner-Party discussion on an important question of Party policy concerning that particular State… with the approval of the Central Committee” (emphasis added). So, even discussion at state level on state issues can only be initiated with the approval of the Central Committee (and off course format has to be approved too). This amply clarifies the meaning of ‘freedom of thought (sic.) and unity in action’ and where emphasis lies in ‘democratic centralism’. No wonder many times one has come across situation where Party members are just curious to know what the party line on particular issue was and not the detailed arguments and would not speak on a current issue until unless party line was clear.

Continue reading “Democratic centralism – ‘freedom of thought (sic.) and unity in action’? Rajinder Chaudhary”

Mad Rush for Top CPM Jobs!: CPI (Mohammad Rafi) News Service

Guest Post by CPI ( Mohammad Rafi) News Service

Mad Rush for Top CPM Jobs!:  CPI (Mohammad Rafi) News Service

New Delhi, 15 July 2012: The CPI(M) headquarters saw a mad rush of job applicants after General Secretary Prakash Karat said in a magazine interview that his party paid Rs. 3000-4000 to its whole-time cadre as salary every month. Job seekers from around the country clamoured for immediate appointment to as full time party cadre amidst unruly scenes reminiscent of a typical day at the Indian Parliament.

Karat had mentioned this figure while answering a question as to why the Party’s leaders were mostly from upper caste and middle class backgrounds. According to the CPM General Secretary working class members were hesitant to become whole-timers as ‘ it’s not easy to survive on this small amount’. Continue reading “Mad Rush for Top CPM Jobs!: CPI (Mohammad Rafi) News Service”

Did You Say ‘US Imperialism’, Prakash Karat? Sankar Ray

Guest post by SANKAR RAY

The CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and the Left Front chairman Biman Bose deserve thanks for referring to the WikiLeaks revelation about the US enthusiasm in seeing a change of guard at the Writers’ Buildings, the seat of the Government of West Bengal.

Prakash Karat, CPM general secretary
Prakash Karat, CPM general secretary, courtesy rediff.com

Quoting the cable no 230353 10/20/2009, Mr Karat conveyed the gist of it as follows: “Since the May 2009 parliamentary elections elevated West Bengal’s regional party, All India Trinamool Congress, from obscurity to the second largest constituent party in the United Progressive Alliance, its leader, Mamata Banerjee, has conscientiously sought to re-brand herself as West Bengal’s Chief Minister-in-Waiting. She is using the considerable administrative resources at her disposal as Railway’s Minister, political resources as leader of the state opposition party, and personal resources to initiate this transformation. Supporters and critics acknowledge the new image, but question whether it is indeed a new product, or simply new packaging. Backed by a large parliamentary constituency and allied with the ruling Congress party, Banerjee’s Trinamool is well placed to win the 2011 state assembly elections if she can continue along her current path of self-restraint and avoid making any mistakes along the way.” For details, the reader has to visit http://pragoti.org, even though it’s unabashedly pro-CPI(M).

The CPI(M) supremo observed that the AITC brass “is very much within private outreach. I’m in no position unfortunately to investigate and tell you what they are doing to fulfill this general direction they’ve given in the cable”.

Continue reading “Did You Say ‘US Imperialism’, Prakash Karat? Sankar Ray”

The Commissar in his Labyrinth

Prakash Karat, Gen Sec, CPI(M), photo courtesy The Hindu
Prakash Karat, Gen Sec, CPI(M), photo courtesy The Hindu

Look carefully at this grey, arrogant and humourless face: The face of the Commissar, who on 22 July went into Lenin-in-October 1917 mode, predicting an uprising in the country if the Indo-US Nuclear Deal was pushed through. However much one might have sympathized with the man and his party on this issue, there was something strange and inexplicable in the game he started playing at that point. At least publicly, that seemed to have been the beginning. For those who have known him and his ways from closer quarters, know him to be an utterly vindictive man with a blood-curdinlingly cold and calculating mind. Ruthless inside the party, he was now playing out this same game outside. His stance on Somnath Chatterjee (and let there be no mistake, it was entirely his), leading to the latter’s expulsion, was just an instance of his style. This time he made a serious error. Continue reading “The Commissar in his Labyrinth”

The red mongoose in solemn procession: Samkutty Pattomkary

[This guest post by SAMKUTTY PATTOMKARY responds to the ongoing debate in Kafila on the Chengara issue. -AN]

Reading through the discussions on Chengara in kafila, some thoughts I felt I need to articulate as follows.

It comes out vividly through the Chengara struggle that a large section of people remain alienated from social and political powers in the so-called democratic society of Kerala. Why is it not possible for the ‘class proponents’ to see and engage themselves in working towards solving the issue politically? Continue reading “The red mongoose in solemn procession: Samkutty Pattomkary”