Left out of the great Indian ‘Tamasha’

Posted on June 15, 2009

2



 

—-  Pratyush

The illiterate Indian population when it comes to making political choice are prone to prove the high and might intellectuals with their know all attitude and who view entire Indian polity through the prism of coalition politics, caste equations and regional diversities wrong not once but umpteen times. The same happened with the results of the recently concluded elections for 15th Lok Sabha (India’s lower house of parliament).

The ‘mainstream’ corporate media that till all the time was jeering towards a hung parliament with the Indian National Congress led UPA loosing seats while the rightist Bhartiya Janata Party led NDA gaining some, and on the whole predicting a hung parliament are now cheering for the almost absolute majority that the UPA got. They are touting this as a victory for the neo-liberal reforms seen as one taking India closer to the glamour of capitalist world. The bourgeoisie hireling media during the entire course of previous Lok Sabha were sulking on the lack of reforms due to Left’s obstruction. Even today when the world over people are seeing the after effects of the brazen free market reform the media truly subservient to their bourgeoisie masters are still harping for a free market reforms.

Parliamentary Left’s Bourgeoisie Politics

It is beyond doubt that the results have come as big surprise to the parliamentary Left (led by the revisionist CPI-M and the much older and largely redundant CPI). What is surprising is that this drubbing came at a time when the global capitalist order is going through its worst phase and world over there is a perceptible rise in Left wing politics.

From their all time high of 61 seats that they bagged in the general election in 2004 their tally has come to record low of 24. The Left’s 2004 electoral tally was a mere coincidence and not an outcome of any political struggle. Yet the Narcissist leadership of official left far removed from the ground reality concluded the result as something permanent and started dreaming of coming to power by cobbling together a potpourri of disparate power hungry politicians no better than their partners in the two ‘national’ alliance. This attempt of popping a Third Front proved to be a ‘Third Farce’ meeting the same fate like its previous two avatars in the mid nineties. The shameless electoral manoeuvre of co-opting with the reactionary bourgeoisie leaders like Mayawati (BSP) Jayalaitha (AIADMK) and providing secular credential to Naveen Patnaik (BJD of Orissa) who till few months ago was happily cohabitating with BJP and other Hindutva groups further alienated the masses from the hypocritical polity of the Left. This entire exercise to form the Third front since beginning was nothing but an insane anti-Congress and anti-BJP rhetoric, having no agenda to further the cause of working class or peasantry.

In the left stronghold states of Kerala, west Bengal and Tripura, barring Tripura Left have lost in both Kerala and West Bengal. In other parts of country the Left has been perceptibly weak and has done nothing to remove its historical weakness, the mandarins of CPI and CPM have magical solution for the entire ills of the world they have till date not been able to solve the class-caste dichotomy of the large tracts of Indian heartland. Though the area has witnessed several people’s movement but there has hardly been any leading role taken up by the two parliamentary ‘communist’ parties[1]. On the other hand they have been seen leaving the working class and peasantry in lurch as happened in Gurgaon where the CPI’s trade union wing left the workers in the hands of goons hired by the management of Japanese multinational Honda and the state police, while the national union Leadership eloped — lock stock and barrel.

Both the ‘communist’ parties today have degenerated into another bourgeoisie vote catching outfit and have lost their historic role of being an advance guard of proletariats and its allies the peasantry. CPI and CPM are looked by the average people as another political party and same has been the case with the urban and rural proletariats also. The leadership of the party have also been doing nothing else but politics of winning parliamentary and assembly seats, aligning with this or that bourgeoisie political outfits.

The only sensible alliance that the Left parties entered into was in Bihar and to some extent in Jharkhand. In Bihar which has been a hot bed of revolutionary left politics CPI, CPI (M) and CPI (ML) Liberation formed a United Left Block (ULB). Though, by far more logical activity than that of Third Front; the ULB since start was not supposed to make any significant headway. Years of tailism has reduced, the CPI and CPI (M) to shadow parties of the RJD in Bihar while the Liberation by not joining hands with the RJD, was just able to maintain its separate identity in the political field. Though Liberation; has lost its major support base that it had gained during its armed struggle days. In fact party in its recently held congress openly admitted that liquidationist tendencies are gaining ground. The new generation of the party cadres are coming not from grassroots but from premiere universities like JNU are more inclined towards post-modernist ideology. They carry all sorts of anti-Marxist notion with themselves which at the end harming the movement and making it rudderless and directionless. More or less same is happening with party also. Liberation the latest entrant into the parliamentary club may also become the first major Trotskyite political formation having any significant though dwindling ground support.

Though Left parties have been decimated in both their stronghold of West Bengal and Kerala, the reason for the defeat are quite different.

Where as in Kerala the government is still popular and have not been seen openly chartering a neo liberalist path and the Chief Minister V S Ach is seen as an upright principled man. But the internal squabbling and factionalism has not only badly affected the functioning of the party, but also the central leadership chose to side with the corrupt and neo liberal-leaning faction of P. Vijayan. The pro-capital activities of this group, such as the SNS Lavlin scandal where Vijayan is an accused, acceptance of huge monetary contributions from S. Martin, the “lottery king” of Kerala and the blocking of the land requisition drive against the Tatas in Munnar, have only reinforced the pro-capital image of the party in the eyes of the people. Also CPI M’s hobnobbing with Islamic communal PDP did not augur well with the secular mass base of the party. During the seat sharing CPI M displeased some of its smaller allies like the CPI and Janata Dal (Secular) that also caused rupture in the hitherto monolithic Left Democratic Front. The ruckus over seat sharing and the way it was projected in the media made the front look like a replica of Congress led United Democratic Front, alienating a large chunk of the undecided neutral votes. The state of Left Front in Kerala would be dealt with in another article.

The CPI (M) in West Bengal: Leftist when in opposition Rightist when in power

The real debacle for the CPI(M) came in West Bengal, it got its worst drubbing in three decades with its own tally getting reduced to only nine. Bhuddhadev Bhattacharya’s Left front government in its eagerness to hug the capitalists nudged the peasant & proletariats, who in turn dumped him in the elections. The people have thoroughly rejected the conversion of CPI (M) from a social democratic party to that of agent of national and international finance capital.

If nationally the CPM and its allies have been resisting neo liberal reforms, yet the same CPI (M) and its other punitive partners had no qualms in implementing the same neo liberal reforms in West Bengal. Their CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had no issues in hugging Tata’s and Salem. Latter being involved in; execution of hundreds of communists in Indonesia.

In name of industrialisation the CPM government was happy to give away with hundreds of acres of fertile land perhaps best quality agrarian land of the country at throw away price to Tata. When the people protested they even did not blink an eye to shoot the poor peasants and rural proletariats their support base for decades and terming them as reactionaries.

The CPM boss Prakash Karat has been lecturing and writing long articles on the exploitation in SEZs across the country but same Karat has no qualm in declaring SEZs in Bengal as ‘progressive’. Isn’t it Indian version of Khrushchev?

Commenting on the capitulation of the CPI M leaders to the camp of neo liberalism Ashok Mitra the well known left analyst and Finance minister in the First Left Front government in W.B observed[2]:

The main poll issue in West Bengal was the state government’s policy of capitalist industrial growth; events in Singur and Nandigram were offshoots of that policy. Many sections, including staunch long-time supporters of the Left cause, had been shocked by the cynical nonchalance initially exhibited by the state government on police firing on women and children in Nandigram. A series of other faux pas was committed in its wake, including the messy affair of the Tata small car project. The electorate reached its conclusion on the government’s putting all its eggs in the Nano basket. Once the Tatas departed, the state administration was dubbed not only insensitive, but incompetent as well. Questions have continued to be raised one after another: was it really necessary to take over fertile land at Singur, why could not the Tatas be prevailed upon to choose an alternative site, why did not the state government apply adequate pressure on the United Progressive Alliance regime in New Delhi — which was assumed to depend upon Left support for survival — to pass the necessary legislation so that land belonging to closed factories could be taken over to locate new industries? And why the state government was reluctant to lobby earnestly in the national capital for adequate resources from centrally controlled public financial institutions to the state exchequer, which could have ensured industrial expansion in the public domain itself — whether this reluctance was merely due to lack of resources or because of a deeper ideological reason such as a loss of faith in socialistic precepts and practices.

A number of other unsavoury facts also need to be laid bare. A state government does not have too much of funds or other spoils to distribute. But in a milieu where feudal elements co-inhabit with the petit bourgeoisie, persons in a position to dispense only little favours can also attract fair-weather friends and gather sycophants around them. Concentric circles of favour-rendering develop fast. Merit necessarily takes a backseat in official decisions. Corruption, never mind how small-scale, creeps in. Nepotism, sprouting at the top, gradually infects descending rungs of administration, including the panchayats. Much of all this has taken place of late within the precincts of the Left regime. The net effect is a steep decline in the quality of governance. The fall in efficiency is illustrated by the inept handling of programmes like the rural employment guarantee scheme. To make things worse, all this has been accompanied by a kind of hauteur which goes ill with radical commitment.

Unfortunately some of the Trotskyite in India (for instance see the blog New Wave  new-wave-nw.blogspot.com[3]), in their all encompassing rage towards Stalinist principle and to ascribe everything wrong to Stalin, have been calling these and several such measures taken by the CPI(M) as ‘Stalinist policies’ and have termed CPI(M) a Stalinist party. Does the step taken up by the party in West Bengal constitute Stalinism or revisionism?

Would our learned friends—the firm defender of Bolshevism, care us to show from the collected works of Stalin or of people whom they call as Stalinists where they have endorsed such practice? If they can show this, only then they would have the right to indulge in such misleading phrase mongering.

The process of restoration of capitalism and undermining the philosophy of Marxism Leninism was initiated during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev era, when they had undertaken effort to undermine the gains from the Stalin period and move away from the Leninist principle– that is why they constitute revisionism.

The signs of impending disaster were very much evident. In the Panchayat elections held in 2008, CPI M and allies had got similar drubbing, but the valid point is why CPI M that boasts of cadre in every village was not able to gauge the impending debacle? This point has been summed up in following word by a CPM sympathiser

“But the whole point in case here is how come we were not aware about this very strong anti-incumbency wave blowing all over the place in the state. That leaves the whole organization high and dry, and clearly shows either our comrades have lost touch with the grass root, or people have deserted the party cadres in such a way that they even didn’t open up in front of our cadres about their anguish and anger. They preferred to show their wrath against the party through ballot, and this phenomenon, if true, is quite chilly. Whereas a communist party is supposed to be with the people like a fish in water [sic]. Probably if our party could have anticipated a rout in the elections, we would have been much happier today; at least it would have showed we haven’t lost touch with the reality.” (http://www.pragoti.org/node/3435#comment-2312 )

Three Decades of ‘communist’ rule in West Bengal

Here it would not be out of context to check the score card of the three decades of Left Front rule in West Bengal.

In 1977, CPI(M) came to power riding the anti congress wave, immediately on ascending to power the party declared that it would try to implement the socialist model despite the odds it faces in bourgeoisie democratic setup. It loudly had then proclaimed that its government would implement alternative path of economic development based on Marxist ideology. Bengal model was to be the show piece that CPI-M wanted to replicate nation wide. But these three decades of ‘communist’ rule excepting some limited land reforms that it achieved during the initial days of its power the next two decades has been a lost era for Bengal that has lead to the cul-de-sac of economic stagnation.

The land reform also is also not without its own problems. The reform has resulted in fragmented land holding that today has become largely uneconomical. Then here is the problem of agrarian landless workers and the share croppers or the Bhagidars

In West Bengal, the landless exceed the landowners by about one and half times in numbers [for every ten landowners there are fifteen landless]. For the rest of the country, the average distribution is roughly ten (landowner) to eight (landless). In states like Punjab, Haryana, Tamilnadu, Gujrat etc., where rapid industrialisation is taking place on agricultural land, the ratios are ten (landowners) to six, four or three (landless). Therefore, there is less hassle in acquiring agricultural land.[4]

CPI (M) all these years has colligated the struggle of landless agrarian labourer under the larger peasant struggle. In Bengal there is still no organisation on agrarian labourer associated with CPI (M), but they are part of the Kisan Sabha (Farmer’s Union). As a result today there is no voice of the landless when it comes to land acquisition. These rural proletariats have no say in any compensation that is disbursed when land is acquired for industrial use. It was these landless workers and Bagidars whose economic interest were hurt the most when land was acquired in Nandigram and Singur and they overwhelmingly this time opposed the CPI M’s brand of ‘socialism’ for Mamata’s brand of ‘democracy’

CPI (M)’s obsession with the Land reforms and Panchayat has led to complete neglect of other vital social sector like education, health, public transport and even minority welfare.

A distinctive characteristic of every government professing the principle of socialism has been eradication of illiteracy and promoting health care programme. Even in backward country like Albania under the rule of Enver Hoxha, the state had initiated several measures to alleviate literacy level and enhance health care. Illiteracy from 90-95% in rural areas in 1939 went down to 30% by 1950 and by 1985 it was equal to that of the United States of America. In health care Malaria was completely eradicated.

To promote literacy and health care the state government does not have to be dependent on the Central government, hence the favourite nag line of the ‘communist’ government of step-motherly treatment from the Central government.

Health

According to West Bengal government’s own Human Development  Report, married women in West Bengal, on average, have a lower body-mass index than the average Indian woman, suggesting greater undernourishment. Married women in West Bengal also have a greater likelihood of suffering from anemia than the average Indian woman. This data is from the. The Governemnt has failed to utilise funds earmarked for helath sector, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, Audit Report (Civil), West  Bengal for the Year 2006-2007 stated that “During 2002-2007, the (West Bengal government’s) department could  not spend the budgeted funds of Rs 357.13 crore for urban health  services. Further, unutilised funds of Rs 1.50 crore remained parked  in the personal ledger accounts of the Superintendents of two  hospitals for over seven years.”

Similar is the case with Education sector, West Bengal has the second highest school dropout rate among major states of India.

In recent report prepared by the Pratichi Trust founded by Amartya Sen brings out the sad but trustworthy picture of this apathy. In the census of 1991, West Bengal occupied the 19th position in the order of literacy; at snails’ pace, the position improved to 18th in 2001. According to the census of 2001, three-fourths of the 31.5% of illiterates of the state resided in the villages. It is difficult to comprehend that, in the 21st century; over two and a half crore illiterates reside in a state under continuous ‘communist’ rule for over three decades? It is important to note that literacy is not the only criterion for industrial employment; some language and arithmetic skills are also needed. The record of West Bengal on this score is pathetic. With respect to at least nine years of school-education for young people in the age group of 20-24, the state lags behind the national average. Out of 40,782 villages in the state, there is a middle school only in 5541 villages. There are 18,624 middle schools within a radius of 5 kilometers of a village. As a result, over 40% of the villages do not have a middle school within a radius of 5 kilometers. Yet, the rulers of this state frequently boast of ‘excellence’.[5]

When it came to implementing schemes that the party laid claims for getting them passed in Parliament its result in its own ruled state shows an abject failure

In 2006-07, the person-days of NREGA(National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: The NREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage, the Left parties along with many NGOs were in forefront to get the act passed.) employment generated per rural household was 6 in West Bengal and 3 in Kerala, with both states figuring in the list of the 3 worst performers. Compared to this, the all-India average was 17 person-days, and Chhattisgarh generated 34, Madhya  Pradesh 56, Assam 70 and Rajasthan 77 person-days . A similar picture emerges for the next year too: in 2007-08, West Bengal generated 8 person-days and Kerala 6 person-days, much below the all-India average of 16 person-days.

Voices of Revisionism to the fore

The drubbing has given a fillip to party’s liberal (read the openly pro capitalist pro Congress neo liberal social democratic) section to again raise its voice against party’s ‘hard’line leadership that had taken at least some stance against open liberalisation a

“People are just fed up with the CPI-M Politburo’s anti-people stance of formulating policies in air-conditioned rooms. A party can’t be run on the basis of policies alone. Politics is to be understood through the public pulse,” –CPI-M leader Subhas Chakraborty.

The coming days may witness a sharp contradiction arising in the party between the neo liberal group near to the former CM Jyoti Basu and the ‘hardliner’ group led by Karat and other central leadership. People like Subhas Chakraborty and even Buddhdhadev Bhattacharya seems still to have turned Nelson’s eye to the real cause of party’s mauling and have been blaming the stance of central leadership regarding withdrawal of support to the congress government and opposing of reforms. They seem to be endorsing the view that the results have been a victory for the forces of neo-liberalism and stable government.

In coming days several such voices are expected to emanate from various quarters of the party the revisionist have history of liquidation and decimation of communist parties from giants like the CPSU to the smaller yet powerful entities like CPGB. So if we see voices clamouring for complete change of the party on patterns of European leftist outfits then it should not come as a big surprise.

Conclusion

It is certain that as and when the new government unleashes the next round of neo liberal economic agenda and draconian laws, the lives of large sections of the Indian population will be tremendously affected.

The Left deserves an applause that because of their persistent opposition to reforms is core financial sectors like Banking, Finance and Pension that Indian economy remained insulated from the recession sweeping the entire capitalist world. Even after the global financial meltdown and crumpling of the financial giants like AIG and Lehman Brothers, Indian banks and financial market were able to with stand the shock.

Now the new government has made its stand amply clear that it would speed up the process of neo-liberal reforms that it could not achieve due to Left’s reluctance. This means submitting the large amount of fund in Pension deposit to the whimsical nature of stock and capital market, privatising the profit making Public sector industries, giving virtual infinite power to the international and comprador bourgeoisies in exploiting working class. The capitalists and their lackeys in media are all in a joyous mood about the impending capitalism that is coming to India shore, largely oblivious to the current state of capitalism world wide. The working class is in for severe repression and exploitation.

Today those at the helm of CPI (M) both at the central and state level have jettisoned the idea of socialism accepting capitalist path as the ultimate truth. Communism for CPI (M) has become just a word in its nomenclature and revolution has been limited to the slogan of inqilab jindabad (Long Live Revolution) that is to be just parroted in rallies and strikes. It has the same significance in CPI (M) today as the poem/anthem Red Flag had in the British Labour Party before being finally discarded by the openly pro capitalist Blaire and company.

The severe mauling of CPI (M) has also given the revolutionary left a chance to consolidate itself to fill the space created by the degeneration of CPM into open party of capitalist class. If the revolutionary communist groups adapt correct tactics then there is a major scope of reinvigorating the revolutionary left movement in India once again. The need of the hour is to unite the Revolutionary and progressive forces and initiate a country wide mass peoples struggle in order to halt and reverse the onslaught of neo liberalism. Neo liberalism has to be substituted by a programme of pro-people industrial development founded on adequate compensation for the potentially displaced and the consent of the working people that would put people’s interest before corporate interest. This is the immediate task of the genuine left and democratic forces in the country.

June, 2009

*   *   *   *

 

Further Reading:

1.In the Aftermath of Nandigram Prabhat Patnaik Economic and Political Weekly, May 26, 2007

2.On the Events in Nandigram, Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XIII, No. 2, September 2007

3.CPM’s Grazing Land, Sumit Mitra Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XIII, No. 2, September 2007

4.Stalemate in Bengal, Economic and Political Weekly, March 21-27,200

Notes and Reference:
[1] A detail analysis of CPI(M)’s revisionism, see the article Chameleon has revealed its true colours, at http://www.geocities.com/marxistfront

[2]  Ashok Mitra, Why Fool yourself?/ Introspection may help the CPI(M) recognize a harsh truth, Fri, 2009-05-22 21:28,   http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090522/jsp/opinion/story_10994551.jsp, accessed (4/06/2009)

[3] One of the few Trotskyite sites from India ‘The New Wave’

[4] CPM’s Grazing Land, Sumit Mitra Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XIII, No. 2, September 2007

[5] op. cite

Advertisements