July 24, 2016

On the Political Line of the CPI(M): A Rejoinder to Critics

Prakash Karat

THE Central Committee of the CPI(M), in its last meeting, reviewed the Party’s performance in the Assembly elections in five states. It concluded that the electoral tactics in West Bengal of having an understanding with the Congress party was a departure from the political-tactical line of the Party and that approach should be rectified. This decision of the Party has evoked some discussion in political circles. Some Left and liberal intellectuals have voiced their disagreement with the Party’s stand that there should be no alliance or understanding with the Congress party. Some articles have appeared in the media arguing that in the present political situation, where the BJP is in power at the centre, it is necessary for the CPI(M) and the Left to forge a wider political alliance with all other secular parties, of which the biggest is the Congress party. According to them, not doing so will not only help the BJP consolidate its position as a ruling party at the centre, but also strengthen the BJP all over the country. For these critics of the CPI(M)’s political line, the issue does not pertain only to West Bengal where there was an extraordinary situation due to the widespread violence and repression unleashed by the Trinamool Congress government. The issue, for them, is more important at the all-India level because of the danger posed by the Hindutva communal forces who are entrenching themselves with the help of the BJP central government. According to them, it is this communal danger and the reactionary character of the BJP which requires a Left-Congress alliance. They contend that the Left alone cannot defeat the BJP in the electoral arena; therefore, they should join hands with the Congress wherever required to achieve this goal. Not accepting this understanding is branded as “sectarian” and a futile emphasis on “ideological purity”. There is also the implied criticism that the CPI(M) leadership is not properly estimating the danger posed by the communal forces in the country with the Modi government in power. The CPI(M) has been rejecting this line of alliance with the Congress since its formation in 1964. This is because of the CPI(M)’s understanding of the class character of the Congress party and, secondly, because of the Party’s understanding on how to fight the rightwing BJP and the communal forces. The Congress party has been the premier party of the ruling class which, in India, is the big bourgeoisie and the landlords. In terms of the class character, there is no difference between the Congress and the BJP. Both are parties representing the interests of the ruling classes. That is why the CPI(M) does not envisage having a political alliance with the Congress party. Doing so would mean compromising the interests of the working class which the CPI(M) represents and would end up in class collaboration and blurring the independent role of the Communist party which represents the interests of the working people. However, the CPI(M) makes a political differentiation between the BJP and the Congress. The BJP is a party which is controlled by the RSS and is based on the Hindutva ideology. The Congress is a secular party but its bourgeois character tends to make it adopt a compromising and vacillating attitude to communalism. With the BJP in power at the centre, the main aim of the CPI(M) is to defeat the BJP and isolate the communal forces. The rise of communalism, particularly of the Hindutva variety, cannot be seen in a vacuum. Its substantial growth began at the turn of the 1990s, the precise period when the ruling classes embarked on liberalisation and adoption of neo-liberal policies. Thus, the ruling classes have utilised communalism as a prop to advance the neo-liberal agenda. Neo-liberal free market capitalism, in turn, has stimulated the growth of communalism and other divisive forces. The advent of the Modi government has signified a more aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies along with the official sponsorship of the communal agenda. It is these two forces which have fuelled the rightwing offensive unfolding in our country. The CPI(M) has a clear understanding that the fight against neo-liberal policies must be carried on simultaneously with the fight against Hindutva and other forms of communalism. It is only when we combine these two struggles that the BJP can be isolated from the people and defeated. Being a party of the ruling classes, the Modi government’s economic policies are attacking the livelihood and the rights of the people. It is by waging a determined struggle against these attacks on the people’s livelihood and rights that they can also be mobilised to fight the divisive communal agenda of the BJP and the RSS. This cannot be accomplished by the Left if it allies with the Congress party because the Congress party is the initiator and advocate for the neo-liberal policies. On all the vital questions which affect the people’s livelihood and economic well-being, the BJP government’s policies are the same as that pursued by the earlier Congress-led government. FDI in various sectors of the economy, privatisation, concessions to big business, agrarian policies favouring the corporates and the rural rich and forging close military and strategic ties with the United States – are all policies which the Congress-led UPA government had pursued before the BJP took them up. It must not be forgotten that it is the corrupt misrule and neo-liberal policies of the Congress-led UPA government which bred mass discontent and gave the opportunity to the BJP and communal forces to benefit from it in the Lok Sabha election. Similarly in states like Assam, it is the record of misrule and corruption of the Congress government which has helped the BJP to get allies and win the elections. It is only by building a powerful movement against the economic policies of the Modi government and the RSS/BJP communal agenda that an alternative Left and democratic alliance can be built. The Congress party cannot be a part of such an alliance given its basic policies. Those who advocate an alliance of the Left and the Congress see the struggle against the rightwing offensive only within the parliamentary-electoral framework. They reduce the fight against the rightwing communal forces to electoral battles. What is required primarily is the political and ideological struggle against the rightwing forces. This struggle cannot be divorced from the fight against the neo-liberal policies. The Left parties do not have a sectarian approach regarding this struggle. In the fight against the neo-liberal policies and against communalism, the CPI(M) and the Left should strive for the widest united movements and struggles of the people. In the fight against communalism, the broadest mobilisation and joint platform should emerge in which all secular and democratic forces should be mobilised. Secular forces belonging to all parties can be part of this broad platform against communalism. But this cannot be translated into a political alliance between the Left and Congress. In short, the CPI(M), at the current juncture, sees its main task as isolating and defeating the BJP, but this cannot be done by allying with the Congress. This is not a policy of equidistance as contended by the critics. II Another issue which has come up for discussion within the Party and outside is the poor performance of the CPI(M) in the Tamilnadu Assembly elections. Some who are concerned about the Left’s performance have suggested that this is due to the refusal of the CPI(M) to have an electoral understanding with either the DMK or the AIADMK. Here again, the issue is seen superficially as the failure to win seats in the Assembly election while the real problem lies elsewhere – in the decline in the Party’s mass base and political influence. This matter was taken up comprehensively in the Review of the Political-Tactical Line adopted at the 21st Congress of the Party after a discussion at all levels within the Party. The review noted that there was an overall decline in the independent strength and mass base of the Party outside the three strong states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Further, this decline had been taking place over a considerable period of time. The reasons for this were analysed and remedial measures proposed. A proper understanding is required, of the socio-economic changes brought about by two and a half decades of liberalisation and its impact on the various classes, and on this basis to formulate correct tactics and slogans to develop class struggles and mass movements. The corrective steps to be taken in the Party organisation to equip the Party to conduct such struggles and movements and consolidate the influence politically; the political-tactical line which stresses on the building up of the independent strength of the Party and rallying all the Left and democratic forces to forge a Left, democratic alliance which will be an alternative to the bourgeois-landlord policies. One of the important factors identified for the failure to advance the independent strength of the Party in states like Tamilnadu, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha was the prolonged alliances with the regional bourgeois parties. Tamilnadu is a state where there has been the longest period of alliance with the dominant regional parties – the DMK and the AIADMK. The Party state conference held in February 2016 had reviewed the electoral tactics pursued in the state as part of the political-tactical line followed in the past. It concluded that entering into electoral understanding with the DMK and AIADMK alternatively, who pursued neo-liberal policies and indulged in corruption, has led to the people not seeing us as a political alternative. It stated that: “One reason for the decline in the independent strength of the Party and the political influence is our entering into electoral alliance with DMK and AIADMK continuously over the past forty years.” The political-tactical line adopted at the 21st Congress stated that it is necessary to fight against the policies and politics of the dominant regional parties; especially those which are running state governments as they too pursue neo-liberal policies and are mired in corruption. It further stated that any electoral understanding with regional bourgeois parties should be forged only if it serves to advance the Party’s interests and the interests of rallying the Left and democratic forces in the state. It is this approach which led the Party in Tamilnadu to give up the pursuit of any electoral understanding with the DMK or the AIADMK. If the Party and the Left are to advance and go towards building a Left and democratic alliance in the state, the tactics of allying with the DMK or the AIADMK cannot be helpful in the present juncture. To look upon the DMK as an electoral ally in Tamilnadu in order to fight the BJP at the national level would have been detrimental to the Party’s future advance and counterproductive to the goal of rallying the Left and democratic forces. This applies not only to Tamilnadu but also to states like Assam, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha where the Party has experience of prolonged or repeated alliances with the dominant regional parties. The well-wishers of the Left who are concerned about the poor performance of the CPI(M) will do well to understand these basic realities. Enduring electoral gains cannot be made without the Party developing its independent strength and building a powerful Left and democratic movement. III The Party held a Plenum on Organisation after the Party Congress in order to streamline and strengthen the Party organisation, to build a Party with a mass line and to be equipped to implement the political-tactical line. The CPI(M) and the Left parties are the only consistent force against the neo-liberal policies and in the fight against communalism. The united struggles of the working class led by the Central Trade Unions is a result of the initiative of the Left-led trade unions. The forthcoming September 2 strike is a product of this united platform. There was a movement against the land acquisition ordinance and the united platform which has emerged is due to the key role played by the Left-led kisan and agricultural labour organisations. There are innumerable struggles going on against privatisation of basic services and against attacks on the livelihood of the people. The Plenum has discussed how to widen and intensify such struggles. In the fight against communalism, the Left is, despite its limited strength all over the country, a consistent force against the divisive Hindutva forces. In the states where the CPI(M) is strong, the struggle against the BJP-RSS combine has become sharper, as witnessed by the clashes between the CPI(M) and the RSS-BJP in Kerala. The Plenum has drawn up plans to step up the ideological and political struggle against the Hindutva ideology. The CPI(M) will unite with all democratic forces to develop united struggles against the neo-liberal policies of the Modi government and against the communal onslaught of the BJP and the RSS. While doing so, the CPI(M), which works for a Left and democratic alternative representing the interests of the working class, peasantry, urban and rural poor and other sections of the working people, cannot be part of any alliance with a ruling class party. There has been a concerted attempt in sections of the media to project the discussions within the Party as conflicts among individual leaders and revolts against the leadership. This has been particularly pronounced in the traditional anti-Communist newspapers and media in West Bengal and Kerala. Some of them have even gone to the extent of advising the Party to change its tactical line and ally with the Congress. They also want the Party to abandon democratic centralism. All this is part of the ideological assault on the Party with the aim of converting it into a social democratic party. The CPI(M) is in no mood to oblige them.