Written by Damodar on The Other Aspect blog.
The 21st party congress of CPI (M) recently concluded at Visakhapatnam with the usual ritualistic flavour that has become the hallmark of such events for the parties of Left Front particularly the CPI and the CPI (M). The party congress would be known for selecting or rather electing “unanimously” its new General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. Though the outgoing general secretary, Prakash Karat wanted the post to go to Ramachandran Pillai. The ongoing factional struggle between Karat and Yechury was somehow saved from being open in public when the Karat faction backtracked on the voting for new General Secretary. While Yechury was backed by West Bengal delegates, Pillai a Karat man enjoyed the support of the Pinarayi Vijayan faction from Kerala, but the Bengal lobby wanted a more pragmatic (read one who can hob nob with Congress and other parties) man at helm.
The party Congress of CPI (M), no longer evinces the same interest particularly among the Left movement as it did few years ago. No communist group/party or left journal devoted any analysis or criticism to the policy/issues raised in the congress. A major reason might have been that for CPI-M, like its counterpart bourgeoisie parties there has been a wide gap between its political-organisational reports and its politics on ground level. Further the dwindling base of the party and its almost moribund energy was enough to deter the bourgeoisie media. For the revolutionary Left, it has stopped taking cognizance of this party’s activities since long. Revisionist parties — as the CPI (M) has become–, adopts something in their party congresses while doing the opposite when it comes to the realm of day to day politics. This is an important characteristic of revisionism that differentiates it from a genuine revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party.
Yet, nationally and internationally there are several comrades who still consider CPI and CPI (M) a still Marxist-Leninist formation, hence we would like to take this opportunity to analyse the resolutions particularly the new Political Tactical Line (PTL) adopted in the congress. At the same time it is our duty as a Marxist Leninist to wage a struggle to expose the real intention of reformist-revisionists so that their real intention comes to the fore.
21st Congress: The identity Crisis.
The Congress took place at a time when the party finds itself at the lowest. It has secured the lowest number of seat in Lok Sabha since its formation, its rule in the states is at lowest with only tiny Tripura saving the grace, the confidence of the leadership is at lowest so is the enthusiasm of the cadres. The set back of Bengal has still not gone so is the factional crisis in Kerala. In other parts of the country it was hardly any force to reckon with but there also it has lost its confidence to lead mass movement. The net result is the party is grappling with severe identity crisis. The spaces being vacated by it are being grabbed by new entities like Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi and even by NGOs in several places. It has squarely failed to cash on the anti-establishment feeling of the common masses and in its once strong hold the party is seen as equally corrupt with rank opportunists, and self-seekers found it highly rewarding to join the party and to ditch it as well. So it is not a surprise when a senior party leader admitted that around 40,000 members have quit the CPM in West Bengal since 2011 and major section of it joining the BJP. The decimation and decline shows no sign of abetment, if the recently concluded bye-elections and the civic elections are any sign, where the Trinmool Congress resoundingly trampled the party and Left front’s candidates. Bengal unit is no longer able to mobilise masses on the scale as when it was in power.
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. It’s policy of embracing industrialisation-at-any-cost by appeasing international and national capital and inviting predatory multinationals like Wal-Mart in the naïve belief of advancing the “productive forces”. It forcibly acquired land, deeply antagonising peasants and the working class as well. But only the revolutionary force and its organisation can help in advancement of productive force. After three decades of stagnant rule based on terror, intimidation and sycophancy CPM neither commanded a revolutionary force nor was it ever a revolutionary organisation.
The Singur-Nandigram occurrences weren’t causes but effects/symptoms of a deeper malaise: pursuit of neoliberalism, which the party’s central leadership assails. The CPM, with a strongly upper-caste sophisticated, westernised, middle and upper middle class leadership, failed to combat caste, gender and anti-Muslim discrimination not is it able to understand the changing dynamics of the Indian polity. It became a party of careerists bereft of imagination, yet complacent and arrogant first towards its smaller partners and then to the people at large. Tales of party leaders threatening masses and silencing every voice of dissent using most heinous ways that only a bourgeoisie party is capable of undertaking that too against fellow communist showed the rot that had engulfed it.
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.
Prakash Karat has been lecturing and writing long articles on the exploitation in SEZs across the country but same Karat had no qualm in declaring SEZs in Bengal as ‘progressive’.
Similarly in Kerala it has suffered setbacks because of the CPM-instigated murder of political rivals like T.P. Chandrasekharan, neglect of social and gender issues, and outright opposition to Western Ghats conservation and support for encroachers. The party today is seen to be no different than Congress of RSS. Gone are the days of mass mobilisation today it relies on mob mobilisation to silence its critique. Several top leadership of Kerala have been implicated in various scams. In Lavalin scam the party’s State Secretary and the former Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan is directly involved.
The leadership both at national and state levels seems to have lost the capacity to lead independent mass actions. Years of tailism and being propped on the crutches of this or that bourgeoisie party has done away with the capability of agitation, a fact that has been accepted in the Congress as well.
The Congress apart from adopting regular resolutions and reports adopted a new PTL. The previous PTL was adopted at the 13th congress held at Thiruvananthapuram from December 27 1988 to 1st January 1999.
The Political Tactical Line: Nothing new!
Suddenly a realisation has dawned in the party that there is something wrong with their strategy and the organisation. From where did this sudden fountain of realisation erupt? It did not emanate as a result of any genuine desire to resist the onslaught of capital but the new PTL itself answers it. It says:
“The 2014 Lok Sabha election review conducted by the Central Committee in June 2014 had concluded that the Party has been unable to advance for sometime and this was reflected in the poor performance of the Party in the election.…The election review report adopted by the Central Committee stated that:
“In successive Party Congresses we have been emphasizing the need for enhancing the independent strength of the Party. Some of the states have attributed the erosion of our independent strength to the tactics of aligning with the bourgeois parties. The failure to advance the independent strength of the Party necessitates a reexamination of the political-tactical line that we have been pursuing”.
So the necessity of reviewing the PTL came from the massive drubbing that it got in the elections. Since 1989-90 it may be remembered CPI (M) with its politics of alliance along with manipulations what may be termed as Harikishen Surjeet’s line was instrumental in playing a major role in power-play/ power broker role. Though the party never had any significant pan India presence, yet the Machiavellian politics of Surjeet kept CPI(M) at centre of Delhi’s power gallery.
Today things are very different, The party’s sudden deemphasizing of electoral politics and rhetorical calls for “mobilizing the masses” are due to its marginalization in bourgeois parliamentary politics. So to be relevant it has to raise the bogey of mass mobilization as recently we saw AAP doing in Delhi. In fact CPI (M) has been highly mesmerised with the polity and tactics of AAP. Its mouthpiece even eulogised the Kejriwal’s team and indirectly pleading for an alliance, but unfortunately it got no feeler from the later for having any kind of alliance.
The PTL further says:
“The P-TL is the tactics we adopt from time to time in a specific situation in order to advance towards our strategic goal which is the People’s Democratic Revolution. The tactical goal we have set out in the P-TL is the forging of a Left and democratic Front in order to present the Left and democratic alternative to the bourgeois-landlord order. The struggle to forge the Left and democratic alternative is part of our effort to change the correlation of class forces so that we can advance towards our strategic goal.”
So much for that coveted goal of Peoples’ Democratic Revolution, which this party wants to achieve by forging a Left and democratic Front. Interestingly the mention of revolution starts and ends here. The entire document then is about forging or not forging alliance with the other parties! It does not mention any substantial tactics to be adopted vis-à-vis the working class nor with the peasantry.
One is bound to ask, who are the “democratic” parties? While the PTL has left us to speculate, but those who have been following the Indian polity even cursorily would have no hesitation in answering the question. For the CPM leadership the democratic forces among others today are the siblings of the so-called Janata Parivar like the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal, Rashtirya Janata Dal and similar parties. Now everyone knows the character of these parties and what harm they have done in stalling the progress of the working class and peasant movement. These rank casteist outfits are no better than the rightist or the Bourgeoisie outfits. In fact when there will a call for decisive struggle against the forces of fascism and capitalism, these outfits instead of being with the working class and toiling masses would ally with the capitalist and fascist forces.
The Political Resolution of the 10th Congress explained the Left and democratic Front as follows: “The struggle to build this front is part of our endeavour to bring about a change in the correlation of class forces, to end a situation in which the people can choose only between two bourgeois-landlord parties, and get imprisoned within the framework of the present system. By gathering all Left and democratic forces together for further advance, the Party makes a beginning to consolidate these forces which, in future, will participate in shaping the alliance for People’s Democracy under the leadership of the working class. The left and democratic Front is not to be understood as only an alliance for elections or Ministry, but a fighting alliance of the forces for immediate advance – economic and political – and for isolating the reactionary classes that hold the economy in their grip.”
This point needs to be elaborated. The Party has elucidated its intention of gathering the Left and democratic forces for future advance of the party, to shape the alliance for People’s Democracy (emphasis ours) so much so for the caricature of Peoples’ Democracy! Peoples’ Democracy as propounded by Stalin and further elaborated by Dimitrov is a special form of dictatorship of the proletariat, where there is a class alliance with other progressive forces under the general leadership of the Communist or workers’ party. This model of Peoples’ Democracy was implemented immediately after the Second World War in Eastern Europe and China.
The characteristic feature of Peoples’ Democracy is:
The rise and development of people’s democracy should be examined concretely and historically, since people’s democracy is passing through various stages and its class content changes, depending on the stage.
The first stage is the stage of agrarian, anti-feudal, anti-imperialist revolution, in the course of which people’s democracy arises as the organ of revolutionary power, representing in its content something in the nature of dictatorship of the working class and peasantry, the working class having the leading role. A characteristic feature of this power is that it directs its sharp edge against imperialism, against fascism.
The second stage is the establishment of the dictatorship of the working class in the form of people’s democracy and the building of Socialism. (A. Sobolev, Peoples’ Democracy as a Form of Political Organisation of Society)
So we leave it to the good sense of our comrade readers to decide which politics of CPM confirms to their working towards the course of achieving the Peoples’ Democratic Revolution. What has been the role of CPM in fight against imperialism or against Fascism? When they were in power, the policies adapted by them were no different from that of any other bourgeoisie party.
Before proceeding further we would like to state another related issue, which gets mentioned prominently. The PTL in point 14 further states about the adoption of Left Democratic Secular Front:
For this we have to look for the reasons within the P-TL itself. From the 13th Congress (1988) we started talking of the unity of the Left and secular forces. We made a distinction between the immediate task of forging a non-Congress secular alternative to meet the current situation and the task of building the Left and democratic Front. By the 15th Congress we had set out the slogan of the unity of the Left, democratic and secular forces. By that time we had more or less concluded that the Left and democratic Front is a distant goal and is not a realizable slogan as reiterated in the 11th Congress of the Party. By and by we relegated the Left and democratic Front to a propaganda slogan. The Left, democratic and secular alliance became the new interim slogan. While this began as a slogan against the Rajiv Gandhi Congress government to rally the non-Congress secular bourgeois parties while demarcating from the BJP, later it became the slogan directed against the BJP. It is on that basis that we joined the United Front, without participating in the government in 1996.
Now in terms of secular, the most important secular formation for our “Marxist” friends apart from the so-called democratic parties are parties like AIADMK, DMK, TDP etc. who share the crumbs with our revolutionary “Marxists” thus helping them win a seat here a seat there. Though, it never has crossed the mind of our comrades to check about the secular credentials of these parties. The less said the better. All such “secular” and “democratic” parties have no qualm of hobnobbing with the BJP or Congress as the compulsion of the parliamentary polity demands.
The Entire PTL is full of such jingoism and pseudo revolutionary phrase mongering, but we will not go into the detail in interest of space and time of our dear comrade readers.
How different were CPM from the other bourgeoisie parties when in power? After the 2004 elections Ashok Mitra wrote an article commenting on the capitulation of the CPI M leaders to the camp of neo liberalism, he wrote:
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.
As we have mentioned umpteen times revisionist parties use revolutionary phrase mongering to hide their revisionist character. Same goes with our great defenders of Socialism and Peoples’ Democracy, while degeneration and double-talks reach their nadir while lending credence to abject surrender to the lap of the World Bank, the IMF, the MNCs and the World Bank’s trusted men like Manmohan Singh or even the regional allies of capitalism like Mulaym Singh and Chandrababu Naidu. Did not Tito or Khruschev continued to hang the Communist, Marxist and other revolutionary sign boards, while doing the exact opposite of what the tenants of Marxism Leninism teaches.
But we must commend the CPM leadership for they are always not dishonest. In point number 17, they have been ultra-honest (if there is any such word in English):
As the realization of a third alternative became more unattainable, in the 18th Congress Political Resolution another distinction was made between the electoral understanding for specific elections by drawing the non-Congress bourgeois parties and the building of a third alternative. Thus the Left and democratic Front was relegated to the third phase of our task. The first phase being the immediate current task of electoral understanding for a specific election by drawing in the non-Congress bourgeois secular parties. The second phase being the formation of a third alternative based on a common programme which would be forged by building joint movements and struggles. The third phase was the building of the Left and democratic Front.
Reading this point in conjunction with point 16 and above, clearly demonstrates the real intention and politics of the party. The aim of the party three layers down is elections and nothing but elections. First they want or wanted to build an electoral understanding of non -Congress (or now non BJP) parties followed by a common front like the discredited United Front and followed by the so called Left Democratic Front. So the party will work for elections and nothing but elections. We all know that the limitations of bourgeoisie elections, and neither are we for boycotting it like some of the adventurist groups claims, but basing the entire politics around parliament, did not Lenin sharply criticised this tendency terming it as parliamentary cretinism? What can one gain but few reforms for the working class even if one has a commanding position in such institution? A quote from Lenin will not be out of place here. Lenin in his article titled “Marxism and Reformism” wrote:
Unlike the anarchists, the Marxists recognise struggle for reforms, i.e., for measures that improve the conditions of the working people without destroying the power of the ruling class. At the same time, however, the Marxists wage a most resolute struggle against the reformists, who, directly or indirectly, restrict the aims and activities of the working class to the winning of reforms. Reformism is bourgeois deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.
The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled. (emphasis ours)
Now this is what CPM aims for, some reforms!
The PTL goes on to summarise the experience of various fronts and alliances that the party had undertook in the past and not so distant past in a tone that resembles a chronological reading of the government formation since the National Front days. While the party has accepted its mistakes there has been no self-criticism or mention of its wrongdoing in Bengal and Kerala. So much for honesty of a revolutionary communist party! It has though in passing mentioned,:
“What has to be recognised is that the processes underway during the globalisation-neo-liberal regime have posed new problems for the Left and has created adverse conditions for developing the movements of the working class, agrarian, students, youth and women. It is imperative that we understand the processes at work and work out new and suitable tactics and organisational methods.”
But as much CPM may gloss over its mistakes the proletariats have not. In Bengal the toiling class has not forgotten the tyranny and high handedness of the party nomenklatura who adopted all kinds of legitimate and illegitimate means to bring success to their rule and satisfy the mandarins or babus (from Jyoti babu to Buddhadeb babu) at the Muzaffar Ahmed Bhawan (the West Bengal state HQ) rather than the toiling masses and even to silence the enemies. The coal field of Bengal still reverberates from the atrocities and the terror of the CITUs leadership. The people have not forgotten the several bloody attacks perpetrated by the hooligans at the behest of the party. The cowardly assassination of the fire brand trade union and highly respected communist leader comrade Sunil Pal on 29-12-2009 by the hired goons and marauders of CPI (M) is still fresh in the minds of people of coalfields. His only fault being that he was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist whose sole aim being to bring justice and safeguard the workers interest against the capitals offensive.
The CPM de-radicalised the trade unions and lost its prime working class cadres, reducing Trade Union to being a dovetail of the government and a means for money collection and keeping in check the working class. At every juncture CITU was found capitulating to the whims of capital. Apart from one day ritualistic strike and dharna, whose outcome is known to all and sundry beforehand it has only compromised the interest of the working class at an all India level. During the Maruti struggle CITU instead of giving a militant leadership to the struggle was seen siding with the management and on the pretext of maintainingindustrial peace was seen chiding the belligerent workers. When the workers were put in jail it did nothing to bring them out but at every crucial juncture sided with the management.
Similarly in the struggle against Coal ordinance in January 2015, the CITU leadership since beginning of the strike had adopted a defeatist position and was only seen praying and pleading to the government for some reforms. We are once again reminded of the words said by Lenin for the reformists, “Fight to improve your condition as a slave, but regard the thought of overthrowing slavery as a harmful utopia”! does it not fit CPM today?
Another glaring point that finds no mention in either the PTL of the Pol-Org Report is the support the CPI-M extended to Pranab Mukherjee in the last presidential election. The CPI Congress document on the past developments noted this and informed its members of the division suffered by the Left on this issue when the CPI and other Left parties refused to follow the CPI-M and back Pranab due to his role in carrying out neoliberal reforms. The CPI-M’s backing of Pranab is not so simple as it may seem—for behind it was the largesse by a Big Business house (with which Pranab is deeply associated) to the CPI-M.
With all the tall promises and phrase of mass mobilization the PTL amply gives the direction that party will take on ground. Consider point 30, it says:
There can be swift changes in the political situation. New contradictions may merge amongst the bourgeois parties and within them. Political parties may undergo changes through splits or coming together to form a new party. Flexible tactics should be evolved to deal with the situation. In our pursuit of united actions, joint platforms may have to be formed with various social movements, people’s mobilizations and issue-based movements.
So, in event of an alliance this clause will be invoked to hoodwink the cadres, in guise of “contradiction” opportunist alliance will be forged, neo-liberalism will be supported and the bourgeoisie will be given free hand to rule. Same intention is reflected in point 46.
Given the danger posed by the communal forces reinforced by the BJP in power with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, we should strive for the broader unity of the secular and democratic forces. Such joint platforms are necessary for a wider mobilization against communalism. Such platforms, however, should not be seen as the basis for electoral alliances.
Given the nature and ambition of these democratic and secular parties whom our friends had just termed as agent of capitalist and supporter of capital, there is again a yearning for an alliance. Old love never dies! By the time the PTL came for conclusion, the authors of this document could not suppress their desire for alliance.
So after all the epithets and brickbats the point 61 mentions:
Electoral tactics should be dovetailed to the primacy of building the Left and democratic front. In the present stage, given the role of the regional parties, there is no basis for forging an alliance with them at the national level. Instead, we can have electoral adjustments with non-Left secular parties in states wherever required in the Party’s interests and which can help rally the Left and democratic forces in the state. (Emphasis ours)
Voila here we are back to square one, the party will continue to do what it has done, and it will just not change. Years of tailism cannot be shed in one day or rather one congress. So, the party will enter in alliance with the non-Left secular parties in states and not at national level, but then comrades of CPM you yourself do not contest elections on national level if we compare your seats with the national parties! Since its formation CPM has failed to develop even the trade union consciousness, not to speak of revolutionary consciousness. Rather it has developed mafia consciousness and factional fights. Politics and ideology were never in command because they lost their credibility, as communist, the line pursued by it under the banner of Marxism-Leninism stands exposed through its ideological line and practice at all levels. Then how is it possible for the CPM to practise anything for the oppressed classes?
As Lenin wrote, “Reformism is bourgeois deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.” The CPM is no different.
Sitaram Yechury is known to follow the Surjeet line and there is already a campaign that the party is preparing to cosy up its relationship with Congress. As mentioned in a news magazine known to be close to both CPI and CPM “Yechury is eager to join hands with the Congress in combating the Sangh Parivar. It betrays a pathological antipathy for the Congress and a flawed understanding of the present situation. the Congress does not mean only Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh. The Congress means the hundreds of thousands of Congress-supporting masses spread all over the country whose participation is essential in any move-ment against communalism and in defence of secularism. The Left can deny this reality and cling to the old slogan of ‘Left-Democratic Unity’ only at its own peril and at the cost of weakening the movement.”
The party today has not learnt from its past mistakes nor is it in its agenda to counter and challenge the onslaught of neo-liberalism and imperialism. At best it will continue to give the knee jerked reaction in form of out dated token strikes and rallies to LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation). Today the task of the revolutionary communist has to be to expose this farce and unleash an in-depth political and theoretical offensive against it to expose its opportunist line and practice.
Gironde: One of the two political groups of the bourgeoisie during the French bourgeois revolution at the close of the eighteenth century. The Girondists, as distinct from Jacobins, vacillated between revolution and counter-revolution, and their policy was one of compromise with the monarchy. Lenin frequently stressed that the Mensheviks represented the Girondist trend in the working-class movement.
Readers may also like to read our analysis on Left Front