How Can the Left Remain Relevant in India?

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of E​PW.


Is the left still relevant among the masses?

Prabhat Patnaik in his 2011 article “The Left in Decline” introduces the term “empiricisation,” defining it as the left’s rejection of the communist goal of defeating capitalism. Patnaik argues that this empiricisation was in fact responsible for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) defeat in the 2011 West Bengal assembly elections. He says that if this process is not arrested, the CPI(M) could be replaced by another left party that is more committed to communist ideology.

Hiren Gohain responds to Patnaik, arguing that there has been a change in the class character of the party, which explains its alienation from the masses. Kripa Shankar also responds to Patnaik, contending that the CPI(M) is a “stooge of the bourgeoisie.”  

Dipankar Bhattacharya adds to the discussion, writing that a resurgence of the left in India needs to include a mass struggle against neo-liberal policies. Arup Basya writes that the left must now be considered a “ruling class” party, having allowed privatisation in West Bengal. Siddhartha Lahiri responds to Patnaik and Gohain, and argues that the left needs to rethink its political agenda if it wishes to remain relevant. 

A few other works that are broadly related to the discussion:

  1. The State of the CPI(M) in West Bengal, Ashok Mitra, 2009
  2. The CPI(M) 'Machinery' in West Bengal: Two Village Narratives from Kochbihar and Malda, Rajarshi Dasgupta, 2009
  3. Gender Question and the CPI(M): An Analysis in the Context of Kerala, Erinjiyal K Santha, 2015

Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—"Political theory and practice."

Curated by Kieran Lobo []

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