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On the Left in Decline

If overwhelming evidence shows that the CPI(M) has abandoned the project of "transcending capitalism" then Prabhat Patnaik ("The Left in Decline", EPW, 16 July 2011) should come to the logical conclusion that CPI(M) is no different from any standard bourgeois party.


On the Left in Decline

Kripa Shankar

The CPI went into coalition with regional parties and formed the government in some of the states in 1967 but with no programme. This signified the beginning of degeneration. It behaved like any other

If overwhelming evidence shows that the CPI(M) has abandoned the project of “transcending capitalism” then Prabhat Patnaik (“The Left in Decline”, EPW, 16 July 2011) should come to the logical conclusion that CPI(M) is no different from any standard bourgeois party.

Kripa Shankar (kripa_shankar26@rediffmail. com), a former full-time activist of the Communist Party of India – is an Honorary Fellow at the Govind Ballabh Pant Institute, Allahabad.

he communist movement in India has been characterised by its loyalty to Soviet Union. Like a religious faith, it accepted any directive as the last wisdom to be followed without any argument or demur. When the Soviet Union was in alliance with the United Kingdom, the Communist Party of India (CPI) opposed the Quit India Movement at the behest of the Soviet Union and got alienated from the people. After the second world war, when the Soviet Union found that the imperialist countries were conspiring against it, in a desperate response, in 1948, it directed the CPI to make a final assault on the government to overthrow it through armed struggle. But the Soviet Union soon realised that governments in newly independent countries like India were not lackeys of imperialism. They wanted to develop their countries and were anxious to befriend the Soviet Union with this end in view. The Soviet Union now took a U-turn and directed the CPI in 1950 – through an editorial in For a Lasting Peace and People’s Democracy which was the central organ of the then international communist movement – to form a united front with the national bourgeoisie which was in power but was facing imperial machinations with the connivance of the comprador bourgeoisie. It gave this line a theoretical justification by arguing that the bourgeoisie in such countries is divided between a nationalist and a comprador section. The latter was aligned with imperialism. Hence the task of CPI was to ally with the national bourgeoisie to thwart the designs of imperialists.

It was a watershed for the CPI. Now it would collaborate with the government of the national bourgeoisie. There was now no agenda to fight the government except in words. The party would be looking for every opportunity to join the government if the occasion so arose. The focus was to increase its representation in the state a ssemblies and Parliament by electoral manoeuvring. Regional bourgeois parties had come up because they wanted greater space and opposed the central government.

novemBER 19, 2011

bourgeois party. Indira Gandhi appeared to be friendlier to the Soviet Union and now the directive was to support the former in a more upright manner. CPI supported the Emergency although CPI (Marxist) (CPI(M)) opposed it but also d enounced the JP movement.

Transcending Capitalism?

The CPI(M) ruled West Bengal uninterruptedly for more than three decades. Where is the evidence that it stands for transcending capitalism? Despite a high concentration in land it did not go in for acquiring the land of the richest farmers even at market price and get it distributed among the landless. On the other hand, it was very keen to get agricultural land a cquired for the monopoly houses and multinational corporations. The budgetary expenditure on agriculture and all allied activities, including minor irrigation, did not form even 3% of the total expenditure and was all along lower than the police budget. It was not prepared to provide cheap bank loans to the poor through i nterest subsidy so that they could make some investment in small remunerative activities like rearing small cattle, poultry, fisheries, etc. It could run massive rural employment generation activities like constructing rural roads, irrigation sources, storages, etc, but there were no funds after paying interest charges and expenditure on administration. The government was not prepared to tax the richer segments and resorted to reckless borrowings making it the largest indebted state on a per capita basis. It had a lower taxstate GDP ratio than many other states. Interest payments accounted for more than one-third of the state revenue. It was lukewarm in devolving power and funds to panchayats and municipalities “to enable them to function as institutions of self government” as enjoined by the 73rd and 74th amendment of the Constitution. It could have opened a new chapter in rural reconstruction where people could take their destiny in their own hands but refrained from doing so. Rural areas could have

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p ulsated with a new life and vigour. But all this was anathema to the government.

Prabhat Patnaik (hereafter PP) asserts that the CPI(M) has a project of transcending capitalism and is opposed to the neoliberal policies imposed by international finance capital. Then why invite the same for creating hubs of super profits? The S alim group was cajoled. Tata Motors was invited to set up a car factory in Singur and not a powerhouse which the people need. Was firing on unarmed farmers by police in Nandigram in which 14 persons were killed a part of the fight that CPI(M) was waging against neo-liberalism? PP a sserts that the CPI(M) is wedded to the project of transcending capitalism because whatsoever reforms may be undertaken, capitalism cannot provide a h umane society. There can be no disagreement about the latter part of the statement but the assertion that CPI(M) is wedded to transcending capitalism is nowhere in evidence if we go by what the CPI(M) had done while in office.

PP cites the example of CPI(M) withdrawing support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Then why the frantic effort to form a Third Front with parties like Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Telugu Desam, etc, which are no better than Congress insofar as their support to neo-liberal policies is concerned. The bigger question is that knowing full well that the UPA was pursuing neo-liberal policies at the behest of international capital, why was CPI(M) supporting it from the very b eginning? It appears that it was keener to come to office through a Third Front which again would follow the same neoliberal policies because of its class composition. CPI(M) was doing the same in West Bengal and Kerala.

PP in gung-ho about the parliamentary path little realising its infirmities in a country like India where money and muscle power matter most. One-third of the members of parliament have criminal records and with each election their proportion is rising. All the bourgeois parties are patronising criminals as they can intimidate voters. Glorification of the parliamentary path to the exclusion of mass m obilisation, mass upheaval and upsurge has also much to do with the degeneration and decadence of CPI(M) and other so-called left parties. PP is also unwilling to learn anything from Anna Hazare’s episode which shows that people are prepared to come to the streets if genuine issues of the masses are addressed. Significantly it has also shown that people have lost faith in political parties


because all the major parties that have been in office for some time have followed the same policies that benefit the elite.

Stooge of the Bourgeoisie?

Long ago Lenin said that the party should learn from the people. Why did the people consider CPI(M) and the Left Front irrelevant? It is because they see it as not much different from any other bourgeois party. This is their life experience; the demagogy that CPI(M) stands for transcending capitalism stands exposed. PP rightly claims that if a communist party abandons the concept of transcending capitalism and instead “presides over the building of capitalism (it) will end up being no different from standard bourgeois parties, notwithstanding its lip service to the revolution”. If overwhelming evidence shows that CPI(M) has abandoned the project of transcending capitalism then PP should come to the logical conclusion that CPI(M) is no different from any standard bourgeois party. In that case he should give a call for a new communist party which will be consistent in its opposition to the capitalist path and will depend on mass mobilisation and mass upsurge to dethrone the ruling bourgeoisie rather than forming a united front with it and thereby end as a stooge of the bourgeoisie.




Economic & Political Weekly

novemBER 19, 2011 vol xlvi no 47

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