[Excerpts from the last article of Comrade Vinod Mishra. From Liberation, January 1999.]
The year 1998 had been one more tumultuous year in this era of great uncertainties. Amidst the reigning chaos, however, one may discern, through a deeper probe, certain subterranean trends that are most likely to erupt in major upheavals with the turn of the century.
Till yesterday the apologists of globalisation boasted that the ‘golden age’ of capitalism has come to stay and that they had answers to all the problems of the world economy. But 1998 changed all this. With the collapse of the Asian Tiger economies and the crisis fast spreading to Latin America, the panic button has been pressed. Now the shadows of a worldwide recession are looming large and the policy-makers at the IMF and the World Bank, unsure of themselves, are not coming forth with the usual prescriptions with any degree of confidence. Clueless about the causes and, therefore, of the solutions, global managers are hinting at various alternative options including the increased role of the state in economic planning. Till the other day this was anathema to the rabid proponents of neo-liberalism. Breaking the norm of the last decade or so, the Nobel prize in economics this year was awarded to Amartya Sen, the philosopher economist who advocates a safety net both for the poor and the rich in case ‘something goes wrong’. One wonders whether the spectre of the ‘30s and the need for advance redressal measures have prompted the Nobel Committee to prop up the Third World avatar of Keynes!
As a consequence of these debacles to the project of globalisation, the ideological and political climate of the world is changing once again. For the present, however, social democratic interpretations of Marxian thought is on the ascendance but the deepening crisis and increasing political action of the youth and the working classes, across the globe, provide favourable conditions for the regrouping of the forces of revolutionary Marxism.
The search for an elusive stability led to the snap poll at the beginning of the year but after hardly eight months, the political atmosphere is once again charged with the possibilities of yet another mid-term poll. The BJP that ridiculed the rag-tag coalition of the UF ascended to power on the strength of a still inferior version of the same. Its slogan ‘stable government and able leader’ has earned the distinction of the best joke of the year. A rejuvenated Congress under Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is threatening to unsettle the ruling coalition and at the same time marginalising the ‘third forces’ which had prospered at its ruin. This situation has once again brought to the fore the debate on the tactics that the Left should pursue.
With the collapse of the UF and the BJP’s coming to power, the opportunist wing of the Left immediately changed gear and started advocating an alliance with the Congress. In fact, even while the final results were pouring in, Comrade Surjeet started egging on the Congress to take the lead in forming the government. Though the support that the CPI(M) offered to a would-be Congress government was explained as a tactical move, the subsequent bonhomie between the two parties and the ideological colour imparted to this relationship by CPI(M) ideologues leaves no doubt that the two parties are heading towards a strategic cooperation. This move of the leadership was resented by the overwhelming number of delegates in the party congresses of both the CPI and the CPI(M) and even formal resolutions were adopted to launch a third front, that too, with the forces of CPI(ML) and the like, but the leadership appears to be bent upon following the old beaten course.
In the Sixth Party Congress that was held in October 1997, when the UF government was still in power, we had maintained that "in the present national political situation we must firmly pursue our anti-BJP anti-Congress orientation. However, we do recognise the threat of a saffron takeover of India and in such an eventuality, we may have to make certain policy readjustments to forge a broad anti-BJP configuration. These adjustments, however, must conform to the following three basic parameters: (i) Party’s independence and initiative must be retained; (ii) Congress must be isolated from any secular or democratic anti-BJP configuration; and (iii) we must continue to oppose all anti-people policies and steps of non-BJP non-Congress governments."
This could have been the only correct policy to follow by the party of the revolutionary proletariat and our Party consistently adhered to that.
The rejuvenated Congress is also threatening the existence of some major centrist parties and of late, they have also raised their pitch of criticism against the Congress. Analysing the recent assembly election results, some people are talking of polarisation of the political space between the BJP and the Congress, thereby terming the whole concept of the third front as irrelevant. This has terrorised the crisis-ridden third camp and of late efforts are intensified to cobble up a third front of essentially the old UF constituents. In the present concrete conditions such a front is only meant for improving their bargaining position vis-a-vis Congress.
Obviously our Party refuses to involve itself with such attempts. A floor co-ordination with the parties of bourgeois opposition and even temporary tactical alliances at certain times and in certain situations are permissible but any uncritical strategic association with them in a so-called secular or third front can not be the tactics of revolutionary communists. CPI had for long indulged in such tactics under the pretext of a dubious theory of ‘National Democraic Front’ and its search for the national bourgeoisie landed it in the lap of the Congress. While the Congress is still going strong, the CPI is fast becoming a museum piece. The CPI(M)’s formulation of a ‘Peoples Democratic Front’ via the so-called secular front is pushing the party into the clutches of the Congress. Quite logically so, because once the secular front becomes the last word in your tactics, who else but the Congress becomes your natural ally! But then there is no escape from CPI’s fate either.
In contrast we stand for building up a left pole as the core of the Peoples Democratic Front and therefore have called for a left confederation, a confederation that shall include all the forces of revolutionary democracy ranging from communists, socialists to various left-oriented forces of new social movements. Forces of radical democracy are rising from the grassroots and will be seldom found in the precincts of the parliament. Moreover, all the so-called secular forces are not necessarily democratic too and in many a case they are extreme rightist forces. They are also liable to change colours in favour of communal politics as and when it suits them. This is how the Congress behaved in ’80s and early ’90s and this is how Chandrababu Naidu behaved last year.
After the unceremonious demise of the UF we sent fresh proposals for a left confederation but the CPI and CPI(M) leadership rejected them. This was on expected lines as they were busy hobnobbing with the Congress. While the left ranks and the working people were battling together to make the 11 December strike a success, the CPI(M) leadership was conspiring at using the strike as a launching pad for the so-called third front with all kinds of discredited forces of bourgeois opposition who are otherwise strong supporters of the entire package of new economic policies. We, on the contrary, stand for developing this solidarity among the left ranks and the working people towards a left confederation.
The collapse of the UF and moreover, the failure to grow and worse still, the erosion of the base of CPI and CPI(M) in some states, have raised serious questions within them on tactics towards bourgeois opposition. Again there is strong resentment on joining hands with the Congress. Sentiments of the overwhelming majority of the left ranks as expressed in their party congresses, were for the Left to unite and act independently. The slogan of left confederation, therefore, reflects the aspirations of the left ranks as well as that of the broad masses of the working people.
It must be clearly understood that the slogan of left confederation is not just a pious wish to somehow bring all the forces of the Left under a common umbrella; on the contrary it is the specific tactical response of revolutionary communists to the UF-kind of opportunist tactics. We must therefore persist with this slogan and carry forward this battle between two tactics of the Left among broad left ranks and the working people and win them over to the side of revolutionary communism. It goes without saying that this is a long drawn process but this is an inalienable component of our historical struggle against social democracy. This tactic is, at the same time, the most effective antidote against anarchism because it is precisely because of the parliamentary cretinism of social democrats embodied in their ‘UF’ tactics that distracts the revolutionary youth from the organised left movement and facilitates their swelling the anarchist ranks.
We had been facing a very difficult situation in the rural areas of Bihar particularly in Bhojpur and Jehanabad districts due to attacks on our social base by the mercenary army of landlords. In December 1997 the Bathe massacre followed where over 60 people were literally butchered. This, however, also proved to be a turning point in the course of the movement. Apart from organising political protests, certain retaliatory actions were also organised and in the subsequent parliamentary elections we more or less succeeded in retaining and activising our social base among the rural poor. Of late, the Ranvir Sena is facing a sort of stagnation and disintegration owing to developing conflicts within its social following. On the other hand, the recently held ‘Reawakening’ rally of our Party in Bhojpur was a big success implying that the mass initiative has once again been released. But there is no room for complacency as the Sena’s striking force is still intact. We have still a long way to go in achieving the final victory over this nefarious Sena, which posed the most serious challenge so far to our movement in Bihar.
In line with the Sixth Congress decisions, agrarian labourers’ organisations are coming up in various pockets of our movement in Bihar and elsewhere. In Bihar, initiatives are being taken up to coordinate these units at the state level and one of the major tasks of the new year is to float a state level body. Organising the rural proletariat in their class organisation and developing their class consciousness is a major challenge before the Party in the agrarian revolution.
The old kisan sabha in Bihar still remains defunct but some efforts on organising broad masses of peasantry on a local basis and on local issues, are indeed being taken in some pockets. Pockets of peasant resistance have also been developing in parts of Bengal, UP, Andhra and Orissa. In Orissa, despite the demise of Comrade Nagbhushan Patnaik, the offensive of the landlords has been beaten back.
On the pretext of a crisis of Indian agriculture, owing to the increasing pressures from the WTO regime, social democrats are urging the rural poor to give up their struggles and rally behind the rich farmers. With similar arguments the anarchists too have floated a common platform with the rich farmers’ organisations. This is a classic example of two extremes meeting at a common point. Some ex-Marxists who have deserted the class viewpoint of Marxism, put the task of fighting against caste-discriminations as an end in itself. They therefore talk only in terms of caste categories, becoming prisoners of BSP kind of politics and virtually surrendering the leadership of poor oppressed masses to the privileged stratum of leaders coming from dalit and backward castes who in turn use the people as cannon fodder in extracting their share of the loot within the parliamentary establishment. Such trends, which were quite pronounced in ML circles in Andhra, have resulted in marginalisation of the movement and disintegration of some groups. In Tamil Nadu too this has created lots of confusion and is actually an important reason behind the movement not picking up despite lots of potential. In Bihar too similar ideas led to groups like MCC and PU becoming pawn in the hands of powerful backward caste groupings and the ruling party.
Castes are undifferentiated classes and therefore the fight against all caste discriminations, an inalienable component of democratic movements, facilitates the process of class differentiation in the entire society. As communists our primary concern is to consolidate the proletarian class forces emerging with a distinct identity amidst this great social churning and our Party is precisely doing the same. While all those who deserted us under the spell of the Mandal wave and in times of crisis of socialism, have degenerated into either ideologues or activists of the Lallo brigade, we stood our ground, organised our class forces, built up the communist party amidst the fire of mass movements and are gradually making forays into the citadels of so-called social justice forces. We must oppose all liberal ideas in the arena of agrarian struggles and firmly adhere to the Party’s class line. These struggles are the soul of the Party and from here only will emerge the mighty forces of the people, which will change the face of the country.
In tune with our Party’s rich tradition of organising nation-wide campaigns against the principal enemy, we organised an ‘Oust saffron, save the nation’ campaign in the latter part of the year. Such campaigns are primarily aimed at imparting political education to the masses. At the same time they mobilise the entire Party to focus its attention on the central issue of national concern and thereby ensure the monolithic unity of the Party. And therefore, dilution of the national call in the name of its so-called creative application by a state unit or a mass organisation can not be permitted.
Though the campaign has ended, the exposure of various facets of BJP rule should go on unabated. We should particularly focus on its economic doctrine of wholesale globalisation and that of capitulation to international financial interests. Its gimmick of Swadeshi is thoroughly exposed and it is high time that the Left forcefully espouses the cause of a self-reliant economy. The 11 December action of the working class was a highly significant move in this direction. We have to take a much larger initiative among the working class where the ice has started melting and we have started getting a better response.
As the political situation is turning topsy-turvy and one can not rule out the possibility of yet another mid-term poll in the year 1999, the Party must remain fully prepared for any eventuality. Hence, all our mass organisations, particularly the youth front, should take bold initiatives on all issues of people’s concern and strive to march ahead of all others. The days of closed door conferencing are over. This is the time for all round initiatives. In history the issues of major significance are only resolved in the streets.
The Party Sixth Congress had warned, "Open and mass party, however, in no way means diluting the basic quality of a communist party, weakening its integral character and undermining its centralism and discipline. Hence, a consistent struggle against all sorts of liberal ideas that seek to transform the revolutionary communist party into a social-democratic parliamentary outfit is imperative." This warning, to say the least, has only become more relevant now.
A strong communist party firmly upholding the red banner of revolutionary Marxism, a powerful movement of the rural poor and an al- round initiative against the designs of the saffron power are the three major challenges before us in this year. Social democrats as well as anarchists of all hues are facing serious internal disorders due to faulty tactical lines and every advance we make will further destablise them and establish us at the head of the left movement. Such a development is absolutely essential for building a democratic front that is really a people’s alternative in contrast to various versions of bourgeois alternatives.
In 1998 we lost many important leaders and cadres who sacrificed their lives fighting class enemies. Assassins’ bullets snatched away from us Comrade Anil Barua, a member of the central committee, who was a widely respected personality in Assamese society and a comrade of supreme dedication to the cause of the Party and the people. And as the year was drawing to a close, Comrade Nagbhushan, one among the few great leaders that the Indian communist movement has produced in its nearly 75 years of history and whose death-defying spirit had become the symbol of CPI(ML)’s spirit of rising again and again from the ashes, departed from amongst us. On his deathbed, he declared, "In life and in death I meant for the Party and revolution." This is the true spirit of a revolutionary communist and let it guide us in striving hard to score greater successes in the days to come.