[From Liberation, May 1993.]
Our Calcutta Congress resolved to intensify the efforts for left unity with the ultimate vision of a single Communist Party in India. In the last three months or so since the Party Congress, wherever I have gone, people concerned with our movement and mediapersons have repeatedly asked me about the prospects of such a vision and also about the concrete steps being taken in this direction. As reported to me, a veteran gentleman communist of CPI(M) in West Bengal has rejected the idea as being utopian whereas some others held that the idea, though likely to be resisted by old guards, is most likely to get wider support from the younger generation of communists.
In my talks with Comrades Harkishen Singh Surjeet as well as Indrajit Gupta, I tried to emphasise the point that in a calculated move the Sangh Parivar has penetrated into the bastions of the Left, viz., West Bengal and Kerala, whereas, the Left forces on their part have not been successful in the BJP’s strongholds in the Hindi belt. In the Left’s strategic thinking, too, the task of meeting the BJP’s challenge in Hindi-speaking states is assigned to the forces of centrist opposition and even the Congress(I), with the Left only playing second fiddle. This strategy, though successful to an extent in checking the BJP’s accession to power through political and parliamentary manipulations, is hardly effective in checking the growth of communal virus in people’s minds. There is just no popular mobilisation against communalism of the present variety which seeks to impose a fascist Hindu state on the overwhelming majority of laboring people. The whole Congress propaganda against communalism boils down to abstract preaching of communal harmony, while in real life, it appeases and collaborates with communal forces at every critical juncture.
I have serious doubts about the rationality of over emphasising the tactics of letting the Congress fight the BJP and, as its logical extension, of building a secular front with it. This may, in fact, prove counter-productive in the sense that it blunts the people’s consciousness, splits the ranks of democratic secular forces and weakens mass mobilisation against communalism.
In one of his significant statements made in the recent AICC session, Mr.Narasimha Rao, the Congress president said, "Now, what is left with the BJP? Only religion. Take it away from them and the BJP will be nowhere." This means that the economic programme and foreign policy of the BJP have already been appropriated by the Congress. Only religion is left and they are going to appropriate that, too, now.
Before the demolition of Babri Masjid there were reports that bypassing the VHP the Congress(I) was planning to build its own bridges with the sadhus and mahants by assuring them that Ram temple would be built at the disputed place after obtaining a favourable judicial order. There is of course nothing strange in it. Right from the installation of an idol of Ram inside the Babri Masjid in 1949, which turned it into a ‘disputed structure abandoned by Muslims’, through the opening of the gates to shilanyas, successive Congress governments have only played a dubious and collusive role in the entire evolution of the Ayodhya controversy. Actually it was the fear of the Congress snatching away the initiative on the temple question that led the BJP to the desperate act of demolition. However, the game is on and in the name of building trusts and through infiltration and parallel moves within the sant community, the Congress is continuing with its tricks. Muslims in general understand this and that is why they feel deeply alienated from the Congress(I).
The point, therefore, is: how can a secular front with such a party strengthen any genuine struggle against communalism? To utilise the contradictions between Congress(I) and BJP or to pressure the government to take necessary administrative measures, is it really imperative to bring the Congress(I) into the fold of a secular front?
A secular front that opposes both the BJP variety of communal fascism and the Congress(I)’s communal manoeuvres can also link up this struggle with the struggle against new economic and foreign policies, for that forms the common basis of both Congress(I) and BJP. Such a secular front, thus, may gradually evolve into a broad democratic front. Differences do persist on the theoretical-political understandings on this issue and the struggle reflects itself sharply in common forums and joint actions where we and CPI and CPI(M) are all present. However, pressures from other political forces, as well as the fear of Muslim reaction, have so far prevented them from translating their line into action.
No one objects to building alliances with the Janata Dal and its various factions against the communal danger, but letting the Mandalised ideology gain supremacy at the ideological plane and projecting a Laloo Yadav or a Mulayam Singh as yugpurush can only be self-defeating in the long run. This will only go to prove that the Left has no answer of its own to the BJP’s challenge in the crucial Hindi belt and this will only render it irrelevant in the mainstream Indian politics despite all its bases in peripheral India, particularly when the BJP has shown its capacity to penetrate into those areas.
If our recent initiatives in Uttar Pradesh and victories in some university elections have attracted all-round admiration and raised a new hope, it is solely because of the message it conveys that, if there is a firm resolve, the Left can definitely defeat the BJP in its strongholds. Most importantly, our victories symbolise not only the rejection of aggressive communal ideology of the BJP but also a positive negation of the Mandal factor. The UP university campuses were agog with anti-Mandal agitation which had deeply divided the student community. While accepting the rationale of caste-based reservations, we at the same time focused on the common issue of unemployment and received support from all sections of students.
While paying utmost care to seek united actions with the Janata Dal in Hindi areas, especially Uttar Pradesh, we stand for strengthening a parallel Left initiative. We may be a small force to begin with but this task is a strategic one and the present situation does provide enough scope for the Left’s advance. More so because after the demise of the socialistic idealism of Lohia and JP, an ideological vacuum prevails in these areas. Mulayam Singh or Laloo Yadav may provide a short-term answer to the BJP’s ascendance, but they have nothing to offer at the plane of ideology. The progressive democratic intelligentsia is looking for an ideological alternative as well as for the forces who are honest, dedicated and militant. Conditions are maturing for the emergence of new political forces and the Left can take the lead.
Our emphasis on the long-term strategic perspective is often branded by our ‘Marxist’ critics as isolationist policies which allegedly do not pay importance to the tactic of utilising contradictions and splits in the bourgeois camp. True, in pursuance of our strategic goal sometimes we do prefer isolation to surrendering independence in any socalled broad alliance but we never underplay tactical and even temporary alliances with the various streams of political forces representing the bourgeois opposition. Based on our independence and initiative we have been gradually and step by step developing our policies in this regard. Our range of joint action with the leaders in the camp of bourgeois opposition has definitely increased a lot.
When in one of my recent speeches I referred to the Congress dissidents and did not rule out the possibility of their future inclusion in any broad anti-communal alliance, many of our comrades were confused. But I think as dissidence in the Congress in growing and crystallising around the question of tactic regarding BJP, any broad platform against communalism like the Rashtriya Ekta Abhiyan perhaps cannot avoid the question of their inclusion. I don’t think this in any way dilutes the anti-Congress aspect of the alliance, rather it enhances the same.
In a nutshell, we do not differ with the CPI and CPI(M) on the question of a broad-based platform against the communal danger. Our difference begins with their attempts to use the obvious anti-BJP thrust of this platform as an excuse to develop an alliance with the Congress. We also oppose using this platform as a place for political intrigues and instead we emphasise mass mobilisation. Within the platform, we oppose surrendering the initiative to the forces of bourgeois opposition and eulogising the bourgeois heroes. As regards orientation, we do maintain that only a democratic state can be a secular state in the true sense of the term and hence struggle for secularism is at the same time a struggle for democratising the state. A secular front, therefore, for us is not a pragmatic tactics devoid of longterm perspective, rather it is, and it must be, part and parcel of the strategic task of building a democratic front in India.
In our scheme of things we have always paid greater attention to joint actions on issues of people’s interests, be it the united move of Left parties on land question in Bihar or the joint trade union struggle against new economic policies. We have taken keen interest in broadening the arena of this common struggle to include students, youth, women and cultural forums. In this context, we heartily welcomed the proposal of expanding the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions to a Platform of Mass Organisations against new economic policy and communalism. This forum is primarily made of left-oriented mass organisations. Its central thrust is against the government’s economic policies and it invariably decides to go in for mass actions culminating into a Bharat Bandh. For all these reasons, such a forum can go a long way to strengthen the material basis for a political confederation of left parties.
However, we had our objections to the way communalism and the new economic policy were lumped together, thereby obscuring the central thrust of the forum. Given the main left parties’ constant attempts to save the Congress(I) government, to support it on crucial occasions and blunt the edge of anti-government mass movements as a caution against the BJP danger, one cannot but be apprehensive of the implication behind obscuring the main thrust of the forum.
Then again, such a platform of struggling organisations should not remain silent on the growing repressive nature of the state. One must never forget that all the draconian powers the state is arming itself with in the name of taming terrorism shall eventually be used against the people’s struggles. Hence, as the champion of consistent democracy, the Left is duty bound to oppose all violations of civil, human and democratic rights. Similarly, such a forum must take a firm stand on the issue of women’s oppression, particularly when rapes are committed in police custody, when rape becomes an instrument of class and communal oppression. We also feel that grassroots organisations in various corners of India are conducting a positive struggle to press for a people-oriented developmental strategy. In the present context, they are also raising their voice against IMF-WB dictated economic policies as well as communalism. Such forces must all be brought under the umbrella of the proposed mass forum. The Left must reorient its policies to include in its agenda the whole range of new issues which have come up in the last few decades of the developmental process. And for that the Left must not hesitate in developing interaction with such forces with a firm faith on its own ideology and organisational strength. On these and other questions we must continue our fight within the forum. While the emergence of a joint political forum against communalism and a mass platform against new economic policy is itself a pointer to the emerging pattern of unity among left forces, at the same time, the struggle between two tactics has permeated the sphere of joint activities.
We start with unity and continue the struggle to achieve a higher stage of unity. The future of the left movement in India depends on this unity-struggle-unity.