[From Liberation, September 1993. Excerpts.]
People’s Democracy (hereafter PD), the central organ of CPI(M), in its August 15 issue, while commenting upon our review of Rashtrlya Ekta Abhiyan (REA), has launched a veritable slander campaign against our Party. The same was published in other party organs as well, and in Punjab, where the Party doesn’t have its own organ, the story was planted in Punjabi Tribune. People’s Democracy laments the crass sectarian and juvenile approach of ‘Naxalites’ towards united platforms. The piece ends with a terse warning to us "to decide whether to be in the mainstream or to go back to old fringe politics".
Let us take their arguments one by one. The essential reason cited in our resolution favouring withdrawal from REA was the perceptible change in the concrete situation in which the main thrust should be shifted against the Congress(l) government at the centre. PD itself admits that "platforms like the REA will be formed from time to time according to the requirement of the concrete situations". Quite correct! Now, has not the concrete situation really changed? CPI(M) which had so far been busy bailing out the Congress government on the floor of the Parliament vis-a-vis the BJP was, though unwillingly, forced to become the prime mover of the no-confidence motion and vote along with BJP. PD, while defending CPl(M)’s refusal to defy prohibitory orders in the months of February-March "when the main thrust had to be against the Sangh combine" (emphasis ours), inadvertently admits that the priorities have changed now. "By insisting on a confrontation with the Government through defiance of prohibitory orders, the aim of the mobilisation against the communal forces would have been sidetracked", argues the PD. This is the argument of a liberal and not of a Marxist. Yet, here lies the implicit assumption that this self-imposed limit no longer holds good any more. The August 19 and September 9 programmes have amply demonstrated this. Mr.Political Commentator of PD, now with this change in the main thrust, what role do you envision for REA? PD doesn’t answer this question and thus the whole debate turns into a meaningless slander campaign. New Age (CPI’s organ) did try to answer the question, without however specifying the exact role of REA in the present condition. IPF made an alternative suggestion to let REA be run by prominent cultural and secular personaliles, with political parties helping from behind. There could have been a healthy debate on this question. But PD in its over-enthusiasm, to score a point over us, missed the main point itself. This juvenile approach of those who have reached the border of senility only evokes pity!
Coming to the review of the REA proper in the context of work in united platforms, PD has tried to erect a Chinese wall between a "wide spectrum" of forces and Left’s own fora. All this is just liberal bourgeois rubbish. A wide spectrum, a united platform to propagate liberal bourgeois values, to project the achievements of bourgeois parties! What then is the rationale behind the existence of the Left -- just to mobilise the masses and order them to clap to the histrionics of bourgeois buffoons? We firmly believe that unleashing mass initiative and spreading left ideology is crucial in any serious and genuine struggle against communalism and the Left must try to use a united platform to this end to whatever extent possible.
Victory of AlSA in UP university elections was an achievement not only for us but of the secular-democratic forces as a whole and this is how the entire secular-democratic spectrum throughout the country received it. It is an irony that a national platform against communalism preferred to ignore such a significant development in UP and refused to allow a speaker from AISA in the 14 April rally. Arguments like "they (IPF) also expect, with their limited strength, vis-a-vis others, to get more speakers than most other parties" are trifles introduced to sidetrack the real issue in question. We are not in the habit of haggling over number of speakers or frontline camera visions -- these are your exclusive preserves. It was the only time that we demanded an AISA speaker in view of the enormous significance of the UP election victory. We are accused of trying to manipulate this platform and are advised to propagate our achievements through our own fora. Fine! Then doesn’t Ram Vilas Paswan, going by the same logic, too have his own platform? Was he not allowed, nay, consciously handed over the stage to convert the entire show into Ambedkar birth anniversary celebrations? Laloo too has his own platform. How come he, without any mobilisation to his credit, so far as the rally is concerned, was allowed to sabotage the spirit of the REA rally for projecting his self-image? Com.Surjeet may not be able to look beyond Laloo Yadav in Bihar but we do recognise the fact that if Bihar has been relatively free from communal riots, the masses of Bihar and the left forces there have had a crucial role in it. In what way does emphasising the role of peasant masses in Bihar and students in UP go against the ‘wide spectrum’ or the December 19 declaration of REA, is beyond our comprehension.
The crux of the matter lies elsewhere. CPI(M) could never digest the AISA victory in UP university elections and the way it went to the ridiculous length of censuring the very news in its organs showed that it was shocked more than even BJP. And they have the audacity to brand us sectarians at that!
It is common sense that the main thrust of REA was against the Sangh combine. But not for nothing did it prefer to remain a front of only non-Congress secular forces. CPI(M) did propose inclusion of Congress in REA but it was rebuffed by the majority of the constituents. The months of March and April were crucial for anti-communal campaign but CPI(M) preferred to remain immobilised under the pretext of sidetracking "the aim of the mobilisation against the communal forces". Actually they were placing great hopes on Congress taking on the BJP, and for that, willingly submitted to the government ban on anti-communal mobilisations as well. It is totally false to claim that "this was discussed thoroughly and agreed upon by all constituents except presumably the IPF". Janata Dal and CPI were, till the last, quite willing to participate in REA Varanasi rally and only the last minute intrigue by CPI(M) made them change their decision.
PD also informs us that, "they [i.e., CPI(ML) and IPF] tried to inject issues outside the common charter in the convention of mass organisations and were rebuffed". This is a real piece of news to us, comrades! Speakers of our mass organisations drew a good applause from participants and it was only your partyman, presiding over there, who, flouting all democratic norms, tried to cut short the time allotted to our speakers.
For us the struggle for secularism is only a part and parcel of the struggle for democracy. If we are really serious in the struggle against communal forces, the partners of the secular front are duty-bound to evolve certain norms of democratic behaviour among themselves. If at the same time a Laloo Yadav engages in horse-trading of IPF MLAs and you organise a massacre of agrarian labourers belonging to IPF, what message does it convey to the people at large? You are wrong comrades. We do not rage at Laloo Yadav’s "splitting" our legislative group. One is absolutely free to change one’s ideas and, of course, join the party of his choice. We only demand that for the sake of elementary parliamentary morality these MLAs should have been asked to resign and seek a fresh mandate. This is a perfectly democratic demand and by rationalising Laloo’s anti-democratic behaviour, for the sake of pragmatic political gains, you are setting a very bad precedent. Well, we are grateful to you for your valuable advice as regards ensuring the political quality and education of MLAs but we will also be benefited if you share your experiences in dealing with the nexus of a certain MLA of yours with Rashid Khan, the satta don, and of a few of your ministers with unscrupulous industrialists in Calcutta. We, however refrain from posing the unpleasant question of 7 MLAs of Left Front -- the highest left formation according to Prakash Karat -- voting for Pranab Mukherjee in Rajya Sabha elections. Shouldn’t a party claiming itself to be the only communist party in India provide a better government than a "cabinet of thieves". Sorry for the wording, comrades, but this coinage has been attributed by press to Comrade Buddhadev Bhattacharya.
According to PD, "their making the CPI(M) the main target of attack is nothing but shades of the old Charu Majumdar thesis" and "the setbacks suffered by the group recently seems to have brought about a relapse to the old disruptive stand". PD is utterly wrong on both the counts. Not the setbacks but the very expansion our party underwent in recent months including, in West Bengal, has invited the CPI(M)’s wrath against us. At grassroots it is reflected in organising Karanda carnage (No problem for PD. In true tradition of suppressing what is unpleasant for the party it just blocked any reference to Karanda) and at macro levels launching a full- scale slander campaign aimed at isolating us from the mainstream of political activities. In UP recently CPI(M)’s state secretary issued a statement opposing Janata Dal’s parleys with IPF for joint actions and accused IPF of planning to advance at the expense of CPI(M). This unusual statement was denounced by all sensible persons including those sympathetic to CPl(M), and CPI state council passed a resolution condemning it. Actually CPl(M)’s slipping hold over the Left Front, and on the contrary, our growing interaction with the partners of the Left Front even in West Bengal have made the CPI(M) panicky and over-reactive to us.
If CPI(M) has come out as our main political-ideological adversary in the entire left-centrist spectrum, it is not because of some thesis of Charu Majumdar nor because of any of our choices. This is rooted in our respective histories, in our two opposite political-tactical lines, and in your frantic efforts to isolate, defame and even physically liquidate us. We neither have any desire to be in fringe politics nor do you have the capacity to isolate us from the main current. We firmly believe that there are saner voices within the CPI(M) who eagerly look for comradely cooperation between our two parties on a new basis of independent role of the Left; and any future realignment on these lines will definitely open up a new chapter in the Indian communist movement. After all, force of circumstances is much more powerful than the subjective wish of this or that leader.