"It is time to rebuild the third force ..."
(Below we carry an interview of Com.Vinod Mishra, General Secretary of CPI(ML), by Com.Ramji Rai, Editor of Samkaleen Lokyudh).
Ramji Rai: How do you assess the present political situation?
Vinod Mishra:The present political situation has demolished many myths. In the scramble for power, BJP in an effort to manipulate majority, sidelined all the issues that make its specfic identity. On the other hand, many would have not expected the pace and the ease with which JD and the left have established coexistence with Narasimha Rao's Congress and its direction of economic reform.
The emergence of BJP as the largest political party and the emergence of a common understanding among the centrists, leftists, regional parties and the Congress for 'secularism and economic reforms', is a new juncture in Indian politics. At this juncture, the agenda of social justice has to be redefined and we have to rebuid the third force anew.
RR: With no political party getting a clear mandate in the parliamentary elections to form a government, does this indicate to some crisis of the ruling classes or its democratic strength? If it indicates to some crisis what type of crisis is it?
VM: We communists have always been pointing out to India's multinational, multilingual and hence multidimensional cultural diversity as against the BJP's Indian nationalism with Hindutva as its essential thread. National unity should be built on the progressive ideology of anti-imperialism, democracy and a modern state and not on archaic Brahminical values. The failure of BJP to gather majority in spite of presenting a moderate face and also the composition of the present Indian parliament, verifies our understanding of Indian society.
Ofcourse, there is a crisis. After the decline of Congress, we have witnessed the limits of the other centralised all-India political formation. Indian society may be a 'great coalition' but to translate it into a stable political coalition is a tough job specially when there is no strong nucleus at its centre.
To get out of this dual problem, the process of experimentation shall continue and it is to be seen that for how long and till how far can the institutions of parliamentary democracy bear it.
RR: Political analysts and most of the bourgeoisie political parties are looking at this situation as the beginning of a new era of coalition governments and are fitting their tactics to suit these conditions. Does it not appear to you that Indian politics is going to pass through a phase of coalition governments for a long time to come?
VM: There were talks of the phases of coalition governments in 1977 and '89 too but those proved to be shortlived. This time the number of parties in the coalition governments is quite high but its largest constituent has only 42 seats. BJP and Congress are still the first and second largest parties and ironically both of them are outside the government. Former as an opposition, and latter as a supporter of the government from outside. Both are pursuing the tactics of utilising the contradictions and splits in the United Front government to their benefit. That is why to say that this experiment of the coalition government will decide the general direction for the future would be too premature a conclusion.
RR: CPI(ML) has commended the CPI(M) for not participating in the coalition government. By doing this they (CPI(M)) have not done a new thing. This is only following their old policy. Then why did the need to congratulate arise? Is there anything new in this? If yes what is it?
VM: The pressure on CPI(M) to participate in the government was much more this time and as is known, one section of the leadership had already made up its mind to participate in the government. In such a situation, the Party's Central Committee's decision to firmly stand by the party programme is indeed important. At the political level, the logical culmination of the straight line of 'secular alternative' can only be joining the government. On similar pretexts CPI had in the past joined even Congress governments. The decision of the CPI(M) CC has worked as a brake against floating with the current. You might have seen that while CPI has called this decision unfortunate we have welcomed it.
But many questions emerge after this decision on which CPI(M) has to clarify its position. For example, last time while getting into an understanding with the NF, LF had maintained its separate independent identity, but this time CPI(M) and other left parties have become a constituent of the United Front. And since the government is of the UF, even without participation in it you will be equally responsible for the omissions and commissions of the government. The decision of the CPI to participate in the government has threatened the very existece of LF as a united block. Even more, Deve Gowda has been an ardent admirer of Narasimha Rao's economic policies. From the very beginning Congress has been making the question of continuation of the economic policies the main condition for its support. Deve Gowda becoming the prime minister and Chidambaram the finance minister amounts to capitulating before this conditionality. The irony is that Congress, though remaining outside, is pulling the strings of the government but CPI(M) in spite of being a UF constituent is unable to determine the direction of the government.
This very contradiction of CPI(M)'s position is increasing outside pressure on it to reconsider its decision on joining the government and on the other hand the internal demand to give critical support to the government by staying out of it is also gaining ground. We will welcome any such decision of the CPI(M) that maintains a distance with Congress along with the BJP.
RR: If it is so then what should be the tactics of the Left Front? Is there not a need to bring changes in its old policies in order to participate in the government? A change in the old policy or in other words the policy of participating in the coalition government only in a position to influence the policies of this government!
VM: When it is said that we shall participate in any government only when we posses the required strength to decide its policies, this is said generally in the context of the state governments only. Through parliamentary path, no such possibility at the centre can be seen anywhere. Even this time when Left Front is running its government in three states, its strength in the parliament is about the same as last time. All the experiments of state governments that they have run till now have hardly effected the worker-peasant mobilisation at the national level or increased the strength of the left. In other states, specially those in the centrestage of Indian politics, in order to register even a marginal presence there the left is badly dependent on the centrist forces.
Under these circumstances, the only thing that a few leftist ministers in the bourgeois-landlord government can do is to preach on class-harmony and class-compromises. In Europe, the social democrats have been doing all this and nothing else was achieved other than the disintegration and degeneration of the left and communist movement.
CPI's tired old men cannot possibly wait any longer but the young generation of communist movement must steer clear of these short cuts.
RR: In this context, one important question is that even this time CPI(ML) failed to join any united front. Is this an indication of the failure of the party's united front policies or one of its drawbacks or an inadequate development of situations conducive to its policies? Do you feel the need for a rethinking on your front policies?
VM: Even now the level at which we are working the main thrust is on building our strength. At the social level, our effort to build unitedfront with various classes and sections of the masses is continuing. This is a long drawn process and has no alternatives.
At the national level we have always identified ourselves with the camp of the anti-Congress and anti-BJP third force and have always participated in joint actions. But at the organisational level, tying ourselves with any front will blunt our initiatives in various states and may prove suicidal for the Party. Even then we are continuously trying to develop tactics to properly utilise every division among and within our opponents to our favour and in this respect scope for serious discussion is definitely there.
RR: Do you think that the current situation is proceeding towards making possible a new and broad left unity?
VM: Emerging from its ashes, the CPI(ML) that you see today has developed with the combined efforts of comrades coming from the various groups in the Naxalite movement as well as from CPI-CPI(M). Apart from this we are always trying to open locked doors one after the other for dialogue and joint actions with other left forces.
When we talk of left unity we mean dismantling the old basis of unity and build up a new premises. Current situation is giving birth to new debates in this direction and in this sense it is of course conducive for left unity.
RR:How do you find the performance of CPI(ML) in these elections? Is the Party satisfied with it?
VM: In these elections, in Bihar we had nothing to lose. And to gain, we had the seat of Ara and a target of 10 lakh votes. Each of our comrades pooled in his/her best efforts to achieve this target. We fell short of target but we didn't leave any stone unturned to achieve whatever was possible in the given concrete political-organisational situation.
In Assam, our practice has advanced and by contesting on 45 seats all over the country
we have organised a political campaign on a much larger scale.
Hopefully, the opportunity to fulfill whatever fell short from our target would arise soon in the near future.
RR: A front with any of the left forces or centrist forces could not be made. Even with social base, no success was attained at forging a front with any section of the middle-castes or middle-class. How do you see this? What is your future strategy regarding this?
VM: We did get the support from some sections of the middle castes and middle-classes or else our progress in the three seats in Bihar where we have polled more than one lakh votes each would not have been possible. In these elections we laid emphasis on strengthening our class base. This was necessary due to the inroads being made by Janata Dal in our support base.
In the light of the jolt received by JD, certainly a conducive condition has been created to expand our influence among the middle castes and we have taken the decision to take up this task in a planned manner.
RR: What kind of role is the current situation demanding from the left front today? Will left forces be able to advance unitedly in this direction?
VM: Left leaders must do away with their role of a broker between the centrist forces and the Congress and raise their voice against communalism and the foreign-capital-based economic development. In parliament, they should adopt the role of a left opposition demarcating themselves from the United Front. This is the feeling of left cadres too. Whether the leadership of the left forces will unitedly proceed in this direction only time can tell.