Foundation Day

Call Rekindle the Revolutionary Spirit of Naxalbari,
Prepare for a New Tide of People?s Struggles

As Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry get ready for the May 10 elections, the stocks of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre have begun to plummet quite rapidly. As if the tremors of Tehelka were not enough, several more scams have surfaced in quick succession. Nearly a decade after the Harshad Mehta scam, the share market is once again haunted by a major scandal exposing the intricate nexus between big share brokers, banks, high officials, corporate houses and, of course, bourgeois politicians. A decade?s discourse on correcting ?system failures? through greater transparency and effective regulation stands summed up with brutal precision.

Yet another glimpse of the murky goings-on within the corridors of power is provided by the customs scam. The kingpin of the customs racket was none other than the serving chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs and it turned out that the PMO and the Finance Ministry had handpicked him for this lucrative job despite adverse comments by the Central Vigilance Commissioner. The PMO also finds itself in the eye of the storm over the latest round of telecom sellout. The myth of Vajpayee?s super-clean governance has been blown to pieces and the much-trumpeted stable government under his able leadership stands exposed as just another obnoxious order of the scamsters, by the scamsters and for the scamsters. Corruption has indeed emerged as a great leveller in India?s bourgeois politics.

The immediate political impact of the Tehelka tremors has already been quite considerable. However much the BJP may like to allege a sinister political conspiracy ? possibly backed by the ISI! ? behind the Tehelka tapes and Bangaru Laxman may try and rationalise the bribe as a routine instance of political donation, BJP has had to get rid of him. Similarly, Jaya Jaitly?s arrogant defence of her role in the Tehelka tapes has not helped either her or George Fernandes and both have had to leave. Among the BJP?s allies, the Trinamul Congress lost no time to quit the ?tainted? saffron company while the Shiv Sena, TDP and DMK refused to share platform with the BJP over the issue of Tehelka. The outcome of the May Assembly elections is likely to provide a fresh impetus to the ongoing political realignment.

With the numbers still in favour of the NDA, the Congress this time seems to be prepared for a relatively protracted parliamentary tug of war before engineering a real move for the government?s ouster. The party has called for resignation of the government on moral grounds and the demand may get narrowed down to transfer of the controversial PMO officials. The Congress also has to reckon with the non-Congress opposition, which was prompt in floating a People?s Front, hoping perhaps for a possible repeat of the United Front experiment. Raising the party?s stakes for such an eventuality, in Bangalore, the AICC adopted an open policy on forming a coalition government at the Centre. Rather than being a belated acknowledgement of the so-called ?coalition era?, this new pro-coalition stand of the Congress is clearly intended to enhance the party?s capacity for political manoeuvres vis-?is the non-Congress opposition.

But if the BJP?s attempt to grow into a party of governance has run into a serious crisis of credibility, the Congress and even the non-Congress opposition are also haunted by a similar problem. Ever since Bofors, corruption in high places has been a proven hallmark of Congress culture. The skeletons in the non-Congress cupboard are also too well known. Moreover, corruption has not only become endemic but it is also organically linked to the new economic policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. And while the bourgeois parties have certain differences over the manner of implementation of these policies, especially when they are out of power, it has been proved beyond any doubt by the experience of the last decade that they are essentially at one on this policy choice. The Left parties of course have a clean record, and they have also been opposing the thrust of the new economic policies. But this otherwise consistent opposition has been sullied by their own track record in states like West Bengal and Kerala where the Left-led governments are increasingly being reduced to playing an instrumental role in implementing the same neo-liberal economic agenda.

Questions of policy have also been blurred by the increasing fluidity of coalition politics. The regional parties have emerged as champions of this game of fast politics. The movement of the regional parties away from the National Front and United Front to the BJP-led NDA has drastically altered the political balance and complexion. However much the CPI(M) ideologues would prefer to categorise these regional parties as progressive and secular, the latter have demonstrated time and again that they can overnight change sides without any inhibition of principles. Because of their strong regional roots, the identity of these parties is least affected by their alliances in national politics. The two key all-India parties of the ruling classes also retain their identity through their mutual opposition even as they maintain a large area of consensus over not only economic and foreign policies but various other aspects of domestic affairs as well. Ironically enough, the Left Front has emerged as the biggest loser in this shifting pattern of coalition politics.

Let us look at what has just happened in Assam. The AGP has eventually joined the NDA, leaving the CPI and CPI(M) in an unenviable situation of forced ?independence?. A similar pattern was seen earlier in Andhra when the TDP had crossed over to the side of the BJP. Tamil Nadu has been only slightly different in that the CPI and CPI(M) here have not run out of allies. But in the process, they have landed themselves in the disgraceful company of AIADMK and the Congress. The Akali Dal?s entry into the NDA had presented a similar predicament before the two communist parties in Punjab and here too they resorted to a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress in parliamentary elections. Maharashtra presents another instance of the Left?s understanding with the Congress which is now going sour with the Congress government pushing through draconian anti-labour reforms and the continuing sellout to Enron. The political identity of the Left has been seriously compromised by all these arrangements leading to a steady weakening of the organisation and loss of independent initiative. And now with the Congress-Trinamul alliance challenging the CPI(M) right in its biggest and oldest stronghold of West Bengal, the tactic of secular front with the Congress has clearly begun to boomerang.

Meanwhile the BJP is fast moving ahead with its communal fascist agenda. This year?s budget, which has temporarily been overshadowed by the Tehelka and other scams and a significant downturn in the share market, received a euphoric welcome from the moneybags as Yashwant Sinha not only slashed taxes and interest rates but also went on to propose drastic amendments to the existing set of labour laws with a view to creating a highly flexible labour market. The Committee to Review the Working of the Constitution has begun to propose a whole variety of ways to control democracy. Regardless of whatever findings and recommendations the commission of inquiry into the ?making? of Tehelka allegations may come up with, the government has already begun to link it to the need for state funding of political parties and their electoral battles. In other words, plans are afoot to redesign the Indian polity in such a manner that the ruling classes can have the most ideal combination of a free, liberalised market and controlled, regimented politics. Indeed, the BJP is using every power under its command to bring about a drastic regimentation of India?s beleaguered parliamentary democracy. And for all its internal rivalries and power struggles, the various factions and wings of the Sangh Parivar are actually working quite in unison in this direction.

In sharp contrast to the BJP?s fascist ?boldness?, the response of the bourgeois opposition has been characteristically timid. Indeed, the weakness of the opposition has been a great source of strength for the BJP. This mismatch can only be broken from without the narrow confines of bourgeois politics. Upholding the banner of popular mobilisation and radical resistance can be the only way of defending democracy in the face of growing threats of saffron subversion.

Some three decades ago, when India was faced with a major crisis, Naxalbari had happened. A small rural uprising in an obscure corner of rural Bengal went on to fire the revolutionary imagination in diverse sections of Indian society in a whole new set of ways. For the first time after 1947, the great national disillusionment with the Congress had crystallised into a massive yearning and movement for radical transformation. In spite of severe state repression, the spirit of Naxalbari could not be crushed and India has never been the same again. By 1974, large parts of the country witnessed yet another rebellion of the youth against the venal order of the Congress.

The crisis facing the system today awaits a response as radical as Naxalbari. A tremendous social churning is already underway. Flashes of a great upheaval in the making have been seen in recent times in various parts of the country. Politics in the country has to be made to reflect the intensity of toiling India?s great battle for survival and articulate the growing yearning for a real change.

This April 22, as we observe the thirty-second foundation anniversary of CPI(ML), let us rekindle the spirit of Naxalbari and equip ourselves in every way for the rising tide of people?s struggles.

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