The Developing National Situation: Our Basic Orientation and Tasks

1. Five years ago, our Varanasi Congress had noted “…the Indian ruling establishment is all set to welcome a BJP takeover by the next elections”. A few months later in the 1998 mid-term elections the BJP indeed came to power at the head of a coalition. And following the defeat of that coalition government by a one-vote margin in a no-confidence motion, the BJP returned to power with a bigger coalition. The 1990s saw the BJP gradually edge out the Congress as India’s biggest political party even though the Congress has of late managed to recover some lost ground after it reached a nadir in the 1996 elections. Apart from the BJP’s own growth, which seems to have reached a plateau for the present, the main difference in the balance of political forces has resulted from the fact that the BJP is now able to sustain a growing and durable coalition.

Several regional parties that were partners in the 1989 National Front government and the 1996 United Front government have now crossed over to the BJP camp. The Janata Dal has undergone successive splits and baring the RJD and JD(S), all other factions of the erstwhile biggest centrist party have also become durable allies of the BJP. As a coalition, the NDA has more than its share of squabbles and internal tussles. There have been cases of NDA constituents quitting and rejoining and again quitting the coalition. But these tussles, however tough, have all been in the nature of bargaining and pressure-tactics and have never threatened the existence of the coalition or challenged its fascist core. The alliance is indeed firm enough to withstand even a social and political earthquake like the recent genocide in Gujarat with just a few minor hiccups. Even Advani’s elevation to the status of Deputy Prime Minister did not invite a murmur of protest from any of the constituents. Parties like the TDP and BSP have been extending crucial support to the BJP even without formally joining the NDA. The fact that the BJP has managed to capture and retain power through the coalition route by breaking away precisely those parties that have been repeatedly dubbed secular is a most stunning illustration of the bankruptcy of the very idea of holding the BJP at bay by just forging a broad-based secular front.

2. The Varanasi Congress had also described the BJP’s agenda in very precise terms as “imposing a fascist dictatorship in India”. It had specifically drawn attention to the following aspects of the BJP’s agenda: “pursuing a chauvinist policy vis-à-vis India’s neighbours, particularly Pakistan, escalating the nuclear arms race, transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra where religious minorities will be treated as second-grade citizens, undermining the federal polity, unleashing brutal state repression and organising private armies of landlords to crush agrarian movements of the rural poor, militarily suppressing ongoing movements of national self-determination and crushing all sorts of dissent in intellectual, aesthetic and academic fields.”

All these features have been amply displayed by the BJP during the last four years of NDA rule. Advani himself has repeatedly identified Pokhran, Kargil and POTA as three landmark achievements of the BJP in power. The Ayodhya campaign for a Ram Mandir at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid has been revived with official blessings. While keeping everybody preoccupied with the maze of dubious behind-the-scene parleys and protracted court battles, the VHP-Bajrang Dal storm-troopers are getting ready to stage another coup of the kind of December 6, 1992, with the benign backing of the powers that be. The bogey of religious conversion was raised systematically to unleash a well-orchestrated Christian-bashing campaign. Between the lynching of Graham Steins in January 1999 and the genocide in Gujarat, which was executed by the saffron brigade with complete backing of the state machinery, the BJP’s hate and persecution campaign against religious minorities has completed a gory circle.

State repression is being sought to be further institutionalised and legitimised amidst the official clamour for a hard or effective state and the passing of draconian acts like POTA. And to add to the state’s power to crush insurgencies and ‘discipline’ the civil society, counter-insurgency troops are being raised systematically by giving surrendered militants, both genuine and fake, a virtual license to loot and kill. This strategy is being perfected through practice not only in Kashmir but also all over the Northeast and in other pockets of militant mass unrest

The RSS has blatantly penetrating apex academic and research institutions like the ICHR, ICSSR, NCERT and UGC, textbooks are being rewritten, curricula are being revised and irrational and obscurantist values and communal prejudices are being smuggled into the educational system by all possible means. In the field of art and literature, and films and other cultural forms, any creation that defies the Sangh’s worldview is being sought to be suppressed by all possible means. Cultural activists, academics and journalists, who refuse to toe the RSS line and have the courage to expose the BJP’s misrule, rampant corruption and its sinister campaign of fascist subversion, are being subjected to blatant intimidation and harassment.

3. In the sphere of economic policy, the two successive BJP-led governments have considerably accelerated the momentum of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. Throwing all caution to the winds, the crucial financial sector, including banking and insurance, has been opened up to the manipulations of speculative finance while foreign investors are being offered all kinds of tax concessions and other lucrative benefits in every sector of the economy. The process of disinvestment or the systematic dismantling of profit-making and strategically important public sector units is proceeding apace. A full-time minister has been appointed for the job and the disinvestment target has been raised to as much as Rs. 50,000 crores. Downsizing and casualisation of labour have become the order of the day and the goal of a flexible labour market is being pursued through systematic curtailment of trade union rights and relaxation of the system of industrial closure. Vajpayee’s promise to create ten million jobs every year has turned out to be nothing but a cruel joke for the growing army of unemployed Indians.

Meanwhile, the neo-liberal agenda is being vigorously extended to the agricultural arena. At the behest of the WTO, quantitative restrictions have been removed even on agricultural imports. Subsidies for the agricultural sector are also on their way out. The new agricultural policy introduced in 2000 is wedded to corporatisation of agriculture and the reversal of whatever land reforms have been carried out so far. The public distribution system has been effectively dismantled resulting in shocking starvation deaths while falling prices and declining procurement of food grains and other commercial crops have sent even large sections of hitherto well-to-do farmers reeling and even dying under mounting debt burdens. A bad monsoon in the current year has further aggravated the agrarian crisis

4. Accelerated implementation of the neo-liberal economic agenda has meant a rampant growth of financial scams and corruption in high places, something the BJP had promised to get rid of. Small investors have been robbed of their hard-earned savings through a string of scams in the share market and even in that erstwhile epitome of small investors’ confidence, the Unit Trust of India. The government is now repeatedly diverting huge sums of public money in the name of ‘bailout packages’ for the UTI. Recently, inaugurating a conference of the CBI and state anti-corruption bureaus in Delhi, the Prime Minister himself went on to say, “After the liberalisation of our economy, there has been a spurt in financial frauds, bank and stock market scams, money laundering and cyber crimes, running into hundreds and thousands of crores of rupees.” The Prime Minister however conveniently ignored that these frauds were not happening merely in the mystic realm of the liberalised free market. Senior BJP and NDA functionaries and officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry have also been found to be closely involved in most of these scams.

The unprecedented revelations made by the Tehelka journalists clearly indicted top BJP-Samata leaders and also gave the whole country a stunning glimpse into the kind of institutionalised corruption that thrives in the absolute secrecy that shrouds our megabuck defence deals. More recently, the petrol pump and land allotment scams revealed the kind of venality and nepotism that have now become hallmarks of the BJP and RSS leadership. The following observation made by Dimitrov in his 1935 report to the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International stands fully corroborated by our experience with the Vajpayee government: “Fascism delivers up the people to be devoured by the most corrupt and venal elements, but comes before them with the demand for “an honest and incorruptible government.”

5. While eclipsing the Congress in the competitive pursuit of the economic policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation and also in terms of sheer magnitude and variety of corruption in high places, the BJP has also sought to hijack from the United Front its much-proclaimed agenda of federalism and coalition politics. In reply to the UF’s discourse of coalition era, Vajpayee coined the famous phrase of coalition dharma and now Advani outdoes Vajpayee by saying that the NDA would remain even if the BJP were to win a majority on its own. The BJP’s advocacy of small states and the actual creation of the three new states of Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chhattisgarh in 2000 generated a lot of illusions and misplaced optimism among many a nationality-based organisation. In particular, the Vajpayee government has managed to develop a close rapport with the NSCN(I-M). During his visit to Japan last year, Mr. Vajpayee even had a direct meeting with the NSCN leadership on the Japanese soil. The territorial expansion of the government’s cease-fire with the NSCN created a major turmoil in Manipur that has upset the delicate ethnic balance in the state. In Assam too, the BJP’s main focus is now on befriending tribal organisations, particularly on cementing its ties with the ABSU and a breakaway group of ASDC. In Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP has developed a working relationship with the ruling National Conference even as the RSS and its numerous outfits carry on a strident campaign for trifurcation of the state on communal lines.

Behind this pseudo-federalist veil, the BJP is actually intensifying repressive measures while playing sinister games of divide-and-rule. In Kashmir, the BJP has clearly taken it upon itself to complete the unfinished Partition agenda. Over the last five decades, the Northeastern region has been witness to a number of dead accords, d political betrayals and military suppression of the basic democratic aspirations of different communities and ethnic groups. This has only led to a proliferation of insurgent groups so that by the time the government begins negotiation with the Naga insurgents, its policies would have already resulted in the rise of a few dozen insurgent groups all over the Northeastern region including the northern districts of West Bengal. Whether in the North-East or in other tribal regions of India, the BJP’s real agenda remains two-fold: forcible Hindu-isation of tribal people and systematic denial of the indigenous people’s basic right to land, forests and other natural resources.

6. In terms of both domestic and foreign policies, the BJP-led NDA government has turned out to be the most pro-imperialist and especially pro-US regime in the history of independent India. Indian foreign policy under the BJP-led dispensation has become a veritable adjunct of the American design of a unipolar world under US hegemony. The NDA government was the first to openly welcome and support the NMD project of the Bush administration. Again, after September 11 New Delhi went out of its way to extend unconditional support to the US-led war campaign. Visits by US State Department and defense officials to India have become a regular fixture matched by frequent US trips by Indian ministers including the Prime Minister and Home Minister. Joint military exercises between the two armies, which had last taken place in the wake of the India-China war of 1962, have also been resumed amidst celebratory claims of a newfound ‘strategic partnership’. Under cover of this so-called strategic partnership, American political intervention in Kashmir affairs is assuming alarming proportions.

The NDA government’s foreign policy also contains a marked pro-Israel component with a high degree of military cooperation and intelligence sharing. This is accompanied by a silent approval of brazen acts of Israeli aggression and occupation in Palestine. India kept mum at the time of recent Israeli attacks on Arafat or over Bush’s statement that a solution to the Palestine crisis can only be found after Arafat is removed from the leadership.

This pro-US pro-Israel position of the NDA government has resulted in India’s growing isolation from most of her traditional third world friends. This is all the more true in the context of south Asia where India is being increasingly seen as the biggest regional ally and representative of US imperialism.

7. The BJP’s rule at the Centre has widely come to be decried for its unmistakable communal fascist traits. The term communal fascism has gained currency because in the political scheme of the RSS and BJP, fascism manifests itself primarily in the form of majoritarian, aggressive communalism. But the fascist threat portended by the BJP is by no means limited to the issue of communalism or directed against just one community or all minority communities. Like every other form of fascist rule witnessed in modern history, full-fledged fascism in India too can only mean the open terrorist dictatorship of a minority comprising the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most pro-imperialist sections of the Indian ruling classes directed against the overwhelming majority of the Indian people comprising not only religious minorities but the working class, the labouring peasantry and the progressive intelligentsia cutting across all communities. In the specific historical context of India, the fascist trend comes also with a strong feudal-Brahminical component resulting in particularly intensified attacks on dalits and women. Even though the BJP’s grip on power and the state system in India is still far from total, we have already been witnessing a growing consolidation of the essential features of what can only be characterised as the Indian variety of fascism.

Some sections of liberals and even left forces are however still bogged in pedantic debates and academic hairsplitting over whether fascism has already arrived or if India can ever really witness a real fascist takeover. While it is nobody’s case to equate India of the early twenty-first century with Hitler’s Germany of the 1930s and 40s, it would be suicidal to ignore or underestimate the glimpses of what we have already seen during the last fifteen years of BJP’s ascendance, and more particularly, the last four years of BJP-led coalition rule at the Centre. Fascism is not the natural form of bourgeois rule, it usurps power only in situations of crisis. The irritants being faced by the BJP in its bid to emerge as the Indian ruling classes’ natural party of governance do not in any way negate or minimise the fascist threat. Again, fascism as a form of rule has seldom proved stable or durable, but that has not prevented fascist governments and states from waging a total war on the forces of democracy and socialism. The fact that the BJP as a party of governance still seems to be having limited staying power is therefore also of little consequence.

We must remember the Comintern’s caution that open terrorist dictatorships are not proclaimed overnight and that in states where fascism does not enjoy a broad mass basis, it always uses the parliamentary system to accumulate strength and gradually subvert the system before staging a final coup. The BJP has never sought to hide the fact that if it is not pursuing its entire agenda at one go it is only because it has not yet acquired that kind of power. There is no question of the BJP abandoning or altering its fascist agenda, the expression ‘hidden agenda’ was only a misnomer soaked in liberal illusions. The BJP of course makes a distinction between what is immediately achievable, the minimum programme, and what it has to wait and work for over a longer period of time, the maximum programme, or the strategic goal of a fascist counter-revolution. And while playing the parliamentary game it keeps testing the waters to push ahead its campaign for constitutional subversion. It never misses an opportunity, rather it deftly converts critical occasions into newer opportunities for unleashing its fascist project. Gujarat is a classic case in point.

8. A discredited BJP had been badly routed in the Assembly elections held in February, losing even in Uttaranchal, a region where the party earlier enjoyed near-total monopoly in the erstwhile UP Assembly. But the party responded to this rout by resurrecting the Ayodhya campaign and perpetrating the ghastly genocide in Gujarat. The media and dozens of fact-finding teams that have visited Gujarat in the wake of the unprecedented genocide have extensively documented the state-sponsored and pre-meditated nature of the communal holocaust in Gujarat which was backed by months of planning and methodical execution. History may even go on to unearth a possible saffron conspiracy behind the very Godhra carnage that was used as an excuse for this unprecedented genocide.

The genocide however merely marked another watershed in the history of fascist consolidation like the demolition of the Babri Masjid a decade ago. December 6, 1992 and its immediate aftermath had, of course, pushed the BJP temporarily into a tight corner. Gujarat happened with a BJP-led government at the Centre that ensured that in spite of cries of condemnation from all quarters, the killer regime of Narendra Modi was given a clean chit. In fact, the BJP did everything to make political capital of Gujarat. An extraordinary session of the two houses of Parliament ensured a safe passage for the draconian POTA bill. Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi was smoothly inducted into the Speaker’s chair and in a few weeks came the defining move that foisted Advani as the Deputy Prime Minister. The deliberate dissolution of the Gujarat Assembly may not have achieved the objective of enforcing an early election in the state in the face of a laudable institutional intervention on the part of the Election Commission and the Supreme Court, but the BJP has certainly not toned down its Gujarat campaign.

This sudden change of gear by the BJP and the practiced ease with which it combines open terror and ‘sham parliamentarism’ is liable to catch the bourgeois opposition unawares. Revolutionary communists will have to prove their mettle by developing effective resistance precisely at such critical junctures precisely.

9. The Congress, historically the most natural representative party of the Indian ruling classes, has managed to arrest its decline and has also staged a partial recovery. For the first time in the history of post-1947 India has the Congress been out of central power for such a long period. The party has however wrested several state governments from the BJP and its allies and in terms of its all-India presence and control over state governments it is way ahead of the BJP. But in the crucial Hindi-belt states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Congress has failed to improve its position, even though in Bihar it now shares power as RJD’s junior partner.

Taking a lesson from the experience of the United Front government and the mid-term election that followed Vajpayee’s first term of thirteen months, the Congress has now reconciled to waiting in opposition and hoping to wrest power eventually by default. The Congress has also stepped up its role as opposition, albeit opportunistically, on certain rare occasions like when it opposed the passage of POTA forcing the BJP to go in for an extraordinary joint session of Parliament. But on the basic thrust of the economic policies and on matters of foreign policy there is an effective consensus between the two largest and principal parties of the Indian ruling classes. On the question of communalism, while the Congress maintains a modicum of difference with the BJP, it becomes paralysed in the face of the calculated aggression of the saffron brigade as has been seen once again in Gujarat.

10. In the 1998 elections it was the United Front that had suffered the worst debacle. The gains scored by the BJP were essentially at the cost of the United Front. And after the election among the various breakaway factions of the erstwhile Janata Dal, all but the RJD and JD(S) jumped on to the NDA bandwagon. During the first term of the Vajpayee government, the components of the UF tried their best to revive the Congress-UF arrangement and the CPI(M) and CPI were quite ready to help the Congress form the next government. But the Samajwadi Party and the Congress could not arrive at an agreement and the dream of reviving the Congress-UF arrangement at the Centre turned sour.

After the 1999 election when the NDA returned with a relatively comfortable majority and the Congress made it clear that it was not in a mood to attempt an early toppling of the government, the Left parties formed a People’s Front (PF) in alliance with the Samajwadi Party and the JD(S). The PF adopted a minimum programme which read like a watered down version of the Common Minimum Programme of the UF government even though the CPI(M) claimed a major distinction between the post-poll UF which was formed to run the government and the PF which it said was not an electoral alliance but a platform of popular struggles against the NDA government. Yet ironically, the only occasion when the PF attained a degree of visibility was during the UP elections in which the Samjwadi party allocated a few seats to the CPI and CPI(M) as partners of the PF.

The collapse of the PF over the rift between the Left and the Samajwadi Party during the last Presidential election made it clear that the opportunist Left’s united front tactic has now reached a sort of dead end. The option of forming yet another anti-BJP non-Congress front looks rather bleak with more and more non-Congress parties emphasising greater political cooperation and even alliance with the Congress. Signals from the CPI Congress in Thiruvananthapuram and utterances of many senior CPI(M) leaders also indicate a similar direction. The PF had thus started becoming rather anachronistic for its promoters and the alacrity with which the CPI and CPI(M) declared the collapse of the PF conveyed a sense of relief rather than disappointment.

With the collapse of the PF, there are now two options – more direct collaboration with the Congress or an emphasis on independent assertion of the Left through building Left and democratic unity around a Left core. The political configuration witnessed during the Presidential poll when the Left was pitted against a BJP-Congress consensus appeared to suggest the latter course, but the CPI(M) and CPI leadership took this course under compulsion only when the Congress did not oblige them by putting up an alternative candidate. The CPI(M)’s recent moves are clearly aimed more at developing pan-opposition unity by befriending the Congress and ‘convincing’ parties like the SP, RSP and FB about the ‘need’ to join hands with the Congress, than attempting another ‘third front’ of anti-BJP, non-Congress parties

11. As the primary political vehicle for the fascist agenda of the RSS, the BJP has emerged as the main political target for the Indian people. Of course, the BJP in power represents a bigger threat than the BJP in opposition, but the characterisation of BJP as the main enemy or the principal target should not hinge merely on the basis of power. It is true that the BJP is still facing serious opposition from various quarters within India’s parliamentary democratic system. But this should in no way make us underestimate the fragility or vulnerability of the system to the fascist threat or overestimate the so-called innate strength or resilience of India’s parliamentary democracy or the secular democratic pretensions of the Indian ruling classes. The alarmingly rapid growth of fascist danger over the last decade and a half has only underscored the urgent need for a thoroughgoing democratisation of the Indian state and society. On a strategic plane, the need for a people’s democratic revolution as the only effective and reliable bulwark for democracy, secularism and anti-imperialist national unity and dignity has seldom been felt so strongly.

The identification of the BJP as the principal danger rejects all mechanical notions of equating the BJP and the Congress and consequently also the hypothesis that reduces proletarian independence to a ritual mantra of equidistance from the two parties. At the same time we also firmly reject every advocacy of any kind of alliance with the Congress, of giving any concession to it or slackening the struggle against its reactionary policies and politics whether in or out of power. In his pioneering report to the historic Seventh Congress of the Communist International, Georgi Dimitrov had categorically warned that “…before the establishment of a fascist dictatorship, bourgeois governments usually pass through a number of preliminary stages and adopt a number of reactionary measures which directly facilitate the accession to power of fascism. Whoever does not fight the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie and the growth of fascism at these preparatory stages is not in a position to prevent the victory of fascism, but, on the contrary, facilitates that victory.”

12. While the opportunist Left moves closer to the Congress, we must champion the line of developing a revolutionary left core of resistance and building a broad-based unity of Left and democratic forces on the basis of a bold and independent assertion and initiative of the Left. In the Varanasi Congress we had visualised the possible emergence of a broad anti-BJP configuration in the event of a saffron takeover of India and laid down three basic parameters to define our response to any such broad configuration: (i) the party’s independence and initiative must be retained, (ii) the 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. We reaffirm this basic tactical orientation of the Party under the present circumstances.

In the parliamentary arena, occasions may arise when our moves and positions synchronise with those of the rest of the opposition, but that must not be confused with any notion of pan-opposition unity or secular front. While we explore every possible scope for parliamentary intervention, the parliamentary component of our practice must remain subservient to the extra-parliamentary role and initiative of the Party and priorities of the movement. This is a basic communist principle, but it is especially relevant today when we are faced with an enemy that thrives on the basis of its fascist combination of the parliamentary and the extra-parliamentary.

Unleashing incessant struggles on basic issues pertaining to the increasingly threatened livelihood of the masses under the impact of neo-liberal economic policies, offering bold resistance to every manifestation of communal fascist offensive, and upholding the banner of progressive Indian nationalism against growing imperialist intervention and the chauvinism of the Indian ruling classes – these are three principal aspects of our immediate democratic agenda. Powerful mobilisation of the working people, particularly the rural poor, and also of students and youths, strengthening of the independent role and initiative of the Party and extensive interaction and cooperation with a whole range of organisations and individuals from the left parties and communist revolutionary groups to socialists and new social movements – these are the three key components of our line of a left-led anti-fascist resistance. Any effective anti-fascist front can only be built up on the basis of powerful worker-peasant struggles. Developing more and more pockets of militant struggles of the rural poor remains the key to facing the growing fascist threat in the country.