The message of July 28, 2004:

Intensify the Movement, Strengthen the Party and Seize the Present Juncture

Dipankar Bhattacharya

July 28, 2004 marks the thirty-second anniversary of the martyrdom of Comrade Charu Majumdar, the great architect of Naxalbari and the founder General Secretary of the CPI(ML). The entire Marxist-Leninist movement in the country observes this day as the Martyr’s Day. And for us July 28, 2004 also marks the thirtieth anniversary of the reorganisation of the CPI(ML) following the major reverses suffered in the early 1970s. At once the day therefore reminds us of the great sacrifice made by our martyrs as well as the historic struggle waged by the party with great determination and resilience to continually renew itself and inject fresh life into the revolutionary movement.

At a time when the ruling classes and the Indian state believed that they had succeeded in smashing the CPI(ML) for ever, communist revolutionaries were still working day and night to keep the Party alive. It was this revolutionary will which found a bold, organised and decisive expression with the formation of a new Central Committee and its declaration to reorganise the party from above. The new CC, which comprised just three members, Comrade Jauhar, Comrade VM and Comrade Raghu, spearheaded a determined campaign to pick up the pieces and rebuild the organisation and the movement.

A Revolutionary Communist Party Moulded in the Fire of Militant Mass Struggles

This supreme emphasis on the party principle as opposed to the practice of functioning as groups or tendencies has been a characteristic hallmark of our Party ever since. And the principle has been upheld amidst the most adverse of circumstances, even when conditions did not favour anything beyond a skeletal structure of an underground organisation. In November 1975 Comrade Jauhar died a martyr’s death on the battlefields of Bhojpur. Within three months the party went in for its Second Congress and elected an 11-member Central Committee. Of course the Second Congress was held at a time when many of our comrades were still languishing in jail with parliamentary democracy itself eclipsed under an unprecedented internal Emergency. In the given situation the Second Congress could do little more than endorsing the Party line adopted at the First Congress, but it was not long before the Party began an organised process of introspection and rectification.

Under the close guidance of the Central Committee the entire party embarked on a campaign to examine and rectify its style of work. This in turn led to a critical review of our thought process and soon the party was discarding remnants of metaphysical dogma and reaffirming dialectical thinking and creative practice in a big way. The All-India Special Conference of the Party in July 1979 laid the foundation of our new tactical line.

From July 1974 to July 1979, it thus took the party full five years to define a new priority to the mass dimension in its line and practice, a process that took a distinct shape with the formation of the Indian People’s Front in 1982 as an all-India mass political platform even as the Party remained underground. And thereafter it took nearly another ten years for this mass dimension to announce its arrival in the electoral arena, an arena that is no less challenging for a revolutionary communist party than the terrain of armed struggle. When we look back, it may sometimes appear that it took us such an inordinately long time to effect this new balance in our Party line and practice, but then the changes evolved from our own practice and it was quite right for a party hitherto engaged almost exclusively in armed struggle to take its first steps on the slippery road of parliamentary struggles with a lot of caution. Also the changes could not possibly be grasped in the right revolutionary spirit without extensive inner-party debates and discussions.

The risk of mistakenly elevating a particular form of struggle to the level of strategy did not however disappear with the rejection of boycottism and reconciliation of armed struggle with the needs and level of the mass movement. There was also the other danger of falling for a parliamentary path or getting afflicted with the malady of parliamentary cretinism. The struggle against liquidationism in the late 1980s played a crucial role in averting and combating such a danger. If the Rectification Movement freed the party from the shackles of metaphysics and dogmatism, the struggle against liquidationism in the late 1980s not only saved the party’s revolutionary line and identity from possible parliamentary distortion and even degeneration but also increased the party’s capacity to implement the line in a creative and dynamic manner. The “three cardinal principles” the Party rediscovered and re-emphasised in course of this inner-party campaign (taking revolutionary peasant struggle as the key-link of our multifarious practice, waging consistent ideological-political struggle against social democracy, ensuring the Party’s political leadership on the democratic movement) remain our long-term guidelines. The development that we have achieved so far in terms of our Party line, organisation and the movement cannot be understood in isolation from these defining struggles in our formative years against dogmatism and liquidationism.

When we look back at our Party history of the last thirty years we can therefore broadly divide it into two phases – the formative phase (1974-1989) when the foundations of the party line were laid primarily in the course of militant peasant struggles and the years of steady implementation and organisation building that have followed especially since 1993 after the Party came out into the open. Having essentially clinched the question of the Party’s strategic perspective and tactical line during the first and formative half of Party history, the Party naturally focussed more on the organisational aspects during the latter phase. A special plenum was held during this phase (Diphu, 1995) to emphasise the task of Party-building in a comprehensive manner. The Party also continued to spread in newer areas – in fact, much of our growth in North Bihar, Eastern UP, Jharkhand and Orissa was achieved in the 1990s. Simultaneously, this latter phase witnessed the formation of our present network of mass organisations as well as much of the formalisation of our current party structure.

Of course, the question of Party-building can never be addressed in a mere technical sense without reference to the demands made by the Party’s tactical line and the challenges of raising the level of the Party’s inherent ideological resistance to the pressures of parliamentary politics and sundry other external pressures that the immediate environment constantly exerts on the Party. The last two Party Congresses (Varanasi, 1997 and Patna, 2002) have dealt at length with various aspects of the organisational question; besides, in between Varanasi and Patna we had a time-bound campaign to strengthen the Party in certain basic respects and only last year we had a major campaign throughout the Party to give a new thrust to our agrarian work, especially our work among the rural poor. And as we review our performance in the just concluded 14 th Lok Sabha elections and deliberate on the new situation and our tasks in the forthcoming central cadre convention of the Party at Bhubaneshwar on July 28-29, we must focus once again on the state of our organisation and our overall preparedness to face the challenges of the day.

The New Juncture and New Challenges for the Left

The outcome of the 14 th Lok Sabha elections in India has been widely hailed by progressive and democratic forces not only within India but also across the world. For the last six years, the BJP had been systematically using state power to subvert the notions and structure of constitutional democracy in India. It had succeeded in securing an unprecedented proliferation of the intricate organisational network of the Sangh Parivar and had virtually got away with a full-scale genocidal campaign in Gujarat. In terms of economic and foreign policies, the BJP-led government had greatly accelerated India’s integration with the global economy and especially with the global network of US imperialism. The elections have dislodged the BJP-led NDA from power at the Centre, and dented the party’s strength considerably in key states like Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. While many allies left the BJP on the eve of the elections and most of the remaining allies got badly bruised in the elections, it is really the decline in the BJP’s own strength that is the most significant. The long and quite steep ascent of the party that had started with the 1989 elections and continued through successive elections till 1999, pushing the party within striking distance of 200 seats in the Lok Sabha has finally been reversed and the party’s tally has gone down by more than 40 seats to less than 140.

From the point of view of India’s parliamentary democracy, the results of the 2004 elections have therefore been no less significant than the outcome of the 1977 elections which had ended Indira Gandhi’s infamous Emergency regime. In fact, the present outcome has a more radical context than the 1977 ouster of Indira Gandhi. In 1977, it was the socialists, liberal democrats and even the rabid reactionaries and conservative rightwingers of the Sangh who claimed all the credit for the restoration of democracy. This happened in spite of the fact that the Sangh had gone the whole hog in deifying Indira Gandhi in the wake of her victory in the Bangladesh war and even offered to compromise with her in the midst of the Emergency atrocities. What made this possible was the political bankruptcy displayed by the two old communist parties. In a virtual repeat of the 1942 blunder, the CPI was once again caught on the wrong side of the fence forging an ‘anti-fascist alliance’ (!) with the Congress, while the CPI(M) by its own admission, remained largely inactive and immobilised, playing the role of fence-sitters rather than offering any credible resistance. As for ourselves, we were still in the process of reorganising the Party, yet the fierce struggles that the Party waged on the flaming fields of Bhojpur constituted the most glorious communist-led armed resistance during the Emergency era to the military offensive of the autocratic Indian state.

In contrast, various streams of the Left have been at the head of the popular opposition to the communal fascist campaign of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. In Andhra, where the ‘model’ government of economic reforms, the BJP-backed TDP regime of Chandrababu Naidu, faced its worst ever rout, it was the united agitation of nine Left parties which really helped channelise the people’s anger against this most insensitive and repressive regime. The Left also took the lead in articulating the country’s strong opposition to the state-sponsored genocide in Gujarat and to the Anglo-American war on Iraq and the pro-US stance of the NDA government. In 1977, the immediate democratic agenda was quite limited and specific, revolving primarily around restoration of press freedom and other civil liberties and basic democratic rights of the people. This time around, the anti-NDA campaign did not merely revolve around the issue of civil liberties, it went far beyond that and clearly had three distinct but interrelated components: undoing the fascistic subversion effected by the NDA regime in the realm of justice and human rights, education and culture; reversal of the elitist and pro-imperialist economic reforms; and freeing India from Washington’s strategic stranglehold.

It is true that the importance of the Left is not adequately reflected in the election outcome. The opportunist Left has of course notched up its biggest ever tally, but the seats have come primarily from the traditional bastions of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Having maintained one seat in the Lok Sabha since 1989, the revolutionary Left has this time gone unrepresented in the Lok Sabha. And the PWG still believes that the most effective role it can play is to make an assassination bid on Chandrababu Naidu, work for a Congress victory in elections and then return to the negotiating table for a ceasefire and for ‘release and rehabilitation’ of some more of its jailed or warranted cadres.

While the Left’s gains have not been commensurate with the role played by various Left organisations in shaping and activating the anti-fascist anti-imperialist opinion in the country, parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD and BSP have emerged as the major beneficiaries of the anti-NDA vote without having played any effective role in terms of combating the BJP’s fascist offensive. In fact, the Congress and SP often pursued a notoriously soft line while the BSP ran a coalition government with the BJP in UP and Mayawati even went to the extent of campaigning for Narendra Modi in the post-genocide Gujarat elections. Clearly election results are often determined by many local and historical factors beyond the pale of the immediate national political reality. Revolutionary communists therefore must never let their political role be defined in terms of mere election results. Any political inhibition on the part of the Left and progressive democratic forces in affirming the latent Leftward potential of the present juncture can only embolden the forces of right reaction to intensify the neoliberal campaign. And we must never forget that the fascist forces have merely been temporarily sidelined and only a powerful resurgence of the Left and the struggles of the working people can effectively push the fascist forces and their agenda back to the political margins.

Continuing Contention between Social Democratic and Revolutionary Tactics

The CPI(M) claims that the 2004 results have fully vindicated the correctness of its tactical line and the three-pronged election tactics – ousting the NDA, forming a non-NDA government and strengthening the CPI(M) and the Left – formulated on this basis. On the face of it the claim seems unexceptionable. The NDA is out, a Congress-led and Left-supported UPA government is in and with a contingent of 60-odd members in a 540-plus parliament we have surely seen the best electoral showing of the Left in terms of seats. Yet ironically, a ‘victorious’ and ‘vindicated’ CPI(M) found itself faced with a dilemma as to how to handle its new-found ‘victory’. Joining the Congress-led government at the Centre would have been quite natural or logical for the CPI(M)’s tactical line. Had the CPI(M) agreed to do that, a step that many important CPI(M) leaders were known to favour but was once again turned down by the overwhelming majority of the Central Committee, it would have however effectively exposed itself as a social-d emocratic party (and lost its only surviving distinction with the CPI). That the CPI(M) chose to avoid this option owes more to this pragmatic consideration and the complexities of the ground reality in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura than to any programmatic reason. After all, the ‘updating’ of the party’s programme at the Thiruvananthapuram special conference was meant precisely to make programmatic room for such power-sharing opportunities at the Centre or in states where the party has a relatively limited or weak presence.

Interestingly, while the party chose not to join the government it had no hesitation in sparing its most well known parliamentary representative and erstwhile leader of its parliamentary wing as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The dichotomy also informs the party’s approach to the new CMP (it did not sign the document, but endorsed it nevertheless) and in fact its entire role vis-à-vis the UPA government (as Sitaram Yechuri puts it, the party’s role will be that of a watchdog and not a lapdog, but the party will continue to prop up the new regime come what may). All that the CPI(M) would henceforth do is to ask the Congress to ‘adhere’ to the CMP, even as the IMF and World Bank have also welcomed the CMP and Mr. Chidambaram, who had given the Indian corporate sector and the MNCs their dream budget in 1997 and has once again returned to the Finance Ministry with the support of the Left, has gone on record hailing the CMP as a bold document that gives him ample room to make ‘creative experiments’ with the reforms!

In the wake of the 1977 ouster of the Congress, the CPI(M) had adopted its line of a Left and democratic front and held a special plenum to spread the party in the Hindi-speaking states. Twenty-five years later, the party has virtually lost whatever little pockets it had in the Hindi belt. Even in a state like Andhra Pradesh, the party could think of nothing better than playing second fiddle to the Congress and helping the latter recover all its lost ground. Andhra is the one state where the true face of the neoliberal reforms was exposed in all its ugliness and there was little other agenda in the elections (except perhaps the issue of a separate Telengana state), than the stark economic crisis being experienced by the working people. Yet it was the Congress that emerged as the biggest beneficiary of the people’s anger against Naidu’s cyber regime and his ‘model policies’ prescribed and hailed by the World Bank.

Evidently, while the CPI(M) tactical line has enabled the party to consolidate its position as a party of power in the three states of West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, it has failed to create or nurture any growth potential for the party in other regions where the party can only come up through hard struggles. On the contrary, the tactical line has only perpetuated the CPI(M)’s weakness in all its supposedly ‘non-traditional’ areas and left the party a permanent prisoner of the ‘weak Left’ argument. This impotence of the tactical line is of course rooted in the CPI(M)’s strategic dilemma over parliamentary path. In the CPI(M) scheme of things there is little room for powerful popular struggles, managing power remains the party’s greatest political priority. While the party’s long tryst with power in West Bengal has failed to induce any expansion of the party even in the neighbouring states, it certainly acts as a brake on the growth of Left-led mass struggles in other states. The fact that the West Bengal government is virtually pursuing the entire gamut of neoliberal policies makes it risky for the CPI(M) to attempt to unleash any struggles anywhere in the country which could by extension fuel opposition to its own rule in West Bengal, and easy for the system to snub the CPI(M) and keep it confined to the ‘responsible limits’ of minimalist or tokenist opposition.

By contrast, our tactical line and election tactics have always been geared to unleashing the fullest initiative of the Party and giving full play to people’s struggles. During the last six years we ran a sustained campaign against the fascist design of the Sangh Parivar and against every measure of the NDA government that served this fascist design and the interests of US imperialism. During the elections too we organised a vigorous and lively campaign in more than sixty seats and in most of these cases we were the only Left organisation on the ground. But for our intervention in the electoral battle in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh, the Left presence in the electoral arena in this part of the country would have become almost invisible. Forty-one of the sixty-five seats we contested were from this region and we polled more than one million votes from these forty-one seats.

The fact that we contested so many seats without entering into coalitions is often misinterpreted as an example of an isolationist trend on our part. But beyond Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, the CPI and CPI(M) too contested several seats on their own. In fact, in Bihar the CPI was forced to contest independently because the RJD did not entertain its proposals for seat-sharing. In Assam where both the CPI and the CPI(M) had to contest independently without any alliance with the Congress or the AGP, it was possible for our three parties to have a seat-sharing arrangement. For the very reason that the CPI(M) and Congress cannot have an adjustment in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, no self-respecting and growing organisation of the Left can have an adjustment with the Congress and parties like the RJD or JMM in states like Bihar and Jharkhand. It is instructive in this regard to look at the experience of parties like the SP and BSP in Uttar Pradesh – none of them could be forced into an alliance or adjustment with the Congress. Indeed, Uttar Pradesh provided the biggest refutation of the ‘indispensability of alliance’ argument – the SP, BSP and the Congress all battled it out among themselves and yet the BJP could hardly secure any benefit from this split in non-NDA votes. The only other principled and realistic option that we had was to contest perhaps on a somewhat smaller scale. But with parties like the BSP and SP going all out to spread their influence by contesting almost all seats in the Hindi belt, it was not really possible for us to keep away from the contest in any major way.

The contrast and contention between the opportunist and revolutionary tactics of the Left would perhaps become sharper in the days to come. We have welcomed the CPI(M)’s decision not to join the new government. But the fact that the CPI(M) and the CPI have not joined the governments does not in any way suggest that they are ready to play the role of a Left opposition vis-a-vis the new government. As we have already observed, the two parties have endorsed the CMP in spite of the fact that the CMP marks no essential departure in the realm of economic and foreign policies. And whatever little promises the programme has for the poor, the agricultural labourers and women are not likely to be implemented. Already in his first address to the new Parliament the President has linked the implementation of the programme to the ‘availability of resources’ and the ‘absorptive capacity’ of different sectors. Yet the opportunist Left refers to the CMP as the latest gospel on secular democracy and pro-poor governance.

Large sections of the Left-liberal intelligentsia are visibly euphoric over the election results. The pessimism, gloom and alarmist analysis that marked much of the Left-liberal intellectual response to the communal fascist threat of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP are overnight giving way to complacency. We are already hearing facile predictions of a re-emergence of the great Congress system and the BJP being reduced to another Jan Sangh – even though the BJP’s present tally of 138 seats is only seven seats short of the Congress tally of 145! Again, even as the Congress has dropped enough hints by its choice of personnel for the new government and its institutions – Manmohan Singh as PM, P. Chidambaram as Finance Minister and Montek Singh Ahluwalia as the new Deputy Chairman for the Planning Commission – a leading economist of the CPI(M) school talks confidently about a five-year freezing of reforms!

The ambivalent and bankrupt formulations of the opportunist Left leadership and the illusions being spread by significant sections of the Left-liberal intelligentsia certainly do not augur well for the future political role of the Left bloc in Parliament or for that matter for the agitational initiatives of Left-led mass organisations. If the opportunist Left’s record of offering loyal support to previous friendly governments is any indication, there is every danger of Left-led mass organisations being pushed into yet another phase of disastrous tokenism, all in the name of preventing the BJP from staging a comeback. But it is precisely such inertia on the part of the opportunist Left which had largely enabled the BJP to effectively corner and almost monopolise the entire opposition space between 1989 and 1997 paving the way for the Sangh Parivar’s eventual rise to power by 1998. The lethal combination of an uninterrupted pursuit of the neo-liberal agenda and increasing concessions made to communal forces and imperialist dictates by successive Congress and United Front governments had eventually made the unthinkable possible. The forces and well-wishers of the Left can ignore the lessons of the 1989-1998 period only at their own peril.

Problems of Strengthening Mass Resistance

While upholding the revolutionary tactical line we must of course ruthlessly examine our weak showing at the elections and draw our lessons. We must not seek easy answers like the growing polarisation of votes between the two rival coalitions. It is true that beyond West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, all the Left victories have been won in alliance with the available bourgeois opposition. Contesting independently, Left candidates have at most managed to finish second or in a few cases poll more than 1,00,000 votes (the CPI(M) in two Maharashtra seats, the CPI in one seat each in Manipur, Assam and Bihar, the CPI(ML) in two seats in Bihar and one seat in Jharkhand and the Marxist Coordination Committee led by Comrade AK Roy in one seat in Jharkhand). But the polarisation argument does not really answer the real question of why Left candidates contesting independently could not emerge as a third pole in more seats and where they did why they could not make more effective inroads to tilt the balance and win the s eats. Indeed, in none of our major seats do we find much validity in the polarisation argument.

In the Autonomous District constituency of Assam, where we had secured four Lok Sabha wins in a row, we were primarily affected by the July 2000 split in the organisation and the rise of armed militancy in the region. The BJP here finished fourth by polling a little more than 50,000 votes while the Congress managed to regain the seat after four consecutive losses by securing just about 1,25,000 votes. We have of course been able to bring about a partial revival in our situation since July 2000 – we had not been able to win any seat in the 2001 Assembly elections and in the Council elections that followed we could win only two of the 26 council seats in Karbi Anglong and not a single seat in the neighbouring North Cachhar Hills. Since then we have tried to regain our lost ground by intensifying mass work among the peasants, the unorganised workers and the toiling women and by organising political campaigns on issues pertaining to the autonomy movement and the growing insecurity of the tribal people. The results show that even though we have recovered considerable ground in three of the five Assembly segments (we in fact led in seven council segments and finished a close second in another four), the breakaway group of ASDC too continues to hold on to a sizeable mass base in these areas. Obviously while winning over this base through painstaking mass work and bold political initiatives, we also have to grapple with the question of tackling the militant outfits.

The Arrah seat in Bihar comprises six Assembly segments, four of which are in Bhojpur district (Sahar, Sandesh, Arrah and Barhara) and the remaining two in Patna (Maner and Paliganj). While we managed to improve our position in the first three of the four Bhojpur segments – in fact, we had a slender lead over all our contenders in the combined vote of these three segments, we conceded a lead of nearly 1,20,000 votes to the RJD in the two Patna segments alone. One of these segments (Maner) is heavily dominated by Yadav peasants and we still have virtually no penetration among them. In Bhojpur we had run a very intensive campaign to organise agricultural labourers in their primary class organisation. But the increase in our votes did not reflect our full potential. Clearly, the rural poor still cannot match the upper and backward caste power groups in terms of intensity of polling rate and the solidity of election machinery.

In Siwan our votes had jumped in 1999 from around 1,15,000 in the 1996 and 1998 elections to more than 2,50,000 and we had finished second. This was made possible by a spontaneous support we had received in the last elections from considerable sections of the backward caste peasantry. The NDA nominee had been relegated to a very distant third position polling only around 53,000 votes. This time around we were pushed back to the third position with only around 73,000 votes while the NDA nominee regained the second position with more than 2,00,000 votes. Our abject inability to hold on to the support won in the 1999 elections reflects several major weaknesses – failure to expand the organisation and consolidate the spontaneous mass support, failure to develop durable organic ties with the middle sections and failure to provide districtwide mass political leadership.

While we thus witnessed the most drastic fall in our votes in Siwan, in several other Lok Sabha constituencies too we witnessed a significant decline in our votes. Compared to our 1999 performance or our average performance since 1989, we lost more than 30,000 votes in Jehanabad and Nalanda and around 15,000 votes in Sasaram, Barh, Patna, Buxar, Gopalganj and Bagaha. In some cases most of this decline has been registered in just one or two Assembly segments. Assembly segments that recorded a drop of more than 10,000 votes number no less than seven – Sikta in West Champaran district, Bhore in Gopalganj district, Fatuha and Paliganj in Patna, Hilsa and Islampur in Nalanda and Arwal.

How do we explain such a massive drop in our votes in a single Assembly segment? We talk about booth capturing on the polling day, but why is there no resistance? In our areas of intensive work, booth-grabbers can succeed only if our people do not put up much resistance, and the lack of resistance often shows a lack of adequate motivation. In areas of severe state repression or in areas where we are having a running battle with private armies of landlords, mafia gangs or armed anarchist outfits, we often attribute the disruption in polling or the drop in polling rate to police repression or the terror of the armed gangs. There can be no denying the fact that in many parts of Bihar we have to combat this reality on a daily basis and attempts are always being made to stop us by unleashing a combination of state terror and armed attacks. Only after successfully withstanding this challenge can we stabilise our organisation and consolidate our political influence. In most of the areas where we now have a strong presence and are widely recognised as a serious and fighting political organisation we have invariably had to pass through such a phase of resistance. Instead of treating booth-capturing, repression or terror as insurmountable obstacles or as an immutable reality, we must focus primarily on the problems of developing mass resistance.

When we probe deeper we however often find that our votes have fallen not so much in the areas directly hit by repression or confrontation with various armed gangs but in areas of relative peace and inaction. It is in areas where our links with the masses are weak and infrequent that we find the greatest negative impact of terror and repression. In a situation of severe repression or armed assaults it is possible to lose our connections temporarily, but unless we can find some quick ways of restoring our links and backing up such areas with support from other areas and developing effective mass protests, over a period of time such areas get transformed into ‘abandoned areas’ characterised by institutionalised inaction and inertia. Such areas then cast a shadow on the rest of our areas of work and enable other organisations to make easy inroads and try and cause greater derailment of our work.

The issue of developing prompt mass resistance to rebuff enemy attacks can however never be treated in isolation from the prevailing political context. All the armed gangs we are confronted with have their own politics. They may not have their own independent politics and may be serving the political interests of other political parties, but they never miss a single opportunity of exploiting our mistakes and cornering our organisation in every possible manner. The fact that even the Ranvir Sena is increasingly using the electoral arena and the form of a peasant organisation clearly illustrates the central role that politics plays in its campaign of counter-revolutionary violence. In Siwan, too, we find Shahabuddin desperately trying to secure legitimacy for his reign of terror by wearing a pro-development mask and by systematically recruiting agents from dalit-backward circles to widen his social constituency beyond the Muslim community and the support from upper caste power groups. Instead of treating our armed contenders as isolated military threats, we must master the strategy of overcoming them in the course of a protracted political struggle by placing still greater reliance on unleashing all-out mass initiatives.

Sometimes we hear complaints from certain districts that local struggles have to suffer because of too many programmes from above or preoccupation with organisational activities like committee meetings and conferences. Such problems can generally be resolved by creatively readjusting our priorities according to local conditions. But should there really arise a problem in combining different aspects of our work at a given moment, we must remember that our Party has always attached the highest priority to developing local struggles. Organising formalistic or ritualistic programmes in the name of a national campaign has never been our culture. But the real challenge consists in raising our local struggles to the political plane or politicising our local work and linking it creatively to the broader political-organisational context of the Party in the given period.

Strengthening the Class Viewpoint to Operate in a Caste-Class Matrix

The 2004 elections have also highlighted the challenge that we face in Bihar from parties like the Lok Janshakti Party and the BSP. The former organisation led by Ram Vilas Paswan has always been a major force in the northern part of Bihar, and except in our areas of intensive work, it has a good following among Paswans (a significant dalit sub-group) almost all over the state. What is perhaps more striking than the LJP’s performance is the strong showing made by the BSP. The BSP had managed to win five seats in the last Asembly elections in Bihar but all its MLAs had subsequently crossed over to the RJD; this time the party put up candidates for all the 40 seats in the state and polled more than 1 million votes. In the areas where the party had won the Assembly seats it once again did quite well (Sasaram, Buxar and Bikramganj in south Bihar and Bagaha in the north-western corner), and it also managed to poll good votes in new regions like Nawada, Aurangabad, Gopalganj, Bhagalpur and Khagaria. (Incidentally, the party has also done quite well in states beyond the Hindi belt like Maharashtra, the Andhra-Orissa border region and even West Bengal. Incidentally, the fact that the BSP could poll impressive votes in so many states is yet another refutation of the polarisation argument.) While the BSP increases its votes by fielding locally powerful candidates, often criminals from a non-dalit background, its base votes everywhere come from some key dalit castes.

In the caste-class matrix of Bihar, it is the dalit-rural poor base that has predominantly served as the core of the revolutionary peasant movement. Leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan have always sided with the feudal forces and the state in their attempt to crush the awakening of the rural poor. The BSP of course has no economic agenda or political history as far as the oppressed poor or the labouring peasantry in Bihar are concerned. In spite of such a dubious track record if parties like the LJP or BSP are able to make inroads among the rural poor in Bihar (or for that matter in a district like Palamu in Jharkhand) and fragment the dalit-poor base, we must treat it as a symptom of weakness of the agenda of our class struggle and the way in which we are pursuing such an agenda. These parties are known to be hard practitioners of an identity-based politics of bargaining and hence mere ideological criticism of these parties is certainly not enough. It is also quite ineffective to try and expose and isolate them merely in terms of what may be described as the politics of social justice. The questions of caste oppression and human dignity have always figured high on our agenda of class struggle, but a revolutionary communist party can never compete with the petty-bourgeois or bourgeois parties on the plank of caste-driven social justice. Strengthening the class identity and base of the party and intensifying and broadening the agenda of class struggle can be the only way for a revolutionary communist party to press ahead.

Despite the preoccupation of the bourgeois media and the dominant political discourse with castes and caste equations, the process of class differentiation within castes has certainly become faster and not slower. We now have greater opportunities for expanding among the middle sections, organising them on the basis of their democratic demands and integrating them into a durable class alliance with the rural poor. It must be understood that even in a situation of a sharp social polarisation based apparently on caste lines, a communist party can only attract the support of its own class base or potential class allies. In many areas where the middle sections have displayed a certain political preference for us and have even voted for our candidates, we must establish durable political ties with them and organise them in peasant associations and other suitable platforms.

As for our old areas where we waged glorious struggles in the 1980s or in early 1990s we must reckon with the fact that the tradition of struggle alone is not a guarantee to politicise the new generations. The movement has to constantly renew itself and every new generation must be enabled to feel involved and be driven by a sense of pride and participation in the assertion of the class under the Party’s leadership. The failure to promote a new breed of strong and committed local leadership, especially from among the youth and women, remains a major weakness of our practice. This weakness was also exposed in the last panchayat elections and the entire Party must pay special attention to overcome it. It is often heard that our panchayat representatives are not able to project a visibly distinct pro-people democratic model in their practice. The question remains as to what role the Party is playing to set and encourage a new direction or trend in this sphere. We must remember that the Party’s appeal and authority as the guiding and unifying force that leads the people in struggles through defeats and victories depends crucially on how we handle the critical junctures in a struggle, how we distribute and nurture the gains of struggle and how we resolve the contradictions among the people. In areas where we have suffered major erosion in our votes, we must go deep into the underlying reasons and return to the masses to regain the lost stature of the Party.

Seizing the New Juncture to Usher in a New Phase of Advance

The reorganisation of the Party Central Committee thirty years ago had marked the beginning of the Party’s renewed journey towards building a powerful revolutionary Communist Party on the basis of a vibrant and expanding revolutionary movement of the masses. The defeat of Indira Gandhi’s infamous Emergency regime in the 1977 elections had created favourable conditions for a grand revival of democratic struggles. And creatively combining the twin aspects of developing the mass movement with militant peasant struggles as the key-link and building the Party organisation, the Party had succeeded in adding a glorious chapter to the history of the revolutionary communist movement in the country.

Today the outcome of the 2004 elections has once again placed the country in a comparable situation. In dislodging the fascistic NDA government from power, the people have clearly expressed their yearning for a change for the better and for a kind of development and democracy that holds some real meaning for the toiling masses. The people’s mandate is certainly not for a limited version of liberal democracy and continuation of the same anti-poor anti-labour economic reforms with a ‘human mask’, it signals a major reassertion of the working people in the country’s politics and demands an urgent solution to the basic questions of livelihood, dignity and democratic rights for the marginalized majority of the people. But the parties that have benefited from the mandate are already busy subverting it and betraying the popular yearning for change.

The latent possibility of pushing back the rightwing agenda and securing a Leftward shift in national politics can only be realised by forcefully articulating the people’s mandate and opposing every act of betrayal on the part of the new government. The agrarian crisis shows no signs of blowing over and the wrath of the rural poor and the grievances of the small and middle peasants that played such a major role in dislodging the NDA cannot be held in check by the UPA government’s pro-kulak measures. It is also quite clear that with its commitment to accelerate economic reforms the new government would do nothing substantial to address the question of growing unemployment in the country. The twin questions of agrarian crisis and explosive unemployment demand a powerful communist intervention and if we can move forward in these two key areas we would surely be able to give a new thrust to the democratic movement of the people. We are clearly faced with a new and favourable juncture and the entire Party must respond boldly and wholeheartedly to the demands of this new situation.