On Building A Left and Democratic Confederation

[From Liberation, November 1988.]

Our Party’s Fourth All-lndia Congress has put forward the slogan of building a left and democratic confederation. This slogan has been put forward in a situation when, after a long time, the left movement in India is poised on the threshold of a major breakthrough. On the essence and the process of realisation of this slogan our Party Congress says, "In the present phase, our relation with the CPI(M)-led alternative can only be that of struggle first and unity second. And this aspect of unity does envisage co-operation in the Rajiv Hatao movement to whatever extent possible. Now, in the process of political development, in the face of direct attacks by the Centre to overthrow Left Front governments and an upswing in the revolutionary struggles of the people and consequent strengthening of our forces, the situation may undergo a drastic change. Struggle may become the secondary aspect and unity primary, and conditions may mature for developing a broad left and democratic confederation on an entirely new basis".

Let us analyse this slogan of the Party Congress from various aspects.

First, we must see what should be the Marxist approach in formulating a slogan. Should our slogan demand only what can be achieved at that particular moment with that particular balance of forces or should it correspond to the developing trends irrespective of whether the demand contained in it is immediately realisable or not? Should our slogan concern itself with only the practicability of the given moment or should it take all the possible developments into consideration? The Marxist approach teaches us that we should fix our political objective at the furthest point we can foresee towards our orientation — towards the ultimate goal we want to reach. That is to say, our slogans should be realistic and while they must contain the concrete tasks of the present, they should also contain guidelines on the direction of our advance. To restrict our slogans, our tasks, to just what is achievable at a given moment is pragmatism, which has nothing in common with Marxism. Similarly, slogans totally cut off from reality and based on subjective wishes are nothing but political gambling. "Communists represent the future within the present" — this celebrated saying of Engels should be our guide in formulating slogans. We must distinguish ourselves from the revisionists, who represent only the present within the present, as well as from the utopians, who negate the present to indulge in colourful dreams of the future. We must ensure that the broad masses can understand our orientation from our slogans.

I feel that our slogan of building a left and democratic confederation is consistent with this Marxist approach. This slogan, on the one hand, has provided impetus to our present attempts of developing interactions and joint activities with various left and left-of-centre parties, and on the other, it has underlined our orientation of revolutionary democratic alternative as opposed to the ‘Left Front-government-centric left and democratic alternative’ of the social democrats. Our slogan of building a left and democratic confederation on a new basis — on the basis of militant mass movements — may not be realised exactly the way we generally tend to think, but it will undoubtedly give rise to a new polarisation among left and democratic forces. Exactly how this polarisation will develop — this we cannot fully predict at this moment. But this much is certain: it will get us one more step forward in the struggle for revolutionary democracy.

The question that naturally arises here is whether one recognises the basic difference between the left and democratic alternative proposed by the CPI(M) and our concept of revolutionary democratic alternative or not. Once we recognise this difference, the competition between the two concepts has to be considered primary, and the joint activities get subordinated to that competition. Debates may take place, and may be necessary too, regarding our specific tactics towards the Left Front governments. But any attempt to confuse the fundamental difference in the name of unity with the CPI(M), in the name of assessment of the Left Front governments, is bound to prove suicidal. Our recent experience shows that whoever has tried to confuse these fundamental differences in the name of practicality, has lost his Party spirit and revolutionary spirit, to become a victim of various liquidationist tendencies.

Does the dialectical process of development, which we have envisaged as creating the possibility of the emergence of a left and democratic confederation and which we have tried to reflect in our slogan, constitute a real thing? This is a question that demands deep study and analysis.

What is the historical basis of our slogan? The CPI, the CPI(M) and the CPI(ML) constitute three trends of the once united Communist Party. In 1964, that Party was split into the CPI and the CPI(M), centring on the slogans of national democracy versus people’s democracy. Within the CPI(M), struggle between the two tactical lines of people’s democratic revolution -- the opportunist line and the revolutionary line -- was being waged from the very beginning. This struggle over tactical line took definite shape in the concrete clash between the Naxalbari struggle and the United Front government, and our Party, the CPI(ML), was born. This struggle between the two trends, the opportunist and the revolutionary, still continues today in the struggle between social democracy and revolutionary democracy.

The situation, in the meantime, has undergone a lot of changes. The Indian ruling classes are no longer haunted by the spectre of red governments, the Left Front governments. They no longer consider the prolonged existence of these governments as a threat to their class interests. On the contrary, these governments are increasingly being used against mass movements. So, those who still dream of revolutionary propensities in these governments are living in a fool’s paradise. However, as a natural culmination of this process, these governments have become vocal in demanding major reforms of the present political superstructure within the parliamentary arena. Through this political struggle the CPI(M) has been able to expand its mass base in West Bengal and Kerala and has succeeded in mobilising many new forces, particularly the youth. The CPI also has been forced to distance itself from the Congress and to take to some movements. Hence, the political initiatives that the left parties have taken on the "Rajiv Hatao" issue have increased the prospects of joint activities with them.

Now, let us consider the process of evolution of our Party. In an intermediate period, New Left and anarchist ideas had gained much currency in our Party. These ideas were gradually alienating the Party from its roots in the soil of the country, from the mainstream of the communist movement. This process would have culminated in the liquidation of the Party itself. Even today, various groups are continuing with these ideas, and consequently, have been reduced to marginalised political formations. Some have degenerated into academic circles, some have taken recourse to nationality or minority-based movements, while some others have become anarchist groups in the name of conducting armed activities in some remote and isolated forests and mountains. What is worse, they have accepted this state of affairs as their destiny. Without an all-lndia perspective, without participation in the ongoing nationwide political movements, merely local or partial struggles, however militant, do not bear any significance for communists. In the course of fifteen years of hard work, we have been able to build a centralised, unified Party from a fragmented state, overcoming our one-sided ideas of struggle and organisation we are trying to combine various forms, and overcoming the confines of localism we are trying to forcefully assert ourselves as the trend of revolutionary democracy in the nationwide political struggles. Coming back from the brink of liquidation the CPI(ML) has got a new lease of life. This situation has increased the scope of interactions with various left and democratic forces, has created conditions for normalisation of relations and conducting joint activities with leftist parties at various levels, and has made our propaganda, aimed at influencing their mass base, more realistic. Instead of indulging in petty bourgeois revolutionism that rests content with simply negating the CPI, the CPI(M) or the Left Front governments, we have made our criticism more concrete. Even earlier we had talked of building broad left unity from below, but could not make any headway, because this needs some agreements from above as well. This development of tactics can effectively advance the cause of developing left unity from below. With the deepening of the revolutionary crisis, the broad left masses, as a historical rule, will be attracted towards the revolutionary stream; various leftist parties, or major parts thereof, will also be forced to take steps that indirectly go in favour of revolutionary democracy. If we continue our attempts to create conditions for left unity from this day, we will be able to keep the initiative in our hands in building the confederation in future.

Our slogan reminds us of the fact that we are the revolutionary trend within and not apart from the left movement in India, opens up vast revolutionary prospects for us, and demands that we plunge ourselves with all our might into translating those prospects into reality.

What is the relevance of our slogan in the present situation? We find that both the political combinations of the ruling classes, the Congress and the National Front, are trying to utilise the left forces. While the Congress is at its old game of playing the card of maintaining national unity and opposing communalism to split the left forces and turn them into passive allies, V.P.Singh is trying to rally the leftist forces behind him declaring that ‘leftists are my natural allies’. In the past, the CPI made a blunder in allying with the Congress in the name of anti-fascist alliance, and it would be just as serious a blunder today to join the National Front bandwagon in the name of a federal and secular alternative. The need of the hour is to strengthen the left alliance and to try and create polarisations within the National Front on the basis of our independent assertion. The National Front is an unstable political formation and among its constituents, the Janata Party and the Lok Dal are facing severe internal crises. So, independent initiatives by the left forces may well result in their emergence as a strong opposition force. We can popularise this propaganda campaign based on the slogan of confederation among the left-leaning masses.

Moreover, there is a growing tendency among the Left Front partners to assert their own identity independently of the CPI(M) and even to openly criticise the anti-people steps of the Left Front government. The CPI, in different states, is trying to develop its programmes separately from the CPI(M). All these partners are generally coming forward to promote interactions with us, even in West Bengal. Even in the CPI(M) there is a tendency at different levels to normalise relations with us. The slogan of confederation is bound to give a boost to these tendencies.

To sum up, from the Marxist viewpoint, from a historical perspective as well as from considerations of the present political situation, our slogan of building a left and democratic confederation is definitely appropriate. But if the leading core of all these activities, the Party, gets weakened by any means, if the task of building independent mass movements is neglected, we will not be able to advance this cause. So, let the call of the day be: Smash all evil designs to weaken the Party, increase manifold our own independent mass base and advance boldly in the struggle for building a left and democratic confederation.