A tale of two CPIs
Comrades in a time wrap
By Udayan Namboodiri
In recent weeks, there has been vigorous brainstorming at the highest levels of the two communist parties. The CPI held its 19th party congress in Chandigarh in the last week of March. Within a few days of its conclusion, the CPI(M) began its 16th party congress in New Delhi. At first sight, the close succession of the two events may not be significant. But the fact that they were squeezed into the recess period of the Budget session of Parliament shows their new respect for the ?bourgeoisie? parliamentary system. A.B. Bardhan, who was re-elected general secretary of the CPI for a third term, commented on the uniqueness of the 19th party congress over all previous ones. ?It is being held at an important juncture when the Left parties are in a position to influence the course of governance at the Centre and have the track record of the Congress-led UPA government to assess and formulate its future strategy.?
The CPI(M), on the other hand, gave out signals that its perceptions on the national good entailed broadening its vision beyond the Congress and UPA. Though there were no ringing calls for a ?third front? comprising socialist and secular parties, the Marxist leadership gave enough indication that their search for an ?alternative? to the BJP and Congress ?trap? was not over, whatever the experience of the United Front. It is not that the CPI has given up the dream for a national non-Congress, non-BJP option. Its top leaders have indicated that they are open to the idea of a third front and the political resolution adopted at the 19th congress said: ?The Left should closely watch the developments among these regional parties and have a positive attitude towards those who are breaking away from the NDA.?
This reveals that Indian communism'soriginal rationale of ?weakening democracy from within? (a line that is reiterated in the writings of the late E.M.S. Namboodiripad) is still intact. Their claims to secularism, egalitarianism and the ?progressive ethos? notwithstanding, the Indian Left wouldn'tflinch at sharing political space with casteist and sectarian political formations. This betrays the motive to destabilise the existing balance of power between two national alliances, one led by the BJP and the other by the Congress, which, at long last, present before the people the hope of an end to the uncertain, quixotic ways of the ?third? grouping. The experience of the mid-1990s under the United Front, when political instability caused the country to slip into political and economic chaos, is still fresh in the people'smind. Compared to those three forgettable years, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance'sterm gave India its much-needed breakthrough as a global political and economic powerhouse. Even the Congress had to admit this when it came to power. The first economic survey presented by the UPA'sFinance Minister, P. Chidambaram, admitted that the national economic fundamentals were stronger than ever before. But the communists, by their insistence on pursuing discarded socialistic wizardry like tax-and-spend, have ensured the fall of the economic growth rate?a fact admitted by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh this week.
One of the seniormost communists of India, Satpal Dang, said at the Chandigarh event that the CPI(M) stoops so low to win votes in elections that it even courts the support of ?enemies?.
The two communist conferences have not seen any revision of the two parties? old estimates of either the BJP or the Congress. While the hostility towards the former can be understood in the context of the phobia of all communists everywhere towards resurgent nationalism, the attitude towards the latter is curious, particularly because it is the same Congress whose power-mania it is presently propping up at the Centre. The CPI has described the UPA regime as a ?bourgeoisie government? and the CPI(M) in near-similar terms. In their respective resolutions they have accused the Congress of following a ?brazen free market? economic policy which, according to both, is a ?betrayal? of the mandate of the 2004 General Election, ?as the people have voted for not only change in government but also a change in the direction of major policies.?
This is nothing but another example of their poor judgement of national political trends. How can the CPI(M) and CPI, with respective vote shares of just 5.69 per cent and 1.4 per cent decide on the character of the national mandate? Besides, how can the same Leftists who have implemented the most aggressive form of capitalism in West Bengal, a state whose labour and middle class have been stripped off all rights thanks to the CPI(M)'spathetic prostration before Western investors, claim to be ?socialist??
Just as a gadfly constantly irritates a cow and causes it to periodically swish its tail, so too would the communists continue to disturb the main Indian political parties in the new millennium. The failure of their own models of governance has more than convinced people about the hollowness of their claims to ?social justice?, ?secularism? and other lofty ideals. The recent farce played out over the amendments to the Patents Act exposed their double-cross with public sentiments. The same duplicity marks their electoral policy. In fact, one of the seniormost communists of India, Satpal Dang, said at the Chandigarh event that the CPI(M) stoops so low to win votes in elections that it even courts the support of ?enemies? like the BJP. The CPI(M) delegate to the conference was present when Dang said this, but did not object. No wonder the CPI(M) rejects the CPI'scall for a merger! The CPI has been frank enough to admit that the policies and programmes of the two parties have become so identical that there is no reason to continue with the arrangement born out of the 1964 split. But the CPI(M), which fears the ideological underpinnings of the CPI, abhors the idea of accommodating people with an iota of moral and political honesty.
The CPI has described the UPA regime as a ?bourgeoisie government? and the CPI(M) in near-similar terms.
The election of Prakash Karat as the new general secretary of the CPI(M) does not promise a ?bold new age?. Though only 56, Karat is neither a Dubchek nor a Gorbachev. He is unknown outside Delhi and relies on classical Marxian-Leninist dogma for sustenance. Under him, the CPI(M) is likely to continue with the politics of disruption and blackmail initiated by P. Sunderayya. On the other hand, the CPI will continue to bungle along under geriatric leaders like A.B. Bardhan. Therefore, the future, both for Indian communism and the nation at large, is grim indeed.