The western origin of the so called terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ were always foreign to the Indian masses. Still, in intellectual and media parlance, the Left representing communist ideologies, has always been perceived and projected as progressive and pro-change, while the ideology of ‘cultural nationalism’ has been branded as conservative and status-quoists. The recent electoral debacles of ‘Left’ and consistent resurgence of ‘nationalists’ does not only signify the triumph of the evolutionary grassroot Indian thinking over the foreign blueprints of ‘revolutionary change’, but it also poses questions about the whole construct of Left and Right. When the dominant voice of the so called Left, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is struggling to find answers for electoral marginalisation in its 50th year of establishment, it is worth reviewing the whole construct of Left and Right in Indian context today.
First of all, the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ is the construct of so called Left intellectuals, who taking a clue from the French Revolution found it convenient to establish them as revolutionary, liberal and progressive (It was in French revolution, the anti-monarch forces, called themselves as ‘Left’). In this sense, the Indian ‘Left’ was never anti-establishment. While taking ‘revolutionary’ position, from Nehru to Sonia Gandhi, the ‘Left’ was always with the establishment. That is the reason why despite being on the fringe of Indian politics, Left could dominate the important fields of academics and media in India. On the contrary, the so called ‘Rightist’ forces, who have been the torch bearers of change have faced the brunt of the ‘ruling class’.
Second, the ‘Left’ thinking always perceived democracy and electoral politics as a ‘tactical’ line for creating the base for future revolution. Therefore, intellectual churning of ‘character of Indian State and its class character’ was always limited to the party structure and never percolated to the larger masses. While ‘nationalist’ thinking accepted the limitations of parliamentary democracy and worked with the larger sections of society for uniting them. Without getting into the debate over ‘State’ and nature of State, cultural nationalists simultaneously worked for social, spiritual and intellectual power centres along with the political one.
Last, but the most important is that the ‘Left’ thinking has never been in tune with the Indian realities. Taking inspiration either from the Soviet or the Chinese Communist parties or the European dogmas of ‘class revolution’ never allowed them to assess the issues pertaining to culture, caste and Dharma (which signifies more than religion) in Indian context. Therefore, the Left misjudged the underlying unity of India as a ‘nation’; the concept of nation was not acceptable to the Marxist way of thinking. On the other hand, the ‘Rightist’ line of action evolved within the Indian milieu, and while critically analysing the loopholes in Indian society, the cultural nationalists formulated a more reformist agenda for national reconstruction.
Typical to the worldwide ‘Left’ ideology, differences of opinion and factionalism is the hallmark of the Indian ‘Left’ as well; as everybody interprets the Marxist dogmas in his/her own way. Hence, at at time, when the so called Left parties in India are struggling to find the answers for their electoral debacles, it is time to discard the ‘Left versus Right’ construct in intellectual discourse.
In Bharat, that is India, there are only two types of ideological constructs, one that accepts housands of years of civilisational wisdom, and the other that discards it or is yet to realise it. The Left Versus Right formulation does not allow us to think as a nation. In any case, because political extinction of statist and European class-based thinking is inevitable, it’ll be good, if we start thinking beyond Left and Right and work for ‘collective’ thinking and value based politics in line with the ‘national ethos’.