Communism, once a formidable force in Indian
politics, has shrunk in terms ideological and political space. On the other hand, the rise of nationalist forces in the all realms of national lifehas forced the so called ‘left’ to adopt regressive strategies
2016 assembly elections are a watershed historic moment for Communist movement of India. Alliance between Congress and Communists was a moment of truth more for Communists than for Congress.
It is worth recalling that major split in Communist Party of India took place in the aftermath of 1962 Chinese attack on India. The split was on the issue of support to Communist Party of China for its attack on India by a faction that became CPI (M) vis-a-vis more sober approach of the other faction that remained CPI (Communist party of India). CPI (M) or CPM faction had supported Chinese by engineering a strike of transport workers in their bastions. This animosity for Indian State resulted in the arrest of Communist leaders during 1965 Pakistan war.
Before this, Communists had led a revolt in Andhra Pradesh against newly installed Government of India. Earlier brush with nationalists led by Congress in 1942 saw Communists taking a U-turn about British rule and actively collaborating with British intelligence after coming together of British and USSR. They acted as agents of the police and got many Congress leaders arrested.
This anti-state stance of Communists slowly mellowed down to their acceptance of Parliament form of democracy. This led to birth of CPI (Marxist-Leninist) led by Kanu Sanyal, the father of Naxalite movement that has morphed into violent Maoist movement.
Journey from Anti-Congressism to Anti-BJPism
While CPI slowly went closer to Congress with the advent of Mrs Indira Gandhi and open support to Emergency in a bid to contain the rise of Jan Sangh (forerunner of BJP), CPM became the torch bearer of anti-Congressism as a symbol of the bourgeoisie to be defeated by the proletariat. Supporting Congress (even as it shared power with CPM and left front in Bengal) led to near decimation of CPI, except a decent presence in the small state of Kerala. Before this, CPI had good sprinkling of support across India in various pockets including citadel of trade union movement, Mumbai, outside Kolkata.
All this while, CPM too saw its base erode outside its power centres in Tripura, Bengal and Kerala. But, it held onto its identity as anti-Congress and also anti-BJP party. Though they co-operated with Jan Sangh during first anti-Congress alliances in a few states run by first experience of alliance governments called Sanyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD) in states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar etc. in 1967. They also held good control over their bastions by various means.
Early 1990s saw CPM playing king maker with S Surjit Singh playing the Cupid to many alliance governments. He was also key architect of UPA1. It may be noted that VP Singh became PM with support of Left on one side and BJP on the other. The first self-destructive step of CPM was denial of Prime Minister’s post to Jyoti Basu. Whatever the ideological posture, it was a blunder that could have seen first Communist Prime Minister of India who could have made huge difference to image of Communist movement and changed fortunes of CPM.
As time passed, it became clear that support to UPA 1 would prove to be the next self-destructive step. Party that theorised that it shouldn’t have a Prime Minister who wouldn’t have full control of government, chose to ally with Congress to influence its policies. They did succeed to a large extent with skilled back-seat driving. But, the impact of unforeseen rise in Congress fortunes after Nuclear Deal sent them reeling after withdrawal of support to UPA1. Its supporters were left confused while leadership was left dazed.
Loss of influence over national polity and parallel rise of nationalist forces under leadership of BJP in political arena turned Communist camp despondent. The urge to keep BJP down and its jealousy of rising Hindutva led them to the final blunder of tying up with Congress in Bengal – ‘to keep Saffron forces’ at bay! They not only vacated opposition space for BJP but also got identified with B team of TMC in Bengal – Congress (I).
CPM may justify its stand by claiming it reduced BJP numbers, forgetting that they have given legitimate identity to BJP as main opposition to TMC. There is no common ground between Congress and CPM in Bengal except hate for Hindutva. As it turned out, nor was it pure mathematics as they had imagined. Congress supporters cannot forget CPM violence against them, or its corrupt cadres supported by three decades of Communist rule. Nor can CPM cadre get over its antipathy for 60 years of its opposition to Congress beginning with violence against them in 1970s.
At the same time at the Southern corner of India, NDA took 15 per cent of votes in Kerala to provide third alternative to people of Kerala. CPM may feel relieved at winning Kerala at cost of votes of Congress and allies transferred to BJP led alliance. However, they would have to contend with a rising third political pole under BJP. In next 10 years BJP will replace Congress as an alternative to Communists, and this will see the final decline of Communist movement in India. Tripura is more of a Manik Sarkar government than a CPM government. In a major setback to the Government, recently Former Tripura Chief Minister Samir Ranjan Barman and six Congress MLAs joined Trinamool Congress. If Trinamool follow the Bengal Model in Tripura, it will end up in the total collapse of CPM in the region.
Rise of Nationalist Forces
At this juncture it is interesting to compare two socio-political movements in perspective. RSS led national renaissance movement that began in 1925 and Indian Communist movement tied to International Communisms too was founded around 1925.
To the credit of Communists, they had realised by 1960s that their prime enemy in their international agenda of undermining national governments and parliamentary democracy were nationalist forces led by RSS. Thus, they let open the killing fields of Kerala where RSS began making its presence felt in around this time. Unfortunately, their perception was right but prescription was wrong.
The growth trajectory of RSS since 1925 has been a steady up-climb in spite of false allegations, three ban, persecution and its targeting by people whose ‘Idea of India’ tells us that India was born on mid-night of August 15, 1947. That is not a continuum of a civilisation that is more than 10000 years old, as latest scientific discoveries reveal. Today it is pan-India organisation with intensive and extensive presence in across geography of India and in nearly all fields of national life. Its associates lead the biggest political party of India, #1 Trade Union, #1 Student Union, largest number of educational institutions and social service projects. Interestingly economic philosophy of RSS is more Left to Centre than Right. But, mapping of western terms onto complex Indian civilisation makes opinion makers call RSS as Right!
Compare this to Communist movement that was formidable in 1947-48. It reached its peak in 1960’s, became ruling party in Bengal in spite of persecution and violence let loose by Congress Chief Minister SS Ray. It had biggest trade union bodies, effective student unions and scattered presence across India in political field. The movement has got eroded and is now staring at its near extinction. It is high time that leaders of Communist movement go back to drawing boards and re-write its strategies to remain relevant to this country. They do not sound ‘progressive’ anymore. The rising new intelligentsia, will push ‘revolutionaries’ living in 1960s and 70s into dinosaur ages.
(The writer is senior columnist)