EPW Editorial


Will the CPI(M) live up to the task of successfully uniting all secular and democratic forces to defeat semi-fascism?


The 22nd Party Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)—CPI(M), held in Hyderabad from 18 to 22 April 2018, exuded a nerve and self-confidence not witnessed in the last two such proceedings in 2015 and 2012. With the Marx anniversaries in the air—150 years since the first volume of Marx’s Das Kapital was first published in September 1867, and 200 years since his birth on 5 May 1818—and an appealing sketch of the man alongside the cover pages of the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital on the banner of the podium at the Party Congress, starry-eyed, one might even cherish the hope that the CPI(M) may take the revolutionary road. The old man might just be reminding the comrades that his ideas, stripped of their revolutionary essence, will not have the power to survive. Will they heed such wisdom?


With semi-fascism on the anvil if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gets another term in office following the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M) has resolved to “defeat the BJP and its allies by rallying all the secular and democratic forces,” even going in for a tactical understanding with the Congress party to achieve that objective. The political line in the draft political resolution placed before the Party Congress was replete with persuasions to engage in “united actions … united struggles … joint movements … the widest mobilization of all secular and democratic forces … building unity of people to fight the communal forces at the grassroots … broad unity to fight against the authoritarian attacks on democratic rights … appropriate electoral tactics to maximize the pooling of anti-BJP votes.”


The media portrayed the proceedings in terms of factional politics, with the faction led by party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, favouring an explicit “understanding” or “electoral alliance” with the Congress party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, pitted against a rival faction led by former General Secretary Prakash Karat, which was against having any such understanding or alliance with that party. Karat, in the eyes of the media, has thus been cast as the leader of the “anti-Congress” faction. This is hardly the case. Karat has simply been against any pre-poll alliance or understanding with the Congress party. Surely, he will be open to a possible post-poll alliance with Congress à la 2004, when he was the CPI(M)’s general secretary. Indeed, Karat seems quite flexible in terms of supporting whichever opposition candidate is best able to defeat the candidate of the BJP and its allies in each constituency. Indeed, the earlier central committee seems to have put this principle into practice by urging voters in Karnataka in the coming assembly elections on 12 May to vote for whichever candidate they think is most likely to defeat the candidate of the BJP and its allies.


The CPI(M) correctly holds that, under the Modi government, there has been an “intensification of neo-liberal capitalist exploitation” and an erosion of the “secular-democratic framework of the Constitution.” Moreover, India has become a junior partner of the United States’ (US) imperialism. However, it was the Congress party that “pioneered the neo-liberal agenda” in India and “forged the strategic alliance with the US.” Even now, as the main opposition party, it “continues to advocate these policies.” But, in order to defeat the BJP, the CPI(M) is willing to cooperate with the Congress party in Parliament, the same party that leads the United Democratic Front in Kerala, which is presently competing with the BJP there in opposing the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front. As regards the regional parties, they are “opportunistic” in terms of grabbing the chances that come their way by allying with the BJP or the Congress to be part of coalition governments at the centre, yet the CPI(M) includes them as part of the “secular and democratic forces” when they happen to not be in alliance with the BJP.


Of course, such “understandings” or “alliances” of the CPI(M) are not new. The party has, off and on, engaged in such tactics over the 1991–2008 period on the alibi of keeping the BJP and its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, at bay. But, eventually, the BJP did come to power in May 2014 by winning a parliamentary majority on its own, and is now in power, singly or in a coalition, with regional parties in 21 out of India’s 29 states. The CPI(M) has a mere nine seats in the Lok Sabha, and the CPI, its left front ally, just one. The party has suffered humiliating defeats in what were its long-time bastions, in West Bengal and Tripura. It was defeated in West Bengal in 2016, even though it made a pre-poll electoral alliance with the Congress party to take on its principal rival, the Trinamool Congress. The West Bengal electorate does not seem to have forgotten that a left party could use police and cadre violence to suppress the opposition of peasants to the grabbing of their lands for the projects of big business. Moreover, the CPI(M), which is now against the use of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Indian-administered Kashmir, invoked the same draconian AFSPA in Tripura when it was in power there, lifting it much after the army had militarily suppressed the ethno-nationalist insurgency in May 2015.


The BJP’s semi-fascist threat notwithstanding, it is unlikely, as yet, that even a more confident and rejuvenated CPI(M) will take the revolutionary road in keeping with the radical essence of Marxism.



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