Shrinking space for the Left, Liberal and Socialists

Chanchal Chauhan

Some friends and well-wishers of the Left with ‘Marxist Conscience’ now-a-days bitterly criticise the functioning of the communist Parties in general and the CPI(M) in particular and hold the undemocratic functioning of the Party responsible for the ‘marginalisation’ of the Left in India. A Communist Party functions on the fundamental norms of organisational structure’ known as ‘democratic centralism’ and ‘inner party democracy’. Like all the middle class well-wishers with ‘Marxist conscience’, we too feel concerned over the shrinking space for the Communists in Indian political arena. Like all well-wishers and many intellectuals and sympathisers we too wish to know the root cause of this situation. Some of them are in the grip of idealism that hampers the scientific vision to look at the objective reality. They put the blame fully on the subjective factor i.e. the functioning of the party under the norms of ‘democratic centralism’ and ‘inner party democracy’. This criticism in critical times is not original or new, even the CPI(M) since its Salkia plenum to many of its Party Congresses examined this issue self-critically and evolved at times a mechanism to see that the organisational norms of  ‘democratic centralism’ and ‘inner party democracy’ are, in true spirit, followed. With the subjective outlook some friends find that the monster, ‘democratic centralism’ is not democratic, rather ‘this is the basic core of the problem’ and then stretch their bitterness too far by saying, ‘...the very votaries of this most humanistic philosophy of Karl Marx pegged to it an organisational structure which turned out to be most inhumane’

                If we peep into the history of the world communist movement and look at the graph of the progress and isolation of the communist parties, we can find that during the time of Com. Stalin when the norms of ‘democratic functioning’ and ‘inner Party democracy’ were the most lamentable casualty, the USSR made the unprecedented progress, his vision led the USSR to great heights of all-round progress making it a super-power. His Party also grew and the influence of the CPSU was not confined only to the USSR but spread with overwhelming attraction on the various parts of the globe. Yes, there were deviations of personality cult and lack of ideal norms and those deviations were rightly criticised. But the deviations were also the products of the objective conditions prevailing in and around the USSR. After his demise, CPSU began to follow what some friends think perhaps to be the ideal situation of democratic functioning. The culmination of the norm of ‘democracy’ reached a disastrous point under Mikhail Gorbachev who allowed a ‘democratic platform’ a kind of Opposition within the party structure. And this ‘ideal’ ‘inner party democracy’ led to the disintegration of the Party and fall of the largest state ruled by the communists. In India too the Communist Party grew and ruled some states for a short or long span under the same Party structure that is so bitterly criticised by some friends. The Party structure shares the responsibility of any set-back, but that is not the only factor for the situation. After all the objective conditions play a bigger role in both the times, for the rise and also for the set-backs from time to time.. Since the days of the failure of the Paris Commune to the Russian failure of 1905 revolution under Lenin, to the fall and disintegration of thr USSR and its East European allies, and electoral setbacks in W. Bengal, objective conditions played bigger role than the subjective weaknesses of the respective proletarian leadership although the leadership always shared the responsibility by analysing its grievous mistakes.

Marxism enriched by Leninism is a science to provide the tools that enable us to analyse the social reality of a given epoch. The communist parties use these tools to look at the objective conditions and try to strengthen the process of class struggle under the leadership of the proletariat so as to usher in a next strategic phase of social development. To achieve this goal they have to adopt tactical line from time to time to gain more and more support from the exploited masses. This support is easily available when the capitalism is in the grip of deep crisis and unable to overcome it. The progress and expansion of the communist party in the countries that are considered to be the ‘weakest link’ in the chain of world capitalism can be witnessed in the past and even today. Lenin while ruling out the possibility of revolutions in the imperialist countries or developed capitalist countries as Marx had envisaged held the view that revolutions would be possible only where capitalism has the weakest link. And this proved to be true about the revolutions that followed the October revolution. This is true also in regard to the expansion and growth of communist party today in a country where capitalism is weak. In Nepal every body is a communist now! Why? It is the weakest link in the chain of the world capitalism and communists, if united, can take over the state power, but they will also develop capitalism in Nepal, not socialism today. In India during the first half of seventies Indian capitalism was in dire distress, it was in the grip of worst crisis, people looked towards communism, the word ‘revolution’ was so much loved by people. the expansion of communist ideology in all the parts of India was heartening and inspiring every youth, student and intellectuals. At that time also the Party structure was run on the same norms that are so abhorred by some of former Marxists today. The inner crisis of capitalism was resolved by the Emergency. Then Indian ruling classes adopted the new path of being active partner of international finance capital so as to ward off any future crisis and followed the dictates of the new world economic order known as the phase of liberalisation and globalisation. The international finance capital pumped its money as foreign debt into Indian economy and since 1991 we see this happening on a large scale. Indian capitalism flourished and became very strong link in the chain.  Even in the midst of 2008 world economic crisis it escaped the pain. The new system created a huge mass of middle class, white collared section in the service sector, intelligentsia and neo-rich that do not need any revolution now. The capitalist growth engine changed the working class also. Capitalism is on the move with every day progress of science and technology, the process of ‘revolutionising means of production’ and thereby changing the production relations’ is still on. Marx-Engels in their Manifesto had underlined this feature of capitalism and this same feature is ignored by the intellectuals while writing on the failure of communists or about the shrinking space for liberals, democrats and socialists. The Manifesto said, ‘the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production and thereby the relations of production and with that the whole relations of society’.  This formulation of the founders of the scientific socialism provides the insight to analyse the present scenario objectively.

In the present epoch of the hegemony of international finance capital, this process of alienating the Left, liberal and the democratic forces is a worldwide phenomenon. The masses in the developed and not so developed countries are everywhere in the grip of the anti-communist ideologies. The fascist forces are on the rise even in countries like America, Britain, Germany, France, Netherlands. India is no exception as it is also now one of the strong chains of world capitalism and den of international finance capital. Since 1991 Indian economy has been under the regime governed by the World Bank and the IMF. All economists holding the control over Indian economy such as Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Raghuram Rajan etc under Congress regimes and Arvind Pangaria, Arvind Subramanian, Urjit Patel under the BJP regime have been all from the World Bank staff. The foreign debt on India is rising every day. It is providing funds to Indian rulers in the name of any ‘Abhiyan’ and the funds strengthen the corporate houses under PPP slogan. And with this debt Indian corporate houses have amassed huge wealth, Thus Indian bourgeoisie has become one of the most powerful links in the chain of world capitalism. It is not the weak bourgeoisie of the seventies when communists could grow and expand their influence every where in India. Today, some of the corporate houses reached almost the same growth level as many of Britain and USA. Some of them have spread their wings over other Continents adopting the method of primitive accumulation of capital. Gautam Adani is the latest addition to that category who has begun his mining of coal project in Australia. Tata already had a steel plant in UK.

So Indian capitalism is not what it was in the seventies, and therefore, one cannot dream of expansion of communist parties so easily when people do not need communist thoughts today. As communist thoughts cannot gain ground in the developed capitalism and the communist parties in all those countries are having little scope to expand and grow, so is the case with India now. The aspirations of people in these countries are better taken care of by capitalism. In India now ‘Development’ is a magic term that attracts the masses and grips their imagination, because capitalism still has the potential to unleash the productive forces. It still has a vast range of new pastures in many Continents such as Africa, Russian Union even in Asia, Australia and far-flung areas on the globe. The countries, states and regions under Communist rule are also developing their societies with the help of capitalism.  Many of my friends do not agree with this formulation but I still hold it to be true.

                After the fall of Soviet Union, the world communists analysed the cause of this new negative historical turn. The CPI(M) too contributed to this debate and adopted a Document ON CERTAIN IDEOLOGICAL ISSUES  at the 14th  Party Congress (Madras: 3-9 January 1992.) that gives the insight to analyse correctly the social reality of even today. (Any one can read it on the Party website, the link is as follows : ).The document also self-critically analyses the deviations in the Party functioning about which many friends feel so concerned. The Party has been trying to cleanse itself from time to time so as to undo any damage done by defective functioning on the organisational level. But I strongly feel: whether it is the growth or stagnation in the Party, it will always depend on the objective conditions in which the subjective initiative may work. When ever capitalism will be in deep crisis in future, and fail to resolve the crisis by any means (even by dictatorship or fascism), under those conditions the ground will be fertile for the growth and expansion of communist party in any country ruled by capitalists, till then it would be better for those with ‘Marxist conscience’ to help the movement by contributing their might to the movement as was done by many of us in the seventies. The cynicism will help the fascist forces. I am reminded of two lines by William Wordsworth, the romantic English poet:

                We poets in our youth begin in gladness

               But in the end thereof comes despondency and madness.

                                                                                         (from ‘The Resolution and Independence’)