CPM treads doggedly on the path to irrelevance as its leaders spar over Congress ties
For those conversant with the history of the Communist movement in India, the latest fratricidal episode within the Marxist fraternity over what the nature of its ties with the Congress Party, if any, should be, is eerily familiar. One only has to close one’s eyes for a moment to hear it as an echo of the same argument between the first General Secretary and builder of the Communist Party of India PC Joshi, and his doctrinaire successor BT Ranadive,which began in the 1940s and marked the beginning of the decline of what was once the second- strongest political force in India after the Congress.
There is one crucial difference, though, between the ongoing Sitaram Yechury Prakash Karat spat and the divergence of views (and consequent battle of attrition) between Joshi and Ranadive that ultimately led to the split in the Communist Party of India in 1964 from which the CPM emerged. At the time the latter were debating the nature of the relationship between the (united) CPI and dominant ‘bourgeois’ political party in the country, the Indian National Congress (as it was then), Joshi,despite his differences with Nehru, argued for accommodation with the Congress which he characterized as representing nationalist forces and felt the Left could best bring to fruition its progressive agenda by following such a course while Ranadive would have none of it, remaining implacably opposed to this ‘line’ for various personal, political and ideological reasons.The nation actually cared for these debates within the Communist fold at the time because the party had political-cultural heft and carried the weight of the aspirations of millions. Today,the tragicomic aspect of this debate within the CPM, which has virtually reduced itself to a provincial regional party, is that it still revolves around ties with the Congress when, to use the language of the Marxists, the dominant nationalist bourgeois party in India is the BJP. Clinching evidence, if any were needed, that the Indian Left is truly stuck in a time warp.
In fact, to release a small kitten among the pigeons, wouldn’t it be more relevant for the Communists to be debating possible ties with the BJP? After all, it was the first General Secretary of the undivided CPI who once famously said – ‘if you want to spread the principles of socialism, equality in India you must first read and understand the Ramayan and Mahabharat and then use that idiom to explain your ideas to the people.’ Leaving aside, however, impossibilities for those without intellectual-political bandwidth to understand the exceptionalism of the India civilizational tradition, it needs to be pointed out that both the Yechury and Karat factions are agreed that their primary objective is to defeat the BJP; the former wants to achieve this end “without entering into an electoral alliance or front with the Congress or ‘ruling class’ parties while the latter wants the possibility of even an “understanding” (electoral or political) with the Congress ruled out. The Karat hard line has prevailed for now, supported by the Kerala comrades in the main for whom the Congress remains the principal political opponent in that State, with the party’s central committee approving his draft Yechury, who offered to resign as general secretary but was asked to continue, had enough support from the Bengal unit, where the sway of Mamata Banerjeeand the rise of the BJP has made the Congress even more of a bit player than it has been in the recent past, to fight another day.
All eyes are on the Party Congress where a “final decision” on ties with the Congress will be taken. Ho-hum.