Angry and frustrated that his theories were being distorted and propagated by some self-styled radical advocates, Karl Marx is believed to have said in 1883: “What is certain is that I am not a Marxist.”
This was said in response to French intellectual activist Jules Guesde in the context of the failed revolt of the proletariat in 1871, known as the “Paris Commune”. Marx accused Guesde and his associates of “revolutionary phrase mongering”.
I cannot dare say that Prakash Karat, the former general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)], does not know the anguish expressed by the philosopher in whose name his party exists. Last week, Karat proposed in his draft resolution before the party’s Central Committee that both the BJP and the Congress are “neo-liberal”, and therefore, to form a broad “anti-BJP front” has no relevance.
In the shocking formulation, Karat further said that the RSS is a “semi-fascist” organisation with a hard-core communal agenda, but the Hindutva of the BJP does not make the ruling party fascist. The CPI (M) is a radical anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-communal party, and cannot have a political alliance with the Congress in any form, he said.
It defies all dialectical logic that the RSS is a “semi-fascist” organisation, but its political front is not even “semi-fascist” but just “neo-liberal”. But Karat’s line was accepted, and general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s thesis was rejected by a very good margin of 55 to 31. That in itself is a break from the established convention; after all, communist party general secretaries are known to be all-powerful, evende jure heads of states.
Karat later explained that a perfect inner democracy prevails in the functioning of the party, and the Central Committee discussed all views before coming to the conclusion that there should be “no alliance or understanding” with the Congress. He further said there was no factionalism in the party.
The communists are past masters in semantics and ideological skulduggery. They also provide “dialectical” explanations to defend the “official” line. They distinguish between “revisionists” and “reformers” and “renegades”. These are sharp abuses in the communist lexicon. So now, Yechury will be a revisionist and Karat a revolutionary.
What would Stalin have done?
The CPI (M) has always prided itself in defending Stalin, even when its twin, the CPI, had given up its Staliist position. But in a strictly historical context, the CPI (M) cannot claim the Stalinist legacy.
Stalin formed a front with the “arch-imperialist” Winston Churchill and leader of global capitalism Franklin Delano Roosevelt to defeat Adolf Hitler. Stalin was clear in his thinking that Nazism and fascism posed a major threat to democratic and socialist forces around the world. Indeed, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, even Churchill paid rich tribute to the Red Army and to Stalin’s visionary leadership. It is obvious that Karat is not following the Stalin line.
Indeed, Stalin himself is reported to have advised to the Indian communist delegation in 1950 that the “armed revolutionary struggle” in Telengana was unwarranted and time was not ripe for revolution in India. He said that unless a “bourgeois democratic revolution” was completed, it would be futile to launch a revolutionary uprising. And who was the medium of that democratic revolution? The Congress, under the leadership of Nehru.
Comrade Dange, head of the CPI, followed that line, while B.T. Ranadive took the strident anti-Congress line and formed the breakaway CPI (M) in 1964.
But later, in the 1980s, both the communist parties came together under the banner of the Left Front. The Left Front and the BJP had an understanding of sorts in Parliament to attack Rajiv Gandhi on the issue of Bofors. After the defeat of the Congress in 1989, the Left Front and the BJP both supported the V.P. Singh government from the outside. Can anybody say that Singh’s government would have survived even for those 11 months without the unwritten but tacit understanding between the BJP and the Left? The government only collapsed when the BJP withdrew support after L.K. Advani was arrested by chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar.
Yet again, the BJP and the Left Front displayed “unholy” bonhomie while opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008. Dr Manmohan Singh’s government survived without the support of the Left, and in fact, won even more seats in 2009. The Left sharply declined in the Lok Sabha and its fall continued in 2011, when in West Bengal, it was roundly routed by Mamata Banerjee.
Today, the condition of the CPI (M) is so pathetic that it has no chance of recovery even in Bengal, where it ruled for 34 years from 1977 to 2011.
Another political blunder?
After his proposal was shot down, Yechury noted in an interview that if he is condemned as “pro-Congress” because he advocated a broad anti-Modi, anti-BJP front with the Congress, his critics could be condemned as “pro-BJP”, because their line gives advantage to the Modi government.
Whether Karat calls this “inner democracy” or “factionalism” is irrelevant. The party has gone back to the same Dange-Ranadive debate which caused the split in 1964 – whether Nehru (and Indira Gandhi) were the representatives of the “bourgeois liberal democratic” forces or “running dogs of capitalism”.
Communists in India have quite often apologised for their “political mistakes”; for opposing the Quit India Movement in 1942, supporting the British effort of war, for supporting the Emergency, for endorsing and later condemning the Mao Zedong regime in China, for refusing the prime ministership offered to Jyoti Basu (at least he did, by calling it a blunder), for misreading the Telengana situation in 1949 as “ripe for revolutionary uprising” and suppressing the Naxalites in 1969.
Will Karat and the CPI(M) repent later for yet another “historic blunder” by not joining the anti-Modi, anti-BJP, anti-fascist front, and in effect, facilitating the Modi regime?
Modi and Shah must have felt relieved that there is no united alternative emerging to their government.