The Party Congresses of the CPI and CPI-M are currently taking place in South India. This article is being published in that context.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Parliament in reply to the President’s policy statement, had a ring of hauteur to it. His hatred towards the Congress Party was as undisguised as ever. What this points to is a fascist tendency to twist historical truths in order to establish counterfactuals. The danger and threat lurking behind it can be fully realised only if we remember the fact that when the RSS (founded in 1925) made its presence felt during the Indian nationalist movement, it did so as a reactionary counter-revolutionary organisation. Therefore, an attack launched by its represen-tative—while occupying the seat of the Prime Minister—against Jawaharlal Nehru as well as the tradition of the freedom struggle of the Indian National Congress is the most eloquent evidence of the hubris of an organisation which had nothing to do with the nation’s anti-colonial movement. In a similar fashion, the slogan “Congress-free India” floated by Amit Shah, on his becoming the BJP President following his party’s victory in the 2014 elections, points to the most anti-democratic, Fascist sentiment ever heard in independent India.
Therefore the moot question is whether in the 2019 general elections all the political parties that believe in secular, democratic values will stand together as a single force to bring down the Sangh Parivar. All Indians, including intellectuals who espouse liberal values, are anxious about this issue. That is the reason why when the Karat group disregarded the Yechury line that called for the creation of a broad secular front which would include the Congress in order to defeat Hindu fascism, and won the majority vote in the CPI-M Central Committee, Jayati Ghosh, expert economist and Left intellectual in the JNU, remarked that the BJP had captured the CPI-M Central Committee by 55 votes to 31!
There is no doubt that the misuse of power during the Emergency and the unparalleled tragedy that followed it dealt a body blow to Indian democracy. But we should not forget that it was the CPI-M, ready to woo any devil in order to defeat the Congress, which had lent support to Jayaprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution movement that had the full backing of the RSS. The genie, that had the gone into hiding when it became the target of social criticism following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, was let out of the bottle, and the fact that the CPI-M too had contributed to it cannot be denied. In these troubled times, characterised by a defiant political stand adopted by the CPI-M, in tune with its hatred towards the Congress Party (a move that is bound to serve only the interests of the extreme Right), the draft political document awaiting recognition at the 23rd Party Congress of the CPI seems to emit a ray of hope. Not only as an initiative for the creation of a broad secular platform against communal fascism but also as an opening for the renewal of policies of the Left parties in India. What should be done to combat communal fascism? The creation of a broad secular, democratic political front that includes the Indian National Congress, or merely a platform? The ideological stand taken by the Left towards the Indian National Congress, the mainstream movement of the Indian nationalist struggle, should have been different. The Left has to change its approach towards the Congress because that is the need of the hour. In these fearful political times, when the hold on Tripura too has been lost, the Left should prepare itself for a rethink on the issue.
The Indian Revolution
India’s anti-colonial struggle that lasted nearly two centuries (1757-1947) was a great popular movement that belongs in the same league as the French, American, Russian and Chinese Revolutions. Even the bourgeois movements of France and America are termed ‘revolutions’ in history! The late Marxist historian and scholar, Prof Bipan Chandra, had severely criticised academic researchers who refused to call the Indian anti-colonial movement a revolution. Even before Lenin and Hobson, the founding fathers of the Indian National Congress had recognised the ramifications of the financial exploitation of the colonies by the imperial powers. Dadabhai Naoroji’s “Drain Theory” is in itself the best example.
What everyone witnessed on August 15, 1947 was the birth of not only an independent nation called India but also a nation-state capable of making crucial contributions to the progress of Asia and the world. And in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Socialist bloc of that time, including the Soviet Union, as well as the newly indepen-dent nations in the Asian, African and South American continents found a great leader capable of leading it. Ralph Buultjens, the famous Sri Lankan intellectual, in an article written in the Mainstreamweekly (1985) evaluated the neutralism of the Non-Aligned Movement initiated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru not as an impotent Switzerland model but as an instance of ‘positive neutralism’ that could strengthen the anti-imperial stand adopted by the Soviet Union.
A small group of Indian Communist leaders, like P.C. Joshi, had the visionary power to see that the Indian nationalist movement, founded on the fundamental values of the anti-colonial world view, parliamentary democracy, and secularism, had the ability to accommodate progressive ideas including land reforms. (Karachi AICC resolution, 1931) That was why, even as early as in the 1940s, P. C. Joshi suggested that the Communist Party join hands with the liberal group led by Jawaharlal Nehru in order to build a nation-state in independent India. What the Indian Communist Party, which had played an active role in anti-colonial struggles, needed to realise was that it had the responsibility of revolutionising the aims and policies of the Indian nationalist movement, and therefore it was the inheritor of the nationalist movement. It seems when K. Damodaran, the Indian Communist leader, got an opportunity to interview Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi in 1960, he asked how the Vietnamese party which was only as big as the Indian Communist Party in the 1930s had managed to take the revolution to success whereas the Communist Party had failed to do so in India. Ho Chi Minh’s famous reply was: “There you had Mahatma Gandhi. Here, I am the Mahatma Gandhi”!
The majority of the Indian Communist leadership did not realise the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi then. If it had, it would have acknowledged his leadership in the anti-colonial struggle, and through that, reached the national mainstream, and later, following the attainment of indepen-dence, represented a progressive section within the Congress, and joined hands with Jawaharlal Nehru in the efforts to build a nation-state. The Communist leaders who could not acknowledge this fact were the ones who, under the leadership of B.T. Ranadive, became the spokesmen of the Calcutta Thesis in 1948, and the inheritors of this sectarian legacy were the ones who split the CPI, and created the CPI-M.
The Unjustifiable Split
The CPI-M was formed in 1964 as the result of a split that went against the spirit of intra-party democratic discipline of the Indian Communist Party. Thirtytwo members among more than 100 who had assembled for a National Council meeting walked out and gave shape to the CPI-M. Differences had erupted many years earlier within the party over the stand to be taken towards the Congress. Towards the end of 1960, after the World Meeting of Communist Workers’ Parties at Moscow, a group of the Indian Communist Party was drawn towards the Immediate Revolution programme of the Chinese Communist Party. This led to the split in 1964. Those who were attracted towards the Maoist slogans that echoed in the 1960s saw the split as a ‘sacred’ revolutionary act and this had global repercussions. Just as the Communist Party split in India, those in Italy, France, Indonesia, Australia and Brazil followed suit despite the fact that there were no ‘pro-Right’ Dangeists in those countries.
Those who gave leadership to the split in India first made unfounded allegations against S.A. Dange who had always and most eloquently spoken about the need for a national policy for the Indian Communist Party. What they showed as proof was a letter allegedly written by him to the British Viceroy in 1924, while he was serving a prison sentence in a jail run by the British Government. That this was utterly fabricated has been stated by Mohit Sen in his autobiography and by K. Damodaran in an interview with Tariq Ali. The comrades, who—under the leadership of P. Sundarayya—created a ruckus in the National Council over allegations against Dange, and later went on to form the CPI-M, were not prepared to consider the fact that Dange’s very name had been wrongly written in the alleged letter of 1924 to the British authorities. Dange’s actual name was Shripad Amrit Dange but in the letter it was written as Shripat Amrit Dange. The letter was discovered after independence by the Communist researcher Dwijendra Nandi in the National Archives. No other document to support this allegation was found, nor any action on the part of Dange detected to provoke suspicions that he was keeping himself away from the anti-British struggle after 1924.
Nevertheless those who were raring to split the party threatened to mutiny in order to have their demand for Dange’s expulsion addressed. On receiving a copy of the letter from Nandi, P. Sundarayya used it as a weapon, made copies and distributed them among the members of the National Council as well as in the press. This group made a concerted effort to throw out Dange under the shadow of doubt, and spread scandals against him. The Maoists, newly sprung in the undivided CPI, in their zest for propagating information about the ‘inevitability’ of a split, were not prepared to concede that S.A. Dange was an undisputed Communist leader who had grown into that position as much by his being in the forefront of the anti-colonial struggle organised by the Left movement from 1925 till the British left India, serving a prison sentence after being named a party in the Meerut Conspiracy Case, and leading endless workers’ strikes by dint of his intelligence.
K. Damodaran, in his interview with Tariq Ali, has made it clear that what took place against Dange in the undivided Communist Party was the Chinese Maoist party leaders’ move against revisionism that began in the 1960s. The Maoist rebel group within the National Council of the undivided Communist Party regarded Dange as a major spokesman of revisionism and isolated him for attack. After the death of Lenin, Stalin initiated a purge in the Russian Communist Party by alleging that all the Polit-Bureau members were agents of the Czar and global capitalism. He succeeded in removing them and anointing himself the dictator. Lenin escaped only because he died in 1924! But democratic India in the 1960s was not the Stalinist Russia of the post-Lenin period. S.A. Dange was not prepared to do a Bukharin act within the Indian Communist Party, and mortgage his dignity. The majority of the National Council during the 1964 split period supported Dange who was then the Chairman of the undivided Communist Party.
Despite this support, Dange was willing to co-operate with a three-member investigation committee set up to look into the allegations made by the rebel group led by P. Sundarayya. Although the members were Bhupesh Gupta, Sohan Singh Josh and Hiren Mukherjee, none known to be on Dange’s side, ideologically, Dange welcomed their intervention. But the rebel group was not ready for it. They had already prepared themselves for splitting the party, in response to the Maoist call. They bayed for Dange’s blood, and used the allegations as a smokescreen to conceal their intention to foment trouble.
However, even without the allegations raised against Dange, the Communist Party was already heading for a split. The differences between the Maoist adherents and the Dange supporters had reached a flashpoint at that time on three counts. The CPI-CPI-M split of 1964 needs to be looked at from this ideological prism as well. Only an understanding of the ideological background behind the creation of the CPI-M will help a student of history to fathom the depth of the crisis that the party finds itself in at the moment. The three issues are as follows:
1. Even after the Communist Party acknow-ledged in 1952 that the Calcutta Thesis was a mistake, the sectarian attitude contained in it continued to influence a segment of the Indian Communist Party. The issue that troubled the party in 1948 had been whether the attainment of independence in 1947 was genuine or not. What the 1964 party split revealed was that most of Ranadive’s supporters still stuck to their guns. They had delusions about toppling what they considered to be a fake democratic government led by Jawaharlal Nehru by means of an armed struggle, and believed that the Chinese Communist Party and its Red Army would give them full support. It was this group that stood with the CPI-M in 1964. A minority led by S. A. Dange opposed it and remained with the CPI. That was why those who defected to the CPI-M saw the CPI comrades as ‘pro-Right’. It is not difficult to see that the phrase ‘Right Communist Party’ came into being from such a sectarian viewpoint.
2. Following the attainment of independence, those who acknowledged that India had become a nation-state built on the foundation of parliamentary democracy, and those who believed that by nurturing people’s struggles in a democratic manner both inside and outside Parliament, a transformation into socialism was possible, remained firm in the CPI. On the other hand, those who rejected this possibility and sought to liberate Indian cities and villages through an immediate and armed revolution, threw in their lot with the CPI-M. Certain lines written by P. Sundarayya in his preface to the history of the Telengana struggle can be read as a criticism of the CPI standpoint branded by the CPI-M as ‘pro-Right’, and as a clear justification of the sectarian attitude adopted by the CPI-M after 1964. He wrote: “It was not just accidental, and maybe of interest to note, that in the party split that came about in the year 1962-63, the division in the State party unit of Visalandhra remained, more or less, of the same character and with the same composition as was witnessed during the 1950-51 inner-party strife. With the exception of a handful of individual communist leaders and caders, who might have changed their loyalties and political convictions, the bulk that stood opposed to the Telengana struggle, on one count or another, opted to side with the right reformist and Revisionist Right Communist Party while the overwhelming majority, that defended the struggle to the last, rallied firmly behind the Communist Party of India-Marxist.” A student of history can easily detect that the CPI-M comrades’ weddedness to the Maoist Immediate Revolution project was at work here.
3. The CPI policy was built on a recognition that there was a progressive group within the Indian National Congress which was essentially a party of the national bourgeoisie, as well as a conviction that by joining forces with it, the process of national democratic revolution could be completed. This would also ensure the entry of the communist movement into the national mainstream. The comrades who accepted this policy stood with S.A. Dange. The stand taken by the CPI-M was totally opposed to it. They saw the Indian National Congress as the reactionary counter-revolutionary party in India. This was in continuation with the stand adopted by Roy in the M.N. Roy vs Lenin debate that took place at the Second Communist International, regarding the strategy of colonial nations. That was the reason why later, under the pretext of opposing the Emergency, on the basis of their readiness as mentioned earlier, to woo any devil in order to defeat the Congress, it publicly joined hands with the real reactionary anti-revolutionary party, the RSS. This alliance did not end even when, after the Congress defeat in the 1977 elections, the RSS (Jana Sangh) won more than 90 seats and, hiding behind the Janata Party, took on the reins of power at the Centre. It was this support that gave the RSS an air of political legitimacy, it had lost with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The alliance continued until
the problem of dual membership arose within the Janata Party in connection with the RSS.
According to the M.N. Roy principle, the reactionary powers that needed to be obliterated from Indian politics were Gandhian ideas and the Congress. The influence of such a sectarian mentality can be detected in the political stand of the CPI-M right from 1964. However, after the party split, the CPI-M made no effort to lead an armed struggle. It was content with increasing its seats in the State Assemblies and Parliament. Only when suspicions about a possible dilution of the arguments that precipitated the split arose did the Naxalite movement take birth within a segment of the CPI-M in 1968. If we examine the arguments arrayed by the CPI-M to engineer the split, we will realise that it lost its political relevance the moment the Naxalite movement was born. The factor that earned the CPI-M its continued political existence was the CPI’s decision to accept the CPI-M policy of the Left Democratic Front. The declaration of Emergency in 1975 and the fears it generated about the possible negative fallouts had caused the CPI to abandon its political agenda of ‘Unity and Struggle’ with the Congress, a policy that had been in force from 1969 to 1977.
Looking back from the fearful present state of Indian politics, it is evident that the 1964 split caused by the CPI-M was totally unjustifiable.
The Lesson from the Achutha Menon Government
It has already been mentioned that the CPI abandoned its alliance with the Congress following the decision taken at the 1978 Bhatinda Party Congress. When the Janata Government crashed in 1977, the CPI-M line was that the Congress and BJP were both enemies. Therefore it sought to build an alternate alliance—the Left Democratic Front—that would lead the nation towards Leftist policies. As a result, an LDF Government came to power in Kerala in 1981 under the CPI-M leadership. The CPI became a member of the CPI-M-led Left Front that had been in power in Bengal from 1977. What students of history should examine is which provided a better alternative—the Achutha Menon Government which ruled Kerala from 1970 to 1977 or the LDF Government which ruled Kerala intermittently from 1981 and continuously in Bengal for 35 years. We have been witness to the complete annihilation of the CPI-M and the Left Front after 35 continuous years of rule. A similar phenomenon took place in Tripura. In Kerala, after 1981, the Left Front could not complete its term even once. But the Achutha Menon Government, a coalition of the Congress and Communist Parties—which ruled Kerala in 1970-’77—got a thumping victory in the 1977 elections.
After the Emergency when both the Congress and CPI faced a severe drubbing all over India, why did the people of Kerala bring the Achutha Menon Government back to power with a huge majority? In the elections to 140 Legislative Assembly seats and 20 Parliament seats, the Congress-CPI front won 117 and all the 20 respectively, when the entire nation, including the poor illiterates of Bihar and UP, opposed Emergency seeing it as a symbol of autocracy. The CPI-M and several others condemned the Malayalis because despite being in the forefront in terms of literacy and life indices, they had succumbed to Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship, and thereby revealed their impotence. The sarcasm and criticism of the CPI-M continue even to this day. It is used as a stick to silence and beat the CPI with.
The criticism of the Achutha Menon Government continues to be a weapon in the hands of the CPI-M with which it hurts the CPI because, in their view, the period of the Achutha Menon Government was a shameful chapter in the history of modern Kerala. Was it really impotence that made the people decide to reinstate a government with an unprecedented majority? There are three explanations to prove that it was not so.
1. The Achutha Menon Government is the best coalition government that independent India has seen so far. The much acclaimed Kerala model of development was initiated during his time. Needless to say, land reforms constituted the most important factor that pushed Kerala from its traditional social and economic structure, based on the feudal system, towards modernity. In the 1930s, it was the slogan ‘Farmlands to the Farmer’ that helped the peasant and communist movements to strike deep roots in the political soil of Kerala, especially Malabar. When the first Communist Ministry of 1957 sought to pass the Land Reforms Bill, the government was not given permission to execute it. The Nehru Government dismissed the EMS Ministry following the liberation revolution. In 1964, the Communist Party split up. In 1969, the Congress-CPI alliance came into power at the Centre. It was in the same year that the Achutha Menon Government, after assuming power, led the liberation revolution with the support of the Congress and Muslim League, and made history by legalising land reforms. Not much later the CPI-Congress alliance faced another Assembly election in Kerala, got elected and exhibited good governance in the 1970-’77 period.
In this context, two crucial issues need to be discussed. One, the attitude of the Congress towards progressive ideas like land reform had by now changed from what it had maintained during the time of the liberation struggle in 1957-59; two, the Congress had come to accept the CPI policy of ‘Union and Struggle’ with the Congress as its partner. The query raised by Jawaharlal Nehru to a group of Communist Party representatives is famous: ‘How did you manage to isolate yourselves completely from the people so quickly in such a short span of time?’ What the CPI did in 1957 was to bring about an immediate revolution by introducing the land reform bill and the education bill simultaneously. That is what turned a majority of the conservative population against the Communist Government.
The Congress, which even during the time of the freedom movement had stood on the side of the landlords in the Communist Party’s anti-feudal struggles, came forward in support of the Land Reforms Bill in 1969. It was not a small matter. The Congress had never shown readiness to seriously consider implementing progressive policies including land reforms which had been contained in the resolution of the 1931 Karachi AICC meeting. But gradually the number of those in the Congress espousing progressive ideas increased. Its support to the Land Reforms Bill in Kerala is proof of this phenomenon. In short, what the Congress-Communist coalition government inaugurated was an alternate political system. The measures taken by it to improve the quality of life were what the people of Kerala acknowledges in the 1977 elections.
2. The Achutha Menon Government could take giant strides in the fields of health, elementary education as well as science and technology. The Sri Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences, the Regional Cancer Centre, the Centre for Development Studies, and so on stand tall as examples of its achievements. The Keltron is another example in the field of public sector undertakings in India. Its founder K.P.P. Nambiar, speaking about the Achutha Menon Government, in an interview to this writer, remarked that its greatest specialty was that it was a Congress-Communist Government.
3. The attitude that the CPI-M took towards the Achutha Menon Government was one of defiance and violence. This was an approach that had no connection whatsoever with the real Communist tradition in India. Perhaps a re-look at history is in order at this point. It is commonplace that the Indian communist movement had ignored the Gandhian path because it was built on the principle of non-violence. Gandhiji had adopted it on the strength of his discovery that one, the Indian social order was by and large governed by non-violence and two, the democratic tradition of the British Government would, to a certain extent, rein in its own suppression of freedom in India. Over and above these, the British wanted to hoodwink the world by wearing the mask of modernising agents in India. What is interesting is that all its scorn for Gandhiji’s movement did not unleash violent methods in any great measure during the period of the anti-colonial struggle in India. Thus the fact is that violence or non-violence should not be used as a yardstick to assess a movement. It was only in Telengana and Punnapra, where freedom of action and press freedom were denied, that the Communist struggle took a violent turn. The Communist Party could not spread it as a pan-Indian movement thereafter.
In Malabar where freedom of action was left more or less untouched, the policy of the communist movement was by and large non-violent. The violent incidents that broke out in Morazha, Mattannur and Thalassery on September 15, 1940 were only isolated instances. And the Kayyoor incident of March 29, 1941 was absolutely accidental. Thus the picture that we get of the communist movement in Kerala and India is one of non-violence. The Communist Parties had from the beginning followed methods like demonstrations, dharnas, picketing and other Gandhian methods of resistance. However in the 1970s the Achutha Menon Government had to contend with a level of violence that was in opposition to the tradition followed in India until then.
The culture of physically attacking one’s enemy—a practice followed in Kannur district even today—is a continuation of the policy that the CPI-M adopted after the split. In the name of revolution, the CPI-M unleashed unprece-dented attacks in order to torpedo the welfare schemes of the Achutha Menon Government. It was something unheard of in the history of modern Kerala.
This method was one that could not be accepted by a refined society. The torching of a public transport bus, which caused the death of three people, in connection with a KSRTC strike, the destruction of hundreds of trans-formers, the torching of tractors in a bid to stop the modernisation of the agriculture sector and so on. Even the foundation stones of houses, built under the one lakh house scheme for the homeless were removed and destroyed, not to speak of the widespread physical attacks on CPI leaders and workers. All these were viewed by the CPI-M as a revolution against the govern-ment. The most ironical fact was that when certain youngsters, influenced by the revolu-tionary fervour it had espoused, were drawn towards Naxalism, the CPI-M did not spare them either. This tendency came in the way of sourcing capital for the process of industrialisa-tion that was inevitable after the implementation of the land reforms. Even small scale enterprises ground to a halt. Work culture too, to a large extent, suffered a setback. The policy of violence perpetuated by the CPI-M during this time dealt a harsh blow on modern Kerala.
The Congress-CPI alliance came back to power in Kerala with majority support overcoming the obstacles it faced all over India during the 1977 general elections. This was because Kerala refused to accept the violent methods of the CPI-M, and acknowledged the welfare schemes as well as the progressive nature of the Achutha Menon Government. As the CPI-M and a group of intellectuals liked to believe, it was not because Kerala society was impotent or too submissive to authorities to oppose the Emergency. In Kerala, the CPI and a segment of the Congress succeeded, in great measure, in maintaining vigil against abuse of power committed behind the veil of the Emergency. The fascist tendency of the Ministry of Home Affairs under the chief ministership of K. Karunakaran was what precipitated utterly despicable and unjustifiable crimes, including the Rajan incident. The Rajan murder would not have taken place with the knowledge of Achutha Menon. It anyone believes to the contrary that is because they do not know Achutha Menon well enough. Nevertheless that several youth, particularly Naxalites, became victims of bestial police brutality was nothing but destruction of democracy. No one can wash their hands of the affair by merely by blaming a few anti-people police officers like Jayaram Padikkal and Lakshmanan.
In the present political circumstances, what the Achutha Menon Ministry teaches us is that if in future we succeed in defeating communal fascism in Kerala and in India, it will be through the efforts of a government built on a Congress-Communist alliance. What is the alternative that the Left Font alone has to offer to the people? The decrepit Soviet model? Or the Chinese model built on market economy? Or the decimated Bengal model? Why is the Left Front not willing to have prominent economists and fellow-travellers like Amartya Sen, Prabhat Patnaik and others conduct discussions with an expert like Manmohan Singh to chalk out an alternate economic policy in these circumstances? If in the fight against the Sangh Parivar, the Left finds the neo-liberal economic policy of the Congress a hurdle in the path towards joining forces, it should own up the responsibility of putting forward its alternate economic policy and inviting the Congress, which is even today the largest secular, democratic national power in India, to discussions. Not that the Congress does not have its own responsibility to discharge. In times of crises, when issues related to responsibility towards the people and nation arise, ordinary people as well as intellectuals look to the Left party first for response. The Left should not destroy this expectation and belie their hopes.
The Emergency and the CPI
The Emergency is a burning issue even today, a topic used not only by all counter-revolutionary forces within the nation, including the RSS, but he CPI as well at all times against the Congress; and by the CPI-M to pile accusations on the CPI. Two books that throw light on the nooks and crannies of the circumstances leading to the declaration of the Emergency are A Traveller and the Road (2203), the autobiography by the Communist leader Mohit Sen, and the more recent The Communist Party of India and the Indian Emergency (2016) by the Australian researcher David Lockwood.
The initial years of the 1970s saw efforts by American imperialism through its CIA to interfere in India’s national politics and indulge in conspiracies armed at destabilizing India. The force within the country that lent it support was the extreme Right wing. Those were the times when after the Indo-Pak War of 1971 Indira Gandhi’s stocks had increased multifold both at home and abroad. She had triumphed over the conservative elements of the leadership that had broken away from the Congress, under the influence of Morarji Desai, by the end of the 1960s. It was later, in 1969 to be precise, that she started progressive projects like nationalising the banking and insurance sectors, putting an end to the privy purse system and so on. But Indira Gandhi, who had come into power through democratic means, had become a mote in the eye of American imperialism and the extreme Right within the country, including the RSS. The threats the two posed were not to be ignored. America found it difficult to see the Indian Government position itself on the side of the Soviet bloc, after its victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The CIA agenda was to topple such countries in the Asian, African and Latin American continents. The assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile is a grim example of this. Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the pan-African movement, had been killed in similar circumstances in 1961.
Against the background of the aforementioned political circumstances, certain national-international events of 1960-70 that are pointed out in Mohit Sen’s and Lockwood’s books are noteworthy. The CPI leadership of that time had suspected that a joint conspiracy of American imperialism, World Bank and IMF was behind the devaluation of the India rupee in 1966 aimed at sabotaging the Indian economy. The progressive section of the Indian Congress held the same view. The common friends of Indira Gandhi and the CPI leadership, and Indira Gandhi’s trusted advisers P.N. Dar and P. N. Haskar had concluded that America was India’s greatest enemy. India’s anti-American stand, including in the Vietnam War, was the result of such a view.
Lockwood states that the grip of American imperialism on Indian governance, the political movements in India and in the fields of trade and commerce was considerably lost only by the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. The end result of this attitude was increased sense of revenge. There were occasions of direct confrontation between the Indira Gandhi government and the Johnson-Nixon administrations. The defeat that India inflicted on Pakistan in 1971 Bangladesh war a slap on the American face. That Indira Gandhi moved closer to the Soviet Union due to the influence of the CPI during these times is no secret. Mohit Sen makes it clear that it was through the Soviet Union that Indira Gandhi came to know about the CIA plot to assassinate her, Mujib ur Rehman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the undisputed leaders in the Asian continent who played a pivotal role in the creation of Bangladesh. In 1975, Indira Gandhi declared Emergency and in August of the same year, Mujib ur Rehman and his family were killed most heinously.
The American attempts to destabilise the country succeeded in creating ripples internally. The most telling example of this phenomenon was the Total Revolution project that gained strength and momentum during 1973-74 under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan. Jayaprakash Narayan made no bones about the fact that the intention of the RSS, which formed the backbone of his project, was to bring down Indira Gandhi. Despite that, the CPI-M continued to be part of the movement. Anti-Congress sentiment was the most important aspect of its policy. When Jayaprakash Narayan publicly asked the military and police forces not to obey government orders, the country went into a boil. Indira Gandhi could not be blamed if she feared the repercussions, considering the extent to which the CIA went in engineering a military coup as well as the assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile, and thereby paving the way for Augusto Pinochet’s ascent to power. It was at this point of time that the Allahabad High Court annulled her election and even banned her from contesting for the next six years. Mohit Sen alludes to this verdict in order to argue that the judiciary too had been drawn into the conspiracy. This was followed by widespread law and order issues including the murder of the Central Minister Lalith Narayan Misra in a bomb explosion, and the attempted murder of the Indian Chief Justice.
It was under such extremely complicated circumstances that the Emergency was declared, and the CPI, which had maintained good relations with Indira Gandhi since 1969, decided to support the decision for the sake of protecting national interests. Although Indira Gandhi initially concurred with the CPI directions to dismiss Parliament and conduct immediate elections, instead of declaring Emergency, she went back on her word on Sanjay Gandhi’s intervention. This had been recorded by David Lockwood.
The political stand of the CPI in backing the Emergency was that a government that came to power through democratic means was not wrong in using its authority to destroy the evil power Jayaprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution had garnered with the support of the extreme Right that was capable of swallowing the entire nation. The reason why fascists gained victory in Italy and Germany was that state power was not harnessed to defeat Mussolini or Hitler. It should not be forgotten that Indira Gandhi initially succeeded, to a certain extent, in using state power to overcome the coup attempts of the extreme Right and imperialist forces. Jayaprakash Narayan wrote a letter, submitting himself to Indira Gandhi’s authority, even before the Allahabad High Court verdict was announced. Mohit Sen argues that the RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras too wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi declaring his innocence. The Allahabad High Court verdict was what gave a new lease of life and vigour to the counter-revolutionary forces that had begun to subside. The Emergency gradually began to lose its direction from the time rogue elements under the leadership of Sanjay Gandhi took control and began to abuse power. This became a serious blot on Indian democracy.
The CPI warned Indira Gandhi of the danger lurking behind the fascist style of functioning adopted by Sanjay Gandhi, and sent its leader Bhupesh Gupta to demand the immediate withdrawal of the Emergency. But Indira Gandhi, blinded by maternal love, paid no regard to it. (This is reminiscent of Jawaharlal Nehru’s unconscious destruction of his own popularity when, driven by paternal love, he heeded to the Congress President Indira Gandhi’s advice, and dismissed the Communist Government of Kerala in 1957.) Indira Gandhi went forward to commit greater mistakes by abusing her power most brazenly in order to bring about constitutional amendments and thereby postpone elections. She turned against the CPI activists when it began to criticise Sanjay Gandhi, and sent hundreds of CPI activists into jails in north India. Later by the time she withdrew the Emergency, things had gone completely out of hand. Senior editors like Edatata Narayanan and Nikhil Chakravartty, other prominent persons like Aruna Asaf Ali, who went along with the CPI, had stood by Indira Gandhi in facing challenges during that time, found themselves in the enemy camp when they began to criticize Sanjay Gandhi. Bhupesh Gupta, the CPI leader, who had maintained a cordial relationship with Indira Gandhi from her student days in London, became an enemy for the same reason. Pro-CPI newspapers like Link and Patriot refused to even print the name of Sanjay Gandhi. CPI fellow-traveller Nikhil Chakravartty stopped publishing his Mainstreamweekly. History finally had to witness the fall of the Emergency that had been declared in order to break the confluence of national and international reactionary forces that aimed to destabilise the newly independent nation-state of India.
The nation experienced all the tragedies during the Emergency period that absolute power usually inflicts. D.K. Barua, the AICC President, and other flatterers like him even popularised slogans like ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’. But with the defeat in the 1977 elections, all the advantage went to the extreme Right party, the RSS. In the Janata Party Government that assumed office thereafter more than 90 MPs were RSS men. The RSS gradually infiltrated the Civil Services, the military and even Doordarshan.
It was the unwillingness of the CPI-M to foresee the great long-term danger to a secular democratic nation like India that made them support this Ministry. The damage such a defiant political attitude of the CPI-M inflicted on the country should not be viewed lightly. That the CPI, now gearing itself for the 23rd Party Congress, has taken cognisance of the threat is a huge source of relief indeed. But with the 2019 elections just round the corner, the sectarian attitude of the CPI-M remains unchanged. It needs to be seen how far party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury’s moves will succeed.
David Lockwood writes about the growth of the CPI as a prominent Left party during the time it followed the ‘Union and Struggle’ policy with the Congress in the period 1969-77. That was the time when the CPI gave precedence to struggle over unity vis-à-vis the Congress. The agitations and rallies organised to demand that the Congress honour its 1972 election promises, as well as the nationwide protests against hoarding and black marketing in 1973 and 1974 were all highly successful. The CPI and AITUC led huge struggles of the railway employees in 1974, and also the Bombay textile mill workers and the Bengal jute mill workers. The world anti-fascist meeting held in Patna, the capital of Bihar, in 1974, challenging the American imperialist project to destabilise India as well as internal anti-revolutionary forces that supported it, attracted widespread attention. Mohit Sen makes it clear that the mass support which the CPI could canvass for the huge rally conducted in connection with the meeting, gave the party the confidence to rule Bihar on its own. During the same time, the CPI could give the lead to coal mine workers and peasants’ agitations too. As a result of all these struggles, the number of members at the time of the 1978 Bhatinda Congress had risen from 3,55,525 (in 1975) to 5,46,343. David Lockwood’s research reveals this fact.
However, it was at the Bhatinda Congress that the CPI withdrew from the ‘Unity and Struggle’ policy with the Congress. This was after the severe beating suffered in the elections in 1977. What Lockwood’s study establishes is that when the Party Congress condemned the period (1975-77) as the CPI’s cursed phase because of the support it lent the Emergency, it was the same period (1975-78) that CPI recorded its highest ever level of membership. The number had increased by more than two lakh members. Lockwood’s conclusions demand a serious study of the growth (or lack of it) of the CPI from 1978 to 2018, following its change of policy vis-à-vis the Congress.
There is no doubt that the misuse of the Emergency was the greatest blow to Indian democracy. If Indira Gandhi had listened to the advice of the CPI and Soviet Union and prepared herself for an election instead of declaring the Emergency, many tragedies could have been averted. The CPI need no longer consider that it had sinned by lending support to the Emergency for the sake of protecting national interests. The reason is that by supporting the Emergency it was only trying to oppose the great menace of communal fascism. Today we are all witness to the fact that the very same menace has begun to eat into every part of secular democratic Indian society. When we acknowledge that the defiant anti-Congress politics of the CPI-M, set off in 1964, also contributed to the sowing of the seeds of this menace in India, we realise there is no reason for the CPI to nurse a guilty conscience.
Prof Bipan Chandra’s Conclusions and the Future of the Left
What is astonishing is that it took only three years for Indira Gandhi to recover from the setback following the Emergency. Perhaps the mistakes committed by the political adversaries, more than her own strength, made the return easy. In the 1981 elections she who was even described as the worst fascist India has ever seen, came back to power through purely democratic means. Before facing the elections, she approached the CPI leadership and sought their support. Giani Zail Singh, who would later become the President of India, went to Ajoy Bhavan, the CPI headquarters in New Delhi, met the Party General Secretary C. Rajeswara Rao and discussed this matter. Mohit Sen mentions this fact in his book. The Congress saw not only the gains to be won in the states of Bihar, Punjab, Andhra and Kerala, but the support of the Soviet Bloc as well, which was in power during that time. But the CPI had completely abandoned its alliance with the Congress at the 1978 Bhatinda Party Congress. What were the losses that this inflicted on the Left movement in India and on the prospects of secular democracy in this country? This is a serious question that begs answers, and a question that has assumed greater relevance at present. There is an answer to it, and it was given by Prof Bipan Chandra more than a quarter century ago.
In July 1995, this writer got an opportunity to meet Prof Bipan Chandra, one of the finest Marxist historians of India, at Mangalore University and conduct a lengthy interview with him (along with Dr Balan, a colleague). This took place in the active presence of the senior Communist journalist T.V. Krishnan (TVK), the noted professor history Dr Kesavan Veluthat, and former member of ICHR Dr Surendra Rao. The insights that the interview occasioned seem to gain more relevance in the present political context. The subjects covered a wide range—nationalism, the Mandal Commission, future of the Left, and so on. This interview however focused more on how the growing menace of communal fascism was acting as a counter-revolutionary force and affecting the developing nation-state of India.
Prof Bipan Chandra began by stating that Hindu communal fascism was the chief threat to the progress of India. He was of the firm opinion that the Sangh Parivar, comprising the RSS and the BJP, should be seen as India’s reactionary counter-revolutionary power. The greatest failure of the Left was that from the very beginning it placed the national bourgeoisie movement, the Indian National Congress, in this position instead of the extreme Right. Bipan Chandra feared that if the Sangh Parivar, with its ultranationalist attitude, came to power, it would cause another partition of India in a span of ten years. Modi, who came to power in 2014 has completed nearly four years in office, and we are already witnessing the threat of worsening social disintegration.
Bipan Chandra’s conclusions about Indian nationalism have greater relevance today. It is the product of the Indian national movement. The anti-colonial struggle was what made India an integrated people or a unified country. Bipan Chandra however rejects the notion that the purposefulness of nationalism ended with the success of the anti-colonial struggle. The reason is that the world is a confederation of many nations. In the struggle for power among them, a few stronger ones may try to weaken the rest and establish authority over them. The attitude of American imperialism towards India and other newly liberated nations is an example of this trend. Therefore it is imperative that India remains a strong nation-state, attains social and economic progress and establishes itself as a united people.
In this era of nation-states, there is no existence for any country other than as a nation-state. Africa has failed to progress or become a great power because it is not united. Palestine was an appropriate platform for the Arabs to show their strength and unity. But because of their disunity, Israel with the support of America has been able to establish its superiority over them. Latin America has enough manpower and other natural resources but disagreement among its nations has prompted American imperialism to pit one against the other. Only the concept of nationalism can keep the people of India, with their different languages, cultures, religions and castes, united. Class ideology cannot achieve this because it can be used only to organise struggles for social justice.
Bipan Chandra is of the opinion that nationalism has to be constantly reinterpreted. Only nationalist ideology can inspire people to make sacrifices. But Indian nationalism should simultaneously fight for equality in the fullest sense. What we require is a nationalism built on justice as well as social and economic equality among religions, castes, classes, genders, and in developed as well as undeveloped regions. Nationalism should essentially be related to the life of the people. The need of the hour is a nationalism that is organically connected to the people and their lives.
India is not a land of a single language-speaking community, a single race or a single religious and cultural group. Despite this, Indian nationalism is strong precisely because it is the product of the Indian nationalist movement. It was this movement that made India a unified nation. According to the fundamental ideology of the Sangh Parivar,India is a Hindu Rashtra. This strikes at the very root of the Indian nationalist values. Bipan Chandra states very categorically that the true extent of danger can be fathomed only if we acknowledge that “communalism is an ideology”. It is on the strength of this conviction that he feared India would be split again if the BJP were to remain in power for ten years.
Another opinion of contemporary relevance that he made was with regard to the Left attitude towards the threat of communal fascism, and also what attitude the Left should take towards the Indian National Congress. He also touched upon the historical blunder committed by the Left in their approach to the Congress in the past as well as the importance of a Congress-Communist alliance to resist communal fascism. He began with commenting on the Left attitude towards Gandhiji. Gandhiji was a thorough opponent of colonialism, a great national leader who fought an uncompromising battle for the people through his own path. Just as Karl Marx was the product of prosperous European culture and working class intellectual power, Gandhiji was the product of Indian culture and intelligence. Those who believe in scientific socialism may not be able to accept many of Gandhiji’s viewpoints. But unfortu-nately the Marxists saw Gandhiji merely as a bourgeois leader who struck a compromise with the British. The Left needs to understand that instead of condemning Gandhiji it should learn many things from him. If the Indian Communists had taken such a stand, it would have brought benefit not only to the Left movement in India but to the movements in other countries as well.
To a question about the relevance of a Congress-Communist alliance to confront communal fascism, especially in the context of the growing strength of the extreme Right parties like the RSS and the BJP in the post-Emergency era, Bipan Chandra’s reply was very clear-cut. He said: “I strongly believe there is. It will help remove the lumpen elements in the Congress and bring the Communists to the national mainstream. That there aren’t many honest men in the Congress is a shame, no doubt. But such a union is not immediately possible. It is a union that should crystallise gradually. For that, the Congress should retrieve its rich legacy and the Communists should bring about some fundamental changes in their policies. A Rama Rao-Mulayam Singh-Kanshi Ram alliance, or a political front incorporating the BJP, the symbol of fascism, is no good alternative to the Congress. Such an alternative will weaken the country.”
The last question sought was Bipan Chandra’s opinion about the future of the CPI and the CPI-M. His reply was “When the Communist Party split in 1964, I was sympathetic towards the CPI-M. But later I had to correct my stand. I saw that the CPI had the possibility of growing into a vast Left movement. But the CPI-M always remained Stalinist. After the Emergency, the CPI quickly changed its approach towards Indira Gandhi and the Congress. As a result it is ruining itself. If such a change of policy had not happened, the CPI would by now have grown to be an influential Left movement. The Congress is, even today, the biggest secular democratic party. I do not see a sanguine future for either Communist Party in the present Indian circumstances unless a radical change in policy, including its blind opposition to the Congress, is brought about.”
The Hopes that the Kanhaiya Kumars give the CPI
This writer had the opportunity to meet Kanhaiya Kumar and talk to him at length about politics when he came to Kanhangad (North Kerala) to receive the first award (2017) instituted in the name of the freedom fighter and Communist leader K. Madhavan. It is this writer’s conviction that it is not the leader who creates a movement but rather it is the movement that creates a leader. Kanhaiya Kumar had captured headlines worldwide within the course of a single night, through an accidental event in the JNU. The fire that lay in Kanhaiya Kumar had blazed forth only on that day. Such Kanhaiya Kumars hold great promise as far as the CPI is concerned. If the CPI succeeds in leading him appropriately to the forefront, he will bring more such courageous Kanhaiya Kumars along, and thus become a valuable asset in the future. What are his prospects?
Kanhaiya Kumar became the symbol of the youth in their secular, democratic struggle for freedom against communal fascism, through a single event that took place in the JNU. The university, in the name of Jawaharlal Nehru and founded under the leadership of his daughter, became the haven of Left intellectuals in India in course of time. But it has been a target on the radar screen of the Sangh Parivar since 2014.
During the time of Indira Gandhi’s electoral defeat, after the withdrawal of the Emergency, the JNU students’ union was led by a young Sitaram Yechury. Indira Gandhi, who held the post of the Chancellor of the JNU while she served as the Prime Minister of the country, refused to step down after her political debacle. One day when she reached the JNU, the students blocked her path and their president, Yechury, read out a resolution demanding her resignation from the post of the Chancellor. A photograph capturing the scene gained great publicity. The body language of the smiling Indira Gandhi in that photograph is very eloquent. Does she appear as a ‘Lady Hitler’ as she was described by the CPI-M and the SFI? It should not be forgotten that the JNU saw and experienced the Left, and became pro-Left with the generous backing of her government. It also quickly became a centre of Left intellectuals during the Congress regime. It was in the same period that the NCERT history books came to be written by Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra, R. S. Sharma and other Marxist historians. We should remember that these books are in the hit-list of the Sangh Parivar today. The JNU was a centre that attracted not only academic intellectuals but propagators of Marxist ideology as well, like D. D. Kosambi, the CPI leader from Bihar, Prof. R. S. Sharma, Bipan Chandra, Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and numerous others of national and international fame. The P.C. Joshi Centre, housed, if my memory serves me right, in the eighth floor of its library complex, is the chief attraction for those doing research on the communist movement. It is not surprising that the Central Government operating from Nagpur should train its guns on such a centre. It is in this context that Kanhaiya Kumar becomes relevant.
Born into an impoverished family with Left leanings in a backward village in Bihar, Kanhaiya Kumar reached the JNU, became an AISF leader and eventually the students’ union President by dint of his own effort. Although he did not have the means to fight the elections depending upon the strength of the AISF alone, he won. Incidentally, even after the Kanhaiya Kumar incident, an AISF-SFI unity has not taken place in the JNU elections. When asked about it, the reply was an astonishing one. Needless to say, the attitude maintained by certain revolutionary organisations in this matter, even when the country is going through trying times, is extremely discouraging.
Through the JNU incident, what Kanhaiya Kumar did was to pull down the mask from Narendra Modi’s face, the mask of a larger-than-life incarnation, striding across the globe with the blessings of national and multinational corporates. After his release from the Tihar jail, when he returned to the JNU and delivered a fiery speech, hundreds of thousands of people the world over sat up and listened. What he brought to light through that speech was the RSS agenda to destroy the university that enjoys international renown. The victory and relevance of Kanhaiya Kumar lies in his success in drawing world attention to the trespass into civil liberties by the Sangh Parivar. What Panniyan Ravindran wrote in his preface to a book on Kanhaiya Kumar brought out by Prabhat Book House is indeed true: “It was when Modi stood shining on the strength of the event-managed propaganda, that Kanhaiya Kumar came to the scene like a red blanket.” There is a right time for striking one’s opponent. It is in this aspect that the young Kanhaiya Kumar stands as an example and inspiration. Today he stands tall as a youth icon, a leader of a struggle for rights. Fascism grows when corporate capital and ultra-communal forces join forces. Today the government is in their hands. Therefore the immediate responsibility of secular democratic forces is to liberate the state from the grip of these retrograde forces.
That Kanhaiya Kumar has internalised this politics is very evident in his speeches. By now he has been able to attract a considerable segment of the youth, including those inside and outside the campus, and thereby the Dalits and the minorities, on a national scale. The future of struggles against communal fascism is in the hands of the Indian youth like Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani. In the speeches of Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani, we can detect only one enemy—communal fascism. That is what the present situation demands. However we should not forget the fact that when Kanhaiya Kumar’s life was in danger at the site of the struggle in the JNU, one among the prominent people who came at the right moment to save him was Rahul Gandhi. That this gesture created a bit of uneasiness within the Congress Party is also a known fact. But Rahul Gandhi ignored it. He had gone to the Hyderabad University campus too when it had turned turbulent following the suicide of Rohith Vemula. On release, Kanhaiya Kumar along with his friends, paid a visit to Rahul Gandhi as a gesture of gratitude.
When the 2019 general elections, very crucial as far as Indian democracy is concerned, take place Kanhaiya Kumar will contest from his own constituency of Begusarai in Bihar. It is not in the interest of the CPI alone that Kanhaiya Kumar reaches Parliament. Rather, it is the dream of the youth, including the Dalits and other backward communities, who are preparing themselves to lash out against fascism in the country. As far as the CPI is concerned, such an opportunity is itself a great achieve-ment. Imagine that Kanhaiya Kumar contests the parliamentary elections as a CPI candidate from Begusarai. That is possible today only if he gets support from secular democratic parties including the Congress. People like Rahul Gandhi will certainly pray for his victory.
This raises a relevant question. What then, for example, will be the attitude of the CPI regarding the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency? Will it decide to defeat a person like Shashi Tharoor who is known in the country and abroad, and at important international fora as the supporter of secular democratic slogans heard loudly all over India? This is the predica-ment that the Left in India faces today. In order to find a way out of this conundrum, the CPI should, at its 23rd Party Congress, seriously consider the draft resolution regarding ways to fight fascist forces, think of an ‘alliance’ rather than a ‘platform’, and adopt it as a practical political stance. If we consider the history of policies adopted by the CPI-M from 1964, we will realise this is not very easy for it.
What the RSS agenda challenges is the real Indian nationalism based on plurality. The times demand a national policy from the Left parties in order to combat this challenge. The response should be a clear-cut one. If, on the other hand, one policy is adopted in Kerala, another in Bengal and yet another in Bihar, the Left will only be revealing that it has no single national policy. Without it, how can the challenge to Indian nationalism be overcome?
2019 — The Final Chance?
The 2019 general elections are going to be crucial not only for Indian secularism and democracy but for the future of the Indian Left as well. If the Sangh Parivar gets two-thirds majority in both the Houses of Parliament and in all State Assemblies as well, the situation will turn really grave. The Sangh Parivar does not respect the Indian Constitution which enshrines plurality. What it aims to have is not the Ambedkarian one which accommodates all sections of the population including the Dalits and the minorities, but a Manuvadi Constitution built on Hindutva ideology and protective of the interests of the upper castes. Instead of an inclusive Constitution, embracing all sections irrespective of differences in caste, religion and class, it will be content only with an exclusive Constitution that will strengthen the hegemony of the savarna population. It will not sanction plurality or multi-party democracy or a secular federal system of governance. The declaration—that if the Indian military requires six months to be battle-ready, the RSS requires only three days—is a warning about preparations for such a coup. Here the question is simple: Where will the Left parties stand in the struggle that should be waged to ensure that we do no lose all that the secular democratic powers earned for us through the nationalist movement? It is now clear that the CPI and the Yechury group within the CPI-M have a practical attitude towards the issue. But the dyed-in-the-wool anti-Congress sentiment harboured by the CPI-M in Kerala is a major obstacle.
It was in 1925 that the RSS and the Communist Party were founded. The Communist Party of India was the main Opposition party in the first Lok Sabha, and the Opposition leader was AKG. In the second parliamentary elections, the Jan Sangh got only four seats and 5.97 per cent votes. The Communist Party won 27 seats and 8.92 per cent votes. S.A. Dange, who was elected from the Bombay City Central Parliament seat, garnered more votes than Jawaharlal Nehru did. The victories of many Communist Party leaders were with marvellous majority. The Mayors of Delhi and Bombay corporations were CPI leaders, Aruna Asaf Ali and S.S. Mirajkar respectively. It seems if Dange lifted as much as his finger, the whole of Bombay would come to a standstill. How about today? Isn’t it evident that something is rotten somewhere?
Yet we can see light at the end of the tunnel. The election results of the North Eastern States, including Tripura, are not a reflection of the political situation prevailing all over India. What Tripura witnessed was a naked victory of money power. No doubt, it points to dangers in the near future. Nonetheless, the surge of the Congress in the Gujarat elections, the Congress victory—two Lok Sabha seats and one State Assembly seat—in Rajastan, and its victory in the MP Assembly are good indicators. When we consider the financial crunch that demoneti-sation precipitated, the sense of insecurity suffered by the Dalits and the minorities, and the agricultural crisis, we see great possibilities for a resurgence of the Opposition parties in India today. The recent change perceived in Rahul Gandhi offers scope for hope. This appears to be the most appropriate time for the coming together of all secular democratic parties against communal fascism. Should a segment of the CPI-M seek to destroy this driven by the anti-Congress sentiment? Has not the CPI-M, which joined hands with the RSS to defeat Indira Gandhi, learnt anything from their experiences from 1977 to 2018? What Sitaram Yechury reminded the Malayali Communists at Thrissur recently was that they should think not merely about the fates of 3.25 crore Keralites who form only a small portion of the great Indian subcontinent with its population of 125 crores, but also of the fate of India, the fates of millions of her poor, and the fates of a majority who still have faith in secularism and democracy.
This is where the intervention of the CPI becomes relevant. The present demands a harmonious alliance of secular democratic forces, including the Congress, in order to fight communal fascism. The possibilities that the realisation of this opens up for the growth of the Left party should not be ignored. As the country goes through challenging times, the expectation is that the CPI will take a path different from that of the CPI-M. The political line put forward by the draft resolution prepared for the 23rd Party Congress is different from the sectarian attitude of the CPI-M. The CPI stand in this regard internalises the Indians’ nationalist interests, and therefore opens up possibilities for the formulation of a policy that will work at the national level for a broadbased national policy to defeat communal fascism.
Dr Ajayakumar Kodoth is a former member, Kerala Public Service Commission and son of veteran Communist leader, late K. Madhvan, of North Malabar.