- Rajesh Tyagi/ 21 April 2012
CPM, the main Stalinist party in India, held its six day long 20th Congress in Kozhikode coastal city in south western state of Kerala, from 4-9 April 2012. Party Congress was held in the backdrop of a political crisis that had recently precipitated in fall of the “left front” government in West Bengal, led by it.
Congress was marked, on its eve, by huge celebrations on the sea beach, starting with flag hoisting amidst fireworks turning the skyline red. This great fanfare, though, was but a desperate attempt to cover-up the whole series of crushing defeats and failures suffered by the Stalinist Party, from general elections of 2009 to recent assembly polls, routing the Stalinists even in their strongholds in West Bengal and Kerala. Behind the celebrations, lurked the real worry of Stalinist leadership to keep the bureaucratic apparatus of the party intact, in face of erosion of its mass appeal. Echoing these worries, Polit Bureau member S. Ramachandran Pillai in his speech said that “the corporate media’s false campaigning that the CPI(M) has lost its significance and relevance with the setbacks the Party suffered in the Lok Sabha polls and assembly polls would prove wrong. The relevance of the Party as well as the Left forces was increasing in the given political situation. The CPI(M) is not dependent on its electoral strength or gains in the polls. Instead, the Party is going ahead with its strength of mass organisations”.
The fact however goes that the strength of the Stalinist party has always remained dependent directly upon patronage of state machine. 7,64,000, out of total membership of 1,044,883 of the party, was raised in three states- West-Bengal, Kerala, and Tripura- where CPM had remained in power. Large states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, where major industrial centres are situated, subscribe a meagre 12,586; 3,575; and 6,056 respectively, to its membership.
CPM and the ‘left front’ under it had clung to power for around 34 years in a row, the longest uninterrupted stay in power of a political party in an Indian state after 1947 independence, by exploiting the popular support that Stalinists could garner through the limited land reforms and half baked measures for social welfare, carried out by them during initial period of their stay in power.
Needless to say, even these limited welfare measures have been gradually dismantled by successive Stalinist governments as they openly embraced the ‘neo-liberal’ and ‘pro-investor’ policies, since implemented by other centrist and rightist bourgeois governments at centre and in states in India. More specifically, in the states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, where CPM at the head of the ‘left front’ was voted to power, it vigorously pursued these ‘pro-big business’ policies, which included: a total ban on strikes in IT and allied industries and openly used police-goon violence to suppress peasant opposition to acquisition of land for development of Special Economic Zones for big business in Nandigram and Singur.
Policy backfired, and CPM suffered major loss of its traditional base among working and toiling people, culminating recently in its electoral defeat in West Bengal and similar reversals in Kerala. CPM and the Left Front had earlier remained the biggest losers in the general elections of 2009, where representation of CPM in the Lok Sabha had fallen sharply from 43 seats to mere 17, and Left Front was left with 24 out of its earlier score of 61 seats.
The 20th Congress, held in an atmosphere of utter despair, however, failed to carry out a serious review of its political decline and rather reaffirmed the core policies carried out by the CPM in past years, including its support to UPA coalition from May 2004 to June 2008 and the ‘pro-investor’ policies that it continued to support at the centre and implemented in the States ruled by it.
Two resolutions, ‘Political Resolution’ and ‘Resolution on Some Ideological Issues’ form the core of the orientation of CPM congress and demonstrate with definitive indication, even a further shift to the right, by the Stalinist CPM. Both resolutions are cleverly designed to cover up the counter revolutionary misdeeds of the Stalinist Party in the past and providing further justification to its manoeuvre in binding the working class to the sections of bourgeois, holding it back from mounting a decisive struggle against its class enemies, and in assisting implementation of pro-big business policies, while side by side pretending to be a party of working class.
In the backdrop of CPM’s poor performance in last elections, political resolution rhetorically calls for ‘bringing more focus on struggles of workers and peasants’. However, it cleverly confines these struggles to opposition of ‘neo liberal’ policies and for a ‘multi-polar world’, thereby deliberately blocking a working class offensive in the face of eruption of the greatest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression of 30’s. Simply placing themselves at the head of the mass struggles of workers and toilers, Stalinists seek the opportunity to prove themselves indispensable for the bourgeois rule, i.e. in holding back the working class and toilers behind it, from taking to revolutionary offensive against its rule.
Last few years have been witness to a remarkable growth in militant strikes and struggles by the workers. However, Stalinist parties have played a vicious role in isolating these struggles, containing them in local pockets, preventing their spread to other regions and finally in convincing the isolated workers to appeal to the big business, its parties and governments for concessions, instead of launching broad political offensive against the rule of capital. This treachery has resulted in defeat after defeat of the proletariat, dampening its fighting spirit against the capitalists. Recent strike in Maruti-Suzuki plant at Manesar, where they had diffused an emerging explosive struggle, is live example of this pernicious role of the Stalinist parties, with CPM at head of them.
While bourgeois regime in India finds itself engulfed all around by a rising crisis in price hike, vanishing social security, crime and corruption and growing resistance to its misrule, CPM congress has proposed a solution to the bourgeois regime, to overcome this crisis- the building of a “Left and democratic alternative” to the centrist UPA led by Congress and rightist NDA led by BJP.
As Congress and BJP and the respective bourgeois coalitions under them- United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) become totally discredited in the eyes of workers and toilers, leaving a void in bourgeois politics, Stalinists vouch for filling this void through manoeuvres in forging a ‘left and democratic alternative’ hand in hand with bourgeois parties.
20th Congress of CPM has restated this program of forging unlimited coalitions with any and all political parties representing various sections of bourgeoisie, excluding Congress and BJP. This implies, not shutting off the gates to sections of bourgeois, on the contrary opening unlimited opportunist vistas for such alliances in future, in the name of opposition to Congress and BJP, who stand already discredit in estimation of working people, as both of them had supervised the bourgeois state, alternating with each other, that in turn has subjected working people to immense loot and repression.
Acknowledging the steep decline in credibility of both the main bourgeois alliances- UPA and NDA- Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the Party, in his inaugural address told the Congress, “The recent political developments showed the failure of the two combinations—the UPA and the NDA—to consolidate and grow. As the bankruptcy and venality of the present order becomes more and more apparent, people are looking for an alternative”, General Secretary Prakash Karat said in his inaugural address to the Congress. And immediately Karat steps in with a ready-made alternative- ‘the left and democratic front’- a dubious solution, intriguingly tailored to the needs of bourgeois regime, during crisis.
In its most opportunist manoeuvre, in adhering to sections of bourgeois in practice, while sticking simultaneously to marxist demagogy in words, CPM boasted on April 5 to the press that only a ‘left-democratic front’ can be the real alternative to the current capitalist-landlord regime. However, in the next breath it vouched to cooperate with the secular and regional opposition parties on issues concerning people, to defend federalism and secularism.
These secular and regional parties are none else than AIADMK of Jayalalitha, Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad, Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati, Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh, Biju Janata Dal, so on and so forth, with whom Stalinist CPM and the left front under it, had entered into reactionary electoral alliances repeatedly. These parties, who work solely to maintain bourgeois-landlord order, become secular and democratic from time to time, in convenient political estimations of Stalinists.
Rhetoric apart, this ‘left and democratic alternative’ now proposed by CPM is no different from its ‘third frontism’ which it floated in 2009 general elections. CPM already heads a left front of Stalinist parties, which it proposes to expand by embracing other bourgeois parties, under the banner of ‘left and democratic alternative’. This however is no alternative, but the manoeuvre to join the bandwagon of bourgeois parties.
“Elections may come and we will take appropriate decisions on electoral adjustments with regional parties at that time. At the moment, there is no idea of a programme-based third front,” S. Ramachandran Pillai, the politburo member who presented the organizational resolution, told the gathering. Rejecting any program based alliance, CPM Congress has taken to most opportunist stance in opening unlimited vistas for alliances of all hues with local, regional, caste-ist bourgeois parties.
Echoing CPM line of entering into political alliance with bourgeois parties, A.B. Bardhan, General Secretary of Communist Party of India (CPI), another Stalinist Party and junior partner in ‘left front’ under CPM, told the Kozhikode Congress that his party is in agreement with CPM in building a bourgeois alliance on an anti-Congress and anti-BJP plank. Bardhan, said that “the regional (bourgeois) parties sometimes take to opportunism, but on many issues they have joined hands with the Left”. “We have been together against anti-people policies of the central government. They have secular values, despite occasional opportunism.” Bardhan claimed.
After painting the regional bourgeois parties in bright light, Bardhan pointed to the weakness of the ‘left’ declaring, “There is a political vacuum, that can’t be filled by the left alone.” Stalinists and behind them Maoists, proceed from the weakness of working class, presuming the sections of bourgeois to be the real repository of all political strength.
CPM and the left front under it, in fact form a ‘left wing’ of the bourgeois rule, and the proposal now for a ‘left and democratic alternative’ is tricky recipe for the crisis management of this rule, by tagging the working class to the tail of sections of bourgeois in a ‘popular front’.
However, CPM is no originator of the idea of forging alliances with sections of bourgeois in the name of left-democracy. The idea is rooted in Stalin’s counter-revolutionary policy of ‘popular frontism’, through which Stalin and the Comintern under him continued to manoeuvre with sections of bourgeois in all countries. This policy, in turn, was responsible for infliction of one after the other defeat of proletariat in all countries resulting in ebb in tide of world socialist revolution and isolation of Soviet Union. First casualty of the policy of ‘popular frontism’, was the ripened proletarian revolution in China in 1925-26, where Stalin forced the CCP to adhere to bourgeois Kuomintang, and suffered total devastation. After that in Germany, where pursuant to dictates of Stalin, such unity was forged in popular fronts with bourgeois parties including with fascists under Hitler, the same resulted in coming to power of Hitler and destruction of the another maturing revolution. Since then the policy of forging alliances with bourgeois parties was implemented by Stalinists repeatedly from Europe to Asia and Middle East to Latin Americas, in every corner of the world, with devastating consequences. But Stalinists never derived lessons and remained adherent everywhere, in all countries, to this or that section of the bourgeois.
As the anger and militancy among the working class, against the exploitative conditions of life, go on rise and the political crisis spirals, Stalinists move even closer to the bourgeois parties and unions, including Congress and the BJP. This explains why Stalinists have hailed the participation of unions controlled by Congress and BJP, in a one-day nationwide protest strike on February 28, as ‘historic’. Enormous response to this strike, demonstrated widespread hatred towards pro big-business policies of the government, but for Stalinists they are no more than annual rituals, a tool to manoeuvre with bourgeois. For them, whole significance of these protests lies in giving a ‘pro-people’ push to the government, thereby preventing working class to present its own solution to the spiralling political and economic crisis, by opening a revolutionary assault against the rule of capital.
CPM was formed in 1964 in a split from the CPI, after CPI had gone down in history for its misdeeds including its support to the agreement between British imperialism and the colonial bourgeoisie to suppress the democratic revolution in the name of “independence” and communal partition of the sub-continent, supporting the capitalist-landlord government under Nehru after 1947, supporting emergency under Indira Gandhi, hailing the Stalinist and Maoist bureaucracies in USSR and China as socialist regimes. Though CPM organised itself separately from CPI, but it has always remained enthusiast in defending the reactionary legacy of the CPI.
Since its formation, CPM itself has played a crucial role in forming and running the bourgeois coalition governments that were pioneer to advance the neo-liberal policies, turning India into a platform for cheap labour and global investments.
In past, CPM was instrumental in garnering parliamentary support for the UPA government in the aftermath of May 2004 elections. Throwing its support behind Congress led UPA alliance from outside, the CPM and the left front under it, not only actively and consciously assisted in resolving the political and constitutional crisis of bourgeois state, triggered by the polls that brought a hung parliament into being, but facilitated a bourgeois government once again in power, which then continued the very same ‘neo-liberal’ and ‘pro-investor’ policies earlier carried out by the right wing NDA regime.
CPM has played crucial role in drafting of the Common Minimum Program of UPA with a left face, to mislead the workers and toilers in believing that the UPA regime would produce better life conditions for them. CPM and its left front continued to support the UPA regime, while UPA implemented the devastating ‘neo-liberal’ policies dictated by the global capital. Despite its acknowledgement that UPA regime was no better than NDA’s on both domestic and foreign fronts, CPM and its other Stalinist allies in ‘left front’, did not withdraw the critical support to it, until they were kicked out by the Congress itself on the issue of Indo-US nuclear deal. However, instead of drawing correct lessons from this humiliation, big sections of CPM still regret the break with UPA regime in 2008.
This was not the first time that Stalinists had entered into manuevres with bourgeois parties. Since its inception in 1925, Stalinist CPI had become more and more complacent with sections of bourgeois, both colonial and imperial. After 1947, Stalinists have functioned as chief agency of the Indian bourgeoisie rendering critical support to it in moments of crisis and by putting down the struggles of the working class through political trickery or outright brutal repression. Stalinists have played vital role in tying up the working class to the bourgeois parties like Congress, which they themselves term as reactionary.
Stalinists not only glorified the bourgeois government under Nehru as progressive and democratic in the past, but more recently CPM rendered support to the right-wing coalition government of Janata Party formed in 1977, while Stalinist CPI supported imposition of emergency by Indira Gandhi. Both Stalinist parties had supported the government under V.P. Singh, which was supported by the extreme right wing BJP on the right.
Kicked out of the alliance in 2008, that they forged with UPA government at the centre, giving support to it from outside since 2004 general elections, Stalinists had started to look out for forging alliances with rest of bourgeois parties. While they entered into informal alliances even with extreme right-wing parties like BJP on issues like FDI and corruption, they sought formal alliance into a “third front” with practically any bourgeois party which could be roped in. This project however landed in a fiasco, as all the bourgeois parties, big or small, got polarised between UPA and NDA in 2009 general elections, leaving Stalinists in a lurch.
Poorest demonstration was put up by CPM and the left front led by it, in the recent elections for State Assemblies last year. CPM lost its government in West Bengal after 34 years continuous rule with considerable reduction in its vote share for a whooping 9%. It also lost in Kerala, clinging only to Tripura, one of the smallest state in North East of India. None of the Stalinist parties could win even a single seat in these elections conducted in largest states of India, namely Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and three other states, wherein Stalinists claimed Punjab as one of their traditional bases in north India.
In attempt to mislead their followers, Stalinists have repeatedly termed the electoral reversals specially in West Bengal, to be handiwork of big business. The fact, however, remains that sections of bourgeois have openly praised and supported the left front and the governance under it. One of the biggest Industrialist, Ratan Tata, the owner of Tata group of Industries, termed the governance in West Bengal to be the best in India.
Electoral reversals, on the contrary, were result of an erosion of the mass base of Stalinists, caused primarily due to the pro-business measures adopted by the left front government, its trumpeted ‘pro investor’ policies, cuts in social welfare, police repression of peasant resistance against forced acquisition of agricultural land etc. which gave clear mileage to right-wing parties like TMC under Mamata Banerjee. In late 60’s, the CPM was instrumental, hand in hand with the ruling Congress, in brutal suppression of peasant uprising in Naxalbari in West Bengal.
Throttled in their throat by a series of devastating electoral defeats, the Stalinist leaders now turn to the “people” to revitalise their muscles, in order to serve the bourgeois with redoubled vigour in future. Resolution vows to taking to issues of workers and peasants, only to regain their lost confidence in Stalinists, so crucial to facilitate their subordination to the bourgeois.
Declaring itself against the ‘neo-liberal policies’ implemented by the UPA and the NDA, the resolution proposes to muster forces against it. However, it fails to explain the critical issue of Stalinists’ continuous support to the parties and alliances at the centre and in states, which openly vouched for very same policies. Resolutions do not tell how the neo-liberal policies implemented by Stalinists in the states under them are different from the neo-liberal policies advanced by bourgeois parties, which they criticize.
While criticizing the ‘anti-people’ policies of the bourgeois governments in succession to one another in the last two decades, Prakash Karat in his speech did not say even a word as to what exactly was the role of his party in perpetuating these policies. Implementation of these policies was in no case possible without active assistance from CPM and the left front led by it to successive bourgeois governments. Stalinists are afraid of tracing their own history.
Making an appeal to the bourgeois nationalist sentiments and thereby distancing itself even more from the path and lessons of October Revolution, Prakash Karat said in his address, “The CPI(M) has always believed in applying Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of India, to chalk out its revolutionary path. We have never tried to emulate models abroad”. This obviously is the echo of old rhetoric of Stalinists and Maoists behind them, that every country has its own separate path, to consciously discredit the October Revolution and to fragment the world socialist revolution in ‘our revolution’ and ‘their revolution’.
Under the false slogan of ‘People’s Democratic Revolution’, the CPM professes the Menshevik-Stalinist two-stage theory-democracy today, socialism tomorrow- holding that the struggle for socialism in India is ‘out of question’, and the working class should join with the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-feudal sections of the national bourgeoisie, in order to first complete the democratic stage of the revolution. Nothing could bring the point home with more clarity than the words of demised leader of CPM, Jyoti Basu himself that “socialism is a far cry.”
Instead of focusing upon the mounting crisis of world capitalism, and oblivious to the worldwide struggles launched by the working class, the congress resolution sheepishly re-states the old position of CPM that ‘balance of class forces tilts in favour of imperialism’, position which it stated in 1992 resolution in the aftermath of disintegration of Stalinist regimes in USSR and Eastern Europe. This lie in its turn is outcome of a fraudulent conception that Stalinist regimes, in some or the other way, represented socialism. This is false to the core.
Bureaucratic regimes under Stalin in USSR and his followers like Mao in China, Ho-Chi-Minh in Vietnam and Kim Il Sung in North Korea, POlpot in Cambodia and in several countries of Eastern Europe, were nothing but props of world capitalism and the dissolution of these regimes in no way demonstrates defeat of socialism, but was the climax of Stalinist counter revolution that was in offing for decades. These Stalinist regimes that were complacent with world capitalism, were notorious for repression of the working class. In Soviet Union they had headed off the entire Bolshevik core that had created the October revolution and physically eliminated the left opposition in all countries.
Through treaties of Potsdam, Yalta and Tehran, Joseph Stalin had entered into enduring peaceful co-existence with world bourgeoisie. Pursuant to these agreements, Stalinists have betrayed the anti-colonial struggles in all countries, and the CPI and later its offshoot CPM were mere puppets in the hands of the criminal Kremlin bureaucracy, like other CPs, the world over.
Collapse of Stalinist regimes was brought by destruction of capitalist equilibrium achieved after WW-II, triggering a new period of capitalist crisis culminating in unlimited wars and revolutions.
CPM resolutions make in vain the attempt to cover up the misdeeds of Stalinist bureaucracies and the role they played in strangulating the revolution in the countries under them. They refuse to debate as to how within the Stalinist police states emerged a privileged bureaucracy which became complacent with imperialism and under its pressure restored capitalism ultimately.
The ideological resolution praises Stalin as expert on the national question, the same Stalin who had instructed the CPI to support the 1947 settlement and communal partition of the Indian subcontinent. The same Stalin who ordered arrest of Latvian leaders and was severely rebuked by Lenin in his last days. Lenin, in his last testament has strongly recommended that Stalin be deposed from his office in the Bolshevik party.
Resolutions interpret the recent global capitalist crisis as demonstration of its inhumane face. The resolution thus does not pose the challenge before the working class to overthrow capitalist order, but calls for the defeat of “neo-liberalism” through emergence of a “multi-polar” world.
CPM resolutions paint imperialism in the shades of strength and power, at a time when it is torn and decadent more than ever. Reiterating the old positions, resolution underlines, “In present-day realities, when the international correlation of class forces has moved in favour of imperialism......”. Impressed by the military aggression led by the US around the world, Stalinists look at it not as a symptom of a serious crisis of world capitalism, but further advance of imperialism. As if for Stalinists, international working class does not exist at all.
Resolution praises China for embarking upon a “socialist market economy” and for developing socialism with concrete Chinese characteristics. “....the existing socialist countries have embarked on a course of economic reforms to meet the challenges posed by international finance capital-led and driven globalization.” Claims the resolution. It further says that “this primary stage of socialism in China will last for over a hundred years”. The fact is that the CPM sees its own regime in West Bengal in the image of ‘market socialism’ practised by China, based upon intense exploitation of its working class.
The CPM, which boasts of having more than 10 lakh membership on board, expressed its worry about rampant misdeeds of the party functionaries. Confronted with the reports, Prakash Karat has accepted that “problems are there” but added that “we are conscious and taking action” and that “we must be vigilant”.
In what may be termed as symptoms of utter degeneration of a political party which professes to represent the working class, the political-organisational report discussed at the Congress lists a range of complaints against party leaders, that includes sexual harassment of women, bribery, hankering for party posts and tickets to public institutions and alcoholism.
To purge itself of what the party calls the vices of the bourgeoisie, The CPM had launched a rectification campaign way back in 1996 and re-launched it in 2008. But there is little debate left that the campaign has failed to curb the menace.
Political crisis triggered by the abortive defeats, is inducing deep strife among layers of leadership in Stalinist parties. Asked about fixing responsibility for the recent defeats, Politburo member Sitaram Yechury, openly targeted Prakash Karat, saying that, "We will sink or swim together, but the Marxist organisational convention is collective functioning and individual responsibility. There is nothing called collective responsibility. Collective functioning and individual responsibility, that is the Leninist term to describe it."
However, there remains general agreement among Stalinists to adhere to this or that sections of bourgeois and its parties. Only dispute that continues to divide further the already divided left front and its constituent parties, remains as to which road be chosen to effectively adapt to the neo-liberal regime and in hot pursuit of sections of bourgeois. One of the wing of CPM based in West Bengal is strongly leaned towards alliance with Congress Party and regrets the mistake of opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal, while that based in Kerala favours forging an anti-congress anti-BJP ‘third front’ in conjunction with remaining bourgeois parties.
In essence, the reports and resolutions are devoid of any live spirit and are repetitive of the 2008 party Congress. As they fail to explain the true causes of political downslide of Stalinists, party cadres get desperate, restless and disillusioned, more than ever before. Large sections of CPM cadres, however, feel that the organisational and ideological reports fail to inspire any confidence among the cadres or rekindle the spirit already dampened to the core or to provide any orientation towards revolutionary goal, whatsoever.
As Stalinists fail to offer any road to revolution, rather take to counter-revolutionary alliances with sections of bourgeois, advanced workers and revolutionary youth must turn to our party- the party of fourth international, the party of permanent revolution, carrying forward the political struggle against world capitalism for world socialist revolution, pioneered by the great October revolution and its architects- Lenin and Trotsky.