The Two Party Congresses: The Challenge Before the Left
Prabir Purkayastha, April 12, 2012
The two communist parties – the CPI(M) and the CPI have concluded their respective party congresses. Both the party congresses have taken quite similar positions with regard to the political line – both have called for a strong left and democratic alternative.
What this implies is that the Left – at least the two major left formations -- do not see a new third front emerging with left as a major constituent. However, they are open to engagement with regional parties, even though they believe that they are a part of the neo-liberal economic policies being pursued by global capital today.
Both parties have done major stock taking. For the CPI, they have now decided to have a new party program, for which the draft has been released in their party congress. The CPI(M) has adopted a new ideological document, which updates its understanding of the issues from their 1992 document on idealogical issues. Both have also taken certain important organisational decisions. CPI has elected a new General secretary – AB Bardhan handing over the baton to S. Sudhakar Reddy. The CPI(M) has adopted a constitutional amendment which limits all secretary tenures – from local committee secretary up to the General Secretary to a maximum of three terms. Prakash Karat was re-elected for a third term as the General Secretary.
The important part of the party congress is that both parties have come out unified out of their congresses. Undoubtedly, a number of “analysts” had been propagating that there would be a major no-confidence expressed in the central leadership of the CPI(M) for withdrawing support to the UPA on the nuclear deal. They have also been ardent believers of the Left becoming virtually a pressure group of the Congress. A kind of Congress which would hark back to Nehru but stop going any further. For them, the issue is that communists should give up marxism and instead espouse some kind of capitalism with a human face. They have been sorely disappointed – the left has stressed the need of an alternative to capitalism and not an alternate capitalism.
Interestingly enough, the debate in the CPI(M) on withdrawing support to the UPA was not whether support should have been withdrawn or not, but when the support should have been withdrawn. The Political Review candidly stated that the mistake was in letting the UPA Government go to the IAEA.
The ideological document presented spelt out three important issues. It recognised that with the fall of Soviet Union, global capitalism had entered into a far more predatory phase and was using primitive accumulation of capital – appropriating natural resources and other forms of surplus – on a massive scale. It stated that primitive accumulation of capital is to be seen by its methods and not as a historical phase. The second important point of the document was to assess the trajectory being followed by China. Though the document did state what the Communist Party of China believes is the current trajectory of socialism – the need to increase productive forces as the primary task -- it was quite critical of this trajectory. The third point was recognising that the left in Latin America, while not yet adopting a socialist path, was making some significant advances.
It is also clear from what the documents stated that CPI(M) no longer sees a ready-made blueprint of what a socialist state should be, but believes that it has to work this out for itself. The CPI's decision to bring about a new party program is also an indication that they also feel the need to chart a new path to socialism. The importance here is recognising that the Indian left cannot blindly follow this or that model, but must be creative and create a model of socialism that is in consonance with times and learns the lessons from failures of the past.
For those writing off the left – both in terms of ideology and its numbers – the party congresses will bring little cheer. The left continues to be a significant force, even though its presence in various states is quite uneven.
The key task before the left now is using the global discontent and movements breaking out in different parts of the world to bring about radical realignment of forces. The left must articulate the demands of the sections being dispossessed by primitive accumulation; link these struggles for a larger struggle against neo-liberal policies; and create an alternate vision of society that is not confined to the sterile vision of private greed and ever-increasing consumption. This is the historical need; otherwise, discontent will not translate into societal transformation. The resistance to global capital must be imbued with a new socialist vision. This is the challenge before the left. Not only in India but elsewhere as well.