While Political Pendulum Continued to Move Towards the Left, the Left Moved Towards the Right
-Rajesh Tyagi/ 18 May 2009
The recent general elections in India, are more than anything marked with the decimation of the Stalinist Parties-CPI and CPM- in both of their strongholds, Kerala and West Bengal and consequently on the national scale. Stalinist Parties stand outshined in performance by bourgeois centrist Congress, and more surprisingly even by local parties like Trinamool Congress. This debacle has taken place at a time when not only the ruling elite in India is facing acute decomposition and fragmentation of its traditional political institutions but the world bourgeois, as a whole, is undergoing an unprecedented economic and political crisis, leading to capitalist degeneration of democracy in general.
The bourgeois media, which till yesterday was predicting a hung parliament, is now cheerleading for the Congress, seeking to explain the verdict in limited framework of 2009 mandate, as if the same has no past and no future. Resultantly, it has failed absolutely to mark any real and objective trend or current in the mandate, rooted in the collective wisdom of the electorate, rather has dealt with the same in most fragmented manner, which explains almost nothing. It has presented only superficial analysis crediting the electoral victory to almost irrelevant factors like charisma of individual leaders or manoeuvring of parties. The corporate media, whose calculations and predictions stand belied by the election results, is taking special interest now in spreading the deliberate lie that the verdict leans ‘away from the left’.
Apart from the manner in which the ‘free will’ of the people is not only corrupted through thousand means by money power, but also controlled by corporate media run through the power of millions, with which we all are well versed, the deceptive algebra of bourgeois democracy is marked by a chasm between the real mandate counted in votes on the one hand and the number of seats won or lost, on the other. The number of seats won by parties in the elections, hardly reflect upon the landscape of quantum or percentage of votes obtained by them. The proposition becomes clear if we club the two biggest bourgeois parties-Congress and BJP- combined to view their share in votes, seats and overall performance, in twin elections of 2004 and 2009. In 2004 general elections these two parties have polled together 48.7 percent of total vote, which remained almost same at 48.9 percent in 2009. But the combined number of their seats in Lok Sabha have marked a considerable increase from 283 in 2004 to 321 in 2009. This was made possible by a remarkable shift of electorate from rightist BJP towards the Congress, marking a clear momentum in electoral college ‘away from the right’ and ‘towards the left’. The performance of the rightist BJP has never been so bad since 1989.
While the desperate and humiliated Stalinist parties, recently kicked out by the Congress from UPA failed to answer this left swing of political pendulum and remained inert, the Congress, despite of its real anti people agenda of neo-liberalism, economic reforms and structural adjustments with capitalist globalisation, succeeded in exploiting this swing, showing its face with a human mask forged in alliance with the Stalinists- the Common Minimum Programme, NREGA, farm loan waiver, right to information etc.
The left swing armed Congress, instead of the Stalinist left front, to cut a pie in the left moving electorate. This enabled Congress to steal a march not only upon the parties of the right, prime among them BJP, whose vote bank it had poached, but through necessary implication upon the left also, which utterly failed to answer this left swing. This explains, how the Stalinist left front stood decimated without any remarkable change in its vote share or the combined share of two major bourgeois parties, Congress and the BJP. How this can be interpreted as a move of the electorate ‘away from the left’? The difficulty of corporate media and its intellectuals is that they want to interpret the verdict of 2009, in a manner by extricating it from its past. In this too shallow venture they interpret the inability of Stalinists to answer the ‘left swing’ as a ‘swing away from the left’.
One can hardly understand the verdict of 2009 without taking into account the trends and currents that had continued to live since 1991, the year of general elections to 11th Lok Sabha, which incidentally was also the year of global victory of capitalism after the fall of the Stalinist regime in Soviet Union. Congress Government under Narasimha Rao, formed after victory of Congress in 1991 general elections, became totally unpopular due to its policies openly favouring the rich, rising corruption, price hike etc. The Stalinist parties, failing to take to any effective opposition to this government, left the working class in a lurch. The 1996 general elections gave a clear mandate against the Congress, but a fragmented one. There could have erupted a political crisis, had the Stalinist gentlemen not come to the service of bourgeois. On the slogan of a ‘non-congress, non-BJP’ alternative, the Stalinists proposed a United Front Government, which remained in shambles from its inception, had two consecutive prime ministers, but even then failing to resolve its crisis, fell midway in 1998, leaving the bourgeois polity once again in an acute crisis. With the fall of this brainchild of the Stalinist left, Stalinists were left with no orientation at all.
Taking benefit of the situation, the rightist BJP organised the fragments of United Front in National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and rode to power in 1999 general elections. Though there was no right wave in 2004, yet the NDA could take lead in elections as the only political wing, in opposition to the Congress, taste of whose 1991 regime, people had not forgotten by then. As the NDA regime took to the same path of economic liberalisation, a left undercurrent started to build up against it and led to its overturn in 2004, with a clear and strong left swing in view. The Stalinist left got 61 seats on its wave. Still none of the bourgeois party got the mandate, sufficient to form the government. Once again, the Stalinists, the crisis managers of bourgeois, entered into alliance with Congress in United Progressive Alliance (UPA), in the name of secularism and democracy, purportedly to keep the BJP out of the power, and persuaded other parties too, to be part of this alliance. They remained a partner in UPA, zealously giving a left face to it, through CMP, NREGA, RTI, waiver of farm loans etc. despite the fact that its government took to unbridled capitalist policies on the ground. Stalinists assisted the bourgeois Congress, to keep the working class under the illusion that the bourgeois government can well execute the real agenda of the rich, while upholding the interests of the poor. This way the Stalinists gave a human face to the real savage agenda of bourgeois party, through their presence inside the UPA. This ‘coolie service’ they continued to perform for the bourgeois until Congress kicked them out of the UPA, on the issue of Indo-US Nuclear deal in 2008.
After remaining allied to the Congress for more than four years, the Stalinist leadership belatedly started to take a half-hearted, zig-zag motion on the question of Indo-US nuclear deal to distance itself away from the bourgeois Congress. But it was too late in the day. The mood of the masses, frustrated by a do-nothing attitude of the left, has already become conservative. As the left alighted the bogey of Congress, neither it called the people for any overt action, nor the people, were anymore in a mood to do so. However, the withdrawal of support by the Stalinists, resulting in the loss for UPA of its left-democratic face, deepened further the crisis of bourgeois establishment. This can be gauged by the speculations of bourgeois media and intellectuals, even at the eve of elections, wherein all of them had predicted a fractured mandate. Even the Congress which emerged victorious in the elections could not anticipate such victory, which had come for them more than a surprise.
However, the Stalinists, even after leaving the Congress, refused to learn a lesson and to adopt a policy and programme, independent of the bourgeois centrists and rightists, rather started browsing for other ‘progressive’ sections of the bourgeois. They once again took to their old game of aligning with this or that section of the bourgeois. Instead of calling upon the working class to oppose the policies of Congress, they started electoral manoeuvre to organise the bourgeois parties-all former allies of ultra rightist BJP- TDP, BJD, BSP,AIADMK etc.- into a ‘third front’. This ‘third front’, the most opportunist formation based upon no programme but an insane anti-congress and anti-BJP rhetoric, having no meaning at all for the working class. It was viewed and legitimately so, by the people, to be on the right of the Congress. Given this political spectrum, the centrist Congress seemed to be leaning more on the left, as compared to the Stalinists, who now stood in political alliance with former allies of BJP.
Frustrated by the impotence of the left leadership to consummate the left swing and confused by its overtures towards the right, the mass consciousness rapidly slipped into a conservative mood, pushing the political pendulum back into an inert mode. The centrist Congress, ruling at this time, reaped the double benefit, firstly of the initial swing away from the right and later into an inert motion, consuming all of its energy. When electorate was taking a strong left swing, the left under Stalinists set out to take a swing to the right!
It is the Stalinist leadership which has repeatedly supported the minority bourgeois governments to keep in power at the centre. Whether it was the government of V.P.Singh, or of United Front or of UPA, it were the Stalinists who every time have come forward to resolve the political crisis of the bourgeois. They have rendered excellent service to the bourgeois, not only by directly organising support for its governments, but also by holding back the working class from taking to an independent proletarian policy. The privatisation they do oppose, but they oppose it from the standpoint of weaker sections of indigenous capital, to protect them against the onslaught of global capital. In the name of independent foreign policy, they advocate the interests of Indian bourgeois, to protect them in the face of unipolar monopoly and domination of the United States.
In the States of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, wherever the Stalinists had come to power, they themselves had pursued the same path of preparing the ground for local and foreign investment, resorting to the policies conducive to the big investors, like slashing of social spending, banning of strikes in several sectors, waiver of taxes for capitalists, forced acquisition of the lands of peasants, etc. Doing this, the Stalinists came in direct confrontation with peasants in Singur and Nandigram. The political exposure of Stalinists as lackeys of capitalists, is gradually pushing their supporters, sympathisers and voters in working class and the peasantry away from the left.
The electorate turning its back upon the right, continued to face again and again towards the left, but the left led by Stalinists, stood faced towards the right i.e. towards the centre. It continued to pin all of its hopes upon bourgeois centrist Congress, instead of working class leading the urban and rural poor behind it, to keep the right at bay. In absence of an independent policy of its own, oriented towards the working class, the left failed to consume much of this left swing and permitted it to go back to the inert state, losing all its momentum. The centrist bourgeois congress, the natural beneficiary of this back swing, marked by conservative mood of the electorate, succeeded in bring the momentum to animated suspension at the centre, at least for the time being. Obviously, this left momentum had a great inherent potential to be explored for expansion of the space for the left. The swing could have gone more and more to the left, had there been a genuine revolutionary force on the left facing away from the bourgeois, both at the right and the centre.
The Stalinists, however, continued to ignore this consistent left undercurrent, existing since 1991, and consequently they repeatedly misread the electoral mandate. They interpreted the verdict in very limited electoral terms as only against the communal forces. On this deceptive premise, Stalinist leadership aligned itself behind the Congress, which in their view, was the real force capable to balance the rightists. Instead of introspecting for its own inefficiency to consume the left swing and overcome it through consolidation of the working class, Stalinists adapted to the strength of centrists, by aligning to the Congress. Instead of presenting a consistent opposition from the left to the bourgeois centrist congress, the Stalinists themselves became left wing of the Congress regime, in false hope of pushing it to the left. Instead of decimating the centrists, and occupying space for the left, they gave wider platitude to centrist Congress.
The bourgeois, however, continued to derive the benefit of its left and democratic face, made up through alliances with the Stalinist left. It took advantage of the left rhetoric in Common Minimum Programme, and various welfare programmes, to enhance its share of votes by creating illusions in backward sections of workers and peasants. The electorate wished the Stalinist Parties to move pulling the centrist-left vote behind it, and thereby squeezing the political space for the centrists, but the Stalinists continued to stuck to the centrist leadership of Congress, on the pretext of alienating the left. Their allying to the centrist Congress however, is the prime factor behind the emergence of rightists on national political scenario, after 1980s.
There is no doubt that the total share of votes for Congress and BJP combine has not increased in comparison to 2004, and the Congress has done poaching, in major part, of the vote share of the BJP and its allies, while the vote share of the left altered only very marginally. The decimation of Stalinists, as corporate media projects it, is not really the result of a ‘right swing’ of electorate away from the left affecting its traditional vote bank, but in fact is the direct fallout of the inability of the Stalinist leadership to answer the strong ‘left swing’, providing it the opportunity to pull more and more sections of workers and peasants behind it, through setting up a revolutionary opposition to the ruling bourgeois, instead of subjugating to it. Only this way, centrist Congress could have been prevented from marginalising the left and taking march over it. The sheer inability of the Stalinist leadership, even to consume the spontaneous swing to the left, renders it unable to provide leadership to the working class.
The policy of the Stalinist leadership, marching in alliance with the bourgeois, instead of against it, has virtually decimated the left under its domination. Having no perspective for an independent proletarian policy, the Stalinists still continue to follow the same path to complete devastation. The Stalinist ‘two stage theory’ translated in their programme of ‘peoples democracy’, their unrelenting search for the ‘progressive and secular bourgeois’, and their ‘popular frontism’ aimed at tailing the proletariat behind the bourgeois, makes the Stalinists servile apologists for the ruling bourgeois.
Only the working class can be the real axis around which a centripetal political motion can be generated, strong enough to marginalise not only the rightists but the centrists also. For this, an independent political policy, programme and perspective, oriented towards the working class is a pre-requisite. Failure of the Stalinists to understand this simple thing and their affection towards the bourgeois, prevents them from taking to the revolutionary road. The working class cannot fight its enemies, without fighting against the Stalinist leadership.
The bourgeois establishment of the country has already started to propagate the election mandate in favour of economic reforms, structural adjustments in keeping with global capitalism etc. etc. After absorbing the clear mandate ‘away from the right’, the bourgeois is now counterfeiting it as mandate for ‘no change’, seeking an opportunity to push its old agenda. The unbridled power in the hands of Congress, the party of big bourgeois, would definitely result in shifting the burden of economic crisis, more and more to the shoulders of the working class and peasantry, making India a labour heaven for the world capital. This, however, cannot be done without unleashing severe repression upon the working people, who would be then forced to move against the regime very soon. The Stalinist leadership, taking itself to the right, would only assist in holding back the working class from taking to the road of struggle.
The mandate, has to be read by the revolutionary proletariat, as a clarion call to overthrow the Stalinist leadership and that too without delay and lead the working class and the poor behind it to revolutionary road. The elections of 2009 are neither the beginning nor the end of history. Likewise, the 2009 general election has a past, it has a future too and we must prepare for it.