Tension within the Left – fireworks for the future

Posted on July 14, 2008. Filed under: Communist, India, Nuclear, Politics |

The CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat, appears to have softened his line about the Honbl. Speaker of the Indian Parliament, Somnath Chatterjee, an MP from the CPI(M), to resign as part of the withdrawal of support from the UPA government. This episode, is an interesting and revealing facet of how the politics of Soviet style leftist parties (not the RSDLP or even the Bolshevik party until about the death of Lenin) get twisted around by the realpolitik of Indian historical reality.

The “communist” party of the Russian Empire (it formally declared itself communist after the revolution) bore the stamps of the peculiar conditions under which it grew up. Without getting too deep into the historical reasons, we can summarize the party structure as that of a tightly controlled organized but small group led by full-time dedicated “professional” revolutionaries, who form an even more tightly homogenized nucleus of leadership. More significantly, the party leadership, unlike that of its frontal organizations, is chosen almost entirely in reality by selection but with the decision making within committees carried out formally by voting. Elsewhere, we will see, how this peculiar organizational structure born out of specific early 20th century Russian conditions, when copied or imposed in other parts of the world because of its apparent success, created both successes and failures.

More relevant for our context is the fact that, this model is also followed by the CPI(M) in India. What were the reasons for consistently and mostly choosing General Secretary’s from middle and northwestern India? Formally of course the leadership will reply, that the communists do not follow regionalism and casteism in the selection of their top leadership. But leadership of the communist top committees have usually been kept in the hands of communists originating from the deep South or from North-Western India, and usually from the middle to upper levels of so-called caste hierarchy.

A hidden practical argument could be the utility of such leaders in projection of the party into areas of India typically left out of the early British missionary-feudal-bashing proselytizing. These are the areas where the upper-castes carried much influence until the 80’s. The problem with the CPI(M) is perhaps because of its ideological blindness, it catches on to realpolitik much later, but always at a time when the conditions have already changed, so that any readjustments to policies always lag behind. Instead of Prakash Karat, realpolitik should have prompted the party to put someone from the “Dalit” background.

A completely different cause is much older than communism in India. The northwestern India enjoys a cultural and linguistic continuity primarily through various dialects of Hindi and caste and community linkages maintained by a strictly and sometimes violently maintained endogamy. However, it remains a fractured society, and historically has usually not been able to defend itself from disastrous foreign invasions and exploitation. Typically , they have only been able to reassert by using the depth and resources of the South and the East. So traditionally it was also important for North-Western Indian leadership to keep, maintain, and intensify divisions existing in the rest of India, (and to a certain extent even in its own backyard) so that small coteries could survive as the only mediating leadership (this is as true of Congress as well) and therefore control the resources of the entire nation, without really being representative of the nation.

As the Left is perhaps getting increasingly worried and uncertain about its absolute dominance on electoral outcomes in its mass-bases in Kerala and West Bengal, with West Bengal providing the largest number of party members and more importantly the financial and material resources important for the all-India Party, the practical fall-outs of the CC and Politbureau’s antics can provoke a rebellious reaction from sections within the Left leadership in the state. However the tradition of discipline, and the way party hierarchies are carefully screened of independent or original minds, after years of intensification during state power, has now practically removed any threat of the spectacular splits of the past. This will be a party which will slowly but surely disintegrate from within, as it happened in the USSR.

The BSP represents and depends as much on fractures within the society as so called communal-parties, and does not also have a wide penetration outside of the most fractured state of all, UP. Alliance with BSP for the CPI(M) will not work out well, as it will lose any support it potentially had from the Hindu middle class and castes in the Hindi belt, and the BSP will not allow its own electoral bases to be eaten into by CPI(M).

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