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24 April, 2018

Left gets some elbow room

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

India’s Left movement heaved a sigh of relief as the triennial congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), after prolonged discussions, adopted the political resolution drafted by the Politburo with a small but significant change.

Under the party constitution, the congress is the final authority on all matters but it usually accepts without change the formulations drafted by the Politburo and approved by the Central Committee. 

The draft political resolution was prepared by Prakash Karat, who had stepped down as General Secretary three years ago in compliance with the rule that sets a three-term ceiling on the tenure of office-bearers but enjoys more support in the Politburo than his successor, Sitaram Yechury, thanks to the support of the Kerala unit, which is the largest. 

It articulated the Kerala unit’s position that there should be no alliance or understanding with the Congress party to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party, which wields power at the Centre and in many states. This line is predicated on the proposition that the BJP and the Congress are alike since both pursue neoliberal policies.

Kerala had created history by choosing a Communist government through the ballot box in 1957. Since 1980 the state has voted coalitions led by the Congress and the CPI (M) in alternate elections. The state party’s approach is conditioned by the fact that the Congress is its traditional rival for power. 

On several occasions in the recent past Yechury expressed himself in favour of all secular forces, including the Congress, coming together to prevent the BJP’s return to power in next year’s general elections. 

In the organisational report presented to the congress, which is not in the public realm yet, Yechury is believed to have acknowledged that there were differences among the Politburo members on the political line to be adopted towards the Congress party, and this affected political and organisational interventions needed to meet developing situations. 

As party delegates, numbering about 700, gathered at Hyderabad for the congress, there was media speculation on the possibility of the differences between Karat and Yechury leading to a split. 

Addressing the congress, Yechury said neoliberal policies needed to be fought but this could only be done if democratic rights and socialist consciousness remained.

Delegates moved a large number of amendments to the draft resolution. A growing demand for vote by secret ballot is said to have led to softening of the attitude of Karat’s supporters. 

Eventually a compromise was struck. It involved dropping the words “without having an understanding with the Congress party” and retaining the words “without having a political alliance with the Congress party”.

The change will allow the CPI (M) to reach electoral understanding with the Congress party either at national or regional level, without entering into an alliance. 

The compromise smoothened the way for Yechury’s unanimous re-election as General Secretary for a second term. Since Karat and company still dominate the Politburo he may have to look over his shoulders constantly. 

In the early years of Independence, the Communist Party of India was the main opposition group in the Lok Sabha, and it was seen as a possible alternative to the Congress party, which was then the biggest political force.

It lost its primacy in the opposition after the split in 1964 in the wake of the schism in the world communist movement. Disapproving the pro-Soviet stand of the majority of members of the party’s National Council, a minority walked out and formed the CPI (M). 

The two factions adopted contradictory approaches towards the Congress party. The parent body’s pro-Congress attitude led it into supporting Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime. The CPI(M)’s anti-Congress position made it an unwitting abettor in the rise of Right-wing forces. 

A contrite CPI eventually moved away from the Congress, and the CPI (M), which had emerged as the largest Left party, accommodated it in the alliances under its leadership. 

The CPI(M)’s long monopoly of power in West Bengal and Tripura and its large presence in Kerala helped cloud the fact that the Left has declined nationally. Loss of power in Bengal and Tripura exposed its weaknesses.

The party congress has created some elbow room for the Left in the pre-poll negotiations. But the party needs to arrest its decline and grow nationally to be able to lead a Left revival. Unfortunately, the party congress has failed to draw up an action programme to regain its place at the centre-stage of national politics. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, A-ril 24, 2018.

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