Monday, April 20, 2015

Sitaram Yechury, Jai Siyaram: What We need from You and the CPM

(Sitaram Yechury, the New General Secretary of the CPM)

Sitaram Yechury, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) aka CPM, if we go by his name, should be a darling of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak volunteers whom the youth cadres of the CPM, DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of India) have been fighting in the streets for a long time. When the right wing fellows see each other they greet the other with this exhortation, Jai Siyaram. The new GS of the CPM has it in him; Sitaram. Siyaram is a complete man, the Lord Ram with his consort Sit/ya. When Sitaram speaks, the right wing fellows cannot just avoid him; how can they defile the lord’s name? His wife misses the honour by a letter; she is Seema Chisti. Had the ‘m’ been ‘t’, there would have been a major crisis in the confrontational politics between the right wing forces and the left wing parties led by the CPM.

Political pundits say that the left parties have made themselves irrelevant in today’s politics as its erstwhile strongholds like West Bengal and Kerala have already gone to Trinamool Congress and the UDF respectively though the history of Kerala’s assembly elections shows that the CPM led Left Democratic Front would come back to power invariably not because they are too good to be avoided but because there are lesser chances of other political alternatives in Kerala thanks to its peculiar political, religious, caste and regional equations. Punjab was another place where the CPM could have thought of staging a better performance but with the AAP touching the root base there, the CPM needs a different approach. The party’s political relevance has been that of a negotiator between the warring factions of the erstwhile Third Front. Now as the chances are gone though the Janata Parivar once again wants to be united and pitch for power in the coming assembly elections in Bihar and in UP before they could throw their hat in the ring for the distant Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

(Jyoti Basu, he could have changed the course of Indian political discourse if he was allowed to become the PM of India in 1996)

‘Historical Blunder’, that was how late Bengal Chief Minister and much revered leader Jyoti Basu observed the toppling of the chances of him becoming the Prime Minister of India as a consensus candidate in 1996 by his own party. History of India would have been different had Basu assumed the role of India’s Prime Minister. The economy that had opened up in 1991 would not have been reversed even if the Third Front was consolidated under Jyoti Basu and such a political and economic discourse would have created a strong opposition in the parliament in due course of time. What AAP would do later in 2013 could have become a reality at least one and a half decade before. A Communist becoming the Prime Minister of the country could have given a new impetus for the CPM to grow nationally with strong representatives coming up in every state supported by lower and middle class cadres and intelligentsia. It would have considerably checked the growth of the right wing fundamentalism in the country. But the theory of equi-distance from all kinds of religious and political formations proved to be a dampner for the CPM. As it was the big brother amongst the smaller left formations, they too could not have followed a different line.

The blunder of the CPM is both ideological and pragmatic. Ideologically, it detested the upper class and wealth while secretly enjoyed the possibility of being in that upper position. The left front under the CPM drew its cadres mainly from the lower middle class and the middle-middle class, feeding them with the idea of class revolution. Often this progressive political outfit used the cadres as cannon fodders than real decision makers. The ideological confusion was palpable amongst the cadres for over two decades as they did not know whether to move towards the open market or completely object it. As everyone is primarily a human being with familial responsibilities and social responsibilities, like any other members in a surviving group they too started looking for easy ways of making money. The recent declaration by the party leadership that the cadres are indulging in liquor and other anti-social activities and also the strong erosion of cadre base in the states like Kerala and West Bengal shows that the cadres are really confused. While the their leaders fight for supremacy like they do in any other party and enter in business deals with film stars and business tycoons, the poor cadres are relegated to the level of mere audience, if not agitators in the streets.

(Red Volunteers- CPM activists marching)

Speaking on the pragmatic front, the CPM followers are no longer led by any egalitarian political ideology. They are led by one single agenda; getting into power. This craving for power is different from the demand that Edassery, the poet had forwarded in his poem. When the Communist party was struggling for the rights of the downtrodden, the poet said that before we reaped the harvest of rice, let us harvest power. Political power was the need of the time to change the life of the downtrodden and bring about social changes. But for the last few decades, the CPM was engaged in power politics right there within the party itself. The bottom to top approach was thwarted for top to bottom approach. In due course of time, the CPM itself started estranging those ultra left wing forces that demanded equal rights and justice. By becoming a bourgeoisie party, the CPM lost the sympathy of the middle class. Religion was another sensitive point where the CPM failed pathetically. While the party spoke of equi-distance (even today it talks about it) two decades back, it did not tell its cadres how it was going to tackle the growing right wing fundamentalism in the country. Religion remains to be a sensitive issue as far as India is concerned and unless and until the CPM leadership tells its cadres what to do with it, it is not going to grow it base. The cadres are confused as they see the CPM leaders sharing platforms with religious leaders to appease the voters from those religious categories. They are really confused about their own religious identities and it is evident in Kerala streets where you cannot distinguish between a RSS agitator and a DYFI or CPM agitator. They almost wear the same uniform, saffron lungis and chequered shirts. This sartorial confusion also translates into both ideological and pragmatic confusion.

(Route March of RSS Volunteers)

Sitaram Yechuri has a major task in his hands if he really wants to revive the dying left parties in India. I am not a political pundit to elaborate upon the available data and also I find it tedious and boring as far as my purpose is concerned. My aim of writing this is to tell Mr.Yechuri how he could turn the party around and create mass base by slowing erasing the fear about communism and communists and also by slowly erasing the lethargy and cynicism that have crept into the very core of the CPM cadres. The only face saving group that still holds the CPM ideology or the communist ideals is the intellectual class of this country to which I also have a virtual membership. As a humanitarian and one who believes in the socialist theory of unto the last, I adhere to the left political theories than those of any other political outfit in this country. AAP is a possibility and it is still a possibility for so many people like me. The intelligentsia however is an oscillating class. They like to be with the cream and the sublime things and people and at the same time they want to be with the milling and toiling masses. They cannot do it on the ground because they have other avenues of consolidating their ideas. They need a platform, a political outfit that would give them confidence to express their ideas. The CPM should become that platform. It cannot be elitist when it comes to the centre or in the business avenues, and later go and preach social revolution to the public in street corners. People have lost belief and interest in that. People would trust Arnab Goswami and Rajdeep Sardesai than Pinarayi Vijayan or Prakash Karat.

 (The Architects of CPM's failure in Kerala, V.S.Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan)

Ideological and pragmatic clarity is what the CPM cadres expect from Sitaram Yechury as the new general secretary. One cannot mechanically quote from classical Marxist text books and play vote politics. It will not work for long. If Tripura is the last bastion and Kerala is a possible come back platform, both are not going to be lasting for ever if this is the working style of the CPM. One has to ask this question: Are people really interested in Pinarayi Vijayan or V.S.Achuthanandan? Have both these leaders helped change the course of political or cultural discourse in Kerala or in India other than creating factionalism within the party? Have they ever thought what the working class or middle class in Kerala want? Do they think that star studded television programs would sedate and keep the masses forever? Do they think that those who prefer Kairali Channel or Jaihind or Manorama Channel eventually vote for the CPM? The CPM leadership should urgently look at this crucial issue; what the people want? What kind of governance they expect? In a country where the youth population is exceeding the older generation, what would be the CPM’s programs for attracting them to the party? Remember, this is a cafe coffee day crowd sipping coffee, talking romance and yet concerned about the country’s future. This is not the crowd that would come to the streets to get beaten up by the police. May be there are young people who still do it, but they are growing less in number. Nobody is interested in the politics of killing. If you kill a RSS activist, you are not back patted, seriously. Rather, a youngster would feel utter disgust.

 (The sophisticated Indian youth may be stylish and coffee sipping but they are aware of political ideologies)

Another important thing is removing the cloak of hypocrisy. By virtue of being the Communist party, nobody anymore believes that the CPM is Pro-Dalit, Pro-Women, Pro-Queer, Pro-Lesbian, Pro-Gay, Pro-New Work Force, Pro-Youth, Pro-intellectual, Pro-ultra Social activist, Pro-environment and so on. The CPM under the leadership of Sitaram Yechury should take a clear stand on this thing and let the whole of Indian population know about it. It should also make its stance clear on religions, censorship, freedom of speech, land reformation, land regulation, global investment, industrial growth and so on. Nobody will say that the CPM should oppose economic growth. It should make its policy clear and it should be pro-growth and at the same time pro-people. Creating a strong opposition is the most important thing and the need of the time. Sitaram Yechury wants the left parties unite but I would say this unity should not be aimed at sharing power using the old equi-distance theory with the political clowns. This unity should be for creating an opposition in Indian politics. We need to accept the fact that we lack in opposition in Indian parliamentary politics today. Check and balance provisions are created only when there is a strong opposition in place otherwise it will lead to fascism. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) could provide that opposition. And it should also accept the fact that opposition is just about having seats in parliament. Opposition is also about understanding the forces of opposition in the country, politically, intellectually and militantly. It should not join hands with the government to hunt down political dissenters who fight for justice on behalf of the downtrodden in India. Parliamentary politics does not mean that conceding of all its power to dissent and identify with dissent. The Indian youth will follow the CPM and the AAP for sure, if their aim is to create an opposition primarily than capturing power. Once they prove they could ideate on behalf of people and prevent the incumbent government from doing wrong things to its own people, automatically the same people will vote them to power. It needs patience and diligent work, and above all a change of mindset. 

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