Dear Comrades! Today we are commemorating Comrade Engels at a critical juncture. The world, the entire humanity, is now entered in what is called the anthropocene epoch. That means the planet’s ecosystem is in an unsustainable situation and commemoration of Engels and his great works assumes paramount significance in this context. We know that as co-author of Marx, Engels had published many works jointly with Marx. However, in pursuance of the relevance of our present discussion, let me confine to the importance of Engels as the leading Marxist theoretician and pioneer in applying dialectical materialism not only to political economy and history but even to nature, science and society.
There is an oft-repeated allegation that Marxism’s concern was only with economy and not environment and ecology and that it was oblivious of the destructive impact of capital accumulation on nature. As such, postmodernists, post-Marxists and even neo-Marxists together with liberals and NGO theorists are working overtime to put the stamp of technological optimism, materialistic determinism, etc. on Marxism. But this is a baseless allegation. From the very beginning, the concern of both Marx and Engels was not only on the exploitation of workers but also on the plunder of nature by capital. For instance, in Capital Volume I, Marx has clearly pointed out how the two sources of human existence, i.e., labour and nature (soil) are made unsustainable or destroyed by the onslaught of capital.
In fact, Engels in his book The Condition of the Working Class in England published in 1845 had taken up this issue in a detailed manner. In this classic work, Engels while explaining capital‘s brutal exploitation of workers under the factory system, had brilliantly explained the horrendous environmental and epidemiological conditions imposed by Industrial Revolution. Engels in his book has beautifully explained how capital accumulation is associated with periodic epidemics, toxic contamination, pollution, and all around devastation of the working class including poor nutrition and high mortality rate arising from high levels of environmental and ecological destruction as capitalism advanced. That is, the idea of Engels that capitalism has always been connected with ecological destruction and plunder of nature was not casual but inalienable to Marxism from the very beginning. And Engels could be seen carrying forward this perception in his 1878 book Anti-Duhring too.
Of course, after the death of Marx in 1883, Engels had to edit and complete Capital Vol. II and Capital Vol. III (respectively published in 1885 and 1894) along with organising and publishing the uncompleted notes of Marx as Theories of Surplus Value also known as the Fourth Volume of Capital. Engels had to take up this huge task while performing his critical role as the foremost authority, theoretician and propagandist of Marxism including his task of organising the working class till his death in 1895.
Therefore, Engels did not get enough time to concentrate on the book Dialectics of Nature which he started to write in 1872. Even though he worked on it for 10 years, that is up to 1882, it remained an unfinished work, and after the death of Marx, Engels had little time to concentrate on it. Hence before his death, Engels entrusted the manuscripts of Dialectics of Nature to Bernstein who was not interested in publishing it. However, in 1924, Bernstein handed it over to Einstein who could grasp the importance of the book. As suggested by Einstein, it was Riazanov who first brought out a rudimentary form in 1927 and a final form appeared in 1935, and ultimately, the full fledged edition of Dialectics of Nature with JBS Haldane’s Preface was published in 1939. According to Haldane, who admired Engels‘ application of dialectics to physical and natural sciences, had Engles’ method of thinking which no environmentalist at that time could even think been known earlier, the transformation of ideas in science would have been smoother and beneficial both for scientists and activists.
Of course, mechanical materialists and positivists have alleged that Engels in Dialectics of Nature had emphasised on materialist conception of nature instead of history and have criticised Engels for, what they said, not taking dialectical materialism in the proper perspective. Such a criticism is far-fetched since, as Haldane pointed out, while exposing the destructive dimensions of unhindered encroachment on nature, in Dialectics of Nature Engels himself had highlighted the interrelationship among science, nature, society and development from a dialectical-historical perspective. For, drawing lessons of the so called development ranging from ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece and Asia Minor and Middle Ages to Colonialism, Engels vividly explained how human intrusion in to nature and destruction of forests that reached its zenith in the irreparable damages to tropical forests in Africa and Asia had destroyed the very basis of human existence. Underlying in this analysis is a dialectical link between oppression and exploitation on the one hand and destruction of nature on the other. Of particular relevance in this context is Engels’ reference to the so called primitive accumulation that Marx explained in Capital and the environmental degradation associated with it.
Though Dialectics of Nature was published after Lenin, the Marxist perspective on development that called for a harmony with nature had been there in Lenin’s agenda from the very beginning. As a reflection of this approach, vast tracts of protected land called Zapovedniks were kept forever wild as acknowledge-ment of environmental protection, and Lenin himself signed this into a law in 1921 to put the same on legal footing. This trend continued such that even when Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s, it had 330000 square kilometres of Zapovedniks. And in the industrialisation debate of the 1920s, though this perspective on ecology was there, a one-side emphasis on development and theme of Catching up with the West slowly got prominence followed by the entry of American experts and Fordist methods of factory organisation in to Soviet Union in the 1930s. After the 1970s, the so called modernistic conceptualisation that development is an absolute principle got official acceptance in China too.
As such, by the 1970s when the collapse of welfare capitalism coupled with mounting environmental problems pushed imperialism into a an irreversible global crisis, even official agencies like the UN and a whole set of NGOs were forced to come forward putting forward certain reformist propositions for the environmental question along with neoliberal prescriptions. However, on account of the ideological political setbacks suffered by the International Communist Movement, in spite of the Marxist contributions of Engels in this regard, the Left could not take up the required task in the proper perspective. On the other hand, together with unhindered financial speculation which is the major form of neoliberal accumulation, unhindered plunder of nature also became a major avenue of super-profit by corporate capital. And with the turn of the 21st century, as I have mentioned in the beginning, this has now driven humankind to an ecological catastrophe quite characteristic of an anthropocene epoch which is manifested in the frequent emergence of zoonotic viruses, the latest being COVID-19.
In this critical situation, it is indeed heart-warming that Engels works pertaining to science, nature and society are getting more attention from both Marxists and different sections of well-meaning people the world over. The ecological consequences of capital accumulation under colonialism that Engels unravelled especially in Dialectics of Nature under colonialism in the 19th century have grown further and become horrific now. Thus together with the commodification of labour, neoliberal corporatisation has now accomplished a commodification of nature too. Therefore, in conformity with the positions already laid down by Marx and Engels, the working class and oppressed people today have to strive for a de-commodification of both labour and nature.
Under today‘s profit-led development paradigm, the sustenance of humankind is at stake on account of the onslaught of capital both on labour and on nature. It is from this perspective that CPI (ML) Red Star in its Party Program has incorporated the contradiction between capital and nature and ranged it along with the other major contradictions including that between capital and labour. Therefore, along with the resolution of the other major contradictions, resolving the contradiction between capital and nature has also become the task of communist revolutionaries and the International Communist Movement as a whole. With these words, let me conclude, comrades.
Thank you. Revolutionary Greetings to All.
(Presentation by Comrade PJ James)
Understanding the way in which contemporary capitalism—which Samir Amin insightfully characterized as the era of generalized monopolies—organizes productive forces is crucial to grasping both the forms of domination defining imperialism today and the profound metamorphoses that monopoly capital has undergone during the last three decades.
The concept of general intellect, put forward by Karl Marx, is a useful starting point for the exploration of the organization of productive forces. Let us take the example of one of the most “advanced” innovation systems today: Silicon Valley’s Imperial System. Our analysis seeks not only to reveal the profound contradictions of capitalist modernity, but also to highlight the significant transmutation that today’s monopoly capital is undergoing. Far from acting as a driving force for the development of social productive forces, it has become a parasitic entity with an essentially rentier and speculative function. Underlying this is an institutional framework that favors the private appropriation and the concentration of the products of general intellect.
Capital, General Intellect, and the Development of Productive Forces
Capitalism is characterized by the separation of the direct producers from their means of production and subsistence. This separation broke violently into the embryonic phase of capitalist development with the process that Marx referred to as “so-called primitive accumulation” (more correctly translated as “so-called primary accumulation”). It is not just a foundational process, external or alien to the dynamics of capitalism, but one that reproduces itself over time and is accentuated through new and increasingly sophisticated mechanisms with the advent of neoliberal policies, so much so that David Harvey proposed the category “accumulation by dispossession” in his book The New Imperialism to refer to this incessant phenomenon.
Importantly, the primal separation of the direct producer that Marx describes in chapters 14 and 15 of the first volume of Capital is only formal. In the early stages of industrial capitalism, even if the direct producers did not own the means of production—which they considered foreign property and an external force of domination—they maintained some control over their working tools in the production process. Thus, the separation was not wholly complete until the appearance of large-scale industry in the second half of the twentieth century, which radically changed the situation. The production of machines by machines—that is, the use of an integrated machinery system, as a totality of mechanical processes distributed in different phases moved by a common motor—gave way to a complete separation between workers and their tools. This brought the optimal conditions for a second and deeper dispossession, relegating labor to a subordinated role in the production process and converting the worker into an appendage of a machine. It is worth mentioning, however, that the use of this metaphor by Marx does not mean that the direct producer is unable to eventually contribute to the attainment of an improvement or a technological innovation. There are several historical examples that account for this possibility.
Nevertheless, in terms of the theory of value, there is a general movement toward the predominance of dead labor, objectified in the machine, over living labor—in other words, the prevalence of relative surplus value in the dynamics of capitalist accumulation. The emergence of machinery and large-scale industry meant that capital managed to create its own technical mode of production as the foundation of what Marx conceives in the unpublished sixth chapter of Capital, volume 1, as the real subsumption of labor under capital; in other words, the “specific capitalist mode of production.” As Marx wrote, “the historical significance of capitalist production first emerges here in striking fashion (and specifically), precisely through the transformation of the direct production process itself, and the development of the social productive powers of labour.”
This process originated during the second half of the First Industrial Revolution and deepened during the Second Industrial Revolution (1870–1914), where science and technology appear as engines of production, forcing development as the so-called first globalization was occurring. Since then, the growth of capital has been directly associated with the development of production forces and the consequent expansion of surplus value, mainly in the form of relative surplus value. At the same time, this is marked by the continuous increase in the organic composition of capital (the relation between capital invested in the means of production and that invested in the labor force), where “the scale of production is not determined according to given needs but rather the reverse: the number of products is determined by the constantly increasing scale of production, which is prescribed by the mode of production itself.” This inherent contradiction in the specifically capitalist mode of production is related, in turn, to (1) the trend of concentration and centralization of capital that accompanies accumulation dynamics and (2) the concomitant tendency toward absolute impoverishment of the working class, in what Marx conceives as the general law of capitalist accumulation:
The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth, and, therefore, also the absolute mass of the proletariat and the productiveness of its labor, the greater is the industrial reserve army. The same causes which develop the expansive power of capital also develop the labor power at its disposal. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases, therefore, with the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in proportion to the active labor army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population, whose misery is in inverse proportion to its torment of labor. Finally, the greater the growth of the misery within the working class and the industrial reserve army, the greater the official pauperism.
The trend toward the complete separation of the worker from the means of production is consolidated into what Victor Figueroa described as follows:
The factory offers us the image of a production center that does not demand workers’ awareness or knowledge of the production process.… As if the factory, being itself the result of the productive application of knowledge, demanded for the knowledge to be developed outside and, therefore, independently to the workers it houses, where immediate labor is presumably a mere executor of the progress forged separately by science.
In Labor and Monopoly Capital, Harry Braverman described this fissure as an essential part of the scientific and technological revolution that detached the subjective and objective content of the labor process.
The unity of thought and action, conception and execution, hand and mind, which capitalism threatened from its beginning, is now attacked by a systemic dissolution employing all the resources of science and various engineering disciplines based upon it. The subjective factor of the labor process is removed to a place among its inanimate objective factors. To the materials and instruments of production are added a “labor force,” another “factor of production,” and the process is henceforth carried on by management as the sole subjective element.… This displacement of labor as the subjective element of the process, and its subordination as an objective element in a productive process now conducted by management, is an ideal realized by capital.
In the face of these circumstances, derived from the technical and social division of labor inherent to the specifically capitalist mode of production, it is worth asking ourselves: In what way does capital, beyond the immediate work that is deployed in the factory, organize the development of the productive forces? What kinds of workers, universities, and research centers participate in this process? What is the role of the state and other institutions? What role do accumulated social knowledge, basic and applied science play? What types of intangible and tangible products are generated? What are the mechanisms and mediations involved in the transformation of scientific and technological work to productive forces? What kind of profit enters the scene and how does it affect the dynamics of social surplus value distribution, concentration, and centralization of capital?
Although Marx does not explicitly address this issue in Capital except in marginal footnotes, in the Grundrisse’s “Fragment on Machines,” he coined the category of general intellect and made some considerations, in the form of notes, that provide important clues to help us understand the subject.
Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and have been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real-life process.
From this, we can infer that fixed capital, or constant capital, is condensed into past material and immaterial labor (dead labor). Consequently, accumulated social knowledge is objectified in the means of production and becomes an immediate force of production. In other words, general intellect is a collective and social intelligence created by accumulated knowledge and techniques. This radical transformation of the workforce and the incorporation of science, communication and language within the productive forces has redefined the entire phenomenology of labor and the entire global horizon of production. General intellect means that the general form of human intelligence becomes a productive force in the sphere of global social labor and capitalist valorization. The power of science and technology are put to work.… With the concept of general intellect, Marx refers to science and consciousness in general, that is, the knowledge on which social productivity depends.
With the advent of the capitalist mode of production, a new and particularly significant division was created between what could be called immediate labor and scientific-technological labor. While the former unfolds in the factory, the latter is carried out separately and under different, although complementary, forms of organization, with both converging in the critical function for capitalist development: the increase of surplus value. If immediate labor is actually subsumed by capital, scientific and technological labor can only be, at best, formally subsumed, becoming what Figueroa calls a workshop of technological progress to distinguish it from the way immediate labor in the factory is organized. However, the way general intellect is structured, in its quest to accelerate the development of productive forces, acquires increasingly sophisticated and complex modalities, as in the paradigmatic case of the Silicon Valley Imperial Innovation System.
The growing importance of immaterial work in the production process does not imply a “crisis” of the law of value, as suggested by Antonio Negri. Rather, it implies that an increasing proportion of the social surplus value and the social surplus fund captured by capital and the state is redistributed toward activities aimed at promoting the development of productive forces. In other words, immediate labor and scientific-technological labor interweave dialectically to broaden the scope of capital valorization through the deepening of exploitation. In this sense, under the prism of the theory of value, the general intellect contributes to increasing the organic composition of capital with a powerful leitmotif: the appropriation of extraordinary profits, that is, profits greater than the average profit, commonly conceived as technological rents. In this aspect, the Ecuadorian-Mexican philosopher Bolívar Echeverría specifies that there are two poles of monopoly property to which the group of capitalist owners must acknowledge rights in the process of determining the average profit. Based on the most productive resources and provisions of nature, land ownership defends its traditional right to convert the global fund of extraordinary profit into payment for that domain, in other words, into ground rent. The only property that is capable of challenging this right throughout modern history and has indefinitely imposed its own, is the more or less lasting domain over a technical innovation of means of production. This property forces the conversion of an increasing part of extraordinary profit into a payment for its dominion, in other words, into a “technological rent.”
It is worth noting that Echeverría brackets the notion of technological rent, associating it with ground rent—or surplus associated with the ownership of a monopolizable good that does not derive from incorporated labor during the production process. Under the new forms of general intellect organization, monopoly capital appropriates profit through the acquisition of patents, without implying investments in the promotion and development of the productive forces, behaving in this sense as a rentier agent.
Unlike immediate labor, the subordination of scientific and technological labor to capital is extremely complex, especially because the value that the scientific and technological labor force incorporates into the production process is not immediately objectified; it is the product and result of social knowledge expressed in the market once new commodities, new production processes, and new ways of organizing and increasing labor productivity are concretized. Pablo Míguez refers to this phenomenon not as “a simple subordination to capital, but an independent relation to labor time imposed by capital, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish working time from production time or leisure time.”
From the theory of value perspective, the process of valorization of scientific and technological labor is materialized in the production and circulation sphere, but in the distribution sphere of valorized capital, that social surplus value, mediated by intellectual property, is issued in the form of a rent. In this sense, it is important to emphasize the fundamental role held by states in the distribution of social surplus to promote basic and applied science, supporting public and private universities, as well as research centers. The state also contributes to creating institutions and policies that allow for the private appropriation of rent to come out of the general intellect. These institutions become crucial to the dynamics of accumulation and uneven development characterizing contemporary capitalism and imperialism.
The transformation of the general intellect into an immediate productive force, materialized in new commodities and new ways of organizing the labor process, requires the mediation of patents and a patenting system. In the capitalist mode of production, the creation of intellectual property through patents or patenting systems acquires a strategic importance in relation to the control and orientation of productive forces. This becomes a key element both for the private appropriation of products that emanate from the general intellect, and for the organization of innovation systems. In this sense, national and international patent legislations constitute a mechanism that enables the privatization and commodification of common goods, hindering potentially beneficial innovations for society.
For example, The legal mechanisms for the private appropriation of scientific-technological labor, with the patent as a nodal part in the restructuring of innovation systems, becomes a basic piece for the withholding of extraordinary profits made possible through global corporate regulation in tune with the imperial State policies.… Hence, international law functions as a core piece of private control of scientific-technological labor through a series of intellectual property and international trade regulatory agreements.
Following this idea, Míguez argues that, in the context of contemporary capitalism, “intellectual property is reinforced as it is the only mechanism that allows for the private appropriation of increasingly social knowledge in its incessant quest to valorize capital.”
The development of the productive forces in contemporary capitalism—and the course followed by the general intellect—cannot be understood separately from the contemporary domination of monopoly capital. This hegemonic fraction of capital—ubiquitous in contemporary capitalism—finds its raison d’être in the appropriation of extraordinary profits and technological rents through monopoly prices, among other processes. According to Marx, monopoly appropriation of profit through prices refers to prices that rise above the cost of production and the average profit together, enabling monopoly capital to appropriate a relatively greater portion of social surplus value than the one that would correspond to conditions of free competition.
Another fundamental feature of monopoly capital, as a sine qua non condition for obtaining profits, is its need to maintain lasting advantages over other possible participants in a particular branch or branches where it operates. Such advantages can be natural or artificial, depending on the combination of forms of surplus profit, which, in turn, configure particular monopolistic practices. One of these forms is related to capitalism’s revolutionary development of productive forces, as envisioned by Marx: technological change. In this regard, Joseph A. Schumpeter—far from intending to identify his vision of technological change with that proposed by Marx in Capital—sets forth the existence of a positive relationship between innovation and monopoly power, arguing that competition through innovation or “creative destruction” is the most effective means of acquiring advantages over potential competitors. Furthermore, Schumpeter argues that innovation is both a means of achieving monopoly profit and a method of maintaining it.
It should be noted, however, that in the Marxist conception, there is no mechanical or direct identification of technological change with a positive vision of progress. On the contrary, being governed by the law of value and the necessity of capital to broaden accumulation, technological change does not escape the contradictions of capitalist modernity, which, as Echeverría emphasizes, “leads itself, structurally, by the way in which the process of reproduction of social wealth is organized…to the destruction of the social subject and the destruction of nature where this social subject affirms itself.”
The appropriation of extraordinary monopoly profits produced by means of intellectual property is accompanied in contemporary capitalism by a profound restructuring of this hegemonic fraction of capital, through a process of hyper-monopolization, where three additional forms of profit appropriation stand out:
- The formation of monopoly capital global networks, commonly known as global value chains, through the geographic expansion of corporate power by transferring parts of production, commercial, and financial service to peripheral countries in search of cheap labor. Basically, it is a new nomadism in the global production system based on the enormous wage differentials that persist between the Global North and the Global South (the global labor arbitrage). This restructuring strategy has deeply modified the global geography of production to the degree that just over 70 percent of industrial employment is currently located in peripheral or emerging economies.
- The predominance of financial capital over other factions of capital. In the absence of profitable investments in the productive sphere due to the over-accumulation crisis triggered in the late 1970s, capital began moving toward financial speculation, creating strong distortions in the sphere of social surplus value distribution through the financialization of the capitalist class, which has led to an explosion of fictitious capital—financial assets without a counterpart in material production.
- The proliferation of extractivism by monopolizing and controlling land and subsoil by monopoly capital. In addition to accentuating the dynamics of accumulation by dispossession, the growing global demand for natural resources and energy has led to an unprecedented privatization of biodiversity, natural resources, and communal goods benefiting mega-mining and agribusiness. This implies the appropriation of huge extraordinary profits in the form of ground rent (unproduced surplus value) that translates into greater ecosystem depredation, pollution, famine, and disease with severe environmental implications, including global warming and worsening extreme climatic events that jeopardize the symbiosis between human society and nature.
The predominance and metamorphosis of monopoly capital under the neoliberal aegis has brought about far-reaching transformations in the organization of production and the labor process. These transformations are integral to the global capitalist system’s geography, leading to a fall of the welfare state, an increase in social inequalities, and the emergence of a new international division of labor, where the labor force becomes the main export commodity. This, in turn, gives way to new and extreme forms of unequal exchange and transfer of surplus from the periphery to the core economies of the system. In this context, the irruption of the technoscience revolution has generated new ways of promoting scientific and technological creativity, of organizing the general intellect on a global scale and of appropriating its products.
(Monthly Review, March 2021)
At a time when we are highlighting the significance of Naxalbari Uprising and the 52nd anniversary of CPI(ML) formation, exposing and denouncing the CPI and CPI(M) leaderships who had degenerated to the social democratic trend, highlighting shahid Bhagat Singh on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of his martyrdom along with Sukhdev and Rajguru, just as an icon of revolution is not sufficient. His writings on each and every aspect of Indian revolution on the basis of his own analysis of Indian society based on the Marxist-Leninist insight he could grasp after started reading the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, without any doubt makes him the greatest Marxist- Leninist in India who really understood what is the soul of Indian people and Indian revolution. His approach to the caste system, a “distinctive inhuman system in India society” takes him to the understanding of this barbarity and to identify it as one of the basic features Indian revolution should address.
In the end of his article on untouchability, Bhagat Singh exhorted the untouchables to “raise the banner of revolt” and “challenge the existing order of society” with the famous quote from the Communist Manifesto: “Workers unite – you have nothing to lose but your chains”! And here he added an important addendum that, “you are the real working class”. He was of the firm view that only a working class revolution with ‘untouchables’ at its axis could free India from both capitalist and caste exploitation. Remember he wrote these lines when already the RSS was formed in 1925 with the goal of turning India in to a Hindurashtra with Manusmriti as its Constitution, and when the so-called mainstream Communist Movement in India had refused to recognize the great relevance of caste annihilation to unite the working class and lead the class struggle forward, and failed to come out with a critic of this fascist organization which was effectively used by the British colonialists to foment the two-nation theory and eventually divide the country communally amidst the flood of blood of millions, fulfilling the imperialist conspiratorial plot to keep the sub-continent splintered and backward for their plunder till today.
Bhagat Singh’s writings reveal that while he was ridiculing the untouchability movements launched by the upper caste forces to dilute the caste contradiction, he was applauding the renaissance movement from among the down-trodden masses, in many regions, as coming out through the contributions of Phule-Savitri-Ambedkar, along with Ayyankali, Narayana Guru and Periyar from the South. When the mainstream communist movement was repeatedly failing to recognize the importance of establishing the leadership of the working class and its vanguard, the communist party in the national liberation movement, as Mao could successfully do in China, and as Comintern had pointed out, Bhagat Singh was crystal clear that only a working class revolution with ‘untouchables’ at its axis could free India from both capitalist and caste exploitation. He repeatedly exhorted that nothing substantial shall happen by replacing the white sahebs with the black Brahmanical leadership; what is required is an Inquilab, a great revolution which overthrows the vultures of the past and create a socialist India. And, he marched to the gallows with the clarion call: Inquilab Zindabad.
The article given below, prepared by com. Harshwardhan based on his research of Bhagat Singh’s articles gives how scientific he was in understanding the Indian society and the basic principles of Indian revolution. During these dangerous days, when RSS parivar has come to hegemonic positions in India, still when the social democratic CPI(M) is upheld as the mainstream communist party at the clever dictation of the Godi media by most of the so-called ‘left intellectuals’, even after it has become the ‘apologists of neo-fascism’ as we witness in W. Bengal now, working hard to pave the way for a RSS/BJP victory in the present elections there as it did in Tripura during last elections there, it is high time that we uphold Bhagat Singh as the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our country. Let us learn from him and develop our path of revolution by understanding and changing the present barbaric situation by learning from him. n
Following the decision of CPI(M) led Left Front in West Bengal to go for an alliance with Congress and India Secular Front led by a Muslim fanatic Abbas Siddiqu, with the strange argument that in order to “defeat TMC, you have to first defeat BJP”, CPI(ML) Liberation which was part of the Grand Alliance along with CPI and CPI(M) in Bihar and is part of Grand Alliance in Assam, left the CPI(M) led LF and issued a number of statements justifying its stand. Following this a public debate has started between the two with CPI(M) criticizing it in an editorial in People’s Democracy and Liberation replying it with a statement. As Mainstream has published these and many friends are asking what is CPI(ML) Red Star’s response to it, we are reproducing them followed by our rejoinder to them – Red Star
THE general secretary of the CPI(ML), Dipankar Bhattacharya, has been airing his views in the media for some time, about the tactics that the Left should adopt for the West Bengal assembly election.
He has been criticising the CPI(M) and the Left Front for equating the BJP and the Trinamool Congress and for calling for a fight against both the BJP and the TMC.
He has, in an interview to The Hindu, dated March 8, said that the political line taken by the CPI(M)-led alliance is “narrow, short-sighted, suicidal”. He has also said that the Left Front is “underestimating the BJP while targeting Mamata Banerjee and the TMC”. As against this “erroneous” line, the CPI(ML) has decided to distance itself from the CPI(M)-led front and go it alone. According to reports, the CPI(ML) will fight in 12 seats, support the Left Front in probably 12 to 15 seats and in the rest, campaign for the defeat of the BJP, thereby indicating that in over 200 seats, their support is for the TMC.
Unlike what the CPI(ML) alleges, the CPI(M) and the Left Front have not equated the BJP and the TMC. There is no underestimation of the threat posed by the BJP in West Bengal. The Hindutva forces are on the offensive in the state and the Lok Sabha election results of 2019 showed the advance and the danger posed by them. However, this does not mean that the Trinamool Congress and its brutal regime can, in any way, be considered to be a partner or ally in the fight against the “fascist offensive” that the CPI(ML) general secretary talks about.
It is necessary to have a proper understanding of the role the Trinamool Congress has played in West Bengal and the character of the Mamata Banerjee government. The TMC was the spearhead for the anti-Communist and anti-Left forces in West Bengal. By fascistic violence and lumpen politics, it targeted the CPI(M) and the Left Front and sought to physically suppress the Left movement. In the past decade, over 220 cadres and supporters of the CPI(M) and the Left have been killed, thousands were driven out of their homes, over a lakh false cases instituted and in many parts, a regime of terror established. The TMC began its political career as an ally of the BJP and as late as 2014, Narendra Modi saw the TMC as a potential ally. It is the establishment of TMC rule and the suppression of the Left that facilitated the rise of the BJP. Unlike what the CPI(ML) believes, ‘fascism’ cannot be fought by an anti-democratic, lumpenised party.
It will be a mistake to consider the TMC as similar to the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, or, the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. In the name of fighting fascism, you cannot sup with the devil. The TMC and the Mamata government have been opposing and unleashing repression on the general strikes of the working class and the struggles of different sections of the working people, even when they are directed against the policies of the Modi government such as the November 26 general strike. A tragic example of the brutal repression was the death of a young man, Maidul who died due to injuries suffered due to severe police beating during a youth-student protest rally.
The CPI(ML) is underestimating the depth of popular discontent against the TMC regime. This is a state assembly election. If the Left Front will not firmly, vigorously and unequivocally fight for the defeat of the TMC government, a large part of this popular discontent will be garnered by the BJP. Even in the Lok Sabha election of 2019, a bulk of people who were suffering under the TMC’s autocratic regime, voted for the BJP, as they considered the Left Front too enfeebled to effectively fight the TMC.
The situation in West Bengal today is that even to rouse the people against the BJP’s evil designs, it is necessary to furnish your anti-TMC credentials to get their attention.
What electoral tactics the CPI(ML) has spelt out in West Bengal is not going to help the fight against the BJP. Mamata Banerjee has expressed her thanks to various parties for extending support to the TMC and the list includes the general secretary of the CPI(ML). It is unfortunate that the CPI(ML) is perversely considering the TMC as a better political force to fight the BJP than the Left Front in W Bengal. n
The Challenge of Saving West Bengal from Fascist Takeover: Liberation’s Reply to People’s Democracy Commentary
People’s Democracy (PD), the weekly journal of the CPI(M), has carried a political commentary in its 14 March, 2021 issue accusing the CPI(ML) of taking a ‘wrong turn’ in West Bengal. The same issue also contains a ‘PB communique’ issued by the CPI(M) Polit Bureau following its online meeting held on March 11, 2021. Apropos the forthcoming elections to the Assemblies of Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry and the Autonomous District Council of Tripura, the communique says ‘the main focus of the CPI(M) shall be to defeat the BJP’. Why and where does the CPI(M) then think the CPI(ML) is going wrong in West Bengal?
Let us first tell our readers the stand the CPI(ML) has taken in these elections. CPI(ML) is not contesting in Kerala and Tripura and is extending support to the LDF in Kerala and LF in Tripura ADC elections. In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, CPI(ML) is independently contesting a few seats (12 in TN and 1 in Puducherry) while extending support to the main opposition alliance against the BJP and its allies. In Assam, CPI(ML) and CPI(M) are part of the same opposition alliance (of course, with the Congress going back on its seat sharing proposal in Karbi Anglong, CPI(ML) will be independently contesting in the hill district).
In West Bengal, the CPI(ML) is contesting twelve seats independently. Lest anyone thinks the CPI(ML) has broken ranks with the CPI(M) in West Bengal, let us make it clear that the CPI(ML) has never been part of the Left Front in the state and has never had any electoral understanding with the CPI(M) in the past even as the party has generally supported LF candidates in many elections especially after 2011 when the LF has no longer been in power. Beyond the 12 seats where the CPI(ML) is contesting, the party has openly declared support to Left candidates on all those seats where they had won in 2016 and where MLAs have not defected to TMC or BJP (as many as 8 of the 32 victorious MLAs defected). Surely the CPI(M) can have no problem with this position.
Presumably, their problem is with the CPI(ML) position for the rest of West Bengal, where the party has appealed to the electorate to defeat the BJP without specifying any party or candidate to vote for. Strangely, the PD commentary has interpreted this position as an ‘indication’ that in ‘over 200 seats, their [CPI(ML)’s] support is for the TMC’! Does this mean that, in the CPI(M)’s own reckoning, in over 200 seats the electoral battle is really between the TMC and the BJP? The PD commentary then goes on to conclude: ‘It is unfortunate that the CPI(ML) is perversely considering the TMC as a better political force to fight the BJP than the Left Front in West Bengal.’
How on earth does this conclusion follow from the CPI(ML)’s stance? Even though CPI(ML) is not part of the Left Front or the larger electoral bloc comprising the Left Front, Congress and the newly launched Indian Secular Front (which apparently is fielding candidates in the name of some other party), CPI(ML) has supported LF candidates in at least two dozen seats while the CPI(M) is not reciprocating this support on a single seat. Shall we then ask the CPI(M) if it considers the Congress or ISF ‘better’ forces than the CPI(ML) to fight the BJP? For the overwhelming majority of forces concerned about the real threat of the BJP coming to power in West Bengal, electoral strength is the crux of the matter. While several opposition parties have openly supported the TMC against the BJP, the ‘No Vote to BJP’ campaign in West Bengal and the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha campaigning against the BJP have left it open to the wisdom and choice of the electorate.
The CPI(M)’s real problem is with the fact that the CPI(ML) has exposed and questioned the glaring shortcomings of the CPI(M)’s tactical line and political role in West Bengal at this very critical juncture for Indian democracy. It is not difficult to foresee how the BJP coming to power in West Bengal would lead to a massive escalation of the Sangh-BJP fascist assault (by the way, we never put the word fascist within quotation marks in this context, something the PD commentary routinely does for reasons best known to the writer/editor). As a party which has been in power in West Bengal till only a decade ago and which had historically emerged as the biggest inheritor of the communist base and influence in the state built over decades since pre-Independence days, the CPI(M) cannot explain away this alarming rise of the BJP by just blaming the TMC. If TMC being in power is held exclusively responsible for the rise of the BJP in West Bengal, by the same token one could also hold the CPI(M) responsible for the rise of the BJP in Tripura.
The TMC reign in West Bengal has of course been marked by terror, violence and corruption on one hand and a spate of populist slogans and welfare schemes on the other. The migration of CPI(M) ranks and even MLAs towards the BJP was initially seen as a response to the TMC’s terror as the CPI(M) was not considered to be in a position to offer any effective resistance. But since 2016, the erosion of the CPI(M) base has assumed alarming proportions and in 2019, only one CPI(M) candidate could save his deposit and the vote share dropped to single digits (7%). Even as the experience of Tripura should have warned the CPI(M) in West Bengal, large sections of the party in West Bengal got lulled into the ‘aage ram, pare bam’ (first Ram and then Left) trap. Even after the alarming 2019 decline, there is no visible effort by the CPI(M) to combat the suicidal “Ekushey Ram, Chhabbishey Bam” (Ram – i.e. BJP in 2021, Left in 2026) formula.
The PD commentary tells us that to draw the attention of the people in West Bengal you must first furnish your anti-TMC credentials. Certainly, the CPI(M) is not to be found wanting in this respect! Yet if CPI(M) voters have been gravitating towards the BJP as the stronger and more viable alternative to the TMC, is it not time for the CPI(M) to reconsider its approach and correct its course? Rather than anti-TMC credentials, the issue is the anti-BJP edge of your campaign. The PD commentary tells us that the CPI(M) is not underestimating the BJP or equating the BJP and the TMC. Yet, every political observer following the CPI(M) discourse in real life can cite any number of statements and speeches by CPI(M) leaders, and slogans raised in CPI(M) rallies that equate the TMC and the BJP.
Since the TMC had joined the NDA for some time during the Vajpayee period, the CPI(M) wants to treat the TMC as a virtual NDA constituent even now. The fact is the TMC-BJP alliance never found much resonance in West Bengal. In fact, the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and the 2006 Assembly elections marked the lowest point for both BJP and TMC, and the CPI(M)’s best Assembly performance happened in 2006. The PD commentary reminds us that as late as 2014, Modi had indicated TMC as a potential ally. True, but real life took a different turn. While Nitish Kumar in neighboring Bihar went back to the NDA fold, the West Bengal government refused to follow that course. Today when circumstances have driven even erstwhile NDA allies like the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal away from the BJP, what purpose does it serve to bracket the TMC with the BJP?
It is one thing to expose the TMC as an inconsistent force in the fight against the BJP and establish the Left as the consistent vanguard in the anti-BJP battle, but it is an altogether different proposition to club the TMC with the BJP and even lump them together as ‘BJmool’. Even in the face of the BJP’s frenzied post-Pulwama 2019 campaign, the TMC polled more than 43 percent vote share. Who are these voters? Large sections of the rural and urban poor population in West Bengal, millions of women and arguably the majority of the state’s Muslim voters. Many of them have been Left voters and supporters in the past, and even now they refuse to buy into the BJP’s theme of communal polarisation and corporate control. How does it help to treat this base at par with the sections of people who have already been lured and numbed by the vicious communal campaign of the BJP?
The PD commentary reminds us that West Bengal is facing a State Assembly election. Of course, it is an Assembly election and the state government must be held accountable. But we must also remember that this Assembly election is being held in 2021 when the Modi government is rapidly centralising all powers and is trampling upon the Constitution and the ideas of secularism, democracy and diversity which are central to our constitutional values. West Bengal is one of the last surviving opposition-ruled states and the BJP is desperate to conquer it. At stake is the inclusive ethos and progressive legacy of West Bengal, and the BJP capturing West Bengal will further shrink the opposition space and dent the federal framework in the country. This is why the entire country is so keenly watching the West Bengal elections. To underplay the extraordinary all-India significance of the West Bengal elections at this juncture can only be seen as a most unfortunate mechanistic response.
Indeed, it is the BJP which desperately wants to keep the West Bengal elections confined to the state context. It knows that today the clamour for change within West Bengal can primarily favour the BJP. The deepening communal polarisation and the call for giving a new party a chance are both working in favour of the BJP. The Left election campaign must challenge this BJP-promoted common sense of delinking West Bengal from the national context and put the Modi government and the BJP squarely in the dock. But the 28 February Brigade rally of the LF-INC-ISF combine conveyed quite a different message. Even against the extraordinary backdrop of the historic farmers’ movement, and acute economic crisis marked by unprecedented price-rise, unemployment and corporate aggression, the rally posed the dethroning of the TMC as a more important goal than saving West Bengal from falling in the BJP’s hands. The pronouncements of the ISF, for which the rally virtually became the launching pad, seem to be directed almost exclusively against the state government.
The PD commentary has reminded us that the TMC is no RJD. As a communist party playing an independent opposition role we have had to pay heavy prices in almost all our major states, whether RJD-ruled Bihar, Congress-ruled Assam, BJP-ruled Jharkhand, or even Left-ruled West Bengal. We have had to suffer any number of massacres in Bihar, but the 1993 Karanda massacre in Bardhaman in Left-ruled West Bengal and the 1978 Hurua killings in Tripura were no less barbaric. We have lost several leaders in political violence perpetrated by feudal forces and our political opponents in Bihar, and also in Assam, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Comrades Mani Singh, Chandrashekhar and Manju Devi in RJD-ruled Bihar, Comrade Mahendra Singh in BJP-ruled Jharkhand, Comrades Anil Barua and Gangaram Kol in Congress-ruled Assam and Comrade Abdul Halim in Left-ruled West Bengal were some of our most prominent and promising leaders who were killed by our political opponents. But this has not made us lose sight of the BJP as the principal threat to the Left movement and to the very foundations of democracy in India. The key defining feature of fascist forces worldwide is their politics of unleashing hatred, discrimination and violence by the state and non-state actors against minorities and ideological dissenters. It is the BJP and its efforts to turn India into a Hindu-supremacist nation that constitute the crux of the fascist danger to democracy in India.
As an independent communist party, we played a consistent oppositional role in Bihar during the fifteen years of RJD rule in Bihar and the 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal. Yet we never helped Nitish Kumar after he joined hands with the BJP. In West Bengal we are the only Left party outside of the Left Front with no record of any cooperation with the TMC. You can recall no example of Mamata Banerjee thanking us when she came to power replacing the CPI(M). Today if she thanks us for our bold anti-BJP stand it only points to the totally changed context. And it is strange that while the PD mentions Mamata Banerjee thanking the CPI(ML), it says nothing about BJP leaders openly thanking the CPI(M) ranks for the help extended in 2019 with appeals for greater help in 2021. Today when West Bengal is in acute danger of an outright fascist takeover, as a communist party our primary concern is to save the state from this imminent threat.
We had expected that post-2011, and more particularly post-2014, the political alignment in West Bengal would be conducive for the development and consolidation of a broader Left unity. But the CPI(M)’s focus on staging a comeback by stitching an alliance first with the Congress and now with the newly formed ISF has diluted the thrust on Left revival. The Left can only revive in West Bengal today by playing a powerful anti-BJP role on the ground. Unfortunately when Left and democratic forces across India expected the Left in West Bengal to discharge its historic responsibility as a bulwark against fascism, the CPI(M) is more obsessed with its anti-TMC credentials. We still hope the people of Bengal will stall the BJP’s ‘double engine expedition’ and rebuff its fascist offensive and the Left in West Bengal will be able to find its bold voice to surge ahead again as a champion of democracy. n
CPI(ML) Red Star’s Rejoinder to This Public Debate Between CPI(M) and Liberation
The Naxalbari Uprising took place and CPI(ML) was formed in 1969 following a bitter inner party struggle inside CPI(M) following its formation and in 1964 and holding of its 7th Party Congress in the same year. The Communist Revolutionaries within CPI(M) criticized the leadership that in analyzing the international and national developments and in putting forward a revolutionary line for Indian revolution it has completely failed; it has taken a centrist stand, which is basically not different from the revisionist path of CPI.
In 1967 general elections when both of them formed opportunist alliances with split away goups of Congress and Muslim league like religion based organiations to share power within the ruling class system, and when the government formed in WB with Bangla Congress leader Ajoy Mukherjee as chief minister and PB member of CPI(M), Jyothibabu as the deputy chief minister refused to implement the land reforms based on ‘land to the tiller’, the Commuist Revolutionaries (CRs) attacked them for degeneration to social democratic path. Later, following the launching of land struggle by them in North Bengal, when the state police along with central police fired upon the demonstration in Naxalbari on 25th May, 1967, and 11 comrades including two infants became martyrs, the CRs started leaving the CPI(M) to form a coordination committee and later CPI(ML).
The Burdwan Plenum organized by the CPI(M) in 1968 and the decision taken in it, in effect, upholding the revisionist line of capitalist roaders led by Krushchov who had usurped power in Soviet Union, the criticism of the CRs was proved correct. This is history. Compared to what happened then, during the last five decades the CPI(M) through 34 years rule in WB, 25 years continuous rule in Tripura and many years of rule in Kerala has proved how they have become part of the ruling system, apologistsof neo-colonialism, and executioners of neoliberal policies as we saw in Singhur and Nandigram.
Following Naxalbari Uprising when large sections from the CPI(M) and new forces were rallying with it, the mistakes committed by the CR forces in making a correct analysis of Indian situation and developing the program and path based on it, and mechanically upholding the left adventurist Lin Biaoist line which came to dominate the CPC from 1966 for a few years as Mao’s line, leading to severe setbacks and disintegration to number of groups, was a grave mistake. And all the CR forces have taken their own rectifications of these mistakes. In spite of it, we firmly uphold that the ideological struggle waged against the CPI(M) from within and after coming out as basically correct. As a result, though we have joined in many issue based movements with it and its Left Front in few of the states, we have always opposed any political alliances, strategic or tactical, with it so far.
But the case of the CPI(ML) Liberation is different. In 1981 following the return to power of Indira Gandhi government, and she pursuing autocratic measures once again, Liberation took initiative to convene a meeting of all CR groups for uniting to struggle against Indira Autocracy. But due to many reasons it did not materialize. By that time it had already made many ‘rectifications’ in the CPI(ML) line including the analysis of Soviet Union under capitalist roaders as a social imperialist super power, approach to Cultural Revolution etc. Following the failure of the joint move with the CR forces in 1981, com Vinod Misra took the stand abandoning any political alliances with the CR forces, and took the line of alliance or merger with the CPI and CPI(M), in line with what had happened in Nepal leading to formation of the CPN (United Marxist-leninist). Though the dream of a grand merger did not materialize, the Liberation is arrogantly pursuing this line still. So, it takes every possibility to be with the LF, opposing any political alliance with CR forces. This was one reason why the united forum formed against neoliberal policies by the CPI(ML) Red Star ( then called Red Flag) with New Democracy, Liberation, MCPI and two other organizations could not go forward even after organizing many campaigns against neoliberal policies.
In spit of Liberation’s desire to be in the Left Front, CPI(M) did not favor its inclusion in the LF in WB, Tripura and Kerala. So is in states like TN, former AP, Maharashtra where CPI(M) is in alliance with Congress also. Besides Liberation cadres in WB have bitter experience of how under LF rule many of their comrades were annihilated. But this time, following Liberation’s performance in Bihar elections, CPI(M) wanted liberation also in its alliance. Meanwhile the CRs including Red Star and MKP had started discussion with progressive intellectuals and democratic right movements etc to launch a No Vote to BJP movement, which was successfully launched in the first week of March, and started campaigning. From this platform CPI(M)’s opportunist stand, which in continuation to their 2019 line is going to help the BJP to come to power was attacked. It was at this time, because of pressure from within and outside, Liberation took the decision to walk out of its alliance with CPI(M) in WB.(Please note that it is only for WB, as stressed in the Liberation’s rejoinder.
In this context, another point also should be made clear. Though CPI(M) talks about the importance of first defeating TMC in order to defeat BJP, during the ten year’s rule of TMC, the LF could not organize any major struggle against it. On the contrary, large number of its leaders and members were joining with TMC or BJP. On the contrary, it was Red Star which launched and led the Bhangar movement which challenged the TMC finally forcing it to come to agree with the demands of the movement. During this long struggle topmost leaders of both CPI(M) and Liberation used to regularly visit the struggle area and address many public meetings in support of it. Same was the case in the Kolkatta rallies in support of Bhangar also. When the Lok Sabha elections took place in 2019, CPI(M) hurriedly put Vikas Ranjan Bhattacharjee, who as a prominent lawyer of Kolkatta HC had extended much help to the movement, in Jadavpur constituency which includes Bhangar also. As CPI(M) sought our support, and many intellectuals and friends also requested, Red Star supported him and campaigned for him. In 2019 LS elections, though all the other candidates of the LF lost deposits, only in Jadavpur they could save it. Following this, the CPI(M) leaders have stated that if Red Star field candidate in Bhangar in the assembly elections, they shall support him. But what happened is quite contrary. As Red Star is campaigning to defeat BJP which is the main enemy of the Indian people, and exposing the opportunist line of CPI(M), angered by it, they have fielded the brother of ISF leader as the alliance candidate to divide Muslim votes and to defeat the Red Star candidate!
During the Bhangar movement, including its general secretary, many leaders have visited Bhangar and enjoyed their hospitality. So, when Liberation came out of CPI(M) alliance and joined the No Vote to BJP forum, they and Red Star state committee leaders had many rounds of discussions and everybody was expecting that Liberation, even though it has no supporters in the area, shall extend support to com. Mirza Hussain, the Red Star candidate, at least as a positive political jester. But nothing of that sort. It came out of CPI(M) fold, arrogantly announced its decision to go alone, field 12 candidates, put out its manifesto, and to support large number of CPI(M) candidates, but not to support any CR candidates, though all of them have extended support to Liberation candidates. We have explained these points to make the record clear; to show how sectarian and arrogant are these groups even after the entire left spectrum is confronting grave challenge, and when the RSS fascists are dominating every field of life.
In spite of all these hiccups, the CPI(ML) Red Star is clear on the various steps to be pursued with firm conviction: Extend the No Vote to BJP campaign to advance the efforts to build broadest possible anti-fascist front at all India level uniting all the forces opposed to RSS/BJP; unite the revolutionary left and struggling forces based on a common program as the core of this anti-fascist front; and make all out efforts to support the farmers’ movement and the movement of the working class, students against corporatization, and all the people’s movements against the corporate fascist Modi rule.
The friends of the left movement and the cadres and supporters of all left organizations should understand that unlike what the CPI(M), Liberation and mainstream media likes to project, there are four major distinct tends among the left forces: firstly, the CPI(M) led Left Front stream which has degenerated to social democracy and now to apologists of neo-fascism; secondly, the Liberation like forces who are vacillating and may become part of the first if they do not make course correction; thirdly the left adventurist stream who are still in a make-believe world, refusing to understand the significance of the siege of the capital by the farmers for last four months successfully challenging the corporate fascist forces, and still indulge in aimless and suicidal squad actions as reported from Chhattisgarh; and fourthly, the CR stream, which in spite of the differences among them are seeking truth from facts, developing their understanding about present situation based on Marxist positions, to unite and striving to build a communist party capable of defeating the corporate fascist forces and lead the people towards people’s democracy and socialism. The Marxist-Leninists should not be afraid of public debate
This is the first time in the history of Bengal in the post 1947 period when a communal political force like BJP is dreaming to win the throne of the state government. They made a significant advancement in the Lok Sabha election of 2019 when they won 18 seats out of 42. Their number of seats increased from 2 to 18 in the five years and vote share increased by 22.25 percent. Though there is a general saying that there is always a difference between Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, in a sharply politically compartmentalized society like that of West Bengal, any election can be a good indicator of ground reality.
It is noteworthy that BJP made its advancement in Bengal not mainly due to the communal factor. It does not mean that communal factor is absent, however, it plays comparatively lesser important role for BJP’s advancement. In the main, it is a total failure of conventional political parties, like Congress, CPIM or TMC which has provoked the voters to develop a strong inclination towards BJP.
TMC led by Mamta Banerjee came to power in 2011 inspiring much expectation. People were disgusted over CPIM’s rule of 34 years, although they implemented some of the important pro-people policies in the initial years. Panchayat system was developed and regular elections in Panchayats started to take place. Thus the feudal control over the rural socio-economic life was broken. Lands were distributed among the landless peasants, share-croppers got their rights. Spreading of education was given priority and the teachers and government employees started to get good salaries.
However, very soon as a result of these reforms a new section of rural middle-class came up and eventually captured the political domination in the village area. Panchayats came under the hegemony of the party. Similarly, in the urban areas too, the mass initiatives and spontaneous political activities of the people faced more and more organizational resistance, sometimes violently, by the party workers. All political activities outside the party initiative and planning were dubbed as anti-party and right-wing conspiracy. Any opposition of government policies and practical steps were portrayed as planned efforts to bring back the heydays of Congress thugs. As a result overall democratic atmosphere of the state came to face danger.
Since the middle of the 1990s a new development started taking place. Left Front government started to adopt the neo-liberal policies which they had strongly opposed when Rajiv Gandhi for the first time introduced them in 1987-89 period. Since the starting of the new millennium Left Front started to become more and more aggressive to introduce the neo-liberal changes which finally led them to commit massive blunders in Singur and Nadigram which paved the way for their departure from the seats of power . A closer look into the last years of Left Front’s rule may suggest that once again the question of democracy became the main area of political controversies and conflicts. So, one of the extremely popular slogans of Mamta at that time was “No to Partiocracy; we want Democracy!” [Dalotantranoy, ganotantra chai!]
The ten years rule of Trinamool Congress has left the people totally disillusioned about the party and its government. The grip of partiocracy has become even more pernicious. Wide-spread and rampant corruption in every field has become the norm of the day. A total failure in economic policies has led the people to frustration about the future of the growing generations. Moreover, extreme authoritarianism has given birth to a suffocative atmosphere in political arena. Democracy is facing even bigger challenges under TMC rule.
As a result BJP has made significant inroads in West Bengal. Bitter memories of LF rule are still living in the minds of the people. And the added advantage of BJP lies in the fact that the people of the state do not know the party well. Therefore, a popular sentiment has been growing among the Hindu toiling masses that BJP should be given a chance. “We have seen all the parties. Let us see what they do!”
In such a situation one important development is taking place in the state. In the first week of January a non-electoral political platform was formed to campaign against BJP/RSS under the name: “Bengal Against Fascist BJP-RSS”. This platform has campaigned throughout south-Bengal with the central slogan “No Vote to BJP” in a mass scale. Lakhs of posters are stuck on the walls, pamphlets are distributed, a number of conventions and public meetings are organized in all the districts, and finally a huge rally was organized by the platform on 10 March where 10-12 thousand people participated. Apart from our party, MKP and CPIML Liberation are the political groups which are taking part in this platform. There are many individuals and social organizations also taking part in this initiative. The campaign has gained sufficient currency and many intellectuals started to open their mouths against Fascist BJP after this campaign started.
On the other hand BJP’s rule under the leadership of Narendra Modi for last seven years has created panic among the Muslim population throughout the country. Their whole mobilization behind the movement against NPR/NRC/CAA made it crystal clear to everyone. A section of Muslim people has now reached to this opinion that they must be organized as Muslim community in a separate independent party. The growing popularity of All India Majlish-e-Ittehad-ulMuslimeen [AIMIM] under the leadership of Asaduddin Owaisi is a good indicator of this phenomenon. The English translation of the name of the party -All India Council for Unity of the Muslims — clearly shows the aim of the organization. In West Bengal a similar kind of initiative has been developed by a section of Heirs of Furfura Sharif, especially by Pirjada Abbash Siddique. Very recently a party was formed, named Indian Secular Front which eventually has become an important partner in Left Front-Congress-ISF alliance.
Although it is claimed that ISF is a front of as many as ten organizations including dalit and tribal organizations, however, it is already seen in case of AIMIM that using dalit and tribal cards is nothing but a tactical step for this organization to carefully avoid the Muslim tag. The tribal or dalit leaders have no significant role in the policy making or character making of the party. However, the process of forming ISF clearly shows that it is dominantly a Muslim organization whose interest is to organize the Muslims in religious line. This development in the state has provided a further impetus to BJP to carry forward its Political Hindutwa agenda. Moreover when CPIM and Congress went into an alliance with this organization, then it has earned some kind of political legitimacy in Bengal politics which in return help BJP to legitimize its religious politics breaking the apparent secular atmosphere in the state.
By the time a fierce and bitter debate has been cropped up among the leftist circles over the question of main enemy in the ensuing election. In the main the debate is taking place between CPIM and the radical lefts. Although all the parties which are known by the term “communist” have settled this question in their respective Party Congresses that at present situation BJP is the main enemy everywhere in the country, the CPIM state committee in Bengal has developed a clear mindset that unless and until TMC government is removed no struggle against BJP is possible, whereas the fact is in the electoral battle BJP is mainly challenged by TMC for obvious reasons. As a result of the debate CPIML [Liberation] came out from electoral understanding with CPIM and is fighting independently in 12 seats. Our party is fighting in 4 seats and has extended its support to the various Communist Revolutionary [CR] forces wherever they fight in the election.
Apart from these few seats, our party has given an open call to the people to defeat BJP and not to have any illusion on the other parties. Most of the CR organizations have taken similar stand which is paving the way to build joint political activities of the revolutionaries in coming future. Ultimately, as per our understanding, the Fascist advancement can be given actual challenge only by developing an anti-neoliberal, pro-people alternative development paradigm launched by an alternative political force which can only be formed by joint effort of all CR forces. Keeping BJP at bay from power can provide us important respite which will be helpful to develop the actual alternative to Fascism successfully.
With these long term and short term goals CPIML [Red Star] is taking part in the electoral battle. The party is directly fighting in four seats, out of which the Bhangar constituency, which obviously remains as the area of prime importance. TMC has failed to give a local candidate due to severe inner-party conflicts. However, more important factor for them to bring an unknown candidate from outside is that, all of their local leaders have lost credibility to stand in front of the people. Sitting MLA Rejjak Molla, an erstwhile minister in Left Front regime, is not even accepted within the party circle any more. Another strong man Arbul Islam who spear-headed TMC attack against Red Star and Land, Livelihood, Environment and Ecology Protection Committee at the time of Bhangar movement, has become mostly irrelevant as a result of their near-total defeat in Bhangar movement and subsequent local body election in 2018.
BJP has also given ticket to an unknown candidate. They do not have much expectation in this seat since the constituency is over-whelmingly dominated by Muslim population. However, CPIM-CONGRESS-ISF has nominated Pirjada Nausad Siddique, younger brother of Abbas Siddique who is definitely going to be a major factor. Our candidate Comrade Mirza Hassan is one of the Conveners of JJPBRC and is having very good popularity among the masses and practically the only Leftist candidate in Bhangar. Therefore, practically it is going to be a fight among three major candidates. BJP can be a dark horse if the overall communal tension reaches in an unprecedented level in the state.
Whether Com Mirza Hassan will win or not is obviously an important question before the left and democratic people; however, more important thing before the left-leaning people of West Bengal is whether the real leftist ideology, politics and morality will be able to survive in this time of overall decay of left, secular and democratic politics and at the time of Fascist surge. The electoral challenge taken by CPIML Red Star in particular and Communist Revolutionary forces in general is giving assurance to the people that the glorious red flag shall not die, in spite of whatever may happen in the election.
As far as the overall situation in the state is concerned we have seen that some factors are working in favour of BJP, while some other factors are working against them. The initial advancement of the party in post-lockdown time has been significantly slowed down due to many reasons. Huge price-hike of cooking gas, petrol etc has caused large level resentment among the masses. Secondly, more and more public sector unions are coming to the streets against government’s effort to privatize those institutions. After many decades Bank Employee Unions started to organize street protests where they are inviting social organizations for their support. Recently, during their three days strike State Bank Employees Union invited “Bengal Against Fascist BJP/RSS” forum in front of their main office in Dalhoise, Kolkata for solidarity. All these protests against BJP have become vibrant with the ongoing peasant movement. Peasant leaders started to visit and organize Maha Panchayats in all five poll-bound states. In Bengal also five Maha Panchayats took place including in places like Singur and Nandigram. However, absence of proper alternative political force against BJP is the main trump card in its hand
As the Farmers’ Struggle to Repeal the 3 Farm Acts for Corporatization of Agriculture Gets Increasing support through Maha Panchayats, Modi Government Hatches More Conspiracies and Uses Fascist Terror to Oppose it!
Even after completing four months, the farmer’ siege of Delhi by the farmers’ movement is continuing more vigorously than ever. During this period the corporate fascist government of RSS/BJP led by Modi-Shah has used every weapon in their anvil to divide, defame and suppress it. It used Supreme Court also to intervene and weaken it. It used the isolated incidents during the massive rally of lakhs of farmers and lakh tractors on 26th January to unleash violence and to throw away the struggling farmers from around Delhi. But, when the farmers retaliated by expanding the scope of the movement by organizing Maha Panchayats all over the country, trying to involve all the farmers and other struggling sections of the people in the country in the movement, people effectively boycotting the BJP leaders in Punjab and Haryana, Modi found the second wave of the pandemic, forcible collection for Ram temple and raising Jai Sri Ram as the war cry of the RSS parivar are not sufficient to divert attention from his war of attrition with the farmers. So, he has decided to move out of Delhi, engaging fully in the campaign for the elections to the five state assemblies, especially in W. Bengal, to divert attention of the people. He is not leaving any stone unturned to win the elections especially in Bengal and to use it as a trump card to unleash another round of fascist terror to weaken and suppress the farmers’ movement. This is a great challenge, and the AIKSCC and SKM have decided to meet the challenge. They have given the slogan: No Vote to BJP and appealing to defeat it in all the states. This slogan which was already raised and popularized by the revolutionary left and struggling forces in these states got a further boost with the farmers’ leaders going to all the states and calling for the people to defeat BJP and its allies as a sign of solidarity with the farmers’ movement.
The RSS/BJP led Modi government is in desperate situation. It does not mean that it will lay down its arms and surrender. History teaches that the fascists shall try all heinous means to prolong their rule till they are hanged by the people or forced to shoot themselves. But in the present Indian situation, the Manuvadi Brahmanical fascist forces are still having the upper hand ideologically, culturally and politically within the ruling system. They have penetrated all sectors of administration through the domination of the Brahmanical upper caste sections who control more than 75% of the top layers of all departments, police, judiciary, armed forces. Their domination is more in the corporate sector and media. All institutions where the progressive elements had a say are entirely saffronized. All central agencies like CBI, ED, NIA etc are under RSS control and are used to win over, to terrorize and silent the opposition, or to throw them in to jail. Besides, as the RSS chief often boasts, RSS is not only working through the BJP, it has penetrated almost all the mainstream parties and even the leaders of the minority religions, the Savarna sections as I now happening in Kerala. It was easy for RSS to create this situation as not only Congress or other ruling class/regional parties, even the parliamentary left, all of whom pursuing soft Hindutva for vote bank politics, have never launched any campaign against RSS and its ideology; on the other hand all of them still pursue an appeasement policy towards RSS. So, the evolutionary left and struggling forces while mobilizing their full force to strengthen the farmers’ movement and for its victory, have to intensify the campaign and politicization against the RSS ideology and practice, the main prop of neoliberal corporate politics wielding political power in our country.
In the present situation, not only to mobilize the masses more widely and to make the farmers’ struggle victorious, besides helping to initiate movements of the working class and other sections to beat back attacks on them, the most important task is to build the broadest possible anti-fascist united platform of all forces opposed to BJP and its allies. At the same time, the revolutionary left and struggling forces have to wage an uncompromising campaign against the RSS ideology and practice, while putting forward an alternative program and line of action, to polarize the revolutionary forces. With this clear perspective let us rally as many forces as possible and spread the movement at all India level so that conditions can be created for the victory of the farmers’ movement against corporatization of agriculture.