The ongoing elections in five Indian states, with a total population of close to 250 million, provide a snapshot of the situation facing the working class across India. A common feature is the weakness of the left and its insistence on forming alliances with various bourgeois parties. The Indian working class is thus denied an independent voice. The various Communist parties should break with their ideas of class collaboration and build a united front of the Indian workers.
The Modi-led BJP government for the past seven years has been on the offensive against the working class. The economy was already beginning to slow down sharply in 2019 and the country was facing 9 percent unemployment. Modi’s policies, such as demonetisation and the introduction of GST (Goods and Services Tax, a consumer tax introduced in 2017), aggravated unemployment and the general economic situation.
Unemployment and poverty have further increased since the chaotic lockdown in 2020. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh were left penniless. Migrant workers were made to walk vast distances to their homes, which resulted in the death of hundreds on their way.
According to the latest IMF reports, the Indian economy contracted by 8 percent in the last 12 months. The second wave of the COVID-19 virus is stopping any recovery, while unemployment continues to rise, and malnourishment is estimated to spread to 95 million more people in the world. There are skyrocketing prices of essential goods and cooking gas. Millions of workers have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of small scale industries are closed. Nearly 300,000 have died due to the Covid virus. However, neither the lockdown nor the contraction of the economy stopped Modi’s friends, such as Adani, Ambani and others, from amassing huge wealth.
Modi was already facing the wrath of the people against his anti-people policies such as the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), NRC (National Citizens' Register) and NPR (National Population Register), which sought to disenfranchise ethnic and religious groups and divide the population, and provoked big protests. The ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian People's Party) and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu chauvinist paramilitary, far-right organisation) whipped up sectarian riots against Muslims in an attempt to curtail the anti-CAA protests. The lockdown further aided in ending the protest.
The Modi regime pushed through even more draconian laws against the farmers during the lockdown. Three agriculture laws and anti-labour laws were brought in by Modi to further enrich his corporate friends. There have been four months of massive farmers’ protest against these laws. The capital Delhi has been in a state of siege by hundreds of thousands of farmers protesting in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
There were attempts by the Modi regime and RSS goons to divert the farmers’ protests during the Republic Day parades on 26 January. One unarmed protester was killed during that event. In total, according to The Indian Express:
“As many as 248 farmers have died during protest against three Central agriculture laws in just 87 days, according to the data collected by Sanyukat Kisan Morcha (SKM).
“The victims comprised 202 from Punjab, 36 from Haryana, six from Uttar Pradesh, one each from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttrakhand. Most of the deaths happened due to heart attack, illness due to cold weather conditions and accidents.” (‘248 farmers have died during protest against three agri laws’, The Indian Express, February 22, 2021)
Aside from all this, the Modi regime is facing massive debts and a huge fiscal deficit and is therefore resorting to the privatisation of the railways, the state-owned banks, LIC (Life Insurance Corporation of India), BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, the largest telecoms company in India) and other state-controlled industries. These anti-people laws, including the Labour Code, the New Education policy, the EIA Act (the Environment Impact Assessment notification, which lifts a number of environmental regulations for many industries, allowing for the monetisation of environmental violations, among other controversial changes), the abrogation of the special status for Kashmir, and attack on state rights have all spurred protests and general strikes by workers. In the last seven years of the Modi regime, there have been six general strikes, with nearly 250 million workers participating in the last one in November of last year.
It is in this context that five crucial states, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, are holding state assembly elections, which began on 6 April and will end on April 29th.
West Bengal has a long history of anti-colonial struggles. The treacherous role of bourgeois leaders such as Gandhi, Nehru and Patel of Congress and Jinnah of the Muslim League, together with communal violence instigated by British bootlickers, such as the RSS led by Savarakar and Godse, led to the communal partition in 1947.
The major casualty of that counter-revolutionary partition was the working class and the people of Bengal, Punjab, Bihar and other northern states. Millions died at the time of partition due to communal violence. The Renaissance movement of Bengal and the revolutionary traditions surely impacted on the minds of people after partition. Congress was in power for many years after independence. The Left Front came to power in West Bengal in 1977 and remained in power for some 34 years. The left regime, which was led by the CPI-M under Jyothi Basu, the Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000, initially was able to carry out some reforms in land, education and there was a certain degree of rural development.
India: Voting begins in Assam and West Bengal state elections https://t.co/ae0Y9sRlX7 pic.twitter.com/VVohjq43e3— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) March 27, 2021
However, this did not last long. Development on a capitalist basis can only be uneven in a backward capitalist country. And the CPI and CPI-M’s promotion of the Stalinist theory of stages – first, the bourgeois-democratic stage and only later would the second stage, socialism, be possible – and so-called “people’s democracy” did not lead to any revolutionary alternative for the masses. Their political practice ended with them tailgating Congress and forming bourgeois coalitions with regional and national parties. The Stalinist policy combined state repression with support for the neoliberal policies of central governments.
This eventually led to peasant protests in Nandigram and Singur against Tata’s Nano plant in 2006, when the people of Nandigram were informed by the Haldia Development Authority that a large part of land was going to be seized and 70,000 people would lose their homes. A huge peasant movement ensued, during which some 14 protestors were killed by the police.
The Trinamool Congress was able to take advantage of this situation. [The All India Trinamool Congress, abbreviated to AITC or TMC, came into being when Mamata Banerjee broke with Congress and formed her own party in West Bengal, the “Trinamool Congress", back 1999.] It put itself at the head of that peasant movement, and as a result it was able to boost its electoral support.
However, during the past 10 years, there has been an increase in state repression under TMC rule. There have been arrests of activists and killings of student leaders. The TMC has a huge reserve of lumpen-proletarian support. It uses this against the working class of Bengal. There has also been a growing anti-TMC sentiment developing after 10 years of rule. Parliamentary cretinism and opportunism of the official Left, with its implementation of neo-liberal policies, created a political vacuum in Bengal politics that allowed the TMC to emerge as a force.
Also, the conditions of Muslims in West Bengal are also very poor. The lack of any improvement in their conditions has led to the development of Islamic fundamentalist outfits. In fact, capitalist exploitation accompanied by poverty and uneven development have created a hotbed for communal politics.
The BJP national government has accelerated communal polarisation through its citizenship laws and with its leaders such as Amit Shah announcing their intention to throw Muslims out of the country. Both the TMC and CPI-M have been losing their support base to the BJP. In fact, most of the important leaders of the TMC have joined the BJP. Suvenda Adhikari, the former right-hand man of TMC leader Mamta Banerjee, moved to the BJP last year and contested Mamta Banerjee in Nandigram. He is playing an important role in polarising the Bengali masses along ethnic lines.
In the present elections, CPI-M formed an alliance with the CPI, Congress, and the ISF (the so-called Indian Secular Front, led by the Islamic cleric Abbas Siddiqui). The other contenders in the Bengal elections are the BJP, which won some 18 seats in the parliamentary election in 2019.
Bengal has also seen some important protests in Bhangar against land acquisition by multinational corporations. These were led by another Stalinist party, the CPI(ML) Red Star. The CPI(ML) Liberation, Red Star and other ML currents are campaigning for “No vote to BJP”, and they have criticised the CPI-M for not considering the BJP as the prime enemy in these elections, and putting the TMC on a par with BJP. They have organised some big meetings under this slogan.
The “lesser evil” strategy of supporting the TMC cannot be an alternative, however. It failed to provide results even in states like Bihar in the November 2020 elections, where the Left won some 19 seats, but the BJP was able to form a government with more seats. This lesser evil politics of supporting one right-wing party against the extreme Hindu right-wing party even in the past has only aided the BJP in coming to power. This policy has led to the dilution and liquidation of the communist movement. In 2004, the Left was in an alliance with the United Progressive Government, led by Congress. The Left in the 2004 election joined Congress to defeat the BJP as the “prime enemy”. The Left did manage to win more than 50 seats in the 2004 parliamentary elections, but after that, its support has dwindled, and in the 2019 parliamentary elections, the CPI-M was reduced to only two parliamentary seats.
Kerala also has an important place in the history of the Renaissance Movement and revolutionary peasant movements. In the 1957 elections, Kerala was the first state in the world to have a communist party, the CPI, elected to power, and it did introduce some important reforms on land, and in education and healthcare. Kerala has a 90 percent literacy rate and a good human development index. However, the state depends mostly on income from Gulf workers. The Kerala government initially, in the 1960s and 1970s. was able to afford some welfare measures for the working class. This was possible due to the economic boom after WWII. But this came to an end and since the 1990s, there has been widespread privatisation and liberalisation in all spheres of life. There was a reversal of economic policy even in Kerala. More concessions could no longer be afforded by the ruling class. The governments of both the LDF [Left Democratic Front, centered around the communist parties] and the UDF [United Democratic Front, an alliance centred around the Congress party] resorted to privatisation in all spheres of life
The main political contenders today in the 140 seats of Kerala are the CPI-M-led LDF, and the Congress-led UDF. In recent years, both fronts have alternated in being in power. The CPI-M and Congress have both followed the same neoliberal policies of the central government. Land reforms in Kerala have not helped the tillers of the land, who are Dalits [the lowest caste], who were driven out to slums and colonies. The progressive gains of anti-caste, anti-colonial and anti-feudal struggles were thrown back under the “neo-liberal” era. Exploitation under both Congress and the CPI-M has led to huge land inequality and land concentration for the few. Harrison Estate owned by Tata has hundreds of thousands of acres of land under their illegal control. The current Left Front government, instead of confiscating the illegal encroachment on this land, has been arresting the left activists, Dalits and tribal leaders who were fighting against this corporate land grab. Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI-M Politburo member and Chief Minister of Kerala, for example, appointed a neo-liberal economist Gita Gopinath as his chief economic adviser as soon as the Left Front came to power in 2016. Later she became the IMF Chief economist. The Kerala government has been at the forefront of implementing policies of the Modi government such as the GST Tax and NEET exams for medical students. The current Left government in Kerala has also been identified with corruption and gold smuggling scandals. In its desperation to cling onto power, the CPI-M leadership has indulged in Islamophobia and has also been arresting Maoist ideologues and especially Muslim activists under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and other draconian laws. It is alleging the Muslim League is a jihadist party in Kerala, while the same CPI-M is in alliance with the Muslim League in Tamil Nadu.
The Left government has used the Goondas Act to arrest those fighting against government policies. It is also to be noted that seven Maoists were killed by the Kerala Police in what seem very dubious circumstances. The CPI-M government in the past was able to offer welfare measures to the people, but at the same time, they were implementing policies that benefitted the interests of the powerful businessmen, Gautham Adani and Anil Ambani. National highways and ports have all been constructed based on PPP (Public-Private Partnership) projects. The Rs. 650,000,000,000 [close to one billion US dollars] International Seaport at Vizhinjam, a natural port located 16km from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, has also been built under a public-private partnership with the company of Gautam Adani, another of Modi’s men. In an attempt to excuse itself, the CPI-M says that development has nothing to do with ideology.
The state debt has increased to nearly Rs. 300,000,000,000,000 [40 billion US dollars]. The per capita debt of the state is one of the highest in India. There is an exodus of youth to the Gulf and other countries for employment. The life of the working class has dramatically worsened due to the austerity measures of the state and central governments. The conditions of the masses further deteriorated due to the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
Assam is also holding elections for its 126 assembly seats. The BJP government has been in power in Assam since 2016. The ruling alliance, led by the BJP, is opposed by the Congress-led alliance. It is a grand alliance comprising Congress, AIDUF, CPI-M and CPI-ML-Liberation. AIDUF (the All India United Democratic Front) is an organisation led by Badruddin Ajmal, a business tycoon. CPI-ML-Liberation is going alone in one of the seats. Regional parties, such as Raijor Dal led by peasant leader Akhil Gogai, who is currently imprisoned, are also opposing the BJP.
#AssamElections | Election Commission announces re-election in 4 polling booths in Assamhttps://t.co/r1Q7oRbHFp pic.twitter.com/SW8aaeBVY3— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) April 10, 2021
The main slogan of the opposition parties has been to defeat the BJP. There was huge opposition against Modi’s discriminatory citizenship laws and the centralist attitude of the Modi government. The major issue in Assam is centred on ethnic divisions. Assamese nationalism is opposed to Bengali Muslims, Bengali Hindus and tribal groups who entered Assam during British rule. There was also a huge influx of Bengali Muslims and Hindus to Assam during the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. The Assamese student union led huge movements against Bengali Muslims and the situation came close to a huge massacre of Bengali Muslims in 1985 and this led to the Assam Accord being signed by the Indian Government and AASU (Assamese Student Union). AASU later developed into the AGP (Assam Gana Parishad), which later still merged with the BJP. It has formed the current government since 2016. There were also two stints of Congress-led governments. Most of these governments were immersed in corruption and the life of people has not improved. Many states, such as Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, were formed out of the state of Assam.
The Assam tea workers are an extremely exploited section of the working class, who earn less than the minimum wage. These 750,000 workers are struggling for an increase in their daily wages of Rs.167. The tea workers have about a 30 percent presence in all assembly seats. Communist-led trade unions are working among these workers. The successive governments have promised higher wages but never implemented them. Even the Rs.50 wage increase on the Rs.167 ordered by the government for the tea workers just before the elections has been stayed by the Gauhati High Court following a petition by the employers.
Successive capitalist governments have never bothered to do anything to improve the life of the working class in Assam. In these conditions, nationality, ethnicity, religion and caste issues are accelerated by the general crisis of capitalism. The truth is that there is no way out for Assamese people under capitalism.
Tamil Nadu, similarly to Kerala, is the traditional ground for the communist movement and the Dravidian movement. [The early Dravidian movement led by Periyar E. V. Ramasamy was calling for an independent Dravidian State, to include all four Dravidian speaking states of South India, but in the end this remained limited to Tamil Nadu. The around 245 million Dravidians are an ethnolinguistic group in South Asia who speak one of the Dravidian languages].
Periyar, the founder of the Dravida Kazhagam self-respect movement, campaigned against superstition and for the abolition of the caste system. The self-respect movement arose due to discrimination against working-class castes in terms of access to jobs and education. It is considered to be a movement against Brahmanism and Brahmin domination in all spheres of life. Tamil Nadu has a huge population of Dalits and lower castes, and the positive reservation for Dalits and lower castes was considered a gain for those layers. However, in the current conditions of a deepening crisis, the bourgeois parties are using caste reservation to divide the working class.
High-octane campaign for Tamil Nadu elections ends, polling on April 6— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) April 4, 2021
Read @ANI Story | https://t.co/e3Osxm6VyL pic.twitter.com/yybkBopRuc
Tamil Nadu is one of the most industrialised states in India. They have what are considered good social indicators, like Kerala. But overall, development has been uneven. There is huge inequality in the concentration of land, for example. The bulk of healthcare and education is under private control. In Tamil Nadu, we have witnessed huge industrial development in the cities together with the prevalence of the caste system and backwardness in the villages. It has also seen many honour killings for inter-caste marriage, second only to Uttar Pradesh. The two tumbler system for drinking is still prevalent in the villages of Tamil Nadu. This is a system of discrimination against Dalits and other lower-caste Hindus in which they are given separate cups to drink from. This uneven and combined development is a general feature across the whole of India.
The offshoots of the Dravidian movement are the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and AIADMK (the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). One or other of these two Dravidian parties have ruled in Tamil Nadu for the past 50 years. The present AIADMK has been in power for the past 10 years. It is considered to be the puppet government of the Modi regime. The DMK has been led by Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, son of late chief minister Karunandhi. The DMK, although claiming to be secular, has previously made electoral alliances with the BJP government. Both these parties when in power have been immersed in corruption. The elections in Tamil Nadu are all about money, with both parties offering money for votes.
The DMK is presently leading the grand alliance against the current AIADMK rule. Tamil Nadu has seen a huge anti-Modi and anti-BJP wave such as the “GO BACK MODI” movement. The people of Tamil Nadu are opposed to the centralist tendencies of the BJP of “one language and one culture.” There were serious protests against the New Education Policy in 2020, the economic reservation for the upper castes and the NEET medical entrance exam.
The BJP, in alliance with AIADMK is contesting 20 seats, although the BJP is no serious force in Tamil Nadu. The CPI and CPI-M are part of the DMK-led secular alliance and are contesting 12 seats. The Communist parties are in an alliance with the DMK to defeat the AIADMK-BJP front, as the BJP is considered to be a major threat in this election and the DMK-led secular alliance don’t want the BJP to set their footprints in Tamil Nadu.
The Dravidian parties’ solutions to the conditions being faced by the masses have been confined to managing capitalism with some reforms here and there, combined with vast levels of corruption under both parties. The wages of industrial and sanitation workers remain well below the minimum wage. The right of union organisation for workers and students is curtailed by both the two parties when they are in office. The fact remains that both these Dravidian parties offer no alternative to unemployment, poverty and the feudal backwardness suffered by the masses.
Puducherry is a union territory and has 33 assembly seats. A “union territory”, unlike the states of India, which have their own governments, are “federal territories” governed, partially or totally by the central government. The Indian National Congress has a strong presence in Puducherry and the current local Congress government is led by Naryanasamy, who is the chief minister.
The BJP, with the help of the territory’s Lieutenant Governor, indirectly interferes in the affairs of the territory. The BJP government at the central level has used the Lieutenant Governor to bring down the local government led by the opposition parties. Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, an ex-police officer, stopped giving consent to the bills passed by the Union territory. The BJP, wherever it is not in power, buys off the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of Congress and other parties and pulls down the government. Horse trading and pulling state governments down has always been practised by all the bourgeois parties who have been in power nationally. The Congress-led government in Puducherry fell on February 19th of this year, when two of Congress and one DMK MLAs withdrew support for the government. Puducherry does, however, have a strong trade union movement, and the CPI-ML is contesting independently in one of the seats.
Reformism and sectarianism
The Communist parties CPI, CI-M, CPI(ML) and all currents of the left have a big presence across India. India also has a very strong trade union movement. The communist parties, led by the CPI-M, as well as all the central trade union federations, are supporting the opposition led by the DMK alliance in Tamil Nadu. The CPI-ML-Liberation is also contesting in 12 seats in Tamil Nadu, while it is supporting the DMK-led opposition alliance in other seats.
In West Bengal, the CPI-M, CPI, and Congress-led alliance are opposing TMC rule and the BJP alliance. It is a triangular contest, with the BJP trying to muster the forces to form a government in Bengal. The CPI-ML-Liberation are contesting independently in 12 seats, while in other seats it is campaigning with other ML parties like the CPI(ML) Red Star, with the immediate tactic of aiming to defeat the BJP. Red star is contesting in four seats independently, and in other constituencies, they are campaigning to defeat the BJP. CPI-ML-Liberation leader Dippanakar Bhattacharya and CPI(ML) RedStar leader Ramachandran have criticised as suicidal the CPI-M tactics of seeing both TMC and BJP as equal forces to be defeated and they say the BJP is the prime enemy to be defeated.
In Assam, the CPI-M and CPI-ML-liberation are a part of a grand alliance led by Congress to defeat the BJP. In Kerala, the CPI-M-led LDF government is fighting it out against the Congress and BJP. The BJP is making every effort to polarise these elections, and is thus trying to get a foothold in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The traditional left, led by the CPI, CPI-M and CPI(ML), offers no real alternative to the right-wing BJP. The past Congress government’s policies of privatisation and liberalisation, accompanied with corruption and austerity, worsened the conditions of the masses. This is what helped the right-wing BJP to come to power in 2014. The Stalinist left – in the shape of the various communist parties – has a big responsibility in all this, having failed to offer an alternative to Congress and its anti-worker policies, thus being unable to fill the political vacuum on the left with an independent political stance and revolutionary policy.
The policy of the left, in general, has been to trail the bourgeois parties led by Congress and regional parties such as the RJD and DMK. The Stalinist left in these assembly elections has put forward the tactic of lesser-evil politics to support Congress and some regional parties against the right-wing BJP.
Thus, the CPI and CPI-M are content with fighting for 12 seats along with the DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu, on the pretext that standing independently would split the votes and put reactionaries in power. The bourgeois media and layers supporting Congress, regional parties, petty-bourgeois layers, middle-class intellectuals and capitalist agents in the working-class movement all exert enormous pressure on the trade union movement not to stand independently.
The founding fathers of the communist movement, Marx and Engels, had a very clear position on what communists should do in elections where the choice is between various bourgeois formations. In their “Address to Central Committee of the Communist League'' in March 1850, they stated the following:
“The immediate result of the overthrow of the existing governments will be the election of a national representative body. Here the proletariat must take care: 1) that by sharp practices local authorities and government commissioners do not, under any pretext whatsoever, exclude any section of workers; 2) that workers’ candidates are nominated everywhere in opposition to bourgeois-democratic candidates. As far as possible they should be League members and their election should be pursued by all possible means. Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body…”
It is here clearly stated what the revolutionary class policy of workers parties should be in elections. Marx and Engels also come out in clear terms against the opportunist arguments of the bourgeois liberals and also against the call to boycott elections by the sectarians.
The Bolshevik revolution, led by Lenin and Trotsky, was victorious only because of their independent revolutionary policy and class assertion. Lenin and Trotsky were against making any electoral alliance with bourgeois forces such as the Cadets to fight the far-right fascist forces of the Black Hundreds in Russia, whereas Mensheviks supported the bourgeois on the premise that the Russian Revolution was a bourgeois revolution and therefore it has to led by the bourgeoisie parties. Lenin and Trotsky stood on the same page when it came to the treacherous role of the bourgeois parties in the revolution, and explained that the latter would side with feudalism against the revolutionary proletariat. The Russian Revolution was victorious in October and made way for the first workers’ state.
The workers' democracy that existed under Lenin and Trotsky in the first years after the revolution was destroyed after Lenin’s death. The Civil War, the death of many workers, the stifling of workers’ democracy and the isolation of the revolution, all prepared the conditions for the degeneration of the workers’ state and rise of the bureaucracy under Stalin. In the place of the genuine workers’ democracy of the early days, we saw the emergence of the dictatorship of Stalin, which reflected the material interests of a privileged bureaucratic caste.
The Comintern, under the leadership of Stalin, in this period abandoned the analysis of Lenin and Trotsky and mechanically put forward the two-stage theory for backward colonial countries as the path of revolution. Instead of socialist revolution, now the emphasis was placed on the democratic revolution; only much later would the second stage come, that of socialist revolution. All the parties and groups that emanate from the Stalinist tradition in India today follow the same policy, and that explains why they all, in one form or another, seek alliances with this or that bourgeois party.
There was no long period of so-called “people’s democracy” after the Russian revolution. Trotsky had come to the conclusion in 1906 – which Lenin came to in 1917 – that under the domination of imperialism, bourgeois-democratic demands could be achieved only under a dictatorship of the proletariat. Even in China, where the leaders of the Communist Party adhered to the theory of two stages, very quickly the regime that came to power in 1949 discovered that there was no bourgeoisie that they could ally with.
The Stalinist programme of “people's democracy” only serves as a cover for bourgeois rule. In the epoch of imperialism, there are only two alternatives, as Trotsky posed, of either “Dictatorship of the proletariat or dictatorship of capital”. “People's democracy” was achieved in Russia in the form of the Kerensky government in February 1917, or the regime of Chiang Kai Sheik in the 1920s, or the present Nepalese government after the failed revolution there. “People's democracy” is only a cover for the rule of capital.
The Stalinist left in India today continues to follow the same policy of two stages. They form electoral alliances and popular fronts with the bourgeois parties and petty-bourgeois organisations. In 1917, it was shown by the concrete living experience of a backward country like Russia that there is no Chinese wall between democratic and socialist revolution. The workers of Russia did not go through decades of capitalist development before achieving their socialist revolution. At present, the productive forces nationally and internationally have developed sufficiently for a socialist revolution. As Lenin said, the imperialist era is a period of socialist revolution.
The Stalinist Left are therefore not putting any revolutionary alternative to the working classes. They are either forming broad alliances with capitalist parties or sectarian alliances of only unity of the “revolutionary left”. The Stalinist policy of supporting one evil (the right-wing party) against another evil (the Hindu right-wing BJP) leaves no room for a revolutionary alternative for the masses. The communist parties are held prisoner to this theory and are incapable of offering a revolutionary alternative to the masses and cling on to their unholy alliance with bourgeois parties. This policy of class collaboration risks liquidating the communist movement in India and reducing its role to only being the left wing of capitalism.
The way forward
The global economic crisis of 2008 aggravated the conditions of the masses. The Indian economy, being an integral part of the world economy, cannot escape economic recession and crisis. The right-wing BJP government for the past seven years has attacked the rights of the working class, of the minorities, and especially the Muslims and Dalits. It has used its governors, its enforcement directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation and other central agencies to either bring down the state governments or to bind them to the BJP’s policies. Its financial and budget packages are nothing but the privatisation of the public sector, of the railways, insurance and banking sectors, and so on. There has also been a consistent rise in fuel and gas prices, leading to greater suffering for the masses.
Elections in the current situation should be used by the communists to take the revolutionary agenda to the masses. The Stalinist left, instead of putting revolutionary demands to the people against the right-wing BJP, has reduced itself to playing second fiddle to the capitalist parties. They have become de facto agents of the bourgeois parties. India has seen one of the world’s biggest general strikes when nearly 250 million workers participated.
The ruling class parties offer money for votes and nothing else. The Communist parties should have denounced all this and called for a united left front to defeat the BJP. A united left front should field worker candidates wherever they have a presence with immediate demands of the people such as the withdrawal of Modi’s labour code and his anti-farmer laws, and combined this with revolutionary demands such as:
The expropriation of feudal estates; the expropriation of the private banks, multinational companies and all major industries; the nationalisation of the education and healthcare sectors and bringing all of these under state and workers control, together with the formation of workers’ and youth action committees.
There is a lot of talk about the Modi regime being fascist. This is to ignore the reality of the situation and to also to forget history itself. Unlike under German and Italian fascism, India is a bourgeois democracy – with a semi-feudal and semi-capitalist economy – which still has elections every five years. There is no ban on the trade union movement, which was the situation in Germany and Italy.
India is not living under any fascist dictatorship, nor a military bonapartist dictatorship like in Myanmar. India has a powerful trade union and workers’ movement that has the forces to counter the right-wing fascist forces such as the RSS. An inspiring peasant movement is also going on in Delhi. Hundreds of thousands of peasants have organised a siege in the capital for the past four months. The workers have mobilised in India, participating in general strikes on many occasions. Working-class strength has risen massively since independence. The working class is a huge revolutionary reserve against any kind of fascist forces in India.
The problem lies in the Stalinist leadership of the several Communist Parties and in the leadership of the trade unions, who put the brakes on the working class. Although they have called powerful one-day general strikes, they are content to leave it at that and go no further. The Modi government and the Indian capitalist class can live with the occasional general strike, as long as the workers do not go further. What is required is to organise an all-out extended general strike, uniting the workers and the farmers, to fight until the anti-labour laws and anti-farmer laws are withdrawn and the Modi government is brought down. This is the only alternative to crisis and poverty-ridden masses.
For this to happen, the traditional Left in India must break with its policy of allying with this or that bourgeois party. It must present itself as an independent working-class force. Unfortunately, the present Stalinist leadership represents the main obstacle to the development of a revolutionary alternative.
The Hindu right-wing BJP can only be defeated through a revolutionary policy and an independent class assertion of the communist movement in India. Neither the Stalinist policy of opportunist class collaboration (lesser evil politics) at parliamentary level, nor the sectarianism of the ultra-left variant of Stalinism (“social fascism”) and Maoist individual adventurism can be an alternative for the masses.
Instead of isolating themselves in the world of sterile sectarianism, the revolutionary communists should orientate to the ranks of the traditional Left, as well as the trade unions, and patiently explain what needs to be done. As Lenin explained in his Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, even the fact that some unions have a reactionary position, should not stop communists from working inside them and patiently explaining and winning over the forces over to a revolutionary programme.
The religious hatred promoted by the BJP has to be fought with working-class solidarity across all ethnic and religious divisions. Only a Bolshevik policy of class struggle, independent class assertion, putting forward the revolutionary agenda, promoting a United Front of the Workers, together with a policy of internationalism, can offer an alternative for the success of the revolutionary movement in India. That is what the supporters of the IMT in India fight for. Join us!