Sunday, June 15, 2014

Indian Left at a Crossroads

Prasenjit Bose,  a Researcher in Economics, Political Activist, has an interesting article on the debacle of the 2014 election for the Indian Left in Pragoti (a Sanskrit word meaning Progress), which I first saw in the Canadian Socialist Project website.

Indian politics is exceedingly complex and Bose seems well informed  as he presents a mass of data, facts and analysis. He presents a lengthy and devastating critique of the shortcomings of the Marxist-Leninist left in India. There is a lot to agree with in his conclusion.

Serious debates and discussions need to be initiated within the Left regarding the ideological-political course it needs to adopt today. On the one hand, getting co-opted by the neoliberal establishment would be suicidal; the Left will lose its raison d'être if it gives up on the struggle against class exploitation and social oppression and opts for collaboration with big capitalists and their establishment. On the other hand, dogmatic adherence to the shibboleths inherited from the failed socialist models of the twentieth century will only lead to further decay and ossification.

Special emphasis should be given to re-building the Left movement in Indian conditions, marked by an utterly imperfect, hugely unequal and yet functional, multi-party democracy; rather than trying to imitate models from abroad. The issues raised by veteran peasant leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah, regarding social justice and the need to ensure adequate representation of socially deprived sections within the leadership of the Left needs to be seriously addressed. Unless there are more women, Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims within the Left leadership, the neglect of social issues will continue. Most importantly, there is no way forward for the Left in India unless there is a vigorous effort to establish broad-based unity of all Left and democratic forces on a principled basis.

Is the CPI(M) still capable of bringing about this radical self-restructuring and infuse fresh energy within the Left movement as a whole? We are at an inflection point now. If things continue to remain the same and a movement for renewal gets stymied within the CPI(M), the birth of a new political force within the Left will become inevitable. With the Modi-regime taking its shape at the centre, time is running out.

As a decidedly non-expert, I am bothered that Bose, like most writers on India I've read, writes about only a portion of the Indian left--namely, those that derive from the Marxist-Leninist tradition and practice, even as he subjects the practices of that left to severe criticism and calls for a thorough-going ideological reconstruction.

There is another Indian left. The Congress Socialist Party (CSP) was founded in 1934 as a socialist caucus within the Indian National Congress. After Independence, there were various Socialist Parties which had a significant role in the country's politics. Jayaprakash NarayanGeorge Fernandes, and Ram Manohar Lohia were influential political thinkers and actors from the 1940s throughout the 1970s. M. N. Roy was a colleague of Lenin who later broke with Stalin and developed a Radical Humanist Movement, which if not formally socialist was certainly part of the left. There is even a continuing  socialist/social democratic strain in the corrupt and family dynastic Indian National Congress (INC) as reflected in the 2013 two-volume publication, An Indian Social Democracy: Integrating Markets, Democracy and Social Justice edited by Sunil Khilnani  and Manmohan Malhoutra.

Let's look at the two lefts. 

In the 2014 elections, the Marxist-Leninist "Left" got 23,525,488 votes (Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India,and All India Forward Bloc.)

Leaving aside the INC, parties which identify or are identified as socialist or social democratic got a much larger vote.  After all, the Samajwadi Party (SP; literally, Socialist Party) received a 2014 vote of  18,672,916 alone almost equal to the M-L left.  

Combined together, the parties of the non-Communist left received a 2014 vote of 91,730,386 [All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Janata Dal (United) {JD(U)}, Janata Dal (Secular) {JD(S)}, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Samajwadi Party, All India Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Biju Janata Dal (BJD)]

Dr. Klaus Julian Voll, former Diplomat, former Director of Friedrich Ebert Foundation in in India, writing before the election on the website of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Green Political Foundation. 
European ideologies with their clear demarcations are only partially applicable in India. The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not really viable. The generation of Indian socialists is extinct. There is no genuine social-democratic party even though, given the socio-economic conditions on the ground, including the widespread poverty, another social-democratic space certainly exists.
Although the BJP won a majority of parliamentary seats, they received only 31% of the popular vote and 39% with their allies.  That means that 61% of Indian voters rejected the BJP.  There is certainly room for a new Indian left.  It will emerge, in my opinion, as much or more from the non-Communist left as the Communist left.


Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) is a centre-left Indian political party with political presence mainly in Bihar and Jharkhand. Janata Dal (United) party mentor and patron is the veteran socialist leader George Fernandes.

Wikipedia defines its ideology as integral humanism secularism social democracy

5,992,196   2014 Vote

The Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)) (Kannada: ಜನತಾ ದಳ (ಜಾತ್ಯಾತೀತ)) is a centre-left Indian political party[4] led by former Prime Minister of India H.D. Deve Gowda.

Wikpedia defines its ideology as Social democracy Secularism

3,731,481 2014 Vote

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (lit. "Dravidian Progress Federation"[2]) (founded 1949, Madras Presidency, India), a former member of the United Progressive Alliance is a state political party in the states of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, India. It is a Dravidian party

Wikipedia defines its ideology as Social Democracy Populism Democratic socialism

9,636,430 2014 Vote

Samajwadi Party (SP; literally, Socialist Party; founded October 4, 1992) is a recognised state political party in India based in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). It describes itself as a democratic socialist party and is mainly representing the interests of a caste grouping called Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

Wikipedia describes its ideology as democratic socialism populism

18,672,916 2014 Vote

The All India Trinamool Congress (Bengali: সর্বভারতীয় তৃণমূল কংগ্রেস; Hindi: सर्वभारतीय तृणमूल कांग्रेस; abbreviated AITMC, TMC or Trinamool Congress) is a sub-national state-level ("state party") ruling political party in West Bengal.

Wikipedia describes its ideology as Populism Democratic Socialism Secularism

Party constitution defines it as “socialist”

21,259,684 2014 Vote

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) (Hindi: बहुजन समाज पार्टी) is a national political party in India. It was formed mainly to represent Bahujans (literally meaning "People in majority"), referring to people from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes (OBC) as well as minorities. The party claims to be inspired by the philosophy of B. R. Ambedkar. The BSP was founded by a Dalit charismatic leader Kanshi Ram in 1984, who was succeeded by his protege Mayawati in 2003. The party's political symbol is an Elephant. The party was the third most-voted party in the 2014 Indian general election, but still failed to win any seat in the 16th Lok Sabha.[1] The BSP has its main base in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Wikipedia describes its ideology as Dalit Socialism  Secularism   Social Engineering

22,946,182 2014 Vote

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) (lit. All India Anna Dravidian Progress Federation) is a state political party in the states of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, India. It is currently in power in Tamil Nadu. It is a Dravidian party founded by M.G. Ramachandran (popularly known as MGR) in 1972 as a breakaway faction of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Wikipedia describes its ideology as Social democracy, Populism

18,115,825 2014 Vote
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) (Oriya: ବିଜୁ ଜନତା ଦଳ) is a state political party of the Indian state of Odisha  
Wikipedia describes its ideology as Populism Social liberalism Social democracy

9,491,497  2014 vote

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