New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) today released its much-discussed draft resolution passed in the 22nd central committee (CC) meeting held in Kolkata between January 19-21. The meeting had become controversial as the party general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s resolution was defeated by the central committee by a majority vote, after which Yechury had offered to resign.
Whether to have any political truck with the Congress or not has become an issue that has virtually split the party in recent times. Yechury, backed by the CC members of West Bengal, Tripura, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, is largely seen to favour an alliance with the Congress to take on the BJP. His predecessor Prakash Karat, who enjoys the support of members from Kerala and some other states, is, however, vehemently opposed to the idea.
Such was the division, that the party meeting, the said focus of which was to devise strategies and tactics to counter BJP’s “economic and communal onslaught on working people”, centred around only this debate.
Eventually, Karat’s formulation of “no alliance, no understanding with the Congress” was approved while Yechury’s marginally different formulation that the party should realise its goals “without entering into an electoral alliance or front with the ruling class parties” was rejected by a 55-31 vote in a 91 member central committee.
Given this context, the approved draft resolution, the one advocated by Karat, becomes significant. A careful reading of the resolution, however, shows that either the party infighting was blown out of proportion or the actual contention between the two camps is something else and definitely not on the question of whether or not to ally with the Congress.
One can say so because the similarities between the understanding of both camps are too glaring to overlook. In contrast, the so-called differences are too negligible to even be noticed.
In an interview to The Wire days after the meeting, Yechury had made it clear that the party thinks that India is facing a four-pronged attack by the Narendra Modi government’s sustained thrust on neo-liberal economic policies that have led to rising inequality, its capitulation before the US, attempts by it to systematically undermine constitutional institutions, and Sangh parivar’s communal onslaught.
On all these points, both Yechury and Karat are on the same page. The same is the case with the assessment of the party regarding international and national political situations.
As far as the political line is concerned, which deals with the party’s possible association with the Congress, the draft resolution lacks clarity.
For instance, the resolution approved by a majority vote does not equate BJP and Congress, a factor which as was widely perceived as the root of the difference between the two camps. Karat, in ruling out any alliance with the Congress, had been of the opinion that both BJP and Congress were “ruling class parties” inimical to working people’s interests. But this distinction is unclear in the resolution as it says the BJP “is not an ordinary bourgeois party as the fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh guides and dominates it”.
The distinction is made clearer in the section, “Position of Political Parties”:
The BJP, as the Party Programme points out, is “a reactionary party with a divisive and communal platform, the reactionary content of which is based on hatred against other religions, intolerance and ultra-nationalist chauvinism. The BJP is no ordinary bourgeois party as the fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh guides and dominates it. When the BJP is in power, the RSS gets access to the instruments of State power and the State machinery.” The BJP is run and controlled by the fascistic RSS.
At present, the BJP is in government solely or in coalition in 19 out of 29 states. It has a majority in the Lok Sabha and has emerged as the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha. For the first time the President and Vice President both belong to the BJP-RSS stock.
The Congress party has the same class character as that of the BJP. It represents the interests of the big bourgeois-landlord classes. Its political influence and organisation has been declining and it has conceded the space as the premier ruling class party to the BJP. The Congress professes to be secular but it has proved to be incapable of consistently fighting the communal forces. The Congress had pioneered the neo-liberal agenda and forged the strategic alliance with the United States when it was in power. As the main opposition party, it continues to advocate these policies.
The political representatives of the big bourgeoisie at present in our country are the BJP and the Congress. Based on our programmatic understanding, the Congress represents the interests of the big bourgeoisie and landlords and adopts pro-imperialist policies. Therefore, we cannot have a tactical line which treats them as allies or partners in a united front.
But it is the BJP which is in power today and given its basic link to the RSS, it is the main threat. So, there cannot be a line of treating both the BJP and the Congress as equal dangers.
Our approach should be to cooperate with the Congress and other secular opposition parties in parliament on agreed issues. Outside parliament, we should cooperate with all secular opposition forces for a broad mobilisation of people against the communal threat. We should foster joint actions of class and mass organisations, in such a manner that can draw in the masses following the Congress and other bourgeois parties.
Such an understanding diffuses the difference between Yechury and Karat entirely and makes one wonder about the fuss that was created in the CC meeting. After all, Yechury’s resolution also proposed against any “electoral alliance or front with ruling class parties.”
Further in defining its political line, the resolution goes on to say, “Given the serious challenge posed by the Hindutva forces both inside and outside the government it is essential to build platforms for the widest mobilisation of all secular and democratic forces. The emphasis should be on building unity of people to fight the communal forces at the grassroots. These are not to be seen as political or electoral alliances.”
Again, in another point, the resolution says, “…the main task is to defeat the BJP and its allies by rallying all the secular and democratic forces. However, this has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress party.”
Thus, what is clear is that the difference between the two camps is only semantic, the word “understanding” carrying the heavy burden of distinguishing between the two factions.
At best, the resolution appears confusing. What does the party actually mean by no “understanding” with the Congress when it is ready to build non-electoral, issue-based alliances with the grand-old party?
The resolution appears to have resolved a question, which had been the most-contested issue over the last two years. Yet, the conflict within the party is real, as most accounts suggest. Yechury offer to resign from the general secretary’s post and party members subsequently preventing him to do so was widely discussed. Party members from Kerala and West Bengal have shown their disaffection with each other quite frequently. The Yechury faction, in various statements, have indicated that it was trying to consolidate opinion in its favour before the party congress in Hyderabad this April.
Sources close to the CPI(M) say that the tension in the party lies somewhere else, not as is being portrayed by the party. For years, the Bengal camp has been powerful, emboldened by the party’s unhindered 34-year rule in the state. With the party’s fall, as spectacular as its rise, other factions have become much more assertive. Kerala, where the party is in power and where the party’s principal opposition is Congress, is leading that front.
The Bengal unit, on the other hand, has been struggling as recent bypoll results suggest. It contested the last assembly polls jointly with Congress but ended up as a junior partner in the assembly. With the BJP rising in the state, the party clearly lacks an independent strategy and is looking for Congress support to survive.
“It is a fight for supremacy between factions on non-existent issues. And it is being played out by two leaders whose association/rivalry goes back to university days,” an UP-based political analyst, sympathetic to the Left, told The Wire on the condition of anonymity.
“The debate within the party throws up more questions than answers. What would the party do in a hung parliament scenario in 2019? Will it support the non-BJP parties to stop the BJP from forming a government or not? In trying to build a non-BJP, non-Congress government, will it ally with regional parties, which may also want to join hands with the Congress,” he said.
“The vision for an alternative policy framework is fine as a long-term strategy but as a parliamentary party, political situations from time to time may force the party to take an uncomfortable stance. For instance, it had to support the UPA-1 government to prevent the BJP from forming the government. Previously, it has also been a part of alliances, of which BJP was also a part, to prevent Congress from coming to power,” he added.
The lack of political clarity that the analyst speaks of shows itself in the party’s confusing resolution. With 2019 general elections only a year away, and the party infighting waiting to escalate in April’s party congress, CPI(M)’s struggle with itself is far from over.