Parliamentary Left seems to have lost steam – organizationally as well as electorally. CPI(M) was prudent enough to admit well in advance that it would not do well. The results only a testimony to where CPI as well as CPI(M) stand today. It is not only the decline in number of seats in provincial Assemblies and Parliament but also its strength across different sectors where it organized peasants, agricultural labourers, students and workers in industry. This becomes a matter of concern when the politics is based on cadres. The other kind of politics which is cadre based is that of RSS and it has scored victory for BJP in collaboration with/for corporate capital. It implies that the floor is gradually slipping from under the feet.
Ajoy Bhawan, the CPI headquarters, does not look the same today. Once bustling with cadres it wears a desolate look with a few leaders around carrying the burden of a party, which seems to be dying a slow death. The situation seems further grim when one looks at the near alarming absence of a second line of leadership. For instance, the student mass fronts in the past years have not contributed to party leadership. Both CPI and CPI(M) face this crisis. The new leadership, which would take reins of the Party once the current batch of leadership is gone is either lacking or has dismal training in Marxism leave aside their experience of mass politics. Also these parties have failed to grow beyond the geographical areas, which used to be their strongholds. Even in those places they are already on decline. CPI(M) in West Bengal or Kerala or CPI and CPI(ML) in Bihar are examples of this trend.
The death like silence at Ajoy Bhawan tells the story of where Communist Party of India stands today. On the other hand, last year CPI and CPI (ML) Liberation, organised rallies in the state of Bihar, which was marked by huge attendance. In fact, observers stated that the number far exceeded expectation of the leadership raising questions of disconnect that is happening between the situation on the ground and the leadership. There are many issues that have culminated into this decline – ranging from gradual dissipation of political distinctness that the Left earlier stood for to the way internal culture of the Left has resulted in disgruntlement within the parties. The politics of alliance hollowed its mass base across states while its failure to distinguish between Party and the Government in places like West Bengal generated all sorts of deviations.
It is no surprise that the spaces vacated by them have been usurped by political formations such as Aam Admi Party (AAP). An example of these trends are not only found in CPI(M) where a section of active members left the party on the issue of supporting Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential candidature but also in CPI where its students wing, AISF, which revived a near death in Bihar and went on to win Patna University students union elections, is witnessing demoralising effect due to the recent developments in the state party. The way recent revival of the AISF brought new exuberance among the students had been historic. However, their spirit watered down due to internal squabbles within Party over candidature issues as well as over the issue of alliance with the ruling JD (U). The parliamentary Left, for many reasons, cannot read the signs of popular disenchantment with the ruling class politics expressed through different political parties. The space which has been created in recent past by crisis of capitalism and the unabashed looting of public money by corporate houses with active direct and indirect support of political parties have not been used by this Left. For instance, in a situation of high food inflation, growing costs of health and education and what stopped Left from taking to people issues such as how state does not mind doling out lakhs of crores to corporate houses as bad loans or tax waivers but when it comes to providing basic facilities it talks of resource crunch. A development paradigm that is starkly distinct from those of the other political formations would have touched the cords even though the past history might have created some hurdles.
When the media under dictat of the corporate capital created what BJP calls the ‘Modi wave’ it also become amply clear that people looked for an alternative to the Congress regime, which pauperised the masses. Along with this the opportunist alliances of regional political parties is also loosing its credibility. They sustain on the national scene because of the decline of the two national parties and absence of an alternative to BJP and Congress. What India, in its electoral history, is yet to see is a national alliance of Left forces in this situation. There is an obvious situation of a two-party system with the regional formations ultimately making a choice to be party to either of the two ideological positions (UPA or NDA), which are not very different except in how they pitch the class politics of private capital. An credible alternative to this political situation can come only from an alliance of the Left front, which bases itself on a concrete political and economic discourse counterposed to that of UPA and NDA and is driven by the strength of the cadres vis-à-vis that of the corporate capital. Third front patched up through temporary conglomerate of ideologically diverse forces cannot be a viable alternative in long term. An electoral experiment as seen in the case of De Linke in Germany or Antarsya or Syriza in Greece do open up possibilities of left front with CPI, CPI(M) and CPI (ML) coming together. Setting aside the sectarian politics and keeping mind the common political goal they may think towards a common platform.
As a micro-level case – Bihar shows how the decline of the Left has been quite prominent and how, finally, only political forces with a cadre base are able to sustain their base. The General elections of 2014 showed how forces like RJD or JD (U) fight battles of electoral survival because their history has been of inconsistent politics and political allegiance. They get compelled to become part of bigger/national political formations – either BJP or Congress. BJP remains a potent force because it’s political rhetoric of being pro-corporate under garb of ‘development’ is effectively supported by the strong cadre base on the ground. As far as the regional forces like JD(U) or RJD are concerned they do have a concept of cadre based organisation but flourish on allegiances to a political satrap. In this battle for political survival social identities become an important tool to mobilise the voters diverting attention from the issues of everyday struggles. The role of the Left ought to be different in such a situation – to bring to fore the contradictions of this politico-economic order, which it has failed miserably to do at the cost of its waning influence. Third front is not the alternative as shown by the post-1989 politics in the country. This was the time when the right wing assertion driven by corporate capital could have been effectively countered by the working class politics of the left had they not faltered along way.