India: Congress wins the general election – CPI and CPM punished for their class collaboration policies

The recent elections in India have been hailed by the bourgeois media as a turn a way from the left. This is not the case at all. What is true is that the policies of the two main Communist parties have been such that the masses could not identify in them a clear alternative to Congress. The Communist parties paid a dear price for this. Now the task is to learn from this experience and break with class-collaborationist policies.

The recent general election in India marks an important change in the situation. The crushing defeat of the reactionary BJP and the victory of the bourgeois Congress led by Sonia Gandhi expresses the striving for change on the part of the Indian masses. But this mood has not been intercepted by the Communist parties that have suffered a serious setback in both of their strongholds, Kerala and West Bengal and consequently on a national scale. Both the CPI and the CPM stand outshined in performance by bourgeois Congress, and more surprisingly even by local parties like the Trinamool Congress.

This debacle is the more relevant because it has taken place at a time when not only the ruling elite in India is facing acute decomposition and fragmentation of its traditional political institutions but the world bourgeois as a whole is undergoing an unprecedented economic and political crisis, leading to the degeneration of bourgeois democracy in general. This should have led to a growth of the revolutionary left, but under one condition: that it put forward revolutionary policies.

All conscious workers and Communists should ask themselves what lessons can be learned from these election results and struggle to correct the mistaken policies of the Communist parties. The task should be set to go back to real Leninist policies of class independence of the working class from the bourgeoisie.

This setback of the Indian Communist parties is not accidental and neither is it accidental that it has happened at the same time as the collapse of the Prachanda government in Nepal, because it descends from the same mistaken policy of subordinating the needs of the masses and the working class to an alliance with the so-called "progressive bourgeoisie" which cannot but strangle the revolution in order to preserve its interests.

The bourgeois media, who have failed (as the Congress leaders have) to predict this mandate for Congress, are now cheerleading Sonia Gandhi, and have already created euphoria seeking to explain the verdict in the limited framework of the 2009 mandate, as if the same has no past and no future. Resultantly, it has failed absolutely to mark any real and objective trend or current in the mandate rooted in the collective wisdom of the electorate, rather it has dealt with the same in the most fragmented manner, which explains almost nothing. It has presented only a superficial analysis crediting the electoral victory to almost irrelevant factors such as the charisma of individual leaders or the manoeuvring of the parties. The corporate media are taking special interest in spreading the deliberate lie that the verdict leans "away from the left".

Apart from the manner in which the so-called "free will" of the people is not only corrupted through a thousand means by money and power, but also controlled by corporate media run through the power of millions, with which we all are well versed, the deceptive algebra of bourgeois democracy is marked by a chasm between the real mandate counted in votes on the one hand and the number of seats won or lost, on the other. The number of seats won by the parties in the elections hardly reflects the real landscape or percentage of votes obtained by them.

This proposition becomes clear if we put together the two biggest bourgeois parties - Congress and BJP -to view their share in the votes, seats and to see their overall performance, in the two elections of 2004 and 2009. In the 2004 general elections these two parties polled together 48.7 percent of the total vote, which have remained almost the same at 48.9 percent in 2009. But the combined number of their seats in the Lok Sabha have marked a considerable increase from 283 in 2004 to 321 in 2009. This was made possible by a remarkable shift of the electorate from the rightist BJP towards the Congress, marking a clear momentum in the electoral college "away from the right" and "towards the left". The performance of the rightist BJP has in fact never been so bad since 1989.

While the desperate and humiliated Communist parties, in spite of their recent break with the United Progressive Alliance (the Congress-led coalition), failed to answer this swing to the left of the political pendulum and remained inert, Congress, despite its real anti-people agenda of neo-liberalism, economic "reforms" and structural adjustment with capitalist globalisation, succeeded in exploiting this swing. The mistaken policies of the CPI and CPM leadership, eager to seek an alliance with the so-called "democratic" bourgeoisie, allowed Congress to present itself for years with a human mask.

The swing to the left armed Congress instead of the Left front promoted by the CPM, to cut a slice out of the leftward moving electorate. This enabled Congress to steal the march not only on the parties of the right, prime among them the BJP, whose electoral base it had poached, but through necessary implication also on the left, which utterly failed to answer this swing to the left. This explains, how the Left Front stood decimated without any remarkable change in its vote share or the combined share of the two major bourgeois parties, Congress and the BJP. How can this be interpreted as a move of the electorate "away from the left"?

All conscious workers and Communists should ask themselves what lessons can be learned from these election results. Photo by souravdas on Flickr.All conscious workers and Communists should ask themselves what lessons can be learned from these election results. Photo by souravdas on Flickr. The difficulty of the corporate media and its intellectuals is that they want to interpret the verdict of 2009 in a manner by extricating it from its past. In this too shallow venture they interpret the inability of the Communist parties to answer the "swing to the left" as a "swing away from the left".

One can hardly understand the verdict of 2009 without taking into account the trends and currents that had continued to exist since 1991, the year of the general elections to the 11th Lok Sabha, which incidentally was also the year of the global "victory of capitalism" after the fall of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union. The Congress Government under Narasimha Rao, formed after the victory of Congress in the 1991 general elections, became totally unpopular due to its policies openly favouring the rich, rising corruption, price hikes, etc. The two major Communist parties, failing to offer any effective opposition to this government, left the working class in a lurch. The 1996 general elections gave a clear mandate against Congress, but a fragmented one. There could have erupted a political crisis, had the leaders of the Communist parties not come to the service of the bourgeois. On the slogan of a "non-congress, non-BJP" alternative, the CPM leaders proposed a United Front Government (led by the Janata Dal of V.P. Singh with the external support of the CPM and Congress), which remained in a shambles from its inception, had two consecutive prime ministers, even then failing to resolve its crisis, and fell midway in 1998, leaving the bourgeois polity once again in an acute crisis. With the fall of this brainchild of the mistaken policies of the CPM leaders, the workers were left with no orientation at all.

Taking advantage of the situation, the rightist BJP organised the fragments of the United Front in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and rode to power in the 1999 general elections. Though there was no right-wing wave in 2004, yet the NDA could take the lead in elections as the only political wing, in opposition to Congress, the taste of whose 1991 regime the people had not forgotten by then. As the NDA regime took to the same path of economic liberalisation, a left undercurrent started to build up against it and led to its overturn in 2004, with a clear and strong swing to the left in view. The Left Front got 61 seats on the basis of this wave.

Still none of the bourgeois parties got a sufficient mandate to form the government. Once again the CPM leaders, the crisis managers of the bourgeois, entered into an alliance with Congress in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), in the name of secularism and democracy, purportedly to keep the BJP out of power, and persuaded other parties too, to be part of this alliance. They remained a partner in the UPA, zealously giving a left face to it, through CMP, NREGA, RTI, waiver of farm loans, etc., despite the fact that its government took to unbridled capitalist policies on the ground. The CPM leaders assisted the bourgeois Congress in keeping the working class under the illusion that the bourgeois government could well execute the real agenda of the rich, while upholding the interests of the poor. This way the CPM leaders covered from the left the real savage agenda of the bourgeois party, through their presence inside the UPA. This "coolie service" they continued to perform for the bourgeois until Congress kicked them out of the UPA, on the issue of the Indo-US Nuclear deal in 2008.

After remaining allied to the Congress for more than four years, the Stalinist leadership belatedly started to take a half-hearted, zig-zag motion on the question of the Indo-US nuclear deal to distance itself from the bourgeois Congress. But it was too late in the day. The mood of the masses, frustrated by a do-nothing attitude of the left, could not perceive the difference between the policies of the bourgeois Congress and the CPM. As the left alighted the bogey of Congress, it neither called the people for any overt action nor were the people any longer in a mood to do so.

Even after leaving the Congress the CPM leaders refused to learn the lesson and to adopt a policy and programme, independent of the bourgeois centrists and rightists, rather they started browsing for other "progressive" sections of the bourgeois. They once again took to their old game of aligning with this or that section of the bourgeoisie. Instead of calling upon the working class to oppose the policies of Congress, they started electoral manoeuvre to organise the bourgeois parties - all former allies of the ultra-rightist BJP - TDP, BJD, BSP, AIADMK etc. - into a "Third Front". This "Third Front", the most opportunist formation based upon no programme but an insane anti-congress and anti-BJP rhetoric, had no meaning at all for the working class. It was viewed, and legitimately so, by the people to be on the right of Congress. Given this political spectrum, the centrist Congress seemed to be leaning more on the left, as compared to the CPM leaders, who now stood in political alliance with former allies of the BJP.

Frustrated by the impotence of the left leadership to consummate the swing to the left and confused by its own overtures towards the right, the masses rapidly slipped into apathy, pushing the political pendulum back into an inert mode. The centrist Congress, ruling at this time, reaped a double benefit, firstly of the initial swing away from the right and later away from its inert motion, consuming all of its energy. When the electorate was making a strong swing to the left, the left under the Stalinist leaders set out to make a swing to the right!

It is the CPM leadership which has repeatedly supported the minority bourgeois governments keeping them in power at the centre. Whether it was the government of V.P.Singh, or of the United Front or of the UPA, it was the CPM leaders who every time came forward to resolve the political crisis of the bourgeoisie. They have rendered excellent services to the bourgeoisie, not only by directly organising support for its governments, but also by holding back the working class from taking to an independent proletarian policy. Their policies were tainted with opportunism in a constant effort of pleasing this or that section of the so-called progressive bourgeoisie. For example they do oppose privatisation, but they oppose it from the standpoint of the weaker sections of indigenous capital, to protect them against the onslaught of global capital. In the name of an independent foreign policy, they advocate the interests of the Indian bourgeoisie, to protect them in the face of unipolar monopoly and domination of the United States.

In the States of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, wherever the CPM had come to power, they themselves had pursued the same path of preparing the ground for local and foreign investment, resorting to the policies conducive to the big investors, like slashing of social spending, banning of strikes in several sectors, waiver of taxes for capitalists, forced acquisition of the land of the peasants, etc. Doing this, the CPM leaders came in direct confrontation with peasants in Singur and Nandigram. The political exposure of these leaders as lackeys of the capitalists is gradually pushing their supporters, sympathisers and voters among the working class and the peasantry away from the left.

CPI supporter. Photo by Carol Mitchell.CPI supporter. Photo by Carol Mitchell. The electorate turning its back upon the right, continued to face again and again towards the left, but the left led by the CPM leaders, stood faced towards the right, i.e. towards the centre. It continued to pin all of its hopes upon the bourgeois centrist Congress, instead of the working class leading the urban and rural poor behind it, to keep the right at bay. In the absence of an independent policy of its own, oriented towards the working class, the left proved incapable of taking advantage of this swing to the left and permitted it to fall back into an inert state, losing all its momentum. The centrist bourgeois Congress, the natural beneficiary of this swing backwards, marked by a conservative mood of the electorate, succeeded in bringing the momentum into a state of animated suspension at the centre, at least for the time being. Obviously, this left momentum had a great inherent potential to be explored for expansion of the space for the left. The swing could have gone more and more to the left, had there been a genuine revolutionary force on the left facing away from the bourgeois, both at the right and the centre.

The CPM leaders, however, continued to ignore this consistent left undercurrent, in existence since 1991, and consequently they repeatedly misread the electoral mandate. They interpreted the verdict in very limited electoral terms as only against the communal forces. On this deceptive premise, they aligned themselves behind Congress, which in their view, was the real force capable of balancing the rightists. Instead of introspecting for its own inefficiency to consume the swing to the left and overcoming it through consolidation of the working class, the CPM leaders adapted to the strength of the centrists, by aligning to Congress. Instead of presenting a consistent opposition from the left to the bourgeois centrist congress, the Communist party leaders themselves became the left wing of the Congress regime, in the false hope of pushing it to the left. Instead of decimating the centrists, and occupying space for the left, they gave wider credence to the centrist Congress.

The bourgeois, however, continued to derive the benefits of this left and democratic face bestowed upon it through alliances with the CPM left. It took advantage of the left rhetoric of the Common Minimum Programme, and various welfare programmes, to enhance its share of the vote by creating illusions among more backward sections of the workers and peasants. The electorate wished the Communist Parties to move pulling the centrist-left vote behind it, and thereby squeezing the political space for the centrists, but the CPM leaders continued to stick to the centrist leadership of Congress, on the pretext of alienating the left. Their alliance with the centrist Congress however has been the prime factor behind the emergence of rightists on the national political scenario, after the 1980s.

There is no doubt that the total share of votes for Congress and BJP combined has not increased in comparison to 2004, and Congress has been poaching, in major part, the vote share of the BJP and its allies, while the vote share of the left changed only very marginally. The decimation of the CP MPs, as the corporate media projects it, is not the result of a "swing to the right" on the part of the electorate away from the left affecting its traditional electoral base, but in fact it is the direct fallout of the inability of the Stalinist leadership to answer the strong "swing to the left", providing it the opportunity to pull more and more sections of workers and peasants behind it, through the setting up a revolutionary opposition to the ruling bourgeoisie, instead of subjugating itself to it. The policy of the CPM leadership, marching in alliance with the bourgeois, instead of against it, has virtually decimated the left under its domination. Having no perspective for an independent proletarian policy, they still continue to follow the same path to complete devastation. The Stalinist "two stage theory" translated in their programme of "peoples' democracy", their unrelenting search for the "progressive and secular bourgeois", and their "popular frontism" aimed at tailing the proletariat behind the bourgeois, turns the CPM leaders into servile apologists for the ruling bourgeois.

Only the working class can be the real axis around which a centripetal political motion can be generated, strong enough to marginalise not only the rightists but the centrists also. For this, an independent political policy, programme and perspective, oriented towards the working class is a pre-requisite. Failure of the CPM leaders to understand this simple thing and their affection towards the bourgeois prevents them from taking to the revolutionary road. The working class cannot fight its enemies, without fighting against these policies of class collaboration put forward by the "communist" leaders.

The bourgeois establishment of the country has already started to propagate the election mandate in favour of economic "reforms", structural adjustment in keeping with global capitalism, etc. etc. After absorbing the clear mandate "away from the right", the bourgeois is now counterfeiting it as a mandate for "no change", seeking an opportunity to push its old agenda. The unbridled power in the hands of Congress, the party of the big bourgeois, would definitely result in shifting the burden of economic crisis, more and more onto the shoulders of the working class and peasantry, making India a labour heaven for world capital. This, however, cannot be done without unleashing severe repression upon the working people, who would be then forced to move against the regime very soon. The Stalinist leadership, moving to the right, would only assist in holding back the working class from taking to the road of struggle.

The mandate has to be read by the revolutionary proletariat as a clarion call to learn from this alarm bell to fight for class independence against the class-collaborationist policies put forward by the CPM leaders, and that too without delay, and lead the working class and the poor behind it to revolutionary road. The elections of 2009 are neither the beginning nor the end of history. Likewise, the 2009 general election has a past, it has a future too and we must prepare for it.

(18 May 2009)