The upcoming presidential elections have thrown up a kind of political turmoil which is unprecedented for the election to an insignificant rubber-stamp post like that of the president. The presidential post is widely considered to be a last refuge for loyal ruling- class politicians who are given an honorable retirement from active political life. Congress’s decision to send Pranab Mukherjee to political asylum by nominating him for the president’s post appears to be an exception from the rule, given that he has been a key cabinet minister of the ruling UPA and one of its most powerful troubleshooters till recently. In his political career as a Congress functionary and a cabinet minister, Pranab Mukherjee has served as a loyal lackey of the ruling classes of the country and continued to prostrate before imperialism – be it US imperialism, social-imperialist USSR or the European powers. Of late, however, he antagonised the big Indian and foreign corporations, and hence the imperialist powers, by introducing certain policy measures through the Union Budget 2012, most importantly being the GAAR (General Anti-Avoidance Rule). For this, he was removed from the post of finance minister by the ruling clique under the diktats of US imperialism. Congress’s choice of the presidential candidate also needs to be understood as a symptom of the growing contradictions within the ruling classes and as one more proof of their complete servility to the imperialist interests.
The farcical drama surrounding the presidential polls has once again exposed the political bankruptcy of parliamentary ‘left’ parties like CPI(M) and CPI(ML) Liberation. All ruling-class parties in parliamentary politics have taken the alliances built around the presidential candidates to be the precursor to the next general elections scheduled for 2014. This explains the intense lobbying among the parliamentary parties of all hues and the media frenzy created around this time’s presidential poll. The official ‘left’ parties of the country too – being representatives of the Indian ruling classes – are very much part of this rabidly opportunist and politically bankrupt electoral game. CPI(M)’s justification for supporting Pranab Mukherjee, for instance, is purportedly to drive a wedge between Congress and Trinamool Congress, keeping in mind the prospects of the next assembly elections in Bengal. This ‘tactical’ move, CPI(M) believes, will help it to come back as the ruling party of Bengal! So its decision is based on pure electoral calculation aimed at coming back to power in Bengal. Such considerations have always dictated the practice of social-fascist CPI(M) throughout its fifty years of history. Therefore it is hardly surprising to find CPI(M) opportunistically tailing behind the Congress candidate.
CPI and CPI(ML) Liberation on the other hand have declared that for the sake of ‘strengthening Left unity’ they must take the ‘principled’ stand of ‘abstaining’ from the vote. Liberation-AISA has criticized CPI(M) for betraying this ‘alliance of abstainers’, even though it also knows that their abstention is going to be totally inconsequential in determining the outcome of the polls. Nor such a position by Liberation is based on any class politics that goes beyond the arithmetic of parliamentary elections. Liberation is miffed with CPI(M) because its long-cherished dream of having an all-India electoral alliance with CPI(M) and other ‘communist’ parties under the garb of ‘Left unity’ has met another setback due to CPI(M)’s refusal to buy its bogey of ‘abstention’. It hardly matters for Liberation and other ‘left’ parliamentary parties that the sham ‘debate’ of whether to ‘support’ Pranab Mukherjee or to ‘abstain’ from voting has no relevance whatsoever for the oppressed people of the country. It is a drama enacted by the ruling classes to delude the masses and to divert attention from their life and death struggles. The parliamentary ‘left’ has faithfully played its role in this facile ruling-class drama, albeit as insignificant characters.
AISA and SFI in JNU are the miniature versions of their degenerate, anti-people and reactionary parent parties CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(M). This has been proved once again by the recent developments in the students’ politics in the campus surrounding the presidential polls. The ‘debate’ in the campus was triggered by the resignation of Prasenjit Bose, a former leader of SFI-JNU, ‘criticising’ certain ‘mistakes’ of CPI(M) from 2007 onwards. Bose argues that CPI(M)’s support to Pranab Mukherjee will ‘damage’ the party and compromise ‘Left unity’, and hence suggests that CPI(M) should abstain from the presidential polls. Since this was exactly what CPI(ML) Liberation was desperately trying to tell CPI(M), AISA in JNU and Liberation outside the campus went all out to ‘welcome’ with open arms the ‘principled’ and ‘daring’ act of ‘Comrade’ Prasenjit Bose! AISA brought out posters in the campus hailing Bose without uttering a single word of criticism against his reactionary role of publicly defending and justifying every repressive and anti-people act of CPI(M). The manner in which Liberation-AISA fell head over heels to hailing Prasenjit Bose describing his latest stand as ‘political’ and ‘principled’, etc. only goes to show the level of Liberation-AISA’s degeneration, willfully ignoring that till yesterday Bose was a rabid CPI(M) mouthpiece. Not stopping at that, AISA through a series of posters launched a sustained campaign to instigate SFI-JNU to support Prasenjit Bose’s stand and to ‘revolt’ against CPI(M).
Prasenjit Bose’s resignation drama has nothing to do with principles or genuine self-reflection as Liberation-AISA wants us to believe. A moribund symptom of the present crisis-ridden ruling class is that many arch-opportunists within the parliamentary ‘left’ have emerged from its ranks with their newfound ‘critiques’! Prasenjit Bose is one of such individual who has cleverly couched his opportunistic abandoning of CPI(M) in an ideological-political rhetoric. Bose, a former leader of SFI in JNU and a mouthpiece of CPI(M) till very recently, resigned from CPI(M) supposedly opposing his party’s decision to support Pranab Mukherjee, which later led to his expulsion from CPI(M). He seems to have suddenly woken up and realised that certain acts of CPI(M) from 2007 onwards were wrong and had alienated the party from the “basic classes”. As Bose writes in his resignation letter, “I consider [CPI(M)’s support to Pranab Mukherjee] to be a grave error which will harm the Party and disturb Left unity. The Party leadership has committed one mistake after another since 2007 - coercive land acquisition in West Bengal, the Nandigram police firing, allowing the UPA government to approach the IAEA with the nuclear deal, giving a call for a non-Congress secular government in 2009…”. He also complains that CPI(M) has failed to learn from its ‘mistakes’ or to ‘rectify’ itself in the last five years, leading to one electoral defeat of CPI(M) after another. According to him, the culmination of CPI(M)’s politics of ‘right-deviation’ is the party’s support to Pranab Mukherjee for the titular presidential post. But in taking this self-styled ‘principled stand’ on the presidential elections, Prasenjit Bose has willfully covered up CPI(M)’s criminal past, during which it emerged as a social-fascist force representing the Indian ruling classes, serving imperialism as a loyal agent, and repressing the oppressed classes through ruthless violence. It is none other than Prasenjit Bose himself who had publicly defended each and every act of fascist repression perpetrated by CPI(M) and its Harmad gangs not merely since 2007 – be it in Nandigram or in Lalgarh – but from 1960s onwards. His ‘critique’ of CPI(M) on the non-issue of presidential polls and Liberation-AISA’s subsequent celebration of ‘Comrade’ Bose therefore smacks of crass opportunism and hypocrisy.
Prasenjit Bose’s latest political gimmick and Liberation-AISA’s continuous incitement prompted SFI-JNU to pass a GBM resolution against CPI(M)’s support to Pranab Mukherjee. SFI-JNU’s resolution, following the cue from Bose and Liberation-AISA, has predictably ‘criticised’ CPI(M) for ‘disrupting Left unity’. Describing CPI(M)’s position as ‘unconvincing’, SFI-JNU implicitly declared its support to Liberation-AISA’s position of ‘abstention’, stating that “The decision to abstain taken by other Left Parties would have been appropriate in the given situation” (SFI-JNU resolution of 5 July). SFI-JNU went a step ahead and in its pamphlet of 7 July justified its right to have a position ‘independent’ of CPI(M), and pointed to the so-called “structural break” in SFI’s history in JNU from 2007 onwards. The marker of this “structural break” for SFI-JNU is nothing but its defeat in JNUSU elections in 2007, a trend which it believes has continued till 2012. SFI-JNU has squarely blamed CPI(M)’s repression of Singur and Nandigram movements as the reason for its defeats in JNUSU elections, claiming that “these developments have eroded the SFI’s support base among the progressive and democratic minded students”. In the name of ‘forthright positions’, SFI-JNU even tried to sum up the experience of the international Communist movement by claiming that “one of the major shortcomings of the socialist experiments of the 20th century was to address the questions of democracy, civil liberties, freedom of expression and tolerance towards political dissent” – an argument repeated ab nausium by the revisionists and opportunists all over the world. All such assertions leave no one in doubt that SFI-JNU’s ‘critique’ of CPI(M) is entirely based on its calculations for the JNUSU elections. SFI-JNU believes that to reverse the defeats in JNUSU elections, it has to now distance itself from CPI(M) and its past crimes.
Even with this latest ‘distancing’ and ‘dissident’, SFI-JNU is nothing but a new avatar of its old self. SFI-JNU is unable and unwilling to break the umbilical chord that ties it with the reactionary and social-fascist politics of CPI(M). Nor SFI-JNU’s present anti-CPI(M) stance a reflection of any genuine attempt at self-reflection and rectification, because its ‘dissent’ is dictated purely by the considerations of victory and defeat in JNUSU elections. It is nothing but crass opportunism to conveniently put the entire blame of SFI’s electoral defeat in JNUSU elections from 2007 on the ‘mistakes’ of its parent party, without accepting its own dark history of anti-student politics in the campus. The students of this campus will not allow SFI-JNU to conveniently forget its past betrayals. While in JNUSU, SFI-JNU facilitated the entry of the Nestle outlet into JNU in 2004 and defended the corporatization of the campus, it sided with NSUI and ABVP in opposing the students of the campus who showed black flags to Manmohan Singh when the World Bank-appointed PM visited JNU in 2005. SFI-JNU betrayed the united struggle of workers and students in 2007 by demanding Proctorial enquiry and punishment for protesting students. JNUSU office bearers from SFI submitted apology letters to the VC along with AISA’s office bearers in JNUSU after the registrar was confronted by students demanding worker’s rights. SFI-JNU betrayed the struggle against the imposition of user charges and electric meters in 2010. It backstabbed the united anti-Lyngdoh struggle by surrendering to the Solicitor General in the name of ‘negotiations’ and helped impose Lyngdoh on JNUSU elections. These are only a few glaring samples of SFI’s ‘glorious legacy’ within this campus! Can it put the blame for such opportunist and anti-student acts on CPI(M)? Students of JNU have rejected SFI as much for its misdeeds in the campus as for the crimes of social-fascist CPI(M) outside.
Now that ‘SFI-JNU’ has been summarily dissolved and its four leading members expelled by SFI’s all-India committee, ‘SFI-JNU’ is crying hoarse against CPI(M) brand of ‘authoritarianism’. But this is the method in which CPI(M) and its affiliate organisations have dealt with political opposition within its ranks and outside all along in its history. Why have SFI-JNU realized only now that they have been treated in an ‘authoritarian’ and ‘undemocratic’ manner? Does it believe that CPI(M)’s actions against the Naxalites in the 1960s-70s, against the people of Marisjhapi, Singur, Nandigram, Chengara, Lalgarh etc. were democratic? What is their position on CPI(M)’s support to the UPA government in 2004, in which Pranab Mukherjee was a key player and one of the prominent cabinet ministers? Will not now SFI-JNU accept that CPI(M) was willfully complicit in all the anti-people and reactionary policies of the Indian state, be it the passing of the notorious SEZ bill or the rampant sell-out of the public sectors in the name of disinvestment, the passing and strengthening of the draconian UAPA and AFSPA, witch-hunt of Muslims in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’, implementing the fascist Operation Green Hunt in West Bengal, and so on? Is SFI-JNU also opposed to CPI(M)’s complete surrender to imperialist capital and its luring of MNCs to make investments in CPI(M)-governed states at the cost of the land and lives of peasants and workers? Shouting from rooftops about ‘authoritarian’ and ‘undemocratic’ nature of CPI(M) when forced into a corner, but not raising even a whisper of opposition against CPI(M)’s social-fascist policies from 1960s till 2007 and thereafter, is sheer opportunism and political bankruptcy which both SFI-JNU and Prasenjit Bose are guilty of. Their latest political somersault is symptomatic of the bickering and power struggles that have afflicted all ruling-class parliamentary parties in India.
CPI(ML) Liberation-AISA’s opportunist and bankrupt politics of fishing in the troubled waters needs to be unmasked. As if they were waiting with bated breath for the occasion, Liberation-AISA ‘welcomed’ wholeheartedly SFI-JNU’s anti-CPI(M) position without uttering a single word of criticism for the ‘dissenting’ SFI-JNU, much like they welcomed ‘Comrade Prasenjit Bose’ (AISA’s poster, 8 July). AISA probably was hoping that the ‘dissident’ SFI will split from CPI(M) and join the rag-tag NGO-ised ‘Left movement’ fabricated by its parent party CPI(ML) Liberation! It was only when SFI-JNU retorted back at AISA’s holier-than-thou sermonizing on the need for “a resolute struggle for a Left movement”, CPI(M)’s “right deviation” and its “erosion of mass base”, CPI(M)’s intolerance of political opposition etc. (SFI-JNU pamphlet, 9 July), that AISA-Liberation made a u-turn from their earlier position of blindly eulogizing SFI-JNU’s ‘opposition’ to CPI(M), and made some ‘critique’ of SFI-JNU. AISA thereafter took the responsibility of imparting lessons of ‘correct Marxist politics’ and ‘rectification classes’ to the ‘independent’ SFI-JNU unit, while declaring in a self-congratulatory mode that “thankfully, we [Liberation-AISA] we do not have to correct any right-wing policy deviation that has crept into our line” (AISA, 10 July)!
AISA shamelessly peddles such self-serving lies even after its parent party Liberation has opportunistically betrayed the political line of Marxism-Leninism and armed agrarian revolution ushered in by Naxalbari. This was done in order to enter the quagmire of parliamentary politics. Is it not right opportunism – in other words, revisionism – in the garb of Marxism, ‘comrades’?! Has AISA forgotten about Liberation’s electoral alliance with the same CPI(M) in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, etc., whom they are now claiming to be “right-deviationists”? Why have they allied with CPI(M), which is guilty of Singur, Nandigram, “murder of TP Chandrashekhar”, etc.? When AISA accuses of CPI(M)’s alliance with Jayalalitha, Chandrabau Naidu, Naveen Patnaik – all former NDA partners – do we need to remind them that Liberation too had allied with Samata party in 1990s in Bihar headed by Nitish Kumar – presently an important NDA ally? In ‘criticising’ SFI-JNU for the compromises it has made in the campus, does AISA want the students to forget about their own dark history of betrayals of the students’ movement, almost on every occasion in connivance with SFI-JNU? Who doesn’t know about AISA-SFI’s joint efforts to impose the draconian Lyngdoh regulations on the JNUSU elections and the betrayal of the JNUSU Constitution? This is just the latest example of AISA’s understanding of ‘Left unity’! The shadow-boxing of these two revisionist organisations, AISA and SFI-JNU, first indulging in unrestrained bonhomie and camaraderie while ‘critiquing’ CPI(M), but soon breaking into an opportunist slanging match to outdo each other, cannot hide AISA-SFI’s shared political basis of ruling-class opportunism and hypocrisy.
It is this degenerate and unscrupulous politics of revisionism and opportunism that allows Liberation-AISA to remain shrewdly silent on the dissolution of the ‘dissident’ SFI-JNU unit and the expulsion of its four leading members. Why has AISA not stood with their ‘comrades’ in SFI-JNU or even ‘Comrade’ Prasenjit Bose when they were ‘penalised’ for opposing CPI(M) in a ‘principled’ manner, which AISA had so wholeheartedly welcomed? Is this the sample of Liberation-AISA’s much-touted idea of ‘Left unity’? Such opportunism of Liberation-AISA stems from betraying the cause of the oppressed classes to serve ruling-class interests through parliamentary politics. The truth is that Liberation-AISA is just another variant of CPI(M)-SFI in the garb of Marxism-Leninism, mired neck-deep in the parliamentary quagmire. This brand of reactionary ‘left’ politics has to be relentlessly and resolutely exposed and finally defeated for the success of the struggle for a revolutionary social transformation.
Democratic Students' Union (DSU), Jawaharlal Nehru University Unit. DSU is an independent students' organisation active in JNU and Delhi University in the state of Delhi. It is a constituent of the All India Revolutionary Students' Federation (AIRSF), and works towards attaining the ideals of the New Democratic Revolution.