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CPI(M)’s ‘July Crisis’ and Challenges for Rebuilding the Left

July 11, 2012

In an unprecedented move ,  the JNU unit of the SFI (SFI-JNU) has been dissolved by the ‘Delhi State Committee of the Students’ Federation of India’ [SFI is the CPI(M) student wing]. What is interesting about the press statement issued by the ‘Delhi State Committee’ following this momentous decision, is that it is signed by the Acting President and the Acting Secretary. The state secretary Robert Rahman Raman has since resigned in protest against the decision and the state president, according to him happens to be among those expelled. The state secretary in his statement has protested against the SFI Delhi state committee’s decision, ‘taken with just 12 members present and without adequate consultation or effort to retain the unit.’  The matter then, is far bigger than that of an errant SFI unit.

Clearly, leading state functionaries of the organization too are involved in the heresy that has called forth this action by the high priests of the CPI(M). Anyone who knows the command structure of the CPI(M) and how it works, can see immediately that a decision as important and unprecedented as this cannot have been taken by something as inconsequential as the Delhi state committee of the SFI. Indeed, even the Delhi state committee of the CPI(M) could not have taken this decision without the concurrence of the highest leadership – in this case Prakash Karat, the general secretary, himself.The other interesting thing about the press statement – the text of which we reproduce at the end of this post – is that in a perfectly stalinist manner, it reduces all political issues to a matter of organizational discipline. The members were expelled and the unit dissolved, not because they expressed political differences of opinion on a series of issues ranging from Singur-Nandigram to the culture of killing dissenters and indeed the party’s questionable stand on the impending presidential election; they were apparently expelled because the were “indulging in anti-organizational activities” and violating the rules under the SFI constitution. And what precisely is the ‘rule’ they violated? That a local unit can only concern itself with issues that have to do with its own ‘area of work‘ [where they supposedly have 'absolute right']. Translated into simple English, it means that you must concern yourself with your own work and leave the business of thinking about larger matters to the politburo and central committee. This point has also been made by the state secretary in his statement announcing his resignation: “The political issues raised by the SFI-JNU unit in organisational forums have been always dismissed as ‘too political’ and the leadership has reviewed things only through the ‘organisational’ prism.”

Most people who are unfamiliar with the insidious ways in which the stalinist machine operates, do not realize that this is perhaps the most effective tactic of turning a thinking being into an automaton and producing the loyal ‘organization man’.

It might be interesting here to rewind to an earlier ‘July Crisis’ in the CPI(M)’s history. That episode was of a  very different character and scale. Nonetheless, some issues in debate then seem to resonate with some of the questions that have arisen now.

The year was 1979. The Janata Party (JP) government that had come to power in the aftermath of the Emergency by defeating the Congress, was  in its worst crisis. The RSS/Jan Sangh component of the party had effected coup after coup, toppling a whole series of JP governments in states where non-Jan Sangh constituents had been dominant. The Indira Congress, still unrepentant about the Emergency, was waiting in the wings, ready to take centre-stage if the government fell. A no-confidence motion was brought against the government in parliament. When the moment of decision came, in the month of July, the CPI(M) decided to not only vote against the government leading to its fall, it  supported Charan Singh’s claim for prime ministership. Charan Singh had been promised support by the Congress, though it did not intend to live up to its promise. The JP government fell and the Charan Singh government, supported by the CPI(M) and the Congress, came to be the caretaker government till the next election where the Congress made a comeback. This episode of the JP government’s crisis came to be described in the CPI(M)’s internal discourse as the ‘July Crisis’. The irony of course, was that the ‘July Crisis’ eventually became a serious internal crisis of the CPI(M) itself as a section of the party revolted against the decision of the central leadership to support Charan Singh who was already leaning on Congress support. Could the party not have abstained? Did it have to become part of the murky parliamentary maneouvres that were to eventually lead to the return of the Congress?

In fact, in the run up to the party congress that followed, in 1982 (Vijaywada),  the Bengal CPI(M) under the stewardship of Promode Dasgupta and Jyoti Basu, initiated a debate where the ‘party line’ on the July Crisis was openly criticized and rejected from the local level conferences right up to the provincial conference. ‘Democratic centralism’ was invoked by the horrified central leadership that argued that local level party committees were not empowered to debate issues that related to the all-India political line. In a manner of speaking, the claim even then was that thinking politics was the job of the politburo, while the task of the lower committees was to simply implement the line – and ‘have absolute right’ in deciding on the more mundane day to day issues.

It is interesting, therefore, to see the way in which SFI-JNU has framed its argument regarding its position on the CPI(M)’s decision to support Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election. In a pamphlet issued by the unit on 7 July explaining why the General Body meeting of 5 July became necessary,  it says:

“A wide debate has unfolded after the CPI (M)’s decision to support Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential elections. Despite the ongoing summer vacations, JNU has not been untouched by this debate. In the past few weeks the SFI came under severe attack from ultra-Left organizations like the AISA over this issue. Students were asking about SFI’s position and we could not afford to remain silent. Given the urgency of the situation and considering the interests of the organization in JNU, the SFI EC decided to initiate a debate involving all available SFI members and arrive at a common position. To do so, the highest democratic platform of the GBM has been utilized. In the given situation, this exercise could not have been delayed any further.”

It is clear from the above that the question of organizational decline or stasis that the SFI has been facing for the past few years is centrally a political issue in its understanding. Despite obligatory references to ‘severe attacks’ from ‘ultra-Left organizations like AISA’, it is clear that the SFI has been finding itself on the backfoot politically, precisely because of the positions taken by the party elsewhere. The pamphlet is in fact quite candid in underlining what it calls a ‘structural break’ in the political logic of student politics in JNU, since 2007. Why 2007? Here is why:

“There has been a structural break in this trend since 2007. For the first time in 2007 JNUSU Elections, the SFI failed to win any Office-Bearer position. The elections were held in the aftermath of the political developments in West Bengal, surrounding Singur and Nandigram. In the JNUSU elections held in March 2012, the SFI failed to reverse the adverse electoral trend witnessed in 2007. Organizational reviews in this period have identified both political and organizational reasons for the poor performance. However the primacy of political factors, primarily those related to Singur-Nandigram and the general state of the Left movement in the country has been noted in inner-organizational discussions. In a left leaning political campus like JNU, these developments have eroded the SFI’s support base among the progressive and democratic minded students. The developments since 2007 have made the SFI vulnerable to attacks of “double-speak” by the ultra Left, which has gained at SFI’s cost.”

It should be clear from this passage that in the reckoning of SFI-JNU, the question of supporting Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential elections is more like the proverbial ‘last straw that broke the camel’s back’. The point being made here is clearly that it is the complex of issues surrounding Singur and Nandigram – and along with it the entire approach of the reformist neoliberals in the party (viz Buddhadeb-Biman-Gautam Deb in West Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan-Thomas  Isaac in Kerala) – that is in question here. In fact, the position articulated here is linked to the somewhat arcanely coded debate that was played out at the CPI(M)’s last party congress that posited a choice between the Latin American model and the Chinese model. For the belief behind the CPI(M)’s neoliberal thrust is precisely that it must, like China, ‘out-do’ capitalism on its own terms – as if that will leave it untransformed at the end of the day! As if it has left it untransformed already!

The leadership of SFI-JNU deserves to be congratulated for the forthright manner in which it has taken a position on some of the most critical issues that concern the future of the Left in India. It is futile at this juncture to ask the kind of questions that are usually asked of people who decide at some point to speak up: why did you not speak up earlier? Why did you support the decision to do X? Why did you not quit when Nandigram actually took place? There is no correct and proper time to speak up. To speak up publicly, that is. There is always a time-lag between this public expression of dissent and its initial articulations in the ‘proper party forums’. It always takes a long, long time before people actually decide to set aside considerations of ‘discipline’ – and that is a moment of reckoning for people who are serious about their politics. And that is what the stalinist machine dubs ‘anti-party activities’, even though that is precisely the when one is forced to confront the meaning what one is  doing.

We know that in this case too, a long time has passed between the initial, hesitant questions and their maturation into a full blown critique of the new Left-wing neoliberalism within the CPI(M). And quite characteristically, this critique has had to veer in the direction of questioning that unquestioned organizational principle – democratic centralism. Recall the statement issued by many pro-CPI(M) intellectuals in the wake of Nandigram. Many of the intellectuals who signed that initial statement in March 2007 have come a long way from there. At least two of them, Javeed Alam and Prabhat Patnaik have even written publicly questioning the very idea of democratic centralism. [Javeed Alam ( 'Can Democratic Centralism be Conducive to Democracy?',  EPW September 19 2009; Prabhat Patnaik ('Re-Envisioning Socialism', EPW November 3, 2007)]. Prabhat has more recently come out with a letter that has been doing the rounds for some time now, where he stated his disgust at what he called ‘feudal stalinism’ in the party. So it has been with many of the younger elements within the party. The recent episode of the resignation of Prasenjit Bose on the issue of support to Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election was in fact, the tip of the iceberg. Prasenjit’s resignation should be seen as a symptom rather than the cause of the crisis that is now brewing within this erstwhile Left party now on the way to a full-blown neoliberalism.

All these are merely the signs of what is brewing within the CPI(M) and to believe – as the leadership seems to do – that the crisis will blow over by simply expelling people and dissolving an errant unit, is facile to say the least.

However, there are more serious issues than the SFI-JNU leadership is at present willing to confront,  that need to be addressed. A case in point is the pamphlet issued by it on the 9th of July in response to the AISA statement welcoming the SFI-JNU resolution. This pamphlet amounts to little more than a diatribe against the AISA and the CPI(ML) Liberation and is a defense of the CPI(M)’s overall politics. While this is understandable at one level, given inter-organizational rivalries, it will be a wasted opportunity if the current round of questioning does not lead to a questioning of this very culture of sectarianism on the Left. And sectarianism alas, is not the monopoly of what the SFI (JNU and otherwise) calls the ‘ultra-Left’. Indeed, most nonparty people today recognize from their common experience of organizing joint struggles and movements, that it is the CPI(M) that has had the most sectarian stance in practice.

Perhaps the most significant question that this episode raises before the entire Left is the one that lies unaddressed so far, even though it is posed directly in the experience of the JNU SFI: How can politics be brought back in order to reanimate political life in the sterile organizational lives of most Left parties, especially the parliamentary ones? How might we think of ‘differences’ within a party/ organization? Are these to be feared and eliminated?  Democratic centralism which is an essentially anti-political creed precisely seeks to achieve such an elimination. What if we recognize that differences in politics are not an aberration but arise out of something more fundamental, namely the irreducibility of the political element? That is, the element of contestation and negotiation, which after all, is what prevents a movement from stultifying. What are the possible organizational forms that are conducive to a new kind of Left politics? If one looks at the new formations in politics on the Left worldwide, there is an increasing recognition of this fact. There is an increasing recognition that an alternative to the party form of this type can only be a party-as-coalition. It is only when different tendencies and indeed, ‘factions’, are able to contest each other openly, when they are able to take on each others’ arguments in full public view; it is only then that a faction ceases to be a faction and becomes a legitimate political tendency.

—————————————————————————————————

The text of the Delhi SFI press release:

“10.07.2012
Press Release

Delhi State Committee of Students’ Federation of India today decided to dissolve the JNU unit and expel four state committee members for indulging in anti-organizational activities and violating the rules under the constitution of SFI. The JNU unit had called a GBM on 5th of July and passed resolution taking a decision on an issue that is outside the purview of a unit committee and grossly violated the constitution of SFI.
The Rule 4 (a) of the SFI constitution states that: “The unit committee will have the absolute right to take decisions concerning issues at the institution level or its defined area of work, provided such decisions do not have implications which go beyond the confines of the institution or the unit’s area of work”.
Also, the Rule 4 (f) states that “The CEC will have the absolute right to take decisions on all issues of national and international concern”.
Roshan Kishore, P K Anand, Zico Dasgupta and V Lenin Kumar have been expelled from the primary membership of SFI for violating the norms and the fora, as well actively pursuing an anti organizational agenda.

Sd/- Sd/-
Kopal Sumeet Tanwar
Acting State Secretary Acting State President”

34 Comments leave one →
  1. Andaleeb Mondal permalink
    July 11, 2012 11:01 PM

    Some background info here – which may be related, may be not. One of the 4 in question, Zico Dasgupta is the son of Ashoke Dasgupta. Ashok Dasgupta is the editor of a Bengali daily Aajkal. The Aajkal had played the same role during the CPM regime that Pratidin plays now – a party mouthpiece in the garb of a daily newspaper, well subsidized government controlled ads. Many thought that this paper would sink after the TMC came to power. That has not happened. The paper has changed its line and is not critical of TMC, gets very generous government ads ( it is not a large newspaper – not among the top 3 Bengali dailies in Bengal) and the grapevine has it that it was being thought that Ashoke Dasgupta might also be sent to the Rajya Sabha on a TMC ticket. Now make what you will.
    Why now – is indeed a pertinent question. I guess that will be answered in retrospect by “what next” for these 4 and Prasenjit Bose.

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      July 12, 2012 9:21 AM

      First, I do not think this is relevant to the issue here. Nobody can be responsible for what their parents do and to derive people’s political positions from what someone’s father or mother does is to say the least, unfortunate. Secondly, it is another of the time-tested methods of stalinism – which many of us imbibe without reflection – of de-legitimizing the persons raising questions in some way or the other. I think the point here is not one Zico Dasgupta but rather an entire unit that is up in arms – and if my intelligence is correct, there discontent right now has spread much further. At this moment, we should be addressing the questions that this episode has thrown up.

      • Sunil Gupta permalink
        July 12, 2012 8:47 PM

        very valid point Aditya Nigam. Kudos !

      • Hitendra Patel permalink
        July 15, 2012 5:56 PM

        I think Aditya is correct. The issue is far bigger. JNU SFI unit is dissolved !

  2. PMS Bharat permalink
    July 12, 2012 12:19 AM

    The JNU-SFI has questioned the right-deviations within CPI(M). However, it has not made its stance clear on principle of Democratic Centralism, hence be cautious in congratulating them.

  3. Sunil Gupta permalink
    July 12, 2012 1:54 AM

    It is a very serious issue. the entire politics of the country is at stake. Well done Aditya Nigam, very well written !

  4. V.Krishna Ananth permalink
    July 12, 2012 1:22 PM

    Just a point about the July crisis (of 1979). The CPI(M)’s decision was guided by the surge of the RSS and in the context of the dual membership issue raised by Madhu Limaye. And even before 1982, Jyotirmoy Bosu had shown his contempt for that position then.
    In any case, I am not sure if there is any such ideological backdrop to the SFI JNU unit crisis … except that it shows the influence of one man — Prasenjit Bose — on the unit. This happens when an upstart is made a leader and when TV channels are allowed to determine the status of persons in the party.

  5. Ullu permalink
    July 12, 2012 3:15 PM

    The JNU-SFI brigade, following the time-tested tradition of martyrdom, is playing the victim now. Anyone even remotely familiar with JNU politics will tell you how these angels (and their patron saint Prosenjit Bose) have systematically undermined any possibility of left politics on campus. The dissolution of the unit then must be seen as good riddance of bad rubbish.

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 12, 2012 5:32 PM

      You really are an Ullu mister Ullu if you think one person can manipulate 37 minds, not even directly being in touch with most of them. This is beyond personalities, its beyond discipline and its beyond the presidential election. It represents everything that is wrong with CPI(M) today. Keeping discipline above ideology and blind loyalty above critical thinking. It’s high time we accept this.

  6. Ravi permalink
    July 12, 2012 9:20 PM

    Excellent and timely article. The discussion of democratic centralism is very important (by the way, first time I heard the term) and it is an anachronism that is bound to die sooner or later. Such a concept is not alien to most Indian parties, most so in Congress and perhaps least in BJP. That any kind of concentration of power in the hands of the few is detrimental to democracy should be obvious, but it continues to happen.

    This is also applicable to Anna movement. Perhaps there are some in the movement who say there should be a central committee that determines the direction of the movement and the periphery should focus on just the execution. That would be wrong and if it is how Anna movement functions and it is as bound to fail as other political organizations/movements. There are those who say occupy movements will fail because there is no central leadership. Long term I think occupy will succeed precisely because of that. Folks, fasten your seatbelts, we are entering an interesting era.

    -RK

  7. Abdul permalink
    July 12, 2012 11:30 PM

    On Stalinism
    It seems anything and everything not liked, can be termed as stalinism by Aditay Nigam. I do not know what did he learn about left in his much celebrated two decades of association with it. I think if left wants to make any difference in society it has to be organised. If democratic centralism is anti-politics then Lenin was truly apolitical and Russian Revolution was an anti-political event. It is because Lenin propounded the idea of Democratic Centralism and Russian Revolution was achieved by an organisation run on that principle. Right mr. Nigam?

    • July 13, 2012 8:14 AM

      Mr Nigam and some tiny group of intellectuals have only one agenda in their life-span- criticizing Stalin for everything on earth. The inner assumptions of Aditya’s statements are even more nefarious- consider CPM to be left and/or communist. It is like you first give a name to an undeserved creature and then instead of focusing on the creature er-ascribe counter-values to that name- thus denigrating the name- this is not mere defamation but dis-famation at its best- this is the real face of intellectual pacifist liberalism in the namroe of Trotskyism that goes on within India

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      July 13, 2012 9:08 AM

      Abdul, It is always tiresome to keep answering people like you, who seem to have neither read anything outside prescribed texts nor have yet had to face your own moment of reckoning – assuming of course that you are some kind of activist. It is not my business to tell you or reply to your queries but why don’t you just try reading some little bit of the vast literature that is now available before you dsiplay your ignorance. For those who may still be looking for an answer to the intriguing question that you have posed, here is a short answer:

      First, in what can only be a Freudian slip, you say that because Lenin had propounded the idea of ‘Democratic Capitalism‘, that the Russian revolution was achieved by an organization of that principle! Wonderful. After all, that is what Lenin eventually did: glorified one-man management, Taylorism in Soviet factories and so on. But let that pass for now.
      Your ignorance about the Russian revolution is itself an index of the fact that you have read nothing even about that revolution, outside perhaps of the mythology of the revolution that is there in texts like History of the CPSU (B). Let me remind (or perhaps inform) you if your leaders haven’t yet told you, that till well after the revolution – say at the time of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, Lenin and Trotsky were debating each other publicly. Right through the period since 1905 (that is four years ater What is to be Done was published, where the idea of socalled democratic centralism was outlined), Lenin was opposing the Central Committee’s line on the elections. At the time of the insurrection in 1917 October, he virtually threatened to go over the heads of the Central Committiee and the party leadership in calling for the insurrection. At every point where he was effective, he achieved efficacy by violating the majority opinion (a valued principle of socalled democratic centralism).

      Perhaps you also need to know that till as late as teh Tenth Congress of the Party, factions were legal in the party and soviets were geneuinely multi-party organizations. That is to say, long after the revolution had happend (without democratic centralism). The creed of democratic centralism and its mythology was only put in place later by Stalin and his entourage.
      And since nothing moves people like you except scriptures, here is Lenin himself, writing in Janauary 1907 ( six years after What is to be Done?) in a pamphlet called ‘The Social-Democrats and the Duma Elections’ (Collected Works, Vol. 11):

      “The Rules of our Party very definitely establish the democratic organization of the party [NB: not democratic centralist!]. The whole organization is built from below upwards, on an elective basis. The Party Rules declare that the local organizations are independent (autonomous) in their local activities. According to the Rules, the Central Committee coordinates and directs all the work of the Party. Hence it is clear that it has no right to interfere in determining the composition (emphaisis Lenin’s) of local organizations. Since the organization is built from below upwards, interference in its composition from above would be a flagrant breach of democracy and of Party Rules” (pages 441-2)

      Need I say anything more?

  8. July 13, 2012 7:46 AM

    No wonder Prosenjit and others have made the entire CPM party behave like Ullu now[Ullu bana diya]. What gotten rid is the bad slime of SFI from the campus in definitive and concrete terms. When the said gang was there, the so called LEFT considered them as the flagship of their form of LEFTISM and Prosenjit was heading their Research and Analysis wing[RAW?} What was that LEFTISM then? surely it was Ulluism indeed!

  9. Abdul permalink
    July 13, 2012 12:55 PM

    Dear Aditya Nigam,

    I do not think that i am as widely read as you. I also agree with your point that we activists love scriptures prescribed by parties we belong to. But my understanding of democratic centralism is based on the same scriptures and same para that you have quoted. unfortunately for you, you seem to be contradicting your own point. Your hate of organised left blinds you to see the obvious. Democratic centralism, and i repeat, was propounded by Lenin and my understanding of it is based on HIS writings only. And i think, it is no ones understanding that it blocks debates and discussions within the party.
    Lastly, I am sure when you were in the party you had the same understanding about Democratic Centralism? I assume that you might have left it because you saw some of the leaders misusing the principles of democratic centralism. The difference is, you chose a convenient path and all of us who are in some kind of organised left trying to correct the understanding of it from within, in whatever small way we can.

    Lastly, i have not even read “The History of CPSU”.

    • July 13, 2012 2:42 PM

      It was Lenin who defined democratic centralism as the broadest form of democracy through his defining of dictatorship of proletariat. Let us talk a little bit of THEORY without referring or quoting from anyone- let us care to examine – is it possible to ensure any democracy without a centralized policy, resolve and organization to monitor, manage and protect those resolves? is it possible to create any centralism without the fullest democratic consensus through the structure where every element or node or branch should have its fullest democratic working? Democratic centralism is not democracy + centralism, it is not centralism plus or minus democracy- the algebra is not a simple euclidean one it is a lie algebra [ if you ever care to talk math] it is a dialectical algebra where democracy is impossible without central control and centralism is not sustainable without democracy. one simply means the other- now if this is the theoretical bedrock then the implementation must be undertaken through close monitoring and incessant re-dressal- That was Lenin’s idea, as well as of all the Marxist revolutionaries

      • Aditya Nigam permalink*
        July 13, 2012 5:51 PM

        “One (centralism) simply means the other (democracy)”! Or perhaps vice versa! This is dialectical (al)gibberish as far as I can tell. If someone can explain what this means, I will feel obliged.

      • Ravi permalink
        July 13, 2012 6:52 PM

        As Aditya said, all the mathematical gibberish aside, it is it this notion that a select group of people absolutely know what’s good for everyone else that brought about the death of many an empire. Those days are over. No matter how smart and benign, power corrupts people. It is time for change. Time for truly participatory democracy. Everyone should have a say in how their society is run.

  10. Pritam Singh permalink
    July 13, 2012 5:35 PM

    The correspondence so far has not addressed teh most central issue that is raised at the end of Aditya Nigam’s article: “What are the possible organizational forms that are conducive to a new kind of Left politics? If one looks at the new formations in politics on the Left worldwide, there is an increasing recognition of this fact. There is an increasing recognition that an alternative to the party form of this type can only be a party-as-coalition. It is only when different tendencies and indeed, ‘factions’, are able to contest each other openly, when they are able to take on each others’ arguments in full public view; it is only then that a faction ceases to be a faction and becomes a legitimate political tendency.”

    The Left can flourish and creatively develop only if its organisational forms allow the flexibility of open debate on specific issues. In the present case, the JNU unit was articulationg its views on only one issue: CPM’s decision on the coming election for India’s president. It would be understandable to take disciplinary action against party office bearers if they question the fundamental strategic position of the party/organisation but why should dissent on one issue be punished with expulsion?

    • Vijaya Kumar Marla permalink
      July 13, 2012 9:22 PM

      Today, the traditional communist parties the world over have mostly degraded themselves into social democratic parties. Perhaps, history will repeat itself and like Lenin and others have split the social democratic parties in Europe and formed communist parties, may be it is time, after a hundred years to form a new kind of political force, that truly reflects the aspirations of the masses. May be the developments in Latin America and Europe are a pointer to this. I am not saying this out of animosity to any CP leadership (I, M, ML etc.). I have been a dedicated foot soldier of the Party for the last 40 years and now I feel the time has come.

  11. Pankaj Bhan permalink
    July 13, 2012 9:04 PM

    Surely, it gladdens the hearts of ‘freelance intellectuals’ like Mr. Aditya Nigam when CPI(M) or any organised Left party faces problems – big or small. That gives them a chance to pontificate and enter into hair-splitting, unending discussions to parade their scholarship however dubious it is. They seem to forget that any revolution, any meaningful change in a society can only be led by a Party and not stray intellectuals like them who in themselves differ with each other no end. And a Party cannot function without certain organisational principles, without discipline. Having differences of opinion within a Party is natural. But these differences are resolved by discussing the issues and taking a decision in a democratic manner. Once a decision is taken, all must stand by it. In this case too, I am told, the issue was discussed at the highest Party forum and the decision was taken by a majority vote, even if it was a wafer thin majority, the majority of a single vote. But whatever the case, the decision becomes the Party’s decision and no one has a right to flout it. How can a Party function without this elementary organisational principle? Those people who are clamouring today must ponder over this aspect. Why do they forget that even their line may be opposed by significant sections of the Party? What will they do then? Should those who oppose their line resign and leave the Party as they seem to be doing today?

  12. Roan Joseph permalink
    July 13, 2012 11:02 PM

    For a non-theoretician like me, this debate is interesting though not entirely absorbed. However, it seems ironical that a party that refused the temptation of prime ministership and heroically staged a lost battle in the 2002 Presidential elections, is today reduced to the stage of finding a “necessity to utilize the conflicts and fissures within the ruling alliance between the bourgeois parties”. Not sure if supporting Pranab will either revive public confidence in the Left or convince Trinamool to reduce its attacks on CPM cadre. Is’nt it pathethic that a party that governed West Bengal for 34 years today needs to exploit fissures among political rivals to survive. Speaks volumes of its convictions in its politics that once encouraged it to reject a handicapped primeministership. And if abstaining in the Presidential election is not an option because the Trinamool ‘might’ do it, then start supporting FDI in retail, since the Trinamool has actioned its opposition to FDI in retail.

    • vallyettans permalink
      July 17, 2012 12:42 AM

      you hit the bulls eye very candid indeed

  13. passerby permalink
    July 14, 2012 8:04 AM

    CPI(M) is facing a major crisis in Kerala. At this juncture any tolerance of dissenting views would appear to be a sign of weakness and send wrong signals to both factions in Kerala. So that action was taken in the larger interest of party and revolution in the offing. The left in India is certainly capable of doing two things – many small mistakes and some large mistakes. Often small mistakes are done to ensure that effects of large mistakes are minimized. Had there been no action on JNU unit tomorrow they might question the party’s stand on some other issue. If unchecked other mass organizations might get wrong clues and would begin to question and express dissenting views.So there is nothing unusual in such actions by CPI(M) leadership. Those who questioned CPI(M)’s stand on Tamil Eelam issue either quit the party or were punished for such dissenting views. Nipping at bud any such dissent has been the norm all these years. Politburo knows best and adherence its views and strategies is the safest option to survive in the party. But I can assure you one thing, at this rate sooner or later, survival of CPI(M) would become an issue. A repeat of 1964 might happen within the next decade.
    ‘“What are the possible organizational forms that are conducive to a new kind of Left politics? If one looks at the new formations in politics on the Left worldwide, there is an increasing recognition of this fact. There is an increasing recognition that an alternative to the party form of this type can only be a party-as-coalition. It is only when different tendencies and indeed, ‘factions’, are able to contest each other openly, when they are able to take on each others’ arguments in full public view; it is only then that a faction ceases to be a faction and becomes a legitimate political tendency.”

    Experience with Janata Party of 1977 tells us that in reality it is difficult for such coalitions (even if they are called party) to survive and prosper as different factions have their own agenda. Party as coalition would work only there is a shared vision or common agenda.
    A strong party that allows space to dissent and that practices democratic decision making is the best choice. But in India we have parties where autocracy prevails as in most of the non-left parties or dissent and debate leading to less unity and disintegration as in the case of naxal/CPI(M-L) movements and the socialist party/parties. The via media is yet to be realized in Indian politics.Before thinking romantically about such new kind of Left politics let us learn a few lessons from the non-congress parties which had all the potential to grow but ended up as small parties on account of splits. Why Janata party could not survive for not even three years. Why the Janata Dal split in to so many parties and that too so many times. Why the socialist party in India could not emerge as the alternative to congress although it had leaders and mass base. BJP for all its problems and ups and downs in politics is more stable as a party than the so called non-congress secular parties.

  14. Leninist permalink
    July 14, 2012 4:59 PM

    Thank you for mentioning Freud, Nigam (‘the Freudian slip’). To make a Freudian point, you seem ‘over-determined’ by the circumstances of your second birth (expulsion from CPM) to repudiate that much abused, paradoxical phrase- ‘democratic centralism’ (DC)- abused, in my point of view, both by its ‘practitioners’ as well as by ‘critics’. Was Lenin- and even more importantly, Trotsky- not aware of the paradox apparent in the term? In the day to day practicalities of running an illegal party, what they meant by DC was simply “democracy in discussion, centralism in action”, as Lenin put it: “[DC] implies universal and full freedom to criticize, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party.” CPM’s mistake [or 'crime', if you like to call it] here is that they did not go for a proper discussion, even though time permitted so (I grant the ‘practicalities’ of not being able to consult every member in haste situations, otherwise not permitting discussion). So, in the proper Marxist-Hegelian tradition- not comparing an idea with an external truth, but its reflexive comparison with ITSELF- the CPM is far from its avowed principles. This is the approach of Prasenjit and his JNU followers.

    Regarding the question of democracy ITSELF, it is not enough to say that socialist democracy is true democracy while bourgeois democracy is false. In formal terms, the very idea of democracy presupposes a prior agreement, a sort of pre-understanding which cannot be excluded. Can you expect a communist party member to argue for neo-liberal reforms in the name of democracy? No. Can the coercive presence of state (bourgeois or socialist), even in the times of the truest, sincerest, (corruption-)freest ELECTIONS be ignored? No. Only a partisan to the liberal-democratic consensus can claim that freedom is directly opposed to totalitarianism, that all discipline and collective action is inherently fascist, and so on. I mean, sorry, do I have time to bring in Hegel to illustrate the very point which you have brought in your doubt (‘dialectical (al)gibberish’)? Does not that doubt itself point towards your own inconsistency?

    This, what you call July Crisis, remains a fight between true (Bose) CPM and false (official) CPM. A true Leninist can only try to subvert this opposition by pointing out the inconsistencies of both CPMs. What you derive from this is just a narcissistic, self-vindicating pleasure, what Prabhat Patnaik called many years before as “my time has come at last”. The question is, can the “democratic” multitude ever subvert capitalism. My answer is, no- just because it shares a common discursive space with capital. All that holy talk of being a true left!!

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      July 14, 2012 6:40 PM

      Leninist, You seem to be talking to yourself. Please go on. That is not a conversation I can enter. However, as one of your own party’s dedicated foot soldiers for 40 years, has stated above, even for him the ‘the time has come’. Yours too will, inshallah. Till then adieu! Just to underline what Vijaya K Marla has said above, all over the world democratic centralist CPs have reduced themselves to little more than a joke. In most places they have gone out of existence. Wonder what that says about your cocksure smugness…But as I said, please yourself.
      Passerby, I really cannot respond to the first part of your comment. The more you inflict your discipline, the more people vote with their feet and desert you. Nonetheless, you can chose what you want and you clearly seem to have. As for the second part of your comment, when I talk of party-as-coalition, I am certainly not thinking of the Janata Party. Rather, there are a wole series of Left wing parties that have come up in the past but more specifically in the post-soviet collapse situation. For one thing, the most interesting instance despite serious peoblems is the Workers Party of Brazil that has ex-Maoists, former Trotskyists, liberation theologists and so on, all in the same party. The different political tendencies seem to have greater play, as do local organizations. They are therefore able to protest the unpopular decisions of their own government. The Tripartite Alliance in South Africa is yet another instance. Here the African National Congress (ANC), the SACP and the trade union centre, the COSATU are part of the ruling alliance. The fact that for historical reasons the COSATU was not a ‘mass front’ of the SACP (though closely allied to it) and therefore an independent partner in the alliance has ensured that it too has been able to mobilize against the more retrograde decisions and policies of the government. Many other ‘parties’ of the 1990s and 2000s elsewhere in the world have come up which are based on an alliance of workers unions, feminist groups, ecological movements. They do not have an organizational form in advance but they have learnt how to work together despite different approaches and constituencies. The Indian Left is of course determined to go the way of the CPs the world over. May they succeed in their mission as quickly as possible, so that with the space cleared of that rubbish, a new kind of left thinking can emerge – something that is urgently required today.

  15. Ishwar Dost permalink
    July 15, 2012 5:54 PM

    I am in agreement with Aditya Nigam that communist parties can no longer work with the present bureaucratic (state-capitalist), ossified organizational forms. ‘Stalinist’ forms of the party or any such command structure can only produce and sustain (in the final analysis) neo-liberalism (China and other parties of socialist neo-liberalisms). In CPM too, stalinism is increasingly employed for protecting central committee’s neoliberal actions and adventures.
    However, I feel, these forms may come to India at a very late stage. In India, the cultural unconscious of party-fetishism is strong and the degree of loyalty to leaders or clergy is quite high. Comrades themselves want to be ‘disciplined’ by losing even their right to speak against the decisions of higher bodies. Discussion within the parties is so formalized, truncated and domesticated that even the aspiration of free and horizontal discussion is construed as indiscipline and deviation. Your description of party as coalition is encouraging and must be debated.

    • July 18, 2012 10:36 AM

      I am inclined to reply to Mr . Nigam. To Mr Iswar Dutt i do not find any reason to retort because his basic premise that CPM is a communist or a left party or [ I am not talking about the stand that there are communist and left cadres within CPM] for that matter a “Stalinist” party is baloney as i replied to Sankar Ray’s comment!
      Mr Nigam should have examined the view that Democratic Centralism is a principle – a guiding principle! and no matter whatever number of failed experiments can preclude the possibility that it is not achievable may be in the present practices or in the future by a single example. As we find in natural sciences that zillions of failed efforts did not shake the confidence of scientists that some kind of heavy bosons exist that would complete the Standard Model and when even the standard model is full of unsolved mysteries! so in social science or philosophy this so called “empirical” evidences of a couple of failed experiments would be enough to prove a principle – a guiding principle wrong! And then Mr Nigam and his rivals are all in the same boat taking the example of CPM as a test case or a user scenario – as we call it- It is not! CPM is a completely bureaucratic and quasi fascist kind of party which as per the statement of their recently expelled comrade Mr Mani described that the principal methodology of their party is to grab resources and support anyhow and plot to kill their dissidents. Mr Nigam’s tirade is not against CPM- it is against Lenin and also Marxist ideas. There are communist parties and groups in India, in South Asia who are following very effectively D-C principles and have withered all splits and attrition and are burgeoning. I find a funny methodology here – the algorithm is as follows- Catch a rogue as a case- find out his false promises- then show that the promises are belied – then instead of pulling up the rogue pull up the viability and credibility of the promises and their contents- then to give a final touch relate and connect it to some weird historical debate and show that this has got a lineage! this is a wonderful renegade-turned-journalist approach in Indian media and cacophonix! If this is not vulpine scat then what is?

  16. July 17, 2012 11:46 AM

    I am not participating in the debate but only referring to an article by Marx-scholar Murzban Jal- http://www.radicalsocialist.in/articles/marxist-theory/229-three-points-for-the-indian-left. I have only point to add. The very definition of Leninism by Stalin is woefully inadequate, theoretically imbecile. How many of us have read Khruschev’s 33000-plus word secret speech, which the now-declassified Comintern Archive fully endorses.

    • July 18, 2012 10:12 AM

      Many of us have already read Muzban Jal. The points are right but impertinent. Muzban like all gullible screed-writers and normal journalists starts from the premise that CPM belonged to the left as a party [ as a whole] and then shows how they have deviated from marxist position- nothing but baloney! the premise is terribly wrong and now it is not clear from slimy
      and deliberate dissuading campaign.
      Secondly and in the same line CPM does not bother about Stalin or for that matter anything, till some time it paid a little attention to what they said or wrote in their programs or declarations and tried to work in some sort of congruence, now say for about 25 years or so especially since 1983 on-wards they cared zilch! they can, could and would write anything and would do anything else! So bringing in Stalin or “Stalinism” in relation to CPM and their nefarious action is preposterous, impertinent to be mild, and totally un-called for. Some even brought in Trotsky and his policies- only they would know the reason, rhyme or rationale. If some one needs to give a bad name calling a spade a spade is good enough because CPM and her cohorts like CPI, RSP, FB are bad enough as they are, no allusions are needed to add extra value!

  17. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    July 18, 2012 3:08 PM

    Soumitro,
    I really like your reference to the CPI(M) as ‘her’ – and this is a compliment in my dictionary. At least, for once, you concede something to the CPI(M) – once again thourgh a very symptomatic slip. I am not personally inclined to waste time on matters of theology: “our shastras are right but it is only in practice [ah! that hated empirical domain again!] that deformities like caste have emerged”. That is your prerogative and I wish you all the best. I have nothing but disdain (perhaps contempt) for theologians who take it upon themselves to decide who a ‘real Muslim’ or a ‘real Christian’ or a ‘real Marxist’ is. I consider it a waste of time to even engage with such nonsense. You pretty much sound like the mullahs who claim that Ahmadiyyas are not ‘true Muslims’. As if you have the sole contract from God!

    Sankar,
    Murzaban, like Paresh Chattopadhyay, are to be the biggest marxist theologians of all times – I have tried to read them and given up. But then that is my personal decision – I know you like them. However, with you at least, I feel I can take the liberty of saying this: Any political creed that has noting of significance to say either about the state of contemporary capitalism nor has produced a single insight into that despicable thing called the ‘empirical word’, seems to me to be politically irrelevant. Whether it comes attired in Marxism or any thing else, my first question is: does it have anything to say about contemporary capitalism beyond giving Lenin’s dated formulas? Most Indian ‘marxists’ of this kind have not even read the works of contemporary western marxists: however problematic the works of even people like David Harvey, Frederic Jameson and others like him might be, they have at least been trying to study seriously the transformations in late 20th century capitalism. How nonsensical this might seem to our theologically oriented Brahminical marxists to whom the real eomirical world is all Maya! One only has to look at the references cited by these theologians, they all have to do with interpreting the Scriptures – and then they have the temerity to compare it with scientific practice!

    Ishwar, I agree with what you say. Just one point, perhaps also by way of you to some of the other commentators. ‘Stalinism’ is a technology in a foucauldian sense, which is now available to anybody, to any power apparatus. It is a technology of disciplining and of the production of a certain kind of subjectivity, indeed, of a special kind of subject – some of whom have left their trail even in this discussion thread. This ‘stalinism’ has little to do with Stalin and his writings etc. It may have nothing political or ideological about it. It simply becomes a way of being:)

    • July 18, 2012 3:32 PM

      I find it really funny when Mr Nigam has come out with the Know-it-pundit-of-all-times attitude and that none other than himself and a little companeroes have read those who he mentioned. He does not know me and does not know what I have read and not read! and to the best of my knowledge the last i checked[ about a minute earlier] in this forum contributors do not brag like a normal American would generally do! He also does not know my point of view in matters of what he refers to as religion or religious practices and about Mullaism and Ahmedianism. I find the diction of his letter utterly reprehensible as regards his penchant in dropping names from thin air. Anyway, coming to the subject matter, Stalinisim is a generalized epithet as Fascism is quite estranged or at least separated from the historical genesis position – I accept and so therefore is all such allusions. “Fucauldian sense” if is to be equated and substituted with one single characteristic would not do any sensible justice to the author, the concept, the reading, the conceptualization and later evolution process-history! I guess it was first Trotsky who noted this tendency as substitutionism and we still carry that adjective with much justified sense and reason.
      Very interestingly we never add this epithet as an amulet to Narendra Modi or to Congress party or to any rightist party- in that sense Mr Nigam [ i would have loved to call him a Comrade] is not truthful enough and really does not sincerely mean what he actually writes! I would not equate the degree of such dipolar [ not bipolar ] separation with that of the CPM at least qualitatively or in some kind of metric but in qualitative terms it is of the same genre!
      I still re assert the algorithm I proposed and find a one-to-one mapping of that with Mr Nigam. Some loosely relevant but not quite pertinent allusions actually dilute the seriousness and thrust of any debate, and Mr Nigam is up for that! The entire set of anti-organization-free-fermion-individuals in their duple follow the same pattern of algorithm I mentioned! At this moment the principal debate in the general Left movement [ not among the left parties- inter or intra] is very concrete and poignant. Adjectives do not add much value in this and do not do otherwise! It would be much more of a diligent task to debate and fix the discourse track strictly on the concrete manifestations now and then do the necessary abstraction on exigency basis! Nouns and adjectives do not help anyone anyhow in any direction!

      • Aditya Nigam permalink*
        July 18, 2012 6:30 PM

        Mr Soumitro Bose,
        Please note that what I have said about reading Harvey and others is in my reply to Sankar and to the names he has suggested we read. As you rightly say, I do not you know except through your comments here. Of course, when has not knowing prevented you from calling me names – remember you referred to me as a Trotskyist in an earlier comment, right here? But anyway, as I said earlier,my responses were to Sankar and Ishwar with whom I think one can engage without bad faith.
        In my reply to Sankar, I had referred to others mentioned by him, who write publicly in their names. These people, even if they read others do not ever make any reference to writings other than the theological ones. There references are always to ‘what Marx said’ (some may perhaps come to Lenin or Lukacs, but the mode is the same). I was referring to the likes of those. Please do not think that everything in the world is about you!!! And for a self-proclaimed stalinist and Leninist, you are sure too touchy about my “diction”. And how do terms like “renegade-turned-journalist” and “vulpine” “scat” (or “vulpine scat) sound to your well trained, sophisticated ears?

        No, Mr Bose, I haven’t yet used personalized invective against you. You have. Though believe me, I am trained in the same school of name-calling that you are!
        Anyway, further comments on this thread are closed unless they are directly relevant to the post.

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  1. CPI(M)’s ‘July Crisis’ and Challenges for Rebuilding the Left « Bargad… बरगद…

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