Conversion of Parliamentarism to

Social Fascism:

An Indian Experience


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Economism and Electoral Politics

When the tide of the food movement swept the entire country and the wrath of the people was bursting out, the new party, CPI(M), tactfully channelised people’s discontent by placing the path of forming non-Congress governments in the states. There was no dearth of choicest words against the right revisionists or the Congress to project the CPI(M) as the leader of militancy. E.M.S. Namboodiripad as general secretary of the new party issued a statement in Trivandrum on 23rd December 1965. He appealed to all ‘Left opposition’ parties for united action "despite their differences on questions of basic ideology." The common denominator for such action, Nambaoodiripad declared, was that they all believed that the Congress Government was "Championing the interests of, and strengthening, the big landlords and monopoly capitalists …"26

The 4th General Election was round the corner and so the CPI(M) Central Committee oriented its entire thrust "On the General election." It took the resolution, pretty obviously not for boycotting it or weakening the state. The call was: "The reduction of the Congress party into a minority and the formation of alternative governments wherever possible" and "adjustment with opposition parties, so that the opposition votes may not get split and the defeat of the Congress party may be ensured in the maximum number of constituencies."27 It was a journey to the morass of parliamentarism that started particularly after the withdrawal of the Telengana uprising.

Yet one will find many elements of left verbiage in the articulations of the CPI(M). E.M.S. Namboodiripad, the centrist having already tasted legislative power in Kerala tried to blow-up the differences with the CPI. He announced simultaneously to put to shame the rightist CPI and appease the leftist sections. Pointing an accusing finger to the right CPI programme and its resolutions he stated that, "their approach to the problem of national unity and democracy is nothing but tailism to the bourgeoisie."28

It is the bitter course of history that followed to substantially prove that on all fundamental questions the CPI(M), tasting the spoils of power in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, shrugged off all the earlier ‘left’ vocabulary and outpaced the CPI in its right revisionist positions. The class question, the class front and particularly the question of the state, dependent on imperialism and feudalism, were brushed aside. Elections and elections along with the question of alliance with parties of the enemy classes increasingly became the main task of this revisionist organization. For comparison and better comprehension of this process of parliamentarism we may refer to some of the gems from the documents of this revisionist force turned into social-fascists.

The Election Manifesto of the CPI(M) for the 4th general election declared about Jana Sangh and Swatantra that, "though they thunder against Congress misrule, essentially represent the same class interests as the Congress"29 Yet, in "Tasks of the Alternative Government: proposals by the United Left Front Of West Bengal" such a non-Congress government was projected as an alternative for the people, actually a safety valve against the massive discontent assuming a volcanic eruption everywhere. This right revisionist CPI(M) document announced: "Only such a Government representing the united will of the people, pledged to fulfill the urgent demands of the life of the people, can provide a way out of the prevailing crisis, anarchy and degeneration."30 In a similar fashion Namboodiripad defined the role of the United Front Government in Kerala.31

The monopoly power of the Congress party for the first time since 1947 met with tremendous disillusionment and opposition. And in 9 states the Congress was dislodged from legislative power. The CPI(M) like all other revisionist and reactionary parties with all left phrase-mongering joined the chorus of the non-Congress ministry as the alternative model for the people. Comrade Stalin said that a communist party "cannot be a real party if it limits itself to registering what the masses of the working class feel and think, if it drags at the tail of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to overcome the inertia and political indifference of the spontaneous movement, if it is unable to rise above the momentary interests of the proletariat, if it is unable to raise the masses to the level of understanding the class interests of the proletariat. The Party must stand at the head of the working class; it must see farther than the working class, it must lead the proletariat, and not drag at the tail of the spontaneous movement……."32

What we found in India was how the left phrase-mongering leaders utilized the fight against clearly right revisionism and how the new party, the CPI(M) basically remained within the boundaries set by Khruchevite revisionism after the death of comrade Stalin. With the prospect of power in legislatures, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau scaled down further from their policies, and got ready to court all political parties irrespective of their representation of the landlord big-bourgeois classes. The Polit Bureau statements let out their policies in an abominable fashion, betraying the revolutionary masses in India. Apart from the West Bengal and Kerala United Front governments, for all non-Congress governments the PB decision was such as under.

"We Marxists cannot but feel concerned that in some States the people in their anti-Congress hatred have voted for alternative parties of the same vested interests. Even in these States, we are supporting these non-Congress Governments, so as to prevent Congress Governments being formed and to give these sections a chance to carry out their promises to the people, but have refused to join their Governments."33

The CPI held out the model of the Kerala Government of 1958 as the alternative to the model established by the bold Marxist fighters of Telengana in more than 2000 villages. The CPI(M), camouflaged as a leftist, pursued the same model, further abandoning all questions of class as basic to Marxism. This decay and degradation was allowed to move further towards complete institutionalizations of a parliamentary CPI(M). It is necessary here to state that in the late 60s India was thrust into a varitable crisis on all fronts. The Green Revolution, Garibi Hatao policy of Indira Gandhi and all such measures were to stem the tide of popular discontent by addressing the issues of pent-up anger by calculated measures through a constitutional process of accommodation.

In 1969 the central Home Ministry diagnosed the non-delivery of promised services and reforms, especially the failure of land redistribution, as an underlying cause not only of the land-grab movements, but also of the Maoist Naxalbari uprising 34 The politics of buying support with patronage and of accommodating the conflicting demands of a large and heterogeneous interests through bringing all such interests to fall in line with mainstream politics was skillfully taken up by the central Government and the CPI(M) led state governments tried their best to pursue that policy through reform measures.

A few words are necessary to understand the temporary shift in the right CPI policy of collaboration with the Congress. It was the massive food movement targeting the Congress regime and the demands of Soviet foreign policy induced the CPI to cooperate with the CPI(M). The first United Front in West Bengal in 1967 was a hotchpotch of power-hungry political parties with Ajoy Mukherjee, the Bangla Congress leader as Chief Minister. It is in order to state that this Bangla Congress, a conspicuous representative of the jotedars having polled 10.4 percent of the votes against the CPI(M)’s 17.74% and CPI’s 6.32%, was given the post of Chief Minister. It is a shame that the United Front in West Bengal in 1967 was inclusive of two M.L.As, one of the Jan Sangh and the other of the Swatantra Party. The CPI(M) Central Committee announced that, "The UF Governments that we have now are to be treated and understood as instruments of struggle in the hands of our people, more than as a Government that actually possess adequate power, that can materially and substantially give relief to the people…"35

The struggling peasants of Naxalbari witnessed how much the U.F Governments could be the instruments of struggle when the armed police fell on them and killed 7 peasants including women and children. Actually speaking, it was a cogent proof of Lenin’s warning that the socialist ministers turn into pawns of the ruling classes. With the passage of time the CPI(M) ministries cogently proved how befittingly those can appear as instruments of repression and checking struggles in the name of saving such ministries. In any case, the first U.F govt. fell within months and the "Conspiracy Theory" was propagated to play into the minds of the electorate. It should be reiterated here that people’s grievances found an outlet with industrial disputes rising from 99 in the last quarter of 1967 to 182 in the first quarter of 1968. The stir among the peasants increased manifold and the CPI(M) tried to implement the land reform measures as far as the law permitted.

There appeared a clear rapport between the United Front and the Indira Gandhi government "based on appreciation of each other’s difficulties and confrontation yielded place to collaboration"36 This rapprochement was facilitated by the projection of Indira Gandhi as "progressive" against the Congress (syndicate). Jyoti Basu shrugged off left vocabulary and encouraged private investment, addressed the Chambers of Commerce and had a close-door meeting with Birla, to the discontent of many left forces. While now the CPI leaders preached to discard "the crude and mechanical anti-Congress line", the CPI(M) could not then openly follow the pro-Congress stance. It is to be reminded here that during the trial of strength between the Indira Gandhi led Congress and the Syndicate Congress over the presidential candidate it was the CPI(M)’s votes that cleared the path of Indira Gandhi by electing her candidate V.V. Giri against Sanjiva Reddy.

Prof. Ajit Narayan Bose studied economic reviews of different years made by West Bengal Government and was driven to the conclusion that _

In this 10-year period from 1991-92 to 2000-01 the discrepancy between wages including food received by the agricultural labourers and the state Government determined daily wages stands out to the tune of at least Rs. 3.32 and at worst Rs. 8.63. The government source also display, Prof Bose adds, that in 10-year period the loss incurred by agricultural labourers in respect of wages is a staggering Rs. 7,052 crore.

(Ajit Narayan Bose, Krishi o krishak, In Majhi, (a Bengali journal), August-December, 2002, p.52)

The CPI(M) Central Committee went on record that "Under the changed political situation since the latter half of 1969, our Party, while not compromising the role of our party as a party of revolutionary opposition, has been lending certain amount of support to the Central Government run by the anti-Syndicate wing of the Congress party, in order to defeat the determined efforts of the Syndicate Swatantra-Jana Sangh combine and thus ward off the grave danger of this combine taking over the Central Government."37 Saroj Chakraborty in his book written through personal experience at the corridors of power goes on record about that situation: "The Marxists were extending their support to Mrs. Gandhi in parliament which was crucial for the survival of her government during that period. Both the leaders reportedly secured a promise from the Prime Minister and other Central leaders that the ruling Congress had no intention to seek the displacement of the U.F Government in West Bengal."38


26. People’s Democracy Vol, 2, No. 1. January 2, 1966.

27. People’s Democracy, First Anniversary Number, June 26, 1966.

28. People’s Democracy, July 10, 1966.

29. Election Manifesto of the CPI(M), People’s Democracy, November 20, 1966.

30. People’s Democracy, January 22, 1967.

31. People’s Democracy, March 19, 1967.

32. J. V. Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, In Problems of Leninism, Peking, 1976, p.99.

33. People’s Democracy, April 6, 1967.

34. India, Home Ministry, Research and Policy Division. "The Causes and Nature of Current Agrarian Tensions" New Delhi, 1969, (unpublished), Cited in Henry C. Hart, Political Leadership in India in Atul Kohli (ed) India’s Democracy, Orient Longman, 1991, p.32.

35. Communist Party of India (Marxist), Central Committee Political Report, 10–16 April 1967, New Situation and Party’s Tasks, p.70.

36. Sankar Ghosh, The Disinherited state: a Study of West Bengal 1967-70, orient Long man, 1971, p.225.

37. Communist Party of India (Marxist), Central Committee report adopted at Calcutta, 2-7 Feb. 1970, present political situation, pp. 6.

38. Saroj Chakraborty, With West Bengal Chief Ministers: Memoirs 1962-1977, Orient Longman, Calcutta, 1978, pp. 347-348.


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