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A marginalised CPI(M) needs to be more pragmatic in its politics

The Left today is floundering with no real ideology to speak of. India has moved on and Marxist shibboleths no longer resonate with a young aspirational class. The CPI(M) has not been able to reinvent itself or offer any alternative to the parties in power in the states and Centre

editorials Updated: Jan 23, 2018 17:40 IST
Hindustan Times
CPI(M),communist party,Sitaram Yechury
CPI (M) leaders Manik Sarkar, Sitaram Yechury, Biman Bose and Prakash Karat during the three day Central Committee meeting of Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kolkata (Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Karl Marx once said, “Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form”. This would seem to be the dilemma that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) faces today. Part of its sees the reason in forming an alliance with the party closest in ideology to it, the Congress; but the other part feels that such a move would dilute the core values of the party. So, at the latest meeting of the Central Committee of the CPI(M), general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s proposal of aligning with the Congress was brushed aside by the faction led by the former general secretary Prakash Karat who carried the day 55 to 31.

The pragmatic Yechury realises that the party has in recent times, with its historic defeat in West Bengal, been sliding into national irrelevance with governments only in Kerala and Tripura. Once sought after as an ally by many political formations, it is today a marginal force. The shortsightedness of Karat’s line has been in evidence earlier too. Former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu was twice asked to be prime minister, once by Rajiv Gandhi and later by Mulayam Singh Yadav but the party, led by Karat prevented this, leading Somnath Chatterjee to describe this as a historic blunder and a weird example of democratic centralism.

The Left today is floundering with no real ideology to speak of. India has moved on and Marxist shibboleths no longer resonate with a young aspirational class. The CPI(M) has not been able to reinvent itself or offer any alternative to the parties in power in the states and Centre. In Kerala, the state party leadership has, through fancy political footwork, cast itself in a centrist mould which explains how it edged out the Congress in the last election. The problem in the CPI(M) is compounded by the fact that the top leadership is not on the same page, the theoretician Karat refusing to come to any accommodation with other political formations which could offer the party a lifeline. If the party does not forge some fortuitous alliance it risks further alienation.

However, many parties like even the Congress which is an opponent of the CPI(M) in the states may not want an alliance with it. If a third front were to come about, the Left will have ideological problems with many of its likely constituents. If, as the party says, the main aim is to defeat the BJP, then it has to show much more accommodation than it has so far, presuming that it is welcome on board. The party’s ultimate aim is to become politically viable nationally once again. In which it should heed the advice of Nicolo Machiavelli that the ‘ends justify the means.’

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 10:40 IST