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It’s time to get rid of the ‘partyocracy’

The electoral base of the two communist parties has been shrinking since 1971. The Left has to set a new pace and use its natural proximity to civil society movements to get closer to the masses.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2013 23:44 IST

The top brass of the CPI(M), the largest Leftist (rather ‘official’ Marxist) party is making a frantic bid to strike electoral equations on behalf of the Left Front with parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Janata Dal (United) for the 16th Lok Sabha elections next year. The CPI, the closest ally of the CPI(M), too looks forward to the outcome of it. But the response has been lukewarm so far. For the official Marxist parties in the Hindi heartland the Mandal-Kamandal dialectics is an inexplicable dilemma for their ideologues. Moreover, the CPI(M) and CPI are expected to fare substantially better in Kerala, but in West Bengal, their prospects are very bleak. The probability of even a partial come back of the Left Front is extremely low. The SP, the BSP and the JD(U) may leave some seats to the Congress to prevent the split of the anti-BJP votes.

The electoral base of the two communist parties has been shrinking since 1971. This is especially true of the CPI, which had its best-ever performance in 1967 when it won 23 Lok Sabha seats with 5.11% of the total votes. The CPI(M) bagged 19 seats and 4.28% votes. The two parties together performed better than the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (rechristened in 1979 as the Bharatiya Janata Party) that won 35 seats with a 9.31% vote share. In 2004, the CPI won 10 seats but its share of votes dropped to 1.41%. The CPI(M) with 5.66% of votes bagged 34 seats. Too conceited to decipher the harsh reality, West Bengal chief minister and CPI(M) politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee used to say quite often, “The UPA government will stand up when we shall ask it and sit down when we tell them”. He thought that the strength of the Left Front (62 MPs between 2004-09) would not decrease. So the CPI(M) leader treated Congress leaders at the helm of UPA as subservient to the biggies at Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan, the headquarters of the West Bengal state committee of the CPI(M). The front won 35 seats from Bengal. But the king's feet were made of clay. In 2009, the CPI(M) won 16 seats with 5.33% of votes. The CPI got four seats with 1.2% of votes. The collapse of the Left front reminds one of the proverb ‘The earthen lamp glistens suddenly, before extinction.’

The CPI(M)’s share in the 2014 parliamentary polls is very likely to decline below 5% and the CPI’s share may veer round to one per cent. About the fire-eating CPI(ML) Liberation, the less said the better. Its percentage of votes may not even touch 0.2. The party claims in its latest programme to be the only party to lead the socialist revolution. It is futile to remind them of what Karl Marx said in an interview to the Chicago Tribune in 1879, “No revolution can be made by a party, but by a nation."

The CPI(M) has gone astray due to parliamentary obsession. The biggies of the CPI(M) and the CPI have to reverse the political haemorrhage. Their masses are outside the legislatures. They have to set a new pace and to start with, they should lend support to the civil society movement that is up against social ills like the rape culture. The task of civil society, eminent sociologist Andre Beteille rightly said, is to remind the state of its responsibilities and its aberrations. Unlike the bourgeois political parties, the Left has a natural proximity towards the civil society movement. But there must not be politicisation or political motives. Marx spoke of human society that is not antagonistic to civil society. It’s time to get rid of ‘partyocracy’. Eminent Marx scholar Paresh Chattopadhyay asserts, “Revolutionary consciousness comes from within the working class itself, simply because otherwise there would be no emancipation of this class”.

Sankar Ray is a Kolkata-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Sep 29, 2013 23:39 IST