This is a pertinent debate in the contemporary times in India when we are living in the shadow of fear and hopelessness, lies and propaganda and post truth politics. Has the politics based on divisive ideologies in the name of caste, religion, region and issues like overzealous nationalism, left any chance for the left movement to revive? Also when the corporate sector, the major driver of all capitalist economies, is not only playing an explicit and overarching role in the lives of people in terms of wealth and job creation as well as financing the electoral campaigns of the political parties in lieu of favouritism and nepotism, is there any place for ideas like opposition to liberalization and privatization or FDI? There are many questions which the left of today is confronting. Will there be now widespread support for militant trade unionism and dictatorship of the proletariat? Will the state ever wither away and the dictum “from each according to his work and to each according to his need” would ever be a reality? Would any system survive without the institution of private property and will people work to the best of their abilities without incentives? Will the notion of profit or labour surplus remain to be a matter of contempt and despise, when people in the world long for wealth and power as the measure of their success?
Left in India, and for that matter throughout the world, is accredited to have led the labour, student and peasant movements for winning better deals for them in terms of wages, social security and living conditions. The left has been in the past a potent pressure on the establishments to take people centric measures for enhancing their participation, welfare and a political platform for protesting against poverty and inequality. Nevertheless despite getting ample opportunities in West Bengal and Kerala for long, the left generally failed to prove its capability to implement an alternative vision of politics and society. It cannot be denied that left arduously pursued the goal of land reforms, making health and education more affordable and accessible to the common man for some time and providing support to populist demands of labour force and even peasants. But why the overall balance sheet of left is not fascinating even to the common man? Left has defended human rights and claimed to have practiced and promoted secularism unfailingly throughout its existence in India. It has also nurtured modern, progressive and liberal thinking. But why it is hated by large number of people in the country? Why left is considered to be a violent or armchair ideology or hypocrisy? Why the younger generation largely feels that it is a dead/ or dying ideology? We can counter all these questions by theoretical elegance and citing lots of problems with capitalism, crony capitalism, injustice, exploitation, inequality and class divides and coalition of dominant interests to exploit the system for their vested interests. But whatever we say, today there is no doubt that left has lost its shine in the public psyche. Electoral setbacks or unpopularity of the ideology in the campuses of the country or even in the rural India provide ample proof that the movement has lost its appeal and ideology is on decline. Left is fast losing its appeal in India. Why?
Left failed to give an alternative model
People in India are fed up with rightist and centrist parties promoting crony capitalism, corruption, criminalization of politics and waste of precious public money for private interest of the business and political class. Even the bureaucrats do not miss the opportunities to siphon off public money. The delivery of development and welfare is also very poor. Unemployment is the greatest problem of the young workforce in India. It is the most suitable condition for growth of left ideology- socialism in the modest form and communism in its purest form. But the states where left got an opportunity for political experiment were no exception to corruption, favouritism and nepotism, political one-upmanship and poor living conditions and basic amenities.
Wrong way of organizing cadres
The left parties favoured even the rogue and criminal elements if they joined their party cadres. The organizational system of the left parties was averse to allow free thinking, genuine criticism and even self examination. The compulsion to join hands with the left parties was so ingrained in the system that for all government jobs and positions in schools, colleges and other establishments, it seemed to be a necessary pre-condition to be a leftist, irrespective of merit and talent. This was brazen, unscrupulous, enrazing!
The leftist protest against private enterprise, liberal economic policies, capitalism and its symbols and opposition to globalization and support to militant trade unionism etc. stopped all new investments and also hampered trade and development. The populist economic policies gradually became unsustainable due to declining avenues of state revenues. Over a period of time unemployment also increased. The agricultural sector also stagnated due to lack of incentives. Gradually a hate sentiment against the left surged.
Lack of knowledge and awareness
Left has failed to publicize and convince people about its salient features, advantages and viability as an alternative system. It is an irony that everybody is a critic of communism and socialism without knowing it mainly for two reasons- lack of awareness and education about the left ideology on one hand and failure of left movement to offer an alternative solution on the other to common man’s problems. Also left has little presence in “breaking news” media and “social websites”. Left is very limited today in reaching out to younger generation through social work, seminars and discussions.
Support to militant movements
Left is considered to be a movement based on the principle of violence. The leftist leaders allegedly support Maoism and Naxalism. Left is ghastly opposed to free market and free enterprise- two main pillars of capitalism? It can go to any extent in opposing the capital owners, land owners and ruling elite as if they are sinners. Rather than democratically negotiating with these competing interests, the left movements take to violence. Many of them even do not participate in the electoral process. Despite being a beautiful ideology, it has failed to convince people that they stand for equality and justice and even they can lead to creation of wealth and employment.
A divided and fractured movement
Left in India is highly divided and fractured. There are small differences among them, but the ideologues have got bigger egos not to be reconciled even in the best interest of the left movement and common people. They are weak because they are divided. Leaders of the left seemingly have the same lust for power and superiority that other mainstream political parties have.
Left still keeps itself confined to land and labour relations
Many new channels of inequality, exploitation and injustice have cropped up in the last six decades, but left still identifies with land and labour relations. It has turned obdurate, impractical and into an obsession, as the ideology is stagnant without any consideration for the change and dynamic factors. Left seems to be tired and fatigued. It is not looking beyond the traditional and classical. The questions of food security, affordable and accessible education, health and housing, unemployment, overzealous nationalism, unfounded charges of sedition against students differing in opinion from the establishment, bullying of the minority by the majority, agricultural distress, farmers indebtedness, and women brutalization so on and so forth are crying for a movement and political mobilisation. All these new dimensions needed a massive people’s movement, but the armchair leftist leaders in the politbureau are busy discussing Marxist and Maoist theories, whether to follow Chinese or indigenous models etc and reading libraries after libraries without providing leadership on the ground in these difficult times.
Left needs to resolve it inherent contradictions
It needs to spread the movement by addressing people’s issues whether electoral victory comes or not. It must participate in the political process in all the states and include new issues other than land and labour (not meant to say that remove these from agenda). It needs to reach out to people and particularly the younger generation. Left has a big space in contemporary politics, but it has failed to explore. That is why regional political parties and parties like AAP are gaining ground. Left seems tired if not afraid. Left is facing obsolescence. Left is fast turning an armchair exercise. There are many people who love left, but the political leaders in the left are not able to articulate this love into political movement or mandate. People are looking for alternatives because they are fed up with extreme right bullying and propaganda or the laziness and indifference of the Centrist parties. People want change and development. Left needs to come out of its shell! Left needs to be a creative and meaningful movement. Fighting or supporting militant anti-establishment movements will not go too far. The hands of state are very long and strong and it may use brutal measures causing loss of life and property of the common man. The times in which we are living desperately need the fearless and honest but creative left- a movement that builds progressive and modern opinion, changes attitudes, promotes brotherhood and fraternity and promotes peace. It may or may not get electoral mandate soon, but it will get its deserved place. No other political party would encroach upon the deserved space of left, if it stands up not only as a political party, but as a movement. India needs left today more than ever!