CPM effects shift in policy, makes partners see red

CPM effects shift in policy, makes partners see red

It has been a widely held view that Communist parties do not change even in extraordinary circumstances. This is not the case of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the biggest of Left parties in the country. After long deliberation on the challenges thrown by new economic order in its party congress and the plenum, the CPM ultimately decided that it should articulate current issues in new idioms to attract the middle class which has emerged, heavily influenced by consumerism.

The articulation requires adjusting ideological priorities and the party has begun the process. For the first time in the history of the Left in India we hear slogans of rapid development and industrialisation. The party has pushed issues like distributive justice, labour rights and justice to farmers to the background. Party leaders say that this is the need of the hour. Will this articulation help the party in winning away the new middle class from the right wing or centrist parties? Can the party make this class feel compassionate about the miseries of the poor and make a joint front of impoverished and the affluent class to move ahead towards achieving socialism, the main agenda of the party?
Soon after the poll debacle in its bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, the party started searching for the reasons for the decline in its mass support and the consequent defeat in the polls. The initial feeling in the party was that it wasted its energy in aligning with opportunistic regional parties which were not keen on pursuing people oriented economic policies.

Left parties felt that if anything the regional parties were interested in, it was power.  They felt that these parties can ally with any party support any formation including the BJP, a “communal and pro-corporate party. The failure in increasing independent strength of the Left was identified as one of the major weaknesses. Left leaders felt that independent strength is what they urgently require and decided to declare it as their main goal.

All the Left parties which have been in alliance including the CPM, the CPI, the Forward Block and the RSP agreed to pursue the programme and all of them together decided to form a national level front to place an alternative to the “pro-corporate Congress” and the “communal BJP”. The Left Front was expanded to include long time opponents of the CPM, the CPI(ML-Liberation) and the SUCI. The rejection of the line of joining hands with the regional parties led the new front to contest Bihar polls independently. The new Left Front could not gain any desired success. Bigger constituents of the Front, the CPM and the CPI soon realised the limitations of this experiment and started thinking towards articulating a stance which could recover their lost bastions of West Bengal and Kerala.

Both the parties seem to have changed their views on political alliances. They are ready to form alliances with parties in opposition in Kerala and West Bengal. When they realised that the Congress is capable of changing the balance in favour of the Left, the CPM started wooing the party.  The Trinmool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee cannot be defeated without the help of Congress is the feeling of larger section in the party. However, in Kerala, the party is trying to oppose the ruling Congress by aligning with smaller parties including the JD(U).

Shift in stance drastic
But, the changes in CPM’s response towards the new economic and social situation in the country can only be termed as drastic. The party had abandoned the policy of advocating rapid industrialisation even if it happens with the participation of private capital. This was the policy which then chief minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had adopted. The policy had led to unrests in Singur and Nandigram.

This was supposed to be the main reason for erosion of mass base of the Left Front in rural areas of the state. The party has remained defensive on the issue till recently. However, it is now aggressive on the issue and even has held rallies under the leadership of the former CM to inform the people what was being done by the then CPM government was right.

Similar changes in the policy are being carried out in Kerala. The party has started campaigning for rapid development of the state and is accusing United Democratic Front(UDF) of stagnating development. Party general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his predecessor Prakash Karat were in Kerala and aggressively supported the new slogan. The new stance of the party is to accommodate private capital in its agenda.  But the change of mind on vital issues is creating unease within the party and outside.

If the CPI is ready to support collaboration with the Congress in West Bengal,  Dipankar Bhattacharya of the CPI(ML) is not happy over it. The party may come out and contest polls independently. The move may not affect much electorally, but it would certainly affect the unity of the Left which is considered important by all the Left parties including the CPM in the present circumstances.

The change in the policy has been opposed by the CPI and other Left partners. However, the CPM is bent upon pursuing the new policy. It is enthusiastic about the new perspective it has adopted.