Theory and practice: on CPI(M)'s internal differences

A divergence of interests within a political party can take many forms. It is either raised to the level of an ideological divide that portrays the differences as a battle of ideas, or reduced to a clash of personalities that presents the differences as a struggle for power at the top of the organisational hierarchy. The fight within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is essentially between the Kerala and West Bengal units. The tactical line at stake is alliance-formation, whether or not the party should be part of a larger broad-based alliance headed by the Congress at the national level. For the Kerala unit, whose principal rival is the Congress-led United Democratic Front, any such alliance is difficult to sell to the cadre. For the Bengal unit, which is ceding ground to the Trinamool and the BJP, the Congress is a natural ally. At present, the Kerala unit is stronger, and it got the CPI(M) Polit Bureau to veto a proposal to change the party line to allow for an alliance with the Congress and other secular opposition parties. The BJP is growing in Kerala, but the Congress remains the main adversary for the CPI(M) in the State. The efforts of party general secretary Sitaram Yechury to push through the proposal thus came to naught.

The pragmatic aspect to the differences within the party exists side by side with larger “theoretical” issues. For the CPI(M), this manifests itself in questions such as whether there exists a “fascist threat” in India, whether the BJP is a completely “fascist party looking to create an authoritarian state”, and whether India is descending into “communal fascism”. If the answer in the eyes of the party is that fascism has already arrived in India, then it is only logical for it to ally with social democratic forces to unseat the BJP. If the answer is more nuanced with caveats and qualifications, then it would enjoin the CPI(M) to pursue its own political goals independently of all so-called bourgeois parties. Clearly, the Polit Bureau did not view the BJP as a threat serious enough to reorient the party’s political strategy and electoral tactics. But to the discomfiture of the CPI(M), the tussle within is also being perceived as a tug of war between Mr. Yechury and his predecessor as general secretary, Prakash Karat. The alliance issue now goes to the Central Committee, where Mr. Karat has greater support. Earlier, the CC had voted down an attempt by the Bengal unit to give Mr. Yechury a third term in the Rajya Sabha, marking an assertion of the Karat/Kerala faction over the Yechury/Bengal faction. However, as in 2004, the CPI(M) could still extend support to a Congress-led government after having fought the party electorally across the country. Any which way, the internal fights within the CPI(M) will have a bearing on the creation of a broad-based front against the BJP in 2019.

Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 11:32:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/theory-and-practice-on-cpims-internal-differences/article19803297.ece

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