'Left must increase its relevance in national politics'

Print edition : September 26, 1998

Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan says that the two major Communist parties must work in "closer unison" in order to broaden the influence of the Left in Indian politics. Excerpts from an interview he gave S.Viswanathan:

What was the focus of the 17th congress of the CPI?

In brief, the main focus was on strengthening the party and expanding it so that it can play a proper role in building a Left Front (at the national level) and in increasing the relevance and influence of the Left in national politics. Without achieving this, I do not think we can progress.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, and not the Left parties, has filled the political space created by the decline of the Congress(I). Did the party congress discuss the reasons for this?

In the inaugural session of the congress I raised this question in my speech. I am glad that Comrade (Harkishan Singh) Surjeet (general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)) also raised the same question in his written speech. I think the leaderships of both parties have to give serious consideration to this question. Off hand, I can mention some reasons but I think it is better to think more deeply about them.

How do you propose to counter what has been described in the CPI's political resolution as the "dangerous swing to the right in Indian politics" represented by the BJP's coming to power? What will be your long-term and short-term strategies?

As far as the short-term strategy is concerned, the point is not to allow the BJP to consolidate its rule at the Centre. After all, there is an inherent instability in the present BJP-led coalition. There are so many conflicts and contradictions.

The short-term programme is to see them out of power. We feel that they will either fall or will be pulled down as a result of their own contradictions. Naturally, if that happens, we will go in for an alternative government because another election so soon after the last will not provide any different results. An alternative government can be formed if all secular and democratic parties, including the Left, are able to arrive at some sort of an understanding. Obviously, the Congress(I) will have to play a role because it is the second largest party in the 12th Lok Sabha. It has to take the initiative.

As far as the long-term perspective is concerned, it is a question of fighting the BJP and other communal forces ideologically and politically. The secular, democratic and Left forces have to be brought together to form a new united front. But this can be achieved only if the Left becomes far stronger, particularly in the Hindi-speaking regions.

Does your party consider Hindutva a greater danger than the Congress(I)? Has it discussed the terms on which it will join forces with the Congress(I) to defend secularism?

After all, we must remember that the Congress(I) ruled the country for five decades, except for short intervals. If the country has come to the present situation, it is because the Congress(I) lost its influence among the masses. In particular, the party's economic policy of unbridled liberalisation has alienated it from the working people. Even in the matter of fighting communal forces, the Congress(I), despite its secular traditions, often compromised with such forces. All this helped the BJP to move forward.

We consider Hindutva a great danger because if it continues and succeeds it will disrupt our national unity and integrity. Therefore, it is not just a question of comparing the two parties. One is responsible for the other but we should look at Hindutva as a danger that will divide our country. Besides, the ideology of Hindutva is also the ideology of fascism.

The leadership of the Congress(I) met in Pachmarhi. Unfortunately, they did not undertake a thorough review of the economic and other policies that they pursued in the past. We think that the question of any front or alliance with the Congress(I) does not arise today. However, if the Congress(I) takes a firm stand against communal forces and helps pull down the BJP Government, we will take a positive attitude to the formation of an alternative secular democratic government.

What is the CPI's plan to strengthen Left unity?

We think that in order to strengthen Left unity it is essential that the two mainstream Communist parties, the CPI and the CPI(M), should work in closer unison. There has to be better coordination at every step and at all levels, not only at the all-India level but at the State level and further down.

As regards the other Left groups, we would like to broaden and expand the Left by their inclusion. However, there has to be a certain commonality of views. There must be a commonality of views on the present situation and also on the tactical approach to problems.

There has been a remarkable unanimity among the BJP, the Congress(I) and the erstwhile United Front in matters relating to economic policies in the last few years. Critics have said that the Left, preoccupied with forging political alliances, has neglected the task of building a platform on which the people's discontent against the economic onslaught can converge. Your comments.

Both the BJP and the Congress(I) represent the class interests of the bourgeoisie. This particular bourgeoisie, even though it is sometimes in contradiction with the bourgeoisie from abroad, basically stands for the liberalisation programme. In the case of the U.F., formed by 13 parties of which four were Left parties, most parties represented either the regional bourgeoisie or the bourgeoisie in general. The economic Ministries were mostly in their hands and on many occasions the Left differed with the liberalisation policies.

The BJP is going all out to liberalise the economy. The paradox of the situation is that while talking about swadeshi and swavalamba they have pushed liberalisation. They are trying to deceive the people with their doublespeak.

The Left stands for an alternative economic policy, of self-reliance, of mobilising all our national resources. We do not believe in economic autarchy. We might require some help from abroad... foreign capital and technology. But help from outside will only supplement national resources.

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