Is Tripura loss the end of communist politics in India?
Commies have taken the historical predictions of Marx, based on his formula of binary contradiction and almost no data, too seriously.
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Having won 35 out of 59 assembly seats in Tripura, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that this is the "shikhar" (apex) which the BJP has scaled from "shunya" (nil).
The catapult from 1.54 per cent vote share and 0 seats in 2013 to 43 per cent votes and 35 seats in 2018 has many imports -
a) Interim shush for doomsayers of the BJP who smelled blood after the Gujarat poll
b) Fitness certificate for Amit Shah as the general who will manoeuvre BJP in a poll-busy 2018
c) Consolidation of the BJP in the Northeast, including Nagaland and Meghalaya, and so expansion beyond Hindi-Hindu India
d) Emergence of the BJP as the only party which can literally claim national status before the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
But to register these points and discount another is to miss the wood for the trees. Victory in Tripura is the hoist of saffron flag on red ground after 25 years. Like the proverbial icing on the cake, the context has provided that inessential but seductive flavour which prolongs the taste of victory. It is a point on the ideological scoreboard whose momentum cannot be captured by statistics. It is the fructification of a calling that the desis have nursed against the Europhones for more than a century. No wonder that a newspaper reported about Agartala that for "delirious BJP supporters … the pleasure of vanquishing communists could never be matched by any other victory".
So the question is: Is this the end of communist politics in India as we know it? Extended members of the Left consortium - activists, journalists, editors, professors - have raised this question after the Tripura result. To them; like most things communist - base-superstructure, bourgeois-proletariat, religion-reason, thesis-antithesis - the answer to this question as well is en route to a binary of yes-no. The members argue "yes" because they accuse communist politics of orthodoxy. They argue "no" because they sense potential for alliance with other players on the protest stage. Not surprisingly, this is also the crux of the Prakash Karat-Sitaram Yechury deadlock.
Kumar Rana has suggested, "… Change in literacy status brought in much substantial changes (sic) in aspiration, such as for better employment opportunity… The Left neither could read the minds of the aspirant youth; nor could it develop a language which the youth could comprehend."
Amit Sengupta has noted, "Ruling for 25 years with impeccable honesty is just not enough for the modern electorate, especially the aspiring educated classes, high on the flip-side of globalisation and liberalisation, and low on history, philosophy or social sciences." Both analyses expose the well-known dogma of Karl Marx - economic determinism.
It is ridiculous that journalist and former JNUSU president Amit Sengupta should accuse anybody for being "low on history, philosophy or social sciences". Commies have taken the historical predictions of Marx, based on his formula of binary contradiction and almost no data, too seriously. Even astrology has had a higher success rate. Commies have also established Marx as anti-philosophy. They have reduced his scholarship to that one sentence - "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it." The words remain on his grave and, of course, on the walls of JNU. And what about the philosophers' ships which exiled philosophers from Soviet Russia because their thoughts dared to search beyond the materialist doctrine of Vladimir Lenin?
A ray of hope is that communists seem to finally admit that human aspirations, their own ones included, cannot be politically dictated. The Bengal CPM had initiated a course correction in this regard but governmental highhandedness led to Singur and Nandigram. It realised that private profit will continue to dominate economies because have-nots too want to have for themselves first. Any exception to this predatory law of accumulation requires triumph over the human self. MK Gandhi called it "swarajya" ie rule over the never-satisfied fire of ego. This swarajya cannot be achieved outside the self. Such misadventures have already produced the Stalins and Tse-Tungs post Lenin.
But the Kerala faction of the CPM led by Prakash Karat remains committed to the hard-line. The Karat team is against any alliance with private capital or its promoters, the Congress for instance. It is not difficult to guess the reason. Unlike in totalitarian China, such tectonic shift in ideology will be exposed as desperation for realpolitik relevance. It would be another matter if the alliance were to be forged from a position of strength. But then there is precedence of such alliance between the great gods of communism. Lest it is forgotten, Friedrich Engels - first comrade to Marx - was an industrialist of great wealth. Marx never refused financial support from this boss of the cotton industry in Manchester.
The extended members of the Left consortium think that alliance is the way forward. Monobina Gupta has admitted, "… a range of unconventional, new Left leaders have appeared on the scene since 2011 … The decimation of conventional Left politics seems to go hand in hand with the emergence of this alternative Left politics and politicians. I may argue that we have begun to hear today the articulation of a new Left language.
We are witnessing the rise of a new breed of politicians - who are reaching out to the marginalised sections." Kamal Chenoy has echoed, "The time for renovation and consolidation for progressive change and rebuilding the Left has come. Will the Left rise to the occasion? If they don't there will be more defeats, more setbacks. Marxism has always based itself on theoretical innovations and constant upgradation."
To claim "Marxism has always based itself on theoretical innovations" is, to use that dreaded phrase, "false consciousness". True that the likes of Antonio Gramsci (hegemony), Louis Althusser (ideological state apparatuses), Critical Theorists (culture industry) and Noam Chomsky (manufacturing consent) are celebrated as 20th century contributors to Marxism. But the cause for celebration is not innovation. They confirmed, only to Marxists obviously, what Marx had already asserted but not elaborated - culture has no independent history at all and that all cultural workings are ultimately determined by economic mechanisms.
One does not even need to cite the very vast literature in social philosophy and cultural studies to counter this very, very limited schema. Suffice to say that even Engels betrayed it. His book The Peasant War in Germany (1850) is an account of an agrarian rebellion in feudal Europe that was led by Martin Luther - a towering religious reformer. And surely, religion is not beyond culture. So even before Max Weber "turned Marx on his head" with the publication of Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905); Engels did.
The argument of Monobina Gupta about "the emergence of this alternative Left politics and politicians" is like that of a drowning human who catches a straw. The list of new-age politicians provided includes Jignesh Mevnani, Chandrshekhar Azad and Arvind Kejriwal. But what makes Gupta assume that any of these green horns will want to dilute his hard-earned brand of politics in favour of that of the "alternative Left"? The assumption seems to be that advocacy is the monopoly of the Left and anyone who chooses to engage in it is Left by default. Such "maan-na-maan-mein-tera-mehman" attitude was arrogance once. It reflects desperation now.
Kejriwal is yet to forget that the anti-corruption movement that he commanded in 2011-12 was ridiculed by the Left as elite, manufactured and allegedly backed by the RSS. Even if the BJP restricts the Opposition to such a small space that alliance becomes automatic; it will remain a collusion of convenience, hardly ideology. The Karat team is apprehensive that the situation will rush a scrawny CPM towards such irrelevance that death will be invisible and elegies will be missing.