July 28, 2014 marks the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of our founder leader Comrade Charu Mazumdar. It also marks the 40th anniversary of the reorganisation of the Party in the wake of the setback suffered in the early 1970s. As we face India’s first BJP-majority government at the centre, which in its first two months in power have already given us unmistakable glimpses of its thoroughly corporate-friendly agenda and authoritarian and communal character, we are reminded of the last words of Comrade Charu Mazumdar and the lessons we learnt in our battle with Indira autocracy in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Riding on the appeal of bank nationalisation and the call of ‘garibi hatao’, Indira Gandhi had secured a clear mandate in 1971 defeating the Congress old guards. She then went on to consolidate her power with the victory over Pakistan in the Bangladesh war which had left the RSS awe-struck and led Vajpayee to compare Indira Gandhi with the demon-slaying image of goddess Durga. History tells us how quickly this ‘garibi hatao’ mandate and the nationalist appeal had translated into a brutal paramilitary crackdown on the CPI(ML) and gone on to envelope India’s parliamentary democracy in the darkness of Emergency.
Comrade Charu Mazumdar had clearly sensed this danger when days before his martyrdom he called for broad-based unity against the onslaught on the people, asserting that the interests of the people were the interests of the party. The reorganisation of the Party Central Committee on 28 July 1974 and the subsequent revival of the party upheld the spirit of CM’s powerful last words through waves of peasant awakening, all-out mass initiatives and bold assertion of the agenda of radical social transformation and consistent democracy. A rejuvenated CPI(ML) successfully resisted the autocratic onslaught of the ruling classes, building brick by brick a committed communist party organisation dedicated to the interests and struggles of the people.
The situation today is both markedly similar and dissimilar to the situation four decades ago. Indira Gandhi was full of Left pretensions and socialistic rhetoric. Narendra Modi flaunts his rightwing politics and intimate corporate ties with great pride. The Congress under Indira Gandhi’s stewardship was busy writing the obituary of the CPI(ML). Modi’s mission of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ seeks to establish and consolidate rightwing hegemony under the exclusive leadership of the BJP, he would love to see India purged of the entire array of Left forces, marginalising in the process even various non-Left liberal streams of social and cultural discourse.
Just as Indira Gandhi, backed by her own coterie of close confidantes, wanted to rule with an iron hand, Modi too would like to rule as a supreme leader enjoying the unabashed adulation of his bhakts and allegiance of his colleagues. And to be sure, the nationalist demagogy is central to the rhetoric employed by the two leaders – while Indira’s accent was on ‘national unity and integrity’ and officially proclaimed ‘secularism’, Modi’s nationalism is openly majoritarian and the emphasis is on a hard state that curbs liberties in the name of ‘national security’ and corporate-led developmentalism that would bulldoze every voice of dissent and sanctify every destruction of natural resource and people’s livelihood in the name of economic growth.
Our job today is to rise against this mounting rightwing onslaught and corporate-communal offensive. We have to bounce back against the triumphalist rightwing clamour of marginalisation of the Left. And as we take up this challenge, we must go deep among the people and organise and mobilise them on their everyday issues. We must pit the aspirations of the people, which the BJP had invoked in the election campaign to come to power, against the BJP’s rapidly unfolding corporate-communal agenda and the harsh reality of rising prices and growing mockery of people’s welfare. When the rhetoric of ‘achchhe din’ (good days) turns into the reality of ‘bitter pill’, fight back the people will and the CPI(ML) must discharge its role in the frontlines of people’s struggle.
As the Modi government unleashes its authoritarian mode of governance and seeks to impose its corporate-communal agenda, we can hear the voices of disenchantment and dissent all around us. From the man on the street complaining about the soaring prices to the Chief Justice of India slamming the government for its interference in the appointment of judges – protests can be heard everywhere. This is the time to reach out to various fighting forces and build the broadest possible unity in struggle.
Today the opposition in Parliament has evidently become quite weak and most sections of the opposition have no credibility when it comes to the question of defending the rights and livelihood of the people, the pluralist fabric of the country and the autonomy of various institutions. Regardless of the role of the Opposition inside Parliament and the response of various institutions to the challenges posed by the Modi government, the voices of protest and resistance must be raised boldly on the streets. Extensive interaction with various progressive democratic forces and effective solidarity and cooperation with wide-ranging struggles of the people are the needs of the hour.
And sure enough, we need a stronger party organisation than ever before. When the Central Committee was reorganised in July 1974, we had to begin the task of Party reorganisation from above, starting almost from scratch. Today, after nine Congresses we are on a much stronger footing with a Party membership of more than one lakh and presence of Party organisation in more than 20 states and 100 districts. But the recent elections have once again made it clear that we need a much more effective Party organisation at the grassroots. We have a nearly 3-million-strong organised mass membership, but our votes barely crossed one million which clearly shows our weakness in terms of political and electoral mobilisation of our members and supporters.
All said and done, polling booths are the key site of electoral struggles. The money-, muscle- and media-power and social engineering equations of dominant ruling class parties play themselves out through booth level mobilisation of the electorate. Given that the electoral domain is no level-playing field and the power balance in electoral struggles is heavily tilted against the poor and working people, it becomes all the more imperative that communists are able to put up effective ground-level resistance against the politics of the ruling classes through intensive counter-mobilisation at the grassroots.
The grassroots organisation that won big victories in the struggle against feudal domination and state terror in the formative years of our Party is also our main weapon in the battle in the electoral arena. It must be understood that unlike the Congress and various identity-based parties, the BJP is a cadre-based party which pays serious attention to its organisation and propaganda and indoctrination campaign at the grassroots. Communist resistance to the BJP must therefore be waged most decisively in the sphere of organisational and ideological-political mobilisation at the grassroots. On the 40th anniversary of Party reorganisation, let us resolve to raise our grassroots organisation to a higher level in terms of mass strength as well as political mobilisation and organisational functioning. The battle against the corporate-communal fascist threat must be won decisively by powerful communist organisation of the working people working in tandem with broader democratic forces on every front of people’s struggle.