The CPI(M) will undertake a comprehensive review of the results to identify the causes which have led to the erosion of support for the Left Front and the political shift that has taken place in West Bengal. The CPI (M) will, after the critical examination of the election results, orient itself towards taking up the issues of the basic classes and fighting for the interests of the working people. The political platform of the Left which includes the fight against the neo-liberal economic policies, defending the livelihood of the people, defence of national sovereignty and secularism remains as the only alternative political platform for the country as against those of the ruling class parties like the Congress and the BJP. General Secretary of the CPI(M), Prakash Karat writes.
The elections to the West Bengal assembly have resulted in a big defeat for the Left Front. This has come as a major disappointment for the left, democratic and progressive forces in the country who consider West Bengal as a bastion of the Left. After 34 years of Left Front government and the remarkable record of winning seven successive elections since 1977, the CPI(M) led Left Front government has been voted out of office. Some general features of the verdict stand out. The people have decisively opted for change and given a sweeping victory to the TMC combine. There was a total consolidation of all the anti-Left forces ranging from the right to the Maoists on the extreme left. It is also evident that the Left Front could not recover the lost ground in the past two years as much as we expected.
The Party will undertake a comprehensive review of the results to identify the causes which have led to the erosion of support for the Left Front and the political shift that has taken place. Even though the Left Front has garnered an additional eleven lakh votes compared to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, there is a reduction of 2.2 percentage points in the vote share compared to the Lok Sabha polls. Despite the solid achievements of the three decades of Left rule, the prolonged period in government led to the accumulation of some negative factors. The critical examination of the election trends placing it in the context of the political and organisational work of the Party should help us to chalk out the steps to be taken to rectify the flaws in our approach and remedy the organisational shortcomings.
In Kerala, the LDF lost narrowly falling short by three seats for a majority. The UDF managed to scrape through with a two seat majority. The difference between the UDF and LDF vote share is only 0.89 per cent. This shows that the people were by and large satisfied with the record of the LDF government and there was no anti-incumbency factor at work. The anti-corruption crusade of Chief Minister V.S.Achuthanandan also got popular endorsement. Preliminary reports show that a LDF victory was thwarted by the influence wielded by some caste and religious bodies over some sections of the people. A large number of people were not attracted to the Congress alliance given the record of corruption and price-rise under the UPA government at the Centre.
The defeat in West Bengal has led to a barrage of propaganda in the corporate media against the CPI(M) and the Left. The results are being portrayed as a catastrophe from which the CPI(M) will not be able to recover. Another line of attack pursued by some commentators is to pronounce the ideology of the Communist Party as an anachronism and the verdict as a culmination of the end of the relevance of socialism and Marxism worldwide.
That these are patently false assertions can be understood by the fact that the fall of the Soviet Union had no material impact on the CPI(M). In fact, in the nineteen nineties, the Party grew and developed stronger, both in West Bengal and Kerala. As far as ideology is concerned, the CPI(M) draws on the theory and practice of Marxism by creatively applying it to Indian conditions. This is not a static position but one which evolves constantly.
The CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal have grown and developed through innumerable struggles and popular movements stretching over four decades. The electoral success of the Left Front is an outcome of the mass base produced by such movements and struggles. The Left Front is not merely an electoral alliance nor has the CPI(M) grown and developed as a powerful mass party only due to its electoral activities.
Those who are writing the epitaph of the CPI (M) and the Left Front in West Bengal overlook the fact that even in this defeat the Left Front has polled forty one per cent of the votes. Over one crore ninety five lakh (19.5 million) people have voted and supported the Left Front. This is a substantial mass base which has withstood the attacks on the CPI (M) and the Left in the last two years and who constitute the class base of the working people. The virulent anti-communist and neo-liberal commentators will be proved wrong. The CPI (M) and the Left forces will conduct a patient struggle to win back those sections of the people who have been alienated by taking up their cause and fighting for them.
Another form of attack is to slander the entire record of the Left Front and to demonize the CPI (M) as an authoritarian force which has suppressed the people. Some have gone to the extent of claiming that the earlier victories of the Left Front are due to the repression of anyone who opposed or defied the CPI (M). These critics conveniently forget that in every assembly election since 1977, the anti-Left opposition has got not less than forty per cent of the vote at any time. The CPI (M) and the Left Front had a remarkable record of winning between forty five to fifty per cent of the votes in all previous elections owing to their deep roots among the people and the popular support that they commanded particularly in the rural areas. The vilification of the CPI (M) cadres painting them as despotic and corrupt is a motivated effort to disarm the Party as it is its dedicated and selfless cadres who are the backbone of the organisation.
An accompanying charge is that the Left Front government in West Bengal was inherently anti-democratic and a totalitarian set up which had stamped out all dissent and imposed a straitjacket on West Bengal society. The Left Front ruled through popular mandate by continuously subjecting itself to the democratic process under the parliamentary democratic system. The CPI(M) and the Left have shown that it is the most consistent force for democracy. Ever since the Communist Party won the elections in 1957 in Kerala and formed the first communist ministry in the country, it has vitalized democracy by bringing the vast masses into the democratic process. It is not accidental that the highest polling rates in the country are registered in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. It is in these three states that land reforms have broken the old landlord structure and expanded democracy. The panchayati institutions were vitalized. It is the agents of the dominant classes and vested interests who seek to tarnish and distort this democratic record of the Left.
Role of Left-led Governments
The CPI (M) had evolved its own approach to the running of state governments wherever it is able to get the support of the people. The Left-led governments have to be run in such a way as to strengthen the Left and democratic movement and the movement of the working people. The Party programme has spelt out that such governments should carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and to strive, project and implement alternative policies within the existing limitations. The unique record of the Left Front Government in West Bengal shows that it had seriously worked towards this goal. The loss of such a Left-led government is a setback but it cannot be seen as a permanent and fundamental loss. The CPI (M) has always stressed the importance of organizing the working people through their own class and mass organisations and developing popular movements and struggles and thereby raising the political consciousness of the people. The formation of the Left-led governments is an outcome of this process.
The CPI (M) will, after the critical examination of the election results, orient itself towards taking up the issues of the basic classes and fighting for the interests of the working people. The political platform of the Left which includes the fight against the neo-liberal economic policies, defending the livelihood of the people, defence of national sovereignty and secularism remains as the only alternative political platform for the country as against those of the ruling class parties like the Congress and the BJP.
In West Bengal, in the changed political situation, the CPI (M) will defend the gains achieved by the people over the last three decades under Left Front rule. Given the class nature of the ruling alliance, there will be efforts to undo the land reforms and undermine the gains achieved by the working people. We will defend the land reforms and the rights of the bargadars and agricultural workers; the workers will be better organized to fight for their rights and all sections of the working people in defence of their livelihood. The legacy of secularism and communal harmony has to be protected and the divisive forces out to disrupt the unity of the people and integrity of the state countered. All this will be accomplished by strengthening Left unity.
Defend Party & Left Front
In the aftermath of the elections, the immediate task is to defend the Party, the Left Front and the movement in West Bengal which has already come under attack. Soon after the election results, there have been scores of attacks on offices of the Party and trade unions. Murderous violence has been unleashed against the cadres and supporters of the CPI (M) and the Left Front. Within the first two days, two leaders of the CPI (M) were brutally killed. The Trinamul Congress wants to utilize the election victory to eliminate physically the CPI (M) and the Left in many areas. This has to be resisted and fought back. The democratic sentiments of the people in West Bengal have to be roused against such violence. The entire Party, the Left and democratic forces in the country stand steadfastly with the CPI (M) and the Left Front in West Bengal to rebuff such attacks.