People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 20, 2004

         Left Intervention Has to Grow Manifold

 Harkishan Singh Surjeet


NOW that the Congress led UPA government is in the saddle, the people of this country do expect, naturally, that it will take due steps to translate its promises into action. So far the Manmohan Singh government has adopted the common minimum programme (CMP), evolved by Congress party, as the government’s own programme, and given the Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi the power to supervise its implementation. Nay, Mrs Gandhi has been accorded cabinet rank for the purpose and given adequate staff to discharge her responsibilities. 



BUT the thing to remember is that no programme under the sun has ever been implemented if the people have not maintained due vigil and displayed initiative for the purpose. And the reason is that, no matter how good in itself a programme is, vested interests always get active to sabotage its implementation. Moreover, compared to the common mass, these vested interests always have at their command more resources and more connections to realise their goals. This is where the mass initiative assumes importance, for it is only through their organised strength that the masses can get over the designs of these vested interests.


The same goes about the CMP of the Manmohan Singh government. There is no doubt that the document contains several welcome features, and that is why the Left parties welcomed it on the whole. Also, we have no doubt whatsoever about the regime’s sincerity regarding implementation of the common minimum programme. Yet there is no denying that vested interests of all hues, including those in the media, have already become active to foil the implementation of the document, if they can.



AN example is the way the media heaped abuses on the Left parties on airport privatisation issue. And that too despite the fact that the UPA’s CMP contains the explicit provision that no profit-making public sector undertaking will be privatised or disinvested. In fact, everyday the naked class bias of the media in favour of the bourgeoisie and multinational corporations is getting evident. But a more sad, and at the same time more ridiculous, fact is that even though some of our wise mediapersons don’t know the ABC of politics, they have taken upon themselves the task of teaching us as to how the Left should behave. Under Vir Sanghvi, the Hindustan Times has even gone to the extent of pontificating that though the Left parties are known for discipline, they are not really disciplined. And the reason? Because we are opposed to airport privatisation or to interest rate cuts. However, allow us to tell the whole world that we well realise how much agony the poor fellow’s soul is suffering. He would be extremely happy, and indeed he would give us dozens of certificates of discipline, if only we give up defending the common man’s interest and start toeing the bourgeoisie’s line. Our only regret, however, is that we cannot oblige the poor fellow on this score and we have no use for his certificates either. 


Similarly, in the last one month or so, the media have blamed or abused the Left umpteen times for the fall in the Sensex, the national index of our share market’s transactions. Nay, the impression being given was that the fall in the Sensex would spell a doom for the economy and that in this case the Left is the villain of the piece. These media wiseacres must indeed be asked whether it is the Left parties who advised their patrons to indulge in their dirtiest kinds of speculative activities! Secondly, they should also be asked that if a fall in the Sensex affects their paymasters’ interests, what the common man has to do with it. The real point to note is that these mediapersons are busy abusing the Left simply because we are not prepared to give up our creed for the sake of the exploiting classes. And we do say with all force at our command that if this is being “doctrinaire,” let it be so --- by all means!


Here we have only one humble question for the media. If the Sensex takes a beating any time because of speculative transactions in the share market, will these self-declared purveyors of truth ever show the courage to tell that it is their masters who are getting affected? We ask them plainly: how and since when have the speculators’ losses become synonymous with the common man’s loss?



THIS was, however, only one instance of how vested interests are trying to kill the CMP’s provisions. But, to be true to facts, there are at the lower levels also vested interests who are no less active to scuttle the CMP and are also trying to corner a big chunk of whatever relief the regime rushes to the suffering masses. The only difference is that the activities of these lower level vested interests are not so documented as the activities of our media wiseacres are.


And this is going to be the pattern in the coming days. Take an example. Way back in 1966, the Kothari commission recommended that 6 per cent of the GDP must be spent on education. Nay, the government of India accepted this recommendation in the education policy of 1968 and reiterated it in the 1986 policy. Yet, the public spending on education reached only 3.2 per cent of GDP at its most.


Now, because of the insistence of the Left (and this Left stand has the backing of the mass of students and their parents), the government has agreed to spend 6 per cent of our GDP on education and 2 to 3 per cent of GDP on health. At the same time, however, the government has pleaded that, as its resources are limited, it would impose a 2 per cent cess on those paying income tax beyond a certain amount. In itself, there is nothing wrong in it as it is based on the principle of progressive taxation and several governments in the world have been doing it. But already the rich sections have started fulminating against it, even though the additional burden they would be made to bear will be only a fraction of their incomes. At the same time, suggestions are being advanced to shift the burden of the proposed cess to other sections of society who may not be as fortunate. And while our corporates and their hangers-on in the media are so fulminating against the proposed cess, they had no compunction in shamelessly demanding further cuts in corporate tax and other direct taxes. This was the gist of their song during their recent meeting with the finance minister at Mumbai.


In such a situation, needless to say, various organisations of the students have to come forward to see that the government honours its promise of spending 6 per cent of GDP on education and that vested interests are not able to scuttle the move. That the Left oriented student organisations, particularly the SFI and AISF, have to take the lead in the process, goes without saying. In the same manner, we have to ensure that, if possible, 3 per cent of the GDP is spent on the health sector. This is extraordinarily important in a country where health services are highly privatised and the public spending on health is a paltry 0.9 per cent of GDP.



THE same goes about many sections of society. For, the CMP contains promises for workers, peasants, agricultural workers, women, middle class employees, the unemployed and so on, but the real question remains the same --- whether or not the promises would get translated into action.


Apart from the promises made in the CMP, there remain certain issues on which there is no explicit word but which are no less important. For example, while the promise is that the interest rate on EPF will not be slashed (trade unions are demanding that the rate be restored to the earlier 12 per cent), there is no promise that the interest rates for pensioners or other small savers will not be touched. But if the government slashes the interest rates on small saving instruments, it would be harming the small savers in order to provide cheap loans to corporate houses or to reduce its own internal debt service burden. But, should such a measure be allowed to pass simply because these pensioners and other small savers are not organised? The Left at least cannot remain a mute spectator if such a measure is initiated, because it would not only harm the small savers but also adversely affect the savings rate and capital formation in the economy.


The Left will also see that the government initiates measures to recover the so-called non-performing assets from corporate houses who took billions of rupees from banks and are refusing to repay. Though the CMP has no explicit word on the issue, it is clear that a number of our projects can be funded if only these debts are recovered. 


But all this means that the Left parties and the mass and class organisations led by them have to increase their intervention in the situation manifold. There is no doubt that the recent elections saw a significant increase in the strength of the Left parties, but this cannot be the be-all-and-end-all for us. The point to note is that the strength of the Left must further increase to the extent that it is able to change the balance of class forces in society and usher the country into a fundamentally changed situation. There is no denying that this is not a goal that may be realised in near future; it may still take a very long time to realise; but this is the direction in which we have to move. Thus, without losing sight of our strategic objective for a moment, we have to work out a series of interim tactics from time to time and, more importantly, back up our tactical measures with resolute mass actions in tune with the situations obtaining at particular points of time.   


Moreover, to reiterate what is a well known dictum of our movement, our mass actions have to take the shape of united actions wherever possible and independent actions wherever necessary.


Here, it must also be noted that the Left initiative and intervention is also needed to catalyse resistance to the communal, fascistic forces who are down but not yet out. It is true that right now they are licking their wounds and they were not in a position to put up an effective fight during the recent brief session of parliament. Some amount of internal wrangling is also there, as is evident from Vajpayee’s diatribe against Narendra Modi, Praveen Togadia’s venomous invectives against Vajpayee, and the way the RSS snubbed Vajpayee on the issue. Rather, it would be a mistake to dub these goings-on as wrangling; they are much more than that. The recent anti-Modi flare-up in Gujarat BJP was somehow brought under control, but it is clear that sooner or later Modi will have to go, no matter how much the RSS pretends to defend him.


Yet it would be a suicidal mistake if we underestimate the capacity of the saffron brigade to create mischief. While snubbing Vajpayee openly, RSS chief Sudarshan also made it clear that his fascistic outfit has not given up its fratricidal Hindutva project. Nor did he show even a slight amount of remorse over the ghastly killings of Muslims in Gujarat. It is certain that, sooner or later, the brigade will be in action to vitiate the atmosphere in the country, as that is the only hope it has been left, and that it would also capitalise on any anti-people measure the government may happen to take. This is the exigency for which the Left has not only to be ready but has also to mobilise the masses. Moreover, the Left has also to keep the regime warning against taking any such measure that the Sangh Parivar may exploit.