Is the decline of the Left a good thing for India?

The end of the world’s longest democratically elected communist regime in Bengal, and its defeat in Kerala by a narrow margin, has been met with unrestrained glee by sections of the media and chatterati. From “good riddance” to “well deserved”, a variety of expressions have been used to celebrate the momentous occasion.

But is the decline of the Left parties—they are in power only in tiny Tripura—and the dimunition of what the Left stands for, necessarily such a good thing for India and its democracy?

On the face of it, the Left’s singleminded opposition to “progress” and “development” as understood by the consuming classes is not very appealing. But in a post-liberalised polity populated by the Congress tweedledum and the BJP tweedledee and with nothing left to choose between them, the Left has consistently shown that its heart is in the right place: on the left.

In its commitment to secular values, in its fight for basic human rights, in its battles against price rise, in the austerity and decency of its leaders and their general incorruptibility, in the conduct of its parliamentarians, etc, the Left has stood up and batted for the man on the street, providing a voice to the voiceless, the poor and the marginalised.

Above all, the Left parties provided an effective safety valve, asking unpopular questions and preventing governments from riding roughshod be it in pushing through the Indo-US civilian nuclear bill or in privatisating valuable public assets built with taxpayers’ money.

The CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechury in the Hindustan Times:

“Left’s influence on the evolution of modern India has neither been confined nor can it be measured by its electoral presence alone….  In today’s conditions, with the neo-liberal reforms creating two Indias that continue to be detached from each other and mega-corruption that robs India as a country and as a people of its true potential, it is the Left that steadfastly and consistently has kept a straight bat.”

The writer Mukul Kesavan in the Hindustan Times:

“The real value of the Left was that it stood in the way of Indian politics being polarised around the Congress and the BJP. Despite electorally being a regional player, largely confined to Kerala and West Bengal, the Left saw itself ideologically as a national force.

“Consequently, unlike powerful regional parties like Naveen Patnaik’s BJD or the Kazhagams or even Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) that willy-nilly allied with one or the other pan-Indian party for political leverage and money, the Left constantly tried to create alternative alignments. In this, it was chronically unsuccessful but it did, in its awkward, perverse way, try to create a social-democratic space in Indian politics.”

The Left parties may yet bounce back, or they may not, but is the obliteration of what the Left stands for, a cause for celebration?

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14 Responses to “Is the decline of the Left a good thing for India?”

  1. the colonel Says:

    as i understand it scored 41% of votes in wb.

    this is quite a good score.

    it has many pluses which no pol party has; and its negatives are at a prehistoric ideological levels.

    it definitely has a future if it sheds the neg en-toto.

  2. mounaprasad Says:

    It finally has happened the communists are confined to the dustbin..thank the Bengalis and Mamata Di for this achievement. Hopefully Tripura follows this and summarily puts the commies in the dustbin of history. RIP Commies :)

  3. Objectivist Mantra Says:

    The decline of the left is the best thing that has ever happened to India in the last six or seven decades of independence. The leftists have completely destroyed this country.

    Their so called pro-poor schemes are only a conspiracy to keep the country poor forever. Leftist ideology has failed everywhere in the world, and it has also failed in West Bengal.

    Once upon a time, Calcutta used to be the centre of Indian culture, today, Kolkatta is known only for its bandhs, marches, are absolute poverty.

    The thing is that the left leaders are very good at deluding the public with their slogans of good intentions. Alas, the gullible masses dont realise that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    The leaders of the communist movement in West Bengal had a perfect society in mind – reached through bandhs, hartals, driving out private investment, destroying the work-culture, handing over the fields of art and literature to bunch of bureaucratic philistines.

    The thing is that the left movement is led by some of the richest individuals in India. It is only the elite that is leftist, the middle class and the poor class can’t afford to be left.

    The left leaders spend their vacations in Europe, they live in posh bungalows, they drive around in fancy cars, they wine and dine in style…… what hypocrisy. the arrogance is just unbearable.

  4. sanb Says:

    And where ever left ruled the rivers flowed with honey and all the dust was gold.

    In Kerala, CPM is a business house with interests in Entertainment, Health Care, Beedi and real estate with politics on the side. In fact they are probably the largest business enterprise in Kerala. The preferred way of acquiring land of course is to grab it.

    On local level, if the local secretary wants to grab land, he will just resort to mafia tactics – pour motor oil into the well, organize social boycotts, cost effective, simple and does produce results. Of course Left ain’t corrupt they just saintly. At the district or state level, they have to do things differently, organize strikes, intimidate owners and then grab.

    Left is extremely secular – that is why they backed the extra secular Madani, after all he did was to organize few bombings.

    Decency and austerity of their leaders and parliamentarians – yeah very austere, just to keep up with times the party builds them luxury flats for them stay, after all they have to scrape by on the stipend. But then one wonders how they manage to vacation in Singapore and other foreign climes.

    CPM is law abiding too – except when the attack police stations to rescue their comrades who tend to beat people up when they don’t pay up their voluntary contributions.

    CPM represents the poor and voiceless – except when they organize raids , set fires in snake and animal parks to hound one of their former comrades who dared stand up to the party. What about the poor defenseless animals that died of due to lack of water, ate their own flesh due to shock etc – collateral damage they say after all comrade has to be taught a lesson by the decent, pro-poor, anti-capitalist, law abiding CPM right?

    Oh Churumuri, what nonsense you tout, but serves the purpose of increasing traffic to your blog i guess.

  5. Vinay Says:

    The comments are encouraging. Sanb, excellent comment. The “left”, and leftist mentality in general, is the worst thing that happened to India.

  6. Yaaralli Says:

    Well the right wing promotes casteism, nepotism and uncontrollable corruption mirrored by 2G, IPL TATA SATYAM REDDY KHODA etc scams will become more clearer in coming days.
    There will be no takers for huge poor masses being burnt and left astray without rehabilitation.
    It’s true that left or right become meaningless without able leaders.

    We are indeed following Osamas – the self proclaimed leaders who watch blue films, isolate their next generation and throw bombs!

  7. Kitapati Says:

    The problem is that the left in india is not really the left much less liberal. They support regressive forces like the evangelists and jehadis. Ever wonder why Naxals always target some poor government functionaries and police constables, never really target the real capitalists and the powerful.
    Left liberals are very much needed for the country. The real ones I mean, not the card carrying members of the CPM/CPIM or Naxals.

  8. sujay Says:

    @sanb
    grew up on a daily diet of malayala manorama right ?
    wud u also enlighten us about the paragon of virtues on the opposite side – the congress, kerala congress (abcd….). muslim league……

  9. twistleton Says:

    The Left cannot be left to die, because an alternate is always necessary, and the voice of dissent is crucial: popular or unpopular.

    While the two main national parties the Congress and the BJP remain ideologically compromised it is up to the Left to show the right way.

    As for ideology itself any number of examples exist that demonstrate how easily it can be hijacked. Now the Indian Left is Socialist without being dictatorial at least in its non-violent factions. The Indian Left is willing to subject itself to the quintessential democratic test: elections. That is something worth preserving, no?

    It would be wise to reserve judgement till the next LS elections. There are a lot of disgruntled folks out there, people who will never appear on blogs like these…

  10. Abhi Says:

    It’s only self consoling to blame it on left, right, center. You bring in the same system from anywhere you like, it will only be as good as the people owning it.

  11. Vinay Says:

    Abhi:

    Simplistic argument. Irrespective of people, the system post 1991 has worked much better in India. India was a total basket case, and a hypocrite nation pre-1991. Things have improved so drastically now that it is hard to imagine.

    For all the problems and ills that India faces today, things were much much worse earlier. Not sure how old you are, but those who have lived through pre-1990s India know this fact.

    The current system is better than the old system, and there is really no arguing with that.

  12. Murthy Says:

    @Vinay
    I agree it’s better than pre 1990s

    But yes left is not CPM.

    It’s more human and intellectual.
    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-21/delhi/29568090_1_indian-democracy-roy-arundhati

  13. twistleton Says:

    Cruelty is not the exclusive of any one ideology. Ideology doesn’t guarantee good behaviour. Stupidity knows no nationality. In fact ideology like classical economics rarely translates into reality. So that should be no reason for the Left to be declared out.

    And if we are to speak in polemics, then the Left ideology beats all others hollow.

  14. Abhi Says:

    Vinay – there is no argument left about the classical Stalinist communism or infamous Indian bureaucracy. You are beating a dead snake.

    Left, right center comes in so many shades varying from Keynesian, Ayn Rand’s, Hayek’s to a current European socialist models. Which one are you referring to?

    Ideologies evolve just like everything else on planet. The basic ingredient you need is a population capable of critical thinking and an attitude to question. Without that in place, importing ideas and ideologies does not change much.

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