The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is headed for yet another showdown between party chief Sitaram Yechury and former party chief Prakash Karat at the party’s three-day central committee meeting, starting on October 14. The bone of contention is whether the CPI(M) should be a part of the Congress-led national alliance to fight against the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. On Monday, the CPI(M) Politburo met here to forward to the central committee two conflicting drafts, or outlines, of its future political tactics. The central committee would discuss and vote on the two drafts — one backed by Yechury and the other by Karat. The final draft would then be circulated for further discussions and adopted at the party’s conclave in Hyderabad in April 2018. The political resolution passed at the conclave will determine the CPI(M)’s strategy for the next three years — whether the party will have electoral alliances with non-Left “secular democratic parties” at the national level for the 2018 Assembly polls and for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Karat has argued against such an electoral alliance. He wants the party to persist with its 2015 “political tactical line” to focus on building its organisational strength and involve itself with agitation on the ground. It had then decided that while the main direction of the party’s attack should be against the BJP, but an electoral understanding with the Congress cannot be ruled out. It also decided against the CPI(M) being part of any national alliance of regional parties. Yechury has pointed to “changing conditions” in the country for the CPI(M) to amend its political tactical line to fight the BJP-RSS combine.
The Yechury camp has invoked a line from Leon Trotsky, who, in 1931, appealed to German Communists to fight fascist forces led by Adolf Hitler, but had no alliance with the Social Democrats. “March separately, but strike together,” Trotsky said in 1931.The CPI(M) hasn’t taken part in an Opposition unity rally in Patna in August 27, and the central committee had also voted against a third Rajya Sabha term for Yechury with Congress support. This party line has come under heavy criticism from other Opposition parties. After the last Politburo meeting on September 6-7, Yechury indicated the political tactical line of 2015 needed to be amended and pointed at recent events like the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh and other developments. “The concrete conditions have changed since 2015 to 2018 (April) when we meet again. So the basic essential element of Marxism is concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Conditions have changed, so our analysis and alignment will accordingly change.” That did not go down too well within the party, as the next day the Politburo issued a statement to “clarify” Yechury’s comments. If Karat is opposed to any understanding with the Congress, Yechury is of the view that the situation warrants putting together a national alternative to the BJP. Yechury and others have argued that the BJP is no ordinary ‘bourgeoisie’ party, but is a front of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with a ‘fascist’ agenda. According to them, the Modi government needs to be fought at all levels as it threatens parliamentary democracy, and the CPI(M) has in the past backed broad national platforms. The Jalandhar party conclave in 1978 after the Emergency had decided to defend the broad platform represented by the Janata Party, which had included the Jana Sangh, against authoritarian attacks (of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government). Similarly, in 1989 there was an alliance of the National Front, comprising regional parties and Janata Dal, and the Left parties. The Janata Dal had an electoral understanding with the BJP. The CPI(M) cooperated with the United Front government from 1996 to 1998, which was supported from the outside by the Congress to keep the BJP at bay.