BIHAR ELECTIONS AMIDST THREAT OF COVID & FASCISM*

As Bihar Assembly election is approximating, the political atmosphere has been warming up for quite some time. Immediately with this, the first thing we come to hear is that the Parliamentary Left and even some Revolutionary Left demands the postponement of election due to continuing spread of Covid-19. They criticized the Nitish Kumar government for its callousness to untimely concentrate more on election than on the safety of the people from Covid-19. This was when Covid-19 still instilled a lot of fear among party leaders and election momentum hadn’t also begun to pick up. However, as the election momentum began picking up, public talk on election started gathering some heat and as the election murmur got prominent day by day with public mood also generating political heat on election, all the left parties, without any exception, jumped into it like anything. They even didn’t bother that just the previous day they were demanding postponement of election so that Government could have more time to first ensure the safety of people from Covid-19.

Ultimately what we see now is a mad rush for election alliances. This is how the old sores of the Left are again out in the open in a manner even worse and more despicable than earlier. Now, when they have jumped into the election right away, they still don’t feel it their duty or responsibility to clearly announce that they now withdraw their earlier demand of postponement of election, let alone honestly explain the change in circumstances that forced them to make this U-turn.

This is quite picturesque. From demanding postponement of election to jumping band and wagon into forming pre-poll alliance with RJD and Congress even before coming to any general understanding among the Left as a whole, the political theatre of the Left in Bihar now-a-days abounds in too many interesting theatrics and somersaults. Parliamentary cretinism along with political opportunism is in a state of full display, whereas the question of forming a solid and compact Left Block in Bihar election, even if it consisted of parliamentary left parties only, to successfully lead the fight against fascism in election and based on that utilize the contradictions of the bourgeois camp as well as neutralize the vacillations of such parties as RJD and Congress on the other, the kernel of any real left politics today even in its narrowest sense, has taken a back seat again, as usual. Naturally, the possibility of independent left campaign (it is however expecting moon from them) against the ideology and politics of fascism on the widest possible scale is completely doomed and, similarly, an election alliance with the bourgeois parties, if at all it is felt necessary, on the terms beneficial for the masses and the left politics in future is going to be a serious casualty this time, too, though seat sharing opportunist politics may flourish whose real benefit will however go to the bourgeois parties. Common people as well as the rank and file of the Left will be befooled, cheated and politically blackmailed once again in the name of need of alliance for the sake of defeating BJP-JDU combine.

With this, the possibility of a future broader Left-led mass upsurge in Bihar against the bourgeois rule in general and against the Modi’s fascist rule in particular, whose chances are now brighter than any time in the past, will thus again be tamed by the treacherous role of the parliamentary left parties yet again. The result is obvious. Even if the Left captures some more seats or RJD-led alliance wins in the election, it will not be useful in the long run in cornering, isolating or defeating the politics and ideology of fascism. The ‘Left’ politics of hobnobbing with the bourgeoisie and their parties without consolidating the left block is proving once again the biggest hurdle of people’s movement against fascism.

Bourgeois Alliance Is The Main Mantra. Old Wine In Old Bottle

Bourgeois election alliance has emerged as the main Mantra of the Left in the fight against the threat of fascism. The ‘main’ left parties (CPI, CPM and CPI-ML – liberation) have just plainly offered themselves for a pre-poll alliance with bourgeois parties i.e. RJD and Congress. Have the left parties thrust upon RJD any debate on the need of fighting against fascism? No. Not at all. Even this minimum idea hasn’t been injected into the public mood and atmosphere. In this situation, such an alliance will bring no adverse impact on the spread of fascist ideology. This is certain, as the only debate is about seat sharing. Its political connotation in public is largely negative and will be portrayed as alliance of convenience as there is just no other issue on which ‘fighting on the negotiating table’ is going on. This is a shame on all of us.

People can see, there is obviously too much haste this time. Progressive people are asking why is there so much haste? Why are the political agenda not being put in the front? Do they feel confident that if they manage to win some more seats with the help of alliance or RJD led alliance wins, which is most unlikely in the given circumstances, the threat of fascism will vanish and ‘democracy’ will triumph? Do they ever think that such an ‘apolitical’ alliance i.e. the alliance of convenience will deliver on the people’s aspirations, even if it wins? Even if such an alliance gets majority to rule for five years, it will not be able to deliver on their own promises. It will not only bring discredit to the ‘left’, owing to renewed and vigorous growth of mass discontent as result of un-fulfillment of the people’s aspirations, but also create new conditions for not only its re-emergence but also for the emergence of a second new wave of a more ferocious fascist upsurge and triumph. Additionally, it will also prove to be a prelude to a complete face loss of the Left. This will further erode the Left base and cause irreparable damage to the cause of people.

We have seen in History that by forging such an opportunist alliance with RJD, the CPI and CPM have not only lost their credibility and face but also their mass base and ideological-political appeal. This time, ‘Liberation’ faction of CPI-ML may be the long term sufferer of this alliance. This is the old bottle and also the old wine. Only the manufacturing and expiry tag is new.   

Why Waste Time In Discussing Politics Is The Mood Within The Left

Why waste ‘precious’ time in discussing political issues is the feeling that reigns supreme in the minds of the leaders of the Left now a days. This shows the level of desperation. No policy discussion is taking place. If only seat sharing and winning as many alliance seats as possible is taken as the prime method and motive of fighting against the fascists, it is then no surprise that such a mood exists from top to bottom in the Left circle. Discussing too much politics will spoil the chances of alliance, they feel. It is correct, too. Unless the Left rise on the crest of mass upsurge resulting from the deep seated anger that is accumulating, there is no chance of the Left dictating the terms of the alliance with the bourgeois. Yes, if the whole Left from Right to Left had united under a common program against fascism, there was a chance that together they might have played a bigger role. But, in absence of both of them, they are behaving like beggars. There is no option, too. The Left seems to have committed to this alliance well in advance. The whole rank and file have lost faith in the Left assertion unless there is an alliance with the RJD and Congress. Seeing the onward march of fascists, a wide spread feeling of desperation prevails and the following mad rush is the result of only this. The crux of this is that the Left leadership and to some extent the whole chunk of cadres, in absence of any anti-fascist front taking shape, have lost faith in their own independent assertions. Cadres are also happy that alliance has been achieved. The general mood is that we shouldn’t spoil it by discussing too much politics or placing ‘undue’ emphasis on independent assertion of Left in this alliance. We (The Truth) will discuss this again when by the mid of the next month, when the picture is clearer and clouds are all cleared.     

It is true and certainly not a secret that there is an all round feeling that anyhow winning seats matters the most. What does it mean? Does it mean that the Left pursued any revolutionary politics in the past, before this alliance? No. It only means that as it has gone in a plain alliance with RJD-led coalition, even its parliamentary revisionist politics also won’t find much space. The reason is not difficult to understand. Revisionism means playing to the people’s gallery bourgeois politics under the cloak of being adherents of communism. So at least some verbal anti-bourgeois discourse is taken up by them in elections. This time, given the kind of alliance they have chosen to go for, even this is not going to be possible. They know discussing even revisionist politics other than what is deemed necessary and required to keep the alliance going will harm their aim of getting support of RJD and Congress. Just the anti-BJP bourgeois chatter will be allowed. This is as clear as day light. 

There is thus a feeling of total disregard even for pursuing their own political line in the election campaign. Whatever they have been writing in their magazines about fascism will be all forgotten for the sake of seat sharing and maintenance of this alliance. Just think, will they openly and boldly say what they used to say when they were not in alliance? Will they be able to point out and even mildly mention or call out the bourgeois politics of RJD and Congress and their limitations in fighting against BJP-led fascism, let alone pointing out their corruption? Obviously not. 

Question Of Left Block Against Fascism Is Thrown Into Winds

Naturally, for the Left, the most ‘precious’ thing in Bihar as of now is the alliance with RJD-Congress and not the formation of a solid broad Left Block, either consisting of only parliamentary left or a broader Left Block consisting of Revolutionary Left also. Putting up an independent left assertion is just a slogan for these parties. However, this is badly needed. The core of this would have been putting an alternative before the masses and not just winning seats. Based on this strength, the alliance with RJD would have been certainly formed on better terms i.e. on those terms which would have been beneficial for the future course of independent left politics as well as for the general interests of the masses. But unfortunately this is totally absent. Winning seats by sacrificing independent assertion is the guiding factor for most of the Left. ‘Who can defeat BJP in election’ or ‘With whom we can ally in the election’ so that more seats could be grabbed is the corner stone of ‘left’ politics today. Earlier, we know, the corner stone was ‘who can defeat Congress’ and aim was to ally with all except Congress, even with BJP. This is an old thesis of CPM-led Left Front that we all very well know.

Putting before the masses any real alternative to the bourgeois system is thus naturally considered an obstacle in the path of winning seats with the help of alliance or otherwise. All sorts of opportunism are attempted. It is widely accepted among the Left circles that if fascism is the main danger, then we must shun communism and must not assert too much or show ‘leftism’ as it will act as an obstacle in the path of achieving bourgeois alliance which is supposed to be the most necessary or even the only tool for defeating fascist BJP. And unfortunately, this view is echoed even in some of the revolutionary left circles.

Wither The Revolutionary Left?

As the election murmur started, like the Left, Revolutionary Left (except CPIML PRC and ND) has also demanded postponement of elections for 6 months or 1 year i.e. till sometime in the next year. The plea was the same as that of the Left. They also said that the people of the state are still in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Government’s attention must be solely towards ensuring the safety of life of the people. To add some more weight to their logic, some ‘revolutionary’ enthusiasts of this demand also mention the situation of flood in North Bihar, but, the main argument is of course, about Covid-19. They argue that the hospital facilities are far below satisfactory mark and the overall situation of public well being in medical care (in Bihar) is in complete mess and hence the government must first of all concentrate on ensuring adequate health care to deal with the threat of Covid-19 pandemic before it opts to gear up machinery and gather men as well as material for holding elections.

If we carefully analyze this, it smacks of a very dangerous, though an interesting trend. They mean to say that politics can wait till people get all facilities from the State and the bourgeois Government! If people are dying of diseases or a pandemic, it is no time for doing politics, they would say. Some other would say, politics is done when people are free for doing politics. Great logic indeed! According to these revolutionaries, if they (people) are suffering from a pandemic as well as the government apathy in the time of a pandemic, it is no time for people to be engaged in politics till everything is set right in favor of the people by the government. They would further say, if the people are coming out in spite of a surging pandemic in search of daily jobs for the bread and butter of their families, let us not talk politics with them. Let us wait till they come out for doing politics after 6 months or when anti-Covid vaccine is available! This is how the present day revolutionaries discuss on election in the time of Covid-19 pandemic.

If we extend this logic to some extra length, it means according to them, revolution is a peace time task when everything is in apple pie order, when people are well fed, well treated, being well taken care of by the bourgeois state and are in good health. If any medical crisis exists, revolution must wait till such crises are tamed and won over by the bourgeoisie and their State so that people are at ease and without any fear while talking or doing politics! This is how they think and discuss. According to them, Russian revolutions of February and October in 1917 must have been postponed as the people were in great distress due to war, loss of jobs, lack of breads and because of no land in their possession. But the above mentioned revolution arose, broke out and became successful only on the question of bread, peace and land. How can they explain this? Also remember the timing of the Spanish Flu. It struck the world towards the end of the first world war when the October Revolution was still going on and facing joint attacks of the capitalist-imperialist countries and their combined armies. But according to our revolutionaries of Bihar, Lenin must have waited till some vaccine had arrived. strange!   

When reminded that the postponement of election will provide back door entry of direct Modi’s rule in Bihar, then they hush up this threat saying no other distinguished or special danger or threat would come if president rule arrives. Really, this shows them being super revolutionaries!     

It is true that even in Patna, the Capital of Bihar, situation of health care is very grim and from this one can imagine the situation in districts towns or in block level towns. But it requires an explanation as to on what basis do our revolutionaries expect that the medical facilities will be upgraded and safety of the people from Covid-19 ensured if the elections are postponed for 6 months. If they say that the atmosphere is not congenial and suitable for political activities or campaign as the masses are in the situation of utmost panic, it amounts to a farce statement than any logic. Common toiling masses are not in panic. They can’t be. Hunger is the most dreaded virus for them. Even middle class people are engaged in their routine work in spite of Covid-19. People at large are everywhere gathering and going in search of their livelihood. Apart from this, if we say that people are scared and in this situation political campaign is in no way possible, then it is like falling in the ditch dug for us by the bourgeois government which is also saying the same thing that it is no time for doing politics. We must have rather told the opposite, that if the government is not providing jobs and source of livelihood, and also not taking care of people by providing sufficient heath care against Covid-19, we must openly make all necessary preparations for doing politics. We must rather criticize ourselves if we are not being able to do politics in these difficult times of the people. And, irrespective of what we say and discuss, so far as common toiling masses are concerned, they have come out in protest and participated in struggles wherever efforts have been made. People, particularly workers in the whole country, are fighting all the way through, even without any political leadership. This is a fact that no one can deny. Even in advanced capitalist countries of Europe and America, tens of thousands of people are coming out in political protests against the government inactions and apathy.

Some would say, there is a probability of finding anti-Covid1-19 vaccine in six months or one year. Yes, it is possible. Anything is possible in this 21st century. But, even if there is a cent-percent probability of finding the vaccine in six months, how can one expect that the people will also get the vaccine in just 6 months or one year?

Whose Safety Is In Mind, Really?

Clearly, so far as the question of safety of people is concerned, this cannot be a valid reason to be given for the postponement of Bihar election. Poor and working people are already going outside in huge numbers and have been moving here and there for months now. They are visiting different places in towns and cities i.e. everywhere seeking work and job as the very survival of their families is at stake. They get exposed to Covid-19 contraction every day in many ways. They don’t have proper sanitation facilities, too. Nor can they have as this is economically unaffordable for most of them. For them hunger is the most dreaded virus. So election or no election, they are already facing the Covid-19 threat and health risks associated with this. Election or no election, there is no escape from this danger for them. So the question of safety is really not the issue for them.

If this issue really exists at all, it exists as the question of safety of Party leaders. This is haunting all the parties whether of left of right. Here the point is not whether the Covid-related fear is correct or not. Normally, the fear is true and it must be addressed. The main point here under discussion is that to raise the question of safety of masses instead of the issue of safety of the leaders as the basis of demand of postponement of election is unfounded and without substance. It doesn’t reflect the real picture on the ground. It is the party leaders whose safety is in mind while they are demanding the postponement of election. It is not the masses but the party leaders who will be at risk if they go for extensive election mass campaign. People are already at risks. What other risks they will have to bear if they participate in rallies and meetings or engage in politics? Certainly, none. Even the cadres who are already active among masses despite Covid-19 are already in the risk zone since the very beginning.

Other Strong Logic

The one very strong logic is that the whole machinery will be geared up for elections and thus whatever minimum state machinery is engaged and active in fighting Covid-19 will also be deviated or distracted and thus people’s lives will be completely at risk for at least a couple of months during the time elections will be held. This logic has some substance. But to overstate this point will not and doesn’t help. The State presides over a lot of men and material resources. If State wants it can manage. What lacks is political will. Otherwise, not many government agencies or departments are engaged in public welfare work as of now. Not much is being done on the medical front that involves a lot of men and

material. Even higher officials aren’t much busy for people. One may go to any office, there is none that one can find. No DMs, no ADMs or other junior and senior officers are present in their offices. No many people’s work or welfare is being done in any of the offices. Schools and colleges are already closed. Government offices are in inactive mode.

Demanding Postponement With A Call To Mass Action

So, in the given circumstances, demanding postponement of elections along with a call of mass actions and adopting the tactics of building up a mass movement against the Government’s apathy for the people would have been certainly a better tactics, but simply demanding postponement of elections and calling this a tactic of putting and exerting pressure on a fascist government is just beyond anyone’s understanding to call it a pressure tactics. Parliamentary left is known for such fancies and silly things, and it has not surprised anyone when they demanded postponement of election. But when the revolutionary section of Left also does the same thing, it is really unfortunate. So demanding election postponement without any plan of mass movement is the worst tactics. If elections are held, the government, as a normal practice, is morally forced to do something for the masses to woo them and their votes. In this narrow sense, too, holding election will bring some relief plan to the people of Bihar than what they are being provided now and even more than what will be provided if election is postponed. If we take into our consideration even this small thing, then also the bankruptcy inherent in the idea of postponement of elections will be quite clear. The demand of Postponement of election without any call of mass movement for building pressure on the government is something akin to a complete lack of political will of the revolutionary camp. It is sad that we are a living witness to this.

(to be continued in the next issue)  

*The Writer is an inside observer.

Originally published in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 5/ September ’20)

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