There is a sense of realism in the CPM’s decision to support the AAP in Delhi assembly seats where the Left has not put up its own candidates. Of course, it could be read as a simple admission of the party’s limited appeal in the national capital — the Left has only 15 candidates in the 70 assembly seats. But it also indicates that the party’s tactical line can be flexible and responsive to the specific political situation. Though it has been dismissive of the AAP as a political formation in the past, the CPM seems to now recognise that the relatively new party has successfully positioned itself as the bearer of alternative and pro-poor politics in Delhi.
Such pragmatism, however, continues to elude the CPM when it sets out to theorise the political situation and formulate tactics. Not so long ago, its draft political-tactical document, which directs the ideological and political line of the party, blamed its marginalisation in national politics on its decision to be part of anti-BJP and anti-Congress coalitions. The document, revised since and uploaded earlier this week on the party website for discussion, a first in the party’s history, spares the Left leadership of responsibility for the party’s present woes, and cites past efforts to forge a “Left, democratic and secular alternative at the national level” and “the pursuit of alliances with the secular bourgeois parties at the national level or state level” as reasons for the party’s decline. Surely, this is too tidy and convenient an explanation for the party’s failure to attract cadres from outside Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, which provide 75 per cent of its members. After all, the party was forced to seek allies in northern states like Punjab, UP and Bihar after it had been wrecked by splits and the rise of Mandal forces.
The fact is the party has been a victim of dogmatic politics. In the dogged search for a puritanical Marxism, it ignored changes on the ground and the emergence of parties that respond with greater agility to the new realities. The phenomenal rise of the BSP in UP and the AAP in Delhi must nudge the CPM to rethink its worldview and be open to new forms of political articulation and mobilisation.