Form a united front

Changes in the political scene in India, especially after the defeat of the Left in the West Bengal elections, have raised some basic issues that will influence the course of political development in our country. The first issue is about the ideas of a united front. It is clear that the days of one-party government are over. No party, whether it is the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party or the Left can dominate the system on their own anymore. They have to form groups and alliances not just to push a political line at any point. Temporary alliances will take place in different situations because of different compulsions. These alliances can lead to the formation of governments in response to any specific challenge. But most of the time these temporary alliances will break down if there is no fundamental unity of purpose among the participatory political parties. That is not the logic of the united front. It is the working of alliances to retain power or to capture the positions of influence. For a sustainable alliance and for long-term changes to be brought about, some underlining unity in the parties concerned is needed to bring about the basic changes.
A united front or a temporary alliance with different forces cannot endure unless the parties concerned are fully committed.
In West Bengal, these issues are coming up in a stark form. Political groups oppose each ot­her not on the basis of ideological differences but because of personality clash and conflict of narrow interest. This cannot fo­rm the basis of any long-term political alliance, unless the gr­o­ups recognise fundamental aff­i­rmity of interest. A united front can be based on such rec­ognition.
For instance, the conflict between the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has a long history. The CPI(M) considers the Congress as a class enemy, representing those classes who are against the working classes and who are, by definition, interested in increasing the rate of exploitation. This is the rate of surplus value over and above the value of labour i.e. wages, income and subsistence requirement. It is in this sense a conflict between the working class and the non-working exploitative population that is a fundamental factor in a capitalist system. Capitalism survives because of the surplus value produced by the working class, which is extracted from them by the owners of means of production through exploitation.
But these conflict situations are the long-term conditions of a capitalist system of government. In a day-to-day business, however, these conflicts are often reconciled and compromised in the interest of economic development. Take for instance the minimum wages of the workers. Even in the face of it, they are opposed to the interest of a capitalist owner. But in many situations an increase in minimum wages is seen not only in the interest of workers but also of the capitalists by increasing the productivity of labour and expanding the market. Whether the interest groups are antagonistic or amenable for reconciliation depends on the specific condition of an economy and the relative strength of the different political positions. When they get united, these differences then need to be formed as a united front, as on their own they cannot change the basic situation. When they are united, these groups must have a roadmap of development that would allow them the power to change the situation.
In order to avoid a non-sustai­nable alliance of different political groups, they must not only be united but also committed to a line of development supportive of social change and to an extent basic political transformation.
I am mentioning these because nowadays many political groups just come together to form a government without building on the principle of ideology and social development. It is just not possible to think of a situation where the Left and communal forces can form an alliance that will last even for a limited period. The anti-Congressism of several Left leaders would not recognise that and create a situation of totally unstable alliances between groups that are basically representatives of the reactionary forces. A temporary benefit from these alliances for the Left will be supported by the long-term development of a politically stable development.
It is high time that the Left for­c­es as well as those representing the Congress should assess the role they can play in transform­ation of the Indian political ec­onomy. Pursuing purely short-term interest to form the pockets of power in different political situations can turn suicidal. The long-term implications of these alliances were not always recognised. In other words, our major political parties in their analyses of the nature of the Left and the alliances they are forming, as in the West Bengal situation, clearly shows that these allowances are fragile and would disappear after giving rise to a short phase of fascism. It would only protect their pockets of alliance leaving them open to pressures of creation. The questions that should have been discussed by them are: Which political group has long-term affirmity of interests and which of them is required as a solid basis of combined influence on the course of the Indian social development?
The Trinamul Congress, for example, must build up its strength for an alliance with the Congress in general and must identify the forces of the Left, which have long-term support of the political development leading to social change. That is the only way a viable united front can be built up in India, which will bring about the basic social changes.

Dr Arjun Sengupta is a Member of Parliament and former Economic Adviser to Pri­me Minister Indira Gandhi

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