Last week, I had written about the need to distinguish between the Left and the Leftists. The Left idea, after all, is not as bad as some Leftists have made it.
Indeed, it is a necessary idea. In its essence, it says a society must produce a vast profusion of wage goods by providing employment to all those who are willing to work.
Sane societies know this, and their states act to achieve this end. It is, if you will, raj dharma. When it comes to the poor, therefore, everyone is a Leftist-Manmohan Singh, for example, or even P Chidambaram.
Indeed, just as a greedy capitalist lurks in every Leftist bosom, a compassionate Leftist snuggles in every Rightist heart. We all do our bit for the poor without making a song and dance about it, especially on television's English channels.
Which brings me to the theme of this article: who gave the Communists the monopoly of the Left idea? This is analogous to the question that was often asked of the BJP and Sangh Parivar: who gave them the monopoly of the idea of Hinduism?
The amazing irony is that, historically, the Left stood for change. So how come the worst no-changers, the Communists, are now called the Left in India?
The truth, of course, is that it is only the Communists, not the Left as a whole, who are the no-changers. The extent of the Communist preference for no-change is, in fact, staggering in scope and sheer effrontery. It is therefore worth listing.
Indians are deliberately not reminded of it in their history textbooks, but there is a most shameful episode in Communist history in India. These fellows have to explain why they sided with the British during the Quit India movement.
The genuine Left, which was a part of the Congress party then, did what it could to get rid of the Empire and paid the price. But it is the Communists who talk most of sacrifices during the freedom struggle.
Another issue that these fellows need to be confronted with is that their refusal to give up the right to secede from the Indian Union until as late as 1972. This, too, was a no-changer position, taken from Stalin's views on the 'nationalities question.'
It was a different matter, of course, that having allowed the different provinces of the USSR the right to secede, Stalin proceeded to grind them into the Soviet Union. The British had adopted this Stalinist idea as part of their overall policy of divide and rule. The purpose was to engage the Congress in sideshows.
And our Communists supported it all. But where in the textbooks do you find this mentioned?
In 1962, this sad and pathetic bunch refused to condemn China for attacking India. But when did you last see a reference to this? Even the Chinese Communist Party was astonished at this behaviour.
How has the Congress forgotten all this? How has it forgotten that for Jawaharlal Nehru communalism and communism were both equally dangerous? You only have to see his speeches and letters, especially during 1948-51, to see how he equated the two as being the real threats to India.
Amazing, also, to see how the greatest opportunist of Indian politics, Indira Gandhi, decided to forgive the communists, but not the communalists. Otherwise, how can one explain the fact that despite the entire opposition being in jail during the Emergency, even CPM leaders like Jyoti Basu and Pramod Dasgupta were free (the CPI supported the Emergency)?
The reason of course was that after she split the Congress in 1969, she needed Communist support to survive in power. Between them the Communists (43) and the various types of Socialists had around 80 seats in the 4th Lok Sabha. The Jana Sangh had only 35.
So out went her father's political precepts. I have sometimes wondered what would have happened if the arithmetic had been the other way around. Would Mrs Gandhi have gone with the Jana Sangh?
For the Communists, the 1969 turnaround meant the end of the pariahdom to which Nehru had relegated them. They ruled the roost from 1969 to 1973 in much the same way as they do now--with a gun held to the Congress's head.
The overall impact of the about-face by Mrs Gandhi in 1969 on political discourse was dramatic. From being a bunch of disreputable rascals, which is what they were for Nehru, the Communists and their ideology became fashionable. A new breed, loosely clubbed under the evocative term ethnic chic, was born.
Thanks to the influence of former communists over the government between 1969 and 1973, state patronage was used to pack all major institutions. Some like JNU were even created as a way of providing jobs for the boys.
(People have now forgotten that another good Leftist, K R Narayanan, as vice-chancellor, was forced to close the place down. It was only after that the Communist hold on it reduced and the University became competitive academically.)
Another feature of this strange turn of events, about which I have written before, is worth repeating. Only the Congress attitude to the Communists changed. The Communist attitude to the Congress didn't and hasn't. It remains as hostile as ever.
There was another tragedy. The Communists became inextricably linked with the much broader idea of the Left whereas, in fact, they oppose everything that the genuine Left admires, namely, humane liberalism denoted by an unwavering commitment to the peoples' right to choose.
By this definition, coupled with the willingness to change, the Congress and the BJP are both Left liberal.
By the same token, in their willingness to resist change and prevent choice--the "we know what's good for you" syndrome--the Communists are about as conservative or Right (the Royalists sat to the right of the Speaker in the French National Assembly just before the French revolution) as you can get.
So what gives them the right to resist the sort of change that will give choice to the people?
Sadly, it is the broader Left that has conferred this veto power on the Communists. To use an analogy from religion, this is exactly analogous to the liberal Hindus and the liberal Muslims allowing the sadhus and mullahs to run away with the ball.
I think the Congress is making a mistake in rebutting the Communists. It needs to dislodge them from their perch of being the sole representatives of the Left idea. They have stolen an important political idea. They must be made to give it up.
How can this be done? The simplest way would be to lock them up either in a prison or in a mental asylum.
But that's what Communists do. We need a different way.