M.L. Sondhi
Tribune, January 15, 1975

(Prof. Sondhi of Jawaharlal Nehru University says the major task facing the Congress Party is to reconstruct the political system so that its power and force are freshly legitimized. Everyday there is fresh evidence that the "ideological and moral" submissiveness of the Congress Party on account of its links with the CPI has become a major obstacle to the development of a political mobilization system appropriate to the late seventies.)

The counter-offensive launched by the Congress Party against Jayaprakash Narayan's movement has ushered in a period of unprecedented ideological confusion for members of India's ruling party. Two preliminary conclusions follow. First, the most ardent and most vocal supporters of action against the "reactionary agitation led by Mr. Narayan" made the mistake of underestimating the commitment of rank and file Congressmen to the political thinking of the Gandhian era. Second, the intellectual curiosity of a handful of patient, persistent and centrist-oriented Congress parliamentarians helped in the development of a credo which challenged the monopoly of Marxism-Leninism as a source of progressive ideas.

The political significance of this activity lies in the fact that the majority of Congress MPs who express themselves in less articulate fashion have found that at long last here is a case of "what of was thought but never so well expressed". The CPI and its sympathizers inside the Congress have been condemning as "bourgeois morality" many of the ethical principles which enabled Congress Party workers to establish communication with the widest sections of Indian society. The magnitude and seriousness of criticism by rank and file Congressmen against the "Bonapartist spirit of minority dictatorship" was more than evident when the thesis of "limited dictatorship" was propounded. The Left extremists in the Congress Party have now to face a revival of genuine Indian patriotism which unfurled the banner of the common man's morality of Gandhi against the ideological view of the Marxist doctrine; which is focused exclusively on the maintenance of the "power system".

In the aftermath of the Indira wave, the CPI characteristically capitalised on political grounds by placing its own Marxist goals before the Congress Party. The Marxist theory of class warfare had a certain appeal in directing criticism against erroneous and backward looking economic policies. But the Marxist theory was nothing more than crystal gazing as far as the primary goals of India's economic policy relating to the development of Indian agriculture were concerned. Nor was the slogan of "socialist construction" any assurance for carrying out measures for which plans had been formulated. Extreme Leftism in the Indira Congress came up ideologically against what sociologists have termed the "instrumental-expressive dichotomy in human social role relations."

The CPI and the Left extremists in the Congress have for the last few years been harping on the conflict between the have and have-not groups in Indian society. There attention has been focused on exploitative relationships resembling those found in Western capitalist societies from where they draw their examples for their critical outbursts. But their sectarian approach has actually hindered the ruling party from understanding the objective circumstances in India where institutionalized forms of exploitation represent a more important dimension. It is precisely this "expressive exploitation" as against the "instrumental exploitation" which has been the central feature of Jayaprakash Narayan's approach. The CPI's anxiety to preserve its authority over the political mind of the Indira Congress has been accentuated by the realization that JP's movement has put the ideological position of their supporters in jeopardy.

The CPI's historic failure to generate Indian nationalist sentiment on its side is directly responsible for the "satellite mentality" of its sympathizers inside and outside the Congress Party. It would even today be helpful for the CPI in assessing the current political situation to review the events concerning the formation of the Left Consolidation Committee and particularly their ideological competition with Subhas Chandra Bose and Jayaprakash Narayan at the end of the year 1938. The CPI preferred a head-on clash with Indian nationalism rather than adjust its ideological beliefs to Indian conditions. Even Subhas Chandra Bose who after the Tripuri session sought to unite all left elements including the CPI had to confess his failure against the absolutisms of the Indian Communists.

The CPI and its friends had a valuable opportunity to profit from the impact of the Soviet support to India on the question of Bangladesh and take advantage of the enhanced Soviet diplomatic influence in India. Significantly, Soviet diplomats in India have today reason to be highly concerned about the negative impressions which are being cratead by their friends. "God save me from my friends, I can save myself from my enemies" could well be the report from the Soviet Ambassador in New Delhi to his headquarters in Moscow. It is the CPI lobby which is directly responsible for the sluggish nature of Indo-Soviet relations in the aftermath of the Indo-Soviet treaty. The Brezhnev visit could have been the occasion for emotional solidarity between Indians and Russians but for the highly selected and discriminatory and even coercive strategy employed by the CPI and its supporters in securing obsessive declarations of Indo-Soviet alignment.

The major task facing the Congress Party is to reconstruct the political system so that its power and force are freshly legitimized. The impact of JP's movement is growing in its territorial scope and the involvement of Uttar Pradesh whether directly or via the Bharatiya Lok Dal would make Congress rule precarious. Close relations with the CPI give the Left Extremists a certain status and possibly individual ministers experience a certain prestige in Soviet eyes. On the other hand everyday there is fresh evidence that the "ideological and moral" submissiveness of the Congress Party on account of its links with the CPI has become a major obstacle to the development of a political mobilisation system appropriate to the late seventies. Satellitism also does not go well with a "nuclear status" in foreign affairs.

There are sources of conflict between the CPI and the Congress implicit in the sociological processes of the Indian political society. So far the attention of the Congress was focused on the momentum of the Indira wave. The economic setbacks and JP's movement have highlighted the sectarian and dogmatic errors of the Left Extremists in the Congress. Many Congressmen must have drawn the attention of Mr. Dev Kant Barooah to the reported statement of the CPI Central Secretariat member Mr. S. Kumaran at Quilon when he inaugurated the 5-day State conference of the CPI: "The aim of the Communist Party of India is to dislodge the Indira Gandhi Government and install a progressive government with the help of progressive and leftist forces within the Congress".

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