Center For Workers Education

for building a democratic labour movement in India

Some Reflections on the Crisis of Left in India

Timothy Kerswell and Surendra Pratap
The left is currently facing an overall downturn and a multidimensional crisis in India. The decisive changes that occurred in India’s society, economy and politics that emerged in the phase of globalization are understood to be the root cause of this crisis. On the contrary, we have argued that the real nature of crisis is ideological and is rooted in the movement well before the impacts of globalization occurred. Globalization certainly aggravated this crisis and led to a downturn in the movement.
This ideological crisis is most powerfully reflected in the fact that the left movement has not been able to develop the Marxist theory of social change to address the ground level complexities in India. As a result, the left has been unable to evolve an effective strategy of revolution with Indian characteristics. This crisis is also reflected in differences among left groups on nature of capitalist development and imperialist domination in India in post-colonial era.
The dominant understanding within Marxist theory appears to be the stage theory of social change that further aggravates this basic ideological crisis. The basic task of the left movement is challenging and fighting against the domination of capital in all spheres of life and projecting and attempting to create socialist alternatives. However, there appears no great focus on addressing this task either at the grass-root level or in broader political struggles. There are some specificities of the crisis of various shades of left movement but this general ideological crisis is commonly reflected in the whole left movement. To date there have been no attempts either by the left movement or by academics to comprehensively study and understand various aspects of the crisis of the left. Some serious discussions started on this after the defeat of the left in West Bengal, however these are still confined to the ‘mistakes’ and ‘deviations’ of the parliamentary left. There are no attempts to explore various ideological aspects of the crisis in general, which we have argued is the most pressing need for the left movement in India.
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