Can India’s two major communist parties merge?

Can India’s two major communist parties merge?


Will India’s communists merge?

This question has been mulled over innumerably over the past decade or so, but there has been little or no progress in any merger between the two major communist parties of India. On the contrary, the Communist Party of India –Marxist (CPI-M) which had broken away in 1964 from the original communist party, the Communist Party of India (CPI) founded in 1925, has shown no interest at all in talks pertaining to a merger.

CPI-M has no intention of merging with any other party as it is a powerful party on its own, observe political analysts. On the other hand, CPI’s popularity is fast waning. CPI-M came close to the pinnacle of power within a few years of being established. Then within 13 years, it actually came to power and became more or less permanently lodged in government as the CPI-M Front, along with a few other left leaning parties. It had been near to three decades at the helm of government in West Bengal and Tripura, and every alternative term in Kerala. That is why it considers itself the mainstream communist party in the country.

So when CPI proposed talks for a unity in 2009, CPIM more or else rejected the proposal. But the CPI leaders still hold on to the hope of the two communist parties becoming one in the near future. However, in 2009, CPI’s general secretary at the time, AB Bardhan, did say that the decision to unite did not depend on one party alone. Both the communist parties would have to decide to discuss the proposal.

In an interview with The Hindu last year, CPI leader D Raja said, a merger of the two communist parties is the demand of the day. We must respond to the call of history, he said.

CPI’s present general secretary Sudhakar Reddy firmly believes that it will be possible for the two communist parties to unite within the next four years.

Analysts also see a need for discussions between the two communist parties regarding a move to come together. Teacher of political science at a Kolkata college, Sudarshan Ghosh, has said that the fall of CPI-M from power indicates how far it has been weakened. It hasn’t been able to overcome this weakness in the last five years. As for CPI, it has been stringing along behind National Congress over the past three decades, losing any influence that it may have had.

On the other hand, right wing Hindu extremists have come to power in India and are committed to push the country towards Hindutva ideology. Leftist intellectuals feel it is imperative at this juncture of time for the communist to play a significant role. It will not be feasible to simply spew out secularist rhetoric to take their movement ahead. Issues pertaining to social justice and economic development must be brought to the forefront. A union of the communists is required to carry this out, say analysts.

CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy has clearly stated that the main reasons behind the split in 1964, are no longer relevant in the present circumstances. He feels if the two parties do not merge at this juncture, both the parties will have to face the consequences.

CPI reasons that the left movement is in dire crisis at present. There is no logic for the two parties to go to the people separately with their movements. The leaders of this age-old communist party feel that if both the parties get together, then something can be achieved. This cannot be done overnight, they concede. It will require time. In the meantime, both the parties are working together in terms of agitation programs and campaigns on issues of upholding the message of secularism, democracy and the constitution.

The CPI leaders think that there are positive signs from within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for unification of the two parties. But the leadership of CPI-M want to discuss some issues which led to the split in 1964.

A CPI-M leader of Kerala feels that the protest in 1964 against the way in which the Communist Party was going down the wrong path under the leadership of SA Dange and becoming autocratic in nature, led to the formation a separate party and spread the workers’ movement in India.

There were, of course, international reasons behind the split. At the time there had been significant rifts in the international communist movement. Though Russia and China followed left ideology, there was strong conflict between the two.

The Communist party is no longer in power in Russia, while China has also changed its line. CPI from the outset had affinity with Russia, but a section of the party leant towards China. This later was manifest in the founding of CPI-M.

The communists are no longer in power in Russia. China too has made changes in keeping with the times. As a result, the international communist movement no longer has any influence on developing countries.

CPI-M leaders have made a lot of changes and adjustments also in keeping with the times, but they are still unwilling to discuss any merger at the moment. In fact, CPI-M top leaders feel that rather than the two parties uniting, it is important to consolidate the left front as a whole.