Nivedita Menon in The First Post:
My head has been in a whirl the past few days with a single question – how do we on ‘the Left’ manage so unerringly to be exactly where ‘the people’ are not, time after time?
At this moment I don’t mean the organised Left, for the Left parties have been cautious about criticising the current upsurge; they strongly defended the right to democratic protest when Anna Hazare and his colleagues were arrested, and now have launched a Third Front initiative on the issue of corruption and the Lokpal Bill; the students’ front of CPI (ML), AISA, has been organising militantly on the issue for a very long time now, and is very much part of the campaign.
I mean the few hundreds who form my own community, the people with whom I have organised protests and run campaigns and sat on dharna and drafted petitions; struggled against communal violence and sexual harassment, for queer freedom and workers’ rights, against the nuclear bomb and nuclear energy, in support of reservations and against the moves in our universities to hold up appointments to reserved posts. Many of these people I know personally, some are among my closest friends, and many more I know as part of the broad Left/secular non-party tendency in the country’s politics, where I feel most at home.
Increasingly though, in the course of the current mass upsurge that has coalesced around the figure of Anna Hazare, I have been feeling more and more alienated in my community, by its strident demands for absolute purity of the radical position; its aggressive self-marginalization and self-exile to a high ground where credentials are closely scrutinised; its absolute incomprehension of and contempt for ‘the people’ when actually confronted by them. More:
Pervez Hoodbhoy in New Politics (via 3quarksdaily):
The left has always been a marginal actor on Pakistan’s national scene. While this bald truth must be told, in no way do I wish to belittle the enormous sacrifices made by numerous progressive individuals, as well as small groups. They unionized industrial and railway workers, helped peasants organize against powerful landlords, inspired Pakistan’s minority provinces to demand their rights, set standards of writing and journalism, etc. But the Left has never had a national presence and, even at its peak during the 1970s, could not muster even a fraction of the street power of the Islamic or mainstream parties.
A comparison with India is telling. While the Indian Left has also never attained state power — or even come close to exercising power and influence on the scale of the Congress Party — it looms large in states like Kerala, Tripura, and West Bengal where it successfully ended iniquitous feudal land relations. Across the country it helps maintain a secular polity, protects minorities, keeps alive a broad focus on progressive ideas in culture, art, and education, and uses science to fight superstition. Today, a Maoist movement militantly challenges the depredations of capitalism as it wreaks destruction on their native habitat. Left-inspired movements noticeably impeded passage of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. Indeed, for all its divisions and in-fighting, the Indian Left is a significant political force that is a thousand times stronger than its Pakistani counterpart.
Surely this difference begs an explanation. The answer is to be found in Pakistan’s genesis and the overwhelming role of religion in matters of the state. Understanding this point in detail is crucial to the question: how can one hope to make the Pakistani Left relevant in the future? Are there intelligent ways to deal with a major handicap? More: