Wednesday, August 21, 2019

WSF and the Indian Left: Response and Effects

Mayur Chetia

When we talk of the Indian left in general, we need to address an entire spectrum ranging from the ‘mainstream’ left parties like CPI – CPI (M) to the ‘radical’ naxalite groups like CPI (Maoist). Though in their uttering all of them adhere to the principles of Marx, they have different histories of origin and have great variation in their ideologies, owing to the variations in the world communist movement and its history itself. So naturally they have been taking quite different attitudes towards the ‘open space’ culture of the World Social Forum, ranging from playing an active role in its holding of session at Mumbai in 2004, to its summary opposition. For means of convenience, the Indian left has been generally grouped into two camps – the ‘mainstream’ camp – constituted by parties like CPI, CPI(M) etc. and the ‘radical camp’ constituted by parties like CPI(Maoist), CPI(Liberation ), CPI(Janasakti) etc. But the phenomenon of WSF betrayed this broad categorization. For instance, among the ‘radical’ groups, CPI (ML) (PW) and MCCI (now the unified CPI-Maoist) took the initiative of floating an ‘alternative’ to WSF; i.e. the Mumbai Resistance-2004. But the Mumbai Resistance itself had many delegates who were part of WSF as well! So other radical parties like CPI-(ML)New Democracy accused CPI (ML) (PW) and MCCI of getting ‘soft’ on WSF! CPI-ML-New Democracy floated yet another anti-imperialist forum. Interestingly, CPI-ML New democracy also didn’t remain immune to attack! It came under heavy attack of CLI- ML(another radical group), for CLI- ML was of the view that since WSF is nothing but the ‘Trojan horse’ of imperialism, so even putting an alternative to it would become like playing in the hands of ‘WSF and imperialism’(!). Yet another interesting fact was that another break away faction of CLI-ML was very much present in the sessions of WSF and had no such ideological problems! Similarly CPI (ML) Liberation, a substantially bigger faction of the ‘radical’ camp was also present in WSF!

However, even CPI-CPI (M), who took an active role in holding the sessions of WSF sessions were criticized by many for maintaining an ‘instrumentalist’ attitude towards the WSF. For instance, Achin Vanaik, himself a left intellectual informs us that it was an eyesore to see the strategically placed huge billboards at the entrance of the WSF venue itself (hitting visitors’ eyes well before the WSF signs themselves) declaring that their idea of another world was the ‘Communist Future’. This was in quite opposition to the spirit of the WSF.


Despite these variations of attitudes of the Left, one thing is certain – i.e. all of them have accepted WSF as a great force, and it is not altogether possible to ignore it. How far and in what terms the ‘new politics’ of the WSF made an impact on the Indian left, (at individual level, at party level and the Indian left politics as a whole) would constitute a part of my research question.

In my research, I would also try to understand and document the diverse ways through which the Indian left tried to come into terms with the WSF. I would document the criticisms and suggestions made by the left on WSF and would try to explore – how far, (if any), it made an impact on the politics of the WSF itself. In other words, how far the specific configuration of the Indian left shaped the WSF in India would be yet another component of my research.


In my research, I would make a close reading of the documents of different left parties on this question of WSF. It would help in understanding the ‘official’ stand of these parties. However, notwithstanding the Stalinist past of a number of these parities, there are certainly variations of understanding at different levels of leadership as well as at grass root level. Without knowing these variations, it would not be possible to understand the full impact of WSF on them. So I would also like to make a close reading of these processes. Through oral interviews and other means, I would try to gather first hand information from the activists of different left parties, those who to took an active part in it’s sessions as well as those who opposed it or tried to build alternatives to it (like MUMBAI Resistance- 2004). How they view WSF, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the ‘new politics’ of WSF, how far it is ‘progressive’ or ‘reactionary’, what role it can play in future politics, or if WSF is itself going through a process of transition etc. etc. – it would be interesting to know how the left activists answers these question. I would also make a comparison of WSF in its pre and post 2004 session to have an assessment of the transformation it went through in India. It would also help us in understanding the impact, if any, made by the Indian left on WSF.