The Left parties are still at the forefront of India’s working class struggles, Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, general secretary Sitaram Yechury said. In an phone interview amid the ongoing Lok Sabha campaign, Yechury said the Left parties need to have greater numbers in Parliament. Edited excerpts:
Where will you be on May Day?
Normally, I attend a flag-hoisting at party headquarters on May Day and attend the workers’ rally in Delhi. But this time, because of the electioneering, I’ll be out on campaign in Madhya Pradesh.
May Day used to be the day for the working class to gather strength and consolidate, and the organized Left would act as its facilitator. Haven’t the dynamics changed now?
There is greater discontent and greater distraught among the working class today. And May Day as a day of expression of solidarity for the working class has actually been submerged under the struggles of day-to-day existence. In that sense, it is probably one of the worst periods that the Indian working class is going through today. Unemployment has surged; quality of life has fallen drastically.
What is your party doing in this environment?
The party is still the vanguard of the working class. We will not only support but also facilitate and encourage the position of the working class through solidarity. Whatever be the unions they belong to, we want the workers to come together for their rights and so create a better country and economy.
What demonstratable evidence exists to show the Left is still the vanguard of the working class?
In January, you had the two-day industrial strike all over the country. Over five to six crore workers participated in the strike that was called under the Left initiative. And you had the worker-peasant rally in Delhi, which was unprecedented by any measure, recently. It is through these struggles that we are reminding of the Left’s relevance. In every single instance of public sector privatization, the unions and the struggles that are being done, they are all being spearheaded by the Left.
Do you see these struggles leading to concrete steps, that are also linked to law-making and the Left’s numbers in Parliament?
That is the issue. If this has to be converted into a legalized struggle, then the Left numbers in Parliament have to be stronger. But whatever be the Left presence in Parliament, the Left is the only one still in a position in terms of not merely taking up the issue of violations of existing rights but also an extension of existing rights in order to give greater protection to the working class.
Are you confident your numbers will increase in Parliament this time?
We are in the midst of the battle, so I don’t want to comment on numbers right now.
But from where exactly do you expect the numbers to grow?
Obviously, Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. It will also be Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and other states as well.
If the BJP grows in West Bengal and TMC offers you an olive leaf to help build yourself, will you take it?
TMC offering anything doesn’t change anything on the ground level. Their whole attitude has to change. They are virtually butchering democracy there. And they are mounting through their politics of terror and violence an atmosphere which is completely antithetical to democracy.
You didn’t say ‘No’
I didn’t say yes either. But we don’t think the TMC is going to change. And as long as this is their political behaviour (and it) remains the same, there can be nothing to do with them.