Is Nina Khrushcheva right on the death of Indian Congress, UK Labour & ANC?


Did we miss it all? Did we fail to notice that the UK Independence Party is actually thriving, even though its vote share in the 2017 general election fell to levels rarely plumbed? Have we failed to understand that Britain’s Labour Party is facing an uncertain future even though its leader Jeremy Corbyn is acquiring rockstar status at Glastonbury and has decisively changed the terms of the political debate? And Is India’s grand old Congress Party really and truly gone – been dead a long time, now all that needs to be done is to bury the rotting corpse?

I ask these questions off the back of assertions made by Nina L. Khrushcheva, Professor of International Affairs and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at The New School and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. (Click here to read her piece but if you don’t, the rest of this blog will fill you in quite enough.)

Anyway, there’s a massive problem with the opinions expressed in that piece. Surprisingly, for a professor and a member of a prominent political family that casts a long shadow , it’s very short on context. To me, Professor Khrushcheva sounds like the sort of person who would – both professionally and personally – take a long view of history. Not only has she studied the effects of politics on the present and the future, she is the great granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

And yet, she startlingly suggests that India’s Congress Party and South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) are all but finished. The first because of Sonia Gandhi’s “feeble dynastic leadership”; the second because of President Jacob Zuma’s “ruinously corrupt leadership”.

Professor Khrushcheva does add a caveat somewhere near the end: “…in politics,” she writes, “death need not be permanent.” But she seems more taken with the idea of irredeemable decay.

Two points to make. The last time we said India’s Congress was finished – really done, really dead, really gone – was in 1996. Then, its evident national decline was reflected in the general election voting numbers. It continued to perform in lacklustre fashion until 2004, when Sonia Gandhi led it back to victory on the strength of what Donald Trump would call “the forgotten people”.

As to the ANC, I wouldn’t write it off just yet. It would take more than a Jacob Zuma to reduce a great national monument to rubble (though he has done his best).

To be fair, Professor Khrushcheva does add a caveat somewhere near the end: “…in politics,” she writes, “death need not be permanent.” But