DELHI Red resistance to saffron subversion was the central theme
of the seventh congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
held November 25-30 in the city of Patna, capital of Bihar state, in north-eastern
This was the party's first congress held since the coming to power of
the Indian Peoples Party-led (BJP) National Democratic Alliance government
of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The BJP has been carrying out an
agenda of saffronisation (Hinduisation) of India's secular educational
system, incitement of anti-Muslim hatred and pogroms, privatisation of
state industries and government services and removing restrictions on imports
of manufactured goods and agricultural products (at the behest of the World
Trade Organisation). How to build mass resistance to the BJP's Hindu-chauvinist
and economic rationalist agenda was the central question discussed by
the party congress.
Bihar, which has 83 million inhabitants, is India's poorest state and
is notorious for violent attacks by armed police and state-backed, landlord-owned
private armies against the poor peasants and agricultural workers who make
up the big majority of the state's population.
Bihar is also the Indian state in which the CPI (ML) which originated
from the unification of a number of Maoist-inspired groups that had split
away from India's largest left party, the 2-million-member Communist Party
of India-Marxist (CPI-M), in the late 1960s has its greatest concentration
of members. Of the CPI (ML)'s total membership of 75,000 (up from 55,000
in 1997 and 22,000 in 1992), 49% live in Bihar.
As a result of its consistent championing of the interests and struggles
of poor peasants and agricultural labourers in Bihar over the last 30 years,
the CPI (ML) has emerged as the strongest left party in the state, with
six members elected to the 324-member Legislative Assembly in the last
state election in February 2000.
The CPI-M, which campaigned in alliance with the ruling Rashtriya Janata
Dal (RJD National Peoples Party), won only two seats. The pro-Soviet
Communist Party of India (CPI) India's second largest left party which
had held 23 seats in the state assembly retained five seats. This has now
been reduced to only two, following the creation in November 2000 of the
new state of Jharkhand out of 18 mineral-rich southern districts of Bihar,
inhabited by 26 million people.
The streets of Patna were festooned with red flags, large red banners
and even commercial billboards welcoming the 750 congress delegates as
they arrived by train on November 25.
Armed police provided congress delegates and guests with security in
case of assassination attempts by right-wing death squads or the Maoist-anarchist
Peoples War Group guerrilla bands, which have murdered several prominent
CPI (ML) members in Bihar in recent years.
Strengths and weaknesses
The congress began on the evening of November 25 with the presentation
by CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya of a 60-page draft
political-organisation report prepared by the party's outgoing 39-member
central committee. The report set out the CC's assessment of the international
and national political situation, the party's work since the last congress
and set projections for the next five years.
While noting advances made by the party since its last congress, held
five years ago in the eastern Uttar Pradesh city of Varanasi, the CC's
report pulled no punches in outlining the party's weaknesses and the shortcomings
in its work, particularly in building an implantation within the urban
working class and the trade unions, in involving women in the party's activities
and leadership bodies, in the circulation of its press and in the systematic
education of its members in Marxist ideas.
Over the following four days, the delegates discussed the report in
separate sessions devoted to the international situation, the national
situation, the agrarian crisis and struggles, mass campaigns and trade
union work, and party organisation. Discussion was highly impassioned and
often very critical of the party's leadership.
Among the issues hotly debated was the relationship between the party's
legal political work, particularly its intervention in parliament, and
the need to organise armed resistance to the violence unleashed by the
state and landlord-funded private armies against the struggles by poor
peasants for land redistribution and by agricultural workers for decent
wages and working conditions.
In his reply to the discussion, given on the last day of the congress,
Bhattacharya reaffirmed the party leadership's view that the party's parliamentary
activity was agitational and subordinate to building mass actions. He said
that in the present political context, armed struggle was a tactic to be
utilised to defend such mass actions and must grow out of, and be integrally
linked to, the mass struggles of the peasants and rural workers.
Prelude to fascism
Bhattacharya explained while in the CC's view the goal of core leadership
of the BJP was to establish a fascist dictatorship in India, the present
Vajpayee government could only be described as a prelude to communal [i.e.,
Hindu religious] fascism.
He argued that the implementation in India of the neo-liberal economic
rationalist agenda that is common to capitalist governments around the
world requires not only increased state repression but also a change in
the way the capitalist rulers legitimise their rule among the working masses,
with attempts to co-opt sections of the lower classes into identifying
with the neo-liberal reforms.
But this attempt at co-option generated a desire among the lower classes
for greater participation in determining government policy, a desire which
the ruling class needed to contain and channel into forms that serve its
It was in this context that the BJP's anti-Muslim, anti-poor, Hindu-chauvinist
populism had become acceptable to India's capitalist ruling class. Bhattacharya
stressed that a similar policy would also be followed by a Congress-led
government, should the capitalist opposition parties win at the March federal
election, as current opinion polls suggest they might. Indeed, while Congress
party leaders such as Sonja Gandhi present themselves as defenders of India's
secular political culture, other Congress politicians are accommodating
to the Hindu nationalism of the BJP.
In contrast to both the CPI-M and the CPI, which have sought to counter
the BJP's virulent right-wing Hindu populism by entering into electoral
alliances with the Congress party, the CPI (ML) rejects any electoral or
governmental alliance with the capitalist opposition parties, while favouring
the broadest united fronts for mass action in defence of democracy and
secularism against the Hindu chauvinists.
In its report to the congress, the CC set out the following conditions
for the CPI (ML)'s participation in any broad democratic united front:
(i) the party's independence and initiative must be retained; (ii) the
Congress [party] must be isolated from any secular or democratic anti-BJP
configuration; and (iii) we must continue to oppose all anti-people policies
and steps of non-BJP, non-Congress governments.
The draft CC report was unanimously approved by the delegates.
The congress concluded in the early hours of December 1 with the election
of a new 41-member central committee, from a field of 44 candidates, three
of whom were added by delegates to the list of 41 initial nominations presented
by the outgoing CC. Bhattacharya was re-elected CPI (ML) general secretary
by the incoming CC.
During the congress, and at a mass rally attended by 25,000 members
and supporters held in Patna's Gandhi Maidan city park on the afternoon
of November 30, greetings were presented by guests invited to observe the
These included greetings from Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist)
general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, Labour Party Pakistan leader Farooq
Tariq and Jill Hickson from the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia.
Written greetings were received from the Peoples Democratic Party of Indonesia
and the Philippines Workers Party-Merger.
Greetings to the congress were also presented by a delegation from the
Communist Party-Marxist (Punjab), a left-wing breakaway from the reformist
CPI-M in Punjab state. The CPI-M (P), which has 50,000 members, was formed
in December 2001 by the majority of the Punjab state committee of the CPI-M
after a four-year factional struggle against the increasingly open class-collaborationist
orientation of the CPI-M national leadership.
The CPI-M (P) is developing joint work with the CPI (ML), while at the
same time continuing to work with left opposition forces in other state
branches of the CPI-M in the hope of winning a substantial part of its
membership to the perspective of forming a new revolutionary party in India.
[Doug Lorimer is a member of the Democratic Socialist Party national
executive and, along with DSP NE member Jill Hickson, represented the DSP
at the CPI (ML) congress.]
From Green Left Weekly, December 11, 2002.
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