(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 27, 2008
Prakash Karat Presents Draft Political Resolution
PRAKASH Karat presented the political resolution, in the afternoon session on March 29, for discussion and adoption by the 19th party congress. The presentation continued for about 2 hours, which included the time given for intermittent translations in regional languages, and underlined the major national and international developments in the 3 years since the 18th party congress held in Delhi in April 2005. This was the basis on which the draft political resolution had presented an outline of the political tactical line to be adopted in the next 3 years or so.
Karat began his presentation with an underlining of the intense discussion on the draft political resolution that had taken place in the party units all over the country during the 2 months preceding the party congress. He reminded that after the Central Committee had finalised the document, it was released for inner-party discussion 2 months before the actual holding of the congress in accordance with the stipulation made in the party constitution. Since then, it has been thoroughly debated within the party at all levels. During the run-up to the congress, and as a product of this inner-party discussion, the party centre had received more than 4,000 amendment proposals and over 700 suggestions. The Central Committee was to present to the party congress its report on these proposals and suggestions.
Reminding the delegates that they have to review the implementation of the political tactical line adopted by the 18th party congress so as to chalk out tasks for the next 3 odd years, Karat expressed the hope that the delegates, in their interventions, would enrich the report with their concrete experiences at the ground level. He also hoped that the party would be able to cope with the future challenges by implementing the line worked out by the congress.
Referring to the international situations, Karat said it one must recall what the conditions were at the time of our 18th congress and what changes have taken place in the last 3 years. The US imperialism continued its hegemonic drive in this period and has also been imposing neo-liberal policies on other countries through imperialist globalisation. It has been blatantly using military force and oppressive methods for its purposes. But the unbearable nature of imperialist driven globalisation is increasingly becoming evident as it is increasing the inequalities all over the world. Resistance to the US moves have multiplied and the trend towards multipolarity has got strengthened.
Reminding that 5 years had passed since the US occupation of Iraq, Karat said all the military force used there has been on no avail. The puppet government installed there is still unable to run its writ in the country. But Iraq has to suffer a lot of anguish. Its oil and other resources are being looted with impunity. The 18th congress had already underlined that control over West Asia, and more so on its energy resources, is a key element of the USA’s geo-strategic thinking. For this purpose, the US is now targeting Iran. Palestine, Syria and Lebanon too have been on its hit list, though it has not gained much in these countries. The US instigated Israel to attack on Lebanon but the Hizbullah fighters gave Israel a fitting reply. However, West Asia is still the target of US attacks, threats, interventions and intimidation. Here, Karat referred to how India’s vital interests are linked with West Asia, and why we have to oppose and resist the attacks on the independence of West Asian nations. We have to further strengthen our fighting solidarity with the countries being targeted by US imperialists.
Karat pointed out how the US has widened the ambit of its war against terror (!) in the last 3 years and also expanding the NATO beyond its traditional limits. The aim is to drag Ukraine and Georgia into this war alliance, and deploy missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. The US has set up its bases in the Central Asian region, and constituted an AFRICOM on the line of the Central Command and Pacific Command. Its aim is to establish permanent bases in the African continent. It is also seeking to tie up the South Asian nations too with military pacts.
Though the move to impose a EU constitution on the continent’s people has failed, the attempt now is to achieve the aim through the backdoor by making the European governments sign the ‘Lisbon Pact.’ While the Russian president Alexander Putin’s stress on national interests did affect the mutual relations of imperialist countries, they instigated Kosovo to declare its independence unilaterally. Thus the US game of expanding its sphere of hegemony worldwide is clear, as is its attempts to remove the obstacles by force.
Pointing to the major changes in global economy, Karat said the 18th congress had taken place when the US economy was growing. But it is now beset with a severe recession. The US economy is highly debt ridden but offsets its deficit with the dollar flowing in from other countries. Now the sub-prime lending crisis and the falling dollar are strangulating the entire financial sector. The US recession is also hitting other economies, including our own. Our exports, employment and income are on a decline path. We have to keep a watch on what steps the US takes in the coming days to get over its crisis. Karat warned that the US could try to shift the burden of its crisis on to other countries and may even resort to military for the purpose so that an increased military budget might help it get over its recession.
Stressing that the contradiction between the imperialist and developing countries have intensified, Karat said it has two aspects. One, richer countries are compelling the developing ones to further open up for the former. This would facilitate a transfer of the crisis to the third world countries. Secondly, this has widened not only the gap between the richer and the poorer countries but also the rich-poor divide in the developed countries themselves.
At the same time, Prakash Karat also said, resistance to imperialist globalisation and neo-liberal policies is growing worldwide. Latin America is today the main arena of this resistance. The 18th congress had already noted this phenomenon. The process has gone much ahead in the last 3 years and the Left has significantly gained there. Though an electoral fraud resulted in the Left candidate’s defeat in Mexico, the Left has got tremendous support there. Karat also referred to how some of these Left governments have taken important steps for land reforms, and how they are adopting policies that are different from the neo-liberal ones.
Resistance is also growing in developed capitalist countries, with the working class pressing for a reorganisation of the social welfare systems. Big struggles have taken place in many European countries like France and Germany, South Korea etc. Even though these struggles are more of a defensive nature, they do give us a positive indication.
Another positive indication is that the trend towards multipolarity, Karat said the world cannot remain unipolar forever. Resistance to US unilateralism is growing, as is seen on several forums and in several forms, e.g. through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It has expanded its activities in the last 3 years, in favour of collective defence. It aims to keep Central Asia free from outside interventions, and the Sino-Russian cooperation is its key means. Russia is now not willing to toe the American line and is playing an independent role, asserting its sovereign rights forcefully. Other developing countries too are, similarly, developing forums for mutual cooperation. Karat insisted that all these developments must be viewed in conjunction with those in the socialist countries.
In socialist world, Karat specifically referred to the unprecedented growth in China and how it is impacting the world affairs. He also underlined the growth in Vietnam and its steps to overcome poverty. Despite all the difficulties and the Bush administration’s machinations to finish it off, Cuba has not only got over many of its difficulties; it has also got a new, valuable ally in form of Venezuela. Karat drew attention to the Bolivarian alternative which now Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia are pursuing in contrast to the neo-liberal policies. This is inspiring millions of people in Latin America today. The CPI(M) leader also said there is no question of Cuba moving away from the socialist path even after Fidel Castro has relinquished his position. As for DPR Korea, it has successfully resisted the US attempts at nuclear blackmail. The US is still trying to get out of the six-nation agreement. Its move to isolate the DPR Korea has failed and is not likely to succeed in future. Like the DPRK, the US is also targeting Iran as a part of the “axis of evil” but the compulsion of controlling the situation in Iraq has forced it to engage with Iran diplomatically. Thus the US quixotism against the so-called “axis of evil” has got into insurmountable difficulties, and we have to take such anti-imperialist attempts into account.
Among our neighbouring countries, Prakash Karat referred first to Nepal and its intimate historic relations with India. He welcomed the success of the Nepali people’s victory against the monarchy, adding that India’s communists have always stood by the people’s struggle there. He said elections to the proposed constituent assembly (which had not yet taken place when the CPI(M) congress took place) would herald a new age in Nepal’s history. The CPI(M), he said, ensured that India did not supply arms to the monarchical regime in Nepal and urged the Indian government to play a positive role vis-à-vis Nepal. He expressed hope that the Left movement would be able to change the destiny of Nepal and improve the people’s life.
About Pakistan, Karat said the people there were engaged in a hard struggle, facing military regime on the one and fundamentalist forces on the other. But the recent elections, which took place in the background of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, have given a rebuff to both. Hoping that the new regime would take steps for a betterment of Indo-Pak relations, Karat recalled how the CPI(M) had strongly opposed the former NDA government’s move to break all ties with Pakistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Indian parliament and other places. Composite dialogues with Pakistan restarted after the UDA came to power. Karat said certain forces in India are just prisoners of the past and have only a stereotyped image of Pakistan. But we know the pains of the partition and we hope that a betterment of Indo-Pak relations would be in the interest of a secular democracy in both the countries.
About Bangladesh, Karat said this country too, like Pakistan, was passing through the tough phase of a de facto military rule. Political and trade union rights are totally suspended. Parliamentary elections have been postponed sine die, and the US and EU are supporting the present dispensation. Karat said the CPI(M) is in constant touch with the fraternal parties in Bangladesh and urged the government of India to adopt a clear-cut attitude for restoration of democracy there.
In Sri Lanka, the situation has deteriorated with a breakdown of the ceasefire between the LTTE and the government forces. Karat said the CPI(M) never supported the Eelam demand and has always stood for a united Sri Lanka with regional autonomy for the Tamil people. The party well knows the LTTE’s character and also the injustice being meted out to the Tamils over there. The Indian experience is that a federal structure and decentralisation of powers has played a key role in preserving the Indian unity amid all diversities. Some sections in Sri Lanka do think that the problems may be resolved by military means but the fact is that it can be laid to rest only by political means. He urged the Sri Lanka government to take steps for regional autonomy, and said the fraternal Sri Lankan parties that had come to the CPI(M) congress were also striving for a political solution.
STRUGGLES: GLOBAL AND NATIONAL
Summing up the situation in South Asia, Prakash Karat underlined two important trends here --- of struggles for democracy and of increasing US penetration in the region. The region has the same problems and challenges. We have to fight for democracy in the broadest sense of the term, for democratic transformations. We have to fight against the US penetration, a struggle in which most parts of the ruling classes are not interested. We have to mutually link both these strugglers and make them a part of the global struggle for democracy, against imperialism.
In this context, the CPI(M) general secretary mentioned how the party had in the last 3 years brought many issues of foreign policy to the fore. In this context, he referred to the Indo-US nuclear deal and India’s somersault in the IAEA on the question of Iran. The government went on defensive when the CPI(M) and the Left ran a countrywide campaign on the issue. We also pressed the government on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline issue. About the Palestinian struggle, the CPI(M) raised a solidarity fund of over 13 million rupees while the government has moved away from India’s age-long policy of support to this struggle. On the contrary, it is seeking to have close strategic ties with Israel.
In the last 3 years, our struggle has brought the issue of strategic Indo-US ties to the forefront of anti-imperialist struggle, something which has happened for the first time, and the CPI(M) may well feel proud of it. Informing about how the government had signed the Indo-US defence deal without even discussing it with the Left, Karat said the nuclear deal is now virtually dead. Moreover, the UPA government has no courage now to sign the other deals, like the logistic supply agreement. The framework agreement has just remained a framework.
Here, Karat said how the Congress and the BJP, two big parties of India’s ruling classes, are committed to have strategic ties with the US. This too underlines the need for an alternative. Karat said there indeed are many forces outside the Congress/BJP fold. For example, the TDP, SP, BSP and some other regional parties also opposed the nuke deal. Thus the anti-imperialist tradition of the people, constantly ignored by the Congress as well as BJP, may well be protected and strengthened and India saved from the US imperialist gameplan. This struggle is of key significance for India, as having India as its camp follower would be a very big victory for US imperialism. This has been admitted by no less a person than Condolizza Rice, the US secretary of state. Referring to the CPI(M)’s central role in all the struggles launched on the issue in the last 3 years, Karat expressed confidence that the party would be able to mobilise other forces in this all-important struggle.
INDEPENDENT CPI(M) STAND
In context of the national situation, Karat particularly detailed the CPI(M) stand vis-à-vis the UPA government, underlining that it is directly related to the struggle against the neo-liberal policies. It is in a peculiar situation today, the CPI(M) and the Left are supporting from outside a government that is tied to the diktat of the IMF-World Bank-WTO and Washington Consensus. This peculiar situation emerged after the 2004 Lok Sabha polls that drove the BJP-NDA out of power. Now, despite its natural inclinations, the Congress had to seek the Left support and include many such promises in its Common Minimum Programme as it would not have included otherwise. Karat explained that while extending support to the new regime the CPI(M) stand was guided by 3 considerations: (1) to bring pressure upon the UPA government for implementation of certain pro-people measures, (2) to fight the neo-liberal policies, and (3) to zealously guard our independent standpoint so that the struggle for a Left and democratic alternative could be advanced. Part 1 of the Polorg report for the 19th congress has reviewed the implementation of this stand of the party. The Central Committee of the party has been of the opinion that we have been on the whole able to successfully implement this line that was laid down by the 18th party congress.
In this connection, Karat clarified that it was possible for us to rebuff the neo-liberal measures of the UPA government in such cases as required the parliament’s endorsement or legislation. The problem has been with the measures that could be implemented only by executive fiat. The government has been able to push through several neo-liberal measures despite the opposition from the CPI(M) and the Left, e.g. the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports, hike in FDI limit in telecommunication etc. at the same time, pressure was brought upon the government to implement some pro-people policies that it had promised in its NCMP. Karat reminded that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or the Tribal Forest Rights Act could not be passed without the Left intervention. On the other hand, we have not been able to get legislature seats reserved for women despite all striving. In sum, our fast adherence to the line prescribed by the 18th congress has enabled us to slowdown the pace of implementation of neo-liberal policies.
Assessing the changes in the last 3 years, Karat said the people’s life standard has not improved; it has in fact deteriorated. An agrarian crisis has been looming large over the whole scenario. Its horror can be gauged from the fact that more than 16,000 peasants committed suicide in 2006 alone. Misery stalks the countryside. Unemployment has grown fast. Migration of the people from rural areas has assumed serious proportions. Exploitation of labour has fast increased. Our country ranks quite low in regard to the labour’s share in cost of production. A horrible situation faces the unorganised workers, and more so the women among them. About the CPI(M)’s stand to face this situation, Karat said that, while supporting the United Front government from outside, we already had an experience of what happens to the people under a bourgeois-landlord regime and we have learnt from that experience. The 16th party congress had made a self-critical appraisal of that experience, saying that we had not adequately resisted the UF government’s policies. He emphatically said that the party has not repeated the mistake this time. Two nationwide strikes have taken place in the last 3 years, there was one in the unorganised sector also, and there have been several struggles involving various sections. The CPI(M) not only supported these struggles but also coordinated with them.
THE WAY FORWARD
Stressing the need of an effective nationwide struggle, Karat highlighted the importance of raising the social issues on a big scale. Referring to the review of this task made in Part 1 of the Polorg report, he said initiatives were taken on concrete social issues, mentioning the issue of the Sachar report in this regard. A campaign was run among the Muslims on this issue, and their burning socio-economic problems were specified and raised. An all-India convention prepared a demands charter for the Muslims, and then a series of state and even district conventions followed. This led to some progress, and a new ground was broken up among the Muslims in Hyderabad. Karat reminded that the campaign was not only on the safety and security of the Muslims but also on their development. Regarding the Dalit population, the CPI(M) forcefully raised the issue of caste oppression. The movement has registered some growth in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh where the Dalit issues were concertedly raised. However, weaknesses still persist in the extensive Hindi areas insofar as raising the social issues is concerned. Karat also said the CPI(M) has in the last 3 years forcefully raised the issues concerning women.
The 18th CPI(M) congress had said that a growth of the party and of mass organisations was essential for launching struggles on concrete issues. In this regard, Karat gave special credit to two struggles launched in the last 3 years. One is the land struggle in Andhra Pradesh. This was not a land struggle in the traditional sense but a powerful agitation on the burning issue of homestead land for the rural poor. Panicked by the tremendous mass support it received, the state Congress government unleashed brutal repression against the agitation, with police firing claiming 8 lives in Mudigonda. Now the CPI(M)’s state conference as decided to go over to the next phase of agitation. The second struggle was for the supply of canal water to agriculture in the western districts of Rajasthan. The state BJP government tried to brutally crush this prolonged agitation and police action claimed two lives. But the agitation has left a deep imprint upon the local peasantry and other people. Karat here underlined that both these struggles have added to the party’s strength. But there are also other examples of sustained struggle, even if not on such a big scale. The thing is that the party and mass organisations cannot grow without such sustained struggles.
Briefly referring to the political resolution’s theses on some other issues like education, health, media, culture, environment etc, Karat discussed two issues at some length. The first was of the role of judiciary, on which the 18th congress too had said something. The higher judiciary is aggressively attacking the people’s rights. It was clear from the Kerala High Court’s attitude on bandhs, which as endorsed by the Supreme Court. Now the judiciary has started encroaching upon the jurisdiction of the other two wings of the government. So much so that it is now out to decide the height of the barricades to be put up on roads. The judiciary is opposing virtually every progressive measure and is now ‘reviewing’ the acts included in the 9th schedule. Of late, they have pronounced several verdicts against the steps taken by the Left governments. Karat clarified that the question is not of launching an agitation against the higher judiciary but of asking whom the judiciary is accountable to. He reminded that in India it is the judges who are appointing new judges and the government has no courage to get passed the long pending bill for constituting a judicial commission. Querying how one could expect a different role from the judiciary in a class society, Karat stressed the need of wide ranging reforms in the judiciary.
The second issue was of the centre-state relations. We have not fulfilled the 18th congress directive of forging an agitation on the issue. Stressing the need of reviving the struggle for a democratic restructuring of the centre-state relations, Karat said the context has changed since the 1970s and 1980s. Now the main thing is the State withdrawing itself from developmental and welfare activities. States are facing attacks on their rights and powers, and the centre is unconstitutionally imposing upon them its neo-liberal policies by linking grants and assistance with their implementation. For example, the condition of ending the Urban Land Ceiling Act has been attached to the assistance under the Jawaharlal Urban Renewal Mission. West Bengal has flatly refused to accept this conditionality. Karat informed that to revive this struggle, the CPI(M) has prepared a draft which the Central Committee would soon discuss.
NEED OF A THIRD ALTERNATIVE
After summing up the main features of the current political situation in the country, Karat said the mass base of the Congress and of UPA is eroding, due to the intensifying agrarian crisis and deterioration in the people’s life standard. Growth rate and not the people’s welfare is the government’s priority. No wonder, then, that the Congress has lost several state elections in the last 3 years. Though the BJP has benefitted from the anti-Congress mass discontent, it has not gained anything on its own and cannot hope to gain anything without its allies. The BJP led NDA has also got weakened, though the danger remains that they may cash upon the people’s discontent.
This must be kept in mind while working out the tactical line for the coming days. In this connection, Karat dwelt upon the role of the UNPA parties; some of them were allied to the Left in the past but also went with the Congress or the BJP at one time or another. While the 18th congress directive was for a third policy based alternative but, Karat said, its formation is not going to be an easy task. Also, the main responsibility for it devolves upon the CPI(M) as it is the biggest party of the Left.
Karat also clarified that the third alternative we are striving for, must not be confused with the aim of forming a Left and democratic front. The Left has been envisaged as a real alternative while the “third alternative” is a limited one, needed in today’s situation. There must be no illusion about the class character of the TDP, SP, etc. There may be agreement with these parties on some issues, but no Left and democratic front can be formed with them. An immediate alternative is needed for getting some pro-people measures implemented and also on the foreign policy issue. Here, Karat said the regional parties have been more sensitive on pro-people measures and nuclear deal. The BJP would be approaching them showing in the coming days and, unlike us, these parties don’t consider the BJP untouchable. Hence the importance of ensuring that the BJP is not able to get allies from among them. This may be ensured only through the formation of a credible alternative.
TASKS IN THE COMING YEARS
This makes the Left unity all the more important. Karat said the Left intervention has increased in the last 3 years. Regular discussions on policy issues have led to greater cooperation among the Left parties. However, the cracks in Left unity must not be ignored either. Differences appeared on the Left Front government of West Bengal, the biggest force on the Left, and were expressed at the national level. But we were able to preserve Left unity at the all-India level to a large extent.
Karat remarked that such tensions were not new and some Left allies do vacillate whenever our class enemies intensify their attack. But our Left allies too have to understand why such attacks are taking place. The recent attacks on the CPI(M) must be seen in context of the ruling class ire because we have obstructed the Indo-US nuke deal and somewhat blunted the neo-liberal onslaught upon the people.
However, Karat said, we don’t have any ill-will for our Left allies and, as the biggest party on the Left, we are fully conscious of our responsibility in strengthening Left unity. But other Left parties too have to realise their duty. In this regard the CPI(M) general secretary referred to the case of Tripura where a Left party deserted the Left Front and contested the recent assembly polls on its own but the people rejected it lock, stock and barrel. Nobody is saying that CPI(M) can never make a mistake but one must not forget that the Left is functioning in a highly complex situation, including the difficulties arriving or exacerbation because of the lack of a powerful all-India mass movement behind the Left led governments.
Referring to the need of augmenting the party’s strength, Karat said the CPI(M) struggled on 4 major fronts in the last 3 years. It has fought the communal forces, fought the neo-liberal policies, put up alternative policies before the people and resisted the attempts to forge a strategic alliance with the US. But our success in these fights depends on our independent strength. Karat reminded that the 18th congress had identified the situation as conducive for our growth. We have to realise the existing possibilities and emerge as an all-India force. It is a fact that we have not fully utilised these possibilities and we still have miles to go. This requires that we build sustained struggles in 4 areas noted down by the draft political resolution of the 19th congress. These are: to defend the working people’s interests against the neo-liberal onslaught, to rebuff the communal onslaught, to resist and defeat the moves to make India an adjunct of US imperialists, and to forge ahead the interests of Dalit, minority, women and other deprived groups. Karat emphatically said that, with its thousands of dedicated cadres who are prepared to make any kind of sacrifice, the CPI(M) was fully capable of discharging these tasks and face the challenges to come. The party that has a record of 244 sacrifices in 3 years, would definitely do these tasks. With these words, Karat urged the delegates to endorse the draft political resolution and then take the document to the wider masses.