(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 22 , 2008
EMS MEMORIAL LECTURE
Concrete Analysis Of Concrete Conditions Bedrock Of Party Policies
Extracts from Sitaram Yechury's inaugural address at the seminar organised on EMS's birthday beginning the year-long observance of his birth centenary at Thanoor in Malappuram district, Kerala on June 12, 2008
TODAY is Comrade EMS Namboodiripad's birthday. This marks the beginning of his birth centenary year. It is, indeed, appropriate that this year will be observed with intense discussions on the Marxist ideological, theoretical and tactical foundations. I am, indeed, honoured to be asked to deliver the inaugural address at this seminar.
My association with Comrade EMS goes back to over three decades. As student, I used to attend his lectures and seminars with the confidence that he will always tell us something new, even though the subject is old. He never disappointed us.
His whole life was the practice of what Lenin had once said: “Concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the living essence of dialectics”. The very fact that he headed the first democratically-elected Communist ministry, anywhere in the world, within the framework of a bourgeois-landlord constitution in India was, in itself, an expression of this.
It was Comrade EMS who formally asked me to become a wholetimer. It was he who had informed me, as the general secretary, that the Central Committee had decided to induct 25 younger comrades as permanent invitees in 1984 and that I was one of them. When I told him that I did not consider myself competent to discharge such responsibilities, in his inevitable style he simply told me that the CPI(M) functions on the principle of democratic centralism. Decisions of the higher committee have to be accepted and implemented by all Party members. Any violation would incur disciplinary action. For him, the matter was simple - if you choose to remain in the CPI(M), then you have to accept such decisions! There is an important lesson for all of us in this to learn. In a Communist party, every member has the full right to air his/her opinion in the relevant Party committees. But once a collective decision is taken, then, irrespective of personal opinions, the Party, as a whole, has to rally as a single person behind this collective decision. This is what EMS practiced all through his life and contributed to build the CPI(M) as it is today. This is what all of us need to emulate and scrupulously follow.
Returning to the Leninist dictum of `concrete analysis of concrete conditions', I propose today to deal with three issues directly connected with our Party's current policy positions.
The first is concerning our understanding and approach towards the current phase of imperialist globalisation and how the state governments led by our Party have to function in these conditions. The 18th Congress of the CPI(M) had analysed in detail the nature of globalisation, its unsustainability, the imperialist efforts to make it sustainable through its hegemonic designs and military aggressiveness etc. The main issue noted was that globalisation directly threatens to erode the economic sovereignty of developing countries while imperialism seeks to utilise these dynamics to economically recolonise the third world countries. The defence of economic sovereignty is, thus, in itself, an important element of the struggle against globalisation. This requires relentless struggles to safeguard and protect the people's property, i.e., the public sector, from being privatised both for generating greater profits for capital and to erode the foundations of economic self-reliance in India.
At the same time, the unfettered flow of international capital - financial, industrial and commercial - is the hallmark of globalisation. The protection of economic sovereignty under these circumstances, thus, means that the flow of such capital should be so regulated as to not adversely undermine our economic sovereignty. It is keeping this in mind that the Party had decided that the foreign capital that comes into India must satisfy the following conditions: a) they must augment the existing productive capacities and not merely takeover existing capacities; b) they must upgrade India technologically; and c) they must enlarge employment opportunities.
Even though the central government refuses to categorically impose such a regulation, given its class nature and its role of increasing collaboration with foreign finance capital, the state governments led by the CPI(M) must ensure that these conditions be adhered to. Further, given the fact that globalisation's raison d'etre is maximisation of profits, it creates newer and newer avenues to do so. Consequently, all the services formally provided by the state are now being privatised and became arenas for profit generation. Health and education have already seen large-scale privatisation and commercialisation in our country. Many public services like public transport, electricity, water, housing are all being privatised in order to generate greater profits. It is incumbent upon the CPI(M)-led state governments, under these circumstances, to protect the people from the onslaughts of globalisation's attacks to the maximum extent possible by atleast ensuring that elementary needs for livelihood are within the reach of the common people. It is, therefore, not surprising that Kerala has today one of the most efficient public distribution system in our country. This, needless to add, needs to be strengthened all over the country to ensure food security for our people.
The 19th Congress of the CPI(M) has specifically discussed this aspect of the CPI(M)-led Left and Democratic Front governments functioning in the present circumstances. I am sure that in the coming year, many seminars and discussions will be held on the various aspects outlined in the Party Congress resolution.
Our support to the present UPA government with the expressed purpose of preventing the communal forces from holding the reins of state power has, naturally, been a subject of intense discussion. Of the 61 Left members of the Lok Sabha, 54 have reached there by defeating Congress candidates. Yet, we have decided to extend outside support to the Congress-led UPA government, of course, on the basis of the Common Minimum Programme. Why is this desire to keep the communal forces away from power so important?
Before answering this question, it is important to note that communalism is not religiosity. It is a misuse of religion to advance political objectives. In this context, it is also necessary to clarify the Marxist understanding of religion. Vested interests often deliberately quote Marx out of context in order portray that Marxism denigrates religion: “Religion is the opium of the people”. The passage in which this statement finds place is, mischievously, never quoted in the full. “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of the spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people”.
Religion is the opium in the sense that it is as potent as opium is in creating an illusory world. For a human being who is oppressed, religion provides the escape with illusory relief, it provides a “heart in a heartless world, a spirit in a spiritless situation”. For this precise reason, it is like opium that lull's themselves into submission so long as they continue to remain in conditions which appear outside of both their comprehension and control. Marxism's main point is that the illusory relief that religion provides does not and cannot remove oppression in the real world. For emancipation from oppression, it is this real world that needs to be changed. That is its revolutionary content.
Religion is the private relationship of every individual with his God. Unless equal rights exist for those believing in different religions or atheists, secularism cannot be secured. Remember, Charvaka, the atheist, is as integral to Indian tradition as anything else the communal forces claim.
The Communists, unequivocally, practice and protect this individual right. At the same time, the Communists will relentlessly struggle against any effort to interfere in the individual's exercise of this right. It is precisely such interference that communalism (of all varieties) does.
In Indian reality, with its vast diversity and social plurality, communalism is the surest recipe for destroying the unity and integrity of our country. In practice, it is the most comprehensive disrupter of communal harmony imposing untold miseries on the religious minorities and creating a sense of fear and security which must be treated as impermissible in a modern democracy. Thus, for the sake of protecting India's unity and integrity and for ensuring the equality and security to religious minorities, the defeat of communalism is essential.
Of additional importance for us, Communists, is the fact that communalism seeks to disrupt the unity of those very classes on whose united strength, we seek to change the correlation of class forces in India and advance towards people's democracy. The unity of the working class, the poor peasantry, the agricultural labour is often disrupted by sharpening of communal polarisation. Thus, the stronger communalism becomes the more difficult for us to attain our revolutionary objective.
Therefore, our support to this UPA government is based on a set of policies contained in the Common Minimum Programme. However, given its class character, the Congress party continues to pursue the neo-liberal direction in its economic policies. This, as we have always said, is creating two Indias - the `shining' and the `suffering'. This gap is widening and the plight of suffering India is worsening. The consequent discontent amongst the people is only benefiting those very communal forces, in order to stop whom from coming to State power, we had supported this UPA government from outside in the first place.
From this experience, it is clear that the effective manner to check the communal forces can only be through the adherence to an alternative policy direction - alternative to the neo-liberal economic policy direction. This policy alternative - a political third alternative based on policies - must shift the focus of economic reforms from being solely preoccupied with corporate profits towards improving people's welfare.
The third aspect is the issue of present caste-based political mobilisation, that is taking place especially in northern India. Naturally, a large number of Party comrades and our sympathisers often ask questions about the Party's advance in Hindi-speaking states. Since our 15th Congress and specially in the 18th and 19th Congresses, we had come to the conclusion that unless the Party champions the issues of social reform, particularly social oppression from caste, no major breakthrough can be made in these regions. Class struggle in India has two important components: economic exploitation and social oppression. These are the two legs on which the class struggle stands. Intensifying class struggle, naturally, means that both these legs must move. Otherwise, we shall only limp, neither walk nor run.
As we have often said, just as a red flag flies on a factory gate, so should a red flag fly on the village well, where the dalit is prohibited even today to draw water. Only when we are able to take up these issues of social and caste oppression in right earnest and combine them with our struggles against economic exploitation, can we make a breakthrough in these regions. Otherwise, the yearning for liberation from social oppression will be confined within the parameters of separate castes by the ruling class caste leaders and parties preventing these socially oppressed sections from joining the democratic mainstream. This is a challenge that we have to meet headlong to succeed.
These are three, amongst what I would consider important aspects that need to be taken up in right earnest for the Party's advance in the coming days. As EMS would say, these are the true expressions of the Leninist dictum of “concrete analysis of concrete conditions”. Engaging with the existing realities, in order to change the existing realities to advance the revolutionary struggle, encapsulates the essence of Comrade EMS's life and work.
Let us make ourselves worthy of emulating this.