People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 20, 2008
Unprecedented Rally At Brigade Grounds
22nd STATE CONFERENCE OF BENGAL CPI(M) BEGINS WITH UNPRECEDENTED RALLY
Jyoti Basu addressing the massive rally in Kolkata
THE open rally of the state conference of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) saw the mass of the assemblage simply have the vast green expanse of the Brigade Parade grounds run over, several times over, to be correct. The fact that state secretary Biman Basu had to order post haste an additional of 250-odd loudspeaker-equipped posts to be erected (over and above the five-hundred norm already in place, at positions far, far away from the venue itself, asking the sound operators to boost the sound system appropriately), was quite proof enough of the waves of colourful contingents of people – most of whom held aloft large Red Flags that waved and fluttered in the winter breeze – who approached the maidan in vast waves of inspired humanity right from the quite early hours of the day.
As if this was not proof enough, as we were motoring back from the rally after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had finished speaking in a tumult of applause, we counted at least two hundred large, long, serpentine processions queuing into the maidan, front-to-end, and the marchers told us, words dripping with anguish that many more such processions and tableaux were on their way to the venue from the Sealdah and Howrah railway stations. By then, it was past five in the evening and the sun was a large red disk on the western horizon backlighting the pillars of the Vidyasagar Setu, commonly called by Kolkatans the Second Hooghly Bridge.
Speaking in a voice firm enough not to betray his 94 advancing years, veteran communist leader Jyoti Basu, who had the usual splurge of loud accolades and rousing slogans from the gathering as he went to the microphones, spoke briefly but in a very pointed way. Bringing to mind the rally that had succeeded the sweeping to office with 235 seats and 50.18 per cent votes (of the 80.02 per cent votes polled) during the 2006 assembly elections, Jyoti Basu iterated that it was the people who had always made history. The people have also helped the Left Front to create a niche for itself in the annals of political developments around the world by winning the elections seven times in a row. The Left Front is flourishing even within the constraining imperatives of a capitalist framework, by working its heart out for the people and the downtrodden and the exploited.
The successes that came one after the other, reflected in the ballot box and in the ever widening circles of struggles and movements led by the Bengal CPI(M), must not ‘make us complacent or laid-back, satiated with a sense of fulfilling accomplishment, and we should forge ahead with the unfulfilled tasks and promise yet to be implemented in full measure, explaining to the people our successes and our drawbacks.’ At the present point in time, said Jyoti Basu, ‘we are developing in a capitalism-dominated structure at the all-India level and thus it is not feasible, as some quarter’s do, to expect us to build socialism. But we shall never loose sight of the tasks ahead, progressing through people’s democracy to socialism, and at the all-India level. That is the future.’
For the present, the Left Front government where the CPI(M) functions as the largest unit, the aim, and the plan is to provide relief to the people, and this is being done ever since the roadmap was chalked out in the election manifesto for the 1977 elections. The Bengal LF government has been deprived time and again over the last decades by the successive union governments from developing industrially. With this the state government itself had to come boldly forward with implementation of such schemes like the Salt Lake electronics complex, the Haldia Petro-chemical complex, the Bakreswar thermal power project, and now a series of industrial projects with participation of private capital.
With the disappearance of the polices of freight equalisation and of the license permit raj in the ill-winds of globalisation that brought at least this welcome change, the Bengal government has been engaged in strengthening the basis of agriculture and building industries, infrastructure and the service sector. Development is seen as part of the class struggle, and the opposition would go out of way to prove this out in the raw, harsh reality of the ground level at Singur, Bhangar, and Nandigram. We must keep the Left unity intact, never disbelieving the people, forge ahead towards the tasks ahead, for the present and for the future, in the days ahead,’ concluded Jyoti Basu.
In his lengthy and important address, general secretary of the CPI(M), Prakash Karat spoke in open admiration of the massive rally as the proper reflection of the commencement of the state conference of Bengal, which continued to be one of the biggest and most advanced contingents of the communists in the country. ‘The rally befits the political strength of the Bengal CPI(M),’ was how Prakash Karat would put it.
Reminding the sea of people that following Leninist principles of organisation, the CPI(M) had had a series of Party conferences held from the branch, local committee, zonal committee, and district committee levels, conferences where political-ideological-organisational issues were discussed threadbare, on to the stage where the state conference of the Bengal unit was about to commence. The process would culminate in the 19th Party Congress at Coimbatore.
The CPI(M) leader outlined the four tasks the previous Party Congress had resolved to accomplish. First, struggles would be widened even further against the forces of communalism, isolating them from the people. Second, the anti-people and anti-poor policies of the Congress-led UPA government would face a series of stringent protests and critiques, while striving to raise a viable alternative. Third, the infiltration of imperialism would be fought against and halted. Fourth, the CPI(M) was set on strengthening and widening the democratic, secular, and pro-people forces.
‘We,’ said Prakash Karat, ‘have worked towards these ends and the CPI(M) and the Left have come to play a decisive role in the fixing of priorities and pursuing of national policies.’ He reiterated that the conditional support to the Congress-run UPA was to ward off the great danger that would emanate from a union government controlled and manipulated for communal and anti-national purposes by the BJP-RSS combine. However, he made it abundantly clear, ‘we have chosen to oppose, and thoroughly, without any compromise on any account, the policies of the UPA government that are against the interests of the people and the nation.’
The policy has borne fruit. In the past three years, the CPI(M) and the Left have quite succeeded in putting the union government under pressure and have forced it to rethink in a pro-people, pro-poor way in such matters as the REGA, tribal rights, and on more allocations in the budget for health and education. The CPI(M) has also kept a sharp watch on the Hindutva brigade that has become active once again, and the religious fundamentalists have raised issues ranging from the Ram Mandir (at Ayodhya) to the so-called ‘Ram Setu’ (opposing in the process the ‘Sethusamudram Project’).
These forces of reaction are alive, active, and aggressive. The win for the BJP in Gujarat is a portent of warning where communal divide is utilised to win votes. Following the Gujarat polls, an elated L K Advani has threatened to make the entire country a Gujarat. What would this mean for the country, asked Prakash Karat? It would mean, he said, that it would be the country where all minorities, and not just Muslims, would be treated as second-class citizens,’ as they are done even today in Gujarat. He said the accused criminals of the saffron brigade who killed around 2000 people during the infamous Gujarat genocide are walking free. There has been no justice for the victims till date. Wherever the BJP-RSS combine is in office, the minorities are under fierce attack.
The Congress lost in Gujarat an it was a classic case of softening up and crumbling before the hard Hindutva line: indeed, the Congress was not willing to challenge the Hindutva brigade in Gujarat, or elsewhere, especially come the polls. The secular-democratic forces led by the Left would not sit idly by as the religious fundamentalists decimated the democratic and secular structure of the country. They would go forth, throw the gauntlet before the saffron brigade, and launch ever bigger all-India struggles against the BJP-RSS combination, Prakash Karat assured the assemblage, to applause. He also declared in a clear way that the coming Party Congress would debate and discuss how best to rally the democratic and secular forces against the forces of communalism and fundamentalism.
Puncturing a hole, or three, in the vaunted fabric of false pride of the Congress-led UPA government in the matter of a ‘GDP growth @ rate of 9 per cent,’ Prakash Karat said that the prices of commodities of common consumption were on the rise by leaps and bounds; there was a seething, simmering, deepening agrarian crisis overwhelming the economy; kisans not getting even subsistence procurement prices were killing themselves by their hundreds of thousands across the nation; poverty indices were on the rise; and there was jobloss, rather than jobless, growth everywhere in the national economy, at all levels.
The union government would also like to include in the retail trade big players from abroad, quite knowing that this will simply kill off the chances of the smaller trader to survive even marginally. The CPI(M), and the Left, believes that the UPA governance must adhere to the Common Minimum Programme. It is simply not even an acceptable proposition similarly to allow entry of foreign capital into such core service sectors, as banking and insurance. The CPI(M) and the Left shall always fight such anti-people policies of the Congress-led UPA government.
‘We have also to be on our guard against the military agreement the UPA government is keen to fructify with the forces of US imperialism; for, this would impinge on the independent foreign policy of the country,’ said the speaker. The UPA government should remember and take lessons from what the US has done to Iraq and threatening to do to Iran. We need to be friendly to Iran and with the West Asian countries: they have the oil pools and we need the energy sources for developmental purposes.’
‘Becoming a strategic partner of the US and going overboard to sign on the dotted line of the Indo-US deal of nuclear corporation, would not serve any purpose other than weakening the independent position of the nation itself. Yet, the union government appears bent on making India the ‘junior partner’ of the US. This must be resisted through waves of struggles and movements. The nuclear deal would actually end up by allowing US writ to run large in controlling our policies. We are opposed to such deals and we make no bone about it.’
Analysing the point of the attacks being launched by the combined forces of reactionaries and sectarians plus religious fundamentalists on Bengal CPI(M) and the Bengal LF government, Prakash Karat said that as the ‘vast presence of the masses tell us, the Bengal CPI(M) has always fought for and stood by the side of the oppressed and exploited - the kisans, the khet mazdoors, the working people, and every other section of the toiling masses, the minorities as well as the dalits. In Bengal, the Left and the Left Front must be further augmented, brining together under its aegis the array of Left, democratic, and secular forces. Struggles and movements must consciously be launched for the rights of the people, especially of the poor, which will strengthen at the national plane the position and place of the CPI(M) and the Left.’
Concluding Prakash Karat underlined the significance of the state conference of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M). He said that as the largest contingent of the Left in the country, the CPI(M) always had had a special responsibility for Left unity, and that there should not be any doubt in anybody’s mind that all the Left parties bore such a responsibility for unity of purpose and action. The CPI(M) and the Left unity must be augmented and this would help in fashioning of the third alternative that owed nothing either to the UPA or the NDA, and their core political outfits, the Congress and the BJP-RSS.
Biman Basu in his address dwelled chiefly on the emerging political scenario in Bengal with relevant contextual references to the national scenario. He praised the people of the state for whatever pro-people and pro-poor successes the Bengal Left Front government could initiate in the most difficult of a social-economic set up at the national level with a fiercely antagonistic presence of the forces of reaction who have always been ever active. Biman Basu said that the activities of the Congress and the BJP must be thoroughly exposed before the people and one should also recall to mind the issue of foreign funding against communists of Kerala and Bengal as documented in recent works. He recalled the terror-stricken days of the 1970s when murder, rape, loot, arson, and the ghastly attacks on communists became the order of the day presided over by a smiling Siddhartha Shankar Ray, and looked at with kind of faraway, remote complacent yet smug satisfaction by the then Congress union government.
Briefly describing as a necessary and relevant political exercise the story of the foundation of the Left Front in the stormy release of emotions following the lifting of the internal Emergency, Biman Basu went on to elaborate the manner in which the unity grew through following the Dimitrovian principle of unity-struggle-unity. The Left across India were enthused at what was happening in Bengal by way of Left unity. The encouragement became widened and deepened as one after the other elections was swept by the Left Front. Left Front has been the source of inspiration for the people, he said. “It brings to mind of those of us who have had a lengthy stint with the Party and have seen the slow if sure growth of the Left Front, the rousing slogan: ‘LF government is the weapon of people’s struggles (Baam-Front Sarkar, Sangraam-er Hatiyar).’ The slight misunderstanding that might have cropped about amongst a few of the LF constituents will be smoothened out through bi-partite meeting and followed by meetings of the Left Front itself”, said Biman Basu.
Speaking about the upcoming panchayat polls scheduled for May 2008, Biman Basu said that a total of 58,353 seats would be fought for in the three tiers of the Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samity, and the Zilla Parishad, This is unique in the country itself and is a replica of grass-roots’ democracy in operation. The Left Front government is deep into the work of rural development. Work remaining incomplete must be finished properly and newer projects undertaken. The struggle at the rural level shall have to be carried further forward on the slogans of relief to the poor, strengthening the basis of agriculture and agri-related activities, building up rural industries, and keeping intact en masse contact with the people.
Taking the podium amidst slogans, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee began by saying that the task before the CPI(M), the Left Front, and the Left Front government was to take Bengal further forward on the path of pro-people development while enhancing the political consciousness of the masses. Recalling the agricultural success (‘we are not thoughtless like some leaders of the opposition and their takers in the media to pose industry against agriculture: they know neither their history nor their economics!’), Buddhadeb said that nearly 85 per cent of the land remained with the poor kisans and the landless in Bengal. The land movements of the 1960s and the 1970s laid the base on which the LF government built up its policy of land reforms including operation barga, patta and joint patta, and decentralisation of rural administration through the panchayati raj.
The aim was to increase agricultural production in all the commodities of daily use, both food and commercial crops, plus poultry, vegetable farming, livestock breeding, pisciculture, horticulture, and floriculture plus fruit orchards. A state cannot survive on agriculture alone, particularly with the increasing population putting a great deal of pressure all the time on the production process and outputs. The newer generation of educated young men and women, trained, proficient, dedicated and job-ready, would look beyond agriculture to the industrial, commercial, and service sectors.
‘Here the LF government prefers and thinks in terms of employment first and production afterwards. ‘We are not concerned about the durability of the car to roll out of the Singur factory; we are glad to note that the factory will create thousands of jobs, directly, indirectly, downstream, and in the ancillary units.’ ‘We lack the financial clout to come up with capital. The union government would not help us thanks to the policy of liberalisation they have assiduously adopted. What then do we do?’
‘We invite private capital, even foreign capital, but they have to work on a basis of mutuality. However, yes, when taking over land, we have to talk to the people first; clearing up confusion and telling them that setting up a factory will create more man-days, more employment, and more benefits that are social as well as economic. The cost-benefit ratio must be worked out before them. After that, we have to take care of rehabilitation of and compensation for the land-losers. In the sweep of investments being made in Bengal, the closed units are opening up one by one: it is all a part of the process of development. The basic issue remains employment generation and the state’s overall development in terms of people-oriented growth.
‘The people will not forget those who oppose development and those who would not hesitate to shed blood of our comrades as at Nandigram. What the anarchic forces forget is that the masses are with us; the minorities, the dalits, the members of the SCs and the STs, and the landless, and the rural and urban poor, plus more-and-more the middle class. Attempts to confuse and mislead the minorities have been taken care of. Bur there is a lot work to be done. The self-help groups that have succeeded to providing women with dignity, empowerment, and the will to speak against social evils like dowry, superstition, and child marriage must be politicised. Human development must accompany economic growth. This is most important for the growth to sustained and people-oriented.’
Assailing the counter-democratic ploys of the odd combination of the rightist Trinamul Congress and the BJP with the Left sectarians like the Maoists and the Naxalites, Buddhadeb said that with adequate human resources, skilled workers, trained technicians, dedicated professions, none could bar Bengal from progressing along the correct path. We want peace and development, amity and growth, solidarity and advancement – along the path of pro-people and pro-poor outlook, in cities and villages, in agriculture and industry, concluded Buddhadeb.