(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 20, 2008
19TH CPI(M) CONGRESS: A DIARY
ORGANISED from March 20 to April 3, 2008, at Anil Biswas Nagar, Coimbatore (Tamilnadu), the 19th congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) permeated with a renewed sense of vigour and self-confidence that the party could well meet the challenges of the current situation. The congress pledged to oppose and stall the central government’s move to make India an adjunct of the US imperialists in the name of developing “strategic relationships” with that country, fight the neo-liberal policies being imposed upon the people at the behest of the World Bank-IMF-WTO trio, and resist the depredations the Hindutva forces of majority communalism are perpetrating.
In the very fitness of things, the congress opened on the Qayyur Martyrs Day, as it was on March 29, 1943, when four comrades of the historic Qayyur struggle went to the gallows for the cause of national liberation and socialism. And the congress came to its successful conclusion on April 3, with a huge and impressive military style march by Red Volunteers. Apart from young boys and girls, a large number of children also participated in this march that spanned a length of more than one kilometre and a half. The march was meant to and did underline the communist militancy and the sacrifices that mark the history of the communist movement in India and the world. Starting from the Sivananda Colony, the march moved through the Nooradi (Hundred Feet) Road in Gandhipuram to reach the VOC Ground that was rechristened as the K V Ramani Ninaivu Thidal (Memorial Maidan), where it merged with the huge gathering of the people who had come for the mass meeting on the occasion.
CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Kerala chief minister V S Achutanandhan, Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar and a number of leaders from Tamilnadu addressed the mass meeting.
The meeting marked the beginning of the process of taking the 19th congress decisions and resolutions to the wider mass of Indian people.
OF THE MARTYRS
Even before the country’s independence, Coimbatore had been an important centre of the working class movement in Tamilnadu. The welcome address by reception committee chairman R Umanath, who has been one of the stalwarts of the working class movement in the state, recalled the movement’s history in this district while extending warm welcome to the delegates and observers, fraternal foreign delegates, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan and the special invitees and guests. Apart from the media representatives, a large number of the cadres and supporters of the Left also took part as guests in this open, inaugural session. The function reflected the mass enthusiasm over and support to the organisation of this excessively important CPI(M) congress --- not only in Coimbatore but in the whole of Tamilnadu. It was the same enthusiasm and support which the large number of banners, festoons, welcome arches, hoardings and wall writing also reflected in ample degree. It was therefore no wonder that the pictures of and quotations from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Che, Castro and other leaders of the movement, including the CPI(M) leaders, dotted every part of the Coimbatore city.
The opening session of the party congress started at 9.15 a m on March 29, with the highly impressive presentation of revolutionary songs by Velliveedhi Choir Group, a well known musical troupe from Chennai. Led by a female disciple of M V Srinivas, a renowned maestro of the Carnatic music, the troupe recalled the Qayyur martyrs’ sacrifices and started the programme with “Madurai Medavadavadam,” a song dedicated to the thousands of martyrs who laid down their lives in the struggle for independence and equality. The presentations included “Bharat Samudaya” by renowned nationalist Tamil poet Subramanyam Bharati and “Yuddha Nai, Yuddha Nai, Bolo Bhai,” a Bengali anti-war revolutionary song. The presentation concluded with a song written on the demise of Comrade Ho Chi Minh, impressively conveying the message that “martyrs are not buried but sown in the ground so that there is a crop of thousands of other revolutionaries.”
The Chinnavedampatti Nadaswaram troupe made an impressive presentation of nadaswaram on this occasion.
Marking the link of the 19th congress with the martyrs’ tradition, the Red Flag was brought from the Chinniyapalayam Martyrs Memorial in Coimbatore district itself. This memorial is dedicated to the four leading working class activists of the area, whom the British government implicated in a false case and then executed in 1946. Local CPI(M) leader N Amirtham handed the flag over to Biman Basu, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, secretary of its West Bengal state committee and chairman of the Bengal Left Front. Similarly, the torch for the 19th congress martyrs column was brought from the Venmani Martyrs Memorial in Nagapattinam district, and V Marimuthu handed it over to Mallu Swarajyam, a leader of the heroic Telangana struggle and Central Committee member. Veteran freedom fighter and CPI(M) leader N Sankariah then hoisted the party flag at the congress venue.
Following it, the party’s general secretary, Polit Bureau members, Central Committee members and leaders of various delegations paid floral tributes at the Martyrs Column.
The inauguration of the party congress took place at an imaginatively designed two-wing stage in the S N R Thirumana Mandapam. This designing of the stage enabled to seat the delegates and others in two directions and, as a result, a large number of invitees and guests were able to take part in the proceedings of the open session. One could also view the proceedings from some distance, with the help of two big-size screens. It was on these screens that the party veteran Jyoti Basu’s message to the 19th party congress was also flashed. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M K Pandhe chaired this open session of the party congress. He also moved the resolution condoling the demise of leaders of the party and of the national and international communist movement, who had departed in the last three years. All those present at the session stood silent for a minute to pay homage to these leaders.
After the inaugural speech by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, his CPI counterpart A B Bardhan extended a welcome to the 19th congress. Talking about the decisions of the 20th CPI congress, which had taken place only a few days ago, he referred to the growing cooperation between the two parties and stressed the need of a Left and democratic alternative in opposition to the Congress party as well as the BJP. The CPI(M)’s Tamilnadu state secretary, N Varadharajan, welcomed the CPI leader with shawl presentation.
Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat conducted the ceremony to felicitate the 11 veteran comrades invited to the party congress for the purpose. V S Achthanandhan and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya honoured, respectively, M Kunhikannan and V Thankappan, both from Kerala. Manik Sarkar honoured Shailesh Chowdhury, S R Pillai honoured Meera Chatterjee, Biman Basu honoured Anand Pathak and P Vijayan honoured Sandhya Chatterjee. All these comrades are from West Bengal. Sitaram Yechury, K Varadharajan and B V Raghavulu honoured Bidya Debbarma (Tripura), D Moni and G Veerayyan (both Tamilnadu), respectively. R Umanath and M K Pandhe honoured Alluru Satyanarayan and Kondragunta Venkateswarlu respectively. Both these veterans belong to Andhra Pradesh.
Sitaram Yechury welcomed and introduced to the audience 52 fraternal delegates who came from 26 countries to take part in the 19th congress. He also informed about the messages of greetings that had come from several other parties who had not been able to send their delegates. A message of greetings had also come from M Karunanidhi, chief minister of the DMK government in Tamilnadu, and N Varadharajan read it out. The message from the veteran Tamil leader referred to Prakash Karat’s opening speech and A B Bardhan’s greetings to the 19th CPI(M) congress as a healthy sign for the country’s future, and wished that the congress would successfully hold its deliberations.
The inaugural session concluded with a brief presidential address by M K Pandhe.
The delegates session of the party congress started in the afternoon. The dais, renamed P Ramamurthy Manch, was artistically decorated with the portraits of Comrades P Ramamurthy and Anil Biswas. In the whole auditorium were, similarly, displayed portraits of leaders of the international and Indian communist movement. The session elected a seven-member presidium, with M K Pandhe as convenor, to conduct the congress deliberations. Mohd Amin, Vaikom Viswam, U Vasuki, Bajuban Riyang, G Nagayya and Amra Ram were other members of this body. The outgoing Polit Bureau functioned as the steering committee.
The congress then elected a resolutions committee led by Brinda Karat and with Ashok Dhawale, Nilotpal Basu and Thomas Isaac as members. The credentials committee had V Srinivas Rao as convenor and Mridul De, A K Balan and Sudha Sundararajan as members. The minutes committee’s convenor was G Nagaraj while its members were K Venugopalan, Ranjana Nirula and Ritubrat Banerjee.
The resolution on the congress agenda made it clear that the first two days would be devoted to a discussion on the Draft Political Resolution, to which was also linked the first part of the Political Organisational Report. The next item on agenda was a discussion on the third and fourth parts of the Political Organisational Report, which were devoted to the organisational issues. The last item of discussion was part two of the same report, and it was centred on the functioning of the three Left led governments. April 3 was fixed as the date of election of a new leadership that would be responsible for implementation of the political tactical line worked out at the 19th congress. A rally was planned for the afternoon and a mass meting for the evening on the same day.
In his presentation for about one hour and a half, Prakash Karat explained the main direction of the Draft Political Resolution, and also summarised the experience of the 3 years period since the 18th congress.
Following it, Sitaram Yechury presented a report on the amendments and suggestions received from party members and sympathisers all over the country as a result of the nationwide discussion on the Draft Political Resolution at various levels. He termed these amendments and suggestions, coming from inside as well as outside the party, as a testimony to the inner-party democracy flourishing within the party. He underlined that, distinct from the bourgeois parties, this inner-party democracy in a communist party ensures the participation of all party members from top to bottom in the process of policy formulation.
Yechury here informed that the Central Committee had received a total of 4,061 amendment proposals and 713 suggestions from various party units and others, and had accepted 181 amendments out of these. Of these, 53 amendments concerned the international situation and 128 concerned the national situation. While 87 amendments were received as they were, the Central Committee had accepted the gist of the other 94 amendments and would give them a suitable wording after the party congress.
The discussion on the Draft Political Resolution, along with the accepted pre-congress amendments, started on March 30 morning and continued up to March 31 forenoon. 41 delegates took part in this discussion that continued for 7 hours. Replying to the points raised during the discussion, Prakash Karat underlined the broad agreement developed on the political tactical line.
Sitaram Yechury made a report on the 302 amendments on the same document, received from the delegates and observers during the congress. He said most of these proposals suggested some addition in the document. However, even though there was nothing wrong in such proposals, they could not be accepted as the Political Resolution was not the place for the suggested details. Still, 46 amendments (15 percent of the total received) were accepted by the steering committee though 17 of them were already accepted as pre-congress amendments. He stressed that the only amendment not in consonance with the party line was the one that opposed the SEZ concept in itself. This particular amendment was later defeated by a huge margin when the mover insisted on voting. Then the congress unanimously adopted the Political Resolution.
After the tea break on March 31, S Ramachandran Pillai made a presentation on Part 3 and Part 4 of the Political Organisational (Polorg) Report. While the document reviewed the growth of the party and mass organisations during the last 3 years, it also put forward 6 key tasks on the basis of this review.
Discussion on the Polorg Report started on April 1 morning, 5 and a half hours were allotted for the purpose, and 38 delegates took part in the discussion. After Pillai replied to the discussion in the morning session on April 2, the report was adopted with the proviso that the new leadership would give it a final shape in light of the accepted amendments and suggestions.
Earlier, on April 1 evening, the general secretary had made a presentation on Part 2 of the Polorg Report, which concerned the functioning of the Left led governments of West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. It was discussed whole day on April 2, and 33 delegates took part in the discussion. The general secretary replied to the discussion in the morning session on April 3, and the congress then unanimously accepted it with the proviso that the new leadership would give it final shape in light of the accepted suggestions.
Several important resolutions were moved and accepted in between the discussions on the Political Resolution and Polorg Report. The first resolution was on price rise, moved by Biman Basu and seconded by Manik Sarkar. Another important resolution was on the centre-state relations, moved by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and seconded by Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac. Sitaram Yechury moved a resolution on the Hindutva communal forces, and Central Committee member Subhashini Ali seconded it. Ashok Dhawale moved a resolution on agrarian crisis in India, and Vasudev Sharma seconded it. Dipankar Mukherjee and Shyamal Chakraborty, respectively, moved and seconded the resolution on unorganised sector workers. Brinda Karat moved the resolution on public distribution system, seconded by Surjyakant Mishra. Mohd Salim and Pushpender Singh Grewal, respectively, moved and seconded the resolution on minority rights. Sudha Sundararajan and Koddiyari Balakrishnan, respectively, moved and seconded the resolution on gender disparity. The resolution on Dalit rights was moved by Sarangdhar Paswan and seconded by B V Raghavulu. Kumar Shiralkar moved the resolution on Forest Rights Act and Badal Saroj seconded it. Sukomal Sen and K Kutty, respectively, moved and seconded the resolution on the Sixth Pay Commission. A Vijayaraghavan and Madhu Garg, respectively, moved and seconded the resolution on National Rural Employment Scheme while P Madhu and Ashok Bhattacharya, respectively, moved and seconded the resolution on the miserable plight of the urban poor.
The time constraint made the party congress delegates adopt some of the resolutions even though they were not properly moved or discussed. They were on Sri Lanka situation, solidarity with Cuba, rights of the people with disabled or differently abled persons, demand for right to education and a central act for social control over unaided private higher education institutions etc. Thus, resolutions committee convenor Brinda Karat informed, 14 resolutions were properly moved and adopted by the delegates while the party congress authorised the new leadership to finalise the remaining 5. The resolutions committee had received proposals for some more resolutions but these were not accepted as the Political Resolution properly covered the concerned topics.
From the presidium, Pandhe moved and the party congress adopted a resolution condemning the violent attack launched by RSS-BJP goons at the CPI(M) district office in Pune.
Immediately before Brinda Karat had placed the resolutions committee report, V Srinivas Rao had presented the credentials committee report. Still earlier, in the late evening on April 2, Pillai had presented a report on the proposals received for constitution amendments. The congress rejected all the 6 such proposals on the ground that they would create unnecessary rigidities.
On April 3, election of a new Central Committee and other bodies was the last item on the agenda. General secretary Prakash Karat proposed the panel for an 87-member Central Committee, which was unanimously adopted. (The 18th congress had elected an 85-member Central Committee.) Before proposing the panel, Karat recalled the services rendered to the party and the movement by two veterans, Jyoti Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, and informed about their state of health. In several letters to the general secretary, Jyoti Basu had urged for retirement in view of his age and health. He had even assured that he could remain in the West Bengal state secretariat of the party and do whatever he could for the party. Asked by the central leadership, Karat went to meet him in Kolkata, to get his consent that he would keep contributing to the Polit Bureau’s work as a special invitee. On the other hand, Comrade Surjeet’s health was really alarming and it is not possible to entrust him any responsibility. So it was decided to have him in the Central Committee as a special invitee.
Out of the Central Committee elected at the 18th congress, Comrades Anil Biswas, Chittabrata Majumdar, Kortala Satyanarayana and Bahadur Singh Dhakad had died during the last 3 years. Further, Karat informed, 11 members of the last Central Committee were being relieved of their responsibilities; these included Tripura’s veteran leader Baidyanath Majumdar. Now the new panel included the remaining 69 members of the outgoing Central Committee plus 17 more names, while one seat left vacant for cooption later. The names of 6 special invitees were also proposed.
After the congress unanimously adopted the panel, the newly elected Central Committee held its first meeting and elected a 15-member Polit Bureau. Prakash Karat was re-elected general secretary.
The congress also elected a five-member Central Control Commission, and N Sankariah will be its chairman.
The party congress decisions were announced to the media representatives present in the concluding session where the services rendered by the relieved CC members were also recalled with a sense of gratitude. It was underlined that these comrades had served the party and the movement for decades together, with full dedication, and it was only because of the age and health factors that they were relieved with heavy hearts. The congress also recalled the services rendered by reception committee chairman R Umanath who as relieved from the Polit Bureau.
After the party congress agenda was thus completed, Prakash Karat urged the delegates and other party members to plunge into activity to fulfil the tasks set forth by the 19th congress. He particularly stressed the need to fight and rebuff the neo-liberal policies being pursued by the ruling class parties including the UPA, foil the game of making India an adjunct of US imperialism, strengthen the struggle to isolate the majority communal Hindutva forces, and strive for a policy based alternative to the bourgeois-landlord regime.
W R Varada Rajan thanked the delegates and others on behalf of the reception committee while, on behalf of the presidium, Pandhe expressed thanks to the reception committee and particularly the thousands of volunteers for the successful holding of the congress.
A large number of seminars, exhibitions and cultural programmes were organised, some important books were released and a large quantity of literature was sold on the sidelines of the 19th party congress. These programmes took place in the Circus Ground, which was rechristened J Hemachandran Nagar. Brinda Karat inaugurated the series of these programmes on March 28 evening, following which every evening till April 2 witnessed hectic activity in the ground. The ground also hosted exhibitions on the history of the party, on achievements of the Left Front government of West Bengal, on the realities of Nandigram, and in defence of human civilisation. In the same ground, Deshabhimani too had put up a photo exhibition on the recent developments. M A Baby, education minister in the LDF government of Kerala, was the main speaker at the seminar on commercialisation of education, organised on March 30, while Professor Prabhat Patnaik was the main speaker at the seminar on “Development for Whom,” organised on March 31. Release of two books published by People’s Democracy was a particularly important programme organised here.