People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 18, 2008




Karat Sums Up Discussion

Rajendra Sharma

DISCUSSION on the political resolution concluded on March 31 afternoon, with a clarification from Prakash Karat on certain points that were raised. He said the discussion underlined the broad unity of understanding among the delegates on the party’s tactical line. The main concern was how to enrich the tactical line with concrete ground level experiences, accomplish the tasks set forth, and take the movement forward. The discussion showed how the entire party was involved in deciding the political tactical line.


Karat took up mainly three aspects of the international situation. A point was raised that the draft political resolution should have elaborately reviewed the main contradictions today. Karat said the idea behind the draft was not of simple reporting of international events but pinpointing their direction, not to discuss one by one the status of all the contradictions but to underscore their development. Hence we refrained from status reporting in the Hyderabad and Delhi congresses. There is so far no change in the basic understanding that the inter-imperialist contradiction has moderated while the contradiction between imperialism and the third world has intensified.

The second question was of Latin America. For the developments there, the draft used the term “Left” which is a comparatively wide category. The positive developments there involve social democrats, Marxists, neo-Marxists, nationalists and other currents. A process is on in Venezuela to form a unified socialist party. The Communist Party is not involved in such discussions. What is happening in Bolivia is different from that in Venezuela. A new phenomenon is taking shape and Karat stressed that we cannot use a readymade theoretical framework for the Bolivarian revolutionary process. We have to study, understand and support it as a powerful positive change in Latin America.

On the issue of Tibet, Karat said it was being used to malign China. During the 19th congress itself, the steering committee discussed it and the party’s understanding was clarified in a press conference. It would now be incorporated in the political resolution. Karat reminded that India has always stuck to “one China” policy, which is the correct stand. The BJP and NDA seek to harm the Sino-Indian relations on the plea of Tibet, but such a stand would harm India itself. Karat said the Dalai Lama himself recognises the Tibet issue as one of autonomy and he must therefore negotiate with China.

Karat said imperialists are playing a dangerous game, impressing upon us that an independent nation’s sovereignty has no importance vis-à-vis minority rights. They are exploiting the ethnic issues, human rights issues etc to try break up the multi-nationality countries. Developments in Kosovo and Chechnya are its examples. They seek to balkanise India too in the name of the self-determination of nationalities. Problems of minorities do crop up in a diverse country, but they need be resolved democratically.

Karat said the political resolution would incorporate the issue of US hijacking the UN system.


In regard to the national situation, Karat took up two policy issues which the central committee has discussed a few times. One issue is of special economic zones (SEZs). Karat said we could not prevent the introduction of the concerned bill in parliament. In fact, while scrutinising it, our whole consideration was that trade union rights need be protected. We identified three such provisions and got them changed. We grasped the serious implication of the act only when the rules under it were notified. Now we could only try to minimise the harms and a struggle began to get the rules altered. The Left presented to the government a detailed note, but the process of establishing the SEZs had gone much ahead in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. These five states account for 80 per cent of the sanctioned SEZs.

The question came up: what the Left-led governments should do? For the land being given to a SEZ, the West Bengal’s condition was that 50 per cent of it must be utilised for setting up industrial units and 25 per cent for infrastructural development. As for the concessions given to the SEZs, states have no say in it. In fact, telecommunication technology covers a bulk of the SEZ proposals, and the investments here are covered by the concessions announced by the centre. As such, Karat noted, we could not tell the CPI(M)-led governments to shut their doors upon the SEZs. Instead, it was better to get the utmost favourable terms for these states and their people. For the purpose, negotiations were renewed in case of the Smart City project of Kerala. We have demanded that the centre must reduce the upper limit for land allotment from 5,000 to 2,000 acres. Most of the proposals in Bengal demanded only 75 to 300 acres of land. There was no proposal here like the Maha Mumbai SEZ of Maharashtra, involving tens of thousands of acres. Karat said while the SEZs, in themselves, cannot be opposed, nothing prevents us from launching struggles against the giant SEZs and the displacement they cause.

The second policy issue Prakash Karat took up was of the entry of giant foreign and Indian corporates in the retail trade sector. He reminded that it was the NDA regime that had begun to open the sector for FDI. We intervened when attempts were being made to make the WalMart’s entry possible. Here too, we could score only partial success as the UPA regime allowed FDI in the single brand stores. Now attempts are afoot to bring the MNCs in through the backdoor. An example is the Bharti group’s pact with the WalMart. Karat drew attention to the way Indian corporates have made entry into the retail trade; in fact they have been the main beneficiaries of the ban on FDI in retail trade. He also referred to the instances of resistance to corporate entry into the sector, stressing the need to fight for strict licensing and regulation of big houses here.


In his reply, Karat clarified the party’s position on some other important issues. While there are demands for separate states of Telangana, Vidarbha, Darjeeling etc, there is also the demand to break up Uttar Pradesh into several states. He recalled that the 18th congress resolution had opposed any division of linguistic states and dubbed the argument of small states as untenable. Linguistic nationality is, for example, not the issue in UP, but the worrying thing is that such demands may be raised to divert attention from vital issues. He said the party would decide its stand if this issue comes up there.

Regarding the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Karat reminded that the last congress had clearly laid down its stand about them and there is no need to repeat it in political resolution every time. He particularly drew attention to the NGOs being run with foreign funding. The party seeks to have more stringent regulation of their working while the bill now pending in parliament aims to make it laxer.

Karat also raised the issue of electoral reforms in the light of the experience of last assembly polls in West Bengal. We need to further press for poll reforms so that the Election Commission does not transgress its limits.

Prakash Karat refused to accept as Leftists the naxalites, of whose activities the political resolution talks in some detail. They are in fact out to break the Left unity, and are targeting and killing the CPI(M) cadre. The discussion stressed the need of united effort by party units in the naxalite affected states. In this regard, Karat suggested a discussion first at the state level; later we may have talks and coordination between two or more state units.

Regarding the caste-class equation, Karat noted that the 19th congress political resolution updates the very understanding that had developed at the last congress. He underlined how the BSP had pushed far ahead the process of forming a caste-based block. Evidently, such caste-based mobilisation would create problems for our own movement. We have to see what class aspects are there in such a block and decide our tactic after a concrete study of concrete situation in each specific case.


Prakash Karat concluded his reply with an explanation of two important tactical questions. He said the pre-congress discussions, those in state conferences and those in the congress had pointed out that we have not been able to halt the neo-liberal offensive the way we have prevented an operationalisation of the nuclear deal. There is an implicit suggestion that we have not as vigorously resisted the neo-liberal policies. Karat clarified that the struggle against these policies is much more complicated and multi-dimensional than the one against the nuke deal. A number of factors are operating in regard to these policies. For example, in case of the escalating prices, we have to grapple with global oil prices, biofuel, futures trading etc. The fact is that the party has no less vigorously resisted the neo-liberal policies and was able to halt their implementation in some cases, but we could not succeed in several cases despite our best efforts.

Here, Karat reminded that the anti-nuke deal struggle is part of a wider struggle to prevent a strategic alliance with the US. Urging preparedness for a protracted struggle on both the issues, Karat said we can definitely hope to foil some of the negative moves of the government.

The 18th congress had called for developing a united countrywide movement against the neo-liberal policies. However, for the purpose, the National Platform of Mass Organisations (NPMO) could not be rejuvenated despite our wishes. Mutual differences of Left parties on Bengal related issues proved another hindrance. However, now we would take up this task on priority basis.


Regarding the queries about a third alternative, Karat said the discussion underlined the problems in having an understanding with the regional bourgeois parties. This is natural. Most of these parties favour the same neo-liberal policies. Yet they need to be brought into the third alternative. For it, joint struggles with them may be forged as these parties are more sensitive to the issues facing the people. For instance, the poor are being provided rice at Rs 2 a kg in Tamilnadu. These parties are not wedded to the neo-liberal policies with Chidambaram like dogmatism, and may be brought together on issues like rejuvenation of the public distribution system. Karat stressed that there cannot be a third alternative if we fail to associate these regional parties and, in that case, we would be having only a Left and democratic alternative. Differentiating a third alternative from an electoral alliance, he said we too have to overcome our weaknesses in dealing with the regional parties.

A second aspect of the issue is that as the polls are approaching, these regional parties think the situation is ripe for a ‘third’ alternative. Referring to the UNPA, Karat said the parties that join such formations are not above opportunism. Many of these parties want to align with the Left to gain credibility that they lack. Now, some forces have begun to rally together. Very soon we will see the BJP making efforts to win some of these parties over. That is why it is imperative for us to have a dialogue with these parties. Karat also reminded that the divisions between the UPA, NDA and others may not remain as they are today. Some of the parties may leave their respective alliances and align with others. We can expedite the formation of a new alliance by raising policy issues and launching struggles thereupon in the coming days.

Regarding the distinction between the envisaged third alternative and the possible alignment that may come up for the coming polls, Karat said maybe his presentation somewhat lacked clarity, giving rise to a degree of confusion as was witnessed during the discussion. For example, regarding Karnataka where assembly polls were imminent, delegates said no third alternative was possible there. This was because these comrades confused the third alternative with an immediate electoral alliance. In this connection, he also replied to the apprehensions raised by Andhra comrades about the TDP. He insisted that the envisaged third alternative would be a policy based all-India alternative for some basic change. Insofar as the electoral tactics are concerned, they would be decided at the state level.