People's Democracy

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


No. 46

November 13, 2011




‘Socialism is the Alternative’

Harsev Bains

WHILE paying glowing tributes to Rajani Palme Dutt, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP, Sitaram Yechury noted that CPI(M) is doing its utmost to uphold Dutt’s traditions and legacy. He highlighted the momentous contribution of RPD, as he was affectionately known, as the general secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain from 1939-41 and to the international movement through his close guidance to the Communist Party of India as a representative of the Comintern. Yechury asserted that the CPI(M) is proud of having been associated with RPD.


The CPI(M) leader enlightened and inspired the audience comprising both young and old students at the Perse Upper School and at Anglia Ruskin University at Cambridge. The visit to Perse school on November 1 was organised by a contemporary alumni of Perse school, Leonardo Impett, to pay tribute to the Marxist intellectual leader of the working class, renowned historian and former alumni, Rajani Palme Dutt.


Speaking at Perse school, Yechury acknowledged the contribution of the CPGB to the Indian freedom struggle and also reminded the audience about the contribution by another of RPD’s contemporaries, Ben Bradley.  Bradley faced rigorous incarceration for more than five years at the Meerut prison, along with his Indian colleagues implicated in the ‘Meerut conspiracy case’.


The contribution of RPD to the Indian national freedom struggle and in shaping post Independent India was immense, said Yechury. He quoted Nehru and his recognition of the relevance of communists to make this point.


In 1935, when Jawaharlal Nehru (later independent India’s first prime minister for 17 years till his death) rushed to Europe to be present at his wife’s sick-bed, as she succumbed to tuberculosis, RPD happened to be living in the Swiss pension where Nehru stayed. The long talks they used to have during this period helped move Nehru further in a progressive and socialist direction, a position which RPD had already been taking, particularly from 1927 during his days in Brussels with the League against Imperialism. After his wife’s death, Nehru came back to India as the president-elect of the Indian National Congress for its 1936 Lucknow session, and voiced socialism and the need for broadening the base of the Congress by securing collective affiliation of the trade unions and peasants’ organisations — one of the main points made in the Dutt-Bradley thesis. And this is the tribute Nehru paid to the communists, written at about that time (1935):


‘The real understanding communist develops to some extent an organic sense of social life. Politics for him cease to be a mere record of opportunism or a groping in the dark. The ideals and objectives he works for give a meaning to the struggle and to the sacrifices he willingly faces. He feels that he is part of a grand army marching forward to realise human destiny, and he has the sense of ‘marching step by step with history’.


(An Autobiography, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bodley Head, 1936)


After his lecture, Yechury held a dialogue to exchange and challenge ideas. He reminded the young people to challenge and question the status quo and develop new ideas and thought for a better tomorrow.


In conclusion, he quoted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet -- This above all: To thine own self be true.



On a day when Greece announced its intention to hold a referendum on accepting a bailout package, the crisis within Euro zone deepened resulting in crash of stock markets across the world. At the same time over 1500 anti-Wall Street tent cities have been formed by protesters around the world. The closure of St Pauls Cathedral in London is unprecedented in living memory. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been put under immense pressure to resolve or resign.


In this background took place the meeting at Anglia Ruskin University organised by the ARU society, Anglia Ruskin Indian Union and Cambridge University Communist society chaired by Rev Andrew Brown and Baiju Varkey. The meeting was held to discuss “Challenging Imperialism” with a keynote address by Sitaram Yechury.


While noting that the focus of the anti-capitalism protests on greed and lack of regulation within the capitalist system was correct in a sense, Yechury explained how both of these factors contributed to the current crisis. But he underlined that these were not the only causes for the crisis. “Greed within Capitalism is not something of a subjective individual nature i.e some are greedy and some are not. It is the system itself that is maximising profit at any cost and it is this character of capitalism which is something that needs to be properly understood.”


Yechury wanted everyone to understand what contemporary imperialism is today in order to effectively challenge it. “It’s been there for a long time and all of us know what Lenin said that it is the last stage of capitalism – if it is the last stage then how is it showing its resilience to continue to go on dominating the world?  And there I think particularly one point needs to be kept in mind – that a stage in the evolution of history does not preclude different phases within that  stage”. 


"What we are seeing today is a new phase in the stage of imperialism and it has to be properly understood if you really want to challenge it. And as a communist, speaking to communists, I can say that if you do not challenge imperialism the future of humanity is barbarism. If you challenge imperialism the future of humanity is socialism. So that is the choice which Rosa Luxembourg posed many years ago which many are repeating saying that you have a choice between socialism and barbarism.”


During the presentation to students, academia and young workers gathered in the auditorium of Anglia Ruskin University from different parts of the country, Yechury elaborated on the subject in detail. He said since the topic was a huge canvas, he would restrict his remarks to identify the current phase of imperialism. “To understand today’s imperialism, in true Marxist method of analysis, we need to do the concrete analysis of concrete condition. And as conditions change, if your analysis doesn’t keep pace, I believe you would not be a Marxist. You have to keep your analysis abreast with what are the changes taking place.


 “So what are the changes taking place in imperialism over the past two decades? Globalisation, the evolution of capitalism, monopoly capitalism, accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few – the rise of the billionaires, by the turn of the century the internationalisation of finance capital – all this had reached humungous proportions, where the trade in the financial markets in the world increased to about six times the actual GDP of the world.”




Yechury reinforced the validity of Marxism-Leninism with the following illustration: “The movement of finance capital is the first feature which we must understand.  Lenin talked about finance capital of individual countries competing with each other that led to the world wars. So, people normally say that Lenin is now outdated and incorrect since international finance capital has come in. But I believe that is a wrong understanding. You have a new conjecture today and that new conjecture is exactly what Lenin stated: the domination of finance capital is imperialism. And this is actually being vindicated. So Lenin is not wrong, the time in which Lenin analysed imperialism for that period, the time has changed to a new time and now is the time for us from a Marxist perspective to analyse the new situation in order to come to new assessments, in order how to challenge imperialism.”


Yechury went on to explain the predatory primitive accumulation of capital to maximise profit that has led to a situation where under capitalism profit maximisation can only happen with greater exploitation of the people.


“This globalisation has produced two phenomena. One is jobless growth and the other is widening of economic inequality. In India there are now 61 individual dollar billionaires who have control of a third of India’s GDP and about 800 million Indians who according to official statistics are surviving on Rs 20 i.e. less than 50 pence a day. Such glaring economic inequality is occurring worldwide during globalisation.”


There has been a steady decline of purchasing power in the hands of the vast majority of people. This leads to further crisis of capitalism with goods produced left unsold, affecting the fundamental law of capitalism to maximise profit.




Yechury threw light on derivatives concept and its application in the subprime market and future trading that triggered the capitalist crisis leading to the fall of the large financial institutions on Wall Street. This capitalist crisis sent reverberations around the world.


Yechury pointed out the futile response of capitalism to save and resuscitate itself.  The US Federal Reserve Bank in its recent testimony to Congress disclosed the final total bailout package will amount to $27 trillion to resurrect the financial companies which caused this crisis in the first place. This is almost double the amount of GDP of USA at $14 trillion. USA and all other countries faced with this crisis have borrowed money through loans to convert corporate insolvencies into sovereign insolvencies. Countries have gone bankrupt or are on the verge, he said. “The events unfolding in Greece and within the Euro zone are unprecedented. The conversation of the French president with an open mike chiding and criticising the British prime minister illustrate the anxiety and serious concern about the continuing crisis. The threat of a referendum in Greece has sent the markets into turmoil, bringing into question the viability of the rescue package. Turkey, which for the last decade has been trying to join the EU, is reconsidering its position. If Greece pulls out of Euro zone and EU the crisis deepens with Italy, Spain and Portugal likely to follow.


“The only solution being applied to solve the crisis has been to make up this sovereign debt of governments by further attacks on people and their exploitation through cuts in salaries, pensions, welfare benefits etc under the guise of austerity measures.


“The net result is yet another crisis that is inherent under the capitalist system. It is what drives the capitalist system towards profits maximisation which mistakenly is being identified as greed of individuals or lack of regulations. But it is the system itself that pushes it there. It is not the faults within the system but the system that is faulty. And since it is the system that is faulty then challenging imperialism would mean challenging the system. Not challenging piece meal and just some aspects of it which are important in safeguarding working class interests. Challenging imperialism is not merely confining to reforms within the system.”




In returning to the theme earlier in the day of Rajani Palme Dutt, Yechury reminded the audience of the characteristics of social democracy, so brilliantly articulated by RPD that have withstood the test of time. “Social Democracy talks in terms of reforming the capitalist system and making it a better system or in the present day the IMF and the World Bank keep talking about globalisation with a human face. If you have a human face then this type of predatory profit maximisation is not possible and these two divergent values cannot exist together as a combination. You either have one or the other. RPD correctly defined the social democratic parties’ tendency that when in power they are with the bourgeoisie and when in opposition they are with the working class.”


Yechury asserted that this type of politics will not work in today’s world. He said communists are working for an alternative system that they have always believed in -- socialism. He said that it is not an easy job and will require the material force made up of the unity of the exploited classes under the leadership of the working class.


In conclusion, Yechury proposed an alternative programme to the failed policies of capitalism. “We say there is a solution to the capitalist crisis, a more human solution, not a capitalist solution. As communists why are we offering a solution to capitalism to get out of its own crisis? This is a fundamental paradox. We want to replace the system. We say either socialism or barbarism. Instead of giving the $27 trillion as bailout money to private financial sector that same money could be used through the Keynesian economic model with State intervention on a humanitarian basis. Not the final answer but a remedy at a point of time. Investing money on social and economic infrastructure, creating jobs and generating demand in the economy. The aggregate increase in the demand of the economy will provide the impetus for industrial growth leading to increase in employment and would lead to a more sustainable cycle of economic development. This solution is not acceptable to capitalism as it does not provide a quick return or maximisation of profit. Therefore this solution we are offering becomes a weapon in our hands. The weapon in the hands of the communists to rally the people with us and to build that material force that can challenge imperialism and change the system.  The alternative to imperialism and to capitalism can only be socialism. We need to unite together for a change to a better world, to challenge imperialism with an alternative system not mere reform.”


Phil Katz from the CPB and Harsev Bains from AIC also addressed the meeting.