People's Democracy

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


No. 20

May 19, 2013




‘Neo-liberalism is Undermining Democracy’


No longer willing to play ‘back seat driving’ role, big business houses and big money are increasingly entering electoral politics arena directly. Many CEOs, industrialists, real estate barons have become MPs and MLAs across the country. This development poses serious challenge to democracy and the Left parties must collectively ponder over how to tackle it.


This was stated by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat while delivering the concluding address to the three day seminar ‘India Today: Looking Back and Looking Forward’ in Hyderabad on May 06, 2013.


Speaking mainly on neo-liberalism and its impact on politics, Prakash Karat said that over the last two decades neo-liberalism has brought significant changes to politics in our country. Earlier, the big capitalists and big money were bankrolling the political parties to get their works done. But now, they are hijacking these parties and entering the legislative arena directly.


During the course of his three-day campaign in Karnataka recently, he could directly see the impact of this change. Over 65 per cent of candidates in fray were ‘crorepatis’. In a seat where Karat campaigned, one candidate had declared assets of Rs 912 crore and there was talk that he had spent over Rs 200 crore to ensure his victory! He said that in the previous election it was mining barons who had entered in large numbers. This time it was real estate barons and speculators who are filling that role.


Karat referred to Professor Prabhat Patnaik’s point in the paper he submitted to the seminar about the desire of Capital to seek direct control over the Indian State. He said this desire is being nurtured and facilitated by the entry of big money at every level of political representation. Moreover, the ruling parties have come to a consensus on neo-liberal policies. There may be change in the governments but there would be no change in the policies, seems to be the consensus. It is a serious undermining of democracy and the Left has to evolve strategies and tactics to counter this.


Karat said that many Left intellectuals often pose a question to leaders that at a time when neo-liberalism has launched an all-out attack on all sections of working people, why are the Left parties not able to build a powerful movement against it. “It is a question we must ponder over seriously and answer”, he said.


There have been significant changes not only in the way capitalism has developed but also in the classes which the Left seeks to organise. The working class, peasantry, middle classes etc have undergone major changes and big differentiation. The working class has increased in our country but its composition has changed significantly, he said. Today, the overwhelming majority of working class is in informal or unorganised sector, with a heterogenous social composition. How to organise these workers is a challenge not only before the trade unions but also before the Communist Parties, felt Karat. He said that unless we take up their concrete economic and social issues along with class issues, we cannot build a powerful movement. In this context, he welcomed the establishment of unity among central trade unions and said that it will help in reaching wider masses and building unity from below.


Similarly there has been growing differentiation among the peasantry. The class of rural rich emerged due to neo-liberalism. Declaring that he is also sceptic about all-in unity of peasantry, Karat stressed the need to organise poor peasants and agricultural labour. He said we must devise new forms of organisations to bring in rural agricultural labourers into our fold.


Among middle classes, there has been greater differentiation due to implementation of neo-liberal policies. Leaving the upper strata, there are many others in middle classes who are not getting attracted to our slogans, felt Karat. He wondered if we are taking up the right issues or not. There is urgent need to learn to work in newer ways among the middle classes. Also the need for greater intervention in cultural and social media and overall stepping up of ideological work.


Counselling against any pessimism, Karat said we must learn from experiences around the world, particularly Latin American countries where the Left within two decades of struggle against neo-liberalism was able to advance politically and pose as an effective alternative. The experiences in Venezuela and Bolivia are very valuable in this regard. Their work among urban slums needs to be replicated.


Karat concluded by asserting that the fight against neo-liberalism is a political struggle that the Left must take up in a clear and forceful manner. It is only the Left that is an alternative to neo-liberal regime. Neo-liberalism can be successfully fought if the Left is able to organise workers and peasants for that struggle, he said. In this regard, the life of P Sundarayya is an invaluable lesson for all communists.


CPI(M) Polit Bureau member B V Raghavulu chaired the concluding session and Professor Aijaz Ahmed gave a brief overview of the three day seminar and the topics discussed.