Focus on expansion

Published : Mar 30, 2002 00:00 IST

Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat spoke to V. Sridhar on the sidelines of the 17th congress. He addresses the main organisational problems of the party as also achievements since the last congress in Calcutta in 1998. Excerpts:

How has the organisation progressed since the last Congress?

The report on the organisation presented at the congress addresses the fact that while the party has grown in terms of membership since Calcutta - about 11 per cent - in the three years, we are not fully satisfied with this increase. This is because the increase is concentrated in the States where we are already strong, mainly West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala and to some extent in Tamil Nadu. Apart from these States the growth has not been satisfactory. Therefore, the report focusses on the necessity to expand the party rapidly in all parts of the country. This is the central focus of the report. The report makes an evaluation of our present strength in the various States and then suggests steps to streamline the organisation and enable the expansion of the party.

You had mentioned elsewhere during the proceedings of the congress about the ideological under-preparedness of party cadre...

What we are saying is that there is a need to raise the political-ideological level of the party members. It is a two-fold task. The first is to provide for sufficient and basic education to party members, about Marxism, about the question of how to apply the party programme to the prevailing situation and so on. The second task is to take steps to check up the work of party members. That is part of the organisational work for party units and committees. This is to ensure that after recruitment, party members are educated and trained. There is also a monitoring process to see how they are progressing.

What kind of structures will be needed to do this?

We are thinking of strengthening the party's educational apparatus, in terms of regular schooling. In some of the bigger States, we are planning permanent schools for party workers. There is a concrete proposal on this. The failure has been on our part (the party leadership) - to provide the facilities. I am sure if party members are provided with the opportunities and facilities they will use them.

Secondly, on the ideological front, we had adopted a resolution in Chennai in 1992, in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the setbacks in Eastern Europe. That resolution took stock of the new situation in the world and examined the challenges for Marxists all over the world. The party has decided at the 17th congress to update that resolution in the light of the experience in the decade since 1992. The discussion will also enrich the ideological understanding of party members at all levels. This discussion is not going to be confined to the Central Committee. The draft will be released for discussion across the party. This is one of the tasks that the new Central Committee will be undertaking.

The third area pertains to our observation about the social composition of the party. There are more Dalits entering the party. There is an improvement in the composition of women in the party. We are making greater efforts to draw in minorities. We have also adopted a policy document on the problems of adivasi and tribal people. We are organising a convention on this after the congress. We have also stressed the importance of taking up social issues.

In States like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu we have focussed on issues such as caste discrimination and untouchability. These experiences have been assessed in the report and have been commended.

Has this congress given greater emphasis to mobilisational politics as compared to electoral politics?

A section of the political-organisational report reviews our "united front" activities. The review has made the point that there is a tendency to confine united front tactics to electoral alliances. It stresses the need to evolve united fronts for mass mobilisation for struggles and movements to develop the united struggles of different sections of the working people.

Is this emphasis tied to the task of developing the People's Front?

In one sense, yes. But all of this will not be necessarily done as part of the People's Front. The P.F. will be one platform on which some of the political campaigns will be conducted. But we are also emphasising the need for grassroot level struggles on immediate issues. We want to develop a united front with all those who are willing to fight on these issues.

Is there something of significance from the experience of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the party in terms of developing the organisation?

In our report we have highlighted the need for struggles against imperialism-driven globalisation and the impact of liberalisation. One of the struggles we have cited and highlighted is the three-month-long struggle against the hike in electricity tariffs in Andhra Pradesh. This was an example of a sustained struggle. We have observed that such struggles should be developed. There is also a platform of nine Left parties that has been established in Andhra Pradesh. They have taken up a whole range of World Bank structural adjustment policies that have been implemented by the Chandrababu Naidu government. They have also taken up anti-caste discrimination campaigns in a sustained manner. These kinds of struggles should be replicated in other parts of the country. Following the party's campaign in Andhra Pradesh, the State government was forced to establish a committee to inquire into the extent and the nature of caste oppression in the State.

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