For a Left & democratic front of working people'

Print edition : May 04, 2012

Prakash Karat: Our main concern is to strengthen the CPI(M).-S. RAMESH KURUP Prakash Karat: Our main concern is to strengthen the CPI(M).

THE 20th congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kozhikode was an event keenly watched by many, coming as it did in the context of the recent electoral reverses suffered by the Left. This was an occasion for the CPI(M) to evaluate its current position and to formulate its tactics to take its objectives forward. In an interview to T.K. Rajalakshmi and Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Prakash Karat, CPI(M) general secretary, spoke on ideological and other issues. Excerpts:

From Coimbatore to Kozhikode, what is the takeaway in political and organisational terms? What is the shift in the tactical line as compared to the 19th congress?

An important difference between the 19th party congress held in Coimbatore and the 20th congress in Kozhikode is that at the time of the 19th congress, we were still supporting the United Progressive Alliance government from outside. This changed subsequently when we withdrew support. In the 20th congress, we have worked out a political line of opposing the UPA government's economic policies and calling for a defeat of the Congress while continuing to work to isolate the BJP.

The 20th congress has recognised the seriousness and the various dimensions of the agrarian crisis. How does the CPI(M) intend to take up the land question to addressing this issue?

As far as the agrarian crisis is concerned, the effects of this crisis are borne mainly by the poor peasants, agricultural workers and the rural workforce. The 20th congress has focussed on the need to intensify the struggles of the small farmers and agrarian workers. There is also the farmers' fight against forcible land acquisition. The party will work with and mobilise farmers against such acquisitions. Further, the land reform agenda has to be brought back.

The aggressive expansion of imperialism and its influence on national policies were underscored in the congress. How does the CPI(M) intend to deal with this challenge?

Our party has been consistently opposing the growing influence of the United States. The UPA government has forged a strategic alliance with the U.S. This was the reason why we withdrew our support to the UPA government on the nuclear deal. In the party congress, we have decided to campaign and mobilise people against the growing military collaboration with the U.S. and oppose all the policies being adopted by the UPA government under U.S. pressure.

The congress has resolved to work for a Left and democratic alternative asserting that it would not be merely an electoral understanding with non-Congress, non-BJP parties. What exactly are the contours of this alternative? Would non-political organisations and parties that do not take part in electoral politics be part of this?

Our main goal is to build a Left and democratic front that can be the only real alternative to the present order. We have clarified that this is not some electoral alliance but a gathering of the working class, peasantry and other sections of the working people around a Left and democratic platform. Such an alliance will emerge only through prolonged struggles and movements. We are not envisaging such a Left and democratic front of parties alone but of various organisations of the working people.

The political resolution has given a call to isolate the BJP and defeat the Congress. But what would be the CPI(M)'s position if government formation is not possible without the participation or support of these two mainstream parties after the next general elections?

Yes, we will work for the defeat of the Congress and the BJP, but it is too early to say what will happen at the time of the Lok Sabha elections. Our main concern is to strengthen the CPI(M) and the Left's representation in Parliament. We would also like to see non-Congress, non-BJP forces do well.

The recent elections to State Assemblies have shown a political resurgence of regional parties which have alternately opposed and accepted policies of neoliberal-isation. Does the CPI(M) have plans to concretise their opposition to neoliberal policies and incorporate them into the alternative front?

The regional parties have a substantial mass base in the various States. We can cooperate with some of these parties on commonly agreed issues such as defence of federalism, secularism and taking up various people's issues. But it is also a fact that many of these parties accept the neoliberal policies. That is why we are not thinking of a programme-based alliance with these parties at present.

The CPI(M)'s own track record in handling neoliberalism while in government is considered by many as wanting, particularly in the context of the entry of the Salim group in West Bengal and the Nandigram incidents. In this context, should the new document on ideological issues be perceived as a result of the realisation that this engagement with liberalisation has resulted in mistakes?

The Left Front governments, whether in West Bengal, Kerala or Tripura, have sought to implement some alternative policies. But these are State governments, which have limited powers and resources in the existing state structure. The implementation of land reforms is itself a policy that is contrary to the neoliberal approach. Some political and administrative mistakes were made on the issue of land acquisition in West Bengal for industry. We have reviewed this matter in our party. The resolution on ideological issues adopted by the 20th congress will help to clarify further our understanding about imperialist globalisation and how we should tackle it. But we are clear that being in State governments, we cannot adopt the Left and democratic programme. That can be done only at the Central level.

The congress has once again reiterated that while objective conditions exist for building up a strong Communist party, subjective conditions have to be created through mass struggles. What are the key issues and plans identified by the congress in this direction?

There has been an exhaustive discussion on the struggles launched by the working class, peasantry, agricultural workers and other sections during the recent period. Unless we are able to develop struggles on local issues on a sustained basis and wider united struggles, we cannot link up with the people and influence them. Such struggles have been inadequate. Further, we need to consolidate after such struggles and movements. The February 28 strike by workers is a good example of a widespread united struggle. We have given a call for intensifying and widening such struggles.

The political resolution adopted at the extended Central Committee at Vijayawada said: Parliamentary democracy itself is getting corroded by neoliberalism and the impact of global finance capital. There are various manifestations of the subversion of democratic process. The experience of several parties, including electoral allies of the Left, underscores this assessment. How would a Left and democratic alternative be taken forward in this context?

There is a serious problem of big capital and money power in politics corroding the parliamentary democratic system itself. For the CPI(M) and the Left parties, the growing influence of money and the representatives of big business entering politics is a serious challenge.

The Left parties are sought to be marginalised in the electoral system by the use of such money power. That is why we are emphasising that the Left and democratic alliance is not geared to be an electoral arrangement. It is only by strengthening the Left and democratic movement that we can hope to counter the use of money power.

There is a stream of opinion that parties that advocate assertive politics of identity against centuries of caste oppression are natural allies of the Left. But the political resolution calls for a fight against identity politics. Isn't there a contradiction here?

The concept of identity politics is itself a regressive one. It seeks to mobilise people on narrow and perceived identities and separate them from the politics and movement of other oppressed sections. As against this divisive identity politics, what we are advocating is the fight against caste and social oppression. When we take up the issues of such oppressed sections, we are at the same time working for the unity of all oppressed sections, without which there can be no real social transformation. We are against identity politics and we are for the united fight against the oppression of people of various identities such as those based on caste.

The Coimbatore congress had laid emphasis on a rectification drive in the party. There is a criticism that this drive is very selective. There is also the view that the basic thrust of the rectification drive has gone against mass leaders who have consistently opposed neoliberal deviations. The difference in the manner in which V.S. Achuthanandan and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, former Chief Ministers of Kerala and West Bengal, have been dealt with is highlighted in this context. How would you respond to this?

The purpose of the rectification drive is to correct wrong trends such as parliamentarism, individualism, careerism and [to ensure] maintenance of Communist norms and standards. It has nothing to do with the election of our leading committees and the leadership. The considerations for those who have been taken into the Polit Bureau are the political and organisational requirements.

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