The Guardian 18 May, 2005

Indian communists look to new era
in their country

David Matters represented the Communist Party of Australia at the congresses of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), held in that country early in April. He writes of these two Congress in this article for The Guardian.

Communist Party of India representatives met me at the Delhi airport. It was easy to recognise them as they were holding aloft brightly decorated signs with the hammer and sickle emblem.

I knew little about India before arriving apart from the popular mythology of the caste system and the mass media presentation of Mahatma Gandhi. I knew that there is a problem with communalism and that in some states of India there are Communist-led governments.

Having arrived early I had two days to explore and to improve my knowledge.


In India 250 million people live below the poverty line. Homelessness is counted on a different register to that in Australia. What is registered in Australia as homelessness would hardly count in India.

My taxi driver friend who toured me around New Delhi told of a massive demonstration of thousands of the drivers of the three wheeled taxis called by their union to protest the demand of the government that they convert to cars. He said he cannot afford to repay the sort of loan that this would involve and that it would reduce his income.

When I told him that I had come to Delhi to attend the Congress of the Communist Party of India he proudly announced that this was his party.

There has been a forced closure of over 100,000 factories in Delhi by the government without concern for those who drew their life from these ventures.

In the last Indian national elections held in 2004 the BJP-led government was defeated and replaced by one led by the Congress Party. But it does not have an absolute majority and has to rely on the “outside” support of the left parties which won 61 seats and hold the balance of power. This was the largest number of seats ever won by the left parties. The Communist Party of India(Marxist) [CPI(M)] holds 44 of these seats making it the strongest of the left parties.

The BJP government promoted religious antagonisms between Hindus and Muslims and other minorities (communalism). It declared that religions other than Hindu were non-Indian. Mass killings had occurred in some states to terrorise the minorities in Indian society. The BJP government promoted and organised this kind of bigotry as a cover to implement a pro-imperialist, pro-American strategy in Indian national life. They tried to end India’s long-held policy of non-alignment and fostered nuclear competition with Pakistan. The BJP government privatised public assets and reversed the gains of land reform.

These policies increased the burdens on the working class and the peasantry. The suicide rate among farmers has become a national problem with thousands of indebted farmers committing suicide.

It was with these and many more national problems that the Communist Parties faced at their congresses.

Urgent task of communists

Both Parties declared that the most urgent task was to further isolate the BJP and to unite all the secular forces in India to end the communal violence and to defend the unity of India.

This they decided could be done by strengthening the left forces at the national level. Other considerations had to be subordinated to this strategic goal.

The left forces led by the CPI(M) and the CPI played the leading role in opposing the violence and in assisting the victims of violence. They promoted religious tolerance and national unity. They mobilised the democratic forces in the form of the trade unions and other people’s organisations. The Congress Party government was elected on a policy of secularism.

Following the elections the question arose as to whether to join the Congress-led government or not.

The Communist Party of India favoured joining the government and accepting the ministries on offer.

The CPI(M) took the view that it would confuse the people if the Communists became part of this government, which they characterised as bourgeois-landlord in its class character.

They argued that the government should be supported from the outside on the basis that the people had voted for secularism and that the left should maintain its independence.

The CPI (M) argued for the adoption of a common minimum program that should form the basis of the left’s support for the government. Such a program was negotiated and a government committed to maintain secularism was formed.

The Communist Party of India agreed to also support the government from outside and preserved left unity.

Strengthen left forces

Both Communist Parties saw the defeat of the BJP government and the strengthening of the left forces as a significant gain and the result of the correct application of revolutionary theory to the reality of India and the world today.

The CPI(M) is the larger of the two parties and has some 867,000 members while the CPI has about 450,000 members. The challenge facing the CPI(M) is to extend its influence from the states of West Bengal and Tripura where it leads state governments and into the Hindi heartland in the central states of India.

Another feature of the CPI(M) Congress was the analysis of the contemporary state of capitalist production and reproduction. It was argued that the rate of profit had declined and was now at historically low levels. They maintained that the economic growth that was taking place was a “jobless growth” because of the new technology.

It was in these circumstances that a respite for capitalism had been gained by the restoration of capitalism in the former socialist countries of Europe, but that this respite was coming to an end. Another factor helping to lift profits was the drive to war but that this could only have a negative impact on capitalist economies.

Land question

As an overwhelming majority of India’s population are peasants and agricultural labourers the land question is a major one.

The depth of the situation is indicated by the demands being made. They include the provision of clean drinking water, the provision of toilets for those working in the fields, subsidies for fertilisers, minimum prices for electricity or even free electricity, the provision of government interest free loans for deaths and marriages. A report carried in CPI(M) newspaper People’s Democracy (10/4/05) says that “Without giving these people land, house sites and lavatories at least, we cannot expect them to live as citizens and as human beings”.

Both Parties support the strategic alliance that has been forged between India and China and hope for closer ties to Russia as a counter to the US and its neo-colonialist ambitions.

The rise of the pre-emptive strike doctrine was seen as the re-emergence of the dominance of imperialism and a threat to the sovereignty and independence of the former colonial states.

The CPI(M) saw the main contradiction as being between the developing world and the imperialists.

There was a feeling of left resurgence and a confidence that the communists were on the comeback. That the methods and analysis of the new situation were correct and were leading to new methods for dealing with current realities. The overall impression was that both parties, having found their way into the national life of India, are not going to be easily pushed aside again.

It was in their heroic struggles in the national life of India that the communists cut their teeth. They are excelling in the struggles for the defence of democracy and for Indian national unity. It is in the struggles of the millions of India’s workers, peasants and poor that the Parties are coming into their own.

When the teaming masses of the Indian sub-continent embrace the struggle to liberate themselves from the centuries of oppression the ensuing storm will shake the world just as the Russian October Revolution had done in the last century.

In the elections for the leadership of their respective Parties, A B Bardham remains the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India.

Harkishan Singh Surjeet retired as the General Secretary of the CPI(M) and Prakash Karat was elected the new General Secretary.

In his opening address to the CPI(M) Congress the outgoing General Secretary, Comrade Surjeet said that “The Party will mobilise all sections of the working people to launch bigger and sustained movements for defence of their interests.”

He concluded by calling on the Party’s Congress to “provide the direction which can rally all the Left and democratic forces so that we can go forward to a new era of politics in our country. A politics which keeps at the centre the people’s aspirations for a better life and which opens the way for a secular, democratic India, which is free from class and social oppression.”

In the circumstances presented by the overthrow of socialism in Europe and an aggressive US imperialism threatening the world, Asia seems to be coming forward with renewed vigour. The Communist Parties are in the forefront of this renewal.

The problems being addressed in India and other Asian countries go to the heart of power and the struggle with imperialism both domestically and internationally. These questions are being answered in real life struggles and prove once and for all that it is the people who make history and if communists want to change the history of the planet then they must lead and influence the people to make history in the form of their own liberation.

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