Party School
Discussing Key Issues of Indian Revolution

(In response to a set of questions - containing nine questions under the three broad topics taken up for discussion in the last Party School - circulated among Party cadres to select students for the Central Party School 1996, ninety three comrades have written answers. Based on these 57 comrades have been selected for the School. Below we publish some of the answers.)

CPI(M) and CPI(ML) on Imperialism

Question: How would you programmatically explain the different ways CPI(M) and our party analyse and oppose the growing imperialist offensive against India?

Answer: The difference between CPI(M) & CPI(ML) on the analysis of, and opposition to, the increasing imperialist offensive against India stems from the difference the two parties have on the evaluation of the character of the Indian society, the state, the nationality question and a combination of various other factors.

CPI(ML) characterised the Indian society as a semi-colony. This means that even after formal political independence from the British rule, the imperialist forces continue to play a dominating role in shaping Indian policies (e.g. economy, foreign policy, national security etc.). The increasing power of finance capital, especially after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, has further enhanced the blatant interference of imperialist powers in our national affairs. No wonder, that British and American politicians visited UP and Kashmir prior to the last Lok Sabha elections to assess the 'climate' there for future interactions. The fact that after about 50 years of formal independence, India is being driven in the direction of becoming a neo-colony, raises the question about the character of Indian bourgeoisie. The comprador origin of the Indian big bourgeoisie was not fundamentally altered in 1947, as is proven by the case with which it encouraged and assimilated the NEP in the early 90s. The CPI(M)'s assessment of the big bourgeoisie as being primarily monopolistic in character, made it euphoric about the Bombay Club's insistence for a level playing field. How the bourgeoisie of the Club surrendered before the might of finance capital is there for all to see. The fundamental difference between CPI(M) and CPI(ML) about the nature of the big bourgeoisie leads to different forms of opposition of imperialism.

Not for a moment forgetting the big bourgeoisie's ability to use inter-imperialist rivalry for its benefit and its own massive national production base, CPI(ML) strives to build a resistance against imperialist offensive by mobilizing the large sections of people sans the big bourgeoisie. CPI(M) often lays undue emphasis on the fighting capacity of the big bourgeoisie and hopes to change the latter's course by pressurising it and searching for allies within the bourgeoisie's camp. For a communist party, using splits in the bourgeoisie's camp can be of use only if an objective assessment of the bourgeoisie is made, and secondly, the class independence of the proletariat is not surrendered....

During the late 80s and especially early 90s, the Indian working class demonstrated its mettle in fighting the imperialist onslaught under the red flag. However, Congress' tacit support and BJP's deft handling of the Mandir card pushed the NEP agenda to the background and its culmination was the split among political parties on secular and non-secular basis. Nothing could have been more comfortable for Indian bourgeoisie than to see such a non-class issue come to the centrestage of Indian politics. The CPI(M) however, did not, and could not, expose this dangerous gameplan of the ruling classes before the whole nation and it underplayed the organic relation between Indian big bourgeoisie and imperialist powers in diluting the economic issue and highlighting the secularism issue in the Parliament. The granting of counter-guarantee to Enron by a non-secular force (BJP) was a clear indication of its readiness to dance to the imperialists' tune.

CPI(ML), besides characterising the Indian society as semi-colonial, also sees it as semi-feudal with peasant struggles as the axis of new democratic revolution. Though the CPI(M) feels that the "Indian big bourgeoisie heading the state does not decisively attack feudalism and eliminate it", it does not undertake anti-feudal struggles as a key link for developing a broad-based people's front for democratic revolution. It has perhaps taken it for granted that land reform measures and green revolution have created a situation wherein anti-feudal struggles with rural proletariat and small-landless peasant as its backbone is a bygone agenda of new democratic revolution.

Where CPI(ML) opposes the NEP, it presents radical land reforms which would pave the way for rapid internal capital generation, as an unavoidable and genuine alternative. The CPI(M), while opposing the NEP, presents the revival of outdated public sectors as an antidote. Besides being a short-cut, this alternative stems from CPI(M)'s excessive dependence on public sectors as a step in socialist construction. CPI(ML) wants a rejuvenation of the public sector but on a radically different platform of public ownership. For CPI(ML), in a fast-changing world where the imperialist onslaught is increasing day-by-day, unless anti-feudal struggles are launched, India shall continue to remain a source of cheap labour and raw materials for the big bourgeoisie and imperialists. Hence, if the imperialists growth has to be checked, their 'super-profits' from India will have to be blocked. Without anti-feudal struggles, the medieval, obscurantist values present and growing in society cannot be combated and class-polarisation not given a concrete shape.

The nationality issue is also being increasingly used by the imperialists and their cohorts at home to further their class interests. Be it the republics of former Soviet Union, Tibet or Kashmir, the imperialists take avid interest in these regions. Of late, with the collapse of socialism, there is a veritable race between contending nations, especially from the Third World to obtain an official endorsement of their foreign policy from the West (under the garb of UN).

In the Indian context, Kashmir issue is a classic example which delineates two tactics of communists on the nationality question. CPI(ML) believes that the formal independence of India in 1947 has not, once and for all, solved the nationality question in the country. In fact, in a backward country like India, with uneven capitalist development and an anti-democratic state, nationality problem will continue to come to the foreground. For the CPI(M), all demands of nationalities are at the instigation of imperialist forces and hence siding with the bourgeoisie in 'national interests' becomes their priority. Whatever noble notions the CPI(M) may have for our nation, in real practice, the CPI(M) stands in line with all those reactionary forces which play the nationalist card to ward off internal danger from the very people whom they profess to protect.

For CPI(ML), Kashmir issue can be solved by giving an ear to the voice of the people there and launching a parallel campaign against our rulers and American imperialists. These Americans, and the anti-people government of Pakistan (to suppress its own people), spread terrorism in India and incite anti-India feelings among the people of Pakistan. For CPI(ML), supporting a nationality issue (on careful study of the merits of the particular case) means launching a democratic movement to sharpen class contradictions there and increase the assertion of left-democratic forces in that movement, which could otherwise be used by the local/regional bourgeoisie. This can prevent the separatist tendencies from raising their head and being used by the imperialists. CPI(M) fails to identify itself with the progressive forces within such movements and is forced to toe the line of national chauvinism.

We find that in the final analysis, the difference between CPI(M) and CPI(ML) on the question of response to imperialist onslaught depends on the different evaluation of the Indian state and the ruling classes.

-Prashant Shukla

Unity with Autonomous Women's Movement

Question: On what theoretical and practical basis can we establish long-term cooperation with autonomous women's movements?

Answer: In a country like India, where half the population contributes through their labour three-fourths of the production in fields, factories, forests and mines but gets only one-tenth of it in return, where woman is considered mere commodity and not as a person endowed with the same flesh and bones, heart and mind, and living one's own life, where women become the means to disgrace an entire community and as a consequence parading them naked and raping them has become a common affair, where stepping out of one's house is like walking on thorns, where the paradigms of male-dominated society reveal themselves in the form of vermillion mark on their heads and rings around their toes, where they are considered either as a goddess or as a slave, where they are heckled and beaten as 'house-goddess' on the one hand and sold off as 'beauty-goddess' on the other, there the unity with broad autonomous movements can only be forged by posing a challenge to both these paradigms of 'house-goddess' and 'beauty-goddess'.

In the Indian society, whereas on the one hand this half of the populace is facing the offensive of feudal-imperialist culture by virtue of being Indian citizens, they are also facing cultural and physical oppression by virtue of being women. Therefore, the path adopted by women in Indian society to march towards a new democratic society will invariably be quite a distinct one. Whereas they are to counter the feudal domination within their own families and in the society, where the male represents a feudal lord in a patriarchal household, there at the same time they will have to fight against the imperialist conspiracy of transforming them into a commodity. Therefore, the autonomy of women's movement is a necessary condition for unity with autonomous women's movements, the guiding principle of which is 'political unity and organisational autonomy'.

Unity with any autonomous women's movement is not possible without pitting oneself against feminist angle. Feminists identify primary contradiction as that between man and woman, and therefore their primary emphasis is limited to gender-related issues like rape, dowry oppression, household violence, uneven division of household labour, woman's right over her body and commercialisation of her sexuality. These questions are definitely main issues of women's movement, and unity with autonomous women's movement must be forged on these issues, but it should always be kept under consideration that the basic factors giving rise to all these conditions are products of the basic uncivil, barbarous and oppressive nature of Indian feudal society. As because feminists lay primary emphasis on these problems, they obviously never deal with the source of the malady but only with superficial conditions. It is clear that a person suffering from malaria cannot be cured with simple anti-pyretic medicines (used for bringing down fever). Feminists put emphasis on symptoms when they lay primary or sole emphasis on gender-related issues. Therefore, class-related issues constitute the main theoretical basis of unity with autonomous women's movement. The basis for ensuring equality in status for female with male lies in resolving gender question on the foundation of class concept. Otherwise, without economic self-reliance, even if right over one's body is conceded to women in this semifeudal-semicolonial country, it will turn into flesh trade.

Similarly, the class position of a woman as a slave before the feudal man must be understood within the institution of family which by itself is the most concrete and basic unit of this feudal society. The reason behind the slavery of women or the historical defeat of the woman at universal level lies in the rise of private property, and therefore, the universal victory of the woman will in fact take place with the eliminiation of personal property, commodity production and market economy. It is correct that women by themselves do not constitute a class, they are divided in classes and strata, and the problems faced by women belonging to a particular class are different from those belonging to other classes.

For instance, the main problems of toiling rural women and women sanitation workers are more related with their livelihood whereas women belonging to upper classes have gender issues as their main problems. This being the case, forging a single autonomous women's movement seems to be very difficult or impossible task. The quetion then, is how can we accomplish a long-term unity at a practical level. Certainly our primary emphasis will be there on the questions of socio-economic oppression, still we have to identify class character of the women's movement. The sharpness of the battle fought by women at Kaither Kalan (Bhojpur) or the strength displayed by women sanitation workers fighting for their demands cannot be witnessed in the activities of middle-upper class women living in comfortable conditions in cities. However, as we have to walk on this tight rope, we must make our stand clear that for their liberation we want to deal a blow on the factors responsible for their original defeat. At the practical level, we can identify some issues on the basis of which we can forge a long-term cooperation, such as the question of reservation to women from Panchayat to Lok Sabha as well as in all avenues of employment, because in practice, at least in UP, a good number of women emerged as leaders during the last Panchayat elections and this has definitely raised their aspirations to claim their share in political power a little higher.

Women's right for equal share in property, which will at least ensure an equal status to women within the feudal structure of family, will definitely be an initial blow to this structure. The demand for proper price of labour by toiling women is very much there, for instance, in Allahabad, women bidi workers get less daily wages in comparison to male workers. Recently, in Delhi, when a woman went to a police station to lodge a complaint of rape, her report was enterd in an abusive language causing her mental rape. On this question there arose a demand of appointing women inspectors in women's police stations for dealing with such cases. Then, there are demands for taking certain steps like increasing budgetary provisions for betterment of education to women and their employment, awarding death sentence to culprits of rape etc., and on the other hand, there are questions like breaking the male-created paradigms, right from vermillion on the head and rings around the toes, in order to deal a decisive and heavy blow on the feudal structure of family, and also the demand of setting up creche centres to nurse children belonging to working women and give them respite from the burden of household labour, the demand against imposing the spurious family planning technique on the women's body in the name of population control etc. - on these demands unity with autonomous women's movements can be forged on a practical level.

Finally, whereas in the name of women's insecurity the righwing camp is advising them to remain confined within the four walls of their house, the women's movement is inspiring them to claim their share in property and power. In such a situation, the formation of a revolutionary centre which will lead them to build a society through the struggle for sharing property and power along with safeguarding security, dignity and equality, where the woman will no more be seen in the roles of a mother, sister, daughter or wife but will be considered as a person contributing to society-building. In this way, for any autonomous women's movement fighting on problems specific to women, the objective will be to stand against male domination and all the manifestations of male chauvinism. Its objective will be to destroy the male-created paradigms - to launch struggle against any feudal mentality of making womanfolk 'house-goddess' and against the imperialist conspiracy of making woman a sales promotion device by way of making them 'beuaty-goddess'. The objective of that movement will not be any anti-male philosophy, rather it will be to promote the relation of equality and mutual respect between man and woman. Its objective will be to unite with the struggling forces which are inspiring social change, to participate in workers' and peasants' struggles and to forge unity with them and build a democratic India while searching the solution of women's liberation within the problems liberating the whole society.

-Dinkar Kapoor