Reinvigorate the Party Organisation

Make the Burdwan Cadre Convention a Grand Success

T he CC has decided to hold an all-India cadre convention at Burdwan, West Bengal , on 12-13 September 2006 to take a close look at four key areas of party-building and party practice: (i) membership, (ii) primary structures, (iii) Party literature and Party education, (iv) Party's role in panchayati raj institutions and other institutions of local self-government. The convention will mobilise the experience, wisdom and willpower of the entire party to draw up a blueprint for a time-bound, consolidated and balanced expansion of the party, complete with specific targets to be achieved by the time of the Eighth Party Congress, scheduled to be held by the end of next year.

Apart from holding Party Congresses every five years, our Party has developed the fine tradition of organising special conventions and conducting periodic campaigns to resolve major practical challenges facing the Party and unleash the full initiative of the entire organisation. Looking back, we can see the key role such conventions and campaigns have played in reinvigorating the entire party apparatus from time to time by stimulating new ideas and initiating new practice. The impetus generated in the process and transmitted throughout the Party has been instrumental in expanding the Party organisation and enhancing its quality and capacity. Our Party has followed this course right from the early days when it was quite small and operated underground in the most difficult of circumstances. In spite of changed conditions - today we are a bigger party operating through a full-fledged committee system and equipped with easier and faster channels of inner-party communication - we continue to follow this time-tested tradition of involving the entire Party in charting its way forward.

The first such special convention was held in 1979 when we unleashed a new spirit of mass practice and political intervention throughout the Party by rectifying metaphysical and dogmatic distortions in our thinking and practice. A decade later, we held another special conference in 1990 to work out the Party's political and organisational response (including a partial opening up) to the international crisis of socialism and challenge to Marxism. In 1995, an organisational conference was held at Diphu to bring about a correspondence between new conditions of party functioning (overground and without the intermediary of the IPF) and its old organisational set-up, which needed to be thoroughly restructured. The Bhubaneshwar cadre convention was organised on the 30th anniversary of party foundation (July 2004) to discuss the new national situation marked by the ouster of the NDA government and the Party's tasks in this context. The forthcoming convention, as mentioned above, will in the main, focus on certain organisational tasks (the first three) and an emerging area of party practice (panchayats), and prepare the Party for a confident march towards the Eighth Congress.

The Diphu plenum was the first occasion in our Party when we had singled out the question of Party organisation for a special emphasis. The struggle against liquidationism had already clinched the strategic question of the Party's ideological independence and political assertion and set the stage for a new phase of growth and expansion of the Party. But it was the Diphu plenum which comprehensively addressed the question of Party-building, of developing and nurturing a solid organisational foundation and framework to sustain and spread the revolutionary spirit and identity of the Party. We arrived at the realisation that a correct political line did not automatically answer the organisational needs and questions, without which the political line could not adequately be translated and tested in practice. The plenum also went on to lay down a whole set of principles and norms for guiding the entire organisational apparatus of the Party and its work on various mass fronts.

The Party has since grown in terms of both mass activities and organisational network - but the growth has not been uniform and steady, rather it has been marked by ups and downs and continuing imbalances in some key respects. Also, we are yet to comprehensively overcome the politics-organisation or movement-organisation dichotomy. We often hear the complaint that it is not possible to pay proper attention to the question of Party-building because of an overload of political or agitational programmes. There is also a view which feels that any further organisational growth or consolidation presupposes a major political breakthrough, especially in the electoral arena. Another source of dilution on the organisational front is the movement-is-everything approach. Such a one-sided and fragmented approach weakens the conscious and consistent efforts needed for Party-building and reinforces status-quoism and spontaneity in the organisational sphere.

We all eagerly look forward to major political advances in our revolutionary journey. As organisers, as builders of the revolutionary movement and the Party, our basic job is however not just to expect, but bring about or organise such advances. To make political advance, the pre-condition for organisational expansion and consolidation is to put the cart before the horse. It may be a fact that our overall strength - say in terms of membership, votes polled or seats won, circulation figure of our journals etc. - remains confined to a certain level. But it is not dialectical to see this as something static or stagnant, and miss the underlying motion, the slow or small changes that add up to big changes over a period of time. And to let this presumed stagnation weaken our conscious role and lead to passivity and pessimism is to worship spontaneity and ignore the basics of communist practice.

To try and feel the subterranean motions, to learn the laws thereof and to consciously apply them for achieving small successes that would ultimately add up to an overall, palpable progress — such must be a communist leader's thought process and style of work. For this alone can generate the confidence, the realistic (not empty or romantic) optimism and the revolutionary (not routine or habitual) activism that can lead us out of the presumed state of stagnation. The forthcoming cadre convention will reemphasise this active and dynamic communist approach to the key task of Party-building and reject every approach that defends spontaneity and the status-quo to the neglect of the conscious communist role.

Stressing the organisational is at times seen as a departure from the politics-in-command principle or approach. Now inasmuch as we are a political party, as distinct from an armed outfit or a narrow sect, political activities, debates and discussions form the very lifeblood of our collective existence. The objective process of ongoing alignments and realignments, actions and reactions on the part of various social and political forces actually compel us, day in and day out, to work up new responses, new plans of intervention, new experiments. We prepare these plans, review the new experiences, and draw fresh lessons to chart out the next course of advance in meetings of party committees, party magazines, conferences and conventions. All these add up to a process of slow, almost imperceptible, but steady evolution in our political understanding, which assumes a more or less definite shape in Party Congresses.

This is how advances in political line/tactics/policies are accomplished through a range of organisational forums/arrangements. This is how politics and organisation blend together, sustain and support each other, like body and mind. Without correct and inspiring politics (tactics, policies and above all, vibrant mass practice) you cannot run an organisation barely on rules, instructions and discipline. Similarly, without an adequate and efficient organisational network running on principles of democratic centralism you cannot carry the best of political line into practice.

These are but rudimentary and incontrovertible tenets of a communist party. The question is, in our concrete context how do we go forward?

All of us wish that our theory and practice correspond more closely to the demands of changing situation and the aspirations of broad masses. But who will take care of this? Party leaders alone? No, not by a long shot. The best brain can function only when supported by the sense organs and a robust nervous system; the most efficient, experienced and dedicated leadership can deliver only when supported by an efficient system of two-way communication with tens of thousands of organised party members. Obviously, the more numerous these members, the better. Thus arises the need, in the interest of politics , of having an expanding membership base.

So this has been taken as the first and most important point on the agenda of the cadre convention. Secretaries of all party committees commanding at least a hundred party members (excluding candidate members) will be present there and pool their experiences together to discuss and decide how we can raise the membership strength of the Party. The convention will not only discuss and adopt targets, but more importantly it will also focus on the ways of achieving those targets. To an extent, the convention will thus take on the character of an all-India workshop where everybody has something to learn, something to teach; something to gain, something to contribute.

An increase in the total strength of membership, however, is not enough. The latter must adequately represent all politically active classes and strata if the party is to lead the movements of, and draw strength from, these forces. In this respect what is the situation in our party? The bulk of members come from poor/middle peasant and agrarian labour backgrounds, which is a good thing, but we are very weak in three important segments: (a) women, who constitute nearly 50% of the population but less than 10 per cent of our membership, although they support the party and participate in our movements in a great measure (b) students and youth, the potential torchbearers of revolution and (c) organised workers, whose advanced detachment the Communist Party is meant to be. The CC is of the opinion that the strength of women members should be raised to at least 20 per cent, i.e., among the targeted total of one lakh members, no less than 20,000 should be women. Similarly there should be at least 5000 members from students and youth and some 10,000 from organised and/or unionised workers, including those in the service sector.

But is the objective social and political setting in our country actually conducive to achieving these targets in just one year? Yes it is, but we must learn to use the favourable situation. As a recent CC circular self-critically observes,

"In most of our areas of struggle we have delivered powerful blows to feudal-patriarchal forces and practices and played a pioneering role in bringing about an elementary political awakening among women. Today when more and more women are actually stepping into the political process, especially at grassroots level through reservation for women in panchayats, we should see at least a matching enhancement in women's participation in our political and organisational life. But is that really happening?

Similarly, the new economic policies have generated a major socio-economic churning in the country and the impact of this churning can be clearly seen among the working class and the intelligentsia in general and students in particular. To recruit more women, workers and students into the party, we will have to intervene in this ongoing churning in a more determined and meaningful way. In fulfilling these targets we must also take a critical look at the inner-Party environment and our style of work, fighting out all such erroneous ideas or tendencies that retard the party's growth on these fronts."

In other words, the recruitment drive must be targeted towards the underrepresented categories. If we did not have this in mind, we could have taken the easiest way of recruiting members from the All India Agrarian Labour Association (AIALA). Just 2 per cent of its 15 lakh plus members would suffice to take the party membership strength close to the target. While we should definitely induct the more advanced and active sections of agricultural labourers and poor and middle peasants into the Party, the CC wants to lay special emphasis on sections that are grossly under-represented in the Party, women for example. The CC has therefore asked for special efforts to expand the party among the tens of thousands of militant women who have always been a most vital force in our movement. In some states work has already started in this direction. Central party groups/departments looking after work on the workers' and students and youth fronts are also preparing guidelines for party membership drives in the concerned sectors.

“How is the discipline of the proletariat's revolutionary party maintained? How is it tested?  How is it reinforced?  First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism.  Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and — if you wish - merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct.  Without these conditions, discipline in any revolutionary party really capable of being the party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved.  Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end up in phrase-mongering and clowning. On the other hand, these conditions cannot emerge at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience. Their creation is facilitated by a correct revolutionary theory which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.”

—Lenin, “Leftwing” Communism — an Infantile Disorder.

Enrolment of new members, however, means only half the work done. Until and unless we organise them in functional party branches, they cannot be properly initiated into the communist worldview and the disciplined collective life of a communist party. In other words, it is only through party branches that new recruits develop into firm, consistent communists. But proper functioning of party branches largely depends on party committees just above them. In both these areas, let us openly admit, our performance is pretty bad. And herein lies the fundamental reason why a considerable number of candidate members never graduate to full membership and the rate of non-renewal of old members remains rather high. Formation and stabilisation of lower-level party structures down to the party branch will therefore figure as an important topic of discussion. This is necessary also because these structures constitute the key link in practising the party's mass line (“from the masses, to the masses”) and thereby expanding and politicising its mass base.

As a necessary sequel to the work of expansion of party membership, removal of imbalances therein and organisation of party ranks in lower-level structures, comes that of improving party literature and party education. Party periodicals - right from the weekly ML Update to the Hindi and English central organs to the vernacular magazines - keep members abreast of latest political developments and the party's positions on these, with magazines published by our frontal organisations (workers' and women's magazines, for example) playing an auxiliary part. These are the most important, most reliable organisational instruments to carry politics to the ranks - and beyond - to left-leaning masses and even a section of the advanced cadre of other left parties. But in terms of circulation our periodicals lag far behind the potential. Worse still, many comrades including some leading cadres are losing interest in party literature; naturally they do not also care to carry these to the progressive and democratic people around. To reverse these negative trends and improve the quality as well as circulation of party magazines thus remain an urgent task - call it organisational or political - to be discussed in the convention.

While magazines play a part in ideological-political education, other methods like party schools and camps need also to be systematised. In the post-fourth congress period we have improved the regularity of the central education camp, but camps and schools at state and district levels remain sporadic or ill-planned. Our greatest weakness lies in the apparently lacklustre but most vital and very difficult area of organising relatively frequent short-duration schools at district levels. The major obstacle here is shortage of competent teachers. In view of the prevailing situation, the CC has taken upon itself the tasks of organising crash courses for teachers' training, formulating appropriate syllabi for district level schools, and directly guiding about 25 such schools in different states, setting examples for other districts to follow. The convention will provide a suitable platform for finalising an overall plan covering all these aspects in consultation with responsible comrades at various levels. And that alone will ensure that things will get going on the ground.

So far we have discussed three major points on the agenda of the convention: (a) augmentation of membership, particularly from women, workers and the young generation (b) consolidation and stabilisation of lower-level party structures and (c) radically improving party literature and party education in terms of quality and quantity. It is hoped that the close interrelation and interdependence among the three stands clarified. But there is another emerging area of our practice that needs to be discussed in some detail. This relates to the question of improving and strengthening the party's role in institutions of local self-government.

In almost all states we have some experience of working in these institutions. In recent years panchayat institutions in Bihar have started functioning; as a result our work in this field has vastly expanded. For all the distortions, panchayats do provide a scope for expanding grassroots democracy; how do we utilise that so as to strengthen the assertion of the rural poor? How do we get our panchayat members to play a greater role as people's revolutionary representatives and as the party's ambassadors among the people? There are many such questions before us. It is high time we made a serious study of our experience to formulate a set of necessary policies and guidelines and a correct style of work so that we can really establish the party's distinct revolutionary identity among the masses.

So these are the four major areas of our daily work to be discussed in the convention. In each of these, it must be clear by now, the political and the organisational are organically and inseparably woven together. Without a doubt, tasks and targets we are going to set ourselves will be extremely challenging. Also there is no denying the fact that in the past we have, more than once, fixed somewhat similar targets and failed to achieve them. But that is precisely why we need to do something special - to mobilise our entire backbone force for a very focused, threadbare and down-to-earth discussion on why we failed in the past and how we can succeed this time.

Come 12-13 September, and VM Sabhagriha (auditorium) in Burdwan will reverberate with the revolutionary resolve epitomised by our dear departed leader which continues to inspire us in the most challenging of circumstances. The convention will start the countdown for the Eighth Party Congress - one that will be held in 2007 at the convergence of three great anniversaries: the 150th year of the First Indian War of Independence (1857), the hundredth birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh and the 40th year of Naxalbari. Let us dare to aim high and rise to the occasion, let us unite to make the convention a grand success and march boldly forward to the Eighth Congress.

-- Arindam Sen