(Since all documents as amended and adopted in the eighth party Congress will be released shortly, here we bring to the readers the more important points covered in this report in a summarised form and under subheads supplied by us. Space constraints have compelled us to leave out the parts dealing with reports and review of our work on the women's, cultural, students' and the youth fronts altogether. -- Editor)
The introduction of NREGA by the UPA government has had little impact in terms of stopping starvation deaths or mitigating unemployment or acute poverty among the rural poor, but it has objectively facilitated the process of organization and mobilization of agricultural and other rural labourers as a class force in the countryside. Recognising this ‘dangerous’ potential of the Act, the state has been quick to unleash systematic repression on the rural poor’s movement for strict implementation of the NREGA. For the rural poor NREGA and BPL remain very much like lotteries and all claims of guaranteed entitlement for the poor and the unemployed have proved to be a cruel joke. Recent periods have therefore witnessed powerful agitations against this injustice and the All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA) led by our Party has been in the forefront of this movement in many parts of the country.
Alongside the basic issues of land, wages and dignity, the question of food, basic amenities like housing, drinking water, hygiene, healthcare and education are also central to the agenda of the agricultural labour movement today. But more than the importance of the issue what matters is the spirit of class assertion which holds the key to changing the balance of class forces in the countryside. The movement of the rural poor must be raised to a level where it can challenge and defeat the hegemony of feudal and kulak forces. The funds that are flowing into the countryside through the panchayati system and various central schemes are making little addition to productive investment or durable and dynamic rural development, these are essentially being used as a lubricant to run the system and reinforce the existing structures and patterns of domination. The fight against the systematic loot and leakage or diversion of development funds and for enforcing accountability for every rupee flowing into the village in the name of rural development, rural employment and relief to the rural poor must therefore be taken up as a crucial task of the agricultural labour movement.
In the face of the deepening agrarian crisis caused by the pro-landlord, pro-kulak, pro-liberalisation pursued by the ruling classes, the established pattern of farmers’ movement has become rather clueless and irrelevant. The stream of peasant movement led by the CPI(M) and CPI has also lost its initiative in the face of the sheer intensity of the agrarian crisis. This is partly because of these parties’ increasing identification with the dominant agricultural and other economic policies of the governments and partly because of their flawed understanding of the agrarian crisis and the tendency to capitulate to the interests and leadership of rich farmers in the name of securing broad peasant unity. They attribute the agrarian crisis primarily to WTO and imperialist onslaught, and ignore the structural dimension of the crisis and all ‘divisive’ and ‘contentious’ agenda like land reform and other anti-feudal anti-kulak issues. In Andhra Pradesh when the ‘house site’ movement sponsored by the CPI(M) escalated into a popular land movement and the state government responded with the brutal Mudigonda massacre, instead of intensifying the movement and pushing back the government on the land issue, the CPI(M) leadership took it as a signal to curb the militancy of the peasant masses and the landless poor.
In sharp contrast to this capitulationist approach, we must continue to respond to the crisis by intensifying the revolutionary peasant movement and reaching out among large sections of the crisis-ridden peasantry with our approach towards resolution of the crisis. Now is the time to boldly propagate our agrarian programme and class orientation and win over larger sections of the peasantry in favour of agrarian revolution. Towards this end, the Party Congress adopted an updated Agrarian Programme and a Resolution on ‘Agrarian Crisis and the Way Out’; and also resolved to continue with the existing all-India peasant coordination network, moving towards launching an all-India peasant association preceded by some solid groundwork and a real beginning in at least a few states.
INITIATIVES AND INTERVENTIONS
While the CPI(M) kept sowing illusions regarding the true character of the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme, our Party and all our class and mass organizations relentlessly exposed the UPA’s policies. Particularly notable were the campaigns against the SEZ Act (including a series of well-attended conventions in several centres in TamiI Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal) and against Indo-US strategic partnership, nuclear deal and joint military exercises.
The Party also organized protest campaigns against the massacres and police brutalities at Kalinganagar, Dadri, Singur, Nandigram and Mudigonda. Fact-finding teams went to Malegaon, Khairlanji, Gohana and Gurgaon. Peasant leaders visited Rajasthan during the Sriganganagar agitation and went to Vidarbha to make a first-hand study of the phenomenon of peasant suicides. Party central teams also visited Manipur in support of the heroic battle of the Manipur people, Manipuri women in particular.
The hill districts of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills of Assam have witnessed no less than seven large-scale massacres perpetrated by militant groups with whom the central government has entered into cease-fire agreements. While standing by the victims and making every effort to rush relief and restore peace, our Party has consistently exposed and opposed this nefarious design of the ruling party and militant groups to divide the people along ethno-linguistic and community lines. The Party has also promptly intervened in cases of killings of Hindi-speaking people by ULFA miscreants in upper Assam districts and the barbarity on the democratic agitations of the tea-tribes in Dispur.
Campaigns were also organized against some major cases of state repression and political and social violence faced by our comrades. In Bihar fourteen of our comrades including Comrade Shah Chand, one of the most popular leaders of our movement in Arwal-Jahanabad region were framed in a TADA case in 1990 and thirteen years later in 2003 the Jahanabad TADA court sentenced them to life imprisonment even as TADA had long lapsed. We challenged this conviction in the Supreme Court and launched an extensive nationwide campaign to inform and mobilise public opinion against this judicial farce and assault on democracy. These comrades were accused of ‘murdering’ a policeman but the only ‘weapons’ recovered from them were a few books like the communist manifesto, Mao’s five philosophical essays and a manual of Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha all of which were declared terrorist literature by the Jahanabad TADA court! All these comrades are currently lodged in various Bihar jails and two comrades have died in custody. The Eighth Congress of our Party salutes all these TADA victim comrades for their revolutionary spirit and sacrifice and vows to intensify the battle for democracy and justice. The campaign against TADA however helped us in getting TADA revoked from another case in which more than fifty agricultural labourers from Belsar panchayat of Arwal were charged with TADA for fighting for minimum wages.
A powerful campaign was conducted in Punjab against the brutal assault on Comrade Bant Singh, a revolutionary singer and courageous agricultural labour comrade from Mansa in Punjab, who had managed to get some local Congress bullies tried and convicted for having raped his daughter.
In North Cachhar Hills district, Comrade Langtuk Phangcho was targeted by the enemy for his courageous and dynamic role in all spheres of public life be it the Autonomous State movement or the movement of rural poor, or mobilising the masses against the nexus between the state administration and ‘militant groups’. He was repeatedly booked in false cases before he was finally kidnapped and brutally murdered at the behest of this anti-people nexus. While sharpening our vigilance and intensifying popular protests and mass resistance, we must also mobilize the broader democratic opinion against this dangerous pattern of ruling class politics in the North-East.
A sustained campaign was also launched against the Jharkhand Government when in 2005 a Ranchi fast track court framed charges under Section 307 against Party General Secretary and a few other comrades in Jharkhand in connection with the gherao of Jharkhand Assembly organized by the Party in March 2001 demanding trial and punishment of guilty police officials responsible for the Doranda and Topkara police firing cases that had killed more than a dozen innocent people. The demand for the dropping of charges was raised powerfully in Jharkhand and democratic opinion was also mobilized nationally as well as internationally and the Jharkhand government was compelled to concede the demand in the end.
Other anti-government agitations included those against the heinous killing of Comrade Mahendra Singh in the midst of the February 2005 election process; against the killing of Comrade Manju in Arwal in November 2003 by the Ranvir Sena (while the government of Bihar has not taken any appropriate action till date against the killers of Comrade Manju, the people of Arwal have already meted out due punishment to one of her killers); the campaign for the reinstatement of the Amir Das Commission which was wound up by the Nitish Kumar government to save the perpetrators of the infamous Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in December 1997; successful protest movement against arresting four student activist comrades in Darbhanga on sedition charges for showing black flags to Advani; land movement in West Champaran district in the face of brutal repression by CRPF, state police and armed feudal goons; the recent protests in Sitamarhi district against the custodial killing of Comrade Ashok Sah, a popular leader of the Party in Runni-Saidpur region who had been spearheading a militant agitation for securing relief for the flood-affected people and to stop corruption in the public distribution system; and so on.
In 2006, in Bissamcuttack block of Rayagada district in Orissa, landlords in collusion with the local administration and the infamous Vedanta company launched a fierce attack on poor tribal people led by our Party, killing one woman and injuring at least 30 people including block-level Party cadres. Armed assailants also attacked our Party office. The attack was valiantly resisted by our comrades and a powerful political demonstration was held.
In 2007 the Party observed the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence of 1857, the centenary of Bhagat Singh’s birth and the 40th anniversary of the great Naxalbari rebellion. The focus of the campaign was both historical and contemporary – we took this opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the historical contribution and potential of 1857 and Bhagat Singh, grasping the running thread of the Indian people’s continuing battle against imperialism and the quest for liberation and linking it all with the agenda of the day. It enabled us to have a better grasp of the historical roots and trajectory of our movement and thus inspired a new confidence in today’s activists. For those who believe that mass interest and enthusiasm can be generated only on the basis of economic or immediate demands, this historical-ideological campaign was a real eye-opener.
STRUGGLE IN THE PARLIAMENTARY ARENA
In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections we failed to retain the lone seat we had in the outgoing Lok Sabha from Autonomous Territory in Assam. We had been winning this seat uninterruptedly since 1991, initially under the banner of ASDC and in 1999 under the banner of the Party. But desertions from renegades from the Party and the split in ASDC in 2000 enabled the Congress to stage a comeback.
In Assembly elections our performance has been a mixed bag. In Bagodar, where we had to file a fresh nomination on the last day after Comrade Mahendra Singh was murdered the day before, we won by polling a record 60,000 plus votes. In Bihar we succeeded in winning seven seats and secure state-level recognition from the Election Commission for the first time. The most significant victory in Bihar came from Paliganj in Patna district where five of our leading local comrades including a block pramukh and a mukhia (panchayat pradhan) were killed by a Maoist squad on 18 August 2004. The self-styled Maoists had raided our Paliganj office in the dead of night and gunned down our comrades while they were all asleep. This had generated tremendous anger among the rural poor and this was reflected in their massive militant mobilisation in several subsequent struggles and meetings and also in the election. The November 2005 election witnessed a significant pro-Nitish swing and our tally once again came down to five.
In Uttar Pradesh where we had polled more than sixty thousand votes in 2002, six seats fetching us between 5,000 and 10,000 votes, we polled only around 40,000 votes and the highest vote in the state remained less than 5,000. Our failure to consolidate and build on the previous gains is the main handicap that resulted in the poor electoral showing. Instead of paying serious attention to the task of mass expansion and politicisation of our class base and ideological-political consolidation of the Party organization, the emphasis in UP was laid on exploring united front possibilities leaving our own base underprepared and vulnerable not only to the SP-BSP polarisation but even to the influence of smaller caste-based parties. The UP election results hold a major lesson for us that the entire Party must earnestly grasp.
Some comrades tend to attribute our weak results to lack of an electoral alliance and even treat it as a failure of our united front strategy. They forget that no alliance can compensate for our own weakness. In the latest election to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council we did have seat adjustment with a faction of ASDC, but we failed to retain even the two seats we held in the outgoing council primarily because of our own weakness. In Uttar Pradesh too, the Jan Morcha did declare support to us in a few select seats but that hardly had any impact on our election results. There is no substitute for overcoming our own weakness and our so-called marginal status by our own hard work and independent development. There is however another dimension of united front approach which is in a way more appropriate at our present stage of development. In all our areas of work, wherever we have attained a minimum degree of strength, we are able to attract some outside support. We must develop an active united front approach to cultivate this support and build on it.
We contest elections not just to win some seats and get some good votes but primarily to ensure greater politicization and assertion of the masses. If we miss this essential spirit, our election campaign will be reduced to just a formal exercise and become vulnerable to all kinds of opportunist illusions and deviations. Any view which places lopsided emphasis on elections and advocates a non-revolutionary approach to the electoral battle must be seriously combated.
The bold oppositional role of our legislature group has been amply reflected not only in debates inside Assemblies but also in struggles outside the Assembly. Issues related to land reform, police atrocities, unlawful conviction of CPI(ML) activists under TADA, irregularities in NREGA and BPL operations, the abandoning of Amir Das commission by the Nitish government, and criminalization of state-power and feudal-kulak violence in Bihar have been raised quite forcefully. In Jharkhand, Comrade Mahendra Singh had distinguished himself as the most consistent and powerful voice of the people inside the Assembly. Our new young MLA is carrying forward his glorious tradition.
WORKING CLASS FRONT
In the trade union arena our work has expanded both in unorganized and organized sectors. In the unorganized sector, the main focus is now on organizing construction workers and ‘casual labourers’ in the organised sector. This work is now going on in many centres of Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and West Bengal and also in important cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Ranchi and Bangalore. Work has also expanded among brick kiln workers in Punjab. In the process of development of our work among unorganized sector in general and construction workers in particular, some young trade union cadres have also emerged, but we must address the danger of legalism and reformism that looms particularly large in the construction sector.
Another significant development on the trade union front has been the revival and expansion of our work in the organized sector. The high point of this expansion has been AICCTU’s entry in Coimbatore and the successful strike by Pricol workers joined by both permanent and casual workers. Women workers played a key role in this strike and in the midst of this strike nearly 5,000 workers took part in the May Day procession this year in Coimbatore. In Chennai, solidarity forum has been formed in Thiruvotriyur and Poonamallee areas with vanguards of organized sector workers for launching mass political campaigns and this work is making a slow but steady progress. Some expansion and new initiatives are also being seen among steel workers in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh and coal workers in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
An encouraging beginning on the trade union front has recently been made in Uttarakhand. In Udham Singh Nagar district of the state our comrades have developed good contact with workers in several big factories located in SIDCUL industrial estate, but the beginning has already invited considerable repression because the Uttarakhand government and the factory owners both would like to see this area grow Gurgaon-style, as a union-free corporate enclave. In West Bengal, we have acquired a good experience of leading the struggle of workers of a jute mill that has been lying closed for nearly ten years. Work is slowly progressing in the tea gardens of Assam, West Bengal and Tripura.
On the basis of the latest count of membership AICCTU has been officially recognized as a central trade union. The trade union centre must now try to improve its membership ranking among central trade unions and more importantly it should expand its role and raise the level of its initiative and organizational functioning. …Work is also advancing among both state and central government employees, most notably in Bihar and Jharkhand. An all-India coordination network has been organized comprising state government employees’ organisations from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Pondicherry and West Bengal and the coordination has already conducted several programmes.
In Tamil Nadu, organized sector workers from big factories have participated in go-to-village campaigns to help organize agrarian lobourers in Thruvallur, Kanchipuram, Tanjore, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai districts. Nearly 75 workers have participated in such campaigns on five occasions. We must encourage and emulate this trend in other centres of trade union and working class front work.
The coming year will mark the centenary of the first political strike action of the Indian working class. In 1908 textile workers of Maharashtra had gone on strike demanding the release of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, an action which was lauded by Lenin as a sign of the growing political maturity of the Indian working class. We should observe this occasion with due importance to arm today’s workers with revolutionary political spirit and education. The agrarian crisis and the devastation wrought by neo-liberalism illustrated most glaringly by suicides and starvation deaths in the countryside, and policies promoting corporate land-grab and invasion of big capital in the retail sector and commercialization of education and health sectors are creating conditions for a big social turmoil. The working class must be aware of this storm that is brewing in the society and get ready to pay its leading political role in giving it a revolutionary direction. In the midst of day-to-day activities and immediate issues and struggles we must never lose sight of this larger political perspective, rather we must make sure that all our immediate activities are guided by this larger perspective.
PARTY EDUCATION AND PROPAGANDA
The formation of Party education department and holding of teachers’ training camps has given a great fillip to the process of Party education at the primary level. The central Party schools we held all these years catered only to a small group of students and there was no automatic dissemination of Party education below. But the focus on training a contingent of teachers and equipping them to hold district Party schools and initiating the campaign by organizing more than thirty district schools under the direct supervision of the central education department has helped us make a much-awaited and much needed beginning in terms of imparting essential Party education to the ranks.
Beyond our English and Hindi Central Organs, Party journals have attained regularity in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, kerala, Andamans and Andhra Pradesh. Lok Morcha, the organ of the Punjab State unit of the Party is also inching towards attaining regularity. Apart from Party magazines, the working class front is also regularly bringing out a monthly journal in Hindi. Magazines produced by the women’s front and cultural front are also fairly regular even if the frequency of their publication is itself quite limited. In the days to come we must bring a leap both in content and circulation of our organs.
Apart from publishing some topical booklets, we have made some primary attempts to explore the audio-visual medium of communication, which is much more accessible both for viewers and producers.
The most important key-link to Party-building for a revolutionary communist party like ours lies in consistent ideological struggle against alien ideas and trends. Just as we consistently fight against opportunist deviations in the communist movement as a whole – within the Left movement in general we treat right opportunism as represented by the CPI(M) as the main ideological adversary while within the M-L movement we have the anarchism of our self-styled Maoists, which we have also termed as anarcho-militarism given their near-exclusive identification with armed activities, as the main challenge – we are also determined to remain consistent in our struggle against deviations within the Party.
Since the reorganization of our Party in 1974, we have had two major phases of inner-Party ideological struggle. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Party fought against metaphysics and dogmatism in our outlook and established the supremacy of dialectical thinking in the Party through a thoroughgoing rectification campaign. In the late 1980s and early 1990s we had to fight against the liquidationist danger in an ideological environment dominated internationally by the collapse of the Soviet Union and domestically by the rise and consolidation of liberal-bourgeois forces under the banner of the Janata Dal and other non-Congress regional formations. In the first phase when we directed the fight against Left sectarian deviations or dogmatic outlook we also fought against the liquidationist approach and this was the crucial difference between our rejection of Left adventurist and sectarian theory and practice and the anti-anarchist campaign of ML streams led by Com. SN Singh or Com. Kanu Sanyal. Similarly, our entire battle against liquidationism in the late 1980s and early 1990s was waged not on the basis of our old Party structure and practice, but it was accompanied by a sustained campaign for Party restructuring which culminated in the opening up of the Party. The Party thus emerged bigger and stronger as it overcame the liquidationist idea.
Today, once again we can see the rise of a liquidationist tendency within the Party, though articulated by only a few comrades. This time round, the advocacy is not for an outright dissolution of the Party, but for relegating the Party to the background while handing over the immediate political role of the Party to a national political platform to be sponsored by the Party. The proponents of such a platform are predictably vague about the prospective concrete forces who are expected to join such a platform; but we are reminded that there has been a decisive shift in political discourse since the 1970s. The focus in the 70s was on radical social transformation whereas the contemporary focus is on competitive participation within the system! The hint is quite clear – we should accordingly shift our emphasis and adjust our orientation and slogans. The idea of the platform is premised on the assumption that the Party’s acceptability is very limited so much so that the Party has become politically irrelevant. The only way the Party can gain greater legitimacy is by operating through a platform in collaboration with a whole range of liberal-democratic social forces. Ironically, the advocates of this approach also talk about the platform being led by the Party. How the Party can exercise leadership on forces that are not prepared to accept it is anybody’s guess.
These comrades measure the Party’s relevance or irrelevance in terms of the Party’s electoral success or the lack of it. Our supposed lack of acceptability is also attributed historically to the legacy of Naxalbari and the flawed understanding that the Maoists have appropriated this legacy. In other words, these comrades believe in the thesis of polarization between the CPI(M) and the Maoists and see little space for the Party’s independent identity and assertion. Apologetic about the Party’s own past and identity and having no hope or faith in the future of the Party, how on earth can one exercise the leadership of the Party on any democratic platform?
Sure enough, the advocacy of a democratic platform per se does not amount to liquidationism. It is the underlying framework – the theory of political irrelevance of CPI(ML), the idea of truncating the Party’s direct political role and relegating the Party to the background, the insistence on purging our tactical line of ‘left deviation’, the notion of transition from the erstwhile “phase of struggle for radical structural changes” to “competition for participation in the state structure and formation of governments” and the resultant shift of focus from revolutionary democratic forces to the domain of liberal democracy – that is unmistakably liquidationist.
It is also instructive to look at the larger ideological-political environment in which liquidationism is once again raising its head. We all know that the CPI(M) today is passing through a serious crisis. Obviously, we must take this opportunity to intensify the battle against the CPI(M)'s bankruptcy, win over more and more communists to the revolutionary camp and boldly establish the CPI (ML) as the real champion of the communist movement in India. Yet precisely at this juncture, the party is being advised to restrict its initiative, and limit Nandigram to West Bengal, often under the pretext that we don't stand any realistic chance of gaining anything in the process!
Equating the crisis of the CPI(M)'s right opportunism with a generalised crisis of the Indian communist movement and advising the CPI (ML) to redefine and reorient its line in the name of staving off the danger of right reaction is nothing but a recipe for not just liquidating the CPI (ML) but sacrificing the future of the Indian communist movement. At the other end of the spectrum, in the wake of Singur and Nandigram some former communist revolutionary groups and individuals have also begun to embrace the non-party paradigm and even rally around Mamata Banerjee. We have to steer clear of liquidationist tendencies from both of these ends and boldly affirm our independent identity and revolutionary direction as the basis for a real left resurgence in the country.
Today, with more than 1, 14,000 Party members mostly from agricultural labour, working class and student youth, and a mass membership of more than two million we are indeed poised for a new phase of advance. To realize this potential and bring the Party to the foreground of the Left and democratic movement in the country, we must keep up the momentum generated by Bardhaman convention and all the four points stressed there – increase in membership with special emphasis on recruitment of members from among women, organized workers and students and youths; organising members in vibrant grassroot level Party structures, especially branches and local committees; strengthening and improving the Party’s role in institutions of local self-governance; strengthening the system of Party literature and Party education – must continue to get our special attention.
The increased strength of the Party must now be directed towards fulfilling the following three objectives: (i) bringing the entire Party right down to every branch and the entire network of mass organizations into full play, (ii) unleashing bold political initiatives by taking up the tasks of propaganda, agitation and organization as an integral whole, (iii) overcoming the demoralizing discourse of decline, despondency and disintegration to march ahead in bold steps without giving an inch to liquidationist, factionalist and federalist tendencies.
The growing agrarian and social crisis in the country has every potential to produce a political churning in the country and we must get ready to make full use of the situation to assert our class politics and establish the CPI(ML) as the leading Left force in the country.