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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 10, February 21, 2009

New Situation and Our Tasks

Monday 23 February 2009, by Ajoy Ghosh

From Ajoy Ghosh’s Speeches

The Congress has been and is an extremely important factor in the political life of our country. This is not surprising in view of the role it played in leading the struggle for national freedom and in taking measures to consolidate independence under Nehru’s leadership. The influence of the Congress, though less than it was in the days of the freedom struggle, is vast and extensive. It extends to all classes—including big sections of the working class. It extends to the peasantry, the artisans, the intellectuals and others. Nehru’s influence is even wider. We cannot build the National Democratic Front by ignoring this big reality of the Indian situation.

That is why the Fourth Congress of our party stated that the division between the masses that follow the Congress and the masses that follow parties of the democratic Opposition is the most important division in the democratic camp. Does that situation continue? It does. And, in some States, with the decline in the influence of the PSP, the most important division has become the division between the mass following of the Congress and the CPI. I have in mind the States of Kerala, Andhra and West Bengal.

Does it follow that a general united front with the Congress is possible today—that is with the Congress as it is? No. Our relations will inevitably be one of unity and struggle. The Congress is the organ of the national bourgeoisie as a whole—including its Right wing. Moreover, after indepen-dence, it has been joined by many reactionary forces that opposed the national struggle—landlords and others. Many of the old leaders have got corrupted by their links with big business. Many new people have come in who had nothing to do with the national movement. All this finds reflection in many of the practices of the Congress and its governments.

At the same time, it would be a big mistake to equate the Congress with parties of Right reaction. Many of the declared policies of the Congress and some of the measures are, in today’s context, progressive—foreign policy, public sector, secularism and so on.

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The complexity of the situation arises from the following facts: (1) Policies and measures which are hitting the masses, giving rise to discontent and frustration are the policies of the Congress and its governments. It is this discontent that is utilised by Right reaction to mislead the masses and strengthen itself. At the same time, these policies cannot be fought effectively either by our own strength or even only by the unity of the Left forces: the broadening and deepening of the struggle against these policies requires the drawing into it of a big section of the people who are in the Congress and loyal to it.

(2) A large part of the forces of the Right are inside the Congress. At the same time, the bulk of these who are our potential allies are also inside the Congress.

It is true that many Congress leaders do not genuinely support the foreign policy of peace and non-alignment. But it is equally true that most of those people who support it, who want it to be defended, are to be found not inside the PSP or any other “Left” party but inside the Congress or among those under Nehru’s influence. Again, take the public sector. Many inside the Congress assail it. But it is also true that the largest number of those who want it to be defended and extended are also in the Congress. As regards communalism—it is correct to point out how deeply communalism has penetrated the Congress. But, let us not also forget that not only Nehru but also many other Congressmen were far more distressed by the happenings in Jabalpur than many leaders of the Left parties.

Can we defend India’s foreign policy, can we defend the public sector, can we defend the parliamentary system—without forging links with Congressmen and winning their support? Can we fight communalism effectively except in cooperation with them?

Evidently we cannot. It follows, therefore, that an approach has to be adopted which takes into account the loyalty of Congressmen towards their organisation and their sentiments. Time and again direct appeal will have to be made not only to Congress Committees—taking into account the issue concerned and the concrete conditions in the locality.

An urgent and important issue on which broad unity can be forged is that of opposition to communalism. A correct approach and fraternal appeal for practical united activity will get response from all healthy elements including many Congressmen. This has become a vital necessity especially after the Madhya Pradesh riots and the intensification of the activities of the Jan Sangh—especially in the Hindi speaking areas.

We must look upon democrats inside the Congress and the mass of Congressmen as our friends and potential allies in the struggle for consolidation of political independence, defence of parliamentary democracy, of foreign policy, public sector, agrarian reforms, etc. Ours must be a fraternal attitude. Also, when progressive declarations are made by the Congress, we have not just to “expose” them but use them for forging unity.

Would it not have been a good thing, comrades, if after the Nagpur session of the Congress, we had organised padayatras of kisans in all parts of the country with the single slogan: “ Implement your decision on ceilings”? Would it not have helped us to strengthen our links with peasants—the bulk of whom, all comrades admit, remain the main pillars of support behind the Congress?

Also, would it not have been a good thing if after the Congress-Ganatantra Parished alliance in Orissa, we had not just “exposed” the Congress but ran a mass compaign in the State, reminding Congressmen of the traditions of struggles against the Rajas and asking them to bring pressure on their leaders to break the alliance?

Would it not have been a good thing, when Right reactionaries and PSP-ers supported Thimayya and launched an attack on Krishna Menon and when Nehru stood firm—if at that time we had organised mass demonstrations supporting Nehru? Would not that have helped us to forge unity with democratic minded Congressmen and also help to fight reactionary moves of the government itself more effectively?

Take another example. A proposal came from high circles about the sale of shares of industries in the public sector to private individuals. A sharp conflict developed inside the Congress leadership on this issue. Should we not have played a role in this?

Theoretically, perhaps few comrades would object to any of these suggestions. But there is hesitation to act.

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I maintain—and that is one of the main things that I want to stress—that in view of the need to broaden the base of our struggles and in view of the critical nature of the period ahead, it has become more necessary than ever that strenuous efforts are made by us to forge links with democrats inside the Congress and with masses under Congress influence. We must stress this because despite what we said at Palghat we have paid too little attention to this task.

What this requires are:

(1) Use progressive declarations of the Congress to forge mass unity in action.

(2) In agitation, keep in mind not only those who are already under our influence but also those who are not, speak not only for those who sit “in front” and cheer every denunciation of the Congress and its government but also those who “stand on the periphery”.

(3) Wage a resolute and uncompromising battle against Right reaction and against parties of communalism, against their policies and their slogans. This will help to draw towards us honest Congressmen.

(4) Even when opposing and fighting the policies of the Congress and government, concentrate fire wherever possible on the Rightist elements.

(5) Conduct patient explanatory campaign among Congressmen and Congress masses. They are worried about the situation that is developing—especially the growth of fissiparous tendencies. The basic causes of this—especially the absence of a really inspiring objective due to the class policies of the government—have to be laid bare.

While seeking to develop common activity with Congressmen and the masses following the Congress, our party should, at the same time, carry on a campaign of patient explanation in order to point out to them how the basic policies of the Congress are themselves totally inadequate in the present-day conditions of India and the world and how these policies stem from the attempt to develop a capitalist society in India and that too without taking firm measures against foreign capital, without basic agrarian reforms in the interests of the mass of peasants and by giving big concessions to monopolists.

Conscious of the tremendous and growing attraction of the ideas of socialism among our people, including their own followers, the Congress leaders have formally accepted socialism as their objective. But their entire practice shows that this is meant to distort the real ideas of socialism and keep the masses away from struggles for democratic reforms. We should, therefore, patiently and continuously explain to the people and to Congressmen that there is not a grain of socialism in the theories, policies and measures of the Congress and its government. We should also explain to them what socialism really means and how it can be achieved.

In a vague and general way large numbers of our people have come to accept socialism as a correct objective. They have seen what socialism has achieved in countries where it has triumphed. They have seen how it has done away with the anarchy of capitalism, put an end to the staggering contrast between the wealth of the few and the poverty of the many, eliminated unemployment and launched the country on the path of speedy and continuous advance. Hence they get drawn towards socialism.

A major ideological task of ours is to deepen this consciousness; we have to explain to the masses, especially the workers and advanced sections, the principles of scientific socialism and show the relation between socialism and the struggle for defence and extension of democracy in every sphere—economic, social, political.

We have to wage a sustained and determined struggle against Right reaction. We have to fight the anti-people policies of the government. We have to defend the people against attacks of the vested interests and of the government. We have to fight an uncompromising battle against forces of casteism and communalism. And while striving for unity, we have to organise, wherever the situation demands it, independent mass action by the party on the basis of our own influence, on the basis of whatever strength we can mobilise. All these have to go hand in hand. Then only the democratic front will get built.

Independent mass activity by the party combined with fraternal and genuine united front approach so that on each issue the maximum possible support is mobilised—such has to be the tactics. For such independent mass activity, the need is to raise the level of consciousness of the masses following us. We do not make unity a precondition for mass action. I have explained while dealing with the Bihar anti-tax struggle that we do not wait for unity. But even when waging struggle on our own and in the course of preparation for launching such struggle, we must adopt an approach which draws others towards us.

The question, comrades, is not whether we have to wage struggles. The question is how to wage it, with what approach, with what slogan and tactics so that it may be waged on the broadest possible basis and successes are won.

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We are approaching a crucial period. We shall be called upon to play a big role in that period. This should give us a sense of urgency.

Today we are a major force in the life of our country. Perhaps the biggest development in Indian politics since the achievement of freedom is the emergence of the Communist Party as the second party of the country and the formation of Kerala Government. Even our enemies have to recognise it. The question is—how do we go forward? How do we extend and deepen our influence? How do we intervene effectively in the political situation so as to be able to shape events? I feel that what I have stated embodies in essence a correct line. Of course, it has to be further elaborated.

Let me in this context, refer to an important matter. After some months will take place the third general elections. We shall fight the elections as a big political battle on the basis of the entire policy of our party. Sharply demarcating ourselves from the slogans advocated by Right reaction, we shall, at the same time, lay bare the anti-people policies of the present government, put forward our own alternative policies and make the elections into a big political campaign, both against Right reaction and against the present government and for our policies on every issue.

We shall come before the masses with our record as the party which struggles to forge a National Democratic Front for national democratic tasks—and, as part of that struggle, strives to defeat the anti-people and undemocratic policies of the government and defends the people against its attacks as well as the attacks from vested interests.

Comrades may ask: what will be the relation of our party to the government? I am not in favour of the phrase “party of Opposition” as defining the general character of our party, because it is essentially a parliamentary concept. Of course, inside Parliament and in the legislatures, we shall function as a democratic Opposition in the way it was explained in the June 1955 resolution of our Central Committee.

Ours will be a positive approach, a political battle, on the basis of our alternative policies which strengthen our independence and our economy, which give land to the peasants, which improve the conditions of the masses and strengthen democracy in our economic, social and political life. The policies have to be further concretise in our Election Manifesto.

What about an alternative government? I feel that if in some States, the possibility exists or if the masses think that such possibility exists, we should give the slogan that we strive for the formation of a government which will carry out these policies.

What is the direction in which we want to take the whole mass movement? In my opinion, National Democracy is a correct slogan for our country.

But since this is a question which is directly related to the Programme, I think that a decision on this should be taken only after full discussion in the party.

I have already taken a long time. But I would like to say a few words more with your permission. As Dimitrov said at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, in the struggle for the establishment of the united front, the Communist Party has to play an extraordinarily important leading role. Only the Communist Party is at bottom the initiator, organiser and driving force for the united front. Inevitably, therefore, no discussion on the political situation can be complete if we do not take into account the paramount need to strengthen our party.

What I have to say about the weaknesses from which the party suffers and which must be fought if this role is to be played, I shall do when we discuss the resolution on party organisation. But let me state right now that without over-coming the serious ideological and organisational weaknesses which exist, without re-unifying our party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, on the basis of a correct tactical line and on the basis of strict adherence to discipline, we cannot go forward and cannot discharge our national political tasks. I hope that we shall emerge from this Congress more united than before, conscious of our great responsibilities so that we can effectively discharge our duties towards our country and our people.

[Excerpts from the speech as the party General Secretary as amended and adopted by the CPI’s Sixth Congress, Vijyawada, April 7-16, 1961]

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