CPI(M)’s 19th Congress: The Social Democrats Stand Further Exposed

Polemics CPI(M)’s 19th Congress: The Social Democrats Stand Further ExposedK.N. Ramachandran

the Draft Political  Resolution  (DPR) of CPI(M) published for discussion in its 19th Party Congress and the statements of Jyoti Basu and Budhadev Bhattacharjee on finding capital for industrialization, on capitalism and socialism are exposing the contradictions it is facing when practicing the capitalist path in the states it is in power, while still claiming to be a Marxist-Leninist party. These contradictions are sharply reflected in its approach to all cardinal questions, including the analysis of the international situation, justification for continuing to prop up the UPA government at centre, analysis of the functioning of the state governments it is leading, about the activities of the class/mass organizations led by it, etc. As these contradictions clearly exposes the degeneration of this party from basic Marxist-Leninist positions for long, an evaluation of its documents and utterances of top leaders are necessary to explain the distinction between Marxism and revisionism, and between Marxist-Leninist and social democratic practices.

International Developments

The DPR , while opposing and criticizing the imperialist globalization and while explaining how it is widening inequalities, states: “imperialist globalization and financial opening is further resulting in a net flow of resources from the developing countries to the advanced countries”. DPR has attacked US aggression in Iraq and elsewhere. It has extended support to anti-imperialist globalization path pursued by Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia like countries. At the same time, it has  congratulated China for pursuing the socialist path and achieving rapid economic growth. Even though DPR is the only political document to be presented to its 19th Congress, it does not even touch upon what should be the general line of international communist movement (ICM) in present period. It is an out and out opportunist analysis exposing its social democratic orientation.

The Communist Revolutionaries within CPI(M) had started attacking this very same opportunist line immediately after the 7th Congress in 1964. The split took place in CPI as its Dangeist leadership pursuing the General Line of ICM put forward by CPSU leadership under Krushchov, calling for ‘peaceful co-existence, peaceful competition and peaceful transition to socialism’, had adopted the line of  National Democratic Revolution, analyzing the big bourgeoisie as mainly nationalist in character and the Congress as the party of national bourgeoisie and calling for completion of national democratic revolution peacefully, collaborating with them. Soviet revisionists had upheld this Dangeist line.

Criticizing the Soviet revisionist line, Proposal Concerning the General Line of ICM put forward on July 14, 1963 by CPC led by Mao had stated: “If the general line of the ICM is one-sidedly reduced to “peaceful co-existence”, “peaceful competition”, and “peaceful transition”, this is to violate the revolutionary principles of the  1957 Declaration and the 1960 Statement, to discard the historical mission of proletarian world revolution, and to depart from the revolutionary teaching of Marxism-Leninism.”

CPC put forward the General Line of the ICM as follows: “Workers of all countries, unite; workers of the world, unite with the oppressed people and oppressed nations; oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries; strive for world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism; consolidate and expand the socialist camp; bring the proletarian world revolution step by step to complete victory; and establish a new world without imperialism, without capitalism and without exploitation of man by man. This, in our view, is the general line of the international communist movement at the present stage.”

Explaining the General Line further, CPC document stated: “In order to lead the proletariat and working people in revolution, Marxist-Leninist Parties must master all forms of struggle and be able to substitute one form for another quickly as the conditions of struggle change. The vanguard of the proletariat will remain unconquerable in all circumstances only if it masters all forms of struggle—peaceful and armed, open and secret, legal and illegal, parliamentary and other legal forms of struggle when they can and should be used. However, if a Marxist-Leninist Party falls into legalism or parliamentary cretinism, confining the struggle within the limits permitted by the bourgeoisie, this will inevitably lead to renouncing the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

These two General Lines were in sharp contrast: while one was a departure from Marxism-Leninism, the other adhered to it. The cardinal question before the Communist parties of the time was which line one should uphold. The 7th Congress of CPI(M) refused to spell out its outlook and took a centrist line, which was in effect a line closer to Krushchovite revisionism. This was attacked by the CRs within CPI(M) through numerous articles and documents. In the Burdwan Plenum of 1968, rejecting opposition from powerful sections within it, CPI(M) leadership upheld the social democratic line of then CPSU leadership. When Gorbachov came forward with ‘glassnost-perestroika’ to ‘reform’ socialist path, CPI(M) upheld it. Any statement about a socialist country degenerating to capitalist path was ridiculed. EMS declared, ‘it is as absurd as to argue that the humans can again become monkeys’. CPI(M) had no answer when East European countries openly embraced capitalist path or Soviet Union disintegrated. It was violently attacking Mao Tsetung and CPC under his leadership and embraced Deng Tsiaoping when he usurped leadership in China. It is in line with these opportunist positions, it is now upholding China, which has turned into an imperialist country, colluding and contending with US imperialism, as a socialist country.

When CPI(M) is upholding China and Vietnam, two countries faithfully pursuing neo-liberal policies and have integrated to imperialist world system, as socialist, its critic of imperialist globalization sound absurd. Similarly its claims to support Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia like countries taking anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal positions also looks absurd. Its statements about internationalism is also absurd when it is propping up a government within the country which is faithfully pursuing imperialist globalization with maddening pace, working hard to strategically align with US imperialism, throwing away all progressive elements of hitherto foreign policy and which is bullying the neighbouring countries.

The analysis of the international situation presented in DPR is self-contradictory, exposes the bankruptcy of its social democratic line, and fundamentally opposed to the General Line of the ICM put forward under the leadership of Lenin, Stalin and Mao. CPI(M)’s general line with regard to international developments reflects the Kautskian, Krushchovite, Dengist positions, totally alien to Marxism-Leninism.

On Propping Up UPA Govt.

The explanation given for propping up UPA government in the Political Resolution of 18th Congress was enthusiastic, as a positive step forward. But this contradicts with the lack luster way this question is explained away in present DPR. For example the DPR states that four years of UPA government has confirmed that its functioning is bound to create people’s discontent, and that it was known to it at the time of last Congress also. Then why did it support this government whose class character was well known as it claims? Himalayas would not have fallen if it did not support UPA. Either UPA with more numbers than NDA would have been called to form govt., or another election may have taken place. CPI(M)’s self-contradictory position is that though it talks lot about forming a left and democratic front based on policies, right from 1967 elections it has never done so. It has always gone for compromises in policies and opportunist seat adjustments. Even in the latest case of Gujarat elections, when it was explicitly clear that Congress is not ready to fight elections on a secular platform, CPI(M) was satisfied with adjustments with Congress to get one seat to contest. It never even tried to build an anti-imperialist, anti-feudal, anti-communal left and democratic front, however weak it may be.

Was it not its electoral policy right from 1967? In 1967 elections in Kerala and Bengal, it formed opportunist alliances with reactionary communal parties and renegade CPI to defeat Congress, while making opportunist seat adjustments in other states. In 1969 when Congress splitted and Indira Gandhi government lost majority, instead of campaigning for an election on a left democratic platform, it propped up Indira government. In 1971 elections it had again no left democratic alternative at national level. In 1977 elections, because of its policy of scaling down activities to ‘save party during emergency’, it had lost its image, and once again failed to support anti-Congress forces forging a left democratic front. During 1977-80 period same vacillation continued and no left democratic front again. Same was repeated in 1984. In 1989, once again Congress became the main enemy. To defeat it an adjustment was made even with BJP keeping VP Singh’s JD in the middle, providing a new life to BJP to increase its Lok Sabha strength from 2 to 86. In 1991, when the country was in an economic crisis and facing communal onslaught of RSS Parivar, CPI(M) once again failed to forge a countrywide left, democratic, secular front however weak it may be.

In 1991 when Narsimha Rao’s minority Congress government imposed imperialist globalization and later helped the demolition of Babri Masjid, once again an opportunity to form a countrywide front calling for throwing out imperialist globalization, fighting communal fascism went begging. From 1989 there was a shift from Congress as main enemy to BJP as main enemy. Question of independent left assertion was always abandoned. So after 1986 elections, the two UF governments, which were pursuing globalization more speedily, were propped up with Congress support. When these opportunist policies led to six years of BJP rule, CPI(M) was in wilderness, only concentrating to protect governments led by it in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. It never tried to form a left, democratic, secular front with a left democratic platform. Meanwhile it had diluted its opposition to imperialist globalization and had diluted the working class struggles to a mere shadow of the past. In 2004 elections once again it contested elections without forging an all India left, democratic front with a policy perspective. Its own election manifesto and that of Left Front in Bengal and LDF in Kerala did not call for throwing out imperialist globalization. They did not project an independent left platform. Once again it went for seat adjustments with not-BJP parties in other states.

After the 2004 elections which left both UPA and NDA without majority, CPI(M) never went for its independent left assertion. Sometimes it seemed, it was more concerned about somehow or other to form a non-BJP government than even Congress. Question of maintaining left initiative was abandoned. Instead of going for an opportunist Common Minimum Platform, even which is abandoned by the UPA government, it could provide conditional support to it. Or opt for another election going for an all India front based on left, democratic policies. But it opted for supporting the Congress-led UPA government based on the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). But as the DPR admits, after four years of governance the UPA government did not implement the CMP and slow down neo-liberal policies. It went ahead with imperialist globalization at a maddening speed making life miserable for the vast masses. It diluted the foreign policy. It put to shame Vajpayee government in opting for a junior position in the strategic alliance with US imperialism in all fields. Instead of confronting the communalization of RSS Parivar head on, it went for a soft Hindutva line. As a result, BJP and NDA are gaining strength as reflected in the assembly elections to Gujarat and other states.

Still the DPR is claiming: “The 3 year period since the 18th Congress has broadly confirmed this analysis and the correctness of the direction given by the 18th Congress”! It is a shameless self-justification when all the claims about the virtues of supporting the UPA government are shattered. Again how can it be “in the forefront of opposition to the neo-liberal policies sought to be pushed through by the UPA government” when  it is still propping up the very same government, when the state governments led by it are implementing these policies without even a murmur of protest, and when the working class struggles are practically abandoned for this purpose? Even the DPR is forced to admit that consequent to UPA rule, “the growing discontent and economic difficulties of the people” it has created, “the potential exist for the discontent to be chanalised into divisive communal politics.” Then why this opportunist, reactionary, anti-people UPA government is still propped up? The DPR do not give any answer.

What is explained in the DPR about the four years of experience of the UPA government is sufficient to characterise it as more reactionary in its economic and political policies than any previous government. More than dozen pages of explanations about the functioning of UPA government in the DPR is sufficient to prove this. On every count this government led by Congress and propped by CPI(M) is a failure according to the DPR. There is hardly any positive factor of any significance is pointed out. Prices are increasing unprecedentedly, unemployment going up, workers conditions are deteriorating, peasants continue to commit suicide, condition of landless-poor peasants and agricultural workers is becoming miserable, education, heath-care and housing are becoming inaccessible to vast masses and all welfare policies are cut down when UPA government is continuing to shout about 8% GDP growth and when rich is becoming super-rich. Along with this, penetration of imperialism, especially US imperialism is reaching unprecedented levels. When all these are agreed to by the DPR, what is missing in it is the justification to continue to prop up this reactionary government?

The DPR states that: “The 18th Congress had noted that a favourable situation had developed for the party’s expansion after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.” But no explanation of this expansion is given in the DPR. Any cursory glance through last three years’ experience shows that in every field CPI(M) has only met with setbacks except in its old strongholds of Bengal and Kerala where it scored electoral victories. Its strength has gone down or going down in all other states. It faced electoral  reverses practically in all the other states where elections to state assemblies took place in these years, both vote-wise and seat-wise. The strength of its party organization and class/mass organizations also has gone down. Even in Bengal, whatever explanation its leadership may give, after Singur and Nandigram the prestige of CPI(M) has suffered much which will get definitely reflected in coming panchayat elections there. In Kerala, already the LDF ministry led buy it is in crisis with the people’s support to it diminishing.

Third Alternative Again

The DPR states: “The party has spelt out its approach to the forging of the third alternative at the 18th Congress.” What happened to this approach during last three years? The two alternatives, UPA and NDA, are ruling class alternatives. During the last three years CPI(M) has not even made it clear whether it intends to build a third alternative of the ruling class to implement ruling class policies, as it is doing in the states it is in power, or an alternative of left, democratic forces opposed to the ruling class alternatives with a left and democratic policy platform. This central question, in spite of its repetition of “a platform of policies for which the left, democratic and secular forces can work together”, could not be resolved during the last four decades by it, because of the contradiction between what it says and what it practices.

The DPR says: “The party will continue to adopt tactics for isolating and defeating the BJP. It will not enter into any alliance or united front with the Congress”. It means it will go for a possible united front in the model of Kerala, uniting with CPI, Forward Bloc, RSP where they exist and with SP, TDP, NCP, DMK like parties which are nothing but ruling class parties. And as happened in Gujarat, wherever possible it will go for adjustment with Congress in return for a few seats. It is clear that in the name of isolating BJP it shall continue the very same opportunist alliances bereft of any left and democratic policies, as it was doing from 1991.

What should be the Communist Approach to Parliamentary Struggles

As far as the Marxist-Leninists are concerned, whether to participate in the parliamentary struggles where the opportunity for it exists is a problem settled once for all. As Prakash Karat explains in defence of Jyoti Basu, it is also a fact that the state government has limited powers within the Constitution. But the debate around Jyoti Basu’s and Budhadev’s statements arose not on these questions from the left forces, but about their approach towards finding capital for industrialization, on the approach towards capitalism, and on the question whether state governments or local bodies should restrict their activities to provisions of Constitution or they should be utilized as platforms or instruments to develop class struggle as any other forms of struggle. It is quite natural that the practice of the governments led by CPI(M) in the three states and statements of Jyoti Basu and Budhadev have given very good opportunity for the forces of reaction and monopoly media to launch another round of attack on Marxism and socialism. Instead of answering to these attacks, Prakash Karat restricted himself to justify his senior leaders based on provisions of his Party Programme which as amended in 2000 is advocating peaceful completion of People’s Democratic Revolution. The paradox here is: how can one defend Marxism and socialism based on the reformist programme of a social democratic party?

That the self contradictions pointed out in the DPR originates from the present Programme of CPI(M) itself is clear from the following contradictory positions in it: “…. It has  thus fallen on the working class and its party to unite all the progressive forces interested in destroying the pre-capitalist society and to consolidate the revolutionary forces within it so as to facilitate the completion of the democratic revolution and prepare the ground for the  transition to socialism.”  Then “The Communist Party of India (Marxist) strives to achieve the establishment of people’s democracy and socialist transformation through peaceful means.” Can the pre-capitalist society be destroyed through peaceful transition? Though it may look foolish to quote Lenin in a debate with CPI(M) in 2008, since CPI(M) calls itself Marxist-Leninist and since there are many who still believe it as such, we are compelled to quote Lenin to show how the CPI(M) leaders are talking like Kautsky with regard to their approach towards bourgeois democracy. Even though CPI(M) Programme admits that : “Unlike in the advanced capitalist countries where capitalism grew on the ashes of pre-capitalist society, which was destroyed by the rising bourgeoisie, capitalism in India was super-imposed on pre-capitalist society”, the advocacy of CPI(M) leadership for peaceful transition will compel even Kautsky to look askance at them.

On what is State and the limits of bourgeois democracy, Engels wrote: “In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy” (Engels, Introduction to The Civil War in France by Marx). “Universal suffrage is “the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state”. After quoting Engels, Lenin explains the limits of bourgeois democracy even in most democratic capitalist countries as follows: “Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or “equality of all citizen before the law”, and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a “violation of public order”, and actually in case the exploited class “violates” its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner. Kautsky shamelessly embellishes bourgeois democracy and omits to mention, for instance, how the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie in America or Switzerland deal with workers on strike”.

Again explaining how bourgeois democratic institutions function, Lenin explained how they should be used to prepare people for revolution: “Take the bourgeois parliament. Can it be that the learned Kautsky has never heard that the more highly democracy is developed, the more the bourgeois parliaments are subjected by the stock exchange and the bankers? This does not mean that we must not make use of bourgeois parliament, (the Bolsheviks made better use of it than probably any other party in the world, for in 1912-14 we won the entire workers’ curia in the Fourth Duma). But it does mean that only a liberal can forget the historical limitations and conventional nature of the bourgeois parliamentary system as Kautsky does. Even in the most democratic bourgeois state the oppressed people at every step encounter the crying contradiction between the formal equality proclaimed by the “democracy” of the capitalists and the thousands of real limitations and subterfuges which turn the proletarians into wage-slaves. It is precisely this contradiction that is opening the eyes of the people to the rottenness, mendacity and hypocrisy of capitalism. It is this contradiction that the agitators and propagandists of socialism are constantly exposing to the people, in order to prepare them for revolution!”

Jyoti Basu puts to shame even Kautsky when he asks how can socialism be built by the three state governments led by CPI(M). If this is his argument, can socialism be built even if his party leads governments in all the 32 states? Even in a capitalist country with full blown parliamentary democracy Lenin called for destruction of the bourgeois state through a revolution and replacing it with proletarian democratic state (i.e., proletarian dictatorship) without which the socialist transformation cannot be launched. But the problem with CPI(M) leaders is that they want to still argue that even in a country like India where capitalism and bourgeois democracy is super-imposed over a pre-capitalist society, tasks of people’s democratic revolution can be completed and socialist transformation started through peaceful transition, without destroying the existing state.

So they are calling for an anticipatory bail to go on ruling Bengal within the strict limits of Constitution, implementing the ruling class policies till CPI(M) governments are established in all 32 states and at centre! For them utilizing parliamentary struggles, as any other form of struggle, is not for developing class struggle. This was the fundamental point of difference raised by Communist Revolutionary forces within CPI(M) in 1967. CPI(M) then and now talks only about implementing land reforms and all other policies within the frame of Constitution of the big bourgeois-big landlord state, it never talks about utilizing the state governments as a platform of struggle to transcend the Constitution, which will invariably lead to confrontation with the state. Thus the three state governments instead of providing opportunity to enthuse the people of the whole country towards revolutionary upsurge, they become a fetter, become reactionary instruments to perpetuate Singur and Nandigram, to become ‘more royal than the king’ to implement the ruling class policies. This is exactly the point of debate, Mr. Jyoti Basu and Prakash Karat. Regarding how to find capital for industrialization, and where Marxist-Leninists basically differs from them is analysed by P.J. James in the accompanying article.

On the Question of Building Capitalism

Even the CPI(M) Programme for names sake admits that the people’s democratic revolution in India is a new type of democratic revolution, which differs from bourgeois democratic revolution. In capitalist countries capitalism and bourgeois democracy came up destroying pre-capitalist relations through a bourgeois democratic revolution. But as capitalism turned into monopoly capitalism, imperialism, and imperialist powers divided the remaining countries among themselves, they destroyed the nascent national bourgeoisie and brought up a subservient or comprador bourgeoisie to serve their colonial, semi-colonial set ups. As Lenin very well analysed and as proved repeatedly, this bourgeoisie in the colonial, semi-colonial, dependent countries were incapable of or not interested in leading democratic revolutions in their countries. That is why Lenin pointed out that the democratic revolutions in these countries should be led by the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry aroused through agrarian revolution, establishing a people’s democratic dictatorship, which shall pave the ground for socialist revolution. As CPI(M) Programme also admits it is a new type of democratic revolution, which Mao called New Democratic Revolution.

Lenin explained and later Communist International endorsed that between peoples democratic revolution that overthrow the rule of imperialism, big bourgeoisie that serve imperialism and landlordism and thereby complete anti-imperialist, anti-feudal tasks, and socialist revolution which initiates socialist construction and transition to communism there is no China Wall dividing them. One leads to the other, as both are led by the proletariat. Contrary to what Krushchovites and Dengists advocated earlier and Jyoti Basu is repeating, there is no period of building capitalism anywhere in between as far as the proletariat leading these revolutions are concerned. They persist in a non-capitalist path of development guided by Marxist-Leninist principles.

The present Chinese leadership in their 17th Congress report calls for another 100 years of capitalist construction, not contended with the capitalist path they are pursuing so far after the Dengists usurping power, because they are capitalist roaders, who have thrown away all basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism. When M/s Jyoti Basu & Company quotes present CPC leadership as their authority, they are exposing their real line, the capitalist line diametrically opposed to socialist path. In the ICM the struggle against this basic deviation started first when Tito embraced the path of collaboration with imperialist powers and was expelled from Cominform in 1948 and later when Krushchov came forward with this line in the 22nd Congress of CPSU. After completing the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal tasks of democratic revolution, whether the path of socialist transition or capitalist path should be taken was the bitter struggle between Mao and capitalist roaders in China from the time of the eighth Congress of the CPC in  1956. The rubbish, that first capitalism should be built before advancing to socialism repeated by  Jyoti Basu & Co. is nothing but the reactionary line of the renegades starting from the time of Kautsky. This line is fundamentally opposed to Marxism-Leninism and the teachings of Communist International.

Marxism is not a dogma and it should be developed according to developments in the concrete conditions as Lenin did. Similarly Marxists do not take the socialist construction and transformation practiced in Soviet Union, China and in other erstwhile socialist countries as the last word. As Mao pointed out there were serious weaknesses in socialist construction in Soviet Union which made emergence of Krushchovites possible. In spite of efforts to rectify these mistakes new ones cropped in the course of fierce class struggle continuing within CPC leading to usurpation of power by the Dengists. While those pursuing the Marxist-Leninist principles are trying to learn from these shortcomings, and trying to advance by applying these principles according to the concrete conditions of today, M/s Jyoti Basu & Company are abandoning these very principles themselves, revising Marxism and falling in line behind the bureaucratic bourgeoisie in China who have turned it into an imperialist country under the banner of ‘market socialism’.

Like Singur and Nandigram, the utterances of Jyoti Basu & company are absolutely negative examples which the forces of  right reaction are utilizing to attack Marxism with renewed vigour, repeating what was done internationally when Soviet Union disintegrated. So to defend Marxism today calls for ruthless exposure of these renegades who have betrayed Marxism, who calls themselves CPI(M) while practicing the capitalist path. Defending Marxism today calls for uncompromisingly struggling against both CPI(M) like social democrats and the ‘left’ sectarian anarchists and uniting all genuine Marxist-Leninists in to a single communist party capable of leading the struggle for People’s Democracy and socialism forward. .


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