Speech of CPI(M) General Secretary, Prakash Karat
At the Inaugural Session
Of the Extended Meeting of the Central Committee
August 07, 2010
We have gathered here in the city of Vijayawada for the extended meeting of the Central Committee of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Vijayawada has a special place in the history of the Communist movement of our country. The city has hosted two Party Congresses – the 6th Congress in 1961 which was the last Party Congress of the united party and the 11th Congress of the CPI (M) in 1982.
These were in recognition of the city and the region, which became a centre of the Communist movement which had its origin in the late 1930s. Vijayawada was the focal centre of an area which covered the old Krishna, Guntur and Nellore districts of the Madras province which saw the birth of the Communist movement in Andhra Pradesh. Various struggles against zamindari landlordism took place here in the 1936-38 period such as the struggles against the Challapalli, Munagala and Kalipatnam zamindars. `Bezwada’, as Vijayawada was known in the pre-independence days, was also saw the fledgling working class movement with railway workers, press workers and others forming trade unions. The earliest agricultural workers organizations were also formed in this region. P. Sundarayya set-up the first Agricultural Workers Association in 1934 in Alaganipadu village in Nellore district.
During the Telangana struggle and the repression launched on the Communist Party in the 1948-50 period, scores of Communist leaders and cadres were shot down by the police in this region. Some of the topmost national leaders of the Communist movement and the CPI(M) hailed from this region – P. Sundarayya, M. Basavapunnaiah, C. Rajeswara Rao, N. Prasada Rao, M. Hanumantha Rao, L. B. Gangadhara Rao, Koratala Satyanarayana and many others.
The Central Committee of the CPI(M) has convened this extended meeting to take stock of the political situation in the country and to chalk out a political line which can help us to tackle the current situation and meet the various challenges that we are facing.
Ever rising prices of food and essential commodities burden the people; millions of people go hungry everyday. The inequalities in income and wealth grow sharper and India has the dubious distinction of having some of richest people in the world along with a substantial number of the poorest people in the world.
The Congress-led UPA government boasts about the high growth rate achieved. The GDP growth rate is taken as the reliable index of progress and development for the people. But this is not true. What the neo-liberal policies have led to is the primitive accumulation of capital, the enormous growth of the capital and assets in the hands of a narrow strata. The number of dollar billionaires in India has grown from 9 in 2004 to 49 this year. There has been growth, certainly – for the super-rich.
The government’s policies are designed to help big business make super profits and to enable the transfer of resources to the rich and powerful. The fiscal and taxation policies of the Congress-led government illustrate this fact starkly.
The UPA-II government in the past one and a quarter years since coming to office is pushing for more neo-liberal policies. The government wants to disinvest shares in all profitable public sector units. Earlier, the Left parties had ensured that shares would not be sold of the `navaratna’ companies. Now everything is up for sale.
Agriculture, which employs half the workforce in the country, is in crisis. Agriculture grew by only 0.2 per cent in 2009-10. Foodgrains’ production fell by 7.5 per cent the same year. Suicides by farmers have not abated. Land reforms are being reversed. In agriculture, corporatisation is being promoted alongside the withdrawal of State support for the peasantry.
The government proposes to bring in multinational companies into retail trade. The government seeks to push through legislation to FDI in banking and insurance sectors. The working class is under increased attack with labour laws not being implemented and more and more sections being pushed into contract, casual work and into jobs in the informal sector.
The agenda for all these anti-people policies is being propelled by the Indo-US CEO Forum. What the chieftains of big business in US and India proposes, the Manmohan Singh government accepts and implements.
How the government policy is injurious for the people’s interests is glaringly illustrated by the relentless price rise of food and other essential commodities. Government policies are directly responsible for the ever-rising prices. Repeated increases in the prices of petroleum products is one major reason. Forward trading in foodgrains and other essential commodities is another major factor. The government has weakened and curtailed the Public Distribution System through a targeted system which excludes much of the poor. Yet, the government callously and arrogantly refuses to take responsibility.
The Congress leadership and the government speak hypocritically about “inclusive growth” when the policies they pursue are designed to exclude the vast majority of the people from access to food, education, jobs and social security. India presents the shameful spectatcle of having the world’s largest number of hungry and malnutritioned people. The FCI godowns have 60 million tonnes of foodgrains. Stocks are overflowing and allowed to rot. This government no more talks about provision of 6 per cent of the GDP for education and 3 per cent for health. This goal cited in the erstwhile Common Minimum Programme seems more distant than ever.
The forces of majority communalism work on the basis of the Hindutva ideology and outlook which is injurious for the country and people’s unity. The BJP-run state governments – whether it be in Gujarat, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh – are targeting the minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and seek to deprive them of their rights as citizens. The recent exposures of how the police and State machinery in Gujarat have been used to cover-up the pogroms and stage encounter killings are a chilling reminder of what is in store for the country if such forces come to power.
We are meeting at a time when some parts of the country are in great turmoil. For the past two months, the Kashmir valley has been convulsed by protests and violence. Distressingly, scores of young men and women have died due to police firing and actions. This has brought out the intensity of alienation among the young people against the Indian State in the valley. There has to be a stop to this endless cycle of confrontations and killings. The Central government has to immediately initiate the process of dialogue with all sections in the valley. A solution can be found only if there is recognition that the problem of Kashmir cannot be resolved through conventional means. The people of Kashmir have to be assured that their identity and special status is expressed through a new political framework in which maximum autonomy is the bedrock.
At the other end of the country, in the North East, we have seen the ill-effects of the continuous blockade of the highways to Manipur. Even now essential drugs and commodities are not available for the people who are suffering great hardships. The problems of national unity cannot be solved by the overcentralised approach of the ruling class parties. What is required is the creation of a federal system which accommodates the diverse aspirations of the people of the various regions and nationalities.
The neo-liberal policies are not only affecting the economic sphere. This is an outlook and philosophy which worships the market and promotes greed and rapacity. Every institution of the State and every pore of our society is getting polluted and corrupted. The nexus between big business and politics is now out in the open. Public policy making is suborned to serve the interests of a rich and powerful strata. The mining mafia of the Bellary brothers dictates politics in the BJP-ruled Karnataka and also commands influence in the politics of our host state, Andhra Pradesh. Whether it is the IPL or the telecom scam, there is no line demarcating public policy and personal enrichment. Corruption, through the siphoning off of the public funds, preys on the common people who find their rations and other entitlements vanishing into the pockets of a corrupt and greedy nexus of bureaucrats-politicians-contractors. The corporate media has become the cheer leader for neo-liberal policies.
Such an atmosphere has begun to corrode the parliamentary democratic system itself. The people’s right to assemble, to organize and to protest is being severely restricted by administrative and judicial actions. Trade unions are not allowed to function in Special Economic Zones and many other enterprises; peasants face police repression if they protests against the lands being taken away; and student unions and organizations are banned in many educational institutions.
This is the path the ruling classes have adopted which is in alignment with their alliance with the United States of America. For the Manmohan Singh government (and earlier, the BJP-led government too), there are two essential friends for India – the USA and Israel. There are no second thoughts on compromising national sovereignty and even the lives and safety of the people in order to fructify this alliance. As part of the commitment made in the Indo-US nuclear deal, the government has brought a legislation in Parliament which embodies this subservience. After the worst industrial accident in the history of the world in Bhopal, in which the victims got no justice and the perpetrator of the crime – the American multinational – was let off, the government now proposes a law which will make any American company which supplies nuclear reactors to India not liable for even one rupee if there is a nuclear accident.
The firm stand adopted by the CPI(M) and its consistent opposition to the neo-liberal policies and the strategic tie-up with US imperialism have drawn the ire of the ruling classes and imperialism. That attack is concentrated on the CPI(M) and the Left Front government of West Bengal. For the rightwing forces, for those who draw their sustenance from imperialism and for the corporate media, the bloody violence against the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal is of no concern. More than 250 members and the supporters of the CPI(M) have been killed by the TMC-Maoist gangs. The TMC is part of the Central government. Such violence and attacks on democratic rights in West Bengal presage an authoritarian trend which bodes ill for the whole country.
The Maoists have exposed their vicious and anti-democratic character through their murderous spree targeting the CPI(M). They do not stop at this but attack innocent people, as seen in the dastardly Gnaneswari Express sabotage. Such actions should dispel the illusion some sections of the intelligentsia have about the Maoists.
The three Left-led governments of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura have always striven to put in place pro-people policies. It is these three governments which have implemented land reform to the maximum in the country. It is these three governments which have sought to expand the areas of relief and welfare for the unemployed and the poor. All three governments have introduced urban employment guarantee schemes within the constraints of resources. It is these three governments which have adhered firmly to the secular principle and given no quarter to the communal forces. The defence of the Left-led governments is an important task for all the Left and democratic forces in the country.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M) suffered reverses in both West Bengal and Kerala. Our Party has carefully looked into why this has happened and identified the steps to be taken to remedy the situation. We should do our utmost so that the people of West Bengal and Kerala renew their faith in the Party and the Left-led alliances there.
In the present dismal scene in the country, only the CPI(M) and the Left present a real alternative – an alternative in terms of the path of development and in terms of policies.
On the economic front, the first and foremost task is to tackle the agrarian crisis. Instead of moving towards corporatisation of agriculture, the farmers are to be assured of inputs at reasonable prices, so that agriculture can be sustainable. The goal of ensuring food security requires that farmers be given sufficient incentives to produce more.
There has to be a universal Public Distribution System with adequate procurement to ensure that hunger and malnutrition are eliminated. The public sector should play a key role in the strategic sectors of the economy including the financial sector. Labour intensive industries should be encouraged, so that more employment is created.
Speculative capital flows must be regulated and profits from such foreign institutional investment taxed. Steps should be taken to recover the illegal money kept in tax havens and secret bank accounts. The corporates and the affluent should pay more taxes.
It is with the increased tax revenues that there can be increased public expenditure on education, health and social welfare.
The Left stands for firm adherence to secularism. This requires that the governments, both at the Central and state level, make no concessions to the communal forces. Terrorist violence emanating from whichever source should be put down firmly.
The Left stands for an end to caste and gender oppression. At present, the priority should be for the passing of the Bill for women’s reservation in the Lok Sabha; the implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report for reservation for the minorities in education and jobs and stringent steps to end all forms of caste discrimination particularly untouchability. The rights of the tribal people over their own lands must be ensured by the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and protection of their rights by stopping large-scale, indiscriminate and illegal mining. The scourge of corruption in public life and in State institutions must be tackled by starting at the top.
India, as a major developing country, has to play an important role in countering hegemonic designs and promoting multipolarity in the world. This would be possible only if there is a genuinely independent foreign policy. India should not have military alliances with powers which are responsible for aggression and occupation around the world. On global warming and the steps to protect the world environment, India has to take a firm stand to ensure that the advanced countries discharge their responsibilities to cut emissions and to help the developing countries adopt environmental friendly technologies.
This is the charter for political and social change in India which the CPI(M) and the Left advocates. The extended meeting of the Central Committee being held in Vijayawada will discuss how to carry forward such a programme by strengthening Left unity and widening the support for the Left and democratic alternative.