Communist World News

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) congress update, Karat: ‘towards 21st century socialism’

In Asia on April 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm

India — General secretary Prakash Karat is set to be re-elected for a third term at the congress which enters the third day. At the same time the congress will adopt an amendment limiting the number of times the general secretary can be re-elected to three terms. “We feel,” said Karat, “that there must be some institutionalised basis for bringing change and renewal in all levels of our party. So both continuity and change is needed. Nearly a decade of being in one responsibility — three terms is almost a decade — will ensure a degree of continuity and change is also required.”

On the second day of the CPM congress — which is attended by as many as 734 delegates, 70 observers and 11 senior party leaders — Karat has argued for the modernisation of socialism by discarding components of twenty-century socialism that are no longer relevant in contemporary society. Earlier he argued for a twenty-first century approach to socialism. According to Karat “socialism of 21st century cannot be socialism of the 20th century.” He also stressed the importance of learning from past mistakes. “What we have learnt from the socialism of 20th century is to carry forward, take up what is valuable and what is essential and discard the errors and some compulsions of that situation which led to certain practices of building socialism which we cannot carry forward,” he said.

According to Karat socialisation of the means of production, social ownership, should not be equated with state ownership. He also said that the Marxists today recognise that the market has a role to play even in the socialist system. The Soviet model of centralised planning had to be replaced by a decentralised planning process, he said.

“No socialist country had the luxury of developing democracy free from subversion by imperialism. The lack of development of socialist democracy in the existing socialist countries is something we have to learn from,” he assessed. According to Karat democratic centralism should not be applied to all of society, but only within the party. He argued that a clear demarcation is needed between the party and state in a socialist arrangement. “The principle of democratic centralism cannot be applied on the entire people,” he concluded.

Karat said that after two decades of the fall of the Soviet Union, it was now recognized all over the world that the finance-driven capitalism was unsustainable. Today the world was talking about the future of capitalism, and despite knowledgeable progress, nearly two billion people suffered from multi-dimensional poverty, he said.

According to Karat “the CPM had always believed in applying Marxism-Leninism to concrete Indian conditions to chalk out its revolutionary path.” The party constantly updated its ideological understanding and equipped itself to meet contemporary challenges, he argued. In practice this meant that the CPM adopted an often opportunistic approach. When in power, the CPM applied market oriented reforms throughout. As a result of this opportunistic and anti-worker approach, the support base for the CPM has dwindled as evidenced by the electoral losses in Keral, West Bengal, and the 2009 Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament of India) elections. On top of this all, this March, they couldn’t win a single hypothetical seat  in the Assembly polls. The CPM report on this ascribes their failure to arrogance of local party leaders and administrative failures. The report says bourgeois influence was strong within the organisation and that the party should be extremely alert about such tendencies.

Karat furthermore called for a strong left unity, and left democracy to counter the power of the current centre-left United Progressive Alliance government. The CPM would take up joint agitations with democratic and secular parties on people’s issues, federal issues and for upholding secularism, he added.

On the growing income inequality (which CPM in certain ways facilitated), Karat commented “While India has produced some of the richest people in the world, vast millions are still deprived of basic necessities of life.”

Karat reaffirmed the role of the working class as the motor for revolutionary change. He argued this while saying the working class has often relocated from the West to countries like China.

Meanwhile CPM delegates from West Bengal criticised the central leadership for blocking the US-Indian nuclear deal by the UPA government. According to this paved the way for the Congress-Trinamool tie-up that proved to be disastrous for the party in its citadel. Karat admitted that the time of the decision was inaccurate, but argued the decision was not.

It is hoped that the congress will redirect the CPM towards a revolutionary socialist path.

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