India: CPI (ML)'s Kolkata Congress: People's Resistance, Left Resurgence

January 7, 2008 -- The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)] has been held successfully in Kolkata. Held in the 150th anniversary of the First Indian War of Independence and the birth centenary of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, the 8th Congress boldly underlined the glorious anti-imperialist legacy of the Indian people.

On the morning of December 10, a delegation of Congress delegates and guests from abroad went to Barrackpore to pay homage to the memorial of Mangal Pandey, the first martyr of 1857, and then returned to Kolkata to garland the statue of Bhagat Singh, whom the Congress recognised not only as rashtra nayak (national hero), the ever-inspiring national hero of the Indian people but also as a great communist pioneer. And then on the eve of the Congress, delegates and guests all assembled in a mass convention that denounced imperialism as a “war on freedom, democracy and development”, and resolved to resist imperialism in every sphere of life.

Attended by more than 1200 delegates, observers and guests, the 8th Congress was much bigger in scale than all the previous congresses of the party, four of which had to be held in extremely challenging underground conditions. Apart from discussing and adopting the Political-Organisational Report placed by the outgoing Central Committee, the Congress also adopted three specific resolutions dealing with the current international situation, developing national situation and the raging agrarian crisis. The Congress also updated the party’s General Programme as well as the Agrarian Programme after 15 and 25 years respectively and thus enriched the Party’s strategic understanding regarding the Indian society and the ongoing pattern of narrow and predatory capitalist development overshadowed by both stubborn feudal remnants and imperialist dictates and interests.

Several key themes have emerged from the Congress deliberations. In order that the CPI (ML) can intervene more powerfully in the deepening agrarian crisis it was resolved that the party must now pay more attention to the peasant front alongside the core revolutionary agenda of mobilising the rural poor in militant struggles. If neoliberalism is wreaking havoc in the countryside, impoverishing and expropriating sizeable sections of the peasantry and pushing people to suicides and starvation deaths, revolutionary communists must organise and lead a powerful counter-offensive by these victims of neoliberalism. Signs of a massive rural unrest are already visible in almost every corner of the country and the 8th Congress of the CPI (ML) has called upon the entire party to prepare in every way for the impending storm of people’s resistance.

The Congress also discussed other major aspects of the current situation – large-scale destruction of jobs and livelihood in urban India, the growing shadow of US imperialism on India’s foreign policy and the systematic assault on democracy by every organ of the Indian state. The closure of old labour-intensive industries, the growing corporate takeover of the entire service sector, and commercialisation and privatisation of key sectors like education and health have pushed large sections of the urban population into a life of growing hardship and insecurity.

And as real life becomes more miserable and insecure for more and more people across the country, the ruling elite keeps selling the ‘dream’ of turning India into a US-sponsored regional power riding high on nuclear energy and a soaring Sensex! The more the people are deprived of their basic democratic rights and divorced from resources that belonged and must belong to them, the louder gets the rhetoric of democracy and empowerment!

Such a situation definitely calls for a powerful left and democratic movement in defence of land and livelihood, liberty and dignity – individual as well as national. But the growing derailment and degeneration of the CPI (M)-led government in West Bengal, especially the arrogance and audacity with which the CPI (M) leadership have sought to justify their policies and conduct regarding Singur and Nandigram have tarnished the image of the left and may push the democratic forces away unless there is a resurgence of the real left.

The successful conclusion of the Kolkata Congress and the massive turnout at the December 18 rally has sent out that message of left resurgence at a most appropriate juncture. The Congress did not merely symbolise ideological, political and organisational consolidation of the CPI (ML), it held out the promise of a resurgent Left forging closer ties with broader democratic forces to save India from becoming a neoliberal laboratory and a strategic pawn of Washington.

8th Congress concludes with massive rally

The 8th Party Congress culminated in a massive all-India rally for ‘People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence’ at Shahid Minar in Kolkata on December 18, on the anniversary of the death of former party general secretary Comrade Vinod Mishra. The rally had the main slogan of ‘Land, Livelihood, Democracy and Dignity’. The rally was addressed by the CPI (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, West Bengal State Secretary Kartick Pal, Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) General Secretary Madhav Nepal, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh Saiful Huq, Assistant National Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) of Australia Sue Bolton, Subba Singh, leader of the Punjab Kisan Union, Kanwalpreet Pannu, leader of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Punjab, as well as Medha Thatte from the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist).

The rally called to mind the historic significance of Shahid Minar, the site of the birth of the CPI (ML). Many veterans of the Naxalbari movement of the 1970s – both from West Bengal as well as from other states made it a point to attend the rally, full of a sense of the long and arduous journey that CPI (ML) had made since 1969.

The massive turnout from all over the country at the rally was all the more remarkable because 1144 party leaders right down to district committee leaders had been delegates at Kolkata, and so the mobilisation reflected the spontaneous enthusiasm of the masses as well as the determination of grassroots activists to meet the challenge.

The Shahid Minar grounds were overflowing and the red wave spilled over onto nearby grounds and streets. The mood as the final slogans were raised was one of great determination, great resolve to meet the challenge of making CPI (ML) grow ever larger, ever stronger, so that it can emerge capable of giving revolutionary direction and leadership to the left movement in India.