April 22, 2008 marks the thirty-ninth anniversary of the foundation of CPI(ML). On this occasion, the Central Committee extends warm greetings to the Indian people and rededicates itself to the great revolutionary cause of a truly free and democratic people’s India for which countless communists and patriotic and progressive Indians have laid down their lives. The CC also takes this opportunity to greet the international communist and anti-imperialist movement and wish it bigger victories in the battle for national liberation, democracy and socialism.
The Eighth Congress of the Party has energised and inspired the entire organisation with a renewed sense of unity, strength and confidence. During the interregnum between the Seventh Congress (Patna, November 2002) and the Eighth Congress (Kolkata, December 2007), we had recorded a significant increase in our membership and also expansion of our work to newer areas. However, in terms of our electoral performance we are yet to make any major headway and in some of our old areas of work we have in fact suffered a certain decline. Against this backdrop, the Eighth Congress set the following three urgent objectives before all of us: (i) bringing the entire Party right down to every branch and the entire network of mass organizations into full play, (ii) unleashing bold political initiatives by taking up the tasks of propaganda, agitation and organization as an integral whole, (iii) overcoming the demoralizing discourse of decline, despondency and disintegration to march ahead in bold steps without giving an inch to liquidationist, factionalist and federalist tendencies. This call of the Eighth Congress holds the key to the next phase of our advance.
The Eighth Congress was held on the basis of more than 110,000 members. In most states and districts, the work of renewal of membership has already been completed. With proper attention paid to the task of recruiting fresh candidate members, and training and transforming them into full membership, we can reasonably look forward to a consolidated Party membership of 1,25,000 by the end of 2008.
What is remarkable is that the job of renewal of membership has been accomplished in the midst of all-round mass initiatives. In January and February, major mobilizations were seen in Giridih district of Jharkhand and Siwan district of Bihar, where many of our well-known leaders and promising activists laid down their lives in the course of advancing the revolutionary movement of the people. On March 18, which is observed in Bihar as “Sampoorn Kranti Divas” – the historic 1974 movement against autocracy had been launched on March 18, 1974 – Bihar State Committee of the Party organized an impressive “Pol Khol, Halla Bol” rally in Patna exposing the growing failure and betrayal of the Nitish Kumar regime in the state. Tamil Nadu State Committee is also gearing up for a state-level demonstration in Chennai to corner the DMK government over all its unfulfilled election promises especially on the issue of cultivable and homestead land. In Jharkhand, preparations are on for a “Hisab Do, Jawab Do” rally in Ranchi which will mark the culmination of a statewide campaign against the UPA-led reign of loot and repression in the state.
What lessons do we learn from this hectic pace of activities? That the masses are angry with sundry governments and their policies is surely no new revelation for us. The point is: do we have the sensitivity, initiative and organization to rouse and mobilize the masses in a sustained manner? Often we attribute our own hesitation and fatigue to the masses, but our own experience in recent months clearly shows that it is possible to respond simultaneously to a whole set of challenges if Party committees on different levels are sufficiently motivated and prepared. We must thoroughly grasp this lesson and constantly raise the level of our motivation and organizational preparation to take up the challenges that lie ahead.
In recent years we have spread our work to many new states and districts. Party work and organization in these new areas must now be developed in a planned and systematic manner so that we can strike stronger roots in these new areas. The CC has decided to form two new zones – one comprising Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh and the other combining Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – to promote more coordinated and balanced development of work in these strategically important regions.
The Indian ruling classes and imperialist agencies clearly see these states as a special zone to be plundered at will. Politically, most of these states are dominated by the BJP or the Congress without any significant presence of a third force. Major regional forces operating in these states have become camp-followers of either the BJP or the Congress. The democratic space is further threatened by the growing tentacles of state repression. In the name of tackling terrorism and Maoism, the ruling classes have come up with draconian laws and a thoroughly arbitrary and brutal model of governance. The so-called Maoists who have suffered major setbacks in most of their original areas of operation seem to have chosen Chhattisgarh and Orissa as their new laboratory for carrying out sensational armed activities from time to time. It is therefore important for the CPI(ML) to expand its work and organization in these states and advance the agenda of revolutionary democracy in the face of all these challenges.
When we talk of expanding the Party’s work, we do not however mean expansion to new states and districts alone. Even in areas of intensive Party work, there is ample scope for expansion. Even in a district like Bhojpur where we have more than 10,000 Party members we are yet to cover all the blocks and Assembly segments. Also, expansion should not be understood merely in the sense of geographical expansion. Even in our most intensive areas of work, there are still hundreds of agricultural labourers and other members of the rural poor who remain outside of the Party’s organization and influence. And we all know that our reach among middle sections is quite limited in most areas. In areas of intensive work we must be able to combine the two tasks of deepening our work among the rural and industrial proletariat and winning over the middle sections in larger numbers.
In several areas of intensive work, we have long had to contend with powerful local obstacles that at times even threatened to trap us in a war of attrition. In Bhojpur and adjoining districts of south Bihar, for example, the state sponsored the Ranvir Sena to massacre our supporters. In Siwan, we had to face the reign of terror of a mafia don masquerading as an ‘elected people’s representative’ with the backing of the administration. In the hill districts of Assam, we had to face the terror of militant outfits and also a vertical split in the overall network of the organization and the Autonomous State movement. In Bihar and Jharkhand we also had to cope with armed attacks by self-styled Maoist squads that claimed the lives of many of our important leaders and activists.
Had we followed a one-sided policy of dealing with these challenges, we could have easily suffered a major derailment. Wiser from the experience of the setback suffered in the 1970s, the Party adopted a comprehensive strategy of resistance that enabled us to minimize our losses, retain our live political and organizational contact with the masses and continue with our political assertion even as we had to fight a bitter battle to save the organization and repulse the enemy offensive. Our anarchist friends often ridiculed us, accused us of having given up the battle and held us responsible for the rise of all these state-backed enemies of the people; but we stuck to our job and now in most of these areas we are in a position to expand and unleash bigger mass political initiatives. Shahabuddin and Ranvir Sena have now been pushed back – if not rendered completely irrelevant, they surely find themselves overtaken by the turn of events. And our policy of overcoming these obstacles through a protracted political battle stands vindicated.
The ruling classes have changed their discourse in Bihar. The rhetoric of social justice and secularism has given way to World Bank-inspired phrases like ‘good governance’ and ‘development’. But the ground reality of Bihar continues to be too ‘raw’ for such empty rhetoric to flourish, and mass disillusionment has already begun to set in. To unleash our full initiative we must fully grasp the various dimensions of the new discourse and the new situation. The March 18 rally has marked a good beginning and we must now intensify the campaign in a systematic manner.
In the hill districts of Assam we have broadened the scope of our practice by paying greater attention to the task of organizing the toiling rural masses in their class organization. But to regain our lost initiative and strength we must also revive the struggle for autonomy. The movement for an Autonomous State, as promised under Article 244 A, has been going on for two decades. But successive central governments have refused to grant this basic demand even as new states have been carved out by amending the Constitution. With the Gorkhaland movement acquiring renewed momentum in the hill areas of West Bengal and the issue of creation of new states like Telengana, Vidarbha and Bundelkhand gaining political prominence, it is time to revive the autonomy movement in the hills of Assam.
Even as several states are awaiting Assembly elections in the coming months, the stage has also been set for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, no matter whether they are held towards the end of 2008 or in early 2009. As far as the masses are concerned, the elections should serve as an excellent opportunity for giving a fitting rebuff to the Congress for cheating the aam aadmi while working overtime for the Ambanis and America. With the masses disillusioned with the UPA and the BJP facing serious challenges in its own strongholds, we should make every effort to strengthen our performance in the coming electoral battles.
This April 22, let the entire Party rededicate itself to the tasks prioritized by the Eighth Congress.