A Congress of Great Resolve for a Big Push Forward

The CPI(ML)’s 8th Congress at Kolkata, the biggest ever yet, sent out a powerful and timely message of Left resurgence against a raging agrarian crisis and the ruling class surrender to imperialism both in matters of economic and foreign policies.

As the dates for the Party Congress drew near, Kolkata streets were decorated with colourful banners, hoardings and festoons declaring resistance to US imperialist offensive against India’s freedom, and calling for all revolutionary communists to unite and oppose CPI(M)’s betrayal of the Left movement. From 1-9 December, cultural activists from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal campaigned intensively all over the city. There was a fresh mood and enthusiasm among the ranks of the Left and intelligentsia of the city. On December 3, a week before the opening of the 8th Congress, the CPI(ML) organised a Seminar at the University Institute on the ‘West Bengal Situation and the Role of the Left’. This was addressed by Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI(ML), Manoj Bhattacharya, ex-MP of the RSP, Debabrata Rai, Student leader and State Committee Member of the Forward Bloc, Atanu Mukherjee, State Committee Member of the SUCI, Sujato Bhadra of the APDR, renowned Professor and writer Tarun Sanyal, Naba Dutta, Convenor, Nagarik Mancha, and Pachu Ray, freelance columnist. While Dipankar Bhattacharya stressed that W Bengal needed a radical realignment of Left forces and an alternative Left Front, the representative from Forward Bloc too said the time had come for genuine Left forces to snatch the red flag from the hands of the CPI(M).

Opening Day: Resolving to Resist Anti-Imperialism

On December 10, 2007, the opening day of the Party Congress, with party leaders and guests Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Britain and Australia paying floral tributes at the statue of Mangal Pandey at Barrackpore, the historic site where the first spark of the 1857 war of independence was lit, and also at the statue of Bhagat Singh in Kolkata. These tributes to the martyrs of the great anti-colonial struggles were followed by a mass Convention on ‘Imperialism: War on Freedom, Democracy and Development’ at Mahendra Singh Hall (Mahajati Sadan) in Kolkata. The Convention began with inspiring speeches by noted theatre-person Bibhas Chakravarty and poet Nabarun Bhattacharya (see box for text of speech). These speakers as well as noted economist Prof. Amit Bhaduri who came from Delhi to attend the Convention expressed the hope that the CPI(ML) would hold high the legacy of the genuine Left movement. Prof. Amit Bhaduri described SEZs and corporate land grab as a process of internal colonisation, and said the struggle against this process was also a defence of our national sovereignty. Arundhati Roy remarked that the struggle against imperialism was no longer a straightforward one against colonial rule; the most successful secession movement has been the secession of the rich. She said that for movements to hope for justice from institutions like the courts or the media is entirely misplaced. She ended by saying that instead of exhorting people to ‘keep the faith’ in such institutions, she would say we need to ‘break the faith’.

Tint Shwe, exiled Member of Parliament from Burma and pro-democracy activist, movingly described the Burmese people’s long struggle for democracy and called upon Indian people to support that struggle by telling Indian governments to stop aiding the repressive Burmese junta. Amrit Wilson of the South Asia Solidarity Group of Great Britain shared experiences of campaigns against war, racism and the violations of human rights in the name of the ‘war on terror’. In his address to the Convention, Dipankar Bhattacharya stressed the CPI(ML)’s resolve to unite with the widest possible democratic sections and all those genuinely concerned about the future of the Left, in order to ensure the resurgence of the Left both within W Bengal and nationally. (Text of speech in box)

Inaugural Session

On the morrow of the highly successful convention, the delegate session started in the same Mahendra Singh Hall. The dais was named after Comrades Manju martyred at the hands of the Ranveer sena and Ajanta Lohit and Jita Kaur both of whom died of cancer not long ago. At the entrance was an imposing gate erected in memory of martyred Comrade Langtuk Phangcho; in other parts of the city, too, there were gates erected in memory of Comrades Arijit Mitra and Baren Bhattacharya, both members of the West Bengal State Committee who passed away. Veteran party leader and PB member Ram Naresh Ram hoisted the red flag outside the hall while the General Secretary and other Party leaders representing different states, mass organisations, departments etc as well as guests placed floral wreaths at the martyrs' column. The indoor session began with the presentation of the "Internationale" in an exquisite ballet form.

After the formation of an 11-member presidium headed by PB member Ram Jatan Sharma, delegates from fraternal parties and other guests greeted the house with brief, warm speeches.

At the outset of the delegate session, the Congress adopted a Condolence Resolution paying tribute to all the comrades who have been martyred or who have passed away since the last Party Congress, and observed a minute’s silence in their memory. The Congress passed a resolution emphasising the relevance of the legacy of Bhagat Singh and 1857 for anti-imperialist resistance today.

Deliberations on Draft Documents in Delegate Session

The draft documents had already been circulated earlier and many comrades had submitted written amendments and suggestions prior to the Congress. In the house, 118 delegate comrades in all spoke during the deliberations, while many others submitted written suggestions and responses.

Comrade Arindam Sen on behalf of the outgoing central committee presented the draft resolution on International Situation (already published in this magazine). The resolution identified the US drive for hegemony, and the growing challenge to this drive for a unipolar world. Identifying the multiple streams of struggle against imperialism and its allies, the resolution noted the conditions for resurgence of the international communist movement. With this long-term goal, the resolution took up the task of expanding and consolidating the links we have forged with a range of significant anti-imperialist movements – against racism, war, and occupation -- as well as different communist currents, across the world.

13 delegates participated in the deliberations on this document. Much of the discussion concerned recent developments in Nepal and Venezuela and the Chinese question. Events in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Palestine etc and the question of principal contradiction in the contemporary world also came up for discussion. The discussion was summed up by Comrades Arindam and Dipankar and the resolution was adopted unanimously.

On 12 December the GS placed the draft Resolution on National Situation (already published) before the house. The resolution noted the main features of the agrarian crisis, rural unrest, and sell-out of national sovereignty that mark the UPA Government’s tenure. Noting the crises that beset the BJP, the resolution marks that “yet, as the second largest party with several state governments under its control, the BJP is still very much in a position to stage a comeback at an opportune moment. In fact, the bankruptcy and opportunism of the Congress and the centrist parties, especially regional parties of the Janata variety enables the BJP to come to power to newer states.” The resolution calls for bold championship of the new signs and spirit of class and mass unity that are being seen across the country against the onslaught of imperialist globalisation, especially against the SEZ policy and deprivation of the poor from their rightful claim to NREGA and BPL benefits, and a vigorous resistance to the assaults on secularism, democracy, national independence and sovereignty. In the wake of the CPI(M)’s exposure and isolation in the wake of the capitulation over the Nuke Deal, as well as Singur and Nandigram, the resolution stressed the urgent need for CPI(ML) to emerge as a rallying point for a powerful Left resurgence. 20 delegates participated in the deliberations, suggestions made by several delegates were accepted and the resolution was adopted by the house.

The next day Comrade Dipankar placed before the house the draft Political Organisational Report (see highlights on pp...). While thoroughly reviewing the party’s work on all fronts and aspects, and identifying the political and organization tasks ahead, the resolution also conducted a struggle against alien ideological trends. 52 delegates took part in the discussion and debate and also came up with valuable suggestions for improving the report in the light of their first hand experiences in various fields of work.

On 14 December the General Secretary summed up the discussion and clarified many points that had come up during the debate. The resolution was then put to vote, and was passed with an overwhelming majority, with 17 dissents recorded in the house.

The next draft document to be taken up was an updated version of the General Programme (already published in Liberation). Presented by comrade AS, this draft too evoked an animated discussion, which was summed up by Comrade Dipankar. 14 comrades spoke during the deliberations, after which this resolution too was adopted by the house.

Comrade Dhirendra Jha then presented two closely related documents: Agrarian Programme (which updates the 1982 agrarian programme) and Resolution on Agrarian Crisis and the Way Out (both published). 18 delegates from many states came forward to enrich the draft with their valuable realisations. The discussion was summed up by comrades B Sivaraman and Dhirendra Jha and both drafts were adopted unanimously.

The outgoing CC had proposed certain amendments to the Party Constitution and these were presented before the house, with brief explanations, by Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya. Following discussion that was summed up by Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya, the Party Constitution incorporating the proposed changes was adopted unanimously.

The house unanimously elected a five-member Central Control Commission comprising of Rajaram, Chairperson, Gita Das, Harendranath Barthakur, Devendra Singh Chauhan and M. Ramaswamy. The outgoing CC proposed a 47-member panel for the election of a new CC, and that was carried unopposed. [See Box for names] The CCMs then re-elected Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya as the General Secretary.

Addresses by Fraternal Delegates and Parties

On 16th, comrades from fraternal parties and organisations delivered speeches conveying their impressions and expressing solidarity in struggle. Apart from Comrade Sue Bolton from Australia, Comrade Saiful Huq from Bangladesh and Comrade Kharki from CPN(UML), a representative of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) as well as two fraternal observers, both leaders of peasant struggle in Punjab who have broken away from the CPI(M), also addressed the Party Congress. Below are highlights from their speeches.

Comrade Bhim Rao Bansod, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist)

This is the first time I am attending a Party Congress of the CPI(ML). But we have attended Conferences of AIICTU and AIALA. And some time back I visited some districts of Bihar; a CPI(ML) team had visited Vidarbha – and here I have again met up with some of the comrades I met on those occasions. So I don’t feel I am in a strange place – I feel I am at home. Our parties have had a close relationship for the last fifteen years; and we have come closer and closer all these years. At the level of mass organisations of CPI(ML) like AICCTU, AIPWA and AISA, we have a close sharing.

…If parliamentary strength is the parameter, then CPI(M) is a big party. But what has CPI(M) to show for its 30 years in power in West Bengal? CPI(M) speaks out loudly against SEZs at Raigad in Maharashtra but in Nandigram, it implements the same policy. That is why CPI(M) is now in decline while CPI(ML) is on the rise.

Comrade Kanwalpreet Pannu, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Punjab

The spark that I see in your eyes, in the eyes of the delegates here, makes me feel that that among you I can find the confidence I was seeking. I was born in a family of CPI(M) supporters. But in Punjab in the midst of struggles I have seen that whenever the struggle is sharpened, CPI(M) flees away. If this is their attitude in a small and immature area of struggle, how can one expect them to stand steadfast in times of revolution? The same spirit of courage and sacrifice that was seen in Jallianwala Bagh, I can see that same spirit in your eyes too, and I am sure that CPI(ML)’s future is bright.

Comrade Suba Singh

CPI(M) flag is no longer genuinely red. I have seen two Congresses of the CPI(M) and seen many debates within it. But the disciplined debate I have seen here is the real revolutionary way. There has been much to learn here. We left CPI(M) of our own accord and we would like to join your struggles.

Volunteers who worked days and nights on end to make the Congress a great success then took the stage one by one and received mementos from the GS. The curtains came down on the biggest all India Congress in the Party's history with a short speech by comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya where he called upon the delegates to face the challenges ahead on the way to become the biggest party of the people. 

Bibhas Chakravarty at Convention:

It is heartening to know that this 8th Congress of CPI(ML) will discuss at length the agrarian crisis and the developing political situation in the country, and the ongoing people’s movement against the pro-corporate, pro-imperialist policies of the UPA and aggressive communal policies pursued by political parties in one way or the other.

Only the other day Mr. Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) branded us as enemies of the people. Mr. Karat must have borrowed the phrase ‘enemies of the people’ from a play by Ibsen titled ‘An Enemy of the People.’ I do no know whether he has read the play carefully, and even if he did so, whether he understood its message. In Ibsen’s play the protagonist Dr. Stockman fights a lone battle against the corrupt and ruthless nexus of administrators, local leaders, business community and press. And according to Ibsen “the strongest man is the one who stands most alone.” Thank you Mr. Karat for complimenting us! Yes, we are, according to the repressive state machinery, the enemies of the people, but with a difference of course – we are not alone!

Nabarun Bhattacharya at Convention

We are at a juncture when we need to recall our revolutionary past and assert our revolutionary present. We are facing an assault by the agents of imperialism and the vultures of international finance capital. In West Bengal too, democracy is under threat. The people of this state are keenly resisting this attack. Ignoring the will of hundreds of thousands of people, the government continues to impose pro-corporate ‘development’ and unleash state repression against people’s resistance. Every day the edge of repression is being sharpened – and no one is left untouched, be it literary personalities or the common man. So we also need to sharpen the edge of our resistance, make our revolutionary voice even resound even more boldly.

The party at whose Congress we are all gathered here is a torchbearer of a revolutionary legacy. So many friends, comrades, gave up their lives at the altar of revolution. Living up resolutely to the call of our times is the way to pay fitting tribute to them.

DB’s speech at Convention

Unite for a Left Resurgence in W Bengal and India!

(Excerpts from the speech delivered by Dipankar Bhattacharya at the 10 December Convention.)

We are gathered here at an anti-imperialist Convention preceding our 8th Party Congress. This is a theme that binds a range of struggles together; representatives of important centres of anti-war, anti-imperialist struggles have assembled here: representatives from Australia, Great Britain; from neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal. Those friends from beyond the party who are concerned about the degeneration of the Left and who are speaking out are also amongst us. Today’s Convention is a much-awaited gathering of genuine Leftists and democratic forces. For international observers, today’s Kolkata can appear to be a capital of the distorted and degenerated Left. However, Bibhas Chakravarty and Nabarun Bhattacharya who spoke before me observed quite rightly that today’s Kolkata is holding high the genuine red flag. A battle is on in West Bengal today: a battle whose issues are intimately tied up with the theme of today’s Convention: Imperialism’s War on Democracy, Independence, and Development.

This is the third time we are holding our Party Congress at Kolkata. In 1970 when we held our First Party Congress here, those were different times: turbulent times, difficult times. If the decade of the 70s was one of revolutionary struggle, it also marked a decade of intense repression nation-wide. The ruling class thought they had finished off the CPI(ML). The indomitable spirit of the people, of the rural poor, their irrepressible courage and strength, revived our party. After this, the next time the Party held its Congress at Kolkata was in 1992, when the Party came over ground.

Forty years ago, Naxalbari took place in a different context. Then, communists thought circumstances existed for a direct, bold, confident revolutionary bid to capture state power. But that bid failed. Today, we can see many similarities between Nandigram and Naxalbari. Here once again, peasants are in revolt, forcing the government to retreat. The SEZ Act was passed in Parliament unanimously, with not a single vote against the SEZ Act from the partners of either NDA or UPA, or even the entire brigade of more than 60 Left MPs. The West Bengal Government imagined that this Act could be the foundation for the state’s industrialisation policy. But in a development that no one expected, the peasants of Nandigram challenged the power of the entire Parliament, and the State Government which enjoys a massive majority in the State Assembly. This was the power of the people that all the power of the state failed to defeat. Without this power of the people there can be no left politics. It is this power of the people that we are gathered here to uphold, defend and consolidate.

There is a government in this state, a ruling party and Left leadership, that constantly hobnobs with industrialists, but is extremely hostile to intellectuals and the people. This spineless, tailist Leftists think that they can continue in state power in Bengal only by selling out the interests of the Left forces nationally. They imagine that they can stop the BJP by allying with Lalu, Mulayam and Congress. If anyone imagines that the CPI(M)-led Left’s degeneration will repeat the circumstances of Eastern Europe after the Soviet Collapse, then we are determined to prove them wrong. If we can see the degeneration and decay of the Left here, then the regeneration of the Left is also an objective truth.

The 8th Congress is the biggest Congress we have held till now. The delegates here will discuss the documents on the agrarian crisis – a crisis that causes a farmer to commit suicide every half hour; a crisis that is destroying livelihoods on a huge scale. They will also deliberate on the Nuke Deal, which is no isolated deal. It is part of a larger gameplan to turn India into a strategic pawn of the US. We can’t allow the country of 1857, of Bhagat Singh, to become a pawn of the US: we must foil this ploy.

Right now we find the CPI(M) branding its critics as ‘enemies of the people’; rather than taking the criticisms to heart, they are instead presuming to tell historians how to write history, writers how to write poetry; artists how theatre should be played…
In our history, we have many mistakes, and we never hesitated to correct them: and we are willing to reflect deeply on all the criticisms, all the suggestions that are made to us. We are a small force but in the past years, and even in the past months we have seen a significant expansion – and I don’t just mean the expansion of ranks of our party. Singur and Nandigram and struggles against SEZs have in fact rekindled a Left urge very widely. In 1967 India had felt the need for revolution. In 2007 again India seems to be looking with hope and eagerness for a revolutionary Left alternative. It is this Left urge, this resurgence of the Left that we are committed to. I appeal to all genuine and principled sections of the Left; all those concerned about the Left’s future, all democratic forces and civil society – we are committed to walking shoulder to shoulder with them every step of the way in this struggle for a resurgence of the Left. In this struggle, I appeal to all, especially the people of Kolkata: give us the strength to rise up to the occasion, to fulfil our resolve. We are committed to march together with all the genuine Left, democratic forces for a bright future, a better tomorrow, both in West Bengal and in India.

Thumbnail Sketch of the Delegates’ Profile

1144 delegates participated in the Congress; three delegate comrades could not attend because they were in jail. 147 of the delegates were women. The largest chunk of delegates (36.62%) were between 31-40 years old, while 29.1% were between 41-50 years old and the average age of the delegates was 43.27 years. 14.94% of the delegates had received primary education only; 21.06% had received up to secondary education and 16.69% up to intermediate level; 24.03% were graduates and 11.71 were post-graduates; and 3.4% had no formal education. A large section of the delegates came from agricultural labourer, poor peasant and middle peasant origins (11.01%, 21.85% and 19.93% respectively). 22.6% were deployed on the agricultural labour front, 15.9% on the trade union front.

This time, it is significant that the majority of delegates – 57.95% - were attending a Party Congress for the very first time; while 38.72% had attended the 7th Congress before this and 29.1% had attended the sixth Congress.

8th Congress Salutes the Departed and Martyred Comrades

At the outset of the delegate session, the Congress adopted a Condolence Resolution paying tribute to all the comrades who have been martyred or who have passed away since the last Party Congress, and observed a minute’s silence in their memory.

In the past five years the Party faced the challenge of Comrade Mahendra Singh’s martyrdom and struggled to ensure that his legacy lives on; Comrade Manju’s martyrdom at the hands of the Ranveer Sena; and the martyrdom of Comrade Langtuk Phangcho and many other comrades in the hill districts of Assam who died for defending the party and defying the brutal terror unleashed by the ‘ceasefire groups’ at the behest of the Congress regime. The Congress paid tribute to the three comrades who fell to police bullets at Markaccho, to Comrade Ashok Sah who was killed in police custody, and others who laid down their lives braving the brutality of state repression. The resolution remembered the many comrades who were killed by the Ranveer Sena, by anarchist groups and by criminal gangs. Especially, the Congress saluted the memory of the five comrades killed in a dastardly manner while asleep at night by PWG goons at the behest of a local RJD MLA Paliganj in 2004. The Congress paid tribute to Comrades Mahangu Chaudhury and Madan Singh, two of the ‘Jehanabad 14’ – comrades convicted and jailed under trumped up TADA charges – who passed away in jail.

The demise of Comrade Ashok Manohar, General Secretary of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), legendary employees’ leader Comrade Yogeshwar Gope, beloved trade union leader of Tamilnadu Comrade Karu Palaniappan, founder of Samkaleen Prakashan and ex-member of CPI(ML)’s Central Control Commission Comrade Jagdish Prasad, W Bengal State Committee Member Comrade Arijit Mitra, two invaluable members of the Bihar State Committee - Comrade Arvind Kumar (Kaimur District Secretary) and Comrade Brajesh, (Gaya District Secretary), noted literary personality and Bhojpuri balladeer Vijendra Anil, Comrade Omkarnath Patel, National Councillor of Jan Sanskriti Manch and Assistant Editor of Dainik Janmorcha at Ayodhya, were mourned by the Congress. The Congress remembered the invaluable women leaders recently lost to cancer – Comrade Ajanta Lohit and Jita Kaur, and also condoled the demise of Comrade Purni of Tamilnadu.

The Congress paid tribute to poet Trilochan and also Shiv Kumar Mishra, the veteran communist leader of the Awadh region who conducted an ideological struggle from within the CPI(M) CC in the 70s, and played a role in the founding of the CPI(ML) and was one of the members of the party’s first CC and Politburo – both of whom passed away on the very eve of the 8th Congress. On 7.12.07, one of the delegates to the Congress, Comrade Bibhuti Behera from Orissa, an activist of the leading fisher-people’s organisation Matsyajibi Sanghatan in Chilika, passed away from a heart attack.

The Congress remembered the many veteran comrades who spent their entire lives dedicated to the communist movement and the party, who passed away in the past five years, and also some of the promising young comrades lost to untimely death.

The 8th Congress rededicated the party to the task of fulfilling the unfinished dreams of all these departed comrades and martyrs.

Members of Newly Elected Central Committee:

Comrades 1. Dipankar Bhattacharya, 2. Swadesh Bhattacharya, 3. Ram Naresh Ram, 4. Kartick Pal, 5. DP Buxi, 6. Nand Kishor Prasad, 7. Akhilendra P. Singh, 8. Rubul Sharma, 9. Ram Jatan Sharma, 10. Arindam Sen, 11. B B Pandey, 12. Ramji Rai, 13. Swapan Mukherjee, 14. Dhirendra Jha, 15. Rameshwar Prasad, 16. Srilata Swaminathan, 17. Kumudini Pati, 18. Meena Tiwari, 19. S. Balasunderam, 20. S. Kumarswamy, 21. V. Shankar, 22. N. Murthy, 23. Maleshwar Rao, 24. Bangar Rao, 25. Kshitish Biswal, 26. Partha Ghosh, 27. Jayanta Rongpi, 28. Rajendra Pratholi, 29. Prabhat Chaudhry, 30. Krishna Adhikari, 31. KD Yadav, 32. Amar, 33. Saroj Chaube, 34. Kunal, 35. Shubhendu Sen, 36. Ibnul Hasan Basroo, 37. Janardan Mahato, 38. Mrinmoy Chakravarty, 39. Kavita Krishnan, 40. Sanjay Sharma, 41. Manoj Bhakta, 42. Kalyan Goswami, 43. Abhijit Mazumdar, 44. Sudhakar Yadav, 45. Rajaram Singh, 46. Bahadur Orao and 47. Rajaram, Chairperson, Central Control Commission, as the ex-officio member.

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