Opening Speech of Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the CPI(M) at the Inaugural Session of the 20th Congress of the CPI(M)
Comrade Ramachandran Pillai, President of the inaugural session,
Comrade A. B. Bardhan, veteran leader of the Communist Party of India,
Comrade delegates and observers,
Guests and friends,
I hereby declare open the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). I convey my warm greetings to all the delegates, observes and special invitees assembled here. I welcome Comrade A. B. Bardhan who has come here after the completion of the 21st Congress of Communist Party of India at Patna.
Comrades and friends,
The Party Congress is being held in Kerala after a gap of 22 years. Kerala blazed a new trail by electing the first Communist ministry in 1957. The CPI(M) in this period has grown stronger and led many popular struggles in defence of the interests of the working people. On this occasion, I greet the lakhs of Party members and supporters.
We are holding our Congress in Kozhikode which has a significant place in the history of the Communist Party and the working class movement in Kerala. Kozhikode was the political capital of the old Malabar province under British rule. It became the centre of the working class movement in Malabar. The tile workers and the textile workers became the backbone of the trade union movement here. The Kozhikode area also saw a strong peasant movement against jenmi-landlordism. As the main centre of the anti-imperialist movement in Malabar, Kozhikode witnessed many significant events during the freedom struggle.
It was in this city that the first Communist Party unit was formed in 1937. It consisted of four members – P. Krishna Pillai, EMS Namboodiripad, K. Damodaran and N. C. Sekhar.
We pay tribute to the eight valiant Communist martyrs of Onchiyam who died in police firing in 1948. We salute the memory of all those who laid down their lives in the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggles in Malabar.
Comrades and friends,
The four years since our last Party Congress in 2008 have been marked by a global capitalist crisis, the severest since the great depression of the 1930s. This first prolonged crisis of capitalism in the 21st century marks a turning point. It has underlined the unsustainability of finance-driven capitalist globalization. The impact of this crisis has hit the people of the advanced capitalist countries in Europe and the United States. The ruling classes have bailed out the big banks and financial institutions and imposed severe austerity measures on the people. The result has been growing unemployment, homelessness and vicious attacks on the social security benefits of the working people.
The working class and other sections of the working people, including the youth and students, are protesting and there have been widespread struggles against the attacks on their livelihoods and living standards. The general strikes in Greece, Portugal, Spain and other European countries, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement and the big student and youth mobilizations are demanding an end to the neo-liberal policies. Our Party extends its support and solidarity to all the struggles being waged against the neo-liberal order.
Imperialism led by the United States continues its aggressive measures to maintain its hegemony. In this period, we have seen the NATO aggression in Libya. They are targeting Syria. They are ratcheting up tensions in tandem with Israel against Iran. The CPI(M) denounces these imperialist interventions which are designed to hijack and divert from the popular uprisings in the Arab countries. The CPI(M) expresses its full solidarity with the Palestinian people who are struggling against Israeli occupation and for an independent State in difficult conditions.
Our Party extends its support and solidarity with all the Left, democratic and progressive forces in the countries of South Asia. They are facing the common problems of our region – mass poverty, high levels of inequality due to the neo-liberal policies and imperialist domination.
Comrades and friends,
It is nearly three years since the UPA-II government came into office after the Lok Sabha elections. These three years are a dismal record of continuous price rise of food and essential commodities which constitutes a savage assault on the poorer sections; once again, there is the recurrence of farmer’s suicides in different parts of the country with no respite from the agrarian crisis. The exploitation of workers has intensified sharply with the share of wages in the net value dropping steadily. Hunger and malnutrition among children are a shameful blot on our society.
The UPA government in its pursuit of neo-liberal policies has heaped more burdens on the working people. It seeks to deny the reality of poverty by fixing fraudulent poverty lines. It refuses to bring a food security bill which can guarantee a minimum quantum of foodgrains under a universal Public Distribution System. It allows speculation in food and essential commodities through futures trading by which private companies and traders are heaping huge profits by pushing up prices.
The two decades of liberalization has led to unprecedented increase in inequalities. As a result, India has produced some of the richest people in the world while keeping the vast millions deprived of the basic necessities of life.
The CPI(M) considers the fight against the neo-liberal policies as a central task. It will, in the coming days, endeavour to widen and intensify the struggles against the working people who are bearing the brunt of these attacks. The February 28 general strike by the Central trade unions and the national federations saw the militant response of the working class and employees all over the country. This should be the precursor for united struggles of different sections of the working people. The Party Congress will discuss how we should undertake this work in the coming days.
The UPA government has set a new record in high level corruption. In the eight years of the UPA rule, corruption and the loot of natural resources have reached unparalleled heights. This is an outcome of the neo-liberal regime. There is a nexus of big business, ruling politicians and bureaucrats who are siphoning off public funds and the loot of scarce resources. There is a need for an effective Lokpal Bill to curb corruption among public servants, but that alone is not enough. The fight against corruption should be directed against the neo-liberal regimes and the corrupt nexus which facilitates the loot of public funds and scarce resources. The CPI(M) and the Left alone have the credibility to fight corruption. The Left-led governments that existed in West Bengal and Kerala and which continues in Tripura have no blemish of high level corruption. The CPI(M) will wage a determined fight against corruption and to bring in a whole range of measures, including electoral reforms, which can help to curb money power in politics.
Comrades and friends,
The Hindutva forces have an agenda which is inimical to the secular-democratic system and values. The minorities face constant attacks and suppression of their rights in states where the BJP is in government like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Communalism is embedded in the strategy of the ruling classes. They use it to divide the working classes and to bolster the rightwing neo-liberal policies. The record of the BJP governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka show how they act as agents of big business and the landlords. The CPI(M) is a consistent fighter for the rights of the minorities; at the same time, it seeks to counter communalism and extremism within the minorities.
The Manmohan Singh government has pursued a foreign policy which is influenced by its strategic ties with the United States. Such an approach is detrimental to the country’s interests. Notwithstanding its official pronouncements, the UPA government is succumbing to US pressures and reducing oil imports from Iran. It has voted with the US and its allies in the UN Security Council on Syria. It seeks to exempt foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment from liability and payment of damages in the case of nuclear accidents. The domestic economic policies are influenced by the strategic alliance with the United States. The government wants Walmart to open its supermarkets in India as this is the persistent demand of the US administration.
The CPI(M) will resolutely fight against the strategic alliance with the United States which has political, military and economic dimensions.
The CPI(M) and the Left suffered serious reverses in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and subsequently in the West Bengal assembly elections. In Kerala, the LDF lost the election though very narrowly.
For the past three years, West Bengal has witnessed a severe attack on the CPI(M) and the Left. The ruling classes and imperialism have targeted the CPI(M) and the Left in West Bengal as it is the strongest base of the Party. Since the last Party Congress, more than 570 members and supporters were killed. After the Assembly elections, the attacks have been more widespread with the capturing of Party and trade union offices and thousands had to leave their homes. Under the TMC-led government there is a wholesale attack on democratic rights. Land of patta holders is sought to be snatched away, the elected panchayats are made defunct, democratic rights in universities and colleges suspended and the right of the workers and employees curtailed.
Our Party has examined and identified the shortcomings and weaknesses in the political and organisational spheres that are there and taken steps to correct them. Our Party is going to the people and mobilizing them on their issues. The CPI(M) in West Bengal has a mass base of millions of people built up over the decades through class struggles and sacrifices. It cannot be cowed down by violence and repression. On this occasion, we pay tribute to all those who have been martyred for the cause of the Party and the Left movement. We want to assure the people and the Party in West Bengal that we shall mobilise all the democratic forces to oppose the violence and defend democracy in West Bengal.
Comrades and friends,
There is no difference between the Congress and the BJP as far as economic policies are concerned. Both are wedded to neo-liberalism. There is nothing to choose between the Congress and the BJP as far as corruption is concerned. The BJP government’s nexus with the mining mafia and the loot of mineral resources in Karnataka reveals the same pattern of high level corruption as the 2G spectrum scandal under the aegis of the Congress-led government at the Centre.
Comrades and friends,
The recent political developments showed the failure of the two combinations – the UPA and the NDA – to consolidate and grow. The Assembly elections to the five states have reflected this trend. As more and more, the bankruptcy and venality of the present order becomes apparent, the people are looking for an alternative.
According to us, such an alternative can be provided only by the Left and democratic forces. In order to build the Left and democratic alliance and forge such an alternative, it is necessary first of all to strengthen the CPI(M), expand its base and influence all over the country. A strong CPI(M) can strengthen Left unity and thereby rally other democratic forces to present a Left and democratic platform. In order to do so, the CPI(M) will take up all the issues of the working class, the peasantry, the agricultural workers, youth, and other sections of the working people to launch struggles and united movements. It will relentlessly champion the cause of the dalits, adivasis, women and minorities who suffer from social oppression.
The Party will cooperate and have joint actions with other democratic and secular parties on people’s issues, federalism and defence of secularism.
The CPI(M) has always believed in applying Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of India, to chalk out its revolutionary path. We have never tried to emulate models abroad. We have to constantly update our ideological understanding and equip ourselves to meet the challenges of the contemporary era. The 20th Congress of the CPI(M) will undertake this task.
Let us bend all our energies and resources to develop a strong all-India Party. The entire Party should be geared up to go to the people and take up their causes. The 20th Congress will provide us the ideological purpose and the political direction to do so.