Marxist, XXXII 1, January–March 2016


For a Communist Party, its Programme, which encompasses the strategic goals of the Party, and thus covers an entire stage of the revolution, is an important and basic document.

In the Communist movement in India, particularly after Independence, writing such a Programme was fraught with differences and divergent views. The struggle within the Communist Party of India (CPI) for nearly a decade centred on the character of the ruling class and state power, and, consequently, the strategy of the Indian revolution and the Programme to be adopted.

The last attempt to agree on Programme within the united Party was in 1961 at the 6th Congress held in Vijayawada. Two draft Programmes were presented, and irreconcilable differences led to shelving the Programme.

It was only in 1964, after the split in the CPI and the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), that the two parties were able to discuss and adopt separate Programmes — at the 7th Congress of the CPI in Bombay and the 7th Congress of the CPI (M) in Calcutta.

Since, even after a prolonged struggle, the very strategy for the Communist Party remained in contention, the only solution was for the parties to separate and formulate their own Programmes. If the differences had been with respect to the tactical line to be adopted, or some divergent understanding on ideological issues, the split would not have taken place.

Six decades have passed since the two Communist parties adopted their basic strategic documents. Over this period of time, the two parties have been able to arrive at a common understanding on major political issues and the tactical line to be pursued in the prevailing political situation. This has enabled them to work together and strengthen Left unity.

The CPI (M) updated its Programme at a special conference held in 2000 in Thiruvananthapuram. The analysis of the international situation and national developments, especially with respect to class relations, were revised and updated. However, the Programme retained the core formulations regarding the stage of the revolution, the character of the state and the nature of the class alliance of the People’s Democratic Front and its leadership. The work of updating the Programme extended over a period of eight years, the decision to update it having been taken at the 14th Congress of the Party in 1992.

Prolonged Efforts

As far as the CPI is concerned, the exercise of drafting a new Programme was more prolonged and went through various stages. In 1986, the 13th Congress of the party decided to set up a Drafting Commission to re-draft the Party Programme that had been adopted in 1964. A seven-member Commission prepared a draft Programme that was placed before the 14th Congress at Patna in 1989. The Congress was, however, unable to adopt the draft. At the 15th Congress held in Hyderabad in 1992, a draft programmatic document was discussed and a “Programme Document” adopted. This was an interim step that took note of the major changes in the international and national arenas. This was not, however, a full-fledged Party Programme that covered core issues such as the character of the state, the nature of the class alliance for the democratic revolution, and so on.

Towards this end, the 16th party Congress decided in 1995 that the new National Council set up a Commission to prepare a draft Programme. Such efforts continued.

Finally, a new Party Programme was adopted at the 22nd Congress held in Puducherry in March 2015. Since this is a Programme that has emerged out of a protracted period of discussions, it has significance for the future course of the CPI and of the Communist movement in the country.

It will be useful, therefore, to undertake a critical appraisal of the Programme of the CPI.

The essence of a party Programme is based on a class analysis to map out the stage of the revolution, the character of the state, and the class alliance and leadership of that revolutionary front that is required to replace the existing state structure and to bring about the transition to socialism.

Character of State Power

In the formulation of the stage of the revolution, both the CPI and the CPI (M) Programmes adopted in 1964 had characterised the stage as the democratic stage. This was in recognition of the need to complete the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal tasks that remained unfinished.

After achieving political independence, differences arose on the question of the characterisation of the Indian state and the revolutionary class alliance that needs to be forged to advance the revolutionary movement against the ruling class and state structure. The class analysis of Indian society had to establish who the dominant exploiting classes were that constituted the ruling class. It is this ruling class that controls the state and determines its character. This is the crucial point of the strategy because it determines who the main enemy is and against whom the revolutionary movement should be directed.

Divergent Views on State Power

In the case of the CPI (M), the state was characterised as follows:

The present Indian state is the organ of the class rule of the bourgeoisie and landlords led by the big bourgeoisie, who are increasingly collaborating with foreign finance capital in pursuit of the capitalist path of development. This class character essentially determines the role and function of state in the life of the country.

This characterisation was retained without any change in the updated Programme.

In its Programme of 1964, the CPI characterised the state as follows:

The state in India is the organ of the class rule of the national bourgeoisie as a whole, which upholds and develops capitalism and capitalist relations of production, distribution and exchange in the national economy of India.

In the formation and exercise of governmental power the big bourgeoisie wields considerable influence.

The national bourgeoisie compromises with the landlords, admits them in the ministries and governmental composition, especially at the State levels.

This formulation was amended at the 8th Congress of the CPI in 1968 and the amended paragraph read as follows:

The state in India is the organ of the class rule of the national bourgeoisie as a whole, in which the big bourgeoisie holds powerful influence. This class rule has strong links with the landlords. These factors give rise to reactionary pulls on the state power.

The difference in the characterisation of the state in the two Programmes was substantial and it had a significant bearing on the strategy, class alliances, and tactics of the two parties.

The main differences with the CPI (M) Programme were as follows.

While the CPI (M) Programme placed the big bourgeoisie in the leadership of the class alliance that controls the Indian state, the CPI Programme denied this leading role and, in the 1964 Programme, maintained that the big bourgeoisie “wielded considerable influence.” This was changed to “holds powerful influence” by the 1968 amendment.

This was the crux of the difference in the characterisation of the Indian state in the two Programmes. The big bourgeoisie developed as a powerful stratum within the Indian capitalist class right from the outset. In contrast to the development of capitalism in Europe, where the big bourgeoisie and the monopoly stage came about at a later, mature stage of capitalist development, in the specific conditions in which capitalism grew in India under colonialism, the development of the big bourgeoisie and monopoly houses began at an earlier stage. The growth of the big bourgeoisie and its dominance and grip over the capitalist class as a whole were strengthened in the decades after Independence.

It is the big bourgeoisie, being in the leadership of the state, that conditioned a particular type of capitalist development. It compromised with imperialism and maintained its alliance with landlordism. As the CPI (M) Programme stated:

It utilised its hold over the state to strengthen its position by attacking the people on the one hand and seeking to resolve the conflicts and contradictions with imperialism and landlordism by pressure, bargain and compromise on the other.

In this process, it has forged strong links with foreign monopolists and is sharing power with landlords.

The CPI Programme portrayed the state in India as the class rule of the national bourgeoisie as a whole in which the big bourgeois section does not exercise leadership but only holds powerful influence. Further, unlike the CPI (M) Programme, which saw the bourgeois-landlord alliance as the bedrock of state power, the CPI Programme maintained that the state power has only “strong links with the landlords.” The landlords were not part of the state structure and by implication not part of the ruling class.

Another difference in the characterisation of the two Programmes in the characterisation of state is that the CPI (M) saw foreign finance capital to be in collaboration with the ruling class led by the big bourgeoisie in pursuit of the capitalist path of development. Thus, both landlordism and imperialism had a more integral connection with the ruling classes and the state structure in the CPI (M) formulation than in the formulation of the CPI. In the CPI’s characterisation, imperialism and foreign finance capital had no role whatsoever in the ruling class set-up.

This divergence in the characterisation of the state had major implications. For the CPI, since the national bourgeoisie as a whole was in the leadership of the state and the big bourgeoisie was only holding powerful influence, the attitude to the state was bound to be different to that of the CPI (M). Further, with the landlords not being an intrinsic part of the ruling classes controlling the state, there was an overestimation of the bourgeois state vis-à-vis the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal tasks. The same estimation applied to the role of the “national bourgeoisie.”

To characterise the state as a state of the national bourgeoisie was also to say that the state in India was not a state of an enemy class. The national bourgeoisie both held power and was at the same time a potential participant in the CPI’s national democratic revolution. The national bourgeoisie was a class that had to be prodded, steered, and pushed in a progressive direction by the working class, and helped by the working class to resist the “reactionary pulls” exerted on state power by the big bourgeoisie, imperialism, and the landlords. This conception of the state was fully in accordance with and influenced by the view of the Indian state held by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after 1956.

This is what led to a softness vis-à-vis the ruling class and the premier ruling class party, the Congress. For the national democratic revolution — which is anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-monopoly – the state and ruling party of the national bourgeoisie held the potential to be an ally. The absence of landlords and imperialism in the ruling class would lead to such a strategic conclusion. At the tactical level, this characterisation was also responsible for the willingness of the CPI to join Central governments dominated by the bourgeois parties when an opportunity afforded itself (as in 1996 and 2004).

Efforts to review this characterisation did take place in the course of the discussions for a new draft Programme. In the draft Programme presented to the 14th Congress of the party held in March 1989, the characterisation of the state remained the same as in the 8th Congress amendment of 1968, viz.,

The state in India is the organ of the class rule of the national bourgeoisie as a whole, in which the big bourgeoisie holds powerful influence. This class rule has strong links with the landlords. These factors give rise to reactionary pulls on the state power.

In the Programme Commission that undertook the work of drafting the Programme, the Convenor of the Commission, Jagannath Sarkar, held a different view. He had a dissenting amendment regarding the character of the state. The first part of the amendment is as follows:

The state in India is the organ of the class rule of the Indian bourgeoisie, which has landlords as its allies and in which the big bourgeoisie has come to exercise decisive control. The alliance of the Indian bourgeoisie with the landlords and the decisive control of the big bourgeoisie over the state impart reactionary tendencies in the Indian state.

The bourgeoisie, the main element in the Indian state, had traditionally close relations with the landlords. During our freedom struggle, while the feudal princes and big landlords generally supported the British rule, the middle and small landlords generally supported the struggle against colonial slavery. This served to bring the landlords close to the bourgeoisie in the political sphere. This alliance has been carried forward after independence. (Draft Programme of the Communist Party of India, Communist Party Publication, 1989)

In Sarkar’s formulation, the big bourgeoisie exercises “decisive control” over the Indian state. Moreover, his amendment acknowledged that there is an alliance of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. He also avoids to use the term “national bourgeoisie” in order to bring out the specific character of the big bourgeoisie as the most powerful stratum within the capitalist class.

Another member of the Programme Commission, P. K. Vasudevan Nair, also put forward an amendment that stated that the big bourgeoisie held “decisive influence.”

In the new Programme adopted at the 22nd Congress, the characterisation of the state has undergone a major change. It reads as follows:

8.1 The state in India is the organ of the class rule of the bourgeoisie headed by corporate big business and monopolies. This class rule has strong links with the semi–feudal and capitalist landlords. This determines the economic and political policy of the government. It directs the capitalist development in agriculture. Operating within the World Capitalist System it develops links with international finance capital led by US and international financial institution like the World Bank and IMF.

The use of the term “national bourgeoisie” has been dropped, a correct step. In a departure from the past formulations, it is acknowledged that the state is the organ of the class rule of the bourgeoisie, which is “headed by corporate big business and monopolies”. The linkage with landlords continues to be described as “strong links” while the landlords have been characterised as “semi-feudal” and “capitalists.” The new feature of the formulation is that this state structure “develops links with” international finance capital, a feature that is an addition to the earlier characterisation.

By acknowledging that corporate big business and monopolies are heading the bourgeois-run state in India, the CPI has come to a more accurate description of the character of the Indian state than before. The analysis of class developments that precedes this characterisation notes:

One of the most striking results of the path of capitalist development is the concentration of capital with economic power in the hands of a few big monopolies who enrich themselves at the expense of the people and even other broad sections of the Indian bourgeoisie.

It is, however, difficult to understand why terms like corporate big business and monopolies are being used instead of the term “big bourgeoisie.” The “big bourgeoisie” is a more comprehensive term which includes all sections of big capital. Corporates or corporations are only one legal form of ownership, i.e., the public limited/joint stock companies. Big corporates are part of the big bourgeoisie, so also big monopoly houses. Moreover, big capital is being deployed in various spheres outside the productive sector, too (consider, for instance, big business houses in the news media and entertainment). All these, when they assume a certain level of concentration of capital, must be considered to be part of the big bourgeoisie. While the intent of the formulation of “corporate big business and monopolies” may be correct, it is not sufficient to explain the full extent and coverage of the term “big bourgeoisie.”

The characterisation of state power suffers from the drawback of keeping the landlords as a category external to the state structure. With the development of capitalism as the dominant form of production in agriculture, capitalist landlordism — and not a steadily declining semi-feudal landlordism — predominates. There are no grounds whatsoever to consider this landlordism as only having “strong links” with the bourgeoisie. They are part and parcel of the ruling class. The term “landlord” is still being used as a separate category because there are remnants of semi-feudal relations to be eliminated.

At one point in the CPI Programme, the term “rural bourgeoisie” is used. The capitalist landlords are part of this rural bourgeoisie. To consider them outside the state structure is, therefore, unrealistic. In order to arrive at a correct understanding of the nature of the Indian state, it is necessary to take account of the compromise that the big bourgeoisie effected with landlordism in order to avoid a thorough-going implementation of land reforms as part of the completion of the tasks of the democratic revolution.

The recognition in the new CPI Programme of the link between international finance capital and the Indian state is also a step in the correct direction. This should have been taken forward to its logical conclusion – the development of the capitalist path in India itself requires collaboration between international finance capital and the Indian bourgeoisie. This is what is reflected in the CPI (M)’s formulation, that of “increasing collaboration between the Indian ruling classes and foreign finance capital in pursuit of the capitalist path of development.”

To sum up, the new characterisation of the Indian state in the CPI Programme is a step forward towards the correct depiction of the Indian state, though there are still some problems and weaknsesses in the understanding.

Who Will Lead the Democratic Revolution?

The other area of difference between the two Programmes has been on the question of the class alliance or front that will accomplish the democratic revolution and the question of who will exercise leadership of this front.

Though both the Party Programmes talk of the democratic stage of the revolution and the classes to be mobilised in the democratic front or alliance, there were differences between the two on the question of the leadership of the alliance. The CPI termed its front a “national democratic” front, while the CPI (M) termed the alliance the “people’s democratic” alliance (or front).

In the 1964 Programme, the CPI Programme had explained the leadership of the national democratic alliance in the following way:

The national democratic state in the hands of the National Democratic Front will be a transitional stage, in which power will be jointly exercised by all those classes which are interested in eradicating imperialist interests, . . . the semi-feudal elements and breeding the power of the monopolies. In this alliance, the exclusive leadership of the working class is not yet established, though the exclusive leadership of the bourgeoisie no longer exists.” (p. 41)

When faced with the criticism by the CPI (M) that neither the exclusive leadership of the working class nor the exclusive leadership of the bourgeoisie meant the joint leadership of the bourgeoisie and the working class, the CPI made a further clarification in the 8th Party Congress by adding a last to the paragraph. It reads thus: “The leadership of this alliance belongs to firm anti-imperialist, anti-feudal, anti-monopoly forces.” Even this formulation, however, still implied the joint leadership of various classes.

The next paragraph in the 1964 Programme states that:

As the government of the national democratic front and the class alliance it represents will be based on the worker-peasant alliance as its pivot, the working class will increasingly come to occupy the leading position in the alliance, as it is this class which is the conscious inheritor and builder of the national democratic front. (p. 48)

Unlike the concept of joint leadership (of the working class and bourgeoisie) that characterised the national democratic front in the CPI Programme, the CPI (M) Programme states that

7.1 For the complete and thoroughgoing fulfilment of the basic tasks of the Indian revolution in the present stage it is absolutely essential to replace the present bourgeois-landlord state headed by the big bourgeoisie by a state of people’s democracy led by the working class.

It proceeds to argue that

In the present era, the proletariat will have to lead the democratic revolution as a necessary step in its forward march to the achievement of socialism. It is not the old type of bourgeois democratic revolution, but a new type of people’s democratic revolution organised and led by the working class. (Para7.2)

This is not a dogmatic assertion but a formulation based on historical experience that shows that the bourgeoisies of the newly independent countries are incapable of carrying forward the democratic revolution. In particular, in India, where the big bourgeoisie leads state power, the central task is to dislodge the state power wielded by the bourgeois-landlord alliance headed by the big bourgeoisie. The strength of the worker-peasant alliance can be forged only under the leadership of the working class. Although some sections of the non-big bourgeoisie may become part of the people’s democratic front, they cannot be relied upon as firm allies, and their role will depend on how strong the worker-peasant alliance is. In India, after more than six decades of capitalist development since Independence and particularly after the phase of neo-liberal capitalism began, the contradiction between the big bourgeoisie and the non-big bourgeoisie has been muted. This feature of contemporary history has not been taken into account in the CPI Programme.

The new Programme of the CPI continues to stick to the concept of a joint leadership of various classes and strata in the phase of completing the democratic revolution and preparing for the transition to socialism. It states:

The classes and sections of people that are in action for carrying out these tasks of the democratic revolution whether spontaneously or consciously are the working class, the rural proletariat, the working peasantry, the progressive democratic, secular intelligentsia and the revolutionary sections of the middle class and a section of middle and small bourgeois. Rallying around a firm worker-peasant alliance, they can lead the country during the period of advancing the democratic revolution by replacing the big bourgeoisie from the leadership. (para 9.1)

To expect classes ranging from the working class, the rural proletariat to the middle and small bourgeoisie to provide the leadership in the transition period to socialism is blurring the question of who can provide consistent leadership against the big bourgeoisie, imperialism, and semi-feudal remnants.

The CPI Programme envisages the transition period to be managed by a class alliance whose leadership is not in the hands of the working class. It merely states that, over a protracted period and by the end of the transition, the leadership of the working class and its broad democratic alliance will be established.

There will be many shocks and social upheavals which will ultimately result in the leadership of the bourgeoisie getting replaced by the leadership of the working class and its broad democratic allies.

There is a clear and fundamental difference here between the approach of the CPI and the understanding of the CPI (M). For the CPI (M), the transition period from the accomplishment of the democratic revolution to the socialist stage can only be possible if the leadership of the working class is established in the revolutionary class alliance. The CPI Programme sees the leadership of the working class being established at the culmination of the transition period.

The CPI does not believe, as the CPI (M) does, that it is absolutely essential to replace the present state headed by the big bourgeoisie with a people’s democratic state led by the working class. This is evident in how the CPI sees parliamentary democracy as an instrument for effecting fundamental transformations in society. The Programme states:

By developing a powerful mass revolutionary movement and broadening unity of all left and democratic forces, and by winning a stable majority in Parliament backed by such mass movements, the working class and its allies will strive their utmost to overcome the resistance of the forces of reaction and transform the parliament into a genuine instrument of the peoples will for effecting fundamental transformations in society. (para 9.4)

This implies that working within the state structure, it is possible to bring about fundamental transformations in society. The legacy of viewing the Indian state structure as containing some anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly, and anti-feudal potential, which was apparent in the 1964 Programme, continues to linger in the present formulation.

Class Analysis

Some of the weaknesses in the strategy set out in the Programme stems from the incomplete and, at times, eclectic class analysis. It is very important that the Party Programme be based on a scientific analysis of class relations in Indian society in order to identify who the exploiting classes are in economic and social terms and who the exploited classes and sections of the people are.

Absence of Landlordism

In the section “Agrarian Relations Since Independence,” many features of capitalist development in agriculture are noted. However, there is no analysis of the nature of landlordism; there is neither an analysis of how a powerful stratum of capitalist landlords and big capitalist farmers has emerged, nor is there any mention of the concentration of land and other forms of wealth that continues to exist in the hands of the landlords and other big capitalist farmers. The section talks about implementation of land reforms and the struggle for land, etc., without any mention of the strong hold of landlordism on land and other assets. The differentiation amongst the peasantry that has proceeded under capitalism is poorly delineated, without any mention of the role of different strata of the peasantry (such as poor, middle, and rich peasants), from which their role in the class struggle in the countryside can be inferred or understood.

In fact, a paragraph on the various sections of the peasantry brings out the weakness of the analysis of rural classes.

The big farmers lobby took an ambiguous stance towards the new policy. Initially, they perceived trade liberalisation and entry of agribusiness as programmes advantageous to them. Later they have begun to oppose free trade and demand protection of their economic space through state intervention.

The medium and small farmers generally follow the lead provided by the big farmers in the hope that the returns will be high.

As for the small and marginal farmers, they have increasingly got dispossessed of their land and other resource bases. (para 6.6)

Are the “big farmers” here landlords or capitalist farmers or rich peasants? The “medium and small farmers” may be middle peasants or poor peasants.

This must be considered along with the role of the rural bourgeoisie and the capitalist landlords as stated in the section “Classes and Other Sections: Their Role”:


The rural bourgeoisie, the capitalist landlords, the rich peasants do not join the landless labour in their struggle for land reforms and distribution of land. But in certain other aspects, e. g., the struggle against high cost of inputs, infrastructural facilities, remunerative prices and measures to make agriculture viable, and on the question of opposing all attempts by the state to forcibly acquire and grab agricultural land, one can expect all of them to join together. (para 7.15)

From the above, it appears that the rural bourgeoisie, capitalist landlords and rich peasants are part of the agrarian struggle on a whole host of issues. But this is a misreading of the role of the rural bourgeoisie. In fact, the struggle of the landlords and rich peasants is to get a larger share of the state resources, whether it be subsidies, credit or infrastructure facilities. They mobilise other sections of the peasantry for this, but they will not become part of any struggle against the bourgeois-landlord order. In fact, they will be pitted against the democratic agrarian movement.

Completely missing is the fact that landlords are part of the ruling class that controls state power. Any analysis of the class exploitation by them of agricultural workers, the poor peasantry and the rural poor is totally absent. Without such a class analysis and approach, it is impossible to develop a powerful agrarian movement against state power and the ruling classes, or to build a worker-peasant alliance that is pitted against the bourgeois-landlord classes.

As far as the development of industrial and commercial capital is concerned, the analysis stresses only one aspect of the result of the neo-liberal economic reforms. It states that a strata of powerful corporates has emerged within the bourgeois class and that Indian corporate houses are entering into a number of partnership with the MNCs. The focus is on corporate capitalism.

The focus needs to be broadened to include all sections of big capital that constitute the big bourgeoisie. As pointed out earlier, this includes not only the big corporates but also various other forms of capital ownership and control over resources.

Regional and Non-Big Bourgeoisie

Another issue that is not sufficiently delineated and analysed is the position of the regional bourgeoisie. A bulk of this comes under the non-big bourgeois category. There has been a change in the position of the regional bourgeoisie within the overall capitalist class structure and in respect of its relations with the big bourgeoisie. It is not enough to note the contradiction between the big bourgeoisie and smaller sections of the bourgeoisie. With liberalisation, the non-big bourgeoisie has also had opportunities to expand their capital and has become more integrated with the all-India big bourgeoisie. Through this process, some sections of the non-big regional bourgeoisie have entered the ranks of the big bourgeoisie while maintaining their main capital bases in their particular regions.

One of the aspects of the contradiction between the big bourgeoisie and the non-big bourgeoisie was the absence of durable links of the non-big bourgeoisie and foreign capital. After liberalisation, this changed. Sections of the non-big bourgeoisie have utilised the opportunities to collaborate with foreign capital and to benefit from it. All these have led to a muting of the contradiction between the big and non-big sections of the bourgeoisie.

The CPI Programme does not reflect any of these changes when it seeks to characterise the role of the regional parties. By and large, it sees the role of the regional parties in a positive light while noting some of these limitations. The document states:

They represent and voice the urges and demands of vital sections of the people in the particular state/region. They also articulate the urge for empowerment of the people of that region . . . Not having a definite political outlook, these regional parties are willing to join hands with the Communists if the situation so demands.

Such a characterisation tends to include these parties in the Left and Democratic Front.

Though the updated Programme of the CPI (M) could not take on board the new changes that developed in the last two decades with regard to the regional bourgeoisie, subsequent Party resolutions have noted the changing role and position of the regional bourgeoisie and its resultant impact on the regional parties. Though the attitude to the regional parties fall in the domain of tactics, the changed class role of the regional bourgeoisie also has a strategic aspect, which must be noted.


Discuss Programmatic Issues

To sum up, there is a significant change in the characterisation of the Indian state in the new CPI Programme, one that brings it closer to the CPI (M)’s understanding of the state. There are other aspects of the Programme that have correctly analysed the changes in capitalist development and its impact on the various classes. However, there are still shortcomings in the class analysis and in delineating the role of various classes. The leading role of the working class in the forging and carrying forward the democratic revolution and transition to socialism still remains unrecognised. There is, thus, a hangover of the old understanding that has a bearing on tactical lines adopted by the CPI from time to time. However, the fact that the CPI is examining all these issues further is encouraging. The 22nd Congress, which adopted the Programme, also constituted a Programme Commission headed by A. B. Bardhan to continue work on updating and refining the Programme. Despite the unfortunate death of Comrade Bardhan, we hope that this work will continue.

The CPI (M) and CPI are having regular discussions on current political developments and the tactics to be pursued. As part of the ongoing dialogue and coordination between the parties, it may be useful to have discussions on programmatic issues as well.