CPI congress calls for unity against BJP
by Rob Gowland* The 18th Congress of the Communist Party of India (CPI) concluded on March 31 with a mass rally of 100,000 people and a call for the Left and democratic parties to mobilise the masses for defending the country's secular fabric. The 604 delegates, representing the Party's half million members, unanimously adopted the main Congress reports and documents. Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan was re-elected for a third term as General Secretary. Like the Congress of the CPM — Communist Party of India (Marxist) — which was held the week before, the CPI Congress identified the defeat of the BJP Government and its Hindu fundamentalist supporters as the most urgent task facing the Left. The Congress agreed that the way to achieve this was by forging of a "third force" of left, democratic and secular parties to oppose the two "bourgeois landlord" parties, the BJP and Sonia Ghandi's Congress Party. There was sharp debate on this question, with some delegates claiming that the BJP could only be defeated by an alliance with the Congress Party while another group argued that the CPI should have no truck with the Congress Party under any circumstances anywhere. Both these lines were defeated overwhelmingly. In the state of Manipur, the CPI already shares government with the Congress Party, but this is seen as exceptional, the result of circumstances peculiar to that state. A B Bardhan reiterated his call for the country's two main communist parties to merge, a proposal the CPM says is not appropriate at present, but both Party congresses recognised the need for closer relations and more united work to strengthen the Left generally. Bardhan said that despite differences and conflicts at various levels, the CPI and the CPM were closer to each other than to any other party in the country. "If these two parties cannot work together, how can we unite the other forces?", he asked. The CPI leader termed the threat posed by communalist and fascist forces in India as "grave". [Communalism seeks to divide the Indian community on strictly ethnic or religious lines (or both). It is a prime source of religious and ethnic violence.] He said attacks on the nation's secular and democratic foundation had increased in recent times. There was a clear design to create division among the people on communal lines, to try to break India up into 50 or more small states, all of which would be at the mercy of imperialism. He condemned the BJP-led government for "communalising education, administration and culture". "History is being rewritten, the school syllabus is being tampered with and apex educational and research institutions are being packed with nondescript persons from the [Hindu fundamentalist] Sangh Parivar", he said. The Congress noted that, despite being a working class party, the CPI was not yet extensively rooted among the working masses, especially agricultural workers and poor peasants. Delegates from middle class origins made up 40 per cent of the delegates, according to the report of the Credentials Committee. The Congress accordingly issued a call for the Party to "get out to the villages", and to strengthen its work in rural areas. The Congress also agreed to the launching of nationwide struggles around minimum wages, reserving one third of parliamentary seats for women, opposing the BJP Government's attempts to abolish the public distribution system, and defending public education from commercialisation and communalisation. In conjunction with its 18th Congress, the CPI organised a Seminar on the "Impact of Globalisation on the Indian Economy". Former Prime Minister V P Singh told the seminar that India was paying a heavy price for being a member of the WTO, warning that the country was "losing its food security" under the impact of globalisation.
* * ** Rob Gowland attended the CPI Congress as the Communist Party of Australia's representative.