Prakash Karat at the Inaugural Session of the 21st Congress
Comrade Sudhakar Reddy, General Secretary of CPI,
Comrade Debabrata Biswas, General Secretary of AIFB,
Comrade Provash Ghosh, General Secretary of SUCI (C),
Comrade Abani Roy, leader of the RSP,
Comrade Kavitha Krishnan, Member of the Polit Bureau of the CPI(ML) (Liberation),
Comrade delegates, observers, guests and friends,
I thank you all for being present here at Visakhapatnam for the inaugural session of the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
I specially thank the leaders of the five Left parties who are present here on the dias for accepting our invitation to attend this session. Your presence here is testimony to the growing resolve of the Left forces in the country to unite and work and to struggle together.
Visakhapatnam is a port city which has the distinction of hosting a number of major public sector enterprises like the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, the Hindustan Shipyard, the BHEL plant and the HPCL refinery apart from hundreds of other medium and small enterprises. The trade unions are well organized and the working class has a history of collective struggles and movements. On this occasion, I greet the working class and the working people of Visakhapatnam district who have made such a big contribution to the hosting of this Party Congress.
We are holding the Congress in Andhra Pradesh which has the glorious legacy of the historic Telangana armed struggle of the peasantry. On this occasion, we pay our respectful tribute to the leaders of this struggle and the builders of the Communist movement in the united Andhra Pradesh, P. Sundarayya, M. Basavapunniah, C. Rajeswara Rao and other pioneering leaders.
Comrades and friends,
The 21st Congress of the Party is being held at a time when the national political situation presents a variety of challenges before us.
For the last nearly one year, we have witnessed the unfolding of the right wing offensive in the country which spans the economic, political, social and cultural spheres.
What are the underpinnings of this rightwing thrust?
Firstly, we have a political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in power at the Centre which is but a political extension of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Thus, the Modi government is a joint enterprise of the RSS and the BJP with the parent partner holding the majority stake in this joint venture.
Secondly, the BJP won the Lok Sabha elections and the Modi government was propelled into office by the twin forces of big bourgeois corporate support and the exertions of the RSS-led Hindutva forces.
It is this backing of the big business which accounts for the aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies by the Modi government. In the short space of ten months, the Modi government has taken more steps to transfer the resources of the country to the big corporates and foreign capital than no other previous government has done. Mineral and coal reserves, insurance, railways and land are all being opened up for big business – Indian and foreign. The Union Budget has reduced corporate tax by 5 per cent and abolished wealth tax. Who benefits from Modi’s achhe din is clear from one fact. The big capitalist – Gautam Adani – has increased his wealth by Rs. 25,000 crore in the span of one year between 2013 and 2014.
The corollary of this pro-big business and pro-rich policies are a vicious attack on the working people and their rights. Farmers everywhere are in distress due to fall in prices for their produce, increasing costs of inputs and lack of public investment in agriculture and irrigation. Their misery has increased manifold with the unseasonal rains this year which have led to more suicides. Employment opportunities are shrinking for the agricultural workers and the rural poor. There is no respite for the common people from the spiraling food prices. The rights of the working class are under attack through the changes proposed in the labour laws. Adivasis face dispossession and displacement under the new mining and mineral law.
Thirdly, the Modi government has opened the way for the Hindutva forces to advance their communal agenda. The RSS is dictating the agenda for the educational system, research and cultural institutions. There is a vicious campaign against the minorities. They face threats of re-conversion; attacks on their places of worships like the churches; violation of their food and cultural rights with acts such as the banning of beef. The Hindutva reactionary and patriarchal values seek to subordinate women and impose social and dress codes to prevent their access to public life and public spaces.
Finally, the rightwing agenda is reflected in the foreign policy with the Modi government actively seeking to ally with US imperialism. The foreign policy of the Modi government is geared strategically to align India with the goals of United States for Asia. The Modi government is surrendering to US pressures for opening up the economy further to foreign capital and for diluting the patents and intellectual property rights.
Comrades and friends,
Today is the birth anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution and the beginning of the observance of his 125th birth anniversary. What the BJP and the RSS are set to do is demolish the secular democratic foundations of the Indian Constitution. Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Gandhiji, is being glorified by the leaders of the BJP-RSS combine. The repeated use of ordinances, the intolerance shown to the secular and democratic intelligentsia and cultural artists are all portents of an authoritarian type of regime.
The Left and democratic forces have to squarely meet this rightwing offensive. Already within the short period, popular discontent is growing. Various sections of the working people are coming out in struggles to defend their livelihood and rights. There is a widespread movement building up against the Land Acquisition Ordinance. All the Central Trade Unions are unitedly struggling against the changes in the labour laws. Coal workers conducted a two-day strike against the Coal Bill which provides for denationalization; the insurance workers conducted a strike against the increase in FDI. Scheme workers are out in the streets to fight for their rights. The coming days are going to witness the accentuation of the contradiction between the ruling classes and the people due to the pro-big business and pro-rich policies of the Modi government.
Our Party Congress will focus on the central theme of how to counter the rightwing offensive; to organise struggles and sustained movements of the working class, peasantry, agricultural workers and other oppressed sections of the people; to develop local struggles on sustained basis and link them to the overall struggle against the neo-liberal policies. The Party will actively take up social issues and fight for the rights of the women, adivasis, dalits and the minorities. The CPI(M) will work for the broadest mobilization of the secular and democratic forces against the communal danger.
On this occasion, I greet the people, mainly the adivasis, who are struggling against their displacement from their lands and habitat by the Polavaram project. More than two lakh people will be affected. Both our Party committees in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are firmly with the tribal people in this struggle.
Comrades and friends,
As Communists, we are directly concerned with the international situation. The world capitalist system has been unable to make a meaningful recovery from the global financial crisis of 2008. The ruling classes have been trying to overcome the crisis at the expanse of the people by imposing austerity measures and further burdening the people. The people of Greece have rebuffed these austerity measures and put in place a government which has promised to adopt an alternative path. This has opened a new political dimension to the ongoing struggles against neo-liberalism and austerity in Europe. In Latin America, the Left-led governments and the popular movements have continued to defy imperialism and pursue an alternative path of development to neo-liberalism. We express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and government who are struggling against the rightwing forces. US imperialism is backing these forces by imposing sanctions.
The CPI(M) extends its full support and solidarity with Cuba. The United States have been compelled to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba which is an important breakthrough. However, the US has not lifted the economic blockade against Cuba which has been in force for the last five decades. We demand an immediate end to this illegal embargo. We reiterate our strong solidarity with the Palestinian people who are fighting against tremendous odds for freedom and an independent State. We express our deep concern for the people of the West Asian countries who are caught up in the vice of imperialist aggression and rising fundamentalist forces.
The CPI(M) extends its warm greetings to all the Left, democratic and secular forces who are struggling in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan for democracy, social justice, against fundamentalism and an end to imperialist interference. We specially greet the democratic and secular forces in Bangladesh who are engaged in a bitter struggle against the fundamentalist and reactionary forces.
At the present juncture, it is absolutely vital to build and expand the independent strength of the CPI(M) and the Left. We have to overcome the reverses suffered by the CPI(M) and the Left in the recent period particularly in West Bengal. From this forum of the Party Congress, I greet the tens of thousands of our Party and Left cadres and supporters who are courageously facing the Trinamool Congress terror tactics and defending the movement. Because of the municipal elections and the Kolkata Corporation elections, many of our elected delegates are not present here. Two of our comrades, Subhas Mukhopadhyay and Manash Mukherjee, who would have attended the Congress, but for the election, were attacked and seriously injured during the election campaign and had to be hospitalized. I greet them on behalf of the Congress and wish them a speedy recovery.
We have paid homage to the 99 martyrs who laid down their lives in West Bengal since our last Party Congress. Their sacrifices will not go in vain. We shall overcome and we shall prevail with the support of the people.
In the context of the rightwing offensive, it is imperative that we widen and strengthen Left unity. All the Left parties, groups and individuals should be brought together on a broad Left platform. We should take steps to establish coordination between the Left-led mass organizations. It is by forging strong Left unity that we can rally all other democratic forces and go forward towards building a Left and democratic alliance.
The CPI(M) Congress will send out a clear and categorical message to the people. The only alternative to the neo-liberal corrupt and communal order is the Left and democratic alternative.
Comrades and friends,
I am confident that the 21st Congress of the CPI(M) will be a landmark in providing a new direction to the Party. It will equip the Party to go to the people to mobilize them for the cause of democracy, secularism, social justice and a Left and democratic alternative.
Let us go forward:
Build a strong CPI(M)!
Forge wider Left unity!
Struggle for a Left and Democratic Alternative!