KOLKATA: 19th February 2012, witnessed a historic massive rally at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata marking the conclusion of the 23rd State Conference of CPI(M), West Bengal State Committee. This was the first conference after 34 years, when the Left Front government is not in power. However, the participation of lakhs of people in the rally showed that the CPI(M) and the left cannot be wiped off from West Bengal, even after unleashing massive terror and intimidation tactics. In the rally, the leadership of the CPI(M) explained the current political situation and the future tasks before the party, as discussed in the conference. We are presenting below, the salient points of the speeches delivered by the leadership in the rally.
Biman Basu, Secretary of West Bengal CPI(M), started his speech by congratulating all the people for making the rally a huge success. He saluted and remembered the 577 comrades who laid down their lives in the struggle to safeguard democratic rights and hold high the red flag of the party. The success of today’s rally showed that struggle cannot be thwarted with terror and the CPI(M) in West Bengal will carry out the struggle for the people in unison with the broader democratic movement in the rest of India.
Pointing out the main discussion in the conference, he said that the conference mainly discussed how to come out of the weaknesses and shortcomings of the party. In this regard, the conference pointed out that the way forward is to go to the people, speak to them, make them conscious about the false propaganda of the media and develop lively mass contact with the people. He pointed out that the capitalists and the imperialists do not want to protect the rights of the people. It is therefore the job of the left and the CPI(M) to struggle to protect the interests of the people.
Biman Basu mentioned that 25 resolutions have been adopted in the conference, the first one being against imperialism. Explaining the resolution against imperialism, he pointed out that imperialism is against people’s development and movement. However, there is a change in the nature of imperialism compared to the past. We have to consciously engage with the worldwide movements and learn from them. Particularly, Latin America has registered an advancement of the left and democratic forces. Even in Europe, common people are on the streets protesting against the neo-liberal policies. In India too, neo-liberal policies are being pursued. It is the responsibility of the party and the left forces to build up mass movements against these policies.
In West Bengal, the party should be strengthened based on inner unity as well as unity with Left Front partners. There is however no place of complacency with the fact that there has been a huge rally. Rather, we have to remain vigilant and work hard to build up a strong movement. The experience of the world has shown that anarchy and destruction of democracy cannot be the way to safeguard people’s interests. This is precisely what the current government is indulging in. On the other hand, divisive forces like fundamentalism, terrorism, and communalism are trying to destroy the unity of the people. The conference has passed a resolution against these forces and pledged to carry forward the struggle against them. The conference also passed a resolution on the neo-liberal policies, pointing out that the policies adopted by both the central as well as the state government are usurping the rights of the workers. In West Bengal, salaries and pensions of state government transport workers have been stopped. Movements would be organized against these policies.
The conference also adopted resolutions against farmers’ suicides in the state demanding remunerative prices for their products and build up struggles to safeguard the interests of the farmers. Resolutions were also adopted on unorganized sector workers, for employment, minority development, against FDI in retail trade and to protect women’s rights. With regard to women’s issues, Biman Basu, pointed out that a heinous crime of rape was committed against a lady at Park Street. But the government said that the allegation was false, without knowing the facts and doing a thorough enquiry. Now, it has been proved that indeed such an incident took place. Even though the Chief Minister of the state is a woman, she has no vision to safeguard women’s interests.
Biman Basu also opined that students’ unions and educational institutions are under attack in the state. He complemented the students for carrying on the fight on the face of such heinous attacks. He appealed to the students to unite and continue the fight against hooliganism and anarchy in educational institutions. He also pointed out that the gains and successes of the Left Front government need to be protected.
On 28th February there is a call for country wide strike by the trade unions. Biman Basu appealed to the gathering to ensure that the strike is a grand success. He concluded his speech by reiterating that there is no place for complacency and appealed to the gathering to carry forward the struggle even on the face of all oppression and terror by strengthening the CPI(M) and unifying all left forces.
Prakash Karat, General Secretary of CPI(M), began his speech by saluting the 577 comrades who laid down their lives for the party, since the last conference. He said that the 23rd State Conference is the first conference where Com. Jyoti Basu is not present to give direction to us. We remember him for his visionary leadership of the CPI(M) and the Left Front government. Karat said that the sea of humanity present in the rally has given a message to the entire world that in West Bengal the red flag flies high and cannot be erased from the state.
Analyzing the current political situation of the country, Prakash Karat, opined that the UPA-II government has been a totally anti-people government. The government has the dubious record of presiding over the highest inflation of essential products since independence, one of the worst agrarian crisis in the country whereby lakhs of farmers have committed suicide and it has set a new record on corruption. He pointed out that the food prices have touched the roof in an unprecedented manner. It has become difficult for poor people even to buy rice, vegetable and other essentials. This high inflation is a direct result of the policies pursued by the UPA government. The government decided to deregulate the price of oil and increased its price on 15 occasions over the last three years. For the last 2 months, they have not increased the price because of the impending Assembly Elections in many states. Once the elections are over, the price will again be raised.
With the adoption of the policies of liberalization 256000 farmers have committed suicide in the country. Everyday farmers are committing suicide which is very shameful for the government. In West Bengal for the last 34 years, when the Left Front was in power, no such incident of farmer suicide took place. But with the new government coming to power, in the last 9 months, 33 farmers have committed suicide. The misery of the farmers has increased with mounting debt and non-remunerative prices for the crop. The main reason for the shameful incidents of farmer suicides in the state is that the government has not procured from the farmers. In Kerala too, with the Congress coming to power many farmers have committed suicide. For last 5 years, when the Left was in power no such incident took place. Whether it is West Bengal or Kerala, Left governments protect the interests of farmers and ensure that no such suicide takes place. But in West Bengal, the government is in a complete denial mode. The CPI(M) has demanded that immediate steps be taken to procure from the farmers and provide debt relief to them.
Prakash Karat mentioned that the Trinamool Congress indulges in double speak. The TMC is a part of the UPA government in the centre. When the price of oil was raised on 15 occasions, the TMC was party to the decision. But in Kolkata they say that they protest against price rise and they were not aware of the decision of price rise. He pointed out that the government is planning to pass a Food Security Act. But this Act maintains the distinction between BPL and APL categories and therefore will end up far from providing food security to the population. In West Bengal the Left Front government tried to increase the number of people under the Public Distribution System by going beyond the BPL category and give them cheap ration. The CPI(M) does not believe in maintaining the distinction between BPL and APL for food security and wants a universal Public Distribution System. Why is the TMC silent about universal PDS?
Coming to the issue of corruption, Prakash Karat pointed out that the biggest scam in independent India has been the 2G scam. The Supreme Court has cancelled all the 122 2G licenses, which were given illegally. But the shameless UPA government still says that there was no scam and no loss to the government exchequer. TMC is a part of this kind of a shameless government. The CPI(M) and the Left parties clearly say that the big capitalists are primarily responsible for the blatant corruption in the country, who have been given the license to loot by the central government. The party is committed to struggle against these policies. He also pointed out that only the Chief Ministers and Ministers of Left-led governments have no allegation of corruption against them. All other bourgeois parties who are in the government are tainted with corruption.
Karat said that in the coming days to save agriculture, farmers, workers rights, against inflation and unemployment, the CPI(M) and Left parties will continue their nationwide struggle. He pointed out that only the Left has an alternative vision and agenda. Efforts will be made in the coming days to build up a Left Democratic Front against the policies pursued by Congress and BJP.
He said that the attack on the West Bengal party cannot thwart the advance of the party in the state. The conference has resolved to carry forward the struggle even on the face of such attacks. He also said that a countrywide movement will be build up against the attack on left in West Bengal. He pointed out that the state conference has resolved to move ahead by struggling on the demands of the people. Those who think that the party can be stopped by terror should know the history of the communist movement in West Bengal, which has emerged fighting against all kind of terror. The conference has resolved to rectify the mistakes and strengthen the party to carry forward the movement. The large rally today has shown that large section of the people are with the CPI(M). No force can wipe off the CPI(M) from West Bengal.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Politburo Member of CPI(M), began his speech by congratulating the huge rally. He said that this historic rally proves that the party is on firm ground. However, there is a difference between this rally and others in the past, the difference being that the Left Front government is not there. People supported the call for a change, and the government changed. But what kind of change are we witnessing? In the rural areas, the change has been very dangerous. Farmers are not sure where to sell the paddy crop. If they are able to sell, they are not getting a fair price. With debt and non-remunerative prices, they are forced to commit suicide. This never happened in West Bengal. Earlier, during the Left Front Government, the farmers could sell their crops and got remunerative price. Shamefully, this government is even denying the issue of farmers’ suicides. The government is saying that those who committed suicide took crores of rupees as loans from the banks. Can farmers get such huge loans? This is completely false. Buddhadeb said that there is a possibility of rice and wheat cultivation falling in the state, because of the apathy of the government. He raised the question as to whether the state is again moving towards food scarcity.
He also said that the panchayats have become inactive. During the Left Front tenure, the panchayats were the hub of activities in the rural areas. The CPI(M) workers are not being allowed to work in the panchayats. Did the people want this kind of change? Even on the industry sector, the new government has not proceeded a single step towards setting new industries. On the power sector, question marks are being raised about the future of the Katwa power plant, sanctioned by the Left Front government.
The situation has become so dire that transport workers are not getting their salaries and pensions. One transport worker committed suicide. The excuse of the government is that there is no money. But the government finds enough money to hold various festivals at Digha and other places. Why so many festivals are being held when the government has no money? Why are festivals being held instead of giving salaries to the workers? Children are dying in the government hospitals. There were some problems during the Left Front government tenure too. But we tried to deal with the situation and controlled such deaths. But the present government simply does not care. On the education sector, the current university act is an insult to all the universities in the state.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya pointed out that anarchy is prevailing in the state. Murders are happening every day. Few days back a lady was raped at Park Street. The government said that the allegation was false without conducting a proper enquiry. All over the state anti-socials have become very active. They are feeling that the government belongs to them.
On other important issues too, there has been no progress. The Left Front government announced the decision to give 10% reservation to Muslim OBCs. The present government has not implemented it. The Darjeeling and Junglemahal issue is far from being solved since the TMC has compromised with the divisive elements in both the places.
He said that the conference has resolved to advance the party and the left within this overall situation. The poor people, workers, unorganized sector workers, poor farmers, agricultural labourers, slum-dwellers have to be reached first with our agenda and movements. He appealed to all democratic minded people to stand against this anarchy and the undemocratic attitude of the government. If such protests are not made, anti-socials will rule the roost. He appealed to the people to help in strengthening the Left. Today, the left is gaining strength all over the world. In West Bengal too there is no alternative but to strengthen the Left.
Md. Amin, Politburo Member of CPI(M), began his speech by remembering Com. Jyoti Basu. He said that we are witness to the semi-fascist terror of 1972-77 and emerged from it victorious. This reign of terror will also not be able to keep us down. He pointed out that in 9 months 33 farmers have committed suicide in the state, while during the Left Front tenure, no such incident happened. The difference between the Left Front government and the current government is clear from this example only. He said that the conference has resolved to overcome the shortcomings and build a stronger CPI(M). He said that on 28th February the entire country will come to a halt, with the workers’ strike against the neo-liberal policies of the UPA government. He appealed to the people to make the strike a grand success. Pointing out the fact that many comrades have been attacked who were coming to the rally, he said that the people will give a fitting reply to such activities. He appealed to the gathering not to lose hope, since the future is ours, which is socialism, which alone can save humanity.
Surjya Kanta Mishra
Surjyakanta Mishra, Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal, said that the conference was held for the first time in 40 years when the Left Front is not in power. However, the huge rally showed that many people are there with the party and from them the party derives its strength. He appealed to the gathering to strengthen the organization and the movement. He pointed out that the government wants us to stop speaking in the Assembly as well as outside. But they cannot throttle the voice of lakhs of people.
He said that the Chief Minister might be watching the huge rally on television. He appealed to her not to switch off the TV and listen to the voice of lakhs of people. He said that 9 months have passed since the government assumed office. But it was clear from the first day that the government is a one (wo)man government. Other ministers simply have no role. Dr. Mishra said that he has written more than 50 letters to the Chief Minister, given her the name and address of 56 comrades who have been killed. But there has been no response from her. On the contrary, it seems that she has told the Director General of Police that the CPI(M) is unleashing attack on the TMC. Even the TMC supporters will not believe that. He pointed out that democratic rights in the state are under attack. Thousands of CPI(M) workers and supporters have been forced to stay away from home. Those who have come back are being forced to pay fines. More than Rs 50 crore has been collected as fines. All these have been brought to the notice of the government but nothing has been done. He pointed out that there is no democracy in and outside the Assembly. In the Assembly, even meeting the press and talking to them has been autocratically stopped. On the other hand outside the Assembly, college principals and students’ unions are being attacked.
Expressing his surprise as to how the government is running, Dr. Mishra said that the Singur Ordinance was brought when the Assembly was in session, which was an unconstitutional act. Even after the Singur Act, only 40 acres of land has been reclaimed by the farmers in Singur, showing that the demand for 400 acres of land for unwilling farmers was false, since the so-called unwilling farmers demanded only 40 acres. On the GTA Act, no consultation with the opposition was done. The party is opposed to the inclusion of Dooars under GTA. Moreover, it was suggested to the government that it be mentioned in the Act that the territorial integrity of West Bengal will be maintained. But that was also not done.
Dr. Mishra pointed out that there is an all round attack in all sectors. Elected panchayat representatives are not being allowed to carry on their work. The government has failed to present a budget. It is inconceivable how a government can run without a proper budget. He appealed to all sections of the people to protest against the attack on the red flag since any such attack on the left ultimately translates into an attack on the people at large. He reiterated the call of the conference to strengthen the struggle both in and outside the Assembly.