[Summary of talks with several Party committees. From Liberation, November1986.]
There is a danger of the school system degenerating into formalism. Statistics of the number of classes and lessons are good and fine, but that’s not the main thing. Whether or not the ideological and political level is raised — this is the main question. In any campaign, formalism creeps in and there is the need to be on your guard.
Through these classes we aim at developing a Marxist-Leninist understanding to study and analyse various social phenomena; how classes behave, how class interests operate and so on.
For example, in one area, peasants were under the CPI(M)’s influence. Our comrades tried to win them over through abstract propaganda about CPI(M)’s revisionism, parliamentarism etc., but failed. People at large act from their class interests and when this or that party appears to be reflecting their interests, they follow them. Nobody is born a CPI(M), a Congress or a DMK person. Now, as the CPI(M) in that area, in the long process of its stint with power, started compromising with the landlords and moving closer to rich peasants, the contradiction intensified within its erstwhile social base. Our comrades who were already having their independent organisation and movement grasped this contradiction, took up the issues and slogans affecting broad peasant masses and strove to develop joint activities with the lower-ranking CPI(M) cadres and masses under their influence. This time they succeeded. Gradually people shifted their allegiance and came over to us.
Now you will often find many petty-bourgeois intellectuals, a good number of them quite honest and militant, attracted more towards ‘left-wing’ organisations like CRC, PWG etc. It is so because the petty-bourgeoisie by its class position is more inclined to anarcho-syndicalist ideas. The working class and the peasantry are, by their very nature, not averse to politics, thanks to their close integration with reality. Hence, you will not find any lasting influence or mass base of such groups or for that matter of grassrooters among working class and broad peasant masses. You cannot simply win over these intellectuals from the fold of such groups through sheer polemics. Only when more and more independent political initiatives and powerful mass movements develop will these intellectuals change sides.
Many people attribute the AIADMK’s influence in Tamil Nadu to MGR’s charisma. A deeper analysis will reveal that if a good majority of poor and middle classes support this party, they do feel that some of their interests are fulfilled by it, or at least they have that expectation. On the other hand, AIADMK’s basic class position always clashes with its efforts to maintain and develop a broader social base.
We must understand these realities and develop our slogans, tactics and movement accordingly. This is the way we should move in practical politics so as to intensify the internal contradiction between the social base of these parties and their basic class position.
If you act only from your heart, your emotions, you will only land up in condemning these parties. And as emotions do not last long, do not get transformed into material force, ultimately the whole thing will degenerate into self-condemnation. You will have to act from your mind too and evolve concrete policies and tactics, slogans and styles, so as to expose these parties in concrete terms and disintegrate them by helping the masses learn from their experiences and ultimately win them over.
The majority of people in our movement act from their hearts and not from their minds. As a result, in terms of revolutionary phrases they are the first, but in terms of mass following they are the last. The masses continue to remain under the influence of reactionaries, social democrats and regional chauvinists. What is more serious, some people are least bothered about this, they are not ready to change any of their slogans, no matter whether the masses follow them or not! These people seem to believe that revolutions are made by words and not by the masses. This is what is called left phrase-mongering.
The study of Marxist classics will help you grasp the objective laws governing the society, the movement of classes and their struggle.
It will help you in perfecting your slogans, policies and tactics starting from realities and not from subjective wishes.
Democracy within the Communist Party is somewhat different from what is commonly understood by this term. It is democracy under centralised guidance. The Party Central Committee decides when and on what questions debates and discussions should be allowed. Otherwise, the Party will degenerate into a debating society. The CRC group is an extreme example of ultra-democracy. They carried on their so-called two-line struggle endlessly, claiming themselves to be true followers of the Cultural Revolution and asking everyone to debate and debate. What’s the outcome? They have disintegrated into a number of factions. Some of them are now debating whether Marxism is correct or not, others say that the Leninist concept of ‘democratic centralism’ is wrong. Many people feel that CRC is a very democratic organisation. There is a flaw in this argument. Ultra-democracy is something which the petty-bourgeois intellectuals may prefer but then you cannot have an organisation. There cannot be an organisation without centralism. In the early ’70s, a friend of mine told me that this concept of ‘individual subordinating to the organisation’ and ‘minority submitting to majority’ was very humiliating and he claimed that the Cultural Revolution had abolished this by declaring that ‘truth often rests in the minority’. I told him that you cannot have an organisation then.
This man who subsequently deserted the Party, now runs an ‘Internationalist’ centre. But alas, he is alone in his mission!
The Party line is decided in the Party Congresses. Prior to that, debates and discussions are conducted on all aspects of the Party line. Now once things are decided in a Party Congress, the whole Party must implement those decisions. Again there will be a Congress, there will be debates. In the meantime too, on questions of new policies and tactics, and on questions which are treated as experimental ones, debates and discussions are always conducted, and opinions gathered. Decisions are taken on majority-minority basis and the minority is allowed to keep their views reserved.
Now some people say, your Party is not democratic enough and that is why you have not split. Your consistent unity shows that you are not democratic. The CRC, the PCC and others are always splitting because they are democratic. Some others say, you are united because you keep your ranks in the dark, you don’t educate them politically, you don’t allow them to read the literature of others or to come in contact with others; and your leadership is based on an unprincipled unity between two, or perhaps three, factions who otherwise hold extremely divergent and opposite positions.
You know this is all rubbish. Actually, these people indulge in such fantasies only to justify their own anarchism, their own failure to build a party based on democratic centralism. All these groups dread centralism and use the Cultural Revolution and Mao as a smokescreen for their own anarchism.
Some people claim that SN’s basic contribution was upholding democratic centralism against CM’s bureaucratic authoritarianism. If that were so, why did he miserably fail to develop a united party? Why did his PCC split whenever any issue came up for debate? And how is it that those who stayed with CM ultimately succeeded in developing a united party? Actually, what SN fought for was ultra-democracy and went on to hit at the basic tenet of centralism, and that too in a period of extreme repression. CM had quite rightly emphasised that democracy was not a plaything for a Party engaged in life-and-death struggle. He had correctly laid stress on centralism in periods of white terror. Basically speaking, he was correct. Now it’s true that certain deviations had come up with centralism being over-emphasised. But in spite of this, genuine and serious revolutionaries did remain with CM and gradually overcame the deviations and under a different set of conditions, democracy was brought back to full play. But the singular failure of SN clearly demonstrates that he was fundamentally wrong and that his struggle was not for democracy but against centralism.
We have been successful in establishing democratic centralism in the main. Still some wrong tendencies do exist in our organisation. In the case of mass organisations we do stand for their independent role and functioning, and as regards cultural organisations we do support their autonomy. But some Party persons in these organisations misinterpret this independence and autonomy. Well, you can say they opt for ‘separatism’. Independence and autonomy are weapons for uniting with larger and larger number of people, for developing creativity and skill in your work. You can term this independence as ‘relative independence’. But ‘separatism’ is different: it demands the right to violate the Party line, the Party’s guidance and Party discipline.
Nowadays many people violate Party decisions, they prefer to be called ‘dissidents’. They are critical of every step, of every idea which comes from the Party leadership under the pretext that they were not consulted. I know some members who want all the rights of a Party member but are not ready to shoulder any responsibility given to them by the organisation. If anything goes against their will, they will simply not obey it.
The primary requirement of membership is that you must fulfil the responsibility entrusted upon you by the organisation. While deciding upon this responsibility you must be consulted and your assent obtained, but once decided you must carry it out with all sincerity. If this minimum Party sense is not there you are not eligible for membership and therefore for the rights of a Party member.
These are a few manifestations of ultra-democracy. You should not brand each and every problem as the manifestation of ultra-democracy. Some reports say that not taking up hard work is ultra-democracy. When we began our struggle against liquidationism, I remember one report finding liquidationism in coming late to meetings or in somebody falling asleep during some serious talks. I am afraid this may not be correct. If you brand everything as ultra-democracy you may well miss the real target.
However, centralism is based on democracy. If discussions and debates are disallowed in the Party, if a regular system for gathering various opinions and consulting various persons is not there, if undue interference goes on in every tid-bit affair of mass organisations, then centralism will turn into bureaucracy.
Again, if you do not have correct policies, if there is no timely guidance, if there are no rules, no proper divisions of work, then also centralism and discipline cannot be established.
And last but not the least, enforcement of centralism and discipline is closely related to the stature of the Party leadership in the eyes of the ranks. If there is widespread resentment below, if confusion and dissent abound, then the root cause must be sought in the leadership. If leaders do not have a good grasp of the situation and of Marxism-Leninism, if their lifestyle and their attitudes smack of decadent bourgeois culture, if they are not modest, sober and hardworking, if they do not enjoy spontaneous love and respect from the ranks, their simply holding a high post in the Party hierarchy will not be of any use. Only when the core of leadership is mature and dedicated and therefore enjoys high prestige, is it possible to enforce organisational discipline. Otherwise, all such attempts will only be counterproductive. All dissidence, therefore, should not be considered anti-Party and everywhere we should not try to solve the problem by using the stick of discipline and sharp criticism. I do think that at some places some leaders and certain Party committees have considerably lost their prestige. And this is the primary problem to which we must address ourselves during this consolidation campaign. This is not to weaken the centralism of the Party but to really strengthen it. I emphasise centralism, because many new comrades don’t understand its necessity and more so, because all around you anarchist groups are bent upon weakening the centralism which the Party has built up through hard efforts all these years. Moreover, for an underground Party which is already operating under conditions of extreme repression in certain areas, and the situation in other areas may anytime take such a turn, centralism is absolutely important.
Truly speaking, lower-level Party organisations are all in a shambles. Well, we do have a Central Committee and a number of Central Departments. State Committees, too, function more or less regularly and on a stable basis, but when it comes to committees at regional or still lower levels and to units and cells, you won’t find any proper Party system with any degree of regularity and stability. This situation is also responsible for much of the confusion and anarchism below and serves as a veritable breeding ground for the bureaucratic attitude of leaders, for the concentration of power in a few hands and decision-making by a few brains.
To alter this situation, the CC has directly addressed itself to the RCs and asked them to submit their periodic progress reports straight to the CC. In the first phase of consolidation, Party cells, units and committees were formed everywhere, but by now many of them have again become defunct and comrades realise that this is a formal way of doing the things. Learning from experience, comrades are changing their methods. At many places they are combining the process of forming study groups with that of forming cells and units. They are putting emphasis on developing first the organisers and nucleus elements around whom these lower-level Party organisations will be formed.
The system of developing Party committees on a factory, institution, office and university basis has not made much headway, neither have the Party cores in mass organisations been stabilised. Still, the exclusive system of having area-based Party committees is still in vogue. Leading cadres have not paid much attention to this aspect of party building and the old pattern continues. This is so because many people are yet to appreciate the full significance of the radical changes that have taken place in our Party’s activities and the diversification of its work in various fields. The old Party pattern is no longer capable of keeping command over the entire work: either the Party remains cut off from the whole stream of work, or a few leaders rush everywhere issuing commands and making undue interference. Much of the work is now in the legal sphere and many new faces are getting attracted towards the Party. The old pattern of Party organisation cannot cope with all these new developments. The new pattern must have a completely underground and illegal nucleus at the core surrounded by a vast network of Party units, cells and groups, many of them operating in semi-legal and some even in legal conditions. Strengthening the lower-level Party organisations does not just mean forming many more committees, units and cells; rather the idea is to make these bodies active and effective in their varied fields and forms of operation. This aspect has been totally neglected so far.
Here the question is of not merely concentrating work within specified geographical boundary, rather it symbolises a particular style of work, ‘conscious area of work’, if you will. Most of the reports indicate a spontaneous style of work, running behind the events. Somewhere jewels are stolen from some temple, or an issue has come up concerning Cauvery waters, and you rush to develop movements. Here you are running after events, and activists developed on the basis of this style of work will be seasonal activists of a partial nature. In the wake of some major events they will become active. At other times they will lie dormant.
‘Concentrated areas’ should be developed as models of a particular style of work where you have conscious plan and programme, a longterm perspective, policies and tactics, a style of work where you have activists undertaking day-to-day mass work. If you have this infrastructure, you can take timely initiatives to meet any swift turn of events.
In many reports I find no mention of any policies and plans of work. If you had some policies, firstly, what experiences have you gathered through their implementation? And secondly, does this experience demand any change in policies? On these questions, many reports prefer to remain silent, and this is the greatest drawback in our style of work. At many places, either there have been no policies and plans, or they have remained only on paper. Working blindly means working on the basis of wrong policies. If you have no correct and conscious policy, you have wrong policies, spontaneous policies, and you are not alive to the dangers inherent in following such a course. Consolidation of a Party committee always revolves around the policies it makes and implements and a constant review of these policies. Leaders again have not paid sufficient attention to this aspect. Their job is to concentrate on particular areas or fields of work, develop policies, analyse typical cases, and guide the whole organisation in the light of these experiences.
To add a conscious element to the spontaneous struggle of the people — it’s for this purpose that a Communist Party is there, otherwise it loses its raison d’ętre.
It is through these organisations that the Party maintains closest living links with the masses. The task of these organisations is to take up the most primary demands of the masses, daily expanding their links with the latter.
We have observed that in their bid to develop themselves as state-level or all-India bodies, these organisations have lost much of their dynamism and their links with the masses at the grassroots have become rather loose. At many places they have just been made dummies of the mass political organisation, thanks to our over-enthusiastic efforts to instantly transform partial struggles into political ones. Maintaining the correct interrelation between the class and sectional organisations, on the one hand, and the mass political organisation, on the other, is crucial to the development of both. The two should actively help each other, but one should not try to play the other’s role. Whereas the mass political organisation is to be strengthened first at the national and then at the state level, class and sectional organisations must be strengthened first and foremost at the local and regional levels and then at the state or national level.