Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM)

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This graphic shows the changing fortunes of the Indian Left (and not only CPM) in the states, 2011-2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 20, 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Ideological and other divides

Bengal vs Kerala/ 2016: 1

The Times of India, Sep 07 2016

Former CPM general secretary Prakash Karat's newspaper article arguing that BJP is a “right-wing party of majoritarian communalism“ and not “fascist“ as many Left and liberals believe has set tongues wagging in the party .

What added grist to the chatter is the timing of the article which came on a day the party's politburo was to meet for a day-long meeting.One senior leader said, “The article argues that by calling BJP fascist, Left is making wrong choices to counter resurgence of right-wing ideology. It indirectly says that such a flawed understanding of the rise of the BJP has resulted in prescriptions that might not help.“

He later added that West Bengal unit of CPM and a section of central leadership had argued during the assembly election that the only way Trinamool can be defeated and fascist BJP can be stopped from ma king inroads can be through an alliance with Congress.“Comrade Karat is hitting at that understanding,“ he said citing a line from the article that says “a correct understanding of the ruling regime and the political move ment that it represents is necessary because it has a direct bearing on the politi cal strategy and electoral tactics to be followed to fight BJP and Modi government.“

Karat denied the article was timed with the politburo meeting. “It is the translation of an article I wrote for a Malayalam newspaper a month back. The article is not about electoral alliance but larger understanding of fascism and fascist regimes,“ Karat told TOI. He said, “We miss the nuance by calling BJP fascist. I have been arguing on this for long. If you do not have understanding of the regime, you will not have right strategy to fight it.“ He argued in favour of a broader mobilization of all democratic and secular forces against communalism, while also building a political alliance of Left and democratic forces based on an alternative programme.

A senior leader from Bengal disagreed with Karat. He said, “The article will again rake up the issue of Bengal vs Kerala line. After the West Bengal result was discussed and the party had found fault with the manner in which electoral alliance was struck with Congress, the party had decided to bury the issue and work unitedly .“

Bengal vs Kerala/ 2016: 2

The Times of India, Sep 07 2016

Saugata Roy

Bengal unit netas miffed with Karat

 The debate in the CPM politburo over the party's relations with Congress has resurfaced after the publication of an article by Prakash Karat in an English daily , where he talked about building a broad-based alliance of democratic and secular forces against right-wing forces without naming Congress as part of the alliance. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury , however, insists that Congress is part of the battle aga inst communal forces.

Karat's article questioned the division between secular and communal forces proposed by Yechury and Left intellectuals, namely Irfan Habib.

Many in the party's Bengal unit are miffed with Karat for his attempt to discard the “Yechury-line“, asking why can't the situation in the country be termed as “fascism“.

“Karat is trying to put words in our mouth. Nobody has said the Modi government is a fascist government like Hitler's in Germany . But there are fascist tendencies in the government in its attempts to disband trade unions, change labour laws, replace Indian history with Hindu mythology ,“ a CPM state secretariat member said.

Another CPM state committee member wants Karat to come clear on the alliance with Congress. “The country is divided between secular and communal camps. Karat has himself stressed the need for democratic and secular forces coming together against communalism. Now let him clarify if Congress is a secular party ,“ he said.

Ideological questions

2018: Yechury wins, CPI (M) to support Congress vs. BJP

Anil S, CPI (M) to support Congress to defeat BJP, April 21, 2018: The Indian Express

For the CPM party congress, it could now officially be partytime with the Congress. Party general secretary Sitaram Yechury has finally had his way, as the 22nd party congress on Friday brought in an official amendment to its draft political tactical line, favouring the West Bengal backed Yechury line. Despite the consensus, it could well be termed a setback to the Kerala CPM, which has been pushing for the Karat line.

In an apparent move to keep the windows open for a Congress alliance, the wording ‘without having an understanding with the Congress’ has been excluded from the resolution. The climbdown in the Karat line has been made apparently in the wake of the Tripura setback.

After threatening to snowball into a major rift within the CPM - which could have even led to a split within the party - a consensus move was least expected from the top brass. That the proposal for consensus was moved by none other than Kerala strongman and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan did not go unnoticed.

With delegates from around 15 states demanding a secret ballot on the political resolution and the Karat-led official faction maintaining that such a practice was never part of party history, there were indications of an open rift. Highly placed sources said the politburo that acts as the steering committee for the 22nd party congress decided to make the necessary amendments so as to leave a window open for any profitable electoral alliance. Referring to its political tactical line, the draft resolution says, “The main task is to defeat the BJP and its allies by rallying all secular and democratic forces. However, this has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress party.”

This sentence has been excluded. Instead, there was another sentence saying, “there won’t be any political alliance with the Congress.” The resolution further says: “Appropriate electoral tactics to maximise the pooling of anti- BJP votes should be adopted based on the above political line of the party.” After the discussion, Yechury said the party should take into consideration the general sentiment of the debate. He also underscored that unity within the party is of prime importance. Earlier, there were hectic parleys within the party to avoid extreme responses from either side. Addressing the delegates, Sitaram Yechury said the steering committee resolved the issue. Then Karat mentioned about Tripura setback and pointed out that in the wake of the new scenario, necessary amendments are being made.


General secretary, 2018: Yechury gets second term

Swati Mathur, Yechury gets second term as CPM chief, April 23, 2018: The Times of India

Move Comes After Months Of Wrangling

The Communist Party of India-Marxist elected Sitaram Yechury as its general secretary for a second term at the party’s 22nd congress in Hyderabad on Sunday.

Yechury’s re-election, though expected after his political line was adopted by the party congress only days earlier, was not an easy one. It came after months of internal warring over whether or not to have an “understanding” with the Congress among other secular, democratic forces, and had pushed the party to the brink of an existential crisis.

Yechury’s candidature was decided through a show of hands in the newly-elected 95-member central committee. Insiders said even though several names were being discussed within the party as Yechury’s successor in the runup to the polls, all but two members of the central committee — one each from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — expressed reservation towards his re-election. The voices in support, however, heavily outnumbered the notes of dissent and he was re-elected general secretary, nearly unanimously. Presidium chair Manik Sarkar confirmed that there was no contest in Yechury’s re-election.

Many believe Yechury’s reaffirmation, both in CPM’s leadership role and of his political line ahead of the 2019 general elections, have given him a decisive edge over the hostile Kerala lobby within the party. CPM insiders said while the re-election was seen as marking the defeat of the Karat-Pinarayi axis — the dominant Kerala faction — most leaders felt a sense of “relief” that the party congress had ended without an “untoward or unpleasant” episode.

It also appeared to be a mild edge for the West Bengal unit, which gained not only from being ‘open’ to working with the Congress, like it had in the West Bengal elections in 2016, but also gained in strength in numbers in the newly-elected politburo. Former MPs Nilotpal Basu and Tapan Kumar Sen were inducted in place of outgoing trade union leader A K Padmanabhan.

That a truce had been reached, albeit a temporary one, also seemed apparent in Yechury’s near desperate assertion that all was well within the party. In his opening speech after being re-elected, he said, “If there is one message that has gone out from this 22nd party congress, it is that the CPM has emerged united and determined to carry out the revolutionary task of putting forward alternative policy framework against ruling class policies, and to defeat the BJP government.”

He also spoke disparagingly of the “media” that showed the party as divided. He said, “Our unity is even more steeled and our determination stronger than before.”

A day earlier, politburo member Brinda Karat had attempted to underplay the victory of Yechury’s ‘minority view’ on Congress over Karat’s ‘majority view’, saying the party congress had only agreed to “redraft the disputed paragraphs” and that the political resolution agreed upon was an entirely “fresh draft”.

Membership numbers

2018: decline in Bengal, rise in Kerala

Swati Mathur, CPM membership dips in Bengal, rises in Kerala, April 2, 2018: The Times of India

Coinciding with the steady electoral decline of CPM, the party’s membership numbers have dropped in West Bengal, the state once regarded as a communist hub. Kerala, the only state where CPM remains in power, is now the only one where CPM membership figures have swelled, and is likely to give Kerala delegates an upper hand at the party congress later this month.

The matter, which came up for discussion during a two-day central committee meeting that ended last week, also deliberated over CPM’s political organisation report, an assessment of how the party fared on decisions taken during the 2015 party congress.

Referring to an assessment of its nation-wide organisational strength, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said membership in West Bengal had declined, but said the figures were “not worrisome” because the state unit had only last year implemented a fivepoint renewal rule that was decided during the Kolkata plenum in December 2015.

“The West Bengal unit began stringently implementing the five-point rule on which membership is to be renewed. Since this is the first year of its implementation, the numbers have declined. They will, however, stabilise over time,” Yechury said.

The Kolkata plenum had noted with concern the “declining level of quality of party members”, which it said had “negated the realisation of a mass revolutionary party”.

“What has come into being is more like a mass party without much of the revolutionary content. A large number of party members do not possess the minimum qualification for party membership. This is mainly due to defects in the recruitment process of party members, for which the responsibility lies with the party organisation,” the resolution passed at the plenum had said.

Urging state units to review and revamp their recruitment and renewal processes, the plenum had decided that party membership should be renewed only upon payment of membership fee and levy, following regular attendance in branch meetings, on satisfactory participation in party classes, political campaigns and in agitations and struggles, and upon becoming a member and active participant in mass front work, unless exempted by the party.

The plenum also mandated that members must regularly read party organs and subscribe to them. The CPM leadership had also emphasises the need to induct more youth into the party.



2018: RNI withdraws registration of Desher Katha

Biswendu Bhattacharjee, Tripura CPM mouthpiece ‘shut down’, October 3, 2018: The Times of India

The publication of ‘Daily Desher Katha’, CPM’s mouthpiece in Tripura, was suspended from Tuesday after the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) withdrew its certificate of registration on Monday.

The newspaper was founded on August 15, 1979, under the ownership of CPM. The first Left Front government in Tripura came to power in 1978 with Nripen Chakrabarty as CM.

Disposing of a complaint against the publication, West Tripura district magistrate Sandeep Mahatme recommended that RNI suspend the publication for concealing names of the owner and editor, and not declaring new ownership. The order stated that the details do not match RNI records. Moreover, the newspaper’s ownership was changed without informing the RNI ahead of the last assembly polls.

CPM accused Mahatme of implementing a decision of the ruling BJP. CPM spokesperson and the newspaper’s former editor, Gautam Das, on Tuesday described the de-registration as “totally illegal, politically motivated and anti-democratic”. He threatened to move an appropriate forum to resume its printing. In May this year, one Shymal Debnath of Mohanpur had lodged a complaint that the paper was being published “illegally” and a probe later revealed discrepancies.

West Bengal

2018: old guard makes way for younger leaders

West Bengal CPM old guard makes way for young blood, March 9, 2018: The Times of India

Buddhadeb, Asim Are Now Just Advisers

Before the 2011 assembly election, which marked the end of the Left Front government’s 34-year rule, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Nirupam Sen and Asim Dasgupta were the number one-two-three in the West Bengal cabinet.

Bhattacharjee and Dasgupta bowed out of the CPM State Committee and joined Sen as permanent invitees as advisory members without voting rights.

Thursday marked the end of an era for CPM as politburo member Biman Bose, at 77, ended up the only survivor from the post-Jyoti Basu and Promode Dasgupta generation of leaders from when the party was known as “the Party” — with a capital P.

Bhattacharjee, who has acute respiratory problems, has been pleading with party colleagues to spare him from the central and state committees. But party leaders, including CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, insisted he stay as an invitee, with Bhattacharjee’s presence largely “inspirational and strategic” if not “ornamental.”

The winds of change in the party, which gave the world its longest-serving democratically elected communist government, did not leave the state secretariat untouched either. Two key organisers, Shyamal Chakrabarty and Madan Ghosh, opted out of the new state committee announced at the end of the party’s state conference in Kolkata on Thursday. Another state secretariat member, Dipak Sarkar, former minister Kanti Ganguly, and former MP Basudeb Acharia, all handed the baton to younger colleagues, remaining in advisory capacity on the panel.

The new state committee brought in some fresh blood, though women’s representation in the 80-member panel remains a measly 10. Bengal CITU president Subhas Mukherjee, aged 60, is possibly the oldest among the inclusions in the new state committee.

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