Cut to size, Big Brother CPM finds pride of place for Little Brothers

The dining area for the delegates in Visakhapatnam. Organisers said the name “Sarada” had nothing to do with the Saradha scam in Bengal and that it was named after a river in the city. Pictures by JP Yadav

Visakhapatnam, April 14: Prakash Karat today lined up leaders of five Left parties on the CPM party congress dais and appealed for unity, perhaps betraying concerns that the Marxists could be further marginalised if they didn't hold fellow Leftists' hands.

Never before have so many Left parties been invited to the triennial conclave's inaugural session, suggesting loss of power in Bengal and Kerala may have softened the CPM's alleged "big brother" attitude.

The guests were from the CPI, Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, SUCI-C and CPIML Liberation. Karat walked up to personally thank each after they had spoken, the gesture contrasting with the CPM's past treatment of the smaller Left parties when it held Bengal's reins.

"It is by forging a strong Left unity that we can rally all the other democratic forces and go forward towards building a Left and democratic alliance," the outgoing CPM general secretary said.

CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy highlighted the possibility of a Left recovery. He held up the Delhi poll results to say the Left needed to learn from the Aam Aadmi Party victory.

"The people of India have not written off the communists.... The Delhi elections proved that the BJP can be defeated. The Left needs to draw lessons from the AAP," Reddy said.

Children get ready to greet the delegates with the “Red Salute”

"Let us unite. Let us conduct class battle to reconnect," he leader added.

The speeches sounded like pep talks aimed at CPM leaders and cadres. With the Left's future showing no apparent signs of improvement in the country, the speakers chose to look towards Europe and Latin America for hope.

Karat held up the developments in Greece arguing that, as communists, the delegates were directly concerned with the international situation.

"The people of Greece have rebuffed these austerity measures and put in place a new government which has promised to adopt an alternative path," he said.

"This has opened a new political dimension to the ongoing struggles against neo-liberalism and austerity in Europe."

The other speakers too tried to strike a note of optimism. Prabhash Ghosh of the SUCI-C said the phase of differences with the CPM was over, now that the Marxists had lost power in Bengal and Kerala. He called for joint Left action.

Ghosh said that people were crying out for socialism across the globe, as evident from the "surging waves of mass movements in America and Europe".

"(The) objective condition for a revolution is present but the subjective factor is still to come," the SUCI leader said, calling on Leftists to work to turn the objective into subjective.

Little children dressed in red marched to greet the delegates with the "Red salute". The party introduced them as next-generation communists, perhaps to enthuse those demoralised by serial electoral setbacks.

The six-day party congress is slated to debate ways to connect with the youth. The party's organisational report has shown a sharp fall in membership, particularly in Bengal.

But the CPM, which acknowledges its failure to attract young minds, appears at a loss how to correct the lapse. It has taken to Twitter and Facebook in a big way to establish a connect with the youth but the feedback has so far not been too exciting.

With the same objective in mind, the party secretaries in 16 states - including Biman Bose in Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala - have been replaced with relatively younger faces.

At the top, however, suspense continues whether a relatively younger Sitaram Yechury, 63, or S. Ramachandran Pillai, 77, will replace Karat when the conclave elects a new general secretary on its last day, April 19.

"Young is a very relative term," Karat, 67, said yesterday on being asked whether a younger face would succeed him.


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