Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat has said that socialist alternatives to be strengthened in the 21st century should discard the components in the 20th century socialism that are not relevant to the contemporary reality.

Inaugurating the seminar on ‘Future of Socialism’ organised at the Town Hall here on Tuesday in connection with the 20th Party Congress of the CPI(M) beginning here on April 4, Mr. Karat outlined the contours of the ideological issues identified for discussion during the six-day congress. “Socialism of 21st century cannot be socialism of the 20th century,” he said stressing that it was incumbent upon Communists to learn from history. What had been learnt from the last century was carried forward but errors involved in the past experiences of socialism should be discarded to build socialism that would suit the contemporary world, he noted.

Identifying five major ideological components that are required a re-look to make socialism compatible with the realities of the contemporary world, he said that socialisation of the means of production being the cardinal principle of socialism required re-interpretation to learn from the lessons from the past. Social ownership should not be equated with state ownership. He also said that the Marxists today recognise that the market has a role to play even in the socialist system. The Soviet model of centralised planning had to be replaced by a decentralised planning process, he said.

The party general secretary highlighted democracy as the biggest challenge for the 21st century socialism to be strengthened as an alternative to the crisis-ridden capitalism. “No socialist country had the luxury of developing democracy free from subversion by imperialism. The lack of development of socialist democracy in the existing socialist countries is something we have to learn from,” he pointed out. Equally challenging was the need of re-defining the party-state relationship, Mr. Karat said that the lack of demarcation between the party and the state had a deleterious impact on socialist societies. “The principle of democratic centralism cannot be applied on the entire people,” he added.

Observing that socialism was not built in a vacuum, the CPI(M) general secretary said that while working class could lead the revolutionary changes in the last century since the Russian revolution, the working class in organised industry had come down today. The proletariat today was bigger in size but they were relocated in such a way that they were dispersed, he said.

Stating that the Party Congress was going to discuss the resolution on ideological issues, Mr. Karat said that socialism was a product of the most powerful currents that emanated in the last century including anti-imperialism. Democracy today was shaped by the struggles and movements of the 20th century, he said adding that ideas such as gender equality that people take for granted today were brought out by the social changes inaugurated by the socialist revolutions of the 20th century.

Mr. Karat said that after two decades of the fall of the Soviet Union, it was now recognized al over the world that the finance-driven capitalism was unsustainable. Today the world was talking about the future of capitalism, he said adding that despite scientific and technological advances being utilised by the capitalist countries, nearly two billion people suffered from multi-dimensional poverty, he said.

Cuban Ambassador Abelardo Cueto Sosa, CPI(M) leaders Thomas Isaac, Tapan Sen, MP, and historian K.K.N. Kurup were among those present at the seminar.

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