They don't see Red any more

AN INTERESTING episode that is still fresh in the minds of some very old journalists in Kerala goes like this: When the 1962 war broke out between India and China, during a press conference in the capital, EMS reportedly said, `we stand by our country'. That was when a shrewd senior journalist with a keen sense of humour retorted, "Which country do you mean?" EMS is said to have walked out of the press conference. Both protagonists are no more. But this incident seems most relevant today, when China heeds the winds of change and Kerala stubbornly sticks to any old red that has got stuck to it; when even Bengal is contemplating change under the very same set-up.

Interesting and intriguing are the Communist Party of China's attempts to amalgamate Communism and Capitalism, but even more interesting is how our Reds translate these changes Not only the peasants, workers and intellectuals but also the capitalists (once considered enemies of the people) have been given due place in the CPC's constitution.

They have been asked to `free their minds from the erroneous and dogmatic interpretations of Marxism.'

What do our local leftist leaders feel about this? In Kochi, the `Reds' seem unperturbed by the changes taking place in China and say that the Chinese are only using world capitalism to build socialism in China.

K. Chandran Pillai, CITU State Secretary, opines, "The CPC has not given up Marxism and Leninism, but based on the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong's thoughts and the Deng Xiaoping theory, they are initiating changes. They have opened up the economy, which is not the conventional market economy but is based on a socialist framework where the focus is on national resource mobilisation. The market reforms were started in the early 80's by Deng Xiaoping, which allowed the entry of domestic and foreign capital. The foreign capital was from the multinational companies and non-resident Chinese. The Chinese then used their domestic resources to develop their infrastructure. Today in China, the population below the poverty line has drastically reduced. China is developing rapidly and is poised to be in the No. 1 position in 2020. The Chinese are welcoming capitalists into the party but only those who are willing to adhere to the principles of the CPC's constitution, not all capitalists will be allowed in. Though the Communist Party of India Marxist is a workers and peasants party, all the members are not from the working class. One example is E.M.S.Namboodiripad."

The former CITU national secretary V.B.Cheriyan and dissident CPM leader, who had been to China in 1995 and was able to study the economic reforms taking place there, says, "The CPC has its own justification for accepting foreign capital. They say that they had inherited a socially and economically backward nation; and after assessing the situation they came to the conclusion that backwardness will not go hand in hand with socialism. To overcome the socio-economic backwardness they started accepting technological and financial assistance from the West. The CPC also claims that they are `politically forward'. Thus they can effectively tackle the threats that would come from these capitalistic links."

Mr. Cheriyan points out that `members from other classes are allowed into the Communist party only on the condition that they are prepared to act as the adopted sons of the working class. This ensures that the class character of the party as a party of the working class does not alter'.

"I have not studied the CPC's constitution and so I cannot comment on what exactly is happening at present in China, but if they are inviting capitalists not as the adopted sons of the working class but as capitalists per se, this will lead to the weakening of their `political forwardness' and ultimately bring about the death of the social system. They will be junior partners of global capitalism," he feels.

A diehard supporter of CPI (M), Sibi Vettom, comments, "In Kerala, Communism originated in a capitalist system so there is no need for the party to come out with a statement to welcome capitalists now. Karl Marx laid the foundation based on the principles of justice and equality and on that basis newer ideas have to evolve. The world over, dogmatic communism is dying. In Kerala, the Communist Party was responsible for revolutionising the minds of the people and has always worked for the social uplift of the people. The Communist Party is the only party with a social commitment."

Ron Bastian, Chairman of the Maharaja's College Union and SFI Area Committee member, maintains that Communism is thriving in Kerala. "When Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, it was said that `Communism was being buried.' I think the defect lies in the fault of the application and not in the ideology. In different societies, appropriate changes have to be made. What is happening in China may not be relevant here. We have to study their constitution to give an opinion but I am sure the Chinese will only allow the capitalists who accept the programme and the constitution into the party. We are not against globalisation but we are against the defects of globalisation. "

The President of the SFI, Sacred Heart College Unit, Alex Chacko, says, "The negative aspects of globalisation can be felt in the student community. Today, the consumerist culture has set in and there are very few students who are politically inclined or who can think intellectually. Political awareness among the students is very low. In Sacred Heart's College, the elections are personality based and not ideology based. We are not against globalisation or the MNCs coming here but we strongly feel it should be restricted. When the multinationals come in, the small industries get wiped out because they cannot compete with them. If the country depends on any other nation for investment then it becomes the slave of another."

Commenting on the younger members taking up the leadership in the CPC, Committee member of the SFI SH Unit, Sanju K.Mani says, "China is setting a superb example by letting the younger people take up the leadership. They know the younger people will have some good modern ideas. But in any party there should be a balance of young ideas and older people who have experience." On the age factor, Mr. Pillai says, "It is very encouraging but I think it is not the age but the mindset that is important." While Communist China apparently seems to be moving away from Marxism and is welcoming the bourgeoisie into the party, in Kerala too, Mr. Cheriyan feels that there is a widening gap between Marxism and its followers.

Mr. Cheriyan gives vent to his feelings thus: "Ninety-five per cent of the Indian population are the workers and peasants but the CPI and CPI (M) combine which represent the working class have only been able to influence about 7-8 per cent. Today the Communists are a marginalised lot in the Indian polity. The main fault lies in the functioning of the class mass organisations, which have been made adjuncts of the political parties. At present there is a craving for unity among the workers to resist globalisation. Instead of making use of the situation to forge unity among the toiling masses and have a nation-wide stir, the so-called revolutionary parties only agitate in the form of symbolic struggles for votes. Thus the Communist parties here are no different from the other bourgeoisie parties."

Mr. Pillai's concluding statement says it all: "The world over there are changes taking place and the Communists in India cannot ignore these changes. We have to take stock of the prevailing situation and make changes but it has to be positively blended. Marxism is also about accepting change."