Speech of Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, in the meeting organised by Lok Awaz Publishers and Distributors to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Ferozeshah Kotla rally
We have gathered today to mark the 20th anniversary of an extremely important milestone in the history of our Party and in the history of the class struggle in our country.
On 22nd February 1993, a protest rally took place at Ferozeshah Kotla on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Delhi at the initiative of our Party. It took place at the very spot where Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades met to form the Hindustani Socialist Republican Army. It is the spot where they pledged to free our country from colonial rule and from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
A group of courageous activists of the working class, women and human rights organisations jointly carried out this action, led by our party comrades. We took a Pledge and issued an Appeal to all men and women of conscience in our country. We called on the people to unite around the program to replace the outdated party dominated system of democracy with a modern system in which people will exercise political power.
In order to appreciate the significance of that initiative, we must take our minds back to that time, when the whole world had witnessed a major change in the political climate, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
The imperialist powers of the world, headed by the US, had launched an unprecedented offensive against the system, values and ideas of socialism and communism. They arrogantly declared that “There is no alternative to capitalism or the so-called market oriented economy; and there is no alternative to multi-party representative democracy”. They demanded that every country must accept this or face the combined military might of the imperialist big powers.
Taking advantage of the global situation, the monopoly capitalists in our country launched a full-scale attack on the livelihood and rights of the working class and majority of people, under the banner of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation. This was to pursue their imperialist aims under the new conditions.
The Congress Party-led minority government of Narasimha Rao and its technocrat Finance Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled this so-called economic reform program in 1991.
The political arena was dominated by the sectarian rivalry between the Congress Party and BJP. These two parties of the big bourgeoisie competed with one another in spreading communal poison against Muslims and Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. Rajiv Gandhi, who was in command of the genocide of Sikhs in 1984, unlocked the gates of Babri Masjid to pave the way for Hindu-Muslim strife. Both the Congress Party and BJP collaborated in the destruction of Babri Masjid on 6th December, 1992. Over the following several weeks, they incited communal hatred and engulfed the country in communal bloodbaths in numerous places.
The mayhem and chaos created by the principal parties was in the service of the big bourgeoisie. It enabled the ruling class to impose its anti-people program of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation.
Confusion was created within the working class movement at that time by CPI(M) and others who blamed only the BJP and its allies for spreading communal hatred and violence. They conciliated with the bourgeois propaganda that presented the dogfight between the two main parties of big capitalists as a struggle between Secularism and Hindutva. They argued that the Congress Party defends secularism and is a “lesser evil” compared to the BJP.
Our Party boldly declared that both the Congress Party and BJP are equally and together responsible for the destruction of Babri Masjid and for the widespread communal violence. They are both responsible for the increasing criminalisation of politics. They are both guilty of mass murders and deserve to be punished.
With the blood of thousands of innocent people on their hands, the leaders of Congress Party and BJP were gearing up for the budget session of Parliament, which opened on 22nd February. An extremely tense situation prevailed in the capital city. The Narasimha Rao government had imposed a ban on all kinds of street protests or meetings. Numerous left parties were spreading pessimism and acting as if nothing can be done.
Our Party saw it as an opportunity to make a breakthrough, even with the limited forces under our command. It was an opportunity to create a platform with wide appeal among the broad masses of people, who were angered by the dangerous and criminal acts of those in power. We organised a mass rally right under the nose of the Delhi Police.
We did not seek any police permission. We had organised, through our comrades working in the various mass organisations, that the participants would gather at Ferozeshah Kotla at a pre-determined time and begin the mass protest before the policemen realise what is happening. It was carried out like clockwork. We defied the ban and we got away with it.
The participants in this courageous act including leading members and activists of Mazdoor Ekta Committee, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Saheli, and Punjab Human Rights Organisation. They included the well-known political scientist Professor Rajni Kothari. The news of this act of defiance spread widely in the city and among progressive circles everywhere. A large number of political personalities, scholars, retired judges and civil servants signed the Appeal issued on that day 20 years ago.
Our Party recognised that the majority of people are extremely angrywith a political process that brings parties to power and lets them do what they like, while claiming they have the people’s mandate. The solution lies in establishing a system in which the role of a political party is to keep the people in power. This revolutionary idea was injected into the political arena by our Party, through the historic rally at Ferozeshah Kotla. That initiative led to the formation of the Preparatory Committee for People’s Empowerment on 11th April, 1993, which subsequently reconstituted itself as Lok Raj Sangathan in 1998.
The initiative we took 20 years ago was not a small thing. It was a well-planned revolutionary action that managed to capture the imagination of all progressive people at a crucial time. It is important to sum up and learn the appropriate lessons from that successful initiative.
The reason why we were successful lies in the fact that our Party did not succumb to the tremendous ideological pressure on communists at that time. There was pressure on all communists to abandon the cause of the proletarian revolution and socialism.
Several parties in the western countries decided to change their name. They dropped the word communist from their names. Some openly declared that they no longer uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat to be their political aim.
The Communist Party of India, which had looked up to the Soviet Union for inspiration, was thrown into a state of depression. CPI(M) further adjusted its positions to be acceptable to the bourgeoisie in the new conditions. It became the champion of the line of defending Secularism, promoting the Congress Party as the “lesser evil” compared to the BJP.
The First Congress of our Party, convened during 23-25 December in Mumbai, 1990, set the task of building the broadest possible political unity of the people against state terrorism and communal violence, irrespective of ideological differences. It set the task of working out and elaborating the General Line and tactics appropriate for this period, using our own heads, guided by our science of Marxism-Leninism and in collaboration with our sister parties abroad. The First Congress passed a resolution that we are our own models.
Based on our work of summing up the experience of the rise and fall of socialism in the Soviet Union, our Party drew the important conclusion that a modern Communist Party cannot and must not fight for political power in its own hands, either through the ballot or with the bullet. As the vanguard of the working class, the Communist Party must be an instrument to enable the working class to establish its rule in alliance with the peasantry, ensuring that the will of the majority prevails and not of any exploiting minority.
We contested the assertion that there is no alternative to the capitalist democracy. We exposed that multi-party representative democracy is an outdated political process. We argued why it needs to be replaced with a modern democratic political process that keeps decision-making power in the hands of the people.
Bourgeois political scholars promote the unscientific notion that the sign of a democratic system is the existence of two or more political parties. We argued that the question is not how many political parties exist but what kind of party the people need in order to be empowered.
The existing system and party dominated political process is a form of democracy that serves the bourgeois class, a small minority of the population, to impose its will on society. The alternative system and political process that we are fighting for will enable the toiling majority of people to contest the power of the privileged minority and come into power themselves. It will serve the aim of the working class to win over the oppressed majority and steer society on the path of socialism and communism.
The political parties of the bourgeoisie are dead opposed to the idea of people’s empowerment because the interests of the bourgeoisie is in irreconcilable conflict with the interests of the working class and toiling peasantry. The bourgeois class can rule only through a system and political process that excludes the majority from power.
The communist party must fight for people’s empowerment because the interests of the working class is not in contradiction with the interests of the peasantry and other oppressed and exploited masses.. The working class needs to mobilise and draw the toiling majority of people into the struggle in order to defeat the bourgeoisie.
A system that vests sovereignty in the people is the form of democracy suitable for the proletariat to direct society. It is the vanguard party of the proletariat that will ensure that people exercise decision-making power.
It is the militant work of developing Marxist-Leninist thought to deal with the problems posed by the new period which gave our Party the strength and the confidence to organise such an initiative as the Ferozeshah Kotla rally. That practical political action was an outcome of the theoretical work we carried out, and in turn served to further advance that work in close connection with the class struggle.
The destruction of the Babri Masjid was a signal that the ruling class could no longer rule through peaceful means. The Ferozeshah Kotla rally was a signal that the ruled masses of people would no longer tolerate this outdated and criminal system of democracy. It was a turning point in the politics of our country.
No party has been able to command a majority of seats in Parliament ever since. Unleashing violence and mayhem to set people against one another has become an almost permanent feature. No elections are fought these days without creating diversions and without unleashing some form of sectarian violence. Individual and state terrorism has become institutionalised.
The system of parliamentary democracy has not been able to regain the credibility it once enjoyed in the eyes of the people. The movement for people’s empowerment has grown in influence and scope.
The developments over the past 20 years confirm that the initiative of our Party in February 1993 was on target. Life experience has confirmed that our Line is correct and we have to take further initiatives to see that it captures the broad masses of people who are resisting the anti-social offensive.
The 1996 Lok Sabha elections resulted in a hung Parliament, with neither Congress Party nor BJP being able to form a coalition government under its leadership. The situation was favourable for the movement for people’s empowerment to advance. However, the working class was misled by the CPI(M) and others who refused to break free from the existing discredited system of democracy.
CPI(M) and its followers argued that the best alternative was a Third Front formed by an alliance of various regional bourgeois parties and the CPI, supported by CPI(M) and by the Congress Party from outside. This was promoted as the only way to keep the BJP out of power. Keeping the BJP out was presented as the immediate aim for the working class and all progressive forces. This line served to hide the real source of the problems and divert the toiling people from the struggle against the ruling bourgeois class.
The so-called Third Front government did not last its full term. The BJP formed a coalition NDA government in 1998 and ruled for the next six years. It launched the second phase of the privatisation and liberalisation program, starting with the strategic sale of Modern Food Industries to the multinational Hindustan Lever.
CPI(M) and its followers persisted with the line of supporting the Congress Party in the name of defending Secularism and keeping the BJP out of power. When the 2004 Lok Sabha election resulted in a stalemate, they came forward to enable the Congress Party to form the UPA Government headed by Manmohan Singh.
The experience of the past nine years with the UPA Government headed by Manmohan Singh has smashed all illusions about the Congress Party being less evil and therefore preferable to the BJP. These have been years of unprecedentedly rapid growth in the wealth of the Tatas, Ambanis and other monopoly houses. They have been years of tremendous intensification in the degree of exploitation of the working class and robbery of peasants and tribal peoples.
The working class is no longer willing to put its faith in the Congress Party or any other party of the capitalist class. The disillusionment and anger among the workers has reached a high pitch, as seen in the two-day General Strike that took place a few days ago. The mobilisation and participation of workers all over the country was one of the most enthusiastic seen since the demonstrations of workers and peasants in Delhi in 1993 twenty years ago, against the program of liberalisation launched by the Narasimha Rao Government.
In a situation of widespread discontent and anger among the people, political preparations have begun for the Lok Sabha elections due next year. It is once again a situation where the credibility of the Congress Party and BJP are both at low ebb. Considering the possibility that neither of them may be able to form a government after the next General Elections, the ruling class is escalating the organising of diversions, of communal violence and unleashing of state terror.
Massive propaganda is being carried out by the TV channels to get the people excited about an American style contest between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. At the same time, the ruling class is preparing for all possibilities, including open fascist rule in the name of tackling an emergency situation.
Communal hatred is being spread openly and given a lot of publicity. Chauvinism and jingoism is being whipped up against Pakistan, for which purpose Afzal Guru was hanged despite lack of convincing evidence of his guilt.
The organising of bomb blasts in Hyderabad in which dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured must be seen in this light.
A tense situation is being created, reminiscent of the situation 20 years ago. It is being created to further advance the dangerous imperialist agenda of the bourgeoisie. The Tatas, Ambanis and other monopoly capitalist houses want foreign capital to flow abundantly into our country, while they take their own capital to Africa and other parts of the world, in pursuit of their goal of imperialist big power status for India.
Four days from now, Finance Minister Chidambaram will be presenting the Union Budget for 2013-14. He has promised to deliver a “responsible budget”. By this he means that his government will look after the concerns of the foreign and Indian big capitalist investors and the big banks, while ensuring that expenditure on services to the people is kept on a tight leash.
The Finance Minister has no intention of addressing the burning concerns of the working class or the peasantry. On the contrary, he intends to let the problems of unaffordable food prices; persistent unemployment and heightened insecurity of livelihood grow from bad to worse.
How can we halt the dangerous direction in which the present day rulers are dragging our country? How can we stop the rape and plunder of our land and labour by Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists and their agents in the Parliament? How can we make the economy and the political system work for us, to protect our rights and provide us with prosperity? These are burning questions in the minds of the workers, peasants, women and youth today.
The necessity for people’s empowerment remains the burning question of the times. The rulers want to divert attention from this question. We communists must work to keep the focus on this central question.
It is important to understand how the ruling bourgeois class is using the media to set the agenda of public debate and inject their poisonous propaganda in the minds of the people.
Take the case of violence against women, which has become the topic of daily debates on TV news channels in recent times. It is clear that people are extremely angry with the hostile environment facing the women of our country. At the same time we need to ask the question why one case of gang rape received such massive media attention. Is it only because the people are angry? No, comrades, it is part of a globally orchestrated campaign. The bourgeoisie has picked on this particular issue with the aim of making people focus only on some ugly symptoms of the disease and not on the disease itself.
The bourgeoisie picks on an issue that agitates the people and treats it as if it is unconnected with the economic system and political order of society. Some change in this or that law, the creation of an additional authority, or reforming some state agency or policy are promoted as being the solution.
On the question of violence against women, various demands are being promoted such as strengthening anti-rape laws, sensitizing the men in power, police reforms and other recommendations of the Verma Commission. The central government set up this Commission and demanded that it must produce a comprehensive report within a month. The aim behind this is to make people preoccupied with demanding that this or that recommendation of the Verma Commission be implemented. These are nothing but tactics aimed at diverting and disintegrating the struggle for the emancipation of women. The bourgeoisie wants women to direct their anger against men, against male chauvinist thought and attitudes, but not against the State and the exploitative economic system it defends.
Our theory teaches us that material conditions determine the consciousness of human beings. The economic system in our country, which is defended by the existing state and the ruling parties, is based on the exploitation of labour and plunder of natural resources for the enrichment of a wealthy minority. Women, who are the ones who perform most of the labour within the family, will be oppressed as long as exploitation of labour remains the basis of economic relations. In our country, women are oppressed by the caste system, by the oppressive legacy of colonial rule and by the capitalist system and imperialist plunder, which is growing alongside the preservation of the older forms of oppression.
The solution to the oppression of women lies in a revolution that would sweep away the caste order, all remnants of feudalism and colonialism, and the capitalist-imperialist system of exploitation and plunder. Those who work must become the masters of society and convert the means of social production into social property. Women and men in such a society will be co-workers with equal rights.
Corruption scandals are another favourite topic of the corporate media. Various monopoly capitalist groups are using such scandals and exposures to hit at their rivals, while the illusion is spread that some institutional reforms within the existing system can curb corruption.
The truth is that corruption is a fellow-traveller of the existing system of state monopoly capitalism. It cannot be curbed without a revolutionary change in the political and economic order.
The aim of the bourgeois propaganda is to keep people chained to the illusion that the existing system is just fine and all that is needed is some denting and painting. The ruling class does not want the toiling and oppressed people to come to the conclusion that nothing short of a revolutionary change in the entire system can solve these problems, be it corruption or the oppression of women.
You can paint a donkey with any colour but that will not turn it into a horse. It will only be a painted donkey. No jugaad can change the oppressive and exclusive nature of the existing political system. We have to dump the entire system and lay new foundations. This is the meaning of Navnirman.
Whether you first become politically active through the struggle against communal violence and state terror, or against the violation of women’s rights, or through the struggle to defend workers’ or peasants’ rights, you have to come to the same conclusion – that we have to fight for revolution. The enemy we face is a monster and we have to become powerful enough to defeat it. We need advanced consciousness and the highest level of organisation in order to defeat the class in power. We need to make the goal of the struggle clear to all, as well as the program to reach that goal.
This is the essence of the work carried out by our Party on a daily basis. All the work of our Party is carried out with the aim of making the working class and oppressed masses of people conscious and organised to carry out the revolution that will actually solve their problems.
People become political when they participate actively in the class struggle. Political education takes place in close connection with the experience gained from participating in various day-to-day struggles. Our Party has set the important task of establishing committees in local areas, wherever people live or work, among the workers, peasants, women and youth. We must build such organs of struggle in the industrial areas, in villages, in bastis and mohallas, in college and university campuses.
Our comrades have been in the forefront of this work of establishing samitis elected at open mass meetings. Such elected committees have taken up whatever pressing problems the people of that locality suffer from, be it lack of drinking water or sanitation, access to PDS ration shops or electricity connections. By forging political unity of the working people around their concerns and fighting for their rights, such samitis have gained respect in the people’s eyes.
The main aim of the samitis we build is to make the working people politically conscious. It is to make them challenge the existing political power and assert their claim to set the direction of society.
As you all know, the prevailing culture is for the activists of one political party to look at the activists of another party as rivals and enemies. As a result, sectarian divisions are created among the people, preventing them from even engaging in political discussion with each other. Every political meeting is seen as a strictly partisan affair, in which one party is trying to gain votes at the expense of others. We communists of the Ghadar Party have worked persistently and with determination to smash this culture. We have done so by always placing the common interests of the majority of people in command.
Parties which are organised with the prime objective of maximising their votes and expanding their space within the existing legislative bodies approach all political questions strictly from the narrow interest of one’s own party. Our Party is completely different because our aim is not to occupy or expand our space within the existing political system, but to overturn this system altogether.
We view elections and electoral campaigns as occasions to be used to politicise the workers and peasants, to make them conscious of what is happening in society, why it is happening and what must be done to change this condition.
We have taken various steps to develop the method of people selecting candidates in open mass meetings. This is the way the entire political process will work in the new system of proletarian democracy that we want to bring about.
The ruling class also talks about various local organs such as panchayats and ward councils, district and block development committees, district education society, etc. These are all extended arms or agencies of the existing state power. The samitis we build, on the other hand, are organs for the working people to defend their rights by relying on their own collective strength and not on the existing state. This is the key character that makes these committees an instrument of revolution, of people’s empowerment. The respect they enjoy among the people is earned by their work and the struggles they lead.
We need to build more such committees, not only where people live but also where they work, in the modern factories, industrial estates and service hubs. We need to build them in the villages, among the peasants. We must build them among students, and among women and youth.
In conclusion, the 20th anniversary of the Ferozeshah Kotla rally is an occasion for all of us to recognise and appreciate the fact that people’s empowerment is the central problem today and uniting people around this aim and program is the central task.
The existing system is in deep crisis. Both the principal parties of the bourgeoisie are highly discredited at this time. There is little prospect of a so-called Third Front emerging as a serious contender. The political situation is fraught with dangers for our people. At the same time it offers opportunities for the revolutionary forces to make a decisive advance.
We must redouble our efforts to politicise the working class and people. We must steer clear of the traps set by the bourgeoisie. We should remain political at all times, never be taken in by the illusions spread through the corporate media.
Let us step up our work to establish and strengthen samitis among the workers, peasants, women and youth!
Let us build political unity around the program for people’s empowerment!
Navnirman of India is the call of the new century!
Workers, peasants, women and youth – We constitute India! We are her masters!