March 29, 2015
Re-examining the Political-Tactical Line

Prakash Karat

THE Central Committee of the CPI(M) has issued two draft documents for discussion in the Party at all levels before the 21st Party Congress to be held in Visakhapatnam in April.  The first draft is, as always, the Draft Political Resolution which sets out the political-tactical line for the future, which is the main agenda of the Party Congress. But this time, there is a second draft report which has also been issued for inner-Party discussions.  This is the Draft Review Report on the Political-Tactical Line (P-TL).  This is the first time that a review of the political-tactical line itself has been undertaken to be presented to the Party Congress rather than just a review of the implementation of the tactical line.  It is also for the first time that such a review is becoming part of the pre-Congress discussions within the Party.


What was the need for such a review and what is its significance? 




The Lok Sabha election review adopted by the Central Committee had stated: “The inescapable conclusion is that there is a decline in the mass base of the Party. The Party has been unable to advance and this is reflected in the poor election results. It reflects the failure of the Party to expand its political influence, increase its organisational strength and to develop its mass base, especially among the basic classes.” In order to overcome the situation, the Central Committee proposed four steps to be taken. They are, as stated in the Review:


“(i) In successive Party Congresses, we have been emphasising the need for enhancing the independent strength of the Party. Some of the states have attributed the erosion of our independent strength to the tactics of allying with the bourgeois parties. The failure to advance the independent strength of the Party necessitates a re-examination of the political-tactical line that we have been pursuing.


(ii) There is weakness in translating the mass struggles and movements that we have led into the Party’s political influence. There is also the failure to initiate struggles and develop the movements. They require a fresh look at the functioning of the Party’s organisation and the orientation of the work among the people.


(iii) The reviews conducted by the state committees show that substantial sections of the membership of the mass organisations have not voted for the Party or Left candidates. The orientation of the mass organisations and the activities of the mass organisations have to be examined to ensure their independent functioning and that the political work and Party building is taken up.


(iv) During the two and a half decades since liberalisation, changes have occurred in socio-economic conditions. There has been differentiation within classes under the impact of the neo-liberal regime. They have yet to be adequately grasped.  These need to be studied and analysed.  It is on this basis that we can evolve concrete slogans and bring changes in our approach both at the Party level and the class and mass organisations...” 


All these four steps should be implemented so that the Party can overcome the present situation and advance.


As far as the Party organisation and the work of the mass organisations are concerned, the Central Committee decided that a Plenum on organisation should be held after the Party Congress, so that full and proper attention is paid to the matter. 





The first task, the re-examination of the P-TL, was undertaken by the Central Committee and adopted in its meeting held in Hyderabad in January 2015. 


The review report covers the period from the 13th Congress of the Party which was held in Thiruvananthapuram in 1988-1989.  The reason for this is that it is from then onwards that there were major changes in the international and national situation.  The fall of the Soviet Union brought about a major change in the international correlation of class forces.  It is from the beginning of the nineties that the liberalisation process unfolded in India. It was also the period which saw the rise of the Hindutva communal forces. 


The political-tactical lines adopted from the 14th Congress onwards in 1992, did help the Party to meet the immediate prevailing situation and to fight the Congress or the BJP, depending on the situation, as the main threat. It gave a correct direction to fight the communal and separatist forces, build Left unity and facilitate the formation of the Left-led governments in Kerala and Tripura and consolidate the Left Front government in West Bengal.  The tactical line also helped in building the unity of the working class movement as seen in the 15 general strikes conducted by the Central Trade Unions in the last two decades.




However, the growth of the Party has been confined mainly to the three states – Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.  The bulk of the Party membership and the membership of all the mass organisations is also concentrated in these three states. In states like Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh, there has been increase in Party membership and activities of the mass organisations but there has been no worthwhile advance in terms of the mass base of the Party or its political influence. The review undertaken pinpoints certain shortcomings which are responsible for this. The first weakness in the P-TL has been the relegation of the Left and democratic front from a realizable slogan to a distant one.  The struggle to rally the Left and democratic forces and build a Left and democratic alliance was not undertaken.  Instead, a new intermediate stage or alliance was called for, which was the Left, democratic and secular alliance. This was posited first against the Congress at the centre and later against the BJP. 


This was later developed into a third alternative in the 16th Congress of the Party in 1998. Such an alliance was envisaged with the non-Congress secular bourgeois parties which are, in the main, regional bourgeois parties.  The aim was to try and bring these parties together on a common programme or set of policies which could be projected as a third alternative to the Congress and the BJP. This could not materialise nor was it realistic since the regional bourgeois parties had themselves undergone major changes in the last two decades. The regional parties were not against the neo-liberal policies, given the class interests of the regional bourgeoisie, nor were they averse to joining hands with either the Congress or the BJP to share the power in a coalition government at the centre, if it suited their interests.  That is why the idea that they could be brought on an alternative platform of policies did not materialise and was unrealistic. 





The role of the regional parties had changed – a fact that we have been noting since 16th and 17th Congresses of the Party.  Under the impact of globalisation and in the phase of neo-liberal policies, sections of the regional bourgeoisie have joined the ranks of the big bourgeoisie. Further, the contradiction between the non-big bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie has become muted. This is the reason why the regional bourgeois parties have adopted the same neo-liberal policies when in government in the states.  Further, the dominant regional parties also represent the rural rich nexus – the landlords, rich peasants, contractors and big traders.  Therefore, their outlook towards the issues of the poor peasants and agricultural workers are different from what the Party and the Left stand for.  In such a situation, the tactical line we have pursued of rallying them around a common set of alternative policies at the national level has been unrealistic and erroneous.


On the other hand, prolonged alliance with these parties in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Bihar, Odisha and UP affected the independent growth of the Party.  The Party could not project its own political platform distinctly before the people nor set out the Left and democratic programme which is distinct and different from that of the regional bourgeois parties. Further, the efforts to project a national level alliance with these parties were mainly at the time of elections as none of these parties were willing to come for any sustained movements or struggles on people’s issues or on policy matters.




For Communists, united front tactics are an essential part of the tactical line to increase the strength of the Party. United struggles and joint movements help the Party to have access to the masses following other parties and to influence them. However, the regional parties like the TDP, AIADMK, DMK, Biju Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party were not willing to come for joint struggles on people’s issues.  They would only agree to some electoral understanding. With the independent strength of the Party and the Left not growing, it became more difficult to bring these parties into any united actions.


It is this experience which led to the dropping of the third alternative as a concept in the 20th Congress of the Party held at Kozhikode in 2012. The review concludes that there is no basis for forging a national alliance with the regional parties, projecting it as an alternative. Instead, joint actions on common issues should be pursued.




A result of this tactical direction of rallying the non-Congress, non-BJP parties as part of an alternative was also the failure to concretely address the task of rallying the Left and democratic forces in each state as against the bourgeois-landlord policies, whether it be advocated by the all India bourgeois parties or the regional parties.  Thus, only in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura was there any advance towards rallying the Left and democratic forces and this had already taken place at the time of the 10th Congress held in 1978. The review, therefore, seeks to correct the shortcomings in the political-tactical line. It calls for restoring the primacy of the slogan of the Left and democratic alliance and the work to actually realise the building of such an alliance. 


The review clarifies that the Left and democratic front that we aim to build is an alliance of the classes we want to rally for the people’s democratic front.  This is a fighting alliance which has to be rallied around a programme which provides an alternative to the bourgeois-landlord policies. It cannot be an electoral alliance nor just confined to some political parties. The current tactical line should flesh out the parties, mass organisations and democratic forces who can be  mobilised for the Left and democratic alliance. This concept of the Left and democratic front and the struggle to build it has not been on the current agenda of the Party despite it being the tactical goal in successive political-tactical lines. 





The review report also calls for paying utmost attention to building up the independent strength of the Party.  This can be accomplished only by the Party taking up the multifarious issues of the people and leading struggles and movements.  Along with that, there has to be united actions with other political and democratic forces on burning issues of the people, their livelihood and rights. It is only when the class and mass organisations develop into powerful broad-based platforms, that the Party and the Left can advance.  Independent activities, building Left unity and growing united actions with democratic and secular forces will help us to advance towards a Left and democratic alternative. There can be no national alliance with the regional bourgeois parties.  Instead, electoral alliances in the states should be strictly governed by the interests of the Party and should help to rally the Left and democratic forces.




The neo-liberal phase of capitalism has brought about major changes in the socio-economic conditions. The neo-liberal policies have a deep impact on all sections of the working people.  Without analysing the deep changes and the impact on various classes, it is not possible to formulate correct slogans and tactics for developing the mass movements of the working class, peasantry, youth, students and other sections.  The review notes that there was a lag in arriving at a comprehensive understanding of this phase of neo-liberal capitalism. In the working class, changes are there in the composition and the nature of work.  For instance, there is increasing contractualisation of the workforce in the organised sector. The bulk of the workers are in the unorganised sector with  varied forms of work. In the rural areas, there is a substantial work force which is engaged in non-farm manual work.  The proliferation of the services sector has spawned various types of casualised work and self-employment.  All these need to be studied and appropriate slogans have to be coined.  There is a need for new organisational forms and methods to be devised.  It is with this in view that the Central Committee set-up three study groups on agrarian relations, on the working class and the middle classes and urban areas.  Their reports will be studied and whatever suggestions are relevant will be incorporated for the future tactics and slogans for the Party and the class and mass organisations.  A part of this will be dealt with in the Political-Organisational Report of the Party Congress and the rest can be taken up at the time of the Plenum on Organisation.




The experience of the fight against communalism has been reviewed in the report. The Hindutva communal forces cannot be fought only by electoral tactics. Concrete steps to fight communalism in the social, ideological, cultural and educational spheres must be spelt out in the P-TL to be formulated. The review makes the important point that the fight against the impact of the neo-liberal policies should be integrated with the fight against communalism. Only then can the masses be drawn into the battle against the communal danger. In the fight against the Hindutva communal forces, we should strive for the broadest mobilisation of the secular and democratic forces.


It is based on this critical review that the future political-tactical line has been drafted in the form of the Draft Political Resolution.  The discussions which will be conducted at all levels of the Party on these two documents will further enrich the understanding of the Party and help the 21st Congress to come out with a political line which can meet the challenges of the time.