Warm Welcome to Yechury in London
A PUBLIC reception was organised in Southall of west London on July 12 to welcome newly-elected CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury to the UK. The Association of Indian Communists and the Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain) organised the event at the Dominion Centre, in collaboration with the Friends of CPI and other Left groups. More than 200 people attended the programme defying torrential downpour. Among those present at the event were Member of UK Parliament from Ealing, Southall Virendra Sharma, Greater London Assembly member Onkar Sahota, Polit Bureau member of the Tudeh Party of Iran Mohamed Omidvar, member of the National Executive of the Communist Party of Britain Alex Gordon, chairman of the CPGB M L Harpal Brar, president of Sri Guru Ravidas Sabha Jograj Singh, Oliver New of the Ealing Trade Union Council and Save Ealing Hospital Campaign, Sarwan Zafar of the Friends of CPI, and national general secretary of Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain) Joginder Bains, besides business leaders and representatives of NGOs and community organisations. The programme began by paying tributes to the comrades who have laid down their lives to uphold the Red Flag in West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress regime has unleashed semi-fascist terror on CPI(M) and other Left workers. Tributes were also paid to Jagjit Singh Anand, the former editor of Nawan Zamana, and Jujhar Singh Basi. Mayor of Ealing Council in London Harbhajan Kaur Dheer, accompanied by Deputy Leader of the Council Ranjeet Dheer, provided the civic welcome to Yechury. All the speakers welcomed Yechury with words of praise. There was widespread recognition and appreciation of the role played by him as an MP in parliamentary debates in the Rajya Sabha, particularly the historic intervention during the vote of thanks on the President’s speech last year. Parliamentarian Sharma and Assembly member Onkar Sahota described Yechury as a “visionary economist” who has been entrusted by the people of India with great responsibility. Sarwan Zafar from the Friends of CPI raised the issue of the worsening plight of India’s toiling masses. All the friends and well-wishers of the Left, he said, were encouraged by the developments to forge closer links between the Left forces. Polit Bureau member of the Tudeh Party of Iran Mohamed Omidvar thanked India for its support and solidarity with Iran against US Imperialism at the United Nations. Welcoming Yechury, Alex Gordon highlighted the developments in Greece and the struggle against austerity measures in the UK with over 400 thousand people marching in protest through the streets of London on 20 July. While acknowledging the inconvenience caused to the commuters, Gordon reminded the gathering of the reasons for the 24-hour stoppage by transport workers that brought London to a halt in first week of July. The need to defend workers’ rights is of paramount importance for the working class, Gordon said. Joginder Bains detailed the current campaigns of the IWA (GB). Joginder invited everyone to sign the online petition seeking removal of the minimum income threshold for sponsoring a spouse from a non-EU country to the UK. A conference of organisations and institutions will be convened on September 12 in Leicester to boost the campaign. In his address, Sitaram Yechury thanked the organisers and all the well-wishers for such an overwhelming and warm welcome. He provided a detailed account of global economy, finance capital and the impact of neo-liberalism. He narrated the reasons for the global financial crisis of 2008, the pursuit of austerity measures by governments and the transformation of this failure into sovereign debt. Reflecting on a year of the Modi government, Yechury said neo-liberal policies are being implemented in a more aggressive way. India has provided an open invitation for inflow of capital to “Make in India”. Every possible avenue is being opened up to foreign capital including defence, banks, insurance and financial services. The ongoing economic stagnation and contraction in the global economy has adversely affected India’s exports. A reduction in purchasing power of the people has resulted from the implementation of neo-liberal policies with cuts in rural employment scheme by 60 per cent, reduction in agriculture prices and subsidies and an increase in diesel and electricity prices. Since the 2014 general elections, recorded suicides by farmers in distress have increased by 26 per cent, Yechury said. Besides, the BJP-RSS combine is now promoting a clear agenda to shift India from its secular traditions towards a Hindu Rashtra. There is increasing evidence of authoritarianism being practised and the danger of another Emergency was recently aired, and quickly retracted, by BJP veteran L K Advani. Transparent and corruption-free governance, as promised by NDA, is now completely shattered with scams being exposed on a regular basis. With increasing discontent against these policies, and it will be our responsibility to channelise this and build a strong movement. A general strike has been called on September 2 by all Central Trade Unions, providing a point of convergence for mass protests. The 21st Congress of the CPI(M) has defined a road map to improve the independent strength of the Party, strengthen the Left and democratic forces by strengthening the independent struggles on people’s issues. “In West Bengal, we have arrested the decline through glorious struggles with the sacrifice of over 500 comrades and we are now on the difficult path of ascendancy with increasing resistance… To all who say there is no alternative, let us remind them that socialism is the alternative,” Yechury said. Earlier in the day, the AIC Executive Committee expressed its gratitude to the Party general secretary for taking time out to provide a comprehensive review of the 21st Party Congress of the CPI(M). The AIC, under the direction of Yechury, agreed to increase the independent activity of the organisation, strengthen the Indian Workers’ Association, and further develop the cultural front on linguistic basis with Progressive Writers’ Association, Chethna and the Progressive Malayali Society as main constituents. Later, Yechury, accompanied by Harsev Bains, met the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, Robert Griffiths. The discussion covered a whole range of topics and beginning of exchange of views based on concrete analysis of concrete conditions in Britain and India. The AIC and CPB have agreed to hold formal talks in the late autumn of this year. The CPI(M) general secretary also held a number of meetings with potential sponsors to set up a permanent base in London. The AIC, since the days of for Party general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, has discussed the possibilities of establishing a permanent base in London. It has been decided to initiate this proposal under the working title of EJS Foundation, with Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh as the brand image. It will be named after E M S Namboodiripad, the first Communist chief minister in Kerala; Jyoti Basu, the longest serving chief minister of West Bengal; and Harkishan Singh Surjeet. After completion of the groundwork, the project will be formally launched on March 23, 2016, the 85th year of Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom and the birth centenary of Harkishan Singh Surjeet.