The Problems of Mass Organisations

V.B. Cherian

                The main role in building up the left democratic front (what is mentioned here is not the LDF in Kerala which is only an election front) and developing it step by step to the peoples’ democratic front rests with the mass organisations. Through the activity of the mass organisations and the participation of the party in them a big majority of the people can be brought under its influence. What is the strategy of bringing cadres from mass organisations into the party? E.M.S. Namboodiripad in the book ‘Communist Party in Kerala’ (Vol. III, pp. 215-219), Chintha Publishers, Trivandrum) wrote thus – ‘the first priority job of them (the communists) is to rally different sections of the masses though their respective mass organisations unitedly regardless of their caste, religious and even political affiliations. They make use of the mass organisations to rally workers or peasants or other sections of the people owing allegiance to any political party or people who have no political affiliation in their organisations against the class enemy. The duty of the mass organisations is to protect the common interests of the respective class or section of the masses barring all other considerations including their political affiliation…. That means, the Communist Party tries to strengthen the trade unions, peasant organisations and other mass organisations not as front organisations of any political party including the Communist Party but as organisations of the entire class or section of the masses.’
                Mass organisations and their functioning ‘should be in such a way as to provide facility for activity to people of different political parties and non party people and they should be able to give shape to all the thoughts and aspirations of different sections of the people. Therefore the party sought to ensure that conferences, general body meetings and committees elected by them should be held in such a way as to freely discuss, decide and implement the decisions concerning them.’
                Only if the party succeeds in building up the unity of different sections of the people through their united activities, can the party carry forward them to the people’s democratic revolution and then to socialism and afterwards to Communism (p. 216). In the same book E.M.S. Namboodiripad analyses in a critical manner how the CPI(M) should conduct itself in this regard and how the bourgeois parties are doing things. In Kerala it has become the usual practice that every political party forms its own trade unions, peasant organisations, student-youth-women organisations as their front organisations and the party directly controls them. This is quite natural for a party representing the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois classes. It was after the Quit India struggle that the mass organisations began to work as adjuncts of the political parties. The Congress Party made the beginning. Other parties including the Communist Party followed suit. The political work of other parties is centred on elections. Their politics is to prepare different sections of people to vote for them when the election comes. They work among the workers, peasants and other sections of the people with the aim of creating vote banks. In that sense the mass organisations under bourgeois parties are their adjuncts.
                Was the CPI(M) able to handle the politics of the mass organisations correctly? The correct answer is in the negative. The Salkia Plenum held after the Jallandhar Party Congress gave a serious warning against this wrong way of handling the mass organisations. The main drawback pointed out by the Salkia Plenum was that of treating the mass organisations as mere adjuncts of the party.
                In the book ‘Party documents – Jallandhar to Vijayawada’ published by Deshabhimani Book House in August 1981 for the Party State committee, in the chapter ‘On mass organisations’ it is said as below – ‘These days a wrong and sectarian argument was put forward – since all other parties in our country have their own mass organisations what is wrong in running the mass organisations under our leadership as party organisations? It shows how narrow is their perspective. They are asking the party to follow the practice of a bourgeois party in a Marxian party. In their opinion mass organisations are only a platform of the party. They have no independent existence. This is wrong and utterly foolish and is an affront to the party understanding about the role of mass organisations in the revolutionary struggle. This is only degrading the goals, concepts and class tactics of the revolutionary party to that of a non-revolutionary party. Unlike us, the other parties, both right and the left, have no revolutionary goals before them. They have no urgent task like us to win over the majority of the working people for the revolution. They see mass organisations as vote banks to garner votes at the time of elections.
                But CPI (M) has other objectives and goals. To achieve that, we give emphasis to united struggles in unison with mass organisations led by other political parties. This appeal for united struggles is part of our tactics to win over the majority of the masses to our side.
                E.M.S. Namboodiripad has raised two important points of criticism against the treating of mass organisations as adjuncts of the party.
1.     Those who are in the leadership taking decisions and implementing them neglect the committees and general bodies of respective organisations. That means instead of observing democratic principles inside the organisation, the leader will decide the activities to his liking.
2.     Instead of the committees and general bodies of the mass organisations, the party committees take decisions and seek formal acceptance from the mass organisations. ‘Party Congress and the Central Committee observed that both these practices will hinder the independent growth of the mass organisations and the growth of the Left Democratic Front. Only if the democratic functioning of the mass organisations is restored, crores of people can be rallied in struggles and on the basis of their organised strength a broad democratic movement can be built’ (Ibid.). E.M.S. Namboodiripad continues – ‘whether party member or not, members of mass organisations must be at liberty to express their opinion and take decisions. Only then members of each organisation will freely exchange their opinion and arrive at joint decisions and act in an organised manner to implement them.’

                The class-mass organisations of the CPI (M) are examples of organisational set ups where revisionism, which has no relation between word and deed, is ruling the roost. Refusal to permit mass organisation to work democratically is the continuation of the denial of democracy in the party. The CPI (M) had been able to evolve a revolutionary mass organisational line, conducive to the Indian situation, fighting both the right and left deviations. Communists had the glorious tradition of organising trade unions, peasants, and students in their respective common organisations even in the days of the independence struggle.
                After independence a section of the Communist leadership prepared to embrace the parliamentary path renouncing the revolutionary goal and compromising with the ruling classes. They tried to transform various sections of the people to their vote banks and areas of influence. Revolutionary cadres were expelled without allowing them to work in mass organisations and thus the revisionist leadership adopted a policy of thwarting the struggles of the people. With this, the revolutionary cadres who got reorganised in the CPI (M) were compelled, against their own wishes, to give leadership to separate organisations.
                The topmost leadership of the CPI (M), who passed on the experiences of the glorious struggles which overturned Indian life, had evolved a correct perspective about mass organisations. But from the very beginning the disparity in putting it into practice was evident.
                At the end of the dispute that arose inside the party, the 14th party congress again emphasised the correct class mass organisational line. It was also concluded that failures in this regard have hindered the growth of the party and stunted the mass organisations. After the 14th Party Congress an organised attempt was afoot to renounce the mass organisation itself. Party documents prove that the CPI (M) in effect is continuing the mass organisations line followed by the revisionists during and after the 1964 split. Organisations like CITU, Kisan Sabha, Agricultural Workers Union, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI, in which CPI (M) cadre are working, are now functioning as adjuncts and front organisations of the party. Their slogans were shaped in accordance with the parliamentary interests of the CPI (M). Those who do not agree with this approach are expelled from the party. Office bearers of these organisations are decided by the party. These decisions are imposed on the strength of the theory that party members should implement party decisions. Demands coming out from among the masses, natural struggles for those demands, leadership naturally evolved from those struggles and democratically elected by the masses, all these are absent.
                This is the main reason for the lack of growth in mass influence, stunting the growth of the party. Even though the cadre is enthusiastic to strengthen the party, people may not have that enthusiasm. Influence among the people can be developed only by adopting a revolutionary organisational line which will help to go down to the people teaching them and studying from them simultaneously.
                Is it necessary to enquire into the further reasons for the decades-long stunted existence and the recently seen setback to the party? But the stand point of the CPI (M) is that they have no lesson to learn in this regard. The siege laid by the CPI (M) in the label of CITU is the exposition of that standpoint. DYFI and SFI were from the very beginning against self-financing educational institutions. In their struggle 5 energetic youths became martyrs. But the LDF government which came to power gave more strength to the self-financing educational institutions. The much trumpeted objections of the DYFI against ‘GIM’ were also clipped by the party ultimatum. It would be very interesting to think how the revolutionary leaders of the party would have reacted had they been still alive to see the present situation. It is certain that they would have recognised that the party for which they have sacrificed their whole life was caught in the same deviations against which they have fought and would have prepared themselves to break the bourgeois organisational structure into which the party has fallen.
                It was this recognition which tempted EMS to write the book ‘CPI (M) – A short description’. When EMS shifted his activities to Kerala after relinquishing the General Secretaryship of the Party he sought to induce the Party Kerala State Secretariat to reorganise the mass organisational work according to the party understanding. When he failed in his attempt, he prepared to express his perspective publicly in the party ranks and the people. He described how the party fractions and party members should function.
                In his book he said many committees and comrades are dealing with mass organisations as though they are lower bodies of the party. Attention is seldom given for them to function democratically. At the same time many party members who are leading the mass organisations exhibit another tendency to run the mass organisations individually disregarding the party.’ This is a warning against both the deviations.
                Regarding the concept of mass organisations the CPI (M) has adopted many resolutions about the tasks on different fronts – from the task on the Trade Union Front 1983 to the Trade Union document of 2002. But their content was not put into practice. The number of amendments made by the CPI (M) Central Committee while adopting the Trade Union document of 2002 expresses the serious ideological struggle that occurred. In the absence of the able leadership which drafted the constitution of the CITU which assured proportional representation for different shades of opinion on the basis of transferable votes, the revisionist method of considering Trade Unions and mass organisations as subsidiary organisations of the party gained dominance.
                The organisational principles of Communists are the direct continuation of incessant struggle going on between capital and wage labour. Capital is adamant on the exploitation of wage labour. They make this exploitation easy by dividing the labourers. What is done primarily through mass organisations is to unite the class and allied forces against this exploitation. This is an issue directly connected with the revolutionary goal. Only those who renounce the revolutionary goal can compromise on the independent and democratic functioning of the mass organisations. It should be recognised that those who are disrupting the independent and democratic functioning of the mass organisations are consciously abandoning the revolutionary goal.