New Delhi, Aug. 8: Prakash Karat today waved aside prescriptions of change from Left intellectuals and defended the principle of democratic centralism the CPM runs on, stressing it was core to the survival of the party.
"I am in defence of the idea of the party…. Left parties in Europe who abandoned democratic centralism have been reduced to just signboards…. Despite all the setbacks, Left has substantial support base in India…. Democratic centralism serves the purpose of the party on issues of strategy and tactics," the CPM general secretary said, replying to scholars' suggestions on the need to change the party structure to make it more democratic.
Karat and some Left leaders were participating in a seminar titled "The Indian Left: Social Development Visions and Political Challenges" at which they engaged with Left scholars and civil society activists. The seminar was organised by the Delhi-based Council for Social Development.
Karat claimed the Left was far more democratic and transparent than other bourgeois political parties in the country.
"Compared to other parties, we have lot of debates and discussions in the party. There have been instances of decision of the general secretary being overruled by the politburo and the central committee," he said, referring to the party stopping Jyoti Basu from becoming Prime Minister in 1996.
To another suggestion about Left withdrawing from electoral politics and concentrating on building movements in the poorest areas, Karat said the Left movement could not survive without party.
He skirted the issue of "challenges to the Left from within the Left" raised by Left author, Sumanta Banerjee.
"What about corruption and crime within the Left movement?" Banerjee asked, referring to the state of affairs in the Bengal and Kerala party.
In reply, Karat denied any "corruption and crime" in Singur land acquisition. "Mistake was made in the selection of the area," he said.
"Singur had the only TMC MLA in the district and the panchayat was also in their control. More than 80 per cent of the farmers were happy with the compensation and rehabilitation package. Despite that an opposition was built. It was politically motivated."
Banerjee clarified that he was not talking of Singur and Nandigram but the larger issue of "corruption and crime" within the Left. "What happened in Bengal? What is happening in Kerala now?" he asked. But Karat kept silent.
Karat, who spoke before Banerjee, felt the Left was being squeezed by money power in elections coming through a nexus between "big business and political parties".