The CPI(M)’s triennial national conference will be held in Kannur in April. Unlike the past, the party has now included a set of alternative suggestions — termed as the Left and Democratic Programme — in their draft political resolution (DPR). This DPR calls for cooperative production and marketing in agriculture, and the CPI(M) cadre will discuss it in the coming days. Meanwhile, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has sent this resolution to all Opposition parties, seeking their response. He told BusinessLine that people will not rally against the BJP without a positive economic and developmental programme from the Opposition in place of mere criticism of the government. Excerpts:
The Union budget has promised a lot of capital expenditure. The Opposition has also been asking for investment in infrastructure.
As far as the Left parties are concerned, we say that the basic factor leading to the economic recession is low level of domestic demand. People’s purchasing power has been continuously under assault. They are left with very little disposable income and can only buy the essentials for their survival. In such a situation, no economic activity can take place.
So, the basic focus must be to increase the purchasing power of people. Economic recovery and people’s welfare is only possible through this way. This can be done through large-scale public investment. Building much needed public infrastructure will require more jobs. It will generate more employment opportunities. And when the youth start spending their wages, the demand will increase and economy will rise. This is our roadmap.
When we suggest this, we have always been accused of being Keynesian fundamentalists. It is better to be a Keynesian fundamentalist than be a fiscal fundamentalist.
The government has been disregarding the fact that contraction in demand is leading to the recession. Finally, they agreed that there’s a need for investment, but private investment. Private investment is guided by profit motivation. The obvious consequence is that the cost of this public infrastructure built by private people will be prohibitively high and therefore, it will be counterproductive. People will have to pay more to use this infrastructure, leaving much less of their income to spend on other things.
Also, focusing on private sector infrastructure means the government is facilitating greater availability at a cheaper cost of capital so that they can take loans. The cost of such loans will be passed on to consumers. So private sector infrastructure building will be more expensive and will not generate any changes in economy. This will also help the private sector take control over infrastructure such as Railways.
Privatising defence infrastructure creates a security implication. Passing on strategic infrastructure to private sector is against country’s strategic objective. The degree and nature of weaponisation should not be in public opinion. Strategically, defence must remain with the government. The private sector will get the right to collaborate with foreign players and this is also a strategic issue. Defence sector privatisation will be bad for the country strategically and economically.
The LIC disinvestment is also on the cards.
Privatisation of the LIC is more creating grounds for profit maximisation by private insurance companies at the cost of people’s interest. LIC has been the largest funder of five-year plan projects. The money put up by the people was used by the government to build infrastructure and develop the economy of India. Private players may put that money in other countries and India will lose out. The security of the investor will also be hampered. Private insurance companies are notorious for delays and inspections. People will suffer. LIC has always been the fallback option to save sick PSUs. No private company will do that. Sale of LIC is a clear neoliberal thrust in policy making.
What is the relevance of a Left and Democratic Programme in your party’s DPR?
People want a positive programme, an alternative programme, from the Opposition parties. Mere opposition of the government without a credible alternative agenda will not evoke confidence. Other democratic forces will also have opinions about this alternative. That is why we have suggested a Left and Democratic programme. Marginalised sections, Dalits, Adivasis, disabled, LGBT — all such democratic groups and forces will have their demands. This alternative programme will address their issues and provide a policy direction to the country.
An alternative agrarian programme will emerge now as a result of the farmers’ protests. The growing unity of trade unions, farmers and agriculture workers will lay the foundation for a class unity of the working class and the peasantry.
For the agriculture sector, you have suggested cooperative production. Aren’t cooperatives an exhausted idea?
A bulk of Indian agriculture is run by small and medium farmers. If agricultural production has to grow to meet people’s needs and economic development goals of the country, technological advancements have to be brought in the sector. But such an advancement is not suitable for small farming. So, the option is to either allow corporate farming to come up as in the United States, or to promote cooperative agriculture production without ruining the lives of crores of small and medium farmers.
Our suggestion is that cooperatives must be institutionalised not only in financing, but also in agriculture production and marketing. This is the way to prevent use of farming land by corporates ruining small and medium farming. It makes great economic sense and provides welfare. This can be done by the States. But the Centre is trying to encroach upon the cooperative sector by forming the Ministry of Co-operation. Building such cooperates will help regional parties. The BJP, fearing this, has formed the cooperation ministry to get control of cooperatives.
Is it a lesson from the united farmers’ movement?
Nothing definitive can be said but trends confirm that the year-long struggle has set in motion a unity of struggles against corporatisation of agriculture. The entire peasantry is raged against big bourgeoisie. Sections who hitherto hadn’t joined any protests have joined the farmers’ protests.
Similarly, even in time of crisis, the Centre changed the definition of MSMEs, helping big corporate houses enter the MSME sector. MSMEs are also joining these protests against corporate houses. Several regional parties have now started criticising the Centre. Larger sections of the society will come out against the BJP government.
There is criticism that the CPI(M) has praised China in this DPR.
There’s no praise of China. We are talking about socialism. On border disputes, we fully support the Indian government and we want the disputes to be resolved through bilateral discussions. We are talking of capitalism versus socialism in the DPR. China faced the pandemic, recovered and revived their economy. That was true with Vietnam and Cuba too. We did not praise any country but appreciated socialism, the system of governance, in those countries.
The DPR also says the Congress is unable to combat the BJP. Will this create divisions among the Opposition?
More than criticism, it’s an existing reality. Congress has to overcome it. At the same time, we want broadest mobilisation of all secular parties — including the Congress — against the BJP. There will not be any political alliance with the Congress as in the past. We were never part of any governments led by the Congress or the Janata Dal in the past. But we will cooperate and work for the defeat of the BJP with all secular parties. Congress has an important role to play here.
The basic factor leading to the economic recession is low level of domestic demand. So, focus must be to increase the purchasing power of people. This can be done through large-scale public investment. Sitaram YechuryGeneral Secretary, CPI(M)