Kannur: Literally ‘a festival of the masses’, the 23rd Party Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that concluded in Kannur on Sunday saw a full-fledged display of the strength of the working-class party in the region. The formidable turnout at the winding-up rally transformed the northern Malabar town into a ‘red sea’. The all India conference of the left party and the associated programmes were well-architected, proving the party's mettle in Kannur.
As the Party Congress resolved to strengthen the fight against the Hindutva- corporate regime, Kannur inspired delegates, observers and masses from different parts of the country with its rich tradition of struggles against imperialism, landlordism, and communalism.
The 23rd Party Congress also underlined the left’s significance and commitment to the cause of secularism and protecting constitutional values.
Sumit Dalal, the Kisan leader from Haryana who was an active organiser during the farmers’ protest in Delhi, reveres Kannur’s legacy of peasant struggles against landlordism and British rule.
“The massive turnout indicates people’s affection for the party. If you raise people’s issues, if your struggles influence people's lives for the better, they will certainly reciprocate the affection. That's the take back for me from Kannur,” Dalal tells NewsClick. "I have learned that numerous struggles in the Kannur region have paved a strong foundation for the Communist movement. Similarly, more struggles need to emerge from Haryana, particularly on agrarian issues. Struggles taking up regional issues are woven together to form a larger movement," adds the acting state secretary of AIKS in Haryana, who attended the 23rd Congress as a delegate.
KANNUR MODEL OF RESILIENCE
Kannur is one such region where the left movement has been subjected to violent attacks from the RSS. To get a true picture of the resilience shown by the left cadre in resisting communalism, one should talk to people like Lenin from Panoor, a volunteer in charge of social media, at the party congress venue. Lenin can hardly recollect fond memories with his father. Kunjikkannan, Lenin’s father and a CPI(M) worker in the Panoor region, was hacked to death by RSS men in 1999. Lenin was a toddler under the age of 5 back then. Much later, he became aware of what had happened to his father, the political context, and the gravity of the murder.
Speaking to NewsClick, Lenin, now a party member of the CPI(M), testifies that the sacrifice of the martyrs has not gone in vain. He says that since the series of murders, including his father, in the later 90s, the RSS's command in the region has diminished. The CPI(M) advances by isolating and defeating the RSS in the region. The ward was captured back from the BJP in the last local body elections, says Lenin.
AK Ramya, the red-volunteer vice-captain at the conference venue, is the wife of Sreejan, the survivor of a deadly attack by the RSS in 2017. Ramya and Sreejan do not hold a personal vendetta against the assaulters. She says, if her husband's struggle helps advance the cause against communalism, that would be a more significant achievement. Nayanar road region in Ponniam local near Thalassery was a stronghold of the RSS back then. The RSS used festivals like Sreekrishna Jayanthi to intimidate minorities and loot money from the public.
Sreejan was at the forefront of a campaign against these criminal activities of the RSS in the region. That's why he was attacked. But the strength of the RSS has shrunk since the attack on Sreejan; that's a positive side of it, says Ramya in an interview with Deshabhimani online.
The left has lost many activists, including leaders to RSS attacks in Kannur district. In February, the latest among such murders was Punnolil Haridas, a fisherman from Punnol, near Thalassery. RSS has also killed leaders like KV Sudheesh, all India joint secretary of Students' Federation of India in 1994. P Rajeev and KN Balagopal, Ministers and newly elected central committee members of the CPI(M), visited KV Sudheesh's house during their visit to Kannur to attend the 23rd Party Congress. Sudheesh was their contemporary in the Students’ Movement. P Jayarajan, the former district secretary and a state committee member of the CPI(M), is also a survivor of a brutal RSS attack, on the day of Onam, back in 1999.
Despite the muscle power and largest number of shakhas in a district, Kannur has a history of resisting the RSS agenda by mobilising the masses against communalism. Thalassery communal riot in 1971, which was nipped in the bud, is another testament to the left stepping in to protect the secular fabric against the RSS agenda.
DIFFERENT CULTURES, ONE RED FLAG
Red Volunteers march inside Jawahar Stadium. Courtesy: Rajeesh Lal
All roads led to the AKG Nagar (Jawahar Stadium) on Sunday eve, as flooding masses marched in the valedictory rally to attend the public meeting where the communist leaders addressed the massive crowd. The extravagant event also included 2000 red volunteers paraded from EK Nayanar Academy to the Jawahar Stadium, marking the triennial event's end. Sitaram Yechury was re-elected as the General Secretary of the party for yet another tenure, accompanied by polit bureau members Pinarayi Vijayan, Prakash Karat, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan Brinda Karat and Subhashini Ali, in three open jeeps exchanged greetings with the thickly packed crowd. The general secretary received the guard of honour from the red volunteer parade before the public meeting began.
Many left outside the stadium could not see the red-volunteer parade, as the stadium was densely packed. Party workers and sympathisers from across Kerala, flooded Kannur without any official call to witness the historic event, being held in Kerala after ten years. The 20th Party Congress in Calicut, 2012, was the last time Kerala hosted the supreme event of the communist party. Workers, farmers, students, women, youth, artists, intellectuals- the crowd was an absolute cross-section of progressive Kerala.
Not just Kerala, a section of left cadre and sympathisers from different parts of the country arrived to makke the event a pan-Indian festival of the working class. Buses with banners 'CPI(M) Kolar District, Karnataka' were seen circling near the stadium. CPI(M) workers from the neighbouring state, including mineworkers, came to attend the event. Loud slogans praising the red flag were also heard in Tamil and Telugu languages. A group of veteran partisans from Bengal who never misses attending any party congress was seen near the conference hall, greeting the delegates and leaders in Bangla slogans. At the mega event, the working-class spirit was tightly interwoven with cultural diversity.
LEADERS UNDERLINE POLITICAL LINE
Addressing the immense crowd, Yechury said that an unholy alliance between the corporate powers and the communal forces controls all sectors of the country. Crony-capitalism is furthering its influence, corruption is rampant, and the state has become an embodiment of authoritarian tendencies. It destroys all democratic rights and suppresses civil liberties, he added. Yechury also emphasised the struggle to protect the federal character of the republic, saying the Union government's attempts to impose one language and culture cannot be accepted.
A seminar on 'Union-State Relations', organised as part of the party congress on Saturday, had witnessed a massive turnout as Pinarayi Vijayan and MK Stalin, two of the prominent south Indian Chief Ministers and anti-BJP faces in the country, came together to declare united fight to protect federalism.
"We declare that the 23rd Party Congress is well aware of the situation in the country, and we will face these challenges," Yechury said. He also cited the victory of the red army over fascist forces in World War II as a historical testament to the imminent defeat of the communal regime that shows 'fascist' tendencies.
Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister and a polit bureau member of the CPI(M), said that the party congress had given its full support to the development and welfare activities undertaken by the State government. "The assurances in the election manifesto are to be implemented. The previous government implemented 580 out of the 600 items from the 2016 election manifesto. That is why the intimidation from central agencies and false propaganda by the media could not stop the LDF from retaining power. Hence, this government has an obligation to act accordingly, he added. “We won’t cow down before such show-offs to disrupt development,” Vijayan said.
Vijayan also reiterated that there is no 'Kerala line' that is 'different from the national line' of the CPI(M). Such media reports are not accurate. The party's line is followed all across the country, he clarified.
The 23rd Party Congress of the CPI(M) that was convened at a critical juncture of the republic concluded with a resolution to strengthen the party and foster movements against the multi-faceted onslaught of the communal-neoliberal-totalitarian regime. The immense inspiration that the Kannur Party Congress fills in its cadre might prove beneficial for the country if it galvanises a new revival of the left nationwide.