Speech made by Prakash Karat* on January 18, 2004 at the WSF panel on Political Parties and Social Movements
1. Talking about political parties and social movements, we must first note that there are different types of political parties and social movements. Just as there are parties which represent the ruling classes and the interests of the established order, so also there are social movements which play a socially regressive or divisive role.
There are political parties which seek basic social and economic transformations just as there are social movements which articulate and struggle for the interests of the oppressed and those marginalized in society.
2. We are ...view middle of the document...
In many cases this would mean electoral mobilization as part of the programme of action. The parties of the Left would therefore be programme oriented which means taking up a whole range of issues and mobilizing different sections of the people. Within this Left spectrum there are parties of a Marxist orientation which relies on class strategies as their basic outlook.
At the present juncture, in India, the twin processes of liberalisation and communalism are being utilized by the ruling classes to maintain their class rule and system. This has meant greater imperialist intervention and support for the political and economic processes at work in Indian society. The experience of the last one and a half decades is that there is a rightwing offensive drawing sustenance from both the communal-sectarian movement and the neo-liberal reforms. This has had a devastating effect on the working people and the socially oppressed sections. The Left has been subject to this onslaught as it has been politically and ideologically opposed to both these trends.
The new social movements, as against the social movements of the earlier periods, have to respond to the impact of the imperialist driven globalisation and its social and economic consequences. Even when such movements have focused on single issues such as food, water, conserving community resources or women or dalit emancipation, they are responding and struggling against the attacks on the livelihood, rights or protection of the resources of various communities and groups.
There is hence a convergence of interests and activities within the framework of a struggle against imperialist-globalisation and the domestic classes and order which facilitates its destructive effects by utilizing reactionary divisive politics based on religion, caste and various forms of social chauvinism. That we are meeting and discussing this cooperation between parties and movements reflects this mutual realization.
There is another political and theoretical imperative to work for a relationship between the Left parties and radical social movements. Given the all invasive force of US imperialism today, its globalising drive encompasses the economic, political, social and cultural spheres. The struggle cannot be confined or concentrated only on the political and economic. The social element is also vital and it must be incorporated in the struggle.
A phenomenon of imperialist globalisation is that its impact produces uneven effects and is socially fragmentative. It promotes identities which atomises rather than fosters collective solidarities. In such a situation, the Left parties with their primacy for political goals are not equipped nor necessarily the best vehicles to take up the social and cultural struggles in a sustained manner. The Left or Marxist parties would be weakening themselves by embracing identity politics. At the same time, it is necessary to draw in the socially fragmented sections who...