THE first issue of Lok Lehar, in the current format, came out on February 18, 1979.
This is the first issue in its 31st year.
As the accompanying editorial of the first issue shows (see page 2),Lok Lehar, in the present format, inherited the experiences and the role played by Lok Lehar when it first began publication in the sixties in the undivided Communist Party. This, however, had to be discontinued for reasons explained. It also inherits the legacy ofSwadhinatha, which served as the CPI(M) voice in Hindi, when the Party centre was situated in Calcutta.
After the defeat of the emergency in the country and the seven-year long semi-fascist terror unleashed against the CPI(M) in West Bengal and after the triumph of the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the 1977 election in West Bengal and later in Tripura and Kerala, the CPI(M) went through an intense process of ideological and political discussions culminating in the 10th Party congress at Jallandhar. The congress, however, could not discuss important organisational issues and decided to organise a plenum to consider and decide on these issues. Consequently, the Salkia plenum took place in December 1978 and adopted the 'Report and Resolution on Organisation'. It is the decisions contained in these documents that have guided the tactical line of the CPI(M) in the last three decades and created conditions for its emergence as an all-India political force.
Amongst the seminal decisions taken by this plenum, like the building of a mass revolutionary party, specific emphasis was laid on developing the Party and its influence in the Hindi-speaking areas of the country. This was important to overcome the unevenness in the growth and influence of the CPI(M) in India. Para 63 of the resolution said: "In particular the wide Hindi-speaking area comprising of several states should be given immediate attention considering their political importance as well as the prospects of speedier growth. The virtual neglect of these states weakens the all-India movement beyond measure. As part of this task, (1) the centre should immediately start a Hindi weekly; (2) hold Party schools in Hindi for teachers and cadres alike, (3) undertake political campaigning in these states, and (4) produce and distribute political and ideological literature in Hindi." Within two months of this decision, the Lok Lehar started its publication from New Delhi with the shifting of the Party headquarters.
During these three decades, the Lok Lehar played an important role in unifying the Party ranks and in discharging the responsibilities that it, itself, had undertaken as enumerated in its first editorial. It played an important role in unifying the Party and its mass organisations in the face of ideological and opportunistic disruptions that, occasionally, occurred in these states like, for instance, the deviation of some of leaders in Rajasthan led by Mohan Poonamia.
The point here is not to review and assess the role played by Lok Leharduring these three decades. This has been done in various reports and resolutions of the Party congresses. The important issue, as we observe this anniversary, is to redouble the resolve to meet the challenges of our times in order to strengthen and advance the Party in the Hindi-speaking regions.
Lenin summarised the role of the Party paper by stating that it is not only the collective propagandistbut it is also the collective organiser and the collective agitator of the Party. Clearly, the Party paper has to be equipped to discharge these tasks. This can only be done by continuously putting before the people the communist prescriptions for the resolution of their problems, in encouraging and galvanising the ongoing class struggles and in unifying the toilers against exploitation under capitalism. In other words, to strengthen the class struggles for the establishment of the people's democratic revolution.
In this context, with particular reference to the Hindi-speaking region, the Salkia plenum had noted: "The fight against caste and communal ideologies is all the more necessary as the ruling classes and their henchmen continually use these to divert the people and disrupt the unity of the toilers."
In these three decades, history is witness to the significance of this observation of the Salkia plenum. Our experience in the Hindi-speaking areas, during this period, has clearly shown the potential of both communalism and casteism in disrupting the unity of the toilers and, thereby, in deflecting the ongoing class struggles against exploitation. Our experience has shown that while the influence of the Party and the mass organisations, as reflected in the growing struggles of the people, has enlarged and strengthened in this region, but, very often, this does not translate into strengthening the electoral base of the Party. While in struggles on economic issues and the protection of the people's rights, the Red Flag continues to inspire confidence amongst the people, many of them at the time of elections are swayed by their social groupings and identities.
In this context, we must emphasise a point that has been noted in recent Party congresses – economic exploitation and social oppression are two integral aspects of the class struggle that is taking place in India. Class struggles can advance only when both these issues are taken up simultaneously by the Party. Only when both our legs are strong, we can run, leave alone walk. If one of the legs is weak, we can only limp. The confidence that the Party generates amongst the people in the struggles against economic exploitation must be matched by the confidence we need to generate on issues of social oppression. The confidence that a Red Flag fluttering over the gates of a factory generates amongst the workers must be matched by similar confidence that a Red Flag flying over a water-well in a village where the dalits are prevented from drawing water, will generate amongst the oppressed people.
It is precisely with this understanding that the political resolutions of the past few Party congresses have enjoined upon the Party to take up the struggles on issues of social oppression as a priority, in a big way. It is in the unleashing of such struggles that the Lok Lehar shall continue to discharge its responsibilities and resolve to strengthen this further.
However, in reviewing the decisions taken by the Salkia plenum, the 14th Party congress in January, 1992, pointed out the "continuing defect in Party organisation" is regard to the circulation of Lok Lehar. It regretted that the circulation has not increased in the manner in which it needs to. It emphasised that the growth of communalism and anti-reservation movements affected the mass movements and activities and underlined the need to improve circulation "when actually the political line of the Party should be more avidly followed and propagated in this complex situation".
In today's circumstances, this has become all the more important. The need, today, is to create an alternative policy trajectory in the country which can protect the interests of the toiling people against the onslaughts of the ruling classes. Such a trajectory will necessarily need to combat firmly the communal forces, follow alternative economic policies whose focus would be improving people's welfare rather than being solely pre-occupied with corporate profits and in ensuring the strengthening of India's political and economic sovereignty, an independent foreign policy and a place of pride in the international community. The urgency to create such an alternative policy trajectory increases manifold in order to meet the fresh onslaughts on the people in the wake of the global capitalist crisis and economic recession. These have been discussed in these columns earlier and will continue to be discussed in future as well.
Clearly, such an alternative policy trajectory can only come about when a political alternative which effectively combats the communal forces and steers clear from the anti-people, pro-imperialist ruinous policies followed by the Congress, emerges strongly. The need of the hour is to consolidate such a political alternative.
We are observing the 30th anniversary of the Lok Lehar in such times when the country will shortly be going in for the 15th general elections. The Lok Lehar's role can hardly be understated in these circumstances. As a collective propagandist, organiser and agitator of the Party, the Lok Lehar pledges to discharge its responsibilities under these circumstances to the best of its capabilities and capacities.
Join us in celebrating this anniversary by re-doubling the resolve to bring about such a political alternative which can decisively shift the policy trajectory in our country for creating a better India, thus, ensuring a better livelihood to the vast majority of our people.