Prakash Karat, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The remarks made by Com. Jyoti Basu on the nature of capitalist development in West Bengal and the role of the Left Front government in this regard has been reported in a confused and contradictory manner in the media. On the basis of these reports, some political leaders have also come out with equally confused and misplaced reactions.
Com. Jyoti Basu has explained the economic development in West Bengal and the role of the Left Front government on the basis of the perspective of the CPI(M). Only those ignorant of the programme of the CPI(M) can talk of the Party saying “goodbye to socialism and welcome to capitalism”.
It is necessary to instruct such critics as to what the CPI(M) programme sets out:
(i) Based on its programmatic direction, the CPI(M) joins state governments knowing fully well that it has limited powers within the Constitution. Utilising these limited powers, Left-led governments work to protect the interests of the working people, initiate welfare measures and within the limited spheres where it has some powers, put in place policies which are different from that of state governments run by bourgeois parties. The CPI(M) knows fully well that in the states where the Left is in government they cannot build socialism, but undertake some alternative policies within the capitalist system. Land reforms within the constitutional limits was one such step undertaken in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
(ii) Even though the Left Front has been in office for thirty years in West Bengal, capitalist development has been taking place there as in the rest of India. What the state governments can do is to help strengthen the struggle for alternative policies advocated by the Left and democratic platform at the all India level.
(iii) The CPI(M)’s goal is for the setting up of a people’s democracy, which is a step towards the eventual goal towards socialism. This, as Jyoti Basu said, cannot be done by the three state governments ruled by the Left. The advance to socialism will be realisable only after the Left and democratic forces are strong enough to build an alternative at the national level.
(iv) Till then, in the states like West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, the Left-led governments will strive to put in place policies, which benefit the working class, peasantry and other sections of the working people. Working within the capitalist system, facing a situation where the central government imposes neo-liberal policies, the Left-led governments have to undertake industrialisation and economic development in such a manner where the interests of the workers and the poorer sections are protected.
It is amusing to see some leaders of the BJP and the Congress portray this approach of the CPI(M) in simplistic terms of socialism versus capitalism. For them socialism only denotes a slogan to be used as a smokescreen for promoting the interests of big capitalists and foreign finance capital. Joining them in the criticism is the Revolutionary Socialist Party. Unlike the CPI(M), the RSP has declared socialism to be its immediate goal. But one may ask why the RSP has been, in all these years of being in Left-led state governments, working to implement some reforms and welfare measures within the capitalist system?
The record of the Left-led governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura stand testimony to the fact that the Left and democratic alternative advocated by the CPI(M) and the struggle to ensure a degree of social justice within the framework of an all India capitalist model of development has found increasing support among the people. That is why the three states are today considered to be the bastions of the Left.