Tag Archives: Jagmati Sangwan

Democratic centralism – ‘freedom of thought (sic.) and unity in action’? Rajinder Chaudhary

This is a guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY; you can view his previous post on democratic centralism, on Kafila here.

The title of this note uses a quotation from ‘On Democratic Centralism’ by Com Prakash Karat carried in The Marxist, XXVI, 1, January-March 2010. This piece by the then General Secretary of the CPI(M) and the constitution of CPI(M) available on its official site (as updated in October 2015) throws interesting insights into operationalisation of the principle of democratic centralism, which recently once again came into public view in the Jagmati Sangwan episode. (All quotations henceforth are from either of these two documents.)

            Prima facie ‘unity in action’ appears quite desirable but is it really so in all situations? Does it require to ‘bind the entire collective into implementing that decision’ in all situations as Karat argues, or ‘the individual shall subordinate himself to the will of the collective’ as article XIII 1(b) of party constitution requires? Do all actions-decisions that a communist party undertakes in a parliamentary democracy like ours are of the war like situation requiring marshalling of all resources without exception? Obviously, all organisational decisions cannot be equally crucial to require binding the whole organization to it. Why can’t there be freedom of action where some members or units decide to focus on health issues and others on educational issues, and some may refrain from either? Why can’t some members/units try particular tactics of organization, follow a calendar of their own and others a different one? If it sounds that one is stretching the centralism aspect a bit too far, it may be noted that Karat points out that the ‘democracy is practiced, before the conference when the political line is being formulated. Centralism comes in when the line is being implemented’, ‘when the party is formulating its policies, at the time of conferences etc., there will be democracy in action, free discussions within the party forums. Once a call for action is given, the aspect of centralism will predominate’. As if defining the political line once in three years, clinches everything and thereafter, on no other issues independent and dencentralised decisions can be taken. In fact article XXXIII of the party constitution, makes it explicit that democratic centralism means “the centralised leadership based on inner-Party democracy under the guidance of the centralised leadership”. There is a whole article on “Inner-Party Discussions” (article XXI) which states thatState Committee can initiate inner-Party discussion on an important question of Party policy concerning that particular State… with the approval of the Central Committee” (emphasis added). So, even discussion at state level on state issues can only be initiated with the approval of the Central Committee (and off course format has to be approved too). This amply clarifies the meaning of ‘freedom of thought (sic.) and unity in action’ and where emphasis lies in ‘democratic centralism’. No wonder many times one has come across situation where Party members are just curious to know what the party line on particular issue was and not the detailed arguments and would not speak on a current issue until unless party line was clear.

Continue reading Democratic centralism – ‘freedom of thought (sic.) and unity in action’? Rajinder Chaudhary

Democratic Centralism – Public Issue, Private Debate: Rajinder Chaudhary


Recent expulsion/resignation of Jagmati Sangwan from CPI(M) is reflective of organizational structure and functioning of the left. It has implications beyond the immediate specific issue of whether alignment of Party with the Congress in recently held Vidhan Sabha elections in Bengal was right or not, or for CPI(M) itself. At stake is principle of ‘democratic centralism’.  Jagmati Sangwan episode has reminded me of an episode of my student days in Panjab University in early 80’s. I was convener of ‘Democratic Students’ Forum’ an independent left leaning student group on the campus (with no link with any political party as such). I was convener but found that my opinion was most often than not a minority opinion. So, effectively I was doing things, implementing decisions that I did not agree with. After many months of very intense work, I expressed my desire to be relieved of the responsibility. This was not accepted. Friends tried to persuade me to change my mind and continue with the responsibility as I ‘was making very valuable contribution’. Organisational colleagues were also personal friends, rather the only personal friends. One had no life beyond the organization. So, there was both organizational as well personal/emotional appeal to continue with the post but I found it was too much to carry out decisions with which one personally differed on grounds of principle. I requested at least a break, a breather from hectic schedule for some time. But rather than accepting my request/resignation from the post of convener, I was “expelled” from the organisation.  And this was just a small, independent left leaning student group that called itself ‘democratic students’ forum’ rather than a unit of a communist party, which goes on to indicate that the problem is rather deep rooted and wide ranging. (I have cross checked my memory of this episode with some other key participants of this incident.) Continue reading Democratic Centralism – Public Issue, Private Debate: Rajinder Chaudhary

सी पी एम के भीतर जनतांत्रिक विरोध के अधिकार का प्रश्न – जगमती सांगवान के बहाने

सी पी एम या भारतीय कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी (मार्क्सवादी) पिछले दिनों अपनी एक सदस्य की वजह से खबर में रही. अनुशासनहीनता के कारण जगमती सांगवान को पार्टी से निकालने का निर्णय किया गया,ऐसी सूचना उसके वक्तव्य में दी गई है. जगमती पार्टी की केन्द्रीय समिति की सदस्य थीं.

जगमती सांगवान को पार्टी से निकाला बाद में गया, केन्द्रीय समिति की बैठक के दौरान ही पहले वे बाहर निकल आई थीं और प्रेसवालों के सामने पार्टी छोड़ने का ऐलान कर दिया था.लेकिन कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी में ही नहीं,किसी भी पार्टी में शायद ही किसी सदस्य को खुद पार्टी से अलग होने का गौरव लेने दिया जाता रहा हो! यह फैसला पार्टी ही कर सकती है कि सदस्य का रिश्ता पार्टी से कैसा और कितना लंबा होगा.इसलिए कम से कम इस आधार पर सी पी एम की आलोचना करने के पहले पार्टियों के तंत्र की आलोचना करने की आवश्यकता होगी. Continue reading सी पी एम के भीतर जनतांत्रिक विरोध के अधिकार का प्रश्न – जगमती सांगवान के बहाने