Let us unite again, assert Indian socialists

Vagamon (Kerala), April 3 (IANS) The time has come to once again unite India’s scattered socialists.

This decision was reached at a four-day retreat here attended by some 40 activists and former ideologues of the erstwhile socialist movement.

Is socialism relevant? Can the socialist movement be revived?

These were some of the questions posed at the retreat organised by the Association for Democratic Socialism, Centre for Socialist Studies, Samajwadi Mahila Sabha, Rashtra Sewa Dal and other Left outfits.

Talking to IANS, activists Bapu Heddurshetti, P.Hanumantha, D.K.Giri, Chandra Srinivasan and Sarla Gopalan said the need to re-unite socialist activists had arrived.

Most of those who were once part of the country’s vibrant socialist movement are today fragmented into small groups or work independently. The more active of them came together here.

On one subject there was unanimity: that the Samajwadi Party, now run as an old fashioned family business, was far distanced from the values of the vintage socialist ideology.

The Vagamon Declaration, passed after intense deliberations, urged political parties to state clearly their ideological stances and positions to end opportunism and permissive politics.

Activists lamented the ideological vacuum in politics which they said led to questionable compromises and subverted the country’s long-term interests.

The meeting also called upon Indian political parties to state their stand on issues like apartheid in education, land acquisition, urban-rural divide, gender inequalities, MNCs and the Western “cultural invasion”.

Participants agreed that there was a need to update and revise socialist positions on many issues in a dynamic world.

“The world has moved far ahead of Marx, Gandhi, (Ram Manohar) Lohia or JP (Jayaprakash Narayan),” said Heddurshetti.

“New technologies have bulldozed earlier ideological positions and compelled many of us to look for new alternatives and answers,” he added.

On foreign policy, participants said that efforts to bond India, Pakistan and Bangladesh better needed to be given a push.

All three were part of undivided India until August 1947 when the end of British colonial rule led to the formation of a truncated India after West Pakistan and East Pakistan came into being.

East Pakistan became Bangladesh after splitting from Pakistan in 1971.

The “historical blunder” of the 1947 partition cannot be undone but bridges of understanding can be built among the three countries and three-way flow amongst them can be strengthened, the socialists felt.

The conclave noted with concern the recent trend of regional interests impacting India’s foreign policy — as demonstrated by events in Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu in relation to Sri Lanka.

Most socialists agreed that “freak political initiatives” of an Anna Hazare or Arvind Kejriwal cannot stabilize or give a push to the polity to move towards the ideals enshrined in the constitution.

“We have to evolve fit instruments of political transformation, imbued with dreams and idealism, taking a long range view of the emerging scenario and interests of the people of India,” the declaration said.

In a separate resolution, the socialist conclave urged the Samajwadi Party to take steps to build a casteless society, cut income disparities, bring about man-woman equality and tame price rise — and give up its present politics of appealing to vote banks.

The four-day meet concluded with a resolve to continue the dialogue and forge alliances with like-minded groups to impact the coming elections and further the cause of “democratic socialism”.

Similar meets are planned in different parts of India in the coming months with a view to evolving ideological clarity and solidarity of the “democratic Left forces”.

(Brij Khandelwal can be reached on [email protected] and [email protected])

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