CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has told a conference at the University of Cambridge that the Leftist forces in India were still “banking on the concepts and theories of the 1940s”.
In one of the key presentations at the Lessons of Empire conference organised in memory of Marxist historian Victor Kiernan, Karat admitted that Left parties were “deficient” in theory and needed to study and understand the developments sweeping the country.
Calling himself the only “non-scholar” among the speakers — that included academics such as Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Bayly — Karat recalled Kiernan’s friendship with Indian Marxists such as P.C. Joshi and E.M.S. Namboodiripad. He recalled that Kiernan was always unrestrained in his criticism of some aspects of the Communist Party of India. Karat recalled Kiernan would often criticise party leaders and cadre, some of whom he called “café-going intellectuals”.
A supporter of the party, Kiernan, who lived in India from 1938 to 1946 and died in 2009, was scathing in his criticism of the lack of awareness and focus on theory among the party leaders and cadre.
Karat said: “We feel the acute need of theorising to understand the new developments in India. We need to study the big challenge posed by neo-liberal capitalism. It is leading to unequal development. Its focus of exploitation is similar to primitive forms of exploitation.”
This theorising was more important because the Left, he said, was the only force in Indian politics that had alternative policies.