CPI-M faces attrition, blames lifestyle, religious politics

March 30th, 2008 - 3:56 pm ICT by admin  

By Liz Mathew
Coimbatore, March 30 (IANS) The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) may be proud of its newly acquired status as a political force to reckon with, but is worried about the growing attrition of its cadre. Party members say the trend can be attributed to affluent lifestyles, increasing religious politics and the ‘tough life’ of party workers. CPI-M sources admit that the rate of attrition among “whole-timers” - permanent members - is as high as 7.5 percent.

The party, which is the dominant Left outfit with 43 MPs in the Lok Sabha, is finding it difficult to get whole-timers for its cadre, considered the backbone of the Stalinist party.

But at the same time, party members say it is not easy to make compromises for the membership, as it would affect its image as a cadre party.

When the CPI-M was formed in 1964, its membership was 118,683 and it has now increased to 982,000. It was 900,000 in 2005. However, there have been numerous dropouts from its whole-time members.

Party leaders say globalisation and affluent lifestyles have been wooing youngsters away from cadre parties like the CPI-M that insist on a simple and disciplined life.

The issue of dropouts is dealt with seriously in the organisational report of the party and is being discussed in detail during the deliberations on it Sunday and Monday during the party’s ongoing 19th party congress here.

A CPI-M leader admitted: “We are facing problems in getting whole-timers. It is more difficult in states where the party is not in power.”

According to CPI-M leaders, the party could not retain its whole timers even in states like West Bengal and Kerala, where it is in power. While the rate of attrition in West Bengal, where the CPI-M-led Left Front has been in power for more than three decades, is 3.5 percent, in Kerala it is 10 percent.

In Tamil Nadu, the decrease in membership is calculated at 16.5 percent.

“There are many reasons behind it. The changing social and economic scenario and the increasing influence of caste and religious politics are some of them. But we need to address them seriously,” admitted another senior party leader.

Besides, being a whole-timer in the CPI-M is not an easy task.

A whole-timer is expected to regularly participate in party activities and to faithfully carry out policy decisions and directives of the party. He or she has to study Marxism-Leninism and endeavour to raise their level of understanding, they have to read, support and popularise the party journals and publications.

It is said that paying for party membership every month is the most important custom in the CPI-M. The party insists that those whose incomes are of annual or of seasonal character have to pay their levy at the beginning of the season or at the beginning of every quarter on the prescribed percentage basis.

If a member fails to deposit his levy within three months after it is due, then his name will be removed from the party rolls.

A party member who gets Rs.8,000 per month should give four percent of his income to the party and those who are paid more have to shell out five percent.

Another issue that troubles the leadership is the absence of prudence in giving membership.

“A cadre party like the CPI-M cannot afford non-decretory award of memberships. We have to be prudent in it,” the leader added.

Party sources admitted that the leaders were concerned about the ‘anti-social elements’ that have infiltrated into the party as its members.

They say it was such forces that had damaged the CPI-M’s image in West Bengal’s Nandigram, where cadres clashed with people who were protesting land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ). The violent clashes claimed around 40 lives.

“The local units should be more diligent in accepting new members. You cannot fill the party with any kind of people just to have the numbers,” said a CPI-M leader from Kerala.

According to party rules, any Indian of 18 years of age or above, who accepts the party constitution and who agrees to work in one of the party organisations and pays the party membership fees regularly is eligible for membership.

Some of the hard liners in the party also insist that there should be new guidelines for the whole-timers as many of the party leaders, especially in the Left-ruled states, have come under fire for their affluent lifestyles and huge assets.

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