After the merger of the Socialist Party into the Janata Party in 1977, the question whether an independent Socialist Party ought to be re-established in the country has been raised intermittently, particularly after the fall of the Janata Party Government in 1979. The question was often sought to be answered by suggesting that some of the later political formations which emerged in the subsequent years, such as the Janata Dal, could perform the role of a socialist party. For some time many of our comrades and activists have found from their experience that there is no alternative to the re-establishment of the Socialist Party.
As Socialists we have been critical of the workings of world capitalism and of world communism. The recent global recession and the so-called stimuli that had to be administered by advanced capitalist and other nations to revive those economies, was an object lesson for those who trumpeted the theory of unfettered free enterprise and provided, once again, a vindication of the socialist democratic understanding of the workings of the economic system.
We were also critically aware of the political and economic shortcomings of the regimes that had existed under the Soviet ambit. The fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991 therefore was not, to us, a matter for surprise. It would be futile to deny though that the fall-out of this event did affect the credibility not only of the communist but also of the socialist way of thinking across the world. If it did not actually throw Indian socialists into ideological disarray, it was because we in India fortunately had our own vast political heritage to draw upon, and had developed our own ideological understanding over decades of struggle. This is not to suggest that there was no disarray among our ranks. But the causes of this were mainly, even if not wholly, organizational and rooted within our own country rather than induced by political developments elsewhere, howsoever traumatic these developments might have been to the communist and socialist legacies in some parts of the world. It was nevertheless imperative to re-establish a Socialist Party also for the reason that the international crisis in socialism required rethinking of certain solutions and it is best that this rethinking is, in the first instance, done collectively by those who are conscious of the positive achievements of socialism.
It was natural that some years of hard re-thinking and multiple attempts at organizational re-grouping at local, state and national levels should have preceded the re-emergence of the Socialist Party that is now taking place. The image that comes to mind is naturally that of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 and its post-independence separation from the Congress in 1947-48, thus inheriting both the highest aspirations of our national struggle for independence and the role, after 1947, of the conscience keeper of the people of India. It is the need for the re-emergence of that formation and that tradition that has been beckoning to us.
That emergence can now no longer be postponed. One-third of a century has passed since the time when the Socialist Party, in an act of faith, obliterated itself into the Janata Party in 1977. It was hoped that 1977 would prove a new beginning not only for the country but also for all the groups that had then come together. It was hoped that the democratic and economic rights of all sections of the people would find recognition, expression and realization. It was hoped that the sectarian ideologies of some the groups that had joined hands with us would gave way to a wider understanding of the nation and its real ground struggles for existence, basic needs and development. The assumptions behind that act of faith have by and large been belied. In fact, the one-third of a century that has passed since that Socialist leap of faith has seen the rise of religious sectarianism in India. Some groups have adopted the tactic of engaging people in a debate over secularism while launching the actual ground attack on patriotic humanitarianism and produced an anti-cultural version of religion in politics. There has not yet been an adequate, effective or sufficient response to this tendency from any existing political formation. There has also been an abdication on the part of the state of its duty to bring home to those responsible, the legal consequences and criminal liability of these activities.
The period of eclipse of socialists during one-third of a century has also seen incursions on the land rights of India’s tribal and forest people. The struggle for the elimination and annihilation of caste has also, during this period, appeared to lose its way. In some parts of India this period of the Socialist Party’s eclipse has seen the rise of caste-based groupings which have started dictating the terms of social life and having the effrontery to take into their own hands matters of crime and punishment while mocking justice and the Constitution of India. These groups have risen in direct proportion as the social revolutionary edge of the Indian national movement was allowed to languish. With the eclipse of the Socialist Party there was no political formation that could uphold the social revolutionary aspect of our national struggle, thus leaving the field free for the reactionary and obscurantist elements in our national life to raise their head.
The period of the Socialist Party’s eclipse also removed from the scene a major force compelling the state to pay attention to the need to provide adequately, fully and universally for the basic needs of our people, their education and their health. The Social Party will make food and nutrition security as well as health the testing stone of economic and infrastructure development policies.
The Socialist Party (India) is now a reality once again. The Socialist Party (India) is opposed to policy of globalization being followed by the government. The Socialist Party will provide a platform to all those who seek to expand the rights of the people and who wish to do battle against anti-humanitarianism and sectarianism of any hue. The party would seek to protect the interests of the people in the changing economic scenario.
The Socialist Party (India) will be a party of all the deprived population of the country. The Socialist Party will treat as its special trust the need to attend to the problems of the deprived sections of the people, especially those of dalits and tribals and religious and linguistic minorities. It shall take steps to protect and restore the land rights of the tribal people and the right to life, liberty, education, health and development of all those who have been neglected or exploited in the relentless pursuit of globalization. In this pursuit the Socialist Party (India) will be guided by the Antyodaya principle that is the progress and well-being of the last person. While it would not wish India to lag behind in technological prowess, it would seek to ensure that such technological and energy policies are adopted as are best suited for the well-being of the poorest in the land. Similarly, it will seek quality education for all by the state on the basis of common and neighborhood school system. The Socialist Party (India) will set to itself the goal of immediate elimination of child labour and the provision of India’s labouring children to schools in a time-bound manner and will associate itself with campaigns to achieve that end.
The Socialist Party (India) will strive for friendly relations with all countries and will continue its tradition of close contacts with India’s neighbours. It will strive and try for a strong platform of South Asian countries both economically and on international plane. It will work with immediacy to see that injustice depriving the people of Palestine to have their home land and independent state is undone and their legitimate goal is immediately achieved. It will strive for a world without international overlords and a world sharing for mutual benefit the fruits of international development. It will struggle against anti-humanitarian ideologies and will extend its sympathy to oppressed people everywhere in the world. It will encourage solutions founded in accommodation and togetherness; it will recognize and respect differences but not encourage the building of walls along real or assumed fault lines.
The Socialist Party (India) will launch a campaign to eradicate corruption from India’s national life. It will also subject itself to public audit and the party’s accounts will be available for public inspection. It will establish grievance committees at every level with power to entertain complaints from any citizen regardless of whether such citizen is a member of the party. The Socialist Party will hold regular elections and there will be periodic rotation of its senior office-bearers. In this quest the Socialist Party (India) is hereby humbly place itself before the public of India and hopes for a dispassionate and critical support.