Clause on faith puts Kerala CPM in trouble

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi -Daily Pioneer published on January 10, 2010

The resignation of former Marxist MP KS Manoj from the CPI(M) protesting against the instruction of the party’s rectification document to abstain from religious functions and rituals has triggered hot debates in the organization. Though leaders and workers are not much worried about the resignation of Manoj, what is troubling them is the impact of the two conditions laid out by the rectification document with respect to religious beliefs and faith in God.

The top leaders of the CPI(M) in Delhi as well as Kerala have so far kept a studied silence over the questions raised by Manoj but the middle level leaders who are left to explain the party stand merely say that believers like Manoj have no reason to feel uncomfortable in the party. According to State committee member MV Jayarajan, Manoj can continue to be a CPI(M) member and believer at the same time. But Jayarajan does not want to speak about the particular conditions laid out in the rectification document.

The controversy is over two points in relation to faith in God and religious beliefs mentioned in the letter given to the party units for discussion on the rectification document the CPI(M) central committee had prepared for cleansing the party of corrupt and immoral tendencies among leaders at all levels as well as workers. The grassroots workers of the CPI(M) are worried as to how they – and the party – could go ahead if a formal party document is asking them to adhere to atheism.

According to sources, a rough estimate is that more than 60 percent of the party workers and fellow-travelers are people who keep normal to ardent religious beliefs and faith in God. There are even several CPI(M) members and leaders who were simultaneously members and office-bearers in committees of places of worship. Party workers say that several local Devaswom boards (temple committees) in southern Kerala are governed by Marxists.

“We have even fought against the rivals to wrest power in temple committees for the party. It is true that materialism is the basic doctrine, but that is just theory. But now it seems that an explosion could take place within the party in the name of God and religion,” said Vasudevan Panicker, a CPI(M) fellow-traveler in Mannar, Alappuzha. He said he himself was the secretary of a local Devaswom Board.

The fourth paragraph on Page 82 of the letter given to the party units for discussion on the rectification says that the party members should be taught to adhere to communist yardsticks (on every matter) and to reject all social, religious and caste customs which are alien to them. Page 84 of the letter says that office-bearers or elected people’s representatives from the party should not participate in religious functions or perform religious rites.

KS Manoj quit the CPI(M) the other day questioning these two points mentioned in the letter on the rectification campaign. He said he was basically a believer in religion and God and he could not continue in the party if this was the line the party was going to adopt from June next, as the document said. Manoj was the diocesan president in Alappuzha of the Latin Catholic Association, a body of the conservative Latin Catholic Church when he was made a CPI(M) candidate for Lok Sabha election in 2004.

The letter says that almost 40 percent of the party members have not so far been able to adopt the CPI(M)’s basic perspective. It says these party members have not achieved the desired ideological standards and this is why feudal and bourgeois tendencies are coming up in the organization, which is one of the main things that necessitated the rectification campaign. Intense protests have already come up against these references in the lower units of the party. It is said that several units have demanded removal of these clauses from the rectification document.

A good section of the top CPI(M) leadership in Kerala shares the worry that this firm stand on religion and faith could prove detrimental to the strength of the party gradually. It is not wholly possible for the members to stay away from religious rites and rituals at a time when these are becoming more and more significant in the society. “It is easy for one to decide not to attend routine functions at temples, churches and mosques. But what about exceptional situations like those brought about by deaths and marriages?” asked a party State committee member.

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