CPM and Constitution. Saji Cheriyan is not the first CPM blasphemer | Kerala News

What is surprising is not that former Kerala culture minister Saji Cheriyan refused to apologize for his profanity. The surprise is that Kerala expected Cheriyan and his party CPM to apologize.

The CPM can quickly and strongly condemn the attack on Rahul Gandhi’s office in Wayanad by his own boys, but not an attack on the Constitution. The first (vandalizing opposition offices) is at least not official party policy, but the second (criticizing the Constitution), in a sense, is.

The CPM has always been openly suspicious of the transformative potential of the Indian Constitution. The apprehensions of the party, expressed in its official documents and by ideologues like EM Sankaran Namboodirippad, have made one thing clear: for the CPM, the “sacred text” of the nation has its redeeming qualities, but still has only one value slightly higher than that of the sacred text. books that Marxists generally avoid.

Untrustworthy Tome

The party’s official attitude towards the Indian Constitution was more like what celestial beings in myths had towards all things earthly. EMS himself had once remarked that adherents of Marxism-Leninism had no distaste for parliamentary democracy even though they had a sympathetic distrust of its effectiveness. He was then Chief Minister of Kerala and the final word on the ideology of the CPM.

Everything Cheriyan said at the Mallappally meeting on July 3 has already been said by PMO stalwarts, but not in the crude, unfiltered way he said it.

“As far as we are concerned, the nation is inherently flawed. The problems are rooted in the national structure carved out of the Constitution,” EMS said, in a lecture at the Gokhale Institute in Pune in 1968, when he was chief minister. “The many checks contained in the constitutional framework will tend to ambush revolutionary and progressive policies,” he added.

EM Sankaran Namboodirippad. Photo archive: Manorama


saving grace

Yet Saji Cherian’s utter disdain is a far cry from CPM politics. The party has recognized the many advantages of the Indian Constitution. “Universal adult suffrage and state parliaments and legislatures can serve as tools for the people in their struggle for democracy, for the defense of their interests. When there were attacks on parliamentary democracy, such as the internal emergency, the people opposed such authoritarian measures,” the current CPM program reads.

There is also reluctant respect. “Although it is a form of class rule by the bourgeoisie, India’s current parliamentary system also embodies a breakthrough for the people. It offers them certain opportunities to defend their interests, to intervene to some extent in the affairs of the state and to mobilize them to advance the struggle for democracy and social progress,” he said.

Saji Cherian is District Secretary of CPM in Alappuzha

Saji Cherian


Next best option

Although the adoption of the Constitution is seen as a step forward, the EMS said its party was under no illusion that the bourgeois-owning classes would patiently let the working class and democratic organizations achieve change. social radical using parliamentary means.

For the CPM, parliamentary democracy is therefore acceptable as a palliative, just as useful as a small stone to drive a nail into the wall in the absence of a hammer.

But the tool seems terribly inefficient for CPM. The Guiding Principles of State Policy, which speak of a paradise welfare state, are not enforceable. Even enforceable rights are brutally denied, according to the CPM.

The many checks contained in the constitutional framework will tend to ambush revolutionary and progressive policies

EM Sankaran Namboodirippad

“All fundamental rights guaranteed to us have been violated, except property rights,” EMS said publicly. “Notice that it is not the property rights of small and medium farmers or workers that have not been trampled on, but those of the landed gentry and the rising class,” he said.

The rich man’s savior

From the days of the EMS, the CPM held up the Supreme Court’s verdict in the 1967 Golaknath case as a telling example of how the Constitution protects the property rights of the wealthy.

The Golaknath family in Punjab owned 500 acres of farmland. However, in 1953, the Punjab government passed the Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act, which limited individual possession of land to 60 acres. The Golaknaths, like many wealthy landowning families in Punjab, were told to part with surplus land.

The Golaknaths went to court, challenging the validity of the 1953 law. They argued that their basic right to property had been violated. (At the time, the right to property was a fundamental right. It was removed from the list by the 44th Amendment, in 1978.) Not only did the Supreme Court rule in favor of the Golaknaths, but it also stripped Parliament of its power to make amendments to Part III of the Constitution which deals with the fundamental rights of citizens.

The CPM saw in this evidence that radical and transformational political changes are virtually impossible under the Indian Constitution.

Photo archive: Manorama


Dilemma of the courts

While the highest court defended the basic rights of the wealthy, the CPM argued that it was powerless when the most important basic right, personal liberty, was at stake.

In 1962, the party had questioned the authoritarian nature of the India Defense Act which had been passed during the Sino-Indian War of 1962. This wartime legislation gave the government unlimited powers to imprison suspected traitors and deny them all basic rights. As this was an emergency provision, even the courts had no right to intervene. The party had the same criticism of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gave the military unchallenged authority over the northeastern states.

In general, the party was so frustrated with the Constitution that in one of its documents it is stated that even if the representatives of the working class win a majority in Parliament, comprehensive changes should be made to the workings of the Constitution to achieve significant social and economic transformations.

Preamble to the Indian Constitution

Preamble to the Indian Constitution. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia


Change of tactics in the Modi era

All the while, the Sangh Parivar was also considering changes in the Constitution. If the CPM called its constitutional amendment program “working class-centric,” the BJP unabashedly called it Hindu-centric. The BJP’s designs, though considered outrageous by the CPM, were largely ignored until Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

Legislation such as the Citizenship Bill, the Muslim Women (Protection of Marriage Rights) Act and the removal of Section 370 made it clear to the CPM that the Constitution, which he distrusted, was worth the hard to fight.

The party went into tactical silence on the Constitution until Cheriyan made that discordant noise on July 3.

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