NEW DELHI — The 18th congress of Communist Party of India (Marxist) concluded April 11 with a rally of 100,000 people at Talkatora Stadium here. The extreme heat and sun couldn’t keep the overflow crowd away.

The CPI(M) congress opened April 6 with an address by Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the party’s outgoing general secretary. Surjeet asked party members to ensure social justice and economic emancipation through a radical vision that attacks feudal and caste privileges, uproots inequalities, and moves towards the building of a modern nation that recognizes secularism and federalism as fundamental principles.

Surjeet emphasized the need to strengthen left unity and to increase the left’s political effectiveness. He called on delegates to champion people’s aspirations for a better life and to fight for a secular, democratic India, free from class and social oppression.

Surjeet’s counterpart from the Communist Party of India, A.B. Bardhan, brought greetings from his party’s national council. Bardhan denounced U.S.-dictated policies of neoliberalism (“free market” methods, privatization, etc.) practiced by the ruling parties in India. He also urged that the two Communist parties work in close cooperation, apply the science of Marxism-Leninism to India’s conditions, and unify the country’s Communist movement on that principled basis.

Fraternal greetings from 27 delegations from all over the world were presented to the congress, including from China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Russia, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Burma and Bangladesh.

Some 800 delegates representing 867,000 party members from all over India discussed political, economic and organizational matters in depth.

The political resolution adopted by the congress noted that the fragmentation of the working class on caste lines was a serious danger to the left parties. It projected an expansion of the CPI(M) into Hindi heartland, where the party is relatively weak. The congress singled out the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam and Maharashtra for special efforts build the party’s membership.

The resolution underlined the need to strengthen the party’s branches, deploy its leaders and cadre more effectively, take up more social issues, and strengthen ideological debate.

In a special resolution on Palestine, the party congress demanded the Indian government sever its military ties with Israel and end its arms trade with that country. It said the Indian government cannot “pay lip service” to the cause of the Palestinian people while continuing such ties, and called for international sanctions against Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands.

The congress also demanded the immediate withdrawal of U.S. and other occupying forces from Iraq, and called on the Indian government to curtail all relations with what it called “the puppet regime” in Iraq.

The congress elected Prakash Karat as its new general secretary. Karat told reporters that a high priority of the party is to expose the current government’s anti-farmer policies and to rally the left and democratic forces around a “third alternative.” He said the CPI(M) will intensify a two-pronged struggle of fighting communalism and the neoliberal economic approach of the Indian government.

M.K.N. Moorthy is the publisher of a progressive Malayalam language publication in Kerala, India.