Speech made by Prakash Karat* on January 18, 2004 at the WSF panel on Political Parties and Social Movements
1. Talking about political parties and social movements, we must first note that there are different types of political parties and social movements. Just as there are parties which represent the ruling classes and the interests of the established order, so also there are social movements which play a socially regressive or divisive role.
There are political parties which seek basic social and economic transformations just as there are social movements which articulate and struggle for the interests of the oppressed and those marginalized in society.
2. We are concerned with those parties and movements which strive for social and economic transformations to achieve social justice, democracy and equity. Here the entire historical experience shows that these two segments play separate roles, which can be complementary or sequential. Twentieth century history shows that mass democratic and Left political parties played the key role in delivering socio-economic benefits to the working people. It is the political change and the success of political struggle which brought about social and economic gains. Whether it be adult franchise, social welfare measures, universal education, sickness and unemployment benefits or the eight-hour working day.
While the actual change and delivery of social benefits were accomplished by a political agency through political changes, the raising of the problem, the highlighting of the issue and even mobilisation of public opinion were often initiated through social movements and organizations.
3. We are talking of the relationship between political parties and social movements. At this juncture this would mean recognizing what is common between them and what differentiates them.
Speaking of Left parties, their primary goal is to organize and mobilise support to fulfill a programme which involves...