- Introduction: The coming to power of the Modi-led BJP again with a thumping majority poses a serious challenge to the toiling and oppressed masses. Not only there is a further sharp turn to the far right, footsteps of fascism are growing louder by the day. Soon after Modi-2 took over there has been a spurt in mob lynchings and attacks on dalits and minorities. There is talk of implementing NRC in other states apart from Assam, thus creating a situation where millions may be deprived of citizenship rights by one stroke of the pen. Measures like the new draft education policy are a thinly veiled attempt at imposing the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan paradigm on the younger generations and striking at the root of our culture of diversity and democracy. Fascisization of all fields is taking place more aggressively. Virulent national chauvinism is being peddled as answer to all problems, thus creating a culture of communal frenzy and majoritarian violence. Voices of dissent are being summarily throttled. The RSS Parivar is on an offensive to transform India into a Hindu Rashtra by 2024. Side by side, Modi’s neo-liberal economic policies continuously intensifying corporatization are aimed at pauperization of the masses. The projected privatization of all public sector enterprises, changes in labour laws to please the corporate, the abject surrender to US threats, the growing rate of unemployment, farmers’ distress, aggravating climate crisis – all these are making for a situation of unprecedented catastrophe. The latest developments, scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution and dividing J&K in to two union territories by Modi-2 is a direct attack against the democratic rights of the Kashmiri people. The valley is under total military occupation, with all movements of people, communication and all civilian facilities stopped with the state put under 144 and curfew imposed. While these steps have internationalized the Kashmir question even when Modi is repeating it as an internal matter, it aso threatens whatever federal values still remaining in the Constitution.. This belligerent corporate-saffron fascist offensive can be effectivey challenged and defeated only if party building is effectively take up.
- The Political Resolution adopted by the 11th Party Congress, after analyzing the present situation has pointed out the importance “to urgently engage in building up the Party, strengthening class/mass organizations and developing peoples movements and class struggle”. In continuation to it, analyzing the situation following the ascendance of Modi-2, the Central Committee in its June, 2019, Resolution has called: “to combat this all round intensification of neoliberal/corporatization policies and fascisization of all fields, the Central Committee calls for: Firstly, take up the party building as the first and foremost task, trying to merge all genuine communists and streamlining the party committees at all levels; strengthen class/mass organizations, and develop people’s movements in all fields and at all levels according to the concrete situation;......”. It is evident that unless the task of party building is taken up as the primary task all other tasks shall remain unfulfilled. In the present situation of ever intensifying fascisization, this task has become paramount. Only under the leadership of an ideologically, politically and organizationally powerful communist party, surrounded by class/mass organizations/movements, the development of class struggle and people’s movements this task can be effectively carried forward, and the united front activities according to the demands of the present situation can be initiated and developed.
- The Political Organizational Report (POR) adopted by the Eleventh Congress has explained the various aspect of party building including the necessity for theoretical offensive required for it as follows: “(5.a.3….while considering the magnitude of the theoretical challenges confronting the communist movement, as explained in The Resolution, (Resolution on Theoretical Offensive adopted by the Tenth Congress), what we could do in this field so far is still very little……” It has explained in detail the necessity to intensify the theoretical offensive to continuously develop the Party’s programmatic approach, Path of Revolution and the organizational tasks. An over-view of the organizational strength and functioning of the present state committees, which are still insignificant considering the magnitude of the challenges before us, also underline the importance of taking up the party building in an all embracive manner.
- Unification of Communist Revolutionaries
As the POR called for, the present situation, more than ever, demands the unity of the communist revolutionary (CR) forces to defeat the ruling class forces and to advance towards people’s democracy and socialism. After last five decades long practice of parliamentary cretinism, the CPI(M) led Left Front has suffered severe decimation .On the other extreme, the left adventurist stream also has alienated from the people further. In this situation, we have to expand the call to unite all communist forces who are prepared to struggle against these deviations and to pursue Marxist-Leninist theory and practice according to the concrete analysis of present international and Indian situation. Based on this understanding, as explained in the POR, during the last one decade, especially after the Bhopal Special Conference in 2009, we have merged with many sections/organizations of communist revolutionaries. This process is still continuing. Presently, when almost all the parties/organizations within the broad “left spectrum’ are undergoing a major ideological and political churning, there are good possibilities for merger of many of them with Red Star, leading to a new communist polarization. We have to intensify our efforts in this direction. The experience of the Bhangar people’s resistance struggle has created more favorable conditions for advancing unity talks with the communist forces.
- This question of winning over the communist forces to the party should be taken up at three levels: Firstly, though their number may vary considerably from state to state, there are many former members of organizations belonging to the ‘communist spectrum’ who can be won over and enrolled after convincing them about our party line; Secondly, there are many groups of comrades, especially in states where the left movement had good influence, who have left their previous organizations due to ideological or political or organizational differences, for winning over whom also initiative should be taken; Thirdly, active efforts should be made to find out organizations who are nearer to our party line and to win over them through protracted discussions and, if necessary by even working together with them for some time forming coordination committees..
- Party Membership: Though we have our presence in 17 states and SCs/SOCs in 16 states, our party membership in 2018 was only a little over 4,000. Even among them, many are not fulfilling the responsibilities as explained in the Party Constitution. During this year’s membership renewal process, such inactive members should be convinced to overcome their weaknesses, or, if this is not possible, should be weeded out. Considering the enormous tasks we have to take up in different fields, this membership is absolutely insufficient. Urgent steps should be taken to increase the membership. The following steps should be taken up for accomplishing it:
- We have formed Party Sub-Committees in all class/mass organizations and movements at central level. They are constituted at state level also at least in few states or in few fields. Make these committees active and through them take up the enrolment of party members from all fields, especially from among the workers, agricultural workers and peasantry. Considering the fairly good number of membership in TUCI, AIKKS and ABM a good number of members can be recruited from these areas.
- Though two thirds of the population in our country are under 35 years old, our membership among them is very limited. This is linked to our weakness in building the student and youth organizations in spite of repeated decisions. Give more emphasis to this field and recruit larger number of candidate members from students and youth.
- Women constitute half of our population. Without giving emphasis to women’s liberation, party cannot advance the revolutionary movement. But proportion of women among our party members and their presence in party committees are deplorable. Attention should be given for recruiting large number of women as party members.
- The results of the 17th Lok Sabha elections show severe decimation of CPI(M) and CPI, especially in W. Bengal and Tripura. During the last decade, large number of members of these parties and of the ML organizations have become inactive. Some of the comrades associated with us in the past had also become inactive. An active campaign should be organized and hold continuous discussions to win over them to our Party line and to enroll them as party members.
- The experience of Bhangar movement has taught us that successful waging of such people’s movements become a gold mine for recruiting large number of party members including whole timers. It will be reflected in the growth of party membership in Bengal this year. Similarly in all areas where mass movements are developing, proper emphasis should be given to bring the struggling people nearer to the party and to recruit new members from among them to the party.
- Give emphasis to building grass root level party committees: During the last few years the CC has emphasized repeatedly on the importance of organizing and strengthening party committees at the grass root level, that is party committees at Branch, Local and Area levels and Party Sympathizers’ Groups. Decline of our mobilization strength for party programs, and our poor performance in the elections even in the districts where we have waged many struggles are connected to the weakness of our party at grass root level. With the strengthening of the three tier panchayat system, all the ruling class or main stream parties are giving lot of emphasis to capture these Gram, Block and District panchayats, deploying even their senior cadres to them. Since enormous funds are available for these panchayats, they have become very corrupt. As we are not giving proper emphasis to build grass root level party committees and to provide party education and political guidance to them, even few of our own comrades elected to them also became corrupt and left the party. We have to seriously evaluate these negative experiences. Give utmost political and organizational importance to strengthening grass root level party committees. In districts where our party committees are functioning, select gram and block panchayats where our party presence is there; strengthen the Branch committees at village/town/municipal ward level and Local Committees at Gram/Town panchayat levels; chalk out people’s programs/our alternative development and democratization concepts, and wherever possible form people’s committees to capture the panchayats, struggling against the main stream parties. By striving to make these panchayats to function according to our political and organizational line, consistently strengthening the direct participation of the people in its activities through strengthening the functioning of the neighborhood committees. In this way we shall be able to take class struggle to the grass root levels. (see the Appendix).
- Strengthen the District Committee functioning: The district committees link the state committee with the grass root party committees, and in the party structure of the communist party it has to play an important role. It should have an office and regular office functioning, including the practice of issuing press statements on important developments. It should coordinate the working of area committees and the grass root functioning below them. It should collect the levy regularly and ensure the propagation of party organs and literature. It should maintain levy register and account register. It should send circulars to lower level committees on the one hand, and send regular written reports to state committee.
- Strengthen State Committee functioning: In a multinational/multi lingual country like India, the state committees have to play a very important role if we have to lead the revolutionary movement and party forward. But many of our state committees are very weak. Many of them have no proper office or office functioning. They do not bring out the state party organ or issue statements on important developments. We have to wage consistent struggle against the influence of liberalism on the one hand and against sectarianism on the other to strengthen the state committee functioning, taking practical steps for it.
- Give Emphasis to party Education: As explained in the POR adopted by the 11th Party Congress (quoted above), in spite of repeated efforts necessary emphasis is not given to party education at state and district levels, though central party schools are regularly conducted from 2010, party schools are not organized at lower levels including translation of all central party school papers in most of the states. All the state committees should ensure that immediate steps are taken to overcome this weakness. In the present situation of increasing fascisization of the country and the problems created by alien thinking within the “left spectrum” leading to its splintering, the importance of party education by organizing regular party classes has increased more. It also calls for making necessary basic Marxist classics available to the comrades. The state committees should give ever-increasing attention to this.
- Conclusion: With the coming to power of Modi-2 and intensification of fascisization, the concrete conditions in our country are going to face fast changes. As we intensify our struggle in all fields, it is natural that we shall come under increasing state repression, and we should be prepared to face it. While we shall continue to utilize all possibilities for open work to link the party with the masses, our party committee system and organizational functioning should be properly streamlined so that it is capable of confronting all eventualities. Let us strengthen our party building with all our might, overcoming all past mistakes and present weaknesses.
Appendix: On linking the Party Building at Grass Root level with the 3-Tier Panchayat System.
- While giving emphasis to party building, along with giving emphasis to grass root level party building, Ie, of Area, Local and Branch committees, their activities should be linked to our active participation in the functioning of the 3-tier panchayat system. In the Central Party School in 2013 we had discussed a paper on Our Approach to Participation in Local Body Elections. Even after so amny years, still we could not make any advances in this field. Not only that, as we failed or as we are very weak, in developing grass root level party building linking with revolutionary participation in the panchayat system, and preparing our comrades accordingly, almost all our comrades elected to panchayat samithis so far by and large got influenced by corrupt practices and left our party.
- Under these circumstancess, what is happening under the Bhangar Jomi Committee is significant. As the struggle was reaching its peak, confronting the armed attack of the TMC goons we could fight only six seats of Polarhat panchayat where we won with more than 90% support, while in all other 9 seats TMC won without contest or by capturing booths. When the Bhangar Agreement was signed, apart from the compensation to the affected people, the state government agreed to implement a number of projects in the affected area for the people. Now the TMC is trying to convene the full panchayat samithi and impose its hegemony so that it can control all these projects plus other panchayat projects sanctioned by the government. As it shall lead to a situation like what was happening in the past, the Jomi Committee is waging legal struggle as well as struggle in the streets to continue its control in the areas from where our comrades have won. In this way we are struggling to use the panchayat system to consolidate the gains of the Bhangar movement. It calls for regular attention of the leading comrades also. In this way the WB state committee is striving to maintain and expand our political and organizational influence in this area. It is a good example to be emulated in other areas/states according to concrete conditions.
- Numerous past experiences teach us that wherever such struggles take place, as the gains are not consolidated through effective utilization of the panchayat system and strengthening of our mass base through it, very soon our gains were lost or very little of it is continuing. Many decades of parliamentary experience of traditional communist parties also teaches that if the parliamentary institutions including the 3-tier panchayat system are not used in a revolutionary manner as part of the class struggle, they can lead to negative results. It is in this context, however micro level it may be, the present militant functioning of the Bhangar Committee after signing of the agreement should be viewed.
- Presently under neo-liberalism, both imperialism and comprador Indian ruling classes are effectively utilizing local self governments for their neocolonial objectives in the same manner as they make use of central and state governments. All the ruling class parties like BJP, Congress, regional parties and CPI(M)-led parties are functioning as proponents of this neoliberal approach to local bodies. In this context, it is imperative on the part of the struggling left forces to put forward a class approach to local body elections. It should expose the so called top-down decentralization imposed under the labels of “participatory democracy”, “participatory development” and “empowerment” by imperialist centers. It has to show that such decentralization is not intended for genuine people’s political power at the local level. On the contrary, it leads to increasing global centralization of finance capital by making local bodies as its appendage.
- At the behest of neo-colonial agencies such as the World Bank, as part of downsizing the welfare state, all erstwhile social welfare and developmental tasks of the central and state governments are put on the shoulders of fund-starved local bodies who are increasingly made direct dependencies of WB, ADB and other funding agencies. In spite of the economic burden imposed on them, the right to collect land revenue, which is now with the State government, is not set apart for local bodies. The bureaucratic set up of the local bodies has also changed little in the midst of many talks on decentralization. Even today, the elected representatives of the Panchayat system are not vested with any real powers. All the financial and executive powers are vested with the executive officer or secretary of the Panchayat system at village, bloc and district levels. More precisely, the elected local bodies still lack autonomy regarding resource mobilization and executive powers of implementation.
- Taking these aspects into consideration, according to the concrete conditions prevailing in different parts of the country, we should put forward a people’s alternative of bottom-up decentralization which is inseparably linked with the development of class struggle aimed at basically altering the existing property relations and power structure.
- The Party should actively participate in local body elections with this ideological clarity and with a political program so as to transform local bodies as primary centers of people’s political power. For this, participation in local elections should be linked with the uncompromising struggle and campaigns for redistribution of land on the basis of land to the tiller, confiscation of land held by land mafia, distribution of such lands and surplus land among landless, agitation against displacement, against all super-imposed neo-colonial projects, and so on.
- The genuine decentralization means the workers, peasants and all other oppressed sections and classes, the masses of the people, wielding political power at the local level. It is invariably linked to the abolition of imperialist strangle hold over the country and basic changes in the class relations which are maintained through the present “top-down” decentralization. Instead of this, a “bottom-up” decentralization as people’s alternative replacing the existing class relations and hegemony of imperialist finance capital is indispensable. A restructuring of the property relations including land relations in favour of the landless, entrusting land to the real tillers, is an essential component of this. In spite of the rhetoric on decentralization and empowerment of panchayats, the Indian state keeps the people in the dark and imposes various neo-colonial projects violating their jurisdiction. In numerous court cases where panchayats vs MNCs are involved, mostly the courts uphold the neo-colonial loot of the latter against the rights of the former.
- The Party should reject the neo-liberal decentralization experiments pursued In different states. It should try to draw lessons from the experiences of Paris Commune, the “Soviets” and “People’s Communes”. They should take lessons from them and make efforts for applying them in accordance with the concrete conditions prevailing today. Along with the development of struggles by class/mass organisations, a people’s development agenda should be placed before the people. All State Committees should prepare a manifesto clearly specifying the Party’s program including specific demands for land, shelter, food, drinking water, employment, education, healthcare, etc. with respect to local body elections according to concrete conditions. Along with this, an effective organizational initiative for utilizing local bodies in the interest of class struggle should be evolved.
Marx-Engels said in the “Communist Manifesto” — “In the earlier epoch of history, we find almost everywhere a complete sub-division of society into different ranks, a manifold gradation of social positions. In the ancient Rome, we have: patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves. In the middle ages, we have: feudal lords, vassals, guild-burgesses, journeymen, serfs; and within each of these classes there existed, in almost every instance, further gradations.
Our own age, the bourgeois age, is distinguished by this — that is has simplified class antagonism. More and more, society is splitting into two great hostile camps, in to two great and directly contra-posed classes: bourgeoisie and proletariat.”
This observation of Marx and Engels — founder of scientific Marxism — was indicating inevitable trend of society. Actually, in 1894, after 46 years of publication of Communist Manifesto, a year before his death, Engels said, “… from Ireland to Sicily, from Andalusia to Russia and Bulgaria, the peasant is a very essential factor of the population, production and political power.” (The Peasant Question in France and Germany)
Again, Engels said, “The conquest of political power by the Socialist Party has become a matter of the not too distant future. But in order to conquer political power this party must first go from the town to the country, must become a power in countryside…. This brings us right into the thick of the PEASANT QUESTION.”
We know that when Engels had given so much importance to the peasant question, then the countries like France and Germany are in the state of Socialist Revolution. It is obvious that when we are in the stage of bourgeois democratic revolution — People’s Democratic Revolution — then “Peasants is a very essential factor of the population, production and political power.”
We know that there is vast difference between the then Ireland and Sicily, Andalusia and Russia and Bulgaria with the INDIA of 2019, but “in order to conquer political power” we have to go by the advice of Engels — “Party must first go from the town to the country, must become a power in the countryside”.
We are not suggesting to leave town, city, industrial sector. We had done that thing just after Naxalbari uprising. That was a costly mistake. We had abandoned working class in the main and one-sidedly had given importance to the rural work. Here most important point is that “we must become a power in the countryside”, a sizable, formidable and powerful force in the countryside.
From this orientation, we have to be “into the thick of the peasant question”.
We want to mention here a very important lesson from Chinese revolution: “Therefore, it would be wrong to abandon the struggle in the cities, but in our opinion, it would be also be wrong for any of our Party member to fear the growth of peasant strength lest it should out strip the workers’ strength and harm the revolution. For in the revolution in semi-colonial China, the peasant struggle must always fail if it does not have the leadership of the workers, but the revolution is never harmed if the peasant struggle outstrips the forces of workers”. (Mao, A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire)
Here also, we want to say that there is large difference between 1930s China and today’s India. Our Party is also for Indian Path for Indian Revolution. But on the question of leadership of the working class on the peasant struggle — mutual relation between working class leadership and peasant struggle — the lesson of Chinese revolution is wholly applicable for Indian revolution also.
Though in the “Communist Manifesto” it was stated that in “our own age, the bourgeois age” instead of “complete sub-division of society into different ranks, a manifold gradation of social positions and further gradation” society is splitting into two great hostile camps, into two great and directly contra-posed classes: bourgeoisie and proletariat”, but actual reality after 170 years is that there are manifold gradation and further gradation in various countries and in India also.
So actual reality is, on the one side, splitting of society into bourgeois and proletariat is going on and on the other side, forceful presence of “different ranks” and “manifold gradation” in the society.
Actually, after the publication of “Communist Manifesto” in 1848, due to agrarian crisis in Europe in 1870 and dragged on until mid-nineties of that century, the peasant question figured as one of the most crucial in the programme, strategy and tactics of the socialist parties.
So to give correct orientation and direction on the peasant question, to rectify the mistaken standpoint of France and German Parties on this question, Engels had written the article “The Peasant Question in France and Germany” in 1894.
About this article, Lenin said in 1919, after the victory of socialist revolution in Russia, “… it was Engels who established the division of the peasants into small peasants, middle peasants and big peasants and this division holds good for most European countries EVEN TODAY” (Collected Works, Vol. 29, P-205). So in 1919 also, three were “sub-divisions and gradations” and that two in “MOST European countries.”
Engels not only discussed about division among the peasants, but also said very concretely the attitude of the communist Party (then socialist Party) towards various sections of the peasantry.
About general teachings of Marx-Engels and particular teachings about various sections of the peasants, Lenin said, “the teachings by which our Party has always guided itself, and particularly in times of revolution”. Actually Lenin was implementing Engels teachings at the times of socialist construction in rural areas of Russia.
Lenin Said, “In relation to the land owners and capitalists, our aim is complete expropriations. But we shall not tolerate any use of force in respect of middle peasants (Lenin’s italics). Even in respect of the rich peasants we do not say as resolutely as we do of the bourgeoisie — absolute expropriation of the rich peasants and the kulaks. This distinction is made in our Programme. We say that the resistance of the counter-revolutionary efforts of rich peasants must be suppressed. That is not complete expropriation” (C.W., Vol. 29, P-205) and again “The basic difference in our attitude towards the bourgeoisie and the middle peasant — complete expropriation of bourgeoisie and all alliance with the middle peasant who does not exploit others.”
So it is clear that Lenin had taken a very concrete attitude to the different sections of the peasantry when he was in the midst of socialist construction in rural areas in Russia.
Our stage of revolution is not socialist, but democratic. But here also in our society, there are two poles, two extreme poles: imperialism, comprador capitalism and landlordism in the one pole and on the other pole industrial working class and agricultural labourers. But our country is like pre-revolutionary China in certain aspects. There are many ‘gradations’ and “sub-divisions” like landless and poor peasants, middle peasants, rich peasants, petti-bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie, various types of labouring people in city, town and rural areas.
In our Party Programme, we have categorically stated who are our enemies and who are our friends. I am not discussing that part. Comrade should study the Party Programme.
Here I want to make a point for clarity, that is, mutual relation between various sections of the peasantry.
We have to rely on agricultural labour, landless and poor peasant; we have to firmly unite with middle peasant and we have a unity and struggle policy in the case of rich peasant. Actually, in the rural areas, we have to unite with 90 percent of the rural population on the basis of class analysis.
Here, we want to draw the attention of our comrades towards a wrong position of certain Chinese comrades, who had taken this standpoint: “The poor peasants and farm labourers conquer the country and should rule the country.”
Criticizing this wrong position Mao said that “In the villages, it is the farm labourers, poor peasants, middle peasants and other working people, united together under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, who conquer the country and should rule the country and it is not the poor peasants and farm labourers alone who conquer the country and should rule the country” (Vol. 4, P-12).
In today’s India, due to impact of neo-liberal policies, the crisis in agriculture is deepening more and more. Agriculture distress is engulfing the whole rural sector. This situation is creating condition for a widest possible mobilisation of the peasantry and farmers also. In such a situation, we should try our level best to walk on two legs — independent initiative and joint struggles, taking independent initiative as primary.
We should take extra caution against a wrong standpoint: “Doing everything as the masses want it doing”. This position negates the leading role of the Party and encourages tailism.
Penetration of capitalism is going on in Indian agriculture from colonial days. But peculiarity of this penetration is that it is super-imposed on a feudal base. Characteristics feature of that development is that there was a huge disproportion between the destruction of the old and the construction of the new. So at that time “de-peasantisation” and pauperisation are more or less synonymous. After independence, the path taken by the Indian ruling classes and its effect on Indian agriculture is unable to change the course of the colonial days in a significant way. So from 1947 to 1990, in these 43 years also “de-peasantisation” does not mean proletariatisation, but pauperisation in the main.
But from 1991 till today, what was going on under neo-liberal economy, a grave situation has emerged in Indian agriculture. Penetration of corporate, implementation of corporate and contract farming, reverse land reform act, serious attack on Forest Right Act, proposed amendment of Forest Act 1927, increased indebtedness of vast majority of peasants, withdrawal of subsidies, absence of remunerative prices for agricultural products, forceful eviction of peasants from their lands, absence of statutory law for agricultural workers, atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims, attack of natural calamities like draught and flood — all these have created such a situation where more than 43 percent of peasants are ready to give up agriculture, where more than four lakh peasants have taken the course of suicide.
Earlier from de-peasantisation to pauperisation, now to suicide on mass scale. It is nothing but mass killing. When Indian peasants and agriculture are facing such a devastating crisis, then Central government is proposing zero sum Budget without taking necessary financial responsibility.
In such a situation mobilisation of peasantry of India on the basis of a comprehensive alternative policies is urgently necessary. Here we have to make a clear distinction between perspective slogan and slogan of the day. For example, confiscation all lands of the landlords — this is a perspective slogan. We will certainly campaign for it, educate the peasants. This is our aim and goal. Our movement, our struggle will go in future on this direction. But due to mood and consciousness of the peasant masses, lack in organised striking capacity, we are not in a position to implement it. Slogans of our day will be such type of slogans which are immediate, burning, urgent and realisable and achievable. Movements/struggles are going on land issue, on various type of land issue, from corporate land to forest land, ceiling surplus land, government land, but movement on issues of agricultural labour is urgently necessary for their wage, land, pension, housing and on other related issues.
We have discussed in our Party Programme about wide diversity in the development of capitalism from state to state, within state, within region and districts. So taking into consideration of this uneven development of capitalism in Indian agriculture, we have to formulate our specific demands and slogans. Areas where capitalism in agriculture has developed to a great extent and areas where semi-feudalism is quite strong, and areas where inter-penetration of strong survival of feudalism and growing capitalist relations of production has taken shape, in these areas we have to formulate our demands and slogans according to concrete situations.
We know from our previous experiences of 1962, 1965, 1967, 1971 that atmosphere and effect of war-mongering and ultra-nationalism is short lived. In 1971, after the victory of India-Pakistan war, Indira Gandhi became ‘Devi Durga’. But within years, there was wide-spread movement in Bihar and Gujarat, then all India Railway workers strike. Same thing will happen again. For the time being, Modi-RSS had succeeded in placing the peasant problems in the back stage.
But ultimately, life will assert itself. Peasant’s problems, peasant’s anger will come again in the forefront and there will be wide-spread, militant all India, state, district level movements. It will be our duty to be in the forefront in the struggles. These struggles will smash all the attempts of corporate, landlord and Hindutva forces. Victory will be ours.
Marx and Engels located the origin of women’s oppression in the rise of class society. Engels wrote The Origin of Family, Private Property and State in 1884 - a year after Marx's death. He used Marx's Ethnological Notebooks as well as his own notes as the basis of the text. The notebooks contained Marx's notes on Ancient Society by Lewis Henry Morgan. The Origin is a short book which dwells on Morgan's findings and puts forward an argument about the nature of "primitive" society, the rise of commodity production and, with it, the emergence of classes and the state. Engels contended that, for the vast majority of human existence, some 200,000 years (or 2 million years if we include other human-like species), people lived in small communities that were relatively egalitarian, did not contain systematic oppression by one group or another, and to whom concepts such as property and wealth would have had no meaning.
Humans had not yet learned how to cultivate plants or rear animals. These hunter-gatherer societies could sustain only a relatively small population which had to move on when resources became scarce. Sharing and communal living were the best way to ensure the survival of the group. There would have been a division of labour between men and women, but this did not mean the domination of one group by the other - each person would make the decisions about the activities they were involved in.
Rather than living in family units of two parents and their children, or an extended patriarchal family centering round the male elder, people lived in communal systems of kinship - children would be the responsibility of everyone.
The old kinship systems were centred on mothers because it was only possible to identify the line of descent through the mother. In such a setup only mothers would know with certainty who their children were and thus build up a network of blood relationships around that knowledge, giving every member of the group a line of descent and a role. The "household" was communal, and the fruits of women's and men's labour were shared among families. There was no separation between what we would now know as ‘housework’ and all other work - there was no public/private divide.
The new male-dominated family broke up this intricate, communal system by placing the family as the key economic unit of society, the means through which wealth would be owned and passed on. Rather than the woman being an equally important economic actor in society, she and her children became dependent upon the individual man in the family.
This change took place with development of production relations and growing people's ability to produce more than they immediately needed to consume. The development of agriculture and the domestication of animals meant goods could be produced for trade - commodities could be exchanged for other things or, eventually, money. More specialised tools became crucial to production and thus very valuable property. Men tended to be the ones responsible for animal rearing and increasingly for agriculture - so they owned the tools and made the economic decisions, gradually increasing their importance in relation to women.
For the first time women's ability to give birth became a burden. This was partly because settled communities with greater productive capacity could sustain larger populations - in fact needed more labourers to work in the fields - and so women would tend to spend more time pregnant or with young children. But the main source of women's oppression was the separation of the family from the communal clan. Women's labour in the home became a private service under conditions of subjugation. This was the "world historic defeat of the female sex" that Engels wrote about:
"The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became a slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children. This degraded position of women...has gradually been palliated and glossed over, and sometimes clothed in milder form, in no sense has it been abolished."
As Marx noted, "The modern family contains in germ not only slavery but also serfdom, since from the beginning it is related to agricultural services. It contains in miniature all the contradictions which later extend throughout society and its state."
This defeat of mother right was a profound change in human relations caused, not by some latent desire in men to dominate women, but by the needs of commodity production and the way it developed. The monogamous family was "the first form of the family to be based...on economic conditions - on the victory of private property over...communal property". Along with domestic slavery came slave labour and the beginning of systematic exploitation. Once communal property was undermined this was inevitable - private property for some always means no property for others. Engels writes that this process "opens the period that has lasted until today in which every step forward is also a step backward, in which prosperity and development for some is won through the misery and frustration of others."
Engels built upon Morgan’s theory in The Origin to develop, as the title implies, a theory of how the rise of class society led to both the rise of the state, which represents the interests of the ruling class in the day-to-day class struggle, and the rise of the family, as the means by which the first ruling classes possessed and passed on private wealth. He developed a historical analysis which located the source of women’s oppression. In so doing, he provided a strategy for ending that oppression. It is no exaggeration to say that Engels’ work has defined the terms of debate around ‘the origin’ of women’s oppression for the last 100 years. Most writers on the subject of women’s oppression have set out either to support or reject Marxist theory as laid out by Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
Until the women’s movement of the late 1960s began to challenge male chauvinism, sexist assumptions provided the basis for broad generalizations. Claude Levi-Strauss, a leading anthropologist within the structuralist school, went so far as to argue that "human society...is primarily a masculine society." He argued that the "exchange of women" is a "practically universal" feature of human society, in which men obtain women from other men – from fathers, brothers and other male relatives. Moreover, he asserted that "the deep polygamous tendency, which exists among all men, always makes the number of available women seem insufficient." Therefore, "the most desirable women must form a minority." Because of this, "the demand for women is an actual fact, or to all intents and purposes, always in a state of disequilibrium and tension." According to Levi-Strauss, then, women have been the passive victims of men’s sexual aggression since the beginning of human society.
On the other hand, in its purest form, much of feminist theory rests upon more imaginations than facts. There is wideranging supposition like men dominate women because they hold women in contempt for their ability to bear children–or because they are jealous of women’s ability to bear children. Men oppress women because long ago women formed a powerful matriarchy which was overthrown–or because men have always been a tyrannical patriarchy. Gerda Lerner argues in her book, The Creation of Patriarchy, "Feminists, beginning with Simone de Beauvoir… [have explained women’s oppression] as caused by either male biology or male psychology." She goes on to describe a sampling of feminist theories, all of which border on the outlandish: Thus, Susan Brownmiller sees man’s ability to rape women leading to their propensity to rape women and shows how this has led to male dominance over women and to male supremacy. Elizabeth Fisher ingeniously argued that the domestication of animals…led men to the idea of raping women. She claimed that the brutalization and violence connected with animal domestication led to men’s sexual dominance and institutionalized aggression. More recently, Mary O’Brien built an elaborate explanation of the ‘origin’ of male dominance on men’s psychological need to compensate for their inability to bear children through the construction of institutions of dominance and, like Fisher, dated this "discovery" in the period of the discovery of animal domestication.
In his introduction to the first edition of The Origin, Engels explains materialism as follows: “According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of immediate life. This, again, is of a twofold character: on the one side, the production of the means of existence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species.”
Before class society, the idea of a strictly monogamous pairing of males and females with their offspring – the modern, ‘monogamous‘ family – was unknown to human society. Inequality was also unknown. For more than 2 million years, humans lived in groups made up of people who were mostly related by blood, in conditions of relative equality. This understanding is an important part of Marxist theory.
Human evolution has taken place over a very long time–a period of millions of years. The earliest human ancestors (Homo habilus) probably appeared some 2 million or more years ago, while anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) did not appear until 200,000 to 100,000 years ago. The earliest forms of agriculture did not begin until 10,000 years ago, and it is only over the last thousand years that human society has experienced much more rapid technological development.25
For most of human history, it would have been impossible to accumulate wealth – nor was there much motivation to do so. For one thing, there would have been no place to store it. People lived first in nomadic bands – hunter-gatherer societies – sustaining themselves by some combination of gathering berries, roots and other vegetable growth, and hunting or fishing. In most such societies, there would have been no point in working more than the several hours per day it takes to produce what is necessary for subsistence. But even among the first societies to advance to horticulture, it wasn’t really possible to produce much more than what was to be immediately consumed by members of the band.
With the onset of more advanced agricultural production–through the use of the plow and/or advanced methods of irrigation –and the beginnings of settled communities, in some societies human beings were able to extract more than the means of subsistence from the environment. This led to the first accumulation of surplus, or wealth. As Engels stated in The Origin: "Above all, we now meet the first iron plowshare drawn by cattle, which made large-scale agriculture, the cultivation of fields, possible and thus created a practically unrestricted food supply in comparison with previous conditions." This was a turning point for human society, for it meant that, over time, production for use could be replaced by production for exchange and eventually for profit, leading to the rise of the first class societies some 6,000 years ago.
The crux of Engels’ theory of women’s oppression rests on the relationship between the sexual division of labor and the mode of production, which underwent a fundamental transformation with the onset of class society. In hunter-gatherer and horticultural societies, there was a sexual division of labor–rigidly defined sets of responsibilities for women and men. But both sexes were allowed a high degree of autonomy in performing those tasks. Moreover–and this is an element which has been learned since Engels’ time–women not only provided much of the food for the band in hunter-gatherer societies, but also, in many cases, they provided most of the food. So women in pre-class societies were able to combine motherhood and productive labor–in fact, there was no strict demarcation between the reproductive and productive spheres. Women, in many cases, could carry small children with them while they gathered or planted, or leave the children behind with other adults for a few hours at a time. Likewise, many goods could be produced in the household. Because women were central to production in these pre-class societies, systematic inequality between the sexes was nonexistent, and elder women in particular enjoyed relatively high status.
All of that changed with the development of private property. According to the sexual division of labor, men tended to take charge of heavier agricultural jobs, like plowing, since it was more difficult for pregnant or nursing women and might endanger small children to be carried along. Moreover, since men traditionally took care of big-game hunting (though not exclusively), again, it made sense for them to oversee the domestication of cattle. Engels argued that the domestication of cattle preceded the use of the plow in agriculture, although it is now accepted that these two processes developed at the same time. But this does not diminish the validity of his explanation as to why control over cattle fell to men.
As production shifted away from the household, the role of reproduction changed substantially. The shift toward agricultural production sharply increased the productivity of labor. This, in turn, increased the demand for labor–the greater the number of field workers, the higher the surplus. Thus, unlike hunter-gatherer societies, which sought to limit the number of offspring, agricultural societies sought to maximize women’s reproductive potential, so the family would have more children to help out in the fields. Therefore, at the same time that men were playing an increasingly exclusive role in production, women were required to play a much more central role in reproduction.
The rigid sexual division of labor remained the same, but production shifted away from the household. The family no longer served anything but a reproductive function – as such, it became an economic unit of consumption. In the family, men as owners of the means of production and controlling the major share of production, came to be owners of the produce too, and the woman and children of the family became dependent on the man for their share of the produce. This also enabled the men to hold the woman in relative subjugation. Women became trapped within their individual families, as the reproducers of society–cut off from production. These changes took place first among the property-owning families, the first ruling class. But eventually, the monogamous family became an economic unit of society as a whole.
It is important to understand that these changes did not take place overnight, but over a period of thousands of years. Moreover, greed was not responsible, in the first instance, for the unequal distribution of wealth. Nor was male chauvinism the reason why power fell into the hands of (some) men, while the status of women fell dramatically. There is no evidence (nor any reason to assume) that women were coerced into this role by men. For property-owning families, a larger surplus would have been in the interest of all household members. Engels said of the first male "property owners" of domesticated cattle, "What is certain is that we must not think of him as a property owner in the modern sense of the word." He owned his cattle in the same sense that he owned the other tools required to obtain food and other necessities. But "the family did not multiply so rapidly as the cattle." Agricultural output also increased sharply–some of which needed to be stored to feed the community in case of a poor harvest, and some of which could be traded for other goods.
Obviously, every society across the globe did not experience an identical succession of changes in the mode of production. Chris Harman writes, "[T]he exact route from hunter-gathering through horticulture and agriculture to civilization did vary considerably from one society to another." But, “[t]he divergent forms under which class society emerged must not make us forget the enormous similarities from society to society.” Everywhere there was, in the beginning, primitive communism. Everywhere, once settled agricultural societies were formed, some lineages, lineage elders or "big men" could begin to gain prestige through their role in undertaking the redistribution of the little surplus that existed in the interests of the group as a whole. Everywhere, as the surplus grew, this small section of society came to control a greater share of the social wealth, putting it in a position where it could begin to crystallize out into a social class.
What is indisputable is that the onset of class society brought with it a universal shift toward patrilineage–and, more importantly, the role of men as "heads" of their households. Engels was undoubtedly correct–with more supporting evidence today than when he was writing–that the rise of the modern family brought with it a degradation of women which was unknown in pre-class societies. Engels argued, “The overthrow of mother right was the world historic defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children. . . . In order to make certain of the wife’s fidelity and therefore the paternity of his children, she is delivered over unconditionally into the power of the husband; if he kills her, he is only exercising his rights.”
That the rise of the family was a consequence–and not a cause, as some argue–of the rise of classes is central to Engels’ argument.
Engels argued that the rise of class society brought with it rising inequality – between the rulers and the ruled, and between men and women. At first the surplus was shared with the entire clan – so wealth was not accumulated by any one individual or groups of individuals. But gradually, as settled communities grew in size and became more complex social organizations, and, most importantly, as the surplus grew, the distribution of wealth became unequal – and a small number of men rose above the rest of the population in wealth and power.
Engels didn't claim that there was a straightforward, one-way relationship between the development of the productive forces and the social relations - there is always a battle. But everything doesn't influence everything equally: "It is not that the economic situation is cause, solely active, while everything else [political, philosophical, religious, etc, development] is only passive effect. There is rather interaction on the basis of economic necessity, which ultimately always asserts itself."
Engels’ analysis is straightforward–it may need further development, but its essence is there, plain to see. The sexual division of labor which existed in pre-class societies, when production for use was the dominant mode of production, carried no implication of gender inequality. Women were able to combine their reproductive and productive roles, so both sexes were able to perform productive labor. But with the rise of class society, when production for exchange began to dominate, the sexual division of labor helped to erode equality between the sexes. Production and trade increasingly occurred away from the household, so that the household became a sphere primarily for reproduction. As Coontz and Henderson argue,
The increasing need for redistribution (both within local groups and between them) and the political tasks this creates have consequences for sex roles in that these political roles are often filled by males, even in matrilineal/matrilocal societies. Presumably this flows from the division of labor that associates males with long-distance activities, external affairs, and products requiring group-wide distribution, while females are more occupied with daily productive tasks from which they cannot be absented.
Hence, the beginnings of a "public" versus a "private" sphere, with women increasingly trapped in the household in property-owning families. The rise of the family itself explains women’s subordinate role within it. For the first time in human history, women’s ability to give birth kept them from playing a significant part in production.
For Engels, there was a "historic defeat" because something fundamental changed in the economic base of society. We developed ways to produce a surplus, not by nature's bounty but by our own labour. If, as Engels argues, oppression arose alongside class society then is he saying that, once we get rid of class society, oppression will automatically disappear?
A fair reading of The Origin with an open mind makes it clear that the treatise contains no such assumption. No oppression can ever automatically disappear. On the contrary, an uncompromising fight against all forms of gender oppression serves to erode the base on which such oppression stands and paves the way for the uprooting of the base. For instance, the struggles against various aspects of women’s oppression like domestic violence and sexual violence sharpen and intensify the struggle against class. “The first condition for the liberation of women”, argued Engels, “is to bring the whole of the female sex back into public industry”. We have seen over the past few decades how structural changes in capitalism have led to a significant increase in the participation of women in the workforce in many countries worldwide. While this has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the ideas and aspirations of women themselves, as well as influencing social attitudes more broadly, women’s economic, social and personal autonomy are limited by the needs of capitalism. Engels went on to explain that “this in turn demands the abolition of the monogamous family’s attribute of being the economic unit of society”. The family as an institution and women’s role within it, have clearly undergone significant changes since Engels wrote The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Nevertheless, it retains an economic and ideological relevance for 21st century capitalism which is suffering from a systemic crisis and is riven with contradictions: a system which exploits women as low-cost labour in the workplace while defining their existence by their role in the monogamous family.
Capitalist ideology concerning women’s role and status in society has also evolved since the late 19th century, but the ideas and values of a system based on commodity production for profit and inequalities of wealth and power rest on, combine with, and perpetuate the residue of outmoded ideas of male authority and supremacy which have their roots in earlier class societies. As a consequence, women continue to experience violence, sexual abuse and restrictions on their sexuality and reproductive rights, while facing sexism, discrimination, gender stereotyping and double standards.
For Engels the basis for resolving the problems which women face in society entails “the transfer of the means of production into common ownership”. In this way, “the monogamous family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into social industry. The care and education of children becomes a public affair; society looks after all children alike…” In a socialist society, personal relations will be freed from the economic and social constraints which continue to limit them even today. The basis for true liberation will be laid. Close to 150 years after they were first written, Engels’s words regarding the ending of women’s oppression maintain all their force.
Part - 2
In the present day the women’s organization needs to be broad-based, encompassing the aspirations of all struggling women and gender rights movements, and attempting to bring together all resistances to patriarchy under one umbrella. However, since patriarchy today is nurtured and sustained by imperialism, and in every challenge to patriarchy the world order of imperialism is also challenged to some extent or the other, the general nature of the women’s organization will be anti-imperialist.
In our country, with the fascistic onslaught intensifying, there is need for the women’s organization to be particularly strong in order to combat state-sponsored patriarchal challenges. For that the women’s organization needs to break out of the stereotypical mould of being an appendage to a Party and develop independent organizing and agitating abilities. In our country it is the custom of political parties, ranging from right, centre to left, to have women’s wings as women’s organizations. The CPIM has one, the Congress has another and so does the BJP. Even struggling left organizations like the Liberation and others have their women’s wings which go by the name of women’s organizations. However, just as it is uncommon for these ‘women’s organisations’ to ever go against any position adopted by the Party they are associated with, so also it is rare for them to take up independent positions and struggles.
The primary objective of a women’s organization is women’s liberation, and this can be neither achieved nor struggled for by women who aren’t independent themselves. But it is most often seen that far from being an independent organization with distinctive positions on all questions pertaining to the unceasing attacks on women, the tendency is to tail the Party. Thus the independent assertion of women through their own organization remains a far cry.
The relationship between the Communist Party and women’s organization should necessarily be dialectical, independent of each other and yet each hammering away at class-divided society with a view to replace it with a new order. As struggling trade unions set their own agendas of struggle, but the Party remains a bulwark of support all throughout and helps the trade union to view the long-term goals without positing itself as a Grand Patriarch in relationship to the union, so also the women’s organization should at all times set its own agenda of propaganda and struggle, aided by the Party but never dictated by it or constrained by it.
The Communist Party has a great role to play in the educating and organizing of women. The exclusion of women from all important spaces has become a habit that must be consciously fought. Very often it is convenient not to have a woman or two in a meeting or gathering of a couple of dozen men, especially because including women would necessitate making separate logistical arrangements for them. But we are so used to viewing all space as ‘male space’ that the very idea of organizing a space for women appears downright troublesome. Very often women’s voices are ignored simply because the total unfamiliarity with the female voice makes it difficult for the Party to understand what is being tried to be conveyed. This is also obvious from the total invisibilisation of women not just in formal academia but also the history of the communist movement, both in India as well as abroad. History text books in Indian schools teach a wide range of modern, international historical events ranging from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune and the American War of Independence, the Emancipation of Slaves in the US, Emancipation of Serfs in Russia to the Boer War, and of course the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution and the two World Wars and chunks of the post World War scenario, the United Nations, Israel-Palestine, Cold War, et al. However, one chapter of history that is summarily and deliberately glossed over in all history books – left, right and centre – without exception, is the history of the International Women’s Suffrage Movement and its somewhat less-than-triumphant victory. Although this movement, dealing as it did with the question of citizenship rights for half the population of the globe, had a prolonged, fierce and chequered history, pitting citizens against citizens even as women and men united against governments on a fairest possible demand, and had an international character, it is one movement about which most of us know very little. Neither academic textbooks, nor progressive history books which tell us about the uninterrupted fight of the people of the world for democracy and rights, usually have chapters dedicated to the International Women’s Suffrage Movement, and while Abraham Lincoln remains a greatly famous name not merely for his leadership role in the Civil War but more so as the champion of the emancipation of the African Americans from slavery, the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement are forgotten names relegated to the pages of something that goes by the dubious distinction of ‘feminist literature’. Now take a look at the history of the International Communist Movement. Except for Rosa Luxembourg and Clara Zetkin and a handful others, the women leaders are inexplicably missing. Not that they weren’t there. Not that the ICM was largely a male-only movement. But tomes on the ICM will give you a different idea.
This invisibilisation of women has acquired such a degree of normalcy that it isn’t generally considered a part of what is broadly termed as oppression of women. This picture of violent inequality – where women are intruding ‘others’ in a world of men, for men and by men – however, remains a constant, be it in history or the living present. So the visibilisation of women’s struggles and their role in history remains an important duty of the Communist Party.
The most important challenges before the women’s movement today are the tendency to shy away from forming broad-based women’s organizations and the inclination to limit the organization by the position of the Party. AIRWO is an exception to this general rule. It is not an appendage of CPI(ML) Red Star, or any other Party for that matter. It calls itself revolutionary because it believes in the revolutionary reorganization of society for the achievement of the complete emancipation of women. But that is not to say that it is an organization for only women revolutionaries. It is an organization which aims at bringing together the ranks of women, all struggles of, by and for women, and all the liberatory aspirations of women into one united, yet diverse, platform committed to the uprooting of patriarchy.
International condemnation of Turkey's war of aggression in violation of international law!
Currently Erdogan has started his war of aggression against Rojava/Northeast Syria with his fascist state and army in violation of international law:
Participate in the international day of solidarity tomorrow, day X, 10 October as international day of solidarity
and in the worldwide protests on 12 October 2019!
The imperialist plans must not work out!
Regarding Rojava the ICOR resolution of January 2019 states: “The democratic construction in Rojava/Northern Syria stands for the successful fight against the IS/Daesh, for democracy and freedom, women’s rights, environmental protection, respect for all ethnic groups and religions. (...) The international solidarity in turn stands for unswerving solidarity and inclusion of the Kurdish liberation struggle in the worldwide struggle against imperialism.”
Erdogan is planning an ethnic cleansing and the destruction of the lived struggle for freedom and democracy, women's liberation and ecological life and its close connection with the international liberation struggle for national and social liberation.
The present attack also means the threat of a direct confrontation of several imperialist forces from which a military conflict with worldwide impact can develop.
The Self-Defense Forces of the QSD (Democratic Forces of Syria) are absolutely determined to defend Rojava. International solidarity is needed – it was already once an essential part of the success in the liberation of Kobanê.
No liberation struggle may stand alone and isolated! Right from the beginning the ICOR has stood by the side of the liberation struggle in Rojava. It has mobilized for worldwide days of solidarity and organized practical solidarity work by building the “ICOR clinic” in Kobanê.
The struggle for freedom and democracy must be led against all imperialists as an anti-imperialist struggle. In order to eliminate imperialism and its wars of aggression, a liberated democratic and socialist world has to be achieved by struggle.
Hands off Rojava!
For the right of self-determination and the international recognition of the democratic self-administration of Northeast Syria!
International condemnation of Turkey's war of aggression!
For freedom, democracy and socialism!
Organizations of the struggling left, democratic and bahujan forces, of workers and all oppressed classes and sections including Dalits, Adivasis, backwards, minorities and women, and people’s movements who oppose corporate-fascist forces and struggle for people’s alternative for democracy and development joined hands and organized a militant march today from Mandi House demanding the cancellation of Assam’s NRC which has made more than 19 lakh people stateless, and the Modi-Shah team’s efforts to carry forward this communal fascist NRC process for consolidation of the majoritarian Hindutva vote bank in order to perpetuate the hegemony of the RSS parivarand to turn India in to a Hindurashtra.
While intensifying this fascisation of all fields of life, Modi-2 is consealing the fact that its economic policies for last five years has thrown the economy in to doldrums. Millions of workers are losing jobs, unemployment is rampant. Distress in the agricultural sector is intensifying. To cover it up, every field, every issue is communalized.. An atmosphere of hatred and intolerance is created, leading to mob lynching like incidents spreading fast. Fascist terror is unleashed to impose its dictates. This is what is happening to the people of J&K where Article 370 and 35 A were abrogated on 5th August, downgrading the state to two union territories without consulting the people of the state in any form. The whole state is militarized, put under prohibitory orders and all communications are cut down. Refusing to recognize the diversity of the country with different languages and culture, there are attempts to impose Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan slogan. They have started talking about one nation, one party also!
The NRC/Assam constituted unconstitutionally and speeded up by the supreme Court, announced its final list on 31st August declaring 19,06,657 people stateless. Large number of them are Adivasis and dalits including those taken from Jharkhand, Bihar etc by Britishers for plantations, Nepalese, and almost half of them from Muslim minority, all of whom presently residents of the state. They are given 120 days to get clearance from Foreigners’ Tribunals or from higher courts. Otherwise they are going to be thrown in Detention Camps. This is a most inhuman
Modi-2 is trying to get the Citizenship (Amendments) Bill, 2016, which was passed by Lok Sabha on 8th January, 2019, adopted by the parliament somehow. It is against the secular values of the Constitution and for communally discriminating against Muslims in line with the Two-nation theory initiated by Savarkar, while granting citizenship to migrants (from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan) including Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian.
BJP chief ministers are clamoring for NRC in all states to divert people’s attention from burning issues caused by increasing recession. The Ministry of Home Affairs’ Notification of 31st July, calls for preparing the National Population Register (NPR) at all India level on a time bound manner by 30th September, 2020. If this NPR process is taken up based on the Citizenship (Amendments) proposed in BJP’s Bill, it will make almost 40 to 50 million people, who are born in India and presently staying here, stateless. It will create a horrific situation and an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy. So we demand that the whole process of NPR should be abandoned and all people presently living in this country and born here should be recognized as Indian citizens as per the Constitutional principles.
While comrades Arun Maji presided, representing different organizations comrades KN Ramachandran, Parvej Mian, Thakur Khanal, Sheomangal Siddhankar, Jyothi, KK Niogi, Uday Jha, KK Singh, Vimal Trivedi, Radheysyam and others spoke. A memorandum was presented to the president by a delegation including comrades Umakant, Pancholi and Narendar appealing for prompt action to get the NRC process which is dividing the people and weakening the country stopped and the Constitutional rights of the people are protected.
The People’s Front against NRC and Fascism shall carry forward the struggle trying to mobilize all like-minded forces for the realization of the demands put forward. Presently the constituent organizations of the Front are CPI(ML) Red Star, New Democratic Party of India, Lok Samiti, Citizens for Democracy, Bahujan Communist Party, IFTU (Sarvahara), TUCI, Lok Paksh, All India Milli Council, Mul Pravah All India Nepali Unity Society, CPI(ML) New Proletarian, Democratic People’s Lawyers’ Association,Basthi Suraksha Manch, All India Peace Mission, All India Christian Minority Front and Jan Sangharsh Manch (Haryanna).
Adv Arun Maji, Com. Umakant.
17 October 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Communist Party of India. On 17th October, 1920, the Communist Party of India was formed under the supervision of the Comintern at Tashkhent. A 7-member committee was formed comprising Mohd Shafi, M N Ray, Evelyn Trent, Roza Fittingoff, Mohammed Ali, Abani Mukherjee and M P T Acharyya. Mohammad Shafi was elected the General Secretary of the Party. After the formation of this Party many Mujjahidins leaving India to fight against British rule from outside joined this party and mainly in the Soviet Union they learnt Marxism-Leninism and became communists. From that time those comrades were relentlessly engaged in building contacts in the country and Mujaffar Ahmmad, S A Dange, Singaravelu Chettiar, Sapurji Shaklatwala etc. like persons became their main source to expand party work within the country. Since the inception of this committee, the Communist Party tried to develop the freedom struggle in India. For that reason after some training in Tashkhent military institute and others the ex-mujahids who had joined the Party tried to return to India. Among them around 10 comrades were arrested and tried in several conspiracy cases. Peshwar and Kanpur conspiracy case were famous among these. Although severe inner problems cropped up within the Party very soon after its formation – mainly due to the clash of the two key role players Comrade MN Roy and Comrade Abani Mukherjee – and hindered the development of a big movement, yet this attempt created the basis for the formation of a real Party within the country. Comrades like Mujaffar Ahmmad, S A Dange, Saukat Usmani, Sapurji Saklatwala, Singaravelu Chettiar and many others came forward to develop the party within the country, as a result of which on 26th December, 1925, in Kanpur, the Communist Party of India was formed within the country. In 1920 we can say the kitchen work of the party building had started.
In this write-up our intention is not to go into the history of the Communist Party of India, but rather to evaluate the past in brief so that it can be helpful to develop a concrete understanding of our past, based on which we can prepare the way to develop the communist movement more vigorously.
First of all, especially in the context of the present situation in India, we need to assert clearly that since the formation of the Party, Communists were the main propagators of complete independence from British rule in India. Though today many erroneously suppose that the Congress was the main force fighting for independence, yet the fact is that before its Lahore Congress the Congress Party did not take the resolution of complete independence. Everybody knows about the fight of the Moderates and Extremists within the Congress. The Moderates were not in favour of complete independence while the Extremists were in favour of complete independence. Most of the time the Moderates were the majority in the Congress. The Communists were working in the Congress and it was in fact their contribution that within the Congress party the Extremists – rooting for complete independence – became strong enough to put up a fight against the Moderates. And in the Lahore Congress, under the pressure of Communists and Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose, Gandhiji was compelled to admit the resolution of complete independence. Another fact is that the Communist Party was banned since the beginning and there were several conspiracy cases against the Communist leaders. Meerut Conspiracy case, Kanpur Bolshevik Conspiracy case etc. were famous among those cases. In this way, through the whole phase of freedom struggle, the Communists led the workers’-peasants’ movement independently and, along with the Congress, were the main qualitative force in the freedom struggle.
In spite of this great sacrifice, vigorous role in freedom struggle, we can say pivotal role in the freedom struggle, the Communists were not able to emerge as the leaders or the decisive force in the freedom struggle. The main problem was that the Indian Communists were lacking theoretically. One of the founder leaders, Comrade Mujaffar Ahmmad, said in his memoirs that our leaders were not so much theoretically sound as the Chinese leaders. On the question of working class leadership in the democratic revolution, the relation between class and caste, the nationality question, the relation between internationalism and nationalism, role of the bourgeoisie etc., the understanding was very poor and in some cases non-Marxist and non-dialectical.
First of all, the Communist Party of India was not able to take the decision that the freedom struggle would be victorious through the leadership of the working class in close alliance with the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie and a small middle bourgeoisie and a section of the big bourgeoisie who were in favour of Nationalism, who were patriotic bourgeoisie. Fraternal parties like China, Britain etc. warned our party about ‘tailism’ of the Indian National Congress. But unlike China they couldn’t take a stand to lead the national liberation struggle. Due to this shortcoming the CPI failed to use the inner contradiction within the Congress and failed to win over the patriotic section who wanted to unleash an uncompromising battle against the British. Most particularly, the Communists made a historical blunder at the time of the ‘Quit India’ movement. When ultimately all sections of the bourgeoisie, including comprador section also (fearing Japan), were mobilized through the call of ‘Quit India’ and the whole nation were aroused by this slogan, the Communists kept themselves away from this movement on the plea that if the British left then that vacant place might be fulfilled by Japanese Imperialism! At that critical juncture the then leadership failed to understand the concrete situation of the country and, at the same time, of the world. If a national liberation struggle against the British was unleashed, that would not have been a hindrance to the formation of anti-fascist alliance with states like Russia, Britain and America. Rather that might have been conducive to develop an anti-fascist front because at that time the British would have been compelled by circumstances to agree to it. Actually the CPI failed to differentiate between the foreign policy of a socialist state and the national liberation policy of a colony. This dialectical thought was missing. It was a great blunder. Due to this, there still remains an impression among the people of our country that Communists were not eager to overthrow British rule. If we see internationally, we will realize that Comrade Lenin and the Bolshevik party as well as Comrade Ho-Chi-Minh later did not make this mistake. Rather they created instances of how to utilize the inner contradiction of imperialism. They really turned the imperialist war into civil war and were able to overthrow the immediate oppressor of the country and thereafter successfully resist the other aggressions. But we failed and this created so much anarchy in the Communist movement that we are still suffering from its effects. It was as a result of this blunder, this inability to take a dialectical approach, that Communists labeled Subhas Bose was supposed as ‘Tojo’s pet’ and created a very bad impression. One wrong idea invites another wrong idea. At the critical juncture, where the British were really weak, the Communists made one mistake after another. Though they played a significant role in the movement for the release of the Azad Hind Fauj prisoners, their position regarding Subhas Chandra Bose obscured their involvement in the freedom struggle. However, it should be kept in mind that it was not only the Communists who dishonored Subhas Bose and disparaged his heroic role. Nehru was far more guilty of doing so. Not only that, Nehru also took an active role so that Subhas Bose could be caught and arrested. He wrote a (now well-publicised) letter to the British Government accusing Russia of giving refuge to Subhas Bose. This is the history. We know that bourgeois media don’t highlight this role of Nehru. But there is no denying that the Communists had made a monumental mistake. The mistake continued in the assessment of and attitude to Gandhi. For a time Gandhi was elevated to ‘Father of the Nation’ and then, later, he was labeled as a traitor to the nation, a stooge of British imperialism. Both assessments are not true. When we are discussing this after a hundred years of the formation of our Party we should consider the question more concretely.
The second point of mistake, we can say, refers to the relation of caste and class. Caste is a unique feature of our country. Indian Communists were against caste discrimination and fought against caste oppression. But on the question of caste eradication they took a reductionist approach. Their standpoint was – through class struggle caste division will be eradicated, there is no need of caste-based organization or need to raise the slogan for eradication of caste system separately. Thus they failed to lead the people who were fighting against caste oppression. Although it is true that Ambedkar’s position cannot overcome caste discrimination and eliminate the caste system, it is also true that the Communists were not able to develop anti-caste movement. Rather they were confined to show how the caste oppression will end after the victory of the revolution. This hindered the development of good relationships with the leaders of the Dalit movement. For instance, when Ambedkar formed the Scheduled Caste Federation and raised the demands of the Scheduled Castes, the Communists criticized this step. It is true that if workers will be divided into many sects it will lead to problems, but at the same time we have to take into consideration the aspiration of the repressed section. The Communists could have refrained from joining this organization but at the same time it would have been wise to refrain from criticizing it. This would have strengthened the unity of the workers and would have left space for all sections of the workers to come together after some time. It is our duty to organise Dalits and for this we have to fight the alien trend also, but at the same time we have to think whether the alien trend consists of a contradiction within the people or with the ruling class. Dalits are the most repressed section in our society. This should definitely be kept in mind and thus the manner of criticism against this alien trend should necessarily be different.
Thirdly, similar problems occurred regarding the women’s question. Though women’s organizations were formed, what was missing was any clear idea regarding the role of women in the Party, weakness in the understanding that women form a repressed section both in production relations as well as socially. For instance, among the seven founder members of the Communist Party two were women, Evelyn Trent and Rosa Fittingov. They were not Indian by birth. But they played a pivotal role in the formation of our party. But are their names or their contributions familiar among the ranks of the Communists? Rather not. The little they are known is merely as the wife of MN Roy and Abani Mukherjee respectively. It is also the Party’s history that books written by women activists were banned for openly criticizing the patriarchy in the party. We know that in this society patriarchal trend remains in every male and female. In the Party also this trend definitely remains. So fight against this should be encouraged. If overreaction occurs, it is the duty of the leadership to understand and explain. But instead of welcoming the criticism, Party leadership discouraged many women comrades from wholetime party service. We are still not well aware about the role of women in the building of our Party. If this propaganda work is taken up, it would encourage more and more women comrades to get the confidence to come forward. Now there is a popular version – much hyped by bourgeois intellectuals and the media – that in the Communist party oppressed sections like women, Dalits and minorities cannot become leaders. We cannot contradict this. That is our shortcoming. That does not mean that we have to start quota system. Rather, we have to create an atmosphere so that the comrades who due to their social hindrance and handicap cannot come forward, may be educated and prepared to take the responsibility of leadership. Actually some questions are concealed, either deliberately or thoughtlessly. Who knows that the first General Secretary of the Communist Party was Mohammad Shafi, a Muslim by birth? Who knows that the main and pivotal role to form the Party was taken by those who were Muslims by birth? Or that hundreds of Muslim mujahids who joined the Party were either executed or sent to exile for several years? Who knows that Guruchand Thakur, leader of the Matua Mahasangh, was also the leader of the Kisan Sabha? Who knows that he and the Matuas have played a heroic role in the peasant movement influenced by the Communists? Actually all these questions remained unimportant in the Communist movement due to the failure to understand the peculiar type of our nation.
Fourthly, regarding the nationality question the Communists made the mistake to take the Muslims as a nationality. Where every Marxist teacher has said that without a territory no nation can be developed, our leaders didn’t follow that teaching. By the time they realized this and raised the slogan of formulating states on the basis of language, it was too late. Pakistan and Bharat were already agreed upon. This was also a big mistake of the Communists. We are suffering from the consequences of these mistakes till now. We know about the debate between the Bunds and the Bolsheviks regarding the national cultural autonomy of the Ehud. But Indian Communists actually took the Bundist position by accepting Partition based on religion.
Fifthly, the question of art and culture was also dealt with from a reductionist approach. The issue was democratic centralism. Artists will produce according to their will. The particular thing which is necessary for the Party and campaign can be produced specially. But we cannot say that a cultural activist should always produce as the party leaders dictate. Sometimes their output may be beyond the party line also. But Communist leaders should handle this flexibly. This is also true in the party democracy. We know that difference is absolute, unity is temporary. That is true also in party life. But although there was so much difference within the higher strata of party leadership, when this difference came out in the ranks then immediate actions were taken! Particularly this happened with the cultural activists.
There was a situation of pre-independence period. But after the transfer of power so many problems developed regarding the immediate action and regarding the analysis of the concrete situation. Again two extreme positions came. One section supposed this was real independence and hailed Gandhi as the ‘father of the nation’, while another section termed characterized it as ‘fake independence’. After the transfer of power, the “Fake Independence” section was the majority in the Party. So in order to turn it into ‘real independence’ another unsuitable insurrection programme was taken and implemented. But naturally it failed. At that time people were not in favour of another insurrection to oust the Congress Government. Though people were not very satisfied with the outcome of independence, they were neither ready for immediate insurrection. Actually the people were to some extent happy and satisfied that the British were no more directly ruling over us. So actually it was distorted, crippled independence, but still it was independence. This is one aspect. The other aspect is that it was not real independence, it was indirect rule of imperialism. India turned from colonial to a neo-colonially dependent country. But the then leadership failed to understand these two aspects of the contradiction and bluntly raised the slogan, “Yeh Azadi Jhuta hai, Desh Hamara Bhukha hai.” Actually this slogan was erroneous as a poverty-stricken country can indeed still be independent from colonial rule. So this slogan failed to point out the real nature of the independence. After democratic revolution in People’s Democratic China, that country was also plagued by hunger, but that did not mean that China was not free! Thus the Indian Communist leadership failed to understand the concrete situation.
After failure of the insurrection and several setbacks another trend was strengthened. Though the heroic struggles of Tebhaga and Telengana were led by the Communists and several workers’ strikes were organized under their leadership, the coming of parliamentary democracy, which was unfamiliar to everyone, gave rise to a new kind of problem. On the one hand, parliamentary cretinism was strengthening and, on the other, the trend of excluding parliamentary struggle was also increasing. The main section of the leadership went to the reformist path. In 1962, at the time of Indo-China war, these two trends split away and in 1964 CPIM was formed. But the question was not resolved. Though CPIM decided to join parliamentary elections, they were still actually unresolved regarding the tasks of the Government. Thus what was written in chapter 112 (that the government will work for relief in this system through a benevolent programme) of their programme, was actually nothing but a compromise solution with the ruling class. In 1967 the real nature of it was practically proved. The United front government in West Bengal where CPIM was majority suppressed Naxalbari movement and CPIM openly supported this. Again the Communist movement split. CPI(ML) was formed through the continuation of Naxalbari movement in 1969. It was CPIML who brought revolution back to the agenda after a long time – something that the Communists had long forgotten till then. But still the problem was not resolved. In its fight against parliamentary cretinism CPI(ML) made great mistakes. Abandoning the question of working class in democratic revolution it was trying to make revolution only through the peasants’ militant struggle. Boycotting elections, mass organizations and even mass movements, CPI(ML) leadership got alienated from the people. As a consequence, a totally mechanical and dogmatic attitude towards history encompassed the whole movement. At the call of CPI(ML) thousands of youth and students plunged into the revolutionary movement but the CPI(ML) leadership not only failed to channelize this spirit to construct positive, continuous, relentless revolutionary struggle, they also trailed behind the inexperienced youth and students’ adventurist will. This was like a populist politics in another sense. Statue-breaking movement and annihilation type movements were some instances.
It is a matter of fact that the course of split in both cases was mainly the revolt against revisionist leadership. But the overall theoretical departure was not there. For instance, at the time of Chinese war both sections took extreme positions. One section supported the Indian government and took social chauvinist position while the other section blatantly supported China. While it was true that China was not the first aggressor, it was equally true that China’s failure to deal with a border conflict led to total warfare. China should have been more cautious because a powerful nascent revolutionary struggle was growing in India at that time. Ultimately the Chinese withdrew but the incident had a huge backlash. So those who blatantly supported China did not act wisely as their immediate aim should have been and they should have called for immediate end of war.
Now this past is haunting us. After hundred years now we are dwelling in a situation where the Communist movement is splintered. A big anarchy is prevailing on the question of theory. So, in this situation, materialist thinking and analysis of our past and rectification of all mistakes and development of a new stream of movement is essential. Developing a developed theory and movement is essential. What is necessary is a Party where there is the scope of raising these types of questions and resolving them through discussion, debate, study and practice. To develop this atmosphere, criticism and self criticism, learning and practice is necessary to build up a revolutionary struggle that can shatter the ruling class and be able to snatch the ultimate victory.
So on this day, on the 100th anniversary of the formation of our party, we can raise the slogan:
Dare to critique, Dare to learn, Dare to build and Dare to Win.