- 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.
The caste system in India is a unique system which was developed almost three thousand years back as per the Rig Vedic evidences. However, the system became rigid and institutional at the time of Manu who composed Manusmriti. Ascribing an exact date of composing the Manusmriti is difficult but according to different sources and modern researches it may be safe to assume that the period of Manusmriti is between 200 BCE to 200 CE. The socio-economic fabric of our country reveals that how much powerful an ancient system, like caste division can be in even present times that the practical politics of a revolutionary party cannot ignore its dynamics. However, a systematic study of this system from Marxist point of view was never done with due importance. Therefore, it has become a herculean task today to enter into a comprehensive study of the system. This paper, therefore, did not try to do that. Instead, the paper concentrated on the key issues related to the subject in order to understand the very nature of our social struggles which may facilitate to develop the correct strategy and tactics of our revolution. In this paper it may be fruitless to search answers. On the contrary, the paper has strove to formulate the questions. A collective effort based on the combination of theory and practice may find the answers of those.
Origination of Varna and Caste Division
Manusmriti is the most ill famous source of the ugly form of caste division against which all the democratic forces vow to fight. Manu divided the society into four varnas, i.e., Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra (Chaturvarna system) where Brahmin is in the top of social hierarchical ladder and followed by other three varnas respectively. Shudra is the lowest varna and deprived from all the rights and whose duty is only to serve other three varnas. Some of the dicta of Manu are as follow:
- In whom among the three (higher) castes the most and the best of (those) five may be he is here worthy of respect; a Shudra (is not worthy of respect on the ground of his wealth or knowledge no matter how high they are)….
- A Kshatriya who reviles a Brahmin ought to be fined one hundred (Panas); a Vaishya one hundred and fifty or two hundred, but a Shudra ought to receive corporal punishment.
- A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect peace of mind, for, since nothing at all belongs to this Shudra as his own, he is one whose property may be taken away by his master.
- Indeed, an accumulation of wealth should not be made by a Shudra even if he is able to do so, for the sight of mere possession of wealth by a Shudra injures the Brahmin.
- If a man (of the Shudra caste) makes love to a girl of the highest caste he deserves corporal punishment.
- A woman alone (is) a wife for a Shudra; both she and a woman of his own caste (are) legally (wives) of a Vaishya; they two and also a woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Kshatriya, both they and a woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Brahmin.
We need to discuss Manu’s system more elaborately, however, before that we must understand the actual difference between the varna system and caste system. According to the varna system the Indo-Aryan people were divided into four groups. However, according to the caste system which arose from the varna system in later period divided the people in numerous subdivisions and all the divisions were placed hierarchically. These sub-divisions are rigid and are determined by birth. In the beginning the varna division was not very much rigid because it was said that the division did not take place by birth, but by the action (karma). Therefore, at the time of great epics or even after that we can see many Shudra kings ruled different parts of the country. However, after the fall of Mauryan Empire no major Shudra empire came into being.
But it does not mean that the varna system was mere a theoretical one while the caste system is practical and very much a matter of day-to-day life. Many anti-caste scholars propagate this idea which we consider not only as wrong but an attempt to give concession to the ‘sacred’ scriptures. Therefore, they put overemphasis on the difference between varna system and caste system. It is true that in the beginning the varna system was not rigid and social mobility was there unlike the caste system and this is an important difference between these two systems. However, as time passed by, the system became rigid, oppressive and a matter of day-to-day life and as the division of work spread all over the society and more and more new professions came into existence the caste system originated as a finer and all-embraced form of varna system in later period. However, It should be noted that whole of the Manu’s system is based on varna division, not on the caste division. If the varna system was mere a theoretical one then all the hatred of the dalits against Manusmriti become unexplainable.
But what was the inspiration behind the origination of a system like varna system? Let us hear Manu:
"Shaktena api hi shudrena na karyah
Dhanasanchayah shudrah hi dhanamasadya Brahmanan eba Badhate!"
i.e., even if able, the Shudras should not accumulate wealth. Accumulation of wealth by the Shudras make the Brahmins suffer. Many passages can be quoted form Manusmriti and other Smrities (scriptures of codified laws) to show that the main inspiration behind the varna division was highly economic in nature, that is, to extract the surplus production and to deprive a large section of the people from social production other than the means of subsistence only. JANASHAKTI, the central organ of presently non-existent CPIML—JANASHAKTI once took an attempt to study the caste question from Marxist point of view. The paper was published by a social organization later as a booklet. According to their understanding: “Thus the varna system which first started social making based on a primitive social division of labour and political subordination of one group by another, took the concrete shape of social division based on social division of labour to extract surplus from the toiling people and division of labourers too originated.” (Class Caste Relations: Marxist Approach). Comrade Santosh Rana also had similar understanding. He wrote, “In short, the position of an individual in social division of labour, his role in controlling the means of production, his social prestige in relation of the law, his portion of social surplus and the means of achieving this surplus, etc., are determined by his varna. The task of the Shudras was to produce surplus and the three upper varnas used to extract that. It only means, the class division in India at first expressed itself through the varna system.” (Samaj Shreni Rajniti, A collection of Essays by Santosh Rana in Bengali/ Translation is mine).
Once upon a time the West Bengal state committee of CPIM undertook the task to study the social history of our country under the leadership of Anil Biswas around the year of 2OOO and a brief outline of the study was published as a booklet in the year of 2OO3. They also reached in the same conclusion and admitted that the class struggle in ancient and mediaeval India took the form of caste struggle, however, they considered it as a barrier for the development of a classical class struggle.
Among the early communists of our country Comrade S. A. Dange first engaged in a systematic study of the history of ancient India form a Marxist point of view. Although he was influenced by a mechanical Marxist approach and tried to impose the western pattern of social development on the history of India (especially in the case of slave system), still he has left behind some important observations for us. He also admitted that although the varna system emerged in the primitive communist society of the Aryans, however, with the advent of private property the varna division took the shape of class division. He wrote, “Once that stage has been reached, private property and classes are born. The Varnas metamorphoses into contradictory classes and take the path of civil war, class war. The primitive commune dies, never to return.” (INDIA: FROM PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM TO SLAVERY/ PPH/ Page:1O1).
Professor Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya had an elaborated study on the Vedic society in ancient India. He also convincingly proved that in early Vedic period the Aryan society was a primitive form of communistic society without the class division, although, a simple form of division of work was present there. However, for the first time the Indo-Aryan society became divided into four varnas when the ill-famous Purusha Shukata was composed. It was nothing but the reflection of the emerging class division within the Indo-Aryan society.
The Rig Veda is an important source to understand the transition from classless society to the class society in India. The experts have an opinion that the Rig Veda was composed through a long time, nearly seven hundred to eight hundred years. Within this time frame the Vedic society passed through this transition. That is why we see a concept of equality of all human being (obviously within the clan) and gods too were considered as the friends of all human being (Jananam Jamih). However, in the later portion of the Rig Veda we see a work division came into being where the Brahmins had the prerogatives to maintain the connection with the gods, that is, in the ritualistic matters. The Purusha Shukta proposed a division among the Indo-Aryan people, however, it did not set up the hierarchy. It gave some indications only. The Brahmins were formed from the mouth of the Purusha. The Rajanyas were born from his arms. The Vaishyas came from his thighs and the Shudras from his feet. Many different interpretations are possible of this symbolic presentation of the division. The question arises that how far it is correct to assume that the Rig Veda determined the hierarchical places of four varnas and their duties or role in the society! Manu had his particular interpretation. He was convinced that the Purusha Shukta place the Brahmin at the top of the social hierarchical ladder, by saying that they were born from the mouth of the Purusha. For him it was quite sufficient indication that the Brahmins should own all the knowledge and wisdom in order to appear as the sole representatives of the divinity in this material world. Similarly the Rajanyas had the duty to protect the people since they were born from the arms. The Vaishyas and the Shudras were duty-bound to produce the wealth and the Shudras had a role only to serve the upper three varnas. Since they were born from the feet of the Purusha they had no right.
This interpretation of Manu was not acceptable to many admirers and followers of the Rig Veda and so called Vedic religion. According to them, by the system of Chaturvarna the Vedas only proposed a job division only, nothing more than that. Therefore, a person can be a Brahmin, or Kshatriya, or Shudra not by his or her birth but by work or karma. Ambedkar called these people as the most dangerous enemy of the dalit movement.
However, we must understand why Manu interpreted the Purusha Shukta in such a manner from the historical materialist point of view. Manu composed a literature which was called Smriti, that means, the law. But the laws are creations of the human being. The strong presence of the memory of old days of communistic society never allowed the people to accept any discrimination when it was created by the human itself. This is an important peculiarity of Indian society. Therefore, it must have been supported by the divinity. The Smrities must have been supported by the Shruti (the Vedas). Why? Because ‘the Vedas are not created by the human being, it was composed by the God’. The fatal Shruti-Smriti combine now became eligible to dictate the discrimination. Had there been no Purusha Shukta in the Rig Veda it would be difficult for Manu to justify the class division within the Indo-Aryan society which in return would make the class struggle much sharper. Therefore, today at least it can be said that the Purusha Shukta gives an important service to the ruling classes from the ancient time till today. (The whole hymn of Purusha Shukta made of sixteen verses along with annotation and notes by Wendy Doniger are given in Appendix for the advanced readers).
Now let us enter the political consequences of this development as laid down by Manu. From above discussion one thing is very clear. The varna division and subsequent caste division in Indian society is nothing but the class division in a different form. Therefore, when Ambedkar gave a call for annihilation of castes and the Communist Party gave a call to fight for a classless society, there was no essential difference between these two calls.
The Political Struggle of the Shudras
However, the early communists of our movement failed to see the matter from this angel. This is not true, as some of the critics of the communist movement always try to propagate, that the Communist Party did not take care of the Caste Annihilation movement led by Ambedkar at all. However, all the efforts of the Party were based on some half hearted understanding of the social struggles in our country. In the preface of “Who were the Shudras?” written in nineteen forty six Ambedkar said, “It is well-known that there is a non-Brahmin movement in this country which is political movement of the Shudras. It is also well-known that I have been connected with it.” Thus under the leadership of Ambedkar the political movement of the Shudras was born. When the Shudras of our country who were actually the Indian version of proletariat having nothing to lose except their chains waged a political struggle against their oppressors, it should have been a welcome development for the communists. However, the matter did not develop in this line. Instead, a bitter relation was developed between the Communists and the Ambedkarites and an unwanted rift was emerged between these two camps which helped Congress to manipulate the complicated situation prevailed at that time of nineteen thirties and nineteen forties successfully to capture the leadership of anti-British struggle in India in order to give birth a neo-colonial India after nineteen forty seven. We need to understand the failure of both the camps, the Communists and the Ambedkarites, in this regard in order to determine today’s task in the concrete social condition of Indian revolution. At first we will discuss the mental make-up of B.R. Ambedkar. The above-mentioned preface of “Who were the Shudras” written by him can be an eye opener in this case.
In that preface Ambedkar divided the ‘Hindus’ in five distinct categories. He said, “There is a class of Hindus, who are known as Orthodox and who will not admit that there is anything wrong with the Hindu social system. To talk of reforming it is to them rank blasphemy.” Regarding the second category he said, “There is a class of Hindus who are known as Arya Samajists. They believe in the Vedas and only in Vedas. They differ from the Orthodox inasmuch as they discard anything which is not in the Vedas. Their gospel is that of return to the Vedas.” On the third category Ambedkar said, “There is a class of Hindus who will admit that the Hindu social system is all wrong, but who hold that there is no necessity to attack it. Their argument is that since law does not recognize it, it is dying, if not a dead system.” He remarked on the fourth category, “There is a class of Hindus, who are politically minded. They are indifferent to such questions. To them Swaraj is more important than social reform.” Ambedkar found his ally in the fifth category, so he said, “The fifth class of Hindus are those who are rationalists, and who regard reforms as of primary importance, even more important than Swaraj.”
Ambedkar admitted that there was a fierce battle was going on between him and the first two categories of the ‘Hindus’. On the probable impact of his book, ‘Who Were the Shudras’ on the Arya Samajists he said, “The book treads heavily on the toes of the Arya Samajists…. Both these conclusions are bound to act like atomic bombs on the dogmas of the Arya Samajists.” He said further, “I am not sorry for this clash with Arya Samajist. The Arya Samajists have done great mischief in making the Hindu society a stationary society…… I am convinced that the Hindu society will not accept the necessity of reforming itself unless and until this Arya Samajists’s ideology is completely destroyed. This book does render this service, if no other.”
On the Orthodox ‘Hindus’ he remarked, “What the Orthodox Hindus will say about this book I can well imagine for I have battling with him all these years. The only thing I did not know was how the meek and non-violent looking Hindu can be violent when anybody attacks his Sacred Books. I became aware of it as never before when last year I received a shower of letters from angry Hindus, who became quite unbalanced by my speech on the subject delivered in Madras. The letters were full of filthy abuses, unmentionable and unprintable, and full of dire threats to my life…. I don’t know what they will do this time….. For I know very well that they are a base crew who, professing to defend their religion, have made religion a matter of trade. They are more selfish than any other set of beings in the world, and are prostituting their intelligence to support the vested interests of their class…. What I would like to tell these amiable gentlemen is that they will not be able to stop me by their imprecations.”
On the other hand Ambedkar admitted that he had no expectation to be able to change the minds of third and fourth categories of the ‘Hindus’. While he furnished some arguments against the third category he just simply ignored the fourth category of the “Hindus” whom he called “politically minded”. On them he only employed two or three remarks, “As to the politically-minded Hindu, he need not be taken seriously. His line of approach is generally governed by a short-term view more than by long-range considerations. He is willing to follow the line of least resistance and postpone a matter, however urgent, if it is likely to make him unpopular. It is therefore quite natural if the politically-minded Hindu regards this book as nuisance.” On the ‘Hindus’ of fifth category Ambedkar said, “The only class of Hindus, who are likely to welcome the book are those who believe in the necessity and urgency of social reform. The fact that it is a problem which will certainly take a long time to solve and will call the efforts of many generations to come, is in their opinion, no justification for postponing the study of the problem. Even an ardent Hindu politician, if he is honest, will admit that the problems arising out of the malignant form of communalism which is inherent in the Hindu social organization and which the politically minded Hindus desire to ignore or postpone, invariably return to plague, those very politicians at every turn. These problems are not the difficulties of the moment. They are our permanent difficulties, that is to say, difficulties of every moment. I am glad to know that such a class of Hindus exists. Small though they be, they are my mainstay and it is to them that I have addressed my arguments.”
From above quotations we can have a sketch of mental make-up of B.R. Ambedkar and his general political understanding. For him the Independence of the country was not that much important if the rule of the newly independent country would go in the hands of the caste-Hindu leadership. A Hindu India was no way better for him than the colonial India. Therefore, he wanted to launch a decisive battle against caste discrimination and for the annihilation of the caste system at that point of time when the struggle for independence of our country from the British rule reached at its peak. This became the point of difference between the Ambedkarite movement and the Communist movement. It is also very clear from the discussion put forward by Ambedkar in that preface that he meant the leadership of the Communist Party and the non-Orthodox leaders of Congress as “politically-minded Hindus”. Here, one can easily notice the weakness in Ambedkar’s politics which lost credibility to represent the nation as a whole and remained merely as dalit politics. The Communist Party warned Ambedkar continuously about this lacuna and urged him to be united with the mainstream of the struggle for Independence. However, the Communist Party was always apprehensive about the actual political aim of Ambedkar and thought that his politics would create disunity among the ranks of the working class and the toiling masses which in return might create harm to the communist movement in particular and the struggle for Independence in general. Therefore, while the party was sympathetic with the condition of the dalits and agreed upon the justification of dalit movement and criticized heavily the Congress leadership for not paying attention to their cause, the Communist Party did not believe the leaders of the dalit movement including Ambedkar. (See the documents of B.T. Randive on dalit movement, nineteen forty six) Thus, a space of political dialogue between the Communists and the Ambedkarites could not come into being and the warning from the CP to Ambedkar went in vain as the later saw no friendly advice in it. Therefore, the Communist Party failed to perform its historical duty.
Today a large number of the Communists will accept this fact, however, it is not enough. We must analyze why the Communist Party failed to build unity with the dalit movement. We must identify the shortcomings in the theoretical understanding of the communist practice in this question in order to understand today’s task. Otherwise again the movement will be directed by the pragmatic political understanding and we will repeat the same mistake, may be from an opposite direction.
It is a well accepted fact that the original Shudras of the Rig Veda were gradually marginalized more and more by the three upper Varnas and at one point of time started to be mixed up with the so called fifth Varna or the Avarnas who were actually the vanquished non-Aryans and formed a large section of the Indian people who are generally called as the dalits. According to a recent survey conducted by NSS nearly three fourth of the Indian population are entitled to some kind of reservation as they belong to SC, ST or OBC categories. The overwhelming majority of the dalit people in our country are landless, property-less, marginalized, socially and economically oppressed. The largest section of nearly fifty crore strong unorganized workers in India is made of by these people.
However, it must be taken into account that we are not living in English or West European condition. In Indian context this huge section of the working class is not only economically exploited but at the same time socially deprived since in our country the class division was introduced in the form of caste or varna division in order to take religious sanctity. The positive side of Ambedkar’s politics lies in the fact that he understood that without snatching the political power from the caste-Hindus, dalits could never achieve a country or society of its own. The annihilation of the caste division cannot be achieved by changing the minds of the caste-Hindus or through some patch work to reform Hindu social structure. So he declared his movement as the political movement of the Shudras.
From a Marxist point of view the political struggle of the Shudras is nothing but the political struggle of the working class. Therefore, the political formation which led this struggle must have been a party of the working class. However, Ambedkar was not a Marxist. It is not necessary for a working class party to be a Marxist party all the time. The Marxist party does not necessarily lead through its majority or organizational strength but through its clear and profound theoretical-political understanding. The Communist Manifesto says: “In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement. The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.” (The Communist Manifesto/ Edited by Frederic L. Bender/ Norton Critical Edition/ pp 67).
Therefore, the Communist Party cannot oppose other working-class parties because they don’t have any separate sectarian principles. Keeping a cooperative and friendly relation with those parties the CP must lead them to move forward by pointing out the general and long-term political interest of the working class. Now the question is did the early Communists of our country apply this teaching of the Communist Manifesto or were they were led by sectarian principles?
Instead of becoming glad to see the political upsurge of the dalits under the leadership of Ambedkar, the Communist Party became apprehensive and scared. Comrade BTR repeatedly pressurized SCF (Scheduled Caste Federation) to dismantle the dalit mass organizations under its umbrella and to work within same mass organizations led by the Communist Party.(See the above mentioned documents of BTR and also the Introduction by Anand Teltumbde of ‘India and Communism’ written by Ambedkar/ Left Word/2O17) Sometimes the organs of the party openly advocated the necessity to bring out the dalit masses from the dalit organizations in order to organize them under the fold of the Communist Party. All this activities of the party and the mentality behind those helped to develop mistrust, fear and distance among the ranks of the dalit movement. Undoubtedly it was nothing but the sectarian policy of the Communist Party. Instead of performing the labourious task to find out the general and long-term political interests of the working class and by pointing out those to the leaders of the dalit movement the party took a shortcut road of putting the organizational interest in command and did the same mistake which The Communist Manifesto warned against, i.e., to develop sectarian principles against other working class parties.
What was the general interest of the working class in India at the decisive moment of the struggle for Independence? Undoubtedly it was Swaraj—— the Independence from the British rule which Ambedkar failed to see. It was quite expected from a man like Ambedkar as he was not a Marxist and from a political formation like SCF as it was a non-Marxist working class party. The Communist Manifesto clearly said that it was the distinguishing feature of the Communists to see and uphold the general interest of the working class. However, while the Communist Party correctly pointed out the general interest of the working class to the dalit leaders but at the same time showing left-anarchist political mentality they accused and opposed and very often described Ambedkar and other dalit leaders as the stooge of imperialism. But what was the reason behind this kind of behavior of the Communist leaders towards the dalit leadership?
The answer probably lies in the fact that the leaders of the Communist Party never recognized the dalit movement as the integral part of the Indian working class movement. They never recognized the dalit leaders as the representatives of a large section of the Indian working masses. Therefore, they never recognized SCF as another working class party. So they never tried to find out the way to develop a proper relation with them. It does not mean that the Communist leaders did not know the actual condition of the dalits in our country or they had no sympathy towards the dalit movement. BTR admitted in those documents that in the Indian Railways thousands of the dalit workers received only nine rupees as DA while the workers in the garment factories of Mumbai were paid one hundred rupees for the same. The party admitted that since the time immemorial the dalits were deprived from all the rights which were absolutely essential to lead a decent life and if these people were not given equal status then an Independent India was not possible. Practically there was actually no demand of Ambedkar left which was not accepted by the Communist Party. However, when the dalits formed their own political organization in order to launch a political struggle, the Communist Party became scared and apprehensive. Actually half-hearted understanding on the Indian history and reality led the Party to commit this political blunder.
We will see how this blunder took more complicated and irreversible turn when the question of the long-term interests of the working class was confronted by the Communist Party. What was the long-term interest of the working class in the freedom struggle? Undoubtedly it was to build up a New Democratic India as a result of anti-colonial struggle. Now, the question is, was it possible under the leadership of Congress? The answer is No. Then why the Communist Party accepted the leadership of Congress in the freedom movement and never tried snatching the leadership? Ambedkar and other leaders of SCF were not against the freedom movement or freedom from the British as such. However, Ambedkars was in total disagreement of the leadership of Congress as he knew that since the Congress party used to represent the interest of the bourgeois and zaminder class of our country who were at the same time from so called higher castes then it was quite imperative that the ‘free’ India would be a prison for the dalits. Ambedkar called those freedom fighters as ‘politically minded Hindus’ and advised his fellow comrades ‘not to take them seriously’ who did not bother that outcome of the freedom movement. Unfortunately, the Communist Party placed itself in this position. Had the party been directed by the long-term interest of the working class then it became absolutely natural for it to develop a rock-solid alliance with the Ambedkarite movement in order to emerge as a potential claimant of the leadership of the freedom struggle. In that case the course of the history might change into a new direction.
Some comrades do not accept the fact that the Communist Party accepted the leadership of Congress in the freedom movement. Many documents can be cited to negate this thought. If this is done the size of the present article might be longer than it was intended. However, one can remember that as early as in nineteen thirty two there were four communist parties of the Third Communist International to write an open letter to the Indian Communists warning about the danger of accepting the leadership of Congress in the freedom struggle which they thought that the Communist in India did not care. In nineteen forty four, Comrade P.C. Joshi wrote a few letters to M.K. Gandhi and MK replied those, too. The correspondence between PC and MK is one of the important documents of the Communist Party. Replying one letter from Gandhi Comrade Joshi wrote to him, “If my own father wrote such a letter I would not respond and never would see his face. However, I am replying you because you are the father of our nation. As a patriot it goes against my duty to be angry with you even when you insult and harass us.” (English translation is mine from Bengali document)
Some comrades think that Ambedkar and other dalit leaders were against the freedom struggle as a whole, therefore an alliance with them was not possible in the movement for Independence. Again, many articles wrote by Ambedkar can be cited to negate this thought but for the time being we can be restricted in the above mentioned documents of comrade BTR in this regard. He wrote: “However, it is true that SCF never commit a crime to go against the demand of freedom. As a matter of fact Rao Bahadur Shibraj, the President of their Kanpur session clearly stated, ‘We are not against the freedom of India but we want assurance that what we demanded in Nagpur that will be accepted’.”(English translation is mine form Bengali document)
In spite of knowing all these things the Communist Party never paid deeper attention to the fact that if it was true that the SCF leadership were not actually against the freedom movement then why apparently they used to take such political position which might be depicted as against anti-colonial struggle! The party never tried to realize with enough seriousness that why the severe bitterness emerged in the relation between the dalit movement and the Congress party! The party never learned from the history of our country to understand the serious nature of the contradiction between the dalits and the caste Hindus.
On the contrary Comrade BTR tried repeatedly to convince Ambedkar and his fellow comrades about the importance and necessity of the leadership of Congress in general over the freedom movement and the leadership of MK Gandhi in particular whom the party already recognized as the father of the nation! It is true that the Communist party criticized the Congress for not accepting the demands of SCF, but it is also true that in the contradiction between SCF and the Congress the party associated itself with the later which meant that in the contradiction between the dalits and the caste Hindus the party associated itself with the later.
This strategic blunder of the party negated the merit of its criticism against Congress for not accepting the demands of the dalits. It is true that the Communist Party honestly and earnestly wanted the unity among Congress, Communist, Muslim League and SCF including all the nationalist forces against the British but they failed to realize that it could not be possible if the Congress would remain as the leader of the freedom movement. The party needed Congress as they used it as a cover and continued to work inside it. This tactical blunder negated the merit of its honest aspiration to unite all the nationalist forces against the British rule.
After seventy two years of so called Independence a serious evaluation is required regarding the relation between the dalit movement and the communist movement. By this span of time many changes took place in the Indian political scenario. Congress ruled the country for more than 6O years within these seventy two years of ‘Independence’. No significant improvement in the general condition of the dalit masses can be seen by this time. In spite of the capitalist development in India the ugly form of caste discrimination, caste oppression, and the domination of Brahmanical ideology and practices continue with same vigour. Ambedkar’s apprehensions have come true. The “free” India is actually a neo-colonial India which has become the prison of the dalits. Receiving an insignificant share of the state power by a handful of the dalit leaders does not indicate any kind of change in the condition of the dalit masses.
The dalit movement has undergone many changes. Repeated division and re-division within dalit movement has weakened the movement which only helped the Brahmanical Manuvadi ruling class to use one section of the movement against another in order to retain its domination over the country. The communist movement also has passed through many changes and within this movement, too, repeated division and re-division have taken place.
Initial lacuna in theoretical understanding has aggravated, however, from the same pragmatist outlook many left and revolutionary left organizations now are raising Joy Bhim Lal Salam slogan landing in the opposite pole in the case of relation with the dalit movement and started to preach red-blue unity. However, how far this change of position is coming from the improvement of theoretical understanding on Indian reality or comes as a result of practical-political need at the time of severe crisis throughout international communist movement, is a difficult question to answer.
However, it is interesting to see that while the party like CPI(M) is raising Joy Bhim Lal Salam slogan in different parts of the country, at the same time they support the cunning step of the BJP government of introducing economic condition based reservation. This self contradiction only raises serious doubts that they have not learned anything from the past experiences. For them the talk of red-blue unity is nothing but a short-term tactical game. Their tacit support to BJP in the political battle against TMC in Bengal again shows how easily these ‘communists’ can ally with the Brahminvadi, Manuvadi forces.
In this scenario we, the revolutionary lefts, must accomplish the long-pending task to bridge the
‘unholy rift between the dalit movement and the communist movement’ (as coined by Anand Teltumbde) in our country. We need to recognize the dalit parties as different kind of working class parties. It is true that today many dalit organizations under the leadership of Mayavati like leaders actually left the revolutionary slogan of Ambedkar, the annihilation of the castes. Instead of that they are busy to find privileges for a handful of dalit aristocrats within this caste-divided society. However, it does not mean that the whole dalit movement has lost its relevance or deteriorated in a reformist opportunist movement. We cannot forget that the same scenario is also evolved in the communist movement itself. However, it does not mean that the communist movement has lost its relevance as the revolutionary movement in the society. We can say it emphatically that if we can build the real red-blue unity based on proper understanding of the Indian condition and history, the struggle against the ruling classes of our country will have a better chance to win.
(Paper presented in Study Class) n
1.1 The nine decades long history of the Communist movement in India is a very complex and one marked by many ups and downs. “From First to Ninth Party Congress: Nine Decades of the Communist Movement in India” (in brief Nine Decades), published before the Ninth Congress of the CPI (ML) has put forward a brief analysis of the Communist movement in India already. In this paper for the Party School it is taken as a basic study material along with other references given at the end. At the same time, an in-depth analysis of the history of the Communist movement in India cannot be reduced as a theoretical practice. It calls for further studies in the course of the experience gained by putting in to practice the basic documents adopted by the All India Special Conference of November, 2009, as updated based on the Party Program adopted by the Ninth Party Congress of November, 2011, in the coming years. Based on the evaluations so far made and our revolutionary practice, we can make the analysis of the Party history as one of the tasks of the next Party Congress or of a Special Conference convened for this purpose. What is tried here is an over view of the inner party struggle during these decades and the experience gained from them which shall help our future advances.
1.2 While making such an analysis we should be clear about one basic aspect. If we have to make the past serve the future, our evaluation of the past should be uncompromising as well as self-critical. If such analyses are influenced by emotional approaches that they will minimize the importance of the past leaders or negate their contributions, they will neither help us to overcome past weaknesses and limitations or to make the past serve the present. Every communist should be always led by the basic understanding that the International and Indian communist movement after reaching great heights have suffered severe setbacks due to past weaknesses and mistakes committed in the past, and that they can overcome the setbacks and make further advances only by rectifying those weaknesses and mistakes by making concrete analysis of the changes that have place at international and national level and through an objective evaluation of the past experience. While doing so one has to be objective and ruthless, should not be subjective and sentimental.
1.3 As the Nine Decades point out, there were great achievements and severe set backs during this period. Some of these happened as a result of mechanically following the evaluations and directives from the international communist leadership, which were put forward without making a concrete analysis of the world situation and the strategy pursued by the imperialist camp in different phases. But some others were due to the mistakes committed by the leadership of the Indian communist movement while analyzing the concrete situation in the country and in applying the general line put forward by the ICM according to these conditions. Both these factors played their role in the setbacks suffered by the Indian communist movement. Both of them still adversely affect and retard the reorganization of the communist party in India based on Bolshevik principles. So any serious evaluation should go in to both these aspects.
2 Formative Period
2.1 The communist movement started becoming politically and organizationally active in India in the 1920s. By that time the Communist International (Comintern) launched in 1919 had stated that the world is divided in to a handful of imperialist countries and large number of countries under colonization, colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries. It stated that the world proletarian socialist revolution consisted of socialist revolution in the imperialist countries under the leadership of the working class and people’s democratic revolution in the countries under colonization. It explained that the bourgeoisie which had come up in the countries under colonization are linked to the imperialist camp in many ways, and in the main serve its interests. It is incapable of leading the democratic revolution to complete victory. So Lenin, giving leadership to the Comintern, explained that only under the leadership of the working class and its vanguard party, the communist party, the people’s democratic revolution can become victorious and lead it to the socialist revolution. As the Communist Party of China under Mao’s leadership correctly grasped all these three basic concepts and led Chinese revolution according to the concrete conditions there it became successful in leading the PDR to victory.
2.2 Contrary to the concrete conditions of semi-colonial China, India was a colony under the centralized rule of British imperialism. It had initiated the Zamindari system and was using the semi-feudal relations as the social base for colonial control. Through English education it had built up a powerful bureaucratic colonial administrative system. The bourgeoisie aided and strengthened by it was basically comprador in character, serving the interests of the colonialists. Though this class gave leadership to Congress and later Muslim League like parties, it was satisfied with dominion status under British raj. Under popular pressure though ‘Purna Swaraj’ was later accepted as its slogan, it was satisfied with continuing as member of the British Commonwealth as was proved after the transfer of power. So, as Comintern had explained, it was abundantly clear that this class cannot lead the democratic revolution to complete victory.
2.3 As Comintern had taught, the working class and its vanguard party, the Communist Party, had to lead the PDR pursuing the path of mobilizing and making the working class as the leader of the revolution, with worker-peasant alliance as its basis. For this it has to bring forward the peasantry through the struggles for the agrarian revolution. It had to struggle against the comprador bureaucratic bourgeois- landlord class led Congress to establish the leadership of the working class in the national liberation movement and democratic revolution, while trying to win over its progressive sections to the side of revolution through a process of ‘unity and struggle’. But in spite of the commendable work done in organizing the working class, the peasantry through anti-feudal struggles and other revolutionary classes and sections, and in leading many significant struggles in different areas, the CPI leadership failed to make a concrete analysis of the real character of Indian bourgeoisie and the Congress leadership and in the main tailed behind it. As pointed out in the 1932 Open Letter of the Communist Parties of China, Germany and Britain : “the biggest mistake made by the Indian Communists consists in the fact that in reality they stood aside from the mass movements of the people against British imperialism…The self isolation of the Communists from the anti-imperialist mass movement…The conclusion to draw from this is that the formation of an all India Communist Party, the isolation of the national reformists and the development of the people’s revolution under the leadership of the proletariat can only be achieved when the Communists determinedly liquidate their self-isolation from the anti-imperialist struggle of the masses”. In spite of the teachings of the Comintern and fraternal advises from other parties, the CPI leadership refused to abandon their ‘self-isolation’ from the anti-imperialist movement.
2.4 During the early 1940s when the Hitlerite forces attacked Soviet Union, it forged alliance with the US-UK forces to defeat the fascist menace. Erroneously evaluating this Soviet policy, the CPI called for supporting the war efforts of the British imperialists and got isolated from the masses. In its approach to forming united front with like minded forces to carry forward the anti-British struggle, it committed the serious tactical mistake of not making united front with the dalit forces led by Dr. Ambedkar on the one hand, and with the Congress section led by Subhas Chandra Bose who had rebelled against the Gandhi-Nehru leadership. In spite of these grave mistakes, during the post-Second World War years when another excellent objective situation emerged with the outbreak of Telengana-Tebhaga like epic movements, revolt by the Naval forces, numerous working class struggles etc. which provided a historic opportunity to unite the people against the machinations of the colonialists with the Congress and Muslim League leaderships to transfer power to them after communally dividing the country, the CPI leadership once again surrendered the leadership of the struggle to the Comprador classes which were leading both Congress and Muslim League. In effect it became an accomplice to the communal division of the country under the so-called ‘de-colonization’ policy initiated by the imperialists in the post-War period. The CPI leadership in its Resolution of June 1947 hailed the Mountbatten Award for ‘de-colonization’ as “an opening for new opportunities for national advance”.
3 Post-1947 Period
3.1 But soon, after the Cominform Resolution of September 1947, the CPI changed its earlier positions in December 1947. It made a somersault and stated that the Mountbatten Award was “an abject surrender and a final capitulation on the part of the Indian bourgeoisie whose government was one of national surrender and that of collaborators”. The Second Congress of the Party at Kolkata from 28th February to 6th March rejected the Party line from the 1943 First Congress as erroneous and reformist. The Strategy and Tactics of the Struggle for National Democratic Revolution in India known as Kolkata Thesis, called for combining the democratic and socialist revolutions to be completed by the armed overthrow of the Indian State. This line put forward under the leadership of B.T.Ranadive who had replaced P.C.Joshi as the general secretary went against the Comintern line which called for completing the PDR and advancing to socialist revolution. Besides it had neither prepared the working class for it nor linked the ongoing great Telangana struggle with it. This sectarian line isolated the Party from the masses and Nehru government brutally suppressed it, causing severe setbacks to the Party and class/ mass organizations.
3.2 The May 1950 Plenum rejected the Kolkata Thesis and elected C. Rajeswar Rao, then representing the Telangana line, as new general secretary. When the 1st June, 1950, Party Letter called for pursuing the ‘Chinese path’ of revolution in continuation to the earlier ‘Andhra Letter’, a major section of the Central Committee opposed it. The functioning of the CC and PB became extremely difficult. A Central Plenum was once again convened in December 1950. Soon a delegation went to Moscow which based on the discussion with the Soviet leaders came out with a Party Program, Tactical Line and Policy Statement, later adopted by a Special Conference in April 1951.
3.3 The Party Program called for “withdrawal of India from the British Commonwealth of nations and the British empire.The confiscation and nationalization of all factories, banks, plantations, shipping and mining owned by the British in India, whether in their name or under signboard of Indian companies. It also called for the removal of the British advisers in India from the posts held by them. In foreign policy it called for honest and consistent policy of peace in alliance with all peace loving nations and united front with them against aggression. The policy of alliance with Pakistan, Ceylon and Nepal was also put forward.
3.4 The Tactical Line stated: “While resorting to all forms of struggle, including the most elementary forms, and while utilizing all legal possibilities for mobilizing the masses and leading them forward in the struggle for freedom and democracy, the communist party has always held that in the present colonial set up continued in India and in view of the absence of genuine democratic liberties, legal and parliamentary possibilities are severely restricted and that therefore the replacement of the present state upholding the imperialist-feudal order by a people’s democratic state is possible only through an armed revolution of the people. The concrete experience of the last three years in India after the so-called transfer of power has only confirmed this thesis” The Policy statement adopted by the Conference explained: “The experience of the last three years have taught the people of our country that the government and the present system cannot solve their main problems of life. It cannot give them land and bread, work and wages, peace and freedom. They are coming to realize the necessity of changing the present government which mainly serve the interests of the feudal landlords and big monopoly financiers and the hidden power behind them all, the vested interests of British imperialism. The communist party therefore has adopted a programme in which it says that: it regards as quite mature that the task of replacing the anti-democratic and anti-people government by a new government of people’s democracy. In this manner this Party Program and Tactical Line adopted for the first time after the formation of the CPI reflected the concrete conditions in the country to a great extent.
3.5 But the new leadership, which took over in the 1951 Conference with Ajoy Ghosh as its General Secretary, instead of putting it in to practice and developing the line put forward in these documents, started diluting them. For example, it made a compromise with the Congress government on the eve of 1952 general election agreeing to withdraw the great Telengana struggle and to dissolve all secret party fractions working inside the units of the armed forces, for getting all restrictions over it removed. It was done in the name of “restoring peaceful conditions in Telengana and to mobilize the entire people for an effective participation in the ensuing general election”. Instead of utilizing parliamentary struggles to intensify the class struggle for the capture of political power, the tendency of giving primary importance to electoral struggle started emerging from the time of the first general election itself. In the 1952 elections, though the Congress could retain control at centre and in the states, it had started losing its popular support. The CPI could emerge as the main opposition at centre and in many states. In spite of it, true to its class character, the Congress government, instead of reversing its anti-people policies, intensified the suppression of the peasant movement for land and the people’s struggles against its reactionary policies. For this purpose, on the one hand it utilized the service of Vinoba Bhave led Bhoodan movement like reformist movements to create illusions among the people. On the other hand, it opened the agrarian sector for the neo-colonial policies introduced by the US-led imperialist forces immediately after the Second World War using the penetration of finance capital, market forces and modern technology, leading to the green revolution. The CPI leadership failed to correctly evaluate the class orientation of these imperialist led policies and went on compromising the anti-feudal and anti- state struggles increasingly.
3.6 The third Party Congress was held in 1953 at Madurai when the Party was shifting to the rightist path as a result of its failure to make a concrete analysis of the international and national developments, when the US led imperialist camp was making all out campaigns and aggressions to combat the growing strength of the socialist camp and the national liberation movements. For example the Political Resolution adopted by the Congress evaluated that: “due to the unity and the militancy of the people and the weakening position of the monopolists, landlords and government, many of the struggles succeed in winning concessions which though limited in themselves, heighten the confidence of the masses in their own strength and further weaken the government”. While it is true that many concessions could be won because of the growing unity and militancy of the people’s movements, the CPI leadership failed to see two major factors influencing these developments in the then situation: firstly, the presence of a powerful socialist camp; secondly, the ‘welfare policies’ pursued as part of the neo-colonial policies vigorously introduced by the US-led imperialist camp during the post-War years to combat the growing socialist camp and to resolve its own internal crises. It had introduced the Keynesian policies, including the welfare state concepts and penetration in to agrarian sector, transforming the feudal landlords in to rich peasant/ agricultural bourgeoisie through ‘land reforms from above’, so as to facilitate the penetration of finance capital, market forces and new technology through the IMF-World Bank-MNCs and numerous other imperialist agencies. The evaluation of the Political Resolution that the monopolists, the landlords and the government are getting weakened was an erroneous one contrary to the real developments taking place internationally and within the country. Though the leadership left the 1951 documents without making any major changes, in essence there was no attempt put it in to practice and the right trend was gaining strength very fast.
4 The Highway of Revisionism
4.1 The Fourth Party Congress was held in April, 1956 soon after the conclusion of the 20th Congress of the CPSU in which the Krushchovite revisionist line succeeded to achieve total control over the party, army and state in Soviet Union. But presenting his report on it, Ajoy Ghosh concluded his remarks in this way: “The 20th Congress is a landmark in the history of the international communist movement. On the basis of mighty victories it showed the way to still greater victories…Eschewing all dogmatism and doctrineirizm, it tackled the current problems in a bold way, creatively developing Marxism- Leninism. It has shown that possibilities have opened out and how these can be realized for uniting all patriotic, democratic and socialist elements in every country for advance in every sphere, for new successes, for the cause of people and the working class”. He supported the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) as a great step forward, while the future history revealed how this class collaborationist movement, about which both Soviet Union and China had similar outlook in 1950s, was based on an erroneous analysis of the international situation and the then class forces which led to further intensification of the setbacks to the ICM later. But his efforts to make the Party Congress swallow what was stated by Krushchov on the line of peaceful transition to socialism and his justification of the vilification of Stalin in the name of ‘personality cult’ were hotly contested and no unanimity could be achieved. A decision on these vital questions was left for the decision of the CC.
4.2 In spite of this inner Party struggle, the Political Resolution adopted by the Fourth Congress reflected most of the revisionist positions put forward by the Soviet revisionist leadership. Rejecting the 1951 formulation, it adopted that India achieved political independence through the 1947 transfer of power and thus reversed whatever revolutionary orientation it had. The Party Program was amended as follows: “In more recent years as a result of the weakening of the camp of imperialism and the immense strengthening of the socialist and democratic camp, of the mighty advance of the struggle for peace, freedom and democracy all over the world including in our country, India has been able to assert her sovereignty and acquire the status of a politically free country”. In spite of the amendment made in the draft Political Resolution, it basically reflected the line of peaceful transition put forward by the Soviet revisionists, or could be interpreted so, as the Dangeists later did. It evaluated that imperialism had weakened and colonialism had disintegrated. The CPI leadership mechanically repeated the stand of the Soviet revisionists which led to their theory of ‘peaceful transition to socialism’. Mechanically toeing the Krushchovite line it failed to recognize that the US led imperialist camp was not weakening, but strengthening itself through the neo-colonial offensive.
4.3 The Fifth Party Congress was held at Amritsar in Punjab in 1958. By this time the line of the 20th Congress of the CPSU and the secret report which denounced Stalin had led to the beginning of the Great Debate in the ICM regarding the basic postulates of Marxism-Leninism. It had its influence within the Party also. The rightists attacked Stalin heinously and advocated alliance with the Congress. Using the Sino-Indian border conflict, they started joining the anti-China phobia spread by the ruling classes. At the same time, during the 1957 general elections the Congress became further weakened. In Kerala the CPI could come to power. The practice of this government under the existing reactionary ruling system, including the manner in which the party could use the government to develop the class struggle became a question of major discussion. While the leadership tried to utilize the presence of the CPSU delegation to win over the delegates to the Soviet revisionist line, the inner Party struggle during the Party Congress further intensified. Still, on the whole the rightist line could win support of the majority of the delegates as reflected in the success achieved by the leadership in getting the Party Constitution amended in such a way that the Party was transformed into a mass party in line with the parliamentary cretinism which was gaining strength. In the absence of an alternate line, the inner Party did not lead to any form of polarization in spite of the sharp differences within the Party.
4.4 Following the Fifth Congress, as the rift in the ICM deepened and the compromise declaration of the meeting of 81 parties at Moscow in 1960 could not resolve them but only delayed an open split, almost the same thing happened in CPI also when the Sixth Party Congress was convened in 1961 at Vijaywada. By that time the Soviet revisionist leadership had started turning the contradictions within the ICM in to an antagonistic one. Under its provocation the Sino-Indian border conflict was used as a weapon to attack China and the CPC which was spearheading the Great Debate against Soviet revisionism. The rightist leadership of the CPI dubbed all those who wanted a peaceful settlement of the border dispute, a legacy of the colonial period, as Chinese agents similar to the attack from the government leaders. Meanwhile on the evaluation of the dismissal of the CPI government in Kerala by the Congress government at centre also differences surfaced. Though there were no basic differences regarding the reformist line followed by this party led government, on the extent of co-operation with the Congress sharp differences came up based on the Soviet analysis of the class character of these governments in the ‘de-colonized’ countries. Soviet analysis was that these countries have become independent and the predominant character of these governments is national bourgeois. It argued that collaborating with them peaceful completion of democratic revolution and transition to socialism is possible in these countries. The rightist leadership in the CPI, mechanically upholding this line analyzed the Indian state and Congress as those predominantly led by national bourgeois. It advocated the line of National Democratic Revolution (NDR) which called for peaceful completion of democratic revolution and transition to socialism by aligning with Congress. Though the main opponents of this line did not reject the Soviet revisionist line outrightly, they analyzed that the Indian bourgeoisie is having a dual character, collaboration as well as competition with imperialism. Based on this approach they called for continuing the line of PDR, of course diluted based on this ‘dual character’ line. They did not have basic agreement with the criticisms of the CPC against Soviet revisionism. When the Sixth Congress was convened, though these differences had surfaced sharply, as happened at Moscow in Vijayawada also a split did not take place, and a compromise leadership was elected with S.A Dange as chairman and EMS as general secretary. Though the Party did not split, for all practical reasons it was functioning as one party with two centres.
5 First Split in the Communist Party and Formation of CPI(M)
5.1 The most important thing happened soon after the Sixth Congress was the further intensification of the two- line struggle within the ICM and later its formal split in 1963 with the publication of the open letter by the CPSU ON 30TH March and the reply to it from the CPC on 14th June which was titled “A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM” along with Nine Comments on important issues concerning the ICM. According to CPSU a new has emerged when imperialism has weakened and colonial era has ended which has opened the way for the peaceful co-existence and peaceful competition with the imperialist camp and peaceful transition to socialism. It denounced the positions of CPC as sectarian and called on other socialist countries for even breaking state to state relations with it. Challenging this outright revisionist line which went against the concrete analysis of the international situation, the CPC document called for: “Workers of all countries unite, workers of the world unite with the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations, oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries, strive for world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism, consolidate and expand the socialist camp, bring the proletarian world revolution step by step to complete victory and establish a new world without exploitation of man by man” It denounced the CPSU line as a total negation of the 1957 Declaration and 1960 Statement of the Moscow meetings of the communist parties and called for revolutionary reorganization of the communist forces. It explained that colonialism has not ended but replaced by neo colonialism, which is more “pernicious and sinister” through which imperialism is trying for world hegemony in more barbarous forms. Without taking positions on this vital theoretical struggle known as the ‘Great Debate’, no communist party could move forward at this crucial juncture. At a time when the CPSU leadership had degenerated the first socialist country to capitalist path by pursuing an outright revisionist line the struggle waged by the CPC under the leadership of Mao was historic. At the same time there were three major flaws in its approach: firstly, it did not point out and substantiate that the 1960 Statement was a compromise one; secondly, while it criticized the Soviet revisionists for abandoning proletarian internationalism, it did not take any initiative to convene a meeting of the Marxist-Leninist forces based on its 1963 documents; thirdly, while the stand of Chinese government with regard to the border dispute with India was by and large the correct one, instead of keeping restraint in spite of all provocations from the side of the Indian government, going for a border war damaged its international image. Because of these limitations in its approach, at such a critical juncture the CPC could not play the vital role needed to polarize the Marxist- Leninist forces.
5.2 The comprador ruling classes represented by the Congress government and all rightist forces were utilizing the split in the ICM for intensifying their onslaught against the communist movement. When the central government arrested large number of communist leaders, dubbing them as ‘Chinese agents, the rightist Dangeist leadership utilized this opportunity to capture the party organization, mechanically pursuing the Soviet revisionist line. Based on it they advocated increasing class collaboration with the Congress government and did not even condemn the arrest of large number of communist leaders. They were creating conditions for an inevitable split. It was in this situation, the arrested leaders who came out by 1963 called for convening a Special Congress based on the membership at the time of the Vijayawada Congress with the condition that the majority position arrived at this Congress should be accepted by all. As the rightist section refused to accept this proposal, 32 members of the Central Committee walked out of CPI and in a Convention held at Tenali in AP April, 1964, the CPI(M).was formed.
5.3 Though the section who spearheaded the split did not address the fundamental questions confronting the ICM and the Indian communist movement then, it was a historic step forward in the history of the Indian communist movement. The leadership of the CPI(M) did not make a total break from the revisionists and made serious compromises resulting in they taking a ‘centrist line’, which was basically a line of collaboration with the rightists. Though it made a superficial criticism of the Soviet positions, it refused to uphold the contributions made by the CPC in the struggle against the Soviet revisionists through its Great Debate positions. When it stated that the Indian bourgeoisie is having ‘dual character’, it did not point out whether it was basically collaborating with imperialism, or comprador in character. Though it claimed to uphold the 1951 documents, it did not put forward a tactical line or path of revolution in line with the 1951 positions. The centrist positions it took became explicit in the Seventh Congress held in November, 1964. Soon the centrist opportunist line started dominating the party in all fields. In 1967 general elections, it collaborated with sections of rightist forces, revisionist CPI and even communal forces while forging electoral fronts and later formed governments in Kerala and Bengal continuing this opportunist line, exposing the extent to which it had embraced parliamentary cretinism. While claiming to oppose the revisionist line of CPI, it was advocating a neo-revisionist line, with more pragmatic approaches.
5.4 From the time of the Fifth Congress, and especially from the time of the Sixth Congress itself, it was clear that though a major section of the CPI was opposing the openly revisionist line of the leadership, it had no clear orientation regarding the international and national line to be pursued based on Marxist-Leninist positions and concrete conditions of the newly emerging situation. Though there were forces who wanted to make a break with the revisionist forces, their polarization in to an alternative force had not taken place. But soon after the 1964 split and formation of the CPI(M), especially after the Seventh Congress, the inner party struggle in CPI(M) started intensifying, with the communist revolutionary section putting forward their ideological political positions upholding the Great Debate positions put forward under the leadership of Mao. Through a series of articles written between 1965 and 67, which later became famous as ‘Eight Documents’, Charu Majumdar attacked the CPI(M) line as neo-revisionist and criticized it for abandoning the path of agrarian revolution. Upholding Mao’s contributions to Marxism-Leninism, he called for advancing the revolutionary struggles under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought (MLMT). The inner party struggle started intensifying in other states also, as the neo-revisionist character of the CPI(M) leadership became increasingly explicit. The communist revolutionaries (CRs) characterized Indian bourgeoisie as comprador in line with the Communal International analysis and called for completing the PDR under the leadership of the working class based on worker-peasant alliance, intensifying the agrarian revolution.
5.5 In spite of the theoretical vacillations and compromises of the leadership, formation of the CPI (M) breaking away from the arch-revisionists had inspired the communist rank and file in a big way. Numerous struggles broke out in many areas against the reactionary policies of the central and state governments. When the food prices went up and food scarcity intensified by 1965, in Bihar, Bengal like states food riots broke out involving millions of people. At this time the government tried to suppress the party by arresting large number of comrades by dubbing them as ‘Chinese agents’. This only strengthened the anti-government mass movements. It was in this situation the 1967 general elections took place and contrary to the promises made during the split with the revisionists, the CPI(M) forged opportunist alliances and formed state governments in Bengal and Kerala. The initial enthusiasm created by it soon vanished as these governments instead of becoming instruments for developing class struggle, started in the main functioning similar to those led by Congress and other ruling class parties. This led to the intensification of the inner party struggle spearheaded by the CRs leading to the breaking out of Naxalbari Uprising in May 1967, demanding implementation of the revolutionary agrarian reforms based on ‘land to the tiller’ slogan, linking it with the struggle for the overthrow of the reactionary ruling system.
6 Second Split in the Communist Party and Formation of the CPI(ML)
6.1 The CPI(M) led Bengal government suppressed the uprising resorting to brutal police action with the deployment of the central forces deputed by the Indira Gandhi government also killing 11 comrades in police firing on 25th May. It started repressive policies against the CRs in the party. When the Burdwan Plenum was held in 1968 to evaluate and take stand on the developments in the ICM, while claiming to uphold the ‘Indian path’ to revolution, in essence, like CPI, it also toed the Soviet revisionist line. In this situation, the CRs rebelled against the leadership. Soon the All India Co-ordination Committee of the CRs, the (AICCCR) was formed, uniting all the CRs who had come out of the CPI(M). On 22nd April, 1969, under the leadership of CM the CPI (ML) was formed calling for the overthrow of the comprador Indian state by intensifying the agrarian revolution. Though it was a great step forward, the sectarian line which had started influencing the movement right from the beginning started creating severe setbacks to it soon.
6.2 In the struggle against the Soviet revisionist line, in continuation to the struggle that had taken place in the 1960 Moscow meeting of the 81 communist parties and in reply to the Open Letter of the CPSU of 30th March 1963 which led to formal split in the ICM, the CPC had put forward A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM which called for: Workers of all countries unite; workers of the world unite with the oppressed people and oppressed nations; oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries; strive for world peace, national liberation and people’s democracy and socialism; consolidate and expand the socialist camp; bring the proletarian socialist revolution step by step to complete victory; and establish a new world without the exploitation of man by the man. Along with it Nine Comments on the cardinal issues confronting the ICM: The Origin and development of the differences between the CPSU and the CPC, On the question of Stalin, Is Yugoslavia a socialist country, Apologists of neo-colonialism, Two different lines on the question of war and peace, Peaceful co-existence: two diametrically opposed views, The leaders of the CPSU are the great splitters of our time, The proletarian revolution and Krushchov’s revisionism, and On Krushchov’s phoney communism and its historic lessons for the world, were put forward explaining the various aspects of the General Line of the ICM. During this period a bitter two line struggle was taking place in the CPC between the socialist roaders led by Mao and the capitalist roaders. By launching the Cultural Revolution in 1966, in continuation to this two line struggle taking place from the time of its Eighth Congress in 1956, the capitalist roaders like Liu Shaochi and Deng Tsiaoping could be removed from the positions of power. But by that time with the publication of the book: Long Live the Victory of the People’s War by Lin Biao, a left adventurist line had started emerging which characterized all the former colonial, semi-colonial, dependent countries of the colonial period ( the categories explained by Lenin in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism) as semi-colonial, semi-feudal like pre-revolutionary China, and advocated People’s War as their path of revolution. Soon this sectarian line, contrary to the evaluation of the momentous developments taking place in the world after the Second World War presented earlier by the CPC in the Apologists of Neo-Colonialism, started gaining dominance and became the official line in Ninth Congress of the CPC in 1969. It advocated that a new era of total collapse of imperialism and worldwide victory of socialism has emerged. As the Cultural Revolution and Chinese media had come under the sway of this sectarian line by 1967, all the Marxist-Leninist organizations which emerged fighting against the Soviet revisionist line and parties toeing this line in their own countries, without making any independent evaluation of the international and national situation, started mechanically following the Chinese Path. In India though there were sharp differences among the CRs regarding the approach towards trade unions, on party formation, on the principal contradiction, on path of revolution etc, all of them accepted the Chinese Path including its evaluation of Indian situation. As a result, the movement as a whole came under the sway of left adventurist line, whether one practiced it or not.
6.3 In the First or Eighth Congress of the CPI (ML) held in 1970, this left adventurist line along with the annihilation line for initiating the guerilla struggle was adopted under the leadership of Charu Majumdar. Out of the four major contradictions adopted by the Congress: the contradiction between imperialism and broad masses of the people, between feudalism and broad masses of people, capital and labor and among the ruling classes, the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses of people was analyzed as the principal one, the resolution of which will lead to resolution of all others. Line of annihilation of landlords was adopted as the beginning of the guerilla struggle. In line with the Cultural Revolution going on in China, an urban movement was also launched. The upsurge created by the Naxalbari uprising had a countrywide influence for some time attracting a good section of the cadres from CPI (M) and large number of youth and students. But soon, with the abandoning of the mass line and pursuit of the annihilation line the masses started getting alienated from the movement. At the same time, brutal onslaughts were unleashed by the central and state governments against the movement. By 1972 it suffered severe setbacks and got disintegrated to many groups.
6.4 The first split in CPI (ML) had taken place in 1971 itself. Even before that some sections of the CRs had kept themselves away from the Party due to differences on the approach to party building etc. But neither they nor those who splitted in 1971 and later did not raise any criticism against the adoption of the Chinese Path of People’s War based on semi-colonial, semi-feudal evaluation of India which was in effect the basic causes for the emergence and strengthening of the sectarian line. All of them were mainly focusing their attack on the absence of mass line and annihilation line as the reasons for the setbacks. Criticisms were mainly targeted against Charu Majumdar.
7 Main Trends among the CRs and Efforts for Party Reorganization
7.1 During the last four decades numerous efforts were made by the CRs who were disintegrated in to numerous groups from 1972. If these efforts have not become fruitful still, the main reason for it is that these efforts were mot made based on correcting the errors committed in the concrete analysis of the concrete situation which played the decisive role in the adoption of the sectarian path by all. During the last four decades, in spite of numerous efforts the reorganization process did not advance mainly for the same old reasons. For example, after 1972 though the then existing CPI(ML) and non-CPI(ML) groups could be divided broadly in to those who adopted mass line and those who did not, both these sections continued to uphold India as semi-colonial, semi-feudal and path of revolution as people’s war. Neither trend found it necessary to go for a concrete analysis of the post- Second World War international and Indian situation including the changes in the mode of production in the agrarian sector taking place under penetration of finance capital and imperialist agencies leading to land ceiling laws and Green Revolution like developments. As the regrouping of the splintered groups did not take place, when the mass upsurges did take place in the middle of 1970s in some regions, except for some groups, others could not play any significant role in them. Similarly when the internal emergency was declared and the state terror intensified, the splintered groups did not evolve any unified understanding about it. Though many of these sections played a role in resisting this onslaught unlike CPI and CPI (M), no major initiative could be taken at all India level.
7.2 After the revocation of the emergency in 1977 when thousands of CRs came out of the jails and the unity and party reorganization efforts were taken up, the international and Indian situation had undergone important changes. Internationally, soon after the death of Mao, the capitalist roaders had usurped power in China reversing the socialist transformation taking place there. Diametrically opposed to the 1963 General Line documents, they had put forward the class collaborationist ‘Theory of Three Worlds’(TWT) and advocated China as a ‘third world country’. They had theorized against any effort to reorganize the Communist International dissolved in 1943 and against proletarian internationalism. Under it they had analyzed Soviet social imperialism as the main enemy and even went to the extent of joining hands with US against Soviet Union. Internally, the under the land ceiling laws and the Green Revolution like developments in many regions old feudal landlords were increasingly replaced by rich peasants and agricultural bourgeoisie who were leading movements in many states for more subsidies and better prices for agricultural products. The reorganization process in later years proceeded based on the position taken by the different groups towards analyzing the emerging international and Indian situation. Except CPI (ML)Liberation, though almost all other groups have condemned the capitalist roaders in China and do not uphold it as a socialist country, many of these overtly or covertly still uphold the TWT.
7.3 Overwhelming number of the CPI (ML) as well as non-CPI (ML) groups are still sticking to the continuation of the analysis that India is semi-colonial and semi-feudal, and path of revolution Is that of protracted people’s war. Among these, one section took the Lin Biaoist stand rejecting the 10th Congress positions of the CPC. By and large this trend, soon splitted to many small groups. After sporadic attempts for squad actions by few of them, it got extremely weakened. It is reduced to few petti-bourgeois intellectual groups now.
7.4 Among the anti- Lin Biao sections, one section led by com. Kondapalli Sitharamiah formed the CPI (ML) People’s War group and stuck to continuation of the practice of guerilla struggle. Another group, CPI (ML)Party Unity was also following almost the same line. These two and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) adopting Maoism as their guiding line, have merged and formed the CPI(Maoist) in 2004. It is persisting in pursuing an anarchist line doing great harm to the revolutionary movement in the country.
7.5 The CPI (ML)Liberation still upholds China as a socialist country. Naturally it is influenced by this reformist line and in its 2007 Congress adopted the possibility of peaceful completion of democratic revolution. It is influenced by outright reformist trends and is facing serious ideological political differences. As a result, like in 2007 it is facing the threat of another possible split in its next Congress. As a result of these internal convulsions, its once powerful mass base in Bihar has also weakened. It is for a grand alliance with CPI and CPI (M) and as a result is fast degenerating to reformist path. In spite of all these deviations, it is still opportunistically continuing to analyze India as semi-colonial, semi-feudal and path of revolution as protracted people’s war.
7.6 Between the reformist Liberation and anarchist Maoists, similar to the stand still taken by them a good number of groups continue to uphold India as semi-colonial, semi-feudal in character and path of revolution as protracted people’s war, though none of them are putting it in to practice in any form. As their line is contrary to Indian reality and as most of them are not pursuing any significant practice, all of them are on the declining path. In some of these organizations, though not formally splitted, different sections are pursuing different lines In spite of unity on the semi-colonial, semi-feudal analysis and on upholding people’s war, even after all these decades they are so sectarian that any form of unity is eluding them. And if unity like the formation of CPI(ML)Janasakthi had taken place, within a short time it led to more splintering. Unless they take up concrete analysis of the present social conditions and dare to change their approach accordingly, neither they can overcome the present crisis nor contribute towards party reorganization and revolutionary practice.
7.7 Even a glance through the present Indian situation make it clear that vast changes have taken place in the mode of production in the agrarian sector under neo-colonization when finance capital, technology and market forces have entered the agrarian sector in a big way. The feudal, semi-feudal, pre-capitalist relations have changed to capitalist relations, with only feudal remnants left in some areas. After seeing these changes, and not recognizing that these capitalist developments are taking place under imperialists’ neo-colonial domination, a section of the CRs in some areas reached the evaluation that India is a capitalist country, and so the stage of revolution is socialist. But soon after, the Communist League of India (CLI) like forces which took this line faced a number of splits. It has weakened them further. There are few microscopic pro-Hoxha, neo-Trotskyist factions also pursuing this line.
7.8 It was in this complex and difficult situation a section of the CRs, who were also a part of the anti-Lin Biao, pro-Charu Majumdar section till the post-emergency years, started trekking a different path as soon as the news of the capitalist roaders usurping power in China reached them. As it could happen, they had reached the conclusion that a deeper analysis for the severe setbacks suffered by the ICM even after the Cultural Revolution is required. Similarly, they disagreed with the stand taken by almost all other groups during the post-emergency years who supported the rich peasant-agricultural bourgeois led struggles in which no demands of the agricultural workers were included. Besides the emergence of this class itself called for deeper study. Based on a study of the concrete situation and on the positions put forward by the CPC in the Apologists of Neo-Colonialism, this section constituted as Central Reorganization Committee-CPI(ML), took initiatives in both international and Indian levels for the reorganization of the movement based on a concrete analysis of the post Second World War developments.
7.9 At international level joining hands with those Marxist-Leninist organizations who had denounced the usurpation of power in China by the capitalist roaders and the class collaborationist TWT they had put forward, who had denounced the opportunist Enver Hoxha leadership of Albania and who were upholding Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought, it brought out a joint statement in 1979 and called for building an international platform of the ML forces upholding proletarian internationalism. Along with this, as the CPC document explained, it stated that after the Second World War colonialism had not disappeared as the Soviet revisionists argued but have taken a new form, neo-colonialism, which called for more studies including the transformation in the forms of plunder of US led imperialism during the post-War decades. These initiatives through a process of bitter struggles which went through the reorganization of CRC-CPI(ML) in to CPI(ML)- Red Flag in 1987 and then to CPI(ML) in 2005 reached the stage of successfully convening the Ninth Congress of the Party in November 2011 It adopted the basic documents explaining the transformation of the colonial, semi-feudal India in to a neo-colonial one which is working as a junior partner of imperialism, the Party Program according to the study of present condition, and the path of revolution according to concrete conditions of India. Side by side it could play an important role in the founding of the International Coordination of the Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR), in 2010 as a first step towards the reorganization of the Communist International.
7.10 The CPI(ML) has traversed a long path in reaching the present stage. The ideological political line it has adopted according to the concrete conditions of today has helped it to develop continuously in to an all India organization leading numerous struggles in different fields, when all the different organizations from the right opportunist CPI(M) to anarchist CPI(Maoist) are facing crisis and declining politically and organizationally. The task before the Party is to establish itself as the Party of the proletariat capable of leading the PDR to victory and advancing towards the socialist revolution uniting all the genuine communist forces during this process. n
- The International Communist Movement : (Here, by the International Communist Movement, we refer to the Marxist movement and not to pre-Marx “communism” as, for example, primitive communism, etc.) : Marxism arises out of three sources and therefore has them as its three component parts – namely German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism.
- The philosophy of Marxism is materialism. This was defended and expounded especially by Engels in Ludwig Feuerbach and Anti-Duhring. Marx enriched materialism with the achievements of Hegel on Dialectics. Following on Feuerbach’s development of a materialist form of dialectics, he developed it further to dialectical materialism – to signify the most modern form of the theory of development. He applied dialectical materialism to the history of human society to develop Historical materialism. As materialism asserted that all of man’s knowledge is a reflection of what exists in the material world, historical materialism showed that all of man’s social knowledge (politics, religion, philosophy, etc.) reflect human society. As dialectics showed that all development takes place only by struggling against adversity and by adapting to the material world, the same was applied to society to show that at the bottom of all societal development was production.
- Having identified that production was the basis for human development, Marx developed the economic theories of the English economists, especially Adam Smith and Ricardo (the labour theory of value), to give rise to his exposition of Capital. He wrote Capital in three volumes, with another three volumes being devoted to theories of surplus value. Whereas other economists treated economy as a relationship between things (the exchange of commodities), he treated it as a relationship between persons and persons and between persons and things. Money signifies how the societal relationship is becoming more close and inseparable. In capitalism even capital and labour power can be purchased for money. He exposed the relation between the capitalist and the worker to be one of exploitation of surplus value (which was his original contribution to economy). The worker works for part of the day for his wages and for the rest, without remuneration for the benefit of the capitalist – for his profit. He showed how by increasing the dependence of the workers on capital, capitalism creates the great power of united labour.
- With the advent of capitalism – with its victory over feudalism, the concepts of “freedom” – “liberty, equality and fraternity” came to the fore. But there was no real “freedom”. The workers were “wage-slaves”. Even before Marx, many like Robert Owen, Saint Simon and Fourier had pointed out the evils of capitalist society and had proposed a different form of society – a socialist society. They asked the capitalists to change and form a new type of society. They were the utopian socialists. Marx put the theory of socialism on a firm scientific footing. He showed that just as anything in nature develops by struggling against adversity and synthesizing a new to the material world, so also all human history develops by the struggles of classes against each other and their adaptation to society.
- Marx and Engels did not engage only in academic activity. They founded the International Workingmen’s Association later to be known as the First International. The First International at the beginning was a grand mixture of people of various persuasions – mutualists, blanquists, Italian republicans, American proponents of individual anarchism, English Owenites, etc. The main struggle in the First International was against the anarchists (also known in economics as the mutualists) who were led by Bakunin (Proudhon was the economic theorist). The anarchists believed in the “direct economical struggle against capitalism, without interfering in the political parliamentary agitation.”* Marx critiqued their economic theory in his Poverty of Philosophy which was a reply to Proudhons “The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty”. It was the First International that first raised the call for an 8 hour working day in its Geneva Congress in 1866.
- In 1871, the workers of Paris captured power for a little over two months (from 18th March to 28th May). Many of the members of the First International took part in this revolutionary upsurge. The workers of Paris created history by showing, though in an embryonic form, the outlines of a workers state. In the words of Engels in his Preface to Marx’s Civil War in France, written in 1891 to mark twenty years of the commune, he wrote:
“…Paris mobilized as one man in defence of the guns, and war between Paris and the French government sitting at Versailles was declared. On March 26 the Paris Commune was elected and on March 28 it was proclaimed. The Central Committee of the National Guard, which up to then had carried on the government, handed in its resignation to the National Guard, after it had first decreed the abolition of the scandalous Paris “Morality Police.” On March 30 the Commune abolished conscription and the standing army, and declared that the National Guard, in which all citizens capable of bearing arms were to be enrolled, was to be the sole armed force. It remitted all payments of rent for dwelling houses from October 1870 until April, the amounts already paid to be reckoned to a future rental period, and stopped all sales of articles pledged in the municipal pawnshops. On the same day the foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office, because “the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic.”
On April 1 it was decided that the highest salary received by any employee of the Commune, and therefore also by its members themselves, might not exceed 6,000 francs. On the following day the Commune decreed the separation of the Church from the State, and the abolition of all state payments for religious purposes as well as the transformation of all Church property into national property; as a result of which, on April 8, a decree excluding from the schools all religious symbols, pictures, dogmas, prayers – in a word, “all that belongs to the sphere of the individual’s conscience” – was ordered to be excluded from the schools, and this decree was gradually applied. On the 5th, in reply to the shooting, day after day, of the Commune’s fighters captured by the Versailles troops, a decree was issued for imprisonment of hostages, but it was never carried into effect. On the 6th, the guillotine was brought out by the 137th battalion of the National Guard, and publicly burnt, amid great popular rejoicing. On the 12th, the Commune decided that the Victory Column on the Place Vendôme, which had been cast from guns captured by Napoleon after the war of 1809, should be demolished as a symbol of chauvinism and incitement to national hatred. This decree was carried out on May 16. On April 16 the Commune ordered a statistical tabulation of factories which had been closed down by the manufacturers, and the working out of plans for the carrying on of these factories by workers formerly employed in them, who were to be organized in co-operative societies, and also plans for the organization of these co-operatives in one great union. On the 20th the Commune abolished night work for bakers, and also the workers’ registration cards, which since the Second Empire had been run as a monopoly by police nominees – exploiters of the first rank; the issuing of these registration cards was transferred to the mayors of the 20 arrondissements of Paris. On April 30, the Commune ordered the closing of the pawnshops, on the ground that they were a private exploitation of labor, and were in contradiction with the right of the workers to their instruments of labor and to credit. On May 5 it ordered the demolition of the Chapel of Atonement, which had been built in expiation of the execution of Louis XVI.
Thus, from March 18 onwards the class character of the Paris movement, which had previously been pushed into the background by the fight against the foreign invaders, emerged sharply and clearly. As almost without exception, workers, or recognized representatives of the workers, sat in the Commune, its decision bore a decidedly proletarian character. Either they decreed reforms which the republican bourgeoisie had failed to pass solely out of cowardice, but which provided a necessary basis for the free activity of the working class – such as the realization of the principle that in relation to the state, religion is a purely private matter – or they promulgated decrees which were in the direct interests of the working class and to some extent cut deeply into the old order of society.”
- These activities of the commune described by Engels are by no means exhaustive. The women’s liberation movement was greatly encouraged. The Women’s Union demanded gender equality, wages’ equality, the right of divorce for women, the right to secular education and professional education for girls. They also demanded suppression of the distinction between married women and unmarried companions, and between legitimate and illegitimate children. They advocated the abolition of prostitution (obtaining the closing of the maisons de tolérance, or legal official brothels). The Women’s Union also participated in several municipal commissions and organized cooperative workshops. Besides this, the Commune allowed churches to function only on condition that their halls would be thrown open for political activities in the evenings.
- In the days leading to the Paris Commune, when Prussia was attacking France and using Germany also as its pawn, the workers of Germany and France, through the First International, sent messages to each other denouncing the war and pledging friendship and support to one another in their fight against capitalism. This was the first time such a solidarity between the citizens of two countries at war had ever happened in history.
- While upholding thr Paris Commune and evaluating its contributions,Marx made a criticism of the Paris Commune also saying that the communards ought to have marched on Varsailles at the very beginning of the revolt and not restricted themselves to Paris. In fact, this was the basis for Marx’s later development of the concept of “dictatorship of the proletariat” (though this term was coined earlier) in the Critique of the Gotha Program. He indicated that the proletariat, when it achieves class rule, has to smash the resistance of the bourgeoisie.
- By 1869, Marx and Engels along with Liebknecht and Babel had started work for the formation of the German Social Democratic Party. They advocated the political struggle of the working class to seize power. They sought to introduce in the program of the First International also the need for the need for the political struggle. This was vehemently opposed by the Anarchists. They believed that the political struggle would be divisive of the working class. They asked for direct and immediate economic emancipation of the working class. Thus there arose two specific understandings in the International – Communist and Anarchist. The communists were for the political struggle of the working class along with the economic struggle. The anarchists opposed the political struggle and asked for the direct and immediate economic emancipation of the working class. The communists therefore felt the need for the working class for have their own party. The anarchists, on the other hand, felt no such need and only wanted a broad unity based on immediate economic emancipation. The communists wanted to struggle for universal franchise and to participate in elections on the basis of their political program. The anarchists wanted no such political struggle. The communists postulated that after coming to power, the working class would have to establish a new form of democracy for the majority - “dictatorship of the proletariat” whereas the anarchists were for the immediate abolition of the state. The communists felt that the spontaneous struggle of the working class must be guided by the party whereas the anarchists advocated that the spontaneous struggle of the proletariat will itself lead to establishment of the true philosophy and politics of the working class.
- Issues came to a head in the meeting of the First International at Hague in 1872. The Anarchists walked out of the First International and were later expelled. The headquarters of the International was then moved to the USA and finally, in 1876, the International was dissolved.
- The next important development in the ICM is the Critique of the Gotha Program by Marx. In this critique, Marx has, for the first time, laid down many important principles of the Communists. Besides the economic clarifications on “labour” and other connected economic concepts, Marx has also assailed the assertion in the program that “...in relation to the working class all other classes are only one reactionary mass” He showed clearly that the workers will have to rely upon other classes like the petty bourgeoisie as allies in the revolution. He also showed clearly that the concept of “proletarian internationalism” meant much more than a mere striving for “an international brotherhood of all people” in the future. He pointed out in this critique that there was a long period between the phase of early communist social development which would still suffer from bourgeois right, when each person would only get according to the labour or work that he or she had put in, and the later communist phase when the slogan would be “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
- As has been pointed out earlier, the struggle between the communists and the anarchists led to the dissolution of the First International. In 1881 socialist parties of various countries (mainly Germany, France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, Hungary, US and Switzerland) took part in a meeting which decided to call a conference to organise the second international. Two important differences with the First International were that there were no anarchists in this international (they had their own conference in London), and, secondly, only Socialist and Workers’ Parties, with elected delegates took part in this International, as opposed to trade unions and workers’ organisations. Engels was elected the President of the 2nd International in its 1893 conference in Zurich but he died in 1895. The Second International took some important decisions. In its Zurich Conference, it fomed the International Metalworkers Federation, which, till today, unites metal woerkes from all over the world. In its First Conference in Brussels in 1891, it resolved to observe 1st May each year as the International Workers’ Day. The Second International was instrumental in popularising the demand for an eight hour working day. It was also instrumental in the movement for women’s liberation. The First International Conference of Socialist Women was held immediately prior to the Stuttgart Conference of the Second International in 1907 (Interestingly, out of the 25 cuntries represented at this conference, India was one of them. Among others one woman, Madam Bhikaji Cama was also a delegate from India, who also participated in the women’s conference and then became a fighter for women’s rights). The Second International Conference of Socialist Women, held in Copenhagen, in 1910, declared 8th March to be International Working Women’s Day.
- During the period from the formation of the First International to the early years of the 20th Century, the world had changed quite drastically. In 1860, less than 10% of Africa had been colonised, by 1890, over 90% of Africa was colonised. Capitalism had been transformed into imperialism by the ever-increasing concentration and centralisation of capital and with the merger of bank capital and industrial capital. The Second International’s response to imperialism and colonialism was confused. In its London conference in 1896, the Second International had affirmed the right of nations to self-determination. In Paris, in 1900, the Conference supported the struggle of anti-colonial forces fighting for independence. The resolution of the Amsterdam conference in 1904 also specifically resolved to fight against “...colonial and imperialist policy”. However, by the Stuttgart Conference of 1907, a different policy had begun to emerge. A view had begun to creep in that imperialism and domination over ‘savage’ countries could be beneficial as the natives could be ‘educated’ and ‘civilised.’ This attitude was headed by Van Kol, a delegate from Holland – thankfully, the motion to adopt a ‘socialist colonial policy’ was defeated by 128 votes to 108, with 10 abstentions from Switzerland. This Congress also rejected a motion to ban the immigration of workers from backward countries, like China, into Europe. The Copenhagen Congress of 1910 called for the proletariat in all countries to protest against their governments attempts to make war and to fight against war. As the war clouds loomed ever more imminent over the Balkans a special Congress of the Second International was called in Basle (Switzerland) to define the attitude of the Second International towards war. The Basle resolution reiterated the stand of the Stuttgart and Copenhagen Congresses in the following terms:
“If a war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working classes and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved supported by the coordinating activity of the International Socialist Bureau to exert every effort in order to prevent the outbreak of war by the means they consider most effective, which naturally vary according to the sharpening of the class struggle and the sharpening of the general political situation.
In case war should break out anyway it is their duty to intervene in favor of its speedy termination and with all their powers to utilize the economic and political crisis created by the war to arouse the people and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule.” (Emphasis in original)
- In spite of such an equivocal declaration, many of the main leaders of the Second International like Karl Kautsky, who was the theoretical leader of the Second International after Engels, and Bernstein made an about turn. These leaders called for supporting their own national governments. Due to this there was a last Congress of the Second International called at Zimmerwald in 1915. The Zimmerwald Congress consisted only of those who opposed the war but still did not reach in any unity but made a clear differentiation between the communists, led by Lenin who wanted to convert the war into a civil war and the centrists led by Robert Grim (and Kautsky who, though he did not attend Zimmerwald, accepted the Centrist position) who took a more pacifist anti-war line.
- Around that time, there was much written all over the world on the concept of “imperialism”. In particular Hobbes (a non-Marxist) and Hilferding (a marxist from Austria) had made detailed analyses. Further developing these analyses and rectifying them, Lenin made a pithy and scathiing analysis of imperialism in his book “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism” in 1917. In this analysis, Lenin pointed out five distinctive features of Imperialism.
“The concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.”
He also showed in that analysis how imperialism had in fact united the struggles for national liberation in the colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries with those of the working class in the advanced countries for socialism.
- Lenin also criticised the formulation put forward by Kautsky of “ultra-imperialism” in which Kautsky had put forward the idea that the war may well lead to strengthening of “ultra-imperialism” in which imperialists may combine across national borders, thereby ensuring peace. Lenin countered this by pointing out that greater co-operation between imperialists did not in the least lower the chances of war but, in fact, increased it as intertwined capitalism would thrive on armaments and war. He also exposed that Kautsky and his supporters were only hiding their attempt to align with the bourgeoisie under this theory.
- Following the Zimmerwald Conference, the Second International died out. An attempt was made to revive it in 1920 and another International popularly known as the “two-and-a-half” international was also organised mainly under the theoretical leadership of the “austromarxists” who tried to find a middle line between revolution and class-collaboration. However, by 1923, the “two-and-a-half” international merged with the Second International and was subsequently home to parties like the British Labour Pary and the SPD in Germany which have intermittently ruled Great Britain and Germany till today. Lenin and the revolutionaries, on the other hand, organised the Third International in 1919 in Moscow.
- In the meantime, an event of earth-shattering importance had taken place in 1917 as we all know – the Great October Revolution. Taking place in 1917 on 7th November (25th October by the Gregorian calendar which was till then followed in Russia), this was the first time that the proletariat had been able to achieve the ruling role in any country. The Russian Revolution still remains one of the most important events in world history. Stalin explained as early as 1918 :
“The great world-wide significance of the October Revolution chiefly consists in the fact that;
1) It has widened the scope of the national question and converted it from the particular question of combating national oppression in Europe into the general question of emancipating the oppressed peoples, colonies and semi-colonies from imperialism;
2) It has opened up wide possibilities for their emancipation and the right paths towards it, has thereby greatly facilitated the cause of the emancipation of the oppressed peoples of the West and the East, and has drawn them into the common current of the victorious struggle against imperialism;
3) It has thereby erected a bridge between the socialist West and the enslaved East, having created a new front of revolutions against world imperialism, extending from the proletarians of the West, through the Russian revolution, to the oppressed peoples of the East.
This in fact explains the indescribable enthusiasm which is now being displayed for the Russian proletariat by the toiling and exploited masses of the East and the West.
And this mainly explains the frenzy with which the imperialist robbers of the whole world have now flung themselves upon Soviet Russia.”
- What Stalin was referring to was that soon after the revolution, Soviet Russia was attacked not merely by its own renegade armies like the White Russian armies under Kolchak and Denikin (who were Generals of the former Czarist regime) but also by the armies of 14 different countries. Due to this, the Communists in Russia had to introduce a policy of “war communism” This had far flung effects including compulsory collection of excess food grain from the peasantry, strict enforcement of factory discipline, etc. The Soviet Government was also forced to sign an unfair treaty with the Central Powers to end the war. In spite of all such major obstacles, the Soviet power managed to survive and grow. In 1921, the phase of “war communism” was ended and Lenin started the phase of the “New Economic Policy” (NEP), whereby a step backward was taken to allow a certain degree of capitalist relations (mainly small businesses) to allow the economy to recuperate.
- Though the Soviet leadership had earlier hoped that that revolution in Russia would lead to revolutions in other countries, this did not happen to any significant degree. The revolution of November 1918 in Germany failed and ended in the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg on 15th January 1919. Lenin was therefore constrained to start the process of building socialism in one country. This was further taken up by Stalin who became the leader of the CPSU after the death of Lenin. However, Trotsky, one of the big leaders of the October Revolution put forward a different line. He put forward that there must be an immediate attempt to make revolution in other countries as otherwise socialism could not be built. There was a prolonged debate within the CPSU about whether and to what extent one could achieve the “victory of socialism in one country”. The debate between Leninism (led by Stalin) and Trotskyism ended in a resounding victory for the former. It was in the course of this debate that Stalin defined Leninism to be the Marxism of the period of imperialism and proletarian revolution (since Lenin had earlier defined the era to be the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution when analyzing imperialism).
- At the same time, Lenin, in his report to the Second Congress of the Third International had put forward the Colonial Thesis. He called upon the world proletariat to support the national liberation struggles in the colonial countries while at the same time pointing out to these national liberation struggles that their only salvation lay in the Soviet system. There was some debate in this Congress (in which M. N. Roy took part) about the role of “bourgeois democracy”. The final outcome was that the final thesis supported the “national revolutionary movments” instead of the bourgeois democratic movements insofar as it was accepted that the bourgeoisie in the colonies had also many links of interest with imperialism.
- In fact, within two years, in December 1922, the Comintern, in its Fourth Congress went so far as to say that there had been a significant change in the situation and the aspect of struggling against bourgeois democracy in the colonies had assumed greater importance.
- Overall, we can say that the Colonial policy of the Comintern was to link the world proletarian movement with the national liberation movements in the colonies while at the same time emphasizing that the unity between the “national bourgeoisie” and the proletariat in the colonial countries was subject to their allowing the working class to work unhindered for the socialist revolution. The Comintern in various documents developed the theory of the “national revolutionary movement” and put forward the theory of “people’s democratic revolution”. It became accepted that under imperialism, the capitalists who developed in the colonies were under the domination of imperialism and intertwined with it and were therefore incapable of leading the democratic revolution and therefore it was the proletariat and their party who would have to lead the new type of democratic revolution. Mao further developed this theory particularly in the context of China in his writings on “New Democracy”.
- Though the adoption of imperialist policies allowed advanced capitalist countries like Britain and France to evade collapse for many years, the crises of capitalism finally caught up with the imperialist powers. The years from 1929 to 1932 saw one of the worst economic crises of capitalism. The stock market crashed all over the world and the world economy entered into a “Great Depression”. Production collapsed world-wide and unemployment grew to massive levels. The Soviet economy was almost the only economy in the world which not only grew but grew at record rates in this period. The Great Depression gave rise to two significant developments. Keynesian theories came into prominence and received wide acceptance. On the other hand, Fascism reared its ugly head and came to power in various countries like Germany and Italy.
- Around the same time, Japan had invaded China (in 1931 itself). The Chinese communists were fighting a war against the Kuomintang in China at that time. They also were the one’s to take a proper stand of making a people’s war out of the war of Resistance to the Japanese. They offered an alliance to the Kuomintang to fight the Japanese. However, the correct political understanding of Mao and other leaders of the Communist Party of China helped them to take the correct tactical positions of uniting with the Kuomintang at times and of fighting them at different times. At that time, the Cominterrn had sent a commisstion to China to help guide the Chinese party consisting of Mikhail Borodin and M. N. Roy. However, this commission proved to be nothing but a hindrance and the CPC under the leadership of Mao rightly rejected the advise of the Comintern as was given by this commission.
- The Comintern recognized the danger posed by Fascism and put forward in the Seventh Congress in 1935 the tactical line of uniting with one section of imperialism to fight Fascism. The Soviet Union tried its best to keep from being drawn into the war, including offering a peace treaty to the allied powers and then, when this overture was refused, signing a peace treaty with Hitler. However, Hitler broke his pact and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
- The Third International then declared the war to be a “People’s War” and urged communist parties all over the world to follow this line. The Soviet Union under Stalin and its people and soldiers fought valiantly during the war and saved the world from coming under the domination of Hitlerite Fascism. The Soviet Red Army played a decisive role in the war and was the first to unfurl the red flag from atop the Reichstag in Berlin.
- During this period, the Soviet Union and the Comintern made some tactical mistakes. There was a tendency to stress nationalism at the cost of internationalism.
- In 1941, due to the dominance of the US, the diminishing of strength of Great Britain and other old imperialist powers, due to it having become clear to imperialism that it was not possible to rule in the old fashion in view of the massive people’s movements all over the world and due to other factors, the US and the UK signed the Atlantic Charter. In this charter, they agreed that there would be no more colonies after the war and also agreed that all nations would be free to equally access trade and raw materials all over the world, which essentially meant that all nations would be free to exploit the resources of the whole world equally. This was the first glimpse of the new system that imperialism wanted to bring in place of the old colonial system.
- On 1st January 1942, representatives of 26 nations met in Washington DC to pledge their support to the Atlantic Charter, . The Soviet Union was one of these nations. In 1943 the Comintern was dissolved largely on the insistence of the USA and UK. Though some leaders of the Third International have stated that the Third International was being dissolved because there was no need for such a body as Communist parties all over the world had achieved maturity and could now decide their own lines and directions, Stalin has plainly stated, when dissolving the Comintern, that this was being done to assure the Allied Powers that the Soviet Union had no ambitions of world domination and has also called for it being reorganized at a later stage.
- In 1944, when 44 countries assembled in Bretton Woods in the USA to discuss the formation of the IMF and the IBRD (what is now the “world bank”), the Soviet Union took part in those discussions and signed the final act of this conference (though it never formally became a part of the IMF). In 1945, Stalin attended the conferences of the big allied powers in Potsdam and Yalta in which the world was essentially divided into “spheres of influence”. In 1946, it was the first country in the world to accord recognition to the unjust formation of the state of Israel.
- At the same time, the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations (and later the WTO), created a new world economic system based not on the capture of colonies but on the economic exploitation of the former dependent countries, colonies and semi-colonies through the market. This system resulted in a sudden massive growth of MNCs and in the dissolution of old feudal and other pre-capitalist relations all over the world, to the extent that they curtailed the growth of the market. There was a sudden and massive expansion of the market to take in every nook and corner of the globe (except the socialist countries).
- The communist movement all over the world grew by leaps and bounds. People’s Democratic Revolutions had taken place in 13 countries including many in Eastern Europe. People’s democratic revolution was also achieved in China (and later in Cuba and Vietnam). By the 1950s, half of the territory of the world and one third of its population were living in socialist countries. However, the communist movement in the world failed to scientifically analyse the changes which were taking place in the world colonial system, in effect, creating the neo-colonial system.
- By 1956, after the death of Stalin, in the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and later in the 21st Congress in 1958 Khruschov put forward the thesis that the period of colonialism is disappearing and imperialism was weakening and that there could now be lasting peace and there was no need for revolution. He put forward the theory of the “three peacefuls” – Peaceful competiton (with imperialism in the market), peaceful coexistence and peaceful transformation (to socialism). He postulated that the ruling classes in the newly independent countries, which he saw as being led by the “national bourgeoisie”, were essentially anti-imperialist in character and would choose the socialist system when they saw in the world market that the socialist system could beat the capitalist system in competition. In the same conference a secret paper was also read out vilifying Stalin.
- The Chinese Communist Party opposed the wrong understanding of the Soviet party and tried to reason and reach an acceptable compromise. For this purpose two meetings were held in Moscow in 1957 and 1960 resulting in the Moscow Declaration and the Moscow Statement respectively. Till 1963, the Chinese Communist party made repeated attempts to come to a reasonable compromise. However, the attitude of the Soviet party was intransigent. It began the withdrawal of soviet engineers and advisors from Chinese development projects. Finally in 1963, in reply to the open letter of the revisionist CPSU leadership the Chinese Communist Party wrote the “General Line document” (also called as the June 14th letter). In this the CPC clearly put forward the line that though it was desirable to have peaceful transformation, the conditions for this did not exist anywhere in the world. In this polemics, the CPC declared that colonialism has not disappeared but is replaced by “neo-colonialism which was a more pernicious and sinister form of colonialism. However, in spite of this assertion, there was no attempt to make a detailed analysis of neo-colonialism.
- The CPC was also engaged in its own life and death struggle against the wrong line around that time. In its 8th Congress in 1956 (the first after victory in the revolutionary war, the rightist line under the leadership of Liu Shaoqui and Deng Xiaoping had prevailed. Mao had to set in motion a series of struggles against these capitalist roaders culminating with the launching of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution by 1966 which succeeded in removing them from all positions of power..
- Around this time itself, a wrong line started to develop in the Chinese Communist Party. The first signs of this line can be seen in the writing of Lin Biao, “Long live the victory in the People’s War”. In this writing, he hinted that the era that Lenin had defined as the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution was changing into the era of the total collapse of imperialism and of the imminent world-wide victory of socialism. He made similar assertions in the preface to the “Red Book” which was published in 1966 (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung). Anarchist assertions like it was sufficient to study the red book and more study would make you more foolish were made. It was also asserted that there was no need for a new International.
- In 1969, in the 9th Congress, while presenting the report to the Congress Lin Biao plainly stated that this was the era of total collapse of imperialism and the imminent world-wide victory of socialism. An amendment was also presented at this Congress making Lin Biao the successor of Mao.
- It was this wrong petty-bourgeois anarchist line of underestimating imperialism that led to many mistakes in the emerging Marxist-Leninist movement all over the world. In India, Turkey and other countries, the anarchist, adventurist, sectarian line prevailed, causing great loss both to countless lives and also the communist movement. This line continues to this day in the form of “Maoism”. The Shining Path (Sendoro Luminoso) party in Peru and Maoists in India are clear examples of this line which upholds Lin Biao either expressly or impliedly. Such Maoists still believe, at least in their actions, in the Chinese path of area-wise seizure of power being the only path for revolution all over the world. Some parties like CARC in Italy also talk of implementing the path of “protracted people’s war” even in such advanced capitalist countries like Italy. Some others like the UCPN (Maoist) in Nepal and the CPP in Philippines, though following “Maoism” in theory, have actually come away from the path of protracted people’s war in action and are trying different methods to bring about successful revolutionary advance in their countries. The difference of these parties are that they have a strong mass base and this helps them to combat the effects of sectarian theory, while the struggle within them as in UCPN(M) which has led to a recent split continues.
- Lin Biao was stripped of his party posts in 1971 and died soon thereafter. In the 10th Congress the CPC once again asserted that this was the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution. However, there was no self-critical attitude about the 9th Congress. The Chinese party also placed nationalism before internationalism in this period and invited Kissinger and Nixon to China for “ping pong diplomacy” at the same time when the US was bombarding Vietnam right upto the borders of China. In 1973, when the JVP led a massive uprising in Sri Lanka, the Chinese Government sent aid and arms to the Sri Lankan Government to put down the uprising. In Africa, it supported unpopular dictatorial regimes only because the Soviet Union was supporting the rebellions against such regimes. This was also the time when it was postulated that it was acceptable to unite even with US imperialism to fight Soviet Social imperialism which was the main enemy. The wrong emphasis on nationalism ultimately gave rise to the wrong and class collaborationist “Three World Theory”
- It was our party which was one of the first in India to denounce the Three World Theory and also to declare that the Chinese Government, after Mao, was no more socialist. Since there was no support for this thinking, at that time, within India, from the various communist revolutionary groups we initiated our own reorganization process and also sought like minded forces internationally. In line with Marxist-Leninist teaching we asserted that communist parties must uphold proletarian internationalism. We signed a joint statement with five parties denouncing the capitalist roaders in China, opportunist line of Enver Hoxha and calling for building a platform of Marxist—Leninist parties at international level. Though we participated in the 1984 Conference called by the RCP(USA) which led to the formation of Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) we had ideological and political difference with it and did not join it. Later we became a part of ICMLPO for many years. We have played an important role in the founding of the ICOR and have been playing a vital role since the past two years in it which was formed in October 2010. We have been asserting that after the significant transformations that have taken place at international level and within the country under the neo-colonial forms of exploitation resorted to by the imperialist camp led by the US, in recognizing which serious mistakes were committed by the ICM leading to the severe setbacks suffered by it, the main task of communists today to become capble to halt the degeneration of the communist movement internationally by developing the study of neo-colonialism and develop our stand in the neo-colonial period in the same manner as the colonial thesis served in the colonial period. In fact, this stand is vindicated by the fact that the decline of the communist movement has taken place during the same time as the advent of neo-colonialism was taking pace..
- Our international documents of the 1997 Conference, of the Bhopal Special Conference in 2009 and of the 9th Party Congress in 2011 as well as other writings in our journals must be used as weapons to make a theoretical breakthrough in this direction. At the same time the Party has to take the responsibility of making a through and more indepth evaluation of the experience of the ICM in coming years as our own fraternal contacts and our revolutionary experience are developing further. n
Development and Transformation of
Capitalism into Imperialism
The process by which capitalism based on private ownership of the means of production became established through what is called primitive accumulation by Marx spanned a long period from the end of the fifteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century. It was composed of both internal and external plunder using the crudest forms of force and coercion. In every country that experienced capitalist development, domestically it was paralleled by a concentration of property in the form of land and assets in the hands of a wealthy few and the forcible expropriation of the broad masses driving them to proletarians who have nothing to sell except their labour power. The external form of this primitive accumulation which was very crucial in capitalist development according to Marx was colonial plunder including colonial trade and slave trade. In its classical form, on account of a host of historical factors, this capitalist development first took place in Britain.
The period until mid-eighteenth century reflected the supremacy of commercial capital which was achieved through well-defined colonial policies pursued by the rising capitalist powers, especially Britain. The predatory mercantilist practices comprising the capture of export markets and slave trade established under monopoly economic conditions and political domination through wars and control of the seas provided the context for Industrial Revolution.
The period from the second half of the eighteenth century to the 1870s witnessed the rise of industrial capital in Europe, especially in Britain. Industrial capitalism was built up through the exploitation of workers within capitalist countries and through the influx of raw-materials and resources from the intensified plunder of colonies and other countries. Unlike mercantile capitalism whose interest was mainly in ‘colonial products’ such as spices and slaves, the demands of industrial capitalism broadened out to include raw-materials for expanding industries and food for the rapidly growing population. Including these the pressures of capital accumulation propelled a disruption of the socioeconomic formation in the colonies. The colonies had to supply the required raw-materials by surrendering for commercial or plantation agriculture and mining on the one hand, and create for the finished goods from industrial centres on the other. The results were a distortion of the traditional village communities, changes in land relations including the introduction of private property in land, enforced monetization and exchange relations, imposition of bonded labour and wage labour, destruction of handicrafts and domestic industries, building up of necessary legal and political structures including the creation of elite classes subservient to colonial masters and the imposition of metropolitan cultures. Here it should be emphasized that capitalism as a social order was born, developed, and flourished as a world system from the very beginning. The necessity to utilize the resources and peoples of other nations was inherent in capitalism. The whole course of capitalist development is influenced by this inherent tendency.
Emergence of Finance Capital
Marx and Engels studied capitalism that belonged to the era of free competition or what is called competitive capitalism. However, by the last quarter of the nineteenth century and at the turn of the twentieth century, fundamental changes took place in the political economy of capitalism. Continuing the works of Marx and Engels, Lenin who made an exhaustive analysis of these changes further developed the Marxist theory of capitalism as a guide to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, and termed the new phenomenon as imperialism. According to Lenin, free enterprise capitalism reached its apex by the 1870s. At the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, the transition from pre-monopoly capitalism to monopoly capitalism or imperialism was completed. Lenin’s already well-known definition of imperialism incorporating its essential five features is thus:-
“1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital” of a financial oligarchy; 3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; 4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world among themselves; and 5) territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development in which dominance of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”
All these features are only different forms of the basic characteristic of imperialism - the domination of monopolies. Therefore, imperialism is monopoly capitalism. This transition from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism or imperialism was prepared by the whole course of development of the productive forces and production relations of capitalism.
The major scientific and technical discoveries and inventions that took place by the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century significantly speeded up the process of concentration of production in different lines of industry. The advances in production techniques gave rise to structural changes in industry so that light industries, following organic changes in the composition of capital, gave way to heavy industry. The new productive forces necessitated large-scale production. The introduction of new means of production called for larger amounts of capital than even the biggest capitalists had at their disposal. To be successful, the capitalists had to use other people’s capital on credit. This led to the development of joint-stock form of company ownership by which a few capitalists could control and manipulate the hard-earned income and savings of the vast majority of working people in the country. Thus the operation of the law of concentration of production led to a small number of big and very big undertakings coming to occupy dominant position in each line of production in every developed capitalist country.
As enterprises became larger, competition became fiercer and more complex. The enormous costs involved in competition between major capitalists, the loss of profit, the risk of ruin and difficulty in marketing pushed the big capitalists into agreements and alliances. Cartels, syndicates, trusts, and groups became the forms of monopoly associations for buying raw materials and other inputs of production, to set monopoly prices, and extracting monopoly super-profits. According to Lenin, imperialism is a dialectical unity of two opposites; monopoly and competition. Monopolies dominate the economy, but far from eliminating competition, they make it fiercer and more complex and alter its form. Monopolies also develop and spread in other spheres of the operation of capital. The concentration of production in industry initiated similar processes in the banking sphere. Large industrial, commercial, railway and other undertakings were unable to invest their free resources in small banks, since the authorized capital of the latter was not sufficient to guarantee the safety of large deposits, and small banks did not have adequate resources to grant credit to large undertakings. The position of the big banks in the economy, therefore, strengthened while that of small banks weakened. Thus the concentration and centralization of banking had led by the end of the nineteenth century to the same result as in industry. At the same time, industrial monopolies were not content to remain as passive partners of giant banks. They also became the co-owners of the banks, which was made simpler by the banks becoming joint-stock enterprises. Many major industrial monopolies set up their own banks and established personal links with the monopolist banks in which they were most interested, introducing their own directors on to the supervisory councils and boards of these banks. The result was a close interweaving of bank and industrial capital.
Thus coalescence or interweaving of the capital of major banking monopolies with that of industrial monopolies led to the emergence of what Lenin called “finance capital”. In essence, it is monopoly industrial capital merging with monopoly banking capital. With the formation of finance capital, a financial oligarchy also emerged in imperialist states. Composed of a small group of financial magnates that dominates the economic and political life of imperialist states this financial oligarchy began to control the home and foreign policy of them. The financial oligarchy grows in strength through their expanding connections with the state apparatus and its numerous organs dealing with home and foreign affairs.
Imperialism is the universal system of the domination of finance capital and the export of capital is one of the ways in which it exercises this domination. Of course, export of capital from one country to another had been there in the pre-monopoly stage of the development of capitalism, but it began to play a role of paramount importance in international economic relations only under imperialism. To quote Lenin: “Typical of the old capitalism when free competition had undivided sway, was the export of goods. Typical of the latest stage of capitalism when monopolies rule, is the export of capital.” Lenin viewed the export of capital in relation to the general laws governing the development of capitalism into imperialism.
Usually, the fields into which capital is exported are rather government-guaranteed loans for various kinds of public works, railroads, public utilities, exploitation of natural resources and trade. The activities and spheres to which capital is exported are such that they do not compete with commodity exports from the capital-exporting imperialist country. Capital export therefore leads to a very one-sided or lop-sided ‘development’ of the economies of backward countries. Though if at all a native bourgeoisie emerges, being tied in several ways to the imperialist bourgeoisie it is incapable of developing native industries on account of formidable obstacles. At the same time, the destruction of handicraft industry by cheap manufactured imports from imperialist countries drives a larger proportion of native population on to the land. The interests of broad masses of people are sacrificed to the needs of capital in imperialist countries. In brief, under monopoly capitalism the right conditions had been established for export of capital and all-round financial exploitation of the people of the world by a handful of imperialist states and their monopolies.
According to Lenin, this trend inevitably moves to the formation of international monopolies or super monopolies. The export of capital and the expansion of the foreign economic links and spheres of colonial influence of the biggest national monopolies, resulting in the internationalization of capital and economic relations, played a vast role in laying the foundations of the development of international monopolies. The first international monopolies had developed in the most highly concentrated branches of production in the 1860s to 1870s, but they became a typical feature of capitalism only at the turn of the century. Based on available figures, Lenin penetratingly analyzed their rise and showed that their formation and economic division of the world, was one of the most important features of imperialism. He noted 40 such international monopolies in 1897 whose number rose to roughly 100 in 1910. The outcome of the domination of these international monopolies is stagnation and decay. Monopolies cut production, limit trade and keep important scientific inventions and discoveries secret. The international unions of monopolists, Lenin said, actively push the governments of imperialist countries into military conflicts. Immediate post-world war I history has proved this evaluations of Lenin as correct when the international alliances of monopolies collaborated in putting Germany’s arms industry back on its feet thereby helping the ascendancy of fascism leading to World War II.
Imperialism and Colonies
Under imperialism, the issue of colonies has taken on a totally different significance from that under pre-monopoly capitalism. Colonies as subject territories existed long before imperialism. The colonial empires of imperial powers began to take shape as early as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But according to Lenin, colonial policy of capitalist imperialism under the domination of finance capital is qualitatively different compared with that of previous epochs. The fundamental change in colonial policy under imperialism was that the territorial division of the world was completed in this period, and a struggle for its re-division began, and also that the role of colonies had altered significantly compared with the days of pre-monopoly capitalism.
The territorial division of the world by the imperialist powers completed the formation of the colonial system of imperialism which meant the sum total of the relations by which millions of people in colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries were exploited and enslaved by a handful of imperialist states and monopolies arising there-from. Says Lenin: “Colonial possession alone gives the monopolies complete guarantee against all contingencies in the struggle against competitors, including the case of the adversary wanting to be protected by a law establishing a state monopoly.”
Transitional Forms of Colonial Relations
According to Lenin, colonialism or the colonisation process is not a static one. It is not only uneven, but also composed of several transitional forms. To quote him: “Since we are speaking of colonial policy in the epoch of capitalist imperialism, it must be observed that finance capital and its corresponding foreign policy, which reduces itself to the struggle of the Great powers for the economic and political division of the world, gives rise to a number of transitional forms of state dependence. Typical of this epoch is not only the two main groups of countries: those owning colonies, and colonies themselves but also the diverse forms of dependent countries which, officially, are politically independent, but in fact, are enmeshed in the net of financial and diplomatic dependence.”
Explaining the various transitional forms under colonization and depending on the extent of economic and political domination of imperialism on Afro-Asian-Latin American countries under colonization, Lenin characterized semi-colony as a transitional form or middle stage in the process. This transitional nature of colonial relations has been part of the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the colonial system of imperialism. Taking the case of China which was not wholly colonized by imperialist powers, Mao Tsetung has also noted this aspect very strikingly. In fact, colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries as transitional forms were not the only domination of finance capital under the colonial system of imperialism. Lenin had pointed out the case of Portugal, which though an erstwhile colonial power and a seemingly independent country presented a different relationship under colonialism. This type of complex, uneven and multidimensional relationships prevailed during the colonial period can be seen in the post World War II neocolonial phase too depending on the degree of neocolonisation to which countries are subjected.
Whatever be the forms of colonial dependence, the colonial system of imperialism served finance capital by providing markets for commodities, of acting as sources of raw materials, ensuring areas for the investment of capital, extending non-economic sources of revenue and making available theaters of military and strategic operations and as sources of recruits and reinforcements. Formation of world capitalist economy and the development of world market that started during pre-monopoly capitalism have led to more and more countries being drawn into its orbit leading to an internationalisation of capitalist relations. The superimposition of this internationalisation of capital on colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries undermined their economic self-sufficiency and established imperialist dominance over them.
According to Lenin, imperialism is a system of international economic relations and ties resulting in exploitation and enslavement of the peoples of colonies and dependent countries by a handful of powerful capitalist states; the domination of finance capital in all spheres of social and economic life; competitive struggle between monopoly bourgeoisie of various imperialist countries for domination over world economy; and struggle between imperialist states for re-division of the world. In brief, to the already existing antagonistic conditions of capitalist mode of production, imperialism added the specific contradictions of the world capitalism, namely, the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations and peoples and between imperialist states that exploit the peoples of colonial countries.
Emergence of USA as the Leading Imperialist Power and its Practice of Informal Colonialism
The transition from industrial capitalism to imperialism where finance capital dominates was also marked by the decline in the preeminence of Britain and the emergence of USA as the leading imperialist power, whose national economy was the world’s largest by the 1870s. The concentration and centralization of production and the growth of finance capital that marked the transformation of US as leading imperialist power took rapid strides since then. But the trajectory of US imperialist expansion was different compared with European imperialist powers. That is, American finance capital preferred a policy of informal or indirect colonialism in Latin America, in the Pacific and elsewhere in the absence of apparent territorial control. World War I waged for a re-division of the colonial possessions while led to a reshuffle of imperialist world economy, immensely strengthened the relative position of American finance capital vis-à-vis other imperialist powers and during the war itself America had become the leading world creditor and this financial power was interwoven with its growing political and military power. After October Revolution, American imperialism took the initiative to lead the anti-Bolshevik forces to recover the lost space, combat the rise of socialism and prevent the spread of revolutionary fervor to the capitalist world.
After World War I America was on a speculative boom while the rest of the capitalist world was in a recession. The counter part of this American boom was the growing deficit and debt burdens of European countries with inadequate reserves. As their debt burdens became heavier and ‘capital flight’ worsened, several of them suspended debt repayment to America, ushering in the worst-ever crisis in imperialist history. And by the late 1920s, led by US, the world entered into an unprecedented stagnation and depression, popularly called Great Economic Depression.
This world economic crisis that began in 1929 as the worst and most destructive in the history of capitalism for the first time exposed its vulnerability as a socio-economic system. It shook the very foundation of imperialist system itself. No part of the world where imperialist finance capital had penetrated could escape from the Depression. No nation, except Soviet Union escaped. Originated as an American phenomenon, the shock of this general collapse spread from imperialist centres to colonial regions.
No doubt, the source of this stagnation, idle capacity and unemployment, though inherent in capitalism in all stages of its developments, has become intense in the imperialist stage on account of the enormous power of monopolies to control wages and prices in their favour. Apart from the exploitation of working people at the level of production, the social consuming power of the toiling masses is further reduced through monopoly practices in the sphere of circulation, leading to greater concentration of income and wealth in the hands of the super-rich.
The ultimate cause of the crisis is this rigging of the whole system in favour of the financial oligarchs at the expense of the broad masses. At the political level, the Great Depression gave rise to economic nationalism and protectionism and encouragement to national chauvinism and fascist movements such as German Nazism, Italian Fascism, Austrian Fatherland Front, Rumanian Iron Guard, etc.
Advent of Keynesianism and Emergence of State Monopoly Capitalism
The Depression exposed not only the vulnerability of imperialist economic foundations but its ideological bankruptcy too. Keynesianism as a variant of bourgeois economics in its imperialist epoch evolved as a response to this. Keynesianism rejected the orthodoxy of laissez-faire economics and questioned the assertion held by bourgeois economists that unemployment and stagnation are temporary aberrations. Keynes vehemently attacked this view that upheld capitalism’s ability to adjust itself. According to Keynes, the laissez-faire mechanism was incapable to generate adequate “effective demand” and eliminate unemployment by itself. He was extremely concerned with excessive unemployment which might lead to social upheavals and revolution. Therefore, he suggested increase in both private and government investments as the decisive means of increasing the general level of employment. Instead of increasing the production of mass consumption goods, Keynes’ preference was for investments in heavy industry, especially arms production. In actual practice, what occurred was an attempt to stimulate the imperialist economy through militarization using Keynesian prescriptions. But the expansion of armaments industry advocated by Keynes could have been carried out only at the expense of the working people and curtailment of civilian production leading to a further lowering of consumption, growth of unemployment and deepening of economic crises. More precisely, arms production and militarization withdraw enormous material and labour from social production. As Marx said, military production and the maintenance of armed forces ultimately represent non-productive waste of part of the social product. The practical application of Keynesianism which called for a redefinition of the role of the capitalist state in the economy was the New Deal in America.
This was the background that led to the strengthening of what Lenin called state monopoly capitalism. According to Lenin, state monopoly capitalism combines the strength of monopolies and that of the imperialist state into a single mechanism whose purpose is to enrich the financial oligarchy, suppress the working class and toiling masses and launch aggressive wars to maintain the capitalist – imperialist system. Developments during World War I, the inter-war period, Great Economic Depression and World War II strengthened state monopoly capitalism further. The advent of Keynesianism and the emergence of Keynesian “welfare state” with its enlarged economic and social functions culminating in the repudiation of laissez-faire capitalism both at the theoretical and policy level found the culmination of this process. State monopoly capitalism has also become a convenient basis of fascism during the inter-war period. The expanding economic functions of the state and the centralization of capital which are characteristics of monopoly capitalism also favour the growth of fascism taking advantage of the social contradictions arising from stagnation and unemployment. The German fascists, for instance, called themselves as “national socialists” or Nazis.
‘Decolonisation’ and the transition to Neo-colonialism
In spite of the massive deficit financed injections to the economy by the New Deal, America was on the verge of another recession by 1938. It was World War II that infused a new lease of life to the stagnant American imperialism which gained the most from the war at the lowest cost. Though US formally entered the war only in 1941, the American economy had already become a war oriented one by the merger of the New Deal with the war efforts. American continent being not a war-scene during World War II, it was convenient for US to become the biggest supplier of not only arms, ammunitions and war materials but also food, agricultural and industrial goods to the war- torn international economy. While World War II ravaged the economies of all imperialist powers, for USA alone it provided an excellent opportunity to make effective utilization of resources and recover from a decade of depression. As already noted, during the first three years of World War II, even when it was not directly involved in war, production and export of agricultural and industrial products and weapons of mass destruction displayed manifold increase. And even after the direct US involvement in the war, its war-damages were the minimum as there was no fighting on American territory. As a result of these factors, the relative economic strength of USA grew substantially during the war. When World War II came to a close, the US accounted for almost half of the GDP of the capitalist world and about three quarters of the gold reserves of the world also moved into that country.
Even after becoming the de-facto leader of the imperialist world at the end of World War I, rather than territorial extension, the US emphasis was on the expansion of finance capital through economic penetration and prevention of the contraction of the imperialist system consequent on the formation of the socialist system outside capital’s orbit. Colonies, semi colonies and dependent countries being already adapted to the requirements of finance capital and the resources and markets of backward countries being intertwined with imperialist centres, what required was a continuation of their economic and financial dependency on the latter. At the same time, October Revolution and the formation of Soviet Union that inspired all the colonial and oppressed peoples was a threatening factor for the classical type of colonialism. That was why US imperialism, which could perfect the strategy of global plunder through finance capital and international monopolies without having direct territorial control over the colonial world, put forward a plan of continuing colonialism in a camouflaged manner. In fact, for years the US ruling classes had been practicing this policy throughout Latin America which was considered as its backyard. A more or less similar policy was applied in the case of Philippines on the pattern of Latin America. As such, even much before the formal entry in to World War II in December 1941, US imperialism had devised a project of Pax-Americana replacing Pax-Britannica, envisaging the complete blueprint of the required political, economic and military ingredients for the postwar world. It was based on this blueprint that both USA and Britain, the rising and eclipsing global hegemons respectively jointly released what is called the Atlantic Charter or Atlantic Treaty in August 1941. Atlantic Charter signified the new and expanded role of US as the organizer and leader of the world imperialist system. It also implied the main task of US as the defender of imperialism through achieving greater unity among capitalist-imperialist powers under its leadership. Only the US had the capacity to lead the imperialist system on account of its mature economic and military strength on the one hand, and the damage inflicted on rivals by the war on the other.
Thus Atlantic Charter by drawing the basic guidelines for the formal withdrawal of European powers from their erstwhile colonies—a process called decolonisation by bourgeois media—laid down the foundation for more intensified penetration of finance capital through neocolonisation. Under neocolonialism, while finance capital’s world domination and control over sources and raw materials, market for goods and spheres for export of capital continued unabated, the particular forms in which this domination works have become adapted to new conditions. The background of the evolution of these appropriate forms had already been laid down by US whose emergence as the leading imperialist country coincided with the transformation of capitalism into imperialism. And during the decades preceding World Ward II, US could perfect the strategy of world plunder through international monopolies without having direct territorial control over the colonial world. Meanwhile, the October Revolution and the formation of Soviet Union, as already noted, that inspired socialist and national liberation movements was a threatening factor for the classical type of colonialism. This necessitated the continuation of colonialism in a camouflaged manner and the outcome has been a new phase of imperialism called neo-colonialism led by USA after World War II.
This process was the outcome of the maturing of the specific features associated with US domination in the colonial period and its practice of informal colonialism, especially in Latin America that had prepared the setting for a major push forward in extending the hegemony of finance capital to the whole of Asia and Africa. In the process, formal political power was transferred to the comprador ruling classes in erstwhile colonies who were born and brought up under the fostering care of imperialist finance capital during the colonial period. The United States with its immense military and resource power, and to a lesser extent other powers too, took special interest in extending military and financial “aid” to these comprador ruling classes often backed up by direct and indirect interference in their internal affairs. On the whole, the post World War II phase of imperialism envisaged further penetration and intensified plunder of erstwhile colonial countries by imperialist finance capital. However, as manifested through the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 and the failure to correctly grasp the epoch-making developments then, the International Communist Movement failed to acknowledge the gravity of this transformation of colonialism to neocolonialism. The attempt to rectify this mistake by forming the Cominform in 1947, was short lived as Khrushchev dissolved it in 1956. Meanwhile, as the hegemonic power of capitalist-imperialist system the US took the initiative in devising the required international institutions and arrangements capable of undertaking the economic, political, military and cultural tasks of finance capital in the postwar neocolonial phase. The roots of this transformation lay deep in the colonial phase itself where the ascendancy of finance capital shifted power from captains of industry to financial giants, with US as the leading imperialist power despite not practicing ‘direct colonialism’.
Institutions and Methods of Neo-colonialism
America took the initiative for establishing a whole set of economic, political, military, cultural and intellectual institutions and arrangements as indispensable tools of neocolonisation. Under neocolonialism, in which economic, political and military spheres are inter-penetrating, and complex, the role of finance and financial institutions are of paramount importance. Therefore, in 1944 itself, when it was very clear that the Allied Powers were going to win the war, the US in alliance with UK convened an international conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire attended by 44 countries and established the Bretton Woods international monetary and development institutions namely, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank with American veto power for directing the Afro-Asian-Latin American countries along the neocolonial track. Both IMF and World Bank, the so-called Bretton Woods Sisters have been characterised as the economic arms of US in the neocolonial order. As active propagators of market ideology, both IMF and World Bank have always stood for the close integration of imperialist economy and free movement of finance capital. The US which was never prepared to subject itself to the disciplines of any international body in its entire history, took the initiative to establish the Bretton Woods institutions with the intention of shaping the post-war neocolonial economic order in its favour. An essential component of the Bretton Woods agreement was the acceptance of US dollar as the international currency for the postwar neocolonial order. To have an international trading system free from protectionism and restrictive trade policies, an agreement was reached to form the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1948 to move towards a regime of liberalized trade through negotiations. It came out to be called the “rich men’s club” as it fully served the trade interests of imperialist powers.
The Bretton Woods system with dollar as the vehicle currency and America as world’s banker immensely facilitated the export of finance capital by America and provided US financial monopolies an unparalleled opportunity to extend their neocolonial plunder. As the issuing country of dollar, US could print any amount of dollars and purchase goods and services or export capital to any part of the world. With dollars, the American monopolies could purchase those goods which it wanted and brought up the most profitable enterprises and established control over scarce natural resources including oil in neocolonial countries. The huge expenditures required for financing the Marshall Plan, neocolonial aid programs such as that under PL 480 and military adventures such as Vietnam war were also financed out of the printing of dollar. As long as the rest of the world including governments, central banks, and financial institutions are willing to accept dollar as international money and governments are willing to keep their reserves in dollars, the printing of dollars could continue unabated.
Parallel to the Bretton Woods system in the economic sphere, at the political level, as envisaged in the Atlantic Charter, in the place of the defunct League of Nations, the United Nations System incorporating numerous neocolonial provisions was established. It was the United Nations Conference on International Organisation held in 1945 at San Francisco representing 50 countries that the United Nations Charter was drawn up. By June 26, 1945, the Charter was signed by 50 countries including Soviet Union. In course of time, the UN, its Specialized Agencies, Functional and Regional Commissions became effective weapons in the neocolonisation process. The heads or CEOs of the various UN umbrella organizations, institutions, commissions and agencies from the very beginning were either experts recruited from imperialist countries themselves or are faithful compradors from neocolonial countries trained in imperialist institutions and schools, especially that of USA. More often the UN agencies and institutions had to function as cover organizations for American neocolonial penetration.
Neo-colonialism is in no way less militaristic than colonialism. As elucidated in the Truman Doctrine, the main thrust of American militarization in the neocolonial phase has been the “containment “ of Soviet Union and socialist countries through close alliance with other imperialist powers and through control over comprador regimes in neocolonial countries. The establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency by the National Security Act of 1947 under Truman as the “formulator, implementer and manipulator of US foreign policy” has been also a part of this neocolonial offensive by US imperialism. The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on April 4, 1949 with its headquarters at Brussels, Belgium along with the signing of SEATO and CENTO and the establishment world wide military bases were aimed at warding off the communist threat to finance capital. The replacement of Pax Britannica by Pax Americana was marked by a dramatic expansion in US military presence across the globe. For instance, in the 1920s, in spite of being the leading economic power, US armed forces were stationed in only three countries abroad. During World War II 39 countries had US military presence. By the mid-sixties American armed forces could be seen in 64 countries. Official statistics put a four-fold growth in imperialist militarization in the neocolonial period relative to the colonial era within a span of a quarter century. This militarization including the greater sophistication of weaponry and growing share of military spending in the federal budget are all inseparably linked with the emergence of “military – industrial complex”, in close integration with financial oligarchs and MNCs.
MNCs are the highest form of internationalization of finance capital and the main economic bastion of neocolonialism. The transformation of ‘international monopolies’ of the colonial period into MNCs in the post-war period is to be analysed with respect to the changed conditions of capital expansion in the neocolonial phase of imperialism. ‘Decolonization’ and territorial withdrawal from colonies coupled with the contraction of the imperialist sphere on account of national liberation movements and advance of socialism in the immediate post World War II period along with narrow national markets in imperialist countries have prompted finance capital to devise new methods for intensified export of capital and goods on an international scale. The new wave of scientific and technical revolution and its application in production, machine goods, transportation and communication immensely facilitated the development of MNCs. During World War II and after, this technological revolution necessitated a concentration of capital on an unprecedented scale. This led to an enormous productive capacity in each line of production which required new markets for sale and realization of profits. In the place of the erstwhile international monopolies which functioned based on the monopoly in any one imperialist country, extensive chains of production and sale including the establishment of banks at a global level were indispensable for this. The formation of MNCs and their international operations thus served as the institutional arrangements for minimizing cost and maximizing profit by finance capital even in the absence of direct control over colonies. No doubt, the seeds of this change were already sown along with the transformation of capitalism into imperialism when the spectacular concentration of economic power in giant corporations and financial institutions and consequent internationalization of capital had taken place, especially in USA. And with the replacement of other imperialist powers by the US after World War II, this logically led to the rapid spread first of US monopolies as MNCs at a global level. The power of MNCs and their role as the main pillar of neocolonialism must also be understood in relation to the overall political, economic and military conditions created by US led imperialism in the neocolonial phase. For, MNCs are a product of imperialism in the era of state monopoly capitalism. Along with the close integration of MNCs with imperialist states, they are also flourishing in close inter-relationship with the international state monopoly institutions and arrangements perfected by US led imperialism as essential tools of neocolonisation. At the outset itself, global operations of MNCs were facilitated by and intertwined with all the neocolonial institutions and arrangements such as the IMF, World Bank, GATT, Marshall Plan, various “aid” programs, international agreements on raw materials and minerals, economic conferences, military programs espionage agencies such as CIA, “regional” banks such as Inter-American Development Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, trade agreements, regional economic blocs, UN institutions, funding agencies, international NGO networks and so on. Along with the integration with imperialist states, MNCs’ association with comprador regimes and neocolonial financial institutions has facilitated the global spread of imperialist capital. Mainly two forms of capital export, namely, portfolio investments and foreign direct investments (FDI) are pursued by the MNCs. Portfolio investments consist of capital exports in the form of holding of transferable shares, securities or debentures by MNCs, where while ownership of capital remains with the capital exporter, in principle control and management are said to be with the “host country”. Generally, foreign direct investment (FDI) has been the attractive route for the global expansion of MNCs. Usually, FDI assumes different forms: i) Formation of a concern in the host country in which the MNCs has a majority share. ii) Establishment of a company in the capital importing country that is fully financed and owned by MNCs. iii) Creation of a subsidiary of MNCs in foreign countries. iv) The setting up of an autonomous corporation in host countries by MNCs v) The creation of fixed assets in the capital importing country by MNCs. Whichever forms this capital export assume, these concerns come under the centralized management and control of MNCs and transnational banks located in imperialist countries.
Neo-colonialism in Practice
During the quarter century immediately following World War II, on account of the presence of socialism and national liberation movements, US led imperialism had to pursue the neocolonial plunder under the camouflage of international Keynesianism. During this period, even while the global expansion of capital and its multi-dimensional penetration into neocolonial countries had been strengthening, the slogans of import substitution, state led development, public sector, welfare state were profusely used to hoodwink the masses. Keynesianism provided the umbrella for the accumulation of significant share of wealth in the state treasury through progressive taxation and deficit financing and the setting up of essential infrastructures for the smooth and risk-free functioning of corporate capital. An impression of “crisis-free capitalism” was also created prompting imperialist theoreticians to characterize this period as the “golden age” of capitalism. Meanwhile, for the penetration of finance capital into neocolonial agriculture, led by the World Bank, USAID, and Rockefeller-Ford foundations propped comprador regimes in neocolonial countries to pursue Green Revolution which enabled agribusiness MNCs to completely monopolize the input-output markets for agriculture. In the place of the erstwhile feudal classes who served as the social base of imperialism in the colonial period, through Green Revolution imperialism took particular attention to build up a comprador agricultural bourgeois class imbibed with the ideology and technology of commercial agriculture in Asian-African –Latin American countries as a firm ally in neocolonial plunder. The consequent restructuring of land relations including the abolition of feudal relations led to a further concentration of land in new landlord classes on the one hand, and unprecedented landlessness and pauperization of the peasantry, the real tillers of the soil on the other.
However, the Keynesian medicine applied in the specific international context conditioned by a whole set of factors, though created an apparent golden age for about a quarter century, could not overcome the inherent logic of finance capital which, as identified by Lenin, is stagnation and speculative parasitism. The unhindered printing and pumping of dollar and the consequent financial expansion and speculative tendencies which are inherent in the neocolonial phase have led to new problems. In the initial years of postwar boom, this financial expansion was accompanied by increase in production, but later the financial growth began to overtake that of output growth leading to what is called stagflation-stagnation in production and abundance of money supply or inflation. In other words, the Keynesian medicine of inflationary financing of chronic stagnation that began in the 1930s with the New Deal has broken out in the 1970s as another incurable crisis resulting in the abandonment of Keynesianism itself. The abolition of dollar convertibility into gold and the collapse of Bretton Woods monetary system based on dollar was an essential component of this imperialist crisis.
This necessitated a change in the neocolonial accumulation process since the seventies. The constraints of Keynesian state intervention had been a hindrance to the accumulation of wealth through unfettered financial speculation. Taking advantage of the ideological setbacks suffered by the working class at the international level, starting with Thatcherism and Reaganomics, imperialist finance capital undertook a major restructuring program since the 1980s called neoliberalism or monetarism. The essential components of this neoliberal accumulation process are: 1. A deindustrialization process or the destruction of several areas of manufacturing industry and a neo-conservative attack on the working class leading to unprecedented unemployment and underemployment which has come to be characterized as “jobless growth.” 2. A new international division of labour called post-Fordism or flexible specialization that made use of the new developments in transportation, communication, information and processing technologies enabling MNCs to reap superprofits by involving the cheapest source of labour through outsourcing thereby abysmally reducing wage rates. 3. The development of financial methods and instruments as new avenues of speculative finance. In brief, under neoliberalism, the driving force of accumulation has shifted from the sphere of production to the sphere of financial speculation.
Neoliberalism or monetarism has been a further strengthening of neocolonial plunder through the processes of financial deregulation, fiscal retrenchment, trade liberalization and privatization by which the erstwhile developmental role of the state has been transformed into that of a facilitator. Downsizing and rollback of the state and departure from Keynesianism on the one hand, and usurpation of neoliberalism and unfettered cross border speculative financial flows on the other are facilitated by the penetrating role played by the synchronized operations of IMF and World Bank and the advent of a new international organization called World Trade Organisation as the neoliberal pillar of neocolonialism on the other. Neocolonial countries were asked to skip over the period of protectionist policies of import substitution and pursue a policy of export orientation by throwing open their economies for free trade and uninterrupted flows of speculative finance capital. A whole set of free trade zones, export processing zones, especial economic zones with preferential tax, tariff, labour, and environmental exemptions and extra-territorial powers to corporate capital have come into being. The extension of the principle of cross-conditionality practiced by IMF and World Bank to WTO and their synchronized operations prying open everything encompassing agriculture, industry and service sectors of neocolonial countries have enabled imperialism to the total subjugation of whatever left of sovereignty in them to the dictates of finance capital.
Crisis of Neo-colonialism
Today, under neoliberalism, the neocolonial accumulation process has become a terribly destructive force in the world economy. During the Keynesian period, while financial expansion had moved more or less in tandem with production and employment, under imperialist globalization there emerged a clear dichotomy between the financial and the real economy and financial expansion started gearing itself for self-expansion through unhindered speculation. While earlier financial expansion was feeding on a productive economy, today it is a global speculative bubble thriving on a stagnant economy and the sphere of finance tends to dominate over the productive sectors of the economy including agriculture and industry. The immediate roots of the explosive growth of finance can be traced to the deregulation of the entire financial system based on the free-market ideology of monetarism that replaced Keynesianism since the 1970s. The desire on the part of finance capitalists who control the production of goods and services to deregulate financial markets is prompted by the declining profit rate in the real economy, which is inherent in capitalist production relations. On account of the antagonistic conditions of distribution, the consuming or purchasing power of the masses at the given level of prices is not sufficient enough to guarantee the rate of profit satisfactory to the capitalists. Therefore, the MNCs and corporate giants who control the means of production have little interests to expand the production of mass consumption goods. Doing so would be contrary to the logic or rationality of capitalism. The easiest way on the part of capitalism which is guided by the pursuit of highest returns within the shortest time to overcome this hurdle is to invest in financial assets. However, there is a limit to the profit that can be made from the traditional type of financial activity including commercial banking that goes hand in hand with the productive economy. The deregulation of the financial system and the invention of new financial devices and instruments to carry on the neocolonial accumulation in an intensified manner become relevant here. It comprised a reorganization and restructuring of both the spheres of production including casualisation of workforce and circulation such that accumulation of wealth was increasingly separated from the creation of value. This speeded up the process of financialisation such that the bubble economy of finance has become several times larger than the real economy of production, with major implications for the stability of the whole imperialist system. However, this process of casualisation of workers and toiling masses and pauperizing them on the one hand, and financialisation and enrichment of the financial oligarchs on the other cannot continue smoothly on account of the inherent contradictions of the capitalist imperialist system,. This is reflected in the irreversible crisis confronting the neocolonial world order today.
The massive transfer of public funds for boosting up the asset position of the speculative giants who themselves are responsible for the crisis has other ramifications. It aggravates the already worsened fiscal position of the state and further increases public debt. Thus huge debt accumulation becomes a justification for the biggest-ever slash in state spending on social and welfare services in tune with the diktats of “fiscal fundamentalism” imposed by IMF and World Bank and other neocolonial agencies, and severe assaults on the living conditions of workers and oppressed peoples. Consequently, as already noticed, the purchasing power and consumption levels of the broad masses of people are going down, while the most unproductive, conspicuous consumption by the parasitic financial oligarchy grows leaps and bounds. At a global level all these have enforced a redistribution of wealth and income from the neocolonial countries to the imperialist powers and from the poor and the oppressed to the rich and the oppressors in general. The implications of this crisis engineered by finance capital are manifold including unprecedented price rise arising from the subjection of everything to speculation, corruption which is directly associated with the decay and parasitism associated with speculative finance capital, hitherto unknown levels of unemployment and underemployment, horrific ecological crisis which is directly linked with neoliberal accumulation, and so on.
India a Typical Neo-colonial Country
During the colonial period, British imperialism had brought up the comprador big bourgeoisie, the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and feudal forces as its faithful allies. Being born and brought up under the protective umbrella and fostering care of British finance capital in its decadent stage, these forces had been faithfully serving imperialism in a comprador capacity. Historically incapable of developing into an independent class, the Indian big bourgeoisie preferred to evolve as a sub-exploiter under the umbrella of the ‘managing agency system’ devised by British finance capitalists. In spite of the relative flexibility exhibited by British imperialism toward the development of Indian industry in the post World War I period, except in certain consumer goods like textiles and sugar, in general, the Indian big bourgeoisie was reluctant to enter capital goods industries. As a result, the uneven and lopsided industrial structure continued without much change. Even in the consumer goods sector, the dependence on imperialist capital and technology was conspicuous, and the Indian big bourgeoisie was satisfied with its role as a junior partner of imperialism. In course of time, emulating the British managing agency system, leading Indian business houses also set up their own managing agencies which were more inclined to speculation in the shares of companies and gambling activities. By the time of global decolonization led by US imperialism in the forties, the alliance among the comprador bourgeoisie, comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and feudal forces strengthened and developed to the level of exerting pressure on the British colonial masters to have a share in the Indian plunder appropriated by them. In the background of the ‘decolonisation’ process, in 1944, the leading figures of Indian big bourgeoisie had evolved a future guide line for India’s development entitled “A Plan of Economic Development of India”, popularly known as Bombay Plan or Tata-Birla plan. It envisaged to convince the colonial masters the possibility of a government within the framework of colonial rue for the successful implementation of the program of economic development based on Keynesian prescriptions.
While the transfer of power to Indian ruling classes by British imperialism had been the outcome of a well-thought out neocolonial strategy for continuing imperialist plunder in new form, rather than making any serious evaluation of it, the June 1947 Resolution of the Central Committee of CPI came to the hasty characterization of the Mountbatten Plan as an opening up of “new opportunities for national advance”. Subsequently, it was based on the Cominform Resolution of September 1947 that in December 1947 the CPI took the position that “the Mountbatten agreement was an abject surrender and a final capitulation on the part of the Indian leadership”. It characterized the government that formed as one of “collaborators” and in the state thus emerged, it was the “imperialist feudal-bourgeois combine” that held power. This position was later endorsed in the Political Thesis adopted by the Second Congress of CPI held in 1948. The Party Program formulated under the guidance of Stalin and adopted by the CPI in 1951 reflected these positions. It was with the advent of Khruschevian revisionism that a turn around took place, following which in the Fourth Congress of CPI held in 1956 the unscientific formulation of “political independence of India” was recognized. With the strengthening of revisionism in Soviet Union and the further rightist deviation of the CPI and later the CPI (M), this opportunist and ahistorical approach to power transfer got further stabilized, and even leading Soviet indologists had become ardent supporters of the “Nehru’s non-capitalist line.”
Two centuries of colonial rule had transformed India in to a classical colony which acted as a source of raw materials, a market for finished goods and a destination of capital export by imperialist powers. However, this does not mean to say that the entire social formation or the ‘mode of production’ was in an ossified or rigid pattern. As a result of the long years of colonial and imperialist onslaughts, the whole structure of the economy after deviating from its natural course of development was becoming distorted by imposed conditions. While feudalism continued as the dominant mode of production in the country-side, the increasing integration of the country with imperialist market, though prevented an independent capitalist development of the classical pattern, could substantially alter the feudal mode of localized production and localized appropriation. Rapid strides in commodity production in consonance with the requirements of both export-oriented and domestic market oriented cash crop agriculture started altering the feudal and semi-feudal mode of production in the country-side. Its striking ramification was the entry of capitalist relations in agriculture and the massive displacement of poor peasants that swelled the ranks of landless poor peasantry including agricultural workers as the largest section of rural population. To be precise, while the long drawn out process of colonisation transformed into neocolonisation in the 1940s, like the other colonial, semicolonial and dependent countries, India also became a neo-colonial country.
After brutally suppressing the Telengana peasant struggle and ruling out any fundamental change in land relations based on land-to-the-tiller principle, the Nehru government resorted to certain cosmetic changes in land relations such as zamindari abolition on the one hand and used the services of American Agricultural Mission, Ford Foundation’s Community Development Program, and Bhoodan Movement. Zamindari abolition acts enabled the parasitic sections including zamindars to shed their role as ‘intermediaries’ between the peasants and the State and become land owners with permanent and heritable rights in land paving the way for the emergence of a new and dominant class of agricultural bourgeoisie who acted as the social base for launching the neocolonial agrarian strategy of Green Revolution since the 1960s. The Nehruvian model of development was the Indian version of international Keynesianism. The historical context that prompted comprador Indian ruling classes to adhere to the Nehruvian strategy of ‘state led development’ till the neoliberal period was the same that compelled US led imperialism to resort to a policy of Keynesian welfare state till the 1970s. Under the cover of ‘import-substitution industrialization’ and public sector that created an apparent posture of ‘self-reliance’, it was possible and inevitable for foreign capital to penetrate the high tariff walls and protection created in the name of the so called ‘inward looking industrialization’. In all respects, the Nehruvian model was fully within the framework of the neocolonial strategy of Keynesian state-led, import-substitution policies enforced at a global level.
Meanwhile, the policy of “economic aid” and the various arrangements associated with it enabled US imperialism through the Bretton Woods institutions to penetrate in to the core of Indian economic policy making and directly influence plan priorities. It also gave US imperialism a definite score over Soviet Union in the Cold War in establishing its firm foothold in strategic sectors of India. Various militant struggles including the Naxalbari peasant uprising that appeared in the late 1960s compelled Indira Gandhi to revamp the Nehruvian populist mask once again even while abjectly surrendering to imperialism. The rhetoric on the need for reformist land reforms including issues like the security of tenure but wholly excluding the fundamental question of ‘land to the tiller’, became frequent during this period. To hoodwink the masses the government of Indira Gandhi also resorted to a series of much trumpeted legislations including her slogan of ‘garibi hatao’ to cover up the blemish arising from rupee devaluation, dilution of 1956 Industrial Policy and above all opening up of agriculture to the penetration of imperialist finance capital through green revolution. As a result, laws pertaining to the abolition of Privy Purses to the erstwhile feudal kings, nationalization of banks (1969), Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act, Patent Act (1970) and Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) 1973, came into the statute books. Ironically, as an objective evaluation of the period shows, imperialism’s neocolonisation of India was much faster during and after these legislations. After the fascistic and ultra reactionary days of Internal Emergency, while coming again to power in 1980, Indira Gandhi not only reversed all her earlier populist postures but also led the country to the IMF tutelage accepting all the structural adjustment conditionalities demanded by IMF in return for a huge External Fund Facility loan in 1981.
With the advent of Rajiv Gandhi in mid-eighties and the proclamation of ‘New Economic Policy’ in 1986 heralded the final abandonment of concepts like ‘self-reliance’ and import substitution to be replaced by the catchwords of ‘export promotion’, “modernization”, etc. With an eye on India’s flourishing middle class market, utilizing the liberal industrial policy of Rajiv Gandhi, MNCs rushed to the production of a whole range of durable consumer goods which prompted several academic economists, and comprador intellectuals to characterize the 1980s as a ‘decade of industrial development’. In accordance with the nature of export-oriented, consumer durable production during the eighties the increasing foreign investment was leading to repetitive imports of obsolete foreign technology by Indian subsidiaries and affiliates of MNCs at a heavy cost to India. These capital and technology imports were not designed to serve the socio-economic priorities such as employment generation and increase in the real incomes of the people. As a result of these inflows of foreign capital, in addition to the usual out-payments in the form of loyalty, know how fee, managerial expenses dividend, profit, etc. harmful transfer pricing practices associated with obsolete technology became a major form of neocolonial plunder during this period.Under the extremely liberalized profit repatriation facilities available in the eighties, MNCs could take out their entire amount of capital investment through profits within a short span of one to one-and-a-half years. The American MNCs could repatriate the whole amount invested within a year as the average ratio of profits to paid-up capital towards the second half of the eighties was hovering around 100 percent. A notable feature of the 1980s at the international level, a trend that strengthened since then has been the decline in the share of “official aid” and growth in commercial borrowings, the repayment of which is ensured by IMF and World Bank conditionalities. This shift was perfectly in tune with the demise of Keynesianism and rollback of the state on the one hand, and the ascendancy of neoliberalism with its concomitant deregulation of international finance and its free mobility across countries on the other. As a result, the comprador Indian regime also went in for massive commercial borrowings from transnational banks and various other foreign exchange sources at exorbitantly high interest rates, leading to the debt crisis of the late 1980s.
The domestic repercussions of this intensified neocolonial plunder in the eighties were a further deepening of the socio-economic crisis that the country had been facing. The so called ‘industrial growth’ in the eighties was confined to the consumer boom industries and it has nothing to do with the substantial area of manufacturing sector. On the other hand, this period witnessed an unprecedented growth in the number of the so called ‘sick industrial units’ in India, which was the outcome of a deliberate policy of ‘deindustrialization’ involving low capacity utilization in the existing industries. In the guise export-oriented industrialization, several areas of traditional industries and manufacturing were neglected. As the same time, highly capital intensive and labour-saving repetitive collaboration agreements with MNCs resulting in all pervasive automation and computerization that spread to railways, banks and factories led to retrenchments along with “golden handshakes” as regular phenomena in the eighties. During the eighties, except the north western region of the country including Haryana, Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh, food grain production and agricultural productivity actually went down. Studies made by concerned economists have shown how official figures depicting high growth rates for certain states in the eighties were just a “statistical illusion”. The new agricultural technologies resulted in concentration of land and income in a wealthy minority of labour hiring rich peasant class while the majority of the lowest rung failed to reach even poverty level income.
In the beginning of 1990s when the balance of payments problem became acute on account of accelerated flight of foreign exchange from India engineered by currency speculators, the IMF and World Bank directly intervened in India by superimposing Manmohan Singh who pioneered Rajiv Gandhi’s New Economic Policy in 1986 as the finance minister and the architect of imperialist globalization the essence of which is to ensure maximum profit for speculative finance capital that freely moves across countries. Two decades of this neoliberal program have brought about a basic alteration in economic policy—change in the role of the state from that of an initiator of economic activities to a facilitator of corporate capital and speculative market forces in every sphere of the economy encompassing agriculture, industry and services. The details of this process including its harmful repercussions are already well-known and are being widely discussed.
Marxist-Leninist Approach to Neo-colonialism
When imperialism led by USA was initiating the neo-colonization process which according to the CPC was a more “pernicious and sinister” form of colonialism, the then International Communist Movement failed to make a concrete evaluation of this epoch-making transformation in the 1940s. The Comintern was dissolved in June 1943. The Cominform formed in 1947 as a political response to Truman’s neocolonial machinations such as the Marshall Plan though organized powerful resistance against the Anglo-American imperialism’s gamble for a “new world order” as the primary task of communist parties. But with the ascendancy of Khrushchovian revisionism camouflaging the intensified penetration of finance capital and white washing neocolonialism there was an attempt to portray colonialism as a thing of the past. Later, in the early sixties, it was as part of the ideological struggle initiated by the CPC led by Mao Zedong against Khrushchovian revisionism, the emphasis was given to the heinous neocolonial plunder of Afro-Asian-Latin American countries by imperialists led by USA. However, in spite of its inspiring formulation on neocolonialism, with the advent of left sectarianism, this understanding on neocolonialism could not be carried forward. Several M-L parties influenced by sectarianism also refused to use neo-colonialism as a historical category. Though several scholars have put forward varying interpretations ranging from dependency theory and various postmodern approaches to mode of production theories, the core of Lenin’s theorization on the evolution of finance capital and its inseparable link with the internationalization of capital are missing in them. In this context neocolonialism is to be understood as the very process of capital accumulation in the post World War II period. It is the concentration of power of finance capital in its mutually interpenetrating economic, political, military, and cultural forms. In this context, a concrete evaluation of the neocolonial phase of imperialism based on Leninist positions and the development of Marxist theory further is indispensable for the revolutionary advance of the proletariat and oppressed peoples of the world. n
Minimum Essential Reading
1) Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party
2) Marx, Capital, Vol.1, 2 and 3
3) Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
4) Marx and Engels, On Colonialism (Collection of Articles written during 1850 and 1888)
5) Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
6) Stalin, Leninism
7) Great Debate
8) Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Vol.1, 3 and 5
9) The Marxist-Leninist (Various Issues)
10) Geoffrey Pilling, The Crisis of Keynesian Economics: A Marxist View
11) M Sweezy, Modern Capitalism and Other Essays
12) Samir Amin, Capitalism in the Age of Globalisation
13) P J James, Imperialism in the Neocolonial PhasePJ James
It is important to become familiar with a basic knowledge of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought for every class conscious worker and especially for party members and activists. In our party documents we clearly state that our Ideological basis is Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought. Let us start with Marxism.
What is Marxism?
As stated by Emile Burns in his book “What is Marxism” in 1939 :
Marxism is a general theory of the world in which we live, and of human society as a part of that world. It takes its name from Karl Marx (1818-1883), who, together with Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), worked out the theory during the middle and latter part of last century.
They set out to discover why human society is what it is, why it changes, and what further changes are in store for mankind. Their studies led them to the conclusion that these changes – like the changes in external nature – are not accidental, but follow certain laws. This fact makes it possible to work out a scientific theory of society, based on the actual experience of men, as opposed to the vague notions about society which used to be (and still are) put forward – notions associated with religious beliefs, race and hero-worship, personal inclinations or utopian dreams.
Marx applied this general idea to the society in which he lived – mainly capitalist Britain – and worked out the economic theory of capitalism by which he is most widely known. But he always insisted that his economic theories could not be separated from his historical and social theories. Profits and wages can be studied up to a certain point as purely economic problems; but the student who sets out to study real life and not abstractions soon realises that profits and wages can only be fully understood when employers and workers are brought into the picture; and these in turn lead on to a study of the historical stage in which they live.
The scientific approach to the development of society is based, like all science, on experience, on the facts of history and of the world around us. Therefore Marxism is not a completed, finished theory. As history unfolds, as man gathers more experience, Marxism is constantly being developed and applied to the new facts that have come to light. The most out standing of these developments, since the death of Marx and Engels, have been made by V. I. Lenin (1870-1924), and by Joseph Stalin, who has continued Lenin’s work in building up the new socialist society in Russia.
We may add that subsequently, Mao Dze Dong, the leader of the Chinese revolution also made similar outstanding developments of Marxism. There are three component parts of Marxism. The first is the philosophy. This is materialism in general and dialectical materialism in particular. The main departure of Marxism from all the previous materialist schools is dialectical materialism and historical materialism. The ideas of Marx and Engels on materialism are best expounded in Engels’ Ludwig Fuerbach and Anti-Duhring. As Stalin wrote in his leaflet “Dialectical and Historical Materialism”
Dialectical materialism is the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method of studying and apprehending them, is dialectical, while its interpretation of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory, is materialistic.
Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history.
And further in the same leaflet,
Contrary to idealism, which regards the world as the embodiment of an “absolute idea,” a “universal spirit,” “consciousness,” Marx’s philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multifold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdependence of phenomena as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a “universal spirit.”
“The materialistic outlook on nature,” says Engels, “means no more than simply conceiving nature just as it exists, without any foreign admixture.” (Marx and Engels, Vol. XIV, p. 651.)
Speaking of the materialist views of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who held that “the world, the all in one, was not created by any god or any man, but was, is and ever will be a living flame, systematically flaring up and systematically dying down”’ Lenin comments: “A very good exposition of the rudiments of dialectical materialism.” (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p. 318.)
And again in the same leaflet
Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes.
The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a “struggle” of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions.
“In its proper meaning,” Lenin says, “dialectics is the study of the contradiction within the very essence of things.” (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p. 265.)
“Development is the ‘struggle’ of opposites.” (Lenin, Vol. XIII, p. 301.)
Such, in brief, are the principal features of the Marxist dialectical method.
The second component of Marxism is Marxist political economy . As Lenin put it in The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism’
Classical political economy, before Marx, evolved in England, the most developed of the capitalist countries. Adam Smith and David Ricardo, by their investigations of the economic system, laid the foundations of the labour theory of value. Marx continued their work; he provided a proof of the theory and developed it consistently. He showed that the value of every commodity is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour time spent on its production.
Where the bourgeois economists saw a relation between things (the exchange of one commodity for another) Marx revealed a relation between people. The exchange of commodities expresses the connection between individual producers through the market. Money signifies that the connection is becoming closer and closer, inseparably uniting the entire economic life of the individual producers into one whole. Capital signifies a further development of this connection: man’s labour-power becomes a commodity. The wage-worker sells his labour-power to the owner of land, factories and instruments of labour. The worker spends one part of the day covering the cost of maintaining himself and his family (wages), while the other part of the day he works without remuneration, creating for the capitalist surplus-value, the source of profit, the source of the wealth of the capitalist class.
The doctrine of surplus-value is the corner-stone of Marx’s economic theory.
The third is the doctrine of the class struggle leading to socialism. Other utopian socialists like Saint Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, had damned capitalist society, had dreamed of its destruction and had preached to the rich of the immorality of their exploitation. However, Marx and Engels, for the first time proposed, as they said in The Communist Manifesto “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”. In this they analysed the rise of capitalism and the need for its destruction to advance human society. As Engels has explained in Socialism : Utopian and Scientific Marx liberated the theory of socialism from its utopian origins and placed it firmly on a scientific basis.
To expound further on the each of the three component parts
Laws of Dialectics
Engels, in Dialectics of Nature has put forward the laws of dialectics as follows
It is, therefore, from the history of nature and human society that the laws of dialectics are abstracted. For they are nothing but the most general laws of these two aspects of historical development, as well as of thought itself. And indeed they can be reduced in the main to three:
The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa;
The law of the interpenetration of opposites;
The law of the negation of the negation.
Every phenomenon, whether natural or social has two opposite aspects within itself (the thesis and the antithesis – as Hegel called them). These aspects are also constantly changing, increasing or decreasing in quantity. At a certain stage, the increase or decrease in quantity leads to a change in the most fundamental characteristics of the phenomenon – and leads to the synthesis.
The world, it is now proved, was formed from the “Big Bang”, the growth of contradictions in a “singularity”. Chemicals themselves “synthesised” from the most common and basic atoms to more and more complex molecules, leading to the formation of DNA – or life. Life struggled in hostile environments and through the principle of “survival of the fittest” developed into higher and higher forms till the formation of humankind. “Survival of the fittest” itself consists of mutation and adaptation which is nothing but a concrete manifestation of the principles of dialectics. Therefore, the findings and theories of Darwin gave a great fillip to the philosophy of dialectical materialism. Many modern discoveries like De Broglie’s showing that waves and particles are basically two aspects of the same phenomenon, Einstein’s showing that matter and energy are nothing but two aspects of the same phenomenon and even the recent discovery of the Higg’s Boson (mischievously called the God particle) which is the particle which signifies the wave field which gives mass to any matter, are clear justifications of the principles of dialectics. As dialecticians we are scientists, we study science not only to find justification of dialectics but also to further enrich and develop the principles of dialectics through science and scientific observations.
Marx and Engels applied the laws of dialectics to human society also. In “Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State” basing on the recent findings of Morgan and others, who had done much honest observation to advance anthropology, Engels shows clearly how it was the struggle to survive that moulded human society. He showed how the first fight of humankind was with nature and how, when man was able achieve a degree of control over nature, he started being able to create surplus production, which lead to classes, family, private property, the state and slavery. They therefore said, as mentioned above, that the hitherto history of human society was the history of class struggle. They looked upon history not as a series of dates for births and deaths of Kings and for wars but instead concentrated on the underlying reasons for the wars and for why the kings ruled as they did. They were able to show that there is a clear progression in different parts of the world from primitive communism to slavery to the feudal system to capitalism, though the particular characteristics of any of the modes of production may have differed in different regions due to historical and geographical particularities. Even before them, historians like Giambattista Vico, etc had put forward the materialist conception of history that history was not formed by Kings and great people but that it was the struggle between different sections that led to the unfolding of history. However, for the first time, they were able to put this materialist conception of history on a firm scientific basis As Marx wrote in the Preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”
“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production.”
Marxist Political Economy
Marx was not the first to postulate the “labour theory of value”. He was not the first to say that all value is created by human labour. He can be seen as having taken the “labour theory of value” that all value is created by labour from the “classical” economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Adam Smith and Ricardo had developed the labour theory of value to point out how the market under “free” conditions would regulate the production in society with a self-correcting mechanism which Adam Smith called the “Hidden hand”.
However, before Marx’s time, many economists, calling themselves the “neo-classical” school, like Marshall and Senior had put forward the theory that it was not labour alone which created value. It was a combination of the labour of the worker and the “sacrifice” of the capitalist that created value. The worker received the worth of his labour as wages and the capitalist received profits for his sacrifice!
Marx debunked this theory and reaffirmed the “labour theory of value”. He refined and developed it by innovations like the concept of “socially necessary labour time” to measure labour. But the main contribution of Marx in Political Economy was to show the difference between “labour” and “labour power”.
Marx showed that the value created by the labour of the factory worker was much greater than the amount paid to him as wages. He explained this by postulating that under capitalism, even labour power became a commodity to be bought in the market. The worker or the proletariat had nothing to sell but his labour power. He sold it to the capitalist, at a price, as any other commodity in capitalism, which approximated its cost of production. This was the workers wage. Thus the wage was the cost of production of the workers labour power, ie the cost of his food, shelter, clothing, medicines, etc (as was socially necessary).
On the other hand, what the worker produced with his labour was the property of the capitalist. This was much greater than the cost of production of labour power. The difference between the value of the labour of the worker and the value of his labour-power was called surplus value. This gave rise to profits.
He also showed that in capitalism, capital also became a commodity and one could buy capital (which was nothing but dead congealed labour), in the market. Thus if a particular profit was offering a lesser rate of profit, it would be replaced by another capital which was offering better profit.
From this analysis, Marx showed that profits and wages come from the same pool. If one is to increase, the other has to decrease. He also showed that the worker works only a fraction of the day for his wages (in terms of socially necessary labour) and for the rest of the day for the capitalist. This ratio of how much time he works for himself as opposed to how much time he works for the capitalist is called the rate of exploitation.
One word of caution, “price” only approximates to value. Price fluctuates around the value of any commodity as per demand and supply.
From such an analysis, Marx showed that economics is not a relationship between objects but a relationship between people. He therefore began his analysis from the concept of a commodity, ie an object for sale. It only signifies a relationship between the buyer and the seller. From this he analysed that money, which substitutes this commodity, signifies that the relationship between the buyer and seller is becoming closer and closer and is standardised across society. He saw that the circulation of money and commodities signified the relationships between who owned the means of production and who worked them.
Another important point is his understanding that not only must the labour of the worker produce surplus value – not only must capital produce the relationship of worker and capitalist, but this relationship must be constantly reproduced in society. Social forms come into being, such as the form of family, form of caste, form of race, which all help to reproduce this relationship. In other words, capitalism takes the older social forms and moulds them such as to reproduce the capitalist relationship. As Marx observed in “The Communist Manifesto”, capitalism constantly reproduces the world in its own image.
He saw the worker being progressively alienated from his product which was no more his property and therefore being alienated from capitalist society. He saw the contradiction between the social form of production under advanced capitalism and the individual form of appropriation of the profit. Applying the methof of historical materialism mentioned above, he said that the relations of production under capitalism have now become fetters on the further growth of productive forces and therefore society was ripe for revolution.
Marx however exposed that the nature of the working of capitalism itself would lead inevitably to crisis. He showed how capitalists in their desperate urge to earn more and more profits went on madly increasing production. However at the same time every capitalist tried to maintain a higher rate of profit by cutting the wage rates of his workers and throwing them into poverty. The working class composes the largest section in society and the poverty of the working class automatically means the reduction of their capacity to buy the goods available in the market.
On the one hand the capitalist class goes on increasing the production of goods being supplied to the market, whereas on the other hand it goes on reducing the buying capacity of a large section of the buyers in the very same market. This naturally leads to a severe contradiction between the expansion of production on one hand and the contraction of the market on the other hand. The result is a crisis of overproduction where the market is flooded with unsold goods. Numerous capitalists are thrown into bankruptcy. Lakhs of workers are thrown out of their jobs and forced into starvation at the same as the shops are filled with goods that remained unused because there is no one to buy them.
Marx further concluded that the anarchy of these crises of capitalism could only be resolved by resolving the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between the social character of production and the private character of ownership. This could only be done by overthrowing the capitalist system and establishing socialism and communism, giving a social character to the ownership of the means of production. Marx showed that this social force of this revolution had been created by capitalism itself; it was the proletariat class. It was the proletariat alone who had no interest in continuing the present system of exploitation and private ownership. It had the capacity to establish socialism.
Marx analysed how every crisis intensified the contradictions of the capitalist system. He described the process with each crisis of centralisation of capital into the hands of a smaller and smaller handful of capitalists. This proceeded alongside the immense growth in the misery and discontent of the vast mass of workers. As the contradictions of capitalism sharpened, the revolutionary upheavals of the proletariat grew in strength, finally resulting in revolution, the confiscation of the capital of the capitalists and the building of a socialist society with a social character of ownership suited to the social character of production.
In this way, Marx, starting from the economy’s most basic unit – the commodity – brings out the nature of the economic laws governing capitalism. He thus exposes the scientific economic basis for the socialist revolution and the road to communism.
The genius of Marx lies in his having been the first to deduce from this the lesson world history teaches and to apply that lesson consistently. The deduction he made is the doctrine of the class struggle. — Lenin
As Marx put it in “The Communist Manifesto”
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In his letter to Wedemeyer in 1852 Marx clarified that he had neither discovered the existence of classes nor of the class struggle. He put his own contribution thus,
Now as for myself, I do not claim to have discovered either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, as had bourgeois economists their economic anatomy. My own contribution was
- to show that the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production;
- that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat;
- that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.
Thus we can say that the Dialectical materialism, theory of surplus value and the doctrine of class struggle leading to socialism are three component parts of Marxism.
Lenin concluded, in “The three Sources and three Component Parts of Marxism”
“Marx’s philosophical materialism alone has shown the proletariat the way out of the spiritual slavery in which all oppressed classes have hitherto languished. Marx’s economic theory alone has explained the true position of the proletariat in the general system of capitalism.”
What is Leninism?
Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. It developed around the turn of the century during the course of the Russian revolution and in the course of fighting the opportunism of the Second International and advancing the international communist movement through the Third International.
Leninism, while defending and developing Marxism, made the following significant contributions: the discovery of the laws of motion of capitalism under imperialism and how they would inevitably lead the imperialist powers to war; the qualitative development of the theory and practice of proletarian revolution during the stage of bourgeois democratic revolution as well as the socialist revolution; a clear understanding regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat (or proletarian democracy), as well as the regarding socialist construction; providing the theory and direction for the nationality movements and the movements in the colonies and linking the national liberation movements to the World Socialist Revolution; and the development of the organisational principles of the Leninist party – the party of the new type. Stalin — defending and developing Leninism – has given more clarity concerning the principles and laws governing the period particularly in the phase of socialist construction.
Thus Stalin categorically elucidated in his famous book Foundations of Leninism:
“Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. To be more exact, Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. Marx and Engels pursued their activities in the pre-revolutionary period (we have the proletarian revolution in mind), when developed imperialism did not yet exist, in the period of the proletarians’ preparation for revolution, in the period when the proletarian revolution was not yet an immediate practical inevitability. But Lenin, the disciple of Marx and Engels, pursued his activities in the period of developed imperialism, in the period of the unfolding proletarian revolution, when the proletarian revolution had already triumphed in one country, had smashed bourgeois democracy and had ushered in the era of proletarian democracy, the era of the Soviets.”
During the course of the Russian Revolution Lenin developed a scientific method to build a revolutionary party. It was a concept for a new type of a party. As to the structure and composition of the party itself, Lenin considered that it should consist of two parts: a) a close circle of regular cadres of leading party workers, chiefly professional revolutionaries, that is, party workers free from all occupation except party work and possessing the necessary minimum of theoretical knowledge, political experience, organisational practice and the art of facing and fighting the tsarist police; and b) a broad network of local party organisations and a large number of party members enjoying the sympathy and support of hundreds of thousands of working people. As the process of building such a party was proceeding through the help of Iskra, Lenin gave direction to this process through his articles and books. Of particular significance were Where To Begin?, What Is To Be Done? and A Letter to a Comrade on our Organisational Tasks. In these works he laid down the ideological and organisational basis of the proletarian party.
Another major battle waged by Lenin was the fight against the Economists, who wanted, in Lenin’s words “the workers should confine themselves to the economic struggle, leaving the political struggle to the liberals”. They had grown in strength in Russia during Lenin’s period in exile and Lenin realised that Economism had to be ideologically defeated before the convening of the Party Congress. He launched a direct attack on them particularly through his book What Is To Be Done? Lenin exposed how the Economists’ views meant bowing to the spontaneity of the working class movement and neglecting the role of consciousness and leading role of the party. Lenin’s book, which was widely distributed in Russia, succeeded in decisively defeating Economism. It thus laid down the principles which later became the ideological foundation of the Bolshevik party.
In this premise Lenin developed a new concept of party which was not so clear at the time of Marx and Engels. This type of party is not only a working class party, but a vanguard detachment of the proletariat, a Marxist detachment of the proletariat capable to lead revolution and face the twists and turns in leading the working class to revolution.
In 1905 there was a major turning point in history. Imperialist crisis (as Lenin termed it later) broke out in various psrts of the world. The age of imperialism had dawned and the new imperialist powers started fighting for capturing and expanding colonies. They entered into a number of regional wars. This conflict spread from Europe to Asia. Japan also took part in this war. An important war among these was the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. The great Russian Empire was first defeated by Japan. At that time the pressing question in the whole revolutionary movement was what would be the task of the proletariat in belligerent countries? The Bolsheviks took a firm stand to oppose this war and termed this war as an unjust war.
Simultaneously revolutionary movements also spread over from Europe to Asia. This period was a period of a new upsurge of revolutions. The first of these revolutions was the Russian revolution of 1905, which was followed by the Turkish, the Persian and the Chinese bourgeois revolutions. The most important of these revolutions, from the point of the role of the proletariat and the development of Marxist revolutionary tactics, was the 1905 Russian revolution. Its starting point was the Russo-Japanese war.
Though the 1905 Revolution was defeated it gave some important lesson to the proletarian movement like Paris Commune. It proved that the Bolsheviks were correct of their revolutionary understanding regarding the strategy and tactics of the proletariat. It was in the course of this revolution that the Bolshevik understanding regarding the friends and enemies of the revolution and the forms of struggle and forms of organisation got firmly established. In the course of this revolution Lenin had developed the tactics of the proletariat in democratic revolution. In his book “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” he expounded the strategy and tactics of democratic revolution.
In that situation Lenin developed the previous analysis of capitalism by Marx and Engels. By the beginning of the 20th century the character of capitalism had changed. In the place of the earlier capitalism based upon free competition, monopoly capitalism has evolved into a world system. There was no revolutionary role for capitalism even in those countries where capitalistic development has not taken place. It took the form of moribund capitalism. Capitalism had reached its highest stage viz. Imperialism. He formulated the basic features of imperialism as follows :
“1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”
Lenin had formulated this after the first imperialist war. This was a qualitative development of Marxism. On that basis of concrete analysis of concrete situation the communist movement had been rejuvenated on a world scale. The leaders of Second International like Kautsky and others stood with their own ruling class and called for a patriotic war to save the fatherland. The Bolshevik party and all other communist revolutionaries of other countries gave a clarion call to transform imperialist war – war for annexation – into a civil war. In Russia imperialist war was really transformed into a civil war and the proletariat were successful in snatching state power from the ruling class. In the following lines Lenin stated on imperialism and its characteristics.
“…… in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism. This in itself determines its place in history, for monopoly that grows out of the soil of free competition, and precisely out of free competition, is the transition from the capitalist system to a higher socio-economic order. “
He has formulated four characteristics of monopoly capitalism. Those are as Lenin stated:
“Firstly, monopoly arose out of the concentration of production at a very high stage. This refers to the monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates, and trusts.
Secondly, monopolies have stimulated the seizure of the most important sources of raw materials, especially for the basic and most highly cartelised industries in capitalist society: the coal and iron industries. The monopoly of the most important sources of raw materials has enormously increased the power of big capital, and has sharpened the antagonism between cartelised and non-cartelised industry.
Thirdly, monopoly has sprung from the banks. The banks have developed from modest middleman enterprises into the monopolists of finance capital. Some three to five of the biggest banks in each of the foremost capitalist countries have achieved the “personal link-up” between industrial and bank capital, and have concentrated in their hands the control of thousands upon thousands of millions which form the greater part of the capital and income of entire countries.
Fourthly, monopoly has grown out of colonial policy.” (Imperialism The highest Stage of Capitalism)
On that basis there was certain change of formulation and task has taken place in the international communist movement.
On the question of revolution and socialist construction in Russia at that time, we can state about his formulation in the following:
- a) The proletariat should full use of the favourable conditions to seize power. Waiting will only mean that capitalism will go ahead and ruin millions of small and medium individual producers.
- b) The means of production in industry should be confiscated and converted into public property.
- c) The small and medium individual producers should gradually be united in producers’ co-operatives, i.e., in large agricultural enterprises, collective farms.
- d) Industry should be developed to the utmost and the collective farms should be placed on the modern technical basis of large-scale production. The property of the collective farm should not confiscated, but on the contrary they should be generously supplied with first-class tractors and other machines;
- e) Exchange through purchase and sale, i.e. commodity production should be preserved for a certain period, because the peasants would not accept any other form of economic tie between town and country. However trade should only be through Soviet trade—between the state, co-operative, and collective farm. This should be developed to the full and the capitalists of all types and descriptions should be ousted from trading activity.
After Lenin’s death it was Stalin who boldly went forward for building socialism in Russia overcoming all the opportunist and capitulationist trends. He boldly put forward the theorization of socialism in one country and developed Lenin’s concept within the concrete situation in Russia. On the question of revolution there were many misunderstandings in revolutionary movement at that time. The opportunist opposition advocated at that time that revolution would not be possible in a single country. Lenin established that revolution can take place in a country. He postulated in “Left-wing Communism : An Infantile Disorder” : Only when the “lower classes “ do not want the old way, and when the “upper classes” cannot carry on in the old way — only then can revolution triumph”. In such a situation, he theorized tha revolution could take place in the weakest link of the imperialist chain.
Lenin supposed that world revolution could come in near future but after 1924 the possibility of immediate world revolution was over. The question of building socialism in one country had come forward in a serious manner. Stalin made some formulations basing on Lenin’s view. He divided the course of building socialism into some phases and made a clear understanding on a transitory phase. He stated that socialism is a transitory phase and we can achieve socialism in our country in the main. He correctly fought out Trotsky’s concept of permanent revolution.
To quote Stalin :
‘’To proceed. Formerly, the victory of the revolution in one country was considered impossible, on the assumption that it would require the combined action of the proletarians of all or at least of a majority of the advanced countries to achieve victory over the bourgeoisie. Now this point of view no longer fits in with the facts. Now we must proceed from the possibility of such a victory, for the uneven and spasmodic character of the development of the various capitalist countries under the conditions of imperialism, the development within imperialism of catastrophic contradictions leading to inevitable wars, the growth of the revolutionary movement in all countries of the world-all this leads, not only to the possibility, but also to the necessity of the victory of the proletariat in individual countries. The history of the revolution in Russia is direct proof of this. At the same time, however, it must be borne in mind, that the overthrow of the bourgeoisie can be successfully accomplished only when certain absolutely necessary conditions exist, in the absence of which there can be even no question of the proletariat taking power. ......
But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country does not yet mean that the complete victory of socialism has been ensured. After consolidating its power and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build a socialist society. But does this mean that it will thereby achieve the complete and final victory of socialism, i.e., does it mean that with the forces of only one country it can finally consolidate socialism and fully guarantee that country against intervention and, consequently, also against restoration? No, it does not. For this the victory of the revolution in at least several countries is needed. Therefore, the development and support of the revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious revolution. Therefore, the revolution which has been victorious in one country must regard itself not as a self-sufficient entity, but as an aid, as a means for hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.’’ (Foundation of Leninism)
Thus we can conclude that Lenin has developed Marxism in a higher phase regarding the strategy and tactics of revolution as e.g. on the national and colonial question, democratic revolution and relation between working class and peasantry, on the question of dictatorship of proletariat, on the construction of socialism etc. **
Mao Tse-tung Thought is an extension and development of Marxism-Leninism
It was developed by Mao during the course of the Chinese Revolution, in the process of socialist construction, in the fight against modern revisionism and particularly during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Actually Mao Tse-tung has given Marxism-Leninism more clarity in every field of work in general and in particular he has developed it in certain field where precision was lacking. So Mao Thought’s contributions include particularly: on the question contradictions, the development of the theory of knowledge and the formulation of the mass line of ‘from the masses, to the masses’; the role of proletariat and it’s party in the phase of democratic revolution particularly in the colonial, semi colonial and neo colonial countries and it’s relation with other classes. It has brought more clarity of people’s democratic revolution explained as new democratic revolution. Mao has explained with more clarity the political economy of socialism on the basis of the Soviet and Chinese experience and the dialectical understanding of the process of socialist construction as the correct handling of contradictions in the process of transition to socialism; and finally and most importantly, the theory of continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat to consolidate socialism through the concept of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Mao on Philosophy
Mao’s writings on philosophy are directed to educating the Party cadre and masses in Marxism-Leninism so as to change the mode of thinking and practice. Mao has contributed certain field of Marxist philosophical approach with more clarity. Those are following:
The Theory of Knowledge
Of prime importance was Mao’s teaching on the theory of knowledge. An important work was his essay On Practice – On the Relation Between Knowledge and Practice, Between Knowing and Doing. True knowledge, or correct ideas, come from three kinds of social practice – the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
Theory depends on practice. It is unthinkable, said Mao, that it should not be measured and checked by practice. In turn, theory changes practice, changes our method of work and thinking. Through this is brought about the transformation and gaining of more knowledge. No one is born wise, or born stupid. Knowledge cannot come before material experience; nobody can become an expert before practically doing a thing.
The other important contribution of Mao to Marxist philosophy was in dialectics and particularly relating to the understanding and application of contradictions. The understanding and use of contradictions appears at various points and almost throughout Mao’s analysis and writings. His main work is On Contradictions, which is an essay on philosophy written in August 1937 by Mao after his essay “On Practice” and with the same object of overcoming the serious error of dogmatist thinking to be found in the Party at the time.
Mao’s work was in a sense the continuation of work by Lenin who particularly made a deep study of contradictions. Lenin called contradiction ‘the salt of dialectics’ and stated that ‘the division of the One and the knowledge of its contradictory parts is the essence of dialectics.’ Lenin further in his Philosophical Notebooks asserted, “In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development.”
These ‘explanations and development’ was done some twenty years later by Mao. Mao work was a leap in the understanding of contradictions. He examined the question of contradictions in great detail and clarified them in such a manner as to make them easily understandable and easily useable by anybody.
Firstly he asserted that the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought.
Following from this he explained the principle of the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. According to this principle, contradiction is present in all processes of every object and of every thought and exists in all these processes from beginning to end.
Next he gives the principle of the particularity and relativity of contradiction. According to this principle, each contradiction and each of its aspects have their respective characteristics.
A very important concept given by Mao in this respect is regarding the unity and struggle between the opposites in a contradiction. Mao points out the unity or identity of opposites is conditional; it is thus always temporary and relative. On the other hand the struggle of opposites is unending; it is universal and absolute.
Another important principle, which Mao gave and uses very often in his analysis, was the understanding of the fundamental contradiction and on that basis he developed the method to find out the principal contradiction in any process and the principal aspect of a contradiction.
Mao has pointed out,
“The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed; but in a lengthy process the conditions usually differ at each stage. The reason is that, although the nature of the fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process remain unchanged, the fundamental contradiction becomes more and more intensified as it passes from one stage to another in the lengthy process. In addition, among the numerous major and minor contradictions which are determined or influenced by the fundamental contradiction, some become intensified, some are temporarily or partially resolved or mitigated, and some new ones emerge; hence the process is marked by stages. If people do not pay attention to the stages in the process of development of a thing, they cannot deal with its contradictions properly.’’ (On Contradiction)
According to this principle, there are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determines or influences the existence and development of the other contradictions. Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to finding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved.
Similarly, in any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other secondary. The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect that has gained the dominant position.
Mao always emphasized on understanding the principal contradiction in his analysis. Thus in his analysis of Chinese society he always analysed the principal contradiction. This was an advance over earlier Marxist-Leninist analysis, which did not particularly go into an analysis of the principal contradiction in a country or revolution. Mao however asserted that unless we examine two aspects – the principal and the non-principal contradictions in a process, and the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction – we shall get bogged down in abstractions, be unable to understand contradiction concretely and consequently be unable to find the correct method of resolving it. The importance of understanding the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction was because they represented the unevenness of the forces that are in contradiction. Nothing in this world develops absolutely evenly and therefore it was necessary to understand the change in the position of the principal and non-principal contradictions and the principal and non-principal aspects of a contradiction. It is only by understanding the various stages of unevenness in the contradictions and the process of change in these contradictions that a revolutionary party can decide on its strategy and tactics.
Mao clarified regarding the question of antagonism in a contradiction. According to Mao antagonism is one form, but not the only form, of the struggle of opposites; the formula of antagonism therefore cannot be arbitrarily applied everywhere. Some contradictions are characterised by open antagonism, others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions, which were originally non-antagonistic, develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones. Forms of struggle differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions.
On this respect he clearly stated that in the process of development new contradictions emerged and in that case the character of the fundamental contradiction, principal contradiction and the principal aspect of the contradiction are also changed and the position of antagonistic contradictions and non-antagonistic contradictions are also changed.
Mao applied this method not only during the period of new democratic revolution but also in the period of socialist construction and during the Cultural Revolution. He stressed that despite the victory of the revolution it was wrong to think that contradictions no longer existed in Chinese society. He showed that there were two different types of contradictions still existing – the contradictions with the enemy and the contradictions among the people. The contradictions with the enemy are antagonistic and had to be dealt with by suppression. On the other hand the contradictions among the people which are non-antagonistic had to be dealt with in such a way that they did not become antagonistic. Mao always stressed the need for the correct handling of contradictions. He pointed out that if contradictions were not understood and handled correctly there was always the danger of restoration of capitalism.
Mao on Political Economy
During the period of Chinese Revolution Mao has developed Marxist-Leninist principle with more clarity. Through the class analysis in China he has set an example and also a method of analysis of the society and state particularly in neo, semi and Colonial countries. And at the same time he developed the comintern theorization of People’s Democratic Revolution. He brought more clarity in the Leninist concept of democratic revolution and the basis of workers and peasant alliance in the phase of democratic revolution. Through the coinage of democratic revolution in a new type or New Democratic revolution he formulated with more clarity of the nature of democratic revolution.
Mao on Party
From the time that Mao took over the leadership of the CPC he made all efforts to develop the Party on true Leninist lines. The following points are main contribution on party which has extended Leninist concept on party.
1) Democratic Centralism: Mao’s attempt to correct sectarian and bureaucratic deviations is seen in his explanation regarding democratic centralism. Mao’s understanding of democratic centralism is clearly ‘first democracy, then centralism’. He explained this in many ways – ‘if there is no democracy there won’t be any centralism’, ‘centralism is centralism built on the foundation of democracy. Proletarian centralism with a broad democratic base’.
2) Two Lines Struggle : This is an another aspect of party organisational principles, regarding which Mao developed Marxist understanding and theory. Mao’s approach, based on dialectical materialism was to see incorrect opinions within the Communist Party as the reflection of alien classes in society. Thus as long as the class struggle continued in society there was bound to be its reflection in the ideological struggle within the Party. His approach towards these contradictions too was different. He saw them as non-antagonistic contradictions initially which through ‘serious struggle’ we should try to rectify. We should give ample opportunity to rectify and only if the people committing errors ‘persist’ or ‘aggravate them’, then there was the possibility of the contradiction becoming antagonistic.
3) Mass-Line : Mass line is the essential theorization of Mao. Starting from the basic Marxist-Leninist understanding of the party maintaining the closest possible links with the masses, Mao developed the concept of mass-line to a qualitatively new level. At the philosophical level he showed how it was an essential aspect of the Marxist theory of knowledge. At the political and organisational levels, he showed how it was the basis of a correct political line and also how it was the essential organisational line of inner-party relations.
In short the above mentioned aspects mainly are universal teachings of Mao. It is an extension of Marxism Leninism. Though Mao had contributed many basic aspects for the development of Marxism-Leninism but it is not Maoism because those are not fundamental contribution and there was no departure from Marx and Lenin’s concept. Those are the basically extension of every field of Marxism Leninism.
In short These are the basic understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought and Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin and Mao are universal Teacher of us. That does not mean that all of their theorization and practice were correct and ideal. If we think so then it will be a dogma. Dialectical Materialism teaches us that there is no ultimate. Everything changes. So The scope of development of Marxism-Leninism is infinite. Every real Marxist has the duty to develop Marxism according to the concrete analysis of the concrete situation basing on the basic principles of Marxism. Now after the defeat of previous historic revolutions there is need to establish Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought more vigourously. There obviously are shortcomings. History has laid this responsibility on our shoulder to unleash revolutionary movements towards victory by overcoming all shortcomings. n
Minimum Essential Reading
1) Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels)
2) Condition of Working Class of England (Engels)
3) Wage Labour and Capital (Marx)
4) Preface and introduction to Contribution to Critique of Political Economy (Marx)
5) Synopsis of Capital (Engels)
6) Critique of Gotha Programme (Marx and Engels)
7) Thesis on Feuerbach (Marx)
8) Feuerbach and end of the Classical German Philosophy* (Engels)
9) The Origin of Family, Private Property and the state*. (Engels)
10) Letter to Yoseph Blokh on Historical Materialism (Engels)
11) What is to be Done? (Lenin)
12) The State and Revolution (Lenin)
13) Two Tactics of Social Democracy in Democratic Revolution (Lenin)
14) Imperialism: The highest Stage of Capitalism(Lenin)
15) Three Sources and the three Component Parts of Marxism (Lenin)
16) Karl Marx (Lenin)
17) Left Wing Communism an infantile disorder (Lenin)
18) Against Boycott (Lenin)
19) National and Colonial Thesis (Lenin)
20) Marxism and the problem of Nation (Stalin)
21) Foundation of Leninism (Stalin)
22) Class analysis in China (Mao)
23) Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party (Mao)
24) On New Democracy(Mao)
25) On Contradiction(Mao)
26) On the Ten Major Relationship (Mao)
27) On the Correct Handling of the Contradiction among the People (Mao)