Nine Decades of the Communist Movement in India : From First to Tenth Congress - K N Ramachandran
From First to Tenth Party Congress:
Nine Decades of the Communist Movement in India
(Note: Before the Ninth Congress of the CPI(ML) Red Star in November, 2011, an overview of the communist movement in India was published in English and Hindi under the title Nine Decades of the Communist Movement in India. It was well received by larg number of readers. Presently, when the party has succesfully convened the Tenth Congress, an updated and newly edited version of this book is posted expecting suggestions and critics from the readers - Editorial Board).
The Tenth Party Congress of the CPI(ML) Red Star was successfully held at Lucknow, from 25th February to 2nd March, 2015. The decision to organize the Party Congress in the Hindi heartland was taken at a significant juncture in the history of the country when ultra rightist forces have come to power replacing the decade long rightist rule of Congress and when the left movement is facing great challenges. It was convened in continuation to the Ninth Congress of the Party held at Bhubaneswar in November, 2011, 41 years after the Eighth Congress of the Party held in 1970 at Kolkata. The tenth Congress was convened at the culmination of an important phase in the re-organization of the party following its disintegration in 1972.The successful convening of the Tenth Congress in Feb- March, 2015, marked a further advance in the development of the party at ideological, political and organizational levels. It also marked the merger of sections of the communist revolutionary organizations with the party before and during the Congress. It has created a better situation for Communist Resurgence as the Resolution on the Theoretical Offensive adopted by the Party Congress states.
The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history. There were great achievements and serious setbacks during this period. There were intensive inner party struggles also. These struggles had led to many crises and splits, including the first split in undivided CPI in 1964 leading to formation of CPI (M), the inner party struggle within it leading to Naxalbari Uprising in 1967, to the formation of CPI(ML) in 1969 and to the disintegration of the CPI (ML) in 1972. As a result of this, it is still divided into a wide spectrum of organizations ranging from CPI, and CPI (M) at the right extreme, to the CPI (Maoist), which is pursuing an anarchist line on the other extreme. It was in this situation, the CPI (ML) Red Star convened the Ninth Congress in 2011 after a gap of 41 years upholding the great revolutionary heritage of the communist movement, developing its ideological, political and organizational line according to the vast changes taken place in the concrete conditions at the international and national levels. The successful completion of the Tenth Congress has further consolidated the party ideologically, politically and organizationally, This reorganization of the party and development in all fields was based on the analysis of the ideological political challenges faced by the Communist movement in India from 1920s. The Tenth Congress convened in the background of further ideological, political and organizational consolidation during the last three years has developed the Party Program and Party Constitution, adopted the developed Path of Revolution making it more concrete and sharp, the Political Resolution and the Resolution on Theoretical Offensive.
The Tenth Party Congress was convened when significant success could be achieved in developing the party line according to present conditions and after completing an important phase of party re-organization. At the same time, it is a fact that so far only a small fraction of the very large number of communist rank and file spread out in the various organizations at all India level, who are holding red flag and professing Marxism-Leninism could be united. It is a Himalayan task to bring all those among them who have revolutionary orientation and revolutionary dreams together in to the Party’s fold. While taking up this task, in order to avoid past mistakes, it is necessary that the history of the hitherto unity efforts is scientifically evaluated. During the last four decades there were numerous efforts for unity from the side of the Marxist- Leninist groups who were agreeing on the analysis of the character of Indian state and society as semi colonial and semi feudal, stage of revolution as democratic, and strategy of revolution as ‘protracted people’s war’. But either they could not unite or if united, their unity did not last long. On the whole, most of these organizations are on the decline and some of them are facing further decimation
It is a basic Marxist–Leninist teaching that the correctness of the “ideological political line determines everything”. A glance through the severe setbacks suffered by the international communist movement (ICM) which had reached a very high level of growth by 1950s, with one third of the world people were living in the socialist countries, to the present situation when all of them have deviated to capitalist path with the first socialist state, Soviet Union, disintegrating prove this. The setbacks suffered by the Indian communist movement during this period also substantiate this Marxist- Leninist teaching.
So, for achieving the genuine unity of the revolutionary forces, the first and foremost task is to find out the ideological political reasons responsible for these setbacks. Based on this analysis, concerted efforts are needed to overcome the mistakes and develop the theory and practice of revolution according to the present conditions. The most important reason for the failure or setbacks suffered by the unity efforts so far is that they were made without making any serious attempts to analyze and overcome the past mistakes and without trying to develop the ideological political line and programmatic approach according to the concrete conditions of present times. These shortcomings should be seen self-critically. At a larger context, the reasons for the international Communist movement facing severe setbacks and declining to present levels, after reaching such glorious heights by 1950s can also traced to this aversion to confront the ideological challenges, by always seeking truth from facts.
This brief over view of the history of the Communist movement in India proves this fact. Of course a comprehensive evaluation of it based on the study of the numerous voluminous documents of the communist movement is a huge task. It can be taken up only by a team of ideologically and politically developed comrades devoting necessary time for it. What was attempted on the eve of the Ninth Congress was a brief evaluation of the nine decades of history as an introduction to the efforts made to prepare for the Ninth Congress after such a big gap. What was attempted was to show the tortuous path traversed by the movement from 1920s so that the new generation of the communist cadres and supporters shall get a general idea of the difficult tasks before them. This brief over view which was published before Ninth Congress is updated and re-published now. It is hoped that it will prepare the ground for understanding the importance of the efforts made by the CPI (ML) Red Star to develop the ideological political line according to present conditions and to unite the communist revolutionaries based on this.
While making this attempt, the glorious history of the numerous revolutionary struggles under the leadership of the Communist Party, waged from the beginning of the movement, is mentioned in the appropriate places. But they are not explained in detail. It does not in any way mean neglecting their importance. The criticisms are made not as an onslaught against the erstwhile Party leaderships, but as a self criticism. It is impossible to make amends to old mistakes without making a ruthless self-criticism of the past mistakes which prevented a ‘concrete analysis of the concrete situation’ for such a long time, repeatedly leading to mechanical pursuit of the ‘Russian path’ or ‘Chinese path’, instead of learning from the experience of all these revolutions and applying them while developing the party line according to the concrete conditions of our country.
This evaluation of the past history is made to create conditions for overcoming the mistakes committed during these decades. We are of the view that we cannot reorganize and build the Party on a firm foundation without such a process. We invite ruthless criticisms and constructive suggestions from all sections of the communist organizations and their leaders and activists, and especially from the leaders and activists of the various organizations who uphold the Naxalbari Uprising, who uphold the role played by the Communist Revolutionaries in the struggle against the revisionist and neo revisionist lines of the CPI and CPI(M) leaderships. We also invite criticisms and suggestions from all the friends and sympathizers of the Communist movement in the country and abroad to enrich this attempt.
2. The Early Years: Question of Class Analysis
It is a generally accepted fact that it was the salvos of October Socialist Revolution that brought the Marxist – Leninist ideology to our country. It paved the way for the formation of communist groups at the working class centers in the country, to start with, like Mumbai, Kolkata , Chennai and in the north like Kanpur, Meerut etc. Such groups had already come in to existence in countries outside India also where Indian workers and students had migrated for jobs or education. So, It can be stated that the communist movement started from early years of 1920s. It was in December 1925 the first meeting of the members of these groups was convened at Kanpur and the formation of the Communist Party of India (CPI) formally took place.
During the years after the First World War, the people’s resentment was growing against the British colonial rulers. It was in such a situation that the Congress leadership called for a mass movement focusing on the demands of the workers and mainly the peasantry. Once the mass initiative got unleashed it could not be confined to the limits the bourgeois leadership of Congress wanted to impose. At Chouri Choura and other places the struggle took militant forms. Following it Gandhi withdrew the struggle condemning the militancy. It created lot of resentment among the people. These developments led to all round favorable objective conditions in the country for the emergence of revolutionary groups and for the launching of the Communist Party.
By that time, the Communist International (Comintern) was formed in 1919 under the guidance of the CPSU led by Lenin. By 1921 through its first three Congresses it had already put forward the General Line of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution on the basis of Lenin’s Colonial Thesis. According to this, the world proletarian revolution consisted of two trends: the Socialist Revolution under the leadership of the proletariat in the imperialist countries and the People’s Democratic Revolution (PDR) under the leadership of the proletariat and based on the worker- peasant alliance in the large number of Afro-Asian- Latin American countries, that is, in the colonial, semi colonial and dependent countries as explained by Lenin in his epochal work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Comintern explained that though these are bourgeois democratic revolutions, as the bourgeoisie in these countries are basically collaborating with the imperialists, they are incapable of completing the tasks of the democratic revolution. So the proletariat should give leadership to complete the tasks of these People’s Democratic Revolutions and advance them to the socialist stage of the revolution. It also called for applying this general Line according to concrete conditions of each country.
Based on the experience of the First and Second Internationals and of the revolutionary movement in Russia, the organizational line of the Communist Parties including the building of Bolshevik model party with the principles of democratic centralism, a party surrounded by class and mass organizations and utilizing all forms of struggle to capture the political power, was put forward by the Comintern. Through his extensive writings Lenin had explained various aspects of Communist Party building and about utilization of different forms of struggle including the approach towards the utilization of parliamentary struggles to advance the class struggle.
As the experience of the Chinese revolution shows, it was based on these Marxist-Leninist positions and analyzes of the concrete situation there, the Communist Party of China was formed almost at the same time. It could advance very fast as it could make a correct class analysis, develop a programmatic approach and advance the revolutionary movement according to the concrete conditions there, and march towards the completion of the democratic revolution adopting a correct united front policy.
But, an analysis of the early years of the Communist movement in India gives a different picture. On the question of forming a Communist Party, working both openly and underground according to the concrete situation and on its functioning, there were many different perspectives among the leading communists, even though the Comintern had provided general orientation and had answered all these questions. Finally the concept of forming an open, legal party, the Peasants and Workers Party along with an underground Communist Party was adopted. This decision was a product of the failure to understand the relation between open and secret work, as well as legal and illegal work to be carried out by a Communist Party. It was also because of the erroneous understanding about organizing the class and mass organizations and their relation with the party. It also revealed the inability to grasp the understanding about the formation and functioning of the united front under the leadership of the party. Though the PWP was formed with enthusiasm, it only created confusion, and soon it had to be abandoned after a brief period, causing damage to the Party.
On analyzing the character of the big bourgeoisie there were conflicting positions. The leading sections of the Communist movement in India from the very beginning refused to recognize that it was primarily collaborating with and serving the interests of the imperialists. The Sixth World Congress of the Communist International held in 1928 had explained: “Both in China and in India there can be observed two tendencies as regards solving the colonial and agrarian question: The bourgeoisie considers it to be its historic task to create a bourgeois state by means of reform and compromise with imperialism and the feudal elements…. As against this national reformist, capitalist ideology, the Comintern advocated the revolutionary method of fighting against the imperialist yoke and the survivals of feudalism. The democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry which does away with all monopolies and with all the privileges of imperialism, which accomplices the agrarian revolution and thereby creates (in alliance with the proletariat of the advanced countries) the postulates for the non capitalist development of the colonial countries – such was the basic strategic slogan”. Regarding the class character of the Indian bourgeoisie, it stated: “A section of the Indian bourgeoisie -and the most influential one- has already taken to the path of compromise with British imperialism; another section (the Swarajists) as pointed out in the Political Thesis of the Comintern Congress, is “substantially looking for an understanding with imperialism at the expense of the toilers”. All the tendencies of the Indian bourgeoisie have already betrayed the agrarian revolution of the peasantry in the past, and in the future, they are only likely to play a counter revolutionary role”
By this time, based on the analysis of the class character of the big bourgeoisie in the colonial, semi colonial countries like India and China, the Comintern had come to the clear cut position that it is compromising in nature and comprador in character. This meant that the bourgeoisie in the colonial countries like India are historically incapable of leading the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal democratic revolution to victory. But on the question of the character of the big bourgeoisie in India and on the class character of the Congress party representing the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the big landlord classes, the CPI leadership stubbornly persisted on taking a stand contrary to the one put forward by the Comintern.
About the stand to be taken regarding the relation between the two tasks of throwing out the colonial rule and emancipation of the working class and the peasantry and which is the primary task, there was confusion in the Communist Party leadership all through the period of independence struggle. As Comintern had pointed out repeatedly, imperialism was utilizing the pre capitalist relations including the feudal, semi- feudal relations as its social base to perpetuate the colonial domination. As a result, even while the Communist Party should mobilize the masses suppressed by the feudal, semi- feudal forces in order to expand the mass base under the leadership of the proletariat, the principal target of the democratic revolution was the overthrowing of the imperialist forces. But, the CPI leadership refused to recognize this cardinal question, even when it was working in a colonial country. So, in effect it surrendered the leadership of the independence struggle to the comprador classes. As a result, in spite of excellent objective circumstances, the CPI leadership never tried to provide effective leadership to the anti- imperialist independence movement. This helped the Congress and Muslim league leaderships to maintain their hegemony in the national liberation movement in spite of their opportunist and collaborating character.
It is in this context, the Open Letter to the Indian Communists, (1932) from the Communist Parties of Britain, China and Germany should be studied. It stated: “The Indian bourgeoisie is trying to preserve its influence over the masses, even it did not break its negotiations with British imperialism at the end of Second Round Table Conference, and is continuing the policy of counter revolutionary compromise with British imperialism and betrayal of the revolutionary people”. Again:”The terrified bourgeoisie are now trying to disorganize the peasants struggle and hold the peasant movement back, so that it be limited to a peaceful, submissive economic campaign for slight reduction of taxes, postponement of debts etc.” So, in the letter they advised:”The events of the last few months show that process of drawing the Indian proletariat into the economic and political struggle, accompanied by its liberation from the influence of the National Congress, is growing and in spite of the still existing uneven character, is beginning more and more to assume an all India character”
Quoting Lenin, they wrote: It may be said accurately that in India “the strength of the present movement lies in the awakening of the masses (chiefly the industrial proletariat), and its weakness lies in the insufficient consciousness and initiative of the revolutionary leaders”. They pointed out that the general picture of the communist movement is not satisfactory. In this situation, they advised: the Communist Party still consists of a small number of weak groups, often isolated from the masses, disconnected with each other, not politically united, and in some places not clearly differentiated from national reformism adopting a conciliatory policy towards it. Instead of a struggle for a united All India Communist Party, we find federalism, provincialism, self-isolation from the masses etc…This lagging behind of the Communist vanguard must be rapidly and most decisively overcome”.
They stated: “The biggest mistake made by the Indian Communists consists in the fact that, in reality they stood away from the mass movement of the people against British imperialism…. the self isolation of the Communists from the anti imperialist mass struggle.” So, according to them, “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. It can be achieved only when the Communists show that the Communist Party is the leader of the toiling masses and the only leader of the anti imperialist and agrarian revolution in practice, as the vanguard of the masses, showing the way of revolutionary struggle, sharply and mercilessly exposing and struggling against the National Congress and the “left wing”. From this point of view, the Communists must sharply combat all ideas of those comrades who unconsciously arrive at self isolation from the mass anti imperialist struggle through their desire to preserve the cadres, to gain time for building the party”(The Communist International,no.8.9,May15,1932. Reproduced in The Marxist Leninist, no. 7, January 2011). The publication of this letter in the Comintern organ showed that it reflected the views of the Comintern also.
The analysis of the mistakes being committed and the suggestions given by the fraternal parties to overcome them were not given any importance by the Party leadership. It is not difficult to see how succinct and revolutionary were these comments on the weaknesses of the CPI leadership of those days. Instead of rectifying the mistakes, more mistakes were committed on these very same questions. As the leadership was vacillating, exhibiting petti-bourgeois outlook on cardinal questions, and as the self isolation from the anti- imperialist movement was increasing, its leadership was in effect surrendered to the reactionary Congress leadership.
As pointed out above, Lenin’s Colonial Thesis had provided the guiding line to develop the program and strategy of the People’s Democratic Revolution in India. Putting forward his alternative views through his ‘de-colonization’ theory, M.N. Roy had argued that as capitalist relations develop, the country will get decolonized automatically. This mechanical interpretation of Marxist positions was rejected by Lenin and the Comintern. In spite of the clarity on all these questions provided by the Comintern, the first programmatic document, The Draft Platform of Action, could be drafted only in 1930 when the trial of the Meerut Conspiracy Case was starting. After the release of these comrades the second document, The Draft Political Thesis was adopted by the Provisional Central Committee in 1933. For the first time a centralized Communist Party came in to existence and it was made a constituent of the Comintern. The third programmatic document Platform of Action was adopted in 1936. In continuation to these, some broad indications of programmatic positions in the manner of guidelines was provided by the First Congress held in 1943. But none of these documents made any efforts to rectify the erroneous attitude towards the approach to be taken with regard to establishing leadership in the independence struggle.
As the leadership could not make a concrete analysis of the Indian situation and a class analysis scientifically, on two other cardinal questions which came up during that period also serious mistakes were committed. For example, when Dr Ambedkar had launched the dalit movement and a trade union under its leadership and called for annihilation of the caste system and linked it with the question of nationalization of land and industries, there was a proposal from his side for joint movement with the communist party, if the CPI leadership agreed on the caste annihilation question. But the CPI leadership refused to take up the question of caste annihilation as a part of class struggle. So the proposal was not adopted. It was a grave mistake on its part, which alienated the dalit masses in many of the regions from the communist movement.
Similarly when Subhas Chandra Bose successfully challenged Gandhi’s leadership in the Congress and was elected as its president in spite of Gandhi’s opposition, the CPI leadership refused to recognize that he represented the left wing of the Congress, in spite of all his vacillations. As a result, once again the possibility for forging a powerful united front with the forces led by him against the colonial forces was lost. If the CPI leadership had a clear understanding about the real class relations, and the complexity of the caste ridden social conditions, it would have gone for a broad front with Dr Ambedkar and Bose, which would have changed the course of history of the anti- imperialist movement in the country. But the leadership, influenced by upper caste, petti-bourgeois ideas, with a mechanical understanding about the proletarian leadership, miserably failed to grasp the Indian reality.
In this situation, it was quite natural that the leadership could not chart a Program for completing the People’s Democratic Revolution and took almost two decades to convene its first Party Congress. And by the time it had convened the First Congress in 1943, it had committed another serious mistake of a quite higher magnitude.
3. Approach to the Anti-Fascist War
The crisis faced by the imperialist system during the post-First World War years had led to the emergence of fascist powers to power in Italy, Germany, Japan and some other countries. The danger of another world war, or inter imperialist war, loomed large over the horizon. Regarding the approach towards the Anti Fascist War, the 1935 Congress of Comintern had taken the stand that while intensifying the campaign against the fascist forces, if a War breaks out, the Communist Parties should work for turning the inter imperialist war in to civil war in their own countries to capture the political power. Compared to this position taken by the Comintern in its resolution of 1935, there was a shift in the policy of Soviet Union when eventually it faced the brunt of the attack of the Nazi forces in 1941.
Whether this shift was correct or not should be debated in the context of analyzing the then international situation and the role of Comintern. But, it is a fact that in the post Lenin years the Soviet Union had started shifting from its policy of giving primary importance to the internationalist tasks, to the tasks of world revolution. The tendency of giving more importance to building socialism in Soviet Union had started gaining prominence. Why the tactical alliance arrived at with US, Britain and France to fight the Hitlerite fascist forces who had launched aggression against the Soviet Union was given almost strategic importance raising the slogan “defense of the fatherland”, should be seen in this context.
But, even when we analyze these weaknesses in the policy pursued by Soviet leadership during this critical period as a weakness on its part, it is difficult to find any justification for the shift in the policy of the CPI leadership during these tumultuous years. Based on the 1935 Resolution of the Comintern, in the initial phase of the War, it had opposed the War as inter-imperialist one. It was when it came under fascist attack, the Soviet Union had formed an alliance with the US- British- French forces. Instead of recognizing that in the then concrete conditions such a tactical understanding was necessary for the Soviet Union, the CPI leadership deviated to another serious mistake. Mechanically following the call of the Comintern that the War had become a ‘people’s war’ and that defeating the fascist threat has become the principal task, the CPI leadership changed its earlier position and in the name of the Soviet alliance with Britain, stopped the anti British struggle in all fields. Mechanically surrendering to the suggestions of the British Communist Party leadership also played an important role in this. Though it did not go to the level of Browder, the leader of the Communist Party of USA, who proceeded to dissolve the Party itself stating that as the Soviet Union had formed alliance with the US, there was no need for a Communist Party in the US, it was difficult to explain the wrong line of abandoning all anti-British struggles to the people.
The CPI leadership failed to combine the task of national liberation struggle with the task of opposing the fascist forces at international level. This became a more glaring mistake in the context of the Congress leadership calling for “quit India movement” in 1942 and utilizing the erroneous line of the CPI leadership to unleash anti-communist propaganda offensive. But the Congress leadership was not taking any initiative to lead the masses who had come forward heeding its “Quit India” call. As a result of the erroneous stand of the leadership to put the struggle for national liberation in the forefront, the Communist Party once again lost an excellent opportunity to come to the leadership of the independence struggle.
Again, in the post-War years the situation changed very fast and all over the country the people were on the move. Numerous all India trade union struggles broke out including the post and telegraph employees struggle. In 1946, the historic Naval Revolt broke out, in which the Communist fractions within it played a significant role. The Punnapra-Vayalar struggle in southern Kerala, the great Telengana struggle in then Hyderabad region and the massive Tebhaga movement in Bengal, and numerous other people’s struggles were challenging the colonial-feudal domination. The mass movement for the release of the Azad Hind Army members attracted support of tens of thousands. That is, in spite all the mistakes committed by the leadership during the War years, another excellent opportunity had come before the CPI leadership to come to the leadership of the independence struggle, as the Party cadres at different levels were playing leading role in most of these struggles and movements.
The British imperialists had recognized that in the situation of mounting people’s resentment against the colonial rule leading to massive outbursts, they have to go out. It was during this period, based on the policy of transforming hitherto colonial policy with the policy of neo colonization to combat the increasing challenges from the socialist forces and the national liberation movements, the imperialist camp led by its new leader, the US imperialism, had initiated the policy of ‘de-colonization’, that is, transferring power to the comprador classes while controlling these ‘newly independent’ countries through other means.
They were preparing for it by intensifying the ‘divide and rule’ policy they were pursuing for a long time, especially from the time of the First War of Independence of 1857, provoking divisions among the Hindus and Muslims. Their plan was to divide the country and leave the to parts in a perennial conflict so that their control can be continued. They were utilizing the services of the comprador leaderships of both Congress and the Muslim League for it. Utilizing the Pakistan Resolution of Muslim League and the chauvinist, big brother attitude of the Congress leadership which was also pursuing a soft-Hindutva line, they hatched a plan to divide the country on communal lines and to transfer power to these comprador leaderships. With this view, conditions for the outbreak of communal riots were created.
The country and the people were confronting an extremely dangerous situation. The CPI leadership again faced a policy-paralysis and a grave disconnect with concrete reality. Once again it committed a grievous mistake. Instead of opposing the communal division and demanding the British colonialists to quit, leaving the people the right to decide their future, it also supported the communal division putting forward an extremely erroneous concept about the nationality question which was fundamentally opposed to Meninist stand on this question. It supported the transfer of power to the Congress and Muslim League leaderships. During this entire period, as its resolutions and various documents prove, it went on pleading for the unity of Congress and Muslim League, instead of trying to mobilize the masses under its own leadership for national liberation, exposing the imperialist manoeuvres.
When the transfer of power happened amidst the streams of blood of the millions who were butchered in the communal massacres before, during and after those critical years in the history of the country, the CPI leadership could only remain, in the main, as a passive onlooker, applauding the transfer of power to the leaders of the comprador parties.
4. The First Congress of the CPI and Transfer of Power
It was only two decades after its formation, the CPI could move towards its First Congress in 1943 as already mentioned. By that time, it was facing serious isolation from the masses because of its opposition to the ‘quit India’ movement and because of its failure to chart its own national liberation line in order to combat the propaganda against it. The line it was taking during that time can be seen from the Manifesto for Unity Week, November 1-7, 1942, it had published. It gave the following call:” How to get Congress- League Agreement? The Congress leaders are in jail, the Congress is under ban and the League leadership is not taking the initiative. The people need national unity as they need bread and water. … For centuries we have lived together in this common motherland of ours. … Defense of the motherland – is it not our common concern? National government of national salvation is that not our common need and immediate aim? Must not we act united to force back the imperialist bureaucracy and to take our destiny in our hands? ... Congress–League Agreement Now For National Government of National Defense. To work for Congress- League Unity is to put our patriotism in to practice… The Communist Party of India is pledged to campaign for Congress- League Agreement.”
In the same vein, the Political Resolution adopted by the First Congress in May 1943 started with these words:” Meeting under the shadow of the deepening menace of Japanese fascist invasion, when the robber army of the Japanese imperialism is pressing on the Bengal- Arakan Front and when Jap bombs are almost daily destroying Indian homes and lives in Chittagong and in the eastern districts of Bengal, the First Congress of the Communist Party of India declares that the supreme task before our people today is the defense of the motherland…” After focusing attacks on the Fifth columnists, which included the INA led by Subhash Chandra Bose, the long resolution defined its main slogans and campaigns as follows: Unite for defense against sabotage, against Fifth Column, for civil defense and for the support of the armies; unite for the release of national leaders (that is leaders of the Congress). …. Unity for food means first and foremost unity to prevent food riots and unity against hoarding. …. Unity of the working class to produce more for the defense of the motherland. …. Unity of the kisans to grow more food. …. Build mass communist party as builder of national unity.”
Based on this approach the Political Resolution concluded: “The national crisis is reaching a new stage.. The destiny of the nation is in our hands. The glorious red army under the leadership of Stalin and of the Bolshevik Communist Party of the Soviet Union is blasting the way to victory and freedom for us, for every people in the world … it is the urgent need for every people of India that the breach in the world front today be converted in to a bastion of popular national defense and a base for people’s offensive for the liberation of east Asia. … Every blow we strike against the Fifth Columnists struck with the red army and is reinforced by it. What is needed is all out efforts for national unity, for the supreme patriotic duty which faces us today – national defense. We will unite the patriots to save the motherland shoulder to shoulder with the red army and the armies of the United Nations and win a free India in a FREE world.”
The Whole document reflects the delusion of the CPI leadership in following this erroneous evaluation of the international and national situation. The Second World War started as an inter - imperialist war for the re- division of the world. Before it broke out, even while talking against the fascist forces who had come to power in Italy, Germany and other countries, the US, British, French imperialists were always ready to join hands with the fascists as in Spain to crush the left forces who had come to power there, or everywhere to crush the national liberation movements. They came forward to form an alliance with the Soviet Union only when the Nazi forces occupied France, pulverized Britain and when the Japanese threatened the US dominion in the Pacific. And though it was a tactical need for the Soviet Union to join hands with them to defeat the German attack, the basic character of the Allied forces led by the US had not changed. It was a foolish illusion of the CPI leadership that the US led imperialists will turn in to Budhas and a free India can be achieved in a free world, just by joining the band wagon of the colonialists in the name of national defense. The First Congress of the CPI thus turned in to a Congress of class collaboration. Like so many other Communist Parties of that period, it was under the illusion that with the victory of the red army and Soviet Union, India also will be liberated and it can come to power under the banner of ‘national unity’. All these grievous mistakes it committed were the products of its erroneous line.
Under the banner of the defense of the motherland, a replica of the banner, defense of the fatherland raised by the Soviet leadership, the CPI leadership was in effect raising the same slogans as the colonialists were raising. It over-estimated the threat from the Japanese imperialism as theorized by the British Communist Party leadership, and refused to see the contradiction of the Indian people with the British colonialists who were enslaving the country, which was the principal contradiction before the people. In effect, it abandoned the tasks of national liberation. As a result, it considered Netaji Bose led INA and such other forces as the Fifth Columnists, its main targets, alienating large sections of people from it. This was a line of liquidation, though it did not go to the extent of Browder.
The failure of the CPI leadership to recognize the comprador character of the Indian big bourgeoisie and the damage it created to the movement is already explained above. In line with this erroneous approach, the CPI leadership, in spite of repeated bitter experiences, failed to correctly analyze the class character of the big bourgeoisie and of its political representatives, the Congress and Muslim League leaderships also. On this vital question, it refused to accept the fraternal suggestions earlier provided by the fraternal parties. As a result, following the class collaborationist and liquidationist approach of the First Congress, in another long document stating its election policy, released in 1945, it stated: “As long as our country remains enslaved, the only path to our national independence lies through a National United Front of all Popular Forces.” “In the extremely critical and difficult period that is coming ahead, we will ceaselessly work for Congress-League unity as also for Congress- Communist unity and create the basis for Congress- League-Communist unity inside one joint front for Indian freedom. With full faith in the patriotism of our Congress and League brothers we will work as unity crusaders, patiently explaining the just viewpoint of the one to the other and by ourselves going out to resist the unjust claims of one against the other. …. Today we may be alone in working against the tide, but the tide will turn…. What we say today to all will be seen tomorrow through their own experience. We work and shall continue to work for a common front against common slavery and for common freedom.”
The British imperialists started intensive discussions through various means, including the Cabinet Mission, they had send for negotiations to speed up the transfer of power, Their effort was to break the unity of the Indian people and create power centers under comprador rulers through whom they could continue to maintain their influence. By this time as US imperialism had come to the leadership of the imperialist camp replacing the weakened British imperialism following the Second World War, under its leadership a process of replacing the colonial plunder with the neo colonial plunder was initiated. As a part of this, the Bretten Woods agreements were arrived at forming the IMF and the World Bank as instruments of this new process. The neo colonial plan was to transfer power or “de-colonize’ so that the countries under neo colonial domination could be subjected to plunder through the imperialist capital, market system and technological domination.
While the British rulers went ahead with finding ways to transfer power to their trusted agents and collaborators, the failure of the CPI leadership was that it was pinning hopes to form a broad national alliance with these very same comprador leaderships! The CPI leaders either did not know about, or if they knew, were not giving due importance to the Bombay Plan charted by Tata- Birla at the very time when the Bretten Woods talks were taking place, calling for a unitary India, instead of a genuinely federal India with limited powers to centre, which the Muslim League had demanded for avoiding partition. They wanted a unitary India even if it required a division of the country so that they could exercise control over the new government, forcing it to give priority for building infra-structure and heavy industries which they were not capable of taking up at that time, to facilitate their speedy expansion. As far as their loyalty was concerned, in 1945 G.D, Birla wrote to his friend J.M. Kaynes that ‘his aspiration is nothing more than a privilege to have a decent place in the household of King George, the Fifth’.
When all these developments were taking place around them, oblivious of these, the CPI leaders went on repeating the same raga of ‘National Alliance of all Popular Forces’. The interesting aspect was that when all the political forces of that period had their clear class positions and acted according to that, it was only the CPI leadership which lacked a class stand and political position based on it. For example, the imperialist had a clear cut vision about the future of the sub continent as a conglomeration of mutually quarrelling neo-colonies where they could continue to exercise their hegemony. The comprador bourgeois sections like Tata and Birla had the vision of transforming the Indian union as a junior partner of the imperialist forces while developing their domination in all fields. The Muslim League leadership was convinced that nothing short of a Pakistan will help it to establish its domination in the Muslim majority areas. Similarly the Congress was clear about their concept of future India as a dominant power in South Asia providing all facilities for the comprador bureaucratic bourgeois classes whom it was mainly representing.
Only the CPI leaders, in spite of their monotonous repetition of establishing the proletarian leadership even when not taking any steps to establish it, had no vision of a People’s Democratic Revolution under proletarian leadership. The PDR is the word conspicuously absent in the numerous voluminous documents they went on publishing during that period. So, irrespective of whatever the CPI leaders said, there were no efforts on their part to establish the leadership of the working class in the independence struggle so that the tasks of the PDR are completed and the society advance towards the socialist revolution.
At the same time it should be noted that in spite of all these weaknesses on the part of the leadership which created obstacles for the proletariat coming to the leadership of the Indian independence struggle and which helped the comprador bureaucratic bourgeois and big landlord classes and their party coming to power in post-1947 India, under the excellent objective conditions of that period and because of the numerous anti feudal struggles waged by the Party cadres there was significant growth of the Communist Party and the class and mass organizations during the two and half decades from the time of its formative years. There were many positive factors which contributed towards this growth.
Firstly, it was the presence of powerful international communist movement (ICM) under the leadership of Soviet Union which was growing from strength to strength in its early decades. In spite of many weaknesses which came out within a few years and weakened the ICM considerably, till the end of the 1940s, at least superficially it presented a cohesive movement advancing in all fields, challenging the imperialist camp and its lackeys. The socialist construction in Soviet Union and the changes it brought in the life of the masses, its history of anti imperialist positions in support of the national liberation movements, its victory in the anti fascist war and the emergence of a powerful socialist camp by the end of 1940s provided inspiration to the toiling and oppressed classes and sections to look forward to the Communist movement as the only alternative to the imperialists and their henchmen who were hated by the people increasingly.
Secondly, in spite of the gains it could make in establishing its hegemony in the independence struggle, and in spite of the compromising position taken towards it by the Communist Party leadership, the Congress leadership was hated by increasing number of people all over the country. In the countryside as well as in the urban areas, the Congress leadership was taking clear cut class stand serving the interests of the elite classes. Though the CPI leadership refused to recognize it, Congress was a party of the rich as far as the masses were concerned
Thirdly, in spite all the mistakes continuously committed by the leadership, the Party committees and the class and mass organizations were always in the thick of the people’s struggles. The Communist cadres with their sacrificing qualities were in the fore front of all struggles. As a result, people flocked to the Party and the class and mass organizations in a big way. In spite of the ideological and political weaknesses, the Party and the class and mass organizations were following the Bolshevik organizational methods everywhere, attracting the masses to its fold. In short, though the erroneous ideological political line created obstacles for it to come to the leadership of the independence struggle, the Bolshevik model of organizational work, the close relation established by the cadres with the masses and the preparedness of the organization at the lower levels to struggle for the people’s cause helped the continuous growth of the Party and the class and mass organizations all over India, and more so where the anti imperialist and anti-feudal struggles were waged on a big scale.
5. The Ideological Struggle Sharpens: Towards the Second Party Congress.
When the Mountbatten Plan for the communal division of India and transfer of power to Congress and Muslim League were announced, in continuation to the earlier evaluation of the Indian situation by the Comintern, the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau formed in 1947 as a successor to Comintern with representation from the communist parties of the socialist countries) called it the greatest treachery on the part of the entire leadership of Congress as well as betrayal by the big bourgeoisie. On the occasion of the transfer of power, the Soviet scholars condemned the metamorphosis of Nehru who had made many progressive postures till then to a servant of two masters, both Britain and US, and an ally of the Indian princes and landlords, a strangler of the progressive forces in India. The British communist leaders at the same time hailed the transfer of power which “allowed for the maximum administrative and constitutional continuity on the basis of the great India Act of 1935.” Intervening in a debate in the Constituent Assembly on February 17, 1948, Nehru endorsed these views as “…we had carefully provided that there should be no sudden change which might upset the present structure without it being replaced”. In spite of all these, in its Resolution of June 1947, the CPI leadership hailed the Mountbatten Award as “an opening of new opportunities for national advance”.
But, following the Cominform Resolution of September 1947, in December 1947 the CPI suddenly changed its earlier positions without any explanations. It took the position that the Mountbatten Agreement 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”. It also characterized the state that emerged as “imperialist- feudal-bourgeois combine”.
It was in this situation the Second Party Congress was convened at Kolkata from 28th February to 6th March, 1948. By that time the Party had 90,000 members. The Congress reviewed the developments after the First Congress and the line pursued during this period. It criticized the hitherto Party line as erroneous and reformist. Based on this evaluation, P.C. Joshi, who was the general secretary from 1933 onwards was not only not re-elected to the Central Committee, but was also expelled from the Party membership. A new CC was elected with B.T. Ranadive as the general secretary. In 1948 the Polit Bureau of the Party discussed and approved the report of the general secretary and adopted the document, Strategy and Tactics of the Struggle for National Democratic Revolution in India.
Known as the Kolkata Thesis, this document called for combining the tasks of the democratic and socialist revolutions to be completed by the armed overthrow of the Indian state. It called for armed uprisings, especially in the urban areas. The supporters of the P.C. Joshi line, and those who were supporting the Telengana line opposed this line. It was adopted and the party committees were asked to carry it out without considering the fact that the party had not made any preparation for it. Neither the working class was mobilized for such a great revolutionary upheaval; nor the masses were on the verge of a spontaneous uprising, even though they were beginning to get disenchanted with the functioning of the Nehru government. Besides, there was no attempt to link the ongoing Telengana and other anti feudal struggles which were attracting millions of the peasantry with the uprising. On the contrary, the importance of these struggles was ignored by the new line. As a result, though armed actions or insurrections took place in few places, the Party and the class and mass organizations were not able to make a sustained advance. Soon these revolutionary attempts were suppressed and the Party faced serious setback.
The Polit Bureau took a very sectarian line in analyzing the existing objective conditions and preparing the subjective forces for it. At the organizational level, it had taken such a sectarian line that P.C. Joshi who was the general secretary for almost two decades, was not only removed from the CC for the right opportunist line pursued by the Party, but also was expelled even from the primary membership, as pointed out above. Instead of waging an inner party struggle against the rightist line, only Joshi was targeted for attack. As a result, though he was expelled, the struggle against the wrong line was not carried forward. The approach to democratic centralism was thoroughly dogmatic. Because of this, though Joshi went out, his line persisted and when opportune time arrived its protagonists resurfaced, successfully recapturing the Party leadership.
Because of the sectarian approach to both Party and organizational line pursued by the Polit Bureau under the leadership of B.T. Ranadive, the CC elected by the Second Congress did not meet even once. Factionalism became rampant. Those who were pursuing the Telengana line accused Ranadive for treating the entire bourgeoisie as an enemy class, for not recognizing the presence of the national bourgeoisie and for his antagonistic attitude towards the anti feudal struggles. Those who were sympathetic to the Joshi line kept away from all activities at the central level. An organizational crisis along with severe suppression of the insurrection took place after adoption of the Kolkata Thesis. It compelled the convening of a Party Plenum in May 1950.
This Plenum condemned and rejected the line pursued by the Polit Bureau under the leadership of Ranadive as left sectarian. Ranadive was expelled from the CC and the CC was reorganized with Rajeswar Rao as the general secretary. The new CC also repeated the mistake of the earlier CC of expelling a general secretary from the primary Party membership for the erroneous line pursued by the CC or the Polit Bureau and not conducting an inner struggle against the wrong line. Once again it was an erroneous approach towards the inner party struggle and democratic centralism.
6. Towards 1951 Party Program and adoption of the Tactical Line
Under the leadership of the new general secretary, Rajeswar Rao, the reorganized CC issued a Party Letter on 1st June, 1950, which put forward an approach for the fundamental orientation of the Party. Presenting its analysis of the objective conditions in the country, it stated that the main form of struggle for the genuine national liberation of India should be the armed struggle. It called for a united front of all classes and groups who are willing to fight for the national liberation. It stressed that the success of the building of the united front depends on the degree of the development of the armed struggle. According to it the primary concentration of the Party work should be in the rural areas. The CC letter stressed that the conditions for the development of the armed struggle had matured. Focusing on the achievements of the Telengana struggle, the Party letter was putting forward the line of Protracted People’s War as practiced in the course of the New Democratic Revolution in China which was explained in detail in the Andhra Letter presented to the Second Congress of the Party. The major weakness of this line was that it had no plans to link the agrarian struggles going on in Telengana region and in other areas with the working class movement in the urban areas. If the Ranadive line ignored the importance of the anti feudal struggles, the Rajeswar Rao line did not give the working class movement the importance it required. Both the lines were taking one sided approaches.
Strong disagreements surfaced when the provincial organizations discussed the Party Letter. Leading members of the Bombay Provincial Party organisation, Ajoy Ghosh and S.A. Dange issued a statement opposing this line as a mechanical application of the Chinese Revolution without taking the conditions in India in to consideration. According to them the main task of the Communist Party was to strengthen the Party and creating the broadest possible unity of the Indian people against the imperialists, feudal lords and other vested interests. They called for the Party to be in the fore front of the struggle for peace and against war. According to them, as the objective conditions were not ripe and as the Party did not had sufficient organizational strength, the armed struggle cannot be considered as the main form of struggle in the then existing situation. They agreed that if conditions are mature for launching armed struggle in some areas they can be waged, but as defensive struggles, as a part of the general peasant movement for land. They criticized that the importance of the working class movement was underestimated by the CC letter. The general orientation of the line put forward by Ajoy Ghosh and Dange was rightist. They were trying to resurrect the Joshi line.
Once again, a crisis situation was created in the Party. As the CC could not function, a Party Plenum was convened once again in December, 1950. Though agreements could be arrived at on certain issues like the formation of united front with the democratic organizations, the major questions eluded resolution. It was in this situation, the decision was taken to approach the Central Committee of the CPSU for advice. The CC was reorganized co-opting Ajoy Ghosh and S.A. Dange. Based on the decision of the CC, a four member delegation comprising Rajeswar Rao, Basava Punnaiah, Ajoy Ghosh and S.A. Dange went to Soviet Union in February 1951 and held month long discussions with the CC members of the CPSU and Stalin. Based on these discussions, the draft Party Program, the Policy Statement and the Tactical Line were drafted. During the discussion Stalin pointed out that even when his line was wrong, expulsion of P.C. Joshi, from the CC and the Party was a mistake. As correctly pointed out by him, it had weakened the possibilities for keeping the inner party discussion alive, thereby the democratic functioning of the Party. Stalin also advised against copying the path of either the Russian revolution or the Chinese revolution.
The draft Party program, Tactical Line and the Policy Statement were published by the Polit Bureau in April, 1951. They were adopted by the All India Party Conference held at Kolkata from 9 to 15 October. The Program called for: “The withdrawal of India from the British Commonwealth of Nations and the British empire. It called for the confiscation and nationalization of all factories, banks, plantations, shipping and mining owned by the British in India, whether in their name or under the 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 states and united front with them against aggression. The policy of alliance with Pakistan, Ceylon and Nepal was also put forward.
The Tactical Line explained: “The immediate main objectives set forth in the Program of the Communist Party of India are the complete liquidation of feudalism, the distribution of all land held by feudal owners among the peasants and agricultural workers, and achievement of full national independence and freedom. These objectives cannot be achieved in a peaceful and parliamentary way. These objectives can be achieved only through a revolution, through the overthrow of the present Indian state and its replacement by a people’s democratic state. For this the Communist Party shall strive to rouse the entire peasantry and the working class against the feudal exploiters, strengthen the alliance between the working class and the peasantry and build, under the working class, a broad nation-wide united front of all anti imperialist classes (including the national bourgeoisie), sections, groups, parties and elements willing to fight for democracy and for freedom and independence of India..
“While resorting to all forms of struggle, including the most elementary forms, and while utilizing all legal possibilities for mobilizing the masses and taking them forward in the struggle for freedom and democracy, the Communist Party has always held that in the present colonial set up 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 started with these words: “The experience of the last four 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 the British Imperialism. The Communist Party, therefore, has adopted a program in which it says that it “regards the concrete conditions as quite mature for taking up the task of replacing the anti democratic and anti people government by a new government of people’s democracy”.
These documents showed that for the first time after the Communist movement was started in the country, it adopted, in the main, a Party Program and a Tactical Line reflecting the concrete conditions in the country. But this Program had a weakness that in analyzing the conditions and stage of revolution in the country, it had put forward that it was anti-imperialist. It created the understanding that the bourgeoisie as a whole including the big bourgeoisie are part of the allies of revolution in this stage. This erroneous understanding later led to the serious divisions regarding the approach towards the big bourgeoisie.
The 1951 All India Conference reorganized the CC and made Ajoy Ghosh its general secretary. This decision went against the spirit of these documents. Ajoy Ghosh was, in essence, upholding the line of P.C.Joshi, which was fundamentally opposed to the 1951 documents. Very soon the leadership started going against the spirit of these documents. In practice these documents were thrown to the waste paper basket. The first glaring example was the withdrawal of the Telengana struggle in the name of creating conducive atmosphere for the 1952 general elections The statement which came out in the name of A.K. Gopalan, who was leading a sub committee formed by the Central Committee to ‘resolve the Telengana question’ reflected the compromising position it started taking soon after the 1951 Conference. It stated: “With a view to establishing peaceful conditions in Telengana, the Central Committee as well as the Andhra committee has decided to advise the Telengana peasantry and the fighting partisans to stop all partisan actions and to mobilize the entire people for an effective participation in the ensuing general election to rout the Congress at the polls”.
The Party Program had clearly stated and the Tactical Line had explained that all forms of struggle including the parliamentary struggle should be utilized to intensify the class struggle for overthrowing the Indian state. But, just a few months after adopting it, the CC went for withdrawing the Telengana movement which was continuing for more than five years inspiring the masses and creating conditions for mobilizing the people for an uprising to overthrow the state. It was withdrawn to ‘help in restoring peaceful conditions in Telengana …. to mobilize the entire people for an effective participation in the ensuing general election..” Through this action the leadership made it clear that their priority is for winning the election rather than preparing the masses for revolution, or it had erroneous understanding about linking the two. This proved that the tendency of parliamentary cretinism had started influencing the leadership. Along with this, the party fractions inside the armed forces, which played vital role in organizing the RIN revolt in 1946, and is crucial for a Party if it is dedicated to overthrow the existing ruling system, built with the sacrifices of hundreds of comrades, were dissolved. Contrary to what was written in the documents, the Party leadership started moving the Party away from the line of People’s Democratic Revolution to that of reformism.
7. Third Party Congress at Madurai
The result of the 1952 general election was a major jolt to the Congress. Though it retained control at central and state level almost all over the country, people’s resentment against its anti people policies was reflected by the sharp fall in the percentage of votes polled by it and in the reduction of the number of its MPs and MLAs. Meanwhile, the Communist Party which contested elections for the first time could become the major opponent of the Congress in Parliament and in many state assemblies in spite of many serious obstacles it had to face. But these electoral gains were not evaluated from a revolutionary view point. As happened in the then PEPSU state, attempts were made to form governments in the states even by taking compromising stand. It proved that from the very beginning parliamentary illusions had started influencing a good number of comrades at the leadership level.
The Third Party Congress was held at Madurai (Tamilnadu) from 27 December, 1953 to 4th January, 1954, at a time when the agriculture sector was in crisis, and when along with the British imperialists the US imperialists had also intensified efforts to penetrate the South Asian region. While approving the documents adopted by the 1951 Conference, the wrong evaluation about the stage of revolution and about the alliance with the big bourgeoisie stated above were not corrected. This soon led to inner-party struggles which went on intensifying.
Though the Political Resolution adopted by the Congress gives a descriptive presentation of the state of the economy and about the increasing imperialist manoeuvres in the region, it did not provide a revolutionary orientation to lead the mass struggles forward. It stated: “due to the unity and militancy of the people and the weakening position of the monopolists, landlords and the government, many of the struggles succeeded in winning concessions which though not big, heighten the confidence of the masses in their own strength and further weaken the government”. Two basic weaknesses were visible in the analysis made by the PR.
It is true that many concessions could be won because of the growing unity and militancy of the mass movements. But along with this, the presence of a powerful socialist camp during this period also played a major role in this. Besides, it was a period when the imperialist camp led by the US was intensifying its neo colonial policies through Keynisian methods and welfare state concepts in order to confront the growing challenge from the socialist forces. So, the analysis that the position of the monopolists and imperialists had weakened was not correct. This analysis reflected the erroneous evaluation about weakening of the imperialist camp which was being put forward by the post-Stalin leaders of the Soviet Union and many Communist Parties during that period with disastrous consequences later. On the contrary, through neo-colonial methods and military adventures in many areas, the imperialist countries were trying to achieve a period of ‘crisis free capitalism’ which was much talked about even during that period. The weakness of the document of the Third Congress also can be seen in the evaluation of the international scene where it fails to see the neo- colonial offensive made by the US led imperialist camp in all fields.
The most important weakness of this Political Resolution, which was the principal document adopted by the Third Congress, was that it did not try to present an analysis of the efforts being made to put in to practice the Tactical Line and the approach of the Party Program adopted by the 1951 Conference. As a result, except for repeating the need to strengthen the mass movements, how to advance along the path of revolution explained in the Tactical Line was not even touched. It proves that, as pointed out earlier, the leadership had thrown the spirit of the documents adopted by the 1951 Conference to waste paper basket in practice. Instead, the Resolution was more vocal about the parliamentary gains. The rightist leadership who took over following the 1951 Conference was consolidating its position and the Third Party Congress decisions reflected the reformist positions it was putting forward.
The rightist trend in the Party led by general secretary Ajoy Ghosh and more vociferously by S.A. Dange was trying to propagate the view that the Party Program and the Tactical Line adopted by the 1951 All India Conference had not broken away from the dogmatist understanding of the 1948-50 period. As Mohit Sen wrote in his introduction to the Vol.8 of the Documents of the History of the CPI, edited by him: “they failed to acknowledge the independence of our country and class character of the state” as desired by the rightists including him. Though they left these 1951 documents without major changes in the Third Party Congress (The only change made by the Third Party Congress was that in para.29 after “Use of Hindi as an all India state language will not be obligatory” it was added:” but will be encouraged as a means of intercourse between governments of different states and between the people of different states”. At the same time an amendment to add that “unify India based on the right of self determination of all nationalities” was rejected. In this manner they launched their offensive to establish the rightist line in the Fourth Party Congress at Palakkad.
8. The Fourth Party Congress at Palakkad
The Fourth Party Congress was held at Palakkad in Kerala from 19 to 29 April, 1956, when the momentous 20th Party Congress of the CPSU had just concluded. The Congress discussed a report from Ajoy Ghosh on this. His report concluded with these words:”The 20th Congress is a land mark 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 doctrinairism, 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”
The report consisted of a first part which glorified the great advances made by the Soviet Union, the socialist camp in general and the national liberation movements at global level. According to the report; the struggle for defense of peace and against military blocks that is developing in the countries of the east is an essential and vital part of this freedom struggles itself. By waging these struggles these countries strengthen their national freedom”. It went on to state: this disintegration of the colonial system weakens imperialism and thus weakens its capacity to undertake military adventures against the socialist world. Based on Krushchov’s Report to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, he repeated that what the socialist world needs, above all, is peace. What was to become prophetic in a negative sense in his report was:”The emergence of socialist system as a world system and the disintegration of the colonial system — both proceeded side by side and each process strengthened the other”.
Defending the Non Aligned Movement which was emerging then as reflected in the Bandung Conference, he reported: “what does that sentiment of neutrality express? It is a sentiment for peace, which wants to keep out of the imperialist drive for war.” Ajoy Ghosh continued:”The CPSU Congress also proclaimed the possibility of peaceful transition to socialism. It held that because of the new international situation when the balance has shifted in favour of the forces of socialism, because of the massive achievement of socialism in USSR and other countries in every sphere which are having a powerful influence on the masses of people, because of the growth of the ideas of socialism all over the world and because strong communist parties have come in to existence in many countries – such a peaceful transition is a possibility in several countries”. To prove his statement Ajoy Ghosh verbatim repeated what Krushchov had stated that peaceful transition has taken place in East European countries and China, distorting the facts. In this manner, Ajoy Ghosh proceeded to repeat all arguments of Krushchov and tried to establish them among the delegates to the Fourth Congress.
Then he proceeded to present Krushchov’s attack on Stalin in the name of ‘cult of personality’. Instead of debating issues like what about the contributions of Stalin to the development of Marxism- Leninism, what about his role in building socialism which was glorified enormously in the same report, what were other leaders doing all these years when the Stalin’s mistakes created such serious problems, and what made it possible for such a thing to continue for such a long time etc, Ajoy Ghosh pleaded for seeing the whole issue dispassionately and to swallow what was stated by Krushchov. But the Party Congress did not oblige him by becoming so dispassionate on such a vital question, by accepting his apologetic positions. The Congress decided to postpone any decision on this matter so that the Central Committee can review all discussions taking place nationally and internationally and ’endevour to enrich our understanding in the light of these documents and discussions’.
Though a decision on this vital question was temporarily postponed for the CC to discuss and decide, the Political Resolution adopted by the Fourth Congress reflected most of the revisionist positions put forward by the Soviet leadership. Capitulating to the positions put forward by Krushchov, the Congress adopted the unscientific formulation that India achieved political independence. As a result, 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 increasingly assert her sovereignty and acquire the status of a politically free country”. By this one amendment, whatever revolutionary orientation the 1951 documents had was made null and void.
At the same time, the draft of the Political Resolution was amended with the inclusion of the following paragraphs at the insistence of those who were opposed to the rightist leadership. They stated: “While laying utmost emphasis on the task of building the broadest mass unity for immediate demands and for progressive policies, the Communist Party will also strive to make the masses realize, through their own experience, the necessity for bringing about basic transformation in our economy, in our social and state structure and the necessity of establishing a new government which can carry out these transformations.
“In the course of its general propaganda and ideological political activity among the masses, the Party will systematically, concretely and constantly popularize the fundamental slogans of People’s Democracy – basic agrarian reforms with distribution of land to the peasants gratis, the confiscation of British capital and establishment of a democratic stage – and emphasize the necessity of a government of People’s Democracy.
“The attainment of political freedom by India and the leading position of the bourgeoisie in the Indian state do not alter the basic objective and basic strategy of the Indian revolution. It is the establishment of a government of People’s Democracy- which include all the democratic classes, including the national bourgeoisie, and is led by the working class – that will bring the democratic revolution to completion. The People’s Democratic Government will not only complete the tasks of democratic revolution, but also will the put the country on the path of socialism – the only correct path in the present epoch, for the advance of every country. There for while resolutely fighting for every progress that can be made under the present conditions, the Communist Party will carry on mass propaganda in favour of People’s Democracy and Socialism.”
An evaluation of the Political Resolution adopted by the Party Congress and the Report of Ajoy Ghosh on the 20th Congress of the CPSU shows that the rightist trend which had started coming to dominance from the time of the 1951 All India Conference succeeded to achieve decisive say in the Party with the decisions of the Fourth Congress. On international questions, by evaluating that imperialism had weakened and colonialism had disintegrated, it mechanically upheld the erroneous stand of the Soviet revisionist leadership who had succeeded to usurp the leadership of the party, army and the state machinery there. With this evaluation the Krushchovites wanted to create justification for their ‘theory of peace transition to socialism’ abandoning the path of class struggle, by upholding the line of class collaboration based on erroneous evaluation of the international situation, and in effect rejecting the Marxist- Leninist teachings. When the imperialist camp led by the US imperialism had strengthened and the capitalists were enjoying a boom period by replacing the colonial forms of plunder with the neo colonial forms after the Second World War, and when it had succeeded to transform the erstwhile countries under colonialism to neo colonies, to a more heinous and pernicious stage, to analyse that colonialism had disintegrated and imperialism had weakened was contrary to the contemporary facts.
Similarly, by analyzing that India had become politically independent, the rightist trend advocated an erroneous analysis of the concrete condition and class relations in the country and had created the background for abandoning the path of class struggle and collaborating with the ruling system, reducing all struggles to the parliamentary path. It was negation of the path of revolution, negation of the intensifying contradiction between the imperialist camp and the socialist camp and the sharpening of the contradiction between imperialism, especially US imperialism, and the oppressed peoples and nations under conditions of neo colonial plunder. This pacifist stand led to the analysis that ‘neutrality is a sentiment for peace’ and to upholding the so-called non-alignment movement as an anti- imperialist movement. Under this banner the foreign policy of Nehru government was hailed, further weakening the struggle against the Indian state. The rightist trend took the contradictory stand that Nehru government’s foreign policy was good but the internal policies were reactionary, which could not convince anyone except the die-hard party loyalists. In short, in the Fourth Congress it became evident that the Party leadership had started proceeding along the revisionist path.
9. The Fifth Party Congress at Amritsar in 1958
The Fifth Party Congress was held at Amritsar in Punjab in 1958 at a time when the 20th Congress of the CPSU and the secret report presented in it by Khrushchev, maliciously denouncing Stalin, had paved the way for a great debate in the international communist movement regarding the basic postulates of Marxism-Leninism and how to apply them in the post- Second World War conditions. As the Communist Party of China (CPC) analyzed during the Great Debate in 1963, the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 was the first open step by its leadership towards the revisionist road. From the 20th Congress onwards the revisionist line of the CPSU leadership had gone through a process of emergence, growth and systematization. A number of views advanced at the 20th Congress concerning the then international struggles and the international communist movement were wrong and violations of Marxist-Leninist tenets. The complete negation of Stalin in the name of “combating the personality cult” and the thesis of peaceful transition to socialism by the “parliamentary road” were gross errors of principles. The criticism of Stalin was wrong both in principle and method. Instead of rectifying whatever weaknesses happened in the building of socialism and in the approach towards proletarian internationalism in order to strengthen the ICM, the intentions of the Soviet leadership were to use them as a cover to deviate the socialist state to capitalist path.
Stalin’s life was that of a great Marxist-Leninist, a great proletarian revolutionary. After Lenin’s death for thirty years Stalin was the foremost leader of the CPSU and the Soviet government, as well as the recognized leader of the international communist movement and the standard bearer of world revolution. Though during his life Stalin made some serious mistakes, compared to his great deeds his mistakes were only secondary.
It was necessary to criticize the mistakes happened during Stalin’s leadership. But, in his secret report to the 20th Congress, Khrushchev completely negated Stalin, defamed the socialist system, the great CPSU, the great Soviet Union and the international communist movement. Far from using a revolutionary proletarian party’s method of criticism and self criticism for the purpose of making an earnest and serious analysis and summation of historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat, he treated Stalin as an enemy and shifted the blame for all the mistakes during that period on to Stalin alone.
As CPC explained: Khrushchev viciously and demagogically told a host of lies in this secret report and threw around charges that Stalin had a “persecution mania”, indulged in “brutal arbitrariness”, took the path of “mass repression and terror”, “knew the country and agriculture only from the films”, “planned operations on a globe” and Stalin’s leadership “became a serious obstacle in the path of Soviet social development”, and so on and so forth. He completely obliterated the meritorious deeds of Stalin. In his report to the 20thCongress, under the pretext that “radical changes’ had taken place in the world situation, Khrushchov put forward the thesis of “peaceful transition”. He said that the road of October Revolution was “the only correct road in those historical conditions”, but that, as the situation has changed, it had become possible to effect transition from capitalism to socialism “through the parliamentary road”. It was a revision of the Marxist-Leninist teachings on the state and revolution, a clear denial of the universal significance of the road of the October Revolution.
The vilification of Stalin in the so-called secret report of Khrushchev to the 20th Congress was first published by the state department of the US government as it was leaked out to it! Following this a vicious attack was launched by the imperialists and their lackeys all over the world against the ICM. The 1957 Moscow meeting of the communist and workers parties was convened when these attacks had subsided a little. While the Soviet revisionists tried to utilize the meeting to push forward with its opportunist line, a number of the Parties under the initiative of the CPC tried to establish the Marxist-Leninist positions. After this bitter struggle, the 1957 Declaration affirmed the universal significance of the road of the October Revolution and outlined the common laws governing socialist revolution and socialist construction and tried to oppose the positions presented in the 20th Congress by Khrushchev.
This great debate taking place at international level had its impact inside India also. The die-hard sections of the rightists tried to attack Stalin heinously and started advocating alliance with the Congress Party. Utilizing the Sino-India border conflict, they tried to spread anti-China phobia among the masses. Though the Party did not break up, the inner party struggle had gone beyond all normal limits. The internal developments added fuel to the bitter ideological struggle taking place in the ICM focusing on the international developments.
In the 1957 general elections the Congress was further weakened. Though it retained power at the centre, in many states its position had become weaker. And in Kerala, the CPI got majority in the state assembly with the support of five independent MLAs who had won with the support of the Party. The question of how to view this victory and utilize the state government became a matter of intense debate. As far the rightists were concerned, it was a vindication of the line of peaceful transition advocated by Khrushchev. In line with this position, EMS who led the government announced while taking over as the chief minister that it will be his effort to use the government to bring maximum relief to the people by implementing the progressive policies of the Congress which it had refused to implement.
Of course, bringing relief to people is an important aspect, but neither he nor the Party leadership could clear the confusion that was created about Party’s approach to utilization of the parliamentary struggles to advance class struggle as taught by Lenin. In this situation lot of parliamentary illusions were created among the party cadres and sympathizers. This reformist approach was reflected in the Land Relations and Education bills presented by the EMS ministry.
Though they were comparatively more progressive measures compared to the policies of the Congress governments, they did not go beyond the bourgeois democratic positions. For example, instead of drafting the Land Relations bill based on the land to the tiller slogan put forward by the Party, it was confined to the land ceiling acts advocated by that time by the Planning Commission under the advice of the imperialist centers as part of the neo-colonial policies. The education bill was lacking the perspective of eliminating the religious and other vested forces from the field of education.
All these developments at international and national level had their impact when the Party Congress was convened at Amritsar in 1958 with a strong delegation from CPSU attending it. Continuing their policy of influencing the communist parties utilizing the prestige the Soviet Union had among them, the Soviet delegation tried to impress on the delegates the significance of the decisions of the 20th Congress of the CPSU and that the coming to power of the CPI in Kerala had vindicated the correctness of the line of peaceful transition put forward by the then Soviet leadership.
In spite of the efforts of the leadership to win over the delegates using the presence of the CPSU delegation, on international questions the sharp divisions continued. But as the dominant sections from among those who were opposing the rightist line of the leadership had no clarity in their approach towards revolutionary stand to be taken on the national developments and international questions, a determined struggle did not take place against the Soviet revisionist line.
On the whole the rightist line could win support of the majority of the delegates as was reflected in the success achieved by the leadership in getting the Party Constitution amended in such a way that the Party was transformed in to a ‘mass party’ in line with the parliamentary road being followed. In the Amritsar Congress, even when the serious division within the leadership as well as among the delegates was well reflected, the rightists could continue their overall control. A clear cut polarization based on an alternative approach towards the basic questions being debated in the ICM was yet to take place.
10. The Sixth Party Congress in 1961
The dismissal of the CPI ministry in Kerala in 1959 in spite of it pursuing a reformist position contributed much in the sharpening of the conflicts within the organization. The difference between the two major viewpoints was not on whether such a reformist line should have been taken or not. While both views were basically for a compromising line, the difference was only on the extent of compromises to be made. Regarding compromise, both the much acclaimed bills moved by the ministry, the land relations and the education bills were compromises of the worst sort. Take the case of the land relations bill. During the second half of 1930s and during 1940s the Party had given leadership to anti-feudal struggles in the areas which later became part of Kerala, with land to the tiller slogan and had waged numerous struggles for confiscation of the agricultural land.
But the bill presented by the ministry did not go beyond the land ceiling proposals of the imperialist think tanks, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, whose intention was to replace the feudal landlords with agriculture bourgeois-rich peasant classes through whom the imperialist penetration in the agrarian sector including the ‘green revolution’ could be carried forward. Instead of the basic slogan, “land to the tiller”, the bill only provided one tenth acre housing plot to the landless-poor peasants. It excluded the plantation sector from the purview of the bill, refusing to nationalize the plantations still owned by British companies. Similarly, instead of strengthening the struggle to bring the education sector under social control, the education bill was putting forward only a compromise formula with the religious- caste- vested interest sections. The orientation of utilizing the parliamentary struggles for intensifying class struggle was itself abandoned. In this situation, these measures were only reformist and not intended to pave the way for inspiring any revolutionary upsurge among the masses.
Though the CPI ministry lacked the orientation to create conditions for a mass upsurge, even the comparatively progressive content of the two bills presented provoked the reactionary forces led by none other than then Congress president Indira Gandhi to lead a mass upsurge in the name of ‘liberation struggle’ by mobilizing all revanchist, communal, caste forces in the state so as to create conditions for the dismissal of the ministry by the Nehru government, even though it had majority support in the assembly. While the CPI leadership went on compromising with the illusion of ‘peaceful transition’, the counter revolutionary forces financed by the US and other imperialists were not prepared even to allow such reformist actions by the CPI ministry. Even this counter revolutionary action by the imperialists and their lackeys did not awaken the Party leadership from its parliamentary illusions.
The Kerala developments did not lead to any basic differences between the major two trends in the Party. While one was openly pursuing the rightist line, the other, even while opposed to certain positions of the rightists was not ready to take any revolutionary positions on international and national questions. The overall positions taken by the rightists in control of Party machinery like their closeness to the Congress leadership, their attitude to the border dispute with China etc played a role in aggravating the contradictions existing from the time of the 1951 Conference between the two sections in the leadership within the Party. As far the revolutionary trend within the Party was concerned, it had not become powerful enough to emerge as a major force yet. The struggle for developing the ideological political line combating the rightist line could not gain strength in the prevailing confusing situation.
Meanwhile, aggravating the situation further, the rightist section had come forward with the line of ‘National Democratic Revolution’ (NDR), in tune with the Soviet revisionist path. It started advocating that the tasks of the NDR can be completed peacefully by aligning with the Indian bourgeoisie, whom it characterized as predominantly national bourgeois, and Congress representing them was characterized as a party of national bourgeoisie. As the border dispute between India and China was reaching a flash point, the Soviet revisionists as well as their lackeys in the CPI utilized it fully to suppress all those in the party opposed to them, calling them Chinese liners. Instead of focusing on the cardinal questions affecting the future of the Communist movement internationally and nationally, the inner party struggle by and large got stuck up in such periphery issues.
By this time the CPC had started criticizing the Soviet revisionist line more openly. In 1960 a sharp struggle developed in the ICM around the meeting of the representatives of Communist and Workers parties. The CPSU was stubbornly persisting in its revisionist stand and trying to impose its line on the ICM.
The CPC delegation which attended the Moscow meeting had explained to the CPSU leadership that by prettifying US imperialism the Soviet leadership was actually opposing China and extending the ideological differences between the two parties in to state relations. When the meeting of 81 parties finally took place, instead of trying for forging unity among them, on the eve of the meeting the CPSU distributed a 127 page letter savagely attacking the CPC. The CPSU tried to impose its line of peaceful transition and other revisionist ideas. The struggle became very intense and in the final Statement that was released, in spite of extreme opposition from the Soviet side, those who opposed the Soviet line could put forward some of their revolutionary positions. But altogether the Statement could not help the ICM either to achieve unity or to put forward a revolutionary line. The ICM was clearly moving towards an open split. The 1960 compromising Statement could only postpone it.
The Sixth Party Congress held in 1961 at Vijayawada was naturally influenced by all these serious developments at international and national levels. Ajoy Ghosh had died before the Congress. In the Congress no meeting ground could be found. In line with the Soviet revisionist approach of turning the ideological struggle to antagonistic levels, the rightist section led by Dange was also pursuing the same path. Two separate draft programs were distributed in the Congress. Only the holding of the 1960 Moscow meeting and it avoiding a split by arriving at a compromise Statement averted the split jn CPI for the time being. A compromise was worked out at Vijayawada also. A new post of chairman was created and Dange was elected to the post. EMS was made general secretary. Though the Party did not split formally, for all practical purposes the two centers were working separately.
11. Party Splits: CPI (M) is formed
The first and foremost thing that happened after the Vijayawada Congress was the formal split in the ICM which took place in 1963 with the issue of the Open Letter of CPSU on 30th March, 1963 and CPC’s reply to it on 14th June which is known as :” A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM”. Along with this Proposal, the CPC issued nine Comments explaining various aspects of the debate in the ICM. These documents are known as the Great Debate documents. The contention of the CPSU leadership was that a new era, when the imperialism has weakened and colonialism has ended, has emerged and the general line of the ‘three peacefuls, that is, peaceful coexistence and peaceful competition with the imperialist system and peaceful transition to socialism’, it had put forward, is entirely correct. It considered the opposition to it by the CPC was because of its sectarian positions, which should be defeated at any cost, even by extending it to state level relations.
Meanwhile, it was transforming the socialist Soviet Union into a bureaucratic state capitalist dictatorship very fast, with the restoration of capitalist relations at all levels. It refused to recognize the transformation of the hitherto colonial forms of plunder to neo- colonial forms of plunder by the US led imperialist powers during the post Second World War period in order to overcome the growing challenge from the socialist camp and the national liberation movements and for overcoming the continuing crises faced by the capitalist imperialist system. Instead, pursuing its policy of capitalist restoration, it also turned first into apologists of neo colonialism and later to executioners of neo colonial policies. By mid- 1960s it changed to a social imperialist power, that is, as Lenin said, pursuing socialism in words and imperialism in action. That is, from usurpation of power and turning Soviet Union in to its opposite, it had transformed it in to an imperialist power, which was upholding socialism in words only to confuse the working class and the oppressed masses. The ICM had reached such a stage that without uncompromisingly struggling against Soviet revisionism, it could not make a single step forward.
The historic significance of the struggle waged by the CPC under the leadership of Mao Tsetung against the Soviet revisionist line should be seen in this context. Analyzing the concrete situation then, it proposed in the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM: “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, 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 the exploitation man by the man”. It stated that reducing the General Line of the ICM one-sidedly to “peaceful co existence”, “peaceful competition”, and “peaceful transition”, as the Soviet leadership was doing shall violate the revolutionary principles of the 1957 Declaration and the 1960 Statement, to discarding the historical mission of the proletarian world revolution, and to departing from the revolutionary teachings of Marxism- Leninism.
The CPC Proposal further pointed out that in defining the general line of the ICM, the starting point should be the concrete class analysis of the world politics and economics as a whole and of actual world conditions, that is to say the fundamental contradictions in the cotemporary world situation. It defined the then fundamental contradictions at the global level as the contradiction between the socialist camp and the imperialist camp, the contradiction between the oppressed nations and imperialism, the contradiction between capital and labour, and the contradiction among the imperialist countries and the monopoly capitalist groups. While explaining that the contradiction between the socialist camp and the imperialist camp as a contradiction between two fundamentally different world systems, the Proposal explained that the Marxist-Leninists should not reduce all the contradictions in the world as consisting of only this. Or, it should not be reduced to the contradiction between Soviet Union and the US, as the Soviet leadership was doing. These contradictions and the struggles they give rise to are inter- related and influence each other. Nobody can obliterate any of these fundamental contradictions or subjectively substitute one for all the rest as the Soviet leadership was doing.
The 1960 Statement had pointed out:”US imperialism has become the biggest international exploiter. It is the mainstay of colonialism today. It is the main force of aggression and war. International developments in recent years have furnished many new proofs of the fact that US imperialism is the chief bulwark of world reaction and a world gendarme that it has become an enemy of the people of the whole world. Pointing it out, the CPC Proposal sharply attacked the compromising stand taken by the Soviet revisionists towards the US imperialists and their proposal that the co existence with it should be elevated to strategic level. As the appeal of the CPC to the Soviet leadership to unite against the common enemy and work for the unity of the workers and oppressed peoples of the world did not receive any positive response, the split became inevitable. In the nine Comments issued by the CPC, The origin and the 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 policies, The leaders of the CPSU are the greatest splitters of our time, The proletarian revolution and Khrushchev’s revisionism, and On Khrushchev’s phony communism and its historic lessons for the world, the CPC had elaborated all the fundamental issues on which the Soviet leaders had taken revisionist positions, degenerating Soviet Union to the capitalist path.
The CPC pointed out that while the revolution in the colonies and semi colonies suffered serious setbacks after the First World War owing to suppression by the imperialists and their lackeys, the situation after the Second World War had become fundamentally different. The old colonial system was fast disintegrating. But contrary to what the Soviet revisionists advocate, in the post Second World War situation the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America were seriously menaced by neo colonialism which is more pernicious and sinister form of colonialism. So, contrary to what the Soviet rulers repeated, though the old colonial system had disintegrated it was replaced by the more ferocious form of neo colonialism, which they tried to ignore and was becoming apologists of it.
But on some important questions the CPC leadership did not make its stand clear. Firstly, it did not accept that the 1960 Statement was a compromise document. For example, the Statement reiterated that the world capitalist system is going through an intense process of disintegration and decay:….A new stage has begun in the development of general crisis of imperialism… the growing instability of the entire economic system of capitalism..Based on this understanding it had concluded that the restoration of the capitalism had been made impossible not only in the Soviet Union, but in other socialist countries as well. But these assessments were proved wrong very soon. Though the imperialist system can never overcome the perennial crisis it is facing, as Marx pointed out studying the laws of motion under the capitalist system, it is adept at developing remedial steps, however temporary it may be. It is proved repeatedly. On the contrary, it was the socialist system which was soon facing severe crisis. Secondly, even though it criticized the Soviet leaders for going against the spirit of proletarian internationalism, when the ICM was facing a crisis, it did not take up the responsibility to convene a meeting of the Communist and Workers Parties opposed to the Soviet revisionists, based on the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM it had put forward. Thirdly, when the ICM was facing such a serious crisis, and when the imperialist camp and its lackeys were working overtime to utilize every opportunity to further intensify this crisis, even when its stand on the border dispute with India was, in the main, correct, proletarian internationalist spirit demanded avoiding border clashes with India, or for that matter with any other neighbouring country. It was a serious mistake on its part to go for a border war with India, however strong the provocations were. As a result of these weaknesses, in spite of its generally correct ideological political positions, the CPC could not play its internationalist role in a decisive manner in such a critical situation.
As far as the ruling class and the central government led by the Congress egged on by the US and other imperialist forces were concerned, they were keen to exploit the differences within the Party. As already stated a section of the leaders were arrested, calling them pro- China, utilizing the Sino-Indian border dispute. The rightist trend utilized this as an opportunity to capture the Party organization at all level. When the arrested leaders came out after a year they proposed a Special Congress based on the membership at the time of the Vijayawada Congress, with the condition that the majority position should be agreed to by all. As the rightists did not agree, 32 CC members walked out of the CC meeting. They decided to form the CPI (M) at Tenali Convention organized by them.
Though the split in the Party did not address the fundamental questions faced by the Communist movement, it happened as a result of the inner party struggle taking place from the 1940s itself, especially from the time of the Third Party Congress. While the rightist section went for the line of National Democratic Revolution based on its own interpretation of the 1951 documents, collaborating with all sections of the bourgeoisie including the big bourgeoisie, the others called for People’s Democratic Revolution with a four class alliance including the national bourgeois section under the leadership of the working class. As far as the international developments were concerned, the rightists known as CPI from that time, faithfully followed the Soviet revisionist line, and upheld Soviet Union as the socialist bastion, till it disintegrated in 1991..
The Seventh Party Congress was convened by the CPI (M) in October, 1964 at Kolkata which adopted a Party Program for completing the tasks of People’s Democratic Revolution. Even though a fierce ideological struggle was taking place in the ICM at that time, with the CPC putting forward its Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM against the general line put forward by the CPSU based on its theory of peaceful transition, the CPI (M) leadership refused to take a stand on this question. It postponed the decision on the Great Debate to a Plenum to be conducted in 1968. In effect it was not fundamentally opposed to the Soviet line as was proved by the document adopted in its 1968 Burdwan Plenum. In effect, the CPI (M) leadership was taking a ‘centrist’ line, which was not basically different from the rightist line.
This was proved by the basic positions it took in the Party Program. For example, like the CPI, it also took the line that India attained national independence, with the strange argument that India is politically independent, but economically dependent. Though it stated that the ruling class policies are leading to ‘bankrupt path of capitalism which leads to growth of monopolies and growing danger of neo- colonialism’, this question was not analyzed further. How to combat this danger of neo- colonialism was not developed in the path of revolution. It characterized the big bourgeoisie as having dual character, one of compromising and collaborating with imperialism, while the other of in conflict with imperialism. But from the beginning till today it has refused to state, in the Indian conditions, which of these two characteristics is the primary one. As a result, though CPI (M) may talk much against it, in the name of big bourgeoisie’s alleged conflicts with imperialism, in effect it collaborates with the ruling system.
Its concept of proletarian internationalism did not take it to follow the stand of Marx and Engels who went for the First International based on the slogan “workers of the world, unite”, and of Lenin who went for reorganizing the Second International, which had collapsed, in to Third or Communist International, in spite all the difficult problems before the newly emerged Soviet Union, with the slogan “workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite”. Similar to what the Soviet leadership had stated while dissolving the Comintern in 1943, and the parties like the CPC had agreed to, according to CPI(M) also, the Communist International is no longer required as ‘the communist parties cannot be guided from one centre a they have to work out their own programs’.
As a result of this basically centrist line, in practice it very soon took to the path of parliamentary cretinism like the CPI. And the Communist Revolutionaries within the CPI (M) soon started a fierce ideological struggle against the centrist, in effect, neo revisionist, line of the Party leadership.
12. Struggle against Centrist Line of CPI (M) Leadership: Towards Naxalbari Uprising
The struggle against the revisionist line of CPI leadership and the formation of CPI (M) had created immense enthusiasm among the Party rank and file as well as among the left masses. In the states like West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, where Party had good mass base, vast majority of the cadres and members of the class and mass organizations rallied with the CPI(M) denouncing the revisionists. There were immense expectations about the Party giving leadership for unleashing the militant struggles against the reactionary policies pursued by the central and the state governments. Following the Seventh Party Congress many militant struggles took place in many areas. By 1965-66 militant food riots broke out in W. Bengal, Bihar, parts of U.P and other places including capture of godowns and distribution of the captured food grains among the people. In some areas struggle for land also broke out. As the Party cadres played a major role in these struggles, expectation about launching countrywide revolutionary struggles was mounting.
At this time the central government once again arrested a large number of Party leaders and cadres in the name of following the China line. It was a conspiracy to suppress the Party and the militant struggles led by it. The challenge before the Party leadership was whether to surrender before the pressure tactics of the government and vested interests or stand up against them in a revolutionary manner. But the government had done its home work well. While arresting most of the leaders it had left EMS and Jyothi Basu free. That they were taking a reformist line was well known. The alternate document they had put forward in the 7th Congress was basically not different from the CPI line. When the elections to Kerala assembly took place in 1965, in the name of defeating the CPI, EMS, who had a free hand as all other leaders were in jail, forged united front with Muslim League and other rightist forces. During the 1967 general elections this tactics was continued at all India level. Following the elections, it came to power in Bengal and Kerala forming electoral fronts with even communal and reactionary parties. These CPI (M) led governments in Bengal and Kerala were not ready to go beyond the boundaries of the bourgeois parliamentary system. Though the All India Kisan Sabha in its 1966 Conference, had called for implementation of land to the tiller slogan if the Party came to power, once the ministry took over even the general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, Harekrishna Konar, who became the revenue minister in W. Bengal, refused even to talk about it. It was clear that the Party leadership was pursuing the same line like the CPI, degenerating to neo revisionist positions. Both were pursuing the path of parliamentary cretinism.
Through a series of articles, which later became famous as the ‘Eight Documents’, Charu Majumdar had already called for fighting against the neo revisionist line of the leadership and to intensify the agrarian struggles. He had also called for upholding the contributions of Mao Tsetung, Mao Tsetung Thought (MTT), in order to carry forward the Democratic Revolution in the country. In the first document, Our Tasks in the Present Situation written in January, 1965, he stated that the Indian government had become the chief political partner of US imperialism in its expansionist policies for imposing its world hegemony. Condemning the arrests of large number of the Party cadres calling them China liners, he called for spreading the message of agrarian revolution and to build the Party in a revolutionary manner. In the second document, Make the People’s Democratic Revolution Successful by Fighting against Revisionism, he emphasized the importance of Telengana-Tebhaga movements and to intensify the struggle against the revisionist line. In these eight documents written between 1965 and 1967 he had attacked the revisionist and neo revisionist lines of CPI and CPI(M), charting the path of developing the struggle for the PDR based on agrarian revolution. These documents as well as many more such contributions by the leading comrades in Bengal, AP and elsewhere provided the orientation for the Communist Revolutionaries in the CPI (M) to take to the path of revolution rebelling against the neo revisionist line of the leadership.
In Andhra Pradesh also a sizable number of comrades including senior leaders had started revolting against the neo revisionist line of the leadership. In other states also the revolt against the erroneous line was spreading. A fierce inner party struggle broke out throughout the country against the opportunist line of the CPI (M) leadership which was increasingly degenerating to opportunist positions. The Communist Revolutionaries were coming forward at all India level to challenge the leadership. It was at that time, like a ‘Spring Thunder over Indian Horizon’ (as the Beijing Review editorial later explained it) the Naxalbari Uprising took place in May 1967 advancing the call of agrarian revolution and democratic revolution. It became a historic turning point in the Communist movement in India.
The CPI (M) led government in W. Bengal used its police forces along with the central forces sent by the Indira Gandhi government to suppress the Naxalbari Uprising killing 11 comrades on 25th May, 1967. The state terror was continued to suppress the activities of the Communist Revolutionaries (CRs). As the CRs were still in the CPI (M), disciplinary actions were started to expel them also. Meanwhile the Party leadership was continuing to move ahead along the parliamentary road both in Bengal and Kerala. In 1968 it convened the Burdwan Plenum to discuss a draft document on international developments, which took a ‘centrist’ attitude towards the Great Debate going on in the ICM, basically upholding the Soviet line, even while pretending to criticize some of the mistakes of the CPSU. Like the rightists earlier, it resorted to autocratic methods to manipulate a majority for the draft. It refused to recognize the transformation of Soviet Union from a socialist country to a bureaucratic dictatorship, a social imperialist super power contending and colluding with US imperialism for world hegemony. The Soviet leadership was preaching socialism, while pursuing imperialist policies, similar to the leaders of the Second International whom Lenin had criticized as social imperialists. In this situation, the inner party struggle had turned in to struggle between two lines, between the proletarian and bourgeois lines. There was no other alternative before the CRs, but to walk out of the CPI (M) and to reorganize the Party on revolutionary lines.
But, though they had almost complete unity among themselves regarding the stand to be taken towards the ideological political struggle taking place within the ICM, on the question of arriving at the theoretical and programmatic positions regarding the People’s Democratic Revolution in India and on reorganizing the Party, serious differences emerged among the CRs. The historic significance of the Naxalbari Uprising was that the CRs leading it had categorically declared that the struggle for the capture of land and its distribution cannot be successfully carried forward without linking it with the struggle for capture of political power. Following the suppression of the uprising, in order to carry forward the struggle Naxalbari o Krishak Sahayak Samithi was formed. A call to form such committees at other places was also given. Following this, uniting the CRs at all India level, the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries in CPI (M) was formed. After the CRs walked out of the CPI (M), its name was changed to All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR). It gave the call for organizing Naxalbari type struggles all over the country.
But by this time, at the peak of the Cultural Revolution, the left adventurist line had usurped its leadership and had come to dominance in the CPC. The CRs in India were upholding Mao as the authority on all ideological political questions as a reaction to the treacherous line of the Soviet revisionists and their followers in the country, the revisionist CPI leadership and the neo revisionist CPI (M) leaderships, who had betrayed the Communist movement internationally and in India. If the CPI and CPI (M) leaderships mechanically followed the Soviet revisionist line, the CRs followed whatever was coming from China mechanically, as the teachings of Chairman Mao. They failed to recognize that what was advocated in “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao published in 1966 and the Political Organizational Report to the Ninth Congress of the CPC held in 1969, theorizing the birth of a ‘new era’, an era of total collapse of imperialism and world- wide victory of socialism, with Mao Tsetung Thought as the Marxism-Leninism of the new era, calling for an adventurist line, had very little in common with the teachings of Mao as explained in the five volumes of his published writings. Without taking pains to make a concrete analysis of the changes that had taken place in the Indian situation under the penetration of imperialist capital and market forces, India was analyzed as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country like the pre- revolutionary China, and the strategic line was put forward as the ‘protracted people’s war’. In this situation, the upholding of Mao and Chinese path went to the extent of raising the slogan: ‘China’s Chairman is our Chairman and China’s path is our path’, as the Party line. Pursuing this path, armed struggle was declared as the only form of struggle to be pursued. Soon the armed struggle itself was reduced to the ‘line of annihilation of class enemies’. Mechanically copying what was done in China in those years of Cultural Revolution, in the name of heralding new culture, the line of ‘idol breaking’ and such other acts were pursued. In short, in the name of fighting revisionism, ‘Charu Majumdar’s revolutionary line’ went to the other extreme, to the path of left adventurism.
The reality during those years was that MTT was upheld mechanically by almost all the CRs. Similarly all of them upheld the characterization of India as semi-colonial and semi-feudal, stage of revolution as that of NDR, and the strategic line as protracted people’s war. No serious theoretical struggle was waged against this line even by those who were bitter critics of Charu Majumdar. Their attacks on his line were more personal and rhetorical than theoretical. They themselves were influenced by sectarian positions to a great extent or fully. Their opposition to certain decisions like the decision for the formation of the CPI (ML) in 1969 in order to speed up the polarization of the CRs, even though it was carried out hastily without trying to bring all the CRs together, became a negative one. The fact was that practically no one dared to oppose this sectarian and adventurist line then put forward by the CPI(ML) leadership theoretically as it would have led to opposing the erroneous line which was coming from China, which all of them were upholding dogmatically as the centre of world revolution.
One serious problem confronted by the CRs at that time was that the revisionist camp and the imperialists and lackeys also were attacking the Chinese line as sectarian and adventurist. In such a situation how could they raise even the mildest of criticisms against it? And there was no revolutionary international centre which could objectively analyze the world situation and put forward a General Line for the ICM in continuation to the Comintern positions and the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963. Besides, the newly emerging CR groups and Marxist Leninist Parties and groups lacked necessary theoretical understanding or practical experience to make a concrete evaluation of then international situation and to develop the Marxist-Leninist understanding under their own initiative. So, the only alternative available was to copy what was coming out from China as Mao’s teachings and mechanically apply them. This is what was done not only by CPI (ML) led by Charu Majumdar, but also by almost all the revolutionary organizations which emerged during that period. It is the responsibility of the Marxist- Leninists as a whole to evaluate the positive and negative experiences of this period and draw necessary lessons from them.
13. The First (Eighth) Congress of CPI (ML)
The First, that is, the Eighth Congress of the Party was organized at Kolkata in May, 1970, at a time when the Party was facing brutal suppression at all levels, in all areas where it existed and was trying to launch counter attacks on the feudal lords and the state forces. As the Congress was convened in extremely difficult conditions,, only the leading comrades participated in it. In the Party Program adopted by the Congress, it was stated: “The great October Revolution brought the ideology of Marxism- Leninism to our country and the Communist Party of India was born. However, despite tremendous opportunities the leadership of the working class could not be established over the national liberation struggle as the leadership of the Party refused to fight Gandhism and the Gandhian leadership and take to the path of revolution. The leadership refused to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of Indian revolution. It refused to integrate the Party with the heroic masses, chiefly the revolutionary peasantry and to forge the revolutionary united front. It refused to learn from the great liberation struggle of the Chinese people led by the CPC and Chairman Mao Tsetung and take to the path of armed struggle…”
It explained the 1947 transfer of power and later developments in this way:”The country was partitioned amidst communal carnage and the Congress leadership representing the comprador bourgeoisie and big landlords, was installed in power while the British imperialists stepped in to the background. The sham independence declared in 1947 was nothing but a replacement of the colonial and semi feudal set up with a semi colonial and semi feudal one.
“During these years of sham independence the big comprador bureaucrat-bourgeoisie and big landlord ruling classes have been serving their imperialist masters quite faithfully. These lackeys of imperialism, while serving the old British imperialist exploitation, have also brought US imperialist and Soviet social imperialist exploiters to fleece our country. They have mortgaged our country to the imperialist powers”
Analyzing the main contradictions in the country it stated that “the contradiction between landlords and the peasantry, i.e., the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses of Indian people is the principal contradiction in the present phase. The solution of this contradiction will lead to the resolution of all contradictions.”
It explained the basic task of the Indian revolution as overthrowing the rule of feudalism, comprador bureaucratic capitalism, imperialism and social imperialism. This determines the stage of revolution in the country which is democratic, the essence of which is agrarian revolution. Though it was explained that India has turned in to a neo colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism in the Program, this point was not subjected for further analysis.
It stressed that ‘as comrade Lin Piao had pointed out, …’ “guerilla warfare is the only way to mobilize and apply the entire strength of the people against the enemy”. In his speech introducing the Political-Organizational Report, Charu Majumdar said: build up the party and get it entrenched among the landless and poor peasants. The building up of the party means the development of armed struggle. And without armed class struggle party cannot be developed and cannot entrench itself among the masses.”
The Party Congress upholding the continuation of the revolutionary history of the Indian Communist movement from its beginning in the 1920s, emphasized that India is in the stage of New (People’s) Democratic Revolution and that the revolution can be carried forward only by integrating the Marxist-Leninist teachings to the concrete conditions of India. It gave a good beginning to fight against the revisionist line. At the same time, though momentous developments had taken place from the time of the 1964 Seventh Party Congress at both international and national levels, and though it was necessary to draw a line of demarcation from the positions taken on these questions by the CPI (M) leadership, the 1970 Congress documents failed to take up this task. The positive aspect of the 1951 documents, as already pointed out, was that they had rejected the pursuing of either Russian Path or Chinese Path and emphasized on developing an Indian Path for advancing the People’s Democratic Revolution in the country.
But, the 1970 Congress once again called for pursuing the Chinese Path without making any efforts to evaluate the Indian situation. Though it was stated that India had become the neo colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, the formulations, neo- colony and semi- colony, were used synonymously. In spite of the attempts made by the CPC to explain the replacement of colonialism by neo- colonialism by the imperialist camp led by the US imperialists in the post Second World War period in the documents it had put forward during the Great Debate, there was no effort to take up this question forward seriously. As a result, in spite of defining India as a neo- colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, the Program eventually called India a semi- colonial and semi- feudal country. Instead of criticizing the left adventurist actions taking place in China in the name of advancing the Cultural Revolution contrary to its spirit, the Congress documents upheld them in a mechanical manner.
As far as the practice of Indian revolution was concerned, the Congress documents called for a mechanical application of the experience of Chinese revolution in its totality refusing to take in to consideration the vast differences in the concrete conditions of India from the conditions of pre revolutionary China. They went to the extent of reducing the protracted people’s war, advocated by Lin Biao as panacea for all the Asian, African and Latin American countries, to ‘the line of annihilation of the class enemies’. Though the importance of Party building was mentioned, it was also linked to the development of armed struggle one-sidedly. The question of building the class and mass organizations was not even mentioned as by that time the concept that they are highways to revisionism had gained dominance. The concept of mass line was not even discussed. In short, the Party Congress documents advocated a left adventurist line, based on an erroneous evaluation of the concrete conditions in the country, in the name of fighting against the revisionist betrayal of the movement, in the name of speedy completion of the democratic revolution.
As the Party Congress had failed to evaluate the significance of the setbacks already suffered by the movement in Srikakulam and in many other areas and minimized their magnitude, it instead called for persisting with the left adventurist line. It soon led to intensification of the setbacks after the Congress. By 1971 the first split in the Party took place when a number of CC members went out and formed a parallel centre. In most of the areas, under severe repression, the movement could not go forward. In the article written by Charu Majumdar in the last issue of Liberation, the then central organ of the Party, “People’s interest is Party’s interest”, there was an attempt to initiate a process of self criticism and rectification. But before it could be carried forward he was arrested. He died on 28th July, 1972 under police custody. Soon the Party and the movement as a whole splintered to number of groups. As the top leadership was almost wiped out by the enemy, this disintegration affected the party at every levels.
14. Attempts for reorganization of the CPI (ML)
For more than last four decades the left movement in general and the CPI (ML) groups in particular had to face innumerable challenges. The objective situation also has undergone many changes. The four major contradictions at the international level, the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed peoples and nations, the contradiction between capital and labour, the contradiction between the imperialist forces and the socialist forces and the contradiction among the imperialist powers and among the monopoly groups have undergone many changes and have sharpened. The contradictions at the national level, between the imperialist forces, especially US imperialism, and the people of the country, between the comprador bureaucratic bourgeois-big landlord state and the people of the country, between capital and labour and among the ruling classes and the monopoly groups have also undergone many changes and have sharpened further. The internal dynamics of the left movement as a whole and of the CPI (ML) groups was also influenced by these changes, causing many repercussions among them.
During these decades, the CPI and the CPI (M) further degenerated from their revisionist and neo revisionist positions to social democratic positions. The Left Front (LF) led by them in W. Bengal and Tripura and the Left and Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala were, in the main, implementing the ruling class policies including the neo liberal policies. They have abandoned all Marxist- Leninist positions in practice. They are facing increasing crisis as a result of implementing the ruling class policies and are beset with electoral reverses and internal conflicts, which have become more serious after the reverses in 2011 W. Bengal elections and following the serious debacle in the 16th LS elections.
But these internal conflicts and splits in the CPI and CPI (M) like parties were not taking place based on the ideological problems faced by the international and Indian communist movement. Many of those leading these splits were not basically opposed to the revisionist and neo revisionist positions pursued by them for decades. Many of these groups formed after the splits either become part of the electoral fronts led by Congress like ruling class parties, or joined opportunist alliances or have perished. Besides, a number of individuals and sections after leaving CPI and CPI (M) also joined Congress like parties. These developments reveal the extent of ideological degeneration to alien positions prevalent during these decades.
During these decades, the different CPI (ML) groups also went through an intense ideological struggle. The CRs and the CPI (ML) groups had faced severe setbacks as a result of the left adventurist line they pursued. But the positive aspect pushing most of them forward was that through the uncompromising struggle against revisionist and neo revisionist positions, and by closely following the Great Debate, they had made a clear break with the Soviet revisionist line peddled by the capitalist roaders from Khrushchev onwards. Another distinctive feature of the Marxist- Leninist forces was that, against the stand of the revisionist camp who joined hands with even the imperialist camp and counter revolutionary intellectuals against the Cultural Revolution, they were upholding it along with the teachings of Mao on it as “the theory and practice of continuing class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat”. And, they had also assimilated the Mao’s contributions, in continuation to Lenin’s teaching, that even after the capture of political power by the proletariat-led forces, “who will win to hold the political power is not going to be decided till the time of a decisive victory over the imperialist forces at international level”. As a result, as soon as the capitalist roaders led by Deng Tsiaoping usurped power in China soon after Mao’s death, some of them could immediately take positions against them, and their class collaborationist ‘theory of three worlds’ (TTW). Many other groups, though they did not denounce the TTW, came out against the capitalist restoration in China within 5-6 years. That is, in spite of the severe setbacks, lot of space for theoretical struggle was existing in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Similarly, because of this atmosphere of theoretical struggle created, most of them could grasp the teaching of Mao that “it is the people, people alone who create history”, in spite of all the vulgarizations made by Lin Biao and later Dengists to obfuscate it. So, except for some sections, most of the other groups soon rejected the adventurist line, which isolated the movement from the masses, and adopted the mass line, at least in form.
When the CPI (ML) disintegrated in to many groups in the beginning of 1970s, there were some efforts to reorganize the Party from the side of those who had denounced Charu Majumdar’s line. But their understanding about the mass line was by and large limited only to certain superficial forms. Content-wise there were no important changes. As a result, though some class and mass organizations were formed by them and there was a quantitative development of their organization for some time, they could not make a clean break with the sectarian line. As far as all those groups who were still upholding Charu Majumdar’s line with some cosmetic changes were concerned, they were persisting in the earlier analysis of the objective situation that conditions were still ripe for continuing the line of armed struggle as the only form of struggle, whether they were actually practicing it or not.
But contrary to what the CPI (M) led reformist forces or the different CPI (ML) groups (or ML groups) were analyzing, the ruling system was in the middle of a crisis. The contradictions between the reactionary state and the masses were sharpening fast. As a reflection of the intensifying inter imperialist contradiction between US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, which were contending for upper hand in the country, and due to various internal factors, the contradictions among the ruling classes as reflected in the different stands taken by the ruling class parties were also sharpening day by day. Thus conditions were maturing for a people’s upsurge. And the uprising did take place in many areas like Gujarat and later in Bihar in a bigger form. But due to reformist positions both CPI and CPI(M) could not take any positive move to influence them. Due to still persisting sectarian positions, most of the CPI(ML) groups also could not utilize this situation effectively.
These mass upsurges led to the declaration of the ‘internal emergency’ by Indira Gandhi government. Another wave of severe suppression was unleashed on the masses and the revolutionary forces who had still not overcome the effects of their earlier disintegration. The revolutionary movement further suppression wherever they tried to resist the emergency rule. It was during this time Mao died and following it the Dengists usurped power in China. It created further confusion, on how to evaluate these post-Mao developments. When the general elections were held in 1977, contrary to the evaluation of many of the ML groups the emergency was lifted and the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi was defeated. In this complex situation, on the question of analyzing the Indian situation more confusing ideas surfaced among them.
Another major question which came up during this period was the emergence of a series of powerful agitations led by the agricultural bourgeois- rich peasant sections who had emerged as a significant force in the country side, following the ‘land reforms from above’ and ‘green revolution’ policies. Their main demands were higher procurement price for agricultural products and enhanced subsidies for agricultural inputs. Without resorting to an analysis of the changes taking place in the agrarian sector and mechanically pursuing the China’s path, many of the groups upholding the semi- colonial, semi-feudal analysis called for supporting these movements as the CPC had included these sections also among the four class alliance. That this struggle did not raise any demand of the land less and poor peasants and agricultural workers, and that the contradictions of the rural poor with these classes were intensifying were ignored. That in the new agrarian scenario, these classes are the main stay of the state in the rural areas and that their contradiction with the state is not an antagonistic one were also not recognized. This situation made the question of taking up a new class analysis of the agrarian sector very pressing.
Yet another question of fundamental importance which came up during these years was the approach to be taken toward the question of reorganization of the Communist International or on developing international unity among the ML organizations. After the dissolution of Cominform and the failure of the 1957 and 1960 Moscow meetings of the Communist and Workers Parties to carry forward even the positions arrived at in the Declaration and in the Statement, the revisionists quoted the 1943 statement published at the time of the dissolution of the Comintern to justify the abandoning of the idea of an international. As far as most of the ML groups were concerned, since CPC did not go for reorganizing the Communist International, they also opposed it. In this situation what should be the approach toward the international? Proletarian internationalism should remain just as a meaningless word, or it should be taken up as a question of vital importance?
During the 1980s when the question of unity of the ML forces and the reorganization of the Party came up as a great challenge, the CPI (ML) Liberation like forces took the stand that it is incorrect to state that the revisionists have usurped power in China and has degenerated it to capitalist path. This stand is almost pursued by it even today. It went back from the stand taken by the CRs that Soviet Union had degenerated to a social imperialist power. It also took the stand that no more International is required for the Communist forces. On most of these questions it took almost identical position to that of the CPI (M). At the same time, it insisted on still characterizing India as semi-colonial, semi-feudal, in spite of increasing capitalist relations in the agrarian sector. So, according to it present India is basically identical to post-revolutionary China. So at least in paper it accepts protracted peoples war as the strategy. In the election field, it started taking a pragmatic stand, which it hoped may help it to get more seats. And, it called for the merger of CPI-CPI(M)-CPI(ML) Liberation to make a left confederation or a ‘powerful Communist Party’. On all ideological positions it has gone back from the stand put forward by the CRs from the 1960s which are proved basically correct by later developments. In its 2007 ‘Party Congress’ it went to the extent of upholding possibilities for ‘peaceful transition’ also. Its ideological political positions and practice reflects the deviation of some of the erstwhile ML groups including it to rightist positions.
On the other extreme, there is CPI (Maoist) which is advocating the continuation of the line that armed struggle is the only form of struggle to be followed, with armed squads as the main form of organization. Though it claims to have made changes in its line, in effect it is continuing the same old annihilation line with some cosmetic changes. Upholding the Ninth Congress Report of the CPC, it adheres to the position that the era of Leninism, i.e. the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, has changed. According to it, the present era is that of total collapse of imperialism and worldwide victory of socialism, with Maoism as the Marxism- Leninism of the new era. In essence it has vulgarized the contributions of Mao by reducing it to what is stated in “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao. It refuses to take in to consideration the immense changes which have taken place in the objective conditions at international and national levels after the Second World War. It evaluates Indian state and society as semi-colonial, semi-feudal and uses neo-colonialism in its program document synonymously with semi- colonialism. Upholding armed struggle, with guerilla struggle as its main form, as the only form of struggle, it has gone away from the basic tenets of Marxist-Leninist line and is pursuing anarchist path. It is a worse form of Narodnism which Lenin had exposed. Its concept of the TTW has taken it to supporting the reactionary Trinamul Congress in W. Bengal against social democratic CPI (M), or to support opportunist JMM of Shibu Soren in Jharkhand. The anarchist line it is pursuing is utilized by the ruling system as well as the revisionists as a cover to attack the ML forces and to mount fascist terror against the masses. It refuses to learn from the mighty people’s uprisings taking place in many regions, in many Latin American countries, most recently in the Maghreb and West Asian region threatening the comprador regimes and the imperialist forces. The ML forces will have to wage an uncompromising struggle against the right opportunist as well as anarchist trends in the process of developing the ML line and practice.
There are a number of organizations between these two extremes, most of them confined to some state or scattered areas. Though most of them talk about the need to struggle against the right opportunist and sectarian and anarchist positions and claim to uphold mass line, their line and practice are not basically different from the sectarian positions. For example, they also uphold the semi-colonial, semi-feudal analysis and protracted people’s war as the strategy, whether they practice it or not. They also lack an internationalist perspective and do not have any outlook or capability to expand their organization at all India level. They also refuse to recognize the vast changes that have taken place after the Second World War period and mechanically repeat earlier evaluations about the national and international situation. In this situation, the development of the ideological political line according to present concrete conditions, re-organization of the Party at all India level uniting the CR forces, taking up the task of overthrowing the Indian state and completing the People’s Democratic Revolution are extremely difficult challenges before the ML forces.
It is in this situation, taking up the task of developing the ideological- political – organizational line according to the present conditions, starting with the formation of the Central Reorganization Committee, CPI (ML) or [CRC-CPI(ML)] in 1979, the ML forces who got mobilized within it have proceeded to the present condition in which the CPI(ML) Red Star has convened the Tenth Party Congress in continuation to the convening of the Ninth Congress in 2011. It has made important advances in evaluating the hitherto experience of the Communist movement in India, in developing the new Party Program, Constitution and Path of Revolution, thereby taking up the challenges at international and national levels.
15 The Re-organization Process:
From CRC-CPI(ML) to CPI(ML) Red Star.
From CPI to CPI (M) to CPI (ML), followed by more than four decades of reorganization process of the CPI (ML) from 1972, it was a difficult long march for all the Marxist-Leninist forces mobilized within the CPI(ML) Red Star presently. As one can see from the brief evaluation of the CPI and CPI (M) years given above, in spite of excellent objective situation and in spite of important organizational developments, in spite of many struggles and valiant sacrifices, the Communist movement in the country could not advance along the path of completing the People’s Democratic Revolution. Both right and left deviations adversely affected the Party’s march forward repeatedly. Again and again, it was the failure to make concrete evaluation of the unfolding situation at international and national levels and to develop the theory and practice applying Marxism-Leninism according to the concrete condition, which created road blocks to the march forward.
The ML forces in the country, who were pursuing the CPI (ML) line and who were organized under its banner faced a serious and frustrating situation with the Party’s disintegration by early 1970s, after much dedicated practice and valiant sacrifices. By this time the communist revolutionaries who did not join the CPI (ML) and were organized in different other formations also started facing the crisis. As explained above, by 1974-75 once again the objective conditions in the country had become extremely favourable for revolutionary advance. The sharpening of the contradictions between the ruling system and the people reached a high pitch, giving rise to many people’s upsurges in different regions. The contradictions among the ruling classes and monopoly groups reflecting the intensifying contradiction between the US led imperialist forces and the Soviet social imperialists also sharpened. These developments led to declaration of internal emergency. That the ML forces could not play any significant role, in spite of such an excellent situation, and that once again they came under severe suppression leading to many more sacrifices, had raised serious questions before them. The Soviet social imperialists, and the CPI toeing their line, supported the declaration of emergency by the Indira Gandhi government, depicting it as an anti- fascist act, At the same time, the CPI (M) leadership did not dare to resist the emergency in the name of protecting the party organization! It led to resignation of its general secretary, P. Sundarayya, who criticized it as a cowardly act.
The degeneration of socialist China to the capitalist path, in spite of the great expectations created by the Cultural Revolution, and the class collaborationist positions put forward by the capitalist roaders in China about the future course of the ICM also called for serious introspections in the Indian Communist movement. Why should a socialist country like China which should have put proletarian internationalism in the forefront, go for border wars in the name of border disputes; how could China invite Nixon to Beijing when the US imperialists were carpet bombing in Vietnam even up to its borders; how could China extend military support to Sri Lankan government to suppress the JVP led revolt along with the US, Soviet Union, India and others in 1973; was it correct to dissolve the Comintern by the Soviet leadership at such a critical time as 1943, more so, was it correct not to have taken any initiative to reorganize it by the Soviet and CPC leaderships, why and how did the powerful socialist camp had disintegrated and is confronting such a serious crisis, these and so many other vital issues were challenging questions in front of the ML forces during the 1970s and later. As the imperialists and their lackeys were utilizing such issues to attack the Communist forces, the ML forces who dared to face these questions were coming to the conclusion that without taking them up for discussion and solution the Communist movement cannot make significant advances and make efforts to develop their theoretical positions and revolutionary practice, During these crucial years, whether the ML forces should take initiative to achieve unity among the like minded ML forces at international level was also another question which had come up seriously.
As pointed out above, another significant development which confronted the ML forces immediately after the revocation of the emergency was the outbreak of new type of ‘farmers’ struggles’ in different parts of the country. How to evaluate them and what approach has to be taken towards these struggles led by the agricultural bourgeois – rich peasant classes? How to evaluate the ‘land reforms from above’ including the land ceiling acts implemented by the various state governments helping the ‘green revolution’ and development of capitalist class relations in the country side? Can they be seen within the purview of the semi-feudal evaluation of Indian society? Can Indian state be evaluated as semi-colonial as the pre-revolutionary Chinese state? How the developments during the post-War years leading to the transfer of power in the erstwhile colonial and semi colonial countries to the comprador ruling classes can be evaluated?
In 1981 middle under the initiative of CPI(ML) Liberation a meeting of 13 organizations working at all India level was convened to discuss the possibilities for closer relations and if possible unity. From the outset itself it was clear that it was convened without much preparations including bi-lateral discussions among the participants. Liberation had put forward a paper calling for unity against the autocratic Indira Gandhi regime. Its paper reflected its affinity to the TWW. Sharp differences surfaced during the discussions. None of the other organizations were prepared even to seriously discuss the analysis of the present situation the CRC was putting forward. It was following this meeting the decision was taken to convene an all India Conference to consolidate the ML forces rallied under the CRC, to evaluate the gains so far made and to plan future activities.
The significance of the First All India Conference of the CRC-CPI (ML) held in January 1982 in Maharashtra was that it initiated the process to answer the fundamental questions confronting the revolutionary movement. In 1979 a Joint Statement was already issued by CRC-CPI(ML) and six other revolutionary organizations at international level who were upholding Marxism- Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought (MLMT), had denounced the usurpation of power by the capitalist roaders in China and their Theory of Three Worlds, who were opposed to the opportunist positions taken by the leadership of the Albanian Party of Labour, and who were for forging unity of the Marxist-Leninist forces at international level. Fraternal delegations of some of these parties attended the First All India Conference.
The Conference came to the evaluation that in the post-War situation, imperialism did not get weakened or colonialism did not disappear as the Krushchovites in Soviet Union and later the Lin Biaoists in China argued, leading the ICM to right and left deviations, but took a more pernicious and sinister form, neo- colonialism, under the US led imperialist camp. The policies pursued by the Indian ruling classes, including the ‘green revolution’ in the agrarian sector, are neo- colonial policies initiated under the guidance of US led imperialist forces. Based on this evaluation it decided to take up a study of these changes and to carry forward the reorganization of the CPI (ML) forces based on the new understanding, struggling against the right opportunist and left sectarian deviations at international and national levels.
But when the study was completed and discussions were held to develop the strategic approach and tactical line, differences came up creating obstacles for advancing the process. A section of the leadership took the stand that under neo-colonization, the control of the market had become a crucial factor. So in the initial phase of democratic revolution, the communist party in India should form parties of each nationality for realizing their secession based on right of self determination. Based on this approach they supported the Khalistan movement. They called for supporting minority communalism against majority communalism. At the international level, they supported the sectarian line of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) formed in 1984. On all these questions, as well as on the organizational line of building a Bolshevik model party surrounded by class/ mass organizations there were sharp differences. As the inner party struggle against this erroneous line developed, and as this section was not prepared to uphold principles of democratic centralism, by 1987 the inner party struggle based on these questions intensified, leading to the re-organization of the CRC-CPI (ML) as CPI (ML) Red Flag. While leaders of this erroneous line later dissolved the organization in 1989 and embraced bourgeois positions openly, some others persisted in sectarian positions, finally becoming part of the Maoists.
This inner party struggle obstructed the development of the studies on neo- colonization, new offensives in activities and expansion of the organization for some time. But after 1987 in all these fields there were positive developments, Soon the studies were continued and based on them an International Document was adopted by the Fourth All India Conference in1997. During this time, based on prolonged discussions, the approach for participating in the parliamentary elections was adopted in a Plenum held in early 1999 and from 1999 Lok Sabha elections candidates were fielded as part of developing the class struggle. The Party Program based on the neo colonial understanding was adopted by the Fifth All India Conference in January 2000.
If after the failure of the 1981 meeting convened by it, Liberation abandoned all initiatives to unite the ML organizations, calling itself the party, during late 1980s seven organizations taking semi-colonial, semi-feudal, protracted people’s war line had merged and formed CPI (ML) Janasakthi. But within 5-6 years internal differences sharpened and it got disintegrated. It was becoming clearer that without arriving at an unified ideological-political line based on the present concrete situation no unity can be achieved, or even if achieved cannot be sustained.
Meanwhile, in the beginning of the 1990s, recognizing the necessity for a protracted ideological struggle to develop the revolutionary theory and practice with the participation of the different trends of ML groups, a proposal to form a platform of the ML forces with the orientation of arriving at unified positions was put forward by the Red Flag. Though repeated discussions were held with most of these organizations, no practical gains could be achieved. Almost all of them were not prepared to go beyond the basic positions put forward during formative years by the CR movement in the 1960s. Though no breakthrough in the ideological discussions could be achieved, one positive outcome of these discussions was that an all India issue based platform of six organizations including CPI(ML) New Democracy, CPI(ML) Liberation, COI(ML), CPI(ML) New Initiative and MCPI along with CPI(ML) Red Flag was formed which continued till 1993, taking up a number of joint campaigns.
It was during these joint activities the COI(ML) and CPI(ML) Unity Initiative merged under the leadership of com. Kanu Sanyal, and Red Flag started discussing the possibility for merger with it, taking up points of unity and points of differences. At this time, the leading section in Kerala state committee of Red Flag, taking outright reformist positions, started advocating closer relations with the CPI (M) and the LDF led by it. This section vehemently opposed any form of unity with the CR sections also. In the Sixth All India Conference held in 2003, this section which had resorted to open disruptive actions was expelled and a decision was taken to go for merger with the CPI (ML) led by Kanu Sanyal, with the understanding to resolve differences through a Conference.
During the protracted unity discussions the two organizations decided to merge with the basic differences on analyzing the character of the Indian state and society and path of revolution remaining unresolved. While it persisted in the semi-colonial, semi-feudal, protracted people’s war line, Red Flag put forward its analysis that India is a country under neo-colonization and the path of revolution in the new situation is the capture of power through countrywide insurrection led by the working class. It was decided that within two years documents on these basic differences shall be prepared and the majority line in the Conference shall be adopted as the unified line. It was hoped that the practice of these different lines under the umbrella of a single organization shall create conditions for unity in approach through ‘seeking truth from facts’.
During the four years this unity lasted, many all India and state level activities could be carried out. But more than the differences in the analysis of Indian situation and path, it was the sectarian approach, a legacy of the 1960s, which was persistently followed by the KS led section which obstructed the utilization of the possibilities for developing theoretical approach, organization and practice. Even after four years, due to this sectarian approach, the section led by Kany Sanyal opposed the holding of a Conference to decide the future course of action. Meanwhile it started opposing the development of international relations and of class/ mass organizations at all India level also. The crisis deepened and remaining together in a single organization became impossible.
16. Towards Ninth and Tenth Congresses.
It was in this situation, the erstwhile Red Flag section decided to walk out of this united CPI(ML) in January 2009. The All India Special Conference was held in November 2009, at Bhopal, which adopted the International Document calling for speeding up the efforts to advance toward the formation of an international platform of the ML parties, the document dealing with the characterization of the Indian state as neo colonial, recognizing the changes taking place in the agrarian sector under neo colonization, and the Path of Revolution document which put forward the path for completing the People’s Democratic Revolution according to the concrete conditions in India. The Bhopal Conference paved the way for all round development at ideological, political and organizational level, creating conditions for unity with the ML sections and for advancing towards the convening of the Ninth Party Congress in 2011.
The Central Committee of the Party decided to carry forward the study on Imperialism in its neo colonial phase based on the basic positions put forward by Lenin in his epochal work: Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, published in 1916 .and in the light of the vast changes that have taken place since then and especially after the Second World War. Similarly, it put forward an analysis of the Ideological Challenges Faced by the Communist Movement both at International and National Level in the light of the severe setbacks suffered by the movement. It initiated discussion on developing the democratic practice integrated with a development perspective which will be pro- people and pro- nature.. Similarly the question of developing the concept of democratic centralism in the party was taken up. The Party Program adopted by the Eighth Party Congress of 1970 was basically transformed, and in continuation to the amended Program adopted by the Fifth All India Conference of the CPI (ML) Red Flag in 2000, the Ninth Congress adopted the new Party Program along with Party Constitution.
The Ninth Party Congress was held at a time when the CPI (ML) Red Star along with other ML Parties and Organisations had successfully launched the International Coordination of the Revolutionary Parties and Organisations (ICOR) in its Founding Conference held in October 2010. The Ninth Congress provided encouragement for the further development of theory and practice which led to advancing the party building, expansion of the class/mass organizations, people’s movements, and class struggle in all fields. While considering the enormity of the great challenge of building a unified revolutionary communist party capable of leading the PDR to victory in a vast country like India, the achievements made so far was still negligible. With the advent of the ultra rightist BJP government to power following the 16th LS elections, the challenge faced by the CPI(ML) Red Star has become more enormous. It is at a time the Tenth Congress of the Party was held at Lucknow in order to make the party capable of taking up greater responsibilities with the central slogans: Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought!
Long Live Proletarian Internationalism! Long Live ICOR! Long Live CPI (ML)!
Advance along the Path of People's Democratic Revolution as part of World Proletarian Socialist Revolution!
When the Tenth Congress was held the party’s functioning had reached almost all the major states, and contacts were established in the remaining states also. It has succeeded to deploy cadres to work in all class and mass fronts, helping the development of organizations in all these fields. Similarly recognizing the importance of taking up the annihilation of the caste system as part of class struggle, party cadres are active in the Caste Annihilation Movement. Recognizing the contradiction between capital and nature as one of the five major contradictions in the Party program adopted by the Ninth Congress, Party cadres are active in all areas of ecological movement, calling for an alternate development paradigm basically opposed to imperialist promoted neoliberal development. Party has taken initiative to organize an active anti nuclear movement also. At a time the migration of the rural poor to the urban areas is an increasing phenomenon, the party cadres are deployed to take up the question of slum people and their housing rights along with other basic rights. The party is active in al fields including the struggle for advancing the democratic rights when under neoliberal/corporate raj and communal fascism the democratic space is shrinking fast.
The Tenth Congress has developed the Party Program and Party Constitution through a healthy debate. It has adopted the Path of Revolution, developing it in the background of the experience after the Special Conference. It has adopted the Political Resolution putting forward the immediate tasks of developing political education, party building and revolutionary practice. The Resolution on Theoretical Offensive adopted by the Congress putting forward the task of taking up principal theoretical challenges before the communist movement, providing new ideological, political orientation to achieve communist resurgence during these difficult times.
These basic documents and Resolution shall prepare the ground for further developing the task of party building, uniting all like minded forces. It shall lead to building a broad platform of the struggling left and democratic forces with the basic task of overthrowing the neo-liberal policies and growing threats of fascicisation of the state. It shall create better conditions for strengthening the international unity of the working class and the oppressed peoples, with the ICOR playing a growing role as pin pointed in its 2014 Second World Conference. In the background of the successful completion of the Tenth Congress, let us march forward to greater successes in the coming days, to complete the PDR and advance towards socialist revolution, firmly upholding the spirit of proletarian internationalism.
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