Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > July 12, 2008 > Subjectivism in CPI-M on the History of CPI Split

Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 30

Subjectivism in CPI-M on the History of CPI Split

Wednesday 16 July 2008, by Sankar Ray

“Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone but only his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.”
- —Fyodor Dostoyevsky

CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat recently wrote in the first issue of newly-launched fortnightly, Covert, that his party continues to be falsely branded as “an agent of China”. This, he says, is one of the “most crude (sic) manufactured allegations” against the CPI-M, which indeed is the largest and most influential of the Left in the parliamentary arena. I offered to write a rejoinder to the article, but the Covert editor in her polite reply stated: “We are not in a position to print a long rebuttal but will be more than glad to accommodate your points in the letters column.” I couldn’t avail myself of the suggestion as a few paragraphs would be too sketchy to do justice to the need for a proper debate. Hence, I decided to write it as a full-fledged article.

Karat’s angry rebuttal deserves patient scrutiny. Two allegations, indeed, are traded against the CPI-M by a section of political commentators. One, “the CPI-M was formed in 1964 at the behest of the Com-munist Party of China”. Two, “the CPI-M sided with China on the India-China border dispute”.

Karat’s refutation is ostensibly sound, going by published documents, resolutions etc., but brittle if we travel beyond grey documents. The dynamics of politics and history is ever-green. Take the tempestuous controversies about collective farming in post-1917 Russia. Not through documents like speeches or reports of the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, but from episodes, narrated in the Virgin Soil Upturned, Mikhail Sholokov’s classic fiction, one gets an idea about the serious differences on implementation of collective farming. Here we don’t have such reflective literary efforts. We have to depend on statements of founding Polit-Bureau members of the CPI-M or those National Council members of the undivided CPI, who joined the CPI-M in 1964, and other relevant reports/documents. Such real-life information may help test Karat’s hypotheses.

Let’s examine first whether the splitters or those who broke away from the CPI were inspired by the Chinese Communist Party. On March 9, 1963, Peoples Daily (Renminribao) carried an editorial—“Mirror for Revisionists”—which openly asked the Left group to split the CPI :“If the Dange clique believes that Nehru and his Congress Party can be depended upon to realise socialism, what need is there for a Communist Party controlled by Dange and company?” That was over a month before 32 National Council members of the undivided CPI walked out in protest against the majority of the NC that rejected the demand by those 32 ‘dissidents’ that the CPI Chairman, Shripad Amrit Dange, step down for allegedly written to the colonial government during his imprisonment under the Kanpur Communist Conspiracy Case to serve as a police-agent. Initially, Jyoti Basu and E. M. S. Namboodiripad were against the split. These two founding PB members of the CPI-M never eulogised the Chinese stand on international questions unlike P. Sundarayya, M. Basavapunnaiah and Promode Dasgupta, behaving as if Mao Zedong and the CPC could do no wrong. One shouldn’t forget that ten days after the Chinese invasion in October 1962, Basu stated: “Our stand is clear. I think India’s border defences should be strengthened and my party will not hesitate to put in all its efforts for the defence of India’s freedom, irrespective of the political character of the attacking country.” [The Statesman, October 31, 1962]

There is no denying that provocations for fissure from the CCP and its stooges like the PKI leadership were unabashedly open. The walk-out by 32 NC members in April 1964 was the first definite move towards the formation of a parallel CPI, not really an ideological compulsion. After walking out of the NC, Jyoti Basu said: “We are out of it. We are the Communist Party of India. We do not recognise them” (meaning S. A. Dange, C Rajeswara Rao, N. K. Krishnan, et al) as the Communist Party (Asian Recorder,1964, p. 5810). The obsession with the instrumentality of the two letters of 1924, discovered in the National Archives of India in 1964, was the pretext. But two NC members —Dr Ranen Sen and Teja Singh Swatantra [both politically aligned to the Left (but insulating them from the puerile La Chinoise of PS-MB-PDG)]—suggested that when Dange was denying the veracity of the letter, the document be examined by a handwriting expert as the document was already 40-year-old. But Basu and the rest of the Left group were in no mood to consider the suggestion as if they were more sure than any handwriting expert. Interestingly, Dange and Shaukat Usmani [against whom too Muzaffar Ahmed, the CPI-M’s father figure, hurled diatribes that were refuted] were in jail unlike Ahmed during the founding conference of the CPI in December-end 1925. In other words, the colonial government did not release Dange whom Basu, MB, PDG, Ahmed etc. were hell-bent to hang as a British spy. Small wonder, the two aforesaid NC members remained in the CPI and carried on inner-party struggle until they breathed their last. Dr Sen told me when I was his private secretary in his twilight years: “I was of the opinion that there was no need to break the party as the space for inner-party ideological struggle was big enough. Secondly, although endorsing the Left inside the party, I saw how the splitters were encouraged by China and anti-Sovietism. And I never indulged in factionalism, known to all among the senior leaders of the undivided party.”

The Central Executive Council of the CPI in a resolution observed significantly, “The CPI has become the special target of the CPC leadership. The supporters of the CPC inside our party have evidently decided to split the party.” (New Age, April 5, 1964). The substantive strength of the CEC view found endorsement two years later in an article by MB, then an unflinching devotee of Mao and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: “If the anti-party forces reach out to grab power with the aim of usurping the leadership of the Party, army and the government, what alternative is there except to fight against them and destroy them, root and branch?” (People’s Democracy, October 2, 1966) Seventeen years thereafter, this very Basavapunnaiah wrote a piece identifying holes in Mao’s perception of dialectics in a 23-page article in Social Scientist, titled, “On Contradictions, Antagonistic and Non-Antagonistic”.

In the run-up to the split-process, Peking bosses, inebriated with super-revolutionism, blessed by Mao, pitted the CP of Indonesia (PKI) Secretary General D. N. Aidit against the central CPI leadership. PKI journal Harjan Rajkat, carried his vitriolic opposition to the CPI leaders (October 4 and 5, 1963— see The Statesman, December 31, 1963:] in which he stated with an unashamedly divisive tenor: “Marxists-Leninists” are free “to propagate their thoughts outside the party, to establish circles, and to issue periodicals, and even to establish a new party”, branded the CPI as led by the ”renegade Dange group”. The CPI CEC was left with no alternative to describe Aidit as a “Chinese stooge”. (The Statesman, January 16, 1964)”

PERHAPS the most dominant role in the split was played by the West Bengal State Council, a citadel of pro-Peking elements , despite Basu’s dislike of the Peking-catalyst. The pro-Peking (rather than pro-Mao) elements were not always free from opportunism too. After the killing of nine Indian jawans on patrol at the Kongka Pass near Ladakh by the People’s Liberation Army in the western border with China, factionalism (sans ideology, took a turn for the worse. B. T. Ranadive and Basavapunnaih didn’t even express sorrow over the death of those nine jawans who gave away their lives for defending the country. The two big shots were too busy to parrot Chinese views on the Indo-China border dispute to think of those hapless youths. A few months later, the CPI nominated two NC members, K. Damodaran (Kerala) and Harekrishna Konar (WB), to attend the attend the Congress of the Lao Dong Party (Vietnam Workers’ Party) in1960 in Hanoi as CPI delegates . CPI General Secretary Ajoy Ghosh, an unflinching enemy of factionalism, who died of heart attack at 53, well aware of Peking’s keenness to push the party towards the Chinese line, advised them to keep away from the Chinese delegates or diplomats and suggested that, if at all, the two should ask the Chinese to engage in ‘fraternising’ instead of divisive activities. The Chinese, as apprehended, invited them for a dialogue on the Sino-Indian border conflict. Damodaran abided by the advice of the CPI chief, but Konar disregarded Ghosh’s advice on the alibi of listening to the Chinese position dispassionately. Openly pro-Peking, Konar walked into the trap, went to Peking and even met with Mao. The Nehru Government was “leaning on imperialism and coming out in their true reactionary colours on domestic and international politics”, he was taught and after his return, Konar parroted those words faithfully to launch a concerted move to split the party.

Wilful violation of the central CPI leadership was not infrequent in Swadhinata, the Bengali morninger of the West Bengal CPI: a mockery of democratic centralism which Basu and the CPI-M leaders often remind the party comrades now. On December 9, 1961, when Dasgupta was the State Secretary, an article, bitterly criticising Nehru, was published. It was almost a verbatim reproduction of a CCP release that censured Ghosh accusing the latter of pushing forward an ‘anti-China’ line. The CPI stand, published in New Age, was deliberately spiked.

Some of the founding CPI-M PB members seemed apathetic to judge the border controversy dispassionately. There was a scholarly research by Srinath Raghavan and Parshotam Mehra. They exposed holes in Nevile Maxwell’s India’s China War which was more than a gospel for firebrand revolutionaries who today succumb to capitalist prescriptions for industrialisation. MB’s assertion that the McMahon Line is not “legally binding” for China (Hindustan Times, November 29, 1959) or BTR’s verdict that it is not “a customary and traditional border” (Bengali edition, published by WBSC— Times of India, October 7, 1959) make ludicrous reading. Whose traditions did BTR mean? India’s or China’s?

Karat and mandarins at the AKG Bhavan, the CPI-M’s national headquarters, are expected to judge the background of the CPI-split and post-split events, including utterances and conclusions by senior party leaders—a task they can accomplish much better than outsiders because of access to documents before making conclusions that are not only untrue, but ahistorical too. Unfortunately, at times the CPI-M leaders resort to imaginary statements. The pity is that the relatively young guard, who belong to the generation of Karat and Sitaram Yechury, and didn’t have to wade through very difficult trials and tribulations unlike the founding PB members, are not immune from such perversions of history. Take Anil Biswas whom Karat described at Biswas’ condolence meeting as “the best among of the second generation of Communist leadership in India”. Biswas told a meeting in Midnapur in the first week of August 2002 that the decision to observe the birthday of Muzaffar Ahmed during his lifetime was taken by the party’s Central Committee in 1963. (A report published in Ganashakti, the party’s Bengali morninger, August 9, 2002 ) It was plainly untrue. First of all, there was no CC, but NC, in 1963. Secondly, the party was embroiled in bitter groupism and factionalism, Ahmed belonging to the pro-Peking group. The overwhelming majority of the CPI NC was against the pro-Chinese leaders and it was too absurd to assume that such a decision could be taken when the mood of the party leadership was against the nurturing of personality cult.

Imaginary conclusions reach dizzy heights, but these are essentially counterproductive. “Without knowledge, the workers are defenceless,” wrote Lenin, “with knowledge, they are a force.” (Collected Works, Vol 2, p. 92) There is an old saying, “Fake it till you make it.”

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