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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 20, New Delhi, May 2, 2020

Will There Be Reunification of Communist Movement in India?

Sunday 3 May 2020

by Tikaram Sharma

After the massive victory of Right Reaction and blow to the left and democratic forces, particularly to Communists in the 2019 elections, well wishers and good numbers of Communist cadres and sympathizers are realizing the need of reunification of Communist Movement. They believe that only Communists can defeat the Right Reactionary forces. The CPI has always been in its favor of reunification and conveyed its decision to the CPI (M) and other Communist groups to respond.

             Faulty tactics on the part of the Left, as also other democratic forces are responsible for the advancement of the right reaction, particularly the R.S.S. to a large extent. Large number of Shishu Mandirs are running in India for many decades where communalism is being taught to the little children. Whatever they learn in their adolescence age is difficult to remove from their minds. The R.S.S. and its outfits from time to time have asked the Government to check on Madarsas but Communists hardly demanded check on Shishu Mandirs. Religious issues like Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and Hindu Culture in a distorted manner are being spread in the society. And the right reaction is successful in polarization.

Communist and Freedom Movement - Communist Movement in India is a product   of National Freedom movement, the working class struggles, the peasant resistance, students and youth movements etc. and impact of Great Russian Revolution. The Communist Party of India (CPI) came in to existence in December 1925 and spread rapidly. The British Government was scared of the rising Communist movement and tried to crush the newly formed Party through the repressive and historic Meerut Conspiracy Case (1929-33) wherein 32 prominent and leading Communists were arrested on the pretext that they wanted to overthrow the British rule in India once for all. The trial lasted for five years and nothing could be proved against them. However, the defense side was able to publicize the ideology of Communism through their arguments, which used to be published in daily and other newspapers of the country.The prominent leaders of the Communist Party arrested were: S.A. Dange, P.C. Joshi, G. Adhikari, Muzafar Ahmed, Sohan Singh Josh, S.V. Ghate etc.

          It is also important to note that at one stage the Party adopted a wrong policy on national freedom movement under the influence exerted by the Sectarian formulation of colonial thesis adopted by the comintern in the sixth congress in 1928. According to this thesis the Communist should not participate in any movement led by any bourgeois leadership like Gandhi ji or Indian National Congress. In other words no revolution in India is successful without the leadership of Communist Party. However, the famous Dutt- Bradely thesis greatly helped the C.P.I. to make a correct turn and forge ties with the national movement. This ghost of sectarianism is haunting the Communist Movement in India till today.

 In 1936 three mass organizations namely All India Students Federation(AISF), All India Kishan Sabha(AIKS) and Progressive Writers Association(PWA), mainly at the initiative of the CPI, particularly of PC Joshi, who was General Secretary of the party, came into being as joint organizations. In 1943 during Bengal famine a new organization of creative artists, like singers, writers, theatre activists etc. Indian People Theatre Association (I.P.T.A) was formed at the initiative of the party who collected money to start commune and kitchens for famine victims by holding street plays and other programme.The influence of the party was increasing day by day and important personalities of different walks of life were either Communists or associated with these mass organizations. Notable among them are Munsi Prem Chand, Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Rahul Sankritiyayan, Prof. N.G. Ranga, Jawahar Lal Neharu, Subhash Chandr Bose, Satyajit Ray, famous scientist Homi Jahangir Bhabha etc. Apart from freedom struggle in which the scarifies of the party are historic and glorious, these personalities contributed a lot in every walk of life be it art and culture, literature, science and technology; laborers, farmers, students and women movements against exploitation and social injustice.

                  India got independence on 15th August 1947. CPI led by its general secretary PC Joshi welcomed the achievement of freedom. But this line changed after six months or so when the left sectarian and adventurist group led by B.T Ranadive ( B.T.R) changed the line completely by saying that it was a sham independence and Nehru Government should be overthrown. Under BTR leadership the entire line was changed and call for armed overthrown of the Nehru government was given. This line of armed struggle totally isolated CPI from the masses, who were celebrating achievement of freedom. Naturally, the BTR line also opposed all the progressive policies including the public sector, adult franchise, five year plan, foreign policy of the Nehru government etc. The CPI refused to participate in any the elections, which were supposed to be ‘bourgeois hoax’.

 Because of this adventurist line, the party had to suffer a lot. Its membership went down by 90% and the party and mass organizations were smashed. BTR leadership had to be removed in 1950, and gradually new leadership led by Ajay Gosh, S.A Dange, S.V. Ghate, and later C Rajeswar Rao came to the helm of affairs. A correct party line was adopted by supporting the government in the development of the country. It adopted a positive and supportive attitude towards public sector, heavy industrialization and five year planning. It welcomed the Indian Constitution and decided to take part in the first general elections.

 The CPI participated in the first general elections in a state of organizational dislocation. Yet it became the main opposition party, next only to the Congress. It got 27 seats. Had it not suffered the BTR line, it would have emerged as a far more powerful party just behind the Congress, and surely would have won more than 70 Lok Sabha seats. The future of the country would have been different. This is the price party paid for BTR adventurism.

 The CPI also supported the government foreign policy of friendship with Soviet Union and other socialist countries. At the same time it also clarified that it would build the united front of the people to oppose harmful and anti people policies of the government. The party enjoyed great prestige because of correct strategy and tactics, high knowledge level and dedicated self-sacrificing lives of leaders and cadres having significant mass support. As a result, for the first time a Communist government came in to power through ballot in Kerala headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad in 1957. The C.P.I played a significant role in Goa Libration Movement. Any illusions against the parliamentary electoral line were dispelled. It was proved in practice that elections are not a ‘bourgeois hoax’ but a weapon in the hands of the people.

  The BTR understanding continued to prevail among a section of the party, and contributed later to the rise of Maoism and left sectarianism. Later, it led to the formation of the break-away CPI-M as a new ‘Communist party’. These events only helped the rise of the right reaction in the country.

                After the Chinese attack in 1962 the inner party struggle in the CPI scaled new heights. The majority of the leadership headed by Dange had opposed the Chinese aggression and aligned the Party with the stand taken by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Those who were in minority, later on, split the party at the behest of Maoist China. They believed that Congress cannot be replaced by peaceful democratic path of the parliamentary and extra parliamentary mass movements. It was indispensable to embark sooner rather than later on the road of armed struggle in the cities and in the country side. This group, as mentioned earlier formed a new political party-Communist party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M) in 1964. Till date the party has not t undertaken armed revolution. However, the problem arose when the party took part in parliamentary general election held in 1967. This led a section within it broke away to establish what has come out to be known as Naxalite formation. The Naxalites were fully Maoist. The CPI-M were now not so much under Maoist-Chinese influence, and with time shifted considerably away.

                     The Naxalites were much more influenced by Cultural Revolution in China. Their famous slogan was ‘China’s’ Revolution is our revolution and ‘China’s’ chairman is our chairman. They began the so-called ‘armed struggle’ first of all in Naxalbari in West Bengal. Their strategy was to start and spread in rural areas and then surround and liberate cities and from different parts of the country, converse on and capture Delhi thus thereby to establish the People’s Democratic Dictatorship. The movement could not survive and collapsed because it was totally at variance with the objective conditions in India. One of its tallest leaders Kanu Sanyal admitted in his last days that there political line was not correct. Had it been correct, public could have fully supported them. The CPI (M) barely took up any ideological struggle against the Naxalites beyond branding them as CIA agents. Today Naxalite movement is staggered in small pockets and numerous branches in some parts of the country. This unrealistic theory and practice has helped reactionary and imperialistic forces.

The strategic line of the CPI was of unity and struggle vis-à-vis the Congress and had electoral alliance in 1971 general elections. It became the second largest political party of India. During the period 1969-73 it played a crucial role in nationalization of banks and coal mines. Abolition of privy purses was yet another progressive step taken by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and CPI whole heartedly supported the government. However the CPI (M) was quite reluctant in these matters. Though it was sympathetic to the Bangladesh revolution but not with any fervor and when India did sent its Army they stated that outside intervention in internal affairs of other country could only lead to negative consequences. On the other hand the CPI was first and foremost to support union government on this crucial issue.

           Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) started a movement in 1973 in Gujarat. It spread immediately to Bihar and other parts of the country. Anyway, hollow slogans like partyless democracy and total revolution were given to target Indian democratic polity and the Left and Democratic Movement. The JP movement grouped together RSS-Jan Sangh (Parent political party of BJP), socialist and ultra Left etc.The CPI opposed this movement tooth and nail and rolling it back particularly in Bihar whereas the CPI (M) was associated with it. In 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed internal emergency in order to maintain law and order in the country as the situation arose due to JP movement. In addition to that she was defeated in a court case filed by Rajnarayan a socialist leader in Allahabad High court, who contested election against her from Raibarely in 1971, challenging her victory. The CPI initially supported the emergency because it thought that it attacked right reaction but opposed it due to its excess at later stage, but by that time it was too late. The CPI (M) on the other hand was nowhere in the scene. Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri a rebel from CPI (M) has given its account in his book, ‘My life my times’. Emergency was lifted and general election held in the country in 1977. The Congress party lost and the Janta Party came into the power and the CPI also suffered a lot.

            There was a great resentment among the CPI leaders as well as cadres regarding the election debacle. Most of its leaders and members blamed Dange for it who was a strong advocate of ‘Unity and struggle with the Congress line’. In 1978 the party congress held at Bhathinda in Punjab. New Political Tactical Line ‘Left Unity’ was adopted which was totally anti Congress.Indira Gandhi wanted to have alliance with the C.P.I. as usual and sent Giani Zail Singh to Ajoy Bhavan to meet the General Secretary Rajeshwar Rao and workout an electoral understanding in Andhra Pradesh where assembly elections were scheduled to be held soon. According to a reliable source, an offer of 60+ seats that the C.P.I. wanted from the Congress Party ( Indira). However the General Secretary turned down the offer. He was of the opinion that there was no political future for the Congress Party. There was anti- Congressism and hatrated towards the Congress (I). Instead the C.P.I. preferred to go with the Brahmanand Congress and the result was the Congress (I) got spectacular victory in these elections while the C.P.I. drew a blank.

                 Prior to it the CPI not only advanced of its own in some states but some leaders and cadres who had left it for the CPI(M) returned to it. The Party was very much in media and its leaders were consulted from time to time by the government in policy matters. This momentum was lost after 1978. Internationally it was the only recognized Communist Party of India. Then onwards the position of the CPI start declining. In order to get more seats in assemblies and parliament it was doing seat adjustment with regional parties like Rashtriya Janta Dal, DMK, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam etc. In certain cases it has proved harmful for the party as the party has lost its presence in assemblies like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where its presence was in good number.

 Division In The Democratic Camp- The Janta Party which was a product of JP movement, consisting of Jan Sangh-R.S.S. and split away group of Congress, Bhartiya Lok Dal and some others came into power in 1977 but could not survive long. Bhartiya Jan Sangh-R.S.S. split from Janta Party in the name of dual membership and formed a new political party the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). Hence mid-term elections were held in 1980. Indira Gandhi wanted Congress and the CPI alliance to continue but the latter’s leadership did not agree.

                        S.A. Dange, the most outstanding leader of the working class who brought the message of socialism in this land was one of the founder members of the Communist Party of India. He spent several years in jail before and after independence. A masterly public speaker, a brilliant parliamentarian and Marxist historian who exposed Mao-Tse-Tung much before the Indo-China conflict in 1962. This political-ideological line of “Unity & Struggle” was realistic but was not accepted by the sectarian and anti Congress trend.

               Indira Gandhi came into power with a thumbing majority whereas the CPI could not improve its position. In 1984 she was assassinated and Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister. The general elections held thereafter the Congress party won more seats than the previous elections and the BJP got just two seats. In the next general elections held in 1989 the Congress lost the power and a new political formation the Janta Dal came into power with V P Singh as Prime Minister supported from outside by both the left and the BJP. This was the height of the anti —Congressism of the Left parties headed by the CPI (M).

                The Janta Dal government could not complete its tenure and the Congress party came into power and lost it in the General elections held in 1996.The united front, a new political formation, formed government with H D Devegoda as Prime Minister. The CPI became a part of the government with two ministers Indrajit Gupta as Home Minster and Chaturanan Mishra as Agriculture Minister, while CPI (M) refused to join the government and supported it from outside. Deve Gowda was replaced by Inder Kumar Gujral after some time but could not deliver goods for a long time, so after 22 months the United Front government collapsed. Jyoti Bosu’s name was flouted round the corner as a compromisable candidate for Prime Ministership but the highly principled Polit Bureau prevented him for doing so. Jyoti Bosu termed this action of Polit Bureau as ‘Historic blunder’. A historic opportunity was missed to sectarian attitude of the C.P.M. BJP-RSS came to power, as a result. Otherwise India’s history would have been different. Between 1998 to 2004 National Democratic Front (NDA) was in power with Atal Bihari Bajpayee as the Prime Minister of India.

                            In 2004 General Elections no political party was in majority so in order to keep BJP out off power the Left parties including the CPI (M) supported United Progressive Alliance (UPA-1) government with Manmohan Singh of the congress party as the Prime Minister ignoring the party line to keep both the Congress and the BJP on same footing. This was because to save West Bengal Government as there was every possibility of dismissal of the set government in the name of law and order, in case BJP or NDA comes to the power. In this election the Left parties won 62 seats and the attitude of the people was sympathetic towards the Left. The UPA-1 asked the Left Parties to join the government and offered one third of ministerial seats but the Left turned down the offer. This opportunity could be utilized to strengthen the Left movement in the country. Contrary to it the entire Left headed by the CPI (M) withdrew its support from the government after four and a half years on the issue of nuclear deal with United States of America; an issue which may not be clear in the minds of the most of its leaders, leave aside the cadres or the general public. Perhaps they were under the impression that government would not survive without their support but it did survive. The withdrawal opened the flood gates for right reactions.

                  Singur and Nandigram proved waterloo for the Left government of West Bengal. At both the placed government purchased fertile agriculture land from the farmers at very cheap rates and planned to sell it to Tata Motors. There was a great resentment among the the people of state and it paved way for Mamta Banerjee to come into power. Thus 34 years of the Left rule was over. Thereafter the number of Left MPs are decreasing day by day. The domination of left parties headed by CPI (M) reduced drastically and it lost power in Tripura. This was because of refusal of CPM to development work.

Problem of Communist Unity

               The CPI (M) seems reluctant to it and so are the other Communist parties or groups. The CPI (M) believes that the split in the Communist Movement was a historical necessacity which shows that the party is not in favor of reunification. Moreover, as per the policy document of the CPI (M) the revolution in India has to be led by party of the working class and the CPI (M) is the only such party. Question arises will the CPI (M) drop its Sectarian approach from its document? If the answer is no then there is hardly any possibility of reunification.

               At present Communist Movement in India is weak and scattered. Those who believe that after reunification of the Communist Movement alone can defeat the Right Reaction, they are mistaken. In West Bengal, this process is going on for a long time; what is the result? A party which came into existence about 95 years back, contributed a lot in the freedom movement and after independence in the development of the country is conversing day by day, its reason has to be found out. However, the CPI (M) and other Communist parties and groups will not agree to accept the CPI proposal, though the reunification is the need of the hour keeping in view the existing political atmosphere of the country. Hence, in order to defeat the right reaction all the Communists have to come together and form a broad mass front consisting of all progressive and democratic forces.

                The main political task is to isolate and defeat RSS-BJP, and for this purpose to build broad democratic unity. This should be the main task of the left parties.

             As for the Communist Parties, and the other Communist groups the programmatic understanding has to be clarified. Only after prolonged discussion can a unified party programme worked out.

   The Left and the Communist Parties have to give up their anti- congressism. They must realize or recognize the grave danger from the right reaction and communal —fascism the progressive section of the national bourgeoisie have to bring into democratic front.

                  The CPI (M) and Nexilite have to give up their sectarianism.

                                      (The writer is a Trade Union Leader of Delhi)

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