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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 1, December 26, 2009 - Annual Number 2009

Communist Unity—Time for Introspection

Saturday 26 December 2009, by D. Gnaniah


For three days in New Delhi from November 20 to 22, 2009 an international meeting of the Communist and Workers Parties of 47 countries, 55 parties was held fruitfully. This was called the 11th meeting starting from the first one held in 1960 in Moscow when the socialist camp was at the zenith of its power influencing the course of events in the world, and perhaps also within most of the individual countries.

This meeting was hosted jointly by the CPI-M and CPI. They issued a joint invitation selecting more than a hundred parties, but all of which bear the name of Communist or Workers Parties were not invited. Within India, no other Communist or Workers Party or Left party was invited. Naxalites, Maoists or some other parties each claiming to be the true Communist Party such as the CPI (Marxist-Leninist), CPI (Maoist), Satya Shodhak Communist Party (Maharashtra), Lenin Communist Party, Periyarist Marxist Communist Party (Tamil Nadu), the most vociferously revolutionary phrase-mongering Socialist Unity Centre were not there. Similar parties functioning in many other countries were all excluded. Rightly so. Only those parties who accepted Marxism-Leninism, scientific socialism, proletarian internationalism, class struggle were qualified to be invited by the two sponsoring parties.

The joint sponsors CPI-M and CPI were indeed enthusiastic about their role in their effort to rebuild or restore the unity of the international communist movement while keeping silent over the divided or fractured parties in India. There seems to be a mysterious silence even about the re-union of the sponsors themselves. Perhaps each in its own way may believe that the time is not yet ripe to sponsor their own merger despite the fact that all visible rationale for their split 45 years ago, in 1964, has now disappeared. By and by kaleidoscopic changes have taken place in the world and India, in parties, state power, ideology, science, technology and also in the communist and working-class movement in every part of the world.

The first international conference in 1960, Moscow, was attended by Communist and Workers Parties from 81 countries. Each country was represented by only one party. Now only 45 countries participated and were represented by 55 parties—that means, more than one party from about 10 countries! More countries have more than one party now. There is no socialist camp today. All the ruling parties of the then so-called socialist-oriented countries numbering more than a dozen had been toppled and changed over to unbridled capitalism. Even Mao’s China has changed beyond recognition now.

“To split is revolutionary”, “split purifies”, “one always becomes two”, “two never become one” were raised in the 1960s by the great leader of the Chinese revolution, almost deified by the masses of China, Chairman Mao Zedong. “Chairman Mao is our Chairman,” chanted by revolutionary extremist groups also reverbrated in many parts of the world.

In the 1960s only a few Communist Parties in the world got split. The worst split took place in the Communist Party of India which got divided vertically from top to bottom. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Indonesia, the biggest one outside the socialist states, which went Mao’s way, issued a direct call in February 1964: “The situation is excellent for revolution in India and it is time for revolutionary Communists to break with the Dange clique.” Soon thereafter in April 1964 followed the actual split.


The main cause for the split in CPI could be attributed to years of serious differences inside the party about the assessment of the stage and nature of the Indian revolution, who is the main enemy and who are the allies.

However, but for the split in the international movement, particularly between two giants, the Soviet Union and China, the differences could not have led to an actual split.

The new party, CPI-M, in its first meeting at Tenali in 1964 displayed the picture of Mao Zedong on the dias screen background. It then generally accepted the Chinese line. In the first ideological resolution, adopted in April 1968, it was claimed that the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) had rendered a yeoman service to the communist movement in the fight against revisionism and in defence of Marxism-Leninism.

In May 1969 the CPI-M Polit-Bureau stated that the party considers the CPC’s letter of June 1963 to the CPSU as generally correct in essence.

However, the leaders who split away were time-tested and recognised popular mass leaders who had led many battles of the masses such as A.K. Gopalan, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, P. Ramamurty, P. Sundarayya, Jyoti Basu, H.K.S. Surjeet and also such ideologues as B.T. Ranadive, Basavapunniah etc. Therefore they quickly smelt the unsuitability of the Maoist revolution to India. The party therefore got itself split (split is revolutionary; split purifies!) into a third party loyal to Maoism and CPC in toto.

Soon the CPC shifted its recognition and fraternal relations to this new Naxalite party, CPI (Marxist-Leninist). Peking Radio started using abusive language against such popular leaders as EMS, Jyoti Basu etc., in their broadcasts to India.

After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the CPC undertook a complete but agonising reappraisal of its whole past and in June 1981 adopted
a comprehensive resolution on the CPC’s history (1949-81), especially on the role of Mao. Inter alia it stated:

Comrade Mao Zedong’s prestige reached a peak and he began to get arrogant …… He gradually divorced himself from practice and from the masses, acted more and more arbitrarily and subjectively and increasingly put himself above the Central Committee of the party. (Possibly he could not carry a majority with him.—D.G.)

The chief responsibility for the grave Left error of the Cultural Revolution, an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong……. In his later years far from making a correct analysis of the many problems, he confused right and wrong and the people with the enemy during the Cultural Revolution.

While making serious mistakes, he repeatedly urged the whole party to study the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin conscientiously and imagined that his theory and practice were Marxist and that they were essential for the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Herein lies his tragedy.

The call of Mao’s Cultural Revolution to “bombard the headquarters” was targeted against the whole party leadership and the Central Committee of the CPC. The capitalist roaders were the leading cadres of the party “The number one party person taking the capitalist road” was no less a person than the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Liu Shaoqui, who carried the entire Central Committee with him. It was all in fact a counter-revolutionary call against the Communist Party itself!

The CPI-M too in 1966 eulogised the Cultural Revolution as the greatest and boldest experiment in socialist construction and in defence of its future. However, in 1984 in a statement it issued on the lessons of the Chinese Revolution, it stated that the events of twenty years (1956-1976) inside and outside the CPC had led to frustration and grief in the whole world revolutionary movement. As a result of which thousands and thousands of youth had to undergo unimaginable suffering and misery. It misled them to a wrong path. The fraternal ties and cooperation amongst the socialist bloc and Communist Parties got disrupted.


With such a reappraisal the CPI had always concurred. In fact it was one of the main differences that led to the split in 1964.

On the fall of the Soviet Union and consequent grave setback to socialism both parties share almost similar assessment.

In the field of domestic policies that are more basic than the international questions, both the parties took opposite directions but have now converged to commonality of policies. The CPI corrected its pro-Congress line and opted for a Left Democratic Alternative in 1977 itself. Its Kerala Chief Minister, P.K. Vasudevan Nair, resigned, breaking with the supporting Congress party and joined the LDF. In Bengal the CPI joined the CPI-M-led Left Front.

The CPI-M too started disengaging itself from the Rightist forces, Jan Sangh, RSS, Janata Party and Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1980s. JP‘s total revolution was a deceptive and bogus slogan for a Rightist takeover. EMS’ advocacy that the party would join even with the devil to defeat and dislodge the Congress led not only to support the RSS-dominated Janata Party but even EMS could win the State Assembly elections only with the support of the Jan Sangh by a margin of 5000 votes defeating the CPI rival, Gopalakrishna Menon. The Jan Sangh had polled 5800 votes in the previous election. Jan Sangh leader Balraj Madhok issued a statement in support of EMS stating: “It is the CPI that is more dangerous. The CPI-M in today’s context is not a danger.”

But all these events have been left behind by the CPI-M that is now willing to join even with devil to dislodge the fascist oriented RSS-BJP from power and to prevent their comeback.

What differences are now left between the two CPs? Yes, while there is no difference left over the tactical line there still remain some programmatic differences on the strategy of the Indian revolution. Better we deal with it separately.

However, is it not time for both the parties to introspect in the face of the emerging reality in India? Perhaps they imagine that the time is not yet ripe. Would it be wrong to term it as subjective and not objective?

A veteran Communist and an acknowledged leader of the Central Government employees, the author was the Secretary-General of the National Federation of Postal and Telecom Employees (NFPTE) and led several all-India actions of the Central Government employees.

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