Read Part - I

Notes on Party Programme

Part- II

[The first part of this paper on Party Programme was published in the April issue of Liberation in which we had discussed the ideological orientation of our Programme, the stage of our revolution and the centrality of the anti-feudal task of our revolution. The present part deals with the anti-imperialist dimension of our revolution, the pro-imperialist character of the Indian bourgeoisie and the key role of the rural poor at the helm of a broader anti-feudal anti-imperialist coalition in the countryside. We had hoped to conclude the paper with this second part, but there will now be a third and concluding part, which will appear in the June 2006 issue of Liberation. – Editor]

The Anti-Imperialist Dimension of India 's Democratic Revolution

C losely intertwined with
the anti-feudal task of our democratic revolution is the other key component of our revolutionary agenda, the anti-imperialist task. It is primarily this latter task and the proletarian leadership under which this task is carried out along with the anti-feudal one, which markedly distinguishes our goal of democratic revolution, described equivalently as new or people's democratic revolution, from the earlier kinds of bourgeois democratic revolution. The anti-imperialist task links our revolution with other anti-imperialist revolutions in the world or integrates it with the world socialist perspective. Of course, unlike the anti-feudal task, which can be successfully accomplished through an agrarian revolution, the contradiction with imperialism cannot be fully resolved at the democratic stage. In fact, the struggle against imperialism would continue even through the subsequent socialist stage till the international balance of power shifts decisively in favour of socialism. In other words, the resolution of the principal (anti-feudal) contradiction would place us in a qualitatively more advantageous position to contend with imperialism and win the battle for socialism.

How do we analyse the Indian state and the Indian big bourgeoisie vis-à-vis imperialism? Our programme describes India as a semi-colony and the Indian big bourgeoisie as comprador or dependent as opposed to national or independent. This again is another major area of debate between the CPI(ML) and the CPI(M) programmes. The CPI(M) accuses us of underestimating the strength of the Indian big bourgeoisie and ignoring India 's status as an emerging regional power.

To comprehend this debate, we must focus on the real question – the relationship of the Indian state and the Indian big bourgeoisie with imperialism in general and US imperialism in particular. In his path-breaking analysis of imperialism, Lenin had shown how imperialism had started encroaching upon the sovereignty of a whole range of states, “subjecting … to itself even states enjoying the fullest political independence.” The contemporary political reality of an Iraq or Afghanistan or for that matter all those countries subjected to a high degree of American military presence and control may still appear quite distant and different from the reality of today's India which is apparently being wooed and embraced by the US as an emerging regional power and strategic partner. But this recognition is valid only to the extent India is prepared to toe the American line and carry out global obligations assigned by the American bosses. Even the Indo-US nuclear deal, which the Indian ruling classes are currently showcasing as the biggest tribute till date to India 's strength and independence, actually entails an erosion of the autonomy or independence that India had so far been enjoying in this sphere when India 's nuclear programme was not subject to any kind of formal international supervision and control.

The term semi-colony captures both sides of India 's relationship with imperialism – the growing degree of imperialist pressure and intervention and the alacrity with which the acquiescent Indian big bourgeoisie plays second fiddle to imperialism in general and US imperialism in particular. The more the Indian state aspires for recognition as a regional power, the more it collaborates with the American drive for unilateral global hegemony; and the more India collaborates with US imperialism in the name of forging a supposedly ‘mutually beneficial' and ‘equal' strategic partnership, the more India becomes vulnerable to the aggressive strategic designs of US imperialism. There can be no denying the fact that despite big-power pretensions and aspirations, India remains miserably backward in terms of almost all key parameters of social and economic development. The terms semi-feudal and semi-colonial describe the two sides of this structural and historical backwardness of India .

Mao on Comprador and National Bourgeoisie

The term comprador has also been

a source of great debate and considerable confusion in the Indian communist movement. In China , the term was used primarily to distinguish pro-imperialist sections of the Chinese bourgeoisie from the national bourgeoisie identified as an ally in the struggle against imperialism and national oppression. Mao was quite clear that even though “the national bourgeoisie is not interested in fighting feudalism because it has close ties with the landlord class” and even though “it oppresses and exploits the workers”, revolutionary communists must “win over and unite with the national bourgeoisie so that it will side with the people against imperialism” and this was valid for the entire “historical period of the struggle against imperialism and feudalism” and even after the task of opposing imperialism and feudalism has been accomplished in the main.

The political distinction made by the Chinese Communist Party between comprador and national bourgeoisie was based not on any abstract theoretical analysis but the actual political conduct of the Chinese bourgeoisie in the war of resistance to Japan . Moreover, the question of unity with the national bourgeoisie during and even after the revolution was clearly discussed from a position of decisive proletarian strength and leadership. And this unity was inseparably linked with its opposite, viz., struggle. This is how Mao had formulated the proletarian policy of unity and struggle vis a vis the Chinese national bourgeoisie: “Unite with them in the common fight against imperialism and support all their anti-imperialist words and deeds, while waging an appropriate struggle against their reactionary, anti-working class and anti-Communist words and deeds.” It is instructive to note the emphasis on “deeds” alongside “words”.

While advocating a policy of unity

and struggle in relation to the national bourgeoisie, Mao was clearly not prepared to grant any such concession to the comprador bourgeoisie except advocating a certain sequencing or prioritization in order to utilize the contradictions among different imperialist countries to which the different comprador groups might owe specific allegiance. In his words, “In the struggle against the various comprador groups it is necessary to exploit the contradictions between imperialist countries, first coping with one of them and striking at the chief immediate enemy. For instance, in the past the Chinese comprador-bourgeoisie consisted of pro-British, pro-U.S. and pro-Japanese groups. During the War of Resistance Against Japan we exploited the contradiction between Britain and the United States on the one hand and Japan on the other, first striking down the Japanese aggressors and the comprador group depending on them. Then we turned round to deal blows at the U.S. and British aggressor forces and bring down the pro-U.S. and pro-British comprador groups.”

The Pro-Imperialist Character of India's Big Bourgeoisie

Ironically, while the CPI leadership had rejected most of the cardinal lessons from the Chinese revolution, they readily accepted the thesis of the national bourgeoisie, treating the dominant sections of the Indian big bourgeoisie as national, more on the basis of their words rather than deeds. The CPI overemphasized relative autonomy and the bargaining power that the Indian big bourgeoisie acquired in the wake of India's independence, especially in the context of the intense rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, and mistook it as a sure sign of anti-imperialism on the part of the Indian big bourgeoisie.

The CPI(M) programme, true to its

centrist nature, avoided such a classification and identified the entire bourgeoisie including the big bourgeoisie as having a dual character – contention as well as collaboration – in relation to imperialism, thereby implicitly introducing an element of “unity and struggle” in the proletariat's relationship with the big bourgeoisie within the overall framework of anti-imperialist struggle. This has been the programmatic source of the CPI(M)'s celebrated dichotomy between the Indian ruling classes' reactionary economic policy and progressive foreign policy, a dilemma which shows no signs of dying out even as the ruling classes and their two main representative political formations clearly display a competitive convergence in terms of the pro-imperialist, and more specifically pro-US, orientation of both economic and foreign policies.

Our emphasis on the comprador character of the Indian big bourgeoisie was in opposition to the flawed CPI assessment of national bourgeoisie as well as the CPI(M)'s analysis of the so-called dual character of the big bourgeoisie and the obvious political implications of such assessments. But to make allowance for the fact that the Indian big bourgeoisie today is far stronger than the Chinese compradors of the 1940s and commands a much more diversified industrial base and pursues more diversified relations with monopoly capitalist groups of different imperialist countries, we now prefer the word dependent to comprador.

In characterizing the Indian big bourgeoisie, our essential emphasis has always been on its dependent, pro-imperialist character and this has been corroborated more clearly and comprehensively ever since the Indian ruling classes came out openly in favour of the free market policies of neo-liberalism. While the Indian big bourgeoisie has certainly grown in asset size and in terms of the scale and geographical and sectoral spread of its operations, it is clear that many Indian industries have suffered heavy blows of de-industrialisation; India's policy autonomy has been severely sacrificed, and even in the emerging areas of information technology and knowledge economy Indian industry remains a dependent junior partner of big American or Western MNCs.

CPI(M)'s Illusory Search for an Anti-Imperialist Indian Bourgeoisie

Today, even as the Indian big bourgeoisie adopts increasingly pro-imperialist positions in both economic and foreign policies, the updated CPI(M) programme expects an intensification of the big bourgeoisie's contradiction with imperialism and commits unstinted working class support to the big bourgeoisie in its struggle with imperialism. To quote from the CPI(M)'s updated programme, “The working class and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), while not for a moment losing sight of their basic aim of building the people's democratic front to achieve people's democratic revolution and the fact that they have to inevitably come into clash with the present Indian State led by the big bourgeoisie, do take cognisance of the contradictions and conflicts that exist between the Indian bourgeoisie including the big bourgeoisie and imperialism. Opening up the Indian economy to the unbridled and free entry of MNCs and foreign finance capital will intensify this contradiction. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), while carefully studying this phenomenon, shall strive to utilise every such difference, fissure, conflict and contradiction to isolate the imperialists and strengthen the people's struggle for democratic advance. The working class will not hesitate to lend its unstinted support to the government on all issues of world peace and anti-imperialism which are in the genuine interests of the nation, on all economic and political issues of conflict with imperialism, and on all issues which involve questions of strengthening our sovereignty and independent foreign policy .” (section 7.13; italics ours)

At a time when the old ‘socialistic' illusions once sown by the big bourgeoisie have been thoroughly shattered by the relentless campaign for liberalization, privatisation and globalisation, the CPI(M) sees and expects an intensification of the big bourgeoisie's contradiction with imperialism! When the big bourgeoisie is widely seen to be capitulating to, and colluding with, imperialism on one front after another, the CPI(M) programme offers “unstinted support to the government on all issues of anti-imperialism”! And thus when the Congress accuses the CPI(M) of communalizing India 's foreign policy and the BJP promises to make common cause with the Congress with regard to both economic and foreign policies, the CPI(M) blames the BJP for seeking to distance the Congress from the Left! Can there be a more blatant display of bankrupt opportunism masquerading as a revolutionary programme?

The CPI(M) programme apparently classifies the Indian bourgeoisie into monopoly and non-monopoly or into big and medium or small sections, but it clearly sees the possibility of distancing the entire bourgeoisie from imperialism. The party's growing partnership with the Congress revolves precisely around this cognizance and not just the so-called secular-communal divide. This is how the CPI(M) and CPI programmes and tactical lines have nearly converged to the identical position of attributing anti-imperialist and progressive traits to the Indian bourgeoisie and forging strategic collaboration with the Congress as the political representative of such sections of the bourgeoisie.

Proletarian Party's Relations with the Peasantry and the Key Role of the Rural Poor

“The relations with the peasantry and with the bourgeoisie are two fundamental questions of tactics to be solved by the communist parties in backward countries with preponderant peasant populations,” Comrade Vinod Mishra had pointed out in his memorable introduction to the Report from the Flaming Fields of Bihar .

Since its inception, the CPI(ML) has accorded the highest emphasis on organizing the landless poor peasantry as the leading contingent of agrarian revolution. Of course, our programme also recognizes the importance of forging a firm alliance with the middle peasantry and, conditions favouring, neutralising and even winning the support of certain sections of the rich peasantry and directing the spearhead of the movement against a small section of feudal and capitalist landlords and kulaks. With the peasantry undergoing growing class differentiation we now see a sizable class of agricultural/rural labourers in the countryside. In other words, the rural society is also being polarized between a rural bourgeoisie and the rural proletariat with the middle sections standing in between. Accordingly, the Party now lays special emphasis on large-scale mobilization of the rural proletariat as an independent class force even as conditions are also ripening for reaching out to large sections of yesteryears' prosperous peasants who are currently being ruined by an acute agrarian crisis.

The CPI(M) programme too talks about “accelerated differentiation of the peasantry”, but it has never recognized the landless poor as the leading contingent of our agrarian revolution. In essence, the CPI(M) too follows the old CPI approach of subordinating the task of organizing the rural poor to the theory and practice of broad peasant unity led by the middle and sections of the rich peasantry. In West Bengal where the party has been in power for three decades now, it has been careful not even to permit the party's own agrarian labour wing to have a separate existence. In other states the CPI(M) does have a separate organization for agricultural workers, but its agenda is never taken up in a way or to an extent where it might inconvenience, let alone jeopardize, the CPI(M)'s stable political alliances with kulak-led regional parties (like the TDP in Andhra, RJD in Bihar, SP in UP and so on).

In sharp contrast to the CPI(M), the CPI(ML) has been known by its historical emphasis on the landless poor and its current thrust on enhancing the level of social and political assertion of the rural poor as a militant and mighty force of democracy and social transformation. In fact, it is this bold and vibrant assertion of the rural poor in the face of feudal-kulak violence and state repression which underpins the revolutionary identity of our Party. This has also ensured that the battle for social dignity, for freedom from social oppression remains an integral component of our agenda of class struggle in the countryside. Our vision of class struggle has never been a narrow economic one – the aspects of social dignity and political assertion have always been integral parts of our practice.

It must also be understood that the question of political mobilization of the rural poor has assumed added significance in the present period of globalization. It is important to grasp this aspect because there is actually a danger of this task being downplayed to lay a greater emphasis on the anti-imperialist task in the present situation of intensified imperialist offensive. In fact, there is a tendency in certain circles to treat the contradiction with imperialism as the principal contradiction of the current phase and locate greater anti-imperialist potential in the farmers' movement than in the rural poor. There is also a flawed understanding which sees the policies of imperialist globalization as being antithetical to the feudal remnants.

Those who expect globalization to weaken and even sweep away feudal remnants forget the historical role of colonialism in reinforcing landlordism in India and fail to recognize the many ways in which the relations and patterns of feudal oppression and bondage actually serve the agenda of imperialist plunder and penetration. Imperialist super-profits thrive on the basis of oppressed labour and depressed wages and it will therefore be a great folly to miss the added anti-imperialist relevance of every militant anti-feudal assertion of the rural poor. With growing imperialist penetration in agriculture and in the rural economy, the content of our agrarian revolution too is bound to acquire a greater anti-imperialist dimension. The task of unleashing the full revolutionary potential of the rural poor at the helm of a larger anti-feudal anti-imperialist coalition of class forces in the countryside has thus assumed a new urgency in the present period.

(to be concluded in the June 2006 issue of Liberation)