CPI(ML) - The Firm Defender of the Revolutionary Legacy of Indian Communists

[A popular booklet published in 1991.]

Emergence of the CPI(ML): The Opening Up of a New Road

In the course of a protracted struggle between its opportunist and revolutionary wings, the Communist Party of India underwent its first split in 1964 and a new party was formed in the shape of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It did not however take long for the revolutionary wing to realize that the leadership of the new party had been seized by the centrist trend of the movement, which was bent upon pursuing the same opportunist course. An inner-Party struggle ensued throughout the party. However, in a concentrated form, it was conducted by Comrade Charu Mazumdar through his famous Eight Documents, written between 1965 and 1967.

Marked by a nationwide outburst of mass movements, this was also the period that saw the first major turn in post-1947 Indian politics. In West Bengal, the CPI(M)-dominated United Front was swept to power and the party leadership completed its transition to the opportunist strategic course. As its antithesis, the revolutionary wing went beyond the parameters of inner-Party struggle and strove to orientate the mass struggles, the peasant movement in particular, towards the revolutionary strategic course. The peasant uprising in Naxalbari, organised by the Charu Mazumdar-led wing of the Party precipitated the first showdown between the two strategic perspectives and tactical lines within the CPI(M).

True to the tradition of social-democratic betrayal, the party in power responded with bullets, and the simmering revolt within the party spread like wildfire. With revolutionary communists throughout India detaching themselves from the party and rallying around the emerging centre, the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), the CPI(M) suffered its first major split. The formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) on 22 April, 1969, gave an organised and centralised shape to this new centre. The CPI(ML) held its First Congress in Calcutta in May 1970 and Comrade Charu Mazumdar was elected the General Secretary of a 21-member Central Committee.

The history of the next two years is a saga of heroic sacrifices unparalleled in the annals of the Indian Communist movement. Following the pattern of the Chinese revolution serious attempts were made to develop guerrilla war, a red army and base areas in selected areas in the countryside. Backing it up was a powerful movement of students and youth, particularly in West Bengal and the city of Calcutta, which sought to challenge the entire foundations of the ideology of the Indian ruling classes that had begun to take shape with the advent of the so-called Bengal Renaissance.

However, despite its amazing revolutionary spirit and intensity, this first phase of the CPI(ML) movement could not provide detailed and comprehensive solutions to the complex problems of revolutionising Indian society. Amidst unprecedented state repression, the movement soon faced a disastrous setback.

The Mid-70s: Keeping the Party Alive amidst Splits and Confusions

By the middle of 1972, the Party had suffered almost total paralysis. The entire central leadership was virtually decimated. The remaining Party forces were all lying scattered and fragmented. And on the question of the Party’s line, there was confusion all around.

At this juncture, a new Central Committee was organised on 28 July, 1974, the second anniversary day of Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s martyrdom. The committee consisted of only three members — Comrade Jauhar, the General Secretary, and Comrades Vinod Mishra and Raghu (Swadesh Bhattacharya). This new CC enjoyed the allegiance of the reorganised State Committee of Bihar, which was at the helm of the growing peasant movement in several blocks of Bhojpur and Patna districts, the newly formed State Leading Team of West Bengal, which was struggling hard to keep alive the Party, and a section of comrades in Eastern U.P. and Delhi.

Soon, however, the Party again suffered a major setback as many of its leaders, cadres and fighters got killed in police encounters in Bihar. In November 1975, Comrade Jauhar, the Party General Secretary, too, died a martyr’s death fighting an enemy offensive in a Bhojpur village. Comrade VM then took over as the General Secretary, and in February 1976, the Second Party Congress was held in a village in Gaya district of Bihar. The Congress elected an 11-member Central Committee with Comrade VM as the General Secretary. It is this Party which has, in the course of time, come to be known, after the name of the Party Central Organ in English, as the Liberation group of CPI(ML).

Till 1977, we continued to follow essentially the old line with a particular emphasis on conducting armed guerrilla attacks on police and paramilitary forces and organising people’s political power through revolutionary committees. Successive efforts were made to step up the movement in Bhojpur and Patna districts of Bihar, in Naxalbari and in Bankura district of West Bengal and in Ghazipur and Ballia districts of U.P. But heroic actions and great sacrifices notwithstanding, the line was clearly left-adventurist in character, and it failed to unleash mass initiative on any significant scale. Neither could the Party consolidate the gains of our tremendous efforts.

For the people all over the country, those were the dark days of extreme repression institutionalised through the Emergency. And our heroic resistance, particularly in Bhojpur, objectively became a part of the anti-Emergency people’s movement. Theoretically too, the Party did adhere to the concept of building an anti-Congress united front, though this could not be translated into practice.

However, at a time when the CPI had aligned itself with the Congress, the CPI(M) was rendered totally ineffective and other factions of the CPI(ML) were lying in complete disarray, ours was the only group in the entire Left camp which had kept the red flag flying even in the trying conditions of extreme repression. Naturally, when the curtain was finally lifted in 1977, the red star over Bhojpur and our small group drew the attention of revolutionaries all over the country and also of the rejuvenated Indian media. Meanwhile, Party work had spread to Assam and Tripura and now comrades from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala too joined the Party. By 1979, our Party had taken on an all-India character.

Drawing New Strength through Rectification of Old Mistakes

In 1978, the Party launched a rectification movement. It had all begun with the limited purpose of correcting just the style of work, but the spirit of rectification did not spare the political line. Great changes began to occur in the Party line and practice which were formalised in a Special Party Conference held in a village of Bhojpur in July 1979. The conference decided to initiate open mass activities through mass organisations.

At this juncture, the polemics within the movement was sharpened between the two trends represented by our organisation and the group known as the Provisional Central Committee (PCC). The PCC, an opportunist conglomeration of various factions, had won a lot of acclaim and support for the alacrity with which it had started rectifying all past mistakes. Its central figure, Mr.Satya Narain Singh, had deserted the movement in 1970 itself and begun to hobnob with bourgeois politicians. During the Emergency he advocated tailing behind Jayaprakash Narayan; in 1977 he worked out a deal with Charan Singh, the then Union Home Minister, asking the Naxalite prisoners to come out of jails by signing bonds abjuring violence; and finally ended up as a champion of unity with anti-Congress kulaks and big bourgeoisie.

We pointed out from the very beginning that the whole premise of PCC is liquidationist and what it actually intends to ‘rectify’ is the essential revolutionary spirit of the movement. We also predicted that this opportunist alliance of disparate factions would not last long. However, as the PCC put up a show of unity and initiated long overdue changes in forms of struggle and organisation, it did succeed initially in attracting a large number of revolutionary forces to its fold. But soon it got trapped in a maze of absurd propositions supplied by its own self-styled theoreticians and split into more factions than it had united.

Meanwhile, the unified and organised rectification campaign undertaken by our Party had begun to deliver results. With the initiation of various open forms of mass activities, the militant resistance movement of the peasantry started reaching new heights both in terms of expansion and intensity, and revolutionary elements started crossing over from the PCC to our Party. That was the end of the challenge from PCC.

The other liquidationist exercise was made by Kanu Sanyal, an important leader of Naxalbari. He openly denounced the CPI(ML) and its heritage and pleaded for a revival of the pre-CPI(ML) coordination phase. He could however mobilise only some leftover elements and could never pose any serious challenge to our organisation.

It is in the struggle against these liquidationist onslaughts that we eventually emerged as the biggest group of the CPI(ML).

Formation of IPF: A New Leap in Political Assertion

Meanwhile, the Party had started feeling a desperate need to assert its presence on the national political scene. In the wake of the failure of the first non-Congress experiment at the Centre and the restoration of the Indira regime, there had begun a national debate on a national political alternative, and we decided to launch a mass political organisation to intervene in this ongoing debate from a revolutionary democratic premise.

Serious attempts were made at both bilateral and multilateral levels to seek the cooperation and participation of other communist revolutionary (CR) organisations in building such a forum. A meeting of thirteen CR organisations including almost all the major factions of CPI(ML) was convened by our Party in 1981. That remains the first and last attempt for unity of the movement. At the same time, we embarked upon large-scale interactions with the emerging intermediate forces of non-party mass movements. All these efforts finally culminated in the formation of the Indian People’s Front through a three-day conference from April 24 to 26, 1982, in Delhi.

In December 1982, the Party organised its Third Congress in a village in the Giridih district of Bihar. This Congress was fairly representative in character and it elected a Central Committee of 17 full and 8 alternative members. The CC re-elected Comrade VM as the General Secretary. After a fierce debate, the Congress gave its green signal to the tactics of participation in elections. However, it reaffirmed the Party’s resolve to grasp the peasant resistance struggles as the key link, and to keep all our parliamentary activities subordinated to extra-parliamentary mass struggles. The 1985 assembly elections in Bihar were the first polls contested by the Party, of course, under the IPF banner.

The formation of IPF opened up new vistas of political initiative and advance before the Party. Organising mass rallies and demonstrations in various state capitals on almost all important political issues soon became an integral part of our Party practice. From the realm of abstraction the Party had taken its first major step into the realm of concrete political action, drawing for the first time the broad masses in political struggles based on the Party’s minimum programme. While the communist party’s leadership over the mass political organisation (MPO) was ensured through the party’s political guidance and by despatching staunch communists to various leadership positions, the MPO facilitated broader interactions with various streams of social and political forces, thereby helping the party in extending its influence and broadening its own social base.

As a particular form of united front in the shape of a popular people’s revolutionary party, the IPF symbolises one of our Party’s rare achievements in the annals of the Indian communist movement, both in the realm of theory and practice. It has earned its own place in Indian politics, and all practical political activities of the Party are routed through it.

Fourth Party Congress and the Call for Left confederation

The Fourth Party Congress was held in January 1988 in a village in Hazaribagh district of Bihar. In keeping with the changing situation and its own enhanced understanding, the Party radically revised various outdated ideas and stereo-typed positions, thus clearing the way for entering and reshaping the mainstream of Indian politics. Giving up the tiresome phrase of unity of communist revolutionaries, that is the Naxalite groups, it resolved to initiate interaction with the main left parties and advanced the call for a left and democratic confederation. The Congress elected a Central Committee of 21 members, and the CC, in its turn, elected a 5-member Polit Bureau with Comrade VM as the General Secretary.

The CPI(ML) movement of the ’70s had by now split into two distinct trends. One, represented by our Party, retrieved Marxism-Leninism through a thorough and consistent struggle against anarchist deviations, both in theory and practice, and brought the Party back to the course of the communist legacy, revolutionary mass struggles and full-fledged political initiatives. The other, represented by a host of groups like the Maoist Communist Centre, the Second Central Committee, Party Unity and some factions of PCC perfected anarchist deviations into a full-fledged theoretical framework. Within the CPI(ML) movement as a whole, this anarchist challenge has consolidated itself in the last few years and poses the main challenge before the Party’s advance.

However, within our Party, in the course of struggle against anarchist deviations we had to wage a serious struggle against liquidationism. The liquidationist trend raised its ugly head immediately after the Fourth Congress. Beginning from a right capitulationist standpoint, this trend tried to obliterate the Party’s essential difference with the opportunist Left. But it did not stop here and soon moved over to the point of obliteration of all differences between revolutionary and liberal democracy. Encouraged by the developments in Soviet Union and East Europe, it even demanded renunciation of Marxism and the Communist Party itself and advocated an out and out reformist programme. Its chief proponent is currently engaged in social investigations to produce a databank to help developmental programmes of the government and private agencies.

Our Party resolutely fought back this liquidationist tendency and frustrated all attempts to split the Party. Truly speaking, the Party witnessed a qualitative development in the years after the Fourth Congress. In the 1989 parliamentary elections it succeeded in sending the first Marxist-Leninist representative to the parliament and in the assembly elections of 1990 it was able to form a sizeable legislature group in the Bihar Assembly.

Most notable has been the success of the IPF-sponsored mass rally in the capital on 8 October, 1990. It has reinforced the undying relevance of revolutionary Marxism and illustrated the growing stature of the revolutionary Left in the national political scene. The massive demonstration of lakhs of people has also triggered off a realignment of forces in the Left camp. It has brought to the fore the struggle between the two tactical lines and the two premises of Left unity: whether the Left should count upon the bourgeoisie and bourgeois institutions for a democratic transformation of the Indian society and polity, or it should strive to take the lead itself and rely exclusively upon mass struggles.

A large number of forces from the CPI and CPI(M) in Bihar, UP and West Bengal are crossing over to the banner of revolutionary democracy, while formal relations are being developed with almost all the main parties of the Left, and avenues explored for developing joint actions and a left confederation.

Grasping the Basic Differences between the CPI(M) and CPI(ML)

It may be useful here to reiterate the basic differences between the CPI(M) and our Party. The opportunist course in the Indian communist movement is identified first by its characterisation of the Indian bourgeoisie. In the garb of various kinds of jugglery of words and phrases, it essentially emphasises ‘national’ character of the Indian bourgeoisie, thereby highlighting the latter’s potential for leading anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggles and effecting a democratic transformation of the Indian society. This theory has led to exaggeration of contradictions between the private and public sectors, and advocacy of tailing behind different bourgeois-landlord parties, sometimes in the name of an anti-fascist front and at other times in the name of democratic or secular fronts.

In the international arena, the principal contradiction, according to the opportunist course is the contradiction between (U.S.) imperialism and (Soviet) socialism. Extended to the domestic scene, this principal global contradiction only rationalises the theory of the so-called anti-imperialist character of the Indian bourgeoisie, for the latter has always maintained close ties with the Soviet bloc.

Thirdly, and as a corollary to its understanding of the Indian bourgeoisie’s character, the opportunist course refuses to organise the broad masses of labouring peasantry as the main force of democratic transformation. On the contrary, it has developed an understanding with the kulak lobby, an understanding that lies behind its stable political relationship with various regional parties.

Finally, as the offshoot of the first three points, the opportunist course heavily relies upon the existing bourgeois institutions for bringing about urgent social reforms in the country. This has paralysed the opportunist Left with what Lenin calls parliamentary cretinism.

In contrast, the revolutionary course has always emphasised the comprador character of the Indian bourgeoisie, underlining thereby that it is the task of the proletariat to lead the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggles and that reliance upon the bourgeoisie would take us nowhere. Its understanding of the primacy of the contradiction between imperialism and the Third World has also prompted it to test the ‘anti-imperialism’ of the Indian bourgeoisie on the independent touchstone of regional solidarity and commitment to the Third World cause, rather than by the degree of its closeness with the Soviet bloc. It views agrarian revolution as the axis of democratic revolution and puts the main emphasis on organising militant mass struggles of agrarian labourers and labouring peasants. And in opposition to parliamentary cretinism, it relies primarily upon extra-parliamentary struggles.

These are the essential contours of the struggle between the opportunist and revolutionary wings. We can call it a continuation of the polemics between the Menshevik and Bolshevik tactics in Indian conditions.

The CPI(M)’s development from 1964 to this day has only confirmed its journey along the opportunist course. With the CPI making some tactical adjustments in its positions and international differences taking a back-seat, and the two parties moving in unison on almost all major questions, the very rationale of the 1964 split is today faced with a big question mark. On the other hand, the CPI(M) is facing a fresh round of dissension and almost all the dissident forces coming out of the party are accusing the party leadership of deviating from the 1964 programme, thereby depriving the ’64 split of all its political rationale.

The revolutionary position, on the other hand, was stretched to the opposite extreme. The comprador character of the Indian bourgeoisie was extended to mean a total rejection of any tactical alliance with any section of the bourgeoisie. The international outlook, too, suffered a distortion with blind adherence to the theory of three worlds, which was raised to the absurd height of prescribing a global front against Soviet social-imperialism in collaboration with all sorts of pro-US forces, including even the US itself under certain circumstances. Agrarian revolution was visualised strictly along the Chinese lines, and primacy of extra-parliamentary struggles was interpreted as permanent exclusion of the entire stream of parliamentary struggle. These perceptions did work to an extent in a situation of revolutionary upswing, but desperate attempts to stick to these slogans even under vastly different circumstances of a real retreat of the movement could produce nothing more than empty anarchist phrase-mongering.

Multifarious Activities and Growing Resumption of Open Party Practice

To take up the challenge of defending Marxism-Leninism in the face of the continuing deep crisis of socialism and renewed bourgeois offensive, the Party in its July 1990 Special Conference in Delhi has decided to resume open functioning after nearly twenty years. Accordingly, its central and state organs have started appearing openly; Party banners are displayed in open rallies and demonstrations, seminars are being organised in defence of Marxism and a widespread campaign has been launched to impart primary Marxist education to more and more people and recruit large number of elements emerging out of mass struggles into the Party.

The Party has also launched its all-India trade union wing named the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and is planning to coordinate the activities of its state-level peasant associations through a national body. On the student front, a national-level organisation has already been initiated in the form of All India Students’ Association (AISA) while on women and cultural fronts too, building national-level organisations is on the agenda for the coming years.

The Party has also built up a propaganda network through its own organs, through IPF organs and through popular democratic periodicals like the Patna-based Hindi weekly Samkaleen Janmat. In 1986, it had brought out a Report from the Flaming Fields of Bihar — an analytical review of the developing revolutionary peasant movement of Bihar in the light of changing agrarian and social conditions in the state. The book was widely acclaimed in revolutionary and academic circles in India and abroad. Currently, the Party is engaged in making an in-depth study of the history of the Indian communist movement, which it proposes to publish in five volumes.

The Party has developed a mass political organisation called the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) in the national minority region of Karbi Anglong in Assam, and guides all its important activities including the running of the autonomous district administration. While we pay particular attention to the special problems of national minorities and appreciate the genuine grievances of various nationalities, dalits and backward castes, and religious minorities, we are strongly opposed to the marginalisation of the overall movement and strive for the unity of the overwhelming majority of the Indian people and of India as a country.

The Party continues to pay the highest attention to building revolutionary peasant struggles and organising armed resistance against the attacks by private armies of the landlords and kulaks as well as the state. Constantly raising the level of revolutionary consciousness, mobilisation and militancy of the masses at the grassroots is the motto of our Party and it is the only guarantee against all kinds of opportunist, social-democratic and bureaucratic deviations.

Fraternal Ties Based on Self-reliance and Mutual Non-Interference

The Party has maintained close fraternal relations with the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) from the mid-1970s onward. These relations have been based upon the spirit of mutual respect and learning from each other while strictly maintaining the policy of mutual non-interference and our commitment to opposing all expressions of Indian hegemony.

At the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party two delegations of our Party visited China in 1979 and 1980. We have also been maintaining comradely relations with the Communist Party and democratic organisations of the Philippines and Peru. There are now greater prospects for expanding our relations with friends abroad and we do look forward to developing warm friendship and solidarity with communist parties and revolutionary democratic movements across the world.

However, we have always upheld and shall continue to uphold the cardinal principle of self-reliance. We have consistently and consciously refused and shall continue to refuse all kinds of financial support from any foreign source or from various foreign-funded domestic voluntary organisations. We refuse to be dictated to by any party and have always worked out our plans, policies and actions exclusively on the basis of our own study of the Indian conditions.

CPI(ML)-Liberation: True Inheritor of India’s Revolutionary Communist Legacy

In view of the facts that the CPI(ML)-Liberation is the only CPI(ML) group

(a) which has maintained its continuity and unity since its reorganisation in 1974;

(b) which has got an all-India organisational network covering Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, southern Orissa (Koraput-Ganjam area), coastal Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, southern Kerala, Bangalore, Bombay, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar;

(c) which has held regular Party Congresses and Conferences up to regional and district levels and is run by duly elected bodies at different levels;

(d) which conducts regular Party education and rectification and consolidation campaigns to raise the level of consciousness of Party ranks and ensure their increasing involvement in the running of various Party affairs;

(e) which has regular central organs in English and Hindi backed by a network of state organs in regional languages, Party pamphlets and various periodicals;

(f) which practises various forms of struggle ranging from armed resistance to parliamentary agitation and runs a whole set of organisations varying from the secret and the underground to the widest possible open mass organisations, conducts mass activities on all fronts and in all spheres of life and undertakes joint action with political forces of different kinds, combining them all into a growing current of mass struggles; and

(g) which maintains fraternal and friendly relations with communist and democratic movements of several countries,

we claim ourselves to be the true inheritors of the revolutionary wing of the Indian communist movement in general and the CPI(ML) in particular, as the Party, representing and acting on behalf of the CPI(ML).