The Long March Continues
-- Arindam Sen
Two years after the formation of the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) in May 1968 and a year after the foundation of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in April 1969, the first congress was held secretly on 15-16 May at Kolkata. A 21-member central committee was elected, with Comrade Charu Mazumdar as General Secretary. The congress adopted a General Programme and a Political Organisational Report and called upon the Party ranks to intensify and expand armed peasant struggle.
In a situation of total ideological confusion following the setback and fragmentation suffered by the Party in 1971-72, a new central committee was formed on 28 July 1974, the second anniversary of Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s martyrdom. It consisted of comrades Jauhar (Subrata Dutta), secretary of the reorganised Bihar State Committee, who was now elected General Secretary, Vinod Mishra, secretary of the newly formed West Bengal State Leading Team; and Raghu (Swadesh Bhattacharya), a close associate of Jauhar. The Central Committee vowed to unite all communist revolutionaries of India on the basis of the revolutionary essence of the political line formulated by Comrade Charu Mazumdar.
Comrade Jauhar was martyred on 29 November 1975 and Comrade Vinod Mishra took over as General Secretary. He took the initiative to hold a party congress as early as possible, which took place on 26-27 February 1976 in Gaya district in Bihar. It elected a 11-member central committee with Comrade VM as General Secretary and maintained the stress on armed guerrilla struggle. It also introduced the concept of an anti-Congress united front but did not elaborate on the required political tactics.
In January 1978 a rectification movement was launched with a view to overcoming the militarist viewpoint and style of work and reemphasising mass peasant movement. Soon, however, it began to transform our entire thought-process and political line. The rectification movement was consummated in the form of a special All India Conference held from 26 April to 2 May, 1979 in Bhojpur, Bihar. As decided in the conference, trade unions, students’ organisations and other mass organisations began to be formed while keeping the party strictly underground, and vigorous bilateral as well as multi-lateral initiatives were taken to unite the communist revolutionaries of India. The various class and sectional organisations were later brought together under the umbrella of the Indian People’s Front (IPF) launced in April 1982. As a mass political organisation, IPF enabled the underground Party to take wide-ranging political initiatives and to interact with numerous social and political forces throughout the country.
Held in Giridih district of Bihar (now Jharkhand) from 26 to 30 December, the third congress made a self-critical assessment of the Party’s formative years while firmly upholding the fine revolutionary traditions. It adopted, for the first time in CPI(ML) history, a separate Agrarian Programme in addition to the General Programme, Constitution and Political Organisational Report, and decided upon participation in elections under IPF banner on condition that parliamentary struggle must be subordinated to extra-parliamentary movement with peasants’ resistance struggle as the key link. Understandably, this decision was taken only after an intense debate at all levels of the Party prior to and at the congress itself. A central committee comprising 17 full and 8 alternative members was elected.
The fourth congress held in Hazaribagh district of Bihar (now Jharkhand) from January 1 to 5, 1988 elected a 21-member central committee and a 3-member central control commission. In this congress we abandoned certain wrong concepts like viewing the Soviet Union as social-imperialism while condemning Gorbachev’s theory of peaceful imperialism, and gave out the solgan of Left and Democratic Confederation. The way for our interaction with the mainstream of the left movement was thus paved. Also the congress decided to initiate the process of opening up a section of Party which was implemented in the form of appointing spokespersons at central and lower levels. Soon after the congress, the Party had to launch a vigorous ideological campaign against a trend of liquidationist renegacy which sought to obliterate our fundamental differences with the opportunist Left. The whole Party rallied unitedly in this struggle to defend Marxism and to reiterate three cardinal principles: primacy of revolutionary peasant struggle in our multifarious activities; relentless fight against parliamentary opportunism and social-democracy; absolute political independence and leading role of the communist party in the democratic revolution. With higher ideological-political and organisational consolidation, the Party achieved new breakthrough on the peasant front and was able to send its representatives to the Lok Sabha (from Arrah, Bihar) and to the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1989-90.
This was our first conference organised under semi-secret conditions in a big city (Delhi, 22-24 July). It took further steps in the process of opening up, which had become necessary for boldly coming out in defence of Marxism in a situation of crisis of socialism and for the Party’s direct intervention in national politics. As decided in the conference, the Party began to be opened up in graduated manner – with open party organs, seminars, participation in rallies with Party banners (for instance, in the 8 October ’90 IPF rally on Boat Club, Delhi) etc. to begin with – while keeping intact the underground Party nucleus.
The next major step in this direction of opening up and restructuring was the holding of the next party congress openly in Kolkata on 20-26 December, followed by a massive Party rally on the Brigade Parade Ground on 28 December, where Comrade Vinod Mishra made his first public appearance after more than two decades of underground operation. The congress called for militant mass resistance to communal fascism under united Left leadership, reiterated the slogan of Left Confederation and boldly put forward the perspective of uniting all Indian communists in a single Party. A 17-member central committee (after a few months 8 more members were coopted) and a 3-member central control commission were elected.
To further streamline and systematise the Party’s structure and functioning, a special organisational conference – the first of its kind in our history – was organised in Diphu, Karbi Anglong (Assam) on 28 and 29 July, 1995. It discussed, and adopted specific decisions on a wide range of matters like raising the membership strength and overcoming imbalances like low proportion of women in the membership and in Party committees, strengthening party propaganda and education, freshly developing a small underground structure in the midst of open party functioning and so on. According to a decision adopted at the plenum, the Indian Institute of Marxist Studies (IIMS) was founded to propagate Marxism and to facilitate organised interaction with Marxist and progressive intellectuals.
Held in Varanasi – one of the main bastions of communal fascism – from 20 to 25 October 1997, the sixth congress made an observation that was soon to prove prophetic: “the Indian ruling establishment is all set to welcome a BJP takeover by the next elections, if not earlier.” The congress therefore gave out the clarion call of resolute resistance to the saffron menace. A 39-member central committee and a 5-member central control commission were elected. As in all the previous congresses since the second (1976), Comrade Vinod Mishra was reelected General Secretary.
The year 1998 was one of major losses: we lost Central Committee member Anil Kunmar Baruah in February, Polit Bureau member Nagbhushan Patnaik in October and General Secretary Vinod Mishra in December. Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya was unanimously elected General Secretary, and the Party continued to march forward. At the end of five eventful years, the stage is now set for the seventh congress (Patna, 25-30 November) with more than 700 delegates, around 20 foreign guests representing fraternal parties and organisations, and a distinguished panel of observers including eminent literary and cultural personalities, social activists, civil libertarians, intellectuals and mediapersons are expected to participate.
(For more on Party history, see ‘CPI(ML) -- The Firm Defender of the Revolutionary Legacy of Indian Revolution’ and ‘How did our Party evolve?’, both included in the Selected Works of Vinod Mishra).