This document is part of the materials, now held in the Stalin holdings of the former Central Party Archives in Moscow, which relate to the series of discussions between the CPSU (b) and the CPI which were held in the Soviet capital in February and March 1951. The conversations resulted from the virtual breakdown and paralysis in the CPI which was a consequence of the three successive lines of P.C. Joshi, B.T. Ranadive and Rajeshwara Rao and which compelled the party to seek the advice of the Soviet party. The CPI delegation travelled by sea from Diamond Harbour to the Black Sea and so to Soviet territory. Two initial discussions took place on the 4th and 6th February between Suslov, Malenkov, Grigorian and P. Yudin from the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and Rajeshwara Rao, M. Basavapunnaiah, Ajay Ghosh, and S.A. Dange of the Central Committee of the CPI. The Indian delegation excluded the discredited group of B.T. Ranadive and G. Adhikari. The salient parts of this document include political-biographical details of the members of the Indian delegation, a summary of the discussions of the 4th and 6th February (already published in full in this journal in September 2006)) and, most important, the markings, underlinings and comments of J.V. Stalin revealing his political reactions to the stands of the CPI which presaged his interventions in the discussion he held with the CPI on 9th February (which was published in the same issue of the journal). The record of the second discussion of the CPI delegation and Stalin is still closed in the archives.
Apropos of the thinking of Ranadive, derived from the understanding of Tito and Kardelj, of the necessity of intertwining the democratic and socialist stages of the revolution, Stalin, who later was to present this thinking as being ‘dangerous’, here made a noting indicating that it was ‘stupid’, a view which followed logically from the Marxist understanding that India in 1951 was still a colonial country where the democratic tasks of the revolution were still at the fore. Moreover, by the post-war period the stage of people’s democratic revolution was seen as a universal initial stage of the revolution both in the imperialist countries such as the United States and Britain as well as in the colonies and semi-colonial countries such as India. The stage of socialism was considered as the second major phase of the revolutionary development of the people’s democratic states.
The principal criticism of Stalin is directed to the views of Rajeshwara Rao, and M. Basavapunnaiah representing the views of the Andhra Committee of the CPI which advocated the enacting of the successful path of revolution of the Communist Party of China to Indian conditions. They argued for the establishing of liberated areas in the course of protracted war and establishing liberated areas for the liberation of the whole country on the lines of the struggle in Telengana and Andhra. In his notings Stalin categorically rejected the view that the Nehru government was a marionette of English imperialism and that at that juncture the armed struggle was the main form of class struggle in India. In the discussion that Stalin held with the CPI leaders on 9th February 1951 it was noted that the tactical line of the CPC had been a grievous necessity. The line of protracted war had been able to be successful in China as a result of the existence of the reliable Soviet rear to the Chinese communist forces once they had reached Manchuria which later permitted the People’s Liberation Army to go on the offensive against the forces of the Kuomingtang. (The Soviet leader did not advert to the role of the Red Army in defeating the Japanese Fourth Army in Manchuria). India did not have a friendly socialist rear comparable to that from which the Chinese had benefitted. For this reason it was imperative for the revolutionary forces in India to carry out armed struggle which was defined as the combination of the strength of the armed workers’ detachments in the urban areas, which had played a cardinal role in the revolutionary process in Russia, alongside the guerrilla warfare of the peasantry which had been demonstrated in Telengana. The logic given by Stalin persuaded the leaders of the Andhra Committee to withdraw from their earlier understanding on the Indian state and the tactical line of the revolution and accept, along with the other leaders of the CPI, the programme and tactical line drawn up in 1951. For this reason, and also because the Andhra line was revived amongst most of the communist revolutionaries in the late 1960s, this document as well as those already published in this journal, bear not just historical but also a contemporary significance. In retrospect it may be seen that the 1951 programme, tactical line and election statement drawn up in conjunction with the advice of Stalin lasted only till such time as the rise of his successor. Khrushchev established notions of national democracy involving the subordinate cooperation of the communist movement with the national bourgeoisies of the colonial countries and encouraged reformist leaderships not fundamentally differing from that of P. C. Joshi. While the CPI M held to the 1951 positions for nearly a decade it rapidly succumbed to reformist positions. P. Sundarayya in his letter of resignation from the position of general secretary of the party in 1975 pointed out in a detailed fashion the abandonment of the 1951 programme and tactical line. Sundarayya was isolated in a severe fashion in his views in his own party and also as the bulk of the communist revolutionaries in this period returned to the stand of the Andhra Committee whether with or without a bent towards individual terrorism in their practice. In this his centenary year it is appropriate to recall that Sundarayya almost alone stood by the recommendations of Stalin given in 1951 regarding the programme and tactical line of the Indian revolution.
To Comrade Stalin1
On the 4th and 6th of February discussions were held with the representatives of the CC CPI, who have come to Moscow following their request for consultations with the CC AUCP(b) in connection with the developments in the CPI.
Comrade Rao, General Secretary of the CC CPI, members of the Politbureau Comrades Ghosh and Dange and member of the Central Committee Comrade Punnaiya have come to Moscow.
Following is the background information regarding these comrades.
Comrade RAJESHWAR RAO was born in 1915, has been a member of the CPI since 1934; before 1948 worked at the secretariat of the CPI in the province of Andhra. He has been critical of the CC’s policy before the II Congress of the Party (1948) carried out by the General Secretary of the CC Joshi. He has also opposed the policy of the CC CPI carried out under the leadership of the former General Secretary Ranadive after the II Congress of the Party. At the II Congress of the CPI Rajeshwar Rao was elected to the Central Committee and a member of the Politbureau and in May 1950 was elected as the General Secretary of the CPI.
Comrade GHOSH was born in 1908 and joined the party in 1931; before joining the party was involved in the terrorist movement. In 1934 was elected to the CC and in 1936 to the Politbureau of the CC CPI, edited the paper ‘National Front’ and in 1943 due to tuberculosis was relieved of his duties in the Politbureau. At the II Congress of the party in 1948 was elected to the Central Committee and to the Politbureau of the CC was arrested soon after. Ghosh opposed Ranadive’s policy, and while still in prison, wrote the article ‘Sectarianism in Our Party’. In June 1950 he was freed from jail and along with Dange and Ghate wrote a letter to the CC CPI in which they expressed their disagreement with the decisions relating to the fundamental questions of the party’s policy. In December 1950 Ghosh was inducted in the reorganised CC and the Politbureau of the CC CPI.
Comrade DANGE was born in 1899 and has been a member of the Communist Party since 1924. He is one of the founding members of the CPI and the workers movement in the country. He has written a number of books and articles on the workers’ movement, has edited the party’s newspapers and has actively participated in organising workers’ strikes and in establishing trade unions. In 1943 was elected as the Chairman All India Trade Union Congress and in the same participated in organising the I Congress of the CPI and was elected as a member of the CC CPI. In 1946 participated in the Plenum of the Executive Committee of the World Federation of Trade Unions in Moscow. As the representative of the CPI he participated in the Congress of the Communist Party of England in 1944. He has been arrested a number of times and has spent overall more than 15 years of incarceration. Along with Ghosh he wrote a letter to the CC CPI in which he expressed his disagreement with the policy of the CC under Rao’s leadership. In December 1950 was included in the reorganised CC and the Politbureau of the CC CPI.
Comrade V. PUNNAIYA was born in 1915. He is a member of the CPI since 1935 and has worked for a prolonged period along with comrade Rao in the Andhra party committee and the Madras provincial committee. In December 1950 was inducted into the reorganised CC CPI.
These comrades arrived in Moscow due to serious differences in the party. A short note on the history of these differences is given below.
The differences in party emerged soon after its First Congress was held in May 1943 representing a party of 16,000 members. The First Congress of the party approved the Constitution of the Party and elected the Central Committee. Joshi was elected the General Secretary of the Party.
At the Second Congress of the CPI, held between 28 February and 6th March 1948 representing already 90,000 members, the Constitution was revised and approved and the Central Committee elected headed by General Secretary Ranadive.
The Second Congress of the CPI criticised the mistakes in the functioning of the CC and the General Secretary Joshi. Joshi was accused of adhering to the flawed theory of the automatic collapse of imperialism as a result of the defeat of fascism in the Second World War and not carrying out any struggle against the English imperialists and their supporters in India - the princes, feudals and the landlords.
The II Congress of the CPI condemned Joshi’s line calling it reformist and did not elect him to the Central Committee. After the Second Congress of the party Joshi was expelled from the party.
The new Central Committee of the CPI elected at the II Congress of the Party did not meet till 1950 and the party was led by the Politbureau of the CC headed by General Secretary Ranadive.
During November and December 1948 the Politbureau CC CPI discussed and approved the Report of the General Secretary Ranadive ‘Strategy and Tactics of the Struggle for Peoples’ Democratic Revolution in India.’
The Andhra party organisation, led by Comrades Rao and Punnaiya, criticised Ranadive’s views against the CC. They accused Ranadive of incorrectly characterising the whole of Indian bourgeoisie as traitors, the kulaks in the countryside as the main enemy and totally overlooking the struggle against feudal relations in the countryside as a distinct task.
The Plenum of CC CPI held in May 1950 condemned the policy followed by the former General Secretary Ranadive as left sectarianism and took the decision to reorganise the CC. Comrade Rajeshwar Rao was elected the General Secretary of the CC CPI. The newly elected CC headed by Rao, on 1 June 1950 addressed a letter to all the members of the party and all its supporters. It was underlined in the letter that armed struggle must become the main form of struggle for the genuine national liberation in India.
The CC noted the necessity of organising a united front of all classes and sections of the population willing to fight for the national liberation of India and the success in uniting the people into a united front it subordinated to the progress of the armed struggle. The letter noted the need to concentrate all the attention of the Communist Party on expanding the work in the rural areas. The CC underlined that the armed struggle is the need of the day in the whole of India and that the conditions are now ripe for advancement of the armed struggle.
Some provincial units, having discussed the letter, expressed their disagreement with the Central Committee’s guidelines. Prominent leaders of the Bombay provincial party organisation comrades Dange and Ghosh made an announcement in which they noted that the main task of the Indian communist party lies in strengthening the party, in establishing the most broad based unity of the Indian people against the imperialists and the feudal elite and organisation of the national-democratic front which must serve as the front for peace and against war.
Comrades Dange and Ghosh declared that, in the present conditions, in view of the fact that the party lacks the necessary strength and that the conditions are yet not ripe for expanding the armed struggle, the latter cannot be considered the main form of struggle. At the same time they opined that, in some areas, where the conditions for an armed struggle are ripe one may resort to it, but it needs to be explained as a defensive struggle and a part of the overall peasant struggle for land.
Comrades Dange and Ghosh accused the CC of diminishing the role of the workers’ class of India. They also charge the leadership of the Central Committee of applying in a mechanical manner the experience of the Chinese revolution to India ignoring the socio-economic conditions and other specific features of the country.
In December 1950 the Plenum of CC CPI was held which inducted comrades Dange and Ghosh into the CC and the Politbureau and took consensual decisions on a number of questions (on the united front of democratic forces, etc). However the principal differences were not eliminated. In such a situation the CC CPI turned to the CC AUCP (b) for advice.
In the first meeting with the Indian comrades on 4th February after discussing the agenda of the talks, the Indian comrades requested to verbally explain the essence of the differences in the party so that each of them is able to explain his views in detail and formulate the questions to which they expect the response of the AUCP (b).
At the outset of the talks comrade Rao declared that the visiting comrades feel happy for having gotten the opportunity for this first visit to Moscow for direct advice from the AUCP (b) - the leader of the world communism.
‘Our Party, said comrade Rao, is at present going through a crisis. It is not in a position to carry out its work. Our party is in paralysis that is creating serious difficulties for us. We total agreement amongst ourselves that we on our own cannot resolve this crisis and without getting support of the AUCP (b) the Communist Party of India will simply disintegrate. Our party has full faith in the AUCP (b) and waits its support and guidance.’
Comrades Dange, Ghosh and Punnaiya fully endorsed comrade Rao’s statement.
Then comrades Ghosh, Dange, Punnaiya and Rao explained their respective views on the present state of affairs in the Communist Party of India.
In the very first discussion serious differences existing in the Communist Party of India emerged that were reflected in the views, on the one hand of Comrades Ghosh and Dange and, on the other, of Comrades Rao and Punnaiya.
Given below is the detailed account of the discussion with the Indian comrades.
On the basis of the statements of the representatives of the Indian communist party during the discussions and reading of the materials provided by them to the AUCP (b) it is possible to describe the substance of the differences in the Communist Party of India as follows:
Position of Comrades Rao and Punnaiya2
Comrades Rao and Punnaiya assess the internal situation in India in the following manner: An economic crisis is unfolding in India as manifested in inflation, price rise, goods hunger and rise in unemployment. Strikes by workers are on the rise. The National Congress is disintegrating as it has lost the trust of the people and they are disappointed. In many of the regions in the country the peasantry has taken to armed struggle. The government is resorting to ruthless terror as its main weapon against the people. This terror needs to be countered by armed force. Without this the Indian revolution has no future. The great influence of the successes of the international communist movement and the weakening of the strength of international imperialism is felt on India.
Comrades Rao and Punnaiya think that the revolutionary situation that has emerged in India may be considered brutal civil war. On the basis of this assessment of the affairs inside the country, they think that armed struggle is the main form of class struggle in India.
Comrade Rao declared that the class struggle in India has reached the stage of civil war and one cannot move forward without using guerrilla warfare as the main form of struggle. It is wrong to think that one must first form a party and a democratic front and then begin the armed struggle. In view of the brutal repression, a democratic front can be formed only in the course of an armed struggle, during which our party organisations will be built and strengthened. Either resist or sit keep sitting with folded arms - this is the issue. Outside armed struggle we will be compelled to conduct only propaganda work without undertaking any mass action. The most important factor is the people and the question of armed struggle must be put before it for discussion. If the people are ready for armed struggle then it is necessary to seize upon the mood of the people and march with them and not wait till a large party is built and strengthened.
The armed struggle will develop in three stages: 1) Guerrilla action on a wide scale; 2) creation of liberated areas in the course of expanding guerrilla war; 3) liberation of the whole of India.
Explaining his position Rao states that when people say that we need to carry on an armed struggle everywhere, this is not our view. We
conducted armed struggle in Telengana and Andhra. In other regions we used other forms of struggle.
Comrades Rao and Punnaiya accuse comrades Dange and Ghosh of arguing that the Chinese path of revolution is not applicable in India. Comrade Rao thinks that the ‘class struggle in India “will be based on the experience of the Chinese struggle i.e. establishing liberated areas in the course of a long guerrilla war and establishing liberated areas for liberation of the whole country.’ (Statement of the Politbureau of the CC CPI on the party policy issued 1st November 1950).
Branding Dange’s position as opportunist, during the talks, Rao asked Dange the following questions:
Are you willing to put the question about the armed struggle before the people?
Do you exclude armed struggle in the near future in some of the other regions where it is still absent?
What tactic do you propose in those regions where the government has put in place a particularly brutal regime of terror and where we are strong as in Kerala?
Position of Comrades Dange and Ghosh
Comrades Dange and Ghosh think that at present the party lacks sufficient strength for expanding armed struggle, that this struggle cannot be considered to be the main form of class struggle in the country. At the same time, they specify that in some regions of the country, it must be conducted where the conditions for the armed struggle are ripe. They support armed struggle in Telengana as long as it is supported by the people so as to further develop the conditions for armed struggle in other regions also. This struggle should be conducted only if it will be worth a number of defeats.
The country is at the stage of agrarian revolution. The landless peasant and poor tenant farmer constitute the majority of the population of the country. The agrarian problem needs to be solved by revolutionary means and not in the manner of the Central Committee by directing Communists to form small bands of armed groups from amongst the most fearless of the party members for assassinating particular landlords. This has forced many party organisations to embark on a path of adventurism and reject other forms of struggle needed for forging the unity of the people.
Comrade Dange calls the Central Committee’s present understanding of armed struggle a manifestation of a new form of left adventurism. The members of the party who criticise this policy of adventurism pursued by the Central Committee are branded as opportunists and reformists for justifying armed struggle using the existence of fascist terror in the country as an excuse.
Comrade Dange considers the organisational practice of the Central Committee as bureaucratic and one that leads to strengthening of factional struggle.
Party publications, says Dange, are full of shrill cries for armed struggle. This is adventurism of sorts. Is it correct, asks Dange, to insist on publishing slogans calling for an armed struggle regardless even of repression of the press? Is it really reformism if one thinks that it is not helpful to clamour for armed struggle in the press?
Dange notes, that in the December plenum agreement was reached regarding questions of the struggle for peace, of formation of a national united front and the trade union activities.
Dange thinks that the CC CPI does not take into account the importance and the role of the working class of India which occupies quite an important place in the Indian economy. He accuses the leadership of the Central Committee of mechanically imitating the experience of the Chinese revolution and applying it to India ignoring the socio-economic conditions and distinctiveness of India. The slogan ‘Take up Arms’, as a consequence of mechanically applying the Chinese path of revolution with exclusive emphasis on the armed struggle, Dange considers to be inappropriate.
Questions Forwarded by the Representatives of the CC CPI
1. How do we assess the current political situation in India? Is the situation unequivocally revolutionary? How to assess the impending revolution in India?3
At the II Congress of the party in 1948 (according to Ghosh) a statement was formulated saying that the impending revolution will show a combination of the features of the bourgeois-democratic and of the socialist revolutions.4
2. Is the armed struggle at present the main form of class struggle in India?5
Rao and Punnaiya are of the view that a civil war is underway presently in India, that the armed struggle has become the main form of class struggle and that in India all the objective conditions prevail today for the people to adopt this particular form of struggle.
Dange and Ghosh are of the view that the necessary conditions are not ripe yet for an armed struggle and that the armed struggle in separate regions of India can be viewed as a part of the general peasant movement for land.
3. How to combine the tasks of forming a national united front and stepping up the armed struggle?
The Indian comrades do not differ on the necessity of forging a united national democratic front, but some (Rao) think that the united // national democratic front can be formed in the process of the armed struggle while others (Dange) think that first a united national democratic H front needs to be formed and only when the necessary conditions will be created to turn to armed struggle.
4. How do we understand the Chinese path of revolution and will the revolution in India follow on the Chinese path? Related to this – for India is the guerilla warfare the main path to the victory of the revolution?
5. What is the role of the working class in the anti-feudal anti-imperialist revolution in India?
In India there are about 6 million workers. The major part of the workers is engaged in large scale industry and transport (4 million).
6. How do we understand the task of defending the national independence and sovereignty of India? Is the government of Nehru a puppet of English imperialism6 in the manner that the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai Shek was a puppet of American imperialism or presently the French government of Pleven is a puppet of the same American imperialism?
What is the true nature of the Indian government and its foreign policy particularly on the Korean question
7. How do we construe comrade A. Zhdanov’s thesis in his Report at the meeting of the Informbureau in 1947 in which he included India amongst countries sympathetic to the anti-imperialist camp. What is meant here – the Indian people or the Indian government?7
8. Do we need to raise the question of nationalisation of land in contemporary India?8
The peasantry constitutes the majority of the population in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. The all-important question in these countries is one relating to the agrarian revolution. The VI plenum of the IKKI has proposed nationalisation of land in colonial and semi-colonial countries. The Chinese communist party does not raise the question of nationalisation of land. The Indian comrades are asking whether to raise this question in Indian conditions.
9. Can a party organisation pass a death sentence on a party member if his loyalty to the party becomes suspect?9
Some party members recommend such a measure but, according to Dange, there is a fear that it may be misused with factional aims.
10. Should the communists in India during the guerilla war expropriate for revolutionary use the property of the landlords and money lenders before constituting agencies of organs of power?10
a) Transcript of the discussions with the representatives of the CC Communist Party of India.
b) Constitution of the Communist Party of India.
c) Draft of the action plan of the Indian communist party submitted to the Comintern by the Communist Party of India (1929.).<>(Signed by) G. Malenkov,
8th February 1951
1. The following are the handwritten notings at the top of the page by Stalin:
1. ‘Programme of action of the CPI’
2. ‘Form a bloc with those parties that agree with the basic theses of the action programme of the CPI’
3. ‘In the party rules the candidate membership needs to be instituted’
4. ‘Against individual terrorism. Chinese are against too.’
2. A large cross mark is made on the left margin indicating that Stalin did not agree with the views of these comrades.
3. ‘This is important’ - marking by Stalin on the left margin.
4. ‘Stupid’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
5. ‘No!’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
6. ‘They are not puppets’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
7. ‘People’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
8. ‘No!’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
9. ‘No!’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
10. ‘No!’ in Stalin’s handwriting on the left margin.
RGASPI 558. Op. 11. Ed. Khr. 310, LL. 1-11.
Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar
Click here to return to the April 2013 index.