Advice to the Communist Party of India from a Fraternal Communist Party (3rd May 1951)

P.C. Joshi


With this document from the former Central Party Archives of the Soviet Union we continue the publication of the materials which relate to the exchanges between the CPSU (b) and Stalin and the leadership of the Communist Party of India in 1951. As is known, after the removal of P.C. Joshi from the general secretaryship of the CPI, Joshi maintained a political diary in which he gave his analyses of developments in the CPI under the leadership of B.T. Ranadive and Rajeshwara Rao. Extracts from his political diary were circulated within the CPI and also the international communist movement to the CPGB, the Communist Party of France, the CPSU (b). The document here was received by the CPSU (b) via the English Communist Party. It is located in the Molotov holding of the former Central Party Archives now known as RGASPI. The political diary, while tendentious, is nonetheless informative about the ideological and political collisions within the CPI.

This document confirms the rejection by the CPSU (b) of all tactical lines for India which did not accept the necessity of armed struggle. Stalin in 1951 in the exchanges with the CPI had defined armed struggle as being constituted by the joint armed activity of the working class and the peasantry. On this basis he rejected the views of B.T. Ranadive and the Andhra Committee (Rajeshwara Rao, Basuvapunnaiah) both of whom based their tactical lines on just one class. Stalin pointed out there were misconceptions about the Chinese example in the Indian communist movement: ‘Concerning the armed struggle it needs to be said that the Chinese did not speak of the armed struggle, they spoke of the armed revolution. They regarded it as partisan war with liberated regions and with an army of liberation. This means that it is necessary to speak of the armed revolution and partisan war and not of armed struggle. The expression ‘armed struggle’ was first mentioned in the Cominform newspapers. The armed struggle signifies more than a partisan war, it means the combination of partisan war of the peasantry and the general strikes and uprisings of the workers. In its scale a partisan war is narrower than an armed struggle. Stalin pointed to partisan struggle being successful in China as the People’s Liberation Army came to Manchuria where it benefitted from the proximity of the Soviet Union. Modesty prevented Stalin from saying that Manchuria had been liberated from the Japanese by the Soviet and Mongolian armies which laid the basis for the subsequent offensive of the PLA against Chiang Kai shek and the victory of the people’s democratic revolution in China. Yudin rejected the understanding of the Andhra Committee on what was called ‘armed partisan struggle’ by the Rajeshwara Rao and Basavapunaiah and stated there was no such thing. He pointed out the differences between the situation in the Chinese revolution and those pertaining in India. The Chinese had benefitted from the support of the liberated areas where they had Soviet support. Without such support the Chinese forces would have been surrounded and destroyed. Regarding Telengana, Yudin gave his opinion that it could not be sustained and went so far as to say that the activities of the CPI in Andhra constituted ‘terrorism’. Similarly, Yudin sharply assailed the views of Rajeshwara Rao saying that they constituted ‘terrorism’; he opposed both the individual and group terrorism of the CPI saying that this was contrary to the views of Lenin.

Yudin argued that the question of armed struggle should only be discussed in the Central Committee of the party and not in public as was done in India. The CPI should speak only on everyday tactical issues. This is the reason, no doubt, that the Tactical Line document of the CPI of 1951 was not published at the time.

Rajeshwara Rao had directly posed the question to Stalin whether the CPI should terminate its partisan warfare in Telengana. In his private handwritten note which was not for circulation Stalin wrote that ‘No, if the people want to continue the partisan struggle’. Stalin expressed the view that it was necessary to support what were the first sprouts of civil war. Stalin countered the view of a section of the CPI that civil war had started in India, saying that it was too early to speak about this, the conditions for civil war were growing but they had not thus far grown. Whatever had originated in Telengana required support. The emphases of the CPSU (b) Commission on the question of the Indian revolution with regards to the question of Telengana, according to Yudin, was that while they did not know about the nature of this movement it was their opinion that the CPI would not be able to sustain it. A fuller understanding of the views of the CPSU (b) on the question of Telengana will emerge only when the transcript of the second meeting of Stalin and the CPI leadership is opened up in the Russian archives.

Very valuable information is given here of the views of various CPI leaders on the question of the continuation or otherwise of the Telengana struggle. Rajeshwara Rao and Basuvapunnaiah of the Andhra Committee, who at time led the CPI, came to the conclusion that it needed to be discontinued. They were supported by Dange and Ajay Ghosh. Sundarayya wanted its continuation as the movement was expanding. E.M.S. Namboodiripad was not firm on the question. Important fragments of the history of the withdrawal of the Telengana struggle are given here which are expanded upon in the autobiography of Sundarayya which was published in 2009.

Vijay Singh

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