Institute of Oriental Studies,
Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
The opening up of the former Central Party Archives of the CPSU permits the partial re-examination of the evolution of the Marxist-Leninist appraisals of Indian realities in the years after 1947. A more comprehensive picture shall emerge with the ending of the restrictions of the Stalin archives which contain materials relating to India and whose importance cannot be under-estimated. The post-1947 period saw the preparation of closed and open studies of India at a time when there was pressure exerted by the CPI on the CPSU(b) to assist in the clarification and resolution of the accumulated theoretical, political and organisational problems which arose in the course of the elaboration of the programme and tactical line of the CPI in the wake of the disastrous right opportunist period under P.C. Joshi and the left-sectarian line of B.T. Ranadive.
The discussion held in March and April 1951 at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR on the correlation of class forces in India touched upon a wide range of questions many of which retain their pertinence in the contemporary period.
A pivotal question was the appraisal of the continuing impact of English imperialism in India in the period 1947-51: despite its weakened position as a result of the changes wrought in 1947 in India, as well as the inroads of US capital, it was understood that both India and Pakistan remained under the ‘full colonial dependence of England’, so that the struggle against English imperialism remained as the major task to achieve the ‘real independence’ of the two countries. This analysis represented a critique not just of the Soviet specialists in the period 1947 and 1948 but also of the views of P.C. Joshi and B.T. Ranadive which were rooted in the Royist theory of ‘decolonisation’, and which became the prevalent norm after the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 amongst Soviet specialists on India as well as amongst the mainstream revisionist currents of the CPI and the CPI (M).
The discussion noted the substantial changes which transpired in the 1940s including the growth of the working class movement after the war, the uprising of the peasantry in various parts of the country directed against the domination of the feudal remnants in the countryside, and the growth of the nationalist movements in different areas. Probing into the failure of the working class to gain its hegemony in the national-liberation struggle despite the expansion of the influence of the CPI in the labour unions and the peasant organisations it was considered that this failure was a consequences of the compromise reached between the Congress Party and the Muslim League which had created the illusion amongst the masses that independence had actually been attained, the repression unleashed against the CPI, the divisive activity of the right-wing socialists, the fragmentation of the working class, the ideological influence of Gandhism as well as the right opportunist and ‘left’-sectarianism of the CPI.
In a kernel form the discussion alluded to the necessity for the people’s democratic revolution in India and Pakistan which would unite the masses around the party in the struggle for complete independence and the democratisation of the political system around the slogans of peace against the military plans of Anglo-US imperialism, land to the tiller without compensation, and opposition to the national oppression unleashed by the Indian and Pakistani governments. In this revolutionary democratic strategy the working class had as its allies, the urban petty-bourgeoisie, the whole of the peasantry while the non-comprador section of the national bourgeoisie, which was under imperialist pressure, could be an unstable ally.
The criticism conducted against the Soviet specialists on Indian studies have a familiar ring. The catalogue of errors of a right-opportunist character have also been associated with the views of the P.C. Joshi trend in the 1940s which re-emerged in India after the 20th Congress of the CPSU. Soviet specialists were guilty of overestimating the degree of conflict between England imperialism and the Indian big bourgeoisie and failing to understand that it was the internal class contradictions of Indian society which had compelled the compromise between these two forces; the progressive character of the Congress Party was exaggerated, particularly of its ‘left’ leaders such as Nehru and the party was presented as an anti-imperialist front rather than as the protector of the interests of the bourgeoisie and landlords while Gandhi was falsely portrayed as having attracted the broad masses against imperialism.
The Soviet literature in India in the period 1949-53 reveals the development of a scientific appraisal of realities on the sub-continent, overcoming of the reformist deviations of 1947-48, which was manifested in the writings of A.M. Dyakov and others. The onset of modern revisionism after 1953 dashed the possibilities of developing a Marxist school of Indian studies. From the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU onwards the Marxist understanding of the colonial question was set aside and the views of M.N. Roy, Trotsky and Bukharin resuscitated: India had been ‘decolonised’, the growing financial dependence on Anglo-American capital was compatible with ‘political independence’, it was possible to attain economic independence without a revolutionary-democratic regime coming to power. At the 20th Congress the Soviet revisionist A.I. Mikoyan condemned the Institute of Oriental Studies for mainly elucidating the activities of foreign capital in the East and for not discerning the ‘objective tendency towards independent capitalist development which has undermined the dominant position of imperialism’ and for having over several years evaluating the line of the political line of the Indian bourgeoisie, the Congress Party and M.K. Gandhi as a series of betrayals, capitulations and demagogic manoeuvres. The reverberations of the Twentieth Congress were felt in India as the CPI theorists fell in line with their Soviet counterparts. Under the regime of Indira Gandhi the revisionist intelligentsia adopted the views of P.C. Joshi, M.N. Roy and Khrushchev on the colonial question and these now became an integral part of the state ideology and were systematically disseminated through the university and secondary school textbooks. It goes to the credit of the communist revolutionaries that despite the Soviet revisionist onslaught they alone sustained the Marxist characterisation of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal nature of Indian society and continued the struggle for the complete independence from imperialist domination.
The journal is grateful to the authorities of the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI) for their kind permission to reproduce the documents in the pages of this journal.
Of the Discussion On India
Between March 12th and April 3rd of 1951 in the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR a closed discussion on the theme ‘Correlation of Classes in India’ was held.
In the course of the discussion a number of mistaken views developed in the works of some specialists on Indian studies (Comrades Dyakov, Melman, Balabushevich, Reisner), as well as some errors contained in the presentation made by Comrade Shmidt were subject to detailed criticism.
I. Mistakes Contained in a Number of Works of Soviet Specialists on Indian Studies.
Some Soviet specialists on Indian studies (Comrades Dyakov, Melman, Balabushevich, Reisner) allowed a number of mistakes in their works. These mistakes contain a wrong interpretation of of the correct directives given by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern on the formation in India of a unified anti-imperialist national front and the utilization of the National Congress for this purpose. This wrong interpretation may be summarized as follows:
1. The overestimation of the contradictions between English imperialism and the Indian big bourgeoisie in opposition to the last, in particular in explaining the changes that took place in India in 1947. In reality these changes were due to the general crisis of imperialism and the increasing revolutionary activity of the masses. The Soviet specialists on India underestimated the fact that, despite the existing contradictions between the Indian bourgeoisie and British imperialism, the accumulation of class contradictions within Indian society impelled the higher échelons of the Indian bourgeoisie to compromise with British imperialism, hoping to suppress the revolutionary movement of the masses.
2. The overestimation of the progressive character of the National Congress as a whole; the overestimation of the significance of the left democratic wing within the last, the wrong analysis of the role of the ‘left’ leaders of the Congress, specially that of Nehru. Many Soviet specialists on India considered these leaders as representatives of petty bourgeois democracy. On the contrary, their leftist phraseology is just a form of demagogy meant to strengthen the ideological influence of the bourgeois-landlord leadership of the Congress over the broad masses of India.
3. The characterisation of the Congress as a specific form of anti-imperialist front or as a bloc of anti-imperialist parties. In reality the leadership of the Congress at all times conducted its politics in the interests of the bourgeois and landlord elements.
4. The incorrect judgement presented in many works that Gandhi in the first stages of his political activity played a progressive role that attracted the broad masses towards the struggle against imperialism. In reality the ideology of Gandhism has always served the interests of the national-reformist bourgeoisie and the liberal landlords in order to prevent the masses from participating in the revolutionary struggle.
In their last works the comrades referred to above managed to correct these mistakes. However, these views were never subject to more detailed criticism in print, neither by they themselves nor by any other comrades.
During the discussions these comrades and others gave a detailed criticism of these mistakes.
In the first report in the discussion, Comrade Shmidt, in his criticism of these mistakes correctly drew attention to the necessity for a proper and more profound study of the agrarian question in contemporary India. This is the positive side of this presentation. On the other hand Comrade Shmidt expressed the wrong view of denying the independent character of the political role played by the Indian bourgeoisie, a result of the underestimation by the speaker of the capitalist development in India, of his wrong theory of the continuous growth and strengthening of feudal elements in this country.
In the course of the discussion it was shown that the views of Comrade Shmidt are in complete contradiction with the well-known views expressed by Stalin about the level of industrial development in India, on the role of the Indian bourgeoisie and the necessity that ‘fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared.’ [J. Stalin, Works, English edition, Vol. 7, Moscow, 1954, p. 150].
Many experts from various institutions took part in the discussions. In all 22 people spoke.
II. The Main Questions in the Discussion
The following were the questions discussed.
a) The position of English imperialism in India after the Second World War and the contradictions between English and American imperialism;
b) The new correlation of class forces and the new stage in the national-liberation movement in India after its partition;
c) The domination of remnants of feudalism in the Indian countryside and the specific features of the Indian peasant movement after the Second World War.
d) The struggle of the working class for its hegemony in the national-liberation movement and the causes of the backwardness of the revolutionary movement in India as compared to the other countries of Asia.
As a result of the discussions the following conclusions were drawn.
A) The Role of English Imperialism in India after the Second World War and the Contradictions Between English and American Imperialism
After the Second World War the position of English imperialism in India has weakened, firstly, as a result of the general weakening of English imperialism; secondly, as a result of the economic and political changes that happened in India; thirdly, as a result of the incursion of American capital in India.
The crisis of the colonial system of English imperialism is expressed in India in terms of the powerful growth of the anti-imperialist movement, that threatens the English domination and made it impossible to rule in the ‘old way’. However the task posed already in 1925 by Comrade Stalin to the Indian communists about the liberation of the broad masses of peasants and the petty bourgeoisie in the towns from the influence of the compromising policies of the bourgeoisie was not fulfilled and the leadership of the national-liberation movement remains in the hands of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. As a result the English imperialists managed to weaken the revolutionary movement and to preserve its domination though in new forms by conspiring with the big Indian bourgeoisie, and allowing certain concessions and also by partitioning India and Pakistan through provoking the bloody carnages between the Hindus and Muslims.
By virtue of its level of economic development and certain political levers that England managed to preserve over the years in India and Pakistan, these countries remain under the full colonial dependence of England. However, as result of the powerful growth of the anti-imperialist struggles of the masses, English imperialism was forced to yield its colonial monopoly and to make some concessions in favour of the big Indian bourgeoisie and landlords who were allowed into the government, as a result of the increasing influence of American imperialism in India and Pakistan. As a result of the conspiracy between England and the Indian bourgeoisie and landlord elements, governments were established that represent the interests of various reactionary financial-monopolist cliques of the big bourgeoisie, the landlords and aristocracy under the patronage of English imperialism.
Therefore the struggle against English imperialism for the real independence of India remains at this point the most important task of the national-liberation movement in India and Pakistan. In addition most relevant in the struggle against American imperialism as the leading power in the imperialist camp, the struggle for peace against India becoming the ground for instigation of wars in Asia. The achievement of this task of the national-liberation movement in India is not possible without the most resolute struggle against the big monopolist bourgeoisie, feudal and semi-feudal landlords and princes, who have become today the support for the preservation of imperialism in India.
B) The New Correlation of Social Forces in India and the New Stage in the National-Liberation Movement.
During the post-war period in India substantial changes developed to the extent that we can talk today of a new stage in the national-liberation movement. The main features of this stage may be comprised as follows:
1. The powerful growth of the working class movement after the war and the leading role in this movement developed by the Communist Party of India. However, even though the working class during the years of growth of the revolutionary movement had become the most active class in the mass anti-imperialist movement, it could not achieve its hegemony in this movement.
2. The development of the movement of peasants has embraced a significant part of the country and resulted in an armed uprising of peasants against the princes and the landlords. (Hyderabad). In a number of cases the working class and the communist party played a leading role (Telengana, Bengal, the province of Madras). Together with the struggle for the genuine independence of the country the agrarian revolution is on the agenda today as the most important task of the struggle of liberation of the peoples of India.
3. The growth of the national movements of a number of peoples of India aimed against the princes (Kashmir, Travancore, Hyderabad), and also against the politics of national inequality and oppression imposed by the governments of the Indian and Pakistani bourgeoisie and landlords.
4. The revolutionary influence of the great historical victory of the Chinese people on the growth of the anti-imperialist movement in India.
From these particular features of the new stage it follows that the people’s-democratic revolution in India even though it will display features of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, was not able to liquidate the economic positions of the big Indian monopolistic bourgeoisie and the landlords who have become the main support of imperialism.
C) The Domination of Feudal Remnants in the Indian Countryside and Particularities of the Peasants’ Movement after the Second World War.
The most important task of the national-liberation movement in India at this point is the struggle against feudal remnants, i.e., the agrarian revolution. The remnants of feudalism are very diverse in different regions of India, from which follows the different demands posed by the peasantry in different regions, the role of different sections within the peasantry and the uneven level of development of the struggle. For instance, when in Telengana, Hyderabad the peasantry fought for the liquidation of the property of the landlords, in Bengal in 1946-1947 the reduction of the rent to a third of the crop had become the most important demand which mustered the mass of the peasantry. These facts point to the necessity to study in more detail the relations of production in the countryside in different national regions of India and Pakistan, to put forward additional demands in the agrarian programme in different regions. Due to the variety of agrarian relationships in different regions of India most probably the revolutionary uprising of the peasants may break out initially in some regions of India. This will become the basis for the further development of the agrarian revolution in the whole country
D) The Struggle of the Working Class for the Hegemony in the National-Liberation Movement and the Reasons for the Backwardness of the Revolutionary Movement in India Compared to Other Countries of Asia.
In India long ago the objective conditions ripened for the hegemony of the proletariat in the national-liberation movement to be transformed from a possibility to a reality. During the Second World War and after it, the Communist Party of India managed to strengthen its influence in the labour unions, peasant and other organizations. The strike movement that took over all industrial regions of the country was led by the communists and revolutionary labour unions. Through peasant organizations the communists took the lead in the peasant and nationalist movements in Telengana, Malabar, Bengal and other regions of India. However the leadership of the National Congress and the Muslim League, who had struck a deal with English imperialism, made room for sowing illusions amongst the masses that independence had been achieved. This prevented the anti-imperialist revolution from breaking out in India after the Second World War.
Repression against the Communist Party, labour unions and other mass organizations, the divisive activity of the Indian right wing socialists, the National Congress and other agents of the Indian bourgeoisie within the working class resulted in the deepening division of the workers’ movement, which has made more difficult the achievement of hegemony in the working class.
The ideological influence of bourgeois nationalism and most of all of Gandhism, the dishonest demagogy of the leaders of the National Congress who have taken advantage of the national sentiments of the Indians and also of the organizational weaknesses, the right opportunist and ‘left’ sectarian mistakes of the Communist Party of India, are the main reasons for the backwardness of the revolutionary movement in India relative to other countries of Asia (China, Indo-China, Malaya). Therefore the struggle against bourgeois nationalism in all its forms in India and against pan-Islamism in Pakistan are at this point in time of greatest importance for the Indian communists.
With the purpose of uniting the broad Indian masses around the working class in order to struggle for the complete independence and the democratization of the political order it is necessary:
a) To struggle with resolve for peace, against the transformation of India into a base for the military operations of the American-English bloc of imperialism in Asia;
b) To struggle for the granting of land to the peasants without compensation in India, by uniting the peasantry as the basically, around the working class;
c) To struggle against national inequality and the politics of national oppression led by the governments of India and Pakistan.
The entire peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie in the cities are the allies of the working class in the struggle for the people’s democracy in India and Pakistan. The non-comprador part of the national bourgeoisie, who are under the pressure of the big monopolies linked to foreign capital may be an unstable ally of the working class.
The main condition for the working class to achieve hegemony in the national-liberation movement is the unity of the working class that is at present divided.
III. Shortcomings of the Discussion and Tasks of the Soviet Specialists on Indian Studies
The discussion exposed the significant backwardness of Soviet Indologists in the analysis of a number of actual questions of the political life of India.
Some of the basic questions that are weakly studied by the Soviet specialists on Indian studies and that have not been properly handled:
a) The agrarian question and the peasant movement.
b) New forms of domination of English imperialism in India and the infiltration into this country of American capital.
c) The character and specific features of the Indian monopolies.
d) New forms of national-bourgeois ideology in India and Pakistan.
As a significant shortcoming of the discussion many speakers concentrated on polemicising with a number of wrong statements proposed by comrade Shmidt, therefore the attention of the participants to the discussion was drawn away from actual questions of the contemporary stage of the national-liberation movement.
The Presidium of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR proposes:
1. To select the most valuable presentations for publication, part as articles for journals, part for the Scientific Notes of the Institute.
2. That the department of Indian Studies gather in closed session to discuss the draft of the programme of the Communist Party of India.
3. To take necessary measures to improve the study of the agrarian question in India.
The Presidium of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences.
25th May 1951
Academy of Sciences
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Institute of Oriental Studies
Moscow, 34, Kropotkin Street, 12.
No.171//04 26th May 1951
To: The Head of the Science Section of the CC ACP(b)
Comrade Yu.A. Zhdanov
By permission of the CC ACP(b) the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR organised a closed conference on the topic ‘The Balance of Class Forces in India’.
The discussions were held from 12th March to 13th March of this year. Following speakers participated: G.A. Shmidt (Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies of the Ministry of Higher Studies of the USSR) and Doctor of History A.M. Dyakov (Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR ) 20 persons took part in the discussions of the papers.
The Directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of USSR has prepared concluding remarks of the discussions which are being sent for your consideration.
1. The remarks of the Directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies regarding the discussions on India
2. Stenographic notes of the Discussions. (7 - folders)
Acting Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of Academy of Sciences of the USSR
RGASPI f. 17, op. 133, d.4, l. 95.
Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar.
1st Aug. 1951
To be Returned
To The secretariat 06
To the Secretary of the CC ACP(b) Com. Suslov
The Directorate of the Institute if the Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences has despatched to the Department of Science and Higher Educational institutions of the CC of the ACP (b) the materials on the conclusions of the closed discussion on the question of the ‘Balance of Class Forces in India’, held on the 3rd of April 1951. Researchers from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, specialists from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Ministry of Higher Education of the USSR and from other institutions took part in the discussions. G.A. Shmidt, Ph.D (History) and A.M. Dyakov, D.Lit. (History) read their articles on the Balance of class forces in India. 22 persons took part in the discussions over the paper.
The focus of the discussions was on such questions as : the position of British imperialism in India after the second world war and Anglo-American contradictions.; the new balance of class forces and the new stage in the national liberation movement in India after Partition. The domination of remnants of feudal relations in rural India and the unique features of the peasant movement after the second world war; the struggle of the working class for hegemony in the national liberation movement and the causes of the revolutionary movement in India lagging behind in comparison to other countries of Asia.
During the discussions serious mistakes were revealed in the works of the Soviet Indologists (comrades Dyakov, Melman, Balabushevich, Reisner and Shmidt). Some of them exaggerated the intensity of the contradictions between British imperialism and the Indian bourgeoisie, and described the National Congress as a progressive organisation and idealised Gandhi and the leaders of the ‘left’ in the Congress. The position of com. Shmidt that rejects the independent political role of the Indian bourgeoisie and asserts the strengthening of feudal elements in India was put to serious criticism. The discussions also revealed the shortcomings in the formulation of crucial questions concerning the political life in India.
A large number of speakers along with their criticisms of Soviet Indologists threw light upon a series of important and poorly formulated problems of contemporary India. A comprehensive discussion took place on the question of the class nature of the National Congress, about the actions of the Indian bourgeoisie and rich farmers after the second World War, about the remnants of feudalism in rural India, on the national liberation movement and also the tactics of the Indian Communist Party at the contemporary stage of their struggle and the links of the Indian monopolies with British imperialism.
The directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR requests to grant the permission to publish the most valuable comments made during the discussions in the form of articles in the journal and in the scientific papers of the institute.
We consider it feasible to publish information regarding the conclusions of the discussions on India in the journal ‘Questions of History’ and support the request of the directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to publish some of the comments made during the discussions in the scientific papers of the Institute.
Head of the Section of Science and Higher Education
CC ACP (b) Signed A.Mitin
Instructor Signed G.Kaverin
11. VIII. 51
RGASPI f. 17, op. 133, d. 4, ll. 93-94.
Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar.
To The Secretary CC ACP(b)
Comrade M.A. Suslov
The Department of Sciences and Higher Education of the CC ACP(b) (Comrades Yakovlev, Mitin and Kaverin) have submitted a proposal to publish information about the concluding remarks on the discussions on the balance of class forces in India in the journal ‘Questions of History’. It also seconds the request of the Directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR for publication of some of the remarks and speeches in the scientific papers of the institute.
Some of these remarks and speeches do not conform neither thematically nor in content to the requirements that the participants had placed before themselves, were not very relevant and lacked political acumen and were not free of mistakes. Therefore, the discussions being recommended for publication need to be thoroughly prepared and selected.
Regarding this I feel it is feasible to do the following:
1. To publish the draft of the Programme of the Communist Party of India in the journal "Questions of History".
2. Propose to the Directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences to make available the text of the speeches being recommended for publication for further scrutiny at the Department of Science and Higher Education in order to decide the feasibility of publishing them.
I request your consent.
Chairman of the Political Committee of Foreign Affairs
of the CC ACP ( b) (V. Grigorian)
15th August 1951
RGASPI f. 17, on. 133, d. 4, l. 107.
Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar.
To: The Secretary of the CC ACP (b) Comrade A.M. Suslov
Regarding the request of the Directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR for the publication of more significant material of the discussion on the balance of class forces in India, comrade Grigorian recommends to publish the Draft of the Programme of the Communist party of India in the journal ‘Questions of History’.
The department of science and higher education seconds these recommendations. The draft of the programme of the Communist Party of India will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal ‘Questions of History’.
Comrade Grigorian also recommends to make a proposal to the Directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies to make available to the department of science and higher education the text of the speeches which are being considered for publication for further scrutiny.
The directorate of the Institute of Oriental Studies asks for permission to publish not the speeches but articles on the economy and politics in India based on the materials of the discussions.
We consider it feasible to second both the request of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the proposal made by comrade Grigorian regarding the scrutiny of the said speeches and remarks at the department of science and higher education.
signed (M. Yakovlev)
signed (A. Mitin)
RGASPI f. 17, op. 133, d. 4, l. 108.
Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar.
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