Three Letters of the Communist Party of India to J.V. Stalin with the Handwritten Comments of the Soviet Leader

(14th February, 1951)

We publish this correspondence as part of the series of documents pertaining in general to the relations between the CPSU (b) and the CPI after 1947 and particularly the materials germane to the writing of the programme of the CPI in 1951 after the meeting of the CPI leaders with J.V. Stalin. Two themes are dealt with here: first, the queries of the CPI leaders on the character, stage, tasks and strategy and tactics of the Indian revolution after 1947 and, second, on the understanding of the nature of partisan warfare and of individual terrorism. Both of these range of questions retain their urgency and relevance in contemporary India. Stalin underscored parts of the letters of the Indian communists (these are emphasised in the text below) and gave his comments on the questions raised in his own hand on the sides of the documents. We advert in particular to the comment of Stalin on the Telengana and Tripura struggles. While Rajeshwara Rao asked whether these partisan struggles should be stopped Stalin commented in the negative provided that the people were in favour of them.

Vijay Singh


To Comrade Stalin

I am submitting the letter in translation from English that was given on 15th February of this year by comrades Dange, Ghosh, Rao and Punaiya addressed to the CC of VKP (b).1

To the letter is attached a note that contains questions by Indian comrades, and also the Programme of the Communist Party of India.

President International Commission CC VKP (b)
[(Sd.) V. Grigoriyan)]
16th February 1951

Translation from English

14th February 1951

To the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)

Dear Comrades

We want to express our deeply felt gratitude to the Central Committee of VKP (b) and to our leader comrade Stalin for their invaluable help that they gave to us by giving clarifications on questions on which we were groping in the dark. In his meeting with us comrade Stalin sharply and clearly pointed out that path to us which we must choose, and the stage, tasks, strategy and tactics of our revolution. This shall be the strongest weapon in the hands of our Central Committee to overcome the crisis in our party, create unity of our people and move our struggle forward for the establishment of the leading role of the working class in the fight against imperialism and feudalism. We are confident that thanks to this guidance we shall be able to reconstruct our party as a proud detachment of the international army of revolution that is marching towards victory under the leadership of our great and astute leader comrade Stalin.

In order for us to properly understand the advice of comrade Stalin along with all the consequences that flow from it, and to remove from our understanding as well as from the understanding of our comrades in India all confusion, we want to get further clarifications on some theoretical and practical questions that arise in connection with the answers of comrade Stalin to our questions. Along with it we are enclosing some more questions of the same nature. We request you to answer them.

We are also enclosing a draft outline2 of the programme which we have prepared. We request you to send us your criticism and suggestions about it.

With revolutionary greetings
S. A. Dange
A. K. Ghosh
Rajeshwar Rao
B. Punaiya

Translated by V. Pavlov

Translated from English

From All the Four Questions:

1. In his speech delivered at the University of the Toilers of the East in 1925 comrade Stalin, in so far as we recollect, had said that the Indian bourgeoisie has split into reactionary and revolutionary groups and that the reactionary bourgeoisie section, in the main, has already come to an understanding with imperialism. In the Theses approved in the 6th Congress of Communist International regarding colonial countries, an observation is made about the division of the Indian bourgeoisie in two groups   comprador bourgeoisie that was pro-imperialist, and national bourgeoisie which was ‘in opposition’ i.e. it is in indecisive and reformist opposition in relation to imperialism, but which is opposed to every truly anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolutionary struggle; this bourgeoisie ‘vacillated between imperialism and revolution’. After the ‘transfer of power’ in August 1947,3 an article published in international communist press, as also in the documents of the Pacific Institute, gave pretext for a feeling that the process of transition of Indian big bourgeoisie to the side of imperialism has been completed during these days, and that this bourgeoisie can no more play any oppositional role, that it has finally opted for coming to an understanding with imperialism and cooperates with them in supporting the existing social structure in India.

We consider, after our meeting with comrade Stalin that our understanding of the national4 bourgeoisie overall, is mistaken in a number of important aspects. We fully agree with the formulation prepared by comrade Stalin that our revolution is anti-imperialist and anti-feudal; that its sharp edge should be directed towards the British imperialists and feudal element, and that the slogan of nationalisation of big industry is a mistake.5 Moreover, we agree that in our agitation work we must point out that the elimination of imperialism and feudalism would be in the interests of all classes, including that of the national bourgeoisie.

Nevertheless with the aim of achieving theoretical clarity for our own selves, and also so that we can to give exact answers to our comrades in India, we desire to get short answers on the following questions.6

a) Can we say that the Indian big7 bourgeoisie has finally gone over to the side of imperialism? If this is so, then what objective basis is there to attract it to our side or even neutralise8 some part of it?

b) Can the Indian bourgeoisie9 or any group of this bourgeoisie still be called ‘oppositional’ in terms of its relations with imperialism.

c) Does the entire Indian big bourgeoisie or only sections of this bourgeoisie cooperate with imperialism? If only sections then exactly which?10

d) We take our direction from the answers of comrade Stalin that the united front which we must try to establish is a united front of all anti-imperialist and anti-feudal classes including the national bourgeoisie; moreover the major foundation of this front is the union of the working class and peasantry. Are we right?

2. What is the class nature of the present day government of Nehru? We consider that this government is the government of big business and landlords11 cooperating with imperialism and supporting feudal exploitation; this is why this government must be replaced by a government of democratic unity which must accomplish the tasks of anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution? Are we right?12

3. (a). Comrade Stalin pointed out that the politics of Nehru government is a manoeuvre in the game between American and British imperialisms. Does it concerns the foreign13 policy of the Nehru government and also the question of peace?

(b). What our relations should be with concrete problems of external politics of the Nehru government like Nehru’s speech against the use of atom bomb, his refusal to support the American proposal for denouncing Peoples’ China as the aggressor in Korea? Must we condemn these manifestations of external politics of Nehru as a facetious manoeuvre or should we support these, criticising at the same time their indecisive and insufficient character?14

(c) In our general characterisation of this government, are there any contradictions between our limited support to the positions of the Nehru government on some questions and our overall opposition in relation to this government?15

Translator V. Pavlov.

Translated from English

Concerning the Question of the Partisan Struggle

Questions put forward by A. K. Ghosh and S. A. Dange

Com. Stalin pointed out to us the big organisational significance of partisan warfare as one armament in the arsenal of the revolutionaries in the colonial and backward countries. We discussed the situation formulated by him and found that on the question of the difference between the actions of the partisans and individual terrorism differences continue to exist between the four of us, and we differently understood the formulations of Com. Stalin. As this question has great theoretical and practical significance for our struggle, we are trying to reach absolute clarity on this question.

The question consists in the following: What are those characteristic features of partisan actions that differentiate it from individual terror? Following is our answer based on our understanding of the formulations of Com. Stalin.

Firstly, in partisan actions the masses are the heroes and active fighters. Partisan struggle develops on the basis of active support of the people, their active participation in the struggle against the government of landlords. This is why one can take recourse to it only at a definite stage of the development of mass struggle in a definite territory. Supporters of individual terror, however, act only on the basis of mass support from the side of the people and irrespective of that stage that has been reached by the mass struggle.

Secondly, in India the partisan formations must act together with the mass struggle when concrete forms of it may be capture of land, refusal to pay rent, strikes of agricultural labourers, boycott of landlords etc. The action of the groups has the protection of the movement from the attacks from the side of the government and landlords as its object. Individual terror, on the other hand, does not have such linkages with the mass movement.

Thirdly, the object of partisan actions does not consist in killing this or that given property owner or police personnel irrespective of the fact how much he is hated as oppressor, but in the destruction or weakening of the forces with help of which the system of oppression is perpetuated and oppressive measures are taken military units, police parties, parties of internal security or armed militia of the proprietor. If during such skirmishes between peoples’ partisan units and the forces of the enemy, some oppressing property owners or policemen die, then it is only for the better. However, the aim of the partisan does not consist in the killing of this or that landlord. At the same time the acts of individual terrorist has as their aim to kill specific oppressor-landlord or policeman in order to terrorise other similar elements and to teach them a lesson about what may happen to them as well if they continue to oppress the people. The effect of the latter type is terrorism even when such actions are taken by formations, of which members consist of peasants members of the party or non party activists and are taken on the requests of the peasants themselves. Partisan actions are directed against the forces of oppressors – army units, police companies, companies of internal security, etc. while individual terror is directed against individual oppressors’, definite landlords, definite police officers or officers of the armed forces etc.

Communists support the action of partisans when the conditions are favourable for it. They are against terrorist actions of all types.16

This is how on the basis of our understanding of the formulations of Com. Stalin we understood the difference between partisan action and individual terror. We wanted to know are we right?17

Some comrades assert that, in the regions where the mass movement has been weakened by military terror, where military terror excludes any mass participation in any kind of struggle, where we are too weak to attack army or police detachments and where the landlords may return only when supported by the armed force, in such areas secret attacks on the most hated oppressors from amongst the landlords, taken by our formations with the object of killing them and in this manner, hinder others to return to oppress the people and to force the peasants out of lands that they had earlier taken away from them, are also one of the forms of partisan movement, that the communists may and must unleash if this is desired by the people of the given region. I wish to know is this point of view correct.18

In so far as it concerns other, connected with it, questions concerning the locale of partisan struggle in the general anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggle in India, about its scale and its limitations, about the necessity of uniting it with the actions of the working class and with work for drawing the army to our side then the answers of comrade Stalin removed all doubts and confusion and we have no questions.

Translator V. Pavlov.

Translation from English

From S. Rajeshwara Rao19

Dear Comrade! I request clarification on the following questions:

1. In the development of peasant partisan war in wide areas all over the country and its joining with the general strike of the working class, especially of railway and other transport workers, lie the conditions for the success of the revolution in India. Will it be correct in such a situation to start partisan war in the given region where the conditions have ripened for it, even if other agricultural regions have not matured for it and the workers are not ready to support it by their own mass actions?20 This brings us to the concrete problem that we are faced with: Should we stop the partisan struggle that is going on in Telangana and in Tripura?21

2. Partisan struggle is a higher form of peasant struggle in the same manner as an uprising is a higher form of the struggle of the working class. Must we in such a situation start partisan struggle only when the peasant struggle for their partial demands reaches the stage of division of land and establishment of peasant village committees? Or may we begin it even when the struggle is still in the stage of struggle for partial demands, for example, for lowering land tax?22

3. Is it possible to conduct partisan warfare even of the most elementary type in regions where communication is well developed?23

4. Our revolution at this stage is directed against British imperialism24 and feudalism. There are agricultural regions where capitalist agriculture is relatively well developed and where there are significant number of landlord-capitalists, working on hundreds of acres, for example, four central regions of Andhra (Krishna, Guntur, South Godavary, East Godavary), where irrigation through irrigation canals is well developed. In these regions, families that normally have 10 to 15 acres of irrigated land do not do any physical work but get the land worked with the help of hired labour. We think that such families may be looked upon as families of landlord-capitalists. They constitute 2-3% of all families that live in the villages. They do not suffer from any form of direct feudal exploitation. They are the most rabid enemies of agricultural workers and of backward village poor and are most trusted supporters of the Congress government in the villages. If their property is not taken away from them, then there shall not be enough land for redistribution among the village poor. Will it be correct to let the land remain with them,25 as the aim of our agrarian revolution is the destruction of feudalism?

S. Rajeshwar Rao


1 Underlined by Stalin.

2 Underlined by Stalin.

3 Underlined by Stalin.

4 Underlined by Stalin.

5 Underlined and comment by Stalin at the given stage.

6 Underlined by Stalin.

7 Underlined and comment by Stalin: 'Big' insignificant part no, bourgeoisie, but not neo-bourgeoisie.

8 Underlined by Stalin.

9 Underlined and comment by Stalin It can.

10 Comment by Stalin Like this never divide in parts and parts of parts.

11 Underlined and comment by Stalin not only; they depend on group of kulaks and on the rural capitalist-kulaks and is supported by them.

12 Comment by Stalin Over all, yes.

13 Underlined and comment by Stalin Yes.

14 Underlined and comment by Stalin Latter is true.

15 Comment by Stalin No.

16 Underlined, a small cross next to these words and commented by Stalin Communists are for terrorist actions of the masses, but against terrorist actions of individual revolutionaries and of persons acting outside the mass movement behind the back of the masses. Would be appropriate to organise trials by the masses against individual feudal elements. This usually is a better means against individual terrorism.

17 Comment by Stalin   Not on all points.

18 Underlined and comment by Stalin   No.

19 Note by Stalin: Partisan movement is also rebellion; it cannot essentially end at the same level as a rebellion of the workers.

20 Underlined by Stalin and comment   Correct.

21 No, if the people want to continue the partisan struggle.

22 Underlined by Stalin and comment   May be if the people want it.

23 Underlined and comment by Stalin   May be, under conditions of the swelling up of the movement of the masses.

24 Underlined and comment by Stalin   No! Primarily against feudalism and not against Brit.(ish) im(perial)ism.

25 Underlined and comment by Stalin  If they do not support the feudal elements against the peasants then so far leave them alone. In future, if they shall support the feudals then it will be necessary to seize a large part of their lands for the peasants.

Translated from the Russian by Jaweed Ashraf. With acknowledgements to Vladimir Chechentsev.

RGASPI Fond 558, Opis 11, Delo 310, Listy 87-96.

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