Notes of the Discussion of J.V. Stalin

With Representatives of the CC of the Communist Party of India,
Comrades Rao, Dange, Ghosh and Punnaiah

2nd March 1951


These notes represent the transcript of the second of two discussions which were held in Moscow in February and March 1951 between the leaders of the CPI and the Soviet leadership headed by J. V. Stalin. These have been released from RGASPI, the former Central Party Archive, several years after the transcript of the first discussion which was published in an English translation in this journal in September 2006.

The ‘right reformist’ leadership of P.C. Joshi and the ‘Trotskyist-Titoist’ leaders of the B.T. Ranadive group were considered to have advocated positions which had led to the near collapse of the communist movement in India. The former group had held positions which were considered illusory with regards to the British Labour Party and the Nehru section of the leadership of the Congress Party. It was under the P.C. Joshi leadership that the Adhikari theses ‘On Pakistan and National Unity’ were accepted, for a period supporting the establishment of Pakistan. The BTR leadership was identified with Trotskyism for having adopted the Yugoslav position of the ‘intertwining’ of the democratic and socialist revolutions. Stalin considered that pushing for socialist revolution was a very dangerous course and this had precipitated the Cominform editorial of 27th January 1950 which repudiated this understanding and pointed to the lessons to be drawn from the democratic course of the revolution in China. Stalin iterated the importance of this editorial in his discussion with the CPI in February 1951. The consequences of the Trotskyist line which was embroiled also in persistent working class strike activity far beyond the then current capabilities were disastrous for the communist movement and caused serious consternation in the international communist movement amongst the CPC, the CPGB and the Communist Party of Ceylon. The BTR group had ‘discovered’ that independent capitalism had come to dominate in the country, that imperialism and the survivals of feudalism had ended. Similar considerations were prevalent outside the CPI among the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Socialist Unity Centre headed by Shivdas Ghosh, and the Radical Humanist Party led by M.N. Roy in those years. The criticism by Stalin extended to the other parties which opted for socialist revolution. Such views continue to exist today when the grip of finance capital has gone from strength to strength over the decades, when industrialisation in the Marxist sense has yet to begin in the country, when no significant land reform has taken place such views are being periodically propagated de novo in the interstices of the democratic movement. In the supportive deliberations of these attacks on Marxism, Bukharinism, Kautskyism and Trotskyism of necessity replace the Leninist understanding of imperialism. The Trotskification of Marxism rests inter alia on the social-democratic ‘decolonisation’ theory of Bukharin and others which considers that imperialism contributes to the industrial development of colonies and thus, allegedly weakens their dependence on the metropolitan countries, or ‘decolonises’ them. Stalin pointed out that imperialism permits only that industrial development that does not produce the instruments and means of production. This is allied to the bourgeois suppositions which substitute for Marx’s comprehension of the industrial system, as the production of factories by factories, and paint a faux picture of advanced industrial development; the development of capitalism in agriculture is proclaimed by re-introducing the discredited views of the opposition in the Soviet Union of the 1920s to the effect that in Persia, Turkey, India and China that via the rule of imperialism through the Prussian path of agrarian development landlord-capitalism had been formed which meant that the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution had been completed so that the perspectives of socialist revolution had been opened up. It was U. Roslavlev (R. Ulyanovsky) who pointed out nearly a century ago that whilst imperialism promoted agrarian capitalism it did this on the basis of pre-capitalist sharecropping. In India there was no manorial economy or barshchina as in Prussia or Russia. Prussia, moreover, was one of the three premier industrial powers of the world at the turn of the last century. In India no industrialisation in the Marxist sense took place either under British rule or afterwards. There was, as a result, no basis for the ‘Prussian path’ of ‘capitalist development’ in the subcontinent. The support for socialist revolution rests, further, on the erroneous views of Rosa Luxemburg who argued that the onset of imperialism leads to the destruction of pre-capitalist socio-economic formations. Despite the protestations of the reformists who suggest that the survivals of pre-capitalist relations have ended, the fact remain that a monopoly of land exists; widespread payment of rent in kind persists through sharecropping; labour rent through begar continues; extensive debt slavery prevails; indubitably, profound remnants of the caste system and tribalism remain in force. The advocacy of socialist revolution both yesterday and today in India and elsewhere in the semi-colonial and dependent states is founded on a profound rejection of the views of Marxism-Leninism on imperialism and the colonial question and adoption of the views of Kautsky, Trotsky, Bukharin, Tito and Rosa Luxemburg. The theory of People’s Democracy as developed by Stalin and the CPSU (b) after the victory in the Great Patriotic War, moreover, extended the sphere of operation of People’s Democracy as the preliminary stage of the revolution to the advanced monopoly capitalist states such the United States and Great Britain. Stalin’s views expose the vulgar logic that the imagined development of India as an independent capitalist or even imperialist state mandates the necessity of immediate socialist revolution.

The Moscow meetings had representatives of two sections of the CPI: the dominant Andhra Committee line which supported an imagined understanding of the path of the successful revolution in China (Rajeshwara Rao, Basuvapunnaiah) and those CC members associated with the work in the working class and trade unions (Dange, Ajoy Ghosh). Even though the Andhra Committee was in the leadership of the party it was unable to convince the rest of the party leadership of the correctness of its tactical line. This had necessitated the consultation with the Soviet leadership.

In his critique of the Andhra line, Stalin pointed out that China in its revolution had a friendly rear (after the defeat of the Japanese army and the liberation of Manchuria by Soviet troops). This had enabled the CPC and the PLA to take shelter from the reactionary Chinese state. It was an advantage that India did not have and so it had to compensate for it. Stalin was of the view that it would not be possible to ensure victory in India by partisan victory in the rural areas alone. In its place it was necessary to conduct ‘armed struggle’ involving the combination of general strikes and workers uprisings in the towns with the partisan warfare of the peasantry. In China there had been a different position to that in India. The Chinese conducted ‘armed revolution’ which signified the combination of the partisan warfare of the peasantry with the work of the liberation army. When the Kuomintang broke with the communists the latter had the people’s liberation army which took shelter in Manchuria close to the Soviet Union. Indian communists had no stable rear comparable to the Soviet Union. The CPC was prone to blockade and encirclement by the Nationalists until it reached Manchuria. Thereafter it could gather its forces and move southwards for the liberation of the country and end Nationalist rule. India did not have a liberation army nor a rear analogous to the Soviet Union; it required the assistance of working class revolutionary activity, which had not been possible in China, in addition to partisan warfare. It was mandatory for the communist party to intensify its work in the working class so that it could carry out strike activity; and build armed detachments of the workers which were necessary to complement the work of partisan warfare. Stalin considered that the Telengana struggle did not mean that the stage of civil war had begun in India. While land seizures had taken place, it did not mean that partisan warfare was the main form of struggle in the country. That was still a long way off. In his hand-written notes on a letter from Rao (14th February 1951) Stalin noted that the Telengana movement did not need to be withdrawn if the people wanted it. At the same time, he was of the viewpoint that Telengana indicated the beginning of the opening of the struggle but not the main struggle itself. A weak party such as the CPI should not speak of armed struggle as serious difficulties would arise. In both discussions Stalin stressed the need of the peasantry to learn to struggle for the lowering of lease rents and the reduction of the share of the rent taken by the landlord.

There was no discussion in Moscow on the parliamentary question. While parts of the left came to the conclusion that the parliamentary path to socialism was inaugurated in India in 1951, the then understanding including all sections of the communist movement was that the Leninist theory of ‘revolutionary parliamentarism’ needed to be utilised as had been done under Comintern leadership in Peru and China. The CPI had successfully used the parliamentary tactic in the colonial elections of 1937 and 1946.

Stalin since 1926 had criticised the use of individual terror by Indian revolutionaries. That dialogue continued in the Moscow discussions. Stalin countered the defence of individual terror by Rajeshwara Rao. He adverted to the arguments of Lenin on this matter. Individual terror continues to be a question in the communist movement amongst sections which are working in the tribal regions and have an exiguous and marginal base in the in the industrial working class and the peasantry. Individual terror and parliamentary cretinism have played a complementary role in the Indian communist movement for decades.

The notes reveal some textual changes of the draft programme and the tactical line which were suggested by Stalin and the Soviet delegates. These will be discussed in later issues of this journal.

The CPI representatives in Moscow pledged to support the new CPI Programme and Tactical Line. In the post Stalin period, with exceptions like Sundarayya and Parimal Dasgupta, the communist movement was unable to sustain the revolutionary positions of 1951. One section of the CPI from 1953 went over to the open positions of Khrushchev; another section of the CPI adopted the positions of Khrushchev in a delayed manner while claiming not to do so. Basuvapunnaiah played a remarkable role in doing this by drafting the programme of the CPIM in 1964 which rejected in practice the 1951 positions, and after the death of Sundarayya, who had pointed out the reformist, parliamentary positions of the party in his letter of resignation from the general secretaryship of the CPIM during the emergency, finally made the rupture with the survivals of the 1951 positions in 1986. The adherents of the CPC in India ranging from Charu Majumdar to D.V.Rao also rejected the 1951 revolutionary stands and reverted to the misreading of the Chinese revolution of the Andhra Committee. The only major communist revolutionary who consistently supported the programme and tactical line adopted in 1951, from 1953 to his death was, as his outstanding writings bear witness, Parimal Dasgupta. His essays are a quintessential necessity for comprehending the programmes and tactical lines of the major communist trends after 1953.

Vijay Singh

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