Contd from previous issue
When one takes a comprehensive view of Hijam Irabot’s time and his relations with the Communist Party of India, the party was ridden with ‘inner turmoil’ (to quote A.B. Bardhan, former General Secretary, C.P.I., see his article On C. Rajeswara Rao’s birth anniversary, dated 14 June, 2014, www.mainstreamweekly.net) after India won freedom in 1947. As stated earlier elsewhere, the C.P.I. saw the question of Indian independence in a different light. It coined the slogan ‘yeh azadi jhhoothi hai’ (this independence is a sham), referring to the birth of Indian nation and dawn of freedom from the yoke of colonial British rule. The Government of India headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was regarded as a class enemy betraying bourgeoisie features in both character and composition. Within a short span of three years from 1948 to 1951, the party saw changes of as many as four General Secretaries viz. P.C. Joshi, B.T. Ranadive, C. Rajeswara Rao and Ajoy Ghosh.
P.C. Joshi’s (a.k.a. PCJ by his initials), a pahari Kumaoni Brahmin from Almora, tenure ended coinciding with the Second Party Congress held in Calcutta from 28 February to 6 March, 1948. In fact, PCJ was toppled from his position as party General Secretary in the Calcutta session for being soft on the Indian National Congress, seeing his rival party and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as progressive forces whom the C.P.I. could do business with while a section of the Indian communists decried them as class enemies. Then came the term of hardliner B.T. Ranadive (a.k.a. BTR by his initials), a Maharashtrian of Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu caste, who made his mark as a trade unionist freedom fighter in Bombay, whose whose tenure’s watershed moment was call for revolt against the Government of India by resorting to armed rebellion. The C.P.I. was wracked by intense intra-party turmoil arising out of pursuing an adventurist path following BTR’s line. It did not take long for BTR to be dislodged as party General Secretary. Many partymen regarded the BTR line of treating the rival party Indian National Congress as one of class enemy and considering the union government as a foe that should be overthrown by resorting to violent armed rebellion a major folly that was to be rectified and reconciled by giving up armed revolt forever, accept the Indian constitution and agree to participate in the electoral process under Indian parliamentary system howsoever bourgeois and anti proletarian it may appear, on the surface.
After BTR, Chandra Rajeswara Rao, a Telugu Brahmin who came from an affluent peasant family and a participant in the Telangana rebellion, became the party General Secretary in 1950. He was seen as a milder face of the C.P.I. and a departure from BTR’s adventurist passion. Thereafter, Ajoy Ghosh finally succeeded C. Rajeswara Rao in 1951 as the party General Secretary. Ajoy Ghosh was the first Bengali to become General Secretary of the C.P.I. and he went on to occupy the position until his death in 1962. Mr. Ghosh was formerly a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and imprisoned after Lahore conspiracy case trial in 1929. Both C. Rajeswara Rao and Ajoy Ghosh were among the leaders in the C.P.I. who were eager to participate in the electoral politics of Indian polity and they were disinclined to continue the party’s one-time strategy to rebel against the Indian state. In their respective tenures, ideological churnings inside the party machinery veered to the course that participating in the democratic elections of India is a better way to accommodate themselves and find their place in Indian political space instead of resorting to violent armed rebellion as hardliner BTR put forth the party. Ajoy Ghosh was a Stalinist in outlook and style of functioning for long eleven years he acted as party General Secretary. Both C. Rajeswara Rao and Ajoy Ghosh were Sovietphiles and rightist among the C.P.I. who disapproved of adventurist path as a horrid thing for the party to have traversed with at one point of time in its history.
For the likes of C. Rajeswara Rao and Ajoy Ghosh, BTR driven adventurist path calling for armed rebellion all over India was a gross misreading of national mood of India. It was a highly reprehensible blunder on the C.P.I.’s part, that should never to be repeated by any communist leaning man across the length and breadth of India. BTR steered adventurist path was, therefore, a stray thoughtless deviation that should be discarded away with and forbidden from being pursued by anyone who has even a shred of association with the C.P.I. The party came round to the view that its future salvation lies in abandoning the Calcutta Thesis of 1948, calling off armed rebellion and insurrection anywhere in India, bidding farewell to arms forever and agreeing to participate in all the parliamentary and State Assembly or territorial elections, wherever the party has a chance to contest and compete. In the Indian context, power should flow from ballot paper of votes cast in Indian elections, not from bullets from communist rebels. Insurrectionists of communist hue operating wherever they are operating should be disbanded and disarmed, voluntarily or involuntarily, before the First Lok Sabha elections of 1952 kicks in. This was the firm and resolute decision arrived at by the party among its inner circles before the polls were held. It is important to remember that the Communist Party of India did not hold any party congress for five years from its second session held in Calcutta in 1948.
The C.P.I. finally held its third party congress by the fag end of the year 1953 at a place called Madhura (Madurai?), where its session was scheduled from 27 December, 1953 to 4 January, 1954. It is worth recalling that some prominent communists were underground, holed out deep in their respective hideouts, when they were elected to the first Lok Sabha. By the time of the third party congress, the C.P.I. had a total number of 16 members in the Lok Sabha and BTR’s phase of adventurism was a far cry in the changed political scenario. The tumultuous days of 1948-52 is a phase in party history that it is greatly hesitant to revisit. It is really coy about acknowledging that it once coined the catchy slogan ‘yeh azadi jhhoothi hai’ to describe dawn of Indian independence after the colonial British rule ended. It is equally coy about the fact that the party was banned by the government of India in 1948 when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were at the helm of administering India in the immediate aftermath of freedom. Dare one may say, no Indian communist was ever elected to the Constituent Assembly of India and no one from among them was involved in drafting the of the Indian constitution. By inference, therefore, the communists did not care to repose faith in the working of the Indian constitution in the beginning of the republic. For them, everything was façade of a sham with respect to structure of Indian politics as the Jawaharlal Nehru government took over the reins of power after the colonist British departed in 1947. The independence was sham, the working of the union government was a sham, the very union government administering the country was composed of by the same class enemies of the proletariat whose sole interest lay in perpetuating their rule over the ruled. So therefore, the Calcutta thesis, precisely, entailed in avowing that freedom from the yoke of British rule in 1947 for the Indian people in real terms was a fake one.
Another phase of violent uprising was only necessary and in order to usher in a new dawn for India as per C.P.I.’s worldview held back then. This was what the BTR line decreed. However, this view did not last long. No sooner, the Calcutta thesis took off to put into action, the party had the change of heart resulting in dislodging of BTR and coming up of the likes of C. Rajeswara Rao and Ajoy Ghosh into the leadership forefront, by upstaging the former into oblivion and his ideas into a state of redundancy. When the C.P.I. called for armed rebellion and violent uprising in various parts of India, maintenance of law and order emerged a serious problem in several pockets where the party was active. It succeeded to establish pockets of liberated zones across many regions where it has strong following in Telangana and Tebhaga. They managed to establish parallel governments in their centres of dominance which greatly alarmed the Nehru government. As a result, the army was called to fight against communist insurrectionists whom the government of the day saw it as a menace for lawlessness. Army was used to put down rebellion.
There were a number of occasions when the communist rebels were fighting the Indian military forces and the police as they came eye to eye like two opposing combatants with many instances of skirmishes and gun battle fights. How many men perished in the battle between Indian army and communist insurrectionists is a story waiting to be told furnishing the actual facts and figures of the casualties. These are some inconvenient, uncomfortable antecedent truths associated with the Communist Party of India that it is coy and shy to openly admit in public. The description that the C.P.I. initially began as an illegal entity in the formative years of the Indian nation is indeed too annoying and quite galling a question for any C.P.I. partyman to reflect upon. No partyman wants anyone to go back to its history of shady past and violent antecedents in contemporary times.
That everyone should forget the uncomfortable episode associated with the Communist Party of India from 1948-52 arising out of pursuing an adventurist path by as a result of its second party congress’ resolution and move on with life with respect to the contemporary realities thrown by Indian political scenario is it’s every partyman ardent wish. In pursuing its line of adventurism, the party ran amok in their respective zones of influence. A classic case example was when Indrajit Gupta, its one time general secretary, a Cambridge graduate and of Brahmo family descent, was forced to serve a prison term in a ‘party jail’ in 1948, the reason being his ‘adopting a soft stand within the party’ in the heat of massive ideological churnings going on inside its apparatus. [See Wikipedia entry of Indrajit Gupta referenced Anjali Bose Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical Dictionary) Appendix of Volume 2, 2005, p.9, (in Bengali), Sansad]
Against the backdrop of massive crackdown unleashed by the Jawaharlal Nehru government to rein in communist rebellions springing up in certain pockets of India, the Communist Party of India considered it expedient to call off armed insurrections and rebellions as part of a tactical retreat strategy. And in order to stay relevant and afloat in the context of Indian political space and arena, the party made it known that capturing power by violent means and overthrow of the Indian state by class war and armed revolution are ideas inherently alien to party’s new and evolving line of action in Indian context. While the Bolsheviks may have captured power in the Soviet Union by overthrowing the Czarist monarchy violently or Mao Zedong may have marched to victory by successful culmination of peasant revolution, for the Indian communist there was no pathway available than participate in elections. The doctrinaire of pursuing an adventurist path that entails capturing power by preparing for mass revolution was forever put in the back burner of intra party thinking.
To be contd