Ted Grant

Indian Communists go down with Mrs Gandhi

Source: Militant, no. 348 (March 25, 1977)
Transcription: Francesco 2010
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010

Mrs Gandhi’s gamble has failed. The Janata “party” (in reality, a coalition) has won the election. With 536 of the 542 results officially announced the parties’ positions were (with present seats in brackets):

Janata Alliance297 (39)
Congress Party152 (350)
CPI7 (23)
CPI (M)21 (25)

The reason for Mrs Gandhi’s defeat was the brutal “emergency” which she instituted. Tens of thousands of opponents were imprisoned without trial. Fernandes, the railwaymen’s leader, and other trade unionists, were jailed. Millions were coerced, some forcibly, into “voluntary” sterilisation to “solve” India’s “over-population”. There was a censorship of the press and a shackling of the unions.

Mrs Gandhi raised the state above parliament, though based on the obedient votes of the Congress deputies. She ruled by decree. Her regime was one that Marxists call bonapartist. She balanced between the classes, leaning on the mass organisations of the Congress, especially the youth Congress under the control of her son Sanjay. But at the same time, Mrs Gandhi used the police as a terror weapon against the workers, peasants and any opposition within the middle class.

Blind to the effects of her measures, and boasting like Mussolini that the trains now ran on time, she called elections confident that she would obtain again a big majority.

India is a country of stark poverty. Hundreds of millions live in semi-starvation in the villages. Tens of millions are homeless. Tens of millions live in hovels. Hundreds of thousands live on the pavements in Calcutta. While the masses starve, a comparative handful live lives of opulent splendour. Millionaires flaunt their wealth. Extremes of poverty contrast with extremes of wealth. The landlords and industrialists, the black market merchants and racketeers, live off the backs of the population.

Industrial workers live in hovels, under conditions of extreme poverty. It is these conditions, and the effect of the revolutions in China and Russia, which force Mrs Gandhi and her opponents to pretend to stand for some form of “socialism”. This indicates that not only the workers, but the peasants too understand that the elimination of their misery is linked with the abolition of landlordism and capitalism.

The opposition which has defeated Mrs Gandhi is even more reactionary. The sole purpose of the “Janata” “Party” was to oust Mrs Gandhi. It is a combination of the extreme right-wing Jan Sangh (Hindu communalists and virtual fascists) with Morarji Desai’s “Congress Democrats” (a big business right-wing split-off from Mrs Gandhi’s National Congress), pacifists [and] “socialists” like Jai Prakash, Narain and other reformist socialists.

In British terms it would be like a combination of Thatcherite Tories, Powellites, Liberals and Labour in a single “Party”. The views of Jan Sangh, however, are far to the right of Powell. They have incited and organised many anti-Muslim riots and pogroms. This coalition will start disintegrating the moment they try to advance any programme.

In a society beset by problems of hunger and lack of the barest civilised amenities it was inevitable that the workers would move towards what they thought was Marxism. The Communist Party of India gained mass support. But like their brother parties in the West, turned towards an even more pernicious form of reformism. They have clung to the coat-tails of Mrs Gandhi and the capitalist-landlord Congress Party.


Marx and Lenin made the point that the further East one travels, the more rotten, degenerate and repulsive became the capitalist class. Yet instead of the policy of Lenin—implacable opposition to the liberal capitalists in the struggle against Czarism—the CPI, despite Mrs Gandhi’s policies, supported the “emergency” measures. Instead of a struggle against the rotten Congress they collaborated with them!

Instead of Lenin’s policy of teaching the workers to rely only on their own independent strength, forces and organisation, drawing behind them in struggle the peasants and middle class, they preached support for the “emergency” and thus all its repressive measures, including the arrest and imprisonment of many rank-and-file and lower-rank leaders of the Communist Party.

Despite this, Sanjay Gandhi and Mrs Gandhi herself did not fail to remind the CP leaders of the CP’s support of British imperialism in the war, while the Congress leaders were imprisoned.

The alliance, however, has led to the electoral rout, not only of Mrs Gandhi’s Congress, but of the CP as well! They have gained nothing but discredit from this shameful alliance. The Morning Star (21st March) discreetly reports the fiasco without comment. But before they enthusiastically endorsed the position of the Indian CP!

The CPI (M) (Communist Party of India Marxist) split from the CPI under the influence of Maoism, denouncing the latter’s reformism, but without Marxist perspectives or policies. Failing to analyse the mistakes of Stalin and Mao, they too inevitably succumbed to reformism.

They began by rejecting Mrs Gandhi’s “emergency” measures, but without organising a struggle against them. They never adopted an independent class position, looking for support from the masses. Rejecting Mrs Gandhi, they then embraced the Janata Party—i.e. were prepared to come to an agreement with a hodge-podge including the Jan Sangh communalists! They thus adopted an even worse position than the CPI!

Lip service to democracy by the Janata Party will soon be abandoned and the coalition will fall to pieces. But the most vicious reactionaries will have gained the most.

In the resulting chaos and conflicts, nationalities in the South and North will struggle against national oppression. The Hindu Jan Sangh will unleash their thugs against the Muslim minority.

The workers will fight for better conditions and a bigger share of the wealth they produce. The peasants and lower middle class will look at least for an alleviation of their misery.

The showpiece of capitalist “Democracy” in the colonial, or former colonial, world was India. The emergency of Mrs Gandhi tarnished this picture. Now the world economic crisis places enormous burdens on the weaker “underdeveloped” world. If Mrs Gandhi had won, the position would not be fundamentally different. On a capitalist basis the problems of India are now insoluble.

With the new influence of the Jan Sangh reactionaries on the government, their vile communal thugs will consider the results a licence to attack the Muslims, the Communist Party which supported Mrs Gandhi, their “allies” of the CPI (M), and any trade unionists or workers and peasants who take action in defence of their interests. Without a bold lead from the mass parties, there is the danger and the possibility of the army taking control and establishing a military-police dictatorship, or possibly the break-up of India, or both.

One country after another in Asia, Africa and Latin America, because of the poverty of the masses, and the super-exploitation by Western imperialism, has taken the road to military-police dictatorship and savage repression of the workers and peasants. Now it is the turn of India.

The CPI supported Mrs Gandhi’s regime, which was well on the way to this “solution”. In their folly, the CPI had the enthusiastic support of the leaders of the British Communist Party and other “national” Communist Parties, including that of the Soviet Union.

The CPI (M), yesterday’s self-styled revolutionaries, have recoiled from Mrs Gandhi into the arms of Mararji Desai, the representative of the big business right-wing of Congress, and the communalist Jan Sangh.

Neither of these self-styled Marxist parties stands on the class independence of the working class, and thus in reality are to the right of the British Labour Party.

The two Communist parties of India had a greater base in numbers and support than the Bolsheviks in the early days of the Russian revolution. But if it depends on the leaders of these parties, their members will be led to the slavery of a complete capitalist dictatorship.

Yet from the ranks of the Communist Party’s membership of militant workers, once they adopt the ideas of Marxism, can come the forces to transform India. Avoiding the nightmare of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, they could establish a workers’ democracy, looking to the fraternal support of the workers of the West and of the world. That is the alternative for India: open capitalist dictatorship—or workers’ democracy rallying the people of India behind the programme of socialist transformation.