International Trotskyism

Robert J. Alexander

Trotskyism in India

During the nearly half-century of existence of Trotskyism in India the movement there has experienced many of the same kinds of controversies and divisions which have plagued it in most other countries. Although relatively little influenced by the splits within the Fourth International, Indian Trotskyism has been affected by the strong influence of regionalism in Indian politics and has experienced the same kind of personalistic struggles which have characterized the movement elsewhere.

In addition, Indian Trotskyism has been faced with the existence of two other Marxist parties to the left of the Stalinists which have been regarded by most other elements of the Indian Left as being "Trotskyist" and whose leaders have in fact shared at least some of the ideas and positions of The Old Man and his followers. These are the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), neither of which, in fact, ever belonged to the Fourth International or any of its factions.

Because of the importance of the RCP and RSP in the evolution of Indian Trotskyism we shall, in the pages which follow, not confine our discussion only to those parties and groups which have professed loyalty to the international Trotskyist movement. We shall also briefly look at the two "semi-Trotskyist" parties as well.

The Beginnings of Indian Trotskyism

The first Trotskyist groups in India were organized mainly by members of the Communist Party who refused to accept the turn of the Comintern in 1934-35 towards the Popular Front which in the case of India meant supporting the Indian National Congress Party. R. N. Arya has noted that these people "were denounced as Trotskyists. So they studied the works of Trotsky, especially The History of Russian Revolution and The Revolution Betrayed. They ended by accepting Trotskyism.[1]

Groups proclaiming loyalty to Trotskyism were established in several parts of India in the middle and late 19305. Probably the most important of these was that which developed in Bengal, principally in Calcutta, under the leadership of Kamalesh Banerji, with India Sen, Dr. P. K. Roy, and Karuna Roy among its other principal figures.[2] It took the name Communist League.[3]

Another group was established in the United Provinces (UP—later Uttar Pradesh), particularly in the city of Kanpur. The leader of that group was Onkar Nath Shastri, who had come out of the earlier nationalist revolutionary movement and had joined the Communist Party during its Third Period.[4] By 1937-38, "Shastri had a group of workers at Kanpur and a few students in U.P. and Bihar. He called his group the Revolutionary Workers Party."[5]

There were two principal early Trotskyist leaders in the Gujarat region. One of these was Chandravadan Shukla, "who worked at Bombay and formed groups at Ahmedabad, Ghav Nagar." [6] The other was M. G. Purdy. Apparently born in England, where his name was Murray Gow Purdy, he sometimes used the name Murgaoun Purdy Singh in India. He had apparently moved to South Africa when quite young, had joined the Communist Party there and, as he reported ten years later to Max Shachtman, had been converted to Trotskyism in 1928. He had some activity in the Bolshevik-Leninist League and International Workers Club in South Africa and finally due to persecution by local authorities decided to go to India.[7]

R. N. Arya has Said that before coming to India, Purdy had participated in the Spanish Civil War.[8] However, Broué has noted that Purdy made no such claim in the letter he wrote to Shachtman in December 1938.[9] In any case, once arrived in India Purdy "recruited a few individuals from the Congress workers at Bombay and set up a group there. He chose Congress as his sphere of activity."[10] The Shukla and Purdy groups operated under the name Mazdoor Trotskyist Party (MTP).

In mid-1939 Chandravadan Shukla of the MTP went to Calcutta to meet with some leaders of the Revolutionary Communist Party and discuss possible merger of the two groups. Among those he met with were Gour Pal, Mrinal Ghosh Choudhury, and Magadeb Bhattacharya. Although they agreed on the need for a new revolutionary international they apparently agreed on little else. In the end, there was no merger of the MTP and RCP, although Magadeb Bhattacharya did join the Trotskyist group.[11]

The various Trotskyist groups worked within the Indian National Congress, at least to the extent of sending representatives to its annual meetings. They were present at the 1938 and 1939 Congress sessions at Haripur and Tripura, where there was a bitter struggle between leftwing and rightwing elements in the Congress, and they were joined at these sessions by representatives of the newly emerging Trotskyist movement of Ceylon. The Trotskyists, understandably, supported the Congress left.[12]

R. N. Arya has noted that in that period the Indian Trotskyists had no contact with Trotsky or the international movement. They did not hear about the establishment of the Fourth International until the winter of 1939-40.[13]

Trotsky himself seems to have been largely unaware of the existence of groups of his followers in India. He was informed occasionally about current political trends in the subcontinent by Stanley Plastrik (using the party name Sherman Stanley), a young member of the Socialist Workers Party in New York, who on his own initiative had taken it upon himself to learn about the subject and had various correspondents in the Congress Socialist Party in India. He had also recruited an Indian immigrant into the SWP in New York City.[14]

It may have been at Plastrik's urging that Trotsky issued an Open Letter to the Workers of India, on July 25, 1939. In it Trotsky dealt with the impact of the coming war on India and denounced the roles of both the Indian National Congress and the Communist Party. He argued that "those immense difficulties which the war will bring in its wake must be utilized so as to deal a mortal blow to all the ruling classes. That is how the oppressed classes and peoples in all countries should act..."

Trotsky then added that "to realize such a policy a revolutionary party, basing itself on the vanguard of the proletariat, is necessary. Such a party does not yet exist in India. The Fourth International offers this party its program, its experience, its collaboration. The basic conditions for this party are complete independence from imperialist democracy, complete independence from the Second and Third Internationals, and complete independence from the national Indian bourgeoisie.[15]

It was not until early 1942 that a nationwide Trotskyist party was finally established in India. The Ceylonese Trotskyists, some of whom had had personal contact with the Fourth International and with some of the European Trotskyist groups while studying in Britain, played a significant role in bringing together their Indian counterparts.

A number of Ceylonese Trotskyists had fled to India at the beginning of the Second World War either to avoid arrest, or after having escaped from police custody. Several of the Ceylonese, including Colvin de Silva and Leslie Goonewardene (who in India used the name K. Tilak) settled in Calcutta, and entered into contact with the local Trotskyists there. Other Ceylonese made contact with the Uttar Pradesh Trotskyist group, including C. F. Shukla and R. N. Arya; Philip Gunawardena contacted the Bombay group, while Victor Keralasingham worked with the Trotskyists in Madras.[16]

R. N. Arya has noted that between the Ceylonese and Indian Trotskyists there was "thorough discussion over programme and policy," and that this "resulted in the adoption of a programme and the formation of a single party, Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India..." [17] By the end of 1941 there had been established a preliminary Committee for the Formation of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India. It issued an extensive document entitled "The Classes in India and their Political Role," which set forth an orthodox Trotskyist analysis, arguing that neither the native bourgeoisie, nor the peasantry (although the latter made up 70 percent of the total population) could lead the struggle against imperialism and for revolutionary change. Only the proletariat, although numbering only 5,000,000 people, could carry out these tasks and it could only do so under the leadership of a real revolutionary party which once it had gained power would simultaneously carry out the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution and the beginning of the socialization of the economy.[18]

Arya has noted that the Trotskyists "finally formed the party in 1942 when they were all living underground..."[19] Most of the existing local Trotskyist groups became part of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party. Among its leaders were Onkar Nath Shastri, Chandravadan Shukla, and Kamalesh Banerji. M. G. Purdy and his supporters did not join the group but maintained a separate party of their own.[20]

The Bolshevik-Leninist Party (BLP)

The BLP adopted a program. R. N. Arya has remarked that in this program, "The new party noted the conflict between the imperialists and the Indian bourgeoisie, the two partners of the bourgeois exploitative system in India, but it was clear to them that the national bourgeoisie were incapable of playing any revolutionary role, being themselves closely tied to feudalists as well as imperialists. They held that the working class in India was strong enough to play an independent role, and win leadership of the revolution by winning the poor peasants and agricultural proletariat to its side."

Arya has also noted that "the program characterized the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers' state, and condemned Stalin's policy of reaching compromise with imperialists at the expense of world revolution. The theory of Permanent Revolution was accepted as the party's guiding principle." [21]

The BLP got off to a good start, with the launching of a party publication, Spark, first issued in Calcutta. Later, when police repression made that necessary, the periodical was shifted to Bombay, and its name was changed to New Spark. [22] They also published Trotsky's Open Letter to the Indian Workers and several other pamphlets, including one attacking Gandhi as a "utopian, reactionary and counter-revolutionary," and one opposing the Stalinists' support of the war as a "people's war."[23]

During the remaining years of World War II, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party had at least modest influence in the trade union and student movements of several Indian cities. This was the ease in Calcutta and Bombay, as well as Madras, where the party established substantial nuclei among the tramway workers and the workers of the Buckingham and Carnation textile mills, as well as among students in at least two of the institutions of higher learning in the city.[24]

The BLP was recognized by the International Secretariat in New York as the official Indian Section of the Fourth International, as was indicated by an is document, "Manifesto to the Workers and Peasants of India," dated September 26, 1942. [25] During much of the World War II period, contact between Fourth International headquarters and the Indian Trotskyists was maintained largely through Ajit Roy, a leading figure in the BLP who went to Britain, ostensibly to study there, but in fact principally to maintain liaison with the FI. After the war, Kamalesh Banerji, upon being released from jail, went to Europe and became at least for a time a member of the International Secretariat.

About three months after the establishment of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party the Indian National Congress Party launched its Quit India Movement, calling for a civil disobedience campaign against the British until they gave up control of India. The Trotskyists and other far leftists supported the objective of British expulsion from India but did not approve of the methods used by the Congress. Gour Pal has noted that the Trotskyists "risked their everything to transform the imperialist war into a civil war and socialist revolution involving the workers and poor rural population in areas where they worked..." In doing this, he adds, "The Trotskyists unmistakably proved their real revolution metal and loyalty to their ideology."

However their efforts to convert the Quit India movement into a revolutionary one brought severe reprisals upon the Bolshevik-Leninist Party. Its preparations for its first national conference were disrupted, and many of its principal figures were arrested, including Kamalesh Banerji and Indra Sen. [26] Others were forced to go into hiding. Persecution of BLP leaders did not end until the termination of the war.

Governmental repression undoubtedly undermined the BLP in another way. R. N. Arya has noted that "unity, however, could not last long. Shastri was arrested at Kanpur in September 1942 before the cadres of his party were integrated into the new Bolshevik-Leninist Party. When he came out of jail in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, he declared that he would have nothing to do with the 'Ceylonese,' i.e. the BLPI. His group of students stayed in the BLPI, while he revived his RWP within his group of Kanpur workers. Shukla left BLPI in 1943 following some quarrel in a meeting of the CC of the BLPI in which one of the Ceylonese comrades, Philip Gunawardena, slapped him. He had his groups at Bombay, Ahmedabad, Ghav Nagar, and a few other places."[27]

It was not until early 1946, several months after the end of the war, that the BLP was able to hold its first All India Conference at Nagpur. At that meeting it was decided that the Ceylonese section of the party would be separated from the Bolshevik-Leninist Party. Some of the Ceylonese assumed the name they had used before the war, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. [28]

With the end of the war the Indian Trotskyists were for a time quite optimistic about the prospectives for the BLPI. K. Tilak (Leslie Goonewardene) wrote in September 1945 that "the young Bolshevik-Leninist Party . . now faces its first real chance for expansion. The situation is changing and without doubt, of all of the parties and political groups in India, the BLPI is the one which is going to gain most in this change. . . . Only the BLPI offers a program and clear policy, while on the other side, the name of the IVth International today has a power of attraction for the revolutionary elements which comes from instinctive recognition that it is the continuer of the revolutionary traditions of the III. . The Indian section of the IVth International faces a great opportunity, that of transforming itself from a small persecuted group, with a revolutionary program, into a party with sufficient cadres to turn with confidence towards the real task of winning over the masses."[29]

In the immediate postwar years the Trotskyists made some modest progress, particularly in the organized labor movement. R. N. Arya has observed that they "entered trade unions at Madras, Bombay, Secunderabad, Calcutta, and Raniganj, and Kanpur."[30] Gour Pal has also noted that "In the industrial belt of Calcutta, BLP had developed considerably. It controlled Khardah Jute Mills Workers Union, Bengal Fire Brigade Workers Union, workers unions in Tittagarh Paper Mills, Bengal Paper Mills, Tribeni Tissues and also the central organization, Paper Workers Federation. . . . BLP secured a good hold among the coal mine workers around Raniganj [W. Bengal] and in 1948 Jagdish Jha, an outstanding BLP labour leader took charge of the coal mine workers movement in that area." Pal also noted that the BLPI had some success among the peasant organizations of Bengal in the same period.[31]

Soon after their first conference BLP members (and other Trotskyists and far leftists) were presented with an entirely new political situation in the country. After serious disturbances within the Indian armed forces, the British Labor Government finally came to the decision to negotiate Indian independence with the country's two major political groups, the Indian National Congress and the Moslem League. Of course the upshot of these negotiations was the formation in 1947 of a Provisional Government headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the partition of the subcontinent in the following year into India and Pakistan.

These developments contradicted the analyses and confident predictions of the Trotskyists, such as the International Secretariat's statements in its 1942 "Appeal to the Workers and Peasants of India" that "British imperialism will never accept the national independence of India,"[32] and that "the loss of India would provoke without any doubt a socialist revolution in Great Britain."[33] In the face of the agreements among the Congress, the Moslem League, and the British government, the Indian Trotskyists "rejected the Independence deal as formal political independence, and began to prepare for the stage of socialist revolution."[34]

As independence approached, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party denounced the way in which it was taking place. Their statement read that "the direct rule of British imperialism is ending. The job of governing the country has been handed over to the Indian bourgeoisie, with whom the British imperialists have entered into a partnership. . . . Despite a certain improvement in the relative position of Indian capital, the volume of British capital investment in India has undergone no significant change, while the grip of imperialist capital over the exchange banks, insurance companies, and in shipping and key positions in industry continues.. . . The direct rule of British imperialism, we declare therefore, is being replaced by indirect rule."[35]


The country's changed political circumstances brought the Trotskyists of the BLPI to reassess their strategy and tactics. They began to think in terms of entrism. They first turned towards the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCPI) as an appropriate field to apply an entrist strategy. As early as 1946, a (BLPI) delegation consisting of Ajit Roy, Indra Sen, and a third person met with Sudhir Dasgupta, Tarapada Gupta, and Gour Pal of the RCPI to discuss the possible merger of the two groups. These negotiations failed because of the refusal of the RCPI to have the united group join the Fourth International, and the rejection by the Trotskyists of what they considered a very premature campaign by the RCPI to establish soviets (under the name of panchayats) throughout the country. [36]

Two years later the BLPI leaders decided upon another organization to which to apply the entrist strategy. Shortly after the independence agreement, the Congress Socialist Party, which had until then operated within the Indian National Congress as a recognized affiliate of the Congress, decided to break away and reorganize as the Socialist Party. In doing so, it expressed considerable disillusionment with the nature of the deal which the Congress Party had struck with the British government.

The Bolshevik-Leninist Party held two conferences at which entry into the Socialist Party was considered. The first, in Madras, rejected the action but suggested that advice be sought from the Fourth International.[37] There is no indication that such advice was forthcoming or what it was if it was received. However, Gour Pal has argued that "The BLPI folly of 'entry tactics' must be traced to the Fourth International direction to its colonial units in its resolution adopted in the World Congress in April 1946, as below: Our sections must, furthermore, undertake systematic and patient fraction work within the revolutionary national organizations of those countries, with the goal of creating a Marxist revolutionary tendency within them, to facilitate the leftward development of the revolutionary national elements." [38]

A second conference of the BLPI to consider entry into the Socialist Party, held in Calcutta, likewise rejected the idea, but by a very small margin. After further discussion those who had opposed the idea finally accepted it. As a consequence, negotiations were entered into with Jai Prakash Narayan, Ashoka Mehta, and others in the leadership of the Socialist Party, who finally agreed to accept within their ranks the members of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party. Such entry took place in 1948.[39]

The Indian Trotskyists' first experiment with entrism did not prove to be satisfactory. This was largely a result of the failure of the Socialist Party to develop as the BLPI and the leaders of the Socialist Party expected. As a result of that disillusionment the former Bolshevik-Leninist Party people were within a few years once again organized as a separate party.

When the Congress Socialist Party had broken away from the Indian National Congress Party its leaders had hoped that it would become a major party, offering a Socialist alternative to the increasingly conservative Congress party and government. This did not prove to be the case.

R. N. Arya has sketched the conditions after the achievement of independence which thwarted the hopes of the Socialist Party (and of the Trotskyists within it). He has written that "it was a period of capitalist reconstruction and development after unprecedented destruction during the Second World War. Technological revolution took place which placed capitalism on a new footing. India also shared this general prosperity. Although its share could not be big enough to solve its problems, there was a visible change. Nehru introduced five-year plans and claimed that he was building a socialist pattern of society. The state itself took a hand in the industrialization of the country, established some basic industries, built canals and tubewells for the irrigation of fields, and subsidized small industries. General elections were held every five years and even a Communist Government was permitted in one of the states, giving the illusion of growth, prosperity, stability, and democracy. The political influence of the Indian bourgeoisie strengthened rather than lessened. Reformist illusions spread and overtook even some of the old revolutionaries, who joined the Congress."[40]

In the face of this the hopes of the Socialist Party were smashed. They did very badly in the first post-independence elections in 1952. As a consequence of this, right after those elections the leaders of the Socialist Party decided to merge their organization with a Gandhist breakaway from the Congress Party, the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party, headed by A. Kriplani. As a consequence, the Praja Socialist Party was established.

The Trotskyists refused to go along with this move and maintained their own organization, the Socialist Party (Marxist). The former BLPI members in Calcutta had already broken with the Socialist Party even earlier (1950} and had merged with a faction of the Revolutionary Communist Party to establish the Communist League, with a Bengali paper, Inquilab, as its periodical.[41]

In Delhi still another Trotskyist group maintained the Socialist Party (India), which published an English-language fortnightly paper, Socialist Appeal. The editorial board of the paper consisted of Hector Abhayavardhan, Birendra Bhattacharya, and Sachidananda Sinha. From time to time it carried articles by members of the Socialist Workers Party of the United States.[42]

The Mazdoor Communist Party

Meanwhile there were groups proclaiming allegiance to Trotskyism which had not become part of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party and so had not gone through its experience with entrism. These included the Mazdoor Trotskyist Party and the Bolshevik Mazdoor Party.

The Mazdoor Trotskyist Party was the group which had been organized under the leadership of M. C. Purdy. It had centers of relative strength in the Bombay area and in Hyderabad. Among its leaders in the Bombay region, aside from Purdy, were Ruralidhar Parija, who was active in the Engineering Workers Union; S. B. Kolpe, a journalist and later president of the All India Union of Working Journalists; Thangappan, secretary of the Kamani Metal Industries Workers Union, and Shanta Ben Joshi, also an active trade unionist. Due at least in part to Purdy's influence the Mazdoor Trotskyist Party sought particularly to gain a following among and to support the untouchables and aboriginal groups.[43]

The leaders of the Mazdoor Trotskyist Party suffered the same kind of persecution during World War II as did the other Trotskyist groups, and many of their leaders were jailed until the end of the conflict. M. G. Purdy was kept in prison after most of the rest were released under suspicion that he had been involved in a mutiny on a Royal Indian Navy ship in Bombay early in 1946. He was finally deported as an undesirable alien. Leadership of his group devolved on Mallikarjun Rao of Hyderabad and S. B. Kolpe and M. D. Parija of Bombay.[44]

A second group which did not join in the formation of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party was the Bolshevik Mazdoor Party. It had local units in Bombay, Madras, and some other centers. It published an English-language periodical, Bolshevik Leninist, and a Hindi organ, Age Kadam (Forward March), which continued to be published during and right after the war. In December 1945 the BMP absorbed a split-away group from the Bolshevik-Leninist Party. The BMP claimed to be affiliated with the Fourth International, although there seems to be little evidence that such was in fact the case.

The Bolshevik Mazdoor Party was strongly opposed to entrism. In April 1946, its periodical Bolshevik Leninist criticized the "left petty bourgeois dream of the BLPI to consolidate the left forces in the Congress, and asked 'is it a glimpse of its own character? Is it a continuation of leaning towards the easygoing elements like doctors, professors, and tall-talkers? . . the character of the maneuver shows unmistakable signs of a petty bourgeois leadership in a hurry to manoeuvre with the leftists to achieve sudden balloon-like expansion of the BLP."[45]

The Bolshevik Mazdoor Party and the Mazdoor Trotskyist Party finally merged to establish the Mazdoor Communist Party. Before long this union broke up, however with the elements of the former Bolshevik Mazdoor Party breaking away again to join the Socialist Party (Marxist) after it was established by those who had originally been In the Bolshevik-Leninist Party.[46]

By the mid-1950s there thus existed three groups in India claiming to be Trotskyist. These were the Communist League of India, the Socialist Party (Marxist), and the Mazdoor Communist Party. None of these, apparently, was affiliated with either the International Secretariat of the Fourth International or the International Committee of the Fourth International, the two factions into which International Trotskyism was then split.


In 1955-56 moves were undertaken which were finally to result in the merger of the three Trotskyist parties into a single organization. In the beginning the objective, undertaken on the initiative of R. K. Khadilkar, an M.P. and leader of the Peasants and Workers Party, was the unification of all of the "non-Stalinist, non-reformist groups." It had the support of the leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Tridib Chaudhury (also an M.P.) and of the three Trotskyist factions. However, soon after the negotiations had begun Tridib Chaudhury went to Goa, still under Portuguese control, to help those who were fighting for annexation to India, and was jailed for eighteen months. As a consequence further unity negotiations were postponed until after the 1957 elections.

As a result of those elections the broader unity negotiations came to nothing. The Peasants and Workers Party was virtually wiped out in the election, with the result that Khadilkar joined the Congress Party and became a deputy minister in the Nehru government.

Meanwhile the Trotskyists had already begun cooperating among themselves. S. B. Kolpe had begun to put out a periodical in Bombay, New Perspective, which apparently published articles by members of all three groups. After the collapse of the broader unity talks the three Trotskyist groups sought to bring about their own unification.[47]

Success was finally achieved at a conference from May 31 to June 2, 1958, at which the Revolutionary Workers Party was established. The new party was a merger of the Socialist Party (Marxist), the Communist League, and the Mazdoor Communist Party.[48]

Delegates were present from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bombay, Gujarat, Saurashtra, Madras, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. The meeting adopted a program, a constitution, and a statement of policy. It chose Murlidhar Parija of Bombay, who was at the same time general secretary of the United Trade Union Congress of Bombay, as its general secretary. S. B. Kolpe was chosen as editor of the party periodical, New Perspective, which he had already been editing for some time. Among the other leading trade union figures of the new party were Raj Narain Arya of Kanpur and Somendra Kumar of Bihar.

A report on the founding conference of the RWP published soon afterwards commented: The statement of policy analyzed the situation in India since the "Independence Deal" of 1947, and showed that not a single basic problem of the masses has yet been tackled by the Congress government, nor can be solved within the existing socioeconomic framework. It characterized the major Left, such as the PSP, SSP (Lohia), and CPI, as basically reformist in outlook and as major obstacles to the revolutionary mobilization of the masses against capitalism. It defines the foremost organizational task facing the Indian revolutionaries as the unification of all genuine Marxist forces, now lying scattered in different parts of India, into a single organization, and it expresses the firm conviction that both the objective and subjective factors in the revolutionary process, which are now fast maturing both nationally and internationally, will inexorably drive all these forces ultimately to unite. The RWPI will strive to bring about a speedy consummation of this process.[49]

The RWPI joined the International Secretariat of the split Fourth International. This was the first time since 1948 that the Indian Trotskyists had been affiliated internationally. Their membership in the Fourth International had lapsed when they joined the Socialist Party in 1948, and when the Socialist Party (Marxist) had been established in 1954 it did not seek affiliation with either of the two factions of the FI.

When the three Indian Trotskyist groups established their Unity Committee in 1957 they were approached by Ernest Mandel of the International Secretariat with an eye to their joining the IS. At that time, however, they turned down Mandel's overtures, since they basically sympathized with the International Committee's policies. According to R. N. Arya, "they insisted most on unity in the world movement." Perhaps as a consequence of that desire for unity they finally decided to join the forces of the International Secretariat when the new party was established in 1958.[50]

Entrism Once Again

The Revolutionary Workers Party did not last for long. Once more the Indian Trotskyists attempted to carry out the entrist strategy, this time with one of the two factions into which the Revolutionary Communist Party was divided, that led by Sudhin Kumar.

Gour Pal has written of the beginning of this new entrist experiment:

In 1960 the RCP{K) held its All India Conference in Howrah town, which was quite a sizable gathering, since the Revolutionary Workers Party...that just merged with it, attended the conference in strength... It is queer that the same Stalinist position about peaceful coexistence with capitalism and socialism in one country was accepted, although all the members of the Revolutionary Workers Party, who merged, and attended the conference were avowed Trotskyists, they were the majority of the combined party and they (RWP) claimed that the merger took place on the basis of an agreed program. . Sudhin Kumar was elected party secretary. Five CC members were elected from the ex-RWP members by agreement. In the next general election in 1962, Anadi Das and Kanai Pal (ex-RWP) were nominated by the RCP(K) for Assembly seats of Howrah Central and Santipur, respectively, and both were elected.[51]

The end of this new entrist phase of Indian Trotskyism came as a consequence of the Chinese invasion of India in September 1962 and the reaction of the RCP(K) to that event, The Central Committee of the party adopted a resolution in which it proclaimed that "Peking must not be allowed to develop chauvinism on both sides of the border, with impunity, and hence, must be resisted by Nehru's army, by all means with RCP's full fledged backing." As a consequence of this resolution most of the former RWP leaders and members appear to have resigned from the RCP(K).[52]

The Socialist Workers Party

A new national Trotskyist party was not established until August r 965. It was principally the group in Bombay led by S. B. Kolpe who took the initiative to call a conference in that city which resulted in the establishment of the Socialist Workers Party.[53] Among those attending in addition to Kolpe were Shanta Ben Joshi, Bastant Joshi, and Muralidhar Parija, who was elected general secretary of the new party.[54] Kolpe became editor of Marxist Outlook, the SWP's periodical in Bombay.[55] In 1967, after Gour Pal, formerly a leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, joined the SWP, he undertook to help Kolpe expand the periodical from a magazine appearing every two months to "an agitation propaganda fortnightly." Among those who soon became members of the new party there were a number of editors of political journals published in the Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu languages.[56]

During its early years the SWP was joined by several trade union leaders in the Bombay, Gujarat, and West Bengal areas who had formerly belonged to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the original Maoist group which had broken with the Communist Party of India at the time of the Chinese invasion. These included leaders of textile workers and miners, among others. In West Bengal the party also recruited a number of leaders of peasant and agricultural laborers organizations, composed of members of the CP(M) and of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, among others, who led important strikes of their members in the 1968-70 period in the face of strong opposition from the United Front state ministry.[57]

The Second National Conference of the SWP took place in Baroda (Gujarat) early in February 1968. Gour Pal has written that "the conference finalized a draft program, and took a unanimous stand on various national and international questions, and elected a Central Committee, a Central Secretariat, and Magan Desai as Secretary of the party.[58]

Magan Desai wrote of this conference that "the party has pledged its defence of the property relations in the Soviet Union and other workers states, including Cuba, but has characterized the regimes in Soviet Russia, China, and the East European states, etc., as bureaucratically degenerated workers states. It has called for political revolutions against the bureaucratic privileges and for the revival of workers' democracy in these countries."

Desai also noted that the conference adopted a resolution on "non-Congress governments in several Indian states. It "strongly criticized their opportunist multi-class character and has said that the so-called non-Congress governments—even the left-dominated governments in West Bengal (now dismissed) and in Kerala—have subserved the interests of the capitalist class and played the role of the defenders of bourgeois property relations. . . . The resolution has called for the creation of a united front of workers and peasants parties and for the creation of new organs of mass struggle in the form of workers councils and peoples committees in West Bengal."[59]

Although the SWP condemned the collaboration of self-proclaimed revolutionary parties such as the RCP and the RSP in "bourgeois" governments, neither did it support the more or less spontaneous guerrilla reaction of the Naxalbari dissidents from the Communist Party (Marxist) which arose in the late 1960s. Marxist Outlook of July 1967 said of these movements: "We would....warn the Left CPI militants leading the Naxalbari movement that an isolated peasant struggle cannot succeed unless it is linked with the movements of the working class in the neighboring plantations and in urban areas. The immediate necessity for them is to break decisively with the hypocritical class collaborationist politics of their leaders. Every effort must be made to extend the struggle to other parts of West Bengal and to forge a united front of workers and peasants in their common struggle against the bourgeois state."[60]

At the time of the Second Conference Desai reported, the SWP had "functioning units in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Kerala. He observed that "the party has built a substantial base in the trade union and peasant movement in several states of India."[61]

In terms of political tactics the SWP followed various policies in the different states. For instance, during the early years of its work in Kerala "the SWP functioned as part of the Marxist League of Kerala, which included dissidents from the CPI(M), the CPI, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party..." However, it was announced early in 1969 that "Now the SWP has decided to act on its own in the state." It also decided at the same time to establish a party youth group, the Young Communists (Trotskyists).[62]

In Bombay, on the other hand, according to Gour Pal, the SWP "developed very close fraternal ties with the Maharashtra unit of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India... and the Lal Nishan Party [a Maharashtra-based leftist party]. . . RSP, Maharashtra unit more or less fully endorses Fourth International and SWP theoretical position and program. . . SWP had in 1969 set up a coordination committee of the three parties, which worked for about a year, undertaking seminars demonstrations, study classes, and other activities jointly, including camps...."[63]

The first years of the SWP were marked, as a June 1969 resolution of the party's Central Committee proclaimed, by "a great deal of 'confusion' in left politics. But one positive gain is the open debate now taking place in every left party . . . about the tactics and strategy of the revolutionary movement."

The Central Committee of the SWP added that "the present 'ideological confusion' in the working-class movement can be resolved only in the process of new united struggles of workers, the rural poor, and the radical youth which will throw up a revolutionary leadership guided by the experiences of the Fourth International, which has kept alive the banner of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism in spite of the betrayals of the traditional Stalinist and social-democratic parties on a global scale."[64]

Usually the SWP did not participate in electoral politics with its own candidates. However in state elections in Kerala in 1970 it did run one candidate for the state parliament, M. A. Rappai "a former sawmill worker and now a full-time unionist..."[65] The party issued an "election special" issue of its Malayalam-language periodical Chenkrathir and the candidate conducted a walking tour of his constituency covering some 360 miles. The SWP candidate received 362 votes and was not elected.[66]

At the time of the revolt in East Pakistan in December 1971 which brought Bangladesh into existence, the SWP West Bengal State Committee adopted a resolution in support of the movement for Bangladesh independence. It began "We congratulate and extend our unconditional support to the.... Liberation Forces on their heroic struggle." Then, after charging that "the Indian rulers will not allow any other government than a capitalist one to exist in Dacca," the statement said that "we hope that the Liberation Forces, remembering the mirth and jubilation of the people during 14th August 1947...and the grim aftermath, will march forward to a Red Bangladesh. This will immediately pave the way for a United Socialist Bengal culmination into a Socialist Revolution in the entire Indian subcontinent."[67]

The Communist League of India

The Third National Conference of the Socialist Workers Party met in Bombay during the first week of January 1972. It was attended by delegates from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Kerala, and Maharashtra. Livio Maitan was there representing the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. The most important decision of the conference was to change the name of the organization to Communist League of India (CLI). A new Central Committee was charged with redrafting the program of the party. Magan Desai was reelected Secretary of the Communist League.[68] The name of the party's central organ was changed from Marxist Outlook to Red Spark.[69]

The most important political document adopted at the conference of the Communist League was one dealing with the emergence of Bangladesh. This long document denounced the failure of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal to give adequate support to the Bangladesh independence government. It also said that the Indian government's military intervention and consequent war with Pakistan resulted in "a war between two bourgeois states," and "had its own reactionary features. The military support extended by the Indian government to the freedom struggle in Bangladesh was motivated by the class interest of the bourgeoisie in extending its market and creating a new sphere of investment."

The CLI document also denounced the actions of both the Soviet government in supporting India and the Chinese regime in backing Pakistan. It ended with a list of ten "transitional demands" which included immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Bangladesh, immediate elections "to choose a new Constituent Assembly to draft a socialist constitution for Bangladesh," agrarian reform, nationalization "of all means of production, including land," and "linking up the struggle of the masses of West Bengal with the struggle of East Bengal to establish a United Socialist Bengal.[70]

Soon after the Communist League convention the government called provincial elections throughout the country. The CLI issued an election manifesto on this occasion. It proclaimed that "thanks to the class-collaborationist politics of the traditional left parties they have destroyed the image of an independent working-class challenge to the bourgeois Congress. The masses have lost faith in the bourgeois electoral processes. . . . Under the circumstances, small revolutionary forces represented by parties like the Communist League—the Indian section of the Fourth International—can serve no positive purpose by wasting their limited material resources to fight a costly electoral campaign setting up their own candidates." However, it did call on its followers to "enter the campaign in critical support of the candidates of the working-class parties..."

This electoral proclamation ended by saying, "We reject the theory that socialism can be achieved through bourgeois parliamentary processes. Socialism can be achieved only through revolutionary mass struggles of workers and peasants who must eventually seize control of all means of production, including land, factories, mines, plantations, and all credit as well as financial institutions, through their elected councils. The immediate task is to combat the anti-democratic and repressive measures of the bourgeois state through united struggles of workers and peasants around their immediate social and economic demands, linked with the objective of an anti-capitalist socialist revolution in India."[71]

After the overwhelming victory of Indira Gandhi's Congress Party in the assembly elections, the Communist League passed a resolution assessing the results: "The revolutionary Marxists in India should not be swept away by the seemingly spectacular sweep of the Congress at the polls. They should not have any illusions regarding the ability of the bourgeois state to overcome the present economic crisis...." The resolution warned that "there is every reason to believe that repression by the bourgeois state will be unleashed against mass organizations despite the massive victory of the Congress...."[72]

On June 25, 1975, the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, faced with a deteriorating economic situation and considerable political turbulence, proclaimed an "emergency," virtually establishing a dictatorship. At that point the United Secretariat of the Fourth International issued a document entitled "Rend the State of Emergency in India!" It noted the "attacks against working-class parties like the CPI(M). . . and the banning of several Maoist organizations." It did not mention any action being taken by the Gandhi government against the Communist League, perhaps because the Trotskyist group was not of sufficient significance to have the regime move against it.[73]

An interview "with an Indian Trotskyist" published in January 1976 stressed that the proclamation of the emergency was just the culmination of a number of other repressive measures taken by the Gandhi government. It also criticized the support of the emergency by the pro-Soviet Communist Party of India, and the collaboration of the CPI(M) with conservative opponents of the emergency, in the so-called Janata Morcha. The Indian Trotskyist then noted that "in Baroda there was an example of a principled revolutionary approach, carried out by the Communist League. . . When processions were called earlier against the emergency the Communist League participated, but as a separate bloc, clearly distinguished from the Janata Morcha, and chanting its own independent anti-capitalist slogans. When the municipal elections were called in Baroda, the Communist League was able to field two candidates for municipal council, both of them militant workers participating in the workers committees in their factory that has been fighting against the bonus cuts."[74]

The Communist League was considerably weakened during the emergency period. R. N. Arya has noted that both S. B. Kolpe and former CL general secretary M. Rashid left the party early in 1976, and that six months later Arya himself and Mahendra Singh "also left the party as they felt that the new party had cut itself off completely from the old traditions."[75]

When elections were finally called in March 1977, putting an end to the emergency, the Communist League issued an election manifesto proclaiming that "We the Trotskyists of the Communist League, the Indian section of the Fourth International, view this election as a main battle of the bourgeois parties to sidetrack the consciousness and movement of the working class and the toiling masses." It then listed a series of demands for ending all repressive measures taken before and during the emergency, as well as for liberalization of labor legislation and measures to reduce the cost of living. It also called for "nationalization of all means of production, transport, and communication without compensation under workers control," and "speedy implementation of land reforms through and under the control of democratically elected poor peasants committees."

The Communist League also ran one candidate for parliament in the 1977 election, in Baroda. He was Tlaker Shah, a member of the League's Central Committee, and in charge of the organization's trade union activities.[76]

Although the CLI thus maintained a completely "independent" position in the 1977 election a number of those who had recently left the party did not. Arya has noted that "Trotskyists like Raj Narain Arya and Mahendra Singh in [Uttar Pradesh], Rashid in Kerala, and C. Gomez in Bombay supported the anti-Congress candidates on the slogan of defeating the Emergency regime. They exposed the Janata Front as an equally bad capitalist combination but for the time being committed to fighting the Emergency rule. They kept themselves united to the Janata wagon and when the mass struggles of workers broke out, they were always in them."[77]

R. N. Arya had developed sympathy for and contacts with the Militant Group of Trotskyists in Great Britain. He left the Communist League in 1977. However, instead of trying to organize a separate Trotskyist organization, he decided in 1980 to enter the Revolutionary Socialist Party.[78]

When in January 1980 new elections resulted in the restoration to power of Indira Gandhi and her faction of the old Congress Party, the CLI issued a statement warning that the Gandhi government would probably dissolve all state governments not controlled by the Gandhi Congress faction. The statement added that "While the CL has never placed any political confidence in these governments or extended its support to them since they are capitalist governments administering a capitalist state, the CL opposes any move by Gandhi to dissolve or oust them. The CL urges all left parties and civil liberties groups and mass and class organizations to initiate a mass movement to oppose such sinister moves. The CL also opposes and condemns the preventive detention ordinance and any move to enact such draconian measures."[79]

The Communist League did not get around to holding another national conference (officially referred to as its fourth) until November 1982. That was held at Santipur in West Bengal, and there were representatives from Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Bihar as well as "good participation from West Bengal."[80] Arya has sketched the state of Trotskyism in India by the middle of 1983:

(The] Communist League still continues as a small group in Baroda, Bombay, Samastipur (Bihar), and Calcutta. Some of those who have left CL have formed BLC Bolshevik Leninist Group) mainly centered in Bombay and Kerala. They stand by the Fourth International, CL is the official section of the FI. Another group of Trotskyists functions at Bangalore which follows the Militant tendency of the U.K. Labour Party... U.P. Trotskyists Arya and Mahendra Singh have joined RSP to work for the consolidation of all the forces of socialist revolution.[81]

The Revolutionary Communist Party

One of the two Indian far left parties which is widely regarded by other leftists as being "Trotskyist" but which in fact never belonged to the Fourth International or any of its factions is the Revolutionary Communist Party. This group was organized in August 1934 by Soumeynora Nath Tagore, a delegate to the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 who had opposed the lurch to the Third Period Left being urged by Stalin's associates. The organization originally took the name Communist League.[82] At the Third Conference of the organization in 1938 the name was changed to Revolutionary Communist Party of India (RCPI).[83]

During its first years the Revolutionary Communist Party carried out a wide range of organizing activities. It established unions among unorganized workers and at the same time worked within some of the established labor organizations, it played an important part in the growing student movement, and it had some activity among the peasants.[84]

Although originally established in reaction against the sectarianism of the Commtern's Third Period, the RCPI was equally opposed to the Popular Frontism which succeeded the Third Period. The significance of this in India was its strong and continuing opposition to the Indian National Congress Party. This was seen most particularly in its opposition to the Congress Socialist Party, the leftwing group formed within the Congress. The RCPI leader S. N. Tagore published books denouncing both the Popular Front policy in general and the Congress Socialist Party in particular.[85]

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, which it was felt would bring persecution of such a group as the RCPI, the party developed a three-tier leadership group, the top level of which, composed of its best-known figures, would continue open activity until picked up by the police. A second level of less conspicuous leaders would work clandestinely, and a still lower group, not publicly identified with the party, would take over party leadership if the underground leaders were also arrested. As expected, S. N. Tagore and others were jailed under the Defence of India Act soon after the war began, when the RCPI came out with a statement denouncing the conflict as "an imperialist predatory war for redistribution of the colonial world, and calling on impoverished nations not to help the warmongers. ..."[86]

The RCPI strongly supported the Quit India movement launched in August 1942 by the Indian National Congress Party, but sought to turn it into revolutionary rather than passive resistance channels. This brought even wider arrests of the leaders of the party, most of whom were not released until the end of the war.[87]

As independence approached after World War II the Revolutionary Communist Party began to organize workers and peasants "panchayats," embryonic soviets, in preparation for struggle against the new Congress-controlled government. It developed the idea that on the basis of these groups—which it invited other far left political groups to join and help build—an ultimate Workers and Peasants Constituent Assembly could be established to organize a Socialist India.

On this general position there was no major dissension within the party. However, in 1948 the RCPI split between those supporting Pannalal Das Gupta, who had become party secretary general during the war and had a background as an activist in terrorist organizations before joining the RCPI, and the opponents of Pannalal under the leadership of S. N. Tagore. The Pannalal group extended the panchayat idea to the point of beginning to plan for an immediate violent seizure of power, and collected arms for that purpose. The Tagore faction regarded such activities as adventurist and refused to countenance them. The RCPI National Conference of April 1948 saw the party split into two separate groups, each using the party name.[88]

This split in the RCPI marked the beginning of the decline of the Revolutionary Communist Party. It continued to be divided into the RCPI (Tagore) and the RCPI (Pannalal), the latter becoming the RCPI (Kumar) when Sudhin Kumar succeeded Pannalal Das Gupta as its leader. As we have already noted, the Trotskyists merged for a short while in the early 1960s with the RCPI (Kumar), but abandoned the merger when it endorsed the Nehru government at the time of the Chinese invasion of India in 1962.

Arya, writing in mid-1983, has noted that "Panna Dasgupta himself became a supporter of Nehru when he was released from jail in the early sixties. Whatever remains of this group is led by its lifelong secretary Sudhin Kumar, now a minister in the seven-party Left Front Ministry of West Bengal."

Arya added that "the other group continued to be led by Tagore....Tagore has passed away and his group is now split into two parts. One is led by former MLA Anadi Das, and the other by Bibhuti Bhushan Nandi. Anadi group is opposed to the Left Front government of West Bengal. Nandi group supports the Left Front but is out of it. Both seek to trace the path shown by Tagore."[89]

The Ideological Position of the RCPI

It is clear that S. N. Tagore and those who followed him in the RCPI, felt a certain political kinship with Leon Trotsky and the movement which he organized. They believed in the Theory of the Permanent Revolution; they believed in the need for a new Fourth International. However, they continued to have serious differences with Trotsky, and had no great respect for those who succeeded him in the leadership of the Fourth International.

In 1944 Tagore published a book, Permanent Revolution, where he argued that "the theory of Permanent Revolution has two aspects, one relating to the revolution of a particular country, the immediate passing over from the bourgeois democratic phase of the revolution to the socialist revolution. The second related to the international tasks of the revolution.... which makes it imperative for the first victorious revolution to operate as the yeast of revolution in the world arena... Trotsky became the target of Stalin's vengeance only so far as he drew the attention of the communists throughout the world to the betrayal of world revolution (Permanent Revolution) by Stalin."

Tagore also argued that "the theory of P.R. is not Trotskyism....Lenin was just as much a champion of the P.R. as Trotsky was, and with a much more sure grasp of revolutionary reality. But Trotsky certainly had done a great service to revolutionary communism by drawing out attention over and over again to the theory of Permanent Revolution since Lenin died in 1924, and the sinister anti-revolutionary reign of Stalin started. In the face of the next diabolical machineries of vilification and terror of Stalinocracy, he kept the banner of revolutionary communism flying in the best traditions of Marx and Lenin. Therein lies Trotsky's invaluable service in the theory of Permanent Revolution. So far as the Theory itself is concerned, it is pure and simple revolutionary Marxism."[90]

Whatever regard the RCPI leaders had for Trotsky they did not extend to his Indian followers. Thus, a thesis "The Post War World and India" passed by the Fourth Party Conference of the RCPI, in December 1946, in which was put forward the idea of establishing embryonic soviets throughout the country, commented that "objections to our slogan 'from Panchayats' have been voiced from different quarters. The Indian Trotskyists, who are far away from all that Trotsky really represents, have dubbed our slogan ultraleftism and adventurism...."[91]

In his book Tactics and Strategy of Revolution, published in 1948 when the Bolshevik-Leninist Party was entering the Socialist Party, S. N. Tagore was even harsher towards the Indian Trotskyists. He wrote of "those panicky petitbourgeois capitulators, who so long had paraded themselves as Trotskyists, without having anything to do with the revolutionary teachings of Trotsky, had in the past clung to Trotsky more like religious devotees clinging to their guru, than as revolutionary communists accepting things after critical analysis. They moreover have chosen some mistaken tactics of Trotsky as a justification for their abject capitulation, abandoning all his great teachings on ideological and strategic lines of revolution...."[92]

In the abstract at least the RCPI favored establishment of a new revolutionary International. Thus, the Fifth Congress of the RCPI (Tagore) passed a resolution in 1948 which argued that "since organizing world revolution is possible only through a world party, the development of a revolutionary International is one of the most essential tasks of the revolutionary proletariat of the world in general, and our party in particular.[93]

At its Sixth Congress the RCPI, (Tagore) in February-March 1960 passed a resolution which stated:

Our task in the international field is to work for the emergence of this revolutionary world force.. . To unite and work for the creation of a new International, on the basis of the revolutionary internationalist programme of Lenin and Trotsky....The RCPI hopes for the creation of such an international by mutual exchange of views with the Fourth Internationalist groups in the countries of Europe, America, and China, with the Independent Communist Party of Germany, the Leninist Internationalist Party of France, the Proletarian Revolutionary Party of Tan Malaka in Indonesia, and other anti-Stalinist groups in various countries, professing revolutionary internationalist policy.[94]

One significant point on which the RCPI clearly disagreed with the Fourth International was in its analysis of the nature of the Soviet state and other Stalinist regimes which had appeared after World War II. At its Sixth Conference the RCPI (Tagore) proclaimed: "The Soviet state is no longer a workers' state; it is a state of labor bureaucracy.... antagonistic to the laboring masses in Russia and abroad With regard to China, "Instead of a proletarian Socialist State, the Stalinist 'New Democracy in China prepares the way for an anti-working-class totalitarian, bureaucratic rule of the Stalinist party...."[95]

At its Seventh Congress in November 1961, the RCPI, (Tagore) expanded on its characterization of the Stalinist states. Its resolution, "Revolutionary Communism—The World and India," declared:

Industrial production in Soviet Russia is not Socialist in character as will be clear from the following: 1. The wealth produced does not go to raise the standard of living of the people, but of the bureaucracy....2. People have no democratic voice and control in the productive system. . . . 3. The wage differential in the Soviet society is on the increase. . . . 4. Moreover, the domain of personal property had been enormously extended by the Stalin Constitution. . . . 5. The bureaucracy enjoys powers and immense privileges. 6. . . In the social and political spheres, inequality and curtailment of freedom prevail. . . . There is no freedom of opinion or the press in Stalin's Russia.[96]

Just as in capitalist society, labor aristocracy signifies the existence of a group of people, which though originating from the working class, has separated itself from the working class, likewise labor bureaucracy signifies in Russia and in such other countries, where proletarian revolution has been successful, the existence of a group of persons who, their proletarian origin notwithstanding, have separated themselves from the class....If all this is true, then doesn't the mere fact of the existence of the state ownership of the means of production and the system of planned economy signify that the state is a workers' state? And more so, when it is clear, that the bureaucracy did not sit idle with expropriating the proletariat politically, but had also introduced and continue to introduce profound deformities in the economic life of the country as well.

The Fourth Internationalists have not, while defending Trotsky's analysis of 1934 that the Soviet Union is a degenerated workers state, advanced a single argument of their own by analyzing the Soviet State as it is today. ....A revolutionary international is of utmost importance for the world proletariat. We had therefore welcomed the establishment of the Fourth International. Though we had our misgivings about the actual organizational structure and strength, we hoped that in time....the initial weakness would be replaced by growing strength. For us, what is of primary importance is the ideological stand of the Fourth International.....Till these fundamental differences are ironed out, our party cannot find its way to affiliate itself with Fourth International.[97]

From its analysis of the nature of the USSR and other Stalinist states, the RCPI in its 1961 resolution also drew a policy conclusion which directly conflicted with the position of the Fourth International. It stated that "in case of a war breaking out between the Stalinist Bloc and the imperialist bloc, we support neither of the blocs.... Victory of Stalinism, in our opinion, will be as great a menace to Socialism as the victory of imperialism."[98]

The Revolutionary Socialist Party

The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) has had an even less clear orientation towards Trotskyist ideas than did the RCPI for many years. However, R. N. Arya, a longtime Trotskyist leader who joined the RSP in 1980 without foreswearing Trotskyism, has said that "this group holds positions which are very akin to Trotskyism, and the Stalinists insist that it is a Trotskyist group."

Arya has described the origins of the RSP. He has written that "another group of Marxist-Leninists to turn away from Stalinism was the group of former revolutionaries members of the Anushilan and Jugantar groups of national revolutionaries and of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army or Association who studied Marxism-Leninism in the early 1930s when they were in jail, and decided to function independently of the Communist Party and Communist International."[99]

Most of those ex-"terrorists" came out of jail in the late 1900s, and Tridib Chaudhury, the RSP secretary general, had noted that "all of these revolutionaries would have joined the Communist Party on coming out of jail. But the Communist International had, only a little earlier, under the instructions of the Soviet Russia's Communist leader, Stalin, and in the interests of the self-defense of Russia, adopted the policy of alliance and compromise with British and French Imperialism against Germany in Europe and with American Imperialism against Japan in Asia.....Revolutionary Socialists realized that behind this policy of the Communist International stood largely the national interest of Russia..... This policy the revolutionaries could not accept...."[100]

The Revolutionary Socialist Party was organized in March 1940. Arya has noted that "it is obvious that the revolutionaries who founded RSP....had no idea that a Trotskyist organization, Fourth International, had come into existence in September 1938. At that time Fourth International was confined only to some countries of Europe and North America, and consisted of small groups....But to claim that RSP rejected Trotskyism because one or two leaders of the present RSP find fault with some aspect of the theory of Permanent Revolution advanced by Trotsky is not true. Organizationally, RSP never took any decision about Trotskyism. It has rather invited and wooed Trotskyists into its fold. Even those leaders who object to Trotsky's theory of Permanent not realize that what they follow as Leninism in the light of their own understanding is what Stalinists call Trotskyism, and that Trotskyists themselves claimed Trotskyism to be nothing more than the Marxism-Leninism of the present epoch."[101]

Over the years the Revolutionary Socialist Party has remained the largest of the parties to the left of the Stalinist Communists. They have occasionally been able to elect a handful of members of state legislatures, particularly in Kerala and West Bengal They have also served at least twice in United Left ministries in both states.


For half a century a Trotskyist movement has existed in India. The official Trotskyist organization has never become a major factor even on the far left of Indian politics. Geographically, it has been confined largely to the provinces or states of Bengal, Gujarat, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and, for short periods, Madras. It has had generally unsuccessful experiences with the entrist strategy and has been plagued with the personalism and frequent party switching which seem to be endemic in Indian politics.


[1] R. N. Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India" (Mimeographed-Type Memo, page 8

[2] Gour Pal: "Indian Trotskyism and the Revolutionary Communist Party," (typed Memo), 1983, page B/I

[3] Letter to the author from R. N. Arya, July 15, 1983

[4] Arya, op. cit., page 8

[5] Letter to the author from R. N. Arya, July 15, 1983

[6] Arya, op. cit., page 8

[7] Pierre Broué: "Notes sur l'Histoire des oppositions et du movement trotskyste en Inde dans la première moitié du XXe Siècle," Cahiers Leon Trotsky, Grenoble, March 1985, page 22

[8] Arya, op. cit., page 8

[9] Broué article, op. cit., page 22

[10] Arya Memo, op. cit., page 8

[11] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/1

[12] Arya Memo, op. cit., page 8

[13] Ibid., page 8, and letter to author from R. N. Arya, July 16, 1983

[14] Sherman Stanley: "Report sur l'Inde (12 mars 1939)," Cahiers Leon Trotsky, Grenoble, March 1985, pages 49-54

[15] Leon Trotsky: Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939-40). Pathfinder Press, New York, 1975, pages 28-34, 422

[16] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/I

[17] Arya Memo, op. cit., page 8

[18] See Cahiers Leon Trotsky, Crenoble, March 1935, pages 62-75

[19] Arya Memo, op. cit., page 8

[20] Ibid., page 8

[21] R. N. Arya: "The History of Trotskyism in India," (Typed Memo), I983, page 15

[22] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/2

[23] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 8

[24] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/2

[25] Rodolphe Prager (Editor): Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale, Volume 2: L'Internationale dans la Guerre (1940-1946), Editions La Breche, Paris, 1981, page 57

[26] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/2

[27] Letter to author from R. N. Arya, July 15, 1983

[28] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/3

[29] Cahiers Leon Trotsky, Grenoble, March 1985, page 110

[30] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 10

[31] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/2

[32] Prager, op. cit., page 57

[33] Ibid., page 59

[34] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 10

[35] The New International, New York, January 1946, page 10

[36] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/2

[37] Ibid., page B/3

[38] Ibid., page B/4

[39] Ibid., page B/4

[40] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 13

[41] Ibid., pages 13-14

[42] Socialist Appeal, Delhi, Early December 1983

[43] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/8

[44] Letter to author from R. N. Arya, July 15, 1983

[45] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/7

[46] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 14

[47] Ibid., page 14

[48] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page B/8

[49] Quoted in Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 15

[50] Letter to author from R. N. Arya, July 15, 1983

[51] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page D/79-80

[52] Ibid., page D/80

[53] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 17

[54] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page C/1

[55] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 17

[56] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page C/I

[57] Ibid., pages C/I-2

[58] Ibid., page C/I

[59] World Outlook, New York, March 29, 1968, page 275

[60] Quoted in Arya: "History of Trotskyism in India," op. cit., page 29

[61] World Outlook, New York, March 29, 1968, pages 275-276; see also Arya: "History of Trotskyism in India," op. cit., page 27

[62] Intercontinental Press, New York, January 13, 1969, page 25

[63] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page C/3

[64] Intercontinental Press, New York, November 3, 1969, page 982

[65] Intercontinental Press, New York, September 21, 1970, page 77

[66] Intercontinentol Press, New York, November 16, 1970, pages 989-990

[67] Intercontmental Press, New York, January 17, 1972, page 56

[68] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit, page C/3

[69] Arya: "History of Trotskyism in India," op. cit., page 50

[70] Intercontinental Press, New York, Tanuary 31, 1972, pages 110-111

[71] Intercontinental Press, New York, March 6, 1971, page 247

[72] Arya: "History of Trotskyism in India," op. cit., page 31

[73] Intercontinental Press, New York, August 4, 1975, page 1145

[74] Intercontinental Press, New York, January 12, 1970, page 5

[75] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 22

[76] Intercontinental Press, New York, March 16, 1977, pages 278--280

[77] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op, cit., page 22

[78] Letter to the author from R. N. Arya, February 28, 1983

[79] Intercontinental Press, New York, April 7, 1980, pages 349-350

[80] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page C/3

[81] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit, page 22; see also Arya: "History of Trotskyism in India," op. cit., page 35

[82] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., page D/7

[83] Ibid., page D/13

[84] Ibid., pages D/13-20 and D/33-34

[85] Ibid., pages D/2I--23

[86] Ibid., page D/25

[87] Ibid., pages D/29-32

[88] Ibid., pages D/38-53

[89] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page

[90] Gour Pal Memo, op. cit., pages D/35-36

[91] Ibid., page D/39

[92] Ibid., page D/60

[93] Ibid., page D/57

[94] Ibid., page D/64

[95] Ibid., page D/63

[96] Ibid., page D/65

[97] Ibid., pages D/66-67

[98] Ibid., page D/65

[99] Arya: "Trotskyist Movement in India," op. cit., page 3

[100] Quoted in ibid., page 4

[101] Ibid., page 5

Last updated on: 13.2.2005