A Positive Programme for Indian Revolution

Programme Examined1

Anikendra Nath Sen

First Published : 1974
Publisher : C. G. Shah Memorial Trust
Transcription/HTML : Mike B. and Salil Sen for MIA, April, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Surprisingly, the Communist Party of India which is generally held to have been founded in 1925, functioned without a formal programme until one was drafted in 1951 and adopted by the third congress of the party in 1953. Political resolutions, Tactical lines and political theses there have been, but these are normally meant to spell out the tactics (which are flexible), keeping in mind the strategy (which is generally not flexible) laid down by the programme.

The first task of a communist party programme is to point out the class character of state power and make a class analysis of society. At the outset, one must say that neither the CPI nor the CPM nor the CPI (M-L) has fulfilled these tasks satisfactorily. Their analyses are generalised and have little statistical basis and do not allow for regional differences.

Class Analysis of Indian State

According to the CPI, state power in India is the class rule of the national (independent) bourgeoisie as a whole. The CPM views it as that of the monopoly (big) bourgeoisie which compromises with imperialism and rules in alliance with the big landowners. The CPI (M-L) sees the government as the rule of the comprador-bureaucrat bourgeoisie (dependent totally on imperialism and Soviet social imperialism) and feudal landlords.

Various justifications are made for these stands. According to the CPI, India, unlike other colonies, had a fairly well developed national bourgeoisie which spear-headed the national movement through the Congress party. This class had amassed capital through war contracts and bought up a number of British firms even prior to independence. They now found that colonialism was acting as a fetter on further investment and expansion of this capital.

At the end of World War II, the CPI believes, with the triumph over fascism, the advent of socialism in East Europe and the upsurge of national liberation movements in South-East Asia, the general crisis of world capitalism (which had begun with the 1917 Russian revolution) entered a new phase. With popular support for the national movement, the British read the writing on the Indian wall and staged a strategic retreat in 1947, hoping to return through the backdoor. India was politically free.

At the same time the British took advantage of the 'dual nature' of the national bourgeoisie (anti-imperialist on the one hand, and prone to compromise with imperialism when the masses threatened to overwhelm it on the other) which was leading the national movement and inserted certain term in the settlement that were patently aimed at serving imperialist interests. The partition of the country was a leading example.

CPI Programme

The programme then proceeds to analyse the present situation confronting the Indian people, an analysis that is as full of contradictions as is the preface to it.

"The state in India is the organ of the class rule of the national bourgeoisie as a whole, in which the big bourgeoisie holds powerful influences."

It also states : "It has been noted that in the capital assets of the corporate private sector, amounting to Rs. 3,000 crores, two monopoly houses (Tata and Birla) alone control Rs. 600 crores.....2 "Mere" influence" over the state apparatus would not have secured this kind of hold. The 'dual nature' thesis which underplays the role of imperialist involvement cannot explain how "foreign private investments have trebled since independence," nor how "the non-banking foreign private investments have now (1968) reached the figure of nearly Rs. 800 crores as compared with Rs. 256 crores in 1948." Further, "the national bourgeoisie in India, in spite of its need for capital and a reliable base for growth, refuses to nationalise the concerns of the foreign trade and some vital lines of production ..." These quotations from the CPI programme show the extent of contradictions within it.

Having correctly stated that the development of capitalism in India depends upon the extent to which agriculture is capitalised, the programme fails to prove that the ruling class has in fact even attempted to change productions in agriculture. "The main aim of Congress legislation has been to replace semi-feudal relations and forms of production in agriculture by capitalist relations and capitalist forms of production." This does not explain why "despite the legal abolition of statutory landlordism, some of the worst forms of semi-feudal exploitation, such as subletting or leasing at exorbitant rents and sharecropping, are still widely prevalent in the erstwhile statutory zamindari areas."

But the Party wonders why government steps to curb usury and establish modern credit institutions have failed. It does not have to look far. It is apparent that imperialism and semi-feudal landlords have a far greater hold on the state apparatus than the CPI makes up.

CPM's Alternative Analysis

For roughly the same reasons, the CPM concluded that :

India was ruled by the big bourgeoisie In alliance with the big landowners, and was compromising with imperialism. The lack of a heavy industrial base as well as a colonial empire have caused the bourgeoisie to use state power in appropriating the capital it needs — through taxation — from the masses. This In Itself negates further industrialisation as the buying power of the masses for consumer goods is correspondingly reduced. At the same time urgently needed land reforms have not been carried out.

Where the CPM fills the gap left by the CPI is in its characterisation of the state sector. Industrialisation takes place In this sector merely because the capital required for such units is too large for private industrialists and the gestation period before these units can show profits is also very long. The CPI merely highlights the "progressive" aspects of the state sector.

The CMP flouders, however, over the question of imperialist penetration. This is not a mere compromise but something imposed from without by the imperialists. Only this can explain the facts in the programme (formulated in 1964): that foreign private investments had increased from Rs. 256 crores to Rs. 761 crores between 1948 and 1961 ; from Rs. 256 crores to Rs. 1,470 crores in the state sector during the same period ; that the total number of foreign collaboration agreements (excluding the socialist bloc) has increased from 81 to 297 between 1957 and 1964; that loans and grants (including PL 480 and 665) up to 1963 totalled Rs. 2658.5 crores.

As regards foreign policy, while the CPI states that this has been sometimes "vitiated by lapses and compromises", on the whole it has been one of peace, non-alignment and anti-colonialism. It highlights the so called 'progressive' aspects and slurs over the compromises. The CMP gives a clearer exposition. It shows that the government's policies are governed by stages of compromise with and opposition to imperialism. On the border dispute with China, while the CPI labels the Chinese as aggressors, the CPM is very evasive.

CPI (M-L) Standpoint

The CPI (M-L) standpoint on the basic issues has undergone several rapid changes. The group took its cue from Mao Tse-tung's New Democracy and other writings. The Party felt that no colony such as India, with 80 per cent, of its population in the rural areas and a relatively backward industrial base, could ever hope to achieve true economic independence without a People's War led by the proletariat and its vanguard and that imperialism continues in modified forms as does feudalism. The fact that feudal/semi-feudal relations dominate the agricultural scene shows that the bourgeoisie is not the sole powers in India, says the CPI (M-L). It believes that no bourgeoisie state can tolerate even the existence of feudal relations as the two are mutually incompatible. On the other hand, the continued existence of feudalism serves the interests of imperialism as it checks the development of an independent capitalist class.

India is, therefore, to the CPI (M-L), a semi-colonial, semi-feudal state, ruled by the comprador-bureaucrat bourgeoisie and the feudal landlord, where the principal contradiction is between feudalism and the masses of peasantry. In uprooting this, the secondary contradiction (that between imperialism and social imperialism on the one hand and between imperialism and the people on the other) would be automatically resolved.

An article by Bhawani Pathak in the second edition of Liberation (the party magazine) showed the existence of a weak national bourgeoisie which would be an ally of the revolution. At a later stage, with the (formal) formation of the Party, this was denied. Any small industrialist was so tied to the chariot-wheels of the big comprador-bourgeoisie for his existence that it was impossible for him to be independent. This analysis shows that the Party failed to realise the existence of a potential ally who may want to seek his Own independence.

The programme laid too much emphasis on the rural front to the detriment of the 20 per cent, that live in the urban areas. No through class analysis was made and the capitalist farming (appropos the green revolution) in Punjab, sections of Andhra, Tamil Nandu, etc was denied. That the bourgeoisie in India is not a comprador in the strict Chinese sense, a pedlar of imperialist goods and capital, was not realised.

National Democratic Front of the CPI

In its analysis, the CPI concluded that before embarking ore the socialist road, India must complete the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist national democratic revolution. In the third stage of the general crisis of capitalism, without any colonial empire and with its ' dual nature ', the bourgeoisie in India was incapable of carrying this out alone. The National Democratic Front led jointly by all anti-imperialist and anti-feudal forces—the working, class, the peasantry (including the rich peasant but not the landlord), the urban and rural intelligentsia and the national bourgeoisie (excluding the monopolists)— would gain power and launch on the 'non-capitalist' path of development. This path is not socialism because it does not ensure social ownership of the main means of production, exchange and distribution and the establishment of a state of workers, peasants and middle classes led by the working class. Neither is it capitalist because it checks the growth of monopoly capital and lays the foundations for socialism.

The CPI's opportunism has led it to enter into electoral alliances with the Jana Sangh in an earlier ministry in Punjab and with the Muslim League in Kerala at present. It is this opportunism which prompts the CPI to call for an "inquiry-committee" when Harijans are burnt alive in Bihar villages. No Marxists-Leninist party has ever dreamt of "sharing power" with the bourgeoisie — such a party is not the vanguard of the proletariat.

People's Democracy of the CPM

The CPM views the Indian revolution as being presently in the agrarian stage directed not only against the landlords and imperialists but also against the Indian bourgeoisie. The present government will have to be replaced by one of "People's Democracy" — a coalition of workers, peasants, urban and rural middle class and smaller sections of the bourgeoisie led by the working class. The CPM programme is more explicit than that of the CPI in so far as it makes distinctions within the peasantry (poor and landless, middle and rich) to point out the firm and the vacillating allies of the revolution.

It is, however, extremely vague about whether India is already an embryonic capitalist state requiring completion of the capitalist revolution or whether capitalism is yet to be established. Are we to remove both feudalism and capitalism at one stock ? Is the contradiction between imperialism and the masses a secondary one or is it fundamental ?

The definition of the People's Democratic Revolution fits in with neither the New Democracy of China nor the National Democracy of the 1960 Moscow Summit of Communist and Workers parties. While rejecting the 'non-capitalist' path of Moscow followed by the CPI, the CPM says that this path is only valid for countries that are even more backward than India, which has a relatively better developed capitalist class. At the same time, it talks of pre-capitalist remnants such as the caste system and communal and tribal institutions. It calls for an agrarian revolution. The analysis only proves that Indian capitalism is far from being well-developed. On the one hand, the party claims to firmly uphold the 1960 Moscow statement and on the other, it rejects both the non-capitalist path of development and the National Democracy thesis (both important points of the statement). The position of the CPM on the Indian revolution is thus extremely nebulous.

It is also very vague about the means to capture state power, rejecting neither the parliamentary path nor the line of armed struggle. In practice, however, it has shown itself to be as opportunist as the CPI in allying itself with the Jana Sangh, the Muslim League and the Congress (O). In Bengal the CPM boycotts the assembly and in Delhi, its MPs are the leading lights in Parliament.

CPI (M-L) Call for Armed Anti-Fendal Sruggle

The CPI (M-L), since it holds the main contradiction to be one between feudalism and the peasant masses, advocates armed struggle in the rural area.

It holds that the establishment of peasant committees in the villages to run the administration following the overthrow of landlord rule, would intensify the class struggle. The peasant committees would be transformed into guerilla squads and a number of villages would combine and form a liberated area. When the guerilla units are forced to confront the state forces (the army and armed police), they will join together to form the People's Liberation Army. In the cities, the workers and revolutionary intelligentsia would carry out militant mass action and sabotage. Revolutionary workers would spread out in the rural areas and intensify and lead the anti-feudal revolution. It would eventually be the countryside that would liberate the cities.

The revolution that would be accomplished would be a New Democratic revolution similar to the 1949 Chinese revolution. Peasants would be given land to satisfy their hunger for land and small traders and businessmen would not be hit at first. The political as well as the cultural revolutions would progress simultaneously. As a result collectivisation would be carried out much faster than in China.

The Party also gave the call to annihilate the class enemy. Unfortunately, an explicit definition of the class enemy was not made and as a result, traffic constables, petty traders and rival party cadres were annihilated by "guerilla squads" in the city. At a later stage, far from organising guerilla units in the rural areas, the cadres concentrated in the city and even there only in certain areas, creating "red terror". This actually amounted to attempts at establishing unheard-of liberated areas in the cities.3

Disputes in the CPI (M-L)

On red bases also, a dispute arose between Ashim Chatterjee and Charu Mazumdar (two leaders of the movement). The former held that the establishment of such bases was an urgent task. The latter insisted that since this was the era of the "downfall of imperialism", it would be the imperialists that would form white bases and the revolutionary forces would encircle and destroy them. This theory, though novel, has interesting possibilities.

Frowning upon too much theory as a petty-bourgeoisie trait, excessive emphasis was placed on "actions". This resulted in the penetration of all kinds of lumpen elements into the Party.

Though traditional trade unionism was condemned as economism, (stress on material and not political gains for the masses), no new approach was laid out. Peasants who wanted to seize hoarded grain from landloards were prevented from doing so for this reason.

Revolutionary theory gave way to political prophecy: "When I say make the 70s the decade of liberation, I cannot see beyond 1975" — Charu Mazumdar. A statement directly in conflict with Mao. Tse-tung's theory of Protracted War.

About the Chinese connection enough has been written. It is sufficient to say that slogans like "China's Chairman is our Chairman, China's path is our path" not only tied the movement down to official Chinese policy (including its foreign policy) but was also criticised by Chou En-lai when a delegation visited China sometime in 1970-71. As a result, the Party had to try and justify Chinese policy vis-a-vis Bangladesh, Ceylon and Sudan.

India a 'Junior Partner' of Imperialism

Today, imperialism wears a new look. It has changed from blatant colonialism to neo-colonialism. To look for it in the same guise as did Lenin and Mao would be erroneous. Today, one sees US B-52s and GIs in Cambodia and Laos. The same country controls Greece, Thailand, the Philippines and several 'anana republics' in South America through a comprador class in the classic sense, with little or no industrial base of their own. In India, the bourgeoisie is not a comprador in this sense but more a 'junior partner' in the world capitalist club. It is allowed some freedom of movement in Africa and South-East Asia. But this does not deny the existence of imperialism in India.

Again, on the agrarian front, one notices a number of regional peculiarities—the plantation type of agriculture in Kerala, capitalist farming in Punjab, the batai system in Bengal and Bihar. Even within these States, one or several of these types operate. Thus, generalisations regardinng the Indian situation do not always hold: they can be superficial and misleading.

Despite the mistakes, despite the fact that the communist movement in India is split, more people have tasted socialism the world over than ever before. The Indian government merely digs its own grave with its loud talk of a 'socialist pattern of society.'


1. Reproduced from "The Call" Volume XXV No. L September 1973.

2. The two houses controls assets nearly 1,100 crores today. (Ed. "The Call")

3. Unconsciously CP (M-L's) tactics in this period resembled Carlos Marighella's ' urban guerilla ' tactics in Brazil. — Ed. "The Call".

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