Agitprop And Party Building

The process of Party reorganisation started in late 1933 (see the chapter from Fragmentation to Reorganisation in Part IV) progressed through the next two years amidst severe repression. After the arrest of general secretary SS Mirajkar at Singapore on his way to Moscow for the Seventh Congress of CI, Somenath Lahiri of Bengal informally took up the charge in the absence of senior leaders like G Adhikari, Muzaffar Ahmad etc. (they were still behind the bars). Towards the end of 1935 a Central Committee session was held in Nagpur. N Zambekar and S Jaymant (Bombay province) PC Joshi and Ajoy Ghosh (UP), P Sundaraya (Andhra, then included in Madras province), Dr Ranen Sen and Lahiri (Bengal) were among those present. Lahiri was arrested in early 1936 while working at the Party Centre in Bombay. At a brief session of the Central Committee held at Lucknow in April 1936 (i.e., at the time of the Congress session), PC Joshi was elected general secretary and this ended the stop-gap arrangements for this crucially important post continuing over the past two-and-half years. According to Dr Ranen Sen, a Political Bureau was also elected, comprising Joshi, AK Ghosh, G Adhikari and RD Bharadwaj.[1] Joshi led the Party in effecting a smooth transition to the new UF line, successfully organised a stable leading group around himself, and held his post for long twelve years.

PC Joshi shifted the Party Centre to Calcutta. The Communist was regularised and its circulation increased. The reorganised CC made a fervent appeal to all Party members as well as “all Communists and Communist groups outside the Party” to unite in the Party on the basis of principled discussion and debates, and where that was not immediately possible, to pave the way to party unity through UF work (see Text III-17). Such appeals had been made also in the past, but the two instruments necessary for the realisation of the same was lacking : a correct political line capable of enthusing all anti-imperialist fighters and a powerful, energetic central leadership. These being available now, a rapid growth in Party activities and membership was reported from everywhere. In Madras province Amir Hyder Khan had been working painstakingly for building up the Party from pre-1934 period, but it was only during this period that the party spread throughout south India thanks to work in the CSP. This process and the most important document on it (Text III20) has already been discussed towards the end of the chapter Growing Leftism … And the UF Line. In Bihar the Party was founded by Sunil Mukherjee on the basis of the Purnea peasant movement. In Punjab the Party organisation progressed under the leadership of Sohan Singh Josh and gradually future leaders like Harkishen Singh Surjeet, Zainul Abedin Ahmed and Satyapal Dang came into its fold. The same story was repeated in other regions also. Among political prisoners in the Andamans and elsewhere, study of Marxism and communist literature had been spreading since 1933-34 and a very large number of them — particularly from Bengal — progressed from patriotic terrorism to communism thanks to the new line of the Party. Among these recruits, many became prominent leaders, such as Mani Singh (later leader of the Bangladesh party), Bhowani Sen, Promode Dasgupta etc. A Number of brilliant students from well-to-do families became communists in England around this period and actively joined the movement when they returned home. Dr. ZA Ahmad, Sajjad Zaheer and Jyoti Basu were among them, to name a few. Some recruitment was also made from different left groups like the Labour Party in Bengal.

Along with expansion, care was taken also for restructuring and consolidation. The neto Political Bureau issued a “Circular On Party Reorganisation” in August 1936 which laid out detailed plan for this (Text III-18). Special emphasis was placed on collective functioning of leadership, scientific division of work and formation of auxiliary cells (in addition to regular ones) for new recruits.

A very important role in the Party’s growth was played by the expansion of what was called agitprop (agitation + propaganda) instruments in those days. In addition to a boom in leaflets, pamphlets and public speeches by communists working in the Congress and various mass organisation, a new stage was reached in the party’s magazine network. The weekly National Front began to be published from Bombay (where the Party Centre had been shifted a few months ago) since February 1938 and became the Parry’s most successful news-magazine upto that time. It could not openly identify itself to be a CPI organ, but played that role with its wide coverage and authoritative articles by Party leaders. The editorial board was composed of Joshi (chief editor), Adhikari, Ghosh, Dange and Muhammaduzzafar. A theoretical monthly entitled New Age with SV Ghate as editor was also started about this time. Its periodicity could not be strictly maintained and it was discontinued in the middle of 1939. A number of magazines in Indian languages were brought out or restarted, such as Ganashakti in Bengal, Prabhatam in Malayalam, Kranti in Marathi, Navasakti in Telgu and Janasakti in Tamil.

Since 1936 the Party was functioning in a semi-legal manner, but it kept up the pressure for legalisation. JP Narayan and PC Joshi issued a joint call to observe March 20,1938 as an all-India on this demand. Swami Sahajanand were among those who issued messages supporting this call (see Text III-19). But the ban on the party continued, to be lifted after some three years under a completely different set of circumstances.

* 1. See the Bengali book Banglaye Communist Party Gathaner Pratham Yug (The First Period of Party Building in Bengal), published by Bingsha Satabdi (Calcutta, 1981).