Acknowledgments & Preface


Almost all the documents of the period 1917-28 are taken from volumes I, II and III of Dr. G Adhikari’s exhaustive treatise : Documents of the History of the CPI (People’s publishing House, New Delhi). For the years not covered by Dr. Adhikari (1929-39), we have collected the documents from : (i) Ajay Bhavan Library, New Delhi (thanks to comrade PK Balakrishnan, Librarian), (ii) Archives On Contemporary History, JNU Library, New Delhi (thanks to Professor KN Panicker, Chairman) and (iii) Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi (thanks to Dr. Haridev Sharma, Deputy Director). We are happy to acknowledge the comradely help accorded to us by Indrajit Gupta, General Secretary of CPI, in using all materials belonging to the party including those in Ajay Bhavan.

We are also thankful to Arun Ghosh, Deputy Librarian, Centre for Studies in Social Science, Calcutta, and to Ina Bose, widow of comrade Dilip Bose (CPI), for making available their collection of books to us. We have drawn in no small measure on reminiscences authored by several veteran communists and on certain general history books. These are duly acknowledged in appropriate places, but special mention should be made here of Sumit Sarkar’s Modern India (Macmillan).


The history of writing communist history in India on behalf of a Communist Party dates back to 1958, when the Amritsar Congress of the CPI appointed a commission for the purpose. The decision remained on a paper, and in June 1963 the Party’s National Council appointed a more competent commission with Dr. G Adhikari as convener. But sharp ideological-political differences had already cropped up inside the party, leading to a vertical split the next year. In the circumstances it was not possible for the commission to work unitedly, though Dr. Adhikari and some others did make some headway. Then in 1971 Dr. Adhikari, entrusted for the task by the National Council of the CPI, edited and brought out volume one of Documents of the History of the CPI covering the period 1917-25. This excellent pioneering work was followed up by subsequent volumes, but the series was left incomplete owing to Dr. Adhikari’s death and other difficulties. Meanwhile, a serialised article entitled “A New Assessment of the History of the CPI” was published during 1968 in Liberation, which would soon become the organ of the undivided CPI(ML); and Subodh Roy of CPI(M) brought out in the 1970s two volumes of Unpublished Documents covering the period 1924-45.

To fulfill the task taken up by our Party some thirty years ago—a task that has become all the more relevant today in the context of closer interaction of the three streams of communist movement in India—the Central Committee of CPI(ML) Liberation decided to publish a five-volume series covering the entire history of the movement from 1917 to the present times. It appointed a seven-member Panel of Editors to collect, edit and supply introductory notes to all important documents. The Panel is composed of comrades Arindam Sen, Shankar Mitra, P V Srinivasan, Ashok Kumar, Brij Behari Pandey, Ram Jatan Sharma and Partha Ghosh, with the first-named as the General Editor. While specific responsibility for each volume is alloted to agroup of two or three comrades, the entire series is to be a collective production of the Panel.

Now for the political approach and method adopted in preparing this series, Volume I in particular. Convinced of the bright future of communism in India despite all the recent setbacks to world socialism, we have sought to visualise the past from the standpoint of the present in the service of the future. This approach has led us to focus the spotlight on the history of concepts — of evolution of political-organisational line and shifts in that line — and to avoid details on personal factors and organisational tit-bits, for with the passage of time these lose much of their relevance while the former remains as instructive as ever. And since this evolution always takes place both in response to and as a part of changes in the national-international situation, we have also provided an outline sketch of that. In other words, we have sought to study the communist movement not within its own narrow frame, but as a part of the broader political process. This historical perspective and our own observations have been given in the Introduction section. As far as possible in the short space available, we have tried to combine history from above with history from below. That is to say, while devoting primary attention to the study of the political behaviour of parties, political groupings and historical personages, we have tried not to neglect the role of raw social impulses from below in shaping political behaviours and party programmes and policies.

The present volume and the subsequent ones are meant to be primarily a collection of documents, and these have been arranged topicwise in the Documents section under Text I, II, … X, with each document numbered as Text II1, Text II2 etc. In selecting and excerpting documents we have tried to avoid generalities and repetitions and to include everything that had some importance in the given situation, irrespective of whether they go for or against our own observations and whether they appear correct or incorrect from our present positions. Text I and Text X contain what cannot be called, strictly speaking, documents of the communist movement in India, but have been included as necessary reference materials.

During the whole of the period covered by this volume, the Communist International loomed large on the Indian movement and we have to be careful lest we should digress into the exciting side-story of its internal developments. For the period up to 1936 we have had to cite rather too many documents coming from abroad, for documents originating in India were few and far between. After that year, with the re-organised Party centre functioning consistently and energetically, it has been possible for us to base our discussion almost entirely on documents authored by comrades active on the Indian soil and this will continue into our forthcoming volumes.

In reproducing original documents, we have in a few places added a word or two to clarify the meaning or rectify an obvious printers’ error or replace some illegible/torn-out parts. These we have placed in square brackets, occasionally with a mark of interrogation if we are not sure. As far as possible we have left intact old styles, usages etc. in the documents (e.g., the Punjab, to-day and so on). Every document has been referred at some appropriate place or places in the Introduction.

Finally, a few words on the arrangement of the Introduction section. The “Prelude” or Part I covers the period (1857-1917) which provided the backdrops — international and national, conceptual and movemental — to the initiation of the communist movement in India. Part II (1917-25) discusses this initiation and the foundation of CPI out of scattered communist groups. Then comes the two periods of the nascent CPI which marked the two necessary — that is, historically determined — stages in its ideological maturation. First, the period of rapid spread through WPPs accompanied by political dilution (1926-29, covered by Part III) and then one of marginalisation in politics in quest for ideological-organisational purity (1930-34, covered by Part IV). Only on the basis of these two opposite and one-sided experiences did it become possible, during the period covered by part V (1935-39), to evolve a more or less balanced political line which ensured independent assertion within the mainstream of freedom movement. Perhaps this is broadly the way nascent communist movements everywhere come into their own : going to extremes before striking a balance, learning from experiences the hard way and gradually combining firmness in principles and clarity of purpose with tactical flexibility. Anyway, Part V marks the transition from the formative stage to a brand new stage of growth, which is to be dealt with in our next Volume. And while Parts I to V describe the evolution of general political line and activity, Part VI has been appended to deal specially with policies and activities on working class and peasant fronts throughout the years covered by this volume.

Without the sincere cooperation and advice of many comrades and sympathisers both within the Party and outside, and particularly without the back-breaking workload silently shouldered by the Liberation staff, Calcutta, and comrades and co-workers in Samkalin Prakashan, Patna, publication of this volume would never have been possible. This they did and will continue to do in their devotion to the noblest cause of humankind — the cause of communism — and it is not for us to thank them.

For shortage of space we have had to almost leave out many areas which are important by themselves but received little attention from the communist movement in its early stage, such as — States people’s movement, cultural movement, etc. For errors and omissions, the responsibility lies entirely with the undersigned.

Arindam Sen & Partha Ghosh


October 1991