Independent Initiative and United Front: 1935-39

During the Countdown to the Second World War

From the early 1930s, a series of aggressions and interventions — by Italy in Ethiopia, by Italy and Germany in the Spanish Republic, by Japan in China, by Germany in Austria, then Czechoslovakia and finally Poland —, slowly but steadily pushed the world to a new great war. The responsibility lay not only with the fascist aggressors and the Japanese militarists, but also with other imperialist powers which had been pursuing a policy of shameless appeasement with an eye to egg nazi Germany on to aggression against the USSR. The specific events relating to the Second World War are too well known to be recounted here, and we go over to a brief discussion of CPI’s position on war and peace and the communist movement during the 4-5 months just before the world conflagration began in early September, 1939. Anti-war mobilisation The CPI for a long time past had been carrying on anti-war propaganda. For instance, an article on this topic in The Communist, April 1937 observed : “… active opposition to war preparations by the masses, and the mobilisation of the masses to fight for peace is the essence of our tactics. And for us, in India, this activity, this dynamic attitude towards the question of peace, is closely united with the building up of the Anti-Imperialist UF.” Also there was a regular flow of materials expressing international...

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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....

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CPI And the Congress : 1937-39

Having already studied the experience of Congress ministries, we can now take up the important CPI documents on this score and on relations with the Congress in general. The general approach adopted by the CPI, as laid out in the “Draft Thesis on Congress Ministries and Our Tasks” (Text VII-14), was to put popular pressure on the ministries (from both outside and inside the legislatures, mainly the former) for fulfilling the election promises in letter and spirit. The repressive measures were to be actively repulsed by utilising “the anti-police and anti- bureaucracy sentiments of the Congress-minded public, and always enlisting the sympathy of the Congress rank and file …”. As an editorial note in New Age of January 1938 reaffirmed, the CPI “joined the Congress [not] as a matter of grace but as apart of our policy to develop it into the United National Front of the Indian people.” (see Text VI-30). The Haripura Congress session (February 1938), to which the CPI issued a manifesto upholding the role of workers’ and peasants’ struggles in the UNF and criticising pro-zamindar, pro-capitalist tendencies in the Congress, saw Bose smoothly succeed Nehru as the Congress president for 1938. The next month New Age came out with the lead article : “Haripura — A Step Forward”. “It was an instance of the entire national ranks, from the extreme right to the extreme Left,...

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Growing Leftism in National Politics And the UF Line

The second half of the 1930s has been widely acclaimed as one of the richest periods in left politics in India. Workers’, peasants’, students’ and cultural movements took giant strides in a fine combination of the movement for national emancipation and those for socio-economic emancipation and progress. The general leftward shift was reflected in a remarkable expansion of the INC, the growing militancy of its ranks and local leaders and the consecutive election of the two most known ‘leftists’ — Nehru and Bose — to the presidential chair of the Congress. Nehru’s fiery ‘socialist’ speech at the Lucknow session and his role as Congress president as mentioned earlier both reflected and contributed to the growing left mood. All this found a continuity in Subhas Bose, who even contributed a few write-ups to the communist weekly National Front. Another mark of the leftward shift was evidenced in the rapid growth of the CSP. At its second conference held in Meerut in January 1936, the party held out a warm invitation to communists to join the CSP. The response was lukewarm at first, but when the new UF line reached India, the CPI enthusiastically grasped the opportunity to develop left unity and at the same time work within the Congress. It was in this particularly conducive political setting that the communist movement in India finally embarked on a new course of...

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The Congress And Parliamentarism

Just as the termination of the Non-Cooperation Movement had been followed by an intense debate over council entry, so the phased withdrawal of the CDM during 1933-34 led to a similar polemics within the Congress and outside it. Like the Swarajists of 1920s, leaders like MA Ansari, C Rajagopalachari, Bhulabhai Desai, Satyamurthi and BC Roy advocated work in the legislature not, as they claimed, from any constitutional illusions, but for preparing the people and the Congress organisation for the next phase of mass struggle. The opposition, though much milder this time, came from Gandhi, Sardar Patel and others who were for satyagrahas and reform work in villages. But unlike in the 1920s a third, left alternative pronounced itself — firm rejection of the the British trap to absorb the nationalist movement in that very colonial state machinery which it purported to overthrow, and continuation of extra-parliamentary mass struggle. Thanks to Gandhi’s efforts, before the end of 1934 a patch-up was effected between the two sections of the Congress and the party decided to contest elections unitedly, as we have already seen. Then in August 1935 the British parliament imposed on the nation the notorious Government of India Act. The Act had two components. One, the “Federal Plan”, was an All-India Federation in the shape of a bicameral Central Legislature with representatives from (a) British Indian provinces — elected by...

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Rise of Fascism And the Seventh Comintern Congress

If the early 1930s saw a high tide in the class struggle of workers directed against the bourgeois attempt to shift the burden of the “Great Depression” on to their shoulders, it also saw the most heinous imperialist reaction to both the workers’ struggle and the capitalist crisis. This was fascism, the undisguised terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most aggressive elements of finance capital. By 1935 it was firmly saddled in power in Germany and Italy and became a major threat in France, Austria, Spain etc. The fascists in every country spearheaded their attack, both at home and at the international level, against the working class, the communist party and Bolshevism. On October 25, 1936 the war-lords of Japan joined the Nazi Reich in signing the anti-Comintern pact. The, need was increasingly being felt to develop, as an antithesis to fascism, a broad unity of all political forces threatened by it — most notably the communists, social-democrats (S-Ds) and bourgeois liberals. In France workers under the influence of S-Ds joined forces with the followers of the French Communist Party in repulsing the first major attacks of fascism in 1934. By contract in Austria, where the communists were numerically insignificant compared to the S-Ds who ignored the former’s calls for joint action and took initiative too late, the fascists drenched a heroic workers’ resistance in blood....

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PART- V : Independent Initiative and United Front (1935-39)

During 1930-34, the CPI proved to be much less mature in dealing with the Congress, its traditional contender for leadership in the freedom movement, than the situation and national mood demanded and so remained a peripheral force. In the period we are entering upon, this weakness was largely overcome — now it was the turn of the communists to grow apace, drawing nourishment from the national mainstream, thanks to a new UF line. Rise of Fascism and the Seventh Comintern Congress The Congress And Parliamentarism Growing Leftism in National Politics And the UF Line Agitprop And Party Building During the Countdown to Second World...

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LIBERATION - Central Organ of CPI(ML) October 2017

LIBERATION - Central Organ of CPI(ML) October 2017