Radical Politics in West Bengal 9780262060400, 026206040X


340 90 5MB

English Pages [301] Year 1971

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Recommend Papers

Radical Politics in West Bengal
 9780262060400, 026206040X

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

RADICAL POLITICS IJV

\

WEST BENGAL

Center fo r International Studies, Massachusetts Institute o f Technology

Studies in C om m unism , R evisionism , and R evolution (form erly Studies in International Communism) W illiam E. G riffith, g en eral ed ito r 1.

A lb a n ia a n d th e Sino-Soviet R ift William E. Griffith (1963)

2.

C om m unism in N o rth V ie tn a m P. J . Honey (1964)

3.

T h e Sino-Soviet R ift William E. Griffith (1964)

4.

C om m unism in E u ro p e, V ol. 1 William E . Griffith, ed. (1964)

5.

N atio n alism a n d C om m unism in C hile Ernst Halperin (1965)

6.

C om m unism in E u ro p e, V ol. 2 William E . Griffith, ed. (1966)

7.

V iet C ong: T h e O rg a n iz a tio n a n d T ech n iq u es of the N a tio n a l L ib e ratio n F ro n t o f S o u th V ie tn a m Douglas Pike (1966)

8.

Sino-Soviet R elations, 1964-1965 William E. Griffith (1967)

9.

T h e F re n ch C o m m u n ist P a rty a n d the Crisis of In te rn a tio n a l C om m unism Frangois Fejto (1967)

10.

T h e N ew R u m a n ia : F ro m P eople’s D em ocracy to Socialist R ep u b lic Stephen Fischer-Galati (1967)

11.

E conom ic D evelopm ent in C o m m u n ist R u m a n ia John Michael Montias (1967)

12.

C u b a : C astroism a n d C om m unism , 1959-1966 Andres Suarez (1967)

13.

U n ity in D iversity: Ita lia n C om m unism a n d the C om m unist W orld Donald L. M . Blackmer (1967)

14.

W in ter in P ra g u e: D ocum ents on Czechoslovak C om m unism in Crisis Robin Alison Remington, ed. (1969)

15.

T h e A ngolan R ebellion, V ol. 1: T h e A n ato m y of a n E xplosion John A. Marcum (1969)

16.

R a d ic a l Politics in W est Bengal Marcus F. Franda (1971)

RADICAL POLITICS i?

'

IN* WEST BENGAL Marcus F. Franda

T h e M.I.T. Press C am bridge, M assachusetts, an d L ondon, E ngland

C o p y right © 1971 by T h e M assachusetts In stitu te of T echnology Set in Baskerville by W o lf C om position Co., Inc. P rin te d a n d b o u n d in th e U n ite d S tates o f A m erica by K in g sp o rt Press All rights reserved. N o p a rt of this book m ay be rep ro d u c ed in an y form or by an y m eans, electronic or m echanical, in clu d in g photocopying, recording, or by an y info rm atio n storage a n d retriev al system , w ith o u t perm ission in w ritin g from the publisher. ISB N 0 262 06040 X (hardcover) L ib ra ry of Congress catalo g c a rd n u m b e r: 76-138839

To Sarriaren and to Memories of Adda and Chingri Mach in Behala

Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2017 with funding from China-America Digital Academic Library (CADAL)

CONTENTS

T a b le s a n d F ig u res

ix

A c k n o w le d g m e n ts

xi

A b b r e v ia tio n s 1. In tr o d u c tio n

xiii 1

2. P a rty L e a d e r s h ip : S o u rces o f E lite R e c r u itm e n t T h e Bhadralok in T w en tieth -C en tu ry Bengal '-^Communism and the Bhadralok E lite R ecru itm en t and C om m unist Ideology

5 7 13 41

3. F a ctio n a l C on flict a n d P a rty O r g a n iz a tio n P arty U n ity and an Insurrectionist Strategy P arty Factionalism an d E lectoral Politics M em bership R ecru itm en t an d the Decline of the R ight Faction A gitational Politics and the Left Faction T h e Independence of the Electoralists F actional Conflict an d Electoral Politics

45 47 52 60 64 73 80

* /4 . S in o-S oviet C on flict an d th e S p lit T h e R ole of the State P arty O rganization T h e R ight Faction Bids for C ontrol C entrist A ttem pts at M ediation T h e Consequences of the Split

82 86 98 104 110

5. E le c to r a l P o litic s a n d P o litic a l P o w er P arty Clusters Electoral Alliances R ebuilding P arty S upport

114 114 121 128

CONTENTS

v iii

T h e C ontext of E lectoral A lliances: P arty Factionalism and Food Policy y T h e A lliance w ith the Bangla Congress Conclusions 6. P o litic a l P o w e r a n d th e R e v o lt o f th e M a o is ts T h e Left Faction an d Political Pow er T h e N axalbari M ovem ent ' T h e F orm ation of the C P M L T h e P rogram of the C P M L T h e Im p a c t of the C P M L

y 'l . T h e C PM a n d P a r tia l P o litic a l P o w e r The The The The T he

P easant F ront T rad e U nion F ro n t C PM an d the State C oalition C P M an d N ational Politics C P M and E xternal C om m unist Parties

135 141 147 149 150 152 168 172 176 182 184 190 196 201 208

8. T h e CPI a n d N a tio n a l C o a litio n B u ild in g R egional Factionalism Since the Split C P I Strategy in W est Bengal T he C P I an d the Congress Split Problem s of Left U n ity

215 216 221 232 238

9. C o m m u n is m in a B en g a li E n v ir o n m e n t T h e R egional M oorings of Bengali C om m unism T h e Search for a N ational S trategy In tern atio n al Politics and the Q uestion of Pakistan Conclusions

242 244 252 258 268

10. P o s ts c r ip t: 1970-1971 In d ex

270 281

TABLES

, K

1. R u ral, U rb an , an d A gricultural L ab o r Com position of W est Bengal’s Five Southern Districts

79

2. Percentage of V alid Votes Polled by C om m unist Parties in In d ian State Legislative Assembly Elections (1952—1969)

91

3. Percentage of Votes Polled by Political Parties in W est Bengal Legislative Assembly Elections (1952-1969)

116

4. N um ber of Seats W on by Political Parties in W est Bengal Legislative Assembly Elections (1952-1969)

118

5. Differences in Votes Polled by M ajor Parties in W est Bengal Legislative Assembly Elections (1962 an d 1967)

125

6. Differences in N um ber of Seats W on in W est Bengal Legislative Assembly Elections (1962 an d 1967)

126

7. W est Bengal M arketable Surplus T able, P addy Procurem ent O rder, D ecem ber 1966

139

8. Indices of T ra d e U nion A ctivity in W est Bengal

193

9. Electoral Positions of M ajor In d ian Parties (1967)

222

10. Election Results, East Pakistan, D ecem ber 1970

270

11. Election Results, W est Bengal Legislative Assembly, M arch 1971

274

12. L eading Electoral Parties in W est Bengal by D istrict, 1971 Legislative Assembly Elections

275

FIGURES 1. Leftist Electoral Fronts in W est Bengal (1952-1969)

124

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

■t X

This study is th e result of a personal involvem ent w ith Bengal th a t began eleven years ago. Since the tim e w hen I first becam e interested in Bengali a t the U niversity of Chicago in 1959, I have been fascinated, astounded, an d confused by the twists an d turns of radical m ovem ents in the region. Eventually, I suppose, anyone who has done extensive research on m odern Bengal w ould be driven by curiosity to exam ine the n a tu re of radical politics in some detail, since radicalism is so intricately related to the political an d social life of the Bengali people. Because this is a study th a t was done over an extensive period of tim e, it w ould be im possible to acknow ledge fully the assistance I have received in collecting data. T o acknow ledge all the sources of w hat appears in the following pages w ould require an o th er volum e, perhaps larger th a n this one, an d to acknow ledge even the m ajor sources of m y eleven-year education in Bengal studies w ould occupy a t least a fat chapter. I have tried to indicate in the footnotes the sources of infor­ m atio n th a t w ould be m ost valuable for future scholars, an d I will m ake one personal acknow ledgm ent, to m y wife V onnie, who undisputably contributed m ore to the com pletion of the m anuscript th a n anyone else. I m ust also acknow ledge the help o f the Colgate U niversity R esearch Council, w hich co n trib u ted funds for portions of the study, an d the perm ission of the editors of Asian Survey, Pacific Affairs , an d the Journal o f Commonwealth Political Studies to use m aterials th a t originally ap p eared in their periodicals. Professors W illiam E. G riffith an d M yron W einer of the M assa­ chusetts Institute of Technology were especially im p o rtan t in en­ couraging publication, since they m ade it possible to secure funds and office space from the C enter for In tern atio n al Studies a t M .I.T . w hen the study was u n d er way. M in a Parks an d R obin R em ington of M .I.T . were very helpful in providing typing and editorial assistance. In this connection I m ust also acknow ledge an indirect debt to the late M ax F. M illikan. I am deeply grateful for the o p p o rtu n ity to be associated w ith the center th a t was his creation. C am bridge, M assachusetts

J u ly 1970

ABBREVIATIONS

AIGG AIGGCR

AIKS AISF AITUG GCP GEG GIA GMPO GPGB GPI GPM GPML GPSU GRP DMK E PA L FB FBM FBR GL IAS IGS INA INDF KMPP LSS MLA MP NAP NEFA PGG

A ll-India Congress C om m ittee A ll-India C oordination C om m ittee of C om m unist R evolu­ tionaries A ll-In d ia K isan S abha A ll-India S tudent F ederation A ll-India T ra d e U nion Congress Chinese C om m unist P arty C entral Executive C om m ittee C entral Intelligence Agency C alcu tta M etropolitan P lanning O rganization C om m unist P arty of G reat B ritain C om m unist P arty of In d ia C om m unist P arty of In d ia -M a rx ist C om m unist P arty o f In d ia-M arx ist-L en in ist C om m unist P arty of the Soviet U nion C entral Reserve Police D rav id a M u n etra K azag h am E ast Pakistan A w am i League F orw ard Bloc F orw ard B loc-M arxist F orw ard Bloc—R u ik ar G u rk h a League In d ia n A dm inistrative Service In d ia n Civil Service In d ia n N ational A rm y In d ia n N ational D em ocratic F ront K isan M azdoor P raja P arty Lok Sevak Sangh M em ber of the Legislative Assembly M em ber of P arliam ent N atio n al A w am i P arty N ortheast F rontier Agency P radesh Congress C om m ittee

xiv

ABBREVIATIONS

PGP

Pakistan C om m unist P arty Code initials used b y the c p m faction in th e united c p i in 1964-1965 . Price Increase an d Fam ine Resistance C om m ittee Progressive M uslim League ' . Provincial O rganization C om m ittee P raja Socialist P arty People’s U n ited Left F ro n t . People’s U n ited Socialist F ro n t R evolutionary C om m unist P arty of In d ia R evolutionary Socialist P arty S am yukta Socialist P arty Socialist U n ity C entre S am yukta V idhayak D al U n ited F ro n t U n ited Left D em ocratic F ro n t U n ited Left Election C om m ittee U n ited Left F ro n t U n ited Socialist O rganization of In d ia W est Bengal W est Bengal N on-G azetted Police Em ployees’ C om m ittee W est Bengal Police Association W orker’s P arty of In d ia

PGZ

PIFRG PML POG PSP PULF PUSF RGPI RSP SSP SUG SVD UF U LDF ULEG ULF USOI WB W BNGPEG W BPA W PI

1

INTRODUCTION

Political parties are often viewed as institutions or organizations designed to prom ote social an d econom ic interests, or as m echanism s for the expression an d m anagem ent of conflict. Studies of A m erican an d British political parties usually take it for gran ted th a t the political systems in w hich parties operate are accepted as legitim ate by the populations involved, th a t people are loyal to the nation-state, an d th a t the actors w ithin a given p arty system are in agreem ent on the n atu re of the relations th a t should exist am ong political participants. B ut such assum ptions are no t valid for all p arty system s: they w ere not valid a t all times d uring the evolution of m odern states, an d they are not valid for m uch of Asia an d Africa today. Political parties in Asia an d A frica have frequently diverged m ore in their conceptions of legitim acy d uring the past few decades th a n parties th a t have p a rti­ cipated in m ore established political systems. Since no set “ rules of the gam e” have been established for p arty systems in independent Asia an d A frica, political parties in these areas have h a d to form ulate their own rules, an d once a p arty has established itself in pow er, it has often come to reg ard its own form ulations as binding on all other parties operating w ithin the newly independent political environm ent. A t the same tim e, there has been m uch experim entation, conscious a n d unconscious borrow ing from W estern modes of political organi­ zation, an d g reat confusion an d turm oil. A m ong newly independent states, In d ia enjoys one of the few political systems dom inated by a highly institutionalized political p a rty basing its claims to pow er on electoral dem ocracy. T h e Congress party, w hich was form ed in 1885 as a platform for In d ia n nationalists, has w ithout question been the single m ost im p o rtan t institution in governing In d ia since 1947, an d both wings of the p arty are still attem p tin g (since the split in 1969) to institutionalize channels of electoral p articip atio n an d to get them accepted by m ore an d m ore citizens in a highly diverse n atio n .1 Essentially an aggregative m ovem ent, the Congress 1 O n e o f th e m ost concise statem ents o f Congress p a rty attitu d e s to w ard political p a rtic ip a tio n c an be fo u n d in M y ro n W einer, Congress Party Elites (B loom ington: In d ia n a U niversity D e p a rtm e n t o f G o v ern m en t, 1966); see especially pp. 1-2 an d 17-19.

2

INTRODUCTION

since Independence has stood against revolution, agitation, and insurgency, has attem p ted to sm ooth over conflicts th a t m ight lead to the collapse of the p arliam en tary system or to civil w ar, an d has provided w idespread opportunities for Indians to take p a rt in the electoral process. T here are m any political parties in In d ia th a t do not share these conceptions of legitim ate political p a rty activity. M an y Indians feel th a t the electoral system has been representative of too,few interests; m any feel th a t it has been representative of too m any. Some argue th a t the system in p articu lar states (or perhaps even at the national level) has been im posed by m easures th a t have been exceedingly repressive; others argue th a t In d ia ’s elected governm ents have been w eak an d vacillating, unw illing to use repressive m easures w hen such m easures are necessary. A lm ost everyone in In d ia inveighs against the “ co rru p tio n 55 of Congress regimes, very frequently m eaning by “ co rru p tio n 5’ the operation of an elaborate system of political p a tro n ­ age. A t the same tim e, alm ost everyone in In d ia m ust necessarily engage in “ co rru p t’5 practices if he is to get anything done. J u s t as the Congress m ovem ent has increasingly sought to organize all the citizens w ho have an interest in m ain tain in g the system th a t it has established, even attem p tin g to a ttra c t the p articip atio n of opposition groups, m any opposition parties have tried to organize large num bers of citizens w ho have an interest in doing aw ay w ith the system itself. I t is in this context th a t the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties in In d ia have given expression to rath e r w idespread feelings ch arac­ teristic of the country’s political life. T o label In d ia ’s C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties as political groups bent only on the destruction of electoral dem ocracy w ould be highly m isleading, however, since alm ost all of these parties have p articip ated extensively in electoral politics at all levels of governm ent. T here is no question th a t they have derived some of th eir inspiration from indigenous and foreign political m ovem ents th a t have sought to w eaken the In d ian electoral system an d p arliam en tary governm ent, b u t a t the same tim e m any of these parties have gained supporters precisely because of their successful p articip atio n in electoral dem oc­ racy. T h e resulting political situation is characterized by a dynam ic an d fluid struggle for power, in w hich both Congress an d com m unist elites are constantly revising their strategies, tactics, an d goals. W hile it is conceivable th a t large segments of the Congress m ovem ent could becom e disenchanted w ith the Congress “ system” an d join the revolutionaries of the Left (or of the R ig h t), it is also conceivable th a t significant segments of the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties

INTRODUCTION

3

could be w on over to electoral dem ocracy an d a p arliam en tary form of governm ent. T h e study of com m unism in this environm ent poses enorm ous problem s for research, an d p articu larly in states w here C om m unist parties have come to power. O ne m ust be fam iliar not only w ith the com plicated regional politics of a p articu lar linguistic area w ithin In d ia b u t w ith the politics of the reist of the heterogeneous In d ian U nion since 1947, an d w ith the polycentric tendencies of com m unism an d socialism in this century. These problem s becom e especially form idable w hen an area as large and as im p o rtan t as Bengal is involved. Considering the fact th a t Bengali is a language spoken by m ore th a n 100 m illion people (only six of the w orld’s languages are spoken by m ore), it is not surprising th a t each of the four largest nation-states besides In d ia (C hina, the U n ited States, the Soviet U nion, and Pakistan) has an abiding interest in the political affairs of this region. T o the com plex of research factors ju st m entioned, one m ust therefore ad d the ad d itio n al factor of in ternational politics, w hich have com e to play a large p a rt in m odern Bengali political life. This book represents an a tte m p t to u n d erstan d th e various forces im pinging on the com m unist m ovem ent in Bengal by focusing both on the actors and on the setting, on the C om m unists as political calculators an d on the environm ent (regional, national, and in ter­ national) in w hich they have their origins. W hile the scope of th e study includes the M arxist Left, m ore atten tio n m ust necessarily be paid to the Com m unists because of their central im portance in organizing all the leftist parties in the Bengali-speaking region. Some atten tio n is given to the organization of C om m unist an d leftist parties in East Bengal (now in Pakistan), b u t the em phasis is on post-Independence com m unism in India. M y principal concern thro u g h o u t has been to try to determ ine the extent to w hich the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties in W est Bengal have been able to m odify the basic political alignm ents th a t cam e into being w ith Independence. I do not claim to have w ritten a history of th e com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal. Some of the principal sources for a historical analysis have been m entioned in the footnotes, b u t a com prehensive history w ould require a m uch closer look a t textual m aterials and m ore au thoritative d ata from in n er-p arty docum ents. W h at this volum e represents is an attem p t to answ er three broad an d im p o rtan t sets of questions: (1) W h at are the sources of com m unism in W est Bengal? W hy have Bengalis been so active in the com m unist m ovem ent while other Indians have for the m ost p a rt sought alternative outlets for political expression and p articip atio n ? (2) W h at are Bengali Com-

4

INTRODUCTION

m unists attem pting to accom plish an d how do they go ab o u t it? (3) W h a t has been th e im p act of the Bengali com m unist m ovem ent on state an d national politics, an d on the Com m unists themselves? T h e next chapter seeks to describe the elite n a tu re o f the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal an d the m ajor sources of leadership recru it­ m en t p rio r to Independence. Sources of elite recruitm ent, I argue, have given rise to the m ajor factional cleavages w ithin the present C om ­ m unist parties. C hapters 3 an d 4 indicate ways 'in w hich the experience of the Com m unists in electoral politics, w hen coupled w ith th eir attachm ents to M oscow a n d Peking, have intensified the factionalism th a t was in h eren t in th e m ovem ent before Independence. W hile C h ap ter 2 is a response to th e first set of questions, C hapters 3 an d 4 try to answ er the second. T h e rem ain d er of the book deals w ith the th ird set o f questions: C h ap ter 5 traces the im p act o f C om ­ m unist factionalism on the electoral politics of the state; C hapters 6 through 8 seek to u n d erstan d the m ajor strategies th a t have resulted from the decision o f the C om m unists to enter the m inistries. T h e final ch ap ter provides a sum m ary an d suggests some hypotheses for future research.

2

PA R T Y LEADERSHIP: SOURCES OF ELITE RECRUITMENT

W est Bengal is one o f two states in the In d ia n U nion in w hich In d ia ’s C om m unist parties have shared in the decision-m aking pow er of the m inistries. F rom M arch 2, 1967, w hen the Congress p arty of W est Bengal failed for the first tim e since Independence to gain a m ajority in the state Legislative Assembly, until N ovem ber 21, 1967, w hen the governor of the state appointed a successor m inistry, W est Bengal was governed by a coalition of fourteen parties, including both the C om ­ m unist p arty of In d ia ( c p i ) an d the C om m unist p arty of I n d ia M arxist ( c p m ) . After a period of P resident’s R ule in 1968, the same coalition of parties was retu rn ed in the elections of F eb ru ary 1969, this tim e w ith a m uch larger n u m b er of seats in the Legislative Assembly an d w ith a m uch larger role for the two C om m unist parties. Because the Com m unists dom inated the U n ited F ront coalition in W est Bengal in term s of votes, 8 of the 30 m inisters in the W est Bengal cabinet in 1969-1970 were m em bers of the c p m , holding by far the m ost significant portfolios in the state governm ent; 4 of the rem aining m inisters were m em bers of the c p i , an d m any of the others were dependent on the two C om m unist parties for their electoral and m inisterial positions.1 T h e only significant foci of pow er in the state governm ent th a t were no t captured by the two C om m unist parties in 1969—1970 were the C hief M inistership and the state Finance M inistry, both of w hich were held by the Congress dissident leader, Ajoy K u m ar M ukherjee. W hen the second U n ited F ront governm ent was replaced by P resident’s R ule in A pril 1970, the com m unist m ovem ent was considered by alm ost everyone concerned as the m ajor political force in W est Bengal. 1 M em bers of the c p m held th e follow ing portfolios in 1969-1970: Police, Jails, a n d Press; Special a n d G eneral A d m in istra tio n ; a n d C o n stitu tio n a n d E lections (all w ith in th e H om e M in is try ); plus the m inistries o f L a n d a n d L a n d R evenue, E d u c a ­ tion, T ra n sp o rt, L ab o u r, Excise, Fisheries, a n d R efugee R elief a n d R e h ab ilitatio n . M em b ers o f the c p i held th e portfolios of L ocal Self-G overnm ent, P lan n in g , D evelop­ m en t, a n d H o u sin g ; Irrig a tio n a n d W aterw ays, W ells, T ubew ells, a n d P u m p Irrig a tio n o f A g ricu ltu re, a n d Sm all Irrig a tio n ; C o o p eratio n a n d Social W elfare; a n d Relief.

6

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

W hen one considers the difficulties th a t have confronted the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal in recent years, it is ra th e r surprising to find th a t its adherents could have m oved into positions of pow er an d influence so suddenly. As recently as late 1964 the C om m unists in W est Bengal were in the m idst of a series of p arty crises th a t h ad irrevocably split the m ovem ent, an d the p arty was suffering severe losses in alm ost every single election it was contesting, even in form er p a rty strongholds. F or a period of alm ost th ree'y ears after the S eptem ber 1962 S ino-Indian b order incidents, the Com m unists were unable to stage a single successful dem onstration in W est Bengal, despite num erous attem pts to do so; their m em bers w ere being stoned a t public m eetings or b u rn ed in effigy as “ traito rs,” an d their previous political allies (the M arxist Left parties of W est Bengal) w ere refusing to take p a rt in any political activities in w hich C om ­ m unist p arty m em bers were involved. D uring this period p arty m em bership declined rapidly, while p a rty subscriptions an d activities virtually ceased for long intervals. T h e C om m unist rise to pow er has therefore been accom panied by a very recent rebuilding of p arty units an d by the rem olding of political alliances w ithin the state. But this is not to argue th a t the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal is of recent origin or th a t the C om m unists can be understood w ith o u t reference to In d ia ’s past associational life. All of the successful political parties th a t have been founded in In d ia during the last few decades have been led by people w ith previous organizational experience, and most of them were m ade up of factions from older, better-established political groups. T herefore, in order to und erstan d the success of the com m unist m ovem ent, it is essential to analyze its sources of recru itm en t an d the patterns of political p a rti­ cipation th a t have affected its grow th. C om m unism in W est Bengal has always been elitist. T h e leadership of the m ovem ent has been d raw n from rich, influential, an d highly respected Bengali families, an d its m ost consistent followers have come from groups th a t are relatively well established in the social structure. W hile attem pts have been m ade to gain support from the poor, the low castes, and the illiterate, every available piece o f evidence w ould indicate th a t the C om m unists in W est Bengal have not succeeded in bringing m em bers of low-status groups into leadership positions in the p a rty or in securing the unquestioned backing of such groups. In the words of a C entral C om m ittee docum ent published by the c p m in 1967, . . . a g o o d p o r tio n o f th e m e m b e rs o f to p a n d le a d in g c o m m itte e s h a s in e v ita b ly c o m e f o rth fro m C o m m u n is ts o f b o u rg e o is a n d p e tty b o u rg e o is class o rig in s . . . . T h e in te lle c tu a ls c o m in g fro m th e p r o p e r tie d classes, . . . b e lo n g in g to th e

TH E BH A D RA LO K

7

so c ia l s ta tu s o f e ith e r th e b o u rg e o is ie o r th e p e tty b o u rg e o is ie , w h o s tu d y a n d a c c e p t M a r x is t- L e n in is t th e o r y a n d p r a c tic e , h a v e c o m e to o c c u p y a d o m in a n t p o s itio n in th e le a d e rs h ip o f th e p o lic y -m a k in g c o m m itte e s .2

W hile the com m unist m ovem ent in other parts of In d ia has also been led by elites, the C om m unists in W est Bengal are distinguished by the fact th a t they have come to pow er on the basis of an elite leadership w ith essentially an elite following. T h e only other state in In d ia w here C om m unists have succeeded in capturing a dom inant influence in a state m inistry is in K erala, b u t the grow th of the m ovem ent in K erala has depended on considerable support from low -status groups (p rin ­ cipally the E zhava caste), an d K e ra la ’s C om m unists have therefore been able to secure a larger portion of the vote th a n W est B engal’s. Because of these anom alies, the question arises as to the n atu re of th e social groups th a t have provided the leadership and m uch of the following for the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal. W hy did the sons of w ealthy and influential families becom e Com m unists? W hy is it th a t the best-established Bengali families have provided the bulk of the recruits for C om m unist leadership positions? ji

T h e B h a d ra lo k in T w e n tie th -C e n tu r y B en g a l T h e elite from w hich the Bengali C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties have draw n th eir leadership (and m uch of their following) is the Bengali bhadralok, an elite th a t is unique to the Bengali-speaking area. N either a single class nor a single caste, the bhadralok (literally “ respect­ able people,” or “ gentlem en” ; sometimes called ju st borolok or “ big people” ) are a privileged m inority m ost often draw n from the three highest castes (Brahm ins, K ayasthas, an d V aidyas), usually landed or em ployed in professional or clerical occupations, extrem ely jealous of th eir social positions (which they have m ain tain ed by caste an d ritu al proscriptions an d by the avoidance of m an u al labor), very well educated, very proud of their language, th eir literacy, an d their history, an d highly skilled in m aintaining com m unal integration thro u g h a com plex institutional structure th a t has proved rem arkably ad ap tab le. Broomfield, who has analyzed this elite in great detail, has described the position of the bhadralok at the beginning of the tw en­ tieth century as follows: I n c ity , to w n , a n d v illa g e th e r e w a s o n e g r o u p o f B e n g a lis w h o c la im e d a n d w e re a c c o r d e d r e c o g n itio n as s u p e r io r in so c ia l s ta tu s to th e m ass o f th e ir fellow s. T h e s e w e re th e bhadralok . . . d is tin g u is h e d b y m a n y a sp e c ts o f th e ir 2 Our Tasks on Party Organisation, a rep o rt a d o p te d by the C en tra l C o m m ittee o f the C o m m u n ist p a rty o f In d ia -M a rx ist, a t its C alicu t session, O c to b er 2 8 -N o v e m b e r 2, 1967 (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967), p p . 28-29.

8

P A R T Y LEADERSH IP

behavior— th eir deportm ent, th eir speech, th eir dress, th eir style of housing, th eir eating habits, th eir occupations a n d th eir associations— a n d q u ite as fundam entally by their cu ltu ral values a n d th eir sense of social p ro p rie ty .3

D u rin g the nineteenth century the bhadralok experienced a cultural renaissance th a t Bengali scholars frequently liken to the Italian R enaissance of the th irteen th an d fourteenth cen tu ries: a flurry of activities in literatu re, art, politics, an d econom ics th a t placed Bengal firm ly in the forefront of alm ost all In d ia n asSociational life.4 By the end of the century C alcu tta was second only to L ondon am ong the great cities of the British E m pire, Bengali poets an d w riters were distinguished as leading in tern atio n al literary figures (T agore w on the N obel prize in 1913), an d Bengalis w ere p rom inent am ong the In d ian professional classes an d in governm ent circles in regions as distant as Sindhi in the northw est an d B urm a to the east. In the tw entieth century, how ever, this elite witnessed a series of dislocations th a t restricted the influence of its m em bers outside of the Province o f Bengal, w hile fu n d am en tal cleavages developed am ong social groups w ithin the elite itself. As a result, a considerable portion of th e bhadralok ad o p ted M arxism as a political creed in the 1930s, an d th eir num bers have expanded since. These events were in large p a rt the outcom e of th e inability of the bhadralok to confront three powerful political protagonists d uring the course o f the tw entieth century, each of w hom was a th re a t to the extension of bhadralok dom inance, w hether in Bengal or in the rest o f In d ia. T h e first o f these w ere the British rulers of In d ia, w ho w ere themselves divided as to the kind of political strategy they should pursue in B engal; the second were the M uslim s; an d the th ird were the nationalist politicians loyal to G andhi. In the late nineteenth century, one section of British opinion (led by L ord R ipon an d L ord D ufferin) favored the extension o f bhadralok opportunities in British adm inistrative positions, in local self-govern­ m ent bodies, in the courts, an d in the legislative councils. But aro u n d the tu rn of the century this section of British officialdom was subm erged by the m ajority feeling th a t the Bengali “ baboos” (a derogatory w ord for bhadralok) h ad “ lost touch w ith the people— th e real In d ian people” and th a t they were likely to “ use any local body we [the 3 J o h n H . Broom field, Elite Conflict in a Plural Society: Twentieth-Century Bengal (Berkeley: U niversity o f C alifornia Press, 1968), p p . 5 -6 . B room field’s w ork is by far th e m ost valu ab le history o f Bengal in this cen tu ry . 4 F o r a n exploration o f the R enaissance them e in a stu d y o f n in e te e n th -c e n tu ry Bengal, see D avid K opf, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance (Berkeley: U n iv ersity o f C alifornia Press, 1969).

T H E BH A D RA LO K

9

British] ap p o in t as an instrum ent of oppression.” 5 L ord C urzon, viceroy of In d ia from 1898 to 1905, tipped the scales irrevocably in favor of the latter opinion w hen he declared in J u n e 1903 th a t initiative for his adm inistrative reforms w ould have to “ spring from the Suprem e [British] G overnm ent— because there is no other fountain of initiative in In d ia .55 G urzon therefore set out to “ cleanse55 Bengal of its “ an tiq u ate d bureaucratic procedures55 and its “ proliferation of secondary political structures,55 in all of w hich the bhadralok were prom inent. Despite protests from bhadralok political leadership, G urzon proceeded w ith a reform of C alcu tta C orporation th a t reduced the elected elem ent in the corporation and entrusted executive functions to a com m ittee w ith a British m ajority. H e next set out to reform C alcu tta U niversity, since in his view it had “ fallen into the hands of a coterie of obscure native lawyers w ho regard educational questions from a political point of view ,55 an d he clim axed his years in In d ia w ith the p artitio n of the Province of Bengal in 1905, w hich was clearly intended “ to cut short bhadralok nationalist attem pts to find allies in other com m unities.556 Bengali bhadralok politicians a t first responded to the p artitio n of 1905 w ith th e political w eapons they h ad developed in the nineteenth cen tu ry — press articles, public protest m eetings, petitions, an d d ep u ta ­ tions— an d w hen these failed they g radually escalated to a boycott of British m anufactured goods and encouragem ent of swadeshi (indig­ enously m anufactured) products, the foundation of national educational institutions, the organization of volunteer brigades, trade unions, and akharas (gymnasiums) th a t could be used for agitational purposes, and eventually to a glorification of violence th ro u g h conspiratorial organizations. W ith these m ethods the bhadralok were able to achieve the reunification of Bengal in 1912, b u t at great cost to themselves. T h e p artitio n agitation convinced the British th a t it was tim e to shift their capital to the trad itio n al center of im perial rule in Delhi, an d it also revealed the u n p o p u larity of the Bengali bhadralok w ith the com m unities (O riyas, Biharis, and M uslims) th a t h ad welcom ed partition. In the decades following 1905, Bengal witnessed the grow th of an in d ep en d en t M uslim elite in Bengal, a rap id increase in com ­ m u n al tensions (betw een extrem ist H in d u bhadralok an d M uslim extrem ist politicians), and in 1926 the loss of m any local bodies and 5 T h e w ords are those o f R o b e rt C arstairs, a n In d ia n D istrict officer statio n ed in B engal a t th e b eginning o f th e tw en tieth c en tu ry , q u o ted in Broom field, Elite Conflict, p. 25. 6 T h e q u o tatio n s are from th e w ritings of L o rd G urzon a n d from m inutes w ritten by m em bers o f his ad m in istratio n , q u o ted in ibid., pp. 26-28.

10

PA R T Y LEA D ER SH IP

the Provincial Legislature itself to a new M uslim political m ajority, now allied w ith the non-Bengali com m unities an d the British. A lthough the M uslim com m unity in the Bengali-speaking areas of the province was in a m ajority at the tu rn of the cen tu ry ,7 the social position of the M uslim s an d their political an d e'conomic influence had never m atched th a t of the H in d u bhadralok. B engal’s large M uslim population, unlike the M uslim population in other parts of In d ia, was the result of local conversion. Since Bengal h a d always been on the periphery of the great B rahm anic cultures, orthodox H induism h ad always been challenged am ong the lowly in Bengal— by B uddhism , Jainism , V aishnavism , an d finally by Islam — b u t the bhadralok had nevertheless m aintained their d o m in an t position for a n u m b er of centuries before the British invasion. By origin the M uslim s of Bengal were low-caste H indus, and in m any ways they were indistinguishable from their form er caste fellows throughout the nineteenth century, since their backw ardness was less a consequence of the decline of M uslim pow er and the rise of the British th a n it was the “ result of the poverty an d lowly status of Bengali M uslim s since tim e out of m in d .” 8 W ith the exception of a small clique of scholars in Persian, a few landlords who had adopted bhadralok customs, and a small scattering of educated M uslim elites, the M uslim com m unity during the nineteenth century rem ained illiterate, unorganized, an d poor. In the tw entieth century, however, the leadership of the M uslim com m unity launched a series of successful political m aneuvers th a t brought them into political pow er in the province from 1926 until 1947, w hen Bengal was finally p artitio n ed betw een two in ternational states and most of the M uslim political leadership w ent over to East Pakistan. Before 1926 the M uslim com m unity allied itself first w ith the British, in an elaborate system of patronage th a t lasted until 1911 and gained for the M uslim s the extrem ely valuable institution of com m unal electorates in 1909. T hen, u n d er a new er and younger leadership led by A. K . Fazlul H uq, the M uslim s entered into an alliance w ith the H in d u bhadralok in the legislative councils and eventually outm aneuvered their new allies. U sing their positions in the provincial governm ent and form ing coalitions after 1926 w ith the Europeans and the low-caste H in d u com m unities, the M uslim s gained unquestioned control of B engal’s institutional life in the 1930s an d early 1940s. 7 A n excellent statistical acco u n t of the place of the M uslim co m m u n ity in B engali society is given in A nil Seal, The Emergence o f Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century (C a m b rid g e: C am b rid g e U n iv ersity Press, 1968), p p . 37-38, 300-315. 8 Ib id ., p. 38.

TH E BH A D RA LO K

11

In this atm osphere bhadralok political leaders h ad little alternative b u t to try to consolidate the men,ibers of their own com m unity and to m obilize the abhadra (non- bhadralok) in order to gain a political base. In doing so they altern ated am ong various strategies and eventually becam e divided am ong themselves. Some of the bhadralok sought to continue th eir dom inance of the liberal institutions im ported by the British raj— the bureaucracy, the educational establishm ents, the legal ap p aratu s, and the legislatures— b u t they were outm aneuvered (until 1947) by the British governm ent and the M uslim m ajority led by Fazlul H u q . As Broomfield points out, this tu rn of events was largely a result of the failure of the bhadralok to a d a p t to the mass electorates th a t were introduced in Bengal in the 1920s: “ T h e problem the bhadralok faced . . . very crudely . . . was the problem of thoroughly literate m en trying to m ake themselves understood by the unletterec, of a w ritten tradition confronting an oral trad itio n .” 9 Because they failed to gain legislative m ajorities in the 1920s and 1930s the bhadralok lost their control of institutional life in Bengal, and m any of them becam e perm anently disenchanted w ith electoral politics. T h e effect of this disenchantm ent was th a t the m ajority of the bhadralok surrendered the liberal, secular, an d p arliam en tary dem ­ ocratic m ovem ents to the M uslim s and abhadra groups, and m any of them took to H in d u revivalism in an effort to consolidate their positions. In the 1920s and 1930s Bengali high-caste com m unal associations grew in nu m b er and influence, lending their support to the terrorist m ovem ents and secret societies th a t flourished during these decades, and ultim ately rallying behind Subhas C h an d ra Bose, the undisputed leader of the bhadralok. But this school was also unsuccessful in gaining a mass following, since the various H in d u revivalist m ovem ents only tended to create factionalism w ithin the society, and since all of them m ade for greater and greater exclusiveness on the p a rt of the high castes. M any of them even alienated the vast m ajority of the people living in Bengal. M ost of the H in d u revivalist groups were based on the w orship of the M other Goddess (Durga ) as the em bodim ent of strength, b u t only a few sections of the high castes in Bengal are Sakta (the H in d u sect in w hich w orship of the M o th er Goddess is prom inent). In a society w here m ost of the people w ere M uslim s or V aisnava H indus, th e m yth of the M other Goddess was “ an exclusive m y th ,” largely irrelevant even to m ost H indus living in B engal.10 T hus, H indu revivalism in Bengal failed to serve as a rallying point for large-scale 9 Elite Conflict, pp. 321-322. 10 Ib id ., p p . 16-17.

12

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

political organizations, an d Bengali politicians ab an d o n ed strictly com m unal political organizations. Ever since Independence, the avow edly com m unalist parties th a t are so prom inent in other parts of In d ia have been all b u t extinct in W est Bengal. In addition to the loss of th eir d o m in an t political position w ithin Bengal, the bhadralok experienced a nu m b er of other dislocations. Earnings from land began to dim inish th ro u g h o u t In d ia in the late nineteenth an d early tw entieth centuries, an d the landed gentry of Bengal were am ong the m ost severely affected by this developm ent. E ducated unem ploym ent on a large scale began to be felt in and aro u n d C alcu tta a t the tu rn of the century, ju st as the leadership of the nationalist m ovem ent was shifting from Bengal to G andhi an d the H indi-speaking B rahm anic h eartlan d . T h e dom inance of Bengalis in the In d ia n Civil Service receded as other areas gained in higher education, an d business in C alcu tta cam e increasingly to be dom inated by non-Bengali Indians an d British industrialists. All of these factors grew in intensity right up until the 1940s, w hen Bengal witnessed in rap id succession a m ajor fam ine (in 1943), the activities of 200,000 Allied troops in and aro u n d C alcu tta d u rin g W orld W ar II, the p a rti­ tion of 1947 an d the com m unal riots th a t accom panied it, an d finally a trade w ar betw een W est an d East Bengal th a t was accom panied by the influx into W est Bengal of millions of H in d u refugees.11 By the late 1930s a nu m b er of Bengali bhadralok politicians were ready for M arxism . M arxism appealed to the bhadralok because it rejected electoral politics, w hich h ad led to the loss of bhadralok dom inance; because it denigrated orthodox H in d u ideas an d behavior a t a tim e w hen Bengalis were becom ing disenchanted w ith H in d u revivalism ; because it prom ised the overthrow of the h ated British an d the anglicized ruling an d com m ercial groups w ho were guided by their ideas (and who controlled C a lc u tta ); because it prom ised a m odern society in w hich the intellectual w ould have a m ore p rom inent position; because it legitim ized the terrorist an d conspiratorial activities on w hich the bhadralok h ad staked their reputations for three decades; and because it denied the usefulness of banyas (traders) and m erchants, caste groups who h ad begun to rise in status in the tw en­ tieth century and w ho in Bengal w ere alm ost all abhadra.12 In the late 1930s, four M arxist Left parties w ere founded by bhadralok leaders 11 T hese factors are explored in g re a te r d etail in m y article on “ W est B en g al,” in State Politics in India, ed. M y ro n W ein er (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U n iv ersity Press, 1968), pp . 247-318. 12 A n excellent description o f th e rise o f these castes in Bengal before In d e p e n ­ dence is offered in a novel by T a ra sa n k a r B anerjee, Panchagram [Five V illages] (C a lc u tta : C a lc u tta Publishers, 1943). I a m w orking on a tran sla tio n o f this book in co llab o ratio n w ith S. K . C h atterjee.

COMMUNISM AN D TH E BH A D RA LO K

13

(the R evolutionary C om m unist p arty of In d ia, the Bolshevik party, the R evolutionary Socialist party, and the F orw ard Bloc), all of w hich are still in existence and were in the U nited F ront governm ents d om inated by the Com m unists in the late 1960s. T h e transform ation of the Bengali bhadralok from a strategy of p articip atio n in British institutions to the adoption of M arxistn as a creed can be seen most clearly in the political evolution of Subhas C h an d ra Bose over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1924 Bose was elected the chief executive officer of C alcutta C orporation as a leading figure in the Sw araj party, w hich controlled the Provincial Legislature an d the C alcutta M unicipal C orporation. By 1934 he was outside the legisla­ ture an d the higher councils of the corporation, encouraging H in d u revivalism and supporting the wave of revolutionary activities th a t h ad begun w ith the C hittagong A rm oury R aid in 1930. In 1939 Bose form ed the F orw ard Bloc, a M arxist political p arty th a t sought to consolidate all of the sm all M arxist Left parties th a t had come into being w ith the failure of revivalist terrorism .13 C o m m u n is m an d th e B h a d ra lo k T h e com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal can trace its origins back as far as 1921, w hen a nu m b er of Bengalis established w orking relations w ith the C om intern, b u t the grow th of the p arty as a significant factor in provincial and state politics dates from the late 1930s. As a result of a successful recru itm en t drive in the jails during the 1930s, the c p i was able to absorb a large nu m b er of the bhadralok terrorists who h ad been active in Bengal since the first p artitio n of the province in 1905. These recruits were later joined by Bengali intellectuals retu rn in g from E ngland, by graduates of the colleges and universities in Bengal d uring the 1940s, and eventually by a large section of the u rb an bhadralok living in and aro u n d C alcutta and the W est Bengal industrial belt. T h e grow th of the m ovem ent has been som ew hat sporadic, w ith significant declines in m em bership taking place in 1948 and 1963, b u t despite these tem porary setbacks it has on the whole grow n fairly steadily. A ccording to m em bership figures given by p arty leaders, the c p i in pre-Independence Bengal grew from 37 m em bers in 1934 to m ore th a n 1000 m em bers in 1942 and to alm ost 20,000 m em bers in 1947.14 T h e p artitio n of Bengal in 1947 divided the p arty betw een two in tern atio n al states, w ith m ore th a n h alf of the m em bership going over 13 Bose’s shifts in strategy are d etailed in S ubhas C h a n d ra Bose, The Indian Struggle, 1920-1942 (C a lc u tta : Asia P ub lishing H ouse, 1964); see especially pp. 275, 357-358. 14 T h ese estim ates of p a rty m em b ersh ip are tak en from A b d u l H a lim , Where Are We N ow ? (C a lc u tta : n.p ., 1934), p. 6; from interview s w ith p a rty leaders, an d especially w ith M u zaffar A h m a d in M a rc h 1969; a n d from estim ates published in p a rty new spapers.

14

P A R T Y L EA D E R SH IP

to East Bengal in Pakistan. F rom a m em bership of less th a n 10,000 in 1947 the p a rty in W est Bengal grew to m ore th a n 12,000 m em bers in 1954 and to 17,600 in 1962. A t present there are approxim ately 17,000 m em bers in the c p m (which broke aw ay from the c p i in 1964) and 8000 m em bers in the regular c p i . ' . T h e com m unist m ovem ent is still led by educated, high-caste Bengalis from bhadralok families w ho are well established in the social structure, as the following figures show .15 O f the 33 m em bers o f the S tate C om m ittee of the c p m in 1969, 24 (or 73 percent) belonged to the three highest castes in Bengal (Brahm ins, K ayasthas, and V aidyas), an d all b u t 2 had been to college for at least a y ear.16 O nly 3 of the 33 m em bers had ever engaged in m an u al labor for their livelihood; most of them were sons or relatives of landholders an d professionals (lawyers, doctors, and teachers). Sim ilarly, 8 of the 9 m em bers of the c p i State S ecretariat in 1969 w ere from high-caste families (the other being a M uslim ), all h ad been to college or beyond, an d all cam e from respectable an d fairly w ealthy families. This elite leadership is by no m eans hom ogeneous, however, and the differences in interests am ong the u p p er echelons of the m ovem ent have been evident w henever m ajor questions of strategy an d tactics have h ad to be resolved. All political m ovem ents in In d ia seem to be plagued by an intense factionalism th a t runs the g am u t of possible interest rivalries, and the com m unist m ovem ent is h ard ly an exception. A t the risk of grossly oversim plifying the factional interests involved in the m ovem ent, it is possible to distinguish three m ajor groupings am ong the older leadership, each w ith its own interests an d following, and each w ith its own set of ideas ab o u t revolutionary change. O ne of them is now centered in the organizational ap p aratu s of the c p m , an o th er forms the basis for the regular c p i , and the th ird is clustered aro u n d the electoral m achinery of both parties. T o a great extent these factional groupings are the result of p arty recru itm en t from three divergent sources during the past four decades. The Terrorist Movement and the Communists T h e leadership of the organizational ap p aratu s in W est Bengal has beeA draw n for the most p a rt from form er terrorists. T h e head of the 15 A d etailed study of political leadership in W est B engal, based on d a ta g a th e re d for 408 leaders o f the m ajo r political parties, is p rovided by M y ro n W einer, “ C h an g in g P a tte rn s of Political L eadership in W est B engal,” in Political Change in South Asia (C a lc u tta : F irm a K . L. M u k h o p a d h y ay , 1963), pp. 177-227. 16 D a ta on th e leadership of th e C om m unist p arties was collected by th e a u th o r in interview s w ith present a n d form er m em bers in 1962-1964 a n d 1968-1970, a n d from b io g rap h ical d a ta furnished in Who’s Whos, new spapers, a n d articles.

COMMUNISM A N D TH E BH A D R A LO K

15

state c p i office from 1951 until 1964 was P ram ode Das G u p ta, a form er m em ber of the largest of the pre-Independence terrorist groups, the A nushilan Sam ity. Das G u p ta, w ho is currently state secretary of the c p m , was one of the m any m em bers of the A nushilan Sam ity who w ere converted to com m unism in the jails in the 1930s, an d most of his closest associates in the p arty h ead q u arters an d in the districts are either form er m em bers of the Sam ity or of o ther terrorist groups. T h e organizational transition from the older terrorist groups to the com ­ m unist m ovem ent in Bengal is indicated by the w ay in w hich the C om m unist parties have been able to a d a p t the organizational structures th a t were used by the terrorists after the founding of the S am ity in 1902. Like the A nushilan Sam ity, the C om m unist parties are now centered in large u rb a n areas, stru ctu red aro u n d a small group of leaders, w ith subordinate units in each of the districts and village units in areas w here the p arty is m ost active. As in the Sam ity, p a rty discipline, secrecy, an d dem ocratic centralist lines of au th o rity an d responsibility are enforced. N ew m em bers are carefully screened an d have to pass through candidate m em berships an d periods of indoctrination. C om m unist p arty m em bers, like the m em bers of terrorist societies, are required to take oaths pledging their loyalty to the p a rty and prom ising never to engage in factionalism , an d their attem pts to establish training schools and educational bodies in w hich theoretical issues can be discussed and in n er-p arty debates carried on are sim ilar in m any respects to the activities o f the terrorists during the first few decades of the cen tu ry .17 T h e terrorist m ovem ent in Bengal was dom inated by two large federations of terrorist groups, one of w hich was the A nushilan Sam ity an d the other J u g a n ta r, also founded in the first decade of this cen tu ry .18 In every tow n of any size, and in m any of the villages as well, there 17 T h e stru c tu re o f the A n u sh ila n S am ity is analyzed in g re a t d etail in Ja m e s C a m p b e ll K er, Political Trouble in India, 1907—1917 (C a lc u tta : G o v e rn m e n t P rin tin g Office, 1917), pp. 154-169. Sir Ja m e s K e r was personal assistant to the D irecto r o f C rim in a l Intelligence, G o v ern m en t o f In d ia , from 1907 u n til 1913. 18 A lm ost every Bengali is his ow n ex p ert on the terro rist m ovem ent, b u t one whose acco u n ts are acknow ledged as m ore acc u ra te th a n those o f others is K ali C h a ra n G hose, w ho is now in his m iddle seventies, a n d w ho has w ritte n a n u m b e r o f books on th e m ovem ent. See especially his Role o f Honour (C a lc u tta : V id y a B h arati, 1965) a n d his series o f articles in Prabasi (O c to b e r 1968 th ro u g h N o v em b er 1969). See also S u p a rn a H o m e, Our Bengal (C a lc u tta : P a ra m ita P rakasani, 1950) a n d Satish C h a n d ra S a m an ta, August Revolution and Two Years’ National Government in Midnapore (C a lc u tta : O rie n t Book C o m p an y , 1946). U n fo rtu n ate ly , a m ajo r w ork on B engali terro rism a n d M arx ism by D avid M . L aushey was no t av ailab le a t th e tim e o f w riting. See D av id M . L aushey, “ T h e B engal T errorists a n d T h e ir C onversion to M arx ism : A spects o f R eg io n al N atio n alism in In d ia , 1905-1942,” P h.D . dissertation, U niversity o f V irg in ia, 1970.

16

P A R T Y LEA D ER SH IP

w ere sm all terrorist bands th a t m ain tain ed contact w ith th e leadership of the tw o large federations, occasionally receiving help from them in the form of m oney or literature, though in m ost cases it was sim ply m oral support. In addition, there w ere at least two dozen other small terrorist societies th a t operated independently of the A nushilan and J u g a n ta r groups, each being confined to sm all local areas an d rem aining separate from the larger terrorist groups because of personal an d factional differences. T h e periods of greatest activity for the terrorists in Bengal w ere 1908-1912 (w hen six know n m urders an d tw enty-three o ther know n “ outrages” w ere com m itted) an d 1930-1934, a period th a t began w ith the C hittagong A rm oury R aid of 1930. T errorist incidents were reported by British officials for every year betw een 1908 an d 1947 as well, an d the m em bers of the revolutionary an d terrorist bands th a t operated in Bengal d uring this tim e w ere constantly in and out of ja il or absconding from the police. T h e C hittagong A rm oury R aid was perhaps the m ost successful of the terrorist acts carried out in Bengal, b u t its outcom e was instrum ental in convincing m any terrorists of the need for a m ore enduring political m ovem ent. T h e raid took place on A pril 18, 1930, in the city of C hittagong, a seaport in East Bengal n ear the Burm ese border. D uring the night a group of Jugantar revolutionaries, dressed in official khaki police uniform s, m oved on the arm ory a t C hittagong, killing the guards an d destroying the telegraphic an d telephonic com m unications systems. D eclaring themselves the in d ep en d en t provisional governm ent of a free Bengal, the raiders held the arm ory for three days an d looted innum erable weapons. W hile they w ere eventually subdued by British troops, their activities set in m otion w idespread violence thro u g h o u t Bengal during the next four years. In addition to attacks on arm ories, transport, an d com m unications systems, attem pts w ere m ade on the lives of at least seven senior police an d prison officials (in D acca, C alcutta, R ajshahi, an d C hittagong), four of them resulting in the deaths of the officials involved. In addition, two attem pts w ere m ade on the editor of The Statesman (a British daily in C alcu tta), forcing his early retirem ent, an d two successive governors of Bengal (Sir Stanley Jackson an d Sir J o h n A nderson) narrow ly escaped the bullets of revolutionary assassins. As a result of the C hittagong raid an d the ensuing violence, the British governm ent detained alm ost all the Bengal revolutionaries during the late 1930s, placing most of the leadership in ja il an d banish­ ing the others to rem ote outlying districts of the province. But because of the n atu re of earlier m ovem ents, the British w ere not as concerned w ith th e ideological notions of the terrorists as they w ere w ith

COMMUNISM A N D TH E BH A D RA LO K

17

the technical expertise they h ad acquired in their pursuit of violence. British ja il officials w ould therefore not allow any literatu re on chem istry, w arfare, an d related topics (which the terrorists m ight use to learn the a rt of m aking bom bs), b u t philosophical w ritings (including alm ost everything w ritten by M arx an d Lenin) were perm itted. In fact, since some of the prisoners in the "jails claim ed to be M arxists or Com m unists, an d since they were charged by the British w ith con­ spiracy, they were frequently allow ed to purchase M arxist literature from E ngland at government expense, in order th a t they be given every o p p o rtu n ity to defend them selves.19 M oreover, they were allow ed to m ain tain contact w ith one another, to read books, to do research, and to engage in their own cu ltu ral an d sports activities, so long as they did not disturb prison officials or interfere w ith the operation of norm al prison life. As a result of this atm osphere a n u m b er of w arm an d intim ate relationships developed am ong the prisoners in the jails, an d a n u m b er of them were won over to M arxist-L eninist ideas. Perhaps a m ajority of the terrorists who were im prisoned in the late 1930s either left politics after their release or joined the Congress p a rty after Independence. A ccording to governm ent records an d the 19 A n a tte m p t to d raw to g eth er m a n y o f the statem ents th a t C om m unists p re p a re d from this lite ra tu re in the jails is p ro v id ed in M u z affa r A h m ad , Communists Challenge Imperialism from the Dock (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1968). T h e effect of co m m u n ist p ro p ag a n d izin g in th e jails on a young B engali w om an (K a lp a n a D u tt) w ho h a d been involved in th e C h itta g o n g A rm o u ry R a id a n d converted to com m u n ism in th e jails (an d w ho la te r m a rrie d th e e m in en t In d ia n C om m unist P. C. Jo sh i) is d escrib ed in h e r ow n w ords as follow s: . . . I could h e a r a b o u t C o m m u n ism from tim e to tim e, a n d from th em [ c p i m em bers] too cam e to m e books of Socialism a n d C om m unism by J o a d , C ole a n d Shaw . T h e arg u m en ts a n d th e a p p ro a c h of these books began to stir the m in d a n d forced m e to p o n d e r over th e difference th a t these have w ith the rev o lu tio n ary lite ra tu re in w hich I h a d been steeped so long. T h e n a rrativ es of rev o lu tio n ary deeds, th e lives of K h u d ira m , K a n a ila l, B h ag at Singh, no d o u b t stirred us to the v ery core, teach in g us to defy d e a th ; b u t these w ritings on Socialism a n d C o m ­ m u n ism could no t be set aside as irrelev an t, a n d so th e faint ru m blings of a new b a ttle could be h e a rd w ith in myself. T hese I b eg an to rea d avidly, b u t u n d ersto o d in m y ow n w ay, fitting th em in to the tre n d o f m y ow n th o u g h ts; a n d so it seem ed th a t C om m unism was all rig h t a n d th a t th ere was no difference betw een it a n d o u r ow n ideas. W h en som eone w ould say th a t th e C om m unists looked u p o n the terrorists as opponents, I w ould ju st lau g h t it off a n d could never believe it. I f o u r ideals w ere the sam e a n d b o th of us h a d d e d ic ated ourselves to th e cause of freedom , th en we w ere b u t fellow -travellers an d could n ev er be opponents. A nd yet I could not help confessing to m yself th a t the C om m unists w ere m ore w idely rea d a n d knew a lot m ore th a n us of m en a n d things, of the w o rld at large a n d of th e people a n d th e ir past, a n d so I n u rtu re d a sneaking adm ission o f o u r ow n inferiority. Q u o te d from K a lp a n a D u tt, Reminiscences (B om bay: P eo p le’s P ublishing H ouse, 1945), p p . 87-88.

18

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

recollections of the terrorists themselves, there w ere literally thousands of th em in the jails d uring this perio d ; estim ates range u p w ard of ten or twelve thousand. Congress m ade a sincere attem p t to recru it these people, especially after Independence, w hen m any of them were offered jobs, m inistries, or other forms of patronage. In the early years of Congress rule, special consideration was given to “ political sufferers” : entrance fees were w aived for their children in the schools an d colleges, standards w ere relaxed w hen they applied for jobs, an d relief facilities were set up for those who h ad no incomes. S treets,'parks, hospitals, an d other public facilities w ere nam ed after revolutionary leaders, an d in recent years an old-age hom e has been established specifically for elderly people who took p a rt in the nationalist m ovem ent in Bengal. But Congress was unable to recruit all of the revolutionaries, either before or after Independence, an d a good m any of them w ent into the C om m unist and M arxist Left parties. T h eir reasons for opposing the Congress are varied, b u t for the most p a rt they derive from the opposition of Bengalis to G an d h i20 an d the m ainstream of the In d ian nationalist m ovem ent thro u g h o u t the p re-Independence period. G an d h i’s emphasis on nonviolence was seen as weakness by most Bengalis, an d his restraint in dealing w ith the British was in terp reted as cow ardice. W hen he was defeated by Subhas Bose in the contest for Congress president in 1939, most of the Bengali revolutionaries considered it a sign th a t In d ia was on the side of Bengal, not of G andhi, an d they therefore followed Subhas Bose out of the Congress p arty w hen he was expelled in 1941. T h e split betw een the terrorists an d Congress becam e com plete in 1947 w hen G andhi and N ehru accepted the p artitio n of In d ia, w hich divided Bengal betw een two nations. M ost Bengalis still blam e G andhi an d N ehru for the p artitio n of 1947, an d in every election cam paign its consequences are invoked as reasons for opposing the Congress. A second reason for the rift betw een Congress an d the terrorist leadership in Bengal has to do w ith the n atu re of the support generated by the Congress p arty w ith the advent of G andhi. G andhi an d the leadership aro u n d him w ere especially skillful in creating a political p a rty th a t could com bine a great m any interests an d social groups. Even before Independence, the Congress m ade a series of alliances w ith pow erful local leaders who were established in the In d ia n social structure: rajahs, zam indars, jotedars, and other titled pow erholders; 20 B engali attitu d e s to w ard G a n d h i are su m m arized in a p a p e r by L eo n a rd A. G o rd o n , “ B engal’s G a n d h i: A S tudy in M o d e rn In d ia n R egionalism , Politics a n d T h o u g h t,” in Bengal Regional Identity, ed. D avid K o p f (E ast L an sin g : M ich ig an State U niversity A sian Studies C enter, 1969), pp. 87-130.

COMMUNISM AN D T H E BH A D R A LO K

19

journalists, lawyers, academ icians, an d adm inistrators; an d the small landholding ru ral gentry and the b azaar m erchants in the towns. W ith these people acting as interm ediaries in the social hierarchy, Congress was able to secure the support of landless laborers, ten an t farm ers, sweepers, an d other politically passive groups, both before an d after In d ep en d en ce.21 In Bengal, however, these Congress alliances w ere based alm ost entirely oriffthe non-Bengali com m unities an d the ru ral gentry, to the d etrim ent of the bhadralok an d the u rb a n com plex aro u n d C alcutta. T errorist leaders who w ere established in the social structure could (and often did) move into the patronage system an d becom e Congressm en, b u t a great m any of the terrorist leaders (those from E ast Pakistan, or those who were from poorer families, for exam ple) were w ithout an electoral base, an d m any of them refused to have anything to do w ith the electoral system established by the Congress. Those w ho h ad surrendered their opportunities for higher education, for good-paying jobs, or in some cases even their landed w ealth, in order to devote themselves to nationalist an d terrorist activities, were p articu larly hostile to a regim e th a t was increasingly dom inated by landed, w ealthy, an d educated non-Bengalis an d (especially in the case of the b azaa r m erchants in the towns) the abhadra. I t is no coincidence th a t the leaders of the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties consider themselves greater intellectuals th a n their counterparts in the Congress, while they are in fact not as well educated (in term s of degrees) as C ongressm en.22 Perhaps as m any as a thousand of the form er terrorists joined the C om m unist p a rty during the “ C om m unist consolidation m ovem ent” in the jails of Bengal during the 1930s. T hey jo in ed because of th eir opposition to G andhi and because of their belief in the efficacy of revolutionary m ovem ents an d conspiratorial organization. A fter the failure of the C hittagong A rm oury R aid, m any of the Bengali revolu­ tionaries becam e disillusioned w ith terrorism . T h e C hittagong raiders h ad been able to capture an arm ory an d to secure a great m any w eapons, b u t the British h ad been cautious enough to store the am m unition in arm ories scattered th ro u g h o u t the province. A small b an d of revolutionaries w ould have h ad to move on a large n u m b er of British arm ories w ith am azing precision to achieve success, and the 21 C ongress p a rty strategy in W est Bengal is an aly zed in M y ro n W einer, PartyBuilding in a New Nation: The Indian National Congress (C hicago: U n iv ersity of C hicago Press, 1968), p p . 321—355. See also M arcu s F. F ra n d a , West Bengal and the Federalizing Process in India (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U niversity Press, 1968), pp. 179-224. 22 T h is is p o in ted o u t in W einer, “ C h a n g in g P a tte rn s o f Political L ead ersh ip in W est B en g al,” pp. 188-189.

20

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

organizational ap p aratu s necessary to carry ou t such an operation w ould have h ad to be extrem ely well established in the Bengali countryside. T h e severely repressive m easures taken by the British after 1930 convinced m any terrorists th a t a successful revolutionary organization h ad to have outside support an d be able to m obilize the masses in cities and villages all over In d ia. W hile few of th e terrorists in Bengal ever becam e p a rty theoreticians of any stature, they w ere im pressed by the extent to w hich M arx (and p articu larly Lenin) had discussed situations of this kind, an d they w ere 'en co u rag e d to jo in the com m unist m ovem ent by older m em bers w ho h ad been in contact w ith in ternational com m unism since 1921. In the 1940s the form er terrorists in the p a rty becam e m ore an d m ore com m itted to the c p i as they engaged in agitational an d revolutionary activities; by the 1950s the organization h ad acquired an institutional personality of its own. T h e prevalence of form er terrorists in positions of leadership in the organizational ap p aratu s has done m uch to determ ine the interests of the cadre as opposed to other factional groupings w ithin the C om m unist parties in W est Bengal. T h e leaders of th e regular p a rty organization in the united c p i entered the m ovem ent because of their belief in the effectiveness of revolutionary an d conspiratorial activities. W hile they learned some of the rhetoric of M arxism , they did not jo in the p a rty because of their know ledge of or even th eir belief in M arxist theoretical argum ents. M an y of the m en w ho pride themselves on being m em bers of the inner councils of the m ovem ent still confess to an ignorance of M arx an d to a lack of interest in theoretical debates. T h eir concern is w ith the political situation in W est Bengal an d In d ia and w ith the ways in w hich it m ight be exploited to cap tu re pow er. T h ey have always been prom inent in the agitational activities of the party, they were deeply influenced by the “ insurrectionist” line in the period 1948-1951, an d their own factional unity has been forged largely in the jails, w here they have spent m uch of their lives (both before and after Independence) discussing revolutionary situations. N ot surpris­ ingly, the regular p arty organization of the united c p i has been the backbone of the older Left C om m unist faction. Intellectual Communism in West Bengal In contrast to the terrorists, a n u m b er of people did jo in the c p i in the 1930s and 1940s because of their com m itm ent to intellectual M arxism an d socialism. O lder p a rty m em bers in W est Bengal now argue th at th e state p a rty had only three theoreticians of any stature in the 1930s: R eboti Borm an, who published a com m entary on Das Kapital in

COMMUNISM A N D T H E BH A D RA LO K

21

Bengali in 1938 (but w ho contracted leprosy a short tim e later and died in the 1940s); R . Palm e D u tt, the son of a Bengali doctor an d a Swedish w riter and nephew of the present prim e m inister of Sweden, w ho has lived in C am bridge, E ngland, all his life b u t has published widely in In d ia during the past five decades; and Bhow ani Sen, the present secretary of the c p i . In addition to these leading figures, however, there were a n u m b er of other Bengalis who cam e into contact w ith the intellectual content of M arxism and com m unism in the 1930s, m ost of w hom joined the p arty in the period following 1942, w hen the legal ban on the p arty was lifted because of c p i support of the British w ar effort. T h e orientation of the Bengali M arxist intellectuals, unlike th a t of the terrorists, reflects positions taken by the in tern atio n al com m unist m ovem ent an d the trad itio n of M arxist scholarship in Bengal. T hus, in order to explain the b road differences in outlook betw een the two groups,23 it is necessary to have a grasp of the historical grow th of intellectual M arxism an d com m unism in the province. C om m unism and socialism have been debated am ong intellectuals in Bengal for a t least a century. In 1870 an exam iner at C alcutta U niversity asked M .A . students in history to discuss the goals of com m unism in their exam inations,24 and in 1879 the renow ned Bengali nationalist novelist, Bankim C h an d ra C hatterjee, w rote an essay on E uropean com m unist an d socialist ideas in w hich he advocated a synthesis of E uropean socialism an d revivalist H induism .25 Swami V ivekananda, who h ad an enorm ous im pact on Bengali thought in the late nineteenth century, described him self as a socialist and prophesied th a t at some future date “ Socialism of some form is com ing on the b o ard s.5,26 It was through the w ritings of Bankim C h an d ra, V ive­ k an an d a, an d a few others th a t the earliest m em bers of the tw entieth23 T h e re is som e overlap betw een intellectuals a n d form er terrorists in the B engali co m m u n ist m ovem ent, a lth o u g h n o t as m u ch as one m ig h t expect. B how ani Sen is th e only n o tew o rth y exam ple of a Bengali C om m unist lea d er w ho took p a rt in terro rist activities a n d la te r becam e a lead in g p a rty th eo retician . B ut S en’s case is u n u su al, for he spent m ost of his years in ja il w orking to w ard an M .A . degree an d w ritin g scholarly articles on M arx , as a result of w hich he quickly established him self as a lead in g intellectual. N one of the o th e r terrorists in the p a rty has achieved a re p u ta tio n for intellectual endeavors th a t is even rem otely co m p arab le. 24 L isted in the C a lc u tta U n iv ersity calen d a r, 1870-1871, a n d q u o ted in B im anb e h a ri M a ju m d a r, History o f Indian Social and Political Ideas (C a lc u tta : B ookland P riv ate L td ., 1967), p. 185. 25 B ankim C h a n d ra C h atterjee, Samya [E q u ality ], originally p u blished in 1879 a n d re p rin te d by the B angiya S ah ity a P arish ad (L ite ra ry A cadem y of Bengal) in 1938. Samya is still in p rin t a n d is av ailable from the P arish ad in Bengali. 26 Sw am i V iv e k an a n d a, Caste, Culture and Socialism, a collection of Sw am i V ivekana n d a ’s w ritings on socialism co m p iled by Sw am i C h id a tm a n a d a (C a lc u tta : A d v aita A sh ram a, 1965), p. i.

22

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

century terrorist m ovem ents in Bengal learned som ething of socialism, though perhaps less ab o u t M arxism an d com m unism . M an y of them in tu rn tried to establish contact w ith anarchists an d nihilists as well as Socialists an d C om m unists in a n u m b er of E u ro p ean countries. T h e connections betw een Bengali bhadralok intellectuals an d the early com m unist and socialist m ovem ents in E urope have yet to be satisfactorily traced, b u t there is sufficient evidence to indicate th a t Bengalis w ere attracte d to socialism an d h ad some contact w ith it at the beginning of the cen tu ry .27 I t is know n, for exam ple, th a t Swam i V ivekananda m et Peter K ropotkin a t the Paris In tern atio n al E xhibition in 1900, an d it is w idely believed th a t he also talked w ith some of Plekhanov’s supporters in E ngland aro u n d the sam e time. Swam i V iv ek an an d a’s brother, B hu p en d ra N ath D u tt, was a m em ber of the A nushilan Sam ity an d later flirted w ith com m unism w hen he cam e into contact w ith the in tern atio n al m ovem ent in Europe. Bengalis also m et inform ally w ith a n u m b e r of Socialists through the revolutionary societies of In d ia n students in L ondon (especially the H om e R ule Society, w hich was founded in 1905 an d com m unicated w ith the A nushilan Sam ity through Bepin C h an d ra Pal in C alcutta), an d there is some evidence th a t Bengali terrorists were educated in the use of bom bs and other w eapons by a R ussian anarchist nam ed Safranski in Paris as early as 1907. D espite the rom antic attachm ents of m any m odern-day M arxists to this earlier period in B engal’s history, the organization of the C om m unist p a rty in Bengal did not begin until the 1920s. D uring W orld W ar I Bengali terrorists h ad received arm s an d m oney from G erm any in support of th eir m any plots against the British, b u t w ith the defeat of G erm any in 1918 they began to look for new sources of financial support, and it was a t this tim e th a t they began to explore their m u tu al interests w ith the Bolsheviks. T h e C om m unist In tern atio n al becam e seriously interested in In d ia w hen L en in ’s colonial thesis was adopted at the Second Congress in 1920 (the In tern atio n al was established in 1919), an d its im m ediate concern was to find a nu m b er of Indians who could live in In d ia an d carry out p ro p ag an d a and organizational work. W ith regard to Bengal there w ere two sets of leaders considered by M oscow in the early years. O ne of them consisted 27 Som e feeling for th e curious m ix tu re o f revivalist H in d u ism , E u ro p e a n socialism , a n d co n sp iratorial terrorism th a t p erv a d ed th e terro rist groups in Bengal a t this tim e c an be found in a novel by R a b in d ra n a th T ag o re, Char Adhyaya [F o u r C h ap ters], w ritte n in 1938 a n d tran sla te d in to E nglish by S u re n d ra n a th T a g o re (C a lc u tta : V isva B h arati, 1950).

COMMUNISM A N D T H E BH A D R A LO K

23

of Bengali emigres living in A m erica an d E urope, the m ost prom inent of w hom was M . N. Roy. R oy was a Bengali B rahm in (born N aren d ra N ath B h attach ary a in 1886), a m em ber of a landed bhadralok family who grew up in the village of A rbalia in W est Bengal.28 Like m ost of the other Bengali emigres living in E urope or A m erica a t th a t time, R oy h ad been deeply influenced by revivalist terrorism a t an early age, h ad traveled ab ro ad to escape arrest an d to seek arm s for revolutionary m ovem ents, an d h ad com e into close contact w ith the C om m unist In te rn a tio n a l as a result of a m u tu al inter est in prom oting revolution. R oy gained considerable prom inence a t the Second C om intern C on­ gress w hen he took the “ leftist position” (against cooperation w ith the n ational bourgeoisie) in opposition to Lenin, b u t R oy was not the only Bengali who w ent to M oscow to seek the assistance of the In te r­ n atio n al in the 1920s. In fact he w aged a constant b attle against fellow Bengali emigres who w ere com peting for the confidence an d financial support of a potentially pow erful ally. A lm ost all of the Bengalis who traveled to M oscow in these early years, however, w ere from H in d u bhadralok families, an d m ost of them h ad also been involved in the revivalist terrorism th a t swept Bengal in the first two decades of the century. In Bengal itself the w ork of the c p i in the 1920s was carried out by an entirely different kind of leadership, consisting largely of young M uslim activists w ho h ad come into contact w ith international com m unism through the K hilafat agitation th a t took place in In d ia following the T reaty of Sevres in 1919. M uslim s in Bengal (as in other parts of India) h ad g reat spiritual feeling for the C aliphate, the highest religious office in the Islam ic w orld, an d w hen T urkey was defeated in W orld W ar I and the office of the caliph disbanded, a pow erful politico-religious m ovem ent was launched in India, headed by M oham m ed and S haukat Ali. As a result of this m ovem ent, nearly 18,000 M uslim s left In d ia to fight on th e side of T urkey in an effort to restore the C aliphate. T h e vast m ajority of these potential guerrillas 28 M a n a b e n d ra N a th R o y (born N a re n d ra N a th B h a tta c h a ry a ) is one o f the m ost fascin atin g o f the earlier revolutionaries in B engal, a n d his life a n d w ork have en g ag ed th e a tte n tio n o f historians stu d y in g com m unism in In d ia . F o r exam ple, G ene D. O v erstreet a n d M arsh a ll W in d m iller, in Communism in India (Berkeley: U n iv e rsity o f C alifornia Press, 1959), devote m ore th a n a q u a rte r o f th eir volum e to the activities o f R oy. T w o yo u n g er scholars, S am are n R o y a n d L eo n a rd G o rd o n , h av e recen tly been doing research on R o y ’s activities, w ith em phasis on his Bengali origins a n d his involvem ent in terrorism . See S am are n R oy, The Restless Brahmin: The Early Life o f M . N . Roy (C a lc u tta : A llied Publishers, 1970), a n d L eo n ard G o rd o n , “ P o rtra it o f a Bengali R e v o lu tio n a ry ,” Journal o f Asian Studies 27 (F e b ru a ry 1968): 197-216.

24

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

w ere from Sindh an d the P u n jab in the northw est. Bengali M uslim s did not jo in the exodus from In d ia, b u t m any o f them did take p a rt in the N on-C ooperation M ovem ent th a t was launched in In d ia by G an d h i in 1920, since it was a t least in p a rt directed tow ard the preservation of the C aliphate. M an y Bengali M uslim s also m aintained contact w ith their coreligionists who h ad left In d ia. ‘ T h e three principal founders of the c p i within the Province of Bengal — M uzaffar A hm ad, A bdur R ezzak K h an , an d A bdul H alim — entered politics d uring the K h ilafat agitation, an d th ro u g h o u t the rest of th eir lives they continued to m ain tain contact w ith M uslim s who h ad left In d ia d uring the K hilafat exodus. T h e n atu re of their first contacts w ith the C om m unist In tern atio n al are disputed, b u t it is certain th a t they had opportunities to learn ab o u t M arxism (and about the In tern atio n al) from their fellow M uslim s w ho h a d left India, m any of w hom found th eir w ay to the Soviet U nion an d jo in ed the c p i in Russia, and from M . N. Roy. M uzaffar A h m ad has consistently argued th a t he was a confirm ed convert to the in tern atio n al com ­ m unist m ovem ent w hen he began to com m unicate w ith M . N. R oy in M oscow in 1921, an d he has also indicated his close relations w ith the K hilafat pilgrims. O ne m ight assume, therefore, th a t his initial decision to jo in the C om m unist In te rn a tio n a l was heavily influenced by the K hilafat incident. H e also argues th a t the C om m unist p a rty of In d ia was form ed ab ro ad by M uslim s w ho left d u rin g the K hilafat ♦ • 7Q agitation. T h e initial contacts betw een Bengalis an d the C om intern did not lead to im m ediate political success in the province. Conflicts developed betw een R oy in M oscow an d the m em bers of the p a rty w orking in Bengal; R oy eventually becam e disenchanted w ith in ternational com m unism and q u it the p a rty in the 1930s; an d the c p i u n it in Bengal rem ained woefully sm all d u rin g the first decade an d a h a lf of its existence. As late as 1934 there w ere only thirty-seven m em bers of the c p i in Bengal, and the p a rty h ad failed th ro u g h o u t the 1920s either to ally itself w ith the Congress or to create a base of its own. T h ere was a small b ran ch of the R ed T rad e U nion in C alcu tta th a t functioned under c p i leadership from the late 1920s, b u t the p a rty h ad no p erm an en t publishing facilities an d no b ran ch of the Y oung C om m unist League, an d its m ost dedicated an d able leader (M uzaffar A hm ad) languished in ja il thro u g h o u t m ost of these early years m erely because of his undisputed association w ith the C om intern. T h e c p i continued to function in C alcu tta w hen M uzaffar A hm ad was in jail, 29 M u zaffar A h m ad , The Communist Party o f India and Its Formation Abroad (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1962), p p . 55-96.

COMMUNISM A N D TH E B H A D RA LO K

25

usually u n d e r A bdul H alim , b u t it did so w ithin the letter of the law an d was “ satisfied w ith publishing w orkers’ new spapers and conducting M arxist study clubs. . . .” 30 In fact, w ith the exception of a small flurry of activity in 1927 an d 1928 prom pted by the C alcu tta visit of organizers from the C om m unist p arty of G reat B ritain ( c p g b ) , 31 the c p i did not engage in any agitation or dem onstrations in Bengal until the late 1930s. tr In retrospect, however, the c p i did m ake some gains d uring these years. O f p articu lar im portance to the future grow th of the p arty was the translation into Bengali of a large q u an tity of M arxist literature an d the publicity given to the leaders of the com m unist m ovem ent d uring the lengthy C aw npore an d M eerut conspiracy trials. M uch of the early activity in Bengal was centered on M uzaffar A hm ad, the son of a respectable ru ral M uslim fam ily born in 1889 on the island of Sandvip in the Bay of Bengal. In his w ritings he recalls th a t he was deeply influenced by the sailors of the m any oceangoing vessels th a t found th eir w ay to Bengal at the beginning of the century, although it was not thro u g h the sailors th a t he becam e attracte d to M arxist ideology. H e was educated in p rim ary schools in East Bengal, atten d ed high school in N oakhali (in East Bengal), an d entered H ooghly College (in W est Bengal) in 1913, later transferring to B angabashi College in C alcutta. W hen he failed his interm ediate exam inations, he dropped out of college an d jo in ed a literary associ­ ation, in w hich he established a great friendship w ith the famous Bengali nationalist (and la ter socialist) poet, K azi N azrul Islam . M uzaffar A hm ad decided to enter politics in 1920, w hen he an d K azi N azru l becam e jo in t editors of a Bengali evening paper, Navayag [New A ge], published by the prom inent M uslim political leader A. K. Fazlul H uq. M uzaffar A h m ad ’s description of how his early activities led him to ad o p t the p arty shows how lim ited the Bengalis’ acq u ain tan ce w ith M arxism was in the early 1920s: Navayug was distinct from the o ther Bengali dailies in th a t it contained m uch m ore news about workers an d peasants. F a r from objecting to it, M r. Fazlul H u q used to encourage this feature. O ne of m y friends, w ho was not a political worker, told m e: “ Bengali papers are excessively sentim ental. Do w rite som ething about the com m on people, especially ab o u t the workers a n d peasants” . . . . I readily responded to this suggestion. . . . I especially focused [on] the problem s of the sailors in N avayug [but] I could not even 30 O v erstreet a n d W in d m iller, Communism in India, p. 146. 31 F o r a n acc o u n t of these tw o years o f activity by one o f th e organizers from the cpgb, see P hilip S p ra tt, Blowing Up India (C a lc u tta : P ra ch i P ra k ash an , 1955), p p . 3 9 -4 6 .

26

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

im agine th a t I was being slowly d raw n tow ards the T h ird C om m unist In te r­ n ational through these w ritings in the paper. [By 1921, however,] our aim was to b uild u p the C om m unist P a rty in In d ia. . . . M y knowledge of M arxism was very superficial. B ut w hen I took the leap into the unknow n, I counted on two things— m y faith in the people an d m y unquestioned loyalty to the directives of the C om m unist In te rn a tio n a l.32 •

T h e w ritings of M uzaffar A hm ad and K azi N azru l Islam (who never joined the party) were quickly followed by other w ritings by Bengalis w hich attem p ted to in terp ret In d ia in term s of M arxist ideas.33 In 1921 M . N. R oy an d A bani M ukerji published India in Transition in G eneva, and from 1923 to 1925 the E uropean correspondent of the Bengali daily Forward, Benoy S arkar, began to publish translations of M arxist and socialist w ritings in Bengali: Parivar, Gosthi 0 Rastra [Fam ily, C lan, and State], consisting of translations from the G erm an w ritings of M arx an d Engels, was followed by Dhana-daulater Rupantar [Transform ations of W ealth], translations from the F rench of Paul Lafargue, an d Navin Rushiyar Jivan-Prabhat [Life’s D aw n in New R ussia], based on T rotsky’s Russische Revolution, 1905. Since all of these works were first serialized in Forward an d other jo u rn als and were later published in three volumes, they were circulated am ong a num ber of Bengali intellectuals. T h e fact th a t they were published in Forward, w hich was edited by G h ittaran jan Das an d m anaged by Subhas Bose (the two leading figures in B engal’s nationalist m ovem ent at the time) is an indication th a t M arxist ideas w ere already being seriously considered by the m ainstream of B engal’s intellectual and political leadership. F rom this point on, M arxist an d C om m unist w ritings (both in Bengali an d in English) increased in volum e w ith each passing y ear.34 32 M u zaffar A h m ad , Communist Party ofIndia: Tears o f Formation, 1921—1933 (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1959), pp. 6 -8 . See also M yself and the Communist Party o f India (C a lc u tta : N atio n al Book A gency, 1970). T his is his a u to b io g rap h y , u n a v aila b le a t th e tim e of w riting. 33 In com piling this section on M arx ist w ritings in th e early tw e n tieth cen tu ry , I hav e d raw n heavily on m y own readings in Bengali, b u t I have also consulted w ith profit In d ira S arkar, Social Thought in Bengal (1 7 5 7 -1 9 4 7 ): A Bibliography o f Bengali M en and Women o f Letters (C a lc u tta : C a lc u tta O rie n ta l Book A gency, 1949), p p . 7-56. 34M u zaffar A h m ad has w ritten o f the 1920s: “ In those days, M arx ist lite ra tu re was h a rd to get in C alcu tta. I f a n y th in g was available a t all, we did n o t have the m eans to b u y it. Q u tu b u d d in A h m a d [coeditor of tw o U rd u weeklies, along w ith M a u la n a A zad, a p ro m in e n t C ongressm an] used to b u y as well as re a d a lot of books. I t was because o f him th a t I could re a d M y Reminiscences o f the Russian Revolution by Phillips Price. I t was th e first book on th e R ussian R evolution th a t I read . W e could never have b o u g h t this book, w hich was p riced a t 18 shillings.” Tears o f Formation, p. 9.

COMMUNISM AND TH E BH A D RA LO K

27

In addition to th e interest in com m unism th a t the c p i evoked in Bengal in the early 1920s, the p arty was also successful in gaining the confidence of the C om intern an d becam e form ally affiliated w ith the C om m unist In tern atio n al in 1930. M oreover, by the late tw enties M uzaffar A hm ad an d A bdul H alim h ad established contact w ith the leaders of the c p i in the U n ited Provinces, P unjab, Bom bay, and M adras, an d they h ad gained the respect of the c p g b . M ost im p ortant, they h ad applied themselves to the study of M arxism , an d their resolve to prom ote the interests of the in tern atio n al com m unist m ovem ent h ad been tested in the jails. W hen Bengalis w ith M arxist ideas began to re tu rn from E ngland in the 1930s, they w ere therefore w illing to jo in the party, convinced th a t they were associating themselves w ith tru ly dedicated M arxists, an d w hen M arxist study groups becam e the fashion in the jails d u rin g the 1930s, the m em bers of the c p i could overw helm an d im press their colleagues w ith th eir knowledge of C om m unist ideas on organization an d their contacts in the in ter­ n ational m ovem ent. All of this stood them in good stead, for in the 1930s the c p i began to grow, an d the m em bers of the p a rty who were converted or accepted into the p a rty in the 1930s w ere for the m ost p a rt m en w ho had received some M arxist education and a fairly rigorous train in g in Leninist ideas of p a rty organization.35 T h e discipline and train in g of the other M arxist Left parties form ed in Bengal in the late 1930s were not nearly so good. P arty splits were m ore com m on th an unity, discussion groups ram bled, knowledge of M arxism was confused a t best an d lacking entirely on m any occasions, and com m unal feelings an d fam ily an d caste conflicts frequently took Press censorship a n d lack o f funds forced M u zaffar A h m a d a n d others co n stan tly to shift th e ir p u b lic a tio n offices a n d ch an g e th e fo rm at o f th eir jo u rn a ls, w hich a p p e a re d so m ew h at in frequently, b u t despite this he a n d S a u m y e n d ra n a th T ag o re (the g ra n d n e p h e w o f th e g rea t poet) m an a g ed to in tro d u c e M arx ist lite ra tu re in Bengali in th e 1920s, th ro u g h the pages of Langal [T h e P lo u g h ], a w eekly fo unded in 1925 a n d Ganavani [T h e V oice o f th e M asses], a w eekly th a t rep laced Langal in 1927. T h e first y e ar th a t a n u m b e r o f books on com m unism w ere p u blished in B engali was 1931, w h en four volum es a p p e a re d : Samyabad [C om m unism ] by S o m n a th L a h iri; Karl Adarx (in Bengali) by M o n im ay a P ra m a n ik ; M arxvad [M arxism ] by A nil R o y ; an d Soviet Russia (in Bengali) by J a h a r la l Bakshi. 35 I n a d d itio n to K a lp a n a D u tt, Reminiscences, see Jo g esh C h a n d ra C h atterjee, In Search o f Freedom (C a lc u tta : F irm a K . L. M u k h o p a d h y ay , 1967), pp. 242—243, for a n im pression o f th e c p i in th e jails in th e 1930s. A novel by S a tin a th B h ad u ri, Jagari [T h e V igil], w ritte n in 1944 a n d p u b lish ed in 1946, tran sla te d in to E nglish by L ila R a y (C a lc u tta : Asia P ublishing H ouse, 1965), offers a description of th e in tellectu al a tm o sp h ere in th e jails, b u t Jagari is an tico m m u n ist. F o r a C om m unist in te rp re ta tio n o f life in th e jails, see G o p al H a id a r, Ekada [O n ce], 6th ed., w ritte n in 1933 an d p u b lish ed for th e first tim e in 1939 (C a lc u tta : B engal Publishers P riv a te L td ., 1960).

28

P A R T Y LEADERSH IP

precedence over dedication to the class struggle.36 O nly one o f these parties, the Bolshevik p arty , ever h ad a significant n u m b er of M uslim s w ithin its ranks, and the Bolsheviks were never a force.37 T h e F orw ard Bloc, the r s p , and the other M arxist Left groups were' sim ply bhadralok parties, and the w arring factions am ong them indicated the confusion th a t prevailed am ong the bhadralok ab o u t how they m ight use M arxism to capture political pow er. T h e largest of the no n ­ com m unist M arxist Left parties, the F orw ard Bloc, was w ithout leadership thro u g h o u t W orld W ar I I , since Subhas Bose had abandoned the p a rty to jo in w ith the Axis powers in a plan to invade In d ia an d free the subcontinent from foreign dom ination. T h e closest Bose ever cam e to defining the objectives of the F orw ard Bloc was to state th a t he w anted a synthesis betw een fascism an d com m unism ,38 b u t he was killed in a plane crash before he could ever bring his elaborate political p ro g ram into being. T h e c p i was not w ithout its own factional disputes in the thirties, b u t in contrast to the M arxist Left parties, the c p i in Bengal acted w ith dedication, resolve, and unity from the 1930s right up u n til In d e ­ pendence. In J a n u a ry 1936 it was accepted into the Congress Socialist party, and thro u g h its “ consolidation m ovem ent” it began to take over established Congress trad e unions and peasant organizations. P arty m em bers literally invaded the colleges to teach M arxism in class and to recruit Com m unists in the coffeehouses. T h e c p i in Bengal also began to organize innum erable front organizations in the late 1930s— the In d ian People’s T h ea tre Association, the Progressive W rite r’s W orkshop, Friends o f the Soviet U nion, the M ah ila A tm a R aksha Sam iti (a w om en’s organization), children’s societies, study clubs, gym nasium s, relief com m ittees, and a host of other cu ltu ral and sports groups. It was th ro u g h these activities th a t the educated bhadralok becam e involved w ith the p a rty for the first tim e. M em bership in the 36 F o r rep resen tativ e discussions o f ideological disputes w ith in the F o rw a rd Bloc in the p erio d of its form ation, see N em ai N a g C h o w d h u ry , Subhas Chandra and Socialism (C a lc u tta : B ookland P riv ate L td ., 1965); D u rla b Singh, The Rebel President: A Bio­ graphical Study o f Subhas Chandra Bose (L ah o re: H ero P ublications, 1946); a n d Sita R a m Goel, Netaji and the C P I (C a lc u tta : Society for th e Defence o f F reed o m in Asia, 1955). 37 O n e M uslim m em b er o f th e F o rw ard Bloc, A sh raf-u d -d in -C h au d h u ry , held the position o f c h a irm a n o f the p a rty in th e 1940s, b u t w ith p a rtitio n he chose to rem a in in E ast Bengal (P akistan). M uslim involvem ent w ith the com m unist m o v em en t in W est B engal is exam ined in som e detail in M a rcu s F. F ra n d a , M arxism and the Bengali Elite (C am b rid g e: M .I .T . C en te r for In te rn a tio n a l S tudies m o n o g rap h , fo rth co m in g ). 38 J a y a n ta n u ja B a n d h o p ad h y ay a, Indian Nationalism versus International Communism (C a lc u tta : F irm a K . L. M u k h o p a d h y ay , 1966), p p . 335-336.

COMMUNISM A N D TH E BH A D RA LO K

29

Bengal c p i grew from 37 in 1934 to m ore th an 1000 in 1942, an d the su p p o rt of fellow travelers and n o n p arty m em bers grew apace. By the late 1970s a Soviet article pointed out th a t Bengalis were celebrating M ay D ay, A nti-W ar D ay, Lenin D ay, N ovem ber R esolution D ay, Palestine D ay, Spain D ay, Saklatvala D ay, Subhas Bose D ay, and Political Prisoners D ay, in all o f w hich the c p i now played a p rom inent p a rt.39 '£ These activities w ere intensified d u rin g the w ar. T h e c p i in Bengal broke w ith the F orw ard Bloc and the Congress Socialists in M arch 1940, allying first w ith the regular Congress (until D ecem ber 1940) and later w ith the British governm ent in support of the Allied w ar effort. By D ecem ber 1941 c p i m em bers had captured the A ll-India S tudents F ederation; by O ctober 1942 they had com plete m astery over the A ll-India K isan S abha (In d ia ’s largest mass peasant organiza­ tion) ; and by the late 1940s they had taken over the A ll-India T ra d e U nion Congress. These three organizations, each the largest of its kind in In d ia a t the tim e, gave the p arty a mass base for the first time, p articu larly in Bengal, w here all three organizations w ere strong. W ith its m em bers released from prison in J u ly 1942, the c p i in Bengal launched into relief w ork d uring the fam ine of 1943,40 hardened its cadre w ith innum erable study groups, discussions, and p a rty meetings, and even gained some train in g in guerrilla w arfare w hen the British recruited a guerrilla u n it from am ong c p i m em bers to fight against Bose in the N ortheast F rontier areas.41 T h e p arty was not w ithout its stresses and strains thro u g h o u t the period preceding and following W orld W ar II, b u t the discipline of its m em bers was dem onstrated by the fact th a t the Bengal c p i followed the all-In d ia p a rty in m an eu ­ vering itself through alm ost innum erable strategic and ideological shifts betw een 1936 and 1947,42 d uring w hich tim e there w ere few defections from the p arty and p arty m em bership continued to increase. M ost of the people w ho are now regarded as leading intellectuals or theoreticians in the com m unist m ovem ent in Bengal joined in the period following 1942, w hen the legal b an on the p a rty was lifted; a few of them joined earlier. O f the intellectuals in the p arty who were interview ed in 1969-1970, the vast m ajority traced their initial interest in M arxism back to In d ia n intellectual m ovem ents and their 39 O v erstreet a n d W indm iller, Communism in India, p. 175. 40 F o r a description of th e fam ine relief activities of th e c p i in B engal d u rin g the w ar, see “ P eople’s F ig h t against E pidem ics in B engal,” M arxist Miscellany (B om bay) 7 (A pril 1946): 82—93. 41 O v erstreet a n d W indm iller, Communism in India, p. 206. 42 F o r a discussion of these shifts, see J o h n H . K autsky, Moscow and the Communist Party o f India (N ew Y ork: J o h n W iley & Sons, 1956), p p . 6-24.

30

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

leaders: to Bankim C h an d ra, V ivekananda, S arat C h an d ra C hatterjee (a novelist w riting in the early p a rt of the century), and especially to Ja w a h a rla l N ehru an d R a b in d ra n a th T agore. N ehru rejected Stalinism th ro u g h o u t his life b u t spoke in very glow ing term s about m a n y aspects of M arxism an d intellectual com m unism in his au tobiography and other w ritings of the 1930s.43 T agore also rejected com m unism , b u t w hen he retu rn ed from his trip to the Soviet U nion in 1930 he did w rite a nu m b er of articles (both in Bengali an d in English) in w hich he praised the socialist experim ents he h ad w itnessed.44 T h e present generation of M arxist intellectual leaders in Bengal was introduced to socialist ideas through th e works of T agore, N ehru, an d other In d ia n w riters as students in the 1930s, and m ost of them coupled this in tel­ lectual trad itio n w ith an extensive reading of British socialist w riters (particularly H aro ld Laski an d J o h n Strachey), as well as com ­ m entaries on M arx, Engels, an d Lenin or occasionally the w ritings of M arx an d Lenin in English translation. O ne au th o r w ho has been universally read by Bengali Com m unists is R . Palm e D u tt, who was born in 1896 in C am bridge, E ngland, was a founding m em ber of the c p g b in 1920, and has been a m ajor advisor to In d ia n Com m unists ever since. A lthough D u tt has been to In d ia only once (in 1946, w hen he covered the C abinet M ission for the L ondon Daily Worker), he has tutored innum erable Bengali (and other In d ian ) C om m unist intellectuals at his “ study circles” in C am bridge, w hich he started in the 1920s. His India Today (which is currently being revised for the sixth time) is still the basic C om m unist prim er on In d ia n politics, an d his volum inous shelf of other w ritings has also been widely read. This reading list could be expanded, b u t the nam es already m entioned are representative of the intellectual orientation of the Bengalis w ho joined the p arty in the 1930s an d 1940s. T h e list points to the fact th a t intellectual M arxism in Bengal has been led by W esterneducated “ gentlem an C om m unists,” a phrase th a t is frequently used by the intellectual com m unity in C alcu tta to describe the M arxists. T hese are people who are well r e a d ; most of them have friends in the com m unist, socialist, and labor m ovem ents in G reat B ritain, and m any of them have traveled to the Soviet U nion an d E astern Europe. V ery few m em bers of the older generation of M arxist scholars in Bengal have ever studied M arx him self in any depth, an d m ost of them confess to great difficulty in getting through Das Kapital or other 43 See especially C h a p te r 67 of the original Bodley H e a d edition o f the Autobiog­ raphy (1937), w hich is still w idely q u o ted by c p i theoreticians in B engal. 44 M a n y o f these w ritings on R ussia have been collected in R a b in d ra n a th T ag o re, Letters from Russia, trans. S a sad h ar S in h a (C a lc u tta : V isva B h a rati, 1960); see especially p p. 117 ff.

COMMUNISM A N D TH E BH A D R A LO K

31

highly theoretical w orks.45 Few of them have ever read M ao, and w hen they have done so they have read him in English translation, invariably w ith the aid of com m entaries in English. P arty m em bers are the first to adm it th a t the com m unist m ovem ent in Bengal has never been able to boast a tru ly original M arxist theoretician, despite the presence of m any b rillian t scholars in the party. In tellectu al M arxism in Bengal derives its sustenance from the atm osphere of the highly educated bhadralok in , C alcutta, and its leading adherents are draw n from w ealthier and b etter established families th a n those of the terrorists in the organizational ap p aratu s of the m ovem ent. M ost of the intellectuals rem ained outside the terrorist m ovem ent in the 1930s in order to com plete their education. M an y of them traveled to E ngland to secure higher degrees. Since all of the leading m em bers of the older generation of M arxist scholars in W est Bengal are now in the regular c p i , the difference betw een the leadership of the c p i and the c p m is essentially the difference betw een the intellectual leadership of the m ovem ent, on the one h an d , and the organizational leadership (dom inated by form er terrorists) on the other. O f the 33 m em bers of the c p m S tate C om m ittee in 1969, only a third had college degrees, since m ost of them had in terru p ted their education in the 1930s to jo in w ith revolutionary parties. In contrast, all of the 9 m em bers of the c p i S tate S ecretariat in 1969 w ere college graduates, an d 6 of the 9 h ad advanced degrees. M ost m em bers of the c p m S tate C om m ittee (18 of the 33) stem m ed from ru ra l backgrounds, w ith alm ost h alf of them (15) com ing from families of m iddle peasants (landholders ow ning less th a n 10 acres), w hile 7 of the 9 m em bers of the c p i State S ecretariat were born into families w ith ancestral hom es in C alcutta, an d all of them th o u g h t of themselves as com ing from relatively w ealthy backgrounds. Some idea of the orientation of the leading intellectuals in the com m unist m ovem ent in Bengal can be gained from the w ritings of Professor H iren M ukherjee, w ho is now one of the m ajor theoreticians of the regular c p i , a prom inent m em ber of the state leadership of the party, and the leader of the c p i p arliam en tary p a rty in the Lok S abha. M ukherjee was born into a respected B rahm in fam ily in C alcu tta in 1907, . . . a m odest middle-class Bengali hom e, u rb a n b u t w ithout luxuries, w here every living room h ad its clutter of books in three languages, Bengali, Sanskrit an d English, an d masses of new spapers filed for reference purposes an d c a rd ­ b o ard -b o u n d hunks w here cuttings were pasted, an d w here on Sundays the 45 Das Kapital has been tran sla te d in to th ree In d ia n languages (M a ra th i, H in d i, a n d M a lay a la m ) b u t never in to B engali. See Das Kapital: Centenary Volume, ed. M o h it Sen a n d M . B. R a o (D elhi: P eople’s P u b lish in g H ouse, 1968), p p . 228-229.

32

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

sitting-room , w hence we were b an n ed till we grew up, w ould resound for hours to loud an d perhaps exciting talk on politics an d literatu re an d heaven knows w h at other subjects. W e cam e thus to inhale, w ith the very air we b reath ed , a sort of interest in public affairs an d in learning— an interest w hich pervaded the atm osphere, so to speak. . . ,46

M ukherjee’s hero d uring his adolescence was G andhi, an d though he h ad g reat respect for the terrorists, he chose to go ab ro ad for his education ra th e r th a n p articip ate in a revolutionary stu d en t group. E ducated a t C alcu tta U niversity and O xford, he has three advanced degrees (M .A ., B .L itt., and B arrister-at-L aw ) an d was the ch airm an of the D ep artm en t of H istory a t a C alcu tta college before he decided to w ork full tim e for the party. As recently as 1964, M ukherjee w rote eloquently of his respect for N eh ru : I have h ad the good fortune of being a d m itted to the affections of Ja w a h a rla l N ehru. I t is som ething th a t I hesitate to speak about. W hen he was alive we w ould often w rite to each other, b u t it was entirely personal a n d alm ost always it was far rem oved from the stink of day-to-day politics. I f from a railw ay carriage w indow the Suprem e C ourt building h u rt m y eyes till the sight of H u m a y u n ’s tom b soothed them , I w ould tell him a b o u t it b u t no t w hisper a w ord to others who would not und erstan d . . . . I f I was a good enough M arxist, w hich I fear I am not, I w ould have w ritten differently. I have w ritten as the bent took me, for I could not do otherw ise.47

Since 1964, the interests of the state c p i have been conditioned by the social backgrounds of the intellectual leadership. U nlike the form er terrorists in the organizational ap p aratu s of the c p m , the intellectuals in the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal gave w ay to th eir n atio n ­ alist feelings during the S ino-Indian b order dispute of 1962 an d have consistently advocated solidarity w ith the Soviet U nion during th e course of the Sino-Soviet rift.48 W ith the exception of the Z hdanov period im m ediately following Independence, the intellectual lead er­ ship has always advocated a position of support for N e h ru ’s foreign policy an d a m ore orthodox conception of the dictatorship of the p ro letariat th a n the rest of the organization has th o u g h t practical, 46 H ire n M ukherjee, Gandhiji: A Study, 2nd rev. ed. (N ew D elh i: P eople’s P ub lish in g H ouse, 1960), pp. 2-3. 47 H ire n M ukherjee, The Gentle Colossus: A Study o f Jawaharlal Nehru (C a lc u tta : M an ish a G ra n th a la y a P riv ate L td ., 1964), p. v. 48 A n excellent discussion of in tellectu al M arx ism in In d ia , in w hich the com ­ m unists are c o m p ared to the socialists, d em o cratic socialists, a n d rad ic al h um an ists, is p ro v id ed in S ib n a ray a n R ay, “ In d ia : U rb a n In tellectu als a n d R u ra l P ro b lem s,” in Revisionism: Essays on the History o f M arxist Ideas, ed. L eopold L ab ed z (L o n d o n : A llen & U n w in , 1962), pp. 374—386.

COMMUNISM A N D TH E BH A D RA LO K

33

at the same tim e as it has opposed m em bers of the organization w ho advocate the M aoist or Left C om m unist strategies th a t have frequently been discussed in in n er-p arty debates. W hile the intellectuals have w orked effectively in constitutional and electoral bodies, especially a t the central governm ent level, they have never been able to w rest control of the electoral m achinery of the p a rty from the organizational cadre. Intellectuals have been p rom inent in u rb an lab o r unions, p articu larly in the engineering industries, and have also been active in cu ltu ral front groups and student associations. W here they have taken an interest in the peasantry, they have preferred to w ork through the electoral m achinery ra th e r than the peasant organizations, which are based on class conflict, and w hich are dom inated by the organiza­ tional cadre. Electoral Politics and the C P I T h e first elections contested by the C om m unist p arty in Bengal were the elections to the p rep artitio n U n ited Bengal Assembly, w hich took place in 1946. D uring the previous elections in 1935 and earlier, the c p i had always been m uch too small even to consider contesting, and in the years betw een 1935 and 1946, w hen the c p i began to grow in num bers and influence, elections w ere suspended because of the w ar. T h e elections of 1946 were therefore especially im p o rtan t, both for the province and for the party, since they were to choose the first Provincial L egislature of postw ar Bengal, as well as the m akeup of the A ll-India C onstituent Assembly th a t was to draft a postw ar constitution for India. In the elections of 1946, twelve parties contested 250 seats, 89 of w hich rem ained w ithin W est Bengal after partition, w ith the other 161 going over to East P akistan.49 T h e c p i contested 3 of these seats and succeeded in w inning all of them , so th a t the p arty gained at least token representation in the first Legislative Assembly in independent W est Bengal. In the pluralist electoral system used by the British in 1946, the c p i w on seats from very diverse constituencies: the R ailw ay T ra d e U nion constituency, w here the c p i w on 87 of 166 votes (52.4 p ercen t); the D arjeeling T e a G arden constituency, w here it won 1120 of 1322 valid votes (84.7 p ercen t); and the D in ajp u r R u ral constituency, w here it won 35,127 of 54,626 valid votes (64.1 percent). As a result of these elections, the c p i in W est Bengal was able to elect th e only C om m unist representative (Som nath L ahiri) to the C on­ stitu en t Assembly, w hich was ultim ately responsible for drafting the 49 C o m plete retu rn s for th e 1946 election in W est B engal are availab le in W est B engal, P rovincial S tatistical B ureau, Statistical Abstract, West Bengal, 1947 (A lipore: W est B engal G o v ern m en t Press, 1948), p p . 59-69.

34

P A R T Y LEADERSH IP

In d ia n C onstitudon, an d w hich served as th e central legislature for all of In d ia until 1952. T h e elections also m ade it possible for the leg­ islative leader of the c p i in W est Bengal (Jyoti Basu) to establish him self in state politics. ' T h e legislative experience of the c p i betw een 1946 an d 1952 (when the first G eneral Elections were held in independent In d ia) was extrem ely im p o rtan t for the grow th of the c p i in W est Bengal, since the Com m unists w ere the only organized political p a rty besides the Congress th a t rem ained in the Legislative Assembly th ro u g h o u t the post-Independence period. T h e other political parties th a t h ad run against the Congress in the 1946 elections either w ent over to Pakistan or eventually m erged w ith the Congress, so th a t its principal opposition d uring the first five years of Independence was provided by the c p i a n d a handful of independents. M oreover, the eloquence an d p a rlia ­ m en tary conduct of Jy o ti Basu, w ho was initially the leader of the c p i legislative p arty an d eventually the leader of the entire opposition in the state assembly, was widely praised, both by his supporters and by his opponents. Even The Statesman, w hich has always been editorially anticom m unist, praised Basu often as the only person w ho stood in the w ay of m onopoly rule by Congress in the early years of the state legislature.50 T h e electoral support th a t the c p i was able to generate in W est Bengal during these early years was shown by the success of the p arty in the elections th at took place in 1952, w hen the p arty secured 28 seats in a Legislative Assembly of 238, establishing itself as the largest opposition p arty in W est Bengal. T h e electoral supporters of the Com m unists in these early years were draw n alm ost exclusively from the u rb a n areas in an d aro u n d C alcutta, w hile the leadership of the electoral ap p aratu s of the p a rty cam e for the m ost p a rt from the intellectual com m unity and the organizational cadre dom inated by form er terrorists. S upport of the c p i by the bhadralok in the period before 1952 was retained by the superior organization of the c p i over the other opposition parties an d reinforced by the role of the C om m unists in the agitation directed against the W est Bengal Security Bill of 1948. T h e principal purpose of the W est Bengal Security Bill, in the words of the first C hief M inister of W est Bengal, was to “ m ake special provision for the suppression of subversive activities.” 51 As a result 50 See, for exam ple, the ed itorial in The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily), M a rc h 31, 1948. 51 Ananda Bazaar Patrika (C a lc u tta d aily), D ecem ber 9, 1947.

COMMUNISM A N D T H E BH A D RA LO K

35

of W orld W ar I I an d the p artitio n of 1947, W est Bengal was in a state of chaos, and there existed a nu m b er of organized groups who h ad secured arm s an d am m unition from a variety of sources. M any of the 200,000 Allied troops w ho h ad been stationed in and aro u n d C alcu tta during the w ar h ad sold their w eapons to private individuals, an d m any w eapons had, been sm uggled or stolen from arm y cam ps by In d ia n citizens. In'- addition, m em bers of Bose’s In d ia n N ational A rm y ( i n a ) retu rn in g from the cam paigns in B urm a were able to bring their w eapons into In d ia illegally, and m any of the terrorists still had their ow n supplies of arm s and am m unition accum ulated during the previous h a lf century. C alcutta h ad been the scene of two violent upheavals ju st before Independence, one a period of alm ost three m onths of continuous agitation directed against the British in 1945-1946, w hen the governm ent of In d ia placed the m em bers of the i n a on trial for treason, an d the other in m id -1946, w hen countless num bers of people were killed in the com ­ m u n al rioting after the decision to p artitio n Bengal. C alcu tta had witnessed massive com m unal riots previously, in 1910, 1918, an d 1926, an d g reat nationalist bloodshed in 1921—1922 and 1930-1931, b u t the i n a agitation and the G reat C alcu tta K illing of 1946 w ere u n ­ precedented in their ferocity.52 H in d u and M uslim extrem ist groups, private arm ies of various kinds, an d m any of the leftist political parties increased their stores of arm s an d am m unition during this period, an d m ost of them acquired a g reat deal of experience in the use of their arsenals in the two years preceding the partition. T h e first C hief M inister of W est Bengal, Prafulla C h an d ra Ghosh, argued th a t he needed special em ergency powers from the Legislative Assembly to deal w ith the explosive situation th a t had arisen as a result of C a lc u tta ’s violent past an d its u n certain future. In a plaintive speech to the Legislative Assembly in N ovem ber 1947, the C hief M inister said, //

R obberies are ra m p a n t in C alcu tta a n d elsewhere. T h ere are arm s an d am m unition in the hands of m any people, b o th H indus a n d M uslims. I have not been able to recover them even w ith the help of ordinances. W h a t am I to d o ?53 52 Bengalis have shied aw ay from w ritin g a b o u t the rio tin g th a t w ent on in B engal d u rin g th e years 1945-1946. T h e re is n o th in g c o m p arab le for B engal to M a n o h a r M a lg o n k a r’s A Bend in the Ganges, or K u sh w a n t S in g h ’s Train to Pakistan, b o th o f w hich d eal w ith events su rro u n d in g the p a rtitio n o f P u n ja b . F o r a n eyew itness acc o u n t by a B ritisher, see Francis T u k er, While Memory Serves (L o n d o n : Cassell, 1950). 53 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, N ovem ber 27, 1947.

36

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

As the police fired th irty rounds of am m unition outside the Legislative Assem bly to disperse a crow d of protesters, C hief M inister G hosh introduced the W est Bengal Security Bill on D ecem ber 10, 1947.54 T h e bill allowed the W est Bengal governm ent to d etain persons suspected of subversive activities for a period of three m onths, w hich was renew able, and to do so w ithout inform ing the individual involved even of the grounds of his detention for a period of fifteen days. This legislation was in m any ways an extension of British legal codes having to do w ith “ preventive d eten tio n ,” an d m uch of it was eventually superseded by the preventive detention clauses ad o p ted by the C onstituent Assembly of In d ia .55 B ut W est Bengal was the only state in the In d ia n U nion to m ake w ide use of such legislation im m ediately after Independence. T h e c p i led the opposition against the W est Bengal S ecurity Bill, w hich h ad been labeled by the other M arxist Left parties in Bengal as a “ black a c t” an d a “ to talitarian subterfuge.” 56 Jy o ti Basu described the em ergency powers as “ pernicious, . . . co n trary to dem ocracy, an d in sheer violation of all th a t the Congress has stood an d fought for for so m any years.” 57 U sing every p arliam en tary tactic th a t he knew, Basu m oved innum erable am endm ents to the bill in the Legisla­ tive Assembly, losing on every occasion an d often voting alone against a p articu lar clause. Y et in the end he delayed the legislation for a considerable period of tim e an d gained a rep u tatio n for legislative leadership an d courage am ong the u rb a n bhadralok. In the years betw een Independence an d the first G eneral Elections in 1952, com m unist intellectuals an d front groups staged innum erable m eetings and dem onstrations, protesting against the Security Bill an d p articu larly against the governm ent’s use of it to declare the W est Bengal c p i illegal. T h e c p i was banned on M arch 27, 1948, an d m ost of the leadership of the p arty spent the next four years in prison. T h ere is no question th a t from 1948 to 1951 the p a rty was engaged in a m ovem ent designed to overthrow the state governm ent by the use of revolutionary violence as prescribed by the Z hdanov line, taking advantage of the chaotic conditions th a t prevailed after the w ar an d after partition. But the Congress in W est Bengal was not persuasive in stating its case for a 54 Hindus than Standard (C a lc u tta d aily), D ecem ber 11, 1946. 55 F o r a n analysis o f this type o f legislation in In d ia , see D avid Bayley, Preventive Detention in India: A Case Study in Democratic Social Control (C a lc u tta : F irm a K . L. M u k h o p a d h y ay , 1962). 56 T h e w ords are those of S a ra t C h a n d ra Bose, th e elder b ro th e r o f S ubhas, a n d M rin a l K a n ti Bose, p resid en t o f the B engal P rovincial T ra d e U n io n Congress. See The Statesman, D ecem ber 8, 1947, a n d D ecem ber 12, 1947. 57 Q u o te d in ibid., N o v em b er 28, 1947.

COMMUNISM AN D T H E BH A D RA LO K

37

b an on the p arty , particularly in the early years, and the intellectual com m unity and the opposition political parties were for the most p a rt outraged by w h at they considered a far too repressive policy. O ne m em ber of the opposition in the Legislative Assembly argued th a t “ blam ing Com m unists was only a convenient w ay of explaining aw ay the defects of the governm ent,” and another (who eventually joined the Congress) said th a t “ by blam ing Com m unists for everything the G overnm ent is only strengthening them , and though people are not w illing to accept com m unism , it is being forced on th e m .” 58 Jy o ti Basu, w hen he was not in ja il during this period, was extrem ely effective in challenging the governm ent to provide evidence of C om m unist subversion, an d C om m unist cu ltu ral front groups and the M arxist Left parties of W est Bengal becam e increasingly outspoken and active in their opposition to governm ent arrests. T h e extent to w hich the u rb a n intellectual and political leadership of C alcu tta was united in opposition to the Security Bill was indicated in a 1949 by-election for the Legislative Assembly in South C alcutta constituency. In this election the M arxist Left parties united behind the candidacy of S arat C h an d ra Bose, the elder b ro th er of Subhas, and took the side of the c p i on the issue of preventive detention. Prim e M inister N ehru himself, d uring one of his frequent trips to C alcutta, presented the position of the Congress governm ent in an unusual preelection appeal to the v o te rs: I have generally avoided du rin g recent years interfering in any election contest. But in the present instance I feel th a t the issues raised are such th a t I should m ake it perfectly clear w h at I feel in the m atter. I regret th a t M r. Bose should associate him self w ith a disruptive policy w hich could only be term ed an tin atio n al. N ot only has he allied him self w ith all these an tin atio n al elements, he is also being exploited by them . U n d e r w hich flag does M r. Bose stand, to w hich flag do his associates give allegiance?59

S arat Bose countered N e h ru ’s appeal w ith an election statem ent th at sum m arized the feelings of a large portion of the u rb a n bhadralok. Bose argued th a t he too was anticom m unist, b u t th a t N ehru and the Congress h ad “ com prom ised w ith British im perialism in 1946” and h ad accepted “ the British gam e of dividing the co u n try .” H e pointed o u t innum erable instances of w h at he described as “ the deterioration in adm inistration and . . . the rise of nepotism , corruption and favoritism ” in the state governm ent, an d argued th a t W est Bengal 58 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, J a n u a r y 21, 1949. T h e statem ents are by M L A s K h u d a B haksh a n d A bul H ashim . 59 N e h ru ’s sta te m e n t is p rin te d in full in The Statesman, J u n e 9, 1949.

38

PA R T Y LEADERSHIP

was being ru n by “ a handful o f capitalists.” T h e press, M r. Bose argued, h ad been “ gagged,” civil liberties h ad been “ done aw ay w ith ,” an d “ dem ands [had] been m et by . . . lathis, tear gas, batons, bayonets, an d bullets, as in British tim es.” 60 In the election the Congress was defeated by a massive m argin of alm ost four to one, as Bose g arnered 19,030 votes to his o p p o n en t’s 5780. " T h e c p i was the m ost successful opposition p a rty in the 1952 elections in W est Bengal, not only because it was b etter organized and m ore realistic in assessing the n u m b er of constituencies in w hich it could challenge the Congress, b u t also because of the halo of m arty rd o m th a t it h ad acquired in the eyes of the u rb a n bhadralok as a result of its four years in jail. W hen the c p i contested the elections in 1952, m ore th a n 250 p arty m em bers w ere still political prisoners, an d 5 of the 28 c p i candidates w ho won w ere elected despite the fact th a t they w ere still u n d er d eten tio n .61 In succeeding elections support for the c p i increased steadily, an d the C om m unist parties were able to form a series of leftist electoral alliances th a t eventually placed p a rty m em bers in positions of pow er an d influence in the ministries. D uring the last two decades, however, the Com m unists in W est Bengal have never been able to win m ore th a n 25 percent of the vote for the Legislative Assembly, an d attem pts to devise electoral strategies have frequently resulted in intense factionalism . T h e conflicts w ithin the p a rty have m ainly been the result of disagreem ents regarding the role of p a rty leaders prom inent in election cam paigns. Congress was able to win the first three general elections in W est Bengal because of its success in p u ttin g together a coalition of u rb an businessmen, in flu e n tia l, and ru ra l leaders from a variety of social groups. U sing the patronage th a t the p a rty com m anded through its position in the governm ent, Congress was able to a ttra c t m en w ho had influence in their own localities an d w ho could sway large portions of the electo rate; the p a rty was subsequently able to advance the positions of m em bers who h ad helped p erp etu ate the patronage system it h ad created. But the support of the opposition parties in W est Bengal cam e from discontented u rb an intellectuals an d form er terrorists, groups far too small to present a challenge to a w ell-organized aggre­ gative political party. T h e opposition parties clearly h ad to devise a strategy th a t w ould enable them to a ttra c t m ore w idespread support, b u t on this issue the C om m unist p a rty was m ore seriously divided 60Ib id . F o r an ex p an d ed version o f Bose’s views on in d e p e n d e n t W est Bengal, see I Warned M y Countrymen: Being the Collected Works 1945-1950 o f Sarat Chandra Bose (C a lc u tta : N etaji R esearch B ureau, 1968), pp. 181 ff. 61 Ananda Bazaar Patrika, F e b ru a ry 16, 1952.

COMMUNISM A N D T H E B H A D RA LO K

39

th a n on any other. O n e section, led by some of the m ost influential m em bers o f the organizational cadre, argued th a t the p a rty had no business contesting elections an d opted for a m ore revolutionary strategy. A nother section argued th a t electoral support w ould be forthcom ing am ong the disadvantaged in W est Bengal if the p arty w ere only able to fom ent “ class struggles” in the countryside, u n d e r­ cutting the pow er of local influential^ by tu rn in g peasants against landlords, the landless against the landed, workers against m an ag e­ m ent, an d so forth. A th ird section o f the p arty , generally led by the intellectuals w ithin the m ovem ent, sought to w ork w ithin the existing social structure in order to b eat Congress a t its own electoral gam e, leaving open the possibility o f continuing w ith other, m ore revolu­ tionary activities a t the sam e time. T h e factional conflicts th a t have developed over this issue are still unresolved, b u t during the course o f the last two decades the state com m unist m ovem ent has clearly recruited an electoral following quite distinct from the regular cadre an d the intellectuals. This section of the m ovem ent is com posed o f people who are usually m uch b etter established in the present social structure o f W est Bengal th an the m em bers of the regular p a rty organizations: doctors, lawyers, journalists, teachers, landholders, traders, m erchants, even m anagers an d businessm en an d form er princes. F requently lacking an intellectual com m itm ent to M arxism , they have joined the com m unist m ovem ent because of their m u tu al interest in besting the Congress in electoral contests, an interest w ith a variety of motives. Because they are com m itted to the support o f the Com m unists in electoral contests, an d because the cadre controls the electoral m achinery of the party, these people have usually sided w ith the organizational ap p aratu s ra th e r th a n the intellectuals in p a rty disputes. T h ey are distinguished from the rest o f the organizational cadre, however, by their greater interest in the electoral contests in w hich the p a rty has been engaged an d by their exclusion from the in n er councils o f the p arty ap p aratu s dom inated by the cadre. T hey are also distinguished by the fact th a t they have generally served shorter prison term s th an the leading m em bers o f the cadre; m ost o f them have never been to jail. A few of the leading electoral com m unists are now m em bers o f the State C om m ittee of the c p m , b u t the extent to w hich they are outnum bered on the com m ittee is indicated by the fact th a t 12 o f its 33 m em bers have never contested elections an d an o th er 7 have tried once an d been defeated. O nly 1 m em ber o f the S tate C om m ittee o f the c p m has been in the legislatures th ro u g h o u t the period since Independence, an d only 7 have won m ore th a n two terms.

40

P A R T Y LEADERSHIP

T h e unquestioned leader of the electoral w ing of the c p m is Jy o ti Basu, w ho was born in C alcu tta in 1914, the son of one of the w ealthiest an d most respected hom eopathic doctors in W est Bengal. Basu was educated a t the best E nglish-m edium schools an d colleges in C alcu tta (St. X av ier’s an d Presidency College) an d spent a nu m b er o f years in E ngland in the 1930s, w here he secured a B arrister-at-L aw degree from the M iddle T em ple in London. J y o ti’s elder brother, now a fam ous doctor in C alcutta, m arried into the Ja lp a ig u ri Raj family, one of the oldest o f the princely families in W est Bengal, an d it was through his b ro th er th a t Jy o ti first cam e into contact w ith the fam ily he m arried into. His first wife was the d au g h ter of a Ja lp aig u ri tea p lan tatio n ow ner w ho h a d also becom e som ething o f an en tre­ pren eu r in m anufacturing an d industry, an d his second wife is the younger sister of the first. Jy o ti Basu jo in ed the c p g b in B ritain in 1937 an d was active in the In d ia n L eague an d the In d ia n S eam an’s C lub in L ondon in the 1930s. U p o n his re tu rn to C alcu tta in 1940 he was enrolled as an A dvocate o f the C alcu tta H igh C ourt, b u t he eventually chose to devote his life to politics ra th e r th a n law. In the early 1940s he was extrem ely active in the A ll-India R ailw aym en’s F ederation, one of the largest o f In d ia ’s labor unions, b u t after his election to the Legislative Assembly in 1946 his political activities becam e focused alm ost exclusively on electoral politics, in w hich he has been highly successful. H e has w on every election to the Legislative Assembly th a t he has entered, usually by large m argins, an d until 1967 was the unquestioned leader o f the opposition in the state assembly. In the first U n ited F ro n t governm ent in 1967 he becam e the F inance M inister, in the second he was placed in charge o f the m ajor portfolios in the H om e M inistry (C onstitution, Elections, Special and G eneral A dm inistration, Police, an d Press). In both U n ited F ront governm ents he was the D eputy C hief M inister. Basu’s interests clearly revolve aro u n d electoral politics, as do those of a great m any o f the leaders o f the c p i an d the c p m . W ith his educational background he could easily have becom e a leading theoretician in the party, b u t he has in fact published alm ost nothing, because o f the risk o f alienating some of his supporters. Basu’s dom inance o f the electoral organization o f the state p arty has led to his inclusion on the most powerful p arty com m ittees, both a t the central an d at the state levels, b u t he has also com plained often th at he was being excluded from “ inner p arty cells” an d has thus far been unable to gain control over a significant portion o f the organiza­ tional cadre. Even d uring the eight years w hen Basu was secretary o f the S tate Council o f the c p i (1951-1959), the p a rty office was ru n by the leader of the organizational cadre, P ram ode Das G u p ta, and

ELITE RECRUITM ENT A N D COMMUNIST IDEOLOGY

41

Basu him self was frequently disciplined by p arty h ead q u arters for w hat w ould norm ally be considered ra th e r ro u tin e p arliam en tary behavior. O n one occasion he was subject to p arty discipline w hen he p articip ated in a H in d u festival ( Vana-Mahotsava) w ith w hich Congress was identified, and at other times the p a rty has required him to confess openly to “ m istakes” in the Legislative Assembly and to request the Speaker of the assembly to expunge from the published debates utterances th a t w ere unacceptable to the cadre. Because of his depen­ dence on the leadership of the cadre for support in electoral politics, Basu has subjected him self to p a rty discipline on all of these occasions.62 E lite R e c r u itm e n t a n d C o m m u n is t Id eo lo g y T h e elitist n atu re of the C om m unist leadership in W est Bengal and its factionalism are m atched by sim ilar phenom ena in other C om ­ m unist parties in Asia. C om m unist ideology, as opposed to the m ove­ m ent itself, has had little appeal to the general public in Asia—in fact it is probably incom prehensible to most citizens of Asian nations— an d A sian C om m unists have therefore refrained from any a ttem p t to in d o ctrin ate the masses in countries w here they are still struggling for pow er. M ost Asian C om m unists have devised a mass appeal th a t is based on a nu m b er of rem arkably sim ilar p o p u lar issues (corruption, excessive bureaucratism , im perialism , land reform , and so forth), w hile the ideology has rem ained the preserve of the p arty leadership. T h e ideology has been used to determ ine “ the n a tu re an d objectives of the m ovem ent, its operational techniques, the types of persons it recruits, how it trains them , and how they should be deployed over a b road front to create a situation favorable to a C om m unist revolution.” 63 In d ia has been no exception to this general trend, an d in W est Bengal (w here the gap betw een the literate high-caste elite and the illiterate masses is greater th an in other parts of In d ia )64 th e tendency is perhaps even m ore m arked. T h e ideology of com m unism can be (and frequently is) a unifying factor am ong Asian elites. Because it provides both a w orld view an d m ethods of organization th a t are the p ro d u ct of the thinking 62 T hese incidents are e la b o rated in N . G. B h a ttac h a ry a , “ L ead ersh ip in the C o m m u n ist P a rty of In d ia ,” in State Politics in India, ed. Iq b a l N a ra in (M e e ru t: M eenakshi P rak ash an , 1967), pp. 544—545. 63 G oh K en g Swee, “ T h e N a tu re a n d A ppeals of C om m unism in N o n -C o m m u n ist A sian C o u n trie s,” in Communism in Asia, ed. J o h n W ilkes (Sydney: A ngus a n d R o b ertso n , 1967), p. 41. See also The Communist Revolution in Asia, ed. R o b e rt A. S calap in o , 2 nd ed. (E nglew ood Cliffs, N .J .: P ren tice-H all, 1969). 64 T h is g ap is largely ow ing to the absence of th e in te rm e d iate castes th a t usually a ct as a b rid g e betw een high a n d low in o th er p a rts of In d ia . See Broom field, Elite Conflict, p. 6.

42

PA R T Y LEADERSHIP

an d experience of Com m unists in m an y countries for m ore th a n a century, it offers a m odel th a t can be used to gain cohesion am ong political leaders who m ight otherw ise have a w ide variety of divergent interests. “ W hatever the gap betw een [the] concept a n d ' practice [of com m unism ]— an d there is increasing reason to believe th a t it has always been substantial— this organizational system has been far superior to most com petitive systems available in A sia.” 65 T h e greater unity an d cohesion achieved by the C om m unists in W est Bengal com pared to the M arxist Left parties has been in large m easure a result of their greater ideological com m itm ent. B ut the ideology of com m unism can also be divisive, an d W est Bengal provides an alm ost classic exam ple. C om m unist ideology can be divided into a t least two m ajor parts. O n e is the theory (or perhaps m ore accurately the m etaphysics), the “ science” of dialectical m a te ria l­ ism expounded by M arx an d Engels, w hich envisages the developm ent of h u m an society in a series of q u a n tu m changes. T h e other is the doctrine (as used in the political ra th e r th a n the m etaphysical sense), a set of principles underlying organizational an d operational m ethods, the m ost basic of w hich are usually traced to L enin and, especially in Asia, to M ao T se-tung.66 Ideally, C om m unists should interest th em ­ selves both in theory an d in doctrine, an d those w ho are extrem ely well versed in one or the other should be able a n d w illing to function effectively together, each contributing his p a rticu lar expertise for the w ell-being of the p a rty an d each subjecting him self to p a rty discipline an d dem ocratic centralist rules of political organization. In practice this has happened perhaps m ore often th a n no t in W est Bengal, w hich accounts for the greater relative unity am ong the C om m unists there. But the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal has h ad its share of factionalism too, p articu larly since the S ino-Indian border clashes of 1959 and 1962, an d for the m ost p a rt this has been the result of ideological differences am ong various p a rty elites. Both form er an d present m em bers of the C om m unist parties in W est Bengal distinguish sharply betw een p a rty leaders w ho are interested in organizational (doctrinal) questions, those w ho are p ro m in en t in theoretical debates, an d those whose principal interests lie in the legislative arena. Since the leaders themselves frequently describe their activities as falling into one or an o th er of the three categories, it is not difficult for an outsider to determ ine them . Few 65 R o b e rt A. Scalapino, “ T h e N a tu re o f C om m unist R egim es in A sia,” in Com­ munism in Asia, p. 4. 66 T his distinction is m ade in Swee, “ C om m unism in N o n -C o m m u n ist A sian C o u n tries,” p p . 41-43.

ELITE RECRUITM ENT AN D COMMUNIST IDEOLOGY

43

Asian societies have experienced w ith the same degree o f intensity the three m ajor m ovem ents th a t over the last century have produced distinct leadership sets am ong Bengali C om m unists: a terrorist m ove­ m en t led by highly institutionalized terrorist federations; a burgeoning of intellectual activities in w hich both W estern and indigenous traditions were p ro m in en t; an d an experience w ith electoral dem oc­ racy th a t dates back to the 1880s. ' W hile com m unist ideology an d recru itm en t patterns have com bined to produce w ell-defined factions am ong the leadership o f the m ove­ m en t in W est Bengal, the factions themselves have derived m uch of their sustenance from the n atu re of the social an d political systems th a t have prevailed in In d ia in recent times. In a society w here hierarchical forms o f social organization have existed for so long, and w here m en established in positions of au th o rity can expect a kind of deference th a t is alm ost unknow n in societies th a t place less em phasis on status, there is often an intense com petition am ong those in leadership positions to gain the support o f followers an d subordinates. This com petition is reinforced in m ost In d ia n political parties by frequent struggles am ong p a rty leaders to secure the position o f leadership in their own factions.67 F urtherm ore, in political parties th a t contain a n u m b er of people who have been alienated from the rest of society an d who have suffered repression, there is a greater th a n usual need for social integration betw een p arty leaders an d their followers.68 All of these factors have resulted in a high degree o f identification betw een the m em bership o f the C om m unist parties in W est Bengal an d p articu lar sets of factional leaders. Conflicts am ong elite C om m unist leaders in W est Bengal have covered the spectrum o f personal an d other factional differences b u t have usually centered on fu n d am en tal questions o f strategy. W h at kind o f strategy should a C om m unist p a rty pursue in a pluralist and hierarchically organized society, in a developing nation in w hich electoral politics is highly institutionalized, an d w hich has recently been dom inated by largely ru ra l interests? T h ere are no n e a t M arxist, Leninist, or M aoist form ulations th a t can answ er this question, an d the cleavages th a t have taken place w ithin the m ovem ent have revolved aro u n d the a tte m p t by various leadership groups m erely to 67 T h e th em e of factionalism am o n g B engali C om m unists is discussed in C h a p te r 3, a n d especially in th e co ncluding c h a p te r. F o r co n tra stin g d a ta from a n o th e r In d ia n region, cf. P a u l R . Brass, Factionalism in an Indian State: Congress Party Politics in Uttar Pradesh (B erkeley: U niversity o f C alifornia Press, 1967), pp. 235-243. 68 See M y ro n W einer a n d Jo se p h L a P a lo m b a ra , “ T h e Im p a c t o f P arties on Political D e v elo p m en t,” in Political Parties and Political Development, ed. Jo se p h L a P a lo m b a ra a n d M y ro n W ein er (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U n iv ersity Press, 1966), p. 405.

44

PA R T Y LEADERSHIP

reach some kind of m inim al agreem ent. T h e following ch ap ter explores some of the problem s C om m unists have faced in devising an a p p ro p ri­ ate strategy in W est Bengal, focusing on the period before the split in 1964.

3

FACTIONAL CONFLICT AND PA R T Y ORGANIZATION \

F actional alignm ents th a t w ere present am ong Bengali C om m unists a t the tim e of Independence have shifted considerably since 1947. T h e pro-Soviet intellectual leadership of the m ovem ent, w hich was d o m in an t in the state p a rty thro u g h o u t W orld W ar II an d the im m e­ diate post-Independence period, continued to support the c p s u and the national leadership of the c p i in the 1950s an d 1960s. B ut this faction has been increasingly opposed a t the state level by form er terrorists an d electoralists w ithin the p arty w ho have been able to recru it large num bers of state supporters in recent years. Conflicts betw een the older intellectuals an d the other leadership sets in the W est Bengal m ovem ent culm inated in a split in the c p i in 1964, w ith the state intellectual leadership being isolated in the Soviet-backed c p i , now array ed against form er terrorists an d electoral Com m unists allied w ith each other in the c p m . O n the n ational level there is perhaps no country in Asia an d A frica w here Com m unists have been m ore divided over strategy. Indeed, the In d ia n m ovem ent is frequently cited by C om m unists an d noncom ­ m unists alike as an alm ost classic exam ple of a poorly organized, ideologically confused, an d politically im potent m ovem ent, p articu larly in com parison w ith the Asian C om m unist p arty th a t has succeeded in cap tu rin g pow er in C hina. In contrast to the Chinese Com m unists, the In d ia n C om m unists have never been able to decide w hat com ­ bination of forces they should try to organize from am ong the peasants, the p ro letariat, the anti-im perialists, an d the bourgeoisie. F requently they have been unable even to agree on w hich segments of In d ian society com e u n d er these headings, an d perhaps m ore often th a n not, p a rty theoreticians have created so m any subdivisions th a t In d ian society becomes all b u t unrecognizable to a m em bership th a t w ants a clear form ula for political action. Even w hen there has been general agreem ent on the identification an d definition of the various classes,

46

FA C T IO N A L CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

the parties have often found themselves u n ab le to decide w hether to form alliances w ith them or to oppose them . In d ia n com m unism has therefore vacillated betw een a n insurrectionist strategy tow ard certain classes, an electoral strategy tow ard others, an d a host of com bined strategies in w hich insurrection an d constitutional com m unism have sometimes been pursued sim ultaneously. T h e frequent shifts in the leadership of the n ational m ovem ent in In d ia, especially w hen com pared to M a o ’s dom inance in C hina, points up in a d ram atic w ay the lack of continuity th a t has ch aracterized the grow th of In d ia n com m unism . T h e divisions th a t have plagued the com m unist m ovem ent in other parts of In d ia have also been present in W est Bengal, an d yet com ­ m unism has been m ore effective in W est Bengal on a regional basis th a n it has on the national level. Indeed, the challenge of the com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia derives not from its nationw ide strength b u t ra th e r from the w ay it has periodically becom e en­ trenched in certain strategic regions of the country (particularly the T elengana an d Srikakulam regions of A n d h ra, large portions of the state of K erala, an d the southern districts of W est Bengal). T h e strength of com m unism in p articu lar regions is at least p artly the result of agreem ent— or perhaps m ore accurately, accom m odation— on strategy. W hile questions of strategy on a n atio n al level have frequently created serious factionalism in the all-In d ia p arty , betw een regional units as well as w ithin them , accom m odation of differences has often been achieved w ithin regional units in a w ay th a t has not been possible nationally. In W est Bengal, essentially the same leader­ ship dom inated the state p a rty organization of the c p i from 1951 to 1964, a leadership th a t now controls the largest of the two parties presently existing in the region. O ne obvious reason for the g reater degree of continuity in the regional units is provided by the n atu re of the In d ian political system an d the society in w hich it operates. In d ian politics an d society could perhaps best be described as consisting of segm ented, pluralist units, divided am ong themselves on the basis of language, caste, culture, an d other fundam ental differences. E ach of the various linguisticcu ltu ral units has its own peculiar social structure, each has been subject to different patterns of econom ic developm ent, an d each has evolved politically in response to factors th a t are often peculiar to only one or two of In d ia ’s m any regions. This is not to argue th a t the regions can be understood w ithout reference to n ational an d in ter­ national factors, b u t it does point up the n atu re of the organizational problem s posed by In d ia ’s great diversity, especially for a political p a rty th a t aspires to unity an d cohesiveness.

P A R T Y U N ITY A N D A N INSURRECTIONIST STRATEGY

47

P a r ty U n ity a n d an I n s u r r e c tio n is t S tra teg y In contrast to the c p i on the national level, the c p i in W est Bengal was m ost unified during the three-year period betw een Independence an d the prom ulgation of the In d ia n C onstitution in 1950. T his is explained by the political situation in the newly independent state of W est Bengal, w hich was unlike th a t in other parts of In d ia. P artitio n split the econom y of W est Bengal into two p arts; it was accom panied by massive m ovem ents of people across a recently defined in tern atio n al b o rd er; it was conceived an d carried out in an atm osphere of w idespread rioting an d violence; an d in W est Bengal it created enorm ous resentm ent, bitterness, an d hostility. M oreover, the governm ents th a t were created after p artitio n , both in East Pakistan an d in W est Bengal, were decidedly m ore unstable th an the govern­ m ents in other parts of In d ia an d Pakistan. T h e M uslim m ajority th a t h ad ruled Bengal before Independence w ent over to Pakistan, w here M uslim political leaders found themselves w ithout an adm inistrative ap p aratu s an d w ithout m uch of a police force.1 W hile W est Bengal did have an adm inistrative cadre of proven skill an d a m uch b etter police force th an East Pakistan, in order to create a legislative govern­ m en t for the new ly defined state, political alliances h ad to be com pletely restructured. T his led to factional infighting w ithin the Congress governm ent an d a two- or three-year period of instability. Food an d oth er consum er goods w ere scarce in 1947 an d 1948, there was great tension betw een the various H in d u an d M uslim (and non-Bengali an d Sikh) “ resistance groups” th a t h ad been form ed to protect com m unal interests, an d there was even the possibility th a t the In d ian A rm y m ight becom e disenchanted, owing to the trea tm en t of the In d ia n N ational A rm y of Subhas Bose, the response of the governm ent to the B om bay naval m utiny in 1946, or the general disorder an d lack of direction th a t seemed to prevail alm ost everyw here in divided B engal.2 In short, there were com pelling reasons for the Bengali C om m unist belief th a t w ar an d p artitio n h ad created a state of affairs in w hich violent revolution m ight be successful. 1 T h e effect of p a rtitio n on the ad m in istrativ e cadres a n d police services of W est B engal a n d E ast P ak istan is described in d etail by R a lp h B raib an ti, “ Public B u re a u ­ cracy a n d J u d ic ia ry in P a k ista n ,” Bureaucracy and Political Development, ed. Jo se p h L a P a lo m b a ra (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U n iv ersity Press, 1963), pp. 365 ff. See also D av id Bayley, The Police and Political Development in India (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U n iv ersity Press, 1969), pp. 50 ff. 2 Som e a p p re cia tio n of th e expectations of B engali leftists im m ed iately after In d e p e n d e n c e can be g ained from B alai C h a n d ra D u tt, Nau Bidroha [T h e N a v al R evolt] (C a lc u tta : C om pass P ublications, 1969). T h e a u th o r was a p a rtic ip a n t in w h a t th e B ritish called the B om bay n a v al m u tin y , b u t w h a t th e leftists call th e n av al rev o lt o f 1946.

48

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y O RG ANIZATIO N

T h e c p i in W est Bengal did not take p a rt in In d ia ’s Independence D ay celebrations. U nlike their p a rty colleagues in other parts of In d ia, who em braced C ongressm en publicly in the wave o f em otion th a t cam e w ith Independence, the c p i in W est Bengal was alm ost unanim ous in its assessment o f the Congress p a rty as the enem y of the Com m unists. W hen the C entral Executive C om m ittee ( c e c ) of the c p i rallied behind N eh ru after Independence an d ap p eared to be on the w ay tow ard evolving a p a rty line calling for an alliance w ith “ progressive elem ents in the Congress,55 the c p i u n it'in W est Bengal stood in opposition to central p a rty leadership a n d was eventually successful in shifting the h ead q u arters of the national p a rty to C alcutta, w here an insurrectionist strategy was ad o p ted a t the Second P arty Congress in M arch 1948. A doption o f the new line supporting an insurrectionist strategy was possible in 1948 for a variety of reasons. N ot only did the tim e seem ripe for revolution in W est Bengal, it seem ed so in m any other parts o f the w orld as well, an d there was g reat support for extrem ist policies from M oscow d u rin g the Z hdanov era. M any Bengali C om m unist intellectuals who m ight otherw ise have shied aw ay from an insurrectionist policy therefore felt th a t they were taking p a rt in a w orldw ide m ovem ent o f g reat significance, and m any o f those who believed th a t In d ia was incapable o f m ain tain in g a unified political system in the absence o f British rule felt at the same tim e th a t only the best-organized violent revolution w ould succeed in producing successor governm ents to the British. W ith support from M oscow, an d w ith the exam ple of C hina assum ing g reater proportions as M ao ’s arm ies m arched tow ard Peking, the c p i threw itself w hole­ h eartedly into two years of violent struggle. T h e most intense p a rty activity in W est Bengal took place d u rin g an eighteen-m onth period th a t extended from O ctober 1948 until M arch 1950, during w hich tim e innum erable tram s, buses, trains, an d b u ild ­ ings were either bom bed or set on fire, dem onstrations by students, mass organizations, an d cultural front groups took place a t the rate of a t least one or two a week in C alcutta, an d deaths from the activities of revolutionaries were estim ated in the hundreds. Acts of sabotage officially traced either to the c p i or to a faction o f the R evolutionary C om m unist p arty o f In d ia led by a close relative of P ram ode Das G u p ta (P annalal Das G upta) include the following: an arsonist’s attack on the hom e of L ab o u r M inister K . P. M ukherjee (the house was doused in gasoline an d kerosine a n d set on fire ); an attack w ith “ crackers” (small bombs) a t a m eeting presided over by the same L ab o u r M inister; the com plete destruction by fire of the C alcutta T elephone Exchange in O ctober 1948 an d an a tte m p t to blow up

PA R T Y UNITY A N D A N INSURRECTIONIST STRATEGY

49

the C alcutta W ater W orks in J a n u a ry 1949; raids on the hom e of the president of the state Congress p arty, S. M . G hosh, an d raids on a n u m b er of Congress p a rty offices; attacks on Prim e M inister N ehru in C alcu tta an d on the autom obile an d hom e of C hief M inister B. C. R oy; an d large-scale raids on D um D um airp o rt, as a result of w hich m en and officers of Jessops an d BO A C airlines w ere killed and the bodies of two E uropean p lan t m anagers were throw n into blast furnaces.3 D uring one three-w eek period in early 1950, a total of 79 policem en w ere injured by c p i bom b attacks, an d eventually m any R epublic D ay functions planned for C alcutta in J a n u a ry 1950 (when the new C onstitution was prom ulgated) h ad to be postponed.4 L ater in 1950, d u rin g a period of alm ost seven weeks, C alcu tta an d its surrounding areas were rocked by a massive w ave of com m unal violence, in w hich some c p i units were reportedly active. T h e high point of insurrectionist activity in W est Bengal d u rin g the Z hdanov period was m id -1949, w hen the massive defeat of the Congress by S arat Bose an d the leftist electoral alliance convinced m any people in the com m unist m ovem ent th a t a strategy of violent agitation against the governm ent could generate p o p u lar support. O n J u n e 15, 1949, shortly after the election of Bose, the c p i staged a series of attacks on Congress p a rty offices, police stations, and jails. M ore th an 250 security prisoners in W est Bengal began a two-week fast protesting conditions inside the jails, and p a rty units began to expand their activities in the countryside to such an extent th a t Section 144 of the C rim inal Procedure Code (which prohibits assembly of m ore th an five persons) h ad to be invoked thro u g h o u t two large districts (H ooghly and H ow rah) bordering on C alcutta. W ith C hief M inister B. C. R oy in Sw itzerland undergoing treatm en t for a serious eye ailm ent, the acting C hief M inister of the state, N alini R an jan Sarkar, m ade a n u m b er of concessions to the Com m unists, including a prom ise th a t cases against some prisoners w ould be dropped by the W est Bengal governm ent and th a t Section 144 w ould be w ithdraw n from some areas in C alcutta. T h e seriousness w ith w hich the events in W est Bengal were viewed by the central an d state governm ents is indicated by the fact th a t //

3 A n official description of c p i terro rist incidents a n d lite ra tu re d u rin g the in su rrec­ tionist p erio d 1948-1951 is c o n ta in e d in In d ia (D om inion), M in istry o f H o m e Affairs, Communist Violence in India (N ew D elhi: G o v ern m en t o f In d ia Press, 1949). F o r the views of C h ief M in ister B. C. R oy, see his speeches in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, M a rc h 30, 1948, J a n u a r y 21, 1949, M a rc h 4, 1949, a n d A pril 16, 1949. See also the speech by H o m e M in ister K iro n S h a n k a r R oy in ibid., S ep tem b er 27, 1948. 4 The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily), J a n u a r y 7, 1950, J a n u a r y 8, 1950, a n d J a n u a r y 28, 1950. *

50

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORG ANIZATIO N

P rim e M inister N ehru m ade a special trip to C alcu tta to plead publicly w ith the people of the state for support in the face of w h at he now called “ the conspiracy of the C om m unists,” 5 w hile A cting C hief M inister S arkar w ent on A ll-India R adio w ith a special governm ent broadcast in an a tte m p t to impress the citizens of the state w ith the severity of the political crisis. In the concluding portion of his speech, he w arned, W hen a country lapses into chaos, an arch y a n d disorder/ the police alone can ­ n o t be expected to m ain tain law an d ord er unless they have b eh in d them public cooperation an d support. . . . I t is tim e th a t m y countrym en forsook their com placence an d pondered deeply w hether the present distraction, the orgy of violence an d disorder, will serve their best interests a n d lighten the b u rd en of their sufferings. . . . T h e tim e for sitting on the fence an d inac­ tivity is gone and nobody can assume a m iddle-of-the-w ay a ttitu d e except at his own peril. . . . T h e fire w hich is being deliberately kindled by the forces of evil is bound to engulf them sooner or later— sooner, I im agine, th a n la te r.6

E ncouraged by their success in C alcutta, yet subject to g reater and g reater repression and m ore effective police w ork by the W est Bengal governm ent, m em bers of the p a rty tu rn ed their atten tio n to the ru ral areas in the la tte r h a lf of 1949,7 concentrating on five southern districts of Bengal in close proxim ity to C a lc u tta : B ankura, B urdw an, M idnapore, H ow rah, and 24-Parganas. T h e c p i had been active before W orld W ar II in m any of these areas through its involvem ent in a tebhaga (literally, “ three shares” ) m ovem ent am ong sharecroppers, w hich advocated th a t tw o-thirds of the crop be given to the share­ cropper and one-third to the landlord, instead of the usual arran g em en t in w hich it was divided equally betw een landlord an d share­ cropper. In 1949, however, the c p i becam e even m ore extrem ist, now advocating th a t all land and all produce from the land be given to those who cultivated it and encouraging all cultivators (sharecroppers as well as other landless and poor peasant cultivators) to seize h a r­ vested crops, loot w ealthy homes, an d raid governm ent food stocks.8 5 Ib id ., J u n e 9, 1949. 6 T h e full text of this speech ap p ears in ibid., p. 1. 7 T h e shift to an em phasis on ru ra l areas coincided w ith a sim ilar shift in em phasis b y theoreticians in M oscow at this tim e. See V . B alabushevich, “ N ovyi etap natsionalno-osvoboditelno b o rb y n aro d o v In d ii” [T h e N ew Stage o f the N a tio n a l L ib e ratio n S truggle o f the People o f In d ia ], Voprosy Ekonotniki, no. 8 (1949), pp. 4 2 -4 3 , q u o ted in M o rto n Schw artz, “ T h e W avering ‘L in e ’ of In d ia n C o m m u n ism ,” Political Science Qiiarterly 70 (D ecem ber 1955): 556. 8 T h ere is alm ost no published record o f the tebhaga m ovem ent o f the c p i in Bengal, despite the w ay in w hich it is co n stan tly recalled in the m ost ro m an tic term s b y p a rty leaders. F o r a b rief C om m unist account of the m ovem ent, see H ire n M ukherjee,

PA R T Y U N ITY A N D A N INSURRECTIONIST STRATEGY

51

In 1949 the p a rty concentrated especially on trib al an d oth er poorer cultivators living n ear inaccessible areas, such as the Laiks in B ankura D istrict, whose fam iliarity w ith ju n g le tracts m ade it possible for them to loot or seize food crops from landlord an d governm ent w arehouses an d then disappear into the jungle. T h e areas of the most intense ru ra l activity w ere the K akdw ip, Lyalgunge, Sandeshkhali, an d C anning regions o f 24-Parganas, -extremely poor__ areas o f the k state th a t are virtually inaccessible d uring the rains. These are also areas surrounded by forests an d the deltaic portion of the Bay of Bengal, w here local residents h ad a distinct advantage over outside policem en in any chase or search. In 24-Parganas especially, c p i leaders w ould frequently supply arm s to local tribals an d poor culti­ vators or encourage them to arm themselves w ith th eir ow n trib al w eapons (bows, arrows, lathis) in an a tte m p t to organize them on a large scale for occupation of the lan d by force. T h e m ovem ent in 24-Parganas was clearly m odeled after the T elengana m ovem ent in A n d h ra Pradesh, involving a n u m b er of m urders of those who resisted, an d a large n u m b er o f booklets entitled Sishu Telengana [In fan t T elengana] w ere distributed in the areas w here the c p i was active.9 Both the ru ra l m ovem ent an d the m ovem ent in C alcu tta were eventually m ore successful in term s o f individual acts of terrorism th a n they were in creating a mass revolutionary upsurge. T h e W est Bengal governm ent countered the ru ra l m ovem ent w ith police hunts an d organizations of village welfare workers {Seva Dais) who knew the te rrain an d were occasionally arm ed, an d by late 1950 alm ost all the organizers o f the m ovem ent h ad been arrested. By this tim e most m em bers of the p a rty w ere read y to ad m it defeat, an d Jy o ti Basu was subsequently able to preside over a public m eeting in C alcu tta in early 1951 at w hich the p a rty passed a resolution pledging th a t it w ould “ learn from its mistakes, re-establish links w ith the people, and do everything in its pow er to unite all leftist parties to form a dem ­

India’s Struggle fo r Freedom, 3rd rev. ed. (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1962), p p . 280-281. F o r a W est B engal g o v ern m en t account, see th e statem ents by th e state law yers w ho prosecuted the case ag ain st thirty-six m em bers o f th e c p i accused o f fo m en tin g th e “ K akdw ip T e b h a g a m o v em en t” in 1949—1950, in The Statesman, M a y 6, 1951, a n d D ecem ber 12, 1953. A m ore detailed C o m m u n ist acco u n t o f the e arlier stages o f th e m ovem ent is a v ailab le in a thirty-six-page p a m p h le t by K rish n a B inod R ai, Tebhagar Lorai [T h e T e b h a g a Struggle] (C a lc u tta : B angio P radeshik K rish ak S ab h a, 1939). 9 A n excellent analysis o f social a n d political change in th e W est B engal d istrict of 2 4 -P arg an as is A shim M u khopaflhyay, “ T h e Peasants o f th e P a rg a n a s,” Frontier (C a lc u tta w eekly), serialized in th e six issues from D ecem b er 20, 1969, to J a n u a r y 24, 1970.

52

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

ocratic front to fight the present go v ern m en t.” 10 In an impressive display of p arty discipline, especially for an In d ia n political p arty , the c p i in W est Bengal regeared its organization for electoral purposes, an d by late M arch 1951 it was able to p articip ate in a coalition of leftist parties th a t defeated the Congress in the H ow rah m unicipal elections. A rguing now th a t it was the police w ho h ad “ terrorised the people” an d not the C om m unist p arty, the c p i jo in ed w ith the other M arxist Left parties to dem onstrate against food shortages and the lack of ad eq u ate relief program s for refugees. In th e 1952 elections it was able to unite w ith the Socialist R ep u b lican p a rty (founded by S arat Bose) an d the F orw ard Bloc, the two largest M arxist Left parties a t th a t tim e, in the only successful opposition electoral alliance against the Congress. T he c p i not only gained the m ost seats am ong the opposition, it also scored the most im pressive prestige victories in the state, defeating L ab o u r M inister K alip ad a M ukherjee in a p re ­ dom inantly working-class constituency, as well as the Ju d ic ia l M inister who h ad drafted the W est Bengal Security Act. In addition, c p i candidates defeated the E ducation M inister (H. N. C haudhuri) an d the R evenue M inister (B. C. S inha), both of w hom were zamindars (large landholders) ru n n in g in their own zamindaris. P a r ty F a c tio n a lis m a n d E le c to r a l P o litic s W hile it is generally argued th a t the insurrectionist policies of the c p i in the years betw een 1948 an d 1951 gave b irth to m uch of the factionalism th a t existed in the all-In d ia p arty th ro u g h o u t the 1950s, in W est Bengal the com bination of insurrectionist activities an d the outcom e of the 1952 elections intensified factional differences. T he 1952 elections surprised alm ost everyone in the state u n it of the c p i as well as most observers, for it was generally expected th a t the dem ocratic socialist an d M arxist Left parties w ould fare m uch better th a n the Com m unists. In fact, this was the case in term s of the po p u lar vote— the dem ocratic socialist an d M arxist Left opposition parties gained a com bined percentage of 19.96 percent of the vote for the state Legislative Assembly in 1952, com pared w ith 10.76 percent of the vote for the c p i — b u t the vote of the noncom m unist Left opposition was so divided th a t the C om m unists em erged w ith as m any seats (28) as all six of the Left parties com bined. Congress easily carried the elections w ith 38.93 percent of the vote an d 150 of 278 seats. 10 The Statesman, J a n u a r y 14, 1951. F o r the tim ing o f this decision w ith sim ilar decisions m ade in o th er p a rts o f In d ia , see R u th Fischer, “ T h e In d ia n C o m m u n ist P a rty ,” Far Eastern Survey 22 (Ju n e 1953): 79-84.

PA R T Y FACTIONALISM AN D ELECTORAL POLITICS

53

Before the 1952 elections the state p a rty had witnessed a nu m b er of small factional q u a rre ls: betw een ru ral and u rb a n D istrict Com m ittees over questions of status; betw een one section of the p a rty th a t was in ja il an d an o th er whose m em bers were accused of “ purchasing their freedom ” by refusing to adhere strictly to the p a rty line as laid dow n by the Second P arty Congress in 1948;11, and, in the later stages of the insurrectionist m ovem ent, betw een some of the trade unionists and the leaders of the regular p a rty organization over questions of trade union organization. But these factional quarrels h ad involved the allocation of p a rty resources rath e r th an the fundam ental questions of strategy th a t cam e to the surface after the elections of 1952. W hile earlier factional quarrels could be solved by the expulsion of a few m em bers or by relatively m inor adjustm ents w ithin the fram ew ork of the cu rren t policy, the disputes th a t arose w ithin the p a rty after 1952 led to intense in n er-p arty debate an d eventually to a split. M ost of the seats th a t the W est Bengal c p i won in 1952 were located in precisely the areas w here the p a rty had been most active during the insurrectionist period. Four of the p a rty ’s successful candidates ran in constituencies located in C alcutta, while an o th er 10 cam e from u rb an constituencies in the 5 large southern districts surrounding C alcu tta (H ow rah, B urdw an, 24-Parganas, H ooghly, and M id n a p o re ); 12 of the rem aining 14 seats cam e from ru ral constituencies in the sam e 5 districts. T he p a rty won only 2 seats in the rem aining 8 p red o m in an tly ru ral districts, one an u rb a n constituency (K alim pong) in D arjeeling an d the other a ru ral constituency (Gazole) in M alda. Especially because they w ere so unexpected, the results of the election w ere subject to a great m any interpretations, both w ithin the p arty an d outside. T h ey could be in terp reted to m ean th a t the p a rty needed to devote m ore atten tio n to electoral strategy in the u rb a n areas and p articu larly in C alcutta (one of the few areas w here it had not done as well as expected), b u t they could also be read as encouragem ent for a ru ral electoral strategy. T h ey w ere in terp reted by m any as an endorse­ m ent by the people of W est Bengal of a strategy of insurrection and p articu larly of ru ral insurrection, since the p a rty had scored its most striking and unexpected victories in ru ral areas w here it had engaged in “ mass struggles.” T h e 1952 elections, w hich followed the insur­ rectionist period of 1948-1951 so closely, w ere to provide subject 11 F o r a list o f those p u rg ed from the p a rty in W est Bengal for failing to su p p o rt th e in su rrectio nist line w holeheartedly, see The Statesman, F e b ru a ry 4, 1949. A m ore com plete discussion o f the nu m ero u s disputes w ith in the c p i d u rin g the early years o f In d e p e n d e n c e is provided in J e a n A. C u rra n , J r ., “ Dissension am ong I n d ia ’s C o m m u n ists,” Far Eastern Survey 19 (Ju ly 1950): 132-136.

54

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

m a tte r for p ro tracted state an d national p a rty debate for a t least the next decade. T h e debates w ithin the c p i in W est Bengal in the 1950s took place in an environm ent in w hich the n ational p a rty was d om inated by a vacillating an d divided leadership led by Ajoy G hosh, torn betw een various factional an d regional groupings w ithin the' com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia, an d frequently u n certain of its stance in in te r­ n ational com m unist disputes. W hile G hosh was always able to effect some form o f com prom ise th a t kept the c p i from an open split, he could do this only by allow ing a g reat deal of independence to local units an d by alm ost constant recourse to in tern atio n al C om m unist authorities centered in M oscow an d in E ngland. A n u n d erstan d in g of the factionalism th a t plagued the c p i in the 1950s m ust therefore take into account the significant role played by the c p s u an d c p g b th ro u g h ­ out this decade. Ajoy G hosh becam e general secretary of the n atio n al c p i on J u n e 1, 1951, on the basis of support from M oscow relayed to c p i m em bers through an open letter w ritten by R . Palm e D u tt of the c p g b . 12 D u tt argued th a t the insurrectionist policy of the Z hdanov era h ad been p rem atu re an d th a t while revolution in In d ia m ight eventually have to take the form of an arm ed struggle, this could only be done w hen the p arty was strong enough to pursue it to final victory. For the present, D u tt argued, the In d ia n governm ent was well established, an d the c p i w ould have to form ulate p arty strategy on the assum ption th a t the Congress governm ent in In d ia was not ab o u t to lose control. D u tt then proceeded to point to “ new opportunities” for the c p i to influence political developm ents in In d ia. Congress, he argued, was com posed o f two groups, one seeking o u trig h t alignm ent w ith the British an d the A m ericans an d therefore opposed to w orld socialism, the other inclining tow ard a m ore cautious policy. W hile he saw the Congress p a rty governm ent as being generally representative of big business interests, this did no t necessarily m ean th a t either the govern­ m ent or the In d ian bourgeoisie w ould support “ A nglo-A m erican 12 D u tt’s letter is analyzed a n d q u o ted extensively in M . R . M asani, The Communist Party o f India (L o n d o n : D erek V erschoyle, 1954), p p . 108-111. M inoo R . M asan i was a jo in t secretary o f the Congress Socialist p a rty ( c s p ) in the 1930s, d u rin g the p erio d w h en the c s p was allied w ith the c p i . A s a result o f this experience M a sa n i becam e b itte rly an tico m m u n ist a n d has p layed a m ajo r role in the w ork o f the D em o cratic R esearch Service ( d r s ) o f In d ia , w hich has p u blished a n u m b e r o f c p i in n e r-p a rty do cum ents. T w o o f the volum es p u blished by the d r s are sta n d a rd collections on the T h ird a n d F o u rth p a rty congresses (held a t M a d u ra i in 1953 a n d P a lg h a t in 1956). See Communist Conspiracy at Madurai (B om bay: D em o cratic R esearch Service, 1953) an d Communist Double-Talk at Palghat (B om bay: D em o cratic R esearch Service, 1956).

PA R T Y FACTIONALISM A N D ELECTORAL POLITICS

55

im perialism .” T h e In d ian governm ent, in D u tt’s view, was oscillating, an d it was the d u ty of the c p i to convince it to take an increasingly anti-B ritish and anti-A m erican stance. D u tt’s letter was supported by a n u m b er of other statem ents and articles em anating from M oscow a t ab o u t the same tim e.13 T h e th ru st of the argum ents of the c p g b and the c p s u in the early 1950s was to convince the c p i th a t it should ally itself in “ close collab­ o ra tio n ” w ith the bourgeoisie, form ing “ a bloc or even an alliance” w ith bourgeois organizations if necessary.14 T his policy, w hich was pursued w ith some m odifications th ro u g h o u t the 1950s, was sim ilar to the united-front line of 1935-1939, w hen the c p i entered the Congress Socialist p a rty an d eventually took over a n u m b er of form er Congress organizations. In the 1930s the c p i h ad been asked to m obilize against fascism; in the 1950s it was asked to m obilize against the W estern pow ers.15 T h e Soviet U nion, w hich was the principal instigator of the policy in both instances, was acting in the 1950s out of a profound appreciation of N e h ru ’s neutralism , w hich after S talin ’s d eath the U S S R cam e m ore an d m ore to see as an o p p o rtu n ity either to draw In d ia into the com m unist cam p or to isolate it from the W estern bloc. Friendship betw een N eh ru an d the Soviet U nion grew after 1953: N ehru, Bulganin, an d K hrushchev exchanged visits in 1954 an d 1955; N e h ru ’s books w ere translated into R ussian and reviewed critically b u t favorably; even G a n d h i’s role in the early period of In d ia n nationalism was praised in Soviet jo u rn a ls; an d by 1956 Soviet spokesm en were approving not only N e h ru ’s foreign policy (neutralism ) b u t also m uch of his dom estic p ro g ram (socialism and p lanning). Following N e h ru ’s visit to M oscow, large-scale aid p ro ­ gram s an d trade agreem ents were signed, the U S S R m ade a gift of a Soviet passenger aircraft to serve as N e h ru ’s personal tran sp o rt plane, an d hundreds of cu ltu ral delegations each year began to travel betw een 13 A m ajo r review o f Soviet policy to w ard In d ia was u n d e rta k e n a t a m eetin g o f the In stitu te o f A sian Studies of the Soviet A cad em y o f Sciences in N o v em b er 1951, as a resu lt o f w hich E. M . Z hukov w rote a n article th a t has since been reg a rd ed as the first system atic sta te m e n t o f a m ajo r tu rn in g p o in t in Soviet a ttitu d e s to w ard free In d ia . See E. M . Z hukov, “ O k h a ra k te re i osobennostiakh n a ro d n o i d em o k ratii v stra n a k h vostove” [O n th e C h a ra c te r a n d A ttrib u tes o f P eople’s D em ocracy in the C o u n tries o f A sia], Izvestia Akademii Nauk SSSR , Seria Istorii i Filosojii 9 ( J a n u a r y F e b ru a ry 1952): 80-87, q u o ted in G ene D. O v erstreet, “ Soviet a n d C o m m u n ist Policy in I n d ia ,” Journal o f Politics 20 (F e b ru a ry 1958): 191-192. 14 Z h u k o v , “ O k h a ra k te re . . . , ” p. 86. F o r the overall revision o f Soviet foreign policy in th e last years o f S ta lin ’s rule, see M arsh a ll S h u lm an , Stalin’s Foreign Policy Reappraised (C a m b rid g e: H a rv a rd U n iv ersity Press, 1963). 15 T h e com parison to th e earlier u n ite d -fro n t perio d is m ad e explicit in R . P alm e D u tt, 77le Way Forward fo r the Countries within the Sphere o f British Imperialism (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1955), pp. 31 ff.

56

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y O RGANIZATIO N

N ew D elhi an d the com m unist capitals of the Soviet U nion and E astern Europe. T o the extent th a t the c p i cooperated w ith the new policy of the Soviet U nion, it was increasingly forced to m oderate its attitudes tow ard the N ehru governm ent an d the Congress p arty. A nd the central leadership of the c p i , lacking any agreem ent on' alternative strategies, eventually h ad recourse to Soviet strategy on alm ost every issue. In the early 1950s Ajoy G hosh evolved a policy th a t allow ed the p a rty to shift the focus of its activities to the state level, m aking it possible for it to soften its attacks on the central governm ent while addressing itself to local issues an d appealing to regional em otions an d interests.16 By N ovem ber 1954 the C entral Executive C om m ittee of the p a rty had voted to a b an d o n the foreign policy stance ad o p ted in 1948, an d p arty units w ere asked to cease referring to N eh ru as “ the lackey of the B ritish” and to his foreign policy as dictated by “ im perialists.” P arty m em bers w ere also instructed to jo in in celebra­ tions of Independence D ay an d R epublic D ay an d to stop organizing “ Q uit-C om m onw ealth” m ovem ents.17 By the tim e of the F o u rth P arty Congress at P alg h at (A pril 1956), the central leadership of the p a rty had m oved tow ard a recognition not only of the positive aspects of N e h ru ’s foreign policy b u t also tow ard a relatively favorable assess­ m ent of some Congress governm ent dom estic program s.18 T w o years later, a t the Fifth P arty Congress a t A m ritsar (M arch -A p ril 1958), the c p i followed the lead given by K hrushchev a t the T w entieth Congress of the c p s u in 1956 and com m itted itself publicly to con­ stitutional com m unism , the “ peaceful transition to socialism .” 19 T h e intellectual leadership of the c p i in W est Bengal— Bhow ani Sen, S om nath L ahiri, and others— sided w ith Ajoy G hosh and the central leadership of the p a rty thro u g h o u t the 1950s, either defending c e c decisions and the c p s u in p a rty m eetings or abstaining on crucial votes in order to preserve a sem blance of p a rty unity. B ut the leadership of the organizational ap p aratu s gradually becam e allied w ith the electoralists in opposition to central p a rty directives. In w h at was som ew hat of a m isnom er, the intellectuals in the state p a rty were 16 T his shift in focus is trac ed o u t in som e d etail in O v erstreet, “ Soviet a n d C o m ­ m u n ist Policy in In d ia ,” p. 199, a n d is analyzed a t len g th in Selig S. H arriso n , “ T h e D ilem m a of the C P I,” Problems o f Communism 8 (M a rc h -A p ril 1959): 27-35. 17 R a n d o lp h C arr, “ Conflicts w ith in the In d ia n C P ,” Problems o f Communism 4 (S e p te m b e r-O c to b e r 1955): 11. 18 M arsh all W indm iller, “ C o n stitu tio n al C om m unism in I n d ia ,” Pacific Affairs 31 (M a rch 1958): 26. 19 G ene D. O verstreet, “ T h e C om m unists a n d I n d ia ,” Foreign Policy Bulletin, N o v em b er 1, 1959, p p . 29-31.

PA R T Y FACTIONALISM AN D ELECTORAL POLITICS

57

generally d u b b ed the R ig h t faction, while those opposed to central p a rty directives were labeled as leftists. A ctually, the faction headed by the state’s older intellectuals "did not always op t for a classical R ig h t C om m unist strategy; w h at tied it together was its m u tu al interest in m aintaining the backing of the c p s u . Sim ilarly, the Left faction contained some m em bers w h o 'ad v o cated a classic Left C om ­ m unist strategy, b u t they w ere by no m eans in a m ajority. M ost of the m em bers of the Left faction agreed w ith R . Palm e D u tt an d others th a t the insurrectionist policy of the Z hdanov era h ad been prem ature, b u t they did not conclude, as D u tt did, th a t this necessitated an alliance w ith bourgeois forces, p articu larly w ith the Congress. Like the A n d h ra Com m unists, who began to argue in 1951 th a t the insurrectionist policy of the Z h danov era h ad indicated the great potential of the In d ian peasantry for revolutionary m ovem ents, the Left faction in W est Bengal was initially interested only in exploring the relevance of the Chinese com m unist m ovem ent as an alternative to the c p s u model. A n u m b er of reasons can be adduced for the inclination of the c p i organization in W est Bengal to ad o p t either a classic Left C om ­ m unist or a “ neo-M aoist” strategy in the 1950s.20 For m any people the geographic location of W est Bengal after Independence suggested the possibility of guerrilla w arfare an d large-scale peasants’ and w orkers’ organizations th a t could be m obilized for revolutionary activities. W est Bengal borders on two foreign nations (East Pakistan an d N epal) an d on two border kingdom s (Sikkim an d B hutan) th a t are nom inally independent b u t are tied by treaties an d subsidies to In d ia, an d it is less th a n th irty miles from T ib etan C hina. A t one point in D arjeeling D istrict the “ Siliguri co rrid o r,” only fourteen miles wide, connects the m ain portions of In d ia w ith its northeastern states an d territories (Assam, N ortheast F rontier area, N agaland, M an ip u r, an d T rip u ra ). M oreover, m uch of this area consists of m ountainous an d hilly terrain, covered w ith jungles an d dotted w ith rivers, m arshes, an d swamps, an area p articu larly difficult to cross during the monsoons. A large p a rt of the population of W est Bengal (25.7 percent according to the 1961 census) belongs to scheduled tribes an d castes th a t consist for the m ost p a rt of landless day laborers an d p lan tatio n workers, an d an o th er large p a rt of the population 20 T h e Bengali C om m unists’u n d e rs ta n d in g of the classic R ig h t a n d Left C o m m u n ist strategies, as well as the “ n eo -M ao ist” or “ M aoist R ig h t” strategy, will be explored in d etail in C h ap ters 6, 7, a n d 8. F or a concise description of the three strategies as id eal types, see D o n ald S. Z agoria, “ C om m unist Policy a n d th e S truggle for D evelop­ ing C o u n trie s,” Proceedings o f the Academy o f Political Science 28 (A pril 1965): 69-73.

58

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y O R G ANIZATIO N

(alm ost 17 percent in 1961) lives in cities o f 50,000 people or m ore, all of w hich are overcrow ded w ith in tern atio n al refugees. L arge portions of C alcutta an d the m etropolitan area th a t extends up an d dow n the H ooghly R iver are as squalid an d lacking in public facilities as any u rb a n slum in the w orld. , T h e possibility o f guerrilla w arfare in W est Bengal in the 1950s was dim inished, of course, by a n u m b er of factors, including the lack of w eapons available to politically interested groups an d the presence of highly skilled an d extrem ely loyal adm inistrative, police, and m ilitary services in the In d ia n an d W est Bengal governm ents. M ost p a rty leaders could therefore agree th a t the c p i was n o t read y to launch a guerrilla m ovem ent, b u t a sm all segm ent o f the p a rty did argue for a strategy th a t w ould provide some train in g for future guerrilla activities in key areas of the state. W hile inform ation ab o u t such activities is alm ost im possible to acquire, it is an open secret th a t the p a rty in W est Bengal did m ain tain some “ tech cells55 (technical cells) in the period before 1954, in w hich p a rty m em bers w ere given experience in stim ulating peasant revolts, train ed in guerrilla tech ­ niques, an d educated for recru itm en t drives in the m ore rem ote regions of the state an d in the northeastern portions o f In d ia .21 Both the governm ent of In d ia an d the governm ent of Pakistan have on occasion arrested C om m unist p a rty m em bers on the suspicion th a t they were again prep arin g for such activities,22 b u t it is m ore th an likely th a t guerrilla units train ed by the c p i or by the c p m no longer exist, or if they do exist, they have either not progressed very far or are an unusually closely g u arded secret. Reasons th a t are m uch less speculative can be ad d u ced for the inclination of W est Bengal's c p i leadership tow ard Left com m unism or neo-M aoism in the 1950s. In m any ways the attitu d e of the state 21 Several form er p a rty m em bers interview ed in 1968-1970 m en tio n ed th e existence o f “ tech cells” in th e years follow ing In d ep e n d en c e , b u t all o f th em agreed th a t such cells h a d ceased to exist in th e u n ite d c p i in 1954. In A pril 1969 a p o rtio n of th e L eft faction in W est Bengal established the C o m m u n ist p a rty o f In d ia —M arx istL eninist, or c p m l , w hich has as its avow ed goal a gu errilla strateg y on th e lines of M ao T se -tu n g ’s. T h e activities of th e c p m l are discussed in d etail in C h a p te r 6 . 22 In J u ly 1960, for exam ple, P resident A yub K h a n of P akistan issued a series o f statem en ts from E ast Bengal claim ing th a t C om m unists “ o p e ra tin g o u t o f C a lc u tta ” w ere c arry in g on a cam p aig n for “ a w eak federal stru c tu re , P a rlia m e n ta ry d em o cracy , too m a n y provinces, a n d an ineffective g o v ern m en t for P a k ista n .” A yub ju stified his arrests o f C om m unists by arg u in g th a t S outh A sian C om m unists eventually h o p ed to w age a g u errilla w ar to realize “ th eir desire to organize a state u n d e r th eir co n tro l com prising Assam , W est B engal, a n d E ast P a k ista n .” See The Statesman, J u ly 26, 1960. E ssentially the sam e justifications w ere used for arrests o f C om m unists by Y ah y a K h a n in 1969. F o r a sim ilar re p o rt e m a n a tin g from th e H o m e M in istry in N ew D elhi, see th e Hindusthan Standard, M a y 3, 1964.

PA R T Y FACTIONALISM A N D ELECTORAL POLITICS

59

leadership can be viewed as a negative reaction to central p arty directives ra th e r th a n a positive attractio n to guerrilla w arfare. M ost of the form er terrorists in the c p i in W est Bengal entered the com ­ m unist m ovem ent because of a serious an d deep-seated disenchantm ent w ith electoral politics, m otivated by opposition to the Congress p arty an d by resentm ent of the non-Bengali business interests an d landed gentry th a t dom inated the Congress in the state. T h a t the c p i in W est Bengal should be asked to soften its a ttitu d e tow ard N ehru an d the Congress was therefore personally galling to m any C om m unist leaders, an d p articu larly to form er terrorists. M oreover, a m ore m oderate policy tow ard N eh ru an d the Congress p a rty ran the risk of alienating m any C om m unist supporters in the state, p articu larly am ong the u rb a n m iddle-class an d bhadralok refugees from E ast Bengal. In contrast to m ost other areas of In d ia, in W est Bengal the c p i has always had to w orry ab o u t the possibility of the M arxist Left p arties’ cutting into C om m unist support by becom ing m ore m ilitan t on issues th a t affect m iddle-class elites. In this atm osphere, the experience of the c p i in W est Bengal betw een 1947 an d 1952 was sufficient to convince both form er terrorists an d electoralists th a t m ilitant, mass agitational m ovem ents were the key to future electoral victories in W est Bengal, while alliance w ith the Congress could only lead to the eventual en tra p m en t of the c p i in the w eb of Congress bourgeois dem ocracy. Because of their m u tu al opposition to alliance w ith the Congress, the form er terrorists an d the electoralists in the state p a rty were able to unite in resistance to the central leadership’s attem pts to m oderate the c p i stance tow ard N eh ru an d the Congress party. A t the T h ird P arty Congress of the c p i in M ad u rai (D ecem ber 1953), m ost of the delegates from W est Bengal jo in ed w ith the delegates from A n d h ra in abstaining from the vote on the political resolution placed before the Congress, indicating their disagreem ent w ith the strategy th a t h ad been outlined by the C entral C om m ittee.23 T h ro u g h o u t the 1950s the leadership of the state organization continued to oppose c e c form ula­ tions, for the m ost p a rt effectively enough to ob tain some compromises. T h e problem th a t plagued the dissidents from W est Bengal and A n d h ra, however, was their own lack of agreem ent on an alternative strategy. In the words of one of the m em bers of the State C om m ittee a t this tim e, who was interview ed in J u n e 1969: “ W e always knew very clearly w h at we did not w ant, in a negative way, b u t we could never agree on w h at we did w ant— on a positive p ro g ram .” As a result of in tern al divisions, the p arty in W est Bengal was unable even 23 C a rr, “ Conflicts w ithin th e In d ia n C P ,” p. 10.

60

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

to propose an alternative to the policies of the C entral C om m ittee, an d the leaders of the electoral an d Left factions therefore followed the p a rty line ra th e r halfheartedly w hile devoting themselves to strengthening their own factional positions in the state. ■ M e m b e r s h ip R e c r u itm e n t a n d th e D e c lin e o f th e R ig h t F a ctio n T h e declining influence of the W est Bengal R ig h t C om m unist faction in the 1950s an d 1960s is related to a host of factors, b u t m ainly to the inability o f the intellectuals to m a in tain th eir previous sources of p a rty support. T h e intellectual leadership o f the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal derived its strength from its ability to a ttra c t students in the colleges o f Bengal (and in E ngland) in the 1930s an d 1940s, b u t the n atu re of the stu d en t leadership recruited by com ­ m unists in the last two decades has changed considerably. Bengali students who entered the com m unist m ovem ent after 1947 increasingly g rav itated to the electoral organizations an d to the Left faction. Both the n a tu re of student politics in in d ep en d en t W est Bengal an d the activities of the C om m unists themselves have determ ined these developm ents. M ost p a rty leaders agree th a t the colleges of W est Bengal continued th ro u g h o u t the 1950s to provide a larger n u m b er of new p a rty m em ­ bers th an any other source; estim ates range u p w ard of 40 or 50 percent of total recruits each year. In this respect W est Bengal appears to be som ew hat unusual, since the role of colleges as a source of C om m unist p arty recru itm en t has ap p aren tly been declining elsew here in In d ia .24 Political activities on the p a rt of college students in other parts of In d ia have been affected by the attitudes of In d ia ’s political leadership tow ard stu d en t dem ands, since activities th a t in the p re-In d ep en d en ce period w ere considered indications o f “ loyalty an d devotion to the n atio n ’s cause” suddenly in 1947 becam e m anifestations of “ row dyism ” an d “ anti-social beh av io u r” in the eyes o f m any politicians (and p articu larly those in the ruling Congress p arty ). M uch of the thrust of governm ental, paren tal, an d educational au th o rity has therefore been directed tow ard a depoliticization of student life, an d a nu m b er of In d ian college an d governm ental officials have been involved in attem pts to dissociate student activities from the w ork of political p arty organizations.25 24 Based on interview s w ith C om m unist leaders in N ew D elhi, K e rala, B om bay, a n d M a d ra s in 1962-1964 a n d 1968-1970. 25 P erh ap s th e best sta te m e n t o f th e official position is th e Report on the Problem o f Student Indiscipline in Indian Universities (N ew D elh i: U n iv ersity G ra n ts C om m ission, 1960).

T H E DECLINE OF TH E RIG HT FACTION

61

W hile this factor has been operative in W est Bengal since In d ep en ­ dence, its effect on student politics has been blunted by a n u m b er of countervailing forces. S tu d en t m ovem ents in W est Bengal have received considerable support from political parties an d influential individuals— even from the Congress p a rty 26— because there is a w idespread feeling in W est Bengal th a t the plight of the student population is m erely a reflection of the declining pow er an d cu ltu ral significance of the entire Bengali region. Indicative of this decline is the d ram atic shift th a t has taken place since Independence in recru itm en t to the In d ia n A dm inistrative Service ( i a s , form erly the In d ian Civil Service). In 1948 C alcu tta U niversity ranked second only to M adras am ong the five m ajor universities responsible for m ore th a n tw o-thirds of In d ia ’s i a s candidates, b u t by 1960 C alcu tta no longer even ranked in the top five; it h ad been replaced by the m ajor universities in Delhi and in P u n ja b .27 In this atm osphere Bengali political an d social leadership has been relu ctan t to blam e student dem onstrations on “ row dyism ” an d “ indiscipline” an d has often sided w ith the students in order to draw atten tio n to the educational needs of the state. O n a n u m b er of occasions teacher an d student groups in C alcu tta have even jo in ed in m aking dem ands on the central an d state governm ents, an d both teachers an d college adm inistrators have actively recruited Bengali students into political m ovem ents.28 O utside W est Bengal the C alcutta student body has gained a rep u tatio n for being “ flam boyantly undisciplined an d violent,” and the C om m unist and M arxist Left parties have often been blam ed by national politicians, educators, an d observers alike for the m ilitancy 26 S tu d e n t unions led b y th e C om m unist A ll-In d ia S tu d e n t F ed e ra tio n ( a i s f ) in C a lc u tta , for exam ple, have b u ilt a H e a lth H o m e for students a n d a n u m b e r of hostels, all w ith financial su p p o rt from C a lc u tta U niversity, C a lc u tta C o rp o ratio n (even w hen it was d o m in a ted b y the Congress), m em b ersh ip donations, a n d p riv ate co n trib u tio n s. See M yron W einer, The Politics o f Scarcity: Public Pressure and Political Response in India (C hicago: U n iv ersity o f C hicago Press, 1962), p. 168. F o r o th e r evidence o f supportive feelings collected by a B engali M e m b er of P a rlia m e n t a n d fo rm er c e n tra l g o v ern m en t m inister, see H u m a y u n K a b ir, Student Unrest: Causes and Cure (C a lc u tta : O rie n t Book C om pany, 1958). 27 R . K . T riv e d i a n d D. N. R ao, “ R e g u la r R ecru its to the In d ia n A d m inistrativ e S ervice,” Journal o f the National Academy o f Administration 5 (Ju ly 1960): 52-80, a n d “ H ig h e r Civil Service in In d ia : A S am ple S u rv ey ,” ibid., vol. 6 (J u ly 1961): 33-64. Q u o te d in Jo se p h R . Gusfield, “ T h e A cadem ic M ilieu : S tudents a n d T each ers in In d ia a n d th e U n ite d S tates,” in Turmoil and Transition: Higher Education and Student Politics in India, ed. Philip G . A ltb ach (C a lc u tta : L alv an i P ublishing H ouse, 1968), p. 119. 28 “ B engal P rovincial S tu d e n ts’ F e d e ra tio n C elebrates Silver J u b ile e ,” New Age ( c p i weekly), O c to b er 11, 1964, p. 6; see also A Brochure on Police Action in Raja Peary Mohan College ( U tta rp a ra : R a ja P e a ry M o h a n College T ea ch e rs’ C ouncil, 1967), p p . 1-14.

62

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

an d volatility of Bengali student life.29 A t the sam e tim e, however, m any C om m unist an d M arxist Left p a rty leaders, p articu larly the intellectuals in the m ovem ent, have themselves been concerned w ith the changes th a t have taken place in Bengali stu d en t politics, an d especially w ith the decline in the quality of the students w hom the leftists have been able to a ttra c t (a decline frankly ad m itted b o th by p arty leaders and by educators). In the 1930s an d 1940s the C om ­ m unists h ad a rep u tatio n for attractin g m any of the best students in th e colleges an d universities, an d the p a rty m ade a special effort to encourage this by tutoring students who h ad fallen behind in their studies because of p arty involvem ent an d by providing inform al guidance program s for students w ith personal an d fam ily problem s, as well as study circles d uring exam ination periods.30 C om m unist parties still engage in such activities, perhaps m ore so now th a n before In d e p e n ­ dence, b u t for a variety o f reasons the academ ic excellence o f students involved in the com m unist m ovem ent has dropped. Since In d ep en d en ce the C om m unists have been m uch m ore heavily involved in agitational activities th a n they w ere in the 1930s an d early 1940s, an d students have been increasingly used by the parties both to m obilize an d to take p a rt in C om m unist dem onstrations. Such activities are not only distracting for students; perhaps m ore im p o rtan t, they ap p eal to entirely different kinds of student activists th a n the ones w ho joined the p arty before Independence. M oreover, the idealistic students of the thirties, who w ere interested in intellectual pursuits an d frequently inspired by the nationalist m ovem ent an d by the w ritings o f M arxism Leninism , have now given w ay to a student body disillusioned w ith events since p artitio n an d particularly w ith the dim inishing o p p o r­ tunities for educated Bengalis com pared w ith the college-trained in other parts o f India. In this atm osphere m any of the better students (and there is some evidence th a t this is p articu larly tru e for those in the sciences an d in engineering) have consistently refused to have anything to do w ith politics, and it is likely th a t m ost students are fundam entally opposed to the present structure of political a u th o rity .31 Some students m ay take 29 F o r com parisons o f the a i s f in C a lc u tta a n d elsew here, see P h ilip G. A ltb ach , “ S tu d e n t Politics an d H ig h e r E d u ca tio n in I n d ia ,” in Turmoil and Transition, p. 47. 30 See P hilip G. A ltb ach , Student Politics in Bombay (C a lc u tta : Asia P u b lish in g H ouse, 1968), p. 127, for a description o f the com m unist stu d e n t m ov em en t in the p re-In d e p en d e n ce period. 31 T hese generalizations em erge from m y ow n interview s w ith 108 college g rad u a tes in C a lc u tta in 1963-1964; see “ Perceived Im ages o f P olitical A u th o rity a m o n g College G ra d u ates in C a lc u tta ,” in Urban Bengal, ed. R ic h a rd L. P a rk (E ast L an sin g : M ich ig an S tate U n iversity O ccasional P apers on S o u th Asia, 1969), pp. 87—116.

T H E DECLINE OF TH E R IG HT FACTION

63

a g reat interest in political affairs— even in M arxism , M aoism , and com m unism — an d m any of them m ay also take p a rt in agitational activities an d dem onstrations, b u t in doing so an increasing n u m b er of them prefer to w ork outside the context of the existing p a rty structure, since in their view all of the present political parties are “ co rru p t an d self-seeking, the C om m unists an d the* Congress in clu d ed .” 32 Those who do jo in political parties frequently do so only to secure financial su p p o rt an d publication facilities for the student organizations they lead, b u t they too are often critical of a political system in w hich they are forced to ally w ith parties for w hich they have little respect. T h ro u g h o u t the 1950s the intellectuals in the c p i attem p ted to deal w ith such disillusionm ent by involving students in a w ide variety of activities, ranging from p articip atio n in mass m ovem ents to study circles, constructive work, an d in tern atio n al student conferences. By th e late 1950s there was no student dem and th a t h ad not been cham pioned by the C om m unists a t one tim e or another, an d on the w hole the p a rty h ad been generous in providing students w ith funds an d facilities for their national, state, an d in tern atio n al projects. In ad d itio n to agitational activities, C om m unist students in W est Bengal have constructed a H ealth H om e for students in C alcutta, built a n u m b er of small libraries an d hostels, established p rim ary schools, an d p articip ated in num erous relief program s, all w ith p a rty support. M ost of these projects have been u n d ertak en by the A ll-India Students F ederation ( a i s f ) , w hich has dom inated stu d en t politics in Bengal u ntil recent times. Between 1947 an d 1959 the a i s f controlled the m ajority of the student unions on Bengali cam puses in every year except 1956, w hen the Congress student federation was tem porarily able to w in leadership positions in a m ajority of th e m ,33 b u t since 1959 the increasing factionalism w ithin the com m unist m ovem ent has led to serious splits in the a i s f , w ith a consequent decline in the hegem ony of any one C om m unist student faction. I t is clear, however, th a t the R ig h t faction in the state com m unist m ovem ent has suffered the greatest losses in term s of student support. W hereas the older intellectual leaders in the m ovem ent dom inated alm ost all the student unions on Bengali cam puses before In d ep en ­ d ence,34 by 1969-1970 R ig h t faction student groups (those supporting 32 F o r a n excellent stu d y o f stu d e n t politics in th ree C a lc u tta colleges, in w hich relatio n s w ith political p arties are described in d etail, see a n u n p u b lish ed m an u scrip t by J a la d h a r H a z ra , “ U n d e rg ra d u a te S tu d en ts a n d Politics in C a lc u tta .” 33 The Statesman, J a n u a r y 17, 1959. 34 F o r a short history of the stu d e n t m ovem ent in p re -In d e p e n d e n c e B engal, see A m a re n d ra N a th R oy, Students Fight fo r Freedom (C a lc u tta : G u p ta B haya, 1967).

64

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

the postsplit c p i ) could gain a m ajority on only 10 of 153 cam puses, while other C om m unist stu d en t groups controlled 107 of the rem aining unions, either in coalition w ith one an o th er or in coalition w ith other noncom m unist groups.35 S u p p o rt for the c p s u an d the c p g b , the d o m in an t them e of the R ig h t faction, has h ad little appeal for students increasingly conscious of conflicting regional an d national interests, while the R ig h t faction strategy of allying w ith “ progressive elem ents in the Congress” has been even less successful in evoking a positive response. Students who have p articip ated in politics since In d e p e n ­ dence have been m uch m ore concerned w ith im m ediate dem ands (particularly jobs an d degrees) th a n w ith ideology, a n d they have therefore preferred to w ork w ith the m ost m ilitan t parties an d groups. A g ita tio n a l P o litic s a n d th e L eft F a ctio n T h e Left C om m unist faction in W est Bengal has appealed to new p a rty m em bers precisely because it has been m ore m ilitan t th a n the R ig h t faction, and its m ilitance has in tu rn m ade it possible for Left faction leaders to dom inate the state p a rty organization. In the period before the split in 1964 the leadership of the Left faction was centered in the h ead q u arters of the state party, dom inated by the staff of the state p a rty organization headed by P ram ode Das G upta. Before 1958 the people who staffed the h ead q u arters in C alcu tta were in theory subordinate to the state p arty secretary, the State P olitbureau, an d the S tate C om m ittee of the party, all of w hich were in theory elected by delegates from local cells who m et every other year in a state p arty conference. After the A m ritsar p a rty congress in 1958, “ cells” cam e to be designated as “ b ranches,” the size of state (and central) p arty com m ittees was enlarged, an d the nom enclature for these com m ittees was changed in keeping w ith the transition to constitutional com ­ m unism . O n p aper the staff of the state p arty h ead q u arters then becam e subordinate to a state p arty secretary, who was now assisted by a S ecretariat (instead of a P olitbureau), a State C om m ittee, an d a new body of approxim ately one h u n d red m em bers, w hich was called the State Council of the party. As in the previous organizational struc­ ture, each of these com m ittees was now elected by delegates from the state p arty “ branches” m eeting in conference every other y ear.36 In practice, however, the staff of the organizational h eadquarters in C alcutta dom inated the p a rty thro u g h o u t the 1950s and has 35 The Statesman, A pril 18, 1969, a n d M a y 1, 1969. See also the Hindusthan Standard, A pril 9, 1969, a n d the Times o f India (N ew D elhi), N o v em b er 11, 1969. 36 T h e o rg an izatio n al changes in the c p i in 1958 are described in G ene D. O v erstreet a n d M arsh all W indm iller, Communism in India (Berkeley: U n iv ersity of C alifornia Press, 1959), pp. 540-546.

AGITATIONAL POLITICS AND TH E LEFT FACTION

65

continued to exert enorm ous influence as a faction w ithin the c p m since the split in 1964. T h e p a rty secretary from 1951 until 1959 was Jy o ti Basu, whose involvem ent in legislative politics left him little tim e for organizational work, and w ho therefore delegated his au th o rity to m em bers of his staff h ead q u artered in C alcutta. Since both the state an d central offices were located in C alcutta from 1947 until 1952, and since Basu was also very m uch involved in central p arty affairs during these years, it w ould have been impossible for him to have devoted m uch of his tim e to the state p a rty organizational ap p aratu s w ithout neglecting his work in the legislature, in the electoral m achinery, and in the C entral Executive C om m ittee. T h e organiza­ tional ap p aratu s therefore cam e to be controlled by the staff of the p a rty h ead q u arters in C alcutta, headed by Pram ode Das G upta, an d in 1959 Das G u p ta ’s position was form ally recognized w hen he was elected state p arty secretary in place of Basu. P ram ode Das G u p ta was born in 1910, the son of a Sub-Assistant Surgeon in the Bengal Provincial M edical Service, in Barisal D istrict of w h at is now East Pakistan. H e entered politics in 1930, w hen he jo in ed the A nushilan Sam ity as a college student, an d spent m ost of the 1930s in various jails an d detention cam ps.37 Das G u p ta joined the C om m unist consolidation m ovem ent in the jails fairly early, was p u t in charge of the p a rty ’s u n d erground technical ap p aratu s w hen he was tem porarily released from prison in 1935, b u t was rearrested in 1936 an d sent to the H ijli detention cam p (in M idnapore D istrict of W est Bengal) until the British released alm ost all o f the m em bers of the c p i in 1942. A t H ijli, Das G u p ta was in charge of the c p i J a il C om ­ m ittee. H e advanced in standing w ithin the p arty w hen he successfully arran g ed for the escape of two leading u n d erground p arty m em bers (P anchu G opal B haduri and N ripen C h ak rav arty ). U pon his release in 1942 he was p u t in charge of the p a rty ’s an ti—Fifth C olum n activities in Bengal an d the N ortheast F rontier area, w orking w ith A m erican an d British m ilitary intelligence units to g ath er inform ation on In d ian political parties opposing the w ar effort.38 Das G u p ta and K hoka R oy (who rose to prom inence as a C om m unist leader in East Bengal /

37 D a ta on P ram o d e D as G u p ta was o b tain ed from a v ariety of interview s a n d o th er sources, b u t I a m especially in d eb ted to a colleague in C a lc u tta for the use o f a b io g rap h ica l sketch on D as G u p ta w hich he com piled th ro u g h interview s. O u r u n d e rsta n d in g o f com m unism in Bengal will be g reatly en rich ed w hen it becom es possible for this colleague to p ublish th e rich store o f m aterials he has collected. 38 F o r a n atio n alist description o f the c p i ’s a n ti-F ifth C o lu m n cam p aig n d u rin g W o rld W a r I I , see V. B. S inha, The Red Rebel in India: A Study o f Strategy and Tactics (N ew D elh i: A ssociated P ublishing H ouse, 1968), pp. 33 ff. A c p i an th o lo g y of articles a n d poem s p u blished d u rin g th e cam p aig n is co n ta in e d in Anti-Fascist Tradi­ tions o f Bengal (C a lc u tta : In d o -G D R F rien d sh ip Society, 1970), pp. 45-104.

66

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

after partition) were especially active d uring W orld W ar I I in recruiting an d train in g p arty m em bers for specialized intelligence w ork th a t could be used by the British an d in train in g other p a rty units in guerrilla w arfare an d sabotage. M an y of these activities were supported (and sometimes sponsored) by the British governm ent in In d ia because o f their p otential usefulness in the event of an occupation of In d ia n territory by the Jap an ese (or by the In d ia n N atio n al A rm y of Subhas Bose).39 A fter Independence Das G u p ta becam e aligned w ith Jy o ti Basu and M uzaffar A hm ad in a leadership struggle against the R ig h t faction, as a result o f w hich Basu becam e p a rty secretary (in 1951) an d Das G u p ta was placed in unquestioned control o f the p a rty h eadquarters an d the u n d erg ro u n d ap p aratu s. As has been indicated previously, the organization th a t Das G u p ta created in the 1950s was sim ilar in structure to the A nushilan Sam ity, the largest o f the old Bengali terrorist organizations, in w hich Das G u p ta an d m any o f his m ost trusted subordinates h ad been introduced to politics. P arty com m ittees were organized in each of the districts in Bengal, theoretically by holding elections a t conferences o f delegates representing the cells in the districts. In practice the p a rty h ad a large m em bership only in the five southern districts an d in C alcutta, and the com m ittees from the other districts of W est Bengal w ere sim ply co-opted from am ong p a rty m em bers w ho were know n an d trusted by the leadership aro u n d Das G u p ta. Elections were held m ore frequently in districts w here there was a large p a rty m em bership, b u t even here the state leadership played an im p o rta n t p a rt in determ ining the m akeup o f the district organizations, since the h eadquarters of the state p a rty in C alcu tta was responsible for organiz­ ing district conferences, proposing slates of candidates, an d assigning tasks to district secretaries an d com m ittees once they w ere elected. So far as state p arty m em bers are concerned, dem ocratic centralism has m eant the unquestioned au th o rity of state p a rty leadership, to w hich they are accountable an d w hich is theoretically responsible to them . W ith the exception of organized factions th a t becam e active in the p a rty after the S ino-Indian skirmishes in 1962, the m em bership of the state p arty has been loyal to the state leadership ra th e r th a n to the C entral Com m ittees of the p a rty : m em bers have obeyed central p a rty directives w hen orders to do so have been issued by state head39 B ritish attem p ts to cope w ith Fifth C o lu m n activities in Bengal d u rin g W o rld W a r I I (especially those o f S ubhas Bose a n d th e F o rw a rd Bloc) a re described in E d g a r Snow, Glory and Bondage (B om bay: T h ac k er, 1944), pp. 33-36, 48-53, 257-259. F o r a d escription of In d ia n C om m unist tra in in g in g u errilla w arfare d u rin g W o rld W a r I I , see O v erstreet a n d W indm iller, Communism in India, p p . 205-206.

A G ITATIO NAL POLITICS A N D TH E LEFT FACTION

67

quarters, b u t the central leadership o f the p a rty has not succeeded in bypassing the state leadership an d going directly to the p a rty m em ber­ ship in local areas. T h e enorm ous influence of the Left faction leadership clustered aro u n d Das G u p ta is due largely to the n a tu re o f the activities in w hich the p a rty has been engaged since 1951, m ost of w hich have necessitated the organization of large num bers of people for agitational purposes. T h e C om m unists have not initiated all o f the mass dem on­ strations th a t have taken place in W est Bengal since Independence, b u t they have been able to exploit spontaneous dem onstrations an d those initiated by other parties in ways th a t have not been possible for oth er political organizations w ithin the state. M oreover, the dem on­ strations th a t have been initiated by the Com m unists or taken over by them have invariably been the best organized an d the m ost effective over the course of the past two decades. O w ing to a n u m b er of factors, organizing a political p a rty th a t can exploit the tactic of mass dem onstrations in an environm ent like W est B engal’s since 1947 is a com plex an d difficult task. T h e police a n d adm inistrative services have h ad a great deal o f experience w ith mass action over the course of the last h a lf century, an d the intelligence an d security branches o f the state governm ent have been im aginative an d skillful in devising m eans for collecting inform ation on political activists.40 Especially in C alcutta, regularized procedures have been established for controlling crowds as large as h a lf a m illion people or m ore, procedures th a t have generally favored the adm inistration an d the police in any confrontation w ith dem onstrators. T h e courts, on the oth er h an d , have defended the rights o f citizens as sedulously as they do in m ost W estern dem ocracies, b u t because of the n a tu re of the ju d iciary an d the heavy load it carries, the actions of the courts have been m ore effective in securing redress of grievances by individual citizens th a n in altering day-to-day operations of governm ent. In ad d itio n to the problem s posed by the adm inistrative structure an d the police, potential agitators who have attem p ted to organize on a large scale have been confronted w ith a host of problem s th a t derive from the n atu re of the social structure. M ost people in W est Bengal rem ain deeply com m itted to a hierarchical social system in w hich au th o rity relations betw een individuals an d classes are well defined, in w hich the area o f legitim ate individual am bitions and 40 F o r a n excellent analysis of C ongress g o v ern m en t strateg y a n d the role o f the police in cu rb in g violent m ovem ents in W est B engal, see M y ro n W einer, “ V iolence a n d Politics in C a lc u tta ,” Journal o f Asian Studies 20 (M ay 1961): 275-281. See also Bayley, The Police and Political Development in India, p p . 248 ff.

68

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D PA R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

aspirations is carefully circum scribed, an d in w hich the w eight of alm ost all symbols of au th o rity is on the side of obedience to caste, family, an d village superiors. This p a tte rn is reinforced by the wide econom ic gap betw een the low-caste cultivators an d laborers on the one h an d and the nonlaboring bhadralok on the other. ^As m uch as some m em bers of the c p i (and other parties, including the Congress) have tried to break this p a tte rn of relationships, they have been unable to do so in all b u t a few cases, w ith the result th a t ag itatio n al activities (like m ost other large-scale activities) have h ad to be organized in ways th a t are consistent w ith the existing structure of au th o rity in Bengali society. T he ability of the Com m unists to take ad v an tag e of m ovem ents initiated elsewhere has depended to an even g reater extent on the capacity of the leadership to avoid com ing into conflict w ith the form al an d inform al au th o rity p atterns th a t have confronted the Com m unists in the noncom m unist m ovem ents they have sought to capture. In this atm osphere it is not surprising th a t the C om m unists were initially m uch m ore successful in organizing the u rb a n m iddle class— m iddle-class trade unions, teachers, students, engineers, an d so forth— th a n they were in organizing either the peasantry or the poorer factory laborers.41 Since the leadership of the c p i was d raw n alm ost entirely from m en of middle-class bhadralok origins, p a rty leadership could define relations betw een leaders an d led am ong the bhadralok m ore easily th an w hen it h ad to deal w ith a following recruited from other social groups. T h e p arty did try a t times to increase its influence am ong low-status groups by recruiting m ore an d m ore of its lowerlevel leadership from am ong laborers an d cultivators, b u t in this endeavor it m et w ith a n u m b er of problem s. T h e organization of the p arty in the 1950s was already top-heavy, an d alm ost all leaders of the c p i now argue th a t there was little room in the organization for people aspiring to statew ide positions unless the p a rty expanded its sphere of operations considerably. In the 1950s the central lead er­ ship of the c p i did m ake efforts to tu rn it into “ a truly mass p a rty ” by increasing the m em bership an d by em barking on a n u m b er of new projects th a t dem anded a larger m em bership.42 B ut the state leadership of the c p i in W est Bengal generally resisted expansion, arguing th a t it 41 T his discussion of p a rty lead ership is d erived alm ost en tirely from interview s w ith C o m m u n ist a n d M arxist Left p a rty m em bers a n d leaders in 1968-1970. F or a critical assessm ent o f C om m unist leadership re c ru itm e n t practices in W est B engal by a d isen ch an ted M arxist, see C h a ra n G u p ta , “ C a lc u tta D ia ry ,” Frontier, M a y 3, 1969, p p . 11-12. 42 O v erstreet a n d W indm iller, Communism in India, p p . 356 ff.

AGITATIONAL POLITICS AN D TH E LEFT FACTION

69

would m ean less efficiency an d perhaps even loss of control by state and central p arty com m ittees. M oreover, expansion of the p arty was frequently associated w ith an electoral strategy, so th a t m any state leaders therefore viewed it as a backhanded m ethod of m aking the state p arty dependent on electoral politics. Since recruitm ent of statew ide leadership from am ong the laboring and agricultural classes in Bengal could be u n d ertak en only by enlarging the p arty considerably or by going over the heads of highcaste Bengalis who stood in line for prom otion to the top, such proposals m et w ith great resentm ent in the united c p i . M oreover, recruitm ent am ong peasant cultivators and laborers m ight have led to the grow th of a strong faction based on this new leadership, or at least m ight have deprived those who w ere established in the S tate S ecretariat and S tate Council o f some of their control over the party. For these reasons, too, state c p i leaders could not accept a large nu m b er of lower-caste cultivators and laborers into the higher councils of the party. State leaders also argue th a t low -status leadership was sim ply not forth­ com ing in the 1950s and th a t p arty m em bers from low-status back­ grounds did not have the requisite skills for state p arty leadership positions: people of low status were not able to read H indi or English, they h ad little knowledge o f areas beyond their own local regions, and they usually lacked interest in ideological and organizational m atters. This m ay also be a significant factor in explaining the absence of people from low-status groups in the higher echelons of the state party, b u t it w ould be difficult to test this out w ithout m ore research on m em bers of the p arty who come from low-status backgrounds. A t this point, however, it is clear th a t m em bers of low-status groups are still n o t established in state p arty organizations and are seldom prom inent even a t the district level or below. Because of c p i recruitm ent patterns, p arty m ovem ents th a t have involved low-status groups in W est Bengal have depended on com ­ m unication flows betw een m en of high-status groups, usually centered in C alcutta, an d the m any low-status groups spread out over the state. These com m unication flows are m ade possible by a num ber of intervening brokers, who are either draw n from am ong high-status Bengalis who have befriended m en of low status or from indigenous leaders of low-status groups who are trying to establish linkages betw een their own groups and a powerful state political organization. A small sam ple (35) of such brokers interview ed in 1969 consisted of the following types of individuals: (1) relief workers (usually of high status) who had endeared themselves to low-status groups because of their prom inence in local relief activities; (2) trade union organizers of

70

FA CTIO NAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y O RG ANIZATIO N

high status who supported the econom ic dem ands of union m em bers, helped them w ith co u rt cases or confrontations w ith the state b u re a u ­ cracy, an d secured p arty funds an d publishing facilities for local trade union activities; (3) low -status leaders of trib al, village, an d caste associations who h ad gone into opposition to the state^ governm ent w hen rival low -status leaders h ad been favored w ith p atro n ag e dis­ pensed by the Congress p a rty ; an d (4) low -status leaders w ho had adopted bhadralok m anners an d customs an d w ho viewed their involve­ m ent w ith intellectual M arxism as a sign of their “ progressive an d m odern outlook on life.” All of those interview ed were p ro m in en t in D istrict Com m ittees of the p arty , as well as b ran ch units in villages, towns, or cities. N one of these people was active in the statew ide organs of the parties, although they all com m unicated w ith the state organizations for p arty purposes. Regardless of w hether political m ovem ents w ere staged by m em bers of the m iddle class or by m em bers of low-status groups d u rin g Congress rule, the leadership aro u n d P ram ode Das G u p ta was able to gain the com pliance of other leaders in m ain tain in g strict control over the people m obilized by the party. O p eratin g in a dem ocratic society an d w ith a skilled adm inistrative an d police netw ork, the Congress govern­ m ents of W est Bengal took the position th a t dem onstrations an d other agitation al activities could not be com pletely repressed, b u t at the same tim e the state governm ent established w ell-defined limits beyond w hich dem onstrations were not allow ed to go. T h e state governm ent always argued th a t dem onstrations h ad to be peaceful an d nonviolent, b u t it did tolerate a fair am o u n t of violence w hen its source could not be determ ined. Political parties could therefore organize even largescale dem onstrations so long as they could assure the state governm ent th a t they w ould be peaceful, an d so long as the state governm ent was convinced th a t a dem onstration th a t was originally p lanned as peaceful w ould no t trigger mass violence. Before a dem onstration w ould be allow ed by the state governm ent, political parties were often required to obtain licenses for the “ use” of a park, a m eeting ground, or m ore often for the large open space a t the foot of O chterlony M o n u m en t (now called the “ M a rty r’s C olum n,” or Saheed M anir) on the C alcutta maidan. O ften governm ent officials, police adm inistrators, an d the leaders of opposition parties w ould confer before a proposed dem on­ stration was sanctioned. In this atm osphere the c p i could pursue one of two m ajor strategies, either of w hich could lead to various reactions on the p a rt of those w hom it sought to organize, an d either of w hich w ould evoke a fairly predictable response from the state governm ent. I f the c p i (or any

A G ITATIO NAL POLITICS A N D T H E LEFT FACTION

71

other group for th a t m atter) sought to organize a large-scale m ovem ent th a t involved violence, the state governm ent w ould invariably react w ith mass arrests of p a rty m em bers, usually carried out before the tim e ap p o in ted for the dem onstrations an d m ade possible by the W est Bengal Security Act, the Preventive D etention Act, and, after 1962, by the Defence of In d ia Rules. W hen the p a rty sought to organize nonviolent dem onstrations, it h ad to convince the state governm ent th a t it h ad enough control over its own m em bers an d following to ensure the m aintenance of a peaceful atm osphere, an d a t times the p a rty was even asked by the governm ent to prom ise th a t it w ould help to restore peace if sporadic violence should occur during the course of a dem onstration. T h e p a rty could prom ote violence on occasion, either by trying to take control of a sporadic an d publicly supported o u tb u rst th a t h ad caught the state governm ent unaw are or by retaliatin g against “ police b ru ta lity ” w hen it h ad sufficient public support to m ake the state governm ent w ary of repression. In both of these cases, however, the p a rty always risked the possibility th a t the state governm ent w ould react to violence by placing a large n u m b er of its m em bers in jail. U n d e r these circum stances it is not surprising th a t state p arty leaders an d m em bers (regardless of their factional interests) felt it necessary to m ain tain strict control over agitational activities during the period w hen the Congress was in pow er in the state. Since p arty control could only be assured by the existence of a disciplined cadre loyal to a small an d cohesive leadership, decisions to initiate a dem onstration or to a tte m p t to cap tu re the leadership of a dem onstra­ tion w ere always m ade a t the highest levels. M oreover, only a few leaders at the state an d district levels of the p a rty were briefed on overall strategy, w ith other key individuals being briefed only on the activities in w hich they were to be instrum ental. T h e vast m ajority of p a rty m em bers played lesser roles in dem onstrations, receiving their directions from people who w ere established in the leadership structure an d being expected to carry ou t p articu lar assigned tasks. T h e need for organizational control in staging agitational activities was especially great w hen large-scale dem onstrations w ere p lanned in C alcutta, for such dem onstrations involved the coordination of a n u m b er of different mass organizations an d opposition p a rty organiza­ tions, m any of whose followers cam e from the most depressed low-status groups of society.43 Large-scale m obilization of these people not only 43 T h is discussion depends m ain ly on interview s, b u t see also “ D em o n stratio n s: H o w to Stage T h e m ,” The Statesman, J u ly 10, 1966.

72

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATION

involved the danger th a t they m ight becom e uncontrollable in a m ob, it also placed on the p a rty the responsibility of caring for them and transporting them to an d from their homes. Big dem onstrations, therefore, h ad to be p lan n ed well in advance, an d this involved a large nu m b er of organizers a t the low er levels. T h e call for a dem on­ stration h ad to be m ade through p a rty organs, circulars, pam phlets, an d handouts, an d the issues h a d to be publicized in as m an y news­ papers as possible th ro u g h o u t the state. P arty m eetings h ad to be held a t the lower levels to explain selected aspects o f the program , to establish quotas of people to be m obilized by each u n it in a given area, an d to assign tasks. E ach of the p a rty units h ad to hold “ gate m eetings,” in w hich p arty m em bers in the organization contacted m em bers in mass organizations a t factory gates (from w hich the nam e derives), a t college entrances, or in the fields an d assigned duties an d personal quotas. M eetings h ad to be organized a t street corners, m arkets, an d other public places to solicit funds an d to test the extent o f public support, an d large-scale poster an d leaflet cam paigns initiated. D istrict units h ad to be given subsidies for tran sp o rtatio n to get dem onstrators into C alcu tta an d other cities an d voluntary an d para (neighborhood) organizations h ad to be contacted to supply food for out-of-tow n dem onstrators. T ran sp o rtatio n to an d from rallying points in the city h ad to be arranged. In short, the large-scale agitational m ovem ents th a t were so characteristic of W est Bengal during Congress rule re­ quired a greal deal of coordination, an d the need for such coordination facilitated the grow th of the leadership th a t controlled the organiza­ tional apparatus. T h e need for a tightly organized cadre loyal to a small, elitist leadership is greatest during a dem onstration, for there is always the risk th a t events will get out of han d . T herefore, the p arty in W est Bengal usually established a clear division of labor w ithin each un it an d betw een the various units th a t were involved in the dem onstration. Some people were designated to lead in the shouting of slogans, others were responsible for m aintaining order, an d still others were charged w ith the task of supervising “ retaliation against police b ru ­ ta lity ” in the event of violence. In each p articip atin g u n it there were also a few leaders (usually a leader an d auxiliary leaders, w ho could take charge in the event of the arrest of the original leadership) who were responsible for the overall behavior of the unit. These people were expected to com m unicate w ith the leaders of other units an d to direct the people w ithin their own u n it to follow instructions relayed by the leadership in charge of the entire dem onstration. In practice, of course, chains of com m and frequently broke dow n, b u t the organi­ zation of dem onstrations in this m an n er assured the p arty of m ore

TH E IN D E PE N D E N C E OF T H E ELECTORALISTS

73

control over its agitational activities th a n m ight otherwise have been possible. In an area like W est Bengal, w hich has witnessed mass agitational m ovem ents an d mass violence for m ore th a n h a lf a century, there are a g reat m any people w ho are skilled in the techniques required for leading mass m ovem ents. But both political leaders an d observers in W est Bengal agree th a t the m ost highly skilled leaders of such n m ovem ents are now in the C om m unist parties, either in the regular p arty organizations or in the mass organizations th a t are controlled by the parties. Because the organization headed by P ram ode Das G u p ta was able to recruit such people an d to give them experience in a n u m b er of m ovem ents laun ched in the 1950s, he an d the small, cohesive leadership aro u n d him were able to gain control of an ap p aratu s capable of initiating large-scale agitational m ovem ents on a statew ide basis. O th e r leaders, not associated w ith state p arty h e a d ­ quarters, could gain control over parts of the state m achinery— over portions of the electoral ap p aratu s, p a rty jo u rn als an d newspapers, p a rtic u la r trad e unions, a district K isan S abha, an d so forth— b u t the leadership th a t was ensconced at p a rty h ead q u arters after 1951 h ad access to virtually all p arty units an d activities and, m ore im p o rtan t, could coordinate the w ork of the various units in m obilizing vast num bers of people behind p a rty program s. W hen the split occurred in 1964, m ost c p i leaders therefore jo in ed w ith Das G u p ta an d the c p m , for to do otherw ise was either to risk the destruction of the most effective instrum ent th a t h ad been developed by the state c p i or to cut themselves off from the use of th a t instrum ent. T h e In d e p e n d en ce o f th e E le c to r a lis ts M ost of the electoral organizations in the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal have allied w ith the Left faction in the past, largely because of the im portance of mass organizations an d agitation in C om m unist electoral stategy. T h ere are significant differences, however, in the kind of controls exercised by the leadership over the various types of organizational units, an d the need for strict au th o rity an d discipline is not nearly so com pelling in the case of the electoral organizations as it is for the p arty organs th a t depend on agitational activities. C om m unist peasant organizations, trade unions, an d student groups are concerned prim arily w ith the p ro ­ m otion of class conflict, w ith m aking groups m ilitantly conscious of class differences in order th a t they m ight becom e m ore effective instrum ents for opposing the “ designs” of landlords, businessmen, and o th er “ vested interests.” These groups ju d g e their effectiveness by th eir ability to m obilize large num bers of people behind dem ands and

74

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATIO N

slogans, an d in doing so they are heavily d ep en d en t on the skilled organizers of the p a rty ap p aratu s. T h e electoral organizations, on the other han d , are concerned prim arily w ith w inning elections, an d w hile agitational activities are sometimes helpful in this endeavor, they are a t other times either unnecessary or harm ful. T h e possibility of the electoral organizations’ establishing themselves 'i n positions relatively independent of the p a rty ap p aratu s are therefore greater, an d the friction betw een them an d the ap p aratu s controlled by the p a rty leadership has a t times assum ed sizable proportions. T h e electoral m achinery of the C om m unists in W est Bengal is organized aro u n d C onstituency Com m ittees, usually fairly large in n u m b er (a h u n d red people or m ore), com posed of relatives, friends, influential supporters, an d workers of the principal C om m unist candidates in the constituency, w ho m ay or m ay not be p a rty m em bers. W hile the D istrict Com m ittees of the p a rty assign some m em bers or b ran ch units to w ork in each constituency, an d a C om m unist can d id ate (who is always a p a rty m em ber) is bound to accept such assignees, the can d id ate is usually free to select his own close associates an d to allocate responsibility in any w ay he chooses. P arty m em bers assigned to candidates by D istrict Com m ittees m ay therefore be used or neglected, or sometimes even replaced, according to the wishes of the candidate and his associates in the C onstituency C om m ittee. T h e state leadership of the p arty exercises some influence over the C on­ stituency Com m ittees by providing them w ith publication facilities (for election pam phlets, posters, an d so forth), by raising funds for candidates through local b ran ch units, an d by furnishing famous speakers (including national p arty leaders like E. M . S. N am boodiripad or S. A. D ange) an d noted perform ers.44 But these forms of control are m uch less direct th an the p a rty ’s control of mass agitational activities. R esponsibility for initiating political acts in the electoral sphere is portioned out to the D istrict an d C onstituency com m ittees; the chain of com m and is m uch less clear in electoral organizations th an it is in the case of mass o rganizations; an d far m ore people becom e involved in m aking p arty decisions in the electoral sphere th an elsewhere. T h e state p arty ap p aratu s in the united c p i did try to m ain tain strict p a rty control over the electoral organizations an d to tighten the chain of com m and betw een p arty h eadquarters in C alcu tta an d the Con44 P e rh ap s the m ost successful perfo rm er the C om m unists hav e ever h a d in the elections was U tp a l D u tta , th e no ted d ra m a tist from C alc u tta , w ho in th e 1967 cam p aig n w rote a play (w hich took the form of a C om m unist law yer “ try in g ” the Congress regim e) th a t to u red Bengali villages a n d towns on b e h a lf o f the c p m . See “ T h e D ra m a in th e Poll B a ttle,” People’s Democracy, F e b ru a ry 19, 1967, p. 10.

T H E IND E PE N D E N C E OF T H E ELECTORALISTS

75

stituency Com m ittees spread across the state. T h e regular p a rty organization retained the pow er to determ ine p a rty nom inees in each constituency, an d candidates w ho did not w ork well w ith the p a rty organization occasionally lost their nom inations in succeeding elections.45 T h e state leadership also rigidly enforced p a rty rules requiring th a t a certain percentage o f m em bers’ earnings in the legislatures an d the m inistries be given to the p a rty an d required th a t large electoral contributions be m ade over to p a rty h ead q u arters ra th e r th a n to C onstituency Com m ittees. All o f these factors did help the state leadership to m ain tain some degree of control over the electoral organizations an d to isolate the few p a rty leaders w ho tried to m ake themselves independent o f the regular p a rty ap p aratu s. But there were m ajor conflicts betw een the electoral organizations an d the state p a rty h ead q u arters in the united c p i , p articu larly on the issue of the use o f p a rty funds, an d charges of m isallocation frequently resulted in b itter personal attacks on the leadership by p a rty m em bers. M ost m em bers of the p a rty now argue th a t P ram ode Das G u p ta an d Jy o ti Basu were the only leaders w ho h ad access to secret sources of state p a rty w ealth in the years 1951—1964 an d th a t this placed them in a position w here they could control an d supervise the overall financial arrangem ents of the p arty. Because of the n atu re o f p a rty funding (which has never been fully revealed or explained),46 and especially because the p a rty found it necessary to keep sources of funds the most closely g u arded of secrets even within the party , Das G u p ta an d Basu could always argue th a t they h ad good reason for m ain tain in g strict control o f p a rty finances. But in the late 1950s a m ovem ent against Das G u p ta was launched w ithin the state p a rty (led by R ig h t faction leader Bhow ani Sen and supported by a n u m b er o f state c p i p arliam en tary an d legislative leaders), as a result of w hich he was openly accused of using p a rty funds to enhance his personal w ealth.47 T h e dissidents argued at th a t tim e th a t they w ould have no confidence in any investigation o f these charges th a t 45 I n 1962, for exam ple, th e c p i c a n d id a te M o h a m m a d A b d u l L a tif n a rro w ly lost to th e C ongress c an d id a te in C h a n d ita la constituency in H ooghly D istrict. D espite this he was forced o u t o f th e p a rty as a result o f a dispute w ith P ra m o d e D as G u p ta a n d in 1967 was opposed in C h a n d ita la b o th by th e c p i a n d by th e c p m . A fter defeating b o th C om m unist c an d id ates h a n d ily in 1967, L a tif was subsequently given the su p p o rt o f th e U n ite d F ro n t in the 1969 elections, w hen he ag ain ra n as an in d e p e n d e n t c an d id ate, b u t he was n o t a ccep ted b ack in the ranks o f eith er C om m u n ist p a rty . (Based on interview s w ith L a tif su p p o rters in H ooghly in 1969.) 46 A b a la n c e d discussion o f c p i p a rty finances a p p ea rs in O v erstreet a n d W in d m iller, Communism in India, pp. 354-356. See also P eter Sager, Moscow’s Hand in India (B erne: Swiss E astern In stitu te , 1966) for th e role of p a rty p ublications as a source of In d ia n C o m m u n ist funds. 47 See C h a p te r 3, fn. 37.

76

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y O RGANIZATIO N

was carried out either by Jy o ti Basu or the C ontrol Com m ission of the p arty , since Das G u p ta ’s influence and pow er over p a rty leaders who w ere dependent on him for their positions w ould affect the outcom e. T h e dissidents therefore requested an investigation o f state p a rty funds by a three-m an C entral S ecretariat C om m ittee, proposing the nam es of Ajoy G hosh, B. T. R anadive, an d P. C. Joshi, three highly respected national leaders representing the p a rty ’s m ajor factions. D as G u p ta ’s strength w ithin the united c p i was indicated by the fact th a t nothing ever cam e of these proposals for a h investigation of state p a rty funds, despite w idespread su p p o rt for the dissidents. Indeed, Das G u p ta has since been able to reinforce his position w ithin the c p m , despite his continuing u n p o p u larity w ith the m em bership. M an y p a rty m em bers now describe Das G u p ta as an extrem ely crude and rough-m annered m an, who has a h a b it of shouting a t alm ost everyone on the slightest pretext, and he is alm ost universally con­ sidered excessively b u reau cratic in his h an d lin g of p a rty affairs. T h e luxuries enjoyed both by Das G u p ta and by Jy o ti Basu (the use of a car, air-conditioning, trips to D arjeeling in the sum m er, a clean dhoti every day, cigars) are generally resented by m em bers of the p a rty who are convinced th a t the leadership has been paying itself m ore th a n it should. But w hile Basu is often forgiven for his style of living, Das G u p ta is usually denounced. Basu comes from a w ealthy family, has a law degree from the M iddle T em ple in L ondon, and has m arried into a fam ily th a t is perhaps w ealthier th a n his own, w hich m eans th a t he could probably afford to live as he does (in fact, he m ight even live better) w ith o u t the party. Since Das G u p ta comes from m uch hum bler origins and has little m oney of his own, he is accused by some p a rty m em bers of an a tte m p t to raise his social status w ith the aid of p arty funds.48 Perhaps the harshest denunciation of D as G u p ta is contained in the description of him by some p a rty m em bers as “a C om m unist version of A tulya G hosh.” 49 Aside from p arty funding and personal differences, the m ajor sources of conflict betw een the electoral organizations and the state p arty 48 D as G u p ta is also accused o f nepotism by som e p a rty leaders, since tw o o f his relatives have been p ro m o ted to the S tate C om m ittee o f th e c p m , a n d one o f th em (K rish n a p a d a Ghosh) was th e state L a b o u r M in ister in th e 1969—1970 U n ite d F ro n t go v ern m ent. In Bengali m ythology Vaidyas are especially p ro n e b o th to n ep o tism a n d to status seeking, m aking th e charges ag ain st D as G u p ta (w ho is a Vaidya b y caste) all th e m ore plausible in th e eyes of m a n y Bengalis. 49 T h e reference is to th e le a d er o f the state Congress p a rty , w ho has long been d en o u n ced by th e C om m unists as an u n c u ltu re d , status-seeking, c o rru p t p o litician — precisely the sam e im age c p i a n d c p m p a rty m em bers have o f D as G u p ta . F o r a m ore d etailed description of this im age o f A tu ly a G hosh, see M arcu s F. F ra n d a , “ T h e Political Idiom s of A tulya G h o sh ,” Asian Survey 6 (A ugust 1966): 432-433.

THE IND E PE N D E N C E OF TH E ELECTORALISTS

77

ap p aratu s in the united c p i have had to do w ith the role of elections in overall C om m unist strategy. A nd yet the leadership of the electoral organizations have not dealt w ith these issues as vigorously as the p a rty ’s intellectual leadership, w ith the result th a t the principal c o n flic t

over

p a rty

stra teg y

in

th e

u n ite d

cpi

has

been

b etw een

theoreticians on the one h an d an d the organizational ap p aratu s on the # other, each contesting for the loyalty an d allegiance of the electoral organizations. This p a tte rn of factional conflict is best illustrated by the debate th a t has raged am ong peasant leaders in the state over the strategy to be pursued regarding two potentially pow erful ru ral elem ents, the sm all landholders and the landless. Ideally a C om m unist peasant organization m ight be able to secure the support both of the landless and of the small landholders, and some C om m unist electoral leaders have argued for strategies designed to do this. B ut most Com m unists argue th a t a single p a rty cannot realistically ap p eal to b o th : effective organization of landless laborers in the ru ral areas has generally h u rt small landholders m ore th an anyone else and has therefore alienated this significant segm ent of the ru ra l po p u latio n ; on the other hand, p a rty attem pts to gain the support of small landholders has usually m ade it im politic to organize the landless a t the same tim e, thereby depriving the p a rty of support from a segm ent of the ru ral population th a t is potentially the most revolutionary in all of In d ia. In the state u n it of the p a rty the R ight faction has generally opted for a strategy designed to woo small landholders first, and perhaps the landless later, while the Left faction has sought to organize the landless.50 But the electoral organiza­ tions in the p a rty th a t have becom e involved in this debate have m erely tried to m ediate betw een the R ig h t and Left factions and have used both R ig h t and Left faction leaders to strengthen the p a rty ’s position in electoral politics. T h e strategies th a t have been form ally adopted to m eet this issue at the state and national levels have shifted considerably over the years, w ith Left faction views generally prevailing in p arty docum ents before 1957 and those of the R ig h t faction from 1957 until the split in 1964. In t*

'

50 T h e position o f the R ig h t faction is stated ra th e r laboriously in B how ani Sen, Indian Land System and Land Reforms (D e lh i: P eo p le’s P ublishing H ouse, 1955), pp . 111­ 129, a n d B how ani Sen, Evolution o f Agrarian Relations in India (N ew D elh i: P eo ple’s P u blish in g H ouse, 1962), pp. 280-288. T h e m ost concise sta te m e n t of the Left faction position a p p ea rs in Decision and Resolutions o f the 19th Session, All-India Kisan Sabha, Madurai, January 26-28, 1968 (N ew D elh i: A IK S , 1968); see especially the speech by P resid en t A. K . G o p alan , in w hich he states th a t “ relu ctan ce to take u p th eir [a g ric u ltu ra l la b o re rs’] specific d em an d s, fearing th a t this will drive the rich an d m id d le p easan ts aw ay from us, will hav e to be given u p ” (p. 7).

78

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y O RG ANIZATIO N

W est Bengal, the R ig h t faction in the K isan S abha gained a t least a token victory over the Left faction in the peasant m ovem ent in 1957, w hen the state A ll-India K isan S abha ( a i k s ) ad o p ted a strategy designed to court small landholders. A ccording to W einer, T h e fifteenth provincial conference, m eeting in 1957, an n o u n ced th a t the K isan S ab h a favored com pensation for those sm all interm ediaries whose holdings were confiscated by governm ent. I t fu rth er declared th a t the o rganiza­ tion w ould launch agitations for ag ricu ltu ral loans, im proved irrigation facilities, m anure, education, health, a n d drinking w ater, a n d w ould continue agitation against excessive irrigation taxes a n d o ther taxes, including a p ro ­ posed developm ent tax. T h e S ab h a also an n o u n ced th a t it w ould w ork w ithin the existing legislative fram ew ork, w ould take the initiative in form ing panchayats [local governm ent councils] u n d er the new P an ch ay at A ct, a n d w ould su p p o rt credit cooperatives, m arketing societies, h an d icraft cooperatives, an d even the governm ent’s C om m unity D evelopm ent P ro g ram a n d N atio n al Extension Service. In short, the K isan S ab h a proposed to m inim ize agitations a n d m axim ize the benefits peasants (and the K isan Sabha) m ig h t receive by w orking w ithin existing legislation, w hile a t the sam e tim e p u ttin g pressure on the state governm ent for greater ru ra l expenditures. R u ra l h arm o n y ra th e r th a n class conflict was the new them e of the W est Bengal K isan S ab h a.51

But the victory of the R ig h t faction in the state a i k s in 1957 was clearly a “ p ap er victory” th a t h ad little effect on the day-to-day operations of state p a rty workers in the Bengal countryside. Both before an d after 1957 p a rty activity in the ru ral areas was highly fragm ented an d localized, w ith p a rty m em bers organizing the landless laborers for mass struggles in areas controlled by the Left faction, while the 1957 resolution was pursued in areas controlled by the R ig h t faction. In the districts of 24-Parganas, H ow rah, H ooghly, an d B urdw an, w here the Left faction has been in control since Independence, the Com m unists have always concentrated on the organization of tribals an d other landless laborers in p rep aratio n for “ mass struggles” against the landed. In M idnapore D istrict, how ever, the R ig h t faction has h ad control of the district p a rty organization, an d M id n ap o re a i k s leaders have m ade a m uch m ore serious a tte m p t to im plem ent the 1957 resolution. T h e extent to w hich indiscipline has characterized the state C om m unists w ith regard to the question of a ru ra l strategy is indicated by the resolutions of the S tate Council of the united c p i (dom inated by the Left faction) on ag rarian questions betw een 1957 an d the split in 1964, m any of w hich clearly contradicted the 1957 resolutions of the state an d national a i k s . 52 Such indiscipline has 51 W einer, Politics o f Scarcity, p. 147. 52 The Statesman, A pril 13, 1969.

T H E IN D E PE N D E N C E OF TH E ELECTORALISTS

79

m ade for a ra th e r checkered history on the p a rt of the state K isan S abha, w ith m em bership varying considerably from year to year (depending on the activities of one or an o th er faction)53 an d w ith all factions com plaining of the lack of overall im provem ent on the p a rt of the Com m unists in the ru ra l areas. In this situation the electoral organizations have gained m ore th an either the Left or the R ig h t by sim ply using the efforts of both factions for electoral purposes. F rom the point of view of the electoral C om ­ m unists in W est Bengal, a strategy appealing to u rb a n interests an d the landless (the strategy of the Left faction) is highly desirable in 24Parganas, H ow rah, H ooghly, an d B urdw an, since in all four districts these two highly discontented segments of the population are n u m er­ ically strong. As T ab le 1 shows, u rb a n dwellers an d agricultural laborers together constitute 80.48 percent of the population of H ow rah, 67.81 percent of 24-Parganas, 65.36 percent of H ooghly, an d 56.60 p ercent of the population of B urdw an. In M idnapore, however, a T able 1 R u r a l , U r b a n , a n d A g r ic u l t u r a l L a b o r C om po sitio n of W e s t B e n g a l ’s F i v e S o u t h e r n D is t r ic t s

D istrict

T o tal P opulation

R u ra l (% of T otal)

U rb a n (% of T otal)

A gricultural L aborers (% of R ural)

H o w ra h

2,038,477

2 4 -P arg an as

6,280,915

H o o g h ly

2,231,418

B u rd w an

3,082,846

M id n a p o re

4,341,855

1,213,385 (59.52% ) 4,282,958 (68.19% ) 1,652,135 (74.04% ) 2,521,768 (71.80% ) 4,007,569 (92.30% )

825,092 (40.48% ) 1,997,957 (31.81% ) 579,283 (25.96% ) 561,078 (18.20% ) 334,286 (7.70% )

485,354 (40.0% ) 1,541,865 (36.0% ) 650,941 (39.4% ) 968,359 (38.4% ) 1,074,028 (26.8% )

Source: Census o f India, 1961 (N ew D e lh i: G o v e rn m e n t o f In d ia , B u re au o f th e C ensus, 1963-1969), vol. 16, “ W est B engal a n d S ikkim ,” P a rt I-A a n d P a rt II-B (ii). In th e 1961 census, a g ric u ltu ra l laborers w ere defined as “ persons w orking on la n d as lab ourers for wages w ith o u t h o ld in g a n y rig h t u p o n th e la n d .” 53 M em b ersh ip figures p u b lish ed by th e a i k s , for exam ple, w ould in d icate th a t the W est B engal u n it h a d 185,389 m em bers in 1954, 219,864 m em bers in 1955, a n d only 143,247 m em bers in 1956. See Twelfth Session o f the All-India Kisan Sabha, Proceedings and Resolutions (N ew D elh i: A IK S , 1954), p. 59; Proceedings and Resolutions o f the Thir­ teenth Session, All-India Kisan Sabha (N ew D elh i: A IK S , 1955), p. 53; a n d Fourteenth Annual Session o f the All-India Kisan Sabha, Report (N ew D elhi: A IK S , 1956), p. 17.

80

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D P A R T Y ORGANIZATION

strategy th a t appealed only to these two segments of the population w ould be aim ed a t a m ere 34.5 percent of the total pop u latio n of the district, and m ost state politicians agree th a t it w ould alienate the vast m ajority of the rem aining segm ents.54 By using the R ig h t faction organizations of the p a rty in M idnapore D istrict an d the Left faction organizations in 24-Parganas, H ow rah, H ooghly, an d B urdw an districts, the electoral organizations of the united c p i consistently did well in all five districts w ithout getting involved in the substance of the ideological dispute except as m ediators. ' F a c tio n a l C on flict a n d E le c to r a l P o litic s T h e question, “ W h at have Bengali Com m unists attem p ted to accom plish since In d ep en d en ce?” has m any answers. M ost C om ­ m unists in the state w ould agree th a t they are trying to do aw ay w ith the regim e th a t Congress has created, b u t m ajor factional groupings w ithin the state m ovem ent differ radically as to how this m ight be done an d w h at m ight serve as an alternative to the electoral dem ocracy th a t Congress has created. Since the failure of the insurrectionist strategy of the late 1940s, the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal has been so divided internally th a t it has been unable to find a strategy acceptable to all factional interests. T h e strategies th a t have been adopted have usually served m erely as a fram ew ork w ithin w hich various factional interests have pursued their own interests, an d the factions have not been fettered by constraints im posed by state or national p arty leaders. T h e unity of the m ovem ent has therefore depended on the ability of state leaders to accom m odate themselves to various factional points of view, an d on the m u tu al interest of all factions in opposing the Congress party. Because of the success of m ilitan t agitation directed against the Congress, the Left faction in W est Bengal has gained considerable influence in the state organizational ap p aratu s, while the position of the R ig h t faction has been declining. B ut the Left faction has also had difficulty in adjusting to an electoral system, an d electoral politics have therefore intensified factionalism w ithin the Left faction itself. A t one level the success of the Com m unists in state elections has led to a debate about the efficacy of p articip atin g in electoral politics, while a t an o th er it has led to constant disputes over w hat electoral strategies 54 F o r an interesting co rrelatio n for all of In d ia o f d e m o g ra p h ic factors w ith the C o m m u n ist vote by district, w hich sub stan tiates the influence o f seg m en tatio n on C o m m u n ist voting p attern s, see D o n ald S. Z agoria, “ ‘R ic e ’ a n d ‘F e u d a l’ C o m m u n ism in I n d ia ,” p a p e r p re p a re d for th e C o lu m b ia U niversity S em in ar on M o d e rn E ast Asia, N o vem ber 19, 1969.

FACTIONAL CONFLICT A N D ELECTORAL POLITICS

81

w ould provide the quickest p a th to revolution an d political power. W hile the R ig h t faction, a t the instigation of the c p s u , has advocated a strategy of alliance w ith bourgeois forces, the Left faction has continued to resist such a strategy. W hile the Left faction has im proved its ability to engage in agitational activities, most of its efforts thus far have been directed tow ard electoral, goals ra th e r th a n tow ard the m ore revolutionary aims proposed by Left faction leaders. D uring the course of these developm ents, the electoral position of the Com m unists in the state has continued to im prove, prim arily because of the ability of the weakest faction in the p arty at the tim e of Independence (the electoralists) to use both of the older factions for electoral purposes. Since 1947 the electoralists in the W est Bengal com m unist m ovem ent have increasingly th reaten ed to dom inate the entire m ovem ent. F actional conflict w ithin the state com m unist m ovem ent has also been intensified since Independence by the attach m en t of Bengali C om m unists to national and in ternational political m ovem ents. As has already been indicated, the strength of the R ight faction in the state has depended on the support of the central p a rty leadership an d the c p s u , both before and after the split in 1964, while the Left faction has also sought support from C om m unist factions outside W est Bengal. T h e split th a t took place in 1964 was in fact a culm ination of the conflicts betw een the R ig h t an d Left factions th a t h ad plagued the state p arty throughout the 1950s, as well as the pro d u ct of a series of events in the national an d in ternational com m unist m ovem ent. Since the split in 1964, both organizational an d theoretical differences have been infused w ith m ore intense em otions th an in the 1950s, an d they have also come to be related in m uch m ore com plex ways to national an d in tern atio n al politics an d p a rty affairs.

4

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT AND THE SPLIT

T h e split betw een the c p i an d the c p m is usually d ated from A pril 11, 1964, w hen thirty-tw o of the sixty-five m em bers of the p a rty ’s N ational Council w alked ou t of a p a rty m eeting being held in N ew D elhi. T hey eventually organized their own convention (at T enali, in A n d h ra Pradesh) in Ju ly an d their own N ational Congress (in C alcutta) in O ctober, and they have continued to insist th a t they are the only genuine successors to the traditions of the In d ia n com m unist m ove­ m ent. W hile they have been able to a ttra c t a t least as large a m em b er­ ship an d following (both in In d ia an d in W est Bengal) as the p a re n t C om m unist party, they continue to be described as dissidents from the regular c p i by m ost people in In d ia, an d they have now accepted the p arty label (C om m unist p arty of In d ia —M arxist, or c p m ) th a t the Election Commission an d In d ia n journalists have assigned to them . Six of the thirty-tw o m em bers who w alked out in A pril 1964 were Bengalis: Pram ode Das G upta, Jy o ti Basu, H are K rish n a K onar, M uzaffar A hm ad, A bdul H alim , and Saroj M ukherjee. T hey were all well know n and were influential leaders of the p arty a t the n atio n al as well as a t the state level. Perhaps for this reason m ost accounts of the split have em phasized the im p o rtan t role th a t the W est Bengal u n it played in staging the w alkout an d in reorganizing the m ajority of the c p i m em bership u n d er the b an n er of the c p m . Y et it is clear th a t the Bengalis in the united c p i were by no m eans a cohesive force at the tim e of the split. Indeed, the split in the national u n it of the p a rty was accom panied by serious cleavages w ithin the statew ide m ovem ent, and the regular c p i in W est Bengal has been able to a ttra c t considerable support am ong Bengali C om m unists since 1964 despite its inability to outpoll the c p m in elections. T h ro u g h o u t the 1950s the c p i in W est Bengal took an active p a rt in In d ia n ideological debates. As was pointed out in previous chapters, the C om m unist intellectual leadership in W est Bengal consistently sided w ith Moscow an d the c p g b during the course of these debates, deriving m ost of its theoretical inspiration from R . Palm e D u tt of the c p g b in C am bridge, while the organizational ap p aratu s of the state p a rty opposed the pro-M oscow stance of D u tt on a n u m b er of occasions.

SINQ-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

83

L acking the theoretical support an d unity needed to pursue alternative strategies, the organizational leadership of W est Bengal h ad to content itself th ro u g h o u t the 1950s w ith a series of com prom ise form ulas p ro m ulgated by the national leadership of the p a rty headed by Ajoy G hosh while it concentrated on building a m ore effective state o r­ ganization. Factionalism w ithin the state u n it during this period did surface on a nu m b er of occasions, b u t p arty discipline was always sufficient to rally the m em bership aro u n d tem porary com prom ise solutions. In the late 1950s, however, the gap betw een the various factions in W est Bengal began to w iden, an d m ost p a rty leaders now trace the split back to a series of events— regional, national, an d in tern atio n al— th a t occurred in 1959. T h e m ost widely publicized of these events resulted from the w idening rift betw een the c p s u an d the Chinese C om m unist p arty ( c c p ) , a rift th a t h ad im m ediate repercussions in In d ia because of the proxim ity of the T ib etan revolt and the SinoIn d ia n b order dispute, both of w hich figured prom inently in SinoSoviet debates.1 T h e conflicting models th a t the Soviet U nion an d C hina h ad presented to In d ia n C om m unists in the early 1950s were those of u rb a n insurrection an d peasant guerrilla w arfare, b u t during the course of the 1950s the two C om m unist giants shifted ground considerably. By 1959 they h ad come to differ publicly on their assessments of the very n atu re of the N ehru governm ent, an d both now sought m uch greater influence over the strategies an d tactics of the c p i . In addition to events taking place in the in ternational com m unist m ovem ent, the c p i in W est Bengal was also influenced by the rem oval o f the C om m unist regim e in K erala on J u ly 31, 1959, an d by the n a tu re o f the political environm ent in the state of W est Bengal a t th a t time. T h e c p i in W est Bengal h ad been greatly encouraged by the results of the 1957 elections, since the p arty h ad im proved its position considerably in the state legislature by increasing its nu m b er of seats from 28 to 46 (and its percentage of the votes from 10.76 to 17.82). Bengali C om m unists were also encouraged by the results of the election in K erala in 1957, w hich had enabled„the K erala C om ­ m unists to form a coalition governm ent, the first state governm ent to be~”dom inated by C om m unists in independent India. In the words of one observer of Bengali politics, E. M . S. N am boodiripad [the c p i C hief M inister of K erala] h ad overnight becom e a hero in Bengal an d the m am m o th public m eetings an d receptions he was called upon to address during his visit to Bengal soon after becom ing 1 T h e role o f th e b o rd e r dispute in a cc en tu atin g the Sino-Soviet rift is described in W illiam E. G riffith, The Sino-Soviet R ift (C am b rid g e: M .I.T . Press, 1964); see especially p p . 5 -8 , 56-59.

84

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

C hief M inister of K erala, was [sic] indicative of the restlessness of the Bengali Com m unists to bring ab o u t a “ second K e ra la .” Political life in the State becam e m uch m ore alive a n d active.2

T h e assum ption of pow er by a C om m unist-led coalition governm ent in K erala h ad been a unifying factor in Bengal in the late 1950s for a variety of reasons. T o begin w ith, the activities o f the Left faction w ithin the p a rty becam e severely restricted w ith the form ation of the K erala m inistry, since the p a rty could no longer launch agitational m ovem ents on issues th a t th reaten ed to underm ine the K erala govern­ m ent. T h e p a rty could not easily dem and, for exam ple, such things as nationalization of industries w ithout com pensation, expropriation of foreign assets, or other such steps th a t the K erala governm ent was not w illing to undertake itself. T h e victory of the Com m unists in K erala therefore m ade it necessary as never before for the regular p a rty organization in the state (which was dom inated by the Left faction) to cooperate w ith the m ore m oderate electoral and intellectual wings of the state party. M em bers of the c p i from all factions were now at least tem porarily encouraged to view the possibility of a transition to social­ ism through p arliam en tary m eans in a m uch different light th a n they h ad previously, and the feeling am ong m ost C om m unists was th a t the K erala governm ent should a t least be given a chance to prove or disprove the wisdom of joining a coalition governm ent. F or these reasons, the declaration of P resident’s R ule in K erala on J u ly 31, 1959, was especially significant for its effect on in n er-p arty factional disputes. P resident’s R ule in K erala strengthened the factions w ithin the c p i th a t had objected to the thrust of the 1958 A m ritsar thesis (th at the p a rty could w in and retain pow er through p arliam en ­ ta ry m eans) a t the same time th a t it freed the state organizational ! ap p aratu s from the restraints u n d er w hich it had been forced to operate during the period of C om m unist rule. In W est Bengal, factionalism w ithin the c p i was also affected by the serious food crisis th a t had begun to develop in 1958 an d th a t had reached a peak in late 1959. Food prices in W est Bengal rose to new highs, and food grains were so scarce a t times th a t there were rum ors of fam ine. By Septem ber of 1959, the c p i in W est Bengal had taken the lead in organizing a Price Increase and Fam ine Resistance C om m ittee ( p i f r c ) , w hich had succeeded in consolidating all b u t one of the state’s leftist political parties in opposition to Congress food policy, and the p i f r c had in 2 Aswini K u m a r R ay, “ Political T re n d s in W est Bengal (1 9 4 7 -1 9 6 2 ),” in State Politics in India, ed. Iq b a l N a ra in (M e e ru t: M eenakshi P ra k ash an , 1967), p. 307.

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

85

tu rn succeeded in launching the m ost w idespread food dem onstrations W est Bengal h ad ever witnessed. E ach of the four m ajor events th a t took place in 1959— the T ib etan revolt, the first serious S ino-Indian border clashes, the declaration of P resident’s R ule in K erala, an d the food crisis in W est Bengal— served to w iden the gap betw een the R ig h t an d Left factions in the state and national parties. A t the n ational level/ in n er-p arty differences were • • * • pap ered over by a series of com prom ise m easures until the d eath of Ajoy G hosh in J a n u a ry of 1962, after w hich tim e the rightist faction in the p a rty p redom inated until the split in A pril 1964. A t the state level, how ever, the dom inance of the Left faction in W est Bengal was never seriously challenged until N ovem ber 1962, w hen the leftists in W est Bengal w ere im prisoned because of their refusal to condem n the Chinese. T h e rightists in the state party, alm ost all of w hom re­ m ained out of the jails in 1962—1963, were then able to collaborate w ith the central leadership of the c p i in an a ttem p t to rebuild state p arty units. Before their im prisonm ent in N ovem ber 1962, the leftists in W est Bengal used their d o m inant position in the state p a rty to oppose the central leadership, attem p tin g to find allies am ong C om m unists in oth er states of the In d ian U nion. A fter their release from the jails in D ecem ber 1963, the leftists tried to recap tu re their d o m in an t position, an d w hen this failed they decided to split w ith the regular c p i . D uring the five-year period from 1959 until 1964, c p i m em bership in W est Bengal becam e alm ost institutionally divided betw een the three fairly well defined factions th a t had always existed in the party. T h e rightists w ere led by Bhow ani Sen and S om nath L ahiri and counted am ong their leadership m ost of the intellectuals and theoreti­ cians in the state p a rty ; the leftists were led by P ram ode Das G u p ta an d H are K rish n a K o n a r and depended on the bulk of the regular p a rty organization for support; and a third group, eventually term ed centrist (because it tried to m ediate betw een the two m ajor factions), was nom inally led by Jy o ti Basu and Bhupesh G u p ta and was heavily represented by leaders of the p a rty ’s electoral organizations. Between 1959 and 1964 the leadership of each of these factions m et separately on a n u m b er of occasions, each drafted its own in n er-p arty docum ents w hich it distributed am ong the m em bership, and each sought support from like-m inded m em bers and factions in other states. A fter the split in 1964, the R ig h t faction assumed control of the regular c p i , while the Left faction w ithdrew from the p a rty to form the c p m . T h e centrists then divided themselves betw een both parties, w ith the bulk of the centrist leadership going over to the c p m . In this atm osphere, it is not

86

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

surprising th a t several centrists eventually w ithdrew from p a rty politics entirely as a result of the frustrations they h ad experienced while trying to m ediate the alm ost constant disputes th a t plagued the state p a rty during the years preceding the split. ' T h e R o le o f th e S tate P a r ty O r g a n iz a tio n • By 1959 the leadership of the c p i in W est Bengal h ad becom e accustom ed to a fairly consistent p a tte rn of relationships w ith the central leaders of the p a rty an d w ith the state’s in tern al factions. O n m ost issues the state leadership of the p a rty opposed the rightists a t the C enter an d sought alliances w ith other Left factions in other states of the In d ia n U nion, an d on m ost occasions it was eventually able to cajole the national leadership clustered aro u n d Ajoy G hosh into adopting com prom ise m easures designed to placate both factions. W ith in W est Bengal, the leadership of the regular p a rty organization was always faced w ith some dissent from intellectuals an d leaders of the electoral organizations, b u t p a rty discipline an d an occasional com prom ise m easure produced a sem blance of unity. W hen the D alai L am a fled to In d ia in A pril 1959, after the Chinese suppressed the revolt by K h a m p a tribesm en in T ibet, this fam iliar p a tte rn of relationships reasserted itself. T h e Chinese charge th a t the revolt in T ib et was being directed from the tow n of K alim pong (in the n o rth ern district o f D arjeeling in W est Bengal) was im m ediately denied by Prim e M inister N ehru, an d c p i leaders both a t the central an d at the state levels subsequently becam e divided betw een those supporting N eh ru an d those supporting the Chinese. T h e central leadership of the p a rty ultim ately w avered, initially supporting the Chinese charges in a statem ent issued by the S ecretariat of the N ational Council b u t later (w hen M oscow began to delete any references to K alim pong from public statem ents) retreating from this position.3 T h e state u n it in W est Bengal was therefore able to persist in its dem and for an inves­ tigation of the Chinese charges an d to em phasize in a series o f m eetings “ the suprem e im portance of friendship betw een In d ia an d C h in a ” w ith o u t strictly violating the p a rty line at the center.4 B ut the state p a rty organization was m ore concerned ab o u t the dom estic political situation in W est Bengal in 1959 th a n it was w ith 3 T h e position o f the c p i c en tral leaders is outlined in New Age ( c p i w eekly), A pril 5, 1959, p p . 1, 20. F o r d o cu m en tatio n , see On Events in Tibet, Statement o f the Secretariat o f the CPI, New Delhi, 31 March, 1959 (N ew D e lh i: C P I, 1959); Strengthen Friendship between India and China, Resolution o f the Central Executive Committee o f the CPI, New Delhi, 9—12 M ay, 1959 (N ew D elhi: C P I, 1959); a n d Incidents on Himalayan Borders, Statement o f the Secretariat o f the CPI, New Delhi, 30 August, 1959 (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1959). 4 The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily), A pril 13, 1959.

TH E STATE PA R T Y ORG ANIZATIO N

87

in tern atio n al issues, since state politics had taken a sharp tu rn to the left w ith the form ation of the Price Increase and F am ine Resistance C om m ittee in late 1958. In the eyes both of Left an d of centrist faction leaders in W est Bengal, the food agitation of 1959 had presented th e p a rty w ith entirely new opportunities to reinforce its position as the leader of the opposition to the Congress in the state. Bengali C om m unist leaders w ere m ainly concerned th a t the p a rty rem ain in a position to take ad v an tag e of the food issue an d w ere well aw are of the possibility th a t the other M arxist Left parties m ight seize the initiative. T h e position of the state p a rty in 1959 was com plicated, however, w hen Ajoy G hosh retu rn ed from a trip th a t had taken him to M oscow (where he atten d ed the T w enty-first Congress of the c p s u ) an d to Peking, on the basis of w hich he argued a t a c e c m eeting th a t “ this is no occasion for change in c p i policy.” 5 G hosh and the c e c w ere even reported to have offered in F eb ru ary 1959 to assist the Congress p a rty in the im plem entation of the Congress N ag p u r resolution (which was adopted w ith strong support from N ehru an d the left w ing of the Congress p a rty in J a n u a ry 1959, an d w hich contained a strongly w orded call for land reform ).6 T h e reaction of the state p a rty to G hosh’s overtures to the Congress was m uch m ore im m ediate and intense th an its response to events in T ibet. A t a m eeting of the c p i S tate Council in early A pril 1959, the state p a rty m ade no direct reference to the decisions of the c e c , b u t it did ad o p t a series of resolutions th a t w ere at odds w ith the thinking of the central leadership at this time. T h e leadership of the state p a rty argued th a t the c p i had failed to take advantage of the political opportunities th a t h ad confronted it th ro u g h o u t the 1950s and th a t the state p a rty should now take the lead in reversing this tendency. In the words of Jy o ti Basu, . . . p o p u l a r m o v e m e n ts m o u n te d a t a m u c h fa s te r p a c e t h a n th e p a r t y c o u ld c o m p r e h e n d [ th r o u g h o u t th e 1950s]. T h e r e s u lt w a s t h a t th e p a r t y le a d e r s h ip d e g e n e r a te d in to “ ta ilis m ” [i.e ., b e c a m e a “ t a i l ” o f th e b o u rg e o is ie ]. T h e p a r t y a s s o c ia te d its e lf w ith th e stru g g le s a n d m o v e m e n ts w h ic h p e o p le s ta r te d in s te a d o f b e in g th e g u id in g f a c to r in th e m . T h a t p o s itio n m u s t c h a n g e .7

Following on this independent state assessment of the p a rty ’s position, the state p a rty decided th a t “ a real people’s front could be built on the basis of struggle alone,” and it therefore called for a massive food agitation by all “ dem ocratic organizations,” to be led by the Com5 Ib id ., F e b ru a ry 22, 1959. 6 Ib id ., F e b ru a ry 25, 1959. 7 Ib id ., A pril 14, 1959.

88

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

m unists. Seeking to recruit a “ volunteer force” o f 50,000 people, the cpi pushed through the p i f r c the anti-C ongress slogan, “ E ither accept our dem ands or resign,” an d in p rep aratio n for a “ mass struggle” the p i f r c undertook the planning o f three b la tan tly aggressive acts: (1) the detection an d forced sale o f hoarded rice stocks; (2) squatting, picketing, and defiance o f the law thro u g h o u t the state of W est B engal; and (3) resistance to arrest. T h e goal o f the p i f r c , decided at a m eeting in A ugust 1959, eventually becam e the creation o f “ an adm inistrative deadlock” th a t w ould “ close dow n the city and the state w ith a continued general strike until dem ands are m e t,” an d the dem ands o f the p i f r c included extrem e degrees o f price control, im m ediate redistribution of land vested in the state, confiscation of some privately held land w ithout com pensation, an d state trad in g in food grains.8 As a result o f the p i f r c ’s th rea t to engage in “ a mass defiance of law ,” m ore th an 250 Bengali leftist leaders w ere arrested in m idA ugust 1959, o f w hom 200 were m em bers o f the state c p i . E ventually m an y of the rem aining leaders (including Jy o ti Basu) w ent u n d e r­ ground for a period of a m onth or so, and 12,845 people w ere arrested during a w ave of violent dem onstrations. A fter three weeks o f rioting in C alcu tta and the southern districts, 39 people h ad been killed in food dem onstrations and 8 police stations h ad been attacked by mobs (the nu m b er o f injuries to dem onstrators and the n u m b er of food shops looted could not be officially estim ated).9 O nly after some token concessions had been gained from the state governm ent was the m ovem ent called off in late Septem ber. T h e food agitation of the p i f r c in 1959 enhanced the position o f the Left faction in W est Bengal, for it dem onstrated conclusively the ability o f the state p a rty organization to lead the other M arxist Left parties in the state and to w ring concessions from the Congress. Since 1959 m em bers of the Left C om m unist faction w ithin the state have an n u ally observed A ugust 31 as M arty rs’ D ay, com m em orating the deaths o f the food dem onstrators w ho lost their lives in the police firings on A ugust 31, 1959, and the tactic of a massive food agitation was used by the leftist parties in W est Bengal again in 1966, w hen the p i f r c was even m ore successful in securing the support o f the Bengali p opulace.10 8 Ib id ., A ugust 11, 1959. 9 T hese are th e figures an n o u n ce d by C h ief M in ister B. C. R o y in th e West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, S ep tem b er 8, 1959. 10 F o r a C om m unist version o f th e 1959 a n d 1966 food agitations, see Report o f the Non-Official Enquiry Commission on the Police and M ilitary Excesses in West Betigal during the Period from 16th February, 1966 to 6th April, 1966 (C a lc u tta : A ru n P. C h atterjee, 1967), especially p p . 3—11, 17-22.

TH E STATE PA R T Y ORGANIZATION

89

M ost observers now argue th a t it was the food agitation m ovem ents of 1959 an d 1966 th a t bro u g h t ab o u t the demise of the Congress p arty in the 1967 elections.11 B ut despite the success of the agitation in 1959, the central leadership of the p arty was extrem ely dissatisfied w ith the actions of the W est Bengal unit. W hile no disciplinary action was taken against the state u n it of the party, central p a rty leaders did m ake know n their feelings th a t the Bengali C om m unists had succum bed to “ the m ere needs of state politics” in organizing the food agitation. T h e position of the c p i central leadership was described by the correspon­ d en t of The Statesman as follows: T h e y [ c e n tr a l le a d e rs ] ask w h e th e r th e p a r t y is fo r d e m o c ra c y , as d e fin e d in th e A m r its a r T h e s is , o r fo r re v o lu tio n . If, b y a n d la rg e , th e p a r t y is fo r c o n ­ s titu tio n a lis m , w h y th e n , th e y ask, w a s th is p re v ie w o f r e v o lu tio n a r y s tr a te g y s ta g e d in C a lc u tt a ? I f th e o b je c t w a s as lim ite d a n d p a r o c h ia l as it se e m in g ly w a s, d id n o t th e C o m m u n is t P a r t y o f B e n g a l u se w a ste fu l a n d u n n e c e s s a ry m e a n s ? . . . [ T h e fo o d a g ita tio n ] h a s e n g e n d e r e d th e fe a r t h a t s u c h a c ts m ig h t le a d to th e b a n n in g o f th e p a r t y fo r w h ic h m o st o f its m e m b e rs a r e u n p r e p a r e d a n d u n w illin g .12

U n d e r norm al circum stances, the central leadership of the c p i m ight have been able to prevent the state u n it of the p arty from p articip atio n in the food agitation of 1959, or it m ight have disciplined the state leaders responsible for the p a rty ’s p articip atio n in the dem on­ strations. B ut the grow ing rift betw een the Soviet U nion an d C hina, whose relations turned into m ajor hostility in the sum m er of 1959 (as a result of conflict on a whole range of issues involving atom ic aid, deStalinization, policy tow ard the U .S., Soviet interference in Chinese p arty quarrels, and, for our purposes the m ost im p o rtan t, policy tow ard In d ia ), an d the severe factionalism engendered in the In d ia n p a rty by the rift m ade it im politic for the central leadership of the c p i to a tte m p t an exercise in discipline or control. M oreover, the Chinese h ad th em ­ selves precipitated a m ajor crisis w ithin the In d ian p arty in A ugust 1959 by m oving into the N ortheast F rontier Agency ( n e f a ) an d occupy­ ing some of the territory aro u n d L ongju th a t was considered by the In d ia n governm ent to be an undisputed p a rt of India. O n Septem ber 3, 1959 (w hen the food agitation in W est Bengal was a t its peak), a Chinese C om m unist note to New D elhi accused In d ia of “ aggression” 11 T h e food a g itatio n of 1966 was especially significant in the assessm ent o f the state Congress p a rty lead er A tu ly a G hosh, w ho a ttrib u te d Congress failures in 1967 to a lack o f “ real effort” on the food front. See A tu ly a G hosh, The Real Task (New D elh i: A ll-In d ia Congress C om m ittee, 1967), pp. 4 -5 , 16-17. 12 M ah esh C h a n d ra , “ C om m unists P re v a ric a te : M ission to P ek in g ,” The Statesman, S e p tem b er 30, 1959.

90

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

in the bo rd er area and dem anded the w ithdraw al of In d ia n troops, an d a later letter (dated Septem ber eighth), from C hou E n-lai to Prim e M inister N ehru, reiterated Chinese claim s while professing a willingness to “ negotiate” the dispute. Ajoy G hosh h a d m eanw hile traveled to M oscow, w here he was m eeting w ith Soviet officials w hen the now-fam ous TA SS dispatch of Septem ber eighth ann o u n ced the Soviet position of n eu trality in the S ino-Indian b o rd er dispute, an event th a t helped to convince the Chinese of the need to lau n ch a w orldw ide offensive against the line of the c p s u in A pril I960.13 T h e interjection of the ideological debate of the two C om m unist giants into the internal debates of the In d ia n C om m unists created in ­ num erable difficulties for all factions, b u t especially for In d ia ’s Left Com m unists. T h e Left faction h ad been convinced th ro u g h o u t the 1950s th a t support of N ehru an d Congress p a rty policies was a m istake an d h ad consistently pointed for evidence to the fact th a t the p arty was strongest in the areas of In d ia (K erala, W est Bengal, an d A n d h ra) w here Left C om m unists h ad been strongest. Indeed, even in electoral contests the c p i had becom e a significant force only in the three Left faction strongholds of K erala, W est Bengal, an d A n d h ra, as T ab le 2 shows. In eight of the rem aining states (with the exception of P unjab in 1957, w hich was a t th a t tim e dom inated by the Left faction) the p a rty h ad only polled betw een 5 an d 10 percent of the vote. T he leadership of the Left faction therefore h ad good reason to believe th a t the w ay to build p a rty support was through a m ore m ilitan t stance tow ard the Congress, ra th e r th a n through the m oderate stance assum ed by the national p arty throughout the 1950s a t the urging of the c p s u . M oreover, the leadership of the Left faction was always convinced th a t a larger portion of the m em bership of the c p i w ould ultim ately support the Left faction ra th e r th an the R ight, an d this conviction was a t least partially borne out once the p a rty did split in 1964. Before the split, however, the Left faction was seriously disadvantaged by the sys­ tem of representation on the C entral Com m ittees, w hich favored greater representation from a variety of state units (most of w hich were dom inated by the R ig h t faction), ra th e r th an a heavy concentration of representatives from states in w hich the p a rty was strongest (where the Left faction p red o m in ated ). T h e leadership of the Left faction was 13 T h e effects of the L o n g ju incidents are trac ed in H a rry G elm an, “ T h e C o m m u n ist P a rty o f I n d ia : Sino-Soviet B a ttle g ro u n d ,” in Communist Strategies in Asia, ed. A. D oak B arn ett (N ew Y ork: P raeger, 1963), p p . 110-114. F o r the Sino-Soviet dispute, see G riffith, The Sino-Soviet R ift a n d Sino-Soviet Relations, 1964-1965 (C am b rid g e, M ass.: M .I .T . Press, 1967).

TH E STATE P A R T Y ORGANIZATION

91

T able 2 P e r c e n t a g e o f V a l i d V o t e s P o l l e d b y C o m m u n is t P a r t i e s in I n d ia n S t a t e L e g is l a t iv e A s se m b l y E l e c t io n s ( 1 9 5 2 - 1 9 6 9 )

1967 S ta te

1952

1957

1962 f

1969

CPI

CPM

CPI

CPM

8.57 6.53 7.78 5.26 1.80 5.27 6.91 5.15 4.87 3.23 0.97 0.52 1.11 nil 0.90

23.51 18.11 7.61 1.16 4.07 3.19 1.28 1.97 1.08 1.27 1.18 1.10 0.23 nil 0.54

___

___

6.78 —

19.55

t?

K e ra la W est B engal A n d h ra P rad esh O rissa M a d ras P u n ja b B ih ar A ssam M a h a ra s h tra U tta r P rad esh R a ja sth a n M ysore M a d h y a P rad esh G u ja ra t H a ra y a n a

17.5 10.4 22.8 5.7 9.8 6.2 1.1 2.4 2.5 0.9 0.6 1.4 0.7 2.5

35.3 17.8 29.5 8.4 7.4 13.6 5.2 8.1 6.3 3.8 3.0 1.9 1.6 0.8

39.1 25.0 19.3 8.0 7.8 7.1 6.3 6.3 6.0 5.4 5.4 2.3 2.0 0.2

-----

-----

----











4.54 10.30

3.10 0.95









3.05

0.49













—-



Source: Figures for th e first th ree elections w ere o b ta in e d from R a lp h R etzlaff, “ R evisionism a n d D ogm atism in th e C o m m u n ist P a rty o f I n d ia ,” in The Communist Revolution in Asia, ed. R o b e rt A. S calapino (E nglew ood Cliffs, N .J .: P ren tice-H all, 1965), p. 315. Figures for th e 1967 election w ere o b ta in e d from th e official re p o rt o f th e E lection C om m ission a n d those for 1969 from th e F e b ru a ry 1969 issues o f th e Times o f India (N ew D elhi). O fficial election re tu rn s for 1969 w ere n o t av aila b le a t th e tim e o f w ritin g .

especially critical of the M ah arash tra an d U tta r Pradesh units of the p arty , b o th of w hich were dom inated by leaders of the R ig h t faction, b u t w hich h ad failed m iserably to secure support for the c p i w ithin their own states. W hile the Left faction h ad been unable to defeat the R ig h t w ithin the party, it h ad been successful in preventing the R ig h t faction from gaining control of the national p arty organization, b u t only by acceding to the com prom ises th a t h ad been engineered by Ajoy Ghosh. By the late 1950s, therefore, the leadership of the Left faction h ad staked its future on the hope th a t it w ould eventually be able to gain control of the national p a rty organization, and a n u m b er of Left faction leaders w ere counting on the c p s u to revert eventually to a Left C om m unist stance w ith regard to India. I t was custom ary for leaders of the Left faction, for exam ple, to em phasize th a t neither N eh ru nor the Congress could last forever, and th a t the Left faction of the c p i w ould be in a b etter position to take advantage of the

92

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

political situation w hen Congress was in a state of disintegration an d there was no N ehru. In the eyes of the Left faction leadership, the R ig h t C om m unists in In d ia h ad taken an extrem ely short-run and opportunistic stance w ith regard to the dom estic political situation by siding w ith the c p s u in support of N e h ru ’s policies. In this atm osphere the ideological rift betw een the Soviet U nion and C hina created m ore difficulties for the Left faction, for it increasingly placed the Soviet U n io n in a posture th a t was opposed to Left com ­ m unism , it led the Chinese to act tow ard In d ia in a m a n n er th a t m ade Left com m unism m ore an d m ore u n ten ab le so long as it was supported by the Chinese, and it led to the adoption of a m uch m ore rightist stance on the p a rt of a n u m b er of c p i leaders. M ost disturbing was the reaction of Ajoy G hosh to the em barrassing situation in w hich he found him self in O ctober 1959. G hosh h ad retu rn ed from C hina on the eighteenth to hold a press conference, w here he spoke a t great length of the assurances M ao had given him of the peaceful intentions of the Chinese People’s R epublic, and the press conference was reported extensively in the p a rty organ N ew Age on O cto b er tw entyfifth. D uring the intervening week, how ever, In d ia n troops h ad again clashed w ith the Chinese in L adakh, w ith some jawans (In d ian soldiers) being killed and others taken prisoner by the Chinese arm y. Ghosh reacted to the outrage an d indignation th a t was expressed th ro u g h o u t In d ia by m oving decidedly to the right, issuing a statem ent through the C entral S ecretariat of the p a rty in w hich he argued th a t there was “ no justification w hatsoever” for the Chinese action. A t subsequent m eetings of the c e c an d the N ational Council in N ovem ber, Ghosh jo in ed w ith the R ig h t faction to push through the M eeru t resolutions, endorsing the In d ia n governm ent’s claim to the M cM ah o n Line for the first tim e an d rejecting Chinese claims in the n e f a are a .14 But G hosh’s reaction to the S ino-Indian b order incidents of 1959 was not nearly so im m ediate as th a t of m any other p a rty leaders. In the words of one observer, the effect of the Chinese aggression was to “ tu rn the c p i ’s grad u al slide to the R ig h t into a stam p ed e.” 15 In reaction to public sentim ent, some of the m ost influential provincial organizations (including M ah arash tra an d K erala), as well as a n u m b er of p rom inent p arty leaders (am ong them E. M . S. N am boodiripad, 14 A lm ost the entire issue o f New Age on N o v em b er 22, 1959, is d evoted to a discus­ sion o f G h o sh’s trip to C h in a, the press conference u p o n his re tu rn , a n d th e d raftin g o f th e M e e ru t resolutions. See also On India-China Relations, Resolution o f the National Council o f CPI, Meerut, 11 November, 1959 (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1959). 15 J o h n B. W ood, “ O bservations on th e In d ia n C o m m u n ist P a rty S plit,” Pacific Affairs 38 (S pring 1965): 51.

T H E STATE PA R T Y ORGANIZATION

93

First Secretary S. G. Sardesai, an d S. A. D ange), issued public state­ m ents supporting the In d ia n governm ent position w ithout au th o riza­ tion from any central p a rty organ?16 E ventually all of the m em bers of the c p i in the Lok S abha w ere instructed by the central leadership of the p arty to rally behind the Congress p a rty position on the border dispute, an d the c p i adopted resolutions th a t denied the legitim acy of * • • • / the Chinese position. '• In the face of extrem e public pressure to condem n the Chinese aggression, the c p i un it in W est Bengal resisted, while it w orked w ithin the p a rty to slow the stam pede to the right. O n N ovem ber 1, 1959, the S tate Council ad opted a resolution dem anding th a t D ange be b ro u g h t before the C ontrol Comm ission of the p arty for calling C hina an aggressor in a public statem ent, in contradiction to c e c resolutions.17 W hile there was no form al in n er-p arty debate in W est Bengal in 1959, the state p a rty organization did hold a series of inform al m eetings w ith all D istrict an d B ranch com m ittees, during w hich p arty leaders argued th a t “ a C om m unist p a rty cannot, u n d er any circum stances, shed its proleterian internationalism to appease local p o p u lar feeling.” 18 A t these m eetings the leadership of the regular p a rty organization argued th a t D ange an d N am boodiripad h ad “ w alked into the bourgeois tra p ” by supporting the In d ia n governm ent stance. P arty leaders invoked num erous exam ples of C om m unist leaders who h ad success­ fully resisted the tem ptation to ad o p t a “ p o p u la r” political stance th a t was against the interests of in tern atio n al ideological com m unism (two of the most highly lauded w ere O tto K uusinen, the c p leader in F inland who h ad defended the Soviet m arch on F inland in 1939, and M aurice T horez of F rance, w ho h ad allegedly supported A lgerian independence from F rench colonial rule). As a tem porary m easure, the c p i u n it in W est Bengal agreed th a t it w ould not defend the Chinese publicly, since th a t w ould only “ antagonize public opinion,” 19 and the state p a rty did eventually cancel a n u m b er of local m eetings for fear of anticom m unist dem onstrations. A t the sam e time, however, the state p a rty organization refused to allow any state p arty m em bers to criticize the Chinese position, either a t p arty meetings, in public statem ents, or in the Legislative Assembly, an d some rallies were held in late 1959 at w hich the p arty called for the negotiations betw een N ehru an d C hou En-lai th a t h ad been proposed in C hou’s letter of S eptem ber eighth. W hen the M eerut resolutions were adopted by the 16 G elm an , “ T h e C om m unist P a rty o f I n d ia ,” p. 114. 17 The Statesman, N ovem ber 2, 1959. 18 Ib id ., N o v em b er 5, 1959. 19 Ib id ., N o v em b er 12, 1959.

94

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

an d the N ational Council in N ovem ber 1959, the W est Bengal m em bers of the c e c an d the N ational Council w ere instructed by the state p arty to vote against them because they did no t support the Chinese stan d .20 ■ By m id-N ovem ber 1959 the rift betw een the R ig h t an d Left factions w ithin the c p i h ad becom e so acute th a t Jy o ti Basu was reported to have spoken of “ a p artin g of the w ays” a t the M eeru t m eetings o f the c e c an d the N ational C ouncil.21 As the dispute progressed, however, the Left faction in W est Bengal becam e even m ore com m itted to a m ilitant, pro-C hinese stance. In F eb ru ary an d M arch 1960, N ikita K hrushchev visited C alcu tta on his w ay to an d from m eetings in New D elhi, an d the Left faction in the state was highly discom fited by C hief M inister B. C. R o y ’s use of quotations from K h ru sh ch ev ’s speeches to dem onstrate the progress th a t In d ia h ad m ade u n d er the Congress p a rty .22 T h e Left faction was especially irked by a speech th a t K hrushchev m ade in C alcutta, in w hich he was rep o rted to have said, cec

Let the skeptics not believe in it [India’s progress], let the pug dogs bark, but the Indian elephant will move forward along the path which it has selected for itself.23 In contrast to the icy silence exhibited by the c p i in W est Bengal during K hrushchev’s visit to C alcutta, the p a rty organized official greeting ceremonies for C hou En-lai a t D um D um a irp o rt w hen Chou stopped in C alcutta on his w ay to New D elhi for m eetings w ith Prim e M inister N ehru in A pril I960.24 By Septem ber o f 1960 the state u n it of the p arty h ad established independent contact w ith the Chinese Com m unists through H are K rishna K o n ar, w ho traveled to the congress of the C om m unist p arty of N o rth V ietnam an d to Peking, in violation o f instructions from the c p i C entral S ecretariat.25 W hen K o n ar was censured by the C entral S ecretariat an d asked to explain w hy disciplinary action should not be taken against him , the W est Bengal u n it o f the p arty rallied behind him , arguing th a t censure of him am ounted to censure o f the entire state u n it of the p a rty .26 20 M ah esh C h a n d ra , “ C om m unist Crisis N o t Y et O v e r: P a rty L ine in B en g al,” ib id ., D ecem ber 30, 1959. 21 Ib id ., N ovem ber 18, 1959. 22 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, M a rc h 2, 1960. 23 Ananda Bazaar Patrika (C a lc u tta d aily), M a rc h 3, 1960. 24 Hindusthan Standard (C a lc u tta daily ), A pril 20, 1960. 25 F o r accounts o f K o n a r’s m eetings in N o rth V ie tn a m a n d C h in a, see Link (N ew D elhi w eekly), O c to b er 16, 1960, a n d The Call (m o n th ly o rg an o f th e r s p ) , M a rc h 1967, p. 16. 26 The Statesman, O c to b er 26, 1960, a n d N ovem ber 3, 1960. See also Indian Affairs Record 6, no. 10, p. 229.

TH E STATE P A R T Y ORGANIZATION

95

A fter K o n a r’s visit to N o rth V ietnam an d C hina in 1960, the reg u lar p a rty organization in W est Bengal was labeled by alm ost everyone, b o th w ithin the p a rty an d outside, as the m ost vociferous pro-C hinese elem ent w ithin the p arty, a label th a t was both accurate an d m isleading. T h e leadership o f the regular p arty organization in W est Bengal did support the Chinese position in the ideological debate a t the p a rty center, b u t it w ould be difficult to attrib u te this support solely to the ideological convictions o f the state’s Left faction. K onar, the m ost outspoken o f the pro-C hinese, was the p ro d u ct o f Bengali revolutionary terrorism an d the organizational w ing of the state c p i , a peasant leader from B urdw an D istrict who usually shunned ideo­ logical debate, both before an d after his visit to C hina. T h e leading theoreticians w ithin the state p a rty w ere alm ost entirely on the side of the Soviet U nion in the ideological debate, an d the state u n it o f the p a rty therefore depended for theoretical support on intellectual leaders from M a h a ra sh tra an d K erala (especially B. T. R anadive and M . B asav ap u n n iah ). M ost p a rty leaders now argue th a t the p re ­ do m in an t feeling w ithin the state p arty in the years preceding the split in 1964 was one o f great im patience w ith the debate itself an d especially w ith the ja rg o n used by theoreticians to explain th eir positions. After his re tu rn from C hina, K o n a r simply argued, in a very p rag m atic way, th a t c p i adherence to directives from the c p s u h ad gone w rong on too m any occasions in the past an d h ad “ led the C om m unist P arty of In d ia to ru in .” 27 A t m eetings w ith p a rty m em bers K o n ar stressed the arg u m en t th a t the adoption o f a pro-C hinese stance w ould present a challenge to the Russian “ g o d h ead ,” m aking it possible for the state u n it o f the p a rty to gain g reater flexibility, while encouraging the c p i to depend less on the c p s u an d c p g b at the national level. This is not to argue th a t there w ere no genuine pro-C hinese elem ents w ithin the regular p arty organization in the years before the split, b u t as later events were to point out in a very d ram atic way, the leadership o f the regular p arty organization was m uch m ore m otivated by p rag ­ m atic considerations th an it was by the wish to ad o p t a consistently pro-C hinese ideological stance. W hen in 1967 the leadership o f the state p a rty was faced w ith a choice betw een support of pro-C hinese elem ents in the state p a rty an d support o f the electoral wing, it chose to support the latter, thereby alienating the c c p . Even by 1961 the ideological debate in W est Bengal h ad been cau g h t up in the contest for factional advantage w ithin the party. In J a n u a ry 1961 a state p a rty congress was held a t B urdw an (the 27 The Statesman, O c to b er 26, 1960.

96

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

factional stronghold of K on ar) w hich was atten d ed by m ore th a n 500 m em bers from all the districts of W est Bengal. A t this conference, the first to be held outside of C alcutta, the p a rty m em bership listened to two reports on ways of reconciling the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute, one by E. M . S. N am boodiripad an d the other by Bhupesh G u p ta, b u t p a rty m em bers were not allow ed to com m ent on the reports. T h e m ain task of the conference proved to be the election of a pred o m in an tly leftist slate of delegates to the Sixth N ational Congress of the c p i (held in A pril 1961 a t V ijayaw ada, in A n d h ra Pradesh) an d the determ ination of an electoral strategy for the 1962 elections.28 T h ro u g h ­ o u t 1961 the state p a rty was concerned alm ost entirely w ith electoral politics, w ith the organization of dem onstrations on the Assam -Bengal language controversy, an d w ith in tern al factional politics, w ith the result th a t the involvem ent of state p arty leaders in the n ational an d in tern atio n al ideological debates was reduced considerably. T h e com parative calm th a t h ad retu rn ed to the p a rty in 1961 was shattered once again by a series of events th a t took place in 1962, the m ost im p o rtan t of w hich were the d eath of Ajoy G hosh in Ja n u a ry , the election results in F ebruary, the d eath of C hief M inister B. C. R oy in Ju ly , an d the large-scale attacks on In d ia n b order posts by the Chinese in O ctober an d N ovem ber. T h e d eath of G hosh rem oved the only effective m ediator betw een the Left an d R ig h t factions w ithin the p a rty and set in m otion a struggle for p a rty leadership positions, while the election results reaffirm ed the view of the Left faction th a t they w ere gaining po p u lar support. T h e d eath of B. C. R oy b ro u g h t hom e to the Left th a t the period was fast ap p ro ach in g w hen the older leadership of the Congress (including N ehru) w ould all be gone, an d this m ade it even m ore determ ined th a n before to m a in tain a posture of m ilitan t opposition to Congress policies. In the m eantim e, how ever, the Chinese attacks h ad again raised all of the old dilem m as for the Left faction, this tim e m uch m ore intensely th a n in 1959. T h e Chinese m ilitary activities in the fall of 1962 am ounted to a massive invasion of the territories th a t C hina h ad claim ed, an invasion th a t lasted from O ctober the tw entieth until N ovem ber the tw enty-first an d ended only w hen it was called off u nilaterally by the Chinese as suddenly as it had begun. D uring a m onth of fighting, the Chinese struck both in L adakh an d n e f a , areas separated by 1000 miles of H im alay an m ountains, supported on both fronts by artillery, m ortars, m o u n tain guns, and thousands of soldiers advancing in waves. In d ia 28 T h e state conference is rep o rte d extensively in Swadhinata (organ o f th e W est B engal c p i ) , J a n u a r y 22, 1961, a n d J a n u a r y 29, 1961.

TH E STATE PA R T Y ORGANIZATION

97

claim ed th a t C hina lost five soldiers for every In d ia n killed b u t th a t the Chinese nevertheless had seemingly inexhaustible reserves. Using techniques th a t had been developed in K orea, the Chinese overran all of In d ia ’s forw ard positions in the northeast w ithin the first week o f fighting, paused for a few days to lure the In d ia n arm y forw ard, and th en trap p ed the best of the In d ia n units in n e f a w ith a tw o-pronged offensive, p a rt of w hich covered alm ost 100 miles in three days. T he K attacks proved conclusively th a t the In d ia n arm y at th a t tim e w ould have been unable to prevent the Chinese either from cutting off In d ia ’s northeastern territories from the rest of In d ia or from m oving straight to C alcu tta .29 T h e Chinese offensive was a significant tu rn in g point for the c p i ’s views on dom estic politics an d the in tern atio n al com m unist m ovem ent. E xternally, the centrifugal tendencies in the c p i were strengthened, no t only by the Chinese offensive b u t also by the increased Sino-Soviet tension over the O ctober 1962 C u b an crisis and the increasing Chinese dom estic extrem ism m anifested a t the S eptem ber 1962 Chinese T en th C entral C om m ittee Plenum . Internally, the p arty was faced w ith the choice of supporting the In d ia n governm ent w ithout equivocation or losing m ost of the p o p u lar gains th a t it h ad m ade since 1947, since failure to support the governm ent in the face of the invasion w ould certainly have resulted in a nationw ide b an on the party. N ational p a rty leaders of the R ig h t faction therefore im m ediately denounced the Chinese aggression publicly, and the N ational Council of the p arty eventually adopted a resolution th a t was so strongly rightist th a t it was unacceptable even to M oscow and the c p g b . For perhaps the first tim e in the history of the c p i , the p arty leadership disregarded advice b o th from M oscow and from L ondon, pushing through a N ational Council resolution (the famous N ovem ber 1 resolution) th a t called on all Indians to unite behind N ehru “ in defense of the m otherland against Chinese aggression.” Even m ore extrem e was the clause in the resolu­ tion to the effect th a t the c p i was not opposed to In d ia ’s “ buying arm s from any country on a com m ercial basis,” a clear acceptance of N e h ru ’s attem pts to find allies against C hina in the “ im perialist” W est. As a result of this resolution, the c p i was rebuked by the British party , the Czechs, an d even by the “ revisionist” Ita lia n party, while w ithin In d ia the leadership of the Left faction resigned from the C entral S ecretariat in protest against the resolution, leaving S. A. D ange 29 A very useful b rief discussion o f the C hinese attacks on In d ia in 1962 a p p ea rs in P ra n C h o p ra , Uncertain India: A Political Profile o f Two Decades o f Freedom (N ew D elh i: Asia P ublishing H ouse, 1968), p p . 168-178. See also K u ld ip N ay ar, Between the Lines (C a lc u tta : A llied Publishers, 1969), pp. 169-275.

98

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT AN D T H E SPLIT

firm ly in control of the n ational p a rty .30 M oreover, because of the refusal by the Left faction to support the N ational Council resolution, the In d ian governm ent decided to take legal action against the lead er­ ship of the Left u n d er the Defence of In d ia Rules, and during the course of N ovem ber 1962 alm ost all the Left faction leaders were arrested. • T h e R ig h t F a ctio n B id s fo r C o n tro l T h e extent to w hich the Left faction had dom inated the regular p a rty organization in W est Bengal was indicated by the fact th a t alm ost tw o-thirds of the S tate Council (and all of the m em bers of the State S ecretariat) w ere arrested u n d er the Defence of In d ia Rules in 1962 for actively opposing the nationalist stance of the c p i N ational C oun­ cil.31 Because of the dom inance of the Left faction in the regular p arty organization, the R ig h t faction in the state p a rty had been fairly quiescent before the Chinese invasion of 1962, confining criticism of the leftists alm ost entirely to in n er-p arty m eetings or else simply absenting themselves from public and private m eetings w ith m em bers of the Left faction. A fter the Chinese action in the T ib etan revolt in 1959, some of the leading rightists in the state p a rty had even taken p a rt in Indo-C hinese solidarity m eetings and had also actively p a rti­ cipated in the food dem onstrations in Septem ber 1959 w hich h ad been cham pioned by the Left faction. T hus the first indications of serious R ig h t faction differences w ith the regular p arty organization cam e in late 1959, w hen an influential m em ber of the R ig h t faction, Snehengsu A charya, labeled the Chinese actions on the b order “ an act of ag ­ gression.” 32 Shortly after this, two other leading rightists (R enu C hakravarty and Bhow ani Sen) defended D ange a t m eetings of the S tate Council, while several other R ig h t faction leaders began to absent themselves from m eetings.33 In J a n u a ry 1960, a leading rightist (Som nath Lahiri) delivered a R epublic D ay speech in w hich he defended N e h ru ’s foreign and domestic policies, an d in M arch the R ig h t faction was reported to have introduced into state p arty dis­ cussions a “ syllabus” for p arty m em bers w hich h ad been draw n up by 30 T h e N atio n al C ouncil resolution o f N o v em b er 1, 1962, a n d th e reactio n o f o th er frate rn a l C o m m u n ist p arties to the resolution, are analyzed in som e d etail in G elm an, “ T h e C o m m unist P a rty of I n d ia ,” pp. 136-137. F o r th e Sino-Soviet a n d C u b a n aspects, see G riffith, The Sino-Soviet R ift, pp. 53-63, now to be su p p lem en ted by M a o ’s secret speech a t the S ep tem b er 1962 c c p C e n tra l C om m ittee P lenum , tran sla te d in Chinese Law and Government 1 (W inter 1968-1969): 85-93. 31 The Statesman, N ovem ber 22, 1962, a n d N ovem ber 28, 1962. 32 Ib id ., S ep tem b er 9, 1959. 33 Ib id ., N ovem ber 2, 1959, a n d D ecem ber 30, 1959.

T H E RIG HT FACTION BIDS FOR CONTROL

99

the central leadership.34 In J a n u a ry 1961, at the state p a rty ’s B urdw an Conference, the R ig h t faction unsuccessfully advocated th a t the state u n it w ork for a N ational D em ocratic F ro n t w ith, am ong others, “ progressive Congress elem ents.” W hile these actions of the R ig h t faction in W est Bengal revealed the tensions th a t existed w ithin the state party, they were for the most p a rt pursued w ithin the limits of party, discipline established by the central an d state organizational leadership. After the Chinese attacks on In d ia in O ctober 1962, however, the R ig h t faction began to assert itself in ways th a t posed a m uch greater th re a t to the leftist leadership in Bengal. For the first tim e in the history of the state party, the R ig h t faction m ade a direct appeal to central p arty leaders for organizational support against the regular state p arty organization. O n O ctober 26, the day on w hich the In d ia n president proclaim ed a State of Em ergency, the M idnapore D istrict Council of the state p a rty passed a resolution condem ning C h in a’s intrusion across “ our national b o u n d ary ” as “ an attack on w orld peace,” despite w arnings from the regular state p a rty organization to desist from doing so, an d despite the fact th a t Bisw anath M ukherjee, the leader of the M id n ap o re D istrict unit, h ad attem p ted to raise the same resolution a t a m eeting of the State Executive C om m ittee w ithout success.35 Following the lead of the M idnapore unit, the R ig h t faction w ithin the C alcu tta u n it drafted a sim ilar resolution, an d two leading rightist leaders from C alcutta (Bhowani Sen an d R en u C hakravarty) publicly announced their unequivocal opposition to “ acts of Chinese aggression.” A fter the Left faction was ja iled for its refusal to support the N ational C ouncil resolution of N ovem ber l , 36 eight of the leading rightists an d centrists in the state p a rty were designated by the p a rty center as the State S ecretariat of a new Provincial O rganizing C om m ittee ( p o c ) , and Bhow ani Sen was designated as the secretary of this com m ittee (the other m em bers of the p o c were S om nath L ahiri, Bisw anath M ukherjee, R en u C hakravarty, R an en Sen, In d ra jit G upta, Jolly K aul, an d Biren R o y ).37 W ith the R ig h t faction in control of the state p a rty organization outside the jails, the Left faction organized inside the jails, form ing a 34 Ib id ., J a n u a r y 28, 1960, a n d M a rc h 7, 1960. Portions o f this “ syllabus” hav e since been in clu d ed in A Course o f Party Education: Second Stage (for B ran ch secretaries) (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1968); see especially pp. 141-168. 35 The Statesman, O c to b er 27, 1962. 36 A list o f those arrested u n d e r th e D efence o f In d ia R ules in late 1962 ap p ears in New Age, F e b ru a ry 24, 1963, p. 4. 37 Thought (N ew D elhi w eekly), J a n u a r y 26, 1963. F o r D a n g e ’s positio n on the fo rm atio n o f th e p o c , see New Age, F e b ru a ry 17, 1963, p. 3.

100

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

group know n as the p c z (a set of code initials w ith no know n referents), w hich issued a nu m b er of public statem ents labeling the R ig h t faction as “ the rival g ro u p ” or “ the revisionists.” T h e first of these statem ents, issued in early J a n u a ry 1963, argued th a t “ the police an d the rival group are w orking together to h o u n d all Com m unists who have refused to be agents of the R ig h t reactio n ” and sought to -dispel “ the m yth of support [for the R ig h t faction] from in tern atio n al C om ­ m unism .” 38 T h e p c z docum ents argued th a t neither the c p s u nor the c p g b was supporting the “ D ange clique,” pointing for evidence to inform ation th a t D ange h ad no t been able to m eet w ith K hrushchev during his recent trips to Moscow except in the presence of two Bengali centrists (Bhupesh G u p ta an d R an en S en ). T h e p c z was also concerned w ith activating Left faction supporters outside the jails an d was eventually successful in closing dow n the regular state p a rty new spaper (iSwadhinata) an d replacing it w ith a new Left faction jo u rn a l (Desk Hitaishi). A cting u n d er instructions from the p c z , Left faction m em bers atten d ed a num ber of p arty m eetings in districts w here D ange and Bhow ani Sen were attem p tin g to build support for the p o c . Speakers of the R ig h t faction w ere shouted dow n, booed, an d condem ned as “ agents of im perialism .” 39 R um ors h ad m eanw hile em anated from inside the jails th a t the leadership of the regular state p a rty organiza­ tion was now advocating an open split. In the face of a continued challenge from the Left faction, the leadership of the p o c appealed to the N ational Council of the p a rty for pow er to discipline those who violated the p a rty line in Bengal, a request th a t was tu rn ed dow n by the N ational Council in J u n e 1963 b u t finally granted by the c e c in S eptem ber.40 U sing the disciplinary powers g ran ted by the c e c , the state p o c then suspended a n u m b er of Left faction leaders who h ad been w orking u n d erground (outside the j ails) to disrupt p arty m eetings and sabotage election cam paigns fought by the p o c . T h e m ost prom inent leftist suspended by the p o c was N iren Ghosh, who h ad organized a “ convention” of the Left m em bership of the state p arty in C alcutta in defiance of D ange and the p o c . 41 T h e purpose of the p c z convention was ostensibly to 38 P C Z Information Letter, J a n u a r y 1963, p p . 3-5. 39 The Statesman, J a n u a r y 21, 1963. 40 T h e decision to g ra n t disciplinary pow ers to th e p o c is analy zed in Link, J u n e 30, 1963, p. 9, a n d J u ly 7, 1963, pp. 9 -1 0 ; see also Indian Affairs Record 9, no. 8, p. 259, an d Thought, S eptem ber 7, 1963, p. 4. 41 T h e position of th e L eft faction in W est Bengal w ith reg a rd to h o ld in g a p c z co n v en tio n in S eptem ber 1963 is stated in Desh Hitaishi (p a rty o rg an o f th e c p m ) , S ep tem b er 26, 1963, p p . 1 ff. T h e position o f th e c e c is stated in “ O n W est B engal ‘D em o cratic C o n v en tio n ,’ ” in Resolutions o f the Central Executive Committee o f the National Council o f the Communist Party o f India, N ew Delhi 14-17 September, 1963 (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1963), pp. 11-14.

T H E R IG HT FACTION BIDS FOR CONTROL

101

lau n ch a fifteen-day agitation for the release of political detainees, an d both the p c z and p o c subsequently sent deputations to see C hief M inister P. C. Sen in an a ttem p t to secure the release of those in jail. In early D ecem ber the governm ent began freeing the leadership of the Left faction, not only in W est Bengal b u t throughout In d ia, although not necessarily because either faction h ad been effective in pressing for their release. In an attem pt'.to seize the initiative from the p o c and to dem onstrate their strength w ithin the state, the leftists of W est Bengal plunged into a by-election cam paign in B urdw an D istrict (the stronghold of the Left) im m ediately after their release from jail, w here a p rom inent Left faction leader (Benoy G how dhury) was running for the state legislature. W hen the N ational Council attem p ted to assist the cam paign by sending a prom inent m em ber of the N ational Council Secretariat (Z. A. A hm ad) to speak on b eh alf of C how dhury, the Left faction placed A hm ad u n d er “ p arty g u a rd ” and confined him to his bungalow , lest the N ational Council and the R ig h t faction gain some credit for the election of a Left faction m em ber. In an impressive display of Left faction strength in W est Bengal, C how dhury was elected by a m argin of 17,858 to 14,505 against a strong opponent, w hile the c p i candidates in two other by-elections held at the same time (who were not supported by the Left faction in 1963) each finished fourth in a four-m an race.42 H aving dem onstrated their organizational superiority over the R ight, the Left quickly picked up the support of a large section of the centrist faction, w hich h ad been w avering ever since the Chinese attacks on In d ia. T he Left faction then threatened to break openly w ith the p a rty if the W est Bengal S tate Council was not revived, and the c e c quickly m oved to restore the State Council under the leader­ ship of Pram ode Das G upta. But in restoring the State Council, the c e c laid dow n three conditions th a t h ad to be m et by the council before it w ould be “ recognized” by the c e c : (1) the council had to p ropagate “ sincerely and w holeheartedly” the decisions of the N ational Council of the p arty ; (2) the S tate Council had to denounce the p c z publicly; (3) none of the disciplinary actions of the p o c th a t had been taken in concurrence w ith the N ational Council could be revoked. In effect, these three conditions w ould have forced the Left faction to recognize the legitim acy of p o c and N ational Council resolutions on organizational and ideological questions, and, if m et, would have restored at least a sem blance of u nity to the state p a rty .43 42 R ep o rts on the election cam p aig n a n d the results a p p e a r in The Statesman, D ecem b er 24, 1963, a n d D ecem ber 27, 1963. 43 T h e conditions laid dow n by th e N a tio n a l C ouncil are detailed in Fight against Revisionism (Political-Organisational Report Adopted at the Seventh Congress o f the Communist Party o f India [M arxist]) (C a lc u tta : E .M .S . N a m b o o d irip ad , 1965), pp. 45-47.

102

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

W hen the revived State Council m et in early F eb ru ary 1964, how ever, it soon becam e evident th a t the Left faction was unw illing to m eet the conditions th a t h ad been laid dow n by the c e c . Both the R ig h t an d Left were inclined tow ard an open split. O n the second day of the meetings, seventeen rightists, led by Bhow ani Sen, w alked ou t as a protest against the atten d an ce of N iren G hosh, w ho h ad been expelled by the p o c . T h e Left faction then proceeded to violate all of the conditions laid dow n by the c e c , by pushing through a resolution w ithdraw ing the disciplinary action th a t h ad beer! taken against N iren G hosh and by refusing to denounce the p c z .4 4 F rom F eb ru ary until A pril 1964, both factions busied themselves in p rep aratio n for the split th a t was now inevitable. T h e Left faction reconstituted the four D istrict Com m ittees th a t h ad been cap tu red by the p o c (24-Parganas, B ankura, B irbhum , an d H ooghly) as a result of p o c disciplinary actions, while the R ig h t faction arran g ed for the establishm ent of its own new spaper, publishing facilities, an d bookstore.45 By late M arch, W est Bengal Left faction leaders h ad conferred w ith leftists from other states in In d ia an d p rep ared d raft program s for a new party, as well as contingency plans for Left faction m eetings. Finally, at an “ em ergency m eeting” of the N ational Council called by the C entral S ecretariat to discuss disciplinary m easures to be taken against the Left faction, the thirty-tw o Leftists w alked out. T h e split was com plete.46 T h e R ig h t faction in W est Bengal was alm ost entirely dep en d en t on the pro-D ange national leadership of the p a rty for support, from the tim e of the organization of the p o c in 1962 right up until the split in 1964. D ange h ad established him self at the p a rty center after the d eath of A joy Ghosh, w hen he was chosen as p arty ch airm an (a new position in the c p i , w ith ill-defined powers) an d E. M . S. N am boodiripad was nam ed general secretary, an unstable com prom ise th a t sought to deal w ith the succession issue.47 T h e elevation of D ange as p arty chairm an h ad been agreed to by the Left faction, since leftist leaders 44 R e p o rte d in ibid., p p . 48 ff. 45 In 1964 the Left faction was still in control o f th e N a tio n a l Book A gency in C alc u tta , w hich h a d been th e c p i bookstore since th e early 1940s. T h e R ig h t faction therefore consulted w ith S. A. D ange d u rin g his trip to C a lc u tta in F e b ru a ry 1964 a n d a rra n g e d to establish a new bookstore (M an ish a G ra n th a la y a ) a t a locatio n ju s t a ro u n d th e co rn er from th e N atio n al Book A gency, to be m an a g ed by D ilip Bose, a form er personal secretary o f R . P alm e D u tt. A fter the split in 1964, th e N a tio n a l Book A gency becam e the publishing a n d d istrib u tio n cen ter o f th e c p m in C a lc u tta , w hile “ M a n ish a ” now fulfills the sam e role for th e c p i . 46 T h e Left faction version o f th e events lead in g u p to th e split is Repudiate Dange and His Group! (C a lc u tta : C P I, W est Bengal S tate C ouncil, 1964), p p . 1-12. 47 F o r details o f the com prom ise, see New Age, M a y 6, 1962, pp. 8 -9 , a n d M a y 27, 1962, p p . 1, 4.

T H E R IG HT FACTION BIDS FOR CONTROL

103

were given augm ented representation on the C entral S ecretariat, b u t the Left was unable to bring its new powers to b ear on the national p a rty once the Chinese attacks on In d ia began in the fall of 1962. A fter D ange succeeded in pushing through the N ovem ber 1 resolution, the leading Left leaders in the S ecretariat resigned their positions,48 an d by F eb ru ary of 1963 N am boodiripad h ad resigned as general secretary an d editor of N ew Age, leaving the D ange leadership in sole control of the central organs of tKe party. Because the R ig h t faction was so firm ly entrenched in the m ost pow erful com m ittees at the central an d state levels, the Left faction h ad to launch a concerted attack on both levels b u t especially on D ange himself, who h ad by now becom e the linchpin of the entire organizational apparatus. T h e attack on D ange an d the “ D angeites” by the Left faction in 1963 was merciless, bitter, an d personal. I t revolved for the m ost p a rt aro u n d D an g e’s p articipation in the C aw npore conspiracy (to deprive the K ing-E m peror of the sovereignty of British India) in 1924, in­ cluding a series of letters by an d ab o u t D ange a t the tim e of the C aw npore conspiracy trials. T h ere is some evidence th a t the incident of the “ D ange letters55 was p rom pted by m em bers of the c p g b , al­ though the issue was first raised in the M arch 7 edition of Current, a right-w ing anticom m unist weekly published in Bom bay. T h e principal letters quoted by the leftists to discredit D ange were dated J u ly 26, 1924 (consisting of a petition by D ange to the G overnor G eneral of In d ia ), an d another w ritten by Colonel Cecil K aye of the C entral Intelligence B ranch of the British governm ent in In d ia, in w hich he sum m arized his assessment of D an g e’s revolutionary potential.49 In the first letter D ange h ad referred to a conversation w ith a British official nam ed Stew art, in w hich S tew art h ad told D ange, “ You hold an exceptionally influential position in certain circles here and abroad. G overnm ent w ould be glad if this position w ould be of some use to th e m .5’ In his J u ly 26 letter to the G overnor G eneral, D ange h a d quoted this conversation w ith S tew art an d then added, I th in k I still h o ld t h a t p o s itio n . R a t h e r it h a s b e e n e n h a n c e d b y th e p r o s ­ e c u tio n [in th e C a w n p o r e tria ls ]. I f y o u r E x c e lle n c y is p le a s e d to th in k t h a t I s h o u ld u se t h a t p o s itio n fo r th e g o o d o f y o u r E x c e lle n c y ’s G o v t, a n d th e c o u n tr y I s h o u ld b e g la d to d o so, if I a m g iv e n th e o p p o r tu n ity b y y o u r E x c e lle n c y g r a n tin g m y p r a y e r fo r re le a se . 50

48 Swadhinata, D ecem ber 12, 1962, p. 1, a n d D ecem ber 27, 1962, p. 1. 49 T h e full text o f the letters ap p ears in Dange Unmasked! Repudiate the Revisionists! (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1964), pp. 1-12. Fifty-six pages o f com m ents by Left faction m em bers w ere also in clu d ed in this p a m p h let. 50 Q u o te d from the acco u n t b y M u zaffar A h m ad , S. A . Dange and the National Archives (C a lc u tta : V a n g u a rd Publishers, 1964), p. 5.

104

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

In short, the Ju ly 26 letter indicated th a t D ange h ad offered him self as a “ spy” for the British governm ent in In d ia. But even m ore dam aging to D ange was the letter of Cecil K aye, w hich indicated th a t the British Intelligence netw ork held such a low opinion of D an g e’s own character th a t it w ould have been unlikely to have em ployed him as a spy. K aye, for exam ple, referred to D ange as a m an of “ personal cow ardice” an d “ nervousness” an d stated th a t “ from all reports I conclude th a t D ange is only a w orm ; he is not w orth the pow der an d shot” and th a t “ no action need be taken against him ; it is enough if he is called by an officer and given a severe official talking-to; th a t will frighten h im .” 51 D ange argued th a t the letters were forgeries, although he refused to subm it them to a p a rty com m ittee for analysis, b u t there is little reason to d o u b t their authenticity. N evertheless, the R ig h t faction in W est Bengal defended D ange as a loyal p a rty m em ber who h ad served the p a rty for m ore th an forty years an d who h ad suffered im prisonm ent on num erous occasions. O ne of the leading R ig h t faction leaders in W est Bengal, R enu C hakravarty, labeled the entire D ange “ letter in cid en t” as “ a shabby a ttem p t a t suppressio veri an d suggestio fa ls i , presenting the whole record in a slanted w ay.” 52 Nevertheless, the Left faction continued to insist th a t “ the question of D ange is an ideological one of prim e im portance . . . it is not a t all a private affair of D an g e’s,” 53 and the D ange letters ultim ately affected the w ay in w hich the split was carried out. Because of the evidence provided in the D ange letters, the Left faction h ad dem anded th a t D ange step dow n as ch airm an o f the c e c ’s m eeting of A pril 9, p rep arato ry to the m eeting of the N ational Council scheduled for A pril 10, in order th a t a full discussion of the letters m ight take place. W hen D ange refused to vacate the chairm anship on A pril 9, twelve Left faction m em bers of the c e c w alked out, an d on A pril 11 the thirty-tw o m em bers of the N ational Council w alked out in protest against the agenda th a t had been draw n up by D ange. C e n tr ist A tte m p ts a t M ed ia tio n In retrospect, attem pts to m ediate the num erous disputes betw een the R ig h t and Left factions of the c p i in 1964 seem like futile exercises, b u t they did not seem so to a n u m b er of p arty leaders at the time. T he leaders of the electoral m achinery of the party, in W est Bengal and K erala especially, were concerned th a t the p arty avoid the ex­ trem es tow ard which the two m ajor factions seemed to be heading. 51 Ib id ., pp. 4 -5 . 52 The Statesman, A pril 6, 1964. 53 M u zaffar A h m ad , S. A . Dange, p. 16.

CENTRIST ATTEMPTS AT M EDIATION

105

In the words of one centrist leader, the R ig h t faction appeared bent on “ being absorbed w ith the national bourgeoisie, perhaps even m erging w ith the Congress,” while the Left faction ‘‘seemed to be m aking every a ttem p t to alienate the electoral base th a t we had so carefully b u ilt u p .” In order to avoid both of these extrem es and perhaps preserve the unity of the In d ia n party, a nu m b er of prom inent C om m unists attem p ted to m ediate betw een the two m ajor factions both at the state and a t the national levels. T h e most pro m in en t of these “ centrists” were E. M . S. N am boodiripad, Jy o ti Basu, and Bhupesh G u p ta, all of w hom h ad a personal stake in the future of p arliam en tary com m unism in India. T h e last two were prom inent leaders of the electoral w ing of the p a rty in W est Bengal. N am boodiripad has been labeled by observers of In d ia n com ­ m unism as belonging to the R ight, Left, an d centrist factions of the p a rty at various times in his career, in large p a rt because o f his pragm atism an d his ability to steer a rath e r individualistic course through the ideological and organizational debates th a t have plagued the p a rty over the years. His strength in all of the m ajor areas of p a rty activity has m ade this achievem ent possible: he is the only In d ian C om m unist leader who has a strong base in a state organizational ap p aratu s an d a state p arliam en tary p arty an d is a leading p arty theoretician as well. M oreover, his position as C hief M inister in K erala has given him added prestige throughout In d ia, w hich has on occasion m ade it difficult for m em bers of his own p a rty to criticize him too severely. N am b o o d irip ad ’s closest associates in the p arty argue th a t he is also the only original C om m unist thinker th a t the In d ia n p arty has produced, an d they point to his large collection of w ritings on organizational an d ideological questions as the source of a truly In d ia n solution to the vexing problem s th a t have plagued In d ian com m unism . In his w ritings N am boodiripad has always differed both w ith the R ig h t an d w ith the Left factions in the party. As early as 1952 he argued th a t . . . th e s tru g g le in I n d i a to d a y is n o t b e tw e e n c a p ita lis m a n d S o c ia lism , b u t b e tw e e n im p e ria lis m a n d fe u d a lis m o n th e o n e h a n d a n d th e m ass o f o u r p e o p le o n th e o t h e r ; f u r th e r , . . . in th is s tru g g le c a p ita lis t e c o n o m y , th e c a p ita lis t class, h a s a ro le to p la y a n d . . . th e m ass o f th e p e o p le le d b y th e w o r k in g class c a n m a k e u se o f it, p r o v id e d th e y ta k e a ll p r e c a u tio n s t h a t th e c a p ita lis t e le m e n ts a re n o t a llo w e d to d r a g th e p e o p le in to th e a rm s o f im p e r ia lis m a n d fe u d a lis m . . . ,54 54 E. M . S. N a m b o o d irip ad , On the Agrarian Question in India (B om bay: P eo p le’s P u b lish in g H ouse, 1952), p. 45, q u o ted in M arsh all W indm iller, “ C o n stitu tio n al C o m m u n ism in I n d ia ,” Pacific Affairs 31 (M a rch 1958): 25.

106

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

As M arshall W indm iller has pointed out, N am b o o d irip ad has always differed significantly from the Left faction of the p a rty in his w illing­ ness to prom ote capitalism , p articu larly in the ag ricu ltu ral sector, in order to build a “ rich peasant econom y” w hile m aking “ a deal w ith the capitalist class to create the industry needed to support . . . surplus agricultural lab o r.” 55 A t the sam e tim e N am boodiripad- has always differed w ith the R ig h t faction in his insistence on building a n o n ­ Congress coalition governm ent in K erala by m eans of mass struggle an d has never hesitated to criticize the policies of N ehru, or even G a n d h i.56 In F eb ru ary 1963 N am boodiripad in fact established him self as the principal theoretician of the an ti-R ig h t w hen he sub­ m itted his thesis entitled Revisionism and Dogmatism in the C P I to a m eeting of the N ational Council in N ew D elhi; he resigned from his position as general secretary of the national p a rty w hen the thesis proved unacceptable to D ange. A fter his resignation, N am b o o d irip ad m oved closer to the Left faction by arguing th a t the D ange group had becom e “ ultra-nationalistic an d chauvinistic,” th a t the c p i h ad failed to gain ground in In d ia because it h ad tried to “ tail behind the bourgeois nationalists,” an d th a t the R ig h t faction h ad lost its claim to leadership by “ h anding over a large nu m b er of C om m unist workers an d leaders to the police.” 57 O nce N am boodiripad h ad resigned as general secretary, he did not im m ediately jo in the Left faction or even ally w ith it against the R ig h t b u t instead tried to secure the support of M oscow in a final a tte m p t to bring ab o u t a rap p ro ch em en t betw een the two factions. In the M arch 1963 issue of the Soviet-controlled World M arxist Review, N am bo odiripad (identified only as “ a m em ber o f the c p i C entral S ecretariat” ) p u b ­ lished a review article— presum ably w ith the endorsem ent of the c p s u — in w hich he reiterated his basic thesis (which h ad by now also come to square w ith the Soviet thesis) th a t the In d ian bourgeoisie h ad “ not exhausted its progressive role” b u t th a t the N eh ru govern­ m ent h ad to be severely criticized on a nu m b er of issues.58 T h e m ajor portion of N am b o o d irip ad ’s article was devoted to criticism of “ some 55 Ib id ., p. 26. 56 N a m b o o d irip a d ’s w ritings on K e rala include tw o sh o rt volum es: Twenty-eight Months in Kerala: A Retrospect (N ew D elhi: P eople’s P ublishing H ouse, 1959) a n d Kerala: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1967). 57 The Statesman, F e b ru a ry 15, 1963. A fter “ E M S ” resigned, his closest associate in C a lc u tta , Jo lly K a u l, left to take u p residence in N ew D elhi. (K a u l eventu ally q u it th e c p i a n d is now em ployed as a p u b lic relations officer in a p riv ate firm in C alc u tta .) F o r K a u l’s version of the events lead in g u p to the split in 1964, see “ T h e S p lit in the C P I ,” India Quarterly 20 (O c to b e r-D e c e m b e r 1964): 372—390. 58 G elm an, “ T h e C o m m u n ist P a rty o f I n d ia ,” p. 140.

CENTRIST ATTEMPTS AT M EDIATION

107

com rades” for believing it possible to “ w alk in step w ith the govern­ m e n t.” E vidently arm ed w ith some support from Moscow, N am boodirip ad began to m ake a variety of overtures to c p i leaders th ro u g h o u t In d ia in an attem p t to rally them behind his “ centrist” position. In W est Bengal he was m ost concerned w ith the possibility of securing support from Jy o ti Basu an d Bhupesh G upta. Basu then occupied a position in the state p arty sim ilar in m any respects to th a t held nationally by N am boodiripad. H e was the u n ­ questioned leader of the legislative w ing o f the state p a rty an d on the basis o f his legislative leadership h ad always been able to m ain tain some support w ithin the regular p arty organization. M oreover, Basu’s know ledge of p arliam en tary politics was a great asset to the state p arty , an d his prestige w ithin W est Bengal was in m any ways com parable to th a t of N am boodiripad in K erala. I t is significant, how ever, th a t Basu never attem p ted to becom e a leading theoretician in the party, largely because he h ad never been able to gain a position of sufficient organizational strength to propagate his own views on theoretical questions. Basu’s strength in the state p a rty depended on his ability to secure support from b o th the regular p arty organization an d the electoral organizations, an d his involvem ent in theoretical debates w ould certainly have strained his relations w ith one or the other. Because of his dependence on the regular p a rty organization, Basu has always subjected him self to the discipline of the p arty an d has engaged in public “ self-criticism” on a nu m b er of occasions a t the state p a rty ’s behest. In 1959 he even took p a rt in Indo-C hinese solidarity meetings an d acted as the state p a rty ’s principal spokes­ m an for its C hina position, b o th in public an d a t central p arty meetings. B ut Basu was always distrusted by the Left faction of the state p arty an d was occasionally subject to merciless attacks by the leaders of the regular organization for having deviated from Left C om m unist tenets. In J a n u a ry 1961, a t a m eeting of the state p arliam en tary party, he was accused by P ram ode Das G u p ta of having m ade a “ d e a l” w ith C hief M inister B. C. R oy to settle the B erubari issue w ithout the p rior knowledge of the state p arty organization, an d a t the B urdw an conference in 1961 he was accused of an a tte m p t to prom ote the electoral organizations of the p arty in C alcu tta for his own personal or factional aggrandizem ent a t the expense of the ru ral areas and the w ell-being of the state p arty organization.59 W hen Basu negotiated a loan w ith a w ealthy landow ner in South C alcu tta to purchase a p rin tin g press for the publication of p arty m aterials, he was accused 59 The Statesman, J a n u a r y 24, 1961.

108

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D T H E SPLIT

by Das G u p ta of “ individualism ” (im plying th a t he was attem p tin g to prom ote his personal interests in the p arty ), an d his success in securing the nom ination of In d ra jit G u p ta in a C alcu tta by-election in 1960, despite the opposition of the regular p a rty organization, was countered by the expulsion of G u p ta from the S tate S ecretariat.60 D espite the tense relations w ith the regular p a rty organization, Basu continued to speak for the L eft-dom inated W est Bengal organiza­ tion a t p a rty m eetings an d in public th ro u g h o u t the years preceding the split an d even declined an offer by the Soviet U nion to spend two weeks in M oscow in J u ly 1961, w hen the state p a rty refused him perm ission to go unaccom panied by leaders of the Left faction.61 A fter the Chinese attacks in late 1962, however, he becam e con­ spicuous by his absence from several crucial n ational p a rty m eetings a t w hich ideological questions were discussed, an d he reportedly welcom ed the oppo rtu n ity to resign from the C entral S ecretariat after the N ovem ber 1 resolution, since his resignation enabled him to gain some distance from the ideological debate. In response to the resolution, Basu publicly called on all C om m unist M LA s to contribute to the In d ian Defence F u n d an d was instrum ental in pushing through the State Council a resolution in w hich the W est Bengal c p i agreed to im plem ent the N ovem ber 1 resolutions of the N ational Council “ in a u nited an d disciplined m a n n e r,” despite disagreem ents.62 N everthe­ less, Basu becam e the public sym bol of the Left faction and of the pro -C h in a stance of the c p i in W est Bengal: in N ovem ber 1962 he was b u rn ed in effigy in m any parts of C alcutta, he was condem ned by the Congress and M arxist Left parties in the Legislative Assembly as “ a cow ard” an d “ a shameless op p o rtu n ist,” 63 an d he was am ong the first m em bers of the c p i in W est Bengal to be arrested by the govern­ m en t of In d ia in N ovem ber 1962 u n d er the Defence of In d ia Rules. Inside the jails in 1963, a considerable section of the Left faction began openly to advocate a split, an d m any of the discussions inside the jails w ere concerned only w ith how to m ake the staging of the split serve the interests of the Left faction. Some of the leftists w anted to declare themselves a separate p a rty inside the jails, b u t others argued th a t the leftists should allow the D angeites to oust them from the p a rty an d leave D ange w ith the blam e. In this atm osphere Jy o ti Basu argued for p a rty unity, and in O ctober 1963 he collected tw enty signatures am ong those in ja il for a statem ent condem ning the Left faction as 60 61 62 63

Ib id ., A pril 2, 1960. Ib id ., J u ly 20, 1961. Ib id ., N ovem ber 2, 1962, N o v em b er 5, 1962, a n d N o v em b er 11, 1962. West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, N o v em b er 17, 1962.

CENTRIST ATTEMPTS A T M EDIATION

109

“ d ieh ard dogm atists” who are “ to be fought as ruthlessly as re­ visionists.” 64 T h e signatories to this statem ent form ed the core of a faction w ithin the state th a t cam e to be bran d ed as centrists; it was nom inally led by Basu an d sought alliances w ith other centrist factions in other states upon Basu’s release from prison in late 1963. T h ree weeks after his release, Basu him self traveled to New D elhi, w here he conferred w ith E. M . S. N am boodiripad ab o u t the possibility of a “ third force” in the c p i . 65 I t was a t this point th a t Basu and N am boodiripad agreed to ally themselves a t least tem porarily w ith the Left faction in order to depose the R ig h t leadership, w hich had ensconced itself in p a rty com m ittees d uring the period w hen the Left faction was in jail, b u t both Basu and N am boodiripad issued in n er-p arty draft docum ents at the tim e th a t clearly established their ♦ . ♦ f. f. centrist positions. W ith in W est Bengal Basu refused to side w ith either the R ight or Left faction a t the m eetings of the S tate Council in F eb ru ary 1964 a t w hich the p c z and p o c clashed over the question of the conditions being laid dow n for the S tate Council by the c e c . A m onth later Basu an d the centrist leadership in the state p arty com bined w ith the R ight faction a t a p arty election com m ittee m eeting to defeat the Left faction by a vote of 12 to 11 in nom inating Bhupesh G u p ta for a seat in the R ajy a S abha (the u p p er house in the In d ia n P arliam en t).67 W hen the issue of the D ange letters cam e to the fore, Basu w rote a personal letter to D ange asking him to consent to the establishm ent of a six-m em ber p arty commission to determ ine the authenticity of the letters,68 and the day before the w alkout Basu, N am boodiripad, and Bhupesh G u p ta m ade a last-ditch attem p t to bring leaders from the two m ajor factions together for private, inform al talks th a t m ight settle differences at least tem porarily.69 O n A pril eleventh, both N am boodiripad and Basu w alked out w ith the Left faction, having 64 The Statesman, O cto b er 5, 1963. 65 Ib id ., D ecem b er 27, 1963. 66 F o r B asu’s statem en t, see Jy o ti Basu, N ira n ja n Sen, et al., On Some Questions Concerning the Ideological Controversy within the International Communist Movement (N ew D elh i: 4 W indsor Place, 1964). T h e position o f E M S is stated in E. M . S. N a m ­ b o o d irip ad , Note for the Programme o f the C P I (N ew D elhi: 4 W indsor Place, 1964), an d criticism b o th o f th e Basu a n d o f the N a m b o o d irib a d positions is found in P. S u n d a ra y y a et al., A Contribution to Ideological Debate (N ew D elh i: 4 W indsor Place, 1964) a n d M . B asav ap u n n iah , Our Views on E. M . S. Namboodiripad’s Critique o f Draft Programme (N ew D eh li: n .p ., 1964). 67 The Statesman, M a rc h 10, 1964. P ra m o d e Das G u p ta ’s version o f th e election o f B hupesh G u p ta is to be found in “ A n A spect o f L eft O p p o rtu n ism in W est B en g al,” Desh Hitaishi, O c to b e r 21, 1967, pp. 1, 5. 68 The Statesman, A pril 6, 1964. 69 Ib id ., A pril 11, 1964.

110

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

little alternative in light of their dependence on it for organizational support in electoral politics. B ut G u p ta rem ain ed behind, m oving an unsuccessful ad jo u rn m en t m otion designed to brin g the thirty-tw o m em bers of the council back to the m eetings. ' A fter this event, since Basu was convinced th a t the split was com plete, he tried to m ake peace w ith the Left faction w ithin the confines of the new party, b u t G u p ta continued to persist in his attem pts to bring the two factions (now parties) back together, while other centrist leaders in W est Bengal attem p ted to organize a th ird p a rty th a t m ight eventually be able to reconcile them . In late M ay, G u p ta succeeded in bringing N am boodiripad an d D ange together in New D elhi for a series of talks, an d a m o n th later he an d J o h n G ollan (general secretary of the c p g b ) tried to bring Basu, P ram ode Das G u p ta, and D ange together in a final effort to reconcile the Left, R ight, and centrist factions.70 T h e large C alcu tta u n it of the state p a rty also attem p ted to reconcile the two m ajor factions in M ay an d J u n e 1964, suggesting a series of com prom ise m easures th a t ultim ately proved unacceptable to the Left, while an o th er group of 250 centrists (in­ cluding 15 m em bers of the S tate Council an d 6 M LAs) held th eir own convention in C alcutta in A ugust in a futile a tte m p t to set up a third p a rty th a t could incorporate both the Left an d the R ig h t.71 By the end of the sum m er, however, it was clear th a t the split was irrevocable; both parties h ad already launched in d ep en d en t agitational m ovem ents an d were holding m eetings in p rep aratio n for separate p a rty conferences. T h e C o n se q u e n c e s o f th e S p lit I f the split betw een the c p i and the c p m h ad involved only two m ajor factions, the events of A pril 1964 m ight have at least reduced the need for accom m odation w ithin any one political party. I f there h ad been only two factions in the com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia, some sense of finality m ight have accom panied the split. But because three m ajor factions were now divided betw een only two parties, factionalism continued to persist after the split in m uch the same m an n er as it had since Independence w ithin the “ u n ite d ” c p i . O ne m ight even argue th a t factionalism w ithin each of the C om m unist parties becam e m uch Hiore intense after 1964 th a n it had been previously, p articu larly in W est Bengal. 70 A tran scrib ed rep o rt o f a p o rtio n o f th e talks in J u ly is p u b lish ed in “ R e p o rt on U n ity T alk s,” in Resolutions o f the Tenali Convention o f the Communist Party o f India [M arxist] (N ew D elhi: C P I [M arx ist], 1964), p p . 29-35. 71 Link, M a y 10, 1964, p. 19, a n d A ugust 9, 1964, p. 15.

CONSEQUENCES OF TH E SPLIT

111

T h ere are a nu m b er of reasons for the grow th of factionalism after 1964. T o begin w ith, both of the extrem e factions (R ight an d Left) found it necessary to launch massive drives for recru itm en t of new m em bers to support th eir positions, an d both of them sought m uch g reater control of their respective p a rty organizations. But the centrists (some of w hom w ere now in each of the parties) w ere also m ore determ ined th an ever to fight against “ revisionism ” on the R ig h t an d “ sectarianism ” on the Left, w ith the result th a t they also redoubled th eir efforts to prevent either faction from gaining unquestioned control of either party. M oreover, the centrists were aided by two new factors th a t began to assum e prom inence after 1964: (1) the consider­ able support for the ideological position of the centrists th a t began to em an ate from M oscow; an d (2) the electoral victories of the C om ­ m unist-dom inated U n ited F ro n t alliances in K erala (in 1965 an d 1967) an d in W est Bengal (in 1967 an d 1969). T o the great distress of all Com m unists, each of these factors served to intensify conflict, b u t none of them was significant enough to bring ab o u t the triu m p h of any one faction or to produce great factional losses. As a result, the con­ flicts th a t the split in 1964 did not resolve have continued to c h ar­ acterize the history both of the c p i an d of the c p m , an d the cleavages w ithin the united c p i have now been all b u t duplicated (but in two C om m unist parties instead of one). T h e creation of a th ird C om m unist p a rty (the C om m unist p a rty of In d ia-M arx ist-L en in ist, or c p m l ) , w hich was form ed in A pril 1969, has brought only m ore of the sam e: it has produced m ore heated ideological debates in the c p i an d the c p m , yet it has failed to unite the C om m unists to w hom its appeal was directed. In all of this m aneuvering the c p m has thus far gained m ore th an either the c p i or c p m l . N ot only has it dem onstrated its superior organizational strength, both in term s of m em bership an d in term s of its leadership of various political m ovem ents, it has also dom inated the electoral fronts in both K erala an d W est Bengal. A t the same tim e, the cpm has been unable to m ake gains outside of K erala and W est Bengal, an d it has suffered from m ore internal factionalism th an either the c p i or c p m l , m ainly because its leadership has h ad to accom m odate larger portions of the Left an d centrist factions th an either of the other two parties. T h e c p i was clearly faced w ith the greatest task of reconstruction in W est Bengal. T en days after the w alkout of A pril 10, the C entral Executive C om m ittee of the c p i had to disband the eight-m an State S ecretariat, since five of the eight h ad been am ong those who h ad

112

SINO-SOVIET CONFLICT A N D TH E SPLIT

w alked out a t the N ational Council m eetings. T h e extent to w hich the c p i h ad to com pletely rebuild its p a rty organization in W est Bengal was indicated by the fact th a t the new State S ecretariat announced in J u ly contained none of the m em bers of the previous S ecretariat (seven of the eight h ad jo in ed w ith the c p m an d the eighth h ad led the opposition to D ange w ithin the regular c p i ) . M oreover, the c p i could secure the support of only 23 of the 102 m em bers of the previous State Council. T h e new c p i State S ecretariat h ad to give up the previous head q u arters o f the state p arty, w hich rem ained w ith the c p m u n d er th re a t of force, an d the state c p i was therefore sym bolically relocated in a small, dark room on the ground floor of an old office building in a congested, narrow lane in central C alcutta. For four m onths the new state p a rty h ead q u arters of the c p i h ad no telephone, no type­ w riter, an d no signboard, an d its leadership was preoccupied w ith the establishm ent of a new v ern acu lar new spaper (Kalantar ) an d hesitant to choose a State Executive C om m ittee because it w anted to lure centrists into the p a rty w ith offices. W hen the com m ittee was finally chosen, it im m ediately issued a circular to state p a rty leaders in w hich it declared th a t “ even though the new ly ap p o in ted S ecretariat is staffed by know n Rightists it w ould not be difficult to m ake adjust­ m ents an d accom m odate the Centrists if they desired to be rep re­ sented.” 72 E ventually a n u m b er of centrists did drift back into the regular c p i , b u t not in sufficient num bers to present a challenge to the c p m . W hen the state Legislative Assembly reconvened in late Ju ly 1964, the c p i state legislative p arty was reconstituted u n d e r the leadership of S om nath L ahiri, b u t it could m uster only 12 of B engal’s 51 C om m unist M LAs. M ost of the M LAs in W est Bengal followed Jy o ti Basu into the c p m , w here they allied w ith Pram ode Das G u p ta an d the regular p a rty organization and began to rebuild the state u n it u n d er a new b anner. T h a t this was truly an alliance betw een two factions was indicated a t the first m eeting of the “ new ” c p m , 73 at w hich both Basu an d Das G u p ta were allow ed to present their own factional reports on the m eetings of the N ational Council an d the w alkout, an d each was followed by a critical rep o rt by a m em ber of the speaker’s rival faction, then by a sharp term ination of the “ discussion.” A fter this m eeting b o th the Left an d centrist factions began the jo b of screening the 17,000 m em bers of the state p arty for supporters, in p rep aratio n for a conference to choose a new State Council. By the tim e the 72 The Statesman, J u ly 13, 1964. 73 Ib id ., A pril 25, 1964.

CONSEQUENCES OF TH E SPLIT

113

state conference of the c p m took place (in late O ctober 1964), its C entral Executive C om m ittee had decided to revert back to the tw o-tier system of organization thafr had governed the p arty before the A m ritsar conference in 1958, and the state conference in O ctober was therefore asked to choose only a thirty-nine-m em ber S tate C om m ittee (the larger State Council having been abolished). T h e degree of control still exercised by the Left faction after the split was indicated by the fact th a t Jy o ti Basu was able to^secure the election only of him self and three of his followers (N iranjan Sen, Saroj M ukherjee, and A m ritendu M ukherjee) to the State C om m ittee, while the rem aining thirty-five m em bers were generally regarded as leftists or as organiza­ tion m en loyal to Pram ode Das G u p ta .74 In the words of one m em ber of the S tate S ecretariat of the c p i in an interview conducted in 1969, “A fter the split everything had changed, and yet things seemed to rem ain p retty m uch the same as before.” In the regular c p i the R ig h t faction now controlled the state u n it of the p arty , b u t the leadership of th a t faction soon becam e opposed to the continuance of D ange as leader of the national party, an d since 1964 a nu m b er of Bengali c p i leaders (Bhupesh G upta, S om nath L ahiri, and R an en Sen) have been prom inent in a m ove­ m en t to “ b roaden the base of national c p i leadership.” W ithin the state u n it of the c p i the R ig h t faction faced severe criticism from the centrists, who argued th a t the rightists had been som ew hat arro g an t and unrealistic in their exercise of pow er during their period of tenure in the p o c , and in response to opposition both from national and from state leaders the R ig h t faction has adopted m uch the same strategy as the Left faction had adopted in the united c p i . Since the split, R ight faction leaders have opposed the n ational leadership of the c p i on a n u m b er of occasions, and the national leadership has usually settled for com prom ise solutions th a t w ere acceptable to the state leadership. A t the state level the R ig h t faction has used p arty discipline and an occasional com prom ise m easure to bring ab o u t a t least a sem blance of unity, while it has concentrated on strengthening its control of the organization. Sim ilarly, in the c p m the national p arty com m ittees were quickly cap tu red by a com bination of Left and centrist faction leaders after the split, an d c p m program s have since necessitated a series of com prom ise m easures p alatab le to both factions. M oreover, the state leadership of the c p m has also reverted to its previous p attern of relations w ith the national leadership, w ith the centrists replacing the rightists as the m ain protagonists of the Left faction w ithin the state. 74 Ib id ., O c to b e r 27, 1964.

5

ELECTORAL POLITICS AND POLITICAL. POWER

T h e factional problem s th a t have plagued the C om m unists in W est B engal have also been present in other In d ia n political m ovem ents. Since 1947 m ore th a n fifty political parties have contested the elections for the Legislative Assembly in W est Bengal, an d a good m any of them have won seats from tim e to time. In light of the fascination of Bengalis for M arxism -Leninism , it is not surprising th a t a n u m b er of these parties have been dom inated by M arxist Left an d C om m unist politicians. In fact, the questions th a t dom inated discussions of politics in W est Bengal before the 1967 elections w ere no t those th a t sought to explain the grow th of leftism in Bengal. Instead, they sought explanations for the rem arkable (if tenuous) political stability of one of In d ia ’s m ost problem -ridden states, a stability usually a ttrib u te d to tw enty years of u n in terru p ted Congress rule. T h e elections of 1967 and 1969 have changed this focus of inquiry. W ith the defeat of the Congress p a rty in W est Bengal a n d the subsequent form ation of a governm ent generally regarded as C om m unistdom inated, a nu m b er of new questions have arisen. H ow can one account for the defeat of the Congress in 1967 an d 1969? T o w hat extent do these electoral defeats reflect the grow th of leftism, or can they be accounted for by other factors? W h a t has been the effect of the U n ited F ront governm ents on leftist unity an d leftist strength? In short, have the events set in m otion by the elections of 1967 and 1969 created greater opportunities for revolutionary forces in W est Bengal, or have they served to im pede them ? T h e following chapter is an a ttem p t to answ er the first two of these questions; the last two are taken up in subsequent chapters. P a r ty C lu ste r s A t first sight organizational politics in W est Bengal seems like a hopeless m aze of confusion. O f the m ore th a n fifty political parties th a t have contested elections to the state Legislative Assembly since 1947, m any represent m ere factions th a t have broken w ith the older parties, m any are splinter groups from the various factions, an d some

P A R T Y CLUSTERS

1 15

of the splinter groups have in tu rn split two or three times themselves. In this atm osphere it m ay be reassuring to rem ind ourselves th a t the universe of Bengali organizational life is lim ited, a t least in some respects. O nly tw enty of the fifty parties have ever won seats in the Legislative Assembly (see T ab le 3).1 M oreover, there are some affinities betw een these tw enty parties despite the fact th a t they are organizationally separate. In term s of their program s, they can be v divided into five m ajor clusters: 1. T h e m ost successful vote-getting p arty in all five of the elections to the state Legislative Assembly has been the In d ia n N ational Congress, w hich in Bengal (as elsewhere in In d ia) is an aggregative p arty com ­ m itted to a dem ocratic socialism th a t is constantly in need of redefini­ tio n .2 T h e Congress in Bengal was free of severe factionalism until 1966, though a m ajor split did occur in 1950, w hen Prafulla C h an d ra G hosh resigned from the Congress, form ed the K rishak P raja M azdoor p a rty (Peasants’, People’s, an d W orkers’ p arty ), an d eventually com bined w ith the Socialist p arty a t the national level to form the P raja Socialist p arty ( p s p ) . 3 B ut the P raja Socialists have since con­ tested every election in W est Bengal w ith little success and have been seriously affected by fu rth er factional splits. T h e m ost serious division in the p s p cam e in 1964, w hen the m ajority of its leadership w ithdrew to form the S am yukta Socialist p arty ( s s p ) , and in both the 1967 and 1969 elections the Sam yukta Socialists m anaged to outpoll the p s p by a small m arg in .4 T h e second split in the Congress, involving the defection of a large n u m b er of Congressmen into the Bangla Congress in 1966, has h a d a m uch g reater im pact on the politics of the state th a n the split in 1950. T h e Bangla Congress was instrum ental in the form ation of the U n ite d F ro n t ( u f ) governm ent in 1967, after defeating the Congress in enough constituencies to deprive it of a m ajority in the state 1 T h e figures listed in th e tables, a n d o th er election figures given in the text o f this c h a p te r, are d ra w n from th e reports on th e elections p u blished by th e E lectio n C om m ission for th e 1952, 1957, 1962, a n d 1967 elections. Since the re p o rt o f the E lection C om m ission for th e 1969 elections was n o t available a t th e tim e o f w ritin g , figures for 1969 w ere d raw n from th e unofficial rep o rts o f each constituency p u blish ed in The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily). Figures for th e P ra ja Socialist p a rty in 1952 include votes a n d seats o b tain ed by th e Socialists a n d the k m p p , since these tw o parties ev en tu ally m erg ed w ith the p s p in the four elections th a t followed. 2 C ongress socialism is explored in S tanley K ochanek, The Congress Party o f India : The Dynamics o f One-Party Democracy (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U niversity Press, 1968), p p . 188-210. 3 See The Statesman, N ovem ber 14, 1950, for a re p o rt on the split in 1950. 4 T h e split betw een the s s p a n d p s p in W est B engal is an aly zed in ibid., D ecem ber 1, 1966.

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W E R

116

T able 3 P e r c e n t a g e o f V o t e s P o l l e d b y P o l it ic a l P a r t ie s in

W e st B e n g a l L e g is l a t iv e A sse m b l y E l e c t io n s ( 1 9 5 2 - 1 9 6 9 )

P o litic a l P a r t y

1952

C ongress B angla C ongress

46.14 38.93 47.29 (founded in 1966) 4.99 9.85 11.87 (founded in 1964) (founded in 1968)

PSP SSP IN D F

S u b to tal

CPI CPM

S u b to tal

1967

1969

41.13 ' 10.44 1.88 2.13

40.42 8.00 1.25 1.82 0.82

52.28

55.58

52.31

10.76 24.96 17.82 (founded in 1964)

6.53 18.11

6.78 19.55

24.96

24.64

26.33

50.80

10.76

1957

56.00

17.82

1962

FB

5.29

FBM



FBR

1.51

sue



R SP R CPI

0.86 0.43

W PI



4.61 3.84 3.87 5.40 0.85 0.19 0.21 0.32 (m erged w ith psp after 1952 elections) 0.75 0.73 1.48 0.72 1.24 2.56 2.14 2.75 0.31 0.37 0.42 0.42 — 0.28 0.34 0.35

8.09

7.10

S u b to tal

8.91

7.59

10.58

5.61 0.98 2.04 2.37 (founded in 1959)

0.45 0.80 0.57

1.33 —

0.81

0.83 0.13 0.07

7.98

3.02

1.82

2.14

1.03

(P u ru lia)



0.82

0.72

0.68

0.73

(D arjeeling)

0.46

0.45

0.52 1.50

J a n S an g h H in d u M a h a sa b h a S w a ta n tra p a rty S u b to tal

LSS

GL

PM L

S ubtotal

U nsuccessful parties a n d in d ep en d en ts

T o ta l

0.43 0.40 (founded in 1968)

0.46

1.25

1.12

1.13

2.75

21.91

14.81

10.88

8.92

7.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

PA R T Y CLUSTERS

117

Legislative Assembly for the first tim e since Independence. W hile both the Congress and the B angla Congress have h ad some organiza­ tional defections since 1967, only one of the resulting splinter parties (the In d ia n N ational D em ocratic F ront, or i n d f ) was able to w in a seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1969. T h e universe of political parties th a t have split off from the Congress an d won seats in the ✓ W est Bengal Legislative Assembly is therefore lim ited to four: the p s p an d s s p , the Bangla Congress, an d the i n d f . T h eir program s link these four parties to the Congress, since they all a tte m p t to be aggre­ gative, an d since they all speak of a com m itm ent to dem ocratic socialism. U n til 1967, this group of parties dom inated the electoral politics of W est Bengal (see T ab le 4). 2. A second group of political parties consists of those th a t have close ties w ith foreign C om m unist parties. These are the parties th a t a re the subject of this book. As has already been pointed out, the c p i was the second largest p a rty in the Legislative Assembly until 1964, w hen it relinquished this position to the c p m . In the 1967 an d 1969 elections the c p m m anaged to outpoll the p a re n t c p i by a considerable n u m b er of votes (T able 3), an d the c p m is now the largest p arty in term s of seats, having surpassed the Congress in 1969 (T able 4). W hile the C om m unist parties are still in a m inority in W est Bengal (their com bined vote in 1969 was only 26.33 percent, the highest it has ever been, an d their com bined n u m b er of seats was only 110 in an assembly of 280), they have grow n very rapidly since Independence, an d they occupied the m ost influential m inistries in the coalition th a t governed the state in 1969—1970. 3. T h e m ost distinctively Bengali political parties are the large n u m ­ ber of small M arxist Left groups th a t dot the political landscape. T hey stem from the small nationalist an d terrorist societies th a t grew up in Bengal in the early p a rt of the tw entieth century an d whose m em bers w ere converted to M arxism in the jails in the 1930s. T h e largest of the M arxist Left parties is the F orw ard Bloc, w hich was created by Subhas Bose in 1940 in an a tte m p t a t left-wing unity. T h e F orw ard Bloc has also split a nu m b er of times since Independence, the two largest splinter groups being the F orw ard B loc-R uikar, w hich broke w ith the F o rw ard Bloc in 1948 an d m erged w ith the p s p after the 1952 elections, an d the F orw ard B loc-M arxist, w hich split ofT from its p a re n t in 1954. T h e other M arxist Left parties th a t have contested an d won elections are the R evolutionary C om m unist p arty of In d ia, or r c p i (founded by S au m y en d ran ath T agore, the grandnephew of the g reat poet, in 1934), the R evolutionary Socialist party, or r s p (founded in 1938), an d two factions th a t split off from the r s p p rior to the

118

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W E R

T able 4 N u m b e r o f S e a t s W o n b y P o l it ic a l P a r t ie s in

W e st B e n g a l L e g is l a t iv e A sse m b l y E l e c t io n s ( 1 9 5 2 - 1 9 6 9 )

P olitical Party

1952

Congress Bangla Congress PSP SSP INDF

150

1957

1962

157 152 (founded in 1966) 5 15 21 (founded in 1964) (founded in 1968)

Subtotal CPI CPM Subtotal

175

103

28

46 (founded in 1964)

50

16 43

30 80

28

46

50

59

110





Subtotal

55 33 5 9 1

162

•—

Jan Sangh Hindu Mahasabha Swatantra party

127 ' 34 7 7

173



Subtotal

1969

165

11 •— 2

FB FBM FBR sue RSP RCPI WPI

1967

8 13 13 21 — 1 1 2 (merged with psp after 1952 elections) •— 4 7 2 3 9 6 12 — — — 2 2 — •— 2 22

26

__ 9 — 4 (founded in 1959)

__

.—



1 — 1

13



2



13

15



•—

45

— —

LSS

(Purulia)



7

4

5

4

2

4 3

GL

(Darjeeling)

3

PM L

Subtotal

2 (founded in 1968) —

3

7

6

7

11

Unsuccessful parties and independents

16

11

11

11

11

Total seats

238

252

252

280

280

P A R T Y CLUSTERS

1 19

1952 elections, the Socialist U n ity C entre (sue) an d the W orker’s p a rty of In d ia ( w p i ). T h e M arxist Left parties of Bengal differ from the Congress an d its factions because they all claim to be revolutionary socialist parties: they advocate nationalization of industry, confiscation of lan d w ithout com pensation, an d confiscation of foreign capital. W ith o u t exception they do no t accept G a n d h i’s p rin c ip le 'o f nonviolence, they loathe “ liberals” of any stripe, an d they are convinced th a t the Congress “ socialist p a tte rn of society” is m ere sham . T hey have a positive attractio n to, alm ost a fascination for, m ilitancy an d violence, an d m any of them have traditionally argued th a t they are contesting elections only as a m eans for bringing ab o u t a revolutionary change in the constitution. A t the same tim e they have fundam ental differences w ith foreign C om m unist parties, an d they are frequently h a rd pressed to determ ine w hether their greater enemies are the Congress and rightist parties of Bengal or the C om m unist an d other M arxist Left p arties.5 D uring W orld W ar I I none of these parties supported the Soviet U n io n ’s “ People’s W a r” strategy, an d during the Chinese invasion all b u t the sue becam e m ilitantly opposed both to the Chinese an d to the In d ia n Com m unists. W hile these parties do not necessarily m easure their success in term s of votes or the seats they gain in the Legislative Assembly, they have nevertheless been able to a tta in an im p o rta n t position in the electoral politics of the state. In the 1969 elections they g arnered m ore th a n one-seventh of the seats in the Legislative Assembly (42 out of 280) an d 10.58 percent of the vote. As a result of this success, 11 of the 30 C abinet m inisters in W est Bengal in 1969-1970 were m em bers of the M arxist Left parties. 4. L ittle need be said ab o u t the other groupings th a t have won seats in W est Bengal, since none of them has been very successful in the elections. T h e least successful of these groupings consists of the parties th a t are usually considered “ rightist,” parties th a t em phasize the preservation of traditional In d ia n values an d th a t are rabidly a n ti­ com m unist an d anti-M arxist. In the five general elections since 1947, three such parties have won seats a t one tim e or another in W est Bengal, b u t the total n u m b er of seats won by all three— the J a n Sangh, H in d u M ahasabha, an d S w atan tra— has only been 15 in five elections. In 1967 S w atan tra an d J a n Sangh won one seat each (the M ah asab h a none), and in 1969 all of the candidates of all three parties were soundly defeated. 5 F o r a d escription a n d analysis o f som e o f the ideological a n d factional splits am o n g th e M arx ist Left parties o f W est Bengal, see M y ro n W einer, Party Politics in India (P rin c eto n : P rin ceto n U niversity Press, 1957), p p . 117-163.

120

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W E R

5. Finally, there are three oth er parties th a t have contested an d won elections in W est Bengal a t some p o in t d u rin g the last five elections, each of w hich is based on local or com m unal attachm ents. T h e Lok Sevak Sangh is a G an d h ian socialist p a rty confined to P u ru lia D istrict an d is prim arily pledged to furthering the interests of P u ru lia (P urulia is the area o f B ihar th a t was ad d ed to W est Bengal after the States R eorganization of 1956). Sim ilarly, the G u rk h a L eague represents the interests of the hill people of D arjeeling, an d the Progressive M uslim League, w hich was founded only in 1968, seeks openly to represent the interests of M uslims. W hile these local an d com m unal parties are of great im portance in some few constituencies in one or two districts, thus far they have h ad virtually no im p act in the w ider aren a of state politics. W hen B engal’s num erous political parties are arran g ed into these five groupings, it becomes clear th a t there has been a fairly consistent p a tte rn in the statew ide voting results over the past five elections. In each one, the dem ocratic socialist cluster of parties (the Congress an d its offshoots) has obtained m ore th a n 50 p ercen t of the vote, the percentage varying betw een 50.80 percent in 1952 an d 56.0 percen t in 1957 (see T ab le 3). T h e Congress p a rty has always secured the largest percentage of the vote. Its portion has ran g ed from a low of 38.93 percent in 1952 to 47.29 percent in 1962. T h e C om m unist p arty secured a relatively small n u m b er of votes in the 1952 elections (10.76 percent) b u t steadily increased its electoral position until 1962, w hen it finally leveled off a t aro u n d 25 percen t; in both the 1967 an d 1969 elections the C om m unists secured nearly the same portion of the vote as they h a d in 1962 (24.64 percent in 1967 and 26.33 percent in 1969). T h e percentage of the M arxist Left p arties’ vote has shown a very sm all increase. T h e gap betw een the lowest percentage they have obtained (7.10 percent in 1957) an d the highest (10.58 percent in 1969) is slightly m ore th a n 3 percent. T h e rightists an d the com m unal an d local parties have never secured enough votes to be a significant force in the politics of the state. D espite this fairly consistent p a tte rn of statew ide voting thro u g h o u t the five elections, there has been a significant shift in the n u m b er of seats acquired by the various parties in recent years. U n til 1967 the Congress h ad always been able to p arlay its m inority of votes into a legislative m ajority, gaining 150 seats w ith 38.93 p ercent of the vote in 1952, 152 seats w ith 46.14 percent of the vote in 1957, an d 157 seats w ith 47.29 percent of the vote in 1962. In the 1967 an d 1969 elections, however, the Congress continued to gain m ore th an 40 percent of the votes, b u t its seats in the Legislative Assembly declined disproportion-

ELECTORAL ALLIANCES

121

ately, from a high of 157 in 1962 to 127 in 1967, then to a disastrous 55 in 1969. T h e failure of the Congress p a rty to secure a m ajority of the seats in the last two elections is not ow ing to a loss of votes, b u t to their redistribution am ong opposition parties th a t have w orked together in electoral alliances w ith increasing skill. O ver the course of the five elections there have been only two significant shifts in statew ide voting patterns, one involving a decline in the nu m b er of unsuccessful parties and independents (from 22.37 p er­ cent of the vote in 1952 to a little m ore th an 10 percent in 1962, and to only 7 p ercent in 1969), the second being the corresponding increase in the percentage o f the vote secured by the C om m unist parties. T his last shift no t only indicates the success of the C om ­ m unist parties in wooing independent voters and supporters of small and unsuccessful groups during the first three elections, it also reaffirms the point m ade earlier, th a t the statew ide distribution of votes am ong various political parties has attain ed a rem arkable degree of con­ sistency, especially since 1962. T h e increase in the nu m b er of seats attain e d by the C om m unist and leftist parties in 1967 and 1969 m ust therefore be explained by an analysis of non-Congress electoral alliances, w hich have been designed to m ake the C om m unists and leftists m ore efficient in their effort to gain m ore an d m ore seats from a relatively fixed percentage of votes. E l e c t o r a l A llia n c e s F rom the very first election in 1952 the C om m unist and M arxist Left parties in W est Bengal were conscious of the need to prom ote leftist unity in order to outvote the Congress a t the polls, an d in every election they have been increasingly successful in devising electoral coalitions.6 In 1952 there were two attem pts a t leftist electoral alliances, the U n ited Socialist O rg an izatio n of In d ia (usoi) and the People’s U n ited Socialist F ro n t ( p u s f ) . T h e usoi was originally conceived as an alliance of all Left parties, b u t it broke dow n over questions of ideology an d strategy an d finally am ounted to an alliance betw een the c p i , the Socialist R epublicans (a small an d unsuccessful leftist p arty th a t was founded in 1947), an d the F orw ard Bloc. T h e p u s f was the ru m p of the usoi. I t consisted of the parties th a t were unable to reach an agreem ent w ith the C om m unists: the Socialist party, the r c p i , and the F orw ard B loc-R uikar. In the context o f the 1952 6 In a d d itio n to new spaper reports a n d interview s, from w hich m ost of the in fo rm a ­ tion on p a rty alliances was g a th ered , I have also consulted S ubim al Pal, “ T h e L eftist A lliance in W est B engal,” Indian Political Science Review 1 (A p ril-O c to b e r 1967): 169-190.

122

ELEC TO R A L POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W E R

elections the usoi was a g reat success. L argely because of electoral alliances in w hich the parties in the front agreed not to w ork against one another, the Com m unists secured 28 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the F orw ard Bloc 11, an d the Socialist R epublicans (ru nning as independent candidates) 4. T h e usoi therefore obtained a total of 43 seats in the new Legislative Assembly an d was easily the largest non-Congress bloc (Congress secured 152 seats out of 238). T h e p u s f , on the other hand, secured only 2 seats, w ith the result th a t two of the constituent parties in the p u s f (the Socialist p a rty and the r c p i ) eventually form ed electoral fronts w ith other leftist parties, while the third, the F orw ard B loc-R uikar, w ent ou t of existence. As a result of the relative success of the first electoral front in 1952, alm ost all the m inor political parties of Bengal attem p ted to organize or to jo in electoral fronts in 1957. T h e largest of the three 1957 alliances (the U n ited Left Election C om m ittee, or u l e c ) was again led by the c p i an d consisted of the five m ajor leftist parties a t th a t tim e: the c p i , p s p , r s p , F orw ard Bloc, an d F orw ard B loc-M arxist. O nce again the C om m unist-led electoral front gained the largest bloc of non-Congress seats (80 in a n assembly of 252) an d dw arfed b o th of the other electoral fronts. W hile the CPi-led u l e c was able to garner 80 seats in 1957, the noncom m unist U n ited Left F ro n t (consisting of the sue, Bolshevik, D em ocratic V an g u ard , an d R epublican parties) was able to gain only 2 seats, an d the U n ited D em ocratic People’s F ro n t (m ade up of the r c p i , the J a n Sangh, H in d u M ah asab h a, and a few in dependent Congressmen) failed to secure even one seat. As was the case in 1952, the parties in the noncom m unist Left front were seriously affected by their failure to present a challenge to the C om ­ m unists: both the sue an d the Bolshevik parties w ent into succeeding C om m unist-led electoral fronts, the D em ocratic V an g u ard m erged w ith the W orkers’ p arty of In d ia, w hich in tu rn w ent into a C om m unistled electoral front, an d the R ep u b lican p arty becam e inactive. By 1962 the p attern of leftist electoral fronts h ad therefore becom e quite predictable. I t was clear, for exam ple, th a t the largest leftist parties (the c p i , the F orw ard Bloc, an d the r s p ) could work together in electoral alliances and th a t they could either force sm aller leftist parties out of the electoral aren a or render them ineffective in term s of electoral politics. This point was driven hom e in the 1962 elections, w hen the Com m unist-led alliance of th a t year, the U n ited Left F ro n t (the nam e of the noncom m unist Left front in the 1957 elections, adopted by the c p i in 1962 for tactical reasons), consisted of the c p i , F orw ard Bloc, F orw ard B loc-M arxist, r s p , Bolshevik party, and r c p i . W hile the num ber of seats gained by the C om m unist-led electoral

ELECTORAL ALLIANCES

123

alliance dim inished in the 1962 elections (from 80 in 1957 to 72 in 1962), both the Socialist U n ity C entre an d the P raja Socialist party, the two m ajor Left parties th a t did not jo in leftist electoral fronts, suffered badly in term s of seats (the p s p declined from 21 seats in 1957 to 5 seats in 1962, an d the sue declined from 2 seats to none). By the tim e of the 1967 elections the sue was therefore ready to jo in the Com m unists, w hile the p s p (w hich has continued to stay ou t of electoral alliances) has never been able to recover the position it held in the first two G eneral Elections. T h e reasons for the success of the c p i in forging electoral fronts in the first three elections involve the use of p a rty funds for electoral purposes (the c p i has always been the w ealthiest o f the leftist parties) an d the g reater u n ity an d strength th a t it gained from its attach m en t to an all-In d ia p arty an d an in tern atio n al m ovem ent. T hese organiza­ tional aspects of leftist politics have been dealt w ith elsewhere in some detail, b u t at this p o in t it is im p o rta n t to note th a t the p re­ dom inance of the c p i in leftist electoral fronts h ad unquestionably been established by 1962 (see Figure 1). By the 1967 elections it was still necessary for the various leftist an d dem ocratic socialist parties of W est Bengal to engage in a g reat deal of negotiating in order to determ ine the kinds of electoral alliances they w ould join, b u t in the final analysis it was agreed th a t both of the electoral alliances to be created w ould be led by C om m unist parties. As a result of the split in the c p i in 1964, there w ere two electoral fronts in 1967: the People’s U n ite d Left F ro n t ( p u l f ) , led by the regular c p i , an d the U n ited Left F ro n t ( u l f ) , led by the c p m . As Figure 1 shows, these two electoral fronts w ere able to secure the cooperation of all of the significant M arxist Left parties of W est Bengal, an d of the Bangla Congress an d s s p as well. T h e only dem ocratic socialist p arty other th a n Congress th a t stood outside the two electoral fronts (the p s p ) was severely b eaten a t the polls. The 1967 Elections T h e 1967 elections in W est Bengal differed significantly from previous elections in a t least two respects: (1) for the first tim e in the history of the state a non-Congress dem ocratic socialist p arty (the Bangla Congress) em erged as an im p o rtan t factor in the elections; an d (2) this p a rty chose to ally itself w ith one of the C om m unist-dom inated electoral fronts, thus m aking it possible for the non-Congress opposition to com e to pow er. T h e im p act of the Bangla Congress on the 1967 elections can be seen in T ab le 5, w hich traces the gains (in term s of votes) m ade by each of the m ajor parties in the h ig h -tu rn o u t elections

Leftist Electoral Fronts in West Bengal (1952-1969) Communist-led Fronts

KD

4^

Noncommunist Left Fronts PUSF

Republican 1952 Socialistparty CPI Defunct] ULEC

Socialist 1952 party

FB 7 Split —7—V"

FB

RCPI

Joined rightist UDPF in 1957

( R uikar) D efunct |

ULF

1957

CPI

FB

F B (M )

W r M n H o >

f |-d O f H HH

>

ULF

1962

CPI

FB

F B (M )

RSP RCPI Bolshevik

1962 (none) SUC out of all coalitions in 1962

PSP withdrew from all fronts in 1962, split in 1964

1967

Congress CPI

Dem ocratic Vanguard merged with WPI

FB Bolshevik ; w~ CPM FB(M) RSP RCPI SSP SUC WPI

KEY'. — - — — Splits ' ..................... Mergers

F ig u r e 1 L e f t is t E l e c t o r a l F r o n t s in W e s t Bengal (1 9 5 2 -1 9 6 9 )

B 6 9 S I ,C P ,

FB Bolshevik

cpm fb (m ) r s p r c p i s s p

LSS

sue

w pi g l

^ Movem ent from noncommunist to Communist

2 O ► d O fhH H HH O > f ► d o s w

ELECTORAL ALLIANCES

125

T able 5 D if f e r e n c e s i n V o t e s P o l l e d b y M a j o r P a r t i e s i n W e s t B e n g a l L e g is l a t iv e A sse m b l y E l e c t io n s (1 9 6 2 a n d 1 9 6 7 )

P o litic a l P a r t y C ongress

1962 V o te s P o lle d

°/ /o V o te s

1967 V o te s \ P o lle d

°/ /o V o te s

D iffe re n c e (V o te s P o lle d )

SSP

4,522,476 47.29 2,386,834 24.96 (founded in 1964) (founded in 1966) 441,098 4.61 4.99 477,254 (founded in 1964)

5,198,743 933,407 2,255,229 1,325,013 491,704 221,181 327,888

41.13 6.531 18.11) 10.44 3.87 1.881 2.13/

O th e rs a n d in d ep en d en ts

1,735,739

18.15

1,925,409

15.91

+ 189,670

9,563,391

100.00

12,688,574

100.00

+ 3,125,183

CPI C PM

B an g la Congress FB PSP

T o ta l

+ 676,267 + 801,802 + 1,325,013 + 50,606 + 71,815

of 1967. A lm ost all of the parties in W est Bengal gained m ore votes in 1967 th an they h ad in 1962, b u t the Bangla Congress totals represented by far the largest increase. Congress was able to cap tu re only 676,267 ad d itio n al votes and the two C om m unist parties a total of 801,802, b u t the B angla Congress secured a w hopping total of 1,325,013, alm ost 42 p ercent of the additional votes cast in the 1967 elections. This alone w ould indicate th a t the Congress loss of 6.32 percent of the vote was picked up not by the C om m unist parties (for their percentage of the vote rem ained alm ost identical to w h at it was in the 1962 elections), b u t rath e r by the Bangla Congress, the dissident faction th a t had w ithdraw n from the Congress p a rty only in 1966. M oreover, while the B angla Congress cu t into the Congress totals, it also m ade gains a t the expense of other parties, am ounting to another 4.12 percent. T h e im p act of the Bangla Congress can be seen in another way, by looking a t the num bers an d percentages of seats won in W est Bengal in 1967 (see T ab le 6). I f the increased size of the state assembly in 1967 is taken into account (there were 280 seats in 1967, com pared to 252 in 1962), the Congress p a rty w ould have had to gain 176 seats in the new assembly to m ain tain the sam e percentage of seats th a t it h ad won in 1962, b u t in fact it gained only 127 seats, 49 less th a n it needed. A com parison w ith the figures for the other parties shows th a t the bulk of the seats lost by the Congress p a rty w ere picked up by the Bangla Congress, w hich won 34 seats. T h e two

126

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W ER

T able 6 D i f f e r e n c e s in N u m b e r o f S e a t s W o n in W e s t B e n g a l L e g i s l a t i v e A s s e m b ly E l e c t i o n s

1962 °/ Seats /o W on Seats

P arty C ongress CPI

157 50

62.3 19.9





CPM

B an g la C ongress

1967 °/ Seats /o W on Seats 127 16 43 34 13

(1962

and

A ctual D iffer­ ence in Seats (19621967)

1967)

Seats A djusted D iffer­ N eeded to M a in ­ ence in tain 1962 Seats P er­ (1962centage 1967)

45.4 5.7) 15.3/ 12.2 4.6 2.5

-3 0

176

+ 10

56

+ 34

unknow n 15 6

P SP

13 5

5.1 2.5

O th ers a n d in d ep en d en ts

27

10.2

39

14.3

+ 12

26

252

100.0

280

100.0

+ 28

280

FB

T o ta l

7



+ 2

-4 9 + 3 + 34 -2 + 1 + 14 — ■

C om m unist parties com bined gained 3 seats m ore th an the nu m b er needed to m aintain their previous positions in the assembly, an d the sm all M arxist Left parties an d the independents gained an ad d itio n al 14 seats. T h e overall picture is one of a narrow Congress defeat, partly because of the inability of the Congress to convert its m inority of votes into a m ajority of seats, b u t prim arily because of the em ergence of the Bangla Congress. In most p arty systems the Congress p a rty m ight have attem p ted to form a coalition governm ent after the 1967 elections, since it clearly h ad the largest nu m b er of seats in the new assembly (127 out of 280, the next largest p a rty being the c p m w ith 43 seats), an d since it was conceivable th a t some of the sm aller parties an d independents m ight have welcom ed a Congress-led Coalition. Indeed, the leader of the state Congress party, A tulya G hosh, was rum ored to have said shortly after the results were in th a t “ . . . i f the Prim e M inister w anted, the Congress w ould even form a coalition w ith the M arxist C om m unists.” 7 But in the final analysis the Congress received no encouragem ent from M rs. G andhi to enter into a coalition, an d form er Congress C hief M inister P. C. Sen stated flatly th a t he “ w ould prefer the P resident’s R ule to form ing a G overnm ent w ith the help of any other p a rty .” 8 In addition, the leaders of the non-Congress opposition w ere so ju b ila n t over the failure of the Congress to secure a 7 The Statesman, F e b ru a ry 25, 1967. 8 Ib id .

ELECTORAL ALLIANCES

127

m ajority th a t they quickly expressed their willingness to enter into a coalition governm ent. T h e U nited F ro n t governm ent of 1967 was therefore form ed by a coalition of fourteen parties and an independent, including all of the parties in the two C om m unist-led electoral fronts, plus the G u rk h a League, the Lok Sevak Sangh, and the p s p . Since the two electoral fronts h ad a com bined total of only 126 seats (1 less th an the Congress and 15 short of a m ajority), the votes of all three of the n o n -electo ral front parties plus the vote of one in d ep en d en t were necessary to m ain tain the U n ited F ront governm ent in power. U n d e r such circum stances it is not surprising th a t the U n ited F ront governm ent of 1967 fell a p a rt in less th an nine m onths, b u t the im pact of its experience in 1967 on the elections of 1969 can be seen from the fact th a t all b u t one of the parties th a t took p a rt in the U n ited F ro n t governm ent of 1967 were able to coalesce against the Congress in the 1969 elections. T h e elections of 1969 therefore represent the culm ina­ tion of attem pts a t unity on the p a rt of the non-Congress parties of W est Bengal, as is shown d ram atically in Figure 1. The 1969 Elections T h e 1969 elections in W est Bengal resulted in a decisive victory for the U n ited F ront, b u t they were m uch m ore com petitive th an the w ide gap in the nu m b er of seats w ould indicate. T h e front secured alm ost four times as m any seats as the Congress (214 to 55 for the Congress, w ith the rem aining 11 seats split betw een non-Congress, nonfront parties and independents), b u t the difference in the percen t­ age of votes secured by the front an d the Congress was less th an 10 percent (Congress gained 40.42 percent of the vote, com pared to the 49.7 percent of the vote gained by the U n ited F ro n t parties and independents). In alm ost a q u a rte r of the contests in w hich the C on­ gress and the front w ere p itted against one an o th er (65 of 270 con­ stituencies) the m argin betw een the two was less th an 5 percent, and in alm ost h a lf of them (another 117 of 270 constituencies) the gap betw een them was less th an 10 percent. This is not to m inim ize the decisiveness of the U nited F ro n t’s victory, for it won m ore th a n 90 of its seats by a m argin of 10 percent or m ore, b u t the voting figures p u t the extent of its victory in greater perspective. W h a t the election results did indicate was how m uch the electorate in W est Bengal had becom e polarized betw een the Congress p a rty and the C om m unist-dom inated front of leftists by the 1969 elections. Before the elections there was a feeling am ong some observers, and am ong m any politicians, th a t the voters of the state w ere looking for a th ird alternative, or a “ third force,” w hich could draw votes both from the Congress p a rty and from the U n ited Front. U nlike previous

128

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W E R

election years, therefore, there w ere a n u m b er o f new parties th a t cam e into being in the year or so before the elections, an d five of them opposed both the Congress an d the U n ited F ro n t in a n u m b er of constituencies. Tw o of them , the Progressive M uslim L eague an d the N ational P arty of Bengal, directed th eir appeals prim arily a t M uslim s, one (the Proutist party) fought the elections largely over regional and language issues, while the other two (Lok D al an d i n d f ) w ere essentially liberal socialist parties attem p tin g to jo in a w ide variety o f interests. T h e extent to w hich these parties were rejected by the electorate can be seen from the fact th a t o f the 372 candidates ru n n in g w ith the five parties, only 4 (1 m em ber o f the i n d f an d 3 from the Progressive M uslim League) w ere ultim ately victorious. T h e total vote polled by the five new parties was 242,651, or slightly m ore th a n 2 percent o f the vote. M ore th an 90 percent o f the candidates forfeited their deposits. T h a t the voters of the state have com e to conceive of the p arty system as the opposition o f the Congress an d the C om m unist-leftist front is also indicated by other d ata. T h e n u m b er o f independents contesting in 1969 was only 90, com pared to 602 in 1952, 346 in 1957, 324 in 1962, an d 327 in 1967. T h e nu m b er o f voters w ho voted for parties or independents other th a n the Congress or the C om m unistdom inated Left front was reduced to 10 percent (com pared to 45.02 percent in 1952, 31.35 percent in 1957, 29.84 percent in 1962, and 14.17 percent in 1967). For the first tim e since Independence, therefore, a coalition of leftist parties was able to face the Congress in virtually every constituency in the state (270 o f the 280 constituencies), in every one of w hich it ra n unopposed by other leftist parties. O n the other han d , the two leftist electoral fronts th a t ra n in the 1967 elections h ad opposed one an o th er in 126 constituencies, each dam aging the electoral efficiency of the other to a considerable extent. R e b u i ld i n g P a r t y S u p p o r t In light o f the severity of the C om m unist split in 1964 an d the public censure o f both the c p i an d the c p m following the Chinese attacks in 1962, two facets o f the electoral position of the Com m unists in the 1967 an d 1969 elections are p articu larly striking: (1) the ability o f the two C om m unist parties (and p articu larly the c p m ) to m ain tain their previous level o f electoral su p p o rt; an d (2) the willingness of the other opposition parties in W est Bengal to continue to form coalitions w ith the Com m unists in elections. T h e period im m ediately following the split in the c p i is rem em bered by most Bengali Com m unists as a tim e o f great disappointm ent, u ncertainty, an d frustration. F rom the tim e of the Chinese invasion un til the split in A pril 1964, m ost p a rty m em bers h ad been pre-

R EBU ILDIN G PA R T Y SUPPO RT

129

occupied w ith the events surrounding the intense factional conflicts w ithin the united c p i , b u t the m onths following the split were consum ed by an even m ore intense factionalism w ithin the two parties, w hich confronted each other in a struggle for survival. A n u m b er of respected p a rty com rades (including S hanti Sinha R oy, K halil Syed, an d Jolly K aul) h ad already renounced the com m unist m ovem ent by 1964, w hile old allies like the F orw ard Bloc h ad begun to search for n o n ­ com m unist political p artn ers.9 A C om m unist-led a tte m p t to stage a hartal in C alcu tta in M ay 1964 failed for the first tim e since In d ep en ­ dence to paralyze the city. T h e food dem onstrations staged by the c p i an d c p m in A ugust an d Septem ber were m ade up alm ost entirely of p arty regulars and generated far less p o p u lar support th a n the p arty h ad usually been able to m obilize on the food issue. N ot only h ad p arty m em bership decreased, b u t the support of peasants, workers, an d especially the u rb a n m iddle class h ad declined considerably. All of this was accom panied by a noticeable dem oralization in p a rty ranks. T h e m ost im p o rtan t factors in reversing this deterioration of the state com m unist m ovem ent, m aking it possible for the C om m unists to m a in tain their statew ide support, revive their electoral alliances, a n d eventually come to pow er in the state m inistries, were two events th a t h ad their origins beyond the borders of W est Bengal. T h e first of these was a series of arrests of m em bers of the Left faction w ithin the c p m , carried out by the central governm ent in late D ecem ber 1964 a n d early J a n u a ry 1965; the second was the reim position of P resident’s R ule in K erala in M arch 1965. Both the arrests of c p m m em bers and the proclam ation of P resident’s R ule in K erala w ere defended by central governm ent leaders as in “ the national interest.” But both w ere widely resented in W est Bengal. T h e decision to arrest m ore th an 900 m em bers of the c p m throughout In d ia , beginning w ith a w ave of arrests on the night of D ecem ber 30, 1964, was publicly a ttrib u te d to the In d ian H om e M inister, G. L. N an d a, although it was certainly carried out w ith the approval of the C abinet. N an d a argued th a t he was fully aw are of the possibility th a t the In d ia n governm ent m ight be bestow ing “ a halo of m a rty rd o m ” on the c p m , b u t in his words “ [it was] setting up clandestine ap p aratu s for subversive activities at such a speed th a t to smash it two or three m onths hence w ould have been a m ore painful operation th an the c u rre n t crackdow n.” 10 N an d a stated in P arliam ent and in radio 9 In D ecem b er 1964, the W est Bengal u n it o f the F o rw ard Bloc a ctu ally voted to m erge w ith the s s p , b u t this action was subsequently vetoed by a m arg in o f 6 8 to 52 a t an a ll-In d ia m eeting o f the F o rw a rd Bloc. See The Statesman, D ecem ber 21, 1964. 10 Q u o te d from a p re p a re d sta te m e n t b y N a n d a a n n o u n cin g th e arrests, published in ibid., J a n u a r y 1, 1965.

130

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W E R

broadcasts an d press conferences th a t the In d ia n governm ent had evidence of the reestablishm ent of “ tech cells” w ithin the c p m , th a t “ . . . the leaders of the p a rty have been p rep arin g the ran k an d file for an arm ed revolution an d guerrilla w arfare,” an d th a t th e c p m was attem p tin g to establish “ an overland link w ith C h in a” by organizing a netw ork of p arty cadres in the b order areas (including the “ Siliguri co rrid o r” connecting n o rth ern an d southern Bengal an d the centrally adm inistered territories of T rip u ra an d N ag alan d ). “ T h e object of the p a rty ,” according to N an d a, was “ to prom ote an in tern al revolution to synchronize w ith a fresh Chinese attack, destroying the dem ocratic governm ent of In d ia through a kind of pincer m ovem ent w hich . . . was hoped for b u t could not m aterialize in 1962.” 11 N a n d a ’s actions im m ediately m et w ith severe criticism thro u g h o u t W est Bengal an d other parts of In d ia. Jy o ti Basu, w ho h ad no t been arrested despite his p rom inent position in the c p m , im m ediately m et w ith President R ad h ak rish n an an d challenged the In d ia n governm ent to produce a w hite p ap er explaining the actions of the H om e M inistry, thus dram atizing the lack of substantive evidence provided by N a n d a in defense of the arrests. Basu stated publicly on a n u m b er of occasions th a t he w ould resign from the p a rty if the H om e M inister could provide convincing evidence th a t the c p m was engaged in subversive activities. In reaction to this challenge the H om e M inistry did p re­ pare a docum ent, w hich was placed before the In d ia n P arliam ent, b u t its accusations against the c p m tu rn ed out to be m uch m ore m oderate th a n N a n d a ’s previous statem ents an d noticeably lacking in evidence of “ subversive activities.” 12 T h e docum ent quoted a great deal of the rhetoric of the Left faction after the Chinese invasion, in addition to detailed Chinese statem ents of support for the c p m , b u t it failed to reveal anything th a t was no t know n or could not be surm ised ab o u t c p m activities. Even the anticom m unist Statesman was surprised a t “ the lack of anything concrete” in the statem ent of the H om e M inistry,13 an d N a n d a ’s only a tte m p t to com e to his own defense was a b la n d assertion to the effect th a t he h ad held a g reat deal back “ in the interests of security.” 14 Even the state governm ent was reportedly 11 Q u o tatio n s from N a n d a ’s b ro ad c ast to the n a tio n on A ll-In d ia R ad io , th e full tex t o f w hich ap p ears in ibid., J a n u a r y 3, 1965. 12 F o r th e full text o f the forty-five-page statem en t, w hich was also p u b lish ed a n d w idely c ircu lated th ro u g h o u t In d ia by th e H o m e M inistry, see G o v e rn m e n t o f In d ia , M in istry o f H o m e Affairs, Anti-National Activities o f Pro-Peking Communists and Their Preparations fo r Subversion and Violence (N ew D elhi, 1965). 13 F e b ru a ry 19, 1965. 14 F o r N a n d a ’s defense in P a rlia m e n t, see Lok Sabha Debates, M a rc h 12, 1965. In J u n e 1969, after the c p m cam e to pow er in W est Bengal, N a n d a a rg u e d th a t his decision to a rrest the c p m in 1964-1965 h a d been based on “ faulty in tellig en ce” ; see the Hindusthan Standard (C a lc u tta daily), J u n e 18, 1969.

REBU ILDIN G PA R T Y SUPPO RT

131

surprised a t this series of sudden arrests o f C om m unists long after the Chinese th re a t to In d ia h ad subsided in the public m ind, an d the C hief M inister o f W est Bengal (P. C. Sen) was reported to have said to Jy o ti Basu th a t he could provide no explanation beyond the thought th a t “ there m ust have been some reason.” In this atm osphere the In d ia n press began to speculate th a t the Congress governm ent a t the national level h ad been m otivated by in tern al political considerations. Tw o theories ab o u t the arrests were (and still are) widely cu rren t in In d ia. O ne of these is th a t N an d a h ad sought to influence in tern al factionalism w ithin the c p m by placing m em bers o f the Left faction in prison, in this w ay allow ing c p m centrists to gain control of p a rty com m ittees in m uch the sam e m an n er as the R ig h t faction h ad seized control of the c p i m achinery in 1962— 1963. T his theory was all the m ore plausible because N an d a h ad not arrested p ro m in en t centrist leaders (such as E. M . S. N am boodiripad an d Jy o ti Basu), and it was given even greater credence by m em bers of the Left C om m unist faction w ho blam ed Basu an d N am boodiripad for their arrests, in m uch the same m an n er as they h ad previously blam ed D an g e.15 T h e second theory revolved aro u n d the electoral position of the c p m in K erala, w here elections for the state Legislative Assembly w ere scheduled for M arch 1965. T h e c p m an d its electoral allies in K erala w ere particularly effective in arguing th a t N an d a h ad staged the arrests to cripple the c p m in the K erala election cam paign, an d the c p m ultim ately m ade considerable gains in the elections as a result of this issue.16 In the 1965 elections in K erala the c p m em erged as the largest single state p arty (w inning 40 of 126 seats), despite the fact th a t 27 of the successful c p m candidates ra n while still u n d er detention. T h e electoral success of the c p m in K erala in 1965 was not great enough to allow the C om m unists to readily form a second coalition m inistry a t th a t time, b u t it was clear th a t the c p m h ad outpolled the Congress an d h ad seriously dam aged the regular c p i in K erala, w hich w on only two seats. Perhaps m ore im p o rtan t, both the In d ian opposition parties and In d ia n journalists were convinced th a t N a n d a ’s arrests of c p m leaders before the election h ad been responsible for c p m gains. W hen N an d a refused to release even the detainees w ho h ad won in the state elections in order th a t they m ight p articip ate in attem pts to form a m inistry, there was a ra th e r farcical debate in the In d ia n 15 See Basu Joins the Revisionists (C a lc u tta : n .p ., 1965), a cyclostyled p a m p h le t c irc u la ted b y som e o f the m ore extrem ist m em bers of the L eft faction. See also The Statesman, F e b ru a ry 5, 1965. 16 T h e c p m position on the arrests— b o th as regards th e c en tral g o v ern m en t sta te ­ m en ts a n d th e role o f the c p i — is detailed in E. M . S. N a m b o o d irip a d , What Really Happened in Kerala: The Story o f the Disruptive Game Played by Right-wing Communists (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1966); see especially p p . 7-11, 55-59.

13 2

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W E R

Lok S ab h a in w hich opposition M Ps argued ab o u t w hether N a n d a h ad “ ru n am ok” or h ad “ gone m a d .” 17 A nd w hen P resident’s R ule was subsequently proclaim ed again in K erala, only three weeks after the elections an d before the release of the c p m detainees, a n u m b e r of opposition p a rty leaders w alked out of the Lok S abha in protest against w hat they called “ the d eath of the In d ia n C onstitution.” 18 T h e reaction of the opposition parties in W est Bengal to the c p m arrests an d the proclam ation of P resident’s R ule in K e ra la in 1965 was perhaps even m ore severe th an it was in the rest of In d ia, an d in m any ways it was rem iniscent of the response of state political leaders to the W est Bengal Security Bill in 1948. N ot only h ad Bengalis tired of con­ stan t references to the “ Chinese th re a t” by state an d central Congress leaders (whose program s had been seriously affected by the in v asio n ); they were also concerned w ith the possibility th a t such m easures as the Defence of In d ia Rules, preventive detention, an d P resident’s R ule m ight be used against M arxist Left parties as well as against Com m unists. In the words of K an ai B h attach ary a of the F orw ard Bloc, his p arty h ad favored arrests of the c p i during the tim e w hen the Chinese w ere “ active aggressors,” b u t “ in the absence of an im m ediate th re a t it w ould only have been fair for the G overnm ent to have placed the C om m unists on trial rath e r th a n using em ergency powers th a t were no longer needed.” 19 In the W est Bengal Leglisative Assembly, not one m em ber of the M arxist Left or C om m unist opposition parties w ould defend the actions of the H om e M inister, and m ost opposition leaders were vociferous in their condem nation of the arrests an d the handling of the K erala events. In the m onths following the arrests, the M arxist Left and C om m unist parties of W est Bengal began to cooperate in p lanning a series of dem onstrations, w hich took place in late Ju ly 1965 an d linked state econom ic issues w ith protests against the Defence of In d ia Rules, preventive detention, and P resident’s R ule. M ost of the leftist leaders of Bengal who had rem ained outside the jails since the Chinese invasion now began to court arrest in a series o f protest m ovem ents and violent activities. W ithin a year of the arrests and the events in K erala, it was clear th a t C om m unist alliances w ith the M arxist Left parties of Bengal had been com pletely restored an d p arty organizations rebuilt, largely on the basis of these dem onstrations. T h e “ re tu rn ” of the leftists as a pow erful force in state politics was dram atically dem onstrated in the Bengal bundh (a m ovem ent for com plete stoppage of norm al activities) of M arch 1966, w hich

17 Lok Sabha Debates, M a rc h 10, 1965. 18 Ib id ., M a rc h 24, 1965. 19 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, M a y 7, 1965.

REBU ILDIN G PA R T Y SUPPORT

133

was the culm ination of alm ost three m onths of agitational activities on the p a rt of the leftist parties, indisputably led by the cadre of the c p m . 20 In p rep aratio n for the bundh, mass agitation was en­ couraged on a host of issues— food shortages, price increases, release of political detainees, redress of teacher and student grievances, an d protest against the Defence of In d ia Rules an d P resident’s R ule in K erala, am ong others— frequently joined to enhance the size and i. m ilitancy of a given dem onstration. T h e m ovem ent started in J a n u a ry 1 9 6 6 w ith frequent rallies and dem onstrations held by leftist parties to create the necessary tem po an d tension for a massive onslaught on the adm inistration. Every possible grievance of the state population was discussed in bitter, angry tones until feelings h ad been w orked up to a high pitch am ong a nu m b er of the m ajor segments of the state population (students, teachers, peasants, clerks, bank employees). O n ly after considerable support had already been generated did the c p m begin to escalate the level of violence and m ilitancy in m idF ebruary. O n F eb ru ary 1 6 , 1 9 6 6 , 6 m en were injured in a police firing a t B asirhat, a C om m unist stronghold in 24-Parganas, and violence im m ediately broke ou t all over 24-Parganas. W hen a student was killed by the police the following day a t S w arupnagar, an o th er u rb an stronghold of the c p m in 24-Parganas, people began raiding m arkets to get food an d kerosine (both of w hich h ad been severely rationed), an d the “ v a n g u a rd ” of the raiders then becam e young college students, ag itated over the death of the student a t S w arupnagar. O n F eb ru ary 19 students began to attack colleges w ith the intention of closing them dow n until the police explained the shooting, and by this tim e the regular c p m cadre had also initiated a series of attacks on police stations an d the offices of block developm ent officers in ru ral areas of 24Parganas. O n F eb ru ary 22 all educational institutions in W est Bengal were closed, while students thro u g h o u t the state held “ M arty rs’ D ay ” cerem onies. W hen an a ttem p t was m ade to reopen the schools on M arch 2, the result was again massive rioting. A nother student was shot by the police at K rish n ag ar (in N adia D istrict), an d all schools w ere again closed on M arch 5. After this second death, m ob rule prevailed in N ad ia for alm ost a week: two policem en were killed, the K rish n ag ar m orgue was broken into, the body of the dead student was taken out in procession, an d num erous buildings in K rishnagar 20 T h is acco u n t o f th e Bengal bundh is d ra w n largely from new spaper reports, articles, a n d interview s b u t is heav ily d e p e n d e n t on the excellent analysis (in four p arts) b y K e d a r G hosh, A m a le n d u D as G u p ta , a n d P ra sa n ta S arkar, “ T h e Bengal Bundh: A n A n alaysis,” The Statesman, M a rc h 28-31, 1965. All figures a n d quotatio n s n o t otherw ise n o ted are taken from this series of articles.

13 4

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W ER

w ere set on fire (including the railw ay station, all banks, 22 governm ent buildings, and the hom e of a Congress m inister.) O n M arch 10 people converged on C alcu tta from all over W est Bengal, form ing a procession of protest two miles long an d com pletely p a r­ alyzing the city and m uch of the state for the next three days. These three days h ad been p lanned by the leftists as the culm ination of the bundh, b u t the people’s response surprised even the m ost optim istic of the leftist leaders. D uring this m onth of alm ost constant violence the W est Bengal Legislative Assembly was in chaos m ost of the tim e: the legislative highlights of the m onth included incidents w here opposition leaders snatched the budget speech from the hands of the state Finance M inister, riots in the Legislative Assembly th a t resulted in the forcible ouster of 16 M LAs, and the arrest of 30 m em bers of the state assembly u n d er the Defence of In d ia Rules. D am age to railways an d trains in W est Bengal d uring this period was estim ated a t m ore th an 6 m illion rupees, dam age to central governm ent property alone was estim ated at m ore th a n a crore (10 m illion rupees), an d losses in term s of national incom e m erely for the three days of the bundh in C alcutta were estim ated by The Statesman a t 6.5 crores (65 m illion rupees). T h e most conservative estim ates placed the d eath toll for the dem onstrations at 39 w ith 5500 arrests, figures th a t w ould have been m uch greater had auxiliary police not been called in periodically from other states and the In d ian arm y not been present in W est Bengal for alm ost a m onth. M ost em barrassing for the Congress p arty w ere the serious disagreem ents th a t developed betw een state an d central leaders as to how to cope w ith the m ovem ent, w ith C hief M inister P. C. Sen attem p tin g to prevent either M rs. G andhi or H om e M inister N an d a from appearing in C alcutta, on the assum ption (which proved correct) th a t their appearance w ould only w ork to the advantage of the leftists. T h e C hief M inister and several of his colleagues threatened to resign a t several points because of disagreem ents w ith the central governm ent ab o u t procedures for dealing w ith the riots, an d in consequence the state adm inistration was frequently leaderless and confused, w hich in tu rn forced it to rely all the m ore on the arm y and the police.21 21 In d ica tiv e o f the confusion th a t prev ailed am o n g state a n d c e n tral leaders was an in cid en t involving M r. S a m a r G u h a, secretary o f th e state p s p a n d a M e m b e r o f P a rlia m e n t. G u h a h a d m ad e a n a p p o in tm e n t to m eet M rs. G a n d h i a t D u m D u m A irp o rt to offer his good offices, d u rin g h er stopover in C a lc u tta on h er re tu rn from A ssam in M a rch . But an h o u r before his a p p o in tm en t, G u h a was arrested a n d d eta in e d by th e state governm ent, even th o u g h his p a rty h a d never p a rtic ip a te d in th e Bengal bundh. See S u b im al Pal, “ T h e Leftist A lliance in W est B engal,” p. 173.

PA R T Y FACTIONALISM A N D FOOD POLICY

135

T h e C o n te x t o f E l e c t o r a l A l l i a n c e s : P a r t y F a c t i o n a l i s m a n d F o o d P o lic y A fter its success in leading the Bengal bundh, w hich encouraged both of the strong factions w ithin the party, the c p m in W est Bengal becam e even m ore seriously divided th a n it h ad been previously over questions of electoral versus m ore revolutionary strategies. T h e cen­ trists pointed to the bundh as proof that;', the c p m could im m ediately lead an alliance of leftist parties to positions of state political pow er in the F eb ru ary 1967 G eneral Elections by capitalizing on the dis­ content th a t h ad been generated. But the Left faction saw the bundh as fu rth er evidence of a bottom less w ellspring of discontent whose ex­ ploitation d em anded a m ore revolutionary strategy. In the final analysis the c p m split again (in 1969) on this issue, w ith a portion of the Left faction going into the c p m l , while the bulk of the p a rty continued to pursue an electoral strategy. But in the sum m er of 1966 both factions were still in the c p m , an d the p a rty was faced w ith the need to unite behind a political strategy th a t w ould provide a solution to the vexing problem of electoral alliances. T h e problem of devising a c p m electoral strategy for 1967 was further com plicated by the rap id changes in the political environm ent th a t followed the Chinese an d Pakistani w ar skirmishes of 1962 an d 1965. W ith in less th a n a year after the Indo-P akistani conflict of 1965, W est Bengal h ad witnessed the first Bengal bundh, a m ajor split in the state Congress party, an d the form ation of the Bangla Congress, all of w hich im pinged on the electoral strategies of the Left parties. M oreover, these dom estic political events w ere intim ately related to the food crisis th a t h ad begun to develop in W est Bengal in 1964 an d h ad reached serious proportions in 1966, an effect of the recession th a t h ad hit In d ia in the w ake of two m ajor land battles. D u rin g the decade 1951-1961 the population of W est Bengal (excluding P urulia, w hich was added in 1956) increased by 32.2 percent, com pared w ith an all-In d ia average increase of 21.6 percent. T his increase was largely the result of the influx into W est Bengal of m ore th a n four m illion H in d u refugees from East Pakistan in the period following partition. A high rate of population grow th alone w ould have been enough to produce serious food shortages in W est Bengal, b u t p artitio n h ad created other food problem s as well. A fter 1947 W est Bengal was forced to shift a considerable portion of its arable lan d (11.4 percent by 1964-1965) from food crops to cash crops— principally ju te and m esta— in an attem p t to restore sources of in ­ dustrial supply th a t had been cut off by the creation of an international

136

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W E R

b o u n d ary betw een the two Bengals.22 Since Independence, therefore, the population of W est Bengal has been increasing at a faster ra te th an the population in the rest of In d ia, w hile m ore an d m ore of its lan d has been diverted from the grow ing of food. A lread y deficient in food at the tim e of p artitio n , W est Bengal has grow n m ore an d m ore dependent on other areas of In d ia to supply it, w hile the erratic fluctuations in crop production th a t have ch aracterized all of In d ia since Independence have been even m ore pronounced in W est Bengal th a n they have been elsewhere. C om plicating the political aspects of food policy in this environm ent is the specter of the Bengal fam ine of 1943, one of the w orst in the history of In d ia, an d the em otions surrounding the p artitio n of 1947, w hich is alm ost universally blam ed for W est Bengal’s food shortages.23 In the mid-1960s, the unqualified opposition of B engal’s leftist politicians to the laissez-faire attitu d e of the state Congress p a rty on the food issue added to the highly charged atm osphere. A fter In d e p e n ­ dence the W est Bengal governm ent h a d pursued a food policy rem arkably free of governm ent interference, even in the operation of the food-grain m arket. R atio n in g h ad been introduced in Bengal in 1944 by the M uslim L eague m inistry headed by H. S. S uhraw addy, b u t S u h raw ad d y ’s rationing schemes h a d been so discredited (his m en ra n the ratio n shops) th a t the W est Bengal governm ent h a d encountered little difficulty in abolishing them . M oreover, leftist opposition groups tended to center on food policy issues because they directly involved the m ost powerful Congress leaders in the state governm ent: C hief M inister P. C. Sen held the Food portfolio in the C abinet from 1948, shortly after Independence, right up until the Congress governm ent fell in 1967. Indeed, the Congress h ad based its electoral organizations in W est Bengal on a n u m b er of groups th a t w ere especially significant in the state food production an d distribution n e tw o rk : large an d small landholders, millowners, the transport industry, an d a host of shop­ keepers an d m erchants. Because of the severity of the state’s food problem s, the political efficacy of the state Congress food policy had been tested by a n u m b er of food crises in the 1950s, b u t in spite of the vigilance of the opposition on this issue, the ability of the Congress to w eather the crises h ad never been questioned. 22 T h e effects o f p a rtitio n on W est Bengal have never been fully traced , b u t for an in tro d u c to ry (an d p artisan ) sta te m e n t see B idhan C h a n d ra R oy, Towards a Prosperous India (C a lc u tta : P u lin b eh a ri Sen, 1964), p p . 297-310. 23 F o r th e em otions su rro u n d in g fam ine a n d p a rtitio n , see T u sh a r K a n ti G hosh, The Bengal Tragedy, 1st ed. (L ah o re: H ero P ublications, 1944) a n d Recurrent Exodus o f Minorities from East Pakistan and Disturbances in Itidia: A Report (N ew D elh i: In d ia n C om m ission o f Ju rists, 1965), pp. 1-20, 283-308.

P A R T Y FACTIONALISM A N D FOOD POLICY

137

In 1964, how ever, food prices began to rise rapidly thro u g h o u t In d ia, an d scarcity was felt no t only by consum ers b u t also by w hole­ salers, millers, an d retailers, despite bu m p er crops in rice an d other food grains.24 T h e reasons for this series of events have continued to be w idely debated th ro u g h o u t In d ia, b u t the W est Bengal governm ent was one of the first to offer the official explanation th a t this was “ artificial scarcity in the m idst of p len ty .” 25 In m id-M ay 1964, Food M inister P. G. Sen (who h ad also been C hief M inister since the d eath of B. G. R oy in J u ly 1962) stated th a t there was “ no reason why rice should be scarce” an d argued th a t “ a ring was operating to sabotage the state’s food policy.” 26 W hile the C hief M inister could no t identify the speculators who engaged in such “ sabotage,” he was convinced th a t the food crisis h ad been b ro u g h t ab o u t by “ an unholy com bination of a section of jotedars [large landholders] and rice m illow ners” who were attem p tin g “ to h o ard food now, in the expecta­ tion of greater profits later o n .” 27 C hief M inister Sen could also give no reason for such an a tte m p t a t “ conspiracy” in 1964, after seventeen years of relatively free trading in food grains, b u t a t times indicated th a t he was “ m ystified” a t the sharp increase in food prices and the sharp decline in food supply th a t characterized all of In d ia in a year o f excellent harvests.28 In response to the food crisis of 1964-1965, Sen began to introduce a series of rationing an d price-control schemes, w hich eventually led to a system of cordoning in 1965 by m eans of w hich the state govern­ m ent hoped to control the distribution and the price of food grains (principally rice an d w heat) in the large conurbation aro u n d C alcutta. T h e initial scheme called for a double cordon aro u n d C alcutta, involving 1000 m en a t 130 checkpoints on the streets leading in a n d o u t of the city an d 15 traveling units checking railw ay cars and

24 T h e n a tu re o f th e 1964-1965 a ll-In d ia food crisis is su m m arized in M ich ael B recher, Nehru’s M antle: The Politics o f Succession in India (N ew Y ork: P raeger, 1966), p p . 138-150. B recher also outlines th e m ajo r positions in the d e b a te over the origins o f th e crisis. 25 Q u o te d from a statem en t by the state Food M in istry in The Statesman, M a y 12, 1964. 26 Q u o te d in ibid., M a y 16, 1964. 27 P. C. Sen, New Dimensions: A Selection ( 1964-65) o f Speeches and Statements o f the Chief Minister o f West Bengal (C a lc u tta : G o v ern m en t o f W est Bengal, 1966), p. 181. 28 O n e o f S en ’s political supporters a n d advisors, a n econom ist ed u ca te d in L on d o n , a rg u e d in a p riv ate interview th a t Sen h a d m anifested “ te m p o ra ry insan ity on the food issue,” since all of his political a n d econom ic advisors h a d tried to dissuade him from his ra tio n in g a n d co rd o n in g schem e in 1965-1966. Sen him self a d m itte d p riv ately after th e 1967 elections th a t his food policy d u rin g these years was “ c ertain ly a political m istake, p ro b a b ly a n econom ic one to o .”

138

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W E R

passengers.29 T h e area th a t was cordoned off was as m uch as 90 miles aro u n d (30 to 40 miles long an d 2 to 5 miles wide) an d contained some o f the densest u rb a n conglom erations in all of Asia. T h e object of the cordon was to restrict the m ovem ent of food grains into the city of C alcu tta to those w ho were licensed by the state governm ent to tran sp o rt an d sell them , an d anyone who entered C alcu tta w ith 6 ounces or m ore of rice or w heat was to be arrested by the police as a “ h o a rd e r” or a “ black m ark eteer.” Inside the city of C alcu tta a series of fair-price shops was established by the state governm ent on a break-even basis, an d wholesalers w ho intended to sell food grains in C alcu tta were required to sell them to the governm ent a t established prices. O utside the city food grains w ere procured by the state governm ent from millers a t fixed prices. In 1965 this policy was a relative success, largely because the m ark et price of rice was low er th a n it was in C alcu tta an d the m achinery for the elaborate p ro cu rem en t an d rationing operations was ru n thro u g h millers w ho were Congress supporters in the ru ra l areas an d w ho gained from the policy a t the expense of the mills inside C alcu tta .30 W hile the policy did alienate some of the millowners in the city an d its su b u rb an areas, since they h ad difficulty getting p ad d y (unprocessed rice) to their mills, it was extrem ely popular w ith most o f the residents, who were now being provided w ith food grains at constant prices below the m ark et level. As a result of the success of the C alcu tta scheme, C hief M inister Sen attem p ted to expand it in 1966 to a nu m b er of other areas th ro u g h o u t the state, b u t at this point he ra n into a series o f difficulties. T h e 1966 scheme called for m onopoly procurem ent by the governm ent of W est Bengal or its agents (panchayats an d cooperatives) of the m arketable surplus of p ad d y for the entire year, from all rice-producing areas. No private trad e r was to be allow ed to buy paddy, an d a 100 percent levy was to be im posed on all rice m ills.31 All the producers o f p ad d y thro u g h o u t W est Bengal were asked to surrender their m arketable surplus of paddy to the governm ent a t fixed prices; this surplus was to be determ ined by a fairly com plex system based on a table th a t had been w orked out by an advisory com m ittee o f the state Food M inistry 29 T h e C a lc u tta co rdoning schem e is o u tlin ed in The Statesman, D ecem ber 23, 1964, a n d D ecem ber 24, 1964. See also Sen, New Dimensions, pp. 177-180. 30 E v aluations of the C a lc u tta co rd o n in g schem e a p p e a re d in The Statesman on J u n e 24, 1965, an d J u ly 26, 1965. See also K . R a n g a c h a ri, “ Food Crisis Goes b u t D a n g er R e m a in s,” ibid., A pril 24, 1965. 31 T h e 1966 state food policy is o u tlin ed in P. C. Sen, From Here to New Horizons: A Selection ( 1965-66) o f Speeches and Statements by the Chief Minister o f West Bengal (C a lc u tta : P ublicity A dvisor to the C h ief M inister, G o v e rn m e n t o f W est B engal, 1967), p p . 174-181.

PA R T Y FACTIONALISM A N D FOOD POLICY

139

(see T able 7). Those w ith the poorest (nonirrigated) an d smallest plots of land were to be allow ed to retain m ost of their harvested pad d y for their own personal use, while those w ith the best (irrigated) and largest plots of lan d w ould be required to sell their m arketable surplus to the state governm ent a t fixed rates. For rationing purposes the state governm ent divided the population into five categories, providing rations throughout the year to* those who ow ned no pad d y lan d an d for shorter periods of tim e as the size of holdings increased.32 A nyone w ho ow ned m ore th an four acres of nonirrigated land or m ore th an three acres o f irrigated land was to receive no rice rations. T able 7 W est B e n g a l M a r k e t a b l e S u r p l u s T a b l e , P a d d y P ro curem ent O r d e r , D ecem ber 1966

L an d O w ned (N onirrigated)

L an d O w ned (Irrigated)

Levy (M arketable Surplus)

2 acres o r less 2 -3 acres 3 -5 acres 5 -1 0 acres

1^ acres or less

none 1^ q uintals* p e r acre 2 q u in tals p e r acre 3 q u in tals p e r acre 3^ q u in tals p e r acre 4 q u in ta ls p e r acre 4^ q u in ta ls p e r acre 6 q u in ta ls p e r acre 8 q u in ta ls p e r acre 9 q u in ta ls p e r acre

10-25 acres —



---------

1 |—2 acres —

2 -3 acres









3 -5 acres 5 -7 acres 7-10 acres 10-25 acres * 1 q u in ta l = 220.46 pounds Source: The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily ), N o v em b er 18, 1965.

W hen this scheme was drafted, it was expected by the Food M inistry th a t the state governm ent w ould be able to procure 1.5 m illion tons of p ad d y : 800,000 tons from rice mills, 150,000 tons from ru ral credit cooperatives, an d 550,000 tons from other agencies (panchayats and husking m ills).33 T h e P addy Levy O rd e r th a t w ent into effect on D ecem ber 1, 1965, therefore directed all producers to tu rn over to the governm ent the am o u n t of their levy (based on the table) by M arch 31, 1966. T h e producer was to sell his p ad d y either to a rice m iller, a 32 R a tio n in g procedures a re o u tlin ed in ibid., pp. 178-179. 33 See C h ief M in ister Sen’s sta te m e n t in th e West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, N o v em b er 29, 1965.

140

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W ER

ru ra l credit cooperative, a panchayat, or a husking mill, an d the state governm ent w ould in tu rn procure the p ad d y from these four sources. In an a tte m p t to benefit the ru ra l poor, the state governm ent did p erm it the purchase of p ad d y by cooperatives a n d panchayats from those w ho ow ned small plots of lan d b u t still chose to sell th eir produce to th e governm ent. In this w ay, the state governm ent argued, ru ral poor w ho h ad often been forced to sell or give aw ay th eir p ad d y at deflated prices (in order to m eet ru ra l debts) could benefit.34 I t w ould be difficult to sum m arize all the difficulties th a t confronted the state governm ent in its a tte m p t to im plem ent this elaborate schem e of rationing and procurem ent. O n th e day it was to go into effect, a Statesman editorial said . . . alm ost every section of the S tate’s ag ricu ltu ral com m unity appears to be confused an d alarm ed on the eve of the p a d d y p ro cu rem en t drive. B oth the district adm inistration an d the Congress workers have failed d u rin g all these weeks to offer a clear picture of the G o v ern m en t’s policy to the farm ers. As a result, a sort of contagious fear has g ripped the farm ers, a n d to evade p ro cu re­ m ent in m any districts they have alread y started the process of harvesting m uch before schedule.35

O n e of the problem s of the state governm ent stem m ed from the dis­ crepancy betw een the prices it offered producers— 15 to 17 rupees per maund (82.28 pounds), depending on quality— an d those they could secure on the open m arket, w hich w ere 35 rupees per maund an d u p .36 Because of this discrepancy, m ost large landholders either tried to harvest their crops early, before the p ro curem ent drive started, or else tried to smuggle p ad d y through state cordons to Bihar, w here there w ere fam ine conditions, or even to Pakistan. D istrict adm inistrators were overw helm ed w ith the enormousness o f the task placed before them , an d evasion was so great th a t by late J a n u a ry m ore th a n h a lf o f the W est Bengal police force (30,000 out of 55,000 m en) h ad been assigned full tim e to the cordoning o p eratio n .37 W hen arrests failed to stem the tide of evasion, C hief M inister Sen began to m ake concessions to some groups. Sm all landholders (ow ning up to five acres of irrigated land or seven acres o f nonirrigated land) w ere exem pted from the procurem ent levy on D ecem ber 13,38 an d a 34 35 36 37 38

Sen, From Here to New Horizons, p. 177. D ecem ber 1, 1965. A jit R oy, “ P ro c u rem e n t Problem s in W est B engal,” ibid., D ecem b er 10, 1965. The Statesman, J a n u a r y 23, 1966. Ib id ., D ecem ber 14, 1965.

ALLIANCE W IT H THE BA N G LA CONGRESS

141

week later district m agistrates were perm itted to reduce the am o u n t of levy for any landholder at their own discretion “ if they were satisfied th a t on a p articu lar holding the yield was lower th a n the average.” 39 In late D ecem ber rice millers w ere allow ed to purchase certain am ounts of p ad d y on the open m ark et; in m id -Jan u ary 1966 p ro curem ent prices were raised across the b o a rd ; and a t the end of M arch, after the massive Bengal bundh, the C hief M inister lifted the cordon from the entire district of 24-Parganas and from several cities in the u rb a n b elt.40 Instead of the 1.5 m illion tons th a t the state governm ent had hoped to procure by M arch 31, it was able to procure only 500,000 tons, w ith the result th a t ratio n shops were alm ost always w ithout ad eq u ate supplies and the black m arket in food grains flourished at even higher prices th an the m arket level.41 T o com plicate the situation still further, rainfall in W est Bengal in 1966 was lower th a n in any year since 1922,42 creating a d ro u g h t th a t virtually elim inated the entire w inter crop in some districts, and in the m idst of the dro u g h t the central governm ent devalued the rupee and set in m otion a small inflation in the cities.43 In this atm osphere it is not surprising th a t the leftist parties w ere able to carry out the Bengal bundh in M arch 1966 or th a t they were able to stage two m ore successful hartals (in A pril and Septem ber) in protest against food policy. N or is it surprising th a t a factional dispute th a t h ad earlier developed w ithin the Congress p a rty led to a split at this m om ent. T h e A llia n c e w ith th e B a n g la C o n g r e ss P rior to the sum m er of 1966 the Congress p a rty in W est Bengal was one of the m ost cohesive state Congress units in India. A lthough it had experienced a split in 1950 and a m ajor factional dispute in the m id1950s, for the m ost p a rt the various interests w ithin the p arty had m anaged to accom m odate themselves to each other w ith a m inim um of public quarreling. Indeed, shortly after the C om m unist p arty split in 39 Ib id ., D ecem ber 22, 1965. 40 Ib id ., J a n u a r y 18, 1966, a n d A pril 2, 1966. 41 Ib id ., A pril 22, 1966, p. 1. 42 Ib id ., M a y 21, 1966. 43 W h en the ru p ee was d ev alu ed in J u n e 1966, The States?nan re p o rte d : “ Seldom has a G o v e rn m e n t m easure since In d e p e n d en c e caused so m u ch general concern in C a lc u tta as d ev alu atio n of the rupee, effective from M o n d ay . T h e re was alm ost g en eral ag re em e n t th a t the m easure w ould create fresh problem s. C o m m o d ity m ark e t w atchers, businessm en, industrialists, exporters a n d econom ists held th a t gen eral c o m m o d ity prices w ere b o u n d to rise. . . .” (Ju n e 7, 1966.) F o r a C om m unist in te r­ p re ta tio n o f d ev alu atio n see B. T . R an ad iv e, The Devaluation Surrender (C a lc u tta : N a tio n a l Book A gency, 1966).

142

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W ER

1964, the political correspondent for The Statesman underscored the degree of unity th a t had been achieved by the Congress in W est B en g al: W hen m ost Congress parties in o ther states are riven by factional quarrels an d plagued by the corroding distrust betw een leaderships . . W est Bengal has been an oasis of cooperation an d m u tu al tolerance. . . . T h e state p c c is now a m ore closely knit organization th a n ever a n d in consequence the leadership enjoys a u nique position on the all-In d ia scene.44

W ithin a year a factional dispute did erupt, w hich was eventually to give b irth to the Bangla Congress, b u t it is im p o rta n t to note th a t the Bangla Congress was not form ed until the breakdow n of P. C. Sen’s food policies provided it w ith massive potential support. T h e dispute th a t arose w ithin the state Congress in J u ly 1965 centered aro u n d the procedure th a t was to be used for enrolling Congress m em bers in M id n ap o re D istrict, w ith the M idnaporians charging the leadership of the state p a rty w ith an a tte m p t to p ad the district’s rolls w ith m em bers loyal to A tulya Ghosh. T h e principal protagonists in the dispute were G hosh an d Ajoy M ukherjee of M id n a ­ pore, old friends who h ad fought together since the 1920s as G andhians and Congress nationalists. M ukherjee was the unquestioned leader of the district Congress unit, and the leadership of the state p a rty had always been well aw are of the crucial position th a t he held, since M id n ap o re was the second largest district in W est Bengal. M ukherjee h ad been given the Irrig atio n portfolio in every Congress C abinet since Independence and in m id -1964 h ad been unanim ously elected president of the state Congress party. But in m id -1965 a nu m b er of Congress p arty m em bers from M id n a ­ pore began to protest against the procedures for enrollm ent of p arty recruits, and M ukherjee agreed to take up their cause w ith the state party. A t his urging, the Executive C om m ittee of the W est Bengal Pradesh Congress C om m ittee ( p c c ) set up a high-pow ered commission to “ inquire in to ” the affairs of the M id n ap o re D istrict Congress, and M ukherjee initially concurred w ith this procedure, even though the com m ittee was obviously stacked in favor of A tulya G hosh.45 Pressed by the M idnapore u n it for stronger action, M ukherjee later dismissed the p c c general secretary, N irm alendu De, one of the principal lieutenants of A tulya Ghosh, on the charge th a t D e had been 44 J u ly 45 b o th

K e d a r G hosh, “ W est Bengal C ongress: A n O asis o f H a rm o n y ,” The Statesman, 29, 1964. T h e com m ission consisted o f A tulya G hosh him self, P. G. Sen, a n d R . L. Sinha, th en allied w ith th e G hosh faction. Ib id ., A ugust 4, 1965.

ALLIAN C E W IT H T H E BA NG LA CONGRESS

143

“ persistently defying m e an d acting in contravention of m y instructions a n d advice.” 46 In response to this unexpected action, A tulya Ghosh decided to dem onstrate his control of the organization an d im m ediately pushed through resolutions censuring M ukherjee at m eetings of the S tate Executive C om m ittee an d the regular p c c .47 F rom M ukherjee’s p o in t of view, he h ad been forced to support the leadership in M id n ap o re in order to m ain tain his own position in the district Congress, and he was extrem ely offended w hen G hosh, his lifelong friend, chose to censure his actions.48 G hosh’s position, on the other han d , was based on his concern to keep control of the party, an d he now argues th a t he h ad no choice b u t to censure him once M ukherjee h ad decided to “ rem ove” N irm alendu De. G hosh’s associates contend th a t G hosh h ad considered the factional dispute in M id n ap o re a m inor p a rty m a tter until M ukherjee him self becam e em otionally involved an d aggressively anti-G hosh. A t th a t p o in t (late A ugust 1965) Ghosh, thinking th a t M ukherjee m ight have to be re­ placed, began to lend his support to the anti-M ukherjee faction in M idnapore. O nce M ukherjee was censured by the Congress Executive, the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties of W est Bengal began to en­ courage him to form a Congress splinter group, b u t he initially refused to consider such a possibility. Instead, he sought to fight the censure resolution in the courts, arguing th a t the m eeting a t w hich the resolu­ tion h a d been passed h ad been called by De, w hom he h ad technically dismissed. Even after he h ad been censured, M ukherjee refused to step dow n as state Congress president an d tried to use his position in the p a rty to secure the intervention of central p arty leaders. Finally, on J a n u a ry 20, 1966, the state Congress passed a no-confidence m otion against M ukherjee (by a vote of 296 to 40), an d he was forced to resign as p arty president. M ukherjee then began to tour the districts in order to sniff out the extent of Congress dissatisfaction w ith P. C. Sen’s food policy, although he still argued publicly th a t he had “ com plete faith in the Congress H igh C om m and [at the U nion level]” an d th a t he was confident th a t Congress p arty leaders in N ew Delhi 46 Ib id ., S ep tem b er 2, 1965. 47 T h e resolution o f the S tate E xecutive C o m m ittee was passed by a m arg in of 28 to 2, a n d in the p c c as a w hole by a m arg in of 310 to 1. See ibid., S ep tem b er 8 , 1965, a n d S ep tem b er 12, 1965. 48 M u k h e rje e ’s intense em otional involvem ent in the factional dispute in M id ­ n a p o re , especially his conviction th a t G hosh h a d a tte m p te d to w ork b e h in d his back, is in d ic a te d in his description o f the events su rro u n d in g the factional feud. See A joy M u k h erjee, Undemocratic Ways o f West Bengal Congress (C a lc u tta : Shri R a b i C h o w d h u ry , 1965).

144

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W E R

w ould intervene on his b eh alf in the affairs of the state Congress u n it.49 As this hope faded in the following m onth, M ukherjee becam e m ore an d m ore critical of the Congress p arty , a n d he eventually supported the Bengal bundh against the food policy of the Congress governm ent in late F eb ru ary an d early M arch. Because of his public criticism of Congress an d his support for the bundh, M ukherjee was expelled from the p a rty for “ indiscipline” on J u n e 18. T h e Bangla Congress, w hich was form ed by M ukherjee shortly after his expulsion from the Congress, advocated essentially the same program s as the Congress, b u t w ith some differences in em phasis and a good m any promises to im prove on im plem entation. T h e first action of the new p arty was a “ day of struggle” (A ugust 15, 1966) against Congress food policy, an d the m ajor planks in the B angla Congress cam paign platform in 1967 em phasized “ increased food production w ith a view to bringing dow n prices.” 50 T h a t the B angla Congress quickly becam e a political p a rty appealing to food-grain growers and m illowners who h ad been alienated from the Congress can be seen from the fact th a t in 1967 it w on all b u t 2 of its seats in ru ra l con­ stituencies w here food-grain cultivation was the m ost crucial p a rt of the economy. In M id n ap o re D istrict, w here it w on 11 of its 34 seats, the average nu m b er of food-grain mills p er constituency w on by the B angla Congress was 127.8, while the average n u m b er of mills in constituencies won by the Congress was only 69.5.51 Sim ilarly, in 24-Parganas the average n u m b er of food-grain mills per constituency won by the Bangla Congress was 123.6, w hile the average n u m b er in those won by the Congress was 77.8. In 1962 the Congress p a rty had won 25 of the 32 constituencies in 24-Parganas an d M id n ap o re w ith m ore th an 100 food-grain mills, b u t in 1967 m ore th a n three-quarters of these (19 of the 25 constituencies) deserted the Congress for other parties (12 for the Bangla Congress). W hile the Bangla Congress appealed prim arily to disenchanted landow ners and millowners, its leadership quickly realized th a t it w ould need other non-Congress allies if it was to survive in the 49 F o r M u k h erjee’s activities after th e vote o f censure, see The Statesman, F e b ru a ry 2, 1966; F e b ru a ry 6, 1966; M a y 6, 1966; M a y 18, 1966; J u n e 19, 1966; a n d J u ly 8, 1966. 50 Election Platform o f the Bangla Congress (C a lc u tta : B angla Congress, 1966), p. 3. 51 Figures on food-grain mills in constituencies w ere com piled by c o m p a rin g the figures given in the District Census Handbooks for M id n a p o re (pp. 403-421) a n d 2 4 -P arg anas (pp. 578-594) w ith th e constituency results in the official re p o rt o f the E lection Com m ission for the F o u rth G en eral E lections. Since th e figures in the District Census Handbooks are listed by police stations, w hich do n o t alw ays co rresp o n d to the constituencies, figures could be com piled only for th e constituencies w hose b o u n d aries could be d e te rm in e d using police stations. F o r this reason, only the constituencies in 24-P arganas a n d M id n a p o re could be analyzed.

A LLIANCE W IT H TH E BANG LA CONGRESS

145

segm ented political system of W est Bengal. M oreover, since there was no effective opposition to the Congress other th a n the C om m unist and M arxist Left parties, the Bangla Congress was forced to search for its allies am ong the leftists. Both Ajoy M ukherjee an d Sushil D h a ra (the general secretary of the new party) h ad been know n as ard e n t anticom m unists thro u g h o u t the first two decades of In d ia n independence, b u t now both began to negotiate w ith the Com m unists in an effort to m axim ize the influence of their new p a rty in the elections.52 In m id-July 1966, for exam ple, G eneral S ecretary D h a ra m et w ith Jy o ti Basu and issued the following statem ent a t the con­ clusion of these m eetings: O u r talks convinced m e th a t the Bangla Congress m ust re-assess its attitu d e tow ard the Left C om m unists an d explain to the ranks w hy such reassessment is necessary. . . . Still, the intensity of the feelings in the ranks against the Left C om m unists is so deep th a t it will take tim e to overcom e it com pletely.53

W hile the overtures of the Bangla Congress to the Left Com m unists w ere eventually rejected by the c p m , the new p arty was able to ally w ith the regular c p i an d the F orw ard Bloc in the successful p u l f coalition of 1967. As was indicated previously, it was the success of this alliance th a t led to the Congress’s failure to secure a m ajority in the state legislature for the first tim e since Independence. A m ong the Com m unists, the decision by the regular c p i to ally w ith the Bangla Congress in the 1967 elections was to be expected. T h e c p i had in fact broken w ith the c p m at least in p a rt because of its belief th a t alliance w ith “ progressive Congress forces” w ould lead to revolutionary change throughout India. W hile the Bangla Congress was clearly a p a rty of landholders and m illowners m uch like the Congress, it was not difficult for the c p i to describe its m em bers as “ progressive elem ents,” if only because the Bangla Congress leaders h ad had the courage to break w ith the Congress. T h e Bangla Congress also tried to encourage this im age of itself by em phasizing the fact th a t M ukherjee had differed w ith state Congress p arty leaders on the issue o f “ co rru p tio n ,” and M ukherjee him self em phasized his com m it­ m ents to Congress socialist ideals in num erous speeches in late 1966. 52 Before th e 1962 elections, for exam ple, The Statesman rep o rte d th a t “ Ajoy M u k h e rjee is said to have em erged as th e Congress P a rty ’s best an ti-C o m m u n ist speaker in th e districts because o f his in tim a te w ay o f talk in g .” (J a n u a ry 23, 1962.) In N o v em b er 1962, after the C hinese invasion, Sushil D h a ra stated in the L egislative A ssem bly th a t “ C om m unists a t hom e are o u r enem y n u m b e r one a n d the C hinese a re enem y n u m b e r tw o .” See West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, N ovem ber 17, 1962. 53 The Statesman, J u ly 17, 1966.

146

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D POLITICAL PO W E R

T h e CPI therefore labeled the willingness of the B angla Congress to ally w ith Com m unists as an “ upsurge for unity of all Left an d dem ­ ocratic parties,” and the p u l f quickly devised an electoral strategy designed to cu t into Congress strongholds in the countrywide.54 T h e c p m ’s unwillingness to ally w ith the Bangla Congress stem m ed from the electoral strategy th a t was devised by the Left C om m unist faction in late O ctober 1966, w hich called for the total defeat o f the regular c p i . Factionalism w ithin the c p m , w hich had been raging since the split in 1964, initially resulted in a tentative decision (taken at T enali in J u n e 1966) to explore alliances w ith all non-Congress parties in W est Bengal other th an the “ reactionaries” (J a n Sangh and S w atantra). But this decision had been roundly condem ned by the Chinese (who were still supporting the c p m at th a t time) through circulars sent to the c p m both by the A lbanian p a rty of L abor an d by the New Z ealand C om m unist party. T h e famous “ five flags” circular of the A lbanians openly urged the c p m “ to give up the p a th of expediency” as “ treacherous,” while the New Zealanders argued th at elections could only lead to further C om m unist p a rty splits. As a result of this encouragem ent from C hina, the Left faction in the c p m launched a new offensive against the p arliam entary-m inded centrists an d pushed through a 1967 electoral strategy th a t was m ore in keeping w ith the views of Peking. A t a m eeting of the N ational Council of the c p m in Ju llu n d h u r in late O ctober 1966, the c p m agreed th a t it w ould negotiate only w ith selected Left parties and th a t it w ould lim it its electoral alliances to cases w here it was allowed the largest single bloc o f seats, and then only on the condition th a t it was guaranteed a m ajority of the seats in the alliance. T h e c p m also agreed to contest a nu m b er of seats w here it had no chance of w inning (such as those in N orth Bengal) in order th a t it m ight strengthen its organization for revolutionary rath er th a n for electoral purposes.55 A lthough the centrist faction w ithin the c p m was opposed to the electoral strategy th a t was adopted by the N ational Council in late O ctober 1966, the centrists w ere faced w ith the choice o f accepting it or risking another p arty split. T h e centrists in W est Bengal, m oreover, were in an even m ore difficult position, since the principal architect of the strategy, Pram ode Das G upta, controlled the state organizational 54 F o r a c p i description of the “ upsurge for u n ity of all L eft a n d d em o cratic p a rtie s” in W est Bengal, see Election Manifesto o f the Communist Party o f India (C a lc u tta : C P I, 1967), p p . 15 ff. F or a n analysis o f the electoral strateg y o f the p u l f , see D ilip M ukherjee, “ False Prom ises to R u ra l V o te rs,” The Statesman, D ecem ber 12, 1966. 55 T h e 1967 election strateg y of the c p m is analy zed in K e d a r G hosh, “ H o w the L eft C om m unists W recked the U L F ,” The Statesman, N o v em b er 25, 1966.

CONCLUSIONS '

147

ap p aratu s th a t provided the bulk of p arty workers in the elections. For these reasons they agreed to im plem ent the strategy, b u t their p er­ form ance in the elections indicated th a t m any of them did so rath e r h alfh earted ly : m ost of the en erg ies,o f the c p m electoral leaders in W est Bengal in 1967 w ere applied to constituencies w here the c p m h a d an oppo rtu n ity to defeat the Congress, while the constituencies w here the c p m was fighting the c p i for second place w ere for the m ost p a rt neglected. T h e efforts of electoral leaders in N o rth Bengal, w here the p a rty h ad little chance of besting the Congress, w ere alm ost nil. C o n c lu sio n s T h e period betw een the split in the C om m unist p a rty in 1964 an d the assum ption of political pow er by a C om m unist-led coalition governm ent in W est Bengal in 1967 was characterized by rap id change in state political alignm ents. T h e split in the p arty did little to m itigate the factionalism w ithin the com m unist m ovem ent, nor did it lead to g reater organizational effectiveness on the p a rt of either C om m unist p arty . T h e ability of the C om m unists to lead the food dem onstrations in early 1966 was owing m ore to the failure of Congress food policy th a n to increased p a rty effectiveness, although the failure of the food policy also produced the unexpected boon for the leftists of a split in the Congress itself. Ironically enough, the split in the Congress resulted in the form ation of a new political p a rty th a t was based on support from “ vested interests” (landholders an d millowners) who h ad been alienated from the Congress because of an a tte m p t on the p a rt of P. C. Sen to im plem ent the p a rty ’s socialist ideals, an d yet it was the leftist parties of W est Bengal th a t gained from the failure of the socialist experim ent. In the final analysis, it was the unity of the leftist coalitions in 1967 an d 1969 an d the willingness of the leftists to form a coalition w ith the B angla Congress th a t placed the C om m unist parties in positions of governm ental pow er in 1967—1968 an d 1969—1970. I f there were not so m uch factionalism am ong C om m unists in W est Bengal, one m ight argue th a t Bengali com m unism has been fairly successful in pursuing C om m unist united front tactics since 1952. T h e C om m unists have led all of the electoral alliances in the state th a t have successfully opposed the Congress, an d they have been able to reduce the influence of uncooperative political parties, in some cases to destroy the effectiveness of such parties entirely. B ut the Bengali C om m unists are seriously divided am ong themselves, an d political pow er has only intensified the factionalism w ithin the m ovem ent. I t is the factionalism of the com m unist m ovem ent in the state th a t raises doubts ab o u t its ability to extend its present small gains to w ider spheres

148

ELECTORAL POLITICS A N D PO LITICAL PO W ER

of influence. From the point of view of the C om m unists, they are now confronted w ith a massive challenge, since the very logic o f their position compels them to continue their efforts to reduce the influence of the non-Congress parties in the state coalition while struggling ag ain st the Congress a t both the state an d central levels.

6

POLITICAL POWER AND • THE REVOLT OF THE MAOISTS

T h e entry into the m inistries of a C om m unist-led coalition govern­ m ent in W est Bengal in 1967, an d its re tu rn w ith an even larger legislative m ajority in 1969, posed innum erable difficulties for the parties involved. M ost C om m unist parties th a t have come to pow er have gained control o f the entire ap p aratu s of a nation-state, an d if they have used political alliances to capture office, they have at least h a d open to them the possibility of reducing the effectiveness of their allies through p a rty control of the governm ent. In every p a rt of Asia b u t India, com m unism has come to pow er through w ar an d violence rath e r th an through p arliam en tary m eans. B ut the C om ­ m unists in W est Bengal entered the ministries in 1967 an d 1969 as p a rt of an electoral coalition, in alliance w ith thirteen other political parties whose m em bers cover the ideological spectrum , w ith each C om m unist p a rty in a m inority position in both coalitions, an d w ith the coalitions in control o f only one of seventeen In d ian states. By the tim e the coalition did gain control of the governm ental m achinery of W est Bengal, the p arliam en tary system in In d ia was already highly institutionalized, the C om m unists h ad failed to m ake significant gains outside of the two states of K erala an d W est Bengal, an d the Congress p a rty was still in pow er in the U nion governm ent. In adjusting to their positions of p artial pow er in tenuous state coalition governm ents, and in confronting the responsibilities of pow er in a constitutional system (and w ith the com plexities of In d ia n federalism ), the Com m unists in W est Bengal have been seriously divided ab o u t the strategies they should pursue. Political pow er has also changed the factional alignm ents w ithin the state com m unist m ovem ent in a num ber of respects, enhancing the position of the electoralists while splitting the Left faction. I t is still possible, how ever, to identify three m ajor approaches to the organiza­ tion of society am ong the leadership of the m ovem ent. O ne of them stems from the policies advocated by M oscow an d the c p g b ; a second

150

T H E REVOLT OF T H E MAOISTS

is an independent, “ m odified R ig h t” strategy being pursued by the centrists an d the older Left faction leaders in the c p m ; the th ird is a M aoist strategy advocated by the younger leaders of the Left faction. T h e L eft F a ctio n a n d P o litic a l P o w e r Even before the decision was m ade to enter the m inistries, there was serious disagreem ent am ong the C om m unists, p articu larly w ithin the c p m , ab o u t the wisdom of jo in in g a coalition governm ent. T h e leader­ ship of the c p m state p a rty organization, heavily supported by the p a rty ’s Left faction, h a d broken w ith the c p i in 1964 because of conflicts ab o u t electoral strategy. W hile the c p m h a d accepted a considerable portion of the centrist faction of the u nited c p i into its ranks after the split in 1964, the legislative-m inded centrists h ad always been in a m inority position in the higher councils of the state party. Indeed, the c p m fought the 1967 elections on the basis of an electoral strategy th a t was devised by P ram ode D as G u p ta, whose sole objective was the Left faction’s wish to reduce the “ revisionist” c p i to obscurity, even though the p a rty expected th a t this w ould m ean the continuation of Congress rule in W est Bengal. W hen the Congress failed to obtain a m ajority, the Left faction was therefore cau g h t off guard, an d p arty factionalism im m ediately resurfaced. T h e n atu re of the election results in 1967 presented the c p m w ith three alternatives: (1) the p a rty could enter into a coalition in opposition to the Congress if it were w illing to ally w ith the “ revisionist” c p i an d the “ vested interests” in the Bangla Congress; (2) it could enter into a coalition against the c p i an d the B angla Congress only if it w ere w illing to ally w ith the “ reactio n ary ” Congress p a rty ; (3) it could go into opposition against all political parties in the state by refusing to jo in a coalition, b u t in this case it w ould have rem ained ou t of pow er entirely. For the centrists in the c p m the first alternative was clearly the least of three evils. T h e centrists h ad always been opposed to a nonelectoral strategy in W est Bengal b u t h ad been willing to ally w ith the Left faction in the state in order to gain the benefits of the superior organizational ap p aratu s controlled by P ram ode Das G upta. M oreover, m any of the centrists h ad been advocating a rap p ro ch em en t w ith the c p i since the split in 1964, an d cooperation in the ministries was seen as an excellent starting p o in t.1 Finally, the centrists w ould undoubtedly gain m ost of the m inisterial appointm ents as well as the patronage th a t accom panied entry into the state 1 In a d d itio n to the sources o u tlin in g the position o f the centrist faction in C h a p te r 4, see J y o ti Basu, “ T h e N eed for U n ity ,” Link (N ew D elhi w eekly), J a n u a r y 26, 1968, p p . 21-22.

T H E LEFT FACTION

151

m inistries; this was appealing to them not only because of the personal gains involved b u t also because of the leverage th a t it w ould give them w ithin the c p m . F or m an y of the same reasons, the,.vast m ajority of the leadership of the Left faction in W est Bengal was initially opposed to the entry of the c p m into the state ministries. B ut the leadership of the Left faction was also divided an d confused on this issue, since it was conceivable th a t the state p arty could use the m inistries to enhance the m ilitancy of its cadre. T h e leadership of the regular p a rty organization, led by P ram ode D as G upta, was clearly faced w ith the cruelest dilem m a. A decision to jo in in the m inistries w ould alienate a large portion of Das G u p ta ’s own Left faction, on w hich his regular p a rty organization depended for support, b u t a decision to rem ain out o f the m inistries w ould either leave the centrist faction in control of the C om m unist m inistries (if the central leadership o f the p a rty supported Jy o ti Basu) or, m ore likely, w ould split the p a rty for a second time. In the final analysis Das G u p ta him self voted against the decision to enter the m inistries, b u t enough Left faction leaders deserted him in the State S ecretariat (and in the C entral C om m ittee) to push through the resolution announcing the entry of the c p m into the U nited F ront governm ent.2 O nce the c p m decided to enter the m inistries, Das G u p ta agreed to obey p a rty discipline an d rally his organization behind the electoralists in a united front strategy. B ut the result of Das G u p ta ’s acquiescence was a revolt w ithin the regular p a rty organization in W est Bengal. As soon as the decision was m ade to enter the ministries, a n u m b er o f Left faction groups in W est Bengal began to accuse the c p m leadership of “ neo-revisionism ” for its decision to p articip ate in the m inisterial coalition. Factionalism w ithin the p a rty becam e so intense d uring the first few m onths o f the 1967 U n ited F ro n t govern­ m en t th a t five u n d erg ro u n d p a rty jo u rn als ap p eared — Commune, Chhatra Fauj [S tu d en t’s A rm y], Dakshin Desh [T he South C ountry], Bidroha [Struggle], an d Santrash [T erro r]— each attacking the decision o f the p arty , an d each focusing its attack on Pram ode Das G u p ta .3 By early M ay the dissidents h ad organized themselves on an ad hoc basis 2 F o r th e full text of the sta te m e n t o f th e S ta te S e c re tariat o f th e c p m an n o u n cin g its w illingness to p a rtic ip a te in th e state m inistries, see People’s Democracy (p a rty org an of th e c p m ) , M a rc h 5, 1967, p. 5. F o r a description o f the in n e r-p a rty m an eu v erin g th a t took p lace d u rin g the d raftin g o f th e statem en t, see Link, F e b ru a ry 26, 1967, p. 15, a n d M a rc h 5, 1967, p. 12. 3 T h e activities o f the dissidents in th e c p m im m ed iately after the assum ption o f p o w er b y th e U n ite d F ro n t are tra c e d in The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily), M a y 31, 1967. See also Link, M a y 7, 1967, p. 16, a n d J u ly 2, 1967, p. 16.

152

T H E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

in the A n tar P arty S odhanbad Birodhi S angram C om m ittee [C om ­ m ittee to Resist Revisionism w ithin the P arty ], an d by late M ay they h ad found an issue th a t they could all rally around. T h e issue was the N ax alb ari peasant agitation o f the sum m er of 1967, w hich started in the N axalbari subdivision o f D arjeeling D istrict (in the n o rth ern portion of W est Bengal) an d eventually spread to three contiguous subdivisions in the sam e district (Phansideoa, K h arib ari, an d Siliguri). T h e adm inistrative area in w hich the disturbances occurred, w hich for purposes o f brevity I shall call the N axalbari area, comprises approxim ately 100 square miles of strategically located territory (bordered on the west by N epal, on the east by Pakistan, and lying 30 to 50 miles from Sikkim, T ib e ta n C hina, an d B hutan to the north). This area is located a t precisely the point w here In d ia ’s narrow est corridor, 13 to 14 miles w ide, connects the m ain portions of In d ia w ith its northeastern states an d territories (Assam, n e f a , N agaland, M an ip u r, an d T rip u ra ). I f only for this reason, it is little w onder th a t the whole o f In d ia becam e p articu larly concerned w hen it learned of C om m unist-led peasant bands operating illegally in the area, w ith the support of the People’s R epublic o f C hina, an d w ith a coalition of C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties in the state capital governing the area. Because o f the strategic location o f the N axalbari area, an d because the N axalbari agitation h ad im m ediate consequences for the U n ited F ro n t ministries in 1967, it has becom e infused w ith a g reat deal of em otion for both politicians an d observers. T h e actions of the central an d state governm ents in dealing w ith the agitation have been widely d ebated, com parisons have been m ade to the T elen g an a m ovem ent in A n d h ra in the late 1940s, an d there have even been allegations th a t the m ovem ent in N axalbari m arked the early stages o f an a tte m p t by the Chinese to launch a V ietnam -like conflict in the subcontinent.4 T h e N a x a lb a r i M o v e m e n t T h e N axalbari area is distinguished from other rural sectors in W est Bengal by its unusual patterns of cultivation, w hich in tu rn are a result o f the num erous tea plantations in the area an d the large proportion o f tribal p o p u latio n .5 T ea cultivation differs from th a t 4 M ost o f th e rum ors a n d speculation are co n tain ed in Naxalbari Agitation: Some Facts and Consequences (Reports Submitted to Bharatiya Jana Sangh Working Committee at Its Meeting at Simla on June 30 and Ju ly 1 and 2, 1967, by Bengal Pradesh Secretary) (D e lh i: B h a ratiy a J a n a Sangh, 1967): see especially p p . 17-19. 5 A ccording to the District Census Handbook for D arjeeling (pp. 6 5 -6 7 ), based on the 1961 census, scheduled castes constitute 22.03 p e rc en t o f the N a x a lb a ri a re a a n d scheduled tribes constitute 58.59 p ercen t. T hese figures are m u ch h ig h er th a n the

TH E N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

153

found elsewhere in Bengal because it has developed along the lines of a p lan tatio n econom y, w ith substantial plots of land, w idespread use of m igratory and day-w age labor, and foreign investm ent in the land. T rib al cultivation differs from th a t found elsewhere in Bengal because it is traditionally carried ou t by nom adic or sem inom adic peoples who prefer to engage in a shifting p a tte rn of cultivation, m oving from plot to plot as w eather conditions and the fertility of the soil dictate. T h e com bination of a tea-p lan tatio n econom y an d a large proportion of tribal cultivators (Santhals, R ajbansis, O raons, M undas, and a small n u m b er of T erai G urkhas) has m ade for a long history of land disputes in N orth Bengal, centered m ainly on the issues of land grabbing, squatting, an d eviction. O w ners of the plantations have traditionally had only a th ird of their total lands u n d er tea cultivation, w ith the rest either allowed to lie fallow for technical reasons or else distributed as bakshish-khet (for the private use of the workers on the p lan tatio n in rew ard for services). Landless peasants in the area of the tea estates, an d p articu larly the nom adic or sem inom adic tribals, have long coveted the uncultivated lands of the plantations an d have frequently staked out their claims and fought to retain them in the courts. In this atm osphere it is not surprising th a t the N axalbari area has h ad a history of peasant discontent and agitation. Indeed, unlike most oth er areas of W est Bengal, w here peasant m ovem ents are led alm ost solely by middle-class leadership from C alcutta, N axalbari has spaw ned an indigenous ag rarian reform leadership led by the lower classes. D uring the 1950s, for exam ple, the N axalbari area witnessed a series of uprisings led by a sharecropper nam ed Ja n g a l— not to be confused w ith Ja n g a l S anthal, a prom inent extrem ist in the 1967 agitation— w ho toured the area on horseback organizing sharecroppers against landlords. In addition, the N axalbari area has shared in the problem s com m on to m ost ru ral areas in B en g al: overcrow ding on the land, the existence of m oneylenders and land speculators who thrive on conditions of overcrow ding, and factional disputes betw een political parties led by C om m unist and M arxist Left politicians prom ising various versions of a m illenium . T h e land reform legislation th a t was enacted in the 1950s has com plicated the land problem in N axalbari still further. T h e W est averages for all o f W est B engal (6.0 p e rc en t a n d 19.7 p ercen t, respectively). O n e o f the few d etailed surveys o f th e p a tte rn s o f c u ltiv atio n in the N ax alb a ri a re a th a t seeks to relate th e socioeconom ic e n v iro n m en t to th e political situ atio n is found in M a itrey e Bose, “ N a x a lb a ri: A S urvey o f th e P ro b le m ,” Times o f India (N ew D elhi), J u ly 17, 1967. T h e follow ing acc o u n t also leans heavily on m y ow n observations a n d in te r­ views d u rin g a trip to th e N a x a lb a ri a re a in A pril 1969.

154

TH E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

Bengal Estates A cquisition A ct of 1954 (which lim ited holdings to 25 acres or less and provided for redistribution of land to the landless) necessarily excluded the tea estates, since tea cultivation is no t eco­ nom ically feasible on 25 acres or less. This has heightened the feelings of the landless and trib al cultivators th a t the Congress governm ent is on the side of the landlords a t the same tim e th a t it has created incom parable legal difficulties w hich are still being resolved. N ot only has the tribal custom of itin eran t cultivation, w hich involves a constant process of claim ing an d reclaim ing land, m ade lan d reform legislation far m ore difficult to im plem ent in the N axalbari area th an in other parts of the state, b u t the transfer of portions of B ihar to W est Bengal (as a result of the States R eorganization of 1956) has m ade it necessary to a d a p t the land reform laws of two states, w ith all of the ad m in istra­ tive difficulties th a t this entails.6 T h e agitation in 1967 was directed against land reform m easures th a t had been enacted after 1956, b u t these in tu rn could be traced back to the W est Bengal Estates A cquisi­ tion A ct of 1954. In 1954 the Congress had attem p ted to m itigate the effects of the exclusion of tea estates by providing for state acquisition of some paddy lands (lands u n d er the cultivation of rice) from tea­ garden m anagem ent. But the m anagem ent of the tea estates opposed this aspect of Congress reforms thro u g h o u t the 1950s an d in 1964 were successful in reversing the legislation on the basis of recom m endations of the T ea Advisory Board. T h e peasant agitation in N axalbari in 1967 sought to reverse the 1964 governm ent order and to prevent benami transactions (transfer of land to relatives to escape the 25-acre ceiling) ? T h e 1967 agitation was led by Left faction m em bers of the local c p m K rishak Sam iti (Peasants’ O rganization), w hich h ad gained a considerable following after the failure of the region’s previous largescale peasant agitation in the 1950s. T h e m em bers of the organization 6 A senior officer of the W est Bengal governm ent, w ith m ore th a n th irty years of experience in land revenue w ork, stated in m id -1967 th a t he a d m itte d to a know ledge a n d u n d e rsta n d in g of only 10 p ercen t of th e lan d legislation p rev ailin g in W est B engal in th e 1960s, b u t he was still considered the m ost know ledgable of the officers in the N a x a lb a ri area. See P ra sa n ta S ark ar, “ R easons for U p risin g in N a x a lb a ri,” The Statesman, J u n e 6, 1967. 7 T h e d e p u ty com m issioner of Siliguri subdivision stated in a n interview w ith a co rresp o n d en t of The Statesman th a t a b o u t th irty individuals in th e N a x alb a ri area h a d holdings in excess of the legal 25 acres, in one case as m u ch as 6000 acres of p a d d y lan d . (Ib id .) F o r th ree p erceptive analyses of the lan d p ro b lem in N a x alb a ri, from th ree rad ically different points of view, see F lib b ertig ib b et [N ira n ja n M a ju m d a r], “ T ro u b le u p N o rth ,” Economic and Political Weekly (B om bay), J u n e 3, 1967, pp. 9 9 3 -9 9 4 ; J o h n Slee, “ Police A ction in N a x a lb a ri,” Weekend Review (N ew D elhi), J u ly 22, 1967, p p . 15-18; a n d In d ra jit G u p ta , “ G lim pses of N a x a lb a ri,” New Age ( c p i w eekly), J u ly 30, 1967, pp. 15-16.

TH E N A X A LBA R I MOVEMENT

155

w ere for the most p a rt young (the oldest of the twelve principal leaders identified by the police was 50 in 1967), b u t w ith considerable experience in the peasant m ovem ents of the area. T o a greater extent th a n m ost peasant organizations in W est Bengal, the leadership of the K rishak Sam iti cam e from tribal, low-caste, an d M uslim backgrounds. Its principal organizer was K a n u Sanyal, who was 35 years old in 1967, an d w ho is usually depicted as a rom antic figure. Sanyal is the son of a respectable an d fairly w ealthy fam ily (his cousin is a famous Bengali film actress) who atten d ed the w ell-known K urseong English School in D arjeeling as a youth. Sanyal argues th a t he was inspired by the ideas of Subhas Bose during his early schooling and, on the basis of this inspiration, decided to relinquish his claim to the fam ily’s landholdings an d to “ integrate him self” w ith the tribals, poor peasants, an d agricultural workers. As a result of the exceptional dedication w ith w hich he pursued this goal, Sanyal gained a fairly large following in the N axalbari area and a rep u tatio n described by Link in the following term s: T h e leader who com m ands ex trao rd in ary respect am ong the peasants, w orkers a n d the mass of the people is K a n u Sanyal. H e does n o t own any land. . . . H e has great contem pt for the sm ug m iddle class. . . . H e has been a d ream er since his boyhood an d has always taken extrem e positions. His revolutionary spirit took him to the C om m unist P a rty . . . b u t even policem en seem to have a soft corner for K an u , the m isguided d re a m er.8

C lustered aro u n d Sanyal in the K rishak Sam iti were a diverse group of young an d frustrated peasant leaders w ho cam e from a variety of backgrounds. Ja n g a l S anthal, the “ field com m ander” of the S am iti’s operations against landlords, was a professional “ tribal revolutionary lead er” who h ad twice been defeated in his bid for a seat in the Legislative Assembly (in 1962 he ran as a m em ber of the c p i and in 1967 as a m em ber of the c p m ) . K hokan M aju m d ar (alias A bdul H am id , alias A bdul H alim ) was the son of a M uslim peasant who had m igrated from Barisal D istrict in East Bengal to D arjeeling D istrict p rio r to Independence. In his early boyhood he h ad w orked as a w ard boy in the Lake M edical H ospital in D arjeeling, b u t he was dismissed in 1948 because of his leftist political affiliations. H e then w orked as a “ com pounder” in several m edical establishm ents until 1952, w hen he jo in ed K a n u Sanyal in peasant organizational activities. K am akshya Banerjee originally belonged to the p s p b u t was expelled from the p arty in the 1960s, only to jo in the s s p an d be expelled again. W hen he joined 8 Link, A ugust 15, 1967, p. 85.

156

TH E REVO LT OF TH E MAOISTS

the c p i in 1965, he quickly g rav itated to the Left C om m unist faction. M u jib a r R ah m an h ad originally jo in ed the c p i in 1946 b u t was expelled from the p arty in 1957 in the afterm ath of a factional dispute. H e acquired a considerable am o u n t of p ro p erty in the N axalbari area through m arriage9 an d even w orked for the Congress can d id ate in the 1962 elections. A fter the Indo-P akistani conflict in 1965, he for some reason “ established relations” w ith the Left Com m unists, was subsequently arrested for peasant agitational activities, an d ended up w orking for Ja n g a l S anthal in the 1967 elections. T h e K rishak Sam iti was a fairly loose-knit organization, directed by the “ triu m v irate” of K a n u Sanyal, Ja n g a l S anthal, a n d K hokan M aju m d ar. All three m em bers of the “ triu m v irate” h ad a long record of peasant agitation despite their youth. All of them h a d been arrested for their activities in the past, all w ere know n as “ professional revolutionaries” by the people in the N axalbari area, an d all of them were well know n by the police. N one of the leaders of the K rishak Sam iti h ad ever risen very high in the c p m , b u t they were nevertheless key m en in the organizational ap p aratu s who h ad previously acted as brokers betw een the state leadership an d the peasants. Aside from the “ triu m v irate,” the Sam iti was not a t all of one m ind, an d it therefore depended for unity on the w arm personal feelings th a t had developed betw een K a n u Sanyal an d the other leaders in the group and (before the N axalbari agitation) on the direction of the state p arty leadership. A m ong the “ outer core” of its leadership10 there were serious disagreem ents ab o u t goals, ideology, tactics, an d strategy, and there were num erous inner-group tensions. T h e only source of agree­ m ent, aside from the attractio n of K a n u Sanyal, was the feeling th a t the Congress p arty in the area h ad favored the landlords an d tea interests to the detrim ent of the landless peasants an d tribals an d th a t the a re a ’s greatest need was to w ork politically for the creation of strong peasant organizations. H ow to go ab o u t this task effectively was a hotly debated issue am ong the leadership. 9 M o n i L ai Singh, a n o th e r m em b er of the leadership g ro u p of the K rish ak Sam iti, was one o f the m ost prosperous farm ers in th e N a x a lb a ri a re a in 1967. I t was openly acknow ledged by people in the district (and a d m itte d by M oni L ai Singh) th a t he ow ned m ore lan d th an th e legal ceiling p e rm itte d , because o f th e benami tran sactio n s he h a d engaged in. 10 L ead ersh ip o f th e K rish ak Sam iti was rep o rte d to have rested first w ith the “ in n e r co re” or “ triu m v ira te ” a n d th en w ith an “ o u ter co re” o f tw elve leaders. T h e “ o u ter core” included th e follow ing: C h a ru M a z u m d a r, K a m ak sh y a B anerjee, P h an i D as (alias P h an i M a ste r), B ansia Singh, P ra lh a d Singh, M o n i L ai Singh, Shib S h a ran P a h a ria , K a d a u m M alik, M u jib a r R a h m a n , a n d th e th ree m em bers of th e triu m v irate. In fo rm atio n on th e K rish ak Sam iti was g a th e red from n ew sp ap er rep o rts a n d interview s.

T H E N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

157

W hile the K rishak Sam iti h ad originally been affiliated w ith the c p m , its leadership h ad becom e disenchanted w ith the factional struggles th a t followed the split in 1964 an d h ad therefore begun to strike ou t on its own. As a result of organizational successes in the N axalbari area, it was able to gain a g reat deal of autonom y in its relations w ith other c p m organs an d front groups in n o rth ern Bengal. Officially, the c p m D arjeeling D istrict C om m ittee was in charge of the K rishak Sam iti after 1964 (at least as far as the state c p m leadership was concerned), b u t the K rishak Sam iti had also m ain tain ed close contacts w ith a group of dissident c p m leaders who h ad established a parallel D istrict C om ­ m ittee in D arjeeling. T h e dissident c p m leadership h ad b ran d ed the reg u lar c p m D istrict C om m ittee as “ revisionist” an d h ad been m eeting separately since 1965.11 C onfronted w ith severe factionalism a t the local level, the state leadership of the c p m decided to intervene in the local dispute in 1965, an d in doing so it concentrated its atten tio n on the best-organized peasant association in the N axalbari area, the K rishak Sam iti of K an u Sanyal. In the latter m onths of 1965 an d th ro u g h o u t 1966 an d early 1967, several leaders of the c p m (including P ram ode Das G upta, H are K rish n a K o n ar, an d G anesh Ghosh) m ade frequent trips to the area to discuss p arty m atters w ith the N axalbari faction. D uring the course of these m eetings, the c p m leadership, an d the leadership of the K rishak Sam iti as well, h ad assum ed th a t Congress w ould be retu rn ed to pow er in 1967, b u t w ith a som ew hat depleted m ajority. A ccording to the K rishak Sam iti leadership, the state c p m h ad therefore agreed to assist it in fom enting a massive peasant agitation in the northern districts, to take place im m ediately after the elections.12 In the words of a Sam iti leader, the agitation was p lanned as a “ h an d y tool to harass the new governm ent.” W hen the c p m ended up as p a rt of the new governm ent after the 1967 elections, however, a great deal of tension developed betw een the state p arty leadership an d the local K rishak Sam iti over the issue of the proposed agitation. O nce the c p m entered the m inistries, it was unable to support the plan n ed agitation, owing both to the factionalism w ithin the state u n it an d to the position of the p a rty in the new U n ited F ro n t coalition 11 In te rn a l factionalism in the N a x a lb a ri a re a is d ecrib ed in the re p o rt o f the recognized c p m u n it in Siliguri to the state c p m ; see “ S itu a tio n in N a x a lb a ri A re a: S iliguri L ocal C o m m ittee R e p o r t,” a n in eteen -p ag e d o c u m e n t p rin te d in On Left Deviation (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967), p p . 25-44. 12 L inks betw een the K rish ak S am iti a n d the c p m a re analy zed in a n article by a Times o f India co rresp o n d en t based on police rep o rts; see “ Im p a c t of N a x a lb a ri,” Times o f India, S ep tem b er 5, 1967. See also C. N . C h itta R a n ja n , “ L eft C P a n d the A d v e n tu rists,” Mainstream (N ew D elhi w eekly), J u ly 1, 1967, p p . 10-12.

158

T H E REVO LT OF TH E MAOISTS

governm ent. A t the sam e tim e, how ever, these factors m ade it im pos­ sible for the state u n it to take action to prevent the K rishak Sam iti from launching the agitation on its own. R elations betw een the Sam iti an d the state leadership h ad already been strained by th e en try of the c p m into the U n ited F ro n t (a significant section of the Sam iti did no t w an t the c p m to enter the coalition), an d they finally broke dow n entirely because of the am bivalent position of the state p arty u n it on the question of the N axalbari agitation. T h e decision to proceed w ith the agitation was therefore m ade a t a K isan [Peasant] C onvention sponsored by the Sam iti in M arch 1967, a t w hich the state u n it of the c p m was not represented. A description of the convention, related by “ a 42-year-old delegate w ho has spent 14 years of his life in ja il,” appeared in Link m agazine: T h ere were 500 delegates a t the conference an d some observers. M an y cam e w ith bows an d arrows. A discussion began on the tactics of the m ovem ent an d its objectives. In the course of the discussion it was revealed th a t am ong those whose lands h a d been forcibly occupied were some workers of the B ijanagar tea estate. According to evidence collected by Left C om m unist leaders, 25 workers of the M ary View tea gardens h a d also fallen victims to forcible occupation of land. Some 20 of them were Left Com m unists. T h e discussion at the K isan Conference was very lively. O ne of the leaders— K am akshya Banerjee— said th a t la n d could never belong to anyone w ho was not a peasant. This was hotly contested. A delegate—-Jatin Singh— said th a t M arxism ta u g h t there m ust be w orker-peasant unity. A delegate brushed aside the idea: “ W e m ust go ah ead w ith peasant revolution. W e m ust organise an arm ed uprising an d set u p a free zone in the a re a .” J a tin challenged this understanding an d said th a t revolution could not be achieved in a handful of villages of the Siliguri sub-division. “ W e m ust take into consideration the objective situation obtaining in the w hole of W est Bengal a n d the co u n try .” Delegates Thom as, Sarkar, M u jib ar R a h m a n , a n d some others took a sim ilar line. But the discussion was ab ru p tly concluded by K a n u Sanyal. H e said: “ E verything will depend upon our com m ittee. I t will decide to w hom to give a n d to w hom not to give land. W e shall not give the sm allest piece of lan d to those who are not w ith us.” His eloquent sum m ing u p in the p ithy local dialect settled the issue. Secretary of the Siliguri Kisan Sabha M alik said, “ T he decision has been taken, we m ust all go to im plem ent it.” J a n g a l S an th al, who presided over the conference, did no t speak.13

This description of the K isan C onvention of M arch 1967, w hich is corroborated by a nu m b er of other sources, tells a g reat deal about the organization th a t launched the N axalbari agitation. Like so m any other m ovem ents in Bengal in this century, it appears th a t the N axalbari 13 “ T h e N ax alb a ri S to ry ,” Link, A ugust 15, 1967, p. 84.

T H E N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

159

m ovem ent was dep en d en t on a very sm all group of people, clustered aro u n d a dedicated an d respected leader w ho could sway those who w ere inclined to follow him a t the precise m om ent w hen it was necessary to pull the divergent strands of the potential m ovem ent together. As is the case w ith so m any of the sm all revolutionary organizations in Bengal th a t follow this p attern , the Sam iti was not well organized and it was subject to disputes th a t ra n the g am u t of leftist politics in Bengal, b u t it was determ ined to act alone. W hile it h ad been associated w ith the c p m before the agitation, an d w hile it picked up support from a variety of sources after the agitation h ad been launched in the sum m er of 1967, it is clear th a t its initial decision to proceed was alm ost entirely a result of the will of its only effective leader, K an u Sanyal. O n the basis of existing reports of the K isan Convention, it is clear th a t the K rishak Sam iti h ad no concrete plans for the activities th a t it hoped to sponsor in the N axalbari area. As Secretary K a d a u m M alik stated, “ T h e decision has been taken, we m ust all go to im plem ent it.” But the decision th a t h ad been m ade was sim ply to launch a w idespread m ovem ent, w hile the m a tte r of im plem entation h ad been left to the organizing com m ittee of K an u Sanyal. Sanyal him self h ad offered no b attle plan, b u t simply the slogan th a t “ everything will depend on our com m ittee.” A cting on this b ro ad an d am biguous directive, the com m ittee proceeded on a very p rag m atic basis, reacting to events as they presented themselves, w ith a distinct lack of organizational control over the m em bership. T h e K rishak Sam iti was still convinced a t this point th a t while the c p m w ould no t assist in the p lan n ed agitation, the U n ited F ront governm ent (of w hich the c p m was the principal m em ber) could be counted on to restrain the activities of the police. T h e Sam iti leadership therefore issued pleas for a massive cam paign to occupy lands “ illegally occupied by vested interests” an d distributed vast am ounts of literature asking support and th reaten in g those w ho refused it. A t the sam e time, the leadership began to organize bands of trib al followers (usually 200 to 500 each) in order to take “ direct actio n ” on the side of tribal an d peasant cultivators w ho h ad felt themselves w ronged in land disputes. In the early stages of the m ovem ent (early M arch until M ay 23, 1967), the N axalbari agitation was sim ilar to m any of the peasant m ovem ents th a t have been launched in W est Bengal in the past two decades. T raveling in small groups, m em bers of the Sam iti would d em onstrate before the hom e of a landlord w ho h ad engaged in benami transactions or w ho h ad offended m em bers of the m ovem ent by

160

T H E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

evicting a peasant cultivator or h o arding large am ounts of rice or grain. O ccasionally such dem onstrations w ould lead to the seizure of stored foods, an d a scuffle betw een the dem onstrators an d the landlord (or the police or representatives of the state adm inistration) w ould usually result in some m inor injuries. In some cases the m em bers of the Sam iti forced their w ay onto the uncultivated lands of the tea estates, w here they sought to “ take possession of the la n d ,” either by ploughing or w eeding it or by felling one or two trees, or sim ply by sticking a red flag into the ground. B ut the N axalbari agitation began to differ from the peasant m ove­ m ents com m on to Bengal in two respects, w hich becam e evident in late M ay an d early J u n e after the m u rd er of a G u rk h a policem an nam ed Som an W angdi on M ay 23. T h e initial reaction of the police to the N axalbari agitation h ad been one of cautious su p p o rt of the landholders in the area until clarification of the position of the new governm ent in C alcutta should be received. T h e U n ited F ro n t m inistry h ad pledged in its eighteen-point program “ to recognize the rights o f workers an d peasants to voice th eir ju st dem ands and grievances” an d also “ not to suppress the dem ocratic an d legitim ate struggles of the people,” clauses th a t were in terp reted in m ost circles as constituting a break w ith previous Congress policy. U n d e r the previous Congress governm ents the police h ad always taken determ ined action against forcible occupation of land, b u t in light of the new policy statem ents of the U n ited F ront, an d pending an answ er to the question of the legality of various forms of protest in the eyes of the new govern­ m ent, the police in the area decided to move cautiously. H ow ever, w hen the policem an W angdi was killed in a skirmish w ith tribals on M ay 23 (he was found w ith two arrow s in his back, an d the events surrounding his d eath are disputed), the local police in the area reacted by firing on a crow d of dem onstrators the next day, an d the leadership around K a n u Sanyal im m ediately responded w ith violence. In the ja rg o n of the U n ited F ro n t parties, the Sam iti becam e both “ sectarian” an d “ adventurist” after the police firing in late M ay. T h e m ovem ent becam e “ sectarian” in the sense th a t its m em bers began to attack anyone who refused to lend support (including sharecroppers an d landless cultivators as well as small and large landholders), w hile it left unm olested anyone who supported the ag itatio n .14 T h e Sam iti 14 P easan t associations opposed to th e K rish ak Sam iti in th e N a x a lb a ri area p o in ted o u t th a t it h a d forcibly taken aw ay the la n d of J a n g a l, th e sh a rec ro p p er w ho h a d led th e 1959 agitatio n , because of his refusal to su p p o rt the m ovem ent. A t th e sam e tim e th e S am iti h a d as one o f its p rin cip al leaders M oni L ai Singh, a m an w ho read ily a d m itte d th a t he controlled benami holdings. See ibid., J u n e 25, 1967, p. 12.

TH E N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

161

becam e “ ad v en tu rist” because it began to organize sm all bands th a t roam ed the N axalbari area w ith bows, arrow s, tangis, an d other tribal w eapons, threatening a cam paign o f terrorism against all who refused to support the m ovem ent. T h e leadership o f the Sam iti now prom ised an all-out assault on the U n ited F ro n t m inistry, Sam iti bands confronted police parties w ith arm s, a n d its m em bers started seizing guns from people in the area who h ad licensed weapons. N um erous instances of m u rd er an d arson were attrib u te d to the Sam iti d uring Ju n e , Ju ly , an d A ugust 1967, an d the literatu re o f the organization began to speak in glowing term s ab o u t the m u rd er of landlords, while it increasingly denounced the U n ited F ro n t.15 N one o f the available evidence indicates th a t these “ sectarian” and “ ad v en tu rist” activities h ad been p lanned in the initial stages o f the agitation. T h e leaders of the m ovem ent h a d m ade no provision for securing firearm s an d am m unition w ith w hich to fight the police, they h ad n o t established any channels for und erg ro u n d com m unications, an d they h a d not p lanned for “ escape routes” to neighboring N epal or T ib et. Instead, the existing evidence indicates th a t after the m u rd er of the policem an (for w hich they w ere held responsible), the leadership o f the Sam iti becam e increasingly isolated from their previous bases o f support, so th a t they w ere driven to a “ sectarian” an d “ ad v en tu rist” stand. T h e U n ited F ro n t governm ent took a strong position opposing their activities, the state leadership of the c p m deserted them alm ost entirely, an d the police began to take effective m easures to prevent their activities an d m ovem ent w ithin the area. A t this point they were forced to go into hiding, an d they quickly tried to establish a netw ork of com m unications (based on trib al drum s an d couriers) betw een the “ five pockets” into w hich the police h ad driven th em .16 T h eir hurried attem p ts to collect w eapons from private citizens who possessed licensed pistols an d rifles quickly proved futile, an d they w ere eventually forced to re tre a t to the swam ps an d w ooded areas th a t dot the landscape in n o rth ern B engal.17 A fter two investigations by m inisterial team s dispatched by the U n ited F ro n t governm ent in C alcutta, an d after 15 In m id -Ju n e the Sam iti issued a h a n d b ill th a t concluded as follows: “ Friends, in th e fight betw een poor peasan ts a n d land-ow ners, the C a b in e t is n o t im p artial. T h e y hav e taken th eir side a n d th e side is th a t o f th e ow ning class. T h is C a b in e t has refused to g ra n t th e rig h t to th e p o o r toiling people to revolt against injustice an d ex p lo itatio n . T h a t is w hy the responsibility to give su p p o rt to the struggle o f the p easan ts has fallen on all d em o cratic toiling a n d fighting people. T h a t is w hy there m u st be m u rd e r a n d arson. T h a t is w hy o u r appeal to every p a trio t is to sta n d by the p easan ts to m ake the struggle a success.” Q u o te d in B isw anath M ukherjee, “ T w o Faces o f N a x a lb a ri,” ibid., A ugust 20, 1967, p. 27. 16 Times o f India, J u n e 29, 1967. 17 Ib id ., S ep tem b er 5, 1967.

162

TH E REVOLT OF T H E MAOISTS

considerable debate am ong the fourteen parties in the u f coalition, the state governm ent finally agreed in m id-July to take determ ined action against the N axalbari rebels. W ith the assent of the c p m ministers in the governm ent, m ore th a n 1500 policem en were dispatched to the N axalbari area to quell the disturbance, an d in a m a tte r of three weeks m ost of the leaders of the m ovem ent w ere in jail. O n the basis of this kind of evidence it w ould be difficult to argue th a t the N axalbari agitation was a conspiracy against the governm ent of W est Bengal, launched either from the inside or from w ithout. I f it was, it was certainly ill p lanned an d poorly coordinated. T h e only evidence th a t has come to light of foreign “ intervention” in the ag ita­ tion consists of a few volum es of the works of M ao T se-tung translated into Bengali (but these are readily available in every city an d tow n in W est Bengal), some indication th a t the Sam iti h ad tried (unsuccessfully) to contact the C om m unist p a rty of N epal for support, an d a few state­ m ents in the Chinese press supporting the agitation. T h e Sam iti leadership itself h ad as its declared goal only “ the p rep aratio n of fighting cadres to m ake people aw are of the need for a final showdow n w ith vested interests. . . .” 18 M oreover, while it is clear th a t the “ inner core” of Sam iti leaders looked less to the im m ediate consequences of the agitation th a n to its long-run effects (their literatu re dw elt on the results th a t w ould be achieved in five, ten, or fifteen years), the “ outer core” of the leadership certainly did not agree on goals or tactics.19 T h e “ triu m v irate” of the Sam iti m ay have seen their efforts as a struggle for pow er in the widest sense, involving the determ ination of w ho is to hold pow er an d in the interests of w hom , b u t the bulk of the m em bership envisaged the m ovem ent in narrow , local term s, thinking of it only as an outlet for accum ulated frustrations. This is not to argue th a t the m ovem ent can be dismissed as politically inconsequential, for it did occupy the atten tio n of the first U nited F ront governm ent thro u g h o u t the sum m er of 1967, an d it has continued to furnish substance for political debate in m any parts of In d ia ever since. M oreover, for the com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia an d W est Bengal, N axalbari is som ew hat of a w atershed, for it furnished the rallying cry for a M aoist revolt th a t eventually led to the form ation of In d ia ’s th ird C om m unist party. 18 The Statesman, M a y 31, 1967. 19 As late as A ugust 1967, som e o f th e leaders o f th e Sam iti w ere still h o p in g for negotiations w ith the u f g o v ern m en t in C a lc u tta . B isw anath M ukherjee, w ho was a m em b er o f the u f C ab in e t a t this tim e, stated th a t som e leaders in th e S am iti h a d in fact w an ted to accept th e com prom ise solution offered by a C a b in e t m ission th a t w ent to N a x a lb a ri in J u ly 1967 b u t th a t “ th e counsel o f the short-sighted a n d ad v en tu rist section p re v a ile d .” See “ T w o Faces o f N a x a lb a ri,” p. 27.

T H E N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

163

Naxalbari and the Naxalites D espite its num erous shortcom ings an d its ignom inious failure, the N axalbari agitation of the sum m er of 1967 evoked the support of a large n u m b er of people in W est Bengal. I t appealed prim arily to young people an d to u rb a n intellectuals, b u t it struck responsive chords in m ost other segments of Bengali society as well. Ever since, K an u Sanyal has been widely depicted in the Bengali press as a heroic revolutionary leader in the m old of B engal’s nationalist heroes.20 His willingness to surrender his landed w ealth in order to “ integrate him self” w ith peasants has been em phasized in a m anner rem iniscent of the freedom fighters w ho fought for the independence of the country. His personal background an d the publicity th a t his m ovem ent has received throughout In d ia an d the w orld have invited com parisons w ith G andhi, Subhas Bose, G. R . Das, an d a host of terrorist heroes from the Bengali p ast.21 In the eyes of m any Bengalis, Sanyal is the only m odern political leader who has rem ained a “ genuine revolutionary,” seeking the support of “ the masses” in order to do aw ay w ith the electoral system, w hile the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties have com prom ised their revolutionary fervor by allying w ith the B angla Congress an d joining the ministries. In this rom antic atm osphere, Sanyal an d the N axalbari agitators have frequently been viewed as the v an g u ard of a new w ave of revolutionaries in Bengal, deserving the support of those w ho are not yet willing to succum b to the dictates of the In d ia n political system. These rom antic images of the N axalbari phenom enon are generally regarded by those in positions of au th o rity in In d ia as the visions of incurable idealists. In m uch the same m an n er as m any A m erican college presidents have described the protest of A m erican students, 20 F o r a n analysis o f B engali a ttitu d e s to w ard S anyal a n d the N axalites, see A m itav a D as G u p ta , “ C h a v a n ’s W ro n g T ac k lin g o fN a x a lite C om m unists,” Hindusthan Standard (C a lc u tta daily), M a y 13, 1969; see also Ananda Bazaar Patrika (C a lc u tta d aily ), M a y 2, 1969; S u m a n ta B anerjee, “ N a x a lb a ri: Betw een Y esterday a n d T o m o rro w ,” Frontier (C a lc u tta w eekly), M a y 17, 1969, pp. 8-10, a n d M a y 24, 1969, p p . 10—11; a n d the th re e -p a rt b io g rap h y of the N ax alite H e n a G an g u ly in the Hindusthan Standard, O c to b er 5 -7 , 1969. 21 E ven a n u m b e r o f G an d h ian s, in W est B engal a n d elsew here, expressed su p p o rt for th e N a x a lb a ri m ovem ent. T h e m ost a rticu la re o f th em was Ja y a p ra k a s h N a ra y a n , a G a n d h ia n o f g rea t conviction, w ho stated in J u n e 1969 th a t his sy m p a th y for the N a x a lb a ri m ov em en t a n d its supporters stem m ed from his desire to “ do so m ething for sh a rec ro p p ers.” N a ra y a n explained th a t he “ h o p ed to p ersuade the N ax alites to give u p violent m ea n s,” b u t he d o u b te d “ w h eth er by d em o cratic m eans the social rev o lu tio n could be ach iev ed .” H is su p p o rt o f the N axalites, N a ra y a n arg u ed , stem ­ m ed from his w illingness to “ take to violence . . . if I am convinced th a t th ere is no deliverance o f the people except th ro u g h violence.” See “ G an d h ian s a n d N ax alites,” Thought (N ew D elhi w eekly), J u n e 21, 1969, p. 5.

164

T H E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

In d ian political an d social leaders have explained the N axalites (supporters of N axalbari) by referring to their sense o f alienation an d to the influence of w riters like M arcuse an d S artre w hich has seem ingly dom inated the m inds o f young people th ro u g h o u t the w orld in the 1960s.22 Evidence of this aspect o f N axalite support can be found in a host o f small literary jo u rn als in C alcu tta w hich have expressed their support for the N axalbari m ovem ent in the m an n er o f the editors of Rupambara; a jo u rn al of poetry. Religion failed us. Politics failed us. N ations failed us. Isms failed us. W e are lost. T h a t is w hy D ig am b ara K av alu say they have n othing to do w ith all these Religions an d Isms. M an should n o t be a paw n in a political g am e.23

Those Bengalis who believe th a t m an should not be “ a paw n in a political gam e” b u t w ho nevertheless have h a d to live in the highly politicized society of W est Bengal since Independence have h a d few alternatives other th a n w ithdraw al on the one h an d an d protest on the other. A nd while m ost Bengali intellectuals have perhaps opted for the first alternative, others have continued to support the revolutionary an d protest activities o f m en like K a n u Sanyal. But the adoption of revolutionary an d protest strategies in W est Bengal is m uch too deeply rooted in the realities of In d ia n political life to be explained by a m ere sense of rom antic atta c h m e n t or individual alienation on the p a rt of young people an d intellectuals. T h e in tro ­ duction of the ad u lt franchise after Independence b ro u g h t ab o u t a shift of political pow er in Bengal from the u rb a n m iddle classes to other groups and com m unities scattered thro u g h o u t the state.24 Because they are outnum bered, because num bers count in an electoral system, and because they have either been unw illing or unable to jo in in the electoral system, large portions o f the u rb a n m iddle class of W est Bengal have secured fewer benefits th an alm ost any other com parable group in In d ia, p articu larly in light o f the historic im age th a t the Bengali bhadralok have of themselves. Political pow er w ithin the state 22 See S. K . Ghose, Student Challenge round the World (C a lc u tta : E astern L aw H ouse, 1969), p p . 56 ff. Ghose is a form er ch ief o f police. 23 Rupambara 1 (N ovem ber—D ecem ber 1968): 4. S u p p o rt for th e N a x a lb a ri m o v e­ m en t a n d th e N axalites was in d ic ate d by th e ed itorial staff in interview s. 24 T h e ad o p tio n o f revo lu tio n ary a n d protest strategies in W est Bengal is ex p lo red in g rea ter d etail in M arcus F. F ra n d a , “ T h e Politics o f W est B en g al,” in State Politics in India, ed. M y ro n W einer (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U niversity Press, 1968), p p . 289 ff. A ttitu d es su p p o rtin g rev o lu tio n ary a n d p ro test strategies are explored in “ P erceiv ed Im ages o f Political A u th o rity am o n g College G ra d u ates in C a lc u tta ,” in ib id ., p p . 87-116.

THE N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

165

has passed to ru ral politicians and u rb a n businessmen, who can appeal to caste an d com m unal ties during election cam paigns, and who use the patronage provided by office to m ain tain electoral alliances. W ith in In d ia, political pow er in this century has passed to New Delhi an d to non-Bengalis. W hile the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties secured the support of a large portion of the Bengali u rb an m iddle class th ro u g h o u t the 1950s an d 1960s precisely because they could rally those w ho were protesting against the declining position of the Bengali u rb a n m iddle class, in 1967 the same parties lost m any of their previous supporters because they were willing to enter the ministries in alliance w ith political parties dom inated by ru ra l elites an d u rb an businessmen. T h e decision to enter the m inistries in alliance w ith “ vested interests” has alienated m any of the supporters of the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties w ho believe th a t only a total revolution can restore their influence in society. In the eyes of these people, the electoral system and the In d ia n C onstitution are structured in such a w ay th a t only those w ith w ealth an d ru ra l influence can dom inate governm ental activities, both a t the state an d a t the n atio n al level, a situation th a t works to the d etrim en t of u rb a n middle-class values. Because of the very n atu re of the electoral system, the N axalites argue, both state and central governm ents (Congress or non-Congress) can only be rep re­ sentative of a less cultured, less refined group of people th an the one th a t governed Bengal before Independence, an d certainly than the one th a t ideally should govern. T h e efforts of politicans to a ttra c t votes, to appeal to caste an d com m unal ties during election cam paigns, an d to use patronage as a political w eapon do not conform to their ideas of how a dem ocracy should operate or how it actually operates in some W estern countries. T h e electoral process is therefore view ed as a sign of the “ decadence an d backw ardness” of the people in power. W hile the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties have argued th a t their entry into the m inistries is sim ply a tem porary tactical device, intended only to build bases for future revolutionary change, the N axalites have viewed such argum ents as m ere rhetoric an d revolu­ tionary jarg o n . M oreover, as the U n ited F ro n t has increasingly found it necessary to com prom ise w ith business interests and ru ral la n d ­ holders since 1967, the N axalites have becom e m ore and m ore critical of the leftist politicians who chose to enter the ministries. Even before 1967, an d especially after the split in the com m unist m ovem ent in 1964, m any Bengali M arxists h a d becom e im p atien t w ith the ideolog­ ical disputes an d factions w ithin the C om m unist and M arxist Left

166

T H E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

parties. A t the same tim e, the fact th a t the recession an d the food crisis o f the mid-1960s are continuing into the 1970s in W est Bengal (but not in other parts of India) has deepened the feeling am ong the Bengali u rb a n m iddle class th a t W est Bengal has been disadvantaged by its adherence to electoral dem ocracy. Since the defeat of the Congress in eight states in 1967, there has been renew ed hope in Bengali intellectual circles th a t a revolutionary situation m ight be developing in In d ia, an d the N axalites have therefore argued for the organization of a series of peasant guerrilla bands like those contem ­ p lated by K an u Sanyal in the la tter stages of his N axalbari m ovem ent. Naxalbari and the C P M T here is considerable evidence to indicate th a t Sanyal an d his supporters were taken by surprise w hen their sm all peasant m ovem ent evoked such w idespread support in W est B engal.25 T h e N axalbari agitation stem m ed from an in tern al factional dispute w ithin the c p m , and it was not originally intended as a challenge to the entire com ­ m unist m ovem ent in In d ia. In its initial stages the agitation was designed to em barrass the Congress governm ent; in its later stages it becam e a source of em barrassm ent for the U n ited Front. I t did present a num ber of dilem m as for the c p m , an d p articu larly for P ram ode Das G upta, b u t it was not organized or p lanned well enough to topple either the state governm ent or the leadership of any C om ­ m unist party. Y et the wave of support th a t has been m anifest in the wake of the N axalbari agitation has greatly encouraged K a n u Sanyal an d the c p m m em bers of the Left faction w ho h ad initially opposed the decision to enter the ministries. T h e younger m em bers of the Left faction h ad for a long tim e been seeking new outlets for political expression, particularly in light of the u n p o p u lar dom inance of P ram ode Das G u p ta w ithin the com m unist m ovem ent. D uring their im prisonm ent in 1965, a nu m b er of younger p a rty m em bers h ad decided to m ake a bid for leadership of the faction, an d upon their release they h ad been w orking for the establishm ent of a “ M arx-Engels In stitu te ” for political instruction, in an effort to challenge both Das G u p ta and the centrists in the party. In addition, some m em bers of the Left faction h ad also begun to publish pam phlets, newssheets, an d leaflets challenging the p arty program , even before the 1967 elections. T h e leading figures in this m ovem ent— Sushital R oy C how dhury, 25 P a n n a la l Das G u p ta, “ W h a t is the N a x a lb a ri P a th ? ” Mainstream, J u ly 8, 1967, p p . 9-11

T H E N A X A LB A R I MOVEMENT

167

P arim al Das G u p ta, N iran jan Bose, Saroj D u tta , A m ulya Sen, and others— were younger intellectuals in the c p m , none of w hom h ad yet risen above the district leadership level, and all of w hom w ere u nder 40. W hile some of them h ad w orked in the countryside on occasion, they w ere all based in C alcu tta an d its suburbs. W hen the N axalbari agitation began to m ake headlines th ro u g h o u t In d ia in the sum m er of 1967, they seized on the m ovem ent as a w ay of em barrassing the p a rty leadership in the m inistries, an d a n u m b er of new Left faction jo u rn als began to circulate. By the tim e of the police firing in N axalbari in late M ay 1967, the dissent w ithin the p arty h ad becom e so severe th a t 19 of the 39 m em bers of the c p m S tate C om m ittee w ere rum ored to be “m ain tain in g their channels w ith the dissidents” in the event of a failure of the m inistries.26 By the tim e of the police ro u n d u p in late Ju ly , the extrem ists claim ed the support of 8000 of the 20,000 m em bers of the state c p m . 27 T h e c p m state p a rty leadership itself adm itted th a t a t least 4000 p arty m em bers were supporting the N axalite faction in A ugust 1967, and it was for this reason th a t the p a rty insisted th a t the U nited F ront perform so m any m achinations before agreeing to police action in N a x alb ari.28 P ram ode Das G u p ta has since attem p ted to prevent the w idespread defection of N axalites from his p arty by w orking for the release of those arrested in 1967 (his efforts w ere successful in early 1969) an d by consistently advocating Left faction program s at C en tral C om m ittee meetings. B ut as long as the C entral and State com m ittees of the p a rty are controlled by the centrist faction, Das G u p ta can satisfy the wishes of the N axalites only by w ithdraw ing from the c p m , w hich he has been unw illing to do. R a th e r th a n split the p arty for a second tim e, Das G u p ta has preferred to w ork from w ithin to co u n ter the influence of the centrist faction an d to m ain tain his control of the organizational ap p aratu s th a t is largely his creation. D as G u p ta and the older m em bers of the Left faction leadership have therefore attem p ted to persuade the younger m em bers of the Left faction in the state th a t it is possible for the c p m to rem ain in the state m inistries while preserving its revolutionary goals. In a maidan speech shortly after the 1969 electoral victory, for exam ple, Das G u p ta told his followers, W e have adopted dem ocracy in o rd er to strengthen the dem ocratic struggle, b u t we firm ly believe th a t we w ould no t be able to reach our goal through P arliam en tary dem ocracy. O u r goal is socialism a n d for th a t is req u ired the 26 Link, J u n e 4, 1967, p. 17. 27 Ib id ., J u ly 30, 1967, p. 21. 28 Ib id .

168

T H E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

bloody revolution. W e w an t to reach the state of clash betw een the C entre an d th e S tate th ro u g h the p a th of P arliam en tary dem ocracy to such a level th a t it w ould spark off the bloody revolution.29

W ithin the p arty he a t first attem p ted to stem the tide of the Left faction’s revolt by proposing a cam paign against “ such bourgeois parties as the Bangla C o n g ress/’ b u t this proposal was voted dow n by the c p m C entral C om m ittee.30 A fter the police firing, he began to argue th a t unless the c p m pulled o u t of the m inistries, the p a rty w ould be split for a second tim e, b u t this too failed to impress the C entral C om m ittee.31 W hen the c p m gained a larger share of the state m inistries in the second U n ited F ro n t governm ent, Das G u p ta undertook to woo prom inent N axalites back into the p a rty in an effort to influence the others through personal persuasion.32 In the final analysis, D as G u p ta has not been entirely w ithout influence, either in the State Councils of the p arty or w ith the N axalites, b u t his previous position of u n ­ questioned dom inance has been severely underm ined since 1967. T h e irony of Das G u p ta ’s position since 1967 is th a t it is now he w ho m ust prevent a stam pede to the left. O f p a rtic u la r concern to him is the attem p t on the p a rt of some centrists to enforce p arty discipline, w hich w ould result in the expulsion of all the p a rty m em bers who have actively supported the “ Left deviationist5’ N axalites, estim ated a t 4000 to 8000 m em bers. Das G u p ta has agreed to the expulsion of some of the principal leaders of the N axalite faction, b u t any action on the p a rt of the state c p m to expel the m ajority of those siding w ith the N axalites w ould virtually wipe o u t his factional support. H e has thus far succeeded in slowing the rate of w ithdraw als from the party, b u t only by relaxing the rules of p a rty discipline to the point w here inner-party debates are carried out in public an d p a rty m em bers in the state regularly attack one an o th er in the press. T h e F o r m a tio n o f th e CPM L T o com plicate m atters for Das G u p ta and the c p m , the dissident Left faction has now form ed a new party, the C om m unist p a rty of 29 Hindusthan Standard, F e b ru a ry 17, 1969. D as G u p ta la te r re tra c te d this sta te m e n t u n d e r pressure from th e cen tral g o v ern m en t a n d th e c p m C en tra l E xecutive C o m ­ m ittee. 30 Link, A pril 23, 1967, p. 9. 31 Ib id ., J u n e 4, 1967, p. 17. 32 In J u n e 1969, for exam ple, the state p a rty p ro u d ly a n n o u n c e d th a t one o f the lead in g N ax alb a ri figures (K am ak sh y a B anerjee) was now w orking w ith th e re g u la r c p m . See People’s Democracy (organ o f th e c p m ) , J u n e 22, 1969, p. 3. B ut in D ecem b er 1969 B anerjee was found d ead , tied to a b am b o o pole lying n ex t to th e railw ay track s a m ile a n d a h a lf outside o f N a x a lb a ri. P resu m ab ly assassinated by N ax alites, B anerjee “ bore a gap in g w o u n d on his th ro a t a n d was com pletely disem b o w elled .” The Statesman, D ecem ber 4, 1969.

TH E FORMATION OF TH E CPML

169

In d ia-M arx ist-L en in ist ( c p m l ) , w hich is attem p tin g to lure m em bers of the c p m ’s Left faction into its ranks. T h e c p m l was conceived in the sum m er of 1967 w hen the N axalbari agitation began to a ttra c t atten tio n th ro u g h o u t In d ia, gaining support w ithin the com m unist m ovem ent from dissident Left factions in a nu m b er of In d ia n states. In an a tte m p t to prom ote some kind of all-In d ia factional unity am ong the various supporters of the N axalbari m ovem ent, younger Left faction m em bers agreed to form an A ll-India C oordination C om m ittee of C om m unist R evolutionaries ( a i c c c r ) , w hich m et throughout 1967 an d 1968 to discuss strategy an d tactics.33 D espite the alm ost identical program s adopted by the various Left faction groups in each of the states, the leadership of the a i c c c r could not agree on the structure of the proposed third C om m unist party. Personality differences betw een the leadership aro u n d T arim ela N agireddy in A n d h ra an d the leader­ ship of the a i c c c r in W est Bengal surfaced on a nu m b er of occasions, w hile juggling for leadership positions was reported to have disrupted several a i c c c r m eetings.34 In the final analysis the W est Bengal N axal­ ites could agree on a leadership clustered aro u n d K a n u Sanyal, b u t Sanyal an d his colleagues were unacceptable to the N axalites in A n d h ra, K erala, an d M adras. In early 1969, therefore, the N axalites in W est Bengal decided to launch a th ird C om m unist p a rty on their own. T h e c p m l was form ally in au g u rated on the ninety-ninth b irth d ay of L enin (April 22, 1969), b u t it was announced at a M ay D ay rally on the C alcu tta maidan. T h e new p arty has attracte d an all-In d ia m em ­ bership estim ated a t 20,000 or 30,000 an d has been active in a nu m b er of In d ia n states, b u t its largest base of operations by far is in W est B engal.35 In W est Bengal it has attracte d an active following usually estim ated at betw een 4000 an d 6000, an d its support is draw n from a nu m b er of diverse sources. T h e leadership of the p arty derives from the younger m em bers of the Left faction of the c p m (K anu Sanyal is p a rty chairm an ), an d it has recruited a num ber of form er m em bers of the c p m an d the c p i . M oreover, since the c p m has relaxed p arty discipline considerably in order to prevent defections to the c p m l , some of its m em bers have been collaborating w ith the c m p l b u t m ain tain in g their m em bership in the c p m a t the same tim e.36 In 33 A n excellent su m m ary of the N ax alite a i c c c r phase is co n tain ed in O . P. Sangal, “ A lp h a b e t of M a o : A IC C C R ,” Citizen and Weekend Review (N ew D elhi fortn ig h tly ), M a y 10, 1969, pp. 21-23. _ 34 T h e position o f th e A n d h ra N axalites is stated in T a rim e la N ag ire d d y et al., An Open Letter to Party Members (H y d e ra b a d : n.p., 1968), pp. 1-26. 35 Link, M a y 25, 1969, p. 11. 36 S a tin d ra n a th C h a k rav a rti, “ A P a rty Is B o rn ,” Now (C a lc u tta weekly), J u n e 13, 1969, p p . 9—11, a n d J u n e 6, 1969, pp. 8 -1 0 .

170

TH E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

addition, the c p m l has attracte d a n u m b er of new political p articip an ts, prim arily am ong college students an d the disenchanted u rb a n m iddle class. W hile the p arty has h ad some appeal to the low er classes and disadvantaged, its most ard en t supporters are college graduates, m any of them from g rad u ate schools in A m erica or E urope. Indeed, the n u m b er of students retu rn ed from A m erica supporting the c p m l is so large th a t Pram ode Das G u p ta has effectively charged the c p m l w ith c i a collaboration,37 while less partisan observers have viewed the N axalites as a cultural elite opposed to mass culture (m uch like the radicals in W eim ar G erm any or the New Left in the U n ited States). Because of the secrecy th a t has pervaded c p m l affairs since its form ation, d ata on the inner leadership of the p arty are difficult to obtain. T he leadership of the c p m l has argued th a t it is going to pursue a J u g a n ta r strategy ra th e r th an the A nushilan strategy of the regular c p m an d c p i , a reference to the two old terrorist federations of B engal’s nationalist era. U nlike the A nushilan Sam ity, w hich was organized in m uch the same m an n er as the two older C om m unist parties in W est Bengal (w ith front groups, mass organizations, an d so forth), the J u g a n ta r revolutionaries were a highly secretive organization th a t surfaced only to carry ou t d ram atic terrorist acts (such as the C h itta ­ gong A rm oury R a id ).38 O penly acknow ledging their adherence to a J u g a n ta r style of revolutionary organization, the c p m l leadership has agreed to m eet secretly, to g u ard against public aw areness of p arty activities, to shift h eadquarters frequently, an d to surface only w hen revolutionary activities d em and it. A n organization of this type obviously requires far m ore discipline th a n either the c p i or the c p m has thus far been able to impose on its m em bers an d m ust necessarily be even m ore elitist. J u s t as the J u g a n ta r group was always highly dependent on one or two leaders w ho controlled the operation of the entire organization, the c p m l promises to represent the political will of K a n u Sanyal an d perhaps a few of his closest associates. In tern atio n al support for the c p m l has come from the Chinese C om m unist p arty and its associates in the international m ovem ent, a tu rn of events owing m ainly to the decision of the c p m to en ter the W est Bengal ministries an d to quash the N axalbari m ovem ent. T h ro u g h o u t the 1960s C hina pursued an extrem ely active foreign policy in South Asia, presum ably designed to increase instability on 37 See “ T h e G row th of A d v en tu rism in W est B engal: C e n tra l C o m m ittee In fo rm a ­ tion D o c u m e n t,” in On Left Deviation, p. 24. 38 F o r a com parison of A nushilan a n d J u g a n ta r strategies, see G o b in d a L all B anerjee, Dynamics o f Revolutionary Movement in India (C a lc u tta : S u d h ir K u m a r G hosh, 1965), p p . 18-20.

T H E FORMATION OF THE CPML

171

the subcontinent and to involve New D elhi an d R aw alpindi in an arm am ents race th a t w ould d etract from econom ic developm ent in both nations.39 Peking has effected a rap p ro ch em en t w ith the Pakistani governm ent while sim ultaneously lending support to internal C om ­ m unist political leaders;40 in In d ia, diplom atic relations have been severely strained by the lingering S ino-Indian border dispute. Chinese attem pts to prevent both A m erica an d the Soviet U nion from prom oting their objectives in South Asia have so far failed, an d the Chinese have therefore m aintained their hostile stance tow ard the present In d ia n regim e. O n the one h an d this has involved a continuing confrontation of troops on the S ino-Indian b o rd er; on the other C hina is supporting an d train in g rebels in the N aga Hills an d in other parts of In d ia w here potential guerrilla m ovem ents exist.41 F rom C h in a’s point of view the g p m l is a potential guerrilla force th a t can be used to disrupt the orderly functioning o f the In d ia n political system. T h e first indication of Chinese support for the N axalites w ithin the c p m cam e in the form of a broadcast over R adio Peking on J u n e 28, 1967, d u rin g the period w hen the U n ited F ront was in the process of evolving a policy for police action against the N axalbari agitators. In w h at was described as “ a talk on the revolutionary arm ed struggle of the In d ia n people,” R adio Peking described the N axalbari agitation as follows: A phase of peasants’ arm ed struggle led by the revolutionaries of the In d ian C om m unist P arty has been set up in the countryside in D arjeeling D istrict of W est Bengal State in In d ia. T his is the front paw of the revolutionary arm ed struggle launched by the In d ia n people u n d er the guidance of M ao T se-tung’s teachings. This represents the general orientation of the In d ia n revolution at the present tim e. T h e people of In d ia, C hina an d the rest of the w orld hail the em ergence of this revolutionary arm ed struggle.42 39 C h in a ’s foreign policy in S outh Asia is d escribed in R ussell Brines, The IndoPakistani Conflict (L o n d o n : P all M all Press, 1968), pp. 160-213. 40 F o r a n excellent series of articles on P akistan, see D ilip M ukherjee, “ P a k ista n ,” The Statesman, S ep tem b er 3 0 - 0 c to b e r 3, 1968. F o r a n analysis of the in te rn a l politics o f E ast P ak istan (w ith a b rief tre a tm e n t of th e role of th e C om m unists), see J a y a n ta K u m a r R ay , Democracy and Nationalism on Trial: A Study o f East Pakistan (S im la: In d ia n In stitu te of A dvanced S tudy, 1968), pp. 370 ff. 41 In D ecem b er 1968 th e U n io n M in ister of S tate for E x te rn al Affairs, M r. B. R . B hagat, confirm ed reports th a t a t least 1000 N a g a rebels h a d been tra in e d in C h in a for purposes of gu errilla w arfare a n d w ere a tte m p tin g to in filtrate back into In d ia . See Amrita Bazaar Patrika, D ecem ber 24, 1968. F or P eking’s links w ith b o th the N ax alites a n d the N ag a hostiles, see th e Hindusthari Standard, S ep tem b er 21, 1969. O n P ek in g ’s attitu d e s to w ard In d ia n com m unism , see H em en R ay, “ Peking a n d th e In d ia n C P ,” Problems o f Communism 15 (N ovem ber 1966): 87—92. 42 T h e com plete text o f th e J u n e 28 a n d J u n e 30 broadcasts on th e N a x a lb a ri ag itatio n are re p rin te d in Mainstream, J u ly 8, 1967, pp. 14—16. Q u o ta tio n s in the text are tak en from this published version.

172

TH E REVOLT OF T H E MAOISTS

In the sam e broadcast, an d in subsequent pronouncem ents from Peking, the U n ited F ro n t governm ents an d the two older C om m unist parties in In d ia have been described by C hina as “ tools of the In d ia n reactio n ­ aries to deceive the people an d b enum b their revolutionary m ilitan cy ,” w hile the decision to enter the m inistries has been described as “ reactionary counter-revolutionary double-dealing.” T h e c p m l has m eanw hile been recognized by the c c p as “ the only C om m unist P arty in In d ia ,” b u t thus far the In d ia n H om e M inistry has argued th a t support for the c p m l has been entirely v erb al.43 T h e H om e M inistry o f the U n io n governm ent has stated on a n u m b er of occasions th a t “we are not silent spectators” w ith regard to the events surrounding the form ation of the c p m l an d its ties w ith the Chinese, b u t thus far the governm ent has h ad little reason for taking determ ined action against the Naxalites. O f p articu lar concern to the H om e M inistry, of course, is the possibility th a t central governm ent action against the N axalites m ight either m ake “ m arty rs” of the c p m l leaders or alternatively m ight evoke a center-state conflict in the areas w here the Com m unists have attain ed p artial political power. T h e P r o g r a m o f th e CPM L T here can be little question, however, th a t the c p m l is m aking a determ ined effort to m ain tain the support of C hina an d to em ulate the Chinese exam ple o f a com m unist revolution based on peasant uprisings. Following the pronouncem ents o f the c c p , the political program o f the c p m l starts from the assum ption th a t the In d ia n nationalist m ovem ent was led by “ the co m p rad o r-b u reau crat big bourgeoisie of In d ia ,” whose “ principal political m outh-piece was the In d ia n N ational Congress.” 44 A fter Independence, the program argues, the Congress “ betrayed the national freedom struggle to serve [its] ow n narrow reactionary class interests” by becom ing im perialism ’s agent for ruling the country: British im perialist exploitation has no t only continued u n in te rru p te d , b u t even increased. M oreover, other im perialists, an d especially U .S. im perialism , the No. 1 enem y of the w orld’s people, an d Soviet social-im perialism , the No. 1 accom plice of U .S. im perialism , w ho are jo in tly w orking for w orld dom ination an d for re-dividing the w orld am ong themselves, have pen etrated into In d ia at an increasingly rap id rate. 43 See, for exam ple, Amrita Bazaar Patrika, D ecem ber 10, 1968. 44 T h e p ro g ra m of th e c p m l is c o n tain ed in tw o docum ents d rafte d in early 1969: “ Political R esolution of th e C o m m u n ist P a rty of In d ia (M arx ist-L e n in ist),” in Liberation 2 (M ay 1969): 4 -1 6 , a n d “ D ra ft Political P ro g ra m m e for th e R e v o lu tio n ary S tu d e n t a n d Y o u th M o v em en t,” ibid., A pril 1969, pp. 57-67. All q u o tatio n s th a t are n o t otherw ise no ted are taken from these tw o docum ents.

TH E PROGRAM OF TH E CPML

173

In the thinking of the c p m l , “ the only w ay to achieve liberation from the existing reactionary system . . . is resolutely to overthrow by arm ed force the four enemies— U .S. im perialism , Soviet social-im perialism and their lackeys in this country, the co m p rad o r-b u reau crat big bourgeoisie and the feudal landlords. : . But thus far “ the so-called com m unists an d the other political parties in In d ia have refused to undertake this revolutionary task.” A ccording to the c p m l , the older In d ian C om m unist and M arxist Left parties “ pay only lip service to M arxism -Leninism but, in practice, have never cared to educate the workers, peasants, youth, students and the broad masses in M arxism Leninism nor directed their struggles along the M arxist-L eninist line. O n the contrary, they have kept the m ovem ent strictly w ithin the bounds of laws w hich are based on exploitation and dragged them dow n into the m ire of econom ism , reform ism and parliam en tarism .” U nlike the c p m and c p i , both of w hich now envisage a two-stage revolution in India, and b o th of w hich are p articip atin g in parliam ents, the c p m l is convinced th a t In d ian Com m unists m ust “ reject the hoax of p arliam en tarism ” in order to bring out an “ im m ediate revolution . . . through revolutionary people’s w a r” : T o d ay the basic task is to liberate the ru ra l areas th ro u g h revolutionary arm ed ag rarian revolution an d encircle the cities and, finally, to liberate the cities an d thus com plete the revolution th ro u g h o u t the country.

R elying heavily on analogies to C u b a and V ietnam , the c p m l program argues th a t In d ia presents an “ excellent revolutionary situation: . . . the U .S. im perialists an d their chief accom plice, the Soviet revisionists, are facing increasing difficulty in their dirty efforts to redivide and enslave the whole w orld . . . [and] the reactionary ruling classes are facing insoluble contradictions a t hom e.” O n the other hand, the program argues, “ Socialist C hina is perform ing m iracles of socialist construction. T h e great p ro letarian cultural revolution has consolidated the dictatorship of the p ro letariat in every sphere of life and created conditions for the socialist m a n .” In his M ay D ay speech announcing the form ation of the c p m l , K a n u Sanyal em phasized the declaration of the c c p to the effect th a t “ . . . by the year 2000, th a t is, only 31 years from now, the people of the whole w orld will be liberated from all kinds of exploitation of m an by m an and will celebrate the w orldw ide victory of M arxism , Leninism , and M ao T se-tung’s th o u g h t.” In the words of Sanyal, “ This is no m ere declaration, it is an historic directive. T h ro u g h this the great C om m unist P arty of C hina points out to the com m unists of the whole w orld how excellent the w orld situation is for m aking revolution, and, a t the same time, directs all of them to

174

TH E REVOLT OF T H E MAOISTS

m arch forw ard boldly . . . the historic responsibility of carrying forw ard the In d ia n revolution has fallen on our shoulders.” In order to take advantage of the “ excellent revolutionary situ atio n ” in India, the c p m l has so far concentrated on two types* of activities: (1) the organization and education of stu d en t groups on m ost Bengali college cam puses; (2) p arty work in villages an d towns am ong peasant cultivators an d landless laborers. In these activities, the m ajor thrust of c p m l efforts is to bridge the gap th a t has always existed in In d ian C om m unist parties betw een elite leaders and mass followers. In the words of the p arty program : . . . the advanced section [the u rb a n youth an d college students] will get isolated from the overw helm ing m ajority . . . if it tries to advance into the struggle by itself w ithout caring to inspire the backw ard sections in o rd er to m ake them p articip ate actively in the struggle. T ak in g the o p p o rtu n ity p ro ­ vided by the isolation of the advanced section, the reactionaries [such as Congress will] organise the b ro ad sections of the backw ard masses a n d utilise them to serve the needs of counter-revolution.

T o bridge the gap betw een elite leaders an d mass followers, the c p m l proposes to concentrate on the building of a new mass political organi­ zation of students and youth, fully integrated w ith peasants and workers. T h ro u g h the building of a revolutionary mass organization the c p m l hopes to create a political p a rty w here “ the youth am ong the intel­ ligentsia, the youth and student masses, [will] not only becom e an advanced section, an im p o rtan t detachm ent, in the anti-im perialist anti-feudal dem ocratic revolution in our country, b u t [will] becom e one w ith workers and peasants.” A ccording to the leading p a rty theo­ retician, C h aru M azum dar, . . . there can only be one criterion by w hich we should ju d g e w hether a youth or a student is a revolutionary. This criterion is w hether or not he is willing to integrate him self w ith the b ro ad masses of workers an d peasants, does so in practice, an d carries on mass w ork . . . those who can n o t are at first n on­ revolutionaries and m ay in some cases jo in the counter-revolutionary cam p afterw ards. This is a lesson w hich we get not only from C h in a b u t from every country in the w orld.45

W hile there is a great deal of M arxism and M ao in the p ro g ram of the c p m l , the views of the u rb a n bhadralok living in an d aro u n d C alcutta still predom inate in p arty thinking. T h e principal charge against the “ im perialists” is th a t they have “ struck a deal w ith the Congress 45 C h a ru M a zu m d a r, “ T o th e Y o u th a n d th e S tu d e n ts,” Deshabrati (N ax alite p u b lic atio n ), M a y 2, 1968, pp. 1, 4.

TH E PROGRAM OF TH E CPML

175

[and] partitio n ed the co u n try ” ;46 the “ treach ery ” of the regular c p i is due to its alliance w ith the Soviet U nion in describing N ehru as “ the representative of the progressive bourgeoisie” ;47 the “ most glaring exam ple of co m p rad o r-b u reau crat double-dealing” is “ the trea tm en t m eted out to the revolutionaries of Bengal in this cen tu ry ” ;48 an d the “ people’s urges” th a t “ m ust be organised into pow erful struggles on correct lines an d directed to a tta in the revolutionary objective” are the middle-class “ dem ands for education, em ploym ent, food, an d culture.” 49 W hen K a n u Sanyal told a Bengali audience on M ay D ay in 1969 th a t “ the sparks from N axalbari have spread to Bihar, U tta r Pradesh, O rissa an d to Srikakulam district in A n d h ra ,” he evoked visions am ong the bhadralok of the days w hen Bengal held sway over the rest of In d ia .50 W hen he stated th a t “ the utterly shameless m an n er in w hich H arekrishna K o n ar an d com pany are serving the jotedars beats even the record of the notorious Congress m inisters,” he rem inded his p red o m in an tly middle-class audience th a t they h a d lost political pow er in this century to ru ral elites. T he constant references by the leaders of the c p m l to the U n ited F ro n t as “ the lackey of the co m p rad o r-b u reau crat Birlas an d T a ta s” m erely voices the feelings of protest am ong the Bengali u rb a n bhadralok in the face of continued control of industry in W est Bengal by non-Bengalis, despite the election of a C om m unist-led coalition governm ent in the state. Because the c p m l is still a p a rty of u rb a n bhadralok trying to obtain a mass base in order to overthrow a regim e th a t is distasteful to it, the p a rty ’s organizational focus m ust necessarily be on narrow ing the gap betw een the leadership of the p a rty an d its potential followers. For this reason, the p a rty has launched a tw o-pronged organizational offensive, first to educate students on the need to w ork in the villages, then to use students to educate the peasantry on the need for revolution. To fu rth er both of these objectives, the c p m l has adopted “ back to the village” slogans, an d a n u m b er of p a rty workers have been ordered to p rep are reports on the clim ate for revolution in various parts of the state.51 Following the p arty line, m ost of these reports by p arty workers 46 Liberation 2 (M ay 1969): 10. 47 Ib id ., p. 12. 48 Chhatra Fauj [S tu d e n t’s A rm y], F e b ru a ry 28, 1969, p. 5. 49 Liberation 2 (A pril 1969): 65. (Italics a d d ed .) 50 K a n u S a n y a l’s M ay D ay address is re p rin te d in full in ibid., M a y 1969, pp. 110— 122. F o r a su m m ary of Bengali reactions to th e address, see Basumati (Bengali daily), M a y 2, 1969. 51 In D ecem ber 1968 th e leadership of th e c p m l published an article by C h a ru M a z u m d a r, th a t called on all N axalites to p re p a re “ class analyses” o f th eir villages.

176

TH E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

have so far arrived a t m uch the same conclusions as the following, by a “ peasant organizer” from M u rsh id ab ad : F rom the very initial stages of organization they [the p oor a n d m iddle peasants] show utm ost eagerness a n d realise th a t for th em there' is no other alternative b u t to m ake revolution. T h ey have g reat influence over the landless peasants, an d fight in the front ran k alongside the landless peasants.52

I f the c p m l were able to get poor an d m iddle peasant cultivators to “ fight in the front ran k alongside the landless peasants,” the p a rty m ight be able to confront the state an d central governm ents w ith a realistic challenge for political pow er in W est Bengal. But the evidence thus far w ould indicate th a t the peasants’ reception of the c p m l has not been significantly different from their response to past organizational efforts by Bengali Com m unists. T o take the m ost extrem e case, in Phansideoa constituency (where N axalbari is located), the vote of the Congress p a rty actually increased after the N ax alb ari agitation— from 45.36 percent in the 1967 assembly elections to 53.4 p ercent in 1969— prim arily because of the voting behavior of poor an d m iddle peasant cultivators.53 This does not m ean th a t the c p m l has h ad no effect on state politics or th a t it lacks potential for future grow th, b u t it does point up the lim itations of its m ost concerted a tte m p t so far to get w idespread peasant support. T h e I m p a c t o f th e CPM L D espite its failures to initiate successful peasant uprisings, the c p m l has been a significant force in state politics since 1967 and promises to play a larger role in the future. T h e c p m l ’s appeal to college students, u rb a n m iddle-class youth, and m em bers of the Left faction in the c p m is based on its m ilitan t stance before the U n ited F ro n t governm ent. Leaders of the c p m l have been most vociferous in arguing ------------ / -------------------------------------------- —

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In M a z u m d a r’s w ords, “ C h a irm a n M a o instructs us to m ake class analysis. . . . C h a irm a n M a o teaches: ‘W e should rid o u r ranks of all im p o te n t th in k in g ; all views th a t overestim ate the stren g th of the enem y a n d u n d e re stim a te th e stre n g th o f the people are w ro n g .’ ” See “ T o the C om rades W ho A re W o rking in V illages,” Liberation 2 (J a n u a ry 1969): 3-5. 52 “ A n Investigation in to th e N a tu re a n d Form s of E x p lo itatio n : A R e p o rt o f Class Analysis of a M u rsh id a b a d V illag e,” ibid., J u n e 1969, p. 90. 53 See th e analysis of th e 1969 election results for N a x a lb a ri in A m itav a D as G u p ta , “ W h y the Congress Lost in W est B engal,” Hindusthan Standard, F e b ru a ry 14, 1969. In P h an sid eo a constituency th e Congress vote increased from 16,227 votes in 1967 to 20,974 in 1969, w hile c p m votes increased from 10,484 (29.4 p ercen t) in 1967 to 11,228 (29.3 percent) in 1969. T h e rem a in in g votes in b o th elections w ere sc attere d am o n g in d ep e n d en t candidates.

TH E IMPACT OF T H E CPML

177

th a t the U n ited F ront governm ents pursued essentially the same policies as the Congress p a r ty : they allied themselves w ith big business interests an d ru ra l elites, they allow ed foreign businessmen to continue to operate in W est Bengal, they proposed no new m easures for dealing w ith m iddle-class dem ands for food, education, em ploym ent, and “ cu ltu re,” they failed to secure benefits for W est Bengal from the central governm ent, an d they m et the dem ands of the m iddle class w ith the same kind of repressive m easures an d stalling devices used by previous Congress m inistries. For these reasons, according to c p m l lite ra tu re : . . . the policy of the u f is inviting all the enemies of the people into its folds. F a r from being afraid of the u f , w hich is playing a counter-revolutionary role, the vested interests, crim inals a n d c i a agents consider it to be their own organi­ zation. T hey know quite well th a t its role is to serve them while preten d in g to serve the people.54

Especially im p o rtan t for the m aintenance of the c p m l has been its success in confronting the U n ited F ro n t w ith these ideas. U sing m ilitan t mass action, agitation, an d p ro p ag an d a— the same devices previously used by the c p i — the c p m l was able to em barrass the U n ited F ro n t governm ents on a nu m b er of occasions, an d in this w ay it established a leading position am ong the most m ilitan t u rb a n m iddle classes. Perhaps the most successful m ovem ent launched by the c p m l thus far has been directed a t the police force in W est Bengal, w hich has long been a target of leftist criticism an d was an especially vulnerable p a rt of the u f governm ent. In a series of incidents th a t began w ith the N ax alb ari agitation, supporters of the c p m l have attem p ted to provoke the police to take repressive action against political parties, and in those cases w here policem en have acted against political agitators, the c p m l has quickly set out to m obilize antipolice sentim ent. U n til now, the most successful action has been the statew ide m ovem ent launched by the c p m l following a confrontation betw een students an d police at D u rg ap u r (on the Bihar border) in J u n e 1969, w hich has had w idespread ram ifications for the future of c p i and c p m involvem ent in state governm ent. D u rg a p u r is one of the m any com pletely new cities th a t have grow n up in In d ia since Independence. A small village in 1947, D u rg ap u r has been developed w ith funds from the central and state governm ents, from private business, an d from foreign assistance, to the point w here 54 “ T h e R e al F ace of th e U F ,” Liberation 2 (J u n e 1969): 10.

178

TH E REVO LT OF T H E MAOISTS

it is now a leading industrial city in W est Bengal (in 1969 its population was estim ated a t m ore th a n 200,000). Since industry in D u rg ap u r, like th a t in other parts of the state, is dom inated by non-Bengali businessm en and central governm ent adm inistrators, the city’s grow th has been opposed from the very beginning by large portions of the Bengali m iddle class, and C om m unist influence has steadily increased. L eanin g heavily on middle-class trade unions, teachers, and students, the leftist parties have increased their votes in D u rg a p u r constituency and in 1967 were able to unite behind a c p m candidate to defeat the Congress (the c p m secured 49.6 percent of the vote in D u rg a p u r in 1967 and 51.6 percent in 1969, narrow ly defeating the Congress on b o th occasions). Since 1967, both trad e unions and student groups in D u rg ap u r, like those in other parts of the state, have been jockeying for position, w hich has intensified industrial and student unrest. T he general m anager of the D u rg ap u r steel p la n t estim ated th a t there were 66 cases of w ork stoppages in his p la n t alone d u rin g the first four m onths of the u f governm ent in 1969, resulting in as m any as 9800 m an-hours lost in one m onth (this com pares w ith an average of only 15 stoppages and 10,800 m an-hours lost per year d uring the period 1963-1966, w hen the Congress held pow er in the sta te ).55 Since the assum ption of pow er by the u f governm ent in 1967, num erous incidents of sabotage in D u rg ap u r industries have been a ttrib u te d to extrem ist trade unionists, and on occasion police, industrial security forces, m anagers, engineers, and college and school adm inistrators have been assaulted.56 T aking advantage of the alm ost anarchic conditions th a t have prevailed in D u rg ap u r since 1967, the c p m l has sought to build a strong cadre am ong students in the D u rg ap u r colleges and to use student groups to provoke the police and the u f . W hile earlier efforts to “ expose” the police and the u f governm ent succeeded on a small scale and in local areas, the incidents of J u n e 1969 resulted in clashes betw een the police and c p m l supporters w hich had statew ide con­ sequences. T h e incidents began w ith a m otor accident witnessed by a group of N axalite students, who argued th a t the accident could have been prevented if a policem an had perform ed his duties. A ccording to the police, the students concerned beat up a traffic constable and raided both the police station and the residence of the officer in charge at the police station, injuring him and 5 other policem en. 55 The Statesman, J u n e 8, 1969. See also Amrita Bazaar Patrika, J u n e 13, 1969, a n d J u n e 20, 1969. 56 The Statesman, J u n e 8, 1969. A Statesman survey in d ic ate d th a t m ore th a n 60 engineers h a d left D u rg a p u r d u rin g the first six m onths of 1969 as a result o f political d istu rb ances.

T H E IMPACT OF TH E CPML

179

W hen the state police were called into D u rgapur, the students kid­ n ap p ed the subinspector of police and confined him to the cam pus of the D u rg ap u r R egional E ngineering College. As a result of the num erous subsequent clashes th a t took place betw een students and police, 1 student was killed and 125 injured, the police opened fire and m ade a lathi charge against students despite orders to desist from doing so, and the entire city of D u rg ap u r was disrupted for alm ost a week. T h e D u rg ap u r incidents pointed up in a very graphic w ay the ability of the c p m l an d its supporters to influence the u f an d the C om m unist parties in the state. I f the u f governm ent took the side of the police against the c p m l , it w ould alienate m any of its own supporters, even m any of its p arty m em bers, w ho were already attracte d to the p ro ­ gram of the c p m l . Police repression of leftist political groups, it was thought, w ould finally convince m any of the fro n t’s w avering supporters th a t the u f was essentially the same as the previous Congress govern­ m ents in the state. O n the other han d , if the front continued to im m obilize the police, it w ould eventually face a police revolt, w ith a consequent breakdow n of state governm ent. T h e beginnings of a police revolt becam e evident after the D u rg ap u r incidents. T h e superintendent of police in W est Bengal stated in J u n e 1969 th a t policem en had becom e so agitated over the D u rg ap u r incidents th a t they “ could not be kept u n d er any senior officer’s control.” In the words of H om e M inister Jy o ti Basu, “ I can ’t say it was a police revolt, b u t it is clear th a t a certain section of the police w ent out of control.” 57 In order to deal w ith a p otential police revolt, the state governm ent im m ediately took disciplinary action against the leading police officials involved in the D u rg ap u r incidents and eventually suspended the secretary of the W est Bengal Police Association on the charge th a t he h ad left his duties in C alcutta to investigate the D u rg ap u r incidents w ithout getting the approval of his superiors. In protest against the state governm ent an d the state political parties, the w b p a voted to observe a one-day hunger strike on J u ly 15, 1969, during w hich they w ould perform their norm al duties b u t w ear badges to indicate their support of the association. A t the same time, the w b p a p rep ared a rep o rt on the D u rg ap u r incidents w hich has been sum ­ m arized as follows: . . . policem en at D u rg ap u r have been suffering from a sense of insecurity, p articu larly since the attack by students on the fam ily q uarters . . . . R ecently the police have been subjected to assault and hum iliation by riotous mobs as a result of w hich the m orale of the force has been shattered. T h ere have been m any such incidents: a t K asba, Islam pur, K ultali, A m danga and Bally. 57 “ Policem en in W est B engal,” Citizen and Weekend Review, J u n e 14, 1969, p. 21.

180

TH E REVO LT OF TH E MAOISTS

R ecently the police in W est Bengal has not only been d eb arred from p e r­ form ing its m inim um duties of m ain tain in g law a n d order b u t its functioning is being interfered w ith by the local p a rty bosses of c p i ( m ) . Policem en do not even have the right to defend themselves a n d their families in the face of m ob fury. T h e D u rg ap u r incident has shown th a t the police force is no longer p rep ared to take this kind of thing lying dow n.58

F aced w ith a n ear revolt am ong the police after the D u rg a p u r incidents, the u f sought to consolidate support w ithin the police force: large num bers of policem en who h ad been suspended or fired by the Congress before 1967 were rehired, senior police officials were replaced w ith u f appointees, and the leftist parties in the state organized an association of nongazetted police employees (the W est Bengal N on-G azetted Police Em ployees C om m ittee, or w b n g p e c ) as a com petitor o f the w b p a . 59 Predictably, these m easures split the police force betw een those siding w ith a n d those against the u f . I f W est Bengal were a sovereign, in d ep en d en t nation, or if the C om m unist parties were strong th ro u g h o u t In d ia, one m ight argue th a t it w ould be advantageous for the Bengali C om m unists to create an anarchic situation. U n d e r the present circum stances, however, an arch y in W est Bengal has resulted in President’s R ule by the central governm ent, w hich will w ork as long as N ew D elhi is able to govern. M oreover, in a segm ented society like In d ia ’s, the possibility of an arch y in one state spreading to other states is dim inished considerably. T he organizational grow th of com m unism in W est Bengal since In d e p e n ­ dence, for exam ple, has not been accom panied by a parallel grow th even in the states adjoining W est Bengal, despite num erous efforts by Bengalis to organize them . T h e com bined vote of the two m ajor C om m unist parties in the 1967 elections was 7.12 percent of the total in Assam, 8.19 percent in Bihar, and 6.42 percent in Orissa, and none of these figures represents significant changes from 1957 and 1962. Indeed, the principal opposition parties in each of the three states bordering on W est Bengal are ideologically anticom m unist an d nonM arxist. Even if the Congress p a rty loses a significant portion of its electoral support in future elections in these states, Congress votes are likely to go to noncom m unist opposition parties. I t is for these reasons th a t neither the c p m nor the c p i is w illing to view the present political situation in In d ia as “ an excellent revolu­ tionary situation.” In the words of the theoreticians in the c p m , “ I t is 58 Ib id . 59 The Statesman, J u n e 16, 1969.

T H E IMPACT OF TH E CPML

181

am azing th a t our critics [the c p m l ] can exaggerate the political crisis to the point of equating it w ith a revolutionary crisis” :60 It is precisely because we have no such phenom enon of w arlord regimes, incessant wars am ong them an d on the, o ther h an d , have a centralised and unified regime in the form of the In d ia n U nion, th a t it is in cu m b en t upon us to study concretely the contradictions th a t form the basis for revolutionary crisis a n d the disintegration of the ruling classes, their parties and their centralised state apparatus. . . . Refusal to un d ertak e this study, the tendency to poohpooh these conflicts [betw een m em bers of the ruling classes] as of no con­ sequence, the facile idea th a t by pointing them out the mass struggles get diverted, a n d a t the sam e tim e indulge in the tall talk of revolutionary situation an d arm ed struggle is sym ptom atic of infantile phrase-m ongering, not of a serious M arxist-L eninist attitu d e to the study of contradictions.61

Because of their conviction th a t In d ia is not passing through a period ripe for a one-stage revolution, the leaders of both the c p i and the c p m have argued th a t “ any further w eakening or disorganising of the P arty from a sectarian and left-opportunist deviation, we are of opinion, w ould only result in greater h arm to the cause of the In d ian revolution, and w ould come as a boon to the reactionary ruling classes.” 62 Y et how ever m uch the c p m and c p i m ight condem n the c p m l and the N axalites, they have as yet been unw illing to discipline c p m l m em bers and supporters. T h e leadership of the c p m allowed the N axalites to rem ain w ithin the fold of the p arty in order to prevent a split, and the u f governm ent refused to use the police to inhibit c p m l activities. T h e c p m l was therefore able to drive the u f parties m ore and m ore tow ard Left C om m unist positions and to threaten both the unity and the effectiveness of the C om m unist-led state governm ents. M ore­ over, the Congress p arty in the state has not hesitated to support the N axalites at times w hen their activities have been a source of em b ar­ rassm ent to the u f , an d the noncom m unist parties in the front have occasionally used the N axalites to em barrass the c p m . T h e resulting situation has produced an intricate web of feuds and alliances in w hich every p arty and faction is constantly w ary of “ conspiracies” th a t m ight be launched against its interests. 60 Ideological Debate Summed Up by Politbureau (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1968), p. 164. 61 Ib id ., p. 168. (Italics in th e original.) 62 Ib id ., p. 183.

7

THE CPM AND PARTIAL POLITICAL POWER

W hile the c p m has h ad to deal w ith severe in n er-p arty factionalism since 1967, it has also been confronted w ith a highly factionalized state political environm ent in w hich the other state parties have been m ore an d m ore w illing to ally against it. In this atm osphere the principal concern of the c p m has been its m inority position in the U n ited F ro n t coalition an d the tenuous n a tu re of the coalition itself. O f p articu lar concern to c p m leaders is the danger th a t the other parties in the U n ited F ro n t m ight coalesce against the c p m , either in alliance w ith the Congress or u n d er the tutelage of the c p i . In its review of the 1967 election results, for exam ple, the c p m C entral C om m ittee issued the following w arnings to p a rty m em bers: . . . the dem ocratic m ovem ent [th a t is, the c p m ] m ust be always conscious of the danger of backsliding by those representatives of the vested interests [ u f allies], an d of sabotage of the w orking of dem ocratic m easures in the interests of the people, a n d even of their h atch in g conspiracies to scuttle these governm ents an d jo in hands w ith the Congress to set u p reactio n ary govern­ m ents both in the states a n d at the C e n tre .1 T h e struggle against the Revisionists— the R ig h t C om m unists— will be prolonged a n d it has to be continued m ore p atien tly a n d skilfully. I t is our work am ong the people a n d the correctness of our p a th th a t w ould convince the general mass of the people to swing over to us. W e have to com bine our exposure of R ight C om m unist ideology, policies a n d tactics w hile w orking w ith them in the new ministries, in mass organisations, in com m on people’s struggles. W e m ust know how to dem arcate a n d develop our in d ep en d en t ideology, policies an d mass base, while w orking along w ith them a n d o ther p etty bourgeois or bourgeois parties!2

In line w ith this position, in 1967 the c p m C entral C om m ittee developed a tactic of im m ediately strengthening p arty organizations an d mass m ovem ents in the two states w here the p arty was strong, in an attem p t 1 Election Review and Party’s Tasks, Adopted by the Central Committee o f the C P I (M ) at Its Session in Calcutta, April 10 to 16, 1967 (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967), pp. 8 -9 . 2 Ib id ., pp. 30-31.

TH E CPM

183

to solidify the hold of the p a rty on the state ministries. Q uestions of n atio n al and international im portance to Com m unists were not to be entirely neglected, b u t in general they were at least tem porarily postponed in light of the necessity to consolidate two strong state p a rty units. Essential to the adoption of this tactic was its acceptability to a large portion of the centrist and Left factions in the c p m , since strong state p arty organizations w ould be im p o rtan t both for electoral and for nonelectoral strategies in the future. In the words of the c p m p a rty program , the “ core and the basis” of the p a rty ’s efforts in W est Bengal and K erala after the assum ption o f pow er in 1967 was to consist of a “ firm alliance of the w orking class and the peasan try ,” b ro u g h t ab o u t by aggressive p arty wrork in trad e unions and peasant organizations and directed against other political parties in the states concerned.3 For this reason it was essential th a t the c p m control the portfolios of L an d and L and R evenue, L abour, and H om e (especially Police), since these three ministries w ould determ ine in large m easure the n atu re of governm ental policy on the peasant and trad e union fronts. In the first u f m inistry in W est Bengal, the c p m was able to gain control of the L and and L and R evenue portfolio b u t found its position in the coalition (43 of 141 seats) too w eak to be gran ted charge of the H om e or L abour ministries. But w hen the c p m secured 80 of the 214 seats in the second state coalition governm ent, its bargaining position was considerably enhanced, and it im m ediately w aged a successful struggle to add L ab o u r and H om e (Police) to its list of governm ental portfolios.4 In order to placate both factions w ithin the party, as well as the other constituent parties in the U n ited F ront, it was also necessary for the c p m to adopt a m ore flexible policy w ith regard to the areas an d classes th a t it was willing to organize once it assum ed political power. O n the peasant front, for exam ple, the p a rty now took the position th a t “ different sections of the peasantry play different roles in the revolution,” im plying th a t all ru ral classes could be courted by the party . In the words of a rep o rt prepared by the C entral C om m ittee, T h e ag ricu ltu ral labourers an d poor peasants w ho constitute seventy per cent of the ru ra l households an d are subjected to ruthless exploitation by landlords, by their very class position in present-day society, will be basic allies of the w orking class. T h e m iddle peasantry, too, are the victims of the depred atio n of 3 T h is tactical line is d etailed in New Situation and Party’s Tasks (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967). 4 T h e b a rg a in in g th a t took place w ith reg a rd to th e state L a b o u r a n d H o m e m inistries in 1969 is detailed in “ C P I(M ) R esents D enial of D ue Place a n d R o le ,” Amrita Bazaar Patrika (C a lc u tta d aily ), F e b ru a ry 20, 1969.

184

TH E CPM

usurious capital, of feudal a n d capitalist landlords in the countryside a n d of the capitalist m arket, an d lan d lo rd dom ination in ru ra l life so affects th eir social position in innum erable ways as to m ake them reliable allies in the dem ocratic front. T h e rich peasants are an o th er influential section am ong th e peasantry. T h e Congress ag rarian reforms have u n d o u b ted ly benefited certain sections of them . . . [but] . . . heavy taxation, high prices for industrial goods a n d inflation constantly harass them so as to m ake their fu tu re u n certain . . . . By a n d large, they can also, therefore, be bro u g h t into the dem ocratic front a n d retain ed as allies in the People’s D em ocratic R evolution.5

In organizing the ru ral areas, m oreover, the c p m showed a new flexibility after assum ing political power. T h e rep o rt on the K isan F ront, ju st quoted, therefore argued th a t it w ould be “ in co rrect” to “ m ake a rigid p attern of organisation for . . . all states an d regions.” D epending on the circum stances, the rep o rt argued, “ State an d D istrict Com m ittees [must] take full account of all the factors an d take proper decisions as to w hether, w here, an d how the agricultural labourers are to be organized.” 6 T h e new flexibility of the c p m was designed to m eet the th re a t of other parties’ m aking inroads into the ru ral areas by using the p atronage of political office. By allow ing local units to determ ine the forms of organization to be used as well as the class interests to be courted, the p a rty m ade it possible for each local u n it to ensure m axim um support. T hus the p arty organized some areas by bringing influential m iddle an d rich peasants into the p a rty an d using them as brokers to dis­ p atch state patronage, while in other areas it led m ovem ents against large landholders w ith the backing of the state ministries. Regardless of the strategy th a t the p arty pursued in any given area, how ever, it inevitably collided w ith all the other parties in the U n ited Front. This was particularly true in the case of the land redistribution m ove­ m ent, w hich created a large n u m b er of clashes betw een political parties throughout the state in 1969-1970. T h e P e a sa n t F ro n t T h e m ovem ent for land redistribution in W est Bengal stems from the Congress land reform program , as em bodied in the W est Bengal Estates A cquisition A ct of 1954, w hich theoretically placed a ceiling of 25 acres on landholdings b u t also provided a n u m b er of legal m eans for exceeding the ceiling. T hree of the principle m ethods by w hich 5 Tasks on the Kisan Front, Resolutions o f the Central Committee (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967), p. 15. 6 Ib id ., pp. 23-24.

TH E PEASANT FRONT

185

lands in excess of 25 acres have been controlled are (1) benami transfer, w hich involves transfer of land titles to relatives; (2) holding of ag ricu ltu ral land as fisheries, w hich are excluded from the 25-acre ceiling in the legislation; (3) holding of land in excess of 25 acres th ro u g h private agreem ents betw een landholders and tenants, or betw een landholders and the governm ent, w ith the title to the land legally in the nam e of the ten an t or state governm ent b u t the produce ap p o rtio n ed as though the title w ere in the nam e of the lan d lo rd .7 Shortly after the U nited F ro n t cam e to pow er in 1967, the state L and and L an d R evenue M inister (H are K rishna K o n ar), a leading m em ber of the c p m , indicated th a t the new policy of the state govern­ m en t w ould be to “ recover land involved in benami an d other transac­ tions w ith p o p u lar cooperation ,59 w hile the police in the ru ra l areas w ere instructed by the new u f governm ent “ not to suppress the dem o­ cratic and legitim ate struggles of the people.” 8 K o n ar then initiated a series of investigations to trace benami and other holdings in excess of 25 acres, and a nu m b er of parties in the front began to organize units th a t could carry out transfers of land by force. D uring the first u f governm ent, in 1967, the front claim ed th a t it redistributed 248,000 acres of land, largely land th a t h ad been ear­ m arked for transfer by the Congress governm ent b u t had not yet been redistributed because of court cases, bu reau cratic delay, and political favoritism . In addition, K o n ar argued th a t by A pril 1969 he had traced 153,000 acres of benami holdings and th a t the governm ent had started court cases to reclaim this land as w ell.9 Since the total acreage u n d er cultivation in W est Bengal is estim ated a t 13,400,000, the land involved in the u f ’s redistribution program s has am ounted to only 3 percent of the total arable land, b u t L and R evenue sources argue th a t there is m uch m ore to be discovered,10 and the existing transfers have already h ad a considerable im pact at least on the style of politics in the state. Since m ost of the land belonging to large landholders is held legally by ru ra l elites highly conscious of their rights and extrem ely 7 F o r th e d evelopm ent o f a lan d reform policy for W est B engal d u rin g Congress rule, see M arcu s F. F ra n d a , West Bengal and the Federalizing Process in India (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U n iv ersity Press, 1968), p p . 129-178. 8 The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily), M a rc h 7, 1967. 9 Link (D elhi w eekly), A pril 20, 1969, p. 19. 10 In a speech in the W est B engal L egislative Assem bly, L a n d R evenue M inister K o n a r estim ated th a t a n o th e r 400,000 acres of lan d in excess o f the 25-acre lim it w ere still h eld by form er zamindars a n d jotedars. See West Bengal Legislative Assembly Debates, M a rc h 18, 1969.

186

TH E CPM

skillful in protecting them , the u f governm ent an d the c p m decided to move cautiously in im plem enting land redistribution program s in 1967 and 1969—1970. A t the governm ental level the state L an d and L an d R evenue M inistry established a series of L an d Advisory C om ­ m ittees during the first u f governm ent, consisting of lawyers, local governm ental and p arty leaders, an d leaders from various peasant groups, to inquire into the m aze of consequences th a t w ould flow from various lan d reform m easures. Soon after the form ation of the second u f governm ent, however, these com m ittees h ad to be disbanded, since their m em bership h ad been reshuffled during the period w hen the u f was tem porarily ou t of pow er.11 In place of these com m ittees, L an d R evenue M inister K o n ar told his own L an d R eform officers in the districts in 1969 to consult w ith leaders of local governm ent bodies an d w ith “ representatives of local peasants’ organizations” to test out the feasibility of new legislation. K o n ar also announced th a t his m inistry was hiring its own team of lawyers to cope w ith the legal complexities of land litigation an d legislation. In an obvious reference to his p a rty ’s policy on the lan d issue, he announced th a t he had instructed his officers “ to give due consideration to the suggestions placed by representatives of the political parties.” 12 W hile com prehensive land legislation was contem plated in 1970 or 1971, owing to the legal com plexities of prep arin g legislation in this area, K o n ar argued in 1969 th a t “ m uch can be done to retrieve the position if the whole adm inistrative m achinery is geared up an d if p roper an d tim ely m easures are taken a t all levels to im plem ent the existing provisions.” 13 P articularly im p o rtan t in K o n a r’s calculations were the behavior an d cooperation of the police, mass organizations, an d political parties in ru ra l areas, each of w hich becam e crucial to the im m ediate policies of the U n ited F ront L an d R evenue M inistry. From the tim e th a t K o n a r assum ed the m inistry in 1967, he argued th a t the police in W est Bengal were “ in the h ab it of readily going into action on the com plaints of big jotedars [landholders],” an d he there­ fore instructed police officials (through the M inister of Police, Jyoti Basu) th a t policem en were “ to consult officers of the L an d R evenue D ep artm en t before they decided to act on the basis of jotedars' com ­ plaints.” 14 A t the same tim e K o n ar stated th a t governm ent w ould m ake every effort to enlist the cooperation of ru ra l mass organizations 11 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, M a rc h 1, 1969. 12 Ib id ., M a rc h 21, 1969. 13 The Statesman, M a rc h 18, 1969. 14 Ib id .

T H E PEASANT FRONT

187

in order to ensure “ p ro m p t action, instead of allow ing time to jotedars to go for court injunctions w hich delay distribution of vested la n d .” 15 As a result of this policy a large n u m b er of ru ral political leaders in W est Bengal began to organize peasants to take possession of lands held by jotedars in excess of the 25-acre ceiling— p articu larly benami lands, fisheries, an d land held in the nam es of tenants and the state govern­ m ent— an d the c p m State S ecretariat even issued a directive to p arty workers to “ recover benami lands and distribute them am ong the landless peasants.” 16 But the c p m organizations in the countryside w ere by no m eans able to act in a united m an n er in im plem enting the p a rty ’s new tactic, an d the other political parties in the U nited F ront resisted the c p m ’s attem pts to m onopolize the peasants’ organization in support of the new governm ent policies. In general, the c p m state leadership defended forcible occupation of agricultural land and fisheries by local p arty units in cases w here large landholders held land illegally, b u t a t the same tim e the p a rty was seriously concerned th a t rash action by some local units m ight involve the p a rty in m ore litiga­ tion th a n it could afford to finance. D eputy C hief M inister Basu, for exam ple, w arned local c p m supporters w ho seized a nu m b er o f private fisheries th a t “ the G overnm ent w ould support all forms of legitim ate struggle of the people, b u t could no t uphold unlawful actions.” 17 D uring the U n ited F ro n t m inistries the c p m was also faced w ith constant opposition from the other political parties in the u f , who sought to use the policy of the L an d R evenue M inistry to their own advantage, either by expanding their peasant organizations by the adoption of strategies like the c p m ’s or by resisting the c p m in the hope o f discrediting the new tactic. L an d R evenue M inister K o n ar did issue a w arning to the other parties in the front th a t they should be w ary of “ indiscrim inate acts o f seizure” if they had “ no mass base and little idea ab o u t land records,” 18 b u t his w arnings did not deter the larger u f partners ( c p i , F orw ard Bloc, sue, r s p , an d Bangla C on­ gress) from active p articip atio n in the land redistribution program . T h e result was a flurry of political activity in the W est Bengal country­ side, w ith units of a t least five m ajor parties in the U n ited F ro n t organizing peasants to seize lands and fisheries, w ith a larger and 15 Ib id . 16 Hindusthan Standard (C a lc u tta d aily ), M a rc h 27, 1969. 17 Ib id ., A pril 10, 1969. (Italics a d d ed .) 18 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, A pril 14, 1969. F o r the reactio n o f th e re g u la r c p i to this challenge, see A joy D asgupta, “ W est B engal: P easan ts’ In itia tiv e ,” New Age ( c p i w eekly), M a y 4, 1969, p. 4.

188

T H E CPM

larg er volum e of court cases an d countercases being filed back an d forth by landholders, tenants, governm ent, an d political parties, and w ith the adm inistrative an d police services rem aining generally inactive. ~ W hile the ram ifications of the u f lan d redistribution p ro g ram will not be fully know n for a n u m b er of years, its b ro ad outlines are already becom ing evident. A t the risk of oversim plification, the consequences of the m ovem ent can be said to fall into two m ajor categories: 1. T here were innum erable physical clashes betw een the m ajor political parties in the U n ited F ro n t in 1969-1970 in w hich two or m ore parties attem p ted to seize the sam e plot of land or one p arty sought to prevent the other from seizing it. In the m onth of M ay 1969, for exam ple, C alcutta new spapers listed th irteen political m urders th a t h ad resulted from clashes betw een parties in the U n ited F ront, and m ost p arty politicians agreed th a t this was a gross u n d erestim ate.19 In order to prevent such clashes, a n u m b e r of people in the U n ited F ro n t suggested th a t local “ people’s com m ittees” be established consisting of representatives of a n u m b er of u f parties, b u t the c p m a t first resisted attem pts to create such com m ittees. Its leaders argued th a t People’s Com m ittees should “ em erge from a mass m ovem ent . . . an d no t be im posed on the people by the U n ited F ro n t,” an d the c p m S tate S ecretariat therefore instructed its local units to organize People’s Com m ittees consisting only of c p m m em bers an d supporters from c p m dom inated peasant organizations.20 In reaction to the form ation of c p m com m ittees, other parties in the U n ited F ro n t created sim ilar p arty com m ittees, w ith the result th a t five p a rty organizations ( c p m , c p i , F orw ard Bloc, r s p , an d Bangla Congress) now have ru ra l volunteer forces designed to “ assist” the governm ent in im plem enting land program s. Because of the c p m ’s determ ination to use governm ent policy to reinforce its position in peasant organizations, an d in light of the grow ing willingness of the oth er parties in the U n ited F ro n t to resist the c p m , clashes betw een the various u f parties have continued to increase steadily since 1967, even during periods of P resident’s Rule. 2. A second m ajor consequence of the land redistribution m ovem ent has been the revitalization of small an d local landlord an d fisheryow ner organizations and, m ore im p o rtan t, the exploration of a variety 19 Based on interview s. T h e jo u rn a lists’ estim ates w ere so low because th ey w ere n o t alw ays ab le to identify th e political p arties involved a n d w ere n a tu ra lly u nw illin g to p u b lish co ncrete statem ents w ith o u t sufficient evidence. 20 F o r th e position o f the c p m on th e question o f P eople’s C om m ittees, see P ra sa n ta S ark ar, “ D ifferences in U F over P eople’s C om m ittees,” The Statesman, M a y 6, 1967. See also ib id., M a y 9, 1969.

TH E PEASANT FRONT

189

of m ethods by w hich landlords could protect their interests. Some of the landholders in the state have been able to restrain political groups through the use of injunctions and other legal devices, and m ost of those w ho have had lands forcibly seized by political organizations have taken their cases to the courts. In addition, some landlords have th reaten ed tenants w ith the w ithdraw al of agricultural loans or have issued other w arnings to tenants, draw ing on their au th o rity and status as landholders in a peasant econom y.21 But even m ore effective has been the strategy used by m any landholders of p enetrating into one or an o th er of the various political parties in the U n ited F ro n t in order to secure the backing of one front p a rty against an o th er.22 Because of the success of this strategy, tensions w ithin the U nited F ro n t were strained to the breaking point in early 1970, since u f parties were vying w ith one an o th er for the support of landless laborers and landholders, w ith p arty positions determ ined strictly on the basis of local factors. Even w ithin state political parties (including the c p m ) , some local units were supporting the landless a t the same tim e as other local units in neighbor­ ing areas were supporting the lan d ed .23 In this atm osphere the im p act of the c p m ’s new tactic and the state g o v ern m en t’s new policies w ere not as significant in effecting radical ag raria n reform s in the Bengal countryside as they w ere in creating a new m ood am ong Bengali politicians. A t the most, the m ovem ent could have affected only 6 to 10 percent of the total arable land in W est Bengal, and n o t all of this land was expected to go to the landless. Indeed, in cases w here there was actu al transfer o f land from one family to another, both of the families were frequently landholders for m any generations (m any of the “ landless” who procured land were refugees from E ast Pakistan whose families h ad been trad itio n al landholders b u t w ho had been dispossessed after p a rtitio n ). W here land did actually pass to trad itio n al te n a n t cultivators, m any observers expected th a t it w ould eventually end up w ith landed ru ra l influentials backed by one of the U n ited F ro n t political parties. W hile in some cases land was transferred from large landholders to small and m iddle landholding peasants w ho could be expected to retain their new rights to it, in other instances the redistribution m ovem ent w orked to the advantage of the large landholders.24 L and redistribution policy in W est Bengal d uring 21 Based on interview s in 1969 w ith b o th lan d h o ld ers a n d landless laborers in M id n a p o re a n d 24-P arganas. 22 N ow (C a lc u tta w eekly), M a y 30, 1969, p p. 3-4. 23 See, for exam ple, “ U F P a rtn ers A id Fishery O w n ers,” Hindusthan Standard, M a y 3, 1969. 24 N ow , M a y 30, 1969, p p . 3 -4 .

190

TH E CPM

the two U n ite d F ront governm ents could therefore be understood as a political device for transferring lan d from landed Congress supporters (who h a d the backing of the previous state governm ents) to a new group of ru ra l influential landholders w ho were a b le .to gain the backing of the U n ited F ro n t parties. Even L an d R evenue M inister K o n ar acknow ledged th a t the land redistribution m ovem ent w ould have little effect on the status o f W est B engal’s landless laborers, an d he attem p ted to reassure m iddle and small peasant proprietors again a n d again th a t “ everything w ould be done to p ro tect the farm ers’ interests.” 25 H ow ever, despite the inability o f the u f to effect significant land reforms, a num ber of observers in the state viewed the lan d red istrib u ­ tion m ovem ent as revolutionary in term s o f political change. T he m ovem ent did lead to increased expectations am ong sm all landholders th a t land w ould be redistributed on a large scale, it eroded the previous p attern o f Congress support, an d it co n trib u ted to changes in the social structure th a t have yet to be fully assessed. Sim ilarly, the effect of the m ovem ent on the various political parties’ support is yet to be d eter­ m ined, b u t alm ost everyone w ould agree th a t the c p m gained m ore th an any of the other parties in securing short-run support, even though it was unable to gain a m onopoly over the patronage dispensed by the U n ited F ront in the ru ra l areas. S upport for the U n ited F ro n t in the ru ra l areas was ap p aren tly quite high, sustained largely by those who h a d not been included in the Congress patronage netw ork, by the heightened expectations of the landless an d poor peasant cultivators, an d by some previous Congress supporters w ho successfully switched their allegiance to one o f the U n ited F ro n t parties after 1967. T h e T r a d e U n io n F r o n t In the term inology o f C om m unist analysts, the c p m in W est Bengal has been pursuing a “ m odified R ig h t” strategy and “ united front from below ” tactics since the assum ption of political pow er in 1967.26 Like the classical R ig h t C om m unist strategy, the m odified R ight strategy calls for a two-stage revolution, w ith the Com m unists com ing to com plete pow er only in the second stage and only after preconditions have been established in the first stage. D uring the first stage the Com m unists seek to ally w ith the broadest strata o f the population 25 Hindusthan Standard, M a y 19, 1969. 26 F o r a n analysis of the “ m odified R ig h t” C om m unist strateg y a n d “ u n ite d front from below ” tactics, see D onald S. Z agoria, “ C o m m u n ist Policy a n d the S truggle for the D eveloping C o u n tries,” Proceedings o f the Academy o f Political Science 28 (A pril 1965): 69 ff.

TH E TR AD E UNION FRONT

191

(p articu larly peasants and workers, b u t also the petty bourgeoisie an d the anti-im perialist sections o f the bourgeoisie) by outbidding the nationalist an d reform ist parties (such as the Congress and the Bangla Congress) for their support. H ow ever, like the classical Left C om m unist strategy, the m odified R ig h t strategy insists on leadership of the alliance by the “ tru e ” C om m unist p arty an d a pow er base th a t is separate from th a t of the nationalist parties and the other parties in the alliance. T h e last requirem ent stems from the need to exert constant pressure on the nationalist parties an d to prevent parties allied w ith the “ tru e” C om m unist p a rty from “ backsliding” on the w ay to the second stage of the revolution. In short, the insistence on c p m leadership o f the U n ited F ro n t in W est Bengal has stem m ed from the need for a “ united front from below .” In the words of a resolution o f the c p m C entral C om m ittee, T h e m ain pillar of our tactics is u n ited front from below. T h a t is so because there is a pow erful urge for u n ity in the masses a n d w ithout giving expression to it, w ithout strengthening a n d tu rn in g it into an active force, the reform ist a n d revisionist leaders will n o t have jo in t action or u n ity of action. W ithout pressure from below, from the ranks an d the masses in general, the reformists will continue to evade jo in t action a n d w eaken a n d disrupt the struggle.27

As was seen in the case of the peasant front, this strategy has dictated an alliance o f the c p m w ith a b road range of interests in the country­ side, b u t a t the same tim e it has called for the c p m ’s continued in ­ sistence on its own organizational grow th an d its independence of the range o f political parties array ed against it. O n the trade union front the strategy an d tactics o f the c p m have been devised in a sim ilar m anner. In the words o f the C entral C om m ittee, “ T h e effort for united front from below includes constant appeals to all sections of workers. . . . I t consists of jo in t actions a t the base, in factories, under our initiative”28 T h e tactics o f the c p m , according to the C entral C om m ittee, “ . . . aim a t organizing a disciplined w orking class w ith revolutionary socialist consciousness, draw ing it nearer the P arty, w ith its best elements jo in in g the P arty in hundreds, enabling the class as a whole to play its historic political role in the revolutionary struggle.” 29 H ow ever, the position of the c p m in the trade union m ovem ent in W est Bengal differs significantly from its position in the peasant organizations. In contrast to the mass peasant organizations in W est 27 Tasks on the Trade Union Front, Resolution o f the Central Committee o f the Communist Party o f India-M arxist (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967), p. 33. 28 Ib id . (Italics in the original.) 29 Ib id ., p p . 3-4.

192

T H E CPM

Bengal, w hich have never been well established, trad e unions have effectively engaged in mass agitational activities an d have played an im p o rtan t role in the politics of the state since the 1920s. By 1967 the c p m was clearly on the defensive in the all-In d ia trade- union front despite its control o f large num bers o f trade unions in the state, an d a n u m b er o f the other parties in the u f governm ent (and even the Congress) could boast o f large m em bership figures for affiliated trade unions. This was in sharp contrast to the peasant front, w here the c p m was the only p arty th a t h ad attem p ted to form mass organizations on a large scale. T he position o f the p a rty in the trad e union fro n t was acknow ledged by the c p m C entral C om m ittee in a 1967 rep o rt to p a rty m em b ers: W e m ust constantly b ear in m ind th a t . . . we ourselves form a far from dom inating an d leading force in the organised trad e unions, the other sections being stronger th an us in m an y industries a n d equal to us in some industries.30

Because of its m inority position in the trade union m ovem ent in 1967, the c p m has pursued w h at the C entral C om m ittee has called “ the real bolshevik m ethod o f m obilising the masses.” T his has consisted of m ilitan t an d aggressive tactics tow ard em ployers an d other trade unions b u t “ supplem ented by offers o f united front from the top w hich at times is a pre-condition of united front from below .” 31 T h e environm ent in w hich the c p m has been pursuing this strategy an d tactical line has been one of great ferm ent an d upheaval. T he increased activities of all the trad e unions in W est Bengal after the u f ’ s assum ption of political pow er in 1967 is indicated by a n u m b er of factors, some of w hich are listed in T ab le 8. T h e table makes it quite clear th a t the activities o f the trade unions in 1967 were far greater th a n in any previous year, regardless of the index th a t is being used. W hile com plete figures are not available for 1968 an d 1969, those th a t have been published show th a t the activities o f trade unions in the state have continued to increase a t an extrem ely rap id rate. Figures published by the L ab o u r D ep artm en t d uring the period o f P resident’s R ule in 1968, for exam ple, showed th a t the nu m b er of m en involved in w ork stoppages in 1968 was “ nearly double the n u m b er in the previous y ear,” while m an-days lost in 1968 “ surpassed all previous records, not only of W est Bengal b u t of any other State of In d ia .” 32 30 Ib id ., p. 30. 31 Ib id ., p. 31. 32 M a n in d ra B h attach arjee, “ 1968: A B ad Y e ar for L a b o u r,” Hindusthan Standard Weekly Supplement, D ecem ber 31, 1968, p. iv.

TH E TR AD E UNION FRONT

193

T able 8 I n d ic e s o f T r a d e U n io n A c t iv it y in W e st B e n g a l

N u m b e r o f disputes raised d u rin g th e y e ar N u m b e r o f w ork stoppages N u m b e r o f m en involved in w ork stoppages N u m b e r o f m an -d ay s lost N u m b e r o f unions M em b ersh ip (claim ed by unions)

1964

1965

1966

1967

6187 215

6444 228

6720 244

10,331 447

113,695 1,556,185 269 42,469

123,654 1,362,568 257 42,990

154,354 2,754,447 274 33,274

169,259 6,118,816 897 128,794

Source: Labour in West Bengal, 1967, com piled by G o v ern m en t of W est Bengal, Statistics, R esearch a n d P u b lica tio n B ran ch o f th e L a b o u r D irecto rate (C a lc u tta : W est B engal D irecto r o fln fo rm a tio n , 1967), p p . 1, 2, 14.

T h e reasons for this grow th in trad e union activity obviously stem from the two u f governm ents5 approach to labor. Im m ediately upon taking office, the first u f L ab o u r M inister (Subodh Banerjee of the sue), supported by all of the parties in the U n ited F ront, announced “ a break w ith the past, w ith the anti-people an d b ureaucratic policies an d approach of the Congress.” 33 T h e essential feature of B anerjee’s “ new a p p ro ach ” was the attem p t “ to enlist the people’s cooperation for the im plem entation of policies ra th e r th an depend on the adm ini­ strative m ach in ery .” T h ro u g h a series of devices the L abour M inistry sought to create m achinery th a t w ould “ solve industrial disputes as expeditiously as possible an d prohibit police interference in norm al trad e union disputes” : all com m ittees and boards of the L abour D ep artm en t were com pletely reorganized “ on a m ore dem ocratic basis,” the police were instructed not to interfere in “ the legitim ate dem ocratic trade union m ovem ent,” an d layoff or retrenchm ent w ith­ out the sanction of the governm ent was “ discouraged.” Especially im p o rtan t for the style of trad e union politics in the state was the decision by the first u f L ab o u r M inistry to legalize the tactic of gherao. A gherao consists essentially of a blockade, im posed by a num ber of trad e union workers on the office of a m anager or group of m anagers for a considerable period of time. T h e employees who are “ gheraoing” the m anager usually squat aro u n d him , shout slogans, and sometimes 33 T h e L a b o u r policy o f th e first u f g o v ern m en t is described in A joy D asg u p ta, “ B engal: A N ew A p p ro ach to P eo p le’s P ro b lem s,” New Age, A pril 16, 1967, p. 4. T h e q u o tatio n s th a t follow are taken from this article.

194

T H E CPM

take turns abusing him . In m any cases food or w ater is no t allow ed to reach the person, an d electricity, telephones, an d b ath ro o m facilities are frequently rendered inaccessible. Gheraos have varied in length from a few hours to several days, an d the goal of those who stage gheraos is usually the extraction of signatures on docum ents th a t w ould not be signed u nder norm al circum stances. T h e tactic h ad been in use in W est Bengal for at least a decade p rior to the assum ption of political pow er by the U n ited F ront, b u t it h ad always been considered illegal and im proper by the Congress governm ents. W hen it was declared legal by the state L ab o u r M inistry in 1967, the n u m b er of gheraos throughout the state m ushroom ed disconcertingly. A ccording to the m ost au thoritative estimates available, there w ere 1018 gheraos in 583 establishm ents in W est Bengal during the six-m onth period M arch -A u g u st 1967,34 an d only one p a rty in the U n ited F ro n t (the Bangla Congress) has ceased to support gheraos since they w ere declared illegal by the C alcutta H igh C o u rt.35 Because of massive support by the other u f parties, gheraos have becom e a regular feature of life in W est Bengal since 1967, despite the ruling of the ju diciary. T h e new approach of the state L ab o u r M inistry, w hich did not change appreciably w hen the m inistry was assum ed by the c p m in F eb ru ary 1969, has provided an im petus to the organization of trad e unions in the state. D uring the period M arch —Septem ber 1967, for exam ple, 591 new trad e unions w ere registered in W est Bengal, by far the largest short-run increase th a t h ad ever taken p lace.36 M oreover, the vast m ajority of these unions w ere affiliated w ith political parties, an d their origins were unquestionably a result of the feeling on the p a rt of workers th a t trad e union organizations m ight be m ore effective now th an they had been u n d er the Congress regim e. In this scram ble to increase the unionization of workers, the c p m an d the c p i have been by far the largest gainers, w ith the c p m adding 170 new trad e unions betw een M arch and Septem ber 1967 and the c p i 140 during the same period, a com bined total th a t accounts for m ore th an h a lf of the new trad e unions founded in this period. T h a t both the c p m an d the c p i used the tactic of gherao to gain support am ong trad e union workers is shown by the fact th a t 397 of the 1018 cases of gherao in M a rc h A ugust 1967 were instigated by c p m or c p i trad e unions. T h e success 34 N itish R . D e a n d Suresh S rivastava, “ G heraos in W est B engal— I ,” Economic and Political Weekly (B om bay), N ovem ber 18, 1967, p. 2015. 35 R e le v an t rulings o f the C a lc u tta H ig h C o u rt on cases o f gherao are re p rin te d in A rju n P. A ggarw al, Gheraos and Industrial Relations (B om bay: N . M . T rip a th i P riv ate L im ited, 1968), pp. 172-175. 36 N itish R . De a n d Suresh S riv astav a> “ G heraos in W est B engal— I I I , ” Economic and Political Weekly, D ecem ber 2, 1967, p. 2099.

TH E TR AD E UNIO N FRONT

195

of the c p m in expanding its trade union base was strikingly dem on­ strated by its increased support am ong labor unions in the C alcutta industrial belt in the 1969 election cam paigns.37 In addition to their acquisition of new affiliates, both the c p m and the c p i have m ade concerted efforts to infiltrate and capture trade unions th a t are presently affiliated w ith m inor parties. A survey carried ou t by the c p i in M ay 1969, for exam ple, indicated th a t the c p m had been able to capture the registered trad e unions of other parties in 10 establishm ents during the m onths of F ebruary, M arch , an d A pril 1969, while in 60 other industrial concerns it was still w aging p ro tracted fights w ith trad e unions controlled by noncom m unist parties.38 A ccording to the sam e survey, the c p m was gaining considerable ground am ong ju te an d textile industry unions in W est Bengal, though it was perhaps losing some of its affiliates in the engineering industry. O f p articu lar concern to the c p i was the fact th a t the c p m h ad either form ed new trad e unions or cap tu red existing organizations in m ore th an 200 establishm ents w here there w ere unions affiliated w7ith the c p i . As a result of the aggressiveness of c p m trad e union organizers, some m inor parties repeatedly threatened to q u it the U n ited F ro n t,39 while others have fought back w ith arm s an d assassination. T h e most serious clashes betw een parties thus far have all involved the c p m , w ith the r s p , sue, s s p , F orw ard Bloc, an d c p i in tu rn providing the opposition.40 Because the c p m is clearly the m ost aggressive of the state parties in seeking to enlarge its trade union affiliates, the other parties in the U n ited F ro n t (including the c p i ) have been increasingly willing to unite against it. O f p articu lar concern to the sm aller parties in 1969—1970 was the policy th a t was proposed by state L abor M inister K rish n ap ad a Ghosh (a brother-in-law of Pram ode Das G u p ta and representative of the c p m ) w hen the c p m first assum ed the state L abour M inistry, w hich lim ited trad e union activities to one union in each establishm ent, to be elected by secret ballot.41 Such a policy obviously 37 T his is p o in te d out in A shok M itra , “ W est Bengal for C o m m u n ism ,” Citizen and Weekend Review (N ew D elhi fortn ig h tly ), M a rc h 22, 1969, p. 23. 38 T h e results of the survey are d etailed in Amrita Bazaar Patrika, M a y 14, 1969. 39 In late M a y 1969, for exam ple, th e G u rk h a L eague ( g l ) w a rn ed th e c p m th a t it d id n o t believe in violence b u t th a t it was “ co m p eten t enough for a show dow n if u n w a rra n te d tra d e u nion aggression by the c p i ( m ) c o n tin u e d .” N . L. G u ru n g , G u rk h a L eague M L A , told new sm en th a t the g l was “ being forced to consider w h e th er it should rem ain in the u f . ” See The Statesman, M a y 26, 1969. 40 F o r an analysis of tra d e u n io n feuds betw een rival parties in th e u f , see A m itav a D as G u p ta , “ In te r-P a rty R iv alries: A R e a l D an g er to th e U n ite d F ro n t, Hindusthan Standard, M a y 27, 1969. 41 T h e “ one u n io n in each estab lish m en t” form ula is described in Amrita Bazaar Patrika, J u n e 4, 1969.

196

TH E CPM

benefited the larger parties in the front an d m ight have contradicted either the In d ian C onstitution or the T ra d e U nion A ct o f the central governm ent. M oreover, since the c p m state L ab o u r M inister controlled the trade union election m achinery in the second u f governm ent, and since the c p m had the m ost m ilitan t cadre of all of the u f parties, it obviously h ad a distinct advantage u n d er the “ one union in each establishm ent” form ula. In spite of this, the c p m was able to push through state legislation em bodying provisions th a t w ould m ake such a policy possible, largely because it received considerable support for the proposal from m an ag em en t groups, who in m ost factories h a d been harassed w ith the dem ands of a host of unions.42 O n the basis of m anagem ent backing, the c p m was able to convince the B angla Congress to support the m easure, an d since parties w ith strong trad e union organizations stood to gain u n d er the legislation, the c p i was also a advocate of the proposal. T h e C PM a n d th e S tate C o a litio n T h e c p m is not the only p a rty in the W est Bengal governm ent th a t has sought to establish a m ore direct relationship betw een the state governm ent an d the mass of the electorate. Aside from their activities in land redistribution an d labor agitation, all of the political parties in the U n ited F ront agreed to the enactm ent of legislation in 1969­ 1970 raising the salaries an d allowances of m ost state employees, schoolteachers, and policem en.43 M oreover, legislation enacted w ith the support of all the u f parties now protects the rights of tenants against landlords an d labor against m anagem ent to a degree unknow n during Congress rule. M inisters from all the u f parties used the powers of the state governm ent to assist the ju te , tea, engineering, an d textile workers of the state in their successful cam paign to gain significant salary and fringe-benefit concessions from industry. As a result of u f sponsored legislation, all tenants in W est Bengal have been given p erm an en t rights to their hom estead lands (based on m inim al residence requirem ents), even in cases w here tenants have no such rights to the fields they cultivate; m ore th a n 8 m illion cultivators who own less th an 3 acres of land have been exem pted from paym ent of all land revenue; an d a series of m inor adm inistrative irritants enacted by the previous Congress governm ent have been rem oved. M uslim s, for exam ple, no longer require citizenship certificates w hen selling their 42 See ibid., S eptem ber 11, 1969, a n d The Statesman, S ep tem b er 11, 1969, p p . 1, 12. 43 F o r a survey of the legislation en acted by the U n ite d F ro n t d u rin g the m onsoon session o f the state L egislative A ssem bly in 1969, see the Hindusthan Standard, O c to b er 8, 1969, a n d O c to b er 19, 1969.

TH E CPM A N D THE STATE COALITION

197

property, the procedure for obtaining loans from cooperative societies has been stream lined to elim inate delays th a t w orked to the advantage of ru ra l influentials, and workers suspended by private firms are now entitled by state law to 50 percent of their wages during the first 90 days of their suspension and 75 percent of their wages after 90 days. T h e effect of this flurry of governm ental activity has been continued support for the U nited F ront governm ent by a m ajority of the voters of W est Bengal. In every by-election to the Lok S abha and state Legislative Assembly since F eb ru ary 1969 the u f won handily, in each case increasing the m argin of victory over the previous two elections.44 Sim ilar d a ta could be com piled for local and m unicipal elections in 1969 and 1970. M oreover, there are indications th a t the U n ited F ro n t has been able to carry out an im p o rtan t change in the state’s com m onest form of electoral organization. W hile the success of the Congress organization in W est Bengal in the period before the 1967 elections was always dependent on an alliance of ru ral and u rb an influentials who could in tu rn influence the mass of the voters to support the Congress because of their place in Congress patronage networks, the U n ited F ro n t parties have relied m ore heavily on p arty com m ittees an d p arty regulars draw n from a cross section of the population. In this atm osphere the U nited F ront parties were relu ctan t to advocate a breakup of the state coalition w hen it was in power, despite their m u tu al dissatisfaction w ith the aggressive organizational tactics of the c p m . T h e Bangla Congress leadership, w hich eventually broke w ith the u f and brought dow n the state governm ent, originally took the position th a t the front should continue b u t th a t the lawlessness and violence associated w ith u f policies should be resisted. T o em phasize public support for this position, the Bangla Congress organized a large rally of its peasant supporters in B ankura in N ovem ber 1969, and w hen the resolutions of this rally were neglected by front partners, the C hief M inister him self launched a three-day satyagraha th a t featured 44 In M a y 1969, for exam ple, V . K . K rish n a M en o n was elected to the M id n a p o re L ok S a b h a seat in W est B engal by a m arg in of 106,761 votes, ru n n in g as a n in d ep en d en t w ith the b acking of all of the U n ite d F ro n t parties. T his seat h a d been w on in 1967 by S a c h in d ra M a ity of the B angla Congress by a m arg in of 43,283 votes; the 1969 by-election was necessitated by the d e a th of M r. M aity . In D ecem ber 1969 c p m can d id ates w on by-elections to the state Legislative A ssem bly in T ollygunge con­ stitu en cy (in S outh C alcu tta) a n d in R a in a constituency in B urdw an D istrict; in each case th ey w ere elected to fill seats caused by the d e a th of a c p m M L A , a n d in each case th ey w ere su p p o rted by the U n ite d F ro n t. T h e m arg in o f victory in R a in a w as 8549 votes (com pared to a m arg in of 7037 in F e b ru a ry 1969 a n d a c p m .loss in 1967) a n d in T ollygunge 24,707 votes (com pared to a m arg in of 15,883 in F e b ru a ry 1969 a n d 4982 in 1967).

198

TH E CPM

a mass fast by m ore th an 50,000 statew ide supporters. C hief M inister M ukherjee argued th a t the policies of the U n ited F ro n t h ad led to a “ general aw akening” in the ru ral areas an d am ong the poorer sections of the state population, an d for this reason he did not w an t the state governm ent to “ fall ju st now .” A t the same tim e, how ever, he argued th a t there was a “ feeling of insecurity o f life an d p ro p erty ” in the state w hich threatened to dim inish the com m itm ent of the population to orderly progress. H e placed the blam e for this situation squarely on the c p m .45 W hile the other m ajor p a rtn e r in the U n ited F ro n t—-the c p i — did not publicly oppose the C hief M inister’s three-day fast, some c p i leaders did attem p t to dissuade him from resorting to public satyagraha. Like the Bangla Congress, the c p i argued th a t the U n ited F ro n t had “ achieved m ore for the w orking class an d the peasantry th a n h ad ever been achieved before,” b u t c p i opposition to the c p m did not stem from concern about violence. A ccording to the leader of the W est Bengal c p i unit, the principal danger to the U n ited F ro n t was the “ hegem onism ” of the c p m ra th e r th an the violence associated w ith u f policies: . . . despite w hat has happened, the U n ite d F ro n t has at least in tro d u ced th at am ount of dem ocracy w hich m akes the m ighty strike struggles take place an d even succeed. T he arrogance of capitalist owners has been broken in m any cases a n d thus industrial crisis resolved to a very great extent. T h e food situation is very m uch im proved. Every d ep artm en t is yielding b etter results th an before. . . . But m uch rem ains to be done a n d m ore could be done if the c p m were not determ ined to pursue a policy of exterm inating the U n ited F ro n t in order to build up itself as the only alternative to the Congress.46

Consistent w ith this position, the c p i in W est Bengal organized a massive dem onstration of its supporters on the C alcu tta maidan in N ovem ber 1969, in order to dem onstrate th a t the accom plishm ents of the U n ited F ront h ad resulted in greater strength for the c p i as well as for the c p m . 47 Leaders of the c p i subsequently took the position th a t they w ould defend their own p arty w hen attacked by the “ hegem onist c p m ” b u t th a t the c p i w ould not take the initiative in breaking the u f coalition. 45 F o r a n analysis o f the C h ief M in ister’s strateg y in u n d e rta k in g his D ecem b er fast, see The Statesman, N ovem ber 6, 1969, a n d N o v em b er 30, 1969. See also the Hindustan Times (New D elhi), D ecem ber 4, 1969. 46 B how ani Sen, C P M ’s Fight against United Front in West Bengal (C a lc u tta : C P I, 1969), p. 19. 47 T h e c p i press labeled the N ovem ber 1969 c p i d em o n stra tio n “ the biggest ever rally organised by any political p a rty in C alcu tta, a n d for th a t m a tte r in I n d ia .” See New Age, N ovem ber 23, 1969, p. 8.

TH E CPM A N D TH E STATE COALITION

199

W hile all of the sm aller parties in the U n ited F ro n t objected to the aggressive policies of the c p m , each of them adopted different strategies in dealing w ith the largest front p artn er. U nlike the other small parties, the r s p refused to blam e the c p m alone for in terp arty clashes b u t instead took the position th a t “ no u f constituent can be fully absolved of the charge of partisan use of its M inistries.” 48 R a th e r th an pursue a defensive strategy directed only against the c p m , the r s p attem p ted to organize aggressively in areas of the state w here it had trad itio n ally won votes, clashing w ith a nu m b er of u f partners who w ere also active in r s p strongholds. T h e F orw ard Bloc has pursued a sim ilar strategy b u t has directed m ost of its organizational efforts against the c p m and has not hesitated to attack the c p m publicly. Like all of the other non-cPM parties in the front, the F orw ard Bloc has advocated a truly broad-based U n ited F ront, in w hich each p artn e r w ould have responsibility for areas w here it had previously shown organizational strength.49 T h e delicate n atu re of relations betw een the c p m an d its u f partners is indicated by the varying positions th a t the c p m has taken in response to increasing opposition. O n the one han d , the c p m has attem pted to convince politicians (and the electorate) th a t its aggressive organiza­ tional policies have resulted in statew ide strength, in order to prom ote the im age of the c p m as a single-party alternative to the Congress. O n the other han d , c p m leaders have argued th a t their u f partners w ould be “ falling into a tra p ” if they chose to break the U n ited F ront, since this w ould inevitably lead to P resident’s R ule an d perhaps to the resurgence of the Congress in consequence of the disunity of the leftist p arties.50 W hile the c p m has refused to soften its aggressive stance in organizational m atters, it has occasionally apologized for the excesses of some of its p arty m em bers, an d it did consent to periodic com pro­ mises w ithin the state C abinet, only to have local p arty units fail to obey th e m .51 T o a certain extent the inconsistency of the p arty has been the result of a lack of in n er-p arty discipline, b u t such indiscipline has in tu rn stem m ed from the p a rty ’s interest in m aintaining organiza­ tional flexibility while im plem enting its policy. T h e strategies of all the parties w ithin the U n ited F ront govern­ m ents were designed to m eet a nu m b er of exigencies. State political 48 The Statesman, O c to b er 4, 1969. F o r a detailed analysis o f r s p strateg y to w ard the K e ra la a n d W est Bengal U n ite d F ronts, see “ D isarray in the U n ite d F ro n t in K e ra la a n d W est B engal,” The Call (organ o f the r s p ) 21 (N ovem ber 1969): 9 -1 1 . 49 Hindusthan Standard, N o v em b er 22, 1969. 50 The Statesman, N ovem ber 16, 1969. 51 Link, N o v em b er 2, 1969, pp. 16-17, an d N o v em b er 9, 1969, p. 19.

200

T H E CPM

leaders w ere well aw are th a t the state governm ent cc[did] not have enough m oney to m eet . . . com m itm ents already m a d e ,” 52 w ith the result th a t it w ould have had to find new sources of financial support if it h ad rem ained in pow er beyond 1970. T o w ard the end of u f rule in 1970, the state governm ent did prom ulgate an ordinance im posing a 2 percent sales tax on fertilizers, tractors, an d ag ricu ltu ral equipm ent an d supplies, b u t the revenue from this tax was not even expected to approach the increased financial burdens it h ad assum ed. T h e state governm ent also secured an additional Rs. 20 crores from the C entral Pool as a result of the Fifth Finance Commission recom m endations, b u t even w ith this increase in the am o u n t of funds allotted to it by the central governm ent (and even w hen coupled w ith the increased revenue from the new sales tax), W est Bengal expected to face a deficit of Rs. 25 crores during the fiscal year 1969-70.53 W hile other taxes have been proposed (on landholders ow ning m ore th an 3 acres and on industrial firms), the likelihood of the state governm ent’s finding new tax revenue sufficient to m eet budgetary deficits is considered quite rem ote. Some u f parties are already arguing th a t the new sales tax has adversely affected the cultivation of highyielding varieties of p ad d y and w heat in a state th a t has never been able to achieve m ajor increases in food o utput. Increased trad e union activity and instability in the countryside have also dam aged the rep u tatio n of W est Bengal as a favorable clim ate for industrial in­ vestm ent, w ith the result th a t applications for licenses have declined in relation to other parts of In d ia d uring recent years.54 M ost state political leaders therefore argued th a t im position of new taxes on agricultural and industrial influentials by the U n ited F ro n t would break the tenuous m u tu al support th a t existed betw een m any agricultural and industrial leaders and the U n ited F ront, creating 52 T hese are the w ords o f W est Bengal C h ief M in ister (an d F in an ce M inister) A joy M u k h erjee in a re p o rt to th e state C ab in et, as q u o ted in The Statesman, N o v em ber 21, 1969. In th e w ords of D ep u ty C h ief M in ister J y o ti Basu, “ [T h e u f can n o t con­ tinue] to please all sections of th e people— th e jotedars, blackm arketeers, h o ard ers a n d the like, a n d also the w orkers a n d th e p easan try , a t th e sam e tim e. W e do n o t know how to do it.” Hindustan Times, D ecem ber 4, 1969. 53 Hindusthan Standard, N ovem ber 18, 1969. A deficit o f Rs. 25 crores for one year com pares w ith a p e rm a n e n t state d e b t of Rs. 66 crores a cc u m u late d by th e C ongress state governm ents as o f M a rc h 31, 1966. See K . V e n k e ta ra m a n , States’ Finances in India (L o n d o n : A llen & U n w in , 1968), p. 168. 54 In response to a question in th e R a jy a S a b h a in D ecem ber 1969, M r. F a k h ru d d in Ali A hm ed, U n io n M inister for In d u stria l D evelopm ent, stated th a t W est B en g al’s share o f applications for in d u strial licenses h a d declined from 15 p e rc en t o f th e to ta l ap p lications for all of In d ia in 1964 to 11 p e rc en t of th e to tal in 1969. Times o f India (N ew D elhi), D ecem ber 2, 1969.

T H E CPM A N D NA TIO N A L POLITICS

201

fu rth er instability.55 In this atm osphere m ost of the political leaders of W est Bengal felt th a t the u f was living on borrow ed tim e in 1969­ 1970, riding the wave of a tem porary p o pularity th a t could not be m ain tain ed for very long. W hile none of the parties was anxious to desert the U n ited F ront, since this w ould leave them open to charges th a t they w ere responsible for bringing ab o u t the dow nfall of a po p u lar governm ent, all p arty leaders found it necessary to calculate the tim ing of their w ithdraw al. T h e C PM a n d N a tio n a l P o litic s T h e p arties’ tim ing of their w ithdraw al from the W est Bengal U n ited F ro n t was heavily d ep en d en t on the assessment each h ad m ade o f the fast-changing national political environm ent. O f p articu lar concern to state p arty leaders w ere the events surrounding the split in the Congress p a rty at the national level in late 1969, the fall of the U n ited F ro n t m inistry in K erala in O ctober 1969, and the subsequent replacem ent of the K erala m inistry w ith a new state coalition headed by the c p i . A ttem pts by the p ro -In d ira Congress to woo Ajoy M ukherjee back into the fold in late 1969 resulted in a spate of rum ors th a t the ruling Congress at the center w ould seek to create a new U nited F ro n t coalition in W est Bengal, while sim ultaneous events in K erala encouraged speculation th a t the c p i m ight also try to form a new W est Bengal coalition against the c p m . In reaction to the highly factionalized state political environm ent an d the rap id changes in national political alignm ents, the c p m persisted in the policy developed by its theoreticians in 1967. Its essential feature was the em phasis on a united front from below, in w hich the c p m m ain tain ed an independent base for itself w hile selectively cooperating w ith its friends to isolate its enemies. D uring the period 1967-1970, c p m theoreticians becam e m uch m ore specific ab o u t how the p a rty w ould deal w ith the range of alternative political situations th a t could conceivably develop in the 1970s an d even identified the c p m ’s planned response to a n u m b er o f them . T h e greatest danger to the c p m in the eyes of its theoreticians at b o th the central and state levels is the possibility th a t the Congress 55 C o o p eratio n betw een th e U n ite d F ro n t a n d C a lc u tta industrialists was established on th e basis o f a form ula th a t w as re ite ra te d on a n u m b e r o f occasions by u f leaders. T h e essence o f this form ula was stated m ost b lu n tly by D e p u ty C h ief M in ister Jy o ti B asu: “ I f th e industrialists co o p erate w ith th e u f , th e u f in tu rn will try to com e to th eir assistance in securing raw m aterials, orders, licenses, finance, a n d so fo rth .” Amrita Bazaar Patrika, O cto b er 5, 1969.

202

T H E CPM

faction opposed to Prim e M inister In d ira G an d h i (which c p m m em bers delight in calling the “ S yndicate” ) m ight cap tu re control of the U nion or state governm ents. In this event, c p m theoreticians are convinced, “ the Syndicate . . . w ould no t hesitate to b an the c p i ( m ) .and com bine w ith the S w atan tra and J a n a S an g h .” 56 In the eyes of c p m leaders, a victory by the Syndicate w ould therefore not only “ arrest the process of mass radicalisation an d the new mass polarisation” th a t the c p m has identified as the m ost significant aspect of In d ia ’s changing political environm ent, it w ould also force the c p m to go u n d erg ro u n d once m ore an d to relinquish its newly w on organizational gains in some areas.57 I t is for this reason th a t the N axalites an d the c p m l are considered such a g reat th rea t to the c p m , since their insistence on an insurrectionist strategy (which the c p m can quash only a t the risk of a p a rty split) encourages those w ho are inclined to use repression against all Com m unists. Because of the great danger posed by the Syndicate, the c p m has extended selective support to In d ira G andhi d uring the course of the Congress split. D uring the presidential election cam paign in A ugust 1969, w hen In d ira G an d h i reportedly supported V. V. G iri against Syndicate candidate N. Sanjiva R eddy, the c p m unanim ously supported Giri, arguing th a t his election w ould be “ a political victory for the po p u lar an d dem ocratic forces against the forces of extrem e reaction in the country.” 58 For sim ilar reasons the c p m has voted w ith the In d ira G andhi governm ent since the split in the Lok S ab h a in N ovem ber 1969. But unlike the c p i , the c p m does not conceive of its support for In d ira G andhi as the prelude to a C ongress-C om m unist coalition, since such a coalition w ould place it in a position of reliance on the Congress, w hich w ould th reaten its in d ep en d en t base. In the words of P. S undarayya, general secretary of the national c p m , . . . we will support M rs. G andhi, b u t oppose her in all the steps th a t go against the people. . . . W e d o u b t w hether the In d ira G an d h i groups, rep re­ senting the sam e classes, the landlords an d the big bourgeoisie— though differing from the Syndicate in the im m ediate tactics to be pursued to m ain tain their class regim e— is capable of taking those steps th a t m ust be taken. . . . T h e present task [of the c p m ] is to develop the in d ep en d en t dem ocratic m ovem ent to force her G overnm ent to take these m easures.59 56 T h e w ords are those of state c p m secretary P ra m o d e D as G u p ta , q u o ted in the Hindusthan Standard, N ovem ber 10, 1969. 57 People’s Democracy (organ o f th e c p m ) , N o v em b er 9, 1969. 58 Ib id ., A ugust 31, 1969, p. 1. 59 Q u o te d in th e Hindusthan Standard, N o v em b er 17, 1969.

T H E CPM A N D NA TIO N A L POLITICS

203

W hile seeking to pressure the In d ira G andhi governm ent into the ad option o f a “ clear-cut dem ocratic program m e an d political line,” the c p m has also w arned p a rty m em bers th a t In d ira G andhi m ight be “ led . . . into the dangerous illusion th a t she can fight single-handed bo th the Syndicate an d the U n ited F ro n t of dem ocratic forces led by the c p i ( m ) sim ultaneously.” 60 Indeed, state leaders of the c p m in W est Bengal argued after the Congress split th a t “ a victory for the Syndicate ultim ately m eans a b a n on the c p m , an d a victory for In d ira G andhi m eans either P resident’s R ule or a cPi-Congress coalition for W est B engal.” 61 E ither P resident’s R ule or a Congress-cpi coalition in W est Bengal was considered inevitable by the c p m , b u t neither of these alternatives was considered to be as disastrous as the possibility of a Syndicate victory an d a b an on the party. D uring a period of P resident’s Rule, or in the event of a Congress-cpi coalition, the c p m w ould m ost likely be allow ed the freedom to organize, an d this w ould enable p a rty leaders to consolidate gains m ade d uring the period w hen the c p m held the m inistries, to woo some of the N axalites who were opposed to p articip atio n in the m inistries, an d to launch m ilitan t m ovem ents in opposition to a governm ent in w hich the p a rty was not a p articip an t. Since a U n ited F ro n t governm ent w ould alm ost certainly fail to m eet the heightened expectations of the num erous groups supporting it, the U n ited F ro n t was necessarily considered a tem porary alignm ent of forces to radicalize the state population an d to strengthen the organi­ zation of the p a rty .62 In the long run, c p m theoreticians conceive of their two strong state units (in K erala and W est Bengal) as “ rallying points for the fighting masses all over In d ia .” 63 D uring periods w hen the p a rty is in pow er at the state level, the C entral C om m ittee has argued th a t p a rty leaders should . . . un d ertak e to expand the dem ocratic rights of the people, un d ertak e legislation for recognition of trad e unions, settle outstanding w age disputes in 60 Q u o te d from a c p m P o litb u re a u sta te m e n t, as rep o rte d in The Statesman, N o v em b er 5, 1969. 61 A n e a r slogan q u o te d in a n u m b e r o f interview s co n d u cted in N o v e m b e rD ecem b er 1969. 62 T hese w ere th e conclusions reach ed by th e C e n tra l C o m m ittee o f the c p m after a special fo u r-d ay session in C a lc u tta in late O c to b er 1969. See the re p o rt o f the session in The Statesman, O cto b er 30, 1969, p. 1. 63 T hese a re th e w ords used in a resolution of th e C e n tra l C o m m ittee o f the c p m , p u b lish ed sh ortly after its postelection m eetings in C a lc u tta in A pril 1969. See People’s Democracy, A pril 20, 1969, p. 11.

204

T H E CPM

industries, take m easures to provide em ploym ent or unem ploym ent relief to the workers an d educated y o u th ; pass im m ediate radical a g rarian legislation for lan d distribution a n d stopping of eviction, an d g ra n t hom estead land, fair wages, an d gratuitous relief d u rin g lean seasons to the ag ricu ltu ral labourers.64 '

W hen the p a rty is out o f pow er, state p a rty leaders have been in­ structed to launch m ilitan t cam paigns against state m inistries th a t fail to undertake these m easures an d to w ork for “ m ore viable U n ited F ronts” com m itted to c p m program s.65 T h e ad o p tio n o f such m easures a t the state level a t times w hen the c p m has held p a rtia l political pow er has reaffirm ed the conviction o f the leadership o f the p a rty th a t a mass political base can be b u ilt on the strength o f this lim ited program . M oreover, it is considered especially significant by c p m leaders th a t such a program has engaged the cooperation o f the electoral an d the organizational factions w ithin the p arty , thereby prom oting the interests of both factions. T h e program has not only led to organiza­ tional gains for the cadre b u t has also resulted in g reater electoral strength in K erala an d W est Bengal. A t the national level, the c p m has proposed “ a radical an d im m ediate change in C entre-S tate relations,” to be accom plished by a n u m b e r of constitutional and policy changes. A ccording to a resolution o f the c p m C entral C om m ittee drafted in A pril 1969, the p a rty has called for the following reforms: 1. All C oncurrent List subjects should be transferred to the S tate List. All the Bills passed by the States in favour of the people in the present S tate and C oncurrent Lists should be given assent by the President. 2. States should have m ore constitutional pow er to augm ent their resources pending w hich 75 per cent of C entral revenues are to be transferred to the States. 3. All the C entrally-m anaged ag ricultural, industrial a n d educational, social an d welfare departm ents a n d enterprises, w ith all the financial resources for them are to be h a n d ed over to the States to be m anaged. 4. In d u strial Security Forces, the c r p [C entral Reserve Police], an d Border Security Forces are all to be h an d ed over to the States, a n d it is for the States to keep law a n d order in the w hole of the State a n d in all sectors a n d en ter­ prises in the State. 5. T h e present ia s , ic s a n d other all-In d ia services are to be h a n d ed over to the States an d be u n d er effective control of the States. T h e ir recruitm ent, service conditions an d disciplinary proceedings should all be u n d er the State jurisdiction.66 64 Ib id . 65 The Statesman, N ovem ber 1, 1969. 66 People’s Democracy, A pril 20, 1969, p. 11.

TH E CPM A N D N ATIO NAL POLITICS

205

A dvocacy by the c p m of radical changes in center-state relations is designed to articulate the interests of the p arty both at the central and at the state levels. As a n u m b er of observers have pointed out, m ost of the In d ia n states have been com plaining since Independence of a lack of financial, ra th e r th an political, resources.67 T h e first three reforms m entioned by the C entral C om m ittee in its A pril 1969 resolution are therefore extrem ely p o p u lar m easures w ith state leaders in a n u m b er of political parties in m any states. By advocating specific m easures w ith regard to center-state issues, some c p m leaders hope to lay the basis for a future U n ited F ro n t coalition in New D elhi, w hich could perhaps be w elded together m ost easily on the basis of a com m on p ro g ram designed to increase state financial resources. A t the same tim e, how ever, the c p m has linked decentralization of financial resources w ith a decentralization of bu reau cratic an d police power, in order to p ro tect itself in W est Bengal an d K erala in the event of a failure to gain p articip atio n in an all-In d ia m inistry. T h e five reforms advocated by the c p m C entral C om m ittee therefore lay the basis for a future con­ frontation betw een state m inistries led by the c p m and U nion govern­ m ents led by the enemies of the c p m , a t the same tim e th a t they hold out the prom ise of c p m cooperation w ith other state-based parties interested in g reater financial allocations to the states. W hile at first glance the advocacy of these five m easures w ould indicate th a t the c p m is in favor of a decentralized In d ia n U nion, this is not necessarily the goal of all of the m em bers of the C entral C om ­ m ittee. A ccording to M . B asavapunniah, a leading c p m theoretician, the C entral C om m ittee, in advocating a new p attern of center-state relations, is m erely “ em phasizing . . . issues facing the dem ocratic forces, w hich could pave the w ay for a united front on an all-In d ia scale.” In B asavapunniah’s words, “ T h e c p i ( m ) [favors] a strong C enter, b u t not by a denial of dem ocracy. . . .” 68 As a m em ber of the c p m C entral C om m ittee stated even m ore clearly in a private interview , T h e first three reforms [calling for g reater financial resources for the states] are “ carro ts” th a t the c p m holds out to potential allies. T h e last two reforms [calling for control of the police an d i a s by the states] are “ sticks,” or the price th a t our allies m ust pay if they w an t us to support them . In the final analysis we m ay w ant a centralized or a decentralized In d ia — we m ay even go back to the n atio n ality thesis— b u t in any case we m ust have control of the police and the ad m inistration in those states w here we are [or have been] in pow er.69 67 See, for exam ple, Asok C h a n d a , “ S tates’ D iscontent In creased by N ew F in an cial A w ard s,” The Statesman, S ep tem b er 3, 1969. 68 Q u o te d in th e Hindusthan Standard, A pril 18, 1969. 69 Q u o te d from a J a n u a r y 1970 interview w ith th e a u th o r in N ew D elhi.

206

T H E CPM

T h e am biguous position th a t C entral C om m ittee leaders have taken on m atters of center-state relations points up the dilem m as th a t have confronted the com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia since Independence. If In d ia were not a highly segm ented an d pluralist nation, one m ight argue th a t the c p m units in K erala and W est Bengal w ould have an interest in creating revolutionary situations in these two highly volatile areas. Feeding on radical m ovem ents in K erala an d W est Bengal, the C om m unists could conceivably revolutionize m ore and m ore of the population in the two states— or a t least convince significant num bers th a t electoral dem ocracy is in ad eq u ate for In d ia ’s needs— and this feeling m ight then spread to other parts of In d ia. But as M yron W einer has pointed out, In d ia is m ore segm ented socially and politically th a n any other m ajor n ation in the w orld: T o a rem arkable degree those political developm ents w hich occur in one segm ent do not affect developm ents in an o th er . . one consequence of seg­ m entation is th a t discontent is localized an d instabilities are often q u aran tin ed . This feature of the In d ia n system m ay help us u n d erstan d w hy it is th a t a t any one tim e m any of the In d ia n states are unstable, b u t the n atio n al governm ent is unaffected an d u n p ertu rb ed . W ere all the states unstable sim ultaneously, the national Congress organization an d the n atio n al governm ent could h ard ly rem ain stable. But typically only four or five states at any one tim e are seriously disturbed. . . . An analogy m ight be m ade to a large twelve-wheel truck w ith four tires on each of three axles. A flat on one tire does not create a flat on another, a n d it is possible for the vehicle to keep m oving even if one or two tires are not function­ ing. In any event, the driver carries enough spares to keep the vehicle w orking so long as he does not have a large n u m b er of flats sim ultaneously.70

I t is precisely the segm entation of In d ia n political an d social life th a t has plagued the com m unist m ovem ent since Independence. For while the Com m unists have increased their strength in K erala and W est Bengal rath er steadily, the m ovem ent has declined in two other states (A ndhra and Punjab) and has rem ained relatively u n im p o rtan t in the rest of India. T h e obvious danger for the two older C om m unist parties in the present context is th a t ineffective governm ents in K erala an d W est Bengal m ay dim inish their electoral support even in these two states, w ithout affecting the rest of India. T h e cu rren t tactical line of the c p m is designed to deal w ith the segm entation of In d ia n political and social life in a m an n er th a t has not previously been advocated by In d ia n Com m unists. R a th e r th an pursue a strictly Left C om m unist strategy, w hich was attem p ted by the 70 “ Political D evelopm ent in th e In d ia n S ta te s,” in State Politics in India, ed. M y ro n W einer (P rin ceto n : P rin ceto n U niversity Press, 1968), p. 53.

T H E CPM A N D N ATIO NAL POLITICS

207

in the period 1948-1951, the c p m has attem p ted to w ork w ithin the m inistries to bring ab o u t a “ first-stage revolution.” But unlike the un ited c p i after 1951, and unlike the present c p i , the c p m does not see the present Congress p a rty as form ing even a p a rt of the govern­ m ent th a t will bring ab o u t a first-stage revolution, and some c p m leaders are not even certain th a t a national In d ia n governm ent w ould be capable of carrying out such a revolution th ro u g h o u t the country. Some c p m leaders, p articu larly in the electoral organizations of the p arty, see a future n ational U n ited F ro n t com posed of non-Congress an d non-cpi parties, in w hich the c p m w ould gain p artial control over n atio n al governm ental institutions. B ut oth er c p m leaders, especially those w ho have strong support w ithin the cadre, often speak of the future in words like those of H are K rishna K o n a r (addressing a peasant conference in N ovem ber 1969): “ . . . the volunteer force of today will be the liberation arm y of tom orrow . L et us not be over­ w helm ed by conspirators, even if tem porarily, as in Indonesia; let V ietn am be o u r guiding lig h t.” 71 T h e value of the cu rren t tactical line of the c p m is th a t it has united both the electoral an d organizational wings of the party, if only tem porarily, behind m ilitan t mass m ovem ents th a t have been effective in strengthening state p arty organizations. By concentrating on lim ited program s designed to secure g reater benefits for peasants an d workers in two states, an d by creating a t least the preconditions for a con­ frontation w ith the U nion governm ent on center-state issues, the c p m hopes to be able to develop legislative an d organizational ex­ perience in W est Bengal an d K erala th a t can be applied in a variety of ways. O n the basis of its experience so far, the central leadership of the p a rty has found th a t it can afford to allow different factional interests w ithin the p a rty to m ove in different directions w ith m inim al coordination. Electoralists w ithin the c p m can a ttem p t to solidify the hold of the p a rty on the electorate of W est Bengal, perhaps while seeking to bring ab o u t a U n ited F ro n t governm ent in New Delhi. A t the sam e tim e, the p a rty cadre can a ttem p t to gain new organiza­ tional bases in other In d ia n states as it seeks to radicalize the population in c p m strongholds. Building strong p arty organizations in other In d ian states is a strategy th a t m ust necessarily be designed for the long run, b u t the experience of the c p m in two states has convinced m ost c p m leaders th a t the p arty has been able to identify the issues (prim arily econom ic and center-state issues) th a t have m ade it possible for the cpi

71 Q u o te d in The Statesman, N o v em b er 3, 1969. K o n a r’s speech contrasts sh arp ly w ith th e speech of J y o ti Basu a t th e sam e conference, in w hich Basu spoke of c a p tu rin g p o w er in the w hole c o u n try by electoral m eans. Ib id .

208

TH E CPM

W est Bengal and K erala units to grow very rapidly over the course of a few decades. T h e C PM a n d E x te r n a l C o m m u n is t P a r tie s . W hether or not the c p m is able to revolutionize the population in W est Bengal, extend its organizational strength to other parts of In d ia, or form a united front a t the national level, it is clear th a t the p a rty has gained a greater degree of organizational flexibility, independence, and effectiveness th a n is usually associated w ith In d ia n com m unism . This has largely been the result of the willingness of c p m leaders to con­ centrate on p a rty organizational problem s w ithout constant reference to in ternational C om m unist disputes. Following the split in the In d ia n com m unist m ovem ent in 1964, the c p m has sought selective support from external C om m unist parties b u t has refused to ally itself u n ­ equivocally w ith either the c p s u or the c c p . W hile the c p i has the unquestioned backing of the Soviets, and the c p m l is now recognized by C hina as “ the only C om m unist p a rty in In d ia ,” the c p m has a t­ tem pted to establish itself as the defacto leader of the In d ia n com m unist m ovem ent on the basis of its independent p a rty activities an d the strengthening of its organizational base. As I pointed out in C h ap ter 4, the leadership of the Left faction in the united c p i relied heavily on the Chinese position in the C om m unist ideological debate during the course of the events su rro u n d ­ ing the split in the late 1950s and early 1960s, w hile centrist faction leaders sought the intervention of M oscow as a m ediator in In d ian C om m unist affairs. W hen significant sections of both the Left and centrist factions com bined in the c p m after the 1964 split, p a rty leaders could no t im m ediately reconcile these diverse attachm ents to in ter­ national ideological positions w ithout risking further p a rty disruption. T h e leadership of the p a rty therefore took the position th a t “ sharp differences in the w orld com m unist m ovem ent are not of recent origin” ; th a t “ our own in n er-P arty differences [are] explosive” ; and th a t the “ im m ediate need of the p a rty ” is “ p roper and thorough in n er-P arty discussions on all the ideological issues u n d er dispute, so as to direct [the dispute] into some purposeful and constructive ch an ­ nels.” 72 In order to bring ab o u t a t least a tem porary unity, the c p m 72 A Contribution to Ideological Debate, by P. S u n d a ray y a , M . B asav ap u n n iah , N . P ra sa d R a o , A. K . G o p alan , H a rk ish an Singh Surjeet, J a g jit Sing L y allp u ri, P. R a m a m u rth i, M . R . V e n k a ta ra m a n , J y o ti Basu, H a re K rish n a K o n a r, a n d N ira n ja n Sen (N ew D elhi: Des R aj C h a d d a , 1964), p. 1. T his sta te m e n t was a u th o re d by c p m leaders representing all factional view points a n d w ho ev en tu ally m ad e u p the b u lk o f th e C en tral C om m ittee o f th e p a rty .

TH E CPM A N D E X TE R N A L COMMUNIST PARTIES

209

leadership argued th a t factionalism w ithin the In d ian com m unist m ovem ent derived from the refusal of “ the D ange group . . . to organize in n er-p arty discussions,” an d the C alcu tta conference of the c p m in O cto b er-N o v em b er 1964 therefore directed the C entral Com m ittee of the p a rty “ to im m ediately organize in n er-p arty discussions on the ideological questions . . . in a dispassionate m a n n e r.” 73 H ow ever, w hen m any of the c p m leaders were arrested and detained by the governm ent of In d ia in late 1964 and early 1965 (before the C en tral C om m ittee could m eet), the proposed in ner-party debate was necessarily postponed while the p a rty concentrated on securing the release of its leadership an d m aintaining the efficiency of its organiza­ tion. Even after the release of C entral C om m ittee m em bers in m id1966, the p a rty leadership argued th a t it was “ not desirable to open any discussion on the issues deferred,” since the p arty was then “ faced w ith serious an d pressing problem s of the people . . . and the fourth general elections.” T h e C entral C om m ittee then directed the p arty press “ to publish the au thoritative pronouncem ents of [all] fraternal p arties,” in order th a t “ com rades [could] fam iliarize themselves w ith all view points.” But in taking this action the com m ittee m ade it clear th a t “ our P arty is not com m itted to any of th em .” 74 O nce the c p m m ade the decision to enter the state m inistries after the 1967 elections, a defense of its position in term s of the international ideological debate could no longer be postponed, since the decision to enter the ministries had alienated C hina and given rise to speculation ab o u t a reunification of the c p m and the c p i . Less th an six m onths later, the C entral C om m ittee of the p arty therefore explained in great detail the differences betw een the c p m and the Chinese positions in the ideological d eb ate75 an d m ade arrangem ents to conduct the longdelayed in n er-p arty discussion of ideological questions. In order to facilitate the discussion, the C entral C om m ittee drafted a fifty-fourpage docum ent describing a proposal by w hich disputed ideological questions could be resolved, w hich was circulated to all levels of the p a rty .76 E ach p arty m em ber was instructed “ to express his or her views 73 Resolutions Adopted at the Seventh Congress, October 31 to November 7, 1964, Calcutta (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1964), p. 19. 74 Resolutions o f the Central Committee o f the Communist Party o f India [M arxist], Tenali, June 12-19, 1966 (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1966), pp. 26-27. 75 Divergent Views between Our Party and the CPC on Certain Fundamental Issues, Resolution Adopted by the Central Committee o f the Communist Party o f India [M arxist), Madurai, August 18-27, 1967 (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967). 76 Central Committee’s Draft fo r the Ideological Discussion, Adopted by the Central Committee o f the Communist Party o f India [M arxist), Madurai, August 18—27, 1967 (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1967). T h e p ro ced u re for co n d u ctin g th e in n e r-p a rty discussion is d etailed on p p . 1-2.

210

T H E CPM

in his u n it on the docum ent frankly,” an d m em bers of higher com ­ m ittees were forbidden to express th eir views in the low er com m ittees. All units were instructed to send their opinions to the next higher u n it in the p arty or to relay their criticisms directly to the C en tral C om m ittee through their S tate Com m ittees. T his discussion, w hich was initially expected to last four m onths, was no t com pleted until A pril 1968 (m ore th a n eight m onths later), an d a central plenum of the c p m then passed a resolution em bodying its results.77 Because of the revolt of the Left faction of the c p m in 1967, the p arty was unable to arrive a t a resolution of the ideological debate th a t could be unanim ously supported by all segments of the party. In the words of a c p m P olitbureau sta te m e n t: T h e in n er-p arty discussions over the C entral C om m ittee’s d raft on ideological questions have clearly revealed th a t a section of our p a rty m em bers no t only find themselves in fu n dam en tal disagreem ent w ith the ideological d raft b u t also w ith the P arty Program m e a n d the P a rty ’s line on the c u rren t situation as enunciated in . . . resolutions of the C entral C om m ittee. . . . some com rades, con trary to the instructions of the C entral C om m ittee, th o u g h t it necessary to force the discussion on questions th a t w ere sought to be kept outside the discussion on the ideological d ra ft.78

As has already been indicated, the response of the P olitbureau and C entral C om m ittee of the c p m to the Left faction revolt in 1967 was to expunge the m ost extrem e “ Left deviationists” from the p arty an d to seek to m aintain the organizational backing of the bulk of the Left faction leaders. In ideological term s this m ean t th a t the p a rty h a d to “ fight against revisionism, while guarding against left-sectarian devia­ tio n ,” a stance th a t subjected the c p m l an d c p i to all of the strategic an d tactical m achinations th a t have been described earlier. In term s of the international ideological debate, the c p m found it necessary to depict “ m odern revisionism ” as “the main danger in the in tern atio n al C om m unist m ovem ent a t the present ju n c tu re ,” while m erely w arning p a rty m em bers “ against slipping into left opportunism an d sectarian errors. 3 5 7 9 T h e decision of the c p m leaders to label Soviet revisionism as the “ m ain d an g er” was p artly a response to the severe factional q u arrel betw een the c p m an d the c p i an d to the necessity for some c p m leaders to soften p arty criticism of the Left faction. A t the same tim e, however, it stem m ed from the w idespread feeling am ong c p m m em bers th a t 77 Ideological Resolution, Adopted by the Central Plenum, Burdwan, April 5—12, 1968 (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1968). 78 Ideological Debate Summed Up by Politbureau (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1968), p p . 1-2. 79 Ideological Resolution, p. 54. (Italics in original.)

T H E CPM A N D E X TE R N A L COMMUNIST PARTIES

211

com m unism in In d ia had for too long been dom inated by foreign C om m unist parties, w ith a consequent loss of dynam ism in the In d ian m ovem ent. T h e A pril 1968 resolution of the central plenum , for exam ple, em phasized the need for “ independence and equality am ong fratern al C om m unist P arties” : A w orking class p arty can play the role of a revolutionary p arty only if it is firm ly based on M arxism -L eninism an d p ro letarian internationalism ; only if it can, as correctly p u t by the c p c , “ use its brains to think for itself” . . . [ra th er than] p arro t the words of others, copy foreign experience w ithout analysis, [and] run h ith er an d th ith er in response to the b ato n of certain persons abroad. . . .80

In the eyes of c p m leaders, “ this sound p ro letarian internationalist p rin cip le” was frequently “ violated by big P arties,” the “glaring exam ple” of such violations being the actions of “ the c p s u after its 20th Congress,” although “ the c p c . . . [was] also sometimes found to disregard this principle.” 81 In order to stake ou t a m ore independent role for itself w ithin In d ia, the c p m found it necessary to criticize both the c p s u and the c c p for such violations. Since A pril 1968 the c p m has m aintained its independent position in the ideological debate, identifying m ost closely w ith C astro’s C uba, N o rth V ietnam , N orth K orea, student protest groups in the U nited States, an d the liberation m ovem ents in Africa, while calling on both the c p s u and the c c p to correct their “ revisionist” and “ sectarian” errors.82 P arty leaders and docum ents still praise the Chinese revolution of 1949 as “ one of the biggest trium phs of the w orld w orking class an d the im perishable doctrine of M arxism -L eninism ” and em phasize Chinese achievem ents in industry, agriculture, science, technology, an d education. A ccording to c p m literature, C hina has far outstripped In d ia in econom ic and technological developm ent, has m ore ably p rep ared itself for defense against A m erican “ im perialism ” by develop­ ing nuclear w eapons, and has perform ed a great service to socialism in this century by “ initiating the fight against m odern revisionism .” A t the sam e tim e, the c c p is criticized for “ its erroneous outlook,” w hich “ liquidates the existence of the socialist cam p ” and “ rejects the necessity for united action o f the socialist cam p .” 83 In a sim ilar m an n er, the Soviet U nion is praised for carrying out the first significant 80 Ib id ., p p . 50-52. 81 Ib id ., p. 53. 82 Based on a co n ten t analysis o f articles a p p e a rin g in People’s Democracy a n d Desh Hitaishi ( c p m daily) in 1968-1970, a n d on interview s c o n d u cted in 1969-1970. 83 People’s Democracy, S ep tem b er 28, 1969, p. 1. F o r o th er c p m statem ents on C h in a a n d th e c c p , see ibid., A ugust 4, 1968, p p . 1, 12; D ecem ber 22, 1968, pp. 1, 12; D ecem b er 29, 1968, p. 1; a n d F e b ru a ry 23, 1969, pp. 4, 10.

212

T H E CPM

socialist revolution an d for supporting w orld revolution d u rin g the first four decades of Soviet rule. H ow ever, the c p s u is criticized for its present “ lop-sided em phasis on the peace struggle,” for “ underplaying the im portance of all-sided direct struggle against im perialism ,” and for “ m inim ising in p articu lar the significant role o f the w orldw ide n ational liberation struggles a t the present stage.” 84 T h e c p m ’s affinity w ith C uba, N orth K orea, N orth V ietnam , Indonesia, an d the A frican liberation m ovem ents is in fact based on a com m on sentim ent th a t the Soviet U nion has failed to give ad eq u ate support to liberation m ove­ m ents in these areas.85 For m any p arty m em bers this ideological stance provides enough satisfaction to m ain tain a high level o f p a rty involvem ent. As one observer has pointed out, T o the revolutionaries outside the socialist countries . . ., a n d even to m an y com m unists of Asia, A frica a n d L atin A m erica, the obsessive desire of the Soviet U nion to establish a w orking relationship w ith the U .S .A . a n d the frenzied efforts by C hina to instigate arm ed struggle in every nook a n d corner of the w orld [seem] equally futile. T h e im pression [am ong m any Asian C om m unists is] th a t both the socialist giants— rival claim ants to th e leadership of w orld revolution— [are] acting m ore a n d m ore as n atio n al states, as cynically opportunist Big Powers, an d not as the trusted v a n g u ard of a w orldw ide revolutionary process. Com m unism , of b o th the Soviet a n d Chinese varieties, [appears] to be tu rn in g into an E stablishm ent, w ith h ard ly any message for . . . the socialist revolutionaries of the T h ird W o rld .86

A m ong p arty leaders in the c p m , however, the ideological stance of the p arty is m ore closely tied to their own factional interests an d th eir own contacts in the in ternational com m unist m ovem ent. T h e centrists in the c p m , led by Jy o ti Basu an d E. M . S. N am boodiripad, are still critical of the p a rty ’s unwillingness to seek the m ediation o f M oscow in In d ia n C om m unist disputes, b u t they have so far been relu c tan t to impose their views on the party. Basu an d N am boodiripad did express a desire to be present a t the m eetings of w orld C om m unist parties in 1967 (on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the R ussian R evolution), b u t the C entral C om m ittee o f the c p m refused their request to travel to M oscow for fear th a t “ the dazzling atm osphere 84 C P I(M ) Central Committee Statement on Moscow Conference (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1969), p. 5. 85 Ib id ., pp. 2, 10. 86 O . P. Sangal, “ M oscow M eet Saw a F ra c tu re d G lo b e,” Citizen and Weekend Review, J u n e 28, 1969, p. 23.

TH E CPM AN D E X TE R N A L COMMUNIST PARTIES

213

of M oscow [m ight] lure them back to the pro-Soviet c p i . ” 87 Therefore, none o f the meetings called by M oscow in 1967, 1968, and 1969 has been atten d ed by c p m delegates,88 and the c p m has kept itself inform ed of the m eetings only by m eans of visits by Left and centrist faction leaders to R u m a n ia and G reat B ritain,89 both countries whose parties have cooled tow ard, b u t not broken w ith, Moscow. W hile the centrists in the c p m have not been w illing to press for closer relations w ith Moscow, they have insisted th a t pictures of M ao T se-tung not be displayed at p arty conferences, th a t both C hina an d the Soviet U nion be equally blam ed for Sino-Soviet border clashes, and th a t C hina be “ corrected” for its open condem nation of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.90 M oreover, centrist faction leaders have been able to include themselves in delegations selected by the c p m to travel to E urope and V ietnam and have been responsible for strong p a rty statem ents criticizing Chinese support of In d ia n N axalites.91 F actional struggles over control of the dom estic stance of the c p m therefore find parallels in the ap p ro ach of various p arty leaders to in tern atio n al ideological disputes, leaving open the possibility th a t either international or dom estic events m ight at some point in the future disrupt the balance th a t has been achieved in recent years. T h u s the new independence an d flexibility of the c p m in m atters of state and national politics m ust be viewed as the consequence of a precarious balance of com peting forces w ithin the p a rty ra th e r th an as a consensus based on the firm com m itm ent of m ajor factional interests. E ach of the resolutions adopted by the c p m since F eb ru ary 1967, w hether on ideological or tactical issues, has created great strains and tensions am ong factions, and each has been passed only after in n er-p arty accom m odation on a host of am endm ents an d alterations. Both Left an d centrist faction leaders have differed publicly w ith the p arty on a num ber of occasions, both have been disciplined by the C entral C om m ittee, and both factions have resorted 87 Ib id ., N o v em b er 4, 1967, p. 14. 88 F o r g rea ter d etail on In d ia n p a rtic ip a tio n in the M oscow m eetings, see the Times o f India, M a rc h 27, 1968, a n d Thought (N ew D elhi w eekly), J u n e 28, 1969, p p . 4 -5 . 89 T h e links betw een R u m a n ia a n d the c p m are analyzed in People’s Democracy, A ugust 17, 1969, pp. 2, 6 -8 , a n d O c to b e r 12, 1969, p p . 3, 9-11. C p m m em bers in G re a t B ritain have form ed th e ir ow n “ A ssociation o f In d ia n C om m unists o f G reat B rita in ” w ith in the c p g b , com posed o f B ritish a n d In d ia n c p m em bers loyal to the c p m . See ibid., F e b ru a ry 25, 1968, p p . 5, 8. 90 See the Hindusthan Standard, D ecem ber 24, 1968; Amrita Bazaar Patrika, M a rc h 17, 1969; a n d People’s Democracy, A ugust 25, 1968, p p . 1, 2, 7. 91 Amrita Bazaar Patrika, D ecem ber 8, 1968.

214

T H E CPM

to threats an d cajolery.92 T h e success of c p m leaders in reconciling diverse factional interests both on political an d on ideological m atters since 1967 suggests th a t continued unity depends on organizational an d electoral success, w hile the persistence of long-standing factional interests points to the fragile n a tu re of p arty unity, w hich m ight sh atter in the event o f reverses.

92 As, for exam ple, w hen M . B asav ap u n n iah w a rn ed th e L eft faction th a t “ a single m istake will cost us a g e n e ra tio n .” Q u o te d in The Statesman, D ecem ber 27, 1968.

8

THE CPI AND NA TIONAL COALITION BUILDING

A lthough the c p m l an d the c p m m ain tain some ties to foreign C om m unist parties, both of them are prim arily concerned w ith the regional political environm ent in W est Bengal. T h e c p m l , for exam ple, aspires to a nationw ide revolution, b u t its im m ediate goal is to create a revolutionary situation in Bengal in the hope th a t later it will spread to neighboring areas. Sim ilarly, the c p m is attem p tin g to consolidate its position in the two states (K erala an d W est Bengal) w here it can conceivably dom inate state m inistries in the near future. In contrast to these regional strategies, the c p i has focused its attention on New D elhi an d allied itself unequivocally w ith the c p s u an d the foreign policy of the Soviet U nion. By the late 1960s the c p m l h ad been recognized by C hina an d its socialist allies as “ the only C om m unist P arty in In d ia ,55 while c p m leaders were attem p tin g to establish closer fratern al relations w ith R u m an ia, the c p g b , an d a few other C om m unist parties th a t rem ained nom inally tied to the Soviet U nion. But the c p i was still unquestionably the largest recipient of aid from Moscow. Since the split in 1964, the ch airm an of the national c p i has been know n in M oscow as “ the loyal D an g e,” the c p i has been favored w ith all of the visits and invitations to an d from Moscow, an d negotiations betw een M oscow an d the c p m have been carried out through the via m edia of the c p i . F or these reasons, one of the m ost useful ways of u n d erstanding the relationship betw een the Bengali com m unist m ove­ m ent an d In d ia's national an d in ternational political position is to focus on the strategy an d goals of the c p i . For a t least a decade, the Soviet U nion has been pursuing a num ber of interests in South Asia. O n the one hand, Moscow is attem pting to increase its influence in In d ia while m aintaining friendly relations w ith P akistan; on the other han d , it is seeking to prevent either C hina or the U n ite d States from gaining leverage in South Asia by m a n ip u lat­ ing the Indo-P akistani conflict “ so th a t together [In d ia an d Pakistan] m ight devote their energies to containing C hina rath e r th an to fighting each o th e r.” 1 T o fu rth er these objectives, the Soviet U nion and the 1 W illiam E. G riffith, Sino-Soviet Relations, 1964—1965 (C am b rid g e: M .I.T . Press, 1967), p. 118.

216

T H E CPI

have placed a great deal o f em phasis on m ain tain in g “ politically correct an d cooperative relations w ith In d ia ,” yet they have sought to use the In d ia n com m unist m ovem ent as an in stru m en t of “ pressure an d m an ip u latio n .” 2 In w h at has now becom e a fairly com m on p attern in m any countries, the Soviet U nion has given considerable diplom atic support to New D elhi while seeking to bring ab o u t com m unist unity an d influence through the auspices o f the pro-M oscow, c p i . cpsu

R e g io n a l F a c tio n a lis m S in ce th e S p lit T h e short-term goal o f the c p i an d the c p s u is to gain influence in national coalition building. Indeed, a t its first p a rty congress after the A pril 1964 split, the c p i adopted a p ro g ram th a t spoke of the need for a N ational D em ocratic F ro n t ( n d f ) as the p a rty ’s “ central slogan o f the p erio d .” 3 T his reflected the desire o f the leadership o f the c p i an d the c p s u to pursue “ united front from above” tactics, “ bringing together all the patriotic forces o f the country, including the w orking class, the entire peasantry, the rich peasants an d agri­ cultural labourers, the intelligentsia an d the non-m onopolist b o u r­ geoisie.” 4 In the words o f the p arty program , the N ational D em ocratic F ro n t was conceived as “ a transitional stage, in w hich pow er will be jo in tly exercised by all those classes w hich are interested in eradicating im perialist interests, routing the sem i-feudal elem ents an d breaking the pow er of the monopolies. . . . [W hile] the exclusive leadership of the w orking class w ould not yet be established [under] a N ational D em ocratic F ront, the exclusive leadership o f the bourgeoisie w ould no longer exist.” 5 T h e c p i ’s “ united front from above” tactics differ significantly from the “ united front from below ” tactics o f the c p m . R a th e r th an concentrate on building a mass base in p articu lar regions w here the p a rty is strong, the c p i has chosen to increase its strength by m aking “ top alliances” w ith other leadership groups in In d ia, in this w ay hoping to gain m ore influence in the present national governm ent an d eventually to absorb m any of the supporters of its allies. T his was essentially the strategy of the united c p i in the late 1930s, w hen the p arty witnessed its greatest period of grow th through the absorption of m uch o f the leadership o f the Congress Socialists an d the nationalist terrorist groups, a leadership th a t in tu rn bro u g h t m any of its followers into 2 Russell Brines, The Indo-Pakistani Conflict (L o n d o n : P all M all Press, 1968), p p . 157-158. 3 The Programme o f the Communist Party o f India, A s Adopted by the Seventh Congress o f the Communist Party o f India, Bombay, 13 -2 3 December, 1964 (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1965), p. 43. 4 Ib id ., p. 39. 5 Ib id ., p. 41.

REGIONAL FACTIONALISM SINCE TH E SPLIT

217

the p a rty fold. W hile the present strategy of the c p m does not exclude such alliances w ith other parties, it insists on an independent and superior political base for itself in any of the alliances it enters into. C o n stan t prodding o f the noncom m unist interests w ith w hich the cpm has allied itself is felt to be necessary am ong the leadership, m ainly because of the th rea t th a t c p m m em bers inclined tow ard the N axalites m ight ab an d o n the p arty in the event of a m ore m oderate stand. Since the c p i has a m uch sm aller N axalite faction w ithin its ranks, its leadership has been able to exercise a greater degree of flexibility in m aking alliances. M oreover, united front from above tactics on the p a rt of the c p i have been useful to the foreign policy interests of the Soviet U nion, since they call for some degree of collaboration and cooperation be­ tw een the c p i and the present In d ia n governm ent. In the words of the p a rty program , T h e form ation of the N ational D em ocratic F ro n t does not [necessarily] m ean progressive parties m erging w ith the Congress or entering into a form al alliance w ith the Congress. Nevertheless, no N ational D em ocratic F ro n t w ould be real unless the vast mass following of the Congress an d the progressive sections of the Congress a t various levels take their place in it. I t is the task of the C om m unist P arty to m ake ceaseless efforts to forge unity w ith the progressive forces w ithin the Congress, directly an d through com m on mass m ovem ents, to bring ab o u t a leftw ard shift in the policies of the governm ent, to fight for the realisation of the dem ands of the N ational D em ocratic F ro n t.6

I f the c p i were to ad o p t a political strategy th a t brought it into open conflict w ith all sections of the Congress, as is the case w ith the c p m ’s united front from below, it w ould be difficult for the c p s u to continue to support the c p i and yet m ain tain cordial diplom atic relations w ith a Congress governm ent in New Delhi. In addition, of course, united front from above tactics open up a nu m b er of possibilities for a con­ tinuing C om m unist influence on In d ia n policy m akers w hich m ight not otherw ise exist. This is not to argue, however, th a t the c p i has been entirely united in its pursuit of a N ational D em ocratic F ront or th a t relationships betw een M oscow and the c p i have not created tensions w ithin the party. W hen the c p i inherited the intellectual leadership of the united Com m unists, it also inherited factional and ideological conflicts th a t date back to the origins of the p arty in the 1920s an d 1930s, conflicts th a t have divided In d ia n intellectuals d u rin g the intervening years and continue to divide them in the 1970s. D efinitions of In d ia ’s class structure, interpretations of directives from M oscow and L ondon, conceptions of p arty m em bership, p arty organi6 Ib id ., p. 44.

218

T H E CPI

zation, an d leadership prom otion, as well as relations betw een regional, national, an d in ternational organs of the com m unist m ovem ent, all of these have becom e issues th a t have divided the c p i on a n u m b er of occasions since the split. W hile it w ould be im possible to trace the background and developm ent of all of these issues in the present con­ text, it is necessary to outline the ones th a t have influenced the o p era­ tion of the c p i in W est Bengal since 1964. In general, such issues have been related to three im p o rtan t facto rs: p a rty strategy, p a rty organiza­ tion, an d relations w ith the in tern atio n al m ovem ent. O n questions of p a rty strategy, a significant section of the W est Bengal u n it of the c p i has argued since 1964 for g reater p a rty m ilitancy in W est Bengal as a m eans to counter the appeal of the c p m to the m ost volatile segments of the state population. In an effort to convince the leadership th a t the p a rty should pursue a m ore m ilitan t stance, a n u m b er of younger leaders from W est Bengal proposed an am en d m en t to the p a rty ’s resolution on ideological questions a t the 1964 p arty congress questioning the unqualified acceptance of a stance of “ peace­ ful transition to socialism ,” an d c p i leader A m iya Das G u p ta of W est Bengal even argued th a t the p a rty should give g reater prom inence to “ nonpeaceful possibilities of tran sitio n .” 7 A fter prolonged discussion, how ever, the p arty congress chose to reject Das G u p ta ’s am en d m en t for essentially two reasons, according to the c p i ’s Comm ission on Ideological C ontroversies: W e reject [the Das G u p ta am endm ent] . . . because equating the two possibilities [peaceful an d nonpeaceful transition] in practice paralyses mass initiatives for a peaceful transition an d leads to passivity. Besides, we all know from experience th a t equating the two possibilities is one of the sly m ethods by w hich left-sectarians a ttem p t to sm uggle in their adventurist tactics in the mass m ovem ent.8

F or sim ilar reasons the c p i Commission on the Political R esolution of 1964 rejected am endm ents th a t w ould have labeled the In d ia n govern­ m en t as having “ shifted to the rig h t” in its h an d lin g of food policy an d the jailing of the c p m . Such a resolution, the national c p i leadership argued, w ould have m ade it m ore difficult to pursue alliances w ith “ progressive Congressm en an d others” while a t the sam e tim e leaving the c p i itself open to adventurist tactics.9 7 Proceedings o f the Seventh Congress o f the Communist Party o f India, Bombay, December 13-23, 1964, vol. 3, Discussions (N ew D elhi: C P I, 1965), p. 20. 8 Ib id ., p. 16. 9 Based on interview s a n d ibid., p. 23. T h e persistence o f this issue as th e basis for factional differences in W est B engal is trac ed o u t in Shivadas B anerjee, “ D isco n ten t am o n g C P I M e m b ers,” The Statesman (C a lc u tta daily), M a y 1, 1965. See also ibid., J a n u a r y 6, 1966, a n d Shib S h a n k a r M itra, “ H o w to Begin u n d e r P resent C irc u m ­ stan ces,” Kalantar (Bengal w eekly o f the c p i ) , M a y 17, 1969, p. 8 .

REGIONAL FACTIONALISM SINCE TH E SPLIT

219

T h e existence of ideological differences w ithin the c p i has h ad a n u m b er of consequences for the p a rty since the split in 1964. Perhaps the m ost obvious of these has been the continuing need for com ­ promises of the same sort th a t characterized the united c p i . W hile the central leadership o f the p a rty has spelled out in general term s the line th a t local and regional p a rty units are to follow, it has frequently found it necessary to state p a rty doctrine so am biguously th a t no clear form ula for political action emerges. This m an n er of proceeding was in fact outlined explicitly by the Comm ission on the D raft P ro­ gram m e of the 1964 p a rty congress: O u r program m e can only indicate in general term s how the n d f is initiated, how it develops an d leads to mass n atio n al upsurge of struggle against reaction­ ary an d rightw ing forces. I t can n o t m ake a cu t-an d -d ry scheme for this. T h e m ain strategic an d class principles of this are indicated an d in doing this, we m ust keep both class an d the n atio n al aspect of the n d f in the concrete condi­ tions of In d ia firm ly in view .10

C onfronted w ith the ideologically com prom ised directives being issued by the c p i leadership from New D elhi, local an d state units have often floundered in interpreting p a rty strategy, an d the agonizing self­ criticisms th a t characterized united c p i docum ents have continued to be a feature of p arty organizational reports since 1964. A t the 1964 p a rty congress, for exam ple, the c p i organizational rep o rt included adm issions of failure w ith regard to the functioning of mass organiza­ tions, the role of the leadership in p a rty education, “ the serious evil o f leakage,” an d “ the incorrect m ethods of gossip, loose talk, [and] back biting w hich have developed in the w ake of individual functioning.” 11 As was the case w ith the united c p i , in tern al p arty factionalism and com prom ise have resulted in a g reat deal of autonom y for local and regional units on some issues, b u t the national leadership of the p arty 10 Discussions, p. 38. 11 Ib id ., p. 56. F o r later statem ents o f self-criticism on th e p a rt o f p a rty leaders, see The Statesman, J a n u a r y 13, 1966, a n d th e O rg a n isatio n al R e p o rt a d o p ted a t the E ig h th C ongress o f th e c p i a t P a tn a in F e b ru a ry 1968, w hich w as su m m arized as follows: “ . . . the m ain o rganisational tasks of th e O rg a n isatio n al R e p o rt rem ain w here th ey w ere. T h e p a rty continues to suffer from all those defects a n d weaknesses w hich w ere analysed a n d nailed dow n a t the last P a rty Congress. T endencies o f indiscipline, bourgeois h a b its a n d m ethods persist. M ass organisations co n tin u e to rem ain weak. T h e g ap betw een m ass influence a n d org an isatio n o f the p a rty still continues. T h e a ll-In d ia p a rty cen tre rem ains w eak a n d ineffective. N o im p ro v em en t in the style of w ork has com e ab o u t. T h e financial position of th e p a rty continues to be d eplo rab le. T h e circu latio n o f p a rty jo u rn a ls rem ain s p o o r.” See Documents Adopted by Eighth Congress o f the Communist Party o f India, Karyanandnagar, Patna, February 7—15, 1968 (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1968), p. 148.

220

TH E CPI

has been hesitant to form alize a decentralized p a rty structure. A t the 1964 p arty congress a n u m b er of am endm ents to the constitutional a n d organizational reports of the p a rty w ere in ten d ed to bring ab o u t decentralization, b u t none of these was accepted by „the n ational leadership, w hich led to their defeat. O ne such am en d m en t w ould have prevented c e c m em bers from holding office in state or district units, an o th er suggested giving greater powers to state an d local units, an d several others sought to restrict the powers of the chairm an, the general secretary, an d other national office b earers.12 Sim ilarly, proposals to “ reserve a certain n u m b er of p a rty positions for m em bers of the w orking class an d p easan try ” w ere rejected a t the 1964 congress, along w ith suggestions for “ changing a certain percentage of lead er­ ship a t every Congress.” 13 Ironically enough, each of these proposals cam e from the desire on the p a rt of some p arty m em bers to develop new leadership, while the P arty Comm ission on O rg an izatio n rejected the proposals precisely because of the “ considerable paucity of cadre in our p a rty a t present.” 14 W hile dissatisfaction w ith n ational leadership, p a rty strategy, an d organizational control have created a great deal of tension w ithin the c p i , none of the factional conflicts w ithin the p a rty has as yet th reaten ed the same degree of disruption th a t has plagued the c p m . In W est Bengal the m ost vociferous p arty opponents of the c p i ’s national leadership chose to jo in together in 1968—1969 in a p a rty reform group th a t cam e to be know n as the “ Soviet C ritics” an d th a t was based on opposition to D ange’s defense of the Soviet action against Czechoslo­ vakia in the sum m er of 1968.15 T h e Soviet Critics sought to cluster together m any of the Bengali p arty m em bers who h a d differed w ith national chairm an D ange for one reason or another, b u t in the final analysis D ange took strong action against two non-Bengali c p i m em bers 12 Discussions, pp. 58-59. 13 Ib id ., pp. 57, 62. 14 Ib id ., p. 57. 15 T h e Soviet in terv en tio n in C zechoslovakia p ro m p te d considerable discussion w ith in th e c p i , some of w hich was ev en tu ally p u b lish ed w ith o u t the b ack in g o f the p a rty leadership. T h e m ost d etailed discussions are p ro v id ed in Reactions on the Events in Czechoslovakia, ed. A n a n d G u p ta (D elhi: N ew L ite ra tu re , 1968) a n d Whither Czechoslovakia: Essays and Documents on the Czechoslovak Crisis, ed. P. K . S u n d a ra m (N ew D elhi: D aw n Publishers, 1969). A n official p a rty collection o f d o cu m en ts a n d eyewitness accounts favorable to the Soviets is co n ta in e d in Behind the Crisis in Czechoslovakia, ed. M . B. R a o (D elhi: P eo p le’s P ublishing H ouse, 1968). W hile m ost of th e a ll-In d ia leaders o f the c p i su p p o rte d the Soviets from the begin n in g , the first supportive p a rty resolution was passed only after th e F e b ru a ry 1969 elections, at m eetings o f the c p i N a tio n a l C ouncil in A pril. F o r a su m m ary o f the crisis in th e c p i b y a v e te ran p s p leader, see P ra d ip Bose, East European Turmoil and C P I (C a lc u tta : S am ajw adi P rakashani, 1968).

CPI STRATEGY IN W EST BENGAL

221

w ho h ad publicly criticized Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, an d B engal’s Soviet Critics subsequently either were silenced or left the p a rty .16 D uring the course of this dispute the p arty lost some of its leading young intellectuals, b u t the th rea t to the p arty was not nearly so severe as the loss of cadre leaders produced by the factionalism w ithin the c p m . C PI S tr a te g y in W est B en g a l I f the c p i has m anaged to escape the intense factional disruption th a t has pervaded the c p m , it has failed to use this advantage to gain superior organizational effectiveness in any single state. This is p a r­ ticularly relevant to an analysis of c p i strategy in W est Bengal, since it is the superior organizational ap p aratu s of the c p m there th a t has determ ined the ap p ro ach of state c p i leaders to regional, national, and in tern atio n al issues. As has already been pointed out, both the c p i a n d the c p m secured essentially the sam e percentage of the national vote in the 1967 elections, b u t the distribution of the vote betw een states varied enorm ously, w ith corresponding differences in the sub­ sequent orientations of the two parties. In the 1967 elections the c p i secured m ore than 5 percent of the vote in seven states (K erala, W est Bengal, A n d h ra Pradesh, Orissa, P unjab, Bihar, and Assam), bu t the largest percentage of the vote th a t it gained in any one state was 8.57 percent in K erala (com pared to 23.51 percent for the c p m ) . A fter the elections, the c p i agreed to support five state m inisterial coalitions (in K erala, W est Bengal, P unjab, Bihar, and U tta r Pradesh), b u t it has since m ain tain ed its position in only two of these states (K erala an d W est Bengal), and in both cases it has been confronted w ith the superior organization and the “ anti-revisionist” hostility of the c p m . In W est Bengal, w here the c p i fared better th an in any other state in the 1969 m idterm elections, the c p i gained only 6.78 percent of the vote and 30 seats, com pared to 19.55 percent of the vote and 80 seats for the c p m . 16 T h e Soviet C ritics have now b a n d e d to g eth er a ro u n d a B engali lan g u ag e jo u rn a l w ith a n E nglish n am e (Compass), edited by a n old rev o lu tio n ary lead er of B engal, P a n n a la l D as G u p ta . T h e Bengalis m ost freq u en tly associated w ith Compass a n d the Soviet C ritics are S ubhas M ukherjee, K a ly a n D u tta , G a u ta m C h atterjee, B o u d h a y an C h a tterje e, Sushovan S ark ar, a n d Miss S ip ra S ark ar. T h e ir failure to lead a successful p a rty reform g ro u p w ith in th e c p i in 1969 resulted largely from th eir in ab ility to secure the b acking o f som e o f th e older c p i leaders (such as In d ra jit G u p ta a n d S o m n a th L ah iri) w ho w ere opposed to th e Soviet action in C zechoslovakia b u t u n w illin g to jo in w ith the y o u n g Soviet C ritics in using this issue as the basis for a p a rty reform m ovem ent. F o r a n analysis o f th e ir failure, see Amrita Bazaar Patrika (C a lc u tta d aily ), M a y 15, 1969.

222

TH E CPI

Even at the national level, the c p i ad v an tag e over the c p m is not substantial. In elections to the Lok S abha in 1967, for exam ple, the c p i outpolled the c p m by a little less th an 1-J m illion votes (7.56 m illion to 6.14 million) an d gained only 23 seats (com pared to 19 for the c p m ) . W hile most of the c p i seats cam e from four states (5 each from B ihar, U tta r Pradesh, an d W est Bengal, an d 3 from K erala), the c p m Lok S abha seats cam e alm ost exclusively from K erala (9), W est Bengal (5), an d M adras (4). In both the assembly an d Lok S abha elections the two C om m unist parties w ere outvoted (on a national level) by a num ber of other parties: Congress, J a n a Sangh, S w atantra, an d s s p (see T able 9). Both the c p i an d the c p m individually secured T able 9 E l e c t o r a l P o sit io n s o f M a j o r I n d i a n P a r t ie s ( 1 9 6 7 )

P arty C ongress J a n S angh S w a ta n tra SSP CPI CPM

Legislative Assemblies % Votes No. Votes

Lok S abha % Votes No. Votes

57,252,357 12,567,918 9,519,231 7,424,633 5,906,109 6,599,692

59,402,754 13,715,931 12,659,540 7,171,627 7,564,180 6,140,738

39.96 8.78 6.65 5.19 4.13 4.60

40.73 9.41 8.68 4.92 5.19 4.21

Source: Report on the Fourth General Elections in India, 1967 (N ew D elh i: E lection Com m ission, 1967), p p . 21-22, 121-122.

approxim ately the sam e percentage of the national vote as the s s p , an d together the two C om m unist parties w ould have challenged both S w atantra and J a n a Sangh for the position of second largest p a rty in India. But because of the split, each of the parties individually could rank no b etter th an fifth am ong the national parties, w ith the c p i having a som ew hat m ore legitim ate claim to the title of a national p arty on the basis of its m ore even distribution of votes thro u g h o u t In d ia an d its greater success in the Lok Sabha. In this connection it m ight also be m entioned th a t the c p i was m ore successful th a n the c p m in the prestige contests. T h e 1967 and 1969 elections created a nu m b er of difficulties for the c p i , both at the national level an d in W est Bengal. In W est Bengal the c p i has h ad to confront the aggressive political tactics of the c p m , if only to prevent the c p i cadre from being won over by the m ore m ilitan t c p m tactics. A t the same time, however, most state c p i leaders

CPI STRATEGY IN W EST BENGAL

223

have been convinced th a t it is the tactical line of the c p m th a t has prevented the leftist parties in W est Bengal from m aking m ore dram atic electoral gains. Shortly after the 1967 elections, for exam ple, the W est Bengal State Council of the c p i m et in C alcu tta to analyze the election results and concluded th a t the failure of the c p m to cooperate in an electoral alliance was the principal factor preventing “ a decisive shift in the balance of political forces to the left.” 17 As an inner-party docum ent pointed out, H a d a single united front, including both the C om m unist parties, been form ed in W est Bengal, instead of two rival fronts, the results m ight have been com parable to w h at was achieved in K erala, the only state w here both the parties w ere together in a com m on u n ited front. T h e electorate saved the situation by inflicting a defeat on the Congress, b u t this does not obscure the negative effect of the q u arrel betw een the C om m unist p a rtie s.18

attem pts to counter the aggressive organizational tactics initiated by the c p m have thus far been centered in areas of the state w here the p a rty has developed an electoral base of its own and in strong­ holds of the sm aller M arxist Left parties w here the c p i is either try ­ ing to gain an electoral base or trying to prevent the c p m from gaining one. W hile engaging in these activities, however, the bulk of the state leadership of the p arty has m ain tain ed its conviction th a t the c p i line of “ top alliances” w ould be m uch m ore beneficial to the grow th of leftisrn in the state, w ith the result th a t the state c p i has continued to issue appeals for leftist unity while attem p tin g to cem ent relations w ith all the m ajor state parties. T h e position of the c p i in W est Bengal is further com plicated by the n a tu re of the appeal th a t p arty leaders have com m itted themselves to. Because of the “ united front from above” tactical line, the p arty is publicly seeking the support of all groups and classes in the state other th a n the “ m onopolist bourgeoisie.” But owing to the history of the com m unist m ovem ent in the state and the highly politicized n atu re of m ost groups and classes, the c p i has found it difficult to m ake inroads into the established bases of other parties. L arge landholders and m iddle peasants w ho have traditionally supported the Congress in W est Bengal are relu ctan t to shift their support to a C om m unist p arty th at has always evoked their distrust and disdain, while small landholders, landless laborers, and the disenchanted u rb a n m iddle class have traditionally been attracted to parties th a t have pursued m ore m ilitant C pi

17 Link (N ew D elhi w eekly), M a rc h 5, 1967, p. 11. 18 Resolution on the Fourth General Elections, Draft fo r Discussion o f the State Council (C a lc u tta : C P I, 1967), p. 6.

224

T H E CPI

protest strategies. M oreover, in m any areas of the state the sm aller M arxist Left parties have used their positions in the state m inistries to provide patronage to local supporters in their electoral strongholds, thus fortifying their own p a rty positions against the appeals both of the c p i an d of the c p m . W hile the c p i has been able to retain its position in areas o f previous electoral strength (in portions of M idnapore, 24Parganas, an d in sm all pockets elsewhere), it has thus far failed to m ake noticeable gains in other areas of the state. In this atm osphere, the state leadership of the c p i has been forced to engage in a series of subtle m aneuvers in its attem p ts to m ake the “ united front from above” tactical line work, the most difficult aspect of w hich has been the am biguous series of relationships it has h a d to accept in order to confront the challenge of the c p m . A ccording to the c p i program , the c p m is one of the parties th a t m ust be courted for a future N ational D em ocratic F ront, at the same tim e th a t a clear distinction m ust be established (in the eyes of all state p a rty m em bers an d followers) betw een the p a rty program s of the two C om m unist parties. For this reason, state c p i leaders w ere initially careful to m oderate their criticisms of the c p m an d to search for as m any areas of agreem ent as possible. T h ro u g h o u t the period of the first U n ited F ro n t governm ent in 1967, the c p i argued th a t the front was “ truly u n ite d ” an d sought to m inim ize conflicts betw een its supporters and those of the c p m . 19 O nce the front was ousted, the c p i im m ediately began to w ork for an electoral alliance of all of the parties in the front, an d a nu m b er of concessions m ade by the c p i to the c p m were in­ strum ental in bringing ab o u t the high degree of u n ity th a t ch arac­ terized the electoral cam paign of the front parties in late 1968 and early 1969. Shortly after the 1969 elections, c p i leaders even took the initiative in bringing ab o u t “ unity talks” betw een p ro m in en t leaders of the two m ajor In d ian C om m unist parties. T h e results of the talks indicate the great g ulf th a t yawns betw een the present c p i and c p m strategies an d the constraints th a t have in­ hibited close relations betw een the two parties since 1964.20 T h e m ovem ent for the talks was initiated by the c p i N ational Council in A pril 1969, w hen the p a rty leadership decided th a t “ unity of the C om ­ m unist forces” was “ of decisive im p o rtan ce” an d th a t the c p i w ould 19 T h e a ttitu d e of the c p i to w ard the 1967 U n ite d F ro n t in W est Bengal is co n tain ed in th e len g th y “ R esolution on W est B engal” th a t ap p ears in Resolutions Adopted by Eighth Congress o f the Communist Party o f India, Karyanandnagar, Patna, 7 -1 5 February, 1968 (N ew D elh i: C P I, 1968), p p . 9 -1 3 . 20 T w o excellent sum m aries o f th e C o m m u n ist u n ity talks in J u n e 1969 a p p e a r in Link, J u n e 8, 1969, p. 11, a n d th e Citizen and Weekend Review, J u n e 14, 1969, p. 19. See also D ip te n d u Dey, “ W h y N a m b o o d irip a d Is So A fraid of C om m unist U n ity ,” Kalantar, J u n e 14, 1969, p. 6.

CPI STRATEGY IN WEST BENGAL

225

w ork for “jo in t blocs” of the two C om m unist parties (both in P arlia­ m en t an d in the state Legislative Assemblies) as well as for jo in t co­ o rdination com m ittees a t all p a rty levels. W hen unity talks were proposed to the c p m , however, its leadership predictably divided betw een the centrist an d Left C om m unist factions, w ith Jy o ti Basu an d E. M . S. N am boodiripad favoring the talks an d P ram ode Das G u p ta opposing them . In this atm osphere the talks, w hich were held in early J u n e 1969, produced little m ore th an a statem ent th a t the leadership of the two parties w ould “ m eet again by m u tu al consent,” an d P ram ode Das G u p ta even refused to associate him self w ith this seem ingly harm less statem ent. F rom Das G u p ta ’s point of view, any agreem ent on the p a rt o f the c p m leadership to w ork in unity w ith the c p i could only constitute a victory for the c p i “ revisionist” tactical line, forcing the c p m to m ake concessions on crucial issues despite its position of dom inance in the K erala an d W est Bengal electoral situations. M oreover, fearing there w ould be some N axalite defections from the c p m even for engaging in the “ unity talks,” Das G u p ta was all the m ore inclined to ad o p t a hostile stance. Since the u n ity talks in m id -1969, relations betw een the two C om ­ m unist parties have steadily deteriorated. As the c p m has becom e m ore aggressive on the peasant and trad e union fronts, local units of the c p i in W est Bengal have been increasingly forced to engage in con­ frontation (often violent) w ith c p m m em bers. M oreover, once the B angla Congress dem onstrated its willingness to condem n the c p m publicly by engaging in a mass satyagraha against the violence associated w ith c p m activities, the state c p i was placed in a position o f having to choose betw een its two m ajor front partners. These conflicting pressures have further divided the state c p i leadership betw een those who w ould like to move tow ard a closer alliance w ith the c p m an d those w ho w ould like to ally unequivocally w ith the B angla Congress an d the sm aller M arxist Left parties, an d this has in tu rn m ade additional com prom ises necessary. M oreover, relations betw een the two C om m unist parties in W est Bengal have worsened enorm ously as a result of the events surrounding the O ctober 1969 U n ited F ro n t split in K erala. T h e split in the K erala U n ited F ro n t in O ctober 1969 was brought a b o u t w hen the state c p i u n it in K erala twice joined the Congress in voting against the c p m in the state Legislative Assembly, the second vote being interpreted by c p m C hief M inister N am boodiripad as a vote of no confidence in his m inistry.21 W hen N am boodiripad resigned, 21 T h e resignation of th e N a m b o o d irip a d g o v ern m en t in K e ra la in O c to b er 1969 is an aly zed in R a n a jit R oy, “ K e ra la : T h e M o rn in g A fter,” Hindusthan Standard (C a lc u tta d aily), O c to b er 29, 1969.

226

TH E CPI

the c p i (on the initiative of its state u n it in K erala) hesitantly p u t together a tenuous “ m ini-front” of four parties ( c p i , M uslim League, K erala Congress, an d the In d ia n Socialist party) to form a new m inistry, w ith promises of support from a n u m b er of independents an d the r s p . 22 F rom the point of view of the K erala c p i , it was im p o rtan t th a t the new state governm ent, headed by C. A chuta M enon, did not depend on the support of the Congress p arty , b u t the c p m in K erala nevertheless accused the c p i of collaborating w ith the Congress to bring dow n the N am boodiripad governm ent. In the words of a K erala c p m resolution, “ T h e c p i struck a clandestine deal w ith the Congress . . . to unseat the c p ( m ) from pow er an d brin g in a Congressbacked non-M arxist set-up.” 23 Im m ediately following these events, rum ors spread thro u g h o u t In d ia th a t either the c p m or the c p i w ould move for a dissolution o f the U n ited F ro n t in W est Bengal. In order to deal w ith these rum ors the c p i S tate Council held a special session in C alcu tta in early N ovem ber, after w hich c p i state secretary R a n e n Sen issued a state­ m ent th a t the p arty h ad “ no desire, plan, contem plation or design to topple the existing U n ited F ro n t G overnm ent in W est B engal,” since “ the situation in W est Bengal is radically different from th a t in K e ra la .” 24 A t the same tim e, however, the S tate Council passed a resolution a t this tw o-day session w hich em bodied the strongest condem nation of the c p m th a t h ad ever been m ade by the state c p i . A rguing th a t the c p m h ad becom e “ sectarian,” the state c p i resolution expressed its disapproval of the c p m ’s “ super-bossism, misuse of adm inistrative m achinery in narrow partisan interest, an d political gangsterism .” M oreover, the state c p i for the first tim e passed a resolution publicly arguing th a t “ the c p m is adopting the w eapon of physical annihilation of the cadres of other parties of the u f , ” and State Secretary Sen issued both a plea for cooperation an d a w arning: In spite of all this, the c p i draw s the atten tio n of the people to the suprem e need for unity of all Leftist a n d dem ocratic forces, including the c p i ( m ) , because such unity is the surest guaran tee of replacing Congress rule a t the C entre. . . . But if we are attack ed or chosen as prey of c p m killers we will have to take action for self-defense.25

22 F o r a n analysis o f the c p i leadership o f the “ m in i-fro n t” g o v ern m en t form ed in K e ra la in N ovem ber 1969, see Link, N ovem ber 9, 1969, pp. 14-17. See also Amrita Bazaar Patrika, N ovem ber 2, 1969, a n d th e Hindusthan Standard, O c to b er 28, 1969. 23 Link, N ovem ber 9, 1969, p. 14. 24 The Statesman, N ovem ber 5, 1969. 25 Ib id . See also B how ani Sen, C P M ’s Fight against the United Front in West Bengal (C a lc u tta : C P I, 1969).

CPI STRATEGY IN W EST BENGAL

227

T h e N ovem ber 1969 resolution of the State Council of the c p i h ad im m ediate repercussions both on the peasant and on the trade union fronts in W est Bengal. A t a m eeting of the state c p i ’s peasant front organization (the P aschim banga Pradeshik K rishak S abha), held shortly after the State Council meetings, c p i peasant leaders w arned their followers against “ Left adventurist an d disruptive forces” and accused the M arxists of “ creating disruption to further their own p artisan aims a t the cost of the peasant m ovem ent in the co u n try .” 26 A n an ta M ajhi, secretary of the c p i K rishak S abha, even urged his organization to “ recruit large arm ies of volunteers [in order to] wage w ar on two fronts— against jotedars, m onopolists an d vested interests an d against disruptionist an d adventurist forces.” A t the same time, the K rishak S abha passed a series of resolutions affirm ing the p a rty ’s conviction th a t the U n ited F ro n t h ad “ strengthened the peasant m ovem ent in the state an d intensified class struggle,” em phasizing the c p i conviction th a t “ the success of the U n ited F ro n t in the ru ra l areas w ould have been m uch greater h ad the c p m agreed to work in unity w ith its p artn e rs.” In contrast to the c p m , the c p i tactical line envisages a m uch broader alliance of interests in the countryside, w ith an emphasis on rural harm ony th a t is inim ical to the c p m . Sum m arizing the N ovem ber 1969 conference of the c p i K rishak Sabha, for exam ple, Secretary M ajhi called for “ an alliance of agricultural labourers, sharecroppers an d landless peasants w ith rich peasants to generate further m om entum to the peasant m ovem ent in the state.” 27 In M ajh i’s words, “ agricultural labour and landless sharecroppers, being in a m ajority, are destined to becom e the v an g u ard of the m o v e m e n t. . . but, for their own interest they should rope in m iddle an d rich peasants.” In order to “ rope in ” rich an d m iddle peasants, an d to unify the efforts of front partners, the c p i K rishak Sabha em phasized the need for unity am ong all peasant cultivators, to be accom plished by a series of m easures recom ­ m ended a t the N ovem ber conference. T o reassure rich and m iddle peasants, the K rishak S abha sought to clarify the goals of the U nited F ro n t in the countryside by advocating an agreed m eans of determ ining rig h t of ow nership, a ratio n al form ula for distribution of benami lands seized by m em bers of u f parties, and by providing for m achinery to arb itra te an d m ediate disputes betw een local p arty leaders and peasant 26 A su m m ary o f the th ree -d ay K rish ak S ab h a m eetings is co n tain ed in the Hindusthan Standard, N o v em b er 9, 1969. 27 Ib id . F o r o th er reports on th e N o v em b er 1969 conference, see ih e Statesman, O c to b e r 29, 1969; the Hindusthan Standard, N ovem ber 7, 1969, a n d N ovem b er 10, 1969; a n d Amrita Bazaar Patrika, N o v em b er 11, 1969.

228

TH E CPI

followers. T h e K rishak S abha then sought to consolidate these p ro ­ posals by recom m ending th a t coordination com m ittees (to be called “ village councils” ) be established at the village level consisting of m em bers o f all of the u f parties active in a given village an d th a t a u f com m ittee be established at the C abinet level to m ediate disputes an d conflicts originating in the “ village councils.” Like sim ilar recom m endations m ade previously by u f partners, the N ovem ber 1969 recom m endations of the c p i K rishak S ab h a were unacceptable to the c p m both on ideological an d on political grounds. For ideological reasons, the c p m was determ ined to m a in tain its organizational independence an d superiority w ithin the front, a tactical goal th a t could be fulfilled m uch m ore readily by the o rganiza­ tion o f red-scarfed, red-helm eted c p m “ volunteers” th a n by the establishm ent o f u f “ coordination com m ittees.” M oreover, the tactical line of the c p m , while it did not exclude cooperation w ith w ealthy and m iddle peasants, em phasized confrontation betw een various ru ral interests an d placed a higher priority on the recru itm en t o f the poorer sections o f the population. Even if ideological considerations could be disregarded, however, the c p m h ad little to gain by agreeing to the establishm ent o f coordination com m ittees in the countryside, since none of the u f parties could conceivably m atch the organizational strength o f the c p m in the ru ral areas in the absence o f such com ­ mittees. In this atm osphere it is little w onder th a t the c p i suggestions for unity, harm ony, an d coordination w ere quickly rejected by the K rishak Sabha m eetings, w hich w ere held a t approxim ately cpm the same tim e.28 Sim ilar conflicts betw een the c p i an d c p m w ere evident on th e trad e union front in late 1969 an d early 1970, despite the different ways in w hich C om m unist organization o f the trad e unions an d the peasantry was conducted. U nlike the peasant front, w here the united AllIn d ia K isan S abha divided into two factions shortly after the split in the c p i in 1964, the C om m unist-dom inated A ll-India T ra d e U nion Congress ( a i t u g ) continued to act as a united-front organization for all Com m unists in In d ia throughout the 1960s. In late 1969, how ever, a dispute broke out betw een the two C om m unist parties over the question of the location o f the a i t u g session for 1970. T h e c p m proposed th a t the session be held in its stronghold of C alcutta, since “ the m ost significant gains o f workers have been m ade over the past few m onths in W est B engal.” In reply to this proposal, how ever, S. A. D ange condem ned 28 A n analysis of the c p m m eetings in N o v em b er 1969 is c o n ta in e d in “ Politicising P easan ts?” Frontier (C alcu tta w eekly), N o v em b er 8, 1969, p. 3.

CPI STRATEGY IN WEST BENGAL

229

“ the w ay in w hich the c p i ( m ) is attacking c p i unions an d their leaders an d w orkers” an d argued th a t a C alcu tta session w ould not prom ote unity. In a w ritten reply to c p m P olitbureau leader P. R am am u rti, D ange b luntly stated th a t “ your people will simply break up the session [if it is held in C alcutta] by sheer gangsterism .” 29 T h e dispute w ithin the a i t u c in late 1969 an d early 1970 was com plicated by variations in the regional strength of the two C om ­ m unist parties w ithin the organization an d by the struggle to add new unions u n d er the control of the two parties. A t the all-In d ia level of the a i t u c , the c p m in late 1969 controlled only 44 of the 200 m em bers of the a i t u c G eneral Council, a nu m b er representing the relative strength of the c p m in the organization. In W est Bengal, K erala, an d M adras, how ever, the c p m was stronger am ong trade unions th a n the c p i , and in W est Bengal it controlled the Bengal Provincial T rad e U nion Congress ( b p t u c , the state congress of trade unions affiliated w ith the a i t u c ) in m uch the same m an n er as D ange an d the c p i controlled the a i t u c a t the n ational level. D u rin g the course of the rap id unionization of w orkers th a t had taken place in W est Bengal after the 1967 elections, m ost of the new trade unions th a t h ad been b ro u g h t into being by the C om m unist parties in the state h ad been recognized by the b p t u c , b u t a n u m b er of the c p m unions h ad failed to gain such recognition from the a i t u c . A i t u c leaders argued th a t a nu m b er of new c p m unions could not be recognized by the a i t u c because the new unions were established as rivals to already existing a i t u c trade unions in the industries concerned, an obvious reference to the c p m policy of opposing the c p i by form ing rival unions. A ccording to the a i t u c S ecretariat in New D elhi in early 1970, the a i t u c h ad received a total of 952 applica­ tions for m em bership in 1969, approxim ately 250 from c p m trade unions, 200 from unions controlled jointly by the c p i and the c p m , and m ore th a n 500 from unions dom inated by the c p i . O f these 952 ap p li­ cations, 50 were rejected because they w ere found to be “ rival unions,” an d 42 of the rejected unions were adm ittedly controlled by the c p m . 30 L acking a position of strength w ithin the national a i t u c from w hich to challenge c p i dom inance, the c p m was not only concerned ab o u t the attitu d e of the a i t u c tow ard its new unions; it was also very agitated by a proposed am endm ent to the a i t u c constitution th a t w ould have m ade it possible for the c p i to oust c p m office bearers. This am endm ent, 29 The Statesman, N ovem ber 20, 1969. 30 Figures for th e a i t u c a n d the b p t u c are based on interview s w ith tra d e u n io n leaders in N ew D elhi an d C a lc u tta in 1969-1970. F o r a n analysis of the factionalism w ith in th e a i t u c d u rin g these years, see The Statesman, J a n u a r y 9, 1970.

230

TH E CPI

w hich provided for disciplinary action against all a i t u c officers associated w ith the activities of “ rival unions,” was approved by the a i t u c S ecretariat in early N ovem ber 1969, pending approv al by a three-fourths vote o f the delegates scheduled to atten d the a i t u c congress in G u n tu r (in A n d h ra Pradesh) in late J a n u a ry 1970.31 Since the c p i controlled m ore th a n three-fourths of the voting delegates, it was clear th at the am en d m en t w ould be passed easily, despite objections and th reaten ed dem onstrations by the c p m . In the final analysis, however, the c p m refused to accept its position as ju n io r p a rtn e r w ithin the a i t u c , deciding instead to form a rival organization. A t a late D ecem ber m eeting of the a i t u c W orking C om m ittee, the c p m m em bers of the com m ittee w alked out in protest, an d in early J a n u a ry 1970 the c p m P olitbureau issued a directive to its m em bers to abstain from attendance at the G u n tu r session.32 By the tim e the session was held, in late J a n u a ry 1970, a new c p m trade union front was already in the process of form ation. T h e grow ing polarization of the two C om m unist parties in W est Bengal has h ad a nu m b er of consequences for all of the parties as­ sociated w ith the U n ited F ro n t an d could conceivably affect state Congress politics as well. A lm ost all of the parties w ithin the U nited F ro n t have witnessed internal p arty factionalism , betw een segments of the p arty favoring a c p m strategy of continual confrontation an d other segments inclined tow ard a c p i strategy of cooperation an d harm ony am ong front p artn ers.33 W hile both the s s p an d the p s p have split publicly on this issue, all of the other parties in the front have found it necessary to debate the issue at great length, an d the Bangla Congress has even expelled its vice-president for “ conspiring w ith the c p m . ” 34 O n most occasions the c p i has been supported by its allies in the 1967 p u l f electoral alliance (the Bangla Congress, the F orw ard Bloc, and the Bolshevik party) an d has picked up support from a section o f the 31 Hindusthan Standard, N ovem ber 7, 1969. 32 Ib id ., J a n u a r y 6, 1970. See also The Statesman, J a n u a r y 9, 1970. 33 T h e b a ck g ro u n d o f th e ideological divisions w ith in the sm aller M arx ist Left p arties in W est Bengal is told in J ite n Sen, “ T h e Im p o rta n c e o f Being a Sm all Left P a rty ,” Hindusthan Standard, N o v em b er 23, 1968. F o r a m ore rec en t analysis o f differ­ ences w ith in M arxist Left parties, see “ U F in T w ilig h t in W est B en g al,” Citizen and Weekend Review, J a n u a ry 10, 1970, pp. 19-20. See also “ Ideological R ift in F o rw ard B loc.” Amrita Bazaar Patrika, J a n u a r y 1, 1970, a n d S a c h c h id a n a n d S inha, “ SSP: C ritical Decisions A h e a d ,” ibid., J a n u a r y 3, 1970. 34 B angla Congress V ice-P resident S u k u m ar R oy was expelled by the p a rty in D ecem ber 1969, w hen a tap e-reco rd ed conversation betw een R oy a n d c p m leaders in d icated th a t R oy h a d p lan n e d to split the B angla Congress, tak in g a p o rtio n o f the p a rty in to a new coalition w ith the c p m . See Amrita Bazaar Patrika, D ecem ber 30, 1969, a n d J a n u a ry 1, 1970.

CPI STRATEGY IN WEST BENGAL

231

suc, an d G urkha League, as well as from a p s p dissident faction. W hile the other u f parties have tried to avoid taking sides publicly in the dispute in order to preserve internal unity, p a rty leaders from all of the u f partners have singled out the c p m on occasion for its aggressive and violent style of politics. Even p a rty leaders w ho tend tow ard a politics of confrontation have resented the m an n er in which the c p m has attem p ted to m ove into constituencies previously dom inated by the M arxist Left parties. T h e sm aller M arxist Left parties in W est Bengal are in a m uch different position than either the B angla Congress or the two C om ­ m unist parties. U n d er no circum stances can the M arxist leftists expect to dom inate a future U n ited F ro n t governm ent, and none of the M arxist Left parties is unequivocally aligned w ith any of the three m ajor front partners. F or all of the U n ited F ro n t parties, the U nited F ront experience has been rew arding, not only because of the patronage an d psychological benefits th a t p arty leaders and m em bers have derived from ousting the Congress, b u t also because of the opportunity they have h ad to strengthen their positions in their subregional strong­ holds. N one of these parties has yet taken the Bangla Congress’s position th a t the present U n ited F ro n t should be broken, although several have th reaten ed to break w ith it if the c p m persists in its aggressive organizational tactics. I f one of the sm aller M arxist Left parties were to call for a breakup of the U n ited F ront, it would ru n the risk of alienating itself from a p o p u lar governm ent, losing its position w ithin the front (and thus its patronage) and, most likely, creating a split w ithin its ranks. W ith o u t ru n n in g these risks, each of the sm aller M arxist Left parties has condem ned the “ hegem onism ” of the c p m while preserving p arty options for future alliances if the present U nited F ro n t should cease to exist. A t the same time, a nu m b er of the leaders of the sm aller M arxist Left parties have sought to bring ab o u t the kind of U n ited F ront governm ent they w ant by acting as m ediators betw een the c p i , c p m , and B angla Congress. Tw o of the most prom inent people involved in such m ediation efforts have been M akhan Paul of the r s p and B ibhuti D asgupta of the Lok Sevak S angh.35 H owever, since their efforts have been directed at a n u m b er of institutional devices designed to produce greater unity w ithin the front— a code of conduct for m inisters and p arty leaders, consultative com m ittees at various levels, an d agreem ents to cancel polemics am ong u f partners— the m ediators have dem onstrated a bias tow ard the tactics of the c p i . For this reason ssp,

35 U f m ed iatio n efforts are analyzed in ibid., J a n u a r y 7, 1970.

232

T H E CPI

th e c p m h a s b e e n th e m o s t d iffic u lt o f th e u f p a r tn e r s for th e m e d ia t o r s to d e a l w it h , s in c e it h a s o ft e n r e fu se d e v e n to a t t e n d m e d ia t io n sessio n s w i t h o u t p r e c o n d it io n s o r e lse h a s a c c e p t e d m e d i a t i o n a g r e e m e n t s o n ly to b r e a k t h e m in s u b s e q u e n t p a r ty a c tiv itie s .



T h e C PI a n d th e C o n g r e ss S p lit Perhaps the m ost in tractab le problem for u f m ediators has been the different attitudes o f the two C om m unist parties tow ard the Congress split. As has already been pointed out, the attitudes o f c p m an d c p i leaders tow ard the Congress was one o f the principal factors involved in the split in 1964, an d the different C om m unist attitudes tow ard the Congress has been one o f the distinguishing features o f the two m ajor C om m unist tactical lines th ro u g h o u t the 1960s. W hen tensions developed w ithin the Congress p arty , leading to the split in late 1969, both of the C om m unist parties w ere forced a t least to consider altering their stance tow ard the Congress, an d c p i leaders were especially hopeful th a t the Congress split w ould bring ab o u t a reorientation o f the c p m . F or a t least some m em bers o f the Congress p arty , the split in 1969 was intim ately related to the question o f alliance w ith the C om ­ m unists, an d m uch of the public debate ab o u t the split revolved aro u n d the possibility th a t In d ira G andhi an d h er supporters m ight choose to ally inform ally w ith the c p i , if not form ally. Indeed, for a group of “Y oung T u rk s” w ithin the Congress, the question of a Congress alliance w ith the Com m unists was unquestionably the m ost significant aspect of the events surrounding the division w ithin the party. In a m ajor speech in M ay 1969, for exam ple, Congress Y oung T u rk leader C h an d ra Sekhar advocated “ a [Congress] dialogue w ith all progressive forces, w hatever their political affiliations, to bring them together in the struggle against concentration o f econom ic pow er.” 36 E laborating on this speech in subsequent press conferences, C h an d ra Sekhar spoke of the possibility of form ing a “ united front [of] Congressmen, the p s p , the s s p an d the c p i ” in order to bring ab o u t “ a confrontation w ith the defenders of m onopolies” an d urged the c p m to “jo in the struggle if it can w ork w ithin the bounds o f the C onstitution.” Sim ilar proposals for unity betw een Congress and C om m unist forces have also been issued by V asantrao Patil, president 36 C h a n d ra S ek h ar’s speech a n d subsequent press conferences are q u o ted extensively in Link, M a y 4, 1969, pp. 11-13, from w hich all q u o tatio n s in this p a ra g ra p h are tak en . See also Jy o ti D as G u p ta , “ A Political R eview o f th e In n e r-P a rty C onflict in th e C ongress,” Kalantar, J u ly 19, 1969, pp. 1, 11.

TH E CPI AN D TH E CONGRESS SPLIT

233

of the M a h a ra sh tra Congress, an d by a n u m b er of other young Congress leaders.37 Before 1969 the Congress p arty h ad never seriously considered the possibility of coalescing w ith the Com m unists, despite occasional attem pts by some m em bers to move the p arty closer to the C om m unist position on a nu m b er of issues. Indeed, only after the 1967 elections did a n u m b er of p rom inent Congressm en begin to advocate selective alliances w ith either the c p i or the c p m , b u t most of these suggestions were devised to m ain tain the short-term political advantage of the Congress in various states. As has already been pointed out, A tulya G hosh broached the possibility of a Congress-CPM alliance in W est Bengal w hen the Congress failed to w in a m ajority in the state Legislative Assembly in 1967, an d sim ilar proposals by prom inent Congressm en have been m ade in other states as well. J u st before the 1967 elections, K am araj N a d a r proposed a lim ited electoral alliance w ith the c p i in M adras in an effort to confront m ore effectively a d m k un ited front th a t included the c p m , an d U tta r Pradesh Congress president K am lap ati T rip a th i suggested in a speech on the floor of the U tta r Pradesh state Legislative Assembly in 1968 th a t the c p i leave the non-Congress state coalition governm ent— the S am yukta V idhayak D al (U nited Legislators’ p arty ), or s v d — to jo in a governm ent w ith the Congress.38 C h an d ra S ekhar’s proposal in M ay 1969, however, called for m uch m ore th an a short-term tactical alliance betw een the C on­ gress an d the c p i , since it contained a plea for “ united action” w ith the Com m unists on the basis of a concrete ideological program . Because of their concern for the ideological aspects of the split, the factional conflicts th a t took place w ithin the Congress in 1969 acquired special significance for the Congress an d c p i m em bers who had sought a m u tu al alliance. Ideologically m inded Congressmen, like th eir counterparts in the C om m unist parties, now trace the im ­ m ediate origins of the split to a speech by Congress President S. N ijalingappa a t the A pril 1969 F arid ab a d session of the Congress, in w hich he attacked the b ad m anagem ent an d loss of profits th a t have characterized In d ia ’s undertakings in the public sector an d condem ned C h a n d ra Sekhar and the Y oung Turks for “ crying hoarse against m onopolistic tendencies.” 39 In the eyes of m any ideologues, it was the reaction of M rs. G andhi to this speech th a t led the Prim e M inister to request the resignation of Finance M inister M orarji Desai and sub37 Kalantar, J u ly 19, 1969, pp. 1, 11. See also Link, J u ly 6, 1969, p. 21. 38 Link, M a y 4, 1969, p. 11 See also K ash y ap , The Politics o f Defection, p. 161. 39 Link, M a y 4, 1969, p. 15.

234

T H E CPI

sequently to nationalize In d ia ’s fourteen largest banks, m easures th a t had long been advocated both by the c p i an d by C h an d ra S ekhar’s followers in the Congress. T h e ideological aspects of the Congress split w ere also em phasized by m any Congress Socialists an d c p i leaders w hen In d ira G andhi supported the C om m unist-backed' candidate for In d ia ’s president in A ugust 1969 against the nom inee who h ad been selected by h er own party, an d w hen she m aneuvered herself into a position w here her governm ent becam e dep en d en t for its survival on C om m unist votes in the Lok S abha. M oreover, a p o p u lar im age of In d ira G andhi as a likely ally of the c p i was encouraged d u rin g the course of the split by the constant charges on the p a rt o f h er Congress opponents th a t h er governm ent was becom ing “ subservient to R ussia” ;40 th a t she herself was a C om m unist;41 th a t she h ad favored the c p i in conflicts betw een the U n ited F ro n t an d the W est Bengal Congress in 1967;42 an d th a t her governm ent was passing through a phase of C om m unist collaboration like th a t attem p ted by Sukarno of Indonesia in the m id-1960s.43 A dding even greater w eight to the possibility of a CPi-Congress coalition in In d ia, a t least in the eyes of m any Indians, is the w elter of evidence th a t c p i leaders have m ain tain ed their friendships (and even kinship relations) w ith Congress leaders since In d ep en d en ce to an extent th a t has no t been true for the leadership of the c p m an d other M arxist Left parties. P rom inent Congress leaders like V. K . K rishna M enon, K . D. M alaviya, and K . D .’s nephew H . D. M alaviya, for exam ple, have acted as high-level advisors both to the Congress an d to the c p i , as a result of friendships th a t date back to the p re-Independence period, while other people associated w ith the Congress (such as M rs. K am ala R a tn a m and M rs. A ru n a A saf Ali, both wives of In d ia n diplom ats) have frequently appeared as speakers a t C om m unist p arty rallies. Leaders of the c p i in W est Bengal who are close relatives of prom inent Congressm en include M rs. R en u C hakravorty, a niece o f Congress C hief M inister B. C. R oy; B isw anath M ukherjee, b ro th er of Ajoy M ukherjee, the Bangla Congress leader w ho defected from the Congress in 1966; and K alyan Roy, the son of K iron S hankar Roy, W est B engal’s first Congress H om e M inister. A n analysis of friend­ 40 T h is was th e charge o f M o ra rji D esai a t the O rg a n iz atio n C ongress session in D ecem b er 1969. See the Hindusthan Standard, D ecem ber 22, 1969. 41 F o rm e r C h ief M in ister P. C. Sen o f W est Bengal, re p o rte d in Amrita Bazaar Patrika, D ecem ber 7, 1969. 42 W est Bengal p c c P resident P ra ta p C h u n d e r in the Hindusthan Standard, J a n u a r y 5, 1970. 43 O rg a n iz a tio n Congress P resident S. N ijalin g ap p a a t the a n n u a l session in D ecem ber. See ibid., D ecem ber 22, 1969.

TH E CPI A N D TH E CONGRESS SPLIT

235

ship and interm arriage p atterns am ong political leaders in W est Bengal w ould indicate th a t social intercourse betw een m any intellectuals in the Congress and com m unist m ovem ents has been especially close since Independence, despite political p arty rivalry.44 In this atm osphere it was not difficult for c p i leaders to in terp ret the Congress split in 1969 as an indication of the wisdom of the p arty program and tactical line th a t they had been pursuing since 1964, an d this has since becom e a position of alm ost unreserved support for In d ira G a n d h i’s ruling Congress. In the words of W est Bengal c p i leader Bhow ani Sen, T h e result of the Presidential Election [of A ugust 1969] m arks the beginning of a new period and a new correlation of forces in the c o u n try ’s political set-up. I t was not an accident th a t the election of the President becam e linked up w ith the exit of Sri M orarji Desai from the M inistry an d nationalisation of 14 big banks as an anti-m onopoly m easure. This com bination symbolised the confrontation betw een the com bined forces of R ig h t R eaction on the one side a n d the forces of the C entre and the Left on the other. N ationalisation of the banks followed by the victory of Sri V. V. G iri in the Presidential election signified a defeat of the u ltra ­ reactionaries w ithin the Congress, collectively know n as the Syndicate, allied w ith the J a n a Sangh an d the S w atan tra P arty. I t also signified the advance of n ational dem ocratic forces com posed of C om m unists an d some other left groups outside the Congress as well as those w ithin the Congress who are against R ig h t R eaction. I t is a big blow to the m onopolies and their allies.45

E choing his p a rty ’s stance tow ard the Congress split, Bhow ani Sen argued th a t “ the c p i had detected the contradiction betw een the m onopolies and the rest of the bourgeoisie” in its 1964 program and had th en “ predicted th a t the crisis of the capitalist p a th was bound to develop and produce a split in the ranks of the national bourgeoisie” : “ Such a split [was] bound to have its repercussions inside the Congress, so th a t a section of Congressm en w ould be forced to fight the R ight, an d thereby come close to the C om m unist and other Left forces outside the Congress.” 46 C ontinuing to elaborate the p arty line, Sen argued th a t developm ents resulting from the Congress split would “ ultim ately give b irth to a N ational D em ocratic F ro n t against im perialism , rem ­ nants of feudalism and the In d ia n monopolies. Based on the con­ trad ictio n betw een these forces and the whole people, the N ational 44 F o r a n analysis of friendship a n d kinship p a tte rn s betw een C ongressm en an d C om m unists in W est Bengal, see m y essay, Marxism and the Bengali Elite (C am b rid g e: M .I .T . C en ter for In te rn a tio n a l Studies, forthcom ing). 45 B how ani Sen, “ T re n d o f N a tio n a l Political D ev elo p m en t,” Mainstream (N ew D elhi w eekly), A n n u al N u m b e r, S ep tem b er 1969, p. 50. 46 Ib id .

236

T H E CPI

D em ocratic R evolution [is] visualised as an interm ediate stage for the co u n try ’s transition tow ards socialism, or as the precursor to the socialist revolution.” 47 O n the basis of its identification of the Congress split as a p h en o ­ m enon resulting from factors discussed in its p a rty program , the c p i was quick to initiate a series of dem onstrations in support of the In d ira G an d h i faction of the Congress party. Before P resident G iri’s election in A ugust 1969, the c p i held a series of “ mass gatherings” to explain the significance of the presidential election, in an effort to convince the presidential electors th a t the sentim ent of In d ia ’s masses was over­ w helm ingly w ith the Prim e M inister’s candidate. A fter the elections the c p i held a series of “ victory celebrations” th ro u g h o u t In d ia a t w hich p a rty leaders encouraged fu rth er division w ithin the Congress, called on In d ira G andhi to institute m ore radical socialist program s, and proposed greater u n ity betw een progressive Congressm en, Com m unists, and Left forces. W hen the split w ithin the Congress organization finally culm inated in a division betw een the R uling and O rganization Congress parties in the Lok S abha in N ovem ber 1969, the c p i im m ediately pledged its support to the R uling Congress. But the c p i in terp retatio n of the Congress split has by no m eans been shared by all leftist political parties an d observers. T h e r s p in W est Bengal, for exam ple, argued th a t the split was m erely “ the outw ard expression of a deep schism inside the ruling p a rty ” an d th a t there was little to gain by celebrating President G iri’s victory. Sim ilarly, the suc has argued th a t “ strengthening of the In d ira G an d h i group represented a danger because it w ould spread illusions ab o u t social dem ocracy,” a position th a t has also been ad opted by some factional leaders in the F orw ard Bloc and the r c p i . 48 As c p i leader M o h it Sen him self has pointed out, the c p m p a rty assessment of the split was in fact m uch closer to the position taken by m any In d ia n leftists th an the c p i analysis, and perhaps closer to the usual in terp retatio n of the factors behind the split: I t is interesting th a t the ap p ro ach to the split in the Congress ad o p ted by some quite radical an d revolutionary com m entators corresponds alm ost exactly to th a t taken by the editorial w riters an d correspondents of the m onopoly press. Both sets of com m entators are anxious to dem onstrate th a t the split am ounts to very little an d th a t it is all the result of personal pique or at the very best of intense factional squabbling. It w ould not be unfair to p o in t out th a t this is also the view point of m ost of the leaders of the Syndicate Congress.49 47 Ib id . 48 T h e attitu d e s o f W est B engal’s M arxist Left parties to w ard th e C ongress split are d etailed in Link, A ugust 31, 1969, p. 15, a n d S ep tem b er 7, 1969, p. 21. 49 M o h it Sen, “ Congress Split a n d the L eft,” Economic and Political Weekly (B om bay), D ecem b er 13, 1969, p. 1925.

T H E CPI A N D TH E CONGRESS SPLIT

237

C onfronted w ith divergent interpretations am ong the leftist forces ab o u t the significance of the Congress split, the c p i has since launched a renew ed cam paign to m itigate some of the conflicts betw een In d ia ’s leftists, in an effort to move them closer to a position of support for “ left u n ity .” A t its first m eeting after the Congress split, the N ational Council of the c p i could agree th a t “ the unfolding national situation [was] som ething th a t the c p i had envisaged for some years” ; th a t it represented “ a successful political b reak th ro u g h ” ; and th a t it presented the p arty w ith “ a new political situation” th a t was “ full of promise an d exhilarating challenge.” 50 T h e N ational Council could also agree w ith the c p m th a t all sections of the In d ira G andhi Congress did not represent “ the same ideological and political tren d s,” since there were m any “vacillating and even reactionary sections in her cam p [who w ould] seek to obstruct radicalisation of the organization as well as progressive m easures.” Nevertheless, the N ational Council argued th a t “ political initiative am ong the supporters of In d ira G andhi today rest w ith those w ho are for a fight against the extrem e R ig h t and who broadly stand for progressive policies and m easures.” In a resolution adopted by the N ational Council a t its N ovem ber 1969 meetings, the c p i leadership therefore argued th a t it was “ in the national interest” to strengthen the “ progressive forces . . . in their struggle for bringing ab o u t urgently-needed radical changes in G overnm ental policies.” M oreover, because a g reater degree of p arty unity becam e evident as a result of the Congress split, at its N ovem ber 1969 meetings the c p i N ational Council was able to form alize the tw o-pronged strategy th a t it h ad evolved in W est Bengal and K erala since its entry into the state m inistries in 1967. O n the one h an d , the p arty decided to launch “ united mass struggles” against “ the S y n d icate-Jan a S angh-S w ata n tra axis” as a m eans for m obilizing cam paigns in com m on w ith “ all progressive forces, including C ongressm en,” an d for bringing ab o u t “ further differentiation” w ithin the R uling Congress. But a t the sam e tim e, the N ational Council decided to launch a series of new “ mass m ovem ents” by agricultural workers and poor peasants in order to com bat the aggressive organizational tactics of the c p m in the countryside. Explicit recognition of this tw o-pronged strategy on the p a rt of the national leadership has h ad the advantage for the p arty of satisfying a nu m b er of different factional interests on the basis of concrete p a rty policies. By providing for “ united mass struggles” w ith all Left forces against “ right reactio n ,” the N ational Council resolution has affirm ed central leadership support for political activities by 50 T h e N o v em b er 1969 m eetings are extensively covered in Link, N ovem ber 30, 1969, p p . 14-15. All q u o tatio n s e x tra cted from the resolutions passed a t this m eeting are tak en from this p u blished account.

238

TH E CPI

p a rty m em bers who seek to pursue “ top alliances” w ith other parties, while the call for “ mass struggles” in the countryside enables m em bers of the c p i cadre to confront the c p m an d the N axalites w ith greater assurance of n ational p arty backing. As a n u m b er of observers have pointed out, the c p i ’s tw o-pronged strategy is perhaps as close as the p a rty could come to pursuing the tactics of the c p m , a t least w ithin the context of “ u n ited front from above.” P r o b l e m s o f L e f t U n ity D espite the greater degree of unity w ithin the c p i d u rin g the last few years, the dilem m as th a t the p arty has encountered in applying its tactical line are in m any respects m ore vexing th a n the ones th a t have confronted the c p m and the c p m l . W hile the c p i has been success­ ful in w elding successful electoral fronts together in 1967 and 1969, it has failed to m ake noticeable gains in acquiring new sources of support, an d the state coalitions th a t it has joined have been ineffective an d unstable. In the process of applying its tactical line the c p i has constantly striven for unity am ong all Left forces, b u t its program s have repeatedly been rejected by com peting C om m unist and M arxist Left parties. M oreover, although c p i theoreticians argue th a t they foresaw the split in the Congress in 1969, p a rty leaders have thus far been unsuccessful in courting a Congress leadership relu ctan t to ally w ith Com m unists of any stripe. T o an even greater extent th a n is true for the c p m , the c p i is facing threats from both the N axalites on the left and the Congress on the right. A ccording to c p i theoreticians, the organizational activities of the N axalites have posed two “ dangers” for the In d ia n com m unist m ove­ m en t: first, the possibility th a t the “ form ation [of the c p m l ] will carry splittism and disruption a step fu rth er,” an d second, the danger th a t the activities of the N axalites will “ m ean the dissipation of some revolu­ tionary energy into w holly w rong and self-defeating channels.” 51 R a th e r th a n launch insurrectionist m ovem ents in In d ia ’s ru ral areas, the c p i has attem pted to convince the N axalites th a t they should work for “ an electoral alliance of all left and dem ocratic forces to defeat the Congress at the C enter in 1972,” 52 a policy th a t stems in tu rn from the c p i assessment of the contem porary revolutionary situation in India. In the eyes of the c p i leadership, T here is not a ghost of a chance for th a t type of a long d raw n o u t arm ed guerrilla w arfare which w ent on in C hina for 22 years to succeed in In d ia. H ere 51 New Age ( c p i weekly), M ay 11, 1969, p. 2. 52 Review o f Fourth General Elections, Adopted by the National Council o f the CPI, Calcutta, 2 3 -3 0 April, 1967 (New D elhi: C P I, 1967), p. 48.

PROBLEMS OF LEFT UN ITY

239

a n d there some type of arm ed resistance m ight go on for some tim e. But it can n o t take you to final victory as in C hina. In In d ia any revolution can succeed only u n d er the direct leadership of the pro letariat, w ith cities as the leading center of revolution.53

O f p articu lar concern to the c p i is the possibility th a t future sup­ pression of the N axalites m ight result in suppression of the entire com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia, w hich could conceivably inflict m ore dam age on the c p i th a n on either the c p m or the c p m l . Sections of these two parties have in fact sought repression of the In d ia n com m unist m ovem ent on occasion, in an effort to build m ore m ilitan t cadres and ferret ou t the softer p a rty elem ents th a t have joined the com m unist m ovem ent since 1967. I f the c p i is to continue w ith a tactical line of Left unity, it can ill afford to be identified w ith guerrilla Com m unists w ho seek to exterm inate the segments of the population th a t the c p i is courting. T h e general secretary of the c p i claims th a t the activities of the c p m l and the N axalites can only “ help the reactionary forces, landlords and other blood-suckers of the people to confuse and divert the people’s atten tio n for fighting the com m unist m ovem ent and other progressive forces.” 54 By splitting the com m unist m ovem ent further, c p i C h airm an D ange has argued, the c p m l will not only dim inish the im p act of the C om m unist an d progressive forces b u t will also enable “ the H om e M inister an d the Congress to suppress the left forces w ith greater violence.” 55 Like the c p m , the c p i has also been concerned w ith the w ay in which the c p m l and the N axalite groups have pen etrated into student unions and youth groups in In d ia a t the expense of the two older C om m unist parties. In the words of one c p i theoretician, I t is b u t an open secret th a t large sections am ong the ran k an d file of the two C om m unist Parties . . . are silently in sup p o rt of the extrem ist [N axalite] terrorist activities. In private talk they hail the terrorists, though they are not sure w hether the tim e is ripe for such activities. . . . Left-oriented students . . . are full of praise for the “ heroic young leaders” of the N axalite attacks.56

In order to deal w ith the disenchantm ent of the younger generation of In d ia n leftists, the c p i has attem p ted to lecture the N axalites and to establish study circles in w hich the p a rty program is explained in great 53 C. R ajesw ara R ao, “ N ax alite M o v e m en t: O rig in a n d H a rm fu l C onsequences,” New Age, J u n e 29, 1969, p. 9. 54 Ib id . 55 S. A. D ange, Law and Order: Whose and for Whom? (N ew D e lh i: P eople’s P ublishing H ouse, 1967), p. 14. 56 C. S u re n d ran , “ E xtrem ism a n d L eft M o v e m en t,” Mainstream, A pril 5, 1969, p. 28.

240

T H E CPI

detail, an d it has also expressed support for m any of the m ovem ents launched by the c p m l . T h e th ru st of the teaching th a t c p i theoreticians have been engaged in has been sum m arized by c p i leader M o h it Sen as follows: “ [T he N axalites] have cultivated a rem arkable ability to sim ply expunge from their m inds the sum m ing up of four decades of revolutionary activity; they seem to be u n aw are o f the basic tenet of successful C om m unists in this century, th a t the ideology does not com m it . . . the revolutionaries in any country to only one form of revolution, any one type of struggle.” 57 In addition to their attem pts a t p a rty education, w hich have been focused on college an d university students as well, the c p i has also acknow ledged its past failures to organize the tribals an d landless cultivators by intensifying p arty activities in these spheres. This stratagem serves the d u al function of com bating sim ilar c p m organizational efforts w hile a t the sam e tim e it creates a new p arty appeal to ru ra l workers, w ho m ight otherw ise be tem pted to jo in the c p m l . In the final analysis, however, the two older C om m unist parties can satisfy the N axalites only by w ithdraw ing from the state ministries an d by adopting m ore extrem e policies. This the older parties have been unw illing to do. In a sense one m ight argue th a t the c p i ’s courting of the R uling Congress has been m uch m ore successful th an its attem pts to bring ab o u t unity am ong C om m unists an d M arxist Left politicans. T h e c p i has been successful in m aneuvering itself into a position w here the R uling Congress in N ew D elhi is occasionally dep en d en t on C om m unist votes in the Lok Sabha, an d p arty channels to the u p p er echelons of the R uling Congress are sm oother th an they have been in m any years.58 H owever, the dependence of the Congress on the c p i is still lim ited to a select nu m b er of issues, an d it is conceivable th a t the R uling Congress (both in New D elhi an d in W est Bengal) could sim ply use the c p i to strengthen its electoral base in the next elections, only to tu rn against it w hen the tim e cam e to form a governm ent.59 Because of the association of the c p i w ith M oscow an d the c p s u , m ost political parties in In d ia have an interest in isolating themselves from the Com m unists as m uch as possible, an d for this reason a c p i alliance w ith the R uling Congress w ould be secure only u n d er circum stances w here the support of the c p i was essential for the m aintenance of a 57 M o h it Sen, “ W h a t Is a R e v o lu tio n a ry ? ” ibid., A pril 19, 1969, p. 31. 58 A m itav a D as G u p ta , “ Leftists M a y U se M r. M en o n as a L ever to C u rb R ig h tists,” Hindusthan Standard, M a y 20, 1969. 59 T his possibility is explored in Ashis B arm an , “ T h e Congress S plit a n d C P M D ile m m a ,” Amrita Bazaar Patrika, D ecem ber 5, 1969. See also C. S u b ra m a n ia m , “ T h e T ask before the C ongress,” ibid., D ecem ber 21, 1969.

PROBLEMS OF LEFT U N ITY

241

governm ental coalition. B arring either a significant shift in the orien­ tatio n o f the R uling Congress tow ard M oscow or a considerable increase in the strength of the c p i , a Congress-cpi coalition is not likely to play a significant role in national coalition building.

9

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRONMENT

T h e com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia has frequently been described as foreign in origin an d overly servile tow ard the leaders of foreign C om m unist parties. T h e m ost recent au th o ritativ e analysis of In d ian com m unism , for exam ple, argues th a t “ the com m unist m ovem ent in pre-Independence In d ia was a colonial ad ju n ct of the C om m unist P arty of G reat B ritain, w hich in tu rn was suborned to M oscow ,” 1 a statem ent frequently echoed by In d ia n C om m unist leaders w hen condem ning their colleagues for w hat they see as post-Independence subservience to the Soviet U nion, to C hina, or to a variety of other fratern al m ovem ents. Q uestions concerning the relations th a t should exist betw een fraternal parties in the in tern atio n al m ovem ent have plagued In d ia n com m unism since the tim e w hen M . N. R oy first established w orking agreem ents betw een In d ia an d M oscow, and foreign developm ents have always played a m ajor role in determ ining the tactics and strategies of In d ian C om m unist parties. In deed, the dependence of the In d ia n m ovem ent on foreign Com m unists has been the m ajor them e of alm ost every article an d book th a t has been w ritten ab o u t the c p i and its offshoots. This emphasis on relations betw een In d ia n an d foreign C om ­ m unists is understandable, since m ost of the m ajor decisions th a t have been m ade by In d ia ’s C om m unist leaders have been the result of directives issued from abroad. But there is a circularity involved in the a tte m p t to understand In d ia n com m unism solely in term s of its foreign relations. M ost analysts who argue th a t In d ia n com m unism has slavishly followed the dictates of M oscow an d Peking conclude th a t it has fo r this reason been plagued by constant failure an d intense factionalism and th a t the In d ian C om m unists’ continual a tte m p t to look to foreigners for leadership an d direction can only p erp etu ate the m alaise of the In d ian m ovem ent. T h e circularity th a t is involved here results from the w elter of evidence th a t In d ia n C om m unists have 1 M o h a n R a m , Indian Communism: Split within a Split (D elhi: V ikas P ublications, 1969), p. 1.

COMMUNISM IN A BENG ALI ENVIRONM ENT

243

sought the intervention of foreigners only because they felt they needed assistance in revolutionizing the dom estic environm ent. This raises the possibility th a t the dependence of In d ian Com m unists on foreigners is not the cause of the failures of the m ovem ent b u t ra th e r an inevitable effect of the failure to devise an indigenous m eans for revolutionizing In d ia. I f the attach m en t of In d ia n com m unism to foreign sources is m erely a symptom of the inability of p a rty leaders to deal w ith the In d ia n environm ent, then the dynam ics of the m ovem ent m ust be explained w ith reference to the indigenous environm ent. In the preceding pages an a tte m p t has been m ade to look a t the indigenous sources of the com m unist m ovem ent in one of its In d ian strongholds by focusing on the regional, national, and international factors th a t have determ ined p a rty tactics an d goals. In the process, it has becom e clear th a t the in tern atio n al m ovem ent has played a decisive role in determ ining the overall strategies an d tactics of Bengali C om ­ m unists, b u t it is at least equally clear th a t the national and in ter­ n atio n al leaders of the com m unist m ovem ent have no t found their Bengali com rades as subservient or as slavish as one is often led to believe. N ational and in ternational com m unism have been used by Bengali C om m unists to m ediate factional conflicts, to settle internal p a rty disputes, and to provide leadership an d direction w hen the resources of B engal’s own leadership were found w anting. But Bengalis have also a t times attem p ted to give the lead to the national and in tern atio n al m ovem ent, although only w hen political activities in Bengal have been at issue. O ne can argue th a t the Bengali m ovem ent has not been creative enough, th a t it has not succeeded in rev­ olutionizing Bengal and other parts of In d ia, b u t adm ission of these facts (and they are adm itted by m ost Com m unists in Bengal) does no t necessarily im ply th a t Bengalis have not tried to act on their own. Indeed, on the basis of an isolated analysis of the Bengali m ovem ent, one w ould have to argue th a t the C om m unist failure in Bengal has not been a result of an overdependence on M oscow or Peking b u t has instead stem m ed from the failure of all C om m unist leadership— regional, national, and in tern atio n al— yet to devise a m eans for bringing ab o u t a revolution in Bengal and in India. This failure is not a singular one, since no one else has been able to revolutionize Bengal or In d ia either, b u t it becomes m ore significant for the Com m unists because of their constant attem pts to bring ab o u t fundam ental political change. I t is the perseverence of Bengali C om m unists and the experience they have gained by constant failure th a t m ake them m ore im p o rta n t th a n the m any other groups and leaders advocating change.

244

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRO NM ENT

T h e com m unist m ovem ent in Bengal has not succeeded, b u t it always looks as if it m ay be on the verge of doing so. T h e C om m unists have constantly been disappointed, factionalism has becom e -more an d m ore intense, and p arty m em bers have been forced m ore an d m ore to com prom ise their understanding of M arxism -Leninism , b u t the m ovem ent continues to thrive an d to a ttra c t new supporters. In this sense the com m unist m ovem ent differs from other political m ovem ents in Bengal. T h e Com m unists have built -a m ore effective an d dedicated cadre th a n any of the other political parties an d have also devised m ore regularized procedures for securing financial backing, im posing p arty discipline, an d com m unicating betw een p a rty units. These achievem ents unquestionably stem from the a ttach m en t of Bengali Com m unists to their national an d in ternational com rades, indicating the influence of foreign political ideas on the regional m ovem ent. I t is precisely because they use foreign sources to secure financial backing an d to inform their organizational life th a t Bengali Com m unists are frequently accused of being disloyal, or an tin atio n al, or foreign to Bengal. A nd yet the Bengali com m unist m ovem ent also shares m any traits th a t are distinctively In d ia n an d Bengali, and it cannot be understood w ithout an appreciation of its regional an d national environm ent. T h e R eg io n a l M o o r in g s o f B en g a li C o m m u n is m T h e most distinctive regional aspect of the Bengali m ovem ent is its continued recruitm ent of leadership from a regional elite, the bhadralok of Bengal. This is not to argue th a t all bhadralok are C om ­ munists, or th a t the bhadralok w ho are C om m unists conceive of them ­ selves as a traditional elite group. T h e elitist aspects of the Bengali m ovem ent are simply a result of the recru itm en t of bhadralok to M arxist ideas an d forms of political organization in this century, a recruitm ent m ade possible by the rem arkable sim ilarity of bhadralok an d M arxist conceptions and goals. T h e universal conviction am ong Bengali Com m unists th a t In d ia ’s other m ajor political m ovem ents are responsible for a terrible decline in the quality of In d ia n life is a conviction th a t is widely shared by a bhadralok elite th a t has itself witnessed a m ore rap id decline in this century th a n any com parable group in India. C om m unist attacks on im perialists, reactionaries, feudal elements, an d neocolonialists arouse fam iliar images am ong alm ost all Bengali bhadralok fam ilies: images of the h ated British an d the anglicized ruling an d com m ercial groups th a t have controlled C alcutta and partitioned Bengal; images of traditional H in d u revivalists who

REGIONAL MOORINGS OF BENGALI COMMUNISM

245

seek to reclaim for the B rahm anic h eartlan d of In d ia a hegem ony th a t Bengali elites have resisted for centuries; images of In d ian dem ocracy since 1947, w hich has w orked to the advantage o f a new class of banyas and m erchants w ho have threatened bhadralok d o m in an ce; and, finally, im ages of an In d ia n governm ent th a t is overly representa­ tive of the H indi-speaking areas (as exem plified by the fact th a t all of In d ia ’s Prim e M inisters an d the largest bloc of central governm ent C abinet M inisters have been draw n from the H indi-speaking areas of U tta r Pradesh). T h e leadership of the Bengali com m unist m ovem ent has played upon these images, em phasizing them in speeches and pam phlets and reinforcing them in slogans an d cam paigns.2 In p a rt this has been the result of the social origins of the Bengali C om m unist leadership, which is alm ost exclusively bhadralok, in p a rt it has stem m ed from the need to w in elections in a relatively well established electoral dem ocracy. For w hatever reason, Bengali Com m unists have rom anticized Bengal’s terrorist trad itio n an d have sought to project themselves as the successors to the Bengali nationalist tradition, despite the disdain of M arxist theorists for “ m ere terrorism .” Bengali C om m unists have also elevated the intellectual pursuits of their m em bers alm ost beyond criticism , despite the frequent conflicts betw een M arxist ideology and the academ ic conclusions reached by Bengali C om m unist intellectuals.3 T h e fragile n atu re of the bhadralok attach m en t to M arxism and com m unism is shown by the constant recurrence of factional disputes em erging from the inner contradictions of the 6/za^ra/0A;-Marxist m arriage. In this sense factionalism am ong Bengali Com m unists is only p artly a result of the basic ideological conflicts th a t have w racked the n ational an d in ternational com m unist m ovem ents. M ore often th an not, C om m unist ja rg o n is used by Bengalis to define an d publicize a dispute th a t has its origins closer to hom e. Factionalism is ra m p a n t in Bengali society, not only am ong Com m unists b u t am ong all political 2 See, for exam ple, th e 104-page p a m p h le t West Bengal Accuses! Memorandum Containing Charges against the Congress Government in West Bengal Submitted to the President o f the Indian Union by the West Bengal State Council o f the Communist Party o f India (New D elh i: C P I, 1959), w hich could serve as a catalo g u e of all the d em ands m ade by the C om m unists in W est Bengal over th e p ast tw o decades. 3 E xam ples include the co llab o ratio n o f U tp a l D u tta in the p ro d u ctio n o f a n A m er­ ican film ( The Guru) against th e wishes of som e o f his fellow c p m p a rty m em bers, or th e sim ilar p a rtic ip a tio n o f c p i lead er D ilip Bose (an avid rea d er o f the physical sciences a n d th e p ro p rieto r of th e c p i bookstore) in usis pro g ram s related to space travel.

246

COMMUNISM IN A BENG ALI ENVIRONM ENT

parties and groups, as well as in all Bengali institutions (including the schools, the family, and the bureaucracy). In fact, if the Bengali C om m unists were able to escape from intense factional conflict, one m ight be able to argue m ore effectively th a t they w ere somehow foreign to Bengal. ' • Bengali factionalism is a com plex m atter, sharing m any of the attributes of a partisanship th a t seems endem ic to In d ia n life. In Bengal, as elsewhere in In d ia, one can identify the phenom enon th a t H aro ld G ould has labeled “ ethnoconceptualization,” “ . . . a longestablished, culturally p attern ed tendency to regard endogam ous, ritually an d functionally differentiated social units as i f they were n a tu ra l species.”4 W h ether they are called “ factions” — as political scientists like P aul Brass an d anthropologists like O scar Lewis have preferred to do—-or som ething else, I w ould hold th a t the relatively small, intensely personalistic structures w hich ab o u n d a t every level of In d ia n political life, a n d w hich so rarely assim ilate themselves to large structures, are social m anifestations of a largely unconscious “ja ti m odel” w hich governs group form ation. Because the overw helm ing m ajority of Indians are dom inated in so m any aspects of their individual and collective lives by consciously formulated caste structures in being, they ra th e r inevitably a n d understan d ab ly seek to reproduce the essential properties sociologically and psychologically in h eren t in these structures in contem porary social spheres like politics an d bureaucracies. . . .5

As G ould has pointed out, In d ian factions— if we can call them th a t— bear “ m any em otional and stru ctu ral resem blances to a socioreligious ja ti: they tend to be intensely personalistic; they dem and nearly total absorption of an ind iv id u al’s ego in their aims and activities; loyalty is prim arily to persons and not ideas or issues; and su b o rd in a­ tion to leaders is m odeled after the guru-chela relationship.” 6 E thnoconceptualization in Bengali life is reinforced by a nu m b er of other factors th a t also tend to prom ote political factionalism . T he Bengali region w ithin In d ia can be divided into a n u m b er of distinct subregions, each w ith its own history, cultural traditions, and econom ic patterns, w hich in tu rn dem and the loyalty of their residents. T h e G urkhas of D arjeeling D istrict, for exam ple, feeling th reaten ed by the fact th a t they form such a m inor p a rt of the state of W est Bengal and the In d ian nation, have form ed their own political party, the G u rk h a League. A G urkha youth w ho becomes interested in M arxism m ust 4 H a ro ld A. G ould, “ T o w ard a ‘J a ti M o d e l’ for In d ia n P olitics,” Economic and Political Weekly (B om bay), F e b ru a ry 1, 1969, p. 293. (Italics in original.) 5 Ib id ., p. 295. (Italics in original.) 6 Ib id .

REGIONAL MOORINGS OF BENG ALI COMMUNISM

247

therefore choose betw een m em bership in a C om m unist p a rty or the G u rk h a L eague and, regardless of his choice, m ust be constantly aw are of the fact th a t he is both a G urkha and a M arxist. I f he chooses to enter a C om m unist p arty, he m ust a tte m p t to rally the m em bers of his own com m unity behind him , since other p arty leaders tend to rally their com m unity an d subregional supporters in order to support their factional interests. Because the G urkha League is b etter established in G u rk h a areas, G urkha youth w ho becom e interested in M arxism are likely to jo in a M arxist faction w ithin the G urkha League ra th e r th an form a G u rk h a faction w ithin a C om m unist or M arxist Left p a rty .7 S im ilar subregional attachm ents can be identified in m ost of B engal’s political p a rtie s: the Lok Sevak Sangh is com posed exclusively of a leadership draw n from P urulia D istrict, the portion of the state added after the States R eorganization controversy of the mid-1950s; the r s p (despite its aspirations for an all-In d ia following) has won alm ost all of its electoral support in three N o rth Bengal districts (M u rsh id ab ad , W est D inajpur, an d J a lp a ig u ri); sim ilarly, the F orw ard Bloc has been concentrated in the districts of Hooghly, H ow ­ rah , B irbhum , an d C ooch-B ehar.8 Like the G urkha youth of D arjeeling D istrict, young M arxists who have ties to an l s s , r s p , or F orw ard Bloc stronghold tend to associate themselves w ith a faction w ithin the sm aller M arxist Left p arty, instead of joining a C om m unist p arty th a t is in ad eq u ately represented by leaders from their subregion. Factions w ithin the C om m unist parties are themselves frequently associated w ith a p articu lar subregion of the state, as well as w ith a p articu lar leader: the large c p i faction in M idnapore, the K o n ar faction of the c p m in B urdw an, the c p m l faction in N axalbari, and the Jy o ti Basu and P ram ode Das G u p ta factions centered in C alcutta. Perhaps m ore im p o rtan t for an understanding of the intensity of Bengali factionalism are the kinds of h u m an relationships th at have developed in Bengali life as a result of the elitist n atu re of its traditional society. As W einer has pointed out, Bengal is characterized by the existence of hierarchical an d generally a u th o rita ria n p atterns w ithin all institutions, from the fam ily to schools, universities, adm inistration an d governm ent, w hich serve to inhibit the 7 F o r a review article on G u rk h a L eague factionalism , see The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily ), M a rc h 21, 1957; for m ore recen t developm ents see the Hindusthan Standard (C a lc u tta daily), J a n u a r y 31, 1969. 8 T h e sub regional a tta c h m e n ts o f Bengali political p arties are analyzed in d etail in M a rcu s F. F ra n d a , “ In tra -R e g io n a l F actionalism a n d C oalition-B uilding in W est B en g al,” Journal o f Commonwealth Political Studies 8 (N ovem ber 1970): 187—205.

248

COMMUNISM IN A BEN G A LI ENVIRONM ENT

developm ent of innovating individuals. M en in au th o rity view innovations w ithin their institutions as devices to th reaten their positions; they also tend to view new ideas from underlings as intolerable threats to their status. As a result, m en w ith am bition express fidelity a n d hum ility to au th o rity . W hen they attack authority it is no t o ne’s personal superior, b u t ra th e r im personal institutions, such as governm ent, an d in im personal ways, as -in the street dem onstrations.9

H ierarchical and a u th o ritarian patterns also dom inate p a rty organi­ zations, w ith the result th a t leadership groups w ithin parties tend to becom e so well entrenched an d so in to leran t of threats to their status th a t factional organizations grow up aro u n d alm ost every asp iran t for a high-level p a rty post. Practically every p a rty in W est Bengal has h ad severe problem s transferring pow er from the older nationalist generation to the post-Independence generation th a t is now com ing of age, an d alm ost every prom ising young p a rty leader has achieved recognition on the basis of his ability to m uster an in n er-p arty factional following. In the C om m unist parties in W est Bengal, w here leaders can use the strict rules of discipline usually associated w ith Leninist organization, hierarchical an d a u th o ritarian behavior on the p a rt o f leadership sets has been responsible for a factionalism even m ore intense th an is usual in Bengal. T o ad d to the factional problem s th a t have historically been associated w ith the com m unist m ovem ent in W est Bengal, the state is now becom ing increasingly politicized in a period of econom ic decline, so th a t fewer an d fewer resources are being distributed to m ore an d m ore aspiring politicians. As has already been pointed out, this factor has becom e especially crucial for the developm ent of factions w ithin the C om m unist parties since their entry into the ministries. T o a g reater extent th an in m ost other societies, the rew ards in Bengali politics flow to political leaders, an d to a m uch lesser extent to their supporters an d followers. T h e leaders of political parties are asked to speak at a variety of social an d political functions, w ith fees of upw ard o f 100 rupees per ap p earan ce (in a society w here the average monthly incom e is less th a n 100 rupees), an d it is the leadership th a t has access to p a rty funds an d negotiations w ith other parties an d the governm ent. W hen an electoral p a rty is out of power, its leadership will frequently be consulted by the governm ent, and such things as “ payoffs” an d “ deals” betw een opposition leaders and the state governm ent are m entioned too often to be totally lacking in substance. W hen an electoral p a rty gains pow er, it is the leadership

9 M y ro n W einer, “ N otes on P olitical D ev elo p m en t in W est B engal,” in Political Change in South Asia (C a lc u tta : F irm a K . L. M u k h o p a d h y a y , 1963), p p . 255-256.

REGIONAL MOORINGS OF BENGALI COMMUNISM

249

th a t enters the m inistries and m anages the patronage system. T aking all of these factors into consideration, it is little w onder th a t political leaders have a personal interest in heading separate parties or factions ra th e r th a n collaborating a t the secondary levels of aggregative political p a rty organizations. But this leads in a vicious circle to an intensification of factional disputes, encouragem ent of p arty splits, and strains w ithin political alliances. T h e n atu re of political factionalism in Bengal has h ad a num ber of consequences for the Bengali com m unist m ovem ent, b u t it has been especially crucial in determ ining organizational m atters and in its effects on C om m unist attem pts to acquire a mass following. W ith in the p arty organizations th a t m ake up the m ovem ent, w arm and friendly relations have developed am ong factional leaders on the basis of past recru itm en t patterns. T h e older intellectuals in the m ovem ent have w orked together in enough cam paigns to have learned to trust one an o th er and have established lines of au th o rity am ong themselves. A t the same time, the older intellectuals in the m ovem ent have increasingly learned to distrust the older terrorist leadership, recruited from an entirely different segm ent of Bengali society, and both the older terrorists and the older intellectuals have at times opposed the electoral leadership th a t has been gaining ground w ithin the m ove­ m en t since 1947. T h e younger C om m unist leadership, on the other h an d has found th a t the three older C om m unist factions are so well entrenched an d so jealous o f their factional prerogatives th a t aspirations for leadership can be satisfied only by the creation of new factional groupings an d parties. Ideally a C om m unist p arty should have a strong, united leadership and “ iron rules of discipline,” b u t because factional positions are so highly coveted in Bengali society, C om m unist un ity has not been possible. T h e C om m unist cadres th a t have approached the Bengali masses have therefore done so from elitist factional positions, w hich has lessened the im pact of an ideology th a t w ould seem to have a n atu ral ap peal for the com m on people of Bengal. A lm ost every observer who has seen Bengal will agree th a t the Bengali “ masses” live in a state of poverty, filth, and h u m an degradation th a t would be difficult to equal anyw here, a condition th a t has been progressively deteriorating d u rin g this century. M oreover, as F rancine Frankel has pointed out, the introduction of new farm ing m ethods u nder the Intensive A gri­ cu ltu ral D evelopm ent Program m e ( i a d p ) has only served to w iden the g ap betw een rich and poor: T h e m ajority of farm ers [in B engal]— p robably as m any as 75 percent to 80 p ercent in the rice belt— have experienced a relative decline in their econom ic position [since the introduction of the i a d p ] ; an d some proportion,

250

COMMUNISM IN A BENG ALI ENVIRO NM ENT

representing un p ro tected tenants cultivating u n d er oral lease, have suffered an absolute deterioration in th eir living stan d ard . . . .10

A fter witnessing the w idening gap betw een rich an d poor in Bengal, one can only agree w ith F rankel th a t the poor “ are becom ing m ore em bittered and radicalized; an d p robably m ore convinced th a n ever of the M arxists’ political p ro p ag an d a th a t fundam ental social change can only be accom plished by the com plete overturn of the existing p ro p erty system.”11 T h e dilem m a of the C om m unist parties in Bengal is th a t the increasing radicalization of the peasantry (and the p ro letariat in the cities as well) has not brought ab o u t unam biguous gains for the Com m unists. Since the mass of the Bengali peasantry an d laboring classes is organized on the basis of elite leaders an d mass followers tied together by traditional ethnoconceptual ideas an d a u th o rita ria n behavior patterns, the strength of alm ost all the C om m unist and M arxist Left factions and parties has been grow ing d uring the past few years. This has produced a situation th a t the C om m unists describe as “ a shift to the left forces,55 b u t it has also been accom panied by a m ore intense factionalism am ong the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties th an has ever been witnessed in India. F rom the p o in t of view of the peasants and laboring classes, the U n ited F ro n t governm ents have forced everyone in W est Bengal to m ake a choice as to w hich p a rty in the front can best serve individual and fam ily interests, since it has been clear from the outset of the first u f governm ent th a t the dem ands of all of the disadvantaged in W est Bengal could not be m et. In choosing betw een the various political parties in the U nited F ront, Bengali peasants and laborers have therefore generally affiliated w ith parties w ith w hich they could m ost easily establish a com m unity, subregional, or other factional relation, a strategem th a t has at least prom ised g reater access to the lim ited am ount of patronage th a t has accrued to the new governm ent.12 D uring the course of these developm ents, the c p m has unquestionably m ade the greatest gains, b u t no one would argue th a t it has yet even approached a position w here it could gain a clear m ajority for itself in the state Legislative Assembly, nor has the 10 Q u o te d from portions o f a rep o rt p re p a re d for th e U n ite d States A gency for In te rn a tio n a l D evelopm ent; see F ra n cin e F ran k el “ A g ricu ltu ral M o d e rn iza tio n a n d Social C h a n g e ,” Mainstream (New D elhi w eekly), D ecem ber 13, 1969, p. 17. 11 Ib id ., p. 36. 12 T h e rep o rt of a survey o f p easan t reactions to the U n ite d F ro n t governm ents is c o n ta in e d in The Hindu (M a d ras), D ecem ber 23, 1969. T h e results o f this survey, w hich a re stated above, are c o rro b o ra te d by o th er sources a n d by interview s.

REGIONAL MOORINGS OF BENGALI COMMUNISM

251

m ade any noticeable gains in bringing ab o u t a situation th a t could be seized upon to fom ent violent revolution. In the absence of either a state governm ent controlled by a single p a rty or a violent revolution in Bengal an d /o r In d ia, the present p a tte rn of ineffective coalition governm ent is likely to continue to be a feature of Bengali political life. T h e basig problem of coalition building in W est Bengal is th a t there is very little of value th a t can be divided am ong partners in a coalition. D em ands are too high, groups too num erous an d politicized, an d resources too scarce to m ake for a stable coalition th a t can continue to satisfy as m any factions and subregions as are needed to build a m ajority. T h e Congress organiza­ tion was able to overcom e this difficulty during the first two decades of Independence by carefully staking out an appeal to 40 percent of the state population, depending for its electoral victories on the factionalism th a t existed am ong the rem aining 60 percent. But a C om m unist p a rty could only duplicate the Congress strategy if it could depend on the constant fragm entation of its opposition and if it was w illing to becom e so aggregative as to surrender its claim to ideological rigor. In a sense, the c p m cadre has already risked the possibility of being cap tu red by the p a rty ’s aggregative electoral wing because of its heavy involvem ent in the patronage of the state ministries. O ne possibility for breaking the present deadlock in W est Bengal is a revived aggregative coalition like th a t of the Congress; an o th er is a total transform ation in the p a tte rn of relations betw een p arty leaders an d followers. I f a given set of state leaders could convince a sufficient portion of the peasantry an d the p ro letariat th a t it could produce gains for the m ajority of the people in the state— across caste, com ­ m unity, an d subregional ties— then the level of political awareness in the state is high enough so th a t such an appeal could form the basis of a strong p a rty alliance or coalition. T o m ake such an appeal effective, how ever, a political p a rty w ould have to find sufficient resources to satisfy the heightened expectations of a large num ber of different groups and individuals, a task th a t seems beyond the realm of possibility given the present state of econom ic developm ent in W est Bengal. F or a variety of reasons, W est Bengal has not shared in the “ green revolution” as m uch as other parts of In d ia ,13 an d in late 1969 funds for family planning program s were not even being distrib­ u ted in the state because of a factional dispute in the state H ealth cpm

13 S. S en g u p ta a n d M . G. G hosh, “ H Y V P for R ice : P erform ance in a W est B engal D istric t,” Economic and Political Weekly, O c to b er 26, 1968, p p . A -26-28.

252

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRONM ENT

M in istry .14 T hus, the rate of population grow th in W est Bengal continues to exceed th a t of alm ost every state in In d ia, w hile the econom ic reverses th a t were set in m otion by the p artitio n of Bengal in 1947 have recently accelerated.15 T h e S earch fo r a N a tio n a l S tra teg y T h e increasing frustration th a t has been the lot of Bengali C om ­ m unists attem p tin g to revolutionize their regional environm ent has led m an y of them to search for national strategies th a t m ight contribute to revolution over a w ider area. Especially since the form ation of the first U n ited F ro n t m inistry in W est Bengal in 1967, m an y Bengali Com m unists have becom e convinced th a t continued C om m unist control of only one or two In d ia n states m ight lead to a dim inution of C om m unist strength an d p a rty fervor. N ot only does the possibility exist th a t ineffective C om m unist state governm ents m ight dim inish electoral support w ithout affecting other states in In d ia, b u t there is also a possibility th a t a regional strategy w ithin an electoral system m ight lead to the irreversible absorption of C om m unist p a rty cadres into the netw ork of electoral politics. I f In d ia w ere not a highly segm ented and pluralist nation, the Com m unists in W est Bengal m ight be able to speed up the process of revolutionizing the state population w ithout having to w orry ab o u t the possibility of repression by the rest of the In d ia n U nion. I t is the segm entation of In d ia n political an d social life a t the national level th a t makes it possible for U nion governm ents to isolate an d q u aran tin e the bases in w hich the C om m unists have m ade some gains, thus lessening the n ational im p act of regional com m unism an d deepening the need for a n ational strategy. In this atm osphere, the extremists w ithin the In d ia n com m unist m ovem ent have been the m ost a rd e n t proponents of a national strategy, w ith the M aoists on the left w orking for a “ people’s w a r” thro u g h o u t the country and the pro-Soviets on the right attem p tin g to assemble the diverse strands of In d ia n leftism in a national coalition. Instead of building up strong regional bases, as the c p m has attem p ted to do, both the M aoists an d the pro-Soviets have em phasized the need for a C om m unist conception of the all-In d ia aspects of the present political situation, and both extremes have tried to build p arty 14 Based on interview s c o n d u cted in A ugust a n d S ep tem b er 1969 w ith th e U n io n M in ister for F am ily P lan n in g , D r. S. C h a n d rase k h ar, a n d D r. A. M . O . G h an i, the lead in g figure in the c p m concerned w ith fam ily p la n n in g policy. 15 “ E conom ic G row th in W est Bengal H as Slow ed D o w n ,” Eastern Economist (B om bay), J u ly 26, 1968, p p . 242—251. See also th e excellent series of articles on the W est B engal econom y in the Hindusthan Standard, S ep tem b er 20, 1969 (W eekly Supplement); S eptem ber 22, 1969; a n d S ep tem b er 24, 1969.

SEARCH FOR A N ATIO NAL STRATEGY

253

organizations th a t are m ore representative of In d ia ’s diversity than the cadre of the c p m . Paradoxically, however, the principal short­ com ing of both Left and R ig h t C om m unist extremists is their continued inability to overcom e the hurdles of In d ia n segm entation and the factionalism w ithin their own ranks. T h e factional problem s th a t have plagued national strategies can be seen m ost clearly in the case of the Left Com m unists, alm ost all of w hom can agree th a t the present “ task” of In d ian com m unism is “ the establishm ent of guerrilla bases in ru ra l areas, to encircle and liberate the cities and ultim ately to em ancipate the whole co u n try .” 16 All M aoist factions in In d ia can agree th a t the older leadership of the In d ian com m unist m ovem ent has failed to take advantage of rural discontent, prim arily because it has sought to organize the ru ral areas along regional and subregional lines for electoral purposes. In the words of one M aoist leader from W est Bengal, “ T h ere is little point in trying to encircle and liberate only one city, such as C alcutta, w hen the rest of the cities in In d ia rem ain in a feudal and m oribund condition. W e can use the experience th a t we have gained in C alcutta, and in the areas aro u n d C alcutta, b u t our next step m ust be the extension of our base ra th e r th an the concentration of the organization in one a re a .” 17 D espite basic agreem ent am ong M aoists on this proposition, In d ia ’s Left C om m unists have now divided themselves along a whole range of factional positions, based both on regional and subregional divisions an d on differing tactical lines. From a national point of view, the principal M aoist factions in In d ia have been those led by T arim ela N agi R eddy in A n d h ra and the c p m l group in W est Bengal. But while struggles over regional lead er­ ship have obviously played a p a rt in dividing these groups, it w ould be a m istake to assume th a t regional considerations were the only factors at w ork in separating the two, since a num ber of A n d h ra M aoists are in the c p m l and a nu m b er of Bengalis are followers of N agi R eddy. M oreover, w hile the leadership of the A n d h ra M aoists consists of men w ho entered politics during the T elengana cam paigns th a t rocked South In d ia from 1946 to 1951, they have by now changed their focus of attack considerably. T hey no longer support T elengana separatism b u t have instead decided to concentrate on the organization of the poorest (prim arily tribal) sections of the population, in order to create revolutionary bases th a t are relevant to a large num ber of 16 A d etailed com parison o f various M aoist strategies in In d ia is p rovided in M o h a n R a m , Indian Communism, p p . 210 ff. 17 Based on an interview co n d u cted in H ooghly D istrict in W est B engal in S ep tem b er 1969.

254

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRONM ENT

In d ia n situations. Sim ilarly, while the c p m l leadership is centered aro u n d the heroes of the N axalbari m ovem ent of 1967, the p a rty is now active throughout In d ia and is trying to build on its N axalbari experience in such a w ay as to bring ab o u t revolutionary situations in a num ber of different In d ia n states. ' . As defined by M aoist factional theoreticians, the principal differ­ ences am ong In d ia ’s Left C om m unists have to do w ith the answers to three tactical questions: (1) Is guerrilla w arfare to be the only form of struggle pursued a t the present stage of revolutionary developm ent? (2) W h at is to be the role of C om m unist mass organizations in the struggle? (3) W h at kind of C om m unist organization can best bring a b o u t a “ people’s w a r” in I n d ia ? 18 In answ er to these three questions, the leadership of the c p m l has opted for an exclusive em phasis on guerrilla w arfare as the only form of struggle ap p ro p riate to the present stage, while the N agi R eddy group is attem p tin g to link both ag rarian developm ent program s and u rb a n mass m ovem ents w ith guerrilla activites. T h e “ Im m ed iate P rogram m e” of N agi R e d d y ’s R ev­ olutionary C om m unist C om m ittee, for exam ple, calls for the establish­ m ent of “ village com m ittees” an d “village soviets” in areas of M aoist activity, an d these com m ittees are viewed as vehicles to consolidate C om m unist gains an d prep are for guerrilla w ar. Sim ilarly, c p m l theoreticians have constantly denigrated the work of C om m unist mass organizations in In d ia, p articu larly trad e unions, while the A n d h ra M aoists have attach ed considerable im portance to w ork in mass organizations an d in u rb a n areas. Both of these differences are in tu rn related to the different conceptions of p a rty organization th a t have been elaborated by the c p m l an d the N agi R ed d y groups: the form er has em phasized a conspiratorial and secret style of o rganiza­ tional work, while the latter has sought to m ain tain both legal and illegal p arty cadres. Regardless of the differences betw een p arty theoreticians over the tactical line to be pursued by M aoists, however, both the c p m l and the N agi R eddy groups have encountered considerable difficulty in m aking a “ people’s w ar” strategy work. As has already been pointed out, the c p m l in W est Bengal has m et w ith some success w hen organizing u rb a n college students for protest dem onstrations against the U nited F ro n t governm ent of W est Bengal b u t has thus far failed to capitalize on the fervor of its youthful u rb an cadres to create peasant bases in the countryside. A ttem pts by the Bengali Left C om m unist leadership to prom ote M aoist organizations in the ru ral areas of W est Bengal 18 M o h a n R a m , Indian Communism, pp. 262-263.

SEARCH FOR A NATIO NAL STRATEGY

255

have led to the same old dilem m as th a t the Bengali bhadralok have always encountered w hen attem p tin g to revolutionize abhadra peasants, w hile the organizational efforts of Bengalis in non-Bengali areas have m et w ith even g reater resistance. In this atm osphere, c p m l theoreticians have continued to espouse a p a rty program th a t calls for organizational w ork th a t is relevant to a n u m b er of non-Bengali areas, an d c p m l leaders have relentlessly sought to extend their base outside of Bengal, b u t the m ajor im pact of the c p m l is still confined to the consequences th a t it has for the Bengali u n it of the c p m an d for the W est Bengal U n ited Front. T h e A n d h ra M aoists, who have perhaps m ade greater gains am ong the G irijan tribals of S rikakulam D istrict th a n M aoist groups in any of In d ia ’s other ru ra l areas, have nevertheless encountered problem s sim ilar to those of the c p m l . N ot only have they failed to extend their gains in S rikakulam to other parts of A n d h ra an d India, they have also suffered a considerable loss of high-level leadership because of the arrests carried out by the In d ia n governm ent in late 1969 an d early 1970. T h e N agi R eddy group has placed little emphasis on conspiratorial organization, an d since their leadership is concen­ tra te d in a state th a t is still controlled by the Congress, the leadership of the A n d h ra M aoists has been exposed to m uch severer govern­ m ental repression th an the leadership of the c p m l . By early 1970 m ore th a n th irty m em bers of the elite R evolutionary C om m unist C om m ittee (including T arim ela N agi R ed d y himself) were languishing in jail aw aiting trial, while the leadership of the c p m l h ad still evaded arrest. As one m ight expect, the result has been a decline both in the m orale an d in the activities of the A n d h ra M aoists.19 W hen the assessment of the In d ia n political situation by Left C om m unist theoreticians is set alongside the failure o f M aoist p rac­ titioners in the field, the ideological position both of the c p m l an d of the N agi R ed d y group takes on an air of unreality th a t is rem iniscent of In d ia ’s experience w ith com m unism since the 1920s. In the eyes of c p i as well as c p m theoreticians, the possibility of a C om m unist revolution in In d ia in the near future is m uch m ore rem ote th an the M aoists w ould like to think. Even if the Congress m ovem ent should lose its electoral m ajority in N ew D elhi in the next few years, there is a strong possibility th a t Congress groups will be able to form stable coalition governm ents, either w ith the rightist parties (S w atantra an d J a n Sangh) or w ith regional parties (such as the D ravida M u n etra K azag h am of M adras or the A kali D al in P unjab), all of w hich are 19 Based on interview s w ith A n d h ra M aoists in A pril 1970.

256

COMMUNISM IN A BEN G A LI ENVIRO NM ENT

b etter established in state political systems th an the Communists* Should m inisterial coalitions fail in New D elhi a t some point in the future, the Com m unists w ould then have to face severe opposition from a highly institutionalized m ilitary, police, ju d icial, an d b u reau cratic netw ork, w hich is unreservedly anticom m unist an d highly in ten t on m aintaining the u n ity of the nation. In light of these factors, both c p m an d c p i theoreticians have attem p ted to educate In d ia ’s youthful M aoist extremists in the m an n er of the c p m P o litb u re a u : T hey [the M aoists] are anxious to teach the “ ig n o ra n t” c p m the elem entary tru th th a t the present In d ia n state is a bourgeois-landlord state led by the big bourgeoisie, an d th a t state pow er essentially lies in the m ilitary, police, courts, ju d iciary and bureaucracy. Since the state pow er is n o t in any way broken or w eakened due to the electoral defeats of the Congress p arty , it is “ atrocious” on the p a rt of the c p m to speak a b o u t “ breaking the Congress m onopoly of pow er!” . . . M ay we, first of all, tell o u r critics th a t they do n o t u n d erstan d the difference betw een the concept o f breaking state power an d the concept o f breaking the monopoly o f that power by one political party, nam ely the Congress P arty ? T h e bourgeois-landlord state pow er can never be broken except th ro u g h a people’s dem ocratic revolution or socialist revolution. B ut before th a t . . . breaking u p the one-party m onopoly of pow er is considered as an im p o rtan t step forw ard, an d thus the slogan of breaking the Congress m onopoly is a d ­ vanced. I f anyone is to u n d erstan d it as a substitute to the people’s dem ocratic revolution w hich alone can break the bourgeois-landlord state pow er, he should blam e his colossal political ignorance in the m a tte r.20

M an y of the M aoist leaders an d theoreticians in In d ia are fully conscious of the difference betw een the concepts of breaking state pow er an d breaking the m onopoly of the Congress— indeed, some of the M aoist factions have even divided along these lines— an d yet all M aoists are still convinced th a t the focus of the Com m unists should be the form er rath er th an the latter. These people look forw ard to a period of great chaos in In d ia in the next few years, perhaps bro u g h t ab o u t by the com plete downfall of the Congress in the next elections, perhaps as a result of Congress p a rty factionalism an d m ajor splits in the Congress m ovem ent, or perhaps as a consequence of econom ic collapse. T hey look forw ard to a series of internecine wars betw een In d ia ’s com peting regional politicians an d to Chinese assistance for their guerrilla activities, w hich are intended to take advantage of a state of anarchy. A nd yet, because of their rigid em phasis on historical m odels— Russia, C hina, C uba, V ietnam — the M aoists still lack the 20 Ideological Debate Summed Up by Politbureau (C a lc u tta : C P M , 1968), p p . 163-164. (Italics in original.)

SEARCH FOR A N ATIO NAL STRATEGY

257

creative im pulse th a t w ould seem necessary to bring ab o u t a significant advance tow ard their revolutionary goals. T h e other bloc of national strategists— the pro-Soviets w ithin the c p i — have attem p ted to strengthen their own tactical position in precisely the areas w here the M aoists are accused of weakness. If the M aoists have failed to take sufficient account of In d ia ’s highly institutionalized m ilitary, police, judicial, and b u reau cratic network, the pro-Soviets w ithin the c p i have attach ed so m uch im portance to this netw ork th a t they have becom e b en t on capturing it. W hile the M aoists have discounted the efficacy of electoral alliance building in the present In d ia n political situation, the pro-Soviets w ithin the c p i have directed m ost of their energies tow ard the creation of a national coalition th a t includes the Com m unists. In these endeavors both the Left and R ig h t C om m unist extrem es in In d ia can be accused of a lack of im agination, since both are pursuing rath e r tim e-w orn strategies, an d both have placed a heavy reliance on assistance from foreign com m unist m ovements. As has already been pointed out, the ability of the c p i to play a significant role in national coalition building will depend on its ability to increase its electoral strength in the states and on a shift in the orientation of the R uling Congress and other political parties tow ard Moscow. In its present position the c p i controls 23 of the 521 Lok S ab h a seats and is a m inority p a rtn e r in two state coalition govern­ m ents, a base th a t is too narrow to enable it to determ ine the m akeup of a national coalition w ithout considerable assistance. O f the non­ Congress Left parties th a t could conceivably ally w ith the c p i in a national coalition, the s s p controls 23 Lok S abha seats, the c p m 19, and the p s p 13, while perhaps an o th er 20 seats are held by leftist independents an d leftists in regional parties. This m eans th a t even if the c p i could bring ab o u t Left unity am ong all parties besides the Congress, it w ould still have a bloc of only 100 or so of the 521 seats in the present Lok Sabha. If only for this reason, the c p i m ust necessarily include the R uling Congress w ith its 221 Lok S abha seats am ong the parties to be courted w ith its slogan of Left unity. These figures point up the extent to w hich the c p i is dependent on the R uling Congress for the success of its strategy of building a national coalition of Left forces; in addition, they point to the difficulties confronting the party. W hile the non-Congress Left parties are divided on the question of allying w ith the Congress, the R uling Congress is divided betw een w ell-entrenched regional factions th a t have taken a strong stand on the question of alliance w ith the Com m unists. In order to build a national Left unity coalition, the c p i m ust convince the

258

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRO NM ENT

non-Congress Left parties th a t it is in their interest to ally tem porarily w ith the Congress as it sim ultaneously persuades the R uling Congress th a t it should ally w ith the C om m unists. Because of the aggregative n atu re of the R uling Congress, the very a tte m p t to bring ab o u t a cpi-Congress coalition is likely to split the p a rty into p ro co m m u n ist'an d anticom ­ m unist factions, forcing the leadership o f the R uling Congress either to split the p arty again or to seek noncom m unist allies. I t is because of these considerations th a t the leadership of the R uling Congress has thus far argued th a t it w ould not consider the possibility of coalescing w ith the C om m unists b u t has instead sought to cem ent its relationships w ith regional parties (such as the d m k , the Akali D al, an d the Bangla Congress). Tw o factors could conceivably break this stalem ate. I f the c p i could achieve considerable gains in future electoral contests, the p a rty w ould have a stronger base from w hich to b arg ain w ith both the leftists and the R uling Congress. A lternatively, if the pro-M oscow elem ents in the R uling Congress, the c p m , an d the Left parties could gain greater control over p arty m achinery, the c p i an d the c p s u m ight be able to com bine their influence in n ational political affairs w ith a series of Soviet diplom atic initiatives to bring ab o u t a n atio n al coalition oriented tow ard Moscow. T h e first of these possibilities is unlikely so long as the c p m is sufficiently hostile tow ard the c p i to be w illing to sacrifice its own m arginal electoral gains to defeat c p i candidates, b u t Soviet (or c p g b or R um anian) intervention could conceivably bring ab o u t a tem porary truce betw een In d ia ’s two m ajor w arring C om m unist parties. In short, the prospects for the c p i strategy depend alm ost entirely on relations betw een M oscow an d a n u m b er of different p arty an d governm ental leaders in India. In te r n a tio n a l P o litic s a n d th e Q u e stio n o f P a k ista n I f the attitu d e of the Soviet U nion tow ard South Asia during the next few years has a considerable im pact on In d ia ’s national political alignm ents, it will also influence the n atu re of regional political developm ents as well. N ow here is this clearer th an in Bengal, w here the decline o f the Bengali-speaking peoples of both In d ia an d Pakistan in this century has becom e intim ately intertw ined w ith the Bengali fascination for M arxism an d com m unism . T aken together, the Bengalis in East Pakistan an d W est Bengal constitute the seventh-largest language group in the w orld, and yet they have been unable to translate their num bers into political power. A t the tim e of p artitio n they were unable to bring ab o u t a united Bengal, despite the desire an d the willingness of the most prom inent H in d u and M uslim Bengali

T H E QUESTION OF PAKISTAN

259

leaders to do so,21 an d since p artitio n the principal political dynam ic both in W est Bengal an d in East Pakistan has been the feeling th a t Bengalis are being exploited by non-Bengalis. In the words of a Statesman editorial in J u n e 1950, “ T h ey [the Bengalis] are constantly aw are also of past glories an d present potentialities. T hey do not forget either th a t C alcutta was long the co u n try ’s capital or th a t Bengalis took the lead in the freedom m ovem ent. O nce they swayed the destinies of In d ia ; now they cannot even determ ine their ow n.” 22 M an y Bengalis, an d especially the new generation of Bengali youth, have placed their hopes for the future in revolution, to be carried out in collaboration w ith the Soviet U nion, C hina, or perhaps other In d ia n or A sian Com m unists. (O ne m ight com pare this tendency to look for foreign allies against the H indi an d other South Asian Staatsvolk w ith w artim e pro-G erm an currents in C roatia an d the pro-Soviet an d later pro-C hinese policies of A lbania, both directed against Serb hegem ony.) Suspicious of the English-speaking peoples an d the non-Bengali In d ia n an d Pakistani com m unities th a t have been held responsible for the decline of Bengali greatness in this century, m an y Bengalis have tu rn ed to revolutionary and protest activities directed against those w hom they have learned to distrust since childhood. T his is not to argue th a t all Bengalis are regional chauvinists, for there are influential people on both sides of the b order w ho w ould like to bring about an accom m odation betw een Bengali and non-Bengali interests w ithin the fram ew ork of the two nation-states. W h a t is clear, however, is the m an n er in w hich Bengalis have ad ap ted M arxism an d com m unism to their urge for a regional identity and regional political power. N evertheless, in the eyes of foreign com m unist m ovem ents the activities of Bengali Com m unists w ould ap p ear to count for m uch less a t this point in tim e th a n m any Bengali revolutionaries w ould like to 21 P e rh ap s m ost Bengalis, in clu d in g th e C om m unists, w ere hopeful in the years p rec ed in g p a rtitio n th a t som ething w ould com e o f the schem es p u t forth by S a ra t Bose a n d H . S. S u h ra w a rd y (C h ief M in ister o f th e U n ite d Bengal P rovincial G o v ern ­ m e n t u n d e r th e British) for a “ u n ite d B en g al,” in d e p e n d e n t of b o th In d ia a n d P ak istan . T h ese schem es are described in S a ra t C h a n d ra Bose, I Warned M y Countrymen (C a lc u tta : N etaji R esearch B ureau, 1968), p p . 183-194. In c lu d e d in this volum e are letters b o th from G a n d h i a n d from J in n a h e n te rta in in g the Bose proposals for a u n ite d B engal; see p p . 254, 348-352. F o r th e position of various sections of th e M uslim c o m m u n ity reg a rd in g the question o f a u n ite d B engal, see H assan S u h raw ad d y , “ T h e I n d ia n C risis: M uslim V iew p o in ts,” in Hindustan or Pakistan?, ed. S. L. C h o p ra (L a h o re : Ilam i M ark az, 1955), pp. 6 -2 5 , a n d K a m ru d d in A h m ad , The Social History o f East Pakistan (D acca: P ioneer Press, 1967), especially pp. 81-88. 22 Q u o te d in J o h n B room field, Elite Conflict in a Plural Society: Twentieth-Century Bengal (B erkeley: U niversity of C alifornia Press, 1968), p. xviii.

260

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRONM ENT

think. Both the Soviet U n io n an d C hina have pursued an activist foreign policy in South Asia during the last two decades, b u t in both cases the principal focus of their activities has been n ational and in tern atio n al rath er th a n regional. In a sense one can argue th a t the two C om m unist giants have reacted m ore to each o th e r’s diplom atic initiatives, an d to the U n ited States, th a n they have to the changes th a t have taken place w ithin In d ia an d Pakistan. T h ro u g h o u t the 1950s, for exam ple, the Soviet U nion adopted a hostile stance tow ard Pakistan, vetoing several Security C ouncil resolutions designed to settle the K ashm ir dispute through plebiscite or b ilateral negotiations, in an effort to penalize Pakistan for allying itself w ith the U n ited States. T h en , in the 1960s, Russia increasingly adopted a m ore n eu tral attitu d e tow ard the Indo-P akistani conflict as Pakistani relations w ith the U n ited States cooled an d Sino-Pakistani relations becam e m ore cordial. T h e im portance of C hina an d Pakistan in the determ ination of Soviet policy tow ard In d ia can be seen from the w ay in w hich M oscow has responded to changes in Sino-Pakistani relations. T h ro u g h o u t the 1950s C hina pursued relations w ith Pakistan th a t w ere “ diplom atically correct” b u t cool: the Chinese were m uch less hostile tow ard Pakistan th an the Soviets were in their condem nation of the B aghdad P act; Peking refused to come out in favor of In d ia on the K ashm ir q u estio n ; an d Chou En-lai even attem p ted to m ediate disputes betw een In d ia, Pakistan, an d the Soviet U nion a t the B andung Conference in A pril 1955.23 In the 1960s these relations have becom e increasingly friendly. Pakistan voted to seat C hina in the U n ited N ations in 1961, a SinoPakistani border agreem ent was reached in 1963, air services were initiated betw een C anton, Shanghai, D acca, an d K arach i in 1964, and expressions of Chinese support for Pakistan w ere issued on a nu m b er of occasions during the 1965 Indo-P akistani conflict. Since 1965 cordial relations betw een C hina an d Pakistan have continued to grow, accom panied by trad e agreem ents an d cu ltu ral exchanges, an d C hina now has considerable support am ong Pakistani political an d m ilitary leaders.24 In the long run, Soviet interests in Pakistan will m ost likely center on the w estern wing, which is culturally and geographically linked to the M iddle East, while C h in a’s principal interest is likely to focus on 23 A n excellent short su m m ary of P a k istan ’s relations w ith C h in a in th e 1950s a n d early 1960s ap p ears in K h a lid B. Sayeed, The Political System o f Pakistan (Boston: H o u g h to n M ifflin, 1967), p p . 274 ff. 24 See, for exam ple, th e re p o rt o f L ie u te n a n t G en eral H a m id K h a n , w ho led the P akistani delegation to th e tw e n tieth an n iv ersary celebrations o f th e P eople’s R e p u b lic o f C h in a, in Dawn (K a rac h i d aily), O c to b er 6, 1969.

T H E QUESTION OF PAKISTAN

261

the East Pakistani territories bordering on In d ia and Burm a. So long as Pakistan m anages to m ain tain friendly relations w ith the Soviet U n io n an d C hina, it is unlikely th a t either of the two C om m unist giants will overtly support internal C om m unist revolutionary groups in Pakistan (as C hina is presently doing in In d ia, or as the Soviet U nion supported the c p i in the late 1940s). H ow ever, both In d ia and P akistan have a t times been concerned w ith the possibility th a t either M oscow or Peking m ay some day find it advantageous to support in tern al insurrectionist m ovem ents, p articu larly in the northeastern regions of In d ia and in East Pakistan. In 1959, for exam ple, w hen Chinese probings beyond the M cM ah o n line were interpreted as a th re a t to East Pakistan, Field M arshal A yub K h a n stated in an in ter­ view w ith a British correspondent th a t “ a R ussian-C hinese drive to the In d ia n O cean is a m ajor aim in the C om m unist drive for W orld d o m in atio n .” 25 A gain, in J u ly 1960, President A yub issued a series of statem ents from East Bengal in w hich he argued th a t pro-Peking C om m unists “ operating out of C alcu tta” were carrying on a cam paign for “ a w eak federal structure, too m any provinces, and an ineffective governm ent for P akistan,” a conspiracy th a t was also reported (with slight alterations and additions) by the In d ian H om e M inistry in New D elhi in 1964.26 T h e difficulty of assessing the role of Pakistan in future C om m unist activities in South Asia stems from the lack of public inform ation available on the Pakistan C om m unist p arty ( p c p ) . I t is fairly cer­ tain th a t the C om m unist p arty in East Pakistan was slightly larger th a n the c p i in W est Bengal at the tim e of Independence, since most of the Bengali C om m unists who h ad been active in pre-Independence Bengal chose Pakistan after 1947.27 H ow ever, it is also clear th a t the p c p has suffered a sharp decline in m em bership and effectiveness since p artitio n , largely because of the predom inance am ong its leadership of H in d u bhadralok in a nation th a t is overw helm ingly M uslim . M oreover, because neither the Soviet U n ion nor C hina has shown m uch interest in playing a p a rt in the dom estic com m unist m ovem ent in Pakistan, and because of the severe repression of the m ovem ent by the Pakistan governm ent, the older C om m unist trade union and peasant bases in E ast Bengal have been considerably w eakened. T h e most successful C om m unist m em bers and fellow travelers still active on the trade 25 Pakistan Observer (D acca), N o v em b er 19, 1959, q u o ted in Sayeed, Political System o f Pakistan, p. 273. 26 The Statesman, J u ly 26, 1960. 27 T h e re is a m ore detailed acc o u n t o f developm ents in the E ast P akistan com ­ m u n ist m o v em en t since 1947 in M a rcu s F. F ra n d a , “ C om m unism a n d R egional Politics in E ast P a k istan ,” Asian Survey 10 (A ugust 1970): 588-606.

262

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRONM ENT

union front in East Bengal have found it possible to continue their organizational work only by divesting themselves of their rep u tatio n as Com m unists, an d some of them have even begun to organize along com m unal ra th e r th a n class lines. Such activities have no t only w eakened the organizational base of the p arty, they have also intensified factional disputes am ong Pakistani leftists an d have forced m ore an d m ore of the leftist leadership in Pakistan to search for a theoretical position th a t w ould justify a com m itm ent to com m unism . T h e factions th a t have arisen in E ast Pakistan in the course of this search are roughly sim ilar to those in India. O ne group of th eo ret­ icians has identified w ith the cu rren t M oscow line of collaborating w ith the bourgeoisie in a “ top alliance,” expecting th a t through personal influence (and w ith the support of Soviet foreign policy) the ruling groups in Pakistan could be expected to com plete the first-stage (anti-im perialist an d antifeudal) bourgeois-dem ocratic revolution, later to be followed by a socialist revolution. This is essentially the strategy of the c p i in In d ia. A second group of theoreticians is m uch closer to the c p m an d favors a “ m odified R ig h t” or “ neo-M aoist” strategy. In the Pakistani context, however, both the classical R ig h t an d “ m odified R ig h t” strategies have h ad little appeal for Com m unists an d their potential supporters, since the C om m unists do no t have the kind of influence in institutional life th a t w ould p erm it the creation of an effective top alliance. Some of the C om m unists are presently attem p tin g to gain such influence by p en etratin g into the N ational A w am i P arty ( n a p ) of M au lan a Bhashani, hoping eventually to capture a share of political pow er in the eastern wing an d to use this pow er base to prom ote a first-stage revolution.28 But alliance w ith B hashani’s n a p , or w ith any of P akistan’s other legal parties, creates a nu m b er of problem s for Bengali Com m unists. N o t only does a strategy of alliance w ith n a p assume, th a t the possibility of com ing to pow er is an extrem ely long-range one, it also carries w ith it the probability th a t the Com m unists will be used by n a p an d other parties for their own purposes, w ithout any benefit to the com m unist m ovem ent in Pakistan. M ost im portantly, it does not provide m uch of an o p p o rtu n ity for the creation of an independent base for the Com m unists, an d it makes the 28 M a u la n a A b d u l H a m id K h a n B hashani, th e 85-year-old lead er o f n a p , has described th e p ro g ram o f his p a rty as th e a tte m p t “ to establish socialism w hich does n o t interfere w ith religion b u t stops exploitation o f relig io n .” A t the presen t tim e n a p is am o n g th e m ost active political parties d e m a n d in g an electoral fram ew ork for the p u rsu it o f p a rty program s. See Morning News (D acca), O c to b er 6, 1969. F o r a dis­ cussion o f n a p ’ s in tern al factionalism a n d its relations w ith th e m ore p o p u la r A w am i L eague in E ast P akistan, see Holiday (D acca), O c to b er 5, 1969. See also T a p a n Das, Pakistan Politics (D elhi: P eople’s P ublishing H ouse, 1969), p p . 4 8 -5 2 .

TH E QUESTION OF PAKISTAN

263

com m unist m ovem ent dependent on the whims of noncom m unist leaders for the foreseeable future. For these reasons, the m ore m ilitan t C om m unist strategists in East Pakistan now argue th a t only a M aoist strategy can succeed in building a viable com m unist m ovem ent. Like the N axalites in W est Bengal, the proponents of a M aoist strategy in East Pakistan advocate an organization based on student activists, w ith direct appeals to workers, poor peasants, an d the large nu m b er of clerks and other petty b o u r­ geois who have becom e m ore and m ore disenchanted in recent years. O nly through violent denunciations of the top leaders of all other political parties and of the im perialist nations, the M aoists argue, can the designs of the “ vested interests” and “ im perialists” be exposed an d support won for the eventual revolution. Also according to this strategy, the C om m unist p a rty in Pakistan m ust cooperate w ith others only in order to organize revolutionary and protest m ovem ents designed to expose the “ im perialist U n ited S tates,” the “ socialim perialist Soviet U n io n ,” and the “ reactionary, feudal, an d b o u r­ geois” elem ents in Pakistan itself. W hile the M aoists view arm ed struggle as an eventual necessity, the present task of the p c p (in their view) is to raise the level of political consciousness am ong the masses in p rep aratio n for it. W hile talk of revolutionary an d protest m ovem ents in East Pakistan is frequently dismissed as the idle gossip of incurable rom antics and naive youth, the influence of such m ovem ents in the eastern wing has in the past h ad a considerable im pact on the politics of Pakistan. Students an d protest groups initiated the m ovem ent against the governm ent of the M uslim League (the p a rty th a t form ulated and realized the dem and for Pakistan) in the early 1950s, and these same groups provided the bulk of the workers for the opposition parties th a t defeated the M uslim L eague in the 1954 elections. D uring the A yub K h a n regim e, w hen opposition political parties were rendered ineffective by severe govern­ m en tal repression, protest groups (again led by students) organized massive political m ovem ents in 1963—1964, cam paigned actively for F atim a J in n a h in the presidential election of J a n u a ry 1965, and eventually rallied opposition politicians, dissatisfied middle-class groups, governm ent clerks, an d labor unions behind a series of w ide­ spread protest dem onstrations th a t lasted from N ovem ber 1968 to M arch 1969 and ended by toppling the A yub K h a n governm ent.29 29 F o r an excellent analysis o f P akistani stu d e n t politics, based on a q u estio n n aire re tu rn e d b y 563 students in b o th w ings, see T a lu k d e r M a n ira z z a m a n , “ Perspectives a n d P olitical O rien ta tio n s of U n iv ersity S tudents in P a k istan ,” u n p u b lish ed m a n u ­ script av ailab le from the a u th o r, h e ad of th e P olitical Science D e p a rtm e n t, R ajsh ah i U n iv ersity , R ajsh ah i, E ast P akistan.

264

COMMUNISM IN A BENG ALI ENVIRO NM ENT

C ertainly the Com m unists did not play a large p a rt in any of these dem onstrations, b u t students w ith a leftist orientation did, and Pakistani M aoists simply argue th a t the possibility th a t protest m ove­ m ents will be won over to a revolutionary C om m unist strategy is m uch less rem ote th a n the possibility th a t Communists- will gain influence through a top alliance w ith “vested interests” and “ im perialists.” F rom the point of view of the M aoists in East Pakistan, the con­ siderable discontent th a t exists is deeply rooted in the realities of Pakistani life and could conceivably be organized by a M aoist-type p a rty in the future. Since Independence, Pakistan has been dom inated by the bureaucracy an d the m ilitary, both of w hich have in tu rn been dom inated by non-Bengalis.30 M oreover, East Pakistanis have effec­ tively charged on a n u m b er of occasions th a t they are being exploited econom ically by W est Pakistan while being discrim inated against in term s of educational benefits, language policy, an d a host of other im p o rtan t m a tters.31 W hile some political p arty leaders in East 30 T h e d o m in an ce o f th e m ilita ry a n d b u re a u c ra c y in P ak istan i politics is an aly zed in M . R a sh id u zz am an , Pakistan: A Study o f Government and Politics (D acca: Id ea l L ib ra ry , 1967); see especially p p . 261 ff. T h e ex ten t to w hich th e m ilita ry a n d the b u re a u c ra c y have been d o m in a ted by non-B engalis is in d ic ate d by th e follow ing figures (for 1955—1956), w hich have been a d a p te d from R ic h a rd D . L a m b e rt, “ F actors in B engali R egionalism in P a k ista n ,” Far Eastern Survey 28 (A pril 1959): 54. F ro m W est P ak istan F ro m E ast P akistan 19 .......................................... 0 S e c re ta rie s......................................... J o in t s e c r e ta r ie s .............................. 38 .......................................... 3 D ep u ty s e c re ta rie s ......................... 123 .......................................... 10 U n d e rse c re ta rie s.............................. 510 .......................................... 38 L ie u te n a n t generals ..................... 3 .......................................... 0 M a jo r generals .............................. 20 .......................................... 0 34 .......................................... 1 B r ig a d ie r s ......................................... C o lo n els.............................................. 49 .......................................... 1 L ie u te n a n t colonels . . . ................ 198 .......................................... 2 M a jo r s ................................................ 590 .......................................... 10 A ir Force p e rs o n n e l....................... 640 .......................................... 60 N av al o ffic e rs.................................. 593 .......................................... 7 T o ta l

2816

132

W hile th ere have been som e attem p ts to co rrect this d isp arity since 1955-1956, recen tly av ailable figures suggest th a t th e gap is still as w ide in 1969 as it was in the m id-fifties. In late 1969, for exam ple, E ast P akistan h a d one m ajo r g en eral in the arm y a n d no representatives am o n g th e ten leading figures in th e post-A yub M a rtia l L aw A d m in istratio n ; see M o h a m m e d A yoob, “ H opes Belied in P a k ista n ,” Citizen and Weekend Review (N ew D elhi fo rtn ig h tly ), A pril 12, 1969, pp. 32-33. 31 F o r a n analysis o f the econom ic, c u ltu ral, a n d social grievances o f E ast Bengalis, see L a m b e rt, “ Bengali R egionalism in P a k ista n .” A m ore recen t sta te m e n t is M ira D eb, “ P ak istan : N eglected G rievances,” Citizen and Weekend Review, M a y 10, 1969, p p . 2 8 -2 9 .

T H E QUESTION OF PAKISTAN

265

Pakistan are now hopeful th a t dem ands for the correction of disparities betw een the two wings will be m et through the reinstallation of electoral dem ocracy (the Bengalis constitute 54 percent of the total population of Pakistan), most observers agree th a t a p arliam en tary system, if it works at all in Pakistan, is not likely to p u t the regions on an equal footing for a long tim e to come. In this atm osphere, M aoist theoreticians argue th a t the dem ands of the A w am i League ( a l ) an d the n a p for an electoral system th a t w ould enable Bengalis to outvote W est Pakistan will eventually result in the disenchantm ent of East Pakistanis w ith electoral systems. M oreover, the argum ents of the classical R ight an d m odified R ight C om m unist strategists th a t support for electoral dem ands is m erely a tem porary tactical device designed to build bases for future revolution­ ary change are viewed by the M aoists as m ere rhetoric an d revolutionary ja rg o n . Because of their extrem e disgust w ith the results of p arlia­ m en tary dem ocracy, the M aoists have refused to support even tem porarily the dem and for an electoral system an d have instead sought to w ork out a nonelectoral strategy th a t could prom ote rev­ olution in the eastern wing. B ut the a ttem p t to devise a nonelectoral strategy in Pakistan brings the M aoists face to face w ith the tw in dilem m as th a t have confronted all South Asian Com m unists since they first began organizing in the 1920s. T h e first of them relates to the question of the stability of In d ia an d Pakistan as nation-states; the second is related to the possibilities for guerrilla w arfare an d insurrection. A t some points in the past the Com m unists have decided th a t neither In d ia nor Pakistan was viable as a national entity, w ith the result th a t regional separatist m ovem ents were supported by C om m unists on the basis of the “ n atio n ­ ality thesis.5532 But support for regional m ovem ents has always hindered the com m unist m ovem ent in its attem pts to influence national policy m aking, so th a t the “ nationality thesis” has been increasingly u n d e r­ played or om itted from p a rty considerations since the early 1950s. T he second dilem m a has arisen w henever the com m unist m ovem ent has viewed the In d ian an d Pakistani national governm ents as essentially unstable, raising the question of how best to take advantage of in ­ stability. T h ere are a n u m b er of com pelling reasons for adopting a guerrilla strategy in certain parts of the subcontinent— an d the case for

32 T h e history o f th e In d ia n C o m m u n ist experience w ith the “ n a tio n ality thesis” is re c o u n ted in Selig S. H a rriso n , “ C om m unism in In d ia : T h e D ilem m a of the C P I,” Problems o f Communism 8 (M a rc h -A p ril 1959): 27-35.

266

COMMUNISM IN A BENG ALI ENVIRONM ENT

such a strategy is p robably strongest in B engal33— b u t each a tte m p t to initiate guerrilla or other insurrectionist activities has resulted in ignom inious failure. ’ T h e tragedy of the Bengali-speaking people in this century is intim ately bound up w ith these tw in dilem m as. M an y Bengali leftists, b o th in In d ia and in Pakistan, now argue th a t the only solution to the problem lies in the creation of a united B engal,34 b ro u g h t ab o u t by guerrilla w arfare an d supported by the Chinese. But neither the In d ia n nor Pakistani strategists who advocate this solution have yet devised a m eans for initiating a guerrilla m ovem ent, an d Chinese support is by no m eans assured. M oreover, there are considerable factional differences am ong C om m unist an d M arxist Left strategists on the question of linking a M aoist strategy w ith the dem an d for a u nited Bengal, since the two do not necessarily need to be linked together. B arring considerable change in the respective positions of Bengalis an d non-Bengalis, however, support for m illenarian m ovem ents is likely to grow on both sides of the in ternational border th a t now separates W est Bengal from East Pakistan. T herefore, to m any observers, an d to m any politicians b o th in In d ia an d in Pakistan, the M aoists are a force th a t will have be to reckoned w ith in the next decade. But the activities of those who advocate a guerrilla m ovem ent an d /o r a united Bengal m ust be placed in the perspective of the dom estic politics of In d ia an d Pakistan, as well as in the context of the in te r­ n ational interests of the nations th a t are concerned w ith Bengal. A separatist m ovem ent based on the dem and for a united C om m unist Bengal w ould ru n counter to the interests of m ost of the p a rty politicians now active in In d ia an d Pakistan an d w ould certainly be resisted both by the In d ia n and by the Pakistani m ilitary an d bureaucracy. M ore­ over, a t the present tim e it has little appeal for any of the three in ter­ 33 R e g a rd in g th e possibility o f in su rrectio n ist m ovem ents in th e B engali region, leftists on b o th sides o f th e b o rd e r are fond o f q u o tin g S ta lin ’s sta te m e n t to th ree Bengalis in 1949 to the effect th a t “ T e le n g a n a is far from th e c e n ter o f re v o lu tio n ,” a sta te m e n t th a t th e Bengalis a t th a t tim e in te rp re te d as su p p o rtin g th e C o m m u n ist in su rrectio n in Bengal. 34 S entim ents for a u n ite d Bengal are seldom expressed openly by leftists, since they so easily lead to conspiracy charges on b o th sides o f the b o rd er. T h e last M arx ist Left p a rty in W est Bengal to ad v o cate a u n ite d B engal in p u b lic was the F o rw ard Bloc (R u ik a r o r Subhasist faction), w hich in th e 1952 elections called for “ a Bengali U n io n o f Socialist R epublics . . . a p eo p le’s state unifying all shades o f differences a n d a u to n o m y in a federal g o v e rn m e n t.” See The Statesman, S ep tem b er 9, 1951. A recen t discussion o f th e idea o f a u n ite d Bengal is co n tain ed in D e b e n d ra N a th B anerjee, East Pakistan: A Case-Study in M uslim Politics (D elhi: V ikas P u b licatio n s, 1969), pp. 169-178.

TH E QUESTION OF PAKISTAN

267

n atio n al powers w ith interests in the subcontinent, w ith the result th a t Bengali guerrilla bands w ould have to w in over the populace, collect w eapons, an d secure fighting experience while at the same tim e opposing the resistance of p arty politicians, two highly train ed b u reau ­ cratic an d intelligence networks, an d two m obilized arm ies w ith guerrilla train in g ,35 all supported by in tern atio n al pow er blocs. In this atm osphere, the significance of the M aoist m ovem ent in Bengal does not depend on the possibility th a t it will achieve its long-range goals. For the im m ediate future the M aoists are of political interest because of the influence th a t they are likely to have on the course of Bengali regional politics an d the future of the com m unist m ovem ent in In d ia an d Pakistan. D uring the last few years the N axalites in W est Bengal have been successful in securing the support of a large portion of the politically active student groups in the state, an d these groups have h ad a significant im pact on state politics. W hile it is m uch m ore difficult to ju d g e the sentim ents of students in East Bengal, since political activity is severely constrained by governm ent, both their rhetoric an d their activities b ear a striking resem blance to those of the N axalites across the b o rd e r.36 Bengali students in In d ia an d Pakistan read the history o f B engal’s past greatness, an d yet the vast m ajority of them are now unable to o btain jobs com m ensurate w ith their status an d education because of w h at they alm ost universally believe to be discrim ination against Bengal on the p a rt of the nonBengali portions of In d ia an d Pakistan. T o d a y ’s Bengali college students have not witnessed the w idespread com m unal killing th a t took place before an d after partition, an d they have becom e increasingly distrustful of traditional religious groups an d traditional ideas. O n both sides of the border students are extrem ely active in politics and a ttra c te d to the older Bengali terrorist leaders w ho in the past have 35 T h e In d ia n a rm y has received gu errilla tra in in g in actu al co m b a t w ith the sep aratist N agas a n d M izos of the n o rth ea stern territories, w hile Pakistani train in g has yet to be extensively tested. F o r a discussion of gu errilla w arfare in S outh Asia, a n d its relatio n sh ip to possible C hinese interests, w ritte n by a lead in g m em b er o f the P ra ja Socialist p a rty of W est B engal, see P ra d ip Bose, Sino-Pak Collusion and East Pakistan (C a lc u tta : S am ajw adi P rak ash an i, 1966), pp. 9 ff.; see also Brines, The Indo-Pakistani Conflict, pp. 415—416, 419, 427. 36 B oth in W est Bengal a n d in E ast P ak istan th e m ore m ilita n t stu d e n t groups have sou g h t to (1) p ara ly ze the ed u catio n al system in a n effort to create g re a te r m ilitan cy am o n g B engali stu d en ts; (2) entice th e m ilita ry a n d police into o pen co n fro n tatio n in a n effort to “ expose” the repressive n a tu re of g o v e rn m e n t; (3) ally w ith p e asan t a n d tra d e u n io n groups on a n ad hoc basis in a n effort to in d u ce such groups to resort to violence; (4) in tro d u c e rev o lu tio n ary slogans based on analogies to C h in a a n d V ie t­ n am . F o r evidence, cf. th e analysis in C h a p te r 6 a n d the descriptions o f the E ast P ak istan stu d e n t m ovem ent in th e Pakistan Observer, O cto b er 1, 1969; Eastern Tribune (D acca), O c to b er 3, 1969; a n d Holiday, O c to b er 12, 1969.

268

COMMUNISM IN A BENGALI ENVIRONM ENT

refused to com prom ise w ith the electoral, b ureaucratic, an d m ilitary regimes o f the post-Independence period. In short, the Bengali stu d en t atm osphere is one th a t thrives on revolutionary an d protest strategies bu ilt aro u n d regional dem ands. For C om m unist p a rty m em bers w ithin Pakistan, the strategy o f the M aoists is especially appealing, despite its m illenarian character. T h e adoption o f such a strategy lessens the dependence o f the Com m unists on the established political parties an d the “ vested interests” allied w ith the governm ent, w hile it sim ultaneously carries w ith it an appeal to the influential and potentially revolutionary student groups in E ast Pakistan. A t the same time, a M aoist strategy could align Com m unists w ith the strong regional feelings an d interests o f Bengalis in a m an n er th a t does not ru n counter to (but does not depend on) attach m en t to Islam . In the changed conditions of in tern atio n al com m unism , and in light of the increasing political frustrations of Bengal, it is conceivable th a t the N axalite com m unist m ovem ent could grow in East Pakistan in m uch the same m an n er as it has in W est Bengal. W hile m any of its followers w ait for changes in the dom estic politics of In d ia an d Pakistan to th ru st N axalites into positions of political influence, the leadership of the m ovem ent could be building a m ore substantial C om m unist following. Paradoxically, it is the present organizational weakness of the com m unist m ovem ent in Pakistan th a t makes a M aoist strategy m ore appealing to dom estic C om m unists th an any of its alternatives. C o n c lu sio n s A t the beginning of this book I p u t three broad and im p o rtan t sets of questions whose answers w ould, it was hoped, give direction to further study of the n atu re of com m unism in W est Bengal an d in In d ia : (1) W h at are the sources o f com m unism in W est Bengal? W hy have Bengalis been so active in the com m unist m ovem ent w hile other Indians have for the m ost p a rt sought alternative outlets for political expression an d participation? (2) W h at are Bengali C om ­ m unists attem pting to accom plish, an d how do they go ab o u t it? (3) W h at has been the im pact o f the Bengali com m unist m ovem ent on state an d on national politics, an d on the C om m unists th em ­ selves? In response to the first question I have argued th a t the sources of Bengali com m unism are prim arily regional, being intim ately related to the decline of Bengal in this century and to the Bengali search for a new regional identity and regional political power. T h e ability of Bengali revolutionaries to a d a p t com m unism and M arxism to their own regional traditions an d perceived political needs explains their

CONCLUSIONS

269

high level of involvem ent w ith com m unist and M arxist ideas, despite the absence of such involvem ent in m ost parts of India. T h e second question, concerning the goals of Bengali Com m unists, has m any answers. For reasons th a t have been explored in great detail, the Bengali com m unist m ovem ent has been continually w racked by intense factionalism , w hich has led it to tr y ' different political tactics and strategies, ranging from those of m illerfarian regionalists to those of the electoral politicians to those of in tern atio n al conspirators. In this atm osphere, the im pact of the m ovem ent has been confined prim arily to Bengal, even though events there have occasionally influenced the n a tu re of In d ian com m unism in a nu m b er of im p o rtan t ways. N ot only have Bengali C om m unists been unable to affect the course of in ter­ national com m unist m ovem ents, they are now heavily dependent on the Soviet U nion and C hina for extending their gains. These conclusions point to the need for research of a kind th a t m ight contribute to greater understanding of Bengali and In d ian com ­ m unism . Because this book has concentrated on a p articu lar regional m ovem ent in its national an d in ternational environm ent, it has been possible to do no m ore th an refer to the im portance of subregional factional groupings and interests. M uch m ore research is necessary before we can fully understand the effects of subregional factionalism in In d ia on regional m ovem ents. I have hinted a t the differences betw een the regional m ovem ent in Bengal and the one in the other In d ia n C om m unist stronghold in K erala and have pointed to the ways in w hich the Bengal and K erala regional m ovem ents have occasionally influenced one another, b u t regional studies of other In d ia n states, com parisons betw een com m unist m ovem ents in the various In d ian regions, an d analysis of the ways in w hich differing regional m ovem ents have interacted w ith one another are all topics th a t cry out for research. Finally, the lack of creativity am ong Bengali an d In d ia n C om m unists and the dependence of the In d ia n m ovem ent on foreign C om m unist parties as a result of dom estic failures m ust be explored in greater detail. A t a tim e w hen international com m unism is becom ing m ore and m ore variegated, we need to know m ore ab o u t the diversities w ithin dom estic com m unist m ovem ents.

POSTSCRIPT: 1970-1971

In late 1970 an d early 1971, while this book was in press, a n u m b er of significant events took place in both W est an d East Bengal. W hile it is still too early to analyze these events in g reat detail, the read er should be aw are of their occurrence, an d some effort should be m ade to relate them to the analysis presented in the preceding pages. O n D ecem ber 7, 1970, national an d provincial elections were held th ro u g h o u t Pakistan (East an d W est) for the purpose o f selecting a C onstituent Assembly th a t could d raft a new constitution an d retu rn the governm ent to civilian rule. In East Bengal, the elections indicated overw helm ing support for Sheikh M u jib u r R a h m a n ’s East Pakistan A w am i League ( e p a l ) , as the following table shows: T a b l e 10 E l e c t io n R e s u l t s, E a st P a k is t a n , D e c e m b e r 1 9 7 0

N atio n al Assembly No. Seats % V ote EPAL

P ro-M oscow leftists P ro -P ek in g n a p O th e rs T o tals

160 0 0 2 162

Provincial Assembly No. Seats % V ote

72.6 1.8 0.3 25.3

288 1 0 11

76.5 2.9 0.8 19.8

100.0

300

100.0

S ource: T a lu k d e r M a n iru z z a m a n , “ T h e Leftist M o v em en t in E ast P a k ista n ,” to be in clu d ed in a collection o f essays on regional radicalism in S o u th Asia ed ited b y P au l R . Brass a n d M arcu s F. F ra n d a .

T h e overw helm ing success of the East Pakistan A w am i League can only be explained in term s of the g reat upsurge o f Bengali regionalism th a t swept East Bengal in late 1970 an d early 1971. Before the 1970 elections, Sheikh M u jib u r R ah m an , w ho h ad spent a n u m b er of years in ja il u n d er the A yub K h a n regim e, h ad form ulated a six-point program of autonom y for East Pakistan, an d the e p a l p ro g ram had a ttracte d enorm ous po p u lar support. M oreover, Sheikh M ujib— as

POSTSCRIPT

271

he was know n affectionately in E ast Bengal— h ad preem pted the p o ten tial appeal of the pro-M oscow leftists in E ast Pakistan by prom is­ ing nationalization of banks, insurance com panies, an d big industrial enterprises, shares of ow nership to workers in small- an d m edium -scale industries, an d exem ption from lan d revenue for lower-class peasants in East B engal. 1 T h e M aoists in East Bengal were divided into too m any factions to provide an alternative to the E ast Pakistan A w am i L eague in 1971; m any of them were in any case opposed to p articip atio n in electoral politics. M ost o f the M aoists therefore jo in ed in an attem p ted boycott of the 1970 elections in E ast Bengal, b u t these efforts w ere generally acknow ledged to be a failure (57.7 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots despite the “ boycott” ). As negotiations betw een W est a n d E ast P akistan dragged on for four m onths after the 1970 elections, the A w am i League gained in popularity, while both the rightist and leftist parties becam e m ore an d m ore factionalized. Finally, in M arch 1971, the course of regional an d national politics in P akistan was p erm an en tly altered w hen federal troops (alm ost exclusively draw n from W est Pakistan) m oved brutally, swiftly, and decisively against the leadership of the e p a l . D u rin g the course of the next few m onths, Sheikh M ujib an d m ost of his closest political friends an d allies were either jailed or executed, an d the ensuing riots in East Bengal w ere quickly quashed by the arm y, the police, an d the air force, all controlled by W est Pakistan. T h e W est P akistan governm ent later claim ed th a t Sheikh M ujib h ad clandestinely attem p ted to bring a b o u t a coup in East Bengal while negotiating w ith the W est Pakistanis for a new C onstituent A ssem bly. 2 A ccording to this official governm ent version, the e p a l h ad engaged in excessive b ru tality against some arm y officers w ho h ad refused to accede to e p a l plans for a coup, thus forcing the W est P akistan governm ent to retaliate against e p a l leadership. Official statem ents by e p a l leaders deny plans for a coup an d argue th a t the W est P akistan governm ent ap p aren tly h ad no in ten tio n of gran tin g any degree of autonom y to East B engal. 3 Regardless of the circum stances surrounding the events o f the first an d second weeks of M arch 1971, it is clear th a t a new guerrilla m ove­ m en t has now been launched in E ast Bengal u n d er the leadership of e p a l leaders w ho were close to Sheikh M u jib u r R ah m an . T h e goal 1 M anifesto o f the E ast P ak istan A w am i L eague (D acca, 1970), pp. 1-13. 2 Christian Science Monitor, A pril 7, 1971, a n d A pril 23, 1971. 3 T h e position o f the e p a l lead ersh ip reg a rd in g th e events o f M a rc h a n d A p ril 1971 is d etailed in S. N . Sen, Bangladesh: The Truth (C a lc u tta : C a lc u tta U niv ersity B an g lad esh S ah ay ak S am iti, 1971); see especially pp. 17 ff.

272

POSTSCRIPT

o f this m ovem ent is the com plete secession of E ast Bengal from Pakistan an d the form ation of a new n ation to be know n as B angladesh (the country of Bengalis). A t the tim e of w riting (Ju n e 1971), guerrilla activities are still going on in E ast Bengal, b u t there is every indication th a t the W est Pakistan governm ent has restored a t least *tem p o rary order to the chaotic situation th a t prevailed in M a rc h .4 W hile a t first glance it w ould seem th a t the leftist parties w ould be able to capitalize on the renew al of revolutionary nationalism an d regionalism am ong Bengalis, their tactical an d strategic dilem m as rem ain unresolved. Since both M oscow an d Peking are supporting the W est Pakistan governm ent against the Bengali secessionist m ove­ m ent, both pro-M oscow an d pro-Peking leftists in E ast Bengal are now identified to varying degrees w ith R aw alpindi an d the W est Pakistan m ilitary. In order to rid themselves of this im age, they w ould have to ad o p t a secessionist slogan, b u t this w ould m ean a m ajor break w ith the leading in tern atio n al C om m unist powers. O n the other h an d , so long as the Com m unists in E ast Bengal rem ain allied to M oscow or Peking an d these m ajor powers continue in tu rn to support W est Pakistan, the ability of the Com m unists to take advantage of Bengali regional revolutionary fervor is seriously dim inished. As one m ight expect, factional struggles am ong leftists in E ast Bengal continue to revolve aro u n d this dilem m a, w ith no ideological solution yet in sight. 5 U nlike W est Bengal, w here the c p m has em erged as a m ajor regional political p a rty relatively in d ep en d en t of M oscow an d Peking, in East Bengal the regional aspirations of Bengalis have now been captured by a non-M arxist an d noncom m unist political p a rty w illing to engage in guerrilla w arfare (the e p a l ) . Some reports em anating from Pakistan w ould indicate th a t the W est Pakistan governm ent is attem p tin g to split the e p a l into two factions, w ith one faction willing to form a governm ent u n d er the tutelage of the Pakistan m ilitary an d the other faction leading the guerrillas, b u t even if this should hap p en , the leadership of both factions w ould still be non-M arxist an d n o n ­ com m unist. T h e result w ould still be— as I stated in the conclusion— 4 F o r a n acco u n t o f th e gu errilla strateg y o f th e e p a l , see H ira n m a y K a rle k a r, “ W a r W ith o u t E n d : M ilita ry Prospects in B angla D esh,” The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily ), A pril 24, 1971. O n th e cou n terin su rg en cy strateg y o f th e W est P ak istan g o v ern m ent, see J o h n W alker, “ W ill M ilita ry G lue R e p a ir P a k ista n ? ” Christian Science Monitor, M a rch 30, 1971. 5 F o r an account o f factional struggles am o n g leftist politicians in E ast B engal im m ed iately after the establishm ent o f the B angladesh m ovem ent, see C h a n d ra se k h a r S ark ar, “ M ukti Fouj [L ib eratio n A rm y] P repares for G u e rrilla W a r,” The Statesman, A pril 13, 1971. See also ibid., A pril 17, 1971.

POSTSCRIPT

273

a relatively unstable governm ental situation in East Bengal, coupled w ith a great deal of factionalism am ong the leftists an d a grow ing m illenarian urge am ong young political activists. As one m ight expect, the secessionist m ovem ent in East Bengal has h ad repercussions on the political situation in W est Bengal. But before assessing its im pact, it is necessary to bring the read er up to date on the electoral alignm ents th a t resulted from the M arch 1971 elections to the W est Bengal Legislative Assembly. T h e M arch 1971 elections were the result of a decision by Prim e M inister In d ira G andhi to link the 1971 In d ia n national elections to the state elections in those In d ia n states w here P resident’s R ule h ad been in effect. For this reason, three state Legislative Assembly elections (in Orissa, T am il N adu, an d W est Bengal) were held concurrently w ith the national Lok S ab h a elections in 1971. In the W est Bengal Legislative Assembly elections, the c p m was allied w ith four small M arxist Left parties an d four independent candidates in an electoral coalition know n as the U n ited Left F ront ( u l f ) , w hich succeeded in cap tu rin g a total of 123 of 277 seats (see T ab le 11). Allied against the c p m was a four-party electoral coalition led by the c p i , know n as the U n ited Left D em ocratic F ront ( u l d f ) , as well as nine other parties th a t succeeded in cap tu rin g a t least one seat each. W hile the u l d f could win only 25 seats in the state assembly, In d ira G a n d h i’s New Congress g arnered a total of 105 seats, an d these two totals, w hen com bined w ith the totals of other parties run n in g in d ep en d en tly of electoral coalitions, were enough to keep the c p m a t least tem porarily out of power. A fter the 1971 elections, a new state governm ent was form ed in W est Bengal, w ith nine political parties tenuously allied w ith each other in the m inistries, b u t this governm ent fell w ithin a m o n th .6 Perhaps the most significant aspect of the 1971 elections in W est B engal was the establishm ent of the c p m as the leading political p a rty in an electoral situation th a t was even m ore highly factionalized th an it h ad been before. Because of their b itter experience w ith the c p m d uring the two U n ited F ro n t governm ents, in 1971 none of the m ajor M arxist Left an d dem ocratic socialist parties of W est Bengal was w illing to ally 6 Six o f the nine parties in th e 1971 state coalition g o v ern m en t w ere rep resen ted in th e m inistries: th e N ew Congress, B angla Congress, G u rk h a L eague, M u slim L eag u e, p s p , a n d s s p . T h re e o f th e n in e p arties su p p o rtin g the m inistry chose n o t to be rep resen ted in th e m inistries: th e c p i , F o rw ard Bloc, a n d the O ld C ongress. T h e co m b in ed n u m b e r o f seats for the n in e parties in th e coalition was 141, 1 m ore th a n a m ajo rity if all 280 m em bers of th e state L egislative A ssem bly h a d been elected a n d 2 m ore th a n a m ajo rity in a 277-m em ber assem bly.

274

POSTSCRIPT

T a b l e 11 E l e c t io n R e su l t s, W e st B e n g a l L e g is l a t iv e A ss e m b l y , M a r c h 1971

P arty

N u m b er of Seats

% V otes

ULF CPM RCPI W PI FBM

B iplabi B angla C ongress In d ep e n d en ts allied w ith

cpm

111 3 2 2 1 4

'

32.4 0.5 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.8

ULDF CPI FB

su e GL

O th e r s N ew C ongress (In d ira G an d h i) O ld Congress (N ijalingappa) B angla Congress PSP SSP RSP

M uslim L eague J h a r k h a n d p a rty J a n S an g h In d e p e n d e n t can d id ates a n d unsuccessful parties T o tals

13 3 7 2

8.7 2.9 2.1 0.3

105 2 5 3 1 3 7 2 1

28.9 5.8 5.4 0.6 0.5 2.2 2.3 0.7 0.3

0 277a

4.9 100.0

a E lections w ere not held in th ree constituencies because o f th e death s of c an d id a te s d u rin g th e perio d of polling. S ource: The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily), M a rc h 15-20, 1971.

w ith it in electoral coalitions, and yet the c p m was able to expand considerably. A bandoned by its form er electoral allies, the c p m was forced to ru n candidates th ro u g h o u t the state, contesting in 236 of the 277 constituencies (85 percent), exactly two an d a h a lf times as m any constituencies as the p a rty contested in 1969 (97 of 280 constituencies, or 34 percent of the total). D espite this, the c p m not only expanded its percentage of the vote (from 19.6 percent in 1969 to 32.4 percent in 1971) and its percentage of the seats (from 29 percent to 40 percent), bu t it also established itself as the first or second p arty (in term s of votes received) in every district in the state except M idnapore and P urulia (see T able 12).

POSTSCRIPT

275

T a b l e 12 L e a d in g E l e c t o r a l P a r t ie s in W e st B e n g a l b y D is t r ic t , 1971 L e g is l a t iv e A s se m b l y E l e c t io n s

D is tr ic t

N e w C o n g re ss

CPM

L a r g e s t T h i r d - P a r t y V o te

ti

D arjeeling Ja lp a ig u ri C ooch-B ehar W est D in a jp u r M a ld a M u rs h id a b a d N a d ia 2 4 -P arg an as C a lc u tta H o w ra h H o o g h ly M id n a p o re P u ru lia B an k u ra B u rd w an B irb h u m

34.4% 32.2 44.9 41.2 29.6 24.6 26.4 26.1 41.2 27.2 27.4 25.0 41.6 28.4 24.1 19.3

30.0% 23.2 24.0 21.7 24.4 13.7 37.9 39.6 33.6 46.0 39.0 17.6 13.1 34.3 52.2 31.2

GL RSP FB RSP

O ld Congress RSP

B angla Congress CPI C PI FB

O ld Congress CPI LSS

B angla Congress O ld Congress B angla Congress

22.7% 10.8 20.5 11.0 12.3 12.7 6.6 10.0 10.3 11.5 9.1 20.2 15.2 12.8 7.4 12.5

S o u rce: The Statesman (C a lc u tta d aily ), M a rc h 10-15, 1971.

In contrast to the c p m , none o f the other form er u f p artners m ade electoral gains in 1971. T h e three largest parties aligned w ith the c p m in the 1967 and 1969 u f governm ents all suffered serious setbacks, w ith the B angla Congress losing 28 of the 33 seats it h ad won in 1969, the c p i losing 17 out of 30 seats, an d the F orw ard Bloc 18 ou t of 21. O f the sm aller M arxist Left an d dem ocratic socialist parties, only one (the sue) m anaged to oppose the c p m an d retain its previous electoral position, w hile the sm all parties th a t rem ained allied w ith the c p m either m ain tain ed or expanded their electoral positions. T h e electoral gains of the c p m in 1971 are undoubtedly impressive, b u t they m ust be analyzed in the perspective of the factional situation th a t existed d u rin g the period of polling. Because of the inter- an d in tra ­ p a rty feuding th a t h ad resulted from the two u f governm ents, none of the electoral alliances against the c p m was very effective, an d the leading anti-cPM force in the state (the New Congress) refused to join electoral coalitions. T h e result was a series of four- or five-cornered contests in virtually every constituency in the state, w ith the c p m and N ew Congress opposed in alm ost every instance by two or three sm aller M arxist Left or dem ocratic socialist parties. In this atm osphere,

276

POSTSCRIPT

the c p m could win 1 1 1 seats w ith an average vote p er constituency of only 31 percent, while the New Congress could w in 105 seats w ith an average constituency vote of 27.6 p ercen t. 7 H a d effective electoral alliances been m ade against the c p m , the p a rty certainly w ould have suffered considerably in term s of seats won. • In short, while the c p m did m ain tain its position as one of the leading electoral forces in W est Bengal, th a t position is by no m eans secure. T h e p a rty was able to best its form er u f partners in constituencies th a t h ad been m arked by in te rp a rty feuding, b u t its show ing in this respect was no t conclusive. M oreover, while the c p m did depend to a g reater extent th an ever before on votes from ru ra l areas, the vast m ajority of these ru ra l gains w ere in constituencies ad jacen t to those the p a rty h ad won in previous elections (B urdw an, B ankura, H ow rah, H ooghly, N adia, an d 24-P arganas). T h e election results have th ere­ fore been subject to different interpretations, w hich have in tu rn kindled the ever-present factionalism w ithin the c p m . Since the form ation of the 1971 state governm ent (known as the D em ocratic C oalition), three m ajor issues have occupied the atten tio n of the political leadership o f W est Bengal: 1) the question of recognition o f the B angladesh governm ent in E ast Bengal; 2) strategies for dealing w ith the massive influx of new refugees from E ast B engal; an d 3) policies proposed to restore an atm osphere of law an d order in W est Bengal. Since the resolution o f each of these issues obviously requires the cooperation of the central governm ent, an d since issues related to the future status of B angladesh involve questions of foreign policy, the new governm ent in W est Bengal found itself increasingly entangled in national an d in ternational political affairs. In the w ake of these developm ents, the C om m unist an d M arxist Left parties of W est Bengal experienced new in tern al factionalism . Recognition o f Bangladesh As was the case in the N igerian civil w ar w hen Ibo leaders attem p ted to establish the new state of Biafra, the leaders of the Bangladesh m ovem ent consider in ternational recognition to be of the utm ost im portance. As soon as the secessionist governm ent was established in East Bengal in M arch 1971, appeals w ere sent to all the m ajor powers and to several other countries for im m ediate recogni­ tion of Bangladesh. A fter each of these appeals was rejected— by the 7 A detailed analysis o f th e 1971 elections to th e W est Bengal L egislative A ssem bly a p p ea rs in J o h n O . Field a n d M arcu s F. F ra n d a , An Electoral Profile o f the Communist Parties o f West Bengal (N ew D elhi: M a n o h a r Book P ublishers, fo rth ­ com ing).

POSTSCRIPT

277

U n ited States, by the Soviet U nion, by the Chinese, and by every other country th a t was contacted— the Bangladesh leadership began to exert enorm ous pressure on In d ia, on the grounds th a t recognition by In d ia w ould set in m otion a series of events th a t w ould lead to recognition by other countries. 8 M oreover, as guerrilla activities against the W est Pakistan m ilitary began to spread, the B angladesh leadership becam e increasingly aw are of its dependence on In d ia for arm s, for refuge, an d for food an d other supplies in the event of a p ro tracted conflict. F aced w ith a situation th a t could potentially involve both civil and in tern atio n al w ar for In d ia, the new In d ia n governm ent acted quickly b u t calm ly. T h e In d ian P arliam en t passed a unanim ous resolution expressing its sym pathy an d support for the people of East Bengal (but w ithholding recognition of Bangladesh), an d the In d ian M inistry of E xternal Affairs m ade a n u m b er of overtures to the Secretary-G eneral of the U n ited N ations, calling for his personal intervention although refusing to take the m a tter up form ally w ith the G eneral Assembly. In addition, the In d ira G andhi governm ent, an d especially the Prim e M inister herself, m ade every effort to range w orld opinion against the alleged barbarities of the W est Pakistan governm ent, a t the same time m aking elaborate plans for the accom m odation of as m any as five m illion new refugees from East Bengal. A t one point, shortly after the B angladesh governm ent was established, it was estim ated th a t New D elhi was spending m ore th an h alf a m illion rupees per day for the reh ab ilitatio n of new refugees. 9 T h e actions of the In d ira G andhi governm ent were im m ediately debated by radical politicians in both East and W est Bengal and at least for the tim e being served to divide the opposition. N axalite theoreticians generally argued th a t the ultim ate goal of the In d ira G andhi governm ent was the establishm ent of a bourgeois regim e in East Pakistan led by Sheikh M u jib u r R a h m a n and the e p a l , a prospect th a t the N axalites viewed as “ no alternative to Y ahya K h a n .5’ 10 Both the c p m and c p i in W est Bengal took m ore m oderate public positions, simply arguing th a t In d ira G andhi was not as con­ cerned w ith the situation as she m ight be, b u t both parties were too divided internally to provide a clear counterproposal. T h e K erala u n it of the c p i — less em otionally involved th an the Bengalis— was able to stage a “ Bangladesh D ay ” on M ay 15, 1971, the purpose of w hich was to persuade the In d ia n governm ent to recognize Bangladesh 8 See K u ld ip N a y ar, “ N ew D elhi a n d B an g lad esh ,” The Statesman, M a y 5, 1971. 9 K u ld ip N a y ar, “ T h e U n e n d in g S tre am o f Refugees from B an g lad esh ,” ib id ., M ay 12, 1971. 10 Q u o te d in a letter to the a u th o r from a N ax alite theoretician, M a y 3, 1971.

278

POSTSCRIPT

a t once and to provide “ all m aterial and m oral support to the people who are struggling to free themselves from W est P akistan’s subjugation .” 11 ' In the face of criticism an d protest, In d ira G andhi herself m aintained an aggressive posture, traveling to the b order areas of W est Bengal for a series o f public m eetings w ith refugees an d freedom fighters. D uring these appearances, she argued th a t the question of refugees was of far m ore im m ediate im portance th a n the question of recognition. In her words, “ T h e m ain consideration [for In d ia n policy] should be the question of w hether recognition by In d ia will help the B angladesh people. . . . I think it will not help them a t this tim e . . . recognition should no t be given a t the w rong tim e.” 12 Surprisingly, the m ajor opposition to In d ira G a n d h i’s policy did no t come from the radical an d leftist parties of W est Bengal b u t rath e r from the new state coalition governm ent, led by the New Congress. In a Bengali New Y ear’s D ay message broadcast by A ll-In d ia R adio from C alcutta, the D eputy C hief M inister of the new state governm ent (M r. Bijoy Singh N ah ar, a leading m em ber of the N ew Congress in W est Bengal), called for stronger In d ia n m easures in support of Bangladesh, and a few weeks later the C hief M inister of the new governm ent (Ajoy M ukherjee) introduced a resolution in the state Legislative Assembly dem anding the im m ediate recognition of the B angladesh governm ent by In d ia . 13 By J u n e 1971, therefore, both In d ira G andhi and the new state governm ent h ad coopted the popular appeal of this issue from the C om m unist and M arxist Left parties, although the potential for massive opposition to the state an d central governm ents was obviously enorm ous. The influx o f new refugees Even m ore worrisome for the In d ia n governm ent th a n the question of recognition is the continuing influx of new refugees from East Bengal. O n this issue the In d ira G andhi governm ent has taken the position th a t it will provide tem porary assistance b u t th a t new refugees will have to retu rn to East Bengal as soon as possible. Em phasizing th a t In d ia is a poor country, the Prim e M inister has w arned the refugees th a t they should not expect to rem ain in In d ia for long periods of tim e b u t should instead m ake plans for achieving “ n o rm ality ” in East B engal. 14 A t the same tim e, 11 The Statesman, M ay 13, 1971. 12 Ib id ., M a y 18, 1971. 13 A n acco u n t of N a h a r ’s address ap p ears in ibid., A pril 18, 1971. D etails o f the W est B engal A ssem bly resolution are in ib id ., M a y 8, 1971. 14 Christian Science Monitor, A pril 29, 1971, a n d M a y 20, 1971.

POSTSCRIPT

279

the governm ent has sought in tern atio n al assistance for the refugees an d has expressed the hope th a t “ in tern atio n al bodies m ight create conditions for the evacuees to re tu rn to their h o m elan d .” 15 T h e cu rren t refugee problem in In d ia is com plicated by the fact th a t m any of the refugees from East Bengal conceive of themselves as guerrilla fighters, w ith varying degrees of loyalty to In d ia an d W est Bengal. M an y of these people are in search of w eapons an d am m unition in In d ia an d are therefore willing to engage in a variety of activities th a t can only ad d to the already acute problem of civil disorder in W est Bengal. M oreover, since the Pakistan arm y has an interest in stopping this flow of potential guerrillas back an d forth betw een the two countries, Pakistani soldiers have frequently fired on people attem pting to cross the border, w ith the result th a t a nu m b er of incidents betw een Pakistani an d In d ia n soldiers have occurred. Both In d ia an d Pakistan have expressed the fear th a t such incidents m ight lead to w ar . 16 The question o f law and order In an effort to cope w ith the problem of law an d order in W est Bengal, the central governm ent has now prom ulgated a new ordinance p erm ittin g preventive detention, despite the trad itio n al opposition to preventive detention on the p a rt of m any people in W est Bengal. In the short tim e it was in pow er, the state governm ent attem p ted to restructure an d revive the intelligence w ing of the state H om e M inistry, w hich was seriously dislocated during the period of the two U n ited F ro n t governm ents, taking the position th a t “ perhaps certain unconventional m ethods need to be a d o p ted ” to deal w ith the problem of law an d order in the state. 17 As one m ight expect, these activities of the state an d central governm ents have m et w ith intense protest from the c p i , c p m , an d N axalites. As this book goes to press, the c p i is leading a m ovem ent in the Lok S ab h a to defeat the preventive detention ordinance, the c p m is protesting the fourth declaration of P resident’s R u le in the state, an d the N axalites are intensifying their efforts to kill police officers, p a rty workers, an d electoral candidates.

15 The Statesman, M ay 18, 1971. 16 O n the disputes betw een In d ia a n d P akistan over th e question of B anglad esh , see D enzil Peiris, “ In d ia Studies A rm ed A id for E ast P a k istan ,” Christian Science Monitor, M a y 28, 1971; Q u tu b u d d in Aziz, “ Pakistanis Sift Foreign R e a c tio n ,” ib id ., A pril 19, 1971; a n d D enzil Peiris, “ P ak istan a n d In d ia D eescalate,” ibid., M a y 3, 1971. 17 The Statesman, M ay 15, 1971.

INDEX

A c h ary a , S nehengsu, 98 A h m a d , M u z affa r, 13fn., 66, 82 as fo u n d er o f c p i in B engal, 24-27 A h m a d , Z. A ., 101 A h m ed , F a k h ru d d in Ali, 200fn. A lb a n ia n p a rty of L ab o r, 146 A li, A ru n a Asaf, 234 A li, M o h a m m e d , 23 A li, S h a u k a t, 23 A ll-In d ia C o o rd in atio n C o m m ittee of C o m m u n ist R ev olutionaries ( a i c c c r ) , 169-170 A ll-In d ia K isan S a b h a ( a i k s ) , 29, 7 8 -7 9 , 228 A ll-In d ia S tu d e n t F e d e ra tio n ( a i s f ) , 29, 61fn., 62fn., 63 A ll-In d ia T ra d e U n io n Congress ( a i t u c ) , 29, 228-230 A n d h ra P rad esh , 82, 91, 230 M aoists in, 169, 175, 221, 253-257 u n ite d c p i in, 46, 51, 57, 59, 90, 96, 152 A n u sh ilan S am ity, 15-16, 22, 6 5 -6 6 , 170 A ssam , 57, 58fn., 91, 96, 152, 180, 221 A w am i L eag u e, 262fn., 265, 270—273. See also R a h m a n , Sheikh M u jib u r Bakshi, J a h a r la l, 27fn. B anerjee, K am ak sh y a , 155, 156fn., 158, 168fn. B anerjee, S u b o d h , 193 B angla Congress, 115-118, 168 a n d alliances, 258, 273fn. a n d c p m , 225, 230-231 in elections, 123-126, 274-275 fo rm atio n of, 141-147 role in u f g o vernm ents, 187-188, 191, 197-198 B angladesh, 270-273. See also E ast B engal; E ast P akistan B a n k u ra D istrict, 50-51, 102, 197, 275-276 B a sa v ap u n n iah , M ., 95, 205, 208fn. Basu, J y o ti, 51, 130-131, 200fn. b io g rap h y , 40-41 a n d c p i after 1964, 225 as p a rty lead er, 6 5 -6 6 , 7 5 -7 6 , 247 p o litical skills, 34, 36, 37

role in 1964 split, 82, 85, 8 7 -8 8 , 94, 105, 107-110, 112-113, 208fn., 212 a n d u f g o v ernm ents, 145, 150fn., 151, 179, 186-187, 201fn., 207fn. B engal bundh (1966), 132-135, 141 B engal fam ine of 1943, 12, 29, 136 Bhadralok, 7-41, 59, 68, 164, 174, 244-245, 255, 261 B h a d u ri, P a n c h u G o p al, 65 B h a d u ri, S a tin a th , 27fn. B h ag at, B. R ., 171fn. B haksh, K h u d a , 37fn. B hash an i, M a u la n a , 262 B h a tta c h a ry a , K a n a i, 132 B h u ta n , 57, 152 B iafra, 276 B ihar, 9, 91, 140, 154, 175, 177, 180, 221-222 B irb h u m D istrict, 102, 247, 275 Bolshevik p a rty , 13, 28, 122, 230 B om bay N a v al M u tin y , 47 B o rm an , R e b o ti, 20 Bose, D ilip, 102fn., 245fn. Bose, M rin a l K a n ti, 36fn. Bose, N ira n ja n , 167 Bose, P ra d ip , 267fn. Bose, S a ra t C h a n d ra (b ro th e r of S u b h as), 3 6 -3 8 , 49, 52, 259fn. Bose, S u b h as C h a n d ra , 11, 13, 155, 163 as i n a lead er, 35, 47, 66 a n d M arx ism , 13, 26, 28, 117 B ritish ru le, 8 -1 1 , 16-22, 35, 6 5 -6 6 B room field, J o h n , 7, 11 B uddhism , 10 B ulg an in , N ikolai, 55 B u rd w an D istrict, 50, 53, 99, 197fn., 275-276 as Left faction stro n g h o ld , 78-80, 9 5 -9 6 , 101, 107, 247 B u rm a, 8, 35 C a lc u tta , 8, 65, 82, 97, 161 C a lc u tta U niversity, 9, 21, 25, 32, 61, 67, 74, 271fn. C a lc u tta C o rp o ratio n , 9, 13, 61fn. econom y of, 12, 58, 137-138, 200-201 elections, 34, 53, 247, 275

282

INDEX

C a lc u tta ( continued) in tellectuals, 30, 40, 153 M aoists in, 253 tra d e unions, 24, 195 violence in, 16, 35, 48—51, 88, 134 C aw n p o re conspiracy tria l, 25, 103 ff. C h a k ra v a rti, R e n u , 9 8 -9 9 , 104, 234 C h a k ra v a rty , N rip en , 65 C h a n d ra sh e k h a r, S., 252fn. C h a tterje e, B ankim C h a n d ra , 21, 30 C h a tterje e, B o u d h ay an , 221fn. C h a tterje e, G a u ta m , 221fn. C h a tterje e, Jo g e sh C h a n d ra , 27fn. C h a tterje e, S a ra t C h a n d ra , 30 C h a u d h u ri, H . N ., 52 C h a u d h u ry , A shraf-ud-din, 28fn. C h in a, P eople’s R e p u b lic of, 4, 4 6 -4 8 , 85, 152, 268-269 in terest in B engal, 3, 86-87, 129-130, 272-273 policy in S o u th Asia, 170-171, 2 15-216, 259-261, 276 as rev o lu tio n a ry exam ple, 238-239, 256-257 a n d S in o -In d ia n b o rd e r disp u te, 8 9 -9 0 , 9 2 -9 9 C hinese C om m unist p a r t y ( c c p ) , 4 5 -4 6 , 48 a n d Left faction, 57, 92-98 a n d S in o -In d ia n b o rd e r dispute, 83, 8 9 -9 0 su p p o rt o f N axalites, 170-172, 208-209 C h itta g o n g A rm o u ry R a id (1930), 13, 16-17, 19-20, 170 C h o u E n -lai, 90, 9 3 -9 4 C h o w d h u ry , Benoy, 101 C h u n d e r, P ra ta p , 234fn. C o m in tern , 13, 22-25, 27 C o m m u n al tensions, 9, 12, 27, 47 C o m m u n ist consolidation m ovem ent, 13, 19, 65 C o m m u nist p a rty of G re a t B ritain ( c p g b ) , 25, 40, 54-55, 95, 242 a n d c p i after 1964, 215 a n d R ig h t faction, 64, 82, 97, 149 C o m m u nist p a rty o f In d ia ( c p i ) before 1964, 22-25 electoral gains, 120-123 factionalism in, 4 3 -4 4 , 53-60, 75-81, 82-113 m em bership, 13-14, 2 8 -2 9 , 69-70 o rg an izatio n , 40-41, 58, 64-65, 6 8-81, 90-91 split (1964), 6, 45, 73, 82-113, 128, 150

strateg y , 4 8 -6 0 , 70-71 after 1964, 5, 14, 31-32, 8 5 -8 6 , 274 alliance w ith B angla C ongress, 145-146, 273fn. • on B angladesh, 277-278 a n d C ongress, 232^238, 279 a n d c p m , 198-199, 226-232, 238-241 a n d decline o f R ig h t factio n , 6 0 -6 4 o rg an izatio n , 219-220 strategy, 218-232 tra d e unions, 194-195 C o m m u n ist p a rty o f In d ia —M arx ist ( c p m ) , 5, 14, 76fn., 82, 272, 275-279 alliances, 146-148, 150-151, 183, 273-275 arrests (1965), 129-131 a ttitu d e s to w a rd c p i , 182, 215-217, 220-230, 238-241 a n d B engal bundh (1966), 132-135, 141 on c en ter-state relations, 204-206 centrists in, 104—113, 150 a n d electoralists, 39 -4 1 , 45, 8 5 -8 6 ideological d eb ates in, 208-214, 276-277 leadership of, 6 -7 , 14, 31-32 links to terro rist m o v em en t, 14-20, 45, 66-67 N axalites in, 151-170, 180-181, 203 relations w ith u f p a rtn e rs, 186-190, 197-201 strateg y , 190-192, 202-204, 2 07-208 C o m m u n ist p a rty o f In d ia -M a rx is tL eninist ( c p m l ) , 215, 247, 252-257 c p i view of, 238-241 fo rm atio n , 168-172 im p a c t, 176-181 p ro g ra m , 172-176 C o m m u n ist p a rty o f th e Soviet U n io n ( c p s u ) , 44, 45, 242. See also Soviet U n io n an d B angladesh, 270-272 a n d c p i after 1964, 208, 215, 2 40-241, 257-258 a n d R ig h t faction, 57, 64, 8 1 -8 2 , 97 a n d S in o -In d ia n b o rd e r disp u te, 83, 87, 8 9 -9 0 , 92 C o m m u n ist strategies in W est B engal, 4, 4 1 -4 4 , 4 6 -4 7 , 242-2 4 4 electoral alliances, 6, 121-148, 172-176, 20 8 -2 1 4 , 273-275 C ongress p a rty , 3 6 -3 7 , 41, 61. See also N ew C ongress; O ld Congress

INDEX

ag g reg ativ e n a tu re , 1-2, 18-19, 115, 250-251 a ttitu d e s to w a rd alliances, 126-127, 2 2 5 -2 2 6, 255-258 a n d C om m unists, 55-56, 59, 68-81, 190, 217, 238-241 electo ral activities, 34, 3 8 -3 9 , 89, 114-148 factionalism in, 47, 115-118, 141-148 a n d N ax alites, 172-175 split (1969), 1, 232-238 re c ru itm e n t o f terrorists, 17-19 a n d u n ite d c p i , 28-29 W est B engal split (1966), 115 ff. C oo ch -B eh ar D istrict, 247 C o rru p tio n , 2, 37, 63 C u b a , 98fn., 173, 211-212, 256 C u rzo n , L o rd , 9 C zechoslovakia, 220-221 D an g e, S. A ., 74, 93 a n d c p i a f t e r 1964, 220-221, 228, 229, 239 a n d “ D an g e le tte rs,” 103-104 a n d p a rty factionalism , 9 7 -1 0 0 , 102, 106, 108-110, 112-113 D arjeelin g D istrict, 76, 86, 246-247 elections in, 3 3 -5 3 , 120 N ax alites in, 57, 152, 155, 157, 171 D as, C h itta ra n ja n , 26, 163 D as, P h a n i, 156fn. D as G u p ta , A m iya, 218 D asg u p ta, B ib huti, 231 D as G u p ta , P a n n a la l, 48, 221fn. D as G u p ta , P a rim a l, 167 D as G u p ta , P ra m o d e, 48, 202fn. b io g rap h y , 15, 65 -6 6 a n d c p i after 1964, 225, 247 as L eft faction lead er, 82, 85, 101, 107-110, 112, 113 a n d N axalites, 157, 166-168 170 as p a rty o rg an iz atio n leader, 40, 6 4 -6 5 67, 70, 73, 75-76 a n d u f g o v e r n m e n t s , 146, 150-151, 195 D e, N irm a le n d u , 142-144 D em o cratic C oalitio n , 276, 279 D em o cratic V a n g u a rd p a rty , 122, 124 D em o n stratio n s, 7 Iff. D esai, M o ra rji, 233, 234fn., 235 D h a ra , Sushil, 145 D u rg a p u r, 177-180 D u tt, B h u p e n d ra N a th , 22 D u tt, K a lp a n a , 17fn.

283

D u tt, R . Palm e, 21, 30, 102fn. as p a rty th eo retician , 54-55, 57, 82 D u tta , K a ly an , 221fn. D u tta , Saroj, 167 D u tta , U tp a l, 74fn., 245fn. »

E ast B engal, 12, 25, 65. See also c B an g lad esh ; E ast P akistan C o m m u n ist a n d L eft parties in, 3, 14, 58fn., 258-268 270-273 refugees in, 59, 135-136, 155 276-279 E ast P akistan, 10, 19, 33-34, 47, 270-273, 276-279. See also B angladesh; E ast Bengal E ast P ak istan A w am i L eague ( e p a l ) . See A w am i L eague E d u c a te d u n em p lo y m en t, 12, 177 E lections, W est B engal 1946, 33, 34 1952, 34, 36, 38, 52-54, 115, 115fn., 117, 119-123 1957, 83-84, 115, 115fn., 119-123, 128, 180 1962, 115, 115fn., 119-123, 125, 128, 180 1967, 89, 114, 115, 115fn., 117, 119-121, 123, 125-128, 135, 144-148, 150-151, 176fn., 180, 197, 221-222 1969, 114, 115, 115fn., 117-121, 127-128, 176fn., 221-222 1971, 273-275 E lectoralists, 3 3 -4 1 , 56-57, 73-81 E litist n a tu re of co m m unism in W est B engal, 4, 6 -7 , 41—44, 244-245 F azlul H u q , A. K ., 10, 25 F ood shortages, 47, 52, 129, 166, 177 policy on, 84-89, 135-141 F o rw a rd Bloc, 132 alliances, 129, 145, 230, 236, 273fn. a n d c p i before 1964, 29, 52, 66, 121-122

electoral activities, 117, 125-126, 247, 274-275 fo rm atio n , 13, 28fn. in u f governm ents, 187-188, 195, 199 F o rw a rd Bloc—M arxist, 117, 122, 274 F o rw ard B lo c -R u ik a r, 117, 121—122, 266fn. F ran k el, F ra n cin e , 249-250 G a n d h i, In d ira , 126, 134, 202—203, 232-237, 273-274, 277-278

284

INDEX

G a n d h i, M o h a n d as K a ra m c h a n d (M a h a tm a ), 119, 120, 163fn. B engali view of, 8, 12, 18, 19 a n d co m m u n ist m ovem ent, 24, 32, 55 G an g u ly , H e n a , 163fn. G h a n i, A. M . O ., 252fn. Gheraos, 193 fT. G hose, K ali C h a ra n , 15fn. G hose, S. K ., 164fn. G hosh, Ajoy, 83, 102 as p a rty com prom iser, 54, 56, 76, 8 5-87 role in S in o -In d ia n b o rd e r dispute, 9 0 -9 2 , 96 G hosh, A tu ly a, 76, 89fn., 126, 142, 144, 233 G hosh, G anesh, 157 G hosh, K rish n a p a d a , 76fn., 195 G hosh, N iren , 100, 102 G hosh, P rafu lla C h a n d ra , 35, 36, 115 G hosh, S. M ., 49 G iri, V . V ., 202, 235-237 G o p a la n , A. K ., 77fn., 208fn. G o u ld , H a ro ld , 246 G u e rrilla w arfare, 29, 5 7 -5 8 , 66fn., 83, 171, 239, 253-257, 265-267, 271-272, 277-279 G u h a , S a m a r, 134fn. G u p ta , B hupesh, 85, 96, 100, 105, 107, 109, 110, 113 G u p ta , C h a ra n , 68fn. G u p ta , In d ra jit, 99, 108, 221fn. G u rk h a L eague ( g l ) , 120, 127, 195fn., 231, 246-247, 273fn. G u ru n g , N . L ., 195fn. H a id a r, G op al, 27fn. H a lim , A b d u l, 24 -2 5 , 27, 82 H ash im , A bul, 37fn. H in d u M a h a sa b h a , 119, 122 H in d u revivalism , 11-13, 21, 244-245 H o o g h ly D istrict, 53, 75fn., 78-80, 102, 247, 253fn., 276 H o w ra h D istrict, 50, 52, 53, 78-80, 247, 276 In d ia n A d m in istrativ e Service ( i a s ) , 61, 67, 204 In d ia n Civil Service (ics), 12, 61 In d ia n N a tio n a l D em ocratic F ro n t ( i n d f ) , 117, 128 In d ia n P eople’s T h e a tre , 28 In d o -P a k istan i conflict, 135 In su rrectio n ist line, 20, 48-53

In telle c tu a ls, 8, 12-13 a n d R ig h t faction, 2 0 -3 3 , 6 0 -6 4 , 2 17-218, 245, 249 Islam , K azi N a z ru l, 2 5-26 Ja in is m , 10 ' J a lp a ig u ri D istrict, 40, 247 J a n S angh, 119, 122, 146, 202, 222, 235, 237, 255 Jo sh i, P. C ., 17fn., 76 J u g a n ta r , 15-16, 170 K a b ir, H u m a y u n , 61fn. K a u l, Jo lly , 99, 106fn., 129 K e r, Ja m e s C am p b ell, 15fn. K e ra la , 60fn., 199fn. C om m unists in, 46, 105-107, 149, 169, 203-207 c p i in, after 1964, 2 2 5 -2 2 6 , 229, 237, 277-278 elections, 7, 9 0 -9 2 , 131, 221-223 im p a c t on W est B engal, 8 3 -8 5 , 95, 111, 129-134, 201-202 K h a n , A b d u r R ezzak, 24 K h a n , A y u b , 58fn., 261, 263, 270 K h a n , H a m id , 260fn. K h a n , Y ah y a, 58fn., 277 K h ila fa t a g itatio n , 2 3 -2 4 K h ru sh ch e v , N ik ita, 5 5 -5 6 , 94, 100 K o n a r, H a re K rish n a , 157, 175, 247 role in 1964 split, 82, 85, 208fn. trip to V ie tn a m , 94-95 as u f m inister, 185-187, 190, 207 K rish a k P ra ja M a zd o o r p a rty , 115 K rish n a M e n o n , V . K ., 197fn., 234 K ro p o tk in , P eter, 22 K u u sin en , O tto , 93 L a h iri, S o m n a th , 27, 33 as R ig h t faction lead er, 56, 85, 9 8 -9 9 , 112-113 role in c p i after 1964, 221fn. L a n d e d gen try , 12, 19 L andless peasants, 5 0 -5 1 , 57, 77-81, 153-168, 189-191, 227 L a n d red istrib u tio n m ovem en t, 8 4-190 L a n d reform , 153-154, 184-185 Laski, H a ro ld , 30 L atif, M o h a m m a d A b d u l, 75fn. L en in , V . I., 42 -43, 169 a n d the early co m m u n ist m o v em en t in B engal, 17, 20, 2 2 -2 3 , 27, 2 9 -3 0 Lewis, O scar, 246 Lok D al, 128

INDEX

Lok Sevak S an g h ( l s s ) , 120, 127, 231, 247 L y allp u ri, J a g jit Sing, 208fn. M a h ila A tm a R ak sh a S am ity, 28 M aity , S a c h in d ra , 197fn. M a jh i, A n a n ta , 227 M a ju m d a r, C h a ru , 156, 174-176 M a ju m d a r, K hokan., 155-156 M a lav iy a, H . D ., 234 M alav iy a, K . D ., 234 M a ld a D istrict, 53 M alik , K a d a u m , 156fn., 159 M a n ip u r, 57, 152 M aoism , 33, 43, 63, 149-181, 252-257 in P ak istan , 263, 270—271 M ao T se-tu n g , 4 2 -4 3 , 92, 98fn., 173-174, 213 w orks, 31, 162 M arcu se, H e rb e rt, 164 M arx ism , 6 2 -6 3 , 174 a p p ea l to bhadralok, 8-13 in tro d u c tio n in to B engal, 17-18, 2 0 -3 3 M arx ist L eft p arties, 114, 234, 266, 276, 278 alliances w ith C om m unists, 6, 8 7 -8 8 , 121-128, 135-148, 238 a n d c p m , 194-201, 223-225, 230-231 a n d electo ral politics, 2 -3 , 52-53, 115-121, 273-275 a n d N ax alites, 165-166, 173 o rg an iz atio n al problem s, 42, 62, 68fn., 132-133 origins, 18, 2 7 -2 8 , 117, 119 M asan i, M in o o R ., 54fn. M e e ru t trials, 25 M en o n , C. A c h u ta, 226 M id n a p o re D istrict, 50, 65, 189fn. a n d B angla Congress, 142, 144 elections in, 53, 224, 274 as R ig h t faction stro n g h o ld , 78-80, 99, 247 M ilitary , 58 in In d ia , 256, 260, 264, 266-267 in P ak istan , 271-272, 279 M u k erji, A b an i, 26 M u k h erjee, Ajoy, 5, 142-145, 198, 200fn., 201, 234, 278 M u k h erjee, A m rite n d u , 113 M u k h erjee, B isw anath, 99, 161fn., 162fn., 234 M u k h erjee, H ire n , 31-32 M u k h erjee, K . P ., 48, 52 M u k h erjee, S aroj, 82, 113 M u k h erjee, S u b h as, 221fn.

285

M u rs h id a b a d D istrict, 176, 247 M uslim L eague, 226, 273fn. M uslim s, 8 -1 1 , 2 3 -2 6 , 35, 47, 120, 155, 196-197 N a d a r, K a m a ra j, 232 N a d ia D istrict, 133, 276 N a g a la n d , 57, 130, 152, 171, 267fn. N ag ire d d y , T a rim e la , 169, 253-255 N a h a r, Bijoy Singh, 278 N a m b o o d irip a d , E. M . S., 74, 131 a n d c p i after 1964, 225-226 a n d 1964 p a rty split, 96, 102-103, 105-107, 109-110 a n d W est B engal, 8 3 -8 4 , 92-93 N a n d a , G. L ., 129-132, 134 N a ra y a n , J a y a p ra k a s h , 163fn. N a tio n a l A w am i p a rty ( n a p ) , 262, 265 N a tio n a l D em o cratic F ro n t ( n d f ) , 216-217, 219, 224 N a tio n a l p a rty of B engal, 128 N a x a lb a ri m ovem ent, 152-168, 176, 254 N axalites, 164, 168-181, 203, 217, 238, 267-268, 277, 279 N e h ru , J a w a h a rla l, 1 8 ,9 4 a n d B engal, 37, 4 9 -5 0 , 175 conflict w ith Peking, 83, 93, 96-97 c o u rted by M oscow , 55-56, 59, 86-87 a n d In d ia n com m unism , 30, 32, 90-92, 106 N ep al, 57, 152, 161 N ew Congress (In d ira G a n d h i), 201, 237, 273-276 N ew Z ea la n d C o m m u n ist p a rty , 146 N ig erian Civil W a r, 276 N ija lin g a p p a , S., 233, 234fn., 274 N o rth ea st F ro n tie r A gency ( n e f a ) , 57, 65, 89, 92, 96-97, 152 N o rth K o rea, 211—212 N o rth V ie tn a m , 94, 173, 211-213, 256 O ld C ongress (N ijalin g a p p a ), 273fn. O rissa, 9, 91, 175, 180, 221, 273 P a h a ria , Shib S h a ra n , 156fn. P ak istan , 14, 47 a n d B engal, 3, 3 3 -3 4 , 57, 140, 152, 2 58-268, 270-273, 277-279 a n d C h in a, 171, 276 elections o f 1970, 270—271 P ak istan C o m m u n ist p a rty ( p c p ) , 261-268 P al, Bepin C h a n d ra , 22 P a rtitio n o f B engal (1905), 9, 13

286

INDEX

P a rtitio n o f B engal (1947), 10, 12, 13, 33, 35, 47, 66, 135-136, 175, 2 44-245, 258-259 P atil, V a sa n tra o , 232 P a u l, M a k h a n , 231 P eo p le’s U n ite d Left F ro n t ( p u l f ) , 123, 145-146, 230 P eo p le’s U n ite d Socialist F ro n t ( p s u f ) , 121-122 P lek h an ov, G. V ., 22 Police, 36 co m p etence of, 58, 67, 70—73 a n d M aoists, 256, 279 in P akistan, 271 a n d u f governm ents, 156, 1 6 0 -1 6 2 ,2 0 4 in W est B engal, 47, 134 P ra ja Socialist p a rty ( p s p ) , 115, 122-127,155, 230-232, 257, 273fn. P ra m a n ik , M o n im ay a , 27fn. P re sid e n t’s R u le , 5, 84, 85, 126, 129-134, 180, 188, 199, 203, 273, 279 P reventive d e ten tio n , 36, 70 Price In crease a n d F a m in e R esistance C om m ittee ( p i f r c ) , 8 4 -8 8 Progressive M uslim L eag u e, 116, 118, 120, 124, 128 Progressive W rite r’s W orkshop, 28 P ro u tist p a rty , 128 P u n ja b , 27, 61, 90-91, 221, 255 P u ru lia D istrict, 120, 247, 274 R a d h a k rish n a n , S., 130 R a h m a n , M u jib a r, 156fn., 158 R a h m a n , Sheikh M u jib u r, 270-272, 277. See also A w am i L eague R a m a m u rth i, P., 208fn., 229 R a n a d iv e , B. T ., 76, 95 R a o , C. R ajesh w ar, 239 R a o , N . P ra sa d , 208fn. R a tn a m , K a m a la , 234 R e d d y , N . S anjiva, 202 R efugees, 12, 59, 135-136, 276-279 R e p u b lic a n p a rty , 122 R ev o lu tio n ary C om m unist C om m ittee, 254-255 R e v o lu tio n ary C om m unist p a rty of In d ia ( r c p i ) , 13, 117, 121-122, 236 R ev o lu tio n ary Socialist p a rty , 13, 117, 122, 187-188, 195, 199, 231, 236, 247 R o y , A nil, 27fn. R o y , B. C ., 49, 88fn., 94, 96, 107, 137, 234 R o y , B iren, 99

R o y , K a ly a n , 234 R oy, K h o k a , 65 R o y , K iro n S h a n k a r, 49 -5 0 , 234 R o y , M . N ., 2 3 -2 4 , 26, 2 4 2 ' R o y , R a n a jit, 225 R o y , S h a n ti S in h a, 129 R o y C h o w d h u ry , S ushital, 166 R u m a n ia , 213fn., 215, 258 S a m y u k ta Socialist p a r ty (ssp), 115, 124-125, 155, 195, 222, 230-232, 257, 273fn. S a n th a l, J a n g a l, 153, 155, 156, 158 S an y al, K a n u , 155-160, 163-164, 166, 169-170, 173, 175 S ardesai, S. G ., 93 S a rk ar, Benoy, 26 S a rk ar, N a lin i R a n ja n , 49 S a rk ar, S ip ra, 221fn. S a rk ar, S ushovan, 221fn. S a rtre, J e a n -P ^ u l, 164 S eg m en tatio n , 46, 80fn., 180-181, 206-207, 252-253 S ekhar, C h a n d ra , 232 -2 3 4 Sen, A m u ly a, 167 Sen, B how ani, 21, 56 as lea d er of R ig h t faction, 75-76, 85, 98-100, 102, 198fn. role in c p i after 1964, 226fn., 235 Sen, M o h it, 236, 240 Sen, N ira n ja n , 113, 208fn. Sen, P. C ., 101, 234fn. co rd o n in g schem e, 126, 131, 134, 136-140, 142, 147 Sen, R a n e n , 99, 100, 113, 226 Sikkim , 57, 152 “ Siliguri c o rrid o r,” 57, 130, 152 Singh, B ansia, 156fn. S ingh, J a tin , 158 Singh, M o n i L ai, 156fn., 160fn. S ingh, P ra lh a d , 156fn. S inha, B. C ., 52 Sino-Soviet conflict, 82-113 Socialist p a rty , 121-122 Socialist R e p u b lic a n p a rty , 52, 121-122 Socialist U n ity C e n tre (suc), 119, 122-123, 187, 193, 231, 236 “ Soviet C ritic s,” 220-221, 256 Soviet U n io n , 3, 30, 268-269 a n d B angladesh, 272 a n d c p i after 1964, 45, 215-217, 220-221 a n d c p m , 210-214 a n d N axalites, 172—173 a n d 1964 split, 9 0 -9 1 , 9 4 -9 7 , 100, 106-107

INDEX

a n d S in o -In d ia n b o rd e r dispute, 32, 8 9 -9 0 a n d S o u th A sia, 5 5 -5 6 , 171, 234, 2 58-261, 276 S p ra tt, P h ilip , 25fn. S trach ey , J o h n , 30 S tu d en ts, 33, 6 0 -6 5 , 254-255, 2 6 3 -2 6 4 , 267-268 S u h ra w a d d y , H . S., 136, 259fn. S u n d a ra y y a , P., 208fn. S u re n d ra n , Cl, 239 S u rjeet, H a rk ish a n S ingh, 208fn. S w a ta n tra p a rty , 119, 146, 202, 222, 235, 237, 255 Syed, K h a lil, 129 T a g o re , R a b in d ra n a th , 8, 22fn., 30 T a g o re , S a u m y e n d ra n a th , 27fn., 117 Tebhaga m o v em ent, 50 T e le n g a n a m o v em en t, 46, 51, 152, 253, 266fn. T e rro rist m o v em en t, 12-20, 5 9 -6 0 , 6 6 -6 7 , 216-217, 245, 249 T h o re z , M a u rice , 93 T ib e t, 57, 83, 8 5 -8 7 , 98, 152, 161 T ra d e u n io n s, 9, 53

287

as L eft faction stronghold, 50-51, 102, 133 U n ite d F ro n t governm ents, 5, 13, 40, 127, 149-181 ’ first (1967-1968), 157-162, 166, , 172, 176-181, 185 second (1969-1970), 186-187, 196-201, 230-231, 250-251 U n ite d L eft D em o cratic F ro n t ( u l d f ) , 273 U n ite d L eft E lection C o m m ittee, 122 U n ite d L eft F ro n t ( u l f ) , 123, 273 U n ite d N atio n s, 277 U n ite d Socialist O rg a n iz a tio n o f In d ia (usoi), 121, 122 U n ite d States, 3 foreign policy, 65, 89, 171, 215-216, 260, 276 as “ im p erialist aggressors,” 54-55 , 172-173, 211, 263 U tta r P rad esh , 221-222, 233, 245 V aishnavism , 10-12 V e n k a ta ra m a n , M . R ., 208fn. V iv e k a n a n d a , Sw am i, 21, 22, 30

CPI

before 1964, 24, 28-29, 32-33, 40, 68, 70 after 1964, 225, 227 c p m , 190-196 c p m l , 254-255 in P ak istan , 261 T rip a th i, K ., 233 T rip u ra , 57, 130, 152 2 4 -P arg an as D istrict, 141, 189fn. elections in, 53, 78-80, 144, 224, 2 75-276

W an g d i, S om an, 160 W ein er, M y ro n , 247 W est B engal S ecurity Bill (1948), 34-38, 52, 70, 132 W o rk e r’s p arty * 117-119, 122 W o rld W a r I, 22-23 W o rld W a r I I , 12, 28, 29, 33, 35, 45, 66, 119 Z h d a n o v line, 36, 48, 49, 54, 57 Z hukov, E. M ., 55fn.