50th anniversary of CPI (ML) Congress

Harsh Thakor


On May-15-16th 2020 we commemorate 50 years since the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) had its founding Congress to shimmer the first spark of the Chinese path of protracted peoples War in India which turned into a prairie fire.

The 1970 party Congress was the most defining event in India’s revolutionary history from a theoretical viewpoint. No event demarcated or distinguished from revisionism in such depth as USSR was still Socialist when Telengana Armed struggle was going on. For the 1st time path of Naxalbari and Great proletarian Cultural revolution demarcating from revisionism was formally acclaimed at an All-India scale. Path of protracted people’s war was adopted for the 1st time on an All-India basis. The architect of the path was none other than the legendary Charu Mazumdar. Contradiction between feudalism and masses was analyzed as the principal one and the state described as semi-colonial. In meticulous depth the formation of red army was dealt with. The 8th Congress was recognized by the communist revolutionaries in India and by the CPC under comrade Mao Tse-tung. Legendary Comrade Charu Mazumdar was elected general secretary. A truly historic event in the annals of Indian revolution.

A 20 member central committee was elected from several States like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Orissa and Jammu Kashmir. It included Suniti Kumar Ghosh,Saroj Dutta,Sushital Roy Chowdhury, Kanu Sanyal, Aseem Chaterjee(Bengal),Shiv Kumar Mishra and Mahendra Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Jagjit Singh Johal(Punjab),Satyanarayan Singh and Gurbaksh Singh (Bihar), Nagbushan Patnaik, Appal Suri and Vemapatu Satyanarayan, Adimala Kailasam from Andhra Pradesh,Kondraman (Tamil Nadu), Ambadi(Kerala),RP Saraf(Kashmir) Legendary Comrade Charu Mazumdar was elected general secretary.

The line adopted in the Congress is still the very basis of that practiced by the C.P.I.(Maoist) today. The 1995 special conference of the CPI (ML) Peoples War group, the 2001 unity conference of CPI (ML) Peoples War and the 2007 plenum of the C.P.I.(Maoist) are a continuation of it. Thus, 1970 May Congress was like the roots of all the later developments, which all owed their historic lineage to it.

Today it has great importance with sections trying to revise the essence of the revolutionary programme of path of protracted peoples war, reject India's mode of production as semi-feudal and semi-colonial and class it as capitalist, take imperialism as the principal contradiction by attributing bargaining power to the Indian state ,rejecting agrarian revolution as principal and contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses as principal etc. No event gave such crystallization to the path of Chinese protracted peoples War or converted the spark of Naxalbari into a Prairie fire as the 1970 Congress. Whatever great accomplishments the erstwhile CPI (ML) Peoples War group made in North Telengana,Karimnagar and Dandakarnya or erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L)Party Unity group made in Jehanbad-Palamau -Koel regions were sown in the very roots of the 1970 Congress.

Quoting Comrade Ganapathy, secretary of C.P.I.(Maoist) at the Congress of 2007 in ‘Peoples March’-April 2007.

“This Congress is a continuation of the 8Th Congress held by the CPI(ML) in 1970. That was a start of the new revolutionary stream which burst forth with Naxalbari.The Eighth Congress held by the CPI(ML) in 1970 was a start of the new revolutionary stream which burst forth with Naxalbari.Though the then MCC was not part of the 8thCongress,at that time the bulk of the revolutionaries were with the CPI (ML). The essence of the 8thCongress was to draw clear lines of demarcation with revisionism and the 7thCongress held by the CPI(M)."

"It established the task of New Democratic Revolution, the path of protracted people’s war, the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Te Tung Thought and saw the agrarian revolution as the axis of the revolution. Though the MCC differed on some tactical questions, on basic strategic and ideological issues, particularly on the key question of advancing the armed struggle, the two trends had similar common thinking”.

It is not a strange coincidence that this year we also commemorate 40 years since the peoples war was launched in Dandakaranya, 40th anniversary of the C.P.I.(M.L.) Peoples War party formation ,25th anniversary of the 1st special conference of the PWG in November 1995. and 2oth anniversary of the formation of the Peoples Guerrilla army. Historians in the Maoist camp can never forget the impact of the 1995 PWG special conference in shaping the course of later developments like formation of the Peoples Guerrilla army in 2000. In that conference it asserted that beyond doubt it was the continuation of the 8th Congress of 1970.

A controversial aspect is on the credibility of line of 'annihilation of the class enemy." fostered by Charu Mazumdar. Even Charu Mazumdar was firm on the point that he never meant individual asaasinations and he was misunderstood, which gives credence to the view that later Charu revised his line. I still very much doubt it when I read the reports of Kanu Sanyal and Sushital Roy Chowdhury or even Suniti Kumar Ghosh.Chandi Sarkar believed that inspite of errors, Charu Mazumdar's line of armed agrarian struggle was correct. Sushital Roy vehemently condemned the assassination by secret squads as anti-Leninist with an ultra-leftist trend merging in the party. He felt urban actions were most haphazardly or indiscreetly carried out. He gave a call to defeat the ultra adventurist trend within the party.

Strange that even the C.P.I.(M.L.) Party Unity or PWG did not reject "annihilation line" it completely and was only critical of the form the line adopted when negating mass participation. In other forms they still adopted this tactic. In the view of Party Unity "the line of annihilation the level of the political tactical line of struggle as the only line isolated the party from the people and enabled all other forms of struggle to be ignored. or condemned as revisionist. In the view of Peoples War Group, "There was no wrong in adopting it as a form of struggle; however, our deviation lay in making it a political tactical line which was regarded as a solution for all problems relating to class struggle. The problem is not whether class enemies were annihilated or not or whether the party would adopt other methods of struggle. As the revolutionary struggle develops further to encompass the whole country and enter the phase of liberation war, deployment of annihilation could become a very important method. Annihilation could be deployed as a form of counter attack against attacks of feudal lords on peasant activists in the countryside." The Party Unity group even if rejecting annihilation in relation to secret squads or negating mass movements, deployed selective annihilation of few class enemies to confront private caste based senas of landlords like Bhoomi Sena.

Even before the launching of armed struggle the Party Unity group felt that mass movements of landless peasantry or opressed castes could never be built up without the leverage of armed squads. Without the armed corpses the struggle of the Mazdoor kisan Sangrami Samiti would have collapsed or not built any striking power of the people. It was similar to the PEOPLES War Group preparatory experience in Bastar. Even if Chandra Pulla Reddy deffered armed struggle in East Godavri district his practice of resistance Struggle would never have precipitated without building of armed squads for self-defence. Even if not in peoples war without being armed it would not be possible to defend any possible democratic movement in Bastar region. It is still significant that PU group felt that 'mass movement will be the main form of movement for a relatively long time or even legal mass movement after making a comparative study of the Chinese situation with the formation of the united front between the CPC and KMT led by Sun Yat Sena and the Whampoa military academy. On the other hand, it stated “In strategic areas, with conducive terrain, armed struggle will become the main form of struggle in this period. Even if mass organizations were adopting legal and illegal forms of struggle, the direction of the mass movement should be towards the illegal and that should eventually become the main aspect of the mass movement."

Another important point was the demarcation with the Chinese revolution. In view of Party Unity "Our revolution will not be the same replica of China with India having its own peculiarities, like a centralised political system for long, greater penetration of capitalism, a larger urban based working class, and complex problems of nationality, caste and bigger obstacle of confronting revisionism." An innovation to Chinese path by PW group was that "The centralised character of the Indian state, would make it imperative to develop not one but several guerilla zones with base areas very difficult to build in the countryside. When guerilla zones become widespread, the Indian armed forces would have to get dispersed rather than concentrated and get engaged with the people’s army. Then the situation would be conducive for building liberated zones."

Sadly, a left sectarian stand was adopted with regard to utilization of parliamentary elections or tactical use with Boycott upheld as a strategic path. It categorized the entire Indian bourgeoisie as comprador and did not make a distinction with the national bourgeoise. There was also no sufficient agrarian revolutionary programme and mass organizations or legal fronts were totally disbanded. A wrong asessment was made that India would be liberated by 1975, with 3rd world war breaking out. Nagi Reddy was denounced as a counter-revolutionary. There was also lack of overall democratic centralism. The C.P.I. (M.L) disintegrated not because of the assassination of Charu Mazumdar as assessed by some but because of errors before 1972 itself. with one section veering towards rightist trend of Satya Narayan Singh and the other heading towards left deviation led by Charu Mazumdar.

Suniti Kumar Ghosh was critical of CM for his long silence regarding CPCs criticism of the CPI (ML) agenda. In his view although the criticisms were known to Charu Majumdar for a long time he did not act upon it. Suniti Ghosh felt it was unfair to blame Charu Majumdar for the mistakes attributing the errors to the entire CPI (ML) Party. Gosh never openly criticized Charu Majumdar for his errors but attributed it to party leadership as a whole. He was critical of many leaders and intellectuals for solely putting the blame on Charu. Sushital Roy Choudhary was very critical of the party's line terming it 'left-adventurist' and 'neglecting class and economic straggles'. "Sushital Roy Chowdhary pioneered the criticism of the left adventurist aspects of the C.P.I. (M.L) virtually creating a revolt within the C.C. by making the most objective analysis by all comrades. in an article. He felt that although it initially adhered to path of people’s war it went on to vitiate totally with left adventurist practice. He called for "resisting the ultra-left adventurist trend raising its head in the party."Sushital was very critical of talking of exclusive era of self sacrifice, authority of 'Charu"and isolated urban actions.

To me whatever gross errors in authoritarianism and bureuacratism or violating massline the 1970 Congress was a stepping stone in knitting the nucleus of a genuine Leninist party and giving Maoist path of armed revolution a genuine life.

A constructive self-criticism was adopted by Kondapalli Seetharamiah in a document of the Andhra Pradesh state Comitee in 1977 on the weaknesses of the line but still he principally supported its continuity with correction of aberrations. A very sound theoretical criticism was made by the C.P.I.(M.L.) Central Team on why the party disintegrated, losing its centralisation.

In the 1995 special conference of PWG a very important clause was added on aspect of caste which the party felt was neglected and had to be respected on equal footing with class. Greater emphasis was also placed on liberation of nationalities and oppressed communities, particularly Muslims.

The Maoist party places the contribution of the programme of the Maoist Communist Centre of 1969 on the same footing which is positive but self-contradictory. Afterall  Kanhai Chaterjee cannot be placed on the same pedestal as Charu Mazumdar or impact of CPI(ML)in it's time. Morally today Dandkaranya movement has it's roots in line of Charu Mazumdar. The Maoist Communist Centre did not have a self-criticism evaluation document like what Andhra Pradesh state Commitee made. Maoist Communist Centre never acknowledged the C.P.I. (M.L) of 1970, attributing no lineage to it. To me it is a contradiction to place the Contribution of the programme of the Maoist Communist Centre on the same pedestal or owing the root s of current Maoist movement to MCC on the same level as the C.P.I (M.L).

Strange that 2 parties claiming allegiance to Charu Mazumdar have totally gone 360 degrees on the path of 1970 Congress like the Liberation and Red Star factions of the C.P.I.(M.L.), totally disbanding path of armed revolution and towing the revisionist path of the left parties. Even if progressive they are towing parliamentary path. Although Chandra Pulla Reddy was expelled by Charu Mazumdar C.P.I.(M.L.) New Democracy group tooth and nail upholds his programme, which is praiseworthy. Significant that Kanu Sanyal's denunciation of Charu Mazumdar was the turning point in his capitulation to rightist path.

A significant development of groups that had their roots in 1970 Party Congress was the building up of various types of mass organizations and forums to involve broader sections after the APSC criticism of Kondapalli Seetharamiah.The most open experiment was the formation of the All India Peoples resistance forum in 1994 to crystallize broad based anti-imperialist movements even in agricultural sector. The fact that the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L.) Party Unity enabled supporters of Jayaprakash Narayan to form the major base of the Mazdoor kisan Sangrami Samiti in the early 1980's revealed it's open minded approach. The PU also opposed 'Mao Tse Tung Thought ' being part of a manifesto of a mass organization. Perhaps the infection the Maoist party has which was not corrected even by Kondapalli Seetharamiah was the approach and democratic practice within mass Organizations. Still mass organizations in Dandakaranya are compelled to proclaim party line in Constitution of party.

In April 1975 another important development took place which was the formation of the Unity Centre of Communist revolutionaries of India. It was guided by the path of Devullapali Venkateswar Rao who had written the immediate programme and basic documents of Indian revolution. This analysed and upheld agrarian revolutionary programmme and application of protracted peoples war in a more dialectical and thorough manner than the 1970 party Congress. It also emphasized the need for mass organizations and legal movements. It had a much sounder asessment of the subjective factors than the programme of the C.P.I.(M.L.) and greater accent on massline.The programme of DV Rao which was proclaimed by Tarimela Nagi Reddy became the basis for the basic documents of the Unity conference of the Commmunist Party Re-Organization Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist) in 1995 and thus commemorates it's 25th anniversary year. In this conference the essential massline of DV Rao-Nagi Reddy was polarised from right opportunism and a historic step in establishing the proletarian revolutionary line for re-organization of the party. Comrade Harbhajan Sohi was elected as the general secretary who earlier spilt the original UCCRI(ML) in 1979 on question of differing with the Dengist 3 words theory upheld by DV Rao. It's party programme based on DV Rao line had a much more comprehensive path for the working class in explaining how the proletariat would lead the revolution by connecting with the rural areas and its concrete forms of struggle. The Maoist trend feel DV Rao and Nagi Reddy were rightists but many Maoists uphold the revolutionary contribution of DV as a theoretician. DV Rao had greater grasp of essence of massline than any theoretician of his time, based on experiences of Telengana armed struggle. What is significant was the root in practices of massline in regions like Punjab, Orissa and earlier Andhra Pradesh by the CPRCI (ML) and its erstwhile constituents without launching armed struggle. I would recommend all cadres to study the basic documents of the path and programme of the Communist Party Re-Organization Centre of India (marxist-Leninist) which is theoretically the most correct and closer to massline than any other line proscribed by a revolutionary group in India.

The most important debate is whether subjective and objective factors exist for applying protracted peoples War in India. Whatever their outstanding achievements in confronting the state and establishing democratic governance in areas the C.P.I.(Maoist) cannot claim to have established a base are in Dandakaranya like Yenan where a genuine peoples self government is created and is spreading to regions of plains. The sheer practice or results in recent times are not conclusive whether the time is ripe for the formation of the red army or launching of the peoples war. On the basis of Chinese experience or later Phillipines ,Nepal or Peru it would be reformist to defer the armed struggle and separate the stages of partial struggles with armed struggle. However if we consider the still fragmented state of the party and weakness in agrarian movement one may well asess that peoples war still has to be deferred There may have been important victories in regions like in Karimnagar, North the past and Dandkaranya and parts of Jharkhand are shimmering with the red spark of liberation .However let us not forget the great setbacks in the late 1990's when the armed movement was swept of it's feet in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh and later in Lalgarh. In certain respects armed mass movement declined in Jehanabad because of armed actions and even in Orissa armed squad actions gave a setback to genuine democratic struggles. The mass massacres in recent years of Maoists in Orissa in 2016 and Chattisgarh recently could also teach us important lessons.

It is debatable whether India's geographical terrain is completely suitable for carrying out path of people’s war. China did not have so much variance in plain and forest areas or as much difference between tribals and peasants. Today with such penetration of artificial intelligence structure of Indian Society will be of great variance to pre-1949 China.

We cannot mechanically copy Chinese model of encircling the cities or building red army, in the age of telecommunication. In era of globalization perhaps some amendments need to be made to the 70 party programme like whether Chinese path is applicable to every region of India, the influence of imperialism and capitalism on agriculture, development of artificial intelligence and Fascisation of the Indian Society. Different tactics may have to be adopted in urban areas and possibly urban armed insurrections maybe imperative at a later stage. Intellectuals have to analyze concretely the nature of Indian semi-feudalism as warlords do not exist as in China before 1949 and India had the complexities of caste system and a disguised parliamentary democratic framework. The proletarian workforce is far more divided and mechanized than in China and cannot be organized using similar methods. With advent of globalization even our comprador bourgeoise may not function in the same pattern as before the Chinese revolution. Chinese path cannot be adopted in toto with feudalism not classical and regions without mountains. Arguably India may have to adopt something different from Chinese or Russian path.

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May 18, 2020

Harsh Thakor

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