Official Policy Of Class Collaboration But in Telangana there was a different, revolutionary line
There are several aspects of Quit India Movement (QIM) noteworthy like:
It was a movement that was full of contradictions: No party was united or consistent on that, neither Congress nor Communists nor others. No party could own it up or disown it in an unqualified manner. Because, among other things, every party had differences at the top, the bottom and between the top and the bottom. Every party had differences in roles before, during and after the Quit India events. Not only the then CPI, as often pointed out, but also RSS , Hindu Maha Sabha, Muslim League, BR Ambedkar , the SC Federation, and many princely states etc had all opposed Quit India, joined hands and co-operated with the British…. Quit India explodes several myths about the British being civilized rulers, India’s freedom movement being a non-violent movement, and about people of India – that they love peace, they are non-violent and that they could not revolt etc.
This is Part 2 that focuses on the role of communists.
Communists were condemned as anti-nationals, as betrayers etc. for their role during QIM. This was done by Congress leaders whenever it suited them, and by Sangh Parivar. Communist Party did commit blunders, no doubt, but those who served imperialism, or who hobnobbed with fascism, then as well as now, have no right to condemn them. However, communists should not gloss over their mistakes; they need to review their own mistakes and blunders, take lessons in the interest of people and revolution. The following throws light on some related aspects:
Com. Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao (who is well known as Com .D.V RAO, 1917-84), who was a distinguished Communist Revolutionary leader, famous for his unique role in Telangana peole’s armed struggle (1946-51), that saved the prestige of the Communists despite the communists’ blunders and controversies of Quit India period. He was a Member of the Central Committee of CPI from 1950, and of CPM from 1964. He was the Founder General Secretary of UCCRI-ML from 1975 till his death in 1984. He was a prolific writer and was a Member of Loksabha, 1957-62. In his famous work titled Peoples Democratic Revolution In India – An Explanation Of The Programme, (PDR) written and read out in a Special Court in 1971, he had clearly explained the policies of CPI leadership during QIM and their basis. (A relevant extract was published in this journal on August 9, 2016 :
In that classic work of 1971, PDR, he made a critical and self critical review of the role of the then Communist party – so that we learn from and we avoid such mistakes of class- collaboration, including those supporting war policies of ruling classes.
Extract 1 : Where CPI went wrong
We quote below a long, self-explanatory, extract from DV Rao’s work (emphases added) :
“This was the fourth struggle of the people of India against British imperialism. It was a country-wide struggle, which was revolutionary, and crossed the limits of non-violence, after the arrests of the Congress leaders in August 1942.
“The Congress, in its foreign policy statements condemned fascism, and expressed solidarity towards the people in Russia and China, who were fighting against fascism. It had helped China in its fight against fascism by sending a Medical Mission. It had in turn received the help and cooperation of the people of other countries.
“ It is to be noted that it had started the ‘Quit India Movement’ in August, 1942, after the breakdown of compromise talks with the British imperialists. Though the ostensible aim of Quit India’ slogan was that British imperialism should quit India, in fact the Congress leadership aimed at a compromise. They started the movement at a time when the Japanese fascism, after occupying Malaya and Burma were knocking at the gates of India. This shows their inconsistent attitude towards opposition to fascism. This struggle got itself isolated from the anti-fascist struggle of socialism and democracy, since it was started at a time when world fascism was marching ahead. Taking advantage of this situation, the imperialists could isolate and suppress it.
“ It was a country-wide revolutionary movement. The revolutionaries in Satara district of Maharashtra, established village republics, i.e., ‘Pathri Sarkar’ (a parallel local government) and carried on the administration for some time. This is a clear example to show that the revolutionary situation was mature to complete the National Democratic Revolution in India against imperialism.”
Then DV Rao makes a critical, and self-critical, pointed appraisal of the role of Indian communists , of communist revolutionaries in Telangana, and compares it with communists of other countries:
“ The policies adopted by the Communist Party of India in the period of anti-fascist war, and towards this movement have been, ever since, a controversial subject. The British imperialists removed the ban on the Communist Party, when the latter supported the antifascist war. It should not be forgotten that the Congress had also supported the anti-fascist war.
- Yet, it was wrong on the part of the Communist Party to think that imperialism leaves the country with the defeat of fascism and without a national democratic revolution.
- It was wrong to say that the anti-fascist war had become a People’s War, even before the fascists entered India and the people began to resist.
- It was wrong to renounce the anti-imperialist struggle for these reasons. This was a period when class collaborationist policies were adopted and practised by the Communist Party so openly and so nakedly.
- The Indian communists should have prepared the people for revolution by continuing the anti-imperialist struggle, according to their independent policies. The struggle should have been intensified, after the defeat of the Nazis in the Stalingrad Battle (February 1943)….
- It was correct on the part of the Indian communists to support the anti-fascist war during the Second World War. At the same time, it was wrong to abandon anti-British imperialist struggle. All the theories which led to such policies are class collaborationist.
- “ The Second World War ended in 1945, with the total defeat of fascism and victory to socialism and democracy.”
(Extracted from Pages-44- 48 of PDR by DV Rao. Proletarian Line Publications, Hyderabad. 2014 Reprint.)
Extract 2 : class struggle and not class-collaboration.
In another article, titled Indian Revolution And Proletarian Internationalism, dated (20-9-1983), published in the journal, The Proletarian Line, No.39, 1983 November, founded and edited by himself, DV Rao dealt with the question wherein he clarifies some more points. We quote the points (emphases added) :
“ CPI, when it was united, adopted a line of class-collaboration, during the period of anti-fascist war, when Russia was attacked by Nazi Germany (June 1941). As a result it had renounced the line of overthrowing the British imperialism through an armed revolution.
It was said that India would have liberation automatically and peacefully once fascism was defeated. The war was characterised as people’s war, simply because it was so for Russia. In the name of defending Russia it had supported British imperialism, which was an ally of Russia during that war. All this was done in the name of proletarian internationalism.
Socialist Russia at the time was waging a people’s war in order to defend itself, and all that CPI was expected was to support socialist Russia in that war. For this there was no need to change its programme and tactics of building the mass revolutionary movement to overthrow the British colonial regime.
The national and international situation obtaining during anti-fascist war did not warrant to say that it can be liquidated peacefully immediately after war. Therefore the tactics to be adopted at the time should have been one of class struggle and not class-collaborationist.
By fighting British imperialism the party would not weaken its role as supporter and defender of anti- fascist war. On the other hand, it would have strengthened it.”
QIM opposed by Muslim League : Pakistan slogan and CPI’s support
QIM was opposed by Muslim League. Muslim League, founded in 1906 as an organization to protect the interests of the Muslim gentry, had passed the Lahore Resolution in 1940 formally proposing a two- nation theory. The British imperialists always backed it, and the carrot of separate (communal) representation was dangled before it. It was in this background the Muslim League opposed the QIM, and backed British war efforts. And such a policy united them with Hindu Mahasabha to form coalition governments in some areas like Sind , Bengal and North-West Frontier Provinces, and they together took part in suppressing the QIM.
CPI too opposed QIM and got linked up with the Muslim League and its slogan of Pakistan. Besides CPI’s mistakes on QIM, DV Rao in his PDR explained how the undivided CPI had messed up the nationalities question too. (The CPI and CPM continue to do so even later, though the forms of the mistake varied after 1947.) In the 1940s, it was theorized by CPI that “Muslim-majority areas were developing into Muslim nations”; and DV Rao commented: “ This is an opportunist line on the question of nationalities. Pakistan was the demand of the Muslim feudal and trading classes. It has a strong backing of imperialism. There is no comparison between a pro-imperialist demand for Pakistan, and ant-imperialist demand of right of self-determination. By confusing the two, the CPI had indirectly supported Pakistan, which is an opportunist line.” (DV Rao, PDR, written in 1971. P.208 of 2014 Edition).
The CPI had supported the demand to form a Provisional Coalition Government at the Centre with equal representation to the Congress and Muslim League. Such a Hindu- Muslim unity would be useful, the need of the hour, they argued, to defeat fascism in the war. It was the unity, not of the toiling masses against imperialism, but of the elite classes from both communities in the service of imperialism.
A drawing, by artist Mohan, of people at a Telangana martyrs’ memorial , saying Lal Salam, written in Telugu
They cherished and hailed Hindu-Muslim unity, unity for struggle against exploiting classes. In fact, Sheik Bandagi sahib, a Muslim peasant of Nalgonda dt.,( who had waged and won a legal battle against the Deshmukh of Visunuru ) was hailed in songs, when he was murdered (in 1942, after years of struggle) by the Deshmukh who could not swallow defeat in the court. A memorial was raised and hundreds of people visited it for years on his death anniversary.(See picture above).
The CPI’s mistake mentioned above, is linked to its class collaborationist line; in addition to opposing QIM, it was compounded by the developments during and after the War leading upto the partition. The communists’ policy of secularism has been tainted with this flaw.
Communists have been accused of minority appeasement. EMS Namboodiripad, top leader of CPM, was Kerala’s Chief Minister, and was criticized by congress as well as Sangh parivar, for his decision in 1969 as Head of a coalition that included Muslim League, to carve out formation of a Muslim-majority district of Malappuram in Kerala; it was tainted with such opportunist politics.
In Telangana too, this policy manifested in the War period, before the revolutionary trend appeared. ( Majlis) Ittehadul Musalmeen (today’s MIM is its successor) was a Front organization that had backed the Nizam and his princely state. At a time when Telangana people opposed the Nizam’s feudalism, the local unit of CPI had advocated a coalition that included Ittehadul Musalmeen, with equal representation. Even while opposing the Nizam, the CPI had supported such a wrong slogan, during the War period , and upto 1945, in the name of the need for unity against fascism. Such a wrong policy was elaborated in a book of the period , Today’s Hyderabad- Our Tasks , published by the then CPI state committee, influenced by the dominant Rightist trend in the Party, both in the state and the all India Party. It was published as a book, as if written by DV Rao and Baddam Yella Reddy (later day CPI leader). DV Rao clarified that he was never associated with that book, or with such a stand. Telangana mass movement was then in its earlier phase, and the revolutionary turn was yet to take place. Such a turn took place distinctly from Doddi Komarayya’s martyrdom that was on July 4, 1946, which became a mile-stone. The revolutionary trend within Telangana asserted itself later on, more so in Nalgonda dt., led by DV Rao. .
This became another ground for the nationalists to oppose the CPI, and for being characterized as anti-national, betrayers etc.
However, the militant, revolutionary people’s movement of Telangana, to a large extent washed away this stigma emanating from the wrong policies of the War period. Both the Right wing and the Left wing in the Party, from PC Joshi to BTR , took shelter behind the prestige of Telangana struggle, even though they never supported its revolutionary line. Events leading upto the Second Congress of CPI in 1948—slogans of Telangana reverberated in the Congress– and later on too, increasingly highlighted Telangana, even though its path was never accepted by both the wings.
It is often said that international guidance, i.e., by Soviet Union, was responsible for this mistake. Some had even accused that the then SU subordinated the interests of others for its own sake. Guidance, even if given, is not a directive, not a diktat, nor binding. The responsibility lies with the receiving Party in question.
The Communist International, Comintern, founded in March, 1919 during Lenin’s times, played its positive, historic role. It was formally dissolved in May 1943 during Stalin’s time, even as the World War II was going on. Obviously, it was not a sudden development. The international situation was getting more and more complex. Both fascist and anti-fascist powers were colonial masters enslaving various countries across the continents. There could not be a single guideline, nor a single guiding Centre. And the parties that were guided in their infancy were now expected to study their own situations, apply experiences and theory to their own concrete and current practice. The CPC began such a course in 1935 itself, when Mao came to be recognized as a leader in his own right. But the CPI continued its old ways. It did not develop independent bearings.
Extract 3 : Communist International’s Role
Why Communist International was dissolved – not a sudden development — was explained by its Executive Committee in a Statement dated May 15, 1943. It is self-explanatory. (emphases added) :
“But long before the war it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles.
The deep differences in the historical roads of development of each country of the world, the diverse character and even the contradiction in their social orders, the difference in the level and rate of their social and political development and finally the difference in the degree of consciousness and organisation of the workers’ conditioned also the various problems which face the working class of each individual country.
The entire course of events for the past quarter of a century, as well as the accumulated experiences of the Communist International, have convincingly proved that the organisational form for uniting the workers as chosen by the First Congress of the Communist International, which corresponded to the needs of the initial period of rebirth of the labor movement, more and more outlived itself in proportion to the growth of this movement and the increasing complexity of problems in each country, and that this form even became a hindrance to the further strengthening of the national workers’ parties.
The world war unleashed by the Hitlerites still further sharpened the differences in the conditions in the various countries, drawing a deep line of demarcation between the countries which became bearers of the Hitlerite tyranny and the freedom-loving peoples united in the mighty anti-Hitler coalition…..
Thus, for instance, in countries occupied by the Hitlerites and which have lost their State independence, the basic task of the progressive workers and broad masses of the people is to develop the armed struggle which is growing into a war of national liberation against Hitlerite Germany.
At the same time the war of liberation of freedom-loving peoples against the Hitlerite coalition, irrespective of party or religion, has made it still more evident that the national upsurge and mobilisation for the speediest victory over the enemy can best and most fruitfully be realised by the vanguard of the labor movement of each country within the framework of its state.
The Seventh Congress of the Communist International held in 1935, taking into consideration the changes which had come to pass in the international situation as well as in the labor movement, changes which demanded greater flexibility and independence for its sections in solving the problems facing them, already then emphasised the need for the E.C.C.I., when deciding upon all problems of the labor movement, “to proceed from the concrete situation and specific conditions obtaining in each particular country and as a rule avoid direct intervention in internal organisational matters of the Communist Parties.
The E.C.C.I. was guided by these same considerations when it took note of and approved the decision of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. in November, 1940, to leave the ranks of the Communist International…
Proceeding from the above-stated considerations, and taking into account the growth and political maturity of the Communist Parties and their leading cadres in individual countries, and also in view of the fact that during the present war a number of sections have raised the question of dissolution of the Communist International….” , it was dissolved.
Communist Revolutionaries of Telangana toed a line different from the official policy of class collaboration, and of reformism
About the Indian party, DV Rao commented: “the (all India party) leadership was a spoon-fed baby throughout.” And that was behind its blunders in QIM period and after.
These mistakes were being committed in 1941-44 period, much after Mao and CPC took their own line, and after the US Party left the International in 1940, as seen above.
It was WRONG to say that the Anti-Fascist war has become a ‘Peoples War’, even before the Fascists entered into India and the people began to resist. It should be noted that there was NO MENTION in the declaration of the then Communist International that the anti-Fascist war had become a ‘Peoples war’ for one and all. In fact, the International never suggested such a line for the colonies, including India; its Appeal was meant only for the European working class of UK, France etc, facing Fascist onslaught. So it was wrong for the CPI to renounce the anti imperialist struggle for these reasons. DV Rao said: The international situation, such as the defeat of fascism, and the victory of socialism and democracy only helps the revolution but it cannot be a substitute for the Indian revolution. Nor can it complete the tasks which a revolution does. The Indian Communists of those days had deviated from this fundamental point. This laid the basis for the class collaborationist policies.
Thus the CPI was not bothered about “concrete situation and specific conditions” stressed by the International…It was servile, a blind follower of Soviet Party, following Russian line…in fact, even as late as late 1940s, it snubbed the Andhra Thesis of May 1948 that proposed a new line, an independent line, which was derived from, and which guided, the Telangana armed struggle.
In fact, it was such an attitude of CPI leadership that was behind a party delegation going all the way to Russia in 1950, to discuss Telangana path…and ultimately withdrawing the armed struggle in 1951 October, claiming it was based on Stalin’s advice, a falsehood. Such an alibi was peddled by neo-revisionists of CPM, by its General Secretary P. Sundarayya in his book on the History of Telangana, even as late as 1970s, even as it made tall and false claims of following an independent line. DV Rao thoroughly exposed it all elsewhere, in 1974 itself.
It has been quite common for the Indian communists to cover up their own mistakes, their own dogmatism, blaming it on international guidance. Not only the revisionists, but also the left adventurists like the later-day CPI-ML factions adopted such a course. The latter did it in the name of Mao, and ‘Maoism’, which also was questioned and explained by DV Rao as early as 1970-71, and further elaborated later on.
DV Rao recalls that during the same War period, and in post-war situation, China and others adopted different strategies and tactics that suited their own revolutions.
While the then CPI leadership had adopted a wrong stand, communist revolutionaries of Telangana, particularly in Nalgonda dt., which was the Centre of the struggle, were guided by the needs of advancing class struggle; were learning to practice revolutionary mass line, learning from people and guiding them; and to apply theory to suit their own conditions. It was CPI’s folly, can’t be blamed on intenational guidance, as DV Rao pointed out:
“ In Burma, Malaya (presently Malaysia), Indonesia etc., the communist parties carried on armed struggles against fascist Japanese occupation and did not allow the colonial powers to stage a comeback. With the help of this policy, they were leading revolutions in their respective countries, together with their carrying on international tasks of fighting an anti-fascist war.
“ In China, though the Communist Party had advanced the slogan of coalition government, it refused to surrender its armies and liberated bases to Chiang Kai-shek, because such a step would amount to liquidation of revolution.
“The experiences of Second World War show that a good number of communist parties in colonial and semi-colonial countries had proved themselves to be best proletarian internationalists by carrying on armed struggle against fascist aggressors. They had their best allies in genuine nationalists who were opposed to the respective colonial powers as well as fascism.”
Then he continues and explains how they proceeded in Telangana:
“Experiences in Telangana, more so in Nalgonda District, had shown that, by adopting revolutionary tactics and building revolutionary peasant movement against feudalism, the party in this district had proved to be revolutionary as well as proletarian international. It had in no way hampered anti-fascist-war. It should be known that the feudalism against which the party had fought was an ally of British imperialism, which again was an ally of Soviet Union in its war against fascism.
“ We can not compare the armed struggle in Telangana with those of Burma, Malaya, Indonesia etc., either in the level or in the extent; yet it was a revolutionary movement and an armed struggle. Though it was directed against Nizam to begin with it was in essence against the British imperialism, until power was tansferred to big bourgeoisie and landlords.” (The Proletarian Line, No.39, 1983 November)
Telangana 1946-51 : peasant guerillas being trained 1946-51 : peasant volunteer squads Photos (by Sunil Jena) : Peasant Revolutionaries of Telangana 1946-51
(Only a few women were trained in the use of fire-arms, wrote DV Rao, and their role was limited in armed actions.)
With such application, revolutionary communists of Telangana could win the sympathy and support of national as well as anti-feudal forces. This was at a time when the then CPI was called anti-national, and a betrayer. The secret was no more than sticking to the path of revolutionary class struggles, in particular the path of agrarian revolution. Revolutionary mass line, essence of Mao, was guiding them.
Only by such a path, proletarian leadership could be established, not by resolutions or diktat. Because of a class collaborationist policy, and blindly following international (Soviet) leadership, the then CPI failed to establish its leadership on the freedom movement.
Giving up the task of establishing the hegemony of the proletariat, in the National Democratic Revolution, through intensive and extensive class struggle, and by taking the responsibilities of leading it, the Communists not only got isolated from the movement but also allowed the INC, Gandhi and Nehru to divert the movement and to end the same with a compromise with the British imperialism .There lies the genesis of all wrong trends of Indian Communist movement.
Explaining all this, he commented, “the (all India party) leadership was a spoon-fed baby throughout.” He writes :
“The communists in Burma, Malaya and Indonesia organised armed struggle, had their share in defeating fascism, thus established the hegemony of the proletariat in the National Democratic Revolution, and grew into a strong force.
“The communist revolutionaries in Telangana organised an anti-feudal revolutionary movement in the rural areas through the Andhra Maha Sabha. They mobilised the broad masses, and won the sympathy and support of the national elements. They could achieve this only because they acted according to the principle of class struggle. It was this revolutionary movement which gradually developed into the armed struggle of the Telangana people in the post-war period.”
(Extract from Pages, 44- 48 of PDR by DV Rao )
The ‘spoon-fed baby’ of Indian party leadership refused to learn from experiences back home.
Instead of learning from India’s own experiences, like those of Telangana, the party centre was lost in the ‘study’ of international situation, and that also with a bookish, wrong, reformist, and class collaborationist perspective.
Most of the Communists in the Madras province, including coastal Andhra region, and Malabar of Kerala, implemented naked class- collaborationists line during this QIM.
(The other part of present-day Kerala was Travancore-Cochin princely state.)Even in Telangana, in pockets led by the reformist wing, more so in early phases, such a policy was adopted. and the revolutionary wing in Nalgonda district of Telangana, did not fall prey to this wrong line. But on the other hand, learning from the people’s struggles, and following revolutionary consciousness and urge among the people in taking up anti- feudal struggles, that leadership organized anti- feudal revolutionary movement in the rural areas through Andhra Mahasabha.
The leadership used to explain away revolutionary Telangana as an exception because of extreme feudalism, and that, with an alien Muslim ruler, in the princely state of Hyderabad. Such an approach would not allow conscious efforts made in Telangana, by the revolutionary wing, to be replicated elsewhere. The fact was there were hundreds of feudatories and princely states all over India, and heinous feudal practices were equally rampant not only there but also in vast stretches of British-administered provinces. Even within Nizam’s Hyderabad, the struggle was not developed in the five dts. of Marathwada, and three Kannada-speaking dts. Thus it was organized efforts that made the difference.
In fact, the princely state of Hyderabad was not an isolated feudatory, as is made out, outside the imperialist empire. The Nizam of Hyderabad was not independent; but a stooge and subservient subsidiary of British India, formally tied with The Treaty of Subsidiary Alliance of 1800 AD (So is the case with many other rulers of Princely states), who was guided by a Resident of the British empire. Nizam was controlled by the British cantonment; and his Prime Minister, Finance and Home Ministers were decided in consultation with the British Govt. Thus anti-Nizam struggle was not only anti- feudal, but also anti- imperialist; both were inseparably linked.
Thus when the revolutionary leadership mobilized the broad rural masses, it had won the sympathy and support of Nationalist elements also. And in this process, the peasantry was won over by the working class party, weaning them away from bourgeois leadership.
Communist party in Telangana also had its Rightist and revolutionary trends, represented and led by Ravi Narayana Reddy and DV Rao, respectively. These trends were there from the beginning to the end. It needed lot of education and struggle for the latter to come to a dominant position. At this time Com.D.V.Rao brought before the Committee the necessity of seizing of land from landlords and distribution of it to landless and poor peasants, in order to sustain the armed struggle and make it successful.
In Telangana also class- collaborationist policies had raised their head from time to time. For instance, it was argued by the Rightists that anti-Nizam United front would be weakened if land distribution was taken up. However, it was discussed and decided that lands of pro-Nizam landlords were to be confiscated first. In fact most of landlords were pro-Nizam, who had however later turned anti-Nizam with the advance of struggle that was progressing, weakening the Nizam regime there by. Therefore, the agrarian revolutionary struggle did not stop with fighting the pro-Nizam feudals. It went beyond and agrarian revolution was organized, based on a class analysis of rural Telangana Subsequently some land ceilings were decided, later revised downwards, and finally the movement advanced with the aim of abolition of the feudal system in Telangana in toto.
Thus a revolutionary United Front (UF) led by the working class was taking shape in the field, through a series of class struggles. It was NOT a reformist UF led by the liberal bourgeoisie. It was not a UF on paper, not one brokered with a heavy price paid to the bourgeoisie.
They could achieve all this only because they acted according to the principle of class struggle, and took to the revolutionary mass line. This revolutionary orientation that emerged during QIM gradually evolved, and led to the armed phase of the struggle of Telangana people in the post –war period. A picture of this earlier phase can be seen in the following article, published in countercurrents.org.
Telangana’s (1946-51) unique significance, as is well known, in brief is this :
- Ten Lakh acres of land was distributed among landless masses, seizing it from the feudal landlords known locally as Deshmukh etc. That was apart from government waste (banjar or fallow ) lands distributed and tilled by people. The concept of land ceiling was evolved and implemented in Telangana for the first time.
- Village republics (gram rajyas or Soviets) were established in 3000 villages. They were places where the Nizam’s writ did not run; they were part of guerilla areas with dual power. They were also centres of a UF at ground level, however, with no apex UF above. They had leadership committees elected in open meetings. That was much before India’s first 1952 elections. Their composition ensured representation of landless and poor peasants, and at least one They decided land distribution, farm wages, apart from acting as a local people’s court whose verdicts were implemented.
- People’s Guerilla Squads were built with about 10,000 people, forming a rudimentary people’s army. They were in addition to village-level volunteer squads, with a much larger participation. They could withstand the severe repression unleashed by the Police force of Nizam, private mercenary forces like Razakars and the military of Nizam. It could withstand for three years (1948 Sept -51 Oct) the atrocities and onslaught of military action with 50,000 modern troops deployed by Nehru Govt.
- Though 4000 people were brutally killed and more than one lakh people were jailed, and hundreds of women were raped, the revolutionary movement could not be defeated; it was withdrawn in October 1951. That showed the extent and intensity of the movement. All this was going on, before and after 1947 August, even while a ‘democratic republic’ was being papered over by a Constituent Assembly; in fact it went on until 1952-53, despite the Republic, thus displaying that the Constitution was not meant to, and would not, defend the people’s rights. .
(A Major Source of these facts is : DV Rao’s History of Telangana People’s Armed Struggle, volume-1, in Telugu, written in the years before his death in 1984; first printed in 1988 July. It is widely acknowledged as an authentic work. It is a much-acclaimed, detailed, authentic history, written by a key participant- leader that DV Rao was, running into some 450 pages in Royal demy size, that had two reprints after 2014. Thus a history sought to be erased from public memory is back with a vengeance. Many of these facts are mentioned by DV Rao in his various writings, published in English also. An introduction to the subject can be seen in the articles published in countercurrents.org. Some of these references can be seen here:
Reformism Vs Revolutionary consciousness
- There was a reformist phase in late 1930s, and early 1940s, when communist leaders were taken around in a cart decorated with photos of Gandhi, Nehru, and Bose ( ex: in Munagala, Krishna Dt. ).
- But after intense class struggles, particularly after 1948 September, people’s consciousness was revolutionized. That was after the anti-fascist, pro-British Prime Minister Nehru betrayed his real face, unleashing fascist repression against the rural poor of Telangana to rescue feudal landlord classes (through Operation Polo, shown as Police Action of 1948 Sep) from the fire of anti-feudal, agrarian revolution. (See the article in countercurrents.org,, link given )
- People of Telangana led by the Communist Revolutionaries, did not and could not any more see Nehru as a “progressive- anti feudal – anti- imperialist”, nor as a “Socialist and leader of Left wing of Congress” as painted by revisionists and neo- revisionists later on, but as a servant of feudal classes, comprador bourgeoisie and of imperialism. That was so soon after 1947 August.
- In fact, there was a popular song of the day on these lines : Oh Nehru, you are a chameleon changing colors, Now your TRUE color is out, exposed…Right of you there is Tata, Left of you there is Birla, Right on your head there is Truman, and you are parading yourself like this…
- Nehru government’s class character was exposed through popular songs. The class alliance of imperialism, Nizam-Razakars, Nehru was depicted in some. Speaking of Nehru-Patel army’s depredations including rapes, one song says : King Ravan was outwitted by the army; he did not rape Sita, but the army did. The songs referred to the army as a mercenary army, different from people’s army.
- They felt and sarcastically sang : ‘we the toling classes are all prisoners of independent India –ruled by an alliance of Tatas Birlas and feudals.’ They sang about Nazis and fascists back home.
- They sang about fake democracy, black laws, and police Raj, so soon after the Constitution was adopted in 1950 January. They spoke of a new People’s democracy, with Right to vote for ALL men and women too, as never before in history. (in USA, black women got it in 1965).
- They hailed in songs Marx, Engels, Russia, the Red Flag.
- Only through revolutionary class struggles, people can really grasp the true nature of the enemy…No amount of theory can be its substitute.
However, no such powerful movements were consciously organized elsewhere ; no serious efforts were made towards that end, as envisaged by the Andhra Thesis, 1948. Andhra Thesis had proposed a new line, and replication and extension of Telangana line all over India. But it fell on the deaf ears of a leadership blinded by what they believed was Russian line.
Indeed such possibilities were waiting to be developed and forged into sustained movements all over the country. A revolutionary situation was prevailing in vast areas as noticed during the QIM, as also in post-war upsurges in after 1946. The RIN (naval) mutiny of February 1946, and the working class struggles at many places symbolized the revolutionary times and opportunities.
If communists in Kerala had kept up and expanded the revolutionary tradition of Kayyur and Punnapra- Vayalar, if Bengal Communists had kept up and expanded Tebhaga, if Maharastra Communists had done so with Warli Adivasi struggle, if Punjab Communists had done it with PEPSU peasant struggles, if Azamgarh UP) peasant struggles could be advanced – if it were so – perhaps Telangana would not have been forced to bear the brunt of army repression alone, and India could have marched like China to complete the revolution. But revisionists, class-collaborationists, sabotaged it all. They were not ready to learn from our own struggles.
Leaders changed but not the line.
The Central leadership would see nothing but Russia, and the Russian line. P.C. JOSHI, who led the Party with a Rightist, class collaborationist policy during and after the War, with all the associated blunders, was replaced by BT Ranadive, supposedly a Leftist. The new leadership, represented by BTR as the General Secretary—was elected in the Second all India Party Congress, Calcutta, 1948. But he was also arbitrary, dismissive, not only about Telangana and Andhra Thesis, but also about Mao and Chinese line and experiences, which provided the basis for Andhra Thesis. When China finally culminated its revolution following a protracted people’s war path, in October 1949, Russia and Stalin were ready to, and could indeed see its novel path. But not the Indian leadership.
Instead of learning from such experiences of China and Telangana, the leadership, piqued as it was, preferred to resign rather than learn from. BTR resigned as GS in early 1950 to be replaced by C. Rajeswara Rao ( CR, GS of later-day CPI, post-1964 split) representing the Andhra Thesis. But it was a short-lived, merely organizational change without a change of heart and change in line. Neither the Left-wing of BTR school, nor the Right wing of Ajoy Ghosh and SA Dange cooperated with the new line and leadership in practice. (They had their own Right-wing in Telangana represented by Ravi Narayana Reddy etc.). It was such an unwilling pack of leaders that led to dispatch of a delegation to Moscow to learn from Russia and Stalin, with no regard for experiences back home in Telangana and elsewhere. In the event, CR was forced to resign by 1951 May, being replaced by Ajoy Ghosh. The undivided CPI, always riven with deep divisions inside, finally split formally in 1964, into CPI and CPM, led by CR and PS respectively. This time too, international issues of Russia Vs China, CPSU Vs CPC, rather than India’s questions, were crucial factors in the split.
The same goes on today also. Much was made out, in the media, for instance of the differences between the lines of Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechuri. Public memory is short they say; perhaps media manipulates it that way. After all, it was Karat who lead the CPM backing the UPA-1 led by Manmohan Singh, who they blamed was the hireling of the World Bank and USA. The CPI (Indrajit Gupta) was rewarded with the Union Ministry, to do the dirty job of policing the people. The CPM (Somnath Chatterjee) was given Loksabha’s Speakership to do the sophisticated job of safely steering the ruling ship through parliamentary waters troubled by the reactionary BJP! And both did their job well. They withdrew support, only after the Government clinched its nuclear deal with the US super power, i.e., after the horses bolted away. Even that was called a blunder.
An anti-feudal agrarian revolution with land to the tiller as the key slogan was imperative as well as possible so as to mobilize the vast masses, more than 80 percent of the population of that time, behind the working class party. Without such mobilization, all talk of working class leadership remains empty and remains on paper. Without such a vast mass base in the rural hinterlands, all talk of United Fronts would be idle talk, and the party can no more than be a tail to this or that ruling class party. Feudalism of yester-years has indeed changed forms; now it is semi-feudalism or landlordism of some type or the other.
The anti-landlord, anti-comprador, and anti-imperialist tasks have no China wall between them; they are all inseparably linked, then or now. The vast rural masses, the rural poor of various classes including landed and landless peasantry, are exploited not only by the landlord classes, but also by the market forces of imperialism and comprador classes, more so in the latest phase of imperialist globalization and liberalization. Their conditions of life and living, of education and health, are increasingly miserable in this new era, despite so many showy schemes of doles, subsidies, and welfarism compelled by competitive electoral politics. The State machinery, at the Centre as well as in states, is fully backing these forces of exploitation and plunder, and is itself a biggest plunderer by way of huge taxation, direct and indirect. It is also the biggest oppressor equipped with a police military Raj, and a plethora of Black laws, and lawless methods of repression like encounters and disappearances,with its iron heels trampling the people, despite all Fundamental and other rights on paper.
Kayyur, the cradle of agrarian revolution in Kerala: PC Joshi’s account . The leadership that never listened.
A brief reference to Kayyur struggle of Kerala will be illustrative of the situation. It took place in the period before and after QIM.
In 1940, peasants there under the leadership of communists rose against the two local jenmis, Nambiar of Kalliat and the Nayanar of Karakkatt Edam. Several people were killed and four communist leaders were found guilty, and hanged on March 29, 1943 , by the government. The martys including one Muslim peasant were : Madathil Appu, Podavara Kunhambu Nair, Koithattil Chirukandan and Pallickal Abu Bakr. A fifth instigator (Choorikadan Krishnan Nair) was sentenced to life imprisonment and spared from the death penalty, since he was under the age of criminal liability. Kannada writer Niranjana‘s work Chirasmarane is based on the Kayyur revolt. The first communist rebellion in Kerala happened in Kayyur and several revolts followed suit. Kayyur is considered the cradle of agrarian revolution in Kerala.
Four peasant youth of Kayyur , Kerala , were hanged on March 29, 1943. The young child represnts optimistic future. Famous Drawing by Chitta Prasad (1915-78), artist from Bengal.
P.C. JOSHI (1907-1980), General Secretary of the CPI from 1935 till 1947, had an interview with the Kayyur Heroes on the eve of their execution. And he gave a brief account of the same, published in Labour Monthly, August 1943, pp. 251-253. How the Party grew with work in peasants, but refused to learn from people, can be seen in his account (emphases added) :
“The Party is prouder of you four than it is of any of its members. You came to us when we were mere hundreds. To-day we are over 9,000 Party members and 8,000 candidates. All 17,000, of us vow to you that we will hold high the banner you held worthily and continue fighting the battle you fought so heroically….”
“ You, our beloved four, are being lost to the Party. But it is the work and example of comrades like you that have made the Party what it is to-day. When you joined the Party in Malabar ,it was a group of young patriots; to-day we are the major political party in your province. All over the country the best sons of the people are joining the Party. Wherever the Party is known, your names are uttered with love and veneration. Patriotic young men and women consider it an honour to join the Party, because it bred young martyrs like you….”
“ I am going to your village from here and will meet your families. Is there any message for them?” “Buck them up. Ask them not to worry,” all of them said together.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“You have already said all that was welling up inside us,” one of them said.
“No, no, you must speak as long as there is time for the interview. Comrades outside will tear me up if I don’t report back every word of what you say I have a good memory and I will carry it all back,” I said, trying to smile.
(All the four spoke a few words. )
“We are only four kisan sons. But India’s millions are kisans. We can be hanged, but they can’t be destroyed. This is what has sustained us all through. These letters from all over the country make us feel sorry that we can’t live longer to serve them. We have known no other regret. If we had more lives we would have died over and over again for our cause.” He had taken a leading part in two kisan struggles.
ABU BAKER, ( the Muslim young man ) was in the last:
“We have drawn inspiration from the life of our martyrs. We never dreamt that we will share the honour of being one of them, Tell all the Comrades that we will mount the gallows, fearlessly. My mother, is very old. Cheer her up. My brothers are very young. Educate them for Party work. I was the eldest member of the family. They have nobody left to look after them….”
“ When it came to Abu Baker I did not feel like letting his hand go. I thought of the great Moplahs and their heroic past. They had contributed one out of the four martyrs And there are Hindu patriots who doubt the patriotic bona fides of our Muslim brothers. As I tarried, he went on repeating “Lal Sulam, Comrade!” He had a very finely chiselled face and patriotic fervour glowed in his eyes.”
“ As I finished, clenched lists went up again from both sides, and we marched out with much lighter step than we had marched in. We all felt easy within ourselves, brimming with pride for having comrades, like these.”
When we were left to ourselves, Sundarayya, who had been silent all through, sunk in thought, spoke “You were supposed to buck them up, and they have bucked you up instead.”
The only answer I could give was “They are our martyrs, they need no bucking up, I am their comrade being left behind. I needed it and got it….”
“ As I am writing this, a comrade from Malabar has come with the news that these four comrades were hanged on the 29th morning. The previous night they learnt that they would have to walk to the gallows the next morning. They spent the night singing in chorus patriotic songs and shouting slogans, “COMMUNIST PARTY ZINDABAD,” being the most frequent and the loudest. Not one prisoner, political or non-political, slept that night in the Cannanore Central Prison. Early in the, morning, 3,000 citizens gathered at the jail gates demanding their bodies. The request was refused and they were asked to disperse.”
It is all self-evident. The peasantry was calling on the Party , which got strengthened not only in numbers, but also qualitatively when it worked for the peasantry. Nationalists were also getting attracted. As Stalin said elsewhere, national and peasant questions are inseparably linked. The CPI leaders worshipped him, but did not heed him in practice. People were identifying with the Party more and more. Muslim masses were also joining the Party, more than the Muslim League of the ruling classes.
How to fight fascism with a huge independent mass base, how to fight communalism, how to weld them all into the anti-imperialist struggle…was all there, to learn from our own experiences back home. That was also the time ( in 1943) when the Communist International was being dissolved, advising the parties to learn to apply Marxism on their own, to their concrete conditions.
The General Secretary PC Joshi was admittedly bucked up. But the leadership did not heed. The leadership did not realize the damage the wrong stand caused. They were swept away by a wrong policy. They were branded anti-national, betrayers etc so soon after Kayyur.
EMS Namboodiripad, the QIM and the Kerala Party
EMS Namboodiripad (1909-1998) was a Member of the Central Committee of CPI from 1941, ie., before the Kayyur events; of the CPM from 1964; was CPM General secretary from 1978 to 1992 January. He was Kerala’s Chief Minister twice. His writings reveal the confusion, right opportunism and reformism of the party. He has been a prolific writer, a good chronicler, only a chronicler, of these developments. His analysis of the Party policy, its essence , is given below:
The ban on CPI during 1938-40 period was lifted by the British with a change in policy of CPI.
Speaking of the times , EMS writes : “ Like People’s war (Weekly organ of CPI) in Bombay, the party organ in Malyalam, Deshabhimani, (weekly) was published for the first ime…The word Deshabhimani means ‘patriot’, and the name was symbolic. Deshabhimani came out at the very time that the Congress was engaged in QIM, and the Party was denounced as being a betrayer “ of the national cause” and was accused of “ stabbing the national movement in the back.” …
“Most of the people” who sympathized with QIM, he wrote, “ felt sincerely that the communists had sold themselves out to the British.” “ The persons who organized Deshabhimani and sold it had to face the fury of the anti-imperialist masses …. (p.70-71, EMS, The Communist Party in Kerala , Six Decades of Struggle and Advance, NBC, 1994.)
How the policy impacted the organization of the party can be seen :
“ Almost all the Congress Socialists in Kerala became communists,” write EMS : But “ the new line, however, prevented a new generation of leftists, who grew up in the course of QIM, from being drawn towards the Party…..the anti-imperialism of this generation rapidly assumed anti-communist overtones. ….they were hostile to the Soviet Union….This new generation of leftists became the vanguard of anti-communism. …Thus ended the virtual monopoly of CPI in Kerala’s left movement. “ But after Soviet victory against fascism, again people got attracted to communism, despite the wrong line, EMS wrote. (p.78-79, ibid)
The party wanted to support the Soviet Union of the working class. But the policy generated anti-communist overtones.
However, EMS asserts : “ The political line of people’s war worked out by CPI leadership was generally correct” (p.82), even while he spoke of Two Deviations…
“..the characterization of the second phase of the war as People’s war was basically correct.” There were “errors” of “sectarianism towards anti-imperialist masses; ” and “ equally serious errors of reformism and right opportunism.”
“ The concept of people’s war was shorn of its revolutionary content and it was made to appear that imperialism itself was transformed because of its alliance with the Soviet Union.” (p.84)
The party’s policy “was shorn of its revolutionary content”, but was generally correct, and basically correct! He says these in the same breath ! All in the same, small article.
It was despite such an atmosphere, when “ the Party was denounced as being a betrayer”, that 3000 people gathered at the jail where the Kayyur youth were hanged the previous day, as mentioned above. Such was the appeal of the agrarian revolution, which however did not move the leadership in the headquarters! Neither all India leaders, nor Kerala leaders. It was all the more evident in 1946:
Punnapra-Vayalar uprising of Kerala came in 1946, when Diwan CP Rama Swamy Iyer and his feudal masters of Travancore indicated their refusal, like the Nizam, to join Indian Union. And the rulers were being hated by people, by nationalists. Communist revolutionaries of Telangana utilized such a political situation and rekindled the struggle that was suppressed by end of 1946. But the reformist Right wing of the party leadership, also in Kerala, did not heed the call.
Memorial of martyrs of Punnapra-Vayalar uprising,1946, located near Kalarcode, Alappuzha, Kerala.
Noted historian A. Sreedhara Menon estimated that over a thousand people were killed during the Punnapra-Vayalar outbreak by the feudal State.
Instead of guiding, protecting, and expanding the militant struggle, the leadership allowed the Punnapra-Vayalar movement to be isolated and drowned in blood.
Telangana and Andhra Thesis 1948 served yet another reminder to the all India leadership. But it fell on the deaf ears of a leadership blinded by what they believed was Russian line. And they did not listen. They were such hard-boiled bureaucratic leaders.
Telangana marched on, not because of, but despite the leadership, which intervened only to withdraw it in October 1951, just before the first General Election of 1952. They refused to learn from revolutionary Russia and China. Many people’s democracies were established, in East Europe, in North Korea and North Vietnam, in the post-war situation. They refused to learn from them too. Instead, they opted the British bourgeois parliamentary system and the parliamentary path. But they seek to fool their following saying that situations changed! They never learnt from revolutions, then or later. And that is Right revisionism, tailing the ruling classes and their parties. Their parliamentary path did not strengthen them either. Their mistakes are fundamental, related to basic strategy; they have no revolutionary goals. No amount of tactical fine-tuning will help them, let alone revolution. Theirs has been a declining graph, even in Bengal, Tripura, Andhra, Telangana, once communist strongholds. Even in Kerala’s game of musical chairs, it has been a precarious situation, a slippery ground, despite their opportunism and class collaborationist alliances and policies.
Fascism, United Front , alliances now
Now the fascism of the BJP‘s and Narendra Modi’s version is spreading its tentacles to all the nooks and corners of the country, with a mission and viciousness to curb and crush any dissent, let alone the democratic voices and people’s movements. No doubt the people and all the democratic forces and revolutionary forces should RISE up to the occasion and unitedly fight its onslaught.
But, then how? Could it be fought decisively by joining hands with the Congress, that was not only inconsistent but also insincere in the fight against world fascism ? A Congress that had implemented the same fascism against the people, jailed one lakh people during 1975-77, and drowned nationality (Kashmir, North-east) and revolutionary movements in blood? A Congress that curbed the media (including the Emergency of 1975-77, and pre-censorship during 1975-77), when they were the rulers for a long time, at the centre and in most the states? A Congress that subserved imperialism, US in particular? A Congress that no less distorted and covered up history to suit its politics? A Congress that engineered communal riots against Muslims (Nellie, Bhiwandi, Moradabad etc) , and a pogrom against Sikhs?
There is no point in joining hands, in the name of opposing Hindu Communal Fascism of BJP, with Secular Fascism. Fascism is Fascism: whether it is communal or secular. Fascism has a class basis, and a political-historical context. It undergoes mutations. The BJP, its earlier avatar Bharatiya Jan Sangh, was once in the anti-fascist front, against Indira Gandhi’s fascism, it needs to be recalled, with CPM on the same side of the divide. Her fascism of 1975-77 period had Constitutional and legal sanction. CPI backed it openly. Now things are different. There is an undeclared emergency , and a self-censorship by media bosses.
Again there is the now the danger of class-collaboration in the name of fighting against the Sangh Parivar’s and Narendra Modi’s fascism.
CPM and CPI had joined hands with such fascists from time to time. CPM and CPI had joined hands with ‘secular’ fascists: There is casteist fascism also: In Bihar and UP, ‘secular’ casteist (RJD and SP) forces had formed armed (Yadav, Kurmi, Ranvir etc) Senas to massacre hundreds of rural poor, including dalits, who were fighting feudalism. All these ‘tactics’ were fruitless : the Left parties never really broke ground in the North. ‘Secular’, dalit BSP never hesitated to join hands with BJP, more than once it did. Nor Trinamul hesitated. They have no policies beyond their political exigencies. The secular Ambedkarite RPI factions in Maharashtra joined hands with Modi’s BJP, not to speak of Vajpayee’s NDA. So did Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdas Athwale, and Udit raj.
So it was in the South: in Tamil Nadu ADMK and DMK, not to speak of the more brazen anti-dalit MDMK etc., have been watching even as as Dalits are suppressed ruthlessly. Amma’s AIADMK was brazen in her fascist ways, suppressing any dissent, framing sedition cases too. But CPM and CPI joined hands with them from time to time. The JDS of Kumara Swamy did not hesitate to join hands with BJP. The Left parties had allied with TDP and TRS in AP who, over the decades, indulged in hundreds of encounters and killed thousands of rural poor fighting landlordism. All these parties had sailed with BJP in NDA of Vajpayee’s time. It was TDP that facilitated entry of Modi’s BJP too in AP where the latter had no base. The TDP, TRS, ADMK, BJD hobnobbed with Modi’s NDA too.
CPM in the last Assembly elections joined hands with Congress in Bengal in a naked manner and paid for it : There was not even an excuse, not even an alibi of BJP which was weak in Bengal. CPM joined hands with the Congress, as against ‘secular’ Trinamul Congress. But alas, only to be relegated to the third position in most of Bengal. And secular Trinamul had earlier joined Vajpayee’s BJP-led NDA.
It is not as if CPM and CPI are together. They opposed and defeated each other in Kerala in the past, in AP and Telangana even very recently. Right now in Telangana , the Lal- Neel unity of CPM does not include CPI, which is with Congress.
It is not as if BJP is invincible. After all, it was defeated in UP and Bihar soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid, and again and again. And defeated it was in Delhi and Punjab despite Modi and Amit Shah.
Relying on people, on class struggles, struggles against all kinds of exploitation and oppression, patient and consistent work among the masses is the only sure way ahead for the Leftist forces. Opportunist electoral alliances are no substitute. United Fronts of revolutionary and democratic classes and forces forged in the course of struggles are basically different from these electoral exigencies.
MK Adithya is a mediaperson, who contributed articles to countercurrents.org earlier too
QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT : Some Aspects of History and Lessons –Part 1, written by ChSN Murthy, was published on August 7, 2018. See link below. https://countercurrents.org/2018/08/07/quit-india-movement-some-aspects-of-history-and-lessons/