Formation of the All India Centre-XII
THE internal situation in India during the late 1920s and early 1930s was quite complex. The repercussions of the Great Depression that engulfed the entire capitalist world were very painful to Indian people, because the British imperialists tried to resolve the crisis faced by their own country, at the expense of Indian people. Consequently, protests and anger against British rule further intensified and became more widespread. Huge strikes that took place in the textile mills of Bombay, Sholapur and jute industries in Calcutta were some examples of the brewing working class anger. The number of working class strikes and the man-days lost reached their peak during 1930-31. The fledgling Communist Party could not utilise these favourable conditions as the entire top leadership was arrested and put to trial in the Meerut Conspiracy Case. Moreover, it was yet to attain ideological clarity about the role of bourgeois in the anti-imperialist struggle.
During the initial period of the Indian communist movement, M N Roy played a very helpful role. However, after the expulsion of M N Roy from the Communist International, there emerged in India, certain groups following M N Roy and Trotsky and working against the leadership of the International. These organisations also posed certain problems before the Party.
Leadership of the Communist International tried to bring about a fundamental change in the situation and for the emergence of a unified communist leadership in India, capable of leading the anti-imperialist struggle in the country. Representatives of the International came to India several times, established contact with the different communist groups and gave suggestions on the basis of their understanding of the then political situation. The Meerut case and the consequent imprisonment of the accused had severely affected the Party organisation that it could not comprehend the rapidly changing international and national situations and give appropriate and timely leadership.
Though the Communist Party was founded in 1920, all through the decade it had to carry on its work without a perpetually functioning central leadership. It was true that there was a Communist Party and each member of the Party was engaged in political and organisational activities. But, the main field of their activities, particularly in the second half of the 1920s, was through the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party. Their attention centred around building a mass revolutionary party, in which even non-communists had a role to play. The leadership of the Party was also not conscious of the fact that the Party would be subject to attack at any time and therefore it should be organised on illegal lines. As a result, when the communists, along with their colleagues in the Workers’ and Peasants’ parties came under attack, the Party organisation in effect ceased to exist.
The Meerut case was imposed on the Indian communists at a time when they just began to test the possibility of forming an open and centralised Communist Party. This was discussed at the secret meeting of the executive committee of the CPI held at Calcutta from December 27 to 29, 1928. But before any step could be taken, even before reaching a concrete decision in this regard, almost all top level leaders were arrested, which led to organisational gaps in all the major centres of communist activities.
In Bengal, Abdul Halim was the only leading figure that the British police did not put behind bars. In Madras, Singaravelu Chettiar came out of jail after 18 months, in August 1930. He joined Periyar’s self-respect movement and helped influence Leftist elements within it. He was also in contact with Amir Haider Khan, who before his arrest in 1932, was instrumental in revitalising communist organisation, particularly, in South India. In Kanpur, virtually no one was left to fill up the vacuum. In Lahore, the arrest of Majid and Sehgal meant there was no one to fill their place. In Bombay, S V Deshpande and B T Ranadive filled up the gap through their involvement in the functioning of the trade unions.
Though individual communist groups conducted their activities, there was no ideological and even organisational uniformity. There was no central organisation capable of giving leadership to these activities. The different communist groups remained cut off from each other. The period of four and a half years, beginning with the Meerut case, was a period of difference of opinion and factional fighting among the communists who remained outside the jail.
The first challenge after the Meerut arrests was to build an all India centre. These efforts did not produce any tangible result until the accused in Meerut case were released from prison towards the end of 1933. In the meantime, Dr Adhikari, who was released on bail in early 1933, played a prominent role in mobilising various Marxist and Leftist groups in different parts of India and towards re-forming a united party.
With the release of Meerut prisoners, the old link which was snapped following their detention was not only restored, but many new individuals and groups also got attracted to the Party. Substantial number of former revolutionary nationalists and a considerable section of ordinary Congress men, came out of prison conscious of the bankruptcy of the Gandhian method of struggle and also of the need to lead the freedom struggle towards socialism and communism. The rise of the Soviet Union and the growth of fascism were events which attracted the attention of Congress leaders as well as the ranks of the common people. It was in such an atmosphere favourable for the growth of socialist and communist ideologies that the Communist Party of India emerged with a perpetually functioning central leadership.
In December 1933, an all India conference was convened in Calcutta by the communists in Bengal. Dr Adhikari, Abdul Halim, Somnath Lahiri, Dr Ranen Sen (Bengal), P C Joshi (Kanpur) S G Pataka and Gurdeep Singh (Punjab), took part in the deliberations. The meeting was important on three accounts: (i) the provisional Central Committee of the CPI was elected; (ii) the draft provisional statute was adopted and (iii) the draft political theses was adopted. Dr Adhikari was elected secretary and it was decided to reorganise the provisional committees as early as possible.
The formation of the Central Committee and Polit Bureau marked the beginning of such activities as, making available documents of the Communist International to communists and leftists, preparation of documents explaining the views and policies of the Communist Party on Indian political situation, organising trade union activities, establishing relations with Left-wing politicians and so on.
The draft political thesis adopted by the provisional Central Committee of the CPI stressed on the necessity of building a centralised, disciplined, united, mass, underground, Communist Party as its chief and basic task. It called upon all advanced workers and revolutionaries devoted to the cause of the working class, to join the ranks of the Communist Party then being built, in order to carry on the historic tasks of Indian revolution. With the approval of the draft thesis, CPI was formally affiliated to the Comintern. With this, the communist movement in India embarked on a new course.
The Comintern recognised the leadership and the decision of the Calcutta meeting and it published in 1934 two important documents in its organ, INPRECOR – the draft provisional statute and the draft political thesis. The newly elected central leadership started working within the framework suggested by the Communist International and assessing changes in the Indian political situation. These were not easy tasks as the national and international situations were changing rapidly.
The elected central leadership continued (with a change of individuals) until the party was split in 1964. In a sentence it can be said that in spite of the fruitless efforts made earlier, the successful formation of the Party centre took place in the years 1933-34. By 1934, the Communist Party of India had come into active being, outliving all the repressive actions for over a decade. One of the indicators of increased communist activities was the increase in the number of strikes and man-days lost in 1934 (twice their number compared to the preceding two years, 1932 and 1933), also signifying rising popular unrest.
The rulers came to the conclusion that this challenge to the imperialist rule as well as to the bourgeois leadership in the anti-imperialist fighting front, must be nipped in the bud. That was why, the same imperialist British government which lifted the ban on Congress, had chosen to ban the Communist Party.