The Second Congress – 1948
THE Second Congress of the Communist Party was held in Calcutta, February 28-March 6, 1948, five years after the first Congress. These five years were years of great trials and struggles for the Communist Party, years through which despite slander and opposition, despite brutal repression, it had grown in stature as a leading revolutionary force in India.
632 delegates attended the Congress, straight from the numerous battlefields scattered all over India, where the toiling masses of the country were fighting for a truly independent and democratic India. They came from working class centres like Bombay, Calcutta, Kanpur, Madurai and Coimbatore where huge strikes were taking place; from the centres of peasant struggles in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Malabar and from the areas in Maharashtra where the Worli peasants waged their heroic battles against serfdom and landlord oppression; from the battlefields of struggle against the princely autocracy in the states of Rajputana, Central India and above all from Telangana, where an epic armed resistance against the might of the Nizam’s autocracy was being waged. There were student delegates, fresh from the great student battles in Bombay, Calcutta and Kanpur. And there were 15 women delegates who were fighting with great determination to build a women's movement in the various states in the country.
In these very years, the Communist Party led many great struggles and as a result, the Communist Party grew in strength in the country as a whole. Its membership rose to 50,000. Its organised strength in the working class, peasants and the students increased in the same measure.
While the Communist Party was deeply involved in the rising struggles of the peasants and workers, building Hindu-Muslim unity, and solidarity among touchable and untouchable toiling people, the Congress and League leaders were pursuing the path of compromise with imperialism and of destruction of people's struggles, a path which led to communal carnage and the partition of the country. The Party denounced the role of imperialism in inciting communal riots. In the midst of the post-partition riots in Punjab and Bengal, members of the Party displayed rare heroism in their efforts to save members of the minority community from the hands of the murderous rioters. In Calcutta and Delhi, they led heroic demonstrations which were organised to fight back the riots.
As the spearhead and the leader of the struggles of workers, peasants and students, the Communist Party became the main target of repression at the hands of the Congress ministries in the year 1946-47. Communist workers and rank-and-file members were shot dead by police and put in jails in thousands. But neither they, nor the masses led by the Communist Party have faltered or wavered in the face of heaviest repression.
Though the Party was leading these battles, it still continued to vacillate in its policy and line. The vacillations of the Party were reflected in its failure to look upon the Mountbatten award as a new offensive of imperialism and considered the national government as a strategic weapon of advancing towards national freedom. This led the Party to come out with slogans like, ‘all support to Nehru government’ and a ‘united front between the government and the people’, when that government was attacking the masses, in betrayal of the cause of Indian freedom.
In July-August 1946, the Central Committee saw the ‘existence of a revolutionary upsurge’ and gave out the slogans of developing ‘partial struggles for the achievement of the democratic revolution and for the seizure of power by the people’. It called on the ranks to lead strikes in the railways and textiles, to head struggles of the peasants for Tebhaga in Bengal and similar struggles in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In December 1947, the Central Committee met and reviewed the whole situation and adopted a statement of policy and a document formulating the policy of ‘revolutionary defence against the collaborationist policy of the bourgeoisie leaders, policy of consolidating the struggles of the masses for building the democratic front, for the achievement of democratic revolution and the people's government’. The December meeting characterised the national government as a government of ‘collaboration and surrender’. It called on the working class to rebuild peoples’ unity through a democratic front, so that power is really secured by the toiling millions. It declared that the national bourgeois had ceased to play an oppositional role and that the Congress high command had gone over to the camp of imperialism. It stated that there should be no illusion about the Congress as an organisation which would be in the democratic front and that the struggle for real freedom and democracy should be waged in opposition to the collaborationist policy of the Congress leaders.
These documents were given to the entire party ranks as a basis for discussing the general line of the Party in the provincial conferences and their units. For two months, the entire party ranks discussed this document and reviewed their past work and the work of their higher committees.
There were three main reports discussed in the Congress – the first was a report on the draft political thesis, introduced by BT Ranadive; the second was a report on Pakistan, introduced by Bhowani Sen and the third was a self-critical review of the policies pursued by the Party during the last five years presented by BT Ranadive. These reports were presented one after another and the discussions on them started only after all of them were placed before the delegates. About hundred delegates participated in the discussions.
Introducing the political resolution, Ranadive stated that the line adopted by the Party in the period of anti-fascist peoples’ war was fundamentally correct. ‘The mistakes in that period arose from a wrong understanding that the military defeat of fascism would automatically lead to the liquidation and elimination of imperialism itself and as such to the automatic liberation of all people. The total under-estimation of the role of imperialism in the period of the peoples’ war made us lose sight of the task of exposing imperialism and fighting it within the framework of support for the anti-fascist war’.
On the Party positions on agrarian policy and production, he self-critically noted: “While we were quite correct in organising the peasant effort to grow more food, we tended to forget that the main fight against the imperialist feudal agrarian structure should not be slackened. We were right in preventing sabotage in production and avoiding strikes as far as it was consistent with the defence of the living conditions of the working class, but it was necessary for us to see that it was not possible to raise or organise production as long as production remained in the hands of profiteering capitalist and an imperialist government for whom profit and not interest of the anti-fascist war constituted the main guiding factor”.
The Report noted two reformist deviations: ‘(i) that the edge of our fight against imperialism was dulled and (ii) that we began to trail behind the bourgeoisie, instead of exposing it and following an independent policy’. This expressed itself on the question of the application of the slogan of self-determination of nationalities, to the Hindu-Muslim question. It arose mainly because the Party had an illusion that the unity of the Hindus and Muslims and of the Congress and the League could be achieved by the bourgeoisie leaders themselves.
Ranadive, in the course of his four and half hours speech, not only criticised Joshi (general secretary of the Party), but also the reformist deviations of every other Political Bureau and Central Committee member, including himself. After Ranadive had finished his report, Joshi spoke. He fully supported the report and self-critically accepted his mistakes. 34 delegates took part in the discussion. Ranadive summed up the entire discussion.
The Congress had taken the decision to form the Communist Party organisation in Pakistan, which would be responsible for shaping and formulating the policy and leading the struggle in Pakistan.
There was intense discussion among the delegates on the panel for the election of the new Central Committee, which included majority of the old Central Committee members. The whole panel was then put to vote to elect 31 members for the Central Committee as decided by the Congress. In the course of this polling, the entire panel proposed by Central Committee, except Joshi was elected. BT Ranadive was elected as the general secretary of the Party.
While the Congress correctly pinned down the earlier right reformist deviation, in correcting it, it adopted left-sectarian positions. The Congress did not correctly estimate the character of the new Indian State. It over-estimated the growing mass upsurge and under-estimated the hold of the Congress on the mass of the Indian people and its capacity to pressurise the princes to join the Indian union. The Congress failed to take note of the changed correlation of forces internationally, like the victory over fascism, the emergence of the socialist camp, which subsequently broke the direct hold of imperialism all over the world. This new situation has enabled our country to assert its independence, in spite of all the designs of imperialism.
The result of the implementation of the decisions of the Second Congress, despite various heroic struggles, was isolation and even disruption of Party organisation at various places. It led to a crisis inside the Party and a big inner-party debate ensued.