July 19, 2020

The Fourth Congress: Inner-party Struggle Begins

THE demand for the formation of linguistic states was always one of the important demands raised by the Communist Party. This was also one of the major demands of the various peasant struggles led by the Communist Party. After independence, the Congress government refused to concede this demand on the plea that it would lead to the disintegration of the nation. Refuting this argument, communists campaigned extensively among the people and also conducted various struggles.

The Communist Party held the formation of linguistic states as a prerequisite to ensure the full participation of the masses in the democratic reconstruction of the country’s economic and political life and lead it in the path of progress and prosperity. It was also necessary for laying firm and secure foundation for building the unity of India, on the basis of democracy and equality of all the people. The Party welcomed the formation of the Andhra state in 1953, a result of the people’s upsurge.

In its Central Committee meeting held in April 1954, a resolution detailing the stand of the Communist Party on the reorganisation of the states was adopted. It welcomed the formation of the States’ Reorganisation Commission. It criticised the terms of reference given for the Commission, which sought to bypass the concept of language, culture and instead gave stress on financial viability and administrative convenience. It urged the government not to delay the formation of linguistic states, as it would be harmful to the harmonious relations between various sections of the people. It gave concrete suggestions for the formation of 20 states on the basis of language and demanded the submission of an interim report by September 1954.

The Party also demanded the abolition of the institution of ‘rajpramukh, privy purses of all former rulers and all special privileges accorded to them. It demanded the State to confiscate all the personal property of the erstwhile rulers and use it for reconstruction of the country and public benefit. The Party also demanded that education in the linguistically formed states should be in mother-tongue.

The demand for attaching tribal areas to a linguistic state as per their cultural and linguistic affinity was also made by the Party. It also demanded that these areas be given regional autonomy.
The Party also appealed people not to fritter away their energies on minor details of the boundaries, but fight for the formation of the states with village as the deciding unit. The Communist Party submitted a detailed memorandum to the Commission on these demands.

The Communist Party welcomed the formation of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamilnadu, but criticised the Commission’s recommendation to make Bombay a centrally administered territory, cutting it off from Maharashtra and also its another recommendation to merge Bihar and Bengal. It conducted various struggles on these demands and many of its cadre were arrested and beaten by the police. Six Central Committee members were arrested in these protests. In some places, police even resorted to firing, killing scores of people.

During this period, a serious debate started within the Party on the question of analysing the policies adopted by the Nehru government – an analysis of the foreign policy of the Indian government, Five Year Plans – and the Congress Party’s deceptive slogan of establishing a ‘socialist pattern of society’. A section of the Party leadership got carried away by these developments and started arguing that the national bourgeoisie had split into two – the monopolist section standing for out-and-out collaboration and compromise with imperialism and feudalism, while on the other hand, there is another section, opposed to imperialism and feudalism, which is represented by Nehru and other so-called left Congressites. Though this class collaborationist line was rejected in the Central Committee, it persisted.

These differences got further accentuated after the electoral defeat of the Party in Andhra in March 1955. The Party was expected to win a majority in the state. The support and encouragement received from the people and the huge rallies and meetings organised gave a false hope that the Party would win despite the virulent campaign carried out by the ruling classes, and defeat all the threats and ugly manoeuvres of the Congress Party. Huge money and other resources were spent by the ruling classes to defeat the communists. But the results shocked the Party. Many Party candidates were defeated by margins of merely few votes. The Party secured only seven per cent of the seats, though it won 31 per cent of the vote. In nearly 100 constituencies, it secured 47 per cent of the votes. On the other hand, the Congress Party and its allies could win 74 per cent of the seats, securing 50 per cent of the vote. A proper review of these elections could not be conducted because of the intensifying differences within the Party.

The Fourth Congress of the Party took place in this background from April 19-29, 1956 in Palghat (now Palakkad), Kerala. At the time of the Fourth Congress, the Party had a membership of 75,000 and another 30,000 were candidate members.

A major development that had its influence on the Party Congress was the changes taking place in the international communist movement, particularly in the Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU). The 20th Congress of the CPSU was held in 1956 and the resolutions passed by that Congress, with its incorrect assessments had strengthened the forces of revisionism once again.

The draft resolution of the Central Committee for the Palghat Congress contained many of the reformist formulations and it had encouraged the class collaborationist trend within the Party. A section of the Central Committee that did not agree with these formulations put forward an alternative draft before the Congress. All the formulations in this draft too were not free from errors, as it was also based on the Party Programme adopted in 1951 and hence its limitations. But this draft contained a clear analysis of the class character of the Indian State and sharply criticised the class collaborationist formulations. An intense debate took place over these two documents and the class collaborationists failed to mobilise the entire Party behind their line of thinking. This debate and discussion forced them to retain some of the basic ideological positions and incorporate the strategic objectives of the People’s Democracy and the People’s Democratic Front, led by the working class. As the corrections more or less satisfied the movers of the alternative draft, it was withdrawn.

The reworked and amended draft was not to the liking of the proponents of the class collaborationist line, who were supporting the earlier draft moved by the Central Committee. They accused others of sticking to rigid concepts and rigid tactics – inconsiderate to the changes taking place in the society – and causing irreparable damage to the Party. They moved their own alternative resolution in the Party Congress, which was defeated but about one-third of the delegates voted for it.

The organisational report placed before the Congress noted the loosening of discipline and decisions not being implemented. Though a central party school was organised during this period, it did not carry the uniform understanding of the Party. Collective functioning of the Party had taken a blow and the weaknesses at the Party centre persisted. This had even affected the publication of the Party journal and the sale of Party literature. The report had self-critically accepted the leadership’s failure to effectively use the developing objective conditions for the growth of the Party and its ideology.

The report of the credential committee shows that 407 delegates attended the Congress. The total number of years spent by all the delegates in jail was 1344 years, which meant that each delegate on an average spent more than three years in jail. The delegates all together had spent 1021 years underground, which meant that on an average each delegate spent two and half years underground. This reflected the fighting composition of the Party.

The adopted political resolution stated that balance of forces in the world had decisively shifted in favour of socialism and that the influence of imperialism was getting weakened. This led some to conclude that parliamentary majorities can lead the way for social change and the question before the Party was to ‘create conditions’ for peaceful transition towards socialism. All these debates and discussions show that the Party remained divided on Programmatic questions, as well as on the immediate tactical line that was to be pursued.

Though the Party Congress adopted the political resolution, it was clear that there was no common understanding in the Party on certain key questions (class character of the State, strategy and tactics that needed to be pursued) confronting the Indian communist movement. Thus the Congress became the precursor to the decade long struggle within the Party on programmatic and ideological issues.