Assault on the Party – 1962-63
IN order to fight the third general elections in 1962, inner Party differences were pushed to the background. The crux of the election tactics decided was to break the monopoly of power of the Congress as it was proving to be a hindrance to the development of democracy and the ‘advancement of people’s cause’. Call was given to increase the representation of communists in the parliament and also in various state legislatures.
These elections were held in the background of mounting numbers of unemployed and the failure of the Indian economy to register the promised growth. Fifteen years of Indian independence showed that it was the nascent Indian big bourgeoisie who were the chief benefiters of the economic trajectory as their wealth was increasing steadily. On the other hand, the working class was denied adequate wages, even to compensate the growing cost of living due to constant rise in the prices of essentials. On top of it, the scarcity of food in several parts of the country also added to people’s woes. As a result, popular discontent was growing across the country and big struggles were witnessed in many states. The government unleashed brutal attack on these protests and democratic rights were increasingly threatened.
The election manifesto of the Party noted that the policies pursued by the Congress party were giving rise to various divisive tendencies in the country. Communal and reactionary parties like the Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Sangh and Swatantra Party were feeding on this rising discontent. It also noted that the attacks on minority community were also becoming a ‘common phenomenon’. The mManifesto stated: “we cannot but stress that these tendencies and parties which thrive on them could not have attained their present strength but for the grave failures of the Congress itself and the sense of discontent and frustration that its policies have given rise to….(With the) intent only to maintain themselves in power by any and every means, many Congress leaders themselves resort to appeals based on communalism, casteism, regionalism, provincialism and so on”.
The Party categorically stated that it considers the parties of extreme right, as parties of reaction and obscurantism, whose growth and success would imperil the cause of national freedom, national advance and democracy. The Party called for the building of a ‘broad national democratic front of all patriotic and democratic forces’ and sought people’s support. The Party noted that both the Congress and the reactionary parties have the same patrons who want the Communist Party to be dislodged from its position as the main party of opposition and desire a shift in the policies of the government to further right.
Thus the three main slogans reflecting the tactics of the Party in the general elections were: (i) weaken the Congress monopoly of power; (ii) rout the parties of right reaction and (iii) strengthen the position of the Communist Party and of genuine democratic forces.
The Communist Party secured 10 per cent of the votes and 29 seats in the parliament and was able to increase its vote percentage by one per cent. The vote share of the Congress reduced by 3 per cent. Noting the election results, the central secretariat of the Party broadly concluded that the process of weakening of the position of the Congress was continuing. It noted that the most disturbing feature of the elections was the strengthened position of the communal and right reactionary parties. Reflecting the intense differences inside the Party, two drafts were presented in the National Council to review the elections. The reformists after noticing that their line was going to be defeated, stated that there was ‘no need to go into a postmortem of the elections’.
Immediately after the elections, Ajoy Ghosh, general secretary of the Party passed away. The Party called for collection of funds to construct a central party office in memory of Ajoy Ghosh. The Party faced the question of electing a new general secretary, which was discussed in the National Council. Revisionist section of the Party took advantage of the vacillations among certain members of the Council, and created a new post of chairman in the Party, though the Party constitution did not have any such provision. As a compromise, SA Dange was elected as the chairman and EMS Namboodiripad, as the general secretary. It was also resolved to elect six more members to the central executive committee – P Sundarayya, G Adhikari, Jyoti Basu, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, HK Vyas and Avtar Singh Malhotra. Secretariat was revamped with the inclusion of new members. Apart from Dange and EMS Namboodiripad, it consisted of Bhupesh Gupta, ZA Ahmed, MN Govindan Nair, P Sundarayya, Jyoti Basu, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Yogindra Sharma.
The secretariat was entrusted with the task of preparing four documents - (i) on the ideological and organisational questions facing the communist movement; (ii) the significance of the decisions of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU; (iii) Post-election political situation in the country and (iv) Organisational problems. In a subsequent meeting of the National Council, a resolution was adopted on the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, wherein many of the wrong conclusions contained in the CPSU documents were uncritically accepted and applauded. The chief among them were that the Soviet Union was on the road towards the construction of communist society, which would be completed soon for the present generation to witness. The strength of imperialist forces was severely underestimated. These conclusions were used to strengthen the theory of peaceful co-existence of States and transition to socialism. These conclusions further added to the intense inner Party differences that were concerned with the assessment of the international and national political situation, the role and intervention of communist parties.
The differences that arose in the international communist movement, particularly between the CPSU and the Albanian Party of Labour and the CPSU and CPC on these aspects, also had an impact on the inner Party debates. The Party passed a resolution asking the CPSU to take the initiative to convene a meeting of all the communist and workers’ parties in the world, similar to the meeting of 81 parties that had taken place in Moscow, in 1960.
It is in this background that the simmering India-China border dispute flared up in October 1962. The Congress government proclaimed emergency under the Defence of India Rules and started detaining people without trial. These extraordinary measures were utilised to arrest one section of the Party leadership – those who were opposing class collaborationist line and advocating peaceful negotiations and peaceful settlement of the dispute between the two neighbouring countries. Prominent communist leaders like Muzaffar Ahmad, AK Gopalan, BT Ranadive, P Sundarayya, Jyoti Basu, Promode Das Gupta, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, M Basavapunnaiah, Harekrishna Konar and others were arrested and confined to prisons for a long time. More than 800 communist leaders, including about 50 members of the Party’s National Council, 10 members of the parliament and about 40 members of different state legislatures, trade unionists and other leaders of the democratic movement were detained under these draconian rules.
The government used these extraordinary powers to paralyse the work of trade unions, kisan sabhas and intimidate workers and employees, vicitimise them and subject them to harsh measures. In many places, followers of the Congress Party attacked the offices of the Communist Party, burnt documents and furniture, attacked the houses of leaders of the Party and threatened them.
The revisionist leadership led by Dange, saw these attacks on the revolutionary section of the Party leadership as an opportune time to further carry ahead their class collaborationist line. They launched a concerted and slanderous campaign, raising the bogey of chauvinism, aided and abetted by reactionaries of all shades and colours. They refused to condemn the arrests of Party leaders and trade unionists who were branded as ‘anti-national’ and ‘pro-China’. Dange did his best to prevent AITUC from passing a resolution condemning these arrests. The government got emboldened when it realised that it could get support not only from right reactionary parties, but also from people like Dange in the Communist Party. The protest against the Congress government’s repression came from fraternal communist and workers’ parties, but not from the Dange group.
The revisionist group led by Dange utilised this time to capture the Party in different states. They dissolved the West Bengal state council and formed a Provincial Organising Committee. In Punjab, they convened a special conference and got a new committee elected. In this manner they wanted to drive away all those comrades who were leading the fight against class collaboration from leading positions in the Party.
Even after the end of the border clashes, the Communist Party led by the revisionists failed to demand the withdrawal of the emergency. On the other hand, Dange even asked for the continuance of emergency! They were only ready to request the government to ‘review the question and necessity of continuing emergency in consultation with opposition parties’.
Thus the period, 1962-1963 was marked by an assault on the Party, specifically on those who were committed to the line of class struggle. The differences that were persisting in the Party since 1954 further widened, reaching a point of no-return. These differences which were earlier confined to the top leadership of the Party, now percolated to the lower levels of the Party too.