October 04, 2020
Tenali Convention – Harbinger for the Formation of a Revolutionary Party

THE more than decade long struggle against revisionism reached a point of no return by the year 1964. On 11 April, 32 members of the National Council walked out of the Council meeting in protest against the attitude of the leadership, the way they were violating all communist norms and practices and taking down the Party in a revisionist line, in violation of all the accepted decisions. These 32 members issued a joint appeal to all the Party members on 14 April 1964. This statement laid the path for the emergence of a stronger Communist Party.

The signatories to the joint appeal were: (1) P Sundarayya, (2) M Basavapunnaiah (3) T Nagi Reddy (4) M Hanumantha Rao (5) D Venkateswara Rao (6) N Prasada Rao (7) G Bapanaiah (8) EMS Namboodiripad (9) A K Gopalan (10) A V Kunhambu (11) C H Kanaran (12) E K Nayanar (13) V S Achuthanandan (14) E K Imbichibava (15) Promode Das Gupta (16) Muzaffar Ahmed (17) Jyoti Basu (18) Abdul Halim (19) Hare Krishna Konar (20) Saroj Mukherjee (21) P Ramamurti (22) M R Venkataraman (23) N Sankaraiah (24) K Ramani (25) Harkishan Singh Surjeet (26) Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri (27) D S Tapiala (28) Dr Bhag Singh (29) Sheo Kumar Misra (30) R N Upadhyaya (31) Mohan Punamiya (32) R P Saraf.

In the appeal, they stated that they had been exchanging views on how to carry forward the struggle against the anti-Party factional activities being carried out by the secretariat headed by S A Dange and came to the conclusion that it was intrinsically linked with the struggle against the reformist political line. They called upon the majority of the Party members and units to repudiate the reformist political line of a general united front with the Congress. They stated that the reformists had advanced such a line even in the Sixth Congress held in 1961, which was however “stoutly opposed by the delegates and rejected by the (Party) Congress in the resolution which was finally adopted. The comrades who had championed that nakedly reformist political line had to accept defeat at the Congress. They, however, tried to push that line in their practical activities even after the Party Congress”.

The appeal openly accepted the fact that there were differences amongst themselves concerning the estimation of the economic and political situation in the country, as well as in the approach to the problem of how to offer resistance to the reformist politics and factional organisational methods of the secretariat headed by Dange. However, they were united in the “understanding that the inner-Party problem posed under the circumstances can be solved only through an appeal to the Party membership as a whole, culminating in the convening of a Party Congress”. They also stated that there existed differences on ideological questions amongst themselves, but they were ‘united on the Draft Programme’, which they had provisionally accepted. “Despite these differences, however, we are all agreed on the necessity to resist the reformist political line, the anti-Party factional organisational methods and the shameless effort to whitewash Dange’s alleged conduct in having offered his services to the British”. They proposed to have further exchange of views on the ideological and political questions that divide them and also associate the entire Party membership in those discussions.

To help in these discussions, they circulated the following documents among the Party members and sympathisers: (i) the Draft Programme, which was provisionally accepted by them; (ii) Comrade EMS’ draft on the Party Programme; (iii) the draft on ideological questions prepared by Comrade M Basavapunnaiah and others; (iv) another draft on the above prepared by Comrade Jyoti Basu and others. They also stated that subsequently they would also circulate Comrade EMS’ critique on the Draft Programme, as well as the critique on Comrade EMS’ draft by other comrades. They expressed confidence that through such ‘discussions and the active political and mass work’, it would be possible to rally the large mass of Party members and sympathisers, ‘not only in offering effective resistance to the policies and practices of Dange and his followers, but also to make the necessary political and organisational preparations for convening the Seventh Congress of the Party’.
They concluded their appeal by calling upon all sincere advocates of Party unity to ‘force the secretariat and its supporters to reverse their present policies and practices’. If the secretariat persists with its attitude, they appealed the entire Party membership to join them in convening the Seventh Congress of the Party – ‘a Congress of struggle against reformism, factionalism and the renunciation of revolutionary traditions, which are the characteristics of S A Dange and his group’. They also stated that they had decided to call a meeting of the representatives of Party members within two months to review their activities and chalk out future programme.

On the basis of the Appeal, an intense inner-Party discussion was organised, where Party committees and members all over the country were approached. Though there was a desire for unity among the Party ranks, majority of them were critical of the revisionist line pursued by Dange and his supporters and their disruptionist methods. In spite of the limitations posed by the fact that the Party machinery was firmly in the hands of the revisionists, a majority of the Party members rallied behind the Appeal of the 32.

The revisionist leadership tried to create confusion among the Party members by pretending to ‘urge for unity and for talks’. However, talks with them made it clear that they were not prepared to concede any of the demands put forward by the 32, to get a democratic verdict of the whole Party. In fact, they were busy splitting the Party. They split the Communist group in Lok Sabha and also in certain state assemblies. The political resolutions that were discussed in the subsequent National Council meeting of the Dangeites showed that they were bent upon pursuing their collaborationist political line. This is the background in which the Tenali Convention was held on July 7-11, 1964.

146 delegates representing 1,00,000 Party members met at Tenali to discuss the serious inner-Party situation and assess the situation after the walk-out of the 32 members of the National Council and the response to their appeal, to decide the future course of action.

Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed, hoisted the Party flag and called upon the delegates to ‘pledge to build a real Communist Party’. Comrades A K Gopalan, Jyoti Basu and Shiv Verma conducted the proceedings of the Convention as its presidium. Comrade P Sundarayya welcomed the delegates on behalf of the reception committee.

A report on the ‘unity talks’ between the representatives of the 32 and those of the Dange-led National Council was placed before the Convention at the very start of the Convention. This was followed by reports from various states that gave a comprehensive picture of the inner-Party situation in their respective states, as well as the revisionist political line and disruptive activities carried on by the official group. These reports indicated that an overwhelming majority of the Party members in various states rejected the Dange leadership and rallied around the appeal of the 32.

A document on ideological questions, ‘A Contribution to the Ideological Debate’, was next taken up for discussions. A proposal was made that on ideological differences in the international communist movement, “our Party as an independent sovereign unit of the international communist movement, shall arrive at its own independent decisions after a full and democratic discussion in the entire Party”. The Convention accepted the suggestion that those issues which were of immediate bearing on political and ideological work, like forms of transition and peaceful coexistence should be discussed and clinched along with the Draft Programme.

The Convention discussed the Draft Programme, as well as the note by Comrade EMS. Even the three drafts prepared by Dange, Bhupesh Gupta and P C Joshi, which were circulated in Dange led National Council, were circulated among the delegates for discussion. After two days of discussions, it was decided that the Draft Programme, along with the critique of Comrade EMS should be circulated throughout the Party for discussions, to be clinched in the Seventh Congress.

After deciding on the ideological and political questions, the Convention discussed and adopted the resolution on the Seventh Congress of the Party, which ended with an appeal: “We want to assure those comrades and friends who are concerned at the possible consequences of this step that it is not a pleasure for us that we have been forced to this position. We have been anxious to avoid it. That is why we made approaches for unity when such approaches were possible. However, all our efforts have met the stiff resistance of those who would maintain themselves in power at all costs”. The agenda for the Party Congress was also adopted through this resolution.

The Convention elected a 41-member Central Organising Committee, along with an executive committee and a secretariat to help in the preparations for the Party Congress, help the states in organising state conferences and guiding the work of TU, Kisan, parliamentary and other mass fronts. Comrade M Basavapunnaiah was elected as the convenor of the secretariat.