Conversion of Parliamentarism to

Social Fascism:

An Indian Experience


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Opportunism and Ruling Class Politics

The first U.F. Govt. in West Bengal fell through intra-party squabbles and the second U.F in 1969 like the first one was too heterogenous and short-lived. By this time the CPI(M) had learnt how to manage the government in a reactionary state system. Yet it should be mentioned here that many an effort was made by the militant peasants to implement the government land reform decisions. Against the rising tide of Naxalbari politics it was necessary to implement many old and new policies to avert a peasant upsurge. What the Congress leaders with the domination of landlords at every step failed to translate the Govt. policies taken to avoid a red revolution, the CPI(M) middle ranking leaders at that stage could implement them with some success. It must be stated the measures were not against the state itself. The CPI(M) leader Hare Krishna Konar writes about the second U.F Government that, "… The Land Revenue and the Home Departments with their mutual cooperation have undoubtedly played an important role. But it was the unprecedented upsurge of the poor peasants, their broad imitative and active performance which formed the real basis."39 We have already noted the alarm sounded by the Central Home Department about the need for the implementation of land reform measures.

Indira Gandhi emerged with a big roar in 1971 with her so-called "Garibi Hatao" programme, of which the very important element was the redistribution of farmland held in excess of the prescribed ceilings to tillers of substandard holdings. She set up the Central Land Reforms Committee to adopt a ceiling on land holding, tougher than the past ones, i.e. twenty-seven acres for a family of five on land irrigated for a single crop. But she failed for the big land owner party leaders. The actual transfers were even more miniscule than before: 25,000 hectares nation-wide from 1972 to 1975.40 What the CPM did was to implement the that policy in a situation when the restless peasants themselves were participating in their thousands, when the possibility to go the Naxalbari way was very much in the air.

The CPI(M) documents of that tumultuous period record the fear and the need for "disciplined" movement with all its legality. Bhabadeb Mondal, a peasant leader of the Debra peasant struggle in Midnapore reminisces how on the request of Chief Minister the then state leaders shot off directives against the peasant movements getting increasingly militant. Bhabadeb and two other leaders were called for explanation at the district party office and then came the diktat: "Halt this movement. The land seizure shall be done by the administration; no type of blockade shall be allowed anywhere. Even for the moment stop all street meetings. Because, by this time the atmosphere of terror that has been created, the activities that have been performed by gheraoing police station, B.D.O and J.L.R.O offices and the barns of jotedars have tarnished the tradition of our party, particularly the prestige of the United Front Government."41

What the district CPI(M) leaders emphatically sounded was on the maintaining of the legality of the movement and the positive role of the state administration. The gains that came to the peasants were through their struggles, and the CPI(M) played the twin role of activising the administration (where the Congress failed) and of disciplining the peasants’ and workers’ struggle within the limits of law. The CPI(M) documents of this whole period (1967-70) are replete with the call to "Defend Parliamentary Democracy" and save the U.F governments. The All India Kisan Sabha in its 19th session at Madurai in January 1968 tried to alleviate the fear of the reactionary forces with such lamentations: "They are dubbing every struggle of the peasants for even partial economic demands as Naxalbari liberation struggle." (Resolution of the 19th Session of the AIKS, supplement to People’s Democracy, Feb. 11, 1968. p. vi) The CPI(M) from the early 1970s concentrated all fire against the CPI (ML), killing and handing over to the police hundreds of its dedicated activists. It made a clandestine understanding with the Congress butchers aided by the C.R.P and Calcutta Police forces to brutally kill hundreds of activists, sympathizers and their family members in Kashipur – Burranagar in Calcutta in 1971. The CPI(M) help was not necessary by the year 1972 to stem the people’s movement directly and the reign of white terror that was unleashed particularly in West Bengal by the Congress regime did not even spare some of the militants in the CPI(M).

People killed in elections in West Bengal



 5 deaths



 1 death



 1 death



 0 death



 1 death



 1 death


 Panchyat 6




 2 deaths



 7 deaths



 47+20= 67 deaths (official figure) unofficial more than 150

(Anand Bazar Patrika, 12 May, 2003)

The accommodative politics of the CPI(M) with ‘left’ speechifying yielded place to direct attacks like any ruling class party. The CPI under the directive of Moscow already started eulogizing the Indira Gandhi govt. as an ally of the Soviet Union. Some prominent CPI people directly joined the Congress led by Indira Gandhi. Mohan Kumarmangalam received the plum post of the Union Minister for planning, K.R. Ganesh, Union Minister of State for Revenue and Expenditure, Nurul Hasan, Union Minister of State for Education and Social Service and so on. The CPI(M) lost a rigged election in 1972 in West Bengal and the timidty of its leadership was all too evident when it preferred to remain in political wilderness till the next election in 1977. Its militant cadres too were not spared, yet there was no resistance, no struggle of any significance was made against the white terror.

The Internal Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975 betrayed the supine position of the entire CPI(M) leadership. And as a prize the cruel S.S Ray ministry in West Bengal "did not take action against the ageing leadership of the State cadre"42 The CPI Central Executive Committee Resolution captioned "National Emergency And Our Party’s Tasks" gave unstinted support to the repressive measures with despicable political statement that, "… the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of India is of the firm opinion that the swift and stern measures taken by the Prime Minister and the Government of India against the right reactionary and counter revolutionary forces were necessary and justified."43 This was from the clearly revisionist CPI directly echoing the revisionist masters in the social imperialist Soviet Union. And what did the cunning as well as timid CPI(M) leaders do?

In their inter-party squabbles the CPI leader Mohit Sen lambasted the hypocritical left phrase-mongering CPI(M). We quote below the clear charges. "Where were the struggles against the Emergency and action calling it to be lifted by CPM? What and where did it do anything against sterilization and the savage demolition operations aimed at the urban poor? What did it do to battle against the caucus and the repulsive Sanjay built-up campaign? What is its answer to P.C. Sen’s public statement that the CPM turned down his proposal to launch a Satyagraha against the Emergency in West Bengal?…"44 The period 1972-1974 at least gave the right lesson to the CPI(M) that it should gradually shed much of its militant phrase-mongering, it had better forget all possibility of militant resistance, even economic ones under its parliamentary organizational set-up and it was pragmatic enough to appease and welcome the big bourgeoisie, MNCs, IMF, land owning sections with the discreet policy of "Live and let live."

The 1977 electoral victory, absolutely unexpected even to the CPI(M), which was in a state of disarray and decay, in West Bengal and Kerala, and then in Tripura riding on the crest of a wave of massive discontent through the rejection of the Indira regime and its repressive politics, provided a new beginning for open and repressive revisionist parliamentarism in Indian politics in the name of Marxism.

The Marxist dictum that the state is an organ of class rule has been rejected completely in favour of maintaining ‘law and order’ to perpetuate and legalize the oppression by imperialist powers and their allies, the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlords. What E.M.S. Nambordiripad told at a press conference in 1968 as to how to combat revolutionaries wedded to Naxalbari polities has been faithfully followed by the CPI(M) bosses in West Bengal in the post-1977 period. The Blitz editorially commented on December 14, 1968 that he spoke like a social fascist: "It is gratifying to see agreement on this basic point in quarters which otherwise are wide apart. At his Trivandrum Press conference Mr. E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Chief Minister of troubled Kerala clearly reaffirmed the need for a combination of police and political measures. Two days later, Mr. Y.B. Chavan told the Home Ministry’s Informal Parliamentary Consultative Committee that the extremists could not be tackled by police action alone."45

Such unity of thought and action with the twin policy of killing revolutionaries as well as doling out so-called welfare measures or carrying out so-called political struggle was found in Namboodiripad, Y.V. Chavan and now heard in the fascist voices of L.K. Advani, Chandrababu Naidu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharyee. It is downright revisionism and accommodative mainstream politics in the Marxist movement in India that has led to this disastrous end. The Indian revolution has to fight this dangerous parliamentarism, standing in the way of people’s democratic revolution in India.

The post-1997 insitutionalized revisionist politics after the exit of the Indira regime at the Centre and the whole of north and east India through a massive madate against the terror raj, the subdued and thoroughly inactive CPI(M) jumped onto the band wagon of the anti-Indira Janata Party for an alliance. It was like a period of a sweeping wind against the Indira regime. The Janata Party was a hotch-potch combination of extreme right bourgeois landlords with the reactionary Jan Sangha (now BJP) a prominent constituent.

Home Minister L. K. Advani informed Parliament that some officials had sought to advise him before J and K assembly poll last October to take steps to "direct the result in a certain manner". This is the most authoritative acknowledgement yet that the rigging of elections had become a common feature of politics in that sensitive state…. Not unexpectedly, national interest has been cited as the reason for using the democratic instrument of elections as a plaything.

(Editorial, Hindustan Times, April 25, 2003)

It is true the basically pro-Russian regime of Indira cracked down on the pro-U.S constituents of the Janata Party while the CPI(M) leaders chose to avert jail life or any trial of strength to the satisfaction of the Congress Governments in the Centre and states. It is an utter lie when the CPI(M) leaders cry hoarse that it had faced repression during the Emergency period. It was a sheer windfall or in other words, peoples’ desperation that clicked and CPI(M) led "Left Front" was voted to power in the 1977 general elections in West Bengal.

In the words of the CPI(M) C.C. member Benoy Konar: "The left approached the Janata Party for unity. They even offered to be a junior partner. But the Janata declined …" 46 The CPI(M) leaders had not without reason preferred to be a junior partner. The organization was in complete disarray with desertion of many of the middle level leaders and activists, and reduced to a totally inactive, non-functioning state of its grass-roots organizations.

The Janata Party, on the other hand, misread the West Bengal people’s disgust with the erstwhile Congress, P.S.P, and such reactionary leaders without grassroots base among the deprived people. It was the demand for ‘political prisoners’ release’ that became a rallying cry in West Bengal as in many other states. It goes without saying that predominantly Naxalites in their thousands bore the brunt of repression, murder and regular torture in all the jails of West Bengal. A small number of CPM militant cadres were also put behind the bars.The CPI(M) Election Manifesto while making false promises on checking MNCs, World Bank, punishing the guilty of torturing people in the Indira regime, etc. incorporated in it the people’s demand for the release of political prisoners as it was the vocal demand of the people. In any case, the CPI which wholeheartedly supported the Emergency and all other draconian measures of the Congress regime suddenly did a topsy-turvy and expelled its Chairman, the wretched revisionist S.A. Dange, for his pro-Congress position while maintaining in the CPI National Council a fourth of his pro-Congress (I) supporters.47

The CPM led so-called left parties were voted to power, the CPM alone unexpectedly secured 178 out of the 294 seats. From then on the Left Front in West Bengal has been highlighted as a model, an alternative to the class rule of capitalists and landlords. The CPM Finance Minister Ashok Mitra, who served Indira Gandhi as advisor a few years ago, wrote glowingly that the "communist experience" in West Bengal "Would act as a great pursuader; by example, it would captivate the imagination of the millions who constitute India’s exploited majority and pulsate them into an all encompassing drive for social revolution."48 And this revisionist anti-Leninist model supposing to be the driving force for social revolution is like the magic lamp of Aladin.

The pragmatic CPM leadership did three major things to stay put in power after the stagnation of even economic movements through trade unions and peasant front. First it released political prisoners, second it betrayed the repressed people’s anger against the culprits of white terror by gradually chanellising their pent-up indignation through the ballots of Panchayats and other such constitutional ways. Third the vocal sections were mellowed by economic rewards in various ways. On the other hand the henchmen of the Congress regime were rendered practical assistance by cunningly evading any measure against them for their crimes. Rather notorious police officers like Runu Guha Niyogi got promoted in the police department. Instead of a ‘Social revolution’, in the early days of the Left Front, people’s militant mood was watered down giving a call for discipline and saving the Left Front from the allegations of inspiring militancy.

With all such measures the power-hungry CPM in no time used the administration, and rural rich, job opportunities to create a cadre of thousands of disgruntled, careerist people to save and propagate the revisionism of the CPM. This created a modest earning middle class party elite in the villages and cities engaged in blunting the militant edge of any movement.

The third thing it did, learning from the inactivity and failure of the earlier Congress regime, was to implement land reform measures as per the Land Reform Acts of 1955 and the amendments made in 1971 by the Congress Chief minister S.S. Ray’s government. In the Words of Benoy Konar "In 1978 ‘operation Barga’ started, by which administrative measures and initiatives for recording the rights of the share-croppers were coordinated with the peasant movement. This was initiated by Com. Benoy Chowdhury, the then Land Reforms Minister, and Land Reforms Commissioner Sri. D. Bandhopadyay. To begin with, land revenue officers went to selected villages on a pre-fixed date after Kisan Sabha workers had conducted a campaign among the share-croppers to assemble there, and their barga rights were recorded on the spot. Earlier a share cropper had to prove that be was a bargadar; now the onus of disproving one’s claim as a bargadar was laid upon the owner. At the next stage, the share-croppers themselves went to the land revenue officer in an organized way to record their rights…"49

In any case it must be stated that the Indira regime or the Nehru regime could not effectively put into practice the legally accepted measures adopted to avert a Red Revolution in India or, at least, the massive anti-landlord outburst in some parts of the country. The CPI or the CPM with their long history of presence in the villages with movements on various types of economic demands against the landowning sections could use the administration and peasants’ participation for implementing, to an extent, the land reform acts within the constitutional framework. And it must be added here it had twin results: spreading its mass base, projecting the L.F. Governments as an alternative model and second, undermining the revolutionary spirit for making thorough land reforms through the efforts of establishing parallel Soviet type administrations through a violent class war. It should be added here that when the zamindari abolition demand in the post 47 period spread throughout India, it was the Nehru-led Congress Government which perceived the threat from the tenants to go in for at least doing away with the big zamindari estates.

It is the tragic history of Indian revisionism that except in Telengana and in certain pockets under the Tebhaga struggle the CPI did not resort to any direct action for striking at the zamindars. The U.P zamindari Abolition Committee pointed to the age long simmering discontent of the tenants everywhere that might "develop into revolt and our social security may be threatened by the out-break of violence."50 What the non-Marxists feared and what they suggested as constitutional measures to direct the discontents captivated the revisionist leaders from E.M.S Namboodiripad to the Jyoti-Buddha opportunists, who chose the cosy way of avoiding the hardships in the tortuous path of revolution by Fabian type social reformism. It is obviously not our argument that all movements even within the constitutional boundaries are revisionism. What is wrong with revisionists like Bernstein, Khruschev variety and their Indian followers is to project the exploitative class state and its administration as serving the have nots in our society averting the bloody path of revolution. No state or central government with even real Marxists’ participation can be projected as an alternative as the CPI/CPM and such revisionists do in India expecting a peaceful change.

Before coming to what the CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Anil Biswas glorified as "West Bengal: Towards an Alternative Form of Governance in the Indian Union" in The Marxist, the CPM theoretical journal,51 celebrating its 25 years’ stint in state power, we take a look at the worst type of parliamentarism at the national level in this period. From a three-state organization in electoral politics and the taste of legislative power, the CPM, and in a smaller way the CPI, have been opting for central seats of power, shedding all past tall talks against bourgeois landlord parties, and shifting from this or that boat of reactionaries, out of sheer opportunism, the hallmark of parliamentary power politics. A few examples, we think, will suffice to grasp the basic intention and trend of current revisionist parliamentarism. The CPM supported the Janata Government, a hotch potch combination from the present BJP to the Lok Dal. Again an election came through which Indira rose to power again in 1980.

The CPI in 1978 was found attacking both the Janata Party and the Congress (I). It also vehemently criticized the CPM for pulling down the CPI-led government in Kerala.52 During this mud-slinging the CPI leader Bhupesh Gupta reminisced in an angry mood the blatant fact that if the CPI(M) would not stand by Indira Gandhi’s minority government, it would not have survived the crucial one and half year after the first split of the Congress in 1969.53 However, differences were only skin deep. The CPI National Council wanted a so-called left and democratic unity stressing "our party and the CPI(M) as a nucleas for a left front."54 Like the CPI(M), the CPI National Council too in that meeting declared that "The CPI will support whatever progressive steps this government (Indira-led government) might take…"55 This die-hard revisionist policy of criticizing the "utterly reactionary" government, with a simultaneous eagerness to discover and lend support to its "progressive steps" in order to appease it has always remained the crude form of capitulation to the comprador bourgeoisie and landlords and their political representatives in India.

It is necessary to remind here that when the Dalit peasants had consistently burst into revolts in united Bihar since 1973-74 under the CPI (ML) groups both the CPI and the CPI(M) painted the massive repression on them and murdering of Dalits as a consequence of Dalit awakening and simultaneously vented all their ire against the Naxalites. This duality is a part and parcel of revisionist vote-bank politics. As the CPI National council strongly criticized Naxalite elements in Bihar, who were charged with utilizing the deep discontent among "the poorest and the downtrodden".56

When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 both the CPI and the CPI(M) went into mourning. The CPI(M) Polit Bureau considered Indira’s assassination was "part of a …dismemberment plan" of the imperialist agents and other reactionary forces.57

The CPI had long abandoned the rightful demands of various nationalities in India, so also did the CPI(M). We have referred to the CPMs founder leader Namboodiripad’s early ‘left’ retort against the CPI’s stress for national unity. With maturity in Paliamentary constitutional politics the CPI(M) too joined the chorus for national unity. In its prepared statement before the meeting of opposition parties in Srinagar in September 1983 it oozed out its nationalistie sentiments like the Congress (I) or the BJP. It announced "Our Party stands for the unity of the country and fights all forces of disintegration; we definitely stand for an effective and efficient Centre capable of defending the country, organizing and consolidating its economic life, and adequately armed with powers to discharge its other jobs like foreign policy, communication, foreign trade etc."58

With all this stress on national unity, the common refrain of all bourgeois parties, while rejecting the question of self determination of nations, the above statement has been calculatedly moderated by vague utterances, that without the sense of equality and autonomy in the state sphere, "Indian Unity will not be strong and the feeling of being of one people and one country will be weakened……."59 When Rajiv Gandhi assumed prime ministership after a favourable mandate the CPI(M) ideologue B.T. Randive analysed the Victory with the same perspective in mind regarding Rajiv’s victory as "concern for National Unity (that) swayed the electorate."60

Comrade Lenin reminded us that the Marxist definition of the state as an organ of class oppression "has never been explained in the prevailing propaganda and agitation literature of the official Social-Democratic parties. More than that, it has been deliberately ignored, for it is absolutely irreconcilable with reformism, and is a slap in the face for the common opportunist prejudices and philistine illusions about the ‘peaceful development of democracy’.61

The Indian revisionists perfectly toe what their forefathers in the official Social Democratic Parties did in Lenin’s time. After Rajiv Gandhi’s Victory in the election matching Randive’s pro-statist analysis in that years’ May Day appeal to the workers, the CITU too brazenly reasoned out that "Had the organized trade Union movement unitedly taken the question of defending national unity, had it with one voice exposed imperialist plots and simultaneously thrown all its weight to defend the economic interests of the workers, the election would have shown better results for the country and the people."62 What a piece of argument to mislead the workers in favour of joining with the state power more unitedly and devotedly to strengthen the state unity. It should be added here that the CPI and the CPM during the tenure of Indira Gandhi as prime minister even in the dark days of the Emergency and later eulogized her as a stubborn fighter against imperialism on the national and international fronts through her supposed role in the unity of India against imperialist efforts at provoking and abeting forces of instability and secessation from the Indian Union some parts of India.

Lenin wrote in a crystal clear way about the modern state. He rebuffed the revisionist constitutional ‘Marxists’ to drive this Marxist concept home that "The centralized state power that is peculiar to bourgeois society…….. Two institutions most characteristic of this state machine are the bureaucracy and the standing army. In their works Marx and Engles repeatedly show that the bourgeoisie are connected with these institutions by thousands of threads……… From its own bitter experience, the working class learns to recognise this connection. That is why it so easily grasps and so firmly learns the doctrine….." a doctrine which the petty-bourgeois democrats ignorantly and flippantly deny, or still more flippantly admit "in general" while forgetting to draw appropriate practical conclusions."63


39. Hare Krishna Konar, Agrarian Problems of India, Ganashakti Publication, Calcutta, 1977, pp. 64-65.

40. Henry C. Hart, Political Leadership in India, Ibid. p. 33.

41. Aneek, September – October 1992, p. 16.

42. Saroj Chakraborty, with West Bengal Chief Ministers, Ibid p. 483.

43. Stress in original, New Age, July 6, 1975.

44. Mohit Sen and Bhupesh Gupta, CPM’s politics X–Rayed, Communist party of India, New Delhi, 1978, p. 8.

45. Quoted by Partha Choudhury, Phrases And Facts: a bout Kerala, Liberation, January 1969.

46. Benoy Konar, peasant movement, Land Reforms and the Left Front: An Outline of Growth in The Marxist, April – June 2002, p. 46.

47. The Times of India, 5 September 1978.

48. Social Scientist, January / February 1978, p. 9.

49. Benoy Konar, Ibid pp 47

50. "Report of Zamindari Abolition Committee, U.P", Vol. I, p. 358, quoted in Communist, Vol. II, No. 3, March – April 1949, p.3.

51. April – June 2002

52. New Age, January 8, 1978.

53. New Age, January 28, 1978.

54. Reports and Resolutions by the National council of the Communist Party of India, New Delhi, 12-15 of July, 1980 p.13.

55. Ibid p.37.

56. Review of Political Development and Party Activities since 11th Party Congress (draft for the 12th Party Congress adopted by the National council), 16 to 19 December 1981, p. 10

57. People’s Democracy, November 11, 1984.

58. People’s Democracy, September 4, 1983.

59. Ibid.

60. People’s Democracy, February 3, 1985

61. V.I. Lenin, "The State And Revolution", In Marx Engels Lenin, On Historical Materialism, Progress Publishers, 1984, p. 539.

62. People’s Democracy, April 21, 1985.

63. V.I. Lenin, The State And Revolution, Ibid, p. 543.


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