People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 01

January 05, 2014





Unshakable Conviction in the Victory of Socialism


Sitaram Yechury


EVERY call for the observance of the birth centenary of pioneers and veterans of the Indian communist movement by our party's Central Committee has never been intended to be either a formality or a ritualistic remembrance. Such observations are meant to arm the party as a whole to carry forward the struggles to achieve the strategic objective in a more resolute manner. It is with such spirit that the central committee has called upon the entire party to observe the birth centenary of Comrade Makineni Basavapunnaiah, or MB as he was fondly and universally referred to. During the course of this observance, the Central Committee had specifically called upon the party units to focus on deepening the ideological consciousness amongst the party rank and file, particularly with reference to the 20th party congress resolution on 'Some Ideological Issues', and on the application of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of Indian society. After all, in addition to all these contributions Comrade MB discharged the responsibility of being the editor of People’s Democracy for more than thirteen years since the party centre shifted to Delhi from Kolkata after the defeat of the Emergency. During the course of this year, the various aspects connected with these issues will be regularly discussed in these columns. With this issue of the People’s Democracy, we make our humble beginning to these centenary observations.




Though Comrade MB's contribution in the evolution of the CPI(M)'s ideological positions, during his long and eventful communist life of over six decades, stand out as the lodestar that continues to guide our party through the present tumultuous times, he made equally important contributions in constantly fine-tuning the strategy and tactics of the Indian revolution.


At every important stage in the party's ideological positions and current tactics, MB had a role to play – in inner-party discussions in the undivided CPI, on the character of the second world war, the assessment of the world situation after the defeat of fascism, on the tactics adopted during the glorious Telangana armed struggle and its subsequent withdrawal, the transition from an underground illegal party to emerge as the major opposition in Indian parliament in the first elections, in the struggle against revisionism and left-adventurism and the eventual formation of the CPI(M) in 1964, drafting its Programme and piloting it for discussion and adoption in 1964, on para 112 (7.17 of the updated Programme) defining our understanding regarding participation in state governments, piloting and unifying the party on ideological issues at the Burdwan plenum in 1968, on forging a broad platform against emergency, the subsequent support to the non-Congress governments, the withdrawal of support to the Morarji government on the question of RSS-Jan Sangh role, the subsequent developments, and support to the V P Singh government, and of course in relation to the reverses to the world socialist forces when he led the party to a correct assessment and conclusions as reflected in the 14th party congress resolution on Certain Ideological Questions (1992). On all these occasions, Comrade MB made a significant contribution to the evolution of the party's tactical line and ideological understanding.




Comrade MB was a remarkable human being. His sharp intelligence, sharper wit and instant repartee would have ensured a distinguished career in any field that he chose. He, however, chose to be a communist and continued to develop as a better communist till he departed.


Drawn into the vortex of India’s freedom struggle at an early age, through a series of experiences, Comrade MB embraced the communist ideology and uncompromisingly worked for its realisation. He belonged to a generation of radical youth that was disillusioned with Mahatma Gandhi’s sudden unilateral withdrawal of the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1922 following the Chauri Chaura incident when freedom fighters stormed the British colonial government’s police station. That generation of youth sought alternative paths for liberation. There were many streams including one stream represented by Bhagat Singh whose history is well-known. By now, it is clear that even Bhagat Singh was irreversibly attracted by and was irreversibly moving towards communism. MB belongs to that stream of radical youth of that period that moved towards the communist movement and became one of the founding pillars of the Communist Party.


His evolution from a patriotic freedom fighter to becoming a revolutionary actually constitutes a history of our peoples during the struggle for freedom. His subsequent contributions are a part of the Indian communist movement’s impact on defining the agenda of independent India. Glorious peasant’s struggles led by the communists erupted all over the country whose highlight was the historic Telangana people’s armed struggle against feudal oppression and exploitation. Comrade MB personally was a part of this glorious struggle along with Comrade P Sundarayya and other communist stalwarts. These struggles brought on to the agenda of modern India the issue of land reforms and the abolition of feudal zamindari. This was the result of the people’s struggles, particularly the peasantry, that the bourgeois-landlord classes under the leadership of the big bourgeoisie were forced to accept. Given the very class character of the newly formed ruling class alliance that took over reins of state power in independent India, they continuously sabotaged the implementation of these legislations and continue to do so even today.


Likewise, as against the ruling class’s desire to divide the Indian Union into administrative territories (like A, B, C states), the Communist Party recognised the Indian reality of a multinational country and spearheaded the struggle for a linguistic reorganisation of the states. The first salvo was fired in today’s Andhra Pradesh under the slogan of 'Vishalandhra'. The emergence of powerful movements like Aikya Kerala and Samyukta Maharashtra led to the linguistic reorganisation of Indian states a full nine years after independence. The political map of modern India as a Union of States was, thus, defined.


On many other crucial issues, the strength of powerful people’s struggles set the agenda for the development trajectory of independent India. While the ruling classes pursued a path of capitalist development, leaving half done the objective of ridding India of the imperialist hold and aligning with rather than eliminating, feudal landlordism, the strength of the people’s struggle led by the communists ensured the basic rights of the working people and trade unions apart from the development of the public sector and half-hearted but nevertheless significant efforts at achieving economic self-reliance. The ruling classes, however, utilised these for advancing the capitalist path. On all these and many other important issues that define the evolution of modern India, Comrade MB and his generation of communists played a pivotal role.




As noted earlier, we shall during the course of this year, discuss the various aspects of Comrade MB's contributions to the advance of Indian revolution and the stellar role that he played. There are, however, two facets of his personality, life and work that need to be noted at the outset. Comrade MB displayed a resolute commitment and conviction in the scientific and creative foundations of Marxism-Leninism. Without this, it would have been impossible to steer the party through the tumultuous decades around the time of India's independence and after. Not only were there intense inner-party divisions on the crucial issues concerning the stage of the Indian revolution; the character of the ruling classes in India and on the assessment of the Indian bourgeoisie. Along with this, there were also serious discussions on the path that the Indian revolution should adopt: whether to emulate the Russian example and the revolutionary history of relying mainly on the united strength of the working class and its actions or the Chinese experience and the history of relying mainly on the strength of the organised unity of the peasantry and other exploited sections of the rural population.


MB, along with other veterans – the Navaratnas that emerged as the collective leadership of the CPI(M) – eventually forged the correct understanding that no revolution can be a replica of any other successful revolutionary experience of any other country. Revolution in India will follow neither the Russian path nor the Chinese path, but an Indian path that will be based on the concrete Indian conditions. MB thus played a leading role in ideologically combating the deviations in the Indian communist movement and, in the process, he had to deal with the wrong assessments made by the international communist movement, particularly the giants, viz the CPSU and CPC. For nearly two decades, the CPI(M) was forced to remain in 'isolation' from the international communist movement with the CPSU denouncing us as ‘adventurists’ while the CPC denounced us as ‘neo-revisionists.’ It was only decades later when the CPI(M) emerged as the largest contingent of the Indian Left movement and the leading communist party, forming governments in Bengal and Kerala in the late 1970s, that the CPSU began reforging contacts with the CPI(M). It is only after the disintegration of the naxalite movement into innumerable splinters and particularly after the seminal changes in China initiated by the CPC in 1978 did the relations between the CPC and the CPI(M) re-establish in 1983 at the initiative of the CPC. All along, Comrade MB and the party never once denounced socialism in the USSR or China, but maintained that they were socialist countries though the concerned parties were making mistakes. Despite the most provocative of circumstances, MB steered the party clear from not falling into the anti-Marxist trap of denouncing socialism in the Soviet Union or China.


What gave the courage to that generation of communist leaders to form the CPI(M) and keep its flag flying in acute opposition from both the powerful CPSU and the CPC? This is a question many of us asked the legendary communist leader P Sundarayya as well. Notwithstanding the other differences that may have surfaced at various times, the answer was similar. The courageous conviction was based on the revolutionary and scientific foundations of Marxism-Leninism and the confidence that we in India better know the concrete realities in which this had to be applied. MB was fond of quoting Lenin that the living essence of dialectics was the “concrete analysis of concrete conditions.” In the name of adapting to the concrete conditions the revolutionary foundations of Marxism-Leninism cannot be abandoned, leave alone modified. On the other hand, by converting this science into a dogma, which its very founders had emphatically rejected, the concrete conditions and the changes taking place cannot be ignored. Revisionism robbed Marxism-Leninism of its revolutionary content while left-adventurism robbed it of its scientific foundations. It was in the struggle against these deviations, both internally in India and internationally, that MB emerged as one of the tallest figures of the Indian communists' struggle to preserve the revolutionary and scientific content of Marxism-Leninism.




Comrade MB had the unique opportunity of being probably the only leader of the Indian communist movement to have had the opportunity to discuss, face-to-face with the leaders of the international communist movement of the 20th century, including such giants like Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Molotov, Suslov, Malenkov, Li Shao Chi, Chou En Lai and many others. Many of these discussions were in exciting times with sharp differences among the CPSU and CPC on the one hand and between the assessments of the CPI(M) with those of the CPSU and CPC on the other. Though conscious of discussing with giants who had succeeded in establishing the socialist revolution in their countries, MB would adhere to his positions, true to his conviction based on Marxism-Leninism. Indeed history has vindicated many of these positions taken by the CPI(M).


It was such strength of conviction that made Comrade MB an eternal optimist. His optimism was not the fanciful or wishful thinking of a philosophy based on idealism. His optimism stemmed from materialism, the scientific basis of Marxist-Leninist understanding.


Lenin had once said: “The irresistible attraction of this theory (Marxism), which draws to itself the socialists of all countries lies precisely in the fact that it combines the quality of being strictly and supremely scientific (being the last word in social science) with that of being revolutionary, it does not combine them accidentally and not only because the founder of the doctrine combined in his own person the qualities of a scientist and a revolutionary, but does so intrinsically and inseparably.”


The life and work of Comrade MB encapsulates this very revolutionary and scientific foundation of Marxism and consequent praxis of a communist.


In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, to those of us who despaired at the present state of world revolutionary movement, he would urge to recollect the situation in the first decade of the 20th century when the major communist parties in the world fell prey to social democracy and tailed behind their bourgeoisie in the first world war and when internationalism was at one of its lowest ebbs. That was precisely the period which saw the ascendancy of the Bolshevik party under Lenin's leadership and the final triumph of the great October Revolution. The question ultimately reduces to the ability to understand the contemporary developments, the current balance of forces, to create the force capable of intervening and to do so on the basis of the revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Only a defeatist can state that this is not possible in the present situation. MB was never a defeatist. The one thing he taught us was that this is possible even in the most adverse of circumstances.


He would always urge us to remember that not a single bourgeois ideologue, even while gloating over these reverses to socialism, and proclaiming that Marxism is dead, had had the courage to state that capitalism is the end of social evolution. This, he would assert, with a confidence that is typical of MB, they cannot do, because it is both unscientific and ahistorical. (Indeed, the current global capitalist crisis resoundingly vindicates this). The direction of humanity's march is towards socialism. The pace at which this transition will occur, may vary. It can be retarded by deviations that dampen the revolutionary basis of Marxism-Leninism and blunt the edge of class struggle. The communists, who struggle against these deviations and uphold the revolutionary content of Marxism-Leninism, are on the side of the history.


Thus the observance of MB's birth centenary, means to unhesitatingly and ceaselessly carry forward this struggle with his confidence – a confidence that is firmly rooted in the scientific truths of Marxism-Leninism and its revolutionary vision of human liberation.