Communist Party of India

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Communist Party of India


(CPI, Bharatiya Communist Party), established in December 1925 as a result of the unification of the communist groups of various provinces of India. Until 1942 in effect it operated underground. The CPI published weeklies and newspapers in local languages (for example, Mazdur kisan and Kranti) in Bombay, Bengal, Punjab, and Madras; it propagandized the ideas of Marxism in India and organized the workers’, trade union, and peasant movements. Communists were repeatedly subjected to harsh persecution and repression on the part of the British colonial authorities. After its legalization in 1942, the CPI had 5,000 members. By 1943 it had 16,000 members, and in 1975 it had 400,000 members. The CPI played a large role in the mobilization of broad masses of the Indian people for the struggle against the British colonial yoke and for their country’s national independence.

In 1951, after India gained its independence (1947), the CPI adopted a party program at its all-India conference. Despite basic shortcomings in it, which the leadership of the CPI subsequently noted on many occasions, the program was an important landmark in the process of strengthening the party’s ties with the masses. It explained the stage of the revolution that India was experiencing and defined the role of the Indian national bourgeoisie, the essence of the united front, and the tasks of the Communist Party under conditions in which the country’s political independence had already been achieved and new problems had become the order of the day. The program defined the stage of the revolution in India as anti-imperialist and antifeudal. It noted that, although the CPI had as its goal the construction of socialist society in the country, at that particular stage it was not demanding the establishment of socialism in India “in view of the backward state of economic development and the weakness of mass organizations of workers, peasants, and the laboring intelligentsia.” It proposed a struggle to eradicate the vestiges of colonialism and feudalism and a program of urgently needed socioeconomic reforms in the interests of the people. In 1951 A. Ghosh was elected general secretary of the CPI. In the first general elections of 1951–52, the CPI scored significant successes. Of the 107 million people who voted, more than 6 million voted for Communists. The Communists obtained 27 seats in the lower house of parliament and more than 180 seats in the legislative assemblies of the states.

The Fourth Congress of the CPI (1956) called for the formation of a united national front to struggle for the antifeudal, anti-imperialist revolution to be carried through to its conclusion and to struggle for the country’s economic and social progress. The CPI declared that it would oppose the policy of compromises and concessions to foreign capital, the landlords, and the monopolists and would fight in defense of the economic interests and democratic rights of the people. In the second general elections, held in 1957, the CPI used the tactic of a united front of left forces, and it won more than 11 million votes, 29 seats in the lower house of parliament, and more than 200 seats in the legislative assemblies of the states. In the elections in the state of Kerala, the Communists won the majority of seats in the legislative assembly and, along with independents, formed a government. All the reactionary forces in Kerala and outside it united against the Communist-led government, whose measures were not in the interests of the propertied classes. In July 1959 this government was dissolved by an edict of the president of India on the pretext that the Communists had allegedly lost the confidence of the people during their administration. However, this assertion was refuted by the results of the elections to the legislative assembly of Kerala held in 1960. In these elections, 1 million more people voted for the Communists than had done so in 1957.

The Fifth Congress of the CPI (1958) adopted new rules, the preamble to which stated that it was possible to achieve complete democracy and socialism in India by peaceful means through the development of broad mass struggle. The congress adopted a resolution altering the organizational structure of the party. The National Council was established to replace the Central Committee, and the Central Executive Committee replaced the Political Bureau.

The Sixth Congress of the CPI was held in 1961, and its resolutions contained a general analysis of the situation in India then and the role of the Indian national bourgeoisie; the resolutions also defined the party’s tasks for the next period. The congress noted that after India achieved independence, the national bourgeoisie that came to power was unable to ensure the implementation of the socioeconomic reforms needed to complete the antifeudal, anti-imperialist democratic revolution and to improve the conditions of life for the broad masses of working people. The Communist Party underscored again the pressing need to establish a broad national front to struggle against domestic and foreign reaction and to ensure the country’s development along the path of democracy and progress.

In April 1962, at the plenum of the National Council of the CPI, the party’s rules were changed and the post of chairman of the party was established alongside that of general secretary. In the fall of 1962, sharp differences over the question of the party’s attitude toward the Chinese-Indian border conflict arose within the leadership as a result of the heightening of that conflict. Subsequently, differences that had appeared as early as the Sixth Congress of the CPI concerning other questions of party activity—the evaluation of the role of the Indian national bourgeoisie, the nature and essence of the united national front, and so forth—also came to the fore. In November 1964 a group of leading figures left the CPI and proclaimed the creation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), a parallel communist party. The direct intervention of the leadership of the Communist Party of China into the internal affairs of the CPI played a fundamental role in the split in the CPI and the emergence of a parallel communist party in India. This schism inflicted great harm on the left and on the democratic movement in the country.

The Seventh Congress of the CPI (1964) adopted a new party program and other documents. The program provided an analysis of India’s socioeconomic development since independence and defined the party’s tasks, in particular the task of establishing the National Democratic Front and a state of national democracy as a transition stage to socialism.

Table 1. Congresses of the Communist Party of India
First ...............BombayMay 1943
Second ...............CalcuttaFebruary-March 1948
Third ...............MaduraiDec. 27, 1953-Jan. 4, 1954
Fourth ...............PalghatApr. 19–29, 1956
Fifth ...............AmritsarApril 1958
Sixth ...............VijayawadaApril 1961
Seventh ...............BombayDec. 13–23, 1964
Eighth ...............PatnaFebruary 1968
Ninth ...............CochinOctober 1971
Tenth ...............VijayawadaFebruary 1975

In 1970 a left coalition government headed by A. Menon, a member of the Central Executive Committee of the National Council of the CPI, was formed in the state of Kerala after the elections to the state’s legislative assembly. This government carried out a series of socioeconomic reforms in the interests of the working people (agrarian reform and other measures). The leadership of the parallel communist party opposed the Menon government and, employing “leftist” phraseology, actually supported its overthrow, often forming a bloc with rightist forces on this question.

In the general elections of 1971, the CPI obtained about 5 million votes and put 19 deputies in the lower house of parliament of India. The CPI comes out in favor of unity of action of all leftist and democratic forces in the country in their struggle against rightist reaction and for socioeconomic reforms in the interests of the people. Delegations of the CPI took part in the international Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties held in Moscow in 1957, 1960, and 1969. The CPI approved the documents adopted by the conferences.

Under the rules of the party, the CPI functions in accordance with the principle of democratic centralism. The highest body of the CPI is the Congress; between congresses, it is the National Council. Day-to-day work is carried out by the Central Executive Committee and the Secretariat. The chairman of the National Council of the CPI is S. A. Dange and the general secretary is C. R. Rao. The central organ is the newspaper New Age. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses of the CPI.)


Ghosh, A. Stat’i i rechi. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Problemy kommunisticheskogo dvizheniia v Indii. Moscow, 1971.
VI s”ezd Kommunisticheskoi partii Indii. Moscow, 1962. Proceedings of the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of India. New Delhi, 1965.
Resolutions of the National Council of the Communist Party of India. New Delhi, 1970.
Documents of the Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of India. New Delhi, 1972.

P. V. KUTSOBIN [12–1592–1; updated]

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