Liquidate Liquidationism, Strengthen the Party in Every Way
- Dipankar Bhattacharya
The 8th Congress of the Party had identified a certain suicidal trend of thought within the Party as liquidationism. The Congress secured an important victory in the ideological-political battle against liquidationism and called upon the entire Party organization to remain ever alert against such trends. While stressing the ideological significance of the battle against liquidationism, the Congress was also aware that liquidationist ideas grew on the basis of various weaknesses of the Party. The Congress therefore called for all-round strengthening of the Party laying due stress on mass expansion and intensification of militant struggles of the masses, stronger intervention in the ongoing socio-economic crisis and political turbulence, organizational consolidation and ideological-political unification and enhancement of the entire Party.
Since the 8th Congress, the entire Party has been moving steadily and confidently in this direction. Work among the rural poor has acquired greater momentum in almost all our areas of practice, and determined attempts are on in several places to restructure and rejuvenate our peasant organization so as to suitably intervene in the present state of agrarian crisis. The central trade union organization has successfully held its national conference with an increased membership, and the women’s organization and agricultural labour organization are getting ready for their forthcoming national conferences. Party committees on all levels have responded energetically to the action calls and mass political campaigns announced by the Party Central Committee, and bold political initiatives are being unleashed on a regular basis on issues of national and regional importance. In the midst of these hectic activities, Party state conferences have also been held wherever due.
While the Party has moved on, some comrades obsessed with the liquidationist idea have however slipped further into the morass. Comrade Akhilendra refused to accept the verdict of the Congress and continued to insist on being allowed to launch a national people’s party. The 8th Congress had once again elected him on the Central Committee, hoping that he would accept and implement the Congress decisions while continuing his debate through appropriate processes. But he chose not to attend the meetings of the CC held in March and June. In fact, right from December 18, when tens of thousands of Party members and supporters went back from the rally with the resolve to realize the war-cry of the 8th Congress (“People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence”), Comrade Akhilendra had begun to talk about resigning from the CC!
The CC suggested that he should work on the peasant front and explore the possibilities of united front work primarily on the basis of our intervention in the agrarian crisis. He dismissed that proposal as ‘economism’ and insisted that he should be allowed to launch a national people’s party. And when the CC refused to grant his whim, he simply deserted the Party. A few other comrades from Uttar Pradesh including Comrades Dinkar Kapur and Lal Bahadur Singh have followed in his footsteps and they are currently busy floating a “Jan Sangharsh Morcha” (people’s struggle front) to conduct a “Daam Bandho, Kaam Do” campaign in UP which in turn is expected to serve as a launching pad for what they call a national people’s party in the coming days.
With these practical moves, Comrade Akhilendra and his associates have started demonstrating beyond any doubt what liquidationism is really all about. All conscious members of the Party can now clearly judge for themselves whether liquidationism is a mere bogey as our liquidationist friends have been claiming or a real trend as pointed out by the Party Congress.
In the course of pre-Congress deliberations in the PB and CC, Comrade Akhilendra had initially mooted the idea that the political role of the Party should be exercised through a national level mass political platform while the Party should confine itself to the role of organizing the masses through basic struggles and providing ideological direction to the movement. Subsequently, he chose to repackage his views in terms of an ‘auxiliary political platform’ that would ostensibly supplement and strengthen the Party’s role as a national opposition.
Behind this terminological camouflage, the essential postulates all however remained intact. Is the Party not playing the role of a revolutionary opposition? Comrade Akhilendra held that on this score the Party had been reduced to irrelevance because of the Party’s absence within Parliament. How would the proposed platform enable the Party to become instantly ‘relevant’ as an electoral force and as a revolutionary opposition? Comrade Akhilendra had no answer to this riddle. He said the Party had limited acceptability among democratic forces. In fact, he flippantly argues that it is not possible for the CPI(ML) to demarcate itself either from the Maoists or the CPI(M) and willy-nilly, the Party becomes the repository of the notoriety earned by these two streams on account of whatever they are doing. In other words, the platform is intended to lend credibility or acceptability to the Party which it has failed to win or can never possibly win through its own independent role. But if the Party is not acceptable to democratic forces, which forces is he going to mobilize and lead under the banner of his proposed platform? Comrade Akhilendra never bothered to answer this most obvious practical question even though he claimed that the platform would be a revolutionary democratic platform and would be led by the Party.
The question also naturally arose as to what would be the tactical line of the proposed platform. Of late, Comrade Akhilendra had started branding the Party’s tactical line ‘Left sectarian’, but when asked to point out what precisely he meant by Left sectarianism, he said the line was all right, but its ‘dominant articulation’ had turned Left sectarian. A few examples would help us understand his thesis of ‘Left sectarianism’. He found it ‘Left sectarian’ that the Party should highlight the link between the legacy of 1857 and the revolutionary peasant upsurge of Naxalbari, that the Party should recognise Bhagat Singh as a pioneer of the communist movement in India, that the Party should criticize and condemn the CPI(M) on the national level for its role in perpetrating and legitimizing the serial massacres in Nandigram, that Kolkata should be chosen as the venue for the Party’s 8th Congress… Indeed, he could never comprehend the Party’s historic mission to dislodge social-democracy from its currently dominant position in the Left movement and hence he has only ridicule for the Party’s consistent attempts to intensify the battle against the opportunist Left.
Our experience clearly tells us that the battle against the opportunist Left has enabled the Party to find a growing and receptive audience within the Left ranks. Over the last two decades the Party has continued to attract serious cadres and bases from the fold of the CPI(M) and CPI in almost all our major states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Punjab and now also in southern states like Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Interestingly, while Comrade Akhilendra does not see any merit in intensifying the battle against opportunism within the Left camp, he sees all kinds of wishful contradictions within bourgeois parties. In his address to the UP State Conference in April, he discovered a link between the growing political crisis in the country and a presumed unease within the Congress with a neo-liberal pro-American Prime Minister like Manmohan Singh, and waxed eloquent as to how the political crisis had forced an internal debate within the Congress on the issue of the Prime Minister! Comrade Akhilendra sees himself as a great ‘practitioner of politics’ and one wonders what he thought about his own discomfiture when the entire Congress recently rallied so aggressively around Manmohan Singh over the issue of the nuke deal and the trust vote!
So, organising the class struggle of workers and peasants is ‘economism’ while ‘politics’ consists in wishful speculation about, and ‘intervention’ in, contradictions within the ruling classes and their representatives. Comrade Akhilendra is of course not alone or the first to make such a demarcation between ‘economism’ and ‘politics’. In his writings, Lenin has graphically shown the opportunist thread that ran through the economists, Mensheviks and liquidators. And in our own country, we have seen the CPI(M) excel all these years in ‘politics’ divorced from the struggles of the basic masses and the outcome is now there for all to see. The CPI(M) devoted itself to a whole range of political coalitions in the name of secularism and democracy while confining the issues and struggles of the workers and peasants to the arena of mass organizations and economic struggles. But when the decisive hour came all its secular allies – whether the DMK in Tamil Nadu or the RJD in Bihar or the SP in UP – sided with the Congress accusing the CPI(M) of weakening the ‘secular camp’ and playing into the hands of communal forces! And deserted by its erstwhile allies, the CPI(M) can now think of no better option than helping Mayawati utilize the present juncture to her advantage.
It is not our case that there are no contradictions among the ruling classes, or that contradictions among bourgeois parties should not be utilized. The point is that a communist party must have sufficient strength to be able to do that and that such contradictions must always be utilized from the point of view of furthering the people’s own revolutionary democratic agenda. The basic task facing revolutionary communists is to intensify the struggles of the basic classes and raise them to new political heights. It is only from the commanding height of the revolutionary struggles of the working people and the democratic masses that communists can hope to make any effective use of the contradictions within and among bourgeois parties and the bourgeois system. Any other notion of mastering the art of ‘politics’ can only prove to be a fatal delusion of grandeur!
If the Party is not yet strong enough to win parliamentary representation, the Party obviously has to be strengthened. If democratic forces are not yet ready to accept the Party and its leadership, the answer to that too lies in accumulation of greater strength. The Party never underestimated the importance of either winning electoral victories or expanding its relations with democratic forces. But the point is that these objectives can only be achieved on the basis of, or in recognition of, the Party’s independent revolutionary role, and no shortcuts are available.
Comrade Akhilendra talks about making a third historic experiment on the lines of the short-lived communist-led experiments like the Peasant and Workers’ Party during the freedom movement and the Indian People’s Front experience of our own Party. Leaving aside other conditions associated with these projects, the question of Party leadership and recognition of the Party’s role was clearly of paramount importance in our own IPF experience. It was the revolutionary peasant movement and social awakening led by the underground CPI(ML) in Bihar which served as the ideological-political magnet and organisational basis for the IPF. Of course, the IPF too played a big role in the Party’s expansion and enabled the Party to evolve its political line through rigorous practice.
The Party never rules out any form of united front suited to our conditions. But whatever the level or form of the united front, it has to be led by the working class and the Communist Party. The IPF fully satisfied this necessary condition. Any fresh application of united front practice, whether on the lines of the IPF or on any other pattern, will also have to meet this cardinal condition without which any ‘people’s platform’ is bound to get reduced to an appendage of the bourgeois opposition. We can clearly see this through our experience with the Autonomous State Demand Committee in the hill districts of Assam. As long as the ASDC was led by the Party, it retained its revolutionary democratic orientation and maintained close ties with the democratic movement all over the country. But following the split in the Party in the hill districts in early 2000, the ‘independent’ ASDC today has become just another small regional party which works in alliance with the BJP.
Comrade Akhilendra wanted us to believe that the proposed platform would play an ‘auxiliary’ role and the ‘principal’ role would be reserved for the Party. When the highest forum of the principal organization – the 8th Congress of the CPI(ML) – did not agree to the thesis of such an auxiliary organization at the present juncture, what should have been the course for any sincere communist advocate of an ‘auxiliary’ platform? Clearly, he or she should have waited till the majority opinion in the Party could be convinced. Out of more than 1100 delegates attending the 8th Congress, only 16 delegates had voted for his position. Action speaks louder than words. Comrade Akhilendra has left no one in doubt as to what is ‘principal’ and what is ‘auxiliary’ for him.
Comrade Akhilendra had promised not to ‘disturb’ the Party, he said he would only use the services of a few ‘peripheral’ comrades and work in areas currently ‘peripheral’ to the Party’s map. He and his associates are now busy trying to confuse the Party ranks and the struggling mass base of the Party primarily in the districts of Chandouli, Sonebhadra and Mirzapur – the main base of the Party in the eastern region of UP. Like the ‘principal-auxiliary’ camouflage, the ‘central-peripheral’ smokescreen is also getting shredded in practice.
Having forfeited their vantage position of working among democratic forces as communist leaders and activists, Comrade Akhilendra and his associates are now desperately trying to secure a democratic foothold within communist ranks and masses. Everywhere they are trying to sell their line in the name of the Party, even trying to peddle their so-called ‘action platform’ as a communist-led initiative. The distinction between ex-communists and communists, between individuals and the Party organization may have lost all meaning for them, but these are important distinctions that the communist ranks and the fighting masses of workers and peasants have grasped through decades of hard struggle and they will certainly not be misled by any amount of clever phrases and anti-Party slander campaign. To cite just one example, recently these ex-communists had mobilized a few people for a dharna in Mughalsarai – of course invoking the name of the Party – but when some women comrades noticed that the red flag had been surreptitiously replaced by a red-green-white combination, they promptly left the dharna and reported to the local Party office and organizers.
Comrade Dinkar, who was re-elected as a member of the UP State Committee by the Party State Conference held recently in Mirzapur, was issued a show-cause notice by the State Committee for his role in launching a platform without any authorization by the State Committee and for carrying out disruptive activities within the Party organization. He has now accused Comrade Sudhakar Yadav, the newly elected State Secretary and a member of the Party Central committee, of changing colours like a chameleon. For the last several years, Comrade Sudhakar has been a key Party organizer in the Chandouli-Mirzapur-Sonebhadra region. According to Comrade Dinkar, he should have therefore ‘sided’ with Comrade Akhilendra and stood up in support of his ‘wounded honour’ and he attracted the epithet of an ‘opportunist’ chameleon by not doing so. Comrade Dinkar on the other hand claims to have upheld his ‘communist conscience’ by resisting the ‘inducement’ of membership of the UP State Committee and Central Working Class Department of the Party!
In our Party, comrades are never victimized or sidelined for subscribing to ideas that are held wrong and erroneous by the Party. It is only when those wrong ideas are translated into practice in defiance of Party discipline and basic communist norms that disciplinary measures are initiated against concerned wrong-doers. The Party was fully aware of the ideas of Comrade Akhilendra or Comrade Dinkar. Yet the Party Congress elected Comrade Akhilendra to the CC and UP State Conference of the Party elected Comrade Dinkar to the State Committee. The Party Central Committee expected Comrade Dinkar to develop as a communist organizer on the working class front and accordingly he was made a member of the Central Working Class Department. If Comrade Dinkar looks at assignments given by the Party as an ‘inducement’ intended to ‘wean him away’ from Comrade Akhilendra’s ‘fold’, he is only revealing his factional mindset and unfortunate political degeneration.
Comrade Dinkar has accused the Party of denying democracy to Comrade Akhilendra and suppressing his views! At the Party Congress, Comrade Akhilendra had submitted an amendment to the political-organisational report demanding deletion of the paragraphs dealing with the liquidationist trend (the relevant paras are reproduced after this article.) All delegates submitting amendments were allotted a specific time by the Presidium to speak in support of their positions. Comrade Akhilendra spoke for more than half an hour in support of his amendment – the maximum time given to any delegate submitting an amendment. The outgoing CC did not ignore any amendment, Comrade Akhilendra’s amendment was rejected and the document put to vote with explanations and opinions of the outgoing CC on every amendment submitted to the Congress. As already mentioned, all but 16 delegates endorsed the Congress document and the explanations offered by the outgoing CC. The entire Congress also saw how some of these dissenting delegates behaved, crossing all limits of democratic decency and decorum and yet the Presidium and the House responded in a very considerate manner without suspending any of their rights as delegates.
Comrade Dinkar accuses the Party of engaging in ‘character assassination’ for terming Comrade Akhilendra’s ideas as liquidationist! He finds it ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘undemocratic’ that minority opinion is not allowed to prevail in the Party. And his own understanding of the ‘ideal communist party’ prompts him to treat a close comrade as a ‘chameleon’ for asserting his own independent judgement and behaving in a responsible communist manner!
Like a classic ‘conciliator’, Comrade Lal Bahadur wanted the Party to ‘bridge’ the differences with Comrade Akhilendra. But what did Comrade Lal Bahadur think of the differences? Comrade Akhilendra was at least candid enough to admit that he had developed deep ideological, political and organizational differences with the Party. His only problem was he could never describe or analyse the difference in precise theoretical terms and when the Party did it for him he could not accept the Party’s characterization of his ideas as liquidationism! He finds it difficult to come face to face with his ideas in the mirror of communist ideas and concepts, preferring to entertain everybody with phrases like ‘auxiliary platform’ and ‘principal organisation’, ‘peripheral’ and ‘mainstream’ cadres, and describing his difference with the Party’s tactical line only as a difference with its ‘dominant articulation’. Obviously, Comrade Lal Bahadur shares the same ideas as Comrade Akhilendra, but instead of owning those ideas he chose for himself the role of an advisor, blaming the Party for ‘brushing aside’ Comrade Akhilendra’s concerns and debates as liquidationism and hampering the cause of the Party’s ‘unity’.
Well, the unity of a Communist Party is rooted in its ideological and programmatic perspective; it grows in the course of the political development and implementation of the Party’s tactical line, and is reinforced by the material embodiment of the Party organisation and Party discipline. There can be no eclectic give-and-take between correct and wrong ideas, no peaceful coexistence of factions and trends in the name of preserving the Party’s unity. The Party Congress and the Central Committee have upheld the principled and militant approach to Party unity, it is unfortunately comrades like Akhilendra and Lal Bahadur who have failed to show the minimum respect necessary for the basic ideological and organizational tenets of Marxism and a Communist Party.
In my concluding remarks at the Party Congress, I had expressed the hope that we would be able to work together in spite of our differences. Comrade Akhilendra and his associates now accuse me of going back on my words! What I had said at the Congress was an expression of collective hope and confidence that very much included Comrade Akhilendra and the 16 comrades who endorsed his position. When I used the expression ‘in spite of the differences’ I was being realistic that differences could not be expected to disappear overnight and I was also expressing the confidence that while no comrade would be victimized for his or her opinion, comrades holding differences of opinion would surely behave in a responsible manner and duly implement the majority decision while utilizing opportunities available in the framework of inner-Party democracy to argue in favour of what they thought was correct. Little did I realize that it would be understood as a division of labour whereby Comrade Akhilendra would be free to impose his own ideas on the Party while the Party would have to go on proving that it could work together with Comrade Akhilendra in spite of the differences! It would indeed be interesting to see the proposed people’s party apply in practice this ‘creative’ sense of collective functioning!
Comrade Lal Bahadur is shocked that Comrade Akhilendra’s seminal contribution to the Party’s development in Uttar Pradesh has been dismissed by the Central Committee in the course of just a brief resolution relieving him of membership of the CC in view of his persistent refusal to accept and abide by the 8th Congress decisions and discharge his role as a responsible CCM! The CC resolution pertained only to Comrade Akhilendra’s role following the Congress and was by no means intended to serve as an evaluation of his entire stint with the Party. Communist historians of the future will be best placed to evaluate the accomplishments of today’s leaders. Revolutionary communists have their hands full with all the current tasks and challenges, and it is absolutely important to uphold the communist solidity of work and discipline in pursuing this goal. No member of a revolutionary communist party can ever be too tall for the basic tenets of democratic centralism.
For the liquidationists, working class leadership over a democratic front is a superfluous feature which they believe is anyway fulfilled by their being at the helm of the democratic front they are building. They claim to form the communist core of their proposed democratic front – for, have they not earned lifelong communist credentials by devoting ‘years and decades’ to the service of the Party? For revolutionary communists, staying communist is a lifelong mission and not a qualification earned for ever in lieu of a certain number of years of communist service. And communist leadership over a democratic front and over the entire phase of democratic revolution is exercised not by a few gifted individuals but by the working class organized under the banner of the Communist Party, by the revolutionary masses fighting primarily under the banner of communist-led mass organizations.
Can any communist ever swap a communist party leading a democratic revolution for an issue-based democratic forum or for that matter a so-called ‘multi-class people’s party’ that swears allegiance to people’s rights, national dignity and social justice? For communists, the answer is a loud and clear NO; and for liquidationists, the answer is a very easy YES, and this is what they hold out in the name of ‘politics’ and ‘creativity’. Treating the Communist Party as a superfluous entity for the phase of democratic revolutions in today’s world is equivalent to duping the people with the illusion of winning democracy without a revolution. Renouncing the Communist Party in the name of democracy is nothing but renouncing people’s democracy for a crumb of bourgeois democracy.
An utter loss of communist moorings - this is the real meaning of the word liquidationism. A revolutionary communist party can only emerge stronger by shedding any liquidationist flab it is liable to acquire especially in the course of working in a parliamentary democratic context. It is in this revolutionary spirit that the entire Party must wage an unrelenting battle against liquidationism and root it out both in theory and practice.
Excerpts on Liquidationism from the Political-Organisational Report Adopted at the 8th Congress
50. The most important key-link to Party-building lies in consistent ideological struggle against alien ideas and trends. Just as we consistently fight against opportunist deviations in the communist movement as a whole – within the Left movement in general we treat right opportunism as represented by the CPI(M) as the main ideological adversary while within the M-L movement we have the anarchism of our self-styled Maoists, which we have also termed as anarcho-militarism given their near-exclusive identification with armed activities, as the main challenge – we must also be consistent in our struggle against deviations within the Party.
Since the reorganization of our Party in 1974, we have had two major phases of inner-Party ideological struggle. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Party fought against metaphysics and dogmatism in our outlook and established the supremacy of dialectical thinking in the Party through a thoroughgoing rectification campaign. This also had its implications for our Party line as it enormously expanded the Party’s mass work and unleashed all-round political initiatives including participation in elections. In the late 1980s and early 1990s we had to fight against the liquidationist danger. Initially, it looked like a mere difference on tactical line, but the real dimensions of the problem soon became clear as liquidationism revealed itself quite comprehensively in the given ideological environment dominated internationally by the collapse of the Soviet Union and domestically by the rise and consolidation of liberal-bourgeois forces under the banner of the Janata Dal and other non-Congress regional formations.
51. This experience of inner-Party ideological struggle has a very crucial lesson for us – the struggle has to be both comprehensive and consistent. While concentrating the fight against one wrong trend we must not leave the other flank open. In other words, while fighting against left deviation we must not yield any quarter to deviations from the right and vice versa. For example, in the first phase when we directed the fight against Left sectarian deviations or dogmatic outlook we also fought against the liquidationist approach and this was the crucial difference between our rejection of Left adventurist and sectarian theory and practice and the anti-anarchist campaign of ML streams led by Com. SN Singh or Com. Kanu Sanyal. Our approach has been well vindicated in practice while the other trends have now been reduced to a pale shadow of their past. Similarly, our entire battle against liquidationism in the late 1980s and early 1990s was waged not on the basis of our old Party structure and practice, but it was accompanied by a sustained campaign for Party restructuring which culminated in the opening up of the Party. The Party thus emerged bigger and stronger as it overcame the liquidationist idea.
The Fifth Congress had very correctly stressed this inseparable connection between the two struggles. “Looking at the struggle against these two erroneous trends metaphysically and seeking their eclectic combination will lead us nowhere. The error of judgement on the part of a thinking section of the Party in the struggle against liquidationism came precisely from their failure to grasp this crucial link. Real life has proved that a decisive struggle against liquidationism has not taken the Party back to anarchism. It has rather facilitated our forceful entry into the arena of practical politics with all its ramifications. Persons with die-hard anarchist world outlook, if not reformed, have only deserted us and in many a case they have joined the liquidationist camp,” observed the Fifth Congress. While recognising the decisive initial victory scored by the Party in its battle against liquidationism, the Fifth Congress with great foresight cautioned the Party not to lower its guard against this danger: “In the coming days, the Party shall go on making bold experiments in the arena of practical politics and hence, dialectically, there will be greater need for exercising consistent vigilance against liquidationism within the Party body.”
52. Today, once again we can see certain signs of a liquidationist tendency within the Party,and the Party must wage a serious struggle against this suicidal thought process. This time round, the advocacy is not for an outright dissolution of the Party, but for relegating the Party to the background while handing over the immediate political role of the Party to a national political platform to be sponsored by the Party. The proponents of such a platform are predictably vague about the prospective concrete forces who are expected to join such a platform; but we are reminded that there has been a decisive shift in political discourse since the 1970s. The focus in the 70s was on radical social transformation whereas the contemporary focus is on competitive participation within the system! The hint is quite clear – we should accordingly shift our emphasis and adjust our orientation and slogans. The idea of the platform is premised on the assumption that the Party’s acceptability is very limited so much so that the Party has become politically irrelevant. The only way the Party can gain greater legitimacy is by operating through a platform in collaboration with a whole range of liberal-democratic social forces. Ironically, the advocates of this approach also talk about the platform being led by the Party. How the Party can exercise leadership on forces that are not prepared to accept it is anybody’s guess.
These comrades measure the Party’s relevance or irrelevance in terms of the Party’s electoral success or the lack of it. Once we accept the number of MLAs and MPs as the yardstick to measure the relevance of a revolutionary communist party, we will have to arrive at the conclusion that since its inception the CPI(ML) has never really been relevant! The CPI(M) on the other hand will then appear to be hugely relevant with its considerable strength in Parliament and seventh successive return to power in West Bengal. But real life shows that today the CPI(M) is passing through a phase of acute isolation and disrepute while there is increasing acceptability for our political positions. Our supposed lack of acceptability is also attributed historically to the legacy of Naxalbari and the flawed understanding that the Maoists have appropriated this legacy. In other words, these comrades believe in the thesis of polarization between the CPI(M) and the Maoists and see little space for the Party’s independent identity and assertion. Apologetic about the Party’s own past and identity and having no hope or faith in the future of the Party, how on earth can one exercise the leadership of the Party on any democratic platform?
53. The IPF was indeed a very different kind of platform. It was a platform led by the Party, took revolutionary peasant struggles as the basis or key-link and comprised forces that were positively inclined to the revolutionary core of the Party. In the political domain, the IPF implemented the tactical line of the Party. This was crucial to the very nature and existence of IPF. The All India Special Conference of the Party held in Delhi in July 1990 made this very important observation regarding the Party’s leadership over IPF: “The Party must exercise its leadership over MPO by virtue of being its leading constituent, by the respect and influence it enjoys among non-party forces and through the deployment of its selected and trained cadres at the leadership levels. … There can simply be no democratic revolution without the Communist Party’s leadership. And any democratic front sans the leading role of the Communist Party can never act as the instrument of this revolution. All attempts to negate, subvert or weaken the Communist Party leadership over the front on whatever pretexts and from whatever instinct amounts to betrayal to the cause of democratic revolution that can only transform the front into yet another appendage of the bourgeois opposition.”
This is the crux of the matter. If we do not reduce the question of Party or platform as a mere question of banner or organizational form, we will see that at the bottom lies the question of essence - whether the platform would stick to the orientation of revolutionary democracy or reconcile itself with a liberal or social-democratic course. No wonder therefore that the insistence on a platform comes together with a persistent detection of and campaign against presumed ‘leftism’ or ‘left deviation’ in our tactical line.
Sure enough, the advocacy of a democratic platform per se does not amount to liquidationism. It is the underlying framework – the theory of political irrelevance of CPI(ML), the idea of truncating the Party’s direct political role and relegating the Party to the background, the insistence on purging our tactical line of ‘left deviation’, the notion of transition from the erstwhile “phase of struggle for radical structural changes” to “competition for participation in the state structure and formation of governments” and the resultant shift of focus from revolutionary democratic forces to the domain of liberal democracy – that is unmistakably liquidationist.
54. It is also instructive to look at the larger ideological-political environment in which liquidationism is once again raising its head. We all know that the CPI(M) today is passing through a serious crisis. In West Bengal, the CPI(M)-led government has now begun to implement neo-liberal policies with a brazenness that has shocked even several well-known pro-CPI(M) ideologues and intellectuals. Nandigram has evoked widespread condemnation and the CPI(M) leaders are defending everything as applied Marxism. What should be our response to the CPI(M)’s most glaring crisis of theory and practice? Obviously, we must take this opportunity to intensify the battle against the CPI(M)’s bankruptcy, win over more and more communists to the revolutionary camp and boldly establish the CPI(ML) as the real champion of the communist movement in India. Yet precisely at this juncture, the Party is being advised to restrict its initiative, often under the pretext that we don’t stand any realistic chance of gaining anything in the process!
It was in the wake of the March massacre in Nandigram that we were accused of toeing a Left deviationist line, and an old comrade came up with a full-blown refutation of the Party’s history, identity and line. He terms the fallouts of Nandigram a mini crisis of the Indian communist movement the kind of which was not experienced in India even in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet he attributes this crisis not to the CPI(M)’s own doing but to attempts by reactionary forces to destabilize West Bengal and appeals to the CPI(M) to defuse the crisis through correct political handling. Such views do have some takers in certain quarters of the Left movement and the fear of a right reactionary revival prods these comrades to make pathetic attempts to defend the CPI(M)’s indefensible words and deeds. When the CPI(M) is systematically damaging and destroying the legacy and goodwill enjoyed by the Indian communist movement, the CPI(ML) can defend the communist cause only by taking on the CPI(M)’s bankruptcy and not by soft-pedaling crimes like Nandigram massacres.
Equating the crisis of the CPI(M)’s right opportunism as a generalized crisis of the Indian communist movement and advising the CPI(ML) to redefine and reorient its line in the name of staving off the danger of right reaction is nothing but a recipe for not just liquidating the CPI(ML) but sacrificing the future of the Indian communist movement. The communist movement has paid a heavy price for the opportunist Left’s tailist line, and the CPI(ML)’s growing strength and influence is a telling refutation of this bankruptcy. If recent developments in West Bengal have begun to resemble the East European syndrome, a resurgent CPI(ML) alone could make the biggest difference. A subdued and defensive response to the present juncture would on the contrary mark a historic blunder and rob the CPI(ML) of its very raison d’etre. At the other end of the spectrum, in the wake of Singur and Nandigram some former communist revolutionary groups and individuals have also begun to embrace the non-party paradigm and even rally around Mamata Banerjee. We have to steer clear of liquidationist tendencies from both these ends and boldly affirm our independent identity and revolutionary direction as the basis for a real Left resurgence in the country.
55. For a deeper understanding of liquidationism as an alien trend affecting the communist movement we should also recall how Russian communists under Lenin’s leadership had viewed this trend. It is instructive to note that after defeating economism and Menshevism (right opportunism), Russian communists had to wage a decisive struggle against the liquidationist trend which challenged the communist party in almost all its essential respects (tactical, strategic, philosophical) and thus sought to derail the revolutionary communist movement and liquidate the communist party. “Liquidationism,” as defined by Lenin, “consists ideologically in negation of the revolutionary class struggle of the socialist proletariat in general, and denial of the hegemony of the proletariat in our bourgeois-democratic revolution in particular.” In Russia, the communist party (beginning with the phase of working class based Marxist circles) had completed its revolutionary journey in a matter of just two decades. Even in the midst of such extraordinarily rapid expansion, liquidationism had reared its head during a phase when the party had to regain its initiative and revive and consolidate its organizational system in the face of heightened repression. Lenin and his comrades identified liquidationism as a petty bourgeois intellectualist opportunist trend. Linking the rise of the liquidationist current to the petty bourgeois character of Russia, Lenin pointed out, “Russia is the most petty bourgeois of all capitalist countries. Consequently, as soon as Marxism became a mass social trend in Russia, intellectualist petty-bourgeois opportunism made itself felt, first in the form of Economism and “legal Marxism” (1895-1902), later in the form of Menshevism (1903-08), and finally in the form of liquidationism (1908–14).”
India bears great resemblance to Russia in terms of preponderance of petty commodity production and the communist movement in India too has therefore been historically vulnerable to a whole range of petty bourgeois trends, both from the right and from the left. In his fight against liquidationism, Lenin also shows how “The liquidators have to renounce the Party in retrospect in order to justify their renunciation of it at the present time.” In our case too, we have seen how the question of evaluation of the past and the attitude to the first phase of the movement and the emergence of the CPI(ML) has remained a common thread shared by a whole range of liquidationists – some liquidators have even denounced the early phase of CPI(ML) as terrorism and have in any case failed to grasp how and why Naxalbari became such a revolutionary watershed in the Indian communist movement.
56. Lenin also tells us how communists must learn to respond to different situations – in a revolutionary situation or a favourable situation of rapid advance, communists must know how “to introduce into the movement the greatest number of rousing slogans, to raise the energy of the direct struggle of the masses and extend its scope” while in a period of stagnation, reaction and disintegration, communists “must learn to work slowly (there is nothing else for it, until things revive), systematically, steadily, advancing step by step, winning inch by inch.” Lenin then categorically declares that “Whoever finds this work tedious, whoever does not understand the need for preserving and developing the revolutionary principles of Social-Democratic (revolutionary communist in present-day terms) tactics in this phase too, on this bend of the road, is taking the name of Marxist in vain.”
In our Party history we faced a setback in the early 1970s following which the Party had to revive itself through painstaking mass work. If that setback had come primarily in the arena of armed struggle, our entry into the electoral arena too suffered a major blow in the wake of the intense Mandal-Kamandal polarization in the early 1990s. In the hill districts of Assam we suffered a setback in the early years of this century following a split in the movement that resulted in a string of electoral defeats. There is only one way of overcoming these setbacks – through steady and systematic work “advancing step by step, winning inch by inch”. Thanks to this protracted and principled recovery work we have succeeded not just in sustaining most of our earlier areas of struggle but also expanding to newer areas and create conditions for a greater advance and assertion of the Party and the movement.
We have done this in Bihar and we have to persist in this recovery work in the hill districts too. In the hill districts our comrades have demonstrated the potential of enrolling more than 100,000 members in a class organization of the rural poor and the courage and strength of boldly defending the movement and the Party defying all sorts of threats, violent assaults and killings of our supporters, activists and leaders like Comrade Langtuk Phangcho and saving the core of people’s unity even in the face of conspiratorial mass killings of innocent people of different tribes and communities. This is the real strength, legacy and identity of our movement and Party. If we can fully grasp this strength and combine our proven class and mass influence and renewed student-youth activism into consistent political initiative over the demand for implementation of Article 244 A as well as the overall revolutionary democratic agenda of the Party, we can surely regain our lost edge.
57. We must also grasp the dialectical interrelation between the inch-by-inch approach and a situation that calls upon us to pay attention to prospects of rapid advance. The communist style of work always rejects superficiality and approaches both situations with the same revolutionary spirit. Just as while utilizing reforms, communists do not fall for reformism, so do they reject any theory of incremental advance or any notion of gradualism as strategy even when the rate of advance is objectively quite slow.
The rate of advance of the Party and revolution has often been a matter of discussion in our movement. The CPI(ML) had emerged with the dream and mission of an early revolution. The clarion call of Naxalbari and CPI(ML) was to turn the 70s into the decade of liberation. The initial spread of revolutionary struggles had even inspired Comrade CM to visualise the accomplishment of revolution by 1975. In real life, history unfolded quite differently and taught us some hard lessons. Many comrades could not however cope with this real life experience and dropped out of the movement. But comrades who persisted with the revolutionary journey proved right and today’s CPI(ML) and the revolutionary movement owes a lot to the sacrifice, zeal and hard work of these comrades many of whom are no more.
Similarly, our emphatic entry into the electoral arena in the late 1980s and early 1990s raised hopes of a rapid advance in parliamentary struggles which have not been fulfilled by subsequent developments. Once again weak-hearted comrades who have been dreaming of quick results have not been able to put up with the zigzag path and protracted nature of our difficult journey along this path. But the Party has persisted and continued to strengthen itself and advance the movement. If we are able to meet at this 8th Congress with a membership strength of more than 1,10,000 and more than two million mass members organised in mass organisations who have meanwhile succeeded in establishing their own identity in their respective spheres, it has been possible precisely because the Party never gave up and kept persevering even when the going has not been smooth and encouraging. And real life has often shown that if we are able to hold on, there is no dearth of prospects of expansion and advance for our organisation and the movement.
The quest for liberal short-cuts and a passive resignation to a presumed destiny of slow advance complement and feed each other and corrode the revolutionary spirit and dynamism of the Party. We must reject both these alien thought processes and mindsets, and develop a forward-looking and optimistic environment in the Party so that we can focus all our attention and energy on expanding our real work in given conditions and unleashing greater initiative to realize the growth potential in different areas and sectors.