The Crime of Partition - part 3: The role of the Communist Party of India during Partition

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Jamil has shown that, so far from standing for a unified secular democratic India, the bourgeois leaders of the independence movement based themselves on communalist appeals to the muslims (Muslim League) and hindus (Congress). This led directly to the catastrophe of partition.

Could the Communist party of India (CPI) have made a decisive difference? Here Jamil shows they had their own organisational weaknesses. Above all they were prisoners of the policies imposed by Stalin on the international communist movement. In backward and colonial countries, Stalin decreed, the movement had to go through two stages - democracy, then socialism. In Russia this had actually been the policy of the Mensheviks, successfully overcome by the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. Jamil has demonstrated that, in India as everywhere else, the 'progressive national bourgeoisie' was a myth. Yet this was the non-existent class the CPI proposed to march behind in a 'Popular Front'.


lenin.jpgIn the Indian communist movement, there are different views on exactly when the Communist Party of India  (CPI) was founded. The date maintained as the foundation day by CPI is 26 December 1925. But the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which split-off from the CPI, claims that the party was founded in the USSR in 1920. During the 1920s and beginning of 1930s the party was badly organized, and in practice there were several communist groups working with limited national coordination. The British colonial authorities had banned all communist activity, which made the task of building a united party very difficult. Only in 1935 was the party ready to be accepted as the Indian section of the Communist Third International.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) could have acted as a powerful factor in taking up the interests of national minorities in identifying their specific interests and to fight for them within the framework of their struggle for independence. It is true that CPI arrived rather late, historically as an effective political force at a time when communalism had already become a very powerful factor in Indian politics; but even then if they could meaningfully link up class struggle with the struggle of national minorities since the early 1930s, then the political developments in India could have taken a different turn.

The importance of various national minorities, emphasised by Lenin as far back in the early 1920s, was not properly grasped by the leaders of the CPI, though in their own way they tried to formulate a policy on the national question and unity of India as late as 1942. The CPI could have acted as a powerful factor in taking up the interests of national minorities, but in spite of making some efforts in that direction they floundered on the national question and failed to expose the communal designs and conspiracies of Indian big capital.

Role of CPI


The CPI failed to inspire and mobilise the people and play an effective role for two basic reasons.
CPI did not extend the national question to properly embrace the various national minorities other than the Muslim religious minority.

CPI depended too much, almost entirely, on Congress-League unity as the outcome of the national minority question and thereby left that question in real terms in the hands of those who were already divided quite decisively as communal parties of the upper and middle class Hindu and Muslim communities respectively.

Thus they failed to inspire the religious, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities, as well as the scheduled castes (untouchables) among the Hindus, in identifying their specific interests and to fight for them within the framework of their struggle for independence. The failure of CPI was disastrous because they could open separate dialogues with Jinnah and the Sikhs and others on the question of national minorities. But instead, they pursued a policy of uniting the hands of Gandhi and Jinnah as leaders of the two most important and dominated religious communities and depended in a ridiculous manner on the prospect of a Congress-League understanding under the given conditions. It is because of a wrong analysis of the Indian national question and this failure of policy that the communist movement in India suffered a terrible setback from which it has not yet been able to recover.

indian_partition.jpgIt should be mentioned that at the second congress of the CPI in February-March 1948, greatly influenced not only the communist party of India and Pakistan but the history of the entire sub-continent.   The central committee of the CPI in the last week of June 1947 arrived at certain decisions which were published as a ‘Statement of Policy’. In that Statement of policy laid their attitude towards Nehru. In that they characterised Nehru as a person who was capable of guiding the democratic movement in India. The statement said, ‘In the area of building the Indian Republic on a democratic basis, the Communist Party would proudly extend full co-operation’. Extending their policy to Pakistan, they said that the Communist Party also thinks that in order to implement any democratic programme in the Sub-continent it is necessary to unite the left of the Muslim League and the Congress.

Withdrawal

In order to extend their support to the Congress and Muslim League regimes in Pakistan and India, the Communist Party virtually withdrew all the programmes they were following just preceding independence. They even withdrew the Tebhaga (sharecroppers) Movement in Bengal in November 1947. The CPI made an appeal to the peasants not to initiate any direct action in demanding two-third of the crops, because the new government was to be given an opportunity to fulfil their promise. In fact, no promise was ever given to the peasants regarding ‘Tebhaga’ by the new Muslim League in East Pakistan.

It is quite amazing that shortly before the division of India in June 1947, the Soviet theoretician A. Dyakov, in an article called ‘The New British Plan for India’ published in the Soviet paper, New Times, on 13 June 1947, said the division of the Indian sub-continent is a well-planned conspiracy to keep the sub-continent under the British imperialist control. By submitting themselves to it the Indian leaders had compromised with imperialism and in this they have been forced by the

Indian big commercial interests. Through this arrangement imperialism and commercial interest had tried to sabotage the revolution by dividing the home market between themselves.

Following Dyakov’s article another article by Soviet theoretician E. Zhukov called ‘Concerning the Indian Situation’ was published in which he said more clearly and in a straightforward manner that the Indian National Congress was nothing but a representative of the Indian big bourgeoisie and monopoly capital and in reality Congress entered the reactionary camp. He also said that the bourgeoisie are afraid of the people much more than imperialism.   

From the articles of Dyakov and Zhukov it can be said that the Soviet leaders and the CPI were well aware of the situation in India before partition. Despite their awareness of the situation they were still following the Stalinist stance of the Popular Front.

Following the Popular Front stance, the CPI theoreticians totally failed to take into account the very clear power factors and the state of the existing production relations. Thus they failed miserably to analyse the actual situation in India after partition. In the absence of such analysis their political line was full of imaginary ideas and doomed from the very outset. It was nothing short of surrender to the Indian ruling classes. In order to justify their line the Indian communists involved themselves in the stupid exercise of separating Nehru from the Indian monopoly capital which he represented.

The greatest mistake of the second congress of the CPI was lumping India and Pakistan together as one unit. Much of their analysis rested on their attitude to Jawaharalal Nehru, a factor totally irrelevant to the situation of Pakistan. It is true that till that time the CPI remained formally undivided, but this did not mean that exactly the same strategy could be applicable to both India and Pakistan.

The relations of the class forces and the strength of the organisation of the working people, the state of the party organisations, as well as the power of the Indian big monopoly capital, of the state and its armed forces, were not taken into consideration at all while evaluating the situation in India at that time. Nothing could be more futile than this blindness to obvious facts, and soon the organisation of the CPI were deeply endangered more by their own stupid acts than by any repressive measure of the governments of India and Pakistan.

Colonial masters

All the problems of minorities survived after partition and there was no sign of any attempt to improve the situation.  The partition that both the Hindu and Muslim majorities carved out with the help of the colonial masters to their own advantage, was to the utter detriment of the interests of minorities of all descriptions.

Large scale migrations followed in the wake of partition which happened in its worst form and maddening proportions in West Pakistan and West India, particularly on both sides of the Punjab, where widespread riots broke out between Muslims on one side and Hindus and Sikhs, on the other, resulting in the killings of tens of thousands of people and almost a total exchange of population.

The partition of India was, in a very real sense, a game of majorities, and as such the interests of Muslim and Hindu minorities in India and Pakistan respectively and along with them the interests of scores of other minorities of British India remained a matter of indifference to the Congress, the Muslim League and the British, who presided over the partition of India.

See also: The Crime of Partition - part 1
                The Crime of Partition - part 2

Educate Yourself

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  • Marxist Economics
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  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism
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Reading the classics of Marxism is the best way to understand these ideas. At first it may seem difficult, but every worker and young person knows that things worth having are worth working hard for!  Patient and persistent study, discussion, and ultimately, the day to day application of these ideas over a lifetime are the key.

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Marxist theory is the basis upon which our analysis, perspectives, program, and participation in the movement are based. It is our "guide to action." This why Socialist Appeal and IMT place so much emphasis on political education. To this end, we have created an extensive Education Plan to assist comrades in their political development. This is an important resource.

However, it's length and scope may seem daunting to new comrades. With this in mind, Socialist Appeal has compiled a shorter list of classic works and other important writings we think will serve to lay a strong foundation in the ideas and methods of Marxism. We would like to encourage all our supporters and those interested in learning more about Marxism to read (or re-read!) through the works on this list.

This selection of writings is an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory. There are many other writings that could be added, but this selection provides a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the necessary ideas for the daily work of fighting for socialism.

Many of these are smaller books or pamphlets; some are more lengthy books; and others are just short articles. This

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Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. Every political movement, party, or even statement of any kind bases itself, consciously or unconsciously, on some sort of philosophy or world outlook. Marxism is concerned with effecting a radical change in society, and therefore requires an exceptionally clear, thoroughgoing, and systemic set of philosophical principles.

The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.

If we are to understand society in order to change it, this cannot be done arbitrarily, since the human will is not master of nature; rather, our ideas and thoughts are reflections of necessary material laws. Instead, we must seek to understand the laws of how human society changes. By following our education plan for Dialectical Materialism, the reader will familiarise themselves with this way of looking at the world so that they too can begin to apply Marxist ideas.

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Historical Materialism is the result of Dialectical Materialism applied to human society and history. It encompasses the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. A deeper, more concrete understanding of these principles in combination with a study of real, living history of class struggles enables us to come to a general understanding of where capitalist society is headed and what political strategy is required to successfully influence the course of events.

The basic principles of Historical Materialism are that human society has inherent laws guiding it - its developments are by no means arbitrary or accidental, nor the mere subject of the will of great men and ideas. Human individuals can and do influence society according to their ideas, but only ever within definite material constraints and conditions. Above all, the law determining historical development is that of the development of the means of production - meaning economically productive technology, science, technique etc. The extent of the development of the productive forces determines the social relations of production - i.e. the structure of society, class relations etc. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how

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Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society. Why does capitalism perpetually go into crisis? Why does mass unemployment exist? Are commodity production, the domination of the market, and rich and poor natural, immutable states of being for humanity? Or are they merely the products of this specific mode of production - capitalism? If so, is there any way capitalism can exist without these problems, or by minimising them?

Marxist economics is a “holistic” way of analysing capitalist economy. It starts out by placing it in its real historical context (rather than dreaming up abstract idealisations of capitalism to justify it, as bourgeois economics does), studying all its interconnections and contradictions, rather than artificially isolating one aspect of it. In doing so, Marxist economics lays bare the functioning of capitalism; the exploitation and injustice inherent within it. Those who want to get to the essence of why, in the 21st Century, despite having a more advanced understanding of the world than ever before, humanity seems plunged into perpetual crisis it cannot get to grips with, should look no further than Marxist economics, beginning with the writings of Marx himself.

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Like money, the state is something we are all very familiar with and take for granted, but its real essence tends to elude us. The ideologists of capitalism have tried, in various ways, to justify the capitalist state as supremely rational; a neutral arbiter for society, and the embodiment of justice. For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral, nor just. It is certainly anything but rational. We must strip the vale of mysticism away and reveal the state’s real basis. To do that, we have to treat the state historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall.

The state has not always existed. It is inseparable from class society. Ultimately, it is the instrument for the ruling class to oppress and hold down the masses, guaranteeing the status quo and the sanctity of property. Although the modern state performs many other functions, these are secondary to its real basis - the protection of a set of property relations. To do this, it needs “armed bodies of men” and a monopoly on the use of violence. To establish socialism, it will not be possible for the working class to use the state as it currently exists - that is, with

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The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. For the first time, the working class successfully took and held power. The slaves fought back and won. For these reasons, the name of Lenin and Trotsky, and the entire 1917 episode, has been deliberately dragged through the mud by the bourgeoisie ever since.

Naturally they are aided in this task by the degeneration of the revolution and by the existence of Stalin’s monstrous dictatorship. However, Stalinism represents the opposite of Bolshevism’s real traditions, which readers can read about in this section, as well as the Marxist explanation for why Stalinism took place and what this means for our movement.

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Radicalised youth, seeking to understand how to change modern society, naturally tend to look to both Marxism and Anarchism in equal measure. The question as to which philosophy, or which combination of the two, has the best answers, has long been at the forefront of the minds of revolutionaries.

Anarchism is naturally attractive to all those correctly alienated by bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement. Anarchists are certainly correct to reject Stalinism and careerism. However, it is not sufficient simply to reject these phenomena. We need to understand why bureaucracy and oppression exist and what role they play, in order to understand how to avoid them. We believe that, for all its opposition, Anarchism has little to say about the alternative to bureaucracy. Instead, it is Marxism’s historical materialist method that allows us to understand these problems. In this section the reader will find a series of articles dealing with anarchism and the issues that anarchism raises.

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The discrimination and oppression of women is integral to class society, such that Engels even referred to it as the “first class oppression”. Along with the class system itself, the oppression of women often takes on the appearance of being natural, immutable and eternal, since it has been with us for so long.

But Marxism is a historical science, concerned with understanding the fundamental changes that society goes through. It cannot be satisfied with comfortable prejudices. A study of the origins of human society, as Engels famously conducted in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, reveals that the oppression of women is by no means natural and was not even known for much of our history. As Engels explains, the oppression of women arose with the emergence of class society and private property; it will fall with it.

Marxists are fully in solidarity with feminists: we are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fully support the struggle for their emancipation. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle, since that is the basic locomotive of history in a class society such as ours. However, Marxism represents a distinct set of

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Fascism is something of a bogeyman in modern British society, and has an almost mythical character in bourgeois public opinion. But despite constant talk of it, very little is said about why it happened and how it may or may not happen again.

Fascism is really the death agony of capitalism and the “distilled essence of imperialism”. The fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries were only able to come to power on the back of defeats of the working class. Ultimately, the madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism that had arrived by the early 20th Century, alongside the inability of the working class to take power and replace capitalism with a workers’ state, due to the corruption of their leadership, in the form of both reformism and Stalinism. Fascism could and should have easily been avoided had the working class possessed a militant and united leadership prepared to take power.

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The question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending on the level of the system’s development – e.g. more recently formed nations tend to be much bigger) to consolidate the market. The contradictions and tensions between nations are a result of capitalism’s “combined and uneven” development. The contradictions of the capitalist mode of production itself force each ruling class to expand outwards, developing a global market and imperialism in the process.

The violent tensions that this process breeds in turn give rise to nationalism, racism and wars. There is no way a successful world revolution, abolishing the global capitalist system, can take place without a careful and nuanced understanding of the

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Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, which is active in around 40 countries. Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, in the labour and youth movement. Only the British working class has the ability to change British society, because of the central role they play in production and their shared interest in establishing socialism.

However, we must carefully study the history and traditions of the British working class in order for Marxist ideas to connect with them. There are all too many groups who simply declare themselves the vanguard of the British working class, and have a dismissive attitude to the class’ real traditions.

In this section readers will find a series of articles explaining our position on the class struggle in Britain, the key points in the history of the British working class and the lessons to be learnt from them, and the strategy of the Marxists in relation to the movements of the masses.

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The ideas of Marxism and the need for a revolutionary party are not the result simply of a single individual, but arise from the study of history - the history of class struggle. In this respect, the revolutionary party is often referred to as being the memory of the working class, and our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future.

In this section we present a series of articles and audios covering the key revolutionary struggles in history - from the early class struggles in Rome to the tremendous movements of the working class in the 20th Century. By reading and listening to these, our readers should gain a good overview of the history of the revolutionary movement and the main lessons to be learnt from these.

For analysis of 21st Century revolutionary movements, check out the News and Analysis sections of the website!

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