Tomorrow, December 25, is a holy day for the entire West and for large sections of people in this country too as it is the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ. Maybe more by coincidence rather than design, for the Marxists in India, it is the day of founding of the Communist Party of India.
Many people who don’t belong to the Christian minority also participate in the joyous merrymaking in this country as well as abroad as midnight church bells announce what is hailed as Christmas, originally a Roman winter festival. But there are no bells ringing for the Marxist movement in most countries, even in Communist party offices, and certainly not in India where the movement had taken root as far back as the 1920s
(The actual date is not very clear as several claims of founding have been advanced). The first major country to declare itself Communist was Russia under the nomenclature of the Soviet Union. In the early 20th century, Lenin’s new society in Moscow was predicted to spread like wildfire and push capitalism to its doom.
The dream of 1909 that emerged in Moscow in the wake of the bloody ending of the Tsarist regime collapsed without a shot being fired in 1991! The most significant aspect of the communist movement in India is the foreign inspiration and overhang on its fashioning.
The 1925 founding of the party in Kanpur, as per documents available, was under Soviet leadership and several founders were not Indian. During the entire Second World War period, the Communists played a role as a supporter of the war effort even as Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress were opposing Britain dragging India into the war without even ascertaining its consent.
While the masses in the country were asking Britain to quit India, the Reds were calling it “a people’s war” and were with the British. They spied on freedom fighters and abused national leaders such as Gandhiji and Subhash Chandra Bose. The Marxist stand that India was not one nation but a conglomerate of different nationalities also took the CPI to justify the demand for Partition on religious grounds that Jinnah launched during the war and intensified it soon after the war ended.
The CPI also refused to recognise independent India as free saying that independence was only a political claim by the bourgeoisie to retain their hold over the proletariat and peasants. In Marxist dominated areas of Andhra, Punjab, West Bengal, Bihar, Chota Nagpur, Malabar, etc., communist cadres attacked newly independent India’s state machinery on its leader Ranadive’s call. But the new state had popular support and the violence only isolated the CPI.
The Soviet hold over the Indian communists was unmistakable throughout the postindependence era. The CPI served as a fifth column of the Soviet Union in India; several front organisations sponsored and actively financed by Moscow under the cover of various trade deals tried laying the Soviet foreign policy tune in Indian politics.
The crisis within the communist movement followed the split between Soviet leaders in the post-Stalin era and the all powerful Chinese Marxist leader Mao Tse-Tung. In India, it came to the fore after China’s attack on Indian territory along the Himalayas.
While Moscow chose to be neutral, Mao sought to cut India’s political influence among Third World countries, especially the Non-Aligned Movement. That the CPI-CPM split along the Soviet versus Maoist line could cause an ideological divide within the Indian communist movement completely proved the accusation against it that it was a foreign-inspired (and funded) movement. The pro-China faction, that had the numbers, soon became the CPM.
The two communist parties failed to read the Indian political scene rightly even though they still claim to be the correct interpreters of Marxist analysis of the socio-economic situation in India. In the 21st century, they have finally been ousted from power at state level in West Bengal, have returned to power in Kerala largely due to the huge loss of credibility of the Congress-led front involvement in massive corruption, and can claim dominance only in Tripura, apart from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and sections of English media. In most other states, they have been reduced to hangerson and have to stick to the tail of regional parties to retain a semblance of political influence. In Maharashtra that once threw up Communist leaders of eminence like S A Dange, P C Joshi and Ranadive, communist leadership is non-existent today; similar is the case in Andhra, Bihar and other states.
The Indian communists are now confined to a few small pockets; similarly, the Marxist movement internationally has shrunk to a few marginal countries like Cuba, North Korea and two countries in the Indo- China region: Vietnam and Laos.
The last two are today more concerned over China’s shadow over them than with anything else. For communist Vietnam, America is a much needed support against aggressive China and no longer an ideological elder brother. China itself is more a one-party dictatorship with an exterior communist face and an interior capitalist economy.
Even Cuba is opening up and shedding its hard communist past. Across the world, communism is a dying faith and the return of Christmas celebrations in the numerous cathedrals of now capitalist Russia proves that Marx was wrong in consigning both religion and capitalism to the wastebasket of history.