Third Party Congress – An Attempt towards Course Correction
THE first general elections, with universal adult franchise, were held in 1952. Immediately after the conclusion of its all India conference, though hampered by severe limitations, the Communist Party went into preparations for these elections. Most of the members of the Central Committee of the Party could not campaign in these elections as the widespread terror perpetuated by the military and police forces in the strongholds of the Communist Party, continued. Thousands of Party leaders and members were in prison and the Congress government refused to release them. The government itself admitted that it had jailed nearly 50,000 political opponents and shot down or injured nearly 13,000 in the first three years of its rule. Many of those incarcerated or killed belonged to the Communist Party. It is in this background that the Party contested the 1952 elections.
The election manifesto released by the Communist Party had called for the rout of the Congress, election of people’s candidates and for the establishment of a people’s government. It termed the Congress government as a government of landlords and monopolists that had betrayed the nation. It cautioned people not to be deceived by the slogans of reactionary vested interests and parties like the Hindu Mahasabha and exhorted them to vote against them.
The people’s democratic government, the manifesto stated, would be a government of the people which would ensure a complete break with the British Empire, confiscate and nationalise all British capital and crush the resistance of the imperialists and feudal elements. It would transfer all lands and implements of the landlords and princes to the tillers and cancel all the debts of the peasantry. It further promised: adequate wages for agricultural labourers, besides providing them with land; industries to be developed with nationalised capital; living wage for workers, recognition of their right to organise, collective bargaining and strike.
Further, the people’s democratic government would end caste oppression, penalise untouchability and all practices based on caste discrimination. It would penalise incitement of communal hatred, discrimination and protect the rights and interests of all minorities. It would eliminate social and economic discrimination confronting women and guarantee their full freedom and equality. Women would be paid equal wages for equal work. In the State headed by the people’s democratic government, representatives to all its organs, from the lowest to the highest, would be elected by the people, with the right to recall.
The Communist Party emerged as a major force after the elections. It emerged as the largest opposition group in the Lok Sabha winning 16 seats. It stood first in Andhra, the most powerful force in Kerala, the Party with the backing of an overwhelming majority in Tripura, as the main opposition force in Bengal and a rapidly growing force in Orissa and Punjab. The growth and acceptance gained by the Party alarmed the imperialist forces. The US administration commented that ‘India is fighting a desperate battle to save herself from Communism’ and it needs ‘urgent and effective action’ to ‘contain this growth’.
The Party reviewed these elections and concluded that the Party performed impressively wherever it led mass struggles boldly, braving terror and repression. It also noted the unevenness in the electoral performances. The results also demonstrated the necessity of building a broad united front around the Communist Party, to defeat the class rule of the Congress party. It stressed that class unity, with the toiling classes as the core, should be built. The Party openly accepted that it had committed certain mistakes and errors and was in the process of rectification. In spite of these mistakes, the Party had never betrayed the interests of the toiling classes or left them to the mercies of the exploiters. It is because of these reasons that people had voted for the Party as the major opposition force.
Immediately after the elections, preparations for the conduct of third Party Congress had started. In a series of meetings of the Central Committee, various issues concerning the methods of dealing with other parties, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary work were debated. An extended plenum of the Central Committee was held from December 30, 1952 to January 10, 1953, which was attended by all the members of the Central Committee, members of the control commission and 61 delegates from the provinces. The plenum discussed certain political and organisational questions. The Central Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the political resolution and a document on organisation for the upcoming Party Congress, on the basis of the plenum discussions.
The third Party Congress was held in Madurai from December 27, 1953 to January 4, 1954. Apart from adopting the political resolution and the resolution on organisation, the Congress also ratified the Party Programme and Statement of Policy.
The political resolution adopted in the Congress stated that though the mass base of the Congress party was weakening, it remained a powerful political organisation. In those places where the Communist Party and other democratic forces were weak, communal parties were gaining ground. It noted ruling classes’ attempts to transfer the burden of their crisis on to the masses and the accompanying attack on democratic rights and civil liberties. It decided to mobilise people in various class and mass organisations to resist these attacks. Here, the role of organising working class was emphasised. The Party should also take up social issues like caste discrimination and untouchability and conduct struggles against them. The resolution also noted the need for adult literacy campaign, cultural and sports activities, medical relief and such other social service activities for attracting people.
The political resolution also pointed out the need to educate the masses and rank and file of the Party through effective and extensive run of journals. It also emphasised the need to take up the sale of Party literature as a political campaign.
The resolution on organisation pointed to the need for matching the pace of growth of the Party with a commensurate growth in the organisation. The resolution noted that the question of a proper kind of organisation is closely linked with the question of (i) struggle against bourgeois, petty bourgeois and feudal ideologies; (ii) classes which form the main base of the Party and (iii) principles of democratic centralism of which criticism and self-criticism, especially criticism from below, is a vital part.
The resolution noted that the bulk of Party members coming from middle classes were not developed ideologically, nor were trained in a planned way to inculcate Marxism-Leninism among the working class and toiling peasantry. Their elementary anti-capitalist, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist consciousness was not developed into socialist consciousness. It also noted the failure to ensure the active participation of the entire Party and all its units in evolving and concretising slogans and tactics. “The prevalence of the ‘leader-follower’ pattern inside the Party, the prevalence of the practice of broad political questions being discussed only in higher committees and lower units concerning themselves only to ‘immediate practical work’ and implementation of directions given from above, led to the arresting of the growth of cadres and their fossilisation”.
In this background, the resolution urged for the rectification of the way Party committees from top to bottom function. The objective of the higher committees should be to develop the initiative of the lower committees by helping them to grow and solve the problems they are facing. Higher committees should actively encourage criticism from below as against bureaucratism which discourages criticism.
The resolution stated that political unity in the Party can be achieved by collective work, through ‘Party units applying general line of the Party to the given situation and further concretising, amplifying it in the course of activity through constant discussion, criticism and self-criticism, through regular review of struggles and adherence to Party forms and strict discipline’.
Six essential tasks for the renewal of Party membership were prescribed: (i) regular payment of Party dues and levies; (ii) attending unit meetings regularly; (iii) accepting Party discipline and carrying out the work assigned; (iv) keeping Party secrets and not indulging in loose talk; (v) working in mass organisation and (vi) submitting reports of work to the unit. The resolution emphasised on planned work on all fronts, regular imparting of education for cadre development and self-education.
A review of the Party Congress noted that at the time of the Congress, there were 50,000 members and 25,000 candidate members in the Party. It also acknowledged that thorough discussions could not be held in the Congress as there was no proper Party centre. This affected the preparations for the Congress, reflected in liberal attitudes towards solving internal differences and arriving at a correct assessment on various political questions and clinching a correct political tactical line.
The Congress elected a thirty-nine member Central Committee and a nine-member Polit Bureau.