Communist memories

Print edition : December 16, 2011

Jyoti Basu as Chief Minister at his office in Writers' Buildings in Kolkata. - PHOTOGRAPHS: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Extracts from interviews of India's first-generation Communist leaders throwing light on some turning points in the history of Indian communism.

LEADERS of the communist movement in India have been prolific writers. P.C. Joshi, one of the ablest pamphleteers the country has known, was general secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in the 1940s, right up to the Second Congress in Calcutta in 1948, when B.T. Ranadive took over. Unfortunately, neither of them wrote memoirs, as E.M.S. Namboodiripad did ( How I Became a Communist, Chinta Publishers, Trivandrum, 1976; and Reminiscences of an Indian Communist; National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1987). A.K. Gopalan wrote In the Cause of the People: Reminiscences (Orient Longman, 1973). Nor must one forget Muzaffar Ahmad's Myself and the Communist Party of India 1920-1929 (National Book Agency Pvt. Ltd, Calcutta, 1970) and P. Sundarayya's Telangana People's Struggle and Its Lessons published by Desraj Chadha on behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in Calcutta in 1972. It is a most informative book of 592 pages but without an index. A reprint is called for. The CPI leader N.K. Krishnan wrote Testament of Faith: Memoirs of a Communist (New Delhi Publishing House, 1990). He twice mentions P.N. Haksar as a member of the Communist group and a fellow Communist in Britain; pages 58 and 60). In the eyes of some, Mohit Sen was a lapsed Communist; but no serious student of the communist movement in India can neglect his memoir A Traveller and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist (Rupa & Co., 2003).

Nor should one neglect that enormous storehouse of resource for scholarship, the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) in New Delhi. This writer would like to express his enormous gratitude to the institution and its unfailingly helpful officials. What follows is a mere glimpse of its rich Oral History programme. Two cautions are in order. One must consult the whole record; under the rules, readers are only allowed copies of a part. Secondly, a lot depends on the quality and relevance of the question. No answer can be more intelligent than the question that elicits it.

There are some crucial episodes in the record of Indian communism on which much has been written the Communists' split with the Congress Socialist Party; the CPI's stand on the Second World War; the second party congress in 1948; evolution of the tactical line; the leaders' historic meeting with Joseph Stalin in Moscow; the Telangana struggle and the Andhra Thesis.

JYOTI BASU ON PRIME MINISTERSHIP

It is on these episodes that, one hopes, the extracts throw some light. The leaders spoke with candour. To be sure a lot happened thereafter, culminating in the party's split in 1964. If I begin with the prince among them all, in a manner of speaking, it is because Jyoti Basu was one of the most level-headed and urbane men in our public life with whom it was easy to interact, with much pleasure and profit always. On behalf of the NMML, Shikha Mukherjee and Usha Prasad interviewed Jyoti Basu at Kolkata on December 18, 2001. His recollections of the past are interesting. More so, his views on recent events:

The Government of India did not adopt proper policy in regard to giving autonomy and more powers to the Kashmiris. So they became little by little more alienated from India. At that time the rise of the Jana Sangh and the Hindu elements also had their impact. Earlier also when these powers were taken away, the young Kashmiris became pro-Pakistan, anti-India. Now there are various groups. What some people like Sheikh Abdullah wanted was not to join Pakistan, but independent Kashmir. I once asked Sheikh Abdullah after he was released and became the Chief Minister again: Why, how would you deal with a small State like that? Some arguments he gave me: Why? If I had an independent Kashmir, Pakistan would support me, America and India would support me. Anyway he later on was with India. We cannot hand over Kashmir to Pakistan; that is clear as anything. We cannot make Kashmir an independent State, but we stick today to what we have been saying. It is more than ever necessary to give them absolute autonomy and not only autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, but within Kashmir autonomy should be given to the Jammu part and the other part also. That is how we can get back the confidence of the people, Muslims particularly, in Kashmir. They have been alienated; there is no doubt about that. But the way to do [that] is to really look after their economic interest and probably more than that. At the moment we have to politically satisfy them not only with Article 370, which the present government wants to withdraw, but also the other powers, which they had even during Jawaharlal Nehru's time, should be given back to them. Some of them have been taken away. Then if they want their own Supreme Court or if they want anything, except defence and foreign policy, it should be given to them but, of course, financial help must be rendered from the Government of India. That is how you can get the confidence of the people.

Mukherjee: How can you put an end to the militancy?

E.M.S. NAMBOODIRIPAD addressing a rally in Thiruvananthapuram.-

Basu: This is to be done both politically and administratively. Army and police operation are necessary, but more than that this, politics, which I am talking, is necessary.

He was all for a political solution.

It was not just once that he was invited to become Prime Minister. The full account bears quotation in extenso. You see, when the United Front was there, we got a majority and the Congress said that it would support us so as to keep the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] at bay. So we got together, but who would be the Prime Minister? V.P. Singh would be the best person, but he was ill. So they all, 12 parties, said: You must be the Prime Minister. Why did they say it? It was not because I am God's son, but because, as you said, I have got experience of running a United Front government and the Left Front government. That is why they thought that our party should join the 12-parties government, and I should become the Prime Minister.

Then what happened was that because before the elections, we had no common programme although we were fighting together against the Congress. We said in the election meetings I had spoken in so many election meetings: We shall help to form a government, but we will not be a part of it. (That had been our view.) Now since you are requesting 12 parties, including CPI, whose representative Indrajit Gupta became the Home Minister, we have to call a meeting of the central committee. That is the way we function; it is a democratic functioning. So we called a meeting of the central committee on their request: This new situation has arisen and so we have to have a programme that they want us to enter the government and I become the Prime Minister. In the voting there was a division. It was a serious meeting and there was a division. I think by 8 or 10 votes, we lost our general secretary and I were in the minority. We thought politically it would be excellent thing and the right thing to do to join this government and head it, try to lead it. Even though it may be for few months, it would be politically advantageous. (I am not going into all the arguments.) But the others, the majority thought otherwise that it would be a great risk for us to join with these people, but we said: Already we had worked out Common Minimum Programme for West Bengal. Now we will have a Common Minimum Programme at the Centre. We said: As people saw in West Bengal United Front government, similarly, on an all-India's scale it will help our party, it will help the Left forces, the democratic forces. This was our argument. Others said: Nothing can be done with leading the government but we can support 12 of them. Some of them, that is true also, were very much against our policies like the then Finance Minister, he was very much against our policy, but our argument was: In the Centre, the Prime Minister is unlike what we have in West Bengal, in Kerala. In the Centre the Prime Minister wields a lot of influence and we can for the time being influence them. Other partners [said], you see the World Bank is there; the IMF [International Monetary Fund] is there; they are blindly accepting all that advice given to them, which we shall not do. The people will have a new experience. Within these limitations so many things could be done. Then if we are thrown out and we shall leave a new experience for the people cannot last for five years. The Congress is supporting. When they will withdraw support, people will judge who is to blame. If it breaks up, then we can leave something behind for the people. As I said, this is how people will understand with whom lies the responsibility. But this argument was not accepted by the majority. So we went back and reported that. But they said: The President is waiting. We have to tell him the name of the Prime Minister. No, once again, you please call your meeting. I said: Eight people have left the meeting already, but we know for whom they have voted.

So we called a meeting second time. This time also we failed. One or two changes were there, but we failed, majority was there for not participating and we, who were for participating, were in minority. Among the comrades of West Bengal there was division also. Four or five of us were for participating and some others were against participating. So again we went back and reported what had happened.

Once M.J. Akbar of Asian Age asked me: What do you feel personally? I said this I have not said any time publicly in my life about party differences though I have differed with my party on many occasions: We the Communists don't talk that way, but on this decision of the majority, I think it was a historic blunder, because history does not give such opportunities to the Communists. Knowing who I am, what I am, my belief in Marxism, the 12 parties are asking me to become the Prime Minister; we should accept it. Let people go through the experience. It will be of great help to the people and us. So he wrote all that in Asian Age.

When 11 non-Communist parties, V.P. Singh and others, asked the CPI(M) the CPI had decided to join the government to join the government with me as the Prime Minister, it would be the correct step. I said: In Parliament [ sic] democracy, never in the world has such a situation arisen. Again I say, this is a historic blunder. Historic, why, because such opportunity does not come, history does not present you with such opportunities. But anyhow that was that.

Prasad: Were you offered prime ministership earlier too?

Basu: I cannot remember; there was a crisis in the Congress in 1990. For some work, I had gone to Delhi. Then the present Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha, came to see me I was staying in 2, Circular Road. He said: As you know there is a crisis in the Congress. But a government has to be formed, and you head it. I said: How suddenly I become the Prime Minister! We have a small number of people there in Parliament. Anyhow it is not just possible. There is no question of discussing such a thing. So he left and then came our Chander [sic] Shekhar he was a good friend of mine and I used to meet him earlier also who he said: You become the Prime Minister, we will all be there to help you. I said: I told your friend (Yashwant was with Chander Shekhar at that time, later he was with the BJP). Then he said: Then I become. I said: Very good. You have all my support, but how long will you last? How many people do you have ?

Mukherjee: What is that makes a coalition stick together?

Basu: Some minimum understanding. We know where we differ. We do not bring up all those differences when we draw up our programme, like the Common Minimum Programme also. Of course, many things are there with which the Finance Minister and others disagree.

JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN. HE had wanted a united leftist movement through the Congress Socialist Party.-

Mukherjee: Why did the United Front experiments at the Centre not work when the Opposition minus the BJP had a role to play? Of course, the BJP coalition is working.

Basu: No, this is a different thing. The BJP coalition is working because all these States' parties and groups want to become Ministers. We cannot form such a coalition. According to us, if there is no minimum understanding sincerely pursued, we should not have a government, but the BJP does not believe in any principles or policies, it wants to rule, and Hindutva and all this business are there; they are guided by the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh] and the VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad].

Another opportunity arose in 1999. When lately the President had asked the BJP to take a vote, it lost by one vote. Then we wanted to present an alternative. It could not be like the other time. That alternative could only be the Congress because that was the main non-communal opposition party. We, our party' do make a difference between the BJP and the Congress. Many communal-minded people may be there in the Congress, but it is a non-communal party. It has become very, very important today but it was not that important in those days. It has become important with the rise of the BJP. So when we were discussing in Delhi, Mulayam Singh said: I cannot support the Congress government. Then I asked him: Why did you vote against the BJP? He said: The alternative is you. (It is ridiculous, that I become the Prime Minister.) I said: Why should the Congress accept me? Those days are over, no more there.

Then Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh and others came to my house and said: We shall form a government of our own. I asked: How can you form a government of your own, because you have only 120 or 125 MPs. You cannot. (They also had no arguments.) The Left, we, shall support you, we do not want to become Minister or anything, but unless you make an offer to other parties to form a coalition government why should they support you? The Congress also made the mistake. They would not have a coalition government. So we said: As far as the Left is concerned, we do not want to become Ministers; we want to support the government against the BJP. The BJP should not come back. But if you do not do that, then neither the Congress nor you can form a government.

Now Jayalalitha and Lalu Prasad went to Sonia Gandhi and told her about this alternative, with me as the Prime Minister. Earlier I said: I am not well and all that, why should I take the blame, I will keep quiet. You go to her. Then Sonia Gandhi rang me up and said the same thing. My working committee has already taken a decision, either we form the government or nothing happens. We cannot support the alternative suggested. I said: Very good. Then I do not know why you people voted against the BJP because the BJP is now saying rightly that they (the Opposition) are so irresponsible that they threw us out but could not form an alternative government. They got the political advantage. So this is the story of that event. People in Delhi and not only Mulayam Singh, even the RSP [Revolutionary Socialist Party] and the Forward Bloc with one or two MPs, also opposed and they could not give me the reason why they voted against the BJP, but then opposed the Congress forming a government.

ON STALIN AND ALBANIA

Jyoti Basu was critical of Stalin's Soviet Union, where dissent was stifled. In 1962 I went to the Soviet Union along with Bhupesh Gupta and Govinda Menon. There we had raised a question in our National Council it was not divided then in 1962: Why is it that the Soviet Union Khrushchev was in power then is asking the Albanian people to get rid of the Albanian communist government? What right has it to do that? So the decision was taken that three of us should go and talk to Suslov, their topmost theoretician, and Ponomariov, their topmost historian. So we met them for about three or four hours and then amongst many other things I am not going into that we asked them about Albanian issue. So Suslov and Ponomariov said: You do not know the kind of propaganda they are doing against us in Albania, although Communist Party rule is there. I said: But that is for the people of Albania to decide; you can tell them what Soviet Union wants to say. How can you ask the people to overthrow a government from outside? We got no satisfactory reply from Suslov and Ponomariov.

ON RATH YATRA His contempt for the BJP was not concealed.

Prasad: Before the demolition of Babri Masjid, when there was the rath yatra, you were trying to stop it and then Lalu Prasad stopped it.

Basu: Yes, V.P. Singh asked me to go and see L.K. Advani. Once I went to his house and another time to somebody else's place to meet him. We had food together and then had discussions. But I could not convince him. He was talking about the Moghul days as to how some of them destroyed our temples, this and that. I said: But was it right what they did whoever did it? He said: There is no question about destroying anything. Mine is a peaceful Yatra. I will go from one end of India to the other end and this is my route. But I said: I hear, in the rath you have Ram's photograph. Has he become your party member? You have your election symbol also in the rath. He said: Yes, what is wrong there? But it will be a peaceful rath yatra. I reported back to V.P. Singh: I could not convince him; he is going through his programme. Then he said that he would have to be arrested. That was almost the break-up of the Janata government. But Advani will pass through West Bengal, Purulia district. V.P. Singh told me: You don't arrest him. He will end his rath yatra in Patna. So I had asked Lalu Prasad Yadav he was the Chief Minister at that time to arrest him. So this is what happened. Then you know later on, how thousands of people were killed.

EMS

EMS was both an intellectual and an organisation man. His interview to Dr Hari Dev Sharma is of absorbing interest. Actually I first came in touch with the communist groups in Andhra about February 1935 when M.R. Masani and myself were returning from Nagpur where a meeting of the National Executive of Congress Socialist Party was being held. I was going back home and Masani was to preside over the Andhra State Conference of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) being held in Guntur. I also joined him. At that conference there was a group of Communists. I did not know them. They were putting so many questions to Masani and he was answering them. I was not active in that conference. The person who was putting questions on behalf of the Communist Party was M. Basavapunniah. Even at that stage I did not have any personal contact with him. The only thing I knew was the questions that he was putting.

The actual personal contact that I had with the Communists in South India or with the Communists anywhere in India was sometime in October 1935 and that was at Madras with P. Sundarayya. At that time also a meeting of the AICC [All India Congress Committee] was held in Madras and, taking that opportunity, the Radical Conference was being held there. The Radical Conference was a forum in which all the radical groups, i.e. the Royists, the CPI, the CSP and unattached individuals and trade unions, had gathered and attended that conference. That meeting was attended by Krishna Pillai and myself. One of the delegates attending that Radical Conference was also P. Sundarayya. After the Conference he wanted to meet us separately. That was the first real discussion held between the authorised representative of the Communist Party and us. That was in 1935.

P. SUNDARAYYA, A legend in his own lifetime.-

Sharma: By that time Sundarayya had already become a Communist.

Namboodiripad: Oh yes

A nucleus of the Communist Party was formed in Andhra. About the same time, a still smaller group was formed in Madras. So for Sundarayya and others it was a question of their becoming Communist first and then joining the CSP, whereas for me, Krishna Pillai and other comrades in Kerala I am not sure what would have happened had Amir Haider Khan also contacted us; but nobody contacted us, we had no contact through the press it appeared to us that the Congress Socialist Party was the appropriate body through which we could work towards the Left politics.

FROM CSP TO CPI

Sharma: After you became Communist, did you disclose this to the CSP that you had become Communist?

Namboodiripad: No. I had told JP [Jayaprakash Narayan] that I was keeping contact with the Communist leaders and I also told him that on many of these issues on which there were differences, I was with the Communists. I did not disclose the fact that I had become a formal member of the party.

Sharma: Did you keep it deliberately a secret?

Namboodiripad: Yes, because it was an illegal party from the point of view of the government, and politically also it was a party against which one section of the leadership was hostile.

Sharma: After you became Communist, were there many occasions in the discussion in the national executive of the CSP when there were hot exchanges of views?

Namboodiripad: Oh yes. If I remember right, it was after the Faizpur session (1936), of the CSP that Dr Ahmed and Sajjad Zaheer were taken into the national executive of the CSP even before that Soli Batliwala and Dinkar Mehta were in it. They were known to be Communists. Even Masani knew about it. But the addition of Dr Ahmed and Sajjad Zaheer, together with the two who were already known to be Communists, it was known that these four were Communists.

Sharma: But even then they were taken? Namboodiripad: Oh, yes.

Sharma: It is said that after you became Communist, there were deliberate attempts to capture the organisation with the assistance of other people and make it fully Communist. With this regard circulars were also issued to various Communist-minded people in the CSP in various provinces?

Namboodiripad: I don't know about it. I was functioning in Kerala. For me, it was quite simple and straight. I was transformed from an ordinary Congressman into a Congress Socialist and from a Congress Socialist into a Communist through the sheer process of my practical experience and discussions. Nobody would have been able to capture me, nor would I have been able to capture anybody else. After all, it was a period in which intense discussions, intense searching of the minds, was going on among all of us. As a result of that some ideology got the upper hand, some ideology went behind. As a matter of fact, at the time, when I came into the Congress Socialist Party the Royists were probably even stronger than the CPI, but in a few years the Royists got disintegrated. This idea of somebody having some sinister plan to capture that organisation is absurd. People were changing. They had their own independent thinking. People like us who, though much later, could simultaneously resist the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] and the CPC [Communist Party of China], how could somebody capture us unless it was through the process of our own political experience and exchange political views?

EMS rejected the suggestion that his group sought to capture the CSP. Sharma persisted.

Sharma: If I may put it like this: After you had become Communist, the natural course would have been to resign from the party?

Namboodiripad: Why? Those who were already known to be Communists had been taken by this very JP and Masani into the national executive. The conception at that time was, the Meerut Thesis stated definitely that the CSP should attempt to unite all the revolutionary forces including the Communists. I would, on the other hand, say that Masani and his friends were going against the line laid down in the Meerut Thesis by organising a witch-hunt against the Communists.

Sharma: Then how did this break come about finally between you and the CSP?

Namboodiripad: That was a pure process of political differences. I did not attend the Lahore Conference of the CSP in 1938. Krishna Pillai did; I came to know about the discussions there. By that time the questions of War, Fascism, all these things had become live issues. By 1939 the Second World War, the attitude to be adopted towards it, all these issues came to be forefront. On all these questions the process of discussion within the CSP leadership and, so far as I am concerned, with the leadership of the CPI, was going on. It was not only I personally, but almost the entire CSP in Kerala decided towards the end of 1939 or beginning of 1940, to join the CPI.

Sharma: Was it after the Communists were formally expelled from the CSP by a resolution at Ramgarh or was it before that?

Namboodiripad: Before that. When did the expulsion resolution come?

Sharma: I think at the Ramgarh Congress of national executive of the CSP passed a resolution expelling the Communists.

Namboodiripad: I do not remember that. I was present at the Ramgarh Congress, but I do not remember to have attended this executive meeting. Probably by that time they had known my membership of the CPI and had held a meeting without Dr Ahmed, Sajjad Zaheer and all of us. But in Kerala we held a conference of the leaders of the CSP in the various talukas either towards the end of 1939 or in the beginning of 1940, at which a decision was taken to form ourselves into the CPI with Krishna Pillai as secretary.

Sharma: Where was this conference held?

Namboodiripad: It was in a village near Tellicherry.

Sharma: What remained of the CSP after you decided to join the CPI?

Namboodiripad: Till 1942, nothing. Sharma: The whole group went to the CPI? Namboodiripad: Yes.

Sharma: Could you pinpoint the basic difference between the Congress Socialists and the Communist-minded Congress Socialists?

Namboodiripad: If I may put it very briefly, the Communists had an international outlook. They were part of the international communist movement, while the Congress Socialists, by and large, were national. Those of them who had an international outlook had the outlook of social democracy of Western type, like, say, Masani, Asoka Mehta and others.

Sharma: When did the parting of the ways actually come for the Communists and why? What precipitated the situation?

Namboodiripad: It is a process. As a matter of fact, as I told you earlier, probably the idea of the Congress Socialist Party in the beginning was that the Communists being in a small group, which was true in 1934-36, they could contain the Communists but they found that in 1937 to 1938, 1939, as the Communists joined work, the Communists were gaining far more than they had imagined. As a matter of fact, it was at that time that Masani, being the joint secretary, in charge of the office of that organisation, started giving warning to JP that this was happening that the Communists were gaining at their expense and they were carrying on disruptive activities. And then he started all this talk of selection work, etc. Then I had not attended the session that was held.

Sharma: ...at Lahore?

Namboodiripad: Yes, it was probably in 1938. At that session, there was a furious dispute on the representations to be given to various States and Kerala was represented by the State secretary of the CSP, the late Krishna Pillai. He was the sole delegate from Kerala. That was contested by Masani. After a good deal of discussion, the entire membership was not accepted. The membership was relevant in those days because even if only one delegate from a State attended, he could exercise the vote for the entire delegation. So Masani and these people thought that if Krishna Pillai were to exercise the vote of the entire members of the Kerala delegation, then that would go against them. So let us reduce it. I was not present in that session.

Sharma: After that, what was the next stage, which created further gulf?

Namboodiripad: I do not remember the month or the year, it might be some time in 1938 or 1939, Masani circulated the so-called Secret Circular by the CPI among the members of the national executive of the CSP. In that circular the position of the Communists in the CSP in various States was assessed, i.e. the work done, the influence exercised by the Communists. He pointed this out as the clear evidence that the Communists were disrupting and trying to capture the CSP. I was also involved in that because Kerala was mentioned in that circular as a State in which the Communists were exercising predominant influence. Then probably after the Tripuri session probably the circular was issued earlier in Delhi, JP called a meeting of those members of the national executive who were original Congress Socialists; that is, those who were original Communists were dropped out. At that time, not in the meeting actually, JP asked me: Where do you stand? I said: You know, I have been working with the Communists. S.V. Ghate and P. Sundarayya are working in Madras. We have contacts with them and both Krishna Pillai and myself are having long discussions with them, and on most of the issues of policy, I agree with them. But, you know, I am an original Congress Socialist. By that time our relations had become strained. Even at the Tripuri Congress, if I remember aright, with regard to the voting on the crucial Pant Resolution, the CSP was neutral. The Communists voted against the resolution. After that Tripuri Congress, probably there were exchanges between the National Front and the Congress Socialists. As a matter of fact, I remember, on the controversial issues, which arose between Subhas Bose and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the attitude adopted by the CSP and the CPI were different. I do not exactly remember.

Sharma: Were you present at the Tripuri session?

Namboodiripad: Yes. Sharma: Did you vote with the Communists? Namboodiripad: No, I voted with the CSP.

Sharma: So, after that, you drifted away from the CSP.

Namboodiripad: Yes. Even by that time also we had come more or less to that position. But we took the final decision after the outbreak of the Second World War. Because the stand of the two parties, on the question of War and the attitude to be adopted towards the British differed from each other and we were with the Communists.

This is perhaps the first detailed exposition of the Communists' position vis-a-vis the CSP. EMS and JP had a warm regard for each other. This writer saw EMS with JP in 1976 during the Emergency, in Bombay.

P. SUNDARAYYA

P. Sundarayya was a legend in his own lifetime in Telangana and was one of the pillars of the CPI(M). He spoke to Dr H.D. Sharma in New Delhi on September 14, 1974. Much of what he said supported EMS, of course. But his is a fuller account.

Sharma: Mr Sundarayya, you were present at the Lahore session of the Congress Socialist Party where there was an open cleavage or trial of strength between the communist members and the socialist members of the Congress Socialist Party. Now, what is your version of these events?

Sundarayya: Unless I refer to the documents, I cannot pinpoint what actually happened and what were the differences but broadly the conflict came up on how the programmatic document or policy document should be framed and what issues should be incorporated. Earlier in 1936-37 also, in the course of the discussion, when we were all working in it (CSP) our effort was to have as nearer an approach to the communist understanding of socialism as possible, so that a united socialist movement could develop. We were very confident that as the movement would develop and as our line was correct, slowly and slowly, the whole socialist movement could be incorporated. We used to be equally conscious of the other section, wherein were Asoka Mehta and Minoo Masani; especially Masani, to some extent [Yusuf] Meherally and Achyut Patwardhan also. They were equally clear that this communist line was a wrong thing and that it should not be allowed. This policy statement of programme should not be enumerated. This is where our main conflict came.

This had been earlier an international question, also: In 1933, the whole German revolutionary movement, the conflict between social democracy and the Communists; the whole question of Stalin, how the movement had been developed during the Russian revolution and especially the Communist trials during (1936-38) and other things, it was bitter anti-communism [concerning] the Soviet Union. But Jayaprakash Narayan and to a lesser extent Narendra Dev and certain other sections were definitely for a united movement though they did not want this full-fledged communist approach. One accusation against us, which we usually used to repudiate, was that the Communists would always follow the instructions they got from the communist international or what they call the Soviet leadership.

So, now I cannot exactly recall, there were documents concerning it. They had presented their thesis, and through our Comrade Sajjad Zaheer and others, we had presented the alternative, which was not our own programme [but the programme] which we thought would be acceptable to the socialists. Even then there was a clash in the Conference. The majority which was with Jayaprakash Narayan, naturally, did not accept some of the issues that were raised, and knowing that we could not get through, we also did not insist too much on it. Once we accepted the majority opinion the question of elections would come. In the elections, our earlier desires was to have more representation on the National Executive than what we had in 1938.

By 1938 E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Dinkar Mehta, Soli Batliwala, Sajjad Zaheer and some other comrades were there. I cannot say whether formal party members were nearer to us, but we wanted some more. The idea that we should dominate was not there, but we wanted to develop stronger contingent so that we could influence the day-to-day work also. But the Masani and Asoka Mehta section was equally clear, that our representation should not be increased, but should be further reduced. If Jayaprakash Narayan had properly understood the discussions, he might not have accepted the full quota as we demanded, nor would he have accepted to reduce [our number]. He might have conceded some more seats while keeping the dominant position with Masani as well as his cadre.

By 1939, when the War broke out, sharp differences arose on what policy to adopt. The question of people did not come up at that time. Whether we should have a mass revolutionary struggle of complete non-cooperation and sabotage the war effect or have some kind of Satyagraha this was the main difference in approach. Anyway, by that time our party had to go underground also and we showed our proletarian path, how to fight the British War, how to conduct sharp cleavages in the Congress inactivity or later individual Satyagraha. On that again, the [Congress] Socialists differed sharply, and the units in Kerala and Tamil Nadu had to come out openly as the Communist Party. Then Jayaprakash Narayan and other people resented it [and said]: You worked in our party and now you are taking away the whole party. That is nothing but sabotaging and destroying our party. So, the bitterness grew.

Sharma: After they formally expelled the Communists, how many people went with you in the South? Was it the whole party?

Sundarayya: Practically, the whole party. Very few individuals might have been left and they were ineffective people. Though from the Congress angle, they might look as leaders, but they were rather ineffective people.

Sharma: Coming back to the Congress Socialist Party. You were working both in the Congress Socialist Party and in the Communist Party. You were secretary of the Congress Socialist Party also.

Sundarayya: I was secretary of the Communist Party in Andhra also.

Sharma: Now, how would you explain that? How was it possible to work in two political organisations which were not ideologically one? You could belong either to the one or to the other?

Sundarayya: No, it was not at all difficult. I belonged to the Communist Party basically and it was my party that asked me to work in the [Congress] Socialist Party. And whatever the [Congress] Socialist Party decisions were, before we could influence them to adopt more and more radical views, more and more the line that we wanted them to adopt, [until then] whatever actions they adopted, even to implementing that would make the large number of socialist cadre come nearer and we would also advance the general anti-imperialist movement. So there was no difficulty.

Sharma: When did the conflict between the Communists and the Congress Socialists become known and what were the issues?

Sundarayya: Right from the beginning, from 1934 itself, this conflict had been there. Because in the earlier period, some of our writings [said] that Congress Socialism' was contradictory in words and would pave way to fascism. Such kind of articles were written. The [Congress] Socialist Party leadership also attacked [saying] that the Communists were responsible for fascism coming in Germany by not having a united front. They had their own ideology; Gandhian ideology also influenced that the Communists were anti-national.

Similarly, Sajjad Zaheer, Dr K.M. Ashraf, Dr. Z.A. Ahmed, [Soli] Batliwala were all big Congress leaders; they were all leftists and were in the Congress Socialist Party. They were all pro [Communists]; some of them were party members also. That is why how could Congress Socialists say: You are not a socialist, you cannot be in the [Congress] Socialist Party.

. Then they decided to remove us and we also found that it was difficult to convince a good chunk of them. We had to function more and more independently than through the Congress Socialist Party. That phase came towards the end of 1938.

(The second part of this article will carry M. Basavapunniah's interview, which is perhaps the most revealing of them all.)

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