By D. Raja
Ninety-six years back, on December 26, 1925, the Communist Party of India was born. The CPI is intrinsically and organically linked to the country and has given leadership to some of the proudest and most progressive movements in the modern history of our Republic. It all started with the coming together of highly motivated and ideologically driven comrades, who were not fully satisfied with the Gandhian movement and wanted to make the agenda more radical and progressive. These comrades, from all parts of the country, came together for the first time in the historic Kanpur conference.
Through this conference the sapling of organised communist movement was planted in the Indian soil. The party was to take the country by storm, growing in popularity and influence, and dealing with the issues of class, caste and gender-based contradictions in the society. The most progressive ideals of our freedom movement have their roots in the leftist movement and the annals of history have some of its most golden pages dedicated to us. Let’s flip some of those pages to take inspiration for our future struggles on the occasion of the 97th Foundation Day of the CPI.
Following Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa, the freedom movement started taking its mass shape with millions of our common countrymen joining the fight to gain independence from the British. The leftists were instrumental in this as the Ghadar Party and other revolutionary organisations of Bengal, UP and Punjab took inspiration from the struggle of the Russian people against the Tzarist autocracy. The Russian Revolution came as an earthquake on the political plain and influenced the Indian opinion also. Indian leaders were quick to realise the revolutionary potential of the Indian masses and value of an ideological struggle. Left leaders and workers came together to form the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) in 1920, with Lala Lajpat Rai as its first President as the frontrunning organisation for the working classes of the country.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades sacrificed their lives for the ideals of socialism in India and inspired millions of energetic youths to shake the very core of British imperialism. When the demands of the struggle started finding a definite shape, it was a communist, M N Roy, who first demanded a Constituent Assembly. When the Congress was reluctant in asking for complete independence, Maulana Hazrat Mohani, who became chairman of the reception committee for the Kanpur CPI Conference in 1925, had demanded in 1921 itself complete independence from the British.
The CPI also took the lead in organising different sections of the society and started a range of organisations like All India Students Federation, All India Kisan Sabha, Progressive Writers’ Association, all in 1936 and Indian People’s Theatre Association in 1943. All these organisations were committed to the cause of the masses and took the flame of independence and socialism to vast tracts of the country.
When independence was coming close and the British Empire was losing its grip over the country, it was the CPI’s support to the naval mutiny in Bombay which made the British realise that it’s impossible to rule over Indians through force now. Their oppressive structure of police and army crumbled in front of a youthful leftist movement. The British were quick to realise the potential of the newly organized left movement since the very beginning and slapped the organisation with one conspiracy case after the other. Undeterred, the comrades marched forward in the face of oppression and spread the movement to the lengths and breadths of the country.
When the British were awestruck by the bravery and defiance of the naval mutiny, the CPI organized a mega strike in Bombay with over one lakh people participating in the rally. This made the British departure inevitable and hastened its speed. The CPI channelized material issues through popular movements and made them part of the national agenda. Many of the progressive and pro-poor features of our Constitution were demands made by the Left through such movements.
With this glorious history, we have to get inspired and address the multifold challenges before us. The most important issues that we are to deal with is the ascendancy of RSS to power. This was not a simple change in the government at the centre but a major qualitative shift for our democratic republic. What came to power after 2014 was not just another political party but with its patron organisation the RSS, the BJP has an agenda that runs counter to the values that have defined our country and got enshrined in the Constitution.
The RSS remained pro-British for the entirety of our freedom struggle and its leaders were implicated in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. It subscribes not to our Constitution that ‘we gave to ourselves’ but in the Manusmriti which promotes and exploits caste hierarchy and discrimination. Equality and equal rights for women are forbidden in the organization, which does not admit women members to this day. Before independence, they remained loyal to the British and now they display the same loyalty for crony capitalists.
Their agenda is to replace the ideals of secularism, tolerance and plurality with majoritarianism, hate and homogeneity. Communalism is trying to infest all quarters of our lives and caste discrimination, hatred and violence are on the rise. Our struggle should tackle these issues along with economic exploitation through unionising. We need to proactively take on issues surrounding us and follow them to solidify a unity of secular, democratic and progressive people and then translate it politically. We should be sensitive to the exploitation of our countrymen through the workings of global finance and discrimination with our own citizens on the basis of caste, religion and gender.
Taking the struggle to be our historic ideological responsibility is our task, since only the Left is capable of countering RSS ideologically and creating a lasting alliance for the progress of our country. Our forebearers have left a shining legacy of struggle and sacrifice and we have to enrich it. On the foundation day of our party, our pledge should be to eliminate all kinds of injustice from our society: social, economic and political – to realise the goals enshrined in the Preamble of our Constitution by the pioneer of social justice, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar.
Prophetic Ambedkar’s last speech in the Constituent Assembly is our guiding light. He called on the people of the country to give up the grammar of anarchy, to avoid hero-worship, and to work towards a social – not just a political – democracy. As we can see, these cherished ideals of the architect of our Constitution are still unfulfilled. The CPI should be the channel to realise these goals of a classless, casteless society. (IPA Service)
The writer is General Secretary, Communist Party of India (CPI).