We are herewith releasing the letter written by CPI(M) General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet on October 28, 2000 to Com. A.B. Bardhan, General Secretary of the CPI.
October 28, 2000
Dear Com. Bardhan,
I was shocked to read your evaluation of the special conference of the CPI(M) for updating its Programme, as contained in the Statesman of October 27, 2000. Since it came from no lesser a person than the General Secretary of the CPI, I have been constrained to write to you.
There can be little doubt that the urge for unity of the communist movement in India is prevalent amongst large sections of the sympathisers and well-wishers. Echoing this desire is one thing. But shifting the onus without addressing the larger issue of the programmatic understanding, is an exercise, which seems guile.
If you have come to an understanding that with the adoption of the updated programme of the CPI(M), differences between our two parties have become a thing of the past, we beg to disagree.
Unfortunately, since you were not in the leadership at the time when the intense debate began in the undivided party in the mid fifties, it may be a bit difficult to realise the pain and prangs that preceded the split. Since I was very much involved in the struggle, personally, I would urge upon you to go through the voluminous material that is available on this subject. Even a cursory glance through this data will reveal that there is no truth in the statement "There are no fundamental differences between the parties now".
The 1964 split was the outcome of a decade long inner party struggle. The central issue in the debate was the class character of the state and government as well as the class alliance. Whereas the then dominant leadership and later on the post-split CPI advocated cooperation with the government characterising it as representing the national bourgeoisie, those who later on went to form the CPI(M) differed from this assessment and characterised the Indian State as being ruled by the bourgeois-landlord classes headed by the big bourgeoisie. As an outcome of this understanding, the CPI began collaborating with the ruling classes even at the cost of disrupting Left unity. It is in pursuance of this line that in Kerala the CPI joined hands with the Congress party, a representative of the bourgeois-landlord classes, in an anti-CPI(M) alliance and later on had one of its incumbents to lead the ministry. The plea taken was that the Indian ruling classes represented the national bourgeoisie.
We had sent over to you copies of the draft of the Updated Programme when the CPI(M) Central Committee adopted it in the end of April 2000. You may have noticed that as far as the stage of the revolution, class character of the state, strategy and the class alliance to achieve it, no alteration has been made. This as the 14th Congress of the CPI(M) in 1992 noted, remains valid and does not warrant any change. The Congress had mandated to update the programme to incorporate our understanding on international and national developments that had taken place during the period since then like the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reversal to socialism in East European countries and the world becoming unipolar etc.
I was rather surprised to learn that despite your vast experience, you continue to hold on to old positions which have been proved wrong by experience as well as developments.
Far more surprising to me was the fact that you do not find issues such as class character of the state, stage of the revolution "differences over national democracy and people's democracy" to be of a "fundamental" nature. The CPI has not changed its characterisation of the Indian State or ruling classes. The CPI view, I understand, is that the Indian ruling classes represent the national bourgeoisie i.e. non-monopolist bourgeoisie. This is an entirely different analysis as opposed to that of the CPI(M), which has been mentioned earlier.
About the concept of National Democracy, the less said the better. This term was in parlance during the late fifties and sixties. The CPSU had identified 20 countries where national democracies were in place and were stated to be marching forward to socialism. The success or otherwise in this regard is there for all to see. The CPI had itself experimented with this in a small way in Kerala. The result was the disruption of the Left movement, which has suffered immense damage.
The Statesman story alleges that the CPI(M) has softened its attitude towards the Congress party. We reiterate our difference with the CPI's understanding that the Congress Party represents the national bourgeoisie. As per our understanding, it represents the same bourgeois-landlord classes as the BJP and other parties representing these classes do. We do differentiate the Congress from the BJP on the issue of secularism. But even here experience shows that the Congress has compromised with communal forces. A classic example is the events leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Even while not collaborating with the Congress Party, we will approach the masses following the party through mass struggles and during elections without in any way entertaining illusions about its class character, though it has a role in the struggle against communalism.
You have left it to history to "judge the split". At the same time you have called for "immediate communist unification on a principled basis". Even while making such an appeal you have sought to cast aspersion on us by stating that "Unfortunately, the realisation for such unification is not yet there".
The CPI has played the role of disrupting Left unity and placating the Congress. Your collaboration with the Congress party remained firm for years together. Even during times when we were under attack, your Party stood by the party and government which was attacking us. I would like to remind you of the Indo-China conflict on the border question. The bulk of the leadership that was to constitute the CPI(M) later on was jailed just because we advocated a peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue. What were our friends dominating the CPI then doing? Nowhere was any struggle or campaign launched to demand our release. During the Indo-Pak war also we were jailed for the same reason. Our friends utilised the opportunity to capture the Party organisation. Bupesh Gupta's note on this issue should be very much available in your files.
You may know that we had gone to the Vijayawada Congress with two separate drafts and programmes. The delegates were so badly divided that ultimately no resolution was adopted and the General Secretary's speech was made as the basis for the future tasks. Such a stand was necessitated due to the overwhelming urge for unity in view of the elections that were to be held. You have also tried to use this feeling for unity to justify your position.
But as a matter of fact, you do realise that this cannot be achieved in a vacuum. They cannot be done without a common understanding on the stage of the revolution, the character of the Indian State and ruling classes, the strategy and the class alliance needed to accomplish this.
We, however, would continue working on a principled basis for the unity of the Left forces in meeting the challenges before the country and people. Our commitment on this score is there for all to see.
Since you have aired your views in public, I am also compelled to do the same.
(Harkishan Singh Surjeet), General Secretary