‘Communists did not believe in Socialist-Left unity at heart’

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi : Veteran Communist leader and freedom fighter Z.A. Ahmad explores the complex relationship between the Socialists and the Communists — and its historic bearing upon the Indian political landscape — in his autobiography “Some Recollections From My Life (Mere Jeevan Ki Kuch Yaadein)”, released in the capital 10 years after his death.

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Born in 1907, the long-time member of parliament from Uttar Pradesh, who was also member of the Communist Party of India and the erstwhile Congress Socialist Party of India, said a section of Communist leaders in the early decades of the Left movement in India, who spoke in favour of greater “Left and Socialist” unity “did not believe it in their hearts”.

According to Ahmad, the section of Communists felt that though the Socialists had adopted a few Marxist principles, the Socialist movement in India was just a “caucus within the Congress and was overshadowed by the imperialist and the capitalist policies of the Congress party”.

The Communists predicted that the Socialists would lose their way inside the Congress fold.

He was referring to the Socialists in the erstwhile Congress Socialist Party founded in 1934 as a Socialist front within the Indian National Congress.

Its members – like Jayaprakash Narayan, Basawon Singh (Sinha), Minoo Masani and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay – said no to the “anti-rational mysticism” of Mohandas Gandhi as well as the sectarian attitude of the Communist Party of India towards the Congress party.

However, the Socialist axis within the Congress was influenced by Marxism-Leninism.

“The Communists never considered the Socialists anything more than a front formed in the wake of the Left movement and the Communists felt that they had to be careful in their interactions and alliances with the Socialists,” he said in his autobiography published by the National Book Trust and compiled over the years by his daughter.

Though the Communists joined the Congress Socialist Party in 1936 and even came to dominate the party in states like Kerala and Orissa, Subhas Chandra Bose proved to be a point of contention.

Post the 1939 session of the Congress Socialist Party, Subhas Chandra Bose left the Congress Socialist Party and formed the Forward Bloc.

According to Ahmad, the move sowed the seed of “hostility” between the Communists and the Socialists (many in the Congress still adhere to the Socialist credo) – which led to the widening of political and ideological gulf between the two groups over the decades even though the Communists operated within a broad Socialist (or people’s) framework in execution of its policies.

Post-independence, the Congress Socialist Party broke away from the Congress fold.

Ahmad also cites internal politics as another reason for the rift between the Communists and the Socialists in the country.

“In 1938, the two groups came closest to each other. The Socialists opened their doors to Communists in many states and senior leaders like E.M.S. Namboodiripad were elected leaders of the Socialist Party at the state-level. After the seventh international Communist conclave, the chief of the Communist Party of India P.C. Joshi and Socialist heavyweight Jayaprakash Narayan decided to form a united Socialist Party to oppose the imperialist forces, but the unity move resulted in a power struggle. The Minoo Masani group in the Socialist caucus felt threatened and opened up new fault lines to scuttle the move,” said Ahmad in his book.

The autobiography also traces the life of Ahmad, his childhood, years as a student politician, his stints in Deuli jail, his years as a freedom fighter and the experience as a parliamentarian and Communist leader in Uttar Pradesh.