Document on the Tactical Line of Communist Party of India


After the discussions in February and March 1951, which took place between representatives of the CPSU (b) and the CPI in Moscow, a slew of important documents were published in India. These were the Party Programme; the Tactical Line, which remained a closed statement for many years, and the Statement of Policy which was an open version of the tactical line understanding; and the Election Manifesto prepared for the first general elections in India. (1) As is clear from the CPSU party archives all of these documents secured the approval of the CPSU (b) and its leadership headed by Stalin.

Discussions between the two parties - initially it had been thought to involve Liu Shao-Chi of the Communist Party of China - had been necessitated as a result of the failures of the three successive lines identified with P.C. Joshi, B.T. Ranadive and Rajeshwara Rao which led to the crashing of the CPI activities. P.C. Joshi had welcomed the Mountbatten Award despite its compromising character; he had supported the Pakistan proposal between 1942 and April 1946 until the CPI leadership was otherwise convinced by Rajani Palme Dutt; and had wished to ally with the Nehru wing of the Congress Party. The 2nd Congress of the CPI which was held in Calcutta in February, 1948, decisively threw out what was considered to be the reformist line of the Joshi leadership. However the new B.T. Ranadive leadership embarked upon a new course of activity which all but destroyed the party. Ranadive, ostensibly, sought to emulate the course of the Russian revolution, under which the workers’ uprisings had precipitated peasant revolution, but under his leadership, in its stead, the working class was expected to engage in insurgent offensive actions when it lacked the capability and force to do so. Ranadive, moreover, denied the colonial and feudal character of the Indian economy and proposed to intertwine the democratic and socialist revolutionary processes. He was under the influence of the views of the Yugoslav Communist Party in this matter. Stalin directly rejected the immediate perspective of socialist revolution in India as being ‘stupid’ and ‘dangerous’. The views of Ranadive were dismissed as being akin to ‘Trotskyism’ and ‘Titoism’ both by Rajani Palme Dutt and sections of the CPI. Rajeshwara Rao and M. Basuvapunniah of the Andhra committee rightfully stressed the democratic character of the Indian revolution. They drew their inspiration from the experience of the Chinese revolution and proceeded to suggest that the path to the Indian revolution lay through partisan warfare such as was being practiced in Telengana. The elevation of Rajeshwara Rao to the CPI leadership did not, however, resolve the party differences. CPI leaders who had a base in the working class and the trade unions such as S.A. Dange and S.V. Ghate did not accept that immediate armed struggle based on partisan warfare could be the order of the day. P.C. Joshi and Ajoy Ghosh adopted similar stands. The party was now exhibiting paralysis as a result of the collisions between the contradictory approaches of different sections. It was this impasse which prompted the CPI to suggest a meeting with the leadership of the CPSU (b). (2)

In the discussions in Moscow, Stalin rejected the perspectives of both the Ranadive and the Rajeshwara Rao groups. He poured scorn on the possibility of socialist revolution in a country which was still colonial and under the grip of British imperialism and rejected the notion of revolution initiated by the working class which would lead to the revolution of the peasantry. Accepting the need for people’s democratic revolution he dismissed the possibility that partisan warfare by itself could lead to revolution in India. In China the People’s Liberation Army achieved success, Stalin said, only after it was able to move to Manchuria. There it had a friendly Soviet rear so that the PLA no longer had to fear encirclement by the troops of the Kuomintang and indeed was later able to go on to the offensive against the Chiang Kai-shek armed forces. The Indian revolution had no such advantage. This suggested that in India partisan war had to be accompanied by the revolutionary actions of the working class. The CPI had to win over the majority of the working class, engage in strike actions and form armed workers’ detachments in the urban areas. (3) Stalin noted that the partisan warfare in Telengana did not represent the main form of struggle in the country. Rather it was only the beginning of the opening of the struggle in India. The CPI was a weak party so that it should not at once speak of armed struggle as this would lead to serious difficulties arising.

After discussions with Stalin the CPI delegation in Moscow produced the initial drafts of the party programme and the tactical line. The latter was founded on the perspective of combining the armed activity of the working class with peasant partisan warfare.

The Draft Tactical Line text published here, after amendments, was adopted by the Communist Party of India but it was produced and circulated only as a closed document. The Statement of Policy represented the public statement of the CPI on tactical questions.

While the Tactical Line was supported by the CPI it became contentious after the rise of Khrushchev. The document fell out of favour amongst those sections of the party which supported a peaceful transition to national democracy, indeed it also was marginalised by the bulk of those revolutionary sections of the communist movement which were influenced by the CPC and retained their support for the people’s democratic revolution. For a number of years the CPI M trend defended, on the whole, the Statement of Policy and the Tactical Line. Whilst the CPI and the CPI M had veered around to the understanding that India could no longer could be characterised as a colonial and feudal country (in consonance with the acceptance of the social democratic ‘decolonisation’ theory(4) ) and that now India was a politically independent state they were sharply divided on the stage of the Indian revolution. While the CPI considered the desirability of an alliance with the progressive bourgeoisie in a national democratic revolution, the CPI M advocated people’s democratic revolution under the leadership of the working class. The CPI M, moreover, supported the Tactical Line in its opposition to the understanding of the CPI ML in its initial years that it was necessary to replicate in India the path of revolution by partisan warfare as had been successful in China. The limitations of partisan warfare in India being the sole mode of struggle had been pointed out by Stalin in 1951.

However from the foundation of the party in real terms the CPI M was not seriously committed to the Tactical Line and Statement of Policy documents. It may be recalled that P. Sundarayya was General Secretary of the CPI M from the foundation of the party in 1964 right through to October 1975. All attempts by him to apply the Tactical Line were stalled by the rest of the leadership of the party, particularly by B.T. Ranadive and M. Basavapunnaiah. In his letter of resignation from the general secretaryship of the party, P. Sundarayya in October, 1975, was to state ‘Though our party congress and CC Resolutions again and again endorse the “Tactical Line” (the policy statement), but in practice it is being negated. The line and understanding given in the policy statement must be strictly adhered to.’ (5) This meant that the revolutionary perspectives of the workers’ revolution in conjunction with partisan warfare was not acceptable to the party. The Tactical Line which sought to combine workers’ and peasants’ military insurgency demanded that locales be developed which could establish contiguous and continuous areas which would be centres of workers and peasants political activity. This too could not be enacted. Sundarayya indicated his experiences that: ‘I have enumerated priority regions and areas to be developed as compact and contiguous areas, making major industrial and administrative centres as centres of our working class and peasant movements, in March 1969 in a note to PBMs (No. 27/69). There are about 20 inner-PB letters prepared by PB members in this connection during 1969 and 1970, and yet, when we could not come to a common understanding. Feb. 1970. It was broadly endorsed by the CC. Yet when it was to be finalised by the PB, there was sharp criticism..

Sundarayya reminded the party that the Muzaffarpur Central Committee Resolution of March 1973 on organisational tasks had resolved as follows:

“This concept of priority areas and developing them first as political bases from which the revolutionary movement can be extended and defended better, will become a reality if the whole party takes it up seriously. There is no use accepting this in words, but the first opportunity running after every part of the state and dispersing cadres all round.

“The present tendency of totally neglecting the work among the peasantry in the surrounding areas of an industrial city and among the other sections of the people in that industrial hub and city itself and only of thinking in terms of trade union extension into some farther away centres, would not help either the politicalization of the working class or building the alliance of workers and peasants, nor does it become the basis for broad people’s front.”

In practical terms the Tactical Line document was inoperative for the CPI M.

In the same occasion in Muzaffarpur it had been reiterated that it was necessary to build up a secret part of the organisation. Sundarayya reminded the CPI M:

‘Party programme lays it down that our party must be prepared to face any twists and turns. The Tactical Line lays down that it is necessary to build underground units in villages, in factories, shops and departments. C.C. resolutions of 1967 and 1973 (Muzaffarpur reiterated this aspect) Muzaffarpur C.C. resolution lays it that CC should get report and review about the progress of this organisation of secret units every 6 months. But except in terror ridden areas in certain parts of our country nowhere else this has been attempted. Practically every member, every candidate, every sympathiser is exposed and open, in all sectors, and even in Government Services.’

In resigning from his party position Sundarayya said that one of the reasons for this was that the Party had ignored the building of a secret part of the party organization.

The hiatus between the revolutionary pretensions of the CPI M in terms of the programme, statement of policy and other documents, continued Sundarayya, and its practice meant that it had not broken from parliamentary, legalistic and peaceful illusions:

‘First and foremost reason is that even our leading cadre have not yet grasped the implications of our party being a party of the proletariat attempting to achieve P.D. Revolution. In our programme, policy statement, constitution, in our task documents on T.U., Kisan and party organisation and in our political resolutions we again and again stress and outline the tasks from the angle of revolutionary party. But on the whole, all that remains in words while our practice is based on deep-rooted parliamentary, legalistic illusions and on possibilities of peaceful development of our party and movement for a long period to come. We are unable to shake off the revisionist habits, thinking the mode of functioning in all mass fronts and in party building.' (Emphasis in the original).

Perhaps no communist party has ever been so acidly criticised as this by its own General Secretary.

After the resignation of P. Sundarayya the CPI M re-examined the Tactical Line and Statement of Policy in 1976. The ensuing document ‘The Statement of Policy Reviewed’ was written by M. Basavapunnaiah who had been a member of the original four-member CPI team who had written the Draft Tactical Line in February 1951. The review was adopted in 1976 but published only in 1986 after the death of P. Sundarayya. (6)

The case of P. Sundarayya revealed his utter isolation in the CPI M in his attempt to apply the Tactical Line document between 1964 and 1975.

Much the same situation existed in the developing Marxist-Leninist movement in the period before and after the formation of the CPI M and the CPI ML.

This is also evident from the attempts of Parimal Dasgupta in the decades after 1953 to stress the importance of the CPI Programme and the Tactical Line of 1951. (7) In consonance with the 1951 documents he denied from 1953 onwards that the country had an independent government, he accepted that foreign capital and the native bourgeoisie controlled the industrial sector; that despite modifications feudal interests dominated in the rural economy; and, that the incomplete national liberation struggle had merged with the Democratic Revolution. Further he was not in agreement with the view in 1955 that India needed to follow the ‘Kerala way,’ or that a ‘peaceful and parliamentary path’ could achieve success. Parimal Dasgupta later rejected the political formulations of the CPI M on the grounds that they had inherited their understanding of the Indian state, economy and society from the united CPI of the period between 1953-1964. The two parties differed on whether national democracy or people’s democracy was the immediate revolutionary stage. In the aftermath of the Naxalbari struggle sections within the CPI M formed the Coordination Committee of the Communist Revolutionaries (CCCR). But this led to a further division when the majority section adopted the ‘extreme ultra-left’ view that the only form of struggle was to be ‘armed struggle’ in the rural areas, which, in actuality, expressed the over-riding practice of individual terrorism. The majority section went ahead and formed the CPI ML. Writing three decades later in 1999 and still under the impress of the Tactical Line he continued to stress the necessity of the revolutionary party to carry out joint struggles of the industrial working class and the peasantry. (8) Parimal Dasgupta continued to defend the Tactical Line document with its stress on the revolutionary path not the peaceful path, the combination of partisan warfare in the countryside and the workers’ rising in the cities and the understanding that the alliance of workers and peasants was the condition of victory. Projecting the perspectives of the Tactical Line when the bulk of the communist revolutionaries were captivated by the example of the successful partisan warfare in China was an uphill task. That Parimal Dasgupta was not engulfed by the atmosphere of hostility to the working class, the trade unions in the 1960s is itself most extraordinary.


1. (ed.) Mohit Sen, ‘Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India’, Volume VIII, PPH, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 1-54.,,

2. Further details of the difference revolutionary strategies of the CPI may be found in: Vijay Singh, ‘Some Strategies of Indian Communists after 1947’, in (eds.) Andreas Hilger and Corinna R. Unger, ‘India in the World since 1947’, Peter Lang, Frankfurt Am Main, 2012, pp. 99-119.

3. Record of the Discussions of J.V. Stalin with the Representatives of the C.C. of the Communist Party of India Comrades, Rao, Dange, Ghosh and Punnaiah, (9th February 1951), Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XII, No. 2, September 2006.

4. On the question of ‘decolonisation’ theory see: ‘Dekolonizatsii Teorii’ in Ekonomicheskaya Entsiklopedia Politicheskaya Ekonomia, Tom I, Izdatel’stvo ‘Sovetskaya Entsiklopedia’, Moskva, 1972, p. 374; ‘Revolyutsionnoe dvizhenie v kolonial’nykh i polukolonial’nykh stranakh. Tezisy, in: ‘Komunisticheskii Internatsional v dokumentakh, 1919-1932’, Moskva, 1933, pp. 832-870; Kuusinen, ‘The Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies’, Volume 8, No 68, International Press Correspondence, pp. 1225- 1233; ‘Concluding Speech of Comrade Kuusinen on the Colonial Question’, Sixth World Congress of the Communist International, International Press Correspondence, Vol. 8, No. 81, 21st November 1928, pp. 1519-1528. V Serebryakav, L. Kasharshii, ‘Protiv trotskistskoi kontseptsii imperializma,’ Leningradskoe otdelenie kommunisticheskoi akademii pri Ts I K SSSR, Institut ekonomiki, Partiinoe izdatelstvo, Moscow, Leningrad, 1932. L. Gruliow, Soviet Views on the Post-War World Economy, Washington, 1948, (Translated from the Russian). Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, ‘Comintern and the Colonial Question: The Decolonisation Controversy, CSSS, Calcutta, 1976, and ‘Comintern, India and the Colonial Question, 1920­37, K. P. Bagchi & Company for CSSSS, Calcutta, 1980.

5. (ed.) D. Prempati: P. Sundarayya ‘My Resignation’(1975), India Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi, 1991.

6. M. Basavapunnaiah, The Statement of Policy Reviewed’, The Marxist, Vol. III, No. 3-4, April 1986.

7. Details of the struggles of Parimal Dasgupta may be located in Pradip Basu, ‘Towards Naxalbari 1953-1967’, An Account of Inner-Party Ideological Struggle, Progressive Publishers, Calcutta, 2000.

8. Parimal Dasgupta, ‘People’s Democratic Revolution in India’, Published by Prof. Nripen Chatterjee, for Communist Darshan Prakashan, Howrah, June, 1999. Acknowledgements to Basudeb Acharya for this.

Vijay Singh

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