by Vijay Chauthaiwale
According to several media reports, former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale claimed in his book, ‘The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India’, that China used its “close connections” with Left parties in India to “build domestic opposition” to the Indo-US nuclear deal between 2007 and 2008. Though CPI(M) leaders have refuted this claim, Gokhale also mentioned that several Left leaders used to travel China during that period on a pretext of medical treatment.
If true, this is not the first instance that the Left parties, when faced a conflict between their ideological international allies and the national interests, chose the former over later. Even before Independence, during the Second World War, in1939, when the USSR and Nazi Germany were on the same side, undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) refused to oppose Hitler. However, when Hitler invaded Soviet Union in June 1941, Moscow told Indian communists that the real fight was between fascism and the Allies. Therefore, they should support the British in their war effort. The CPI dutifully did this, staying clear of the Quit India movement of 1942. Suddenly, the CPI became the loudest and most vocal supporter of the Allies and enemy of the Nazis.
Harry Pollitt of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) sent a letter to the central committee of the CPI, then at the Deoli Detention Camp, “ordering the CPI to abandon all efforts at opposition to the British and to turn their efforts to controlling the trade unions to maximize war production”. This humiliating letter was hand-delivered by Sir Reginald Maxwell, then British Home Secretary in the Government of India. Communists obliged instantly. As a reward, the CPI was made legal, allowing it to take control of trade unions, and release party leaders from jail. At the same time, senior CPI leader Gangadhar Adhikari put forward “Pakistan Thesis” in 1942, which became basis of the resolution passed by the CPI supporting creation of Pakistan. Later on, when India got freedom in 1947 after sustained struggle, Communists denounced it as a false freedom. Then Communist stalwart BT Randive said, “Yah Azaadi Jhoota Hai”.
Pro-China activities of Communists continued even in post-Independence era. In 1959, during Chinese suppression in Tibet, predictably, Indian communists wholeheartedly supported China. In a statement on March 31, 1959, undivided CPI praised China for leading Tibetans from “medieval darkness” and blamed the rebellion on Tibetan “self-owners” backed by Indian reactionaries and Western imperialists. (Stern, R. The Sino-Indian Border Controversy and the Communist Party of India. The Journal of Politics 1965: 27(1), 66-86. doi:10.2307/2128001)
During the India-China war in 1962, when the country was fighting against the evil designs of the Chinese, CPI openly took pro-China stand. The party even opposed donating blood to injured Jawans, calling it “anti-party activity”. Communist leader and Kerala chief minister EMS Namboodripad declared wholehearted support to the Chinese. He refused to call the Chinese infiltration an act of aggression and asked India to calm down and call for peace and talks.
Namboodiripad wrote: “We are not prepared to become blind to the reality that it was the class policy of the […] ruling classes of our country that made them allies of the Tibetan counter-revolutionaries, thus initiating the process of deterioration in the India-China relations. We were and are not prepared to give up our view that the responsibility for the Chinese offensive of October, 1962, should be shared also by the Indian ruling classes who adopted a very provocative attitude in the weeks preceding [sic] the Chinese onslaught.”
Again, during Doklam stand-off with China in 2017, CPI(M) took an ambiguous position, which essentially was to keep its Chinese masters happy. CPI(M) editorial in its journal, ‘People’s Democracy’, said, “It must be underlined that Bhutan has been negotiating with China directly on its border issues since the year 1984. It is better that, India let Bhutan take the lead in negotiating with China on the Doklam Plateau and other disputed territories. India can lend support to Bhutan’s position.”
After the violent stand-off between China and India at Galwan valley, CPI(M) came up with a statement on June 16, 2020 wherein it did not criticise the neighbouring country. The party in its statement said, “The Government of India should come out with an authoritative statement as to what actually happened. It is imperative that both the governments immediately initiate high-level talks to defuse the situation and advance the process of disengagement on the basis of the agreed understanding of maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border.” In spite of the fact that the stand-off between two countries remains unresolved, just few days ago leaders of both factions of Communists and their allies joined online celebration of hundred years’ celebration of Chinese Communist Party.
In short, the entire history of Communists in India, from pre-Independence era to date, is full of instances, ideological positions and actions that are aligned to their global masters, rather than supporting larger national interests. Whenever they have aligned with the national interests, they did it only when it is not detrimental to their trans-national allegiance.
In reaction to Vijay Gokhale’s revelations, Sitaram Yechury cited opposition of BJP to civil nuclear deal. However, there is a difference between opposition of India-US civil nuclear deal by other parties such as the BJP and by Communists. Likes of BJP had serious reservations on the deal, those parties never took instructions from overseas and when appropriate conducive atmosphere emerged, they changed their position in larger national interest. That’s not the case with Communists. Indian Communists have unabated history of overtly supporting their international partners, even at the cost of India’s interests. In cases, where overt support to the international partners is politically untenable in India, they remained ambiguous at their best. The consistency with which Communists play this double game must be noted by everyone.