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Sunday, January 23, 2022

It is not the same,comrade

Stalin’s prophecies for India — including that Maoist guerilla tactics won’t work here

Written by Inder Malhotra |
January 10, 2011 4:53:48 am

AJOY GHOSH’S declaration that Comrade Stalin’s exposition of imperialism had made things “clear” to him (‘Can the revolution be

dictated?’,IE,Decemver 27) did not end the Soviet supremo’s plain speaking to the foursome of Indian Communist leaders that sometimes acquired stern,if also avuncular,overtones. Since Rajeswar Rao and Basava Punniah were strong advocates of adopting the “Chinese way” and thus “liberating India through armed conflict” a la Telangana,Stalin dealt with this issue at some length. He began by telling Indian comrades that the Chinese “never spoke of armed conflict. They spoke of armed revolution”. What the Chinese stood for was “partisan warfare with liberated areas and an army of liberation.”

Stalin then expatiated on why what was possible in China was not practicable in India. “Peasant partisan warfare,” he said,“was a serious matter and a big discovery for the revolution. In this area,the Chinese have done something new for revolutionary practice,in particular in backward countries. And,of course,every communist in a country where peasants are 80-90 per cent is required to put this method in his battle arsenal. This is indisputable. But the Chinese comrades’ experience also shows that partisan warfare comes with a disadvantage. The disadvantage is that partisan areas are an island and can always be blockaded.” The Chinese,he added,had the friendly USSR to back them and in its neighbourhood they could build up a strong rear; India had none.

“You are saying,” Stalin went on,“that partisan warfare is enough to achieve the victory of the revolution in India. This is not true. China had more favourable conditions than India. China already had a national liberation army. You do not have such an army. China does not have as dense a railway network as in India and this was a big convenience for [Chinese partisans. The possibilities for successful partisan war are less for you than for China. In terms of industry,India is more developed than China. This is good for progress,but bad from the point of view of partisan warfare. Whatever liberated regions you might create would be islets. You do not have such a friendly neighbouring state to back you up as the Chinese partisans did with the USSR behind them.” From Yan’an,he reminded the Indian comrades,the Chinese had moved to Manchuria.

What follows does not find any mention in the meeting’s minutes,as released by Russia. The reason becomes clear from the content of the information that is absolutely accurate,because decades after the event the four CPI leaders had no hesitation to divulge it.

At one stage during Stalin’s discourse discouraging partisan warfare in India,Basava Punniah inquired whether the Soviet Union could send a shipload of arms to a remote Andhra port. The Soviet leader’s immediate reaction was a guffaw. After a minute’s silence thereafter,he looked the questioner in the eye and inquired tersely: “Do you have a safe rear for any area you might liberate?”

In summer 1950,nearly a year before the four CPI leaders’ long meeting with him,Stalin had received Indian ambassador S. Radhakrishnan at a time when Mao Zedong was in the USSR. Stalin had kept Mao waiting,and to soften this blow had sent him to Leningrad. The philosopher-diplomat made a friendly reference to Mao. Stalin’s response: “He speaks a language I do not understand.” (Source: Indian diplomats with lawful access to the still classified archives who wish to remain anonymous.)

However,during his discourse Stalin spoke well of China and of Mao personally,but his latent feelings fleetingly came to the surface at least once. He was then underscoring that the Chinese way was good for China but not so for India,“where it is necessary to join the proletarian battle in the cities to peasants’ struggle. Some think that the Chinese comrades are against this combination. This is not true… Of course,Mao Zedong would have been (happy) if the railroad and military plant workers went on strike when he attacked Nanjing… But this did not happen since Mao had lost contact with the cities… But the lack of contact with the cities was a sad necessity and not an ideal. It would be ideal to achieve that which the Chinese failed to achieve: to join peasant war to the struggle of the working class”.

Thereupon,S.A. Dange remarked: “We had almost turned partisan warfare into a theory without the participation of the workers.”

Stalin: “If Mao knew this,he would curse you.” (Laughter)

Revolutionary questions,emphasised Stalin,were decided in stages. “You must solve matters in stages,beating the enemies one after another… you must select from the experience of fraternal parties critically,adapting it to the specific conditions of India. You will be criticised on the Left — don’t fear this. Bukharin and Trotsky criticised Lenin from the Left,but they turned out to be the fools. Ranadive criticised Mao Zedong from the Left,but Mao was right. He acted according to the conditions of his own country. Carry out your own line and don’t pay attention to leftist cries.”

Reverting to the subject of partisan war,Stalin stated: “Look,Comrade Rao says,‘Let’s go to the people and ask them about armed uprising.’ You must not do this. You must not shout your plans. You’ll all be arrested.”

Describing the partition of India as an “underhand trick organised by the English”,Stalin advised his visitors: “If you are planning an action programme,you should include in it a demand for a military and economic alliance of Pakistan,India and Ceylon [Sri Lanka. These three states,artificially separated from each other,will come together. It will end with them reuniting. This idea of rapprochement should be put forth by you and the people will support you. The top elites of Pakistan and Ceylon will be against this,but the people will doubt them. To what extent this division is artificial can be seen by looking at Bengal. The Bengali provinces will be the first to leave Pakistan.”

Uttered 20 years before 1971 these were prophetic words.

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