CPI(M) emerged out of a division within the Communist Party of India (CPI). The undivided CPI had experienced a period of upsurge during the years following the Second World War. The CPI led armed rebellions in Telangana, Tripura and Kerala. However, it soon abandoned the strategy of armed revolution in favour of working within the parliamentary framework. In 1950 B.T. Ranadive, the CPI general secretary and a prominent representative of the radical sector inside the party, was demoted on grounds of left-adventurism.
Under the government of the Congress Party of Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India developed close relations and a strategic partnership with the Soviet Union. The Soviet government consequently wished that the Indian communists moderate their criticism towards the Indian state and assume a supportive role towards the Congress governments. However, large sections of the CPI claimed that India remained a semi-feudal country, and that class struggle could not be put on the back-burner for the sake of guarding the interests of Soviet trade and foreign policy. Moreover, the Indian National Congress appeared to be generally hostile towards political competition. In 1959 the central government intervened to impose President's Rule in Kerala, toppling the E.M.S. Namboodiripad cabinet (the sole non-Congress state government in the country).
Simultaneously, the relations between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China soured. In the early 1960s the Communist Party of China began criticising the CPSU of turning revisionist and of deviating from the path of Marxism-Leninism. Sino-Indian relations also deteriorated, as border disputes between the two countries erupted into the Indo-China war of 1962. During the war, a fraction of the Indian Communists backed the position of the Indian government, while other sections of the party claimed that it was a conflict between a socialist and a capitalist state, and thus took a pro-Chinese position. There were three factions in the party - "internationalists", "centrists", and "nationalists". Internationalists supported the Chinese stand whereas the nationalists backed India; centrists took a neutral view. Prominent leaders including S.A. Dange were in the nationalist faction. B. T. Ranadive, P. Sundarayya, P. C. Joshi, Basavapunnaiah, Jyoti Basu, and Harkishan Singh Surjeet were among those supported China. Ajoy Ghosh was the prominent person in the centrist faction. In general, most of Bengal Communist leaders supported China and most others supported India. Hundreds of CPI leaders, accused of being pro-Chinese were imprisoned. Some of the nationalists were also imprisoned, as they used to express their opinion only in party forums, and CPI's official stand was pro-China. Thousands of Communists were detained without trial. Those targeted by the state accused the pro-Soviet leadership of the CPI of conspiring with the Congress government to ensure their own hegemony over the control of the party.
In 1962 Ajoy Ghosh, the general secretary of the CPI, died. After his death, S.A. Dange was installed as the party chairman (a new position) and E.M.S. Namboodiripad as general secretary. This was an attempt to achieve a compromise. Dange represented the rightist fraction of the party and E.M.S. the leftist fraction.
The leftist section, to which the 32 National Council members belonged, organised a convention in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh July 7 to 11. In this convention the issues of the internal disputes in the party were discussed. 146 delegates, claiming to represent 100,000 CPI members, took part in the proceedings. The convention decided to convene the 7th Party Congress of CPI in Calcutta later the same year.
At the Tenali convention a Bengal-based pro-Chinese group, representing one of the most radical streams of the CPI left wing, presented a draft programme proposal of their own. These radicals criticised the draft programme proposal prepared by M. Basavapunniah for undermining class struggle and failing to take a clear pro-Chinese position in the ideological conflict between the CPSU and CPC.
After the Tenali convention the CPI left wing organised party district and state conferences. In West Bengal, a few of these meetings became battlegrounds between the most radical elements and the more moderate leadership. At the Calcutta Party District Conference an alternative draft programme was presented to the leadership by Parimal Das Gupta (a leading figure amongst far-left intellectuals in the party). Another alternative proposal was brought forward to the Calcutta Party District Conference by Azizul Haque, but Haque was initially banned from presenting it by the conference organisers. At the Calcutta Party District Conference 42 delegates opposed M. Basavapunniah’s official draft programme proposal.
At the Siliguri Party District Conference, the main draft proposal for a party programme was accepted, but with some additional points suggested by the far-left North Bengal cadre Charu Majumdar. However, Harekrishna Konar (representing the leadership of the CPI left wing) forbade the raising of the slogan Mao Tse-Tung Zindabad (Long live Mao Tse-Tung) at the conference.
Parimal Das Gupta's document was also presented to the leadership at the West Bengal State Conference of the CPI leftwing. Das Gupta and a few other spoke at the conference, demanding the party ought to adopt the class analysis of the Indian state of the 1951 CPI conference. His proposal was, however, voted down.
The Calcutta Congress was held between October 31 and November 7, at Tyagraja Hall in southern Calcutta. Simultaneously, the Dange group convened a Party Congress of CPI in Bombay. Thus, the CPI divided into two separate parties. The group which assembled in Calcutta would later adopt the name 'Communist Party of India (Marxist)', in order to differentiate themselves from the Dange group. The CPI(M) also adopted its own political programme. P. Sundarayya was elected general secretary of the party.
In total 422 delegates took part in the Calcutta Congress. CPI(M) claimed that they represented 104,421 CPI members, 60% of the total party membership.
Parimal Das Gupta’s alternative draft programme was not circulated at the Calcutta conference. However, Souren Basu, a delegate from the far-left stronghold Darjeeling, spoke at the conference asking why no portrait had been raised of Mao Tse-Tung along the portraits of other communist stalwarts. His intervention met with huge applauses from the delegates of the conference.
Also in Kerala, mass arrests of CPI(M) cadres were carried out during 1965. In Bihar, the party called for a Bandh (general strike) in Patna on August 9, 1965 in protest against the Congress state government. During the strike, police resorted to violent actions against the organisers of the strike. The strike was followed by agitations in other parts of the state.
P. Sundaraiah, after being released from jail, spent the period of September 1965-February 1966 in Moscow for medical treatment. In Moscow he also held talks with the CPSU.
The Central Committee of CPI(M) held its first meeting on June 12-19 1966. The reason for delaying the holding of a regular CC meeting was the fact that several of the persons elected as CC members at the Calcutta Congress were jailed at the time. A CC meeting had been scheduled to have been held in Trichur during the last days of 1964, but had been cancelled due to the wave of arrests against the party. The meeting discussed tactics for electoral alliances, and concluded that the party should seek to form a broad electoral alliances with all non-reactionary opposition parties in West Bengal (i.e. all parties except Jan Sangh and Swatantra Party). This decision was strongly criticised by the Communist Party of China, the Party of Labour of Albania, the Communist Party of New Zealand and the radicals within the party itself. The line was changed at a National Council meeting in Jullunder in October 1966, were it was decided that the party should only form alliances with selected left parties.
In Andhra Pradesh another revolt was taking place. There the pro-Naxalbari dissidents had not established any presence. But in the party organisation there were many veterans from the Telangana armed struggle, who rallied against the central party leadership. In Andhra Pradesh the radicals had a strong base even amongst the state-level leadership. The main leader of the radical tendency was T. Nagi Reddy, a member of the state legislative assembly. On June 15, 1968 the leaders of the radical tendency published a press statement outlining the critique of the development of CPI(M). It was signed by T. Nagi Reddy, D.V. Rao, Kolla Venkaiah and Chandra Pulla Reddy. In total around 50% of the party cadres in Andhra Pradesh left the party to form the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, under the leadership of T. Nagi Reddy.
The 8th Party Congress of CPI(M) was held in Cochin, Kerala, on December 23-29, 1968. On December 25, 1968, whilst the congress was held, 42 Dalits were burned alive in the Tamil village of Kilavenmani. The massacre was a retaliation from landlords after Dalit labourers had taken part in a CPI(M)-led agitation for higher wages.
The United Front government in Kerala was forced out of office in October 1969, as the CPI, RSP, KTP and Muslim League ministers resigned. E.M.S. Namboodiripad handed in his resignation on October 24. A coalition government led by CPI leader C. Achutha Menon was formed, with the outside support of the Indian National Congress.
Fresh elections were held in West Bengal in 1969. CPI(M) contested 97 seats, and won 80. The party was now the largest in the West Bengal legislative. But with the active support of CPI and the Bangla Congress, Ajoy Mukherjee was returned as Chief Minister of the state. Mukherjee resigned on March 16, 1970, after a pact had been reached between CPI, Bangla Congress and the Indian National Congress against CPI(M). CPI(M) strove to form a new government, instead but the central government put the state under President's Rule.
In Kerala fresh elections were held in 1970. CPI(M) contested 73 seats and won 29. After the election Achutha Menon formed a new ministry, including ministers from the Indian National Congress.
Following the 1964 split, CPI(M) cadres had remained active with the All India Trade Union Congress. But as relations between CPI and CPI(M) soured, with the backdrop of confrontations in West Bengal and Kerala, a split also surfaced in the AITUC. In December 1969, eight CPI(M) members walked out of an AITUC Working Committee meeting. The eight called for an All India Trade Union Convention, which was held in Goa April 9-10, 1970. The convention decided that an All India Trade Union Conference be held on May 28-31 in Calcutta. The Calcutta conference would be the founding conference of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, a new pro-CPI(M) trade union movement.
At the time the radical sections of the Bangladeshi communist movement was divided into many factions. Whilst the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Bangladesh actively participated in the resistance struggle, the pro-China communist tendency found itself in a peculiar situation as China had sided with Pakistan in the war. In Calcutta, where many Bangladeshi leftists had sought refugee, CPI(M) worked to coordinate the efforts to create a new political organization. In the fall of 1971 three small groups, which were all hosted by the CPI(M), came together to form the Bangladesh Communist Party (Leninist). The new party became the sister party of CPI(M) in Bangladesh.
In the same year, state legislative elections were held in three states; West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Orissa. In West Bengal CPI(M) had 241 candidates, winning 113 seats. In total the party mustered 4241557 votes (32.86% of the state-wide vote). In Tamil Nadu CPI(M) contested 37 seats, but drew blank. The party got 259298 votes (1.65% of the state-wide vote). In Orissa the party contested 11 seats, and won in two. The CPI(M) vote in the state was 52785 (1.2% of the state-wide vote).
Its members in Great Britain are in the electoral front Unity for Peace and Socialism with the Communist Party of Britain and the British domiciled sections of the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). It is standing 13 candidates in the London-wide list section of the Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections in May 2008.
As of 2004, the party claimed a membership of 867 763.
|State||2001||2002||2003||2004||% of party|
|Andaman & Nicobar||172||140||124||90||0.0372|
|Jammu & Kashmir||625||720||830||850||0.0133|
The current general secretary of CPI(M) is Prakash Karat. The CPI(M) MP Somnath Chatterjee is the speaker of the Lok Sabha (2004). The 19th party congress of CPI(M), held in Coimbatore March 29-April 3 2008 elected a Central Committee with 87 members. The Central Committee later elected a 15-member Politburo:
This apart, on the cultural front as many as 12 major organisations are led by CPI(M).
The CPI(M) faces criticism for leftwing sectors regarding its governance policies. Some CPI(M) insiders have also raised questions about CPI(M) compromising with corporate interests. Budhadeb Bhattacharya's own cabinet minister (Land Reform Minister) and CPI(M) leader Abdul Razzak Mollah opposed Buddhadeb's supposedly "neo-liberal" line. He opposed the provisions of the land acquisition bill in the West Bengal state assembly. Former West Bengal finance minister and former CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Dr. Ashok Mitra also expressed his disagreements with what he sees as CPI(M)'s ideological shift towards economic liberalisation.
In Kerala, Prof. M.N. Vijayan, former editor of the CPI(M) owned “Deshabhimani weekly”, argued that CPI(M) policies are now influenced by neoliberalism and rebelled against the influence of foreign fund on party functioning, influence of capital in the cultural field, and attempt to replace class politics with that of identity politics. Under M.N. Vijayan's leadership, in Kerala Adhinivesa Prathirodha Samithi (Council for Resisting Imperialist Globalisation), was formed by CPI(M) activists.
Prabhat Patnaik, a CPI(M) economist, has also questioned the influence of the logic of industrialisation using the Grande Industry route as being the sine qua non of industrial policy in West Bengal..
In Hindi CPI(M) is often called मार्क्सवादी कमयुनिस्त पार्टी (Marksvadi Kamyunist Party, abbreviated MaKaPa). The official party name in Hindi is however Bharat ki Kamyunist Party (Marksvadi).
During the initial period after the split 1964, the party was often referred to as 'Left Communist Party' or 'Communist Party of India (Left)'. The CPI was then, in the same parlance, dubbed as the 'Rightist Communist Party'. The party decided to adopt the name 'Communist Party of India (Marxist)' ahead of the March 1965 Kerala Legislative Assembly election, in order to obtain an election symbol.