Daya Varma


I joined the Communist Party of India (CPI) a few years after the expulsion of P.C. Joshi; Joshi was readmitted but never thereafter in influential position. The Telangana peasant struggle had come to an end. The January 27, 1950 article titled  “Mighty advance of the national liberation movement in the colonial and dependent countries” in the official journal of the Comintern “For a Lasting Peace and People’s Democracy”, was  under debate; although this article pointed to the anti-imperialist role of the Indian ruling class led by Nehru, there was sufficient ambiguity, which sharpened the  debate in favor of the official line  adopted in the 1948  Calcutta Congress; the essence of this line was  “Telangana’s path is our path” and “Yeh azadi jhooti hai (this independence is fake)”.


I had heard about  S.M. Mehdi in India but had never met him. Fortunately I met his son Feroz Mehdi in Montreal more than 15 years ago and we have been friends and comrades since. I mentioned to Feroz that his father belonged to the first generation of Indian communists and if he would try to get him to tell about his experiences in the party. Feroz did ask his father and below is a summary of what he told Feroz.

S.M. Mehdi: The Communist Party of India, though small as far as membership is concerned, was a vibrant party in late 1940s and early1950s. The person responsible for increasing the influence of CPI in all political circles was PC Joshi and the main person who initiated the process of its decline was B. T.  Ranadive, a political criminal.


When CPI became legal before independence, it became a national movement in every sense, not only national party but a national movement. The communist leadership at that time was headed the General Secretary PC Josh. Joshi. Joshi was a very dynamic person and in full grasp of the political forces within India. Joshi saw two sides of the Congress, a progressive, national, secular and anti-imperialist role of Nehru and many other leaders. And a reactionary pro-imperialist communal section, who deserted Congress one after another and were at the core of opposition to Indira Gandhi in 1970s. Under the leadership of Joshi, the communist movement actually influenced the Congress. The Party’s aim was not to fight Congress but rather help Congress to fight against poverty and imperialism. PC Joshi was a very popular person in every respect. There was this Bombay party office which was running very well.


BT Ranadive from Maharashtra had a mission of his own. He was the member of the Polit Bureau of the communist party but he wanted to replace PC Joshi and become the General Secretary of the Party.

Ranadive wanted to become the leader of the working class in Bombay but he could not equal Shripat Amrit Dange, who was a very strong and popular leader of the working class in Bombay. Ranadive wanted to be recognized as a theoretician but he was no match to Dr. G.M. Adhikari who had come to Bombay from Germany. Ranadive became so very bitter. Once in the room, called the Urdu room, I said that Tagore was a progressive writer. Ranadive remarked, yes, that is another fraud. That was the kind of a person he was, that he called Tagore a fraud and something else also. Ranadive mobilized the party against the leadership of the party. He wanted the Party to lead a reckless movement so the leadership would be arrested. Indeed nearly everyone was arrested.


Then a new slogan came up, that make the jail a front of the movement, which meant invite the police to open fire on them in jail. Police did open fire in jails all over India. Many comrades were killed, hands and legs were broken. The hand of my cousin Naseer was broken in a Kanpur jail. Some were killed in Kanpur jail. He was insulting to Sardar Jafri, and even Dange and accused them of cowardice. Dange finally said he will go in front of the police even if they shot him but people convinced Dange not to do so. Ranadive took over the party by saying that the party has become reformists and we should be revolutionaries and those who are not revolutionaries are not communists. A revolutionary for Ranadive meant to be against Congress.  BTR went underground and kept on sending chits every day against this and that person. No policeman knew where he was hiding…why? They knew about everyone but why not about him? This doubt is there. After he managed to destroy the party he formed CPM. Many left the party or stayed home or joined other parties. In my opinion, this one person, BTR, destroyed the left movement. He started the trend of breaking the Party and forming another Party; this trend eventually became a method of party building. Soon after the CPM broke up and CPI Marxist-Leninist came into existence. Today the communist movement is split into different parties and the results can be seen.

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