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Next to the Congress, the Communist Party is the oldest party in India. Soon after the October Revolution 1917, various revolutionaries established contacts in exile with Soviet Union in 1918. It is said that the Communist Party of India was established in exile in 1920 in Tashkent. Some of their leaders got in touch with the Indian National Congress, and in December 1921 they presented a manifesto at the Ahmedabad session, calling upon the Congress to mobilize workers and peasants, and make the national movement a mass movement. Differences arose with the Congress leadership, and the British government convicted the communists as ‘Bolshevik agents’ in the Kanpur Conspiracy Case in 1924. The same year in September 1924 the establishment of a legal Communist Party of India was announced and in December 1925 the party was formally launched with its headquarters in Bombay.
The CPI began its work mainly on the trade union front concentrating in the urban industrial belt of Bombay, Madras, Kanpur and Ahmedabad. From 1930-40 it extended its activities from labor unions to Kisan organizations and among the urban intelligentsia. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939 the CPI condemned it as an ‘imperialist war’. However, after Hitler attacked Soviet Union in 1941 June, and the Allies formed a war-time alliance with the Soviet Union, the CPI took the line that the war had become ‘people’s war’ against fascism-Nazism.
On 9th August, 1942, the ‘Quit India’ resolution was adopted by the Congress and British banned the Congress and carried out mass arrest of its leaders. The communists, however, did not participate in the movement as they were critical of the Congress and the socialist leaders. When ‘transfer of power’ took place in August 1947, the communists were not convinced if it was a genuine independence. Armed insurrection by CPI was going on in the Telangana region of the erstwhile Nizam’s state of Hyderabad since 1946. The Calcutta Congress of the CPI in 1948 endorsed the policy of attack on feudalism, capitalism and imperialism, including armed struggle for achieving ‘genuine’ national independence.
In April 1951, a new party program was adopted and the party accepted the prospect of a parliamentary road to socialism and participated in the first general elections in 1952. The communists were the main opposition in the parliament throughout the Nehru era. A turning point in the history of CPI came when in 1957 they won absolute majority in Kerala assembly and formed the first communist government in India.
The Amritsar Congress of the CPI in 1958, saw a tussle between the ultra-leftists who rejected the constitutional methods and wanted to work for people’s democracy of the Chinese model, and the moderates recognized the need for ‘unity and struggle’ with the Congress. Then in 1959 the Congress government dismissed the Kerala government which shook the confidence of the communists. Then came the Chinese aggression of 1962 dislocating much of the national and communist politics. In India, this led to the split in the CPI in 1964.
The West Bengal and the Kerala units of the CPI which had a solid base supported by electoral victories, became the nucleus for the formation of the Communists party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M).
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