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Are communist parties in India neutral or siding with Chinese authorities in the India-China conflict?

What arguments can be given in favour and against of Chinese alliance with communist parties?

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    wiki's coverage of CPI does not talk about China at all. Though there is an oblique (and expected) reference to the USSR: In July 1942, the CPI was legalised, as a result of Britain and the Soviet Union becoming allies against Nazi Germany. Modern communist parties don't have nearly the level of fealty towards their big brothers as they did in the past (France's CCF expelled members for disapproving of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) and China is only notionally communist by now so hardly very inspiring, ideologically. Commented May 16 at 16:43
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    Isn't there the third, obvious, option (pro India)? Two communist parties do not necessarily ally. See the Sino-Soviet split.
    – uberhaxed
    Commented May 16 at 20:39
  • The conventional communist analysis is that such conflicts are conflicts of the Bougoise and Imperialist forces, whereas the real conflict is between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. In the future socialist society, such conflicts will be eliminated, national border will seem as arbitrary as the political borders of German Princes in the feudal period, and war between "India" and "China" as likely as war between Munster and Luneberg
    – James K
    Commented May 17 at 6:22
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    Voting not to close - It is no secret that the communists / marxists / maoists have indeed been accused of supporting Russian or Chinese policies over that of India at one point or other, throughout their history in India. That they continue to win some elections in India is also a testament that not every such claim is believed by the indian voters. The Q as such is not bad, except for the poor prior research.
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 17 at 18:42
  • @sfxedit This question's background is not that obvious to people that don't have much knowledge of India, which would be most of us on this site, so "poor prior research" strikes me as somewhat harsh, esp to a newcomer. Note how my own comment is actually belied by my answer, which is different in nature from what I had assumed as an outsider (I thought foreign big brother parties were outdated and that the CCP would be a crappy Marxist example in any case). Commented May 17 at 21:28

2 Answers 2

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There are 2 big Communist parties in India: CPI (Communist Party India) and CPI(M) (Communist Party India (Marxist) ).


Oh, and don't confuse the above CPI(M) with Communist Party of India (Maoist). Or with Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist)

Shades of Judean People's Front and People's Front of Judea, as can be expected.

CPI(M) is the big dog *, so this is the one covered in this answer.


TLDR: The CPI-CPI(M) break came about because CPI is more studiously pro-India, CPI(M) more internationalist (and pro-China).

As relations between the Nehru government and the Soviet Union improved, a faction that sought cooperation with the dominant Indian National Congress emerged within CPI. This tendency was led by S.A. Dange, whose role in the party hierarchy became increasingly controversial. When the Sino-Indian War broke out in 1962 Dange's opponents within CPI were jailed, but when they were released they sought to challenge his leadership. In 1964 the party was finally divided into two, with the left faction forming the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Communist Party of India (Marxist) - Wikipedia

At a CPI National Council meeting held on 11 April 1964, 32 Council members walked out.[b]

The leftist section, to which the 32 National Council members belonged, organized a convention in Tenali, Andhra Pradesh 7 to 11 July. 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 Kolkata later the same year.[24]

Marking a difference from the official sector of CPI, the Tenali convention was marked by the display of a large portrait of the Communist leader of China, Mao Zedong.

Note the chronology:
  • 1962 China-India war
  • July 1964 Tenali convention
  • split sometime in 1964

CPI(M) is now the largest. And leans pro-China,

Championing a politics of transformation, the CPI(M) crafts its analysis and responses by connecting domestic socio-economic issues with contemporary global developments, undergirded by the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Its continued engagement with the international situation thereby finds reflection in the discussions at the party congress. Taking this forward, debates and conversations on the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the country itself, thus become inevitable. Being the largest among the communist parties in India, the CPI(M)’s views and analysis of contemporary China evinces much interest, especially among those who identify themselves with the mainstream left.

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Viewed against these contradictions and contentions, the CPI(M)’s articulations extolling its fraternal party comes across as glaringly partial, to those with deeper engagement and knowledge on China; to the extent, this resembles a literal copying of Chinese propaganda, lacking any critical analysis. For instance, the 23rd congress’ draft political resolution has praised China's efficient control of Covid-19 pandemic, and for supplying vaccines to more than hundred countries. The fascination with the country’s organisational capacity, however, elides the administrative mismanagement and cover up in the initial phase in Wuhan; in fact, its adamant ‘zero covid’ policy is only further exasperating people. Further, many countries have complained about the low efficacy of Chinese vaccines. Similarly, while the CPI(M) sees the Belt and Road Initiative in glorious terms for multi-polarity, it seems to be oblivious to the pushbacks and legitimate concerns in different host countries on the infrastructural projects and China’s overall resource diplomacy—debt burden, ecological degradation, cultural anxieties and labour conflicts. In fact, fascination with China is a visible trend among both the left (broad mainstream) and the right in the Indian political spectrum though both have different pickings—for the former, the socialist project under the leadership of a communist party, while for the latter, achieving high development by disciplining and repressing dissent.

Or, by another analysis:

The irony is that as the Chinese economy liberalised and the CPC moved further and further away from the CPI(M)’s own ideas on political economy, the CPI(M) would become “remarkably reticent” in its criticism of China, a phenomenon attributed by more than one commentator to Beijing’s successes in economic development and the Marxist party’s hope that the CPC’s growth can be emulated by it in India. It is this legacy that continues to haunt the CPI(M) and ensures its silence even as Beijing adopts an openly confrontational attitude towards New Delhi.

The Marxist party’s position is actually a reflection of a wider ambivalence in the foreign policy thinking of an Indian establishment still driven by ­older conceptions of non-alignment – Non-alignment 1.0 – which sees China as a fellow traveller in global issues against the US-led West.

So what happens when India-China clash?

I assumed CPI(M) struggles a bit when India-China incidents happen. Or, in fact Pakistan-India wars/incidents (as China is a strong backer of Pakistan).

Well, actually using this site-specific Google search terms (site:cpim.org china), no they don't even bother to change their rhetoric overmuch.

Again, note the timeline:

In this background of China’s exemplary efforts to contain the pandemic and revive the economy to register significant positive growth rates, US imperialism is targeting China, that we have noted in our earlier meetings. This has further sharpened during this period.

China: Amongst the major economies in the world, China is the only country that registered a positive growth of GDP by 3.2 per cent. This is the same quarter in which India registered a (-) 23.9 per cent GDP growth. In the next quarter, for which the figures have come, China grew at 4.9 per cent. The IMF projects that in 2020, China will register a 6.1 per cent growth in its real GDP while the major advanced capitalist economies will see a (-) 5.9 per cent real GDP growth decline.

On the other hand, China, supplied more than 100 countries and international organisations 500 million vaccine doses. This makes it the country providing most vaccines globally. Chinese vaccines have been approved for use in more than 100 countries. Free universal vaccination for the entire global population is essential to contain this pandemic.

The Communist Party of China is observing the centenary of its foundation. On this occasion it declared that it had reached one of its two centennial goals – establishing a moderately prosperous society by 2020. This was possible by eliminating absolute poverty throughout the country. After the victorious revolution in 1949 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, basing itself on the agricultural and industrial advancements made in the initial years, it prioritised economic growth since 1978 and embarked on a path of ‘reform and opening’.

In both cases I only cited some of the China praise, both articles are stuffed with them. Neither article however specifically came out to support China over India, yet their proximity in timing to a traumatic national event vis a vis China is rather telling.

* To put CPI(M) dominance of Communist parties in perspective, they still don't achieve much in India overall:

The CPI(M) contested 65 seats nationwide and won three in the 2019 general election. One seat was won in Kerala, where the CPI(M) is leading the state government. Two other seats were won in Tamil Nadu, where the CPI(M) contested within the DMK-led coalition.[171]

There were 545 seats at play. CPI contested 49 and won 2.

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Short Answer

Are communist parties in India neutral or sided to chinese authorities on india china conflict?

Communist parties in India generally do not favor China over India in international disputes and have no particularly strong affinity to China as a country even though a minority of communist parties in India (who are nonetheless most prominent in international media accounts) are Maoist in ideology.

Some Communist parties in India may admire and imitate China, and seek to utilize the ideologies and tactics of Maoist Chinese communism. But, they do not favor the country of China, per se, vis-a-vis India, in any very meaningful way. And, the positive feelings of some Communists in India toward China are not mutual. China has not sought to build strong ties with communist parties in India, and instead, has recently favored a policy of building stronger ties with the ruling parties of India's current regime.

Long Answer

It isn't clear which communist parties in India are the subject to the question.

Wikipedia lists one national communist party, two communist parties with state party status, eight minor communist parties, and five Trotskyist or Trotskyist leaning communist parties that are basically outgrowths of the Russian model of Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist communism. Two more minor parties are predominantly Marxist-Leninist with some Maoist influence (who have some shared history and sense of comradeship with the Communist Party of India (Maoist)). None of these parties have any special reason to favor China in disputes such as the border dispute between China and India.

One minor party on this list is the "All India Forward Bloc" whose ideology is described as "Left-wing nationalism" whose Indian nationalist ideology would almost always favor India over China in a dispute between them, except possibly on issues of economic policies which could extend to some trade issues where they feel that the policies of India's government against China might actually be in opposition to the Indian general public's interests.

There is one Maoist party in India that rejects "Parliamentarism and Electoralism" which is called the "Communist Party of India (Maoist)". This party is essentially the political wing of Maoist insurgent groups in India. The term "Maoist" is a reference to the Chinese communist movement and its "offspring", which would suggest an affinity to China.

But these Maoist groups in India are principally concerned with land reform in places where pre-modern feudal arrangements left land ownership highly concentrated in families that used to be aristocratic, in places where the economy is largely farmed based, making farmers even today into a de facto serf class. More generally, they have a broad revolutionary populist agenda revolting against economic elites and business interests in India.

These Maoist groups typically don't have any serious policy interest in the border conflicts between China and India, and are not Chinese nationalist in orientation. They want to introduce Maoist policies in India to end inequalities dating to the feudal era, rather than to expand China's colonial reach or national interests. They would welcome Chinese support for their own cause as a patron or mentor, but that is rather different than favoring China over India in conflicts between the two, because of support for the country of China.

As noted at Wikipedia, they do not claim to be pro-Chinese and the Chinese do not claim to be pro-CPI (Maoist), although the Indian government thinks that they may buy some small arms from China.

The CPI (Maoist) maintains dialogue with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) who control most of Nepal in the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), according to several intelligence sources and think tanks. These links are, however, denied by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre).

While under detention in June 2009, a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative indicated that the LeT and the CPI (Maoist) had attempted to co-ordinate activities in Jharkhand state. But, Ganapathy has denied any links between CPI (Maoist) and LeT, stating that the allegations are "only mischievous, calculated propaganda by the police officials, bureaucrats and leaders of the reactionary political parties" to malign the Maoists' image with the aim of labeling them as terrorists in order to justify "their brutal terror campaign against Maoists and the people in the areas of armed agrarian struggle."[25] Kishenji also criticised LeT for having "wrong" and "anti-people" policies; though he said that the Maoists may consider backing up a few of their demands, if LeT will halt its "terrorist acts".

Reports in 2010 indicate that the Communist Party of the Philippines, Southeast Asia's longest-lived communist insurgent group, has been reported to have engaged in training activities for guerrilla warfare with Indian Maoists.

The Indian Maoists deny operational links with foreign groups, such as the Nepalese Maoists, but do claim comradeship. Some members of the Indian government accept this, while others argue that operational links do exist, with training coming from Sri-Lankan Maoists and small arms from China. China denies any suggestion that it supports foreign Maoist rebels, citing improvements in relations between India and China, including movement towards resolving their border disputes. Maoists in Nepal, India, and the Philippines are less reticent about their shared goals.

In sum, certainly Maoists seeking land reform are not the only communist forces in India.

Indeed, the Indian National Congress Party was, if not truly Chinese or Soviet style communist, at least very left leaning democratic socialist when it comes to economic policy (although, in fact, there are fewer government employees per capita in India than in many Western countries that aren't communist or even democratic socialist leaning at all). And, even center and center-right leaning political forces in India has never been fervently anti-communist in the way that comparable political parties of the center and center-right would be in the U.S. and Europe.

What arguments can be given in favour and against of Chinese alliance with communist parties?

Chinese alliance would Maoist communist groups in India would sour the China-India international relationship, which China doesn't want, and would tend to paint Maoist groups in India as a Fifth Column for foreign influence in China which is a negative perception that Maoists in India do not want.

The main reason for Maoists in India to seek Chinese support is that China has immense resources that could aid them if this was available, and because they have a shared ideological heritage.

Also, while China is run by the Chinese Communist Party which is nominally Maoist in ideology, in practice, Chinese Communism has evolved in a manner that has strayed far from the revolutionary Chinese Maoism characteristic of the period from the waning days of World War II to the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s.

Starting in the 1980s, the Chinese Communist Party started to adopt market economy based reforms and non-partisan local democratic governance in rural areas, and while its market based economic policies don't closely track those of Western capitalist nations, the Chinese Communist Party is now an establishment party of a one party state whose highest leaders are also among the wealthiest people in the country with no interest in revolutionary destruction of the economic elites in the country. So they would be at cross-purposes with Indian Maoists who harken back to a more revolutionary stage of Chinese Maoism.

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