The organizational politics of Leninism: A study of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Liberation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


John Nagle


Liberation, Organizational politics, Leninism, Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist, India

Subject Categories

Political Science


Leninist organizations all over the world subscribe to the basic theoretical perspective entailed in organizational Leninism or democratic centralism. Through an extensive review of party journals complemented by field work in Patna, India, the author has made an extensive analysis and sought to theorize the specificity with which "The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Liberation" (or CPI(ML), Liberation) has negotiated between the democratic and the centralist elements between the years 1969-1995. The political experience of 'Bolshevism' has posed a stark problem for Leninist organizations all over the world. Can they overcome the problematic aspects of Leninism that contributed, arguably, to the collapse of the second world communist regimes? The close examination of CPI(ML), Liberation's organizational practices indicates that even though Liberation has experimented with various democratic strategies, it has not transcended the limitations of, what has been called, an "instrumental" vision. Such a vision lays greater emphasis on the centralizing and strategizing dimensions of party organizing at the cost of the democratic and organic dimensions. While it is the author's contention that in a very qualified way the democratic centralist framework still has theoretical validity for Leninist organizations, it is argued that an immanent critique of Indian social relations that takes seriously the epistemic foundations of the social formation is seriously lacking in Liberation's theoretical engagement and is the source of its theoretical limitations. A Gramscian stress on the philosophical underpinnings of "common sense" and the pivotal role of organic intellectuals is used to analyze the specificity of Liberation's democratic practices. Further, the work of Subaltern Studies scholars, particularly Ranajit Guha and Partha Chatterjee, along with the interventions of Kancha Ilaiah and Gail Omvedt, has been of pivotal significance in clearing the theoretical ground, so as to more comprehensively appraise, the potential for democratic possibilities within Liberation.


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