With the emergence of the Left front as a formidable force in the recent assembly elections in Bihar, there is a resurrection of interest in the communist block. However, many are confused with the various parties carrying similar flags and ideologies.
All communist parties have their ideological base in Marxian theories, which advocate that an armed struggle is necessary to gain political power. However, though all communist parties initially advocated armed struggle, some of them at one point deviated from it and took part in mainstream politics.
The CPI, CPM and various CPI-ML splinter groups are examples of such communist parties, which eschewed armed struggle and are fighting elections. However, the CPI Maoist, which was formed by merging three prominent Naxal groups, remains pledged to overthrow the existing political system through armed struggle.
Communist Party of India
The Communist Party of India, referred to as CPI, is the oldest communist political party in India and one of the eight national parties in the country. It was formed on December 26, 1925, in Kanpur.
There were many communist groups formed by Indians with the help of foreigners in different parts of the world, Tashkent group of Contacts were made with Anushilan and Jugantar the groups in Bengal and small communist groups. Now the party is a member of the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala. It is an ally of Congress in many states except in Kerala. Both of its LS members are from Tamil Nadu.
Communist Party of India (Marxist)
The party referred to as CPI(M) emerged from a split from the Communist Party of India in 1964 in Calcutta between October 31 to November 7.
As of 2020, the CPI(M) is leading the Left Democratic Front, the state government in Kerala and has representation in West Bengal, Tripura, Rajasthan, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. It is technically an ally with Congress, except in its forte, Kerala. Out of its three Lok Sabha members, two are from Tamil Nadu and one is from Kerala.
Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation
The CPI (ML) Liberation is a political party that was reorganised in Bihar during the Bhojpur Movement after the death of Charu Majumdar and its disintegration. It has a presence in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, West Bengal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Odisha, Karnataka, Assam and Tamil Nadu where it operates through various mass organisations (workers, farmers, women, youth, student unions). It got 12 out of 19 seats it contested as part of the Maha Gad Bandhan in the recent Bihar elections.
Communist Party of India (Maoist)
The CPI (Maoist) 'aims to overthrow the government of India through people's war'. It does not believe in a parliamentary form of democracy. It was founded on September 21, 2004, through the merger of the CPI-ML People's War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). The CPI (Maoists) are often referred to as the Naxalites in reference to the Naxalbari insurrection conducted by radical Maoists in West Bengal in 1967. It has been designated as a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 2009.
Eight members of the party were killed in Kerala during the last five years.
Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Naxalbari
It was an underground Maoist political party that had its roots partially in the Maoist Unity Centre (MUC), CPI (ML). The MUC, CPI (ML) were formed when the Kerala Communist Party and Maharashtra Communist Party merged in 1997. These two groups were surviving state units of the Central Reorganisation Committee, CPI (ML), which was dissolved in 1991.
The CPI (ML) Naxalbari were members of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (a Maoist 'international') and CCOMPOSA. The RIM-membership was inherited from CRC, CPI (ML), which was one of three founding organisations of RIM.
The CPI (ML) advocated armed struggle and they only recognised groups such as CPI (Maoist) as true communist.
On May 1, 2014, CPI (ML) Naxalbari merged with the CPI (Maoist) and formed a single party: CPI (Maoist).
Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Red Star
The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Red Star emerged from a 2009 split in the CPI (ML) led by Kanu Sanyal. K.N. Ramchandran, the general secretary of the party.
The CPI (ML) Red Star was formed as a split group of the CPIML formed in 1969 by Comrade Charu Majumdar.
Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Red Flag
The CPI (ML) Red Flag was formed in 1988 as a break-away from the Central Reorganisation Committee, CPI (ML). The party's main base of support was in Kerala, where it emerged as the major ML faction. It also expanded to other states, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Odisha. The party head office was located in Delhi.
In 2003, a large section of the party in Kerala, including the majority in the Kerala State Committee, broke away and created a parallel CPI (ML) Red Flag.