The earliest to be influenced by Marxism was Manabendra Nath Roy. He attended the second Comintern Congress in 1920 as a delegate and formed the Communist Party of India in Tashkent under the auspices of the Communist International in 1920.
Meanwhile, the revolutionaries like Virendra Nath Chattopadhyaya, Bhupendra Nath Dutt, and Barkatullah who were working outside India embraced Marxism.
After the suspension of the Non-Co-operation Movement some Indian youth turned to Communism.
In December 1925, Satyabhakta organized an All India Conference of the Communist Party at Kanpur.
The conference met under the Presidentship of Singarvelu Chettier and the Kanpur Conference is regarded as the formal beginning of the Communist Party of India.
It aimed at the attainment of complete independence and reorganization of Indian society on the basis of common ownership and control of means of production and distribution of wealth in the interest of all.
The party said that it was nationalist in approach. From 1925, the British Communist started coming to India for organizing the Indian communist movement.
Phillip Spratt, who arrived in India in 1926, infused fresh life into the party. Spratt, with financial help from Moscow, increased the number of Unions, organized demonstration, instituted youth movement and edited newspapers.
But further activity of the Communist Party was cut short by the arrest of 32 members in 1929. They were brought to Meerut for trial in what is known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case.
The arrests were accompanied by search operations throughout the country, which brought to light a mass of records, including plans, secret codes.
These, together with other evidences and testimony of the accused themselves, enabled the court to give a comprehensive account of the activity of the Communist Party in India.
After a protracted trial 27 persons were found guilty and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment in 1933. It is interesting to note that the accused in the Meerut case gained the sympathy of the nationalists.
During the post Civil Disobedience Movement period, the Communists decided to launch anti-Congress campaign and opposed the policies of Nehru and Gandhi.
It described the Congress as a class organization of the capitalists working against the fundamental interests of the toiling masses of the country.
Meanwhile, the effective strength of CPI was reduced by internal differences. Soon the party was split into two groups and the major arena of their struggles, the Trade Union Movement, became badly driven with factionalism.
M.N. Roy, who was expelled from the party in 1929 arrived in India a year later. Working underground he succeeded in getting a major section of the Trade Union Movement to adopt moderate policy.
But he was arrested in 1931 and prosecuted as an accused in the Kanpur Conspiracy Case. However, the Communist Party in India achieved the greatest success in establishing its influence over the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
Later, it formed a separate body called National Trade Union Federation. Meanwhile, the CPI called for a wide strike of all textile workers on 23rd April, 1934, and it received overwhelming response all over the country. The Government of India took alarm and the CPI was declared illegal.
Moreover, the Communist Party soon realized that the extreme left and anti-congress views followed by them had isolated them from the political scene in India. So they adopted a new plan and it may be described as a policy of infiltration into the Indian National Congress.
They made an alliance with the Congress Socialist Party dominated by Jai Prakash Narayan. In 1937, the two Parties concluded the so called Lucknow Agreement. But soon, the Communists made their way out of the Congress Socialist Party.
The Communists also broke from the Forward Bloc, a leftist organization founded by Subhas Chandra Bose.
Later, the CPI declared an open war against the Congress leadership. They wanted to free the national front from the influence of Bourgeois reformism.
In 1940, the CPI demanded that India should make revolutionary use of the war crisis. Meanwhile, large number of Communist leaders was arrested.
When the Congress Party conditionally supported the British Government during the Second World War, the CPI came forward with strong criticism of this policy of the Congress.
But when Hitler invaded Russia, it altered the whole international situation. The CPI on the initiative of Russia supported the Indian Government in its war efforts. In turn, the Indian Government lifted ban from the party.
Now the British Government in India used the Communist Party as a counterpoise to the Congress. During QIM, the Communists helped the Government.
On the industrial front the Communists tried their best to keep the workers out of the national unrest during the period.
But after the end of the Second World War, the CPI realized that it had lost the good faith of the people and during post independence period, they worked hard to gain their lost ground.