Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Stalin’s realpolitik and departure

October 11, 2006

Leftword books is the literary arm of the CPI(Marxist)
and it has recently released a set of books called
“Documents of the Communist Movement in India” with which
it seeks to promote it’s point of view.


Documents of the Communist Movement in India
Vol. 1–26 (including Part I and Part II of Vol. 10)

Jyoti Basu (Editor-in-Chief), Sailen Dasgupta, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Anil Biswas and Santi Sekhar Basu (editors)

Each volume approx. 700–1000 pages, hardback

This set of 27 volumes covers the period 1917 to 1998, and brings together the documents of the Communist Movement in a comprehensive manner. The documents are published here in their exact original form, with no editing whatsoever. An indispensable resource for historians, scholars, journalists and activists. Each volume contains an introductory note by Jyoti Basu and a Foreword by Harkishan Singh
Surjeet.

Given below is a news article that appeared about this book

Stalin’s realpolitik and a departure

The History Commission, set up to write the history of the Indian Communist Movement, reveals uncomfortable truths. From the time the Indian National Congress embarked on Fund Bank-monitored reform, Marxist leaders began emphasising Nehru’s commitment to the public sector and anti-imperialism, writes SANKAR RAY, while Stalin had been the original gravedigger of the socialist system

Muzaffar Ahmed, a deified figure in CPI-M circles would have turned in his grave a year ago, when the History of the Communist Movement in India, Volume I: The Formative Years, 1920-1933 was brought out by the party’s History Commission.

It conceded that the document on the colonial question, “Draft Thesis on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-colonies”, adopted by the Sixth Congress (1928) of the Communist International (Comintern), isolated the undivided CPI from “the main current of the anti-colonial movement”.

Ever since the formation of the CPI-M in October, 1964, the party for the first time found fault with a document, scripted by the president of the Colonial Commission, OV Kuusinen, as desired by Josef Stalin. The undivided CPI in the 1930s endorsed the formulation, despite the cancerous spread of Fascism in the European democracies.

Octogenarian Communist historian Narahari Kaviraj narrated an incident in 1964, during his detention under the Defence of India Rules at the Dum Dum Jail after the Chinese aggression of 1962. “It was decided by us that Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed aka Kakababu would take a class of senior comrades as an ideological exercise.

“When he defended the Sixth Congress document on the colonial question, I explained that this would mean negation of the “Dimitrov Thesis On An United Front” at the Seventh Congress (1935) of Comintern. But Kakababu stuck to his position. This was the CPI-M’s position during its formative years.”

The CPI-M biggies parroted Ahmed, one of the founders of the Communist Movement in India. Speaking to students at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East in May 1925, Stalin said the compromising section of Indian bourgeoisie “has managed, in the main, a deal with imperialism”. (JV Stalin, Works, Vol 7, p 150).

Seeds of sectarian and the unrealistic decolonisation thesis were sown, directly in opposition to the “Thesis On The National and Colonial Question”, scripted by Vladimir Lenin at Comintern’s Second Congress (1920) which accepted the document.
Lenin harped on the “dual role” of colonial bourgeoisie ~ one of opposition to the alien rule and the other of compromise with the Raj.

Which is why he advised eastern Communists to strike a “temporary alliance” with the colonial bourgeoisie, while upholding the “independent class role” to make an impression on the workers and oppressed people.

A former Naxalite, physically poisoned and partially disabled during detention in the early 1970s, like numerous comrades inspired by Mao Zedong , expected the CPI-M leadership to initiate a debate within the party network, right down to the branch committee levels, after a significant admission by the History Commission, constituted in 2002 to write the history of the Indian Communist Movement. But his expectation was belied.

This default was to him a silent consent to the “end of ideology” from AK Gopalan Bhavan, headquarters of the CPI-M in New Delhi.
Contextually, the end of ideology and partyless democracy were ideological overtures against the Communists and Left-wing democrats in the West at the Milan Congress (1955) of the now-defunct Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF).

Strangely, these two ideas were frequently mentioned by Jayaprakash Narayan during his battle against the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1974-75, though the CCF was wound up in the early 1970s when a former CIA agent alleged that the Milan jamboree was CIA-funded.

Pragmatism often dictates the CPI-M leadership. It appears that the AKG Bhavan finds an open discussion on the History Commission’s crucial admission too risky to manage the party structure with about 800,000 members. After all, in the formative period, the CPI-M’s fire-eating leaders such as P Sundarayya, M Basavapunnaiah, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Promode Dasgupta ridiculed the rival CPI leaders for their softness towards Nehru and indicted the Communist Party of Soviet Union on the strength of the Sixth Congress document.

Rather the draft thesis was for them a shot in the arm in inspiring the rank and file to oppose the post-Stalin Moscow line of support to anti-imperialist leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Houari Boumediene, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Kwame Nkruma.
The Soviet position followed the new position of the CPSU at its 20th Congress (1956) where Nikita Khruschev unveiled misdeeds of Stalin in his secret speech on the last day of the congress.

Dr Sobhanlal Dutta Gupta, Surendranath Banerjee, professor of political science, University of Calcutta, in his pathbreaking archival work Comintern and the Destiny of Communism in India :1919-1943: Dialectics of Real and a Possible History (Kolkata, 2006) revealed that Stalin revived the Left-sectarian supplementary thesis of MN Roy, which was virtually rejected at the Second Congress (1920).

In other words, in a zealous bid to move towards the sectarian position, Stalin buried Lenin’s “Preliminary Draft Thesis on National and Colonial Questions” at the same congress which accepted Comintern.

Ludicrously enough, a reviewer of the History Commission’s first volume, frantically tried to rationalise the blind imitation of Stalin’s thesis by the CPI in the 1930s and the CPI-M from its birth and wrote, “A resurgence of the Communist Movement after 1932 was precisely because of disappointments with civil disobedience and Gandhian nationalism.

“The nationalist bourgeoisie had yet to show enough courage and the radical phase of the Congress was still in the future.”

Never did the Indian National Congress, the main party of colonial bourgeoisie, discontinue its movement for freedom, maybe with vacillations, consistent with his class interests.
After all, Mahatma Gandhi clamped the Quit India notice on the Raj in 1942. How could a party that had gone over to the camp of colonialists and imperialists do this?
The History Commission’s admission is the beginning of silent de-Stalinisation in the CPI-M. Small wonder, from the time the INC embarked on Fund Bank-monitored reform, CPI-M leaders began emphasising Nehru’s commitment to the public sector and anti-imperialism. Fortunately for the CPI-M, Kakababu was not alive.

CPI-M and CPI rank and file may be stupefied to note that apologists of the US imperialism believed that Stalin was the grave-digger of the socialist system, and neither Khruschev nor Mikhail Gorbachov was primarily responsible for destruction of mankind’s first non-exploitative social order.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, US national security adviser during the era of President Jimmy Carter and now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, USA, in an interview to Tang Yong, Washington correspondent of Renminribao, official daily of the Chinese Communist Party, on 20 March, said bluntly that the “break-up” of the Soviet Union was predicted by him in 1950 in his Master’s thesis. Here is the relevant extract.

Tang Yong: You once predicted the break-up of the Soviet Union along the lines of nationality in your Master’s thesis. Right?
Brzezinski: Yes!
Tang Yong: How could you make such a farsighted prediction?
Brzezinski: That was not a very difficult prediction for me since I was conscious of the importance of history.
Tang Yong: How old were you at that time?
Brzezinski: I was twenty.
Tang Yong: Very young man!
Brzezinski: Yes.
Tang Yong: In which year?
Brzezinski: This was in 1950. I felt that the Soviet Union was pretending to be a single state but in fact it was a multinational empire in the age of nationalism. So the Soviet Union would break up. Later in my life, I was in a position to advocate policies designed to accelerate that process.

(“Agenda for Constructive American-Chinese Dialogue Huge: Brzezinski, 20 March, 2006” http://english.people daily.com.cn/200
603/20/eng20060320_25 1953.
html)

Paul Sweezy, arguably one of the best Marxist economists in the post-Lenin era, prefacing the Japanese edition of his Post-Revolutionary Society in 1990, wrote , referring to Perestroika and the collapse of the East European socialist states that “a qualitative break had occurred during the early Stalin era, leading to the emergence of a class-exploitative system of a new kind ~ neither capitalism nor socialism”.

In 1970, in a polemical response to Charles Bettelheim, Sweezy in another treatise, On the Transition to Socialism, identified that “the bureaucratic Stalinist political system rather than central planning … constituted the real weakness of Soviet society”.

A bureaucratically administered economy prevented politicisation of the masses. Instead of utilisation of the creative mood of workers for augmenting an “initiative and responsibility” to consolidate the socialist order, conditions were recreated during the Stalin era for “commodity fetishism”, together with “false and alienated consciousness. It is, I submit, the road back to class domination and ultimately the restoration of capitalism”, scanned Sweezy.

The April-June, 1996 issue of the CPI-M’s theoretical journal, The Marxist, reprinted the legendary British Communist Rajani Palme Dutt’s lecture, “The Treatment of History” (delivered at the Moscow University in 1962). Reminding Lenin’s rationale behind naming the Pravda daily, (pravda being truth in Russian), he said: “Our weapon is the truth. The weapon of Marxism is that truth.”
Suppression of truth, AKG Bhavan mandarins must agree, cannot be a tactical justification.

(The author is a freelance writer.)

Link

Mao – 30 years on

September 28, 2006
Mao – Thirty years on

Aljazeera has a special series on Chairman Mao
Click Here to read all of them

Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?

September 22, 2006

Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?
by Joseph Ball

Over the last 25 years the reputation of Mao Zedong has been seriously undermined by ever more extreme estimates of the numbers of deaths he was supposedly responsible for. In his lifetime, Mao Zedong was hugely respected for the way that his socialist policies improved the welfare of the Chinese people, slashing the level of poverty and hunger in China and providing free health care and education.

Mao’s theories also gave great inspiration to those fighting imperialism around the world. It is probably this factor that explains a great deal of the hostility towards him from the Right. This is a tendency that is likely to grow more acute with the apparent growth in strength of Maoist movements in India and Nepal in recent years, as well as the continuing influence of Maoist movements in other parts of the world.

chairman mao great leap forward

Most of the attempts to undermine Mao’s reputation centre around the Great Leap Forward that began in 1958. It is this period that this article is primarily concerned with. The peasants had already started farming the land co-operatively in the 1950s. During the Great Leap Forward they joined large communes consisting of thousands or tens of thousands of people. Large-scale irrigation schemes were undertaken to improve agricultural productivity.

Mao’s plan was to massively increase both agricultural and industrial production. It is argued that these policies led to a famine in the years 1959-61 (although some believe the famine began in 1958). A variety of reasons are cited for the famine. For example, excessive grain procurement by the state or food being wasted due to free distribution in communal kitchens. It has also been claimed that peasants neglected agriculture to work on the irrigation schemes or in the famous “backyard steel furnaces” (small-scale steel furnaces built in rural areas).

Mao admitted that problems had occurred in this period. However, he blamed the majority of these difficulties on bad weather and natural disasters. He admitted that there had been policy errors too, which he took responsibility for.

Official Chinese sources, released after Mao’s death, suggest that 16.5 million people died in the Great Leap Forward. These figures were released during an ideological campaign by the government of Deng Xiaoping against the legacy of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. However, there seems to be no way of independently, authenticating these figures due to the great mystery about how they were gathered and preserved for twenty years before being released to the general public.

American researchers managed to increase this figure to around 30 million by combining the Chinese evidence with extrapolations of their own from China’s censuses in 1953 and 1964. Recently, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in their book Mao: the Unknown Story reported 70 million killed by Mao, including 38 million in the Great Leap Forward.

Western writers on the subject have taken a completely disproportionate view of the period, mesmerized, as they are, by massive death toll figures from dubious sources. They concentrate only on policy excesses and it is likely that their views on the damage that these did are greatly exaggerated. There has been a failure to understand how some of the policies developed in the Great Leap Forward actually benefited the Chinese people, once the initial disruption was over.

U.S. state agencies have provided assistance to those with a negative attitude to Maoism (and communism in general) throughout the post-war period. For example, the veteran historian of Maoism Roderick MacFarquhar edited The China Quarterly in the 1960s. This magazine published allegations about massive famine deaths that have been quoted ever since.

It later emerged that this journal received money from a CIA front organisation, as MacFarquhar admitted in a recent letter to The London Review of Books. (Roderick MacFarquhar states that he did not know the money was coming from the CIA while he was editing The China Quarterly.)

Those who have provided qualitative evidence, such as eyewitness accounts cited by Jasper Becker in his famous account of the period Hungry Ghosts, have not provided enough accompanying evidence to authenticate these accounts. Important documentary evidence quoted by Chang and Halliday concerning the Great Leap Forward is presented in a demonstrably misleading way.

Evidence from the Deng Xiaoping regime Mao that millions died during the Great Leap Forward is not reliable. Evidence from peasants contradicts the claim that Mao was mainly to blame for the deaths that did occur during the Great Leap Forward period.

U.S. demographers have tried to use death rate evidence and other demographic evidence from official Chinese sources to prove the hypothesis that there was a “massive death toll” in the Great Leap Forward (i.e. a hypothesis that the “largest famine of all time” or “one of the largest famines of all time” took place during the Great Leap Forward). However, inconsistencies in the evidence and overall doubts about the source of their evidence undermine this “massive death toll” hypothesis.

The More Likely Truth About the Great Leap Forward

The idea that “Mao was responsible for genocide” has been used as a springboard to rubbish everything that the Chinese people achieved during Mao’s rule. However, even someone like the demographer Judith Banister, one of the most prominent advocates of the “massive death toll” hypothesis has to admit the successes of the Mao era.

She writes how in 1973-5 life expectancy in China was higher than in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and many countries in Latin America 1. In 1981 she co-wrote an article where she described the People’s Republic of China as a ‘super-achiever’ in terms of mortality reduction, with life expectancy increasing by approximately 1.5 years per calendar year since the start of communist rule in 1949 2. Life expectancy increased from 35 in 1949 to 65 in the 1970s when Mao’s rule came to an end.

Read the full article

26 Years of Gua Firing: Some Reflections, a report from PUCL

September 18, 2006

*26 Years of Gua Firing: Some Reflections*

*The history of India is really the history of people who never wrote the
history. It’s not the colonial history, nor is it the history of the Gandhis or
Nehrus. *

Edward Said (1999)

The brutal Gua firing completed 26 years yesterday September 08 2006. This mail
is a remembrance as well as homage to those Adivasis died fighting in defense of
their land in Democratic Republic of India in 1980. Fight of Adivasis in defense
of forest continues till today. In fact it has it has intensified to new level.
Jharkhand today is a separate State but it is in the era where in imperialist
forces are tightening their loop around adivasis, Dalits and other common People
of Jharkhand.

The resistance is no longer restricted only to Gua but has spread out
through all over Jharkhand. Forest continued to be preyed upon by corporate as
Jharkhand State has signed Memorandum of Understandings MoUs with 44 corporate
houses from all over the World.

The capitalist model of development is seeking to strengthen its roots through repressive means. Considering the resistance offered by Adivasis and Dalits in the form of ‘Janta Curfews’ at the village levels the history of Police violence is all set to repeat itself many more times.

State have aligned itself with corporate and peoples solidarity have
become strong. The confrontations between the two sides are bound to create
history to be written in letter of blood. Tatas have proved it can do it on the
very next day of New Year 2006 in Orissa’s Kalinganagar. It had done so while
establishing Jamshedpur 100 years before that when Santhal Adivasis were whipped
to death space cleared to establish Jamshedpur city. Kalamatti then was given a
new name after the founder of one of the most brutal industrial houses India has
ever produced – Jamshedji Tata.

And it is Tatas that who are involved in bulldozing Gua Adivasis under mining bulldozers in Gua. Tatas are our very own Indian company who are involved in genocides of our very own Indian, most peace loving people on earth –
the Adivasis.

Yet the Indian State sought to make every one believe that Tatas and adivasis
are equal in the spirit of Indian Constitution to the tune of ‘Vande Mataram’ on
the 26th Anniversary of Gua firing yesterday. And the fascist forces to whom
Corporate rule is most dear of everything, decidedly implemented the agenda to
forget the Gua firing with Malegaon bomb blasts. So from next year focus will
shift from the contradictions at the base of economy to superstructure. The
attempt is clearly to burry the public memory of the Gua firing. It will be a
deciding factor of borders between the two contentious forces as two organised
religions.

While Gua firing reminds us that the boundary of fight is between an
organised Corporate-State nexus versus the Adivasis. Corporate always benefits
from the fascists onslaughts. If not then check out the history of any of the
German companies as to whom they were politically aligning themselves at the
time of Nazi dictatorship in Germany. Corporate besides benefiting from
repression of Trade Unions and Progressive Intellectuals also were fed with
human products that came out of Holocaust as raw material for industry.

We have entered in a decisive phase of our contemporary times where in the
politics of memory and memory of politics is being played out on Public memory.
It is now upon you and me to collectively decipher the events unfolding in
complex manner in front of us and intervene decisively. Silence at this point is
lethal for us as community.

It is in this context that enormous significance gets attached to the twenty-sixth anniversary of Gua firing. The major motivation for corporate onslaught is increased consumption of Steel in urban centers of the world including India. Yet urban India refuses to acknowledge this and continue to align itself with the corporate in its consumption pattern.

Earlier the urban India becomes conscious of this fact better it is or the
contradictions are bound to widen further.

Here is a report prepared in 1981 by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) to
refresh your memory as to what happened on that fateful day on September 08
1980.

Sebastian Rodrigues with inputs from BIRSA team in Chaibasa and Ranchi.

……………………………………………………………

PUCL Bulletin June 1981

*Gua*
On Monday, September 8, 1980, eight tribals were gunned down by the Bihar
Military Police in a hospital compound in the south Bihar mining town of Gua.
The incident was bizarre-and not unjustifiably likened to the Jallianwala
massacre-for obvious reasons. The police fired without provocation and without
authority; they fired on unarmed and wounded adivasis who were awaiting medical
attention inside a hospital; and what is even worse, senior doctors present at
the time did nothing to stop them.

This dastardly act was a sequel to a police firing in the township on a peaceful
crowd of 3000 adivasis gathered to protest against police harassment. According
to official figures, three adivasis died there. Of course, a large number were
injured; the wounded were not brought for medical aid for reasons that are too
obvious to state. However, a visit to just five villages neighbouring Gua in
December last year revealed that 14 people were still missing. Local people put
the figure of adivasis killed at around 100.

For months prior to the protest meeting, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had been
spearheading the much misunderstood “jungle kato” movement in Singhbhum
district. Contrary to the official propaganda mounted against it, its aim was
not the destruction of forests. The adivasis wanted to reclaim their lands lost
to the British during the rebellions of the last hundred years. All that has
remained to mark their lost habitations are “sarangs”, or memorial stones in the
forests, indicating the burial grounds of their ancestors. Increasingly denied
access to forest produce in recent years, faced with continued exploitation from
moneylenders, contractors and the local officials, the adivasis had no choice
but to try and reclaim their lost lands or face starvation.

The growth of the tribal movement in Singhbhum invoked the wrath of the State
apparatus which represents the interests of the local power groups. A large
contingent of the Bihar Military Police was posted in the area. In a style
characteristic of the paramilitary forces, they exercised their punitive
authority over the tribals. The policemen would lift fowl and vegetables from
the villages without payment and indiscriminately arrest people.

To protest against this behaviour of the BMP, the adivasis organised a protest
meeting at Qua aerodrome on the afternoon of September 8 under the aegis of the
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. A contingent of the BMP arrived on the scene-along with
two magistrates-and encircled the crowd. The magistrates sought to pacify the
police who insisted that the tribals stop their march through the town towards
the office of the Block Development Officer to whom they proposed to present
their memorandum. The adivasis agreed to cancel their march. They insisted,
however, on holding their meeting in the local market square as planned, after
which they promised to disperse. They handed over their memorandum to the
magistrate present. The police left.

At the meeting, as soon as the first speaker started addressing the crowd the
police force returned. They surrounded the gathering with upraised rifles; they
forcibly dragged away the speaker to their waiting jeep and arrested other
adivasi leaders. The adivasis were incensed. There was an altercation-and a
clash. The police fired 37 rounds; the adivasis retaliated with their bows and
arrows which they customarily carry with them. Three adivasis and four policemen
died on the spot. The police then transported their injured to the Gua Mines
Hospital, half a kilometre away from the bazar The tribals too carried their
wounded there. They were made to deposit their bows and arrows at the gate; they
were asked to lay the injured under the tree in the hospital compound to await
the doctors. Before they knew what was happening, the BMP officials had opened
fire again on these helpless adivasis. All eight died on the spot.

Official sources admitted the “deterrent action” was a result of the decision
arrived at on August 30 at Patna at a high-level meeting of officials attended
by the Forest Minister The Minister is believed to have said : “We have to stop
this at all costs”.

In the months that-followed this incident, police jeeps would raid the villages
in the area, in search of supporters of the JMM which is leading a movement for
a separate Jharkhand state. They broke into huts at night, beat up the
residents, stole the belongings of the adivasis, molested and, in a number of
cases, raped women. Terror stalked the Singhbhum countryside for months
afterwards. The moment a jeep arrives in a village, the inhabitants,
particularly the women, disappear into the surrounding Saranda forest.

Sourced from http://www.pucl.org/from-archives/81june/case-studies.htm

Legacy and History of Indian Maoism – A Tribute to Tarimala Nagi Reddy and the Telangana Armed Struggle

September 16, 2006

A couple of day’s ago Mr Thakor , a research scholar based in Mumbai
mailed me his research work which I am reproducing here.

I would like to thank Mr Thakor on behalf of all readers of Naxalrevolution
for sharing his excellent research work with us


Legacy of Indian Maoism-A Tribute to Tarimala Nagi Reddy’s 30th death anniversary and the 60 th anniversary of the launching of the Telengana Armed Struggle.

An extract from the research article

1.Telangana Armed Struggle

In 1946 a red Letter was written in the history of the Indian Communist Movement. This event was the Telengana Armed Struggle led by the Andhra Pradesh Unit of the Communist Party of India.Thousands of acres of land were redistributed.Mass revolutionary line was practiced. The relationship between the agrarian revolutionary Movement and the armed struggle and formation of the peoples army was established and the issue of armed revolution and the principle of forming a people’s army based in the agrarian mass revolutionary programme and movement. was formulated.

The struggle suffered political defeat, not because of class enemies and the state ,but at the hands of the revisionist policies of the general staff of the C.P.I.
The C.P.I.leadership withdrew the Struggle and veered it towards the parliamentary path. The foundation for the Struggle was the meticulous mass work carried out between the years 1941-1946 ,similar to the launching of the Chinese peasant armed revolutionary struggle.

In 1948 a historic letter was written in Andhra on 9th July called the Andhra thesis., which highlighted that the Indian revolution would follow the Chinese path of ,of protracted peoples armed struggle with the peasants being the main force. The Indian economy was characterized as semi-colonial and semi-feudal., the peasant question as the core of Indian revolution, and the stage of revolution as ‘New Democratic’.

When the document was written the Telengana Struggle was at it’s peak. The concept of the united front with the middle and rich peasants was advocated. Resistance bases of the Chinese Type were to be formed The guerilla Warfare was deployed to defend the land and the village Soviets. Land was distributed in 3000 villages and the guerilla squads launched significant armed struggle against the Nizam’s army and the Razakars.The police sided with the Razakars and in retaliation the guerilla squads began to attack the police. The police used to attack in the day, while the people would retaliate at night.

The socio-economic conditions prevalent in Hyderabad stae led by the Nizam led to the uprising.Hyderbad was a multi-lingual state

4 factors influenced the movement:

1. Hyderabad was a multi-lingual state comprising 3 linguistic units, the Telegu speakingregion, the Marathi Speaking Region and the Urdu Speaking region.

2. The continuous conflict between the Muslim Rulers and the Hindu Subjects. The Muslims though comprising 12%of the population, occupied most of the high posts in the State.

3. 60% of landholdings were under the governmental revenue system known as Diwani, 30% under the Jagirdari system and the remaining 10% were the Nizam’s own estate. Agricultural labourers and tenants were subjected to merciless exploitation.

4. A forced labour termed “Vetti’ was imposed on the tribals and backward communities. Each family had to send one member of the family for labour. No money was paid to him in cash or kind.

5. The Conditions of the working class were awful.

6. The British monopoly of Indian Resources at the beginning of the 2nd World War were increased.

1000’s of acres of land was distributed in People’s Courts. Guilty landlords were tried and people’s Self defence Corpses defended the villages from attacks of Army and Police. Nehru sent the Army in and ruthlessly crushed the Uprising. This long protracted Struggle had set up village Committees which facilitated re-distribution of land to the landless and poor peasants. The Vetti System was virtually abolished. The capitulationism of the Communist Party of India to electoral politics led to the surrender of the Armed Struggle.

2. Tarimala Nagi Reddy

On 28 th July this year the Indian Communist Revolutionary Movement will be observing the 30th death anniversary of Comrade Tarimala Nagi Reddy. His contribution to the Indian Communist Revolutionary Movement was invaluable In the 50th year since the U.S.S R. became revisionist his struggle is more noteworthy.(1n 1956 Kruschev introduced his class –collaborationist line)

He was born in a wealthy family on February 11th 1917.His schooling was done in the Theosophical and Rishi Valley schools which were reknowned for their discipline and all –round development of personality. Here he learnt about the dignity of labour ,which was professed by the schools. This teaching set the trend for his revolutionary career. He meticulously studied Marxist –Lenisnst theory and moulded himself with revolutionary consciousness.Remarkably he launched a struggle against the landlord of is own family.

Comrade Nagi Reddy’s political ideas were not tolerated by the governing body of the Madras Loyoal college ,thus he moved to Benarus Hindu University,where he had greater avenues to express his political thought. Making untiring efforts he led the student masses towards nationalist politics, socialist ideas and proletarian revolution.Inspite of carrying the burden of leading the student’s movement and participating in the secret organization of the party, his upper-class background prevented him from attaining party membership early.In 1939,the Communist Party of India had full faith in Nagi Reddy’s proletarian revolutionary qualities ,a nd awarded him party membership.

Marge Grower ,the then vice-chancellor of Delhi University ,openly challenged the national slogan for the formation of a constituent assembly.Comrade.T.N,openly opposed this,being the leader of the Students Union.Fascinatingly,the Indian Congress leadr Gandhi opposed himGandhi wrote a letterto the Vice –Chancelor of the B.H.U.to demand an apology from T.N.T,T.opposed it andw as thus failed in his law examinations.

Angered T.N.left the college and returned to his village. He started organizing students and youth into the Communist Movement. Several youth were attracted to Comrade T.N’s simple, down-to –earth style of explaining politics and economics. This made the Congress leaders helpless.(They opposed the Communists in the Freedom Struggle)

Download the entire research article below

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Article also published on Antiimerialista

RELATED LINKS

Watch the movie Maa Bhoomi which is based on the Telangana Peasant Armed Strugge

Maa Bhooomi – Our Land

Maoist Movement in Andhra Pradesh

August 17, 2006

Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006

Maoist Movement in Andhra Pradesh

In a situation marked by severe state repression of the Maoist
movement in Andhra Pradesh, violent retaliation by the
Maoists, and the state’s brutal counter-attack (led by
the greyhounds) to gain the upper hand, the Maoists are finding it
difficult to retain the support of the next generation
of the most oppressed. State-encouraged gangs, calling themselves
tigers and cobras have unleashed private vengeance, which has played
a major role in immobilising the substantial over-ground support of the
movement. But above all is the tragic loss of the lives of organic leaders
from among the most oppressed.

by K BALAGOPAL

Birpur, near the Godavari river in the northern corner of Karimnagar
district, is the native village of Muppalla Lakshmana Rao, better known
as Ganapathi, the general secretary of the central committee of the
Communist Party of India (Maoist). Before a road-building
mania took over the state in the regime of
Chandrababu Naidu, it was a village difficult
to access.

Today it is accessible by a black-top road from the temple town of
Dharmapuri on the incompletely laid out National Highway No16 from
Nizamabad in Telangana to Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh.
As you approach Birpur from Dharmapuri,
you see at the entrance of the village a fresh white memorial with
two pigeons atop, evidently intended to symbolise peace. The
white colour of the memorial and the
pigeons on top are in contrast to the hundreds
of red memorials with the hammer and
sickle on top that are strewn all over Telangana.

It was built recently by the police to signify what the police gleefully
regard as their decisive achievement in gaining an upper hand
over the Maoists in their major stronghold, the Godavari
river basin of northern Telangana. That it was built in the village
of the top Maoist leader and inaugurated by the most unlikely
symbol of peace, the superintendent of police, Karimnagar, is a
juvenile gesture that could have easily seemed merely tasteless
in a different context, but in fact symbolises
a disquieting fact: the politically juvenile
attitude of successive governments in
Andhra Pradesh towards the Naxalites.

Peace per se would be desired by many people in the area. But very
few are gleeful that the Maoists have been pushed back
as never before. May be they are unrealistic but the ordinary people
in their majority would want that the Maoists should be
around, guns and all, but there should be
peace in the sense of a life free of fear from
this side or that.

At the height of the six month farce of talks between the Maoists
and the government of Andhra Pradesh in
the second half of 2004, a common apprehension heard in most of
the long-term strongholds of the Naxalites was that the
talks was a good thing and it was hoped that some reduction of
violence would result from it, but “they won’t leave us and
go away, will they”?.

The fact is that in much of this area the first time the common
people experienced anything resembling justice was when the
Naxalite movement spread there and taught
people not to take injustice lying down.

Unlike the rest of the state where the Naxalites spread through
the armed squads, in northern Telangana there was a clear
period in the late 1970s and early 1980s of the last century when it
was the mass organisations, mainly the agricultural
labourers associations and the student and
youth fronts, that were the instrument for
the spread of Maoism as an ideology and
a political practice.

The phase was soon to pass and the people would start depending
on the armed squads for justice but the sense of attainability of
justice was a fundamental change. In very plain terms
the oppressors of local society, whether
upper caste landlords or insensitive public
officials, started dreading the wrath, initially of the awakened
masses, and later of the well-armed squads composed of cadre born
and brought up in poor families of the very
same villages.

Today the old landlords are no longer there but new local elites have
come up and there is this fear that if the Naxalites go away,
“the poor cannot survive”. It is a matter of choice whether one
sees this as revolution in the mould of Robinhood, or merely as
one instance in the saga of a Maoist long march, which
is not to be freezed into a representative
moment.

State Repression

From the very beginning the attitude of the governments in Andhra
Pradesh was one of extreme hostility. Police camps
were set up in villages and the poor were
tortured most inhumanly.

It was always an explicitly political assault. The policemen
in charge of the areas never made secret of the fact that they were
not merely “maintaining law and order” as the expression
goes. They had the political task of protecting the landlords and
the medieval mould of society and they were executing
the task. The underground Naxalite activists
were no doubt armed, but their violence in those days was by and large
selective and in any case not much in
extent. On the other hand, it is said by everyone who knows -
including police officers at retirement – that the fight of
the Naxalites in those days was against
what is generally referred to as feudal domination, and the economic
oppression of the poor, and in this they were remarkably
successful.

Abolition of ‘begar’ and payment of some thing close to minimum
wages, two, impeccably constitutional tasks, were performed by
the Naxalites. The fight for land was not so successful
since the police would not allow the land left behind by runaway
landlords to be cultivated by the poor. Such land by and
large remains fallow to this day, but it is
not a very significant matter either way
because as a proportion of the total cultivable area of the districts, or
the land needed by the landless, it is slight in
extent.

More would be added to such fallow land in the days to
come when cultivation of land would be forcibly
stopped by the Naxalites, not to take over the unconscionable acres
of landlords, but as a measure of punishment imposed on
any landed person for having harmed their
cause, but even so the “land struggle” in the plains areas was not
an achievement of any moment. The encouragement
given to tribals in the forests to cut down the reserve forests and
cultivate the land was far and away the most successful
land struggle of the Naxalites, and not
any struggle against landlords.

Its extent in the five districts of Adilabad,
Warangal, Khammam, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam has been
plaintively estimated by the government as upwards of
four lakh acres, counting together the achievement of all the
Naxalite parties. However, after about the first decade and
a half the Naxalite parties came round to the view that beyond a point
such a land struggle is harmful to the forest-dwellers
themselves, and have since the mid-1990s
imposed quite a successful ban on the cutting of forests.

It is tempting to speculate what would
have been the result if the government had
appreciated this phase of the Naxalite struggle for what it was,
and responded by means other than repression. Forgetting
class interests and all that, and accepting the arguments made at
face value, one would perforce describe as one-sided the
argument that it would have legitimised
the use of violence for social/political ends,
which is unacceptable in a democracy.

A blanket condonation of the use of violence
by a group that lives by its own norms, which are enforceable
only by itself is no doubt unacceptable in any society, even
when it is declared to be for the good of the oppressed, but the
contrary argument that a positive response from the government
would perhaps have delegitimised the argument for revolutionary
violence was never considered. That was no doubt
not an innocent lapse, and the rulers had
their reasons for that.

The upshot was heavy repression on the Naxalite movement, in
particular the rural poor who were part of the movement or
its social base. Extremes of torture and
incarceration in unlawful police custody, destruction of houses and
despoliation of drinking water wells and fields, framing
of severe criminal cases en masse were the
norm.

And “encounter” killings began from where they left off the day
the internal emergency was lifted. It would again be
interesting to speculate what would have been the result if the
Maoists had decided not to hit back but concentrate
on exposing the anti-poor bias of the
government and extend their mass activity to a point that would
have given their aspiration for state power a solid mass
base. It would no doubt have been painful,
but the alternative has not been any less painful.

Maoists Hit Back

As it happened, the Maoists hit back. The first killing of a policeman
took place in June 1985 at Dharmapuri in Karimnagar
district. And then a sub-inspector of police was killed at Kazipet in
Warangal district on September 2 that year.

That was followed the next day by plainclothes policemen
going in a procession behind the subinspector’s
dead body killing Ramanadham, a senior civil rights activist, in his
clinic. “Encounters” increased and decapitation
of the limbs of police informers
followed. The police acquired better weapons and the Maoists
followed suit.

Sizeable paramilitary forces were sent to the state in the mid-1990s
but the terror they created was such that they were soon
sent back. Not, however, before they had a taste of the Naxalites’
newly acquired proficiency in blowing up police vehicles
at will.

Almost from the mid-1980s brutal
special police forces meant for eliminating Naxalites came into
being and were allowed to operate totally incognito, the most
successful being the greyhounds, which is
a well trained anti-guerrilla force that lives and operates as the
Naxalites’ armed squads
do and is bound by no known law, including
the Constitution of India.

The armed squads soon became the
focal point of the activity of the Maoists, barring the two
short periods when they were allowed freedom to conduct their
political activity, both significantly in the immediate aftermath
of the Congress Party coming to
power after prolonged Telugu Desam rule, leading to credible
speculation about some pre-election agreement between the Congress
and the Maoists (known till two years
ago as the Communist Party of India
(Marxist-Leninist) (Peoples War)).

Soon the Maoists declared the whole of northern Telangana,
and the eastern ghat hills to the north of the Godavari river,
guerrilla zones, followed later by a similar
proclamation for the Nallamala forests in the Krishna basin to
the south. With this the changed context of the movement was
formalised.

The immediate economic and social problems of the masses took a back
seat and the battle for supremacy with the state became the central
instance of the struggle. This brought its own imperatives,
which were no longer immediately congruent with the needs of the
masses who continued to be the base of the Maoists.

So much so that while the youth in the areas of their activity look
upon them as militant heroes even when they do not approve of
them, it is the elderly who talk of them with
affection. It is the parents’ generation that
remembers the days when begar used to be demanded by the
landlord and a pittance paid for wage labour. Many of the youth
frankly say, they may be valiant fighters, but what have they done
for us except to bring the police to our villages?

The state has its difficulties dealing with mass movements but it has
tested strategies for dealing with armed struggles. It creates
informers and agents for itself from the
very masses the insurgency claims to
represent.

That is not difficult with the money and resources of power available
with the state. This is a trap the militants fall into. They kill or
otherwise injure those agents and informers and thereby
antagonise more of their own mass base,
in turn enabling the state to have more agents and informers.
Without exception, all militant movements have killed more
people of their own social base than their purported enemy classes.

This may be taken as one of the invariant laws of the sociology
of armed insurgencies. The very fact that this is true of the Naxalites,
the most politically sensitive of all insurgents, is
proof enough. And this is true even without the impatience that
comes with being armed, which results in more violence
against dissenters among your own people.

It is not as if they no longer addressed themselves to the social and
economic problems of the poor. They did and they
continue to do, but notwithstanding their claim that the village
committees (often semi-secret) established by them deal with
these problems, though not in the open as
in the past, the overwhelming reality, except
in totally isolated villages – and totally isolated areas such as the
Abujmarh hills of Bastar – where such committees can
actually function, is that it is the armed
squads that deal with the problems.

And they too often deal with them in a rough and ready manner made
easy by the fact that there is no possibility of any opposition
to them in society, so long as the police are taken care of. The people
for their part have come to look up to the squads as a
substitute for their own struggle for justice.

This has, on the one hand, created more enemies – victims of
revolutionary arbitrariness – than they need have made, and,
on the other, corrupted the masses into receivers of justice rather
than fighters for it. You only have to report to the militants
and get them to put up posters with appropriate
demands and threats, and you will get what you want, provided
that in the meanwhile the police have not made it
impossible for the militants to come to your area to hear your
pleas and put up posters.

Then, of course, you wait till the militants turn the tables on the police.
But even where such issues are addressed, the central place in the
practice of the Maoists has been taken up by the guerrilla
struggle against the state, aimed at weakening
its hold to a point where the area
can be considered a liberated zone.

This requires a range of acts of violence, which have no direct
relation to the immediate realisation of any rights for the masses,
though the resulting repression invariably hits at the masses.
The Maoists have developed considerable expertise of a
military character, which is admired even by policemen in private,
even as their political development has stagnated. The
state has met this with even more brutal violence, which has
bred further violence from the Maoists.

For at least about a decade now, each year has seen between
300 to 400 deaths in this gruesome game. The ability of the
state to obtain information on an extensive
scale, thanks partly to its resources, partly to the demise of values
at all levels in society, including the lower-most, and
partly to the large number of enemies
created by the Maoists around themselves
in the course of their battle with the state, the state’s ability for
the same reasons to inject covert operatives into the Maoist
ranks, and the very successful forays of the greyhounds deep
into the forests, has resulted in its establishing a clear upperhand
in this killing game for the present.

Retaining Support of the Next
Generation

But the difficulties faced by the Maoists do not end here. To discuss
the rest of them requires attention to considerations that
Marxism at its best would find difficult to deal with, given the lack of
any attention to an understanding of the human subject
of history other than the practically useless
profundity that “”t makes itself while making
history”. And Maoism is not Marxism at its best, at any rate for
this purpose.

The strategy of providing armed support to the aspirations of the
masses succeeds at the first round without much difficulty, once
willing cadre are found, in areas historically subjected to extremes
of deprivation and oppression and neglected by governance.

But the very success means that a new generation is created, which
is freed from the severe disabilities its parents suffered from, and
is able to see and seize opportunities in the existing polity and
therefore may not be as hospitable to armed struggle as its parents.

The state too learns, and makes some efforts to draw the area
from out of neglect and into what is usually described as
“the mainstream” even as it suppresses the struggle by brute force.
The eagerness to join a life-and-death struggle is usually diluted to
some extent as a consequence. If, at that stage, instead of
toning down the armed component of struggle the radicals proceed
to fight the state over the heads of the masses, the
masses can withdraw further, and even
become resentful.

After the first immense success of the Maoists among the Gonds
of Adilabad district in the late 1970s and early 1980s, from the
next generation that came of age in the1990s one often heard
the honest query: are adivasis the guinea
pigs of revolution?

The temptation to which the Maoists have too often succumbed,
namely, to condemn all such doubt as arising from the
“petty-bourgeois tendencies” of a new elite only makes matters
worse.

In this sense the real challenge for the Maoists is not whether
they can militarily get the better of the greyhounds,
who have a clear upper hand at present, but whether they can
retain active support from one generation to the next
while retaining their Maoist strategy, or
even by recasting it to suit the changes in the needs and aspirations
of the new generation in the changed social context
created by their very activity and the state’s
response to it.

Till now there is no sign of any thinking along these lines. Often the
first thing that happens to people who find political
awakening from a state of dormancy is to turn to a search for their
own social identity, whether caste, tribe or gender. This
has led to many ex-Naxalites becoming
Ambedkarites, or at least sympathisers of Ambedkarism, since any
way the overwhelming majority of them are from the
outcastes or backward castes of Hindu
society.

This does not necessarily mean that they have lost interest in revolution
as the communists understand it. But the Maoists have too often
reacted with a lack of sympathy to this phenomenon. So much
so that while their cadre, and leaders too, except a handful at the
very top, are from the dalit, adivasi or backward communities,
unlike the Parliamentary left which continues
to be a bastion of upper castes, and while
they have in the last few years inducted women into their armed
squads on a scale that will soon probably put to shame the
eternally unfilled promise of one-third reservation in the
legislatures, they remain not only theoretically but practically
too, hostile to any expression of identity politics, seen invariably as
opportunistic deviance.

Instead the Maoist response to stagnation
after the first round has been to transfer attention to a new area
amenable to initiation of their kind of politics – and there
are many such areas, thanks to the utter
neglect of vast regions by governance in the last 50 years, and the
current philosophy of governance which is a philosophy
of non-governance – and do the same
thing again. Other Marxist-Leninist groups have often criticised the
Maoists for this hop, skip and jump mode of revolution but
they have never taken the criticism seriously,
probably regarding their conduct as part of the strategy of
guerrilla struggle.

Leaving aside the political rights and wrongs of it, the practical
consequence has been a rapid spread to new areas such as
the area surrounding the Nallamala and other contiguous forests
in southern coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. This spread has
been mainly through the guerrilla activity
of armed squads, not preceded by anything
comparable with the mass activity that illuminated and remedied
much of the social and economic oppression people suffered
from in the Godavari basin districts of
northern Telangana.

But the spread has not been as smooth and successful as in northern
Telangana. Whatever Maoist theory may say, the
guerrilla phase of struggle involves establishing armed dominion
over society, often described by the police with exaggeration
as a parallel government. Such dominion is easier to establish in
areas whose social culture is characterised by a certain quiescence
than in factious areas.

The northern Telangana districts, of all the areas of the
state, do exhibit that characteristic whereas the south, especially the
region surrounding the Nallamala forests, is the most factious
area. Armed activity of any kind, with even
the best of intentions, can degenerate easily
into factious violence.

The fate of the Maoists in Anantapur in Rayalaseema is
a classic instance of this. More vitally, armed dominion in factious
areas calls up private vengeance which the state will not
hesitate to encourage. The ‘Nallamala cobras’ who have committed
three murders of democratic activists in the last nine
months and silenced much of democratic activity in the southern
districts constitute brutal proof of this.

We know that each mode of life is found attractive by persons of
certain character traits and in turn encourages certain traits
in those who partake of it. It is a species of conceit that refuses to
see that this applies to political strategies too. To speak
of negative traits alone, just as the Sarvodaya philosophy attracts
a lot of hypocrisy and the parliamentary strategy
of the Communist Party of India and the
Communist Party of India (Marxist) a lot of opportunism, strategies
of militancy attract unruly types who straddle the border
line between rebellion and mere rowdyism.

These types can, and have, caused considerable harm to the Maoists
and have constituted easy subjects for the state’s
tactics of shaping covert operatives inside
their ranks.

Once outside the party they have fit equally well the role of
“renegades” as they are called in Kashmir. The conduct
of the Maoists who leave little room for appeal for persons whom
they brand enemies of the people has in turn created
cadre for the vengeful renegades, and the resulting gangs that call
themselves cobras and tigers of various kinds have played a
major role in immobilising the very substantial
overground support activity the Naxalite movement had.

Decimation of Organic Leaders

This is as far as the story of Maoist revolution has come in Andhra
Pradesh. Since there is little sign of any rethinking on either side,
one has no basis for expressing much hope about the future. What
makes it a tragedy is that the lives of lakhs of people belonging to the
lowest orders of society in terms of community as well
as class are involved in it.

Many dimensions of the tragedy are known or amenable to imagination
but there is one which is not usually commented on. This is that many
if not all of the lives that are being lost
at the hands of the police in this process
are lives that the oppressed can ill afford
to lose.

They are the organic leaders of the class, who have adopted a political
path of their choice. It is not all among the powerless classes that can
dare challenge the system and be ready to pay for it. It
is not everyday that the oppressed produce
such elements from amongst themselves.

The rights or wrongs of their choice has no bearing on the tragedy of
the decimation of this organic leadership. They chose to
be Maoists, but they could have chosen to be something else, and
whichever the choice, they would have added to the
strength of the oppressed.

The daily loss of such persons is a sacrifice the oppressed
cannot be called upon to put up with indefinitely.

Death of the Best and Brightest

August 16, 2006

Not since Tipu Sultan has Karnataka seen such a heroic warrior
like Comrade Saketh Rajan.
If Tipu Sultan was the Tiger of Mysore then Comrade Saketh Rajan
is nothing less than the Lion-heart of Mysore.

The Khaki hyena’s and vulture politicians
who scavenge in Karnataka,remember this-

Today Saketh Rajan may be dead,
but one day he will return,
with millions.

Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006

Death of Best and Brightest

By Sagar

Comrade Saketh Rajan

I can still remember his smiling face, full of life, concern
and a deep sincerity that anyone who met him could sense
immediately. Saket Rajan – journalist, historian and social activist
rolled into one – was not someone you could easily forget anyway,
given his charismatic personality or his mission in life as a
communist revolutionary.

My memories of him are from 22 years ago when I was beginning my
career in journalism in Bangalore. Saket, whom I knew through
mutual friends, was just beginning to organise activities of the People’s
War Group or PWG (now CPI Maoist) in Karnataka at that time.

I respected his choice but personally was not very convinced that
the PWG’s almost exclusive emphasis on waging an armed struggle
against the Indian state was the best way to operate in
a diverse country that despite its various problems did offer space
for other more mass-based political activities. We remained friends
but parted ways – with me continuing to be a journalist
and Saket going underground, becoming a Central Committee member
of the PWG and mostly untraceable by people outside his immediate
party circuit.

Karnataka, where Saket operated, was among the few
places where the Maoists emphasised the development of a variety
of mass fronts over the idea of “armed struggle at any cost”.

Saket was of course too creative a person to blindly copy and
apply the “Andhra model” of the PWG in his home state.
These mass fronts have taken up a very wide range of issues from
nuclear power plants to the march of saffron communalism.

In February last year when the Karnataka police brutally murdered
Saket in an alleged “encounter” in Chikmagalur, memories of my
meetings and discussions with him came flooding back. His untimely
and needless death was like a knife turning through my
heart – as indeed it must have been for most of his friends everywhere.

Here was the snuffing out of one more brilliant mind, an extremely
sensitive soul and yet another product of India’s “Naxalite” movement
that has motivated thousands of young Indians to give
up everything, including their lives, fighting for radical social and
political change in the country.

Shame on a society that allows the killing of its best and brightest
in such a wanton manner.

Related posts on Karnataka’s Immortal Son of the Soil
- Comrade Saketh Rajan below

We remember Comrade Saketh Rajan thus we make him Immortal


How Comrade Saketh Rajan was killed in Treachery

I am proud of you my Son ! – Interview with Comrade Saketh Rajan’s mother

Comrade Saketh Rajan – Author of the path breaking
book – “Making History”

Comrade Saketh Rajan’s dedication to his martyred wife Comrade Rajeshwari

The Spring and Its Thunder

August 16, 2006

Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006


The Spring and Its Thunder


The presence and growth of the Maoist movement today is
essentially due to the dire socio-economic situation of people living
in the “affected” parts of the country. Like at the time of the
Naxalbari upsurge 39 years ago, even today it is a combination of
stark poverty, an indifferent or even exploitative state machinery
and oppressive feudal/business elites in different parts of the
country that has been at the heart of the Maoist insurgency.

By SAGAR

The mainstream media is full of stories
and analysis about the so-called
“Naxal menace” – and the alleged attempt by Maoists to
create a contiguous liberated corridor cutting through
the tribal dominated belt from Andhra Pradesh to
Bihar through Chhattisgarh, Orissa and
Jharkhand.

Maoist activities have been reported in over 160 districts around
the country in many of which they are trying
to establish “liberation zones” where they dispense state functions
of administration, policing and justice. (Here the reference
to Maoists is exclusively to the CPI (Maoist) formed through merger
of the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist
Centre in 2004. There are other equally important streams of the
Naxalite movement, chief among which is the CPI(ML)
Liberation group with strongholds in Bihar and presence in many
parts of India.)

What is also worrying many in the Indian establishment is the
growing profile of the Maoists in neighbouring Nepal in recent
months and its implications for the movement’s growth in India.
While the two Maoist movements have good relations
with each other, it is not clear to what extent they have any kind of
active collaboration on the ground.

The Naxal Terror Watch, a right wing blog site that suppo- sedly
monitors Naxalite activity in India claims (quite ridiculously of
course)
that the “PWG’s current goal is to destabilise India and
the subcontinent by a well coordinated strategy with
international
revolutionaries, and support from
Pakistan and China”.

The repeated use of the term “menace”
(as in “Dennis the Menace”) by both the Indian government and media
shows that the Indian state does not want to project
the Maoist movement as too grave a threat as yet or at least does not
want to acknowledge this in public. Another and more
sinister implication of this term however is that Naxalism is to be
considered a nuisance or a problem at the same level
as malaria or encephalitis and the “infectious” Naxalites are to be
stamped out like mosquitoes!
(All the millions of tonnes of DDT used over the decades have not
eradicated malaria in the country, so maybe
there is a lesson in that somewhere.)

In a status paper on the “Naxal problem”, placed in Parliament by
union home minister Shivraj Patil on March 13 this
year the UPA government spelt out a policy to combat the challenge
posed by the “Naxalite menace”. The 14-point policy
stresses the urgency for the states to adopt a collective approach and
pursue a coordinated response to counter the
Naxalites. It emphasises that there will be no peace dialogue by the
affected states with the Naxal groups unless the latter
agree to give up violence and arms.

At the same time the paper acknowledged that the spread of Naxalism
was not merely a law and order problem. “The policy of the
government is to address this menace simultaneously on political,
security, development and public perception management
fronts in a holistic manner”, it said.

Another component of the policy is that it asks political parties to
strengthen their base in Naxal-affected areas so that
the youth could be “weaned away” from the path of Naxal ideology.
More ominously the paper says “Efforts will continue to be
made to promote local resistance groups against Naxalites but in a
manner that the villagers are provided adequate security
cover and the area is effectively dominated
by the security forces”.

The paper is however silent on the recent upsurge in violence between
the state-sponsored vigilante group Salwa Judum and the Maoists
in Chhattisgarh, which has been dubbed
by the media as a virtual “civil war”.

At one level, as even its critics acknowledge, the presence and growth
of the Maoist movement today is essentially due to the
dire socio-economic situation of people
living in the “affected” parts of the country.

Like at the time of the original Naxalbari upsurge 39 years ago, even
today it is this combination of stark poverty, an indifferent
or even exploitative state machinery and oppressive feudal/business
elites in different parts of the country that has been at
the heart of the Maoist insurgency.

Tribal Belt Focus

It is no coincidence at all that the tribal belts of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa,
Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, where the Maoists are
most active, are also among the areas in
the country that have the lowest development indicators.

Though information on the socio-economic profile of the adivasi
population in India is quite sketchy available data shows that maternal
mortality (between 8 and 25 per 1,000) among them
is more than double the rates in the advanced
regions of the country.

Similarly, the infant mortality rates are between 120 and
150, which is more than double the all-India average of 55. All these
adverse health indicators are largely due to inadequate access to the
right foods – iron, protein and micronutrients
such as iodine and vitamins – and lack of
access to healthcare services.

A decade ago, the World Development Report observed,
“The cycle between hunger- disease-low
levels of productivity (measured both in terms of absence from work
as well as duration)-low wages-indebtedness-reduced
consumption levels-disease-is reflective of
how the development process has largely bypassed the tribals”.

Instead of being the harbinger of any kind of meaningful and participatory
development, the Indian state since independence in 1947 has been basically
predatory in the experience of the indigenous
people. The state and its various agents have exploited them, violated
their rights at whim and robbed them not just of resources
but of their very human dignity.

Here I want to clarify the mention of 1947 above, because I think essentially
the marginalisation of indigenous people (and dalits) in this ancient land
of ours has been happening over several millennia
with the various waves of migration from outside thriving on their
outright conquest, displacement or co-option. (To put it in the
framework of Hindu mythology what we
are talking about is that almost 3,000 years
after the Aryan prince Ram co-opted the indigenous Hanuman
to help
him defeat the Dravidian Ravan – the descendants
of Hanuman are still being treated like
monkeys!)

Defenceless against the predations of the modern Indian state and its
agents the tribals have naturally come under the
influence of the Maoists, who offer them protection and mete out instant
justice to their exploiters. Whatever objections one may have to the kind of
violence employed there is no getting around the fact that the
spread of the Maoist movement among
indigenous populations – in the absence of equally effective alternatives -
is a natural outcome of the situation on the ground in
these areas. The point about available alternatives is important because
in most – though not all – areas where the Maoist
insurgency is making its impact felt, they are
often the only real counter to the exploitation of the indigenous people by
other organised groups such as state officials,
businessmen and plain criminal elements.

This is all a bit simplistic of course and it is true that the Maoists have also made
several mistakes; for example the destruction of transport and educational
infrastructure in some of the tribal areas apparently
in a bid to keep Indian security
forces at bay.
This has deprived local populations of whatever few benefits they
ever derived from the Indian state.

Maoist Violence

More serious is the problem of the Maoists killing “informers” and others
deemed to be their opponents when other methods of dealing with them
could have sufficed. The recent report by a group of
intellectuals and activists who went as part of an independent fact
finding mission to Dantewara district in Chhattisgarh had this
to say about nine widows they met whose
husbands had been abducted and killed by Maoists for going to the
government sponsored refugee camp: “Whatever their
husband’s alleged crimes for which they
were given a summary death penalty, these widows were hardly oppressors,
pathetic defeated women, helplessly thrusting out
their passbooks without knowing what they contained or what they
might do with the money, now that their husbands
were gone.”

These kind of lapses are all reasons today for the alienation of the
Maoists from a section of their own constituencies, both
among the urban intelligentsia as well as the tribal people themselves.
Such a rift is dangerous and as we see in the case of
the Salwa Judum operations in Chhattisgarh it gives the Indian state
and other vested interests opportunity to try and pit ordinary
people against the Maoists.

There are also other important criticisms made of both the theory and
practice of the Maoists – from within the broader left
movement and outside it – that they need
to heed carefully.

One has to do with their dealings with the indigenous people
themselves. Writing in The Hindu recently E A S Sarma, former
secretary to the government of India, who was also part
of the same fact finding team to
Chhattisgarh mentioned earlier says: During the last two decades, the
Maoists gained a mass base among the adivasis by taking up cudgels on
their behalf against corrupt government functionaries, exploitative
traders, and moneylenders.

The trouble began for the Maoists when they started dismantling
the traditional political structures of the adivasis at the village
level and began tinkering with landownership.

Those that did not belong to their “sanghams” in the villages were considered
anti-Maoist and dealt with firmly, sometimes brutally.
The headmen of the villages and others intimidated by the
Maoists, along with the non-tribals, started grouping together and
working out ways to sabotage the Maoists’ efforts.

Without “exoticising” the indigenous people one can safely say that the few
remaining parts of the country, which still have indigenous/tribal
populations left in a majority and where the Maoists are active
are really the last bastions of their entire
civilisation.

It is not clear to what extent this happens, but it seems that the Maoist
intervention has certainly upset several aspects of traditional
tribal life, customs and beliefs, the value of which can be
decided only by the indigenous people
themselves, and not outsiders – even those
with revolutionary intentions.

This is a very important point because while the Maoists have chosen
to act as the protectors and liberators of indigenous
people from exploitation they should not, as outsiders, impose values
completely alien to the local culture. There
are many aspects of the project of
“modernisation” promoted by the progressive
and radical left that despite all good intentions have many negative
implications in the long run.

(In fact leave alone “teaching” the tribals anything the Maoists,
with some humility, can probably learn a few things from the
people they are helping resist oppression and spread these values to the
rest of the country. While it is true that indigenous
societies have become easy victims to the machinations of outside forces
that are technologically better equipped and unscrupulous to boot they
are far superior in social, moral and ecological terms to
those who conquer them.)

Neglect of Mass Action

Another aspect of the Maoist strategy that has come under criticism
from even those sympathetic to their cause is its
emphasis on action by a few armed squads as the only way to challenge
the Indian state, with no space for mass action in any
other form.

The use of violence as the first option creates a virtual light and sound
show of the Indian revolution without any evidence that the masses are
being politicised in any genuinely revolutionary
or meaningful way.

While the necessity of armed struggle in the really oppressive situations
is understandable, surely in a large and diverse
country like India there are many other ways to mobilise the people
and take the Indian revolution forward. However heroic
the efforts and sacrifices of the Maoists have been,
the simple fact is that a few heroes – minus mass participation
- do not
a revolution make.

Talking about the Indian revolution, which is ostensibly the ultimate
motive of the Maoist movement, it is puzzling how
this can be achieved without involving other sections of the
Indian population who do not live in forests. After all the
adivasis constitute just 8 per cent of the overall Indian population,
besides which the area under forest cover is dwindling
by the day.

Unlike in the first phase of the Naxalite movement, the new base of
today’s Maoist movement is no longer the small and
marginalised peasantry or landless labour but among tribal and
indigenous populations. Probably taking a cue from the
extreme repression unleashed by the state during the original Naxalite
rebellion or as a conscious strategy, the Maoists today
seem to be taking over parts of the country
where the Indian state is marked by its
complete absence.

Whatever the reason, this has meant that the Maoists themselves are
absent from the rest of the country – in the areas of the
Indian countryside where capitalist agriculture is wreaking havoc on
the lives and fortunes of small and medium farmers and
pushing many of them into the swelling ranks of agricultural labour.

The Maoists are also absent, except in the form of a few sympathetic
intellectuals and groups, from the small towns and
cities of India which are growing everyday
with the influx of rural people displaced by the Indian government’s
neoliberal economic policies. Even in parts
of the country like Andhra Pradesh where
the movement has been around the longest and been the most intense
too there is hardly any relevant presence or activities
of the Maoists outside the forested parts of north Telangana.

The question that arises from all this is how does a movement that is
called Maoist have such a weak base among the peasantry
in the country after so many years of struggle?
And given its Marxist-Leninist origins how does it do away with the need
to organise the industrial working classes or the urban and rural proletariat
as an essential part of its revolutionary strategy?

Another conundrum is the attitude of the Maoists towards elections,
that with all their flaws and pitfalls are a democratic
concession wrested by the Indian people from their ruling classes
and a legacy of the Indian freedom struggle against colonialism.

To call for their boycott and actively attempt to disrupt them despite the
various possibilities of utilising them to expose the Indian state and
educate the masses is a lack of recognition by the
Maoist leadership of some of the victories
that the Indian people have already achieved
in the past.

It also reveals a puritanical mindset on the part of the Maoists that
participating in elections is somehow
“dirty” and “immoral” while armed action is “pure” and “moral”.

The history of revolutionary movements worldwide shows that
opportunism can afflict both those who get involved in
parliamentary politics as well as those in underground armed struggles
and to be afraid of a particular tactic for fear of being
“corrupted” shows a strange lack of selfconfidence
by the Indian Maoists.

The fact is that India is ruled by a grand coalition of forces ranging from
the government, the bureaucracy, the army, business
and religious lobbies together with regional
elites of all kinds. In recent years there has also been a phenomenal
growth in operations of foreign corporations in the country
and under their influence, the Indian
government today is a junior partner in the
global designs of US imperialism.

To capture power in this country would mean capturing power at
multiple levels all at the same time and establishing genuine
hegemony over all aspects of national activity while keeping imperialism
at bay. None of this can be done through the use of simple slogans and
two point or three point dictums and will require complex struggles
of different kinds.

Having said all this, a very interesting thought occurs to me.
For any outsider looking at India all the internecine ideological
and political battles within the Indian Left movement would not really
seem to be too very relevant.

In the broad context of Indian politics it would
appear to him/her that the Left in all its diversity is actually part of
one ‘parivar’ with one component doing nothing but
parliamentary work and the other focusing only on armed struggles and
the middle consisting of many combinations of these
two extremes.

While such a view may seem overly naive and the prospects
of a
genuine confederation of the various Left organisations
in the country appear unrealistic, it is necessary to keep
the concept
alive for many reasons. An important one is that
given the way the forces of imperialism
are once again bent on recolonising different parts of
the developing
world such a united front of the Left may
become not
just necessary but inevitable too.

Recognising the importance of unity against common foes, both
domestic and foreign, by the broad spectrum of the Indian
Left could make all the difference between the country’s sovereignty
and slavery even in the not-too-long run.

On Armed Resistance

August 16, 2006

Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006

On Armed Resistance

The Naxalite rebellion has been a significant political movement
of our times. However, the growing displacement of open mass
activity by militaristic action in recent years has been a loss for
the movement. This article draws attention to some troubling
aspects of revolutionary violence – practical organisational
problems, serious ethical issues, a tendency to accord precedence
to the interests of the party over those of the people, and the
inherent failure of putting the movement’s social vision into
practice in the immediate.

By BELA BHATIA

“Saathiyon ke khoon se rangi rah par karna hoga aana jana…
(on the path coloured with the blood of our
comrades, we will have to come and go)”.

These lines of a song sung by the Naxalites in Bihar are laced with a
certain sadness, as well as resignation to the inevitability
of violence and bloodshed on their chosen
path of ‘viplav’ or ‘kranti’ – as revolution
is known in some Indian languages.

The communist revolutionaries, who gave birth to the Naxalite
movement following the Naxalbari uprising in 1967, have since
traversed a long-distance. Some of them had remained outside the fold
of the original Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
when it was formed on May 1, 1969. Those
who were inside the party then, later split for diverse reasons;
splits and mergers followed.

Today it is difficult to say how many CPI(ML) parties there are exactly.
These parties, along with those who had remained outside the original
CPI(ML), together form the Naxalite movement.

Revolution remains their common aim; however, there are differences
on questions of strategies and tactics. Thus, while
all acknowledge the need for armed resistance
at some stage, their present emphasis
on it varies.

While the CPI(Maoist) leads a largely underground existence, others
like CPI(ML) New Democracy are only partly underground, and still
others like CPI(ML) Liberation function openly.

The case for armed struggle has to be assessed not only on
theoretical grounds (e g, the necessity of violence for the
purpose of capturing state power), but also in the light of practical
experience. Since the Naxalite movement claims to be a
people’s movement, it has to be accountable
to the people, and thus, open to public
scrutiny.

It is with this motivation that I draw attention below to some of the
troubling aspects of revolutionary violence, based on my experience
while studying the Naxalite movement in Bihar, and to a lesser
extent Andhra Pradesh.

Practical Considerations

Foremost amongst the practical fallouts of resorting to violence as a
means of struggle is the organisational impact. An
organisation resorting to armed means has to adopt a certain kind of
organisational structure as well as processes. Such an
organisation can naturally not be as democratic
as it may otherwise want to be.

Instead, it needs a hierarchical and authoritarian structure on military
lines. Of necessity, it has to be a secret organisation
and guard this secrecy at all cost (including
developing “intelligence” within the organisation, punishing any
breach of discipline, etc). The political culture of such
an organisation is also oddly schizoid: camaraderie of an exceptional
type on the one hand, and deep suspicion (sometimes
leading to virulent action) on the other.

Underground existence also raises a range of problems. It means secret
hideouts, hide and seek with the police and intelligence
agencies, courier services, etc. Those who
are “sheltering” in the cities, towns or villages can live at best
uncertain lives. Life is all the more difficult for squad
members (called ‘dalam’ in Andhra Pradesh
and ‘dasta’ in Bihar).

Whether in the plains of Bihar or the forests of Andhra Pradesh,
in the face of ever-present danger they have to be on the move all the
time, and are often forced to lead a nocturnal existence. Squad
members face the threat not only of the
police and “class enemies” but also of
possible informers in their own fold. Their daily life has its share of
deprivations. They are almost totally dependent on the
people for their survival. And since most
of their supporters are poor, their food and
shelter tend to be very basic.1

Further, a political organisation which utilises arms has to acquire
the ability to procure, maintain and use these arms
purposefully and without compromising its principles.
Since the movement’s inception, the Naxalites have believed in
procuring their arms by raiding police
pickets and armouries.

A lot of energy and human lives have been lost in such actions,
sometimes with little result. In Bihar, I have personally known some
very fine young persons who lost their lives in such
raids. As the Naxalite organisations have
grown and state repression has intensified, aspiration for advanced
types of armaments has increased (even though they cannot
keep pace with the arsenal of the Indian
state). Advanced technology means more
money, high-level training, and dynamics
of a different kind.

For this again, compromises on principled politics are hard
to avoid. Since open funding for this purpose is not possible, the party has to
rely on other means such as “levies” on
private contractors and development funds. Often, “extortion” of
big money is also involved. A considerable proportion
of the material and human resources of
Naxalite organisations are used up in this process.2

Sometimes the use of violence helps to achieve a short-term gain,
but intensifies violence from the other side, triggering a
spiral of violence. Once this escalation process is in motion, it can
be very difficult to contain, and often goes out of control.

Retaliatory violence acquires a dynamics of its own, often out of
proportion with the issues at stake. In this respect, class war
has similar characteristics to other armed conflicts.
There are many historical examples of violence going massively out of
control through gradual escalation.

Even the first world war, which started with a single assassination
(in Sarajevo), is sometimes interpreted in those terms. In the
context of a revolutionary movement, the tit for tat process
sometimes takes over and retaliatory violence becomes the main focus
of the movement, displacing all other activities.
In the worst cases, revolutionary politics gives way to petty revenge.

Ethical Considerations

Aside from practical problems, the use of violence also raises
serious ethical issues. Even if violence is considered
justified in some circumstances, it is not possible to confine
armed struggle to these particular circumstances. For instance, even
if the killing of some “class enemies” can
be defended, armed struggle cannot be
confined to particular “targets”, and is bound to engulf other
people as well. Even the assassination of a particular class enemy
can easily lead to the death of innocent victims who are caught in
the crossfire or just killed by mistake.

Besides individual killings “by mistake”, there are instances
where a larger number of innocent people have been killed in a
Naxalite action (e g, the Kakatiya Express incident in Andhra
Pradesh and the recent explosion of a truck
in Chhattisgarh).

As mentioned above, armed conflicts also have a tendency to
escalate well beyond their intended boundaries.

Further, even if a revolutionary organisation is determined to avoid
killing innocents and make restrained use of violence, there is no
guarantee that the other side will do the same. Massacres of
the labouring poor (including women and
children) by caste senas in rural Bihar
illustrate the problem.

A related problem is that there is little respect for due process.
Even in the bourgeois social order, nobody is supposed to
be deprived of his or her life without the facts of the case being
considered in a court of law based on impartial norms. By
contrast, revolutionary movements, which
aim to uphold progressive values, sometimes
end up perpetrating killings and punishments where the same
persons (possibly low level cadres) are the petitioners,
witnesses, jury and executioners.

The killing of suspected police informers is a telling example of this
problem. When someone is suspected of being an
informer, the safety of the movement may demand that he or she
be killed, even if the suspicion is unconfirmed. If it is considered
appropriate to kill someone when
the chance of his or her being an informer is, say, 50 per cent,
this implies (by the “law of large numbers”) that when many
suspected informers are killed, about half
of them are actually innocent.

In some cases, the killing of innocents is extremely disturbing
from an ethical point of view. Consider, for instance, the
case of a mid-day meal cook in Karimnagar who was beaten to death
because she was suspected of being a police informer.3

Suppose that she was actually innocent. What possible ethical justification
can there be for beating a poor innocent mid-day
meal cook to death? In this instance, the family members were also
beaten up when they offered resistance. If the local people
knew her to be innocent, we can imagine
the impact that this incident might have on
them and on the local organisation.

Actions such as these might be easier to justify if there was a reliable
process, but the question is whether in politics of this
kind, which is largely underground, such
a process is possible?

If it is not, then we can only come to the conclusion that these
“mistakes” are an inevitable part of politics of this type. That a lot of
subjective judgment is involved cannot be denied. A young
woman in an Adilabad village explained
this to me further. She had “sheltered” me for two nights and I was
grateful for that. Giving that as an example, she talked about
how some closeness develops between the
‘annas’ (brothers; as the Naxalite cadres are known in Andhra
Pradesh) and those who may feed them. And soon the annas
may take any information provided by such persons as fact and act
upon it, while some hidden self-interests, old enmities,
etc, may well be involved.

It is disturbing that the Naxalite discourse seldom refers to the
ethical aspects of the use of violence. The premise seems to be
that “the end justifies the means”. As the
secretary of People’s War put it in a letter to the Committee of Concerned
Citizens, dated June 20, 1999: “The objectives and
aims of the struggle are much more important
than the forms and methods of the struggle. People will always have the
freedom to choose the form of struggle necessary for achieving the
objective.”4

The last statement can be read as a licence
for unaccountable violence. Sometimes the Naxalite discourse goes
further and glamorises violence as if it were a value
and a marker of revolutionary commitment.

Political Considerations

Much is expected from a political movement that aims to be
transformative. Most importantly that it should be able to
put into practice its own social vision. An important value that the
Naxalites have tried to uphold in this respect is equality.

Thus, it is but natural that the movement should be tested on this count.
Unfortunately, the Naxalite movement (not unlike
some other autonomous movements in India) in its intra-party
dynamics has not always been able to ensure equality in all
respects to its “weaker” constituents: dalits and women.
These and other political issues call for further discussion,
insofar as they relate to the use of violence
in various ways.

The dalit critique of the Naxalite movement has been more vocal
in Andhra Pradesh than elsewhere. Due to the
movement’s actions against big landlords and other feudal elements,
social oppression and untouchability have considerably
declined (in both Bihar and Andhra Pradesh). However, in recent
times questions have been raised by dalits from within
the party as well as observers of Naxalite
politics.

For instance, it has been pointed out that the hard and dangerous
work of handling guns is mainly done by dalits or
individuals from the lower castes and classes; therefore, those
who get killed are also mostly from these sections of society.

An additional charge is that while dalits and other disadvantaged
communities comprise the bulk of the Naxalite support
base, they are not adequately represented in the upper echelons of
the party leadership. Due to these and similar issues, the
Janashakti party in Andhra Pradesh underwent
a split in the second half of the 1990s.5

A similar criticism is also made regarding the position of women within the
movement. Even though women in the Naxalite movement have broken
their traditional boundaries, and their participation
has been significant (for example, the proportion of women in the
dalams in Andhra Pradesh is impressively high),
nevertheless, by and large, they have remained
invisible.

Like the dalits, women are almost negligible in leadership positions.
The Naxalite movement has not been able to vanquish patriarchy,
which permeates the functioning and ethos of the
movement. The violent nature of the movement has contributed
to this, since patriarchy and violence have much in
common and tend to reinforce each other.

The Naxalite movement has also shown that armed resistance in
the context of a class war does not always question violence
that emanates from patriarchal norms. For example, in Andhra
Pradesh, the number of dowry deaths is incredibly high,
but this has not become an urgent issue for
action in the Naxalite movement.

Similarly, armed struggle has affected the Naxalite movement’s
commitment to human rights. When we view the positive
contributions of the Naxalite movement, we could well describe it
as a movement for human rights. However, there are many
instances where the Naxalite movement
itself has abused human rights; almost all these instances are
excesses related
to violence. These excesses have also had a serious impact on
the image of the movement, making it possible for the state
and the media to ignore the socio-economic
causes that have given rise to Naxalite politics, disregard the
essential humanism that motivates the Naxalite
endeavour, and dismiss it summarily as an
“extremist” movement.

The spread of violence in Naxalite areas has also exacted a heavy
price in terms of development. Naxalite groups often oppose
various forms of development, such as the construction of roads,
which hamper their activities. Also, the overemphasis on violent
action and “war” with the police detract from other important issues
that the Naxalites could otherwise have taken up.

Naxalite areas are among the poorest in the country and there is
no dearth of essential demands to struggle for in these
areas – schools, electricity, water, health centres, etc. However,
these issues get eclipsed since most of the Naxalite groups
do not wish to engage with the present government except as an
enemy. Continuous conflict has also drastically reduced
the democratic space for other forms of struggle. For instance, in
Telangana villages, where direct state repression is
ruthless, anybody who dares to question
the government (even on basic issues such as water shortages or
a non-functional PDS) runs the risk of being labelled a Naxalite
and persecuted.

In Bihar, too, democratic space for non-violent struggle has been
considerably reduced with the spread of armed conflict.
Another downside of armed power is that it has led to corruption
in the ranks. At the local level, having a gun can make
the person seem immensely powerful in his own eyes as well as
in the eyes of others. Often, the squad members are young
in age and this “power” can go to their
heads. There have been instances where individuals have misused
such power for private gain. Likewise, attraction for armed
power may lead unprincipled individuals
to join the movement.

Such corruption is often hard to prevent by the party leadership,
as it is not always able to control what happens at the local level.
Also, those who implement the party line at the local level
are not always “imbibed” in the Marxist- Leninist ideology.
Some of them have formed gangs after running away with
party arms, and turned against the party itself (e g, Jagnandan
Yadav group in Bihar).

Thus, the fact that someone becomes a “Naxalite” is no
guarantee of principled behaviour on his or her part. In order for
the Naxalites to be truly Naxalite it is very
important that they be subject to critical public scrutiny,
especially by human rights defenders.

Last but not least, the use of violence affects the political culture
of the movement. For instance, intolerance amongst
the Naxalites towards those who hold a different political view has
made itself felt time and again. This can be observed not
only vis-a-vis political opponents from
mainstream political parties, but also towards
other Naxalite parties.

There is no dearth of instances of killings of sarpanchs
and MLAs in the former category, or of
internecine conflicts within the Naxalitefold.6

Intolerance, of course, is also found in non-violent movements,
but it cannot find expression in a violent response.
Instead, differences have to be settled through reasoned argument,
or through means that may remain “non-violent”
but are nevertheless non-respecting of
the opponent (such as disregarding, defaming, etc). However, since
these are non-violent means (though may also be
problematic if seen as expressions of
dominance or undemocratic behaviour) they cause less harm and hurt.

In a violent movement, on the other hand, intolerance
and violence feed on each other. The shortcut of violence fans
intolerance and even contributes to the making of somewhat
arrogant individual personalities and, over time, also colours the
organisation as a whole.7

Intolerance in turn finds expression in violent actions
(such as the liquidation of political rivals) that have nothing
to do with revolutionary struggle.

Party and People

There are many problematic aspects in
the relationship of the underground party
with the people. Many instances make us feel that for the Naxalites
the party is more important than the people. Sometimes the
focus on the party is so pronounced that
“party” seems to encapsulate “people” in the minds of the Naxalite
leaders. Whenever there is a conflict, the interests of the
party tend to be placed over those of the people, even though this may
entail neglecting what the people think and want.

For instance, even as far as the use of arms is concerned, people
often defend their decision to take up arms by saying that
“the government does not listen to us otherwise”.

However, the very same people also get tired of endless strife.
In fact, the leaders of the People’s War (PW) in Andhra
Pradesh clearly admitted that “the people want peace” as a reason
for engaging in peace talks with the government in 2004.

However, after the peace talks broke down and the ceasefire came
to an end in January 2005, the CPI (Maoists) (formed by then
as a result of a merger between People’s War and the Maoist
Communist Centre) had soon forgotten this – as was evident
in the spate of killings from both sides (roughly equal in number)
in the following months.8

In Andhra Pradesh, this constant strife (encounters and counter killings)
has led to a situation where the people feel that they are caught
between the state and the Naxalites.
It is ironic that a movement which promises
“liberation” can actually end up making people less free in some ways.

Joining the movement entails repercussions of diverse kinds: being a
“target” of the state and the social forces the movement
is struggling against; the danger of being implicated in legal cases
through false charges which are not small by any
means (e g, for murder), not being able to
lead even a semblance of a normal family
life, etc.

Joining Naxalite politics is basically inviting danger, death
and destruction on oneself and one’s family,
sometimes even the community. In spite of these difficulties, it is a
fact that the Naxalites have been able to elicit the
support of the poor in the areas they
have operated in.

However, it can be argued that perhaps many more would have
joined or supported the movement if it was less taxing.
Besides, the dynamics of the movement are such that often it
becomes difficult to know whether the people are in it voluntarily
or involuntarily.

At times, the people find themselves trapped in circumstances
that make it difficult to leave the movement.
For once one is labelled as a Naxalite it is difficult to return to
normal existence or even a life relatively free from suspicion,
fear and death. Also, if they have
participated in a Naxalite action and get
charged, the poor become more dependent
on the party to fish them out, as they are
not able to deal with the police and the courts on their own.
Thus, they may remain in the party because they need the
party’s protection.

If they do leave the party, they are constantly harassed by the state,
and made to prove their neutrality in various ways.
For example, the government may ask them to sign a register in
the local police station every week, give them election
duty on polling booths during election
time, make them run errands like rounding up the villagers when a
government official comes, etc. However, even if they
cooperate with the local officials, they
remain in the black book of the police and
are never above suspicion.

Often, such “surrendered” Naxalites are forced to join
some other political formation that is more
acceptable to the state, such as a mainstream
political party, so that they can discard their old identity and
find protection in a new one. Some end up doing what
the police ask them to do, involuntarily or
even voluntarily: they become police informers,
coverts, or members of a vigilante
group.

Some of them are also harassed by the party, and this pushes
them further into the clutches of the police.
The problematic relation between the
party and the people also manifests itself
in similar problems between Naxalite
parties and their “open fronts”. People who join these open
fronts do so on the basis of the manifestos of these fronts, which are
committed to basic rights as enshrined in
the Indian Constitution.

However, these
fronts are not as “autonomous” as they perhaps think to begin
with, for the link with the party is vital. This link has proved
positive at times, for example when the
party offers “protection” to mass fronts at
open mass meetings (in Bihar, labourers did not even have a right to
hold a meeting, as this was enough to affront the landlords),
or acts in other ways as a ‘suraksha
dasta” (protection squad).

However, the link between party and open fronts also has
many problematic dimensions. For instance,
if a peasant front is engaged in a
struggle for ceiling surplus land, and the party decides to “annihilate”
the landlord, the state is likely to target the members of
the open front since they are the only
visible actors.

Thus, members of the mass front pay the price for actions taken by the
underground party, even if the party owns up to its actions
(e g, through leaflets) as it usually does. In that sense the
“vanguard” party lets the people bear the
brunt of its actions (which are undertaken
on behalf of the people, but without their
knowledge and consent).

The basis of struggle by a mass movement as the notion of “rights”.
When arms are used, even though the use of arms aims to affirm
rights and may do so, it also generates other dynamics. For
example, it generates fear. The opponent
is forced to yield, not because he or she has acknowledged
the right and gives in to the collective power of the
people who are claiming it, but often out
of fear.

Likewise, arms also give power. Yes, in some ways they do give power
to the people. However, this is an “external” power, which is there
only as long as arms are there. When they are not, the
individuals or the social group are in a
weaker and more vulnerable position than
before. Moreover, such a power is not democratic, e g, it is not
and cannot be decentralised. Control does not rest amongst
the people but in more specialised agencies.

Thus, arms make the people dependent on these external agencies
and do not prepare them to fight on the basis of their
own strength.

Concluding Remarks

Something that was once beautiful may not be beautiful
now – “…time and bad conditions do not favour beauty,” reminds
Ngugi.9

The story of the Naxalite movement on the ground certainly has
had beautiful aspects and inspiring moments. However, the
use of violence has taken a heavy toll. The downside of
violence has been so wide-ranging that it
may well end up negating what the
Naxalites stand for.

The Naxalite movement has been a significant political movement
of our times. Individual Naxalites, including many
exceptionally fine human beings who have lost their lives at the
altar of revolution, have been an inspiring example of idealism,
sacrifice and commitment. Politically, the movement has
raised important questions regarding India’s democracy and
underlined the need to bring about “a people’s democracy”.

There have also been significant practical achievements in specific
areas: curbing of feudal practices and social oppression;
confiscation and redistribution of ceiling surplus land; more
equitable access to village commons;
higher agricultural wages; elimination of
the stranglehold of landlords, moneylenders,
and contractors; protection from harassment by forest department
officials and the police; heightened political consciousness
and empowerment of the poor,
amongst others.

The question remains whether the same results could not have
been achieved through non-violent or at least less violent
means.10

In the Naxalite movement, the inevitability of violence tends to
be taken for granted on the grounds that there is no
other way of overthrowing the state. In practice, however, the
movement has, for the most part, not been involved in overthrowing
the state but in practical struggles
for land, wages, dignity, democratic rights and related goals that
can be pursued no less effectively through open mass movements.
In fact, it is worth noting that the success and popularity of the Naxalite
movement itself owes more to the achievements
of its open mass movements than
to armed action.

The growing displacement of open mass movements by militaristic
action in recent years has been a loss for the movement, not a gain.
The preceding argument should not be read as a condemnation of all violence.

I agree with Noam Chomsky that
“No person of understanding or humanity will too quickly condemn
violence that often occurs when long subdued masses rise
against their oppressors or take their first
steps towards liberty and social reconstruction.”
11

However, it is one thing to acknowledge that the downtrodden may
resort to violence in situations of acute crisis or oppression. It is another to endorse
organised violence. Perhaps the time has come to revive the more humane
approach advocated by

Bhagat Singh: “Use of force justifiable when
resorted to as a matter of terrible necessity: non-violence
as a policy indispensable for all mass
movements.”12

Email: bela@csdsdelhi.org

Notes

[An earlier version of this paper was presented in
an internal discussion of People’s Union for
Democratic Rights (PUDR). I am thankful for the
comments received and the critical questions raised.
I am grateful also to fellow travellers in Bihar and
Andhra Pradesh who have helped me in myriad
ways to understand the reality.]

1 The lives of guerrilla fighters have inspired
many writings; see, for example, Anderson
(1992).

2 Revolutionary groups in other countries have
also used extortion and other illegal means of
getting funds with similar dilemmas. This also
emerged in a talk I had with a former party
leader of Peru’s Sendero Luminoso (Shining
Path), who related how when in his teens he
first joined the party, the work during the day
mainly involved petty theft, e g, pick-pocketing,
stealing watches, looting banks, etc, in order
to garner funds for the party. (Interview, Leiden,
February 11, 2006.)

3 ‘Maoists Beat Woman to Death’, NDTV report,
August 15, 2005.

4 Mahesh (1999).

5 This is not to overlook the fact that when these
very disadvantaged communities (for example,
the Musahars in Bihar), who had so far always
been at the receiving end of repressive violence,
were first given guns, it did make them feel
empowered in a certain way. However, this
initial empowerment was followed by the highs
and lows of violent struggle, and the dalit
critique has to be viewed in the light of this
overall experience.

6 In Andhra Pradesh, for example, after the
breakdown of the peace process in January
2005 nearly 40 sarpanchs had been killed by
the second week of March [Kannabiran 2005].
In Bihar, internecine killings have plagued the
movement since the mid-1980s. It is only in
the last couple of years that there has been some
respite.

7 The same attitude of intolerance contributes to
discouraging dissent and debate within the
party.

8 Estimate provided by the Human Rights Forum,
Hyderabad.

9 See Ngugi 1964.

10 In this context, the concept of ‘shantimaita’
is an important one. In contrast with
‘ahimsa’, which does not envisage or allow
any violence, shantimaita commits itself to
peacefulness and non-violence but does not
rule out the possibility of violence erupting in
situations of severe social and political
upheaval. This concept was introduced by
Jayaprakash Narayan and was practised by the
Chatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini in Bodhgaya
from 1978 onwards.

11 Chomsky 1970, p 40.

12 Singh 1930, p 15.

References

Anderson, J L (1992): Guerrillas: The Inside Stories
of the World’s Revolutionaries, HarperCollins,
London.

Chomsky, Noam (1970, 2005): Government in the
Future, Leftword, Delhi.

Kannabiran, K G (2005): ‘Vempenta Killings and
Maoists’, Deccan Herald, March 11.

Mahesh (1999): ‘Which Way Is Your Journey’,
letter to the Committee of Concerned
Citizens; reprinted in the Third Report of the
Committee of Concerned Citizens, Hyderabad,
2002.

Ngugi, Wa Thiong’o (1964): Weep Not, Child,
Heinemann, London.

Singh, Bhagat (1930, 2003): Why I Am An Atheist,
Samkaleen Prakashan, Patna.

Maoism in India

August 15, 2006

Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006

Maoism in India

Ideology, Programme and Armed Struggle

In spite of its expansion to new areas and a remarkable increase
in its military capabilities and striking power, the Maoist
movement led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) faces a
political-organisational crisis of sorts. The Maoists’ goals – the
building of a “mighty mass movement against imperialism”, isolating
and defeating the Hindutva-fascist forces, and building a “powerful
urban movement, particularly of the working class” as complementary
to armed agrarian struggle remain as elusive as ever. At a more
theoretical level, the programme and strategic-tactical line of the
CPI (Maoist) seem inadequate in coping with the complex Indian
reality in a changed international situation, and in the context of
the worldwide severe setback that socialism has suffered.

By TILAK D GUPTA

Addressing a meeting of the standing committee of the chief ministers
of the six Naxalite affected states on April 13 this year,
prime minister Manmohan Singh argued that factors such
as exploitation, artificially depressed wages, iniquitous socio-political
circumstances, inadequate employment opportunities,
lack of access to resources, underdeveloped agriculture,
geographical isolation and lack of land reforms contributed
to the growth of Naxalite movement (The
Hindu, New Delhi, April 14, 2006).

Manmohan Singh was really not far-off the mark, given the
agrarian programme of the Communist Party of India (Maoist),
the strongest Naxalite formation in the country. That the Indian
prime minister was in the same breath talking about setting
up specialised forces on the lines of Andhra Pradesh’s ‘Greyhounds’, is, of
course, a separate question that we shall come back to, later on.

Agrarian Programme

For the moment let us rather refer to the programme of the CPI (Maoist)
adopted during its formation in September 2004,
through the merger of CPI-ML (People’s War) and Maoist Communist
Centre to see how it responds to the issues raised by
Manmohan Singh.

The Maoist programme pledges that once a new people’s democratic
state is established by accomplishing the Indian revolution, “it would redistribute
land among landless-poor peasants
and agricultural labourers on the basis of the slogan ‘land to the tillers’
and ensure the equal right of women over the ownership
of land”.

Next, the programme promises to “ensure all facilities for agricultural
development, guarantee a remunerative price for agricultural produce
and wherever possible encourage the development of agricultural
cooperatives” (CPI (Maoist) Party Programme, published in Hindi by
the Central Committee (Provisional), CPI (Maoist),
September 21, 2004, translation ours).

Once we note the Maoist plans regarding land reforms and overcoming
of underdevelopment in agriculture, we may take a
look at its proscriptions regarding the twin problems of depressed
wages and inadequate employment opportunities.

According to the CPI (Maoist) programme it would
“implement an eight-hour work day, increase the wage rate, abolish
the contract labour system and child labour, provide social security and
safe working conditions and, in order to guarantee equal wages
for equal work, will abolish discrimination in wages on the basis of sex”.

Further, it will “guarantee the right to work as a fundamental right and
move towards eliminating unemployment. It would introduce
an unemployment allowance and social insurance and guarantee improved living
conditions for the people.”

As for the question of geographical isolation, raised by the Indian prime
minister, the programme promises to “take special
measures to proceed towards the elimination
of regional inequalities” (Ibid).

Without detaining ourselves in detailing the various other
measures promised by the Maoists to address the problems raised
by Manmohan Singh, suffice it to say that though neoliberal pundits
might grumble about public finance for the unemployment
allowance or warn us about the danger of inflation due to rise in wages, a large
chunk of the Indian political class should
have nothing much to quarrel about these
Maoist objectives, if we go by their election
manifestos and political documents.

To tell the truth, there is not much of difference between the
CPI (Maoist) programme and that of some other communist
parties functioning within the
country’s parliamentary democratic system
so far as the clauses related to land reforms, fair wage for labour,
recognition of the right to work as a fundamental right,
improvement of farming methods, removal
of gender discrimination in matters of wage and the right to
ownership of land, and the promotion of peasant cooperatives.

To cite an instance, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in its
updated programme also commits to “abolish landlordism by implementing
radical land reforms and give land free of cost to the agriculture labour and
poor peasants”
(CPI(M) Programme, New Delhi, March 2001).

This is not to suggest that no programmatic differences exist
between the Maoists on the one hand and the so-called
mainstream communist parties on the other.

Far from it, there are major dissimilarities between the two.
But that merits a separate discussion on another occasion. Here our
limited purpose is to argue a couple of
points. For one, it is necessary to stress that the Maoists do have a
political agenda of their own, including an agrarian programme
that they seek to implement by armed struggle. This needs to be
emphasised because a media that thrives on sex, violence
and crime has succeeded in projecting the Maoists as armed bandits
without any political and socio-economic
programme for the future.

But the Maoists themselves are no less responsible for such
a projection as they too seem to be more eager to propagate their
armed path of revolution than their revolutionary aims.

And it goes without saying that their political adversaries and those
in charge of counter-insurgency operations will see
to it that the Maoists are denied all legal and open opportunities
to publicise their immediate and long-term objectives.

Second, it seems ironical that though the government’s diagnosis
of the agrarian problems faced by the rural poor appears
to be deceptively similar to that made by the Maoists, the two are
locked in a violent conflict across large tracts of south central
and east India.

However, once we look at the abysmal record of the Indian governing
circles in effecting agrarian reforms in favour of the rural poor,
the illusion begins to get separated from the reality. If we
ignore the official rhetoric about land reforms
(the union home minister’s policy note tabled in March this year
on tackling the Naxalite problem also, just for the sake
of the record, identifies land reforms as a priority area)
and check the facts, it becomes evident that even the mild and halfhearted
pro-poor agrarian reforms very
tardily executed in most states have by and
large ended by the early 1980s. More to the point, the people at
the helm of country’s economic affairs consider the land reforms
legislation of yesteryears as institutional constraints either for
the flow of agribusiness investment to the rural areas
or for acquiring agricultural, homestead and forestlands for a
variety of nonagricultural purposes. In today’s scenario,
official land reform measures have come to mean diluting old
land reforms legislation further to facilitate acquisition of
land inhabited or cultivated by sharecroppers, tenants and
owner peasants.

Militant Struggles in Backward Regions

If the days of government intervention for land reforms from
above are virtually over, the pressures from below for agrarian
change are not too strong either on an all- India plane.

This is partly because peasant unity against landlordism is not viable any
more and growing unavailability of surplus land, particularly in
relatively developed areas of agriculture, limits the scope
for land struggles.

But the land and other agrarian issues of the rural poor are much
more alive in the comparatively backward regions. However, the major
left parties functioning within the parliamentary
framework have chosen not to concentrate in such areas and develop
sustained and militant struggles on agrarian issues concerning
the poorest of the poor.

And here, the CPI (Maoist) and some other Naxalite
organisations have come to play a significant role in partially filling this void.
As we see it, the major Naxalite contribution to Indian politics is that
they have kept alive the agrarian demands of the rural
poor through persistent but not-always successful struggles at
the ground level. Even the occasional official lip-service to
land reforms perhaps would not have come but for their initiatives
in this regard in some of the most backward regions where
either adivasis in the forests suffer at the hands of the trader-contractor-
moneylender nexus or the dalit and “other backward
class” (OBC) agricultural labourers and very poor peasants are
cruelly oppressed and exploited by bigger landowners and
rich farmers.

And these are the regions where the local powerful cliques, backed
by government officials and the police, often respond with naked
violence to even most innocuous and lawful demands of the
powerless poor. And here again, Maoist insistence on armed
resistance to counter the violence of the oppressors has appealed
to a large section of the oppressed and impoverished population.
In some regions of the country the rural labouring classes
of OBC or even dalit origin could use the parliamentary space to
strengthen themselves to an extent vis-à-vis the traditional
rural overlords.

But in many other regions and states they could not. And as for the
adivasis, the picture is indeed much gloomier. Thus, if the battles of
the rural wretched of the earth in the plains of Bihar or Telangana
target both class exploitation and caste oppression,
struggles in Dandakaranya or those in the Jharkhand forests seek to
combine class demands with that of selfidentity, dignity and
autonomy for the marginalised minority nationalities.

The CPI (Maoist) effort to help the adivasi peasantry or
dalit labouring classes in some very backward regions to emerge as an
independent political force freed from the influence of the affluent
landowning classes does represent a step forward in
democratising Indian society.

But given India’s vast population, such Maoist experiments
cover only a small part of it. Yet the centre is worried that the “Naxal menace
now extends to a dozen states” and has
“spread to nearly 40 per cent of the country’s
geographical area, with the affected population
going up to 35 per cent” (The Hindu,
Delhi, April 15, 2006).

Earlier in November 2005, the union home minister, Shivraj
Patil was telling the Indian Parliament that in states like Jammu and
Kashmir and the north-east, we have been largely successful
in bringing down terrorism but not so much in dealing with Naxalites”
(see The Hindu, Delhi, November 30, 2005).

While we may note in passing that Delhi, for whatever reasons,
tries to distinguish between terrorism and Naxalism, it is sparing
no efforts to tackle the “Naxal menace”
by marshalling the brutal greyhounds.

The prime minister as well as the union home minister now labels
Naxalism as the biggest security threat to the country. The
gearing up of military style actions by the
CPI (Maoist) as well the planning and execution of an intensified
counter-insurgency operation by the Maoist-affected
states with central backing and supervision
have also generated renewed interest regarding
Maoist ideology, politics and military capabilities in
political and academic circles.

Ideology and Politics

Briefly speaking, the CPI (Maoist) accepts Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
as its guiding ideology and is committed to completing a
“new democratic revolution” in India before passing on
to achieve its socialist goal. The revolution, says a press
statement at the time of founding the new
party, will be carried out and completed through an armed agrarian
revolutionary war, i e, protracted people’s war with the
armed struggle for seizure of power as its central and principal task.

The statement adds that the countryside as well as protracted
people’s war will remain as the “centre of gravity” of the party’s work,
while urban work will be complementary to it.

The revolution will remain directed against imperialism, feudalism
and “comprador bureaucratic capitalism”. The party also
supports the “struggle of the nationalities for self-determination,
including the right to secession and the fight against social
oppression, particularly ‘untouchability’
and ‘casteism’ and will pay special attention to mobilising and
organising women as a mighty force of revolution”.

Three brief observations require to be made here. One, the party
has added Maoism to be a part of their guiding ideology
without any convincing argument to justify it. Two, they have
heavily borrowed the strategy and aims of the revolution
from that of Chinese revolution completed 56 years ago and no
serious lessons have been drawn from the great setback to the
international communist movement, the collapse of socialism,
the big changes in the national and international situation
and the specificity of the Indian political system and economy.

Three, the press statement as well as the CPI (Maoist) documents
are keener to highlight the violent nature of its revolution than
the revolutionary aims. So we know how they propose to
seize power through armed struggle but remain less aware
about what they would do after the capture of power.

And that only reinforces its prevailing image more
as a guerrilla formation with considerable military might rather
than a political party with clear-cut short and long term
objectives.

As we have noted earlier, despite its shaky ideological foundation,
dated political programme and a tendency to glorify
violence instead of treating it as a necessary evil, the CPI (Maoist)
enjoys a large mass following that is not much visible to
the outside world beyond its core area.

This is because no other political party in the country has taken
up the cause of the rural poor with such single-minded zeal
and devotion. Although according to official sources it has spread
its influence to 12 states, its real strongholds are in parts
of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa among the
adivasi peasantry and dalit labouring
classes in particular. However, the party and the various mass
organisations it has built have been banned by the governments
in all these Maoist-affected states and they are unable to openly
organise any propaganda or agitation on popular demands.

The Maoists in Andhra Pradesh were, however, able to show
their popular support when they were briefly allowed legality
during peace talks with the government in
July-October 2004. During that period they organised a series of
large rural meetings and three massive rallies at Warangal,
Hyderabad and Guntur that were widely
reported in the Andhra Pradesh media as well as a section of
the national media.

The ban on the CPI (Maoist) and its affiliated mass fronts was
reimposed in Andhra Pradesh after the failed peace talks.
The union home minister had also informed Parliament that there
would be no further peace talks with the Maoists unless they agree
to abjure violence.

Several press reports indicate that the Maoists, too, are currently
in no mood to reopen peace negotiations. Given such hardening of
positions on both sides, the chances are that the armed conflict
between the Maoist guerrilla formations
and the police and central paramilitary forces (CPMF) would
continue to escalate in the days to come.

As it is, the Maoists have significantly raised the scale of their
military operations during the last couple of years. Land mining
of police and CPMF vans and buses and ambushes on large patrols apart,
they have made daring raids on district headquarter
towns in Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar to
take away huge quantities of arms and ammunition and break
jails to free their comrades. But many innocent lives have
been lost when civilian transport had been
mistakenly land mined, particularly in Chhattisgarh.
Besides, some democratic personages sympathetic to the people’s
cause have criticised the Maoist method
of killing those perceived as police informers
or traitors.

It does appear that because of its obsession with armed struggle and
unavailability of democratic space for spreading its message and extending
the movement through open and broad mobilisation
of the people, the CPI (Maoist) is willynilly becoming more and
more dependent on armed actions to intensify the struggle.

The “Greyhounds” – the specially trained commando wing of the
Andhra Pradesh police, notorious for its ruthless killings
of Maoists and their sympathisers, mostly in fake encounters -
best illustrate the government response to the Maoist insurgency.

Much has already been written about those so-called encounter
killings to show that these are not isolated aberrations on
the part of some trigger-happy individual police personnel but a
deliberate and planned state policy of annihilation of
individuals.

The Greyhounds are said to be a law unto themselves and have the
requisite political backing to defy the directives of the Andhra
Pradesh high court and those of the National Human Rights
Commission. Unfortunately, however, the
Indian prime minister has chosen to cite
such a lawless band of policemen as a
model to be emulated by other states affected
by the “Naxalite problem”.

Even more ominous is the fact that
the centre has now made a policy decision to promote
local resistance groups against Maoists, and if the experience of
Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh is any indication, such promotion
is tantamount to the building and arming of a lumpen force,
headed by the non-tribal contractor-trader-middleman
clique that has oppressed and exploited the adivasis over the ages.

And, as the Salwa Judum operation makes clear, it is also a
sure prescription for intensifying civil strife
and violence to an unprecedented degree.

Political-Organisational Crisis

At any rate, our reading of the Maoist movement suggests that
in spite of its expansion to new areas and a remarkable
increase in its military capabilities and striking power, it faces a
politicalorganisational crisis of sorts. First of all, the CPI (Maoist)
leadership must be acutely conscious that some of the goals they have
set for themselves, like building a “mighty
mass movement against imperialism”, isolating and defeating
“dangerous Hindu fascist forces” and building a “powerful
urban movement, particularly of the working
class” as complementary to armed agrarian struggle remain as
elusive as ever.

Second, deprived of legal and open opportunities for propaganda and
agitation they find it extremely difficult to launch largescale
mass movements and demonstrations even in areas where they
still have considerable popular support.

And, at a more theoretical level, the inadequacies of their
programme and strategic-tactical line in coping with the complex
Indian reality in a changed international situation must be
slowly becoming clearer to them in the course of their arduous struggle
over the years.

For instance, a re-look at the agrarian scenario would instantly reveal
that the typical Indian countryside is neither
Dandakaranya nor Saranda forest and the question of wage,
year-round employment and disastrous anti-farmer policies under
the WTO framework are increasingly competing with the land
issue to catch political attention.

If the Naxalites, including the CPI (Maoist), have been the staunchest
allies so far of those landless underdogs threatened by starvation in
backward regions, now comes the challenge to take up
the issue of suicides by landed farmers as well in a purposeful way.

It is also perhaps time to remember that when Marx was stressing
the inevitability of violence for a revolutionary transformation
of society, he was predicting violence not preaching it.

As the late D D Kosambi once famously put it, those
who accuse that Marxism is based upon violence might
“as well proclaim that meteorology encourages storms by predicting
them”. It may not be out of place over here to recall the view of the
Chinese Communist Party (CPC) delegation headed by Mao
Zedong concerning Nikita Krushchev’s line
of peaceful transition from capitalism to
socialism at the 1957 Moscow meeting of
world’s communist and workers parties.

The CPC delegation in a note to the meeting suggested that without
over-emphasisingthe possibility of peaceful transition, and
especially regarding the possibility of seizing power by winning
a majority in parliament, “it would be more flexible to
refer to the two possibilities, peaceful
transition and non-peaceful transition, than
to just one, and this would place us in a
position where we can have the initiative
politically at any time”.
(‘Outline of Views on the Question of Peaceful Transition by
the CPC Delegation at the Moscow Meeting’,
November 10, 1957.)

Nevertheless, it may be safely anticipated that Naxalism or
Maoism would continue to remain an attractive proposition
to tens of millions of our impoverished and oppressed masses
so long as the unfinished business of agrarian reforms
and solution to elementary livelihood problems remain
incomplete in vast parts of India. The massive transfer of forest and
agricultural land planned by various state
governments for developing industry,
mining, infrastructure facilities, as well as
for agribusiness, may only add fuel to the Maoist fire.

Be it Punjab or UP in the north, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal in the
east, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the south or Chhattisgarh in
central India, the signals are all there of an impending land
transfer from peasant ownership to the
corporate sector.

More pertinently, as the executive, the police and leading political
functionaries act together to silence the most legitimate and
peaceful movements of, say, industrial workers in Gurgaon or
evictees in Kalinganagar or Sardar Sarovar, often, by brute force,
the temptation to adopt non-peaceful means can only grow
in future.

This can be one explanation for the spread of the CPI (Maoist) influence
in so many states within a short period. The recent emergence of the
Nepal’s Maoists as the hill country’s leading
political force in the course of a 10-year old armed insurgency
and their subsequent decision to uphold multi-party democracy
and competitive electoral politics, of course,
adds a new dimension to the discussions
on Maoism in India.

The CPI (Maoist) is possibly the only political party in India,
which has consistently supported the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
and had close fraternal links with it when the
People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre
had a separate existence. That Nepal’s top Maoist leader,
Prachanda, in an interview to an Indian newspaper rather
gratuitously advises that his party’s line of multi-party democracy
also applies to Maoist movement in India, only complicates the matter.

As we have mentioned earlier, the case
for revising the ideological-political line
and the strategy and tactics of the CPI (Maoist) is quite potent
by itself because of the changed international situation and
above all due to the major worldwide setback to socialism.

But no self-respecting and sovereign political party would be
willing to listen to unsolicited advice conveyed via the mainstream
media by the party of another land.

This, however, concerns the question of upholding the principle
of fraternal relations between communist parties of two
different countries and may not be that
important for us. What is definitely of much greater
political significance is how the left parties in India decipher the message
emanating from the revolutionary practice of Nepal’s Maoists.

Expectedly, the left parties functioning within the Indian
parliamentary democratic framework highlight only the
changed stance of CPN (Maoist) but remain silent about
the reasons behind its success in changing the balance of forces in Nepal in
favour of the left within a short span.

This is understandable because these parties have labelled
Nepal’s Maoist insurgency as “terrorist activities of Maoist ultras” even
after the February royal coup d’etat
(see People’s Democracy, February 13, 2005).

And while most of the Indian left was backing the CPN (UML) demand
for just restoration of Parliament, the CPN(Maoist) fought
almost single-handed to win popular support for its revolutionary
slogan of convening a constituent assembly.

India, undoubtedly, is a much more economically developed country than
Nepal, with a political system that enjoys greater legitimacy than
what the Indian Maoists would like to believe. While it
would be absurd to replicate the model of
Maoist insurgency of Nepal in vastly
different Indian conditions, the lessons from
that landlocked country, both negative and positive, need to be
deeply understood by all sections of the Indian left. Whereas the
Indian Maoists may have to learn something
from the CPN (Maoist) way of advancing popular political slogans
at different junctures of the rebellion led by it by grasping
the mood of the people, other sections of
Indian left may also have other things to
learn from Nepal’s Maoists.

As we read a smug report in an Indian left organ about
the seven-party alliance’s “major success
with the mainstreaming, so to say, of the
rebels”, in Nepal (People’s Democracy, April 16, 2006)
it does seem that some major left parties are still not even ready
to understand what is mainstream and what
is not in Nepal at this point of time, what
to talk of learning from Nepal.

Email: tilak_d_gupta@hotmail.com


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