July 29, 2009

"There could be no quarter given to this disruptive violence that the Maoists are engaged in.": PRAKASH KARAT

On the 6th of November, 2009, Left View conducted a discussion recently on the Maoists' Role in India Today featuring the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat and eminent economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof. Jayati Ghosh.The meeting was chaired by Prabir Purkayastha of the Delhi Science Forum.

Full text of the Prakash Karat's speech:

We are discussing about the role of Maoists in India today...
If we have to understand the present role, we have to go back a bit into the history of the Maoist movement in India.

Right from the beginning, the Naxalite movement which emerged in the late 60s, claimed that it was the genuine Marxist revolutionary force in India and it was the only Marxist Leninist organisation which can mobilise the people to overthrow the Indian state and liberate the Indian people from feudalism and imperialist exploitation.

When we look back at the 40 years history of Naxalism in India, we should not be surprised that such a phenomenon arose in India. Because in every country where the left movement has existed or grown, we have seen the emergence of left sectarian and left sectarian anarchist trends and much before all these happened in India in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, Lenin analysing the rise of left sectarianism in the international communist movement had zeroed in to the essence of the problem and it was Lenin who had said, ‘A petty bourgeois driven to frenzy by the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which like anarchism is characteristic of all countries.’

So, particularly in countries like India, which are predominantly petty bourgeois in character where capitalism had begun to develop, you had this phenomenon of some strata of the petty bourgeoisie who, having experienced the horrors of capitalism get into the frenzy of activity, which generally ends up in sectarian adventurist violence and it is very important to understand this. Because now in our country, when the activities of the Maoist party are being talked about, the tendencies of our recent experiences with terrorism is to characterise these organisation as terrorist. Yes, in some sense, this organisation resorts to terroristic attacks and violence. But it is fundamentally wrong to label the Maoist groups and parties into a terrorist organisation. Because what do the 40 years of history show of such left sectarian activities in our country.

First of all, what is their ideology and what is their world view. They situate themselves within the Marxist framework, they claim. And it is on the basis of a Marxist approach that they view our society and the world. But what is their worldview today? What little I can find and read about what they say about the world today... they think that South Asia is on the verge of a great revolutionary upsurge. That the national liberation movements in South Asia are forging ahead and they draw a comparison–they say that today in the world, West Asia is the focus of the national struggles against imperialism. And next to West Asia, South Asia is the centre- the hotbed.

But what is the reality today? Jayati Ghosh just referred to it. What is happening in south Asia? We have Pakistan... which everybody knows is a subordinate ally of the USA. The Pakistani state at present, cannot survive without sustenance of the USA. The US has gained India as a major strategy ally...it is entrenched in Bangladesh, it is entrenching itself in Sri Lanka and so on. And imperialism and NATO is waging a war in Afghanistan. But apart from that, is this South Asia a focal point for resurgent fight against imperialism and the people in these countries are on the verge of overthrowing their comprador ruling classes and thereby also imperialism?

The essence of Maoist ideology and polity today is that they are divorced of reality. That’s why when they talk of West Asia, they see the Islamist fundamentalist forces...they see the Taliban and the other forces that are there in west Asia and in Afghanistan as their allies in the fight against imperialism. In fact they say it is a setback... the offensive against Islamic/jehadist forces in Swat Valley in Pakistan...and the Pakistani Army actions in FATA and south Waziristan... all these places are considered as centres for the anti-imperialist national liberation struggle. And that is why the Maosits are very upset when the LTTE was militarily defeated and crushed and their leader Prabhakaran was killed. They see that as another setback in South Asia in their fight against imperialism. So this is a very warped view to consider the LTTE as a national liberation struggle against imperialism. An LTTE which went about systematically eliminating all democratic and left struggles within the Tamil polity and society within Sri Lanka...which decided to institute an authoritarian military setup within the Tamil speaking areas. Its downfall is seen as a great setback... while we view it as something which was necessary to start rebuilding a strong democratic movement within the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

So, just as their worldview is totally distorted and warped... as far as India is concerned...they have always talked about the comprador ruling classes of India... But what actually has happened is...their ideology is comprador and their outlook is comprador. They borrowed wholesale what was being put out by the Communist Party of China in a period when the CPC was itself in the grip of left sectarianism. In the period of the so called, Great Cultural Revolution. If you look at all the concepts which they have, they find their origins in the period of left sectarianism and adventurism. Lin Biao is long past gone and dead, but Lin Biaoism flourishes in India in one sense. It is the same Naxalite groups when they splintered...there was a pro-Lin Biao group and an anti-Lin Biao group. In fact one of the leaders of the pro-Lin Biao group, who resides in Calcutta today, is the most effective critique of the Maoist politics, practice and party today. SO, it is that outmoded and warped and distorted ideology which still drives them.

What is the outcome of that? When you say India is a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country, you deny what is happened in India, what exists in India in terms of classes; and you deny that India has one of the strongest bourgeoisies of all the countries that got liberation in the 20th century. India has developed a strong capitalist base and state; it denies that state. It denies the development of capitalism in agriculture. Here's a party which talks about being the revolutionary vanguard which has no place for the working class!

Theoretically also, it cannot conceive of that working class because they don't have that type of capitalism developed in India. Neither will you see in all their political pronouncements, statements and practices, any place for the working class. Of course, sourcing themselves, basing themselves from Maoism, they talk about the peasantry... how the peasant classes are marching toward the revolutionary path. But if you look at them carefully, there is hardly any place where they have developed a strong peasant movement. I am talking about the current Maoist party. The only place where they have been active and they have been able to succeed in mobilising some people are in the tribal areas. Whether it is the tribal areas in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, parts of Orissa, Bihar or in the efforts now in the three bordering districts in West Bengal adjoining Jharkhand or the little pocket in Maharashtra in Gadchiroli–they are all tribal dominated areas in the most remote, hilly and thickly forested terrain. Which are most backward in terms of development, communication and where it is possible it is possible to maintain or sustain to some extent armed squads and guerillas taking shelter in this type of terrain. But where is the great revolutionary movement based on the working class and the peasantry...that is outside their realm of thinking. In fact they make no distinction where they are operating, when they are talking about the annihilation of the class enemies...which is not new and present since the original Naxalite movement...particularly after they failed to mobilise the peasantry of West Bengal...they switched to the tactics of annihilation of the class enemy. And you find that their main targets are policemen, ordinary policemen and many of the people whom they kill are those they claim are agents of the state or informers to the police...most of the people are ordinary people.

What has happened is...over a period of years and years of this style of sectarian adventurist politics...they rely purely on their armed squads and their guns and other weapons. And today if they are able to operate in these areas, they have also tried these earlier in Andhra Pradesh... it is after their debacle in AP, when the state and police effectively snuffed out their bases and their shelters and their squads... they were moved out into Chhattisgarh and then the Dandakaranya.. You can see a pattern... they have spread out to around AP... From AP to Orissa, from AP to Chhattisgarh, to pockets in Maharashtra... and in Jharkhand... and from Jharkhand to adjoining areas in West Bengal.

The claim that they make that they are the only party or force which is taking on the ruling classes and the state is hollow...because... the very people who are subject to class exploitation and oppression are not in the picture at all... are not part of their strategy to mobilise the people against the state. If you look at the recent history...In the 80s they had more or less disintegrated (what was known as the Naxalite movement)...but ever since the merger of the Peoples War Group (mainly based in AP) and the MCC in 2004, they have acquired a striking power in terms of the arms squads, in temrs of their weapons they possess, in terms of know how- planting explosive devices etc.. which they got from the LTTE... training and collaboration with/from the LTTE people in camps in AP that time... this is what they got them their striking power. Therefore the loud claims that they are making...that they have spread all over...and the “spring thunder of revolution is approaching because the masses are being roused” - even the terminology is reminscent of what was there and used in the Great Cultural Revolution..this is the worldview and ideology of the politics of the Maoists today.

As for the targeting of the CPI(M) is concerned...as Prabir had mentioned... this is not a new thing. The biggest onslaught of the Naxalites against the CPI(M) took place in the period between 1970-72. That was a time when the Indian state and ruling classes had also launched a ferocious attack against the CPI(M). In 1967, the first United Front govt was formed. That was toppled. There was a midterm elections in 1969, when the second UF govt was formed, with greater strength. And this was the period when the peasant movement and the struggles for land had taken an unprecedented sweep in West Bengal and riding on that, that the CPI(M) had expanded its base and the UF governments were formed. And the retaliation by the ruling classes was ferocious.. not only was this government dismissed and president's rule imposed, but the entire might of the state and the Congress party at that time was unleashed against the CPI(M). The CPI(M) was totally isolated at that time, politically.. other parties had almost deserted it. It was at that time that the Naxalites who had already retreated after the failure of their agrarian revolution, decided on the annihilation policy and in the entire period from 1970 onwards till 1977..till the end of the Emergency.. of the around 1200 cadres and supporters were eliminated, around 350 were killed by the Naxalites. The rest were killed by Congress goons, by the police etc. 350 of the CPI(M) cadres and supports were killed and the concentrated period of killing was in this period of mid-1970 and end-1971 because they found that there is no other way to stop the advance of the CPI(M) in terms of advance of the movement..without targeting killings and assassinations of the CPI(M) cadres.That was one of the dark chapters in the history of the left movement in West Bengal, because the ferociousness and the viciousness with which the attacks were conducted from the so called left ..that created a very serious situation for our party at that time. Because there were very few people or parties who would come forward to even say .. this should stop. Because on one hand, at the all India level, under Mrs. Indira Gandhi.. an all out effort was made to unleash the police, paramilitary forces and the Youth Congress goons against the party. And in a pincer movement, the Naxalites (there were no streams called Maoist during that time) were utilised to hunt down and kill the CPI(M) cadres, because they could do it in a better way ..since many of them were earlier in our party. Now this is repeating itself. And the comparison..if you look at it.. it is a time when the CPI(M) is under siege in west Bengal. After the setback in the elections, immediately there has been a concerted and planned attack all over West Bengal against the CPI(M) killing cadres, attacking party offices, attacking houses and families of the party members. That is being done by its Trinamul Congress and its allies.

But the feature in West Bengal is that the attacks are not only by the right but the ultra left also. Up to last week, (it is difficult to keep a daily tally on the attacks) at least 70 comrades have been killed purely by the Maoist attacks. And that is concentrated in one district in West Midnapore and is also there in adjoining districts in Bankura and Purulia. The Maoists make no bones about this. Last year in November, when they tried to assassinate the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, they have proudly announced that “we targeted the chief minister and carried out this daring attack and we will continue to do so” ..and the trouble in Lalgarh started from there and it is continuing even today. They took advantage of the fact for more than 6 months, the police did not confront them. The police was withdrawn from this area, because there would have been outright confrontation... there would have been a resort to firing by the police.. the usual tactic is to put women and children in front and they would attack from behind.. this was the tactic they used in Nandigram also.. so the police was withdrawn. And using that..they have entrenched themselves in certain pockets of the forest area and in the panchayat area. But what about their political assessment. These are the Maoists who claim that in their recent elections their boycott call has had a big response.

Their standard attitude to any election is to call for a boycott. And they said that the boycott worked in all those areas where they are working and strong. What happened in Lalgarh and the constituency where Lalgarh is situated..i.e. Jhargram. That is the seat that the CPI(M) won ..the CPI(M) lost a number of seats.. but this was the seat where the CPI(M) won with the highest margin. And in these elections, though we have lost support among sections of the rural poor and the middle classes etc, our election analysis and reviews show that it is only among the tribals where we have retained our support.. they have stood with us.. whether it is in Jhargram or in other such constituencies. In Jhargram, where the Maoists are concentrating their activities, where they targeted their attacks at our party cadres during the elections.. there was polling more than 65% and the CPI(M) won by a huge margin. So what does this show..they claim that elections are a farce and that people do not want to participate and vote in the elections.. has been proved to be totally baseless.. except a few pockets where they could terrorise the people by the gun not to go and vote ..by and large the tribal people of west Midnapore have rejected their call to boycott.

We have to also see what happens in these areas where they have been active. In our time, when the Naxalite movement had arisen, it was not really in Naxalbari that there was any big mass movement. The only place where they really had a popular movement..and where they were able to mobilise.. again they were predominantly tribal but also there were peasants were in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.. the Srikakulam district and Hill agency area where tribal people live bordering Orissa. I have been there 10 years ago and found that there is no movement now. Nothing is left. This is what happens again and again. After the repression, after the state tinned all their leaders there. Vembatu Satyanarayana, Adibatla Kailasham- there were school teachers leading this movement. The other leader Chaudhury Tejeswara Rao is in the district committee of our party, the only surviving leader who said “what we did was a mistake”. You find that one area .which is the playground of all the bourgeois parties and exploitation of the tribal people as before.. this is what will be replicated again and again.. in Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, in Gadchiroli... because the Indian state will ensure that they will unleash violence against the provocations of violence.. of the killings of policemen, of blasting police vehicles and once that repression comes, you will find that there will be a big setback for the tribal people who will not be able to again raise their heads and fight for their demands for a very long time. So this cycle of violence provoking and inviting state repression will finally end up in being the worst .. the tribal people finding themselves in the worst situation.

I would also like to talk about what the Indian government – the centre and our ruling classes are thinking about and how they view this. When the UAPA act ..just before the elections.. when they wanted to amend the UAPA after the Mumbai terrorist acts.. they held discussions with all parties including us.. so we told them we know the experience of these laws ..anti-terror laws..and the more draconian provisions you put in..we know what will happen.. in the name of fighting terror.. more and more innocent people..mainly from the Muslim community will be ensnared in these laws and they will be put in prison .. and it will difficult for them to come out within six months or a year. So we said we cannot support these laws. Now, if the approach is that the Maoists are a terrorist organisation.. then you deal with it .. as the LeT, JeM or the HuJI. Now these are organisations, which resort to purely terrorism.. they have no other agenda, no other political platforms. All that they do is organize terrorist activities, find targets for launching terrorist violence, which kills innocent people.

So if you try to adopt these methods against the Maoists, we are not agreeable to that. As far as we are concerned, you have to fight the Maoist menace politically, ideologically and organisationally. It is a different matter when they go around blasting vehicles, attacking trains or killing ordinary people. You have to take steps to stop that violence, to curb that violence; yes.. you will have to use the police, the security forces. But you cannot merely treat the Maoist activities as activities of a terrorist organization. That is why we were skeptical. You have put them under the UAPA and you have banned them..they were banned in AP for a very long time.. they are already working in an illegal, underground way...banning will not really lead to suppressing their activities; that the first point.

Secondly, the government seems to realise that we have failed to do justice to the tribal people, and we have failed to take the elementary steps of what is the responsibility of the state to provide for basic facilities and development in these remote tribal areas. Just 2 days ago, the PM addressed a conference here in Delhi of chief ministers of all states about the implementation of the Forest Tribal (Land) Act for the tribal people ..which was adopted mainly because only of our pressure..they didn't want to pass it. In that speech he said we have to empower the tribal people and we have to be sensitive to their serious problems and why are we not implementing this Act seriously...which is not being implemented in many parts of the country. What he didn't say is that the root cause of the misery and exploitation among the tribal people today...the main thing is the “mines and mineral policy” of the central government.

The mines and mineral policy which has thrown open all the adivasi dominated areas..the forest areas.. to the depredations of the big mining companies – Indian and foreign.. you can see that happening all over..in Orissa, Chhattisgarh.. which is what is leading to the immediate displacement of the tribal people, loss of their livelihood, traditional habitat, and they fear the loss of their identity as a tribal community.. The PM does not talk about that.. he only talks about applying the balm to the wound. So yes, if you have to deal with this problem.. and here in India, this Naxalism or Maoism has a specific feature where they have been able to strike a chord among some sections of the tribal people who have been facing this terrible exploitation. So the state has to understand..that they have to urgently implement a socio-economic programme in these regions.. which are focused on ensuring that the tribal people are not deprived of their elementary rights and development for them would mean that they would remain in their traditional places of habitats, where they can find work and they have forms of work which also need to be protected, apart from basic rights and facilities that a state should deliver to all citizens including roads, education, health etc. This is something that the Indian state and central government should undertake.

And the second thing is that it should accept that the policies that they are implementing,..the Maoists are only right about one aspect in this entire thing..that the neoliberal policies that have directly affected these regions and affected the conditions of the tribal people..they have to give up those policies.. if this is not done.. the problem will not be solved..and the problem will be tried to be solved by the state by brutal repression which will not really affect the Maoists. Reference was made to the Central government big plan to deploy large number of paramilitary forces.. they will not deploy the army. But they will deploy the CRPF, the BSF or other paramilitary forces.

Now we know how the Maoists operate and that’s who they survived for so long. They stayed in the remote forests, and indulge in hit and run forays and so they will not stand and fight those paramilitary forces, they will melt away.. those who will face the brunt of the paramilitary forces will be the people in those areas, where the Maoists have been operating and by and large ..paramilitary forces brought from outside will not be able to distinguish between friend and foe, tribal and Maoists and they will go all out to suppress the people there..this is generally the end result of such operations. They will do it, because now the Maoists are provoking the state in such a manner.. when you kill 17 policemen in one go, when you massacre whole police stations, when you attack and hijack so many trains (in the Rajdhani episode nothing happened), they have destroyed communications, signaling equipment, attack schools, and they kill people at random to make an example.. if you see their communiqués, they proudly announce that they annihilated so many people. And they have annihilated not just the cadre of the CPI(M), but also from many political parties in Jharkhand and Bihar and Chhattisgarh. But they have a special ire for the CPI(M). In the last 4 weeks, not in West Bengal.. we hardly exist in most of these tribal areas, but where we exist.. in Kalkhet in Chhattisgarh, they have killed one of our local committee secretaries. In Sundergarh, where we have a base in one of those areas, they have destroyed our party office, fortunately no one was there in the office. They have killed one of our important local comrades in Andhra Pradesh three or four weeks ago. So they continue to target us, because we are not like the police. We are not like the paramilitary forces. Where we are.. if they are there.. we fight them politically. And that they are not able to tolerate. And how do we fight them. We don't fight them by picking up a gun. In West Bengal, if we had done that..there would be no Maoist left. But we can't do that. We are running a government, we have an agenda.. and we have to concentrate on the work which the government has to do. But wherever we exist, we take them on ideologically, organisationally and politically. We mobilise the people and say this is not the way to go. They think elimination of the CPI(M) will only open the way for them to advance. That is why even if you have a weak party existing in those areas, they try to target you and to eliminate you. So this is the reality. But unfortunately, it is possible that they will suffer a severe setback when the state resorts to measures.. sends in security forces..

In 1980s... I had taken some time off to study the Naxalites seriously. I had written that in 1985, that now today there is nothing called the Naxalite party organisation; they splintered into 24 groups and I had taken pains to make diagrams of the groups to explain what had happened to them. I had said that they are to revive in some form or another. Don't think that this is the end.. because in our country, left sectarian adventurist politics will always have some appeal. Because that is the easy way out. No revolution is going to come..but at least you can dangle the prospect that there is another short cut to revolution. And apart from the tribal areas, the only section in our society which they tend to get some support or sympathy from.. is among the urban intelligentsia. Go to any town or city, there will be some urban intellectual, who if not actively supporting them will have sympathy. They will say, after all..they are fighting for the poor and oppressed. After all, what else can they do..but take up arms against the exploitation and oppression..and willy-nilly they tend to justify what the Maoists are doing today..apart from the various human rights and civil liberties organisations that have existed in the last more than three decades, which specialise in defending the rights of the Maoists. This general romantic view of the Maoists exists and is a fact and you can see it reflected in the media also. It is very necessary therefore not only to take up the issue about the Maoists in those areas, where they are working.. of course..wherever we can, we will do it. But it is also necessary to take up the political ideological exposure of what is Maoism today in India to the urban intelligentsia and confront them with that, discuss with them, engage with them. And today in West Bengal..we saw the same phenomenon. Early 70s also, they had their supporters among the West Bengal intelligentsia. Films were made glorifying Naxalism.

Today also we saw in WB, in the last 2 years..more and more of the left oriented intellectuals subscribing to the ultra-left tendency. But one thing is happening which is making more and more difficult for them now to continue with this or at least they are backing off now..from the time when the state's topmost Maoist leader came on television and said he wanted Mamata Bannerjee as the next chief minister of West Bengal. And then, before that he had explained how they had helped the Trinamul Congress fight and drive the Marxists out from Nandigram and how they expect the Trinamul Congress to help them when they are in trouble in Lalgarh. And the Trinamul Congress is sparing no effort to help them. Here is a cabinet minister who openly says .No,. why do you send the police against them? Why are you resorting to these methods? And now that the exposure has taken place, she has fallen back to saying that there is no difference between Maoists and Marxists, they are two sides of the same coin. But everyone in West Bengal knows that there is a joint enterprise between the TC and the Maoists to target and attack the CPI(M) and the LF there. So, I think this must be told outside WB in a big way. That is ..the role that they are playing.. you may not agree with the CPI(M)..but everyone knows that the WB is the strongest base of the Left in the country. It may not be so now..but it is to disrupt and weaken the left base here..that the Maoists have engaged in this enterprise with the extreme right and the most reactionary forces in West Bengal. I think this should also be taken to the people in a big way.

In WB these are hard times..when you lose cadres to this targeted assassination and violence and they are aiming to see that we retreat and stop working among the people. We can't do that and we have to sacrifice and suffer serious lapses, but we are confident. We have seen worse times.. as I said between 1970-71 without allies was one of the worst periods that the party faced in WB .. other left parties in WB had decided that CPI(M) was bad news and they all had nothing to do with them.. let them face the music.. It took us a long time to bring them back. Some of them started saying that they were misguided revolutionaries and lets bring them help and legal defense when they are arrested and all that..but other parties did that, but today they are not saying that anymore because of the experience. And, we will overcome this. But it is not a question of WB alone. It is a question that if we want to build a real left and democratic alternative in this country, because the Maoists will never be able to fight neoliberal policies, they will never be able to fight the ruling classes' divisive policies, their strategic alliance with US imperialism.. in no such issue will you find the Maoists have played any more in mobilising the people, in opposing and seeing that alternative policies are brought forward.

So if at the all India level, we have to build this, we have to ensure that the Maoists are isolated and ensure that this train of ultra-left revolutionary phraseology mongering politics is pushed out of the political spectrum and that can be done politically, organisationally and ideologically if you wage that fight. And at the same time, be clear that there could be no justification or no quarter given to this disruptive violence that the Maoists are engaged in.

Thank you very much.

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