April 29, 2010

Can There Be Any Hope?

Editorial, April 24, 2010 vol xlv no 17 Economic & Political Weekly

What will it take for the State to correct its failings and for the Maoists to shed their militarised character?

All of India knows that even as many Indians have benefited from the rapid economic growth of the past quarter century, millions have also been marginalised by the so-called transformation.

This division has given a new edge in marketised India to the long-standing fracture between the “Two Indias”. There is now the thriving India–mainly urban, skilled and entrepreneurial, with close links to the globalised world–which acts as if the other India does not exist. This other India – mainly rural but also the under¬belly of the cities – has been left behind because it has neither as¬sets nor skills. The poor also have to cope with a collapse in public services. The trend now is for the thriving India to “secede” socially, economically and even politically from the rest of India. But it still has to deal with the other India because it needs its labour and needs its land, water, forests and all manner of natural resources that belong to the marginalised in order to fuel its growth and beautify its cities. This new division of Indian society is emblematic of the weaknesses of Indian democracy.

Much is often made of the vibrancy of Indian democracy, the deep stakes that the people of India have come to develop in it and the fact that an ever-increasing number of Indians – across castes, classes and gender – participate in the formal electoral process. All this is indeed true, but at the same time it is apparent from everyday life that many of the institutions of democracy have failed. The procedural aspects of democracy – such as accountabili¬ty, transparency and governance – are largely non-functional. Working through the democratic process, citizens have obtained a number of rights but it is a daily struggle to exercise even a measure of these rights. Six decades after the constitution of the Republic it is not enough to point to the spaces that exist within a malfunc¬tioning institution as evidence that it offers hope and opportuni¬ties to all. The institutions of democracy are widely and perhaps rightly seen as having been captured by the rich and the power¬ful. And the next fear must be that the gradual spread of the can¬cer of Hindutva communalism through many public institutions and the organs of the State will eventually complete the hollow¬ing out of Indian democracy.

The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is neither the first nor the only one to organise the marginalised against the forces of exclusion. But the Maoists have certainly jolted the “9% growth” mood of self-congratulation in the corridors of power. For close to half a century and through various cycles of activity, many groups of Naxalites have been working with some of the poorest of the poor for justice, dignity and rights that are supposed to be guaranteed under the Constitution. The impact of the Naxalite movement has varied, depending on the nature of the group and the area it works in. In parts of northern Andhra Pradesh and in the Dandakaranya region of central India, decades of persistent organisation by various strands of the Naxalite movement have resulted in a few gains in the form of payment of minimum wages, an end to extreme forms of oppression by local landlords and agents of the State and, most important, a sense of self-respect. The irony is not sufficiently recognised that it has taken a political party committed to the scrapping of the Constitution to effectively deliver on a measure of basic rights.

Today the Maoist movement is equated with the struggle of the adivasis in Dandakaranya. The adivasis undoubtedly make up the most marginalised group in India. They have always been at the mercy of one particular organ of the Indian state, the forest department, which has stubbornly sought to deny them their tra¬ditional rights to land and forest resources. The Naxalite groups that preceded the CPI(Maoist) chose Dandakaranya three decades ago to set their “guerrilla zones” as part of their long-term strategy to capture state power through an armed struggle. From all reports, the Maoists have gained the support and trust of a sub¬stantial proportion of the adivasi population in certain tracts of Dandakaranya by fighting the corruption of the forest depart¬ment and oppression by local contractors. This, as is well known, has even found mention in the 2008 report of the expert group constituted by the Planning Commission.

The CPI(Maoist) has grown in strength in mineral-rich Dandakaranya. So given its strategy of wresting an ever-expanding area from the state administration, it was inevitable that the State would eventually respond with brutal force. The ugly face of the Indian state has been on display since 2005 in Chhattisgarh when, with the blessings of the state government (and the silent approval of New Delhi), the Salwa Judum set citizen upon citizen. While the strength of the Maoists in the region does come in the way of the mining plans of Indian and foreign com panies, it is a simplistic view and fits in with a binary understanding of the masses railed against the Indian state to see the State’s response in terms of clearing the way for mining operations.

With its strategy of using paramilitary forces to “recover areas” from Maoist control, Operation Green Hunt – a deeply offensive term that reveals what the central government wishes to do with and what it thinks of some citizens – can only cause a bigger trag¬edy than the Salwa Judum. Some features of a civil war are al¬ready with us – indiscriminate arrests, fake encounters, and im¬prisonment of minors (by the State) and execution of “informers” (by the Maoists). The foot soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force are set against the adivasi recruits to the People’s Libera¬tion Guerrilla Army of the CPI(Maoist). The 75 jawans killed at Chintalnar-Tarmetla village in Dantewada district of Chhattis¬garh earlier this month may well be followed by another terrible killing, this time by government forces. The “body count” of one side will be compared with the “body count” of the other.

There will be assassinations and attacks by the Maoists (“to enthuse [the cadre] with daring counter-offensives” as one CPI(Maoist) statement described it last year). The State, on its part, makes the frightening promise to “study all options” and it has for all practical purposes suspended civil liberties in the areas of Maoist in¬fluence. Maoism has also become useful for the State to brand and suppress as extremist any movement that dares to confront the powers-that-be. (It is at the same time important to stress that the Maoist movement itself is not as widespread as the CPI (Maoist) or the State would have us believe, each for its own reasons.) The other side of this phenomenon is that it has not been uncommon for the Maoists themselves to take over an independent movement. Militarised Identity The CPI (Maoist) claims that it has been forced to take up the gun because over the past four decades central and state governments have violently suppressed the Naxalite movement whenever it has been able to organise the poor. Suppression by the State is a fact but this is an erroneous explanation, for the gun is central to the Maoist politics of waging an armed struggle to overthrow the State. The constant use of violence to protect and expand influence has inevitably begun to define of the character of the party. The result is that the CPI (Maoist) now has more of a militarised identity than a political one. Naturally, the violence of the Maoists increasingly mimics the violence of the State. Even if there can be no symmetry between the two, the consequences of the CPI(Maoist)’s militarised form of functioning are many. It is horrify¬ing that the CPI (Maoist) now has little qualms in even justifying murderous retribution in its fight against the State (see unedited interview of Azad, CPI (Maoist) spokesperson, with The Hindu). This is unacceptable coming from a political formation that claims to want to build a new and just society.

The party hands out its brand of justice by, for instance, assassi¬nating Laxmanananda Saraswati of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Kandhamal district of Orissa in August 2008, but it does not foresee, or worse, may not care, that the retribution by the Hindutva groups would be savage and will permanently scar the lives of thousands of minority citizens. As K Balagopal perceptively observed in this journal in 2006, the Maoists have acquired considerable military expertise but their political development has stagnated.

The institution of summary courts that deliver summary justice, the shadowy and autocratic manner in which the Maoists function, their intolerance of dissent and the use of “levies” on traders and contractors (i e, extortion) to mobilise finance, and the attempts to influence and take over sympathetic organisations are many other aspects of their functioning that should make any one worry about the movement. The CPI (Maoist) also has an instrumental view of the adivasis. Thus, the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act which is meant to give the adivasis greater control over their resources (but has not been implement¬ed by state governments) never figures in the Maoist campaign, for if it was implemented the adivasis would end up with more control over their lives. Indian Democracy in the Dock Ultimately, what is at test in the conflict is not the politics and violence of the CPI (Maoist) but the very institution of Indian democracy. For wherever the CPI (Maoist) has built up some in¬fluence it has done so because the fault lines in Indian democracy have made people in some of the most deprived regions of the country deeply resentful of the State. It is the organs of the State that are now in the dock for their cumulative failure to respect and guarantee the rights of all Indians. The Indian state is so enam¬oured of its (perceived) status as an economic and political power on the international stage that it does not see what is happening on its periphery. The adivasi anger is only one of many, albeit small, fires burning in the country. (It is somewhat strange that even as Hindutva continues bit by bit to undo the basic tenets of the Constitution, it is the CPI(Maoist) which is seen as posing the “biggest ever internal security challenge” to the State.)

Which way then for the CPI (Maoist) versus the State conflict? In the immediate term, the open conflict has to end. It goes without saying that even after the tragedy of Chintalnar-Tarmetla, the central and state governments have to demonstrate a measure of sagacity and foresight to halt all paramilitary offensives and dis¬band the Salwa Judum. The most marginalised of Indian society at the very least have a right not to be in a theatre conflict.

The CPI (Maoist) has, of course, been very keen on “talks” for that will lift the siege it is now under. Agreement on the modali¬ties of such discussions between the CPI (Maoist) and the State is not essential for both sides to first end the war-like situation. Yes, the past experience (notably in Andhra Pradesh in 2004) with “peace talks” has not been a happy one for either the State or the Maoists. But the people of Andhra Pradesh did enjoy a respite from state and Maoist violence for at least a few months and so too will the people of Dandakaranya. In the medium term the State must lift its ban on the CPI (Maoist) and give it the freedom to openly work among the people; the big question though will be the possession of arms.

Beyond the immediate and the medium term, we need a different kind of Indian state and a different kind of CPI (Maoist). Can we imagine both the State and the CPI (Maoist) respecting and af¬firming the basic rights of citizens? Can we imagine institutions of the State responding to the needs of all groups of citizens and ful¬filling the lofty promises of the Constitution? Can we imagine a CPI (Maoist) that also effects a fundamental transformation and sheds its militarised identity?

On such hopes must rest our imagination.

April 22, 2010

‘Can You Combat Maoist Menace, When A UPA Ally Patronises Them?’:SITARAM YECHURY

The following are the excerpts from the speech made by Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) leader in parliament on April 15, 2010 while intervening on home minister's statement on Dantewada massacre.

At the end of the statement that the home minister has made on the Dantewada massacre, he said that let us wait for the inquiry committee report to come and then we can take stock of what actually happened in this particular incident in Dantewada.

We agree with that; we shall wait for that. But the point that I would like to highlight right now is that the Dantewada incident is not an incident in isolation. This is happening as a part of a policy, as a part of developments and activities that have intensified since the UPA-II government has come. Since the general elections in 2009, according to the figures of the home ministry itself, 993 lives have been lost due to Maoist violence, of which 340 are security personnel.

Only yesterday (April 14), in West Bengal, two more of my Party's cadre were hacked to death by the Maoists, taking the total to 176 in the months since May last year. This is something which only demonstrates very, very eloquently, but chillingly, with murderous assaults and attacks that the Maoist menace is mounting. Now, taking this as a general figure, looking at it in a general way, we entirely agree with the fact that this is not an issue or menace which can be tackled by apportioning blame. If you look at the states that are involved, apart from the central government, you have West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, all these states where this current problem is persisting are states that are run by governments led by different political parties. So, unless we have a unified approach on how to tackle this issue, we cannot succeed and that is something we must actually keep in mind and not be bothered about where the buck stops. The buck stops with India. The buck stops with the government and the buck stops with all of us here in the parliament. Are we going to break up the parliamentary democracy that we have built up so laboriously? Are we going to change it for the better for the people or not? That is where the buck should stop. Let us not pursue these bucks and let us actually try in right earnest to come down to how do we try and solve this problem.

The point that was made by the leader of the opposition, a point that I have been making and we from the Left have been making in this House for the last nine months or so, is that there is a fundamental contradiction that is feeding the growth of such Maoist violence in our country and that contradiction lies within the central government and the union cabinet of ministers itself. I have repeatedly stated that on three occasions, the prime minister has drawn the attention of the country stating, 'Maoist violence represents the gravest threat to India's internal security.' Now, having said this, how can you have members in the cabinet, the same union cabinet, who not only say things to the contrary but actually act to the opposite? How can you have union cabinet ministers -- it has been read out by the leader of the opposition and I do not wish to read out those statements again -- demanding the arrest of the elected chief minister of a state under our constitution? The chairman would have to assure us; we are the council of states. If this is the way in which members of the union cabinet deal with elected chief ministers of the states and ask for their resignation openly in the media, can the government keep quiet? Is the government not answerable to the country? How is it that on the one hand, the prime minister, the leader of the cabinet, says that this is the gravest threat to India's internal security and on the other, you have members who not only say that it is not the gravest threat but also that there are no Maoists operating in Bengal at all. They say there are no Maoists operating in Bengal at all and ask for the withdrawal of the central forces. How can you co-exist with these contradictions? If you are co-existing with these contradictions, I am sorry to say that it is the height of political opportunism. Just for numbers in the Lok Sabha, if you are going to allow the country's internal security to be compromised, then this government is doing a very big disservice to the country, just for the sake of its survival. Governments may come and governments may go. But, what is of concern is the nation; what is of concern is the country; what is of concern is this institution called parliament and parliamentary democracy. Don't play with it. Don't, for the sake of your political survival, allow such forces to feed and provide sustenance for this Maoist violence to spread. And that is my point. Why is it that 30 years after this movement came into existence, the Maoist violence has reared its head in Bengal again.

That is the point this country must understand. You have the re-entry of Maoists into Bengal behind political flags and banners of legitimate political parties operating within parliamentary democracy. Maoists are being used in order to serve petty electoral purposes and petty electoral ambitions in a particular state. Can we allow such indiscriminate use, such despicable use of methods in order to somehow wrest power in a particular state?

Please remember, Naxalbari is a village that exists in Bengal today. It existed in Bengal always and the uprising that took place in Naxalbari in 1967, from there the term 'Naxalites' has arisen. After that uprising there in 1967, there was a big debate within the Indian Communist movement. I need to refer to this because sometimes there have been references saying that we, CPI(M), are after all cousins of Maoists or, at one point of time, we had allegedly supported them and this only can come from those people who have not really understood our history. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) was divided in 1967 by a small group of people who had argued that Naxalbari uprising was the way for revolution and emancipation of India. We had disagreed with them. We had told them that it was only through the combination of parliamentary means and extra parliamentary means that we could achieve social transformation. But with an erroneous understanding that the Indian ruling classes are comprador in the sense that they do not have their own social base and all that is required is to arm the people. They armed the people and, therefore, by arming the people the slogan of People's War emerged. The slogan of People's War was 'Arm the people' so that they can capture power. It was all easy because the ruling classes do not have a social base. That was the wrong ideological understanding and that understanding had to be combated and that was combined with the policy of individual annihilation, individual annihilation of originally class enemies and now, as it is being pointed out, individual annihilation of all those who are opposed to them. It is the combination of this which is ideological and the ideological strain which we think is completely wrong both in terms of understanding Indian reality and in the methods employed to achieve a social transformation in our country and it is an ideological battle that we, CPI(M), have been in the forefront for the last forty years. We have lost thousands of our people in this ideological battle and it is because of this ideological battle that we succeeded in isolating them in West Bengal. So, today if we think of combating Maoism without an ideological battle, it can never succeed. The question of ideological battle rests on the basic fact that social transformation in India is necessary, but what are the means that you will apply and adopt for achieving such a social transformation and what is the concrete analysis of the concrete conditions that you are living in? This ideological battle is as important as re-establishing the writ of civic administration in these areas and re-establishing of the writ of civic administration is not negotiable. On that, there is no dispute among all of us. But it has to be combined with a political battle or political offensive against this, particularly the ideology which we think is undermining the foundations of modern India. That is why whenever such problems have occurred in West Bengal, in order to resolve these problems, we have repeatedly adopted the approach where an all-party meeting is called in these affected areas. Twenty-eight all-party meetings have been called since the last general elections to tackle this Maoists' violence in these areas, but not one of them was attended by the ally of the Congress Party who is now sitting in their cabinet. The reason for not attending is not to legitimise this process but to allow or use the Maoists in order to create terror in a particular area and use the terror to browbeat people into politically supporting them.

So, this is a tactic of terror. This is politics that is being operated through terror. And it is this politics of terror that needs to be fought today. I think what is required is a combination of measures required by law and order and ideological political struggle against the Maoists and Maoism itself. Unless this combination is adopted, I don't think we can actually succeed. Therefore, I would sincerely urge the government at the centre and I sincerely urge the prime minister, the leader of the house, to please come here and explain to us how he has members in his own cabinet who think completely opposite of what he has been telling the nation as far as Maoists’ violence is concerned and do not compromise the interest of our country for the sake of continuation of your government.

You may be happy, like once Winston Churchill famously remarked during the Second World War, "Let the Communists and Fascists kill each other and then we shall enter", and he delayed the second front. If that is the thinking of the Congress Party today, I am sorry, it will only lead to a sort of devastation that the world had seen during that time. If they think that let the Maoists and the Marxists fight each other out and let them deplete themselves, and then, they will enter in order to restore the peace in that region, then they will destroy the very basis and the foundations of the parliamentary democracy in our country. So, they have to be extremely clear. In this, what is required by the central government, as I mentioned earlier, in these five states that you are talking about right now with five different governments, but unless you take on board all the political parties and that requires a complete non-partisan approach and the central government co-ordinates these activities, you cannot really solve this problem.

Mr Deputy Chairman, you come from a state that was also infamous for having bandits like Veerappan. For two decades, you could not catch him because whenever Karnataka Police moved, he would move into Tamilnadu; whenever Tamilnadu moved, he would come back into Karnataka, or go into Kerala. And, in this way, between the three states, he managed for two decades. You require a co-ordinated approach between all these states if you want to solve this problem. And, that requires a strong political will. That requires a strong political will to be able to co- ordinate between all these state governments. That is required, and my appeal would be to all other political parties also who are running governments in the states that this is not something on the basis of which, we should calculate our electoral fortunes for the future. This is a threat that needs to be met squarely. Otherwise, you will have series of actions that will continuously undermine the foundations of a modern parliamentary democracy in India.

And, that is why, when Dr Keshava Rao, was talking about the method employed in Andhra Pradesh and he was talking about negotiations or talks as the way in which the problem was solved, please remember, the biggest thing that was undertaken by the Andhra government then was Operation Grey Hound. Therefore, it is a combination that will have to be done. In fact, we have to learn from our own states which have actually tackled extremism in a very successful way, and one of those states from which we have to learn is the tiny state in the North-East called Tripura. In Tripura, they have tackled it by a combination of a political approach, a political will using the law and order measures and addressing the most important issue of development. And, addressing that issue of development can only be with a combination of this that you could actually control the growth of these extremist activities. And, the development issue is the third arm of this tripod. You require a tripod approach, and in that tripod approach, one leg is the law and order; the second leg is the political will and the political battle; and the third leg is to address the developmental concerns. Look at the area where all these activities are taking place. This is one of the richest areas in terms of mineral resources in our country. You have, through the years, successively in the government, privatised mining. And, all of us know what havoc private mines have been playing in other parts of the country. But, here, privatisation of mining activities in the areas which are predominantly inhabited by tribal people has only added to the woes of the people there. The private mafias that come with the private mines and their activities, had only caused further miseries to the tribal population there who already could not have the benefits of development reach them. Therefore, what is required is to also look into the policies, re-look into the policies, and, at least, try and understand why we oppose the privatisation of these mines. You are creating situations of over-exploitation and extra burden being imposed on the people there. That is also adding to the backwardness of the people there apart from the traditional backwardness of the tribal areas. Therefore, what is required if you really, sincerely want to tackle this problem is a combination of this tripod. You will have to address all the three - law and order, a political will and a political battle against them, and address the developmental issues of the concerned population there. Unless this holistic approach is undertaken, we cannot really tackle this problem. The home minister, in his statement, said that there are two pillars of the policies that the central government has adopted. One is that of calibrated police action, and the other is that of development.

And, then, he goes on to say, the state governments, therefore, have a primary responsibility. I find it completely contradictory. Now, you are saying that the state governments have a primary responsibility. Yes; law and order is a state subject, and, the state governments have a primary responsibility. There is no doubt about it. But when a law and order problem spreads beyond the borders of a particular state and goes into the borders of other states, then, of course, the concerned state governments have that responsibility, but the task of the centre in coordinating these actions of the state governments becomes important.

I hope that instead of the central government standing ready and willing to assist the state governments, and, to coordinate the inter-state operations -- I am quoting it from the statement of the home minister -- this coordination of inter-state operations and willingness to assist the state governments, should come in right earnest. There is no political scoring of points. The home minister is not here; perhaps he has gone to the other House. It is very, very ironic that he said to the chief minister of West Bengal, "the buck stops with you", and, then, within 48 hours, he had to say to the country, "the buck stops with me", after the Dantewada incident took place. Today, you may try and score a political point saying that the buck stops with him. Tomorrow, the developments will tell you that the buck stops with you. Finally, as was said in the beginning, the buck stops with the country, buck stops with the nation, and the buck stops with the government, which, at the moment, is given the responsibility to run the country.

I would also want to just touch upon one point, which, in this ideological battle against these forces, we also have to understand. We have made one appeal to the naxalites since they started and formed their party in 1969. They started work in 1967; splintered into various groups; got regrouped, and, in 2004, they came together and formed this party, the Communist Party of India (Maoists), and, since then, there is this growth in violence. Since then, we have always been saying, if you have a difference of opinion, come forward and put that difference before the people; let the people decide whether we are right or you are right. That is the approach, which we will have to adopt even now; and, in that ideological battle, we have to say this very clearly.

Unfortunately, -- I wish; I don't believe in such things -- but if there is a grave and if there is a Mao, then he would be turning upside down in his grave because his name is being grossly misused by these forces, I mean, when they call themselves as Maoists. Poor Mao was the man who said, no communist can survive unless he mingles with the people like a fish takes to water. It was Mao, who said, let a hundred flower bloom, let a thousand thoughts contend, and, it is only then that you know what truth is. You have to seek the truth from the facts, and, that is what Mao taught us. They misused the name of Mao; anyway, that is their democratic right, and, we can take on them ideologically. But, we have to realise that in this battle, we will have to be united in taking on them, on the basis of this tripod understanding. Finally, I would like to recollect, with some degree of anguish, the warning that Dr Ambedkar gave to all of us and the country when he presented the final draft of the Indian constitution to the Constituent Assembly for consideration and adoption.

Yesterday (April 14) was his 120th birth anniversary. When he commended the Constituent Assembly to accept it, in his speech, he said, 'but this constitution that we so laboriously have constructed, and, this structure that we so laboriously want to build, is beset with contradictions." And, he defined the contradictions, I think, very, very well. I can't find a better way of defining it. It is that the constitution provides one man with one vote, and, one vote with one value. But our social conditions have not created one man with one value, and, as long as you have this contradiction that one man does not have one value, but you have one man having one vote, and, a vote having the same value.

So, unless you create a society where all men are equal, he warned that, and I quote, "What we have so labouriously built will be blown asunder by the very people who are suffering from this contradiction". And, if you really want to tackle the problem of extremism, the problem of anarchy, you will have to have a very serious re-look on the trajectory of this neo-liberal economic reforms that we are adopting because that is generating this sort of a situation where it is easy for an unemployed, insecured youth to take to arms and take to militancy because that is the only security life offers. Therefore, finally in conclusion, while waiting for the inquiry report on this specific Dantewada massacre, we will urge upon the government to immediately inform us what is their decision with the people within their union cabinet who are providing both protection and patronage to the Maoists. Unless you take a firm, decisive step in that direction, we cannot succeed in combating this menace.

April 18, 2010

CPI(M) polit bureau on Dantewada Massacre by Maoists

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) issued the following statement on April 7, 2010.

THE Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans and Chhattisgarh policemen by the Maoists in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state. This brutal attack is a reminder that no state government can singly tackle the violence perpetrated by the Maoists. Given the fact that the Maoists are conducting their major armed operations in seven states, it becomes the responsibility of the central government to ensure a coordinated response and for providing adequate assistance through the central police forces. Regrettably, the union home minister has been prone to throwing the responsibility on to the state governments and to blaming them for the consequences of the Maoist depredations. Such an approach should be given up and proper coordination between the centre and the states concerned should be established.

The Maoists are resorting to killings not only of the police forces but are also targeting leaders and cadre of political parties and ordinary people such as school teachers who do not agree with them. It is, therefore, equally important to expose the Maoists for their disruptive activities and their methods of terrorising and intimidating the people. The tribal people whom they claim to be fighting for are the worst victims of such tactics. The Maoists have to be fought politically by mobilising the people against them.

The Maoists are concentrating their activities where the tribal people live in the forest and hilly areas. It is in these areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh inhabited by the adivasis that large tracts of land are being handed over to foreign and Indian companies for mining operations. Instead of adopting measures for the socio-economic development of such regions, the policies of the central government are harming the interests of the tribal people. The displacement of the tribal people and the loss of their livelihood and habitats are a direct result of the policy of the central government to indiscriminately throw open all these areas for mining operations, legal and illegal. This must be put a stop to immediately.

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) reiterates its resolve to fight the Maoists politically and ideologically and the need to take effective administrative measures to curb their violent activities.

April 13, 2010

Arundhati Roy’s Embedded Essay

By Sudhanva Deshpande

(Sudhanva Deshpande comments on the "embedded journalism" of Arundhati Roy in Maoist territory. A shorter version of the article is appearing in the Outlook Magazine.)

‘Embedded journalism refers to news reporters being attached to military units involved in armed conflicts. . . . Gina Cavallaro, a reporter for the Army Times, said, “They’re [the journalists] relying more on the military to get them where they want to go, and as a result, the military is getting smarter about getting its own story told.”’— Wikipedia on ‘Embedded Journalism’

It was early morning, about 5, and I was waiting at the station for the train to arrive. As the book stall opened, I dove into the Hindi pulp fiction section. Surendra Mohan Pathak’s first two Vimal thrillers, in a single volume, beckoned me. As I paid for the book, Arundhati Roy’s name leapt out at me from the cover of Outlook. It was her long essay on the Maoists.

Whether we agree with Roy or not we read her because she surprises us. There is always some statistic, some quotation, some ironic observation, that makes one say, ‘Hey, I hadn’t thought of that before’. This time though, I found myself being disappointed by her. It is almost a cliché of such reportage (of a writer’s encounter with an underground group) to begin with the rendezvous and end on a note of wistful longing. Roy does both. Come on Arundhati, I wanted to say, surprise us – for clichés I can read Surendra Mohan Pathak.

One is of course glad that voices like hers exist, and that she commands enough star value for Outlook to bill their issue a ‘collector’s item’. Roy writes with feeling, and she is superb at catching irony – e.g., the description of Dantewada as a border town smack in the centre of India, or the Indian rulers’ adoption of China’s path as their own path. Her writing is poetic, it seduces. Even when you are not persuaded by the argument, you want to side with her.

In this essay, she introduces us to a veritable cast of characters: Comrade Maase, who ‘seems to have to swim through a layer of pain to enter the conversation’; the senior Comrade Venu (Sushil, Sonu, Murali) who ‘looks for all the world like a frail village schoolteacher’; Comrade Sukhdev, ‘a crazy workaholic’; Comrade Kamla, who prefers watching ‘ambush videos’ to Hindi movies.

Er . . . ambush videos? Roy describes one, which starts with ‘shots of Dandakaranya, rivers, waterfalls, the close-up of a bare branch of a tree, a brainfever bird calling. Then suddenly a comrade is wiring up an IED, concealing it with dry leaves. A cavalcade of motorcycles is blown up. There are mutilated bodies and burning bikes. The weapons are being snatched. Three policemen, looking shell-shocked, have been tied up.’ Roy was outraged and shocked, as all of us were, when Hindutva goons reportedly videographed violence against Muslims in Gujarat and these videos then did the rounds of lending libraries. Comrade Kamla, who only likes watching ‘ambush videos’ of ‘mutilated bodies and burning bikes’, is marching, Roy wants to persuade us, ‘to keep hope alive for us all’. Some ironies escape the best writers, it seems.

Consider the joke she recounts at the end of the essay. Sukhdev asks her if she knows what to do if they come under fire. ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘immediately declare an indefinite hunger strike.’ Sukhdev laughs so hard he has to sit.

So what is Sukhdev laughing at? At Roy’s writerly wit? Or at her scorn for ‘indefinite hunger strikes’? In an earlier day and age, Roy helped focus the world’s attention on a massive, peaceful, neo-Gandhian protest against destruction in the name of development. On countless occasions, hundreds of thousands of people took part in ‘indefinite hunger strikes’ and other forms of non-violent and moral resistance. One may or may not have agreed with every aspect of their, and Roy’s, critique. But the moral force of their argument was unquestioned. By recounting her joke without irony, however, Roy mocks her own past, her commitment to a movement she was (and is?) so passionate about.

Reading Roy, one is struck by her refusal to debate. She sees nothing wrong in the Maoists becoming a handmaiden of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal to exterminate cadres of the CPI (M), mostly tribals, Muslims, and other rural poor. Well, ok. But what about the critics of the CPI (M) who are also the critics of the Maoists? Recently, several articles in the Economic and Political Weekly posed probing questions about whether we have reached the limits of bourgeois democracy in India, about the Maoists’ belief in violence as the only instrument of change, the sheer brutality of their violence, their penchant of taking over peaceful resistance, their intolerance of dissent and debate, their programmatic understanding of the Indian revolution, etc. Aditya Nigam wrote a thoughtful essay, and Sumanta Banerjee had a fascinating exchange with a spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist). These are criticisms from the left – not by Gandhian pacifists. All that is water off Roy’s back. In rubbishing powerful critiques by cocking a rhetorical snook at them Roy demeans herself.

On every criticism of Maoist tactics and methods, she responds with rhetoric, not reason. Charu Mazumdar fetishises violence and gore – but, says Roy, look at the beautiful dancing tribals. The Maoists believe in protracted war – naturally, counters Roy, because the really protracted war is being waged by the Indian state. The Maoists do not take part in non-violent protest and mass politics – why should they, asks Roy, what did non-violence win the Narmada Bachao Andolan? The Maoists dish out summary justice in kangaroo courts – but they don’t kill everybody, Roy tells us earnestly, and in any case we all know how skewed our judicial system is. And so on.

In the end, though, the problem with Roy’s essay is that it is a piece of embedded journalism. Trekking day and night with gun-wielding rebels is doubtless a reporter’s fantasy. We need to get more such accounts, which give us a sense of the dreams and desperations that drive young women and men to the gun. What she does not do is question the Maoists’ conceptual framework.

Reading her essay, one is struck by the binary oppositions that frame it – brutal state repression versus ruthless armed rebellion; mining corporations versus innocent tribals; rampaging industrialism versus primitive communism. There is no middle ground, there are no other players. There is no conception of militant mass protest and resistance that does not take the shape of armed insurrection. I am not coy about the necessity to resort to violence, especially when you are under attack. The Maoists, however, are a different kettle of fish – they resort to bloodshed at the first instance, not the last, and the nature of their violence is also particularly gruesome.

The Maoists and the tribals, according to Roy, are one entity. If you have any sympathy for tribals and other poor, you must, ipso facto, support the Maoists. This is the terrain where the interests of the Indian ruling classes and the Maoists converge perfectly. In this framework, the only alternative to the violence of the state is the violence of the Maoists. Either you are with the one or you are with the other.

It is in the nature of embedded journalism to get close enough to the ‘action’ to give us an authentic sense of the smells and the sights. Roy does that. It is also in the nature of embedded journalism that it remains prisoner to the conceptual framework of the embedder. A truly critical intelligence would cut through it and assert itself. Roy, however, chooses to be smitten.

Sudhanva Deshpande is an actor and director with Jana Natya Manch, Delhi. He works as editor at LeftWord Books.

Sat, 2010-03-27 14:07

Naxalism – At an ideological deadend

Its an abridged version of the article by Prakash Karat, published in the Marxist, 1985.

In 1968, when the naxalite left-adventurist deviation challenged the CPI(M)’s Marxist-Leninst-based stand on ideological and programmatic issues, they put up a left-sectarian position on a whole range of question pertaining to the international communist movement and the path of the Indian revolution. The naxalite condemned the CPI(M) as ‘neo-revisionists’ on the question of the character of the Indian state, stage of the revolution, strategy tactics, assessment of the Soviet Union and the international correlation of class forces.

Their stand then could be summed up as follows: India is not politically independent it is semi-colonial, semi-colonial, semi-feudal; the Indian state is controlled by imperialists, compradore bureaucratic capital and feudal landlords, the stage of revolution is national liberation against imperialism, compradore capitalism and feudalism; people’s war based on armed struggle of the peasantry is the tactical line for liberation; the Soviet Union is revisionist (later modified to social imperialist) which is collaborating with US imperialism; adherence to Mao Zedong thought is the test of a communist party. They condemned participation in parliament as reformist and adopted boycott as a strategic slogan; they denied the role of mass organizations and abandoned trade unions as reformist organizations, further in the sphere of tactics, they negated the role of united fronts, branding them as class collaborationist.

The CPI(M), countering the left-adventurist positions, has stated: ”If we take all the arguments of the critics of the ideological document what do they amount to? They amount to a total repudiation of the understanding of the epoch. They imply liquidation of the socialist camp; they convey that capitalism has been restored in the USSR leading to imperialist policies; that the major fight of the working class of the world is not against American imperialism but against Soviet and American imperialism. The fight against the revisionist leaders of the Soviet Union is replaced by the fight against the “imperialism” of the Soviet State.” (Ideological Debate Summed Up by Polit Bureau, p.173)

This was the package of left-infantilism which characterized the various naxalite groups who challenged the revolutionary credentials of the CPI(M). Today after nearly two decades of naxalite activity, when we assess where this platform has taken them, it is clear that they have been forced to abandon most of these position. In fact they have retreated pell-mell from the ‘revolutionary’ platform they adopted. Where they cling to such positions their own makes it difficult to reconcile it with the theories they espouse. Let us look some of these key positions and their derailment.

Mao Zedong Thought and-Attitude to CPC

The distinctive characteristic of the naxalite groups since their inception has been their advertised allegiance to Mao Zedong thought was the essence of Marxism-Leninism of our epoch. Except for the pro-Albanina groups who were denounced Mao Zedong thought, all our groups extant continue to swear allegiance. However, their perceptions of its content and role differ and each accuses the other of distorting or revising Maoist ideology. The pro-Charu groups, except the Vinod Mishra group, continue to hail the Revolution and refuse to accept the CPC’s critical revaluation of this period and the damage it cause the party and socialist construction. The whole gamut of left-sectarian positions on the international situation and building of socialism is considered by these groups to be the main content of Mao Zedong thought. On the other hand the SN Singh, C Pulla Reddy and DV Rao groups accept the CPC evaluation as presented in the eleventh congress and the sixth plenum of the C C and the denunciation of the gang of four. The pro-Charu People’s War group, after initially accepting the CPC positions, has now come round to considering them revisionist. The CPC’s own assessment of some of the erroneous concepts upheld by the party under Mao’s leadership is not acceptable to the CRC, People’s War and Saraf groups. These groups now maintain that the CPC has become a revisionist party. At the extreme, the pro-Lin Biao group has taken the absurd stand that China has become a social imperialist power.

From the naxalite groups who held that China was the center of the world revolution, a substantial number now have gone over to the position that the CPC has betrayed world revolution. The CPC’s authoritative documents produced in the sixth plenum of the CC, the eleventh and twelfth congresses, have become for them the bedrock of revisionism and betrayal of Mao Zedong thought. The blind and dogmatic adherence to Mao Zedong thought as the essence of Marxism-Leninism of the epoch- a position which the CPC itself does not maintain now-is the key to the ideological disarray these groups have reached.

Three World Theory

Another important aspect of the differences between the groups on the content of Mao thought concerns the Three world Theory. Some of the bitterest polemics are directed as to whether it forms an integral part of Mao Zedong thought or not. Most of the groups whether anti-Charu or pro-Charu, the SNS group, the Pulla Reddy group, the Vinod Mishra group. D V Rao, etc., uphold the Three World Theory as a component part of Mao Zedong thought and creative application of Marxism Leninism. It is on this basis that they work out their political line on international and national questions. The CPI(M) had in 1947 itself, when this theory was put out by the CPC, criticized it as anti-Marxist not being based on class analysis. The division of the world into three- the first world of the two superpowers; the second world of other imperialist countries and the third world of the underdeveloped countries-went against the basic analysis of class relations in the international sphere and eliminated the central contradiction between imperialist system and the socialist system. Now, some of the naxalite groups like the CRC (Venu group). Saraf group (and of course the pro-Albanian splinters) have launched a bitter attack on the Three World Theory.

They argue that no such theory was formulated by Mao Zedong and such a bogus theory has been smuggled in by the ‘revisionist clique’ headed by Deng Xiaoping. In order to defend their version of Mao thought, they argue that Mao had only talked of differentiating the three worlds for purposes of foreign policy tactics and had never elaborated and elevated the three worlds into a full-fledged theory. Exposing the groups who uphold this thesis, they point out that this theory has led to the formulation that out of the two super-powers, the Soviet Union’s social imperialism is more aggressive and dangerous. This has led to these groups becoming soft on US imperialism and ending up allying with US imperialist forces and the parties that represent them in India. For instance the CRC group states, “Opportunists like Satyanarain Singh in India advanced the thesis of building a united front with pro-American ruling classes. The Three World Theory’ has come as a born to these opportunists who were already well ahead on this path of collaborating with the pro-US section of the ruling classes” (K Venu: Mao Zedong and Three World Theory’ p. 29)

Further, it exposes the international implications of this line while talking about ASEAN. Three World Theories shows great enthusiasm in holding up this organization as united front against Soviet social imperialism and as one of the factors conducive to the building of a broad front of the third world countries. In reality however this organization has been formed, with the full backing and blessings of US imperialism by the imperialist lackeys the compradore feudal states of Philippines Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore with the objective of chalking out schemes for suppressing the people’s revolutionary struggles.” (Venu: Mao Zedong and Three World Theory’ p. 32)

But the CRC naxalite group’s fierce denunciation of the Three World Theory is only partial, as they do not dispute the existence of two super-powers and Soviet social imperialism. Their only difference is that the Soviet Union should not as a general principle be considered the more aggressive imperialist power. Both the ‘imperialisms’ are dangerous and which is more dangerous will depend on country and situation to situation. As an illustration, according to them, US imperialism is more dangerous in Latin America, while the Soviet Union poses a greater threat in Afghanistan and Kampuchea.

Even in the interpretation of the Three World Theory there are differences between those who uphold it, on how to implement it. For instance the People’s War group interprets it in a different way from the SN Singh group. on building united fronts based on this theory also the SN Singh and Pulla Reddy groups got divided. In 1980 the unity of these two groups was disrupted on the question of building an anti-Soviet front on the basis of the Soviet Union being the main enemy of the Indian people and the necessity of forgoing a united front against Indira fascism by including even pro-US allies. After the split the SNS-led group claimed: “it was our party which initiated and forged a broad united front against Russian aggression on Afghanistan, and united Gandhites and Royists, Socialists and Sarvodayites. BJP and the Moslem League on the same platform to oppose hegemonism and aggression.” (For a New Democracy, March-April, 1982)

The crux of the matter lies in the fact that the various naxalite groups are forced to stick to the erroneous ideological positions put out by the CPC during the left-sectarian phase of the cultural revolution. To justify their existence, with all their dogmatic position being rejected by life and experience, leads them to cling to those very concepts which eyen the CPC has critically abandoned.

Strategy & Programme: Disorientation

Given their distorted loyalty to a dogmatic ‘Mao Zedong thought’ it is but natural that in the sphere of strategy and programmatic formulations these groups show the same variety of left opportunism, sectarianism and hopeless confusion. In recent years, particularly after the emergency was lifted, most of the groups have been undertaking the exercise of holding ‘party’ congresses and ‘special conferences’ preparing draft programme and resorting to interminable discussions within their groups and amongst the different groups. The SNS group held its party congress in 1982 and prepared a programme; the Vinod Mishra group held a party congress in January 1983; the CRC group held a party conference in January 1982; the Andhra groups have also held a series of conferences; the Saraf group held a party congress with 14 delegates and formed a Proletariat Party in 1983. simultaneously all the groups have been analyzing each other’s efforts and subjecting them to bitter polemics, and at times abuse.

In 1970, the CPI(ML)-led by Charu Mazumdar had adopted its programme by which India was termed semi-colonial and semi-feudal. The state was characterized as imperialist-compradore bureaucratic capitalist and feudal. The stage of the revolution was national liberation and the principle contradiction had been termed as that between feudalism and the broad masses of the people. In reassessing the programmatic formulations and tasks, sharp differences have arisen. The Andhra group which did not join the CPI(ML) in 1969 continues to differ from the 1970 propositions. According to DV Rao of the UCCRI group, India is a neo-colony, which is exploited by both superpowers India is not a semi-colony and had achieved political independence in 1947. It lost its independent status and became a neo-colony of the superpowers. As for the compradore bourgeoisie, he has his own peculiar interpretation. He states that there is a compradore class in the industrial bourgeoisies; the compradore class is part of the Indian bourgeoisie, thereby recognizing that there are sections of the bourgeoisie, which are not compradore. Then he goes on to further confuse the issue by stating, “Compradore bourgeoisie class means a bourgeoisie class having a compradore character, not a mere commission agent.” (DV Rao: People’s Democratic Revolution in India, p. 24)

While most groups pay lip service to the principle contradiction being between feudalism and the Indian people, Saraf violently disagrees. According to him the principle contradiction should be termed as that between the alliance of imperialism, the compradire bourgeoisie and feudalism on the one hand, and the Indian people on the other. He inveighs against the other groups for not understanding the key role of alliance of these forces in state power. (A Revolutionary view point, Jan-March 1978, Saraf p. 83)

J P Dixit who runs his own journal (People’s Power) pounces on the alliance theory and attacks: “a suggestion of alliance between the native classes and imperialism means an end of the economic and political subjugation of imperialism…. The theory is dangerous as it supports the imperialist fraud that their lackeys are not lackeys but their friends and allies.” (People’s Power, Jan –June 1982, p.5) The S N Singh group is also subjected to this attack as in their draft programme they amended the principle contradiction on the lines of the alliance of imperialism, compradore bourgeoisies and feudalism.

Not content with this attempt to stretch all logic and credulity to maintain the semblance of a lackey bourgeoisie in the state power, the CRC (Venu) group has also made its creative contribution. “We have to recognize that clas relations are undergoing change in differing degrees and that new classes like the rural bourgeoisie and the local bourgeoisie in the industrial sector are emerging. If the observations are proved correct we will have to make substantial changes in the programme. The character of the New Democratic Revolution will remain to be anti-imperialist and anti-feudal, but the emphasis will shift on to the anti imperialist aspect. The main target of attack be both the imperialist blocs and their Indian allies, the bureaucratic compradore bourgeoisie.”(Mass Line, May 1984, Interview with Venu)

Like a specter, the original sin committed in the 1970 prograame continues to haunt them and there seems to be nothing available to put them out of their endless misery of interminable and divisive discussions. The CRC group is still formulating the new CPI(M) programme and it seems to be a protracted affair. This group and some others including the recently formed Nandy-Santosh Rana faction of the SNS-CPI(ML), are unable to reconcile the evidence of capitalist development with a semi-colony/semi-feudal model. The escape route sought by the CRC group to maintain the fiction is to bring about the theory of imperialist-sponsored ‘capitalist development’ in India, plagiarizing the Gunder-Frank/Samir amin theories. The other attempt as by DV Rao is to term India a neo-colony. Yet some others, like the Santosh Rana-Vaskar Nandy faction’s special congress held in 1984, attempts to state that imperialism is directly sharing power in the Indian state as opposed to the rival faction’s stand that imperialism is indirectly ruling through the big bourgeoisie and landlords. Whatever the effort, the naxalites are caught in the trap of the ‘compradore bourgeoisie’ from which they find so salvation!

The CPI(M) has pointed out at the very outset that the naxalite version of the programme “leads to left sectarian and adventurist errors, and overestimation of the situation. What is the implication of a stooge government in a period when imperialist is collapsing all over the world? It implies that the state and government is already completely isolated, universally hated and armed struggle is the only from left to the people; it has only to be called for to be started. This formulation ignores the existing class realities underestimates the ideological and organizational hold of the ruling classes and their parties on the people the illusions nurtured and undermines the preparations for the requisite class alignment for building the People’s Democratic Front.” (On Left Deviation: Resolution of the Central Committee, CPI(M), August, 1967, p.5)

Who is the main enemy of the Indian revolution? Here the villain in the form of the Three World Theory has further confused the naxalites. While some staunchly maintain that the Soviet social imperialists are the main enemy, others vehemently disagree and put forward the alternative theories that ‘both imperialist powers are joint enemies; feudalism is the main enemy; the imperialist-backed big bourgeoisie and landlords are the main enemy and so on and so forth. D V Rao commenting on these group states: “Even while claiming revolutionaries some are unable to see the difference between the two superpower and he upper hand off the Soviet Union. As a result whenever the Soviet Union is exposed, they call such an attitude pro-US.” (DV Rao: “People’s Democratic Revolution in India, forward, p.24). The same difference in perception of the Soviet Union as the main enemy divides the otherwise pro-Charu Vinod Mishra and CRC groups.

This difference in perception of the main enemy creates insuperable problems for them to agree on a common united front strategy of the classes in the revolution. The S N Singh group, Vinod Mishra group and the anti-Charu Andhra groups (Pulla Reddy and D V Rao groups) pivot their strategic class front on fighting “Soviet social imperialism” which is claimed to be the dominant imperialist power having a stranglehold on the Indian state and economy. This programmatic position is rejected by other groups which see this as the basis for class collaboration with the pro-US section of the ruling classes. While both sides maintain that the Indian ruling classes (compradore bourgeois and feudals) are divided into two factions, being lackeys of either Soviet or US imperialism, they are also divided on the primacy of the former and the nature of strategic class fronts to be developed. In a perversion of Marxist analysis, all the groups subscribe to the position that there are four oppressor enemy classes to be overthrown to make the new democratic revolution –Soviet social imperialism,’ US imperialism, compradore capital and feudalism. While united in their determination to deny the reality of an Indian national bourgeoisie led by the big bourgeoisie and its dual character, these groups have engendered further disintegration by forcing class analysis to fit into a mythical anti-communist ‘social imperialism.’

Tactics-Hall Mark of Opportunism and Aiding Ruling Class Disruption

Naxalite tactics had been characterized by a dogmatic and sole reliance on armed struggle in its first phases. This was based on the sectarian ‘people’s war thesis put forward by Lin Biao at the ninth congress of the CPC. In India this brand of adventurism was interpreted by Charu Mazumdar to be the tactic of individual terrorism. After the debacle of this tactic in 1970-71 many group split away condemning the ‘annihilation theory’. However the pro-Charu groups have persisted in defending this revolutionary line’ and continue to be practitioners of terrorism. The pro Lin Biao groups in West Bengal, the Vinod Mishra group in Bhojpur the People’s War group in Andhra Pradesh and the Venu group in Kerala have all in some form or another continued to rely on the line of annihilation. The difference exists only in the emphasis. The CRC (Venu group) began talking of a ‘revolutionary mass line in 1979, by which they mean that annihilation of any which enemy must be part of the mass struggle and resorted only which the masses of an area approve of it. Except for the extreme fringe of the pro-Lin Biao groups the other groups who uphold the Charuite line currently talk of annihilation of the class enemy as an extension of the mass line.

Though many groups have denounced the past practices as wrong, the condemnation has stemmed more from the failure of the tactic rather than any honest self-introspection as to its anti-Marxist character. Even those who renounce it as anti-Marxist, still cling to the theory of permanent armed struggle’. The OCCR led by Kannu Sanyal states: “the terrorism pursued by the struggles against revisionism. That is, the new process of forming a Marxist-Leninist party which was set in motion after the Naxalite uprising of 1967 was again nipped in the bud and communist revolutionaries were split up into various groups.” (Voice of Naxalbari July 1982). However, the OCCR has no clear programme or tactics to break with this old adventurism. All that has been modified is that mass work must be combined or lead to armed struggle. By the debacle of individual annihilation all the naxalite groups have had to abandon their original tactical position that work in mass organisation is reformist and the trade union movement means economism. Self-criticism by the group is, however, combined with the contradictory chant about the ‘revolutionary situation’ obtaining in the country. The subjective assessment that India is on the brink of revolution and the corollary that the Indian ruling classes are totally isolated continues to be sanctified dogma.

Participation in Election

All naxalite groups at the inception had vehemently denounced the CPI(M) for participating in parliament and elections. Boycott of the parliament was the sine qua non of naxalism. However, the retreat from this aspect of petty bourgeois revolutionism has led to acrimonious divisions among the naxalites.

Condemning this infantile-left position, the party had state: ‘Using parliamentary institutions, according to them, is remaining bogged down at the level of mass consciousness. The added argument is that parliaments are obsolete and hence participation is no good. Thus in the name of a revolutionary struggle this important form is rejected in principle. This is nothing but an anarchist deviation, which underestimates the fight against the state in the concrete. This has nothing to do with Leninism. It seeks to reduce the working class and the masses to impotent spectators in the elections; bypasses the stage of their consciousness; advances slogans which delink the party from vast sections particularly in the election and hands them over to the tender mercies of the Congress and the other bourgeois parties.” (On Left Deviation p. 10)

The first group to violate this ‘revolutionary boycott’ was the S N Singh-Pulla Reddy-led which contested the assembly elections in June, 1977. since them, even after they spilt up they have continued to participate in elections both to the parliament and state assemblies. In this they were joined by the OCCR and the DV Rao group. This plunge into bourgeois election has led to the worst abuse heaped upon them by the CRC group the, People’s War faction and the Saraf group. The CRC is convinced that the other major pro-Charu group led by Vinod Mishra is also preparing to join the ‘pig-sty’ of parliament. The V M group in its party congress in 1983 had cleared the way for such an eventuality. This was confirmed with the Vinod Mishra group led IPF putting up a large number of candidates in Bihar in the recent assembly elections.

Refusing to accept the use of the bourgeois parliamentary system as it could negate their ‘revolutionary situation’, the strategic boycottists such as Saraf Vainly assert, “the prospect for the compradore parliamentary system is one of confusion uncertainty, one crisis followed by another, ultimately leading to the proletarian revolution.” (Saraf: Current national and international situation; A Revolutionary View Point, July-Sep. 1978,p. 64)

If the boycottists’ continuous calls for boycott have gone unheeded by the people the participationsts electoral tactics have been just as disruptive. For instance the SNS-led group has not hesitated to support the worst communal and reactionary forces including BJP-RSS candidates in many states in the name of defeating the pro-social imperialist parties, which by definition include the left parties. In West Bengal they allied with forces like the Jharkhand Party and Mukti Morcha to fight Left Front candidates in the assembly polls.

When the majority of groups not averse to participation in elections at different levels, the naxalite stance of fighting revisionism by abjuring parliament has been given a quiet burial.

Mass Work And Mass Organisations

On the abandoning of mass organizations by naxalite the CPI(M) had joined out: “Thus neglecting the main task of building mass organizations by refusing to fight for every little relief for the workers and peasants by not paying serious attention to the immediate demands and to simultaneously raising political consciousness, by a mere reliance on organizations of force once more leads to a band of select individuals indulging in militant actions, under the pretext of defending or revolutionising the struggles and bringing disaster to the mass movement.” (On Left Deviation, p. 12)

The S N Singh-Pulla Reddy CPI(ML) were the first to float the IFTU to organize trade union work. But the other naxalite groups kept away from this set-up as it was led by ‘neo-revisionists’ and ‘liquidationists’. The Andhra groups outside the CPI(ML) mainstream had never theoretically denounced work in mass organizations. They, along with those who have now joined the bandwagon of mass work’, conceive of work and tactics in the mass organisations in an extremely disruptive fashion which helps the ruling classes. One favourtie tactics is to raise immediate burning issue and organize protests and then launch a confrontation with the landlord, police, and capitalists without taking into account the correlation of forces and the consequences of such actions. Prematurely inviting police and enemy class attacks leads to crushing of the movement and disorganising the people completely.

In Bhojpur district in 1975-76, such tactics led to severe repression and decimation of struggling peasants. In Andhra the debacle of Srikakulam has been repeated on a minor scale in various places which leaves these areas firmly under landlord/police domination. In Wynad, in 1981 the ‘annihilation’ of a ‘class enemy’ led to repression. The CRC group which boasts of this action states: “The guerilla action here was done really as the exercise of the people’s political will after mobilizing and consolidating it using the method ‘from the people, to the people’. Though the party was not completely smashed in the repression led those by the state, it could not effectively overcome the enemy’s encirclement and suppression”. (Though a New Phase of Spring Thunder, p. 154)

Given their adveturist political line, for the naxalite groups every trade union and mass struggle is seen as an onslaught against the state power and its agents; in the name of fighting economism, no compromise in struggle is possible-which leads to anarchism and disruption. The efforts to prettify these disruptionist tactics in the mass movement as ‘building people’s political power’, mass line to defeat revisionism and so on cannot hide the basis truth that naxalite tactics today are geared to disorient mass movements, foil united struggles and isolate the Left forces.

The number of student, youth, peasant and cultural organizations, which have been floated by the various naxalite groups must be seen for what they are and combated with correct tactics among the people along with ideological exposure.

Having no correct class approach, most of these groups have foiled to develop any mass base and only succeed in creating temporary disruptions in some pockets like tribal areas, though their mass organisational activities. They are unable to organise the basic classes with a correct political tactical line. Given their petty-bourgeois character, they are unable to do sustained hard work to build up united class organizations of workers and peasants. Therefore in the post-emergency period, many groups have concentrated on two spheres in their mass work-civil liberties and culture. For some of the naxalite groups, civil liberties organizations have become the mass front to conduct their partisan activities.

The history of he PUCL, which originated during the emergency, needs no recounting here. But its nature and composition is instructive-it has become a forum consisting of a specific group of political elements-naxalite sarvodayites of the Gandhi Peace Foundation variety a sprinkling of pro-western liberals and some BJP-RSS activists. This is probably why the S N Singh-led CPI(ML) has made this forum its main front of activity as it tallies with their anti-Soviet, anti-fascist front line,. However, other naxalite have refused to subscribe to this concept of a civil liberties platform. So there are also civil liberties fronts floated by other naxalite groups, some together and some separately. The People Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) broke away from the PUCL. Apart from this there is the Association for Production of Democratic Rights run by naxalite in West Bengal and the Organization for the Protection of Democratic Right (OPDR) run by the DV Rao group in Andhra. The A P Civil Liberties committee is dominated by the People’s War (Kondapalli groups). Such organizations also exist in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. This in the sphere of civil liberties also, the naxalites have their different tactics and different organization. All these organizations naturally show a marked preference for taking up cases of victimized naxalite and helping in their legal battles. They also specialize in taking up so-called violations of civil liberties by the Left Front governments of West Bengal and Tripura. In all civil liberties forums, the naxalite introduce their partisan politics of slandering the Left Fronts, thereby reducing the whole exercise to a mockery.

As for their excursions into culture, the main aim of the numerous cultural groups and squabs has so far been to propagate the politics of the various naxalite groups. However in 1983 a more ambitious effort was made when after a conference in Delhi an All India League for Revolutionary Culture (AILRC) was announced Cultural squads from the Vinod Mishra Pulla Reddy and People’s War groups participated. The AILRC’s declared aim is to fight, amongst other things revisionist culture and the social imperialist danger. This attempt to project a ‘revolutionary culture’ has been scoffed at by the CRC Saraf groups who do not believe any such front is possible without clinching political differences.

Naxalite Version of Fascism

Another curious aspect of their tactical slogans is the insistence of the fallacious belief that Congress rule represents fascism, and raising slogans on this basis. The S N Singh group has been the loudest in denouncing ‘Indira fascism’ propped up by Soviet ‘social imperialism’. At the other end of the ideological spectrum, the CRC (Venu group) is also very liberal with the use of the term to describe Indian conditions. In fact it termed the assassination of Mrs Gandhi as the death of a fascist’. It sees every move of the Congress (I) government as a move to impose fascism and calls for resisting fascism. It is a very pecular form of fascism in India indeed which allows revolutionaries of the SNS group of maintain legal offices and participate in elections; that enables the leaders of the CRC groups to come out on bail and conduct vigorous anti-fascist propaganda in the capital of the country by publishing a paper!

Stand on Nationalities Question

One theoretical position which none of the groups have abandoned is the right to self –determination for the various nationalities in India. Programmatically they all extend support to secessionist movements as part of the new democratic revolution. Only is its application they sometimes differ. For the naxalite with the semi-colony and semi-feudal thesis the right of self-determination is to be exercised against a compradore state exploited by superpowers. By advocating this dangerous and erroneous stand, in practice most of the groups are supporting and participating in the movements led by the divisive forces bent upon breaking up the country and dividing the working people with the backing of US Imperialism. In no other current question as the national question is the treacherous and pro-imperialist character of naxalite seen.

In the case of both Assam and Punjab, various naxlaite groups have declared support for the separatist movements and where possible are participating in them. With the exception of the SNS group, which had some reservations, naxalite groups have hailed the Assam chauvinist movement as a national movement. DV Rao opines: “To say that there is the invisible hand of the US behind the national movements going on in the state of the North-East is only to divert the real issue.” He proceeds to exonerate the USA and targets the Soviet Union; “The United States, weakened as it is (is) contenting itself with the export of its capital… But as for the Soviet Union, it is attempting to grip not only the country as a whole, but all the strategic area within it. The North East is one among them.” (D V Rao: People’s Democratic Revolution, pp. 25-26). So flying in the face of all facts of US imperialist subversion in the North East, a theory is invented to project the Assam chauvinist movement as fighting Soviet domination!

On Punjab most groups categorically state that the extremists activities in Punjab are a fight ‘national oppression’. “In the case of Punjab the situation has developed to the demand for national independence involving armed struggle against national oppressors.” (Mass Line, June, 1984). This is how the CRC group gives the Bhindranwale groups the status of fighter for national liberation. Not to be left behind, the People’s War group states: “if now leadership (of Akalis) betrays the movement for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib resolution demands half-way, if will be the proletariat who will be primarily to blame. From a bourgeois leadership we could not have expected otherwise… It is for the proletariat to take the movement forward, stick to the Anandpur Sahib resolution and other democratic demands expose the leadership, fight the fundamentalists … and enhance the struggle against the center and the police.” (Varguard, April-May, 1984) As for as this group naxalites is concerned it is the proletariat which has to champion the Anandpur Sahib resolution! They also support the Akali stand on Article 25 of the constitution. Their only complaint is that some naxalites have joined the Bhindranwale gangs and merged their identity, instead of joining the movement independently.

The SNS-led CPI(ML) while inveighing against the chauvinist aspects of the Assam movement is not above combining with tribal separatism. SN Singh writes, “Is it not a matter of proletarian pride that our party has been struggling hard to rescue the separate Jharkhand movement from the opportunist this disruptive hands. With ‘separate Jharkhand on the basis of adivasi –non-adivasi people’s unity’ as our slogan are we not preventing the careerists and opportunists from dividing the exploited people … True to their colour some among the ultra-‘left’ fraternity can be found championing the chauvinist line of driving out all the non-adivasis from the Jharkhand region.” (SN Singh: For a New Democracy, March-April 1982) While S N Singh himself states that they have joined the movement to rescue it from chauvinist elements, he also0 admits that those belonging to his ‘ultra-left fraternity’ are busy fanning the flames of tribal chauvinism. The difference in practices is only one of degree.

Various seminars are being organised by the different groups of naxalites to espouse dangerous stand on nationalities. A typical example is the seminar organised in August 1981 in madras by the A P Radical Studies Union where papers were presented supporting the ‘national movements’ of Assam, Nagaland, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand Vidharba Tamil Nadu.

It is in the matter of facing the challenge of the divisive forces that we see the naxalite at their disruptive worst today. Blinded to the threat of US imperialism by their hatred for the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, they are easy prey for recruitment into the imperialist-backed divisive movements, which can be covered with pseudo-revolution rhetoric about anti-centre national movements.

Imperialist Infiltration

It is this dark side of imperialist infiltration into the naxalite movement that requires further highlighting. The recent episode of the vertical split in the S N Singh-led CPI(ML) have confirmed the facts already available. In mid-1984 the Provisional Central Committee led by S N Singh split down the middle with the Santosh Rana - Vaskar Nandy group and the faction led by S N Singh parting ways after a bitter inner quarrel. It is significant as the bankruptcy of naxalite politics once again surfaces sharply with mutual accusations of betrayal of Mao Zedong thought, softness to US imperialism and divisive movements being bandied about.

The S N Singh minority faction in its document makes serious charges against Vaskar Nandy and company. “In our organisation also, Nandy’s close associates established contacts with a foreign voluntary agency and a native voluntary agency financed by Western monopoly capital, keeping it secret from the POC and the general secretary of the party, S N Singh. They established contact with Rural Aid Consortium of Tagore Society which is financed by West European countries and the USA and with one Danish Organisation on the Plea of providing relief to the people of Gobiballabpur in West Bengal and some areas in Bihar. Lakhs of rupees were received for digging tanks, constructing school building opening a sewing training center and distributing chickens and cattle to the needy. It also came to our notice that money was being received by some of our leaders from the Lutheran Church. When it came to light to the PCC members, an intense ideological struggle burst forth in the party on this issue.” (Our differences with Nandy-Rana group, PCC-CPI(ML), p. 29)

It goes on to state: “We thoroughly investigated (among the cadres and people) in Gobiballapur and Bhargora, where relief work was carried on through money from the “Tagore Society”, Rohtas Channpatia and Mushhari, where schools were built up by the Dabes, and party and doubted our bonafides … Several cadres have been exposed to these agencies.” It concludes with the damming indictment: “It does not require intelligence of a high order to find out why some of the former members of the PCC adopted particular policies on the question of caste, tribe, Assamese and non-Assamese.” Following a blind anti-Soviet line, Satyanarian Singh found out a few months before his death that the majority of his PCC members sided with Nandy and company in whitewashing its links with the imperialist funded voluntary agencies, most having been, corrupted with foreign money.

Attitude towards the CPI(M)

If there is one tenet has not been abandoned by any of the groups, it is their implacable hatred for the CPI(M). Most of the groups characterise the CPI(M) not only as revisionist party but also a party of the ruling classes- that section which is allied to Soviet Social imperialism. Though the phase of annihilating CPI(M) cadres has been abandoned as an official policy, with some exceptions as in Warrangal district the same aim of liquidating the CPI(M) is sought to be pursued by opportunity alliances with reactionary political forces and outright slander against the CPI(M) and the Left Front governments.

As an observer who was earlier not unsympathetic to their movement has noted, “Often the affirmation of the revolutionary identity of naxalism means singling out the CPM and CPI for an onslaught because, according to their theory, those parties can be nothing but obstacles to the popular movement … the anti CPM and CPI aspect of naxalism is not new. The point is that it has become increasingly more important over the recent past as the naxalite survival has been threatened.” (Praful Bidwai, “From Thunder to a Whimper”, The Times of India January 11, 1983)

Unable to explain how the compradors in a semi colony are able to maintain a viable parliamentary regime, the common rationalization is to blame the ‘revisionist’ CPI(M). “The reason why this compradore Parliamentary system sustai9ned for 31 years, does not lie in its viability created illusions about the reactionary Indian state…. adopted the parliamentary road…. blunted the edge of class struggle and prevented the growth of a genuine revolutionary party – thus helping the perpetuation of this rotten system for such period”. (Saraf, A Revolutionary view point, July-Sept, 1978, p.64)

The anti-Soviet /anti-Fascist theorists include the CPI(M) as one of the forces to be isolated, as according to them the party supports Soviet hegemonism and is therefore a lackey of the Congress party too. The newly formed IPF in the recent parliament elections conducted propaganda calling on people to defeat both the Congress(I) and the Left Front in West Bengal! Two naxalite groups in Tripura have openly allied with the separatist TUJS to fight the Left Front there. The only difference between the boycottists and participationsist in elections is that while those who boycott blame the ‘revisionist parties’ for giving a lease of life to the ‘decaying parliamentary system’, the participationsis consider that more effective propaganda can be made against the CPI(M) by intervening in the elections.

The hostility is but natural, for as Praful Bidwai points out: “This is one side of contemporary naxalism. The other side cynical and devious real politic; covert, and now increasingly overt collaboration with the most rabidly right wing politicians, class and casts, behind the scene maneuvers and collusion with the police and communal or regionalist parties.”

The experience of naxalism in the two Left-Front states of West Bengal and Tripura fully bear out this truth.

The Future of Ultra-Leftism-Potential for Disruption

The disorganised and anarchic state of naxalism indicates that this variety of ultra leftism is doomed to extinction. Naxalism had arisen in the sixties in the background of petty-bourgeois frustrations at the deepening crisis of the bourgeois-landlord system and the left-sectarian line advocated by the CPC during the cultural revolution phase in China. With the elimination of the latter, the ideological steam for naxalism has petered out. However, the first factor has not disappeared. As Lenin pointed out, “A petty bourgeois driven to frenzy by the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism is characteristic of all countries. The instability of such revolutionism, its barrenness, and its tendency to turn rapidly into submission, apathy, phantasma, and even a frenzied infatuation with one bourgeois fad or another-all this is common knowledge. However at all rid revolutionary parties of old errors, which always crop up at unexpected occasion, in somewhat new forms, in a hitherto unfamiliar garb or surroundings, in an unusual-a more or less unusual-situation.” (Lenin, Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, selected Works vol. III p. 358)

The horrors of capitalism and feudal remnants still plague Indian society and affect the vast petty-bourgeois sections. Ultra leftism finds fertile soil in such conditions. The farcical and at times agonizing disintegration of the naxalite ultra-left trend bears the potential for revival in other forms.

The struggle against the left-deviation which the CPI(M) waged alongside the fight against revisionism has scored major success. However, the Party has to continue to vigilantly note the continuing efforts to revive ultra-leftism and must effectively combat these trends in whichever garb they appear. The CPI(M) has been the only party which recognized the counter revolutionary content of naxalism and resolutely waged a political ideological battle without naxalism and resolutely waged a political ideological battle without compromise. The current dead-end of naxalism is a vindication of its line.

Mon, 2007-07-30 00:00

A look into Maoist politics by the Pragoti group

Who are the Maoists that we are talking about: is it a centralized structured leadership that operates with a set principle i.e. to revolt against the Indian state? What governs their actions : is it a set plan deriving from sound principles? Where are their bases right now? What has been the reason for their relative growth in these bases? Is there at all a class content to the mobilisations that the Maoists are taking about? What is their relationship with other Naxalite groups which are now integrated within the mainstream?

Now only after one answers these questions and more, can one formulate a response to the Maoist praxis. And even after that, one has to understand the kind of response: whether it is confrontation politically or using the instruments of the state which are now under the party' thrall to mitigate violent activities by the Maoist cadre, so on and so forth.

Let us try to answer a few questions raised:

Currently the Maoists are those who have been united as the CPI (Maoist) after the merger of the PW group (itself a merger between the PW and the Party Unity groups) and the MCC. The PW group was strong in Andhra Pradesh and outlying areas of Chattisgarh/ Orissa, while the MCC was strong in Jharkhand and Bihar. Again, both these groups were concentrated in the tribal belts in these regions. While the PW had a mass organisation component that was/is present as writers' groups, myriad working class and student bodies and other "sanghams", the MCC was more an amorphous insurgent force.

The coming together of the PW and MCC strengthened the party in the sense that they had an operating terrain that stretched from upper Bihar (Nepal bordering) to AP. But again, this operating terrain was over-exaggerated by both the media and the government who made inflated claims of Maoist presence and control in about 250 odd districts. In truth, however, this control was marginal except for remote areas which were not under the control of the state and where there was hardly any institutional intervention. For e.g., if one does a map of all areas in India where there is low road density, and sketch out the parts in Bihar/ Jharkhand/ Chattisgarh/ Orissa border and AP, you will find that it is remarkably the same sketch of areas where there is Maoist activity.

In other words, wherever the state has been in its rottenest forms (bureaucrat/ contractor/ builder nexus controlling tribal regions for e.g.), the Naxalites of the Maoist variety have built their bases. The bases they have formed are mostly organised in small militant bands called "dalams", which do a dual role of both policing (dispensing justice) and acting as armed outfits indulging in insurgency. The party on the other hand involves itself in mass struggles on issues such as tribal welfare, land reform etc, but this was restricted to areas where the PW was stronger, i.e. in AP. Even now, the mass struggles and issues taken up by the PW-affiliated groups have found a resonance and brought about some degree of popularity in both rural and tribal belt areas. In fact, their memorandum to the AP Chief Minister at the time of the Naxal-AP talks contained a clear demand for land redistribution, an issue that has picked up fervour after the CPI (M) has taken up the Bhoo-porattam.

At the same time, dedicated Greyhound action against the Maoists has made them flee the Andhra regions and the movement is restricted to mass organisations of the Coolie sanghams, the writer units, cultural groups and myriad human rights groups.

In Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar and Orissa, on the other hand, the CPI (Maoist) has a greater reliance on the insurgent units of the erstwhile MCC. Here disastrous measures such as Salwa Judum (in Chattisgarh) and virtual absence of the state in any form of welfare or developmental activity (Jharkhand for example is thriving in virtual anarchy hijacked by corporate groups and innumerable SEZs which were instituted and later cancelled by the Arjun Munda government of the BJP) has meant that the Maoists have found a resonance among the tribals and other sections worst hit by state inaction.

In West Bengal, the lowly developed areas of West Midnapore are the target of the Maoists who use the border with Jharkhand to mount attacks on CPI (M) officials and partymen using unscrupulous annihilation methods. These insurgent miltants are also of the MCC persuasion of anarchic violence.

In essence, because of the complex nature of party organisation and the recent mergers, the CPI (Maoist) does not really have a set plan or programme that governs their praxis. Frequent decimation of their local leadership plus the inevitable pulls to use bourgeois parties to foster their growth has meant that the CPI (Maoist) does not really act in a co-ordinated and organised fashion. As such already, their party programme suffers from a serial lack of understanding of the Indian conditions and their dogmatic adherence to a party programme that literally copies from the Chinese programme of the late 1920s is simply incredulous. The party's insistence that India is controlled by a comprador bourgeois bureaucratic apparatus and their complete non-understanding of the nature of the Indian bourgeoisie virtually determines their flawed praxis, meaning they are restricted to areas where the state is a total failure and they represent primarily sections of landless peasantry and tribal groups alone and virtual absence in working class movements.

To tell the truth, the neoliberal state has given a lifeline to the Maoists. The neoliberal state insists on changing the character of the state so much so that it breaks away from even minimal welfare norms that were instituted by the liberal bourgeois constitution and this only provides the Maoists a way to tap in the vast pool of discontentment. This tapping is channelised into anarchic military action against any or so called representatives of the state, which might include a local constable or a traffic policeman too!. Regular raids of armouries and police stations and local weapon units form a way of both enthusing their "cadre" as well as to create a situation favourable to their understanding that the repression that would be invited would actually reveal the "naked aggression of the anti-people state", peeling off any remnants of its so called progressive character.

Now, their relationship with other Naxalite groups. Among the various groups still in thrall today, the faction of the CPI (ML) that was anti-Lin Piao, pro-Charu and led by Vinod Mishra, the CPI (ML)-Liberation is the one group that can lay claim to some degree of growth organisationally. Others of the Satyanarayan Singh/ Pulla Reddy leaderships, the original CPI (ML) of Kanu Sanyal, the Red Flag group, the New Democracy group and the myriad factions still holding claim to some legacy of the Naxalite movement in Punjab, Kashmir etc are either virtually in death throes or holding on to some flickering light in some areas such as AP (New democracy group). The CPI (ML)-Liberation could muster up some strength because of fierce anti-feudal struggles in the Jehanabad area of Bihar for e.g and in other parts of Bihar and Jharkhand. They had some strength in the Karbi -Anglong region in Assam trying to lead an\ regional autonomy movement, but today they have been marginalised there. Of course, the student body of CPI (ML)-Liberation, AISA has had a tremendous success in JNU of late and has some strength in universities in UP for e.g. ML-lib is also trying to bring in disenchanted sections of the Left Front to its side- a venture they have so far failed to succeed in, and after F'Bloc's spectucular losses in Tripura, will be even more difficult to achieve. The ML-Lib and other Naxal groups have had a love-hate relationship with the Maoists. There have been frequent internecine warfare among the progenies of the AICCCR even today with the Maoists trying to poach into ML-Lib controlled areas and indulging in some heavy duty annihilation tactics against the New Democracy group (if I am spelling the outfit correctly).

Overall, an objective strength analysis would reveal that the CPI (ML)-Liberation is the party in mainstream Indian polity that has the highest percentage of "deposit lost" candidature, even in areas where they call themselves relevant, i.e. in Bihar. A cursory analysis at www.eci.gov.in (EC website) would show you that in the past 5 years in all elections (Assembly and Parliamentary), the CPI (ML)-Liberation enjoys the dubious distinction of a nearly 95% lost-deposit-rate, marginally close to the BSP of course which fields candidates every where irrespective of party strength.

Vis-a-vis the Naxals first; the CPI (ML)-Liberation is in a quandary. It's been squeezed by the Maoists in regions where they were strong erstwhile, such as in Jehanabad or in rural Bihar and it has no means of growing in strength in other areas, where the mainstream Left is already strong. In essence, therefore, the CPI (ML)-Lib is working on a strategy on building its base in West Bengal by forging an alliance with all other parts of the LF excepting the CPI (M), funnily including the revisionist CPI or the theoretically bankrupt RSP/FB! In other words, the strategy is to use discontent among the Left on issues such as the Nandigram episode and forge a spoiler status.

For the CPI(M) therefore, the job remains to hold on to its progressive character strong enough to keep up the levels of popularity and mass support in a manner that there are enough disincentives for a break up of the strong Left Front that has been through tested times and tribulations. In areas where there is a direct confrontation such as JNU, it is for the local mass organisation to prove the bankruptcy and incorrect theory and praxis that the ML follows. The former (job in WB for e.g.) is relatively easy; the latter is a tad difficult.

On issues however where there is needed to be a pan-Leftist consolidation for e.g. on anti-imperialism; the CPI (M) has forged joint protests and struggles which have included some erstwhile Naxal elements. The ML-Lib was part of a joint march during George Bush's visit and such initiatives should continue, but not at the cost of strengthening the LF against poaching efforts by the ML-Lib.

As regards the Maoists, it is much more complicated. The parallel with the Nepali Maoists is misleading. The Nepali Maoists were successful in integrating with the mainstream and bring an end to their "people's war" and were ready to take part in mass elections because of a longstanding debate within the party. The PW-line of the Nepali Maoists was successful in capturing the Nepali peasantry's imagination to a good extent because the repressive character of the Nepali state was very much for all to see. The Nepali's monarch's quixotic moves to bring about an emergency brought about an unprecedented consolidation of the entire polity of Nepal against the institution of monarchy. Could you imagine a coming together of the Left-the centre-right and the centre and the ultra-left anywhere in the world? That culmination happened in Nepal, where a broad eight party alliance was formed. The Nepali Maoists' assessment of the Nepali state and the revolution that was necessary therefore was more in tune with what conditions existed than what the Indian Maoists were and still are going about, which is purely left wing adventurism. Prachanda himself called the Indian Maoists, "Dogmato-revisionists".

The Indian Maoists don't even have a good understanding of Indian Left's praxis, calling the CPI (M) social fascists. Its rejection of industrial capital in the country as being "comprador" in effect is a suicidal surrender to the bourgeois classes, which will continue to hold social relevance and capital and public trust playing upon the nonsense that the CPI(Maoist) talks about vis-a-vis development and growth. It has had no role in anti-communal movements for e.g. in the country.

Taking this into account, it is very difficult for the Marxists and the CPI (M) to be sympathetic to the CPI(Maoist) cause in the country. Yes, it is a good thing to oppose state repression against Maoist friendly activists involved in highlighting tribal rights and human rights issues such as a Binayak Sen and it is a good thing to uphold press freedom of people close to the Maoists (such as the recently incarcerated editor of the People's March, Govindan Kutty). It is also a worthwhile effort to take up the issues of tribals in a progressive manner instead of using them as cannon fodder as the Maoists do, by emphasising their rights and privileges. The CPI (M) has done that effectively through the aegis of the Tribal Bill that was passed in parliament and the subsequent protests made by the party for ratification. Perhaps more effort is needed for mass mobilisation among these sections.

But it is literally impossible to be sympathetic to the Indian Maoist cause because of their extremely dogmatic and incorrect understanding of Indian conditions, their incorrect interpretation of Marxism-Leninism, their entirely incorrect discourse on their understanding of "revolutionary violence", and so on and so forth.

In essence, it makes sense for the CPI (M) to work upon ameliorating the conditions that have led to the birth of the Indian Maoists (the socio-economic situation in the remotest parts of the country) rather than dealing with these left wing adventurists itself. Also, the CPI (M) must continue to forge a credible alternative to the liberal bourgeois sections of the Indian polity and be able to construct a political movement that achieves the peoples' democratic revolution. Central to this success is the performance of the various state governments of the Left parties in implementing pro-people measures and sustainable growth and equity-sharing.


CPI (M) does not consider CPI (Maoist) to be a Leftwing force. They are a programatically violent party which also aligns with right reactionaries like Trinamul Congress against the CPI (M). CPI (M) has decided to confront the Maoists politically and organizationally. There is obviously no question of joining the anti-Maoist bandwagon of the ruling classes or adopt Salva Judum like tactics, which besides being reactionary is also counterproductive.


There is one principal difference between CPI (M) and ultra-left is the difference between the theory and practice of communist politics and anarchism. Communists (read CPI [M]) believe in people's democratic revolution and gradually a socialist state would be formed under the leadership of the working class and then a communist society would be witnessed when the state would 'wither away'. However, it should be borne in mind that since the present conditions of the prevalent society is marked by the domination of a bourgeois-landlord state; the party programme of CPI (M) only stresses the need for a people's democratic revolution and not socialism and communism as the immediate task. It should be also important to keep in mind that any ideology for that matter is an inter-relation between various political concepts and how the followers of a particular ideology view those concepts. In this respect, the CPI (M) as such has no problem with the concept of state but it only opposes the very nature of the state. That is to say which class is ruling the state and to which class interests the state is serving. So, the CPI (M) works for the transformative nature of the bourgeois-landlord state to a People's Democratic State where the state would serve the interests of the working class comprised of industrial proletariat and the peasantry as well as various sections of the poor and marginalised. That is why there is the construction of 'people' as opposed to 'elites comprising of bourgeois-landlord' or simply the 'proletariat'. But there is hardly any doubt that the Communist Party would lead the People's Democratic State and it would serve the interests of the 'people' in general and the working class in particular.

Now, in opposition to the Marxist-Leninist theorisation of state as an instrument of class interests, the anarchists in their political praxis believe in the 'destruction' of the state as an immediate task, not applying the state as an instrument for the 'people' or 'working class'. The Maoist stress on 'destruction' of the state in their political praxis, in effect is a result of their 'mistrust' with the whole concept of the state in general. It should be noted that if the material conditions do not exist for 'withering away' of the state then the state would be there and it would crop up even if somebody tries to 'destroy' it. By contrast, when the CPI (M) decides to fight elections and lead state governments, it has the sole objective: how to serve the interests of the common 'people' even within the strictures and boundary of the repressive and ideological apparatuses of bourgeois-landlord state. That is why it never made any high promises like socialism but has only stuck to the basic point that the left front government is a 'government for relief'. However, 'relief' is neither an end in itself nor the final objective of the CPI (M). That is why the revolutionary goal is also expressed in another set of political concepts: 'Left front government is the platform for struggle'. Implicit in this proposition is that the 'government'---an apparatus of the 'state' can be used effectively against the ruling class politics represented by bourgeois political parties (whose interests sometimes converge with all ultra-left forces including Maoists and Liberation in making an unholy alliance against the CPM). The left front government can be also seen as a 'platform of struggle' against the ruling class politics of central government. Where the communists have a government (like in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura), both the government and the party struggles against the ruling class politics, where it has no government, the 'party' solely struggles against the ruling class politics. In this regard, besides agreeing with what many people numerously have argued that the ultra-left position in theorising the nature of the Indian state as 'semi-feudal and semi-colonial' and the Indian bourgeoisie as 'comprador' as erroneous, I argue that even their looking at the 'state' as a general concept is very much problematic. It is their 'mistrust' with the 'state' as such that keeps them away from electoral politics.

On the question of a broad left alliance with the ultra-left, one has to finally come to terms with a common programmatic agenda. Even the left front in Bengal was built on a common agenda and was a result of successive years of joint struggles in 1960s and 1970s. The Left Front in West Bengal was thus not merely an electoral alliance. Similarly, when the left supports the UPA government at centre, it does so with a Common Minimum Programme (CMP). When the basic principles of CMP would be violated or compromised, the Left has categorically mentioned that it would not support the UPA as in the case of Indo-US nuclear deal. So, even if there is a greater need for the broadest possible unity and solidarity among all left groups, there has to be some common agenda on the basis of which that unity is possible. The left front was possible only on the basis of a common understanding of several issues and joint struggles despite the fact that the CPI (M) differs with the party programme of CPI, RSP, FB. But if various shades of ultra-left think that CPI (M) is their 'class enemy' then how an alliance can be possible? For argument's sake, even if the CPI (M) wants an alliance, the ultras would not go for an alliance because of their sectarian nature over the years to the CPI (M). One can give several examples where the CPI (M) asked for an alliance but the ultras refused to have an alliance with the CPI (M). An immediate example was the Delhi University students' union election, where the major players were Congress affiliated NSUI and RSS affilated and BJP backed ABVP, the AISA refused to have an alliance with SFI. Now, although Liberation claims to go for a United Front tactics in their party documents and also points out that they work in an alliance with CPI (M) in Andhra and Assam on a number of issues, the very nature of their stubborn opposition to CPI (M) in Bengal and JNU speaks volumes for their lack of a consistent policy towards a United Front. Therefore, the foundational basis of any political alliance and not merely an electoral one has to be on the basis of a common programmatic agenda.

In fact there are various shades of anarchism--but there is a commonality among them: the will to 'destroy' the state as evident from the violent tactical methods of the Maoists, their emphasis on political violence as a form of political struggle without giving much importance to economistic struggles like Trade Unionism and ideological struggles that is generally expressed by the theoretical articulations of the organic intellectuals of the party and in the party mouthpieces in understanding various issues in making counter-arguments with the bourgeois intellectuals who are as Marx called 'salaried spokesperson of the bourgeoisie, whose work is to theorise and conceptualise the viewpoints of the bourgeoisie'. Indeed, the CPI (M) and its organic intellectuals have repeatedly tried to provide counter-arguments and engaged in serious ideological debates with the bourgeois media and its canards against the CPI (M). Moreover, on the issues of neoliberalism, communalism, casteism, patriarchy, the CPI (M) has not only fought political struggles but also ideological battles and has been consistently fighting. In the case of Maoists, we notice more emphasis on the sole agenda of 'armed struggle' as a particular form of political struggle and less importance have been given on economistic struggles like Trade Union activities and organising peasantry on the issues of specific economic demands from the state. Also the Maoists pay less attention to the ideological battles because of their closed dogmatic structure of their ideology, where a 'foreclosure' can be noticed in the form of disengagement with any other left political group. By contrast, the CPI (M) tries to take lessons from past mistakes and tries to correct both the ideological and tactical line if there is any deviation. This process can be noticed right from the local units of the CPI (M) to the central committee. This makes the correct left understanding of CPI (M) as a dynamic ideology unlike the Maoist variant of 'dogma' and 'creed' that is more based on an ideological worldview that is stagnant and unchanging due to their plagiarism of the party programme of Communist party of China and then a very poor and unsophisticated implementation in the Indian context.


In relation to my point about 'mistrust' of state and Maoist anarchism, i need to clarify that their erroneous understanding of the Indian state is an important factor in such a 'mistrust' for electoral politics from where the state enjoys its 'legitimacy' and 'authority'. But the early anarchist position of Bakunin who had fundamental differences with Marx rejected any 'authority' that either emanates from sovereign power or universal suffrage. Then anarchists like Kropotkin who had differences with Lenin that led the latter to write 'Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder' had similar views of 'destruction of the state'. To quote Kropotkin: "Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life, taking over in all fields of human activity, bringing with it its wars and its domestic struggles for power, its palace revolutions which only replace one tyrant by another, and inevitably at the end of this development there is ... death! Or the destruction of States, and new life starting again in thousands of centers on the principle of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement. The choice lies with you!" This anarchist position on state is simply a reflection of their 'mistrust' of 'state' and any 'power' as an 'evil'. If one closely examines the Indian Maoists, then one can argue that there are stark similarities between the classical Russian anarchism of 19th and early 20th century that rejects any idea of state and universal suffrage with that of Maoist negation of electoral politics. Every ideology has different vantage/reference points on the basis of which it justifies its own normative political theory and practical political action. It is the ideological morphology that is the structural arrangement of core, adjacent and peripheral political concepts around which any ideology is organised. The core concepts or the fundamentals are of tremendous importance for any ideology and its followers. Any ideology's core consists of constituent concepts that are most highly valued and shared by and at the centre of concern in a particular ideological discourse. They are substantiated and specified in relation to adjacent and peripheral concepts, which in turn constrained and shaped by the cores. In the case of communism, the core elements are equality, justice, class struggle, revolution, and collective welfare and freedom. The adjacent political concepts of communist ideology are socialist democracy, collective ownership of property in opposed to private property and the peripheral political concepts are generally of tactical nature: the path of revolution, democratic centralism etc. All these political concepts collectively constitute an ideology and any follower of an ideology needs to follow all the tenets in its totality. In the case of anarchism, it is the will to negate any power and the will to have a condition of statelessness that mark its core concepts and that supercedes any other political values. As a result of this basic will to have a stateless society without an evolutionist approach of withering away of the state that communists believe, the anarchists often take refuge to violent political methods as their effective tool of achieving statelessness without opting for any other alternative path like parliamentary struggle. Thus, as a result of fundamental differences in the basic normative political philosophy of communism and anarchism, an alliance between CPI (M)--the communists and Maoists (anarchists) might not be possible in near future.

Moreover, the ultras seem to have a lesser understanding of the dangers of imperialism as can be argued on their specific targeting of CPI (M) as a weakening mechanism of the left against imperialism. After all, if the left is weakened, imperialism is going to be strengthened. The ultra-left support to a number of secessionist movements also gives space for imperialism to make its own bases in the 'seceded liberated zone'. Dialogue among several left groups is surely welcome, but if two parties on both sides of the table view the world very differently at a conceptual level and if both have very different ideological positions, then political alliance among the left is a theoretical and practical impossibility.

Sat, 2008-03-08 00:00