April 13, 2010

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

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