April 07, 2010

Murder in the name of Mao

Discussing the absence of ideology in Maoist ideology
Even after their rout post Charu Mazumdar days, extremist or reactionary Leftist activities never vanished from the Indian political spectrum. The rural urban divide, the undeterred growth of poverty and hunger, the plundering of the natives’ wealth and all such omnipresent evils of the Indian nation never let this brand of politics die out entirely. The Left, mainstream one that is, has recently had terrible reverses in Kerala and West Bengal. The shock in the latter’s case is even worse than the former since it had long developed the aura of being an unshakeable Left bastion. The Left Front’s leading party the CPI(M) is obviously the worst affected. In terms of media lampooning, verbal duels with the Centre and body count. In fact the fight between the Left Front and its enemies suddenly seems to be one between the Left’s enemies and the CPI(M). This probably stems from a view of strike-at-the-roots taken by the opposition. As is widely known now, the opposition is one which is a mélange of political entities and individuals that range from the far Right to the far Left with even some eponymous apolitical liberals throwing in their respective, at times art worked, gauntlets. The most prominent of this anti-CPI(M) coalition is the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Maoist alliance. The alliance is one of symbiosis wherein the TMC gets to enjoy the spoils of electoral power and the Maoists get to expand their ‘bases’ under the benign patronage of the TMC. Though there are a multitude of other players in the anti-CPI(M) rainbow each throwing in a punch for their past grievances, the Maoists are by far proving to be the most potent of destroyers for the CPI(M). The Delhi government too realizes this all too very well and is letting the dog bite as much as possible before it steps in rebuking its naughty child.

So why or how are the Maoists the most potent of the lot? Firstly what really sets the Maoists apart is the shared political symbolism that it has with the Marxists. They give the slogans which sound all too familiar to the ears of the people of Bengal where generations have grown up looking at Marxists and their ideology as a way of life and a language of living in their daily lives. To make the poison more heady the CPI(M) has faltered a lot in keeping its own house in order and stands guilty in the eyes of the people in the very manner and measure as it had trained them to judge in the years gone by. Secondly the poison has had its share of successes. From blocking the Bengal government from carrying out its long declared program of industrialisation to setting up of liberated zones under the very nose of the government to amply showing the state government machinery to be ineffective and ham handed the Maoists as of now have taken center stage. So obviously the CPI(M) and sections of the Left intelligentsia is now rising up to recognising the Maoists in their true potentially damaging character. What is strange is that the CPI(M) had buried its ideological head in the sand of mundane electoral exigencies for long relating to matters of opposition from within the Left form both the revisionist and the reactionary folds. It is strange because the CPI(M) today is led by a generation of leaders, especially in West Bengal, who, thanks to the Naxal days of the 60-70 era, know firsthand how easily and how badly blood can be spilled if the reactionary Left is allowed to grow. Nevertheless, the renewed interest in the reactionary Left is a welcome change, both for the CPI(M) itself and those who ally themselves with the scientific radical Left. To that effect the CPI(M)’s organs are writing on and its leaders are publicly debating on the reactionary Left in its Maoist avatar. To add to that body of work the following essay wishes to add some points and viewpoints that seem missing or amiss.

If the political press statements relating to their alliance with the TMC are left aside, the primary point of the CPI(M)’s criticism of the Maoists is their ideology. It talks of how the latter’s ideology is wrong when seen in the light of Marxist and materialist understanding. The Maoists’ political understanding is broadly based on the following guiding principles –

· The Indian ruling class is one that is made of the comprador bourgeoisie. Comprador meaning one that functions like a subsidiary to the capitalists of the imperialist nations.

· The Indian nation is one that is inhabited by poor landless peasants and the nature of India’s economy is entirely agrarian with other factors and actors having little, if any, effect. So in order to achieve revolution, a revolt which is overwhelmingly agrarian in nature must be organised and all activities must be solely directed at that or at most be subservient to that.

· The Indian State, drawing from its comprador ruling class, is again comprador and exclusively acts in the interest of the imperialist powers. Hence their rule is devoid of any real political basis. Thus the elections are a farcical exercise and overthrow of the state through gun power is both justified and the only alternative.

Without doubt, the above is outright wrong and is absolutely alien to the realities of India’s socio-political and economic constitution and situation. It is there only because of the ideological legacy, or perhaps vestige, the Maoists carry from the days of Charu Mazumdar and company. So the CPI(M), or anyone else for that matter, is right on track if their criticism calls the Maoists’ ideological line antiquated and unfounded. However sticking to this scope of critique only serves to prove the Maoists wrong but not to counter them – which in fact is the stated objective of the whole process of engaging in the critique.

The notion that that the Maoist movement is guided by its stated ideological declarations and led by a group of people who are only ideologically motivated is as fallacious as the ideology’s reasoning itself. The reality is that the ideological talk of the Maoists is largely humbug and hogwash and has very little to do with their real organisational behaviour and political intentions.
That the Naxalbari line was wrong is now a truth that has proven itself. The mass rejection that the Naxalite brand of Leftist activism has faced is proof of that. This especially holds true when one notes that this rejection was complete and outright in the radical land of Bengal which was its birthplace. As an affirmation to their adherence to Leftist and radical views while rejecting reactionary politics the people of Bengal, near unanimously, voted to power the mainstream Left parties and the CPI(M) right in the aftermath of the Naxalites’ bloodbath. This was followed by similar dwindling of the Naxal factions across the Indian states. Even if Andhra yielded one Srikakulam it refused shelter to the Maoists when the Andhra Police and paramilitaries gave chase. Despite a Wayanad, Kerala’s naxalite movement is only talked of in the past tense by an unchanging face or two who also audibly regret their earlier participation. Undivided Bihar, which was their once a prized possession and was home to the movement’s leading lights, became a place where the Maoists’ differently named version the MCC was fighting gang wars instead of the revolutionary proletarian war. Same is the story of Orrisa, Maharshtra, parts of Karnataka, stretches of Tamil Nadu and every other geographical location where they claimed to have presence. This en-masse rejection of their politics and policies is one that would be a clear message to even the most politically naïve to review their politics and methods of working. The Maoists however show stubborn and unrelenting adherence to the dogmatic Naxalite ideology. This naivety even by a far stretch of imagination seems improbable for people who are in politics as a full time occupation. The recent spate of arrests have shown the presence of people who hail from financially well off backgrounds and have been able to afford high education in modern universities. Their exposure to the outside world seems irreconcilable with the form of political organisation and activity they are into – the CPI(Maoist) that is. This especially when the second half of the century gone by shows the failure that their ideological peers have faced from Latin America through West Asia, East Europe onto Asia. Moreover such failures and their reasons are well documented and widely discussed. Even a cursory reading of similar movements that laid its primal organisational stress on military confrontation, such as the Sendero Luminoso and others, show how such movements are ended by state power militarily.

Moreover sustaining such a political activity in the face of a three decade long perpetual flop-show is devoid of logic. There must most certainly be some beneficial yield that comes into the hands of those who lead this movement at the end of the day, which probably also percolates down the ranks in varying degrees, to egg such a doomed activity to move on. This brings us to the next aspect, that of monetary matters.

It is well known that the Maoist guerillas are very well armed. Their arsenal includes the best in rifles such as the INSAS (used by the Indian Army) and the AK 47 (used by Indian paramilitary)[1]. Apart from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) they use directional anti-personnel Claymore mines[2] (highly sophisticated mine used by the US Army). This apart from the many small arms they are in possession of. Guns like these and their ammunition are rather expensive. An indicator of the cost is the Rs 100 Cr that the government of Maharashtra had to sanction just to provide a small section of its police with AK 47s in the aftermath of the November 26th Mumbai terror attacks. [3]

The Maoists’ claim that they get most of the weaponry by looting the police is unbelievable because the police, especially the rural units whom they mostly attack, are equipped with nothing more than cane sticks. A few exceptional police stations, and that too not chowkis, have the 303 wooden butt rifles and nothing more. So how can the Maoists acquire their high-end fire power by only ‘looting the autocratic state machinery’? The simple answer is they cannot and they do not. Such guns, their bullets and the people who fire them cost a considerable sum of money and the Maoists’ purse size is very much in line with such a consideration. The estimated budget of the CPI(Maoist) as of 2008 was a staggering 1125 Cr rupees out of which the expenditure on weaponry was rupees 175 Cr[4]. Ironically TATA motors had done a comparatively paltry investment of 500 Cr at their Singur plant which the Maoists and their cohorts had opposed ideologically!

Besides just the cost of the weapons and their ammunitions themselves, their logictics – which are generally very specific, maintenance of the supply chain and the vendor networks and others are all resource intensive activities. So all this back office work most certainly employs trained human resource and that warrants another expenditure – that of payrolls. The recent catches of Maoist leaders have shown them to carry modern laptops. In fact during the Laalgarh episode, Maoist leaders spoke to the national and international media over VoIP, net telephony and the like. The software, hardware and moreover the training for all this does not come free of cost. This technical suaveness is most certainly not a domain that landless peasants of India’s hinterlands are proficient in. The abundance of websites that propagate the Maoist propaganda and those that act as sympathy networks for them are also not maintained from the deep forests of the Dandakaranya. So the Maoists most certainly have technically skilled people on their payrolls who are located in urban areas.

Then there are the sleeper cells and funding networks that need to be maintained in the urban areas that feed on the ‘comprador bourgeois’ setups to deliver the cash. A recently arrested Maoist front man, Chatradhar Mahato, has spilled the beans on how he is in personal possession of capital largesse in terms of houses, well filled bank accounts and a bombastic life insurance. He also confirmed that the members of the urban intelligentsia do more than creating a diversion in times of action. They also carry cash for them. This can also be understood from the sudden presence of cash rich politicians and NGO owners from places distant in both geography and political claims all ‘giving’ their support for the ‘just’ cause of anti-industrialisation. The mobility with which the Maoist leaders move about from place to place and et manage to set up press conferences point to the presence of a good network of transportation and vehicles is at their disposal. A slightly observant viewer may notice that during the Laalgarh episode preceding the arrest of Mahato, Mahato himself and Koteshwar rao were invariably turned out in clean and well ironed shirts which do not show any visible signs of battle dirt or grime.

The presence of thugs, killers and many jailbirds – who have been jailed for entirely apolitical crimes, is a well known fact. One of the main sources of income for the Maoists is extortion – which technically speaking, is a special type of activity in which only certain specially ‘skilled’ thugs who know the trade well can carry out. Same is true for the opium cultivation and the drug trade the insurgents live off. Neither growing opium nor the extraction of the heady alkaloids can be termed as a general skill. So obviously people who are proficient in this trade are involved. Needless to say their adherence to Marxism-Lenininism-Maoism, as the Maoists call their ideological line, can be duly suspected. Achievements of the aforementioned through direct use of legal and legitimate channels are absent and this invariably necessitates the Maoists’ to work in collusion with other such anti-social groups. In fact going by the sheer size of the arms and ammunitions saga alone, a huge network outside the Maoist party ranks, and hence their professed ideological scope, needs to be maintained. So the Maoists have no qualms in ‘collaborating’ with smugglers, killers, drug traders and the like and are ready to easily shut out their ideological consciences for this. Ironically they are celebrated by some elite urban arty people who claim to be highly sensitised to even fine immoralities in society and despise the forfeiting of a scant minority’s demands for development of the greater populace by terming it ‘unprincipled’. The openly declared alliance of the TMC and the Maoists and the paeans that the elitist eponymous civil society is singing of the alliance is an absolute example of this hypocrisy and double standard.

Another point to note is the collusion of some State elements in all this. The poppy fields are most certainly are not invisible and known to the local governmental and political setup. So whatever cultivation is happening there is happening with the latter’s encouragement. This most clearly shows the mutually beneficial local tie-ups that the Maoists have with the exploitive politicians they claim to oppose. For all their opposition to elections labeling them as an exercise in futility, the Maoists are known to help local politicians to come to power by issuing diktats to the voters at gun point. The Congress party used them to oust the Telugu Desam Party from power in the Andhra state elections. As a reward the ceasefire was declared and the Maoists upgraded their armory and coffers[5]. The links between local politicians and Maoists follows a very similar pattern in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh too. The Maoists help keep the politicos in power and allow the loot of the tribals to go on smoothly. Moreover it provides a moral cover to the exploitive politicians and their pet police to brutally assault the innocent tribals and natives under the guise of “fighting the insurgents”. The TMC-Maoist tie up is the most recent and most visible example of how the holier-than-Left revolutionaries easily gel with a crassly bourgeois party just for their payoffs and growth. Jharkhand is another such example. The Maoists have long claimed to be the vanguard of the state’s natives and also hugely popular. If that were true then how did such multi-crore loot occur under their very nose as is now known from the investigations against Madhu Koda, former CM of Jharkhand. If the Maoists were unaware of the situation then how are they popular or representative? If they were aware then they were most certainly hand-in-glove with the dastardly loot. What really is true is that the Maoists enjoy a status quo with the corrupt sections of the State and live off the same loot the former is carrying on since time immemorial. The price is paid by the civilians and salaried low income police personnel who are ritualistically sacrificed at this altar of greed wrapped in hypocrisy. As a rejoinder it is worthwhile to note that the Maoists have killed 210 civilians in 2008.

The home minister of India, P Chidambaram has repeatedly publicly noted the links of the Maoists with other violent groups across the borders of India. Rajeevs Wijesinghe, secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights said “They (LTTE) can have links with any terrorist organisation like the al-Qaeda and the Maoists” [6] The fact that the LTTE connection is merely more than a meeting of minds is the Maoists’ public display of disapproval on the demise of the LTTE and its megalomaniac leader Prabhakaran. Vara Vara Rao recently shed poetic tears for the same when he penned Prabhakaran Champabadadu. From the military assault centric politics on to the drug trade and the Mafioso style of functioning show the LTTE as a distinctly close resemblance of the Maosists. In fact the Maoists are rather broad in their taste for allies. The recent arrest of an LeT operative Mohammed Omar Madni revealed the links between the Right wing religious ultras and the Left wing reactionary ones. Public prosecutor Rajeev Mohan when talking of the arrest and explaining its CPI(Maoist)-Jharkhand links said “He (Madni) has been acting as a conduit for the LeT and was made in-charge of Jharkhand for the purpose of selecting men and sending them to Pakistan occupied Kashmir for training in terror activities. These men were supposed to come back to India and carry out terror strikes”[7] This dealing with secessionist ultras is also given an ideological sounding jugglery of words when Maoists say “The struggles of the Kashmiri, Naga, Assam, Manipuri and other nationalities in north-eastern region are already going on by assuming the armed form. The people of these oppressed nationalities are not only fighting for their identity but also for the most just cause of achieving their honourable right of self-determination, including the right of secession and the demand for secession”[8] So to put this political magnanimity into work they say “As a considerable part of the enemy’s armed forces will inevitably be engaged against the growing tide of struggles by the various nationalities, it will be difficult for the Indian ruling classes to mobilise all their armed forces against our revolutionary war. If our Party can lay down the correct basis to win over the nationalities and tribes through our policy of guaranteeing self-determination for the nationalities and political autonomy for the tribes and forge a powerful united front against the common enemy”[9] Keeping aside the euphemism, what this means is the Maoists looking to make a common cause with jihadist and other regional terrorist organisations in return for taking the heat off their backs. This statement does a twofold damage to the Maoists claim of popular resistance. Firstly the open seeking of ties with religious and regional reactionary forces dents their claim of following Marxist-Leninist principles since the two are irreconcilable owing to their socio-economic bases. Secondly the tall claims of military triumphs owing to their popular cause as opposed to the unpopular forces of the State takes a serious beating. The statement amply shows that the Maoists are on the run in face of concentrated military action by the State. Anyhow the Andhra Pradesh government under the late YS Reddy has amply shown that a well trained armed force aided by proper planning can easily steal the thunder from the ultras and make them flee from lands they once claimed as theirs.

So when speaking of the Maoists, we effectively have at hand an organistaion that –
· Uses a warped and distorted version of Marxist interpretation to write their theories
· Carries on being a violent and virulent group
· Is funded by drug trade, killings and extortions
· Wants to integrate with or co-operate with regionally chauvinistic and Right wing religious and exclusivist terrorist groups
· Has no mentionable legitimate political presence such as trade unions, farmer groups and the like
· Uses verbal calisthenics to justify its act of morbid violence and twists progressive logic to suit its brand of criminal activities

In light of the above is discussing the Maoists solely from an ideological debate perspective worthwhile? Can the informed and concerned readers of politics afford to be one sided enough so as to turn a blind eye to the gory glaring realities which belie even an iota of principled politics? NO!

When, and if, one wishes to discuss and understand the Maoists as a socio-economic phenomenon, the interested individual or group must most certainly look at their behavioral aspects and not just talk of their claimed ideological posture. Political parties, institutions and organisations and responsible intellectuals must look at what the Maoists do and not just at what they say. Their reference to the Revolution is equivalent to the jihadi or hindu rioters’ reference to religion, to prove their unholy acts as ones directed by God. Their people’s court death sentences too are as progressive as the practice of human sacrifice by savage sadhus to appease virulent gods. Sadly this analogy was proven literally by Bhagat, commander of the Paplur Dalam, killed Mukunda Madhi in public view and ate his flesh to terrorise others[10]. Simply engaging in debating their ideology and showing them to be wrong is far from what will solve the menace. On the contrary it plays into the trick of giving them undue space while they go about their business, quite literally at that, with impunity.

There most certainly are numerous flaws in the Indian State and its functioning, both formative and functional. However as far as the State’s armed offensive against them is concerned, since the Maoists themselves declare that they are at war with the State and that the said war is the only way to achieve their objectives, hence they provide the moral justification of the State’s actions. History stands proof that an anti-state organisation that speaks of only military solutions to their perceived problems will be considered problematic and solved by the State militarily. As for their misguided, and misguiding, urban trumpeters, they should tone down their crying the human rights wolf each time a Maoist is arrested. The rights, such as the trumpeter’s own Right to Freedom of Speech, are declared in the constitution which the State of India is bound by and are at the disposal of those who accept the State as legitimate. The ones who do not and wage war on the State, by their own declaration, disown any such Right.

Lastly the gruesome murders of the tribals, natives and other low income and innocent individuals who do not fall in line is ample clear. It is for the concerned citizen and the responsible intellectual to take a stand knowing fully well that the Maoist hands are smeared with proletarian blood. Lastly for groups such as the CPI(M) and other mainstream Left activist organisations must take clear stands and defog their line of talk and understanding vis-à-vis the Maoists. Discussing only the erudite aspects of the New Democratic posture of the Maoists should rank far lower as opposed to flowing through with their work – which could very well mean fighting the Maoists if they come in the way of their work.

[1] Devyani Srivastava, “Terrorism and Armed Violence in India“ IPCS, Delhi
[2] The Hindu, April 28th 2005
[3] DNA, 13th December 2008
[4] DNA, 14th April 2008
[5] The Hindu, 11th March 2009
[6] Indian Express, 5th Nov 2009
[7] Indian Express, 20th June 2009
[8] Sec 20, Party Programme of the CPI(Maoist)
[9] Sec 4, Chap 6, Strategy and Tactics, CPI(Maoist)
[10] The Hindu, sourced from the PTI 15th Jan 2008

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