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Trail Blazed by Naxalbari Uprising

The Naxalite movement has evolved in two clearly different directions. One is the course taken by the CPI(ML)(Liberation), which has made the necessary tactical changes in keeping with the changing situation; the other is the path of the CPI(Maoist), which is that of "anarcho-militarism".

Discussion

Trail Blazed byNaxalbari Uprising

The Naxalite movement has evolved in two clearly different directions. One is the course taken by the CPI(ML)(Liberation), which has made the necessary tactical changes in keeping with the changing situation; the other is the path of the CPI(Maoist), which is that of “anarcho-militarism”.

DIPANKAR BHATTACHARYA

R
ecent developments in Nepal seem to have triggered a renewed debate among Indian communists around the questions of programme and tactics. In an interesting reversal of roles, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)] has emerged as the most enthusiastic admirer of the Nepali Maoists [Yechury 2006] while the Indian Maoists are quite understandably uncomfortable with several recent pronouncements and steps of their Nepali counterparts [People’s March 2006; Azad 2006].

Ideological Trends

Sitaram Yechury who went to Nepal as a de facto emissary of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government seems to believe that the Maoist experiment in Nepal corroborates the CPI(M) line in India and can be used to rubbish the entire history of the Naxalite movement in India. In the name of “learning from experience and analysis”, Yechury (2006) claims that the ideological-political struggle in the Indian communist movement led to the crystallisation of three trends – revisionism, Marxism and left adventurism – epitomised respectively by the CPI, CPI(M) and the various groups of Naxalites/Maoists.

Now, if the CPI is the repository of revisionism in the Indian communist movement and the CPI(M) is the custodian of Marxism, how come the two parties are working so closely together? We believe that Marxism can only be defended and developed in the course of a relentless struggle with both reformism/revisionism and left sectarianism/adventurism/ anarchism.

Yechury (2006) would like us to believe that the original Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)’s [CPI (ML)’s] characterisation of the Indian bourgeoisie as comprador implied that it considered the big bourgeoisie weak and devoid of a “solid social base”. Similarly, he tells us that the landlords as a class were also considered weak; indeed, it was presumed that the whole class could be eliminated through the “physical annihilation” of individual landlords. We will come to the characterisation of the Indian big bourgeoisie and the estimation of feudal power in what follows. For now, we need to state that while Naxalbari could not achieve its immediate goals, it certainly succeeded in blazing a new trail.

While mocking at the revolutionary campaign inspired by the Naxalbari uprising and unleashed by the original CPI(ML) and subsequently the various political organisations who draw their roots from that party, Yechury tends to give the impression that it was the formation of the United Front (UF) government in West Bengal in which the CPI (M) shared power with one section of the Congress that inspired all the agrarian and working class struggles in the late 1960s. He has got the sequence completely wrong. It was the people’s struggles of the 1960s that had facilitated the formation of the UF government in West Bengal. But the latter proved its worth to the central authority of the Indian state by crushing the Naxalbari uprising. It is of course another story that the repression let loose on the Naxalite movement under the UF regime did not even spare the CPI(M) and eventually the anti-Naxalite semi-fascist terror was universalised as anti-left and anti-opposition repression during the infamous Emergency.

Characterising Big Business

However much the CPI(M) may try to restrict the meaning of the word comprador to the original Comintern usage, the word has evolved since then. In China, Mao used the word more as a political category to differentiate the Chinese bourgeoisie on the basis of their ties with imperialism. Comprador was synonymous with proimperialist while the non-comprador or national (in one place Mao also explained the distinction as that between more comprador and less comprador) section of the bourgeoisie was considered antiimperialist and hence an ally of the revolution, which was directed against imperialism and powerful feudal remnants. In India too, the term comprador is increasingly used not to suggest that the Indian bourgeoisie lacks any manufacturing muscle but to emphasise the growing and open pro-imperialist tilt in the economic policies of the Indian state and increasing organic integration between the Indian big business and imperialist capital.

Yechury claims that the CPI(M) programme has turned out to be more in tune with the concrete Indian reality because only that party recognises that the Indian big bourgeoisie leads the Indian state. That the Indian big bourgeoisie leads Indian state is certainly not a unique CPI(M) discovery. Nobody is arguing that feudal landlords have the ultimate say in the affairs of the Indian state or that imperialism enjoys a direct stake in state power in India. In spite of growing imperialist intervention and domination in India’s internal affairs, few would equate India with a banana republic or with the kind of puppet regimes currently installed by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. But even after we agree that the big bourgeoisie leads the Indian state, the question of characterisation of this bourgeoisie still remains. The CPI(M) describes the character of the Indian bourgeoisie as “dual”, implying thereby that the relationship of the Indian bourgeoisie with imperialism is marked by both conflicts and

Economic and Political Weekly December 16, 2006 compromises. But the party would still have to consider whether conflict or collaboration is the dominant aspect in this relationship.

Underestimating Feudal Power

Imperialism apart, the other important question of a democratic revolution in India concerns the role of feudal remnants, and the CPI(M) programme is equally vague on this score. Even after nearly six decades of “independence”, five decades of zamindari abolition and four decades of green revolution, feudal remnants in India remain quite visibly powerful and stubborn. And they are not to be found only in some obscure villages in “backward” Bihar where state-sponsored landlord armies and massacres of dalits and other sections of the rural poor are more rampant. Feudal atrocities on dalits, adivasis and women are very much still a pan-Indian reality, and so are patterns of usury and semi-bondage that are currently thriving even in the areas of advanced agriculture in Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The CPI(M) programme does not lay any particular emphasis on the crucial task of sweeping away the vestiges of feudalism and no wonder the party looks more like a political stranger to the real world of feudal oppression, landlord-kulak violence and anti-feudal awakening of the rural poor in large parts of the country. By contrast, the CPI(ML) Liberation’s vigorous opposition to feudal remnants and its consistent commitment to the anti-feudal task of India’s democratic revolution have enabled it to break new ground in many parts of rural India.

New Democratic Mainstream in Nepal

Yechury tells us that the “debates and divisions in the Indian communist movement...have had and continue to have a profound impact on the communist movement in Nepal.” Now, there are two major communist currents in Nepal today, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)] and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) [CPN(UML)]. The 1990 movement for restoration of democracy catapulted the CPN(UML) as the main contender of the Nepali Congress; 16 years later, the anti-monarchy upsurge has brought the CPN(M) to the political foreground of Nepal. If one wants to understand them in terms of the debates and trends in India, here are some suggestions. The CPN(UML) and the CPN(M) were both inspired by the Naxalbari uprising and the Naxalite/Maoist movement in India. Over the years, the communist currents in Nepal that were historically associated with or corresponded to the CPI and CPI(M) in India have virtually faded into political oblivion or coalesced around these two dominant trends.

Neither the pre-1990 CPN(UML) nor the pre-2005 CPN(M) had much connection with the CPI(M); it is only after becoming major players in Nepal politics that their proximity with the CPI(M) has developed. The obvious diplomatic reasons underlying this newfound proximity are not difficult to understand. The CPN(M)’s current strength or stature is derived primarily from the gains made in the course of what it calls the 10 years of people’s war. It is sheer eclecticism in philosophy and opportunism in politics to laud the present of the CPN(M) while dismissing the past that has led to the present juncture.

What Yechury finds particularly laudable in the CPN(M) now is its “decision to enter the democratic mainstream and participate in competitive politics”. This is where he starts drawing a parallel between the CPN(M) and his own party in India. And this is precisely where he goes wrong. There is no given democratic mainstream that is fixed for all time to come. There was a so-called democratic mainstream coupled with competitive politics all these years in Nepal with the king at its head and a constitution giving him a whole range of arbitrary powers including that to dismiss the parliament. The recent popular upsurge in Nepal has brought about a partial but significant breach in this order and opened up the possibility of a democratic republic. The CPN(M) has played a key role in bringing about this transition, which has a definite revolutionary significance and potential in the specific context of Nepal. By insisting on a new constitution and on a republican state, the CPN(M) is actually calling for a new democratic mainstream and a new plane for competitive politics in Nepal.

How far this would actually materialise in Nepal is still quite an open question. It is also clear that even if the monarchy is completely abolished, the new republican order may in all likelihood still fall far short of what could be described as a people’s democracy or new democracy.

Economic and Political Weekly December 16, 2006

But at least in the context of Nepal, the present juncture can perhaps be viewed as a possible transitional step in that direction. Yechury abstracts the multiparty competitive form from the essential political content and context of the present transition in Nepal. Prachanda’s quotation with which Yechury begins his article talks about “multiparty competition within an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist constitutional frame” (emphasis added). The entire debate in Nepal is now revolving precisely around the question of election of a constituent assembly, adoption of a new constitution and reorganisation of the army, but Yechury already talks about “the stipulated constitutional framework”!

One is not so sure about what the Nepali Maoists have in mind when they talk about learning “from the experiences of the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th century”. We believe that there is one basic lesson of all revolutions since the Paris Commune. Revolution means conquest of political power, it means the overthrowing, by the revolutionary classes, of the erstwhile ruling classes and the smashing of the state that has been the organ of the latter’s class rule. And without such a revolutionary overthrow, the state, even in the best and most developed of bourgeois parliamentary republics remains in content nothing but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. For all the rhetorical contrast between “one-party communist rule” and “multiparty competition”, most bourgeois states are increasingly perfecting an almost institutionalised two-party system. The Indian ruling classes have also stepped up their efforts in this direction. Abolition of a US-backed monarchy and establishment of a democratic republic surely has a revolutionary significance for Nepal and if such a republic is achieved and consolidated under revolutionary communist leadership and led along new democratic lines it would indeed be an exciting development in our neighbourhood, but in no way can the form of multiparty competition be abstracted to gloss over the very question of the essential nature and class character of such a state.

Peril of Ignoring Internal Conditions

Ironically enough, while the CPI(M) now waxes eloquent about the maturity of the Nepali Maoists, the Indian Maoists now find themselves in increasing disagreement with their Nepali comrades. The disagreements have been aired quite openly in an interview by Azad (People’s March, June-July 2006), the official spokesperson for the Indian Maoists, following which the two parties have issued a joint press statement to the effect that debates on ideological, political and strategic issues would be conducted “bilaterally and also, occasionally, publicly”. The Indian Maoists would have perhaps loved to see a linear culmination of the people’s war in Nepal, and they are uncomfortable with the growing departure of the Nepali Maoists from the classical Chinese course. Admittedly, the developments in Nepal merit a closer Marxist scrutiny and the theoretical and practical responses made by various schools of Nepali communists would surely be closely watched as the direction of the present transition in Nepal becomes clearer. But the Indian Maoists’ discomfort with the latest developments in Nepal seems to go beyond their anxiety over the future of the communist movement in Nepal, for they are aware that it could well spell some kind of theoretical crisis for the very revolutionary model they claim to be following.

Internationally, the Maoist trend is manifested in its most visible presence in Nepal and India. In countries like Peru and the Philippines, where the trend was quite strong in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Maoists have suffered major reverses. The Indian Maoists seem to have a strange explanation for this state of affairs. In the words of Azad, “Due to the weakness in the international communist movement we see many a people’s war bogged down in a struggle for survival for decades” (People’s March, June-July 2006, p 26). The success of the classical version of the strategy of protracted people’s war depends primarily on the existence of favourable internal conditions. If the Maoists could make such headway in Nepal and by contrast if they are “bogged down in a struggle for survival” in neighbouring India, the answer cannot be sought in the weakness or strength of the international communist movement. The answer clearly lies in the vastly different internal conditions obtaining in Nepal and India and in the strategy and tactics adopted by the Maoists in the two countries. The continued neglect of concrete internal conditions and dogmatic attempts to transplant the Chinese model to the Indian reality has led Azad to lay such lopsided emphasis on the external environment.

The Question of Violence

Azad is upset that the discussion in the special section of the EPW (July 22, 2006) on the “Maoist Movement in India” has been preoccupied with the question of violence. Indeed, in his rejoinder [Azad 2006] he has followed the same pattern. But shouldn’t the answer be sought in the specific practice of the Maoists themselves? With their exclusive emphasis on armed action and thorough neglect of any kind of mass movement and political initiative, have not the Maoists made violence the most distinguishing feature of their identity?

Now to tell the truth, millions of peasants and workers in this country are daily waging an organised battle to improve their lives and fight back. But Azad and his comrades, the self-styled followers of what they call the “Maoist method”, remain almost totally isolated from these everyday struggles. Azad should show how exactly the armed activities of the Maoist squads are helping the people to organise and improve their lives and fight back.

With respect to both Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it is clear from his account that their land struggles and so-called “people-oriented projects” all belonged to a previous period when “the military operations were not as intense.” As far as Bihar and Jharkhand are concerned, the land redistribution movement and the wider campaign of the rural poor for livelihood, social dignity and political assertion continue to be led primarily by the organisation that Azad refers to as the “revisionist Liberation group”. The same is true for the Orissa districts bordering Andhra Pradesh and even the coastal Andhra district of East Godavari. The erstwhile CPI(ML) People’s War in Andhra Pradesh and CPI(ML) Party Unity in undivided Bihar did wage some antifeudal struggles in the 1980s, but this was abandoned in subsequent years as our Maoist friends got completely immersed (trapped?) in what can perhaps only be described as anarcho-militarism.

Absurd Negation of Politics

Azad will surely dispute the anarchist epithet. But this is justified by the very arguments he has advanced in his rejoinder. We are not using the term anarchism as

Economic and Political Weekly December 16, 2006 shorthand for armed activities, being perfectly aware that it can assume all kinds of forms, from armed actions to Gandhian non-violence. We are going by Lenin’s elaboration of anarchism: “Anarchism is a product of despair. ...failure to understand the classstruggle of the proletariat… absurd negation of politics in bourgeois society…failure to understand the role of the organisation and the education of the workers…panaceas consisting of onesided, disconnected means...subordination of the working class to bourgeois politics in the guise of negation of politics” [Lenin, undated, pp 327-8]. Azad’s thought-process and logic is anarchist and has nothing to do with revolutionary violence and Mao’s doctrine of protracted people’s war. The real life class struggle of the workers and peasants has no meaning or relevance for him, what matters is only the execution of the so-called “Maoist method”. This is just an anarchist caricature of Mao’s teachings, pure and simple.

Lenin describes an “absurd negation of politics in bourgeois society” as a characteristic feature of anarchism, which follows from the failure to understand the dynamics of class struggle. Now, in a modern political system, the contention among political parties is a key expression and arena of class struggle. But for our Maoist friends, all political parties, with the sole exception of their own organisation, are either reactionary or revisionist and so they will have nothing to do with them. They will also have nothing to do with parliament because it is an institution to dupe the masses, because it has been imposed from above and not the product of an authentic bourgeois revolution. One wonders if an “authentically bourgeois” Indian Parliament would have been any less “deceptive”!

Ignoring all real life political parties and political institutions, Azad and his comrades would like to deal with classes in pure abstraction. He pooh-poohs the idea of left unity or a left and democratic confederation and advocates, in place of such an “amorphous conglomeration, ...a genuine United Front of the four classes of the workers, peasants, middle classes and the national bourgeoisie.” Now the majority of the active elements of these classes are organised around and influenced by various parties – this is the concrete political physiognomy of the existing social reality. But for Azad, the concrete is “amorphous”, and only the abstract is “genuine”. If he wants to form a four-class united front, he can have no other way but to win over the masses of these classes through vigorous political struggle. And as dialecticians we know that struggle also involves unity – of course, struggle between opposites is permanent and unconditional while unity is temporary and conditional. Without an active political process of struggle and unity, the concept of a left and democratic confederation is nothing but a theoretical framework for facilitating and accelerating such a process. And for sure, military superiority cannot be established or sustained in a political vacuum.

Our Maoist friends do not recognise the necessity of active and conscious communist intervention in the political process. Now dialectics defines freedom as the cognition of necessity. Refusal to recognise the necessity of intervention in the political process can only make one more ‘unfree’.

Political Bankruptcy of Indian Maoists

It is on the political plane of the fight against the horrifying conditions of the masses that the Maoists in Nepal have stolen a march over their Indian counterparts. The anti-monarchy slogan of the Nepali Maoists coincided with the real political crisis of the monarchy, putting the Maoists in a position from which they could intervene effectively in the developing situation. Even though the situation in Nepal is still quite fluid and many of the theoretical propositions being advanced by the Nepali Maoists are indeed quite debatable, it cannot be denied that Prachanda and his comrades have displayed considerable political imagination and initiative. By contrast, Azad and his comrades continue to epitomise political inertia and bankruptcy.

For all their differences, both Yechury and Azad equate Maoism and Naxalism. The fact is that the trail blazed by the Naxalbari uprising, i e, the Naxalite movement, has evolved in two clearly different directions. One is the direction taken by the CPI(ML)(Liberation), which has made the necessary tactical changes in keeping with the changing situation; the other is the path of the CPI(Maoist), which we have designated as that of anarchomilitarism. The departure made by the Maoists from the historical trajectory of the original CPI(ML) is now also reflected in the new name they have adopted, CPI(Maoist).

EPW

[The author is general secretary of the CPI(Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation). This is an edited and abridged version of the original manuscript.]

References

Azad (2006): ‘Maoists in India: A Rejoinder’,

EPW, Vol 41, No 41, October 14, pp 4379-83. EPW (2006); ‘Maoist Movement in India’, Special

Section, Vol 41, No 29, July 22. Lenin, V I (undated): Collected Works, Vol 5,

Progress Publishers, Moscow. People’s March, June-July 2006. Yechury, Sitaram (2006): ‘Learning from Experience

and Analysis: Contrasting Approaches of

Maoists in Nepal and India’, EPW, Vol 41,

No 29, July 22, pp 3168-71.

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June 17, 2006
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Castes and Benefits in Higher Education Satish Deshpande,
Yogendra Yadav
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Case for Caste-based Quotas in Higher Education Jayati Ghosh
Paying the Social Debt Sukhadeo Thorat
Assumptions and Arithmetic of
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Exclusive Inequalities: Merit, Caste and Discrimination
in Indian Higher Education Today Satish Deshpande
The Eternal Debate Ashwini Deshpande
Merit of Reservations Kancha Ilaiah

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Economic and Political Weekly December 16, 2006

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