March 27, 2008

An Inside Look at Maoist Strategy in India, Part 2

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[This is Part 2 of an interview with an Indian Revolutionary G.N. Saibaba, who speaks freely and in detail on the conditions of the masses in India and how their suffering is fueling the Maoist insurgency spreading accross the country. Part 1 was published here at FotM yesterday. This half includes two notes based on a presentation by Saibaba on the history of the Marxist-Leninist movement in India and on the status, line, practice and relations among the surviving organizations from that tradition.]

Red!: Is India an imperialist country or a semi-feudal, semi colonial country?

Saibaba: India is not an imperialist country. The reason is that India is under the clutches of the imperialist powers. India’s ruling classes exert little amount of power in international politics. To a great extent, it is acting under the dictates of the US imperialists. At the same time India has expansionist designs. Imperialist powers can control other countries, while expansionism is a desire to expand without the ability, to the neighbouring countries and try to exploit them and bully them.

But even these imperialist designs are not according to the wishes of the ruling classes of India, but according to the wishes of the imperialists. India exercises its expansionist desires by becoming an instrument in the hands of the USA at present. The USA is manoeuvring India to get control over the neighbouring smaller countries for an overall control over the geopolitical interests of the USA in South Asia. Examples are Sri Lanka and Nepal. India is being used to suppress the LTTE’s just struggle for Tamil national liberation in Sri Lanka. The relationship between the USA and India can be compared with the hegemony of Israel in the Middle East. Now the US wants to use India to suppress the Maoist movement in Nepal though at present clandestinely. India has occupied Kashmir and North-Eastern national territories like Naga and others peoples by brute military force.

Red!: Is the class struggle in India more intense now than 20 years ago?

Saibaba: The poverty levels in India have increased. In 1947 there were no suicide deaths of farmers. From 1990s onwards the suicide deaths of farmers have started in a big way. Why did they start in the 1990s? It’s because agriculture, which employs the largest section of the population has been neglected drastically. The poor peasantry is not able survive in this sector largely depending on the highly exploitative private credit system. About 150 000 farmers committed suicide in the last ten years. There are hunger deaths in many areas. People are eating wild roots and leaves in vast areas of deliberately underdeveloped areas. In fact we can see that we have several areas at the same level as the sub-Saharan African countries in India today. All this is happening particularly after the aggressive pro-imperialist globalisation started at a large-scale in India.

The working class is the most beleaguered class in our country. They have lost their rights. The fresh sections of workers emerging from the peasantry classes cannot join the labour aristocratic class. The organised sector very small compared to the unorganised sector, where collective agreements and labour laws are followed to an extent is fast diminishing.

But also ordinary people are more conscious of the already existing struggles in other areas. The class contradictions are sharpened because the resources are going into the hands of fewer and fewer after the globalisation process started around 1990. This process amasses of wealth in a very few hands.

Some welfare reforms introduced by the ruling classes in the decades of sixties and seventies were dropped and the government is leaving everything to the market that is led by the imperialist forces directly allied by the subservient domestic capitalists. This also increases the intensity of the struggles.

Red!: Since the beginning of the 1990s the ruling classes in India have pursued a neo-liberalistic policy of deregulation and privatisation and globalisation. How do these changes effect the situation for women?

Saibaba: There is nothing liberal about the neoliberal policies. These policies have been implanted since the time of Nehru in India. The so-called Nehru socialism is full of pro-imperialist globalisation policies. But then of course there is a marked difference between the earlier phase and the phase started since the 1990s. The difference is that globalisation is the aggressive phase of imperialist onslaught. Globalisation is the globalisation of aggressive monopoly capital in the absence of socialist block in the world, and also because of imperialism’s own in depth crisis. More and more, the burden of this crisis is being shifted on to the shoulders of the third world countries. As a result of the extreme exploitative conditions under the process of globalisation, the first section of the people who are facing severe difficulties are the Adivasis, the landless and poor peasants, the workers, the religious minorities particularly the Muslims an overwhelming majority of whom are among the country’s poorest and in all these sections and classes the women are affected first of all.

Women are of course affected hardest. When workers are retrenched the women go first. Second, in the dwindling conditions of employment, women don’t get new jobs as the job market is rabidly patriarchal. The extreme patriarchal oppression that exists in India is a result of both deviant capitalism and semi-feudalism. Women are forced to look after the families, particularly the children, when sources of livelihood decline. As a result, women eat less now, feed their children and look after their households. Today, there is more malnutrition among women, working in hard conditions both at home and outside. They get lower wages than men. Though equal wages is the law in the country, nobody follows it.

The sex ratio in the country is fast becoming a gulf, with the actual number of women decreasing in compared the numbers of men. Female foeticide is a growing phenomenon. Hundreds of cases of female foeticide are recorded in the hospitals. So now women are the biggest section joining the struggles, standing at the forefront and joining all struggles. More than 30 percent of the members in the Maoist party are women. Even the biggest bourgeois party in the country will not have such number of women. In some areas like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand the percentage is higher.

Red!: You say that displacement is the major issue in India. That there are six different kinds of displacement: Special Economic Zones, mining, new industry, new big dams, beautification of urban spaces and infrastructural corridor projects and others. You say that the forced displacement is based on expropriating approximately 12% of the land. Most of this land is also very fertile. Can you explain why displacement is the main issue, and not poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and so on?

Saibaba: 70% of the people depend on land or agriculture directly or indirectly. The major source of employment is agriculture. When land is taken away for these projects the people have no other source of income. So, one of the major ways that people are becoming unemployed is through dispossession of land. This in fact renders both the landed people and landless poor jobless. The rehabilitation packages announced by the government for those who lose land, never work. The rehabilitation is never implemented. So all the problems like malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and so on, are rooted in the process of dispossession of people of their sources of livelihood, by displacing them from their land, forests and other habitats.

Red!: Why can’t the displaced peasants get new jobs in the modern sector?

Saibaba: The displaced are from those sections that are silently forced to remain illiterate. They don’t have the necessary skills for industrial work - - particularly the kind of industry that is being set up with high imperialist technology. On the other hand, even if a small section is eligible for industrial work, they don’t get jobs because the industries being set up are technology-intensive and they don’t employ many people. The machines are brought from the imperialist countries. These machines require highly skilled labour. So there is no space for the disposed to get jobs in the industrial sector that is supposed to be growing. Then there is a small possibility of employment in the IT-sector or services sector, but not the manufacturing industry. In the urban areas there is already a huge section of educated unemployed, who will get a small number of jobs in these industries, but not the rural displaced.

Red!: What do the Maoists in India consider to be the main lessons to be learnt from the defeat of socialism in the last century, when it comes to the question of the relationship between the communist party and the rest of society?

Saibaba: The Indian Maoists feel that what happened in Russia and China still has to be analysed further. They think that in future the international Communist Revolutionaries have to come together and study the failures more concretely. One of the reasons for the failure of the socialist construction projects could be that the parties had not been able to devise mechanisms to check the infiltration of the bourgeoisie into the Communist Parties. But of course in China the Cultural Revolution under the leadership of Mao was developed to check the infiltration of the bourgeoisie into the Communist Parties. But it remained at an experimental level at that time after the death of Mao. More and more devices, political and ideological have to be developed within the revolutionary Communist Parties to check the extraneous class ideologies from creeping into the Communist Parties. Each of the countries of the world today needs to establish firm proletarian parties.

Unfortunately in many of the European countries as well as in some of the third world countries today, extraneous class ideologies have been creeping in, in the name of "21st century democracy," "liberal organising principles" and acceptance of a "multiparty system." Even within the policies of the Communist Parties, the need today is to drive them towards Bolshevisation, Leninist Parties which can lead the proletariat to victories in the process of which lessons can be drawn from the earlier failures which should be understood as temporary setback for the world proletariat in the long historical onward march.

Red!: What is the root-cause for differences among the Communist forces in India?

Saibaba: Within India the differences among the Communist Revolutionaries are not simply differences among their leadership. They reflect the different class bases of these parties, the nature of their petty-bourgeois leadership, their attempts to take their parties into non-proletarian class ideologies by leading mostly legalistic struggles. The sharp class struggles simply cannot depend on legalistic means of struggles and survive in the face of the highly fascistic reactionary classes. In India, some such parties have made their bases among the rich and middle peasantry which mostly has petty-bourgeois and liberal attitudes by which they try to protect their legal space. Some others have built a party simply with urban petty-bourgeois sections. Others who have been building parties with the propertyless poor and landless peasantry including Adivasis and working class are able to go ahead in developing formidable class struggle.

So the differences are based on concrete physical conditions in the classes they root in their struggles. There is a need today for the coming together of all these small sections of such Communist Parties to ally with the Maoists, but unity is only possible if they change their orientation towards genuine proletarian line and base their work among the working class, the poor and the landless peasantry.

Red! :Are there any lessons to be learnt on the question of women’s’ liberation from the defeat of socialism?

Saibaba: If we look at the present situation of the emancipation of women, the patriarchal structures are to be studied in depth by the practicing Marxists in the movements. Now in India more and more concentration is paid on the patriarchal structures from the women cadres of the Maoist Party. One is the institution of reproduction itself, which is highly discriminating against women. Within the Maoist revolutionary practice this has become a major question along with other specific problems for women. These problems have not been completely grasped. Not enough mechanisms have been found to check the discrimination of women within the revolutionary process. One major thing is that women continue to be under patriarchal structures just because they are women. So the new revolution must pay attention to the specificities of this special oppression. The second important point is that complete emancipation of women is not possible within the capitalist system.

But we should also be aware of the fact that if the proletariat takes over power the patriarchal structures would not automatically disappear. This is a major problem. One must have specific attention to the institutions and structures that remain. Women have to fight a revolution within the revolution. In India there will be many more revolutions within the revolution as we have a peculiar oppressive form called caste. One example we have before us for the revolution within revolution is the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China under the leadership of Mao. But India has to tread a more torturous path. Mao called for a thousand revolutions to completely root out the bourgeois ideology. I understand all such attempts of revolution within the revolution are complimentary and patriarchy and caste system or say, racism has to be looked at from this angle. A quick and simple solution is not possible. A revolutionary has to be patient.

But this doesn’t mean these revolutions should wait till the proletariat captures power. In India we think that Cultural Revolution has to start now even before the success of the New Democratic Revolution. But such an attempt taken unmindfully will degenerate into a Post-modernist ruse, like most liberal humanist projects relapse into Post-structuralist obscurantism. This task is possible only in the hands of a firm proletariat Party after it acquires confidence of the revolutionary masses in a country. Otherwise, such attempts will end up in mere anarchism.

The women have their own structures and organisations within the CPI (Maoist). They have their own conferences and committees. They are part of the general conferences and have separate meetings in connection with these.

The rule is that if a woman and a man are equally competent then a woman is given priority in leading any particular revolutionary committee. There is also special education for women so that they develop faster, special camps and special trainings are devised. In the Maoist Party most women that are party members do not have children on their own choice, but if particular women want to have, she can have a child and the party will help her. The period her child-bearing not be discriminated against. There are well developed policies about these questions in the Maoist Party of India.

Red!: Is there are revolutionary situation in India today? What about the rest of the world?

Saibaba: There is an extremely favourable revolutionary situation in India and also in all the "third world" countries. In each of these countries, the domestic crisis is growing while international crisis is also growing. The "third world" countries need not wait for any third world war to accomplish their revolutions. There may not be a Third World War in the classical sense, even though Bush promises one. The conditions of war exist in different ways. The world is already in a type of war, but its shape is different now. For example, the US is fighting a military war against the people of Iraq and an economic war on the people of India, and both varieties of wars kill the people in the same magnitude. So why does the US need to declare war on India when the Indian ruling classes are willing to facilitate everything for the imperialists? The growing contradictions among the imperialist forces can quickly change from collusion to conflicts. The background is already prepared and the revolutionary situation is already ripe. It is the subjective forces of the communists that have to take advantage of the situation and strengthen their forces. The ruling class hegemony will be crushed in no time if the imperialists don’t come to their rescue in each of these countries when the revolutionary masses organise themselves. Similarly, a break in the imperialist chain anywhere will catch like wildfire and the irreversible collapses of the imperialist/monopoly bourgeois rule in the West will follow the suit. The proletarian parties in Europe and other parts of the West should prepare the ground before for this impending and indispensable eventuality soon.


One of the largest groups in 1972 was formed under the leadership of Chandra Pulla Reddy and others. This group argued for people’s resistance first as a condition. There was another group under the leadership of T N Reddy. They argued also for people’s resistance to exist as a first condition. Both argued for parliamentary participation. The third major group was CPI (ML) Liberation, later led by Vinod Mishra. These were right-deviationist from the beginning. They developed a peasants’ movement in Bihar and continued with armed struggle for a short while. During that time there was also a group led by Ramanatham. He argued that India was not semi-feudal but capitalist. He formed the Communist League of India (ML). The others are those that believed in armed struggle from the beginning: CPI (ML) Peoples War in the south of India, and in the North, (MCC) and the CPI (ML) Party Unity belong to this category. They also started armed struggle in Bihar since 1970s. These three forces formed their parties by the 1980s separately.

There are two more groups formed by the 1980s: Provisional Central Committee (ML), and CPI (ML) Second CC. Both operated in Bengal. This was the situation in the 1980s.

The first party that transformed its nature was CPI (ML) Liberation. Initially they argued for armed struggle. But stopped and took up “people’s resistance” and the parliamentary path. The 1980s is the decade when the parties worked among the people and formed their own mass base in different regions.

There was an attempt already in 1970 to unite the various revolutionary groups into the United Revolutionary Party soon after the revolutionaries came out of CPM. The CPI (ML) that was formed under the leadership of Charu Mazumdar with all genuine revolutionaries. This consolidated CPI (ML) split into many parts after 1972.

The MCC emerged from outside this formation under the leadership of Kanai Chatterjee. The MCC renamed itself as MCCI by 2002.

The disagreements were on the issues of armed struggle, revolutionary situation international situation and participation in parliamentary elections. Some said we have to wait for the people’s resistance to be strengthened before initiating armed resistance. Others argued that armed struggle isn’t possible. The position taken by the MCC, CPI (ML) People’s War and CPI (ML) Party Unity was that of the line of Protracted People’s War by initiating armed struggle from the very beginning.

India is not a democratic country like a European one. In Europe, you have a democratic space because the democratic institutions developed from the struggles of the people, even though they were and are in the hands of the bourgeoisie. In India the parliamentary institutions were imposed by the colonial masters to enhance their colonial rule. They were not created through people’s struggles. In India there is little democratic space. The bourgeois class in India is a deformed reactionary force since its inception. This class hadn’t emerged naturally, but was propped up by the British colonial masters. Therefore, the initial progressive role that was present in the European bourgeoisie was not present in the Indian bourgeois class. It allied itself with the feudal classes from the beginning. Therefore, we must use armed struggle as the democratic space is not intrinsic to our society after the colonial intervention. The illusion of democratic space is there in the form of parliamentary institutions and formal democratic rights but not in reality. The moment one forwards the people’s demands one will face repression from the state. How do you forward and defend the movement of the people without arms?

The sections of the revolutionaries following People’s War also held the view that there is no reason to participate in parliamentary elections. This would create illusions about democratic space, which doesn’t exist in reality.

More than 50 splintered revolutionary groups were formed after 1972.

In the 1990s the unification process started. During the 1980s three parties built vast armed struggle areas, other revolutionary parties organised the peasants, but did not start armed struggle. The MCC, Peoples War and Party Unity had discussions for unity. In the unification process People’s War and Party Unity united along with, and formed CPI (ML) Peoples War in 1998. The process continued until 2004, then CPI (Maoist) was formed when MCCI and CPI (People’s War) merged together.

The other groups: CP Reddy group unified with other groups and formed CPI (ML) Janashakti (people’s power) by 1996. Many other groups joined them. But it split again after a year.

30 years of history proved that those that believed in armed struggle could sustain and develop.

A few smaller groups that believe in People’s War are still outside CPI (Maoist). Like CPI (ML) Naxalbari in Kerala. From the point of view of the Maoist Party that is largest, all other groups that never practised armed struggle are in the right revisionist line. They are not ready for unification.

The CPI (ML) Janashakti reviewed its policies after all the splits and summed up that it was wrong not to have initiated People’s War, and have initiated discussions with the Maoist party at one stage.

The following is a closer description of the communist movement in India today, according to Saibaba:
There are three different main streams in the revolutionary movement:

a. CPI (Maoist) - follows the line of People’s War steadfastly and surging forward.

b. CPI (ML) Naxalbari, CT, PCC (ML) and others like CPCRML who are close to the Maoist party in terms of line to a greater or lesser extent.

Also Red Flag - Communist Revolutionary Platform, CPI (ML) Central Team, and CPM (ML) New Democracy -- these are all small, but they have a small mass base. They partake in mass struggles but do not conduct armed struggle at present. They are right deviationist in the understanding of the Maoists.

CPI (ML) Liberation is now fast turning revisionist, a fairly large party mainly in Bihar.

There are no left deviationist groups remaining in India. There used to be some Lin Piao groups, they hardly exist anymore.

c. Communist League of India (ML) split from the CPI (ML) originally in the 1970s. They believe that India is a capitalist country. They split into five different groups. They are small and work in urban pockets.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party, Marxist CPM have been in power, and are not considered to be the Communist Parties any longer. The CPM has turned into a social fascist force allied with the reactionary ruling classes and the imperialist forces.

Outside the communist framework are Democratic movements: socialists, Gandhians. Most of the Socialists have joined the ruling classes. But some of them also partake in some peoples struggles. They have shrunk and are small now, but still do some positive work some times.


Prabhat said...

Ironic, isn't it. Read "Animal Farm" and you have the answers.

1. The naxals and communists claim to be "the friends of poor". But they never want to discuss the ways to solve their problems. I think a better way would be to bring your ideas to the people and let them decide. But they are only interested in forcing their will on the people. Then how are they different from the "cruel" democratic governments they so vehemently oppose?

2. I sometimes wonder why there is little development in the areas where the naxals operate. One very big reason is because no company wants to risk their investments. Naxals frequently destroy the public infrastructure in these areas and then talk (only talk) about creating it again.

3. The naxals never even think before killing poor people. They publicly boast that the main stay of their strategy is military struggle. They are not even ready to consider the political route.

I am not saying that India does not have problems. We have tons of them but I believe that the way to solve them is to work together. Naxals are only delaying the development of the very people they claim to protect and support.

sanjana said...

Well written article. It will be great if you can also write in SiliconIndia as I am a member of SiliconIndia, I am sure that most of the members will love reading it.