50 Years of Naxalbari - Booklet (English)
Fifty Years of
Red Star Publications
UPHOLD LESSONS OF NAXALBARI UPRISING!
MARCH FORWARD TO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY AND SOCIALISM!
March to Naxalbari on 25th May!
THE Central Committee of the CPI(ML) Red Star has called for observing the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari Uprising from 25th May 2016 to 25th May 2017. Following this call various state committees have organized campaigns including seminars, public meetings, jathas etc. In continuation to earlier decision, the CC meeting held at Bhubaneswar on 25th to 27th December has decided to organize a massive March to Naxalbari on 25th May, the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari Uprising with the slogans:
Not to Reformism and Individual Terrorism!
Uphold Naxalbari Uprising and Advance towards People’s Democracy!
Resist Corporatization of Agriculture, Fight for Land to the Tillers!
Naxalbari Means Masses Create History!
Comrades from different states shall start from the martyrs’ columns in different parts of the country and converge at a mass rally at Naxalbari. It is in this context, the Party Central Committee is publishing this booklet on Naxalbari Uprising in English and Hindi. All state committees should try to publish it in regional languages. The propagation of this booklet should be taken as part of the vigorous campaign propagating the above slogans and the significance of the rally to Naxalbari.
During these five decades following the Naxalbari Uprising, by 1972 the movement suffered a severe setback due to ideological political weaknesses and tactical errors. The CPI(ML) was disintegrated to a number of groups. Following this, though the reorganization of the party and movement was taken up by many of these trends, the refusal to make a concrete study of the transition of the imperialist system since Lenin’s epochal work “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” was published in 1916, in making a concrete analysis of the present international and national situation, and their inability to develop the theory and practice of revolution accordingly, have degenerated some of these sections to become part of the social democratic front led by the CPI(M), some to adopt left adventurist, anarchist line and few others to abandon the anti-imperialist aspect of the present revolutionary phase. Ideological political backwardness and sectarian approaches have made some of these groups inactive or led to their disappearance.
It is in this situation, by developing the understanding about the transition of imperialist plunder from colonial to neocolonial phase and about the vast changes that have taken place in the agrarian front reducing the erstwhile pre-capitalist relations to feudal remnants, the CPI(ML) Red Star could develop its ideological-political line, the Program, Constitution and Path of Revolution, the organizational approach developing the Bolshevik style of party building according to present conditions and the method of theoretical offensive to be developed in all fields for advancing the Marxist-Leninist understanding continuously. As a result, the Party could make significant advances in all fields as shown by the recent developments in the field of workers struggles, peasant struggles, in the development of massive people’s movements etc.
These developments reflect how the Party is trying to advance towards the completion of the People’s Democratic Revolution according to present conditions. Starting from the positive contributions of the more than nine decades long history of the communist movement including that of the Naxalbari Uprising on the one hand, and upholding the spirit of proletarian internationalism on the other, we have to move forward further towards People’s Democracy and Socialism. Let us study the Naxalbari Uprising with this perspective. Let us make the observation of the fiftieth anniversary of the Naxalbari Uprising another effort to rouse the working class and all oppressed classes and sections to overthrow the present reactionary ruling system and to achieve revolutionary transformation of the society in all fields.
Red Star Publications,
20 January, 2017
ON NAXALBARI UPRISING
THE split in the CPI in 1964 followed by the formation of the CPI (M), and the convening of the Seventh Party Congress did not settle the basic ideological political questions thrown up by the right deviation in the communist movement internationally and in India during the 1950s and early 1960s. The usurpation of power in Soviet Union by the revisionists led by Khrushchev and the Line of Three Peacefulls put forward by them - “peaceful co-existence and peaceful competition with the imperialist system and peaceful transformation to socialism”- in the 20th Congress of the CPSU held in 1956 and its exposure by the CPC led by Mao Tsetung through its documents put forward during the Great Debate of early 1960s had created an upheaval in the ICM. As the CPI leadership was toeing the Soviet revisionist line, the rank and file of the communist movement rallied with the CPI(M) with the expectation that its leadership shall develop the theory and practice of Indian revolution according to the changes taking place in the country following the transfer of power from the British colonialists to the comprador big bourgeoisie and big landlord classes. But contrary to these expectations, the Seventh Congress took a basically ‘centrist’ line refusing to take a revolutionary line against the Soviet revisionist line, and refusing to recognize the comprador character of Indian big bourgeoisie. As a result, in effect the CPI(M) leadership refused to draw a line of demarcation with the CPI line. So, after the Seventh Party Congress the communist revolutionaries (CRs) in the CPI(M) initiated an ideological struggle against the leadership’s line and practice.
As a part of this ideological struggle and based on the call for launching the revolutionary agrarian movement from the CR forces the efforts to take up the agrarian revolutionary movement was started in different parts of the country. Throughout 1966 itself the groundwork had been laid in North Bengal districts based on this call. In 1965-66 the ‘Siliguri Group’ [(of the newly formed CPI (M)] brought out as many as six cyclostyled leaflets calling for the immediate commencement of agrarian revolution. Throughout 1966 revolutionaries organized peasant cells in every part of Siliguri sub-division; arming themselves with bow and arrows wherever possible. In late 1966 a Revolutionary Kisan meeting was organised in Siliguri. As the United Front government formed under the leadership of CPI(M) and CPI with Bangla Congress leader Ajoy Mukherjee as chief minister, did not take steps to implement its election time call for land reforms based on ‘land to the tiller’ principle, the rank and file in the rural areas started preparing for land struggle. On March 3, 1967 the seeds of struggle began to sprout when a group of peasants surrounded a plot of land in Naxalbari region; marked the boundaries with red flags, and began harvesting the crop.
The March 18 Convention that followed was the signal for the peasant upsurge, which engulfed the entire area for four months. The U.F. government in West Bengal sought to diffuse the movement by announcing token land reforms. The revolutionary peasants replied to the revisionist rulers by setting up peasant committees to take over the land of the jotedars. Huge processions and demonstrations were organised by Kisan committee members. A sea of red flags struck terror into the hearts of the landlords and the countryside reverberated with the slogan “March forward along the path of agrarian revolution.”
The first clash was ignited when a share-cropper, Bigul Kisan, was beaten by armed agents of a local jotedar. This was followed by violent clashes and the forcible seizure of land and confiscation of food grains, by units of the Kisan committees. Any resistance by the landlords and their gangs was smashed and a few were killed. Instead of implementing the land reforms as was promised during the election campaign, the UF government created state terror by deploying central and state police forces to suppress the peasant committees. In this situation by end May, 1967, the situation reached the level of a peasant uprising. The CPI(M) leaders, who were in power, first tried to pacify the leaders of the movement. After having failed in this effort, Jyoti Basu, the then home minister of West Bengal, ordered the police to intensify the repression. On 23rd May in a scuffle with the people, a police inspector was killed at Jharugaon village. On May 25, in Naxalbari, the police went berserk against a massive peasant rally, killing eight women, a boy, and two infants in their hands. These martyrs in the police firing on people, at Prasadjote, Naxalbari, West Bengal, were: comrades Dhaneshwari Sek, Simashwari Mallik, Nayanshwari Mallik, Surubasa Bayani, Sonamati Singh, Shayamati Singh, Shyamsari Saibani, Parijau Saibani, a boy Shar Singh Mallik, and two infants.
In June the struggle intensified further, particularly in the areas of Naxalbari, Kharibari and Phansidewa. Firearms and ammunition were snatched from the jotedars by raiding their houses. People’s courts were established and judgments passed. The upheaval in the villages continued till July. The tea garden workers struck work a number of times in support of the peasants. Then on July 19, a large number of para-military forces were deployed in the region. In ruthless cordon and search operations, hundreds were beaten and over one thousand arrested. While leaders like Jangal Santal were arrested, others like Charu Mazumdar went underground, yet others like Tribheni Kanu, Sobhan, Ali Gorkha Majhi and Tilka Majhi became martyrs. A few weeks later, Charu Mazumdar wrote ”Hundreds of Naxalbaris are smoldering in India.... Naxalbari has not died and will never die.”
The Communist Party of China, which had in effect become the centre for world revolution through spearheading the struggle against the Soviet revisionist line, hailed the uprising. On June 28, 1967 Radio Peking broadcasted: ”A phase of peasants’ armed struggle led by the revolutionaries of the Indian Communist Party has been set up in the countryside in Darjeeling district of West Bengal state of India. This is the front paw of the revolutionary armed struggle launched by the Indian people....”. Within a week, the July 5th edition of People’s Daily carried an article entitled ‘Spring Thunder over India’ which said: ”A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India. Revolutionary peasants in Darjeeling area have risen in rebellion. Under the leadership of a revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party, a red area of rural revolutionary armed struggle has been established in India.... The Chinese people joyfully applaud this revolutionary storm of the Indian peasants in the Darjeeling area as do all the Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary people of the world.”
Meanwhile, revolutionaries in Kolkata, who had also been running a campaign against revisionism, took up a massive campaign in support of the Naxalbari uprising. The walls of college streets were plastered with posters saying: “Murderer Ajoy Mukherjee (the Chief Minister) must resign.” The revolutionaries [still within the CPI (M)] held a meeting in Ram Mohan Library Hall in Calcutta and formed the ‘Naxalbari Peasants Struggle Aid Committee’, which spread the message of Naxalbari Uprising.
Simultaneous to the police action, the CPI (M) expelled a large number of their members. Sushital Roy Chowdhary, a member of the West Bengal state committee and editor of their Bengali party organ was expelled. So were other leading members like Ashim Chatterjee, Parimal Das Gupta, Asit Sen, Suniti Kumar Ghosh, Saroj Datta and Mahadev Mukherjee. The Darjeeling district committee and Siliguri sub-divisional committee were dissolved.
The spark of Naxalbari set aflame the fires of revolution in Srikakulam, Birbhum, Debra-Gopiballavpur, Mushahari and Lakhimpur-Kheri. The states of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, U.P and Tamil Nadu saw a big spurt in Naxalbari-inspired struggles and Marxist-Leninist groups started sprouting in nearly every state of India.
Naxalbari put agrarian revolution once again in the agenda of Indian revolution. Naxalbari Uprising took place at a time when not only the Indian masses were getting disillusioned by the twenty years of ‘independence’, but, at a time when the entire world was in turmoil. Small countries like Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea were striking major blows at the might of the U.S. Army; national liberation movements were surging forward in a number of underdeveloped countries; in Europe and America massive anti-imperialist demonstrations against US involvement in Vietnam merged with a violent outburst of the Black and women’s movement; the student-worker revolt in France shook the De-Gaulle establishment; and, most important of all, in China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (in the backdrop of the Great Debate) attacked the revisionist ossification and distortions of Marxism. In the Communist arena all Parties throughout the world were compelled to take positions in the Great Debate, between the CPC (Communist Party of China) and the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) which had been going on since Krushchov put forward the line of peaceful transition and class collaboration in the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956. Naxalbari Uprising was a product and a part of this ideological-political ferment taking place throughout the globe.
Most important, Naxalbari restored the revolutionary essence of Marxism on the Indian soil which had been distorted, corrupted and destroyed by the revisionist semantics of the CPI and then by the nascent CPI (M). Most important, in the realm of ideology, it uncompromisingly fought against revisionism and all forms of bourgeois ideology within the working class movement and strongly upheld Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as its ideological guideline. Inspired by the Naxalbari Uprising and on-going Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, tens of thousands of students and youth responded enthusiastically to Mao’s clarion call ”It is right to rebel against reaction.” It thoroughly imbued the spirit of the GPCR call to ”Fight self-interest and repudiate revisionism”, by displaying a death-defying spirit of self-sacrifice, total devotion to the oppressed masses and a burning class hatred against the perpetrators of exploitation in the country. Thereby, it struck at the class-collaborationist approach of the revisionists and the pseudo-liberal approach of the intellectual Marxists and gained enormous affection from the poorest in our country.
But later, though the mistakes committed in analyzing the vast changes taking place at international and national level, the tactical line based on ‘the line of annihilation of class enemies’, the sectarian line it pursued and a massive offensive by the reactionary state led to severe setbacks, the Naxalbari Uprising made an indelible impact on the revolutionary movement in the country.
NAXALBARI UPRISING: ITS LESSONS
WE are on the threshold of half a century after the Naxalbari Uprising of May 1967. It was a historic movement which shook the Indian society at a critical stage in the history of the country. After two decades of Congress rule following the transfer of power in 1947, the country was facing severe socio-economic crisis. Vast majority of the masses disillusioned by the Congress rule at centre and in all the states had started waging numerous militant struggles. This alienation of the masses was reflected in the serious reverses suffered by the Congress in the 1967 general elections. Though it could get a slim majority in the Lok Sabha, it lost power in many states from north to south.
The CPI(M) led coalition governments also came to power in West Bengal and Kerala. But in such an objectively favorable situation instead of evaluating the changes that were taking place in the country and rising up to the demands of the situation, these CPI(M) led governments refused to take up any radical policies to ameliorate the miseries of the masses or to implement the land reforms based on “land to the tiller” slogan it had promised. Under parliamentary illusions they were afraid of going beyond the ruling class policies. They were afraid to utilize the parliamentary struggle to advance the class struggle, putting forward a ‘People’s alternative’ against the big capitalist-big landlord rule which was compromising with imperialist interests. As a result discontentment was growing against the reformist positions of the leaderships of CPI and CPI (M) among the left masses, among the workers and the peasantry, among the oppressed sections and classes. As a result, the elation created by the formation of these governments started fading.
Meanwhile the struggle waged by the communist revolutionaries against the revisionist line of the CPI and the neo-revisionist line of the CPI (M) leaderships, who were leading the communist movement to become apologists of the ruling class policies, was intensifying. An overview of the history of the communist movement in the country shows that right from its inception, whether during the period of independence struggle or after the transfer of power to the native ruling classes, the party committees and hundreds of thousands of its members all over the country were leading numerous people’s struggles sacrificing everything. But the leadership repeatedly failed to make concrete analysis of the Indian situation and to lead the revolutionary movement forward to capture the political power under the leadership of the toiling masses by developing the Program and Path of revolution. Though the Program and Tactical Line adopted in 1951 provided a generally correct orientation, the leadership soon abandoned it. As the revisionist forces usurped power and started transforming Soviet Union to capitalist path, the leadership of CPI mechanically followed this line of “peaceful transition” and resorted to capitulation to ruling class politics then led by Congress.
By 1963 the CPC under the leadership of Mao Tsetung had opposed the Soviet revisionist line. Analyzing the concrete situation it had put forward the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement (ICM). But by this time India’s border war with China had taken place and the ruling class and the central government led by the Congress egged on by the US and other imperialist forces were exploiting the differences within the international communist movement and within the CPI. Questions like the approach to be taken towards the Soviet revisionist line, on the border war, on how to resolve the differences through a healthy inner party struggle etc were sharpening the struggle against the CPI leadership, these conflicts within the CPI intensified and 32 CC members walked out its National Council meeting and formed the CPI (M) in 1964.
Struggle against Centrist Line of CPI (M) Leadership
BUT the split did not address the fundamental questions faced by the Communist movement, In the Seventh Party Congress convened soon at Kolkata the CPI (M) leadership refused to take a stand on the Great Debate taking place in the ICM or on the cardinal questions of the People’s Democratic Revolution. The CPI (M) leadership was taking a ‘centrist’ line, which was basically not different from the CPI line.
The formation of CPI (M) had created immense enthusiasm among the Party rank and file as well as among the left masses. In states like West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, where Party had good mass base, vast majority of the cadres and members of the class and mass organizations rallied with the CPI (M). There were immense expectations about the Party giving leadership for unleashing the militant struggles against the reactionary policies pursued by the central and the state governments. Many militant struggles took place in many areas. By 1965-66 militant food riots broke out in W. Bengal, Bihar, parts of U.P and other places including capture of godowns and distribution of the captured food grains among the people. In some areas struggle for land also broke out. As the Party cadres played a major role in these struggles, expectation about launching countrywide revolutionary struggles was mounting.
At this time the central government once again arrested a large number of Party leaders and cadres in the name of supporting the China’s line on the border war. It was a conspiracy to suppress the Party and the militant struggles led by it. The challenge before the Party leadership was whether to surrender before the pressure tactics of the government and vested interests or stand up against them in a revolutionary manner. But the government had done its home work well. While arresting most of the leaders, it had left EMS and Jyoti Basu free. That they were taking a reformist line was well known. The alternate document they had put forward in the 7th Congress had almost reflected the CPI line. During the 1967 general elections the reformist tactics of forming alliances with reactionary and communal parties to somehow win the elections followed by EMS in the elections to Kerala assembly in 1965 was continued at all India level.
Following the elections, forming electoral fronts with communal and reactionary parties it came to power in Bengal and Kerala. These CPI (M) led governments in Bengal and Kerala were not ready to go beyond the boundaries of bourgeois parliamentary system. Though the All India Kisan Sabha in its 1966 Conference, had called for implementation of land to the tiller slogan if the Party came to power, once the ministry took over even the general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, Harekrishna Konar, who became the revenue minister in W. Bengal, refused to talk about it. It was clear that the Party leadership was pursuing the same line like the CPI, degenerating to revisionist positions.
Towards Naxalbari Uprising
THROUGH a series of articles, which later became famous as the ‘Eight Documents’, Charu Majumdar had already called for fighting against the neo revisionist line of the leadership and to intensify the agrarian struggles. He had also called for upholding the contributions of Mao Tsetung, Mao Tsetung Thought (MTT), in order to carry forward the Democratic Revolution in the country. In the first document, Our Tasks in the Present Situation written in January, 1965, he stated that the Indian government had become the chief political partner of US imperialism in its expansionist policies for imposing its world hegemony. Condemning the arrests of large number of the Party cadres calling them China liners, he called for spreading the message of agrarian revolution and to build the Party in a revolutionary manner. In the second document, Make the People’s Democratic Revolution Successful by Fighting against Revisionism, he emphasized the importance of Telengana-Tebhaga movements and the need to intensify the struggle against the revisionist line These documents as well as many more such important contributions by leading comrades from Bengal, AP and elsewhere tried to provide the orientation for the Communist Revolutionaries in the CPI (M) to take to the path of revolution, rebelling against the neo revisionist line of the leadership.
When the state government in which CPI (M) was the leading force refused to confiscate the surplus land and land illegally occupied by the tea plantations and jotdars, and to distribute them among the landless and poor peasants, the CRs led the masses in North Bengal for seizure of land and to distribute them. Tens of thousands of landless and poor peasants were mobilized for it under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha. It was a powerful mass upsurge. The CPI (M) led government used its police forces along with the central forces sent by Indira Gandhi government to suppress the Naxalbari Uprising killing 11 comrades on 25th May, 1967. This Uprising and the martyrdom of these comrades was a turning point for the communist movement in India.
The state terror was continued to suppress the activities of the CRs. As the CRs were still in the CPI (M), disciplinary actions were started to expel them also. Meanwhile the Party leadership was continuing to move ahead along the path of parliamentary cretinism both in Bengal and Kerala. In 1968 it convened the Burdwan Plenum to discuss a draft document on international developments, which took a ‘centrist’ attitude towards the Great Debate going on in the ICM, basically upholding the Soviet line. Like the rightists earlier, it resorted to autocratic methods to manipulate a majority for the draft. It refused to recognize the transformation of Soviet Union from a socialist country to a bureaucratic dictatorship, a social imperialist super power contending and colluding with US imperialism for world hegemony. In this situation, the inner party struggle turned in to struggle between two lines, between the proletarian and bourgeois lines. There was no other alternative before the CRs, but to walk out of the CPI (M) for reorganizing the Party on revolutionary lines.
But, though they had almost complete unity among themselves regarding the stand to be taken towards the ideological political struggle taking place within the ICM, on the question of arriving at the theoretical and programmatic positions regarding the People’s Democratic Revolution in India and on reorganizing the Party serious differences emerged among the CRs. The historic significance of the Naxalbari Uprising was that the CRs leading it had categorically declared that the struggle for the capture of land and its distribution cannot be successfully carried forward without linking it with the struggle for capture of political power. Following the suppression of the uprising, in order to carry forward the struggle Naxalbari o Krishak Sahayak Samiti was formed. A call to form such committees at other places was also given. Following this, uniting the CRs at all India level, the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries in CPI(M) was formed. After the coming out of the CPI(M), its name was changed to All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR). It gave the call for organizing Naxalbari type struggles all over the country.
But by this time, at the peak of the Cultural Revolution in China, the left adventurist line had come to dominance in the CPC. In the absence of any international platform to exchange opinions and to evolve a revolutionary line based on the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963, the CRs in India like their counterparts all over the world were upholding Mao as the authority on all ideological political questions in opposition to the Soviet revisionists and their followers, the revisionist CPI and the neo revisionist CPI (M) leaderships. If the CPI and CPI (M) leaderships mechanically followed the Soviet revisionist line, the CRs followed whatever was coming from China mechanically, as the teachings of Chairman Mao. They failed to recognize that what was advocated in “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao published in 1966 and the Political Organizational Report to the Ninth Congress of the CPC held in 1969, theorizing the birth of a ‘new era’, an era of total collapse of imperialism and world- wide victory of socialism, with Mao Thought as the Marxism-Leninism of the new era, calling for an adventurist putschist line, had very little in common with the teachings of Mao as explained in the five volumes of his published writings.
Without taking pains to make a concrete analysis of the vast changes taking place very fast in the Indian situation under the penetration of imperialist capital and market forces, India was analyzed as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country like the pre- revolutionary China, and the strategic line was put forward as the ‘protracted people’s war’. In this situation, the upholding of Mao and Chinese path went to the extent of raising the slogan: ‘China’s Chairman is our Chairman and China’s path is our path’, as the Party line. Pursuing this path, armed struggle was declared as the only form of struggle to be pursued. Soon, in order to start armed struggle the ‘line of annihilation of class enemies’ was put forward. Mechanically copying what was done in China in those years of Cultural Revolution, in the name of heralding new culture, the line of ‘idol breaking’ and such other acts were pursued. In short, in the name of fighting revisionism, ‘Charu Majumdar’s revolutionary line’ went to the other extreme, to the path of left adventurism.
The reality during those years was that, in spite of many differences on the various aspects of the tactical line, the MTT was upheld mechanically by all the CRs. Similarly all of them upheld the characterization of India as semi-colonial and semi-feudal, stage of revolution as that of NDR, and the strategic line as protracted people’s war. No serious theoretical struggle was waged against this line even by those who were bitter critics of Charu Majumdar. Their attacks on his line were more personal and rhetorical than theoretical. They themselves were influenced by sectarian positions to a great extent. Though they had opposed the formation of CPI (ML) in 1969, those who opposed it had no other concrete proposal to put forward. The fact was that practically no one opposed this sectarian and adventurist line put forward by the CPI(ML) leadership theoretically as it would have led to opposing the erroneous line which was coming from China, which all of them were upholding dogmatically as the centre of world revolution.
One serious problem confronted by the CRs at that time was that the revisionist camp, the imperialists and their lackeys were also attacking the Chinese line as sectarian and adventurist. In such a situation how could they raise even the mildest of criticisms against it? And there was no revolutionary international centre which could objectively analyze the world situation and put forward a General Line for the ICM in continuation to the Comintern positions and the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963. Besides, the newly emerging CR groups and Marxist Leninist Parties and groups lacked necessary theoretical understanding or practical experience to make a concrete evaluation of then international situation and to develop the Marxist-Leninist understanding under their own initiative. So, the only alternative available was to copy what was coming out from China as Mao’s teachings and mechanically apply them. This is what was done not only by CPI (ML) led by Charu Majumdar, but also by almost all the revolutionary organizations which emerged during that period in India as well as abroad.
First (Eighth) Congress of the CPI (ML)
THE FIRST, that is, the Eighth Congress of the Party was organized at Kolkata in May, 1970, at a time when the Party was facing brutal suppression at all levels, in all areas where it existed and was trying to launch counter attacks on the feudal lords and the state forces. As the Party Congress was convened in extremely difficult conditions, only the leading comrades participated in it.
In the Party Program adopted by the Congress, it was stated: “The great October Revolution brought the ideology of Marxism- Leninism to our country and the Communist Party of India was born. However, despite tremendous opportunities the leadership of the working class could not be established over the national liberation struggle as the leadership of the Party refused to fight Gandhism and the Gandhian leadership and take to the path of revolution. The leadership refused to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of Indian revolution. It refused to integrate the Party with the heroic masses, chiefly the revolutionary peasantry and to forge the revolutionary united front. It refused to learn from the great liberation struggle of the Chinese people led by the CPC and Chairman Mao Tsetung and take to the path of armed struggle...”
Its explanation of the 1947 transfer of power and later developments was:”The country was partitioned amidst communal carnage and the Congress leadership representing the comprador bourgeoisie and big landlords, was installed in power while the British imperialists stepped in to the background. The sham independence declared in 1947 was nothing but a replacement of the colonial and semi-feudal set up with a semi-colonial and semi-feudal one.
“During these years of sham independence the big comprador bureaucrat-bourgeoisie and big landlord ruling classes have been serving their imperialist masters quite faithfully. These lackeys of imperialism, while serving the old British imperialist exploitation, have also brought US imperialist and Soviet social imperialist exploiters to fleece our country. They have mortgaged our country to the imperialist powers”
Analyzing the main contradictions in the country it stated that “the contradiction between landlords and the peasantry, i.e., the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses of Indian people is the principal contradiction in the present phase. The solution of this contradiction will lead to the resolution of all contradictions.”
It explained the basic task of the Indian revolution as overthrowing the rule of feudalism, comprador bureaucratic capitalism, imperialism and social imperialism. This determines the stage of revolution in the country which is democratic, the essence of which is agrarian revolution. Though it was explained that India has turned in to a neo colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism in the Program, this point was not subjected for further analysis.
It stressed that ‘as comrade Lin Piao had pointed out, “guerilla warfare is the only way to mobilize and apply the entire strength of the people against the enemy”. In his speech introducing the Political-Organizational Report, Charu Majumdar said: build up the party and get it entrenched among the landless and poor peasants. The building up of the party means the development of armed struggle. And without armed class struggle party cannot be developed and cannot entrench itself among the masses.”
The Party Congress upholding the continuation of the revolutionary history of the Indian Communist movement from its beginning in the 1920s, emphasized that India is in the stage of New (People’s) Democratic Revolution and that the revolution can be carried forward only by integrating the Marxist-Leninist teachings to the concrete conditions of India. It gave a good beginning to fight against the revisionist line. At the same time, though momentous developments had taken place from the time of the 1964 Seventh Party Congress at both international and national levels, and though it was necessary to draw a line of demarcation from the positions taken on these questions by the CPI (M) leadership, the 1970 Congress documents failed to take up this task. The positive aspect of the 1951 documents, as already pointed out, was that they had rejected the pursuing of either Russian Path or Chinese Path and emphasized on developing an Indian Path for advancing the People’s Democratic Revolution in the country.
But, the 1970 Congress called for pursuing the Chinese Path without making any efforts to evaluate the Indian situation. Though it was stated that India had become the neo colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, these neo- colonial and semi- colonial formulations were used synonymously. In spite of the attempts made by the CPC to explain the replacement of colonialism by neo- colonialism by the imperialist camp led by the US imperialists in the post Second World War period in the documents it had put forward during the Great Debate, there was no effort to take up this question forward. As a result, in spite of defining India as a neo-colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, the Program eventually called India a semi- colonial and semi- feudal country. Instead of criticizing the left adventurist actions taking place in China in the name of advancing the Cultural Revolution contrary to its spirit, the Party Congress documents upheld them in a mechanical manner.
As far as the practice of Indian revolution was concerned, the Congress documents called for a mechanical application of the experience of Chinese revolution in its totality refusing to take in to consideration the vast differences in the concrete conditions of India from the conditions of pre revolutionary China. They went to the extent of reducing the protracted people’s war, advocated by Lin Biao as panacea for all the Asian, African and Latin American countries, to ‘the line of annihilation of the class enemies’. Though the importance of Party building was mentioned, it was also linked to the development of armed struggle one-sidedly. The question of building the class and mass organizations was not even mentioned as by that time the concept that they are highways to revisionism had gained dominance. The concept of mass line was not even discussed. In short, the Party Congress documents advocated a left adventurist line, based on an erroneous evaluation of the concrete conditions in the country, in the name of fighting against the revisionist betrayal of the movement, in the name of speedy completion of the democratic revolution.
The Party Congress failed to evaluate the significance of the setbacks already suffered by the movement in Srikakulam and in many other areas and minimized their magnitude. Instead it called for persisting with the left adventurist line. It soon led to intensification of the setbacks after the Congress. By 1971 the first split in the Party took place when a number of CC members went out and formed a parallel centre. In most of the areas, under severe repression, the movement could not go forward. In the article written by Charu Majumdar in the last issue of Liberation, the then central organ of the Party, “People’s interest is Party’s interest”, there was an attempt to initiate a process of self criticism and rectification. But before it could be carried forward he was arrested. He died on 28th July, 1972 under police custody. Soon the disintegration of the Party and the movement as a whole which was already started reached a peak. Not only the CPI(ML) but the CR movement as a whole splintered to number of groups. As the top leadership was almost wiped out by the enemy, this disintegration affected the party at every level, in all areas.
Evaluation of the Naxalbari Uprising
THE most important positive contribution of the Naxalbari Uprising and the efforts of the CR forces to reorganize the communist party was that it saved the revolutionary movement from the path of liquidation pursued by the CPI and CPI (M) which took the path of degenerating to parliamentary cretinism. Like most of the parties formed during the period of Comintern, they also embraced the Soviet revisionist line of liquidating the path of class struggle and revolution under the banner of ‘peaceful transition to socialism’. In practice they became social democratic parties, socialist in words but bourgeois democrats in action. It was the struggle against them by the CRs and the Naxalbari Uprising which brought revolution back to the agenda of the communist movement.
The impact created by the struggle of the CR forces and Naxalbari Uprising was immense. Thousands of young activists inspired by the Naxalbari Uprising went to the countryside and worked among the dalits and adivasis. It created immense enthusiasm among these most backward sections. One of the reasons for the rise of Dalit Panther movement and militant Ambedkarite movements later was the inspiration created by these activities. Naxalbari Uprising inspired tens of thousands of youth and students from different parts of the country to revolt against the reactionary ruling system, embracing the path of revolution. They were prepared for the great sacrifices it called for.
Though the Cultural Revolution in China had deviated to sectarian path very soon, the Naxalbari Uprising and the reports of the Cultural Revolution from China contributed much in giving a new life to the people’s cultural movement in the country with new forms and content. It inspired the intellectual sections immensely provoking new studies and evaluations of Indian reality including the evaluation of the history of the communist movement in the country, and the protracted discussion on the changes in the mode of production taking place. It also evoked discussions on the question of proletarian internationalism.
At the same time, if the CPI, CPI (M) parties more or less mechanically embraced the Soviet revisionist line which was very fast degenerating the Soviet Union to capitalist path, soon after the Naxalbari Uprising the CRs whether they were in the camp of Charu Majumdar or against his line, mechanically adopted the slogan “Chinese Path is Our path”. Based on this, blindly copying the pre-revolutionary Chinese line, all of them analyzed India as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country with path of revolution as protracted people’s war. All of them were not bothering to see the vast changes taking place in the country under the implementation of the land reforms from above based on the ceiling laws and through Green Revolution like imperialist promoted policies.
Though the CR forces waged a bitter ideological struggle against CPI and CPI (M) for mechanically following the Soviet revisionist line without any analysis, they themselves did the same mistake by mechanically copying what was coming out through the Peking Radio and Chinese publications without any critical approach. They did not try to question why the CPC which had put forward the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM did not try to convene a conference of the forces opposed to the Soviet revisionist line in continuation to the 1960 Conference of the communist parties and fulfill its responsibility to proletarian internationalism at such a critical juncture. Even when comrades Kanu Sanyal and later Souren Bose who went to China and met CPC leaders were told not to copy the Chinese path and to develop the program and path of Indian revolution according to conditions here, there were no attempts to rectify the copying of the Chinese line.
The erroneous approach during the tumultuous 1967-72 period was multifarious. In studying the transformation of the imperialist plunder after the Second World War from colonial to neocolonial forms, in evaluating the capitalist restoration in Soviet Union and its consequences, in evaluating the impact of both these on the developments at international and national level, in developing the program and path of revolution based on mass line, in developing class struggle in a comprehensive, all embracing form, in developing the approach towards the agrarian revolution in the new situation, in utilizing all forms of struggle, including parliamentary struggle in a country like India where the parliamentary system was well entrenched for many decades, as part of class struggle, in building the party on Bolshevik style surrounded by class/mass organizations and on other questions concerning the mobilization and politicization of the whole movement etc there were serious mistakes and deviations. Without giving attention to rectify these mistakes and overcome these deviations, the entire attention was concentrated on developing armed struggle by all sections without giving emphasis to build a vanguard party of the proletariat capable of leading revolution in such a vast and complex country like India.
In such a situation what happened was inevitable. The whole movement got disintegrated and split in to numerous groups. Any successful reorganization of the Party called for finding answers to the numerous questions that led to the disintegration. Like the right deviation of the CPI-CPI(M) forces, the left deviation of CPI(ML) and other CR forces became obstacles for building a revolutionary alternative utilizing the political space created by the weakening of the Congress at all India level.
Re-organizing CPI (ML) Upholding the Spirit of Naxalbari Uprising
IT IS a fact that in spite of excellent objective situation and in spite of many struggles and valiant sacrifices, the Communist movement has failed to advance along the path of People’s Democratic Revolution. Both right and left deviations adversely affect it. Again and again, the failure to make concrete evaluation of the unfolding situation at international and national levels and to develop the Marxist-Leninist theory and practice accordingly created road blocks. By 1974-75 the sharpening of the contradictions between the ruling system and the people reached a high pitch, giving rise to many people’s upsurges in different regions. The contradictions among the ruling classes and monopoly groups reflecting the intensifying contradiction between the US led imperialist forces and the Soviet social imperialists also sharpened. These led to the declaration of internal emergency. But the ML forces could not play any significant role, though once again they came under severe suppression leading to many more sacrifices. The Soviet social imperialists, and the CPI toeing their line, supported the declaration of emergency by Indira Gandhi government, while CPI (M) did not dare to resist the emergency in the name of protecting the party organization!
For almost last five decades the left movement in general and the CPI (ML) groups in particular had to face innumerable challenges. The objective situation has undergone many changes. All the major contradictions at the international and national levels have sharpened and undergone many changes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, replacing the UPA government led by rightist Congress, the ultra rightist BJP led NDA government has come to power, intensifying corporate raj and communalization and threatening fascist challenge in all fields. These changes have thrown up new challenges before the left movement as a whole and before the CPI (ML) groups.
The degeneration of socialist China to the capitalist path, and the class collaborationist “Three World Theory” put forward by the end of 1970s by the capitalist roaders about future course of the ICM created more confusion and called for serious introspections in the Communist movement. Why did all former socialist countries degenerated from the socialist path had to be answered to the people. The failure of the communist movement in recognizing the transformation of the colonial forms of exploitation pursued by the imperialist system to neocolonial forms during the post-SWW decades and in developing its strategy and tactics accordingly caused severe havocs to the movement. So the study of imperialism to neocolonial phase called for immediate attention.
A significant development linked to the neocolonial changes was the outbreak of new type of ‘farmers’ struggles’ in different parts of the country by end of 1970s and early 80s. How to evaluate these struggles led by the agricultural bourgeois – rich peasant classes? How to evaluate the ‘land reforms from above’ including the land ceiling acts implemented by the various state governments helping the ‘Green Revolution’ and development of capitalist class relations in the country side? Can they be seen within the purview of the semi-feudal evaluation of Indian society? Can Indian state be evaluated as semi-colonial as the pre-revolutionary Chinese state?
With all former socialist countries degenerating from the socialist path to bureaucratic state capitalist dictatorships, the communist parties had to find answers about what sort of development paradigm they have to put forward taking lessons from the former socialist countries and how to fight against the emergence of bureaucratic tendencies within the party, the state and the army including the forms of democratic institutions to be developed so as achieve people’s power at all levels. In the context of neoliberal development policies pursued by the imperialist powers and by the countries under neocolonial domination which are devastating the nature increasing the danger of ecological catastrophe and pauperization of the masses, this question has great relevance today.
Presently when the imperialist system which is in deep crisis is utilizing religious fundamentalist, caste, racism like forces to divide and politically and culturally maim the people, and when the growing communal fascist threat and caste based atrocities have become a real danger in India, the question of developing struggle against all these forces, to develop secular, caste annihilation movements have become all the more important. When the communist movement has suffered severe set backs during the last five-six decades the Marxist-Leninist forces can reorganize the party and move forward only by trying to find answers to these questions and developing a countrywide people’s alternative to the ruling system. Could the left in general and those who uphold the Naxalbari Uprising address these issues positively? What steps they could take during last decades to confront these challenges and what is their condition today?
During these decades, the CPI and the CPI (M) have further degenerated to social democratic positions. The Left Front (LF) led by them in W. Bengal and Tripura and the Left and Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala were, in the main, implementing the ruling class policies including the neo liberal policies. In pursuing communal and caste appeasement policies also they are not far behind the ruling class parties who profess secularism. They have abandoned all Marxist- Leninist positions in practice. Their internal conflicts have become more serious after the reverses in 2011 W. Bengal elections and following the serious debacle in the 16th LS elections. In the 2016 elections to the state assemblies of W. Bengal, Kerala and TN they have further widened their electoral alliances and adjustments with more rightist forces for survival, reflecting their further degeneration. Instead of working for a people’s alternative against the BJP government guided by the RSS parivar, they have made electoral adjustments with Congress in W, Bengal, with communal and reactionary groups in Kerala and chauvinists and advocates of identity politics in TN.
The internal conflicts and splits in the CPI and CPI (M) like parties during these decades were not taking place based on the ideological problems faced by the international and Indian communist movement. Many of those leading these splits were not basically opposed to the revisionist positions pursued by them for decades. As a result, most of the groups formed after these splits made alliances with Congress like ruling class parties or have perished. Besides, a number of individuals and sections after leaving CPI and CPI (M) also joined Congress like parties. These developments reveal the extent of ideological degeneration to alien positions prevalent among them.
Among the parties or groups formed following the disintegrations of the ‘Naxalite’ movement in early 1970s, a number of them like CPI (ML) Liberation have become part of the alliance forged by CPI (M). The CPI (Maoist) formed in 2004 is pursuing anarchist policies. Most of the other still surviving organizations profess the ‘Chinese Line’, though they do not practice any form of ‘people’s war’. Refusal to address the cardinal issues confronting the ML movement as pointed out above, they are stagnant or disintegrating.
It is in this context the theoretical, political and organizational developments made by the CPI (ML) Red Star as reflected in its 9th and 10th Congresses trying to address most of the basic issues pointed out above should be seen. The theoretical offensive it has launched on the basic challenges faced by the communist movement today, its role in the founding and activities of the ICOR, the Program and Path of Revolution it has put forward, its development in to an all India party, its approach to and building of class/mass organizations and various mass movements, its role in putting forward a people’s alternative and forming the Democratic People’s Forum based on a Common Minimum Program, its experience in waging the parliamentary struggles continuously fighting against parliamentary cretinist tendencies, and the various campaigns and struggles it is leading has contributed towards uniting the CR forces, winning over cadres from the new generation and advancing the task of building an all India party surrounded by class/mass organizations and mass movements. While considering the vastness of India and the magnitude of the problems the communist movement in India is facing, it is still not a significant advance. But the brave initiative it is taking in all fields and the achievements it has so far made, on the whole, provide a positive orientation and practice.
While the whole party organization is mobilized for observing the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari Uprising for a year from this 25th May, these positive achievements provide new confidence to carry forward activities in all fields including the party building fighting against all alien tendencies, developing the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism according to present conditions and advancing towards the completion of the PDR as a step towards the socialist revolution. Let us mobilize all our strength and take up the observation of the 50th Year of Naxalbari Uprising with this spirit.
QUESTION OF CONCRETE ANALYSIS WHILE OBSERVING 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF NAXALBARI UPRISING
THE Naxalbari Peasant Uprising in May 1967 which led to the formation of CPI (ML) on April 22, 1969 and the consequent adoption of Party Program in the Congress held in 1970 has been acknowledged as a watershed in the entire history of Indian communist movement. It brought about a rupture with the revisionist line pursued by the CPI (M) that had abandoned not only the very concept but also of the tremendous significance of agrarian revolution in a country like India. With its overwhelming appeal among the oppressed, the dispossessed, the underprivileged, the poor and the downtrodden segments all over the country, the Naxalbari struggle also succeeded in sensitizing and attracting vast sections of students and youth to the revolutionary movement. The historic relevance of Naxalbari is not in relation to the extent of physical occupation of land by the revolutionary peasants, but in terms of the expectations it generated for the revolutionary reorganization of the communist movement in India.
As is obvious, the Naxalbari struggle was not an overnight development, but had been the outcome of several objective developments. As a manifestation of the crisis confronting the ruling system in general and agricultural sector in particular, land struggles and food riots had started in different parts of India from the mid-sixties onward. Not only in Bengal but in Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh, led by communist cadres, go-downs were captured and food was distributed among the poor. Though the CPI had abandoned revolutionary agrarian program based on land to the tiller in the 1950s, the formation of CPI (M) in 1964 had created enthusiasm among the communist revolutionary sections. However, the centrist line of the CPI (M) leadership as exemplified in the documents of the Seventh Congress utterly failed to pursue a revolutionary line based on an objective analysis of the Indian situation. It was then that the communist revolutionaries in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and elsewhere started a fierce ideological struggle within CPI (M). The well-known Eight Documents by Comrade Charu Mazumdar during the period 1965-67 proposing agrarian revolution as the basis for capturing state power were written as part of this ideological struggle.
Concrete Indian Situation since the Sixties
HOWEVER, the conceptualization on agrarian revolution by Comrade Charu Mazumdar and other leaders was based on the assumption that India was still a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country like pre-revolutionary China. Therefore, the strategic line for India’s liberation was put as ‘protracted people’s war’ pursued in China under the leadership of Mao Tsetung during the thirties and forties. Consequently, armed struggle was proposed as the only form of struggle which must invariably be begun by annihilating class enemies in the countryside. What happened was the mechanical copying of this so called Chinese line without analyzing the concrete class situation in India in the 1960s leading to left adventurism and disintegration of the movement since the seventies. It failed to make a concrete evaluation of the fundamental transformation that was taking place in Indian agriculture around this time.
For, during the postwar neocolonial order led by US imperialism, especially from the sixties onward, the transformations in Indian agriculture including land relations had been far-reaching. The most enduring among them was the Green Revolution initiated by international finance capital led by US imperialism, the supreme arbiter of neocolonialism. As a result, fundamental changes occurred by which finance capital, utilizing new agricultural technologies and market mechanism, penetrated in to agriculture at a rapid pace. The conceptualization and implementation of green revolution were under the auspices of a whole set of neo-colonial institutions and agencies primarily originating from USA. In a general sense, green revolution meant the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to farmers. As characterized by US imperialist ideologues who coined the term ‘green revolution’, it was aimed at thwarting the danger of a ‘red revolution’ in neocolonial countries. Instead of the decadent feudal forces that were reluctant to experiment with the new agricultural technologies, through Green revolution, imperialism took particular attention to nurture and build up an agricultural bourgeois class as a social base and a firm ally of state power in its neocolonial plunder. The adoption of new agricultural technology also necessitated substantial investments which were beyond the reach of vast majority of small and marginal peasants. As such, at the instance of World Bank, Rockefeller-Ford philanthropies and other funding agencies, the central and state govts in India resorted to a series of super-imposed land legislations that brought about changes in feudal land relations not based on the principle of ‘land to the tiller’ but with the purpose of creating a bourgeois landlord class who can imbibe both the ideology and technology of green revolution. Following green revolution, the entire input-output market for agriculture began to be monopolized by MNCs and agri-business companies.
More specifically, Green Revolution has been a smart neocolonial move on the part of finance capital, especially US finance capital to penetrate the agriculture sector in neocolonial countries like India by making effective use of the technological breakthroughs in the field. Changes in land relations were of paramount importance for the success of green revolution. For instance, the panel of thirteen American agronomists who were sent to India as part of the World Bank-USAID-Ford-Rockefeller initiative unequivocally suggested the implementation of Green Revolution solely based on a new class of elite capitalist farmers operating on commercial lines. The abolition of feudal relations in land while paving the way for concentration of land in the new agricultural bourgeoisie and rural elite would free the vast majority of poor tenants and marginal peasants from land itself to be available as landless agricultural workers for work in big farms and land holdings. Thus backed by the administrative and institutional support of the comprador Indian state, many erstwhile feudal lords themselves transformed into ‘kulaks’ by evicting tenants as they found it profitable to cultivate themselves by adopting new technologies and receiving liberal credit from official sources. Corporate sections who hitherto were keeping aloof from agriculture started acquiring big farms for commercial agriculture. Thus the advent of green revolution and the concomitant capitalist relations in agriculture led to a further concentration of land in the agricultural bourgeoisie-rich peasant classes on the one hand, and growing landlessness among the vast majority of peasantry, the tillers of the soil on the other.
With the adoption of green revolution as the agricultural modernization strategy, the neocolonial states all over the world rejected even their populist mask of rural emancipation based on the peasantry. Abolition of intermediaries including feudal relations was a camouflage for the concentration of land among new landlord classes integrated with finance capital and global market on the one hand, and the growth in the number of landless, poor peasants and agricultural workers on an unprecedented scale, on the other. The new agricultural bourgeoisie and the big farming enterprises that evolved in neo-colonial countries as ‘junior partners’ of agribusiness MNCs were perfectly in tune with the imperialist control over market for agricultural inputs and outputs and was an inalienable component of the global expansion of finance capital in the post World War II period. Neo-colonial governments were asked to prop up big and very big farmers and agri-businesses through appropriate land legislations and through various price support, subsidy and credit programs on the pattern of imperialist countries.
In course of time, this super-imposed green revolution thus led to a transformation in production relations and substantial increase in output oriented to the market, even as per capita availability of food to the common people went on declining. The agricultural sector also became an important consumer of industrial goods and agricultural inputs produced by multi-national agro-industrial corporations. But unlike normal capitalist development, this imperialist sponsored, super-imposed program on the whole remained retarded and distorted as the green revolution-induced growth was quite uneven at the all India level.
However, as already noted, it transformed the old semi-feudal, pre-capitalist production relations to a significant extent. That is, in contradistinction to the colonial phase, in the neocolonial phase imperialism is no longer trying to protect the old agrarian structure. As a result, feudalism is no longer the social base of imperialism. Though the agrarian relations have not undergone any revolutionary change, agriculture is transformed and modernized in conformity with the neocolonial interests of finance capital. As such, in the emerging production relations in the agrarian sector, land is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the new landlord class and the real tillers of soil are still without land. All these developments are to be seen in the overall context of the significant transformation that have taken place in the world situation after World War II with colonialism replaced by neocolonialism by the imperialist powers led by US imperialism, to facilitate imperialist plunder according to concrete conditions.
For example, an objective evaluation of the land reform legislations including the abolition of zamindari system brought about by the Indian state during the fifties and sixties will make this point amply clear. According to data available, 57 percent of the country was directly under the zamindari system at the time of power transfer. Because of people’s fury and resentment against the zamindars and the inhuman feudal and exploitative practices pursued by them, it was easy for most of the state governments to pass zamindari abolition acts before the end of the first five year plan. Thus official documents claimed the abolition of ‘intermediaries’ in 173 million acres of land and the establishment of 20 million tenants into direct relationship with the state by mid-1950s.
But zamindari abolition was an eye-wash and the ultimate outcome of the legal enactments was a change in the nomenclature of the zamindars who could easily change their garb and continue with their hold over land unabated. There were several loopholes at the level of legislation itself which allowed the zamindars to keep vast tracts of land for ‘personal cultivation’ not only in his name but also in the name of family members, relatives and even benamies and continue with the eviction of peasants, the real tillers of the soil. Zamindari abolition acts enabled the parasitic sections including zamindars to shed their role as intermediaries/middlemen between the peasants and the State and become land owners with permanent and inheritable rights in land. In the post land reform period, the erstwhile zamindars intensified evictions of peasants and concentrated more lands with them and began to carry on cultivation with hired agricultural labourers. And even the land reform initiated by the CPI led government in Kerala since 1957, which was acclaimed as the most progressive of the legislations among the various Indian states, refused to adhere to the principle of ‘land to the tiller’.
On account of the mechanical approach to caste (which is pursued by both revisionists and anarchists) that led to the glossing over of the inseparable link between land relations and caste, this CPI-led land legislation also excluded the dalits, the real tillers of the soil from the ownership of agricultural land altogether. At the all India level, wherever the land reforms were implemented, not only the landlords were fully compensated but their power base in the rural areas also was kept unaffected thereby making it easy for them to recapture the land in the coming days.
Observing the developments then taking place in Indian agriculture FICCI, the organization of the comprador bourgeoisie in India noted in 1964: “In this context, it was a heartening feature that in certain areas a new type of dynamic, progressive farmer had emerged as the main spearhead of improvements in agriculture. This farmer who constituted a new rural elite should be given every protection and encouragement so that his potentialities were fully utilized in the national interest. This would only be possible when the climate of uncertainty and sense of insecurity was removed from the minds of those who were striving to introduce new technology and better skills in the agricultural sector.” Opposing any form of land ceiling, the statement continued: “In place of the present policy of imposing ceiling on agricultural holdings thus depriving agriculture of the advantages of economies of scale, it would be desirable on experimental scale in the first instance to permit joint stock companies to undertake production of food grains and commercial crops.”
Question of Approach
THUS, while the emergence of capitalist land relations including the advent of an agricultural bourgeoisie as the leading ruling class in Indian agriculture was an accomplished fact in the sixties itself, it seems rather odd that this fundamental and far reaching transformation could not catch the attention of those who drafted the CPI(ML) program in the 1970. Even the then CPC which was unequivocal in pinpointing the American neo-colonial domination over India as well as the comprador character of the Indian ruling classes had not gone into this crucial issue. For instance it said: “True, the United States has not formally set up an “East India Company” in India. Nevertheless, in the past twenty years, the United States’ control and exploitation of India has been on a scale comparable to that of the British, which has a history of colonialism in India of three hundred years. The massive infiltration of US monopoly capital into India has enabled it to grab fabulous profits while the thousands of so called American “experts” and “advisers” who have wormed their way into the economic, political, military and cultural spheres have stepped up their control and enslavement of the country. India’s natural resources have been sucked out by the United States in large quantities. India has become a market for the flooding of American goods. Through the dumping of “surplus” farm produce alone, the United States controls one half of India’s currency as well as its finance and banking. The United States has also been steadily deepening the agricultural crises in India and aggravating its starvation for years on end. Each year millions of working people die of starvation in India. Isn’t this a fact of the bloody and ruthless exploitation of the Indian people?” While this comment has a general mention on the agrarian crisis, it has not taken any serious note of the super-imposed specific changes, especially large scale finance capital-induced transformations that were taking place in Indian agriculture at that time. Nor the Kisan Sabha Resolution that preceded the Naxalbari uprising while discussing at length on feudal oppression and comprador nature of the rulers has given the required attention to this emerging trends in agriculture.
As such, evaluation of Indian agrarian structure as basically semi-feudal in disregard of the emerging concrete reality compelled the leaders of Naxalbari movement to direct the fighting consciousness of the peasantry solely against feudalism which, though existed unevenly in different regions of the country, has been a declining trend in general. Based on this, India’s liberation was to be achieved along the Chinese path of ‘protracted people’s war’ for which cadres were to be recruited and trained in a secret party. Ironically, the disagreement of comrades like Kanu Sanyal with Comrade Charu Mazumdar was not on this crucial issue of concrete analysis and characterization of Indian society, but on technical issues. For instance, in his Report on the Terai Peasants’ Movement, Kanu Sanyal has identified ‘excessive reliance on the spontaneity of the masses and taking them as armed forces’ as the main reason for the setback of the Naxalbari movement. Among the other reasons were the inclusion of some vagabonds and making them leaders of the movement, failure to establish a powerful mass base, lack of proper plan for the redistribution of grabbed land led to conflicts among the peasants, etc. Underrating of the strength of the State machinery was the major military weakness, according to the Terai Report.
Along with this specific question of characterizing agrarian relations, the other was regarding the appropriateness of the usage ‘semi-colonial’ in the 1970 Program. It was during the Great Debate that the CPC under the leadership of Mao Zedong correctly put neocolonialism as a historical category for understanding the strategy and tactics of imperialism in the post World War II period, firmly upholding Leninist position on imperialism. No doubt, the 1970 Program did characterize India “as a neo-colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism.” However, simultaneously it had also used the ahistorical interpretation of Indian society as semi-colonial. Obviously, the fault was due to the incorrect understanding on neocolonialism. In spite of the correct formulation on neo-colonialism in 1963, the CPC, which then was at the leadership of the International Communist Movement, did nothing to further develop the concept as Lenin did in concretely evaluating imperialism in his time.
With the ascendancy of the left sectarian and anarchist trends led by Lin Biao in the Cultural Revolution, which later dominated in the Ninth Congress of CPC in 1969 that put forward a new era concept of “total collapse of imperialism and worldwide victory of socialism” instead of the Leninist evaluation of the era as that of “imperialism and proletarian revolution”, any further study on the neocolonial phase of imperialism was unnecessary as it was conceived to be in its “death-bed”. Thus, while Khrushchevian revisionism theorized on the weakening of imperialism with its prognosis on the “disappearance of colonialism” from rightist position, ‘Lin Biaoism’(so-called Maoism today) did the same from the position of left sectarianism.
The consequent inability to develop the understanding on neo-colonialism led several Marxist-Leninist parties to simultaneously or synonymously use the terms ‘neocolonial’, ‘semi-colonial’ and ‘dependent’ without seriously evaluating them. The eclecticism of mixing up both neocolonial and semi-colonial in the 1970 Program was a reflection of this mistake. From the 1980s onward, even while speaking about neo-colonial plunder, many organizations began to distance themselves from the neocolonial formulation altogether and started using only the term semi-colonial in their documents. The case of several ML organizations and acclaimed inheritors of Naxalbari in India was also the same.
The crucial issue here pertains to the appropriateness of using the term semi-colonial to refer to the qualitative transformations that have taken place in the post World War II period. From the Leninist perspective, the continued use of the term ‘semi-colonial’ during the postwar period as a framework to understand imperialist domination is a historical anachronism. For Lenin, ‘semi-colonial states’ were the “transitional forms” or “middle stage” in the process of colonization. While different regions of semi-colonial countries were occupied by various imperialist powers, mainly the feudal land lord classes ruled the remaining regions. China was a classic case. Semi-colonial countries remained as such, so long as conflicting interests and disagreement regarding division of spoils among competing imperialist powers prevailed.
But the trend under colonialism, according to Lenin, was full colonization of these semi-colonial countries. He said: “It is natural that the struggle for these semi independent countries should have become particularly bitter in the epoch of finance capital, when the rest of the world has already been divided up.”
Thus it is clear that ‘semi-colonial’ is a conceptualization used by Lenin to denote the ‘transitional stage’ under colonization. That is, from a Marxist perspective, semi-colonies together with colonies were specific historical categories applicable to the colonial phase of imperialism. Therefore, the continued use of the term semi-colonial, a category specifically used by Lenin to explain the trend under colonization, will obliterate the qualitative differences between colonial and neocolonial phases of imperialism. Repetition of such an old formulation in an abstract and mechanical way and fitting the changed realities within that framework will not be helpful for resolving the new contradictions. In other words, mere emulation of China and using the semi-colonial framework to develop the program of Indian revolution cannot throw light on the all-round and intensifying hegemony of finance capital over the country after power transfer. Of course, this approach again is related to the refusal or the failure to grasp postwar neocolonialism — persistent and historically structured concentration of the power of finance capital in its diverse, mutually interpenetrating economic, political, military and cultural forms—according to concrete conditions.
The green revolution acting as a conduit for the penetration of imperialist capital in Indian agriculture and transforming it as an appendage of agribusiness MNCs together with the strengthening of land concentration in new landlord classes and accentuation of landlessness of the peasantry are all accomplished facts today. It has led to the complete loss of Indian peasants’ self-reliance on domestic seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, transfer of the Indian gene pool of food crops to the seed banks controlled by MNCs, and above all the irreversible soil degradation and natural resource depletion having long lasting ecological problems. However, today under neo-liberalism in the twenty-first century, the so called second green revolution in continuation of the first has added a new dimension to India’s agrarian crisis. With the inclusion of agriculture along with intellectual property rights into the WTO regime, led by agri-business MNCs who have completely monopolized the agriculture technologies, India is now witnessing an unprecedented corporatization of agriculture. Along with the ongoing corporate land grab in the name of various neocolonial projects such as SEZs, tourism zones, townships, etc., agri-business companies in the name of corporate agriculture are also concentrating vast land areas leading to further landlessness and destitution of the peasantry. Even existing land ceiling acts are repealed to facilitate this corporatization resulting in large scale displacement of the peasantry. Corporate and contract farming of export-oriented cash crops are replacing vast areas of foods crop agriculture in different parts of the country. Along with the worsening land question, corporate control over agricultural inputs and output markets through various price and Exim (Export-Import) policies of the comprador regime is also mounting. WTO dictated agricultural policies including anti-peasant credit and price policies coupled with the curtailment of state support programs like subsidies and public procurements have led to mass suicides of peasants throughout the country.
On account of the new developments in agriculture and the economy in general, the marginal and poor peasants who cannot maintain their meager holdings are compelled to sell them off to corporate farms, rural elite and the rich and are migrating to the urban slums to join the ranks of unorganized and ‘informal’ workers, the fastest growing segment of world proletariat today. Homelessness, joblessness and mushrooming of slums have become the hallmark of so called development today. As a result of the massive displacement of the peasantry and extreme pauperization of the country-side, currently India is facing one of the fastest growing internal migrations ever recorded in history. For instance, in the tiny state of Kerala constituting just one percent of India’s land area and having a population of just above 3 crores, the number of migrant workers has already crossed 40 lakhs, 45 percent of which is from West Bengal alone. As a manifestation of this inter-state and rural-urban migration, India’s urban population, for the first time in a century, has grown more than its rural population during the past decade, and this trend is an ever-intensifying one.
THE upshot of the argument is that the evaluation of Indian society as ‘semi-feudal and semi-colonial’ was not in conformity with the concrete realities. Even now, those adherents of semi-feudal line dreaming of developing guerrilla warfare, red base areas and liberated areas, no doubt, are miserably failing to comprehend these emerging concrete trends in the neoliberal-neocolonial order.
As the comprador Indian state through a series of corporate-led infrastructure build-up and trickle down projects like employment guarantee schemes and microfinance programs coupled with World Bank sponsored empowerment projects is forcibly integrating the entire agrarian-rural sector with corporate finance capital on the one hand, and through heinous military moves breaches erstwhile inaccessible areas and encircles the Maoists on the other, the latter’s activities are increasingly confining to thin strips in the hinterland. Rather than pursuing reductionist approaches as that of evaluating the setbacks in terms of tactical failures, the need of the hour is a politicization of the masses, democratization of the society and building up of revolutionary people’s movement led by a Party capable of concretely analyzing the present situation and fully comprehending the contemporary laws of motion of finance capital in its diverse manifestations.
While observing the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari uprising, no doubt, it is pertinent to reiterate the revolutionary enthusiasm it created among the masses by resolutely combating revisionism and rightist opportunism which were well entrenched in the communist movement in India. However, the sectarian trend that dominated it by failing to pursue the Marxist method of concrete analysis of the concrete situation also has inflicted much damage and severe setbacks to the cause of revolution.
In this context, the issue is not that of situating the failures in the role of individuals but to have a scientific approach capable of advancing the revolutionary movement forward. Here it would be in order to quote from the Resolution on Launching Theoretical Offensive for Communist Resurgence adopted in the Tenth Congress of CPI (ML) Red Star: “12. We must take up a clear, unsparing and scientific analysis of our past! Without this we cannot make a correct objective analysis of the present. This will mean asking a lot of uncomfortable questions and shedding some of our dearly held conceptions. This is necessary even to begin a theoretical offensive. Even during such an offensive we may, many times, come to the conclusion that many of the positions put forward by us in the past were wrong. We must be able to boldly put forward a clear and pointed self-criticism including how and why we went wrong. This requires that we must build up an atmosphere of trust, openness and frankness within the party. We must not be scared of analyzing the situation of ours and of others around us and must go, in practice, to wherever such an analysis takes us.”
LONG LIVE GREAT NAXALBARI
Pradip Singh Thakur
THIS year May 25 will see the 50th anniversary of the historic Naxalbari peasant uprising. In these 50 years several important events have occurred in our country as well as in other countries. But even today agriculture and the peasant question retain the same importance as it did 50 years ago. Even today the stage of revolution in India is democratic.
In these 50 years significant changes have taken place in the agricultural sector in India. These changes have been especially hastened in the present phase of neo-liberal economy that commenced in 1991. The Path of Indian Revolution document of our Party states: “That is why, in spite of fast and deep capitalist inroads in agriculture, the stage of revolution is still democratic, not socialist.”
There is an opinion within our movement, which, pointing to the changes that have taken place in Indian agriculture in the last 60 years and the speed and extent of the development of capitalism in Indian agriculture, asserts that the stage of Indian revolution has changed – it has crossed the democratic stage and gone over to the socialist stage of revolution.
In order to understand this problem correctly, Lenin’s teaching will be of some help to us. Till the February Revolution of 1917, the stage of revolution in Russia had been identified as democratic. It had been stated: “Ever since they founded their Party, the Russian Social Democrats have maintained the following three propositions. First, the agrarian revolution will necessarily be a part of the democratic revolution in Russia. The content of this revolution will be the liberation of the countryside from the relations of semi-feudal bondage. Second, in its social and economic aspect, the impending agrarian revolution will be a bourgeois-democratic revolution, it will not weaken but stimulate the development of capitalism and capitalist class contradictions. Third, the Social Democrats have every reason to support this revolution most resolutely, setting themselves immediate tasks, but not tying their hands by assuming commitments and by no means refusing to support even a ‘general redistribution’.”(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 10, Pg 170)
The above three propositions had been put forward by the Russian Social Democrats ever since their inception, even when “... it is the capitalist mode of production(italics Lenin’s) that became established in Russia in the second half of the 19th century, and is absolutely predominant(emphasis ours) in the 20th century.”(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 10, Pg 232)
Thus it is clear that Lenin’s aforementioned teaching will definitely be of help to those who attempt to determine the stage of revolution only by the mode of production which is predominant.
THE historic Naxalbari peasant struggle was organized, first of all, challenging the reformist line that was being practiced in the Indian Communist movement and particularly in peasant struggles, under the leadership of CPI-CPI(M), in the period following the historic Telangana armed peasant struggle. Secondly, another significance of the historic Naxalbari peasant struggle was that it once again emphatically brought forward the path of agrarian revolution in solving the problems of peasants and agriculture in India.
Naxalbari brought forward, with tremendous importance, the truth that “Agrarian revolution means wiping out landlordism, including still surviving remnants of feudal and pre-capitalist land relations and making revolutionary changes in the land relations based on the ‘land to the to the tiller’ slogan...” (Path of Indian Revolution, Page 33-34)
The great Naxalbari peasant struggle and the other peasant struggles it triggered like Mushahari in Bihar, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, Debra-Gopiballavpur in Bengal, Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh and others rejected the reformist trend within the Communist movement, brought to the fore the revolutionary trend and through its implementation shook the foundations of feudalism and semi-feudalism. In reality, the peasants of India wanted what the peasants of Russia had wanted 61 years ago in 1906. “In other words, the peasants are virtually demanding an agrarian revolution and not agrarian reform.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 10, Page 410)
SOME have tried to maintain that the great Naxalbari peasant struggle was the outcome of the Eight Documents of Comrade Charu Mazumdar. But those who wish to arrive at the truth on the basis of facts will admit that from 1951 to 1966peasant struggles occurred continuously in Naxalbari and its adjacent areas under the leadership of the Communist Party of India – struggles on the burning issues of the peasants. These struggles were conducted by uniting the peasants, by organising them in mass organisations and by ceaseless armed resistance to the attacks of jotedars-zamindars and the police. The historic Siliguri Sub-Division Conference of the Krishak Sabha of May 7, 1967, came in continuation tothis 16 years of unremitting peasant struggle.This historic Conference called for: i) establishment of the authority of the peasant committees in all matters of the village, ii) getting organized and armed in order to crush the resistance of jotedars and rural reactionaries and iii) smashing the jotedars’ monopoly of ownership of the land and redistribution of the land anew through the peasant committees.
The historic Naxalbari peasant uprising was organized through the implementation of this call. We have already mentioned the Eight Documents. The first of these – titled Our Tasks in the Present Situation – was written on January 28, 1965. So if the Eight Documents are regarded as the initiator and originator of Naxalbari, then that would mean rejection of the incessant peasant struggle of 1951 to 1965.Of course, that is not to say that Comrade Charu Mazumdar had no role, or a negative role, in the great Naxalbari peasant struggle. Such an opinion also surfaced in later years. All this is nothing but an attempt to cut the foot to fit the shoe.
THE great Naxalbari peasant struggle, in practice, drew a determining line of demarcation between Marxism and revisionism, between revolution and counter-revolution and between the revolutionary path of peasant struggle and the reformist path of peasant struggle. Naxalbari rebelled against the neo-revisionism of the CPIM leadership and hastened the process of the creation of a true Communist Party in India. Naxalbari helped to question the various ideas and analyses that had prevailed over the past many years. In reality, after the great Naxalbari peasant struggle, nothing remained the same as before.
Above all, the attempts by revisionists, neo-revisionists and reformists to depict the Naxalbari peasant struggle as just another peasant struggle, the nefarious attempts by the CPIM leadership to malign this struggle as ‘adventurist’, cannot diminish the revolutionary significance of this struggle. We can also get an idea of the revolutionary significance of this struggle from the reaction of the ruling class.
The impact and repercussions of Naxalbari and the subsequent peasant struggles it inspired were so immense that on September 26, 1970, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told chief ministers at a conference on land reforms: “These are not matters of any textbook socialism or theoretical egalitarianism. They are inescapable compulsions of nations’ political and economic life which no government, whatever its complexion, can ignore, much less thwart. Land reform is the most crucial test which our political system must pass in order to survive. It is also our essential pre-requisite for self-sufficiency in food-grains.
“There is nothing radical or revolutionary in land reforms. I am sure those present know about what has happened in Mexico. Modern Japan’s industrial progress and stability is based on land reforms. The land reforms in Iran were initiated by the Shah himself and created the conditions for Iran’s further progress. Land reforms were essential ingredients of growth in modern industrial Europe. Only the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Tsarist Empire thwarted land reforms. And they both collapsed.”
There are several factual errors in the above statement of Smt. Gandhi. It is not true that Tsarist Russia ‘thwarted’ land reforms. The Stolypin agrarian reforms were adopted in Russia in 1906, about which Lenin wrote in his article The Last Valve, “The ‘new lease of life’ given by Stolypin to the old order and old feudal agriculture lies in the fact that another valve was opened, the last that could still be opened without expropriating all the landed estates.” Thus, a programme of land reforms was indeed adopted in Russia but that could not save the Tsarist Empire from collapse.
Similarly, what Smt. Gandhi said about Japan is also not correct. Land reforms in Japan were implemented under definite circumstances. The State played an important role in this and the land reforms played an important role in helping small peasants to access land, means of production, loans, irrigation, technology and also receive a good price for the crops. This in turn played an important role in the industrial development of that country.
Despite such factual inconsistencies, the aforementioned statement by our erstwhile Prime Minister makes it clear that Naxalbari and the subsequent movements that shook the foundations of feudalism gave the ruling class sleepless nights. As a result, in order to deal with the movement the Indira Gandhi government adopted the ‘carrot and stick’ policy (as described by Lenin) – brutal repression on the one hand, and reforms on the other. This is what Indira Gandhi had suggested at the aforementioned conference of the chief ministers.
HOWEVER, it is the bitter reality that the Indian political system survived, proving Smt. Gandhi’s apprehensions wrong, despite very little being done in the field of land reforms. The Mahalanobis Committee established in 1969 was asked to gauge how much vest land could be acquired if the ceiling on land was fixed at 20 acres per family. The Committee replied that in that case the amount of vest land would be 6 crore 30 lakh acres, which would be 17.3 per cent of the total cultivable land (40 crore acres).
47 years have passed after that. The shockwaves generated by the Naxalbari struggle led the ruling class to fix the land ceiling at less than 20 acres per family. But till date, the amount of vest land distributed throughout the country is less than even 2 per cent of the total cultivable land. On the other hand, concentration of land in the hands of a tiny few and landlessness or near landlessness of a huge section of the rural population is still the reality today.
In rural India, 10.04 per cent of families have no land, not even land for a home. Landless and near landless families make up 40.3 per cent of the rural population (they are owners of only 0.48 per cent of the total land). On the other hand, 9.4 per cent own 56.60 per cent of land. This reality emphatically puts forward the real necessity of the agrarian revolution, of the realization of the demand of land to the peasants. This reality makes inevitable the revolutionisation of land ownership and agrarian relations through agrarian revolution.
But will the revolution stop at distribution of land among landless and poor peasants, or will it go forward to the next stage – the socialist stage? According to Leninism, “Social-Democracy as the party of the international proletariat, the party which has set itself worldwide socialist aims, cannot, of course, identify itself with any epoch of any bourgeois revolution, nor can it tie its destiny to this or that outcome of this or that bourgeois revolution. Whatever the outcome, we must remain an independent, purely proletarian Party, which steadfastly leads the working masses to their great socialist goals. We cannot, therefore, undertake to guarantee that any of the gains of the bourgeois revolution will be permanent, because impermanence and inherent contradictions are immanent features of all (Lenin’s italics) the gains of the bourgeois revolution as such.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 13, Pg 426, Emphasis: ours)
Thus the harvest of the democratic revolution, the agrarian revolution in India – land to the peasants – will not stop there. Nor will it be made permanent. Rather it will surge forward with mutual cooperation, joint cooperatives and subsequently to an even greater stage – in the direction of socialism.
In lieu of a conclusion
THE brutal repression of the ruling class and the ‘left’ line of Comrade Charu Mazumdar within our movement dealt a severe blow to Indian revolution. Our Party became fragmented. In the period that followed, unity did not take the place of disunity, cooperation and solidarity did not take the place of division and distrust, theoretical discipline did not take the place of theoretical disorder.
Hence, at a time when we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari, when we are attempting to re-emphasise the significance of Naxalbari, there remain persons and organisations who have declared the demise of our movement. Here it will be quite relevant to remember the words of the great Lenin: “Yes, Marx and Engels made many and frequent mistakes in determining the proximity of revolution, in their hopes in the victory of revolution (e.g. in 1848 in Germany), in their faith in the imminence of a German ‘republic’... They were mistaken in 1871 when they were engaged in ‘raising revolt in Southern France, for which they... sacrificed and risked all that was humanly possible... But such errors – the errors of the giants of revolutionary thought, who sought to raise and did raise, the proletariat of the whole world above the level of petty, commonplace and trivial tasks – are a thousand times more noble and magnificent and historically more valuable and true than the trite wisdom of official liberalism, which lauds, shouts, appeals and holds forth about ... the futility of the revolutionary struggles and the charms of counter-revolutionary ‘constitutional’ fantasies...” (Volume 12, Pg 377-78)
Many errors also occurred in the course of the great Naxalbari peasant struggle. But the aim was the upliftment of the consciousness of the workers, peasants and other masses, their revolutionisation, which historically was of great value and truth. And the neo-revisionist CPIM of that time, by stamping the Naxalbari peasant struggle as ‘adventurist’ was swept away by the illusion of counter-revolutionary ‘constitutional’ fantasy. The same holds true even today. That is why, the relevance of Naxalbari is alive and active even today.
FIFTY YEARS AFTER NAXALBARI
THE year 2017 will be marked by completion of fifty years of the historic Naxalbari movement—the movement which is a milestone in the history of the communist movement as well as the mass movement in India. Though long years have passed, the communist revolutionary camp has not yet succeeded in reaching a consensus on the lessons to be drawn from the movement. That notwithstanding, there is a general agreement that Naxalbari has introduced a new course in the communist movement, which is the revolutionary course.
Consensus on the significance of this course is yet to be reached. Resolving the issue and reaching a comprehensive conclusion through properly conducting the debates on this matter will be, as we perceive, the greatest achievement of the year of celebration of 50 years of Naxalbari. Let us try and open the discussion.
The Naxalbari peasant upsurge, which had a huge impact at the time across the nation, was obviously not a flash in the pan. Neither was terming it as the “Spring Thunder” by the Communist Party of China any exaggeration. It was a time when the Indian people were passing through an acute food crisis. The big landowners were hoarding food grains and the common people were deprived of even the minimum requirement. The wave of the food movement raged through the country from 1959 to 1966. The cardinal question that sprang up from the movement was that of land reform.
In the anti-British movement, one crucial question was that of abolition of Zamindari right. The Zamindari Right Abolition Act was introduced in 1951. The Land Ceiling Act for implementation of land reform was enacted in 1956. Still the peasants were not given the lands. So, the demand for land reform had become a prime question to the Indian people since 1947. The Chinese revolution made the question universal. The Chinese revolution had also made it abundantly clear that the demand of land to the peasants can bring about a radical change to society, and that if this question is not clinched then the imperialist forces controlling and plundering a nation may well have to wind up operations.
The Communist Party of India also boldly raised the question of land reform and land to the tiller in society. The Tebhaga movement brought the question to the fore in many ways and the Telengana movement gave it a more concrete shape. The movements that were triggered in their continuation achieved a solid form in Naxalbari.
The impact of Naxalbari struck at the root of the peasant problem. The land distributed as a result of its impact in only two years accounted for one-fourth of the total land distributed in the 70 years since ‘independence’. The peasants acquired 2.5 lakh acres of land in the two years 1967-69. And the aggregate land distributed so far is 10.52 lakh acres in West Bengal.
A new situation developed wherein the question of agrarian revolution transcended the theoretical stage and could be practically implemented on the ground. The question of land to the tiller merged with that of seizure of power from one class to another.
The two contending trends in the Communist Party at that time were solving the agrarian problem through agrarian revolution and solving it through reforms within the existing system. Naxalbari forcefully projected the revolutionary path in the society. That was why it was not confined within the limits of only peasant movement; rather it spread the fire of rebellion against the existing system among the people. This was the principal aspect of the Naxalbari upsurge.
Moreover, it gave life to the contemporary debates raging within the communist movement. But, unfortunately, those who stood by the Naxalbari upsurge also failed in evaluating its lessons objectively. Consequently, the potential of the unprecedented success it raised, the huge inspiration it created among the revolutionary people of the country, could not be led forward to success. The revolutionary path that was taken by adopting the lessons of Naxalbari one-sidedly from an ultra-left position finally led the whole movement to disaster.
Naxalbari had put forth the lesson on the one hand that forming government through election in the existing system is no hurdle in developing worker-peasants’ struggle, on the other hand the government formed must also cross the limit set by the ruling class for only carrying on reform works, and stand by and encourage people’s upsurges. Denying to accept this lesson, the erstwhile CPI(M) placed itself in the rank of the ruling class. The government led by them, instead of standing by the peasant movement of Naxalbari, fired on the peasants and stained its hands with the blood of the peasants. Thus the Naxalbari movement also revealed the character of the revisionists.
The All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) formed upon Naxalbari movement, and then the CPI (ML), both took all the lessons of Naxalbari virtually from an ultra-left position.
As we all know, the question of agrarian revolution is cardinal to the People’s Democratic Revolution or New Democratic Revolution. But it can succeed only by developing as a part of the international socialist movement. Hence this revolution must go ahead under the leadership of the working class and on the basis of worker-peasant alliance where the peasants will be the main force. But, subsequently the conception that was put forward was that as this is a peasants’ revolution, the task therefore is to organize only the peasants. The peasants themselves will carry forward the revolution; the workers will only provide solidarity. This virtually amounts to rejecting the leadership of the working class.
Though at the beginning the working class leadership was used to mean the leadership of the Communist party (though the extent to which the party represents the working class is the prime factor), gradually that party too was directed to form a party of landless and poor peasants. The lesson from the example of worker-peasant alliance that was emerging in the situation prevailing during the Naxalbari movement was altogether thrown away. Later, Com. Kanu Sanyal, an important leader of the Naxalbari movement, cited this reality in his work More About Naxalbari. Setting aside the personal vilification, we can find in it something noteworthy about Naxalbari that deserves reflection. On the role of workers in the Naxalbari upsurge Com. Kanu Sanyal averred, “In that sense, nine days’ general strike in the tea industry in September 1966 played the preparatory role of the Naxalbari peasant uprising and the tea workers played the role of the vanguard.”
As the role of the working class in revolution was ignored after Naxalbari movement, the ultra-left line held sway in determining the form of struggle and that of organization and, in general, in determining the path of revolution. As regards form of organization, mass organization was discarded, and for form of struggle, mass struggle was rejected. Above all, guerilla war was taken as the sole form of struggle. Election battle was rejected primarily as tactical measure, and was finally elevated to the position of strategic boycott over the whole period of the movement. But the experience of Naxalbari movement itself contradicts such a decision. The call for Naxalbari movement was issued from the ‘Krishak Sabha’—a mass organization of the peasants; likewise the movement itself also gained momentum after the United Front Government assumed power. These point to the fact that Naxalbari movement could assimilate legal and illegal, open and secret—all forms of struggle, very well. After the United Front Government came to power in 1967, Com. Charu Majumdar himself said that this defeat of Congress has conveyed a feeling of victory to the people throughout the country. That it was not a mere coincidence that the upsurge in Naxalbari took place close on the heels of assuming power by the United Front Government, that election battle had a definite positive role there, got no more consideration. In fighting revisionism, all the positive contributions of the past were rejected. Instead of leading the revolutionary struggle through countrywide movement of the workers and peasants, the line of developing small base areas at different places of the country to wage protracted people’s war for accomplishing the revolution was adopted. Under the centralized government in our country with the big bourgeoisie having relatively greater influence and its ability to institute reforms, that was almost impossible.
In the matter of era too, an ultra-left decision put the thrust on accomplishing the revolution swiftly. From the concept that imperialism is on the verge of collapse and the proletarian revolution is only a matter of time, there was lack of understanding that imperialism can still make reforms, that there can be bourgeoisie development in the feudal agricultural relationship. Rather the widespread concept in the movement was that imperialism is in its last throes of crisis. That the slow reform from above which takes place at the instruction of imperialism causes change in the productive relation continuously, necessitating flexibility in the movement to change the form of struggle and organization accordingly, was overlooked, and so a kind of orthodoxy prevailed in the movement. We know that revisionism and left-adventurism are the two sides of the same coin. The ultra-left line adopted, also, obviously, failed to advance the revolutionary movement.
The extent to which peasant struggles like that in Naxalbari have failed, the peasant problem and the problem of development of the whole country remains pending to that extent.
Having crushed Naxalbari, the development model the ruling class has presented is one of monopoly corporate plunder. This is witnessed in Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal. The model has forced one million peasants to commit suicide since 1991. Peasants don’t get fair price of crops. Cost of agriculture is shooting high. Peasants are leaving their land. ‘Land to the tillers’ still remains a dream. The land reform programme assumed by the ruling class in the foregoing years has utterly failed to solve the peasant problem. Another point that has also been proved true is that peasants’ right on land cannot be established through annihilation of landlords. What is needed is massive people’s initiative, revolutionary upsurge of the people.
Today, the attack of neo-liberal policy is snatching away land from the peasants instead of providing land to the tillers, thus aggravating poverty and inequity. The message of Naxalbari is to provide land to the tillers, making necessary reforms for them to cultivate at low cost and industrialization on its basis. This requires completion of the incomplete democratic revolution.
So, it is our task today after fifty years of Naxalbari to uphold the lessons of Naxalbari and fight against revisionism-opportunism and left-adventurism to build up CPI(ML) anew and develop it as the advanced detachment of the proletariat. To that end, as much we require to assemble the communist revolutionary force within CPI(ML), so we need to bring together those who left CPI(ML) due to its left deviations and those who organized themselves outside the party for the same reason, to form a united communist party. If we can carry forward our ideological struggle with this objective, that will be the most important aspect of observing the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari.