State-Maoist Encounter: Beyond the Euphoria of Merger and Truce

- Political Observer

AFTER few rounds of proxy talks conducted through mediators and emissaries, the Andhra Pradesh government and the PWG leadership have now embarked on a course of direct talks. As we go to press, after four days of talks, the PWG leaders have been escorted back to their jungle hideouts. The government has expressed satisfaction with the progress of the talks. At the end of four days, the PWG-Janshakti leaders have resented the government’s attitude, but they are nevertheless keen to continue the dialogue. In fact, they want the next round to be held on 17 November, when the leaders are supposed to resurface again to attend a rally in Hyderabad, while the government has proposed the next round in December. 

Apart from this agreed decision to continue the dialogue, the other outcome of the talks is an official announcement regarding appointment of a certain committee to examine the issue of availability and distribution of ceiling-surplus lands in the state. But immediately after the talks, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has ruled out any redistribution of land that has already been transferred to corporate houses and foreign companies in and around Hyderabad. As for the most contentious issue of the PWG being allowed to retain and carry weapons, it remains a point of discussion and the ceasefire would continue till the dialogue is on.

In a calculated move, on the eve of the talks the PWG announced its merger with the MCC. The new formation has been named as the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Media analysts have commented on the military and financial implications of this merger. Just as the merger has added to the military prowess and financial muscle of the organisation, many see in this strength the seeds of a future conflict over the control of these huge resources. After all, not so long ago the PWG and MCC were engaged in major clashes in Jharkhand.

Some commentators have also dealt with the legal implication of the merger. Even as the Andhra Government lifted the ban on the PWG in the state, the national level ban on the organisation remained very much in force, at least on paper, as the entire schedule of organisations banned under POTA has been incorporated into the new Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. If the talks had already made the ban largely redundant, the formation of the new organisation has created a new situation altigether. It may well be argued that the new organisation is not banned at all and the government is now confronted with the embarrassing option of both continuing the dialogue and imposing a fresh ban.

More importantly, what are the ideological implications of the merger? At the time of formation of the CPI(ML) in 1969, the MCC remained opposed to the process and a major debate went on between the MCC’s idealistic and federal outlook regarding the formation of a communist party and the revolutionary communist assessment of the urgent task of formation of a new all-India party on the. It is not for nothing that all these years the MCC never bothered to form a party and remained content operating exclusively as an armed formation. The PWG has had a different history. The founders of the PWG were veterans of the Telengana movement and the formation of the PWG was very much an attempt to revive the CPI(ML).

Looking back, one can say that there were three major attempts to revive the CPI(ML) after the initial setback. In the aftermath of the Emergency it was the PCC (Provisional Central Committee) led by Comrade SNS which had emerged as the biggest and most widely known organisation. But it disinegrated as fast as it had grown and the group that still functions today under the banner of the ‘provisional’ central committee is a very poor shadow of its former self. The two other attempts were based essentially on the strength of the revolutionary peasant movement in Bihar and Andhra and came to be known respectively as the Liberation and People’s War streams.

In the initial years, the PW too was very much involved in mass activities. In the 1980s, the Radical Students’ Union and Rayatu Kuli Sangham had emerged as organisations with an impressive mass following and most of the PWG’s present base and political cadres had developed through that practice. It was only in the 1990s that the PWG relapsed into exclusively ‘dalam’ or squad activities and took an increasingly anarchist, Left-adventurist turn.

With its present merger with the MCC, the PWG has now historically moved out of the trajectory of the CPI(ML). The rupture is indicated as much in the name of the new party as in all its initial pronouncements. In their own times Charu Mazumder and Kanai Chatterjee represented two irreconcilably different lines and approaches. The new party has attempted a major feat in eclecticism by recognising both CM and Kanai Chatterjee as the founders! What a sense of history! Two men who had left sharply different legacies are now being posthumously contrived to collaborate in an act of magical rewriting of history as co-founders of the new party! While the PWG is prepared to give up the very name and legacy of the CPI(ML), why do they need to drag CM’s name as a founder of  something which he never founded. The two armed formations, the PGA of the PWG and the PGLA of the MCC have also been merged. The new formation will be known as the PGLA but December 2, the foundation day of the PGA, would be observed as the foundation day of the new PGLA! While the PWG seems to have retained the organisational command of the new organisation, the ideological-political perspective and orientation of the new party seems to be heavily influenced by the MCC’s variety of Maoism. Some real example of give and take!

According to the first press communique issued by the new organisation, its primary immediate task will be to transform the existing PGLA into a full-fledged People’s Liberation Army and the existing guerrilla zones into base areas. Armed struggle is once again proclaimed to be the principal form of struggle. In fact, the communique even goes so far as to say that the army will be the main form of orgnaisation. In the course of the revolution in China, Mao had referred to the communist party, army and the united front as the three magic weapons, but the centrality of the party organisation was never in doubt in China. For the Indian Maoists, however, the army is the party; armed struggle is supposed to be the key link to the united front, and mass activities are to be undertaken precisely to serve the war.

The question naturally arises as to where do the present talks with the Andhra government figure in this scheme. We do not grudge the new formation’s right to believe in the fantasy that it can just militarily fight its way to power without bringing about a shift in the balance of class forces through a protracted political battle. The very fact that after two decades of people’s war the PWG finds itself negotiating with the state over its right to carry weapons shows where exactly it has reached. One can understand revolutionaries negotiating with the state in a situation of dual power, but nobody in his right senses would suggest that the Maoists are negotiating from such a decisive position of strength. If, as the Maoists claim, everything is supposed to serve their military strategy, how exactly can the present talks be expected to fulfil their military game plan?

Do the Maoists really expect their demands to be fulfilled? Certainly they cannot be naïve enough to expect that the Andhra Pradesh government can be talked into abandoning the existing path of economic reforms! Is the idea then merely to have a breathing space and return to the old mould once the talks fail? But does it then not indicate a desperate crisis situation on the front of their armed struggle? Some commentators believe that the idea is to win some legitimacy by exposing the insincerity of the state. In fact, some informed sources would like to view the talks as a new turning point for the Maoists before they take to mass political activities including participation in elections.

On the political front, the Maoists have so far only displayed a high degree of bankruptcy. In Bihar and Jharkhand their political role has primarily been to kill CPI(ML) leaders, activists and supporters and extend armed vote-capturing support to the RJD and its allies including the Congress and the JMM. In their own citadel of Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists have only been instrumental in helping the Congress regain political power and initiative. If they are now holding talks with the state to make a political or electoral beginning, they will truly be adding a feather to their trademark cap of revolutionary phrase-mongering and political opportunism.

More than watching the Maoists, progressive democratic forces will have to keep a watch on the game plan of the Indian state. Few will currently buy Advani’s allegation that by holding talks with the Maoists, the Congress is playing with the country’s internal security. After all, by the same token the BJP can also be accused of having jeopardised national security by negotiating with the Naga insurgents! People would rather treat the talks as a sign of political confidence and administrative prudence on the part of the Congress government of Andhra Pradesh. Along with the cosmetic repeal of POTA, the talks with the Maoists constitute a ‘liberal-democratic credential’ for the Congress. And once the talks fail, the Congress will use precisely this credential to expose the Maoists for their ‘insincerity’ and ‘stubbornness’, to create illusion and engineer splits, and to seek legitimacy for mounting a renewed political offensive against Naxalism in particular and the Left movement in general as well as for unleashing a fresh campaign of repression. Real communists and democrats must remain ready to resist such an eventuality.

Towards the Indian Path of Indian Revolution

- Vinod Mishra

(excerpts from Comrade VM’s inaugural address at the Central Party School, June 1994; Selected Works, pp 353-356)

Since our unity efforts in general and with the Andhra group led by Sitaramayya in particular failed in early ’80s, Party reorganisation proceeded along two different lines. The Andhra group, which was highly critical of Charu Mazumder and the annihilation line, put emphasis on legal and mass activities. In collaboration with certain factions operating in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra it went on to organise a central body of federal nature which popularly came to be known as the CPI(ML) People’s War Group. It did make a promising start by developing powerful mass organisations of rural poor and of students, but it soon relapsed into full-fledged dalam activities. Its theoretical-political positions were never very clear and were popularly perceived as armed militant actions for redressal of grievances, particularly of tribal people. But at the political-tactical plane they can only be comprehended as attempts to set up base areas of red political power. We need not repeat here the whole story of its metamorphosis  into an anarchist group. Suffice it to say that this group at present is suffering from serious ideological dissensions and organisational splits and reports suggest that the leadership is contemplating major tactical changes to wriggle itself out of the impasse.

By late ’70s, however, our Party on the other hand, had realised that the first phase of direct revolutionary onslaught is over, and any immediate call for building red army and base areas by raising armed struggle to new heights will be nothing but left adventurism. While continuing to put primary emphasis on developing the amss peasant movement including armed resistance wherever necessary, we decided to make full use of legal and even parliamentary opportunities to expand our influence among broad masses, to take up united front activities to seek new allies from various starta of Indian people as well as to utilise the contradiction within the enemy camp. …

Our policies were vehemently opposed  by the whole crowd of petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who accused us of betraying the cause of revolution , and sometimes branded us as the agent of Deng Xiaoping and at other times as official naxalites. Our Party firmly and unitedly rebuffed this ultra-left onslaught and exposed the real worth of left opportunists who subsequently degenerated into full-blown anarchists, practised the worst kind of political opportunism and some even indulged in brutal killings of common people and communist cadres. …

Left adventurist mistakes in China led to loss of almost all the base areas and a considerable section of Red Army and forced the CPC to undertake the Long March. Left opportunists blamed Mao for betrayal when he developed the line of united front with Chiang Kai-shek against Japanese imperialism.

I refer to all these historical instances only to reiterate the fact that the revolutionary struggles in every country pass through different phases of advance and retreat, and therefore, the policies and tactics of the parties should be readjusted accordingly. This is the whole essence of Marxist thinking on tactics as well as the art of leadership. Dogmatically following the tactics suited to a different condition and calling for a direct struggle even when the situation demands reorganisation of the Party and of accumulating strength, means walking straight into the enemy trap.

It was quite right for us to start with the Chinese model because that was the only available blueprint for revolutions in semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries. But in the course of our own experiences of last 25 years and also with a better understanding of specific aspects of Indian society, it is only natural to make necessary adjustments and modifications in the Chinese model to evolve in course of time the Indian path of Indian revolution. Dogmatic adherence to Chinese path negated the very essence of Mao’s thought. Mao had to carry on a firm struggle against Chinese dogmatists who despite severe losses were bent upon blindly copying the Russian model in Chinese conditions. The famous formulation of Mao on the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions of China arose only in the course of this struggle.

Many people are unaware that our Party line has grown in course of serious struggles against these left opportunist trends and while their activities have increasingly been reduced to squad activities, we have increasingly expanded the scope and sweep of mass revolutionary movement of peasantry and the activities of our armed resistance groups have become an integral part of the same. Now with the anarchist course followed by the PWG running out of steam, our Party stands on a firm ground to unite revolutionary communist forces around the correct line. …

As I see it, social democracy represented by the CPI(M) remains our chief ideological adversary within the left movement in general and anarchism represented by PWG, our chief ideological adversary within the ML or Naxalite movement, in particular. A proper combination of ideological-political struggles against both these trends is imperative for building a revolutionary communist party in India.