Main Features of the Peasant Movement

[From the Political-Organisational Report of the Sixth Party Congress, 1997.]

1) To summarise, we find that the land question still remains the major question in many areas. However, as the degree of implementation of land reforms differs from one state to another, the general slogan of advancing land reforms also takes different forms in different states.

2) Establishing people’s control over common property such as minor irrigation sources (Ahar, Pokhar, Talab etc.), rivers and sandbanks etc. is a major agenda of struggle. Generally, feudals and mafia groups exercise control over them.

3) The questions of wages, equal wages for equal work for men and women, better working conditions, homestead land and pucca houses etc. are more or less common demands of the rural proletariat throughout the country. In the case of land grants it should be demanded that pattas should be issued in the names of both men and women.

4) Issues of corruption in panchayats, in block offices where money intended for relief to the rural poor or for the benefit of small and middle peasants is siphoned off by corrupt officials in league with powerful landlords and kulak groups who also control the political power are very important in popular mobilisation.

5) Tribal questions, whether they are reflected through the Jharkhand movement or in the movements of hill districts and other tribal areas of Assam, or in the girijan movement in Andhra Pradesh etc. are essentially peasant questions, and therefore usurpation of tribal land by usurers/merchants, rights over forest land and forest produce etc., are major questions in these areas.

6) Wherever the movement assumes intensity, private armies of landlords or the goons of the reactionary political parties resort to killing Party leaders and cadres and organise massacres of people. Police atrocities also invariably follow.

7) Anarchist organisations which are degenerating into money-collecting machines are indulging in a killing-spree of our cadres and people, and are using ultra-left rhetoric to the hilt to cover up their dubious links and their dirty mission of disrupting organised mass movements.

The following points merit serious attention:

A. We think that owing to considerable variations in the agrarian situation, a general peasant movement at national level, and therefore a consolidated all-India peasant body, would not have much of relevance. An all-India coordination body to exchange experiences and occasionally issue policy statements and organise seminars, workshops etc. is enough. Even in the states, district or regional level kisan sabha formations may have to play important autonomous roles, as in big states conditions vastly differ from one region to another. Demand-specific and area-specific peasant organisations may also play an important role in mobilising the broad peasantry.

Due attention should be paid to strengthening the organisational functioning of the kisan sabha at district and local levels. In many areas, kisan sabha membership falls much short of our influence among the peasantry and is often even less than the number of people mobilised in our programmes. Live functioning of the village committees holds the key to the vibrancy of the kisan sabha organisation, even amidst severe enemy repression. These committees should regularly convene village general body meetings of the peasant association, discuss the problems of the movement, and membership renewal — and even recruitment — should preferably be done in GBs. The village committees should be strengthened with the perspective of developing them as local organs of people’s power. Training local militias and building up of village self-defence squads should be undertaken in a planned manner.

A legal cell to take care of cases and a special team to maintain contact with comrades in jail need to be developed.

Where feasible, women’s cells should be formed within the kisan sabha organisations.

Contradictions among people may better be handled by local kisan sabha units instead of the Party directly plunging into them in the first instance. Otherwise there remains no authority to which aggrieved sections can turn to and this results in their alienation. Our experience shows that anarchist groups as well as forces like Ranvir Sena are quite adept in using such contradictions against us. Therefore, contradictions among people must be handled prudently and carefully and through the kisan sabha.

B. The question of agrarian labourers however is increasingly assuming greater importance in the agrarian scene as well as in national politics. The demand for central legislation relating to them is becoming a powerful one. The process of increasing capitalist penetration of whichever variety in agriculture — under the auspices of liberalisation and globalisation — will further push the question of agricultural labourers to the fore.

Moreover, as sections of intermediate castes are also emerging as important power groups, the agrarian movement can only find itself confronting increasingly wide-ranging sections of capitalist farmers and rich peasants. Movements of agrarian labourers, therefore, shall assume important political connotations. To prepare for the future, we shall have to organise a preparatory committee to study the issue in depth and explore the possibility of launching an agrarian labourers organisation.

C. When we get trapped in wars of attrition against private armies, the functioning of peasant associations or movements on peasant issues are left behind. Such a situation is of course forced on us and we can do little to avoid it. But how, then, to continue the functioning of peasant association is a paramount question which we have not been able to solve as yet. We repeatedly tried to use any lull period to activate such movements but no proper mechanism could be developed. Initiatives from state-level peasant association leadership at this juncture may be of crucial importance. And demand-specific organisations may come in handy to tackle such situations.

D. The spate of massacres that we faced in the last few years have raised many questions inside and outside the Party. The most simplistic formulation was provided by anarchists and a section of expert commentators living in the safe world of the media who opined that as CPI(ML) has given up the armed struggle and taken up parliamentary struggle, landlords are taking up the revenge for the 1970s, i.e., for annihilations carried out 25 years ago! This is highly mischievous and subjective thinking at its most absurd.

As Marxists we must understand that the emergence of a new breed of private army and the present spate of massacres are intimately related with the dynamics of present-day politics. If one probes deeper, one can easily see that the intensity of operations of private armies is concentrated mainly in areas where we have thrown up a serious parliamentary challenge to major ruling parties. Sahar and Sandesh assembly constituencies of Bhojpur and Mairwan and Darauli of Siwan are such areas. Even JMM (Mardi)-sponsored MCC killings in Bishungarh and the RJD-sponsored MCC massacre in that part of Chatra which borders Barachetti were shrewd moves to weaken our electoral prospects. As in both these constituencies we present a strong potential threat to JMM (Mardi) and RJD respectively. This is further confirmed by MCC’s march to areas of Barachetti just a few days after the Chatra massacre, and its threatening demands that the people leave Maley. This was immediately followed by RJD’s campaign in Barachetti asking people to desert CPI(ML). Targeting Bagodar is part of the same gameplan.

After private armies with the active connivance of the administrative machinery are allowed to perpetrate massacres, Laloo Yadav reaches those spots with the compensation packages and calls upon the people not to take up arms and instead take to education etc. It is in this way that the butcher and the priest complement each other. Whatever problems the anarchists may pose to the law and order situation they don’t pose any challenge to the political hegemony of the ruling classes. If in 1970s the call for election boycott was the expression of extreme revolutionary advance, in ’90s it has degenerated into extreme opportunist betrayal. This is how, dialectically, things transform into their opposites with the change in conditions. The election boycott slogan of anarchist groups has come in handy for shrewd bourgeois politicians. There are innumerable evidences of MCC and PU cadres actively mobilising votes for JD candidates in Bihar elections.

Then again it is totally false to suggest that we have given up the policy of armed resistance. The fact is that the general arming of the masses has today reached a much higher level than at any other time. In hundreds of villages in Bihar the regular exchange of fire has been going on through all these years of parliamentary politics. Thousands of our comrades including entire district committee leaderships have been warranted throughout the state for organising resistance and have to work in almost underground conditions.

In short, it is not our retreat but our advance as a major force challenging the economic, social and political hegemony of the forces of status quo that has led to these sharp attacks against us. It should never be forgotten that political initiatives, movements on popular issues and developing popular resistance are the key elements in taking up the challenge of the combined onslaught of feudal forces and the state. The point is not just to smash this or that sena by some method or other. More important is to raise the political consciousness of people, effect a change in social and political balance of forces and ensure the broadest mobilisation of the people in the process. Otherwise we will be reduced to being just a militant outfit. Yet, as protracted armed conflicts are an inalienable part of peasant movement in Bihar, Party must intensify its state of preparedness. In particular, decisive blows to the enemy are of crucial importance and armed formations must be organised at a higher level to deliver these blows.