Evaluation of the Past

[From the Political-Organisational Report adopted at the Third Party Congress, December 1982.]

The question which has raised the fiercest of debates is the question of "annihilation" as formulated by Comrade Charu Mazumdar. It is argued that there is no Marxism in this, and that it is simply vulgar individual terrorism, which has only brought about losses. It is also said that armed struggle and mass struggle must be combined and that, therefore, the ‘annihilation line’ must be condemned.

Let us first deal with the question of combining armed struggle and mass struggle. The general repetition of this phrase as a panacea has no relevance for Marxists engaged in practical work. It remains a historical fact that all mass movements acquire newer forms in the course of their advance — constantly discarding the old and creating the new — and transformations as well as new alignments of new and old forms are thus observed. Our duty as communists is to take an active part in this process so as to develop suitable forms of struggle. As Lenin says, while not denying even a bit the necessity of force and terror on principle, we shall have to develop such forms of struggle in which direct participation of the masses has been assumed and this participation has been ensured.

Coming out of the bounds of neo-revisionism after the heroic Naxalbari struggle, and after engaging in some two years of revolutionary practice to build mass movements, communist revolutionaries of India faced such a situation and longed for a new form of struggle. It was in this context that, in the heat of the Srikakulam struggle, ‘annihilation’ based on mass support was formulated. This sought to combine the beginnings of armed struggle with the step-by-step mobilisation of the masses in struggles. And it was this basic orientation in Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s line, that of combining armed actions with mass struggles — with one aspect predominating at one time — which runs through his entire political line from the pre-Naxalbari days to the end of his life. Evaluating the successes and failures of his efforts is one thing, and very important too, for any real advance. But calling him a ‘terrorist’ is the height of absurdity and nonsense, and betrays a servile attitude. In the overall perspective of mass support this particular form of struggle, which was to be combined with mass movements, actually aimed at an areawise seizure of power. This struggle led to the formation of many peasant squads in different parts of India and also to a mass upsurge. This upsurge was sought to be organised through revolutionary committees by taking up certain programmes of agrarian reform while these squads were to be organised as units of the People’s Liberation Army by conducting guerrilla actions against police and paramilitary as well as military forces, thus heading towards red power. This, in brief, was the entire process and outcome of the ‘annihilation line’. Its achievements were many, and the existence of Bhojpur till this day bears testimony to this aspect. However, it had its negative side too, and with the passage of time this side became the principal one. In many areas annihilation was conducted as a campaign, with a lot of indiscriminate and unnecessary killings, and it got isolated from peasants’ class struggle so that no resistance could be built up against police repression, and our struggling areas were smashed. Overenthusiastic supporters of ‘annihilation’ — from Ashim to Dipak and finally Mahadev — raised these mistakes to the zenith and step-by-step formulated a left-opportunist line which did tremendous harm to the people and the revolution.

The period then was characterised as that of immediate and general revolutionary situation throughout the world and a general revolutionary offensive was planned. Such an overestimation of the revolutionary situation led to impetuosity and the state of subjective forces was not taken into account, thus exacerbating the mistakes. It is true that the revolutionary situation was favourable to us with the ruling classes engulfed in deep economic and political crises, and wherever possible the proletariat had to rouse the peasantry to armed struggle and make attempts to seize political power. However, the uneven development of Indian revolution was not seriously taken into account. Therefore, in spite of the general programme and basic tactical line being basically correct, due to the overestimation of the revolutionary situation and not taking note of the uneven development of the Indian revolution, the form of struggle and course of advancement suitable for some areas came to be generalised for every corner of the country, and as a campaign at that. These were certainly serious left deviations. And the objective law of development punished us too: mass upsurge got restricted to a few pockets and continued merely in a single area.

In this context, the declaration in our first Party Congress — "Class struggle, i. e., annihilation will solve all our problems" was definitely wrong. However, in certain pockets annihilation combined with mass upsurges, initial attempts at organising this upsurge through revolutionary committees with slogans of agrarian reform, and attempts to build red army out of guerrilla squads, remain glorious examples in the treasure-store of revolutionary experiences. And it was on this basis that the Bhojpur peasant struggle, initiated by the not-too-conscious communist revolutionaries and then organised by the Party leadership, emerged and was maintained during the hardest of times at the cost of the maximum of sacrifices — a struggle that is now developing in broader areas and in more diversified forms. And it is because of this glorious tradition that Charu Mazumdar remains alive in the hearts of millions of oppressed people of India, that his line is taken to symbolise the only revolutionary line in India. By contrast, many academic Marxists and opportunist leaders kept chanting on ‘combination of armed struggle and mass struggle’ but never succeeded in reaching the broad masses or in developing a single mass struggle of any importance — not to speak of armed struggle and the so-called ‘combination’. The pedantic attitude, displayed by some of the self-proclaimed Marxists, of doing everything and combining everything on earth, is not a solution but a travesty of solution — a purely academic exercise devoid of any concrete experience. The revolutionary line could acquire full shape only in a process and the Party while beginning with rejecting the old forms of struggle, could have brought about a new realignment of new and old forms only through a process.

As for the working class movement, Comrade Charu Mazumdar correctly pointed out the need of developing new forms of struggle without rejecting the old ones and developing political struggles while not rejecting the trade union struggles.

As regards the student and youth movement, he for the first time in the Indian communist movement put forth the question of integrating them with workers and peasants and for that it was necessary to bring them out of campus struggles. Students and youth most energetically responded to his call and he supported their movement against old values, old education and old culture. Moreover, while differentiating their movement from the Red Guard movement of the contemporary Chinese youth and from the ‘New Left’ of France, he showed its limitations, and asked them to integrate with its base — the peasant struggles. At the same time, he asked the intellectuals to make deeper studies of the 19th and early 20th century history of India — a task which has been taken up and carried forward by many progressive and revolutionary intellectuals.

Blaming the CPC analysis in those times for our mistakes or adopting a pedantic attitude of so-called ‘combination’ with the hope of avoiding all mistakes — both of these betray a sick mode of thinking. Any revolutionary upsurge is bound to give rise to right and left deviations: "right in not being able to break from the past" and "left in not being able to reckon with the present." Only we are responsible for our mistakes, and mistakes are unavoidable in any revolutionary upsurge. And, it is only on the basis of such mistakes that communists can learn and leaders as well as cadres are trained. There is no other way out.

The military form of annihilation battle, the military line, was meant to serve the political line and the entire revolutionary process was aimed at developing a revolutionary mass line. Propaganda of political power among the peasants: "peasants should be mobilised for liberating their own villages and be told that not landlords but you will become the sole authority in settling the matters of the village, the land will be yours, tanks will be yours, and, after the annihilation of landlords, the police will not be able to trace who tills whose land, and so on" — taking up their psychology and explaining in most popular forms to rouse them, was an important contribution of Comrade Charu Mazumdar. Such propaganda was just the opposite of revisionist propaganda. Comrade Charu Mazumdar formulated ‘annihilation’ not on the basis of negating the role of masses as cowards and regarding a few vanguards as "individual heroes", but rather on the basis of immense confidence on the tremendous creative energy latent in the masses. It is this spirit which permeates his articles all through, and hence the entire Party based itself on complete faith on the masses. Not a bit of this confidence is to be found in his opponents who out of distrust of the masses advocate fronts with this or that bourgeois party.

Bringing the landless and poor peasants to the front line of the country’s political life — a fact acknowledged by all bourgeois and revisionist politicians and economists when they say that Naxalism grew on the discontent of the rural poor — and putting agrarian revolution on the immediate agenda by piercing through the land reform measures of the Congress government, raising the level of thinking of communist revolutionaries and the Indian proletariat from tidbits of revisionist politics to the dream of liberation of the country, and joining hands with the international proletariat and oppressed masses, recruiting thousands and thousands of young people to the communist movement of India and creating the phenomenon of Naxalism which was born in Naxalbari but acquired a concrete and developed shape only afterwards (this is something which Kanu Sanyal does not understand and hence fails to find out the basic reason of his failure) as a nationwide political trend in India which continues to rise even from the ashes and even without Comrade Charu Mazumdar himself, and above all, building the CPI(ML), the revolutionary Party of the Indian proletariat — such are his major contributions and also the main content of his revolutionary line.

However, owing to over-estimation of the revolutionary situation, inadequate grasp of the objective Indian conditions, generalisation of the annihilation struggle, the splits and disorganisation of the Party, the ruling classes’ temporary stability following the Bangladesh incident and the Indo-Soviet military pact, we suffered very serious setbacks in the face of the enemy’s repression.

Comrade Charu Mazumdar realised that annihilation had been taken too far and that, in most cases, it could not be properly combined with mass struggles. So he assessed the situation of setbacks and disorganisation of the Party and called for building a politically united Party and a united front of labouring people, particularly those belonging to the left parties, against the Congress regime. He called for a united front based on united struggles in general — and not necessarily armed struggle as such — and emphasised taking up land reform measures in selected areas. This was clearly a policy of retreat under new conditions. But a planned and orderly retreat could not be organised. Firstly, because the retreat was still supposed to be a very temporary phenomenon so that the tactics were based on the hope of a resurgence of mass struggles very soon. And secondly, because the policy and methods of retreat were not clearly formulated in terms of various forms of struggle and organisation.

With setbacks in struggle, splits in the Party, and gaps in reorganising the Party Central Committee, the rank and file loyal to Comrade Charu Mazumdar handed over all authority to him for the temporary period of reorganising the Central Committee. This phenomenon was given a general character by some careerists around him, who harped on the concept of ‘individual authority’ to further their own interests, created hurdles in the work of reorganising the Central Committee, and ultimately betrayed the Party and Comrade Charu Mazumdar.

To sum up, the Party’s main mistakes were: it generalised the ‘annihilation’ form of struggle for the whole of India and took this up as a campaign, it failed to chalk out a consistent and thorough-going policy for combining this form of struggle with mass struggles in spite of an overall orientation and successes at certain points. And, even with the appearance of serious signs of setback, it did not succeed in arranging a planned and orderly retreat from military offensive to political offensive. These mistakes resulted from overestimating the revolutionary situation prevailing in India in the sense of understanding the situation as more or less of permanent upsurges, inadequate grasp of the concrete Indian situation, the wrong methodology of generalising particularities from subjective wishes, the infancy of the Party and the impetuosity on the part of the leadership as a reaction to revisionist betrayal.

With the martyrdom of Comrade Charu Mazumdar, things took a complex turn, and only after 5 years, i.e., in the year 1977, was it possible to really begin the process of seriously rectifying the mistakes.

After Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s martyrdom, Sharma and Mahadev floated a central committee of the Party on 5-6 December, 1972. With the Lin Piao episode, they parted ways in early 1973, and each in the name of his central committee indulged in unprincipled condemnation or eulogisation of Comrade Charu Mazumdar to further their own factional interests. Mahadev in particular resorted to all sorts of absurdities and, in the name of ‘safeguarding the purity of every word of Charu Mazumdar’ put the Party against the CPC and intensified actions divorced from peasant struggles. In this way he caused great damage to revolutionary forces, particularly in West Bengal, and finally destroyed himself.

At this moment of crisis, comrades of Bihar State Committee and the newly-organised State Leading Team of West Bengal shared their experiences of fight against the Mahadev-Sharma clique. They also exchanged the experiences of new upsurge in Bihar and of reorganisation in West Bengal after serious setbacks. Meanwhile, comrades of Delhi also joined in this process. Then under the leadership of Comrade Jauhar, the Central Committee was reorganised on July 28,1974. At that time peasant struggles were going on in Bihar, particularly in Bhojpur and Patna areas, and efforts for reorganising peasant struggles were on in West Bengal. To guide and lead these struggles and to overcome the setback, the urgent necessity of a centre was felt. With the distortions of Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s line by Mahadev, Sharma and Co., the need to defend the revolutionary essence of his line became the supreme task. The new Central Committee’s proclaimed aims were: a) defending the revolutionary essence of Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s line; b) uniting the Party politically on this basis; and c) unifying the communist revolutionaries of India.

At that time the area of work under this Central Committee was confined to Bihar, West Bengal, Delhi and a minor part of UP. After some time, many comrades of Assam joined it, too. In those days, comrades in Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were also working among the peasantry, conducting some militant struggles and fighting against trends resembling to those of the Sharma and Mahadev cliques. These comrades were organised in Party committees at various levels. Comrades from Tamil Nadu, in particular, were united under the State Party committee. But the reorganised Party centre could not establish contacts with them which prolonged the process of reorganisation with a revolutionary orientation. In all parts of the country revolutionary movements were being crushed and many of the comrades were either killed or arrested. After some time the central committees of both Sharma and Mahadev also disintegrated and collapsed. In these conditions, formation of the Central Committee was the only way open to us for uniting the Party forces with a revolutionary orientation and for carrying on efforts of building up peasant struggles.

With the formation of the Central Committee, peasant struggle in Bihar got a new fillip. Some armed actions and peasant struggles were also organised in Ghazipur and Ballia districts of UP and in Naxalbari of West Bengal. Comrade Jauhar always held supreme the interests of the Party and the collective leadership of the Central Committee. He personally guided the Bhojpur peasant struggle, put forward the task of building outstanding organisers and commanders who would organise and lead into military actions the forces that were coming to the forefront of the fiercest class struggle, and emphasised the need of launching attacks on mobile enemy forces by army squads so as to break encirclement operations of the enemy and raise the people’s morale. He termed these areas of struggle as the basis of an anti-Congress united front.

However, the Central Committee in general and Comrade Jauhar in particular had much of metaphysics. Guided by a formal and subjective approach, they indulged in the wrong practice of not taking the overall situation into account and of generalising the particular. So Comrade Jauhar in his philosophical article "One divides into two but two do not combine into one" mechanically interpreted a ‘correct line’ as having only the basic and the developing aspects. This further blocked the way for any rectification of our mistakes on a theoretical level. Again, he formulated attacks on mobile enemy forces as the beginning of mobile warfare and generalised it for all places — this was a mechanical upgradation of annihilation which gave rise to a wrong military line. It is true that at many places the people were organised under the leadership of revolutionary committees in heroic resistance struggles against the attacks of police and landlords were also developed. Yet no thoroughgoing and consistent policy for developing mass movements could be formulated. And the negative effects of these wrong ideas started manifesting themselves in the shape of serious losses in different areas and petering out of mass initiative on a broad scale. In November 1975, Comrade Jauhar was martyred in the battlefield of Bhojpur. There are certain unscrupulous fellows, who in their attempt to destroy our Party, eulogise Comrade Jauhar as the leader of Bhojpur to deny his most important role of reorganising the Party and restoring collective leadership and democratic centralism in the Party, but for which the Bhojpur struggle could not have existed. In this way they only insult the great revolutionary leader just for their factional interests.

The Second Congress of the Party, held in February 1976, played an important role in uniting the revolutionary forces to encounter severe enemy onslaughts. But it only confirmed the existing political line and so, during the whole of 1976 we just maintained the Party organisation and the struggle in the hardest of times. Over this entire period of 1974-76, our main drawbacks consisted, firstly, in our failure to link up with the anti-Congress upsurge of students, youth, and all sections of people of Bihar (the leadership of this upsurge was later captured by JP and it degenerated into impotency) and secondly, in our failure, when the movement collapsed with the arrest of leaders and repression on the masses, to provide a new guideline to organise the remnant forces. Although we maintained the political line of building an anti-Congress united front and upheld our areas as models of the same, we could not link this with the actual anti-Congress mass upsurge. This so happened because we had a mechanical conception of the development of united front on the basis of what Comrade Charu Mazumdar had said and we refused to analyse the concrete way in which things were actually developing beyond that mechanical framework. This lesson had an important bearing on our future course.

With the inception of the year 1977, many significant changes appeared in the international and national situations as well as in our movement. Contacts were re-established with comrades of Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Kerala, thereby providing an all-India shape to our Party. During the Emergency, all fronts had been more or less quiet barring the struggles led by us bravely facing the hardest of times. So Bhojpur hit the headlines as soon as censorship of the Press was removed. By 1976, the dialectics of practice had clashed violently with the metaphysics in theory and, given the required conditions, the Party was poised for a major change. It all began with ‘rectifying the wrong ideas in the Party’ concerning armd units only; but, linked with major national and international changes and a resurgence of peasant struggles, it gradually developed into a full-fledged rectification campaign throughout the Party.

This, in brief, is how we look at the past — how we evaluate our basic achievements and major faults. There are many other minor aspects which either had been dealt with in the ’79 Party Conference, or have no relevance for the present. Our analysis points out how different approaches in evaluating the past had led to the emergence of different liquidationist and anarchist trends in our movement and also how we are now combining our lessons of the past with the needs of the present in advancing the revolutionary cause.