The Strategy for People’s War in India
Repudiation of the Views on Military Line of the Central
Reorganisation Committee, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
From Spring Thunder, #1, 1998, then the theoretical journal
of the Maoist Unity Centre, Communist Party of India (M-L). In
April 1999 the MUC merged with the CPI (M-L) Naxalbari.
[This version of the article was formerly available on the “A World to Win” website, but has now been removed. The editors there cut out about 25% of the article for reasons of space. If we at MASSLINE.INFO manage to obtain the full article we will make it available here.]
From its formation in 1979 till its dissolution in 1991 the views of the CRC,CPI(ML) on armed struggle and military line underwent three important shifts. The first one took shape in the period 1979-1982. It was sanctioned by the All-India Conference of 1982 and further developed during the following months. The second one emerged during the discussions leading to the 1985 All-India Plenum and the Second All-India Conference held in 1987. It was formalised in 1988. The third shift took place with the adoption of the document “On Proletarian Democracy”, put forward in the form of a draft for discussion. It could not be finalised since the CRC,CPI(ML) was liquidated in October 1991. Throughout this period the CRC,CPI(ML) claimed to uphold the path of people’s war and its basic concepts. This is why we have characterised the changes in its views on armed struggle and military line as “shifts”. But, as we shall see below, they really represented a consistent, step by step deviation from the military science of the proletariat.
MOVING AWAY FROM CHARU MAZUMDAR
The CRC,CPI(ML) [CRC] upheld the “proletarian revolutionary line of Comrade Charu Mazumdar” as one of its basic positions. It stated, “Armed struggle is the main form of struggle and all other forms of struggle should be complementary to it.” But, from the very beginning, the main constituents of the new organisation diverged in their grasp and practice of this basic position. The Andhra Pradesh unit was of the view that the main weakness of the earlier movement lay in the military aspect. Whereas the Kerala unit considered that it should be sought in errors in developing mass organisations, mass struggles and economic programme. Just preceding the formation of the CRC, the Kerala State Committee (KSC) had adopted certain positions on these questions. Pointing to particular conditions in Keralam, it argued that the armed struggle could be initiated only after “uncovering and sharpening contradictions by intervening in ongoing mass and trade union struggles and developing them into political struggles”. These differences were settled by the 1982 Conference. The issue was decided in favour of the Kerala State Committee’s positions. An earlier draft “Tactical Line” document, drawn up along the lines of the basic position adopted in 1979, was withdrawn by decision of the Conference. Since the positions of the KSC became decisive in the further evolution of the CRC’s views on armed struggle and military line, we will probe them in more detail.
The positions of the KSC diverged from the 1970 line of the CPI(ML) in two important aspects. The more obvious one was its proposal to develop mass struggles into political struggles in order to prepare the ground for initiating armed struggle. This contradicted Charu Mazumdar’s well-known opposition to making economic or partial struggles a precondition for the initiation of armed struggle. It also contradicted Lenin’s refutation of economism and the Leninist stand that economic struggles cannot be developed into the political struggle for power. By now, the KSC had already come to the view that the CPI(ML) failed to develop mass organisations and struggles complementary to people’s war. It held that this remained as a major issue of rectification. This was the justification for diverging from Charu Mazumdar. But the contradiction with Leninism could not be explained away so readily. The KSC sought to do this by adopting a new style of militant mass struggle built around the slogan, “To rebel against injustice is right”. The thrust of its practice was on intervening in local issues and conducting “People’s Trials” with mass participation mobilised on the basis of this slogan. Contradictions among the masses, as well as contradictions between the masses and local oppressors, were handled in these trials. They were conducted by People’s Committees temporarily formed to take up specific issues. These trials were projected as “rudimentary forms of parallel political power”.
Work along these lines spread out very quickly. In some areas this led to a sharpening of the contradictions with local oppressors and annihilations. The whole experience appeared to validate the KSC’s claim of developing mass struggle, complementary to armed struggle, without sliding into economism. Furthermore, it also appeared to substantiate its claim of applying the lessons of the struggle in defence of Mao Tsetung Thought and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) against the capitalist usurpers in China, to resolve the crucial problems facing the Indian new-democratic revolution.
We noted that KSC positions diverged in two ways. The second, not so obvious one, was contained in the assumption that the armed struggle could be initiated only after uncovering and sharpening the contradictions. This implied that, apart from the subjective conditions, the objective conditions for initiating armed struggle were also either absent or weak. Yet this conclusion was never spelt out. Rather, the CRC continued to maintain that, despite being uneven, a continuous revolutionary situation existed throughout India.
While discussing the prospects for initiating and sustaining the armed struggle for the seizure of power, Mao Tsetung had pointed to the existence of a continuous revolutionary situation in China. This was formed by objective contradictions, namely, the contradiction between imperialism and the people and that between feudalism and the broad masses. Mao had also pointed out that the revolutionary situation was never static. Depending on conditions and the advance of armed agrarian revolution, it could be stagnating or developing and there could be ebbs and high tides. By initiating the war in regions of sharp contradictions, building up armed forces and seizing power areawise, the communist party should expand red power in wave upon wave. Thus, it should accelerate the development of the revolutionary situation.1 Charu Mazumdar had insisted on these Maoist positions as one of the cornerstones of the new party’s ideological and political line.2
Accepting the existence of a continuous revolutionary situation in the oppressed countries means, in essence, accepting the objective possibility and necessity of initiating armed struggle to seize political power, without waiting for the maturing of a countrywide revolutionary crisis. Evidently, this does not negate the necessity of preparations, the building up of sufficient subjective forces to initiate and sustain armed struggle. But it makes this preparation, and only this preparation, the key ideological, political and organisational task which must be addressed by a Maoist party. Though the KSC’s positions on the necessity of uncovering and sharpening contradictions appeared to be in the nature of such preparations, its essence was quite different. If conditions in Keralam had created a situation where the objective contradictions were nowhere sharp, then apart from the preparation of the subjective forces, the objective conditions for taking up the armed struggle for seizure of power itself had to mature. In that case, armed struggle could not be on an immediate agenda, regardless of the level of the subjective forces.
This was the key to the camouflaged economism of the KSC. Although not everywhere and in equal intensity, the objective conditions for the initiation and development of people’s war always exist in an oppressed country. The central task of a Maoist party is to seize this opportunity and make the initiation and development of war the centre of gravity in all its areas and spheres of activity. If this task is kept aside or grasped in a formal way then the party’s line will be economist, no matter what its subjective intentions are. Because, when socio-economic and political conditions have already put the armed struggle for seizure of power, the highest task of revolution, on the agenda, any line which falls short of directly taking it up will be economist.
Once again, this does not mean that the party should initiate armed struggle without preparation. It also does not mean that it should be initiated in all of its areas of activity. Even in the vast countryside, where contradictions are comparatively sharper, there will be regions where the objective conditions are less developed. The party should make a materialist evaluation, through investigations, identify that region (or regions) most suitable for the initiation and development of people’s war and concentrate there. Besides, its work in other regions, both in the countryside and cities, must be handled in a manner serving the task of initiation. “Before the outbreak of war all organisation and struggle arise in preparation for the war….After the war breaks out, all organisation and struggle are co-ordinated with the war, either directly or indirectly.”3
The successful initiation and development of People’s Wars in Peru and Nepal at the end of the twentieth century is powerful testimony to the Maoist position: The central and immediate task of a communist party in an oppressed country is to seize power from the class enemy through people’s war. All of its activities should be oriented towards the resolution of this task. All the activities of the party should be judged primarily in relation to this central task. It should either carry out the seizure of power or should be preparing for it.
During this period, the KSC [and later the CRC] was upholding the strategic line of an Indian new-democratic revolution. There was no question of drawing up a separate tactical line for Keralam. Yet, instead of reviewing and rectifying the KSC positions, they were made the dominant guidelines of the CRC. Moreover, the KSC’s contention on the particular conditions existing in Keralam was never investigated and challenged in a systematic manner.
True, certain transformations were taking place in Kerala’s class relations. They played a role in the ebb of the revolutionary situation since the mid-1970s. But the agrarian question was by no means resolved. Besides, even in those conditions, there were still regions of sharp contradictions with explicit forms of semi-feudal exploitation. In other words, unevenness remained (and remains) as an important feature. In particular, this period of ebb was also a period of intensification in the exploitation and oppression of the Adivasi masses, by any standards the lowest section of society. Land-grabbing from Adivasis became an immensely profitable business for powerful landlords and money-lenders. The two parliamentary fronts led by the Congress and the CPI(M) had reached stagnation. Significant sections of the Dalit basic masses were being alienated from the parliamentary left. The rise of new forms of sharecropping and tenure, the rapid growth of private financiers (known among the masses as “blade” companies) and the evolution of new bureaucrat capitalist relations in agriculture and industry, through the agencies of the state and co-operatives, were also part of the new situation. In other words, the transformations in class relations had not at all made the Maoist basic principles irrelevant in Keralam.
Instead of making a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions, the KSC made a summary evaluation, which, in essence, wrote of the possibility of initiating people’s war in Keralam. Its acceptance of a continuous revolutionary situation was formal and idealist, since it neither analysed nor grasped the specificities of the revolutionary situation. This deviation was endorsed and further worsened by subsequent positions of the CRC.
These two intertwining strands of economism and idealism were continued in the CRC’s positions on parallel political power and its concept of political power. As mentioned earlier, People’s Trials were seen as a rudimentary or embryonic form of parallel political power. In reality, they were no more than the imposition of the momentarily organised will of the masses in some specific partial issues. Just as much as a forcible seizure of land does not, in itself, contain the seizure of political power, a People’s Trial leading to the annihilation of a hated tyrant also does not represent anything more than the violent resolution of a partial issue. Furthermore, these trials were not protected by any means of revolutionary armed force. Hence, they could be conducted only up till the point that the enemy’s political power unleashed its suppression. Once the enemy decided that enough was enough and started suppressing those organising and participating in such trials, they came to a stop. The lesson was not a new one. No amount of “organised will” can stand up to the enemy’s armed suppression unless it takes up arms. Political power can only grow through the barrel of a gun. The enemy’s political power must be destroyed through armed struggle to set up and defend the new power. Without such political power “everything is illusion”. In the case of the CRC, this illusion was created and maintained by its concept of parallel political power. It was later deepened with its “new concept of political power”.
We will first analyse the concept of parallel political power. Parallel to what? If it is supposed to be parallel to the enemy’s power, then the question of whether it can exist over a long period of time must be answered. More fundamentally, the question must be answered of whether at all revolutionary political power can exist in parallel to the enemy’s power. The Maoist concept of red power, base area, liberated area, etc., can be said to be parallel political power only in the sense that they exist in a small part or parts) of a country where countrywide political power is still held by the enemy. Within the base area red power is the sole power. Moreover, as proved by the experience of the October Revolution, even in capitalist countries “dual” power can exist only for a brief period. It can exist only under exceptional circumstances, where neither of the contending powers is in a position to forcefully impose its domination. This duality has to be resolved in favour of one or other power. In a certain sense, the red power pockets, established through people’s war, also face a similar urgency. Unless the pockets of red power are created and sustained as base areas of the people’s war, unless they are expanded to accelerate the revolutionary situation, unless the war is developed as a “total war”4, aiming at the countrywide seizure of power, they will not be able to exist for long. This is apart from the constant possibility of their being abandoned temporarily, in order to manoeuvre, or their being seized back by the enemy.
Within the strategy of people’s war, particularly in the initial period leading to the areawise seizure of power, parallel power other than as pockets of red power has no place and can have no place. Any concept of establishing power, without the areawise armed smashing of the enemy’s power and the building up of armed forces to defend the new power, is sheer idealism. It is the substitution of the “illusion of power” for real political power. This is why Mao insisted that, “The fundamental conditions for establishing a base area are that there should be armed forces, that these armed forces should be employed to inflict defeats on the enemy and that they should arouse the people to action.”5 Lenin himself had pointed out that the seizure of power even in a small area would immediately confront the revolutionaries with all the tasks of government.6 The point is that one cannot have power in parts. Areawise seizure of power is partial only in relation to the countrywide power of the enemy. Within that area or base, it must be the sole power. Otherwise it is not yet political power. We will have to come to back to this question later on.
‘LEFT’ SPONTANEITY COMPLEMENTS ECONOMISM
The positions of the KSC, which later on became the line of the CRC, did not go unchallenged. Within the Kerala unit itself some comrades had opposed these positions and many had doubts. But the strongest opposition came from the Andhra Pradesh (AP) unit. It continued the struggle till splitting away in 1985.
As pointed out earlier, the AP unit had identified the military aspect as the principal issue of the setback. On its own, and later as part of the CRC, it launched a number of armed assaults. But they could not be sustained. Many leading cadres were caught and killed by the police.
Actually, apart from correctly identifying the military aspect as the key issue to be taken up, the AP State Committee never tried to make a systematic summation of the military line and experiences of the CPI(ML). Merely insisting on the correctness of Charu Mazumdar’s positions and trying to keep the flag of armed struggle flying, it repeated a number of errors which were evident in the armed struggle led by the CPI(ML) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There was no rupture from the powerful elements of spontaneity in military matters. This failure sustained ‘left’ errors in developing mass work to prepare for and serve the people’s war. Ultimately, its correct stand, on seeing the military aspect as the principal issue leading to the setback, did not advance beyond a formal assertion. The failure of the AP unit in taking up the military question from the standpoint of line and synthesising both the positive and negative lessons of the armed struggle led by the CPI(ML), gave ample room for the CRC leadership to establish the Kerala experience as the cornerstone of its summation of CPI(ML) experience.
The feeble opposition in Keralam also suffered from a similar weakness. From 1967 until 1976, the revolutionary movement in Keralam had carried out armed struggles, including successful assaults on police outposts. But the struggle could not be sustained. In fact, unlike other states in India, the movement was totally crushed a number of times by the enemy. Given this experience, some hard thinking was called for. Dogmatist denial of mass struggles and organisation and secrecy had helped the CPI-CPM revisionists in isolating the party. Yet it still enjoyed prestige among the basic masses. After the repeal of the state of emergency in 19777 most of the cadres, including leading ones, could resume revolutionary activities. Based on these positive strengths, a proper summation of the political-military failures, aimed at charting the application of the path of people’s war in the concrete conditions of Keralam, was needed. But the opposition to the new positions failed to rise up to this task. They too failed to rupture from the elements of spontaneity, subjectivity and one-sidedness in the CPI(ML)’s line and practice. Subsequently they were swept up into the spontaneity of economism.
SUMMING OUT REVOLUTION
All the elements of the CRC’s positions on armed struggle as it existed until 1985 had thus emerged by 1982. What remained to be done was the task of placing them in a comprehensive line and making this the basis of evaluating the experiences of the CPI(ML). This was done in the First All-India Conference.
The CRC’s summation, “Towards a New Phase of Spring Thunder”, picked on some real errors in Charu Mazumdar’s positions and the CPI(ML) line and practice in order to reverse correct verdicts. Charu Mazumdar’s “counterposing of mass struggles and mass organisation to guerrilla struggle”, ignoring the necessity of an agrarian programme and one-sided stress on secret work, etc., were identified as the major reasons for the setback. Regarding military line, it argued, “...the party was not implementing a well thought-out and well defined line on the military front. At times the military line was developing spontaneously and at other times comrade Charu Mazumdar was attempting to give a shape to it.”8 But this justified criticism of spontaneity covered up the worship of spontaneity from the opposite, economist end. The CRC’s ideas about a “conscious development” of military line meant that, “…the communist revolutionaries who were leading the Naxalbari9 struggle could not chalk out a thorough, concrete programme for establishing parallel power centres and continuing it for a long time because they did not think seriously about the possibility of the existence of dual power centres in the countryside for a long time. Without a political line of setting up people’s power centres in parallel to the enemy’s existing power centres and gradually overcoming the latter through a long drawn-out struggle, the concept of establishing political power at the local level can never be realised, leading ultimately to the countrywide seizure of power.”10 This error was attributed to “…the lack of the very concept of protracted war”.11 Charu Mazumdar’s counterpoising of the struggle for political power and the struggle for “economic gains” was also identified as one of the reasons leading to the setback. In fact, this was characterised as the very basis of “…the dogmatic understanding of the question of political power and one-sided rejection of other forms of struggle and organisation”.12
Let us start from this argument. Any class seizes power in order to overturn existing relations of production and establish new ones corresponding to its class interests. This is also a decisive way of suppressing and eliminating the overturned class. Areawise seizure of power also entails these tasks, though not in its fullest dimension. In an oppressed country the crux of these tasks is the overturning of semi-feudal agrarian relations and the implementation of “land to the tiller”. This is what an agrarian programme should deal with. Though the CPI(ML) did not have a worked-out agrarian programme, it did have a clear-cut agrarian policy. This policy was realised in the Naxalbari armed rebellion. The Terai report gave an exhaustive account of this experience.13 It also summed up the reasons for the setback at Naxalbari in the following way: “...lack of strong party organisation; failure to rely wholeheartedly on the masses and to build a powerful mass base; ignorance of military affairs; thinking on old lines and a formal attitude towards the establishment of political power and the work of land reform.”14
Obviously, all these are linked to one another and the crux is the seizure of power. Without overturning the political, economic and social relations enforced by the political power of the enemy classes, the peasants could never impose the programme of “land to the tiller”. Their seizure of land was not a struggle for economic “demands” or “gains” in a partial sense. It was decisive in overturning the whole semi-feudal structure in Naxalbari. This was the gist of Charu Mazumdar’s summation, “…militant struggles must be carried on not for land, crops, etc., but for the seizure of political power”.15 Seizing on the lapse16 in this formulation, which gave room for excluding the economic dimension in the areawise seizure of power, the CRC reduced the struggle in this sphere to one of “economic demands”. It then went on to argue that this struggle should precede the struggle for political power.4
One year after Naxalbari, Charu Mazumdar explained his line for developing protracted People’s War by relying on the masses: “To forge close and intimate links with the people, the peasants comprising the poor and landless peasants must organise the class struggle of the broad peasant masses by spreading and propagating revolutionary politics in accordance with the Thought of Chairman Mao. When such class struggles are organised, these party units, comprising the poor and landless peasants, will be transformed into guerrilla units. These guerrilla units must then broaden and strengthen the party’s mass base by spreading and propagating revolutionary politics through armed struggle. Only in this way and through a protracted struggle can a regular armed force be created and the struggle developed into a people’s war.”17 On this, the CRC said, “By merely propagating revolutionary politics, class struggle cannot be developed. All the day to day problems of the people are to be handled using all possible open and secret mass activities and thus developed into higher forms of class struggle. Along with implementing such a programme, we have to propagate revolutionary politics. Otherwise in the absence of such a programme for the fulfilment of the economic demands of the people, the revolutionary politics will appear as abstract slogans unconnected to real life.”18 Thus, organising class struggle on the basis of revolutionary politics, i.e. the seizure of political power, is replaced with organising class struggle on the basis of economic demands. The revolutionary agrarian programme, which alone can fulfil the economic demands of the masses in a fundamental sense, is replaced with a programme of struggle for partial demands. Economic struggle is separated from revolutionary politics.
At this point it is worthwhile recapitulating the struggle between Charu Mazumdar’s line and the line of Nagi Reddy. The crux of the struggle was the issue of armed struggle for the seizure of power. Charu Mazumdar correctly stressed that the party should centre all its work from the very beginning on the armed struggle for the areawise seizure of power, whereas Nagi Reddy tried to theorise the spontaneous course of development of the Telengana armed struggle into a line. He argued that the peasants must first be mobilised to struggle for land. Following this, an armed resistance struggle to defend this economic gain must be developed. This resistance struggle should be developed into the struggle for political power. For convenience sake we will term this as the “phase theory of people’s war”. (Some sections had argued that the armed resistance should be organised simultaneous to land seizure and blamed the postponing of resistance as economism. Clearly this is only a variation of the same line.) The essence of this line is the view that the masses can be mobilised for the struggle to seize power only in phases - struggle for land, armed resistance to defend gains and then the struggle for power.19 In opposition to this Charu Mazumdar stressed the development of class struggle to the highest level by arming the masses with the politics of the areawise seizure of power. Even though the CRC formally declared itself in support of Charu Mazumdar’s line, its thrust was towards a rehashed version of the Nagi Reddy line.
This political deviation guided the CRC’s evaluation of military experience. As quoted earlier, the CRC saw the main military reason for the setback at Naxalbari in the lack of the very concept of protracted war. This was explained as the absence of a concrete programme for establishing parallel power centres and continuing them for a long time. We have already pointed out the error in the concept of parallel power. Here we can further note how this concept serves, and is served by, economism, both politically and militarily. Dual power centres existing over a long period of time, as conceived by the CRC, could only exist as such by restricting themselves to the handling of partial issues. Perhaps in a militant way, but nevertheless partial issues. In actual fact, this would not be a political power centre but rather a new type of mass organisation, even if they were backed by revolutionary armed force. The CRC’s choice of words itself are revealing. Instead of the seizure of power, it spoke about “setting up” people’s power centres. Instead of the wavelike expansion of red power through armed struggle, it wanted to “gradually overcome” the enemy’s power “through a long drawn-out struggle”. Finally, the areawise seizure of power was replaced with “establishing power at the local level”.
This last point was heralded by the CRC as its unique contribution, and must be probed further. We will start with this quotation from its summation document, “Under the present circumstances, the concept of establishing political power at the local level has got a wider significance. Generally this concept is considered to be applicable only to the colonial and semi-colonial countries. But comrade Charu Mazumdar had pointed out that it was Lenin himself who put forward the concept of establishing political power at the local level….Comrade Charu Mazumdar continued: In the era of socialism, all the elements of areawise seizure of power are present in our framework. It is quite clear that comrade Charu Mazumdar was not confining the concept of the areawise seizure of power to a mere tactical concept for revolution in colonial and semi-colonial countries…. Of course we can’t say that comrade Charu Mazumdar was having, at that time, a clear-cut understanding of all the elements of this concept about which we can discuss today. Moreover the distinction between the present concept of establishing political power at the local level and the areawise seizure of power was not understood properly at that time. Now we have all the experiences of the GPCR and also that of the fierce struggle taking place in China since the capitalist-roaders have come to power. Today we know that even in a socialist society, the key factor in the struggle against capitalist restoration is to establish and consolidate the real political power of the working class at the local level, at the level of each factory, co-operative farm, commune or any other such institution....So at present the concept of establishing political power at the local level...has become the real essence of the struggle for socialism and communism. Indeed this concept itself has undergone a qualitative change.”20
Later on, while discussing Revolutionary Committees, the document said, “…in the beginning when comrade Charu Mazumdar was talking about areawise seizure of power he was not referring to this new concept of Revolutionary Committees evolved out of the GPCR. The tactic of areawise seizure of power is only a part of the military strategy of people’s war. But the concept of establishing political power at the local level is aiming at the decentralisation of political power by developing people’s power centres at the local level through unleashing the initiative of the people. Of course, this concept can be easily connected with the tactic of areawise seizure of power.”21
First of all, refuting the revisionist thesis on seizing power at the centre, in one stroke, with areawise seizure of political power, is not at all a mere matter of tactics. In the theory of people’s war, the establishment of base areas (which is what is meant by areawise seizure of power) is an essential aspect of strategy. Reducing this to tactics implies the possibility of using “other tactics” to seize power. It undermines the very essence of the path of people’s war.
Moreover, it is wrong to equate the areawise seizure of power to the “establishment of power at the local level” for two reasons. The “establishment of political power at the local level” can also be done after seizing power at the centre through an insurrection. So this equation will open the door to abandoning the path of people’s war. And this is exactly what the CRC did later on. More basically, red power created through the areawise seizure of power is from the very beginning itself the centralised power of the revolutionary classes led by the proletariat. It can be termed “local” only in the sense of the restricted area controlled by it. Obviously, depending on the spread of the area under red power, the power structure must have local organs, apart from the central organs. But these local organs are still parts of the single, centralised power. State power, however limited the area controlled by it, can only be centralised power. The simple reason is that it represents the interest of a class (or classes). This interest cannot be divided up or “decentralised”. It emerges from the objective conditions and historical role of the class. It is common to all of its members. The CRC’s position on “local level power”, linked to the idea of “decentralising” power, emerged from a misreading of the lessons of the GPCR. It confused centralisation and decentralisation in the administration of power with the impossible task of decentralising state power. This initiated a deviation from Marxist teachings on state power. In the Indian context, this weakened the vital struggle against the reactionary ideology of Gandhism, which has always prattled about decentralised power (Panchayati Raj) in order to cover up the reactionary character of the Indian state and present political power as something neutral or standing above classes.22
IDEALIST READING OF THE GPCR LESSONS
AND IMPLICATIONS FOR MILITARY LINE
In the immediate period following the capitalist coup in China, the KSC leadership published a series of articles entitled “Socialist Path and Capitalist Path”, written by K. Venu. (They were published in the 1979 issues of Mass Line.) This work exposed the revisionist fallacies of the Deng-Hua clique and refuted their distortion of Mao’s teachings and the lessons of the GPCR. In line with this, it exposed the material basis of capitalist restoration - the bourgeois right and the capitalist elements engendered by it. But this mainly correct analysis23 was soon replaced by one which identified the roots of capitalist restoration in the bureaucratisation of the party and state machinery.
This view was elaborated in the article “The Concept of People’s Power - a Re-examination”. It said, “...in a juridically socialised system (when the entire means of production are turned into state property), the entire means of production are governed by a few individuals at the top of the hierarchy. So the slogan of socialisation in the absence of a concrete programme for the decentralisation of political power will prove to be counter-productive...no serious attempt at decentralisation of this centralised power took place in the Soviet Union. Consequently, the bureaucratisation of the state machinery and the emergence of the new bourgeoisie were facilitated, leading to capitalist restoration at a later stage.” “In a socialist society the process of capitalist restoration starts at the local level. It is taking place at the level of each factory, co-operative or commune. At each level, wherever the worker-peasant masses are not vigilant enough to wield the political power in their own hands and to fight against the emerging new bureaucratic class, the people lose their power into the hands of this emerging new bourgeoisie.”24
Let us keep aside the grossly distorted presentation of state power and the economy in the socialist Soviet Union in order to concentrate on the basic argument raised here. This is the thesis that bureaucratisation and the emergence of a new bourgeoisie were facilitated by centralised political power. According to Mao (and later as elaborated by Chang Chun-chiao and Yao Wen-yuan), the roots of the new bourgeoisie lie in bourgeois right, in the continuing, though restricted, role of commodity production, exchange and the law of value.25 In other words, in the continuing elements of capitalism in the socialist economy. This is why the revolutionary transformation of production relations and the superstructure has to be carried out continuously, taking class struggle as the key link. The positions advanced by the CRC replaced this materialist analysis of the contradictory nature of socialism with an idealist and erroneous view of the “new bourgeoisie springing up from the bureaucracy”. Is perhaps this view supported by Mao’s later comment that the “bourgeoisie is within the party”? No. The bourgeoisie within the party are the agents of bourgeois relations. The struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road, the two-line struggle within the party, is nothing other than the reflection of class struggle arising out of the material contradictions of socialist society. The capitalist-roaders within the party violate the democratic centralist principles and mass line of the party and try to subvert them by promoting bureaucratism. Bureaucratism is thus the result, not the cause, of the capitalist road.26
The idealist error of the CRC is further worsened by its argument, “capitalist restoration starts at the local level”. By this it did not mean that new elements of capitalism are engendered at the basic level of the economy. When it mentioned factories, co-operatives and communes, this meant the local organs of power. Besides, it was discussing the restoration of capitalism, not the engendering of the capitalist road. The restoration of capitalism does not start at the local level. It starts at the very top, when capitalist roaders usurp power or parts of it.
Idealist readings of the GPCR lessons and the stress on decentralisation of power as the key means of preventing capitalist restoration, lead in turn to an idealist and metaphysical deviation in the very concept of political power. The CRC argued that the old concept that stated, “...political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and that “…the army is the chief component of the political power of a state...is only partially true and quite inadequate.”27
Distorting Mao’s teachings, it claimed that he had “...developed his earlier inadequate definition of political power” by creating “parallel power centres of the people at the local level through unleashing the initiative of the people and developing their political consciousness.…[W]ith this development the concept of people’s power came to acquire a wider and altogether different meaning. Seizing power through the gun is an important factor in building up people’s political power. But real political power will never be created by this act alone. Mobilisation of the political will of the people is a must here.…Real people’s political power can be established only if both these aspects - the armed might of the people and the political will of the people - are developed and brought together as complementary aspects of the same phenomenon.”28
The main thing to be noted here for the purpose of our topic of review is the formulation, “seizing power through the gun is an important factor in building up people’s political power”. What this shows is how an idealist concept of political power inevitably leads to undermining the central role of armed struggle in the seizure of political power. This arises from the separation of political power into political will and armed might. This separation is idealist and metaphysical. There can be no “political will” separate from the means to impose it. If no such means exist or are not created, this “will” can be really nothing more than a political aspiration. The real purpose of this separation was29 to argue that the processes of politically mobilising the masses and that of armed struggle are two distinct, separate processes - “to be developed and brought together”. The next step was this argument, “Whenever the people take an organised decision they are exercising their own political power”; and “[T]he old idea that we can talk about political power only when a liberated area with a standing army is established is negating this dialectical process of the development of political power.”30
Thus, there can be a preliminary stage or phase, where “embryonic forms of political power” already emerge through the “organised decisions” of the masses. This will be followed up by a phase where these organised decisions are now enforced by armed might. The “new” concept of political power was supposed to ward off economism. What really took place was that economist theory and practice led to the denial of the central role of armed struggle. The line of replacing the struggle for political power by the “illusion of power” was further advanced. The strategic task of the areawise seizure of power was thoroughly undermined. These positions were explicitly laid out in a follow-up article, “To Work Out a Military Line”.
DIGGING AWAY MAOISM
It was argued that, unlike China, there were no warring groups among the rulers in India and the centralised and powerful state is capable of reaching every nook and corner of the country. It stated, “From our own experiences, we can conclude that unless the state machinery is challenged on a very wide scale, simultaneously, from many parts all across India, it is almost impossible to even think of building up liberated areas in one or two or a few pockets here and there.” “The pivotal question is...how to force the enemy to disperse his forces and compel him to leave many areas out of this direct control.”31
Apparently, this seems to address some real military questions. But the very posing of the issue indicated a line of thinking contrary to the theory of people’s war. Even militarily, the pivotal question in the areawise seizure of power is NOT the dispersal of enemy forces. It is the construction of a red army as the main form of organisation and the piecemeal destruction of the enemy’s armed force.32 The schematic picture presented by the CRC was like this: first force the enemy to disperse his armed force by a simultaneous attack all across the country, then concentrate forces to destroy him in a few suitable areas. This scheme denies the very dynamics of war - preserve oneself by destroying the enemy. When, in keeping with the principles of people’s war, the armed struggle is initiated even before the capacity for a simultaneous attack from many or all parts of the country is attained,33 it can sustain itself only by pursuing a line of offensive within the strategic defensive. Guerrilla struggle must be developed over larger and larger areas. The masses must be drawn into the war and revolutionary armed forces must be built up. The areas of operation must be transformed into guerrilla zones as a step towards the areawise seizure of power. This is the only way to sustain and advance, because the dynamic of war is equally valid for the enemy. It cannot (and will not) restrain or limit its armed suppression on the plea that the revolutionary party has not yet launched an offensive to seize power.34
Within a specific strategic campaign to seize base areas in suitable regions, tactical diversionary attacks or movements, aimed at luring away the enemy or dispersing its concentration in the main point of attack, will have to be carried out. But this is properly part of the overall military plan and its sub-plans. It cannot be the strategic plan for the whole war or for its initiation.
The article negated the view that, “...in an area - however small or isolated it might be - the struggle can be developed to the maximum extent of smashing the enemy power totally and establishing real people’s political power.” It said, “But now, under the present conditions in India, we know that it is practically impossible to build up such areas of people’s power in a few places at one go.”35 Once again this argument appeared to be a rectification of some real errors in the military thinking of the CPI(ML). And once again, it was picking on real errors to negate its positive aspects - aspects which made Naxalbari possible. This was done by confusing the total destruction of the enemy’s political power with the establishment of stable base areas. It is not only possible but also absolutely necessary to totally destroy enemy power locally. In fact, this is decisive in the development of people’s war. But this destruction will lead to the establishment of a base area only if the revolutionary armed forces are able to expand the zone of guerrilla actions and militarily prevent the enemy’s attempts to restore his power. The party must consistently prepare the grounds by developing and spreading guerrilla struggle. It must evaluate the overall conditions and judge the correct time for launching its military campaign to seize base areas. The error of the CPI(ML) leadership lay in its failure to prepare such military plans, due to the strong elements of spontaneity and subjectivism in its military thinking. But it was absolutely correct in insisting on the total destruction of enemy power locally and directing the guerrilla struggle towards the areawise seizure of power.
In the CRC’s scheme, during the first phase the party must “...consciously delimit the extent of struggle to the level of spreading class struggles including all sorts of mass struggles to wider and wider areas, and developing them to confrontation with the enemy at a lower level”. In this phase it must “...take a decision not to launch offensives aimed at wiping out the enemy forces in any particular area before we reach the stage in which our struggle has spread to a number of points so that the enemy can be kept engaged in all these areas”.36 To repeat, this is a negation of the dynamics of war. It denies the fact that, apart from the seizure of base areas, the armed struggle itself can be spread only by repeatedly wiping out the enemy.
The developed form of the CRC’s “phase theory” was an outgrowth of its deviations on the question of political power and its economist line of activity. So, it naturally concluded that in the first phase, “...the main stress must be to build and expand the mass base.” This military line was an inseparable part of the whole package - parallel political power, “new” concept of power, mobilisation of political will, etc. It still claimed that military squads must be built in order to implement the decisions of parallel political power centres and carry out “lower level” confrontation with the enemy, including annihilations. But this “armed struggle” was totally different in content from the people’s war launched by the Naxalbari rebellion, which directly addressed the task of the areawise seizure of power. It was a reformist concept, a line of “armed resistance to gain and defend partial demands”. This line went on to advocate “insurrectionary tactics” in areas where working class masses were the major force. (Such areas included the whole of Keralam!) Of course, it also had some words to refute an outright rejection of people’s war, which was advanced by a section who later left the party. They had derived the roots of social fascism in armed struggle carried out by squads without the direct participation of the masses. But this refutation only helped to worsen matters. It said, “Mass struggle cannot develop into military struggle spontaneously because the two are, as forms of struggle, qualitatively different from each other. Special training and organisational forms are needed to develop armed struggle.”37 The politics of the seizure of political power from which armed struggle and its forms of organisation emerge is replaced by “special training and organisational forms”. The point that mass struggles cannot develop into military struggles, because the latter represents a leap into the “highest form of politics”, is covered up with a plea for “consciously” developing mass struggles into armed struggle.
We will end this section by probing the CRC’s concept of base area. The CRC conceived base areas as something permanent, emerging at “one go”.38 Apart from the question of the “one go” setting up of base areas, even if they are established through a prolonged struggle, base areas are never considered to be absolute or permanent in the theory of people’s war. During the course of war they can exchange hands a number of times. They may have to be abandoned in the face of attack or for purposes of manoeuvring. Besides, Mao wrote about various types of base areas - stable, relatively stable, temporary and seasonal.39 Whatever the type or favourable location for building them, the crux of the matter is that the areawise seizure of power and building up of base areas is the essence of people’s war. Politically, the people’s war advances and accelerates the revolutionary situation by expanding red power in waves. Militarily, without base areas the red army and guerrilla forces will not be able to sustain the war over a protracted period in the face of enemy encirclement and suppression. The essence of the position that starts by posing the question, “is it possible to build base areas which cannot be crushed by the enemy?”, is this: negation of the areawise seizure of power and the path of people’s war; considering external conditions such as a crisis in the ruling class and the overall political situation as the decisive factors in setting up base areas; and negation of Mao’s line on accelerating the revolutionary situation by developing people’s war and expanding red power in waves. If such metaphysical ideas on base areas are not rooted out thoroughly, they can lead to the derailment of the preparations for war and the loss of initiative even if the people’s war has been launched. …
STEPPING FORWARD TO LEAP BACK
During this period the military significance of the multinational character of the Indian state and the absence of a dominant nationality were identified. This was seen as an inherent weakness of the Indian state. The CRC leadership acknowledged that it had earlier overestimated the enemy’s strength. It admitted that this had led to a complacent attitude towards developing armed struggle. This had also indirectly encouraged many rightist tendencies. The revolt of a section of Sikh soldiers in the wake of Operation Blue Star and the Indian state’s political-military compulsions, which made it handle the Gorkhaland agitation in a cautious manner, were taken as pointers to the military potential of the national question. It was acknowledged that in situations where nationalist forces were already engaged in armed struggle, the party could intervene only by initiating armed struggle on its own. These positions were developed over the period 1984-1987. They were formally sanctioned by the Second All-India Conference held in 1987. The Conference also accepted the plan of action proposed by the leadership - initiate armed struggle in Punjab and prepare for initiation in Keralam and Maharashtra within one year.
While this appeared to be forward motion on the military question, it was actually constituted on the foundations of a backward leap to revisionism and liquidationism. The theory of neo-colonialism itself was an attack on the path of people’s war. It reduced the armed agrarian revolution to a task for areas where semi-feudal relations still prevailed. This theory also argued that the trend towards the elimination of feudalism by imperialism was dominant even in such regions. Thus, it became a “passing task” in comparison to the national liberation struggle. Along with this, the concept of new-democratic revolution in India, as an ensemble of the new-democratic revolutions of the different oppressed nationalities, fractured the path of people’s war into separate people’s wars with separate people’s armies. These two positions became the foundations of the CRC’s line after the 1985 Plenum and were enshrined in its “Strategic Line” adopted in the 1987 Conference. …
The pitfalls of its nationalist vision were further seen in its ruling out of civil war. It stated, “Since the contradiction with the central state and imperialism is principal, and since intervention by the centre will bring out national oppression more openly, the people’s war will mainly be a national war, regardless of the direct aggression of imperialism. Though internal class struggle will be there...this cannot be taken as civil war since the army and armed forces we face from the very beginning will be controlled by the Central state.”40 Whether we “take it” as civil war or not is basically a matter of whether we stand for overturning all the dominant relations of exploitation and oppression. As Lenin said, “In politics, too, it is possible to restrict oneself to minor matters and it is possible to go deeper, to the very foundations. Marxism recognises a class struggle as fully developed...only if it does not merely embrace politics but takes in the most significant thing in politics - the organisation of state power”41 (meaning the revolutionary seizure of power). If the war is to be waged principally for the right of self-determination, then “class struggle” will necessarily be restricted by the political compulsions of this strategic aim. We will not be able to go all out to overthrow the dominant exploiters and mobilise the masses on that basis.42 Moreover, the new military line ignored the fact that the dominant local (“national”) exploiters were very much a part of the ruling classes and the central state. This is not to deny the national contradictions existing in India. We definitely do have the possibility to turn national sentiments in favour of the new-democratic revolution in a situation of widespread suppression by the central armed forces. (Most usually the forces used for this comprise troops from other nationalities.) But this has never taken place in a linear manner. It will not take place in this manner. This possibility will emerge as a favourable political factor only through the further intensification of class polarisation achieved by means of civil war. As experience shows, the dominant local exploiters will use their roots in the nation as a powerful weapon to isolate and attack the revolutionary party as disrupters of “national development”. The “national banner” will itself be fought over. And the issue will be clinched ultimately by the development of the revolutionary civil war, because this alone will pose the issue of national liberation on a revolutionary basis as part of the task of new-democratic revolution.
Finally, despite its criticism of the “phase theory of people’s war”, this line did not critically sum up the whole package. It also accepted the theses of parallel political power as the form of power in the initial stages of the war.
We have devoted much time to a critical examination of this military line precisely because of its “leftism”. This illusion of being ‘left’ was the main obstacle preventing a sharp polarisation and line struggle within the CRC central leadership. Its influence lingered on for quite some time, even after the liquidation of the CRC,CPI(ML) and the rejection of many of its blatantly anti-Marxist positions. But, although much time has been devoted here to this line, the CRC hardly devoted any effort to practice it. The brief period of its formal dominance was also the period during which the motion towards explicit bourgeois nationalist positions and practice became intense. By the end of 1989 the majority of the central leadership had started “re-examining”43 this military line. The adoption of the document “On Proletarian Democracy” delivered the final blow.
TOWARDS REMOVING INCONSISTENCIES
Following the adoption of this document, the CRC leadership prepared yet another draft document “On Military Line”. Most of the earlier positions not totally consistent with the bourgeois political line were ironed out. Based on the bourgeois stand of rejecting the dictatorship of the proletariat, it openly attacked the theory and practice of people’s war. It said, “So far, discussion on military line has been mainly centred around the theory and practice of people’s war, developed by Mao based on his famous dictum that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. This very concept was emanating from the concept and practice of party dictatorship implemented in the name of proletarian dictatorship since the October Revolution of 1917. The political power is considered as a centralised entity in the form of the proletarian state, the main pillar of which is the army.…”44 Of course, it did not reject armed struggle! But this was to be a struggle to “...smash the existing state structure….”45 And, for this limited purpose it accepted that this “...can be fulfilled only under the centralised leadership of the party and the army under it. So the task of developing the military line remained as important as earlier.”46
Along with this “important as ever” sweet talk, the grounds for exploring the possibilities of peaceful transformation were also prepared. It was argued that, neo-colonialism replacing direct imperialist military control with economic-political domination, “...coupled with the widening democratisation process all over the world, has significantly strengthened the role of global public opinion....Even the most powerful superpower is not in a position to arbitrarily assert its will, using its military might over a small country disregarding global public opinion.”47 (This was written during the Gulf war period!) To clear up all doubts about what is meant by smashing the state structure, it said, “Political mobilisation of the broad masses can lead to conditions of insurrection even in Third World countries. Even such an insurrection can smash the existing state, as was seen in the case of the Iranian revolution of 1979....”48 On the United Front it said, “It is through this organ (UF) that the political will of the people is being consolidated. This consolidation is aimed not simply for seizing power, rather for advancing it as the real power of the proletariat....”49 This separation of seizing power, i.e. smashing the existing state, from “advancing real power”, was already contained in the previously discussed “new concept of political power”. Now it fulfils its legitimate role, freed from all “dogmatism”. The task is to smash the state structure, not the state. Therefore, “simply” smashing the state will not do. It must be “smashed” to the extent of replacing control by the centre with that of the nation-state. The military activities and organisations necessary for this become nothing more than tools of pressure tactics. The party must be able to switch them on and off depending on the needs of “political mobilisation”. “The party must have two wings...an (open) wing...and a separate military wing.... This organisation will be completely under the party leadership, but it will be able to operate claiming to be an independent organisation.”50 After having said all this, it did not forget to add, “Basically (this military strategy)...is the strategy of people’s war applied in our developing situations(sic)”!51
“Our situations” were certainly “developing”. By the end of the year the CRC,CPI(ML) was liquidated. All the “burdens” of Marxism were unloaded. Soon enough, any idea of using armed activities, even as a bargaining chip, became a hindrance. The theory of “non-class aspects of democracy” came to the rescue. And the hitherto “unrecognised” potential of parliamentary elections for “broad political mobilisation” was finally discovered. Ultimately, the author of this line, K.Venu, ended up as a Congress-supported [The ruling class political party in India since Independence in 1949 until recently. AWTW] candidate in the 1996 State Assembly elections - politically mobilised to serve the Indian ruling classes.
SOME LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE
One important lesson of this review is the indivisibility of proletarian ideology. That is, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism cannot be applied in bits and pieces. The class content of this ideology, its universal principles, must guide each and every aspect of the party’s line, policies, organisation and practice. The moment this is violated and alien ideologies are imported, the party enters the danger zone of changing its colour. This is what happened with the CRC, CPI(ML). In the name of tackling “new questions” and breaking away from “dogmatism”, it opened itself up to petit-bourgeois and bourgeois ideological currents.52 Once these ideologies became implanted in the line of the party, they spread like a virus and, one after the other, all aspects of line, policy, organisation and practice got corrupted. First, it was a matter of “applying Marxism in specific conditions”. Then it became one of “solving the new questions of political power”. This “concern” led to “fresh thinking on military line”. Finally, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism was itself rejected as “fundamentalism”.
Another important lesson is this. If a deviation is left not rectified, it will generate conditions for its growth into a wrong line. It will do this by moulding the thinking of the leaders and cadres in its own image. We have discussed the differences and struggles within the CRC, CPI(ML) in the preceding sections. We also saw how this opposition not only failed, but also ended up as fuel for the wrong line itself. This happened because there were a lot of common views shared by the contending ideas, at first in the form of ‘left’ and right spontaneity, later in the form of ‘left’ and right nationalism. Despite all its eclecticism, a wrong line has its logic and dynamics. It will incessantly push the party away from Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The obvious divergence from Marxist-Leninist-Maoist positions will no longer seem to be so. Large sections within the party may not feel comfortable with such a divergence. But their ideological alertness is already being dulled by liberal thinking - “well, they do have a point which must also be considered”. More ground is yielded to the wrong line. Ultimately, the struggle against the wrong line flounders within the ideological, political boundaries set up by that line itself, causing demoralisation.
Finally, the most important lesson is this. No matter how high the heap of garbage, it can always be dug away - provided Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is firmly grasped and wielded with determination to make a total rupture.
Footnotes1 Mao Tsetung, “The Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains”, “Why Is It that Red Power Can Exist in China” and “A Single Spark Can Light a Prairie Fire”, Selected Works (SW), Volume I (Peking, FLPH, 1977).
2 Charu Mazumdar, “Who Can We Unite With?”, Collected Works, Malayalam edition, 1979.
3 Mao Tsetung, “Problems of War and Strategy”, SW, Volume II, p. 221.
4 For a discussion on this topic see the article “It Is Right to Rebel” in A World To Win 1995/21, particularly Section E entitled “Once the Red Flag is Raised, There is No Bringing It Down”. This article was an important contribution from the Union of Communists of Iran (Sarbedaran) on the ongoing ideological struggle against the capitulationist, right opportunist line within the Communist Party of Peru (PCP).
5 Mao Tsetung, “Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla Warfare”, SW, Volume II, p. 98.
6 Lenin, “Two Tactics of Social Democracy”, Collected Works, Vol. 9, pp. 78-79.
7 [The draconian measures instituted in ??? under the Indira Ghandi government. 30,000 revolutionaries were imprisoned. - AWTW.]
8 “Towards a New Phase of Spring Thunder”, 1982, p.117.
9 [Naxalbari: 1967 marked the outbreak of armed struggle of the peasant masses led by communist revolutionaries in the village of Naxalbari, located in India’s state of West Bengal, near the city of Darjeeling, not far from the borders of Nepal and Bangladesh - AWTW.]
10 Spring Thunder, p. 50.
11 Spring Thunder, p. 50.
12 Spring Thunder, p. 49.
13 “The revolutionary peasants, through their activities, made their decrees the law in the villages:
1) A blow was dealt at the political, economic, and social structure in the villages based on the monopoly land ownership which dragged the peasants more and more into the depths of pauperisation.…They marked out all land in the Terai with their plough shares and made it their own...the old feudal structure that had existed for centuries was thus smashed through this action of peasants.” (Reproduced in Spring Thunder, p. 46)
14 Spring Thunder, pp. 49-50. Emphasis added.
15 Charu Mazumdar, “One Year of Naxalbari”, Liberation Anthology, Vol. 1, Suniti Kumar Ghosh (ed.), 1992, p.96.
16 In a note in his Liberation Anthology, (Vol. 1, p. 96) Suniti Kumar Ghosh has pointed out that this was a mistake in translation. The original Bengali version said, “...not only for their partial demands….” This is a significant correction. But it should be noted that the formulation published in the English version of this article in “Liberation” was repeated in other articles also. Some of them have been reproduced in the “Anthology” without correction. So it is not clear whether the translation error was for that particular article or was repeated. Since this formulation is repeated in a number of articles and largely corresponded to Charu Mazumdar’s views (of that period) on economic struggle, we think it has to be examined and criticised.
17 “Undertake the Work of Building a Revolutionary Party” Spring Thunder, 1968, p. 61. Emphasis added.
18 Spring Thunder, p.61.
19 Some examples of this are given here: “…we have ample experience to show that if properly and correctly conducted, all anti-landlord struggles will reach the level of land seizure in a short time. And that is the time to start a partisan warfare.” (D.V. Rao, “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought Is Our World Outlook”, Proletarian Line Publications, Hyderabad, 1993, p.56.) “The main direction of the party’s work should be consciously oriented towards building a revolutionary peasant movement. Selection of strategic areas, concentration of cadres, formulation of fighting and agitational slogans with extensive discussions of the people of the area, mobilising the peasants for struggle on these issues, building the peasant organisations, arming the people with locally available weapons in the anti-feudal struggle from the very beginning, organising of the village voluntary force people’s resistance to landlord-goonda-police violence and repression and thus create, develop and defend areas of sustained resistance and thus advance to establish base areas in the countryside.” (Chandra Pulla Reddy, Selected Works, Volume II, Pratighatana, Hyderabad, 1996, p.37)
Such views are closely related to seeing the seizure of land as THE stepping stone to armed agrarian revolution or its highest stage. D.V. Rao wrote, “The seizure of land and partisan warfare is interlinked. Seizure of the land of landlords can never be a partial demand.…” (p.70, cited above. Emphasis added.) According to C. P. Reddy, “All these (partial) struggles, whichever be the issue, they should be oriented towards the distribution of the landlord’s land which is the highest stage of armed agrarian revolution.” (p.34, cited above, emphasis added). Actual experience shows numerous examples of land seizures from landlords which have not developed beyond militant partial struggles. Besides, such views contradict Mao Tsetung, “In semi-colonial China the establishment and expansion of the red army, the guerrilla forces and the red areas is the highest form of peasant struggle under the leadership of the proletariat....” (Mao Tsetung, “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire”, SW, Volume I, FLPH, Peking, 1977, p.118.)
The real issue is not whether mass struggles, including land struggles, should be organised or not. In order to raise the fighting will of the masses and propagate the line of people’s war, the party should carry out mass activity and organise struggles during the period of preparation itself. But it is important that the party grasps this point - however correct and necessary such mass activity might be at a certain stage, war is a rupture from the preceding struggles. It is a leap into a totally new and different process. The concept that war can be initiated only as an organic outgrowth of organising peasants in mass organisations and militant struggles is a right opportunist deviation.
20 Spring Thunder, pp. 36-37.
21 Spring Thunder, pp. 79-80.
22 The germs of the CRC’s last act of liquidation and its theory on the “non-class aspect of democracy” can be seen in this argument. The question of the centralisation of power under socialism was raised by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The gist of its arguments was published in the April 1983 issue of Liberation. (pp. 50-51) The main argument was that the CRC’s position on the establishment of political power at the local level, as the key issue in preventing the restoration of capitalism, negates the decisive role of the line leading the party and the state. It pointed out that there is no evidence to show that Mao talked about the decentralisation of power. Unleashing the initiative of the masses at the local level has nothing to do with the decentralisation of power.
23 This article was also not totally free from idealist tendencies. Criticising the “theory of productive forces” by basing itself on Marx’s “Preface to the Critique of Political Economy”, it argued, “...if the overall development of human history is examined we can see that productive forces and economic base have played the decisive role in it. But the role of the production relations and superstructure is not ignored.” (Samskara Padhana Kendram, “Socialistu Pathayum Muthalalitha Pathayum”, Ernakulam, 1989, p. 46. Emphasis added. This article was serialised in the 1979 issues of Mass Line). In Marx’s explanation the “economic base is the sum total of production relations.” But the way it is explained in this article, production relations are considered as something other than the economic base. A tendency to move away from historical materialism is contained in this formulation.
24 Liberation, April 1982, pp. 13-14.
25 Mao Tsetung: “Our country at present practices a commodity system, the wage system is unequal too, as in the eight-grade wage scale, and so forth. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat such things can only be restricted. Therefore, if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system.” “In a word, China is a socialist country. Before liberation she was much the same as a capitalist country. Even now she practices an eight-grade wage system, distribution according to work and exchange through money, and in all this differs very little from the old society. What is different is that the system of ownership has been changed.”
Chang Chun-chiao: “We often say that the issue of ownership ‘has in the main been settled’; this means that it has not been settled entirely, and also that bourgeois right has not been totally abolished in this realm.” “...in the short term, there will be no basic change in the situation in which ownership by the whole people and collective ownership co-exist. So long as we still have these two kinds of ownership, commodity production, exchange through money and distribution according to work are inevitable. And since ‘under the dictatorship of the proletariat such things can only be restricted’, the growth of capitalist factors in the town and country and the emergence of new bourgeois elements are likewise inevitable.” Chang Chun-chiao, “On Exercising All Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie”, quoted from Bombard the Capitalist Road, Progressive Publishers, New Delhi, 1984, pp. 27-31.
26 This point is discussed in detail in Bob Avakian, “Democracy: More than Ever We Can and Must Do Better Than That!” A World To Win 1995/21. See the section “The Exercise of Power in Socialist Society”, pp. 42-44.
27 Liberation, April 1982, p. 15.
28 Liberation, April 1982, pp. 15-16.
29 “The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally, for China and for all other countries.” Mao Tsetung, “Problems of War and Strategy”, SW, Volume II, p.219.
30 Liberation, April 1982, p. 21.
31 Liberation, July 1982, p. 28. Emphasis added.
32 “The fundamental conditions for establishing a base area are that there should be...armed forces, that these armed forces should be employed to inflict defeats on the enemy and that they should arouse the people to action. Thus the establishment of a base area is first and foremost a matter of building an armed force.” Mao, SW, Volume II, p.98.
33 Another way in which the CRC’s argument could be interpreted is the more obvious negation of people’s war. That is, the war should not be launched until the capacity for a simultaneous attack across the country is attained.
34 Of course, this could be possible for the enemy, to some extent, if the armed struggle leaves out the question of seizing power and is carried out as armed activities for gaining and defending partial demands. Even then it will not be able to continue this “policy of restraint” over a long period.
35 Liberation, July 1982, p. 29. Emphasis added.
36 Liberation, July 1982, pp. 29-30.
37 Liberation, July 1982, p. 32. Emphasis added.
38 See the previous section of this article entitled: “Summing Out Revolution”. Here the formulation on “real” political power is itself a reflection of an absolutist concept of base areas. As if they are real only when they are permanent.
39 “Retreat is necessary, because not to retreat a step before the onset of a strong enemy inevitably means to jeopardise the preservation of one’s forces.” Mao Tsetung, section on “Strategic Retreat” in “Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War”, SW, Volume I, p. 215. The Communist Party of Peru has aptly termed this see-saw struggle over base areas as “restoration/counter-restoration”. On the types of base areas see, Mao Tsetung, Section 1, “The Type of Base Area” in “Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla War”, SW, Volume II.
40 The original version of On Developing a Military Line, pp. 3-4. Emphasis in original.
41 Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 19, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980, p. 121-122.
42 The minefield hidden in this line of thinking blew up the practice of the CRC,CPI(ML)’s Andhra Pradesh unit. Given the conditions existing in its area of work, it had to take up the anti-feudal struggle. Soon enough the question of confronting the armed power of the landlords and state came up. One section of the State leadership argued for abandoning this area, since practise was leading to the 1970 line and taking the party away from “national liberation”. The majority rejected this and stuck to developing armed resistance. But any consistent development of such resistance became impossible for two major reasons. The tasks of taking up the national question and fighting feudal oppression were pulling in opposite directions. The anti-feudal struggle was blunted by the neo-colonialism theory, which declared that semi-feudalism was already on its way out. The basic masses were motivated by their class interests and were hardly enthused by “national interest”. So, in practice the “national liberation” slogan became a mere catchword. But it could still be used by the CRC leadership as a handy stick. When a setback took place, it accused the state leadership of “dogmatism”. Because of the ideological-political positions of the proponents of the new military line within the central leadership, they could not stand firm against this attack. They had to go along with the criticism against “dogmatism”, causing more confusion and demoralisation.
43 Some armed propaganda actions were carried out in Punjab. But this State Committee also joined the “re-examination” camp and later played a prominent role in the liquidation of the CRC,CPI (ML).
44 On Military line, 1991, p. 1.
45 On Military line, p. 1. Emphasis added.
46 On Military line, p. 1. Emphasis added. This glaring inconsistency is criticised by Bob Avakian - “The arguments made in this CRC document (“On Proletarian Democracy”) on the role of the party...lead toward a line of ‘peaceful transition’. The very logic of these arguments leads towards the conclusion that violent overthrow is itself ‘coercive’ and ‘elitist’ towards the masses...and therefore is fundamentally wrong.” “You cannot ‘logically’ argue that the vanguard must not impose its will on the people when it is in power but it may do so in coming to power in the first place.” (“Democracy - More Than Ever We Can and Must Do Better Than That”, AWTW 1992/17, pp. 34-35. Emphasis in original.)
47 On Military Line, p. 2.
48 On Military Line, p. 3. Emphasis added. The hard fact that the Iranian revolution was aborted from accomplishing the “smashing of the state” is clearly exposed in “Defeated Armies Learn Well”, AWTW 1985/4. This article was contributed by the Union of Communists of Iran (Sarbedaran).
49 On Military Line, p. 4.
50 On Military Line, p. 4.
51 On Military Line, p. 7.
52 “...the tendency to negate the universality of this ideology (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) was present in the leadership [of CRC,CPI(ML)] from the very beginning itself. Instead of applying proletarian ideology in the analysis of particular questions, the tendency was to search for answers elsewhere, under the plea that the leaders of the proletariat have not dealt with such issues. Due to this approach, liberalism in ideological matters inevitably developed, even while the party formally opposed such liberalism.” (Section 2.1, Critique of the CRC,CPI(ML) Line, Maoist Unity Centre, CPI(ML), 1997.)
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