Massline in Revolutionary Movement

by Harsh Thakor

The mass revolutionary line has its genesis in the Telengana Armed Peasant Struggle waged from 1946 to 1951, and which was led by the Andhra Pradesh Unit of the Communist Party of India on Maoist lines. This struggle was ruthlessly suppressed by Nehru’s Congress State.

This mass revolutionary line converged into Tarimala Nagi Reddy’s revolutionary line. The Naxalbari Peasant Struggle on May 23rd 1967 was a heroic mass peasant uprising against the Jotedars (landlords) but later took the path of left adventurism. Nagi Reddy refuted the Charu Mazumdar "annihilation line" calling for the "disbandment of mass organisations." Nagi Reddy waged a bitter struggle to combat Charu’s left deviation and re-organise the mass line. He called for the revival of mass organization and mass revolutionary line.

The Mass Revolutionary Line in Andra Pradesh

In Andhra Pradesh from 1946 to 1951 the Telangana Armed Struggle was waged by the Andhra Pradesh Unit of the Communist Party of India. Here hundreds of acres of land was distributed amongst the landless and poor peasantry in Maoist style. The Mahasabhas (Peasant Associations) carried out Peoples Courts. All armed actions were based on the movements of the people.

Nagi Reddy's greatest influence was on the democratic rights movement and the Srikakulam Girijan movement (of tribals). In the democratic rights movement there was a powerful trend that discarded the meaning of democratic rights in place of civil liberties. This had its roots in 1974 in Andhra Pradesh where the first civil liberties organisation, the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Commitee was formed without a manifesto based on mass struggle. It was propagated that rights existed within the Constitution and that democratic rights organisations had to play no role in encouraging mass revolutionary struggles.

In this repect The formation of the Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights in 1975 in Andhra has particular significance. Here it was explained that democratic rights had to be connected with the working class and the agrarian revolutionary movement. The O.P.D.R. led several significant democratic rights struggles that mobilized sections of the peasantry and the working class.

A historic report was brought out on the Srikakulam movement againt the police encounters. O.P.D.R opposed encounters though poster campaigns and handbill distributions as well as carried out several protests against injustices of contractors, etc. The wrong trends of adventurism were exposed in Andhra Pradesh and the organisation was a strong backbone to the mass movement. There was a trend that advocated that the civil liberties platform could be used for propogating political ideology. The O.P.D.R. refuted this.

In this respect the formation in 1982 of the All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights has tremendous significance. Its constituents brought out several reports on democratic rights, such as on the Baliapal movement against the missile base, the fact-finding report on Punjab which not only condemned the State and Khalistani terror but also supported the mass revolutionary democratic anti-ruling class struggles and explained the root of the problem lay in the economic causes.

In the same light, one of its constituents, Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana, brought out a fact finding report on Bombay's slum dwellers, explaining the connection between the working class movement and the condition of the slum dwellers. Other organizations opposed demolitions but never explained the nexus between the anti-working class policy of the Government and the demolitions.

In 1990 Lokshai Hakk Sanghatna also took up a protest programme opposing state repression in Bihar. In Worlichawls, Union offices and colleges the politics of the barbaric state-sponsored feudal repression on the toiling peasantry was exposed by Arjun Prasad Singh, convenor of the Lok Sangram Morcha in Bihar. The economic conditions of the Bihari peasantry was highlighted and the issue was taken up against repression as a whole. This is the the first time in India a democratic rights organisation took up State repression in a manner related to the socio-economic conditions where a revolutionary peasant spokesman could highlight the background of peasant struggles.

Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana also took up the issue of communalism from a struggle-oriented angle. Before the Rath Yatra in 1990 a huge poster was put up outside factory gates exposing the nexus between the burning problems of the working class as opposed to the communal demands of the Hindu Parishad. It was explained to the working class how communalism was a weapon in the ruling class's hands to break their struggles.

The 1978 formation of the Democratic Students Organisation which followed the Nagi Reddy trend was also of historic significance. This organisation refuted the left sectarian line of the Radical Students Union which believed that Mao Tse-Tung Thought had to be a part of a student organisation's manifesto and where the student organisation was converted into a forum of party politics.

In the same light the People’s Literary and Cultural Federation carried out mass revolutionary cultural programmmes where the manifesto included only anti-feudal and anti-imperialist culture and did not include Mao Tse-Tung Thought. (That ideology is that of the Party.)

Another event of political significance in the 1980's was the re-organisation, struggle and agitations of the Srikakulam Girijan Sangham. This organisation held a major struggle opposing the scrapping of Regulation 70 that ensured land rights to Girijans. This organisation also refuted the Left adventurist actions of armed squads.

The Mass Revolutionary Line in Punjab

In Punjab the Nagi Reddy line had been instrumental in leading the mass revolutionary movement of the Punjab Students Union and the Naujavan Bharat Sabha. A famous Moga Sangram rally, which was 10,000 people strong, was led by them under the Nagi Reddy line in November 1974.

The most significant event in the 70's in the revolutionary camp in Punjab, since its formation, was the statewide protest of 10,000 students and youth protesting the murder of Punjab Student's Union leader Prithipal Singh Randhawa by Akali Goons. The Punjab Student's Union and Naujavan Bharat Sabha had led a strong democratic movement earlier.

Later in the 1980’s to the early 90’s, the Anti-Communal and Anti-State Repression Front implemented classic examples of mass revolutionary line in Punjab. (Examples were the 1987 Faridkot conference, the Sewewala martyrs conferences in 1991 and 1993, as well as the 1994 Shaheedi conference.) In the Front Against Repression and Communalism formed in 1986, the revolutionary group that led it (following the Nagi Reddy line) ensured that party politics or polemical issues did not convert the Front into a debating forum. Other groups tried to project their political image and polemics through the Front rather than use it as a combat force against the twin terror of State and Khalistani terrorism.

Mass revolutionary struggles were led against the Khalistani fascist forces and the State terror, and the masses were organized in mass combat forces. In Moga, in Bhatinda district the masses of Punjab wrote an epic by staging the first major state level protest of the Front consisting of 10,000 people from all over the state. At that time the Khalistani gangs dictated to the masses with their fundamentalist programme which included not shaving beards, closing beauty parlours and meat shops, and having only Sikh style of dress. They threatened any person opposing their programme with a death penalty.

The Communal terrorists who tried to assassinate Front leader Megh Raj Baghtuana were beaten by the villagers. People were helped in organizing their own self-defence. Only the politics of anti-Khalistan and anti-State terror was included. Thus a broad scope of mass mobilization was created. Other Communist revolutionary sections organized forums as Communist Revolutionary Centres only, thus imposing the Party Politics on the mass organisations.

The 1991 Sewewala Martyrs conference (commemorating the martyrs of The Front in Sewewala who were killed by the Khalistani fascists on April 9th) and the 1993 Sewewala Martyrs memorial conference was a testimony to their carrying out of revolutionary mass line. Here adequate self-defence preparations were launched and no police or state protection was taken. For the 1993 memorial an unfavourable situation was turned into a major success. Mass propoganda was done in the Harijan bastis, and the dalit youth played a prominent role in the campaigning and refuting Khalistani propaganda. At first the Harijan villagers, fearing a reprisal from Khalistani elements refused to co-operate or to participate in mobilization work for the memorial conference. However after persuasion the Harijan youth formed a strong propaganda volunteer force where they covered several villages, explaining the politics of the Front. A special team was deployed to investigate the secrets and spy on the enemy (Khalistani) forces. For the conference special security and defence arrangements were made--a special volunteer brigade was employed to protect the conference participants from a possible Khalistani attack. Women and children also participated.

What was noteworthy was the work done in neutralizing the Jat Peasantry who were anti Harijan and had ties with the Khalistani elements. The Front explained to them that elements found sheltering Khalistani elements would be tried in People's Courts and that they had a common interest with the Front's politics. (The rich peasantry is an ally or a neutral force in the revolution.) The conference was a great success mobilizing 3,000 people on April 6th, 1993. It resembled a spark creating a prairie fire!

In the 1994 Naxalbari Shaheedi conference in Rajjeana commemorating Naxalbari martyrs, all the Communist Revolutionaries were upheld, irrespective of their groups. It was the biggest conference held in Punjab in 25 years consisting of 10,000 people. It was reminiscent of a red flame lighting the village. The work to stage the conference was a lesson in education, correct work methods and preparation of people for mass political conferences.

The language used for the mobilization of comrades was very simple and compatible with the masses' needs. A massive propaganda campaign was done refuting the ruling class propaganda that the police would arrest participants of the Conference. The message and politics of Naxalbari and their connection with the masses' day-to-day lives was explained in the people's language by activists who were trained in mass revolutionary politics. Different pamphlets were brought out for the working class, landless and landed peasants. The message that the Naxalbari peasant struggle was a mass-based peasant revolutionary struggle and not a terrorist movement of armed squads reached the people.

Today the struggle of the correct revolutionary trend is predominant in the struggle of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta and the Punjab Dehati Mazdoor Union. In Balahar Vinju the latter organisation carried out a heroic struggle for land depicting mass line against the landlord elements and the police terror.

The Lok Morcha has played a significant role as a mass political forum. It was formed in a historic gathering in Selbreah in March 1996. The formation was the outcome of the need of a mass revolutionary platform for political change. 10,000 people were mobilized for the conference. A manifesto was proclaimed which set out a charter of demands to combat the semi-colonial and semi-feudal state.

Earlier a mass propaganda campaign had been done in villages and in bastis, factories and working class areas (with a separate handbill for the Bhatinda Spinning mill workers) explaining the democratic politics of the Morcha in their own language where they could relate their problems to. (Separate handbills were distributed to workers and peasants.) The Lok Morcha carried out several democratic campaigns representing people's struggles.

Electoral Tactics

In the present period the only suitable election tactic is that of "active political campaign." Here the people have to be educated in forming their own organs of revolutionary power and have the anti-people nature of ruling class politics explained to them. The class struggles of the masses have to be enhanced and a connection has to be established between their day-to-day lives and revolutionary politics.

In the 1998 election campaign of the Punjab Lok Morcha, the politics of "active political campaign" was carried out in contrast to that of active boycott or participation in elections. This campaign proved very successful in building revolutionary consciousness and building people's confidence in enhancing their own revolutionary power and building their own democratic forums. The anti-people politics of the ruling class parties were meticulously explained to the people.

Issues of State terrorism nationwide, communalism, globalisation and its impact on the working class, the Kashmir issue, etc., were explained on a handbill. This matched up to the masses' consciousness. Separate handbills were introduced for the politically conscious sections, some who were trained in carrying out mass propaganda campaigns. Here the organisation of Electricity Workers and the Punjab Dehati Mazdoor Union played a major role. More than 150 villages were covered.

The Communist Revolutionary Organisation, leading the campaign propagated the path of People's Protracted War and the need to build a mass agrarian revolutionary movement to build it. The poster played a great role in educating political ranks in the mass line. During the campaign a great impact was made on the revolutionary masses who in places wanted the Lok Morcha activists to contest the elections! The masses' anger against the ruling classes was greatly aroused by the campaign. Agricultural labourers and workers openly stated that never had an election campaign by a revolutionary organisation made such an impact on them.

In contrast in Punjab there was no response to the organisations that called fror "active boycott" nor to groups that put up candidates.

Peasant Struggles

The Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta has recently waged some of the most heroic landed peasant struggles seen in the history of Punjab and a polarization has been made against ruling class or revisionist forces. Comrades fighting for the mass line have struggled for the Union to be given its correct identity as a mass organisation and not just as a mere political forum for revolutionary groups or Akali Dal propoganda.

Struggles were upheld against police repression. Earlier the Akali politics was refuted which wanted to convert the Union into a political Front to boycott the elections and accept Akali politics. The B.K.U Ekta has also opposed the trends by Communist Revolutionaries to impose the party politics over the Union which is not compatible with the masses' consciousness. It was formed after a protracted struggle took place against the dominant leadership of the pro-Akali B.K.U. Lakhowal Group.

In Jethuke the Union led a historic movement against the police firing on the peasant rally. A protracted battle was waged against the police and ruling-class elements. In Punjab numerous peasant suicides took place. The manner in which the peasants resisted the police attempts at blocking their assembly repeatedly exhibited their infinite striking power and will gain a permanent palace in the annals of the peasant movement in Punjab. They simply rose up like a tornado!

During the 1992-1993 riots, groups upholding the proletarian revolutionary trend helped form anti-communal self-defence committees to enhance people's self-defence against the attacks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad fanatics as well as the Muslim fundamentalists. In a small way this was predominant in Uttar Pradesh. In Bihar in 1989 during the Bhagalpur riots a revolutionary organisation, organized mass revolutionary resistance in Khagaria and Begusurai district. This anti-communal front repelled and thwarted the Hindu fundamentalists.

Through an anti-communal poster the masses had explained to them the relationship between imperialism and communalism and their common interests. In Bombay after the demolition of the Babri Masjid too the revolutionary trend organized mass anti-communal forums and defence-commitees where revolutionary groups would only propagate the politics of combating the Hindutva fundamentalism and the State government's nexus with it.

In this sense a protest campaign and joint campaign of Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana had tremendous significance. Revolutionary groups thought that class struggle alone would defeat this menace. This was a wrong trend. The organisation promoting the mass line emphasized the role of the working class as the leader in the struggle as against the liberal ideology. The chief right deviationist tendency in the revolutionary camp was collaborating with the revisionist parties and the centrist parties who played an ineffective role in combating the communal terror.

The functioning of the Malkangari Adivasi Sangh is a classic example of revolutionary democratic functioning. This organisation had its birth in the Manaskhunda Jungle belt where forest officials arrested tribals for settling forest lands. In retaliation the "Jan Pal Sangh" was formed which organized a protest which was 10,000 people strong.

The Sangh was re-organised in 1989. The Adivasis were constantly encouraged in participating in the decisions of the organisation and there was continuous regularization of people's committees. Adivasis were asked to prepare their own leaflets and drafts, leaflets would only be printed after approval of the committee. Historic struggles were carried out and the Sangh also held 2 conferences. A charter of demands was made for the Sangh which would be discussed in the village committees, the demands relating to the specific instances relating to the local area.

The Sangh organized classes for their own cadre to enable them to understand the charter of demands, the manifesto, the past history of the Koraput region, and its struggles, the history of social development and the role of the state in society, the nature of the present Indian society, and finally the ultimate weapon in building up the revolutionary democratic Organ representing their power in buiding a democratic State. Every year the charter of demands was changed according to the situation.

All the struggles led by the Sangh had features of a genuine mass character where the masses were self-educated in their own abilities in carrying out revolutionary change. In the early phase the Sangh led debt-cancellation struggles against the Janata Dal Regime's declaration of cancellation of rural debts. The Sangh gheraoed banks like the Panchvatoi Grameen bank protesting loan repayments.

Land-grab movements were organized in Pada Magazine village, where forest officials seized 150 acres of land purchased by the tribals, and the tribals under the Sangh re-captured their land. In May and June 1991, 500 acres of tribal land was re-captured by Adivasis in 5 villages of Pandharipani Panchayat. In Tapu, the Sangh occupied landlords' land which was captured through usury and liquor selling 30 years ago. (In Mukudpalli, Bejing and Jamuguda).

The Sangh went on to fight major struggles against the forest department at Birlakhanpur Panchayat where the government had seized 500 acres of tribal land. A heroic land struggle was also held in Chawlamendhi Panchayat where the forest department grabbed 200 acres of Dalit's land. After broad based mobilisation a huge rally was held in the village and the land was re-occupied. The Sangh also fought against false arrests of tribals in criminal cases. 50% of the Sangh's cadres were arrested and booked in various cases.

Heroic self-defence was carried out in Doraguda-Gunthawada against attacks of contractors as well as Paplut Panchayat squads of a revolutionary Group functioning in the same area. The activities of this major revolutionary Group and the activities of a Sangh are a major lesson in the contrast of the mass revolutionary line to that of squad actions.

The Sangh has held 2 conferences. The struggles of the Padmagiri-Pandripani opposing the combine of forest contractors, politicians and adminstration, and the struggle against the Hamco mining project and the Adivasis struggles for their rights over bamboo are a testimony to this. In Padmagiri, a death-defying struggle was staged against the anti-people actions and maneuvres as well as the criminal looting of forest assets and intimidatory attacks by the forest-contractor-police administration combine of the area. The struggle's main significance was the 1. Right to security of land, and 2. Right of control over forest assets.

The peasant masses were converted from an unorganized force to a major force able to carry out organized self-defence in opposition to the enemy combine. It was the equivalent of a stream converting itself into a torrent. Mass resistance has been built against the felling and transportation of trees through a major protracted struggle staged against the notorious G. Subhash Chandra Bose, a forest contractor who became a smuggler and connived with the police in felling trees and depriving the Adivasis of the Tulenguda region of their livelihood. Various rallies were held at the collector's office and the Adivasis strength outpowered the forces of the contractor and his henchmen.

In the Tulenguda-Kanjoli pocket and the Rangamatiguda-Podarapalli pocket there were great examples of the Adivasis unitedly opposing felling of trees and setting up people's checkposts at different points in Tulenguda and Padmagiri as well as asserting their rights. In Podarapalli the villagers were so determined that when they felt their demands were being side-tracked, they fiercely reacted. Finally on January 28th and 29th the contractor's final attempt at thwarting the Adivasis (re-capturing right to fell the trees) was foiled by the resolute resistance of the Adivasis. 2,500 Adivasis rallied with traditional weapons against the tyrant who came with 50 armed goondas. The Sangh contingent deployed bows and arrows to overpower the might of the contractor's forces. Ultimately the enemy had to flee in jeeps! That day the Adivasis wrote a chapter in their struggle against oppression.

In West Bengal on the peasant front there was a strong movement to re-organise the peasant association to build an agrarian revolutionary movement and fight against the left adventurist Charu Mazumdar line. Debra, a center of the militant food movement in 1965-1966 along with Gopiballabhpur was a strong base of the peasant movement under the influence of the Naxalbari movement. However due to large scale repression of Communist revolutionaries the movement got disorganised. Due to repeated political organisational weaknesses, the attempt to re-organise a peasant association was not successful.

The peasant association had to continuously bear the wrath of the C.P.M. gangs. The C.P.M., after coming to power in 1977, progressively aligned themselves with major sections of landlords and the peasants. They also abused their political power to supress the democratic struggles of the peasantry. Attempts to re-organise the peasant movement cannot be made without politically isolating the C.P.M.

In Debra comrades applying the mass line made hard attempts at re-organisaing the peasant assocciation and isolating the C.P.M. gangs. Those struggles were ideal examples of revolutionary mass line struggles similar to the struggles of the Chinese Peasant Association before armed struggle was formally launched in 1929. These struggles trained the peasantry to organise self-defence against the C.P.M-landlord combine building a strong Agrarian Revolutionary Movement by strengthening the peasant's association on the basis of a broad Agrarian Revolutionary Programme. This would combat both deviations of the left and the right association on the basis of a broad agrarian revolutionary programme.

On the political level a significant struggle took place in 1998 in West Bengal opposing India’s launching of missiles. Various revolutionary groups co-operated and some successful joint actions took place. Similarly a massive rally was carried out condemning the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in Bihar. Despite ideological differences, the revolutionary groups unitedly resisted. This had a significance politically. It showed the scope the Communist revolutionaries had in organising democratic movements and fronts without making them arenas for mutual polemics and debates.

However the most successful struggle pertaining to the mass line took place in the Kanoria Jute Mill Workers Struggle. Here through mass line leadership the workers after being retrenched from the mill valiantly protested and ran the mill themselves through self-production. The owner denied them minumum wages, E.S.I., etc. The workers had to face the wrath of the police and reactionary trade union forces. The workers thwarted the owner’s attempts at closing the mill and ensured the worker’s victory. The workers launched fasts, strikes and in the end won.

The Trade Union Movement

In the trade union movement to combat the influence of revisionism as well as left and right deviations, there have been struggles combating these trends. Here trade union members were meticulously explained the politics of the revolutionary movement but only to the level of what they were compatible with. More politically conscious workers were deployed into teams to explain mass democratic politics to mass sections. Mass-political fronts of workers were set up amongst advanced sections. Workers with advanced consciousness were trained in political work.

This trend also promoted mass solidarity campaigns with workers' struggles nationwide, such as the Kanoria Workers struggle, the Kanpur Kapda Mazdoor Union struggle, and the Andhra Pradesh Mine workers struggle. Here workers had explained to them the common connection and inter-relationship between the various working class struggles, and issues were taken up not just as isolated issues but as an issue of the working class movement as a whole.

In Punjab a strong development of the proletarian revolutionary line has taken place in the Electricity workers under the Technical Services Union whose politically conscious sections have played an instrumental role in mass political struggles. In West Begal there has been the formation of democratic fronts. There have been efforts by Comrades of the mass line to co-ordinate working-class movements. Comrades have initiated efforts within reactionary or revisionist unions to form revolutionary unions and refuted wrong economist trends of Communist Revolutionaries.

In Andhra Pradesh one significant campaign was carried out in Bobbli by the Workers Council opposing the firing on the Nellimarla workers in 1995. The issue was taken up as repression on the working class movement as a whole. Other groups like New Democracy led protest campaigns but no revolutionary organisation related the issue as one against the working class movement as a whole.

These mass revolutionary struggles are living examples of the struggles representing the proletarian revolutionary field in all departments. The Communist Revolutionaries must strive to develop them in all sections and they must reverberate echoes of the heroic victory of the Chinese revolution.

Long live Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-Tung Thought!

[June 21, 2003]

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