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This communist didn't favour urban area work, only believed in agrarian revolution

By Harsh Thakor 

On July 18th we commemorate the 40th death anniversary of Communist leader Kanai Chatterjee, known as KC. He was one of the main architects in applying the Chinese path of Revolution in India and distinguishing from revisionism. Few Indian Marxists so dialectically grasped and formulated the Chinese path of Peoples War and agrarian revolution. Kanai Chatterjee was an adherent of the teachings of Lenin and Mao and illustrated mastery in knitting scattered forces together into a single party.
Kanai Chatterji was the founding leader of the Dakshin Desh group which was later converted into the Maoist Communist Centre in October 1969.-, which merged with C.P.I. (M.L) Peoples War into the C.P.I.(Maoist) in 2004 He drew a clear-cut line of demarcation with revisionism in every sphere.
KC was born in 1933 in an affluent family in a village called Baruikhali of Barisal district in present Bangladesh. During his student life itself the intensifying anti-colonial movement against the British Raj moulded his life, and instilled hatred and anger against colonial exploitation and rule.
At merely 15 years of age, he passed his matriculation examination, securing a position among the first ten in Kolkata and took admission in the science department of Ashutosh College. However, the partition of the country, communal riots and the nature of political independence and such other events of that time infield great antagonism within him. Therefore, he joined hands with the leftist student politics and student movement. He then resumed his studies by taking admission in the commerce department of Shyamaprasad Mukherji College, stopped taking money from home and began to earn his own livelihood through tuitions.
While studying in college, actively integrated into the student movement on various issues and came to be known as a leader of the student movement. At this time, he inculcated a deep desire to study Marxism-Leninism and began to articulately study works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Topics such as armed struggle, worker- peasant unity and the path of Chinese Revolution had profuse impact on him. He began establishing links with the toiling and working masses in Ballygunj- Kasba-Tiljala and other localities of Kolkata, and integrated with them by staying in their bastis. Later, while participating in student politics and the student movement, he became a member of the undivided Communist Party. On completing M.Com he decided to discontinue his studies and to actively take part in politics.

Initial phase of party life

In 1953, he began party work in the Ballygunj-Kasba-Tiljala industrial area of Kolkata, which abounds in slums of workers. In this course he built a mass organisation called “Civil Rights Committee”, through which, while taking up various issues related to the problems of the people in order to build a movement, he established links with the working masses of the area at large. In just a few days, he could nurture closeness with the people of the area and became quite popular. At this time, conspiracies were hatched to trigger riots among Hindus and Muslims. K.C., having waged struggle against this all along, remained quite popular among the Muslim masses as well.
In the year 1962, India-China war broke out. This event sparked a new debate within the undivided Communist Party. There was already a two-line debate on the question of betrayal of the Telangana struggle by the leadership and on the path of armed revolution in contrast to the parliamentary path. K.C., along with some other comrades, launched a powerful ideological-political offensive against the well-known revisionists holding leadership positions of CPI. In 1962 KC was arrested under the “India Defence Act.”
The imprisoned revolutionary section of the party came to an understanding that the only remedy would be to raise the banner of revolt against the revisionist and traitorous leadership from within the jail itself. A deep debate was undertaken centred on the questions related to the line, such as the path of Chinese revolution i.e., the path of Protracted Peoples’ War or the line of area-wise seizure of power; the line of boycotting elections and building the People’s Army and Base Areas. This pioneered a clear-cut line of demarcation with the revisionist line began.

Rupture with revisionism

Around this time, the communist revolutionary sections in the country were greatly moulded by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution conducted under the leadership of Mao tse Tung in order to overpower the supporters of the capitalist road in China and to strengthen socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. K.C. took a decision to completely sever relations with the revisionist party. In KC’s view, an uncompromising struggle against revisionism and drawing a clear-cut line of demarcation with revisionist views and path are the two processes through which revisionism would be given a mortal blow.
As an inseparable part of the process of drawing a line of demarcation,  K.C. bitterly opposed the draft document of the Seventh Congress of the CPM held in 1964, and also presented an alternative document in the Kolkata District Conference prior to the Congress.
Finally, K.C. termed the documents passed in the seventh Congress of the CPM as revisionist he revolutionary style and method of work; the need to draw a clear-cut line of demarcation with the revisionist road on every aspect; the importance of building armed struggle, Peoples’ Army and Base Area in the countryside in order to capture state power; the importance of building a revolutionary party in the true sense while uniting the revolutionaries in words and deeds and so on.
It was then that KC wrote some important articles on the Character of the Indian State; the Two Stages of Revolutions; the importance of Protracted Peoples’ War and Area-wise Seizure of Power and Building a Peoples’ Army and Base Area in the countryside; the Nationality Problem in India and the Duty of Communists; the Importance of Inspiring Worker- Peasant Women with Revolutionary Politics and Building a Women’s Movement and other questions. In 1968 itself KC presented two articles, “Some fundamental points regarding the Nationality Problem,” and “We must Inspire Worker-Peasant Women with Revolutionary Politics, A few words about the Women’s Movement.”
The “Chinta” group was formed in 1965 as a secret revolutionary centre within the CPM carrying out revolutionary propaganda amongst its rank-an-file.
In late 1966 the secret magazine, “Chinta”, was closed down and a magazine named “Dakshin Desh” was brought out openly. The group came to be known as the “Dakshin Desh” group. In early 1967, before the Naxalbari uprising com. Kanai Chatterjee had a long discussion with Com. CM. At this meeting they had a common understanding on advancing the peasant movement and decided to maintain close relations.
It is well-known that in April 1969, the CPI (ML) was formed under CM’s leadership, and that the Dakshindesh group purposely did not join it at that time owing to some differences of opinion. In his view it was premature to found such a party. KC also refuted the sectarian stand of C.P.I.(M.L) in abandoning mass organisations and movements .On subtle aspects it distinguished from the left sectarian aspects of the line advocated by the C.P.I.(M.L). on party building and mass line. It was Chatterjee’s firm conviction that the party had to be developed from below, only after the sufficient construction of base areas. KC was itical of the line of ‘Individual annihilation of class enemies’ advocated by the C.P.I.(M.L)In practice under his leadership MCC formed n October 20th1969, emulated the example of the Chinese revolution in Hunan, with red army corpses retreating to the rural areas. In my opinion MCC adopted tighter Leninist party practice than the C.P.I. (M.L).
A basic document written by KC some time before the formation of the MCC, that is since May 1969 regarding “Strategy and Tactics” became the basic political foundation of the erstwhile MCC. Later, another invaluable article by KC aimed at taking ahead the practical work of Indian Revolution in accordance with the document on strategy and Tactics, that is, the work of building a Peoples’ Army and Base Area, published in 1970, got established as the “Get Going with Armed Agrarian Revolution; Hasten the Work of Building an Army and Base Area.” In MCC, this document was considered the basic documents, and as regards practical work it was this document that was followed. The greatest importance of this document lies on the aspect that if one has to really build the Indian Revolution, one must not conduct haphazard work with spontaneity , but it is most essential to select Strategic Areas that would be conducive to building an Army and Base Area.
In the light of these strategic concepts, KC, through this document on building the Peoples’ Army and Base Areas illustrated the mutual interrelationships between Agrarian Revolution, Peoples’ Army and Base Area, and MCC’s concept regarding their resolution and the related concept regarding the military line.
Another important article by KC on the question of drawing a clear line of demarcation with the Parliamentary views and line of India’s old and new revisionists, entitled ‘Struggle with Might against Parliamentary Politics and Capitulationism; Raise Aloft the Banner of Agrarian Revolution and Protracted Peoples’ War’. This precipitated the process began the process of sending the larger section of the best among the Professional Revolutionaries of the urban areas to the countryside.
A notable aspect of KC’s revolutionary life was that along with conducting theoretical polemics, he also left no stone unturned in whole-heartedly building actual struggles in accordance with the given situation.
KC meticulously integrated in the work in Sonarpur and 24 Parganas, and even later when his physical condition deteriorated and health was failing him, stayed entrenched in the armed peasant struggles of Cachar in Assam, in Tripura, Kanksa in West Bengal, and in Bihar’s Gaya and Hazaribagh of present Jharkhand.
His successful attempt at linking up the movements of a backward nationality, that is, linking them with the orientation of Peoples’ War, was an important contribution to the Indian Revolution. Creating ground for solid leadership from the basic classes, that is from among poor and landless peasants and from the people of a nationality was his unique contribution. He analysed correctly the mutual relationship between strategy, and tactics, and the importance of viewing tactics as a part of strategy –subordinate to and contributing towards it; and of viewing even the tactics related to day-to-day work as a part of the strategic line. On the question of mass movement, he came out with a clear-cut demarcation between the mass movements with an orientation of Protracted Peoples’ War and conducted with the aim of seizing power, and the mass movement conducted without such an orientation. He gave priority to building a mass movement integrated with the orientation of Protracted Peoples’ War and conducted with the aim of capturing state power in semi-colonial and semi-feudal India where uneven development in the political and economic sphere is a concrete specificity.
While taking up a joint programme along with many, he stressed that, “while uniting all the possible forces based on a common agenda of struggle centered upon peoples’ (National and International) immediate problems and fascist attacks on the people, we should patiently and in accordance with the mass line unceasingly conduct struggle against every expression of the parliamentary and revisionist current (whatever form it may appear in), and at the same time we must increase our independent work and independent initiative a hundred times more.”
Whenever MCC faced setbacks during struggle, KC displayed surgical skill in applying the laws of dialectical materialism to deeply analyse the concrete situation and determine the causes for the setback in the struggle, the positive and negative aspects of the struggle and the necessary tasks for the present. When the organization faced setbacks in the struggle at Sonarpur, Kanksa, Hazaribagh and Assam-Tripura, KC deeply reviewed all those aspects, illustrating the evolutionary path and the method of work for resurrecting momentum of struggle.MCC thus was able to regroup itself.
Positive that under KC .MCC conducted joint struggles with the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries (Nagi Reddy group) in West Bengal, in area of Debra.

Achievements of MCC

In Bihar the MCC made its first inroads in Gaya and Hazaribagh districts in the Parashnath and Zilga hills in the Dhanbad-Hazaibah zone ,and from the Neru Mehudia hills of the Bargaon area .It spread like wildfire in Chalho hills in Gaya district. and adjoining areas. It stitched the Revolutionary Peasant Commitees to combat feudalism and imperialist control in several areas. Revolutionary peasants launched a series of attacks against feudal forces confiscated their movable and immovable property and distributed land among the landless and poor peasants through the peasant Commitee. Granaries owned by landlords were crushed to the ground and thousands of acres of land was distributed to the tillers. Weapons of landlords were confiscated and many were arrested for their crimes. Private armies of upper caste landlords were executed. Workers were also organized to wage struggles against forest contractors. Social issues were also taken up like rape, obscene dancing performances, liquor consumption, gambling, dacoity and theft,caste conflicts and communal riots.
An important achievement of the M.C.C in Bihar was the destruction of the headquarters of the oppressive feudal forces at DalocHok Baghaura in Gaya in 1987.Thousands of peasants participated in that military campaign, which proved to be the turning point of mobile armed resistance struggle.
One famous action was carried out on landlord Rameshwar Singh. For years the peasants were trampled by the landlords iron feet. On January 6th 1983 the Kisan Committee gathered at is ‘Kacheri’. He was arrested and tried. They not only killed him but burnt his house. This was the first time that he people seriously saw the need of combining mass struggles with armed movements. From Gaya to Dhanbad, the struggle spread to Bokaro, Aurangabad, Hazaribagh and Giridih. Later in land seizure movements starting in fulls wing from 1986 to 1990, 7000 acres of land were re-distributed.

Weaknesses of KC and MCC after his death

Kanai Chatterjee’s weaknesses lay in opening no doors to urban work, deploying extra-parliamentary tactics or open functioning of mass organisations. He was unable to imbibe lessons from the struggle of the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries led by T.Nagi Reddy and D.V.Rao on the path of the Indian Revolution. Kanai Chatterjee also did not demarcate from the Lin Biaoist definition of the era of ‘Era of Total Collapse of Imperialism” or properly defend ‘Leninist’ era of ‘Imperialism and Proletarian Revolution.Ultra-secretism also had it’s roots in KC’s line. Section of comrades like Samir Roy , left the MCC in the mid 1970’s.,opposing sectarian line. A document that is missing is KC’s stand on China after Dengist capture of power in 1978, in light of 3 worlds theory and International line overall.
It is regretful that after his death in certain ways MCC drifted from the strictly tactical line of Kanai Chatterjee in important respects, practicing military line to replace mass movements. The Dalechauk-Baghaura massacre of Rajputs in Aurangabad in 1987, the mutual clashes with the erstwhile C.P.I (M.L) Peoples War Group from 1997-2000, split in 2000 or joining the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement are ample examples .Even if organising sustained resistance against landlord armies by destroying their headquarters, it often conducted armed actions incoherent with level of mass movement. It is reflected today in the practice of the Maoist forces in Jharkhand.where work has hardly extended in the plain areas.
Today the C.P.I. (Maoist) in it’s documents fails to highlight the distinctive features of the line of Kanai Chatterjee or Maoist Communist Centre from the C.P.I. (M.L.) or Charu Mazumdar, or explain why MCC’s stand in opposing formation of the C.P.I. (M.L) in 1969 was correct. In my view KC’s writings should be studied critically to explain why party formation was incorrect in 1969, to confront revisionism distinguish mass line or why till this day in important respects the C.P.I.(Maoist) fails to properly implement massline or agrarian revolutionary war. Kanai Chatterjee’s writings distinguished essence of Leninist party from Maoist trend of ‘party militarisation.’
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Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has travelled around India and researched on Indian Communist history

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