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Naxalbari: Mechanical adherence to Chinese idea of liberated zone failed to make dent

By Harsh Thakor 

On May 25 we commemorate the 56th anniversary of the heroic uprising of ‘Naxalbari’. Inspite of neo-fascism brimming at an unprecedented height Naxalbari s not dead and buried. Naxalbari was a rallying point for sowing the seeds of social change and knitting of cultural movements. The Naxalbari struggle sparked movements that remained synonymous with the spur for revolutionary transformation of India society.-which remained unchallenged till today- except for the short lived Sampoorna kranti movement led by JP.
Naxalbari influenced ideas or perspective and shaped the actions of the activists and advanced sections of the masses participating in a most diverse sphere of movements over 50 years It lit the spark of movements of Dalit Panthers, Total Revolution, nationality movements and displacement movements.
Secondly it permeated the involvement of the revolutionary vanguard forces in social movements. This phenomena was illustrated in the Dalit Panther manifesto, signing of memorandum of understanding of nationality movements, integration in Nandigram movement and intervention in Telengana statehood movement.
The spontaneous impact of revolutionary naxalite thought on social movements is directly proportional to the ascendancy of the core revolutionary movement-the armed struggle. Mass social movements encompass a diverse range: movements to support the oppressed classes such as the peasantry, working class, women, nationalities, adivasis, dalits, students etc,movements to confront displacement and environmental destruction, and for jal, jungle and zameen ,movements against corruption, against price rise and for basic food and housing movements for regional development, autonomy, statehood and secession, movements to fight gender, caste and communal attacks and atrocities and to en patriarchy, annihilate caste and defeat Brahmanical fascist forces.
The armed struggle spurred other social movements around the politics of naxalbari.Militant struggles have intensified, radical demands extended from revolutionary movements, and the erupting of new struggling movements. It is worth recalling the words of Tilak Das Gupta in the Anuradha Ghandy memorial lecture based on 50 years of Naxalbari. He most methodically asserts how Naxalbari sowed the seeds of the establishing rights for the peasant and agricultural worker, and for the first ever time crystallised democratic political consciousness amongst oppressed sections. Before naxalbari no peasant, tribal or labourer dared to speak out.

Impact on Workers

It is worth reflecting how Naxalbari ignited anew spark of consciousness amongst the workers of West Bengal, with thousands of workers extricating themselves from the clutches of revisionism. The series of uprising and disintegration of the militant movements of industrial workers, during Naxalbari, is virtually obliterated in history.
Forty lakhs of central employees of postal telegraph as well as railways embarked on a strike on 19th September, 1968.More than 10000 were either dismissed or suspended, equal number dumped in jails, and ten workers assassinated in police firing. The revisionist CM betrayed the strike, supporting the central government. This infuriated the workers who set out on their own road, organising militant movements of their own, even securing many victories. Wildcat strikes occurred in South Eastern Railway in 1970, in February and n July, North Eastern Frontier Railway workers went on strike, demanding release of arrested people, blamed for murder of Silguri police in charge. The strike went on to engulf entire rail system of Northern India.
Another strike erupted in South Eastern railway against the beating of railway workers by the police at Adra police station. It was joined by workers of Chakradharpur and Kharagpur but was later disrupted. Similar protest sparkled at Bhilai Marshal yard, against arrest of workers. In 1970, in Central Dairy, workers staged a prolonged strike, after a worker was assaulted by CPI(M) goons and handed over to the police.
Many strikes unfolded in state electricity boards of West Bengal and Bihar, and Damodar Valley corporation during 197-71.Four, were large scale strikes. It paved way for workers to be charged with vandalism and be framed as ‘naxalites.’ After a contractor of Hindustan Steel plant in Durgapur fired on 5 workers on 20th June, 1970, the workers heroically encircled the plantmanger.The resilience of workers was so powerful that the management had to concede and take the dismissed workers back.
In spite many a red flag unfurling of Unions, the CPI (ML) played no role in consolidating or giving a cutting edge to workers struggles or direct it within mass line course. Its line of ‘annihilation’ prevented incorporating or backing of workers struggles or its integration into the mainstream of the naxalbari movement.

Establishing Unity

Many of the movements and their organisations are led by a petite bourgeoisie, with reformist trends an everyday affair. Still those who remain dedicated to the cause can gauge the drawbacks of reformist solutions, and ally with petit bourgeois leaderships. Unfortunately a powerful section of the masses are swayed by the ruling classes ,who occupy leading positions in major mass movements .Still this does not mean that revolutionary forces should not penetrate movements dictated by the ruling classes.
The most basic requirement is the penetration of wherever struggle is taking place, to give them revolutionary shape and demarcate or draw away the masses from the clutches of ruling class politics. A grounded analysis must be made of the class character of leaders and organisations of social movements.
It has been a mistake in the past to not to recognise the scope of potential friends in the leaderships of social movements, who are wrongly labelled as ruling class agents. However, revolutionaries must be wary of falling into the trap of ruling class politics and are unable to grasp the nefarious character of the ruling class parties. Contradictions have to be utilised in a balanced manner, taking all precautions.

Confronting Fascism

To counter the spectre of fascism, it is imperative that even non-Marxist forces, like the Ambedkarites, Lohiates, feminist groups, Islamic Organisations, Gandhiians and even sections of NGO’s unite. It is remarkable how in recent times, all have with utmost determination raised their powerful voices against the onslaught of fascism. No doubt, the crystallisation of such a proposition, would take a considerable duration, with the considerable ideological divergence of groups.
The revolutionary forces have to construct, mass based anti-fascist units, which would pave the path for establishing united front of democratic forces. Area based, section-based, and issue based fronts could create a breeding ground for broader anti-fascist platforms. Still the united Front must be created, to also withstand the onslaught of the state from dismantling the democratic structure. The vigilance and repressive measures of the state has been a major obstacle in such fronts germinating, Even amidst the ascendancy of resistance, the state has adopted a path of framing all potential anti-fascist leaders as Maoist sympathisers.
Today the movement has integrated the aspects of Brahmanical fascism and nationality question and encompassed a wider frame. A most significant juncture was the intervention on the nationality struggle in Kashmir from the 1990’s .It ushered a new era in the revolutionary movement. However it has still hardly been able to penetrate into wider zones of the farmers, industrial workers or students.etc. A proper mass line is glaringly missing .Five decades of investigating an alternative path, of political mobilisation, has come to no avail. It is pointless to attribute it to this line or that.

Dogmatic Tendencies

Mechanically adhering to Chinese idea of liberated zone has failed to make a dent within the revolutionary movement. It is fruitless copying the Chinese path blindly when globalisation and religious fascism have reached an unparalleled height. No doubt the path of the Indian revolution is New Democratic and the mode of production semi-feudal. There are strong similarities with the path of the Chinese revolution. However in India landlordism, capitalism, co-relation of agriculture and industry or workers ad peasantry or pains and mountain areas, and nature of the state had important differences with the nature of pre-revolutionary China. Imperialism has a much more profound influence over agriculture as in China, transport and communications network completely different with advent of digital age; the parliamentary structure is vastly different from Chiang Kai Shek’s regime and thus fascism taking a different form.
Even if rejecting Socialist path of insurrection, certain aspects of it may have to be incorporated with the protracted peoples war as liberated base areas cannot be established exactly the manner they were in China .Considering the terrain, peasants cannot encircle cities like in China. A distinctive peoples war path has to be devised in accordance to the distinctive conditions prevailing in India. It is different cup of tea incorporating peoples war of Chinese type within the framework of the neo-liberal parliamentary democratic structure. Even if we study Adivasi movements in Orissa and Chhattisgarh we can infer the co –relation of the Adivasi movements with the anti-corporate struggles of the workers or fusion of work and movements of Adivasis and workers.
Marxist intellectuals have not been able to properly analyse the subtle characteristics of Indian feudalism or the bourgeoisie in India as distinctive from pre-revolutionary China. An intrinsic study must be made of how globalisation and advent of digital change transformed Indian agriculture and industry, be it land relations, production methods ,bargaining power of farmers, etc. A new formula has to be innovated to bridge worker-peasant Unity, with the changes caused by globalisation. Redefining the state character or re-alignment of class forces is an imperative task.
A section of groups place over emphasis on caste without formulating any action programme to devise caste annihilation. The anti-caste strategy revolves around reservation or job quota.  When confronting Hindutva fascism,they hardly shake the Hindutva fascist rulers,. Lack of a cohesive proletarian or workers movements has prevented the movement posing any challenge to the Hindu fascist brigade.
Their voice or resistance against corporate often appears like keeping the kitchens burning, not posing any serious challenge to them. After fifty years the forces have not been able to construct any formula to embarrass imperialism. No concrete agenda has been devised to combat corporate tyranny of multi-national capital in their backyard.
Automation as reached unprecedented heights, where the workforce has been replaced by computers, robots and other machines. It has paved way for destruction of jobs and escalate the extraction of contract labour, being paid wages not on par with the rising inflation. In the Anuradha Ghandy memorial lecture of 2017 in Mumbai Tilak Gupta projected how naxalbari movement needed to encompass diverse spheres and not remain within the terrain of forest areas which would isolate it. Gupta with examples, illustrated changes in the countryside, and the effect of capitalism and imperialism on peasants in plain areas.
In my view even if upholding theory, we cannot adhere mechanically to the model of the Leninist party or party as a pure vanguard ,needing to develop concepts how masses can check a party to democratize it and how mass organisations could assert their independence.

Deviationist trends

Some groups still openly flutter the party banner, thus exposing entire party forces to the state. Powerful tendencies still permeate converting mass platforms into party fronts. Methods of functioning hardly foster correct approach or respect towards debate or initiative of the masses. The infection, of the bureaucratic tendencies of the 1960 formed CPI (ML) still prevail. Many groups have come within close range of revisionist even mainstream parliamentary parties.
On the other hand we hardly hear about organisations like the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist), which one time was the strongest adherent of the mass line. It has no internet presence ,has published no regular organ in recent times .We have got no review of the revolutionary movement or what is retarding it, from an organisation which expressed so much confidence,2 decades ago.
The CPI (ML) Class Struggle in spite of a presence in important areas like Orissa, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, have hardly displayed an inclination for garnering forces for agrarian movements or workers resistance. The groups professing path of new democratic Revolution are hardly able to make any dent within the industrial workers or effectively organise contract labour. Ironic, that the most significant inroads within the working class in the revolutionary group has been made by the Communist League of India (Re organising Committee) , in regions of North India, through platform of Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra.
In Punjab inspite of massive farmers uprising gap has not been wedged by the landed peasantry and the agricultural labour, comprising the dalit community.Inspite of considerable gains in mass mobilisation, genuine agrarian revolutionary movement is stagnant. On hardly any principled reason, splits have occurred within the Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union and the Lok Sangram Manch, which are inclined towards the Maoists. The political inclination of Naxalbari has hardly been ressurected, with powerful economist tendencies. Ambedkarist and Sikh religious tendencies are also infecting the movement.
In the Anuradha Ghandy memorial lecture of 2017 in Mumbai Tilak Gupta projected how naxalbari movement needed to encompass diverse spheres and not remain within the terrain of forest areas which would isolate it. Gupta with examples, illustrated changes in the countryside, and the effect of capitalism and imperialism on peasants in plain areas. In my view even if upholding theory, we cannot adhere mechanically to the model of the Leninist party or party as a pure vanguard ,needing to develop concepts how masses can check a party to democratize it and how mass organisations could assert their independence.

Splits in Movement

Today the revolutionary camp outside the periphery of the Maoist section is more splintered and fragmented as ever. It is hardly able to create a genuine, revolutionary democratic joint platform. Often, the united actions are token or superficial, and not promoting class based unity. Recently a split occurred within the CPI (ML) Red Star, with major section of cadre forming a new group, ’Proletarian Initiative.’ The new organisation claimed that powerful bureaucratic tendencies had creeped within the organisation, violating democratic norms.
The CPI (ML) New Democracy suffered further splits with a section parting ways to form a new group (Prajapanda)in Telengana in 2022, and earlier a section led by Chandranna doing the same. It was hardly based on a principled ideological difference. In West Bengal or Kolkata the spark of old days has diminished, with hardly any effective joint platform or programme of the revolutionary camp. After the setback o the Maoists in Lalgarh the Maoist camp was splintered as never before.
Absence of Leninist approach or adaptation to modern era has paved way for splits backed by counter revolutionary currents blowing like gale. Only the igniting of a genuine broad based upsurge of the workers or peasantry can pave way for the repair of the fragmentation and knitting of bunch of scattered forces.

Positive Aspects

The positive aspects today are the determination of section s of youth and intellectuals to confront Hindutva fascism, Brahmanical fascism, and globalisation. It is reflected in groups like the Bhagat Singh Morcha in Uttar Pradesh, where cadres are integrating with peasants, agricultural labourers and tribal sections .Organisation has been formed forging peasant unity with tribals and labourers in Uttarakhand.
In Jadavpur university of Kolkata sections like Revolutionary Student Front or Democratic Students Association are rising to the hour, and gathering scattered seeds to build a united student movement. Notable protest s organised against Hindutva fascism, Brahmanical fascism and Aerial bombings of Maoists. One section has actively integrated itself with the struggle of contract workers within the University campus.
Positive to witness fronts crystallise even if not so numerically strong, to defend rights of political prisoners or political dissent, like the CARC in Delhi. In Telengana and Andhra Pradesh the civil rights front with relentless spirit has challenged fascist dictates. Some bold initiatives were taken also by organisations like CPI (ML) New Democracy and CPI (M.L)PCC to confront neo-fascism, alongside the country. In West Bengal journal ‘Towards a New Dawn’ is being published which most illustratively and boldly challenges neo-fascism and defends democratic dissent.
On the farmers front, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha,has undertaken a series of steps and programmes to confront tyranny of corporate fascism, staging significant Maha Panchayats. The Sanjha Mazdoor Morcha ,a joint front of agricultural workers groups in Punjab, has organised some most effective rail rokos and demonstrations, to express the indignation of agricultural labourers against the sheer apathy of the Aam Admi party. It is admirable he consistency or regularity with which the C.P.I.(ML) led by Viswam, pens journal ’Class Struggle’, to unfurl the ideology of Naxalbari.
One can debate or be critical aspect of military or mass line, but still the most relentless or focussed organisation is the CPI (Maoist).Even if vitiated with infections of terroristic tendencies or weakness in democratic functioning, in party or within mass organisations, in regions like Chattsigarh it has courageously and at the grass roots challenged corporate fascism., and the wrath of the Indian state. Without doubt, it has revealed far more consistency or durability than the fragile camp outside it. Withstanding state attacks at an unparalleled height like the recent aerial attacks, it has survived against all odds, and preserved it’s structures like Janatana Sarcars or guerrilla zones. Against all odds it has secured shelter, literacy health facilities, and minimum wages and land patta rights for Adivasi community. It has shimmered path of peoples war with more relentless spirit by any group in India. Even ordinary democrats admire their resilience in devising a strategy to survive and resist the enemy forces.
In recent years most lucid, well balanced and creative writings have emerged on Brahmanical fascism by Ajith (Murali) and Anand Teltumbde exposing dogmatism within Indian Communist movement and on the Indian Maoist movement by Bernard De Mello. Whatever sectarian errors, I wish readers to refer to the Virasam All India Seminar papers of ‘Impact of Naxalbari on Society.” In September, 2017.Most illustratively they convey the theme, in one of the most memorable of seminars.
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Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has done extensive research on Naxalbari Movement. Owes deep gratitude to journal ‘Anvil’ no 2, 2017 Virasam Seminar paper of Vernon Gonsalves , speech by Tilak Gupta in 201 Anuradha memorial and ‘Age of Rebellion’

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