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Home  > Tamilnation Library> International Relations  >  India's Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising - Sumanta Banerjee

TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: International Relations

Hardcover: 327 pages
Publisher: Zed Books (January 1984)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0862320372
ISBN-13: 978-0862320379

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."...The term `Naxalite' (from Naxalbari) has continued to symbolize any assault on the assumptions and institutions that support the established order in India. It has become a part of the common speech all over India, and along with 'Huk' of Philippines, 'Al Fatah' of Palestine and `Tupamaros' of Uruguay, has today found a place in the vocabulary of world revolution...  Obituarists of the movement have always proved to be premature in their pronouncements. If the movement was contained and declared "crushed" in one part of India it soon erupted in another, sometimes a very unexpected corner of the country. Naxalbari was followed by Srikakulam: Srikakulam by Debra-Gopiballavpur; Debra-Gopiballavpur by Birbhum; Birbhum by Bhojpur �where still today, peasant guerrillas of the CPI (M-L) continue to fight back against a repressive feudal regime...  The ideologue of the movement � fiery-eyed, frail Charu Mazumdar, who was a victim of cardiac asthma and was driven to death by police persecution � was fond of saying: "No word ever dies. What we are saying today may not be accepted by the people at this moment. But our propaganda is not in vain. Our words remain embedded among the people... One who doesn't dream and can't make others dream, can never become a revolutionary."

India's Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising - Sumanta BanerjeeFrom the Introduction"

. . .of the battles won or lost � but fought � against the enemy." Che Guevara: 'Message to the World' 1967

"One who doesn't dream and can't make others dream, can never become a revolutionary. Charu Mazumdar (Quoted in 'Naxalbarir Shiksha')"

May 1967, there was a peasant uprising at Naxalbari � an area in the north-stern tip of India, bordering Nepal on the west, Sikkim and Bhutan on the north, and East Pakistan on the south. It was led by armed Communist revolutionaries who until then had been members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-(M)), but were later to break away and form a separate party � the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI (M-L)).

The uprising was crushed by the police within a few months. But from then on thing could ever be quite the same in the Indian countryside. The long-suffering peasants appeared to have rediscovered their traditional militancy. From 1967 to 72 � the main period dealt with in this book � in certain parts of India they boiled over in jacqueries against the privileged feudal elite. In some places, led by the CPI (M-L), they fought the police and troops when the latter were sent by the government to protect the landlords. These events highlighted their desperate efforts to end the intolerable conditions of economic oppression and social humiliation, and also represented the CPI (M-L)'s programme to seize power from the rulers and establish liberated zones in the countryside. Although during those tumultuous five years its effective strength was confined to a few pockets in the country, the CPI (M-L)`s ideology thoroughly permeated Indian socio-political

The term `Naxalite' (from Naxalbari) has continued to symbolize any assault on the assumptions and institutions that support the established order in India. It has become a part of the common speech all over India, and along with 'Huk' of Philippines, 'Al Fatah' of Palestine and `Tupamaros' of Uruguay, has today found a place in the vocabulary of world revolution.

The course of the CPI (M-L) movement occasionally diverged a little from the route mapped in 1967, and one phase ended with the setback in 1972. Will the 'Naxalite menace' (to use the favourite expression of the Indian police) create a memory only to be reduced in time to the status of another heroic but futile myth of the Indian Left? Or, will it become a prelude to a successful Communist revolution in India?

Obituarists of the movement have always proved to be premature in their pronouncements. If the movement was contained and declared "crushed" in one part of India it soon erupted in another, sometimes a very unexpected corner of the country. Naxalbari was followed by Srikakulam: Srikakulam by DebraGopiballavpur; Debra-Gopiballavpur by Birbhum; Birbhum by Bhojpur �where still today, peasant guerrillas of the CPI (M-L) continue to fight back against a repressive feudal regime.

The setback of 1972 does not invalidate the bitterness of the popular grievances that stimulated the movement, or the validity of the programme of armed struggle. The ideologue of the movement � fiery-eyed, frail Charu Mazumdar, who was a victim of cardiac asthma and was driven to death by police persecution � was fond of saying:

 "No word ever dies. What we are saying today may not be accepted by the people at this moment. But our propaganda is not in vain. Our words remain embedded among the people."

Although Charu Mazumdar often failed to give the correct lead, and was to a great extent responsible for the 1972 setback, his ideas still live on. While abusing him, even the ruling classes of India have tried to share Charu Mazumdar's cloak by often declaiming against feudalism and colonial powers.

Their alarmist disparagement of the Naxalites is an indirect acknowledgement of the survival and continuity of the CPI (M-L) movement, even in the face of the most ruthless repression launched by the Indian state. On 1 April 1981, the Minister of State in the Indian Home Ministry reported the latest situation to Parliament:

"The Naxalites have been indulging in violent activities at various places. These activities include murder, dacoity, attacks on police and other government officials, and other acts of violence".

As in the past, today also, in a calumny perpetrated against the CPI (M-L), the Indian government is trying to stifle the ageless plaints of the oppressed, landless peasants and their growing determination to overthrow feudal power and establish their own. It seeks to besmear the heroism of those of the poor who have plunged into battle to overturn the oppressive system.

The continuity of the CPI (M-L) movement is explained by the persistence and exacerbation of the basic causes that gave it birth: feudal exploitation, rural poverty, the Indian state's recourse to repression to silence the protests of the rural poor, and its bondage to the two superpowers to maintain the status quo.

But the birth of the CPI (M-L) movement can be understood only in the context of the contemporary international situation. In the late 1960s � when the Naxalbari uprising opened the floodgates of the revolutionary movement in India � radicalism in Europe, Asia and America was marked by rereading Marx, to rediscover the sources of revolutionary humanism and to revive the ideals that inspired individual courage and a readiness to be sacrificed for a cause.

The general trend was toward a return to the moral fervour and spontaneity of the early days of the revolutionary movement which inspired communists, socialists and anarchists alike, and was exemplified by the predominance of morality over political expediency.

This was reflected in the civil rights and anti-war movements in the USA; in the students' agitations in Western Europe, which rejected both the state's promises of affluence and the established Left's bureaucratic torpor and sought to revive the past socialist notions of self-management and self-representation; in Che Guevara's self-sacrifice in the jungles of Bolivia in pursuit of the old dream of international solidarity of all revolutionaries, and in China's Cultural Revolution which, in spite of excesses, errors and crimes committed in the name of Marxism, was initially motivated by the Rousseauian emphasis on transforming the individual, and the reiteration of the doctrine that sovereignty lay with the people.

The Naxalbari movement was a part of this contemporary, worldwide impulse among radicals to return to the roots of revolutionary idealism. In the Indian context, it took the form of going back to the source of all revolutions in the Third World � the peasantry � which had a long tradition of fighting against imperialism and feudalism.

The Naxalbari movement drew inspiration from the Indian jacqueries of the 18th and 19th Centuries as well as from the organized armed peasants' struggles led by the Communists in Telengana in the 1940s. Its stress on the peasant's spontaneous self-assertion, its plans of decentralization through 'area-wise seizure of power' and the setting up of village soviets, its rejection of the safe path of parliamentary opposition and of the institutions of 20th Century bourgeois democracy � all hark back to the old dream of the peasant Utopia, of the free village untrammelled by government officials and landlords!

At the same time, its rediscovery of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasantry posed a challenge to the ideological sclerosis of the parliamentary Left in India, which had settled down to the efficient management of the status quo by participating in a few provincial governments. The immense courage and self-sacrifice of the Naxalbari movement's leaders and cadres also restored to the country's Marxist movement the honesty and humanism that had become eroded over the years.

Yet, it must be admitted that the CPI (M-L) has often been crippled by the essentially peasant character of the movement in so far as it ignores other, important segments of the Indian population. Moreover, like other contemporary world movements, ranging from the New Left in the West to the Cultural Revolution in China, the CPI (M-L) has failed to break completely with the predominant dogmatic trends in the world Marxist movement, and to move beyond the immediate strategy of capturing power.

The much-felt need for democratic functioning within a Communist party, tolerance of dissent (absence of which has led to a series of splits in the movement), an honest analysis of the degeneration of Maoism with its nadir touching the inhuman aberrations under Pol Pot in Kampuchea, a dispassionate inquiry into the causes of inequity and sufferings in post-revolutionary societies � are issues that have not yet surfaced in discussions among Marxist-Leninist circles in India. But to avoid the repetition of similar errors and crimes in future revolutions and post-revolutionary societies, it is necessary to be wary of them from the beginning. As Marx expected of the communists: ". . . in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement." (Communist Manifesto).

Nevertheless, the CPI (M-L) movement is a historic experiment of momentous significance and a practical step more important than the hundreds of programmes spawned by the various parliamentary parties of India. If one returns to the source of the movement, one may find that with the growing unrest and increasing protests in the countryside the spring is still ready to surge forth. It is this which makes it all the more urgent to analyse the experiment and to reexamine theories of political change in India in the light of the stages of the CPI (M-L) movement.

Like the history of the events it describes, the story of the writing and publication of this book is full of complications. I was first commissioned to write it in 1972, when I was working in Delhi as a correspondent of an English newspaper.

Writing the first draft was an important lesson for me. Even after completing the manuscript and submitting it to the publishers, I was nagged by doubts that had crept in while I was working on the draft. Was my journalistic fund of information and type of specialization adequate to enable me to do justice to the events and people about whom I was writing? Is it enough to write about a cause and praise it from a distance?

A curiosity to probe deeper, as well as a desire for further commitment brought about by the pressures of the surrounding political reality, soon drove me in the direction of the CPI (M-L), and threw me in the company of its cadres. The unforgettable experience of sharing their adventures and of living among poor, landless peasants, provided me with an invaluable opportunity to understand their problems and theories, and gave me a new perspective on the entire history of the CPI (M-L) and related movements.

I soon realised that my draft manuscript lying with the publishers was incomplete and erroneous. I withdrew it and began to rewrite the book in the light of my new experiences and recently acquired information. The second draft was completed at the end of 1974, but new developments again intervened to prevent its publication. The declaration of Emergency in June 1975 and my arrest soon after forced the manuscript into hibernation to escape the minions of the law. With the lifting of the Emergency and the post-election changes in 1977, the manuscript had a fresh chance to appear in print, and was published in India in 1980 under the title In the Wake of Naxalbari. This present book is similar to the 1980 Indian edition, with the exception of the last chapter, which has been revised and updated, and the addition of a glossary.

Like all history, the picture presented in this book is shadowy and inadequate. The lives of many who took part in the movement were cut short by events. Many of the key figures have died without having told the whole story. The survivors, today often ranged in mutually hostile camps, contradict one another, making the task of substantiating accounts difficult. In the memory of many others, facts are often mixed with an astounding jumble of rumours, distortions and fabrications.

A few of the events recorded here I observed directly. Some are described on the basis of interviews, both with participants in the movement and with those entrusted with the task of suppressing it. The latter I met during assignments for the English newspaper for which I worked until 1973. But a large part of the book is based on theories and events appearing in CPI (M-L) documents, most of them published secretly � some as yet unpublished � and almost all of those quoted or referred to in this book, were written originally in Bengali, Hindi or Telegu; some of them have appeared in English in the party's journal � Liberation. Some translations, however, seemed to be overly free and for that reason I preferred either to translate from the original language myself or have them translated anew for this book whenever possible.

The sources of quotations from Charu Mazumdar's writings are the three volumes 'of his Bengali articles, and a separate edition of his Eight Documents, also written in Bengali, published by the CPI (M-L).* In addition to these published materials, there are numerous manuscripts containing minutes of important meetings, letters from jails and Charu Mazumdar's unpublished notes, most of which have been extensively used while writing this book.

The style of writing often to be found in CPI (M-L) reports of struggles may sound rhapsodic, exaggerated at times, but one has to remember that those who were writing the reports from the areas of struggles, were seeing through the eyes of the landless peasants. A downtrodden and humiliated people were for the first time handling rifles, or standing upright before their erstwhile oppressors � which might seem insignificant facts to urban middle-class readers, but were immensely significant to the rural poor. The news of the annihilation of some obscure landlord in a distant village hardly stirs the reader of a newspaper, but to a landless peasant, who for years has watched his own kind being coldly butchered by these landlords, not knowing how to resist, such an event is of immeasurable importance. It is all a matter of adopting the class outlook of the downtrodden!

I am fully aware of running the risk, while writing of events so contemporary and yet so confusing, of being contradicted by later revelations. New materials may surface which may alter some of the judgments formed here. But the story is too fascinating and important to await clarification of every detail and substantiation of every account � a task that in the fitness of things should be left to historians of the future.

From the Conclusion

The Prospects - From The Indian Army

"The Indian Army is one of the four largest armies of the world, the other three being the American, the Chinese and the Russian. It is the biggest public enterprise of the Indian government, accounting for one-fourth of the government's total annual expenditure and involving a little over 800,000 personnel.

How important a role the Army assumed in quelling popular movements can be gauged from the fact that during the 10 years from 1961 to 1970, the army had to be called out in aid of the civil power on no less than 476 occasions. Additionally, since the early 1950s the Indian Army and Air Force have been engaged in combating insurgency in Nagaland, Manipur and the Mizo hills.

While a hot-headed revolutionary might feel tempted to totally relegate the Indian Army into the camp of the enemy, one should pause to inquire whether the army as it is composed today, cannot be susceptible to a patient political indoctrination.

Let us have a close look at the Indian Army. Its basic arm is the infantry. In attack, the infantry must close with the enemy and destroy him. This involves patrolling enemy-held terrain, surviving enemy air attacks, passing through enemy artillery fire, crossing mine-fields, wire and other obstacles, and other such hazards. Little wonder that the infantry has suffered the heaviest losses during different operations. While during the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the percentage of casualties among the infantry in the Indian Army was 73%, it rose to 82.6% in the Indo-Pak war of 1965; but during the counter-insurgency operations in Naga and Mizo hills, it was 94%.

 In spite of being the raison d'etre for the Indian Army, in 1971 the infantryman was the lowest paid soldier; his pay scales were lower than some categories of cooks and were equal to those of petty tradesmen like tailors and boot repairers. But the infantryman could not voice his grievances, for the soldier was forbidden to form associations or to go on strike.

Commenting on the situation, an expert cell consisting of representatives of the Indian Army. Navy and Air Force in its report on pay and allowances of personnel of the Armed Forces, said in 1971:

"The general socio-political unrest in the country is on the increase. Authority is being challenged in all walks of life, he it the home, the school, the university or the place of work. Agitational approach. owing to the high dividend it has paid so far, is gaining popularity with the younger generation. Fissiparous tendencies are on the increase. Such an environment is not conducive to the functioning of a disciplined organization such as the armed forces. It is obvious that it would be subjected to unhealthy pressures from various directions."

The cell then warned:

". . disgruntled ex-servicemen could be a source of considerable danger. if their activities somehow got channelled in a wrong direction. This could give a strong fillip to the activities of undesirable elements which would make things more difficult for the Government machinery. Prudence would, therefore, demand the creation of environment and conditions which would keep the armed forces clear of the pernicious influence of the prevalent conditions both during active service and on retirement."

An indication of the growing indiscipline in the Indian Army can be gauged from the fact that during 1965-69 there were 13,267 courts martial for "purely military offence", resulting in 12,789 convictions with sentences varying from reduction to ranks or loss of seniority to imprisonment up to 14 years. While the Army authorities were rightly concerned over the "pernicious influences" and "unhealthy pressures" from outside, and the possibility of a "strong filip to the activities of undesirable elements", the CPI (M-L) leadership was curiously indifferent to any such likelihood. Barring the isolated involvement of one or two army personnel and ex-servicemen in some urban actions, there was no CPI (M-L) activity within the Army. There did not seem to be any awareness in the Party of the growing discontent among the ill-paid jawans, and there was hardly any plan to politicize them and carve out a foothold in the Army which in future could serve as a complement to the inchoate PLA of the CPI (M-L).

Moreover, there were close links between the Army jawans and the rural peasantry whom the CPI (M-L) sought to mobilize for an agrarian revolution. The rural masses of India have, over the ages, provided the bulk of the manpower for the armed forces. The jawans come from various strata of peasant families. Although the authorities in the past sought to pamper them by giving them privileges and thus insulate them from their peasant comrades who toiled in the fields, such barriers were breaking down in 1970-71.

As the armed forces experts cell complained in their report of February 1971:

"The Services today are no longer an exclusive organization, drawing the officers from the elite of the society and other ranks from certain sections of the population only, as in the past.... Despite their close unit life, the personnel cannot... divorce themselves totally from the conditions prevalent at large in the country."

It was inevitable, therefore, that agrarian discontent in the countryside would have its repercussions on the jawans who came from the affected areas.

Besides the jawans, there were also the non-combatants in the Indian Army. who were as ill-paid as the infantry soldiers. Totalling about 4,000, they constituted 1/22 of the strength of the army. Belonging to the Scheduled Castes. they were recruited for jobs of mess barbers, cooks, washermen and sweepers, and came from the most depressed sectors of the Indian rural society.

Even among the officers, a large number came from middle-class families, and could not he immune to the general problems that affected the Indian middle classes. A survey carried out in 1970 of 3,544 cadets at officer training establishments revealed that 52.5% came from families with a low income group of Rs. 500 per month and below. All this indicates that there was fertile ground in the army for political propaganda. which was ignored by the CPI (M-L).

Even the Government's para-military forces were seething with discontent, which erupted into an unprecedented mutiny in Uttar Pradesh in 1973. It all began with a students' agitation in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, in May that year. To aid the police, the State Government brought in the Provincial Armed Constabulary � a para-military force. On 20 May 1973, members of the PAC along with the students held joint demonstrations demanding their withdrawal. There were already signs of unrest among the PAC over inadequate pay and miserable service conditions.

On 22 May, the army was called in and troops tried to take over PAC armouries all over the State. They met resistance from the PAC at Kanpur and Ramnagar. near Varansasi, and clashes took place. The mutineers were forced to surrender by the evening, but those at Gorakhpur and Jehangirahad held on till 24 and 25 May respectively. On 27 May, the Uttar Pradesh Government announced that 379 PAC mutineers had been arrested and 600 were still missing.

But in blaming the CPI (M-L) leadership for not having tapped all the potentially revolutionary sectors of Indian socio-economic life, one should not forget that the party had very little time at its disposal � hardly five years from 1967 to 1972. Even before it could build up a tightly knit organization, ideological differences fissured the small group of revolutionaries, and the enemy pounced upon it with all its well-trained military force. Even during that short period, so torrential was the flow of events that the leaders who lived through the time often found themselves without hearings, forced to come up with ad hoc responses to new situations.

Besides, hindsight might dwell on the short-comings of the CPI (M-L) so much that the latter could overshadow the accurate assessment of the Indian situation made by the party. The reality of 1967-72 conformed precisely to the appraisal contained in the party's political resolution of 1969:

"Today, the ruling classes are enmeshed in a deeper economic and political crisis than ever before. Contradictions between imperialism and the people. between feudalism and peasants. between capital and labour, and between different sections of the ruling classes are growing sharper and sharper everyday ...the working class, the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie are victims of growing pauperization and unemployment. At least 95% of our people can no longer endure the poverty and wretchedness that are now their lot and are impatient for a fundamental change. ."

That the movement, even without the barest military expertise could sustain itself, proves not only the vulnerability of the prevailing political and economic system, but also the vitality of the sources that fed the movement. Although the CPI (M-L) suffered a setback in 1972, the system that provoked the explosion continues to fester, and the sources that provided the powder flow unabated.

The defeat inflicted by the ruling powers on the CPI (M-L) was a military success � temporary at that. The defeat does not negate the political and economic failures of the ruling powers. The sluggish pace of parliamentary reforms, which drove the Communist revolutionaries to opt out of the constitutional framework, still fails to keep up with the growth of economic pressures. As for the poverty and wretchedness of the people. five years after the Naxalbari uprising. Mohan Dharia. the Union Minister of State for Planning. was telling the Indian Parliament in 1972 that the absolute number of people below the poverty line was as large as it was two decades ago.On the other hand, since 1967, big industries have continued to reap profits. According to a Reserve Bank of India study, the retained profits of 200 large companies doubled from Rs. 450 million to Rs. 970 million in the period between 1968-69 and 1970-71.

The Prospects - The Governments Policies - 1967-72

....  Anti-Communist specialists who have gone into the causes of guerrilla movements and done research in counter-insurgency methods are almost unanimous in stressing the need for combining repression against the political rebels with concessions to the general public. Walt Whitman Rostow, a former intelligence officer, economist, professor and adviser to President Lyndon Johnson of the USA. claimed:

"We can learn to prevent the emergence of the famous sea in which Mao Tse-tung taught his men to swim. This requires. of course, not merely a proper military programme of deterrence, but programmes of village development, communication and indoctrination. The best way to fight a guerrilla warfare is to prevent it from happening."

Sir Robert Thompson, the British expert who studied anti-guerrilla operations in Malaya and excerpts from whose book, it may be recalled, were circulated for study among policemen by the Calcutta Police Commissioner in 1970, felt that "there should be a proper balance between the military and the civil effort," as otherwise, he feared "a situation will arise in which military operations produce no lasting results because they are unsupported by civil follow-up actions." According to these American and British specialists, the ideal combination of repression and concession was represented by the policies of President Magsaysay, who successfully quelled the Communist-Huk rebellion in the Philippines in the early 1950s. Famous for his policy of "all out-force and all out-friendship", Magsaysay used 'force' in the shape of ruthless suppression against the Communist rebels and their landless peasant followers, and 'friendship' in the shape of some land reforms and concessions directed towards the middle and rich peasants and the petty bourgeoisie.

The Indian ruling powers were also quick to take lessons from these foreign experts and the experience of their counterparts in other semi-colonial countries, when the agrarian situation in the wake of the Naxalbari uprising threatened their status quo.

The contours of the new strategy that was to be followed were taking shape from 1967, and became clear after the split in the ruling party in 1969. The split was caused by a combination of several factors �Indira Gandhi's attempt to erect a pro-poor facade by populist slogans of pinchbeck socialism; some of her measures to govern the development of bureaucrat capital in a more organized way, and her policy of doling out concessions to selected sections of the population which could only be possible, under the circumstances, by a circulation of fresh money, leading to deficit financing.

While all these antagonized the conservative old guard represented by people like Morarji Desai, S.K Patil and Atulya Ghosh, they bolstered up Indira Gandhi's 'socialist' image. In reality, and as later events were to prove, 'socialism' for Indira Gandhi in 1969 was more a label than a commitment in the power-struggle. Since 1967 in electoral politics, the Congress party had been facing a challenge from the parliamentary Leftists who had been clamouring for reforms, like nationalization of important sectors of the economy and changes in the agrarian structure. Indira Gandhi took the wind out of the Leftist sails by adopting their slogans and splitting the party in 1969.

But mere adoption of slogans would not do. The CPI (M-L) movement, operating from outside the pale of constitutional politics, was in fact a reaction against electoral promises made by the Congress and the socialist rhetoric used by the Leftists all these years. In the wake of the uprisings at Naxalbari and Srikakulam, the Research and Policy Division of the Central Home Ministry had warned:

"Although the peasant political organizations in most parts of the country are still organizationally weak and their capacity for launching sustained agitations is limited, the tensions in the rural areas, resulting from the widening gap between the relatively few affluent farmers and the large body of small landholders, landless and agricultural workers, may increase in the coming months and years."

Apparently, something positive and concrete was called for. The same Research and Policy Division had suggested: "It is possible to spur the States to some action if only the seriousness of the problem in a nation-wide perspective is brought home to them convincingly."

But in the States, as also in the Centre, the governments were run by the "relatively few affluent farmers", in other words, the feudal landlords. The Congress party could not underwrite its own disappearance by taking steps against them. As late as May 1973, the Planning Commission's task force on agrarian relations had to admit:

"In the context of the socio-economic conditions prevailing in the rural areas of the country, no tangible progress can be expected in the field of land reforms in the absence of the requisite political will. The sad truth is that this crucial factor has been wanting...."

In such a situation, repetition of pious resolutions and legal acts could not assuage any more the feelings of the masses. Some other measures were necessary which might, at least for the time being, carry conviction and promise relief.

In July 1969, Indira Gandhi nationalized 14 major banks of the country. She promised that this would divert some of the funds from the banks to the small and middle peasants, who hitherto had to depend on loans from moneylenders, and pay exorbitant interests. She also hoped by this means to create a new base for her party in the countryside by mobilizing the small and middle peasantry. By nationalizing the banks, Indira Gandhi also reinforced her image among the people as a radical Prime Minister, courageous enough to take action against the big industrialists who owned the banks. The Leftists had been demanding nationalization of banks for years. Indira Gandhi thus stole the Leftists' thunder.

But the euphoria was to melt away after a couple of years. By 1972 it was evident that the amelioration promised after the nationalization of banks had been infinitesimal, touching only a fraction of the small and middle peasants. A bulletin published by the Reserve Bank of India that year, with a sectoral classification of advances by 34 scheduled commercial banks which accounted for 96% of the total bank credit up to April 1972, showed that for the agricultural sector the direct bank finance had been only 8.6% and the indirect finance 4.5% of the total. The major share of the bank credit had gone as it used to go in the past, to the large and medium industries.

In the agrarian sector, Indira Gandhi encouraged some special programmes in certain vulnerable areas. Thus, Naxalbari and Debra were selected among other areas for a Comprehensive Area Development Programme (CADP), under which farmers, both big and small, were to receive inputs and credit from the local Project Authority set up to plan the pattern and intensity of cropping, and coordinate all the developmental activities in the area. Besides, activities ancillary to modern agricultural processes, like operation and servicing of mechanical equipment, and industries based on agricultural products were to be planned for the total area as a unit to generate secondary employment.

It is interesting to note that while the big landowners were not allowed to increase their plots within the Project area, they enjoyed the right to buy land in the neighbouring areas and thus emerge into a class of kulaks, widening in the process the gap between the rural rich and poor. Moreover, by virtue of their social power and prestige in the villages, these big landlords would come to dominate the local Project Authority and corner the inputs, like fertilizers and pesticides which were to be financed by funds from the nationalized banks.

Since the tribal belt became an important centre of CPI (M-L) activities during 1967-72, to defuse the situation, the Government selected a few areas in the belt to initiate so-called developmental programmes. ...

....A show of anti-colonialism, soon followed by an amicable settlement with the West, marked India's economic relations with foreign powers. Immediately after the 1971 war with Pakistan, when the USA took a pro-Pakistan stand and suspended aid to India, there were talks in the first flush of victory of rejecting US aid.

But the temptation of a short-cut to growth through foreign aid was too compelling, and the Soviet Union alone could not provide a dependable alternative. On 6 February 1973 at the One Asia Assembly in New Delhi, Indira Gandhi spoke of the sufferings of the Vietnamese people and in an indirect reference to the USA, said that the saturation bombing in Vietnam was incompatible with the declaration of love for democracy. This immediately brought forth a sharp rebuff from the USA.

The new ambassador-designate to India, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, postponed his departure for India. Sensing the reaction of the aid-giver, Indira Gandhi promptly resiled. At a meeting in Kathmundu, Nepal, on 9 February � just three days after her New Delhi speech � she said that her remarks on Vietnam "were not intended to criticize any country".

The USA was quick to respond to India's obsequiousness. It announced on 15 March 1973, its decision to release $87.6 million development loan to India �which had remained suspended since December 1971 � for priority imports. Explaining the motive behind the decision, D.G. McDonald, the Assistance Administrator of the Agency for International Development (AID) said that the aid involved "goods and services appropriate for US financing". He referred in this connection to India's need for fertilizers, which could be bought from the amount given as aid. It was obvious that for fertilizers, India had to go to the US private firms again and pay their exorbitant price.

During the year 1972-73, external assistance commitments to India from World Bank and other foreign sources stood at Rs. 7,420 million against Rs. 7,220 million in the previous year. The slogans of self-reliance that were raised following the victory in the war against Pakistan soon became devoid of all glitter, like false jewels in a counterfeit crown, and the old obsequious self reappeared in all its cringing form. The USA was happy with the turn of events. Visiting India in October 1974, the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said of IndoUS relations: ". . our disputes are often in the nature of a family quarrel".36 echoing the sentiments expressed about two decades ago by another Secretary of State, J.F. Dulles. India had thus come full circle.

In spite of the Government's announced policy of avoiding foreign collaboration in fields in which indigenous know how was already available, the number of foreign collaborations showed a steady increase every year � 183 in 1970,245 in 1971, 257 in 1972 and 265 in 1973. The consumption goods that were to be produced by some of these ventures � ready-made garments, leather watch-straps, wrist watches, sports goods � indicated the weight in favour of the more affluent sections of the consumers. For some of these, the expensive import content could have been avoided since indigenous know how for their production was available.

It will be seen that all the economic measures introduced by Indira Gandhi were either aimed at placating some sections of the population, or were concentrated in selected areas only, without any attempt to make the rich disgorge their wealth. In this she had the approval of the US specialists. As one of them suggested about India: "The primary purpose of the centre's assault on low-end poverty should be to shore up disadvantaged groups and classes within their respective areas, not quickly to equalize incomes between areas."" The same tendency to create isolated islands of well-being instead of adopting an overall programme of mass uplift marked the official plans for cooperatives in selected blocks in West Bengal or tribal development programmes in Andhra Pradesh....

The Prospects  - United Front and Relations with China

The differences that have cropped up among the Indian Marxist-Leninists over identifying the main enemy and choosing allies to form a united front against it, are a fall-out from the international debate on the Chinese theory of the Three Worlds. According to the Communist Party of China (CPC) "of the two imperialist superpowers, the Soviet Union is the more ferocious, the more reckless, the more treacherous and the most dangerous source of world war," and hence the need for "unity between the US, China, Japan, West Europe and other countries of the world, unity among these countries to deal with Soviet hegemonism."

While the majority of the CPI (M-L) groups have accepted this theory, differences prevail over its interpretation. Some, like Satyanarain Singh, are eager to apply the theory in India in the shape of an alliance of all anti-Soviet elements, including the traditional anti-Communist, pro-US forces. This interpretation approximates in a large measure to the desires of the present Chinese leadership. Chandra Pulla Reddy's party is as yet unwilling to go to this extent, as it regards the main struggle as one for "Protracted People's War for the destruction of imperialism, bureaucratic monopoly capitalism and feudalism" in which it does not expect any section of the ruling classes to unite with the CPI(M-L). A common basis for such unity, according to his party, can come when any superpower attacks India and a section of the ruling classes oppose that aggressor, or when there is fascist repression, as happened during the Emergency.

Although Vinod Mishra agrees with Satyanarain Singh that the Soviet social-imperialists are the main enemies, his party does not see the possibility of pro-US forces "uniting with us on the basis of a common programme in a democratic and patriotic front" at the present moment." Explaining the call for a united front of 'democratic and patriotic forces', a party document says that such a front would be a national alternative consisting of the 'third force' � all the political parties and groups engaged in armed struggles or extra-constitutional forms of movements, as well as individuals belonging to the existing national (parliamentary) parties who are opposed to imperialism and Indira Gandhi's Government.

A few groups have rejected the Three Worlds theory and denounced the post-Mao Chinese leadership as "revisionists". Notable among these groups is the Reorganizing Committee of the CPI (M-L). It attended the meeting of the 13 Marxist-Leninist groups from 30 January to 2 February, but later dissociated itself from their joint statement as it felt that the statement reflected "the influence of the Three Worlds theory in the Indian context and did not put the perspective of New Democratic Revolution in the proper light." The Reorganizing Committee feels that unity of the Marxist-Leninists can be brought about only by fighting the "counter-revolutionary Three Worlds theory". It has, however, agreed to cooperate with other groups in joint actions on important issues."

Incidentally, the Reorganizing Committee has aligned itself with 12 Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations from different parts of the world, which issued a communique in late 1980 stating: "After revisionism had clearly come to power in the USSR with Khrushchev, the international proletariat suffered a further grievous loss after the death of Comrade Mao Tse-tung in 1976, with the seizure of power in socialist China by a new counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie dragging one-fourth of humanity back down the capitalist road.""

Some other groups, like the CPI (M-L) � People's War group � have reservations about the way the Chinese party is implementing the Three Worlds theory, but are not willing to publicly criticize China's growing proximity to the USA and its indifference to the people's liberation movements in the Third World countries. The group has, however, opposed Satynarain Singh's call for a united front with pro-US forces.

It is significant that the majority of the CPI (M-L) groups have accepted the Chinese theory of the Three Worlds with it emphasis on the Soviet Union as the main enemy and its dismissal of the USA as a declining force. The differences relate only to the mode of building up an anti-Soviet united front in India.

While repeating the Three Worlds theory by rote, many CPI (M-L) leaders fail to distinguish between Chinese rhetoric and realpolitik, between China's national interests and the interests of the Indian revolution, between the Sinocentric view of the international situation and the actual reality. A desire to conform to China's international posture often leads them to ignore the balance of Soviet and American control in India, particularly the still powerful US influence over Indian economy.

The development of the Three Worlds theory has to be seen in the proper perspective. China's national economic requirement of Western technology to accelerate the pace of modernization, and its international political goal of isolating the Soviet Union which it considers to be a military threat to its national security, have driven it to seek alliance with the USA and the 'Second World' of West Europe. Since the Marxist-Leninist movements in the South and South-east Asian countries along the Chinese borders have not yet been able to set up pro-Peking regimes (while the Governments of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh remain undependable, those in Afghanistan, Laos and Vietnam are under Soviet control) to act as buffer states against possible Soviet attacks from the south, China prefers the continuation of US presence in the Indian Ocean to counter Soviet moves.

Judging by China's steady withdrawal of support from Communist guerrilla movements in the ASEAN region, it seems that for China, the issue of the day is not a people's liberation movement, but nationalism versus Soviet imperialism. In its international strategy, distinctive Communist objectives, like acceleration of class struggles to complete the agrarian revolution and capture power in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries, will now have to be temporarily abandoned in favour of an ameliorative political stance that would facilitate the building of an anti-Soviet alliance.

In some countries such as Thailand, China has put pressure on the Communist guerrillas to make up with the ruling powers and forge a united front with them to fight "Vietnamese aggression". As regards India, since the middle of 1970 China has stopped reporting the activities of the CPI (M-L) groups in its media. It has followed this up with patient efforts at reconciliation with the Indian Government, marked by exchange of ambassadors, increase in trade and finally by the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua to Delhi in June 1981. Indira Gandhi's Government has responded favourably to the Chinese overtures and is back by a section of Indian industrialists and traders who are interested in exporting their goods to China.

The Sino-Indian Trade Promotion Forum, soon after Huang Hua's visit, urged the Indian Government to explore the possibilities of transferring Indian technical know how to China in such areas as agriculture, mineral development, irrigation, light industries, power and transportation. On the political plane, Chinese Communist leaders have had a series of talks with representatives of the CPI (M) (which was described as "revisionist" by the CPC in 1967) and have established fraternal relations. The CPI (M) still steers a middle course in the Sino-Soviet dispute, regarding both the countries as socialist and yet critical of some of their policies.

It seems that China is keen on neutralizing, or winning over as many sections of the Indian political forces as possible in its confrontation with the Soviet Union.

In this overall strategy of China's how can the CPI (M-L) groups of India fit in? In the past, interaction between the CPI (M-L) and the CPC had not always been healthy for the growth of the revolutionary movement in India. The attitude of the CPI (M-L) leaders to the CPC in general and Mao Tse-tung in particular, was one of prostrate adoration, reflected too often in emphasizing China's national interests over the needs of the Indian revolution and taking pains to trot out apologies or explanations for China's diplomatic manoeuvres (as happened with Ashim Chatterjee during the 1971 developments in East Bengal), or taking ridiculously extreme forms like Charu Mazumdar's slogan:

 "China's Chairman is Our Chairman, China's Path is our Path" (although Charu Mazumdar had the good sense to take an independent stand on the East Bengal events, and later to withdraw the slogan).

The CPC for its part, continued to lend support to Charu Mazumdar's tactics and policies, even when experience 'undermined their validity for the success of the revolution in India. Judging by past experience of Chinese expediency it is quite possible that in the CPI (M-L) the CPC found the best stick with which to beat Indira Gandhi's Government, irrespective of its political colour. Just a year before the uprising at Naxalbari, the Chinese were even prepared to support the most obscurantist feudal elements against Indira Gandhi.

On 12 November 1966, a Jen-min Jinpao commentator came out with an article entitled "Indian People Have Arisen in Resistance", describing a demonstration by Hindu religious fanatics demanding a ban on cow-slaughter in Delhi on 7 November that year! This is how the commentator saw the demonstration: "A 700,000 strong anti-Government demonstration broke out in New Delhi on 7 November. This was a violent eruption of the Indian people's pent up feelings against the Government ... and a signal of the sharpening of class contradictions in India."

Seven months later, however, Radio Peking was to discover in the Naxalbari uprising "the front paw of the revolutionary armed struggle", glossing over the fact that the Naxalbari peasants were fighting against the same feudal elements who had organized the 7 November demonstration in Delhi. One wonders if the CPC was motivated by ideological sympathy with the Indian Communist revolutionaries, or merely temporary anti-Indira Gandhi policies, in lending support to the CPI (M-L) from 1967 to 1970.

Today, although the CPC is non-committal about the different CPI (M-L) groups operating in India, the majority among the latter still retain their slavish adherence to the CPC and Mao Tse-tung � a relic from the tradition of colonial training, paralleled by the Indian comprador's fawning dependence on the West. Even those who oppose the present CPC leadership are haunted by their past.

At one time or another, following blindly the policies of the then CPC, they had upheld Lin Piao and Chiang Ching. Today these groups are in a dilemma, finding it difficult to convince their ranks about the 'counter-revolutionary' nature of Chinese leaders whom only a few years ago they lauded as ideal revolutionaries. To get around the problem, they have chosen to stick adamantly by their position of loyalty to these denigrated leaders, claiming that Mao had supported these leaders, but had been superseded by the "Deng-Hua clique".

As a result, one finds the ludicrous spectacle of one group of CPI (M-L) revolutionaries in North Bengal swearing by Lin Piao, while another group in Kerala (the Reorganizing Committee, CPI-ML) support the "Gang of Four" � a medley of irresolute revolutionaries tossed to and fro by the changing fortunes of individual Chinese leaders!

As for those supporting the present Chinese leadership, by trying again to identify themselves with China's international stance, they tend to undermine the danger of US military and economic offensive both in the world and in India.

While they rightly join hands in demonstrating against Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, they seldom denounce the presence of US servicemen and the American fleet in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, or condemn US intervention in El Salvador. They are justified in warning against Soviet exploitation in Indian economy, but their silence on similar exploitation by US and Western multinationals evokes suspicion among genuine anti-imperialists.

Given the built-in pro-US orientation of the Three Worlds theory, when a section of the CPI (M-L) � led by Satyanarain Singh � publicly urges an alliance with pro-US forces in India, there is a danger of the Marxist-Leninist movement acquiring a Right-wing image and departing from the traditional Leftist mainstream in the country.

 Both because of the aggressive role of the USA in the region in the past, and its continuing control over important sectors of the Indian economy today, anti-US feelings are quite strong among radical-minded urban youth, Leftist academics and ranks of Left parties.

Marxist-Leninists who wish to build up a political base among these sections, will either have to adopt a neutral attitude towards China's pro-US policies, or come out openly against the present Chinese leadership. Torn between national compulsions and loyalty to the CPC, the leaders of the various CPI (M-L) groups are passing through an agonizing process of soul-searching.

The sooner they realize that slavish adherence to foreign leaders or models must be replaced with ingenuity in devising new social mechanisms and new policies for unprecedented situations, that enemies and allies should be identified in accordance with the demands of the objective conditions prevailing in India, instead of with the requirements of some external power, the better is the future of their ideology.

From an analysis of the statements and activities of the various Marxist-Leninist groups, it appears that the Communist revolutionaries of India are passing through a sort of intellectual odyssey, moving back and forth between an inquest into the past to a probe into the present and contemplation of the future. The contradictions and imperfections in their utterances, and the amoeba-like changes, shifts and splits in their activities, are the stammerings that are associated with a period of gestation. Still a farrago of weak and disconnected individuals and factions, they are groping for some sort of unity before launching any action. Most of them seem to be in favour of a pause in the armed struggle, to pick up the pieces the establishment has shattered, to get back the bearings, and nurse latent power for the next phase of the struggle. There is, however, the danger of their becoming lost in these intellectual diatribes, of abandoning the battlefield and having their attention diverted from concrete programme by extraneous factors.



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