Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Staring at the void

Sitaram Yechury,
April 12, 2010
First Published: 22:56 IST(12/4/2010)
Last Updated: 23:04 IST(12/4/2010)

To tackle Maoism, we need to change our neo-liberal policies and invest in the tribal areas. Most important, we need to develop a strong political will, writes Sitaram Yechury.

The outrageous massacre at Dantewada has shocked the nation. Since the 2009 general elections, Maoist violence has claimed 993 lives, of which 340 are security personnel. The question of restoring peace and enforcing the writ of civil administration in areas of Maoist violence remains non-negotiable. While law and order needs to be restored, political patronage given for petty electoral or other considerations must be also stopped. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has stated that Maoist violence poses “the gravest threat to India’s internal security”. Yet, there are members in his Cabinet who continue to use Maoist violence as a means to further their electoral prospects in West Bengal. Dantewada has chillingly demonstrated that such political patronage is disastrous for the country.

Such violence cannot be tackled by seeking to apportion blame or scoring political points. Home minister’s P. Chidambaram’s pursuit of ‘where the buck stops’ will only add grist to the Maoist mill. Likewise barbs against the CPI(M) in seeking to equate anarchism with revolutionary activities in the name of Left extremism does not strengthen this effort. Since the last general elections, more than 200 CPI(M) cadres have been victims of Maoist violence in West Bengal alone.

The Marxists remain in the forefront of the political struggle against Maoism. It needs to be underlined that anarchism is the very antithesis of Marxism and mindless militancy negates and often regresses the fundamental tenets of revolutionary activity.

Let’s recapitulate the historical roots of the emergence of Left extremism. After a prolonged ideological debate within the Indian communist movement, the CPI(M) was formed in 1964. Immediately, the mass anger against the policies of the then ruling governments saw the establishment of a united front government in the state in 1967. This further unleashed popular struggles on the question of land reforms. The peasants movement organised in Naxalbari was elevated as a struggle and it aimed at capturing State power by certain sections who went on to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in May 1969.

Based on an erroneous understanding that the Indian ruling classes were a “comprador bourgeoisie” (agents of imperialism) and, hence, did not possess a social force or a mass following domestically, it was, therefore, thought that it was only a matter of time that they would be overthrown. There was, hence, no necessity to mobilise the people and organise a mass revolutionary party. The people, it was presumed, were ready for a revolution. The need of the hour was to arm the people and, hence, emerged the slogan “People’s War”. This slogan was accompanied by its twin of “annihilation” of class enemies.

Within a period of five years, however, the naxalite movement split into innumerable small groups, a process of disintegration that went on for a few decades. While one group — the CPI(ML) — chose to abandon this understanding to return to mainstream democratic politics by contesting elections, two others — the People’s War Group (PWG) in Andhra Pradesh and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in areas of Jharkhand and Bihar — continued with their anarchic violent activity. These two, who were at ideological loggerheads once, came together on September 21, 2004, to form the new party — the CPI(Maoist). Since then there has been a major upsurge of anarchic violence that has claimed many innocent lives.

Apart from such reprehensible violent activity, there is a serious ideological problem as well. While expressly appropriating “Maoism”, they seek to replicate the pre-revolutionary Chinese experience in modern India. By doing so, they negate Mao himself who, once, said a party which cannot analyse the situation evolving in its own country and emulates experiences of another country without analysis is a “hotchpotch”.

In fact, the Chinese Communist Party never uses the word Maoism. They consistently use the term ‘Mao Zedong Thought’ which, they define, as “the integration of the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practise of the Chinese Revolution”.

Social transformation in India, thus, can only be on the basis of the concrete analysis of the conditions that exist in India. It can neither replicate the Russian or the Chinese or for that matter any other experience in the world.

The CPI(M), in concrete Indian conditions, works for transcending the existing system of capitalism and the establishment of a people’s democracy. This, it seeks, by developing a powerful mass revolutionary movement, combining parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles of the working people. While it seeks this transformation through peaceful means, it is also conscious of the fact that never in history have the ruling classes voluntarily relinquished their power. The violent means that they may adopt to defy the people’s will shall, therefore, be also met.

Further, the conditions that provide a fertile ground for the Maoists to operate must be seriously addressed. In all areas where the Maoists are now active, the neo-liberal policies have led to indiscriminate privatisation of mining of rich mineral resources. This has led to economic miseries for the tribal population there. Unless such policies are reversed and the issues of improving the livelihood of these hapless tribals are addressed, Maoist violence cannot be stopped. The time has come to rise above scoring political points and unite in a multi-pronged approach to combat such mindless militancy. This must include the required law and order measures, strong political will and necessary programmes to eliminate backwardness in these areas.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP

The views expressed by the author are personal

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