In one of their most brazen attacks this year, the Communist Party of Indian (Maoist) attacked a Congress Party convoy traveling in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, May 25th, killing top Party leader Mahendra Karma. Karma and around twenty other Congress Party members were killed after Maoist forces, also known as Naxalites, ambushed their vehicles around 5:30 as they drove through the Bastar district. Beginning in 2005, Karma spearheaded the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored anti-Maoist militia which disbanded in 2011 following a court ruling on its illegality.
The Communist Party of Indian (Maoist) is India’s largest communist group engaged in people’s war against the state. Basing itself on Adivasis, a hetreogenous group of largely forest-dwelling peoples, constituent elements of the CPI(Maoist) have been waging a struggle against the Indian state since 1967, when villagers in Naxalbari led by dissident Communists revolted against the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist). The revolt quickly spread and was popularized by the writings of Charu Majumdar. In 1969, these dissident Communists formed the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). By 1975, the Naxalite revolt was quelled by the central government. Naxalite organizations fractured but live on. Many gave up on armed struggle, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Others continued on the path of armed struggle, and in 2004 many of the remaining groups engaged in people’s wars congealed into the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Today, the Communist Party of Indian (Maoist) claims it is fighting to overthrow the Indian state while protecting the interests of India’s Adivasis and other marginalized groups from abuses by multinational corporations. The group is active in up to a third of India’s regional districts and has supporters world-wide among nominal Maoist organizations.
According to news reports, CPI(Maoist) fighters bludgeoned and stabbed Mahendra Karma to death will rifle butts and bayonets. This is evidence, some claim, of the group’s brutality. Yet consider Karma’s role in forming the state-supported Salwa Judum militia, described here in its actions against a suspected Maoist-supporting village:
“Salwa Judum vigilantes destroyed homes, and stores of grain and any other food they had; killed dozens of men, women and children; maimed and—or—raped several. Children were forced to watch the death and dismemberment of parents. Pregnant women were disembowelled. The death and torture of those suspected of allying with Maoist rebels was instant.”
Beyond retribution, the killing of Karma is part of an ongoing class war:
“For the rebels, Karma and his ilk symbolized the class enemy—worse, a tribal [adivasi] who came from traditionally, socio-politically oppressed stock was the class enemy of fellow tribal folk. For Karma & Co., the stealthily and rapidly infiltrating rebels represented a threat in several ways. For one, at the barrel of the gun they could redistribute land to the landless. For another, they were a direct threat to the local practice of Malik Makbuja, the right of the Adivasi to cut trees on his own land that had been subverted to benefit middlemen and various vested interests.” (1)
As part of the larger Operation Green Hunt, several leaders of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) have been captured, killed, or tortured.
First Worldism and revisionism betray the revolutionary movement
Unfortunately, sectarian opportunism seems to pervade India. In this token, both the ‘Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Star’ and ‘Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation’, two legal parties which run electoral campaigns to join the Indian government, rushed on scene to denounce the attack which killed Karma.
“The CPI(ML) holds that militaristic actions by Maoists, isolated from democratic movements and political assertion, cannot be justified by the logic of retribution, and are counterproductive in developing any mass resistance to the government’s policies of corporate plunder and Operation Green Hunt,” general secretary of ‘Liberation,’ Deepankar Bhattacharya, was quoted as saying in the ‘left-leaning’ The Hindu daily newspaper.
The Communist Party of Indian (Marxist-Leninist) Red Star pitched the same line to international audiences through an official statement published by the English-language Countercurrents.org:
“The CPI(ML) condemns this anarchist action by CPI(Maoist) which will only tarnish the image of Naxalbari uprising of landless and poor peasants of North Bengal in 1967 for land and social change and the people’s struggles led by them in different states…
“It is abundantly clear that the present attack leading to killing of many Congress activists including the leaders will be used by the ruling system to intensify the already started para-military onslaughts to wipe out Maoists from their strongholds. It is infantile on the part of Maoists to think that by killing Mahendra Karma they can take revenge against Salwa Judum or other atrocities perpetuated against the adivasis and other oppressed sections. If Karma took initiative in putting forward the Salwa Judum, it was the BJP led state government and central forces which implemented it. Instead of targeting the ruling system, and Congress, BJP like parties who implement the reactionary policies by heading central and state governments, Maoists are indulging in anarchist attacks which is serving the ruling system as a cover to attack the democratic movements and the adivasi people, to help the land grabbing…
“The CPI(ML) once again appeals to the Maoist leadership to evaluate their hitherto activities, to retrace their path and to join the path of mobilizing and educating the masses for countrywide offensive against the ruling system. It calls on all democratic forces to oppose all attempts of the central and state governments to use this attack as a cover to intensify state terror.” (3)
The common thread running through both of these messages is that Maoist violence, and not the violence of the state, is holding back the revolutionary movement in India.
Let’s look at this a few different ways.
First, does Maoist violence set back revolution?
The major charge made by the CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML) Red Star is that Maoist revolution provokes a state response and sets back the communist cause in India. Apparently, these groups believe that revolution can either be carried out without violence or the revolutionary violence is only properly carried out after a long-period of above ground work during which the masses attain the proper consciousness. Both of the views are rightist deviations from revolutionary theory and practice.
Violence is not simply a necessary aspect of revolution. It is a necessary aspect of all class struggle. The rightist views of the CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML) Red Star negate this concept. Instead, according to their logic, violence can be, if not avoided all together, tempered until a final revolutionary showdown. This view obscures the role of both reactionary violence (in maintaining class structures) and of revolutionary violence (in building oppositional political cultures). In reality, the reactionary state will naturally implement violent responses to quell all serious resistance, Maoist or otherwise. As Mao noted, ‘to be attacked by the enemy is a good thing.’
Secondly, what role do various legal ‘Marxist-Leninist’ parties play in advancing revolution? More specifically, what do their denunciations of Maoist violence amount to in practice?
While it is fully expected that the Indian state rallies against Maoism, it is less expected for various ‘Marxist-Leninists’ to jump on board the anti-CPI(Maoist) bandwagon. Many of these ‘Marxist-Leninist’ organizations are legal parties which run for various public offices within the Indian government. One can only assume they rush to denounce the CPI(Maoist) in fits of opportunism, hoping to distance themselves from ‘left-wing extremists’ in the eyes of the public, state, and media.
One must ask what role such opportunism plays in the Indian revolutionary movement. In the grander scheme of things, how do public condemnations of revolutionary violence by various ‘Marxist-Leninists’ aid the revolutionary movement? Sure, the Indian and international bourgeois media may be more likely use quotes and publish statements condemning Maoist violence by ‘responsible Marxists,’ yet does such public condemnation advance or set back revolutionary struggle in India and world-wide?
Among nominal Marxists, some stand before the masses leading the way, some stand among them and simply repeat popular sentiment, and some stand toward the back and slow down and misdirect the masses from revolutionary struggle. We must ask, where exactly do various ‘respectable’ ‘Marxist-Leninist’ parties stand in their self-serving feigned outrage over the correction of a known class enemy?
Thirdly, what is the proper orientation of revolutionaries in India, generally and toward Maoist violence?
Revolution is not a straight line. Due to material and subjective conditions, revolutions may advance in some areas while being halted or receding in others. In countries like India, where revolution is advancing in areas controlled or affected by the CPI(Maoist), the proper orientation is not to condemn it but to support it. Revolutionary consciousness implies building support for other revolutionary movements. Groups like the CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML) Red Star are effectively hindering the development of revolutionary consciousness via opportunism. Even if the CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML) Red Star were to make significant gains in elections, their rank opportunism would carry over into public policy and they would merely become comprador agents acting even more directly against revolutionary movements. By condemning the CPI(Maoist) on such opportunistic bases, various ‘Marxist-Leninists’ indicate their willingness to work within the capitalist-imperialist system and to act as gate-keepers of nominally revolutionary movements.
The proper orientation is one of support for the CPI(Maoist). It is working to overthrow the neo-colonial Indian state. This alone makes it part of a global united front against imperialism.
Fourthly, what is the material basis of revisionism in India? Besides the culture of sectarianism which exists in India (such that would cause two groups with nearly identical names to promote identically opportunist lines), what is the material basis of revisionism in India?
Side-by-side with revolutionary consciousness exists First Worldism, the doctrinal ‘Marxist’ view that a majority of workers in the First World are exploited. So the logic goes, ‘if Amerikans, Britons, Israelis, etc are exploited under capitalism, the proper route is to struggle for legitimate reforms under capitalism to attain similar statuses. Furthermore, if the capitalist state can be used to operate in favor of ‘its’ working class, why not attempt to do the same with the current Indian state.’ First Worldism is not simply a mistaken belief about the possibilities and limits of revolutionary praxis in the First World, it is a foundational element of revisionism and opportunism in Third World and semi-peripheral countries.
Of course, the wealth of the First World is stolen from the Third World. No amount of reforms, lest they break the hegemony of the First World and recenter countries like India as the new core of the world economy, will alter the structural divide between the Third and First World. But what does this matter to groups like the CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML) Red Star which hope to attain power via entry into the neo-colonial state?
Rather than supporting revolutionary movements against the neo-colonial state, the existence of various ‘Marxists,’ ‘Communists,’ and ‘Marxist-Leninists’ which oppose the CPI(Maoist) based on the latter’s supposed militarism is symptomatic of an ideological terrain marred by revisionism and First Worldism. The development of a wider revolutionary movement in India necessitates building support for the Naxalites and antipathy for the reactionary Indian state. First Worldism, by obscuring the structural role of the division between the First and Third World, lends credibility to the false promises of social-democracy and aids in the betrayal of people’s revolutionary movements.
‘Revolution is not a dinner party,’ wrote Mao. It is a necessarily violent series of events in which one group of classes overthrows another. In hoping to work from within the system (a tact that has worked well for First Worlders and compradors) and by opportunistically condemning revolutionary violence, groups like the CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML) Reg Star become obstructions to the development of wider revolutionary movements in India.
Echoing the form of CPI(ML) Red Star’s public statement, it is appropriate the issue the following declaration:
Anti-Imperialism.com appeals to Marxist-Leninist leadership to evaluate their hitherto activities, to retrace their path and to join the path of organizing and educating the masses for the development of dual power as part of an ongoing offensive against the ruling system. We call on all democratic forces to oppose all attempts by nominal ‘Marxists’ to use condemnations of the CPI(Maoist) in order to advance their political careers. We call on all revolutionary forces in India to develop support for the CPI(Maoist) and to open new fronts in the class war against the reactionary state.