Maoists and the paradox of development

Rajesh Tyagi

After opposing the industrialisation in Singur and Nandigram on the premise that the same is outrageous, inhuman and not ‘people oriented’, Maoists find themselves in an apparent dilemma to raise the issue of under-development in Lalgarh, the very next day.

Their illusion of an alternative path of development under capitalism with humanitarian considerations, leads the Maoists directly to the lap of reformism, as this means nothing but craving for a humanitarian face for capitalism. Fighting for this ‘soft’ capitalism, with humanitarian attributes, of course with arms in hands, the Maoists reveal themselves as ‘armed reformists’ or ‘reformist militants’ of a new type, but in essence the armed defenders of the same old capitalism.

Do you want to destroy capitalism? ‘No, not at all! We rather want to see the capitalism grow, as that is the only road to socialism. Our program is to liberate capitalism of the shackles of feudalism and Imperialism’! Maoist retorts. Thus, a ‘Capitalist road to Socialism’, this is what the program of ‘new democracy’ means in essence to our Maoist!

This essentially reformist perspective of Maoists, is completely in consonance with the politics of petty-bourgeois peasantry, their actual social base, which though pulverised under the advance of capitalism, yet craves only for a ‘human’ face of capitalism and not for abolition of the bourgeois property relations, as a whole, as it itself, as a class, rests upon such relations. Maoists, the historical representatives of peasantry-the rural petty producers- thus do not and cannot overstep this limit.

But then the real difficulty presents itself in practice. As capitalism ‘grows’ it invariably grows through appropriation of petty producer, pushing it to the camp of the proletariat. Maoist is however not ready to swallow this bitter pill of capitalism and opposes the appropriation, e.g. in Singur and Nandigram. They defend the petty owner of land against this ‘inhuman’ appropriation and thus oppose the capitalist growth, with arms in hand. But then in the next breath they stake their leadership to Lalgarh movement which poses the question of ‘under-development’, demanding extension of capitalist development, the factories, schools, hospitals etc. etc on their virgin territory.

Thus, aiming for proliferation of ‘capitalism’ in their fancied program of ‘new democracy’, instead of its destruction, Maoists take offensive against the growth of capitalism, its penetration onto the virgin lands like Singur and Nandigram, while simultaneously they demand capitalist development in the underdeveloped regions like Lalgarh.

The paradox of ‘development’ for Maoists is that they are not sure if they are ‘for’ or ‘against’ the capitalist development as a whole. It is because they rest upon the intermediary class-the peasantry-standing with two faces: one towards the bourgeois and other towards the proletariat.

In fact, this paradox of development can only be explained in terms of inbuilt mechanics of capitalism leading to an ‘uneven and combined growth’, but then the resolution would lie not in ‘proliferation of capitalism’ but essentially in its destruction. But for Maoists ‘capitalism’ is sacrosanct, as they have learnt by rote from Mao himself, that proletariat cannot overturn capitalism in backward countries and has to pass through a ‘new democracy’ where capitalism has to be preserved, at any cost. The task for Maoists thus lies in liberating capitalism of its ills and not in liberating the working classes from capitalism itself. In their view, bourgeois not being a good manager of capitalism, destiny has assigned this task of management and cure of capitalism to Maoists. They, thus come forward not as hostile enemies of capitalism, but with their claim as better managers of capitalism. Capitalism under the management of Maoist Bonaparte, the red bureaucracy, is the real essence of ‘new democracy’.

The difficulty of Maoists lies in their flawed perspective of Stalinist ‘two stage theory’, which stops short of aiming for destruction of capitalism. This suicidal formula has already derailed the mature revolutions in China, Spain, India, Iran, Iraq and more recently in Nepal. In the name of ‘new democratic stage’ Maoists refuse to aim for destruction of capitalism, rather advocate its ‘proliferation’ during the new democratic period. This is what was professed by the 1940 pamphlet of Mao-tse-Tung, ‘On New Democracy’. In their view national capitalism has not lost its progressive vigour as a whole. While sections of national capitalism retain a progressive role, in their opinion, it is only imperialism and the comprador capitalism tagged to it which is reactionary. This way, Maoists attempt to segregate the feudal reaction on the one hand and comprador capitalism on the other, from the ‘national capitalism’ as targets of their ‘peoples war’, and thereby create illusions for progressive role of capitalism. They de-compose world capitalism, to get fragments of ‘national’ and ‘comprador’ capitalism and ‘feudalism’ separated from each other, in their laboratory of ‘new democracy’. By not targeting capitalism as a whole, and by sparing its ‘national’ sections, the Maoists not only betray the class whose red banner they hold, but themselves land into a dilemma.

‘Capitalism today, Socialism tomorrow’, is their battle cry, where ‘tomorrow’ is never to present itself to the proletariat!

This very limited political program of Maoists, especially in the age of grown-up Imperialism, instantly becomes a premise of apparently self-contradictory ideas, leading to nowhere, but into a trap of capitalism. Politically disoriented cadres, turned away from a political program against capitalism, are then left in a lurch, cheerleading for ‘armed’ actions of militants, kidnappings and beheadings etc. etc.

So far as advocacy of Maoists for National capitalism, against Imperialism, is concerned, the same is through and through reactionary. Imperialism has not appeared from vacuum, it has grown out of their cherished ‘national capitalism’. Maoists conveniently forget that National capitalism is nothing but pre-monopoly stage of world capitalism, which has gone far back in history, paving the way for Imperialism, the monopoly capitalism, which has since subjugated all forms of economy, national as well as foreign. National capitalism has been substituted by Imperialism in advanced countries, while in peripheral countries it has adapted to Imperialism. National capitalism is thus not progressive from any angle, in comparison to monopoly capitalism-the Imperialism, as our Maoists think, but it is vice-versa. Lenin in his debate against P.Kievsky has been categorically clear on this point:

…..But this Kievsky argument is wrong. Imperialism is as much our “mortal” enemy as is capitalism. That is so. No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism; we will not support an uprising of the reactionary classes against imperialism and capitalism. (A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism; Chapter 5. “Monism And Dualism”).

Working and toiling people suffer under capitalism, not only from its non-development, like in Lalgarh, but from its development too, e.g. Singur and Nandigram. The sufferings of people are thus caused by the dynamics of capitalist regime itself, and not by its growth or undergrowth. Maoists refuse to see this and harp upon the non-issues, in a petty bourgeois populist way. They beat about the bush, leaning upon this or that side of capitalism, and prevent the toiling people from realising that their liberation consists in destruction of capitalism and not in limited reformist program of support or opposition to its advance.

The whole viewpoint of Maoists, revolves around the pivot of intermediary classes and their ideas, chiefly the rural peasantry, while bypassing the industrial working class, the only class standing in opposition to capitalism. The mass following, Maoists claim to have got behind them, is the fallout of their debased policy, where they not only choose backward rural regions as their operating ground, but here also appeal directly to politically most backward sections, e.g. tribals, living in pre-capitalist conditions. These politically backward sections are the best audience for de-classed ideas, at least till the time the most advanced sections of the working class do not organise themselves under a revolutionary proletarian leadership, to lead in turn this backward mass against capitalism and on the road to a proletarian overturn. The absence of political consolidation of the working class in India, however, provides and would continue to provide, a very convenient breeding ground for all sorts of petty bourgeois ideas and organisations, including that of the Maoists.


  1. Trotskyism is the theory of “permanent” (uninterrupted) revolution. But what is permanent revolution in its Trotskyist interpretation? It is revolution that fails to take the poor peasantry into account as a revolutionary force. Trotsky’s “permanent” revolution is, as Lenin said, “skipping” the peasant movement, “playing at the seizure of power.” Why is it dangerous? Because such a revolution, if an attempt had been made to bring it about, would inevitably have ended in failure, for it would have divorced from the Russian proletariat its ally, the poor peasantry. This explains the struggle that Leninism has been waging against Trotskyism ever since 1905.

    How does Trotsky appraise Leninism from the standpoint of this struggle? He regards it as a theory that possesses “anti-revolutionary features.” What is this indignant opinion about Leninism based on? On the fact that, at the proper time, Leninism advocated and upheld the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.

    But Trotsky does not confine himself to this indignant opinion. He goes further and asserts: “The entire edifice of Leninism at the present time is built on lies and falsification and bears within itself the poisonous elements of its own decay” (see Trotsky’s letter to Chkheidze, 1913). As you see, we have before us two opposite lines.

  2. Its worth emphasising that Lenin placed Trotsky on the CC in 1917 and he was the leader of the Red Army during the civil war. Lenin in his April theses effectively ditched his earlier position (or at least its programatic consequences), hence the reconciliation with Trotsky. Its very hard to reconcile this with the kind of schematic and misleading presentation of Trotsky’s theory of permenant revolution outlined above. Its not as if Trotsky’s theory envisaged skipping anything. The October Revolution happened and between Febuary and October no fundemental change in productive forces occured. However its also true that much water has passed under the bridge since then and dogmatic presentations of either Trotsky’s earlier theory or the responses of the Soviet Bureacracy have little to teach us in the present situation in my view. On the other hand sticking to what were self-evidently falsehoods retrospectively constructed by the CPSU under Stalin make clarifying contemporary arguments even harder. I think it would be much better if all these arguments were related to the mainstream of arguments going on about the complications of the present situation rather then exchanging slogans of little interest to any but the participants.

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