West Bengal: From Statist Leftism to Reactionary Anti-Capitalism

Pothik Ghosh

Can the decimation of an institutionalised and bureaucratised working-class force like the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal be a legitimate revolutionary task of the proletariat? The answer to that must, doubtless, be a resounding yes! But does that make the Trinamool Congress juggernaut that demolished the 34-year-old decadent LF regime in the state the bearer of a progressive, working-class impulse? Strange as it may sound, the reply to that has to be an equally emphatic no! This paradox stems from the fact that the politics which helped Mamata Banerjee slay the “Stalinist” demon of Bengal has simultaneously enabled her alliance with the Congress to seek the perpetuation of its ideological project of discrediting the revolutionary working-class horizon that goes under the name of Communism. The open propaganda by the spinmeisters of Mamata Banerjee’s extended “family of democracy” on sundry ‘public’ fora, where they held up her decisive electoral triumph in West Bengal as an example of the ‘indisputable demise’ of the Communist political project and its Marxist ‘ideology’, bears that out.

But then there are those among Mamata’s sizeable ‘leftist’ vote bank who say with irritated impatience, ‘What’s in a name?’ Communism by any other name, they virtually claim, would smell as revolutionary. Fortunately, or otherwise, when names such as Communism and Marxism are in the play a lot is at stake for the working class. Those two names, and particularly Marxism as a theoretical heritage of the experiences of the revolutionary working class, together constitute an indispensable conceptual procedure for the working class to critique and challenge everything that smells of domination, including its own ‘revolutionary’ theologies and ideologies. That the Mamata Banerjee-led anti-LF alliance rejects not only those two names of Communism and Marxism but their substance as well has been more than borne out by its severance of the immediate issue of democratisation – without doubt real and crucial as it constitutes the determinate ground of concrete situation – from the strategic question of socialism that the question of democracy always potentially mediates and posits. What is, however, even more pernicious is that some of her propagandists from the ‘Left’ camp have been busy sanctifying this political project of democratisation-sans-socialism as a form of “New Leftism”.

It is such politics of democratisation minus socialism that Alain Badiou critically designates as “anti-capitalism” when he says in Philosophy in the Present: “Today there is an entire strand of political literature which carries out a radical critique of the economic order, but which contains a no less radical support for a certain political form. This is absolutely common. Today, innumerable people are fierce anti-capitalists: capitalism is frightful, it is an economic horror, and so on. But the same people are great defenders of democracy, of democracy in the precise sense that it exists in our societies.” (Emphasis added.) Badiou’s point, given his unswerving fidelity to the revolutionary event and the socialist politics such an event constitutes, is neither to reject such struggles against the economic horrors of capitalism nor reject democracy. His point, really, is to save democracy from its bourgeois liberal-representative form, which always and inevitably instrumentalises democracy to reinforce capitalism as a hierarchically competitive logic of social power. In such a scenario, such politics of democratisation merely serves to change a coercive regime of accumulation into another more competitively democratic regime of accumulation, even as the systemic crisis that such a coercive regime signifies is transferred to some other socio-historical locality by reconstituting that regime there. As a consequence, politics of democratisation minus socialist strategy becomes an alibi for maintaining and perpetuating capitalism as a total social system. This is exactly what the politics that drove the Trinamool-led social and political alliance to push out the decadent LF government has accomplished. Clearly, the Trinamool-helmed coalition and the CPI(M)’s Left Front are alternatives that form, to follow Badiou and Slavoj Zizek’s use of a Deleuzian term, a “disjunctive synthesis”. That is, they are “false alternatives” of one another not in spite of but because of their mutual hostility. They constitute, what Mao Zedong would have called, a “non-antagonistic contradiction”: apparently conflicted but essentially united. That is precisely why the mass upsurge behind the anti-CPI(M) politics of the Trinamool must be characterised as rightwing populism.

The current pro-Trinamool, anti-CPI(M) politics – or its movemental constituents to be absolutely accurate – have posed current socio-political forms of representative, and thus competitive, democracy against capital, which in such a scheme is always inevitably construed as an external invading force or form. What such politics is subjectively incapable of grasping is that capital is not merely this or that form or institution of domination. It is the total architectonic of social relations and power based on the twin principles of competition and exchange. A logic that is as much internal to the social and political forms of resistance as the dominant forms of capital that are being thus resisted. Therefore, representative democracy, which is basically democracy of competition, and undemocratic domination are constitutive of one another precisely in their mutual contradiction. Such a contradiction is, therefore, productive of capital and its extended reproduction.

Our criticism of the politics that has propelled the Trinamool Congress-led anti-LF alliance to power is, however, not a sign of ideological resentment. The revolutionary politics of the working class, which such criticism seeks to represent, cannot afford such destructive impulses. The two are, in fact, mutually exclusive. Critical theory in the Marxist tradition is meant to be both a symptom of the lack of proletarian political practice and a call for its actualisation. We would, therefore, wish that our criticism of the Trinamool’s anti-LF politics is received both as a registration of the failure of the revolutionary working-class forces to seize the initiative to lead the necessary struggle against the etatised CPI(M)-led Left Front regime – thereby ceding ground to the Trinamool-led reaction – and an urgent exhortation to reorient their praxis on the basis of a new, coherent and effective programme for socialist transformation.

The theoretical scope of our criticism of the politics that has driven the Trinamool’s ascendancy, and the concomitant ideology of that party, must be expanded to turn that criticism into a comprehensive scientific socialist critique of anti-capitalism. Anti-capitalism is nothing more than the impulse of competitive struggle in its particularised moments against dominant and/or dominating forms of (big) capital specific to the particularity of each of those moments of struggle. It must be recognised that struggles against dominant and dominating forms of capital are, by themselves, no more than competitive manoeuvres. They are directed as resistance against dominant capitalist forms and entities by subordinate locations so that the latter can maintain their concrete historical positions against the advancing encroachment of those big-capitalist forms and entities on certain materially mediating conditions that give the positions their historically concrete specificity. At best, they are battles waged from those subordinate locations to wrench more such materially-embedded conditions from the dominant and dominating capitalist forms and entities to enhance their position in the systemically mobile hierarchy called capitalism.

The politics of anti-capitalist democratisation tends to resolve, if at all, immediate demands of a section (or identity) of the working class, while leaving capitalism as the condition of possibility of those demands intact. As a matter of fact, such anti-capitalist politics of particularised resistance against forms of big capital and their constitutive monopolistic tendency towards complete socio-economic domination reinforces the logic of capitalist class power by allowing capital to resolve those demands by dividing the working class through its recomposition in order to create a differentiation within the working class so that the immediate social and/or economic demands of one of its sections can be fulfilled at the cost of other sections or segments subordinate to it. This process enables capital to reproduce itself through its continuous expansion. It also, therefore, ensures that the isolated struggles by different sections or segments of the working class are not able to transform themselves into one common, essentially united revolutionary movement for socialism because the propensity of capital to ensure the fulfillment of the immediate demands of each of those identities or segments of the working class in their respective sectional specificity, and at the cost of one another, leads to their petty embourgeoisement turning them against each other in a battle of mutually destructive competition.

Each of those anti-capitalisms is, in its isolated momentary particularity, articulated by the totalising competitive social logic of capitalism. Therefore, taken in their discrete momentary particularities, they constitute no more than social and political positions of antithesis. And those anti-capitalist social and political positions, precisely because of their antithetical orientation, become productive of capitalist social totality that is constitutively contradictory. To that extent, those competitive struggles are no more, or less, than petty-bourgeois struggles against the marauding, monopolistic manoeuvres of big capital. To say that such struggles, because of their competitive impulse and orientation, are articulated by and within the hegemonic logic of capital would not amount to an overstatement. No self-respecting Marxist can endorse such struggles as expressions of proletarian politics. And yet no communist formation can afford to ignore those struggles of (petty-bourgeois) anti-capitalism. For, those struggles constitute the various determinate grounds of critique of political economy and thus transformative proletarian politics. Anti-capitalism is, therefore, the tactically necessary mediating condition for articulating the socialist strategy in its practical actuality. It is by itself, however, not socialism. In fact, to see or pose such anti-capitalism as a revolutionary virtue in itself is bound to empty it of all its revolutionary socialist potential.

Such anti-capitalisms become relevant to the revolutionary practice of working-class politics only when their anti-capitalist assertions in the determinateness of their specific social and historical moments become simultaneously their own self-critiques to overcome the limitations of their respective historicities in order to actualise the tendency of counter-representational performativity that is constitutively immanent in each one of them. Such actualisation of the tendency of counter-representational performativity immanent in every antithetical subject-position occurs through its reconstitution in and as new historicities in the process of each such antithetical position tending to overcome itself. This process in its entirety is constitutively integral to the revolutionary working-class praxis.

The Mamata Wave: Political Economy and Class Orientation

But the wave that has swept Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress to power by sweeping the CPI(M)-led Left Front out is clearly not the first wave of that revolutionary tsunami of the working class. It is certainly composed of different sections (social identities) of West Bengal society, each with its own set of genuine anxieties, disaffections and discontent vis-à-vis the CPI(M) and its 34-year-long moribund Left Front regime. Those different social and economic groups or identities include – to name some of the principal ones – the embattled peasants of Nandigram and Singur, the predominantly tribal population of Jangalmahal brutalised by structural violence, the disenfranchised Koch-Rajbongshis of the Dooars, the marginalised Gorkhas of Darjeeling and the large masses of workers rendered unemployed by the sharp decline in the fortunes of the old industries in the state due to the extractive and super-exploitative designs of the owning classes. But those narratives of disaffection – which have ostensibly united these varied groups against the CPI(M)-led Left Front in their common grouse of an unconscionable democratic deficit – are not only disparate in their respective particularities, which is fairly obvious, but are mutually competitive too. One very obvious example of such mutual competition that may sooner or later erupt into a full-blown conflict is how the demand for Gorkhaland, which stakes claims on parts of the Dooars, clashes with the movement for a separate Rajbongshi state, thanks to their contending claims for parts of the same territory.

In contrast to such politics, a revolutionary programme of anti-CPI(M) politics would have been one that supported each of those struggles – insofar as they were directed at the LF regime as an ideological apparatus of the Indian state and thus capital in its global entirety – and through such support consolidated the assertion of proletarian elements against the petty-bourgeois revisionist ones within each of those identity struggles. That would have transformed those essentially competitive struggles into a comprehensive movement against the competitive social logic of capital by effecting a constellated unity among the proletarian tendencies at each of those diverse and disparate social locations.

The Trinamool’s politics of democratisation, given that it is not driven by any such revolutionary proletarian subjectivity or programme, has brought these groups and identities together on a purely additive basis. And this aggregative politics, precisely because it has no subjective-programmatic basis in revolutionary working-class politics, can be maintained, now that it is in power, through a governmental management of sectionalised interests of those mutually contradictory and conflicting groups or identities. Such politics, it must be reiterated, is social-corporatist populism.

The alliance of diverse social groups on which the Trinamool’s politics has based itself doubtless posed an effective challenge to the growing domination and advance of the big bourgeoisie and its politico-economic and socio-political institutional forms. But such an alliance is by no means counter-hegemonic. In fact, the ideological orientation of such an entente, precisely because of its logic of unity of disparate social forces on the basis of their particularised competitive struggles against the advance and manoeuvres of the big bourgeoisie in order to have their respective sets of immediate demands fulfilled, only serves to reinforce the hegemony of capital.

A revolutionary working-class movement can, under no circumstances, afford to see or envision governance as a purely techno-administrative question. For such a movement, governance is fundamentally a political question of how social power is structured. But that is certainly not the politics of Trinamool, which lacks the subjective capacity to articulate governance in those terms. And that should be clear from the way the Trinamool, not to forget its two key allies, the Congress and the Socialist Unity Centre of India, has posed its anti-CPI(M) politics. Such politics, to describe it briefly, has been exclusively about the resolution of immediate problems, undoubtedly real, instead of focusing on how to destroy the essential political-economic condition that has made those problems possible in the first place. In a modern social order constituted by the law of contradiction such a subjective envisioning of politics – which does not seek to do away with a logic of social power that is intrinsically and constitutively competitive – is condemned to yield management of diverse intra- and inter-class contradictions by way of governance. Therefore, the ascension to power of a social alliance driven by such politics would lead to just that. As a result, the crisis, whose unmanageability has so clearly been symptomatised by the collapse of the 34-year-long regime of the etatised Left Front, will continue to perpetuate itself through its continuous and ever-intensifying displacement from one social locality to another. And this is bound to register itself as coercive domination – primitive accumulation in political-economic parlance – of large sections of the working masses and petty bourgeoisie facing progressive immiseration by a coalition of upwardly mobile, prosperous petty-bourgeoisie and big capital. That this will not exercise the dominant public perception too much and will figure even less in the preponderant public discourse because of the celebratory ambience in which the public will now understandably bask for having witnessed the exit of an undemocratic, Stalinised Left force, is quite another matter.

Such class-collaborationist social corporatism, with its basis in coercive sectionalist domination of the working class, would arguably become visible, first and foremost, in the attempts and policy decisions of the new Trinamool-led West Bengal government to make good on its principal electoral promise of striking a “healthy balance between agriculture and industry”. A politics that is incapable of grasping the conflict between agriculture and industry as one of contradictions within and in between capital and labour – an inevitable outcome of the political-economic structuring of social reality and its integral logic of transfer and/or extraction of surplus value – can do no more than try to manage those class contradictions by way of striking that so-called healthy balance.

This political management of sectional interests will amount to no less than social domination of the rural (agrarian and non-agrarian) proletariat by a coalition of industrial and agrarian capitalists to extract surplus value. Such a coalition of capitals, given the constitutively competitive structure of capitalism, is not only bound to be inherently hierarchised but is also one in which the subordinate constituent of agrarian capitalists constantly seeks through competition and bargaining to better its position within that hierarchical coalition. This, in other words, means that the more powerful sections of agrarian capital tend towards industrial capital by seeking a more intimate partnership with the latter to further reinforce and consolidate industrial capitalism in hitherto rural-agrarian localities of capital, even as such a manoeuvre pushes the less powerful sections of agrarian capitalists increasingly towards pauperisation.

A brief political-economic analysis of the agriculture-versus-industry predicament that the ousted LF regime found itself in reveals how any attempt that relies on anything other than the weapon of transformative working-class politics to balance agriculture and industrial development will inevitably yield progressive pauperisation of the less powerful sections of agrarian capital, and an overall intensification in social domination of labour by capital. This analysis will, we hope, also indicate how the impulse for such immiserising capitalist industrial development is, contrary to prevailing common sense, not external to the socio-occupational locality of agrarian capitalism but is completely internal to it.

Operation Barga – which was meant to ensure tenurial security for sharecroppers immediately after the CPI(M)-led LF came to power in 1977 – eventually became the Achilles’ heel of the now-ousted regime. While it did push up agricultural productivity, the delayed advent of green revolution in the state in the ’80s undermined its gains. The economic unviability of petty sharecroppers, caused by expansion of capital-intensive agriculture that requires economies of scale to be viable, has been forcing them for a while now to give up their land for pittance to middle and large sharecroppers. In this process, those middle and large sharecroppers have been emerging as the new kulaks or rich peasants. The eviction rate of petty sharecroppers, by all accounts including the state government’s, is currently 15 per cent. In tribal- and Rajbongshi-dominated districts of south and north Bengal respectively, it is as high as 25-32 per cent.

This decisive shift of rural West Bengal towards capitalist socio-economic restoration, due to the inability and unwillingness of the LF to push its programme of land reform in a revolutionary proletarian direction, has been politically registered in the undermining and manipulation of another initial achievement of the CPI(M)-led “People’s Democratic Revolution”: the vigorous implementation of the panchayati raj model of decentralised governance. Increasing political might of the middle and large sharecroppers, commensurate with their increasing socio-economic power as the emergent class of rich peasantry, became evident in their ever-tightening control over local institutions of self-government. That has enabled this primarily upper- and middle-caste rich peasantry, which is the principal social force that drive the leadership of all the party constituents of the LF, to marshal the organisational machinery of their respective parties to stymie the empowerment of the proletarianised petty sharecroppers – mostly from tribal communities, lower castes and Muslims – by severely restricting their access to vital social wages such as education and public healthcare.

And it is from among this new class of rich peasants that the impulse for industrial development of their agrarian localities first emerged. Such an impulse was, however, not a caprice of the kulaks. It never is. Given the inherently hierarchical structure of capitalism, the terms of trade between agriculture and industry are always unequal. West Bengal cannot be an exception. Those terms of trade are weighted in favour of industrial capital and against agrarian capital. It is this that keeps the value of labour-power (in terms of the price of food that the working class must buy to reproduce itself) depressed in the localities of industrial capitalism. That is precisely the reason why archaic, coercive and non-competitive forms of pre-capitalist social domination continue to exist as ideologies in agrarian capitalist localities, where they are deployed by agrarian capital to keep its cost of production low so that it can subsidise the terms of trade that would otherwise weigh heavily against it. But agrarian capital cannot keep the pressures of the consequent class struggle at bay for long. Such pressures eventually make the continuance of agrarian capitalism in its original backward and archaic form unsustainable. Not surprisingly, agrarian capital, or at any rate its dominant sections, are impelled to seek a change in the organic composition of capital in order to maintain and reproduce their class power. This change is evident in the conversion of rural assets of agrarian capitalists into urban ones through a process of gradual diversification.

In West Bengal, the class struggle of the rural working masses against agrarian capital has taken the form of large-scale migratory flight of the former from the countryside to urban areas both within and outside the state. And the diversification through which the agrarian capitalists have sought to beat this crisis has been their gradual movement away from agriculture and towards other more urban forms of capitalism, primarily the real-estate business. It is not for nothing that the CPI(M) has today become the party of real-estate agents it is often accused of being. The sudden surge in policy and legislative decisions by the ousted LF, in its last five or six years in power, to get industry into the rural areas of the state has been nothing else but a reflection of the will of its predominantly rich-peasant leadership to diversify the rural economy. As a result, the anti-land acquisition struggles that such policy decisions have unleashed are, predominantly, competition between the dominant and the less powerful sections of agrarian capital over the best price of land. This ongoing struggle, contrary to appearances and misplaced ideological propaganda, is not merely one between homogeneous rural-agrarian communities and big capital coming from somewhere outside. Rather, it is a struggle in which the dominant sections of the LF-backed agrarian bourgeoisie – which has far more at stake in swift industrialisation of their agrarian localities – is completely one with the interests of big, corporate capital against the less powerful (petty-bourgeois) sections of agrarian capital. The struggles against land acquisition in West Bengal have, of course, another dimension: the struggle of both rural and migrant wage labourers for land as social wage to supplement their precarious employment and inadequate wages. But the demand for better and higher compensation, which has dominated the rhetoric of such struggles, proves those struggles are intra-capitalist and are completely at odds with the interests of the working class. Also, the politico-ideological project constitutive of those struggles is neo-liberal.

The land-acquisition model, posed by the Trinamool and enthusiastically backed by its so-called leftist supporters, proves that beyond doubt. This model, as opposed to the LF model of government-driven land acquisition that doubtless favoured its constituency of the dominant sections of the rich peasantry, calls for direct land deals between corporate capital and the peasantry. This peasantry, which the Trinamool model is meant to empower and benefit, consist of those less powerful sections of the agrarian bourgeoisie whose competitive, petty-bourgeois interests the LF’s land acquisition policy evidently hurt. Needless to say the Trinamool’s model of land acquisition does not address the working-class dimension of the land question and, in fact, completely undermines it. In this it is no different from the LF model. Even a sketchy class analysis of the anti-land acquisition movements in Singur and Nandigram, which purportedly triumphed under the leadership of the Trinamool Congress, reveals that. Those movements prefigured the emergent right-populist, social-corporatist model of politics and governance that a Trinamool-dominated West Bengal is about to experience.

The Trinamool’s assertion of striking a “healthy balance between agriculture and industry” will, therefore, mean more of the same. The only change will be a change of guard: sections of the less powerful agrarian bourgeoisie, on whose behalf Trinamool took up the cudgels, will now become the dominant force of the agrarian bourgeoisie vis-à-vis the LF-backed kulaks, who will come to occupy the weaker petty-bourgeois position. The working class will, on the other hand, continue to face increased social domination by capital. Worse, its demands and disaffections will be drafted by the recently-ousted agrarian bourgeoisie into its political project of strengthening its own competitive bargaining power with regard to both industrial capital and the newly dominant sections of agrarian capital.

A Plea for Leninist Vanguardism

A detour through the conceptual abstractions of theory and some exegetical polemics is probably in order here. The methodological gloss to our analysis of the concrete situation in West Bengal that such an exercise is meant to provide will, we believe, serve to anchor that analysis more firmly in concepts of Marxist critical theory and also indicate a rough programmatic direction for revolutionary working-class politics in this country.

We wish to begin by defending Lenin’s concept of vanguardism against the preponderant common sense of the anti-party ‘Left’. Lenin’s Vanguard, as opposed to the one posed by his epigones, is not an unmediated, transhistorical categorical imperative of communism. It is meant to be the form of continuously mutating historicities. A form co-constitutive of the will to constantly seek the communist logic in and through the mediateness of constantly proliferating, ever-renewing historicities. Historicities that are revolutionary only in the evental evanescence of their emergence in their critical performative constitutivity. We would do well to read more attentively Lenin’s explication, in What is to Be Done, of the Vanguard as “a compact group” marching “along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by hand” amid “constant enemy fire” “without retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation”. The “neighbouring marsh” (and its “inhabitants”) that Lenin polemically refers to is, arguably, the constantly failing historical localities of revolution – that is, historicities estranged from and evacuated of the critical revolutionary performativity. As for the Vanguard – the “compact group marching along a precipitous and difficult path” – it is embodiment of the will to constantly seek the communist logic in and through the mediateness of constantly proliferating historicities of contradictions. Clearly, the communist party is the form of constantly mutating historicities that arises from the internality of such historicities through their mutation-causing self-reflexivity.

The Leninist Vanguard is, therefore, not a transcendental Kantian tribune of reason that it has been made out to be by various so-called communist parties (which are really sects encapsulating working-class experience in the partiality of their respective socio-historical specificities) through the overgeneralised theorisation of their respective spontaneous practices, precisely the thing that Lenin criticised as economism in the process of conceptualising the Vanguard and/or the Communist Party that is meant to overcome such overgeneralisation of the local. The Leninist Vanguard is, in fact, the bearer and/or embodiment of Marx’s concept of experimental science, not in its positivistic-inductionist sense but as heuristics. Russian Marxist Boris Kagarlitsky, in a lecture last year at Delhi, provided a rather apposite metaphor for the Vanguard. He said the Vanguard is not an organisational collective of people who direct the course of revolutionary struggle from the top or from a distance. They constitute, he argued and we paraphrase, the first flank of militants to open up and enter a new battleground and are thus people who suffer the worst casualties. It should also be added here that the Vanguard is not one that possesses the knowledge of revolution but is one that is possessed of the knowledge that the revolution has to be constantly searched for amid the contingencies of history and in its strange and unknown wastelands. That is precisely the reason why we cannot think of the vanguardist Communist Party, which is the embodiment of the collective proletarian will of the working class, as anything other than a constantly formational social force and its perpetually open political organisation.

Hence the Leninist Vanguard, contrary to the preponderant commonsensical understanding of it among many of its proponents and almost all its detractors, is not meant to rule. That, at any rate, is not its primary function. In fact, the moment the Vanguard begins envisaging its task merely in terms of consolidation to become an institutional form of regime, it undermines its vanguardism, ceases being a vanguard and degenerates from being the movement-form it is meant to be to become a state-form. That is not to say that this degeneration can be in some way side-stepped by the revolutionary movement of the working class. The history of revolutions has revealed, over and over again, that such institutionalisation of a revolutionary movement is inevitable. It is, thanks to the dialectical and political-economic nature of reality and history, an inescapable tendency constitutive of the revolutionary process. But precisely by that same dialectical token the counter-tendency of overcoming such institutionalised, bureaucratisation also gets posited. And the social force that seeks to actualise this counter-tendency – which is always immanent in our constitutively contradictory reality – becomes in that moment of its actualisation the subjective embodiment of the vanguardist tendency.

The political-economic structuring of reality in capitalism ensures that power is always socially and economically mediated. And given that revolutionary politics of the working class is immanent critique of capital, it cannot escape that taint. This, in other words, means that the abstraction of one moment of the working-class movement – wherein such abstraction is nothing but the embodiment of counter-generalisation of the logic of capital – produces its own new set of contradictions. Such new contradictions, needless to say, are internal to the process of abstraction and the social ontology it yields. And the antithetical subject-positions, which are created by such abstraction and the social domination it embodies, have to be leveraged by communist-proletarian forces to not merely destroy the abstracted moment of their own working-class movement but through such destruction seek to negate the logic of capital that such an abstraction and institutionalised reification of one of its moments has come to embody. In fact, that is the necessary condition for communists to remain communists. But, of course, this communist logic has to be posed in its new social and economic mediateness, which constitute its specific historicity. That the communist task is to leverage the new antithetical subject-positions – generated as a consequence of the inevitable abstraction of prior moments of its revolutionary process – in order to continuously reconstitute the revolutionary process by continuously actualising the proletarian logic immanent in new antithetical social subject-positions that are generated with continuous inevitability due to abstractions of moments of the revolutionary process means that this communist-vanguardist task cannot be any other way.

Clearly, for the working class the only defence of revolution can be more revolution. The isolated defence of one moment of the unfolding revolutionary process is not only not revolutionary but is, in fact, restorative. That, after all, is the implication of the criticism that is justifiably directed at Stalin’s USSR: there could not have been socialism in one country.

A social subject is, arguably, being vanguardist when it embodies this tendency of defending a moment of the revolutionary process by seeking to make more revolution – which would obviously have to include a critical opposition to the isolated and thus institutionalised defence of congealed moments of the revolutionary process so that the proletarian-revolutionary logic can unfold by breaking free of those momentary prisons of its reification. And a constellation of various such vanguardist social subjects, together with the collective dynamic political form of the social forces that is integral to the constitution of such a constellation, is the Communist Party as a constantly formational and perpetually open vanguardist organisation.

Clearly, vanguardism and democracy are not mutually exclusive. Democracy, the lifeblood of revolutionary socialist politics, is integral to the concept of the Vanguard. The working class, in Marx’s sense of the “collective worker”, has to envisage democracy as something that arises through a process of struggle not only with capital in its purity but with the various petty-bourgeois tendencies that arise from within the working class in the course of its struggle, conducted in its specificity by its various sections, against capital. Constellated or essential unity among different sections of the working class or its proletarian social subject-positions implies this unity, unlike the additive identitarian unity of the rainbow multiculturalists, is constituted precisely through conflicts among the different social ontologies of those different working-class sections at the level of their appearances and the discursivities that those appearances, in asserting and affirming themselves as appearances, pose ideologically. Communists, in the business of posing the horizon of socialist politics as the horizon of “the real movement” (Marx and Engels in The German Ideology) cannot resort to this other horizon of the state-form in which democracy, in the established sense of competitive multiparty democracy, becomes a matter of regulation, adjudication and, thus, representation by an institutionalised categorical imperative al la Kant. For, such multiparty democracy can exist only through the intervention of some ‘benign’ regulator, which precisely because of its transhistorical externality would be anything but benign as it would suggest the continuance of representative, adjudicatory politics. The political-economic essence of such politics is determination of concrete labour by abstract labour (that is, subjugation of labour by capital) and the law of value. The revolutionary socialist project is, on the other hand, all about the destruction of the law of value.

To talk, in this Leninist spirit, of historicities estranged from or evacuated of their critical revolutionary performativity must, in the context of Trinamool’s anti-CPI(M) politics, amount to grasping the problem of democratisation minus the actualisation of the socialist immanence of democratic aspirations. In other words, such struggles for democracy minus socialism seek to merely resolve the immediate questions of democratisation while not following up with continuous struggle that moves with the displacement of the mediate possibility of socialism to other new socio-historical localities. Such politics of liberal democratisation often includes sectionalist manoeuvres of various segments of the working class to protect their competitive interests, thereby consolidating the petty-bourgeois tendency within those sections. That is so because their sectionalised demands for democratisation can be delivered upon only through recomposition of the working class in order to transfer value to that section either from some other already-existing subordinate locality (space-time) of the working class, or by production of such new subordinate localities, which in case of the section concerned would spell its division through internal differentiation. And such liberal politics of democratisation becomes, in our late capitalist epoch, a handmaiden of its neo-liberal architectonic by allowing social capital as a systemic totality to save itself by continuously transferring its crisis somewhere else and, in the same movement, reproduce itself through its expansion.

Capital is able to accomplish this because working masses involved in such sectionalist struggles do not seek to subjectively make their immediate specific questions of democratisation into a ground that would render the systemic crisis of capitalism non-transferable, thereby tending to decimate capitalism as a condition of possibility of their immediate disaffection. As a consequence of their unwillingness, or inability, to do that, such sectionalist struggles also, therefore, find themselves incapable of going beyond the specificity of their respective social and historical situations to continuously move against constant capitalist counter-generalisation – displacement of capital’s systemic crisis from one historicity to another – in order to wage capital-unravelling struggles in new spatio-temporal junctures of capital-labour contradiction. Capital, to reiterate an earlier point, is systemically programmed to keep producing such new space-times of contradiction by way of displacing its crisis in order to survive and reproduce itself. Clearly, capital envisages its crisis as a barrier to be broken or overcome while labour must re-envisage that same crisis as the limit to capital leading to its collapse. This is a perpetual dialectic of subjectively posing objectively posited tendencies. And which way the conjuncture is moving – the capital’s way or the labour’s way – is determined by who has the subjective upper hand in this dialectical struggle. This is exactly what Lenin, in the passage cited above from What Is To Be Done, informs us by way of telling his working-class constituency on how to gain the subjective upper hand in this perpetual and essential dialectic of history and social reality. That is precisely what the CPI(M)-led Left Front failed to accomplish in West Bengal. But that is precisely also not what the essence of the so-called democratising politics that unseated the LF government in West Bengal is.

West Bengal Politics: Abuses and Uses of Gramsci

Considering that the Mamata Banerjee-led wave that decimated the LF’s 34-year-old government in West Bengal is a combination of disparate social forces one could be tempted to resort to Gramsci’s much-abused ideas of hegemony and counter-hegemony as an alliance among various historical (and social) blocs. Indeed, some of the bankrupt ‘non-party’ Leftists, directly or indirectly supporting Mamata, have done exactly that and ended up sanctifying her essentially petty-bourgeois, right-populist politico-ideological project. Worse, they have, in the same movement, turned Gramsci against Leninism, which they believe is the bane of communist politics. But the truth is that Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is not something fundamentally opposed to the idea of Lenin’s Vanguard. It is merely its reclamation in the situation of his Italian difference. Gramsci implied precisely that when, in a different historical national setting, he conceptualised the dialectical relationship between “war of position” and “war of movement”. If we truly grasp this creative theorisation by Gramsci we shall realise that a war of position, which cannot simultaneously and dialectically transform itself into a war of movement, cannot qualify as revolutionary. It becomes, instead, a revisionist symptom of distortion of the revolutionary tendency constitutive of its emergence. In that context, we would do well to bear in mind that the Italian was, as Perry Anderson has repeatedly said, first and foremost “a Leninist militant of the Third International”.

Gramsci’s conception of hegemony through an alliance among historical blocs is, contrary to the revisionist view of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, not a conceptualisation of an aggregation of different socio-historical localities through consensual contract and negotiation. It is, instead, a unity of the proletarian logic across multiple historicities. To that extent, the unity among historical blocs is not aggregative but constellational and conjunctural. It is a unity of the proletarian or communist logic across multiple historicities. Such unity is, therefore, constitutive only in and through the movement of history produced by continuous, uninterrupted struggle between capital and labour in all its multiplying social and historical specifications. Clearly, such conjunctural or constellational unity among historical blocs can be accomplished only in and through simultaneous struggles against their common political adversary and among each other. Any effort to maintain or consolidate this coalition outside of such a peculiar struggle would immediately render it revisionist and an apparatus of capital.

Unfortunately, the erroneous Laclauian appropriation of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony as one of aggregative unity of diverse socio-economic identities has often been deployed by many phrase-mongering Leftists in West Bengal and elsewhere in the country to affirm the aggregative social alliance, which has driven Trinamool’s politics to victory, as “Leftist”. Such theoretically pernicious assertions, needless to say, have helped those ‘New Left’ phrase-mongers create an alibi for their bankrupt politics of tailing Mamata’s reaction in the name of fighting, what is without doubt, an etatised, degenerate working-class force. A force that through such bureaucratised etatisation has been transformed from being a militant representative of one moment in the history of working-class revolutionary struggle into an ideological state apparatus.

There are, of course, those really smart ones among the phrase-mongers – the likes of Aditya Nigam of Kafila fame – who try to be in consonance with the delicate aesthetic sensibility of their fellow-travellers of the anti-CPI(M) bhadralok left by declaring that while the LF regime needed to be unseated Mamata’s ascendancy is “disastrous”. That such disdain for Mamata’s politics is no more than an aesthetic problem of the bhadralok ‘leftist’ academics and intellectuals becomes evident in the programme of the ‘alternative Left’ that Nigam put forth in an article uploaded on Kafila a few days before the results of the West Bengal assembly elections were declared. Nigam’s programme is in no sense different from the reactionary petty-bourgeois politics that has driven the Trinamool Congress to power, save of course the label of alternative Left that he has attached to it with such careful unction. What makes Nigam’s attempt even more pathetic is the manner in which he, like an all-knowing Marxist Baba who has been there and done that, deliberately misappropriates Gramsci to serve his anti-communist politics that is not even properly insidious. He cites an entry from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks on how classes become detached from their traditional parties. This is what he quotes: “At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organizational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent and lead them, are no longer recognized by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression” – Antonio Gramsci, Prison Noteboooks, International Publishers, New York, 1971, p. 210. Emphasis added).” He then adds his spin: “And though Gramsci here was talking of the crisis of hegemony in the context of the traditional bourgeois parties, his discussion makes it clear that he was thinking of much more than that. There is no permanent relation of any party with the class or classes it claims to represent. Simply because a party that has ruled for thirty four years still has a signboard of a Communist Party does not mean it represents the working class or peasantry in perpetuity. It is patently clear from all evidences coming from West Bengal that the party there represents the interests of a combination of the real estate and builder mafia, corporate capitalists and a self-perpetuating party machinery.” What does this mean? What Nigam cites from Gramsci, together with the spin he gives to that quote, suggests that while a traditional party, in this particular case the CPI(M), has degenerated into a political form of domination by various sections of the bourgeoisie, the classes which detach themselves from such parties become, merely by virtue of such detachment, repositories of a progressive impulse.

Nigam’s indictment of the CPI(M) as a repository of reaction and the bureaucratised degeneration of a section of the working class, an ideological state apparatus, is a no-brainer. What is full of pathos, actually bathos, is his attempt to suggest and insinuate that the social classes that have revolted against it have been rendered progressive merely by that revolt of theirs. He either does not know, or mischievously pretends not to – probably it is a bit of both – that for Gramsci a crisis of representation was not automatically a crisis of hegemony. For the Italian Communist, a crisis of representation, which is what detachment “of social classes…from their traditional parties” signifies, is merely the necessary condition of creating that crisis of hegemony. And the emergence of that crisis of hegemony in Gramsci’s scheme, unlike what Nigam would have us believe, is directly contingent on subjective interventions to create a proletarian counter-hegemony by leveraging that objective crisis of representation. Such subjective interventions, together with the counter-hegemony it produces, constitutes the communist subjectivity and its collective politico-organisational form called the communist party. That this was Gramsci’s endeavour becomes evident when we read Nigam’s excerpt from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks together with Gramsci’s critique of Nikolai Bukharin’s Theory of Historical Materialism: A Manual of Marxist Sociology contained in the same text in a chapter titled ‘Problems of Marxism, under the section ‘Critical Notes On An Attempt At Popular Sociology’. Here is the excerpt that is most germane to our discussion:

“The first mistake of the Popular Manual is that it starts, at least implicitly, from the assumption that the elaboration of an original philosophy of the popular masses is to be opposed to the great systems of traditional philosophy and the religion of the leaders of the clergy – i.e. the conception of the world of the intellectuals and of high culture. In reality these systems are unknown to the multitude and have no direct influence on its way of thinking and acting. This does not mean of course that they are altogether without influence but it is influence of a different kind. These systems influence the popular masses as an external political force, an element of cohesive force exercised by the ruling classes and therefore an element of subordination to an external hegemony. This limits the original thought of the popular masses in a negative direction, without having the positive effect of a vital ferment of interior transformation of what the masses think in an embryonic and chaotic form about the world and life.”

What Gramsci adds to this argument by way of elaborating it is, however, even more relevant:

“The above remarks about the way in which the Popular Manual criticises systematic philosophies instead of starting from a critique of common sense, should be understood as a methodological point and within certain limits. Certainly they do not mean that the critique of the systematic philosophies of the intellectuals is to be neglected. When an individual from the masses succeeds in criticising and going beyond common sense, he by this very fact accepts a new philosophy. Hence the necessity, in an exposition of the philosophy of praxis, of a polemic with the traditional philosophies. Indeed, because by its very nature it tends towards being a mass philosophy, the philosophy of praxis can only be conceived in a polemical form and in the form of a perpetual struggle. None the less the starting point must always be that common sense which is the spontaneous philosophy of the multitude and which has to be made ideologically coherent.”

The way Gramsci articulates his critique of Bukharin proves beyond doubt that for him, like for any other rigorously committed Marxist, a crisis of representation cannot as such be crisis of hegemony. Rather, crisis of hegemony is potentially implicit in crisis of representation. That potential can, however, only be actualised through a counter-hegemonic subjective intervention. And the subjectivity that constitutes such an intervention is the Communist subjectivity and the collective organisational form through which that subjectivity realises itself is the Communist Party. Gramsci, through his critique of Bukharin, is clearly making a case for revolutionary working-class forces to focus their politics primarily on critiquing antithetical (subordinate) positions of the “popular masses” rather than the nomo-thetic ones occupied by the ruling classes. That is because he as a Marxist believes, not at all incorrectly, that antitheses are articulated – not in spite but because of its opposition to the dominant nomo-thetic forms and institutions of the dominating social forces – by the capitalist logic of competition and contradiction and thus hegemonised by that logic. A logic that is the condition of possibility of their subordination that compels them to occupy their positions of antithetical opposition in the first place.

Such argument is not a Gramscian blow for political quietism. What Gramsci is saying, as his critique of Bukharin’s Manual so clearly reveals, is that the recognition of an antithetical position is the first necessary condition of struggle against capitalism, but such antithetical opposition can unravel capital as a social system in its entirety only when that opposition transforms itself through simultaneous self-criticism, which obviously always has to be socio-economically mediated, from being the momentary antithesis it is to perpetual opposition against capitalism as a totality of ever-expanding reproduction of its hierarchically competitive logic of social relations.

The entries in the Prison Notebooks are, however, no idle theoretical speculation Gramsci had indulged in. They are basically the outcome of an attempt to continue his active Communist political project by theorising it in the register of conceptual abstraction when imprisonment for life in Mussolini’s Fascist goal put an end to his activity as a militant and an organiser. This becomes evident the moment we connect the entries from his Prison Notebooks with the theorisations of his Pre-Prison Writings. Gramsci’s Pre-Prison Writings are clearly integral to his task as a political organiser. For instance, if we look at the following excerpt from his pre-prison writings on the United Front tactics of the Communists we would immediately know how for Gramsci counter-hegemony and the concomitant crisis of bourgeois hegemony not only went hand in hand but were integral to the subjective manoeuvres of PCd’I militants like him to build the party.

In a paper Gramsci presented to the executive of the party at its meeting of August 2-3, 1926 he chooses to highlight the first of the “three basic factors” in the contemporary Italian political situation: “The positive, revolutionary factor, i.e. the progress achieved by the united front tactic. The current situation in the organization of Committees of Proletarian Unity and the tasks of the communist factions in these committees”. His emphasis on Committees of Proletarian Unity and the necessary presence of communist factions in these committees was in opposition to the line of Tasca and others close to the trade unions that insisted on concentrating on protecting established labour organisations and working through them. This reveals that while Gramsci was not willing to reify the social democratic gains of a section of the working class into revolutionary proletarian politics, he was not content with forging merely a political unity of all anti-capitalist social forces either. His stress on building Committees of Proletarian Unity through the presence of “communist factions” in them proves that for him essential unity among various working-class locations was possible only through polarisation of petty-bourgeois and proletarian tendencies on every determinate terrain of anti-capitalist struggle. The communist factions within those committees, which in themselves were really anti-capitalist or antithetical blocs, were meant to precisely embody and drive that polarisation from the proletarian side in the determinateness of their respective localities. Gramsci is quite accurate in showing how the United Front tactics of the PCd’I produced such antagonistic class polarisations:

“In practical terms, the question can be framed like this: in all parties, especially in democratic and social-democratic parties in which the organizational structure is very loose, there are three layers. The numerically very restricted upper layer, that is usually made up of parliamentary deputies and intellectuals, often closely linked to the ruling class. The bottom layer, made up of workers and peasants and members of the urban petite bourgeoisie, which provides the mass of Party members or the mass of those influenced by the Party. And an intermediate layer, which in the present situation is even more important than it is in normal circumstances, in that it often represents the only active and politically ‘live’ layer of these parties. It is this intermediate layer that maintains the link between the leading group at the top and the mass of members and sympathizers. It is on the solidity of this middle layer that the Party leaders are counting for a future renewal of the various parties and a reconstruction of these parties on a broad basis.

“Now, it is precisely on a significant section of these middle layers of the various popular parties that the influence of the movement in favour of a united front is making itself felt. It is within this middle layer that we are seeing this capillary phenomenon of disintegration of the old ideologies and political programmes and the first stirrings of a new political formation on the terrain of the united front…. These are the kind of elements over which our Party exercises an ever increasing influence and whose political spokesmen are a sure index of movements at a grass roots level that are often more radical than may appear from these individual shifts.” (Emphasis added)

This clearly indicates that for Gramsci – unlike Nigam or those other bankrupt Leftists who celebrate the ascendancy of the anti-LF rainbow coalition under Mamata’s leadership – proletarian counter-hegemony is all about generating a counter-representative politics that is contingent on the posing of socialism as an affirmative logical horizon of continuous movement of juridical destabilisation and subversion of institutions. This horizon is radically antagonistic to the bourgeois horizon of juridical stability, wherein motion does often get envisaged by the most radical inhabitants of that horizon but only in terms of the tendency to continuously replace one juridically stable regime with another juridically stabilised regime. In terms of political economy and its critique, the system of bourgeois democratic representation and juridical stability is a horizon constituted by the operation of the law of value and the tendency of abstract labour to determine concrete labours thus robbing them of their concreteness, while the horizon of continuous movement through constant juridical destabilisation embodies the tendency to destroy the operation of the law of value by constantly reclaiming creativity of concrete labours against the abstracted necessity imposed on them by the determinations of capital.

The Communist Horizon: For a Return to Marx’s Capital

It follows, therefore, that the communist horizon is one of continuous formation, constitutive of the logical tendency of the synthetic-singular. It is, by that same token, radically antagonistic to the anarchist and/or radical republican horizon, which is also on the face of it a horizon of process but where processuality is constitutive of the logical tendency of duality, non-antagonistic contradiction, and thus representation and abstract labour. In short, the latter political horizon is the horizon of capital as a logic of social relations and power. Therefore, the horizon of continuous, though punctuated, formation – which is radically antagonistic to and perpetually irreconcilable with the horizon of duality and non-antagonistic contradiction – must be grasped and envisaged in its dialectical logic. That, in the inescapable determinateness of concrete historicities, will be actualised as a continuous process of formation-deformation-formation ad infinitum.

Clearly, envisioning the anti-dialectic of perpetual opposition of the synthetic-singular horizon of continuous, though punctuated, formation against the capitalist horizon of duality and non-antagonistic contradictions is the key to the actualisation of the communist subjectivity and its organisational form. But the actualisation of this anti-dialectic is, paradoxically, contingent on the grasping of the dialectical logic immanent in the contradictory social reality of capitalism. Only when this anti-dialectic of perpetual opposition of the two systemic horizons – something that Marx conceptualised as “revolution in permanence” in The Class Struggles in France – is produced through dialectics will continuous democratisation (the diesel of working-class politics) cease being the civil-societal form of cooptative ‘democratisation’ it is today to become “uninterrupted revolution” in the sense that Mao formulated it.

The radicalness of the agenda of so-called continuous democratisation posed by (civil) social movements – of which even our communist outfits, including some of the most radical tendencies among them are also a part – is no more than the radicalness of their popular-republican agenda. To put it plainly, the agenda of so-called continuous democratisation posed by disparate, and often seemingly mutually opposed, politico-ideological forms of radical republicanism, which would include anarchist tendencies as well, can today be nothing more than the distorted, ideological articulation of genuine democratic aspirations by the material reality of late capitalism (neo-liberalism) as its ‘ethic’ of perpetually expanding the capitalist structure of competitive social relations.

The short point in all this is that any attempt to rebuild the Left, the revolutionary transformative politics of the working class to be accurate, must today necessarily be driven by a politico-theoretical programme to reconceptualise the communist subjectivity and its organisational embodiment: the communist party. And to do that one must grasp the working class, its revolutionary subjectivity as class-for-itself and its concomitant organisational form (the communist party) in continuous and, at the same time punctuated, formation in the hurly-burly of the empirically given field of politics (Lenin’s “concrete situation”). A field where all sorts of ideological tendencies are in play and where a real communist intervention will have to mean an encounter with all the tendencies, including even the non- and anti-communist ones, if only to critically slice through the ideological integuments of those socio-political subjectivities to grasp their inverted immanence and, in the same, movement, rescue that immanence from the prison of its ideologically cathected meaning. By the same token, the various fetishes of communist politics, wherein the party-as-movement-form has lapsed into party-as-state-form, will also have to be encountered with an equal measure of critical good faith. One must, however, take ample care to distinguish between the two different historico-logical trajectories of restoration of capitalist class power: one in which the revolutionary working-class potential of an empirically given struggle comes to be articulated, right from the very beginning, by one or more of the hegemonic ideologies; and the other, in which a movement that begins by consciously advancing towards revolutionary working-class politics degenerates into the capitalist logic of competitive politics due to it being forced, by a combination of the changing objective situation and the concomitant lack of subjective class capacity, to fight a “war of position” without being able to simultaneously and dialectically transform that into a “war of movement”.

The crux of the matter is that only through a critically engaged process of grasping the inverted immanence of a contradictory social reality can the immanent communist axiom be possibly actualised into a communist subjectivity. It is precisely such a manoeuvre that would be constitutive of the communist party as a form that is the true measure of itself only in the intermediacy of its dialectically unstable existence as a transit-form in between its generic (and thus philosophical) status and its politically actualised and thus historically specific state. And in order to conceptualise this form of the (communist) party – which, so to speak, constantly wills itself into existence only to constantly will its own disappearance – one must return to the Marx of Capital to rigorously follow his conceptualisation of the interrelationship between value/value-form and use-value/and its form, as also his explication of the inversion and transformation of the Hegelian dialectic in terms of the mutually entwined interrelationship of abstract and concrete labours. The exposition of his conceptual transfiguration of the Hegelian dialectic with which Marx concludes his ‘Afterword To The Second German Edition’ of Capital, Volume I, serves to indicate the drift of our argument and thus might prove useful here:

“In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence, because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary.” (Emphases added)

Support to Mamata Banerjee’s 9th Aug Rally: A Capitulation to the Rightist Forces

Amitava Bhattacharya
General Secretary
Mazdoor Kranti Parishad

Following the Singur-Nandigram movement, the most important movement in West Bengal is that of Jangalmahal including Lalgarh, where an unprecedented mass upsurge rocked the entire nation. The terrible mass-agitation of the tribal population against the police repression unfolded the history of the prolonged deprivation of these people. Not only the state of West Bengal, but the whole of the country solidly stood by this movement.

The most important feature of this movement was that it surged forward on its own, defying any interference by the established parliamentary parties. This movement was born as a continuity of the people’s protest against the SEZ project of the Jindals at Shalbani, a project nurtured by the support of CPI (M), Congress and Trinamool Congress. When the Left Front government led by CPI (M) came to power for the seventh consecutive term, it became all the more rabid to make West Bengal a hunting ground for the native and foreign big capital. It started the forcible land acquisition. To achieve this aim, notorious gangs of hoodlums were formed by CPI(M) everywhere. All this started happening during the rule of UPA-1 and the Congress shamelessly abetted these activities.

The other party of the ruling class, the Trinamool Congress fully utilized Singur-Nandigram movement for the purpose of its political upheaval. This party was absolutely in favour of the ‘SEZ Act, 2005’ while it was a partner of BJP led NDA alliance. During the rule of the UPA-2 also this party played the most ‘suitable’ role as the partner of the congress government. This party never opposed the nefarious “Operation Greenhunt”, nor did it play a proper role against unprecedented price rise that has been making the life of the common people unbearable. Opposing the forcible land acquisition in Singur for TATAs, Mamata Banerjee took the centre stage anew in 2006. She fully made use of this movement to promote her parliamentary gains only to betray it later on. She used the spontaneous movement of Nandigram in the same manner. With the help of the Congress, Ms Banerjee and her party TMC once again tasted the ministerial power during the rule of UPA-2.Now the aim is to capture power in West Bengal in 2011, when the State Assembly election will be due.

Against the unscrupulous scramble for power of the parliamentary political parties safeguarding the interest of the big capital, both Indian and foreign, the struggle of the Jangalmahal has instilled new life into the revolutionary movement. The revolutionary prospects of the left once again became an object of serious discussion. The CPI(Maoist),the main political force behind the movement on the other hand, took initiative to convert this mass upheaval into armed war against The State, which is, in fact, their declared political position. In course of time various guerrilla actions, small or big, became the principal form of this movement. By sending the joint forces on 18th june,2009, both Central and State government tried to suppress this people’s movement. The armed hoodlums of CPI(M) also joined hands in this campaign of torture and mayhem on the oppressed people.

The largest partner of UPA 2 government Trinamool Congress demanded that the entire area be declared a “disturbed area” and the Indian Army be deployed, in the pretext of the presence of the CPI(M) hoodlums. And now while taking the full protection of the Joint Forces to organize her meeting, she very hypocritically demands their withdrawal.

This movement has incurred heavy losses by the pincer attack of The Joint Forces and the CPI(M)’s own armed gangs. The CPI(Maoist) has been regularly carrying annihilation of persons suspected to be police spies. Under the circumstances, Ms Mamata Banerjee on 21st July has given the call “Lalgarh chalo”. At the outset it was decided that meeting of Lalgarh would be held in the name of TMC alone. Later on she declared that the meeting would be held in the name of “Santrasbirodhi Manch” (Anti Terror Platform).She invited The Congress Party to this congregation. She invited the intellectuals also who desire a “change” of power. A section of them declared their wish to join the meeting. To add to the significance of this meeting, the PCPA, opposing it at the outset, later on decided to join it. This organization subsequently went whole hog to make this meeting a success. To cap it all ,The top-ranking Maoist leader Kishenji gave statement to make “Didi’s rally” a success.

It is known to us that at times a movement has to temporarily retreat. But for a movement which is declared to be a decisive battle against the state, a movement which is considered a high level movement for the transformation of the society by its leaders, is it not a dangerous “tactics” for it? We do not think it proper for the highest leadership of The Maoist Party to support a section of the ruling parties of the state, against which the war has been already declared.

We think the role that the sham leftist CPI(M) has been playing as the representative of the ruling and exploiting classes is leading the countless toiling people to the loss of faith in the red flag. They are being compelled to have recourse to the rightist force. Such a juncture in our contemporary history is really very agonizing. At such a critical hour, to plunge into the lap of the rightist forces for a momentary gain is not only a mistake, but extremely harmful so far as the building of a revolutionary alternative is concerned. Taking historical lessons from the mass movements of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh , let us resurrect the revolutionary tradition of the left movement and forge ahead towards greater people’s movement.

On arrest of Dr. Nisha Biswas and other civil rights activists in Lalgarh

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are shocked by the arrest on 14th June of Dr Nisha Biswas, Scientist – Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute Kolkata, Manik Mandal, writer, Kanishka Choudhary, school teacher, and ten other persons by the W Bengal police from Lalgarh area, where they had gone at the request of the local people to investigate human rights violations by police and paramilitary. At the time of their arrest they were charged with violation of Sec 144 (anticipated major public nuisance or damage to public tranquility), a bailable offence. However, when produced in court on 16th June they were charged with several other false cases, such as waging war against the state, criminal conspiracy, and unlawful assembly, and remanded to 14 days jail custody. At a hearing on 25th June, a police application requesting her transfer to police custody- on the spurious charges based on a photograph in her camera- was rejected by the court and her bail hearing is due on 6th July.

We believe that this is not an isolated incident, but part of the repression and reign of terror let loose by the central and state governments over the past few years in the tribal parts of central India to crush dissent, and the accompanying attempts to delegitimize and criminalize all dissent and opposition to its policies.

On one hand, the state has launched an armed offensive in the forested tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal, in the name of countering the `Maoist menace’, to actually destroy the numerous resistance movements against forced acquisition of their land for mining and big industry, against displacement from their land and homes and loss of their livelihoods. This has been accompanied by the increasing use of extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests of villagers and leaders, and extra-legal measures that curb ordinary freedom of expression. Lalgarh area of W Bengal has been a site of intense police repression for more than a year now and under Section 144 for as much period. Civil society persons have not been allowed to visit the area and attempts to do so have been met with detentions and arrest. In Chhattisgarh there has been use of the draconian CSPSA to stifle opposition and of non-state actors like Salwa Judum that terrorises and kills villagers, destroys their homes, perpetrates sexual violence against women, and forces them into camps, or to desert their home and hearths and flee to neighbouring states.

On the other, the state has been suppressing in several ways efforts of civil liberties/democratic rights activists to expose the lawlessness and brutalities being committed in these areas by the security forces and to inquire into issues of violation of people’s rights in the process of `development’ of these areas. These tribal areas have been rendered out of bounds for people from outside the area, in violation of all Constitutional provisions regarding freedom of movement and of expression. Any person or group of persons visiting these areas, or talking about or writing about the situation there, or raising questions about the deployment of paramilitary forces in such large numbers is harassed, intimidated, or arrested and labeled as `Maoists’ or `Maoist sympathizers’, thus criminalizing all such democratic rights activities. Starting with Dr. Binayak Sen in Chhattisgarh, a large number of civil liberties activists across the country have been illegally arrested and implicated under false charges of `waging war against the state’ and accused as `Maoists’. Just over the past three months 14 people – trade unionists, forest rights activists and ordinary people – from Gujarat have been arrested under an omnibus FIR.

The recent arrest of Nisha Biswas and others, and the shrill tirade against writer Arundhati Roy, are part of this trend of targeting civil and political rights activists and urban intellectuals, and discrediting them for raising questions, for sincerely carrying out their democratic responsibility of drawing attention to violation of Constitutional and legal safeguards.

We are also deeply concerned by the extreme intolerance being displayed by the state and sections of urban society towards Arundhati Roy for her views on development, displacement, on the situation of the tribals, the violation of their Constitutional rights, and the military offensive of the state. Freedom of expression and vigorous discussion and debate are indispensable for a true democracy. Instead of carrying forward an informed debate on the issues raised by her, attempts are being made to stifle her voice by vicious abuse, public threats of arrest and much more. It is very disturbing that sections of the media too have been (ir)responsible and complicit in this matter, by false reporting of Ms Roy’s statements to suit their requirements. We also take this opportunity to condemn the statement reportedly made by a BJP leader of Chhattisgarh that Ms Roy ‘should be publicly shot down’. That such public incitements to kill a person are ignored by the state machinery exposes the extent of double standards and hypocrisy that characterize our political institutions and leaders. Such intolerance to Ms Roy’s writings and speeches not only makes a mockery of the claims of this country to being a `great democracy’ that grants immense freedom of expression to its citizens, it also poses a grave threat to the spirit of critical public discussion and debate warranted on crucial issues such as development and marginalization.

We are also extremely disturbed and anguished by the reports of rape and other forms of sexual violence by the security forces and Salwa Judum against innocent village women in Chhattisgarh as `punishment’ for alleged support to `maoists’. We ask of the political leadership – in this `war against the Maoists’, for that matter in any place whether it be in Kashmir or the north-east, why are women systematically targetted for sexual violence by the security forces? As already stated above, any attempts to bring this to light and extend assistance are also prevented by intimidation of the affected women. By not taking any action ever against the perpetrators the entire state machinery is accessory to these gruesome acts.

In this situation, we demand:
1. The immediate release of Dr. Nisha Biswas and others arrested along with her.
2. The witch-hunt against Ms Roy be ended.
3. Strict measures be taken against the security forces to put an end to the sexual violence being perpetrated by them against women.
4. We once again demand immediate withdrawal of the armed offensive against the tribal population. Instead, as expected of a democratic government, the government should move towards addressing politically the long-standing grievances of the tribal population, which have been explicitly pointed out and discussed by the government’s own report.

We strongly urge all other democratic minded women’s groups and organizations to join us in this urgent appeal to the Indian government and the respective state governments.

29 June 2010

Women Against Rape and Repression (WARR)

Women Against Rape and Repression (WARR) is a network of individuals and women’s and human rights organizations from across India. It is a non-funded effort initiated by women, and is concerned with atrocities and repression against women by state and non-state actors, especially in conflict zones.

Contact: women-against-sexual-violence@googlegroups.com

Endorsed by:

Organizations

1. AIPWA (Delhi)
2. Alternative Law Forum (Karnataka)
3. Anhad (Delhi)
4. Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch
5. Committee Against Violence On Women -India
6. Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (Maharashtra)
7. Healthwatch Forum (Uttar Pradesh)
8. Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (Madhya Pradesh)
9. Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch
10. Manasa (Karnataka)
11. MARAA (Karnataka)
12. Narmada Bachao Andolan
13. National Alliance of People’s Movements
14. PUCL-India
15. SAHELI
16. Samanatha Mahila Vedike, Karnataka
17. SANHATI
18. Stree Jagruti Samiti (Karnataka)
19. Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha,
20. Women in Governance (WinG) -India
21. Women against Militarisation and State Violence Programme (The Other Media, Delhi)

Individuals

1. Ajay Kishore Shaw
2. Anand Bala
3. Anand Patwardhan
4. Anu Fern
5. Asha K.
6. Bishakha Datta
7. D.P.Duvvuri
8. Daniel Mazgaonkar
9. Dipak Ray Choudhary
10. Dipankar Basu
11. Helam Haokip
12. Dr Indira Chakravarthi
13. Dr Imrana Qadeer
14. Irfan Engineer
15. Dr Janaki Nair
16. Dr Jesse Ross Knutson
17. Jyoti Punwani
18. Kamayani Bali-Mahabal
19. Khadijah Faruqui
20. Dr K.J. Mukherjee
21. Dr Leena Ganesh
22. Dr Manali Chakrabarti
23. Manasi Pingle
24. Milind Champanerkar
25. Dr Mira Sadgopal
26. Dr Nandini Manjrekar
27. Dr N. Raghuram
28. N. Vasudevan
29. N. Venugopal Rao
30. Nandini Chandra
31. Niekesanue Sorhie
32. Piya Chatterjee
33. Prasad Chacko, Gujarat
34. Prarthana
35. Priti Turakhia
36. Priyanka Srivastava
37. Rahul Banerjee
38. Rahul Varman
39. Rajashri Dasgupta
40. Rakesh Ranjan, Delhi University
41. Ranjana Padhi
42. Renu Khanna
43. Ruchi Shroff
44. Sandy Singh
45. S Srinivasan
46. Sanober Keshwaar
47. Shripad Dharmadhikari
48. Snehal Singhvi
49. Dr Uma Chakravarti
50. Uma V. Chandru
51. Vivek Sundara
52. Dr Y. Madhavi

PUDR condemns the murder of Lalmohan Tudu

Moshumi Basu and Asish Gupta,
Secretaries, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)

People’s Union for Democratic Rights strongly condemns the cold blooded murder of Lalmohan Tudu, leader of People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities by the Central Reserve Paramilitary Forces on February 23, 2010 at Kantapahari near Lalgarh. It has been reported that Lalmohan Tudu was killed in an ‘encounter’ along with his relatives Yuvraj and Suchitra. The IG CRPF, Nageshwar Rao condoned the killing claiming that they were Maoists killed in exchange of fire. But other accounts claim that as he was at his house to meet his younger daughter, CRPF personnel called him out along with his relatives and shot them dead in front of his wife, daughter and mother. His body was then dragged to the nearby fields.

It has been extensively reported that Lalmohan Tudu was amongst top leaders of PCAPA and at the forefront of the adivasi movement in Lalgarh. Killing of Tudu reflects a desperate attempt by the government to ‘sanitise’, suppress and eliminate all the dissenting voices. A patterned and esoteric account of ‘encounter’ narrated by the police and the security forces hardly gives any credence to such stories. We believe that killing of Tudu and his two relative are part of the policy to annihilate leading members of the PCPA as well as CPI (Maoists) and instantiates blatant violation of fundamental rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution as well as the procedures established by law. PUDR unequivocally condemns such cowardly acts and demands that a case under section 307 of the IPC be registered against the erring officers pending an independent inquiry to ascertain the facts and circumstances leading to death of Lalmohan Tudu and his relatives. PUDR has repeatedly pointed to Government of India’s propensity to conduct wars against its own people. Therefore, PUDR wishes to point out that if the Government is unwilling to engage in civilized forms of engagement, namely dialogue, then at least it should abide by civilized norms of warfare as enshrined in Geneva Convention and Protocol.

pudrdelhi@yahoo.com

Lalgarh – Lalmohan Tudu and two others murdered by CRPF

Sanhati Statement, February 24, 2010

We express our profound shock, grief and feeling of outrage at the cold-blooded murder by the CRPF of Lalmohan Tudu, the president of the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (Peoples’ Committee against Police Atrocities), at Narcha village near Kantapahari in Lalgarh, during the night of 22nd February. There is no language that can suitably condemn this heinous crime of the murder of a leader of a mass movement. Lalmohan Tudu’s murder is just the latest in the series of murders, rapes and arrests of adivasi activists and supporters of the PCPA by the state and central police forces that has been going on in the Lalgarh area for the past six months.

Lalmohan Tudu was staying away from his home ever since the combined state and central paramilitary forces invaded Lalgarh, just as most males in the villages throughout Lalgarh are, as he ran the risk of arrest by the combined forces. On 22nd February he had returned home to meet his younger daughter who was going to appear in the state boards examination scheduled to start on 23rd February. At around 11 pm, he and another couple, Yubaraj Murmu and Suchitra Murmu, who were staying with his family, were called out by the CRPF and shot dead in cold blood. His body was found a little distance behind his house. The bodies of the others have not been found yet.

The police and the CRPF have presented constantly changing versions of the event, attempting to prove that Lalmohan Tudu was a dreaded Maoist leader killed while he was perpetrating some crime! While they initially claimed that he was killed in an exchange of fire while trying to attack the fortress-like Kantapahari CRPF camp together with a group of Maoist cadres, they later changed the version and have said that he was killed when a Maoist squad, to which he belonged, was apprehended by a CRPF raiding party. These versions are downright lies. All evidence at the site where his dead body was found (shown on local television channels) and eye witness accounts tell that he was killed near his house and his body was dragged into the paddy fields nearby. This incident clearly shows that the government has taken up the policy of individually annihilating the leaders of a mass movement of adivasis.

Lalmohan Tudu was no military strategist or ideologue of the Maoists, nor did he have connections with any political party. He was a very popular and highly regarded person, who had been elected as the president of the PCPA in a mass meeting at Dalilpur Chowk when the Lalgarh movement against state atrocities started. Many people who have visited Lalgarh in the course of the last one year remember him as a quiet elderly person, with great organizational abilities and an eye for the care and comfort of the various people visiting Lalgarh to express solidarity with the adivasis.

With his murder, the government has clearly sent out a signal that it will crush all forms of dissent by annihilating mass leaders. On one hand, the home minister is offering to talk to the Maoists, on the other his paramilitary forces are liquidating leaders of mass resistance movements. This cynical, two-faced policy is sure to drown the entire country into a vicious cycle of violence.

We vehemently condemn the murder of Sri Lalmohan Tudu as a blatant act of state terror and appeal to all democratic-minded people to join us in condemning this heinous act and demanding the immediate withdrawal of the paramilitary forces from Lalgarh.

We also demand that the government should constitute a judicial probe into this killing and those who are found guilty of planning and executing the heinous act should be adequately punished. Moreover, we demand that the state law enforcement agencies should strictly adhere to legal methods of countering any transgressions of law and any official/unofficial counter-insurgency policy of “shoot to kill” should be immediately stopped.

“State violence against people’s movement in Orissa and West Bengal” (Dec 14, 2009)

Seminar on ‘State violence against people’s movement in Orissa and West Bengal’,
Speakers:
Parthasarathi Ray (from Sanhati) on Lalgarh
Bhalachandra Sarangi (Member of the fact-finding team to Narayanpatna and spokesperson for CPI-ML(New Democracy) in Orissa) on movements in Orissa including Narayanpatna

Date: 14th December (Monday)
Venue: Activity Centre (above the Arts Faculty Canteen, North Campus), Delhi University
Time: 10 am-1 pm

13th November Public Meeting

A public meeting was organised by Campaign Against War on People in The Faculty of Arts, North Campus, DU on the 13th November. In spite of BJP’s Delhi Bandh call, and DUSU’s call for a University Bandh, slight rain, and posters for the event having been mysteriously torn up, over a hundred and fifty people attended the meeting. Representatives from many organisations including PUDR, AISA, Disha, DSU, Jan Hastakshep, Correspondence, JNU Forum Against War on People and NSI addressed the gathering. The group also launched its signature campaign against the state’s offensive addressed to the Prime Minister, which will be circulated in the university during the next few weeks. The event also included musical performances. Videos of the event will be put up soon.

Tetley’s Tata Tea Starving Indian Tea Workers into Submission

Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose Tetley Group makes the world famous Tetley teas, has taken 6,500 people hostage through hunger. The hostages are nearly 1,000 tea plantation workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate in West Bengal, India. Permanently living on the edge of hunger, the workers and their dependants are being pushed to the edge of starvation through an extended lock out which has deprived them of wages for all but two days since the beginning of August. The goal of this collective punishment is to starve the workers into renouncing their elementary human rights, including the right to protest extreme abuse and exploitation.

The hostage-taking began with a first lockout on August 10, when workers protested the abusive treatment of a 22 year-old tea garden worker who was denied maternity leave and forced to continue work as a tea plucker despite being 8 months pregnant. On August 9, Mrs Arti Oraon collapsed in the field and was brought to the hospital, on a tractor normally used for garbage, after the medical officer refused to make an ambulance available (he had proposed she be brought by bicycle). She was initially refused treatment, and only after her co-workers protested did she receive minimal care. Her treatment was inadequate and she had to be taken, in the same garbage tractor, to the local government hospital one hour away.

As news of her treatment spread, some 500 mostly female estate workers gathered in protest at the medical facility, demanding sanctions against the medical officer. Local management promised to meet with the workers, but on August 11 the management, along with the medical officer, left the estate and declared a lockout.

On August 27 an agreement was signed with three trade unions, representing some workers on the estate but not a majority, on reopening the garden. In the agreement, all workers’ wages for the lockout period were withheld. The agreement included a clause that a “domestic inquiry” (an internal, company-controlled investigation) would be conducted. The agreement was written in English, a language few if any of the workers understand.

The garden was reopened the following day, although workers were not informed of the conditions of the reopening. On September 8, management issued letters of suspension and ordered a domestic inquiry against eight workers.

None of the eight workers received a letter of notification. None of the eight had committed any act of violence or were involved in any illegal practice. These eight workers have been targeted because they are active in the garden campaigning for workers’ rights.

At a September 10 meeting, management told the workers that suspension letters had been issued in accordance with the August 27 agreement and that opening the garden depended on compliance with that agreement. In other words: agree to the suspensions or you’ll be locked-out again. Workers requested six days to respond to this ultimatum.

The ultimatum was a powerful one: tea garden wages are just 62.50 Indian rupees per day – the equivalent of USD 1.35 daily. One kilogram of the cheapest, poorest quality rice in the local market costs 20% of a worker’s daily wage. Tea workers permanently live on the edge of hunger. The loss of wages for even a few weeks can tip them into starvation.

Although wielding the weapon of hunger – with workers’ lives in the balance and the deadline to respond not yet expired – management on September 14 again left the plantation and implemented a lockout. This was the day workers were meant to receive their annual festival bonus, amounting to roughly two months wages. No bonus payments were made. Prior to the lockout, since the beginning of August workers have only received a wage payment amounting to two days work.

Following the closure, workers have sought to communicate with the management, requesting it to reopen the garden. The company has insisted that the garden will not be reopened and wages paid unless all workers accept the September 10 ultimatum to effectively sign off their right to protest abuses.

Tata Tea is a powerful global company; it’s wholly owned Tetley Tea is one of the world’s biggest-selling tea brands. Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate is owned by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, a company 49.98% owned by Tata Tea. Tata and Amalgamated share the same office in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. According to the Tata Tea 2009 annual report, Tata Tea Managing Director Percy T. Siganporia earns in a single day roughly 1,000 times the daily wage of a Nowera Nuddy worker – assuming that worker is paid .

Tea from Amalgamated Plantations’ tea estates goes into the famous Tetley Tea bags.

Tetley Tea is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), whose standard commits member companies to, among other requirements, ensure that there is no “harsh or inhumane treatment” of plantation workers and that “Workers should be paid at least monthly and should receive their pay on time.” The actual conditions on the Nowera Nuddy estate, where workers are being subjected to brutal collective punishment, could not be more remote from this CSR wish list.

Workers at the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate have formed an Action Committee which has called for the immediate reopening of the garden, the withdrawal of the suspension letters and no recriminations against workers, back payment of wages and rations since 14 September, immediate payment of the annual festival bonus and a management apology to Mrs Arti Oraon.

You can support their struggle – CLICK HERE to tell Tata and Tetley Tea to stop starving workers now! You can also use the features provided on the Tetley Tea website to send the company a message, or use the freephone number provided to give them a call!

Courtesy: IUF-Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

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.

Debate concerning the Lalgarh movement

The ongoing Lalgarh movement in West Bengal has accomplished many things. It has taken people’s movement on to a higher stage where resistance against state repression in various forms is tied up with the struggle for the development of the adivasi languages and script, a new pro-people model of development and a determined fight not to hand over the natural resources of the region to foreign and domestic big capital for plunder and loot in the name of ‘industrialization’. This historic movement has also led to controversy as to its nature, the nature of the involvement of the Maoists in it, the relation between the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities and the Maoists and the problems faced by the civil rights bodies and various sections of the people in responding to the movement in the different stages of its development. Many articles have been published in the dailies from Kolkata, most of which are not available to people in other states. Since the debate is rich in content, we felt that the arguments and counter-arguments should be circulated among as many people as possible. This debate is good for the functioning of democracy, for dispelling wrong notions and helpful in forming/changing/modifying/strengthening one’s opinion. We have picked up three articles—all written in the form of open letters and responses. The first article is captioned ‘An Open Letter to the Maoists’ written by Sujato Bhadra, a well-known civil rights activist from West Bengal. The second and third articles are responses to that. One (the second) is captioned ‘Response from Jangal Mahal’ and written by Kishenji, the well-known and much talked-about Maoist leader now in Jangal Mahal; the other is captioned ‘Violence and Non-violence’ and written by Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata and human rights activist. These were published in the Bengali daily Dainik Statesman. The first came out on 26 September 2009, and the second and third came out in a single issue, that of 10 October 2009. The following is a free translation from the Bengali originals.

An Open Letter to the Maoists

Sujato Bhadra

The present writer is an Indian citizen, associated with the civil rights/human rights movement in West Bengal for some decades. You are probably aware of the fact that recently in this state your armed activities and the more violent and more cruel repression subsequently adopted by the state by making your activities as a pretext has given rise to a debate.

As you know, the civil society became vocal in its criticism of police repression and terror in the Jangal Mahal area including Lalgarh in last November (2008). The charter of demands placed by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities got the wholehearted support from the civil society and many organizations. The civil society was conscious about the happenings that took place since 18 June; it raised its voice time and again against repression perpetrated by the joint forces, stuck to the demand for the withdrawal of joint forces and placed demand to the government for sitting in a dialogue with all the parties. We have strongly opposed the ‘terrorist’ tag being affixed to your organization (by the state). The dissident part of the civil society was also much vocal demanding the repeal of the UAPA. In a nutshell, the position of the civil society against state repression and terror is zero tolerance. Many of us are in no way subscribers to the ‘Ticking bomb situation’ model.

The basis of our protest is our adherence to democratic values, consciousness emanating from humanitarianism and morality. Such elements, we feel, should also become part and parcel of politics guided by class outlook. It is these thoughts that have made me feel that some of your activities suffer from lack of logical thinking. Some events even severely hurt out consciousness and gave us pain.

Your party was confronted with such questions earlier also. You have replied to the open letter from the ‘Concerned citizens’ of Andhra Pradesh, I have also gone through your reply to the questions raised (centring round Chhattisgarh) by some eminent persons (Ramchandra Guha and others). At that time you worked as an underground party. Recently, after the promulgation of the ban on you and the draconian black law, the situation, no doubt, has become more difficult for you. Now there is no legal avenue for us to know your views and to respond to them from our side. We appreciate the fact that you have to carry on in the face of such a suffocating atmosphere and state terror. While sharing your anguish, I bear doubts about some of your activities. I am placing those things, keeping in mind the difficult situation you are in. My request to you is to give these (critical observations) some consideration.

In one of your leaflets on ‘Maoist violence’, the following is stated: “…violence has a class-orientation, it is never neutral…only armed struggle and people’s war would develop and spread people’s democratic struggles…our work in not violent, it is people’s violence to get rid of violence, which is part of people’s war” (dt.18-07-09).

I do not subscribe to this political view. I am not even opposing this standpoint from an alternative political outlook. I, on the contrary, would raise questions by keeping myself within your logical structure: one can talk about notion of violence and deal with it at the theoretical plane; problems crop up at the time implementation and the social impact that necessarily follows from it. It is related to the intense reaction that has been generated within the supporters of Lalgarh and other democratic movements.

Why only you, many philosophers throughout ages had clearly maintained that justice could be established through violence only(?). For example, Sartre has written: “Violence is acceptable because all great changes are based on violence” (The Aftermath of War p.35). He forgot to add that history itself had shown that a society created through violent means could not live for long. Whether anything good can be achieved through violence is also very much doubtful. The concept “End justifying the means” rejects the notion of justice and morality; and the result is that “the means outweigh the end”.

You have declared in quite unequivocal terms that the heroic people of the area (Jangal Mahal) under the leadership of the CPI(Maoist) conducted trial in people’s courts and meted out to those lumpens (hermads of the CPM) the punishment they deserved for being police informers (Press Release dt.16-08-09).

Our opposition is over the question of this capital punishment. Many people and civil rights bodies throughout the world including India mustered public opinion for the final abolition of capital punishment (legalized murder). As a result, the majority of the countries in the world (224 countries) have abolished death sentence. The reason is that as a form of punishment, this practice is barbarous and cruel. Over and above, it also does not act as a deterrent. Beheading does not allow the victim any chance to rectify oneself. Not only that, there could also be possibility of error in judgement. If it is found after carrying out the punishment that the condemned person was innocent, nobody can return his life. On the contrary, such violent punishment makes the society more inhuman and more violent. Long time back, Tom Paine remarked: “The people by nature are not violent, they only reproduce the cruel methods used by the state”. We strongly oppose this cruel method/means adopted by the state. Side by side, we also hold that if notions such as ‘eye for an eye’ or ‘life for a life’ take root in the minds of the oppressed people in this unequal and deprived society, then there is the outburst of violent mentality from the side of the people; this is happening now. You represent the advanced elements striving for social transformation. What should be your role as the vanguard? Will you submit to that violent emotion, or will you uphold advanced democratic values and guide the people under your influence along that path?

What is the organizational structure of the ‘people’s courts’? Is it that the accusers themselves are judges and they themselves are the butchers? It is important to remember that in the judicial system set up by the state, there are certain recognized stages, judicial procedure, regular and separate judicial structure, a higher court of appeal and the right to clemency in the hands of the president. Despite all these, we demand abolition of the system of legalized killing. How can we thus and from what democratic, human rights or the values of just trial accept such trials in ‘people’s courts’ and the meting out of punishment?

The armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-east think that all the people living there are ‘suspect’; they raise big hoardings to declare ‘Suspect all’. Are you not acting in the same way? In your judgement, each and every CPM supporter or individual is part of the hermad gang and engaged in spying for the police forces. Unless they surrender to the people, they would be given death sentence. Such a method could be the manifestation of your power; but it is devoid of sense of values. You have already meted out death sentence to many ‘informers’; nobody knows how many more will have to meet the same fate before the rest of the lumpens would surrender to the people. This is because everything depends on what you think about it. You have stated: “To set those lumpens free would mean handing over the struggling and revolutionary masses to the joint forces’ (Press Release dt.16-08-09). Let us state in the light of what the psychologist Christopher Bolas has said: “Every time the killer strikes, it is his own death that he avoids”. It means that such attacks come from a sense of fear and apprehension. The question is: if you have a social base in the area, then it is possible to socially isolate the informers. On the other hand, if your political opponents carry on ideological struggle, and they are physically liquidated by branding them as such, then it will appear that some type of acute ‘irrationality’ pervades throughout your activities. In reality, Lalgarh has become a valley of death, and from there the message of death is travelling round. Is there no way to combat espionage other than liquidating them? Could not the people adopt the method of exposing those informers under your leadership? Marx had to close down his Das Kapital write a whole book named Herr Vogt in order to expose espionage. And Mao was in favour of beheading only a few.

In that case, propaganda and exposure will, on the one hand, not exert any negative social reaction, and, on the other, the state will also not able to get any illegal but apparently social sanction to ‘liquidate’ you. If that is not done, then we will be faced with a terrible situation: unmoved, indifferent human mass. In a situation attended with violence, counter-violence, repression and counter-attack, it will not be possible to mobilize democratic people and raise the voice of protest. We belonging to the third force (those who are neither with the state nor with you ideologically) would find ourselves in a helpless situation. Had we been able, as an alternative, to unite and create a tide of democratic movement against the ruthless state repression in Lalgarh, then we would have found in our ranks that civil society which was imbued with democratic values and inspired by the teachings of Singur and Nandigram, and thus would have ensured the victory of the weak over the strong. In the initial period (November ’08 to June ’09), it was in fact achieved.

You have passed your judgement on some eminent persons and decided to mete out death sentence to them. As you stated, it was the demand of the people. There was an attempt on the life of the chief minister through the Salboni blast. It is true that the chief minister is accused of committing genocide. It is also true that after 14 March massacre in Nandigram, posters and placards were raised demanding ‘Hang the chief minister”. But all of us realized that such outbursts were the manifestation of immediate intense emotion. But if that is interpreted as the serious, logical demand of the people to kill him, then, I am forced to state, this is totally childish. To brand someone as ‘authoritarian’ and then to attempt to kill him, is equally ludicrous and manifestation of anarchist philosophy. Let us remember that Marxist philosophy was established in the world by negating anarchist philosophy. Whether there is any philosophical or theoretical recognition of such individual-centric attack from Marxism to Maoism is not known to me.

Mao Tse-tung’s favourite military strategist Karl von Clausewitz wrote that like politics, war also has a specific aim; but that war at the same time negates that politics; the contending parties get busy parading their forces. War and annihilation bring destruction, but that not only to the enemy, but also inflict severe damage to your own side. And there is also no end to this war.

Friends and foes act always by treating each as a ‘unholy force’. The question is; while getting rid of the unholy, we ourselves are getting influenced by that force. We should not forget that great note of caution: ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you” (Beyond Good and Evil). Counter-violence, counter-attack—these are the natural reactions of human beings. That does not require any special kind of philosophy. Philosophy, on the other hand, can control that reaction with logical thinking, can make human values and notions about morality indispensable elements in formulating policies. I feel that you suffer from serious limitations on this issue.

In the recent period, the police arrested two of your important members, but did not produce them in the court in time. Through your press release, you had quite rightly claimed that the police had violated law by not producing them in court within 24 hours and appealed to civil rights bodies for intervention. You have rightly thought about fake encounters. In the face of a public outcry, the police were forced to produce them in court. Before that, you have also made appeals to the intellectuals to come to Lalgarh to see with their own eyes the barbarity perpetrated by the joint forces in Lalgarh.

By doing so, you have admitted that if, even within this structure, the process of ‘rule of law’ is kept operative in the proper manner and if democratic voice is raised in its support, then it is possible to resist in some cases the illegal, anti-human rights activities and bad intentions of the state. Should it not be our task to strengthen all democratic forums of this type, so that it is possible to ensure the implementation of state-declared commitments to safeguard civil rights of the people? The more such space widens, the more will it be possible to prevent fake encounters, the killing of struggling people and to isolate and defeat the ‘Culture of impunity’.

If instead of doing so, we kidnap someone, oppress him and after that kill him and throw his body in the streets, then we ourselves become oppressors like the state. You will have to accept responsibility for the trauma that the children undergo when murders take place before their very eyes. Such a brutal method of murder can never be accepted by the sensitive people. How can thus we be able to enable people to dream of a society based on human values in place of the ugly face of the state? How can that dream be fulfilled by following the same condemnable, mean method?

You have claimed that Jangal Mahal has posed the questions to the whole people: “Would you support the repression by the joint forces in Lalgarh, or would you support the resistance and protest movement of the heroic people under the leadership of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities against the joint armed forces and the resistance forces including the hermads?’ (Statement dt.16-08-09). You have made appeals to all to stand by the side of the Lalgarh movement.

Many of us have consistently been supporting the movement against police atrocities and the demands of the Lalgarh people unconditionally. That is not the question. Many of us also do not consider your extension of support to that movement to be unjust.

The problem has started with the transformation in the character of the movement. It relates to your practice of violence. Needless to say, you have been using the typical Marxist ‘binary’ model of seeing it as a contradiction between the two—either one is on this side or on that side or on the side of the enemy; none among you is prepared to accept the fact that there could also be third, fourth or fifth position and stand by the movement. Scholars have written so many things on this ‘history of seeing’!

We are condemning the continuous state violence and the repression perpetrated by the main ruling party in this state. Along with it, we have also felt that that your declared presence has pushed into the background the focus of the direction of people’s upsurge and movement under the leadership of the People’s Committee. On the other hand, there are some negative elements inherent in the armed resistance under your leadership that stand in the way of getting mass support against state violence. Whether you realize it or not, we do not know. While standing in the 21st century—an era of human rights consciousness, in any resistance movement, particularly those with arms, certain universal unchallengeable notions, which we may call ‘minimal absolutist view’, should have to be recognized. Discarding those notions as ‘bourgeois’ at the time of formulation principles would only be suicidal.

Response from Jangal Mahal

Kishenji

The human rights movement in Bengal started in the early 1970s after the setback of the Naxalbari movement. The next few decades were one of vacuum in the revolutionary movement; it was in that context that human rights movement developed.

The human rights movement played a glorious role for four decades, standing by the side of oppressed masses. In those days, Sujatobabu stood in the forefront of that struggle. Civil rights movement in those decades took some shape. That model was the model of standing by the side of the oppressed masses.

However, as there was a resurgence of revolutionary movements in Andhra Pradesh and erstwhile Bihar in the 1980s, civil rights movement, by degrees, was beset with a crisis. That was the time when the masses rose to shake off the image of ‘oppressed masses’ and asserted their identity as the ‘resisting warrior masses’. Thus old model of civil rights movement could not fit in the new situation. The state started clamping down on human rights activists to keep the movement within specified limits. That gave rise to debate and contradiction within human rights movement. The glorious representative of human rights movement at that stage in Andhra Pradesh was Ramanathan R. Purushottam.

Human rights movement in Bengal still remained untouched by that crisis. This is because revolutionary movement in Bengal, as yet, had not regained its relevance in the political scenario.

Today the movement in Lalgarh-Jangal Mahal has raised a question before the human rights movement. Will the civil rights activists, who are accustomed to stand by the side of the ‘oppressed masses’, equally not be successful in standing by the side of the ‘resisting warrior masses’? The movement in Lalgarh-Jangal Mahal has brought to the fore two main questions:
1) Should the people’s movement, in the last analysis, be allowed to be exploited to make room for mainstream leaders/lady leaders? Or will the people be able to channelize it in a way that helps in the resurgence of the people themselves?
2) Should the people fighting against fascist rule be satisfied with saving their skin by holding the hands of leaders/lady leaders along the constitutional path? Or will the people protect themselves by destroying the fascist fortresses like that of Bastille?

Violence or non-violence? This had never been an ‘issue’ in Indian politics. What is called ‘democratic politics’—the practice of violence in that mainstream constitutional politics far surpasses the practice of violence in revolutionary politics. Thus in the language of law, this is a ‘non-issue’. It is to bury the two main issues raised by the Lalgarh movement that the state policy-makers’ circle has put forward this ‘non-issue’.

The right to self-defence is recognized even in bourgeois law. The right to kill the attacker for self-defence is recognized, though that right is used as pretexts to kill revolutionary masses and revolutionaries in the hands of the state. But when the oppressed masses turn into resisting warrior masses and come forward to exercise that right, the whole context changes.

What is meant by fascist rule? It is rule by a coterie of a handful of political leaders and bureaucrats. At the grassroots level, it takes the form of combined terror perpetrated by state forces and Gestapo forces of the party.

Let us keep in mind that fascism is a well-organized centralized system. Even if there is any loophole, then fascist system would penetrate through that loophole into the village and bring with it murder, rape and destruction of houses by fire. The right of self-defence of the masses demands that no shadow of the hermads exists in the villages, no loophole is allowed to be created through which they could penetrate any time. Today we are witness to the hair-raising serials associated with genocide, terror, rape and house-burning like Hitler’s Gestapo forces in the wake of the emergence of ‘salwa judum’ in Chhattisgarh, ‘Nagarik Suraksha Samiti’ in Jharkhand and ‘hermad forces’, ‘ghoskar bahini’, ‘Santras Protirodh Committee’ in the Jangal Mahal area of Bengal. These are part of everyday life–the operation by the joint forces, the setting up 80 to 90 bunkers, big hermad camps, with modern weapons like LMGs under police protection around Keshpur and Gorbeta to recapture Jangal Mahal. All these are known thanks to the media. On the other hand, the state is moving with moneybags from one village to another to create an informer and covert network, the police forces are creating a terror by beating up people indiscriminately, all the schools have been converted into police camps and thereby a war situation is being created. In such a war situation, can the yardsticks of just principles remain the same? Can the yardstick be the same for a normal situation and a situation when fascism rules? Civil war and fascism bring changes in human lives. The notions and yardsticks about just principles also undergo changes temporarily.

In order to tire out informers, the people are adopting a number of methods. On the other side, the state is also trying everything in its power to whet their greed. Thus the number of informers being killed is also mounting. Had there been some proper system in Jangal Mahal today, the number of informers getting killed would have been far less. In different parts of Dandakaranya, informers are being detained in people’s prisons.

As long as the joint forces did not enter the area, no need was felt to liquidate the spies in such a large number. After the intrusion of the joint forces, the situation has changed. Likewise, the notion of self-defence has also changed.

We are also opposed to death sentence. However, the notion of just principle in a normal situation is different from that in a war situation. In the war situation, freedom of thought, consciousness, initiative and innovation is much limited in scope.

Sujatobabu has observed: “Your pronounced and armed presence has pushed the focus of the speed and movement of people’s upsurge led by the People’s Committee to the background”.

Sujatobabu! The state has snatched away your right to openly enter Jangal Mahal area with only one objective. That is to indulge in disinformation campaign. Had it been otherwise, you would have been able to see that everyday thousands of people have been taking part in processions, mass gatherings, gheraos and demonstrations in every nook and corner of Jangal Mahal. Despite repression by joint forces, the system initiated by the People’s Committee is giving inspiration to the people. The creativity of the masses has increased even after the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato. You would have seen how irresistible people’s movement has become. The inherent strength of the people’s movement, people’s initiative, their intense consciousness have truly been instrumental in writing the epic of struggle. If you are willing, we are ready to arrange everything for your visit to Jangal Mahal and provide security. Come, see with your own eyes, put them in writing, change your outlook. And turn upside down the frontier of human rights movement.

When the decision to form central coordination to take steps for curbing the Maoist movement and to silence 100 top leaders is taken and when the retired DG of the BSF, Prakash Singh openly expresses his displeasure with such a move, it shows that the state has been waging war, and war has to be fought in some particular way. In order to counter the decision of the state to silence top 100 revolutionary leaders (Prakash Singh himself has explained what it means in police parlance to make one ‘silent’), the need to take military action against top leaders of the state arises.

Sujatobabu, has stated that no change achieved through violent means has ever been long-lasting. We are not giving his remark much importance. We do not feel that he himself seriously believes in it. Most of the epochal changes in history could not be accomplished without violence. It was through violence that the ruling dynasties of the medieval age came to an end. Let me conclude by citing one example—that of slave Dred Scott against American slavery, the defeat in which made the civil war inevitable. It is the lust for power and property that made violence inevitable in all ages.

Violence and Non-violence

Amit Bhattacharyya

In the letter of 26 September (2009), captioned “An Open Letter to the Maoists” written by Sujato Bhadra, human rights activist, the author has completely messed up the cause and effect of the Lalgarh movement. In Lalgarh or Jangal Mahal, state repression was not the outcome of the ‘armed activities’ of the Maoists; rather, it was state repression, deprivation and sense of humiliation and years of pain and exploitation that has forced the people to support the ‘jungle party’, to become Maoists and to adopt ‘armed activities’ as the means of resistance and the realization of demands. What is actually implied in the author’s statement is that since armed resistance or counter attack would invite more severe state repression, it is better not to get armed at all.

The author then referred to the application of violence and the meting out of death penalty through trial in people’s courts. Here he has harped on several issues.

What transpires from his statement—and that I also the view of many others—is that ‘democratic’ struggle should be peaceful, and, if takes a ‘violent’ turn or gets ‘armed’, then it would lose its ‘democratic’ character and become an undemocratic one. The question is: is it a fact that only peaceful movements are ‘democratic’? And if it is ‘armed’ and ‘violent’, then it becomes ‘undemocratic’? What do History and practical experience tell us? Generally every person (barring the ruling clique and their faithful servants) wants peace, wants to have food and clothing and live in dignity; nobody wants violence or bloodshed. It is the repressive state that forces them to take up arms.

One of the main features of the Lalgarh movement is armed resistance (with firearms and traditional weapons) in the face of violent attacks launched by the state. There the state is waging a war against the people and the people in their turn are keeping up resistance to the best of their ability. Some CPM cadres and hermads have been killed. The Maoists declared that all of them were police ‘informers’; that they were warned before, but did not listen, so they were given death sentence in people’s courts. Whether they were police ‘informers’ is not known to the present writer. However, what is quite clear is that during the last 32 years, the gap between the ruling CPM and the police administration has vanished into thin air. Two years back, when female members of the Nari Mukti Sangha had been sticking posters in the Bagha Jatin railway station, they were encircled by CITU/CPM cadres, taken to the party office and then handed over to the police. During the same period, the members of the women’s wing of the CPM and some cadres tried to hand over five members of the Matangini Mahila Samiti residing in Jadavpur, Kolkata to the police. These mean attempts prove that the CPM cadres were playing the role of police informers.

The author is against death sentence. I believe, why only he, many people are generally against death sentence. His question is: as 224 countries have abolished death sentence, why should the Maoists still keep it as a form punishment? Here the author has committed a major error. This question is reasonable to countries and established governments; but how can it be applicable to those who do neither have any country nor an established government? The present writer is in total agreement with Sujato on one point: there should be thorough investigation before making any move; the loss of lives on the part of and damage to innocent people is totally undesirable.

In the opinion of the author, ‘a society formed through violent means is short-lasting’. My question to him is: Where at all has fundamental social transformation taken place and that too became long-lasting? Granted that in countries like Russia and China, where society was changed through violent means, there was change in colour. However, was the application of violent means responsible for those societies being short-lasting? Or was it due to the inherent contradictions in the new societies? History teaches us that fundamental social transformation did never take place without war and armed uprisings.

The author has raised the question of the social impact of violence. Why should he speak here only of some urban intellectuals who are detached from the struggle? What about the impact on the people of Jangal Mahal, those adivasi students who have been daily subjected to state violence? Would he not also talk about the resistance struggle by the people, of those people of the area who, like the people of Nandigram, have been spending sleepless nights and standing up to the challenge of the hermads and the joint forces?

The problem with the human rights activists is that they never challenge the existence of the state; on the contrary, they accept its legitimacy and demand that it should ‘put into practice its declared commitment’. Influenced by post-modernist thinking, they see only the tree, but fail to see the forest; to them, the Lalgarh movement is just a conflict between state repression and counter-violence perpetrated by the ‘armed opposition group’. But the lalgarh movement is at the same time a struggle against the plunder of the country’s natural resources by foreign capital and domestic comprador capital, a struggle for attaining pro-people development (setting up of health centres, construction of roads, dams and water reservoirs, implementation of land-to-the-tiller programme etc through people’s initiative and voluntary labour).

On 16 September last (2009), the English daily from Kolkata The Statesman organized a discussion on a theme captioned ‘Surely the Maoist is not one of us’. There in his speech, Prof. G.Hargopal said: “When a landlord takes away a villager’s wife, keeps her in his house to sexually abuse her and orders the husband to go away when he pleads with him for returning his wife to him and his two children, what is he supposed to do? Mouth platitudes about non-violence and peace? Or take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? In one such case, a youth in Andhra Pradesh went straight into the jungle, organized a group of about 25,000 people, killed the landlord and ended up being Maoists”(The Statesman 17-09-09).

History teaches us that violence, murder—all these existed in the past and will continue to exist at present. All of us individually want peace; nobody wants violence or murder. Despite this, these will continue to stay irrespective of our wishes, and would influence the direction of History and leave behind their negative or positive imprint on the way.

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