As you all know the Indian ML/Maoist movement is incredibly divided with a number of competing factions co-existing and claiming to be the true inheritor of the legacy of the Naxalbari movement. One of the most prominent of these factions is the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)[K.N. Ramachandran] which has formed a number of State committees across India. The CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] is an organisation that is the latest manifestation of the CPI(ML)[Red Flag] that split from the CRC,CPI(ML) [the CRC,CPI(ML) was a member of the RIM until it left Marxism-Leninism and dissolved itself]. The CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] is one of the founders of the ICOR along with the MLPD in Germany and has departed from the conventional Marxist-Leninist analysis of India as being a “semi-colonial” state, instead arguing that India is a “neo-colonial state”. The CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran for many years has also polemicised against the CPI(Maoist) and has accused it of an “anarchist line” and an over-emphasis on “squad actions”. Unfortunately some around the world have confused the two organisations and believe them to be one and the same. Recently, K.N Ramachandran has written another such polemic against the CPI(Maoist) entitled, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions“. In the coming four posts [including this one] I thought I would share some notes and comments on the article and some disagreements I have with the document [which is quite long]. The first part [the one that you are currently reading] will be on the history of the revolutionary movement until the formation of CPI(Maoist) in 2004; part 2 will deal with the section entitled, “Mao Tsetung Thought or Maoism?”; part 3 with “Agrarian program in neo-colonial phase” and; finally part 4 will deal with “How the extremists ultimately help the state”. I must note that this is not the response of any organisation and hope that the CPI(Maoist) will also respond to the charges that K.N Ramachandran makes.
FOLLOWING the murder of com. Koteshwar Rao in a fake encounter by the state forces as a part of the state terror unleashed against the people under the ‘Operation Green Hunt’, we had issued a press statement on 25th November itself, the day on which the news came out in the newspapers. We had severely condemned this murder. At the same time we had criticized the approach of CPI(Maoist) on the question of ‘peace talks’ with such a reactionary government which is indulging in fascist suppression of the people of the country to intensify neo-colonization, and in the present condition of their organizational development and balance of forces. In that statement we had requested the leadership of the CPI(Maoist) “to take lessons from these erroneous steps which have caused grievous losses, to re-examine their line and to join with the revolutionary forces to mobilize the masses for putting an end to this hated, anti-people ruling system”.
In continuation to this statement, issuing their own statements the CPI (ML) state committees in many states have organized meetings condemning the murder of com. Koteshwar Rao in fake encounter and appealing to all progressive democratic forces to condemn it. While appreciating these steps taken by the CPI (ML), some friends as well as supporters of CPI(Maoist) have raised a criticism why on such an occasions also we are raising our criticism of the CPI(Maoist) line. So we consider that it is our duty to explain the history of the genesis and growth our differences with the CPI(Maoist). Earlier when com. Shyam and com. Rajkumar, and recently com. Azad were killed in fake encounters also we had issued similar statements, condemning the state action, while appealing to PWG and then CPI(Maoist) leadership to re-examine the line they are pursuing. We consider that though CPI (Maoist) is claiming that it is working for the overthrow of the reactionary Indian state, it is pursuing an anarchist line which is harming themselves as well as the revolutionary movement as a whole. In this context, we consider that it is important to explain the genesis and development of our differences with it to avoid any misunderstandings.
It is truly commendable that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has condemned the false encounter in which numerous comrades have been killed and have organised meetings to do so as well. There are two elements in this document that of course stick out: 1) K.N Ramachandran’s claim that India is “neo-colonial” rather than “semi-colonial” [I will not discuss this particular issue because I know that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has published a book on this issue and would like to read it before passing any judgement on it] and 2) that the CPI(Maoist) is following an “anarchist” line which is harming themselves and the revolutionary movement as a whole. The charge of “anarchism” and hurting the larger revolutionary movement here, as K.N. Ramachandran notes, is an old one and was applied to the erstwhile CPI(ML)[People’s War Group] [until it merged with the MCC to form the CPI(Maoist)].
Both, the present CPI(ML) as well as erstwhile CPI(ML) People’s War and Party Unity [both of which became part of CPI(Maoist) later] share the heritage of the ideological-political struggle waged by the Communist Revolutionaries (CRs) against the revisionist line of CPI and neo-revisionist line of CPI(M) leaderships under the leadership of com. Charu Majumdar from 1964, and the Naxalbari Uprising with “land to the tiller” slogan which brought agrarian revolution and revolutionary seizure of political power back to the agenda of the Indian people.
After the severe set backs leading to the disintegration of the CPI (ML) from 1971, like CPI (ML) People’s War formed in 1973 and CPI(ML) Party Unity formed after 1977, the Kerala state committee of the CPI(ML) reorganized in 1973 was also basically upholding the 1970 Eighth Congress line. All of them including the CPI(ML) Liberation were called Pro-Charu Majumdar, anti-Lin Biao section. When the publication of the monthly, Mass Line, was started from 1973 calling for unity of all ML forces basically upholding the 1970 line, articles and poems of com. K.G. Satya Murthy and of the leaders of Revolutionary Writers Association (AP) or Virasam, were published in it till it was banned and so its publication was suspended during emergency. Due to the atmosphere of suppression prevalent then, the unity efforts could not be continued till the emergency was revoked, when large number of leading comrades who were in jail came out.
During 1978-79 first contacts were established with the two, and unity talks were held. The CPI(ML) Kerala SC had denounced the capitalist roaders who had seized power in China after the death of Mao and their ‘Theory of Three Worlds’ in 1977 itself and it gave great significance to taking a correct stand on this question as one of the important points for unity of the Marxist-Leninist forces. As a result, its unity talks with the then Bhojpur group, which later became CPI (ML) Liberation, could not advance, as it was upholding the new Chinese leadership and its ‘TTW’( as it is doing even today). In spite of the unity on other questions, the unity talks with both PWG and Party Unity also failed as they were also not ready to take a stand on these important questions then. It was at that time com. S.A. Rawoof, one of the leaders of the PWG, dissociated with it for not condemning the capitalist roaders in China and for the statement of com. Kondappally Seetharamiah calling for a “suspension of armed struggle”. The CPI(ML) Kerala SC held discussions with com. Rawoof, both decided to merge and the CRC-CPI(ML) was formed in October,1979.
In spite of it, our discussions with both PWG and PU continued. Comrades K.V. Ramana Reddy (KVR) and Varavara Rao of RWA participated in the founding conference of People’s Cultural Forum in Kerala in 1980. At the mass fronts’ level relations of CRC-CPI(ML) with PWG and PU continued, though the differences on the approach towards structure and character of class/ mass organizations, and on pursuing the mass line had increased.
This is the first truly interesting statement that K.N. Ramachandran makes because it tells a history of the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[PU] that differs from the history of those erstwhile organisations that has been published elsewhere and in internal party histories of said organisations. K.N. Ramachandran claims that the CPI(ML)[PWG] was formed in 1973 and Party Unity in 1977, however, the CPI(ML)[PWG] claims that they were only formed in 1980 and CPI(ML)[Party Unity] dates its own foundation to 1982. This disparity is odd and needs to be explained. Indeed, perhaps K.N. Ramachandran has confused himself because in 1972 the Central Organising Committee, CPI(ML) was formed. The COC, CPI(ML) was the organisation from which the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[Party Unity] would later emerge from, due to the collapse of said organisation due to ideological differences. I will take for granted that K.N. Ramachandran knows his own organisation history and will thus only state that when he simply says CPI(ML) in Kerala State Committee was reorganised he means his faction, which by no means can be simply called the CPI(ML) as it was one of many small factions at the time. Thus. whenever, the reader sees CPI(ML) they should in fact read CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran]. Also, it is interesting to note that K.N. Ramachandran does not address similar attempts for unity talks in the context of the emergency period that were called by the COC, CPI(ML) or those of the opportunist CPI(ML)[S.N Singh], and seems to simply adopt the mantle for his own faction as those who want unity, which ironically is nothing but an act of sectarianism. I do not know whether the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] did try to unite with the CPI(ML)[Liberation], and the precursors to the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[Party Unity] [which were still being reorganised in light of the collapse of the COC,CPI(ML)], and have found no mention of such talks in PWG documents, but will give him the benefit of the doubt. It is true however, that at this time that the CPI(ML)[PWG] did uphold the Three Worlds Theory [something that they would later self-criticise for], but have found no reference to any support for the post-Mao Dengist regime. Regarding Rawoof [or Rauf], he would later split from the CPI(ML)[Red Flag] [the previous name for the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran]] in 2000 to form with the Maoist Unity Centre, CPI(ML) the CPI(ML)[Naxalbari]. Whether or not the CRC, CPI(ML) and the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[PU] continued to work together at the level of mass organisations is something I do not know and will thus again give K.N. Ramachandran the benefit of the doubt.
After CRC-CPI (ML) was reorganized as CPI (ML) Red Flag in 1987, the unity talks and joint activities at mass front level with them further strengthened. During 1991-94 period, three rounds of top level unity talks were held with PWG which ultimately failed due to differences on approach towards (a) neo-colonization and the changes taking place in relations of production in the agrarian front under it,(b) towards Three World Theory,(c) towards Bolshevik style party building, (d) towards building of class/mass organizations and (e) towards utilization of all forms of struggle, as PWG stuck to its sectarian positions including upholding armed struggle as only form of struggle. Still, along with the cultural organizations of PWG and PU, the cultural front of Kerala also joined in the formation of the All India League of Revolutionary Culture (AILRC) in 1990 and this association continued till 1995, till it became inactive due to the sectarian approach of PWG. Com. KVR continued to write in Red Star, organ of the CPI(ML) Red Flag till 1995.
I have never heard or seen any documents from the PWG that suggest that they were ever pursuing unity talks with the CPI(ML)[Red Flag], however, again I will give K.N. Ramachandran the benefit of the doubt. I also cannot speak to point (a) raised above, however, can state that in 1991 the CPI(ML)[PWG] did rectify its own erroneous position towards the Three World’s Theory and thus find point (b) to be puzzling. I must note that I have not found any mention of such discussions in the self-critical report published by the CPI(ML)[PWG] in the wake of the merger with the CPI(ML)[PU]. I am not sure what K.N. Ramachandran means by point (c) and (d), however, must note that the PWG had self-criticised itself in 1980 for not having had a proper approach to party-building and mass organisations, and sought to rectify this. This of course leads to directly to point (e) which is completely wrong. In 1980 the CPI(ML)[PWG] had self-criticised itself (by itself I must note I mean the previous decade as first the undivided CPI(ML) and then the COC, CPI(ML)) for placing a one-sided emphasis on armed struggle and argued that armed struggle must be used in areas that were prepared for such struggle, and that other forms of struggle were in fact to be used in areas where it was not. Thus, it is actually K.N. Ramachandran who is being sectarian for consistently insisting that the CPI(ML)[PWG] argued that armed struggle is the only form of struggle between 1991-1994 when the CPI(ML)[PWG] had stated that this was not the case in 1980 itself! I have not read about the controversy regarding the All India League of Revolutionary Culture (AILRC) and cannot thus comment on this matter, however, must admit that I am not willing to simply accept K.N. Ramachandran’s version of events as this entire narrative thus far is simply constructing an old tired narrative of CPI(ML)[PWG] being a sectarian organisation, and the CPI(ML)[Red Flag/K.N. Ramachandran] being the patient communist organisation.
And when All India Joint Action Committee of Revolutionary Organizations of Workers (AIJACROW) was formed and it organized a parliament march against imperialist globalization in 1992, the first parliament march against imperialist globalization, the trade unions in Maharashtra under the political leadership of PWG also joined in this. In the peasant rally organized by PWG in Warangal in 1994, Red Flag comrades participated. Later, an open polemic was started in the publications, People’s March of PWG and Red Star on the ideological-political questions on which there were basic differences. From these instances it can be seen that even when there were basic differences on many questions, both sides were continuing contacts and holding even open polemics on them. The relations between the two were not antagonistic. CPI(ML) Red Flag had welcomed the merger of PWG and PU hoping that it will lead to a rethinking on the ideological-political line as PU always had more inclination towards mass line.
This paragraph makes some of the contradictions in K.N. Ramachandran’s narrative abundantly clear. On one hand K.N. Ramachandran would have us believe that the CPI(ML)[PWG] believes that armed struggle is the only form of struggle, but now admits that the CPI(ML)[PWG] had built trade unions in Maharashtra and was involved in a march against imperialist globalisation! This quite clearly and abundantly suggests thats the CPI(ML)[PWG] actually did recognise the need for economic struggles through the medium of trade unions and was actively involved in building them. This is a far cry from only being engaged in armed struggle! It is nice to hear that the CPI(ML)[Red Flag/K.N. Ramachandran] welcomed the merger of the PWG and PU to form the CPI(ML)[People’s War], but am not sure what K.N. Ramachandran means by the PU being more predisposed towards “Mass Line”. Indeed, it seems clear to me at least that the CPI(ML)[PWG] was actively involved in applying the mass line to their activities in the form of trade unions and peasant struggles and rallies!
My next post will pick up from where I have left off, and discuss “Mao TseTung Thought or Maoism?”.