This is the third part in a 4 part series on K.N. Ramachandran’s polemical essay, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”. Readers can find part 1 and 2, here and here respectively. When I sat down to write this post I thought that I would not have much to say because I had not read the new book that K.N. Ramachandran’s faction has produced on neo-colonialism and Indian political economy. However, I was surprised to find that besides the title of the section that K.N. Ramachandran actually has little to say about either the ‘agrarian program’ or ‘neo-colonialism’ which are the two points in his ideological agenda that are supposed to demarcate his analysis from that of the CPI(Maoist). Thus, I apologise to my readers about the length of this post because what K.N. Ramachandran talks about needs discussion and comment, especially as he often attacks the international Maoist movement.
Agrarian program in neo-colonial phase
UNDER this concept, Marxism is reduced to a dogma. Marxist classics are reduced to idols. So the Maoists indulge in idol worshipping and do not find any need for analyzing the reasons for the degeneration of all the erstwhile socialist countries to capitalist path or the degeneration of most of the erstwhile communist parties to revisionism. Abandoning Bolshevik style of Party and class/mass organization building, relying only on the supremacy of the squads and their fire power, it has reduced revolution to a game of heroes. If Lenin taught “Revolution is the festival of the masses” and Mao declared “Masses, masses alone are the creators of history”, according to the Maoists it is the heroes who create history.
It refuses to look around and see the vast changes taking place around them internationally and in India. So, even when the proletariat and the masses are revolting in US or Greece or Italy or elsewhere, the Maoists in these countries are only interested in whiling away their time, speculating how to start guerilla warfare there. They fail to analyze how the people’s upsurges broke out in North Africa and in West Asia and what should be the approach of the Communist forces towards them. In spite of the further intensification of the corporatization of agriculture following the second generation green revolution, bringing vast changes in the agricultural field in India, they still call it semi-feudal and still uphold the principal contradiction as the one between feudalism and the masses of the people. They mechanically repeat that the resolution of this contradiction will resolve all contradictions and lead to capture of political power.
I completely agree with K.N. Ramachandran that Marxism should not be reduced to a dogma, nor Marxists classics reduced to idols. Furthermore, I completely agree that many, if not most, Marxists, whether they be Trotskyists (in relation to Lenin and Trotsky) or Maoists (in relation to Lenin, Stalin and Mao) engage in idol worship and hence do not see the need to understand the reasons for the degeneration of socialism in the former socialist countries to capitalism. Indeed, the works of Charles Bettelheim in regards to the USSR, especially “Class Struggles in the USSR” Volumes 1 and 2 (on the development of socialism and state capitalism in the USSR from 1917-1930), serve as an important starting point from which to reconsider the development of socialism in the USSR. Unfortunately, similar work does not exist for the USSR from 1930 onwards (unfortunately Bettelheim’s own work on this period was plagued by a form of Kautskyism and do not reflect the Maoist methodology he had employed earlier), and no such work exists for the Chinese experience. Perhaps some enterprising PhD student will write such a work for us, and we will all be most grateful. However, I find it ironic that K.N. Ramachandran of all people is the one making this claim inasmuch that his faction has never provided such an analysis of the USSR or China, and rather uncritically defends Stalin against “modern revisionism”. Indeed, the only reconsideration of the socialist experience that K.N. Ramachandran has made in this essay is that of the Cultural Revolution, and seems to suggest to me that K.N. Ramachandran is preparing and innoculating his cadre for a break from Mao Zedong himself. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran’s turn from this insight about the need for reconsideration of the socialist experience in former socialist countries to his polemicisation against those who abandon Bolshevik Party-organisation and mass organisations in favour of “squad actions” is odd, inasmuch that they do not seem logically connected. However, they are connected because K.N. Ramachandran is engaging in a two-step dance which is meant to confuse his reader and his cadre alike. Lets examine this two-step dance: first of all he is repeating his old canard that the CPI(Maoist) is actually not engaging people’s war, but rather in a form of “heroic” guerrilla struggle that can be attributed to armed struggles experiences like the RAF or Red Brigades and; second his compunction to advocate for the need to attack idol-worship of Marxist classics is meant to lay the ground for his own departure from people’s war strategy for India, in favour of “Bolshevik” insurrectionism (this will become more apparent with his idealization of the Arab Spring).
K.N. Ramachandran now turns to broaden his attack against not only the Maoist movement in India but internationally, because his attack is not simply against the Maoist movement at home but also abroad (indeed, it is in the context of the formation of the ICOR, and his close political ties to the MPLD). Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran turns his sights to the Maoist movement in North America (apparently K.N. Ramachandran is ignorant about actual ideological and political developments in the Maoist movement in North America because he opts to attack the Maoist organisations in the US and Greece which actually do not advocate a guerrilla strategy, rather, than for example the French, Canadians and the Italian organisations; perhaps, someone should tell K.N. Ramachandran that Canada is not a part of the USA, and Italy and France are different countries than Greece). Most devastatingly, K.N. Ramachandran seems ignorant of the fact that the Maoist or pro-Maoist forces like the KOE, ARAN and ARAS have actually been deeply involved in the uprisings in Greece, and are some of the largest organised groups in the Greek uprisings. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran himself does not actually examine the causes for the uprisings in those countries (which in the case of the Middle East include severe state repression of the mass movements in those countries for the last decade, dictatorial rule and economic hardships for the people with high unemployment and shortages in basic consumer goods in both Greece and the Middle East), but rather opts to attack the Maoist trend for having not done this analysis for him. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran overlooks the role of the Islamist movement in the Arab Spring, and the spontaneous nature of the the uprisings in the Middle East, North Africa and across Europe, and North America. However, it will soon become apparent that K.N. Ramachandran, for all of his comments in favour of Bolshevik organising, simply is engaging in a form of worship of spontaneity. Then K.N. Ramachandran simply once again turns his sights back, in his confused superficial and dizzying argumentation style, back to the Indian situation and suggests that there has been a second “Green Revolution”. I would be very interested to learn more about this idea. When did it occur? Who organised it? What were the class interests behind etc? But unfortunately K.N. Ramachandran does not provide any of these answers, and only raises the issue so that he can appear to the novice as being a deep-thinker of the Indian conjuncture, and can once again advance his claim that the basic contradiction between feudalism and the masses of people is simply outmoded and has been replaced. Perhaps, K.N. Ramachandran has come to believe, like the Trotskyists and Communist League of India (Marxist-Leninist), that Indian agricultural production has become a capitalist one and thus the basic contradiction today is between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. I just do not understand why he does not simply come out and say it. Indeed, it becomes apparent to all and sundry that K.N. Ramachandran believes that India is a neo-colonial capitalist country.
In CPI (Maoist) documents the word neo-colonialism is repeated many times. But, as they have not put forward any analysis of transformation that has taken place in the forms of imperialist exploitation during the post-Second World War period, the transformation of colonial forms to neo-colonial forms of plunder, it is evident that similar to what was done in the 1970 Program, they are using neo-colonial and semi-colonial words synonymously. Their analysis that India is a neo-colonially dependent semi-colonial country borders absurdity. They fail to evaluate the transformation that has taken place in the imperialist plunder and domination during the post- Second World War period from colonialism to neo-colonialism.
It is indeed true that the CPI(Maoist) uses the term neo-colonialism, K.N. Ramachandran’s hobby horse, many times interchangeably with semi-colonialism. However, the fault is not theirs alone, as Mao Zedong himself used the same terms as synonyms. Indeed, Mao clearly explains that semi-colonialism is the informal colonial influence that colonial powers had over China. However, besides calling the CPI(Maoist)’s position ridiculous he does not explain why this is the case. Indeed, is it not possible that despite the formal decolonisation of India by the British i.e. a relationship of colonialism (not semi-colonialism), and the informal assertion of colonialism (i.e. neocolonialism or semi-colonialism) by the Americans in India that the basic characteristic of Indian class relations remains structurally unchanged especially in relation to a colonial power? Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran is trying to assert that that there is a major gulf between the two terms, but does not provide an explanation of what these differences are and what implications they have on Indian agrarian relations. It is easy to polemicise against others and possible weak spots in their analyses, but far more difficult to actually explain one’s own position and it is clear that K.N. Ramachandran is unable to do so.
As a result, they like their counterparts in the imperialist countries, fail to analyze the reasons for the present recurrent meltdown of international finance capital, the speculative character of which is reaching its peak. They still repeat that like in the colonial days, now also imperialism is maintaining and using feudalism as its social base, when with the penetration of capital-market forces and technology imported by the MNCs, vast changes are taking place in the agrarian sector leading to its devastation in new forms, with hundreds of thousands of the poor and marginal peasants committing suicide, and millions displaced from their land and occupation for the sake of neo-liberal projects. Instead of utilizing feudalism, by and large, as its social basis during the colonial days, it is systematically transforming and integrating the agrarian sector to the international finance capital system. Still their whole strategy hinges on anti-feudal tasks, as proved in their Program and tactical line. But as they refuse to recognize the vast changes that have taken place in the agrarian sector under neo-colonization and have no agrarian program based on it and mass organization of the peasantry, practically nothing is done to advance the agrarian revolution with “land to the tiller” slogan. As a result, though it speaks about feudalism as the principal target, its activities are reduced to squad actions in the forest areas far away from the real peasantry.
K.N. Ramachandran once again shifts terrain in his confused argumentation style to the economic meltdown without any explanation of the connection between the preceding paragraph and the current one. He then again switches tack to discuss the Indian conjuncture and the question of the feudal base. Indeed, I cannot but feel that K.N. Ramachandran is simply engaging in a “throw the kitchen sink” strategy in hope that at least some of the points he superficially raises will actually get through and strike a blow. However, let us try and follow him through the myriad of confused paths, much like the urban planning of Delhi, that is his mind. It is clear that there is a logic here that is clear to K.N. Ramachandran, if no one else, and perhaps if nothing else these notes will help him edit his essay in a manner that makes his style of argument clearer to those who will hazard to read his essay. First of all, K.N. Ramachandran seems to be ignorant of what different Maoist groups have said about the current economic crisis, and I would suggest that look at for example the (n)PCI’s analysis of the crisis (also, I have heard that Jose Maria Sison is intending to do some work on the question as well). K.N. Ramachandran seems to want to argue that the economic meltdown and the crisis within imperialism has necessitated the integration of the agrarian sector into international financial system. This would appear to most as a very penetrating analysis and indeed possibly something novel, however, what actually is demonstrated is that he seems to not understand what “semi-feudalism” actually is. No Maoist would not suggest that the agrarian sector has not been effected by international financialisation; semi-feudalism does not meant that the agrarian sector remains absolutely outside of the international capitalist system, but rather, that the relationship between that international financial sector is mediated through a feudal landowning class (indeed, Jose Maria Sison in Philippine Society and Revolution repeatedly points out that the largest landlords actually are part of the comprador bourgeoisie who are directly in touch with the international financial system! Interested readers can read my review of this book here). Because K.N. Ramachandran seems incapable of making his argument clearly, he then decides to polemicise aganst the CPI(Maoist) for not having an agrarian program (which is not true) and having no mass organisations amongst the peasantry (which is also not true, and was actually negated earlier when he spoke about his own faction’s involvement in the campaign launched by the CPI(ML)[PWG] and CPI(ML)[PU]’s peasant organisations, see the first post in the series). It is true that the CPI(Maoists) people’s liberation guerrilla army does not engage in actions in the plains where much of the agricultural land is, but this is because of geography and the effect that it has on the armed struggle. This does not mean to suggest however, that the CPI(Maoist) is not engaged in the peasant struggle against feudalism, rather, it does it through other forms of struggle. But of course, K.N. Ramachandran cannot recognise this reality because it would once again undermine his earlier contradictory argument that the CPI(Maoist) only engaged in one form of struggle i.e. armed struggle. Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran’s argument is akin to Gandhi’s three monkeys: don’t see reality, don’t listen to reality, and do not speak about reality.
From the analysis of the present world and Indian situation put forward by CPI (Maoist) it is difficult for anyone to explain why the present mass upsurges are taking place. Same is the fate of the Maoist fringe groups in the imperialist countries in Europe and North America also. As a result, even when big mass movements emerge in different areas and when they get an opportunity to influence any of them as happened in the Lalgarh area of W. Bengal, they reduce it to an area for deploying their guerilla squads and to organize few actions like the derailing of Gyaneswari Express which killed many and inconvenienced millions for nearly two years, as the railway department stopped plying trains through that route in the night in the name of lack of security.
In Chhattisgarh, the Maoists are calling the forest areas of Dantewada district as their liberated area. After visiting it Jan Myrdal has written a book “Red Star Over India” actually ridiculing himself and the good intellectual work he had done earlier, a mechanical imitation of the great book “Red Star Over China” written by Edgar Snow. But contrary to what is reported by the petti-bourgeois intellectuals who blindly support the Maoists, what is happening there is a different story. When the earlies Congress government tried to privatize the Shivnath river and later when the BJP government declared a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Rajnandgaon district a powerful mass movement was organized under the initiative of CPI(ML) due to which the latter’s implementation was truncated and the latter had to be abandoned. Similar mass movements are taking place against other neo-liberal projects also. But in Dantewada, a corporate group like Essar has constructed a more than 200 km long pipeline to loot the rich iron ore of that area. The same is the case of other so-called Maoist controlled areas in Jharkhand, Lalgarh in Bengal and Odisha-AP border areas also. Instead of mobilizing the masses and throwing out the MNCs, corporate houses and mining mafias, often Maoists are serving as their mercenaries after taking huge sums from them. The Communist Parties built under the guidance of the Communist International based on Bolshevik principles had a great tradition of building the Party surrounded by the class and mass organizations. They collected money from the people and the mass organizations besides the levy from the party members and sympathizers.
But the method of ‘levying’ adopted by the Maoists under coercion, especially when they are in the infantile stage of their growth has corrupted their own cadres. Combined with the sectarian practice of ‘money actions ‘ followed by many groups and splinter factions in many areas corruption has become rampant among these sections including the Maoists as there is no accounting of the money collected or no principles are followed in collection. In areas of AP and some other states, money is demanded to become cadres. The spirit of depending on the masses is alien to many of them. Maoists are justifying it in the name of huge amounts required to purchase sophisticated arms and to maintain hideouts. But whatever may be the justification this practice has led to a deterioration of communist values among the cadres.
Since this post is becoming incredibly long I will deal with only some of the things that K.N. Ramachandran brings up here. It is not clear how K.N. Ramachandran’s analysis better explains the present mass upsurges around the world either. Also, it is interesting to note that K.N. Ramachandran does not at any point mention either the spontaneous nature of these revolts, and the nascent forms of organisation that played differing revolts in the uprisings (of course here I am influenced by Antonio Gramsci’s idea in The Prison Notebooks that spontaneous worker’s revolts always has some nascent organisation which must merge with the communist party). Indeed, Maoists in Europe and North America do not believe that they either live in semi-feudal or semi-colonial situations, and thus I am not sure how any deficiencies in their analysis of the Indian situation effects their effectivity in their own conjuncture. Furthermore, I think that K.N. Ramachandran actually is completely unaware of what Maoist forces in North America and Europe are actually doing, and so I would advise him to keep in mind Mao Zedong’s famous directive, “No investigation, no right to speak”. The Maoist movements in Europe, especially in Italy, Norway, and Greece have been incredibly involved in the struggles of the people in their respective countries. Indeed, it is CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran]’s partner in Europe, the MLPD, that have adopted an erroneous line that has resulted in their complete marginalization both electorally (as seen by their performance in the last elections) and politically (the fact that they have no active presence in the current German Left, and have largely become a nostalgic party) in the German conjuncture. Furthermore, K.N. Ramachandran seems to be ignorant of the fact that the RCP(Canada) in North America, the only Maoist party in North America, has been incredibly active in many struggles and has actually been growing from strength to strength! I will allow Jan Myrdal to respond to his slanderous attacks against him, but will suggest that if K.N. Ramachandran wishes to win people over to his side that he treat them with more respect. But I am glad to hear that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has been building a mass movement against the privatization and SEZ’s.
I will finally address the last two points that K.N. Ramachandran raises. First of all, I think that K.N. Ramachandran is simply ignorant, as am I, about how much money is being collected from party members, sympathisers and mass organisations, and unless he has some special information does not know what portion of the CPI(Maoist)’s monies come from their own support base. He is simply using demagogic argumentation to make his polemic seem sharper than it is. Now regarding the taxing of MNC’s, corporate houses and mining mafias, I think that K.N. Ramachandran is unable to actually really think through his proposition that the Maoists should simply kick them out, which if done prematurely is actually an ultra-Left error. So lets think through this: 1) if they kick out these entities then the people living in these areas will simply not have any source of income by which to purchase basic commodities that they need, thus despite their exploitative presence they do provide much needed employment. Indeed, kicking out these economic entities without providing the necessary economic infrastructure to sustain the population would actually be harmful to the population (which K.N. Ramachandran is so worried about) and the capacity to do so would mean that those areas would no longer simply be guerrilla zones, but would be elevated to base areas which the Maoists are trying to build, but hitherto have been unable to and; 2) if the MNC’s etc cannot be kicked out of the areas at this stage because the necessary economic infrastructure does not exist to create a completely parallel economy in all areas then the question arises what is to be done with them? The Maoists have answered this through two methods: a) they have built mass organisations which allow the people in these areas to actually win better wages and working conditions, thus choosing a method of struggle that is appropriate to their areas and through which they can build a mass base of support and b) through taxation of these exploitative entities by which to fund the party and its activities.
Much more could be said about the points that have raised but, I think that I will leave others to say them. The next and final post in this series will deal with “Relation with the state and the ruling class parties” and “How the extremists ultimately help the state”.