Some Notes on K.N. Ramachandran’s, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”, Part 4

In this fourth and final post in the series I intend to deal with the final two sections of K.N. Ramachandran’s polemical essay, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Conditions” (interested readers can also read post 1, 2 and 3), entitled, “Relation with the state and the ruling class parties” and “How the extremists ultimately help the state”. These sections are perhaps the most polemical part of K.N. Ramachandran’s essay where he in fact suggests that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is in fact an opportunist and mercenary force that is actually aiding the state. Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran, in what amounts to a perverse comedy, suggests that the CPI(Maoist) is in fact helping the state repress the revolutionary movement (which of course is defined by his own political position), when in fact it is the CPI(Maoist), which has been leading the revolutionary movement, that is being repressed by the state.

Also, I would also like to clarify that I am not affiliated to either the CPI(Maoist) or the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist) as some mistakenly believe, but rather, am simply a sympathizer of the revolutionary movement in India. This post will not be as long as the earlier posts because I realize that I have perhaps spent too much time on this one essay, and would actually like to start writing about other issues as soon as possible.

Relation with the state and the ruling class parties


THE CPI(Maoist) claim that they boycott all forms of elections as a strategy. But during their three decades of existence they have not succeeded to mobilize the masses for boycotting elections in a single area so far. Even after threatening the voters, bombing the roads and polling booths and occasionally punishing the people brutally, it has not succeeded to enforce boycott anywhere. Even in Dantewada region more than 60% voting take place. Another notable feature is that though in Dantewada the Maoists have succeeded to reduce the strength of once predominant CPI in this region, BJP has emerged as the main force and winning the elections from there continuously.

I think that there are two issues at stake here, 1) whether or not the electoral boycott has actually been successfully applied to any areas and 2) what is the purpose of an electoral boycott. First of all, I think it is partly true when K.N. Ramachandran suggests that the boycott strategy has not succeeded in mobilizing the masses, although I doubt that he could say that this has been the case in a single area in the last 30 years, as there are no areas in which there has been a complete boycott. But there have been numerous areas in which there has been depressed voting and a partial boycott observed. Regarding the 60% number that K.N. Ramachandran tells his readers of is actually untrue as that was simply the first phase of polling which saw a 60% turnout. However, the final turnout for the areas was actually 54%. Furthermore, this is akin to saying that the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] has not been able to truly mobilise the masses through their electoral campaigns as seen through the lack of any electoral victories. Secondly, the purpose of an electoral boycott needs to be explained especially since it is a tactic that has been applied in the context of the European and North American parties as well. The electoral boycott campaign should not be completely evaluated by the number of people that do not engage in the activity of voting as voting patterns often do not relate to real support for any given party, but to actually immediate gains that a voter hopes for which may have nothing to do with their support for the revolutionary movement (so if you immediately need a road outside of your house built and maintained it may make sense to vote for a party that has a party leader in that area who could actually deliver that, knowing that the revolutionary movement is slowly growing. Even K.N. Ramachandran’s party cannot say that they will win enough seats to deliver on said road). Rather, an electoral boycott, like participation of a revolutionary party in the electoral process, is intended to be a method by which to educate the masses about their revolutionary programme. It becomes incumbent then for both the CPI(Maoist) AND the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran] who are employing different tactics for the exact same result i.e. the education of the masses about their revolutionary programme, to deliberate whether their respective tactics have been successful. This is apparent if one reads the CPI(Maoist)’s own summation document regarding 2009 (available here):

Another important impact on the polity of the country was the wide-scale boycott by the Party during the recent Lok Sabha elections. Notwithstanding the presence of huge contingents of central and state police forces for over three weeks in the areas under Maoist influence, our Party, PLGA, revolutionary organs of people’s power and mass organizations carried out a mass political propaganda campaign, besides undertaking several tactical counter offensives against the gun-toting enemy forces who were desperately trying to coerce people to vote. Our propaganda campaign was so effective that there was hardly any electioneering by the political parties in Dandakaranya, many parts of Bihar and Jharkhand, West Midnapore, Bankura and Purlia districts and near-total boycott in Lalgarh area of West Bengal; in parts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Ganjam, Rayagada and other districts of Orissa; and other places. Besides, significant educative campaigns were taken in many parts of the country exposing the fake nature of the democratic process which is merely an expensive exercise to give legitimacy to the ruling classes to loot the country and the people.

And it is an open secret that the CPI(ML) People’s War, after calling for boycott canvassed for Chenna Reddy led Congress in 1980s. Later it supported the TDP led by N.T. Rama Rao in the 1990s. In 2006 elections in AP, as the Congress leader Raja Sekhara Rao had promised talks with the Maoists, they supported him. In Bihar MCC used to follow the same path. Lalu Prasad had benefitted from it many times. In Jharkhand during last two state assembly elections Maoists supported The JMM led by Shibu Soren. While doing so they threaten other candidates and do not allow other candidates to campaign in areas where they have influence. It shows that they boycott elections calling the existing parliamentary system as pseudo democratic, but due to their actions they make it more pseudo. The latest instance was Maoists supporting the TMC led by Mamta Banerjee, a constituent of the central UPA government against the CPI(M) led Left Front. In all these cases they have supported the main ruling class parties, after calling for boycott. They never support any force from the left. It is a most opportunist and unprincipled mercenary policy followed by the CPI(Maoist) which has greatly tarnished the image of the communist movement all over the country.

As a reward for the support they give in the elections, the AP chief minister invited Maoists for talks in Hyderabad. As was evident from the beginning to everybody except the Maoists, nothing came out of the talks. But the state machinery used the opportunity to make aerial coverage of the emergence and return of the Maoist team. Within a short time, almost all the Maoist squads and most of the main cadres were wiped out by the Special Forces. Still they do not study anything from these debacles. Their polibureau member Shyam and now Kishen were killed by trapping them using the talks with government as a lollypop.

Firstly, as a force which talks only strategy, what is there to talk with the state at the present stage of their growth? Secondly, after the bitter experience of the AP incident why they refuse to take any lessons? What is coming out of the Kishen killing is that they have great illusions about the ruling class leaders even when they claim to have declared total war against the state. It will be useful if they once go through the military writings of Mao at least to avoid such infantile mistakes.

I have never read in any party summation about these accusations of canvassing for the Congress etc., however, I will give K.N. Ramachandran the benefit of the doubt, especially since it has become very clear that in the context of West Bengal [where the CPI(Maoist) played some role in the election of Mamata Bannerjee] that the CPI(Maoist), and likely its erstwhile component parties, used this very strategy before. However, I think that K.N. Ramachandran is actually confusing two different issues: 1) an electoral boycott that is meant to educate the working class and peasantry about the nature of the bourgeois system; and 2) the use of high politics for gains in the revolutionary movement. K.N. Ramachandran seems to careen from right to left deviations in this mess of a section that I quoted above, and demonstrates that he does not think about tactics and strategy in a properly dialectical manner. Indeed, K.N. Ramachandran suggests that refusing to any participation in the parliamentary process, means that the CPI(Maoist) should eschew any involvement in high politics. This is a logically inconsistent position. Rather, I believe that the CPI(Maoist) should use contradictions within the enemy camp to their benefit, including through precise interventions into the electoral process, and that peace talks could actually benefit the party. Indeed, this is one point in which I differ from some of the pro-Gonzaloist organisations that argue that there can be no pause in the protracted people’s war until socialism and see peace talks as being a right deviation. K.N. Ramachandran, ironically, seems to be close to President Gonzalo – whom he later attacks – insofar that he seems to believe that once a protracted people’s war has been started there can be no attempts for peace talks, and any attempt to do so is actually a tactical mistake. He misreads the problems that the movement faced in the AP peace talks and advocates an ultra-left lesson that could be drawn from that experience i.e. that the party should never engage in peace talks, rather than looking at the actual tactical problem in the AP case which was that they did not make the appropriate security conditions for the delegation’s movement and the movement of squads in the reorganization process. The results of said overture to Mamata Bannerjee needs to similarly be evaluated in the context of its capacity to make gains for the revolutionary movement. There could be at least two possibilities on which gains could have been made: 1) a winning over the low-level cadre and organisers of the Trinamool Congress, who at the village level often work with Maoist cadres, to the CPI(Maoist) and 2) an agreement to a ceasefire or peace talks could give the CPI(Maoist) time to recover and regroup, especially in light of losses that have been inflicted on the party, and demonstrate the CPI(Maoist) is not opposed to peace. This last aspect is something that the CPI(ML)[PWG] and other Naxalite organisations at the time emphasized during the AP peace talks was that the peace talks were meant to educate the masses about the true nature of the Indian State and the revolutionary programme of the party. A simple example of this concrete attempt to educate the masses is that the CPI(ML)[PWG] asked the AP government to sign a statement that they would carry out the land reforms and provisions of the already existing Indian constitution, and the AP government refused to do so thus exposing its nature to the public. It is true that top leaders of the CPI(Maoist) have recently said that perhaps the support for Mamata Bannerjee was a mistake, and if this is indeed find the case the party is responsible for self-criticizing itself and providing a proper summation of the experience so that they can learn from the incident.

How the extremists ultimately help the state


THE experience of the Tamil People’s struggle in Sri Lanka and how LTTE greatly damaged its cause should be an eye opener for all those who have soft-corner for them. Nearer home, in Assam during the two decades when ULFA leadership and cadres were collecting huge sums from the large number of plantation owners, they were getting huge profit as they could deny any wage rise or other benefits to the hundreds of thousands of workers. Wherever Maoists are having influence the MNCs and corporate houses and mining mafias can operate by paying the ‘levy’ to them. Similarly, the presence of the extremists is used by the state as a pretext to increase ‘security forces’ manifold and to deploy them anywhere dubbing even mass movements as extremist ones, to deploy them to all areas in the name of law and order, even to deploy army and impose AFSPA like draconian laws in the name of insurgency for decades and even dare to impose the latest draconian establishment like National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), intensifying the state terror. To facilitate this, if there are no extremists in an area they will create them as the insurgent groups are made by RAW in Manipur. Or they will propagate that the extremist influence is increasing as lot of publicity is given to the Maoists at the state level with the help of the corporate media. In this the Indian state is copying the US authorities, who are the greatest terrorists, but have declared a war against terror!

What a jumble! K.N. Ramachandran has simply picked two very different examples of failed guerrilla movements, and then compared them to what he perceives to be the failures of the CPI(Maoist). First of all, we can all agree that the LTTE, like ULFA, was an incredibly flawed organization and had been reduced to a military-political organization which did not have a clear political programme or mass line [I would like to make it clear that I do not wish to suggest that the demands of the Tamil or Assamese people for national liberation are diminished in any way by the failings of these organisations, but think we must differentiate these organisations from the CPI(Maoist)]. Furthermore, neither organization claimed to be involved in protracted people’s war, and both were using very different understandings of the tactics and strategy of guerrilla war than those of the Maoists (however, K.N. Ramachandran is unable to understand these differences, or chooses not to, because he assumes that his readership is actually incapable of grasping the differences between them). Additionally, both the ULFA and the LTTE, despite some profession of sympathy to socialism, actually did not have a clear revolutionary programme, and were much more narrow nationalist movements. I have already discussed the CPI(Maoist)’s levying of taxes in a previous post and will not repeat the points made there.

But I think the last section of this paragraph, in which K.N. Ramachandran argues that that the presence of a militant force results in state repression, is absolutely ridiculous and boggles the mind and thus needs to be refuted. K.N. Ramachandran is basically using an argument that could be made against any revolutionary movement, and in fact is by the social democratic movement (indeed, one could see K.N. Ramachandran perhaps taking the side of Kautsky against Lenin in the “ultra-Left” position of the Bolsheviks in 1917). Perhaps it gestures towards the peaceful non-militant electoral politics that he intends to take his party towards. Any movement, whether it be the CPI(Maoist) or the CPI(ML)[K.N. Ramachandran], if it poses a tangible threat to the state will result in state repression. The more important question is not whether the state will try to repress the movement and how to avoid it (which basically means becoming an organization that actually does not confront the state or capital), but rather, whether the revolutionary forces have created the necessary structures by which to not only survive the state repression, but to also makes gains through the state repression. The evaluation of the CPI(Maoist)’s actions and response to this onslaught is something that they will need to do when this period is over.

Some friends will definitely ask: how can you criticize the Maoists when they are shedding so much blood, when their leaders are also killed? How can you criticize them when they are waging a war against the state? Of course, we have respect for the sacrifice of the cadres of CPI(Maoist). That is why we condemned the killings of Shyam and Kishen, and many others like them in the past. Mao has repeatedly advised that we should not waste even a drop of blood, avoid unnecessary sacrifice. But even after more than three decades of their practice, the CPI(Maoist)leadership is not prepared to make an evaluation of their practice so far. In the first wave of left adventurism almost all the ML parties which emerged in 1960s suffered severe setbacks and disintegrated. Later, almost all the Maoist groups in different parts of the world like the Shining Path of Peru were wiped out. The Maoists in Philippines is almost stagnant. In Nepal they succeeded to play a leading role in overthrowing the monarchy only when they changed their line and took mass line.
In India, whatever may be the claims of the Maoist leaders and the propaganda of the state, they are a dwindling force. Not only that, all the former socialist countries have degenerated to capitalist path and the ICM is facing a severe setback. Without taking these aspects in to consideration, and the momentous changes that have taken place during the post-Second World War decades in to consideration, just by waging few squad actions in such a big country like India with more than 1.25 billion people and with such organized and centralized oppressive state machinery, how can the revolution be led forward? If the CPI(Maoist)leadership, impervious to all these factors, continue its suicidal path, can anyone justify them?

We are of the view that the leadership should be ruthlessly criticized and they should be asked to change their line if they want to contribute towards revolutionary advance. We are criticizing the CPI(M) leadership more fiercely, as revisionism is still the main danger in the communist movement. The task before the communist force is to take lessons from the past, reorganize the Party and lead the People’ Democratic Revolution forward mobilizing all the revolutionary classes and sections for it. We appeal to their cadres to come out of this anarchist politics and join the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist camp.

There are some things in this last and closing statement that I will not address: namely K.N. Ramachandran’s tired polemic about ‘squad actions’. K.N. Ramachandran has repeated this line like a mantra for decades and is not apt to change anytime soon. However, I do not think that it is fair to claim that the CPI(Maoist) has made no evaluation of its work in the last three decades, any close observer of the CPI(Maoist) knows that this is not true, and I am confident that a summation document will be produced when the time is appropriate. Whether or not such document will be circulated publicly I do not know. Furthermore, the fact that the party has not disintegrated and has grown, with more areas of work than it did three decades ago, demonstrates its successes. Indeed, failures and setbacks have occurred, and will occur again, but that does not mean to suggest that the party has not learned from its mistakes and this is in fact part of the revolutionary process. As Mao Zedong famously said, “Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again . . . until their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic. This is another Marxist law.” All revolutionary movements make mistakes; the question is whether they can learn the appropriate lessons. Indeed, if we were to be terrified of making mistakes than we would be unable to do anything, it would petrify the movement. But, we could ask K.N. Ramachandran who is so proud of his four decades in the ML movement where is his summation of his work and practice. Indeed, why does he feel that he remains a marginal politics both on a national level, and in most regional politics as well?

Finally, the failures of the Shining Path have to be understood in their own context as they have much to do with the situation in Peru, the personal authority invested into the figure of President Gonzalo, the urban strategy that was employed (indeed, if something can be said about the similarities between Peru and India is that leaders tend to be far more vulnerable in urban spaces, and often are arrested there – like the recent arrest in Kolkata of Rama Krishna and four other comrades), and their treatment of their support bases in light of state repression. Regarding the situation in the Philippines, K.N. Ramachandran is simply making stuff up. Indeed, the people’s war in the Philippines has grown steadily, albeit more slowly than some had hoped, with the development of new guerrilla fronts and the growth in the revolutionary mass movement. In the case of Nepal, K.N. Ramachandran demonstrates once again his own revisionist attitudes when he refers to the current politics of the UCPN(Maoist), which they earlier attacked, as being “mass line” when in fact it can be better described as a liquidation of the revolutionary movement.

Thus, in closing I would like to appeal the comrades of K.N. Ramachandran’s in India and if he has any sympathizers abroad to abandon the liquidationist, reformist and demagogic politics of K.N. Ramachandran and join the revolutionary Maoist movement around the world.

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7 thoughts on “Some Notes on K.N. Ramachandran’s, “Our Differences with the Maoist Trend: Genesis and Present Contradictions”, Part 4

  1. You have made a great effort in your analysis.I greatly admire your evaluation and defence of the C.P.I.(Maoist)You have most logically defended the semi-feudal,semi-colonial thesis and the commitment of the C.P.I.(Maoist)to launch the agrarian revolution.There are weaknesses in the military line and the development of democracy within mass organisations but there is no doubt that the Indian P.LA.is the largest revolutionary army worldwide.They have made great efforts to correct their line and the developments in Dankaranya testify this.The movement in that region is the greatest development since that of Naxalbari.

    However in India on the theoretical plane I still think that the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India Marxist Leninist(C.P.R.C.I-M.L.) is the most correct which has it’s genesis in the works of Tarimela Nagi Reddy and D.V.Rao and later developed by the late Comrade Harbhajan Sohi.I would recommend you to read and asses the writings of all 3 of them.I would reccomend you make a link to your blogs on their writings on the mass line.In Punjab and Orissa this trend was the most correct towards building the mass line,in the last 2 decades.

    Anyway I again admire your defence of the C.P.I.(Maoist) as the most genuine revolutionary force in practice.,and refuted the revisionist analysis of Com.K.N.Ramchandran on them.Red Salutes!

    1. Dear Harsh Thakor,
      I am a familiar with the works of T.N. Reddy and Harbhajan Sohi, although I have not had an opportunity to read any of the works of D.V. Rao. Has D.V. Rao been translated into English or Hindi?

    2. Dear Harsh Thakor,
      Thank you for your comments however, I must take issue with a number of them because I think that they do not actually deal with the real problems at hand and remain stuck in what could be simply referred to as a semantical difference. First of all, I think that you would need to explain what you mean by the weaknesses in the CPI(Maoist)’s military line and the development of democracy in mass organisations because these are quite sweeping claims and as a historian of the movement I think one needs to be far more specific about, and substantiate. I believe that whilst there are limits in the work of the CPI(Maoist), like any revolutionary movement including those of the Bolsheviks in the USSR or the CCP in China, that they will be corrected in time. Furthermore, their success in becoming the largest revolutionary party in India speaks to their superior strength in practice to that of the CPRCI(ML) which continues to not learn from the problems inherent to the T.N Reddy line (which became the roots of his own split with Chandra Pulla Reddy) in regards to the role of armed struggle in relation to the mass movement. I think that the T.N. Reddy line also remains effected by the revisionism of the CPI/CPM, especially in relation to its position in regard to revolutionary optimism and trust in the masses. I would also be interested to hear from you why the CPRCI(ML) remains a marginal force despite the fact that the Sohi faction split from the UCCRI(ML) at approximately the same time as the CPI(ML)[PWG] was formed. Also, I am surprised to hear about your promotion of D.V. Rao, of whom, Harbhajan Sohi was quite critical from what I understand, and does not seem to me to have been a very high caliber leader, but I admit to have not read much by him nor know much more than the UCCRI(ML) self-critical review. Furthermore, I am not sure that I agree with your statement about the theoretical plane of the CPRCI(ML) being higher as I think it fails to take into account the 1980 self-critical review which deals with the T.N. Reddy critique especially in regards to Charu Mazumdar (thus I do not think its fair to actually say that they should read T.N Reddy when it is apparent that they already have and have actually incorporate some of his critique to their own), the 1991 self-critical review which effectively resolves the line critique of Dengism and Three World Theory which Harbhajan Sohi did do a good job resolving, and the 2004 self-critical review during the merger with MCCI which dealt with the problem of Maoism vs. Mao Zedong Thought. Unfortunately in some important ways your interpretation of the CPI(Maoist) is structurally similar to that of K.N. Ramachandran, and at some points is identical to it.

      Secondly, I know of no one that has tried to divorce Maoism from Leninism, at least within the Maoist movement that actually exists on the ground and organising, and are not simply cyber-Maoists. I belong to the camp that is far more critical of Stalin than you are, and I definitely do not think that we should turn to Grover Furr on the question of Stalin. Rather, I am much more sympathetic to Louis Althusser’s demand for a critique of Stalin from the left and think that we find significant portions of that in Charles Bettelheim’s “Class Struggles in the USSR”. I think that we can fairly say that alongside Bettelheim, and Mao’s critiques of several important aspects of Stalin like his inability to understand contradictions within the people correctly, one can arrive at an appropriate Maoist appraisal of Stalin. Furthermore, I agree with other China scholars that Mao became increasingly critical of Stalin, and initially even welcomed Khruschev’s critique of Stalin, but then due to the revisionist package contained within that apt critique rejected it.

      I am not sure why you, like K.N. Ramachandran are so fixated on “era” and to be honest find it to be theoretically muddled. Maoism does not disagree that we are in an era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, rather it recognises that the theoretical and political contributions that Mao made to Marxism-Leninism required a major reconceptualization of that theoretical and practical framework from which we must act. It was an epistemological break which resulted in a need to re-concieve important aspects of Marxism-Leninism, much in the same way that Leninism did to Marxism (Bettelheim does a wonderful job demonstrating how Mao develops and enriches where Lenin stopped because of his death). I am not sure what you mean by Mao’s “philosophy was a thesis and not an ism”, rather I think we should see whether Mao’s theoretical contributions were a) scientific and b) provided the same kind of epistemological movement as Leninism did for Marxism. Indeed, it would be ridiculous to say that there is no such thing as Leninism because we were still in the era of capitalism as marked by Marx. I think that this whole “era” stuff is a complete red-herring. Leninism is an -ism because it forced Marxism to deal with epistemological obstacles in such a manner that it forced a change in the theoretical system itself. Also, I am not sure about what you mean about “Maoism” being a military line which would divorce the red army from the proletarian party, and do not find this claim that simply because in the GPCR they adopted “Mao Zedong Thought” that we should adopt that phrase as well. Leninism was not adopted in Lenin’s lifetime, so does that mean we should not use the term either? Rather, I think that we can reappraise in a critical manner Mao’s contributions and the Chinese experience and independently arrive at our own conclusions. I think that we also need a left critique of Mao because it is clear that their were limits to his leadership as well, and the social development of China. One of the errors that I think we can see in Mao’s international work is that he did not try to actually reconceptualize at an international level what a new international would look like, especially one that would not simply reproduce the limits of the Comintern and Cominform, however he did not do so.

  2. I just wished to state that admiring your defence of the C.P.I.(Maoist) I still staunchly defend that T.Nagi Reddy defended the armed struggle in Srikakulam and Naxalbari and was only critical of the concept of ”annihilation of the class enemy’ and the abandonment of mass organisations.Remember the implementaion of the mass line by the P.C.R.C.in Punjab in the early 1970’s and the later U.C.C.R.I.(M.L.)in the late 1970’s.It is really worth studying the writings of the Andhra Pradesh Co-ordination Commitee of Communist Revolutionaries.

    THe C.P.I.(Maoist) is the largest party and has built a powerful movement but if you read articles by Guatam Navlakha,still have not built sufficiently strong mass movements or organisations to supplement the armed struggle.The 1st Conference of the R.D.F.was just held in HYderabad which was great achievement,but this very phenomena was reflected.Open mass organisation sof the past like A.P.Rytu Coolie Sangham,Radical Students Union,Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad are virtually non -functioning.I also question the tactic of ‘active boycott’ in certain areas where there is lack of sufficient political consciousness.A very important point is that the proletarian party has still not been re-organized and is still at a formative stage.Infact it is still debatable whether the subjective factors exist for the launching of peoples war or armed struggle.I admire the efforts in Dandkaranya but still do not think it is a base area or reached a higher stage over Naxalbari.However I applaud them for making rectification sand creating peoples organisations.

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