A World To Win 23,1999Thirty years ago, the armed rebellion of the peasants of Naxalbari, a village in the State of West Bengal, sparked off a revolutionary conflagration in India. Centuries-old shackles of oppression and exploitation were attacked. Revisionist appeals to continue living as obedient slaves were scornfully ignored. The poor and downtrodden peasants dared to seize political power and expropriate the fruits of their toil from the hated feudal landlords.
Naxalbari literally shook up the whole country. The pent-up fury of the lowest of the low in Indian society, of Adivasis and Dalits (tribals and “untouchables” of caste society) besides other poor and landless peasants, burst out as raging storms of revolution in numerous places all over the country. The gusty winds of Naxalbari blew away a decades-old revisionist stench and stirred up hundreds of cadres trapped in parties like the CPI and CPM 1 into rebellion. In Calcutta and a number of smaller industrial centres whole sections of workers and the urban poor broke away from trade unionist hacks. A large number threw themselves into battle, fighting in the van of armed agrarian revolution as class-conscious proletarians. People from all walks of life, professionals, academics and others, joined the revolutionary festival of the masses. Naxalbari swept across a whole generation of youth and students and channelled the revolutionary vigour of thousands of youth fired by communist ideals of serving the people and self-sacrifice for the cause of revolution.
Despite long spells of revisionist domination before Naxalbari, the communist movement in India also
had an inspiring history of revolutionary struggle. Notable was the five-year-long Telengana armed struggle of the late ̓40s which succeeded in establishing red power in hundreds of villages during its high tide but was later betrayed by the CPI leadership. Groups of revolutionaries had sided with Mao Tsetung in the struggle against Soviet revisionism. But Naxalbari marked a leap. It was the product of a conscious grasp of Mao Tsetung Thought as a qualitatively new stage of Marxism-Leninism and its application to Indian conditions in initiating the revolutionary armed struggle of the masses. This is the distinct and key element which catapulted Naxalbari into centre stage. Led by Charu Mazumdar, a group of revolutionary cadre within the CPM organization in Darjeeling district had consciously fought to deepen te struggle against revisionism and centrism. Drawing valuable lessons from the ideological struggle led by Mao Tsetung against Khrushchevite revisionism and further from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, Charu Mazumdar succeeded in making a thorough rupture with revisionism (including recognizing the then-existing Soviet Union under revisionist leadership as an enemy) and launching the armed agrarian revolution aimed at the seizure of political power bit by bit through the path of protracted People̓s War. Naxalbari was seen as part of the world proletarian revolution. It fuelled revolutionary struggle in other countries in the region and received enthusiastic support from the Communist Party of China and other proletarian revolutionaries the world over.
Naxalbari raised the process of rupturing from the revisionists and forging a genuine communist vanguard to a new and higher level. In 1969 the bold step was taken of forming the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) under the leadership of Charu Mazumdar. The founding congress of the CPI (ML), held in 1970 amidst the advance of the armed struggle, adopted a program which characterized Indian society as semi-feudal, semi-colonial and identified the targets of revolution as feudalism, comprador-bureaucrat capitalism, imperialism and social-imperialism (as represented by the then-existent Soviet bloc). It laid down the tasks in the stage of New Democratic revolution and the path of protracted People̓s War.
Revolution is not a dinner party but, as Mao put it, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. The new vanguard had to be forged in and through the intense revolutionary upheaval unfolding in large parts of India. Deeply entrenched revisionist thinking and styles of work had to be continuously fought out, thousands of youth had to be remoulded and trained as proletarian fighters and leaders, the wealth of experience gained at the cost of blood had to be synthesized to develop the line and raise the level of the party̓s work — and all of this had to be done while making bold advances in the armed struggle and fighting off the murderous suppression of the enemy. The loss of a number of experienced cadres in the early days of the new party evidently put a big strain on its capacity to tackle these tasks. Serious difficulties caused by setbacks were further compounded by a rightist wind which tried to reverse the correct orientation of the party, seizing on some real weaknesses in its line and practice.
Much has been said about the so-called “sectarianism” and “adventurism” of Charu Mazumdar which supposedly “isolated” the party from the masses and caused setbacks. Yes, elements of one-sidedness, spontaneity and subjectivism which run counter to Charu Mazumdar̓s overall Marxist-Leninist-Maoist stand, viewpoint and method are evident in his works. But what strikes one most forcefully while reading them now is the resolute clarity in his criticism of revisionism, a keen grasp of the key question of seizing power, deep faith in the masses and robust revolutionary optimism. Far from isolation, his leadership deeply entrenched the party among the masses and created a vast reservoir of support which is still being tapped by genuine revolutionaries. His name continues to haunt the ruling classes and inspires revolutionaries.
Following the dastardly murder of Charu Mazumdar in 1972 by the Indian rulers abetted by the CPI-CPM revisionists, the CPI(ML) failed to continue as a single, united party. Since then there has been a lot of struggle over the summation of experiences and attempts to unite. The 1976 capitalist roaders̓ coup in China caused new divisions, greatly strengthened the rightist tendencies in the CPI(ML) and added complexities. But it also created important and new obligations and opportunities to deepen the grasp of ideology which in turn could give a new thrust to the struggle for a correct summation and unity. Unfortunately these opportunities were either missed, or ended up misused in cases where they were initially begun. Over the past years the genuine revolutionary forces have developed a better understanding of the significance of the internationalist struggle to defed Mao Tsetung̓s qualitative development of Marxism-Leninism to a whole new stage and to fight the capitalist usurpers in China initially led by Hua Kuo-feng and Deng Xiao-ping as well as Hoxhaite revisionist attacks on it. Yet this issue, which has direct implications for successfully completing the task of uniting Maoist revolutionary forces into a single centre, still remains to be fully resolved.
During this whole period, revolutionary forces who were part of the united CPI(ML) as well as others have heroically continued to hold high the red banner of Naxalbari. In Andhra, Bihar and Dandakaranya 2 armed revolutionary struggle has made significant advances, won wide-spread support from the masses of people and accumulated important experience.
Over the past 30 years the conditions which made the armed agrarian rebellion of Naxalbari possible and necessary have ripened even more. Aggressive imperialist penetration in all sectors of the economy coupled with the exploitation and oppression of the Indian ruling classes is causing an all-round intensification of the misery of the masses. Most importantly, it is calling forth resistance and struggle, including armed struggle, in diverse regions and sectors of society. Divisions among the ruling classes are increasing. Moreover, the initiation of People̓s War in neighbouring Nepal by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) gives a direct and intensifying impetus to revolutionary ferment within India.
This situation clearly demands a daring and mighty push to unite the communist revolutionaries into a single centre based on a correct Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line capable of uniting and leading all the streams of revolt and struggle into a mighty People̓s War. In the struggle to achieve this goal, which necessarily implies a synthesis of the rich experiences of the past 30 years, the revolutionary communist forces in India can and must draw strength from the experience of the whole class internationally, especially the higher understanding concentrated in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Concretely this means fighting to forge a single vanguard party united in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.
Proletarian revolutionaries throughout the world cannot afford the slightest indifference to the advances and difficulties of our comrades in India. In the first issue of this journal we pointed out that: “If you are talking about world revolution, you are talking about India.” In the diverse languages of India, “Naxalbari Zindabad!” means “Long Live Naxalbari!”. But, for the oppressed in India and beyond, it also means “It̓s Right to Rebel!”
1 Communist Party of India, CPI, the pro-Soviet revisionist party in India. Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) is a centrist split-off from the CPI in 1963 which criticized the CPI and Khrushchev as revisionist but which never adopted a genuine revolutionary program.
2 A vast forest region comprised of parts of four states in central India.