[This article is copied from the frontierindia.scriptmania.com website, where it was originally posted on Nov. 5/6, 2000. The author is the editor of a publication called Lok Dasta which I have not seen. To make the text easier to read on the web I adjusted it to have smaller paragraphs, and also added the subheads. The specific references to the mass line begin in the section entitled "The Revolutionary Mass Line". —S.H.]
Marxism, since its inception, has had many "deaths" if we take into consideration the "obituaries", pronouncements or prophesising of its "end" in this mortal world. Right from the band of ex-Marxists to the archreactionary type people have from time to time declared the ultimate demise of this "utopia". But despite all their skullduggery, Marxism has kept rising from the ashes like the legendary phoenix.
It is no wonder then that a similar fate has awaited Naxalism, which arose to reestablish [the] revolutionary essence of Marxism in the concrete conditions of post-colonial India in the late sixties. The Naxalite movement [will] shortly be completing three and a half decades of its journey in India. In this connection it appeared worthwhile to take a bird's eyeview of the goings on the movement and extrapolate its future trajectory in the 21st century.
It may be noted at this juncture that barring a few interventions, writings and books which reached the newsstands in the immediate aftermath of Naxalbari, the whole gamut of revolutionary left movement has largely remained outside the purview of Indian Marxist intellectuals of different hues all these years. It is only when gross human rights violations are noticed in the naxalite infested (as the bourgeois press calls it) areas that one observes activities on part of the partisan intelligentsia. But by and large the concerns and the experiences, programmes, strategies and tactics, interorganisational relationships have largely remained unanalysed and undiscussed among left intellectuals. Definitely no single individual can be held responsible for this, but it need be said that maintaining silence over such a big social phenomenon does not seem to be a healthy trend.
Today the revolutionary left movement loosely called the Naxalite movement presents quite a paradoxical picture. One notices two processes, the first one signifying its progress on practical and on a limited theoretical plane and the other one signifying the problems since its inception which have maintained a continuity with the past.
On the one hand all evidence goes to show that the movement is on the rise, its influence among the poor and downtrodden is growing. Despite tremendous state repression accompanied by martyrdoms and killings, Andhra being the most strife torn state, the flow of fresh cadres to its ranks is not dwindling. It is not for nothing that today it can claim to be one of the strongest revolutionary left movements in the world, those only next to the Philippines, Peru and Nepal.
Fresh action plan on part of the government seeking Vietnamese or Israeli help in the counterinsurgency operations against the Naxalites are also an indicator that all the old grandiose plans about its suppression have come a cropper and the movement as a whole is growing.
On the other hand it is also true that the revolutionary left has been beset with problems which are refusing to go. If the problem of left adventurism visited it in the earlier period, today also it can't be said with surity that the movement has got rid of this trend. Left adventurism coupled with right opportunism present the strongest non-proletarian trend within the movement.
As things stand today the revolutionary left has been marked by the presence of more than forty odd formations and the tragic phenomenon of split within split. The failure of the movement in impacting the national politics all these years barring a small period at the time of the Naxalite uprising and its essentially marginal existence on the scene appears quite natural in such a background.
Definitely this paradoxical situation needs to be explained before talking about the future prognosis of the movement. One needs to delve deep into the strengths and the weaknesses of the movement and simultaneously one should also look into the whole dialectic of subjective forces and objective conditions logic to arrive at a clear understanding.
A comprehensive understanding of this paradoxical situation requires analysis at three different levels. The first and foremost can be said to be the problems encountered in the initial phase of the movement. The second layer of analysis would comprise of the programmatic formulations adopted by the movement and its relevance in today's conditions. The third layer of analysis should focus on the changes in the overall schema of global capital and the challenges before the socialist project in the aftermath of the reversals faced by the socialist camp.
Before delving deep into the pluses and the minuses of the movement it would be better to cast a glance at the contemporary Naxalite movement which has acquired a different look since the days of Naxalbari. Ranging from geographical shift to a new crop of leadership this new face is visible at many different levels.
The most significant change has been the plethora of formations which today claim the legacy of the Naxalite uprising. It could be said that all the attempts since the days of Naxalbari to unite the revolutionary communists under a single banner have failed. And indications are that nothing substantial will happen in the coming years.
The old leadership of the movement has given way to an altogether new leadership which had its first brush with politics in the aftermath of Naxalbari. Most of the old stalwarts of the movement are either dead or not playing any significant role.
The second noticeable change has been an areawise shift in the focus of the movement. If Bengal heralded the onset of the "Naxalbari uprising" adding names of Naxalbari, Debra-Gopiballabpur, Birbhum, Calcutta, etc. to the folklore then, today with more than two decades of rule by CPIM the revolutionary left has been relegated to the background in that state, and movements in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, etc. have gained prominence.
A sea change is visible in the modus operandi of the movement. None of the formations owing allegiance to Naxalbari today considers building mass organisations to be a sign of "revisionism"; most of them at some level are engaged in what would have been considered "reformist work", in the earlier phase; many of the formations have started fighting elections supposedly to expose the system; nobody now talks of red armies marching in the would be "Yenans" of India.
Another notable feature is the changed composition of class forces standing or supporting the movement. If in the 60s [the] revolutionary left could garner enough support based among the urban middle classes in general and the intelligentsia in particular, especially in Bengal, leading the famous exodus of the "best brains of the times" to join with the movement. Down the years the whole movement has acquired a predominantly rural or tribal character where lower castes and marginal groups in [the] social hierarchy now form the core of its support base.
A significant change is also noticeable as far as sustaining the movement in any particular area for long period is concerned. At the time of Naxalbari it was not possible to continue at the high pitch of struggle for long. The uprising in Naxalbari could continue only for around seventy two days. The "guerilla" struggle which essentially got reduced to the line of "annihilation" of class enemies in areas like Srikakulam, Debra-Gobiballapur, [and] Birbhum also could not be sustained for long.
Today the movements in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Bastar in Madhya Pradesh or Koraput in Orrissa etc. apart from the strong movements in Dandakaranya and central Bihar are witness to the change that has occurred at the ground level.
Of course beneath the new look one notices quite a few things which are continuing in the same vigour and same mode. First and foremost seems to be the ideological zeal of its cadres who are committed to the cause of socialism and in a majority of cases ready to do ultimate sacrifice for this goal.
Like in late 60s it is still in a position to channelise the frustration of a large section of the thinking section of the Indian people over the failure of the independence project. Its making a radical rupture in the early days with parliamentarism and economism which had crept into the left movement and till [this] date it's largely keeping itself aloof from the mire of electoral politics and focussing attention on raising people's struggles in many a militant way is also worth underlining.
Like in the days of the 'spring thunder' the focus of the movements is still on the most backward regions and terrain of India where various medieval forms of oppression still persist.
As an aside it would be worthwhile to throw light on some of the actual activities of Naxal groups which are rarely mentioned in the mainstream media and completely get ignored in the government pronouncements. These activities in fact, are one of the reasons for the continuing popularity of Naxal groups in parts of India. It need be noted that what follows is a random selection of news and reports purportedly to give an idea of the multifarious activities undertaken by various ML formations.
Vaartha, Eenadu and all other leading newspapers of A P reported in May 1996 the temple entry movement led by Progressive Organisation of People, an outfit affiliated to the revolutionary left movement, in a village called Gudipadu situated around 20 km away from Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh. According to the newspapers the local Reddys and other upper class people denied the entry to the people belonging to Madiga community, a caste coming under scheduled category, to a temple constructed on village common land. The movement that ensued which had participation of different organisations from all over the state ultimetely proved successful.
It may also be told that the same organisations took up similar cases of caste apartheid or discrimination in many adjoining villages.
In a report on Naxalites under the title "Love for the Outlaws", Kanhaiah Bhelari tells us that "....Naxalites are the most loved lot in south Bihar not for nothing. In fact, they are the people's only insurance against demanding policemen, criminals and landlords." According to him the MCC and People's War Group have opened several schools in their areas of influence. Prominent among them are the ones in Matlaung (managed by MCC) and Baruwaiya (managed by PWG) in Palamu district.
He further adds that even some police superintendents were appreciative of the Naxalite crime control activities. District courts in the Naxal dominated areas have been witnessing a substantial drop in cases coming to them. In Palamu alone the no. of cases dropped from an average of 2400 per year to 1600 in the year 1997.
Many leading newspapers from the capital reported about the uproar in the Lok Sabha in the budget session (year 2000) of the parliament over the fast unto death undertaken by Umadhar Singh, MLA from Bihar owing allegiance to CPI(ML) New Democracy to demand CBI inquiry into the irregularities committed in the closure of Ashok Paper Mill. As already reported the MLA was seeking an inquiry into the alleged siphoning away of Rs 7 crore of central aid given for revival of a sick paper mill in Bihar.
In a seminar organised by All India People's Resistance Forum, Prof Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi University while delivering his speech on the human rights situation reported that the "...police and paramilitary forces destroyed a big irrigation bund near Mahbob Nagar, (A.P.) built by voluntary labour, since the inspiration came from the Naxalites. Police also destroyed five bus stops in Karim Nagar and Warangal district since they were built by sympathizers of the Naxalite movement. He gave several such instances of the attitude of the police towards development programmes run by the Naxals".
People's Union for Civil Liberties in an illuminating report on Baster more than a decade ago has this to say about the movement led by Naxalites there "...a lopsided socioeconomic development of the district caused by indirect exploitation through environmental destruction and direct exploitation through cheating and duping, has provided an ideal setting for the Naxalites to take root in the area... They supported the illegal encroachments of forest land and organised some campaigns of encroachment themselves; they repeatedly brought to the fore the issue of tanks and the need to maintain them in a systematic manner for irrigation; they openly opposed the Bodhghat project; they punished corrupt officials; they made the tendu leaf contractors increase the wage rates; and they held health and education programmes among tribals".
In his celebrated travelogue India Waits, Jan Myrdal a Swedish national and author of many a book, opined favourably about the activities of the armed squads belonging to one of the groups (CP Reddy group) of the ML movement. The area covered by Jan and his wife was Warangal. According to him the armed squads are political organizers, not anarchists or bandits.
The job of the squad is to popularise the revolutionary line and to take up the people's problems. Each squad is made up of a squad leader and four members. According to him 90 percent of the squad members they met were natives of the local areas. "The armed squads teach new improved farming methods. They help people carry out irrigation projects. Just in this area (Warangal) we've seen [...] that thirty irrigation reservoirs have been built".
He further adds that cultural work is an important part of the squad's work which includes not only songs and dances but political education and teaching [the] three R's forms the key component of this work. About the integration of the Naxalites with the life of the common people Jan Myrdal is all praise and tells how Subba becomes Subbanna (elder brother Subba) or Nirmala becomes Nirmalakka (elder sister Nirmala) and the party secretary becomes Pedanna (the eldest).
Praksah Singh, an IPS officer who was posted some time in Naxalite infested areas to oversee the operations, in his book The Naxalite Movement in India says "...[s]horn of politics, it (the Naxalite movement) represents the struggle of the exploited peasant, deprived tribal and the urban proletariat for a place in the sun, for social and economic survival." While looking at the genesis of the ups and downs of the movement he adds, "Naxalism arose from certain basic factors-social injustice, economic inequality and the failure of the system to redress the grievances of a large sections of people who suffered and continue to suffer as a result therefrom".
While acknowledging that the Naxalite movement could attract some of the finest brains and the cream of India's youth in certain areas, who left their homes and colleges to chase the dream of a new world, a new social order, he concludes that "The factors which gave rise to Naxalism in the country are, in any case, [are] very much present today also and in an acute and aggravated form."
As already mentioned since late 60s when the Naxalite uprising occurred much water has flown down the Tista or for that matter the Ganges. Gone are the days when the pioneers of the movement propagated that "the battle of annihilation of class enemies is both the higher form of class struggle and the starting point of guerilla war" or when mass organisations and mass movements were supposed to increase the tendency towards open and economistic movement or when dependence upon petty bourgeois intellectuals along with disregard for mass forms led to emphasis on individual terrorism based on conspiratorial methods. "The method of forming a guerilla unit has to be wholly conspiratorial... This conspiracy should be between intellectuals and on a person to person basis. The petty bourgeois intellectual comrade should take initiative in this respect as far as possible. He should approach the poor peasant who in his opinion has the most revolutionary potentiality and whisper in his ears: Don't you think it a good idea to finish off such a jotedar?" [Or the] declaration of "China's Chairman" to be "our Chairman" or declaring [the] 70s to be decade of emancipation was witnessed during this period only.
Definitely the new face of the movement would not have been possible had the leadership of the movement continued its journey on these and similar "left adventurist deviations" and had not abandoned many of its wrong formulations. Within the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries which was formed in the aftermath of the Naxalite Uprising to unite the "revolutionaries of CPM" also one witnessed the struggle against this adventurist deviations.
In fact it can be said that the first major struggle within the incipient revolutionary left movement around the question of revolutionary mass line was led by T Nagi Reddy, D V Rao, veterans of the Communist movement from A P. Today the whole spectrum of the revolutionary left looks more akin to be working on the tactical line of the A P Revolutionary Communist Committee led by T Nagi Reddy and D V Rao. It may sound one of the ironies of history that the APRCC was disaffiliated from the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries over basic differences which essentially boiled down to loyalty to CPC, differences regarding people's armed struggle and differences regarding boycotting elections.
Most of the formations have been compelled by circumstances to review past mistakes and have to draw necessary lessons therefrom. Of course it can't be said that an all round critique of the left adventurist positions including its genesis and growth and its impact on the organisational line has been done by the movement. For that the very formation of the CPI(ML) which took place under the shadow of this left adventurist position only and was declared soon after the disaffiliation of APRCC needs to be scrutinized again.
Overall the situation is such that the forty plus formations in which the movement has split have gotten over the blatant manifestations of the wrong line which raised its head in the initial period. But at a deeper level it appears that many of the remnants of the older understanding are still continuing. The correct approach towards revolutionary mass line is yet to evolve and to be articulated.
One also notices diametrically opposite positions on tactical matters. For example, a significant section of the ML formations still are carriers of the boycott elections line. The inconsistency of the "boycottists" is also visible when they are found to be tactically supporting this or that bourgeois formation under the general slogan of election boycott.
Whereas quite a few formations have rectified their approach towards elections but now another danger is visible when a major formation within this block seems to be drifting towards CPI-CPM to form what it calls left confederation.
What could be said to be the genesis of the left adventurism witnessed in the initial phase of the movement? One reason could be [that] the drift to left adventurism was a logical culmination of the one and a half decade history of parliamentarism and economism rampant in the movement after the "abject surrender of Telangana people's armed struggle" when the pendulum swung to an opposite direction.
A correct approach to this initial phase of the movement can be set if we revisit the question of the evaluation of Charu Mazumdar's role. While the historic role played by the ideological leadership of Charu Mazumdar in this radical rupture from the "neo-revisionist" CPM needs to be highlighted, it cannot be denied that his leadership held the principal responsibility for fomenting a left adventurist line.
It will be a separate study in itself to know how adventurism essentially negates democracy and promotes centralism and how it affects proper organisational functioning. In the Indian case it precipitated the phenomenon of splits which continues till [the present] date.
The AICCR in its very first declaration had stated that one of its main tasks would be "to undertake preparations of a revolutionary programme and tactical line based on concrete analysis of Indian conditions in the light of Mao Tse Tung's thought". History is witness to the fact that this task could not be accomplished because of the dominance of left adventurist line which saw the formation of the CPI(ML) just after the disaffiliation of the APRCC led by T Nagi Reddy and D V Rao and scuttling the first great debate in the ML movement around revolutionary mass line.
The 1970 programme accepted by the [newly] formed CPI(ML) stated that "India is semi-feudal and semi-colonial country, the Indian state is the state of the big landlords and comprador bureaucrat capitalists and its government is a lackey of U.S imperialism and Soviet social imperialism". It further said that "the Indian revolution at this stage is the democratic revolution of the new type-the People's Democratic Revolution-the main content of which is the agrarian revolution". According to this understanding, by building [a] strong worker-peasant alliance and following Mao's theory of protracted people's war revolutionary communists will be able to give crushing blows to the powerful enemies and usher into a new democratic revolution.
A majority of the formations belonging to the revolutionary left stream still broadly accept this programme. But it is interesting to note that while adhering to this programme their interpretation and understanding of this line does not converge. While for some in the binary combination of feudalism and imperialism, feudalism is acting as the main contradiction, a small section in this spectrum also talks of the alliance of feudalism-imperialism to be the basic contradiction. With passage of time the earlier assertions regarding "China's Path to be Our Path" or the blind application of the Chinese experience [to the] Indian situation have been de-emphasized. The differences of the Indian situation vis-a-vis [the] Chinese situation have slowly got prominence. There is growing recognition of the development of capitalism in various spheres of society and its impacting the social relations.
Questions are also being asked about the whole concept of "semi feudal" relations which was based on the premise that feudalism acted as a social prop of imperialism as was evident during the times of Chinese revolution. The actual transformation of the Indian agriculture undertaken with the abolition of intermediaries or with the emergence of the new class of kulaks and rural proletariat has prompted its comparison with that of the Junker transformation of agriculture in the 19th century Prussia. As is known, [the] Junker path or the Prussian path of agrarian transformation focussed on the non-revolutionary manner in which agriculture in the feudal mode could be put on the capitalist path. Lenin's study on the The Development of Capitalism in Russia has helped initiate debate within the movement to discern the underlying development of productive forces and the changes in production relations in the Indian context. The criteria set forth by Lenin regarding [the] development of capitalism in agriculture namely, extraction of surplus through employment of wage labour, general commoditization and widespread existence of market relations and transformation of surplus into capital for facilitating extended reproduction of capitalism have facilitated this discussion.
Later studies have further helped to know the multifarious ways in which capital enters agriculture. Practical experience of different movements in rural areas also prompted discussion on the characterisation of Indian agriculture. Semi-feudal production relations connote that [the] four class alliance involving rich peasants, middle peasants and poor as well as landless peasants or agricultural workers would come up against "feudal lords". Barring some pockets in far off areas one noticed that it is failing to come up, and by and large [a] three class alliance comprising middle, poor peasants and agricultural workers [is] emerging where the middle peasant acts as a vacillating ally of the revolutionary forces.
The concept of "semi-colonial" has also come under fresh scrutiny. Naxalbari happened when the whole world appeared to be taking a new turn when the Indian ruling classes were caught up in the first major crisis in post-colonial India, or when many a capital of the advanced capitalist countries were ringing with anti-capitalist slogans accompanied by large scale mass movements. It was a time when France witnessed [the] student worker uprising in May '68 or a strong antiwar movement erupted in US or when the growing anti-colonial struggles in many African and Asian countries were sort of providing a living proof that they have become storm centres of revolution, or when tiny Vietnam was delivering death blows to U S Imperialism.
Today with the completion of the task of liberation of colonies leading to emergence of independent nation states and with the unfolding of the phenomenon of globalisation of capital it is becoming clear that the old characterisation should be given a fresh thought. In the Indian context the way in which the Indian bourgeoisie has gathered strength and enlarged its base without unleashing a revolutionary onslaught on feudalism and without making a break with imperialism is being noted by everyone.
It is true that its success in establishing its leadership over the anti-colonial struggle and its taking advantage of the major developments on the international arena has helped it achieve such a position. The task of decolonisation undertaken by the Indian bourgeoisie to remove colonial distortions from the economy but at the same time making compromises with imperialism and preparing the ground for entering into a partnership with the imperialist capital for the exploitation of Indian people further point to the inadequacy of the older formulation depicting its relationship with imperialism.
The imposition of emergency by the Indira regime which was frightened by the unfolding crisis and growing people's movement way back in 1975 precipitated [a] questioning process on the "semi-colonial" mode in the revolutionary left movement. [The question] was raised [about] how a "comprador bourgeoisie" which is nothing but "stooge of imperialism" could grant "limited democratic rights" to its people.
It is becoming more and more clear that the 1970 programme, which was based on the then existing understanding of [the] interrelationship between feudalism and imperialism and was written in the shadow of the new strides taken by the Chinese revolution, needs to be either updated or dealt afresh. The salient features of the Indian situation also need to be detailed out. It should comprise not only the specificities of the Indian state and society as they have evolved down the years but also incorporate the strength as well as limitations of the revolutionary left's intervention in terms of theory as well as practice and [the] trajectory of its relationship with other people's movements [and] struggles.
The texture of times can also be demonstrated by half a century of experiment in bourgeois democracy which has helped strengthen various misconceptions and illusions about this mode of governance. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the situation encountered by the revolutionary left in India today is unique of its kind [and] without any precedence. The Great revolutions of the 20th century mainly occurred confronting a state which was more backward, more barbaric and denied even a semblance of democratic rights to its citizenry.
The revolutionary left in India has to confront a state which has also learned from the negative experiences of these revolutions for itself and has been able to spread bourgeois democracy by multifarious ways which includes regular election to various representive bodies or granting limited democratic rights to the citizens.
It is also clear that [the] state is very selective in the application of its repressive laws and machinery. Whereas it has for all practical purposes imposed martial law like situations in North East or Kashmir or the various strongholds of the revolutionary left where the police and paramilitary forces have been given tremendous powers in one or the other variant of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, in the rest of India it has still been able to largely maintain democratic pretensions with the spread out network of judiciary, executive and legislature at various levels of society.
The uneven development of India with the concomitant existence of various castes, communities and nationalities has compounded the task further in one way or the other. As already mentioned the end of the 20th century has been witness to new types of movements ranging from the dalit, women, to issues of sustainable development. And it already been mentioned that the revolutionary left has largely remained on the periphery of these movements. Though at practical level of grassroot politics it has shown lot of innovativeness and creativity by raising the question of izzat and its initial success in central Bihar can be attributed to its realising the importance of this issue but as far as theoretical backup is concerned it seems to be still embroiled in the traditional "class reductionist" framework.
The issue of gender oppression and an end to patriarchy has also to be dealt with in a more creative manner. Looking at the spread of the movement it has already been discussed that it is more strong in those areas where mediaeval forms of oppression still exist or violation of minimum democratic norms is the order of the day. The other part of the story is that it has yet to make a headway in those normal areas where a semblance of democratic apparatus still operates or where the issues of izzat do not exits at mass level or for that matter community or tribal bondage hardly exist. Its more or less absence from the urban India barring a few pockets in some stray cities or its below marginal presence in the organised working class is definitely a cause of concern.
It is also true that it has to get ready to answer many inconvenient questions which it has till now brushed aside as part of bourgeois propaganda. The human rights movements in this country which has all along protested encounter killings and violation of democratic rights, has recently raised some questions about the implementation of democratic rights within the movement. Definitely this is an altogether changed terrain than the one when the first salvos of Naxalbari reverberated throughout India.
The revolutionary left has to clearly understand that these are new times which demand a lot of imaginary and creativity and persistence from the torchbearers of [the] genuine left. The task of building an all India revolutionary communist party needs to be taken up with new vigour. First and foremost fresh attempts need to be done to reverse the phenomenon of splits within splits and unify the various apparently heterogeneous formations under a single umbrella.
Definitely [there must] ensue a period of intense debates, discussions and polemical exchanges within the formations to reach a unified understanding of ideological, political and organisational positions. If the movement does not show enough perseverance to undertake these tasks there is a danger that the movement will not be able to stop its slide into the cesspool of militant economism or right opportunism.
Revolutions happen not only because the objective conditions are ripe or the subjective forces are well organised, the necessary condition for any such situation is that the leading elements should be in a position to provide blueprint of revolution at least at a theoretical level. It has two aspects: Firstly, the leading elements should be able to provide a correct appraisal of the then existing national-international situation and secondly, they should be in a position to give a scientific and balanced critique about the socialist project as it unfolded and [the] future prognosis of the same.
The revolutionary left as it exists and operates today, will have to take up this with right earnestness if it really wants to leave its imprint on the 21st century. First and foremost it will have to get to know the challenges presented by the times.
Apart from the earthshaking events like the colonial countries becoming storm centres of revolution, Naxalbari happened when under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had unleashed a historic struggle to save the nascent socialist state from taking a capitalist road. As is history the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was accompanied by formation of revolutionary communist parties the world over which came out of the parent "pro-soviet parties". And in many places these parties had launched armed struggle to follow the Chinese path against their ruling classes who according to them were lackeys of imperialism and epitome of feudal reaction.
Today all that is over. Neither the socialist bloc is to be seen and the then centre of world proletarian revolution China itself has undertaken great strides on the capitalist road. As things stand today the national and international situation is less conducive and more adversarial for any movement which claims to fight for social justice and progress.
The revolutionary left needs to understand the changed terrain and its different contours as it is obtained in the beginning of the 21st century to make a correct appraisal of the situation. Essentially it needs to give a fresh look at the three large questions before itself. First, how has the world capitalist system changed over the course of this century and what is the modus operandi of imperialism today? What has been the extensive and intensive changes in the way capitalism operates? Second, how to review and what lessons to draw from the history of socialism as it existed during the twentieth century? And third, what future courses are open to the societies of the third world countries which have made varying degrees of transition to capitalism? What are the prospects of revolution in these countries and what is likely to be the nature and the course of these revolutions?
Definitely these are not simple questions and in the present conditions as they are obtained in the revolutionary movement they are largely open questions. Nobody can claim today to have adequate answers to all or any of them. It would be one of the key tasks of the international communist movement to work out these answers.
Summing up it is pertinent to ask what did the Naxalites achieve in their three plus decade old rebellion. And a part of the answer could be provided by quoting Samar Sen, the famous Bengali poet and founder editor of Frontier in his editorial note to "Naxalbari and After: A Frontier Anthology": "[but] What did Naxalbari achieve in practical terms? The cynic might ask. And it is a difficult question to answer. Admittedly, the Naxalbari raised more problems than they solved. But the very problems they raised and tried to solve in a hurry had never been raised with such a force of sincerity before or after Telengana. That is their achievement."
Definitely it has not been an easy task for the Naxalites to break new grounds in the left movement to retrieve the revolutionary essence of Marxism. Of course its pioneers would not have thought that it would prove to be such a tortuous process that [since] the decade of the 70s which was declared to be a decade of liberation, the beginning of the 21st century would also find them quite far away from their cherished goal of ushering into a People's India.
The '90s symbolized the paradoxical situation of the movement in a poignant manner. On the one hand it witnessed escalation of violence on part of the state to contain what it calls "ideology clad left wing extremism" leading to sharp increase in the number of encounter killings or its bold pronouncements about forming a joint command for Naxalite affected areas.
On the other hand the phenomenon of internecine killing among different revolutionary groups raised its head with a vengeance in this decade only. While one could trace the genesis of these types of violent internecine disputes in the 80s, it could only make its presence felt [when] the 90s situation came to such a pass that the private armies of the landlords like Ranveer Sena could raise their head in Bihar benefiting from the internecine armed disputes.
Of course on the positive side one was witness to [a] new realisation, [a] new appreciation of the changed terrain and the texture of times in which the revolutionary left has to negotiate its path and supposedly make break through in the 21st century. The positive reaction and the debate generated in the whole spectrum of the revolutionary left over a study on Globalisation of Capital brought out by CLI(ML) can be called a sign of the times to come.
The importance of international linkages with a vision to form a new international is also becoming more and more clear. There have been quite a few international seminars in which various streams of the revolutionary left participated. Groups like CPI(ML) JanShakti and People's War also took [the] initiative in organising international seminars in their home country. The unity of CPI(ML) People's War Group and CPI(ML) Party Unity under a single banner has also helped embolden the mood among the genuine sympathisers of the movement.
Will [the] Naxalite left be able to get out of this anomalous situation in which it finds itself today? Will it prove to be [the] real inheritors of the Bolsheviks who ushered us into the first socialist revolution or it will get sucked into the Charkavuva much like the mythological Abhimanyu from Mahabharata who it is said did not know the correct way to get out of the battle? Whether the new century would help the whole spectrum of revolutionary left turn a new leaf in the history of communist movement in the 21st century. The situation is pregnant with tremendous new possibilities. It remains to be seen whether the Naxalite left which carved out a place for itself in postcolonial India in the 20th Century will be able to repeat its feat in the 21st Century also.