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An Infirm Patient Gasps for Oxygen [A reply to CPI (ML) Red Flag]

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 17, 2007

In the September ’98 issue of ‘Red Star’ (RS), in the article entitled “Let the doctor treat himself first” [A response to CPI (ML) PW’s criticism against CPI (ML) Red Flag] the author seeks to justify his party’s inconsistencies and its serious deviations to the right. It seeks to avoid clear-cut answers through obfuscation of the main issues involved.

The questions that arise from the reply are:

(i) Does the CPI (ML) Red Flag (henceforth referred to as RF) accept the strategy of area-wise seizure of power, through a protracted people’s war? If YES, how are its present tactics linked to that strategy ? If no, what is its strategy for seizure of power in this so-called phase of ‘neo-colonial capitalist development.’

(ii) Does it accept agrarian revolution as the axis of the new democratic revolution ? If not, how then is seizure of power to be achieved ? If YES, what steps is it taking to further this key task?

(iii) Clearly state what is the predominant mode of production within India today. If it is fast heading towards ‘capitalist development’ ( R.S. page 13, Sept. ’98), however ‘distorted or neo-colonial’ that may be, what is the implication of this so-called ‘qualitative CHANGE’ on the STRATEGY of Indian Revolution?

(iv) With a basically legal party organisation (including leadership) how does RF expect to intensify the class struggle in a country like India which has few democratic institutions or traditions ? Besides, how does it expect to face fascist forces, maintaining a legal existence?

(v) Can Bolshevisation of the Party be achieved independent of the intensification of the class struggle?

Having posed these questions, let us now take up some of the major issues raised by RS in its Sept.’98 issue:

(1) On Strategy and Tactics:

In the section entitled ‘On armed struggle’ (RS pages 19, 20) while pitting the earlier Telangana armed struggle against the present-day armed struggles, RS concludes that “though PW and some other organisations may continue to have dalams and their numbers may even increase, no real break-through is possible in leading the NDR to victory.” First, to pit an armed struggle of the past with that of the present is outright distortion – hailing one, while calling the other ‘sectarian.’ Second, to state that the present is bound to lead to failure, without suggesting any alternative for seizure of political power, is nothing but defeatist. Third, if the earlier armed struggles are really being hailed, how is the RF at least applying those principles to their present practice?

But, it is apparent that RF is not really serious about armed struggle. This is evident when, in a later paragraph, it says that the “present Indian situation is BASICALLY (emphasis ours) different form that of pre-1949 China. “If it is BASICALLY different, is RF questioning the very Chinese path of protracted people’s war? It would appear so! PW clearly states that in essence the Indian revolution will follow the Chinese path, and the differences that exist have been clearly outlined in the PW document ‘Strategy and Tactics’.

What then is the RF’s alternative to the present armed struggle ? It is a pathetic call “for a mighty ideological-political campaign to combat the counter-revolutionary imperialist offensive in all fields including socio-cultural fields to prepare the masses for revolution.” Such counterposing of mere propaganda activity to intensification of the class struggle is an indication of the depths of impotency to which the RF leadership has descended. Such propaganda has been going on for the past two decades. For how many more decades does the RF leadership plan to confine its party’s activity to primarily propaganda?

Propaganda against imperialism is of course imperative, but that cannot indefinitely remain the essence of a proletarian party’s activity. Besides, PW has been actively conducting such propaganda and ‘ideological and political campaigns’ against imperialism, while keeping the anti-feudal armed struggle as its central focus. The two need not be counterposed, as the RF is attempting to do. Let us look at some examples of PW’s anti-imperialist programmes.

To build the anti-imperialist consciousness, PW, every year, in all its areas, actively conducts August 15th and January 26th as ‘black days’…. and has held April 14th as Anti-Dunkel Day. Besides, it has conducted countrywide campaigns against the government’s liberalisation policies, the Dunkel IGATI’ offensive, the Gulf War, the Bhopal Union Carbide holocaust, etc. The mass organisations have held seminars against the imperialist/comprador inspired coal policy, education policy, destruction of the environment etc. On the cultural front, the mass organisations have been actively fighting imperialist culture, as in the joint activity against the Miss World contest and the campaign against cable TV in the guerilla zone area even successfully stopping Cable TV in

certain villages. North Telangana guerilla zone areas youth organisations have conducted wide campaigns against the MNC’s introduction of mini-cigarettes, and have even successfully banished it in some villages. Besides, at the local level numerous specific campaigns have been conducted, such as the Karnataka student’s campaign against Ford Foundation, the coal mine workers’ campaign against the new coal policy, etc.

So, for RF to make a fetish of anti-imperialist propaganda and to pit it against the anti-feudal armed struggles is merely a method to cover up its own passivity in furthering the class struggle. The reality is that the RF has no clear-cut strategy for the seizure of power and must therefore rest content with making banalities such as “learning from them ( i.e. other revolutions) and learning from the masses of people in our country, we have to make ourselves capable of seizing the political power and creating a New Democratic India.” For all the RF’s self-professed claims to theoretical purity, its fuzziness on basic questions of strategy and tactics are noteworthy.

(2) On Theory and Practice

The problem with the RF is that it confuses ‘Left’ rhetoric for ‘theory’ and then complains that the VG critique negates theory for pragmatism. Quite the contrary, the VG critique merely emphasises the importance of theory to be taken as a guide to action…. not for the sake of ‘Left’ sloganeering to dupe genuine cadre. For example RF’s claim to be inheritors of the CPI (ML) and Naxalbari, its praise for CM, its support to the Peru and Philippines revolutionary movements, etc. is in no way linked to either its present policies and practice, nor to its newly founded alliances with revisionists and counter-revolutionaries.

What is worse, it is manipulating ‘theory’ to provide a smoke screen for its own drift to the right, by attempting to club the genuine revolutionaries with the Lin Piaoists and spreading false rumours that PW is following the ‘foco theory’ in its armed struggle. Not once has it been shown in any article or practice wherein PW is basing itself on the ‘foco’ concept, yet RF persists in this slander.

Is the RF unaware of PW’s repeated emphasis on the mass line and the need to arouse the masses for armed struggle ? Are they unaware of the extensive mass mobilisation by the PW inspite of heavy repression ? Do the concepts of the PW to build the guerilla zone by establishing the organs of people’s power, establishing development committees, educational committees, justice committees and the village militias, fit in with the Cuban style ‘foco’ theory ? Does the existence of mass organisations of the peasants, workers, youth, women, students and the sweeping cultural movements, fit the ‘foco’ concept. Is the RF just ignorant of these facts or is it playing with ‘theory’?

(3) On United Front

RS makes contradictory statements (RS page 21) when it first accuses PW of being sectarian for not being part of their ‘slogan based joint movement’ with various revisionist formations, and in the very next breath accuses PW for incorrectly allying with rich peasant forces.

First let it be clear, that rich peasants form part of the New Democratic United Front, while revisionists do not. As Lenin said, revisionists are nothing but bourgeois agents within the working class movement – they are the enemies of revolution and the last refuge of reaction. For RF to ally with revisionists like CPI (ML) Liberation, CPI (ML) New Democracy, COI (ML) and MCPI in a so-called ‘slogan-based joint movement’ – which is defacto an anti-imperialist unity – only acts to diffuse any real anti-imperialist struggles. Revisionists of all hues, no matter what demagogic statements they may make, cannot play any significant anti-imperialist role. The MCPI, particularly, is notorious for its anti-people activities in Narsombet area in Warangel district. Its leader, Omkar, a No.1 class enemy in the area, had thrice survived the annihilation attempts by the guerillas of CPI(ML)f People’s War]. A front with such elements only acts as an effective safety valve for the dissipation of the anti-imperialist sentiments amongst the rank-and-file and masses under their influence.

It is one thing to have joint actions against imperialist targets – like say, Cargill; KFC, etc. – with all who are willing to participate, it is quite another matter to build a joint movement’ with revisionists. Issue based activities can and should be as broad as possible involving all who are willing to participate. But while building up United Front work, the aim should be to build the four class alliance, with the worker peasant alliance as its basis, specifically isolating all the enemies of revolution — particularly those that seek entry wearing a ‘Left’ mask. And, in the final analysis, the RF calls for a joint movement’ with Liberation-type outfits; the CPI (ML) Liberation calls for ‘Left-unity’ with the CPI(M) type ruling class parties; and the CPI (M) calls for ‘secular unity’ with the Congress (I) a cosy chain of unities, tying all to the status quo !

(4) On Revolution and Counter-revolution

The real problem with the RF in all its ‘Unity’ moves and joint movements’ is that it is not able to draw a clear line of demarcation between the revolutionary forces and the revisionists. This vision has got particularly blurred ever since it has changed it stand towards the CPI (ML) Liberation – first treating it as a revisionist organisation, now viewing it as part of the revolutionary camp, with merely a drift to the right.

As Mao said, it is imperative that the party of the proletariat be able to distinguish between Sian and Yenan….. i.e. between revolution and counter-revolution. Once this is done, the attitude towards each will differ. Towards the revolutionary (even with mistakes) it will be positive, and criticisms will be with a view to help and correct, while towards the revisionists the attitude will be quite different…..criticisms will here be with a view to expose and condemn. Such a difference in approach is not visible in RF’s present-day criticisms of PW and Liberation.

What is even worse, inspite of the CPI (ML) Liberation falling into the parliamentary path, supporting the erstwhile USSR, defending Deng’s China, etc., the RF claims that in essence the PW line and the Liberation line are the same…. just because Liberation also continues to nominally maintain that the contradiction between feudalism and the masses is principal. Does such polemics have any seriousness, when it is quite clear that the two parties are, in essence, poles apart? It is nothing but resorting to formal logic to distort reality …. like saying, a horse has four legs; a donkey has four legs, so a horse is equal to a donkey!

(5) On Principal Contradiction

Here, RS has resorted to a mechanical application of Mao’s philosophical concepts and also to distortion of the classics, in order to undermine the anti-feudal task in the Indian democratic revolution.

First, it states that PW is eclectic in its understanding by “its deletion of principal contradiction at the international level, while faithfully sticking to it at national level in its party programme. “And it further adds that the RF is more consistent by removing this concept at both international and national levels. Sounds very logical…. but pure logic has its limitations, specifically when it seeks to cover up the truth. For RS to compare the entity of the World Socialist Revolution with that of the Indian Revolution, is to confuse the issue. The World Socialist Revolution is an ensemble of separate revolutions in different countries, for which there may or may not be a ‘principal contradiction’; while the Indian revolution (or the revolution in any one country) is not an ensemble of separate anti-imperialist revolutions and anti-feudal revolutions, but a composite whole, wherein at different times one particular contradiction will be principal.

Next, for RS to state that, “the documents of the 1CM and the communist parties including the CPC till 1968, show that till that time the concept of principal contradiction was never put forward in any of them is downright dishonest. On the question of World Socialist Revolution, the CPC had never put forward the concept of a principal contradiction, but, at most, referred to the storm centres of world revolution. On the other hand, as regards the Chinese revolution, the CPC has always put forward the concept of a principal contradiction – generally being between feudalism and the masses of the Chinese people, which changed to that between Japanese imperialism and the Chinese nation, at the time of Japanese aggression.

The RF is resorting to bourgeois semantics to justify its removal of the clause that in the Indian revolution the principal contradiction is between feudalism and the masses of the people. If RF seeks to alter this basic content of the CPI (ML) programme, and the strategy and tactics based on it, it should openly say so, rather than resort to such subterfuge.

(6) On Neo-colonialism

The RF’s so-called ‘neo-colonial phase’ runs into two problems. First, is it a new stage of imperialism? Second, what then are the class relations within India ? Let us see what RS says.

On the first point they state (RS, Sept.’98, page 15), “The problem with PW like organisations is that they see changes as only arithmetic progressions. They refuse to see the qualitative changes that have taken place in the neo-colonial phase.” As quantitative (or arithmetical) change does not lead to the change in the nature of the entity itself and qualitative change does, the RF must explain what are the qualitative changes in imperialism that have taken place in this so-called ‘neo-colonial phase’. The PW definitely does not believe that the present developments have led to any qualitative changes in imperialism, but that the present neo-colonial policies have only accentuated all the aspects of imperialism as defined by Lenin. This is more clearly brought out in an article on ‘Finance Capital today’, which appears in this issue of the magazine.

On the second point, in RF’s neo-colonial thesis, it is not clear what the predominant mode of production is, within the country. Neo-colony, semi-colony, colony, etc 4efines the relationship between a backward country and the imperialists, it does not state what the class relations within the country are – whether they are feudal, semi-feudal or capitalist. On this point RF is consistently ambiguous. Firstly, it denies (RS page 13) that “semi-feudal relations are predominant “; it also denies that it is “predominantly capitalist”. So in the RF schema the predominant mode of production at present remains undefined, but predicts that it is fast changing “towards a distorted or neocolonial capitalist development”. In other words, for the present, the RF is unable to define the predominant mode of production in the country, and for the future it says, that is will soon be capitalist…. though that capitalism may be “distorted or neo-colonial” in character. This understanding has no relation whatsoever with that of the CPI (ML) 1970 programme and is closer to that of the dependency theories of Andre Gunder Frank, Samir Amin, etc.

Based on an analysis of the changing agrarian relations within India, and utilising Mao’s concepts and Lenin’s ‘Development of capitalism in Agriculture’ as a guideline, PW clearly sees the predominant mode of production in India as semi-feudal.

(7) On Political Line and Armed Struggle

There is a tendency for the RF to pit political line against armed struggle… and also mass line against armed struggle…. thereby negating the importance of armed struggle in India. And to give validity to this argument, the failure of numerous armed struggles are cited.

First, let it be clear that armed struggle per se is not the only basis to prove the communist credentials of any movement. In fact in most backward countries, due to the inhuman oppression and fascist brutalities, the oppressed are forced to take to violence to defend even their minimum democratic, civil and human rights. So, often armed struggles are launched not only by communists but also by the oppressed nationalities and various other democratic forces.

In India too, not only is the oppression and exploitation reaching unbearable limits, the brutalities of the state and fascist gangs, are forcing not only the revolutionaries to violence, but also the oppressed nationalities, the dalits, the minorities, the workers and the peasants. Today, for example even minimum trade union rights are being denied

– liberal TU leaders like Niyogi and Samant are openly murdered; the one-lakh strong coal miners union, SIKASA, is banned; and strikes in public sector units have ESMA clamped against them and their leaders arrested. In such a situation, where all peaceful forms of activity become increasingly meaningless, does not the undermining of armed struggle play into the hands of the ruling classes and fascist forces? It is an irony that ‘revolutionaries’ like RF tremble at the word ‘armed struggle’, while the fascist forces like the Shiv Sena, RSS, Bairang Dal are openly building up their quasi-military forces. The RF keeps talking of fighting the fascist forces – yet it refuses to prepare itself for the task. It is not even able to learn from past history of the anti-fascist movement during World War II; where communists militantly fought the fascists in the streets as well as through partisan warfare.

One wonders how the RF can face the growing fascist menace with its entire Party apparatus, including the entire leadership, remaining overground and without any preparations for waging armed struggle.

Like the revisionist parties of the Second International, is not the RF leadership commiting the criminal folly of making the party totally defenceless? Even to carry out its self acclaimed anti-imperialist campaign, can it rely on its existing legal setup? Does not the passive, reformist line it has been pursuing lead to a complete decimation of the perty in the face of fascist attacks (provided, of course, the ruling classes think you are a real threat)? We request the RF leadership to seriously ponder over these question.

Though armed struggle cannot per se be equated to communism, in a country like India can any serious communist undermine it ? Here, where armed struggle is on the agenda from the very beginning of the revolutionary movement, any serious communist party must either be leading it, or preparing for it. For the RF to delink the question of political line from that of armed struggle, or to pit one against the other, is bound to lead to all forms of revisionism and reformism. The political line determines the friends and enemies of revolution at a given time, the line of conduct of the proletarian party at that moment, the tactics to be followed, etc…. all within the general strategic plan of revolution. Armed struggle is very much a part of this, and is, infact, central to the implementation of the very political line itself.

In a country such as India, only those communist revolutionaries that are serious about armed struggle are of any significance for making revolution. Political differences may exist even amongst those parties and groups on questions of analysis of the national and international situation, or questions of organisation and tactics, etc…. but these can be resolved through discussion and debate in the course of advancement of the class struggle. But for those who are not serious about armed struggle, who are unable to take the class struggle forward, even discussions lack sincerity.

Finally, the RF must remember, that it was by Opposing revolutionary violence and armed struggle that the Khruschevite modern revisionists built their theories of three ‘peacefuls’. The question of revolutionary violence and armed struggle was then very much apolitical question. And so is it today.

(8) On Building an All-India Bolshevik Party

In order to prove PW’s ‘sectarianism’ RF cites the example of lack of unification between the three organisations leading armed struggles and states, “and even the last minute efforts for PW and PU unity also collapsed. “This is probably only wishful thinking on the part of the RF leadership who fear unification between the real revolutionary forces. On the contrary, the RF is itself facing severe splits within its own ranks, with a sizable section coming out of the party and forming another CPI (ML) faction and that too, after severe political and organisational criticisms on the RF leadership.

Of course, it is quite true, that amongst the M-L forces in India there has been much dogmatism and sectarianism, which has been a hurdle for rectification of errors and for unification. This should, no doubt, be corrected wherever it persists. But what has been a source of even greater danger, specifically during the last two decades, has been the proliferation of rightist groups…. all seeking validity in the name of attacking the dogmatism and sectarianism of the past. It is these that have caused greater harm in building a unified revolutionary CPI (ML).

Unite we must, into one all-India Bolshevik style party; but, as Lenin maintained, before we unite and in order to unite, clear lines of demarcation must be drawn between Marxism and revisionism. There must be unity not only on the question of programme, but also on questions of tactics and organisation. There must be unity not only on questions of theory, but also a common practice. The’-e must be a true spirit of democratic centralism in the uniting bodies, which supersedes all forms of bureaucracy, petti-bourgeois individualism and ego, or a mountain-stronghold mentality. Only then can the unity be lasting and advantageous for furthering the class struggle. PW, having learnt this from bitter experience, has taken all the above factors into account, rather than going in for any hasty unity moves…. and it is for this reason that the unification between the erstwhile PW and PU took a little time. It was for the same reasons, for want of commonalty on all the above issues, that unity with MCC has been temporarily stalled. No doubt, as both parties continue on the revolutionary path, unity will be achieved at some future date. Meanwhile, PW has a positive approach towards MCC and its movement, while struggling with it at the ideological and political plane.

But as far as the rightist M-L groups/parties are concerned, many of which have indefinitely postponed the question of armed struggle or even removed it from the agenda itself, unification is only possible after a thorough going rectification … which involves adopting not only correct strategy and tactics but also developing a correct practice and building a Boishevised party with professional revolutionaries as its core. If such organisations do not critically review their past, the genuine revolutionaries within them are bound to realise the futility of such bodies and rally behind the genuine revolutionary Party.

To take RF’s latest split. Not only has the breakaway faction accused the RF leadership of diverting the movement from the revolutionary path…. on a number of basic questions… but has also accused them of incorrect organisational methods. In a statement dated May 20, 1998, a CRC member (RF’s leadership body) has said: “When the party wants to change the cardinal aspects of the line it should come out with a document, circulate it among the rank and file and should finalise it after due discussion. There was no document on any of the cardinal questions raised in the beginning of this note ( i.e. Area-wise seizure of power, principal contradiction, armed struggle and peoples’ army, boycott of elections, concept of secret party organisation and nationality question) we got the understanding through the articles in Red Star and side talks during CRC meetings. Can a serious revolutionary party adopt such surreptitious methods?” It is obvious that, the infirm patient, while throwing wild accusations against PW and demanding that “the doctor treat himself first”, is itself gasping for oxygen in a bid to survive.

In a vast country like India, divided by numerous nationalities, languages, castes, religions etc.; building a homogenous all-India proletarian party is no easy task. This problem has been further compounded by decades of revisionism prior to Naxalbari and a quarter century of fragmentation in the post-Naxalbari period. It is only by further deepening the class struggle, successfully combating state repression, raising the ideological and political level of the entire party organisation, deepening our understanding of the concrete situation within India and of MLM Thought, and by strictly following democratic centralist principles of party organisation, with a modest and self-critical approach…. can a truly Bolshevised all-India party be built. The PW has merely taken a first step forward in this gigantic task.


In this reply we have taken some of the main points raised in the RS article. We have not repeated the points already mentioned in the May-June ’98 issue of Vanguard. Regarding some of the wild accusations hurled against us by the RS article we have not thought it fit to counter them, here, practice alone will prove who is correct and who is not. Regarding some of the errors within PW; the party has already done a detailed self-critical review and sought to rectify its shortcomings in both political and organisational matters.

The PW has never claimed to have solved all the complex questions of Indian revolution… this is an ongoing process of study and analysis…. but what it has done is to work out a basic international standpoint, a basic analysis of Indian society, a detailed strategy and tactics, a stand on the nationality question and a policy paper on caste and women. Besides, it has two detailed self-critical reviews -one, for the 1967-80 period, the other for the 1980-95 period. The PW has always been ready and eager to learn from others’ experiences, specifically those that have been able to successfully lead the class struggle forward, whether in India or abroad.

The PW has never claimed to have achieved a great strength, given the enormity 6f the Indian state; but what it has achieved, in some pockets of India, is one step beyond the earlier Telangana armed struggle (1948-51) in its ability to withstand the state and with a more developed military line and systematic growth of the organs of power. Of course, it still has a very long way to go…. after all, the Indian revolution is a protracted people’s war.

Criticisms from the RF, or any other source, are welcome if they help in furthering the armed struggle and rectifying genuine flaws ….as that will only help achieve the NDR quicker, and thereby alleviate the unbearable suffering of the vast masses in India. If the RF is at least serious in its anti-imperialist tasks, if not agrarian revolution, we hope that they will intensify the struggle against the pro-imperialist policies of the governments and the MNC onslaught.

— Tushar


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