Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Into Thin Air – By Sumanta Banerjee

July 11, 2007

There was always a sting in the tail of economic growth — whether in post-Industrial Revolution Europe or the Soviet Union and China. Expropriation of natural resources like agricultural land, forestry, tanks and rivers, at the cost of certain sections like poor peasants, traditional artisan communities, tribals and forest dwellers who owned these resources, contributed in a large measure to the growth. An intensification of the same trend is to be seen in the latest, neo-liberal phase of development in India today. But to their chagrin, the policy makers as well as their ideological touts are finding it difficult to replicate the old model in 21st century India, facing popular resistance from the local people — against a proposed SEZ in Nandigram in Left-ruled West Bengal; a Tata steel project in Kalinganagar in Orissa ruled by a Right-of-the-Centre coalition; a mega hydel project in Kinnaur in Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh; the setting up of nuclear reactors in Koodankulam in DMK-ruled Tamil Nadu. These are only a few examples of the growing outbursts of popular discontent against developmental programmes undertaken by state governments. The anti-Narmada dam movement was their precursor.

The ‘fundoos’ of neo-liberalism, however, are not willing to attach any importance to the basic causes of these militant demonstrations, and reiterate instead that “collective social unrest isn’t driven by economic reasons..(but) by social and political reasons…based on caste/religion”. Asking us to wait for the trickle-down effects that would follow soon to benefit those who are being thrown out from their hearth and home, they advise the government to treat “deprivation as an individual issue” and dismiss the present demonstrations of protest as isolated hiccups of “individual discontentment” (Bibek Debroy in Indian Express, June 12, 2007) and disparage their leaders as anti-industrial ‘jholawalas’. But the cavalier manner in which they tend to disregard the human tragedy of massive displacement, loss of income and environmental pollution, indicates the abyss of moral insensitivity and social irresponsibility to which the corporate sector and the pedlars of its ideology have sunk in the present era of neo-liberalism — compared to the somewhat accommodating policies that their predecessors followed, before the so-called ‘reforms’ came into force.

Let me give an example. Arijit Banerjee, who was an executive vice president in the Haldia Petro-Chemicals Limited in the early 1990s, told me how his company in those days set about acquiring land and planning rehabilitation for those who were to be ousted from the proposed site of its factory (in the same West Bengal district where Nandigram is situated). Describing the differences between then and now, he narrated his own experiences. “My first task,” he said, “was to talk to the villagers. I hired a car, fixed a mike atop and visited every village addressing the farmers whose plots were to be acquired.” While explaining to them the importance of the petro-chemical complex for the country’s overall economic growth, and assuring employment in it for the local people, he made it clear to them that the factory would deal with hazardous chemicals — albeit under adequate protective measures.

Inviting the village youth to join the venture, he introduced his company: “We are snake-charmers. If you want to play with snakes, join us.” Some among the villagers dared and opted for jobs in the factory, some accepted compensation in cash, some were given agricultural plots in different areas, and others were accommodated in a special rehabilitation colony, which has today become a thriving township.

That the takeover of land for the Haldia petro-chemical complex (a public-private partnership) in the early 1990s did not create a Nandigram-type explosion could be attributed to a number of factors. Arijit Banerjee tells me that the then Chief Secretary of the West Bengal government (even then run by the Left Front) was sensitive to the needs of the oustees, which helped him overcome the bureaucratic hurdles in rehabilitating them. The solicitude and tactfulness demonstrated then both by the corporate sector and the government, according to Banerjee, are missing today.

A Leftist political activist and film-maker, Sumit Chowdhury, who is involved in the present-day anti-SEZ agitation in Nandigram has another explanation for the difference in the popular response then and now. “At that time, the affected villagers might have accepted whatever compensation that was given to them for the loss of their lands. Today, increasingly aware of the market value of the lands and their democratic rights, they are refusing to be taken for granted, and are spontaneously resisting the acquisition of their lands,” he says. Commenting on the political contours of such resistance, Chowdhury says: “It cannot remain confined to a struggle for higher compensation in cash, or alternative plots of land, or promise of jobs in the proposed SEZs. We are challenging the basic concept of the neo-liberal model of development.”

The popular movements that are breaking out in different parts of India against industrial and developmental projects demonstrate certain features which are peculiar to the post-reforms era of neo-liberalism. These challenge the stereotypes of conventional political party-led agitations with which we had grown up.

First, although most of these movements began as spontaneous protests by people of a cluster of villages over specific and immediate problems, they stem from a common source — the prevailing model of uneven growth that leads to dispossession of their land and destruction of their occupations.

Second, these movements have a loose structure that brings together the disaffected from different classes and communities, which provides them with a wider base of support in their respective areas.

Third, they have given birth to a new generation of social and political activists who have moved into the vacuum created by the failures and defeats of the old Left. They are usually from among the locals and approximate to what Antonio Gramsci defined as ‘organic intellectuals’. These grassroots activists are more canny, and freed from fixed political loyalties, they have no hesitation in fighting any political party in power.

While defining a new form of direct democracy and decentralisation of leadership, these movements, however, still lack a clear ideological vision and an alternative concept of development. Negative opposition to the mega-projects or SEZs cannot take them beyond the elementary demands for the removal of such projects from their farms, or bargaining for increased compensation in lieu. Further, such limited demands help the same old opportunist political parties to hijack their movements — like the Trinamool Congress in Nandigram, or the CPI(M) in Orissa’s anti-Posco movement. They may end up as mere pressure groups within a political system dominated by these parties and politicians.

It is also to be seen whether such loosely structured movements can hold together for long without coordination among themselves at the national level. But ultimately, their success will depend on their challenging the prevailing neo-liberal growth model with an alternative functional model of development — a model that can ensure equitable distribution of income and social justice. It can evolve from dialogues and cooperation between the conscientious members of the old Left and the new generation of activists of these movements.

Sumanta Banerjee is the author of In the Wake of Naxalbari. A History of the Naxalite Movement



Sixty years of independence, 38 per cent of the country up in flames

July 4, 2007

Rupakjyoti Borah, Merinews
03 July 2007, Tuesday
Views: 78 Comments: 0

While India gears up to celebrate 60 years of its independence, almost 40 per cent of the country is reeling under violence. It is therefore time to introspect and take course-correction measures before the situation spirals out of hand.

AS INDIA DECKS up to celebrate the 61st anniversary of its independence from the shackles of British rule, it is a time for us to reflect and ponder over what we have achieved in the last 60 years. These days India is the cynosure of eyes around the world, having been termed as an emerging economic superpower. Besides, it is the world’s largest democracy. But behind the shining exteriors, there are some bitter realities. The internal security scenario is one such bitter reality, which escapes the notice of many who are singing paeans to India’s success story. A study has estimated that almost 231 of the country’s 604 districts are afflicted by militancy, ethnic strife and terrorist violence. Some of the major areas of concern in the internal security front include:


Jammu and Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan right from 1947. The militants are still active and the militancy shows no sign of abating. Since the beginning of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, almost 40000 lives have been snuffed out. In 2006 alone, around 1,100 lives were lost in this seemingly unending spiral of violence. The peace process between the two countries has run into rough weather with Pakistan harping on its one-point agenda on Kashmir. The effects of the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir have been felt in other parts of the country too with militants based in J &K targeting civilian populations in cities across the country.


Life in Northeast India has been torn asunder by a series of conflicts that have engulfed almost the entire region. The civilian population in the region has been caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea, being at the receiving end of both the militants’ and the security forces’ ire. States like Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya are reeling under violence. The porous borders between this region and countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar have further compounded the problem. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has upset the demographic balance in many parts of the region especially Tripura and Assam. There is a great deal of unemployment forcing educated young men and women to take to guns. Around 620 people lost their lives in various incidents of militancy-related violence in the Northeast in 2006.


The Naxalites are also proving to be a thorn in the flesh for the government. Almost fourteen states across the country have been affected by Naxal violence. Around 740 people lost their lives in Naxal-related violence last year. According to intelligence reports, Naxals have been working towards establishing a Red Corridor extending from Bihar to Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Some of the recent incidents of Naxal violence stand out for their audacity and brazenness. These include the attack on the Jehanabad jail, where Naxals freed around 340 prisoners including Naxal leader Ajay Kanu, the slaying of the MP Sunil Mahato besides the attack on a police camp in Bastar where they mowed down 56 policemen.


Communal and caste riots have reared their ugly heads time and again. The recent agitation by the Gujjars in Rajasthan and other states has seen the caste-cauldron simmering again. The Meenas and Gujjars are at loggerheads in Rajasthan in their claims for ST status. So is the case in many other parts of the country where people belonging to different castes and tribes are on the warpath against each other.


At least 270 people died in terrorist violence in India in 2006. There were a series of attacks on public and religious places. On March 7, 2006, around 21 people were killed and 62 others were injured in serial bomb blasts in Varanasi. Mumbai was the scene of horrific bomb blasts on July 11, 2006 when around 200 people were killed and over 700 others injured in serial blasts in Mumbai’s railway network, which is considered to be the lifeline of the city. Terrorists have not spared people of any religion. The dastardly bomb attacks of September 8, 2006 at Malegaon in Maharashtra snuffed out forty lives while injuring 65 others. On May 18, 2007, 13 people lost their lives in a bomb blast in Hyderabad’s famous Mecca Masjid and subsequent police firing.


So where are we heading? Is India moving away from “Bharat”? These facts point to some harsh realities, which the government much accept. The political leadership has to wake up to the fact that there are many genuine grievances within its populace, which have been shoved under the carpet. It has in many cases been taking the people for a ride. This is why people need to be educated, not just made literate. Only with the spread of education, will power devolve into the grassroots and it is from the grassroots that a new leadership will emerge which will take the country forward. The criminalisation of politics is a big deterrent to India’s march towards progress. Only with education will people be able to reverse this trend.

What is needed is a new approach wherein the ordinary populace is taken into confidence. India’s economy is booming, however this “boom” has completely bypassed a large swathe of this population. Therefore the growth has to be more inclusive. As far as terrorist-violence sponsored by neighbouring countries like Pakistan is concerned, intelligence gathering needs to be spruced up and there should be more vigil at sensitive locations. As they say, the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.


Q&A: ‘Many of the killings of Naxalites were in reality carried out by CPM-supported goons and Congress-backed anti-socials. "

July 3, 2007

Ranjit Gupta, police commissioner of Calcutta when the Naxalite movement was at its peak in 1970-71, is both admired and reviled for his strong-arm tactics. Gupta, 87, still keeps himself busy writing books. Two of them are ready for publication – The Maoist Terror in India: A Search for a Solution and Birat Rajar Deshe, a history of the myths of Medinipur, where he was posted as superintendent of police early in his career. He recalled the turbulent days of the Naxalite movement to Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay.

How do you look back at the Naxalite movement?

The Naxalites had committed several mistakes. When Charu Majumdar, or Charubabu as he was known then, came to Calcutta, he was speaking of a liberated countryside and the final rise of Naxalite forces from the city. It never happened that way. City students who went to rural areas and attacked jotdars (landowners) were badly disillusioned.

Their prime weakness was lack of weapons. Charubabu made a mistake by following the Chinese model of Maoist movement – elimination of class enemy. The Naxalite cadres began trooping back to the city, which was not part of Charubabu’s plan. When he failed to stop this retreat, he began pretending that what was happening was according to plan. But many of the retreating Naxalites fell into the hands of police. At that time, several anti-social elements had also joined the movement, who were used by the police.

Was the brutal repression of Naxalites necessary?

The commissionerate took the view that the Naxalite storm of killing policemen and judges would blow over if faced with great courage. That courage was shown by the Calcutta police. There was devolution of power from the control room to the police station or to the officer-in-charge. Each OC formed a joint force with police and anti-socials to combat the Naxalites. In this fight, many were killed on either side. I have no doubts that the Naxalite style of killing asked for retribution. However, many of the killings of Naxalites were in reality carried out by CPM-supported goons and Congress-backed anti-socials.

Did fake encounters occur?

Yes fake killings happened. To a major extent the police force was controlled in its response. But they were in a vengeful mood with so many policemen being killed.

But police brutality could not finish the Naxalite movement.

Yes, the Naxalite ideology lived on. There are now 40-50 large and small Naxalite groups all over the country. Today, in West Bengal, the Naxalites have penetrated as far as Nandigram. The current breed of Naxalites is far better grounded in ideology. Their weaponry is, of course, much better. They are better equipped to take advantage of the administration’s failings.

Toilet Paper of India

Related posts

Through the Eyes of the Police Naxalites in Calcutta in the 1970s

State of War

July 1, 2007

The brown papers that hardcore capitalists read every day seem to be
giving more coverage to the maoists of late.
This one is from the business standard.The entire supplement
on staurday carried this article on the frontpages.

State of War

Aditi Phadnis / New Delhi June 30, 2007
The last years have seen a dramatic rise in Naxal violence, and this week’s incidents prove that little is being done to contain it.

It was a warm April afternoon. Humidity rose like a blanket from the jungles around Murkinar, a small hamlet in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh. Murkinar has two claims to fame: it has a police post on the side of the road and it is linked by a bus that plies between this hamlet and Bijapur, a nearby town.

As usual, villagers were waiting at the bus stop when the bus trundled to a stop. Suddenly, the bus stop was seething with people, mostly men holding bags. Passengers — Gond tribals with their weekly haul from the forest — were told to disembark and the men boarded the empty bus and ordered the driver to drive on.

At 3:00 in the afternoon, the police post was inhabited by constables trying to catch forty winks, dressed only in lungis and vests. No one paid any attention to the bus – until the men inside began firing at the police station with light machine guns. The Naxalites killed 11 policemen like they would shoot clay pigeons, kicked the bodies aside and loaded all the weapons and ammunition they could find into their bags. Then the bus drove off again and the Naxals melted into the forest.

This was the story narrated to Brig Basant Kumar Ponwar, Inspector General of Police, Chhattisgarh, and a veteran of Army counter-insurgency operations who is currently involved in training policemen to handle guerilla operations.

“One hundred and seventy districts over 13 states are currently under the influence of the Naxals, though in some states the pockets are small and have been contained. Our interrogations and materials obtained from raids indicate that the target of this group is to bring, by 2010, 30-35 per cent of India under their sway. In order to prevent incidents like Murkinar, India has to train at least 10,000-20,000 policemen in counter-insurgency tactics. This is no small task,” he said on the phone from Bastar.

The two-day shock and awe campaign earlier this week by Naxals all over India to protest the “imposition” of special economic zones (SEZs) and the government’s economic policies has had the desired effect.

Naxal actions were calculated to be conspicuous and loud. In West Bengal’s Purulia district, about 50 guerrillas set fire to the station master’s room at Biramdih railway station at around 1:30 am. The attack destroyed the signalling system. Biramdih — on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border — is 285 km from Kolkata. Train services between Bihar and Jharkhand, including the state capitals Patna and Ranchi, were cancelled.

In Chhattisgarh, public transport went off the roads and movement of iron ore from Dantewada district’s Bailadila hills to Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh was halted. Maoists blocked interior pockets of Bastar, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Dantewada and Kanker districts by placing wooden logs on the roads. Primitive tactics? Maybe, but no one dared remove the logs.

It isn’t just the intensity of the Maoist rage with the system (in their most spectacular attack on a police post in Rani Bodli, 55 policemen were killed, but what shocked the people was that some policemen who had obviously surrendered were also killed — axed to death, their decapitated heads placed neatly by the side of their bodies). It is also that they will not be ignored any more.

Over a two day-campaign, in Jharkhand alone, official estimates put the losses at around Rs 150 crore. The railways lost Rs 30 crore due to cancellation of goods and passenger trains and damage to property — in Latehar district they burnt two engines and damaged 12 goods train bogies.

Around 1,500 buses did not ply during these two days, causing a loss of Rs 1.5 crore. Trucks stood idle, leading to a loss of Rs 3 crore. Coal and iron ore production and transport was disrupted, leading to losses of around Rs 60 crore. In Jharkhand, export-import businesses had to shut down for virtually the whole week, leading to losses of Rs 5 crore. With road and rail traffic coming to a complete halt in the state, nothing could be done.

Since the inception of Chhattisgarh in November 2000, 751 civilians have fallen to the fury of the rebels. Two hundred and twenty policemen have died combating the Red Army. Development work worth Rs 200 crore has been left stranded in Bastar because no one wants to work there. Property and other losses add up to Rs 8,000 crore in six years.

Guerilla groups are territorial in their outlook. They need an area — one hesitates to call it a state — of their own. The Tamil aspiration is for Eelam. What do the Indian Maoists want?

The Maoist “state” is called Aboojhmad. Its exact contours remain a mystery. The area stretches over some 10,000-15,000 sq km — the size of Fiji or Cyprus — with inaccessible terrain encompassing the forest belt from Bastar to Adilabad, Khammam and East Godavari districts in Andhra Pradesh and including Chandrapur and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh and Malkangiri in Orissa.

Parts of this region have never been surveyed, not even by Emperor Akbar who conducted the first revenue survey in the mid-15th century. The first surveyor-general of India, Edward Everest, also failed to map the entire topography of Aboojhmad in his survey conducted between 1872 and 1880.

According to intelligence agencies, Aboojhmad houses all major establishments of the Maoists outfits including arms manufacturing units and guerrilla training. It is also a safe haven for the top guns. “The area is heavily mined and it is near-impossible for security agencies to sneak in,” said a senior state police official.

Maoists are also expanding their area of operation. The growing economy of the region has increased the demand for raw materials. Chhattisgarh is the preferred destination for investments in thermal power and steel.

SAIL, Essar, Tata and Jindal are in the race to acquire the biggest coal and iron ore mining blocks. The new tactics in Chhattisgarh appear to be to establish a hold in other mining areas as well. The recent arrest of a top Maoist gun in a diamond-rich belt of Raipur district attests to this. It isn’t just the forest for them, it is also mines and industrial areas.

In the bauxite-rich areas in the region they have registered their presence in Siridih and Mainpat areas of Sarguja district where aluminium majors Hindalco and Vedanta-owned Bharat Aluminium have mining facilities.

Besides opposing industries in Chhattisgarh, rebels have also hit at the state economy. Agriculture is impossible in these circumstances. Nor isthe state receiving dividends in the proportion it had estimated from forest produce. The huge budget for the region lapses unspent every year. About 30 per cent of the Rs 450 crore budget for the Chhattisgarh government’s home department is spent on anti-Maoist operations.

How do the groups operate? Over the last decade, the Maoist movement has undergone a lot of mergers and acquisitions. Smaller groups have merged with bigger ones, cadres have joined rivals and while factional warfare has claimed the lives of many loyal believers, it has also prompted the Maoists to consider how best to synergise their strengths. To be sure, there is still some griping between old rivals.

For instance, the CPI ML (Kanu Sanyal) had this to say about the CPI Maoists’s greatest military victory ever: “CPI (Maoist) action on 15th March at Rani Bodili in Dantewada district fully exposes its anarchist line and calls for severe condemnation. Instead of exposing, challenging and defeating the state terror by mobilising the masses, it is totally counter-productive as it has given further excuse for deploying 8,000 more para-military forces in Bastar district alone to intensify the state terror.”

But by and large there is greater coordination among groups than ever before. At the 9th Congress of CPI (Maoist) held after 36 years somewhere in the forests of Orissa-Jharkhand borders in January-February this year, it decided to protest against SEZs and the setting up of industries by acquiring forest and tribal land.

In Chhattisgarh, the Maoists have already warned Tata and Essar against putting up steel plants in Bastar. The Congress, sources said, decided to extend its protests to Kalinga Nagar, Singur, Nandigram, and Polavaram (Andhra Pradesh). Some other specific projects are also in their sights: this makes the challenge all the more terrifying.

How can the Maoists be defeated — and should they be? A former district magistrate in Chhattisgarh, Shailesh Pathak recounts how he supervised the general elections of 2004 in Bastar.

“We couldn’t get the electronic voting machines into Bastar because of Naxal propaganda that they’d mined the area and anyone going there would be blown up. So we launched our own counter-propaganda — that we had airborne missiles that would be able to detect Naxals from the air. I even did a couple of helicopter sorties to prove that we had a helicopter. That’s how we held the election.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that Naxals will grow where there is no development or democracy — the turnout in the general election in Bastar was 15 per cent despite Pathak — but their argument is that the economic boom has bypassed them but it is their resources that has aided it.

Ponwar’s argument is military logic. “You can defeat the Naxalites militarily. What do they have, after all — explosives they have looted from the National Mineral Development Corporation godowns used for mining, some .303 rifles, LMGs and AK 47s looted from police stations? But having once liberated areas militarily, the state must demonstrate its authority. It must establish itself in these areas — because if it doesn’t, the Naxals will just reclaim it.”

Economist Jean Dreze’s survey in Sarguja district that is under Naxal influence suggests that job-creation is an answer. Organising those who are opposed to Naxals unfortunately only renders them more vulnerable to Naxal attacks. Tribals, used to referring to the forest as their home, are now huddled in camps under RCC sheets to protect them from Naxal reprisal.

One thing is certain: no amount of coordinated police and military action is going to prevent the Naxal movement from growing. “It is not that the military challenge is strong,” says Ponwar, “it is that the response is weak.”

The Red battle for Orissa

One night in June, a group of armed CPI (Maoist) extremists killed a contractor at Tumikoma village and two persons at Ranigolla village in Deogarh district on the western fringe of the state.

The same night, 600 km away in Koraput, in south Orissa, suspected Maoists blasted the engine of a goods train and burnt down a part of the Padua police station. Three days later, two suspected Maoists entered the conference room of the Orissa High Court Bar Association at Cuttack and dropped bundles of leaflets there pertaining to their two-day economic blockade agitation on June 26 and 27.

The three incidents say it all — the Naxal presence which was limited to its southern tip bordering Andhra Pradesh only a few years ago has now infiltrated across the length and breadth of Orissa. It is estimated Naxals/Maoists now have a presence of some sort or other in 17 of Orissa’s 30 districts, but the state government acknowledges their existence in only 11 districts.

The left-wing extremist groups have spread the menace in 11 of 30 districts by indulging in violence in the past seven years, says Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. They had mounted attacks as many as 234 times, killing 103 persons in seven years.

But Patnaik is seeking solace that this is far less compared to the mayhem unleashed in neighbouring states. In Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, in the same period, 941 and 930 people were killed; the casualty figure for Andhra Pradesh is 1,867.

According to government records, the tribal dominated Malkanagiri district in the south is the worst-hit, accounting for 43 per cent of the Naxal related incidents.

Rayagada, Sambalpur and Koraput are three other districts where CPI (Maoist) mounted 50, 27 and 20 attacks respectively in the last seven years. Most of the Naxalite attacks were reported from Malkanagiri district. Apart from Malkanagiri, other southern districts infested by the Naxal menace are Rayagada, Gajapati and Koraput.

Win some, lose some

Activists and students who went to Sarguja for a public hearing on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme recently have come back to report major improvements in the distribution of job cards, the extent of employment, the payment of wages and the quality of work undertaken.

This gives reason for hope in the possibility of making NREGP work, says economist and activist Jean Dreze who organised the hearings. Sarguja is one district not in the thick of Naxal influence and where government programmes have been allowed to run their natural course.

The most heartening finding was “a sharp decline in corruption”. This is not to generalise about the state of affairs in Sarguja, for the Dreze-led group reports that the National Food For Work Programme has remained on paper. But on NREGP, says Dreze: “We found that 95 per cent of the wage payments that had been made according to the muster rolls had actually reached the labourers.”

Dreze compares Sarguja with other Naxal hit areas of Chhattisgarh in this context.

“It is interesting to consider the growing contrast between this region of Chhattisgarh and the southern region (Bastar and adjoining districts),” he says.

“In the southern region, misguided attempts to suppress the Naxalite movement through brute force have led to a spiral of violence and turned large areas into a war zone. Development is the casualty. In the northern region, which is comparatively free of violent conflict, there has been a noticeable improvement in the reach and quality of public services such as drinking water, health care, elementary education and the public distribution system.”

Researcher and economist of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Tapas Sen, currently working on a report on Chhattisgarh, notes a change in the policy of the radical elements in the state.

Earlier government functionaries were not targetted but now are. Hence government programmes are a casualty in Naxal-hit areas. Doctors, for example, are held in a pincer between the government and the Naxals. Often they are forced to serve the Naxals without the knowledge of the police. They are under threat from both sides, he says. So, who wins?

With inputs from R Krishna Das in Raipur, Dilip Satapathy in Bhubaneswar and Sreelatha Menon in New Delhi

Business Standard

CIA documents reveal that CPI had infiltrated Indian Army in 1950

June 28, 2007

A right wing reactionary blog recently carried this post about how the
CPI had infiltrated the Indian army in the 1950’s.

The Indian Army no doubt has its fair share of dedicated ,selfless,
gentlemen one wonders how they are planning to commemorate
the 150th anniversary of the Revolt of 1857 ?

The ultimate tribute to the heroes of 1857 will be to re- enact
the same revolt on a nationwide scale and join the Hurricance
which will go down in history as the Third Freedom Struggle.

Is anybody in the Indian Army Listening ?

Below article from a right wing reactionary blog linked to an intelligence
think tank.

We don’t endorse what the article says posting it here for informational

CIA documents throw light on the state of communist movement in 1950

The CIA today released a collection of declassified analytic monographs and reference aids, designated within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Directorate of Intelligence (DI) as the CAESAR, ESAU, and POLO series, highlights the CIA’s efforts from the 1950s through the mid-1970s to pursue in-depth research on Soviet and Chinese internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations. Of particular interest to India is a 3 part series on the border dispute with China but more juicy document is 12 MB dossier on the Indian Communist Party, this should stir up politics in India at a time when the Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi lead Congress has accorded unprecedented leverage to the Communists who are celebrating 30 years of rule in Bengal.

Offstumped has reviewed the documents and was amazed to learn the extent to which the Communists looked for direction from Russia and China, sought support and approval and pretty much sub-ordinated national interest at the altar of a dubious ideology and subservience to the Chinese.

Below are a few highlights:

First we turn our focus to the border dispute with China to get a sense of Nehru’s naivety in his approach to dealing with the Chinese.

Nehru believed China’s Communist Leaders were amenable to Gentlemanly persuasion

Nehru’s strategy was defensive and he believed strengthening Indian Economy to resist a Chinese Military Attack was adequate

China’s short term policy was not to alert Nehru on the wide gap between Chinese and Indian claims on border and hence they lied about Chinese maps

Chinese leaders recognized that India neither by temperament nor by capability was a Military threat

China’s strategy was to use diplomatic channels to cut out Indian press, public and parliament. It was a 5 year masterpiece in guile. It played on Nehru’s Asian anti-imperialist mental attitude his proclivity to temporize and his sincerity for peace with China.

What China conceded with the Left Hand it retrieved with the Right Hand

Had it not been Nehru but a more military minded man who was Prime Minister in Oct 1959, a priority program to prepare India to eventually fight would have been started.

The 3 part series goes into excruciating detail on the series of events on this dispute. Expect more from Offstumped on this in later posts.

Now we turn attention to the dossier on the Indian Communist Parties.

The dossier runs into all of 185 pages. Its focus was on the split within the Indian Communist Parties into Pro-Soviet and Pro-Chinese factions. While recounting the sequence of events drawing from many sources including a book by Minoo Masani. A good portion of the dossier is dedicated to the CPI post Independence under Ranadive with his Pro-Soviet approach and his differences with the Telangana section of the party which was toeing the Maoist line. The dossier notes the April 1957 election win of the CPI in Kerala as the first such development in history were a Communist Party attained power through an election. It then notes that

in July 1957 through a reliable source that EMS Namboodaripad was asked by the Soviets to forward a full report to Moscow on the methods used to attain power via elections

Another juicy detail implicates Harikishen Singh Surjit and others on working with the Soviet Communists to setup an underground party.

In Feb 1958 an official of the Soviet Embassy contacted CPI Leaders to renew the request to setup an underground organization. While AjoY Ghosh refused, HK Surjeet and others privately decided that Ghosh was taking a complacent line and decided to reach out to the CPSU outside of party channels.

Here is where things get murky

the CPI did proceed to recruit a secret organization within the Indian Army

Subsequent events saw the beginning of the tilt of the hard left faction of the CPI towards China. The dossier quotes Basavapunniah a CPI leader

the real source of inspiration for the CPI should be Communist China, and he planned to talk to Chinese Leaders as a Disciple talks to his teachers

Some more murky details of how China and Russia influenced the CPI to setup a parallel state apparatus.

In February 1959, Ajoy Ghosh in his report to the Central Executive Committee that China Russia insisted that the CPI must develop a standby apparatus capable of armed resistance, while intensifying penetration of Indian Military forces.

After the Nehru Government dismissed the Kerala Communist Government on July 31 1959 there was further movement within the Party to revive its illegal activities.

From 6 to 8 August 1959 hard leftists urged a revival of CPI illegal apparatus to be run from the party secretariat

More Murky Details of CPI supporting China during the Tibetan invasion

In April 1959 Ranadive met with the Chinese Ambassador during which he

Offered CPI’s support to China on Tibet, and advised China to concentrate its attacks on rightist Anti-Chinese Indian leaders

Further in August in a letter to the Chinese Communist Party drafted by Ajay Ghosh and Ranadive the CPI urged the Chinese to

single out particularly the Praja Socialist Party and the Jan Sangh for attack as suggested in the April meeting with the Ambassador

More evidence of the sedition and treasonous role played by the hard left of the CPI

In the September Central Executive Committee meeting Ajoy Ghosh argued against the tendency to welcome chinese military presence on Indian borders to justify a new militant line for the CPI. This was rejected by the hard left who argued that

with the PLA now present along the Indian Border the Indian Party had a channel of support for Armed Operations and a potential liberator in the event of mass uprisings.

The CIA reports that this line was repeated multiple times. It was first reported on 13 Sept 1959 by Basavapunniah, Ranadive, Jaipal Singh head of secret illegal apparatus.

However the dossier gets interesting as it moves to the 1960s closer to the formal split in the party. An interesting aspect of the split:

In 1960 the West Bengal faction of the Communist Party passed a resolution criticizing the conduct of the Soviet Communist Party and Khrushchev by name while supporting the Chinese Communist Party

The CIA calls definitely the only such resolution to have ever been passed by any Communist Party in the whole world.

The year 1960 ended with this faction of the CPI continuing to report to the Chinese Party and to receive guidance from it

Ajoy Ghosh also reported to the Central Executive that during his Peking visit Mao had revealed that China wished to exercise more control on Communist Parties in Asia.

The most concentrated of these Communist Activities were to be in West Bengal

Evidence of Chinese Influence in the growth of Communist Party in West Bengal

A new Chinese Party consul in Calcutta in Sept of 1960 held several meetings with members of the West Bengal party.

4 powerful radio sets had been installed in the office of the China Review in Calcutta to listen to broadcasts from Peking

handouts were given based on these broadcasts for propaganda work

The CIA also reports of indications from 1959 of

Chinese Financial Subsidies to sections of the CPI particularly the left faction strongholds in West Bengal

Basavapunniah also reports to two CPI Leaders later on that

a foreign supply base was now available for the underground organizations with Chinese occupation of Tibet and other frontier areas

In Sept 1960 the first evidence of a vertical split in the CPI became evident with the hard left faction comprising Jyoti Basu, Harikishen Singh Surjit, Basavapunniah, Sundarayya and Ranadive supporting the Chinese position on the Indo-Sino border dispute.

Earlier in August further murky evidence of the hard left seeking chinese support in a written letter.

asking for collaboration in Indian underground organization work aimed at an eventual revolution, because China has a border with India and can provide arms and supplies

Finally more evidence of anti-national stance of the Jyoti Basu lead West Bengal faction

When Z.A. Ahmed indicated that the Party should take a nationalist stand on Chinese incursions to India, he was severely berated by the West Bengal faction

25th Anniversary day of the founding of The ‘All India federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.

June 21, 2007

29th May 2007 was 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.

Mr Harsh Thakor a research scholar based in Mumbai has an article to
mark the occasion

25th Anniversary day of the founding of The ‘All India federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.’

This day is the 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights which was held on May 29th 1982. This federation marked the historic trend of an All India trend to promote the democratic Rights Movement as a struggle oriented one, which recognized the right to struggle against socio-economic repression as the fundamental right fro which stems up all democratic Rights.

The organizations that merged into the federation were the Association for Democratic Rights of India(Punjab),the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights(Andhra Pradesh),the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(Maharashtra),the Gantanatrik Adhikar Suraksha Samit(Orissa) ,Janadhipatya Avakasa Samrakshana Samiti,Kerala and the Janatantrik Adhikar Surkasha Samiit(Rajasthan)Although he civil liberties movement started from the 1950’s the demarcation of civil liberties with democratic Rights was not made.The fundamental right is which form s the base of all democratic Rights. The historic manifesto was as follows

1. Mobilize public opinion against all fascist laws, acts and atrocities by the ruling classes.

2. Propagate and organize among the people about the democratic Rights

3. Give all assistance o the people whose rights were abused.

4. Build unity among all sections possible explaining the connection between their interests.

To build a movement for the right to political dissent and his demand the unconditional release o all political prisoners.

5. To oppose all capital punishment and build public opinion against it.

6. To protect academy and cultural freedoms and oppose state interference

7. To strive to establish the correct practice o the democratic Rights Movement.

The first such democratic Rights organization representing the correct trend was the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights formed in Andhra Pradesh in 1975. They fought against the trend where the democratic Rights platform was used as a platform for promoting political ideology. This is what differentiated the O.P.D.R with the A.P.C.LC (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee)

The first major work of O.P. D.R was the report on the Srikakulam Girjian Movement 1977 with regard to police encounters. This was one of the most significant reports in the democratic Rights. Movement in India and the first of it’s kind. Hundreds of Girijan families were interviewed and the agency of Srikakulam area was extensively toured.

The report narrated the historic background f the Srikakulam Girijan Movement which originated in 1967. Earlier O.P.D.R had also propagated against the death sentence of Kista Gowd and Bhumiah I 1975 during e emergency. In the 1980’s O.P.D.R highlighted a huge range of issues on all sections, whether tribal, peasants, workers students or middle class employees. (Like teachers)Male chauvinism was opposed as well as caste Chauvinism. It also took out a campaign against the ‘Rape and murder of Shakeela’ Further reports wee carried out on the East Godavri tribals in 1983 and the issue of

Communalism was also highlighted. Living conditions of quarry workers was researched I Krishna district as well as Guntur district. Mass propaganda was done against Police encounters wit A.P.C.LC, but the struggle-oriented trend was always emphasized. (The author attended 2 conferences of O.P.D.R. in 1986 and 1990)The O.P.D.R also took out several reports on issues of drought where the govt’s anti-people policies were explained .Even relief was carried out. This was predominant in Krishna district. Tremendous efforts were made to defend the rights of the rural poor. East Godavri district was given great attention as well as Karimnagar. A campaign was done to defend the 1917 and 1959 Tribal area land regulation act. Mass campaigns were also organized against police firing. Often the platform of the Andhra Pradesh Civil liberties Committee was used as a platform of Maoist groups to propagate ideology. The Organization brought out an Organ ‘ Janpadam ‘O.P.D.R also opposed the trend of individual terrorism in the People’s Movement as opposed to mass based Movements.

The A.F.D.R.(Punjab)also did significant work in investigating the Naxalite encounters of he early 1970’s .It also played an important role in defending democratic movements .In the early 1980’s the A F D R organized trade Unions opposing the black Laws and formed a joint democratic Front which opposed the curbing of trade Union rights. The way the govt was using black laws in the name of curbing terrorist was explained with great depth..Infact he no existence of such an organization in the time o the emergency was the prime reason of the defeat the Communist evolutionary led movements I Punjab in the 1970’s.

The federation brought out many historic reports through fact-finding teams. During the Khalistan movement a report was brought out which gave a political analysis of the Punjab Problem in the political and socio-economic light. The report explained the genesis of the Khalistani Movement and how the Congress Govt led by Indira Gandhi (It was Indira Gandhi who created Bhindranwale) used it to subvert the democratic movements and to topple the Akali Dal. The ruling class parties connived with the landlords to suppress the democratic movements and used Khalistani gangs against each other t capture power.

The report reported the progressive movements led by left organizations combating the Khalistani terror and upheld all the Communist martyrs I the struggle. The fact finding team interviewed all sections of people from peasants, to workers to students to politicians and to very useful information. The constituent of he Federation, the A.F.D.R (formed in 1977) played a major role investigating false police encounters ad standing by and giving solidarity to al the anti-Khalistani democratic movements by organizations like he Front against Communalism and state repression and the Revolutionary Centre. Several reports per brought about explaining the nexus between the landlords with the Khalistani forces. Great anti-communal propaganda was done which as appreciated by the oppressed sections and many a policeman was brought to the book. The organization brought out a monthly paper alee ‘Jamhoori Hakk’. A protracted and sustained campaign was carried out exposing state and Khalistani terror.

Another famous report was brought out by the Federation based on the peoples Movement against the building of a missile base I Baliapal in Orissa. The report covered all the areas of Baliapal and explained the policies of the government which promoted military expansionism at the cost of the economic welfare. The class angle as also elaborated but unity with the better off sections like rich farmers was supported .The report highlighted the false propaganda of he government which stressed hat too little was spent on defense. In Orissa the G.A S.S.made all efforts to promote the movement opposing the Baliapal Missile base. It also supported the movement of the Adivasi Sangh of the Malkangiri region an gave al support to the anti -people development policies of the govt. promoting high-tech.

In Maharashtra the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(formed in 1978) did significant work in bringing out reports on repression on slum dwellers where the relationship with the trade Union movement was projected.L.H.S also did a campaign against police torture ,fought against he retrenchment of workers in Mukesh Mils in Mumbai in Colaba area, took up poster and leafleting campaigns against communalism(against the Ram Janmabhoomi and Rath Yatra or Mandir propaganda).With regards to communalism emphasis was placed on the role of the working class.LHS also brought out reports on drought and in 1983 and 1989 brought out a report on repression by the C.P.M on Kashtakari Sanghatana,a struggling organization of Adivasis in Dahanu.(A tribal region of Maharashtra)

The report brilliantly explained the relationship between the socio-economic conditions of the Adivasis and the repression by the C.P.M. L.HS also did propaganda in working calls areas opposing state repression in Bihar and in Andhra Pradesh. Peasent leaders from Bihar were invited to address the gathering. Significant work was done in 1992-93 during the Mumbai riots to build struggle committees promoting communal solidarity .L.HS brought out reports o Contract workers at the Airport in Mumbai and on the closure of the Mills in Mumbai with a historic socio-economic angle.

In Rajasthan also significant solidarity work was done with regards to black laws and communalism

the federation held 2 Sammelans, one in 1990 in Udaipur and he other in 1995 in Faridkot..Here was no great mass mobilization but the methods of work and issues we of historical significance.A.I.F.O.F.D.R also brought out reports on drought and on the massacre of Christian missionaries in Orissa in 1999.

Historic resolutions have been passed by the Federation on repression on Kashmiri People, Punjab Problem, ,state repression in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, retrenchment of workers in West Bengal, Black Laws .Upto the early 1990’sthe Federation progressed at an All India level but sadly by the late 1990’s the trend declined. The A.F.D.R hardly now displayed the same militant orientation and nor did the O.P.D.R.

The author of his article wishes that the readers of this site could get hold of the earlier issues of he A.I.FO.F.D.R organ called “In Defense of Democratic Rights .’and help in reprinting and re-distributing the issues .Brilliant portrayals have been done on communalism, Repression on peasants and Workers Struggles Etc. The genesis of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition s and communal riots in the aftermath is well explained.

Today a struggle oriented democratic Rights Movement is very much needed which relates the cause of democratic Rights as different rom mere civil liberties. Civil liberties are what exists in the Constitution, but democratic Rights have always been won over by the people .E.g. the rights of Black people in America or the Working Class in England. Today in light of the advance of he Special economic Zones and repression on the Nandigram peasant struggle a united democratic Rights movement is the need o the hour.

Let us remember this day when a federation was formed 25 years ago to promote he Democratic Rights Movement.

The author wishes that readers could obtain articles on the history of the Democratic Rights Movement and get the earlier reports of the Federation. All readers could kindly request the author of he article. It is impossible in this article to refer to all of the reports and struggles. Please also read the 1985 December issue of Democratic Rights which historically differentiates civil liberties from Democratic Rights. Also purchase reports of A.I.F.O.F.D.R.

By Harsh Taker

Have-Nots Rebel As India Blossoms

June 18, 2007

IN THE DHAULI FOREST, India (AP) – After the paved roads have ended and the dirt roads have crumbled into winding footpaths, after the last power line has vanished into the forest behind you, a tall, red monument suddenly appears at the edge of a clearing.

It’s 25 feet high and topped by a hammer and sickle, honoring a fallen warrior. White letters scroll across the base: “From the blood of a martyr, new generations will bloom like flowers.”

The monument is a memorial but also a signpost, a warning that you are entering a “Liberated Zone” _ a place where Mao is alive and Marx is revered, where an army of leftist guerrillas known as the Naxalites control a shadow state amid the dense forests, isolated villages and shattering poverty of central India. Here, the Indian government is just a distant, hated idea.

“The capitalists and other exploiters of the masses feel increasingly vulnerable. And they should,” said a 33-year-old man known only as Ramu, a regional commander of the Naxalites’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. He cradled an assault rifle as he sat on the dirt floor of a small farmhouse, temporary base for two dozen fighters set amid the forests of Chhattisgarh state. “For them, the danger is rising.”

Initially formed in 1967, the Maoist army has taken root over the past decade in places left behind during India’s spectacular financial rise since its economy was opened up in the early 1990s. Outsiders rarely see their strongholds, but a team from The Associated Press was invited last month into a region they control.

As India has grown wealthier, the Naxalites _ officially called the Communist Party of India (Maoist) _ have grown larger, feeding off the anger of the country’s poor. There are now 10,000-15,000 fighters in an archipelago of rebel territory scattered across nearly half of the country’s 28 states, security officials say.

For years, the government here paid little attention. That began changing two years ago. Today, Chhattisgarh state backs an anti-Naxal militia called the Salwa Judum. And in 2006, India’s prime minister called the Naxalites the single largest threat to the country

Over the past two years, nearly 2,000 people _ police, militants and civilians caught in the middle _ have been killed in Naxalite violence. In March, 55 policemen and government-backed militiamen were killed when up to 500 Naxalites descended on an isolated Chhattisgarh police station.

The rebel patchwork reaches from deep inside India to the border with Nepal, where the Naxalites are thought to have informal ties to the Maoists who, after a long insurgency, recently joined in the Katmandu government.

The Maoist goal in India is nothing less than complete takeover.

“There is only one solution to India’s problems: Naxalism,” said Ramu.

The movement takes its name from Naxalbari, a village outside Calcutta where the revolt began in 1967. Inspired by Mao Zedong, founding father of the Chinese communist regime, they believe an army of peasants can one day overthrow the government. The Naxals are strongest in states such as Chhattisgarh that have large populations of “tribals,” the indigenous people at the bottom of India’s rigid social order.

More than ever, their once-marginal revolt seems like outright war, particularly in the rebel strongholds of rural Chhattisgarh.

India deals with other insurgencies, from Kashmiri separatists to a spectrum of ethnic militant groups in its remote northeast. But the Naxalites have proven different. They have support not just among the poorest or a single ethnic group, and have survived for forty years.

In places like the Dhauli forest, a tangle of vegetation unmarked on most maps _ 500 miles from Bangalore, 450 miles from Calcutta and 600 miles from New Delhi _ the Naxalites are more than surviving. They are winning.

“I won’t lie to you. We’re on the defensive here,” said a top Chhattisgarh police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We have the main roads, but they have the hills and the small roads.”

Here, government officials hold little power. Through much of the countryside, nervous policemen barricade themselves at night inside stations ringed by barbed wire. Politicians dismiss the Naxalites as criminals, but those politicians go nowhere without armies of bodyguards.

Victory, the Naxals insist, is coming.

“We don’t have the weapons. We don’t have the army,” said a young fighter named Soni. “But slowly, slowly, sometime in the future, we will succeed.”

That seems unlikely.

Most of the Naxalites’ guns are old or handmade. Their land mines are often made from pressure cookers, and bullets are doled out carefully. Their support in many villages has more to do with fear than genuine belief.

Their control can be fleeting. If security forces move into a Naxalite-run area, the fighters simply disappear into the forests.

But while there’s little chance they’ll overthrow the government, in this part of India their power is immense. Every day or so, another policeman is killed. Every few months, another politician faces an assassination attempt _ sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Inside their self-proclaimed Liberated Zones, the Naxals are, effectively, the government. They collect taxes, control movement, and trade in valuable hardwoods from the ever-thinning jungles. They refuse entry not only to the government but also aid organizations, arguing they are tools of an unjust state.

There is an informal Naxal bank, Naxal schools and Naxal courts to settle village disputes and try suspected informants. For those found guilty of helping police, the punishment is public beheading.

“If they kill us, we also have to kill,” Ramu said. “Innocent people will get hurt in the process. But what can we do?”

As for the long history of failed communist states, he was unconcerned: “We will learn from their mistakes.”

Outside, a thunderstorm shook the sky, and rain pelted the straw roof. Inside, a half-dozen fighters sat in the darkness of the mud house, listening silently as Ramu spoke. One carried an AK-47 assault rifle, but the rest were armed with ancient British-made Enfield rifles, some dating to the 1940s, or homemade single-shot shotguns and rifles.

Few appeared to know much about the teachings of Marx or Mao, though both men were spoken of reverently. Some fighters believed Mao, who died in 1976, remains China’s leader. Instead, their beliefs are simple: The revolution will bring an idyllic jungle paradise for the

“One day we will get it back,” said Soni, the fighter, a tribal who spends much of her time in villages performing songs about their struggle. “The forest is ours.”

For now, until paradise comes, people live in mud homes on tiny farms. They grow rice and tobacco and harvest what they can from the forests. Better-off families have $12 shortwave radios or $45 Atlas bicycles.

In a village on the fringes of Naxalite territory, a teenager named Meetu Ram _ he thinks he’s about 17 _ talked about his life one recent evening. His family, by local standards, does well: They have a well-kept compound with three one-room buildings and a half-dozen cows.

Still, Ram has never been to a doctor, and has not even heard of telephones. Asked to name India’s prime minister, he shrugged.

Government officials “never come here,” he said in Gondi, the area’s main tribal language. “So we don’t know who these government people are, and who they aren’t.”

It is in places like this where the Naxalites’ appeal is most resonant.

India may have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but it also has vast _ and often growing _ rural poverty. In Chhattisgarh, that has been magnified by conflicts over everything from forest conservation to mining rights, with tribals often expelled from their jungle homes.

“The tribals make a good guerrilla base,” said Meghnad Desai, a scholar at the London School of Economics. They “are really poor, and have a genuine feeling of being taken advantage of … The Naxalites are exploiting that.”

Much of Ramu’s time is spent spreading the rebel message. On a recent afternoon, he summoned hundreds of villagers to a rally to decry the Salwa Judum.

While leaders of the government-supported Salwa Judum insist they are protecting villagers from Naxalite violence _ they have gathered some 50,000 tribals into dingy, guarded camps _ rights groups accuse them of widespread abuses.

“The Salwa Judum is killing people!” Ramu shouted at the villagers. “We are protecting the rights of the people!”

Many, though, don’t see heroes on either side.

Sanjana Bhaskar, 18, has spent more than a year in a Salwa Judum camp.

She hates the camp. “There is nothing here,” she said, gesturing to the one-road expanse. “But where else can we go?”


Naxalites Today

June 17, 2007

Forty years after the Naxalbari uprising, it is remarkable that Maoism remains a potent political force. It has survived the disappearance of Maoism in the land of its origin and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. It has survived the retreat of the Left in academia and trade unions, which contributed to the rise of a middle class that was indifferent to politics in general and the Left in particular.

It has survived the rise of caste, as opposed to class, politics as well as the growing sway of the ideology of Hindutva. It has survived even the rise of the NGO sector, which, barring exceptions, provided a platform to those who sought to separate ‘social’ work from ‘political’ work.

While some Naxals of the 60s and 70s did an about-turn in their political beliefs and practices, the movement seems none the weaker for that reason. True, the far Left landscape is a minefield of splinter groups, but for all their differences these organisations pose a serious threat to state power. Therefore, when one takes stock of 40 years of Naxalism, one should understand it as a phenomenon of the present rather than the past.

The ideological underpinnings of Naxalism have not changed. Most parties to the left of CPM still believe in rural armies encircling the cities as the path of revolution. Despite their theoretical allegiance to Marx and Lenin, they have not made any serious effort to organise urban masses, instead evolving over the years as a political organisation of tribals, marginal peasants and Dalits in a corridor of about 150 districts from Bihar to Andhra Pradesh through Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Urban upper middle class ex-Naxals might laugh off the encirclement theory, but to rural cadres exposed to the excesses of urban India after the consumer boom of the 90s the Charu Mazumdar line remains plausible as ever.

The fact is that ‘objective conditions’ in certain pockets of the country are no different from what they were in 1967. Those who believe that economic reforms have delivered millions out of poverty should qualify their optimism. Amidst a steady reduction in poverty in the 80s and 90s, defined in terms of calories consumed or expenditures made, there is an alarming prevalence of malnutrition, as indicated by the government’s National Family Health Surveys and NSS data on protein intake.

This should lead us to broaden our definition of poverty to include access to healthcare, education and basic consumer goods. Health spending, in particular, contributes to a swift transition from subsistence or even comfortable existence to poverty, pushing families into debt; hence, focusing more on incomes than assets to measure poverty can be misleading. Calorie intake norms should be supplemented by measures of protein and vitamin intake, so that lower calorie consumption is not taken to mean that people have moved on to superior substitutes.

A triumphalist media, soaking in the success of India’s economic growth, has missed or chosen to ignore these statistical gaps. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that a section of urban India does not understand the causes of Naxalism. Even if we take the current methodology of poverty estimation at face value and accept that the absolute numbers of the poor have fallen over decades, the statistics, being averages, do not capture the intensity of distress in certain pockets despite high growth in recent years.

These are precisely the regions — eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bastar, interior Orissa, parts of West Bengal, Vidarbha — where the influence of Naxalism has increased. To be poor is one thing, and to seem condemned to one’s fate quite another. Rising incomes in post-reform India have created a rapidly growing aspirational class, but they have also contributed to an army of socio-economic orphans — those who have been rejected by all mainstream political parties and adopted by a parallel network of Naxalites, Gandhians and socialists.

The ‘problem’ of Naxalism is as much a crisis of political empowerment as it is of sheer economic backwardness. It is hardly surprising that Naxal influence is strongest in tribal India. Tribals, more than any other oppressed category, have got nothing out of the Indian state, before or after globalisation. The Indian state has always taken land alienation of tribals for granted, as one of the consequences of ‘progress’ that must be put up with owing to a skewed pattern of land distribution, tribals and Dalits are at the receiving end of the land- owning castes.

In addition, a contractor-politician nexus controls the wealth of the forests and pushes tribals to the margins. A repressive state apparatus, represented by the police and the black laws they use to their advantage, helps keep this exploitative system going.

With the opening up of the Indian economy to trade and investment, the entry of mining companies in Orissa and Chhattisgarh poses a threat to the livelihood of tribals and their way of life. Naxalites are among those — though not the only, or even main, political force — who are with the tribals in this context. Even as their adherence to violence cannot be condoned, it is no worse than the violence of the state and oppressive forces in the region.

In a sharply unequal society, the line between peaceful and violent politics can turn into a blur. The way out is to address entrenched injustices rather than try to stamp out the responses to it. Should we give this effort another 40 years?


GDP :Grossly Distorting Perception

June 13, 2007

This is an old article written way back in 2003 but is still relevant
and should be an enlightening read.The author mainly speaks about the American
Economy and the American way of life which our rulers are busy replicating
and worshiping.

Grossly Distorting Perception

Measure for measure, GDP is the world’s hidden accounting scandal, the one that neither governments nor media will touch. Jonathan Rowe asks why we worship such a false idol.
Date:01/02/2003 Author:Jonathan Rowe

Several months ago a professor at the University of North Carolina published research that turned beliefs about the economy upside down. Health improves, he said, as the economy shrinks. And as the economy declines, deaths, smoking, obesity, heavy drinking, heart disease and some kinds of back problems all decline as well.

‘Sounds unlikely’, said a New York Times correspondent. And indeed it is, at least by standard reckonings. We all know that an expanding economy makes us better off. Or do we? Another study, from the UK, found that shopping, which is the driving force of the entire economy and which is supposed to make people feel good, can actually make us depressed. ‘For significant numbers, dissatisfaction is now part of the shopping process,’ one of the authors wrote. (As though we needed a study to tell us that.)

What is going on here? How could we feel better when the experts say we should feel worse, and worse we should feel better? Could it be that economists have got it all wrong?

This is the world’s hidden accounting scandal, the one that neither the government nor the media will touch. It concerns the accounting for the entire economy, the way the government purports to determine whether things are getting better or worse. This accounting is called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is central to the big policy debate in Washington and is the template for the policies the USA projects upon the world. The media regard it with a reverence bordering on awe. The Wall Street Journal recently called the GDP ‘the world’s most reliable economic indicator’.

Yet, like the books of Enron and Tyco economic accounting at governmental level is a sham. It portrays regress as progress, and misery as economic advance. If leaders are really looking for chief executives who cook the books, they might well take a look at their own accounts. They truly are a mess.

Adding nauseam

Imagine an accountant who can add but can’t subtract and who is so short-sighted he can’t see past his nose. That is the mentality behind the GDP. The GDP simply adds up the the amount of money that people spend and calls the result growth, which equals good, regardless of where the money went and why.

So the more medical bills you incur, the more junk food your kids eat, the more you sit in traffic and the more your credit-card company rips you off with hidden charges, the better the economy is doing.

At the same time GDP accounting ignores the implications of expenditures that at face value might suggest advance. Perhaps your neighbour loves her new Renault Clio. Perhaps she regards it as a step up in her life. Still, when she drives the thing, she pollutes the air and adds to pressures to put oil rigs near coastal beaches. She takes up more space on the road, contributing to traffic and causing everyone to burn more gas. Honest accounting would show such costs. The GDP ignores them.

Worse, it actually shows such costs as economic gains. All the petrol, the fender-benders, the medical bills arising from exposure to bad air get added to the GDP as evidence of the nation’s growth. Americans spend over $5 billion on petrol they burn while stuck in traffic, going nowhere. That’s $5bn more for the GDP. Cook the planet, cook the books and call the result growth.

It’s this kind of ridiculous accounting that enables governments to claim that action to address global warming would be bad for the economy. If you define regress as progress, then steps to take us forward look as though they would set us back. What’s more, while counting bads as goods, the GDP totally ignores the genuine goods that don’t cost money: the air we breathe; the care that parents and grandparents give their children; the games children play with one another; the quiet of the night. These are invisible in the national accounts.

Only when the economy destroys them and forces us to buy substitutes do the governmental accountants spring to life. Day care counts but mum-and-dad care doesn’t. Driving a car counts but walking does not. The reason is not that government bean-counters are incompetent or ethically challenged. Actually they are top notch. The problem is the antiquated system they are forced to use. It is so out of touch with reality it would be comic – if the consequences weren’t so grim.

Thriving on absurdity

The absurdities of all this have not gone entirely unnoticed. Economists and the media reflect upon them from time to time in a feet-on-the-desk kind of way. But they continue to use the GDP anyway. Watch the news the next time the Treasury releases the quarterly GDP figures. Is there a single reporter or economist who says: ‘Wait a minute. Does this accounting really say what people think it says?’

Not likely. Moreover, they never acknowledge how deep the phoney accounting runs. They might remark occasionally upon the unfortunate side-effects of consumption, what economists call externalities – for example, the way off-road vehicles pollute the air. But the consumption itself is always positive, another step up the mountain of more. ‘A nation is by definition thriving if its major indices [such as GDP] say people are making more things and spending more money on them,’ a writer in the New York Times opined not long ago. ‘By definition’ means there’s no need to observe actual experience and see if it is true.

Blind faith

Yet reporters are supposed to be observers, not theologians, and these talents are desperately needed with regard to the hoary postulates of economic thought. The problem today goes far deeper than externalities. Increasingly the problem is ‘internalities’, the supposed cornucopia itself. Is the economy really thriving when kids nag their parents for junk food or when credit-card companies rip off their customers with billions in hidden charges? Is it thriving when teen magazines induce a pathological body-consciousness in young girls to the benefit of the cosmetic and plastic surgery industries?

According to a recent test, six out of seven brands of ‘off-road’ vehicles are designed to incur major damage – worth over $1400 – from a crash at just five mph. That’s GDP for you.

But let’s face it. The problem is not just the economy. It’s also ourselves.

In the belief system called economics, we all are shrewd little integers of acquisition, who go through life with an unfailing calculus of benefit and gain. Since economists believe us all to be ‘rational’, the sum total of our buying must be the nation’s prosperity and good. That’s the belief embedded in the national accounting – more buying equals more happiness.

Leave aside for the moment the buying the economy thrusts upon us. Leave aside, too, whether it is really so rational to be obsessed with shopping to begin with. If we simply observe the life around us, what we see is – surprise – a lot of bad choices. We see people who seem in constant lament over the bad choices they have made.

Our book shops are full of titles for such people. Support groups proliferate for those who can’t stop eating, drinking, smoking, falling for the wrong people, spending money they don’t have. The pharmaceutical industry is marketing drugs for people who can’t stop shopping. And there are myriad counsellors waiting to counsel them.

Yet somehow, when the accountants put all of these bad decisions together, the result is supposed to be prosperity and growth. And when people start to get control of their lives – when they toss the gin down the toilet, put the credit cards in the freezer and timers on their telephones – we hear dire warnings of a drop in ‘consumer confidence’ and a ‘sluggish’ GDP.

Rejecting the hype

For a McDonald’s, an Exxon or a General Motors, GDP is of great comfort. It turns obesity and pollution into economic advance, and the perpetrators of these into the heroes of the script. Politicians also like the accounting. It enables them to say that in helping their campaign contributors they are actually helping humankind. Oil drilling in wilderness areas is not a plum for the oil industry, they say. Rather, it’s a boost for the GDP.

For the media, meanwhile, the GDP provides a way to turn a complex story into a simple number, one that comes weighted with a combination of government authority and an economists’ expertise. It enables reporters to pontificate about the economies of entire countries without the need to leave their desks. And the fact that the GDP aligns economic reporting with the interests of advertisers doesn’t hurt either.

These mental grooves are deep, and they are set in concrete. They are not likely to change any time soon. But that does not mean we have to follow along. The first step to change is to withdraw our consent. The next time we hear the solemn voices on the BBC talk about the GDP and ‘growth’, we can just chuckle at how out of it they are. As the exposés of corporate corruption have shown to the great pain of many in the USA, phoney accounting can’t cover up reality forever.

Jonathan Rowe is director of the Tomales Bay Institute, California, and a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly. Enough! is a publication of the Center for a New American Dream.

BOX: Isn’t GDP Wonderful?

There are few human misfortunes that do not have a silver lining where the economic mind is concerned. The result is a strange take on the world that permeates the mainstream media yet goes almost entirely unnoted.

• Teenage girls prone to pathological body-consciousness, egged on by images of physical ‘perfection’ that barrage them in teen magazines, have helped create a teen cosmetic industry worth almost $25bn annually.

• Americans owe over $7 trillion in household debt, used to make purchases that boost the GDP. And in a curious twist, the debt interest payments add $100 billion more.

• For the purchases they don’t really need or use, there is the burgeoning self-storage industry and garage extensions on suburban homes to hold the stuff. The accoutrements alone – shelves etc – are expected to become a $650mn business, according to the Wall Street Journal.

• Growth development problems, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction or impotence, is on the increase, which is excellent news for manufacturers of Viagra – in itself a $1.5bn industry in the USA.

• Over 500,000 Americans contribute to the US GDP with purchases made on stolen credit cards. Add to this identity theft insurance which costs over $100 a year per person.

• Economists love web pornography since it adds some $2bn to America’s GDP.

• Gambling is another affliction that contributes impressively to the US GDP – by some $63.3bn a year.

• GDP also thrives on noise pollution – sound-proofing insulation for an apartment ceiling costs about $400. And the 5.2m American children who have damaged hearing from listening to their headphones too loud are an investment in the GDP as later in life many will require treatments and hearing aids.

• More than half of Americans are overweight. Yippeee! Direct medical costs from diabetes alone add some $44bn to the GDP. And over 50,000 Americans had their stomachs stapled last year at a cost of around $20,000 each.

• Manufacturers of soft drinks are targeting children with hyper-caffeinated sodas, with names like Jolt and Code Red. And to calm them down? Easy. Americans spend $758m on the drug Ritalin. GDP heaven – self-perpetuating supply and demand.

• Approximately one-fifth of America’s food goes to waste, and that’s not counting the vast amount that ends up as flab. This adds about $31bn to the GDP, a figure which could feed those who die of starvation each year twice over.

• American motorists sitting in traffic jams spend over $5bn a year on petrol. In Los Angeles alone the figure is close to $1bn. Note, coincidentally, that Los Angeles also leads the nation in the number of hospital admissions for respiratory problems – more medical costs, higher GDP.

• Depressed – excellent. Over seven million Americans take anti-depressants. Prozac alone has generated over $2.5bn a year. Even better, when the Grim Reaper finally arrives, the typical American funeral costs over $5,000, not counting the price of the cemetery and monument.

The ecologist

A failed revolution enjoys a new breath of life

June 5, 2007

Warning ! My bullshit meter is going crazy ! Reading this article
could cause a serious drop in your IQ levels !

One of the most preposterous assumptions he makes is this

Those who think that Naxalism has failed are right in that it does not ignite the imagination of present-day youth. They are preoccupied with mainstream politics where considerations are within the confines of religion, region, caste and language. Or, they are just busy building their careers, earning money and looking after their families.

No seriously… I wonder if the author wrote this article while living in an igloo in antartica ?

We sympathizers are living proof of the fact that the author is wrong.And there
are thousands of us if not lakhs.

A failed revolution enjoys a new breath of life
Bull Shit Meter

MANY Indians are celebrating the 40th anniversary of “a failed revolution” when it has actually moved away from their comfortable urban milieu to the vast countryside, and is spreading.
They are wearing blinkers of convenience and of their new globalised existence, wishing it would disappear. They come face to face with it when they try to set up industries and economic zones.

Unable to do anything to ward off the voodoo, they look to the government to use force.

The government, too, is helpless in that it has no clear solution. The politician wants to tackle it “politically”, while the bureaucracy, especially the policeman, wants it bullet-for-bullet. The armed forces, taking only an academic interest, are nevertheless concerned.

May 25 marked four decades of a movement founded on the prescriptions of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong. A peasant uprising in Naxalbari village, until then an unknown spot on West Bengal’s northern map, snowballed when radical members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) broke away in support of the revolt and two years later formed the CPI (Marxist-Leninist).

In the communist world then, China and the Soviet Union never saw eye to eye. So, the Chinese promptly supported the Naxalbari uprising, adding a new word to the left-wing lexicon: Naxalites.

Kanu Sanyal, 78, one of the pioneers of the movement, is still around leading a faction of the party he founded. But it is not what he started with.

He abhors the violence unleashed in the name of revolution in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh provinces. “Terror cannot solve problems. A single conspiratorial killing cannot bring change. Such actions will only harm the movement and alienate the masses,” Sanyal said in an interview in Naxalbari.

The presence of the Naxalites depends upon which way one looks at the movement. It is almost like the hourglass: You decide whether it is half-full or half-empty. Actually, it is both.

Those who think that Naxalism has failed are right in that it does not ignite the imagination of present-day youth. They are preoccupied with mainstream politics where considerations are within the confines of religion, region, caste and language. Or, they are just busy building their careers, earning money and looking after their families.

But what about those who depend on land that does not belong to them, or do not produce enough and have run debts they cannot pay back? Suicide by scores of indebted farmers is one consequence; the other is Naxalism in tribal areas where forests are being encroached on or occupied.

Disapproval by mainstream political parties, a total lack of support from the communist parties at home and abroad and the decidedly hostile attitude of the state, have not affected the spread of the movement.

Like the ultra-left in neighbouring Nepal, Naxalites swear by Mao. That embarrasses Beijing no end.

Despite their factional and ideological shenanigans, the Naxalites violently fight those they consider “class enemies”. The government acts in fits and starts, alternating between a “political approach” and wanting to establish its hold by force.

Dipankar Bhattacharya, a leading light of the movement, says the government uses the interregnum to infiltrate and weaken the revolutionaries. But equally true is the government’s charge that the rebels use the lull to regroup and rearm.

After three decades of rule by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), many thought, erroneously, that Naxalism had died in the land of its birth. But the recent peasant activism in Singur and Nandigram, where thousands protested the takeover of their farmland for industry, has given a new lease of life to revolutionary ideals.

Most certainly, the public protests in these rural pockets were taken over by the Naxalites, to the delight of the protesting groups and parties and to the chagrin of the ruling CPI (Marxist).

While Tata’s automobile project has just about managed to escape public wrath and got underway, that of Indonesia’s Selim Group has been shelved, for the moment, at least. Protests have now spread to other, even non-Naxal parts, wherever the government is trying to set up economic zones.

Armed only with idealism and Mao’s Red Book, some of the brightest youth in Indian academia embraced Maoism four decades ago, determined to usher in a communist revolution, even at the cost of their careers. Many suffered and died. The survivors wonder today if it was all worth the pain.

At one time, it was thought that revolution would come to India from Moscow to Kolkata, via Beijing. It did come to Naxalbari, but got lost in the complexities of a vast land that has absorbed every race, religion and invader.

India is unlikely to go through the Russian or Chinese experience.

But localised revolutionary movements abound, especially in the tribal areas and where exploitation is naked. Unless there is a solution to socio-economic problems and measures are undertaken to narrow disparities that are widening.

The political class would need to adopt a role that is not just carrot-and-stick. Above all, those who want to set up industries would need to realise their corporate social responsibilities.

The Shining Path

May 25, 2007


For young urban Naxalites out to free India’s peasantry, those days were nightmarish, brutal, but electric


So what do you think of the party? Don’t you think it is going the revisionist way?” I still remember my friend’s face as he asked me this question some 40 years ago, sometime in January 1967. He had lowered his head and voice to ask it. He was my senior by a couple of years at Calcutta’s Presidency College. We had both been very recently involved in a prolonged students’ strike. Tired from the struggle, we were now sitting on the grounds of the college, talking. My friend’s intense face, resting on his knees that he had locked into an embrace, was turned towards me. His eyes, I could see, were searching mine for an answer.

A smoggy Calcutta evening was gathering around us while the historic buildings of the college — the Baker Laboratory to our right, the beautiful main building in front of us, and the unaesthetic, typically pwd, Economics building to our back slowly sank into darkness, assuming the contours of dark, mute, and monstrous witnesses to our whispered conversation.

The “party” in question was the Communist Party of India (Marxist). I date the beginning of the Naxalite movement from the day my friend asked me this question. To explain why, I need to say a few words about the strike we had organised in the winter of 1966. It was aimed at protesting the expulsion from the college of several Leftist students. The authorities had also refused to receive applications for admission to the ma classes from Leftist student leaders, and among them was the future Naxalite leader Ashim Chatterjee.

Our strike was sponsored by the unofficial student wing of the CPI(M), the Bengal Provincial Students’ Federation (Left) (BPSF-l). We wanted to carry on with the strike into January and beyond. Readers of Lenin and Mao, we thought every “struggle” should be notched up to a higher and higher pitch. The party, however, was pressing us to end the strike and to attend to the forthcoming general elections in the state. It was an official “mandate” from the BPSF (then led by the likes of Biman Bose and the late Dinesh Majumdar) that forced us to withdraw the strike. We obeyed but festered. Was an election more important than a strike? Had not Lenin compared the bourgeois parliament to a pigsty?

The main debate in the Communist parties since the Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960s turned precisely — at least in our eyes — on this question. The Leftist students at Presidency College were mostly Maoists. We had rejected what the Chinese Communist Party described as Soviet Social Imperialism. Purists at heart, we felt suspicious of the ambiguous gestures the CPI(M) made on the debate about peaceful versus violent transition to socialism. As Maoists, we were convinced about the necessity of violence. Looking back, however, I can see from my friend’s question that there were Maoist rumblings of disaffection in the party months before any peasants or tribals took up arms in Naxalbari or Phansidewa.

The rest, as they say, is history. From whispers to ginger groups to co-ordination committees to the final announcement of a Maoist party — the CPI(M) — in 1969, was perhaps an inevitable path the Sino-Soviet ideological split opened up for us. The old, Stalinist machinery of the CPI(M) did not know how to contain or nurture the dissidence of the idealistic youth. The call of Comrade Charu Mazumdar — the new leader of the Maoist party — for liberating the country with the help of a peasant army was much more heady and inspiring.

Many of the urban youth who went, red-guard style, to liberate villages in the late 1960s came back within weeks with acute bowel problems. They all discovered the city-country divide in minute everyday aspects of their comportments: their languages, clothes, eating habits, even in their spectacles. They tried assassinating a few landlords, usually with disastrous results.

Many realised that their understanding of rural India was as shaky as the Indian economy was, at least according to their own theories. There developed internal debates among these revolutionaries about the efficacy of the cult of violence that Mazumdar preached. My friend, for example, who operated in the Nadia district, abjured violence even though he remained a steadfast Naxalite and spent time in jail.

What was it like to live through those days? Nightmarish, if one remembers the police brutality and torture that was unleashed on people suspected to be Naxalites. Nightmarish also, if one remembers the fratricidal murders that were to take place in the cities between CPI(M) and CPI(ML) cadres as the police flushed the urban revolutionaries out of the villages (at least one formerly-Leftist senior Bengali police officer later claimed credit for hatching this deliberate strategy of killing poison with poison).

Brutal, if one remembers the killing of innocent traffic constables carried out in the name of the revolution. But electric, if one remembers the idealism of the young men and women who got swept up in the movement. Later, watching films on Northern Ireland, I would be reminded of my Naxalite friends — young men and women who all seemed to be stuffed with gunpowder, their bodies and minds ready to explode at a moment’s notice. Events forced them to accept that their revolution had been defeated. Many lost their lives or careers. Many felt vanquished. Some became civil liberties activists. I still come across my Naxalite friends of youth. Defeated they may have been but I have never felt that they have let go of their anger at the injustices of our society, at the corruption and venality of power in modern India. I can still look into the ageing eyes of my (now) old Naxalite friends and be reminded of that famous saying of Mao’s: “to rebel is justified.”

Chakrabarty is a Professor of History at the University of Chicago
Jun 02 , 2007

Behold , Red Tide at the Floodgates !

May 25, 2007


Overlook the poor peasantry. Ignore the legitimate demands of labour. Implement the neo-liberal project blindly. Naxalism is what you get, says Aditya Nigam


Overlook the poor peasantry. Ignore the legitimate demands of labour. Implement the neo-liberal project blindly. Naxalism is what you get, says Aditya Nigam

After the first burst of utopian energy in the late 1960s, Naxalism underwent a long period of silent transformation. The second phase, in the post-Emergency period, was one of intense churning and regrouping, a period of reflection on, and redefinition of, the various Naxalite groups’ relationship with democracy and democratic institutions. Most groups actually started limited participation in electoral processes and moved away from what had come to be known as ‘annihilation of the class enemy’ — that is, the killing of individual oppressive landlords. They started building organisations of democratic mass struggles like trade unions, peasant organisations and student organisations.

The current phase, in the form of ‘Maoism’, has been marked by the reassertion of the path of armed struggle and complete rejection of parliamentary participation. This is not an entirely new development. Rather, it represents the culmination of a long period of guerilla operations that have been carried out separately by three important groups in different parts of the country. The most important of these was the ‘CPI(ML) People’s War’ led by Kondapalli Sitaramaiah in Andhra Pradesh, popularly known as the People’s War Group (PWG).

Through the 1980s, the PWG built legal mass organisations of students, writers, peasants and other sections but soon moved into almost exclusively underground military operations and built up what turned out to be the most feared and awesome machinery of a guerrilla army. It was in the 1990s that the PWG moved away from mass struggles and became exclusively preoccupied with armed struggle.

It is in this period, especially in the 1990s, that the PWG expanded its guerilla operations in a whole belt extending from Andhra Pradesh to northern Karnataka and eastern Maharashtra as well as neighbouring parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa. It also established relations with some important non-party organisations and movements such as Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, and the Bharat Jan Andolan that was set up by BD Sharma, a former civil servant who began working with the tribals of that region after he gave up his job.

The PWG managed to draw these movements into its close circle of allies and expanded its influence quite rapidly, despite the fact that it gradually became reduced to a terror machine, often indulging in wanton killings and extortion to finance its activities. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that all these movements shared the PWG’s politics, its philosophy of violence or its methods.

It seems that this expansion of its influence became possible largely because it was precisely in the 1990s that the democratic space for raising questions of poverty and exploitation virtually disappeared. This is one of the relatively understudied ironies of the 1990s that have otherwise been described, correctly, as a period of democratic upsurge. In this period the virtual erasure of issues of the working class or peasantry from the media and public discourse went hand-in-hand with a massive neo-liberal ideological attack on trade unions and organisations of the peasantry. The cynicism and ruthlessness with which the non-violent struggles of the displaced people of the Narmada valley — to take only the most well known example — were treated by the power bloc (including the media and the judiciary, who are deeply implicated in the new nexus of power), produced the general scenario where the PWG began to seem to many of the poorest an attractive option.

Added to this was the complete abdication of the space of mass struggles by the entire mainstream Left and its confinement to the parliamentary arena. While the preoccupations of the mainstream Left in this period were with largely abstract macro issues like defence of the public sector and opposition to foreign investment, the real issues that were beginning to emerge on the ground related to accelerated dispossession in the countryside. In northern Karnataka for example, what gave the PWG popular support was its defence of tribals who were being uprooted from their habitat in the forests, to make way for the Kudremukh National Park. This dispossession also meant denying the tribals their traditional access to minor forest produce and eliminating a whole way of life that lives in symbiosis with the forest. Elsewhere, in parts of Andhra Pradesh, the PWG confronted the issue of imminent displacement of peasants from their land that the government had acquired for private corporations.

As the violent displacement of common people from their habitat assumes unprecedented proportions, and with no recourse to justice — the judiciary being complicit in this game of dispossession — Maoism seems to offer an increasingly attractive option to many.

In the second half of the 1990s, the PWG and two other groups that relied exclusively on armed struggle, namely the CPI(ML) Party Unity and the Maoist Coordination Centre (MCC), both of which functioned in central and south Bihar, came together to form a legal front called the All India People’s Resistance Forum (AIPRF). The AIPRF functioned as a legal coordination centre as well as a forum for joint activity in the middle class constituency and effectively laid the ground for the eventual merger of the three groups. The Party Unity and PWG merged in 1998 and functioned with the latter name till 2004, when it merged with the mcc and adopted the name CPI (Maoist).

Adopting the nomenclature of ‘Maoist’ helped in laying claim to a shared project with the powerful Maoist insurgency in Nepal which had by then made Maoism a household name in the region. Further, the merger of three groups that functioned in different parts of the country under the banner of Maoism, conjured up for the Indian power bloc a fearsome vision of the ‘Red Corridor’ — a corridor that, it believes, extends from Andhra Pradesh via Chhattisgarh and Orissa through the contiguous regions of Jharkhand and Bihar right up to Nepal. The success of this merger and of the semiotics of its naming is apparent from the fact that Maoism is once again seen as a power to reckon with by its enemies, including the government and the media.

Nigam is a Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies


‘I was always Leftist. Economic reforms made me completely Marxist’

May 3, 2007

It is not everyday that we post articles by ministers of
the UPA government . But Mani Shankar Iyer(Minister for
Panchayati Raj) deserves to be read.. because here is one man
trying to expose what his government truly is – A big Sham.

We believe the UPA government is all set to go down in
history as the single largest man made disaster to hit
India in the early part of the twenty first century.

By the time you reach the end of the article one thing
becomes sure…
Mani Shankar Iyer won’t be invited by the CII
to deliver a speech again in this lifetime.

‘I was always Leftist. Economic reforms made me completely Marxist’

In a speech at a CII meet, Mani Shankar Aiyar argued that policy is hijacked by a small elite. That the cabinet he belongs to is quite comfortable with this hijacking. That India’s system of governance is such that Rs 650 crore for village development is considered wasteful but Rs 7,000 crore for the Commonwealth Games is considered vital. The classes rule all the time, Aiyar says, the masses get a look-in every five years

A few weeks ago the newspapers reported that the number of Indian billionaires had exceeded the number of billionaires in Japan, and there was a considerable amount of self-congratulation on this. I understand from P. Sainath that we rank eighth in the world in the number of our millionaires. And we stand 126th on the Human Development Index. I am glad to report that last year we were 127th.

At this very fast rate of growth that we are now showing, we moved up from 127th to 126th position. This is the paradigm of our development process. In a democracy, every five years the masses determine who will rule this country. And they showed dramatically in the last elections that they knew how to keep their counsel and show who they wanted. We, my party and I, were the beneficiaries and we formed the government. Every five years, it is the masses who determine who will form the government. And in between those five years the classes determine what that government will do.

In determining what that government will do, the CII has played an extremely important role. I am not surprised, as that is its job. It represents industry, and therefore it argues for the interests of the industry. Industry has been enormously benefited by the processes of economic reform that we have seen in this country over the last 15 years or so. But the benefits of these reforms have gone so disproportionately to those who are the most passionate advocates of reforms that every five years we are given a slap in the face for having done what the CII regards as self-evidently the right thing for this country.

It is a sustainable economic proposition, because our numbers are so vast, that there are perhaps 10 million Indians who are just as rich as the richest equivalent segment anywhere in the world or in any group of countries. There are about fifty million Indians who really are extraordinarily well off. That’s the population of the UK.

But if you look at the 700 million Indians who are either not in the market or barely in the market, then the impact of the economic reforms process, which is so lauded by the CII, makes virtually no difference to their lives. That is why there is a complete disjunct between what the democratic processes are trying for in the short run and what those who have made an enormous success of our achievements in the last fifteen years deem to be, at least in the short run, their own requirements.

So when you talk of a nine point two per cent growth rate, it becomes a statistical abstraction: 0.2 per cent of our people are growing at 9.92 per cent per annum. But there is a very large number, I don’t know how many, whose growth rate is perhaps down to 0.2 per cent. But certainly, the number of those who are at the lower end of the growth sector is very much larger than those who are at the higher end.

Yet what happens when you have the budget? As an absolute ritual every finance minister (my colleague Chidambaram is no exception) will devote the first four or five pages of his budget speech to the bulk of India and there will then be several pages, including whole of part B, which deals perhaps with one or two per cent of our population. Almost the entire discussion that takes place at CII or CII-like forums, will be about Part B rather than Part A.

There are comfort levels that you get from statistics — for instance, suddenly Arun Shourie, announcing in the NDA government that our poverty rates have fallen from 35 per cent to 22 per cent. He did it by changing the basis on which you estimate poverty. You cannot compare apples and oranges. The next national sample survey has shown that our poverty levels have actually increased. Are we going to be mesmerised by these statistics or understand that 700 million of our people are poor?

So we have an Indira Awaas Yojana which will ensure that there will be a ‘jhuggi’ for every Indian round about the year 2200. We have the PM Gram Sadak Yojana which was supposed to complete all the gram sadak in seven years — we are in the eighth year. And where we are told that the education of 1000 may be covered, who knows only the education of 500 will be covered. And if you happen to be a tribal in Arunachal, you are told that because of your social custom you are to live in one hut atop a hill, we can’t provide you a road.

I was always something of a leftist. But I became a complete Marxist only after the economic reforms. Because I see the extent to which the most important conception of Marx — that the relationship of any given class with the means of production determines the superstructure — holds.

This ugly choice is placed before the government. An unequal choice, because you have organised yourself to say what you want to say but the others are only able to organise themselves and that too without speaking to each other in the fifth year when the elections take place. That is why this expression anti-incumbency, although the Oxford Dictionary says that it is a word belonging to the English language, is a peculiarly Indian phenomenon. Because everything that goes in the name of good governance like the economic reforms either does not touch the life of people or affect them at all.

We have seen what happened at Nandigram, we have seen what was happening at Singur and we have these propositions that say that SEZs are going to come and lakhs of hectares are going to be utilised for the good of the country. For what’s the syndrome in all this, it’s still ‘do bigha zameen’. The chap says that I want my one bigha of zameen to be reinstated, but you offer double the compensation and “baad mein dekha jayega”. You go to Hirakud, which is where Jawaharlal Nehru actually used the expression modern temples of India, and you ask what happened to the tribals who were driven out of there. Absolutely nobody knows.

Coming to the cabinet, you see what happens. The minute suggestions are made as to what would perhaps benefit the people and what would benefit the classes, the tendency is to say that our great achievement is 9.2 per cent growth. Our great achievement is that Indian industrialists are buying Arcelor and Corus. That Time magazine thinks we are a great power.

In these circumstances, when a proposal came before the government to spend Rs 648 crore on the Gram Nyaya department, we were solemnly informed by one of the most influential ministers in the government to remember that we are a poor country. I was delighted when the next day he was with me in a group of ministers and I reminded him of his remark and said in that case can we stop spending the Rs 7000 crore on the Commonwealth Games and he said, “No, no, that is an international commitment and a matter of national pride.” This national pride will of course blow up if you spend Rs 7000 crore on the Commonwealth Games. We will be on the cover of Time and Newsweek.

I have always wondered why this rate of growth and economic reforms process is dated to Manmohan Singh. Because actually it should be dated to L.K. Jha’s book Economic Strategy for the 80s. It is the decade in which we quickly recovered from agricultural depression and registered a double digit growth. At the beginning of the decade our biggest import was crude oil and after that it was edible oil. By the end of the decade we were exporters of several kinds of edible oil.

Why is it that Nehru became successful with his Hindu rate of growth? The reason is that the Hindu rate of growth was five times what our pre-Hindu rate of growth was. From 1914 to 1947, the figures of which are available, the rate of growth of the Indian economy was 0.72 per cent. And we got the Hindu rate of growth which was five times that and it made a difference to the people. The minute you had solid land reforms, the people had their ‘zameen’. That is what Mother India was all about. People felt that they were involved in the process. All the political talk was: gareeb ke liye ham kya kar sakte hain. Indira Gandhi matched it beautifully when the entire political spectrum joined hands against her by saying, “Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, hum kehte hain Garibi hatao.”

There is nobody so marginal in a government as the minister of Panchayati Raj. I count for nothing. Nothing! When I was the minister of petroleum, I used to walk surrounded by this media. I kept on telling them that petrol prices can do only three things — go up, go down or remain where they are. And it was all over the place. But try and get them to write two words about the 700 million Indians — absolutely impossible. And now with terrestrial television it is even worse. You have to be quarreling with your mother-in-law or hitting your daughter-in-law to be able to hit the headlines. It is impossible to get particularly the pink papers to focus on issues that affect the bulk of the people. And it is so easy to get them to focus on issues that are of high relevance to only one or two per cent of the people.

I believe the CII, if it is serious about the issue, should not be restricting itself to 25 minutes discussion before lunch but hold discussions for ten days and maybe something will come out of it.

Edited extracts from a speech at the CII Northern Region annual meeting 2006-07, New Delhi, April 4


The History of May Day

April 30, 2007

The Origins of May First : Haymarket 1886 and the “Troublesome Element”

During 1885 a circular passed hand to hand through the ranks of the proletariat in the United States. With the following words it called for class-wide action on May 1, 1886:

“One day of revolt – not rest! A day not ordained by the bragging spokesmen of institutions holding the world of labor in bondage. A day on which labor makes its own laws and has the power to execute them! All without the consent or approval of those who oppress and rule. A day on which in tremendous force the unity of the army of toilers is arrayed against the powers that today hold sway over the destinies of the people of all nations. A day of protest against oppression and tyranny, against ignorance and war of any kind. A day on which to begin to enjoy ‘eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.'”

* * * * *

A century ago, on May 1, 1886, a general strike broke across the United States. Within days it would culminate in the events forever associated with the name Haymarket. In 1889 the founding congress of a new, second, Marxist International named that day, May Day, for worldwide actions of the proletariat.

Through all the twists and explosions of these past hundred years, the tradition of May Day has developed and spread: as a day when class-conscious proletarians of all countries take stock of their situation, make their plans for the year ahead, celebrate proletrian internationalism, and declare their determination to carry their struggle through to the final goal of communism throughout the world.

In many countries, battles rage to proclaim May Day as a day of revolutionary struggle after years where it has been suppressed or gutted by revisionists.

in 1984 the newly formed Revolutionary Internationalist Movement issued its Declaration on May First and since then has called for celebrations and struggle on May First in countries across the planet under unified revolutionary slogans. Today, just as throughout the past century, May Day concentrates in embryo the leaps and prospects of the world revolution.

In light of this May Day tradition, we offer a look at the Haymarket events on their centennial.

Early Sparks of a Revolutionary Epoch

Consider the world a century ago.

Communism was no longer merely the “specter” Marx and Engels had described in 1848. It had emerged as flesh and blood, and shook the crowns of Europe.

1871: the Paris Commune. With warring bourgeois armies at opposing end of their city, the Parisian proletariat stormed heaven! They dared seize power for the first time in the name of the propertyless. And they dared set out to transform all society in a radically new direction: toward the abolition of all classes and all oppression.

But the brilliant year 1871 came and went. The ruling classes of Europe were brutal and thorough. In France, the Commune died before firing squads. In Germany, the Prussian state responded with 1878’s severe Anti-Socialist laws, driving the revolutionary party into illegality. In Britain, yet a third form of reaction ruled: Wealth from new colonies so corrupted whole strata of British workers that the labor movement sank into a stupor.

For a few dark moments the red flame ignited in Paris seemed extinguished.

Suddenly, new sounds of class warfare broke the stillness – from a totally unexpected corner! From the very edge of the North American prairie, Chicago, a crude boom town that hardly seemed part of the “civilized world.” Not for the last time, the world revolution had leapt to a totally new continent.

This fresh outbreak of proletarian life became May 1, 1886.

The Truly “Modern” City

In 1886 one writer from abroad sought to capture Chicago in a sentence: “An overwhelming pall of smoke, streets filled with busy, quick-moving people; a vast aggregation of railways, vessels and traffic of all kinds; a paramount devotion to the Almighty Dollar.”

Some claim today that because of the Haymarket events May Day must somehow be considered an American invention. This is laughable for many reasons. Among them is the obvious fact that Chicago may have risen from North American soil, but this was a city of “foreigners,” dragged by the workings of a world system to the very edge of industrial society.

Engels wrote at that time about the “exceptional” and “aristocratic” position occupied by the native-born (white Anglo) workers in the country. However, the vast bulk of the proletariat, especially in such cities as Chicago, were from Germany, Ireland, Bohemia, France, Poland, and Russia. Waves of immigrants were hurled against each other – pressed into ghetto-like slums, unleashed into ethnic warfare, used to drive one another further down.

Many were illiterate peasants, cast into an alien battle for survival. But there were others already tempered by class warfare. Especially among the proletarians from Germany there was an infectious consciousness: learned, shaped by complex experience, deeply hostile to the dominant world order. And these radicals were hated, feared and defamed in return.

One proletarian described himself: “‘Barbarians, savages, illiterate ignorant Anarchists from Central Europe, men who cannot comprehend the spirit of our free American institution’ – of these I am one.”

One year after the Paris Commune, the winter of 1872: thousands left homeless and starving by the Great Chicago Fire demonstrated for relief. Many carried the banner “Bread or Blood.” Blood they got. Driven into the tunnel beneath the Chicago river, they were shot and beaten.

1877: a great strike wave spread along the rail lines, exploding into general strikes at major railheads, including Chicago. A new radical leadership emerged, especially among German immigrants connected with the first International of Marx and Engels. Alongside them stood a native-born activist, Albert Parsons. Political experience was concentrated here from two continents, from the turmoils of Europe and the anti-slavery movement of the United States. Parsons, for example, had been a Radical Republican in the tumultuous period of slave emancipation, and he had defied genteel Texan society by marrying a freed slave of mixed blood, Lucy Parsons, who would become an inspiring political figure in her own right.

The massive strike rallies of 1877 in Chicago were broken up by police gunfire.

Wrathful Tinder Was Drying

Previously the conditions of life in America, even for impoverished immigrants, were better than in countries they had left behind. With the explosive growth of industry, and the systematic conquest of the continent from Mexicans and Native peoples, there had long been a steady shortage of labor, which had meant little unemployment and relatively high wages. In addition, that special resource of the United states – free (i.e. stolen) land – gave whole sections of the laboring classes at least hope of obtaining property. A sense of opportunity and even speculative mania penetrated deeply among workers.

However, by the 1880s sweeping changes cut away at the material basis for such “American Dreams.”

The capitalist class had defeated the Southern slave owners only decades before and through the 1870s had reassimilated those exploiters of black skins into a more “modern” order. Newly freed slaves were disarmed, stripped of all political rights, and bound into the semifeudal system of sharecropping. The entire country felt the political winds shift from Radical Reconstruction to new gusts of triumphant reaction.

At about the same time the last of the “Indian Wars” ended. 1886 was the year of Geronimo’s final surrender. Within a couple of years, Sitting Bull would be assassinated by government agents during the Ghost Dance revolt. For many workers this final conquest of the Indians meant that the frontier was closed. There was no more “free land” to steal, no “safety valve” for surplus labor. Coupled with this, a devastating “Great Depression” came in 1873 and lasted for two decades.

Unemployment erupted. The mechanization of previously skilled jobs forced historic changes in the structure of the working class. Poverty and all its ugliest sores took unprecedented forms.

Having broken the Indians, ripped off Mexico, defeated the slaveowners, and then betrayed the slaves, American capitalism turned to gorge itself on the imported labor in its factories. However, while the ruling class consolidated this glittering system – amid squalor, there were men and women who started to dream new dreams, proletarian dreams. In a babel of languages, these dreams found expression – as politics.

The Gathering Storm

After 1877 both classes understood well that conflict would soon break out again. The bourgeoisie saw an “American Commune” on the horizon and prepared the bloody means to suppress it: armories were build as fortresses in every major city; the national guard was transformed into a modern army and equipped with modern weaponry; and in every industrial region, the capitalists hired large private armies of informers, thugs and Pinkertons.

The workers too prepared, both politically and militarily. Secret societies, trade unions and working class parties formed and within them debate raged over how the oppressed should respond to their worsening conditions. Today when the very words “American labor movement” evoke images of chauvinism and reaction, it may be hard to imagine the radical glow that once emanated from unions in general.

Unions then were semi-legal (or wholly illegal) networks within the factories. The police routinely broke up meetings of workers as a matter of course, beating and jailing organizers. Frederick Engels writes: “They are constantly in full process of development and revolution; a heaving, fermenting mass of plastic material seeking the shape and form appropriate to its inherent nature.”

To strike then often meant to enter into warfare with all the powers of society. The recruitment of scab crews from among the starving slum dwellers was routine. Work stoppages, even those that focused on clearly economic issues, quickly assumed the character of desperate revolts and spread like contagions to the class as a whole.

Chicago gave birth to a particularly radical scene. There revolutionaries were at the core of the Central Labor Union, the largest of the competing union networks. Within this framework, revolutionaries circulated a truly incendiary press: Albert Parsons’ biweekly paper, the Alarm, had an English-speaking readership of 2,000-3,000. August Spies (pronounced SHPEEZ) edited the daily Germany Arbeiter Zeitung with a circulation of 5,000. Several other revolutionary organs appeared at various times. Lively polemics and agitation raged among the workers in three or four languages.

A resolution passed by the Chicago Central Labor Union in 1885 captures the mood: “We urgently call upon the wage-earning class to arm itself in order to be able to put forth against their exploiters such an argument which alone can be effective: violence.”

Such calls were hardly abstract. In Chicago a core of workers, overwhelmingly from Germany, formed armed militias called Lehr und Wehr Vereins (Study and Resistance Associations) to answer the violence of the employers’ private armies in kind. With them were the English Club (for English-speaking workers), the Bohemian Sharpshooters (for Czechs), and a French group. Ten companies were recorded, many led by the veterans of European and American wars. Not surprisingly, the bourgeoisie responded in 1879 by simply banning these worker militias, and a protracted lesson in American democracy unfolded. While the bourgeois armies were being visibly strengthened at every hand, the workers took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court and were coldly denied their “constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” In an America where the gunslinging frontier traditions still lived, such a ruling was a shocking precedent indeed. Some “gun clubs” dissolved; others went underground.

Meanwhile, the growing strength of radical working-class forces paralleled a clearcut failure of electoral activities. Working class aspirations were suppressed at the polls through the crudest means: ballot stuffing, bribery and police attack.

As a result, in the brutal collisions of 1877 and the complex aftermath a significant section of the proletariat, especially centered in Chicago, came to deeply distrust the American constitutional system as a vehicle for emancipation. They were called “the troublesome element”; one bourgeois account fumed that they “consisted largely of the ignorant lower classes of Bavarians, Bohemians, Hungarians, Germans, Austrians and others who held secret meetings in organized groups armed and equipped like the nihilists of Russia and the communists of France. They called themselves socialists. Their emblem was red.”

Unfortunately the main organized socialist party at that time, the Socialist Labor Party, came under the control of reformists who worshipped the electoral arena and rejected armed struggle. Although these early revisionists sometimes claimed to be followers of Karl Marx, they were precisely those types of whom Marx wrote: “I have sown dragon’s teeth and harvested fleas.” The SLP expelled the forces of the Lehr und Wehr, claiming that armed workers were bad for their party image.

The socialist ideology that prevailed among the most revolutionary-minded workers was anarchism, in a particular syndicalist form dubbed “the Chicago Idea.”

The Revolutionary Thrust of the “Chicago Idea”

This “Chicago Idea” was expressed in an anarchist manifesto written at the Pittsburgh Congress of the “International Working People’s Association” (IWPA) in October 1883. It proclaimed:

“This system is unjust, insane and murderous. It is, therefore, necessary to totally destroy it with and by all means, and with the greatest energy on the part of everyone who suffers by it, and who does not want to be made culpable for its continued existence by his inactivity.

“Agitation for the purpose of organization; organization for the purpose of rebellion. In these few words the ways are marked which workers must take if they want to be rid of their chains…

“If there ever could have been any question on this point it should long ago have been dispelled by the brutalities which the bourgeois of all countries – in America as well as in Europe – constantly commits, as often as the proletariat anywhere energetically move to better their conditions. It becomes, therefore, self-evident that the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeois will be of a violent, revolutionary character.”

The “Chicago Idea” specifically fought the notion that individual terror and assassination could destroy the oppressor. They envisioned building a mass movement of their class which would disdain the struggle for crumbs. For the revolutionaries, and for the bourgeoisie, the Paris Commune had given a model of what might come.

Among revisionist and some other historians writing about the first May Day, this belief in revolutionary violence is treated as something to be either hidden or denounced. However, what true revolutionary today can find here ground for criticism?

The real weakness of this “Chicago Idea” and its movement lay in its worship of spontaneity. There was a dogmatic belief that loose union structures alone could serve as sufficient vehicles for revolutionary victory. This flowed from the anarchist tenets that the shell of the old society need only be broken by the determined general strike of the workers and that then a new world would automatically emerge form the self-organization of the oppressed. A mystical “natural order,” not a new reovlutionary state, was their goal. They planned to break up state power, but not to wield it.

The Marshalling of Forces

After the proletariat recovered from the events of 1877, its movement spread like a wild fire, especially once it had found a focus: the demand for the eight-hour day.

In 1884 one of the several national union networks, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, called for a national day of action. On May 1, 1886, they proposed, the workers should simply seize the eight-hour day and shut the gates on any factory that did not comply. Eight hours was to be transformed from an economic demand between workers and their immediate employers to a political demand of one whole class against another.

Tremendous enthusiasm greeted the plan. One historian writes, “It was little more than a gesture which, because of the changed conditions of 1886, became a revolutionary threat.” A vast churning took place among workers nationally. The Knights of Labor, for example, swelled from 100,000 in the summer of 1885 to 700,000 one year later.

It hardly seems necessary to explain why the “eight hour movement” was taken up so fervently. Eighteen-hour workdays were typical. Workers were literally worked to death; their lives proscribed by labor, brief sleep, and hunger. Before the workers as a class could raise their heads toward distant horizons, they craved free moments for thought and self-education.

In the streets workers sang:
We mean to make things over
We’re tired of toil for naught
But bare enough to live on;
Never an hour for thought.

1886 became a “mad year.” Even before spring, a strike wave started nationally. Two months before May Day, one historian writes, “disturbances occurred repeatedly [in Chicago], and it was a common sight to see patrol wagons filled with armed policemen dashing through the city.” The publisher of the Chicago Daily News wrote that “a repetition of the Paris Communal riots was freely predicted.”

Among the workers’ ranks this gathering storm provoked intense debate. The different political trends had sharp doubts about the movement – for diametrically opposed reasons. The highly conservative leadership of the Knights of Labor issued a secret circular describing their position. This gospel of “slow and patient educational work” is all too recognizable today:

“No assembly of the Knights of Labor must strike for the eight-hour system on May first under the impression that they are obeying orders from headquarters, for such an order was not, and will not, be given. Neither the employer or employee are educated to the needs and necessities of the short hour plan. If one branch of trade or one assembly is in such a condition, remember that there are many who are in total ignorance of the movement. Out of the sixty millions of people in the United States and Canada, our order has possibly three hundred thousand. Can we mold the sentiment of millions in favor of the short-hour plan before May first? It is nonsense to think of it. Let us learn why our hours of labor should be reduced, and then teach others.”

The fact that the author, Terence Powderly, really feared the consciousness (not the ignorance) of the workers is proven in another section of the circular where he wrote:

“Men who own capital are not our enemies. If that theory held good, the workmen of today would be the enemy of his fellow toiler on the morrow, for after all, it is how to acquire capital and how to use it properly that we are endeavoring to learn.”

By contrast, the anarchists questioned the “eight-hour plan” because, as a demand, they thought it left the system unchallenged. Along with Marx, whom several leaders had studied, they believed that “Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work!’ [the working class] ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system!'”

However, unlike Marx, the anarchists had difficulty anticipating the role a class-wide political movement could play in forging the proletariat into a self-conscious force. Albert Parsons himself had long been active within the Eight Hour Leagues, yet as late as December 1885 his newspaper, the Alarm, wrote: “We of the Internationale [meaning the anarchist IWPA] are frequently asked why we do not give our active support to the eight-hour movement. Let us take what we can get, say our eight-hour friends, else by asking too much we may get nothing. We answer: Because we will not compromise. Either our position that capitalists have no means to the exclusive ownership of the means of life is a true one or it is not. If we are correct, then it concede the point that capitalists have the right to eight hours of our labor, is more than a compromise; it is a virtual concession that the wage system is right.” The anarchist press argued that: “even though the eight-hour system should be established at this late day, the wage worker…would still remain the slaves of their masters.”

Such a view ignored the actual development of the class struggle at that point: Up until that decade the bourgeoisie had played a commanding role within the revolutionary movement, based on its leadership of the struggle against the slavocracy. In this context the “eight-hour” demand was playing a crucial role in demarcating emerging proletarian currents from those of other classes.

A battleline between classes was objectively being drawn by the workers – and regardless of subsequent historians’ distortions, this is how the “eight-hour movement” came to be viewed by all sides. Naturally, there were workers who rushed to join with no loftier purpose than winning a shorter workday for themselves or their immediate shop. It is the nature of all great movements that they draw in formerly passive and unconscious strata of the proletariat. However, to portray this sentiment as the essence of 1886, as the revisionists do, is more than a lie. It is an attempt to deny the proletariat any aspirations higher than some leisure and comfort within this system.

Unlike Powderly, Chicago’s anarcho-socialists were simply unwilling to stand against such an historic movement once they got a sense of its objective impact. They put their previous prejudices aside and entered a largely spontaneous movement to infuse it with revolutionary content.

Parsons wrote that his forces joined “first, because it was a class movement against domination, therefore historical and evolutionary and necessary; and secondly we did not choose to stand aloof to be misunderstood by our fellow workers.”

On March 19, 1886 the Arbeiter Zeitung wrote: “If we do not soon bestir ourselves for a bloody revolution, we can not leave anything to our children but poverty and slavery. Therefore prepare yourselves, in all quietness, for the revolution.” The Lehr und Wehr Verein grew, with a membership of over a thousand as the spring approached. Similar defense militia were reported in Cincinnati, Detroit, St. Louis, Omaha, Newark, New York, San Francisco, Denver and other cities.

As the fateful day approached, weekly marches streamed through Chicago with banners reading: “The Social Revolution,” “Down with Throne, Altar and Moneybags,” and “Workingmen, Arm Yourselves.” Torches lit workers’ faces during nighttime marches as they sang:

Toiling millions are now waking
see them marching on
All the tyrants now are shaking
ere their power’s gone.

On the very eve of May Day the Arbeiter Zeitung contained the following passages, which capture the raw edge that had developed:

“Bravely forward! The conflict has begun. An army of wage-laborers are idle. Capitalism conceals its tiger claws behind the ramparts of order. Workmen, let your watchword be: No compromise! Cowards to the rear! Men to the front!

“The die is cast. The first of May has come. For twenty years the working epople have been begging extortioners to introduce the eight-hour day system, but have been put off with promises. Two years ago they resolved that the eight-hour system should be introduced in the United States on the first day of May 1886. The reasonableness of this demand was conceded on all hands. Everybody, apparently, was in favor or shortening the hours; but as the time approached, a change became apparent. That which was in theory modest and reasonable became insolent and unreasonable. It became apparent at last that the eight-hour hymn had only been struck up to keep the labor dunces from Socialism.

“That the laborers might energetically insist upon the eight-hour movement, never occurred to the employer…. It is a question whether the workmen will submit, or will impart to their would-be murderers an appreciation of modern views. We hope the latter.”

This issue of the newspaper contained a prominent warning: “It is said that on the person of one of the arrested comrades in New York, a list of membership has been found, and that all the comrades compromised have been arrested. Therefore, away with all rolls of membership and minute-books, where such are kept. Clean your guns, complete your ammunition. The hired murderers of the capitalists, the police and the militia are ready to murder. No working man should leave his house these days with empty pockets.”

The ruling class too made its preparations, with particular focus on the workers’ leadership. The Chicago Mail ran an ominous editorial: “There are two dangerous ruffians at large in this city; two skulking cowards who are trying to create trouble. One of them is named Parsons; the other is named Spies….Mark them for today. Keep them in view. Hold them personally responsible for any trouble that occurs. Make an example of them if trouble does occur.”

May Day!

May First, 1886: one Chicago newspaper reported that “no smoke curled up from the tall chimneys of the factories and mills; and things had assumed a Sabbath-like appearance.” The Philadelphia Tribune wrote: “‘The labor element’ has been bitten by a kind of universal tarantula – it has gone ‘dancing mad.'”

In Detroit 11,000 workers marched in an eight-hour parade. In New York, a torchlight march of 25,000 flooded up Broadway into Union Square, while 40,000 struck.

In Cincinnati one worker described the kick-off rally: “only red flags were carried…. the only song we sang was the ‘Arbeiters Marseillaise’ … a workers’ battalion of 400 Springfield rifles headed the procession. It was the Lehr und Wehr Verein, the educational and protective society of embattled toil… All of us expected violence, I suppose.”

In Louisville, Kentucky more than 6,000 workers, both Blacks and whites, marched through National Park deliberately breaking that park’s Jim Crow ban on non-whites.

In Chicago, the stronghold of the rebellion, at least 30,000 were out. Every railroad stopped running, the stockyards closed down, the docks were jammed with unloaded barge. Conservative leaders were forced to the margins of events. Michigan Avenue filled with a huge outpouring of proletarians and their families, marching in their Sunday best.

But the “Sabbath-like” calm was deceptive and temporary. Hidden in the alleys, sprawled on strategic rooftops, the armed police were ready for open warfare. In the state armories a thousand National Guardsmen mobilized and were specially equppped with Gatling machine guns.

The “Citizens’ Committee” of Chicago’s ruling class decided that incidents had to be created to decapitate and crush the movement. The police started assaulting workers wherever they gathered in the city. One furious police account charged that on May 2 a “large force” collected” and dared to reverse the American flag, “carrying it top side down, symbolic of the revolution they intended to work in American institutions.”

The Massacre at McCormick’s

The breaking point came at the McCormick Reaper works. A lockout had been ongoing there since mid-winter, with herds of scabs led in daily by police. On May 2, an exhausted Spies appeared there to deliver one of his countless speeches to workers gathered on the prairie. As a crowd of 6,000 or 7,000 workers listened to his talk, a few hundred left to confront McCormick’s scabs then leaving work.

From the Arbeiter Zeitung of May 4: “Suddenly shots were heard near McCormick’s factory, and about seventy-five, well-fed, large and strong murderers, under command of a fat police lieutenant, marched by, followed by three more patrol wagons full of law and order beasts.”

In a battle of workers’ stones against police gunfire, the workers suddenly broke and fled. Bullets exploded into their backs. At least two workers fell dead. Many were wounded, among them children.

Within hours a leaflet, penned by the enraged Spies, was passing through the working class slums. “WORKING MEN, TO ARMS!!!” it proclaimed. “The masters sent out their bloodhounds — the police; they killed six of your brothers at McCormick’s this afternoon. They killed the poor wretches because they, like you, had the courage to disobey the supreme will of your bosses… rise in your might, Hercules, and destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you. To arms we call you, to arms!”

By the next day, May 3, the spread of the strike was “alarming.” Nationally, some 340,000 workers were drawn in, 190,000 of them by striking. In Chicago, 80,000 were out. When several hundred sewing women took to the streets to join the demonstrations, the Chicago Tribune raged: “Shouting Amazons!”

In this heated moment, the Arbeiter Zeitung called for armed struggle, as it always had — except now the call assumed a distinct air of immediacy:

“Blood has flown. It happened as it had to. The militia have not been drilling in vain. It is historical that private property had its origin in violence. The war of classes had to come… In the poor shanty, miserably clad women and children are weeping for husband and father. In the palace, they clink glasses filled with costly wine and drink to the happiness of the blood bandits of law and order. Dry your tears, ye poor and wretched: take heart, ye slaves; arise in your might and overthrow the system of robbery.”

In proletarian meeting halls intense debate raged — “the capitalist tiger” had indeed struck, and thousands grappled for a way to respond. Significant factions apparently wanted to seek an insurrection. A mass meeting was called for the Haymarket Square for the evening of May 4. Worried about ambush, the organizers had chosen a large open place with many possible escape routes. After sharp disagreement, Spies later claimed, he convinced Haymarket’s organizers to withdraw their call for an armed rally and instead to seek the broadest participation possible.

The Haymarket Incident

The morning of May 4, the police attacked a column of 3,000 strikers. Gatherings formed throughout the city. By evening the Haymarket emerged as one of many protest meetings, with an attendance of 3,000.

Speeches followed on another from the back of a wagon. As rain started to fall, the meeting disbanded. Suddenly, when only a few hundred remained, a detachment of 180 heavily-armed policemen appeared, and a police officer demanded that the workers disperse. They received the answer that it was a peaceful and legal meeting. As the police captain turned to give orders to his men, a bomb suddenly exploded in their ranks. The police turned the Haymarket into a free-fire zone, pumping volley after volley into the crowd, killing several and wounding two hundred. The neighborhood was thrown into terror. Drug stores were crowded with the wounded.

Seven policemen eventually died, most from bullets of police guns.

This incident became the pretext for the ruling class to unleash its planned offensive: in the streets, in the courts, and in their press. The newspapers, not only in Chicago but throughout the United States, went mad. They demanded the instant execution of all subversives. Their headlines raged: “Bloody Brutes,” “Red Ruffians,” “Red Flagsters,” “Dynamarchists.” The Chicago Tribune, May 6: “These serpents have been warmed and nourished in the sunshine of toleration until at last they have been emboldened to strike at society, law, order and government.” The Chicago Herald, May 6: “The rabble whom Spies and Fielden stimulated to murder are not Americans. They are offscourings of Europe who have sought these shores to abuse the hospitality and defy the authority of the country.”

In Milwaukee, the state militia responded with a bloody massacre of rallying workers on May 5; eight Polish laborers and one German were shot down for violating martial law.

In Chicago a sweeping dragnet crammed the jails with thousands of revolutionaries and strikers. Historians have used the word “torture” to describe the interrogations. Subscription lists were used to guide the raiding parties. Meeting halls and homes were broken into, the workers’ presses were smashed. The entire printing crew of the Arbeiter Zeitung was arrested. The police put on display all the “evidence” they had made sure they would find: ammunition, rifles, swords, clubs, literature, red flags, incendiary banners, bulk lead, bullet molds, dynamite, bombs, instructions in bomb making, underground rifle ranges. Each find was paraded through the press. Faced with this assault, the general strike crumbled. The leadership of the revolutionary-minded workers was in the clutches of the bourgeoisie.

The Haymarket Trial

The ruling class convened its Chicago grand jury in the middle of May 1886. The charge was murder of a policeman who died at Haymarket. The accused were all prominent in the movement: August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert R. Parsons, Adolf Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, and Oscar Neebe.

No one doubts that the following trial was anything other than a legal lynching. For one thing, all the defendants were forced to stand trial together, although they were a highly diverse group, with differently shaded politics, who had played quite different roles in the events of May.

Second, the jury was blatantly packed. The usual procedure of selecting jurors by lot was simply jettisoned — in its place a special bailiff was appointed. This man bragged: “I am managing this case, and know what I am about. These fellows are going to be hanged as certain as death.”

Finally, and most significant, the whole trial was conducted without any proof that any of these men had been involved in the bomb-throwing. Only two of the eight accused were even present at the rally when the bomb was thrown.

The issue of who actually threw the bomb has been debated but never settled. It seems like that a certain Rudolf Schnaubelt did the deed and that the bomb may have been made by Louis Lingg (who was certainly quite vocal in his defense of dynamite.) The real questions seems to be whether Schnaubelt was an anarchist streetfighter determined to strike the murdering police, or whether he was a police agent provocateur. The evidence is contradictory. It is proven however that Schnaubelt was twice in police custody after Haymarket and was twice released. This suggests at the very least that the police were consciously disinterested in having the actual bomb-thrower on trial — their real target was the leadership of the rebellion, not some incidental perpetrator and certainly not a police agent. Schnaubelt disappeared from Chicago.

For months the trial dragged on. Numerous workers were threatened and bribed into giving ridiculous testimony about conspiracies of all kinds. Lurid tales poured from the courtroom to inflame the country. The issue was plain — the words of the prosecuting State’s Attorney Grinnell speak for themselves:

“Law is upon trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the grand jury and indicted because they were leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousand who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and save our institutions, our society.”

The judge added that it was sufficient for the State to prove that “these several defendants have advocated the use of deadly missiles against the police on occasions which they anticipated might arise in the future.”

In short, the American bourgeoisie was already then perfecting its method of disguising political trials as criminal cases; using “conspiracy laws” to mask the suppression of revolutionary ideas and organizations. These men were on trial for the crime of leading the oppressed — nothing more or less.

The convicted men were called upon to speak before their sentence was pronounced. One reporter wrote: “They have neither penitence or remorse, and to their twisted minds it is society which is on trial and not themselves.”

Summarizing his revolutionary beliefs before the court, Spies concluded with these words: “Now, these are my ideas… If you think that you can crush out these ideas that are gaining ground more and more every day, if you think you can crush them by sending us to the gallows — if you would once more have people to suffer the penalty of death because they have dared to tell the truth — and I defy you to show us where we have told a lie — I say, if death is the penalty for proclaiming the truth, then I will proudly and defiantly pay the costly price! Call your hangman.”

The twenty-one year old Lingg spat out his defiance: “I repeat that I am the enemy of the ‘order’ of today, and I repeat that, with all my powers, so long as breath remains in me, I shall combat it… I despise you. I despise your order; your laws, your force-propped authority. Hang me for it.”

Seven were sentenced to death.

A great movement stirred in their defense. Meetings were held across the globe: in France, Holland, Russia, Italy and Spain and throughout the United States. In Germany, Bismarck became so concerned over worker reactions to Haymarket that he banned all public meetings.

As the execution day approached, two formerly condemned men were given life imprisonment. Louis Lingg was found dead in his cell, his head exploded by a dynamite cap. It is unknown whether this was a final act of defiance. However, rumors had been circulating that Lingg might receive a stay of execution, so it is likely that his death was an assassination.

November 11, 1886, later dubbed “Black Friday,” was chosen for the execution. Chicago newspapers rattled with rumors about civil war breaking out in the streets. The fact that half a million people joined in the funeral march testifies that there was certainly cause for bourgeois nervousness. And there do seem to have been plans proposed for an assault on the prison. However, the condemned men made their friends pledge not to carry out such “rash acts.”

At noon, four men — Spies, Engel, Parsons and Fisher — faced the gallows dressed in white robes. Spies spoke, as they pulled the hood over his head: “There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” Parsons cried out, “Let me speak, Sheriff Matson! Let the voice of the people be heard…” He was cut off as the trap door opened.

This article originally appeared in RW#351, April 14 1986
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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Class Analysis of Indian Agriculture

April 9, 2007

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    1. Green Revokution
    2. Inputs
    3. Credit
    4. Output & productivity trends
    5. Utilisation of Surplus


1. Rural –Urban Divide

2. Agricultural Labour vs Kulak ?

3. Land-Holdings—- Land reforms- Tenancy

4. Household Industry

5. Home Market



……………….No doubt, a growth in “consumption” and “distribution” (i.e. growth in the home market) is an indication of the growth of capitalist relations in production but the important question is that what is its impact on production relations, and, even with this growth of commodity production which of the two modes of production (i.e., capitalist and feudal) is predominant in Indian agriculture ? This can only be done by taking an overall picture of production relations and not merely by picturing the growth in “consumption” and “distribution”. Lenin has said, “that the economists who have discoursed at length on the inadequate atten­tion paid by the classical economists to ‘distribution’ and ‘consumption’ have not been able to give the slightest explana­tion of the most fundamental problems of ‘distribution’ and ‘consumption’. That is understandable, for one cannot even dis­cuss ‘consumption’ unless one understands the process of the reproduction of the total social capital and of the replacement of the various parts of the social product… It is not with ‘production’ that political economy deals, but with the social relations of men in production, with the social system of produc­tion. Once these social relations have been analysed, the place in production of every class, and consequently, the share they get of the national consumption is thereby defined.” (Development of Capitalism in Russia……..Lenin)

Capitalism does not merely entail commodity production. As Lenin has said, “Capitalism is commodity production at its highest stage of development, when labour power itself becomes a commodi­ty.” (Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism…. Lenin) Besides, when the CRC, Communist League, etc., speak of increasing “consumption” and “distribution” they forget Marx’s basic theory of realisation which states that : “According to the general law of capitalist production, constant capital grows faster than variable capital” and that “capitalist production, and, consequently, the home market, grow not so much on account of articles of consumption as on account of the means of produc­tion. In other words, the increase in means of production out­strips the increase in articles of consumption.” (Development of Capitalism in Russia…….Lenin) In other words, while dealing with the growth of commodity production and capi­talist relations in India, there is a need to picture the nature of the growth – in which spheres is it confined to, and to what extent is it confined to consumer items and to what extent capi­tal items. Is it the sphere of productive consumption that is increasing in agriculture or is it the sphere of consumer expend­iture that has increased ?

indian farmer agriculture

While analysing the mode of production in Indian agriculture it is necessary to do so based on the laws of capitalist production as discovered by Marx and further developed by Lenin. These scientific laws of capitalism and imperialism are not time bound. They neither get out-dated nor change from country to country. The conditions may change in time and space but the basic laws of capitalism and imperialism remain unchanged. To understand the mode of production in India it is no use negating these laws, as the CRC does, but utilise them to understand the mode of produc­tion in India.

Regarding the question of capitalism in agriculture an important principle outlined by Lenin was that, “it is the development of capitalism in the manufacturing industry that is the main force which gives rise to, and develops, capitalism in agriculture.”

Also, while talking of the transformation of pre-capitalist forms of production to capitalism, Lenin has said that :

“the socialisation of labour by capitalism is manifested in the following process :

Firstly, the very growth of commodity production destroys the scattered condition of small economic units that is characteris­tic of natural economy and draws together the small local markets into an enormous national (and then world) market. Production of oneself is transferred into production for the whole of society: and the greater the development of capitalism, the stronger becomes the contradiction between this collective character of production and individual character of appropriation.

Secondly, capitalism replaces the former scattered production by an unprecedented4d concentration both in agriculture and in industry.

Thirdly, capitalism eliminates the forms of personal dependence that constituted on inalienable component of preceding systems of economy …

Fourthly, capitalism necessarily creates mobility of the popula­tion, something not required by previous systems of social econo­my and impossible under them on anything like a large scale.

Fifthly, capitalism constantly reduces the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture and increases the number of large industrial centres.

Sixthly, capitalist society increases the population’s need for association, for organisation, and lends these organisations a character distinct from those of former times. While breaking down the narrow, local social-estate associations of medieval society and creating fierce competition, capitalism at the same time splits the whole society into large groups of persons occu­pying different positions in production and gives a tremendous impetus to organisation within each such group.

Seventhly, all the above mentioned changes effected in the old economic system by capitalism inevitably lead also to a change in the mentality of the population. The spasmodic character of economic development, the rapid transformation of the methods of production and the enormous concentration of production, the disappearance of all forms of personal dependence and patriar­chalism in relationships, the mobility of population, the influ­ence of the big industrial centres, etc., all this cannot but lead to a profound change in the very character of the producers.” (Development of Capitalism in Russia, by VI Lenin) With this brief introduction on the approach to the problem, let us now turn to study the relations of production in Indian agri­culture.

While studying the relations of production in Indian agriculture we will examine it under two heads : a) Growth of Commodity Production, and b) Disintegration of the peasantry.


The growth of commodity production in agriculture can be assessed by the extent of utilisation of inputs and the growth of outputs produced for the market. The ‘green revolution’, which was intro­duced by the World Bank in Third World countries in the mid-1960s, was part of the imperialist policy to penetrate the coun­tryside for markets. This ‘green revolution’ has led to certain changes in agriculture which must be analysed. This section will be classified under the following sub heads : 1) ‘Green Revolu­tion’, 2) Inputs, 3) Credit, 4) Output and Productivity Trends, and 5) Utilisation of Surplus.

1) Green Revolution ………………………..

2) Inputs

Though irrigation may have increased, out of the 350 million acres of net cropped area, barely 50 million acres, or 14%, is cultivated more than once a year (VI Five Year Plan figures). If one crop takes on an average four months, 86% of India’s agricul­tural land remains idle for 66% of the time per year. To put it differently, nearly 60% of the cropped area is not at all used. If agriculture was to be put on a capitalist footing and capital­ist farming was to predominate in India, there would not be such a gigantic wastage of land utilisation and such a slow growth of irrigation facilities.

But besides the modernisaation, the number of wooden ploughs increased from 37.5 million in 1956 to 43 million in 1966 and further to 44.5 million (i.e. during the green revolution period) in 1972

3. Credit

From Table VI it can be seen that till 1978 as much as 71% of the population depended on non-institutional credit – on money-lenders, traders, landlords, etc.

It is thus clear that the stranglehold of usurious capital still dominates all sections of the rural populace. But usurious is an indication of pre-capitalist, feudal relations of production, which sucks up the surplus and prevents it from seeking produc­tive channels. Besides, this usurious capital is increasing day by day. Marx has said that, “Usurer’s capital as the characteris­tic form of interest bearing capital corresponds to the predomi­nance of small scale production of the self-employed peasant and small master craftsman”, “Usury centralises money wealth where the means of production are dispersed. It does not alter the mode of production, but attaches itself firmly to it like a parasite and makes it wretched. It sucks out its blood, enervates it and compels reproduction to proceed under even more pitiable condi­tions.” (Karl Marx, Vol. III, Chapter 36, pp594)

…………..Also with a large section of the peasantry having turned to HYV, (and now unable to turn back to the traditional varieties) and caught in a crisis with diminishing returns for their output, the peasants are dependent on large capital inputs each year which they are now unable to finance. This is forcing them to seek larger and larger loans. With the peasantry unable to even pay their interest on their cooperative loans, they are turning more and more back to the moneylender. This trend is bound to increase enormously in the coming years as the crisis in agriculture deepens.

4. Output and Productivity trends

In fact, the annual rate of growth of production of all agricul­tural crops actually dropped in the second period; while it was 3.2% in the 1951-52 to 1964-65 period, it was just 2.6% in the 1964-65 to 1983-84 period. This was because the increase in area under crops increased phenomenally in the first period at an annual rate of 1.7%, while in the second period the annual in­crease was just 0.4%. In other words, much better results in agricultural production could have been achieved by increasing the area under cropping than by introducing HYV.

The economic and scientific research foundation has estimated that soil erosion and deforestation has been so acute that India looses about 1% of its cultivable land every year to deserts. It is said that out of a total of 306 million hectares of cultivable land, 145 million hectares are either threatened with erosion or badly in need of soil and water conservation measures.

Generally, it can be summed up that production and yield of cropping has increased, with small increase towards cash crops, indicating some growth in capitalist relations. This is indicated through the change in some pockets of agriculture to capitalist farming and growth in commodity relations in large tracts of semi-feudal production, which continue their semi-feudal exist­ence with enhanced contradictions caused by this lopsided growth of commodity relations within it. Productivity trends continue to indicate a backward mode of production with large farms being the least productive. Also with the increase in value of output being nowhere commensurate with the increase in value of inputs, it is clear that the growth in commodity production is lopsided, with this growth merely facilitating the dumping of commodities of the imperialists and comprador big bourgeoisie into the rural sector without significant returns to the farmer. This has led to a new set of contradictions in agriculture which are bound to intensi­fy.

5) Utilisation of Surplus

This, in fact, is one of the factors in the determination of capitalist growth, as a fundamental law of capitalism is that constant capital (i.e., production of means of production) must grow at an increasingly fast rate. Therefore, in capitalist farming the kulak must reinvest his surplus in the farm in im­proved technology. Thereby he would increase the productivity of his farm and the surplus value extracted from it.

Besides this low generation of surplus in agriculture, even that generated goes primarily to other spheres. With the return on money-lending and trading far more profitable, a large proportion of this surplus is not re-invested in agriculture, instead finds its way in such spheres of activity. In fact, as long as usury continues to dominate the countryside as a most profitable sphere of investment, it will restrict the growth of capitalist develop­ment. Of course, with the inception of the ‘green revolution’ things have somewhat changed; but the limited extent to which it has generated capitalist farming can be seen from the poor levels of capital investment in agriculture taken as a whole.

Also ‘capital goods’ imports into the rural areas also began to increase, though at a much slower rate, in the same period.


From the entire section on the growth of commodity production it will be seen that this growth is definite …. whether in the sphere of inputs, outputs, credits utilisation of surplus – all sections have to some extent been affected, thereby having an impact on the production relations in the rural economy. But the question is to what extent has it been able to change the rela­tions of production in agriculture to capitalist ? To get a comprehensive answer to this question it is necessary to analyse the differentiation of the peasantry and all its related aspects. Meanwhile, it must be remembered that even by 1971-1972 only roughly 35% of grain production actually comes into the market. The bulk, over 65%, is consumed by the peasantry without ever reaching the market. This proportion of marketed grains has not changed perceptively in the last decade.


The differentiation of the peasantry means the break up of the rural populace into a rural bourgeoisie and a rural proletariat. Lenin has said that for Russia, “two main lines of its develop­ment and outcome are objectively possible : either the old land­lord economy, bound as it is by thousands of threads of serfdom, is retained and turns slowly into purely capitalist, ‘junker’ economy. The basis of the final transition from labour service to capitalism is the internal metamorphosis of feudalist landlord economy. The entire agrarian system of the state becomes capital­ist and for a long time retains feudalist features. Or the old landlord economy is broken up by revolution, which destroys all the relics of serfdom, and large land ownership in the first place. The basis of the final transition from labour service to capitalism is the free development of small peasant farming, which has received a tremendous impetus as a result of the expro­priation of the landlord estates in the interests of the peasant­ry. The entire agrarian system becomes capitalist, for the more completely the vestiges of serfdom are destroyed the more rapidly does the differentiation of the peasantry proceed.” (Preface to the II edition of Development of Capitalism in Russia….. Lenin)

To do so (ie. examine the differentiation of the peasantry and the growth of commodity production resulting from it) we will analyse it under the following sub-heads :

1) Rural-Urban Divide,

2) Agricultural Labour Vs. Kulak

3) Land Holding-Land Reforms

4) Household Industry

5) Home Market

1. Rural-Urban Divide

Lenin has said that, “the development of commodity economy means the divorcement of an ever-growing part of the population from agriculture, i.e., the growth of the industrial population at the expense of the agricultural population.” In explaining the entire process, Marx clarifies, “it is in the nature of capitalist production to continually reduce the agricultural population as compared to the non-agricultural, because in industry the in­crease of constant capital in relation to variable capital goes hand in hand with an absolute increase, though relative de­crease, in variable capital, on the other hand in agriculture the variable capital required for the exploitation of certain plot of land decreases absolutely; it can thus only increase to the extent that new land is taken into cultivation, but this again requires as a pre-requisite a still great growth of the non-agricultural population.”

2. Agricultural Labourers vs Kulaks

Also, the productivity of farm workers in India, on the average, is very low and the instruments of production little developed. And very often, the labourer is not divorced form the instruments of production as he has to use his own implement while working on someone else’s farm. One important aspect of capitalism is that wage power must be divorced from the instruments of production.

So though a greater number of the peasantry may be disposed from the means of production and land and though wage labour may have increased with the ‘green revolution’, the bulk of the labour does not take on the form of regular free wage labour. So the clear differentiation of a rural proletariat and a rural bour­geoisie is yet to coalesce, except in few pockets. The result will be greater amount of labour turning into a commodity coupled withy further impoverishment of the peasantry. Yet this sale of labour power will more take the form of simple commodity produc­tion rather than capitalist production. For, say, a middle peas­ant is unable to carry out his farming operations with family labour and so hires three to four workers during the season.

Yet, if the bulk of the produce his family consumes, his exploi­tation of wage labour gives him no surplus value and so takes the form of simple commodity production even if his produce is a cash crop – say cotton. Much of the labour power sold in the Indian countryside takes this form, and though because of it commodity production expands, the home market grows and there is some change in agrarian relations, but fundamentally it takes the form of simple commodity production with a growth of small-scale farming without generating capitalism or a rural bourgeoisie. Also, it will be observed that labour-service in the form of share cropping and family cooperation co-exist and continue together with the emerging wage-labour system in Indian agricul­ture.

As regards the extent of growth of the rural bourgeoisie (Kulak) only a general picture can be got from the extent of capital formation in agriculture and the extent of the absorption of the means of production in agriculture. These various estimations are given in other sections. The particular extent of its existence can only be ascertained by specific area studies. The following are some general guidelines to assess whether a farmer comes within the category of rural bourgeoisie or continues as a rich peasant-landlord.

a) The bulk of the surplus must be extracted by the exploitation of labour power. He must employ more wage labour than the labour of his family.

b) The major part of the surplus value generated must be utilised in developing the means of production (machinery) and not in usury, trading, purchase of land, etc.

c) Labour power used must be free wage labour and the labourer should be divorced from the instruments of production – i.e., the implements for working should not be brought by the labourer, but instead provided by the owner of the farm. Payment should be in cash and not in kind.

d) The capitalist farmer must not give his land on rent, on the contrary, he may lease in land.

e) The capitalist farmer must produce for sale. So that bulk of his produce must be sold in the market and not consumed by him and his family.

f) The capitalist farmer should produce for profit – i.e., he must accumulate capital continuously. He must plan his production in such a manner that it enhances profit through agricultural operations.

By taking these six criteria into account we can roughly estimate the class character of the farmer – whether he belongs to the category of rural bourgeoisie or rich peasant-landlord class. Studies may show that a large number of such farmers may be found more to be in a transitional stage not having fully coalesced into a rural bourgeoisie and thereby meeting only some of the above mentioned six criteria.

3) Land holdings – land reforms

A full ten years after the so-called ‘green revolution’ the state of operational holdings in the country remained basically the same. Table XVII (see overleaf), gives a picture of operational holdings in 1976-77.

Firstly, Table XVII shows extensive parcellisation of the land where 10.7% of the cultivable land (of 17.6 million hectares) is distributed amongst 44.5 million holdings (families) of under one hectare each………. Besides, this fragmentation is contin­uing with the average size of holdings having dropped from 2.28 to 2 hectares between 1970-71 and 1976-77. But this is not all very rare is that a peasant has his entire plot in one contiguous area. In fact, the bulk of the plots are further fragmented, with each plot being divided into a number of small parcels which can vary from anything from 2 to 10 parcels of land per plot.

The estimated minimum number of agricultural plots in India, thus, was in the region of 215 million in 1951 which increased to 355 million in 1971-72. That is, a 67% increase. This greater parcellisation can be further assessed from the fact that a holding in the size group of 2.5-5 acres, on the average, has 6.3 fragments with an average area of 0.57 acres each. The average area of fragments in the lower size groups was even less than that of the 2.5-5 acres size group.

This enormous fragmentation of land is an indication of a most backward mode of production and retards the growth of capitalist relations. Marx has said that, “small landed property pre-supposes that the overwhelming majority of the population is rural, and that not social but isolated labour predominates; and that, therefore, under such conditions wealth and development of reproduction, both of its material and spiritual pre-requisites, are out of question, and thereby also the pre-requisites for rational cultivation.” Marx adds that, “proprietorship of land parcels by its very nature excludes the development of social productive forces of labour, social forms of labour, social concentration of capital, large-scale cattle-raising and the progressive application of science.”

So this parcellisation and fragmentation of land is continuing apace, and if, within it, a certain amount of commodity produc­tion has been introduced with the help of HYV, cooperative loans, etc., it can lead to only simple commodity production and not capitalist relations of production.

Thus it will be seen that the main trend in agricultural land holding is continuing concentration of land in the hands of a few coupled with extensive small-scale farming. In between lie a class of rich peasantry (15-25 acres) who comprise 3.4% of the households and own 16.2% of land whose number has remained virtu­ally static over the years. It is this section that has, of late, been more vocal as a result of ‘green revolution.’

This exposes the glaring existence of labour service in Indian agriculture. The continuing prevalence of tenancy, share-cropping, etc., is a further indication of the perseverance of feudal mode of production.

The estimates of cash rent and rent-in-king may not be too accu­rate and estimates vary from study to study. Other estimates put the rent-in-kind around 25%. But, one important point is that the content of the rent, whether in cash or kind, takes the form of pre-capitalist rent and not capitalist rent, as it involves distribution of surplus product and not of surplus value. The very tenancy acts themselves fix the proportion of distribution of the product between the landlord and serf. If it was to be capitalist rent the distribution would be assessed on the profit generated and not on the basis of the whole product.

4) Household Industry

Caste-based hereditary labour, according to the 1971 Census, increased over that of 1961 and stood at : barbers 7.11 lakhs, dhobies 9.47 lakhs, fishermen 6.01 lakhs, weavers and spinners 34.03 lakhs, shoemakers 5.97 lakhs, carpenters 12.64 lakhs, blacksmiths 10 lakhs, jewelry and precious metal workers (incl. goldsmiths) 5.76 lakhs, masons 15.35 lakhs, potters 9.66 lakhs, and tanners 0.53 lakhs.

If capitalist industry were to grow and break feudal relations it should first and foremost oust these ancient and backward forms of production and service. But these continue to co-exist, and even expand together with industrial growth. Also a differentia­tion of the peasantry would simultaneously see the collapse of the household sector, coupled with the growth of modern indige­nous industry. Lenin has said that, “Domestic industries are a necessary adjunct of natural economy, remnants of which are nearly always retained where there is a small peasantry.” (Development of Capitalism in Russia……Lenin)

In India, not only does the caste based household labour contin­ue, but the household industries are propped up by the state and comprador big bourgeoisie. For example, in the year 1981-82 the total grants plus outstanding loans to the Khadi and Village industries was Rs. 338 crore – Khadi Rs. 208 crore and village industries Rs. 130 crore -given by the government. The very fact that this sector not only continues to exist but is propped up even in the face of expanding industrial production, is a clear example of the compromise struck by imperialism and the comprador big bourgeoisie with the backward pre-capitalist modes of produc­tion which they use as a social base for their existence.

Table XIX (see overleaf) which gives a picture of Khadi and Village Industries in India and their trend, indicates that the maximum growth in KVICs took place in the decade of the 1970s. Surprisingly this was the same period when capitalist relations grew fastest.

The continued existence and growth of this household sector is a clear indication of a backward pre-capitalist mode of production wherein over three million families (or three per cent of the population) continue their existence as artisans.

5) Home market

The differentiation of the peasantry will lead to an expansion of the home market.

In India, as already mentioned, though there has been a continu­ous increase in food grain production, the percentage finding its way into the market has been static at around 30% to 35%…………………A more recent estimate put that no more than the top 10% of th land-owning peasant household has able to produce marketable surpluses on any scale.

Also it will be found that the gross domestic capital formation as a percentage of the total has been virtually static in the decade of 1970s. It increased from 18% of the total (compared to registered manufacturing of 20%) in 1970-71 to 19% of the total (compared to registered manufacturing of 24%) in 1980-81. With little growth in percentage of capital formation in the rural areas it would reflect little growth in capitalist relations there during that period.

man ploughing in field mysore india

Another estimate of the growth in the rural market and of capi­talism can be gauged by tracing the flow of commodities from urban to rural areas – and that too specifically in the sphere of production.

Table XX shows that, except for the early 1950s, in the entire period prior to the ‘green revolution’ there was a net flow of commodities from rural to urban areas, indicating a highly stagnant rural economy. From the ‘green revolution’ period this process was reversed and there has been a successively increasing net inflow of commodities into the rural areas indi­cating a growth in the rural market. No doubt, in the earlier year this growth was quite large – in 1967-68 it was Rs. 390 crore, which increased to Rs. 784 crore in 1970-71.

…………..This factor is also observable from the fact that the percentage of producer goods to consumer goods (which consists mostly of necessities like salt, tea, etc.) imported into rural areas jump-ed from 17% in 1967-68 to 25% in 1970-71 – indicating thereby a larger inflow of intermediary producer goods (like fertilisers, pesticides, etc.) primarily and also a small quantity of means of production (called capital goods in the Table XX) like farm machinery.

Also, during the entire period of the 1950s and 1960s there was a massive shrinking of the percentage of per capita consumer ex­penditure spent on industrial goods in the rural areas (and also urban areas). In other words there was a relative shrinking of the home market in that period with a larger and larger amount of the families’ incomes being devoted to the necessities of life. There was a perceptible reversal of this process in the rural areas from 1968-69 indicating some growth of market from the time of the ‘green revolution.’


This entire section shows that there has been a very slight differentiation of the peasantry. The basic forms of pre-capitalist production relations has remained intact, with land concentration continuing as before and small scale petty farming dominating the bulk of the rural population. It is within this existing framework that commodity production and the agrarian market has been increased by the imperialists through the ‘green revolution’, thereby enhancing capitalist relations within the semi-feudal framework.

Thus, from this section we find that the ‘green revolution’ period has definitely witnessed a rise in commodity production. This is reflected in :

a growth of the urban population, growth of the rural market,

growth of banking and institutional finance in the rural areas,

a slight increase in constant capital in agriculture,

the widespread prevalence of HYV types, and a slight growth in productivity.

But at the same time all the pre-capitalist institutions continue to co-exist, if not increase. So we find,

no change in land holdings and the growth of backward small scale farming,

the traditional wooden and iron ploughs and bullock carts contin­ued,

widespread prevalence of household industry,

the bulk of foodgrain production still being produced for con­sumption and not for market,

the bulk of the surplus still not going to increase constant capital but for usury, trading, etc.

no scientific utilisation of agriculture with productivity de­creasing with increasing size of farm,

the continuing prevalence of tenancy, share-cropping, etc.

the bulk of the population continuing to be dependent on land,

little differentiation of the peasantry with little growth in the agricultural labour,

With the labour generated continuing to be not free labour but attached and that which is free labour is being more of a season­al type, and

the continuing caste-based division of labour of handicrafts and services.

It is clear from this that the growth in capitalist relations has merely been super-imposed on the existing semi-feudal structure and has not proceeded to smash it.

No doubt, this increased capitalist penetration will enhance the contradictions within the rural economy, undermining to some extent traditional feudal relations and have its own impact on the class antagonisms in the countryside. One effect of this has been the mass upsurges of the middle and rich peasantry in many HYV areas. Though also some pockets of bourgeois farming will have developed (its limit can be seen in the excessively low increase in constant capital and particularly of the means of production, within Indian agriculture taken as a whole) the major impact of the ‘green revolution’ has been to enhance simple commodity production and not capitalist production.

Simple commodity production has existed since slave society, while capitalism, as already mentioned, “is commodity production at its highest stage of development, when labour power itself becomes a commodity.” Simple commodity production is present when constant capital remains static with little or no surplus value being generated with the bulk of the produce being utilised to sustain the person and his family. Capitalist production, on the other hand, entails a continuing increase in constant capital and a generation of surplus value which is utilised to enhance the means of production.

So, whether it is a petty farmer, utilising even some limited wage labour, or whether it is a handicrafts man or some household industry, or whether it may be any other petty producer – they may all produce commodities but neither do they generate surplus value not do they develop or increase constant capital. This form of simple commodity production can continue for generations with out having much impact on the social relations of production. Capitalist production, on the other hand, revolutionises the mode of production and by a continuous increase of the constant capi­tal leads to the ruination and destruction of the small producer. The primary impact of the ‘green revolution’, except developing a rural bourgeoisie in certain pockets, has led to the growth of simple commodity production on the lakhs of small fragmented farms through the widespread utilisation of HYV.

Also, the enhancement in sale of labour power utilised in simple commodity production may extend the market but will not be a measure of the growth of capitalist relations. In India, though the percentage of agricultural labourers may not have increased much in the last decade, there has been an increase in sale of wage labour primarily because of the vast expansion of uneconomi­cal small holdings of the poor and even lower middle peasantry. But the bulk of this wage labour is involved in simple commodity production with little effect on the growth of capitalist rela­tions.

Finally, it is manufacturing industry that is the main force which develops capitalism in agriculture. Though industry has been growing, it has been doing so as an off-shoot of finance capital and therefore has been unable to generate that employment that is necessary to absorb any differentiation of the peasantry that may take place in the countryside. So the growth of the manufacturing industry within the imperialist framework, has not acted as that force to develop capitalism in agriculture. On the contrary, we have seen, as with the house hold industry, it even allies itself with the pre-capitalist sectors of production. The result of such warped industrial growth is a massive unemployment in the urban areas together with even larger under-employment in the rural areas.

Thus, the overall agrarian picture in India continues to be semi-feudal within which there has been a certain growth of capital­ist relations.


To sum up, the chief characteristics of the present day rural India are :

a) Fragmentation of agricultural land and in consequence the predominance of small scale agriculture and subsistence farming,

b) Leasing out of land by deeds and by word of mouth for the performance of labour service, i.e., tenancy, share cropping, etc.

c) Primitive instruments of production

d) Prevalence of caste and hereditary division of labour

e) Preponderance of household industry

f) Continuance of household industry

g) Limited growth of market with bulk of food grains maintained for consumption and much payment in kind.

h) Attachment of the overwhelming proportion of the population to land.

i) Limited differentiation of the peasantry

j) Growth of commodity circulation on a small scale, and

k) Continuation of the patriarchal family, caste relations and diverse personal dependence.

That is, a continuation of the semi-feudal mode of production with an enhanced amount of commodity circulation within it re­sulting in some growth of capitalist relations. The main impact has been to enhance simple commodity production and create pock­ets of a rural bourgeoisie within a predominantly semi-feudal structure.

Its impact on the social relations of production have been :

1) To reduce the traditional feudal methods of oppression,

2) To create a powerful rich peasant section

3) With HYV to force vast sections of the rural population into market

4) To further perpetuate the fragmentation and parcellisation of land thereby increasing the poor and middle peasant population enormously.

5) To greatly impoverish the landless, poor and even middle peasants, forcing them to sell their labour power in order to eke out an existence

6) Greater imperialist loot of the entire rural population lead­ing to a crisis in the agriculture with a continuing reduction in surplus being generated (i.e., after the first decade of ‘green revolution’)

7) To a growth of simple commodity production and small pockets of rural bourgeoisie

8) To a continuation of all the other feudal forms of exploita­tion, viz., usury, trading, etc.

The result of this has been to enhance the contradictions within agriculture :

i) Due to further impoverishment, heightening the contradiction between the landless and poor peasants on the one hand and the rich peasants and landlords on the other,

ii) With vast sections being brought under HYV and within the market, and with the value of output dropping and fluctuating enormously with fluctuations in weather and fluctuations in the market – i.e., a crisis situation developing, an increased con­tradiction with this vast masses and the imperialist-comprador bourgeoisie and government.

iii) With the accumulation of certain wealth by the rich peasants and a section of landlords due to the ‘green revolution’ the growth of more powerful and vocal rich peasant lobby, and

iv) With the crisis of the ‘green revolution’ due to high prices of inputs and a falling price of outputs a growing contradiction between the rich peasantry, a section of landlords (who have taken to HYV) and the middle peasantry on the one hand and the government, imperialism and comprador big bourgeoisie on the other.

Are You among "Nero’s Guests"?

April 5, 2007

Are You among “Nero’s Guests”?

Think about this:
What occupies/ concerns/ excites you more?

1-a: what is happening/has happened in Nandigram, Singur, Kalinga Nagar?
1-b: performance of Indian cricket team in the World Cup?

2-a: number of civilian deaths in Iraq?
2-b: the soaring/ fluctuations in oil prices?

3-a: farmer suicides across the country (no! they are not happening just in Vidarbha region)?
3-b: the “Retail Boom” in India? The number of Malls, entry of global majors in the industry,

4-a: India’s rating on HDI Rank of 127/177?
4-b: India’s increasing GDP, its “booming” economy (the BRIC rating), inching to the “achievements” of China (and the impediments that govt policy cause)?

5-a: number of people living on less than $1/day?
5-b: number of billionnaires in the Forbes’ list?

6-a: implications of climate change?
6-b: increasing per capita consumption of energy/ materail etc., as a measure of growth?

etc., etc…

Perhaps, one’s choices need to be looked in the context of this talk by P Sainath.

In a talk on Neoliberal Destructions – which are uploaded at Google video here (part1), here (part2) and here (part3) – that P Sainath gave in Univ of California , Berkeley, he ends his talk with the Cornelius Tacitus’ description of Nero’s parties:

Emperor Nero’s parties in his garden were attended by all the Who’s Who of Rome. Often the the parties were in progress, but then the dusk fell, and night arrived. There was no light around for the guests to continue to enjoy the festivities. Nero came up with a innovative solution to provide illumination: the prisoner and poors were brought and burnt on the stakes party all around the arena to illuminate the garden… Tacitus (The Annals, Book XV, C.E. 62-65 ) noted:

“(they) were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle.”

…and the party continued….

Of course, Nero, as most people know, was mad and cruel – and so, his conduct is perhaps not really so surprising – even if it was sensational.

But what about Nero’s Guests?

They were, after all, the prominent elites of Rome – the intellectuals, the traders, the artists… sort of the “owners” of Roman culture and prosperity… (one would perhaps find them similar to our contemporary urban eduacated elites in temperaments and aspirations)…

It is important to understand the psyche of people – our own, actually- who could enjoy their wine and food, while the crackling light from burning bodies provided illumination to their delights…

as the party (i.e., the GDP, the Shopping Malls, the brands, GDP, SEZs, etc.) continues…

…. have you become another of “Nero’s Guests”?


Government Of India tries to put up a brave face as it fails to stop the rapid growth of the Revolutionary Maoist Movement in India

March 27, 2007

Why we have no answer to the Maoist Revolutionaries ?

Krishnakumar in Raipur | February 09, 2007 |

With most militant organisations, there is a clear understanding among the State’s agencies about what the outfits stand for, what their short term aims are and what their long term ambition is. But that’s not the case with the Maoists.

Simply put, very little is known as to just how Maoists have grown to such alarming proportions in recent years. So, when officers and officials from Maoist-hit states came together for a conference organised by the Institute for Conflict Management, to discuss strategies to combat the Maoist insurgency, a lot of time was dedicated to understanding how the organisation works and what its strategies are.

The high-level delegates of the conference put down the following as the strategies and the strengths of the Maoists.

Solid recruitment strategy:

Officials who have long been in the thick of Maoist insurgency say that the main ploy used by the outfit to recruit people is by catching them young. They say Maoists attract youngsters in the regions where they have considerable clout and involve them in some revolutionary activity.

Former minister in the Andhra Pradesh government Vijayarama Rao adds, “Wherever there is a discontentment, there will always be individuals, organisations and ideologies that will urge the use of violence to air their discontentment. That is what the Maoists are doing in most parts of the country today.”

Fight for popular causes:

The Maoists also take up popular issues of the common man and seek to project themselves as the key to a solution. “They protest against what they perceive to be injustices meted out to the common man.,” says Rao, who has also been the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

As a downside for the Maoists, there are not many students joining their ranks these days.

Srinivas Reddy, Senior Assistant Editor of The Hindu, Hyderabad, however says that they have begun to explore ways to figure out why.

“They have a beautiful name for it. ‘Social Investigation’ is what they call it. These days, there go out to the ground level and are trying to figure out why students are not joining them any more. And they have started tweaking their propaganda and tactic accordingly.”

Organisational powers:

One main reason officers attribute to the rise of the outfit is their strong organisational assets. One officer from Andhra Pradesh who has been in the thick of the issue for a long time says their frontal organization is a bigger threat than their armed units. These frontal organizations are the ones who go to the ground level and shape public opinion.

“We need to device a clear strategy as to how we will counter the frontal organisations. They play a much more important role than what is thought to be,” the senior Andhra Pradesh officer warns.

Rajya Sabha member Arun Shourie agrees. Shourie says there is a very urgent need to examine the fontal organisations.
“Who are behind these organisations? It is the duty of both the government and the media to find out about the people who are behind these organisations and find out what their interests are,” he says.


One thing that all officers are unanimous about is the notion that the media lends a more sympathetic ear to the Maoists than to the State.

“The Maoists use the media and the intelligentsia to maximum benefit. A most wanted Maoist can sit in the comforts of his hideout and issue threats to the security forces and the politicians. There is nothing that anyone can do about it because the media is too eager to go in and have his version. Such things are of no value to the public. Neither are they in public interest,” an officer from Andhra fumes.
Maoist fighters march in a show of strength

Change according to times:

The modern day Maoist is tech savvy; has all the modern weapons and is just too well informed of the issues of the day. One senior police officer, without wanting to be named for this report, says, “We were shocked to find that they were using laptops, data cards and other gadgets with ease. Any modernisation you see in the force in that aspect is the result of us having merely followed them.”

Nor is the modern day Maoist going to the masses with issues like land reforms. “He talks about LPG prices, effects of globalization, multi-national companies, liberalization, The World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. They are taking up causes like real estate, SEZs and displacement,” says Srinivas Reddy.

Beyond all these, the main strength of the Maoists happens to be the biggest weakness of the State — a poor understanding of who the enemy is. During the course of the conference, one thing that the serving officers, analysts and the former officers failed to have a consensus on was about the motive of the Maoists.

While the serving officers — those who are in the middle of the rut, fighting it day in and day out — always invariably spoke of the Maoists as a military organisation. They saw them as a military outfit with territorial ambitions.

The former officers and top cops often described the Maoists as a political outfit driven blindly by ideology. The observers, analysts and the journalists — who too see the problem on a regular basis but as outsiders — felt they were a bit of both.

Shourie aptly summarized: “It is a political movement with military objectives. At the end of the day, they are all about dominance and control.”

The problem with the different perceptions is the perception of the men who are in the filed, locked in a combat with the Maoists. Whatever the retired officers and the experts say, at the end of the day, what matters most is how the serving officers see the problem.

Srinivas Reddy sums up: “Right now, the State is pitted against an invisible enemy, who is engaging them in an unconventional protracted armed struggle. And we must accept that we lag behind in specific areas and address them.”


Naxal ! Naxal ! Everywhere, Oh ! What a sight to see !

March 24, 2007

Naxal ! Naxal ! Everywhere, Oh ! What a sight to see !

The ruling class tyrants and their lackeys have of late begun to
suffer from mass delusions and paranoia. So great is their
paranoia that they have begun to imagine naxalites anywhere
and everywhere.These attacks of madness have only
increased in their frequency and intensity in the last one year.

One begins to wonder if we are slowly slipping into an era
similar to that of the psycopathic lunatic tyrant Indira Gandhi ?
who always imagined that an invisible hand was trying
to molest her and one day when she finally lost her mental
balance it resulted in the imposition of the emergency.

If only Indira Gandhi had visited a psychiatrist and
taken her medicine on time , so many lives need not have
been lost in the 1970’s.

The way things are going in this country I think it won’t be
long before those emergency days return.

Already emergency like conditions characterized by an
atmosphere of fear , large scale state repression ,
disappearances and murders of activists and social workers
exists in large parts of the country.

It’s only a matter of time before this same terror is
unleashed in all the major cities all over the country.

Intelligence agencies imagine scientists to be Maoists

A married couple with BARC was recently found to have an ultra-Red background by intelligence agencies. When confronted by authorities, the two did not conceal their ideological leanings.

The two have since left the facility, but the incident has shaken the security establishment over the network of activists and sympathisers that the naxals have built up among scientists.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC)Bhabha Atomic Research centre

Security agencies recently unearthed an R&D unit of naxalites near Bhopal and found that a number of such wings were running in different parts of India.

The extent of naxals’ efforts to run their own R&D unit was revealed by the government in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, only two days before Maoists used an improved version of petrol bombs against policemen. Though naxals had used such bombs earlier, preliminary reports of the attack revealed their more potent use, indicating Maoist expertise in making the conventional bomb more deadly.


What Maoists Want

February 18, 2007

What Maoists Want

Maoist ambitions in India now extend to the farthest reaches of the country, and this is not just a fantasy or an aspiration, but a strategy, a projection, a plan and a programme under implementation …

Ajai Sahni

“Revolutionary warfare is never confined within the bounds of military action. Because its purpose is to destroy an existing society and its institutions and to replace them with a completely new structure, any revolutionary war is a unity of which the constituent parts, in varying importance, are military, political, economic, social and psychological.”

Mao Tse-Tung on ‘Guerilla Warfare’

The ‘Red Corridor’, extending from ‘Tirupati to Pashupati’ (Andhra Pradesh to Nepal), has long been passé in the Indian Maoists’ (Naxalites’) conception. Maoist ambitions in India now extend to the farthest reaches of the country, and this is not just a fantasy or an aspiration, but a strategy, a projection, a plan and a programme under implementation.

A multiplicity of Maoist documents testify to the meticulous detail in which the contours of the current and protracted conflict have been envisaged, in order to “Intensify the peoples’ war throughout the country”. These documents reflect a comprehensive strategy, coordinating all the instrumentalities of revolution – military, political, economic, cultural and psychological – harnessed through the “three magic weapons Comrade Mao spoke about”: the Party, the People’s Army, and the United Front.

After a great deal of dissembling and vacillation, India’s security establishment, both at the Centre and in the ‘affected’ States, appears to have conceded, finally, that the Maoist threat is, in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s words, the country’s “single biggest internal security challenge.” But the threat is still restrictively envisaged as afflicting only parts of those States where Naxalite violence is visible, and is assumed to follow the erratic trajectory of incidents and fatalities from year to year. However, as the Chhattisgarh Director General of Police, O.P. Rathor, recently observed at a Conference in Raipur, “Statistics of incidents never give a real picture of the ground. Whatever is visible is only the mere tip of the iceberg. Unless caution is exercised, volcanoes can erupt.”

It is necessary to recognize, crucially, that the phase of violence, which is ordinarily the point at which the state takes cognizance of the problem, comes at the tail end of the process of mass mobilization, and at a stage where neutralizing the threat requires considerable, if not massive, use of force. Within this context it is, consequently, useful to notice not merely the current expanse of visible Maoist mobilisation and militancy, but the extent of their current intentions, ambitions and agenda.

Significantly, the CPI-Maoist has established Regional Bureaus across a mass of nearly two-thirds of the country’s territory (Map 1), and these regions are further sub-divided into state, special zonal and special area committee jurisdictions (Map 2), where the processes of mobilisation have been defined and allocated to local leaders. As these maps indicate, there are at least five regional bureaus, thirteen State committees, two Special Area Committees and three Special Zonal Committees in the country.

This structure of organisation substantially reflects current Maoist organisational consolidation, but does not exhaust their perspectives or ambitions. There is further evidence of preliminary activity for the extension of operations to new areas including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Meghalaya, beyond what is reflected in the scope of the regional, zonal and state committees. A ‘Leading team’ recently visited Jammu & Kashmir to assess the potential of creating a permanent Party structure in the form of a State Committee to take the Maoist agenda forward in the State.

Click on Images for larger picture

Map 1

Map 2

In 2004, moreover, the Maoists also articulated a new strategy to target urban centres in their “Urban Perspective Document”, drawing up guidelines for “working in towns and cities”, and for the revival of a mobilization targeting students and the urban unemployed. Two principal ‘industrial belts’ were also identified as targets for urban mobilisation: Bhilai – Ranchi – Dhanbad – Calcutta; and Mumbai – Pune – Surat – Ahmedabad.

Within this broad geographical spread, the Maoists include, in their inventory of “immediate tasks”, among others, the following:

* “Coordinate the people’s war with the ongoing armed struggles of the various oppressed nationalities in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and other parts of the Northeast.
* “Build a broad UF (United Front) of all secular forces and persecuted religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians and Sikhs…
* “Build a secret party apparatus which is impregnable to the enemy’s attacks…
* “Build open and secret mass organisations amongst the workers, peasants, youth, students, women and other sections of the people…
* “Build the people’s militia in all the villages in the guerrilla zones as the base force of the PGA (People’s Guerrilla Army). Also build armed self-defence units in other areas of class struggle as well as in the urban areas.”

The Maoist strategy is clearly to fish in every troubled Indian water, and to opportunistically exploit every potential issue and grievance to generate a campaign of protests and agitations. The principal vehicles for these ‘partial struggles’ are ‘front’ or ‘cover’ organisations of the Maoists themselves, on the one hand, and a range of individuals and organisations best described, in a phrase often attributed to Lenin, as “useful idiots” – well intentioned and often gullible people who are unaware of the broader strategy and agenda they are unwittingly promoting through their support to specific and unquestionably admirable causes.

As the Political and Organisational Review of the erstwhile Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist – Peoples War (CPI-ML-PW, also known as the Peoples War Group, which merged in September 2004 with the Maoist Communist Centre to create the Communist Party of India – Maoist) noted,

Cover organisations are indispensable in areas where our mass organisations are not allowed to functions openly…There are two types of cover organisations: one, those which are formed on a broad basis by ourselves; and two, those organisations led by other forces which we utilize by working from within without getting exposed.

This strategy has already contributed to the ‘eruption’ of a few unexpected ‘volcanoes’ in the recent past, with the role of Maoist provocateurs often discovered much after the event. Two of the most recent and impeccable causes that have been embraced in this cynical strategy include the caste conflict in Khairlanji and the escalating tensions and violence over the displacement and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) issues, including Singur and Kalinga Nagar.Sources indicate that current Maoist debates and documents condemn the “second wave of economic reforms” as a “violent assault on the right to life and livelihood of the masses”, and call for “an uncompromising opposition to the present model and all the policies that are coming up.” Internal debates on the issue have further underlined the “need to build a huge movement against displacement and the very model of development itself”, and to unite all “genuine democratic and anti-imperialist forces… to create a tornado of dissent that forces the rulers to stop this juggernaut”.

The issues at stake envisaged for potential mobilisation comprehend “development driven through big dams, super highways and other infrastructural projects… gigantic mining projects, Special Economic Zones (SEZs), urban renewal and beautification”.

Within the same pattern, United Fronts and Joint Action Committees have focused on “burning issues of the peasantry such as for water, power, remunerative prices for agricultural produce, against exploitation by traders, against suicides by the peasantry, against the WTO, and on worker, student, women, Adivasi and Dalit issues.” Thus, “Issue-based joint activity with other forces has been the general form of UF (United Front) undertaken by our Party at various levels…” Suitable ‘issues’ are not picked up randomly or opportunistically, but are based on extensive ‘investigations’ into ‘social conditions and tactics’, and are meticulously reconciled with the broader Maoist strategy and agenda.

These various causes, as already noted, are impeccable, and no one can be faulted for extending support to demands for greater equity, justice and access in these various spheres. For the Maoists, however, these various causes, whether they relate to ‘oppressed nationalities’, minorities, caste excesses, or other social and economic issues, are an integral component of their strategy of political consolidation, leading to military mobilisation.

In Maoist doctrine, these ‘partial struggles’ are no more than a tactical element in the protracted war, and they have no intrinsic value of their own. These ‘struggles’ create the networks and recruitment base for the Maoist militia and armed cadres. Where partial struggles thrive, an army is being raised. These ‘peaceful’ or sporadically violent movements are eventually and inevitably intended to yield to armed warfare and terrorism.

Their objective is to “isolate the enemy by organising the people into various cover organisations and build joint fronts in order to mobilise the masses into struggles to defeat the enemy offensive.” Army formation, the Maoists insist, “is the precondition for the new political power”, and “all this activity should serve to intensify and extend our armed struggle. Any joint activity or tactical alliances which do not serve the cause of the peoples’ war will be a futile exercise.” Moreover, the integrity of the ‘partial struggles’ and the overall aims of the protracted peoples war is underlined by the fact that cadres of the Peoples Guerrilla Army (PGA) are required to engage in these agitational programmes as well. As the PGA’s “Programme and Constitution” notes:

The PGA will participate in the propaganda and agitations programmes as directed by Party Committees. It will organize the people. The PGA will extensively employ people’s art forms in its propaganda. It will try to enhance the consciousness of the people.

The Maoists’ Urban Perspective Document, moreover, envisages the formation of ‘Open Self Defence Teams’ and armed ‘Secret Self Defence Squads’ in urban areas. The document notes, moreover, that for the Secret Self Defence Squads,

One significant form of activity is to participate along with the masses and give them the confidence to undertake militant mass action.Other tasks are to secretly hit particular targets who are obstacles in the advance of the mass movement.

It is useful to recall, in this context, that when talk of the ‘Red Corridor’ was first heard at the turn of the Millennium, most security, intelligence and political analysts simply scoffed, dismissing the very idea as a pipe dream and a propaganda ploy. Since then, however, the Maoist consolidation has occurred precisely along the axis of the then-projected ‘Red Corridor’.

If the state is to prevent a further consolidation of Maoist subversion and violence across the country, it is crucial that the futile debate on, and disputable enumeration of, ‘affected’ States, Districts and Police Stations, be abandoned, and the scope of the state’s defences be extended to cover the contours of the Maoist projections. The Maoists are – and have long been – working to a plan, and have explicitly rejected the ‘Left Opportunism’ which they believe led to the failure of the original Naxalite movement (1967-73).

This gives the movement great strength – but to the extent that this design is well know – makes it enormously vulnerable. Regrettably, while there is a handful of officers in the security and intelligence establishment who are aware of the details of this design, the general grasp in the security and political leadership in the affected and targeted states (the latter category now comprehends the entire country) and at the Centre is, at best, poor. There is, moreover, the added constraint that the Maoist strategy exploits the vulnerabilities of constitutional governance and its freedoms to the hilt, and the security apparatus has only limited instrumentalities of containment available in the initial stages of subversion and mass mobilisation.

The Maoists believe that there is, at present, an “excellent revolutionary situation in India”, and have clearly declared that “the seizure of state power should be the goal of all our activity”. Building bulwarks against their complex strategy is a challenge, it would appear, that is yet to be imagined by the national security establishment. The fire-fighting responses of the past, the ‘battalion approach’ of deployment of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) from one theatre to another, and the preferential allocation of financial resources to ‘disturbed’ States and areas, may help fitfully contain the violence of Maoist armed cadres. However, if the nation-wide campaigns of subversion are not addressed, and if prevention, rather than containment, does not become the sheet-anchor of national policy, there will be a tipping-point beyond which national capacities for emergency management will begin to fall disastrously short. That is the Maoist dream; it could become the country’s nightmare.

Ajai Sahni is Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management. Courtesy, the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal


Government Mafia Raj – A million mutinies are brewing across the country.

January 6, 2007

Government Mafia Raj – A million mutinies are brewing across the country.

A million mutinies are brewing across the country. People are protesting in Nandigram and Singur in West Bengal over land acquisition, in Orissa’s Kashipur they are opposing mining, the fishing community in Mundhra, Gujarat, is agitating against a special economic zone that threatens their livelihood.

What is common to all these protests is that the target of the protestors is the government mafia raj. The reason is that state governments which are acting as facilitators for private companies setting up projects have failed to take the people into confidence.

The great sepoy mutiny of 1857

There is a shroud of secrecy over project details including land acquisition and compensation. Land acquisition is a thorny issue and protests are inevitable when such projects are initiated. Such confrontations could be avoided if the government were to keep people in the loop, rather than force sarkar’s decisions on them.

This is unacceptable in any civilised society. Democracy is about informed choice. Government ought to provide adequate information to the public on all policy matters to enable people to make their choice.

Execution by British cannon of Indian soldiers who participated in the Indian rebellion of 1857

Men holding office believe that the janata(people) is an ignorant lot and should be treated as such. The mere fact that a government is elected doesn’t make it democratic; it is the participation of people in governance that makes for a democracy.

The case of political parties is no different. A healthy democracy is possible only if political parties have within them a culture of debate and discussion. Unfortunately, most parties in India ignore political education of their cadres.

Even communist parties like the CPM, which claim a culture of in-house debate, refuse to discuss public policy among their cadre when in government.

They also believe that a mere show of force is enough to silence any critics
but it has been seen that protests are acquiring more and more militant

If the present state of affairs continue then India could
see a major nationwide uprising soon.