Without doubt Jan Myrdal was one of the great revolutionary intellectuals of our time and his writings and works will make a permanent stamp on the democratic and Communist movement worldwide. Myrdal was a master at interacting and relating with the common people, thus giving a very accurate reflection. His style of writing was lucid Above all it could make readers decide their viewpoint independently, similar to Brechtian technique in theatre. I may have had important disagreements with him but have deep admiration for his open mindedness and down to earth attitude.Myrdals’ personality won the hearts of people worldwide touching the core of their souls with the red flame of liberation. He was beacon in shimmering the light of liberation to extinguish the neo-fascism encompassing the entire globe. Sadly he left us forever a few days ago. However his spirit will live on forever to enable new roses to bloom.
We must congratulate Myrdal for his death defying courage in touring Dandakaranya or Chattisgarh,which is the hotbed of Maoist Movement and state proto-fascism. In ‘Red Star over China’ with the daunting courage of a military commander he toured Indian region of Bastar and interview leaders of the C.P.I. (Maoist) .Inspite of being 85 he trudged himself to traverse through the most hazardous regions both geographically and politically. His voyage was like a ressurection of Edgar Snow entering China in the 1930’s in ‘Red Star Over China”or Felix Greene going there in 1950’s in “The Wall has two Sides.”
Earlier in 1963 and 1970 he made visits to China under Chairman Mao and shimmered the true light of the experiences of how the people were liberated there like few men ever did. In his books ‘Chinese Village, and ‘China-The Revolution Continued’, he exhibited absolute accuracy of detail on the people’s lives and countered the false bourgeois propaganda with the sharpness of a sword.
I can never forget his talk in Ludhiana in 2012 which was one of the most inspiring ever by a political commentator. In a most balanced manner he summed up the positive aspects of the movement in India and the glaring weaknesses. Myrdal insisted that the Indian revolution should never adopt the Russian or Chinese path hand must carve out a unique strategy of it’s own. In his view India will have a distinct form of fascism from Europe or even China under Chiang Kai Shek.
Today in the view of Myrdal India had virtually entered a new epoch in the Communist revolutionary movement if you asses the strength of the people’s guerrilla army and the existence of a unified party. No writer ever conducted such in depth interviews touching every facet of the Movement. His first visit to India was in 1980 when he met the Communist leader,Chandra Pulla Reddy.
RED STAR OVER INDIA
The book ‘Red Star Over India’ is balanced not indulging in hyper praise ,romanticism or scathed criticism thus reflecting objectivity.
Very classically and coherently it refers to anecdotes of events of past history of the world be it Europe, Russia or Asia. It makes reader get the sensation of the movement in Dandakaranya being an integral part of world history .In accordance to the given situation it dialectically evaluates both the similarity and dichtonomy of pats history with the present.
In chapter ‘Present Civil War in India” he illustrates how in essence India negates a truly functioning bourgeoisie parliamentary democracy but still recognizes certain salient features of liberalism. Ironically he even critically appraises Gandhi, who in many ways appeased British colonialism. Very boldly as contrary to many intellectuals he recognized some salient liberal features of India in terms of freedom of expression as even compared to Europe ad America. He recognized that India still had a liberal space, which is of course fast changing in the recent scenario.
It deeply delves into India’s colonial aspect touching the nature of the anti-colonial struggle and superficial nature of 1947 Independence. Myrdal was critical of the mechanical approach of Rajani Palme Dutt before 1947 as well as of the Communist Party of India. Myrdal felt that Palme dutt towed the line of the Comintern or British Communist party and put the aspect of dalits and Adivasis in the backstage. Strangely he had kind words for Jawaharlal Nehru, praising his support to liberal ideas.
Wit deep historical insight he touches on the writings of Karl Marx with reference to India, chartist movement in Great Britain,experiences of Ho Chi Minh and anti-colonial struggle of Vietnam as well as the emergence of fascism in Europe and counter resurgence. He traces the paths of the eras of French,Mexican,Russian and Chinese revolutions with relevance to current situation. He elaborated why Marx supported the 1857 mutiny in India .The 1946 Naval ratings strike,and Quit India movement was also covered pointing out in light of Liberal democrats like Nehru only upholding the 1857 revolt after these uprisings.
In part ‘To Dandkaranya in the manner of a novelist he relates how he put his first foot in the sacred area of Dandkaranya and the emotions and vibration she experienced. Here he reflected on the root s of Indian culture planted in Ramayana which the European left forgot about. A reference was made to the contribution of historian D.Kosamabi.Myrdal felt that Indian history or culture could never be ignored.Subtle references were also made on Marx on India.
In section ‘What Independence” he recounts the crystallization of Kali Ghosh into a full fledged revolutionary in Bengal from the 1920’s.Myrdal described how he combated those in the Congress who abstained from demanding dominion status.Kali went on to work sabotaging Bengal telegraph lines. The Meerut conspiracy transformed Kali into a Communist. This mutiny was a turning point in an Indian party being able to function as a component of the Communist International in 1934.In August 1930 Kali was arrested by the police and deported to London. In this chapter he portrays Jawaharal Nehru in true light ,highlighting the influence of Anglo-Saxon or fabian culture in shaping his life.
In a chapter ‘What terror ‘ very illustratively he explain show the actions of Maoists were essentially counterattacks to the neo-fascist political and economic opression on the Adivasis blessed by the Corporates.It gives even non -maoists a vivid illustration of why the Maoist movement in in reaction to the semi-fascist state that masquerades in being a genuine democracy. In deep depth he has described the opressive living conditions of the Adivasis as well as the monumental democratic revolutionary forms of power installed by the Maoists Myrdal does ample justice to the relentless spirit of the C.P.I.(Maoist) in confronting the neo-fascist rulers by organizing armed resistance at the hardest point
In chapter ‘In the Camp’ he touched on how the Maoist redressed the aspect of mass line and made a subtle comparison with the resistance of the Paris Commune .The topic of leadership of the party,secret functioning ,work in urban areas and a unified Communist party was redressed here.Very poignantly he also highlights the striking similarity of the Indian Maoist party with the Chinese party in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, confronting subconscious determining of reactionary values among the masses as anti-Marxist Freudian approach.
In Chapter ‘The standing wave’ the “Geneva Convention’ in light of respect of human rights was discussed.Here Myrdal described how the Indian rulers broke all it’s norms in terrorisng Adivasis.and executing Maoist cadre.A striking comparison was made between the experiences of the Paris Commune and India in 2010.Myrdal pointed out that in 2010 Intellectuals came out in support of the opressed unlike the 1871 period.
Myrdal insists that the Indian revolution should never adopt the Russian or Chinese path hand must carve out a unique strategy of it’s own. In his view India will have a distinct form of fascism from Europe or even China under Chiang Kai Shek.
Today in the view of Myrdal India had virtually entered a new epoch in the Communist revolutionary movement if you asses the strength of the people’s guerrilla army and the existence of a unified party. No writer ever conducted such in depth interviews touching every facet of the Movement.
A heart evoking chapter ‘Singing the poetry of the people’ was written on India’s revolutionary writers and poets like Cherabanda Raju and Sri Sri.The chapter narrated the evolution of Cherabanda Raju through the Naxalbari and Srikakulam struggles to become one of the founders of VIRASAM.In the dark days of the emergency his poetry and voice created tremors in the camp of the Congress rulers, challenging the fascist arrests.Sri Sr’s emergence from days of Progressive writers Association was summarized .Sri Sri was not merely an intellectual but also participated in important political actions. It described how Sri Sri confronted orthodoxy blending romantic modernism with religious Shivailtik poetry ,with his work Suptaasthikalu. Having origins in post modernism and surrealistic experimentation Sri Sri turned to delving the true root’s of people’s culture. His works played a major role in illuminating the flame of Naxalbari from 1970 and formation of Revolutionary Writers Association.
In ‘Leaving the Guerrilla Zone ‘He describes that his exit of the guerrilla zone was more ardous than entering it, with many more government patrols. Touching the core of a reader’s soul he revealed the vibrations penetrating within him longing the red flame to encompass the whole of India. His heart literally did the talking when he bid farewell to Comrades he would never meet again. He made a reference to “The Iron Heel” which Socialist readers at that time found very pessimistic.”The author here projected Socialism was meeting an impending doom like the suppression of the Paris Commune.Myrdal felt that India could well be destined to face the same fate.
In concluding chapter ‘Negative Possibility’, he summed up the emergence and extension of proto-fascism and it’s roots in colonial or neo-colonial tyranny of the pas enslaving the proletariat worldwide. He illustrates the coherency of neo-liberalism world wide breeding fascism. A subtle reference is also made to the Bhumkal uprising of 1910.Myrdal points out the weakness of the party not able to organize masses outside its orbit. Otherwise even the 25 % of population comprising the dalits and Adivasis can face the same fate as those movements which had reversals.
Arun Ferreira’s review in Economic and Political weekly on ‘Red Star over India’ in 2012 is a must read for readers .It explains why the book is a kind of an epic .and does full justice to the Indian Communist Movement.
WEAKNESSES OF ‘RED STAR OVER INDIA’
Still In my view the book did not sufficiently throw light on the aspect of the ‘mass line’ and the development and revolutionary development of base areas. Nor does it adequately touch upon the question of the Communist party. It is almost as the leaders of the Maoist party are giving the answers on this with Myrdal merely being a spectator. Myrdal did not reflect a personal study of how alternative revolutionary power was achieved and revolutionary democratic functioning enforced.
Although highlighting contribution of Charu Mazumdar it makes no mention of the struggle for mass line of Tarimela Nagi Reddy-DV Rao .The subjective weakness of a party not re-organized is not highlighted with a view projected that the task is already accomplished, through formation of the C.P.I. (Maoist).
It also does not give the reader a clear stand on the nature of Independence in 1947 and is apologetic to Nehru, who was in essence an anti-communist reactionary. Strangely he had kind words for Jawaharlal Nehru, praising his support to liberal ideas and terming him as a liberal bourgeois democrat. However he forgot the tyranny unleashed by the Congress party under Nehru in the Telangana armed struggle where the Communist forces were literally razed to the ground, doing a demolition job with no stone unturned. Nehru’s moral pro-Hindu stance and subservience to colonial masters was untouched before 1947.
A proper evaluation was also not made of the comparative democracy in the regions of Dandakaranya and those of the base areas of the Chinese Communist party before the 1949 revolution.
CHINA: THE REVOLUTION CONTINUED
In this book Jan Myrdal returns to village Liu Ling with his with Gun Kessle which he visted seven years ago in 1963.In a classic research documentary of meticulous detail he does justice to how during the Great Proletarian cultural revolution revolutionary democracy penetrated regions not traversed before in human history. With living examples he narrated how a new epoch was virtually ushered in mankind’s achievements with illustrations of experiences of various people in Liu Ling.It was truly remarkable the manner in which he penetrated every sphere of the people’s lives proving the cutting edge of the line of Chairman Mao Tse Tung over that of Liu Shao Chi.
LIU LING SEVEN YEARS AFTER AND THE POLITICS OF THE THRESHING MACHINE
He discovered how the standard of living rose in the Cultural Revolution.In 1966 stone caves were built learning from the example of the Tachai brigade.Earlier in 1962 only earth caves existed .The stone cave is an unusually stable and well insulated stone house. The new buildings were more roomy.It is easier to plan a family here.
In 1962 drinking water was inadequate while now it was readily available, and good even when not boiled.
Every villager now had a transistor set.
A threshing machine was now running day and night which greatly accelerated speed of production. Earlier grain was grounded by a donkey pulled mill. Before the Cultural revolution loans were needed from the state or peoples commune. Now Investment was made by the peasant’s own capital which they attributed to study of Mao thought.Major expenditure was conducted by the revolutionary Commitees of the Peoples Communes. It is the revolutionary commitees that took the final decisions in public mass meetings on planning a building.
Production had spectacularly risen from 160 tonnes in 1961 to 240 in 1965 and 325 in 1969.The brigade’s collective funds rose to 160,000 Y.
On 18th October a bi-weekly study meting was held studying quotation sof Chairman Mao.It decided to begin with ‘Song of the Helmsman.”The lesson was used to guided the peasants ideologically in the Autumn harvest, in relation to imperialism and feudalism.
A 180 degree turnabout took place in the administrative structure.There was a united and directly elected management .The revolutionary commitee which worked under permanent supervision.
The Cultural Revolution did not emerge sporadically ,or a struggle lasting a few days or few weeks. It took 2 years and five weeks to form a revolutionary commitee following the guidance of the August 8t 1966 resolution. The Revolutionary Committee was not formed by purely formal decision but through protracted process of discussion and criticism.
At Liu Lung two groups initiated the Cultural Revolution:the literate and politically active youngsters who compared the words of Mao with what was really going on in the village, and the older poor peasants and early communists. These groups mobilized everyone in the brigade to a discussion to present their criticism.
The people’s welfare reached egalitarian standards never attained before like a new world created.Everyone in a collective was guaranteed of enough food,enough clothes,enough fuel,an honourable funeral and education for his children.A peoples Commune did not only mean simplified administration and broader democracy but gave greater security.In 1962 grain was distributed to needy families.Social aid was abolished.The average grain consumption was 21.5 kg.per person,of this 172 consisted of basic guarantee ,paid out to everyone:
There were now only 2 households in Liu Ling labour brigade which were in a situation where they required special help from the collective.Social aid was abolished by making basic security the right of every citizen.Political work transformed people’s thinking to reject concepts like aid when its a question of ensuring the old and sick daily requirements. At Liu Ling there was no ‘free food’ or collective dining halls. Nor was the new reform of distribution sytem the same thing as ‘free; food.
The Cultural revolution has been apolitical revolution and meant deeper democracy. The poor and middle peasants exercise a broad democracy, where the decisions are all made at public meetings ad a general discussion implement economic policy and those reforms which are in the interest f the masses. Above all value of labour was never undermined and the administration was not rendered inefficient.
TUNH YANG CHEN IN WORLD POLITICS
Soviet revisionist propaganda and Liu Shao Chi’s rightist line was refuted at its deepest core .Tung Yan Chen was classical example of someone who at the very heart participated in the criticism of August 1966.Applying mao thought the party secretary Feng ,was taken to task for divorcing himself from the masses. He neglected construction work. In the spring of 1967 a construction team was formed and those capable of heaviest work joined it.Although chosen as work leader I received no extra pay. Studying Mao thought guided us to level the fields in the valley. They had to be surrounded with embankments to prevent erosion The little fields had to be blinded together into larger ones,and the earth cleared of stones.
In the Autumn of 1967 and spring of 1968 we dug 3 wells and terraced 3 slopes. The terracing stops the erosion. and the rainwater is retained wit the harvest becoming bigger.On the slopes the yields yield about 100 jin per mu.After terracing the fields yielded 300 jin per MU.Down in the valley where soil is better the terracing elevates the yield to 300-500 jin per mu.Last winter we dug three more big wells and irrigated 60 more mu.
There was nothing dreamy or romantic about Mao Tse Tung’s line. It related with historical neccessities and with the needs of the vast majority In the given situation one had to begin to solve problems by collective effort and organization before mechanization was possible.
Liu Shao Chi was still the spokesman of a trend and won the support of the rich peasants,bourgeoise and well to do middle peasants. The cultural revolution was not a struggle between Mao and Liu but between different classes and their representatives in China. The Cultural revolution was a social struggle. Ideologically he infiltrated or permeated several spheres because the class struggle in China was not over.New privileged classes were striving for power in the countryside after the defeat of the landlords and insid the party itself the representatives of the old scholar bureaucrats were once more emerging.Liu’s ideology was a manifestation of their goals.
The path of Liu Shao Chi would have concentrated capital in a few hands and push the majority of the population at subsistence level. Light Industries would have been dismantled. Unemployment and capitalist agriculture would have been created and millions of Chinese peasants would have been forced to the cities. Land reform would have perpetrated new class distinctions in the countryside and the Chinese revolution would have remained a mere peasant revolution.
Mao has never been a peasant revolutionary.Mao Tse Tung’s line is coherent with the realities of the Chinese countryside and commands the support of the poor and middle peasants. This was the view endorsed by Tung Yang Chen.Mao Tse Tung thought is the fulcrum of the work in Liu Ling.Without it’s guidance Tung Yan Chen would have aspired to be a rich peasant hiring labourers.
Tung Yang Chen was the perfect mascot of the 2 line struggle supporting Mao thought waged against Liu Shao Chi’s revisionist line ,with his very practice symbolizing it’s essence and the demarcation of Mao Tse Tung’s ideology from that of Liu Shao Chi ..He began to read during the Cultural Revolution. The progress of Tung Yang Chen and other comrades is a testimony to the correctness of Mao’s line.
NOODLES, PIGS AND REVOLUTION
In Liu Ling the brigades ran whole industries. It had it’s noodle factory. The raw materials were derived from the village’s own agriculture. Now these raw materials are worked up in the brigade and the noodles are sold as a finished product in the town. The brigades own households can buy noodles at a special price. Quoting worker Li Kou Wan “It was only by reading Chairman Mao I got the right attitude to work and understand the process here at the whole factory. The noodle factory uses our .own raw materials and gives the brigade extra income.
Pig sties were also built in the noodle factories. Thus the brigade could supply the household with domestic pigs.Now the household waste could be utilised better and the family’s meat consumption increased -each household was now slaughtering and eating one fated pig a year. The goal was for each household to breed two domestic pigs a year to enable the village to contribute to the city’s meat supply and obtain extra income from the families.
A most efficient form of vegetable cultivation was organised. Yield was increased from 7000-8000 gin to 14000-15000 Jin per mou.Mao Tse Tung thought again was instrumental in this.Now unlike before, leading cadres participate in production. Profit is nt the criteria for work, but service to the community. Animal manure can now raised from quantity of 4000 gin per mou to 12000 jin per mu.Again studying Moa played a crucial role. We increased the available manure by organizing thing sin such a manner that brigades could supply all households with piglets. Sties were thus built outside noodle factories. The labour group for vegetable cultivation credits each household with work points for manure. Now we use human excrement for the collective good of the vegetable team and not for our own private plots as before. Work points are accordingly awarded.
HOW WORK IS TO BE EVALUATED
A new form of calculating income from work was devised. In the new system of economic distribution all members whether working or not, should enjoy basic security in the form of grain. All forms of piece work were abolished. Only daily work attendance was recorded. Whether one dug or harvested,fetched manure from town or worked at the noodle factory, the day’s work had the same value. Thus the nature of the job made no bearing on the income.
Earlier people were victims of Liu Shao Chi’s black line which patronized the opportunists to make money for themselves. People working in collectives were denied proper incomes while opportunists invested in short term projects. Only a small group of leading cadres,distributed the work ,bonuses were awarded and people could obtain money for themselves that in reality ought to have been used for collective use.
In Autumn 1969 collectively the red guards launched a criticism against Mau ke Yeh ,chairman of the Liu Ling Labour brigade’s supervisory Commiteee.Mau was a proponent of the Liu Shao Chi Line and the red guards won the hearts of the masses. The red guards were critical of Mao not being critical of cadres.
In December 1966 Mau now mad a self-criticism which the red guards and masses accepted. Although he had spoken out against wrong practices of cadres his criticisms were silenced.
A profound criticism was made at Liu Ling where leading party members were exposed and dismissed. Soviet revisionist politics was grossly attacked. Most significant illustrations highlighted were those of Mau Pei hsin,Chi Ching Chou,Kao pin ying,Lo Han Hong,Ching chung ying,Liu Teh Ching, and Tsa Chen kuei.They highlighted the big character posters, criticism of the education system by pupils, reliance on cadres by the masses,self-criticism even of poor peasants, scope of masses to check the administration, democratic advance of the revolutionary commitee. and workers participation in management.
Intellectuals were re-educated by peasants and workers. and transformed through manual labour. On passing graduation students participated in production of cotton.
The education system was totally revamped with formal exam s abolished .Race for high marks essay writings, was smashed by students. Pupils exposed the pro-landlord nature of the old examination system and how even after the revolution old ideas permeated in new forms. Youngsters had to learn everything from the ground by participating in all sorts of work be it in the fruit Orchard, vegetable growing group, threshing , construction work or even cleaning latrines.
Mao tse Tung thought teachings were taught at the very root and related in relation to the given tasks.
THE YOUNG INTELLECTUALS
Li Shiu Mei was twenty five and graduated from Sian.She summarized the confrontation of the students after initiating a campaign in the educational institute in the with party representatives who attempted to obstruct their movements using the entire authority of the party against them. In retaliation the students barricaded themselves inside a classroom to read Chairman Mao,after the authorities tried to lock them up.
Li Chi Shen recounted how wrong methods were attacked in schools and the importance of class struggle against socialism. The manner Soviet revisionism was combated at it’s very backbone was narrated .The students marched into villages and straight into the administrative organ sin towns to initiate discussions.An example was given of a meeting on 20th August when all 1000 pupils of their school was organised .It was a result of the August 18th call where the masses educated themselves and all leaders were elected from below. The students organized themselves into groups which made long journeys throughout the country Here comrades from various parts of the countryside were met and mutual exchanges were made. Students also integrated with the workers in the factories.Li went to a tractor station in Yenan working in daytime and making revolution in the evening. There she was elected secretary of the school’s brigade of Red Guards.
Kao Yu Chin who was an engineer and youth league secretary of his college unit described the meticulous ideological training among party members .He narrated how youth went to factories and farms in all parts of the country and exchanged experiences with red guards. The establishing of a revolutionary Commitee in July 1967 in his college was highlighted .Tow long preparatory marches were staged to Chengta and Chungking.
Women were studying works of Chairman Mao.During the Cultural revolution nine women learned to read. The Cultural revolution raised the age of marriage for girls. Men now had to support women in household work. When women went to political meetings men had to undertake the household chores. The daughters now had the same rights as a son.
HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM
On 13th January 1969 a health insurance fund was formed, which was morally co-operative medicine. In every brigade it was introduced .All members of Liu Ling brigade were assured of free services of a doctor and free medicine.In emergency,peasants could be remitted to nearby hospital.
The brigade also paid all the salaries of the medical personnel. A health insurance fund was established contributing basic sum of 2000 y.
The commonest ailments were rheumatism and influenza.Acupuncture was utilised to cure rheumatism, painful condition sof various types,stress illnesess ,stomach ulcers as well as types of deafness and blindness.
Wang Yua Lan who was 39 recounted how she became a member of the revolutionary commitee and was industrious but never spoke up at meetings which was selfish. She made a self-criticism of protecting her self interests. Studying Mao created a transformation within her to make up her own mind .In earlier times women could play no role in the political process, being bound to their homes.
Harsh Thakor is a political commentator