Naxalbari must be resurrected in relevant form on 55th anniversary

Naxalbari Movement ushered a new era in Indian history. It pioneered the aspect of seizure of state power in a concrete for, integrating it with agrarian revolution. It propelled the peasantry, agricultural workers, industrial workers, students and youth to revolt against all the mechanisms of semi-colonialism and semi-feudalism and galvanise every ounce of their energy to challenge the echelons of state power. The revolt invited state repression at an unprecedented level. Never in Indian history did spirit engulf the oppressed in such a degree to challenge the ruling establishment. The scenes were Reminiscent of a spiritual renaissance with Marxist political consciousness elevating at an unparalleled scale.

We commemorate the 55th anniversary of Naxalbari on May 25th,when the nation and the world are on the verge of the gravest of crises in every sphere.Neo-fascism is looming at an unprecedented level. Similar to time of Naxalbari agricultural workers and the peasantry are enslaved with burden of debts and globalization has entangled them like an Octopus.Corporates have virtually alienated tribals.The Working class still remains impoverished with the price rises intensifying  and no adequate living wage to back it as well as insecurity f the Contract system.

Inspired by the Chinese Revolution and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Naxalbari movement upheld the concept of agrarian revolution protracted peoples War and New Democratic Revolution, revolting against the revisionism of the CPI and CPM .It formulated that India was still engripped by semi-colonialism and semi-feudalism since 1947, with landlordism only abolished on paper and economy bounded to service of foreign capital.

Naxalbari inspired the peasantry and other oppressed sections that they could form their own organs of revolutionary democratic power. If any genuine rights were won by the peasantry it emerged only through the naxalbari struggle. The dalits identified the movement with their quest for liberation and it inspired the formation of the Dalit Panther party. Students questioned the unscientific and anti-people nature of the education system.

Naxalbari was a precursor in sowing the seeds of a wide range of mass social movements, be it the working class, women, peasantry, nationalities, adivasis, dalits or students. It also steered the path for collaboration and intervention of the revolutionary vanguard forces in social movements.

The land reforms act of 1955 and the Zamindari abolition act of 1953 were rendered ineffective with owners of arge holdings keeping land in the form of the name of their attached labourers Food Movements also encompassed the whole state f West Bengal in 1959 and 1966.In 1967 polls the United front govt seized power delivering a crushing blow to the C.P.I.(M).

Today Naxalbari is projected as a movement of armed squads launching actions but the mass aspect is negated. Left adventurism of the C.P.I. (M.L) diverted the mass movement into path of insurrection, whatever the heavy toll of sacrifice. Mass Organizations and movements were abandoned. The national bourgeoisie and rich peasant classes were classified as enemies erroneously. Mao Tse Tung was hailed as the Chairman of the Indian party .Boycott of Parliamentary election was propagated as the strategic path. Urban work was totally neglected.CPI (ML) never grasped that tactics would vary in different regions. ‘Individual annihilation of class enemies’ replaced massline.Serious revolutionaries waged a sustained struggle against it like Suniti Roy Chowdhary. against the bureaucratic tendencies within the C.P.I(M.L).One of the most poignant criticisms was that by Chou En Lai of China to Souren Bose.

Cadres should study the historical parallel struggles depicting massline waged of the tribals and peasants in Darjeeling, Debra and in Koraput in Orissa and by the Maoist Communist Centre in Kanska,when the C.P.I.(M.L) was deploying line of ‘Annihilation of the class enemy.”T he contribution of Kanu Sanyal in sowing the seeds of masswork in knitting the Tea and Garden workers in Darjeeling and elevate the movement to seizing and distribution of lands , Gananath Patro later in Orissa and the criticisms of Suniti Kumar Ghosh ,Parimal Dasguta and Deepankar Chakraborty on massline much later are also worth introspecting..

After 1977 a rectification campaign was undertaken by the Andhra Pradesh State Commitee ,the CPI(Ml) COC and the Central Team of the C.P.I(ML) A very valid criticism was made by the Andhra Pradesh Coordination Commitee earlier led by T.Nagi Reddy/DV Rao.Now mass organisations were launched an movements national bourgeoisie and rich peasantry recognized as allies of revolution an urban work initiated. However line of annihilation still persisted. and some sections prescribed ‘Boycott of parliamentary elections as a strategic path. Mass Organisations were attached to the party as front organisations or made to propagate Mao Thought-, denying them independent identity.Inspite of propagating Leninist party concept; splits took place at an unprecedented level. Personality cults vitiated Bolshevik functioning.

Post-Naxalbari Period

The C.P.I (M.L) Peoples War summarised that the party had to form not one but several guerrilla zones as the character of the Indian state was centralised, unlike China.Within the C.P.I.(M.L) Party Unity there was debate whether the Chinese model of struggle was suitable for India.-,with such an organised bureaucracy. Party Unity Group was also critical of the slogan ‘China’s path is our path’ and that of ‘Annihilation of the class enemies.’ Unlike the PW group the PU group attribute formal independence to the Indian state .

Significant achievements were made by the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L) Peoples War Group in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana in challenging the opression of upper caste landlords and distributing Thousands of acres of land .Most noticeable was the Jagtiyal  land struggle in Karimngar mobilising over a lakh people and its spreading to districts of Sircilla, Warangal, Nizamabad ,East Godavri etc.Mass Organisations were formed like the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union,the Revolutionary Writers Association,the Jana natya Mandali and the Rytu Colie Sangham.5-10 lakh peasants attended the conferences of the Rytu Coolie Sangham in 1985 and 1990 in Warangal.

In Bihar the Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Samiti led by C.P.I. (M.L)Party Unity and the Krantikari Kisan Commitees led by the Maoist Communist Centre gave an effective challenge to the hegemony of the Upper caste base of Rajput Brahmarshi and Kurmi landlord gangs. and in important zones crushed their power in Jehanabad, Magadh ,Gaya and Aurangabad districts.  MCC expanded to region sof Dhanbad,Giridh and Hazariaghas well as ares like Palamau, Gumla and Garwah. The main area of Party Unity work was Patna, Gaya,Jehanabad and Palamau. In the 1980’s he Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Samiti spread like wildfire to areas like Hussainabad,Chatrapur an Bisrampr. Before it’s ban in1986 the MKSS had a strength of 20000 members.

The All India Peoples Resistance Forum rallies of 1992 and 1994 in Kolkata shimmered the flame of democratic revolutionary resistance.

Sadly all those movements had a dramatic reversal in the 1990’s with the liquidation of the important leaders of the Peoples War Group in 1999 and the ban on the Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Samiti which was ressurected as the Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad and of the Maoist Communist Centre and Krantikari Kisan Commitees

One factor that accounted for the demise in Andhra Pradesh was the over reliance on military actions of armed squads without giving due respect to the subjective factors, which created repercussions for the state to unleash repression at an unprecedented scale, with the very people becoming victims. Movements were often dictated by the strength of the armed squads with actions conducted not in accordance with the political preparedness of the masses.’Boycott of Elections’ was called for which was not in consonance with the consciousness of the masses. Still thousands of acres of land remained fallow in Andhra Pradesh..Civil Rights activists perished in Andhra Pradesh and thousands of activists languished behind prison bars in the states of armed movements. In mass protests against falsely staged encounters by the revolutionary groups the masses were not mobilised. Mass organisations were utilised as a shelter for armed squads and often became cover organisations.

An effective base was hardly created in the industrial working class. All -India Fronts were formed like the All India League for Revolutionary Culture in 1983 and the All India Revolutionary Students Federation in 1985 which dissolved after 2000 .Inspite of making a significant contribution in nurturing mass democratic resistance the Revolutionary Democratic Front is virtually defunct today. Its erstwhile constituent, the All India Peoples Resistance Forum made a significant headway in sharpening broad based movements of farmers and other opressed sections as well as for democratic Rights in the 1990’s.

The Chandra Pulla Reddy –Satya Narayan Singh C.P.I.(M.L)  group, penetrated the urban sections considerably more than the groups waging armed struggle. It formed  the Indian Federation of Trade Unions in 1978 and built  a base in many working class sections be it in garment factories, hospitals,Airport,Jute Mills,mines etc.Inroads were made in Andhra pradesh ,West Bengal ,Maharashtra ,Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

The Naxalite movement also generated the formation of democratic rights or civil liberties Organizations nation wide. whether the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Commitee ,Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights in Mumbai or the Peoples Union of Democratic Rights in Delhi. It inspired Marxist thinking within civil Rights groups.


Today we must welcome efforts of intellectuals like Bernard De Mello,Anand Teltumbde ,Gautam Navlakha or Arundhati Roy to give the positive aspects of Naxalbari their due n current context,. Still they lack a coherent view on the nature of the Indian Social order and the path of the Indian Revolution.

Amit Bhattacharya’s book ‘Storming the Gates of Heaven’ is a remarkable work in projecting the crystallising of the penetration of the movement in diverse spheres but makes no criticisms of the grave errors of the Maoist Movement or it’s earlier constituents, in respect to mass line. He fails to depict the glaring errors of Kishenji in Lalgarh or why the movement was liquidated in plain areas like Karimngar and Jehanabad and even in Dandkaranya not extending to plain areas. It gives no consideration to the contribution of other streams within the Communist Movement like that of T.Nagi Reddy.

Gautam Navlakha places too much faith in Indian parliament inspite of  positively viewing Dandkaranya movement suggesting it to link with open naxalite streams or mainstream movements  ,but still makes a correct assessment of the Maoist setback in Lalgarh.’

‘Lalgarh and the Legend of Kishenji’  by Srigendu Bhatacharya most analytically illustrates how the Maoist movement in Jungalmahal led by Kishenji was vitiated with left sectarian tendencies, unable to judge subjective factors. It points to how a PCAPA leader stood as candidate for election, countering the Maoist line. The author portrays “fatal errors” of Kishenji in trusting opportunist forces. He says, “Kishenji has taken the movement to the grave with him.”

Bernard De Mello makes the most accurate assessment of the merits and demerits of the Movement but reposes faith in the armed squads and undermines semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism.

Commemorative Programmes

Memories always shimmer in my mind of the Naxalbai 30th anniversary rally in Kolkata in 1997, the meeting organised by United labour Union led by Sunder Navalkar in Mumbai in 1997, the Naxalbari 50th anniversary year rally in Silguri involving 6 revolutionary groups in 2017. and the commemoration rally in Giridh  in Jharkhand in 2017.In 1999 the rally had 10 lakh participants but in 2017 ,it had only 3000 participants. The decline was the result of the backbone of the movement being crushed in West Bengal,Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.Still the Jharkhand conference had over a lakh participants.

I also express great admiration for the 2017 seminar organised by Virasam which in great depth and self-critically analysed the naxalbari Movement .At the very core it dealt with the issue of Brahmanical fascism, repression on nationality movements and on work on peasant and urban front .A critical review was made on the formation and practice of mass organizations, and how mistakes were made in developing genuine democratic functioning. It illustrated how many important democratic movements fell out of the hands of the Communist revolutionaries to be hijacked by the ruling classes.

I was also most impressed by the participation in the Anuradha Ghandy memorial Lecture in 2017 in Mumbai. where  the chief speakers were Vaavara Rao and Tilak Dasgupta.

I regret still that the ranks of the intellectuals gave scant respect to the contribution of leaders like Tarimela Nagi Reddy and DV Rao,.in Kolkata and in the Virasam seminar. I would have preferred that there was participation by other streams to create an effective debate. Still it is noteworthy that in 2017 in Silguri trends from the Maoists, 2nd CC,Chandra Pulla Reddy and T.Nagi Reddy participated jointly.

l I must  confess that there were powerful tendencies in mobilising masses without ideological preparation in rallies upholding Naxalbari and Mao thought like in the conference of AIRSF in 1989 in Madras and in the 1997 Naxalbari Rally.

Assesment of Movement

The Naxalbari movement began 50 years ago, and is still on. “Nowhere else in the world will you find a continued class struggle that has lasted so many years,” said VaraVara Rao, on ‘50 Years of Naxalbari, Looking Back, Looking Forward’. in a Seminar in Mumbai.

“A remarkable achievement of the Naxalbari movement was giving Dalits and adivasis a sense of self-respect, he said. The movement had also brought forth an “alternative to parliamentary politics”, Rao said.

Describing the parallel government that exists in the forest region spread across the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand, Rao said this was a government based on “people’s power. They don’t fight elections, they don’t pay taxes. This seizure of power started with liberating land from the hands of landlords and forming co-operatives, and protecting this land from the landlords’ armies and the police”.

Tilak Dasgupta, who had been part of the Naxalite movement in Bihar, spoke of the movement’s legacy. “India was at that time an 80 per cent agricultural economy. The Naxalite movement centred on agrarian issues. For the first time, poor and landless peasants were brought into the political arena as independent actors. Earlier, peasant movements had been led by those who owned land. For the first time, too, adivasis and Dalits were brought into the class struggle.”

While the movement did not bring too many material benefits to the people, Dasgupta said, it led to the democratisation of society to a large extent wherever the movement was strong. “The Constitutional rights to free speech, to organise, even to vote – everything was crushed when we began working. All of these rights had to be won through struggle. Ironically, though we did not believe in Parliamentary elections, because of our struggle, those who had never been allowed to vote till then could now exercise their vote.”

Dasgupta said the challenge before the movement was to break out of its narrow confines and reach wider sections of the people – the working class, as well as the small producers and farmers who were fighting a last ditch battle against big corporates.

I must state that I differ with Vara Vara Rao that a genuine revolutionary democratic alternative has been built up with people running their own organs of revolutionary power of base areas. and that the peasants of plain areas have been won over. No doubt I share his admiration for its armed confrontation to resist state oppression and arouse the oppressed sections to create their own forms of democratic power. I feel Tilak Dasgupta projected a more balanced analysis, reflecting the genuine weaknesses and stressing how broader movements had to be established. A topic that was not dealt with was that of the Massline.

Naxalbari is projected as a movement of armed squads launching actions but the mass aspect is negated Today the Communist Revolutionary movement is in a splintered state .Although the C.P.I. (Maoist) has made glorious sacrifices and a historic contribution withstanding fascist attacks of the state, it is vitiated with ‘military’ tendencies and not able to establish genuine agrarian revolutionary movement, revolutionary base areas or mass organizations with genuinely democratic functioning. Whatever credit one must award for their sustained resistance to survive for decades it is doubtful it is on the path of expanding beyond the tribal belt into the plain areas and urban regions. Overall even if it emulates mass line in practice in important respects, overall it cannot be described as a protagonist of the mass line. The line and practice is incoherent with building a broad based revolutionary movement. Whatever genuine dedication in regions like Jharkhand and Orissa there are many cases of people’s guerrilla army members abandoning their organisations and the armed squad actions not able to sustain people’s movements of tribals or peasantry. It is also regrettable that even there have been cases of extortion from the tribals by the party members. Political education of cadre has also been inadequate. Adopting tactics of ‘Boycott of Elections’ as a strategy is not in consonance with Leninism ,with Lenin even stating that extra- parliamentary tactics could be utilised.

On the other had revisionism and right deviationist tendencies are at at a crescendo with organizations abandoning path of agrarian revolution and protracted peoples war, embracing parliamentary system, rejecting formulation of India being semi-colonial and semi-feudal and professing unity with reactionary sections. In the name of liberation it elevates Ambedakarism to stature of Marxism-Leninism. Within trade Unions it negates ideological work and reduces them to economic outfits.

Today with Neo-fascism penetrating at an unprecedented scale there is no concerted effort to launch a movement to defeat it politically. Open organisations are pursuing parliamentary road to challenge it.

What led to the downfall of the Revolutionary Communist Movement was the lack of any genuinely Socialist State after 1978 and the weakness in the strength of Communist led armed struggles worldwide. Tendencies still exist of mechanically adhering to the Chinese path and negate political work within trade Unions. Polemics have not been developed of applying path of protracted peoples or forming a red army in accordance with the unique conditions of India, with the unity of the workers a major factor. Revolutionary Forces are unable to establish unity between the workers with the Adivasis or enable the tribals to grasp Marxism-Leninism. Not only does India have a firmly entrenched parliamentary system unlike China but significant changes have also taken place after advent of globalisation and electronic age. India also has conditions distinctive from China in the 1940, in the co-relation between urban and rural areas or even the terrain.

No doubt there have been positive tendencies in recent times like the farmers upsurge against bills  in Delhi, students demonstrating in solidarity in movements against Brahmanical fascism and with dalits and Muslims in campus areas and protests of people against NRC/NPR.There is growing unrest within the peasantry and working class which is not channelized properly.

Although greatly diffused by the tide of neo-fascism fronts like Bhagat Singh Chatra Morcha and Inquilabi Chatra Morcha in Uttar Pradesh shimmer torch of naxalbari integrating Naxalbari politics with issue of Brahmanical fascism or Ambedkarism In the urban sector although wrongly upholding path of Socialist revolution the Bigul Mazdoor Dasta has done commendable work amongst metro workers,Angadwadi workers and roller workers. There is also a positive resurgence of students and youth in West Bengal with resurgence of campaigns against Hindutva and Brahmanical fascism and on student issues by groups like Revolutionary Students Front and Democratic Students Front. Although effective a decade ago sadly the Democratic Students Union in Delhi has virtually been reduced to a defunct outfit, after a split in recent years on issue of male chauvinism and severe repression on the Revolutionary Movement.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance Journalist who has attended mass programmes all around India commemorating Naxalbari in 2017 and done extensive research on Naxalbari


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