Book Review: Naxalbari and the Chinese Press

This book “Naxalbari and the Chinese Press –A Select anthology”, compiled by Aloke Mukherjee is a classic set of articles published by the Chinese Press ,illuminating the Naxalbari Uprising. A most notable contribution in illustrating the solidarity of the Chinese Communist party with Naxalbari and the inter-relation. It delves on how a spark turned into a Prairie Fire which swept the entire nation.. The book denoted how vividly the Chinese Press illustrated that Naxalbari ushered a new era, the intensity with which the Chinese Communist party backed the C.P.I. (M.L) of Charu Mazumdar on the theoretical and practical plane and it’s conviction that it acted in consonance with the world Revolution. It analytically propounds how India had characteristics similar to China and the feasibility of the line of the Chinese path. The commitment to methodology of the CCP is projected. Very rarely in history did a nation offer as much moral support as the CCP to Naxalbari,through the flashing of news reports by the Chinese press.

I recommend this work for all scholars undertaking historical research on Naxalbari.With India still being semi-feudal and semi-colonial it counters intellectuals or organisations that project that Chinese path has no relevance in this day and age or who portray Naxalbari movement with revolutionary romanticism of misguided youth.

The articles and reports were a testimony to the historic period of Naxalbari,confirming that it was genuine mass movement. It projected that the actions were not isolated, nor insulated from the uprisings encompassing the entire world. It had fitting co-relation with developments all around the world. The compilation is part of the period when revolutionary storms were ignited all over the globe, tuning a spark into a prairie fire. The writings here are an ample proof that the actions undertaken were not just a manifestation of exuberance of the emotional outburst of youth or expressions of idealism. It confronts the trend that portrays Naxalbari as a sheer expression of vent of emotional feelings.

The book traces the history of fascism and World War 2 and how after victory over fascists imperialism was weakened and CPC established links with the CPI.with the latter starting to emulate the road of the Chinese path and Chairman Mao. It covered the germination of Revisionism of Khrushchev, the Great Debate of 1961 and the CPC’s open letter of 1963.It verified how the CPC stood by the genuine revolutionary path and ideologically delivered a blow to revisionism.

The CPC chalked out a course for the C.P.I. (M.L) to adopt. In the ‘Darjeeling peasant armed struggle ” it hailed the strategic and economic importance of the area ,and praised comrades of Silugiri for putting forward the slogan of arming the peasants and establishing rural base areas in preparation for armed struggle.Through it Comrades were enlightened about Charu Mazumdar’s eight documents. The CPC published the reports of the Mushahari and Debra peasants’ armed struggle, which elevated the self-confidence of peasants to anew height, to create a network of struggles. After learning that the CPC stood by them peasants began to identify themselves with the Chinese leadership and with Communism. A vivid example is recounted of an Adivasi comrade, Nabin Kisku,of how an organisation was knit ,amidst confrontation with the CPM and RSP ,where a peasant Chandar Murmu turned into a major organiser. Most articulately the Chinese press formulated the historical path carved out by the Telengana armed struggle, and how it was precursor to the Naxalbari struggle. It fully endorsed the contribution of Charu Mazumdar, recognising his role as an architect o the movement.

Description of Progressive Articles

‘Spring Thunder over India ‘in 1967   in most logical manner projects why the Chinese revolution was model for India and how the parliamentary democracy morally was  force. It narrated how the Indian revolutionaries could overcome the obstacles it faced and the repressive nature of the Congress govt as well as the revisionist arties.

In ‘Historic Turning Point in the Indian Revolution’ published in 1968, at the very root it exposed the reactionary character of revisionism, elaborating how the parliamentary path of Kruschev,dismantled the very fabric of the revolutionary path.

In ‘Red Revolutionary movement in India shines like a Beacon ‘ it upheld the practice of the Srikakulam Struggle, projecting how it had the potential to develop into a genuine red base area. It portrayed the sacrifices of comrades like Krishnamurty and woman fighter, Sampurna. The daring courage of Srikkaulam peasants in battling 65 engagements with police gave a crippling blow to the police force encirclement. Landlord   estates were raised, enemy weapons seized, landlords grain and land distributed.

‘Spring Thunder Over India ‘ of 1968 had an electrifying effect in making comrades demarcate from revisionism.Sushital Roy Chowdhury ,who was present in District Organising Commitee Meeting in Murshidabad charted out the path of the Spring Thunder. in order to form a regional Committee.

‘Let the red Flag of Naxalbari still fly Higher.’ sums up the similarity with the peasant movement of Hunan. ‘Historical lessons of the Telengana uprising ‘ and ” Armed Struggle in Telengana “sum up how the uprising applied the Chinese path , how historical victories were won ,and how eventually it digressed or veered towards compromise and revisionist path.

‘The Indian food crisis and armed revolution ‘ projected how in truth landlordism was still rampant with agrarian reforms only cosmetic. The collaboration of the CPI was exposed with the Congress.

‘People in Revolt.’ reported how in Calicut 300 people launched an attack on the wireless station at Pullapali ,on November 24th ,in 1968.It also wrote about daring attacks s on November 22nd at and on November 25th at Kuttanad area. The masses cut the telephone lines at Telicherry station, destroyed a police van and hurled a home made hand grenade at the sentry. In Kuttanad they ripped apart the landlords lair and confiscate grain conquered from the peasants. The state government was so terrified, that it ordered a round of clock alert., providing police escorts to ministers .At the very core the revisionist nature of the Kerala govt.was exposed, who only donned the  mask of communists.

In ‘Historic Turning Point in the Chinese Revolution ‘ it analysed how the revolutionary spark had turned into a Prairie fire.

In ‘Indian Peasants Take the Revolutionary Road “it illustrated how the struggle ignited in Bihar, creating tremors in the Bihar govt.On January 30th, 200 armed people ambushed. a police escorts, carrying 3arrested peasants. In Champaran district of North Bihar, several thousand labourers occupied large tracts of land, and around Madnapur forests.

In ‘Let the Peasants Revolutionary Storm in India Strike harder’, it describes how the struggle spread-eagled, engulfing over 50 areas. At the very base it made the Indian government tremble, being major thorn in the flesh. Red flags were fluttering over many a land. The level of disparity in land distribution was described, 75% of the land was concentrated in the hands of a small number of landlords, rich peasant and Maharajas. with 80% of the rural population in possession o only the remaining 25 %.Famine was responsible for millions of lives,. In Bihar 80% of the 50 million, were short of food.

Indian Revolutionary journal ‘Peoples War published ‘, “People in Revolt ‘ ,”Revolutionary Indian people are advancing ” and “Indian people Embark on the Road of Revolutionary struggle “do ample justice to the  scale  at which the struggle intensified, penetrating every walk of life and giving a crippling blow to the ruling classes by setting up revolutionary Commitees.They expressed admiration for the Indian revolutionaries embarking on Chairman Mao’s road by reproducing his writings and quotations, and the manner the broad Indian masses imbibed them.

‘Indian Monthly Liberation sums up the Experiences of armed struggle in Mushahari .’

In Mushahari, with consciousness elevating to a great height, with peasants armed to seize crops on the land forcibly occupied by landlords. and delivering a blow to the police force. In 12 villages around 10000 people turned a spark into a Prairie fire. In April of 1968 peasants in Gangapur, forcibly harvested the standing crops from the landlord’s broad, daylight, forcing the landlords to retreat. On August 15th 1968, an armed guerrilla procession was staged mobilising several thousand peasants. A significant lesson learnt here was that it was imperative to use traditional firearms, and not excessively depend on firearm, which was policy advocated by Chairman Mao, It also procured link between economic and political struggle ,destroying myth of peasant backwardness, and proving their potential in liquidating feudal authority. However the report did not point out how guerrilla actions were not backed with land distribution movements or genuine people’s organisations were not created.

‘Report on Armed Peasant struggle in Debra’ projected the important turn which was given to the peasant movement. It illustrated how poor peasants made the police have their hearts in their mouth, with a 1000 strong armed demonstration of armed peasants. staging an attack on a notorious jotedar,Kanal Kulti,seizing his gun ,confiscating his stock of hoarded rice and mortgaged articles., and destroyed his documents relating to land. However it failed to illustrate how an agrarian revolutionary movement was not undertaken to coordinate the guerrilla actions and it resorted to the deviationist line of “Annihilation of class enemies.”

In “Indian Armed Struggle Intensifies” it respected the heroism of the Srikakulam movement and summarised the mass preparations that were undertaken to launch the Srikakulam movement. The peasant guerrillas turned 300 villages into Red or base areas and 100 guerrilla squads. It reported how in Parthapata sub-division, 100 peasants launched an attack on a landlord’s house. It made the police so fear stricken, that they relented to come out. It projected how peasants staged many a heroic attack on police stations and landlord estates., with base areas established in 300 villages. It also reported the actions in Terai ,Muzzafarpur,Gunpur in Koraput district,Lakhimpur in Uttar Pradesh and districts of Punjab  and Kerala.

However it failed to highlight how agrarian revolutionary movement base was not created to supplement the guerrilla squads, thus actions were not backed or coordinated with mass movements.’

Weaknesses in Articles of Chinese Press

It expressed a limitation or sectarian approach through not gauging the roots of left adventurism simmering in the course of the movement. Mass line was vitiated with one sided emphasis on armed struggle, giving scant emphasis to mass movements. Did not project the shortcomings of the path practiced by Charu Mazumdar, which negated agrarian revolution and the left sectarian nature of certain slogans. It also failed to curb the eulogising of the CCP and Chairman Mao by the Indian party. Failed  to detect how after 1969 the C.P.I. (M.L) although fiercely waging a a battle confronting the state, diverted from the essence of the mass line of protracted peoples war and embarked on line of ‘Individual annihilation of class enemies ‘ .It also disbanded mass organisations and mass movements, hailing China’s chairman as India’s Chairman,” and “China’s party as India’s.”.It made no criticism of the manner comrades like T.Nagi Reddy-DV Rao were expelled from the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries..The evaluation that the party had reached the stage of seizing political power was erroneous.

Chinese Press did not assert how the Indian revolutionaries should not blindly trail the Chinese path or imitate the CPC and follow a road that is distinct for the Indian Revolution. It should have projected how India had a more developed parliamentary democracy than China ever had, with a well entrenched multi party system. Powerful tendency to gauge everything from the eyes of the Chinese experience.

Killings of policeman are reported ad some land seizures, but not sustained agrarian revolutionary struggles. Over emphasis was placed on peasant guerrilla activities and not on how mass line was implemented. No doubt they do adequate justice to the tempo crystallising or spark of rebellion. Still they failed to illustrate how it differentiated with the actual practice entailed in the Chinese Revolution.

’Hail the Naxalbari Road of Struggle,’ ‘C.P.I (M.L) leads Indian people onward along victorious path of seizure by armed force ‘Peasant armed struggle led by C.P.I. (ML) develops steadily’, and ‘Intensified Suppression by Reactionary Indian Government Can only increase Peoples Resistance’ were examples of the Chinese Press blindly glorifying the line and practice of Charu Mazumdar, which negated massline and manifesting individual heroism.’ Emphasis in these articles was mainly placed on building peasant guerrilla units, in undertaking political propaganda work .These were not based on the mobilisation of the masses. “Resolutely take the path of Peoples War pointed out by Chairman Mao” blind support was given to journal ‘Liberation’ support of Peoples War ,without assessing subjective factors prevailing. Emphasis was only given on the gun and not mass movement.

It is shortcoming of the author that he fails to project the important errors of Charu Mazumdar, the silence of the CPC,and how the Indian revolution had to carve out a path of it’s own.

The CPC failed to highlight the zig zag nature of the Indian revolution, with tactics varying in accordance to specifities of regions and ‘Boycott of Election’, not a strategic path. I also Advocate that author Aloke Mukherjee should have highlighted that the Chinese path should not be mechanically imitated, which was glaring weakness of the C.P.I. (M.L) and the CCP.He failed to reflect  the essence of the mass line of TN Reddy-DV Rao,and the incorrectness or pre mature conditions for forming the C.P.I.(M.L) in 1969.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has undertaken extensive research on Naxalbari and Indian Communist Movement.

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