PART-3 : INTROSPECTION
The major reason for the setback were some errors in the movement, specifically in the realm of tactics. Repression, brutality, inhuman torture, etc are second nature to the capitalists. These ‘gentlemen’ are fine and courteous as long as their interests are not threatened; but touch one paisa of their ill-begotten wealth and they turn into poisonous vipers, ruthless executioners, inhuman demons, spouting death and destruction on their path to glory. It is the class struggle that brings forth their real nature and any revolutionary or revolutionary movement must be equipped to face it. The tragedy of the liberals is that they are unaware of this reality, while the revisionists seek to hide it. The bourgeoisie is not threatened by the liberals or the revisionists, who strain every nerve to look ‘respectable’ (to the bourgeoisie), and so the rulers can afford to be ‘civil’, ‘decent’, ‘rational’ in their dealings with the liberals, revisionists and their like. Some confuse this ‘decency’ for the gory reality. The politics of Naxalbari threatened them, and they came out in their true colours, discarding all refinement, shedding all democratic pretensions, discarding all ‘decency’, with a ruthlessness that would make even Hitler ecstatic.
After the setback in 1972 there has been much introspection. Specifically the COC units tried to grapple with the problems of revolution in India in the light of this latest experience. In doing so various assessments came forward one of which was the self-critical review put forward by the Andhra comrades led then by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah.
A self-critical review
Success or defeat in revolution is, first and foremost, governed by the political line of the party that is leading the revolution. If the line is in conformity with the laws of development of society and revolution, then the movement will go towards victory. But if the line is not in conformity with these laws it will be defeated. The CPI (ML), unlike the CPI and CPM, correctly understood the laws of development of India society, when they characterised it as semi-feudal, semi-colonial and the stage of revolution as New Democratic. The CPI (ML) also grasped the fundamental law of revolution i.e., the need for revolutionary violence to change the system. Marx and Engels had shown that all hitherto existing social systems had not passed away peacefully but through violent class struggles. The very bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries had come to power through a violent overthrow of the feudal order. Marx’s famous quote that "Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with the new" was thrown to the winds by the CPI and CPM. The CPI (ML) not only restored this Marxist law of revolution, they went about implementing it. And in doing so, certain errors arose in the methods adopted.
Being equipped with the general laws of revolution is not sufficient; there must also be a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, a class understanding of friends and enemies, an assessment of the changing class alignment of forces at any given moment and the methods required to build the revolutionary forces to face the enemy. Errors in any of these spheres can also lead to reverses. And it is here that some errors were made.
These errors were best summed up in the CPI (ML) (People’s war) document entitled "Summing up the past let us advance victoriously along the path of armed struggle." This document listed first the positive aspects of the CPI (ML), then the shortcomings and finally drew lessons on the basis on which to advance. This contrasted sharply with numerous other critiques from erstwhile leaders of the CPI (ML) like SNS, Kanu Sanyal, Ashim Chatterjee, etc who merely sought to throw blame on CM and escape into the revisionist camp. Of course, genuine criticism was raised earlier, particularly by Sushital Roy Chowdhary in late 1970, but he was the lone voice in the leadership then. Unfortunately, a few months later, he died of a heart attack. Though belatedly, Com. CM himself initiated the process of rectifying the errors as could be seen in his article "People’s interest is party’s interest" written in May 1972, two months prior to his martyrdom.
While clearly stating that the positive aspects were primary the CPI (ML) PW document outlined the main shortcomings as :
(i) An incorrect understanding of the era : The document stated that the party wrongly estimated that the character of the era had changed and on that basis had called for continuous attacks, without a thought to the relative strength of the revolutionary forces and that of the enemy. The document added that : "what should have been done instead, is to base (tactics) on a concrete assessment of the relative strength and weaknesses of the opposing sides of the contradiction, in a revolution."
(ii) A wrong estimation of the International and National Situation: The document stated that the Eighth Party Congress report had looked upon US intervention in Kampuchea as the beginning of World War III. It also said that the party had wrongly estimated the situation in the country and therefore called on the people to start armed struggle everywhere. The document added that in India there is uneven economic development, and the levels of political consciousness and social and cultural development vary, this, it added, has to be borne in mind, while formulating the tactics of struggle.
(iii) A disregard for the subjective factor : There was no proper estimate of the strength of the revolutionary forces vis-a-vis that of the enemy. There was a tendency to get carried away by the immediate success of the struggles.
(iv) Giving immature slogans : The over assessment of the objective factors of revolution led to many immature slogans and calls.
(v) The Line of Annihilation : The document succinctly analysed this point saying : "All forms of struggle are subordinate to, and are guided by the concrete political line. If the concrete political line deviates from the mass line, the forms of struggle cannot but be otherwise..... So in order to negate the line of annihilation, we have to negate the wrong ideology which is alien to Marxism and its consequential political and organisational manifestations..... The problem is not whether the class enemy will be annihilated or not ..... Rather the problem is, whether the party should adopt the mass line or not .... Every Marxist-Leninist Party must propagate revolutionary violence which may express itself in various forms of struggle; one of which may be annihilation of class enemies." The party had earlier asserted that the annihilation of landlords was the only means of arousing the landless and poor peasants. This document put the question in correct perspective.
(vi) The rejection of other forms of struggle and organisation : Until then the party negated all mass organisations and all other forms of struggle, thereby isolating the party from the masses which made comrades easier targets for the enemy. As the document pointed out "In order to combat the long-standing revisionist practice of conducting mass struggles on the lines of economism and adopting legal and open forms of organisation as the only form of organisation, our party arrived at a one-sided and wrong formulation that the armed form of struggle is the only form of struggle and armed form of organisation the only form of organisation."
(vii) A wrong approach to the United Front : The document in its assessment of the earlier position said, "The United Front will be formed in the course of struggle only.... to work for it right from the inception of the struggle is the bounden duty of the working class. To say instead, that it will not be possible to form a United Front until one or a few liberated base areas are established....amounts to rejecting in practice the truth, that a United Front is essential for the victory of revolution."
(viii) Guerilla struggles in the cities : The document said that it was wrong to have started urban guerilla warfare in Calcutta... leading to enormous losses.
(ix) Wrong bureaucratic tendencies in Organisation : The document explained that - bureaucratic methods, a lack of self-criticism, a lack of committee functioning, sectarian methods of solving differences, and finally the assertion of Com. CM’s individual authority above the Party.... did much to damage the movement. The document also added that this was a major reason why the party could not correct errors in time.
These then were the major errors of the movement and it is on the basis of a rectification done with this analysis, that the CPI (ML) (PW) has carried forward the heritage of Naxalbari, the basic line of the Eighth Congress and created the primary forms of the guerilla zone.
The importance of Mao Zedong Thought
Remoulding of the existing petti-bourgeois outlook to a proletarian outlook is a continuous struggle. The pace of the incipient revolutionary movement outstripped the pace of development of proletarian ideology. Besides, non-proletarian traits acquired through long association with the revisionists added to the havoc and splintering of the movement. The lack of a self-critical approach allowed some ‘leaders’ to swing from one view to exactly an opposite view without so much as a attempting to analyse why the earlier view was wrong. Such political and ideological semantics abounded in the post-1972 period. Together with this individualism, personality-based groupism, a small circle mentality etc., added to the proliferation of groups-each one, of course, claiming they alone were right. Mao no doubt has written against all this, but it is one thing to accept Mao theoretically, quite another to imbibe his teaching in practice.
Mao had once said "A communist must never be opinionated or domineering, thinking that he is good in everything while others are good in nothing; he must never shut himself up in his little room, or brag and boast and lord it over others." Sectarianism was deep-rooted at that time, highly opinionated views existed, intolerance of another view-point, an unwillingness to learn from others, not even from practice and reality......all this added to the fissures and divisions, and also retarded, or atleast, delayed, the ability to learn from one’s own experience.
In 1972 itself the AP State Committee had presented a short self-critical assessment, though this was accepted by Com. CM shortly before his arrest and martyrdom, it was not able to gain acceptance. These views, presented in a well elaborated form to the then COC in 1975 was not even able to rally the other units, even though the COC contained many of the best elements from amongst the CPI (ML). Even if this was not accepted no other view could find a common agreement. With the result, the first COC literally withered away in 1977.
Mao Zedong Thought is the development of Marxism-Leninism and an essential weapon for the proletarian movement. It gives the ideological basis for fighting all forms of deviations and the most powerful weapon in combating revisionism particularly modern revisionism. Today, when the international communist movement has faced a setback and even the mighty CPC has turned revisionist, the danger of revisionism lurking in the background is ever-present. The struggle against imperialism and feudalism is impossible without a struggle against revisionism.....and for that, Maoist ideology, politics and military science are absolutely fundamental.