Is Communism Dead? – The Maoist Insurgency in India (Part 2)



In the first part of this article did I introduce the Communist ideology as well as the background of the Naxalites, also called Indian Maoists. I will elaborate in my further line of argumentation and my final conclusion what the significance of this movement is regarding the future of Maoism, but also what the outlook for the Communist idea in India could be.

As I mentioned in the first part of my article, the Maoist rebels claim that India today is a “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” country. However, I suppose that point of view is wrong. India finds itself rather in a state of transformation 2 where current nuisances create major tensions. However, I would rather look at the greater picture: India still has to find its way to overcome the caste system and reliance on foreign capital investments to develop. In the red corridor the region cannot overcome the old issues because positive development through education and economic development is prevented or even cut-back.

To put this in a nutshell, I believe that the armed agrarian revolution a-la Mao cannot work in the Red Corridor, most strikingly, because the region is not dominantly agrarian. Furthermore does the Communist idea not entail pluralism, yet this is exactly what the tribesmen need and aspire. I must assume that they are also not primarily attracted by the Communist idea of shared property and unconditional equality, but try to escape their low social position and their legal status. They want their rights. However, the fact that the constitution grants them all this, shows that it is not a systematic issue. I handpicked a documentation video from youtube, wich subtly points out how and why I think the Indian radical Naxalites are not necessarily Communists.

The only time the documented rebels mention Communism is when one of the leaders lists the communist figureheads; Lenin, Engels, Mao and Stalin. The rebels seem not to be immersed in thoughts of class struggle; instead, their cause is to “fight corruption and injustice”. It becomes vividly clear that the rise of the Maoists is caused by the failure of the Indian state to supply rights to the people – rebellion is their only and most effective way to demonstrate. In fact I would even assume that real Communism is not possible in these regions because they are not industrialized.

Naxalites are extremists. They may have a well founded radical program that is based on Maoist radical warfare ideas, but in reality most of them are illiterate and have never even read the works of Mao or Lenin.

What should be done about them? The current approach of the Indian government towards the Maoist resurgence entails the excavation of a 10.000-strong special force called Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra). Earlier attempts to fight Maoists lead to vast and atrocious crimes like rapes, lootings and civilian deaths in whole areas. The Cobra striking force is supposed to attack in a surgical manner. One further new development of approach is to centralize forces. The federal system had before prevented a national striking force that can be active in all 15 states. 3  The forces have so far not been as successful as the government hoped. Even from the beginning of their deployment in 2009, also called Operation Green Hunt, the Maoists have turned out to be more flexible and responsive. 4 Fighting fire with fire will not help in this case. Ss it seems to me, is to increase dialogue and closer approach to moderate elements in the movement firstly. One of the Maoist divisions has recently decided to abandon armed struggle. Noor Zulfikar, Member, Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) explains:

“The need of the hour is not armed struggle, but a broad, democratic and open mass movement and a united front of various people’s struggles. For this, we have to work in the democratic and legal framework.” 5

The third and most effective approach, however will be to deliver immediate results to the population within the Red Corridor. A group of experts set up by the Indian government pointed at the “social, political, economic and cultural discrimination” of Adivasis, who then became Maoist supporters. 6

The government should therefore increase economic, infrastructure and educational development in the area. I would suggest the Indian government starts off by paying compensation to the Adivasi people whose land has been seized decades ago. The government should also demand a symbolic share being paid by the wealthy Indian families that had been profiting from the land seizures. Another major source of success in fighting the rural support of the movement could be to create secure zones in the Red Corridor. 7 These secure zones could then be expanded. Looking at the Maoist strategy steps above, that would be as if the government fights the Maoists with their own tactics.

8 What about the “real” Communists? Communist Party of India (Marxists) has their power base in West Bengal. Naxalite and the CPI(M) separated long ago in the 1970s. Yet, in contrast to the Naxalite radicals, the CPI(M) held its stance and consecutively headed the government in West Bengal from 1977 to May 2011. According to their page, they had 1.044833 party members in 2011 9. It also states there that they are in deep ideological disparity – they claim the Naxalite movement features an “implacable hatred” towards them 10. In fact, when it comes to names it is very hard to differentiate the Communist movements in India.   On their website, they made a thoroughly antidemocratic impression, proclaiming the “establishment of the state of dictatorship of the proletariat.” They also did not refer to Mao at all. As I elaborated earlier, a Marxist party may own enough political profoundness to succeed politically – just in contrast to a Maoist movement. However, concerning their current state things seem unfortunate;  Professor Sugata Bose of Harvard University mentioned in a recent interview 11 that the CPI(M) has “completely deviated from its ideas and ideology”. He furthermore claims they are “practically leaderless”. The reason why Maoists have been gaining greater support recently has many causes; issues of its parliamentary pendant are surely one of them.

The findings of my article entail that, on paper, the Maoist movement in India really is based to the Maoist idea – but what they perceive as Maoism or Communism is in fact only their urge for justice and equality. Their vast support, that is the sympathy of the Adivasi, is created through poor execution of the Indian constitution and the lack of education in the area. The nature of the Indian economy furthermore forbids a revolutionary development as it has been happening in China in the first half of the 19th century. Some Maoists acknowledge that, they are in fact seeking a third way 12 – yet a third way would mean that they are no Maoists at all. Therefore I must conclude that Maoism, even though it might have been shortly resurrected in India in some earlier stages, cannot prevail.

However, I reckon that the original Marxist idea will come up in a later stage of the Indian development. The grounds for it are urbanization and industrialization, partnering with increased self-consciousness of the lower classes and high inequality. The CPI(M) is actively participating in the government and they even had 15% of the total seats in the last election. If they are able to regroup under a new figurehead and focus, they could open new doors, expand their voting base and gain greater control over government decisions.

Mao is dead –  so is Maoism. But whereas the same goes for Karl Marx, Marxism is not.

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