The Emerging Politics of the People's War Group
Negotiating with the State and Waging War on Revolution
The air is thick with reports of negotiations between the Congress government of Andhra Pradesh and the People's War Group. While elections are still an official anathema to the boycottist PWG, negotiations with the state are turning out to be quite a standard fare in its repertoire. This is the third time the group is traversing the negotiation road in Andhra Pradesh. It had its first foray into the world of parleys with the state at the time of Chenna Reddy government in the early 1990s and then it had another go more recently with the now routed Chandrababu Naidu government.
This time around, the talks are evoking greater interest in the media and in political circles because both the state and the PWG appear to be more ‘serious' about the whole thing. The ban on the PWG has not been extended in Andhra. The PWG has named a panel of negotiators. And it has also made use of the new situation to organise a series of open rallies in different parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Successful Bihar Bandh on 23 August
Paliganj RJD MLA's PWG Links Revealed
On 23 August, as thousands of CPI(ML) activists and leaders were arrested in course of a highly successful Bihar Bandh, police conducted a raid on RJD MLA Dinanath Yadav's house in Paliganj. The raid, clearly conducted under pressure from the state-wide protests, resulted in the arrests of 5 notorious criminals from Yadav's house, including identified RJD and PWG men.
On the day of the Bandh, prominent leaders were arrested, including CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, PB Member Comrade Ramnaresh Ram, and CCMs Comrade Ramjatan Sharma and Rameshwar Prasad. They were released in the evening. Several activists have, however not been released as yet.
In an attempt at damage control, the Bihar Govt. has transferred the Paliganj Thana Incharge, and RJD has expelled Dinanath Yadav for 6 years. The CPI(ML) has demanded a CBI Enquiry into the whole incident.
The Bandh was supported by other Left parties as well as Samajwadi Party in Bihar . In support of the Bandh, protests were held in several parts of the country, including a 500-strong dharna in Rayagada, Orissa, as well as others in Kakinada and Delhi .
It was well-known and widely reported in Andhra Pradesh that the PWG played a very active role in ensuring the recent electoral victory of the YSR government. True, behind the veil of the election boycott slogan it has always been a standard PWG practice in Andhra to extend indirect support to the TDP against the Congress or the Congress against the TDP. But this time around, the whole thing happened in ways that were quite open and definite. In many ways the Congress(I)'s electoral alliance with the TRS and CPI and CPI(M) extended right up to the PWG. The talks mark a continuation or crystallisation of this arrangement.
There are also widespread reports that the PWG is rethinking its approach to the question of participation in elections. In an interview published in a Hindi daily during the last Lok Sabha elections, the PWG's Bihar secretary hinted as much when he said that mere participation in elections does not make a communist party revisionist. We can also hear the echoes such theoretical ‘revisions' are having in practice. In May 2001, some PWG/MCC supported persons contested the panchayat elections in Bihar and in the last Lok Sabha elections a former MCC area commander contested as an independent candidate from Jharkhand's Chatra constituency.
Interestingly, the PWG offered to negotiate not only with the AP government but with a whole range of other state governments including the BJP-ruled government in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand, the BJD-BJP regime in Orissa and the CPI(M)-led Left Front government of West Bengal . It is another matter that some of these state governments have not reciprocated equally eagerly. PWG watchers have reasons to believe that the PWG's eagerness to negotiate with the state indicates more a situation of political desperation than of military strength. If the talks are not so much mandated by military reality as prompted by political design, how are we then to understand this politics?
As far as the state is concerned, it is not difficult to understand the carrot and sticks combination that the state often employs to deal with insurgencies. One can call it the politics of ‘coercion with a human face'. But how to assess the politics from the PWG's perspective? What does the PWG really want to achieve through these talks, especially when it seeks to negotiate with a whole spectrum of governments? What are we to make of the PWG's alacrity to win the ‘official Naxalite' status for itself? If you thought that you would find some honest and bold answers to this question in the PWG's literature, you could not however be mistaken. The keenness of the pragmatic PWG leadership to talk to the state is only matched by its refusal to discuss these all-important questions with their own ranks or for that matter with their well-wishers in the intelligentsia.
Ironically, the deeper the PWG delves into the domain of deals with parties like the Congress/TRS/RJD and talks with the state, the more its reports to spreading malicious lies and slanders about our Party and killing of our comrades. Probably it seems to believe that this is the best way to divert attention from its own pragmatic dealings with the state and with bourgeois parties. Maybe the PWG is also under pressure to draw new lines of demarcation vis-a-vis our Party now that its exclusive model of armed struggle has run into crisis and it has to attempt some combination of armed and mass activities.
In a recent article about our Party, A PWG ideologue has laboured hard to discover in out history the story of ‘metamorphosis of a Marxist-Leninist organisation (that) ... heralded a robust resurgence of basically Dalit poor peasant based militant armed struggle against the upper-caste landlords of Bhojpur, Patna and some districts of central Bihar'. Elsewhere, another PWG ideologue has also referred quite approvingly to our experience of formation of the Indian People's Front. It is quite amazing, and also amusing, to receive such belated recognition from our PWG comrades in as diverse fields as armed struggle and mass political articulation and assertion. Well, the PWG can belatedly and separately recognize some specific aspects of our history or practice, but it is incapable of understanding the dialectical interconnection and combination of these different aspects into a single revolutionary and historical entity.
Nearly two decades ago when we introduced the tactical orientation of unity and struggle with a whole range of Left forces within the framework of a broad-based Left confederation, the PWG had started bracketing us with the CPIM). But in all these years it has still not been able to effectively equate us with the CPI or CPI(M). Out of sheer exasperation, the PWG ideologue therefore conjures up this funny formulation: “The Liberation group has to declare openly and unambiguously that the Naxalbari uprising was Left adventurism and breaking away from the CPI(M) and the formation of the CPI(ML) were misadventures engineered by anarchists Charu Mazumdar and other leaders.”
Where on earth did they find this ‘open and unambiguous' declaration? They cannot cite a single sentence anywhere in our literature to this effect, precisely because we have all along rejected this liquidationist, right opportunist view with the contempt it deserves. We understand that the PWG would wish us to make such a declaration, but its wish will never come true. Or is it a fiat the PWG would want us to obey at gunpoint? Either way, the PWG knows it very well that we are not here to abide by its wishes or diktats.
Before talking about the CPI(ML), let the PWG explain the basis of its proposed merger with the MCC, a group which has never been part of the CPI(ML) and which all along remained opposed to the formation of CPI(ML) in the name of so-called ‘Maoism'. No amount of reinterpreting the CPI(ML) history as a ‘Maoist narrative' can obfuscate this basic fact of historical difference between the CPI(ML) and MCC or between Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought as upheld and applied by the CPI(ML) and the so-called ‘Maoism' practised by the MCC.
Here is another canard imagined and manufactured by the PWG ideologue: “The metamorphosis not only receives blessings from the CPI(M) like revisionist parties but also from the state and various state governments.” The reality, which is well known, widely documented and thoroughly verifiable, is that it is our Party that has been consistently confronting the CPI(M)-led Left Front government of West Bengal fom the standpoint of a principled Left opposition. And as far as the CPI(M)'s programme, tactical line and political conduct are concerned, everybody knows that we have a running political-ideological battle with the CPI(M) The entire contention between our quest for a Left confederation and CPI(M)'s practice of ‘Left Front' revolves around this basic struggle between the revolutionary and opportunist streams of the Left movement in India.
As for the PWG's allegation of the ‘metamorphosis' receiving blessings from various state governments, anybody who is aware of the political reality and who reads the newspapers in Bihar and Jharkhand knows how utterly untrue it is. Ever since we have been contesting elections in Bihar , we have only been greeted with a relentless campaign of the state-sponsored violence and victimization. Our activists and supporters are being systematically harassed, threatened and persecuted by feudal forces, mafia gangs and police and paramilitary personnel. Interestingly, the standard refrain of the state is: either follow the parliamentary path like the CPI or CPI(M) or quit the electoral arena like the PWG and MCC.
Where does the PWG stand in this scheme of things? We cannot of course deny it the liberty to view the massacres, martyrdoms, arrests and TADA sentences that we have been routinely facing in Bihar and Jharkhand as the ‘blessings' of the state. But the PWG's role does not stop here, there are any number of examples of active anti-CPI(ML) connivance between feudal forces and the PWG or the ruling parties and the PWG. The Paliganj incident only exposed the depths of degeneration the PWG can plumb in running its campaign of counter-revolutionary violence against our Party. In certain parts of rural Patna , notorious Bhoomi Sena elements have regrouped under the banner of the PWG. In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the PWG and MCC violated their own declared election policy to unleash a concentrated campaign against our Party in Jahanabad, Aurangabad and Arrah constituencies, destroying our election offices and campaign vehicles, attacking and killing our activists and capturing booths for the Congress and RJD while preventing our voters from exercising their voting right.
It is not surprising that behind revolutionary anti-system phrases, the PWG is actually involved in such unprincipled and pragmatic relations with the governments and parties that are really managing the system. Indeed, anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists have historically been incapable of dealing with concrete situations in a revolutionary way; when confronted with concrete situations in the concrete world of class politics they always tend to become rudderless. In India , the PWG exemplifies the classic impotence of the anarchists. With all its anti-system rhetoric the PWG has been incapable of putting up any effective resistance to the political hegemony exercised by the ruling classes through their representative political parties. Backing the Congress against TDP or the TDP against the Congress and thus getting used by the very system to reinforce its political hegemony has become a sort of political destiny with the PWG even in Andhra Pradesh which is its strongest citadel.
Because of its inability to grasp the concrete relations between the state-system and governments and political parties, it is no wonder that the PWG cannot understand our politics of differentiating between situations to intensify the anti-system assertion of the people. It cannot understand why we differentiate between the Left parties in general and the right; why we demarcate the non-BJP, non-Congress parties from the BJP and the Congress; why we differentiate between ruling and opposition parties and within the opposition, between Left and non-Left forces; and least of all why, retaining our complete political independence and identity, we attempted a temporary and very specific adjustment with the Samata Party when it first broke ranks with Laloo Prasad's Party and government in Bihar and had not yet tied up with the BJP.
But does it mean that the PWG can have the luxury of wishing away the real and concrete world of political parties and operating in a pure and abstract world where a system can be smashed without defeating its politics? Certainly not. And what does the PWG then do when confronted with the real world of political parties and their policies and pretensions, slogans and tactics? The answer is: it often makes the wrong choices and adopts unprincipled positions. For the PWG, abusing the CPI(ML) for its alleged ‘revisionism' always goes hand in hand with the act of sowing illusions about and pursuing preferential ties with a whole range of bourgeois parties.
Only the other day, addressing a people's assembly in Patna against the use of TADA to suppress the rural poor's movement in Bihar, an open leader of the PWG mentioned a meeting they had with Sonia Gandhi in connection with a proposed national campaign against POTA and then added on a complaining note how Sonia Gandhi and the Congress had refused to accept their call for a joint national campaign against black laws! This is what happens when you are unwilling or unable to make a concrete class analysis of political parties and devise your own tactics on that basis. The PWG may question our attempt to have a temporary and partial adjustment with an opposition party (the Samata Party, for example) but that cannot hide, let alone justify, its own continued hobnobbing with the ruling RJD.
The PWG only exposes its own political bankruptcy when it tries to rubbish our revolutionary history, political line and conduct with the help of lies and slanders. The PWG leadership cannot stomach the fact that a revolutionary organisation would systematically and concretely expose its anarchist follies. Unable to respond in the spirit of political polemics, they resort to conspiracy theories and vilification of CPI(ML) leaders. We do not mind that, for we understand the PWG's line and also the political implication of its activities. The demarcation between Marxism and anarchism does not stop us from condemning and opposing every instance of state repression unleashed on PWG leaders, activists and supporters. When the PWG started the practice of launching some open platforms we took positive note of that and acknowledged the possibility of having issue-based cooperation with such fora.
Many well-meaning friends of the Left movement in general and revolutionary movement in particular often wonder why we cannot have a dialogue with the PWG. We know that the same question is being posed to PWG as well. May we request these friends to first take a closer look at the counter revolutionary violence being practiced by the PWG in Bihar and also in Jharkhand. After the recent attack on our Paliganj office and the dastardly killing of five of our leading comrades, doubts have been expressed by some friends as to whether it has really been done by the PWG. Well if the Paliganj attack has been a pseudo-PWG job, what prevents the real PWG from speaking up and squarely condemning it? Instead, PWG committees in Bihar are justifying Paliganj and threatening to carry out more such attacks!
As revolutionary Marxists, we are not surprised to see the open and unambiguous counter-revolutionary turn the PWG is taking in Bihar . The counter-revolutionary potential of anarchism manifests itself in all its ugliness when it stands in contrast to and is used against a powerful revolutionary movement and organisation. We value polemics and dialogue and even possible cooperation with the whole range of Left and democratic organisations and ideas that differ from us. But can we be expected to condone counter-revolutionary violence as an acceptable form of ‘polemics' or ‘dialogue'? Before PWG ideologues talk about Liberation's ‘metamorphosis' and ‘betrayal', should they not be asked to look at their own continuing counter-revolutionary degeneration in Bihar?