Remembering May 25, Naxalbari Day


The Naxalbari peasant uprising, “the Spring Thunder”, reasserted the focus on the agrarian revolution; brought to the fore the tremendous potential of the rural labour and the poor peasant not only as a force of revolutionary peasant uprising but also as a core force of revolutionary power. The movement which spread like “a prairie fire” throughout the country has passed through many ups and downs since then. And, today, we are again on the verge of a new spate of peasant movements.

Side by side with the counter-revolutionary onslaught, the ruling classes experimented with ‘Green Revolution’, ‘White Revolution’ and a host of measures dictated and sponsored by the troika of IMF-World Bank-WTO. In the name of globalisation, imperialism has unleashed an unprecedented campaign to penetrate every single village: “Har gaon aaj mutthi mein” (Every village is within our grip). This has facilitated and strengthened a wider nexus of feudal-kulak-moneylender-contractor-smuggler-mafia forces with its vicious grip over power.

Agriculture and the overwhelming majority of the agrarian population have on the other hand been pushed into a state of serious and chronic crisis. Drawn into a vicious debt-trap, kisans (peasantry), the much-publicised “pride of the nation,” are condemned to such unbearable circumstances that unable to find any way out of their problems many have started committing suicides. The agricultural and rural labour, the largest contingent of the working class and comprising the largest segment of the weaker sections of our society – dalits, adivasis, most backward castes, national and religious minorities as well as women – who are not even recognised as workers but produce for the whole nation and feed the entire population, are condemned to hunger and consequently easy victims of starvation deaths.

This certainly is not the whole story. Amidst mounting anger and agitations, the crisis-ridden peasantry and the oppressed rural poor are taking their own course. Already this has resulted in the defeat of the BJP-led NDA in the centre and the governments of Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh, Chautala in Haryana and Lalu Prasad in Bihar . The new incumbents, the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre and the Rajsekhar Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh, both of which have just completed their first year in office, have however carried on with the same policies and same attitude of criminal neglect and indifference to the plight of the peasantry and the rural poor. The agrarian and rural scene thus remains volatile and pregnant with possibilities of a renewed rural rebellion or backlash. And the Naxalbari Day 2005 therefore acquires added significance for us, the revolutionary left – we must seize the moment and lead the movement with all our might.

In 1967, the CPI(M) was a fresher in the business of running governments. Yet when it came to choosing side and demonstrating its priority, the CPI(M) rulers revealed themselves quite honestly by unleashing the state’s bullet power against the Naxalbari peasant uprising. During all these years, they have become matured enough to bargain and share power with the Congress in the centre, if only somewhat indirectly and from ‘outside’. The power-sharers cannot be expected to reorient their priorities and provide any new impetus or momentum to the task of organising the rural poor and carrying the peasant movement to a new height.

Even the newly formed conglomeration of anti-Charu Mazumdar and pro-Charu Mazumdar ML and anti-ML groups, the self-styled ‘Maoists’, cannot be expected to respond positively to the challenge of unleashing a new peasant resistance to the prevailing agrarian crisis. They too are by now well versed in the ‘business of governance’, sharing and bargaining with the powers that be, of course, in their own fashion! Everybody knows that their post-election bargain with the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh was merely a sequel to the pre-election ‘negotiations’. In Jharkhand the Ramesh Singh Munda episode (disclosures that this minister in Arjun Munda government had paid hefty sums to the MCC to manage the poll and ensure his victory) no longer surprises anybody – it is an open secret that the ‘Maoists’ guns’ roared for many others as well.

In Bihar too, it is well known that the ‘Maoists’ have been working as a military-political appendage to the RJD. Bihar cannot forget the numerous instances in which ‘Maoist’ squads carried out systematic physical elimination of popular grass-root leaders, fighters of the anti-feudal agrarian movement and poor people’s elected representatives in the panchayat and local bodies, including the ghastly massacre in Party’s Paliganj (Patna) office in open collaboration with the then local RJD MLA Deenanath Yadav. More recently, when the rural poor resisted the post-election onslaught unleashed by RJD goons in Bhojpur and three henchmen of the notorious and defeated RJD MLA from Sandesh Bijendra Yadav were killed in the process, the ‘Maoists’ who are an unknown breed in Bhojpur, vowed to avenge the killing of these henchmen. There are indeed any number of cases of feudal-kulaks and their henchmen, who had been targets of struggles for land, wages and social dignity, turning overnight into patrons or even ‘squad members’ of MCC/PWG (now ‘Maoists’). It is this systematic and organic collusion between the PWG/MCC and the ruling RJD which has led to the popular perception: “RJD in daytime and ‘Maoist’ in the darkness of night!”

To return to the agrarian scene, where do the ‘Maoists’ stand? In real life, it appears that, perhaps, for the ‘Maoists’ agrarian revolution is over, at least in the areas they operate! And, the primary task left to the ‘Maoist’ gun-power is to demand and secure a lucrative share (‘levy’ – as they call it) particularly from the most reactionary classes of neo-rich who indulge in loot and plunder of public money, resources and wealth by brutal exploitation of labour. Any attempt to rouse, mobilise and organise the agricultural and rural labour and poor peasantry in those areas meets with obvious threats from the ‘Maoist’ gun-power. These are plain truths known to every person familiar with the ground reality in their areas of domination and operation, and deserve no polemics, as correctly observed by one of their ideologues Dr. Gupta in the May 2005 issue (Vol. 6 No. 5) of their organ. True, there is not an iota of Maoism in the practice of our self-styled Maoists as they are today; the circuit of betrayal to “Naxalbari” is complete.

So, it is for us, the revolutionary left, who have to carry forward the legacy of Naxalbari and devote ourselves fully, redouble our efforts in organising the agricultural and rural labour as well as the small peasantry in the new context of land, labour and power relations. The main thrust of our propaganda and agitations is to expose the fact that the present agrarian crisis reveals the failure and cumulative effect of the agrarian policies pursued by the Indian rulers so far. And, therefore, an alternative agrarian policy based on thoroughgoing land reforms and ensuring self-reliance and food security and protection of Indian agriculture from the devastating trap laid by the WTO, is the urgent need of the hour. The widespread disillusionment, dissatisfaction and anger of the toiling rural masses including a sizeable section of the middle peasantry is bound to pave the way for more and more militant agitations, however sporadic and spontaneous. Timely initiative and conscious efforts by the revolutionary communist party and its khet mazdoor and kisan wings can provide added momentum to such agitations, raise them to new heights and bring about a more determined awakening so that no government can get away with suicides and starvation deaths.

Party’s khet mazdoor and kisan wings organised an impressive Parliament March on 10 May, and are currently engaged in a massive membership campaign. This is essentially a mass political campaign to get in touch with, mobilise and organise the rural poor including those vast sections that remained hitherto unorganised or under the influence of this or that ruling party. Panchayat may be taken as basic unit for such campaign, with a call: “establish hegemony of the rural poor over the Panchayat”. Wherever possible, “Mazdoor-Kisan Panchayat” may be organised with a view to ensuring popular participation of vast sections of rural poor and unleashing their full agitational initiative and organisational mobilisation. All cadres and activists, including elected people’s representatives in the local bodies must devote themselves fully to the task of carrying forward this campaign. Propaganda teams and rural cultural troops can also play effective and valuable roles particularly in newer and complicated areas. In short, the campaign must be turned into a revolutionary festival of the rural poor, a prelude to a great revolutionary awakening of the agricultural labour and small peasantry.  

– Swadesh Bhattacharya