The recent spurt in murderous activities of the CPI (Maoist) and the publicity given to it by the bourgeois media has tended to relegate the CPI (M-L) Liberation into the background of the spectrum of petit bourgeois left adventurism better known as Naxalism. Their ideological, strategic and tactical positions remain rooted in 1967 when they first lit their supposed prairie fire at Naxalbari. Despite brief moments under the sun, they can never advance the cause of Indian revolution. Instead their role, in the ultimate analysis, helps the ruling classes and has nothing to do with the theory and practice of Com. Mao Zedong, great leader of the Chinese revolution.
It is also necessary to take up cudgels with the seemingly more rational face of Naxalism i.e. CPI (M-L) Liberation. This is a formation that seeks to simultaneously sail in two boats. It swears by Mao Zedong Thought and calls itself the true upholder of the legacy of Naxalbari. At the same time it repudiates the essence of the latter consisting of armed revolution through guerrilla squads undertaking individual annihilation, underestimation of the role of the working class and reliance on peasantry as the leading revolutionary force, boycott of elections and disdain for mass work and building mass organisations etc. It is this chameleon like ingenuity that provides CPI (M-L) Liberation with the ability to combine revolutionary posturing with the worst kind of opportunism and enhances its disruptive potential as a purveyor of petit bourgeois radicalism within the Left movement. The roots of this duality, in fact lie in its basic programmatic understanding. An examination of its Party Programme and other associated documents is therefore necessary to understand its ideology, politics and role.
STAND ON IDEOLOGICAL ISSUES
The CPI (M-L) Liberation has made some significant changes from the ideological formulations of classical Naxalism. In its international analysis, old style Naxalism began by first calling the Soviet Union as revisionist collaborating with U.S. imperialism. Later, in accordance with the disastrous Three Worlds Theory, advanced by the CPC, the Soviet Union was characterised as being social imperialist and the greatest enemy of the people. Concomitantly, US imperialism was described as a lesser danger than the Soviets! East European socialist regimes were dubbed as client states or colonies of the Soviet Union. All those who upheld the existence of the socialist camp were called agents of social imperialism. Such abuse was specially directed at the CPI (M).
The M-L Liberation abandoned the social imperialism thesis in its 4th Congress in 1988. It admitted that, ” ...we subscribed also to the view advanced by the CPC that the Soviet Union being the late-comer imperialist power was the chief source of a new world war; and therefore a broad based anti-Soviet front was necessary to be formed against it, which under certain circumstances, might accommodate the USA as well.” Further, the Pol-Org Report of their 4th Party Congress stated that, “It is one thing to condemn and oppose specific concepts and acts of the Soviet Union which go against the interests of the world people in general and hamper the growth of the left and democratic movement in our country in particular, but it is quite another to bracket the Soviet Union with imperialism and make it the principal target. This goes against reality, against the wishes of the Indian people and world people at large.”
Lack of Partisanship for Socialism
This belated acceptance of the existence of socialism in the Soviet Union was however not accompanied by any in depth analysis of the reasons underlying the earlier erroneous understanding and its impact on their strategic and tactical positions. Thus the M-L’s discourse on the Soviet Union continued to be marked by hostility towards it. They persisted in accusing Soviet Union of hegemonism i.e. of crushing the Czech uprising, invading Afghanistan and backing Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Writing in the March 1990 issue of Liberation, Vinod Mishra, their then General Secretary, asserted that, “The CPI (M-L) was the only Indian Communist Party which unequivocally condemned sending Soviet troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush a popular uprising, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Russian backed Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea.” The counter – revolutionary nature of the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968 and imperialism’s role in it are totally ignored. The CPI (M-L) would have preferred to see the April 1979 Saur Revolution in Afghanistan go down in blood at the hands of imperialism and local reaction. It also overlooks the facts about Kampuchea – the brutal genocide of lakhs of Kampucheans by the Pol Pot regime, the overt support to it by imperialism and the liberating role of the Vietnamese army. Similarly, it persisted in calling East European socialist states satellites of Soviet Union. The inference is that just as imperialism had colonies so too did the socialist Soviet Union. And if this is so then what is there to choose between the two?
This lack of partisanship for socialism and underestimation of the role of imperialism is also seen in their reaction to the Tiananmen Square events in 1989. Their Politbureau’s statement of June 8, 1989, regarding this started by stating that, “The CPI(M-L) expresses its deep concern over the events in China. As reports indicate, a large number of students and innocent citizens got killed in the army operation in Tiananmen Square. Such a tragedy in a socialist country is really unfortunate and we share the grief and shock expressed by progressive and democratic people the world over.” The same resolution opined that, “We hope that the CPC will now deeply analyse the root cause behind the popular movement for democracy and initiate necessary political reforms to satisfy peoples’ heightened aspirations for democracy.”
The M-L Liberation lapped up all that was broadcast by imperialist news agencies as facts regarding these incidents. What else can explain their refusal to recognise that those protesting at Tiananmen Square, “.. declared their aim was to organise armed forces, unite with various forces including the Kuomintang and Taiwan and they would risk their lives to oppose the Communist Party and the Government.” On June 3rd 1989, offices of the Beijing Municipal Government, Propaganda Department of the CPC Central Committee and the Ministry of Radio Film and Television were attacked. Simultaneously, counter-revolutionaries attacked army and police personnel and vehicles. Even initial estimates showed that, “..the rioters burnt 180 military vehicles, more than 40 armed carriers, more than 90 police cars, 80 buses and 50 other government vehicles. Nearly 100 soldiers and policemen died and thousands of policemen and soldiers were wounded. To meet this situation the PLA had to resort to action. In the clashes a total of 300 people died of which students constituted 36.” (‘On Developments in People’s China’ Resolution of CPI (M) Central Committee adopted at it meeting of July 15-17, 1989).
The CPI (M-L) Liberation’s position leaves no doubt about where they stood at the time of socialist China’s gravest moment of peril. Counter-revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the socialist state were provided the halo of innocence, their role was glorified as the “popular movement for democracy”, the crushing of counter revolution was dubbed as unfortunate and finally thereby the CPC and the socialist state were virtually put in the dock for defending the system to bring into being which millions of the best sons and daughters of the Chinese people had laid down their lives! So much for the M-L Liberation’s proletarian internationalism and defence of socialism against imperialist subversion!
The resolution of the CPI (M) Central Committee ‘On Developments in People’s China’, had clearly stated that, "The May-June events were not a spontaneous struggle for democratic rights but a well prepared attack on the socialist system, exploiting the students for reactionary ends." It forthrightly supported and welcomed the thwarting by the CPC and PLA of this imperialist backed class challenge.
This did not prevent the CPI (M) from addressing the objective and subjective reasons for things coming to such a pass and criticising what it considered to be the mistakes of the CPC. Thus the above resolution highlighted the ideological impact of China's growing economic links with the imperialist world in the quest to rapidly advance productive forces for sustaining and developing what CPC describes as ‘the primary stage of socialism’. It noted the failure of the CPC in combating the impact of bourgeois liberalism. Significantly, it also referred to the shortcomings in expanding socialist democracy and combating bureaucratic trends as well as, “.. distortion in relationship between the Party and Government,” as a result of which, “ The Party often replaced the Government appropriating its functions.” Further it stated, that, “The socialist and working class democracy cannot work if the Party replaces the masses and other organisations if it does not allow them to play the vital role in the running of the state and the economy” (‘On Developments in People’s China’, Resolution of CPI(M) Central Committee).
Despite this criticism, the CPI (M) gave primacy to the foiling of this attempt to overthrow socialism in China and did not whimper in quivering regret or fall prey to imperialist propaganda of so-called massacre of innocents. This is precisely what distinguishes the revolutionary working class position represented by the CPI (M) from that of petit bourgeois radicalism represented by the CPI (M-L) Liberation. It is hardly a coincidence that revisionism, which Lenin called the obverse of left adventurism, displayed similar lack of partisanship to socialism by also taking a wishy-washy and vacillating stand on these events in China.
Wrong Understanding of Contradictions
At the time of its 4th Congress in 1988, M-L Liberation used to believe that the so-called Soviet hegemonism derived from a wrong understanding of fundamental contradictions by the CPSU, i.e. considering the contradiction between socialism and imperialism as being central. In M-L Liberation's view the central contradiction was between national liberation and imperialism. After collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and East Europe, they have in fact moved to a position, which virtually denies the existence of the contradiction between socialism and imperialism. Thus the Political Organisational Report of their 7th Party Congress held in 2002 states that, “We must understand that all the three major international contradictions – imperialism versus the third world, heightened antagonism between capital and labour in the advanced countries and inter-imperialist rivalry, even if the last-mentioned is articulated at present in the form of non-US imperialist powers merely expressing a measured disagreement with the US and not offering an outright opposition – militate and occasionally also converge against unipolarity....” It is indeed strange that the same Political - Organisational Report while characterising China and Cuba as socialist countries and despite recognising the hostility of imperialism towards them has wished away the contradiction between imperialism and socialism.
The CPI (M) has consistently maintained that the first socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 brought into being a new social contradiction on a world scale i.e. the contradiction between imperialism and socialism. It has also always held that the contradiction between socialism and imperialism is the central contradiction because only its resolution can resolve the other three fundamental contradictions of our epoch i.e. the contradictions between imperialism and the third world, between labour and capital and between imperialist countries. Any of these contradictions can accentuate or become focal at different points of time. Thus the 2nd World War was a reflection of extreme aggravation and coming to the fore of the inter-imperialist contradiction. Similarly the Vietnam War was symptomatic of the contradiction between imperialism and the third word becoming focal. While the impact of aggravation of any of the non-central contradictions on all other contradictions, including the central contradiction, cannot be denied, none of them, regardless of the degree of their accentuation, can replace the central contradiction. This understanding has helped the CPI (M) maintain partisanship for socialist countries despite deviations of different parties, which it has not hesitated to criticise.
The CPI (M) continues to uphold this understanding despite the demise of socialism in USSR and East Europe. This is because, “Despite the fact that the international correlation of forces favour imperialism at the end of the twentieth century and capitalism continues to develop the productive forces with the application of new scientific and technological advances, it remains a crisis ridden system apart from being a system of oppression, exploitation and injustice. The only system, which is an alternative to capitalism, is socialism. The central social contradiction therefore remains between imperialism and socialism for the epoch” (CPI (M) Programme, Para 2.8). By initially denying centrality of contradiction between socialism and imperialism and by now wishing away its very existence, ML-Liberation underplays importance of the socialist system and fails to see socialism as the central feature of our epoch and the main target of imperialism. This leads them to fall prey to petit- bourgeoisie radicalism.
Other reflections of this trend can be seen in the underrating by the CPI (M-L) Liberation the political, economic and ideological war of imperialism vs. socialism and its impact on contradictions in socialist countries. Thus it says that the setback in socialist countries is almost exclusively because of their own mistakes. While these internal factors are definitely primary, the dialectical relationship between them and the imperialist offensive is missed.
The M-L Liberation’s General Programme (as updated in Feb., 2001) contains no analysis of the international situation and the correlation of class forces prevailing on a world scale. All it has to say in this section amounts to assertion of generalities regarding its commitment to proletarian internationalism and anti-imperialism as well as its resolve to combat all forms of exploitation and oppression for the emancipation of humankind. This is indeed strange, for the strategy of the Indian revolution cannot be decided without having a cogent understanding of different aspects of the international correlation of class forces and its concrete manifestations. What their assessment about the international situation is has therefore to be sifted from various resolutions of their Party Congresses. The latter being tactical documents have their limitations and cannot be a substitute for a strategic understanding of the international settings of the path for Indian revolution.
Regarding the role of China and Cuba today
The M-L Liberation also suffers from an inability to demarcate between the objective anti-imperialist role being played by China and its not so glorious record in opposing concrete manifestations of imperialist politics and policies. The continuing growth of Chinese economic power is in itself an objective obstacle in the way of US imperialism’s ambitions of world domination. Unfortunately, Liberation chooses to assess China’s role vis-à-vis imperialism only in the context of whether it provides inspiration to the international communist movement or not. Thus the Political - Organisational Report of its 7th Congress restricts itself to stating that, “With its great history, amazing economic performance and curious concepts China continues to surprise both her admirers and detractors, but it is no longer a source of inspiration for the international communist movement.” The same document recognises the inspirational impact of the overt and heroic anti-imperialist role of Cuba. However it also states that, ”Cuba does carry a strong message of defiance and there are sincere feelings of international solidarity with Cuba, but that is not enough to power a global communist resurgence.” This assessment of Cuba essentially within parameters of its potential regarding communist resurgence undermines the broader anti-imperialist role being played by it today. Besides, there is also the question of whether any socialist country can “power a global communist resurgence”. It appears as if Liberation is indulging in nostalgia for those days when it believed that one such country i.e. China was actually the powerhouse and guiding centre of world revolution.
Idealisation of the Indian Diaspora
It is indeed ironic that this underplaying of the role of existing socialist countries is accompanied by unreal glorification in the Pol-Org Report of their 7th Congress of the anti-imperialist role of Indians living in imperialist countries. Thus we are told that, “The Indian diaspora in the West is playing a key role in challenging this imperialist-fascist offensive right in the imperialist heartland and the revolutionary communist movement in India must develop closer cooperation with this important sector of anti-fascist anti-imperialist resistance.” The role of Communists and anti-imperialist elements among Indians in the West needs to be appreciated, especially in the context of the hostile conditions in which they have to work. However, the M-L Liberation’s assessment of the battle in the ”belly of the beast” tends to exaggerate their role and wishes away the harsh reality of significant sections of the Indian diaspora rallying behind different outfits affiliated to the RSS and Sangh Parivar.