Democracy and Class Struggle publish this article in memory of Comrade Dipankar Chakrabarti who passed away a few years ago.
Democracy and Class Struggle consider his thoughtful views worthy of study by comrades on the 49th Anniversary of Naxalbari Uprising.
Eight decades have elapsed since the founding of the Communist Party of India. During this period great upheavals like haughty fascist onslaught, the devastating 2nd world-war, ferocious and aggressive evil designs of the U.S.imperialism to dominate this unipolar world through globalisation and sheer military might have drastically transformed the world.
In the first half of the last century, revolutionary upsurges shook the world one after another, first in Russia, then in east Europe and Asia, thereby illuminating a bright road before the labouring people for achieving socialism, which is supposed to lead them to freedom from hunger and exploitation. But by the end of the nineties all those experiments have failed.
And in our country India utter darkness still basically prevails, though the direct imperialist rule has been replaced by indirect dependence and virtual sub-ordination. And the communist movement here remains basically divided, social revolution a distant - almost remote - possibility, and the Indian people still hopelessly panting for liberation.
In India too, like many other countries, the thunder-clap of Russia’s October Revolution had brought the communist consciousness in the first quarter of the twentieth century. But still now, in spite of the incomparable dedication and heroic martyrdom of thousands of communist cadres and supporters, their sacrifices could not usher in a new society.
Again and again the leadership has failed to recognize the soil below their feet, consequently swinging in a vicious whirlpool, in the labyrinth of rightist and ‘leftist’ deviations, and consequently, the Indian communists have not yet in its activities been able to build up a consistent and clear alternative line of action before the toiling people.
That much-longed-for correct line for revolution –both strategical and tactical - has not yet emerged, and as a result revolution has become more and more distant.
Basically the same `tradition has been continuing’ in the post-independent period. Space does not permit us here to go deeper into the analysis of the underlying reasons.
But to come to the main purpose of this short article, which is to trace meaningfully and concretely the roots of the debacle of the Naxalite movement, we should never forget that that this movement did not originate suddenly out of the sky.
Rather it was basically the continuation of the past tendencies, both positive and negative, in the Indian Communist movement.
In this context the importance of the ideology in the Indian communist movement demands some attention. `ideology’, we know, does not necessarily mean just party-programmes, political resolutions or manifestoes of the movements. These are no doubt necessary, but for the ideological development and proletarization of a communist, it is essential to train him to study and grasp the basic tenets of Marxism, so that he can understand the dialectical relation between the theory and practice, and follow accordingly the correct method of work.
Only then can he continuously carry on the process of grasping and interpreting independently the Marxist ideology as a comprehensive world outlook and orientation to change himself, and also to change the Society and the World.
This point, emphasised by both Marx and Lenin in their innumerable writings, has aptly been summarized by Mao :
``Communist must always go into the whys and wherefores, use their own heads and carefully think over whether or not it corresponds to reality and is really well-founded; on no account should they follow blindly and encourage slavishness.’’
Since the beginning of the Communist Movement in India emphasis has mainly been given on studying the nature and character of the Indian Society and economy, and also of the ruling classes, and the nature of their inter-relationship with imperialism; determining the character of Indian Revolution and its main aim, and ascertaining its main enemies and friends etc.
But what has, in the main, been neglected is the basic task to relate them to the study of the basic ideology. have stood in the path of Party’s correct development and led it to an erroneous, sometimes dangerous, path.
Failure to build up and strengthen an ideological and theoretical basis, and also to develop a correct method of method have stood in the path of Party’s correct development and led it to an erroneous, sometimes dangerous, path, making the oscillations between a rightist and a ‘left’ orientation a permanent feature of the Indian Communist movement.
As an unavoidable consequence of these tendencies, time and again, the Party has failed to take a correct stand firmly on many issues leading to gradual but unnecessary splits. One of the most fundamental roots of the debacle of the Naxalite movement was inherent in such a debate.
Naturally it needs some elaboration. I am referring to the vascillations in the Indian Communist movement on the question of its attitude to parliamentary activities.
The Marxist pioneers from Marx to Mao clearly stated that tactically it is no doubt necessary generally to participate in parliamentary system to utilise it for revolutionary causes as far as possible., but there must be no illusion regarding the system, its basic sub-servience to the interests of the bourgeoisie.
And that is why socialism cannot be built up utilising the bourgeois parliamentary state-system, but only by destroying and uprooting it.
This line was successfully implemented in Russia by the Bolshevik party under Lenin’s leadership. In China, the question of such participation did not arise in the absence of any parliamentary system before the revolution, and that is why Mao stated : ``We have no parliament to make use of.’’
Lenin put forth a series of relevant guiding points in this regard. It is the duty as well as aim of the communists ``to carry on a struggle within parliament for the destruction of the parliament,’’ for ``a change of ministers means very little, for the real work of administration is in the hands of an enormous army of officials’’ depending and serving the landowners and the bourgeoisie and consequently, ``the number of parliamentary seats is of no importance to us; we are not out for seats.’’
He was very clear and specific regarding the relation between the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary activities (like developing mass-struggles) of the communists : But he also cautioned that``limiting the class struggle to the parliamentary struggle, or regarding the latter as the highest and decisive form, to which all the other forms are subordinate, is actually desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.’’
A clear guiding principle was adopted under his leadership at the Second Congress of the Communist International : ``Parliamentary activities of the Communist Party should be fully and completely subordinate to the aims and tasks of the mass struggles outside the parliament.’’8
But the Indian Communists have never formulated and followed consistently and concretely any such Marxist-Leninist line.
In post-independent first General Election India the first General Election was held in 1952. Just after the miserable failure of the fiasco of the left-sectarian adventurism of the Communist Party of India in the 1948-50 period under the leadership of B.T.Randive, the party took part in this election, but there was no clear orientation or stand, neither was there any serious debate in this regard.
But the emergence of an aggressive line pursued by Khrushchev in the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union(CPSU) in 1956, contradictory to the theoretical standpoints of all the pioneers from Marx to Mao in almost all important questions, and also to the revolutionary practice since the beginning of the twentieth century, changed the situation almost fundamentally. Khrushchev put forward the thesis of peaceful transition to socialism through parliamentary elections.
Naturally revolutionaries all over the world rose up against this `Modern Revisionist’line, and a Great Ideological Debate started in the international communist movement, mainly between the communist parties of Soviet Union(CPSU) and China(CPC).
The Indian communists too could not remain aloof from this debate. Majority of the rank and file of the party, especially the militant cadres, opposed the Khrushchovite line. Some differences also apparently arose among the central and state leaders on different ideological questions, leading to at least two factions within the party.
During the period 1957-1964, there were some ideological debates among these factions, which ultimately paved the way for the two-way split in the party in 1964. In opposition to the original party CPI, there emerged a new party : CPI(M),i.e. the Communist Party of India (Marxist). But subsequent revelation of contemporary facts and documents makes it unquestionably evident that in reality factional quarrels, and not ideology, played the main role behind this split.10 This can be explained in continuation of our foregoing discussion
We have noted earlier the basic Marxist-Leninist standpoint This lesson that the proletariat must first smash the bourgeois state to pave the way for the establishment of socialism. This lesson was drawn by Marx and Engels themselves on the basis of the experience of the Paris Commune : ``One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz.,that `the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state-machinery and wield it for its own purpose’….’’
According to Lenin, ``This conclusion is the chief and fundamental point in the Marxist teaching on the state.’’12 But Khrushchev and his followers put forward the contrary line of capturing the existing bourgeois state-machinery through election and of its utilisation for building up socialism. (It was basically the line propagated by Bernstein and the Mensheviks, already theoretically demolished effectively by Lenin, and in reality by the experiences of the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions). In opposition to this Khrushchevite line, the Marxist-Leninist line was, in the main, upheld by the Chinese Communist Party(CPC) in the context of the Great Debate in the International Communist movement.
Generally CPI was known to be pro-CPSU and CPI(M) as pro-CPC. But though CPI(M) declared in its Party-Programme adopted in 1964, that the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles should be combined, it did not specifically upheld the basic Leninist line of supremacy of the extra-parliamentary mass-struggles over the parliamentary activities, reiterated once again by the CPC in the Great Debate.
It is interesting to note that during the debate on the Party-Programme at the time of its adoption at the Party-Congress, an amendment proposal was raised by Sushital Roy Chowdhury emphasizing the cardinal importance of this line of the supremacy of the extra-parliamentary mass-struggles, but it was rejected by the leadership.
Though the leadership pretended to reject the possibility of gaining power through a parliamentary majority, the Programme, ultimately adopted, advocated for joining the state-governments (which are `of a transitional character’, unable to fundamentally `solve the economic and political problems of the people’), provided that the party was the leading or at least a major influencing force, in order to provide some `immediate relief’ to the people and utilise the opportunity to educate them that under the present system these governments "would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner."
It was presumed that this will enable the party to raise the political consciousness of the masses and prepare them for an onslaught against the bourgeois state, and to sharpen the class-struggle. It was precisely in this sense that a left government would serve as the `weapon of class-struggle.’ But in almost the same breath Basabpunniah, on behalf of the polit-bureau of the party publicly assured the government that the slander circulated by the reactionaries and the revisionists that CPI(M) had been preparing for an armed revolution was an utter lie; the party is not crazy to prepare for armed struggle; its goal is only to get the support of the majority of the people.
Though the majority of the revolutionary rank and file among the Indian communists joined CPI(M) being duped by the `left’ and `pro-CPC pretentions and postures of the leadership, within a short time many of them could realize, at least theoretically, the real character of the leadership. Gradually disillusionment began to spread, and an inner-Party struggle ensued almost right from the beginning. In West Bengal a series of powerful and militant mass-movements had earlier gradually developed since the middle of the 1950’s. It reached its zenith in 1966, and the main initiative was provided by the CPI(M)’s rank and file. When they were in anticipation of raising the movement to a new height, the leadership faltered and in fact showed its real colour by shifting the main thrust of the movement from the road of extra-parliamentary struggles to the blind alley of parliamentary cretinism.
But still riding on the crest of this massive movement and amidst revolutionary rhetoric CPI(M) came to power in West Bengal in 1967 as a part of the United Front Government in collaboration with the `Khrushchevite revisionist’ CPI.
The CPI(M) leadership gave a call to the revolutionary people to build up powerful mass-struggles and promised that the police would not interfere. Consequently revolutionary aspirations of the rank and file rose everywhere and massive struggles, especially land struggles broke out in different parts of the state.
In Naxalbari area in particular, this struggle rose to higher levels and confronted the state machinery. Under threats from the central government, the CPI(M)-dominated government resorted to bloody suppression of the movement in order to save the government.
This sparked off serious protests throughout the Party. Revolutionary communists raised the banner of revolt all over the country with the clear manifestation of CPI(M) leadership’s parliamentary cretinism.
The party was once more split up, and a parallel process of party-formation started uniting the revolutionary forces of the whole country.
Subsequently CPI(ML) was organized with Charu Majumdar, the main inspiration behind the peasant struggle in Naxalbari.
Though all the forces did not join the party, CPI(ML) effectively became the organizational culmination of the Naxalite Movement. It rejected the open Khrushchevite or camouflaged CPI(M)-style parliamentary path from the very beginning and took the path of armed struggle..
Armed struggles from 1967 to early ’70s, led by CPI(ML), will be remembered in the history of the Indian communist movement as one of the most massive and wide-spread serious attempts to organise armed revolution in India.
The saga of valour created in this movement, where thousands of Party-leaders and cadres, including the topmost leadership, sacrificed their lives, was simply unprecedented.
Even after four decades of its tortuous and self-divisive and often self- destructive odyssey, the movement that started in Naxalbari and now known as the Naxalite movement, though unable to reach its goal, still remains a force to reckon with.
This immortal heritage of Indian Communist Movement must be cherished. But it is more important, at the same time, to acquire lessons and guidance from the experiences of this movement.
For the sake of the future of Indian Revolution, a serious attempt should be made to trace the roots of the movement’s ultimate disastrous debacle.
Nothing remained the same after Naxalbari.
With the Naxalbari movement there opened a new chapter in the Indian Communist Movement. The teachings of Mao Tse-tung regarding the revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries imbued the Indian revolutionaries.
Certain crucial questions of the strategy and tactics of Indian revolution were raised anew and sought to be solved. The movement rejected the so-called peaceful parliamentary path to Socialism and upheld the basic Marxist teaching that ``force is the midwife of the old society pregnant with a new one.’’ It also correctly emphasized that the Indian revolution would have to be a protracted people’s war, where the main content would be agrarian revolution with the peasantry taking the main role under the leadership of the working class.
But some basic deviations, regarding not only tactics but even in strategy, were inherent in the thinking of the leadership, which led to the tragic debacle of the Naxalite movement.
It is evident from our foregoing discussion that CPI(M) in its programme gave the call to combine parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles without emphasising the absolute priority of the latter, consequently, in reality, falling prey to the Khruschevite parliamentary path.
It was this basic ideological deviation of the CPI(M) leaders against which the Naxalite leaders correctly revolted.
But their opposition to this line was mechanical, rather eclectical, not at all dialectical. They gave a call for permanent boycott of parliamentary elections. And this mechanical line ultimately led them to oppose almost all legal and semi-legal forms of struggle and uphold armed struggle as basically the only form of struggle. This gradually resulted in their abandonment of not only different forms of people’s struggles, but even trade-unions, peasant associations, student unions, cultural organizations etc. Space will not permit us to discuss the gradual process of this basic deviation elaborately,19 but at least ideologically and theoretically we must analyse different aspects of this basic deviation of the Naxalites as well its disastrous ultimate consequence.
Let us first take up the line of permanent boycott of elections. In the International Communist Movement the question of participation in elections in a bourgeois parliament has always been considered to be a question of tactics.
As noted earlier, all the pioneers from Marx to Mao, especially Lenin, held that Socialism can never be achieved through parliament, but the communists should participate in parliament, when deemed necessary, in the interest of revolution, ``for the purpose of educating the masses,’’and ``to carry on struggles within parliament for the destruction of the parliament,’’ so long as people have illusions, provided of course that parliamentary struggles must be sub-ordinate to revolutionary mass-struggles.
And Mao himself, though unable to participate in a parliament, since in China there was no parliament to make use of, accepted the membership of the National Political Council of China, a non-elected body(nominated by the Chiang Kai-shek Government) in 1938, and had declared that though this body was not even representative of the people, this shows that in its political life China is more and more effectively developing as a democracy.
Even during the Great Debate of the 1960’s, as we have noted earlier, CPCupheld the Leninist line even in the third world countries. But CPI(ML) opposed parliament strategically and permanently.
According to them, Mao Tse-tung Thought is the Marxism-Leninism of this era In this era
``bourgeois parliamentary institutions are obstacles to the progress of revolution in general, and in particular, to the colonial and semi-colonial countries like India.’’
Charu Majumdar even claimed that this call for boycott of elections is valid for the entire era
It is strange enough that this characterisation of the present era was unambiguously contrary to Mao and the CPC, as expressed in the Political Report of CPC adopted in its 10th Party-Congress in 1973 with Mao in the chair : `Leninism is the Marxism of the era’.
It is also interesting to note that the Indian people have utilised the elections effectively in 1977 to bring an end of, obviously temporarily at the centre and also in 2009 Parliamentary election in West Bengal to give a big blow to the ruling autocracies.
The notion that communists must build up mass-organisations and participate in and develop all the different forms of legal, semi-legal and illegal struggles to carry forward the revolutionary struggle in order to seize power is an inherent line of action upheld and followed since the beginning of the International Communist Movement.
Though ultimately the revolutionary forces must take up arms for the victory of the revolution, it is essential to develop economic and political struggles for the development of class-consciousness of the labouring people and carry on the class-struggle.
Marx pointed out in the Communist Manifesto that ``The Communists fight for the attainment of immediate aims, for the enforcement of the monetary interests of the working class , but in the movement of the present they also represent and take care of the future.’’ Lenin developed this line :
“Inexperienced revolutionaries often think that legal methods of struggle are opportunist because, in this field, the bourgeoisie has most frequently deceived and duped the workers (particularly in `peaceful’ and non-revolutionary times), while illegal methods of struggle are revolutionary. That, however, is wrong . . . revolutionaries who are incapable of combining illegal forms of struggle with every form of legal struggle are poor revolutionaries indeed.”
And again:“It is necessary: firstly to conduct all propaganda and agitation from the viewpoint of revolution as opposed to reforms, systematically explaining to the masses, both theoretically and practically, at every step of parliamentary, trade union, co-operative etc, activity, that they are diametrically opposed.
Under no circumstances to refrain (save in special cases, by way of exception) from utilizing the parliamentary system all the `liberties’ of bourgeois democracy; not to reject reforms, but to regard them only as a by-product of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat.”( Lenin :`The Tasks of the Third International’, Collected Words, vol.29, p.503).
This standpoint is valid and relevant for the mass-organisations and the mass-struggles involving all the sections of laboring people like workers, peasants, students etc.
But CPI(ML)’s erroneous line of permanently boycotting the elections gradually and ultimately turned into a line of boycotting all other forms of mass-struggles excepting armed struggle, thereby rejecting all these Marxist-Leninist theories as well as lessons of past struggles. It equated its programme of individual killing or `annihilation of class-enemies’ with class-struggle, virtually making it the only method of mobilizing and arousing the people.
Its basic logic behind this fundamental deviation was that in this `era of Mao Tse-tung Thought as the Marxism-Leninism of the era’, all the trade-unions, peasants’ associations and students’ organizations etc have, especially in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, practically become obsolete and corrupted, submerged in economism and class-collaborationism, blunting the revolutionary consciousness of the people.
It is strange enough to note that here too even Mao’s teachings are completely contrary to this viewpoint taught by Charu Majumdar and upheld by CPI(ML). We have already dealt with earlier the question of the characterization of the present era.
And Mao had quite clearly and unambiguously shown that though in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country ``war is the main form of struggle and army is the main form of organisation’’,``other forms such as mass-organisations and mass-struggles are extremely important and indeed indispensable and in no circumstances to be overlooked.’’
And again, ``…stressing armed struggle does not mean abandoning other forms of struggle; on the contrary, armed struggle cannot succeed unless co-ordinated with other forms of struggle.’’
“If we only mobilize the people to carry on the war and do nothing else, can we succeed in defeating the enemy? Of course not. If we want to win we must do a great deal more. We must lead the peasants’struggle for land and distribute the lands to them. . . . In short, all the practical problems in the masses everyday life should claim our attention."
Now, what were the consequences of this abandonment of the mass-organisations and mass-struggles?
Generally the mass-organisations play a vital role in forging a close link between the communist party and the people. For the immediate and long-term interests of the people these mass-organisations build up and develop people’s struggles, which again develop class-consciousness among the people making them tampered in and imbued with revolutionary struggles and aspirations.
There is no doubt that frequently the mass-organisations and the mass-movements breed economism and class-collaborationism, thereby blunting the revolutionary consciousness of the people. But it will simply be irrational and unrealistic to blame and abandon totally and absolutely the mass-organisations or mass-struggles for the deviations. of breeding economism and class-collaborationism, thereby blunting the revolutionary consciousness of the people.
Let us extend this trend of thinking a bit further, and see how absurd and illogical it becomes. Innumerable cases of serious deviations and opportunisms of both rightist revisionism and `left’ sectarianism have been witnessed in the history of the International Communist Movement.
Consequently should the revolutionaries, on the plea of serious deviations and opportunisms of both rightist revisionism and `left’ sectarianism, abandon the communist ideology and movement totally and absolutely?
Should we forget the scientific reasoning that ``the correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line determines everything’’?
The main reason behind the deviations and degeneration in the mass-organisations or mass-struggles is that they have been led in an incorrect way by the right or `left’ opportunists and revisionists.
Their abandonment will simply mean that the revolutionaries are actually abandoning the patient and painstaking political struggle among the masses to arouse and win them over from the clutches of revisionists and counter-revolutionaries.
Especially in a country like India where the peasantry must be organised to become the main force of revolution, their struggle for land and for annulment of debts and against usury must be closely linked with the struggle for the seizure of political power under the leadership of the working class.
Similarly the economic struggles of the workers must be linked with their revolutionary struggles in such a way that they can rise up to fulfill their historical task of giving leadership to revolution as a class. The specific cultural, educational and other specific struggles of the students, youths and other labouring classes should similarly be linked to the revolutionary struggles. Abandonment of these endeavours certainly leads to a fundamental divorce of the leadership from the people, and consequently inevitably to authoritarianism, exagerationism and impetuosity, turning the Leninist organisational principle of democratic centralism simply into a farce.
And what is most important, the mass line of the party, which is basically the life-line of a communist party, becomes virtually renounced.
This is exactly what happened in the case of the Naxalite movement.
And the last comment requires some elaboration, for precisely here lies the main root for the debacle of the movement.
What is a mass line? According to the Marxian theory and practice, mass line is the primary method of developing and practicing revolutionary leadership of the masses followed by a proletarian party. It is a reiterative method, applied over and over again, infusing class consciousness among the masses and imbuing them with revolutionary inspiration and enthusiasm, step by step, advancing towards proletarian revolution.
Each iteration may be viewed as a three-step process: 1) gathering the diverse ideas of the masses; 2) processing or concentrating these ideas from the perspective of revolutionary Marxism, in light of the long-term ultimate interests of the masses (which the masses themselves may sometimes only dimly perceive), and in light of a scientific analysis of the objective situation; and 3) returning these concentrated ideas to the masses in the form of a political line which will actually advance the mass struggle toward revolution.
It is a cyclical process starting from the diverse ideas of the masses and finally bringing back to them those ideas in a concentrated and systematic form, thereby objectively being transformed in a process of ``from the masses, to the masses”. Though implicit in Marxism from the beginning, the concept of mass line was raised to the level of conscious theory primarily by Mao Tse-tung.
Lenin viewed the mass line as the communist party’s method of developing the masses step by step to revolution: to serve the masses and express their basic interests, the party ``must conduct all its activities among the mass, drawing from it all – without exception – the best forces, checking at every step, thoroughly and objectively whether the ties with the mass are maintained, whether they are alive.
In such, and only in such a way, does the advanced detachment educate and enlighten the masses, expressing its interests, teaching it organization, guiding all the activity of the mass along the path of conscious class policy.”
To make the process really effective Lenin linked it to political, especially revolutionary struggle: ``The real education of the masses can never be separated from their political, and especially revolutionary struggle.
Only struggle educates the exploited class. Only struggle discloses to it the magnitude of its own power, widens the horizon, enhances its abilities, clarifies its mind and forges its will.” 31 And to make this possible, he emphasized the role of the party in organizing and developing agitations and struggles:
Every party-cell and workers’ committee must become a `base for agitation, propaganda and practical organizing work among the masses’, i.e.they must go where the masses go, and try at every step to push the consciousness of the masses in the direction of socialism, to link up every specific question with the general tasks of the proletariat”
Mao too viewed the mass line primarily as relying on the masses of people in the struggle, or as it is sometimes said: `having faith in the masses’, which means, confidence that the mass of the ordinary people, given the right inspiration, drive, motivation and leadership, can accomplish miracles and can change everything.
And change everything for the better. This is what the masses of the people can do. According to him,the communist principle of relying on, `having faith’ in the masses is based on an analysis of the real world as it actually is, materialism; and as it develops through the struggle of opposing forces – and basically through the internal contradictions within things, in nature and society – dialectics.
Since leadership is necessary and important, methods of leadership are necessary and important. Mao said this explicitly: "Methods of leadership are very important. To avoid mistakes, one must pay attention to these methods and strengthen leadership."
He explained further: "To lead means not only to decide general and specific policies but also to devise correct methods of work."
And indeed the importance of methods of leadership was a constant theme for Mao. Years earlier he wrote :
"It is not enough to set tasks, we must also solve the problem of the methods for carrying them out . If our task is to cross a river, we cannot cross it without a bridge or a boat. Unless the bridge or boat problem is solved, it is idle to speak of crossing the river. Unless the problem of method is solved, talk of the task is useless."
That is why Mao emphasised right from the very beginning that the mass line is the most important single method of leadership for Marxists.
In course of his discussion regarding the questions concerning the method of leadership, Mao explains : “There are two methods which we communists must employ in whatever work we do. One is to combine the general with the particular; the other is to combine the leadership with the masses. . . .
Such is the basic method of leadership. In the process of concentrating ideas and persevering in them, it is necessary to use the method of combining the general call with particular guidance, and this is a component part of the basic method . . . . . In all practical work of our party, all correct leadership is necessarily `from the masses to the masses’. This means : take the idea of the masses(scattered and unsystematic ideas ) and concentrate them ( through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time’’ ……. “Such is the basic method of leadership. In the process of concentrating ideas and persevering in them, it is necessary to use the method of combining the general call with particular guidance, and this is a component part of the basic method.”
But while all real Marxists are supposed to, at least, know that the mass line is a method of leadership, some of them may nevertheless fail to understand how profound a method it is. It is important to understand, for example, that the mass line is not simply a method of leading the masses, it is also a method of leading the leaders in their leadership of the masses. The mass line, properly understood, is not just a method employed by the leaders to lead the masses, it is also a method employed by the masses to lead the leaders. The mass line is a method not only for changing the masses and society, but also a method of first changing the leaders so that they can change the masses and society. The mass line is not only a method of teaching the masses, but also a method of first teaching the leaders so that they know how and what to teach the masses.
If someone were to view the mass line as simply a means of changing society (but not the masses), or as simply a means of changing the masses (but not the leadership)—they would be wrong. The mass line is a tool for changing society, revolutionizing society through the process of first changing the leadership and then changing the masses. If the leadership does not recognize that the goal of the mass line is to first change itself, its own ideas, then it does not understand the mass line, and will be completely unable to use it successfully. It is wrong, undialectical and bourgeois, to view the leaders as standing above and outside the process of learning, or to view them as standing above and outside the process of change.
In the context of our foregoing discussions we may now sum up.
Because of the very basic character of Marxism as a philosophy of revolutionary social action, the activities of the Marxists as thinkers and organisers of social and political struggles cannot be separated.
But in India, as we have already noted, lack of proper emphasis on the ideological development and proletarization of the communist cadres, the absence of a consistent and correct analysis of the Indian society, inability to put forth a consistent and clear alternative line of action before the toiling people, failure to make them aware of their social conditions and also their class-identity, objective social goal and historic role, have all played roles in the thwarting the success of the movement, in spite of great sacrifices and dedications of innumerable communists and supporters.
The most important basic reason behind these is the inability to address the problem of a correct and consistent mass line. This basic problem has been especially widely manifested during the Naxalite movement due to its eclectical and mechanical abandonment of all forms of struggle except the so-called line of annihilation in the name of armed people’s struggle.
If a communist party, even while accepting the inevitability of armed struggle for bringing about social change, refuses to combine all forms of struggle, especially the mass-struggles, perhaps unintentionally an unsurpassable wall is created between the party and the broad masses of the laboring people, thereby making it simply impossible to follow the essential life-line of mass line based on the principle of `from the masses to the masses’.
It is really a tragedy that since its birth, the Indian communist movement generally seems to have understood and used the term `mass line’ more in the general sense of a political line which involves organising and leading the masses, almost forgetting its basic characteristic of ` from the masses, to the masses’, as understood and practiced by the Marxist pioneers like Lenin and Mao.
For the Indian communist movement to forge ahead in the real sense of the term, it is essential that utmost emphasis is given to realise and implement this mass line of ` from the masses, to the masses’.
The past (as well as present) experiences of both the lines of open or camouflaged submission to parliamentary cretinism away from the question of armed struggle, or absolute one-sided dependence on arms abandoning mass-organisations and mass-struggles, have led, or are certain to lead, to utter disaster, as in the case of the heroic Naxalite movement, making social revolution a more and more distant, almost remote, possibility.
In this context the implementation of the mass line has now become even more relevant and important.
It is high time that the Indian revolutionaries realise the irrevocable truth that even great sacrifices cannot substitute for the correctness of the political and ideological line, which actually determines the pace of revolution..
And to build up and practice that much-awaited correct line, the major role will have to be played by a correct mass line.
NOTES & REFERENCES
1.Ref.4Dipankar Chakrabarti : `On India’s Communist Movement’ in `Arthaniti Samaj o Sangskriti :
Essays in memory of Asoke Rudra’(in Bengali), published by Asoke Rudra Smaran Committee.
2. Mao Tse-tung : `Rectify the Party’s style of work’, Selected Works, Vol.III, p.49-50.
3. Mao Tse-tung : ` Problems of War and Strategy’, Selected Works, Vol.II, p.220.
4. Lenin: `Speech on Parliamentarism’at the 2nd Congress of the Communist International,
Collected Works,Vol.31, p.254.
5. Lenin : `One of the fundamental questions of the Revolution’, Collected Works,Vol.25, p.368.
6. Lenin : `Left-wing’Communism -an infantile disorder’, Collected Works,Vol.31, p.86.
7. Lenin : `Elections and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, Collected Works,Vol.30, p.272.
8. Extracts from the `Thesis on Communist Parties & Parliament’:updated at the Second
Commintern Congress, Communist International Documents, compiled by Jane Degras.
9. Ref.4 The Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement, Foreign
Languages Press, Peking, 1965.
10.Ref.4Tarun Roy : `CPIM’s March towards Moscow’ in Bengali, Aneek (a Bengali monthly),November 1979;
11.Marx & Engels : Preface to the German edition (1872) of `The Communist Manifesto’, Selected Works,
12.Lenin : `The State and Revolution’, Collected Works,Vol.25, p.406.
13.`The Proleterian Revolution and Khrishchov’s Revisionism’, The Polemic on the General Line of
the International Communist Movement, p.391.
*14. ``It will be a deception not to say to the people that election alone under the constitution cannot
end the capitalist-landlord rule in the country…and to achieve this the extra-parliamentary struggle
will be the decisive factor’’(italics ours) 4 Quoted in Harinarayan Sarbadhikari : `More on the Communist
Movement of India’) in Bengali,1988, p.70-71.
15.The Programme of CPI(M), para 112 & 113, adopted in its first Party-Congress (`VIIth Congress of
the Communist Party of India’) in 1964.
16. `Deshhitaishi,’ Bengali weekly of CPI(M), November 6,1964.
*17.This submersion of CPI(M) in the slime of parliamentary cretinism has subsequently been irrevocably
confirmed after 1977, when in West Bengal a Left Front government under the absolute control of CPI(M)
came into power in 1977 due to a peculiar turn of events in national politics and has been ruling since then.
Taking lesson from the experiences of the United Front Governments of 1967 and 1969 in West Bengal (so that
the ruling claases’ interests do not induce the Central Government to force CPI(M) from the Government), the
CPI(M) leadership has silently and without any explanation substituted their much-discussed slogan of ‘Left Front
government is the weapon of class struggle’ by the slogan `‘Left Front government must be saved at all costs as
the `Chokher Moni’( apple of the eye).’’Massive people’s struggles which became an integral feature of West
Bengal politics in the 50’s and 60’s of the last century under the leadership of the communists, have now being
almost considered `crazy’ `pre-`historic’ events. The ideological line of CPI(M)’s role in parliamentary politics
have long been formulated in the initial phase of the Left Front Government in 1981 in their party-journal
`Marxbadee Path’: November,1981), by none other than two leading polit-bureau members of the party. Promode
Dasgupta, the Left Front Chairman said : ``We should build up mass- struggles, but must be alert so that they
strengthen the Left Front Government’’; and Jyoti Basu, the chief minister said : `‘We can utilize the existing
State- machinery to fulfill our programmes.’’Naturally and consequently,the mass movements led by that
party have during the last 3 decades of Left Front Rule become subdued routine-affairs; and those led by other
parties or sections of masses, as well as the aspirations for the basic civil, political and economic rights of the
toiling people have been, and are being, suppressed and trampled upon brutally and undemocratically ; and on the
other hand, the class-interests of the bourgeoisie and foreign monopolists are being served wholeheartedly. The
term `Revolution’ has now been sudstituted by the term `Development’, and that too in an neo-liberal sense,
propagated by the imperialists. In fact, under the CPI(M) rule West Bengal has become a model of how the
degenerated communists following the so-called parliamentary path can serve the bourgeoisie at the cost of the
18.Samar Sen :Foreward to `Naxalbari and After : a frontier anthology’, ed.Samar Sen et all.
19. Ref.4 i) `Collected Writings of Charu Majumdar’ in Bengali, New Horizon Book Trust,2001. ii)The Historic
turning Point : a Liberation Anthology, vols. I & II, ed.Suniti Kumar Ghosh. iii) Naxalbari & After : a frontier
anthology,vols.I & II,ed.Samar Sen,Debabrata Panda & Ashis Lahiri. iv) Promode Sengupta :`Whither
Revolution?’ in Bengali. V) Sankar Ghosh : The Naxalite Movement.vi) Prabhat Jana: Naxalbari and After:
an Appraisal,Frontier,May12-19,1973. vii)Pradip Basu:Towards.Naxalbari(1953-1967)…..………….………….. 20. (1) Mao Tse-tung, Wang Ming, Po Ku, Wu Yu-Chang, Tung Pi-Wu and Teng Yen-Chao : ‘The People’s Political
Council, Its Past Work and Present Tasks’, Published originally in Chiehfang (Liberation), the organ of the
Communist Party of China, in its issue of May 5, 1938, No. 32, and later published by New China Information
Committee, Chungking, China, January, 1940. The document has been reprinted in RevolutionaryDemocracy’,
21 Charu Majumdar : ` Boycott Elections!: International signifance of the slogan, The Historic turning Point :
a Liberation Anthology, vol.I, p.111.
22. Ref.4 Lenin : `One of the Fundamental Questions of the Revolution’/ `Draft and Explanation of a Programme for
the Social-Democratic Party’/ `The Tasks of the Third International’/ `Left-wing’Communism - an Infantile
Disorder’/ `On the Road’ etc.
23.Lenin :` `Left-wing’ Communism : an Infantile Disorder’, Collected Words, vol.31, p.96-97).
24.Lenin :`The Tasks of the Third International’, Collected Words, vol.29, p.503).
25.Ref.4 Charu Majumdar : (1)`Carry forward the Peasant Struggle by thoroughly combating Revisionism, Struggle
against Economism, Develop the Mass Movement’, The Historic Turning Point : a Liberation Anthology, vol.I,
ed. Suniti Kumar Ghosh, p.55; (2) `Party’s Call to the Youth and Students’, The Historic Turning Point : a
Liberation Anthology, vol.II ,p.34; (3) `To The Working Class’, The Historic turning Point : a Liberation
Anthology, vol.II, p.82.
26. Mao Tse- tung : `Problems of War and Strategy’, Selected Works, Vol.II, p.220.
27. Mao Tse- tung : `Chinese Revolution and Chinese Communist Party,’ Selected Works, Vol.II, p.317.
28. MaoTse-tung : `Be concerned with the well-being of the masses, pay attention to method of work’, Selected
Works, vol.I, p.147-48.
29. Mao Tse- tung : Quoted in `The Report to the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party of China ,’ August,1973.
30. Lenin : quoted in `Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism’, Moscow, 1961, pp.419-420.)
31. Lenin :`Lectures on the 1905 Revolution’, Collected Words, vol.23, p.241)
32. Lenin :`On the Road’,Collected Words, vol.15, p.354). .
33-34. Mao Tse-tung: `Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership’, Selected Works, vol.III, p.117.
35. MaoTse-tung : `Be concerned with the well-being of the masses, pay attention to method of work’, p.150.
36. Mao Tse-tung: `Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership’,
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