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Maoism in India

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Maoism ideology:
Maoism is a form of communism developed by Mao Tse Tung. It is a doctrine to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization and strategic alliances. Propaganda and disinformation against State institutions are used as additional tools. Mao called this process, the ‘Protracted Peoples War’. The central theme of Maoist ideology is resorting to violence as a tool to capture State power. ‘Bearing of arms is non-negotiable’ as per the Maoist insurgency doctrine. Maoism has a definite view about how to get to socialism, and about what needs to be done to meet the basic needs of everyone in a poor country. Development is to be on an egalitarian basis—we are all in it together and everyone rises together.
Unlike the earlier forms of Marxism-Leninism in which the urban proletariat was seen as the main source of revolution, and the countryside was largely ignored, Mao focused on the peasantry as a revolutionary force which, he said, could be mobilized by a Communist Party with their knowledge and leadership. The model for this was of course the Chinese Communist rural insurgency of the 1920s and 1930s, which eventually brought the Communist Party of China to power. Furthermore, unlike other forms of Marxism-Leninism in which large-scale industrial development were seen as a positive force, Maoism made all-round rural development the priority. Mao felt that this strategy made sense during the early stages of socialism in a country in which most of the people were peasants.
Unlike most other political ideologies, including other socialist and Marxist ones, Maoism contains an integral military doctrine and explicitly connects its political ideology with military strategy. In Maoist thought, "political power comes from the barrel of the gun" (one of Mao's quotes), and the peasantry can be mobilized to undertake a "people's war" of armed struggle involving guerrilla warfare in three stages.
The first stage involves mobilizing and organizing the peasantry. The second stage involves setting up rural base areas and increasing coordination among the guerrilla organizations. The third stage involves a transition to conventional warfare. Maoist military doctrine likens guerrilla fighters to fish swimming in a sea of peasants, who provide logistical support.
Maoism emphasizes "revolutionary mass mobilization" (physically mobilizing the vast majority of a population in the struggle for socialism), the concept of New Democracy, and the Theory of Productive Forces as applied to village-level industries independent of the outside world. In Maoism, deliberate organizing of massive military and economic power is necessary to defend the revolutionary area from outside threat, while centralization keeps corruption under supervision, amid strong control, and sometimes alteration, by the revolutionaries of the area's arts and sciences.
A key concept that distinguishes Maoism from other left-wing ideologies is the belief that the class struggle continues throughout the entire socialist period, as a result of the fundamental antagonistic contradiction between capitalism and communism. Even when the proletariat has seized state power through a socialist revolution, the potential remains for a bourgeoisie to restore capitalism. Indeed, Mao famously stated that "the bourgeoisie [in a socialist country] is right inside the Communist Party itself", implying that corrupt Party officials would subvert socialism if not prevented.
The Maoist Movement in Contemporary India:
Opposing the neoliberal rhetoric of a shining middle-class India, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has, since 2004, called for a New Democratic Revolution. Indian Maoists dismiss parliamentary democracy as a sham insofar as it fails to address the concerns and aspirations of the majority of its citizens, nearly four-fifths of who live below two dollars a day. In their party programme, Maoists characterize the postcolonial Indian state as Reactionary and autocratic and seek a „worker peasant alliance‟ to overthrow imperialism, Feudalism and comprador bureaucratic capitalism‟ via an armed revolutionary struggle. The CPI (Maoist) politburo, which constitutes its ideological leadership, is thus supported by an underground People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The party’s long term objective is to establish a people’s democratic state under the leadership of the proletariat that will guarantee real democracy for the vast majority of people while exercising dictatorship over a tiny minority of exploiters

Intellectual and Social Origins
The origins of revolutionary Marxism in India, particularly its Maoist avatar, are typically traced to 1967, when the radical left split from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In May 1967, the revolutionaries who later formed the new Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) supported a local peasant uprising in the village of Naxalbari in the Himalayan foothills of north Bengal. The CPI (M-L) thus came to be popularly known as Naxalites or simply Naxals. Inspired by the revolutionary writings of Mao Zedong, the Naxalites selectively targeted kulaks in the countryside and bourgeois representatives of the comprador state, and endeavourerd to mobilize rural masses to encircle major cities such as Delhi and Kolkata and eventually seize power. They tapped into widespread disillusionment, especially among students and intellectuals, with the postcolonial regime dominated by the Congress party. By 1970, hundreds of young men and women from the country “most prestigious universities had joined the movement to fight for their peasant and proletarian comrades. Urban middle-class and invariably upper-caste activists thus made common cause with the struggles of subalterns, particularly peasants in eastern and central India, whose interests had been betrayed by Congress nationalists towards the end of the anti-colonial movement. From its epicenter in West Bengal, the Naxalite movement spread initially to the neighboring states of Bihar and Orissa, and then, up the northern plains to Uttar Pradesh and Punjab as well as westwards to Maharashtra and southwards to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

Social Bases:
Why ordinary men and women participate in the Maoist movement and to what extent they exercise any meaningful agencies within it are fiercely debated in contemporary India. Critics of the Maoist movement today argue that Naxalites have always been violent, blood thirsty ideologues who coerce subalterns to do their bidding. Sympathizers, however, see the movement as the authentic voice of the most marginalized sections of Indian society. At any rate, there is widespread agreement that dalits (ex-untouchable castes) and adivasis (tribals) are the most important social groups whom Maoists seek to mobilize for their revolutionary ends. Yet not alldalits and adivasis participate in or favor Maoist revolutionary activities. There are significant differences in the social bases of Maoism both within and across regions. At the same time, it is widely accepted that the leading ideologues of the Maoist movement do not belong to these subaltern communities. Top Maoist leaders such as Koteswara Rao (alias Kishenji) and Cherukuri Rajkumar (alias Azad) have almost invariably been men from upper or middle-caste backgrounds. While their superior caste status carries much significance in rural India, it must be recognized that Maoist leaders do not come from the small privileged circle of Westernized elites based in Indian metropolises. It is true that there is now an underlying layer of dalit and adivasi leadership within the movement, but it is equally true that men and women from subaltern backgrounds have yet to assume top leadership posts in the party. The social bases of the Maoist movement are, therefore, best understood in terms of the constraints and opportunities available to radical youth in rural India today

Among dalits, especially in rural eastern India, local struggles for dignity and political assertion go back to the late colonial period. As landless peasants and bonded laborers, formerly untouchable castes have been indispensable to capital accumulation and social reproduction in modern India. The legal abolition of untouchability has meant little in practice to dalits reeling under oppressive upper-caste regimes in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Orissa. In south Bihar and northern Jharkhand, for example, dalits have been instrumental in carving out a Maoist stronghold by aligning their interests with those of the party. During the caste conflicts of the past three decades, dalit castes such as Musahars and Dusadhs actively fought their landlords with the assistance of the Maoists. Yet others such as Doms chose not to displease their landed patrons. In Orissa, a similar situation has played out, especially among Christian dalits who have joined the Maoist movement to combat the hegemonic designs of the ruling rightwing Hindu upper-caste groups. In 2008, the assassination of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, an aggressive proponent of Hinduization among dalit and tribal communities, by Christian Maoist youth laid threadbare the social polarities that fuel revolutionary action in that state. In adjoining West Bengal, the birthplace of the Indian Maoist movement, the upper-caste dominated CPI (M) denied caste discrimination over 34 years of its rule. But lower caste groups, who were kept out of its patronage structures and the benefits of land redistribution policies, have been at the forefront of the contemporary Maoist movement. Among adivasi communities, officially recognized as “scheduled tribes” by Indian law, the Maoist movement did not emerge from within. Instead, it was brought to the forest highlands of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by committed cadres seeking to expand their revolutionary ambit. The Maoist entry into tribal homelands has coincided with the growing presence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) there. In Jharkhand, for example, tribal youth with the appropriate language and technical skills can join the Maoists, NGOs, and sometimes, even both. These young men and women find a new sense of camaraderie and non-farm employment within Maoist ranks that contrasts with what they see as the drudgery of farm labor in a gerontocratic society. Resisting the gerontocratic rule of tribal elders also entails negotiating local state structures insofar as the elders, especially in their role as village headmen, are key local state functionaries. The primacy of local power dynamics can be clearly seen from the tribal youth’s relative disinterest in Maoist ideology per se. Supporting or participating in the Maoist movement thus seems quite compatible with implementing NGO programmes or enrolling in state welfare schemes. In Chhattisgarh, however, adivasi support for and participation in the Maoist movement have been closely linked to the counter-insurgency campaign led by the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored militia. The gross human rights violations carried out by the Salwa Judum have, ironically, had the effect of turning even fence-sitting adivasis into committed Maoist cadres. As in Jharkhand, it is possible to participate in state and NGO programmes as a member of the Maoist party, though, in a more polarized situation, it is harder to keep one “allegiances secret. In the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, it is particularly interesting to note the prominence of Gond adivasis in the Maoist movement, even as local and regional party leaders, though smaller adivasi groups such as the Dhurwas and Murias have tended to keep the Maoistsat arm’s length.In sum, while the social bases of contemporary Indian Maoism, therefore, do not encompass all adivasis or dalits, it cannot be denied that these marginalized groups form the backbone of the movement.

It is possible to view the contemporary Maoist movement in India as yet another revolutionary Endeavour that has failed. Yet this view misses not only the very real gains in subaltern political participation produced by the CPI (Maoist), but also the movement’s tendency to retreat to subterranean levels before surfacing again when conditions are favorable again. The term failure thus misdiagnoses the present situation, which may be described more accurately as a temporary retreat. Longer time horizons permits to better appreciate the waxing and waning of social movements in response to internal and external challenges and constraints. If the history of Maoism in India tells us anything, it is that the basic structural conditions for revolutionary struggle continue to exist, yet those who lead such struggles must inevitably compromise their revolutionary ideals in the face of local and regional constraints on mobilizing subaltern populations. Despite its ambitious revolutionary aims, the contemporary Maoist movement in India has been compelled to exist as a fragmented entity alongside the state and NGOs. The movement’s underlying strategy is, ostensibly, to garner maximum support at the grassroots level without imposing a centralized party discipline on local cadres, and ultimately, to incorporate every kind of political dissent within Maoist ranks. Nonetheless, fragmentation of social protest also suggests severe principal-agent problems within the party, while coexistence with the state signifies the inability of the Maoist movement to control particular areas exclusively as liberated zones‟.
As the current wave of Indian Maoism ebbs due to internal and external factors, we may reasonably expect another wave in the next generation, and there is every reason to believe that future Maoists will inherit the opportunities and challenges of their predecessors.

Azad (2006): “Maoists in India: A Rejoinder”, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 41, No 41, October 14.
Banerjee, Sumanta (1980): In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India (Calcutta: Subarnarekha).
Patnaik, Prabhat (2000): “Marxism in India” in Tom Bottomore
Patnaik, Utsa (2004): “The Republic of Hunger”, Social Scientist, Vol 32, No 9/10, September-October.
Gao, Mobo (2008): The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution

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