The New Face of Capitalist War and Duty of the Left:Progressive Students Union

This guest post is an appeal circulated by Progressive Students Union (PSU) – Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) – about the state’s war on “Maoist violence” , adding to the growing criticism of the CPI(Maoist) that cannot be conveniently dismissed as pro-state or anti-Left.

As has already been declared all across the national media, the state has declared war on “Maoist violence” across the country and is about to unleash its might on some of the most neglected regions and people of this country. While the Maoists are the declared target of the State, it is needless to say that they have hardly any qualms about “breaking a few eggs to make an omlette”! The thousands of adivasis and civilians going to be caught in the crossfire would be portrayed by the media as an inevitable but necessary price to pay for the eradication of the Naxal ‘menace’. That may well be only less than half the story, because another reason for state operations in this area is the immense mineral wealth there which can not be passed on to Indian capital unless adivasis living there are displaced, and their survival systems completely destroyed. According to reports from Chhatisgarh, the state sponsored Salwa Judum has displaced more than three hundred and fifty thousand adivasis in the old Bastar area. Fifty thousand have moved to neighbouring states, another fifty thousand are living under the surveillance of para-military forces in state controlled camps, the remaining two hundred and fifty thousand have moved deeper into the jungle to escape the violence and pillage of Salwa Judum. While the adivasis of Central India have faced, and resisted state violence for long, the Central Home Ministry – under the leadership of the suave and genteel Home Minister and Prime Minister –  has made plans for a larger offensive named ‘Operation Green Hunt’ (with the open possibility of aerial bombardment) to be launched in November this year. Progressive Students Union (PSU) condemns in the strongest terms these actions of the state which amounts to nothing but declaring war on its own citizens.

The regions which have been declared Naxal-hit and where combing operations have already been started by the State are some of the most backward regions of our country and are inhabited by largely tribal populations. These deprived sections have always had to bear the costs of capitalist ‘development’ and accumulation pursued by the Indian State since independence; whether by giving up their lands and access to common property resources in order to aid corporate expansion or by a steady erosion of social safety nets continuously dismantled especially since 1990 by a State determined to minimize its welfarist role at the behest of the neoliberal masters it is enslaved to. It is clear that anti-naxal/Maoist operations are nothing but a ploy to silence dissent and divert attention from the real issue, i.e., the abject failure of the Indian State to ensure the well-being of ALL its citizens. The State in order to deflect responsibility is simply avoiding a debate on how the pattern of capitalist development so dear to the ruling classes will mean nothing but the continuous immiserisation of the vast majority of toiling masses whose labour provides the surplus a tiny minority feeds upon. In its place, it is propping up an empty debate peppered with slogans of “national security” and “internal threats”, hollow phrases that only seek to justify the State aiming its weaponry at its own people. Let us be very clear that throughout human history capitalist development has always been aided by the might of the State, as has been clearly witnessed during the Enclosure Movement in England or the expropriation of the indigenous people’s land and resources by the white settlers in America and Australia. So what we are witnessing now is nothing but a new phase of ‘primitive accumulation’.

However, at this juncture, PSU also feels that there is a need to critically look at the tactics adopted by the Maoists in leading the struggle against the State. To begin with, the Maoist line which has singularly been pre-occupied with violence as the core of their philosophical understanding, betrays the absolute lack of political understanding on their part. The Maoists have become victims/prisoners of their own limited understanding of the nature of the Indian state. This has led them to universalize their localized experiences and resort to strategies of armed struggle which may see them gaining the upper hand in isolated skirmishes but fails to hold good even ten kilometers outside the jungles. They see the Indian state as feudal when in reality the State, though steeped in regressive social structures of caste, communalism and patriarchy, is undeniably capitalist. Moreover, this capitalist state uses these pre-modern structures to propagate and entrench itself. These primordial relations make it difficult for them to perceive the actual capitalist character of the State and the mode of exploitation, and hence the appropriate mode of struggle. Their tactics of resistance consists in deploying a chosen few to lead or even fully undertake an armed struggle on behalf of the oppressed. The irresponsibility of this politics of behalf-ism has gone to the extent of carrying out surprise attacks in the name of resistance, and has left the impoverished masses exposed to the backlash unleashed by the State. The instances of irresponsibility shown by the Maoists are several, chief of which was observed in Kandhamal where  the Maoists displayed their bravado in killing a VHP sadhu, yet no trace of them was seen later when innocent Christian adivasis were butchered by the rabid right-wing Hindutva brigade seeking retribution. Let us be very clear about the fact that violence can never be anything more than a part of tactics. Whether a revolutionary organization will take to arms can only be decided by the context, by the people engaged in the struggle and through building a concrete understanding of concrete situations. Unlike the capitalist forces, who keep on unleashing massive violence on the people despite abhorring it in theory, faced with a perennial persecution by the uniformed goons of the capitalist world order, Marxists have always been honest about their readiness to engage in revolutionary violence if the need arises. However, that does not mean reducing all our understanding of politics to merely engaging in anarchic violence while failing to build a revolutionary class consciousness among the masses. Moreover, in order to formulate appropriate strategies to overthrow the existing system, it is imperative that we develop a concrete understanding of the different ways in which the capitalist Indian state seeks to stabilize itself. On the one hand the Indian State has a truly terrifying command over a wide range of sophisticated weapons of annihilation, which it has never hesitated at the slightest to unleash even if it were against its own people as we have already seen in the case of the North East and Kashmir. On the other hand, the State has also erected several hegemonic structures through which it seeks to legitimize its existence, structures which have to be combated ideologically and cannot be undermined or overthrown by an armed struggle alone.

It is a well accepted fact that the extent of deprivation in our country has reached overwhelming proportions such that more than three quarters of our population subsist on less than Rs 20 a day. The 77% of our population violently pushed to the margins of existence consists of not just adivasis, but rural and urban poor as well. In such a scenario, isolated struggles for adivasis or other such oppressed identities may win individual victories and concessions, but will surely not be enough in bringing about a comprehensive systemic change. The only way forward for building a revolutionary praxis is one in which all oppressed sections are politicized and made truly conscious of the contradictions that keep them chained and divided. A strong solidarity among and with the struggling masses must be forged in order to strengthen the bonds of class consciousness which would be most effective in countering the hegemonic structures created and maintained by the appropriating classes. A revolutionary politics can never get built without intensifying class struggle, which in turn is impossible in our country without smashing the structures of caste, communalism and patriarchy, the structures which divide working classes and are exploited by the right-wing forces to pit sections of the working classes against each other. Frederick Engels in the Introduction to Karl Marx’s “The Class Struggles in France – 1848 to 1850” pointed out as early as 1895 itself that “The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions, carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organization, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for with body and soul… But in order that the masses may understand what is to be done, long persistent work is required…”

This is not to position parliamentary democracy as the solution to all our problems. Engels, while speaking on the subject of universal suffrage, wrote, “In election agitation, it provide[s] us with a means, second to none, of getting in touch with the mass of the people where they still stand aloof from us; of forcing all parties to defend their views and actions against our attacks before all the people…”  If parliamentary democracy allows you to assess your standing amongst the masses and represent their interests, how does entering into dubious alliances with reactionary forces serve the cause of building a revolutionary consciousness? Parliamentary democracy as practiced by the mainstream left has become nothing but a hollow brand of politics, where opportunistic alliances are formed in a bid to retain power, and where remaining in power is the end in itself and not the means to advance a social transformation. The degeneration and depoliticization that has set in among the mainstream left parties is self evident when on the one hand they continue to rhetorically pledge their solidarity with people’s movements emerging across the country, but go ahead and forge alliances with exactly the same powers that pledge to crush these movements. An instance of this can be seen in Orissa where adivasis are resisting corporate depredation and exploitation (without any Maoist intervention) carried out by Vedanta, Posco and Tata actively promoted by the BJD government. However the parliamentary left in the name of ‘not opposing industrialisation’ not only entered into an alliance with the BJD but has also refused to stand in solidarity with the emergent mass movement.

Progressive Students Union (PSU) stands in firm solidarity with the people of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and all others who are valiantly resisting the ploys of the Indian bourgeoisie and appeals to all progressive and left-democratic forces to join hands against this new phase of capitalist war against the working masses of India. We believe that only through a process of unity against the enemy and critical debate within the left wing forces, will the road be paved towards revolution.  All those forces will be condemned by history, that in the name of debate, expose their fissures to the enemy and also those, who in the name of struggle and unity, forget the critical debates within. An appreciation of this dialectics is the need of the hour.

Sd/- Vibha, PSU-JNU                                                                                                                     Sd/- Divya, PSU-JNU

6 thoughts on “The New Face of Capitalist War and Duty of the Left:Progressive Students Union”

  1. Hi,

    I support your cause and share the same thoughts on this subject. Evils of capitalism are slowly coming to the fore and I hope people wake up to the reality and speak up.

    Thanks and Regards,

  2. No this PSU is not “the students’ wing of the RSP” (a Left Front partner), but another one. This PSU comes from and is, squarely in the ML tradition.

  3. I agree with PSU’s position on the Maoists but there is still something that one has to learn from the latter.

    The Maoists are the only “left” who are actively and significantly present in the areas of adivasi resistance to massive disposession. They are certainly not leading or really involved in the struggles against POSCO, VEDANTA or TATA. But they have always recognized the histroical strength of adivasi struggles and the relative failure of the Indian state at hegemonizing them. It is very fine (or is it?) to talk about “proper left politics” — “building a revolutionary praxis is one in which all oppressed sections are politicized and made truly conscious of the contradictions that keep them chained and divided” — but this praxis needs to have started a little while ago, didn’t it? Does it not sound a little to “collegiate” to be still talking in such cliches? The new struggles against dispossession — Singur/Nandigram or Posco/Arcelor — have certainly changed a great deal of the political atmosphere of fatalism in this land. It has forged open a new space for the left to rebuild again away from the dreary alternatives of CPI(M) and the Maoists. That space is an inspiration, an inspiration to learn a new language of politics and the will to struggle. It is a place to begin from. It is also a reminder — to the revolutionary, who really should not be needing this — to go to the struggling people. The struggles are here in Delhi, as much as they are in the devastated rural countryside. But they need the left politics to be with them with some humility and not with projects of “producing true consciousness” among the peasantry and the proletariat. One needs to have the courage and the good sense of asking “Who is conscious and who is not? Who is going to produce which consciousness in whom?” Thus these spaces of popular struggles today are not spaces of opportunity, like the Maoists and other moribund leftists may think. “Opportunity” implies a form of politics where the theory is all worked out and now only strategy and opportunity is left. Sadly, that is fundamentally “bourgeois thought,” which the left has passionately embraced. It is the authoritarianism based on the bourgeois fear and need to reduce the uncertainty of its authority in the future (just like the fear fed upon by the state and “risk” capitalism). So, we need to learn from the Maoists to leave the living room of the “party office,” but also, and now in negation of the Maoists, learn not to treat people’s struggles as opportunistic entry points to propagate the tragic and authoritarian politics of “consciousness raising of the masses.” It is an opportunity, but the historic opportunity for the Left bourgeoisie to lose its chains. To misquote Engels for the sake of the realities of 2009, “in order that the Left may understand what is to be done, long persistent work is required.”

    1. it is erroneous to comment that the maoists are not present or suppotive of the struggles at posco, vedanta, tata. the maoists were certainly present at the singur agitation. the singur agitation is a reminder of a sad story of a reactionary party like trinamul congress capturing the leadership because of the lack of imagination of the various bengali marxist-leninist or maoist organisations. these organisations have been around since the naxalbari days. one should ask them what struggles have they carried out in the last four decades other than sniping at each other and fissuring into million pieces.

  4. It is high time that all genuine ml and progressive forces form an united front in the type of
    P L O etc

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