RECIEVED VIA MAIL
Interview: An Inside Look at Maoist Strategy in India
This is an interview with G.N. Saibaba, the Deputy Secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), an All Indian Federation of Revolutionary People's Organisations. He is 40 years old and was born in Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India. The new Norwegian party Rødt [Red!] conducted this interview in early December when Saibaba was in Norway for the memorial service for Tron Øgrim. The interview was conducted in English. Thanks to the Fire on the Mountain blog for posting it.
Red!: If someone said to you that the Maoist movement in India is a marginal movement that is mainly operating in very backward, lowly populated areas, and it has been doing so for over thirty-five years without getting anywhere, what would be your answer?
Saibaba:The Maoist movement in India is not confined to the backward areas. It's a vast movement, and includes the "developed" areas. Maoists work both in the countryside and the cities. The government says that the Maoists are active in 15 out of 28 states. And these include the major states. The Union Home Ministry says that 167 districts out total 600 districts in the country are covered by Maoists. This is a little less than 1/3 of India.The Maoists in India follow the New Democratic Revolutionary method proved successful in China under the leadership of Mao. This method follows that the revolutionary movement must put priority on working in the areas where the state is weak. The Maoists work in the backward regions to smash the local reactionaries' power and establish people's power. They build revolutionary mass bases in these backward areas. This doesn't mean that they don't also work in the cities. In fact, in the Congress of the CPI (Maoist) held in January/February 2007, they decided to increase their work in the urban areas. They have produced a new document concerning work in the urban areas that analyses the work done in the last thirty years. This document sets out a strategy for developing the work in the urban areas.The backward regions in the country are essentially semi-feudal and there is not much capitalistic development. The Maoist Party selected these areas for guerrilla warfare. The armed struggle is considered as the main form of struggle. In order to develop the main form of struggle the Maoists concentrate their work in the backward areas. The struggle in urban areas is secondary and complimentary. The work of the party among the working class in the urban areas helps develop proletarian leadership for the struggle in the backward areas.At the same time the Maoists participate in developing a huge movement in the urban areas among the intelligentsia, students, women and the middle classes. Maoist cadres and leaders who have been working in the urban areas also are arrested, harassed and killed.Maoists also work among the coal miners in a big way. There are vast coal mines in many regions in India. You can see, the Maoists work in many industrial areas all over the country, though their concentration of work proceeds from the rural areas.In fact the CPI (Maoist) leads the single largest mass movement in India. The Central and local governments' response is an indicator to the vastness of the movement. The Central Government has formed a Coordination Centre together with 14 state governments. They are cooperating to mobilise security forces and to gather intelligence about the movements of the Maoists. They have armed a huge military network. They have monthly meetings of this Centre. A large number of military forces are engaged against the Maoist movement. This also indicates the strength of the Maoist movement.The Naxalbari uprising in 1967 that beckoned in the new revolutionary wave ended with splits into many groups. The splitting up of revolutionary communist forces lasted from 1972 to 1997. It is only after 1997 that the revolutionary communists started uniting. Two major parties who were waging armed struggle united in 1998 and the final unity took place in 2004 when the CPI (Maoist) was formed with the merger of MCCI and CPI (People's War). Because of the splits the movement couldn't grow faster before 2004.
Red!: How do the Maoists respond to accusations of being dogmatists, and not being willing to learn from the defeats of socialism in the 20th century?
Saibaba: The Maoists are creatively and in a genuine way implementing the Marxist principles to the concrete conditions of India. They don't blindly copy from China or Russia. At the same time they are aware that the socialist projects in China and Russia were defeated by the capitalist roaders. They apply Marxism-Leninism- Maoism in a practical way for India. If one calls carrying armed struggle dogmatism, then one is moving away from class struggle in an impoverished country like India. Armed peasant struggle is the basic struggle, because 70% of the masses have been forced to remain with and depend on agriculture and backward relations of production. In such a situation where a vast majority don't have a public democratic space, they will not be able to fight the fascistic ruling classes without arms. But armed struggle is also being waged creatively and practically. Armed struggle doesn't mean the annihilation of the class enemy. Armed struggle is a form of class struggle where the oppressed classes assert their power and organise themselves by taking away power from the feudal and pro-imperialist comprador capitalists.Armed struggle under the leadership of Maoists also means re-appropriation of the sources of livelihood by the wretched of the earth from the dominant and powerful classes. It also means building alternative institutions the people's power. So in this way the armed struggle is redefined and practiced with Bolshevik spirit of giving all power to the soviets. Without armed struggle no resistance can be built in countries like India and the resistance that has been built up in the previous years cannot be retained. The armed actions against the state forces and feudal forces are carried out to protect the movement and in self-defence and self-assertion of the exploited classes.The Maoists believe that the demise of socialist construction in Russia and China was mainly due to the revisionist line that developed within the respective Communist Parties of those countries. The capitalist-roaders in Russia and China captured power back from the working class because those parties could not guard against the infiltration of the bourgeoisie into the proletarian parties. The failure of the socialist projects have taught important lessons to the international proletariat in carrying forward the class struggle against the bourgeoisie in various countries and the monopoly bourgeoisie at the international level. In no country in the world has class struggle succeeded without armed struggle.Red!: How many soldiers do the Maoists have approximately?Saibaba:The Indian Government says 28,000, but the number may be much higher. The areas of their influence look much wider than what the Government estimations indicate. Also there is a vast people's militia working at the village level. The militia is basic and primary in relation to the People's Liberation Army as per the strategy of the CPI (Maoist).
Red!: Have there been any peace talks between the Maoists and the authorities anywhere?
Saibaba:There were peace talks in 2004. The Government of Andhra Pradesh invited the Maoists for peace negotiations. The Maoist Party always maintains that they are never averse to political negotiations with their opponents on the issues of people's struggles, but no negotiations are possible on their central political line in terms of strategy. One round of peace talks were conducted in Hyderabad for about a month. This was facilitated and supported by the prominent intellectuals of the region. The Maoists said in the negotiations that if the government was willing to solve the problems of the people for which they had been fighting in the last thirty five years, they would welcome the change. They discussed the basic problems of the people. A ceasefire agreement was signed by both sides before the political negotiations began. The government said that they wanted to close the first phase of the negotiations and also said that it would implement the agreed upon points. And the Maoist leaders who negotiated went back underground. They waited for the implementation of the agreed points. The Government violated the ceasefire, started hostilities on the Maoists and killed several hundred Maoists, including leading cadres. This process revealed before the eyes the people how the reactionary rulers are not ready to solve the problems of the people.
Red! : Do the Maoists have any base areas?
Saibaba:The People's War has not reached to the level of base areas yet. But it has almost reached this level in several places. In these areas where base areas are under construction, people's governments at local level are functioning. The People's governments are functioning in several hundred villages.
Red!: There is news that the Central and State Governments launched attacks against the Maoist positions in Andhra Pradesh, and that they have been driven out of most of the areas. Doesn't this show that when the ruling classes want to, they can defeat the Maoists militarily, and that it is only a question of tactics from the enemy's part, when it decides to smash the Maoists?
Saibaba:In the last decade more than two thousand Maoist cadres have been brutally murdered in Andhra Pradesh. There was a concentrated attack particularly after the peace negotiations. When the Maoists saw that they were facing larger losses of forces, they retreated from certain areas, and deployed them in other areas. There is a temporary setback in some areas in Andhra Pradesh for the Maoist movement, but they are trying to revive these areas. The Central and State governments use vigilante groups in a huge way to infiltrate the Maoist areas and smash them. The vigilante groups worked more effectively for the governments in breaking the Maoist resistance in some areas of Andhra Pradesh.The movement is not merely a military movement. It is a political movement involving the masses. So the Maoists are not facing and confronting the Indian military forces just militarily but more politically so they have a vast mass base. It is not possible for the government to smash the movement because of massive popular support. The temporary setbacks are not uncommon in revolutionary movements. But the mature revolutionary movements could recover from such setbacks quickly from time to time.
Red!: Are there any revolutionary forces that are trying another strategy than protracted people's war in India?
Saibaba:Yes, for example CPI (ML) New Democracy and a few other CPI (ML) groups. Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections (elections to the Union legislature i.e. the Parliament) in 2004, CPI(ML) Red Flag and a few other CPI (ML) groups took the initiative to form a united front of revolutionary communists basically to fight elections.The Maoists consider them to be the right deviationists but not revisionist. They are progressive, but not on the right revolutionary path as per the Maoists. But Maoists are not averse to work with them in mass work.Red!: India is a big country. In some areas there are civil wars, in other areas there is not much unrest. At the same time most parties are regional, not national. Are there revolutionary organisations in all the states of India?Saibaba:The unrest is everywhere. Take for example Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These two areas are poverty-stricken areas. But there is not a single revolutionary party exists in these regions. The unrest takes place in these regions many shapes. Sometimes mass militant movements arise. But the major problem is that the revolutionary subjective forces are not working there. These are two large states, but there is no history of revolutionary communist parties in these areas, mostly NGOs work in these areas. They are often foreign funded. But the objective situation is very much ripe for armed struggle in these areas as well. It is simply the question of spread of revolutionary forces to these regions that is awaited.Red!: What is the percentage of people living in the cities? How many of these have employment?Saibaba:30 percent of Indian population live in urban and semi-urban areas and 70 percent in the countryside. Overall, about 77% of the people live on Rs. 20/- a day i.e. half a US dollar a day on an average. Unemployment is rampant in every part of India.
Red!: Officially India is growing at a GDP growth-rate of almost 10%. You contest this figure. Why?
Saibaba:At the moment the growth rate is around 9% as per the Government's declaration. Only 0.5% percent of the workforce, which is engaged in the service-sector, is contributing 55% to the GDP. And 70% of the workforce, which is in the rural agriculture sector, is contributing with only 19% to the GDP. And 3% of the work force is engaged in the manufacturing sector. These figures from the government tell us that the vast majority of the people's share in the GDP is very minute. Right now the growth rate figures are based to a large degree on speculative capital, which includes foreign investment. So the growth rate is both illusive and fragile. The calculations for the growth rate are also based on falsehoods. If these figures indicate anything, we understand that the top 10% is amassing the wealth with crudest exploitative methods.
Red!: In the Philippines there is a combination of People's War and at the same time the party supports people's parties that stand for elections, in Nepal the Maoists stood for elections to parliament in 1993, then they boycotted the elections and started a people's war, and now they are in parliament. Isn't it possible to combine people's war and parliamentary work in such a vast and diverse country as India?
Saibaba:The history of the development of the Communist Movement in India in the last 40 years shows us that those Communist Revolutionary Parties that did not choose the strategy of People's War, but chose the theory of people's resistance first, before the initiation of People's War or that chose to combine people's resistance and parliamentary politics, gradually slipped into either right deviationist or neo-revisionist path.People's War is the main strategy, whereas standing for elections of the Parliament is a tactical question. The Maoists are not in principle against the elections, but doing this must facilitate the strategy of People's War. The Maoists consider the question of participation in Parliamentary elections as part of the tactics which has a strategic importance. So they don't see any immediate possibility of participating in elections. The Parliamentary institutions are highly discredited ones among the people in India. In the imagination of people at large, if one is participating in elections one is the enemy of the people who comes to rob them. The Maoists boycott elections and concentrate on building alternative people's power and people's institutions. In India the Maoists have no immediate plans of using this tactic.
Red!: Isn't it possible to develop both legal struggle and underground struggle in the cities and larger urban areas, also including working in the Parliamentary organisations?
Saibaba:The Maoists do work in the urban areas among the working classes and the middle classes. This has secondary importance in relation to the main strategy of the revolutionary line. The primary importance is to develop the armed struggle in the villages among the peasants as the main force, and with the working class ideology in the leadership. This means not just the physical workers but those of the people who acquired the proletarian ideology and without property of their own. Maoists do combine legal and the illegal struggles as far as the struggles create space to operate and basically understand that more and more militant struggles create this space. Whatever there is any democratic space, it's being used to the maximum extent possible. But the ruling classes don't allow the use of legal means and different institutions of democracy always. Participating in elections is not the only way to participate in legal and urban spaces. Even boycotting elections is a highly political activity, which is another way of participating politically within the given democratic space that exists in India.First of all, the Maoists are concentrating on gaining power for the people to build people's democratic revolutionary institutions. When this is achieved in large areas, they will get more space in the urban centres.
Red!: Is employment growing?
Saibaba:The employment rate is not growing, it is standing still. But the real employment rate has declined very much, for several reasons. The economic surveys tell us that one million small industries were closed in the last few years, and this made a huge loss of jobs. Then land being acquired from the farmers is also responsible for unemployment. The small peasants and landless peasants have lost their jobs in a big way.Only IT-industry and some service industry are growing. But these are sectors where a miniscule number of people are employed. Employment in manufacture sector is on decline. The government doesn't show these figures. The independent intelligentsia produce alternative figures on both the growth rate and unemployment. There is a huge controversy about the official figures about employment situation in India. On the whole, there is a decline in the employment growth rate, side by side there is decline in real wages of workers.
Red!: Is India an imperialist country or a semi-feudal, semi colonial country?
Saibaba: India is not an imperialist country. The reason is that India is under the clutches of the imperialist powers. India's ruling classes exert little amount of power in international politics. To a great extent, it is acting under the dictates of the US imperialists. At the same time India has expansionist designs. Imperialist powers can control other countries, while expansionism is a desire to expand without the ability, to the neighbouring countries and try to exploit them and bully them.But even these imperialist designs are not according to the wishes of the ruling classes of India, but according to the wishes of the imperialists. India exercises its expansionist desires by becoming an instrument in the hands of the USA at present. The USA is manoeuvring India to get control over the neighbouring smaller countries for an overall control over the geopolitical interests of the USA in South Asia. Examples are Sri Lanka and Nepal. India is being used to suppress the LTTE's just struggle for Tamil national liberation in Sri Lanka. The relationship between the USA and India can be compared with the hegemony of Israel in the Middle East. Now the US wants to use India to suppress the Maoist movement in Nepal though at present clandestinely. India has occupied Kashmir and North-Eastern national territories like Naga and others peoples by brute military force.
Red!: Is the class struggle in India more intense now than 20 years ago?
Saibaba: The poverty levels in India have increased. In 1947 there were no suicide deaths of farmers. From 1990s onwards the suicide deaths of farmers have started in a big way. Why did they start in the 1990s? It's because agriculture, which employs the largest section of the population has been neglected drastically. The poor peasantry is not able survive in this sector largely depending on the highly exploitative private credit system. About 150 000 farmers committed suicide in the last ten years. There are hunger deaths in many areas. People are eating wild roots and leaves in vast areas of deliberately underdeveloped areas. In fact we can see that we have several areas at the same level as the sub-Saharan African countries in India today. All this is happening particularly after the aggressive pro-imperialist globalisation started at a large-scale in India.The working class is the most beleaguered class in our country. They have lost their rights. The fresh sections of workers emerging from the peasantry classes cannot join the labour aristocratic class. The organised sector very small compared to the unorganised sector, where collective agreements and labour laws are followed to an extent is fast diminishing.But also ordinary people are more conscious of the already existing struggles in other areas. The class contradictions are sharpened because the resources are going into the hands of fewer and fewer after the globalisation process started around 1990. This process amasses of wealth in a very few hands.Some welfare reforms introduced by the ruling classes in the decades of sixties and seventies were dropped and the government is leaving everything to the market that is led by the imperialist forces directly allied by the subservient domestic capitalists. This also increases the intensity of the struggles.
Red!: Since the beginning of the 1990s the ruling classes in India have pursued a neo-liberalistic policy of deregulation and privatisation and globalisation. How do these changes effect the situation for women?
Saibaba: There is nothing liberal about the neoliberal policies. These policies have been implanted since the time of Nehru in India. The so-called Nehru socialism is full of pro-imperialist globalisation policies. But then of course there is a marked difference between the earlier phase and the phase started since the 1990s. The difference is that globalisation is the aggressive phase of imperialist onslaught. Globalisation is the globalisation of aggressive monopoly capital in the absence of socialist block in the world, and also because of imperialism' s own in depth crisis. More and more, the burden of this crisis is being shifted on to the shoulders of the third world countries. As a result of the extreme exploitative conditions under the process of globalisation, the first section of the people who are facing severe difficulties are the Adivasis, the landless and poor peasants, the workers, the religious minorities particularly the Muslims an overwhelming majority of whom are among the country's poorest and in all these sections and classes the women are affected first of all.Women are of course affected hardest. When workers are retrenched the women go first. Second, in the dwindling conditions of employment, women don't get new jobs as the job market is rabidly patriarchal. The extreme patriarchal oppression that exists in India is a result of both deviant capitalism and semi-feudalism. Women are forced to look after the families, particularly the children, when sources of livelihood decline. As a result, women eat less now, feed their children and look after their households. Today, there is more malnutrition among women, working in hard conditions both at home and outside. They get lower wages than men. Though equal wages is the law in the country, nobody follows it.The sex ratio in the country is fast becoming a gulf, with the actual number of women decreasing in compared the numbers of men. Female foeticide is a growing phenomenon. Hundreds of cases of female foeticide are recorded in the hospitals. So now women are the biggest section joining the struggles, standing at the forefront and joining all struggles. More than 30 percent of the members in the Maoist party are women. Even the biggest bourgeois party in the country will not have such number of women. In some areas like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand the percentage is higher.
Red!: You say that displacement is the major issue in India. That there are six different kinds of displacement: Special Economic Zones, mining, new industry, new big dams, beautification of urban spaces and infrastructural corridor projects and others. You say that the forced displacement is based on expropriating approximately 12% of the land. Most of this land is also very fertile. Can you explain why displacement is the main issue, and not poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and so on?
Saibaba: 70% of the people depend on land or agriculture directly or indirectly. The major source of employment is agriculture. When land is taken away for these projects the people have no other source of income. So, one of the major ways that people are becoming unemployed is through dispossession of land. This in fact renders both the landed people and landless poor jobless. The rehabilitation packages announced by the government for those who lose land, never work. The rehabilitation is never implemented. So all the problems like malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and so on, are rooted in the process of dispossession of people of their sources of livelihood, by displacing them from their land, forests and other habitats.
Red!: Why can't the displaced peasants get new jobs in the modern sector?
Saibaba: The displaced are from those sections that are silently forced to remain illiterate. They don't have the necessary skills for industrial work - - particularly the kind of industry that is being set up with high imperialist technology. On the other hand, even if a small section is eligible for industrial work, they don't get jobs because the industries being set up are technology-intensiv e and they don't employ many people. The machines are brought from the imperialist countries. These machines require highly skilled labour. So there is no space for the disposed to get jobs in the industrial sector that is supposed to be growing. Then there is a small possibility of employment in the IT-sector or services sector, but not the manufacturing industry. In the urban areas there is already a huge section of educated unemployed, who will get a small number of jobs in these industries, but not the rural displaced.
Red!: What do the Maoists in India consider to be the main lessons to be learnt from the defeat of socialism in the last century, when it comes to the question of the relationship between the communist party and the rest of society?
Saibaba: The Indian Maoists feel that what happened in Russia and China still has to be analysed further. They think that in future the international Communist Revolutionaries have to come together and study the failures more concretely. One of the reasons for the failure of the socialist construction projects could be that the parties had not been able to devise mechanisms to check the infiltration of the bourgeoisie into the Communist Parties. But of course in China the Cultural Revolution under the leadership of Mao was developed to check the infiltration of the bourgeoisie into the Communist Parties. But it remained at an experimental level at that time after the death of Mao. More and more devices, political and ideological have to be developed within the revolutionary Communist Parties to check the extraneous class ideologies from creeping into the Communist Parties. Each of the countries of the world today needs to establish firm proletarian parties.Unfortunately in many of the European countries as well as in some of the third world countries today, extraneous class ideologies have been creeping in, in the name of "21st century democracy," "liberal organising principles" and acceptance of a "multiparty system." Even within the policies of the Communist Parties, the need today is to drive them towards Bolshevisation, Leninist Parties which can lead the proletariat to victories in the process of which lessons can be drawn from the earlier failures which should be understood as temporary setback for the world proletariat in the long historical onward march.
Red!: What is the root-cause for differences among the Communist forces in India?
Saibaba: Within India the differences among the Communist Revolutionaries are not simply differences among their leadership. They reflect the different class bases of these parties, the nature of their petty-bourgeois leadership, their attempts to take their parties into non-proletarian class ideologies by leading mostly legalistic struggles. The sharp class struggles simply cannot depend on legalistic means of struggles and survive in the face of the highly fascistic reactionary classes. In India, some such parties have made their bases among the rich and middle peasantry which mostly has petty-bourgeois and liberal attitudes by which they try to protect their legal space. Some others have built a party simply with urban petty-bourgeois sections. Others who have been building parties with the propertyless poor and landless peasantry including Adivasis and working class are able to go ahead in developing formidable class struggle.So the differences are based on concrete physical conditions in the classes they root in their struggles. There is a need today for the coming together of all these small sections of such Communist Parties to ally with the Maoists, but unity is only possible if they change their orientation towards genuine proletarian line and base their work among the working class, the poor and the landless peasantry.
Red!: Are there any lessons to be learnt on the question of women's' liberation from the defeat of socialism?
Saibaba: If we look at the present situation of the emancipation of women, the patriarchal structures are to be studied in depth by the practicing Marxists in the movements. Now in India more and more concentration is paid on the patriarchal structures from the women cadres of the Maoist Party. One is the institution of reproduction itself, which is highly discriminating against women. Within the Maoist revolutionary practice this has become a major question along with other specific problems for women. These problems have not been completely grasped. Not enough mechanisms have been found to check the discrimination of women within the revolutionary process. One major thing is that women continue to be under patriarchal structures just because they are women. So the new revolution must pay attention to the specificities of this special oppression. The second important point is that complete emancipation of women is not possible within the capitalist system.But we should also be aware of the fact that if the proletariat takes over power the patriarchal structures would not automatically disappear. This is a major problem. One must have specific attention to the institutions and structures that remain. Women have to fight a revolution within the revolution. In India there will be many more revolutions within the revolution as we have a peculiar oppressive form called caste. One example we have before us for the revolution within revolution is the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China under the leadership of Mao. But India has to tread a more torturous path. Mao called for a thousand revolutions to completely root out the bourgeois ideology. I understand all such attempts of revolution within the revolution are complimentary and patriarchy and caste system or say, racism has to be looked at from this angle. A quick and simple solution is not possible. A revolutionary has to be patient.But this doesn't mean these revolutions should wait till the proletariat captures power. In India we think that Cultural Revolution has to start now even before the success of the New Democratic Revolution. But such an attempt taken unmindfully will degenerate into a Post-modernist ruse, like most liberal humanist projects relapse into Post-structuralist obscurantism. This task is possible only in the hands of a firm proletariat Party after it acquires confidence of the revolutionary masses in a country. Otherwise, such attempts will end up in mere anarchism.The women have their own structures and organisations within the CPI (Maoist). They have their own conferences and committees. They are part of the general conferences and have separate meetings in connection with these.The rule is that if a woman and a man are equally competent then a woman is given priority in leading any particular revolutionary committee. There is also special education for women so that they develop faster, special camps and special trainings are devised. In the Maoist Party most women that are party members do not have children on their own choice, but if particular women want to have, she can have a child and the party will help her. The period her child-bearing not be discriminated against. There are well developed policies about these questions in the Maoist Party of India.
Red!: Is there are revolutionary situation in India today? What about the rest of the world?
Saibaba: There is an extremely favourable revolutionary situation in India and also in all the "third world" countries. In each of these countries, the domestic crisis is growing while international crisis is also growing. The "third world" countries need not wait for any third world war to accomplish their revolutions. There may not be a Third World War in the classical sense, even though Bush promises one. The conditions of war exist in different ways.The world is already in a type of war, but its shape is different now. For example, the US is fighting a military war against the people of Iraq and an economic war on the people of India, and both varieties of wars kill the people in the same magnitude. So why does the US need to declare war on India when the Indian ruling classes are willing to facilitate everything for the imperialists? The growing contradictions among the imperialist forces can quickly change from collusion to conflicts. The background is already prepared and the revolutionary situation is already ripe. It is the subjective forces of the communists that have to take advantage of the situation and strengthen their forces.The ruling class hegemony will be crushed in no time if the imperialists don't come to their rescue in each of these countries when the revolutionary masses organise themselves. Similarly, a break in the imperialist chain anywhere will catch like wildfire and the irreversible collapses of the imperialist/ monopoly bourgeois rule in the West will follow the suit. The proletarian parties in Europe and other parts of the West should prepare the ground before for this impending and indispensable eventuality soon