The following is the contribution to the 18th International Communist Seminar by Josh Sykes, Freedom Road Socialist Organization
“The youth – the current situation of the youth, the work of the communists among the youth, and the incorporation of new generations in the communist parties”
Brussels, 15-17 May 2009
Freedom Road Socialist Organization has a rich history of work among youth and students. Many of the veteran cadres of our organization were active with the youth of the Black Panther Party, Brown Berets and the Students for a Democratic Society of the 1960s, the Revolutionary Student Brigades in the 1970s, or the Progressive Student Network in the 1980s. Others worked on campuses to organize against South African Apartheid, in the historic Jesse Jackson campaign, or in solidarity with the Central American revolutionary movements. Many also organized Asian American and Pilipino (1) students, or worked in mostly oppressed nationality student formations like the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM) in New York. Today, students and youth in Freedom Road continue to do mass student organizing, mainly in the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) formed in 2006.
Why should Marxist-Leninists do work among students?
Our line on student work has its roots in the New Communist Movement. Much has changed since then, and we as an organization have learned a lot and gained a lot of experience, but the basic principles remain. As we see it, communists should work among students for three main reasons: 1) in and of themselves, the student movement can strike blows against the U.S. ruling class, 2) the activity of the student movement can spread advanced ideas to society as a whole, and 3) advanced students can take up Marxism-Leninism and join the struggles of the working class.
Furthermore, in our student work FRSO upholds the Mass Line, the view that the masses of the people are the makers of history, and that people learn primarily through experience in cycles of practice-theory-practice. This means that we work in mass organizations, and follow the principle of “from the masses, to the masses,” in work to raise people’s consciousness and understanding.(2) We also understand clearly that, as Mao Zedong said, “The young people are the most active and vital force in society. They are the most eager to learn and the least conservative in their thinking.”(3)
Historical development of the student movement in the U.S.
The student movement in the United States has some characteristics that result from its particular historical development in a large imperialist country. First, since the final turn towards revisionism (Marxism in words and opportunism in deeds) by the Communist Party USA in the mid-1950s, there is no genuine Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in the United States.(4)
But this leadership vacuum was soon filled by revolutionary minded students and youth, who were won to Marxism-Leninism and began a process of building Marxist-Leninist organizations and integrating with workers and oppressed nationalities. Just as many members of the Chinese Communist Party emerged out of the May 4th Movement,(5) so did many members of the New Communist Movement emerge from the struggles of students and youth.
However these new Marxist-Leninist organizations did commit both “left” and right errors. The liquidation or retreat into sects by the largest New Communist organization and the failure to build a new Communist Party resulted in many setbacks in the 1980s and 1990s. Today’s progressive and revolutionary forces are small and scattered as a result. The same goes for the student movement as whole.
There are no powerful Red youth groups, though a plethora of small, Trotskyite youth formations exist. Their practice follows from their theory, however, and so the Trotskyite student formations tend to be sectarian and commandist in their style of work and approach to the masses. Most student activists work in mass organizations alongside anarchists, social democrats, and other radicals. Two of the largest and most significant mass formations today are the Students for a Democratic Society and the Iraq Veterans Against the War.(6)
Students for a Democratic Society
The FRSO currently does most of its student work in a multi-issue, mass student organization, the Students for a Democratic Society. SDS, though majority white, is multinational such that most chapters reflect the composition of the campuses on which they exist. Furthermore, SDS is one of the largest and most active student organizations in the country, with well over a hundred active chapters all over the U.S.
Founded as a national organization in 2006 by students representing a variety of Leftist ideologies, from Marxists to anarchists and radical social-democrats, today’s SDS is named after one of the outstanding student organizations of the 1960s, out of which much of the New Communist Movement of the 1970s was born. The SDS of the 1960s organized in solidarity with working class and oppressed nationality struggles and against the Vietnam war. The new SDS stands in that same tradition.
Since its founding, most of SDS’s work has been in the anti-war movement. SDS has also done important solidarity work with African Americans struggling against national oppression. SDS has worked in the immigrant rights movement, protesting fascist, anti-immigrant speakers on campuses and leading some walkouts for immigrant rights. Revolutionaries in SDS work to build coalitions with oppressed nationality students and youth. SDS also organizes for women’s liberation and for the democratic rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people.
Likewise, SDS also organizes solidarity with working class struggles. When workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago occupied their factory in December 2008, SDSers from throughout the Midwest went to the factory to show support.
Anti-imperialism and the anti-war movement
Freedom Road Socialist Organization members in the student movement work to oppose imperialist war and occupation. Since 2003, most of FRSO’s anti-war organizing has been in opposition to the U.S. war against the people of Iraq, with the main goal of keeping the demand for “troops out now” at the forefront of the movement. Secondarily, we have sought to raise an anti-imperialist pole in the movement (including building support for the Iraqi resistance among the advanced) and to raise the social costs of the war, raising the level of militancy.(7) As the FRSO Student Commission said in a statement in September 2008, highlighting some of our work in SDS,
Members of FRSO have been working in SDS since the first National Convention in Chicago back in 2006. What have we been doing? We have organized militant local chapters. We organized against the war in Iraq, for immigrants’ rights, labor solidarity, in defense of the Jena Six, and more. We are all involved in a lot of local work, and while doing that, we worked hard to build national campaigns. In 2007 and 2008 members of Freedom Road were in the lead of SDS’s work around opposition to the 4th and 5th anniversaries of the U.S. war against Iraq. This led to actions on more than 80 campuses in 2007 and on 90 campuses in 2008, many of which were not associated with SDS before. Through this and other work we’ve brought many new activists and student groups to radical politics and into SDS. We helped organize student contingents in major national marches and we also helped to organize the 2007 and 2008 National Conventions in Detroit and Maryland, and the 2008 SDS Action Camp in Asheville.(8)
Like other social movement in U.S. society, the ebb and flow of the student movement is determined by objective conditions. The election of President Obama, and the developing economic crisis had an overall negative impact on student anti-war organizing, releasing some built up pressure and diverting the attention of some of the intermediate. In our analysis, however, the principle factor in the declining role of the anti-war movement among students and in society as a whole has been due to the relatively lower level of activity of the armed Iraqi national resistance. Simply put, less fighting on the ground in Iraq means less struggle here in the U.S.
As the criminal U.S./Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people in Gaza began last year, students on campuses around the United States held actions in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle and to demand an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Students on campus have played a particularly important role in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, by fighting to have their colleges and universities divest from Israel.
Likewise, anti-imperialist students have played a big role in solidarity with Colombian workers, who suffer from brutal exploitation under the U.S.’s Plan Colombia. Colombian Trade Unionists are murdered in the hundreds by death squads funded by U.S. corporations like Coca-Cola, Drummond Coal, and Chiquita Banana. Students have long been in the forefront of the campaign to get Killer Coke off of campuses, and tour
Colombian workers around the country to speak about U.S. military intervention in their country. Understanding this as a question of self-determination, students doing Colombia solidarity work oppose Plan Colombia and “Free Trade”. Students also make up an important part of the annual protests to shut down the School of the Americas, a “counter-insurgency” and death squad training school in the state of Georgia.
Students in SDS have also worked hard on the campaign to free Ricardo Palmera, a leading negotiator of the FARC-EP, now a political prisoner of the U.S. empire as the result of neo-colonial extradition policy.
As public opinion becomes more and more opposed to the war in Afghanistan, the student movement will respond by leading more actions against this war. Already students are leading educational events and protests exposing the ruling class’s interests in subjugating the Afghani people and in propping up a criminal, puppet government there.
The student movement and oppressed nationalities
Throughout the 20th century, the student movement has been and remains today largely divided on national lines. This is the result of continuing oppression of whole nations of people within the United States, including in particular the history of the segregation of the U.S. educational system. Until the historic African American liberation struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, university campuses were virtually all white. As a result of the struggle of African Americans along with Chicanos, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, the doors to colleges and universities were opened and programs such as Ethnic Studies began to teach about the history of racism and national oppression in the United States. One example was the united front of oppressed nationality students of the Third World Liberation Front, which led the historic San Francisco State Strike in 1968 and 1969.
As a result of this history, African American, Chicano, Latino, Asian, Native American and other oppressed nationality students tended towards organizing themselves into nationally specific formations.(9) These organizations today include the Black Student Unions (BSUs), MEChAs (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán – Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán), and Asian Student Unions. These organizations began as militant political organizations in the 1960s and 1970s, although most have more recently become mainly social, cultural, and service oriented.
There are a significant amount of oppressed nationality struggles in the U.S. right now, particularly in the immigrant rights movement (which is connected to the Chicano national question in the Southwest). Similarly, in the Black Belt South, where African Americans make up an oppressed nation, there has been significant motion around the case of the Jena Six and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In all of these cases, the majority white sections of the student movement have done some coalition building work and organized to fight back against racism and national oppression.
Students and the economic crisis
Since the further development of the economic crisis, members of Freedom Road have begun to look more closely at ways to fight back against budget cuts and tuition hikes on campuses. As working and poor people lead the fight-back, demanding that the rich pay for their crisis, likewise students are demanding that budgets not be balanced at the expense of accessible education, raising the slogan that “education is a right!”
There is already spontaneous movement amongst students as a wave of protests against cuts to education sweeps the country, including the militant student occupations of New School University and New York University. A recent article in Fight Back! Newspaper highlights some of this motion:
Hundreds of students from City University of New York (CUNY) walked out of class on March 5 to protest Governor Paterson’s proposal to cut funding to education. Jackelyn Mariano, a protester from Hunter College said, “CUNY is made up of working-class students and students of color who really can’t afford to go anywhere else. It was supposed to be free when it opened up, and tuition has been increasing ever since” (Washington Square News, 3/6/09). Hundreds of students from New York University also participated in the rally.
In Arizona, responding to over $300 million in cuts to higher education for 2009, over 2000 students from universities across the state marched on Phoenix in early February. On March 18, over 1000 students gathered in Jacksonville, Florida, to protest hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to the state’s education system. And in Sacramento, California, thousands of teachers and students from across the state descended on the capital last week to protest massive layoffs and cuts to education.
At Middle Tennessee State University, the university’s steering committee proposed eliminating 44 majors, dissolving some departments, closing the women’s center and day care center, laying off 70 faculty and outsourcing custodial services. The Coalition to Save Our Schools at Middle Tennessee State University has been leading a huge effort with repeated demonstrations of hundreds of students to stop the cuts, including a ‘funeral for higher education’ on Feb. 9 that coincided with the governor’s state of the state address.
In some instances, even student government associations are organizing protests, like at Binghamton University in New York, where over 50 students protested tuition hikes and held signs last week that said, “I chose $UNY ‘cuz it used to be CHEAP” and “Public education must be affordable” (Press Connects, 3/25/09). And at Penn State University in February, the student government organized hundreds of students to protest the governor’s budget proposal that cut $20.3 million from Penn State’s budget while also excluding the university from the Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act. This move would block many low-income students, and especially oppressed nationality youth, from access to higher education (The Daily Collegian, 2/10/09). (10)
It is important to note that the struggles for immigrant rights and for national liberation overlap in significant ways with the broader struggle for college access. Working class and oppressed nationality demands need to be at the forefront of the struggles against budget cuts and tuition hikes on campuses. It is the programs that were won through struggle by past generations that will be first cut. As public universities move to increase tuition in the current economic crisis, it is oppressed nationality students who will feel the effects most drastically as the doors to higher education are systematically closed to them.
The central task of Marxist-Leninists in the United States today is to build a new Communist Party on a Marxist-Leninist basis. Without a Party guided by the most advanced revolutionary theory it is impossible for the working class to take power and build socialism, which is so desperately needed. Like so many students before them, we want students who join Freedom Road Socialist Organization to transform themselves and eventually to go into the working class and the masses of the oppressed nationalities to help lead the class struggle. Mao Zedong once asked, “How should we judge whether a youth is a revolutionary? How can we tell? There can be only one criterion, namely, whether or not he is willing to integrate himself with the broad masses of workers and peasants and does so in practice. If he is willing do so and actually does so, he is revolutionary.”(11) This was true when Mao Zedong said it in 1939 and it is true today. While they are in school, students and youth must become anti-imperialists, and take up the struggles of the multinational working class and oppressed nationalities and put those demands in the forefront, working to advance the interests of the people and land blows against the ruling class and their cronies. When their time organizing on campus is up, they must transform themselves, go into the working class and the masses of oppressed nationalities, and take up wholeheartedly the class struggle.
Josh Sykes is a member of the National Executive Committee and co-chair of the Student Commission of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization
(1) In the 1960s and 1970s many Filipino student organizations adopted the term “Pilipino” in rejection of colonialism and in solidarity with the growing national democratic movement in the Philippines.
(2) See FRSO’s pamphlet Some Points on the Mass Line. http://www.frso.org/about/docs/frsomassline.htm
(3) Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, p. 290
(4) For more discussion of this, see Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist. Chicago, Liberator Press: 1978
(5) On May 4th, 1919, a wave of student protests shook China. “The ‘literary’ revolution became a nationwide complex of manifestos, demonstrations and militant action. New political terms were coined and stirred awareness of the new literature. Satirical essays constructed a new style. Repression could do little against this radicalization… Student societies (among them the New People’s Study Society founded by Mao Tsetung) organized centers for the production and dissemination of Marxist literature.” (Han Suyin, The Morning Deluge: Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Revolution 1893-1954. Boston, Little Brown, 1972. p. 68.)
(6) Though IVAW is made up exclusively of post-9/11 veterans, it is mainly an organization of students and youth, so for that reason it is included here.
(9) Many nationality specific formations of the 1960s and 1970s like the Black Panther Party, the Chicano groups like the August 29th Movement and the Brown Berets, or Asian American groups like I Wor Kuen or the Red Guards were made up almost entirely of young people but generally did more work in their communities than on campuses. Other nationality specific student groups, like the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC), a major African American organization of the 1960s, also did considerable work organizing in their communities and with non-students.
World People's Resistance Movement (Britain) Launches New Website!
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World People's Resistance Movement (Britain) has launched a new website to promote and unite people's struggle against the British ruling class and the imperialist system in general. This political website supports all anti-imperialist and revolutionary forces and individuals, regardless of their ideology, and informs the people about their statements, articles, leaflets and practical activities. All visitors to the site will have the opportunity to leave comments and join a lively public debate.
WPRM ( Britain ) is a democratic organisation, which supports resistance to imperialism and the revolutionary struggles (e.g. Nepal, India, Bhutan, Peru, Philippines etc.) of the peoples of the world. Its existence is a response to a world where imperialism is on the rampage, bringing nation after nation to ruin, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Somalia and Palestine .
WPRM ( Britain ) supports the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, which includes defending themselves when the imperialist ruling class and their client states wage wars of aggression against them. The oppressed peoples of the world (workers, peasants, women, national minorities, etc.) have the right to rebel against oppression and its root cause – the imperialist system.
In Britain , we need to unite with all those who always support the people's struggle against the imperialist ruling class. We believe that active participation of the British people in the global struggle against imperialism will pave the way for their liberation.
Join us to develop and promote the website to serve the people.
World People's Reistance Movement (Britain) BM Box 7970 , London. WC1N 3XX E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.wprmbritain.org
The Indian government has banned the Maoist Communist Party of India as a terrorist group, giving security forces enhanced powers of arrest.
The move provides Indian police with the power to detain members of the party even if they have not been involved in insurgent activity.
Earlier, five states across east and central India were put on a high alert as the Maoists called a two-day strike.
One district in West Bengal briefly fell under almost total Maoist control.
The rebels said the strike they declared was in response to the “war” on people in Lalgarh, West Bengal, where security forces launched an offensive in recent days.
Lalgarh had been under the virtual control of the rebels since November.
But police and paramilitary troops have been attempting to consolidate their grip on the jungle enclave over which they re-established control over the weekend.
Monday’s strike began a day after 11 police officers died in a rebel attack in Chhattisgarh state and two days after 16 policemen were killed in landmine blasts triggered by the Maoists in the same state.
Issuing a high alert for the five states in which the strike was declared, the interior ministry said India’s federal Intelligence Bureau had “specific inputs” that Maoists were planning possible attacks.
“Security forces, as well as economic infrastructure like railways, buses and crowded markets, may be targeted by the Maoists to make their presence felt during the strike,” the interior ministry advisory said.
India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has described the Maoists as the greatest threat to India’s internal security.
The ban on the Communist Party of India (Maoist) comes just a month after the Congress party won a decisive victory in elections – leaving it with no need to turn to communist parties for support in shoring up a coalition.
Correspondents say it is unclear how big an impact the ban will have in the fight against the rebels.
Villagers in Lalgarh say their young men are being forced by police to hunt for explosives planted by the Maoists.
Bengali artists meeting villagers in Lalgarh Artists are trying to broker peace between rebels and the government
“They are giving the village boys an S-shaped iron rod each, asking them to hook it to wires sticking out anywhere and pull it. This is dangerous because they will be too close to the explosives if the wires are linked to them,” said Chattradhar Mahato, chairman of the Peoples Committee on Police Atrocities (PCPA), active in the Lalgarh area.
Some of Bengal’s leading artists, including film-maker Aparna Sen, visited Lalgarh on Sunday in a attempt to broker peace between the West Bengal government and the Maoists.
But neither appeared to be in a mood to talk.
“The Maoists have no specific demand, they are just out to create trouble. We have to continue the operations to deal with them,” said Bengal’s chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarty.
Maoist leader Kishneji told the BBC: “We will show the government what is people’s power. No police or army can crush that.”
Thousands of villagers have fled their homes in the Lalgarh region to avoid getting caught in the fighting, heading towards neighbouring areas of Bankura district.
The Bengal government started the offensive to retake Lalgarh, which had effectively been under Maoist control since November.
The Maoists skilfully harnessed people’s anger over police excesses following an Maoist attempt to kill chief minister Buddha Bhattacharya through a landmine blast, says the BBC’s Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta.
We will spread this fire, says the Maoist from Lalgarh 21 Jun 2009, 0848 hrs IST, Sukumar Mahato, TNN
My name is Manoj. It's not the name my parents gave me, but all my comrades call me 'Manoj'. My father's name is Dhiren Murmu. I am his second son
Inspired by Mao Zedong, Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal of the CPI (Marxist) develop a "revolutionary opposition" to the party. More Pictures and I am 25. I was born at Bamundanga village in Salboni. I've lived most of my life in this hopeless village.
Our village falls under the Kansijora gram panchayat. The Left Front has been in power here for 30 years. Salboni has always been a CPM stronghold. But, in 30 years, neither the state government, nor the panchayat and Zilla Parishad took any interest at all in developing this area. We might have been living in the Stone Age.
From Naxalbari to Lalgarh: Maoists breed in swamps of hunger and anger | No revolution for old radicals | Blog: Kolkata's missing millionaires and Lalgarh
When it rains here, the dirt tracks turn muddy and we are forced to drag ourselves and our cattle through the muck. We are not able to ride our bicycles or use carts. We don't have clean drinking water. People are forced to drink filthy, yellow water. After sunset, we live in the dark as there is no electricity here. No jobs either. During the paddy season, we work in the fields and then sit idle for the rest of the year. Because we are tribals, no one has bothered to do anything for us.
In 2002, we got tired of being treated like rodents. So, the villagers got together and demanded development in our area. This infuriated the local CPM bosses. The police and Marxists slapped false cases on us, accusing us of working for the People's War Group (PWG). They branded us Maoists. So we began to think we might as well join the Maoists.
Things turned nasty quickly. The former police superintendent of West Midnapore, K C Meena, lodged an FIR against the entire village. Nearly 90% of the men and teenage boys were charged with being Naxalite. We knew what was coming. We had to do something to save ourselves.
I was just 18 at the time. I was in class XII at the local school. But, I too joined in protests against the police. Within days, the police filed a case against me, my father and brother. They accused all of us of working for the PWG. We had nothing to do with the PWG. Our family has always supported the Congress party. In 1998, when Mamata Banerjee formed the Trinamool Congress (TMC), we switched loyalty to her.
One day, police jeeps rolled into our village, picked up people from their houses, bundled everyone into their vehicles and dumped all of us into the Midnapore jail. That was where I first met Maoist leader Sushil Roy. I found the Maoist ideology very appealing. Roy asked me to join the Maoists so that I could help the poor. I liked his ideas. Then I met two PWG leaders in prison. And I realized that neither Congress nor the TMC can stop the CPM's terror. I also realized that under CPM rule, we had lost the right to speak up. It was time to take a stand and speak up.
I joined the Maoists. They gave me a new name, a new identity and a new life. Now, I work for the Lalgarh movement. I joined this great surge of people last year. On November 5, the police arrived here looking for people who had blasted landmines at chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya' s convoy at Salboni. In Lalgarh, the police rounded up innocent tribal women and began to molest and torture them. One woman lost an eye. Others were badly injured. After this incident, we decided to join the Lalgarh movement. It was our party's decision. The Maoists always stand with the deprived. We joined them at Nandigram and Singur. Now, we have joined them in Lalgarh.
It's been easy for us to win the people's support. Most of them have been victims of torture by police. The people listened to us and joined the Peoples' Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). Opposition party workers have also supported us. Everybody is rebelling against the CPM cadre and police.
We know the government forces want to crush us. But, we plan to expand our area of influence. As soon as we are able to turn Lalgarh and Junglemahal (a forested area spanning three districts - Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore) into a Maoist-dominated area, we will apply our ideology here. We will undertake development work for the poor. We will raise money through public donations. And nobody will pay tax to the government anymore.
After victory at Lalgarh, we will expand our fight to the tribal communities of Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chattisgarh. Our war has just begun.
Resume of a rebel
Once peaceful forest-dwellers, now they challenge the Indian state. Here's a profile of that little-known species, the typical Indian Maoist
Age - 18 to 30 years Gender - Both male and female Ethnic stock - Austro-Asiatic (tribal/indigenous people) Linguistic group - Austro-Asiatic (tribal) and old Dravidian dialects Income group - Below poverty line ( Rs 12 per person per day) Occupation - Small peasant, landless labour, jobless, jungle-dweller Area of operation - UP, MP, W Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand Chhattisgarh, AP, Maharashtra and Karnataka political affiliation - CPI (Maoist) other names - Naxalite, Red ultra, terrorist
Maoists by Numbers Total number 50,000 Number of armed rebels 20,000 Area under control One-fifth of India's forests Active in 165 of the country's 604 districts
From Naxalbari to Lalgarh: Such a long journey down the road to revolution
1960s Inspired by Mao Zedong, Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal of the CPI (Marxist) develop a "revolutionary opposition" to the party. They lead a violent Santhal uprising in West Bengal's Naxalbari village in 1967. Later, they break away from the CPI(M). Uprisings are organized in several parts of the country. In 1969, CPI (Marxist-Leninist) takes birth
1970s The radical leftists fragment and the CPI (ML) becomes weaker across the country. This causes regional groups such as the Maoist Communist Centre, which evolved out of the Dakshin Desh-group, to strengthen in Bihar and Jharkhand and the People's War Group to assume leadership of the armed rebels in Andhra Pradesh and adjoining states
1980-90s At least 30 Naxalite groups are thought to be active across the country, with a combined membership of around 30,000 activists. But their differences over their perceived "revolutionary" roles often result in bloody battles. Many groups, particularly in Bihar and AP, are accused of land-grabbing and extortion
2000s Groups such as the CPI (ML) give up violence, enter mainstream politics and participate in elections. In 2004, the MCC and People's War join hands to form a new entity, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is now the biggest armed group ever to challenge the very existence of the Indian state.
The Indian state is mobilizing its forces to crush the just struggle of the tribal people of Lalgarh, West Bengal. In the last 24 hours, West Bengal's state police and 11 companies of Central paramilitary forces have started to move towards Lalgarh.
In November 2008, the tribal people (adivasis) of Lalgarh rose up against decades of abuse by the police and goons of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the ruling party in West Bengal. This is the same phoney "communist" party that has tried to give away peasants' lands in Nandigram and Singur, only to be beaten back and exposed by determined struggle.
In recent years, thousands of adivasis in the Lalgarh area have been imprisoned on false charges of having ties with the Maoist insurgency. They formed the People's Committee against Police Atrocities, which has extended its influence to 1,100 villages in the region. Led by the People's Committee, the adivasis have driven the police and CPM cadre out of the area, burning down police camps and digging up roads to prevent the state authorities from re-entering. Activists of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have played a leading role in the People's Committee and in extending the struggle into new areas.
This is a critical battle for the Indian people and for people around the world. Our voices must be raised against the preparations of the West Bengal state and the central government to drown the struggle in blood.
* * * * * * * * The following are from the Times of India:
Security forces begin ops to free Lalgarh from Maoists 18 Jun 2009 — Security forces have moved into the restive Lalgarh region to end the three-day siege of Maoists, who have gone on a rampage targeting CPI(M) cadres and leaders, destroying their homes and party offices and setting up barricades to block police entry.
Fifty villages in and around Lalgarh in West Midnapore district have been captured and declared a `free zone' by Maoists.
Setting up their base camps around Lalgarh, central forces along with state police began closing in on Lalgarh early on Thursday morning. Four to five base camps at strategic locations have been set up with the objective not to concede any more areas to the Maoists. Maoists have formed a three-tier human shield with women and children in the vanguard, men behind them and armed naxals forming the rearguard, according to a senior police officer. Sources say the forces want to minimize casualties and will thus move slowly.
"Operation at Lalgarh has started this morning. The operation will be mainly done by the state police but we will be adequately assisted by the Central forces," West Bengal DGP Sujit Kumar Sarkar said.
Asked about the number of forces deployed, Sarkar said the details "cannot be divulged right now".
"But there are adequate (state) forces to restore peace and normalcy in the area. The CRPF will give adequate back up and if needed, they will actively participate, " he said over phone from Kolkata.
Agitating tribals of West Midnapore and adjoining areas have been protesting police "atrocities" on them in the wake of the landmine blast at Salboni which was believed to target the Chief Minister.
The tribals, numbering 2000 under the banner of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities, dug up roads amid reports that they were laying landmines to stop the security forces.
"We will try to shed minimum blood," Sarkar said adding I cannot tell you the exact timeframe (of the operation)."
Five hundred CRPF personnel, including 200 personnel of the elite COBRA trained in anti-Maoist operations, have been deployed to deal with the situation.
Conceding to pressure from the Centre, the state government had ordered the police to lead the operation with assistance from the central forces.
There is a self-deceptive politics (among some leftists) that seeks to prettify all kinds of reactionary forces that (for one reason or another) are in opposition to U.S. imperialism — including Islamic reactionaries, Kim Jung Il, “hardline” revisionists of the Li Peng and Eric Honecker type and so on.
And in the process they have a real, almost startling, hostility toward sections of the people who rise up in important if still-inarticulate ways.
My sense is that such politics arise from a despair over actually developing our own revolutionary forces — and a resigned assumption that we have no other alternative but to fall behind any forces (ugly, oppressive, reactionary or not) who (one way or another) who seem to be on America’s shit list.
This is not a uni-polar world with only one defining contradiction. Yes, we understand (and must understand) that the U.S. acts as a central pillar of world capitalism… but it is hardly the only pillar or the only reactionary force.
As someone who remembers this Iranian regime murdering our comrades and drenching the people in blood, it is hard not have a far more nuanced sense of such events. I remember so vividly attended parties of celebration with our Iranian communist comrades, from the Iranian Student Association (ISA) at colleges in the U.S., as they went back to Iran (in 1979) to dive into the revolution — so full of hopes and energy.
And I know now, with real sadness that has never gone away, that many of them ended up in the prisons and torture cells of Khomenei, or wasted on the frontlines of the war with Iraq.
I suspect there is a whole generation of radical activists in the U.S. who don’t know how Iran’s Islamic Republic murdered and tortured communists and leftists in large numbers after the 1979 revolution — to consolidate a very conservative-reactionary god-state. And these victims including many who had based their politics (naively) on forming a “united front against imperialism” with those bloody mullahs-in-power.
The importance of revisiting such history is the importance of not repeating it — and not misunderstanding who the theocrats are, and what they are capable of. And at a moment when they are exposed, hated, de-legitimized, targetted among the people themselves, overwhelmingly because of their own crimes, it would be terrible politics to rally to the Islamic theocrats defense simply because they are also being targetted by the United States and Israel externally. In some ways, those external pressures are part of that “perfect storm” that may reawaken politics within Iran.
We have opposed (and must seek to oppose much more powerfully) the U.S. imperialist threats against Iran — and its whole long-term push to fully dominate the central oil fields of the Middle East. We know that the U.S. and Israel will pursue their geo-political strategies here. And we must understand and oppose those moves.
In many ways the only hope the U.S. has had for a “victory” in Iraq involved (somehow) causing a “regime change” in Iran. In the media, all the talk is about Israel’s fear of nuclear weapons, but there is another more-unspoken issue: the Iraq war has long ago morphed into a U.S.-Iranian power struggle over the control of Iraq (and of this region). And so for the U.S. there are very high stakes in the eruptions in Iran.
But our brains are capable of grasping more than one thread and dynamic at a time — it is not just possible (but inevitable) that great events draw into them the attentions of MANY and DIFFERENT players with many different interests. The U.S. hopes to have a pro-U.S. government emerge from all of this. We all know that. They are intevening in countless ways — seen and unseen. This is undoubtedly true.
But who says that a pro-U.S. outcome is the only possibility? Who says this means that the current government should be supported? Who decided that the people of Iran have no agency, no hopes, no possibility of upsetting that whole table of “choices”?
The world is full of very reactionary governments and forces who are in sharp hostility — but there is certainly no reason to believe that we (or the people generally) always just have to pick to side with one reactionary force over another. Sometimes the clash of oppressive forces create great openings through which radical, secular and even revolutionary forces can emerge, learn, organize and act.
The politics of “lesser evil” is often a politics of lowered sights — a politics so desparing of the possibility of revolution, that real, living, hairy, complex revolution possibilities don’t even enter the thinking. They are there, but you don’t even see them.
In essense, this simplistic approach is an approach that pulls toward a cynical view of people, for their ability to learn and develop politics in complex situations, and which seems rooted in a rather strange attraction to any ugly force in the Third World that seems somehow “hard line.” What kind of a world will that create? What kind of evaluation is that of the forces (who are actually in the field)?
Some have argued that supporting the people in Iran’s streets lack a certain “class understanding.”
Presumably that is because the demonstration in Iran have drawn in urban middle class (but not so many of Iran’s working class and even less of the peasantry). But is that how we understand class? If “the workers” support a U.S. war, and “privileged college students” oppose it — should we be confused by that? Is that kind of crude reductionist “class analysis” we want to uphold?
If Iranian students and urban middle classes are the first to strike out against a brutal and theocratic regime, even if they bring their prejudices and illusions with them — is that so bad or unusual?
History is packed with examples to discuss. (Is the Chinese revolution imaginable without the heavily-urban heavily-educated intellectual movement the 1919 May Fourth Movement. Were the trade union aparatuses automatically right in the French may 1968 events?)
It is a good thing when college students take to the streets against a repressive government (with or without some workers). It is a good thing when secular, urban youth and women march against a theocratic regime that enforces medieval morality, and the veil, and much more (with or without some peasants). It is a good thing when people find their voice in a society that stifled them. And such openings are the path by which radical politics stirs even more widely — including precisely among the working people (who are sometimes slower to move).
A class analysis has many components: One is to approach the countless political questions of our world from the communist point of view of ending all oppression (a view that ultimately is in the interest of those most oppressed and stripped of property). It also looks at the actions of all class in terms of the revolutionary process.
And, finally, what is the “class understanding” in a view that seems to say we are limited to a choice between various capitalist and feudal forces. I.e. that the people of Iran are forced to pick between U.S. or their own ugly, hated ruling class. Is that a “class analysis”?
Someone said to me:
“People opposing these demonstrations have no sense of how revolutions unfold in real life.”
I think there is a lot to this. Often revolution emerges from cracks like this. And revolutionary forces (that will have a role in the future) reach new audiences and forces in events like this. And the forces who drag the people into political life — the Rafsanjanis and Moussavis of history — aren’t always the one who inherit the results.
Will forces within the Iranian establishment try to tame this movement with compromises? Yes. Will they order that demands remain within frameworks of the current system? Yes. Will they send marshals in green armbands into the mass marches to isolate and threaten the more radical, secular and revolutionary forces? Of course.
A great movement is not defined by those who “called it into being.” It is not limited by the forces who officially or temporarily claim to lead it. Its course is not set by those who try to control it. And in all of this, we look for, we popularize the most radical, secular, revolutionary and intransigent forces who ultimately represent the best interests of the people.
In many ways, the people churn up their own interests and programs in great upheavals. They congeal into organizations and trends that will influence a whole generation for decades. They will form the kinds of verdicts (in their own hearts and minds) that forge “a revolutionary people” — for greater challenges and even more sophisticated actions in the future.
We have given up on that future if we were to adopt a narrow, shortsighted politics of always picking between this or that bourgeois player on the scene.
Kasama has just posted this from Reza Fiyouzat:
“The Iranian people sensed a deep fracture within the ruling establishment – something that was clearly expressed in astonishing language and tone, in the televised-for-the-first time live debates between the candidates – and they have ceased their chance to use the divide between their rulers to their own advantage.
“The people may have taken to the streets under the excuse of the elections, and may have been encouraged by the rhetoric of the ‘reformist’ camp in favor of some breathing room in the suffocating political and cultural atmosphere imposed on them, but they have forced the debate further. They are openly, and in millions across the country, questioning the legitimacy of the establishment, represented at the moment by Ahmadinejad. The people, in short, have moved beyond Mousavi and the reformists, but are still willing to go along with the tactics formulated by reformist leaders; for the moment.”
This jibes with both my impression of these events, and my hopes for these events — though we will all learn over time the details of what is happening far below the visible screen. But I do know this: If you look at Iran, any future hope for radical change lie among the people in the streets, not in the bloody military and religious forces running the government.
Iranian Maoists to Regime: “You wanted a fight? Let’s fight!” Posted by n3wday on June 16, 2009
Photos from Iran's Upsurge of Anti-Regime Struggle -- KasamaProject.org Kasama received the following leaflet thanks to A World to Win News Service.
15 June 2009. A World to Win News Service. Following is a leaflet issued 15 June by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist- Maoist). The title is a challenge to the regime.
Rebellion, revolutionary situation, an explosion of the hatred felt by millions of people throughout the country: it doesn’t matter what you call the recent events. What matters is that we have entered a new period. Many bridges have been broken and in many spheres there is no return to past. The young women and men fighting courageously in the streets reflect the discontent and anger of three generations. Faces are bloody, bodies bruised, but nobody is talking about retreat or surrender. Armed-to-the- teeth mercenaries and herds of lumpen are wandering the streets but nobody pays any attention to them. Parents accompany their children in the streets. The initial shock and demoralization is rapidly disappearing.
In the mind of millions, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s disgrace in the election farce has discredited the “possibility of change and the rectification of the regime from within” far more rapidly and effectively than any political debate and reasoning. The leading faction took a serious gamble with this. And now may of the rebellious youth are thinking about ways for effectively getting rid of the regime.
There was a clear example of this yesterday in the students’ response to Zahra Rahnavard [married to Mir-Hossein Mousavi] who had gone to [Tehran] university to calm them down: “We didn’t come to battle for the presidency of Mousavi, we have come to defeat the coup and smash the dictators’ set-up”.
This faction is trying to put its own chains on people’s minds by trying to popularise the slogan “Allah is great” and adopting the colour green [symbol of Islam]. They seek and to channel the people’s energy and imagination towards the cesspool of their own negotiations with the “Leader” and the ruling faction. This situation places an urgent task on the shoulders of all courageous and conscious youth, women and workers: that they participate in the street battles with slogans and leaflets and help widen and deepen the perspectives and aspirations of the masses of people to the maximum. This is the precondition for continuing to avoid the wrong roads different factions of the ruling class are trying to get the people to take. The slogans of the rebellion should go beyond those limited and common slogans that are aiming at dictators – Ahmadinejad and Khamenei – and their infamy, and add other appropriate slogans:
We are women and men of war. You wanted a fight? Let’s fight!
We don’t want an Islamic monarchy!
We don’t want an Islamic republic!
We don’t want Islamic rule!
Cannons, tanks and basiji [militia] scare us no more!
The only way to liberation is perseverance and persistence!
The sharp edge of the uprising targets the criminal gang of Ahmadinejad and the main directors of the scene behind him (a section of big capitalists, heads of the army and intelligence services, and a section of the Shiite clergy). But it is a big mistake if we limit the whole of the system to today’s putschists. All the factions of this state system, including the “reformists” , have spent 30 years in crime and theft. The fact that the wolves are now at each other’s throats in no way changes the anti-people nature of these factions. But the rift within the Islamic Republic is unprecedented. It has disturbed the internal coherence of the regime and weakened the regime in the face of the people. Ahmadinejad & Company’s show of force is a sign of desperation.
People should take maximum advantage of the weakening of the state and deal it effective blows. Women, youth, workers and teachers must win demands and rights with their own hands. For example, women can end the forced veil in practice, and by forming cells and taking charge of leading the struggles of women for liberation. Leftist students can and must form a coordinating headquarters for communication at the national level in order to dispatch the news of struggle and their own directives and slogans and popularise them widely. We cannot let Mousavi and the reformist faction become the headquarters of the struggle of the masses. If this faction becomes the “representative” of the people it would be a very heavy blow to the present liberating wave. We need our own revolutionary headquarters. Such an active headquarters, even if small, can become the foundation of a nationwide student organization. The workers of various factories from Ahvaz to Haft Tapeh, Karaj, Arak and Tabriz can rapidly form initial cells of a workers’ organization and become the general voice of the people against the Islamic Republic. By putting forward correct slogans and demands, they can become the real voice of the people and divert people’s thinking from “either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad” and explain that “Mousavi or Ahmadinejad” is exactly the IRI we have been experiencing for the last 30 years.
The previous generation of communists and liberation militants can play an important role in these two tasks: first they have the task of raising people’s sights from the narrow horizons of the reformists, and second, turning the initial links that are developing in the streets and in the heat of struggle into longer-term links in cells and various networks. There is no doubt that the active core and fighting force of this advanced and revolutionary political project should be made up of young students and workers in universities, neighbourhoods and factories.
People must know that Mousavi, Khatami, Rafsanjani and in general the whole ”reformist’ ‘ faction of the regime are negotiating behind the scenes with the “Leader” and the heads of the military and intelligence services in order to prevent the collapse of the whole IRI structure in the face of the people’s wrath. People must know that there are behind-the-scenes dealings between the heads of the IRI and regional and world powers (such as China, the EU, Turkey and the U.S.), with the aim of bringing a peaceful end to “the events”. The U.S.’s main concern is to open negotiations with the IRI in order to solve its problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his key speech in Egypt – where he even praised the Islamic veil – Barack Obama emphasised that he has no problem with an Islamic republic. At present the U.S. is not in favour of “disrupting” the structure of IRI rule.
One important and decisive conclusion can be drawn from all this: people have come to understand their power. This power needs organization. People’s awareness is advancing rapidly. Their understanding can and must grow towards and reach the perspective of the overthrow of the IRI and making a real revolution, concentrating the suppressed dreams and longings of the majority of the people of Iran.
In his speech in Vali Asr Square Ahmadinejad called the rising masses “scum” and said that “the clean river of the people” will push them aside! This kind of talk means that the fight is seriously on and if we want to carry it through to the end we need to prepare. The regime and its various factions have their own political centres for deciding policy, developing slogans and manipulating people. The people need their own centres to analyse the political situation and devise policies for raising consciousness and continuing our own struggle.
The regime has its general staff and headquarters for military action and intelligence in order to suppress the masses. The people should have their own headquarters for the coordination, solidarity and organization of our own forces.
Below is an Interview with Manushi Bhattarai. She is part of the Maoist Ticket that swept the student elections at Tribhuvan University- Nepals largest. She discusses the revolution, recent political developments, the international situation and the role of youth.
Ben Peterson: Thanks allot for meeting with me. The All Nepal National Independent Student union (Revolutionary) (ANNISU(R))* won the student elections at Tribhuvan University. What did the campaign involve, and what are some of your policies as a revolutionary student union?
Manushi Bhattarai: The student union elections was a very historically important process for our organisation and for the Maoist party. there has been student elections for many years, but for some time the revolutionary student movement has not been able, or allowed to participate. We were banned. Also we did not look at these elections simply from the point of view as elections to the student representative bodies but as part of the whole ongoing political process in Nepal. So in those terms, we has a real breakthrough. we were not contesting for the offices as such, but linking the student struggles to the political process. While we were campaigning we always had this in mind. We campaigned around the issues on this campaign, but also around the entire education system across the country. And in these terms it all came back to the political issues that our party has been addressing for many years now. That was how we campaigned, and i think we were successful in spreading our message to the other students. We were coming back into open student politics after a long time. We were new faces, with a new agenda. People knew about our commitment and the gains our party have been able to make during the People's War. People can actually see the gains, we are now the Republic of Nepal.
BP: So the revolutionary students were very clear about putting the elections in the context of the wider political context, the revolution. Can you elaborate a little bit on this political process and the role of students within it?
MB: As you know, the People's War was initiated in 1996 and since its beginning students were at the forefront of the revolutionary process. Many thousands of students have sacrificed their education and their lives. They left their homes, their families to participate in the revolution. In those terms, weather it was withing the People's Army, or in our party organisation students have been playing key roles in all fields. In terms of the student organisation it has been in an interesting position. In the schools we were able to maintain our own committees and continued our organisational work. we took up agendas and fought for them, and on certain campuses we have been very successful. We especially try to work on the public institutions. In Nepal there is unequal education. Public institutions are in very bad condition, but this is where poor people, people from rural areas, or people from marginalised groups must go to study. These areas is where our student organisation is focusing. At a national level, we have been addressing how we should move towards ending the privatisation of education and empowering the public institutions. This is all linked up with the social economic reality of Nepal, and pulling Nepal away from feudalism. Uprooting the old system.
BP: In recent days the Maoist led government has been basically overthrown by the unconstitutional actions of the President, and a new government has been formed by Madhav Kumar Nepal from the UML. Has this disrupted the political process and your plans for education?
MB: Of course! This is disrupting everything. It needs to also be analyzed in the context of the political processes. The coming of Madhav Kumar Nepal, the people now understand this government exists as a puppet government only, backed by certain forces which do not want the Maoists to be successful in implementing revolutionary programs and policies. Since this is a puppet government, it is aimed at pushing back the Maoists, what they have achieved and trying to get them to go back to the peoples war in Nepal. There are those that would like Nepal to become like another Sri Lanka. It is all simply against our agenda, it is against making public institutions a better place, against having an equal education for all and in a way that people from all regions of Nepal can have a primary and secondary education in their own language, as they want and according to their own priorities and the necessities of Nepal, not in a way that is determined and dependant on private institutions. So eventually, a person like Madhav Kumar Nepal- or any other person, its not about a new person becoming Prime Minister- but anyone who comes to power in this way is bound to backtrack on our revolutionary policies. In the education sector it will mean re-empowering the private sector. The Maoist government had started to gain some control over the private education sector, through a new tax policy. The new government will backtrack on this.
BP: The new government is made up of 22 parties, and doesn't have the support of the party that won the elections- how long can it last?
MB: There is no basis for this government to exist for any significant time. The way it has been formed without any coherent agenda or program or common ground. For a government to be formed it should have some sort of common political ideal that is binding. For these parties it is like some invisible hand is holding them together. how long it will last, i don't know. In the Constituent Assembly when Koirala (of the Nepali congress) proposed M.K Nepal as the Prime Minister you could clearly see problems already. All the parties came forward to support the new government, but all of them had ifs, buts and maybes. All the parties came forward with their own baggage and agenda, which can be very different to what the UML stands for. So it is like some invisible hand is holding them together and it cant last long. There is no common agenda, policy, ideology- except for the one reason, which seems to be to "teach the Maoists a lesson". Time will tell how this all pans out.
BP: So now there is this contradiction between the direction of the government and the aspirations of the people, as we saw in the Peoples War, the Jana Andolan and in the election results. How will this struggle between the revolution and the status-quo be played out?
MB:The whole thing is about contradictions, that's what justifies us, our party. That's why we waged the Peoples War, and we have not abandoned the Peoples War. There is a continuation of the same process and struggle we started more than 12 years ago with the Peoples War. We have made some achievements, and we need to sustain those. We need to always keep in mind the international situation, the national situation, we need Marxism Leninism Maoism and need to be thinking about what that means in the 21st century world. We need to keep all this in mind and we are faced with what is definitely a very challenging situation. We have all these radical agendas, and that's how we have been able to mobilise so many people, the whole country and now we have to do so once again. We have worked with forces that are status quoist, that still have an attachment to feudalism, still have a tendency to look to expansionists and imperialists. This was to do away with the monarchy in Nepal and make Nepal a Democratic Republic. That was what the process was about. Now Nepal is a republic, and this is a big thing. Some times people forget that Nepal is now a Republic and minimize the significance of it but this is a big achievement keeping in mind the history of Nepal. Having said that now we must move ahead. Just because the Monarchy is gone doesn't mean feudal elements have all been uprooted. That is the situation right now. We have removed the Monarchy, and to do that we had some kind of alliance with what are status quo forces, so i guess now there is a huge challenge for out party. Now what? Where do we go from here? For us it is still a fight to establish a Democratic Republic for establishing a socialist system in Nepal. We have to be oriented towards socialism, our party has said very clearly that we are oriented to socialism. For this we have wage the whole struggle for the sovereignty of the people of Nepal. The army issue was never about one general Katawal, it was all about the sovereignty of Nepal. For Nepal, right now, the challenge is to internally fight with the status quo forces and externally fight against expansionist and imperialist forces. As i said there are many fronts, there are many challenges, but challenges always come with possibilities. So we are confident. We have had many fronts, Peoples War was one front we fought on, this is just another.
BP: You mentioned the international situation. It is a very difficult situation for revolution, there is no more USSR and China has well and truly abandoned the revolution. So what do you make of the international situation, and in particular, are you looking to Latin America, where there are revolutions also happening? MB: Our party, as far as, i know has some links with the parties and people there. Personally i have been following these situations like in Venezuela and Cuba. I would certainly like my party to have more serious links with Latin America. I think our party hasn't had as close links as we should have, but this is largely because there are so many differences between our situations. There are certainly similarities, in terms of our goals and our ideals and we are all waging an anti-imperialist struggle, but we are in a very specific situation. The geopolitics of Nepal is very specific and different to Latin America. Having deep links with Latin American revolutionaries is a longer term goal. We should have those links, ideologically. We should be having a discussion and learning from what they have been able to do, their policies and programs, but at a diplomatic level having strong links with Latin America doesn't make much sense because of our geopolitical situation. We are landlocked between India and China. Diplomatic links are important, but maybe in the longer term, but the policies, programs and leadership of Latin American revolutions we have allot we can learn from.
BP: In Nepal the youth are playing a very big role in the revolution, but at least within Kathmandu there are also many westernised youth who look more towards Europe, the US and India for their culture, and then also politics. Is there a cultural clash between westernised youths in Urban areas, and revolutionary youth? MB:I wouldn't say there is a culture clash, but as you say there is a community of upper class pro western kids. I think its not their fault., its nobodies fault really, its just where they come from. They are more likely to look to the USA, the UK or India for their education. It all really starts with education, and then becomes cultural, so i think its more of an issue of class background. There isn't so much a cultural clash, but a clash of class interests. This is bound to happen as they tend to look to the west, and we the Maoists, look to ourselves and the lower classes. At some level there is bound to be a clash because they are in favour of more privatisation of schools and institutions where as we stand against that and for the betterment of public institutions. But i don't think... i think we are quite cabal e to talk to these youth and at least get them to listen to our agenda. There are some westernised youth on this campus, and thee people really just want stability and peace. They have everything else, money, cars. They have no problems, except for peace and stability. So if the Maoists can give them that, then for the time being there wont be such clashes. These youth are basically the product of the whole system, and we should try to avoid antagonism between our generation at this time given to political situation.
BP: There are allot of Nepalis who go internationally for education.Does the student union have international organisations and try and organise Nepali students abroad? MB: Our student unions does have an international department which looks into this aspect and establishes links with Nepali Students studying abroad. We believe it is not the fault of the students who leave, they just want a good education in a good environment and we know our country right now is not able to give that. Keeping that in mind and being practical we look to make links with these students so we can encourage them to come back and use their expertise to develop the country. BP: Are you optimistic about the future of Nepal?
MB: Definitely! Otherwise i wouldn't be where i am right now!
*Mainstream politics not for us, says Koteshwar Rao* 4th june 2009
*This is a rare interview with Koteshwar Rao, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the partys highest decision-making body. He is also head of the partys guerilla operations in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. The original comments on this article said The 51-year-old Maoist leader refused to be photographed and set his own terms for the meeting. Mints reporters were asked to arrive at a school in Chakadoba where they waited for around 5 hours. At around dusk, they were escorted to where Rao wasa clearing in the jungle that was reached after a brisk 30-minute walk. In a conversation that lasted at least 5 hours, Rao, who greeted the reporters with the Maoist Lal salaam or red salute, explained the Maoist philosophy. And his groups ultimate objective.*
*The administration alleges that you ambush people and run awaythat you dont have the courage to fight them*
Absolute rubbishthey know we dont run away, but say so because they can neither ignore us nor can they fight us. Even on 2 November, when Buddhababus (West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee) convoy was attacked, I was within a kilometre of where the blast took place. Huge forces were deployed, the area was combed, but I did not run away. All our comrades in (West) Bengal are sons and daughters of the soil. Where will they run away? For the last five years, I am camping here and helping the organization grow. The Intelligence Branch knows everything. They know what I look likethey even have a picture taken last year. We are not scared of appearing before people. Lakhs of villagers and tribals know what I look like since I interact with them regularly.
That we do not go out of the area controlled by us is because our central committee has decided that the strategic leadership team would stay put in the forests. Thats out of concern for our security. I hide only from a select few, such as the police and completely unknown persons.
*How do you forge ties with locals?*
We play very diverse roles, which the people dont get to know. Because they have lost faith in the administration, villagers approach us with their day-to-day problems. We organize camps in villages so they can voice the grievances. We deal with the villagers with a lot of compassion and kindness, which is why they love and protect us. We also work for womens liberation. There are many women who are tortured by their (parents) in-law, husbands or parents. But they cannot protest because they are dependent on them. We fight for liberation of such women. Women are very important for our movement. Many oppressed women have joined us in our struggle across the country.
They have led from the front in many a battle that we have fought. However, in terms of the strength, our women cadre in (West) Bengal is slightly weaker compared with other areas such as Jharkhand, Dandakaranya and Andhra Pradesh. Whereas elsewhere the ratio of men to women is 50:50, and even 60:40 in favour of women, in Bengal, the ratio is around 70:30 (in favour of men). Besides our guerilla operations, we also lead strong mass movements in many parts of West Bengal such as Lalgarh and Nandigram. A lot of women are participating in such movements, though they may not be members of the party. Exposure to such movements leads to political maturity. We need mature organizers for the party and would look to recruit women who have actively participated in these movements.
*How do you fund your operations?*
We mainly depend on donations and mass collections. Mass collections are of two types. In the harvest season, we go door to door collecting quintals (1 quintal is 100kg) of rice. In (West) Bengal, we depend on cooked food from villages and so dont go for collection of foodgrain, but in Dandakaranya, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, where we have bigger camps and run our own kitchen, collecting foodgrain is essential. Apart from this, we also collect cash. We appeal to villagers, who earn their living by selling kendu leaves (used to roll bidis) or by selling bamboo to paper mills, to donate a days wagetypically Rs50-160 each a month. That apart, we impose fines on rich peasants and charge 2-5% levy on government contractors.
We punish corrupt landlords and drive them out from the village. The properties that we seize from themsuch as farm equipment and cattleare used for village development in places where we run a parallel administration.
But we dont charge anything from peoples pay from NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), or (from) contractors building infrastructure such as roads and schools for the poor. We also loot banks, both government and private banks, from time to time. The last time (we) robbed a bank it was a branch of ICICI Bank in Ranchi. We got Rs5 crore from the operation and we attacked another bank to seize the weapons of the security guards.
Majority of our weapons have been seized from the administration. In (West) Bengal, for instance, 60% of our weapons have been snatched from the police. We have bought only 10% on our own; the rest has come from other states. Yet, I would say we dont even have a small fraction of the cache of arms and ammunition that parties such as the Trinamool (Congress it won a significant victory in the recent Lok Sabha polls and is a rival to the Communist Party of India-Marxist, or CPM, one of the ruling parties in the state) and the CPM have.
We dont even have a small fraction of arms and ammunition that parties such as the CPM and Trinamool have.
You see, power doesnt come through weapons alone. Look at the people of Lalgarh (where tribals seized administrative power after the police allegedly tortured some of them on the suspicion that they were harbouring Maoists)with just home-made bows and arrows, they have stalled police. Guerilla operations depend a lot on peoples support and because people are with us, we have managed to keep the police from reaching us. Our party runs on an annual budget of Rs15-20 crore. Thats what we spend on our operations across the country, and its almost the same amount that we raise through donations, seizures and heists. Most of the money is raised in Dandakaranya, Bihar and Jharkhand. In (West) Bengal, we spend around Rs1 crore a year, but we manage to raise only 10% of that amount locally. So, the rest comes from other states such as Jharkhand and Orissa.
*How do you recruit people for your movement?*
We dont recruit from the villages on our own. We have a party-controlled mechanism under which we receive proposals from the locals. After obtaining the consent of the parents of the applicants, we forward the proposals to one of our committees. It vets them and takes a final call on whether or not to recruit, based on the persons antecedents, class and disposition towards others in his or her village. The responsibility of the group that I lead is to train the new recruits. Many of them are initially intimidated by the difficult life we live, but most of them eventually learn to cope with it.
*How do you see this movement ending? Would you join mainstream politics?*
There is no end to revolution. There is no time frameit seems it will take time But, if the war strategy is right, well reach our goal soon. Otherwise, we will have to retreat and change course. But we are strictly against joining mainstream politics. Over the last few years, politicians such as Sonia Gandhi and Buddhababu have been advising us to follow the example of Maoists in Nepal, but look at what happened to them. I met Prachanda several times and told him that they were on the wrong track and urged him to change his political stance. We wont make the same mistake.
*Didnt your party play a key role in mobilizing a mass movement in Nandigram (where the state government started acquiring land for a petrochemical hub, but had to abandon this in the face of strong protests by local farmers)?*
We were there in Nandigram from the very beginning, in January 2007. One of our local leaders, Narayan, who lives in Haldia, had started mobilizing the local population ever since the government first announced its intention to acquire land there and prepared the ground for a mass uprising.
We are still active there since the people of the area want us to be there. The main resistance in Nandigram came from the local youth who took up arms to protest against state-sponsored oppression.
Our decision to go to Nandigram was based on our political ideologyto defend the people against state oppression. We were there right from the beginningJanuary 2007, when the government announced plans to acquire land there. Initially, Narayan was our only person in Nandigram, but after the police killed people on 14 March, we started sending more people and armswe sent some 150 rifles if I remember correctlyto sustain the fight. Narayan taught the local youth how to use firearms and how to face police firing. But even before we sent arms into Nandigram, the Trinamool Congress activists had gathered a huge cache of arms in the area. The CPM, too, was well equippedin fact, they had more arms than we did. But in the end, the administration took the help of some retired army officers and attacked us from various points in November 2007 and drove us from there.
*Your party was there in Singur (where a Tata Motors plant was to come up. The plan was abandoned after land had been acquired for the project because of widespread protests led by the Trinamool Congress) too, wasnt it?*
We were the first to take on the Tata (Motors) officialswe attacked their cars on the day they came for the first site survey. But we could not carry the movement forward because the central committee decided not to get involved. We are an underground political party and it is difficult for us to join a movement in which there are a lot of other political parties involved. We pulled out, but now, with the Trinamool having given up in Singur, I think we are going to intensify our movement there.
The conditions are rightthe CPMs Hooghly district unit is in a shambles. Our kind of movement thrives in places such as Lalgarh, where the terrain is favourable and theres mass support.
*How did your family react to your joining a militant organization?*
My father was with the Socialist Party of Congress and I joined the Communists during my college days. He made it clear that two divergent political currents cannot exist under the same roof. So, I left home. But my parents have been my greatest inspiration. Like *Jijabai supported Shivaji*through all his battles, my mother has always been a great source of inspiration for me. The last time I met her was in 1984, after I got married. She told me that if I were to die, it should be the death of a hero on a battlefield.
My wife Maina is now at Dandakaranyashe is in charge of a group in Bastar (district of Chhattisgarh). We met in Hyderabad when I was state secretary (of Andhra Pradesh) and she was a comrade. The last time we met was two years ago. We communicate through lettersuse of mobile phones has been banned by our central committee. I write poems to her and make sure the Indian postal department delivers them to her. I wrote poems after the landmine attack on Buddhbabus convoy and also on the day somebody hurled a shoe at (George) Bush.
*Have you ever thought of having children?*
I dont have kids. Our party doesnt support the idea of having children. There is no ban as such, but the leadership expects the women in our party to undergo sterilization after marriage. This is done to ensure that their political careers are not compromised.
*Tell us about your daily life It must be difficult being a militant, isnt it?*
We live a difficult lifeconstantly on the move and with a 15kg load of arms, ammunition and water. I remember walking seven years ago some 116km in 24 hours without any rest. I sleep very littlemaximum four hours (a day) and at times as little as 10 minutes. But because we live a disciplined life it doesnt matter.
No matter how late I sleep at night, I rise by 5. The first thing that I do in the morning is tune in to BBC (Radio) for its bulletin at 5.30. By 6, we start our physical training and military drillswe need to be fighting fit always. So, even at 51, I dont need glasses to read and can walk for hours without rest. We eat whatever we get. I love eating rice with mashed potatoes and green chillies, but at times, even that is difficult to come by. I was a south Indian Brahmin before joining the party and a strict vegetarian. But I have turned non-vegetarian after I left home. I love eating mangoes and wild fruits that are abundantly available in the forests that we inhabit. I am a dreamer like all revolutionaries, and work hard to realize them. My dreams are about the people in the villagesthe people around me. We are soldiers, but we too have emotions such as love, kindness
But without hatred, it is difficult to keep alive the fire of class struggle and to fight against oppression
UAF reaction to Euro election results: We must confront the fascist British National Party
• STOP PRESS: anti-Nazi protests called for TODAY: Liverpool, 5.30pm, Town Hall; Manchester, 5.30pm, Piccadilly Gardens; Sheffield, 5pm, Town Hall
Last night saw the fascist British National Party (BNP) gain its first two seats in the European parliament. BNP candidate Andrew Brons, a former stalwart of the National Front and a lifelong Nazi, narrowly took the final MEP place in the Yorkshire & the Humber region. The fascists polled 120,139 votes, representing 9.8% of the vote as compared to 8.0% in 2004.
BNP leader Nick Griffin took the final MEP place in North West England in the early hours of today. Griffin, who has a criminal conviction for incitement to racial hatred, polled 132,094 across the region, or 8.0% of the vote as compared to 6.4% in 2004.
Peter Hain MP, secretary of state for Wales, said:
"It is a shameful stain on Britain that we now have racists and fascists representing our country. It is vital that everyone now isolates and confronts the BNP and works with Unite Against Fascism to defeat them."
Ken Livingstone, chair of Unite Against Fascism, said:
"The economic crisis and abuse of MPs' expenses have provided fertile ground for the extreme right. It is no surprise in these circumstances to see an electoral breakthrough for the BNP, a fascist party, in Britain.
"The BNP claims to be a normal political party. In fact they are 21st century Nazis. As in the 1930s they exploit people's anxieties in an economic crisis to scapegoat minorities and ultimately threaten all our democratic freedoms.
"Wherever the BNP wins elections, racist attacks increase. Nobody should use the BNP result as an excuse to capitulate to racism. That is exactly the approach which has helped them get this far and it would help to get them further.
"Unite Against Fascism is committed to the broadest progressive alliance against the BNP -- linking all democrats, trade unions, minority communities and the great majority of society against every kind of racism and fascism."
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said:
"This is a turning point in British politics. It is the most significant electoral success to date for a fascist party in this country. It threatens to normalise the presence of the BNP on the political scene in a similar manner to Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National in France.
"We cannot allow this to happen. It is vital that we mobilise the largest possible mass movement across every walk of life to stop the fascist BNP and drive them out of the political mainstream.
"We have done this before when working people rose up in unity to defeat Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. We did it in the 1970s when the Anti Nazi League drove the National Front of the streets. Now it is our duty to inflict the same defeat on the British National Party."
Raymond Lotta is a Maoist political economist. He is author of America in Decline and editor of And Mao Makes Five and Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism. Since 2005, he has been speaking on college campuses and in the media as part of the Set the Record Straight Project, which is taking on the distortions and misrepresentations about the first wave of socialist revolutions in the 20th century. In December 2008, he helped organize a major symposium "Rediscovering China's Cultural Revolution" held in New York City. Raymond Lotta is a contributing writer for Revolution newspaper; recent articles and interviews have also appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly (India), GlobalResearch.ca (Canada), and Agence France-Presse.
Question: Raymond, there's a lot to get into, and I thought a good place to start might be with something that's been very central to your speaking and writing: how socialism really is different and better than capitalism. Here we are in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and it's worsening over the entire planet.
Raymond Lotta: It's an appropriate place to begin. Because we are talking about two systems: the capitalist mode of production and the state power that backs it up, and the socialist mode of production and the state power that backs it up. But only one system exists in the world today, and that's capitalism.
In its "normal" workings, capitalism rests on the exploitation of the many by the few, the domination of the entire planet by imperialism, and the subordination of all human activity to the imperatives of profit. It has organized vast and interconnected networks of production that turn human beings into mere instruments for the expansion of capital. In its "normal" workings, 25,000 children of the oppressed nations of the Third World die each and every day of preventable disease and malnutrition.
And when world capitalism lunges into crisis, the misery multiplies and the madness is magnified. We're talking about a situation now where the number of the world's hungry will, for the first time, exceed one billion; a situation in which vast swaths of humanity are rapidly losing livelihoods and shelter; in which ecological stresses are intensifying; and in which an already fragile social fabric in much of the Third World is tearing, so that basic needs like health are even more difficult to cope with, not to mention health crises and epidemics. A country like Zambia, which the IMF [International Monetary Fund] steered towards finding a "niche" in the world economy riding the raw materials boom, is now virtually flat on its back.
Too often people assume this is just the way things are, or that the best we can do is to try to adjust this framework and win some reforms and improvements. But for a good part of the 20th century, there were chunks of this planet where capitalism had been overthrown, where people not only did not have to go through this kind of misery … but where something radically new and liberating was being created.
Question: But, as you said, today there are no socialist countries. There are people, including people who consider themselves revolutionaries, who say that it is not at all clear that socialism as it was practiced in the 20th century actually worked. In particular, there is controversy over how the leadership of these revolutions went at the problems of confronting imperialism and whether they actually found the means to develop the requisite support and following in these societies.
Raymond Lotta: These are crucial questions. As the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, points out, the first stage of the communist revolution has ended.
That stage began with the Paris Commune in 1871. Workers in Paris drove out the capitalist power, and set up a new state, if in a very embryonic form. But they failed to consolidate this power, and they were crushed after 80 days. Then things took a leap with the Russian Revolution of 1917. That revolution not only seized power, but established a proletarian state and went on to build the first socialist society and economy. But proletarian rule was overthrown in the Soviet Union in 1956, and capitalism was restored there.
But this first stage then went even further with the Chinese revolution and took a new leap with the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966 and was a successful attempt to not only defeat capitalist restoration but bring forward new things that were unprecedented even for socialism. This was the high water mark of the first stage. But finally the Cultural Revolution itself was defeated in 1976. Today, we have to go forward on the basis of correctly synthesizing the lessons of the first wave of socialist revolution.
Question: There's quite a bit to discuss. Let's start with what lessons should and should not be drawn from the experience of the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution.
Raymond Lotta: One lesson that can't be lost sight of was just how epochal were the changes ushered in by these revolutions. These societies were breakthroughs in liberation. This is what the conventional wisdom blots out and rewrites as "failure" and "utopian tyranny." But the truth remains: these were the most emancipating episodes in human history—precisely because these were new economic and social systems.
Conceptually and practically this involved a breakthrough of inestimable importance: the need for and establishment of a new type of state power and the institutionalized leadership of a vanguard communist party.
Vanguard Leadership—Essential in Socialist Society
Question: But this is a highly controversial point, whether a vanguard party that institutionalizes its leadership in socialist society and the kind of state system that the October and Chinese revolutions established … whether these forms were actually necessary. In fact, many people—even some people calling themselves communists—say that the party's leading role should NOT be institutionalized.
Raymond Lotta: If you want to reform capitalism, if your goal is to try to rearrange the deck of the existing order ... well, none of that is needed. Just participate in elections, or become radical opposition ... in permanent opposition. But if you want what Marx called "total revolution," and to truly transform society, then historical experience has shown these instrumentalities are essential.
The Soviet revolution was the initial breakthrough. I can't overestimate the importance and impact, and the continuing importance and impact, of that revolution. It opened a whole new world of possibility. The first two measures of the revolution were stunning. One ended Russia's involvement in World War 1. The other decree empowered peasants to seize the vast landholdings of the tsarist crown, gentry, and church. Together these signaled the beginning of titanic social change: the masses' day had come. There was a new state power.
Lenin teaches us something very basic and fundamental, though too often lost in current discourse: "the state is nothing but a machine for the suppression of one class by another." The bourgeois state is an instrument of class domination—the bourgeois-capitalist class over the rest of society. The Soviet state, like all states, was a dictatorship of one class, the proletariat led by its vanguard… it was a class dictatorship over another class, the former exploiters and counterrevolutionaries. You needed state power—the ability to suppress the exploiters—in order to carry through those measures.
But this was also a different kind of state, because it was leading the struggle to get to communism—and that means overcoming the division of society into classes and the conditions that require that one social group in society dominate another through the instrumentality of a state. In other words you are working to ultimately abolish the state. And it is a different kind of state, because it is empowering the great majority to rule. But it is a state: one class dominates another… in this case the proletariat is suppressing the old and new exploiters.
The imperialists certainly recognized that this revolution stood for something utterly different to their system of exploitation and privilege. Never for a moment did they let up in trying to strangle it and counter its influence and inspiration.
Question: This raises an important question. How did these revolutions, we're talking more specifically right now about the Russian Revolution ... how did they view this problem that world imperialism would seek to crush them?
Raymond Lotta: To begin, there is an ideological orientation. The fact is, there is a "price" of fighting for emancipation. So how do you look at that?
Just a few short months after the Bolsheviks came to power, reactionary forces representing the old order launched a counterrevolutionary assault against the regime. Britain, France, the United States, Japan, and other powers intervened with troops and military assistance in support of these reactionary forces. They wanted to destroy proletarian revolution in its infancy. This was the Civil War of 1918-21.
The role of the vanguard and the new state power were pivotal in reorganizing society and mobilizing forces to fight this civil war. The party took responsibility to coordinate military activity. It led in developing economic policies to meet social needs and to hold society together. It led in creating new social institutions. Through the instrumentality of the state and the revolutionary press and other means of communication, the party spread Marxism and the socialist vision of a new economy, new political institutions, and new values. It ignited a whole new emancipatory "discourse," if you want to use that word, in society—and this was a very powerful and positive mood-creating factor. Things were very dire during the Civil War, but there was exuberance as well.
What I am saying is that the new society was facing this international assault—and the economy was literally on the verge of collapse at times—but there is a profound lesson here. Communist leadership held strong. And it set out to solidify, expand, and mobilize a base among those who wanted to hold on to liberation with everything they had. I am talking about sections of workers, peasants, intellectuals, youth, and middle-class professionals. On other hand, there were tremendous pressures to capitulate coming from both within and outside the party. But the Civil War was won in 1921.
The Bolshevik leadership was aware that it would be difficult to hold out—and they expected the new Soviet state to be joined by other socialist states fairly soon. Lenin established the Communist International in 1919, recognizing the special responsibility of the first socialist state to promote revolution. But revolution did not spread as quickly as they had counted on.
In this setting, the new proletarian state had to make some compromises in foreign relations—after it became apparent that they would be fighting for survival in difficult conditions. I mean the world's first oil embargo was imposed on the Soviet Union. Then, after Lenin's death in 1924, there was intense struggle in the Bolshevik leadership as to whether it would be even possible to construct socialism.
But the Soviet revolution under Lenin and then Stalin did not cave in. It stood up to imperialism. It pressed forward with revolutionary transformation. If the communist leadership had not been firm in the face of imperialism and had it not led the masses to keep a firm grip on state power, it would not have been possible to stand up to imperialist attacks, pressure and sabotage, and imperialist support for counter-revolution.
Yes, this involved tremendous sacrifice and struggle. But it did not mean that everything would be lost. The point was to fight through—analyzing and transforming necessity, forging new freedom, and doing this by relying on the masses, and continuing to support the advance of the world revolution. Mistakes, and even big ones, were made. But, as I said, something new and liberating was being created.
Proletarian State Power and Historic Breakthroughs
Question: Maybe you could give some more concrete examples of the kind of breakthroughs that were made.
Raymond Lotta: The new proletarian state created the world's first multinational state based on equality of nationalities. During the Civil War, these policies were popularized and began to be implemented in some of the more remote and less developed regions of the old Russian empire—and brought new forces forward in defense of the revolution, and in taking up revolutionary transformation. The former "prisonhouse of nations" was now an example to the world's oppressed for how to combat national oppression.
The Bolshevik Revolution moved decisively to take up the liberation of women. The Soviet Union was the first European state to legalize abortion. It abolished the whole church-sanctioned system of marriage that codified male authority over women and made divorce easy to obtain.
In the mid- and late 1920s, the socialist state mobilized masses to challenge oppressive, patriarchal customs bound up with Sharia codes—that is, Islamic religious law—in some of the Central Asian regions. The state budget allocated funds for the creation of local organizations of women to combat bridal price and arranged marriages. Communists went to these areas, and local activists were brought forward. A major offensive was launched against the forced veiling of women. Women (and enlightened men) were receiving the backing of the proletarian state.
The Soviet state under Stalin in 1928-29 moved to create a new kind of economy. For the first time in modern history, social production was being carried out consciously according to a plan, shaped by social aims and goals and coordinated as a whole. This was an amazing breakthrough. In this one piece of liberated territory, a new proletarian movement had come to power and was now, under the leadership of the Communist Party, going to plan an economy to serve the people. While the world lunged into Depression in the early 1930s, in the Soviet Union, people had gained unheard-of freedom. The slogan of the first five-year plan captured this: "we are building a new world."
Again, none of this would have been possible without the leadership of the Party, not just holding firm and decisive in the face of imperialism, but mobilizing the most oppressed sections of the people as the backbone base of the new power.
And the same is true of the Chinese revolution. There was the Long March of the communist-led forces, which laid the foundations for the protracted people's war. There was the grueling war of resistance against Japanese imperialism. And then there was the civil war against the reactionary forces of the Kuomintang backed by the U.S. The Chinese Communist Party had been leading this heroic and complicated struggle—working out correct policies for alliance, developing base-level popular organization among the masses, solving problems of military strategy. And masses of people had endured tremendous sacrifices under this leadership, to win liberation.
In 1949, the struggle culminated in victory. Imagine if the party had told the masses, "okay, we led you this far ... but you're on your own now." No way! The challenges were even greater. The task was to build a new society, and the Maoist leadership was giving leadership and leading struggle to build that new socialist society. The imperialists did not give any quarter: not long after the revolution triumphed, the Korean War broke out, and U.S. troops were moving up the Korean peninsula towards revolutionary China.
END OF PART 1
Socialist Revolution in the 20th Century
Controversies and Lessons, Part Two
Raymond Lotta is a Maoist political economist. He is author of America in Decline and editor of And Mao Makes Five and Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism. Since 2005, he has been speaking on college campuses and in the media as part of the Set the Record Straight Project, which is taking on the distortions and misrepresentations about the first wave of socialist revolutions in the 20th century. In December 2008, he helped organize a major symposium "Rediscovering China’s Cultural Revolution" held in New York City. Raymond Lotta is a contributing writer for Revolution newspaper; recent articles and interviews have also appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly (India), GlobalResearch.ca (Canada), and Agence France-Presse.
Question: Some people might agree that you need a vanguard party to seize power, or even to defend it in the initial stages of the revolution. But they argue that there are contradictions with a vanguard party in power that lead it to use that power arbitrarily over and against people, and that this whole structure of a powerful new state with institutionalized leadership leads to passivity among the masses.
Raymond Lotta: Yes, there are real contradictions bound up with the instrumentalities of proletarian rule, the vanguard party and the new state. But these are fundamentally contradictions bound up with making and sustaining revolution. You are dealing with socialist society not as you would like it ideally to be but with all its real-world contradictions. And you are making and defending revolution in a world not as you would like it ideally to be but a world in which imperialism is still dominant and the counter-revolutionaries still fight and plot to regain power.
Question: You’re not starting with a "clean slate."
Raymond Lotta: Yes. And there are the "birthmarks" of the old society. These include the force of tradition which supports the unequal and oppressive social relations that have to be overcome, and there is still the fact that society is—and will be, even as the new power works to break this down—divided between those who mainly work with ideas, and those who have not been trained to do so, and mainly work with their backs and hands.
These contradictions are reflected, and in many ways concentrated, in the party-state structures. But we have also learned more about how to confront these challenges, including how to revolutionize these structures themselves as part of carrying the revolution forward. There is in fact a "learning curve" of proletarian revolution: from the Paris Commune, which was not able to suppress counterrevolutionary forces, in large part because it did not have organized leadership; to Lenin’s summation of the need for a vanguard party and to establish a new state to reorganize and transform society, and the theory and practice of the Russian Revolution; and from the Bolshevik Revolution through the Chinese Revolution and Mao’s theory of continuing the revolution. And now Bob Avakian is going further—building on this experience, rupturing with what was secondarily wrong, and bringing forward deeper understanding.
Revolution means continuing to change and bring forward new things, in accordance with deeper, newer, and more correct understanding. But this takes place on a foundation. To accept at face value the slanders that pass for common wisdom in bourgeois society is unconscionable for a revolutionary; and it is crucially important to struggle against those who succumb to those slanders and squander the lessons that have been won.
Was it worth going for power and using a new state power to construct a new society? Yes. These states both enabled the masses to subdue the forces trying to bring back exploitation and to construct new societies which were, for the first time in history, oriented toward, as Bob Avakian has put it, "dealing with the material reality and the conditions of the masses of people as the priority, as the focus and as the foundation."1 But as I said, there has been a learning curve in all this.
Question: Could you talk more about this "learning curve."
Raymond Lotta: Well, our Party has done a lot of analysis of the whole course of the revolution in the Soviet Union—its tremendous achievements, as well as its serious and even grievous errors—which I’m not going to repeat here.2 In short, though, by the mid-1950s it had become clear that something was seriously wrong in the Soviet Union. Mao led a deep study of this experience, focusing on questions of line, method and policy.
Mao discovered that the danger of the revolution being reversed, the danger of the communist party being turned into an instrument of a new, exploiting class, in short, the problem of capitalist restoration...he discovered that this stems from something much deeper than bureaucracy or not enough democracy.
This has to do with the very nature of socialism. On the one hand, socialism is a great leap—beyond exploitation and the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, it is a society in transition from capitalism to communism. It contains those "birthmarks" like the division between mental and manual labor. There is still a lingering hierarchy of specialization. While exploitation has been overcome, there are still inequalities in pay and income. While production is oriented towards meeting social need, it is still necessary to use money and prices to carry on exchange and measure and compare efficiency. There remain, as I mentioned earlier, tremendous gaps between town and country and agriculture and industry.
And these inequalities, what Mao came to call "bourgeois right" in a broad sense, are also reflected in policy and law. For example, the socialist state has to establish a wage system that takes account of the different skills levels of people and different pay levels.
Getting to communism requires overcoming these economic, social, ideological relations. But this can’t be done overnight. It’s a historical process of restricting and transforming these relations to the greatest degree possible. And there is struggle over how—and even whether—to do that at any given time. Mao summed up that this was actually a struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road. That is, between the line and policies at any given time which would continue the advance of society to communism, and those which would not only retard that advance but also pave the way for a return to capitalism. The truth of this insight has been borne out today, when China is of course a major capitalist power...even if it has maintained the name and some of the trappings of socialism.
Mao also analyzed that these birthmarks—or bourgeois right—formed the soil out of which new bourgeois elements would emerge. He analyzed that the key core of the bourgeoisie would be concentrated in the leadership of the communist party—those who could take society down the capitalist road. And he developed a pathbreaking new form of revolutionary struggle to struggle against that: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Question: But a lot of people say the problem is that power corrupts, and a leading party like the Communist Party just invites corruption and bureaucratization. So the logic leads to the need to end the institutionalized leadership of the communist party.
Raymond Lotta: These are not simply bureaucrats or corrupt officials; these are not wayward communists just looking to feather their own nests. They are capitalist roaders. They are fighting in the realm of ideas and policies and orientation—over issues of line generally focused up on the direction that society will take. And they are organizing and mobilizing social forces. The capitalist roaders…they too are responding to those features, aspects, and relations of socialist society that have not been fully transformed...the kinds of things I have been talking about. They aim to transform things back towards capitalism. And you need state power to fight them, even as the capitalist roaders are organizing within the structures of proletarian rule. Question: Maybe you could give an example.
Raymond Lotta: Take agriculture. The struggle between the two lines and the two roads in agriculture was very sharp in the Chinese Communist Party. Basically, after the revolution triumphed in 1949, one wing of the Party wanted to indefinitely extend and consolidate the policies of new democracy.3 These forces wanted to maintain private ownership as the main production relation in agriculture. Mao and the revolutionary headquarters saw the need and the basis to build socialism in the countryside as soon as land reform had been completed in the early 1950s.
A lot of people don’t realize that these two wings of the party, these two contending lines—one representing the socialist road and the other the capitalist road—had their supporters and defenders, and that actually there was a complex pattern of one side taking initiatives and the other reacting and moving to counter initiatives and policies. This was a concentrated expression of the class struggle in society—though in an overall sense the proletarian line was in command in Chinese society.
Question: You were focusing on agricultural policy...
Raymond Lotta: Yes, there was struggle over whether it was possible and desirable to do things collectively, to organize economically and socially, for the common good—which was what Mao argued for—or whether, as the capitalist roaders argued, you had to rely on family household farming and the pursuit of self-interest.
The capitalist roaders maintained that if social conditions got more polarized between the more efficient and less efficient, those earning more income and those earning less… well that’s the "price of progress." Mao felt agricultural policy had to guard against new social gaps emerging in the countryside, and that it was extremely important to bring farming into the orbit of the socialist plan, with industry at all levels supporting agriculture.
In a poor country like China, there was a great need to mechanize farming. There was also a need to continue the revolution and develop collectivized agriculture. The capitalist roaders in the early 1950s fought for the view that there could be no collectivization in China’s countryside before farming became much more mechanized. They downplayed the role of political and ideological consciousness and saw the task as simply being one of expanding production and building up the productive forces. For them, the way to mechanize agriculture was to focus on already advanced areas and to concentrate resources there—which would widen differences in the countryside.
Mao looked at this challenge differently, from the standpoint of advancing along the socialist road for agriculture. Mao argued that collectivization could precede mechanization and actually lay the basis for mechanization. In other words, by forging new social relations between peasants that enabled them to solve production and technical problems cooperatively… by establishing collective forms that forged broader social connections… and by promoting a revolutionary politics that unleashed the conscious activism of the masses and put before the masses the big political and ideological questions confronting society—such changes in organization and consciousness would be a spur to mechanization and create a favorable social framework for it. In 1958, there was a breakthrough in the socialist road in agriculture. The people’s communes, involving mass activism and experimentation at the grass roots, were formed. The communes were economic-social units that coordinated production activities, provided health and education, organized major projects of land reclamation and irrigation, and that allowed the masses to develop collective solutions to tasks like childcare. The communes also functioned as political organs of power in the countryside. The masses were assuming responsibilities of governance, administration, and military training. Mao’s approach to agriculture also included great efforts to spread industrial, technical, and cultural resources to rural areas. The capitalist roaders attacked all this as "inefficient," "utopian," and "dangerous" to the stability of the country.
Question: The capitalist roaders were not just articulating a program for agriculture.
Raymond Lotta: The new bourgeois forces who emerged after the seizure of power in 1949 had their headquarters in the Chinese Communist Party and had their program for development. From their standpoint, the revolution basically ended in 1949. The task as they conceived it was not to forge a socialist society as a transition to communism and as part of the advance of the world revolution. Rather, their goal was to build China into a modern, prosperous, and industrialized power that would find its place and seek advantage on the world stage. They saw the planned economy and the political institutions of society simply as instrumentalities to put China on a "fast track" towards fulfilling that vision. In the early 1960s, they were fighting to make profitability a key criterion for allocating funds to different regions. They pushed policies to build up an educational system that would turn out new elites. And by the mid-1960s, they were positioning to seize power.
Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966 to prevent a capitalist takeover by these forces. Mao had summed up the experience of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. He had assessed that earlier efforts in China to beat back these capitalist roaders were inadequate. He described the Cultural Revolution as a means to arouse the masses to "expose our dark aspects openly, in an all-round way and from below." The Cultural Revolution was a momentous upheaval, truly a revolution, to overthrow the capitalist roaders and seize back those portions of power that they had taken hold of—in government, education, culture, public health, industrial management, and so on.
Never in history has there been political mobilization and ferment on this societal scale. The radical youth played a catalytic role, criticizing bourgeois and conservative authority at all levels. The colleges shut down and students fanned out to the countryside and to factories. There were street rallies, demonstrations, and mass criticism sessions. In Shanghai in 1967, workers mounted an intense struggle to overthrow the capitalist roaders in power and to develop new institutions of governance.
But Mao said that while the target of the Cultural Revolution was the capitalist roaders, the goal was to change world outlook—how the masses understand society and the world, their transformative role, and issues of ideology and morality.
The masses were learning how to distinguish between the proletarian and bourgeois lines. Tens and hundreds of millions were debating and struggling over decisive questions concerning the direction of society and the world revolution. This complex struggle required visionary and scientific leadership—and through this process, the vanguard party itself was revolutionized. In that incredible decade of 1966-76, an unprecedented mass upsurge succeeded in putting a halter on the attempts by the capitalist roaders to take power. But after Mao died, the forces of capitalist restoration were able to stage a reactionary coup. This was a terrible setback for the world revolution and world humanity, but it also underscored the truth of Mao’s analysis of the danger of capitalist restoration.
Question: But the argument is made that too much authority was concentrated in the party, and the party made itself more vulnerable to takeover. It’s claimed that the masses were too much "on the outside" of these line struggles, and that if the party had been put to the test of competitive elections, that would have created more favorable ground for dealing with these issues.
Raymond Lotta: There is a lot of mistaken thinking wrapped up in this idea of too much authority vested in the vanguard party.
First of all, socialist society is still a society divided into classes. We have talked about those birthmarks of capitalist society, including the gap between mental and manual labor. And so leaders concentrate the outlook and interests of the main contending classes, and will have disproportionate influence. Again, you have to understand where the danger of capitalist restoration comes from and the mass forms of struggle and the scale of transformation needed to continue the revolution. If the vanguard of the proletariat gives up its leading position in society, this only opens the field wider to bourgeois forces—who will be exerting their disproportionate influence and organizing to take society down the capitalist road.
The proletarian revolution is about radically changing the world in order to uproot and abolish all exploitation and oppression. It is going up against the force and influence of the past, and the strength and influence of the world imperialist system. Without vanguard leadership, you have no chance of marshaling all positive factors in society...no chance of mobilizing and relying on the masses with the strength of a state behind them to continue to transform society, and to keep on the socialist road...no chance of raising the political and ideological consciousness of the masses, as happened during the Cultural Revolution.
These are some of the key reasons that you need institutionalized vanguard leadership—and why Mao was correct in fighting for that principle, even as the party needed serious "shaking up" through the Cultural Revolution.
Question: What about democracy, though?
Raymond Lotta: I want to emphasize two aspects of this. First, the socialist state guaranteed the rights of the masses. In China, during the Cultural Revolution, there was democracy for the masses on an unprecedented scale. Nowhere before or since did the masses not only have formal rights of free speech and press, etc., but actually use them on such a scale to examine and debate all aspects of political life. One well-known example is the widespread use of what were called "big-character posters" in the schools, factories, and other institutions where constant debate and struggle took place by posting large wall posters on every available surface. It was forbidden to tear down a big-character poster, and every institution was required to make materials—paper, paint, and brushes—freely available.
The ability of the masses to hold meetings to criticize top party leaders, the freewheeling debates large and small...all of this was democracy on a scale not even imaginable in even the "most democratic" of capitalist states. The Cultural Revolution institutionalized what were called the "four bigs"—big character posters, big debates, big contending, and big blooming (of ideas). And if you think this was just cosmetic formality, the new capitalist rulers of China who came to power in 1976 understood that this was in the service of arousing and motivating the masses; they vilified and banned these practices.
But there is another aspect of democracy under the dictatorship of the proletariat that’s important. Forms were being developed, especially through the Cultural Revolution, through which the masses were increasingly able to take greater responsibility for the direction of society—like the revolutionary committees, which were new institutions of power. These involved combinations of representatives of the masses; from different professional, technical, intellectual-cultural strata (depending on the particular base-level institutions in question, like hospitals or schools); and party cadre. Through these organs of power, meaningful decision-making responsibility was being put in the hands of the masses.
Compare this to the electoral ritual of bourgeois democracy, where the masses are asked to choose between this and that representative of the ruling class, and through which the agendas of different fractions of the ruling class are legitimized. Continued
1. Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008, p. 31. [back]
2. See, for example, Conquer the World? The International Proletariat Must and Will, a talk by Bob Avakian in early fall, 1981, published in Revolution magazine No. 50, available online at revcom.us/bob_avakian/conquerworld; "The End of a Stage, The Beginning of a New Stage," a talk by Bob Avakian, published in Revolution magazine, Fall 1990; and "Socialism is Much Better Than Capitalism and Communism Will Be A Far Better World" a speech by Raymond Lotta, available online at revcom.us/strs. [back]
3. New democracy is the revolution in the oppressed nations led by the proletariat that aims to drive out imperialism and overthrow the big bourgeoisie and landlord classes; upon victory, a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, involving particular class alliances, is constituted and the advance to the socialist stage begins. William Hinton’s The Great Reversal and Through a Glass Darkly contain useful accounts of the two lines in agriculture and describe the "initiative-counterinitiative" dynamic of the two wings within the Chinese Communist Party