Social Revolution Party

"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: The point, however, is to change it."

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A Communist Position on Bourgeois-Democracy and the Parliamentary System

Posted by sorev on 03/01/2010

I. Introduction

In light of the recent debates within the International Communist Movement1 as to the value of working within the bourgeois parliamentary system, and because of questions posed to the Social Revolution Party as to its position on bourgeois elections, it seemed prudent to write an article on the bourgeois parliamentary system and the attitude that communists should be taking towards parliament. For whatever reasons, it seems that English speaking communists often romanticize the parliamentary experience; indeed, almost all of the “official” Communist Parties within the Anglosphere have been reduced to, in the words of Marx, “parliamentary cretinism”2.

In the interests of a detailed and thorough exposition of the problem at hand, this article will begin by looking at the original debates surrounding communist involvement in bourgeois parliaments dating back to the inception of the Third International. Careful attention will then be paid to Lenin’s critique of both British and German communist involvement in their respective parliaments, with an eye as to whether or not Lenin was being consistent in his critique. We will then step forward 80 years and examine the modern Canadian context and whether or not advocating parliamentary involvement in Canada in 2009 is a Leninist position. Lenin’s position itself will then be the focus of extreme critiques, examining the effects of parliamentary involvement on communist organisations. Finally, after careful investigation, a position for the Social Revolution Party will be put forward. Onwards!

II. What is Parliament?

Due to the deceptive and anti-analytical nature of politics within the Anglosphere, it is worthwhile to take a brief step back and define what we mean by parliament. By parliament, within the context of this article, we mean the legislative branch of the state. It is nominally the role of parliament to establish state policy and to hold the other branches of the state accountable. In Canada parliament formally includes the Sovereign, the Senate, and the House of Commons3.

It needs to be stated, before we continue, that even when parliament is functioning according to ideal circumstances, it still has a very limited role in the actual functioning of the state. The legislative branch can only set policy; underneath the legislative branch is the massive bureaucracy that carries out the day-to-day tasks of the state. This is a fact oft-overlooked by communists when assessing the role that parliament plays in the life of the state. Winning parliamentary power does not give one power over the state, but rather over the accounting and administration of the state. The state carries on a life of its own, independent of the 308 people that sit at its head.

III. Lenin on Parliamentary Involvement

Lenin’s main critiques of communist anti-parliamentarism are found in his oft-misquoted piece “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder. While categorising and critiquing a series of left-communist heresies, Lenin touches significantly on the question of whether or not communists should participate in bourgeois parliaments4. Lenin’s answer is that unequivocally, communists should engage in the bourgeois parliamentary system; he derides those on the left that abstain from parliamentary activity as having proved that “they are not a party of the class, but a circle, not a party of the masses, but a group of intellectuals and of a few workers who imitate the worst features of intellectuals.”5 There is no ambiguity in Lenin’s work as to whether or not communists should engage in bourgeois parliamentary activity.

It would be completely intellectually dishonest however to look simply at Lenin’s final position on the question of bourgeois parliaments, without examining the reasoning behind Lenin’s position. In responding to assertions that parliament has become historically obsolete, Lenin replies:

Parliamentarism has become “historically obsolete”. That is true as regards propaganda. But everyone knows that this is still a long way from overcoming it practically. Capitalism could have been declared, and with full justice, to be “historically obsolete” many decades ago, but that does not at all remove the need for a very long and very persistent struggle on the soil of capitalism. Parliamentarism is “historically obsolete” from the standpoint of world history, that is to say, the era of bourgeois parliamentarism has come to an end and the era of proletarian dictatorship has begun. This is incontestable. But world history reckons in decades. Ten or twenty years sooner or later makes no difference when measured by the scale of world history; from the standpoint of world history it is a trifle that cannot be calculated even approximately. But precisely for that reason it is a howling theoretical blunder to apply the scale of world history to practical politics.6

Lenin outlines the nature of his position extremely well in the afore-quoted passage; despite the fact that parliamentary democracy is clearly historically obsolete, it may still be necessary in a practical political framework to struggle “on the soil” of parliament.

Lenin continues:

How can one say that “parliamentarism is politically obsolete,” when “millions” and “legions” of proletarians are not only still in favour of parliamentarism in general, but are downright “counter-revolutionary”!? Clearly, parliamentarism… is not yet politically obsolete. Clearly, the “Lefts”… have mistaken their desire, their political-ideologlical attitude, for objective reality.7

And:

Parliamentarism, of course, is “politically obsolete” for the Communists… but – and that is the whole point – we must not regard what is obsolete for us as being obsolete for the class, as being obsolete for the masses. Here again we find that the “Lefts” do not know how to reason, do not know how to act as the party of the class, as the party of the masses. You must not sink to the level of the masses, to the level of the backward strata of the class. That is incontestable. You must tell them the bitter truth. You must call their bourgeois-democratic and parliamentary prejudices – prejudices. But at the same time you must soberly follow the actual state of class consciousness and preparedness of the whole class (not only of its Communist vanguard), of all the toiling masses (not only of their advanced elements).8

Despite the fact that parliament is historically obsolete, and despite the fact that a Marxist analysis allows communists to realise that parliament is historically obsolete, parliament is not yet practically obsolete for the vast majority of the working class because they still continue to participate in it. For Lenin, the entirety of his position on parliamentary involvement rests on the fact that the masses have not yet moved beyond a bourgeois-democratic frame of mind, and therefore communists, in order to stay in touch with the masses, have to struggle within that same framework. Communists must struggle where the masses are, and therefore communists must struggle within a parliamentary framework.

It is worth noting that within Lenin’s critique one finds no mention of the usefulness of parliament for accomplishing social change; quite the opposite in fact. Lenin’s position in favour of parliamentary involvement is purely based on staying in touch with the masses.

IV. The Parliamentary Question in Britain and Germany circa 1920: Is Lenin Consistent?

The main focus of Lenin’s critique lies within the realm of practical politics, and it is no surprise that Lenin deals not only with the “ultra-left” in the abstract but also how the political positions of the “ultra-left” play out in reality. In doing so, Lenin focuses very specifically on the emerging Communist movement in Britain and the already established communist movement in Germany. It is worth investigating the content of Lenin’s critiques of both the German and the British ultra-left, in particular looking at whether or not Lenin is being consistent within his own critical framework, and if there is anything that we today can practically pull from Lenin’s insights.

The main thrust of Lenin’s position on Germany has already been explored; the quotes contained in section III of this essay were directed against the German “lefts”, but were highlighted there as they hold a more universal significance. Concretely, the German “lefts” believed that parliamentary struggle had become historically obsolete, and therefore struggling within the framework of bourgeois parliaments could be at best a waste of time. Against the arguments of historical obsolescence forwarded by the German “lefts”, Lenin retorts:

This is said with absurd pretentiousness, and is obviously incorrect. “Reversion” to parliamentarism! Perhaps there is already a Soviet republic in Germany? It seems not! How then, can one speak of “reversion”?9

Lenin attacks the German “lefts” for what he conceives as prematurely not engaging in parliamentary activity.

In dealing with the British “lefts”, Lenin advises similar tactics. In the context of the newly forming communist movement in Britain, a communist movement that was already rife with ultra-left tendencies, Lenin advises a parliamentary coalition with the British Labour Party. Speaking to the specific conditions in Britain at the time, Lenin remarks:

In my opinion, the British Communists should unite their four (all very weak, and some very, very weak) parties and groups into a single Communist Party on the basis of the principles of the Third International and of obligatory participation in parliament. The Communist Party should propose a “compromise” to the Hendersons and Snowdens10, an election agreement: let us together fight the alliance of Lloyd George and the Conservatives, let us divide the parliamentary seats in proportion to the number of votes cast by the workers for the Labour Party and for the Communist Party (not at the elections, but in a special vote), and let us retain complete liberty of agitation, propaganda, and political activity.11

Lenin then goes on to suggest that if the Labour Party accepts a deal it will provide a platform for the Communist Party from which they can agitate amoungst the masses. And if the Labour Party doesn’t accept a deal, then it will expose the Labour Party as allies of the bourgeoisie who are against the unity of the working class. In Lenin’s opinion, the British communist movement will make gains regardless of the actions of the Labour Party if it takes the parliamentary road.

Lenin further reiterates his position on British communist involvement in parliament when he writes:

If I come out as a Communist and call upon the workers to vote for Henderson against Lloyd George, they will certainly give me a hearing. And I will be able to explain in a popular manner not only why Soviets are better than parliament and why the dictatorship of the proletariat is better than the dictatorship of Churchill (disguised by the signboard of bourgeois “democracy”), but also that I want with my vote to support Henderson in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man – that the impending establishment of a government of Hendersons will prove that I am right, will bring the masses over to my side, and will hasten the political death of the Hendersons and the Snowdens just as was the case with their kindred spirits in Russia and Germany.12

On a superficial level it appears that Lenin is being consistent in the application of his analysis to both Britain and Germany. On one hand, Lenin suggests that the German “lefts” support parliamentary involvement. In the same vein, Lenin suggests that British communists do the same. However, internal to Lenin’s argument is the idea that parliament is parliament is parliament the world-over, without taking into account the specific nature of the individual political climates of the respective parliaments themselves. Lenin applies his critique equally to all situations, but fails to understand that a critique of parliamentarism in Germany and Russia does not necessarily apply to parliamentarism in Britain.

To take a step back for a moment, an unspoken assumption in Lenin’s argument is that the space for an anti-capitalist critique exists within the context of bourgeois parliamentary action. Lenin assumes, incorrectly as will be pointed out, that this is the case in all parliaments in 1920. Nowhere does Lenin explore, even for a second, that this isn’t the case; indeed, the entire nature of his critique, especially towards the British communists, is that they should be entering into parliament specifically to fill that space. Lenin, while grasping the specific historical events leading to the establishment of ultra-left varieties of communism in both Germany and Britain, seemingly fails to apply an actual historical analysis to parliamentary involvement.

To approach such an analysis, it becomes important to look at the context that the emerging communist movements found themselves in. In Germany, the “lefts” that Lenin rails against were members of an organisation known as the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD). The KAPD had split off from the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in April of 1920, specifically in opposition to electoral tactics. The KPD itself was a newly formed organisation as of 1918, which essentially amounted to the left-wing of the then reformist Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) finally declaring independence/regrouping after expulsion in post-war Germany. The SPD itself, despite being reformist and reactionary by the time 1914 came about, had a long history of being an actual anti-capitalist party. Even after the SPD had been thoroughly exposed as reactionary, the debates within the SPD, specifically those trying to justify the SPD’s support for Imperial Germany in World War I, took place within a nominally Marxist framework.

It can be said then, that the German “lefts” of the KAPD emerged onto the political scene in a context in which there had been a long history of anti-capitalist action and debate. The German working class would not have been unfamiliar with such ideas; the fact that nominally Marxist debates were taking place within the German governing party at the time Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder was written shows how deeply entrenched some semblance of Marxist thought was within the German working class. Therefore the space existed for an anti-capitalist, anti-state movement to exist and actually benefit from a parliamentary presence; Lenin is exactly right within his own framework when he criticizes the KAPD for being out-of-touch with the masses, for being “not a party of the class, but a circle”13. Or, to put it slightly differently, due to the inundation of Marxist and anti-capitalist ideas within the German working class, the space existed for the German left to both agitate against capitalism and the state while engaging in parliamentary activity for the sake of propaganda without getting the two messages confused. It was the space created by nearly 50 years of SPD agitation that afforded this to the German left.

The same however can not be said for the British communist movement. There, the “lefts” that Lenin referred to belonged to four organisations, namely the British Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party, the South Wales Socialist Society, and the Workers’ Socialist Federation14. None of these parties had any institutional history with any groupings before them; while individual members assuredly were involved in movements before the inception of their respective parties, the parties themselves were new formations.

On the parliamentary front, there existed only the Labour Party which had been founded in 1900. Prior to its inception, many of its constituent groups had in fact been associated with the Liberal Party15. Even in its best days the Labour Party was purely a reformist organisation; there was never a revolutionary or Marxist current that existed within the Labour Party. Because of this, the space for an anti-capitalist critique in British parliamentary action never existed the way in which it had in Germany. Lenin therefore, not taking into account his unspoken assumption as to the existence of an anti-capitalist space within parliament, urges the British communists to engage not only in parliamentary activity but to seek out an alliance with the Labour Party. Lenin, within his own framework, is incorrect and inconsistent; the situation in Britain was not analogous to the situation in Germany. Or, to put forward the argument again in a slightly different manner, due to the fact that there was no history of anti-capitalist agitation in Britain, the space did not exist within the British Parliament for an anti-capitalist critique. The two messages, that of being anti-capitalist and anti-state, as well as struggling within the context of bourgeois parliaments would not have been as clearly received by the masses as they would have been in Germany.

In summary, Lenin’s position on parliamentary involvement rests on three pillars: The first is that the masses are engaged in parliamentary activity. The second is that the masses have not yet moved beyond a bourgeois-democratic framework. And the third, unspoken pillar is that within parliament there exists a space for an anti-capitalist, anti-state critique. When these conditions are satisfied, as was the case in Germany in 1920, Lenin is quite correct in criticising the KAPD for being anti-parliament. However, when these conditions are not fulfilled, particularly the third condition, as was the case in Britain in 1920, Lenin is being inconsistent within the framework of his own critique. Parliamentary struggles should not always be engaged in, and communists need to take careful stock of their own conditions to decide the correct course of action.

V. A Brief Interjection from Lenin

For those familiar with the text of Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, one can already see a rebuttal to the above arguments from the text of the aforementioned piece itself. Responding to the argument that the masses can’t understand the nuances of both an anti-state position combined with parliamentary activity, Lenin retorts:

And if the objection is raised that these tactics are too “subtle,” or too complicated, that the masses will not understand them, that these tactics will split and scatter our forces, will prevent us concentrating them on the Soviet revolution, etc., I will reply to the “Lefts” who raise this objection: don’t ascribe your doctrinairism to the masses! The masses in Russia are probably no better educated than the masses in England; if anything, they are less so. Yet the masses understood the Bolsheviks; and the fact that on the eve of the Soviet revolution, in September 1917, the Bolsheviks put up their candidates for a bourgeois parliament (the Constituent Assembly) and on the morrow of the Soviet revolution, in November 1917, took part in the elections to this Constituent Assembly, which they dispersed on January 5, 1918 – this did not hamper the Bolsheviks, but on the contrary, helped them.16

Here Lenin makes three mistakes. The first is that he fails to grasp the analytical effects of liberalism on a given population. The second, stemming from the first, is that he again conflates two unequal groups in order to prove his point: in this case, the British and the Russian masses. The third mistake, and whether this is an intentional mistake or not is not known, is that Lenin equates bourgeois parliamentary involvement with involvement in a constituent assembly.

Speaking to the first mistake, if one can not conceive of a society after capitalism and without a state, then one can not actively work towards such a society. For Britain this was the case; the working class by and large would have had no conception of a society beyond capitalism17. Lest we forget that capitalism had existed in Britain far longer than elsewhere on the continent. This fact was coupled with the lack of a history of revolutionary agitation in an extra-parliamentary context (revolutionary trade unions, workers’ associations, etc.). The specificities of the British situation (that of being unlike Germany in that the working class lacked a revolutionary identity, and that of being unlike Russia in that capitalism had had more time to permeate the consciousness of the working class) would have in fact led to a confusion of the British masses (and the Party itself!) as to what exactly the Communist Party’s goal was. And in fact this is what happened elsewhere in the Anglosphere as will be demonstrated later.

As for Lenin’s second mistake, we can clearly see even in 1920 that the English masses and the Russian masses were incredibly different in terms of their ability to understand how parliamentary action and anti-capitalist and anti-state critiques could compliment one another. The most glaring indication of difference is that the Russian masses had managed to have a revolution, whereas the English masses had yet to even establish a Communist Party. Add to this the experience of 1905 and the presence of Soviets, themselves anti-state or dual-power institutions, and a comparison between the English masses and the Russian masses seems strange at best. By conflating the two Lenin misses the point; there clearly are situations where the tactics being espoused by Lenin are too subtle and too complicated for the masses to understand, and parliamentary activity is not always the way forward.

Lenin’s third mistake is perhaps the most glaring. Even if we were to accept the comparisons between the English and Russian masses, Lenin’s argument still falls apart based on the fact that a Constituent Assembly is not a bourgeois parliament. A Constituent Assembly is a temporary body whose only role is to draft a constitution; after that, the Constituent Assembly is folded and the constitutionally decided organs are put in place. In the context of Russia in 1917, the class nature of the Constituent Assembly was uncertain. Russia was a society poised on the brink of revolution; had the Bolsheviks won a majority within the Constituent Assembly, the drafted constitution could very well have been Soviet and working class in nature. For Lenin to suggest that British communists engage in bourgeois parliament because their Russian comrades engaged in the Constituent Assembly mis-represents the nature of the two societies as well as the role played by each body.

VI. A Parliamentary Path for Canada?

Having shed light on Lenin’s position circa 1920 in regards specifically to Britain and Germany, it is now time for our gaze to be shifted to something more concrete: Canada in 2009. In order to discern whether or not, within the context of Lenin’s position, a parliamentary way forward is possible within Canada we must look at the conditions that Lenin put forward in analysing the political situations in Germany and Britain. Three aspects need to be examined: first, whether or not the masses are engaged in the parliamentary process; second, whether or not the masses have moved beyond a bourgeois-democratic frame of reference; and third, whether or not the space exists within the Canadian parliamentary experience for an anti-state and anti-capitalist message to reach the masses.

On the first condition, that of whether or not the masses are engaged in the bourgeois parliamentary process in Canada, it can safely be said that they are not. The most recent federal elections in 2008 saw a record low for the last 100 years in terms of voter turnout: only 58.8% of those eligible to vote did so18. This was down from an equally pathetic 64.7% in 2006. In fact, within the last 30 years the highest voter turnout occurred in 1979, where 75.7% of Canada’s electorate voted. Indeed, in the entire history of Canada’s federal elections, 1958 holds the record for the highest voter-turnout with 79.4%19. Even in the historical best case scenario, over 20% of the electorate was not engaged in parliamentary activity. In more normal situations, such as the past 10 years, anywhere from 35%-40% of the people of Canada have not voted.

Distaste for the bourgeois political system is pervasive; not only is voter-turnout down, but membership in political parties is also dwindling20. What this means is that under normal conditions, 35%-40% of the electorate in Canada finds the parliamentary process so disengaging that they can’t even be bothered to cast a ballot. This clearly shows that in Canada, the masses as a whole are not eagerly engaged in the parliamentary process. Only a fringe element is intimately engaged, and only a small majority have any engagement at all. The first condition established by Lenin for communist involvement in the bourgeois parliamentary process is not met in a modern Canadian context.

The second condition, that the masses in Canada have not moved beyond a bourgeois democratic frame of reference, is still the case. Indeed, there is no mainstream political party or movement in Canada that even questions the basic assumptions behind a bourgeois democratic framework. While the masses are not engaged in the current bourgeois parliamentary framework, due to the non-existence of palatable alternatives (namely Soviet democracy), the masses still find themselves within a bourgeois democratic framework.

The third and final condition established by Lenin, that the space for an anti-state and anti-capitalist critique exists within the context of parliament, can unquestionably be said to be false. The Canadian state has a long history of anti-communist action; when the Communist Party was at its peak popularity, and on the eve of the election of the first Communist MP, the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) was banned under the War Measures Act. The banning still went forward even after the CPC and its constituent labour organisations not only supported the war effort, but agreed not to strike for the duration of the war! The CPC was forced to re-organise under the name of the Labour-Progressive Party (LPP).

In terms of actual representation in the House of Commons, one of only two Communist MPs to ever be elected, Fred Rose who was elected in 1943 on the LPP ticket, was accused of being a Soviet spy and was imprisoned mid-way through his term in 194521. Following his release from prison he was tailed from job to job by the RCMP; as punishment for having the audacity to win an election as a Communist, his life was destroyed. He eventually returned to Poland. Doris Nielson, the other Communist who was elected in 1943, ran initially for the Progressive Unity Party22 but once in office shifted her allegiance to the LPP. She was not re-elected.

As can be seen, the Canadian state goes out of its way to ensure that there is no anti-state, anti-capitalist space within the Canadian parliamentary framework. This is something that even the CPC, a party heavily involved in parliamentary cretinism, admits in its program:

State-monopoly capitalism undermines the basis of traditional bourgeois democracy. The subordination of the state to the interests of finance capital erodes the already limited role of elected government bodies, federal, provincial and local. Big business openly intervenes in the electoral process on its own behalf, and also indirectly through a network of pro-corporate institutes and think tanks. It uses its control of mass media to influence the ideas and attitudes of the people, and to blatantly influence election results. It corrupts the democratic process through the buying of politicians and officials. It tramples on the political right of the Canadian people to exercise any meaningful choice, thereby promoting widespread public alienation and cynicism about the electoral process.23

Even if interference in the electoral process by the Canadian state was not an issue, one still faces the problem of the lack of saturation of the Canadian working class with anti-state and anti-capitalist influences. Much like Britain in 1920, it is quite reasonable to predict that an anti-state message would become confused if pushed through the medium of parliament. The Canadian working class does not have any conception of life beyond capitalism; all of the reasons to not engage in parliamentary activity in Britain in 1920 apply more-so to Canada in 2009. The active involvement of the Canadian state in anti-communist activity, as well as the lack of class consciousness amoungst the Canadian working class amount to the fact that within the Canadian parliamentary system there is no space for an anti-state and anti-capitalist critique. Lenin’s third condition is not satisfied.

To recap: in modern Canada the masses are not engaged in parliamentary activity. While they may not have moved beyond a bourgeois-democratic framework, they certainly have not embraced the currently existing bourgeois-democratic framework. The Canadian state has historically also engaged in anti-Communist activity whenever a Communist has had a chance of being elected to the House of Commons. This, when coupled with the fact that there is no long history of anti-capitalist agitation in Canada, shows that the space for an anti-capitalist and anti-state critique does not exist within the current Canadian parliamentary system. Within Lenin’s framework then, a parliamentary path is not the way forward. It is not a Leninist position to suggest parliamentary involvement in Canada in this particular historical context.

VII. Is Lenin’s Position Correct?

Thus far, we have only looked at the issue of parliamentary participation in the context of the framework that Lenin advanced nearly 90 years ago. It has been the assumption that communists should work within the bourgeois parliamentary system should the possibility present itself. But is this the case? Or should communists refrain from parliamentary involvement even in the best circumstances? This is the question that will now be explored, as we move towards an actual tactical position for our modern context.

Pushing aside the assumption that parliamentary involvement is always good given the chance, there are three main dangers that struggling within the bourgeois parliamentary system brings: the first is that parliamentary struggle brings the wrong kind of attention towards the Party; the second is that parliamentary struggle can take the place of struggling for alternative organs of power; and the third is that the Party risks internalising their own rhetoric around parliamentary struggle, and in so doing, loses sight of the goal of establishing a state based around organs of workers power. Each risk will be explored in further detail.

Struggling within a parliamentary context inevitably brings a certain type of focus towards the Party. Within Lenin’s framework, it is suggested that one engages in parliamentary activity as a way of spreading revolutionary ideas throughout the masses. However, those that will receive the message being put out by the Party in a parliamentary context will be those that are engaged in the parliamentary process to begin with. And while some of them may be won over to the revolutionary ideas, the vast majority of people seeing the message will not be disillusioned in the bourgeois-parliamentary system. One runs the risk then of the message being lost on the masses due to the medium it is being transported through. One also runs the risk of wasting time all-together; assuredly it is easier to convince those that have no interest in bourgeois-democracy about the failings of parliamentary systems than those that do.

On the second danger, in a context of limited time and resources certain types of struggle need to take precedence over others. If our goal is the establishment (and subsequent withering away) of soviet democracy, then one would hope that our limited resources would be going towards that end. Unfortunately, electoral politics take up massive amounts of time and resources. In so far as time and resources are being spent on electoral politics, they are not going towards the establishment of workers’ councils or a mass movement capable of smashing the state. And indeed we see this; the parliamentary presence of the CPC and other parties on the left is felt, but there is no mass movement being invested in.

The third risk is the most dangerous and therefore deserves the most amount of attention and analysis. The danger lies in the notion that in the process of engaging in parliamentary struggle, the Party will become so wrapped up and enamoured with this form of action that it will come to espouse parliamentary struggle above all else. This is especially dangerous in a context where liberalism is as pervasive as it is, as well as in a context where limited resources force the Party to prioritize certain actions over others. While this may seem like the most far-fetched danger associated with struggling within the bourgeois-parliamentary system, it is also the most common. To prove this, it is worthwhile to look at the program of the CPC.

The Communist Party of Canada has an undoubtedly revolutionary and progressive history; amoungst its many achievements we can include support for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, mobilisation to crush fascism in Europe during WWII, and the creation of the Workers Unity League. It is likely the most important revolutionary organisation in Canada’s history; with all criticism it is important to give credit where credit is due. However, found within its most recent program, the CPC takes a position that elevates parliamentary struggle beyond merely usefulness as a propaganda tactic. The CPC puts forward:

A democratic, anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist alliance will have as its objective the democratic restructuring of Canadian society so that the interests of the majority of Canadians come first, and the stranglehold of finance capital on every aspect of life is broken. It will seek to advance the working people’s interests through all available avenues of struggle, based on massive and united extra-parliamentary action.

The alliance will strive to score electoral advances, and the winning of power by a people’s government dedicated to carrying out sweeping measures to democratize society and transform economic relations in the interests of the working class and the Canadian people as a whole.

Such a breakthrough will be difficult to accomplish given the sophisticated means at the disposal of the ruling class to manipulate public opinion, discourage political activism and otherwise influence the outcome of bourgeois elections. A crucial task for the alliance will be to defend and expand democracy and to fight against corporate and governmental attacks on the electoral process.

A democratic, anti-monopoly government, based on a parliamentary majority, and acting in concert with the united and militant extra-parliamentary movements of the people, would signal a qualitative shift in the balance of class forces in Canadian society, and open the door to the revolutionary transformation to socialism. It would involve the people in a truly meaningful way.

The people’s government would be committed to a program of action geared to serve people before profit. That program would arise in the course of the social, economic and political struggles of the working class and its democratic allies, and be subject to the widest discussion and approval among all of the forces of the alliance.24

The CPC suggests, as the way forward, the creation of a massive anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly, and democratic parliamentary bloc. Upon this bloc winning a majority in parliament, that is to say upon the bloc gaining control over the legislative branch of the state, it would institute a series of reforms designed to promote the creation of a socialist Canada. Indeed, according to the CPC, this parliamentary bloc would “open the door” to a socialist Canada. The CPC even goes so far as to refer to the supposed parliamentary bloc as the “people’s government”; a far cry indeed from Marx’s warning in The Civil War in France “that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.”25.

The CPC’s program, in its current parliamentary-oriented context, does not differ in any meaningful way from the program of a social democratic party. Despite mentioning extra-parliamentary activity in passing, the CPC has elevated bourgeois-parliamentary struggle to the place of prime importance. The CPC has substituted any notion of change from below with the concept of change from above; the parliamentary bloc “opening the door” for a socialist Canada. And in doing so, the CPC has abandoned any revolutionary theory of the state as an organ for one class suppressing another and has replaced Leninism with class-collaborationalism. Instead of building alternative organs of power, such as the Workers Unity League of over 50 years ago, the CPC suggests taking control of the bourgeois state and using the bourgeois state to somehow further proletarian ends. The CPC’s position is thoroughly revisionist and inexcusable.

To further highlight the ridiculousness of the CPC’s parliamentary fixation, and the dangers of going down the parliamentary road, it is worthwhile to briefly look at the WFDY’s26 statement regarding the acension of Madhav Kumar-Nepal to the position of Prime Minister of Nepal27. The WFDY remarks:

Nepal has achieved in recent years a tremendous magnitude of political changes by the strength of Great People’s Movement 2006 in a greater consensus and understanding among political parties. We do believe that those achievements can only be consolidated after a more upgraded understating among all political parties to put the peace process in a logical end and by carrying out the agendas to a progressive restructure of the state.28

Completely ignoring the brutally collaborationalist content of the statement, including calls for cooperation with reactionary parties (and therefore classes) and an end to the revolutionary process, what strikes one most strongly is the similarity of the statement with that of the recommendations of the US State Department in regards to increased “friendship” (i.e. renewed imperialist exploitation) between the US and Nepal:

And I think one of them is that the Maoists renounce violence and terrorism. The second would be that they stop the violent activities of the Young Communist League. And the third would be that they actively participate, and work together with the other parties, to support the peace process. There are other things, but those are the main factors that likely will go into our consideration.29

Focusing on the parliamentary process has clearly put the WFDY, and by extension the YCL and the CPC into the reactionary camp in regards to Nepal. It becomes clear that the fetishization of the parliamentary process can only lead an organisation down a path of revisionism and eventually reaction. We can however learn from our mistakes: the Social Revolution Party does not need to repeat the follies of the past.

VIII. The Social Revolution Party on Bourgeois-Parliamentary Involvement

The Social Revolution Party is against struggling within a parliamentary context both in terms of focusing on parliamentary activity as a means of progress and running for office in bourgeois-democratic institutions. Struggles within the parliamentary medium can only lead to revisionism and reaction; either the Party risks attracting the wrong kind of attention, risks spending limited resources on reformist ends, or risks internalising the message of parliamentarism. Furthermore, the Social Revolution Party does not believe in legitimising institutions that serve only to uphold the rule of capital and the ability of the ruling class to oppress, exploit, and alienate the people of Canada.

To this end, the Social Revolution Party puts forward an alternative: instead of worrying about bourgeois organs of power, we should be busy constructing our own proletarian organs of power. The Social Revolution Party believes that investing power in workers’ councils is the only way forward; “All power to the soviets!” is more than just a catchy phrase. Therefore, the efforts of members are best spent building the Popular Action Movement. A new world is possible, but it is up to us to build it; nobody will build it for us. Onwards!

Footnotes:

1Particularly the Two-Line Struggle within the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist, as well as the recent debate on Kasama titled Can Our Revolution Use Elections to Organize? (September 7, 2009). Clearly the two aren’t of the same magnitude on the international level, but within the Anglospheric Communist Movement, debates on Kasama punch above their weight, so to speak.

2“They were therefore reduced to moving within strictly parliamentary limits. And it took that peculiar malady which since 1848 has raged all over the Continent, parliamentary cretinism, which holds those infected by it fast in an imaginary world and robs them of all sense, all memory, all understanding of the rude external world — it took this parliamentary cretinism for those who had destroyed all the conditions of parliamentary power with their own hands, and were bound to destroy them in their struggle with the other classes, still to regard their parliamentary victories as victories and to believe they hit the President by striking at his ministers.”

Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.”

3The Sovereign being the Queen of Canada who is represented by the Governor General; this position is, in most cases, purely ceremonial. The Senate is appointed by the Sovereign on recommendation of the Prime Minister, and is in modern times essentially a rubber-stamp for the House of Commons; except on issues dealing with Senate reform it would seem. The House of Commons is directly elected by the people of Canada and is usually what is meant when the Communist Party of Canada talks about winning a parliamentary majority.

4Indeed, chapter 7 bears the name “Should We Participate in Bourgeois Parliaments”. Lenin’s work is extremely illuminating; it is worthwhile for comrades to read not only this chapter, but the entire piece.

5Lenin, “Left Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder. 51

6Ibid, 50

7Ibid, 51

8Ibid, 52.

9Ibid, 49. It is worth mentioning that Lenin’s quote here is extremely intellectually dishonest; he has purposely mis-represented what the German “Lefts” meant by “reversion”. The German “Lefts” were actually referring to an inner-movement reversion to focusing on parliamentary activity as opposed to mass-based activities, as opposed to a reversion to parliament from Soviet democracy as Lenin implies.

10Both Phillip Snowden and Arthur Henderson were prominent members of the Labour Party at the time Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder was written.

11Ibid, 87.

12Ibid, 91

13Ibid, 51.

14Ibid, 77.

15In particular, the Lib-Labs (Liberal Party members with the backing of trade unions), and the Labour Representation League provided, amoungst many other groups, the ideological basis for the formation of the Labour Party.

16Ibid, 91.

17We should remember that as early as 1858, Engels in a letter wrote: “and the fact that the English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat.”.

Frederick Engels, letter to Marx, October 7, 1858, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1858/letters/58_10_07.htm

18Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums

Elections Canada, Voter Turnout at Federal Elections and Referendums, 1867-2008

19At the time, “eligible voters” did not include the first nations people, who were only given the right to vote in 1960.

Canadian Human Rights Commission, Aboriginal Rights

20While there are no concrete numbers available, one of the biggest issues amoungst the intellectuals of the Canadian parliamentary elite is lack of engagement in the political system, including political parties. One can be sure, however, that the number of people registered as members of political parties is only a small fraction of those who vote.

21This was referred to as the Gouzenko affair; indeed, the state-run media in Canada was still slandering the name of Fred Rose well into the 1980s.

22The Progressive Unity Party was an attempt at a united front between the CPC and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). CCF riding associations that attempted to participate in the united front were shut down.

23Communist Party of Canada, “Canada’s Future is Socialism!: Program of the Communist Party of Canada”

24Communist Party of Canada, “Canada’s Future is Socialism!: Program of the Communist Party of Canada”

25Marx, The Civil War In France, 64

26World Federation of Democratic Youth; an international organisation that the youth-wings of many “official” Communist Parties are involved in world-wide. The Young Communist League is a member.

27Madhav Kumar-Nepal is a member of the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist and Leninist, a reactionary and revisionist organisation that actively struggled against the Nepalese Revolution. He was elected to the position of Prime Minister after Prachanda and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) stepped out of the bourgeois parliamentary system.

28World Federation of Democratic Youth, “Congratulatory Message to the New Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal”

29US Department of State, Friendship Between the U.S. and Nepal

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To Establish a Liberated Area in India

Posted by sorev on 05/12/2009

Kisenji

Kisenji speaks to media 1.5 kilometers from police camp in Lalgarh area.

KOTESWAR RAO, alias Kishenji, is a politburo member of the banned CPI (Maoist) and is in charge of the party’s operations in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa. He was drawn into the revolutionary movement when he was doing his B.Sc. (Mathematics) in Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh. He became a full-time member of the CPI-ML (People’s War) in 1974.

“We plan to spread our movement to north Bengal, the plains of Bihar, the central districts of Orissa and eastern Chattisgarh,” he told Frontline in an exclusive telephonic interview in which he talked about the Lalgarh movement, the Maoist programme of individual killings and future plans of the Maoist movement.Excerpts:

Do you think the movement in Lalgarh is the fallout of the Singur and Nandigram movements rather than a heritage of the Naxalbari movement?

The movement in Lalgarh is the fallout of the Naxalbari movement, but the movements in Nandigram and Singur also had an impact on the Lalgarh movement and the people of Lalgarh. Such a long and sustained movement on a political issue has never taken place in the history of independent India. The main reason for this is the increase in political awareness among the masses.

At the same time, there is, on the one hand, a worldwide economic crisis and, on the other, Indian multinationals seizing the land and property of the common people. These, too, had a role to play in the eruption in Lalgarh.

And of course the Nandigram and Singur agitations, in which we were also present, are certainly big factors. At present, it is not possible to carry out just a peaceful agitation in West Bengal; along with peaceful agitations there must be huge rallies and meetings involving the direct participation of thousands of people.

There is a view that the Lalgarh movement is a spontaneous tribal movement that became so big that the CPI (Maoist) had to get on to it or be left behind. Your comments.

It is not as if we started doing our groundwork in the region yesterday; we have been doing our groundwork for a long time. The Maoist role and leadership in the area has been a continuous process. But, at the same time, the PCPA [People’s Committee against Police Atrocities] and the Maoist movement are not the same, and it would be incorrect to say that the people of the region have been influenced only by Maoists; they have been very much influenced by the PCPA, too.

But if there were no arrests following the assassination attempt on Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2 last year, would you have been able to build such a strong movement?

Not something like this. It would have developed in a slow process. But the reaction of the people worked to our advantage – much more than it did in Nandigram or Singur. We didn’t have any demand other than that the police apologise to the people, but the State government did not agree to it. We were left with few options.

Did you at any point think that the movement might not need you?

Yes, I did. We expected a movement after November 2, but nothing so big. I expected the strength of the movement to be around 50 per cent of what it eventually became. But the movement itself has undergone a qualitative change over the months. Earlier, when the villagers protested, they assembled in large numbers with their traditional bows and arrows. Then the combined forces entered the region and many villagers fled.

Subsequently, they all returned and now they are not fleeing anywhere. They are standing their own ground and collecting weapons to strike back. So tell me, where do you think this spirit to retaliate is coming from? Whom do you think the villagers are supporting now?

In 2007, it was decided that the CPI (Maoist) would broad-base its activities and not focus only on individual killings like the earlier naxalite movement. But Maoist killings are being reported almost every other day. So in what way is it different from the old programme?

At that time, annihilation of the class enemy was the only form adopted to bring about the revolution. We have changed that. We say that annihilation is one of the forms. This was not invented by Maoists; we have seen in history that the masses have always allowed it. To us, annihilation is one aspect of our total movement.

It was not a regular feature earlier as you claim. It became a regular feature only after the combined forces entered the region. If you recollect, before the deployment of Central forces, we held a Jana Adalat [people’s court] for 30 CPI(M) people in Madhupur [near Lalgarh].

More than 12,000 villagers attended the trial. The public wanted the death sentence for 13 of those under trial. But Bikas [the Maoist commander of operations in Lalgarh], after hours of persuasion, finally managed to convince the public that the time was not right to mete out such a punishment. Finally, the public agreed that those 13 people be just made to wear garlands of chappals and apologise. The other killings took place only after continued disregard of repeated warnings that were sent to the victims both by us and by the people of the region.

The victims were not just police informers, they practically marched with the combined forces. It is not that we killed only CPI(M) people, we killed members of the Jharkhand Party, too, for helping the combined forces and for joining the Gana Pratirodh [People’s Resistance] Committee; and I would also like to add that there is no difference between the Salwa Judum and the Gana Pratirodh Committee.

We killed the main leaders of the committee. Of the six main leaders of the Gana Pratirodh Committee, three were from the CPI(M) and three from the Jharkhand Party. Here again, we killed them after repeatedly requesting them to desist from forming such a committee. They did not listen to us and we had no other alternative.

The annihilation policy of old and what we do today are not the same. Along with individual assassinations, there are also other forms of actions that we undertake – different kinds of mass movements, social boycotts of culprits, and various developmental works.

In fact, recently, in Shankabanga village [in Purbo Medhinipur], we dug a seven-kilometre canal for irrigation. We have done similar work in many villages.

The CPI (Maoist) had announced that it will spread the movement to new areas following the general elections this year. Which are the areas that have been identified?

North Bengal, the plains of Bihar, the central districts of Orissa and eastern Chattisgarh. All these are backward areas where multinational companies are trying to penetrate, and the State governments are signing memorandums of understanding with them. The strategic location of these areas will also help us in our movements.

The movement in Orissa is one of the most upcoming movements by our party and it will facilitate a combined consolidation of our movements in the neighbouring States of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, bringing as many as 15 districts under our control.

Tell us something about your plans in West Bengal.

Very simply, to establish a liberated area. We decided in 2007 that this [the Jangalmahal] would be a guerilla area. Since then we have progressed a lot, we have already reached out to more than half the population of the region and made it politically aware. I can tell you only so much. Our politburo does not allow us to divulge the tactical aspects of our programmes.

But is there widespread recruitment into your movement from the region?

There has to be recruitment, or else how will the movement grow?

There are reports of fresh plans by your party to try and assassinate the Chief Minister, and even storm Writers Buildings. Your comments.

The media need sensational news, and the police need to justify their fat salaries. Do I really need to elaborate? As I have repeatedly said, to kill Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was not my decision. It was the decision of the people of Nandigram, the people of West Bengal, and even sections of the liberal bourgeoisie.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who earlier extended her support to the PCPA’s movement, seems to have distanced herself from it. Your comments.

I have been asking Mamata Banerjee for the last three months to make her stand clear. After the general elections her fortune has soared, but what about the fortune of the “Ma, Mati, Manush” [Mamata’s political slogan of Mother, Earth, and People]? Their situation remains the same. What Mamata Banerjee is doing is indulging in opportunistic politics.

With the State and the Centre now planning to launch a much stronger attack, do you not think that your movement, as it stands today will endanger the lives of thousands of innocent and apolitical villagers?

The state should think about that. People like Manmohan Singh, [P.] Chidambaram and Buddhababu are responsible for the situation as it stands today. Ultimately, they are the ones responsible for the killings. We still want peace, it is the government that does not.

So are you willing to sit for dialogue with the government for the sake of peace?

You are probably the 210th person to ask me this question. Chidambaram and Buddhababu have clearly said there will not be any dialogue; they have already arrayed their forces for war, and still you people from the media keep harping, ‘You will all not survive this’. This is clearly to break the spirit of the common people. I do not understand why you all are continuously asking me this question. It really is not possible for me to provide routine answers to such routine questions. I am standing in a battlefield here.

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Sparks Near the Powder Keg of India

Posted by sorev on 18/10/2009

The following article made it’s way to Social Revolution via Democracy and Class Struggle via the World People’s Resistance Movement via Open Magazine.  Another reprinting of this story can also be found at the Kasama Project, the introduction of which is used here.

We Shall Certainly Defeat the Government

In this interview, taken from the October 17, 2009 issue of Open, Ganapathi, General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist), talks about the party’s work in Lalgarh, its response to the government’s upcoming military offensive, the political situation in Nepal, the defeat of the LTTE, the contradictory nature of Islamist movements in the world today, and the role of the new chieftain of US imperialism.

Comrade Ganapathi

Comrade Ganapathi

At first sight, Mupalla Laxman Rao, who is about to turn 60, looks like a school teacher. In fact, he was one in the early 1970s in Andhra Pradesh’s Karimnagar district. In 2009, however, the bespectacled, soft-spoken figure is India’s Most Wanted Man. He runs one of the world’s largest Left insurgencies—a man known in Home Ministry dossiers as Ganapathi; a man whose writ runs large through 15 states. The supreme commander of CPI (Maoist) is a science graduate and holds a B Ed degree as well. He still conducts classes, but now they are on guerrilla warfare for other senior Maoists. He replaced the founder of the People’s War Group, Kondapalli Seetharaamiah, as the party’s general-secretary in 1991. Ganapathi is known to change his location frequently, and intelligence reports say he has been spotted in cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata and Kochi. After months of attempts, Ganapathi agreed to give his first-ever interview. Somewhere in the impregnable jungles of Dandakaranya, he spoke to RAHUL PANDITA on issues ranging from the Government’s proposed anti-Naxal offensive to Islamist Jihadist movements.

Q: Lalgarh has been described as the New Naxalbari by the CPI (Maoist). How has it become so significant for you?

A: The Lalgarh mass uprising has, no doubt, raised new hopes among the oppressed people and the entire revolutionary camp in West Bengal. It has great positive impact not only on the people of West Bengal but also on the people all over the country. It has emerged as a new model of mass movement in the country. We had seen similar types of movements earlier in Manipur, directed against Army atrocities and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in Kashmir, in Dandakaranya and to some extent in Orissa, after the Kalinganagar massacre perpetrated by the Naveen Patnaik government.

Then there have been mass movements in Singur and Nandigram but there the role of a section of the ruling classes is also significant. These movements were utilised by the ruling class parties for their own electoral interests. But Lalgarh is a more widespread and more sustained mass political movement that has spurned the leadership of all the parliamentary political parties, thereby rendering them completely irrelevant. The people of Lalgarh had even boycotted the recent Lok Sabha polls, thereby unequivocally demonstrating their anger and frustration with all the reactionary ruling class parties. Lalgarh also has some distinctive features such as a high degree of participation of women, a genuinely democratic character and a wider mobilisation of Adivasis. No wonder, it has become a rallying point for the revolutionary-democratic forces in West Bengal.

Q: If it is a people’s movement, how did Maoists get involved in Lalgarh?

A: As far as our party’s role is concerned, we have been working in Paschim Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia, in what is popularly known as Jangalmahal since the 1980s. We fought against the local feudal forces, against the exploitation and oppression by the forest officials, contractors, unscrupulous usurers and the goondaism of both the CPM and Trinamool Congress. The ruling CPM, in particular, has become the chief exploiter and oppressor of the Adivasis of the region, and it has unleashed its notorious vigilanté gangs called Harmad Vahini on whoever questions its authority. With the State authority in its hands, and with the aid of the police, it is playing a role worse than that of the cruel landlords in other regions of the country.

Given this background, anyone who dares to fight against oppression and exploitation by the CPM can win the respect and confidence of the people. Since our party has been fighting uncompromisingly against the atrocities of the CPM goons, it naturally gained the confidence and respect of the people of the region.

The police atrocities in the wake of the landmine blast on 2 November [in 2008, from which West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had a narrow escape] acted as the trigger that brought the pent-up anger of the masses into the open. This assumed the form of a long-drawn mass movement, and our party played the role of a catalyst.

Q: But not so long ago, the CPM was your friend. You even took arms and ammunition from it to fight the Trinamool Congress. This has been confirmed by a Politburo member of CPI (Maoist) in certain interviews. And now you are fighting the CPM with the help of the Trinamool. How did a friend turn into a foe and vice-versa?

A: This is only partially true. We came to know earlier that some ammunition was taken by our local cadre from the CPM unit in the area. There was, however, no understanding with the leadership of the CPM in this regard. Our approach was to unite all sections of the oppressed masses at the lower levels against the goondaism and oppression of Trinamool goons in the area at that time. And since a section of the oppressed masses were in the fold of the CPM at that time, we fought together with them against Trinamool. Still, taking into consideration the overall situation in West Bengal, it was not a wise step to take arms and ammunition from the CPM even at the local level when the contradiction was basically between two sections of the reactionary ruling classes.

Our central committee discussed this, criticised the comrade responsible for taking such a decision, and directed the concerned comrades to stop this immediately. As regards taking ammunition from the Trinamool Congress, I remember that we had actually purchased it not directly from the Trinamool but from someone who had links with the Trinamool. There will never be any conditions or agreements with those selling us arms. That has been our understanding all along. As regards the said interview by our Politburo member, we will verify what he had actually said.

Q: What are your tactics now in Lalgarh after the massive offensive by the Central and state forces?

A: First of all, I wish to make it crystal clear that our party will spearhead and stand firmly by the side of the people of Lalgarh and entire Jangalmahal, and draw up tactics in accordance with the people’s interests and

Naxalites on the March

Parading Maoists

mandate. We shall spread the struggle against the State everywhere and strive to win over the broad masses to the side of the people’s cause. We shall fight the State offensive by mobilising the masses more militantly against the police, Harmad Vahini and CPM goons. The course of the development of the movement, of course, will depend on the level of consciousness and preparedness of the people of the region. The party will take this into consideration while formulating its tactics. The initiative of the masses will be released fully.

Q: The Government has termed Lalgarh a ‘laboratory’ for anti-Naxal operations. Has your party also learnt any lessons from Lalgarh?

A: Yes, our party too has a lot to learn from the masses of Lalgarh. Their upsurge was beyond our expectations. In fact, it was the common people, with the assistance of advanced elements influenced by revolutionary politics, who played a crucial role in the formulation of tactics. They formed their own organisation, put forth their charter of demands, worked out various novel forms of struggle, and stood steadfast in the struggle despite the brutal attacks by the police and the social-fascist Harmad gangs. The Lalgarh movement has the support of revolutionary and democratic forces not only in West Bengal but in the entire country. We are appealing to all revolutionary and democratic forces in the country to unite to fight back the fascist offensive by the Buddhadeb government in West Bengal and the UPA Government at the Centre. By building the broadest fighting front, and by adopting appropriate tactics of combining the militant mass political movement with armed resistance of the people and our PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army), we will defeat the massive offensive by the Central-state forces. I cannot say more than this at the present juncture.

Q: The Centre has declared an all-out war against Maoists by branding the CPI (Maoist) a terrorist organisation and imposing an all-India ban on the party. How has it affected your party?

A : Our party has already been banned in several states of India. By imposing the ban throughout the country, the Government now wants to curb all our open activities in West Bengal and a few other states where legal opportunities exist to some extent. The Government wants to use this draconian UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] to harass whoever dares to raise a voice against fake encounters, rapes and other police atrocities on the people residing in Maoist-dominated regions. Anyone questioning the State’s brutalities will now be branded a terrorist.

The real terrorists and biggest threats to the country’s security are none other than Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Buddhadeb, other ruling class leaders and feudal forces who terrorise the people on a daily basis.

The UPA Government had declared, as soon as it assumed power for the second time, that it would crush the Maoist ‘menace’ and began pouring in huge funds to the states for this purpose. The immediate reason behind this move is the pressure exerted by the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the imperialists, particularly US imperialists, who want to plunder the resources of our country without any hindrance. These sharks aspire to swallow the rich abundant mineral and forest wealth in the vast contiguous region stretching from Jangalmahal to north Andhra. This region is the wealthiest as well as the most underdeveloped part of our country. These sharks want to loot the wealth and drive the Adivasi people of the region to further impoverishment.

Another major reason for the current offensive by the ruling classes is the fear of the rapid growth of the Maoist movement and its increasing influence over a significant proportion of the Indian population. The Janatana Sarkars in Dandakaranya and the revolutionary people’s committees in Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of some other states have become new models of genuine people’s democracy and development. The rulers want to crush these new models of development and genuine democracy, as these are emerging as the real alternative before the people of the country at large.

Q: The Home Ministry has made preparations for launching a long-term battle against Maoists. A huge force will be soon trying to wrest away areas from your control. How do you plan to confront this offensive?

"From two to three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes."

"From two to three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes."

A: Successive governments in various states and the Centre have been hatching schemes over the years. But they could not achieve any significant success through their cruel offensive in spite of murdering hundreds of our leaders and cadres. Our party and our movement continued to consolidate and expand to new regions. From two or three states, the movement has now spread to over 15 states, giving jitters to the ruling classes. Particularly after the merger of the erstwhile MCCI and People’s War in September 2004 [the merger between these groups led to the formation of the CPI (Maoist)], the UPA Government has unleashed the most cruel all-round offensive against the Maoist movement. Yet our party continued to grow despite suffering some severe losses. In the past three years, in particular, our PLGA has achieved several significant victories.

We have been confronting the continuous offensive of the enemy with the support and active involvement of the masses. We shall confront the new offensive of the enemy by stepping up such heroic resistance and preparing the entire party, PLGA, the various revolutionary parties and organisations and the entire people. Although the enemy may achieve a few successes in the initial phase, we shall certainly overcome and defeat the Government offensive with the active mobilisation of the vast masses and the support of all the revolutionary and democratic forces in the country. No fascist regime or military dictator in history could succeed in suppressing forever the just and democratic struggles of the people through brute force, but were, on the contrary, swept away by the high tide of people’s resistance. People, who are the makers of history, will rise up like a tornado under our party’s leadership to wipe out the reactionary blood-sucking vampires ruling our country.

Q : Why do you think the CPI (Maoist) suffered a serious setback in Andhra Pradesh?

A : It was due to several mistakes on our part that we suffered a serious setback in most of Andhra Pradesh by 2006. At the same time, we should also look at the setback from another angle. In any protracted people’s war, there will be advances and retreats. If we look at the situation in Andhra Pradesh from this perspective, you will understand that what we did there is a kind of retreat. Confronted with a superior force, we chose to temporarily retreat our forces from some regions of Andhra Pradesh, extend and develop our bases in the surrounding regions and then hit back at the enemy.

Now even though we received a setback, it should be borne in mind that this setback is a temporary one. The objective conditions in which our revolution began in Andhra Pradesh have not undergone any basic change. This very fact continues to serve as the basis for the growth and intensification of our movement. Moreover, we now have a more consolidated mass base, a relatively better-trained people’s guerrilla army and an all-India party with deep roots among the basic classes who comprise the backbone of our revolution. This is the reason why the reactionary rulers are unable to suppress our revolutionary war, which is now raging in several states in the country.

We had taken appropriate lessons from the setback suffered by our party in Andhra Pradesh and, based on these lessons, drew up tactics in other states. Hence we are able to fight back the cruel all-round offensive of the enemy effectively, inflict significant losses on the enemy, preserve our subjective forces, consolidate our party, develop a people’s liberation guerrilla army, establish embryonic forms of new democratic people’s governments in some pockets, and take the people’s war to a higher stage. Hence we have an advantageous situation, overall, for reviving the movement in Andhra Pradesh. Our revolution advances wave-like and periods of ebb yield place to periods of high tide.

Q: What are the reasons for the setback suffered by the LTTE in Sri Lanka?

A: There is no doubt that the movement for a separate sovereign Tamil Eelam has suffered a severe setback with the defeat and considerable decimation of the LTTE. The Tamil people and the national liberation forces are now leaderless. However, the Tamil people at large continue to cherish nationalist aspirations for a separate Tamil homeland. The conditions that gave rise to the movement for Tamil Eelam, in the first place, prevail to this day. The Sinhala-chauvinist Sri Lankan ruling classes can never change their policy of discrimination against the Tamil nation, its culture, language, etcetera. The jingoistic rallies and celebrations organised by the government and Sinhala chauvinist parties all over Sri Lanka in the wake of Prabhakaran’s death and the defeat of the LTTE show the national hatred for Tamils nurtured by Sinhala organisations and the extent to which the minds of ordinary Sinhalese are poisoned with such chauvinist frenzy.

The conspiracy of the Sinhala ruling classes in occupying Tamil territories is similar to that of the Zionist rulers of Israel. The land-starved Sinhala people will now be settled in Tamil areas. The entire demography of the region is going to change. The ground remains fertile for the resurgence of the Tamil liberation struggle.

Even if it takes time, the war for a separate Tamil Eelam is certain to revive, taking lessons from the defeat of the LTTE. By adopting a proletarian outlook and ideology, adopting new tactics and building the broadest united front of all nationalist and democratic forces, it is possible to achieve the liberation of the oppressed Tamil nation [in Sri Lanka]. Maoist forces have to grow strong enough to provide leadership and give a correct direction and anti-imperialist orientation to this struggle to achieve a sovereign People’s Democratic Republic of Tamil Eelam. This alone can achieve the genuine liberation of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka.

Q: Is it true that you received military training from the LTTE initially?

A: No. It is not a fact. We had clarified this several times in the past.

Q: But, one of your senior commanders has told me that some senior cadre of the erstwhile PWG did receive arms training and other support from the LTTE.

A: Let me reiterate, there is no relation at all between our party and the LTTE. We tried several times to establish relations with the LTTE but its leadership was reluctant to have a relationship with Maoists in India. Hence, there is no question of the LTTE giving training to us. In spite of it, we continued our support to the struggle for Tamil Eelam. However, a few persons who had separated from the LTTE came into our contact and we took their help in receiving initial training in the last quarter of the 1980s.

Q: Does your party have links with Lashkar-e-Toiba or other Islamic militant groups having links with Pakistan?

A: No. Not at all. This is only mischievous, calculated propaganda by the police officials, bureaucrats and leaders of the reactionary political parties to defame us and thereby justify their cruel offensive against the Maoist movement. By propagating the lie that our party has links with groups linked to Pakistan’s ISI, the reactionary rulers of our country want to prove that we too are terrorists and gain legitimacy for their brutal terror campaign against Maoists and the people in the areas of armed agrarian struggle. Trying to prove the involvement of a foreign hand in every just and democratic struggle, branding those fighting for the liberation of the oppressed as traitors to the country, is part of the psychological-war of the reactionary rulers.

Q: What is your party’s stand regarding Islamist jihadist movements?

A: Islamic jihadist movements of today are a product of imperialist—particularly US imperialist—aggression, intervention, bullying, exploitation and suppression of the oil-rich Islamic and Arab countries of West Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, etcetera, and the persecution of the entire Muslim religious community. As part of their designs for global hegemony, the imperialists, particularly US imperialists, have encouraged and endorsed every war of brazen aggression and brutal attacks by their surrogate state of Israel.

Our party unequivocally opposes every attack on Arab and Muslim countries and the Muslim community at large in the name of ‘war on global terror’. In fact, Muslim religious fundamentalism is encouraged and fostered by imperialists as long as it serves their interests—such as in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan.

Q: But what about attacks perpetrated by the so-called ‘Jihadis’ on innocent people like it happened on 26/11?

A: See, Islamic jihadist movements have two aspects: one is their anti-imperialist aspect, and the other their reactionary aspect in social and cultural matters. Our party supports the struggle of Muslim countries and people against imperialism, while criticising and struggling against the reactionary ideology and social outlook of Muslim fundamentalism. It is only Maoist leadership that can provide correct anti-imperialist orientation and achieve class unity among Muslims as well as people of other religious persuasions. The influence of Muslim fundamentalist ideology and leadership will diminish as communist revolutionaries and other democratic-secular forces increase their ideological influence over the Muslim masses. As communist revolutionaries, we always strive to reduce the influence of the obscurantist reactionary ideology and outlook of the mullahs and maulvis on the Muslim masses, while uniting with all those fighting against the common enemy of the world people—that is, imperialism and particularly American imperialism.

Q : How do you look at the changes in US policy after Barack Obama took over from George Bush?

A: Firstly, one would be living in a fool’s paradise if one imagines that there is going to be any qualitative change in American policy—whether internal or external—after Barack Obama took over from George Bush. In fact, the policies on national security and foreign affairs pursued by Obama over the past eight months have shown the essential continuity with those of his predecessor. The ideological and political justification for these regressive policies at home and aggressive policies abroad is the same trash put forth by the Bush administration—the so-called ‘global war on terror’, based on outright lies and slander. Worse still, the policies have become even more aggressive under Obama with his planned expansion of the US-led war of aggression in Afghanistan into the territory of Pakistan. The hands of this new killer-in-chief of the pack of imperialist wolves are already stained with the blood of hundreds of women and children who are cruelly murdered in relentless missile attacks from Predator drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, within the US itself, bail-outs for the tiny corporate elite and attacks on democratic and human rights of US citizens continue without any change.

The oppressed people and nations of the world are now confronting an even more formidable and dangerous enemy in the form of an African-American president of the most powerful military machine and world gendarme. The world people should unite to wage a more relentless, more militant and more consistent struggle against the American marauders led by Barack Obama and pledge to defeat them to usher in a world of peace, stability and genuine democracy.

Q: How do you look at the current developments in Nepal?

A: As soon as the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)] came to power in alliance with the comprador-feudal parties through the parliamentary route in Nepal, we had pointed out the grave danger of imperialist and Indian expansionist intervention in Nepal and how they would leave no stone unturned to overthrow the government led by CPN(M). As long as Prachanda did not defy the directives of the Indian Government, it was allowed to continue, but when it began to go against Indian hegemony, it was immediately pulled down. CPN-UML withdrew support to the Prachanda-led government upon the advice of American imperialists and Indian expansionists. We disagreed with the line of peaceful transition pursued by the UCPN(M) in the name of tactics. We decided to send an open letter to the UCPN(M). It was released in July 2009.

We made our party’s stand clear in the letter. We pointed out that the UCPN(M) chose to reform the existing State through an elected constituent assembly and a bourgeois democratic republic instead of adhering to the Marxist-Leninist understanding on the imperative to smash the old State and establish a proletarian State. This would have been the first step towards the goal of achieving socialism through the radical transformation of society and all oppressive class relations. It is indeed a great tragedy that the UCPN(M) has chosen to abandon the path of protracted people’s war and pursue a parliamentary path in spite of having de facto power in most of the countryside.

It is heartening to hear that a section of the leadership of the UCPN(M) has begun to struggle against the revisionist positions taken by Comrade Prachanda and others. Given the great revolutionary traditions of the UCPN(M), we hope that the inner-party struggle will repudiate the right opportunist line pursued by its leadership, give up revisionist stands and practices, and apply minds creatively to the concrete conditions of Nepal.

Q: Of late, the party has suffered serious losses of party leadership at the central and state level. Besides, it is widely believed that some of the senior-most Maoist leaders, including you, have become quite old and suffer from serious illnesses, which is also cited as one of the reasons for the surrenders. What is the effect of the losses and surrenders on the movement? How are you dealing with problems arising out of old age and illnesses?

A: (Smiles…) This type of propaganda is being carried out continuously, particularly by the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of Andhra Pradesh. It is a part of the psychological war waged by intelligence officials and top police brass aimed at confusing and demoralising supporters of the Maoist movement. It is a fact that some of the party leaders at the central and state level could be described as senior citizens according to criteria used by the government, that is, those who have crossed the threshold of 60 years. You can start calling me too a senior citizen in a few months (smiles). But old age and ill-health have never been a serious problem in our party until now. You can see the ‘senior citizens’ in our party working for 16-18 hours a day and covering long distances on foot. As for surrenders, it is a big lie to say that old age and ill-health have been a reason for some of the surrenders.

When Lanka Papi Reddy, a former member of our central committee, surrendered in the beginning of last year, the media propagated that more surrenders of our party leaders will follow due to ill-health. The fact is that Papi Reddy surrendered due to his loss of political conviction and his petty-bourgeois false prestige and ego. Hence he was not prepared to face the party after he was demoted by the central committee for his anarchic behaviour with a woman comrade.

Some senior leaders of our party, like comrades Sushil Roy and Narayan Sanyal, had become a nightmare for the ruling classes even when they were in their mid 60s. Hence they were arrested, tortured and imprisoned despite their old age and ill-health. The Government is doing everything possible to prevent them from getting bail. Even if someone in our party is old, he/she continues to serve the revolution by doing whatever work possible. For instance, Comrade Niranjan Bose, who died recently at the age of 92, had been carrying out revolutionary propaganda until his martyrdom. The social fascist rulers were so scared of this nonagenarian Maoist revolutionary that they had even arrested him four years back. Such is the spirit of Maoist revolutionaries—and power of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism which they hold high. When there are serious illnesses, or physical and mental limitations to perform normal work, such comrades are given suitable work.

Q: But what about the arrests and elimination of some of your senior leadership? How do you intend to fill up such losses?

A: Well, it is a fact that we lost some senior leaders at the state and central level in the past four or five years. Some leaders were secretly arrested and murdered in the most cowardly manner. Many other and state leaders were arrested and placed behind bars in the recent past in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Haryana and other states. The loss of leadership will have a grave impact on the party and Indian revolution as a whole. We are reviewing the reasons for the losses regularly and devising ways and means to prevent further losses. By adopting strictly secret methods of functioning and foolproof underground mechanisms, by enhancing our mass base, vigilance and local intelligence, smashing enemy intelligence networks and studying their plans and tactics, we hope to check further losses. At the same time, we are training and developing new revolutionary leadership at all levels to fill up the losses.

Q: How do you sum up the present stage of war between your forces and those of the Indian State?

A: Our war is in the stage of strategic defence. In some regions, we have an upper hand, while in others the enemy has the upper hand. Overall, our forces have been quite successful in carrying out a series of tactical counter-offensive operations against the enemy in our guerrilla zones in the past few years.

It is true that our party has suffered some serious leadership losses, but we are able to inflict serious losses on the enemy too. In fact, in the past three years, the enemy forces suffered more casualties than we did. The enemy has been trying all means at their disposal to weaken, disrupt and crush our party and movement. They have tried covert agents and informers, poured in huge amounts of money to buy off weak elements in the revolutionary camp, and announced a series of rehabilitation packages and other material incentives to lure away people from the revolutionary camp. Thousands of crores (1 crore = 10millions)of rupees have been sanctioned for police modernisation, training and for raising additional commando forces; for increasing Central forces; for training Central and state forces in counter-insurgency warfare; and for building roads, communication networks and other infrastructure for the rapid movement of their troops in our guerrilla zones. The Indian State has set up armed vigilante groups and provided total support to the indescribable atrocities committed by these armed gangs on the people. Psychological warfare against Maoists was taken to unheard of levels.

Nevertheless, we continued to make greater advances, consolidated the party and the revolutionary people’s committees at various levels, strengthened the PLGA qualitatively and quantitatively, smashed the enemy’s intelligence network in several areas, effectively countered the dirty psychological-war waged by the enemy, and foiled the enemy’s all-out attempts to disrupt and smash our movement. The successes we had achieved in several tactical counter-offensive operations carried out across the country in recent days, the militant mass movements in several states, particularly against displacement and other burning issues of the people, initiatives taken by our revolutionary people’s governments in various spheres—all these have had a great impact on the people, while demoralising enemy forces. There are reports of desertions and disobedience of orders by the jawans posted in Maoist-dominated areas. Quite a few have refused to undertake training in jungle warfare or take postings in our areas, and had to face suspension. This trend will grow with the further advance of our people’s war. Overall, our party’s influence has grown stronger and it has now come to be recognised as the only genuine alternative before the people.

Q: How long will this stage of strategic defence last, with the Centre ready to go for the jugular?

A: The present stage of strategic defence will last for some more time. It is difficult to predict how long it will take to pass this stage and go to the stage of strategic equilibrium or strategic stalemate. It depends on the transformation of our guerrilla zones into base areas, creation of more guerrilla zones and red resistance areas across the country, the development of our PLGA. With the ever-intensifying crisis in all spheres due to the anti-people policies of pro-imperialist, pro-feudal governments, the growing frustration and anger of the masses resulting from the most rapacious policies of loot and plunder pursued by the reactionary ruling classes, we are confident that the vast masses of the country will join the ranks of revolutionaries and take the Indian revolution to the next stage.

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