Monthly Archives: March 2010

Problems and prospect of the “Maoist” Strategy

Rural society and the market are so intertwined throughout India that you cannot squeeze the markets (or towns) off by abruptly cutting their connection with the villages (the logic of encirclement). In fact the opposite has occurred in most of the cases – in Bihar and many places in Jharkhand, ML groups couldn’t sustain their “zones” because the villages were squeezed off by the elongated disruption of their relationship with the market. They were successful and that too marvellously as long as people perceived “liberation” as “strikes”, i.e., as strategies for bargaining for prices – prices of labour and labour power (interestingly, Marx termed strikes as guerrilla attacks). When these “strikes” tend to create “liberated zones” – a semi-permanent rupture in the relationship between the larger market and local communities, the local support starts getting alienated and disgruntled.

At many places, the naxal movement has successfully opposed the oppressive “diku” intermediary system in Tendu-leaves type trades, but the impossibility of posing an alternative economic system in a piecemeal fashion within the isolated “liberated zones” (this is due to India’s political economy) helped reestablish the similar oppression, however, with a notable change that now we find locals (not dikus) for the role of mediating a more intense internalisation of capitalist relations – “mutually embedding” of the market (labour, capital and commodity) and communities. Hence, we see ex-comrades becoming part of the established political formations (as for instance during the last elections in Jharkhand) or as traders, contractors etc. It is this section, which was the immediate beneficiary of many local militant struggles and which became agencies of the status quo. The phenomenon of Salwa Judum can also be perhaps explained in this framework – it is constituted by those elements in the tribal communities who have benefited by the expulsion of diku intermediaries, and now they want an accommodation within the hegemonic establishment.

But all this demonstrates the success of the Naxal movement in developing right “tactics” for organising locally, but the problem comes when those tactics are institutionalised as strategies (when guerrilla battles are confused with the whole war). This is the problem of spatio-temporal overgeneralisation, of essentialising particular tactics beyond spatial and temporal contexts. This problem occurs due to a partial critique of India’s capitalist political economy – viewing particular/apparent forms that it takes in specific locations (according to which specific tactics are formulated) as the essence or the general reality. The lack of a comprehensive critique of India’s political economy in revolutionary practice (but “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice”) has led to the cornering of “the political” and foregrounding of the voluntaristic military operations.

The ‘generalised’ guerrilla tactics that we saw in China (also in pre-republican Nepal) were conjunctural (based on the concrete analysis of concrete situations). If we go through Mao’s writings (not just those published officially), we can see self-organisation of the working population (even with their ‘unsophisticated’ consciousness) at the centre of his politics (see his Hunan report and intensive/extensive land investigations in which we find him engaging in throughout the revolutionary phases). In fact, the guerrilla tactics was organically grounded in this as a ‘specific’ vehicle to interconnect various locations of experiences. This specificity derived from a feudalised political economy that was present there (I am calling it thus, because the post-Qing Chinese state was virtually a network of local militarised (warlords) interests).

On Jairus Banaji’s response to Arundhati Roy

One point that interests me in Jairus Banaji’s post in Kafila and the subsequent debate on the post is his focus on labour as the centre of the movement. I think this focus is fundamental in order to ground various local/localised struggles in political economy (or rather in its critique) and to understand the underlying interconnections between them (whether the leadership of these struggles understand them in this manner is immaterial – did not Marx appreciate Paris Commune even when Blanquists were in hegemony?).

Marx’s conceptualisation of labour and of capital-labour relations is rich enough to provide tools for comprehending various struggles against capitalist accumulation (both primitive and normal). He understood subsumption of labour by capital as a process (not some particular fixed states), which starts from being formal to real – from a stage where labour is subsumed through non-capitalist “forms” of exploitation to the actual subsumption in “pure” wage-labour form. Between these two poles, subsumption can take a plethora of forms. Who knows better than Jairus that unwaged labour (reproductive or otherwise) is also part of the capitalist subsumption of labour.

So how do we understand tribals and “peasants” struggles against land and resource alienation within this framework? They are essentially fighting against capitalist efforts to alienate them from their resources, which create (or, better, reproduce) conditions for the subsumption of their labour by capital. Whether they will become wage labourers is not at all essential; if they are not employed, or even employable, they still remain labourers as part of the reserve army of proletarians or surplus population (stagnant, latent and floating) reproducing themselves on their small pieces of land, or by food gathering (in forests or trash cans). Their struggle, in a Marxist sense, can be understood as part of the anti-systemic working class struggle to control the conditions of production and, I stress, reproduction too.

Now coming to the forms of struggle (armed, unarmed, etc), I think we as Marxists (of all hues and colours) cannot act as idealists, by considering only those movements as working class movements or anti-capitalist movements, which are projected in our idioms, and are developing according to our framework of strategic-building. The working class can throw diverse forms of struggles according to its internal constituents or class composition. However, one must critique forms in order to show the limitations and problems of those forms, in order to avoid the problem of overgeneralisation of particular forms, and also in order to undertake the revolutionary task of generalisation seriously, which essentially means to see a revolutionary building up against capitalism within and through all forms of working-class struggles.