Beyond Capital

Polemics, Critique and Analysis

Problems and prospect of the “Maoist” Strategy

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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).

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 25, 2010 at 11:30 pm

One Response

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  1. An afterthought:

    I admire people’s eloquence in rejecting everything “stalinists”/maoists (about their eventual culmination – a “stalinist” teleology? – into polpotism) etc (that reads like good jnu-style leaflets), but that does not help in objectively understanding the struggles in India. Ultimately, all these good words are wasted in mourning for the absence of “genuine” revolutionaries, asking them to wake up from slumber – but where do they think they will descend from – from sterile ideas (howsoever revolutionary they seem)? Or from the movement itself (howsoever uncouth or brutal the ‘products’ might be)?

    Pratyush Chandra

    March 26, 2010 at 2:04 am


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