Maoism, A Critique From the Left

Published on PRAGOTI.org, by Prasenjit Bose, May 18, 2010.

Leftword Books has published a collection of critical essays on leftwing extremism. The contributors are P.M.S. Grewal, Nilotpal Basu and Vijay Prashad. Excerpts from a 1968 CPI (M) document are reproduced in appendix as a historical backgrounder. The book is published under creative commons license. Pragoti is publishing the Introduction to the volume written by book editor Prasenjit Bose. The book can be purchased online from here.

Introduction: … // 

… IV:

The present volume seeks to make an intervention in this backdrop. All the three essays contained in this volume deal with left sectarianism, with two focusing on the CPI (Maoist) in India and one with the international experience of left adventurism. The first essay by P.M.S. Grewal is a theoretical critique of the programmatic understanding of the Indian Maoists. Grewal revisits the earlier debates within the Indian Communist movement, tracing the origins of left sectarianism, to show how the Maoists of today have remained prisoners of the old dogmas regarding the Indian state and society as well as the revolutionary path. He exposes the theoretical hollowness of the Maoists and blows up the myth about their being a revolutionary force fighting for the cause of the tribals or other exploited sections. The last section of the essay provides detailed information on the recent Maoist attacks against the CPI (M) and the Left in Lalgarh and elsewhere.

Nilotpal Basu’s essay complements Grewal’s analysis, by looking at the flawed ideological political approach of the Maoists, which negates the very first principles of Marxism-Leninism. Basu argues that the greatness of Mao Zedong lies precisely in his creative application of Marxism in the concrete conditions of Chinese society in the 1930s and 1940s and not in mechanically implementing the Comintern line on how to carry out the revolution in China. In contrast, the Indian Maoists seek to re-enact the Chinese revolution in contemporary Indian conditions, which are vastly different from those in pre-revolutionary China. The farcical end result is the very anti-thesis of Mao Zedong thought. Basu makes a robust critique of the anti-democratic practices of the Maoists and their hypocritical sympathizers. He also argues that Maoists can be effectively dealt with, not by means of imposing bans or security measures alone, but by ensuring their political isolation and addressing the developmental needs of the tribal areas where the Maoists operate.

Vijay Prashad looks at the international experience of left extremism, especially in Latin America. Through very informative expositions of the major political developments within the Left in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, Peru and Colombia, Prashad argues that the present day realities do not favour guerilla warfare any more. Prashad contrasts the failure of armed struggles in country after country with the successful ‘long march through the institutions’ by the Latin American Left, and draws the conclusion that the way forward for the Left lies in mass movements and not guns. The discussion on the Maoists in Peru and Philippines is particularly relevant in the Indian context as it demonstrates similar tendencies within the extreme left leading to very similar and equally destructive outcomes.

We also reproduce as an annexure, excerpts from a CPI (M) document, Ideological Debate Summed Up, which was first published in June 1968. This document throws light on the ideological debates within the Communist movement in India in the 1960s. The relevant excerpts from the document reproduced here deal with all the ideological questions thrown up by the naxalites – whether India’s independence was merely ‘formal’, whether the Indian big bourgeoisie was ‘comprador’, whether the state was ‘neocolonial’ and a ‘puppet’ of imperialism, whether to take part in the parliamentary democratic process and participate in coalition governments in the states. This document serves as an appropriate historical backgrounder to the Marxist critique of contemporary left sectarianism in India. It contains an important and enduring vision – that the road to revolution in India will neither be the Chinese road nor the Russian road, but a distinct Indian road.

Notes 1 – 6: … (full very long introduction text).

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