This article was published in the Monthly Review.
Bernard D’Mello (firstname.lastname@example.org) is deputy editor, Economic & Political Weekly, and a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai. He thanks Gautam Navlakha for his comments and suggestions on an earlier draft. The usual disclaimers apply. This article has appeared in Seminar, 607, March 2010 in a symposium – “Red Resurgence” – on the Naxal/Maoist challenge to the state.
Spring Thunder Anew: Neo-Robber Baron Capitalism vs. ‘New Democracy’ in India
The white man called you Bhagat Singh that day,
The black man calls you Naxalite today.
But everyone will call you the morning star tomorrow.
—Excerpt from the Telugu poem,
‘Final Journey: First Victory’ by Sri Sri*
It has been a long and tortuous route. Forty-three years ago, a group of Maoist revolutionaries conceived of and embarked upon a revolutionary road that still inspires their political descendants, alarms the dominant classes, and provokes slander and denigration on the part of the establishment left, post-modernists and well-funded NGO bosses. This is the path of protracted people’s war (PPW). It relies on an alliance of the Indian proletariat with the poor and landless peasantry and the semi-proletariat to establish ‘base areas’ in the countryside, run them democratically as miniature, self-reliant states, carry out ‘land to the tiller’ and other social policies there, thereby building a political mass base to finally encircle and ‘capture’ the cities.
The aim is to usher in ‘new democracy’, a transitional stage in which capitalism is moulded to render it more compatible with democracy, thereby aiding the transition to socialism, all under the leadership of a ‘Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party’. One would like to say, ‘It’s been a long time coming’, but even today, the Maoist movement in India is nowhere near its ‘new democratic’ goal—the dawn has been ever elusive. Yet, the dominant classes want it throttled, and the Indian state has recently launched Operation Green Hunt—phase-2 of its present counter-insurgency strategy—to accomplish its task. What has prompted this move?
Overall, can we make any sense of what is going on? We will rely on ‘stylized facts’ derived from the empirical evidence we have at hand, concentrating thereby on the broad tendencies (ignoring individual detail) to throw light on the state’s strategy, the strategy and tactics of the Maoists, their successes and failures, and the interplay of continuity with change, focussing on their resistance to (what we characterize as) neo-robber baron capitalism. We argue that Operation Green Hunt stems from the fact that the movement now threatens neo-robber baron capitalism in its areas of influence—albeit, exaggerated by the dominant classes as so-called ‘Red Corridor’—and the Indian state is therefore bent on asphyxiating it. Read the rest of this entry »