Revolution in South Asia

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Remembering Charu Mazumdar: Still that spring thunder stirs us!

Posted by Mike E on July 30, 2011

Charu Mazumdar, leader of the armed Naxalbari uprising of peasants and founder of the modern Maoist movement

Charu Mazumdar was the communist leader of India’s 1967 uprising in the village of Naxalbari — an opening shot of a fierce revolutionary wave that raged for years. This daring act of revolt created the Naxalite movement — the heart of India’s modern revolutionary effort.

Charu Mazumdar became one of the most wanted men in India, and was captured by police in 1971. He died ten days later at 4 am on July 28, 1972 — in Lal Bazar lock-up – a prison notorious for torture. Today, July 28, we remember him and the many martyrs in India’s great historic struggle for liberation and communism.

In 2007, several of us were looking for a form to write our first Kasama manifesto. We wanted to use a style sharply different from Bob Avakian (whose rambling, self-indulgent style reflects key weaknesses of his method). We chose to study closely the “Eight Documents” of Charu Mazumdar (plus early pieces by Turkey’s Maoist Ibrahim Kaypakkaya). The result was the format we adopted — “9 Letters to Our Comrades.”

Charu’s work can be found in his own section of the Marxist Internet Archive.

Here is a brief biography of Charu Mazumdar from an archive of Indian communist documents:

Charu Mazumdar

Charu Majumdar – The Father of Naxalism – The Architect of CPI (M-L)

Born in a progressive landlord family in Siliguri in 1918, he not only dedicated his entire life to peasants’ cause but also authored the historic 1968 Naxalbari uprising, the ideology that guides the red radicals even today.

Son of an active freedom fighter, Charu Majumdar or CM rebelled against social inequalities even as a teenager. Later, impressed by “petty-bourgeois” national revolutionaries, he joined All Bengal Students Association affiliated to Anusilan group.

Dropping out of college in 1937-38 he joined the Congress party and devoted himself in organising bidi workers. He later crossed over to CPI to work in its peasant front and soon won respect of the poor and downtrodden of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. Soon an arrest-warrant forced him to go underground for the first time as a Left activist.

Although the CPI was banned at the outbreak of the World War II, he continued his organizing activities among peasants and was elected to the CPI Jalpaiguri district committee in 1942.The promotion emboldened him to organise a ‘seizure of crops’ campaign in Jalpaiguri during the Great Famine of 1943, more or less successfully. In 1946, he joined the famous Tebhaga movement and embarked on a militant struggle in North Bengal. The stir shaped his vision of a revolutionary struggle. Later he worked among tea garden workers in Darjeeling.For taking the road of the intertwined revolution, the CPI was banned in 1948 and CM was put behind the bars for next three years. He tied the nuptial knot with a fellow CPI member from Jalpaiguri – Lila Majumdar Sengupta in January 1954.

CM’s growing ideological rift with the CPI came to fore after the party’s Palghat Congress in 1956. The ‘Great Debate’ across the communist world in the late 50s propelled him to mull a revolutionary philosophy suiting Indian conditions.He was again jailed during 1962 for criticising the Nehuru Government’s notorious attempt of Chinese expansion.

The CPI split in 1964 over ideological differences among the cadres. Charu Majumdar joined the breakaway part, the CPI (M), but could not go with its decision to participate in polls by postponing ‘armed struggle’ to a day when revolutionary situation prevailed in India.

He kept a bad health during 1964-65 and was advised rest. But he devoted this time, even in jail, to study and write about the path of the Indian revolution on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought. The exercise shaped his vision and ideas of a mass struggle, which were recorded in his writing and speeches of 1965-67. These were later called ‘Historic Eight Documents’ and subsequently formed the basis of Indian Communist Movement or Naxalism.

The CPM formed a coalition United Front government with Bangla Congress in West Bengal in 1967 by betraying the cause of revolution.On May 25 the same year, the CM-led “rebels” launched the historic peasant uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The rebels annihilated the notorious police inspector – Sonam Wangdi, and created the foundation of India’s New Democratic Revolution. The state government’s Home Ministry headed by the CPI (M) leader Jyoti Basu brutally suppressed this movement by killing 11 women and 2 children. But the ideology of “naxalism” not only survived but also spread in different corners of the subcontinent.

With the upsurge of naxalism, comrades from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal set up All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) in CPI (M) on Nov 12-13, 1967. It was renamed as All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, which launched CPI (ML) on April 2, 1969 with Charu Majumdar as its General Secretary. In 1970, the CPI (ML) organised its first party congress in Calcutta in strict underground conditions. CM was re-elected as the General Secretary. The Party Congress put forward the programme of protracted people’s war advocated the battle of annihilation of class enemies.

Authorities mounted a fierce crackdown on Leftist movement across the country, particularly in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, which climaxed during and after 1971 Bangladesh war with the killings of many key Naxalist leaders. By 1971, Comrade Charu Majumdar and Comrade Saroj Dutta became India’s most wanted men. In the early hours of 5th August, 1971, comrade Saroj Dutta was brutally murdered by the police at the Aryan Club ground. As per the CPI (ML) records, Charu Majumdar was arrested from a Calcutta hideout on July 16, 1972, due to the betrayal of the then PCS of CPI (ML), Bengal Unit, Dipak Biswas.

During his ten days in police custody in Lal Bazar lock-up no one was allowed to see him — not even his lawyer, family members or a doctor. The Lal Bazar lock-up had achieved a reputation throughout the country for the most horrifying and cruel tortures. He died at 4 am on July 28, 1972 in the same lock-up. Even the dead body was not given to his family. Police, accompanied with immediate family members carried the body to crematorium… The whole area was cordoned off and no other relatives were allowed in as his body was consigned to flames.

Death of CM closed a vigorous chapter of Indian “revolutionary movement”.

2 Responses to “Remembering Charu Mazumdar: Still that spring thunder stirs us!”

  1. Harsh Thakor said

    Ipay homage to this great revolutionary martyr who played a major role in the demarcation of revisonism and was one of the architects of the maoist revolutionary line.However we must learn from the mistakes he commited in the name of armed struggle like the ‘annihilation of the class enemy’,’China’s Chairman is our chairman’,his disbanding of mass organisations etc.Infact the current C.P.I(Maoist )line is vitiated with the Charu Mazumdar line,particularly the military aspect.. We must dip our blood in memory of Charu but make an analytical study of the errors in the formation of the party and the violation of mass line. On the same day on July 28th it was the death anniversary of Tarimala Nagi Reddy,one of the architects of the mass line who struggled against the left adventurism of Charu Mazumdar.I wish Kasama could have paid homage to Nagi Reddy for his major work in refuting left adventurism.

    Below I reproduce an excerpts which highlight the errors.They bring out the views of the Andhra Pradesh co-ordination commitee (A.R.C.C.R.) which refuted the All India Cordination commitee (A.I.C.C.R.)led by Charu Mazumdar.
    In the final analysis 3 major differences came out.

    a.the left adventurist A.I.C.C.R. line viewed the struggle against neo revisionism as a task of only organizing the top leaders or the most advanced elements of the C.P.M.The A.P.C.C.C.R felt thee was need of organizing the entire party ranks.

    b.The A.I.C.C.C.R negated the mass line and exhibited romantic and petit bourgeois tendencies when they propogated armed struggle with no relation to the people’s consciousness.The concept of ‘annihilation of the class enemies’ was propogated.

    The A.P.C.C.C.R stressed that a mass agrarian revolutionary Movement should be built up propagating the concept of agrarian revolution and relating it to the land question. They also stressed on implementing the mass revolutionary line of the Telengana Armed Struggle. It also questioned AI.C.C.C.R’s understanding of the area of Srikakulam becoming a liberated base area. Encircled by a well –knit transport and communication system thee was a long way to develop it into a liberated base area. Simultaneously they propagated that there were vast potential areas where armed struggle could be developed. and a strategic planning was required.

    c. A.P.C.C.C.R propagated the need of building necessary forms of struggle and organization.and the need to combine mass form sof struggle with armed struggle.The A.I.C.C.C.R.totally neglected this aspect.

    d. A.P.C.C.C.R opposed the line of ‘Boycott of parliamentary Elections’ as a strategic path.’ Elections was a question of tactics and one of the several llegal forms of struggle. .

    Comrade T.N in an interview explained 3 important points

    a..That Armed Struggle starts only as resistance to landlord goondas and govt.repression This resistance will be in the form of peoples mass resistance. However the C.P.I.M.L rejected this and resorted to isolated squad actions.

    b.In T.N’s view Peoples War starts only as a form of resistance ,not as an offensiveTHe C.P.I.M.L opposed this .

    c. Comrade T.N advocated the use of various forms of struggle in accordance with the prevailing conditions.The C.P.I.M.L rejected this and only gave emphasis to armed struggle.

    Hope this is historically useful.The most important factor is the qusetion of the re-organisation of the party itself.Today in India it is wrong to say that the party has been re-organised.It is still in the stage of re-organisation.

    The Punjab co-ordination committee issued this press statement “Due to political differences we break our relationship with C.PI.M.L. In Punjab their activities are left adventurist. They oppose the process of people’s protracted war. We do not want to be arrested in self-destructive tendencies.”

    In 1974 the Punjab Co-ordination Committee published a document why they demarcated themselves from Charu Mazumdar’s CPI (ML):

    1. Since the socio-economic conditions differ and political consciousness varies from place to place, the revolutionary movements have to pass through various stages, and different tactics would have to be used at various places.

    2. To ignore open and legal struggles is left adventurism. These will contribute to the development of armed struggle.

    3. Annihilation of class enemies leads to the emergence of feelings of hero worship and retards revolutionary initiative.

    4. To ignore partial and economic struggles is dogmatism. The working class will have to pass through various phases of struggle.

    5. Mass organisations will have to be formed such as peasant, worker and student organisations.

    6. Although the rural areas are the main areas of struggle the movement cannot exclude the mass organisations in urban areas.

    7. Individual annihilations do not comprise people’s war. The CPI (ML) is too simplistic about it.

    8. The CPI (ML) ignores the fact that the People’s democratic revolution will occur under the leadership of the proletariat, particularly the industrial working class.

    Quoting a Central Team C.P.I(M.L.)document
    “The Central Leadership of the C.P.I(M.L)failed to resolve correctly certain questions of policy regarding mass line ,military line and style of work. Instead of devicing correct CT Marxist Leninist policies in the light of objective analysis, the cental leadership started divicing such policies subjectively. Consequently our revolution receive setrbacks.The Central leadership
    gradually deviated from the very ideological foundation of the party. They revealed a sectarian, individualist and bureaucratic trend. The failed to mobiles all the sincere C.R’s in he party,through ideological persuasion and political struggle. Although the 8th Congress of the C.P.I(M.L),boldly drew a clear line of demarcation between Marxism and Revisionsism, upheld the correct general orientation and path of Indian Revolution, yet adopted certain left adventurist policies on the questions of mass and military line.It asserted that mass struggles and mass movements wee indispensable and that the principal contradiction was that between feudalism and the broad masses.

    It is significant that later in their April 1993 issue of Liberation they wrote, ‘The C.P.I(M.L) had failed to understand the significance of consistent struggle of ideological, political nature within the party and outside for further quantitative and qualitative consolidation of revolutionary forces in and around he C.P.I(M.L)Early success led them to sectarian politics and organizational authoritarianism.They failed to realize the significance of consistent struggle in each and every activity of party leadership brought forth from C.PI.and C.P.M. Revolutionary broadness and flexibility was replaced by authoritarian principles .The leadership failed to realize the dimension of the converging process of revolutionaries in and around the party. Opportunist onslaught within the party gave rise to organisational centralism.”

  2. nice post.

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