Complexities of developing People’s War in India
India is a vast country with huge population. The reactionary ruling classes are presently tied up with the lone superpower, the US. With their blessing they are pursuing expansionist dreams and have become the hated villain in South Asia. They have en-massed a huge defense system (4th largest in the world). Along with this they have a strong police, paramilitary, and espionage network, which makes it look almost invincible to defeat.
The other challenge faced by the revolutionaries is the sharp unevenness spread throughout the country’s length and breadth. Disparities in the socio-economic situation tend from highly feudal States like Bihar, UP, AP, Rajasthan to the pseudo-developed states like Kerala, Punjab, and parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Same is true of the consciousness of the masses, which is inseparably linked to the history of struggle in the States. If Rajasthan, MP, UP and Gujarat are very much under the control of fascist reactionaries and are backward, Kerala and Bengal, due to their long history of communist movement can be termed as advanced in comparison, though long hold of revisionists have muddled the views of the masses there.
Different languages, nationality problems, cultures, castes, creeds and religion also divide the revolutionary classes. Hence a common formula for the entire country cannot be adopted. The other serious question faced by the revolutionaries in India is to demarcate Maoist People’s War from the mire of various armed activities going on in India – nationalist wars, Islamist armed activities, Hindu fundamentalist genocides, Mafia clashes, warlordism and also various state sponsored terrorist activities. Imperialists and reactionaries brand any armed dissent as ‘terrorist’ to isolate it from the masses and crack down on them. Hence we not only need to demarcate from this but also bring out the strength of Maoist war, which alone can dilute enemy propaganda, fight back attempts to isolate us and face up to the enemy onslaught.
But fissures and cracks are widening just under the thin veil of stability and unity. The ruling classes are preoccupied fighting various contradictions. Nationality problems have translated into fierce armed struggles in Kashmir and North East and continue to bleed the state. Expansionist and dominating attitude of the Indian ruling classes has strained relationship with all its neighbors. Poverty, unemployment, natural disasters, and failure of the system to provide basic necessities cannot be just wiped off by hollow speeches on India’s progress and development. Globalisation, Liberalisation and Privatisation have started taking their toll, in the rural and urban areas alike. Small businesses are being swallowed up and the process of declassing is speeding up. Anger and discontent is widespread. Even the exposed parliamentary parties and reformist are forced to mobilise the masses for militant struggles. Masses have lost faith in the system, its bogus parliament, corrupt judiciary, and administration, and they hate the terror machinery. The objective conditions had never been so ripe for revolution. As the masses crave to be organised and led, the subjective forces, the revolutionaries are yet to unite and establish an All India Maoist vangaurd party capable of giving leadership to the masses throughout the country.
Apart from these stark realities there are characteristics, which stand as advantages for revolution in India. The enemy’s armed strength is duly engaged in fighting nationalist wars in Kashmir and North East and can’t afford to leave the borders. The so-called unity of the army got a major jolt after the Blue Star Operation in Amritsar. Desertion and revolts are taking place in the army and its morale too is down in the wake of Tehelka and coffin scandals. The contradictions among the ruling classes are serious too, though not sharp. This is bound to aggravate with deteriorating situation.
The revolutionary situation is much more favourable than in CM’s time, nationally and internationally. The anti-US, anti-war, anti-globalisation fervour is increasing rapidly.
Ideological differences have been sorted out to a great extent and polarisation between revisionists and revolutionary forces are growing. We have the great experience of the armed struggle in AP, Bihar and Dandakaranya which has proved that armed struggles can be sustained over long periods. Moreover they are the pillars of our revolution.
It is in this background that we have to study the war question. Just crying over the unfavorable aspects will not do. As Maoists we have to weigh the positive and negative aspects judiciously, utilise the favourable aspects to change the unfavourable. As Mao reminded, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight hundred wars”. Maoists in each country will have to study the specific laws of development of revolutionary war, learn from experiences of one another and develop methods of applying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) creatively to the concrete conditions to unleash the revolutionary potential of the masses and bring about a nationwide high tide.
Concept of Total War
Objectively the task of waging protracted People’s War to seize political power is already on the agenda in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country like ours. Hence war must be made the center of gravity of all our party work right from the beginning. Mao says “Before the outbreak of war all organisations and struggles are in preparation of war… After the war breaks out, all organisations and struggles are coordinated with war directly or indirectly…” (Problems of War and Strategy) Here it is clear that all organisations and struggles come under the purview of war or are centered on the war question before and after launching of war. This aspect of Maoist People’s War theory is well grasped by CPN(Maoist) and PCP. The application of this aspect is expressed in their concept of Total War. The plans they formulated also took into account the role of mass organisation and mass struggle. The political content of mass struggles too was defined in the plans. The brilliant usage of both forms of struggles alternatively in accordance with the requirements and tasks of particular sub-stages and specific campaigns is the creative application of this aspect, which is worth learning.
Mao says “Victory in war is not just the sum total of victories in battles”. We have to view this from the strategic point. There is a big difference between sporadic actions, armed struggles, and total war. Total war is a declaration: enough is enough and now we stand firmly to root out the system. It is carried out simultaneously in the rural areas as well as cities, with cities as complementary. Only with an all out effort, putting in all our strength to push the war through as planned for seizure of political power, will the full revolutionary potential of the masses be fully unleashed. (“As the thoroughness of the historic action increases, the magnitude of the masses whose cause it represents will also increase.” Marx-Engles.) Only then can we draw the line of demarcation with the enemy and deepen polarisation among various classes; not by war for resisting the enemy repression or for retaliation. Only then, through our own efforts, can we bring about a revolutionary high tide in the country and not wait for it to come on its own. In order to push through our People’s War and create a momentum of its own,which is of course linked with the principle of drawing in the masses, we have to select proper actions. Actions based on plans for each stage and sub-stage that will carry our political message. Actions striking at the symbols of the exploitative system, repression and imperialism and serving the establishment of the political power -dreamt for long time by the masses. This will differentiate the Maoist war from the various armed struggles and armed activities being carried out in the country. Only then can we come to the center stage at the national level.
We have to remember we have not been able to make much of a dent on the political agenda of the reactionaries. We have only reacted after every anti-people programme and policies have been successfully carried out by the reactionaries. The point to be stressed is that with our war we have force the ruling classes to take guard openly. We have to force them to change their tracks and to react to our war. This can be done only and only if we forcefully carry out our agenda in a planned manner and become the central threat to the enemy. This is what Mao means in “… to draw a line of demarcation with the enemy.” around which polarisation takes place. This is possible only when we really grasp the concept of total war, importance of strategic planning and accordingly push the People’s War through campaigns, stage by stage, developing it through leaps.
To think that the enemy will not carry out total war from the beginning itself, just because they won’t deploy the army, is to be naïve. They always employ proportionately higher force than our subjective strength and carry out total war – militarily, politically, ideologically, economically, emotionally, culturally and with malicious propaganda campaigns – with everything at their disposal. So limiting our war as a war of resistance, as a reaction to the enemy, only serves to confuse the masses, who are actually supposed to take the struggles to higher levels in gigantic waves. Roles and tasks that the masses should take up don’t come out clearly to them and thus the energies are not fully channelised. Unlike vanguard cadres and leaders who learn from study of classics, history, national and international experiences and synthesizing the party’s experience, the masses mainly learn through experience. It is only when things become distinctly clear that the masses take up the struggle of self-sacrifice to emancipate themselves with full confidence. Apart from Nepal and Peru, experiences of Naxalbari distinctly stand out as an example of this approach. Though Naxalbari employed only one form of struggle, annihilation, for starting as compared to Peru and Nepal, which utilized all the four forms, the political content of going all out for seizure of power was loud and clear.
That is why it could create a wave of revolutionary struggle. It is high time that a new wave of revolutionary People’s War is launched and hence it is necessary to grasp the finer details of Maoist People’s War theory in its entirety and apply it creatively.
Question of strategic planning
No work can be developed without planning, may it be of any level, a small action or a big operation. Mao said that though there are uncertainties in war it is possible to have a relatively stable plan. Plans can be made at various levels. For tactical plans or plans for battles, i.e. particular actions, the degree of uncertainty is much higher as they have smaller targets, smaller formation, swift movement, shorter duration and depend a lot on enemy movement.
But still we have to plan for these actions meticulously keeping all eventualities in mind and, if the situation changes, change or abandon the plan accordingly. The plan for a campaign, which comprises of a number of battles and actions, done with a larger formation and for a longer period, generally can be more stable. But within it partially, or at times entirely, plans will have to be changed. Similarly the strategic plan is applicable to the whole strategic stage, i.e. strategic defensive, strategic equilibrium and strategic offensive, and has to be changed with the change in stage. (As explained in ‘On Protracted War’, point 88, Military Writings of Mao Tsetung, page 245) In the same paragraph Mao stressed, “The making and changing of tactical, campaign and strategic plans in accordance to scope and circumstance is the key factor in directing war.”
There are two points worth noting. One,, he spoke of directing a war, ‘not just carrying out armed struggles’; directing it towards our final goal of country-wide seizure of power. The other important point is the need for making plans, especially strategic plans. Mao didn’t point out conditions for drawing plans, like “only if All China big party is formed, then…” or “enemy faces stiff struggles on various fronts and are forced to disperse the army and the conditions become favourable, then …” etc. But he stressed according to the scope and circumstances and that is the key factor. This means preparing ourselves for a bigger drama and not just local games. Hence, to achieve this, to be capable of directing a war, we need a strategic plan based on the stage and also by studying the development of war through the sub-stages in it in a broader perspective.
Furthermore he explained, “War plans are the concrete application of strategy and tactics, and must be flexible so that they can be adapted to the circumstances of war. We should always seek to transform our inferiority into superiority and our passivity into initiative so as to change the situation as between the enemy and ourselves.” Here Mao mentioned about the conscious role in transforming our subjective strength to achieve a change in objective reality.
It is only through our initiative in war that we can direct the war in a proper direction and bring about a change in the situation and not wait for external developments to change the situation. Changes in nature and society take place in leaps. Hence we can deduce that through strategic war plans that are flexible, we consciously gain initiative in war and achieve leaps in our subjective strength and continuously change the objective situation in our favour.
In understanding the situation at a broader level, which Mao termed as “war situation as a whole”, we have to grasp that whenever we start a war a war situation develops. When we start a total war with the aim of area-wide seizure of power, we have to think in terms of war situation at all India level. Unless we develop thinking in this manner within the entire party, there is a fair chance of the war slipping into localism and gradualism. Unlike Nepal and Peru we are a big country and the war will take place at different places simultaneously though unevenly. But it is a must that it takes place as a part of single war. This can be successfully achieved only with a Strategic War Plan. Gradualism in war denies the development of revolutionary process in leaps and seeks linear development ‘inch by inch’ as against the Maoist understanding of ‘development in waves’. It is necessary to establish this firmly among the cadres and commanders.
Strategic thinking evolves from studying the science of strategy. Mao, in his ‘Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War’ deals with this at length. He defined, “The task of science of strategy is to study the laws for directing a war that govern a war situation as a whole. The task of the science of campaigns and the science of tactics is to study the laws for directing a war that govern a partial situation.” He further explained why it is necessary for the commander of a campaign or tactical operation (i.e. specific battles, actions) to understand the laws of strategy, at least to some degree. “Because an understanding of the whole facilitates handling of the part and because the part is subordinate to the whole.” It means to have a strategic plan, outlook, and based on it tactical plans and campaign plans should be made. Mao identified people who deny planning and called them relativists. Relatively stable plans for the whole stage and sub-stages in it, keeping the war situation as a whole in mind, is a necessity.
Based on it we have to draw out plans for campaigns for sub-stages and plans for battles and actions for each campaign. After the Chinese revolution led by CPC under the leadership of Mao, it is only in Peru and Nepal that we see the concrete application of strategic planning and that too in a creative manner. Based on this understanding PCP Chairman Gonzalo established the axes, sub-axes, and the directions and lines of movement, so as to maintain the strategic direction of war. This was done after a thorough study of history of social relations, past wars, political, military and economic conditions, terrain etc. Next on the basis of this National Military Plan was formulated, which was strategically centralised and tactically decentralised guided by the Maoist understanding “every plan is an ideology and must reflect reality in all its complexity.”
Then, linking strategy and tactics, strategic operational plans were formulated. Every committee below it formulated their own strategic operational plans based on the strategic operational plan followed by the entire party. All military plans are based on thorough reconnaissance and careful study of the situation of the enemy and our forces, and are guided by the political strategy and the military strategy. (From PCP Base Document,p43) The strategic centralistion and tactical decentralisation gives full play to the lower committees to decide specific struggles to be carried out in their area, based on the guidelines and the necessities of the area. The Strategic Operational Plan followed by the whole party gives the political content of each campaign, the organisational leap in the form of increase in the number of party units, drawing in the masses and develop new areas of struggles with the aim of seizure of political power or building new people’s power. The military content spells out the targets of leap to be achieved. On this the regional committees decide the number of actions, form of actions, propaganda, struggles etc. They put forward the objectives – how much is the party going to grow? How much is the People’s War going to grow? How much is the people’s power going to grow? How much is the PGA going to grow? – of a specific campaign. At the end of the campaign thorough summation is carried out and new campaign is launched without any delay.
The contents of every campaign is different each time and not mere repetition. They have made it a rule to increase the scale of war to a higher level each time, since the situation becomes more complex and fighting must be more intense.
Here we see the conscious attempt by the party to heighten the tempo of war and push the objective situation in favor of revolution. This creative application was devised by Com. Gonzalo and studied and adapted by CPN(M) in their situation. The situation in Nepal was quite different. The party for a long time had been only in peaceful struggles and reformist style of work was dominating. They had to take up the task of transforming themselves into a war party, a task added and so different from PCP. They had to bring about an ideological consolidation as a part of preparation for launching.
Areawise Seizure of Power Our Main Target
Areawise seizure of power or formation of base areas is the essence of protracted People’s War. Com. Charu Mazumdar identified this and the necessity to go all out for it. “Yes, comrades, today we have to speak out courageously in a bold voice before the people that it is the areawise seizure power that is our path. We have to make the bourgeoisie tremble by striking hardest at it weakest spots.” said CM and we find similar formulations throughout his writings. He grasped the fact that only when the peasantry breaks free from ages of subjugation and realises the taste of power- no matter how small the area and how short the time period be- will the revolutionary potential be fully released. It is in accordance with Mao’s understanding “…accelerate the nationwide revolutionary high tide through consolidation and expansion of Red Political Power”. People’s War is the strategy of the proletariat –only by destruction of old state will the simultaneous construction of the new state begin –not by bargaining. Formation of base areas is not merely a question of military tactic but a matter of vital political importance.
Without a clear-cut line directing the process of forcefully pushing ahead ceaselessly towards areawise seizure of power, establishing base areas and sustaining them, all other work will be meaningless exercises. Any pull back attitude towards forming base areas is a reflection of ambiguity and distorted understanding of Maoism and is a form of phase theory. Mao put it very distinctly, “A revolution or revolutionary war in its emergence and growth from a small force to a big force, from the absence of political power to the seizure of political power, from the absence of a Red Army to the creation of a Red Army and from the absence of revolutionary base area to their establishment, must be on the offensive and cannot be conservative, and tendencies towards conservatism must be opposed.”
Apart from the strategic importance of base area, of relying on it to carryout strategic tasks as a rear to our forces, it stands out as a challenge to the existing system, puts the central question of areawise seizure of power for resolving contradictions as top priority in national politics and enthuses the masses as they see the results of their struggles and firmly establishes faith in the party as genuine vanguard. “We struggle for political power for the proletariat and people not for personal power. We are against the outlook of roving-rebel bands and their understanding of base areas. The new state is built in the midst of the People’s War and follows a specific course of development. In our case it is built first in the countryside until it surrounds the cities and is established countrywide; the old state is destroyed through this process, as the contradiction old state/new state finds expression, until the reaction’s political and military plans are thwarted and masses are drawn in.” (PCP Base Documents, p53). The formation of a new state as a challenge to the old state unleashes the masses revolutionary vigour and raises their hopes steadily.
When we launch People’s War in the strategic areas we will face stiff challenge from the reactionary forces (not the army in the initial stages). This is the toughest phase in the earl periods (the 1st stages of strategic defensive) where we are weak and the enemy is much stronger. By consciously pushing the war with the aim of driving out the enemy from the area, we will gain in strength and transform the operational zone into guerrilla zone. This is the period where neither side has total control over the area. These guerrilla zones are to be creatively transformed into base areas and it is an arduous task. “…transformation of a guerilla zone into a base area is an arduous creative process, and its accomplishment depends on the extent to which the enemy is destroyed and masses are aroused.” (Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla War, MMW, p172) Mao talks of three conditions for building base areas; they are existence of revolutionary armed forces, inflicting defeats on the enemy and moblising the masses. The important aspect in advancing the process for building base areas is identifying the transitory nature of guerrilla zone. Absence of a plan to proceed to base area formation or delaying it for years under any pretext means no all out effort to drive the enemy out of guerrilla zones. Hence enemy forces and our forces reside side by side for prolonged periods.
We strive to maintain status quo while enemy contends for regaining power. As they can’t contend militarily they employ all possible means at their disposal to win over the masses and reduce our support base. Infiltrations, politics of incentives and developmental programmes create divisions amongst the masses. We are forced to carry out counter programmes and activities thereby leaving room for economism. Mao cites a specific kind of guerilla zone, which will remain a guerrilla zone for a long time. But they are a ‘specific kind’ and for specific reasons – this cannot be taken as a general rule. “Examples of this kind are to be found in enemy occupied regions, along the railway lines, in the plains.” (Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla War, MMW, p172)
Hence the principal question is that of establishing people’s power, because only this will give an alternative to the discontent of the oppressed masses – it will give hope to the hopeless and raise the revolutionary torrent to new heights. We have to creatively employ our resources, utilise armed struggle and mass struggle to maximum benefit for the revolution and push the enemy out politically, ideologically and militarily.
It is this creative application of Maoist principle by PCP and CPN(M) that signifies distinction from other revolutionary struggles led by Maoists in the world. In Peru and Nepal the forceful and all out launching of People’s War drove the enemies out of the guerrilla zones within 2 years.
This is one department that needs immediate attention. To look upon the cities only as means of raising funds, to develop intellectuals and carry out peaceful propaganda and agitation is a seriously mistaken line. Now where in CM’s writings do we see such a pathetic understanding of city work. It is not only possible to develop party and people’s resistance movements but also possible to carry out guerrilla warfare. Our own historical experience in Kolkatta after Naxalbari is a glaring example of what potential is at store. On the other hand CM was able to utilize the favourable situation to draw in the militant youth into the movement with his inspiring writings to scale the heights. Though we see the lack of planned work in the cities, he had no apprehensions about the role of city work in advancing the revolutionary high tide.
PCP and CPN(M) have proved through practice that the immense potential of city work can be utilized in favour of revolution by conscious and planned effort. In relation to the line on city work PCP says, “People’s War which in our case takes the specific form of a unified People’s War in which the countryside is principal and the city complementary.” (PCP Base Document). They have no plans of building base areas in the city, as it is impossible. “The difference is that in the cities what is built is not the new political power, base areas, but rather a front concretised in Peoples Revolutionary Defense Movement, with resistance centers that wage peoples war and prepare the future insurrection that will take place when the forces in the countryside storm the cities in combination with the insurrection from within.” (PCP Base Document). Every plan and campaign has its city component, as to what work, propaganda, guerrilla actions has to be done within it. Thus we see a comprehensive line of development of work in the urban areas. After the experience of Naxalbari city work got neglected mainly due to the absence of a line. Though at times some mass movements and trade union struggles continued, but with no clear-cut approach as to its direction of development, it stagnated. The trade union work is muddled in the mire of economism and the fighting spirit of the working class is entangled in legalism. It has failed to develop revolutionary movement among the working class, to politicise them and develop the advanced section as vanguards. This again has its roots in gradualism, expecting external causes to boost the revolutionary high tide, not seeing the potential and most important lack of strategic thinking and planning. As result city work has become the domain of petty bourgeois activity and token passive response.
No doubt due to the heavy presence of the state machinery city work has to be qualitatively different, but we can’t afford to loose sight of developing the movement and prepare our organisation accordingly. Especially now and in the coming years the cities are going to face severe problems. Rich-poor divide is widening, opportunities are dwindling; high cost of living, unemployment, lockouts, draconian laws, insensitive and brutal state machinery, corruption – people are fed up with this system. The stories and pictures of the international struggles of the masses against globalisation, war etc. flashed now and then, prepare them mentally. The possibilities of developing and sustaining resistance movement are very high.
There is a material basis for developing urban guerrilla warfare. We have to develop our thinking in this regard, carryout investigations, develop links with the masses, built up sound underground structure, mass work etc. We will have to build up the movement by showing some level of creativity to have an impact over the masses till they gain confidence.
Advanced Experience of International Communist Movement
Agreed Peru and Nepal are very small countries, both have weak ruling classes and states as compared to India; but quite strong and fierce in their own countries. Impact of even small actions can be nationwide. Poor infrastructure and advantageous terrain make it easier to sustain bases for longer periods. This has enhanced the efforts of CPN (M) and PCP in utilising favourable conditions. But apart from just talking about their advantages it is necessary to grasp the fineness with which they have implemented MLM in the given context. How we apply Marxism to the given concrete reality is where the creativity comes and for this deeper grasp of the universal ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is essential. Inspiring developments in Peru and Nepal show advanced grasp of Maoism. As communists we have the responsibility to learn from this. Mao said, “In this era, any revolution will definitely end in defeat if it lacks, or runs counter to, the leadership of the proletariat and the communist party. Of all the social strata and political groupings, the proletariat and communist party are most free from narrow mindedness and selfishness, are politically the most far sighted, the best organised and readiest to learn with an open mind from the experiences of the vanguard class, the proletariat, and its political party throughout the world and to make use of this experience in their own cause.”
In every sub topic of this article we have shown how Nepal and Peru People’s Wars are experiences of the advanced grasp of Maoism creatively applied to their concrete reality. This is exactly what we have to learn — learn to creatively apply Maoism to the concrete conditions here. Mere imitations of Peru and Nepal are of no use. The primary thing in grasping laws of People’s War is to acknowledge the dynamism of war. The basic principle as Mao pointed out is “…to strive to the utmost to preserve our own strength and destroy that of the enemy.” Here Mao clearly stated that in order to protect our strength we have to destroy the enemy-conservative ideas emerging from thoughts of our destruction pegs the all out flow of People’s War. Any form of limiting the war, i.e. not going all out to wipe the enemy out of struggle areas- in order to avoid provocation of the enemy – only leads to ‘phase theory’. It denies leaps in the development of war and follows gradualism. This is in fact violation of the dynamics of war.
Viewing leaps as qualitative transformation that comes after a series of quantitative additions alone, neglects the conscious role of the vanguard in propelling the war to higher level and advancing in waves. The basic principle of “preserve oneself and destroy the other” applies to both the revolutionary forces as well as the reactionary forces. Either we kick them out or they push us out. Things will not remain stagnant for long – where we can sustain, naturally the enemy’s armed might has to be sufficiently smashed. It calls for a leap from guerrilla zones to actual seizure of power and establishment of new people’s power. If not, eventually we face setbacks.
Any idealist understanding of base areas too will hamper the leap from guerrilla zone to base area. To consider base areas as highly impregnable and most safe is a wrong understanding of Maoism. In the uncertainty of war it is possible that we might have to abandon some base areas. The crux of the matter is to seize power no matter how small the area and however short the duration.
These advances in grasping Maoism, especially in relation to its application to the People’s War was first conceived and tested through practice by the PCP led by com. Gonzalo.
Only after struggle and debate now it is getting recognition. Launching of People’s War in Nepal and its continuous advancement has helped in establishing it firmly. All those who had apprehensions about this are now forced to rethink. RIM played a vital role in its propagation and achieving further clarity on it. The parties within RIM have started taking this seriously and this will be developing as an advanced international trend. It will further enhance the emerging ‘New Wave of World Proletarian Revolution.’ Maoist Communist Party [MPK](Turkey and North Kurdistan, formerly TKP[ML]), a party engaged in armed struggle for around 30 years, and a member of RIM, recently held its 1st Congress. It is important to note their Congress document’s observations on People’s War in Nepal and Peru, “Our first Congress has challenged spontaneity, which is contrary to the spirit of People’s War, and learnt from the experiences of Nepal and Peru, which reflect a great application of the ideological and political contributions of Mao in practice. It has pointed out the Tactic of Advancing with Deliberation, with a Strategic War Plan.” (AWTW-No.29, p60) In India further debate is necessary to make this advancement a part of the general line of the serious Maoist Parties.