(यह 22 जून 1791 को महान क्रांतिकारी रोबस्पेरे द्वारा फ़्रांस की संविधान सभा में दिये गए भाषण का हिंदी अनुवाद है. पाठक देख सकते हैं कि मृत्युदंड का विरोध किस तरह आज से ही नहीं बल्कि फ्रांस की क्रांति के समय से ही समाज के जनवादीकरण से जुडा हुआ है. और यह भाषण आज भी किस तरह प्रासंगिक बना हुआ है.)
एथेंस में जब खबर पहुंची कि अर्गोस नगर के नागरिकों को मृत्युदंड दिया गया है तो वहां के लोग भाग कर देवालयों में गए और उन्होंने देवताओं को आह्वान किया कि वे एथेंस के लोगों को ऐसे भयानक और क्रूर विचारों से बचाएं. मेरा आह्वान देवताओं से नहीं कानून निर्माताओं से है, उनसे जो देवत्व के शाश्वत नियमों के संचालक और भाष्यकार हैं, कि ऐसे खूनी कानूनों को फ़्रांस की संहिता से मिटा दे जो न्यायिक हत्याओं को निर्देशित करते हैं और जिनको उनकी नैतिकता और नया संविधान ख़ारिज करते हैं. मैं उनके समक्ष साबित करना चाहता हूँ : 1. कि मृत्युदंड सारतः अन्याय है. और 2. कि यह दण्डो में से सबसे दमनकारी नहीं है और यह अपराधों को रोकने से ज्यादा उन्हें संगुणित करता है.
नागरिक समाज के दायरे से बाहर यदि एक कटु शत्रु मेरा जीवन ख़त्म करने की कोशिश करता है, या बीसियों बार धकेलने पर भी मेरे द्वारा उगाई गई फसल को नष्ट करने वापस आ जाता है. तो क्योंकि मेरे पास विरोध के लिए केवल मेरी व्यक्तिगत शक्ति का ही सहारा है इसलिए मुझे उसे अनिवार्यतः नष्ट करना होगा या उसे ख़त्म कर देना होगा और प्राकृतिक रक्षण का नियम मुझे औचित्य और स्वीकृति प्रदान करता है. लेकिन समाज में, जब सभी की शक्ति केवल किसी एक व्यक्ति के खिलाफ लामबंद है तो न्याय का कौन सा सिद्धांत उसकी हत्या की स्वीकृति दे सकता है? कौन सी अनिवार्यता इसे दोषमुक्त कर सकती है? एक विजेता जो अपने बंदी शत्रु की हत्या करता है बर्बर कहलाता है! एक प्रौढ़ जो किसी बालक को शक्तिहीन कर उसे दंड देने की सामर्थ्य रखता है यदि उसकी हत्या कर दे तो राक्षस समझा जाता है! एक अभियुक्त जिसे समाज द्वारा सजा दी गई है एक पराजित और शक्तिहीन शत्रु के सिवा कुछ भी नहीं है और वह एक प्रौढ़ के सामने बालक से भी ज्यादा असहाय है.
अतः, सत्य और न्याय की नज़र में मौत के ये नज़ारे जिन्हें यह अनुष्ठानपूर्वक आदेशित करता है, कायराना कत्लों के सिवा कुछ भी नहीं है, ये केवल कुछ व्यक्तियों के बजाय समूचे राष्ट्र के द्वारा कानूनी तरीको से किये गये गंभीर अपराध है. कानून चाहे कैसे भी निर्मम और वैभवशाली क्यों न हों, हैरान मत होइए, ये चंद उत्पीड़कों के कारनामों से ज्यादा कुछ नहीं हैं. ये ऐसी काराएं हैं जिनसे मानव जाति को अधोपतित किया जाता है. ये ऐसी भुजाएं हैं जिनसे उसे पराधीन किया जाता है,
ये कानून खून से लिखे गए हैं. किसी भी रोमन नागरिक को मौत की सजा देना वर्जित था. यह जनता द्वारा बनाया गया कानून था. लेकिन विजयी स्काईला ने कहा : वे सभी जिन्होंने मेरे विरुद्ध अस्त्र उठाये मृत्यु के भागी हैं. ओक्टावियन और अपराध में उसके सहभागियों ने इस नए कानून की पुष्टि की.
तिबेरियस की अधीनता में ब्रूटस की प्रशंसा करना मृत्युयोग्य अपराध था. कालिगुला ने उन सबको मृत्युदंड दिया जिन्होंने भी सम्राट के चित्र के समक्ष नग्न होने की धृष्टता की. एक बार जब आतताई शासकों द्वारा राजद्रोह के अपराध – जो अवज्ञापूर्ण या नायकोचित कृत्य हुआ करते थे – का आविष्कार कर लिया गया तो फिर कौन बिना स्वयं को राजद्रोह का भागी बनाए यह सोचने की हिम्मत कर सकता था कि इनकी सजा मृत्युदंड से थोड़ी कम होनी चाहिए?
अज्ञानता और निरंकुशता के राक्षसी मिलन से पैदा हुए उन्माद ने जब दैवीय राजद्रोह के अपराध का आविष्कार कर लिया, जब इसने अपने मतिभ्रम में स्वयं ईश्वर का प्रतिशोध लेने का बीड़ा उठा लिया, तब क्या यह जरुरी नहीं हो गया था कि यह उन्हें रक्त अर्पित करे, और स्वयं को ईश्वर का ही रूप मानने वाले, उसे दरिन्दे की श्रेणी में पहुंचा दें?
पुरातन बर्बर कायदे के समर्थक कहते है कि मृत्युदंड अनिवार्य है, बिना इसके अपराध पर लगाम लगाना संभव नहीं है. यह आपसे किसने कहा? क्या आपने उन सभी अंकुशों का आकलन कर लिया है जिनके द्वारा दंडविधान मनुष्य की संवेदना पर काम करता है? अफ़सोस, मृत्यु से पहले मनुष्य कितना शारीरिक और नैतिक कष्ट सहन कर सकता है?
जीने की इच्छा उस आत्मसम्मान के सामने नतमस्तक हो जाती है, जो ह्रदय पर शासन करने वाले आवेगों में सबसे प्रबल होता है. एक सामजिक मनुष्य के लिए सबसे खतरनाक सजा अपमानित होना है, सार्वजनिक निंदा का पात्र बन जाना है. यदि कानून निर्माता नागरिक को इतनी सारी नाजुक जगहों पर चोट पहुंचा सकता है तो उसे मृत्युदंड के इस्तेमाल करने की हद तक क्यों गिर जाना चाहिए? दंड दोषी को यातना देने के लिए नहीं होता है, वरन वह उसके भय से अपराध को रोकने के लिए दिया जाता है.
जो कानून निर्माता मृत्यु और उत्पीड़नकारी सजाओं को अन्य तरीकों के ऊपर वरीयता देता है वह जनभावनाओं को आहत करता है और शासितों के बीच अपनी नैतिक साख को कमजोर करता है. एक ऐंसे ढोंगी गुरु की तरह जो बार बार की क्रूर सजाओं से अपने शिष्य की आत्मा को जड़ और अपमानित बना देता है. वह कुछ ज्यादा ही जोर से दबाकर सरकार की स्प्रिंगों को ढीला और कमजोर कर देता है.
जो कानून निर्माता म्रत्युदंड का विधान स्थापित करता है वह इस उपयोगी सिद्धांत का निषेध करता है कि किसी अपराध को दबाने का सबसे सही तरीका उन आवेगों की प्रकृति के अनुसार दंड तय करना है जोकि उसको पैदा करते हैं. मृत्युदंड का विधान इन सभी विचारों को धूमिल कर देता है यह सभी अन्तःसम्बन्धों को विघटित कर देता है और इस प्रकार दंडात्मक कानून के उद्देश्य का ही खुलेआम निषेध करता है.
आप कहते हैं कि मृत्युदंड अनिवार्य है. यदि यह सत्य है तो क्यों बहुत सारे लोगों को इसकी जरुरत नहीं पड़ी. विधि के किस विधान के तहत ऐसे लोग ही सबसे बुद्धिमान, सबसे खुश और सबसे स्वतंत्र थे? यदि मृत्युदंड ही बड़े अपराधों को रोकने के लिए सबसे उचित है तो ऐसे अपराध वहां सबसे कम होने चाहिए जहाँ इसे अपनाया और प्रयोग किया गया. किन्तु तथ्य एकदम विपरीत हैं. जापान को देखिये: वहां से ज्यादा मृत्युदंड और यातनाएं और कहीं नहीं दी जाती परन्तु वहां से अधिक संख्या में और वहां से अधिक जघन्य अपराध और कहीं नहीं होते. कोई कह सकता है कि जापानी लोग भीषणता में उन बर्बर कानूनों को चुनौती देना चाहते हैं जो उन्हें आहत और परेशान करते हैं. क्या यूनानी गणतन्त्रों -जहाँ सजाएँ नरम थी और जहां मृत्युदंड या तो बहुत कम थे या थे ही नहीं- में खूनी कानूनों द्वारा शासित देशों से ज्यादा अपराध और कम अच्छाइयां थी? क्या आपको लगता है की रोम में पोर्सियाई ज़माने में जब इसके वैभवशाली दिन थे, जब सारे कड़े कानूनों को हटा दिया गया था, स्काईला जो अपने अत्याचारों के लिए कुख्यात था, के जमाने की तुलना में ज्यादा अपराध होते थे, जब सभी कठोर कानूनों को वापस ले आया गया था? क्या रूस के निरंकुश शासक ने जब से मृत्युदंड को ख़त्म कर दिया है वहां किसी प्रकार का संकट आ खड़ा हुआ है? ऐसा लगता है कि इस तरह की मानवता और दार्शनिकता का प्रदर्शन करके वह लाखों लोगों को अपनी निरंकुश सत्ता के अधीन रखने के जुर्म से दोषमुक्त होना चाहते हैं.
न्याय और विवेक की बात सुनिए. ये आपको चिल्ला कर कह रहे हैं कि मानवीय निर्णय कभी भी इतने निश्चित नहीं होते कि वे कुछ मनुष्यों द्वारा जो कि गलतियाँ कर सकते हैं, किसी अन्य व्यक्ति की मृत्यु के बारे में तय करने के औचित्य का प्रतिपादन कर सकें. यदि आप सबसे सम्पूर्ण न्यायिक फैसले की भी कल्पना कर लें, यदि आप सबसे ज्यादा ज्ञानी और ईमानदार जजों की भी व्यवस्था कर लें तब भी गलतियों की संभावना बची रहती है. आप इन गलतियों को सुधारने के औजारों से स्वयं को क्यों वंचित कर देना चाहते हैं? स्वयं को किसी उत्पीडित निर्दोष की मदद करने में अक्षम क्यों बना देना चाहते हैं? क्या किसी अदृश्य छाया के लिए, किसी अचेतन राख के लिए आपके बाँझ पाश्चाताप का, आपकी भ्रामक भूलसुधार का कोई अर्थ है? वे आपके दंड विधान की बर्बर तत्परता के त्रासद साक्ष्य हैं. अपराध को पाश्चाताप और अच्छे कार्यों के द्वारा सुधार सकने की संभावना को किसी व्यक्ति से छीन लेना, अच्छाई की तरफ उसके लौट आने के सारे रास्ते निर्ममता से बंद कर देना, उसके पतन को शीघ्रता से कब्र तक पहुंचा देना जो अब भी उसके अपराध से दागदार है, मेरी नज़र में क्रूरता का सबसे भयावह परिष्करण है.
एक कानून निर्माता का सबसे पहला कर्तव्य उन सार्वजनिक नैतिक मूल्यों की स्थापना करना और उन्हें बचाए रखना है, जो सभी आज़ादियों और सभी सामाजिक खुशियों के मूल स्रोत हैं. किसी विशिष्ट उद्देश्य को पाने के प्रयास में यदि वह सामान्य और आवश्यक उद्देश्यों को भूल जाता है तो वह सबसे भौंडी और भयानक गलती करता है. अतः राजा को लोगों के सामने न्याय और विवेक का सबसे आदर्श उदहारण पेश करना चाहिए. यदि इस को परिभाषित करने वाली शक्तिशाली, संयत, और उदार सख्ती की जगह क्रोध और प्रतिशोध से काम लेते हैं, यदि वे बिना वजह के खून बहाते हैं, जिसको बचाया जा सकता था और जिसे बहाने का उन्हें कोई अधिकार नहीं. और वे लोगों के सामने निर्मम दृश्य, और यातना से विकृत लाशों को प्रस्तुत करते हैं तो यह नागरिकों के जेहन में न्याय और अन्याय के विचार को बदल देता है. वे समाज में ऐसे तीखे दुराग्रहों के बीज बो देते हैं जो उतरोतर बढ़ते जाते हैं. मनुष्य, मनुष्य होने की गरिमा खो देता है जब उसके जीवन को इतनी आसानी से जोखिम में डाला जा सकता है. हत्या का विचार तब इतना डरावना नहीं रह जाता जब कानून खुद ही इसे एक मिसाल और तमाशे की तरह पेश करता है. अपराध की भयावहता तब कम हो जाती है जब उसे एक और अपराध के जरिये दण्डित किया जाता है. किसी दंड की प्रभावपूर्णता को उसकी कठोरता की मात्रा से मत आंकिये: ये दोनों एक दूसरे के एकदम उलटी बाते हैं. हर कोई उदार कानूनों की सहायता करता है. हर कोई कठोर कानूनों के खिलाफ षड्यंत्र करता है.
यह देखा गया है की स्वतंत्र देशों में अपराध कम हैं और दंडात्मक कानून ज्यादा उदार हैं. कुल मिलाकर, स्वतंत्र देश वे हैं जहाँ व्यक्ति के अधिकारों का सम्मान किया जाता है और इसके फलस्वरूप जहाँ के कानून न्यायपूर्ण हैं. जहाँ अतिशय कष्ट देकर मानवता का उल्लंघन किया जाता है यह इस बात का प्रमाण है कि वहां मनुष्यता की गरिमा को अभी पहचाना नहीं गया है, यह इस बात का प्रमाण है कि वहां कानून निर्माता स्वामी है जो दासों को चलाता है और अपनी मर्जी के मुताबिक जब चाहे उन्हें सजाएं देता है. अतः मेरा निष्कर्ष है कि मृत्युदंड को समाप्त कर देना चाहिए.
(अनुवाद: कुलदीप प्रकाश)
शहीद भगत सिंह साम्राज्यवाद के खिलाफ भारतीय जनता के संघर्ष के सबसे उज्जवल नायकों में से एक रहे हैं. तेईस वर्ष की छोटी उम्र में शहीद होने वाले इस नौजवान को भारतीय जनता एक ऐसे उत्साही देशप्रेमी नौजवान के रूप में याद करती है जिसने ब्रिटिश साम्राज्यवाद से समझौताविहीन लड़ाई लड़ी और अंत में अपने ध्येय के लिए शहीद हुआ. लेकिन अपेक्षाकृत कम ही लोग भगत सिंह एवं उनके क्रांतिकारी साथियों के विचारों से सही मायनों में परिचित हैं. भगत सिंह एवं उनके साथियों के लेख एवं दस्तावेजों का व्यापक रूप से उपलब्ध न होना इसकी एक बड़ी वजह रहा है और हमारे आज के शासकों के लिए भी यही मुफीद है कि भगत सिंह के क्रांतिकारी विचारों को जनता के सामने न आने दिया जाये. क्योंकि भगत सिंह के लेख एवं दस्तावेज मनुष्य द्वारा मनुष्य के शोषण की व्यवस्था के बारें में सही और वैज्ञानिक समझ विकसित करते हैं और इसके खिलाफ जनता की लड़ाई को सही दिशा देते हैं. भगत सिंह उन विरले विचारकों में से थे जो उस समय ही यह बात जोर देकर कह रहे थे कि केवल अंग्रेजों के भारत से चले जाने से ही आम जनता की स्थिति में कोई बदलाव नहीं आएगा जब तक की इस शोषणकारी व्यवस्था को न बदला जाय. हम यहाँ भगत सिंह द्वारा लिखित लेखों एवं दस्तावेजों के लिंक पीडीएफ फॉर्मेट में प्रस्तुत कर रहे हैं. काफी कोशिशों के बाद भी ‘ड्रीमलैंड की भूमिका’ जैसे कुछ महत्वपूर्ण दस्तावेज छूट गये हैं. पाठकों से आग्रह है की यदि आपके पास यह लेख हो तो कृपया इसे कमेन्ट बॉक्स में प्रेषित कर दें.
– Joseph Ball
(Some months before when the great students movement in UK was going on, we requested author Joseph Ball to write about this historical movement. unfortunately mail written by Joseph was deliverd in our spam folder. we are posting this article late but it is still very relevent because we are witnessing a great renewal of the mass movements around the world specially involving students and youths. these movements are presenting great hope and chellenges among all the revolutionary students of the world. we hope readers will forgive us for the delay in posting. –Editor)
The current student protest movement is the most militant mass protest movement that has occurred in Britain since the anti-Poll Tax campaign, twenty years ago. Students are occupying their colleges and school students are walking out of lessons to join the protests. Young people have confronted state power and attacked symbols of wealth and inequality. This movement is a response to two UK government attacks on youth in Britain. The first is a proposal to raise tuition fees for British students to a maximum of £9000 a year. Students will have to take out a loan to pay these fees, which they will pay back by instalments after graduation. This measure was announced in October by the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The second is the government policy to abolish the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for new applicants from January 2011. The EMA gives children from lower income families up to £60 a fortnight if they stay at school after 16 (the age at which children can legally leave school). The movement is therefore composed of both school students and university students, with efforts being made to attract the solidarity of trade unionists.
On 10th November students who broke away from a march organised by the National Union Of Students stormed the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Weekly protests in central London have occurred since then, along with protests in other cities and college occupations. A massive protest took place in central London on December 9th when Parliament voted to pass the legislation introducing the higher tuition fees. Most students protested outside Parliament, while others targeted shops in London’s West End owned by capitalists who are allowed to avoid taxes by the UK government. One group in the West End ran into Prince Charles and his wife and blocked their car shouting slogans. Read more »
(Dongping Han grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and now teaches in the U.S. He is the author of the book The Unknown Cultural Revolution—Life and Change in a Chinese Village. Following is an abridged version of the session at the end of a speech he gave in December 2008 at the New York symposium “Rediscovering the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Art and Politics, Lived Experience, Legacies of Liberation,” sponsored by Revolution Books, Set the Record Straight Project and Institute for Public Knowledge-New York University. The full version appeared in the 6 September 2009 issue of Revolution, voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. (revcom.us))
Question: You went back to China in 1986. When did you and others like you start to see that things were different, that China had become very different than what it had been during the Cultural Revolution?
Dongping Han: I think people realized right away. The land was privatized in China in 1983. Many people tend to think that farmers are stupid and ignorant. But I think the farmers are very intelligent people. Many of them realized the implications of private farming right away. That was why they resisted it very hard in the beginning. And in my village and in other villages I surveyed, the overwhelming majority of people, 90 percent, said the Communist Party no longer cares about poor people. Right away they felt this way. The Communist Party, the cadres, no longer cared about poor people in the countryside. The government investment in rural areas in the countryside dropped from 15 percent in the national budget in 1970s to only 3-4 percent in the ’80s. So the Chinese public realized that the Chinese government no longer cared about them by disbanding the communes. But I was in college at the time and I didn’t start to think about the issue very hard until 1986.
Q: Can you explain a little bit more how the Cultural Revolution came to your village?
DH: The Cultural Revolution started slowly. Before the start of the Cultural Revolution, there was a call to start to study Mao’s works. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army came to the village to read Chairman Mao’s works. They held performances in the village. They came to people’s home to teach people to read Mao’s three classic articles: “Serve the People”, “In Memory of Norman Bethune” and “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains”. They explained to the villagers what these articles were about. After the PLA soldiers left, many school children, like myself, started to teach villagers about Mao’s works as well. When the central government announced the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, high school and middle school students left their schools, and began to write big character posters in the streets. The high school students dragged 20 of their teachers to the marketplace and denounced them publicly and shaved off half their hair in front of a big crowd. I do not think that most people knew what the Cultural Revolution would be like at the beginning.
Many students began to publish newspapers and pamphlets. There were so many pamphlets at the time, criticizing government officials. In the beginning they were mostly written by students. Not long after this, farmers and workers began to write them as well. There was so much information going on at the time. Later on, there was a group of high school and middle school students from my county that travelled all the way to Beijing to see Chairman Mao. When they came back in August 1966, they began to organize into different Red Guard factions. They started to organize mass rallies to criticize the county and commune leaders. All officials were under some kind of popular scrutiny and attack at the time.
Almost everybody, I would say 90 percent of the population, was part of a mass organization.
I was in third grade at that time. Five of my friends and I also organized a Red Guard organization. We designed our Red Guard symbols and began to publish a single page newspaper. We collected enough money to get a hand printer to print our newspaper. In my school there were 13 small newspapers. We would recruit others and write something and go to the marketplace to distribute it to the people. That’s how it started. There were big character posters everywhere. The village streets were plastered with big character posters, mostly criticizing village leaders. Before the Cultural Revolution, the village leaders had a lot of power. They normally didn’t work in the field and they would eat and drink a lot at the village’s expense. And the Cultural Revolution held them to task. That’s how it started actually.
In all these activities with the big character posters, all were written by the farmers themselves. And I remember some of the farmers who didn’t know how to write. They came to us, they came to the school kids, and we would write it for them. So it was a very mobilizing movement. Everybody in the village was touched by that.
The reason the officials are corrupt today and were not during the Cultural Revolution years is because the masses were really empowered. There was always a mass meeting every night and all the government policies and directives were read to the farmers. And it was required by the government at the time. They were read to the farmers and then the farmers discussed these documents, so everybody knew what was going on and why. The reason why the Chinese people were eager to read and willing to recite Mao’s works at the time is because they found what Mao said represented their best interests. And Mao said what they wanted to hear. For example Mao’s article “To Serve the People” is only one and a half pages long. But in this short article Mao elaborated on how a communist official should behave. A communist official shouldn’t have any self interests. He should work for the people and serve the people. They should care about the poor people and the farmers. They should welcome criticism. If they were not doing something right, they should change it for the sake of the people. This is all something the farmers never heard and they wanted to hear.
Q: Why during that time, during those 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, was there no effort made to purge the Communist Party of the right-wing capitalist roaders?
DH: The Cultural Revolution was not to purge people, it was to educate the people. Many of the capitalist roaders had fought for the revolution and made important contributions to the Chinese revolution. It was an accepted traditional idea that those who fight for the revolution should enjoy the privileges when the revolution succeeded. It was not enough to purge these people. The problem was the old traditional ideas. So the Cultural Revolution was to do away with the traditional ideas and educate the people through mobilizing the farmers and the workers. I think if there was no coup in 1976, I doubt that this government apparatus would have changed by itself. It happened because there was a coup. But I don’t think to purge people is a solution either. I remember during the Cultural Revolution there were some high officials in my county who encouraged their own children to work with the farmers and to ask for the most difficult assignments and tasks to build their character. It seemed that these high officials did change with the change of social climate during the Cultural Revolution years. But when the social climate changed, they changed back.
Most people were not aware that there was a coup in 1976. Mao’s wife and three other important leaders were arrested. And there was a very extensive purge throughout China. Hundreds of thousands of people who supported the Cultural Revolution were arrested right away. Some people argue that Mao should have killed Deng Xiaoping and a few others to prevent the arrest of the Gang of Four. Maybe he should have, but he did not.
Q: Could you paint a picture comparing what the average daily life was like for you and your family during the Cultural Revolution compared to, on the one hand communism before the Cultural Revolution, and then compared to your family now in capitalist China?
DH: The Cultural Revolution was launched because the Great Leap Forward failed. It failed partly because there was a 100-year natural disaster on the one hand. On the other hand, it failed because communist officials in the villages were not really socialist yet. They ordered farmers to do too much and they themselves didn’t want to work hard. There was not enough to eat during the Great Leap Forward because of the natural disasters on the one hand and mismanagement on the other. So the reason I think the Cultural Revolution was launched by Mao was that he realized at the time that the Chinese officials needed to be educated and that the Chinese people needed to be educated through a socialist movement. That’s why he mobilized the Chinese farmers to criticize the officials in the village. And of course, I was too young, I don’t remember too much about the Great Leap Forward. But during the Cultural Revolution, I remember very well. I was working in the fields with the farmers and at that time in the rural areas, each village had a production brigade, and each brigade was divided into several production teams. In my village there were eight production teams. Each production team had about 40 families. We elected five production team leaders each year. We had a production team head, a woman leader, an accountant, a cashier, and a store keeper. Before the Cultural Revolution these people were appointed by the village leaders and the village leaders were appointed by the commune leaders. It was not democratically elected. During the Cultural Revolution years, these production team leaders were elected by the farmers.
We worked in the fields together. Everybody came out and worked together. And at the end of the day the cashier would record how many people worked that day. And at the end of the year, when the harvest came in, the village accountant, together with the production team accountant, would develop a distribution plan. Seventy percent of the grain was distributed according to how many people you had in your family. Thirty percent was distributed according to how much you worked in the collective. So if you did not work in the fields, you were still entitled to 70 percent of the grain from the collective. That was the distribution on the production team level. There was also distribution at the production brigade level. The village owned many enterprises. After putting away money for a welfare fund, money to purchase new equipment and so on, the village would distribute its income according to how much you had worked in the collective. The collective also produced vegetables, fruits, peanuts and we also raised pigs. These would be distributed to villagers regularly according to the same distribution schedule as grain was distributed. We also purchased fish, wine, cigarettes collectively with the money earned by the village enterprises, and this was distributed to each family on important occasions like Chinese New Year and other holidays. We got almost all our supplies from the collective.
After the Cultural Revolution years, I went to college and my two sisters who used to work for the village, found jobs in a state-owned factory in the early ’80s. Now the factory has been sold and my two sisters have been unemployed since 1996. My younger sister is still working in the village, as the village cashier now. My village is doing well compared with other villages. Life has changed dramatically in the countryside. I think for most working class people, life has changed for the worse. Even though they may get more money, they have lost benefits like free medical care and free education of the socialist past. They now have to pay for their education. They have to pay for their medical care. Most farmers cannot afford the medical care. If they are sick for a small problem, they just endure the problem. If they are sick for a big problem, they just wait to die. Many of them say they do not want to leave a big debt for their children by going to the hospital. The medical care is very expensive now and it is beyond the reach of most farmers and working class people in urban areas.
Q: Could you talk a little about what the cultural life was like in your village and how that changed?
DH: Before the Cultural Revolution, Chinese performing arts were mostly about talented young men and beautiful ladies, kings, generals and so on. That’s what the Chinese traditional plays were about. During the Cultural Revolution, there was a surge of a new kind of art. Every village at the time had a group of farmer artists and they played instruments, sang revolutionary songs, danced revolutionary dances, and staged revolutionary plays. There was some kind of performance in the village almost every night. These performances became educational tools. Revolutionary ideas spread because of these revolutionary performances. And it was very powerful. But of course today you don’t see that any more in the countryside. But if you go to China today, you can still see older people singing the revolutionary songs in parks and public spaces to entertain themselves.
Q: In the movies that we see about China and the Cultural Revolution, there is a representation of people being picked up and tried by popular tribunals and paraded around town, punished. My question is: where does this image come from, did you hear about things like this in China, how widespread was this?
DH: That image was from the Cultural Revolution years. For a few weeks in the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese officials were being criticized on the stage. That was very common. I saw it many times. I would say most government officials went through some of that at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, I would argue, many of these people deserved some kind of punishment. They had made mistakes in their work. And because of their mistakes, people suffered. People were looking for ways to air their anger. In the villages, the struggle against village leaders was more gentle and peaceful.
These public struggle sessions to deal with officials who committed crimes and made mistakes were different ways of dealing with these people. After they were struggled with for a day or two, they were allowed to go free. They were taught a lesson by the people. In the U.S. people are sent to prison. I still think this public education during the Cultural Revolution was very effective, not only to educate the village officials, but also everybody else. After the session, they were free. So I don’t think that was a bad practice. I think it was a very good practice.
Q: What about the situation in China now, particularly the economic crisis and how you think that’s working itself out, especially in the rural areas, but more generally?
DH: The Chinese government is faced with a huge challenge today and the Chinese government officials themselves have admitted that on many occasions. Some people estimate that there are 100 incidents involving more than 100 people challenging the government and 300 incidents involving less than 100 challenging the government each day. I read in a document about an incident in Guangdong province where three police officers stopped a car without a license plate and upon further check they found the driver without a driver’s license. But the three people came out the car and yelled that the police are harassing people and about 2,000 people came out. They turned the police car upside down and set it on fire. The government is warning the police to be careful because the tension between the people and the government is very high.
And there are a lot of people in the countryside who are very angry with the township government. I was told by a farmer about an incident in a rural township. The party secretary was taking a nap one day. But about 100 farmers ,who were angry with the township government’s decision to move the market to a different place, went to his bedroom. They actually dragged him by his four limbs into the marketplace and threw him up into the air for a half hour. They didn’t hit him. They just toyed with him for a half hour. In the end the government had to remove him from office because he had become an embarrassment for the government. This happened last year. There was another government official who was beaten by the farmers. The villagers wanted him to take a patient to the hospital. He refused. He said that not everyone could ride in his car. The farmers almost killed him, but the government didn’t punish the people who did it. So I think the government realizes how tense its relationship is with the masses.
In the old days, the Chinese government officials came to the village and worked with the farmers. And today they don’t do that. They come to the village in big cars, only to get money from farmers and to enforce the one child policy… I think the government has a legitimacy crisis. The Chinese government was able to survive the challenges of the Great Leap Forward posed by unprecedented natural disasters and mismanagement by its officials because of the socialist legitimacy. I don’t think it will be able to survive any challenges close to that of the Great Leap Forward.
Q: Could you talk about what happened during the coup in 1976 and also how that whole period was being understood where you were?
DH: I still remember where I was on 9 September 1976. At 4 o’clock that day, I was walking with my friend outside the village when the loudspeaker said there was a very important announcement. And we immediately realized something was wrong. And they said Chairman Mao had passed away. I don’t know how I walked home that day. I remember that everybody around me was crying. Finally I reached home. My father cried all the way home from his factory. When my grandpa died he didn’t cry. He gathered the family together and he said, today our poor people’s sky has fallen and we do not know what life will be like tomorrow. At the time, I thought, in my heart, how could that be possible? We have built the socialist state. How could the poor people’s sky fall just because Chairman Mao died?
It turned out that my father was right. When the Gang of Four was arrested, the Chinese government said the people were really happy. That was not true. In my home town many young people really respected Jiang Qing because of an incident that happened in a neighbouring commune. On Chinese New Year in 1975, the village leader played over the loudspeaker a traditional drama which was criticized during the Cultural Revolution. A young man in the village criticized the village leader for playing that over the loudspeaker. But the village leaders accused him of causing trouble in the village. He called the police and the police took him away. While he was in prison, he wrote a letter to Jiang Qing, and in less than five days, Jiang Qing responded to his letter. Jiang Qing ordered that the person be released. And the village leader was dismissed from office. Young people in my area loved Jiang Qing. When the Gang of Four was arrested a few weeks after Mao died, we knew things were going to be different.
Question: You were saying that the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution were the most exciting of your life. Could you give some examples of that spirit that you felt?
DH: The way that I felt at that time was that I had a strong sense of security. I was not alone in this world. My neighbours, my production team leaders, the village leaders would take care of anybody if they needed help.
In 1998, one of my friends who worked with me committed suicide. When I received the news from my village I cried. The reason I cried was because I felt that if the collective had not been disbanded he would not have died; he would not have committed suicide. And this person was about my age. When he was young, he couldn’t get up early in the morning. So every morning my production team leader told me to go to wake him up. When I went to wake him up the first time, he answered me, and got up. The second day, he said, I’ll get up but he never got up. So I had to drag him up from his bed. The third day his grandmother was very upset that I woke him up every day. She told me that her grandson needed more sleep. But the production team leader said to me: “Do not mind his grandmother. Wake him up. He needs help.” So he came to work with us with my help. He worked every day. He was a very good worker. He was very talented as well. He played the Chinese instrument, the erhu very well and he also painted well. But after the collective was disbanded, nobody went to wake him up anymore. He was able to sleep as much as he wanted. So eventually his wife left him. And by 1996, 1997 he became mentally disturbed. And the last time I saw him was in 1997 when I went back home. I saw him walking naked on the street. He saw me and ran back home. I followed him to his house. I asked him why he walked naked in the streets. He said that life was bad for him. He did not want to live any more. I told him that he had to change his mindset, that he needed to face the challenges. I asked him why he didn’t go back to painting if he could not do anything else. I told him that I would be in the village for another 10 days, and I would like to buy a painting from him. He promised that he would do it. But the next day, he came to see me. He said that he could not do it now. He told me that he would do it for me the next year. I told him that it was him that I was interested in not the painting. I wanted to see him stand up and take control of his life. But three months after I left the village, he committed suicide. He hung himself. When I learned of this news from my younger sister, I cried very hard. I felt that if the collective were not disbanded, he did not need to commit suicide. The community was no longer there. Your friends and your neighbours became competitors and strangers to you. The security network had been taken away. For Americans you’re used to this kind of competition. But for Chinese farmers who lived under the socialist system before, the change was too dramatic for many people.
Q: The Cultural Revolution sent shock waves around the world. In your village, how much were you aware of the international situation, the influence this was having internationally?
DH: At that time when I was in the village, I really felt we were part of the international revolution. We were young and we were part of a big picture. I remember in 1971 there was a huge drought in our area. The county government held a huge rally in the marketplace. At the rally, government leaders and representatives of farmers and workers said that we were fighting this drought not just for ourselves. We were fighting this in support of the Vietnamese people’s fight against U.S. imperialism. We were fighting this drought to support oppressed people in Africa and so on. After the rally, everybody in our school wrote a pledge to join the fight against the drought. The school was closed for two weeks. We went back to the village to fight the drought with the villagers for two weeks. Everybody worked very hard. I felt that I was doing something significant to help the revolution. At that time I didn’t really understand what it meant. It was standard language. I believed what we were told by the government that we had friends all over the world. After the Cultural Revolution was over, the Chinese elite told us that it was government propaganda. But it was not simply propaganda. I found this out when I studied in Singapore. When Mao died in 1976, China did not have diplomatic relations with Singapore. So the branch bank of Bank of China decided to hold a memorial service for Mao for three days. Ordinary Singaporeans and seaman from all over the world came to show their respect for Mao day and night. The line was so long, the staff at the Bank of China had to extend the memorial service from three days to ten. I realized then that our fight in China was connected with the struggle of oppressed people all over the world.
Q: I want to step back to your experience in the Cultural Revolution. You were able to go to school, you grew up and became an educated youth in the countryside, and yet there was this political campaign that was going on for 10 years. How did this intersect with you, how much were you continuing to follow it?
Dongping Han: My whole value system was changed very dramatically. Before the Cultural Revolution, my father never allowed me to talk back to him; that’s how the Chinese family was. He never allowed me to talk back to him. Whenever there were guests in the house I was never allowed to say a word. But during the Cultural Revolution years that changed. I said, “Chairman Mao said I can talk back to you!” But many people in the U.S. country think that the revolutionary campaign is an interruption of life. No. The revolution did not disrupt most people’s lives, particularly in the village. During the day most work continues, and at night people went out to the streets and there was a lot of debate; different groups debate in the streets. My cousin and I went to shops at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution to propagate Mao’s ideas. The government-owned shops extended their hours until 10 at night at the time. So we went to the shops to read Mao’s teachings and perform the plays, and so on. We loved that.
Maybe I can give you an example to illustrate the change. Before the Cultural Revolution years, people in my area never gave blood to anybody. If you needed a blood transfusion, you went to your family: your wife, your father or your brothers. People thought that if you gave blood to another person, you would lose your own vitality in life. But one day, one of my colleagues was sick and needed a blood transfusion. Most of the factory workers were working in fields harvesting. It was a busy time in the village. Twenty young people who were working in the village went to the hospital. The nurses checked our blood types. I was the only person who qualified to give the blood. I knew at the time any one of the 20 people would give their blood to save my colleague. The village party secretary asked me what to do. I said that we needed to save the patient. They took more than 700 cc from me and after that I couldn’t walk and they had to take me home in a wheelbarrow. And the next morning I woke up and my mom and my two aunts were all crying. They actually cried the whole night. They thought I wouldn’t be able to get married, nobody would marry me. But life changed, and it wasn’t just me. All the people who went to the hospital that day would have happily given blood to that person that day.
Whenever there was a storm, even at midnight people would get up to cover the collective crops. If it snowed we would get up to clean the streets. We did not have bulldozers. Everybody would get out to clean the streets. Another important change in the rural life was that there were almost no crimes during the Cultural Revolution years. For 10 years, we did not have any crime in the village. In my commune of 50,000 people, I did not hear of any serious crime for 10 years. But now, crime has become so common in China.
Q: Could you compare your daily life during the Cultural Revolution to what the daily life would have been like for your grandparents before 1949?
DH: The reason why my father was so supportive of the Communist Party was that he had to work 18 hours a day. He had to pick up the capitalists′ night soil and did household chores beside long hours of work in the workshop. When the communists came to power, the workday became eight hours, so my father’s life changed for the better under socialism. My father used to believe in Buddhism. After the communists came to power, he no longer believed it any more. On the Chinese New Year, my mom always asked to kowtow to the gods of the family. My father would always tell me not to do it. He was told that he was suffering because he did something wrong in the previous life. He changed his previous life, but his life suddenly changed for the better with the Communist Party in power.
Both my father and my mom begged before 1949, and were hungry all the time. Both my grandmothers died in their 30s in 1944, without any medical care. But ever since I could remember, I never felt hungry. I always had enough to eat. My father never bought any toys for me when I was young. I often compare my childhood with my son’s in the U.S. At the time, we had a lot of kids in the neighbourhood to play with and we made toys for ourselves. We played a lot of games ourselves. We worked on the collective farm during the summer, spring and fall. In winter we played popular games in the streets when there was nothing to do in the fields. And I always ask my son which childhood is better. Of course it’s very hard for him to imagine. But I strongly believe that my childhood was much more healthy, much more creative than that of my son who has nothing else but toys and video games. We had community, and we learned how to interact with one another; we learned how to build up leadership skills and things like that. And my son didn’t have those skills. When I first came to the U.S, I had a class on the Cultural Revolution. And the professor said that Cultural Revolution education was a disaster, and most students in the class agreed with him. In the end, I told the class that I was a product of the Cultural Revolution education. I challenged the whole class to a competition with me to see who is better educated. Nobody was willing to take on the challenge.
(This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).)
Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.
Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.
But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.
Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.
For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.
Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”
I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?
It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas. Read more »
by Kobad Ghandy
(Now that the Government has finally struck down the Vedanta mining project in Orissa, senior Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy, presently under arrest inside Delhi’s Tihar jail, writes about how mining giants are making obscene amounts of money at the cost of the poor while even the State fails to make any gains. we thank the OPEN Magazine for such a relevant article. — Editor)
“Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others—the empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and neo-colonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into poison.”
— Eduardo Galeano in Open Veins of Latin America
It is ironic — the richer the land the poorer its people: Eduardo Galeano, in his above mentioned book said: “The Indians (local inhabitants) have suffered, and continue to suffer, the curse of their own wealth; that is the drama of all Latin America”.
In India too, the richest states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh are amongst the poorest in the country. Of course, unlike two centuries back in Latin America they no longer exterminate the local population. They induce slow death through starvation, disease and lack of livelihood. Development for some has always been at the cost of ‘development’ for the many.
Tantalum, a necessary ingredient of computers, cell phones, ipods, and so on, is to a large extent, extracted cheaply from Congo which has one-fifth of the world’s deposits. But to extract that (together with gold and tin) MNCs have tied up with warring warlords which has taken a toll of 5.4 million lives since April 2007. Killings continue at the rate of 45,000 per month and Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation.
Yes, computers are huge development, but for the people of Congo what does it all mean? Can the super profits of the mining companies and computer manufacturers be slightly reducd so that the people of Congo share in the wealth creation? Read more »
India’s rulers were once fond of making pious references to moral principles in international arenas. Till the 1990s, they promoted themselves as leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 15 (developing countries), confronting the developed world on behalf of the Third World, and indeed humanity at large. Speaking at the Seventh Non-Aligned Summit in New Delhi in 1983, Indira Gandhi declared:
Non-alignment is national independence and freedom…. It means equality among nations and the democratisation of international relations, economic and political…. Nationalism does not detach us from our common humanity…. [I]njustice and suffering can and must be diminished. Our world is small but it has room for all of us to live together and to improve the quality of the lives for our peoples in peace and beauty. The destructive power contained in nuclear stockpiles can kill human life, indeed all life, many times over…. The arms race continues because of the pursuit of power and desire for one-upmanship, and also because many industries and interests flourish on it…. Development, independence, disarmament and peace are closely related. Can there be peace alongside nuclear weapons? Our plans for a better life for each of our peoples depend on world peace and the reversal of the arms race.1
Referring to nuclear deterrence as the “ultimate expression of the philosophy of terrorism”, Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 also condemned the discriminatory nuclear regime:
Nor is it acceptable that those who possess nuclear weapons are freed of all controls while those without nuclear weapons are policed against their production. History is full of such prejudices paraded as iron laws: that men are superior to women; that the white races are superior to the colored; that colonialism is a civilizing mission, that those who possess nuclear weapons are responsible powers and those who do not are not.2
Terming outer space “the common heritage of mankind”, he demanded that “outer space be kept free of all weapons”.
At the same time, India under the Nehru dynasty emerged as one of the world’s largest arms importers, secretly developed a nuclear weapons and missile capability, forged open or tacit military ties at different junctures with one or the other superpower, and intervened repeatedly in the internal affairs of its neighbours.
Nevertheless the NAM rhetoric served a purpose. Domestically, it was part of the progressive sheen worn by the Indian State as it presided over a severely underdeveloped and distorted economy. Internationally, the Indian rulers’ claims to Third World leadership and moral authority were their best hope of attracting global attention, in the absence of their own economic or military strength.
Nowadays, however, India’s rulers hardly refer to the interests of the Third World; they prefer to avoid suggesting that India is a Third World country. Instead, in recent years, India’s rulers talk of protecting India’s “national interests” alone, jettisoning earlier stated positions.
The Congress now states that “India’s independent foreign policy” is based on “national self interest and the expansion of India’s strategic autonomy and capability.” It no longer talks of representing NAM or the Third World, but of “cultivating close ties with key global players and playing a key role in global affairs – whether trade or security or climate change issues”. (emphasis added) The Indian rulers’ language too echoes that of the “key global players”.
Today’s challenges – terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, energy security and food security – cut across borders and demand broad-based multilateral cooperation between nations and groups of nations…. Our international friends and partners recognize our commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy. They understand that a country like India cannot be persuaded to follow a course in its foreign policy which does not pass the litmus test of meeting our interests.
India’s new strategic relationship with the US is to be dictated by “national interest”, unconstrained by “Cold War-era thinking”:
Development of good relations with all major powers without being constrained by Cold War-era thinking of blocs and alliances adds to our ability to pursue our independent path as dictated by our national interest. This provides us the leverage and space to pursue our independent foreign policy. It is in this context, Government has pursued cooperation with the USA to the extent that it helps to achieve the goals set by successive governments for the welfare of our people, and in overall national interest.3
And so the rhetoric of lofty principles has been replaced by the language of power. India’s Nuclear Doctrine, adopted formally in 2003, states: “In the absence of global nuclear disarmament India’s strategic interests require effective, credible nuclear deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail.”4 India’s Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, recently called for India to “optimise space applications for military purposes”. Space was increasingly becoming “the ultimate military high ground”, and the establishment of a tri-Services Space Command “is required in the future”.5
Whether in negotiations relating to climate change, trade, the country’s nuclear programme, the reform of international institutions (e.g., the United Nations), or other questions of international relations, the Indian rulers have deliberately distanced themselves from the Third World countries as a group and attempted to strike separate deals. Often this has led them to band promiscuously with a handful of other powers, or even a single superpower: Read more »
I am a kashmiri, its my crime
I am a Muslim kill me and call it collateral damege
imprison me and call it security measure
exile my people and masses and call it “NEW MIDDLE EAST”
Rob my resources,
Invade my land,
Alter my leadership and call it “DEMOCRACY”
I deserve to be humilated.
I deserve to be harrsed.
I deserve to be mauled.
I deserve to be killed.
Just becuase ” I AM A KASHMIRI”
I demand my rights, it is my crime.
I demand my dignity, it is my crime.
I demand life, it is my crime.
I am a KASHMIRI, it is my crime.
but i am proud of commiting this crime.
I want to live,
but a living life. Not a dead man’s life.
I can die struggling for freedom rather than giving it up and living.
By David Harvey
In this RSA Animate, renowned academic David Harvey explains the present crises in the simplest possible way and asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just, and humane?
This is based on a lecture at the RSA (www.theRSA.org). –Editor
(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.)
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.
State’s Master Plan: Inherent Limits
Low intensity conflict or—if one were to speak plainly—terrorism with politics in command of the repressive apparatus, has been the state’s modus operandi of dealing with the Maoist movement. Complementing this, and taking into account aspects of the concrete in the close nexus of wealth and power at the local level, the state supports, sponsors, and organizes a network of informers and combatants among the civilian population as part of its counter-insurgency strategy. Nevertheless, the stick and the carrot go together. The Indian state, though an instrument of the dominant classes—the big bourgeoisie, foreign capital, the landlords, a section of the rich peasants, and the controllers of the government machinery—is, nevertheless, an arena of class struggle.
Over the period since 1967, laws and policies setting limits to the exercise of the power of the dominant classes have been won largely due to the very struggles led by the Maoists and other progressive forces. The dominant classes, of course, hope that the new rules and regulations and proposed actions will drastically diminish the support base of the Maoist movement. However, those very classes have in turn devised more sophisticated ways of controlling that base, actual and potential. For the very high rate of exploitation, the rampant pillage of Mother Nature, and the devious expropriation of social property that are characteristic of neo-robber baron capitalism have to go on which, in turn, put severe limits on democratic functioning, thereby keeping alive the very raison d’être of the Maoist movement.
Maoists’ Strategy: Unable to Establish “Base Areas”
How have the Maoists built and sustained the movement led by them, when their enemy, the Indian state, especially its repressive apparatus, is so powerful and the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist)], the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), and the agrarian revolutionary movement are still weak? Uneven development, characteristic of capitalism, provides enough room for manoeuvre in the face of many a paramilitary offensive. The Dandakaranya region—the forest area situated in the border and adjoining tribal districts of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Orissa—is where the PLGA has established guerrilla zones. These are tracts where the agrarian revolutionary movement is strong, but where the party and its mass organizations are in power only as long as the guerrillas have the upper hand over the state’s forces. Power reverts to the Indian state when they are forced to retreat. Read more »