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Favourite radicals

Posted by Admin on October 29, 2009

It is noteworthy that at a time when the Maoist presence in Lalgarh had grabbed West Bengal’s attention, Aparna Sen was busy shooting her latest film, Iti Mrinalini, whose hero is a Naxalite. As a portrayal of the Seventies, when the Naxalites were very much in the news, her depiction of the central character cannot be anything other than sympathetic. The same romantic treatment of the radicals was also seen in Satyajit Ray’s Seemabaddha, where the heroine, Sharmila Tagore’s boyfriend is described as a revolutionary with a suggestion of being superior to the average person.This love affair of the middle classes with the insurgents continues to this day. West Bengal is fairly vocal in this respect because a number of prominent writers, led by the Sahitya Akademi award winner, Mahashweta Devi, have been openly supportive of the Maoists. They condemn their violence, of course, but a hint that it is actually an outburst of the rage of the deprived masses mitigates their criticism. Besides, by equating the ‘violence’ perpetrated by the state against the rebels with the latter’s murderous deeds, the intellectuals tend to legitimise the depredations of the Maoists.

Justifiable violence

It is not difficult to understand why the Naxalites in their day, the Maoists today and the communists in general evoke a sense of admiration unlike the fascists who are also believers in a one-party state. While the violence of the latter is seen to be directed at selected groups identified by their religion or place of origin and irrespective of their social or economic status, the aggression of the comrades is perceived to be in favour of impoverished people and directed at the state, which, in classical Marxist terms, represents the oppressive bourgeoisie. This context automatically makes the violence of the reds more justifiable than the state’s. Arguably, the demise of the Soviet Union and the embracement of capitalism by China have dimmed the ardour of the intellectuals for the Maoists to some extent. In addition, the role of the communist parties in power in India has negated their claims to honesty and to being the champions of the underprivileged.

The deadly confrontations between the Marxists and the Maoists have also shown that the textbook generalisations about the segregation of the classes are not always valid.The fact that many of the tacit supporters of the Maoists are former Marxists also indicates the belief that the former are really doing what the Marxists had originally promised to do, but had then either chickened out or succumbed to the lure of power in a bourgeois society. As such, the Maoists are believed to constitute a more idealistic breed than the Leftists who have accepted the status quo.Whatever the disillusionment with the latter, or secret admiration for Maoists, the main adversary of this group of intellectuals remains the Indian state. Nothing has changed for them from the yeh azadi jhooti hai days immediately after Independence when the communists, who were then more united than at present, saw India as a neo-imperialist power in alliance with the moneyed classes. Whether it is Aruna Roy or Medha Patkar or Binayak Sen, the present-day democracy is very nearly a fraud since it does not reflect the aspirations of the poor.There is little doubt that this disavowal of the present system strengthens the case of the Maoists, who want to overthrow it in accordance with the standard Marxist doctrine. It is clear that to these intellectuals, the fact of Parliament and state assemblies

being elected on the basis of universal franchise means little. The presence of crorepatis and criminals in their precincts devalues them in their eyes. Although they do not say it, their preference is seemingly for a Chinese-style people’s democracy.It is the lack of regard for parliamentary democracy which robs the state, in their view, of the moral right to launch an offensive against the Maoists.

Hence, the call for negotiations although the Maoists, like the Naxalites before them, have no interest in a dialogue. Their stance is not dissimilar to that of the Islamic jihadis. Both these groups live in a black-and-white Manichean world, where there are no shades of grey. It is a fight to the finish for them because they believe in an ideal world where there is no scope for compromise and no place for their enemies. Just as the jihadis cannot be expected to come to terms with those who do not believe in their version of Islam, the Maoists cannot reach a settlement with a bourgeois establishment, and especially one with close links with the American Satan.If they cannot achieve victory, they are willing to give up the struggle, as veteran Naxalites like Kanu Sanyal and Suniti Kumar Ghosh have done, and live out their lives in the hope of a future generation of revolutionaries fulfilling the objective which they failed to do. But their faith in the ultimate success of the revolution remains undiminished. All that they are willing to do is to admit their tactical mistakes, as Ghosh did recently when he said that Charu Mazumdar’s line of individual assassination was wrong. It prevented the Naxalites from building a mass base, which, he believes, the Maoists have been able to do.

Political backing

Apart from the support of the intellectuals, the Maoists have also received the surreptitious backing of politicians, as the ties between them and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal show. These connections explain Banerjee’s preference for a dialogue since all the Maoists are not ‘bad’. Clearly, the political imperative of creating law and order problems for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government matters more to her than the unabashed display of cynicism involved in siding with an essentially anti-national force. Even within the state government, the objections of Left Front partners like the CPI and the RSP to the use of the ‘draconian’ Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act underline a desire to embarrass Big Brother.The belief among Naxalites that the Maoists have been more successful than them in building bases may be partly true, but the fact remains that they have done it in the wrong century and the wrong country.

What was possible in the early and middle parts of the last century is no longer possible today when the firepower of the state is much greater. True, the power of the insurrectionists has also increased, but still it cannot be compared with the state’s.Besides, the revolutions in Russia, China and Vietnam succeeded in conditions of war and civil unrest. Not only do these prerequisites of a successful uprising exist in India, the other requirement of an absence of democracy is also not there. In the three countries mentioned above as well as in Cuba, the transition was from one variety of totalitarianism to another. What the Maoists are attempting, therefore, is a near impossibility since the opportunity provided by a democracy for a change of regime via the ballot box will always prove more attractive than recourse to the bullet.(The author is a Delhi-based commentator)


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