ANTONIO GRAMSCI by Antonio A. Santucci
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THE UNKNOWN CULTURAL REVOLUTION
Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han
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Interview with Gopalji, Spokesperson of the Special Area Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in a Forest in Jharkhand, Eastern India
by Alpa Shah
Communism in the rest of the world seems to have collapsed. What hope do you have of achieving a socialist state in India?
The claim that there is no hope for socialism and communism, that they are dead, is mere propaganda unleashed by the imperialists and the apologists of capitalism. The 20th century saw the first round of revolutions led by the working classes and the toiling masses of the communist parties in various parts of the world -- the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Revolution in Vietnam and many more. The 21st century will see a new wave of revolutions led by communist parties such as ours in India.
Massive socio-economic and political transformation takes time. The bourgeoisie took at least 400 years to achieve victory over feudalism and even then they entered into unholy alliances with the feudals in order to fight the working classes. These alliances are still prevalent today in many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America in order to stop the revolutions of the toiling masses led by the communist parties.
After the Great Depression II, the recent economic crisis, there are very few takers of the bourgeois philosophy TINA, 'There is No Alternative,' to capitalism. Many intellectuals, many people in the developed countries, in the capitalist countries, have turned to Marx's Das Kapital. Recent developments in the world have proved the theory of Marx, the invincibility of Marxism and the inevitability of socialism and communism. Only socialism and communism can eradicate hunger, poverty and inequality and solve problems, such as that of climate change, which our planet is facing. In India we are trying to achieve a New Democratic Revolution as part of the world's socialist revolutions.
What stage are you at in the Indian revolution?
In general we are in the phase of guerilla warfare. This means that the armed struggle against the state is the principal form of struggle and armed organization is the principal form of organization.
In some places, such as in Dandakaranya and in some parts of Jharkhand, we have formed Revolutionary People's Committees (RPCs) which are the organs of alternative people's power. If this continues, we will be able to build base areas. Base areas are places where the enemy, the ruling classes (that is the Indian big-bourgeoisie and the landlords) do not have any organ of power -- any military, any police force, or any administrative apparatus -- and where people develop their own organs of power, their own army and their own administrative apparatus to implement economic policies of the people by the people's government. Our immediate target is to build base areas in certain pockets of our country.
What are the strategies you are using to achieve a base area?
Our guiding ideology is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Our strategy is 'protracted people's war'. Comrade Mao taught us that the poor nations, the nations where semi-colonial, semi-feudal systems are in existence, should take the path of protracted people's war -- making bases in the countryside and then encircling the towns from the countryside. This is the strategy taken by the communist party here in India and it is the strategy taken by Maoists in semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries all over the world. In India, there are certain changes; it is not exactly similar to pre-revolution China. So we have made certain changes in our tactics to suit the changes in our concrete conditions.
What are the main differences between the conditions that existed at the time of the protracted people's war in China and the conditions in India now?
Internationally we are operating in a world where there is no socialist country or bases to seek help from. After the WWII, various national liberation struggles forced the imperialists to renounce the old form of direct colonial rule. So they resorted to neocolonial forms of exploitation. Internally, India now has a centralized and militarized state which has reached the remotest parts of the country. Transport and communications are far more developed. Chieftains who had their own armies dominated the Chinese countryside. In India we don't have such a situation. The loathsome caste hierarchy with a strict Brahminical order is the backbone of Indian feudalism and there is uneven development in every aspect of the socio-economic and cultural realms. The Indian ruling classes ruled this country for over 60 years in a so-called 'democratic' framework. India has a much bigger urban petty bourgeois class and a huge working class force. It is a county of numerous nationalities at varying degrees of development. India has a long history of revisionist practice that still has considerable influence over the toiling masses and these revisionists have proved themselves an apologist of this reactionary rule.
There are also big differences in the process of building the army and the base areas. In China they already had a base area and an army. Even before the formation of the Communist Party, the Kuomintang was leading a bourgeois democratic revolution against imperialism and feudalism. We had neither a base area nor an army when we began. We started with a small squad and have been able to form a People's Liberation Guerilla Army. So our struggle will be longer and different. Additionally, we have vast plain areas which need a somewhat different treatment than hilly and forested regions. The importance of urban work and the need for organizing the working class is greater in our country. Apart from organizing a strategic united front of the four classes, we are also making a special effort to organize adivasis, dalits, women, minorities and various nationalities.
The Indian bourgeoisie exists in some form even in remote parts of India. We see the effects of capitalism in all the nooks and crannies of remote villages here -- people who want motorbikes, mobile phones, notions of private property, individualism. What hope do you have of creating an alternative set of values in the world?
The people know that our party is fighting for an India structured around principles of equality. We want an India where individuals cannot amass capital and private property while simultaneously driving large sections of the society into poverty. We are here to make a corruption-free India where corruption, dishonesty and lies have no place; and where honesty, labour and truth are rewarded. They also know that we are fighting against discrimination based on gender, caste, religion and other sectarian identities. For instance we encourage inter-caste marriages. We want a society where no one is bigger or greater on the basis of his or her birth.
While the effects of capitalism and its affiliated values are certainly in the rural countryside, a vast section of the society is against their corrupting and deteriorating effects. By and large the peasants and the workers support the values that we are fighting for. They participate in the struggles, based on these values, that our party organizes. They are fond of our cultural troops, read magazines and listen to the audio-cassettes and the CDs that we release. Our supporters also appreciate and promote the values that are perpetuated within the party. For instance, caste hierarchy has no place in our community. People from different castes eat from the same plate amongst our cadres: a concept that is generally unthinkable for many people outside our party. Women are treated equally to men and there is no division of labour based on gender roles within the party. Our cadres are not paid a salary; they live a simple life which meets basic needs without unnecessary luxuries. They appreciate the values and visions of living that are being created within the party and are here to promote them beyond the party. There is much hope that these values will spread like fire across the Indian countryside, despite the efforts to trample them out by the Indian big bourgeoisie, because our supporters are increasing on a daily basis.
Why are you boycotting elections in your strongholds?
The Indian parliament and constitution actually represent the big bourgeoisie class and the big landlord class -- not the people, not the toiling masses or the middle classes of India. So for any basic change, if you want to bring any basic change in the lives of the ordinary masses, you must first bring a new constitution and a parliament based on that new constitution. So any action like participation in elections will actually strengthen the same reactionary parliament which is causing havoc, which is causing tragedy to the lives of the ordinary people. That is why we call upon people to boycott the elections. They must boycott the parliament itself which is reactionary and anti-people.
India is often declared one of the world's largest democracies. Clearly you disagree?
India is not even a bourgeois democracy. It is actually a semi-colonial and semi-feudal state. The vast majority of people in India do not have any democratic rights. The transfer of power from the British in 1947 went into the hands of the comprador Indian bourgeoisie and the big landlords -- the tested servants of the colonialists. In fact these two classes served the British imperialists in pre-independence British India. The vast majority of the people did not get any rights. The new government talked of land reform but in practice they did not give land to the actual cultivators. People did not acquire equal opportunities in the case of jobs, or in access to health and educational facilities. Corruption has become a way of life in India. Now crores of people are dying of hunger and diseases. People are not allowed to speak openly and to organize, although they have written provision for so many things in their constitution. In fact the constitution carried majority of acts from colonial rule and has been prepared under their instructions. How can a bureaucracy, which was serving colonialism till yesterday, become democratic, pro-people and patriotic overnight? So this claim of independence of 1947 is actually not for large sections of the Indian people who achieved no democratic rights. Moreover, today the Indian parliament obeys the dictates of the WTO and the World Bank. It is actually carrying out the instructions of US imperialism -- the chieftain of world imperialism.
The Indian ruling classes claim that India is a federal and secular republic. But how federal are they? The Kashmiri people are fighting for the implementation of the provision of the plebiscite for a separate Kashmir and the people of the Northeast are fighting for their cause, for their own nations. Observe how brutally the Indian government is treating them. Analyse the centre-state relations. They claim that the provincial governments have so many powers. But actually the power is centred in Delhi and centre-state relations are very feudal. The central government is least interested in decentralizing power to the state governments. When capital is concentrated in the hands of the comprador big bourgeoisie, backed by imperialists, how can you expect the decentralization of power? As far as the claim of being a secular country is concerned, you have seen the state initiated and promoted massacres of the minorities over the years. Their claims that India is a democratic, federal and a secular republic are a big farce.
What does democracy mean for you?
Our immediate aim is to achieve a New Democratic Revolution. In a New Democratic India, power will be in the hands of a four-class alliance -- a strategic united front where no one class is in power -- the workers, the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. This new state will liberate the peasants from the clutches of feudalism. It will liberate national capital from finance and comprador capital, confiscate finance and big capital and assets, and write off the foreign loans. It will seize the surplus land from the landowners and distribute it among the landless and poor peasants. It will eradicate each and every instance of imperialism and feudalism in the realm of economy, culture and politics.
The New Democratic Revolution will thus bring a truly federal and secular democratic republic of India that will give the oppressed nationalities a right to self-determination and even to secede. That India will not favour any religion: religion will be a private affair. It will bring an India in which people have not only equal opportunities in jobs, medical and educational facilities but also the objective conditions for everyone to avail of them.
The united front of the four-class alliance will be organized under a decentralized organ of power of the people called Revolutionary People's Committees (RPCs). RPCs will represent the majority of the people of India and will be elected by a truly representative body of the people. In fact in the countryside where our struggle is currently strong, particularly in Dandakaranya and Jharkhand, this united front, whatever classes we have in the villages, are already being organized under Revolutionary People's Committees (RPCs). In Dandakaranya we have RPCs at a village level, at a block level, and in one or two places at the district level too. These are in rudimentary form at present, they are just emerging.
In the last elections you blew up schools and hospitals in the areas where you have a strong presence. Why?
In our areas of struggle, the state's paramilitary forces are establishing police camps in the schools. You will find hundreds of schools in the struggling areas where the enemy forces have built up camps. We blow up only those schools where the police regularly establish military camps for their combing operations -- not all the schools. The case of blowing up a hospital is rare. It is in fact very rare to have hospital buildings in the countryside and even in those cases where there may be hospital buildings, they are not functioning as hospitals: the doctors never visit them and there are no medicines. As far as schools are concerned, this government is least interested in educating the boys and girls of the toiling masses. You can see the conditions of the education system, the way in which they are privatizing the whole education system and how the boys and girls of the ordinary people of India are unable to have advanced studies. In some places where we have blown up schools, we talked to the villagers, to the supporters and sympathizers of the movement, before blowing them up. And in some places we are rebuilding the schools. Please be clear that when we blow up schools we make sure there is no one in the school and that we are also running many of our own schools in the countryside. If the government stopped using the schools as military camps, there would be no need to blow up the schools. The High Court recently passed a verdict that schools should not be used as police camps. But even after this verdict the security forces have not vacated the schools. Many schools in the countryside are actually being built for military purpose, and the police humiliate the students and hamper the studies there. That is why we are forced to blow up a few schools.
India has made huge investments in developing the nation. Why are you so critical of the government's development programme agenda?
There are two things. First is the development programmes of the government and second is more broadly their concept of development.
All these development programmes are actually a part of their strategy of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). This is a reform and dole programme. The Indian government is least interested in the development of the common people. Even according to their own estimates, 77% of Indians do not have a daily earning of Rs20. This means more than 800 million people are living under dire conditions. They are people Below Poverty Line. This is the case after 62 years of so-called Independence! In 2000-2001, the average availability of food grains for an Indian was 157 kilograms, now it is hardly 140 kilograms. So this is the pathetic condition we have. On the other hand, a few Indians are becoming billionaires and the Indian state is boasting of that.
What the Indian government is actually trying to do through these developmental works is to create their social base in the form of petty contractors and other middlemen -- becholia, we call them. Their aim is to divert youth who are naturally coming towards the revolution. So many youths are being diverted to petty contracts. These are sugarcoated bullets. Just observe the development projects in the countryside.
Even today, more than 65% of the Indian population is engaged in agriculture. But see the condition of agriculture. They have forgotten land reform -- no one talks of that now. There is no programme for the implementation of land reform in the countryside. What are they doing in fact? They are making roads and they are making bridges in order to facilitate the mobility of their armed forces. Even this much-publicized NAREGA, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, is a big flop because it has so many lacunae in it. Corruption is everywhere. People are not getting wages. The claim is to give employment for 100 days per person. But people are not getting employment even for 10 days. Moreover, NAREGA neither provides a permanent and stable form of employment nor does it challenge the power structure of inequality in our countryside.
So what they are trying to claim as developmental projects are not developmental at all. They are part of their strategy of Low Intensity Conflict to fight the armed struggle, the struggle of the people of India.
More broadly, there is much to criticize in their concept of development. The development of the country should not be related to Sensex and GDP growth rates. The government thinks that the development of the comprador big bourgeoisie, landlords, a few bureaucrats and multinationals is the development of the country. For us the development of the people is actually the development of the country. They are least interested in solving the fundamental problems of the people. Their development is dependent on imperialism which just prevents our country from becoming self-dependent. Following the instructions of the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, the government is promoting the policies of globalization, privatization and liberalization. They are trying to sell out our natural resources, our land, our forests, to the Indian big bourgeoisie and their imperialist masters.
Coincidentally, the natural resources are mainly concentrated in the areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa where the Maoists have a strong presence. More than 80% of India's natural resources are there. They know that unless and until they remove the Maoists, they suppress the Maoists there, they won't be able to sell out our land, sell out our natural resources, openly and nakedly to their imperialist masters. I will give you some examples. In Singur they sold land with the help of the so-called left government to the Tatas. In Nandigram they sold it to an Indonesian bourgeoisie, the Salem group. And in Lalgarh they sold it to Jindals. And in all the three places, we organized movements against this naked selling of cultivable lands of the peasants and against the displacement of the peasants. And in all the three places they were forced to withdraw.
In Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh we are fighting against the plunder by the comprador big bourgeoisie of iron ore and coal. And in these areas, the adivasis, mainly the adivasis but also the nonadivasis, the moolvasis, will be forced to vacate their homes and villages. They will be displaced in great numbers as they have been in the past for the sake of so many 'development' projects. So now we are fighting against this plunder. We are fighting this implementation of liberalization and privatization. That is why they are saying that we are against this kind of development. Now it is for the people to see who is against the development of ordinary citizens.
So are you against the development of mines altogether?
No, we are not against the development of mines or the installation of plants and factories. We are against the plunder of our natural resources, our motherland, by the Indian big bourgeoisie and their imperialist masters who are plundering them only for their own profit. The Indian government is not interested in opening plants and mines for the betterment of the people. The people in these areas -- they will be forced to vacate their areas. The people will be thrown out. They will become wage earners in towns. They will be displaced in great numbers as they have been in many development projects earlier. In earlier cases where they built mega projects in Bokaro, Tata, and other places, people couldn't get sufficient compensation -- most people did not get land or homes or proper jobs in the plants which were built. Hundred and thousands of people, adivasis and moolvasis, were displaced. So what is the guarantee that this will not happen again? That is why we are organizing people against such plunder and such loot of our natural resources. We won't allow the plunder of our land and our natural resources by the imperialists and their allies, the Indian big bourgeoisie.
Under a Maoist government a few things will be kept in mind before opening plants and mines in these areas. First, such plants and mines are nationalized and must be used for interest of the country. They must not be open for the profit of certain capitalists, bourgeoisie and multinational corporations. Second, in general the cultivable lands should not be taken for mining and other things. Third, if taking such land is unavoidable, then proper compensation must be given to the affected families. They should be given appropriate compensation for the land. They should be given jobs, they should be given homes, and some lands for cultivation. The New Democratic state will look after the welfare of the displaced people. Fourth, these mines and plants must be eco-friendly. You must consider the ecological factors while opening these plants and mega projects as this is becoming a vital thing in our lives, in the lives of the human civilization. And fifth, people must be taken into confidence before you start such projects; they should be taken into the management of such plants and mines. In our state, when we will build a New Democratic India, we will take into account all these things.
You say you are against the corruption. However, it is widely reported that you fund yourself through the black economy of development schemes coming in through the state. How do you justify participation in the very systems of corruption that you are against?
This is not corruption. This is taxation. In the areas of our struggle, we are the authority that is serving the people. We therefore tax those who are amassing wealth through major development programmes and their contractorship in order to use this wealth for the service of our masses. We are using the funds to accelerate our struggles and we are using them in radical reform programmes under the leadership of RPCs. We have rules and norms around how we tax people. For instance large schemes and operations are taxed more than smaller ones. We don't tax the building of schools, hospitals, small tanks, tube wells etc. We also have rules and norms around how we use the fund collected. So we are not simply collecting money for private gain -- that would be corruption. We are collecting money for the service of our toiling masses.
Your struggles against corruption, against caste discrimination, against feudal values are also the struggles of human rights organizations and NGOs. How do you differentiate yourself from such organizations?
Social, political and cultural values are based on the economic structure. Unless you change the economic system any talk of reforming social-cultural and political values is just a farce. The NGOs and the government human rights organization fight cases on an individual basis and from within the system. Feudal and imperialist values are part of their system. These organisations are being nourished by the system itself. Unless you eradicate the system, you overthrow the system, you can't have another system that will promote an alternative set of values, the democratic values. Fighting individual cases of caste discrimination or discrimination against women, or discrimination against dalits and adivasis, won't take us far; it won't eradicate the system. You must eradicate the whole system. And in order to eradicate the whole system of feudal and imperial values, you must seize power. The NGOs and the human rights organizations don't go for the seizure of power. They fight within the confines of India's pro-elite constitution. In most cases they work only as safety-valves for the state whose credibility is eroding fast. That is the limitations of their conception.
In areas of Jharkhand where the party has been around for 20 odd years, what are the concrete achievements of the Maoists?
The first and foremost achievement is that the toiling masses, the landless labourer and the poor peasants, have emerged as a political and military force in India. In our struggling areas feudal authority has been demolished to a great extent. The struggling people have developed a guerilla army of their own in the form of the People's Liberation Guerilla Army.
The second important achievement is the dignity and place in society which the dalits and adivasis have attained in the face of the historic discrimination they have endured. Wrong practices such as abuses against women, abuses against dalits and adivasis, and the dominance of the upper castes and outsiders in the forest areas are all changing now.
The third is the emancipation of forests which were under the control of the forest department, the corrupt and repressive forest officials. Even the lower level staff were quite repressive and they were controlled by the forest mafias and landlords. The forests are now completely liberated and the people are free to use the forests according to their needs. We have been able to control deforestation.
The fourth is the achievements of the antifeudal struggle. People in our struggling areas are enjoying democratic rights. We have seized thousands of acres of the lands of landlords and in many places, most of the places, the landlords have been ousted from the villages. In many places we have implemented land ceilings -- sometimes radical ceilings -- decided by our party locally. And surplus in lands have been distributed amongst the landless and poor peasants. In many places, the peasants are cultivating the land.
The wages in Bihar and Jharkhand in agriculture were very low. The wages for the collection of kendu patta and other forest materials such as mohalaun patta were also very low. So we organized people to demand a hike in wages. Now people have a comparatively better wage rate. Usury, that is mahajani, has been widely abolished. You won't find the old kind of mahajan or money lender any more in the struggling areas.
In our struggling areas we have stopped theft and dacoity. Apart from this, we have abolished the auction of tanks, river beds, bazaars, orchards etc by the government to big contractors. Now these resources are free for the people to use.
In our areas of influence there is almost no communal riot. The Sangh goons just cannot dare to organize this. In a few places where they have dared, we have punished them as in the case of Swami Laxmanand in Kandhamal, Orissa.
Another important achievement is that till now we have been able to restrict to a great extent the implementation of various Memorandums of Understandings which the state government and central governments have signed with the big bourgeoisie and the multinationals -- so they have not been able to plunder the land, loot the resources, as comfortably as they might have thought they could.
As far as our developmental schemes are concerned -- unless you seize the power centrally, it is not possible to implement pro-people policies thoroughly. But even then, in places where we have formed RPCS, we have tried to develop pro-people economic policies. For instance, we are promoting the formation of cooperatives in agriculture and other related occupations. Secondly we are trying to develop methods of cultivation in the backward areas -- we are digging up canals, wells and tanks -- mostly through shramdan -- voluntary labour. And we are opening schools and hospitals. We are giving medicines at subsidized rates. These things we are doing where we have formed RPCs. But all these things are in rudimentary form.
The Indian Government has labeled you a terrorist organization. How do you respond to this?
The first thing is that this labeling is a part of a so-called 'War on Terror' unleashed by the US imperialists. The Indian ruling classes are fast emerging as favourites of US imperialism in South Asia. Actually the ruling classes of India are vying with the Pakistani ruling classes to be the favourites of US imperialism. So what does US imperialism mean by terrorism? Any movement, or any mobilization or any act of protest which goes against the interest of US imperialism, which goes against the hegemony of US imperialism, which goes against the grand design of US imperialism of a new Empire, is being labeled 'terrorist' by US imperialists.
The governments in Asia, Africa and Latin America are labeling the nationality movements, and the movements of the toiling masses in their countries, as terrorist. In India too, the ruling classes are labeling the movements waged by the people under the leadership of the Maoists, the nationality movements in the North Eastern Provinces, and the nationality movement in Kashmir as terrorist movements. The labeling of the Maoists as 'terrorist' gives more power to the police to arrest any person who is progressive and democratic -- he/she need not be related to any mass organization of CPI(Maoist). The police forces are able to pick people if they speak against any undemocratic method, any repressive method, of the state. This includes journalists, lawyers, intellectuals and civil liberties activists. So first of all, we severely condemn this labeling.
Second thing is that there are some significant differences between us and those who commit terrorist acts. Terrorist activities generally cause indiscriminate killing, including the killing of innocent people. We condemn such killing and we are totally against such actions in which innocent peoples become victims. We have never supported even a small action which harms an innocent villager. Wherever our armed unit has committed such a mistake, we readily come out to make self-criticism on such things. We are totally against the killing of innocent citizens; we are against indiscriminate killing.
Moreover, we are not going to make India into a theocratic state. Religious fundamentalism is often observed in terrorist acts: some organizations using terrorist activities claim that they are working towards building a theocratic state. This is entirely the opposite of what we want to achieve in the New Democratic India. Our ideology is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. We are fighting for a truly federal, secular and democratic Republic of India. The labeling of CPI(Maoist) as a terrorist organization is very malicious. It is full of cunning through which the Indian government wants to befool the people, deceive the people, by sheer propaganda.
As far as our functioning is concerned, the terrorist labeling is not going to affect us. Our party in any case has been functioning underground from the very beginning. So the only thing that the 'terrorist' label will achieve is that that it will give more power to the police forces to harass the common people, especially in the struggling areas.
The government has just declared that they are going to wipe you out totally in three years' time. The largest military offensive against the Maoists has begun. What are you facing?
We condemn the Indian government's military offensive against the Maoists. This plan is totally in tune with the imperialists -- actually the Indian government has planned this offensive at the behest of US imperialism. This United Progressive Alliance government, under the leadership of the Congress party, is quite fascist in nature. When Chidambaran says that we won't talk about development before the Maoists are wiped out, you can observe the reactionary content and the fascism of his intentions.
Repression campaigns are not new to us. We have faced so many repression campaigns in the past. But this is the greatest one. They are deputing 75 battalions of paramilitary forces along with an equal number of state forces to fight the Maoists. The rein of the operations is in the hands of the central government and the Central Reserve Police Forces are in command. They are in addition preparing so many commando forces -- like the Special Task Force, Jharkhand Jaguar and Cobra, the Indian Reserve Battalion, the Special Auxiliary Police, in the line of the Greyhounds. And they have established many jungle warfare schools at various places. In Chhattisgarh they have started the military campaign in September 2009 -- you know in one month they killed at least 27 people in two massacres -- 27 innocent people. They burnt 12 villages. They looted, they raped and the burnt. Thousands of people have been force to flee, to vacate their villages. They are fleeing to Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. In Lalgarh they have deputed 7000 forces in just one district. And they are just killing innocent villagers. In Jharkhand they have also begun. You know the result is that they are going to involve even the army and the air force in so many disguised ways. You know all this means that they are going to kill many thousands and thousands of innocent people. And the whole area of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal which is very rich in mineral resources and which this government is trying to sell to the imperialist comprador big bourgeoisie and other big contractors will then be clear for them.
There are many aspects of this offensive, this repression campaign. There is not only the military side; there are other sides too -- what we call in Hindi, sam, dam, dande, ved (fear, temptation, punishment and division). So they are also strengthening their intelligence network. They will spend much more money in developing coverts and developing intelligence sources from the local people: police informers. And they won't keep any record -- this is the instruction of the central government -- they can spend much money on this work.
Next, they have passed many black laws and they have allowed state governments to pass black laws to suit their needs. So actually what we are going to have is a complete police state in India. And again the centralization of power in Delhi will be observed more. The state governments will lose much of their powers in the enforcement of laws and in maintaining what they call 'law and order'. So the government is obviously not taking this movement as a democratic movement, and when Chidambaran says CPI(Maoist) is a terrorist organization, their stand is clear.
What they will add to these campaigns is the vicious propaganda against us which they have already been spreading. For instance, the notion that leading Maoist leaders are making money and there has been a large embezzlement of party funds by the party leaders. They spread the rumour that there is sexual anarchy in the party; that the Maoists are against development; and that Maoists are promoting the cultivation of opium; and that Maoists are obstructing the Public Distribution System. They want to brand us as criminals; they claim that we kill innocent people. Every day you will see advertisements by the police in the form of news reports in the newspapers. Sometimes there are hoardings in the towns -- propagating so many incorrect things about our party and our movement. Moreover, the corporate media -- both the TV channels and the newspapers and the other forms of the media which are controlled by the corporate world -- are supporting the government and putting forward the government's stand in spreading propaganda against our party, and against the leadership of our organization. The corporate media is supporting the government wholeheartedly.
So in the coming days we will see that this military offensive will bring India to a complete fascist state where not only the struggles raised by the CPI(Maoist) but also the struggles raised by the ordinary citizens against displacement, against the job losses resulting from privatization, against hunger, against anti-people economic policies -- particularly agricultural policies -- and many such struggles will face brutal state repression and all will be clubbed in one term, 'terrorist'. Any honest struggle will be branded terrorist; that is what you will see in the coming days.
Armed struggle involves a lot of deaths along the way. There are media reports that a thousand people a year are dying as a result of Maoist-related violence. How do you justify the death of so many people?
First, who are those whom the party eliminates? Annihilation is the last choice. We only annihilate those reactionaries -- the landlords, the police agents and the members of the gangs raised by the government -- who do not accept their crime and do not surrender before the people's courts. The government and the corporate media create propaganda against us -- that many people are killed in Maoist-related violence. I don't know the exact numbers they are claiming and what they are propagating but a part of it is malicious propaganda against us.
Second, see the other side of the picture. What are the hundreds of thousands of army personnel and paramilitary forces doing in Kashmir and the North East? Each and every day they are killing youths in fake encounters. What are the paramilitary forces and state police doing in the areas of Maoist struggle -- particularly in AP, and in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand? They are killing youth in hundreds. And do you remember the pogroms of the minorities organized by the ruling classes? The anti-Sikh riots in 1984, the recent murders of thousands of Christians in Orissa, and the 2002 riots in Gujarat? How many people have the Hindu chauvinists and the state forces killed? Right from 1947, from Indian independence, the state forces were very much hand in glove with the Hindu chauvinist forces. The corporate media and the media persons should expose the other side of the picture too -- how the minorities are butchered in state-sponsored pogroms; how the people belonging to the oppressed nationalities in the North East and Kashmir are being eliminated; how the dalits and the adivasis in the struggling areas of central India are being killed by the state forces in organized killings in the name of Salwa Judum and such projects.
And lastly, do you know that during the last few years, 500,000 peasants have committed suicide because of anti-people economic policies? In the last one year, 2008-2009, thousands of peasants have become daily wage earners? Many people are dying of hunger. This republic, as Utsna Patnaik calls, is a 'Republic of Hunger'. So who is responsible for such deaths? Who is responsible for the death of thousands of people dying out of starvation and hunger, from so many diseases? People are left with no other option. No one is going to listen to you. This violence has been imposed by the state on the people of India.
You are waging a war against one of the world's emerging global economic superpowers. India is a very strong state. What hope do you have of achieving success?
There are two parts to this question. It is true that the Indian state is very powerful. We are quite aware of the strength of our enemy.
However, in a war, arms and armed personnel are not the most important things. The most important thing is the people. Who is getting the support of the people? We think that we have been waging guerilla war for the last 40 years with very, very little armed strength. It is because of the support of the people in these states that we have been able to consolidate ourselves. And naturally because we are a party of the people, we are a party of the common man, the toiling masses, so the appeal of the programme of our party is much more than those of the comprador and those of the ruling classes. So the most important thing is the support of the people. It is people's support which will ultimately decide the fate of the war.
The second important thing is sticking to the guerilla policies, the guerilla methods of warfare. If we could implement the guerilla policies of warfare completely and thoroughly and in a more and more meticulous method, and if we continue to win the support of the people of our country, we do believe that we will win this war.
If we can achieve these two things then it won't be possible for the ruling classes of this country to abolish us, to finish us, as they are claiming. There is every chance that we will survive not only this offensive, but also many such offensives, and defeat them.
As the war intensifies, though, as the military campaign of the government rises, inevitably a lot of ordinary poor peasants are going to get caught in the war in between. You have your AK47s, your landmines, and your 306s to protect you. But there are going to be a lot of bloody deaths of ordinary villagers in the process. How can you justify this?
Sorry, you are putting the question in the wrong way. This is not a war between the CPI(Maoist) and the Indian state. This is a war between the people of India and the Indian state. What is CPI(Maoist)? What is the People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA)? It is nothing but the organized strength of the people. So if they harm the CPI(Maoist), if they harm PLGA which is fighting under the leadership of CPI(Maoist), then actually they are harming the organized strength of the people. And the people understand this and that any such war is not a war against a party, it is a war against the people -- we should look at the whole situation in this perspective.
In the same way that you do not distinguish between the CPI(Maoist) and the people, surely you cannot differentiate between the people and the present Indian government? For example, many of the policemen who are your main targets are coming from the same houses as some of your own supporters and cadres. So why are you killing policemen from poor village backgrounds in the process of the war?
It is true that in ambushes the policemen who are killed generally come from humble backgrounds. However, they have only ever been targeted when they have been on their area domination operations, on their combing operations, and they have come to suppress the people and the people's movement. I can give you a few examples. You know there are many policemen and armed personnel living in our struggling areas who are serving the police department and army elsewhere. Their families are our supporters. Whenever these officers return to their home village in festivals or on vacation, you will not be able to cite a single example when our party has harmed them. Secondly, rarely have we harmed any home guards that are from the villages. Third, we restrain ourselves from harming the zila police, the district police, who are actually in the main the local people. Whenever we have ambushed the policemen, we have ambushed them when they are coming as combat forces, when they come to suppress the people, when they come to suppress the people's movement -- only then they have been targeted. In a war, if your enemy is using the persons who come from your own class, it is inevitable that they will become a target of the offensive. Our appeal to the policemen, to the army personnel, is that the state they are serving is not their state. The ruling classes they are serving are actually against the interest of their families. So it is better they come out from this reactionary army, reactionary police department, and join the PLGA.
P Chidambaram, the Home Minister, has been calling you to the negotiating table. Why don't you go?
P Chidambaram actually proposed that the Maoists must lay down arms before they call them for any kind of negotiations. Then, after a massive protest by the intellectuals and progressive persons, he is now saying that the Maoists must abjure violence before the government can call them for any kind of negotiations. This simply means that the government is putting conditions which are unacceptable to us. You just can't have negotiations at gunpoint. You have your paramilitary forces inside the struggling areas and you are making statements daily that you will depute more and more paramilitary forces into those areas and you will depute choppers and all that. Then you say that the Maoists must come to the negotiating table: you know this is just unacceptable. In many press statements and press conferences time and again we have made it clear that we are not averse to negotiations. But, for any kind of negotiations -- history tells us that for any negotiations -- you must have an atmosphere for the negotiations. In this particular condition it means that if you have your forces in the struggling areas and if you make threatening statements every day, it means that you are trying to have negotiations at gunpoint -- that you are expecting us to surrender actually.
What conditions do you want for negotiation?
There is only one condition -- that the government must make an atmosphere that is congenial for negotiation. Concretely speaking it means that the government must withdraw the paramilitary forces from the struggling areas, one. The government must release the revolutionary leaders and cadres and must treat them as political prisoners, number two. The government must lift the ban from our party and the government must not prevent the democratic mass movements. These things are the basic things, but we can talk of so many things -- such as the government must suspend the Memoranda of Understanding that they have made with the big bourgeoisie and the imperialists. These are not the conditions -- these will make the situation favourable for any kind of negotiation.
Alpa Shah is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London. A shorter version of this interview was published in the Economic and Political Weekly (45.19, 8-14 May 2010). An extract from it was broadcast in a BBC Radio 4 documentary: "India's Red Belt" (6 May 2010).