Workers Hammer No. 212
Down with government war on Maoists, tribal peoples!
Only workers revolution can liberate the Indian masses
The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard no 962, 30 July 2010, paper of the Spartacist League/US. Since it was published, protests have taken place in London and elsewhere against the brutal killings of two leading cadre of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) by the Indian state. Cherukuri Rajkumar, known as Azad, and Hem Pandy were gunned down in early July by police in Andhra Pradesh, who are notorious for abductions and murders. The working class in India and internationally must defend the Maoists and tribal people against state repression.
In a military offensive that began late last year, the government of India has mobilised up to 100,000 heavily armed police backed by the army in an attempt to crush Maoist guerrilla forces in the country’s eastern and central interior. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress Party, which leads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition regime, has called the insurgency led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) — hereafter referred to as CPI (Maoist) — “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country”. Government sources state that the Maoists are active in nearly a third of India’s administrative districts, stretching from the northern border with Nepal south to Andhra Pradesh.
The offensive, dubbed Operation Green Hunt, has brought a bloody campaign of terror. One report described how:
“Early one morning last October police forces surrounded the residents of Gompad, a remote village in the state of Chhattisgarh in eastern India, and attacked. Sixteen people were killed, including an older couple and their 25-year-old daughter, who was stabbed in the head with a knife and had her breasts sliced off. Her 2-year-old son survived, but three of his fingers were chopped off.... The cops suspected the villagers of sympathizing with Maoist insurgents, believing that some were informants.”
— Megha Bahree, “India’s Dirty War”, forbes.com, 10 May
For all the hype about India becoming an economic superpower, the intense poverty suffered by most of the population has been made worse by the neoliberal reforms instituted by the country’s rulers starting in 1991. While a small layer of capitalists has accrued immense profits, the working class and urban and rural poor have been hit by savage cuts to public spending and the dismantling of price supports for agricultural products. Land dispossession and debt peonage led to at least 183,000 peasant suicides from 1997 to 2007 — one every 30 minutes. Tens of millions of displaced peasants have migrated to the cities where most live in fetid slums. Poverty is so entrenched that more than 40 per cent of India’s children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition.
The Maoists’ base of support is among the roughly 80 million adivasi (tribal) people, the poorest and most dispossessed population in all of India. Tribal villages in the forests and jungles have almost no schools or hospitals, or access to modern sanitation. The literacy rate is less than 25 per cent, and only 14 per cent for women, while malnutrition is rampant. The CPI (Maoist) has a record of defending the adivasi population against rapacious landlords and brutal police incursions. On 6 April, they successfully ambushed a heavily armed patrol, killing 76 paramilitary cops.
Five years ago, the state government in Chhattisgarh set up a vigilante outfit called the Salwa Judum (“peace hunt”) to forcibly depopulate hundreds of tribal villages, claiming this was for economic development. Salwa Judum mobs financed by the Tata and Essar industrial conglomerates, who seek to grab huge swaths of the area’s land and resources, burned down homes and interned tens of thousands in squalid detention camps. Such actions only produced deeper revulsion towards the authorities and increased support for the Maoists. Now the Indian rulers are expanding their attacks into an all-out war. Their goal is to bring the tribal districts back under central control, which would allow for the forcible seizure of land and the handing over of vast mineral riches to Indian and international corporations.
This area has immense untapped resources including rich reserves of iron ore, coal and limestone as well as bauxite deposits worth an estimated $4 trillion — more than three times India’s entire annual gross domestic product. As prominent Indian author Arundhati Roy commented in an insightful article in Outlook India (9 November 2009):
“Right now in central India, the Maoists’ guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa....
“If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have — their land. Clearly, they do not believe the government when it says it only wants to ‘develop’ their region. Clearly, they do not believe that the roads as wide and flat as aircraft runways that are being built through their forests in Dantewada by the National Mineral Development Corporation are being built for them to walk their children to school on. They believe that if they do not fight for their land, they will be annihilated.”
Soon after its re-election in May 2009, the UPA government banned the CPI (Maoist) under draconian “anti-terrorist” laws. Others have been targeted merely for speaking out against state repression. Arundhati Roy herself has been investigated for prosecution under the Special Public Security Act following another Outlook India article reporting on her visit to a Maoist-controlled area. Meanwhile left-wing activists are gunned down by police in extrajudicial “encounter killings”. Protest the state witch hunt! Down with Operation Green Hunt!
Permanent revolution v Stalinist class collaboration
The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) denounces the Indian government’s war against the CPI (Maoist) and adivasi villagers, which is being waged at the behest of the venal Indian bourgeoisie and the international mining magnates. The working class in India and internationally must take up the defence of the Maoists and tribal peoples against the bloody state offensive.
But the political strategy of the CPI (Maoist) provides no way forward for India’s oppressed masses. Like all the many variants of Indian Stalinism, the Maoists seek an alliance with a mythical “progressive” wing of the capitalist class in the “first stage” of a “two-stage” revolution. Party general secretary Ganapathy made this explicit in an interview:
“We have a clear-cut understanding to unify all revolutionary, democratic, progressive, patriotic forces and all oppressed social communities including oppressed nationalities against imperialism, feudalism and comprador bureaucratic capitalism. Our New Democratic United Front (UF) consists of four democratic classes, i.e. workers, peasants, urban petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie.”
— Sanhati, January 2010
The strategy of allying with a wing of the bourgeois exploiters — whether dubbed “national”, “patriotic” or “progressive” — has produced defeat after defeat for the workers and oppressed, in India and around the world. All wings of the Indian capitalist class are tied by a thousand threads to the imperialist powers of Europe, North America and Japan; none are in any sense potential allies of the working class and oppressed. In The State and Revolution and many other works, VI Lenin, leader of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, savaged the idea that the class interests of the bourgeoisie and proletariat are anything other than irreconcilable.
The Russian workers were able to take power in 1917 thanks to the Bolsheviks’ intransigent struggle for class independence from the capitalists. The result was a workers state, a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry. Key to cementing the workers’ alliance with the peasants was the Bolsheviks’ support for peasant seizures of the landed estates and the division of the land among those who worked it. The Bolsheviks also won widespread support among the peasantry through their revolutionary opposition to the first interimperialist war, in which countless hundreds of thousands were killed among the working-class and peasant base of the army.
The perspective of permanent revolution, first developed by Leon Trotsky during the 1905 Russian Revolution and vindicated by the October 1917 proletarian seizure of power, outlines most clearly the road to liberation for the Indian masses. Like tsarist Russia, present-day India is marked by combined and uneven development, with stark contrasts of wealth and poverty, modern industries directly abutting unspeakable squalor. Myriad forms of special oppression — based on sex, caste, nationality, religion — are among the heritages of a pre-industrial past that were reinforced and deepened by nearly two centuries of brutal British colonial rule. This culminated with the British partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, which unleashed communalist slaughter and the forced migration of millions of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. Since independence, and mainly under the rule of the nominally secular Congress Party, the Indian bourgeoisie has continued to fan the flames of every kind of murderous division.
National and social liberation for the masses cannot be carried out by, or in alliance with, India’s capitalist exploiters. What is required is the smashing of capitalist class rule and the creation of a workers and peasants government. The Indian proletariat is the only social force that can lead such a struggle. Due to its central role in production — where its collective labour in the factories, mines, transport systems and other industries is exploited by the capitalists for profit — the working class has vast potential power.
The essential instrument for victory is an internationalist Leninist vanguard party of the working class. Rejecting the centrality of the working class, the CPI (Maoist) bases itself on the rural peasantry. But the peasant masses, highly stratified and dispersed in small villages all over India, are incapable of cohering an independent social policy. There are only two decisive classes in capitalist society: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The peasants are part of a heterogeneous intermediate layer, the petty bourgeoisie. Their immediate felt interests are centrally proprietary, for the defence or acquisition of land. Thus peasant parties are at bottom pro-bourgeois or bourgeois, even though sections of some of such parties may be won to the side of the revolutionary proletariat.
Especially in countries like India where the working class is numerically smaller than the peasantry, the question of agrarian revolution is a key component of the programme for proletarian state power. The working class must win the support of the masses of poor and/or landless peasants, including through demands for expropriation of the landlords and land to the tiller, while seeking as much as possible to neutralise the middle and upper strata of the peasantry.
Freedom from the imperialist yoke, the destruction of all forms of oppression, economic development in the interests of the vast majority — these urgent tasks require proletarian revolution and its extension to the advanced capitalist countries of North America, Western Europe and Japan. A socialist revolution in India would reverberate throughout South Asia and the world over, finding powerful allies in the proletariat of the imperialist centres as well as that of the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state. A crucial task of an Indian workers state supported by the peasantry would be to generate the material basis to end poverty and hunger, including through the collectivisation and modernisation of agriculture. Success in this endeavour hinges on the resources that would be made available by socialist revolution in the imperialist heartlands.
A revolutionary workers party in India would champion the cause of all the downtrodden, including the rural and urban poor, oppressed castes and tribal peoples. It would intransigently fight for the liberation of India’s hideously oppressed women and defend persecuted national and religious minorities, notably Muslims targeted by Hindu chauvinism. Such a party can only be forged through political struggle against the class-collaborationist programmes of the various Stalinist organisations. The political outlook of the petty-bourgeois CPI (Maoist) — a species of “reformism with guns” — provides no alternative to the overt parliamentary reformism of the longstanding mass Stalinist parties, the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Indian Stalinism’s history of betrayal
The CPI (Maoist) is the largest of India’s remaining Naxalite organisations, named for the Naxalbari district of West Bengal, the site of a major peasant revolt in 1967. Formed largely through splits from the CPI (Marxist) — which itself issued from the unitary CPI a few years earlier — the Naxalite movement attracted thousands of educated urban youth misled by the “revolutionary” rhetoric of Mao’s China during the late 1960s. In opposing the crass parliamentarism of the CPI and CPI (Marxist), these youth abandoned the cities for the countryside and upheld a perspective of peasant-based “people’s war”.
The initial peasant uprisings were largely defeated by the early 1970s and China later renounced the Naxalites. The Indian Maoists soon fractured into dozens of competing outfits, some of which ended up centring their activities in urban slum districts rather than the countryside. Today the urban-based Maoist groups are in considerable decline and disarray. The largest remaining rural-based groups united in 2004 to form the CPI (Maoist), setting the stage for the present expanded insurgency.
Indian Stalinism has a long and sordid history of class collaboration. As early as 1926, under the guidance of the Indian pseudo-Marxist adventurer MN Roy (then a close ally of Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin in the leadership of the Communist International), the CPI began building a cross-class “Peasants’ and Workers’ Party” in Bengal. This party in turn operated as a pressure group on the bourgeois Indian National Congress of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Roy urged the CPI to go even further and create “a loyal nationalist party with a radical republican programme (Peoples’ Party)” (cited in History of the Communist Movement in India, Volume 1, Communist Party of India [Marxist], 2005).
From the mid 1930s on, the CPI time and again gave political support to the bourgeois-nationalist Congress. For a period during World War II, they even renounced the struggle for Indian independence in favour of an alliance with the “democratic” British imperialist oppressors. (For more detail, see “The ‘Quit India’ Movement 50 Years On — Stalinist Alliance with Churchill Betrayed Indian Revolution”, Workers Hammer nos 131 and 132, September/October and November/December 1992.)
Today the CPI and CPI (Marxist) act as overt supporters of Indian capitalism. Since 1977, these Stalinists have controlled the state government in West Bengal, wielding its repressive powers in defence of private property and profit against the poor and oppressed. In recent years, the “Left Front” regime headed by the CPI (Marxist) has repeatedly seized land from the peasants at the behest of Indian and international capitalist corporations, provoking widespread popular resistance.
In December 2006 the West Bengal government expropriated land in the Singur district on behalf of Tata Motors, one of India’s largest capitalist conglomerates. Those who resisted were severely beaten and arrested while a young woman activist was brutally raped and murdered. The following March, thousands of police and armed CPI (Marxist) cadre assaulted peasants resisting a forced expropriation in Nandigram. At least 14 were killed and over 200 injured. (See “India: The Nandigram Massacre”, Spartacist Canada no 159, Winter 2008/2009, reprinted in Workers Hammer no 205, Winter 2008-2009.)
More recently, the West Bengal regime has mobilised police to attack adivasi villagers protesting expropriations in Lalgarh on behalf of the Jindal Steel and Power conglomerate. And today the CPI and CPI (Marxist) support the central UPA government’s bloody offensive against the Maoists. Such is the political logic of the programme of “revolution by stages”: the masses remain brutally oppressed by capitalism, and the second, supposedly socialist, stage never comes.
From the beginning, the Naxalite forces have upheld a variant of the same Stalinist class collaborationism. Calling for a “People’s Democratic Revolution”, founding leader Charu Mazumdar wrote in 1970 that “the majority of the business community will come with us. They are a large part of the national bourgeoisie” (quoted in Sumanta Banerjee, India’s Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising, 1980).
While talking of “worker-peasant unity”, in retreating to the countryside the Naxalites turned away from the working class and transformed themselves into a petty-bourgeois, peasant-based movement both in composition and political outlook. Their model is the “people’s war” waged by Mao’s Chinese Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s. Mao’s retreat from the cities to the countryside followed the defeat of the 1925-27 Chinese Revolution, during which Stalin and his henchmen — prominently including MN Roy — ordered the Chinese Communists to subordinate the workers to the bourgeois-nationalist Guomindang. The result was a bloodbath of tens of thousands of Communist-led workers in Shanghai and other cities.
In polemicising against the peasant-based perspective of the Chinese Stalinists in the 1930s and upholding the independent class mobilisation of the urban proletariat, Leon Trotsky wrote:
“The peasant movement is a mighty revolutionary factor insofar as it is directed against the large landowners, militarists, feudalists, and usurers. But in the peasant movement itself are very powerful proprietary and reactionary tendencies, and at a certain stage it can become hostile to the workers and sustain that hostility already equipped with arms. He who forgets about the dual nature of the peasantry is not a Marxist. The advanced workers must be taught to distinguish from among ‘communist’ labels and banners the actual social processes.”
— “Peasant War in China and the Proletariat” (September 1932)
It was only under the highly exceptional circumstances of the immediate post-WWII period that Mao’s peasant-based People’s Liberation Army was able to take the cities and smash capitalist class rule in 1949. These included the collapse of the corrupt Guomindang forces, the absence of the working class as an immediate contender for power and, crucially, the existence of the Soviet Union, a bureaucratically degenerated workers state, as an economic and military lifeline. From the outset Maoist China was not a “New Democracy” based on a “bloc of four classes” — the standard parlance of the Stalinists — but a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But the Chinese workers state was bureaucratically deformed from its inception, ruled by a nationalist bureaucracy hostile to the independent struggles of the working class and the necessary perspective of international socialist revolution. This was shown clearly in China’s counterrevolutionary alliance with US imperialism against the Soviet Union during the 1970s and ’80s.
Despite the bureaucratic rule of Mao and his successors, the Chinese Revolution was a beacon for millions of oppressed toilers in Asia. China’s collectivised economy has brought immense gains for workers, peasants and women, not least an end to centuries of chronic starvation in the countryside. This stands in stark contrast to developments in capitalist India. Today, US imperialism sees India as a strategic ally in its drive to overturn the gains of the Chinese Revolution. The ICL stands for the unconditional military defence of China against imperialism and counterrevolution. At the same time, we call for a proletarian political revolution to oust the nationalist, Stalinist ruling caste in Beijing and create a regime based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.
The revolutionary potential of the Indian working class
As we wrote in the 1998 ICL “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program”:
“The partial character of the anti-capitalist revolutions in the colonial world leads us to reaffirm the Marxist-Leninist concept of the proletariat as the only social force capable of making the socialist revolution. The ICL fundamentally opposes the Maoist doctrine, rooted in Menshevism and Stalinist reformism, which rejects the vanguard role of the working class and substitutes peasant-based guerrilla warfare as the road to socialism.”
— Spartacist (English-language edition) no 54, Spring 1998
The Naxalite movement misdirected a generation of leftist Indian youth, who abandoned the struggles of the urban working class in favour of the chimera of rural guerrillaism. The bankruptcy of this perspective is even more evident today with the substantial growth of the Indian proletariat.
While over two-thirds of the population still lives in rural areas and slightly over half the workforce is engaged in agriculture, both the urban population and manufacturing output have grown rapidly over recent decades. Some 14 per cent of the overall workforce toils in industries ranging from textiles, chemicals and food processing to steel, transportation equipment, machinery production and more. There are thousands of large factories and major industrial concentrations throughout the country.
Despite the misleadership of the CPI and the CPI (Marxist), as well as the influence of the bourgeois Congress Party and various regional and caste-based parties, the Indian working class has repeatedly demonstrated its social power. An article titled “Deadly Labor Wars Hinder India’s Rise” in the Wall Street Journal (24 November 2009) described how recent strikes and occupations have been “fueled by the discontent of workers, many of whom say they haven’t partaken of the past decade’s prosperity”. Last year alone, major strikes hit companies from the domestic automaker Mahindra & Mahindra to plants owned by Finland’s Nokia, South Korea’s Hyundai and the Nestlé food conglomerate.
In September 2009, a six-week strike by over 2000 workers at an Indian-owned auto supplier in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt near Delhi left the US auto giant Ford without transmission parts, leading to production shutdowns at plants in Canada and the US. More than 100,000 workers at upwards of 70 plants in the Gurgaon-Manesar area joined a one-day walkout to protest the murder of a striker by company thugs. The direct impact of the strike on Ford’s North American operations underlines the need for active solidarity by US and Canadian workers with their class brothers and sisters in India.
In the first few months of this year, hundreds of thousands of telecommunications workers and coal miners struck against privatisation and job cuts, while unions staged a countrywide one-day general strike on 27 April against soaring price rises for essential goods. An even larger general strike on 5 July, organised by a tacit alliance of the Stalinist Left Front parties and the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was called to protest rising fuel prices.
The Maoists at best confine the restive urban working class to the role of passive spectator of their rural “people’s war”, leaving the workers in the clutches of the overtly pro-capitalist Left Front parties and bourgeois forces like Congress and the BJP. Meanwhile, the CPI (Maoist) has extended the Naxalite policy of “annihilation of class enemies” — the executions of individual landlords and state agents — to the kidnapping and killing of cadres of rival Stalinist parties, including union leaders, whom they label “social fascists”. Such murderous violence against other left and working-class parties, so typical of Stalinism, is repugnant and must be condemned.
The Maoists also regularly seek alliances with one or another openly capitalist party. During the protests against the Singur and Nandigram atrocities, they made a scarcely concealed alliance with the right-wing Trinamool (Grassroots) Congress of Mamata Banerjee, the main parliamentary rival of the Left Front in West Bengal. Having joined the UPA government in New Delhi, Banerjee & Co have now endorsed the armed offensive against the Maoists.
Mass plebeian revolt in Nepal
The logic of Maoist class collaboration has played out clearly just to the north in the Himalayan country of Nepal. Over the past two decades, Nepal has been wracked by a deepgoing revolt centred on the oppressed peasantry and again led by Maoist forces. A major impetus for this struggle was opposition to the monarchy. By 2006, Maoist forces, which significantly include a large number of women, controlled up to 80 per cent of the countryside, where they enacted significant social reforms including legal equality for women, incursions into the caste system, the establishment of schools and road construction. Following a period of mass demonstrations including a prolonged general strike in 2006, they were able to entrench themselves in the capital, Kathmandu.
The Maoists then entered a bourgeois coalition government, and in 2008 emerged as the largest party in parliamentary elections that led to the end of the monarchy. After leaving the government a year later following a stand-off over the dismissal of the army chief, this May the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) — UCPN (Maoist) — launched an “indefinite general strike” for a new “national unity government”. The strike was soon abandoned, and the Maoists then signed a deal to continue negotiations towards a new government, while a rival Stalinist-derived outfit, the Unified Marxist-Leninists, remained in the interim regime. Maoist guerrillas are confined to camps, nominally under United Nations control, while their leaders seek their integration into the bourgeois armed forces.
The organisation now known as the UCPN (Maoist) has always had close links to India’s Naxalites and upholds a similar dogma of “revolution by stages”. Its 2001 “Common Minimum Policy and Programme” demanded a “people’s democratic dictatorship with the participation of all the progressive classes including the national bourgeoisie”. While running the government in 2008-09, the Maoists explicitly upheld capitalism and supported legislation to ban strikes. Reporting that “the government is planning to restrict bandhs [street protests] and strikes in industries and essential commodities”, the Himalayan Times online (10 April 2009) quoted Maoist finance minister Baburam Bhattarai: “We are in a new political set-up and it demands a new outlook in business and industries also.”
Unlike India, Nepal has very little in the way of an industrial proletariat. Three quarters of the workforce is involved in agriculture and 90 per cent of the urban labour force works in the “informal” sector, largely small family workshops. While trade unions organised by various parties claim hundreds of thousands of members, what industrial activity there is mainly involves the processing of agricultural products like pulses (eg lentils), jute, sugar cane, tobacco and grain. The garment industry, largely based on primitive handicraft technology, once employed as many as 300,000 workers but has now almost entirely collapsed. About three million Nepalese — over ten per cent of the population — have moved abroad to seek work, including important concentrations in India and elsewhere in Asia.
The oppressed masses of Nepal need a Marxist-internationalist perspective that links the struggle for social modernisation and liberation to the class struggles of the proletariat in more advanced countries beyond the country’s borders. A workers revolution in neighbouring India would have a massive immediate effect on Nepal, posing a struggle for a socialist federation of the subcontinent. Conversely, a huge plebeian upheaval in Nepal drawing in its small working class could help to spark a proletarian upsurge in India.
Sharply opposing such a perspective, the petty-bourgeois UCPN (Maoist) pushes retrograde Nepalese nationalism, including against so-called “cultural pollution” from India. The Maoists’ “40 Point Demands”, issued in 1996 on the eve of their armed insurgency, includes calls for the Nepal-India border to be “controlled and systematised”, for cars with Indian licence plates to be banned, and for the suppression of Hindi-language films, videos, magazines and newspapers. In a series of recent pronouncements, the Indian Maoists have criticised their erstwhile comrades in Nepal for their “dangerous reformist positions”. But the Nepalese Maoists are only carrying out the logic of Mao-Stalinist nationalism and class collaboration.
Forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party!
India’s vaunted development over the past two decades has benefited only a small section of the population: the filthy rich bourgeoisie and a pettybourgeois technocratic/managerial stratum in the cities. The working class faces horrific working and living conditions and poverty-level wages, while squalid slums expand everywhere as displaced peasants descend on the cities to seek work. Caste, religion, language and other divides are fostered by the rulers to maintain their oppressive hold.
The situation cries out for the kind of perspective fought for by Lenin and Trotsky in the 1917 October Revolution: the workers seizing power at the head of the oppressed masses, agrarian revolution to liberate the peasantry, the socialisation and rational reorganisation of the economy in the interests of human needs not profit, and the fight to extend socialist revolution internationally, especially to the imperialist heartlands. In India, such a perspective alone can lay the basis for planned economic development that benefits, rather than destroys the lives of, impoverished populations like the adivasis.
Social liberation in South Asia will not come through isolated struggles in the forests and jungles, but requires the mobilisation of the urban proletariat under revolutionary leadership. In the fight to forge such a leadership, crucial lessons can be drawn from the work of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI), Indian section of the Trotskyist Fourth International, during World War II. While the Stalinists backed British imperialism and opposed the struggle for Indian independence, and later returned to subordinating the workers to the bourgeois Congress, the BLPI fought heroically for a Marxist proletarian perspective.
This proud history was later squandered, starting with the dissolution of the BLPI in 1948 to pursue a liquidationist entry into the thoroughly reformist Socialist Party of JP Narayan. Over the following years, the remnants of the once powerful Indian Trotskyist cadre were assimilated into social democracy. Thus when a new wave of youthful radicalism appeared in India in the late 1960s it was led into the dead end of Naxalite Maoism. The small ostensibly Trotskyist groups that operated from the 1970s on, generally associated with the revisionist “United Secretariat” (USec) of the late Ernest Mandel, continued to push abject accommodation to nonrevolutionary forces. By the mid 2000s, the Indian USec section collapsed and disappeared.
The ICL fights to reforge the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution. Militants in India seeking the road to revolutionary Marxism must examine the programme of Trotskyism and the record of the early BLPI, which uniquely chart a path to the Indian workers revolution and a socialist federation of South Asia. As the BLPI wrote in its founding programme, issued in 1942:
“The peasantry, the largest numerically and the most atomized, backward and oppressed class, is capable of local uprisings and partisan warfare, but requires the leadership of a more advanced class for this struggle to be elevated to an all-national level. Without such leadership the peasantry alone cannot make a revolution. The task of such leadership falls in the nature of things on the Indian proletariat, which is the only class capable of leading the toiling masses in the onslaught against Imperialism, landlordism and the Native Princes....
“But the leadership of the working class in the bourgeois-democratic revolution poses before the working class the prospect of seizing the power and in addition to accomplishing the long overdue bourgeois-democratic tasks of proceeding with its own socialist tasks. And thus the bourgeois-democratic revolution develops uninterruptedly into the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only state-form capable of supplanting the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie in India....
“The ultimate fate of the revolution in India, as in Russia, will be determined in the arena of the international revolution. Nor will India by its own forces be able to accomplish the task of making the transition to Socialism. Not only the backwardness of the country, but also the international division of labor and the interdependence produced by capitalism itself — of the different parts of the world economy, demand that this task of the establishment of Socialism can be accomplished only on a world scale. The Indian proletariat will, of course, proceed with the socialist transformation of society to the extent that this is possible in the concrete circumstances, but the establishment of the socialist society will depend on the course of international revolution. The victorious revolution in India, however, dealing a mortal blow to the oldest and most widespread Imperialism in the world, will, on the one hand, produce the most profound crisis in the entire capitalist world and shake World Capitalism to its foundations. On the other hand, it will inspire and galvanize into action millions of proletarians and colonial slaves the world over and blaze the trail of World Revolution.”