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In Struggle, Education of the Educator
Bernard D’Mello

Welcoming C P Bhambri’s call to debate (10 August 2013) the propositions in the article “‘The Near and the Far’: Why Is India’s Liberal-Political Democracy Rotten?” (1 June 2013), the author of this article argues that expecting a peaceful mass movement aimed at carrying out a “revolution” is only daydreaming. A mass movement that has revolution as its ultimate goal will, almost inevitably, necessarily assume a violent form in the face of state repression. But cruelty and brutality must never be a part of the means of revolution. We educators need to be educated, and our best education can take place only in struggle, for correct knowledge is also a struggle, and can be a deep one at that.


he process of democratisation is based upon radical criticism of existing society; criticism is its indispensible element. Its activists should therefore never avoid criticism or forbid controversies. All shades of opinion within this movement towards democracy should make themselves fully felt. I therefore welcome C P Bhambri’s (henceforth, CPB) call that the debate should continue. In response to my essay, “‘The Near and the Far’: Why Is India’s LiberalPolitical Democracy Rotten?” (1 June 2013), CPB asserts that “the Indian vanguard parties”, hopelessly divided at present, need to form a “united front of the oppressed” (“United Front of the Oppressed”, 10 August 2013, pp 132-33) to advance the process of democratisation (in his words, “revolution”). Misrepresentations

‘caste-ridden Brahmanical-Hindu communal’” (p 133). I have very clearly stated that the “Indian state is essentially a caste-ridden, brahmanical-Hindu communal, underdeveloped capitalist one” (p 44). Underdeveloped capitalist is at the core of my characterisation of the Indian state. But CPB is obsessed with Indian “social structure”, whatever that means, for different Indian sociologists seem to attach different conceptual meanings to “social structure”, and he then goes on to claim that I do not relate this social structure “with the history of India” nor do I focus “attention on its impact on the struggles of the working classes” (CPB: 133). Actually I do not use the ambiguous term, “social structure”, but I do, in some detail in the one-hour lecture whose text is my essay under discussion, provide a historical perspective on communalism and caste, as regards the latter, drawing on the work of eminent sociologists like Ramkrishna Mukherjee and I P Desai. Armed Political Struggles I, for one, am a perpetual student, ever trying to tap the existing pool of knowledge, not only in the classroom and the library, but also in the field. For instance, after many years of study and visits to areas where India’s Maoist/Naxalite movement is active, my first such visit in the mid-1980s to Jehanabad (then a subdivision of Gaya) and Gaya in Bihar, I have found that Maoism is a carefully thought-out system of ideas and practice (D’Mello 2010: 21-54). Indeed, Maoism defends the oppressed, and so I do not think I can dismiss it so lightly the way CPB does. I think one must acquaint oneself thoroughly with it before one finds reasons to dismiss it. Of course, we must write “without fear, favour, prejudice or malice”, as some of my best teachers used to remind me. But CPB arrogantly declares:
Armed political struggle in India, whether led by the Maoists or by other organisations in the border states in the North-East or J&K, have not at all (my emphasis) succeeded in creating a social awakening (p 132).

Bernard D’Mello ( is a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.

He claims that “D’Mello blames (my emphasis) the rulers for following the policy of social ‘divide to rule’, while the issue is that fragmented communists cannot organise a revolution of any kind” (p 133). I would be the last activist to blame the ruling classes for this or any other “policy”. For me, it is useless to expect the ruling classes to act against their own interests. If I or any other Marxist were to blame the ruling classes for the “divide to rule policy”, this would suggest that we are under the illusion that the rulers had an obligation not to abuse their position in dividing to rule over the oppressed. It would then seem that I am generally against the violation of the obligations that the ruling classes have presumably undertaken (not to do this or that) and not against the social system as such. What a misrepresentation of my political position! Further, CPB says that I have a “misplaced characterisation” of the “Indian class-state essentially as
DECember 28, 2013

Really? Leave aside the Maoists for a moment, pray how then did the Naga
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Here is a whole set of aspirations. the positive social outcomes of the violence of the oppressed (pp 41-42). although they faltered in their methods because of a lack of relevant experience. both the parties committed themselves to the path of parliamentarianism. Che. have. the more recently martyred revolutionaries. The Indian MLs and Maoists have spread the ideas and practice of Maoism from its birthplace in Hunan in 1927 to various places in India. this in spite of the fact that the main component of the Indian state’s strategy was to militarily crush them? Need of Real Understanding After many years of study and observation in the field. My observations over time seem to suggest to me that the strategy and tactics of the Indian Maoists have been/are being continually tested in practice. of course. I have found that Maoist and ML practice has enriched the socialist heritage of the oppressed. after running down India’s Maoists. He. I think. the historical trajectory of communist politics must be reckoned with too. CPB claims. gravely erred in their handling of factions. I completely ignored. preaches that “revolutions do not succeed without mass mobilisation of the conscious underclasses”.. by and large. history does matter. the emphasis the latter gives to what happens when people become conscious of the direction of history. In the latter half of the 1940s. In the course of my studies of the contemporary ML and Maoist movements. the liberation of their energies as a result. was certain that the struggle was worth his life. If I were to paraphrase the 19th century Cuban poet Jose Marti. later on. that falls outside the narrow limits of what may be called “acceptable politics”. “Walking with the Comrades”? Imagine trying to pontificate to a Maoist about the importance of mass consciousness! Has CPB empathised with anything he has read from the writings of Mao. generally. engaged in a political and ethical project. I would be dishonest if I were to overlook the extremely important contributions of India’s Marxist-Leninists (MLs) and Maoists.DISCUSSION rebels manage to overwhelmingly win the 1951 referendum (plebiscite) among the Naga tribes for a “sovereign Nagaland” and. And. But CPB seems to have concluded that the Indian Maoists are tragic failures. all of which are (have been) antithetical to any meaningful unity of the exploited and the oppressed. the revolutionary component. 2013 . In practice. more generally. in certain contexts. and Azad and Kishenji. and which is used so often by parties calling themselves “communist”. one needs to have empathy in order to be objective. In my essay on India’s rotten liberal-political democracy. apart from the P C “Joshi line” (which was to metamorphose into the “Ajoy Ghosh line” and then into the S A “Dange line”). and. then I would say that they were human beings who felt “a sting when another human being . Through what internal-democratic process did the “rightist faction” gain the upper hand and the CPI’s policy drift towards parliamentarianism? (Frankly. for as Che Guevara said in his farewell letter to Fidel Castro. communist parties. following the 1921 banning of factions within the (All-) Russian Communist Party. The Indian people need dignity even more than they need roti. has been much. and of course. I am presently trying to understand Maoism in neo-liberal India. the “Andhra Secretariat’s line”. Apart from the institution of caste. the supercilious gaze will not lead to any real understanding. in the Communist Party of India (CPI). maintain a liberated zone for years. when the formal party split came in 1964. ethnicity and nationality played by the ruling class parties. an appropriate ground rule for democratic functioning. CPB. Reconciling reform with revolution is not an easy task that we can glibly talk about. and on this basis. Did he even bother to read Arundhati Roy’s celebrated essay. I would not even say this of the Diggers and Gerard Winstanley. if CPB’s “united front of the oppressed” is to come into being.) Again. much less acted upon. I highlight. Outside ‘Acceptable Politics’ The Maoists have been recognising that the most difficult problem of a revolutionary movement is how to reconcile the needs of the oppressed for immediate improvements with the necessity of overthrowing the whole system in order to do away with the oppression of the oppressed. So now. the divisive cards of religion. I believe “no investigation. I find that the Maoist leaders are products of the people. And. headed by the party. improved upon in the light of experience. [was] slapped in the face”. the CPI and the CPI(M) will have to shift the centre of gravity of their politics away from parliamentarianism. “one lives or dies in a revolution (if it is a real one)”. but the word “revolution”. which CPB uses. But. especially when this is of a mass and revolutionary character. I am sure that all those of us who wish for the liberation of vol xlvIiI no 52 the oppressed would second that. there was the B T “Ranadive line”. which was first sought to be practised in the then unfolding Telangana armed struggle.. advocating the road of Maoist protracted people’s war. including the subsequent land reforms in the aftermath of the Telangana and Tebhaga movements of the 1940s that. Regarding the All-India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) and the original Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) 135 DECember 28. and the CPI wanted to carry out a “national democratic revolution”. the “tactical lines” of the two parties were almost similar. If you are wedded to those aspirations then you cannot hope to be safe. when one examines the possibility. for which they fought and died. and the fact that these energies can be enormously powerful? ‘Indian Vanguard Parties’ CPB expresses the need for “the Indian vanguard parties” to form a “united front of the oppressed”. We do not have the space over here to throw light on the latter. importantly. which the Maoists too did when they started off. and my observations and studies seem to suggest to me that correct revolutionary theory will emerge in the process and in close connection Economic & Political Weekly EPW with practical political activity. no right to speak” is. though the goal of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) – was “people’s democracy” based on an alliance of anti-feudal and antiimperialist forces.

Authors include Deepak Nayyar • Rakesh Mohan • Atul Kohli • Arvind Panagariya • Kunal Sen • Neeraj Hatekar • Jessica Seddon Wallack • Pulapre Balakrishnan • Ravindra Dholakia • Ramesh Chand • R Nagaraj • Montek Ahluwalia • Shashank Bhide • Amit Bhaduri • Pranab Bardhan Readings on the Economy. its relationship to changes in the policy regime and the role of the external sector. ed. to the overthrow of capitalist society and the state institutions which it has brought into being”.com Mumbai • Chennai • New Delhi • Kolkata • Bangalore • Bhubaneshwar • Ernakulam • Guwahati • Jaipur • Lucknow • Patna • Chandigarh • Hyderabad Contact: info@orientblackswan. Rohan D’Souza Village 136 DECember 28. Talking about a “revolution” is one thing. Economic Reforms and Growth in India Essays from the Economic and Political Weekly Edited by PULAPRE BALAKRISHNAN This volume investigates the nature of economic growth in India. had taken Lenin’s 1920 pamphlet Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder and Mao’s 1957 speech “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” to heart and mind. and can be a deep one at that. The articles reflect a certain groundedness in their approach in that they privilege content/context over methodology. there has been a lot of learning-by-doing over the years. on the one side. those who “contribute in one way or another. there is an urgent need for the CPI (Maoist) to undertake a dispassionate review of its achievements and failures. and the best education of the educator can take place only in struggle. ed. Nevertheless. alongside the CPI (Maoist). all of them in a “united front of the oppressed”. took the CPI(ML) (Party Unity) into its fold. if CPB is expecting a peaceful mass movement aimed at carrying out a “revolution”. CPB seems to assume that the ruling classes and their political representatives directing the repressive apparatus of the state will give a revolutionary party the opportunity to organise! Naivety in the extreme! However. And. the two that matter the most in India are the CPI(ML) (Liberation) and the CPI(ML) (New Democracy). I wish Charu Mazumdar (CM) and his close comrades. Polity and Society This series is being published as part of a University Grants Commission project to promote teaching and research in the social sciences in India. this collection comprises papers published in the Economic and Political Weekly between the late 1990s and 2008 that are marked by an empirical awareness necessary for an understanding of a growth history. Satish Deshpande Orient Blackswan Pvt Ltd www. Surinder S Jodhka.orientblackswan. The readers draw on the EPW’s archive of published articles. Also published: Environment. ed. Padmini Swaminathan Higher Education. Forthcoming titles: Caste and Society. The Adivasi Question. especially in the CPI-ML (People’s War). do not be so sure that the truth unites. as far as the ML parties go. Mumbai. strengths and limitations. for correct knowledge is also a struggle. But how do we measure up as revolutionary intellectuals. Bernard (2010): “What Is Maoism?” in (ed. ed. Technology and Development: Critical and Subversive Essays ed. nationally and internationally. Indra Munshi. and uses data to evaluate the policies that have implicitly underpinned the changes. adapt and modify its strategy and tactics in the light of the vastly changed balance of class forces. as Engels put it about Marx in his speech at Marx’s graveside on 17 March 1883? This is what struck me on a rainy afternoon in July 2011 when I visited Marx’s grave in the Highgate Cemetery in north London along with my friend Alpa Shah. What Is Maoism and Other Essays by D’Mello (Kharagpur: Cornerstone Publications). And. Reference D’Mello. Presenting a range of approaches. I am convinced that we educators need to be educated. and their “opponents” within and without the AICCCR and the CPI-ML. almost inevitably. A mass movement that has revolution as its ultimate goal will.). the tactical lines of all these parties are so far apart that the possibility is dim. of course. have dealt with each other the way they did? But of course. on the opposite side. with the CPI and the CPI(M). Jandhyala B G Tilak. The project (2010-12) is being jointly executed by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. and even some of the veterans of the Telangana armed struggle. necessarily assume a violent form in the face of state repression. views and conclusions. on the one side. Decentralisation and Local Government. and then merged with the Maoist Communist Centre of India to form the CPI (Maoist). and on that basis. ed. on the opposite side. it divides too. Here. which.DISCUSSION (CPI-ML). and that too. The series is meant to introduce university students and research scholars to important research that has been published in EPW in specific areas. 2013 vol xlvIiI no 52 EPW Economic & Political Weekly . then he must surely be daydreaming. and then. It will be useful to students and 2011 scholars of economics and management. later on. Gender and Employment. Naivety in the Extreme Today. and the Economic and Political Weekly. Pp xiv + 454 Rs 445 ISBN 978-81-250-4271-6 This volume is an important addition to the literature on post-liberalisation economic growth in India. But as far as the prospects of their coming together. its pace over time. cruelty and brutality must never be allowed to get to be a part of the violence of the oppressed in the course of the revolution. T R Raghunandan. How could CM and his followers. ed.