Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2010 > Maoism: A Variety of Anarchism

Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 45, October 30, 2010

Maoism: A Variety of Anarchism

Saturday 30 October 2010, by Anil Rajimwale

Maoism and Naxalism are nothing but a modern variety of anarchism, which was demolished long ago by Marx, Engels and Lenin. Anybody familiar with their criticism of theories and practice of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Lassalle, Proudhon, Narodniks and other anarchists will in no way be impressed with Maoism in India today.

Marx’s Fights against Anarchist Ultra-revolutionism

IT was in the 19th century that anarchism merged as a petty-bourgeois ultra-‘revolutionary’ trend in the working class movement to oppose the scientific socialism worked out by Marx and Engels. In Marx, socialism was making a transition from the utopian to the scientific. It is not that Marx and Engels were any less concerned with the plight of the poor, illiterates, downtrodden and the exploited. But they never made a pseudo-sentimental display of their sympathies with the poor and nor exhibited themselves as their champions. The response of Marx and Engels to their plight was a balanced, dispassionate and scientific study of philosophy, political economy, politics, and of the industrial age. That is why they were real revolutionaries. They firmly opposed the sensationalism of self-imposed secrecy, use of arms, hollow heroism and invitation to repressions.

Replying to Proudhon’s Philosophy of Poverty with his magnificent work Poverty of Philosophy, Karl Marx made a stinging criticism of the extreme poverty of thought and philosophy in anarchism. In order to fight feudalism and capitalism, you must first have a scientific philosophy and a sound theory. Only then, the workers’ mass movement could be built up on a scientific basis, he pointed out. You just don’t cry and shout ‘revolution!’ and it arrives at your door! Marx never did that. Yet, he was the greatest revolutionary. Let the Maoists ponder over it. Engels, in his famous and epoch-making work Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, exposed the poverty of theory in utopian socialism, and emphasised that the scientific concept had to be developed in order to really change the society.

Marx on Science of Revolution

FOR Marx, revolution was a serious business, not a plaything. He was a selfless revolutionary, and did not fight for revolution ‘during my lifetime’! For him transition to socialism/communism was a historical era, which would happen when conditions matured. He did not use the poor illiterate masses, their problems and sentiments for ‘revolutionary’ games on the political chessboard.

Karl Marx dealt with a whole series of issues before the revolutionaries: their aims and objects, methods of struggle, use of democratic rights, propaganda, nature of revolution, organisation of the working class and so on. He opposed the use of violence by the anarchist underground groups, led and organised by Bakunin and his associates, in the backward regions of Europe. He asked them to stop playing with revolution and join the mainstream of the international working class movement in form of the First International. The anarchists had disrupted the First International and formed their own ‘Anarchist International’ in the name of ‘historical necessity’.

Marx pointed out that the activities of the anarchists only helped strengthen the bourgeois state.

Contrary to the general impression, Marx and Engels even visualised a parliamentary path to socialism. Such a path was particularly emphasised by Engels in his writings of the 1890s regarding the prospects of revolution in Germany.

Marx and Engels pointed out that anarchism and ultra-revolutionism were petty-bourgeois trends, which played on the backwardness of the masses, made false promises of revolution and indulged in adventurist acts for their narrow group interests.

Emergence of Maoism

LET it be made clear at the outset that China today has already disowned Maoism.

Maoism arose in the late 1950s and 1960s due to certain political changes within China, in the course of which Mao Zedong got the upper hand and control of the party. Petty bourgeois ultra-Left socialist ideology came to rule, and it promised first socialism, then communism in 15 years, and then in three years during the so-called ‘great leap’. Maoism imposed barrack ‘socialism’, and began the infamous ‘cultural revolution’.

Maoism tried to impose its own brand of ‘revolution’ all over the world and disrupt the world communist and revolutionary movement. In fact, it can visualise ‘revolution’ only by advocating splitting of the revolutionary ranks. Armed struggle was the only genuine path and the Chinese model of revolution the only one, they said. To this end, they appealed to the most backward, intensely exploited, but ideologically untrained elements.

Today, the Communist Party of China has condemned the positions of ‘cultural revolution’ etc.

Forms of Struggle in Concrete Situation

WHEN and why should one take up arms? Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao himself have answered this question on several occasions. Marxists always fight for democratic rights, which obviously are the bourgeois democratic ones. Using this, one has to build the mass movement. Mao himself, and other leaders of the Chinese revolution as well, pointed out that in China, the use of arms was a compulsion of the situation— there simply were no rights for the people, no permission to form parties, fight elections, hold rallies etc. In such a situation, the revolutionaries, the democrats and the people in general had to resort to armed struggle. Even then Mao on several occasions tried to use peaceful methods, as, for example, in his famous attempt at a coalition government in 1946, precisely with the forces he was fighting.

In India we have a completely different situation in this regard. India has a well-developed parliamentary constitutional network down to the village levels. The ballot box, combined with the backing of mass movements, has been instrumental in bringing about important changes of government at the Centre and in the States as well as at the lower levels. Any revolutionary would only be blind not to see this. India has seen a vibrant and active Left and democratic movement, which has been able to establish even its rule in several States, beginning with Kerala in 1957. In fact, these constitutional rights are the result of mass democratic struggles. So, what should a revolutionary do? Throw away these rights and go to the jungles?! These rights should be used to try to solve the people’s problems.

In our country, the armed forces respect the constitutional system and election results, and do not interfere in politics. This is in contrast to many other countries including our neigh-bouring Pakistan. This factor is most favourable for democratic and people’s movements. But the Maoists and Naxalites, by their thoughtless actions, are only inviting and strengthening the armed forces and the state apparatus. This is a most senseless attitude, which only helps the reactionary and imperialist forces.

It is true that there can be no military solution to the Naxal problem; it has to be solved politically, ideologically and economically. But it also does not mean that you provoke the armed forces and give a handle to the state, and virtually strengthen their armed might. No sensible revolutionary would do this.

In area after area, the tactless Naxalite actions have only helped modernisation and overhauling of the police and armed forces. Vast areas in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and other States used to have only a weak police or Army presence. Open mass activities could be carried on there till recently. But not any more, thanks to the senseless Maoist violence. The adivasis and townspeople have in fact been deprived of their weapon of open mass struggle by the Naxalites. This is typical of anarchism, long ago criticised by Marx and Engels.

Use of arms is no sign of a revolutionary, and this was stated by Bhagat Singh himself, who was no less a revolutionary than the present-day anarchists.

Anarchism: A Variety of Opportunism

MAOISTS have taken away the rights of the people and the Left and democratic parties to struggle in the so-called ‘liberated zones’, a job expected from the reactionary forces. Since the logic of Maoism has already run its course, they are using force against the people, trying to compel their organisations and parties to act according to their dictats. In his famous debate against the Narodniks, Lenin demolished the Narodnik anarchists, and asked them to study the stage of capitalist development in Russia. What study have the Maoists done of capitalism in India and the world?

Naxalites and Maoists have not, even now, come out of the ‘Leftwing infantile disorder’. As a result, the disorder has grown into a serious disease. Repeating historical blunders decades and centuries later is only making a mockery of history. And its natural result is the grossest forms of opportunism.

The Naxalite groups claim that they oppose the electoral system. That has been one of the planks on which began a series of splits. Most of the Maoists/Naxalites speak out loudly against elections as a ‘bourgeois hoax’. Yet it is well-known that many of them reach underhand understandings with the BJP, RJD, Congress etc parties, the very bourgeois parties they decry so much, and agree to vote for them, as against the Left! Is this not opportunism?

Adivasis as Guinea-pigs

DESPITE tall claims, the real well-thought-out and sober movement to solve the adivasi problem is being sidetracked by Maoist disruption. They are using the adivasis as guinea-pigs for their thoughtless experiments in ‘revolution’. Consequently, the adivasi mass movement has been thrown back due to disruption and confusion. The problems of these sections have to be posed today in a different context, and they cannot remain isolated from those of development and growth. For that, a sober Marxist analysis is needed. Today, the adivasi problem is to be seen in the context of Indian and world capitalist development and the STR. All these issues are being sidetracked, and they are being led onto a path of false promises, seemingly revolutionary.

Adivasis and others no doubt have serious socio-economic problems, but they cannot be used as guinea-pigs for certain subjective experiments. Their problem is part and parcel of the broader development like those related to the growth of the public sector etc. Public sector was created as a result of long struggles and sacrifices of the working class. The Naxalite movement unfortunately is hitting at the achievements of this modern class. And thus it displays its narrow petty-bourgeois view of revolution.

Maoism and Naxalism Today: Ideological Bankruptcy

MAOISM and its Indian variety, Naxalism, have travelled a long way from the days of their initiation in 1967. Even its founder leaders like Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal admitted that today it has nothing to do with the revolutionary concepts advocated at that time. The Naxalite movement now is divided into innumerable, may be hundreds of, groups. And this is because of complete ideological confusion, even panic in its ranks. The Maoists get divided on the slightest pretext, exactly like the anarchists during Marx’s and Lenin’s time.

Maoism is badly divided and totally confused as to the aims and objects of the movement. And this is typical of petty bourgeois pseudo-revolutionism, which uses and grows upon the ignorance of certain sections, a la Bakunin! Maoism wants the people to be clean slates, on which anything could written arbitrarily. This was not the method of Marx and Lenin. They wanted the masses to be ideologically and theoretically educated with new ideas. The Naxalites want the masses to remain devoid of any scientific ideology, and to this end they keep them ignorant of Marxist theory. That helps the imposition of senseless violence by the self-styled ‘revolutionaries’.

Having lost their scientific socialist moorings, the Maoists are unable to really confront capitalism and imperialism, and end up in strengthening the bourgeois state.

It has become absolutely necessary to launch a theoretical and ideological struggle against petty-bourgeois pseudo-revolutionism of modern anarchism in the form of Naxalism and Maoism.

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted