Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21


The Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War (also known as the People's War Group or PWG) merged to form a new entity, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) on September 21, 2004, somewhere in the projected 'liberated zone'. Officially, the merger was announced on October 14, 2004, by the PWG Andhra Pradesh ‘state secretary’, Ramakrishna, at a news conference in Hyderabad, on the eve of peace talks between the PWG and the State Government.


The merger is the consequences of initiatives that date back five years, when the PWG approached the MCC with a proposal of merger. In fact, since its inception on April 22, 1980, the PWG had been trying to bring all the Left Wing extremist groups (also called Naxalite) in India (numbering around 40) under its umbrella with the objective of overthrowing 'the bureaucrat comprador bourgeois and big landlords classes who control state power in collusion with imperialism' and 'to establish in its place the New Democratic State under the leadership of the proletariat' with the ultimate aim of establishing socialism and communism. The MCC had been its first target and talks had been on since the early 1980's. However, the discussions failed to progress initially as a result of turf wars and differences at the leadership level. Despite ideological commonalities and shared objectives, the pathways to the merger have been full of obstacles, with territorial and leadership clashes giving rise to an internecine conflict that lasted through much of the 1990s, as the two groups struggled for supremacy in different parts of then undivided Bihar, resulting in the death of hundreds of cadres and sympathisers. However, continuous interaction resulted in declining hostility between the two groups over time, and gradually increased operational cooperation and consolidation. The creation of Jharkhand State in November 2000 and anti-Maoist operations launched by the administration pushed the MCC and PWG into closer cooperation, and a truce was announced between them three years ago. Significantly, the PWG had earlier merged with the CPI-ML (Party Unity) of Bihar in August 11, 1998.

The first ever meeting between the PWG and MCC was held in 1981, when Kanai Chatterjee of the MCC and Kondapally Seetaramaiah of PWG met for over 12 days. Both leaders, though belonging to different streams of the Naxalite movement, stated that the grounds to merge are strong as both were pursuing a similar end. The PWG and MCC subsequently set out the procedure for a possible merger. However, such possibilities were premature, as in 1982 Chatterjee died of illness and Seetharamaiah was arrested in the Secunderabad conspiracy case.

Though the initial desire of PWG and MCC for unity was strong, not much progress was possible. Differences over tactical and strategic issues, personality clashes and a ‘turf war’ to control territory were predominant. Attempts to further the unity process, however, continued with talks commencing in 1992. Later, in September 1993, the PWG, MCC and the CPI-ML (Party Unity) decided to jointly intensify the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and other States and constituted the All India Peoples Resistance Forum to build a strong anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement. The process of unification continued for three years, after which it finally broke down due to some differences on international issues pertaining to the Revolutionary International Movement. Both outfits issued a joint statement for the failure of the talks, outlining the differences and its momentary suspension, but decided to deliberate the unity at a later date.

Relations between the two outfits also soured, particularly after the merger of PWG and another left-wing extremist group, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [Party Unity], in August 1998. After 1998, armed clashes between the PWG and MCC intensified and this period is referred to by Naxalite outfits as the ‘black chapter’. These clashes occurred despite the PWG’s claim that "serious efforts were made by all the three (groups) to unite and build a united revolutionary proletarian party in India." The clashes were reportedly a result of the ‘wrong handling of contradictions among the people.’ "Instead of solving the contradictions with a class approach … (and) in a non-antagonistic manner, we adopted a parochial and non-proletarian approach", admits a PWG statement. In one of its self-critical note, the PWG ‘central committee’ has pledged to "learn from this negative experience and never again (to) take up arms against our class friends, no matter how sharp may be the differences. Political differences must be settled by polemical debates and by proving correctness of our politics through revolutionary practice, but not through the gun."

MCC took the initiative in declaring a unilateral cease-fire in January 2000, a gesture reciprocated by the PWG. This was primarily due to a rethinking in the MCC and appeals from ‘revolutionary forces’ within India and abroad. Subsequently, the dialogue process between the two outfits commenced in August 2001. At the first meeting, the two sides engaged in an introspection exercise, and decisions were taken to initiate joint activities at the Bihar/Jharkhand level. The introspection, much of it reportedly in written form, was circulated to the rank-and-file of the Bihar/Jharkhand party. Throughout the latter part of 2001 and entire 2002, joint activities were undertaken in Bihar-Jharkhand. Further, during November 2002, a joint statement issued by the two groups at Patna, capital of Bihar, claimed that the indiscriminate use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) against the Naxalite cadres and sympathizers by the Jharkhand Government had "compelled them to iron out differences" and fight jointly against the state.

It was at the February 2003-meeting that a decision was taken to initiate concrete steps towards discussions on ideological issues with the clear direction and purpose of a merger. In this meeting, an extensive introspection exercise was put forward by both outfits for the ‘Black Chapter’ period and this was later made public. Both the outfits decided not to resort to clashes with ‘class friends’ irrespective of how severe the differences were. The meeting also laid ground for the advancement and finalisation of the process of merger. Towards this end, the two groups decided to draft five documents: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Party Programme, Strategy and Tactics, Political Resolution on the International and Domestic Situation, and the Party Constitution.

Subsequently, during four rounds of negotiations between high-level delegations of the two outfits and the respective Central Committees (CC), a final agreement was reached in September 2004. The documents were adopted and also decided to be translated in about 10 regional languages for wider deliberations throughout the outfits’ bases across India. Some minor differences that remained were to be decided at a later date after further discussion and study. Finally, the joint CC meeting of both outfits took the merger decision and a Central Committee (Provisional) was established.

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