The ongoing peasant struggle in Bihar represents a new phase in the development of the Naxalbari movement. In what follows we have tried to enumerate the salient features which distinguish this present phase from the earlier ones of our movement.
1. The present phase is marked by solid unity in the principal Party faction spearheading the movement. Since the break with Sharma and Mahadev groups in the first half of the 70s, the reorganised Party leadership did not undergo a single split, either at the central or State levels, in all these years. In the beginning of 1975, the Patna district committee did present an alternative document, and afterwards, too, serious differences have often come to the fore in the State Party organisation on various questions of tactics regarding peasant struggle, but they were all resolved through intensive discussions within the Party forum. Moreover, the two Party Congresses in 1976 and 1982, and the All- India Party Conference in 1979 have greatly facilitated the emergence and development of a collective leadership in the Party, and the spirit of democratic centralism has been further strengthened. And this unity, in its turn, has ensured the continuation of the struggle with a regular and systematic review of the policies.
In the initial years of the movement, if certain other groups were also working in Bihar, their areas of operation were different and faraway from ours, and naturally complications did not crop up. But in the post-Emergency period, either due to expansion of our own work or due to intervention by other groups in our areas, different groups are working in bordering areas or even in the same areas. This has certainly created complications and at times tensions have indeed run high. The provocations are grave and the enemy is bent upon splitting the revolutionary unity from within and destroying the revolutionary groups one by one. However, so far comrades in Bihar have been able to avoid a repetition of the Andhra tragedy and have succeeded in developing joint activities at higher levels.
2. Continuity is another hallmark of the peasant struggle in Bihar. True, there have been setbacks, sometimes quite severe, but they have all proved to be of a temporary and partial nature. The intensity of the struggle has undergone constant variation, so have the areas, but on the whole, the continuity has never been lost. Bhojpur and Patna in particular have been on the map right from the early 70s.
Another revolutionary group, the MCC, has also been working in Bihar for a long period, and despite several splits, it has been able to keep the struggles going in its areas, particularly in the southern part of Gaya.
3. The struggle enjoys a powerful mass base, with ‘agrarian labourers and poor and lower-middle peasants of lower castes spontaneously identifying themselves with the Party. Moreover, the fact that the members of the armed units are all drawn from the local stock and that the majority of Party leaders and cadres also hail from the countryside has greatly facilitated the Party’s integration with the masses. The number of urban intellectual cadres and ‘outsiders’, so to say, is relatively much less. A good number of Party leaders and cadres as well as leaders of mass organisations do come from upper castes, but this has never created any adverse impact on the masses, the essential reason being the high prestige which the Party enjoys among the masses.
4. The transition from caste to class struggle is another notable feature of the movement. True, the movement has had to face its share of caste-based complications and has often got trapped in a veritable caste imbroglio, but gradually, step by step, it has succeeded in mobilising the peasantry along class lines, and in some cases, has also been able to penetrate among the upper castes. While not denying the specific features of casteist oppression, the movement has all along fought the numerous caste prejudices among the people, opposed all caste-based electoral manoeuvres, and refuted the so-called ‘Marxist’ theories of ‘dalit revolution’ peddled by A K Roy and more recently by the Nandy-Rana group.
5. Through all its ups and downs, the movement has been able to retain its armed character, which goes to the extent of snatching firearms from the police and paramilitary forces and organising armed guerilla units. In their number, level and tenacity, the armed actions conducted by the pasant guerillas of Bihar definitely surpass the records of all earlier peasant struggles led by the Communist Party in Indian history. With growing maturity, the armed units have also been able to reduce their losses. Particularly since 1977, they have managed to keep the losses at a minimum, thanks to the policy of avoiding direct battles and operating over bigger areas. However, they have been instrumental in organising immediate counter-attacks, paying the enemy back in their own coins. This has been an important feature of the movement and has gone a long way in keeping up and further bolstering the people’s morale in face of severe repression by the enemy.
The retention of the armed character, however, has not been at the expense of other forms of struggle, including the parliamentary form. Valuable experiences are being accumulated in Bihar in combining various forms of struggle.
6. The movement has taken care to avoid killing persons belonging to other political parties. This has deprived these parties, to a great extent, of the opportunity to stir up party-to-party clashes. Efforts have always been made to distinguish, and, of course, to utilise the contradictions, among various political parties, to develop ties with the rank and file of these parties and to issue regular propaganda materials to them as well as to the masses who, out of caste sentiment, tend to follow various Senas of the landlords, and also to make open self-criticisms of our mistakes. All this has helped the movement in winning over village after village from the influence of the CPI and the Lok Dal, in disintegrating the numerous gangs and Senas of the landlords, and in preventing the political parties from putting up a united front against the movement.
Just as the labouring people in our society are considered ‘outcastes’ by the upper echelons, the political party representing them is also considered outcaste in our politics. Thus, there are always attempts by the opposition parties, including the revisionists, to isolate us at every turn from all political affairs of importance. On our part, we have always made efforts to break through this isolation in collaboration with other revolutionary and democratic groups and parties as well as the democratic ranks of different parliamentary parties, and we have attained some successes, too.
7. The movement has attracted a large section of the veterans of freedom struggle and communist movement. This has helped it in forging historical links with the past struggles and in learning from their valuable experiences.
It has also attracted a large number of youths who formed the backbone of the 1974 student-and-youth movement. Many of them are today important functionaries of the Party and the mass organisations. Their association with the movement has been of immense help for it in taking the leap to this new phase and also in becoming a veritable launching pad for a nationwide revolutionary-democratic political organisation.
8. In contrast to the old perception of concentrating the struggle against few big landlords, the peasant struggle in Bihar is advancing in areas where the base of landlordism is quite wide. A considerable section of the kulaks has also turned out to be targets of this struggle and, moreover, various complex economic and social factors allow them to mobilise many a segment of the various intermediate strata, particularly under caste banners. Consequently, the rural population gets sharply divided. Such conditions render wage-struggle very difficult and land-seizure seemingly impossible. There is also the constant danger of the interests of the intermediate strata getting hard-hit by the movement. It is precisely in the face of such a complex constellation of forces that the old Communist Parties had lost their bearings. No wonder then that the CPI, CPI(M) as well as the ‘Socialists’ go on accusing us of splitting the broad peasant unity through fanning conflicts between agrarian labourers and poor peasants on the one hand, and middle and rich peasants on the other. The same fear, or prejudice if you will, also propels various communist revolutionary groups to shift to areas of classical feudalism.
Well, if the so-called broad peasant unity at all existed in practice, it was based totally on the leadership of rich peasants. If one wants to reverse this situation, if one wants to build a new peasant unity under the leadership of agrarian labourers and poor peasants, a great upheaval is inevitable. And the tremendous mobilisation of the rural poor in the struggling areas of Bihar is indeed indicative of such a great upheaval, an upheaval that may well serve as a typical case for the greater part of the Indian countryside. Learning from practice, the Party intends to further perfect its policies concerning various intermediate strata as well as to make changes in its agrarian programme. We do also want to extend our work to the old type of areas, areas of classical feudalism, but certainly not at the cost of giving up work in these ‘new’ areas and cutting ourselves off from the agrarian reality of present-day India, despite all attempts of the CPI and the CPI(M) to provoke us into struggle against the so-called big feudal landlords.
9. If the areas of peasant struggle in Bihar do not conform to the ‘standard’ specifications of anti-feudal struggle in terms of class configuration, they do not conform to the ‘standard’ military specifications of people’s war either. But then, giving up these areas, which are topographically plain and well-developed in terms of communication*, in search of hilly and forest areas with favourable terrain for the purpose of building base areas is also not a wise policy in Indian conditions. It has been quite possible to sustain guerilla struggle, though still at a primary stage, for a long period in the plains of Bihar, the most important tactics being operation of small combat squads over extensive areas. By now, the enemy has been forced to formulate its military planning for six districts at a time. This is quite a formidable job and requires the mobilisation of thousands of forces. The number of districts will only grow in the years to come, and the bigger the encirclement, the greater is the scope of breaking through by small units.
Concerted efforts are also there on our part to take up hilly, forest and plain areas as a single zone for the purpose of developing base area. And in this connection, another important feature of the present struggle that deserves our special attention is the occurrence of peasant guerilla operations in the vicinity of industrial areas, particularly mining areas.
* Interestingly, even the Public Works Department of the Bihar government now has a special Naxalite cell. The cell has been entrusted with the task of taking up road-construction on a war-footing in the Naxalite-infested areas. But given the singularly corruption-ridden administrative machinery of Bihar, it remains to be seen how many lakhs of rupees are translated into how many kilometres of roads.