From Karnataka: Conversation on a new party

December 3, 2014

[This is an interview with members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) based in Karnataka, enabled by the ongoing civil society initiative there.]

1. What is RCP? What are your present political positions?

RCP refers to Revolutionary Communist Party. The name no doubt is very high sounding. We would like to humbly submit here that it only reflects our aspiration to develop into a real revolutionary, real communist and real party in thought and action. We cannot in any manner claim to match such a lofty ideal now. However we are certainly making some serious efforts in that direction.

Coming to our present political positions we should say that they are still on the making. We have been involving ourselves in theoretical and field studies and fruitful discussions with different forces for fresh inputs and new insights. Our emphasis is on a dialectical, democratic and comprehensive approach to society, struggle and revolutionary transformation. In fact, we are of the opinion that one major reason for the stagnation and stunted growth of revolutionary movement worldwide is the serious and deep ideological crisis within. The root of it could be traced to the metaphysical materialist outlook or theory and narrow practice based on it. In the process both theory and practice leave much to be desired.

While drawing lessons from the successes and failures of erstwhile revolutions we feel that we need to take into account the nature and challenges of the present day in a globalised context, focus on the specificities of the Indian society, upgrade our ideological understanding and political practice accordingly and formulate appropriate tactics and strategies. As for organizational practice we believe that there is a strong need for internalizing and inculcating real and higher democratic values and culture and adopt the same in all inner party functioning, intra party interactions and in socio political work with people at large. Constantly bearing the fact that the Stalinist bureaucratic model has taken the upswing in most or many of the communist parties and its very self defeating and harmful effects, more so in a backward nation, we want to strive to implement our understanding in all our approach and attitude to the best of our ability. This should keep us both firm and flexible with openness in understanding, adequate space for learning and unlearning and respect for any dissent or difference there be.

2. What are the reasons for the members of RCP to come out of CPI (Maoist)

There are ideological, political and organizational reasons behind this dismal fact and yet essential act. The profound and prolonged struggle in 2006 after which we had to step out was the third round of intense inner party struggle, the first being in 1992-93 and the second in 2002-2003. The nature and extent of differences had grown with time and our experience. The first round of struggle was more focused on organizational aspects in the Karnataka party. The second round of struggle in 2002-2003 was on political and tactical questions concerning the party’s work in Karnataka mainly, especially how and where we failed in building the revolutionary movement in backward rural plains and how we sought to build it in the western Ghat region next. The second round more or less continued and merged with the third round of struggle in 2005-2006. The third round had extended scope with discussions on review, policies and future plans at all India level, in the context of unity conference between People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre. The loopholes and limitations in the positions and reviews expressed in the central documents were glaring. Our critical outlook had also enhanced in the long course of inner party struggle. Thus this final round encompassed a whole range of ideological, political and organizational issues, with both the perspective and practice of the CPI (Maoist) party in not only the Karnataka state but the centre and on the whole, brought into question.

The ideological differences mainly revolved around the static, mechanical or dogmatic conceptions in the party relating to the overall conditions and contradictions in Indian society, and conduction of revolution as such. The political differences were primarily focused on the narrow, sectarian and empirical outlook on many aspects including the overemphasis and one-sided emphasis on armed struggle as against open-broad mass struggle, secret organizations as against open mass organizations and rural work at the cost of urban work and so on. The organizational differences were centered on bureaucratic and sectarian notions and practice which worsened in times of struggle. And the very approach towards any differences or dissent literally made any healthy political struggle within the party impossible which became more and more evident as we relentlessly persisted with it.

The above differences basically indicated that there were strong lacunae in applying the Marxist ideology to the concrete realities and specificities of India and changes in conditions time and space. The emphasis continued to be on Chinese model in general and ‘Andhra’ model in particular. The analysis of the society was pre conceived and dated and the path was revolution was prefixed and permanent thus eluding the very goal of revolution which can only be an objective and scientific process.

What kept us going in all this stressful period were the sustained political response and the comradely attitude of many of the party cadres even where differences prevailed. But when there was no scope or space for any constructive struggle or any hope for meaningful change within the party confines, and more so when the years of mass work in Karnataka took a turn for the worse, with all Mass organizations visibly collapsing, it was a now or never situation. After a long period of close association it was not only a political but also an emotional break up which was quite painful.

We have due respect for the contributions wrought through severe commitment and sacrifice. But the limitations are glaring too. Its vision is lagging behind in quality, concreteness, width and depth. Without serious introspection in retrospective and hard efforts to grow afresh and face the challenges with renewed vitality the situation does not imply any breakthrough. Thus we are convinced that we were right in opting out in the larger interests of the people and movement and long term interests of the revolution.

3. What are the reasons for members to go underground and then return to the democratic mainstream?

At first it was the result of the mechanical policy in CPI (Maoist) party which held that all leadership layers should be underground or UG in short as a safeguard measure. And once the work in Malnad area took off the state true to its undemocratic nature began to pile up false cases and this mainly made going underground inevitable for some comrades including us. It was the only avenue available to carry on our work. We had to remain UG even after we moved out for lack of any better option.

We consider going UG as only a form adopted under specific conditions with the content being the best interest of ably taking forward the tasks before us. And any form needs to be flexible. In today’s conditions in Karnataka and the nature of work that the political and social scenario here demands, UG form is more disabling than enabling. When the form does not fit the content it has to be necessarily altered. This is the basic political understanding.

The return to the democratic mainstream of struggle now is thus evinced by one, the much felt need to reach the revolutionary politics and vision up to the common masses to whom it belongs as widely as possible in as simple, open and direct means as feasible. Two, the overarching requisite for broad democratic work among varied sections of the masses in diverse forms which is further underlined by the currently weak movement. Three, the fast growing pressure for integrating all struggling forces and masses to counter the cunning imperialist and state ploys to co-opt or crush and building an alternative people’s pole. The impending and menacing fascist onslaught in India and world over also makes this an urgent imperative. The underground or U.G form is disadvantageous or even an impediment to all such work in the present scenario. The real strength and safety of not just leadership but more importantly the party as such and the movement per say in essence lie in the lap of the broad politically conscious masses in struggle and solidarity. Hence we feel that we are taking the necessary step at the needed moment.

4. You claim that the process of return is a process of legalisation and not surrender, can you elaborate on that?

Surrender actually means bowing down before the state. It means repenting your political opinions and actions based on the same. It means giving up your ideological positions and struggling spirit even. It also means to give in whatever information one may have on comrades in struggle. It essentially means to agree to play into the hands of the state, betray the interests of the people and the movement.

There are both false surrenders forced by the state and real surrenders out of fear, frustration or helplessness and weariness on the one hand, and those which are a product of compliance with the state for personal benefits and narrow interests on the other. We do not fall into any such category.

We have no intention of ‘settling down’. We have nothing to do with any monetary offers or rehabilitation schemes doled out by the state in exchange for any kind of co-operation. Our stakes lie with the suffering masses. Our interest remains to deepen, broaden and intensify our political and organisational work and march along with all genuine democratic, progressive and revolutionary forces in the society. Where we seek to return is the mainstream or rather the alternative stream of people’s democratic struggles. We want to ensure our free passage and participation in the same. So what we are rightfully demanding is only for withdrawal of false cases filed on us, so as to proceed in such direction. Getting this unjust mantle of illegality thrust on us by the state forces is what we are calling as legalization process.

5. Can you tell us something about the cases that were slapped on the leadership?

As per official records four cases have been slapped against Noor Zulfikar, two each in Chikkamagalur and Udupi District. And one case against Sirimane Nagaraj in Sringeri in Chikkamagalur District. Even this case pertains to an open demonstration and clash with Bajrang Dal goondas in a public meeting against Kudremukh National Park Project way back in 2002. The nature of the case is minor and non heinous, all other accused have been acquitted right in 2003 and yet an award of one lakh was declared on Nagaraj.

Coming to the cases against Noor Zulfikar all of them have been foisted after 2005, when we were in the thick of the two line struggle and even contacts with the comrades in Malnad forest area were literally not permitted or say totally snapped. Two of the four cases infact have been slapped in 2006 after after we had left the CPI (Maoist) fold and one in 2008 a year after the formation of RCP. And an award of one lakh was declared on him too.

The nature of cases deliberately filed against Noor Zulfikhar are a trifle more serious, as compared to that of Nagaraj, pertaining to criminal intimidation, Dacoity and attempt to murder in one of the cases slapped in 2006. But sections under UAPA and Indian Arms act have been simply added to these in order to make them more serious. Taking shelter under the same now, the State government is expressing its helplessness in withdrawal of these cases with charges of UAPA and Arms act which require the concurrence of the Central Government. Such is the situation.

All we can honestly assert is that the absolute truth is that all these cases foisted on us are absolutely false. This gives us the added moral right to demand their unconditional closure without any more waste of time on long court trials or undue imprisonment. The long UG life imposed on us artificially has already caused enough restrictions in our political mobility, interaction and initiatives. We do not want it to be extended any further. Had the cases been real, we think we would have instead probably assumed responsibility and been prepared to undergo the trial and prison term if any, as part of our political fight and determination to go through all hardships in the bargain. Here withdrawal or quick closure of the cases as things stand now can be the only real demand and struggle.

6. What were the obstacles that you had to face in this whole process? What kind of a support or opposition did you receive from various quarters?

After stepping out of CPI (Maoist) party we had been gradually chewing the idea of easing our functioning in our given context in order to reorient our work suitably. But the circumstances were rather unfavourable with the most reactionary government in power.

Next when the appeal from the ‘Citizens Initiative for Peace’ came through, in the backdrop of Siddaramiah led congress government coming to power, after weighing the pros and cons involved in this process as thoroughly as possible, we decided to respond to it positively. The ‘Citizens Initiative for Peace’ happens to be a platform of prominent progressive personalities in karnataka. We consider it as the representation and seasoned voice of the democratic and progressive sections in Karnataka society. To begin with, we did have to convince them of our genuine intentions and political transparency in future plans. Once this was possible we also contacted many left forces, progressive and democratic organizations and individuals and communicated our positions and perspective to them. This has contributed greatly in gathering their valuable opinions and gaining their confidence. Thus the support we could say has been built consciously as a matter of political expedience. And the response to it has been pretty encouraging.

We would infact like to take this opportunity to thank all other progressive organizations and individuals who have warmly extended and assured their political support to us beginning with the members of the Citizens initiative. We would like to reiterate here that our primary reliance is only on all such support in the case of any eventuality, as we proceed into this venture.

At the same time though we cannot call it as opposition, we should say that there have also been some sharp questions, doubts and criticisms based on the same initially from long term, well meaning political friends in different places. They revolved around our understanding on the nature of Indian State, on Congress and its leadership in Karnataka and any illusion we could be nurturing on such, as to why we could not court arrest and face punishment if need be instead of ‘surrender’ etc. We have tried to clarify our principled political positions and practical considerations in the serious light of immediate work before us, to the extent possible. We are sure that they will also understand and appreciate our approach in due course.

There has also been caution extended with concern about the risks involved in this process.

We welcome both the above as necessary and useful in underscoring our political responsibilities as we go ahead with this process.

7. Can you tell us about the ‘coming’ out process in front of civil society that you intend to have?

Right from the very outset at every juncture in this process we have been trying to make it more democratic and factual with the active aid of the Citizens Committee for Peace. We had to also put forth many of our serious objections, apprehensions and suggest viable alternatives in the making of this process to which they have been very receptive. The Karnataka government had explained its position in being able to address the issue technically under ‘Surrender and Rehabilitation ‘package alone as it was the only central policy available. We do have many objections to the way the whole issue is seen and dealt in this package with some aspects being highly negative and operating against the said objective. Hence we proposed that the scheme be renamed, reframed and restructured and suggested that the official state committee for conducting this process include atleast three members of the civil society. The Government did agree to the same and also adopted a revised scheme which in any case did toe the same earlier line in essence. This made us seek some corrections again so as to make it a respectful political process as it should be. After many a round of discussions with members of the political and administrative bodies and subsequently even in the official committee, there is concurrence to this in principle, to rename the scheme and reframe it suitably. Some limitations in various clauses however may remain. The motive behind such efforts has been to democratize the process to the maximum extent presently possible, not only in our interest but also in the interest of all other such fighting forces, who for various reasons may seek to come out and participate in serious social activities and struggle.

Any such negotiations have been mainly through the Citizens Committee for Peace which has made its best efforts in a series of meetings to not only communicate and convince the state but also to expand the scope of the policy from civil rights angle and ensure our place in the realm of socio political struggles. We trust the same and all our other supporters and well wishers in the political arena to both take forward and also conclude the process democratically and respectfully without undue delay or unnecessary hurdles at present and later on. Thus it is before them that we will be actually presenting ourselves for further course of action. The concrete modalities are yet to be worked out from either side and more can be said only after the same. As of now it is and would be a unique experiment under definite conditions, the ultimate outcome of which remains to be seen.

8. How do you see the various mass movements in Karnataka now? What is your view on their potential and shortcomings?

The history of left movements in Karnataka has been basically weak. It was the Dalit movement and Peasant movement which had made visible inroads into the social fabric. They played a vigorous and positive role in the 70s and 80s. But these movements which had fine social base and response dwindled down next and presently the forces are mainly divided, dispersed and if some are sold out some are just spent out. Honest elements have either somehow continued with some limited activity or have withdrawn with helplessness and little hope.

In 90s under the impact of globalization we see a setback of sorts in virtually all movements. Globalisation introduced many changes in the society, economy and politics. It sought to expand and consolidate itself in society. Accommodation politics became the rule of the game. This meant actively co-opting a number of movements and their leadership and drawing them into its funding schemes, academic programmes and award ceremonies, uplifting a small section of various exploited classes and oppressed communities into its fold, providing a place for them in local power structures etc. The list of beneficiaries in the overall loot at one or the other level was accordingly extended. This resulted in compromise, competition and corruption at different scales in many layers.

The rather poor or dilute ideological foundations, the misconceptions about the state, about political power and legal remedies and the lack of clear alternative vision, the failure in grasping the changes in the new scenario or handling the new issues that it pushed forth were the other major internal reasons for the collapse of these fine movements.

And with respect to people relentless struggles had resulted in certain betterment in life too through education, reservations, land reforms, some infrastructure, subsidies etc. Globalization also floated great myths. Commercialisation and commodification of the economy created the illusion that things were growing brighter for every section and the solution for all problems would soon arrive. Put together some real and some perceived changes in the lives of the common people, however relative they may be helped sustain this image.

But this has not and cannot last long either as exploitation and oppression have not only continued but intensified in some old and many new forms. Insecurity looms large. All the people, the workers, the peasantry and fishing communities and middle classes alike are all bogged down by the global capitalist intrusion and onslaught on their basic rights and basic means of livelihood. Downtrodden communities of Dalits and oppressed castes, women and minorities suffer great ignominy, inequality, injustice and violence overt and covert abounds. Tribals and oppressed nationalities are ridden with unsurmountable difficulties with repression often being the reply to their rightful assertion. Cultural and moral degeneration in the society as a whole is creating shockwaves. Consequently if distortions especially in the youth are one factor awakening to the above realities is another.

At present even in Karnataka, owing to all above, on the one side the reactions of the people in anger and discontent are slowly on the rise. On the other, there is critical rethinking in a section of the leadership of different movements especially the younger generation. There is an attempt to revive, regroup and address a few issues. There is some response from people to such attempts. With clearer vision and concerted united efforts of all struggling forces we definitely feel that the potential for a strong powerful mass movement is on the anvil.

9. Would it be appropriate to believe that the focus of RCP would be on mass movements and not armed struggle?

Yes. Sure enough. It is so considering the present objective conditions and needs, the positive but limited presence of various genuine actors in the field of people’s struggles, the weak situation of revolutionary movements worldwide and the connivance of exploiting classes globally in political economic and military realms and their control over the mindset of the people. What we see in front of us are both severe challenges and umpteen possibilities. With the extent of work before all fighting forces multiplied in the current complex context, we feel that what is called for is hard, intense, patient efforts, focused result oriented work with high level of determination, maturity, coordination, cooperation and integration on fresh democratic basis. Only this can kindle hope, replenish our strength and create the grounds for larger struggles leading to fundamental transformation and structural change.

In this regard we are also of the opinion that the forms of organization and struggle in principle should correspond to the level and needs of the peoples movement. Currently what is essential is deep and intensive work amongst the masses at many levels in order to build a real broad mass movement and not armed struggle. And armed struggle cannot be born out of our subjective wish but must be part of our objective and scientific analysis and approach. It is basically the armed nature and violent reprisal by the state and the exploiting classes repressing people’s rights and any dissent voice that warrants it. It is their unlimited power and control over all resources at the cost of the people and their unwillingness to part with it without a comprehensive mighty all round war that necessitates it. And this war has to be waged by the people. It needs to be the natural outcome of our heightened struggles, a product of mass upsurge and part of militant mass retaliation. We cannot begin with it or bypass it if we want to alter the very system that is breeding violence and inequality.

10. Would RCP consider contesting parliamentary elections?

Participating … No. Definitely not. But intervening definitely yes. Participating and intervening are two different things. The parliamentary left treat participation in the elections as the very strategy for social transformation, the extreme left in the revolutionary camp consider boycott as the unchanging strategy until revolution. There are few shades in between.

We do consider the present elections as a big mockery and a mirror to so called ‘capitalist democracy’. Yet in the given set up, as it still retains some legitimacy in the minds of common people, we need to treat it with importance. This calls for effective political intervention in the same. It includes not only participation or boycott, but giving conditional support to particular party or person to settle some serious issues and demands of the people or asking people to reject particular most reactionary force like BJP or fielding a symbolic candidate on behalf of the movement or asking people to opt for ‘none of the above’ category or utilising this occasion to raise the demand of restructuring this whole electoral process which is designed for the propertied and powerful etc. All this keeping the overall political situation at the given time, place and our relative strength in mind.

On the whole, we hold the election question as a matter of tactics and not strategy. And any tactics needs to be concretely verified, discussed and appropriately drawn depending on the specific circumstances and is subject to change. If at any time participation would really help propel the revolutionary struggle of the masses forward we will not overrule it out of any mechanical conception. But the unvarying political principle here would be that whatever tactics we adopt such should work in favour of the long term strategy and goal of revolution and not deviate, divert or distance us. There are many positive and problematic examples in history past and recent to prove this factor, but the problematic aspect is the main. This shows that it is not simple but a very sensitive tricky matter with far reaching implications requiring serious and high vigilance.

However, we do not see the potential for or utility in ‘contesting in election’ now or in near future. We also do not think that the party or its leadership should ever directly go into the election fray. Our focus is more on necessary, proactive tactical interventions, other than the two ends of participation and boycott, when and where possible, in the interests of the people.

11. Assuming that the legalisation process is successful , one of the questions is how does RCP see itself or would like to see itself in future, as functioning differently from mass fronts of communist parties or ‘mainstream’ parliamentary communist parties?

First of all we believe in the concept of mass organisations and broad militant mass movements, not mass fronts. Mass organisations are the organisations of the masses or need to be so and not be party dependent or party dictated. They are not the private property of the concerned parties as they often turn out to be. The party will seriously put forth its opinions and suggestions ofcourse but not impose them on the said organizations. Within the respective organizations conscious efforts are essential to ensure the active and increasing involvement of the concerned masses in all decision making processes, at every level and by all means.

Another vital and related aspect here is the monolithic concept of the party and Stalinist bureaucratic model which seem to have percolated into the very nature and notion of most communist parties worldwide with few exceptions. This amply gets reflected in the functioning of the ‘mass fronts’ too. There is a large intrinsic cleavage between the leadership and the cadre or masses within the party and respective organizations which need to be cautiously cut down and eventually eliminated.

We strongly believe that it is only the vibrant politically conscious masses in mounting struggles which can accomplish revolution and sustain it, not any party. But party/parties/ revolutionary organizations must compulsorily perform a proactive role in this process. Hence the effort of any of these should be to strengthen the broad mass movements of the people and not just build mass organisations or mass fronts of one’s own.

Therefore our earnest striving would be towards building broader platforms of all democratic and progressive political forces engaged in sincere and serious struggle in the direction of creating a strong people’s pole to counter the exploiters pole. Such attempts can work out well with healthy and higher democratic practice, mutual trust and respect within these platforms.

The above are no easy task given the existing backward and undemocratic culture around and our own negative baggage in this aspect. All we can say is that there will be regular periodical reviews to sincerely probe into our strengths and limitations, freely admit any mistakes from our side and take up genuine measures to check the same. The main orientation would all along be hard, intense, principled, uncompromising struggle with “tactical flexibility and strategic firmness” in mind and not any shortcut methods, underhand dealings or electoral adjustments.

12. One of the points of differences of the split seems to be on the question of mode of production in karnataka, how does RCP try to characterise this?

The mode of production in India, especially in rural India has been a subject of much debate just as elsewhere. While CPI (Maoist) has been dogmatically sticking to its formulation of ‘Semi-feudal mode of production’ the objective conditions have naturally been in motion. What we witnessed in reality were significant changes in the rural economic and social base of Karnataka which is confirmed through extensive direct and secondary field studies.

There is still an ongoing debate as to whether in rural belt the mode of production is semi- feudal or capitalist. It is normally considered as one or the other with emphasis on partial realities or particular facts. But we find that it is actually neither. This position necessitates that we first take a fresh look into the various general criteria applied for considering as either of the two and check if and to what extent they are actually applicable in our context.

Our studies clearly pointed out that the general trend is drastic reduction in big land holdings, constant fragmentation of land coupled with commodification of land; increased production of commercial crops for market use; escalating exorbitant use of hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides; continued replacement of tractors with cattle and growing use of modern agricultural machinery; absence of bonded labour, growing wage labour and mobility of labour with migration and labour shortage; more avenues to some institutionalized loans; The other general changes include penetration of bourgeois law, vote politics and state structures, better availability of some education, entertainment, exposure and infrastructure though nowhere near the actual needs. Some big land holdings, production of food crops for family consumption, some old production methods with use of cattle, natural fertilizers etc do persist to an extent but they are more on the wane. All the old criteria applied for labeling or concluding the prevalent mode of production as ‘semi- feudal’ typically is thus incorrect. The changes in economy, society and culture have led to a weakening of feudal hold over the rural life overall.

In its place what has strengthened is capitalist ownership of inputs and implements and overall control over rural economy, society and culture. Agriculture is no longer a self sufficient economy but heavily dependent on market forces. There is corporate control over inputs and output. A major chunk of all agricultural inputs such as the seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and machinery come at high costs from capitalist market which determines where, when, what and how to produce. All output is rendered cheap with price, demand and supply of the produce dictated by the capitalist market dynamics. Capitalist consumer goods have also laid a sizable seize on rural market. The general trend is more of Imperialist and big capitalist domination in the rural belt. Surplus is extracted mainly by these corporate powers, with the active aid of local forces.

But what needs to be noted here is that there is no large scale capitalist concentration of land or large scale modern machine based production in rural Karnataka, for most part. If colonial capitalism was out to grab the rural raw material and labour at cheap costs for its production, the present day crooked capitalism is out to suck the rural economy by converting it into its market by intervening in production, distribution and consumption. The primary interest is commerce and not industry; it is not investment of capital but extraction of surplus. In the bargain the peasantry as a class is pauperised. The imprint of caste is also glaringly visible in land holding and society. Non economic coercion of women’s labor is continued unabated. Thus on the one hand, agriculture is relatively ‘modernised’ and modified, but on the other it is strangled, suffocated and restricted to the extent that it caters to the corporate interests. The situation does not warrant it to be typically termed as ‘Capitalist mode of production’ either.

Making the best of the above situation, the erstwhile feudal forces have assumed the new role of local traders, market agents, politicians, contractors etc apart from being relatively big land holders. They have become the unavoidable parasitic links between people and bourgeois parties/agro companies/government. So here is a semi – big landholder semi – capitalist composition which constitutes the local exploiting classes and reactionary forces, which advances and safeguards the corporate and state interests, and obtains a share of the booty by playing a second fiddle to them. There is also the birth of many intermediary sections and hybrid classes in the rural scenario who are trying to find new means to survive the new situation. Thus there is a semi peasantry cum semi proletariat composition, a semi peasantry cum small trader, agent or service providers category etc.

On the whole, agriculture is controlled by corporate forces while semi – capitalist and semi – feudal reactionary classes dominate the scene. The new mixed features in the economy mainly, together with the resultant mixed classes in the society with mixed culture do not provide for any easy characterisation of the economy or society. It is not a replica of any earlier models of mode of production. The new situation demands a new nomenclature. For the time being this present strange admixture evident in rural Karnataka is termed by us as “Corporate controlled semi capitalist-semi feudal mode of production” for want of a more appropriate formulation that will clearly express the current trend.

13. Given a ‘change’ in mode of production which large sections of academic as well as left parties seem to agree on, how do you think that political strategies should change accordingly?

We have provided a slightly detailed picture above, as our general observation and cross verification with those in the field also suggests that it is not confined to Karnataka alone, but is indicative of the larger picture in India in general, though some exceptions do remain. So according to us, there are significant quantitative changes with few qualitative changes in the rural mode of production. The semi feudal social hegemony is based on factors of caste, gender, religion etc, their economic hold with ownership of larger tracts of land, advanced machinery, trade, commission, contracts and loans, their political clout with command over local power structures and close connections with the state apparatus and imperialist- capitalist nexus. So in rural areas the struggle against the big capitalist and local reactionary forces who are aided by the state in umpteen forms assumes paramount importance. The old type of anti feudal struggles centering on land question alone will not suffice. A whole range of democratic struggles over many basic vital issues concerning the rural economy, and involving different layers of the peasantry, is essential to counter the exploiters. This is likely to get expressed mainly in the form of anti-state struggles in the present situation.

Overall, with capitalist domination in economy, politics and society, the mode of production and exploitation in rural and urban put together is predominantly capitalist. But the nature of this capitalism, its relations with reactionary forces in the rural areas and links with global imperialist network have to be correctly noted. We are still at a suitable expression to describe it. Our current political strategies have to obviously focus on jointly fighting the Imperialist backed big capitalist forces and the state in all spheres. This is only our preliminary understanding which is still under study and discussion.

Corresponding to this understanding under the changed conditions, time and space and the new challenges they pose, even the predominant mechanical adherence to the Russian model of ‘socialist revolution’ through insurrection and the Chinese model of ‘new democratic revolution’ through protracted people’s war need to be revisited.

14. How do you see possibilities of politics in urban areas? Especially given the decline in organised working class and growth of large sections of labour that are engaged in part time contract labour or working as hawkers? The only non-mainstream party which seems to have some success in tapping into the urban discontent among a wide section of urban population in recent times seems to be AAP? How do you think that this discontent could be addressed differently? Where do you think various left formations failed on this front?

This is a very important question that needs more homework. Urban work involves broad and deep political campaign and struggle work amongst the working class and middle class primarily. We feel that the failure in deeply understanding and addressing the working class issue comprehensively by the left formations of all hues is writ large. One, the work is bogged down in trade unionism and economism alone for most part. Two, for all superficial claims of being a working class party there is a strong neglect in widespread and deep rooted work amongst the working class. Three, there is a kind of subjective glorification of working class, its present nature and expected role without adequately considering the changes in its objective conditions including the shifts and changes in nature of industry, capital, production methods or labour processes, means of exploitation including co-option and so on, in the last one century and more so in the last three decades. And so also the impact of all this and the influence of capitalism in the plane of practices, consciousness and subjective will of the workers need more serious attention. Four, the expanding composition of working class and the similarities and differences between the wide spectrum and various strata within it and their role in taking forward the revolutionary movement, and specifically that of the fast multiplying sections of unorganized, contract and informal workers about whom you have also mentioned, has to be studied.

This is not to underestimate the nature and role of working class which is the backbone of the economy and movement as such or decry the amount of serious work being done by many comrades in this field. But it is what is heartfelt to doubly underline the importance of quickly undertaking deeper work in the working class with better understanding in the complex and changed conditions today. Our experience in this regard is in fact abysmally low and we are struggling to grapple with the question in theory and practice.

There is a steady growth of middle class under the capitalist economy. In terms of its percentage, presence and performance in many fields it is noteworthy. The grave insecurities regarding housing, higher education, employment, income or accrued benefits, loans etc alongside a reduction in real income and shoot up in all basic expenditure, grueling corruption, hooliganism and violence everywhere and the consequent constant stress, strain and drain in every step is haunting this class. The helplessness to fulfill its aspirations irrespective of many efforts to climb high the hard way, the conspicuous disparity in income and life style of this class, in comparison with the luxurious indulgence of the rich, before makes it angry and frustrated.

Left parties modeled on Mao’s concept of ‘four class alliance’ formally hold the middle class as its firm ally. But there is no substantial programme to rally this class or espouse their cause. This failure is one reason for it to easily rally behind the wrong forces of pseudo nationalism, regionalism, language fanaticism and even communalism or fundamentalism. Capable of articulating itself, it soon assumes the leadership of many movements well meaning or ill intended.

Aam Adhmi Party or AAP could address this discontent and latent dream in the urban population for clean governance and welfare measures to an extent. We consider it a positive phenomenon, even as its programme is ambitious, approach immature and impractical and vision limited. And still any effort to usefully mobilise the attention of the masses is welcome and appreciable. We have little right to comment when our work in urban areas as such is so very limited. If the potential of the urban working class and middle class youth particularly is not tapped with innovative and convincing agenda it will be a great loss to people’s movement and a gain to retrogressive and reactionary forces. Thus this calls for vast political and practical work in the urban in new, dynamic and dashing forms without delay.

15. In one of the statements, it was said that engagement with thoughts of Ambedkar and Gandhi enabled a few rectifications in terms of ideological outlook, can you elaborate more on that? What are the ideas that you thought were significant that you learnt from the two of them?

We hold that Marxism Leninism and Maoism – MLM which is an integral whole with rich content as our basic Ideology. At the same time we think that while many fundamental tenets laid by MLM have universal and long term validity, some ideas have relative and conditional validity and some others need to be revisited and refurbished. Marxism can be a living science only when it tries to seriously address the questions and challenges of today and in the process updated with due responsibility and care.

While we say MLM is our basic ideology it is not the whole of our ideology. We feel the need to suitably supplement this ideological premise of ours in general with all pro people ideologies against casteism, patriarchy, communalism, racism etc thus making it a comprehensive ideology of the exploited and the oppressed. This has to be done by retaining the grain and removing the chaff in these ideologies. In particular, we also strongly feel the need to integrate it in a live manner with the theories of our land, such as the correct ideas propounded by Ambedkar, Periyar and the like.

Our serious engagement with Ambedkar has brought home this point even more clearly. Ambedkar stood for the most marginalized and oppressed sections in the Indian society. His prime contribution in our opinion lies in laying bare the hollowness of Indian democracy and the undemocratic nature of Indian social fabric.

Here we should clarify that we do not hold Ambedkar and Gandhi in the same platter for our earlier statement was partially over read and misrepresented. The two stood in opposite camps in theory and action. We have our strong criticism of Gandhi and his real role in the freedom movement in India. But our interest in Gandhian ideology springs from the fact that Gandhi and infact Lohia too have struck strong roots in the mindsets of different democratic sections in Karnataka. Gandhism still has a sway over some sincere seniors who were a dedicated part of the nationalist, anti British and pro independence movement.

In principle we feel that we cannot treat anything in black and white. It is good to study and analyse the Gandhi phenomenon, the basis for the mass appeal and mass mobilization it could gather in history and the reasons for the continued presence of some Gandhian forms of protest and their validity in society. Learning cannot be only from sources that one approves. We also need to learn from the opposite camp both in order to fight it more clearly and also to draw closer to the genuine composition within it.

16. In left ‘circles’ there is often a talk of ‘caste question’, which primarily seems to talk about trying to address various forms of existing caste inequalities while simultaneously trying to address the question of class inequalities? Yet, there has been a substantial failure in recent times of left groups to address both these questions. How does RCP approach this question or how does it seek to work on that front?

You are right in saying that the left groups have failed to fully well address both the class and caste question. There is a lot to discuss with regard to ‘caste question’ given the gamut of questions and confusions around it. So here we will only try to place our basic perception in brief.

Conceptually the main lacunae we feel has been in grasping the caste and class inequalities independently and in their interrelation. This in turn is attached to an understanding of the very question of base and superstructure in a mechanical, superficial and non dialectical manner. The thought that class prevails in economic base and caste only in social realm or superstructure permeated the scene for very long and continues in many left circles till date. With base considered as ‘the’ principal aspect between the two this became one major reason that caused ‘caste question’ to be sidelined, treated as a secondary or sub aspect, one that will be automatically settled with revolution. At best it was addressed partially, with problems faced by the most oppressed dalit castes taken up mainly in relation to their class or base.

This notion was challenged and later changed by some left parties including CPI (Maoist) much later. This led to saying that caste factor is there in not only the superstructure but also the base. But this understanding again remained on the surface without properly appraising the inherent relationship between class and caste, concrete attempts to identify how casteism actually operated in the base, how it gets strengthened in the superstructure and how it could be countered in practice.

The specificity of Indian class system is its caste nature. This emerged and initially evolved so in Indian subcontinent due to various historical reasons. In other parts of the world classes emerged by dissolving the tribal identities or not subsuming them as economic categories. But here class emerged by re-organising the tribal socio economic structures in a hierarchical order, as part of the new class society. This made caste a special feature of Indian class system. Today class and caste are still intertwined in some ways but they can no longer be equated. There are different castes within all classes and different classes within all castes. The reality therefore is a wide spectrum of confounding permutations and combinations of castes and classes.

The exploitative class forces irrespective of their caste try to derive the maximum by utilising the fact of caste feelings, disparity and discrimination in society and in their own communities in their favour, in there own way. It amply serves their interests of dividing and controlling the common people, to garner their support and votes, appropriate their labour, strengths and skills, fanning ill feelings and violence in the process and appeasing and nourishing casteism in all castes, ‘uppered’ and dominating castes as well as oppressed castes. The oppressing and dominating casteist forces in particular and other upcoming casteist forces in general nurture prejudices and breed violence. Yet another fact is that Caste system or Casteism boosted up by class and casteist forces is a pernicious social evil with caste exclusivity, ranking and superiority all pervading. With real and perceived injustice, intrusions, ill feelings each caste tries to step above and suppress the other. Eradication of caste system therefore is a prolonged programme.

From the above, it is clear that just targeting particular classes or class struggle and class organizations alone cannot handle or resolve the problems of caste exploitation, hierarchy, isolation, discrimination and violence which are its major features. Targeting any particular caste or castes, caste struggles and caste organizations alone cannot also address or resolve the problem.

Most left forces with their one sided emphasis on class and base by and large are limited to struggles in this front and thus do not try to attend to specific issues pertaining to caste within it, campaign or struggle against it, with good section often considering that it is divisive, dangerous and against class unity to do so. Most of the anti caste forces with their over emphasis on caste in superstructure are mainly confined to issues and struggles in this area, uphold caste based unity without looking into the class divisions within it. The mutually complementing role of exploiting classes and oppressing castes in promoting and preserving the caste system in all its cruel forms is undermined in the process. Overall the failure or drastic drawbacks in this plane have damaged the addressing of both caste inequality and class inequality separately and simultaneously in all their intricacies and interrelation.

A fair amount of serious study and review of all work in this field indicate that the sources for the caste based sufferings being multiple they call for a multipronged attack from all sides in all spheres. This is no doubt an uphill task that requires appropriate mature handling. Our proposal is one, to consciously address both the caste and also gender aspect in all class organizations with due emphasis and conscious efforts to organize these sections and similarly to take the class aspect seriously in organizations meant to address caste and even other such oppressions, with focus on organizing the basic classes amidst these sections. Two, to build organisations specific to some castes importantly those held as untouchables or some very backward castes and tribes where necessary. Three and more importantly to build a common platform of all dalit and oppressed castes and four a larger united front of all exploited classes and oppressed masses belonging to downtrodden castes, gender, minorities, tribes/nationalities. Five, to build a democratic forum composed of all castes to campaign and struggle against casteism and to end the pernicious system.

17. Another question that has bogged down many communist parties has been the lack of representation of sections that it claims to fight for in the top leadership be it dalits or women. Where does RCP see itself on this question? Given the current limitations, how does it intend to address it in future?

Yes. It is very unfortunate but true that the real representation of all oppressed sections whether dalits and oppressed castes, women, minorities, tribals or nationalities are nowhere near the mark. This holds good even to class based representation in fact with percentage of working class or peasantry for that matter being quite low for instance. Our own track record in this matter is also low leaving much to be desired.

We hold that the five basic inequalities of class, caste, gender, religion and nationality have to be simultaneously addressed earnestly, though class is the common denominator or baseline acting under all other inequalities and injustice, with the poor among the oppressed people affected maximum. Our present understanding is that the contradictions in the society based on these factors are real and sharp and they have to be suitably reflected in our analysis of the society. So while drawing the fundamental contradictions in the society not only class contradictions but the other major contradictions based on caste, gender, religion etc should also be included.
And all our future plans should involve the concerned sections who are typically deprived of prestige, power and property and therefore denied proper say or any control over their lives. The most oppressed classes and sections should have their due representation in movement, party and power. Revolutionary mass movement should assure their real continued assertion and struggle before revolution, in revolution and after revolution. And in any future alternative power structures of the people each of these sections should definitely get their rightful share and representation or the revolution carries no meaning or any guarantee.

If this should happen, right from now, everyone of these sections need to be consciously organised around their specific identity and oppression as a caste, gender minority or nationality, apart from being organised on the basis of class, with umpteen opportunities to unleash their initiative. There should also be special emphasis to assist comrades from disadvantageous background, to learn the needful, for undertaking leadership roles. We have to demand for separate electorates to get proper class, caste, gender, religion and nationality representation taking clue from the separate electoral demand for ‘untouchables’ by Ambedkar.

Coming to the party in particular, first of all, if our mass work is properly rooted in all oppressed categories, naturally their overall composition in the party would increase. Further on serious and consistent efforts have to be made to raise them to leadership layers. As of now there are shortcomings in both. Formal or mechanical promotions to leadership roles considering caste, gender or such other background alone may not do well as the political acumen, maturity and organizational commitment of the comrades also have to be counted more strongly. But while keeping this in mind, special care may also be extended to elevate the potential representatives from such sections to responsible positions so they can learn from experience and emerge more strongly. Party should periodically review the composition of the oppressed sections in the movement, party and leadership and refocus itself to address any lacunae in the same. We are just beginning to try and translate this understanding into practice and need to very much improve.

18. Given the current regime at the centre, what is your approach to the question of united front against fascism and communalism? Who do you see as possible allies in such a front?

It is a corporate, communal and casteists combine with its capitalist, fascist, communal and brahmanical / casteist ideology that is pulling all the strings at the centre. This rightist combine has assumed power with the full connivance, financing and guidance of the global corporate powers and big capitalists in India. It’s every step, policy and action is overtly and covertly pushing ahead the convoluted preferred programme of this combine. There is a serious need to build a strong united front against these most exploitative, reactionary and retrogressive regime that is masquerading under the banner of development and modernity.

The success of the rightist forces in essence can be read as the failure of the left forces also. Hence we should inspect our role in retrospective very seriously. What needs to be underlined here is that divisions harmful to their cause exist not only amidst the exploited and oppressed masses but also organizations / parties working amongst them. Sectarian positions and tendencies have hampered the bonds of unity very seriously. While being principled, there is also a need to come out of our ideological and political puritanism and organisational sectarianism. Left and democratic forces should come closer as early as possible, to mobilise all the anti capitalist, anti communal and anti casteist forces, in a cohesive united front. The varied initial attempts in this direction need to be coordinated.

All the affected people and their organisations, just all who are opposed to the above reactionary combine are the potential and possible allies in this front. If only we focus our efforts in the right way, based on a common minimum programme, a broad united front can be built. Imbued with real democratic, secular and socialist values, we are sure that this can render a concerted counter against the capitalist – fascist – communal and brahmanical /casteist ideologies and actions politically, socially and culturally.

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