ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Naxalbari and After

CPI(ML)–Liberation’s Way Forward

The special section “Naxalbari and After” (EPW, 27 May 2017) covered only the armed-struggle trend in the Naxalbari movement. The author briefly writes about the other major trend in the movement, represented by the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist)–Liberation.

The special section “Naxalbari and After” (EPW, 27 May 2017) is a major contribution to the discussion on the topic going on in periodicals, seminars and other fora in different parts of the country on the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari uprising. Insightful, wide-ranging and thought-provoking as the writings are, the special section as a whole misses the wood for one particular tree. It studies in detail and from various angles one trend in the Naxalbari movement—that of exclusive focus on armed struggle in favourable terrain, and overlooks the big picture where, side-by-side with the aforesaid trend, operates another stream which currently prioritises mass struggles and political mobilisations in all (including parliamentary) forms/fronts. This gap in an otherwise excellent compendium becomes particularly disappointing in Sumanta Banerjee’s article, because it purports to be a brief overview of the movement in its entirety, and additionally because one expected a more balanced assessment from the veteran observer of the Naxalbari movement.

In his strongly argued essay, Banerjee makes several interesting points, some of which (for example, the suggestion that in the late 1960s the “peasant supporters” (emphasis added) in Naxalbari and Srikakulam were not “ideologically committed to the Maoist programme,” rather they were “more concerned with their immediate economic needs”) many will find unacceptable. Perhaps his most valuable observation, on the other hand, is about the urgent need to evolve a “multi-pronged” or “multi-level” revolutionary strategy commensurate with current Indian conditions, and he has also offered his own good suggestions on that score. But any discussion on this topic, while benefiting from criticism and suggestions from political analysts and social scientists, remains badly incomplete if it fails to take cognisance of the updating and fine-tuning in strategy and tactics that some Naxalite groups/parties have already made (whether rightly or wrongly is a different discourse). In the available space it is not possible to cover all these organisations, but a very brief case study of the experience of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist)–Liberation CPI(ML)–Liberation—which, according to Banerjee, is “the main proponent” of the trend that charted a new course of advance in the post-1977 period—can offer some idea about the evolution of a multi-pronged strategy and tactics from within the movement.

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