KS–A Centenary

Remembering a Renegade

Harsh Thakor

Kondapalli Seetharamiah. His stature can be compared with great post-Mao era leaders like Chairman Joma Sison and Chairman Gonzalo. Communist Revolutionaries marked October 12, 2019 to celebrate the birth centenary of this great communist leader.

KS started his illustrious career as leader of the Communist Party of India and later the leader of the Andhra Pradesh State Committee which after 1973 bifurcated from the original CPI (ML). He called for suspension of armed struggle from 1977 to create the base of mass movement to precipitate in the armed struggle. In 1980 the PWG party was formed and first spark of armed struggle lit. For 12 years till his expulsion in 1992 KS was it's general secretary. Tragically he became a victim of Parkinson's disease for a considerable time and expired in April 2002.

The formation of the CPI (ML) People's War group was a landmark event in the history of the World Communist Movement which KS was the architect. The leadership of Kondapalli Seetharamiah played a major role in the galvanisng of the broad masses with the revolutionary movement and build their striking capacity like a spark turning into a prairie fire... He was responsible for giving the line of Charu Mazumdar a concrete shape more than any leader, which is all the more significant with the rise of Neo Fascism today. With great tactical ingenuity he enabled the PWG to incorporate many important aspects of the massline blending armed struggle with mass struggles and party with guerilla squads like a wheel with an axle in it s practice. The seeds of the heroic Danda-karanya movement of the CPI (Maoist) were planted by the PWG.

KS document on the self-criticism of the 1969 CPI (ML) is one of the most incisive or analytical works written in respect to Marxism-Leninism -Maoism in the history of the Communist Movement in India. It highlighted the incorrect understanding of the era, wrong estimation of the International and National situation, errors of advocating line of annihilation of class enemy, wrong approach to the united front, disregarding mass organisations and open and other forms of struggle, wrong estimation of subjective factor, propagating guerilla action sin cities and giving pre-mature slogans, and bureaucratic functioning. Of prime importance was how Individual annihilation and rejection of mass organisation violated or deviated from basic massline.

The PWG did not mechanically copy the Chinese experience analysing the complexities or peculiarities of the Indian terrain and thus the need to form different guerilla zones simultaneously. It was a significant contribution made by KS that unlike China Indian state had a centraIised character, which made it far more difficult to create base areas in the countryside and thus had to build up not just one but several guerilla zones encompassing the Indian villages with the aim of creating a countryside upsurge, and bring about a change in the objective balance of forces between the enemy and communists in the course of time.

Between 1978 and 1985 influence of the movement pervaded itself horizontally and vertically, infiltrating every spectrum of society be it, encompassing every district of Andhra Pradesh. The most significant events in this period were the Indravelli massacre on April 20th, 1981 where 60 tribals were gunned down protesting against refusal of permission and work among Singrani Coal mines where movement of mine workers spread through 3 districts and thus forming the Singareni Karmika Samakhya Union.

The first step towards establishing a guerilla zone took place from I980-84, implementing the party's document "on 'Perspective for a guerilla zone". It was planned earlier in 1979 to turn Karimnagar, Adilabad, Warangal and Khamam districts into guerilla zones, as all the districts were inter-linked. It took into account that in case of state repression intensifying it would be imperative to have a rear in the forest areas. It planned to send squads to Danda-karanya region as well as North Telengana. With meticulous planning and strategic insight squads were sent there to prepare for armed struggle.

By mid-1988 five districts of North Telengana namely Karimnagar, Adilabad and Warangal. Nizamabad and Khammam were turned into a preparatory guerilla zone area. Intensification of anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggles and the formation of mass organisations; armed struggle became the main form of the struggle, guerilla squads became the main form of organisation, people's active support to armed struggle and guerilla squads and mass struggles in a wide contiguous area were the features. The party work encompassed an area covering about three lakh square km with a population around 60 million. The integration of armed squads with the people and integration with mass movements depicted dialectical practice at considerable depth.

The intensification of the land occupation struggle struck the ruling classes in their very chord and para-military forces were used to defeat the struggle. Even with the aid of the police and the para-military the landlords could not regain the land due to resistance of guerilla squads and the people. People cultivated at least half the occuppied land by offering collective resistance. 1500 acres of land in other areas of AP have been occupied. The movement spread like red lamps shimmering all over Andhra Pradesh striking enemy of feudalism in its very belly as no organisation did since Naxalbari.

Repression had reached its crescendo from 1985-89 which got a temporary breather in the early I990's.with the Congress regime relaxing the repression. By heroically resurrecting themselves from the grave by staging counter offensives with great foresight in every phase to the police and para-military forces PWG be it 1980-84, 1985-89 or 1990-92 not only advanced the path of New Democratic Revolution in the country, but also lit the flame of liberation in the very soul of the oppressed masses to inspire them. It proved in practice that it could counter the enemy offensive by intensifying armed struggle through guerilla methods based on revolutionary massline.

Above all KS even while mantain-ing secret functioning paved the way for genuine struggles of open and mass character to bloom, like red roses. The Karimnagar peasant movement and rytu coolie sangham conference of 1985 and 1990 and rally protesting the Indraveli massacre in 1984 are a testimony to this where 111 lakh people were mobilised.

KS was the pioneer in the forming of revolutionary mass organisations like the Radical Youth league, the Radical Students Union and earlier the Virasam when formation of mass organisations was disallowed by the CPI(ML). A predominant feature of the revolutionary movements was the integration and intervention of mass organisations like Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union. Andhra Pradesh Radical Youth League, Jana Natya Mandali and Virasam with the agrarian revolutionary movement who lit a spark to inspire peasant struggles like an inferno erupting.

In Jagtiyal in 1978 powerful struggles were staged boycotting the landlords, and their local agents. The main issues faced were abolition of paid labour and increase of agricultural wages. Praja Panchayats or peoples courts were established and landlords tried in public gatherings. The peasants displaying red flags occupied waste and government lands under the landlord's occupation. On September 7th 30000 people from 152 villages attended a demonstration at Jagtiyal. The movement led to unprecedented police repression after 1978.

A new generation of revolutionary intellectuals was defined by the formation of the Virasam or Revolutionary Writers Association in 1970, who in 1974 became the 1st mass organisation in India to officially proclaim ideology of Mao Tse Tung Thought rekindling the flame of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Virasam was a precursor to the formation of the Cultural organisation the Jana Nata Mandali in 1972.

The Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union from 1974 played the role of pioneers in the student movement in illuminating the political line of Naxalbari as well as the Chinese revolution and thus wrote a new epoch in the history of the student movement in India. For a prolonged period of 2 decades till it was banned the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union Hindu fascist forces, braving all kinds of state repression from time of emergency itself, with thousands being arrested or tortured. The APRSU led a series of Go To Villages campaign from 1978-1985 illuminating the ideology of agrarian revolution and immersing in the very struggles of the peasantry. It shimmered its torch at its crescendo in 1984 mobilising 111 students and youth in 2410 villages forming 200 new units. These organisations gave a new impetus to the anti-feudal struggles, particularly in Karimnar and Adilabad.

Qualitative work was done in the mines of Singakeri where economism was countered at its very roots. Under guidance of Radicals KK2 miners went on strike in April 18th, 1981, opposing a British time act which entailed reduction of 8 day wages for one day strike. It spread like wildfire to other mines of neighbouring areas. Simultaneously the firing took place on the Adivasis at Indravelli and the police authorities planned to repeat the firing on the workers if they continued the agitation. However the workers foiled the police bid to foil their protest by staging a mammoth public meeting in Godavri khani. The agitation ended after an epic 56 days. This struggle led to the formation of a formal Sikasa Union.

What is notable or praiseworthy was that even after KS was expelled from the party in 1992 the PWG strengthened or consolidated itself further and successfully held its 1995 conference. This proved that KS fostered the collective spirit of Leninism and prevented personality cult from being created within his party unlike leaders like Gonzalo in Peru or Prachanda in Nepal.

It also inspired communist worker in other states, particularly Maharashtra. A former member and mass organisation leader from Mumbai recounted in 1999 how a party leader from Srikakulam once most dialectically made a self-criticism of his action and spoke about how to correct mistakes.

Filmmaker Sagar Sarhadi, Late student activist Kartik Pannalal, Revolutionary cultural leader Amolak Singh of Punjab, journalist Bernard De Mello, veteran revolutionary Sunder Navalkar from Mumbai and Professor Amit Bhartacharya spoke volumes about the contribution of the PWG and were convinced that in its time it made a greater qualitative impact than any Communist revolutionary organisation.

It also combated ultra-secretist trend earlier prevailing by printing the party organ "Vanguard" with the name and address of editor and distributing it openly.

However KS made important errors on mass line in practice and theory.

KS could not completely extricate himself from the pernicious Dengist 3 worlds theory and erroeneously called for a United front with US Imperialism and other Western countries against Soviet Social Imperialism.
On Punjab he took a most ecclectical stand of supporting Bhindranwale and Akali movement thus soft-pedalling with Khalistani movement.

In practice he was responsible at times for opportunist alliances with the NTR Telegu Desam regime against the ruling Congress.

There were also military actions that were undertaken which were not in consonance with level of agrarian revolutionary or mass movement and thus inducing attacks by the state on the mass movements of the people-Thus at times mass line was vitiated with actions of armed squads replacing people's movements. This was reflected in the manner the state crushed the very backbone of the PWG in the later 1990's.

Insufficient democratic practice within the mass organisations was predominant with tendencies of sloganeering or propaganda not at the level of consciousness of the workers. Powerful tendency to impose party ideology of Mao Tse Tung Thought on mass organisations thus converting them into front organisations and thus alienating the broader sections.

Also powerful tendencies of big brother approach towards other revolutionary groups. Insufficient democratic practice within the mass organisations was predominant with tendencies of sloganeering or propaganda not at the level of consciousness of the workers.

The tactic of "Active boycott" in elections was deployed without the necessary preparations for political consciousness which could alienate the rnasses, and hardy sufficient emphasis on building or projecting the revolutionary alternative, with ruling class forces indirectly supported.

Tragically a strong spurt of clashes took place between the PWG and the Chandra Pulla Reddy group which acted against the interests of the revolutionary movement but both the groups did not usher self-criticism. In fact PWG felt its attacks on CP Reddy group squads were on class line which is erroneous.

KS also could not adequately do justice to the overall re-organisation of the party by not able to unify his organisation with the Maoist Communist Centre and often belittling unity with other groups or democratic centralism. Powerful tendencies of big brother approach towards other revolutionary groups. Also regionalist tendencies dictating movements in other states on the basis of the strength of squads in Andhra.

Conclusively as Marxists on his 100th birth anniversary communist revolutionaries have to dialecticaly make a synthesis of the positive and negative aspects of KS. Without doubt his positive points outweigh his negative by a big margin.

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Vol. 52, No. 21, Nov 24 - 30, 2019