The CPIML and Mao - A Comment

Sandeep Banerjee

This is apropos to 'Charu Majumdar, CPI(ML) Then, Maoist Party Now' by Bernard D'Mello that was published in the Autumn Number of Frontier*. We would like to thank Bernard D'Mello very much for this essay and the way he analysed, an often said and seldom practiced art of analysis concretely, objectively, the concrete conditions, which will come to a great help to activists of younger generation. He has analysed in detail the first condition given by Mao under the subtitle – ‘Reasons for the emergence and survival of red political power in china’ in the seminal work: Why is it that red political power can exist in china? (October 5, 1928) []

To quote from this work of Mao — “First, it cannot occur in any imperialist country or in any colony under direct imperialist rule, but can only occur in China which is economically backward, and which is semi-colonial and under indirect imperialist rule. For this unusual phenomenon can occur only in conjunction with another unusual phenomenon, namely, war within the White regime. It is a feature of semicolonial China that, since the first year of the Republic [1912] the various cliques of old and new warlords have waged incessant wars against one another, supported by imperialism from abroad and by the comprador and landlord classes at home. … Two things account for its occurrence, namely, a localized agricultural economy (not a unified capitalist economy) and the imperialist policy of marking off spheres of influence in order to divide and exploit. The prolonged splits and wars within the White regime provide a condition for the emergence and persistence of one or more small Red areas under the leadership of the Communist Party amidst the encirclement of the White regime. … If only we realize that splits and wars will never cease within the White regime in China, we shall have no doubts about the emergence, survival and daily growth of Red political power.” Bernard D'Mello has analysed this part with wonderful detail. But if he does not mind and if the Editor of Frontier permits, we can site the other four concrete reasons stated by Mao to prove why red political power can exist and even flourish in rural China.

If we see Reason 2 in brief (not burdening with the whole/exact quotation) – (i) ‘the regions where China's Red political power has first emerged and is able to last for a long time’ [are] ‘regions … where the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers rose in great numbers in the course of the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1926 and 1927.’ [Mao gives some example of what people actually did there that time.] + (ii) ‘As for the present Red Army, it is a split-off from the National Revolutionary Army which underwent democratic political training and came under the influence of the masses of workers and peasants.’

Then another vital point, Reason 3 – ‘If the nation-wide revolutionary situation does not continue to develop but stagnates for a fairly long time, then it will be impossible for the small Red areas to last long. Actually, the revolutionary situation in China is continuing to develop … Therefore, the small Red areas will undoubtedly last for a long time, and will also continue to expand and gradually approach the goal of seizing political power throughout the country.’

Reason 4 — [is the] ‘the existence of a regular Red Army of adequate strength’. ‘Therefore, even when the masses of workers and peasants are active, it is definitely impossible to create an independent regime, let alone an independent regime which is durable and grows daily, unless we have regular forces of adequate strength.’ [Red area is described here as ‘independent regime’.]

Finally, the Reason 5 which was given by Mao in a very brief sentence: ‘another important condition in addition to the above is required for the prolonged existence and development of Red political power, namely, that the Communist Party organization should be strong and its policy correct.’

[It might be an interesting discussion to see, except the reason no: 1, what similarities were there for Nepal since the 1990s till say, 2006.]

In case of India possibly it was first assumed that India was a semi-feudal semi-colonial country the same as was China at the time of Mao’s writing [assumed may be because India was not a capitalist country per se and nor was a colony as it was before 1947; there were many feudal lords and also there were businesses and investments of many imperialist countries, and so on]. But the concrete condition of India 50 years ago was not scrutinised and compared with that of China 0f 1920s. And as (it was assumed) ‘’India is a semi-feudal semi-colonial country” everything that was practised in China would have to be done here in India.

And it was done more than literally what they in China wrote. It is not uncommon in India to find activists of ‘communist revolutionary forces’ who believe that ‘national bourgeoisie are supporter of revolution’ in spite of Mao’s analysis: “The middle bourgeoisie, by which is meant chiefly the national bourgeoisie, is inconsistent in its attitude towards the Chinese revolution….” [‘Analysis of the classes in Chinese society’ (March 1926)] or believe that “rich peasants are friends of the revolution” to the extent that movement for wage hike of agricultural day labourers were seldom given highlight and Mao’s words like these were mostly undervalued — “His main form of exploitation is the hiring of labour (long-term labourers). In addition, he may let part of his land and practice exploitation through land rent, or may lend money or engage in industry and commerce. Most rich peasants also engage in the administration of communal land. A person who owns a fair amount of good land, farms some of it himself without hiring labour, but exploits other peasants by means of land rent, loan interest or in other ways, shall also be treated as a rich peasant. Rich peasants regularly practice exploitation and many derive most of their income from this source.” [‘How to differentiate the classes in the rural areas’, October 1933,] Mao there described the rich peasants also as, “The rich peasant as a rule owns land. But some rich peasants own only part of their land and rent the remainder. Others have no land of their own at all and rent all their land. The rich peasant generally has rather more and better instruments of production and more liquid capital than the average and engages in labour himself, but always relies on exploitation for part or even the major part of his income.” That is Mao did not apply the rich peasant label considering amount of land owned but rather by the role of that peasant in production process – that he is a peasant (labours himself on his land) but depends on hired labours always. Even nowadays in the so-called famers march where most participants are rural poor, demand of wage rise is conspicuously absent. Then, suppose, many a times you may find astonishment in the faces of such activists if they are told that peasants who own land are ‘petty bourgeoisie’ even if Mao taught, “The petty bourgeoisie. Included in this category are the owner-peasants, the master handicraftsmen, the lower levels of the intellectuals--students, primary and secondary school teachers, lower government functionaries, office clerks, small lawyers--and the small traders.” [‘Analysis of the classes in Chinese society’ (March 1926)]

In almost all cases we find, in India, class/strata analysis among peasants is done by ‘size of landholding’ (ownership) and in some cases even operational holdings are considered as a basis. Mao, as a Leninist, never did so, rather stressed on their role in the labour process, in the process of production. For example, “In general, a middle peasant does not need to sell his labour power, while the poor peasant has to sell part of his labour power. This is the principal criterion for distinguishing between a middle and a poor peasant.” [‘How to differentiate the classes in the rural areas’, October 1933,]

Lastly one point from what we quoted earlier too. Mao said, “It is a feature of semicolonial China that, since the first year of the Republic [1912] the various cliques of old and new warlords have waged incessant wars against one another, supported by imperialism from abroad and by the comprador and landlord classes at home.” [Why is it that red political power can exist in china?] From the words ‘It is a feature of semicolonial China that, since the first year of the Republic’ it might be possible that this feature is not a very common feature of every ‘semicolonial’ country, but rather of China and that too in a particular period. We would like to hear from learned friends. Did we see this feature in any other big country in the first half of the earlier century?

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Jun 15, 2018

Sandeep Banerjee

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