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Comprehensive account of reality of India, as seen by Amit Bhattacharya

By Harsh Thakor 

‘World Turned Upside Down’ by Amit Bhattacharya is a most lucid, comprehensive and congeal work. An integral part of a library of any Marxist or revolutionary democrat. It is dissected into 5 chapters comprising ‘Imperialist Development', ‘People’s Resistance’,’ Repression’, ‘Peoples Development’ and ‘Emergence of New Human Beings’.
Most comprehensively Bhattacharya diagnoses the essence of the anti-people nature of the globalisation and liberalization policies introduced since1991 and how in essence what was practiced from 1947-1990 was only a caricature of Socialism.
It applauds the role of Maoist China as a role model in transforming production relations.
The book also highlights the role of Maoists in transforming economic relations and why it is erroneous to merely dub them as terrorists and not recognize its status as a revolutionary democratic force.
It offers an illustrative perspective on the cosmetic nature of Indian democracy and how over decades breeding grounds have been created for Hindutva neo-fascism.

1. Imperialist Development

In Chapter on Imperialist Development it probes into the penetration of neo-imperialism in the Economic, political and Strategic ramifications in India. In detail it summarises how morally 1947 Independence was a transfer of power, in the hands of the comprador bourgeoisie. It investigates the manner bureaucratic capitalism and National Capitalism dominated India since 1947 itself. It unravelled how India harboured expansionist policy and summarised the aspirations of the rulers since 1947.The negative experience of the Green Revolution was summarised in context of promoting capitalist development. Projects how democratic movements of Indian nationalities were mercilessly crushed be it in Kashmir, Assam or Mizoram.
The cosmetic nature of land reforms after Indian Independence was summarised and the conspiracy of the big bourgeoisie with imperialism and feudalism. It delved into how they performed the role of agents of British Imperialism .The autocratic stand of Nehru towards Kashmir in 1952 was probed, when he went back on his earlier promise of vacating Kashmir.
A stark contrast was made between the Marxist model with the on created in India. It illustrated how ecology was given a mortal blow .It narrates the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao in context of India. The chapter illustrates how China after 1949 was a virtual contrast to India by genuinely undertaking land reforms and fulfilling democratic aspiration sin every sphere. Most lucidly contrasted the nature of the democratic character of China with the semi-colonial state of India in 1947.
“The Maoist strategy of development was opposed to the Soviet strategy of development. Instead of the one-sided development of heavy industry, Mao proposed the simultaneous development of heavy industry, light industry and agriculture, with emphasis on light industry and agriculture on which most of the people of China depended. For Stalin and the Bolsheviks and for Mao, the critical problem for a Communist Party is to secure rapid development of the forces of production. Only then could the people be fed, clothed and housed. But the Soviets understood it in a restricted way. They forgot the basic Marxist notion that productive forces comprised of two things—working hands and machinery; of these two, the former was more important than the latter. Mao made a scathing criticism of Stalin’s book, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR and held that in Stalin’s book, there is no mention, from the beginning to the end, of superstructure; it is not at all concerned with human beings.
“Another aspect of the Maoist model of development was “walking on two legs.” It sought also the simultaneous development of national industries and local industries, relied on both modern and traditional technologies, on both capital-intensive and labour-intensive industries. It also sought to reduce the differences between town and country, unlike the capitalist model which makes the town develop at the cost of the villages. During the Great Leap Forward and the People’s Commune, people were taught to realize that the development of China lies not in moving from the village to the city, but in coming to the village from the city. In this way a perfect metabolic balance between man and nature was maintained and “rift” avoided.”

2. Peoples Resistance

In chapter on Peoples Resistance it gave detailed coverage of how the POSCO operation destroyed the very backbone of the people’s livelihood and the impact of displacement which had disastrous consequences on the land and the people. It traversed the role of Orissa government in allowing entry of POSCO and vividly described the conditions prevailing in Jagatsinghpur. “Thousands of years of manual and mental human labour had helped transform swamp lands and dense coastal forests into the fertile food-growing region that it is today. Along with the food-producing economy, indigenous folk culture also developed -- their habitats, language, common economy, culture and a common way of life—all of which contributed to their sustenance. The villages of Dhinkia, Gobindapur, Nuagaon, Noliasahi, Polanga, Bayanalakanda, Bhuyanpal and Jatadhar—all directed affected by the POSCO steel-power-port project, rely heavily on the landforms and biodiversity of the area to support their agricultural and fishing activities. This rich biodiversity and the people’s way of life, and the very existence of the people, is today seriously threatened with imminent destruction.”
In Intrinsic detail it encompassed the fascist nature of police attacks death defying resistance and defiance in the Nandigram Struggle and later in Lalgarh.Vivid examples were given of the manner democratic forms of struggle and power emerged and roots built for establishing a genuine people’s alternative. It threw light on how different methods were adopted in various junctures and the heroism in which state repression was repealed. It projected how it was the very people who shaped the new forms of power in the Commitees and asserted their right to self defence. In detail Bhattacharya probes into how Lalgarh region was a belt of neo-fascist oppression and diagnosed all the economic characteristics. It deeply probed into the fascistic repression unleashed by the state in every juncture. It described how it was only the Maoist party who gave a prop to the crystallisation of this movement. Complete justice was done to the impact on the region after the intervention of the Maoists and how they integrated in the very heart of the people of Lalgarh.The struggles of the people’s militia were vividly described and how Jangalmahal was a war to serve foreign and domestic corporate capital. Different phases of the Lalharh movement were traversed, summing up the distinguishing aspects of them. Vividly it described how the people at very base confronted police repression, delivering mortal blows to the enemy .It projected the social fascist nature of the CPI-M.
Below excerpts from Book on Nandigram and Lalagarh.

Nandigram

1. The struggle of the people of Nandigram was essentially a struggle against land acquisition and displacement, against SEZs and chemical hubs—a state policy formulated by the powers-that-be at the dictates of their US masters. Therefore, it was anti-imperialist in character.
2. Nandigram, adopted both unarmed and armed methods of struggle, fought under the banner of BUPC and developed the struggle to a much higher stage, at least at the initial stage.
3. What is also noticeable is the deep bonding between the Hindus and Muslims in the interest of a common struggle. This unity has been demonstrated by how the enemy attacks were resisted amidst the mingled sounds of the blowing of conch shells and
the call of the muezzin.
4.. After a long time, the urban people—intellectuals, teachers, students, workers, artists, scientists, human rights and other activists and many others—joined hands with the rural people. It was some- thing not seen for many years.
5. The formation of the MMS—a women’s organization—was something new. Their fight against patriarchy, against liquor shops, for the assertion of their right to form committees of their own, to go out at all times of the day and night, formation of people’s committees to settle disputes, even family disputes—all these were unique experiments in Nandigram.
6. The Nandigram struggle is also a struggle which clearly showed that the struggling people looked towards the past history for the sake of their present struggle. As the people of the area fought against the British Raj during the 1940s by adopting such methods as cutting down roads, felling trees on the streets to raise barricades to the entry of the state forces, the people during the present fight also adopted the same methods. The Muslim women looked towards their religion to seek ideological justification for their present armed movement. They said: “The shariat that directs us to remain behind the veil also directs us to face the enemy with knives in hand.”
7. The CPI(M), which still prefers to have the label “Marxist” attached to its organization, has proved to be a trusted, if not the most trusted, agent of foreign capital.
8. Nandigram has truly become the symbol of defiance and resistance. The WB government had to declare, though not in writing as yet, that there would be no chemical hub in Nandigram. That has become an inspiration for people fighting in other
areas against eviction from land and habitats. In fact, Nandi-gram has become the household name of a fighting people and the message spread far and wide.
9. Later, some activists and also academicians made some comparisons between the Nandigram struggle and the Naxalbari struggle of the late 1960s. The battle being waged in Nandigram is a battle against the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). It is a battle against imperialism, notably US imperialism. The Naxalbari struggle was primarily a struggle for the capture of political power; it signified the beginning of an agrarian revolution
under the influence of Mao Zedong Thought.

Lalgarh movement

The chapter published the review of the Maoist on Positive and Negative Aspects: These were the principal features.
1. The movement did not emerge on the basis of any partial demand; on the contrary, it was a political uprising based on political demands that influenced the whole state and the country.
2. It is a continuation of the Naxalbari movement and has set an example throughout the country.
3. The ruling CPI (M) party created some reactionary forums to malign this movement. However, they were beaten back through the conscious and spirited participation of the people.
4. While the movement was on, one section of the traditional leadership within the movement tried to destroy the movement by colluding with the State from within, sometimes by supporting it and sometimes by opposing it. Adopting the method of unity and struggle, the Party exposed them and isolated them.
5. This movement proceeded through different forms of struggle. Bundh (total shutdown), road blockade, gherao (encirclement), boycott were some of the mass forms adopted. It was possible to keep the spirit and morale of the people intact by proceeding through a long zigzag course.
6. Inspite of the fact that at the beginning of the joint military operation, one section of the people was afraid, in the later period active resistance was built up.
7. It was possible to expose the social fascist nature of the CPI (M) by countering their attacks with firm resolve and destroying their citadel.

Negative Aspects

The review identified ten shortcomings in their movement.
First, the Party’s work outside Jangal Mahal was not that strong; they could not utilize whatever was available to arouse the masses in support of the Jangal Mahal movement.
Second, after the beginning of the joint military offensive, links with the party units outside Jangal Mahal were cut off, for which it was not possible to guide them.
Third, although discussions were made to strengthen the Party in Jangal Mahal, it was not given due importance. The result was that although many new activists came forward, not much progress was made to bring in new party members and strengthen the Party.
Fourth, from the beginning of the movement, the people showed much bravery in raising the banner of resistance with traditional weapons. However, at the initial stage, as the Party admitted, they lagged behind in the formation of a people’s militia.
Fifth, the fact that army and also lower-rank leading activists were comparatively new, they suffered from an absence of competent planning and efficient leadership.
Sixth, it is true that the protracted mass movement brought a large number of new faces forward; however, the Maoists admit, they lagged much behind in the task of distinguishing organizational and military work and in increasing competence in both.
Seventh, the Party also identified a lack of enough firearms and explosives as another major limitation. There was no paucity of manpower; there was paucity of gun power.
Ninth, the Maoists admitted that although there was great possibility of developing organized resistance in adjoining Bankura by sending competent organizers, it did not materialize because of lack of correct planning. Tenth, during the joint military offensive, several ML groups launched political attacks against the Party, but the Maoists could not give befitting counter-replies to them.

3. Repression

In the next chapter on Repression Bhattacharya very articulately portrayed the germination of neo-fascism. The chapter unravelled how even traditional bourgeois civil liberties were violated through the banning of certain books and suppression o right to express views. It drew similarities with practise of former fascist countries. Particular emphasis was given to suppression of Marxist literature .With great conviction it expressed how fundamental rights were violated. Vividly he compared the current condition or treatment of political prisoners with those of the colonial era. He illustrated the barbaric practices within jail walls and how the most basic human rights were not granted. Bhattacharya affirms that the roots of such oppression lay from 1947 itself.
Bhattacharya traces the evolution of liberal bourgeois democracy recounting era of French Revolution when books of Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau and Montesquieu were banned .He also referred to burning of books and elimination of dissident scholars in Ancient China ,Burning of Carvak and Writing sin Ancient India and repression, Forbidden texts under the British colonial rule and suppression under the Catholic Church of dissent. He established the link between past Indian history and the pro-fascist repression on writer and books n recent times and probed into reasons for the state to impose such a ban.
“The government which professes democracy cannot curb freedom of expression, of publication of books by individuals and organizations. They take this recourse when they are afflicted with deep-rooted socio-economic crises, and when people’s voice against state repression gets louder and louder and the rulers find it hard to combat them ideologically. It is the State that is armed with weapons, forces and black laws which they use according to their own sweet will against their adversaries, even though they are sons and daughters of the same soil. They believe that since they are armed to the teeth, they will be able to crush people’s resistance as they wish. The ruling classes all over the World think that by putting a ban on books, they will be able to put an end to their reading; by stopping the publication of a book, they will be able to stop the dissemination of the ideas it professes; and by banning an organization, they will be able to send it to oblivion.
“Banned books are then printed secretly, circulated among people and they go on changing hands. Clandestine literature makes its way, spread through networks, keeping the ruling classes in the dark and placing them in a state of perpetual anxiety.”

4. People’s Development

In the 4th part in vivid detail he endeavours into how the Maoist movement transformed the lives of people in different areas.
He probes into how the Maoist movement knitted the Janatana Sarcars by penetrating into the very thick o the skin of the masses. A comparison is made between the base areas created by the Chinese Communist party in the 1940’s in Nanchang and the forms of political power in Dandakaranya.
It covers areas like fishing industry, housing, production methods, literacy, health etc.He summarised the methods by which people were incorporated into cooperative societies and production. With deep conviction t expresses how peoples self –government has been established. He made a stark contrast between the lives or features of the backward peasantry with those of the Adivasis.
No stone is left unturned in recognising the achievements of Maoists in making dramatic changes in relations between landlords, Landless farmers and agricultural labourers. It reveals the changes in respect to Food, Oil, Tea, Soap, Vegetables, Fish breeding, Clothes and Houses. Now people lived in brick houses, I contrast to living in straw houses earlier. Women who earlier wore a white cloth now wore a blouse and sarees. Today Adivasis can have a full meal in the evening who earlier and eat rice n the morning who earlier could only eat horsegram. Now they can all drink tea, unlike before. Fish industry is flourishing which earlier was on a low ebb due to water scarcity. A much more democratic marriage system has been enforced with changes created in man woman relations. Marriages by mutual content are a routine practice. The Maoists have undertaken some of the most path breaking interventions in medical or Health care, saving lives of people in numerous occasions. The basic accent, however briefly, is on the semi-feudal nature of the Indian economy with regional variations, the economy in the Adivasi area of the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra in the Dandakaranya revolutionary zone with characteristics of its own, and how that world got transformed for the better as a result of the Maoist movement. We have also touched upon some of the changes that have been taking place in the realm of superstructure, role of women and other issues. It has been a very brief survey based primarily on rare investigation reports prepared by those who play a role in this ongoing process in the face of mounting adversity. India needs more and more William Hintons and more and more “fanshens” to analyze and relate the changes that have been silently taking place in the Indian countryside, but are concealed from public gaze and knowledge.”
Bhattacharya also explores the land relations and the extent to which the Maoists have undertaken land distribution. He narrated how Maoists after the government seized their ‘pattas’ or land rights, led the people to heroically combat the forest department for rights to agricultural lands .This occurred not only in Gadchiroli, but throughout Dandakaranya. Between 1981 and 1984, in Ahiri taluka alone, 18 villages of Jammalagutta range, 10 to 12 villages of Pranhita range, and nearly 10 villages of Diseli- peta range together brought 20,000 acres of previously uncultivated land under agriculture.
Very grounded statistical analysis of land relations here.

5. Emergence of New Human Beings

In the final part the book deals with how the iron feet of oppression gave birth to some of the most dedicated persons serving the cause of liberating humanity. He gave illustrative life sketches of Charu Mazumdar and Anuradha Ghandy.He projected the truly humane or inner spiritual aspect of their lives in relation to how they led masses and integrated with the revolutionary struggles. It deals with the characteristics of the writings of Charu Mazumdar and his very lucid manner of relating to people. In the author’s view Majumdar was highly methodical and passionate. Very well compiled portrait of creative contribution of Anuradha Ghandy in linking movement to caste question and redressing aspect of Women in revolutionary movement.

Weaknesses of book

The main flaw of this book is in only giving credibility to the Maoist movement and fails to encompass a diverse perspective to highlight other genuine democratic trends .No mention of Chattisagrah trade Union movement built by late Shankar Nyugi ,Marxist Leninist camp of Nagi Reddy-DV Rao, or Chandra Pulla Reddy, or any referral to the broad based farmers movement in Delhi border. Given no lines to the massline practice in Punjab in recent decades by Nagi Reddy stream.
There is hardly any critical analysis of the subjective nature of the Maoist practice highlighting how often armed squads fail to integrate with land movements and how genuine democratic mass organisations have not been established. He does not highlight how in reality it is not the masses that are governing or running their lives in the guerrilla zones. No referral to critical analysis of activists like Bela Bhatia and Gautam Navlakha, who have undertaken extensive work in Chattisgarh.or even Alpa Sha,in Jharkhand.Bhattacharya fails to narrate some of the undemocratic practices of the Maoists in Jharkhand and Orissa ,with movements governed by Maoist dictates.
There is hardly an space given to the blunders of the Maoists in Lalgarh,which has caused even Maoist intellectuals and activists to reject the line of Kishenji.No mention of how the Maoists lacked the subjective forces to overcome the opressors.There is no criticism of the Maoists forging an alliance with Mamta Banerjee led Congress. It is worth readers referring to critique of journal ’Aneek ‘ in 2009 and a book by Srigendu Bhattacharya on the Lalgarh Movement.Bhattacharya projection of Dandakaranya as a base area similar to what the Chinese Communist Party established. is misleading.
In Chapter 1 Bhattacharya supports CPC critique of USSR model being critical of emphasis on productive forces .He fails to recognize the Marxist –Leninist essence of Stalin’s work on ‘Economic Problems of Socialism’ and the positive role of USSR in constructing heavy industry . It failed to highlight the haphazard nature of the Great Leap Forward of Maoist China., which failed to emulate Soviet planned economy. Tendencies to eulogise Maoism and CPC when ascribing that India needs more and more William Hintons and more and more “fanshens” to analyze and relate the changes that have been silently taking place in the Indian countryside.
Bhattacharya is unable to investigate or diagnose the specific characteristics of the Indian economy, in contrast to China earlier. India is not today a classically semi-feudal and semi-colonial society, with important changes after 1991.Even in 1947 it had parliamentary system of government and did not completely duplicate pre-revolutionary China. Fails to distinguish completely the nature of the Indian bourgeoisie from the Chinese one.
There is no highlighting of the Indian working class Struggles on how to proletarianise mass struggles.
In my view he awards no credibility to the bourgeois liberal constitution of India in 1947.
The only characters he sketches in the final chapter are from the Maoist camp, and from no other Revolutionary stream. No mention of the grave mistakes committed by Charu Mazumdar in advocating line of ‘Individual annihilation of class enemies’ ,called for disbanding mass organisations and movements terming ‘China’s path’ as ‘India’s Path ‘ and hailed ‘China’s chairman as India’s chairman.’
No discussion on the correct perspective of democratic rights Movement.
---
Harsh Thakor is a freelance Journalist who has undertaken extensive research on Indian revolutionary democratic movement and political and economic nature of India

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