Red Is The Color Of The Poor: Sumanta Banerjee Looks Into The Naxalbari Uprising In India

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Countercurrents.org | November 17, 2017

naxalbari

Sumanta Banerjee (b. 1936), political and civil rights activist and social scientist, moved to the revolutionary position of the Naxalbari peasants’ upsurge in the north-eastern India while working as a journalist for The Statesman in the late sixties, and joined the movement in 1973. He had to resort to underground life while carrying on his revolutionary tasks in rural and industrial areas, Srikakulam forests and hills, and Kolkata slums. As an active participant in the toilers’ political struggle armed with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought he had the opportunity to know the movement closely from his work with comrades from grassroots and a part of leadership, and working with Liberation, the clandestine English organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Sumanta Banerjee, author of In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India(Subarnarekha, Kolkata, 1980), Marxism and the Indian Left: From “Interpreting” to “Changing” It(Purbalok Publication, Kolkata, 2012), The Parlour and the Street: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (1989) and Logic in a Popular Form (2002), regularly contributes to The Economic and Political Weekly from Mumbai. He is also editor of Thema Book of Naxalite Poetry(1987). In this interview, conducted in late-September-early-October, 2017 by Farooque Chowdhury, Sumanta Banerjee looks into the Naxalbari Uprising.Read More »

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Red is the color of the poor

Sumanta Banerjee looks into the Naxalbari Uprising in India

by Farooque Chowdhury

Frontier | November 17, 2017

Sumanta Banerjee (b. 1936), political and civil rights activist and social scientist, moved to the revolutionary position of the Naxalbari peasants’ upsurge in the north-eastern India while working as a journalist for The Statesman in the late sixties, and joined the movement in 1973. He had to resort to underground life while carrying on his revolutionary tasks in rural and industrial areas, Srikakulam forests and hills, and Kolkata slums. As an active participant in the toilers’ political struggle armed with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought he had the opportunity to know the movement closely from his work with comrades from grassroots and a part of leadership, and working with Liberation, the clandestine English organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Sumanta Banerjee, author of In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India (Subarnarekha, Kolkata, 1980), Marxism and the Indian Left: From “Interpreting” to “Changing” It (Purbalok Publication, Kolkata, 2012), The Parlour and the Street: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (1989) and Logic in a Popular Form (2002), regularly contributes to The Economic and Political Weekly from Mumbai. He is also editor of Thema Book of Naxalite Poetry (1987). This interview was conducted in late-September-early-October, 2017 by Farooque Chowdhury.   Read More »

India: After 100 Years of Peace-Land-Bread and 50 years of Naxalbari Peasant Struggle

Land Question: Where Do We Stand Now

by Sandeep Banerjee

Frontier | October 21, 2017

On the day our daytime and nighttime were equal (2017 Sept 22), during a march of All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee, Yogendra Yadav told us, “So, what we are witnessing is the beginning of something that can only be described as a peasant rebellion”[1]. What fuel his optimism are — outbursts of peasants’ movement in various part of the country in the last 12-14 months, and also, “Second, they are being run by different organisations, but the demands are actually common. Every single protest boils down to two demands: fair and remunerative price and complete loan waiver or freedom from debt. This de-facto common agenda has emerged in the formation of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee, bringing together more than 150 farmer organisations. So, there is a possibility.” And so the task as he visualizes is, “A lot of work needs to be done but if there was one opportunity for creating a nation-wide farmers’ struggle, today is that moment.”[2]Read More »

Half a Century of India’s Maoist Insurgency

The Diplomat | September 21, 2017

With the largest Communist guerrilla army in the world — the FARC of Colombia — handing over its guns to the United Nations on June 27 this year and preparing to contest elections in the coming month, a curtain has been drawn on the once ubiquitous phenomenon of “Marxist insurgencies.”

Once present all across the globe, Communist guerrillas and their armed offensives against governments had shaped much of the 20th century. From small bands of deadly fighters to full-fledged armies with combatants numbering in the thousands, such groups once held significant firepower and control of land across Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. But as things stand today most of these groups have either been crushed, chosen the ballot over the bullet, or have withered into political irrelevance.Read More »

India: Is the M-L Movement on the Wane?

by Debabrata Panda

Frontier | Autumn Number | Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 – Oct 21, 2017

Those who uphold the peasant struggle of Naxalbari, Kharibari and Phansidewa in May, 1967 as the turning point in the communist movement in India are known as Marxist-Leninists (MLs). Fifty years ago the Chinese Communist Party hailed this upsurge in revolutionary struggle as the ‘spring thunder’ over Naxalbari. There the peasant masses did not fight only for the realization of their economic demands like confiscation of jotedars’ lands or cancellation of peasants’ debts. They were engaged in a political struggle for the seizure of power with which their economic struggles were linked. The struggle for seizure of power still continues to develop along a zigzag path through many ups and downs in tribal heartlands of Jharkhand, Bihar, southern part of Odisha, some pockets of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and West Bengal. All the ML–parties and groups of activists who reject the parliamentary Left like CPI and CPI(M) as revisionists and accept Marxisnm-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought as their ideology are labeled by the media as Naxalites. The authorities dub them as Naxals.Read More »

India: Light of Naxalbari Glowing for 50 Years

by Aloke Mukherjee

Frontier | Autumn Number | Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 – Oct 21, 2017

Oft in the stilly night
Ere slumbers chain has bound me
Fond memories bring
The Light of Other days around me
—William Blake

If one goes 50 years back down the memory lane, it will bring before him the days full of dreams, vigour, vitality, as well as resolute tireless activities that the great Naxalbari peasant uprising had drawn the communist workers into. True, Naxalbari was not a magic wand; the international and national situations, particularly that in West Bengal, was already drawing them towards the revolutionary movement. But Naxalbari sent the clarion call—the message to stand up.Read More »

‘Naxalbari 50’: Continuing Revolution: Is the M-L Movement on the Wane?

by Debabrata Panda

Frontier | Autumn Number | Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 – Oct 21, 2017

Those who uphold the peasant struggle of Naxalbari, Kharibari and Phansidewa in May, 1967 as the turning point in the communist movement in India are known as Marxist-Leninists (MLs). Fifty years ago the Chinese Communist Party hailed this upsurge in revolutionary struggle as the ‘spring thunder’ over Naxalbari. There the peasant masses did not fight only for the realization of their economic demands like confiscation of jotedars’ lands or cancellation of peasants’ debts. They were engaged in a political struggle for the seizure of power with which their economic struggles were linked. The struggle for seizure of power still continues to develop along a zigzag path through many ups and downs in tribal heartlands of Jharkhand, Bihar, southern part of Odisha, some pockets of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and West Bengal. All the ML–parties and groups of activists who reject the parliamentary Left like CPI and CPI(M) as revisionists and accept Marxisnm-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought as their ideology are labeled by the media as Naxalites. The authorities dub them as Naxals.Read More »

Naxalbari to Nandigram

by Sandip Bandyopadhyay

Frontier  | Autumn Number | Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 – Oct 21, 2017

Naxalbari, 25 May, 1967 : Peasants stood against the eviction of a share-cropper and sought to establish their right over their land and produce. Police action followed. At least eleven villagers including five women and two children were shot down. A police officer had been killed by the villagers on the previous day.

Nandigram, 14 March, 2007 : Since January, peasants had been fighting for protecting their farmland from being acquired by the state. Police fired on a peaceful assembly and killed at least fourteen people including two women. The ruling CPI(M) goons who accompanied the force  raped or outraged a number of women. None of the policemen or partymen was reported to be injured.

In terms of casualties and scale of terror unleashed by the state, Nandigram was no less horrible than Naxalbari. In Naxalbari, peasants were instigated by a radical section of the CPI(M) who came to believe that armed struggle was the only means of social change. They incited the peasants to rise in revolt against the exploitative big landowners (jotedars). This was considered the first step.Read More »

A Few Words About Naxalbari

by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Frontier | Autumn Number | Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 – Oct 21, 2017

It is hard to think that fifty years have passed since the first confrontation in Naxalbari. I was both too far and too close. One of my cousins, with whom I had gone to school every day as a child, was deeply involved. And one of our batchmates let loose unbelievable mass brutality upon young men lining a street, asking householders to close their windows. Rumours, before cable television (we had a small black and white), before the internet, before satellite telephone. I was tucked away at the University of Iowa, a young Assistant Professor quite set in with the anti-Vietnam War struggle earlier, and with the diasporic support of the Bangladesh upheaval later, but about Naxalbari was caught in helpless hearsay. Hadn’t enough money to go home until 1972, only then to realise the depth and breadth of the wounded polity. But, and I say this with some embarrassment, an old cynical woman now, some of us had romanticised the fact that the first shot was an arrow. My best understanding of the entire movement still comes from Sumanta Banerjee’s In the Woke of Naxalbari. I have learnt some Chinese since then, enough to teach some Mao Zedong with the help of graduate students in Chinese. It seems at this distance that, although Charu Mazumder’s general inspiration from Mao was certainly enormously effective and moving, it was the at least temporary conscientisation of Left intellectuals that seemed most impressive to us. In 1968, when French university students joined hands with the working class, the Naxalbari phenomenon seemed to us, from far away, a greater political achievement.Read More »

Naxalbari: the Turning Point of Indian History

by Jan Myrdal

Frontier | Autumn Number | Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 – Oct 21, 2017

For what is called the common people of India life has since the formation of class society been one of blood, sweat and toil. Centuries and millennia of misery for the overwhelming majority. So harsh is the ruling class that many like the debt-ridden farmers of Bihar felt forced to flee into suicide. But despite this despair that is hailed by some intellectuals in the West as the inner wisdom of India, the villages of India have all the time been hotbeds of uprising and struggle. We all know that, we can sit down and make long lists of these popular struggles.Read More »