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The Indian Government Should Surrender
To The Maoists: An Immodest Proposal

By Jesse Ross Knutson

01 June, 2010

Two waves of bourgeois opinion have been crashing back and forth in
the mainstream Indian media coverage of the ongoing armed activities
of the C.P.I. Maoist and the government’s most recent and psychopathic
phase of counterinsurgency: “Operation Green Hunt”. A mildly
progressive voice lapses into economism from the get-go: assessing the
causality in poverty and brutalization, and suggesting that the
problem could be addressed socioeconomically; implying that
‘nonviolence’ on the part of the oppressed could emerge from an
amelioration of conditions. Not far off in this framework—it might be
cynical to add—could be a big role for that gem of doublespeak ‘social
entrepreneurship’. The political imaginary underlying this wave is
social democratic at best.

The voice of upper class-caste triumphalism on the other hand, much
better represented not coincidentally by the corporate media, responds
that the state has priorities more pressing than social or economic
justice. The bloated, rich loudmouth says resistance—whatever its
origins—should be obliterated by force. The political imaginary
underlying this wave is Czarist, i.e. proto-fascist plutocrat.

Yet both sides stare off into a horizon of some imagined possibility
of ‘nonviolence’—the void on which these bourgeois-Buddhists
meditate—which if either party were pressed to define it, might share
all the key points in common: the market and private property, etc..,
the very conditions of uneven development that starve, enslave,
torture, and kill the poor. To make a long story short,
‘nonviolence/peace’ has an intrinsic relationship to the most
longstanding and pervasive acts of war against the people.

Large sections of the poor recognize this fact. Now things have come
to a head in several areas of the country. A stalemate has been
reached. The mainstream ideology in all its varieties—from the
liberal to the libertarian—has proven totally inadequate to dealing
with the full scope of the underlying contradiction, which is now
between the regime of capital and the aspirations for livelihood and
empowerment of the people at large who form the majority of the

Now the conflict is clearly not just between the people and the
backwardness of feudal oppression, which had confronted them, but
between the people and capital. Capital has taken off some of its
feudal finery and put on battle gear: we behold the finance minister
turned home minister, Chidambaram himself and his corporate cronies
greedily eying the jungle. Paradoxically, now that things have
advanced this far, it may only be a rigorously utopian frame that can
allow one to deal concretely with the question of the poorest of the
poor and their insurgency.


Sweet Surrender

Sovereignty already changed hands long ago in the so-called Red
Corridor. First it was administered by landlord goons. The Maoists
won over the people by liquidating their authority and in cases of
serious obstruction, administering justice over the landlords’ dead
bodies. The ‘divide and rule’ policy of the state, pirated from the
colonial masters, was replaced with ‘unify and lead’.

Sovereignty simply cannot be regained—in order of course just to be
repackaged and sold off to the multinational mining corporations—even
at the cost of massive bloodshed. Likewise the positive potentials of
the Maoist presence—for proto-socialist construction—cannot be fully
realized under conditions of permanent war. It is obviously absurdly
premature to talk of a separate state in central India, which could be
judged on the effectiveness of its welfare programs, medical services,
development schemes, etc.—Nirmalangshu Mukherjee has recently
displayed the poverty of philosophy on this question (Outlook, May
19th 2010)—but it would be worthwhile to begin constructing one. The
construction has indeed already begun in microcosm, but it is under
fire. Collectivization, direct people’s democracy, welfare schemes,
medical services, and education have been introduced, in stride with
the CPI Maoist’s military advances— these should be lauded, but at
present there seems to be no standard readily available to judge them
from the outside.

The Government of India will never be able to train fighters well
enough to stand up to the Maoists for several reasons. The crucial one
is motivation. No one, especially not the poor people being sent to
fight, can ever be motivated enough to fight to the death against the
people’s struggle. Abused, deprived, disregarded, and sent to die,
they are likely to come to identify with it at least on some
subterranean level. Defections, internal rebellions, and general
chaos in the ranks can be expected as conflicts escalate further.
Already under ‘normal’ circumstances, according to the Times of India
(April 28th, 2010), there have been since 2006, 40 cases of soldiers
fragging their superior officers, as well as 550 suicides.

The Maoists’ organization and dedication have been made obvious enough
to require no illustration. Their very existence is about defying all
odds. Their survival itself is a matter of a level of discipline and
organization totally foreign to the corrupt, opportunistic, and
anarchic state. Isaac Deutscher wrote in 1964 about the success of the
original Chinese Revolution:

Although the material resources of the Chinese revolution were so
much poorer than those of the Russian, its moral resources were
larger; and in revolution as in war the Napoleonic rule holds good
that the moral factors are to the material ones as three to one
(“Maoism-Its Origins, Background, and Outlook”, 31).

The second most crucial reason the government will lose militarily is
ignorance: ignorance of the terrain, the culture, the languages, and
the historically generated political subjectivity of the rebel masses.
None of these things can even be known from the government’s position.

The final principal reason for the Government’s inevitable defeat is
that—as witnessed by the U.S.A.’s defeat by the great Vietnamese
people’s war—guerrilla war does not have to be won to inflict defeat;
it simply has to be not lost. To attempt to truly stamp out the
movement would require a total transformation of society along the
lines of a Latin American dictatorship; death camps, torture chambers,
and ‘disappearances’ Pinochet or Fujimori style, which already lurk in
the shadows (Vide. “India’s Secret Torture Chambers, The Week, July 14
2009) would have to emerge into prominent daylight and terrorize us
all, including students and urban intellectuals. The people of India
have no stomach for this kind of arrangement.

Civil society is already the victim of the most disgusting terrorist
attacks by the government, through which the nation repeatedly shames
itself on the world stage. The country’s extraordinary laws, false
accusations as well as long unjustified imprisonments under them,
‘encounter killings’, instances of torture and death in police
custody, etc. have been the dubious fame of India shining, revealing
what the Maoists call the semi-colonial character of the Indian
polity. One need not wander the streets of even the capital for very
long to find a police officer beating someone up. No one has any
doubt about the crass brutality that is the modus operandi of this

If the Government bombs the forests—which it seems is only a matter of
time at this point—the Maoists will yet again turn setback into long
march forward, weakness into strength. The movement will grow to
hitherto unimaginable proportions amidst the ashes of a giant people’s
martyrdom. This will not be like Sri Lanka. The Maoists have learned
from those mistakes and their diehard commitment to the splendid
alchemy of guerrilla war was reinforced by the unspeakable suffering
and tragedy that was the dénouement of the Tamil people’s struggle
against apartheid.

And the Government continually fails to convince anyone that the
Maoists are anti-national, because their sacrifice and determination
resonate so strongly with the most hardcore currents of the original
movement for national liberation, with the resolute communist Bhagat
Singh. They have already won. The old nationalism went bankrupt long
ago. This is the new nationalism.

At the very least 80% percent of the population of this country has
been totally shut out from any of the benefits of modernity because of
an unenlightened, ungenerous, and oligarchic system, onto which
neoliberalism has been brutally grafted as if in some back alley
surgery. The current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was one of the
chief surgeons in 1991. According to a 2006 report of the National
Commission of Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS:
http://nceus.gov.in/) of the Government of India, 76% of the
population spends less than 20 rupees per day ($0.4). The doctor and
public health activist Binayak Sen has recently been drawing attention
to statistics alarming beyond all words: 33% of adults 45% of children
60% of scheduled castes 50% of scheduled tribes are chronically
malnourished in India as revealed by their body mass index. This is
the worst public health record since 1947, and it is intrinsically
related to the growth in India’s billionaires. This is the true face
of the ‘non-violence’ to which we are being coerced into paying lip

The Maoists will not agree to eternally peaceful coexistence, it is
true, and they will aim for the progressive transformation of the
entire country, indeed, but so that this can be debated more
gradually, evenly, and in a less bloody fashion, surrender is a must.
Let the competition between the government and the revolution continue
for some time under détente, on a more purely ideological plane. Let
the government formally concede what it has already conceded on some
level through its rampage of exploitation and neglect. When its
authority has been so delegitimized, why should it continue to fight a
losing battle at such great cost?

The Government of India should surrender to the C.P.I. Maoist’s
People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, and encourage establishment of a
semiautonomous self-administered people’s territory in the so-called
‘Red Corridor’. Why should one after all attempt to annihilate the
only enlightened and functional authority? The Maoists have been with
the people in these regions for almost three decades, know them, love
them, learn from them and teach them. The spectre of communism may be
scary for a country that revels in such hierarchy and inequality at
every level, but surrendering to it is the only way to stave off
impending chaos in the short and longer term.

To admit defeat to the poor would really be to triumph. Learn from the
Maoists, Government of India, how to turn weakness into strength,
defeat into victory. You could even try to mix in some imitatio
Gandhii. The Maoist model of people’s self-empowerment and
self-administration is the only viable one. It will spread one way or
another by the inexorable work of the negative. Surrender, Government
of India, to the people and to ongoing revolutionary transformation…

* * *

Indeed the ends are ultimately destined to meet, as the overdeveloped
world guts its own infrastructure and underdevelops itself, what used
to be called the third world is becoming simply the world at large. A
greater global unity of struggle is on the horizon, and all the sons
and daughters of Naxalbari must join hands to embrace it. The hopes
and possibilities of the sixties may even be coming home to roost, but
this time we should be more united, more disciplined, and more
conscious before them.

India’s combination of extreme backwardness and neoliberal bandwagon
riding makes it a forerunner in the global race to ecological and
socioeconomic dystopia. This backwardness may represent a forwardness
at a higher level, if and when revolutionary consciousness becomes
universal enough to meet the universality of evil.

Dr. Jesse Ross Knutson is a scholar of Sanskrit literature and
premodern Indian history who also harbors a strong interest in
Communist politics in South Asia. Based in Kolkata, Delhi, and the
U.S.A. on and off in recent years, he will be an ACLS New Faculty
Fellow at U.C. Berkeley beginning in August 2010.
[email protected]