Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 8, 2010

On the Naxalites

Filed under: Film,india,indigenous — louisproyect @ 7:08 pm

Opening tomorrow at BIG Cinemas in New York (formerly called the Imaginasian Theater), Ananth Hahadevan’s Red Alert: the War Within reflects liberal opposition to the Naxalite movement. I suppose I was expecting too much from the film given the alarmist title. Indeed, “Red Alert” is the kind of title you might see attached to a 1950s anti-Communist movie, the second cousin of this Indian production. At the very least, it prompted me to read Arundhati Roy’s 25 page article Walking with the Comrades that appeared in Outlook, an Indian magazine, last March. The contrast between Roy’s reportage and the movie could not be more vivid, as I will now explain.

The main character in Red Alert is Narashima (Suniel Shetty), a penniless farmer who has joined the Maoists mainly out of economic necessity rather than ideological conviction. In exchange for his services as a cook, the “terrorists” (to use the press notes formulation) will fund his children’s education.

Things don’t start well for Narashima. In the opening scene, as he makes his way into the forest to hook up with the Maoists, he comes under attack from a squad of policemen who have trailed him. Opening fire on the cops, the Maoists kill each one, rescuing Narashima in the process who is then berated by the guerrillas for lacking caution. Indeed, throughout the entire movie the hapless Narashima receives one dressing down after another, for either not being good with weapons or for requesting permission to go home to his wife and children. Each time he is bawled out, he wears the pained expression of a grade school student being chastised by a schoolmarm.

Perhaps director Mahadevan might have been better served if he had simply made a movie based on the real-life event that inspired the movie, as related to Screen Magazine, an Indian publication:

A couple of years ago I read of a farmer in Andra Pradesh who needed money for his kids’ education. So he started a service to deliver food. On one occasion he realized that he is delivering the food to Naxalites! He was taken as a hostage by them. But eventually he managed to escape. This human story inspired me to make the film.

By turning someone that was a hostage into an unwilling fighter, he ended up with a drama that is less satisfying than what might have been possible. If the goal of the movie was to explore the psychology of a “terrorist”, it subverts that goal by making the central character so out of step with those he has joined. One imagines that the director identified so strongly with mainstream thinking in India that this would have been impossible.

Indeed, the Naxalites are best described as cardboard figures who invariably mouth “Marxist-Leninist” rhetoric about the need to be ruthless with the enemy. By contrast, the cops come across as fairly reasonable despite the inclusion of a female character who is found cowering in a police station that the guerrillas have overrun, one more rape victim of a sadistic police force. Given the close scrutiny of Indian censors, who perhaps are to blame for most of the movie’s unwillingness to give too much credence to the Maoists, it is surprising that this state-sponsored terror was allowed to be represented.

What drives the plot forward is Narashima summoning up the courage to break with the Naxalites whose role in the film is mainly to take part in one battle scene or another when they are not giving tough as nails speeches about the need to destroy their enemies. Despite my obvious reservations about Red Alert, I can at least recommend it as a useful snapshot of liberal thinking in India with respect to an obvious growing menace to capitalist law and order.

One of the minor characters in Red Alert is a journalist who comes deep into the jungle in order to get the real story on what makes the terrorists tick. An opportunity is lost for the film to convey some of the reality of the Naxalite movement. With the militants uttering the same tired rhetoric, the journalist naturally finds the pathetic Narashima much more to his liking, suggesting that the director identified with the journalist. In a story that appeared in Indo-Asian News Service, director Mahadevan reveals the source of his Maoist dialog:

“Probably for the first time in Indian cinema you will get to hear dialogues which are actually spoken lines and not fabricated. We actually did extensive research. My writer Aruna Raje and I downloaded a lot of interviews with the Maoists and cops from the internet. Every line they spoke was volatile and we ended up using those lines,” the director said.

Perhaps he would have been better served if he had put in the effort to speak face-to-face with the guerrillas as Arundhati Roy did. The opening paragraph of her article cites a typewritten note slipped under her door setting down the protocol for her rendezvous with the Maoists: “Writer should have camera, tika and coconut. Meeter will have cap, Hindi Outlook magazine and bananas. Password: Namashkar Guruji.”

The circumstances of her first encounter departed from the script:

I arrived at the Ma Danteshwari mandir well in time for my appointment (first day, first show). I had my camera, my small coconut and a powdery red tika on my forehead. I wondered if someone was watching me and having a laugh. Within minutes a young boy approached me. He had a cap and a backpack schoolbag. Chipped red nail-polish on his fingernails. No Hindi Outlook, no bananas. “Are you the one who’s going in?” he asked me. No Namashkar Guruji. I did not know what to say. He took out a soggy note from his pocket and handed it to me. It said, “Outlook nahin mila (couldn’t find Outlook).”

“And the bananas?”

“I ate them,” he said, “I got hungry.”

He really was a security threat.

His backpack said Charlie Brown—Not your ordinary blockhead. He said his name was Mangtu. I soon learned that Dandakaranya, the forest I was about to enter, was full of people who had many names and fluid identities. It was like balm to me, that idea. How lovely not to be stuck with yourself, to become someone else for a while.

Needless to say, there are no characters in “Red Alert” that come within a million miles of the reality of this young boy with his Charlie Brown backpack. It would have been an infinitely more interesting movie if both the director’s political background had been more open to it—and even more importantly—the Indian censors were not in a position to put a gag over his mouth as they sought to do with Arundhati Roy. Shortly after her article appeared, the Times of India reported:

Addressing the gathering state general secretary, Youth Congress, Hardev Singh said, “Today the problem of Naxalism has become more alarming than terrorism and Naxalites are posing a serious threat to the country. Issuing any statement in favour of Naxalities at this juncture by the writer is nothing short of treason. Moreover by criticising the policy of non-violence enunciated and propagated by Mahatma Gandhi and supporting the violent means of Naxalities, the writer [Roy] has justified wring means to achieve good or bad ends for the young generation. If the government fails to put a check over such persons it is going to prove disastrous in future.”

My advice is to read her article since it is obvious that the Naxalite movement is growing as this article from Countercurrents, a left-oriented Indian website would indicate:

Ms Arundhati Roy’s piece has been subjected to unfair censorious remarks by her critics. It had been alleged that she “has conjured up another bad dream in tribal India and perhaps unwittingly is working overtime with other misguided ideologues to make it come true”. But these flag bearers of the establishment missed the essence of the Indian Constitution which provides for a pluralistic society where a hundred ideological flowers can bloom and co-exist. As to his wrongful thinking that Maoism would fade out, as had happened to many such insurrectionary movements in the past, one may perhaps speculate that it might not because hard facts give contra-indications. Naxalism started in April 1967 in one State (West Bengal), in one district (Darjeeling) and in one police station area (Naxalbari–from which it derives its name). Forty two years later, according to the statement of the Union Home Minister in November, 2009, it had spread to 23 States, 250 districts and over 2000 police station areas. Thus spatially the movement had spread over 2000 times. A guess estimate suggests that during this period combined police budget of the Centre and States had gone up by 600 times (firm figures are not available in one place). Perhaps a statistician could find out whether there was any significant co-relation between increase of police budget and spread of Naxalism. Naxalism seems to be a hardy plant in a sturdy soil. So far it has shown no sign of wilting or waning.

I want to conclude by highlighting a section of Roy’s article that might provide some insights into the nature of the conflict, which in many respects has more to do with the Brazilian rainforest than Mao’s China. Or for that matter, James Cameron’s “Avatar”, for interestingly enough the social base of the Naxalites are forest dwellers outside of the capitalist economy who are threatened precisely by the large-scale capitalist mining and agriculture operations mounted in the name of “progress”.

As indigenous peoples, the Indian adivasi are the nation’s aborigines. Unlike Brazil, where there is a racial difference between the white settlers and the Yanomami, this is not the case in India. Unlike Africa and Latin America, the internal onslaught against the indigenous peoples was mounted by the Indian majority not British or Spanish colonists. In this sense, the conflict is much more like the one that took place between Colonel Custer and Sitting Bull than the classic colonial conflict. Of course, internal colonization can be just as deadly and cruel in the pursuit of profit as the more conventional kind introduced from beyond the borders.

Finally, a word on the political ramifications of the Naxalite struggle. Despite my sympathy for the movement, increased considerably by Roy’s superlative reportage, I can only wonder if it is facing the same problems that peasant-based movements in Latin America have faced when they fail to offer a solution for the urban population. In Peru, a powerful Maoist movement known as the Shining Path failed to take power because of its indifference—if not open hostility—to traditional urban sectors such as the trade union movement. In Colombia, a non-Maoist but “surrounding the city by the countryside” movement known as the FARC has failed to become much more than an armed force in defense of poor peasants and coca growers specifically. While one can never gainsay the importance of an armed force standing up for the rights of the most degraded and despised elements of society, there is still the question of what future the movement has in light of a somewhat narrow political focus.

Arundhati Roy wrote at the beginning of her article:

The antagonists in the forest are disparate and unequal in almost every way. On one side is a massive paramilitary force armed with the money, the firepower, the media, and the hubris of an emerging Superpower. On the other, ordinary villagers armed with traditional weapons, backed by a superbly organised, hugely motivated Maoist guerrilla fighting force with an extraordinary and violent history of armed rebellion. The Maoists and the paramilitary are old adversaries and have fought older avatars of each other several times before: Telangana in the ’50s; West Bengal, Bihar, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh in the late ’60s and ’70s; and then again in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra from the ’80s all the way through to the present. They are familiar with each other’s tactics, and have studied each other’s combat manuals closely. Each time, it seemed as though the Maoists (or their previous avatars) had been not just defeated, but literally, physically exterminated. Each time, they have re-emerged, more organised, more determined and more influential than ever. Today once again the insurrection has spread through the mineral-rich forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal—homeland to millions of India’s tribal people, dreamland to the corporate world.

One can only hope that somehow the left in India will become united so that the indigenous peoples, the factory workers, the student rebels—all those who feel cheated by the neoliberal “miracle” gushed over by the Thomas Friedmans of the world—will prevail. Long live the spread of the insurrection! Down with the corporate world!

22 Comments »

  1. About the Shining Path: Another thing that didn’t work for them was the leader’s cult of personality and their eventual elimination of every other rival. See here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shining_path#Guerrilla_war

    Comment by Jenny — July 8, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

  2. When talking about the Naxalites, issues of personality cult are irrelevant. Traveling around India I kept asking middle-class people what they thought of the movement and the answers were always pretty ugly. Arundhati Roy in her 2009 book “Listening to Grasshoppers” quotes a newspaper article entitled “Stamp out Naxals” that would sum them up.

    “Less than a month ago Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked state governments to ‘choke’ naxal infrastructure and ‘cripple’ their activities through a dedicated force to eliminate the ‘virus.’It signaled a realization that the focus on tackling Naxalism must be through enforcement of law, rather than wasteful expense on development.”(Mail Today, 10 Jan. 2008)

    Comment by Peter Byrne — July 8, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  3. Peter: I was referring to Shining path not the Naxalites.

    Comment by Jenny — July 9, 2010 @ 12:16 am

  4. The title sounds like they are ripping off the name of the old “Command and Conquer: Red Alert” video game, or maybe the old Peter George novel that was transmogrified into “Dr. Strangelove.” Maybe they though this would be a good double bill with the remake of “Red Dawn”* that’s now in semi-limbo because MGM’s up for sale. At any rate, this looks like a “been there, done that” retread of every guerilla movie ever made.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    * Yes, the 1984 Patrick Swayze vehicle is “maybe” going to be remade; they have sets, though I’ve not seen any production photos of the cast in front of a camera. Instead of the USSR/Cuba/Nicaragua invading the US for no real reason, this movie will have the Chinese and the Russians invading for no real reason only to be shot up by a band of scrappy teens like in the original. The Chinese press has already voiced its displeasure.

    Comment by Strelnikov — July 9, 2010 @ 4:26 am

  5. In his novel “Magic Seeds” V.S. Naipaul has his character Willie Chaudron enrolled in an unnamed group that can only be the Naxalites. Naipaul shows the struggle to be sterile and meaningless, just as he’s shown Willie to be an all-around failure. Unlike Naipaul, Willie didn’t choose to identify wholeheartedly with the imperialists and take the road to the Nobel Prize. Naipaul’s views on India have authority in the West. He’s become the Bernard Lewis of the situation. That’s why Arundhati Roy is so important a writer for us. She’s the anti-Naipaul and bears witness to the real issues in India, including the onslaught of the corporations on the poor.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — July 9, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  6. there is an interview in BBC with Venkateswar Reddy, where it note that “Police say Mr Reddy formed armed squads and hired recruits in the forested region. He also spent time in Calcutta, helping set up trade unions in jute mills and making contacts with rebel sympathisers.” so maybe they have learnt from the failure of the shining path.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/10506197.stm

    Comment by ron — July 9, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  7. Leave it to Jenny to always grope for something (legit or not) to rail against some historically oppressed peasant movement that took up the banner of communism as if that somehow invalidates Marxism: “Another thing that didn’t work for them was the leader’s cult of personality and their eventual elimination of every other rival.”

    Unfortunately they never eliminated their primary “rival” did they, the murderous Peruvian state and their armed gangs defending property, particularly the black hooded death squads funded largely by Uncle Sam & trained by the CIA in Ft. Benning, GA, where the fine art of terror & torture is studied & honed as a health science.

    As that wiki link she provided makes clear, these peasant rebels actually “threatened state power”, and that means all bets are off for the ruling kleptocracy of Peru known as the liberal bourgeousie. In El Salvador when the state was similarly threatened it’s been documented on video (60 Minutes) how those trained at Ft. Benning in Uncle Sam’s “ways” (meaning freedom & democracy) learned as “standard operating procedure” to roust an allegedly sympathizing village in the middle of the night with incendiary grenades and machine gun fire into their hootch’s, rounding the fleeing victims up, then playing the game of tossing infants into the air in order to catch them on the bayonets of rifles. “It was S.O.P.” claimed a Colonel in the Salvadoran Army trained at the School of the Americas on 60 Minutes some years ago.

    The first thing I think of when I read about allegedly violent and hateful Maoist guerillas is bourgeous propaganda. According to my dear old Mom who travelled across India in 2007 & actually visited with the Naxi(na shi)people in Lijang, they are an indigenous Tibetan minority who are, she says, matriarcal. Her guide was raised in a collective of his mothers brothers and their tradition is “walking marriages”.

    When it comes to violence & hate rhetoric they are probably closer to the Navi people in the movie Avatar who are legitimately reacting to the plunder of the plunderers.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 9, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  8. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Though not a Marxist I have always seen Marxism as a reacting force. That is if the people who control things operated in a equitable fashion Marxism, and for that matter, most of the world’s problems would not exist. (I am not saying Marxism is a problem so don’t misunderstand the grammar please.)

    However it is the vast evil of the imperialistic opressor both domestically and globally that brings life to Marxism. That is one says “Capitalism sucks, look how much suffering it causes, we must find a better way.” Thus a solution came to exist which is known as Marxism. I am sure many of it’s ideas existed before Marx articulated them in his writings.

    It is people who do not see the oppression of the Imperialist and Capitalist that denounce Marxism. Instead they should look at the source of the evil and the core reasons why Marxism exists at all.

    In regards to this movie I doubt the question of the necessity why these people cane to their state of existance at all is ever adressed.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — July 9, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  9. “Unlike Africa and Latin America, the internal onslaught against the indigenous peoples was mounted by the Indian majority not British or Spanish colonists.”

    This is quite incorrect. The British fought protracted battles against the tribals almost continuously for decades (I could site a lot of books on this, but for starters google “santhal rebellion” for instance). The problem is that the lot of the so-called tribals has not changed significantly for over 200 years. Every “state” in the territory of the Indian subcontinent has attempted to use force on them. This is the most recent iteration, and also maybe the most dangerous since the “adivasis” or tribals are in many cases sitting on quite significant mineral deposits.

    Comment by tveb — July 9, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

  10. In reply to #9, I probably was not as clear as I should be. The British certainly targeted the “adivasis” but the brunt of the attack was on Indian feudal rivals, especially the native textile industry.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 9, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  11. CORRECTION: The Naxi people in Lijang that I mentioned are different and from a different region than the Naxalite people discussed in the article above.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 9, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

  12. Karl: What justified their murder of union leaders and other marxists then?

    From the article:

    “The Shining Path’s attacks were not limited to the countryside. It mounted attacks against the infrastructure in Lima, killing civilians in the process. In 1983, it sabotaged several electrical transmission towers, causing a citywide blackout, and set fire to the Bayer industrial plant, destroying it completely. That same year, it set off a powerful bomb in the offices of the governing party, Popular Action. Escalating its activities in Lima, in June 1985 it again blew up electricity transmission towers in Lima, producing a blackout, and detonated car bombs near the government palace and the justice palace. It also was believed to be responsible for bombing a shopping mall.[22] At the time, President Fernando Belaúnde Terry was receiving the Argentine president Raúl Alfonsín. In one of its last attacks in Lima, on July 16, 1992, the group detonated a powerful bomb on Tarata Street in the upscale Miraflores District in Lima,[23] killing 25 people and injuring an additional 155.[24]

    During this period, the Shining Path also conducted many selective assassinations targeting specific individuals, notably leaders of other leftist groups, local political parties, labor unions, and peasant organizations, some of whom were anti-Shining Path Marxists.”

    And about that support:

    “While the Shining Path quickly seized control of large areas of Peru, it soon faced serious problems. The Shining Path’s Maoism never had the support of the majority of the Peruvian people; according to opinion polls, 15% of the population considered subversion to be justifiable in June 1988 while 17% considered it justifiable in 1991.[31] In June 1991, “the total sample disapproved of the Shining Path by an 83 to 7 percent margin, with 10 percent not answering the question. Among the poorest, however, only 58% stated disapproval of the Shining Path; 11 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the Shining Path, and some 31 percent would not answer the question.”[32] A September 1991 poll found that 21 percent of those polled in Lima believed that the Shining Path did not kill and torture innocent people. The same poll found that 13% believed that society would be more just if the Shining Path won the war and 22% believed society would be equally just under the Shining Path as it was under the government.[32]

    Many peasants were unhappy with the Shining Path’s rule for a variety of reasons, such as its disrespect for indigenous culture and institutions,[33] and the brutality of its “popular trials” that sometimes included “slitting throats, strangulation, stoning, and burning.”[34][35] While punishing and even killing cattle thieves was popular in some parts of Peru, the Shining Path also killed peasants and popular leaders for even minor offenses.[36] Peasants were also offended by the rebels’ injunction against burying the bodies of Shining Path victims.[37]“

    Comment by Jenny — July 10, 2010 @ 12:24 am

  13. There you go again Jenny, ascribing words to other people they never said. Where did I say all their actions were “justified”?

    What I said was this: “Leave it to Jenny to always grope for something (legit or not) to rail against some historically oppressed peasant movement that took up the banner of communism as if that somehow invalidates Marxism.”

    As far as you copy & pasting 2 pages of wiki on the Shining Path please note that I’ve probably forgotten more details about them than wiki will ever publish on the subject so there’s no need to keep wasting bandwidth as such diatribes against Latin American Maoism in no way invalidates Marxism, which is first & foremost the history of oppresed & working peoples struggles seen through the lens of a working class perspective rather than the typical bourgeois lens that not only the ruling class but people like you routinely utilze.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 10, 2010 @ 1:30 am

  14. >ascribing words to other people they never said

    It’s called trolling Karl…

    Comment by Antonis — July 10, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  15. Remember when she got all frothed up because she thought Karl was anti-disco?

    Comment by SGuy — July 10, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  16. This is OFF TOPIC but speaking of trolls, anybody else notice the amazing (almost cointelproesque) transformation of poster Bhaskar?

    One of his intial posts lectured about how Michael Harrington was undoubtedly the wisest sage in the history of American Marxism.

    When it was pointed out that Harrington’s mentor, Norman Thomas, took $50 grand from the CIA in 1968 to help eradicate communists from the trade unions in Latin America, no more scribes about Harrington were made although a few subsequent posts mentioned the DSA’s logic for working to put out the vote for Obama.

    Time passed with a sprinkling of mostly unremarkable posts, however some actually quite thoughtful, and then bam, out of the blue I get called “reactionary & repugnant” for articulating the none too radical or novel proposition that 9/11 was a case of “chickens coming home to roost” — aka the Blowback Theory.

    Only silence followed when asked to justify such labeling until suddenly, over the G20 events, we get an astounding pseudo-defense of the Black Block from this erstwile pascifist DSAer.

    When some diabled woman poster in her 60’s named Cherie blamed the BB for getting her attacked by cops in Toronto, attacks she thought brought on by the BB actions of predominantly young white males, we get this scathing, very un-DSA like rebuttal:

    [@Cherie MacDonald – from “there were some young women breaking things, too.” to “but it was mostly a white male thing” to “Boys and their toys.” ???

    here comes the misandrist sexist generalisationand vitrol against the males – the real nature underlying identity politics of feminism (or at least your stripe of).

    Besides what about the dawn raids on the houses of known organisers? what about pre-emptive arrests of montreal activits? what about targetting francophones? what about targetting black (or as you, with your identity politics inspired self-righteouness, would say – people-of-colour) did that happen because or before or after the black bloc act?

    With the myopic hatred of males and creation and focus on mythological identities and victimhoods you and your cohorts did, are and will keep splitting the left.]

    First of all her post was hardly a hateful “vitriol” against males. She clearly only mentioned the “boys” of the BB in passing. But the idea that one would launch into such a diatribe about “identity politics splitting the left” on a forum about anarchism which may indeed be splitting the left, not to mention how split the left actually gets by voting for a Democrat, just strikes me as very bizzare.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 10, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  17. Uh Karl, the berating of Cherie was done by a guy name Bhasker who I bet is a troll.

    “Remember when she got all frothed up because she thought Karl was anti-disco?”

    No you dumbfuck, I was referring to the 80s USSR and the stupid paranoia they had about popular culture being part of the capitalist world hence they had to keep the wall up to maintain their perfect utopia.

    As for The Shining Path, Karl, you cited how the state of Peru responded hence I assumed you were defending their actions, so I decided to refresh your memory. Both the government and the Shining Path were in the wrong here. But no, you automatically assume I’m out to destroy the Marxist philosophy when I’m not. Never mind though, I’m leaving before this deteriorates into death threats. You’re probably the most paranoid man I’ve ever met.

    Comment by Jenny — July 10, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

  18. Uh, Jenny, who exactly did I say was berating Cherie?

    Uh, Jenny, you did get all bunched up and asked what I had against discos.

    Uh, Jenny, there you go ascribing words to others they never said again, as if somebody actually claimed the Soviets “had to keep the wall up to maintain their perfect utopia.”

    Uh, Jenny: talk about paranoid. You’ve never been threatened with anything here except ridicule for your assanine comments.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 10, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  19. To which I can only add that popular culture is part of the capitalist world. If your not going to apply some thought to your posts Jenny then in the eyes of people here you will appear to be the, whats the word Im looking for? Uh yes dumb fuck.

    Comment by SGuy — July 10, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  20. I was summarizing your explanation for the Berlin Wall in past comments, Karl.

    Comment by Jenny — July 11, 2010 @ 2:05 am

  21. Of course, but the point is that pathetic & terribly innacurate summary (ascribing words like “perfect utopia”) does violence to the truth, proving that your brain is like a one way sponge, absorbing absolutely nothing about the difficulty of constructing socialism while beseiged, blockaded & encircled by an enraged nuclear menace that to this very day continues to ooze hypocricy from every pore.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 11, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  22. //Finally, a word on the political ramifications of the Naxalite struggle. Despite my sympathy for the movement, increased considerably by Roy’s superlative reportage, I can only wonder if it is facing the same problems that peasant-based movements in Latin America have faced when they fail to offer a solution for the urban population. In Peru, a powerful Maoist movement known as the Shining Path failed to take power because of its indifference—if not open hostility—to traditional urban sectors such as the trade union movement. In Colombia, a non-Maoist but “surrounding the city by the countryside” movement known as the FARC has failed to become much more than an armed force in defense of poor peasants and coca growers specifically. While one can never gainsay the importance of an armed force standing up for the rights of the most degraded and despised elements of society, there is still the question of what future the movement has in light of a somewhat narrow political focus.//

    We just need to look to Nepal to see a Maoist movement which has successfully moved the struggle from the countryside to the cities, without losing the support of the peasants and without sacrificing the armed forces and social gains of the revolution. The Nepali revolution is on the road to victory, and if that happens it will send a shockwave through South Asia.

    Comment by Alastair Reith — July 16, 2010 @ 11:32 am


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