All revolutionary ranks must unite'1998
You may take him for a retired army officer. Or the director of a 'bourgeoisie' company. But never for a Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist People's War top-rung leader. Unless, of course, you catch him deep in Naxal territory, surrounded by guerrillas and carrying a holstered revolver.
As Rediff On The NeT did.
Even in olives, the uniform of the banned revolutionary organisation, the bespectacled Prasad hardly looks an outlaw.
He was the secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist Party Unity, mainly operational in Bihar, which merged with the People's War on August 11. Now a member of the PW's new central committee, the sexagenarian was one of the founders of the PU. He spoke to Chindu Sreedharan about the merger and its after-effects deep in the forests of Andhra Pradesh.
What is the root of the Party Unity's trouble with the Maoist Communist Centre?
There were differences on the political plane right from the beginning. But we always wanted good relations with the MCC. We had started talks with them in 1978. But we could not arrive at a solution due to political differences and political immaturity of the leadership. But we maintained friendly relations with the MCC.
And then? At what point did this escalate into violence?
The escalation was gradual. The violence took on grave proportions in the last couple of years. When two people's movements are working in the same area with the same people, differences will always crop up. After a certain point, the differences will develop into bitterness, which will then go to the political level. This is what happened in Bihar.
So basically it was a battle for turf?
The differences wouldn't have developed into violence if we were not working in the same area. The Bihar situation is very different from the situation in other parts. You see, arms are abundant there. So once the contradiction set in, it took on larger dimensions. If mature political leadership had intervened it could have been stopped.
What were the basic political differences between the PU and the MCC?
We differed on the assessment of the Indian bourgeoisie and the question of era. The MCC does not see any difference between the imperialists and comprodor bourgeoisie. We also differed on tactical questions. From the very beginning we were for operating mass organisations. They opposed us when we started work through mass organisations. Later, they also came up with their own mass organisations. We tried discussing all these questions.
What action did you take in the last couple of years to put an end to the violence?
We held many discussions with the MCC. We even gave joint statements against the killings.
The clashes are still continuing. Why?
Because, may be, earlier we were not that sincere in our efforts to stop it.
Now there is great desire on the leaderships' part to resolve the problems. Both the central committees (of the MCC and the unified PW) want to put an end to violence. When there is such a desire, the problems will definitely get solved. I am not saying that it will be easy, but it will get solved. Besides, now we have the good office of the PW on our side. That will help a lot. The desire for peace is much more than what it was previously.
The only card that the merger has given you is the good office of the PW. Would that be enough to bring about peace?
The main card is not the PW's good office. It is the desire. They (the MCC) also feel that if the movement is to achieve more momentum, all revolutionary ranks must unite. That feeling is the main card.
What significance will the merger have on your operations in Bihar? How do you think the MCC will react?
I think the impact will be positive. Because of the PW's friendly relations with the MCC, at least some polarisation will take place. The merger is the most significant incident in the CPI-ML after the martyrdom of Charu Mazumdar (the pioneer of Marxist-Leninist movement). It was the desire of the ranks that there should be a unified leadership so that the revolution can be quickened. The unification of revolutionary forces will increase our momentum. That is our outlook and that is the outlook of the MCC. So we expect the merger to bring about positive impact.
Has the situation bettered since your merger?
Yes. The bitterness is still there, but there have been no major clashes since then.
When do you think there will be peace between your two organisations?
It cannot be predicted. But we expect to sit down with the MCC under the new condition. That will definitely give positive results.
How much has the MCC's attack on your squads contributed to your decision to merge?
No, no, the decision was independent of that. The merger took place because the PU's approach was to unite with like-minded organisations.
How do you expect the State to react to this merger that gives the PW a foothold in Bihar?
No doubt the State will take it seriously. It will know that the merger gives more depth to the organisation -- politically, militarily. They would want to crush it and increase the repression.
The merger is not only the plus of the two organisations. We are much more strong now. So we will be able to combat the repression.
What is your strategy to combat it?
The strategy is to go more underground and increase our combat power. And on the other hand, we will expose the State for what it is. We would increase the support of the people too so that we can expose the State and put them on the defensive.
But the differences you had with MCC still remain. You are still a direct threat to them. And it is quite likely that because of this merger the landlords, the State and the MCC would intensify their violence against you. In such a situation, how long do you think you will be able to survive?
We have survived till now. We are surviving. In any case, we do not think of MCC as an enemy. We have problems with them, true. But we also cooperate with the MCC also at a different level. We expect to resolve the problem soon. That will help both our parties. After all, it is not as if they (MCC) are not facing repression.
Are you saying that the merger would help you resolve your problems with the MCC?
Actually, the resolution may not happen because of the unity alone. Solving the differences is the main task before us. We have been seriously trying to solve this. The merger will give it momentum, it will bring about an earlier resolution. The good office of the PW will act as a catalyst.
Sorry to sound cynical, but you have been trying to resolve the problems with the MCC for long with no success. The ground situation in Bihar hasn't changed because of the merger. Your differences still remain. All you got to count on now is the 'good office' of the PW. Do you seriously believe that this would bring about an about-turn in the MCC's attitude?
The merger involves two organisations joining to form a third, a new organisation, that is the CPI-ML People War. We chose the name because it is much more popular. It has got a positive image among the people. So far as the new organisation is concerned it is not one or the other. It is a new organisation. The MCC has good relations with the PW.
Was the merger unconditional? Did you have any demands of the PW?
There were no conditions in that sense. Neither the PU nor the PW had any demands of each other. We had some differences. Different shades of differences at different levels. We discussed these for a long time and arrived at a unified opinion on them. The merger took place on the basis of this.
We differed on the party programme, strategy and tactics. We also held differences on many important questions like the nationality question, class question, caste question. We discussed these and have now arrived at a unified stand on them.
Are there any more issues that remain to be settled?
Yes. There are a few pending questions. For example: What is the principle contradiction in the world today? What's the nature of crisis in imperialism? We have decided to resolve these in the next congress.
When will that be?
I cannot reveal that now. But we will hold it shortly. Some other differences, like certain aspects of the nationality question, have been given to the new CC to study and settle.
What do you think is the most important task facing the party?
Unification. All the splinter groups should be brought under one leadership. That will give the revolution momentum. Staying in different camps, they are now hampering the revolutionary process. It is our duty and strong desire to unify them. That's the most significant task before us along with the development of the movement.