K Murali (Ajith) and K.P Sethunath in conversation. (Part 7)

Kerala-specific Issues

Q. During the CRC period, that is during the nineteen eighties, that is after the Emergency, the CRC, of which you too were part of, had gone ahead quite a bit compared to other ML groups, so far as political and philosophical issues were concerned. At the same time it is also said that it was a total failure, so far as practice was concerned.

K.M: Yes, that is correct.

Q. So how do you explain this? In the period after Emergency the CRC had developed in such a manner as though it represented all the expectations, all the energy, of the Malayalee youth, of Malayalee society. But soon it started breaking up. On the other hand, the movements in Andhra and Bihar which did not attain such political or philosophical heights, could develop as a Maoist political force. So how do you explain this contradiction?

K.M: The erroneous understanding, or problems in understanding, that was there among the local leadership of the CRC, CPI (ML), of which I too was a part, has played a decisive role in this. And this was there in its approach to practice and all these matters. It could never maintain consistency or firmness. Secondly, there is also the reality of the material conditions existing here, which was also a major factor. In this material context, in the particular material context of Keralam, how can a revolutionary movement be built up, what are the problems we face, that was not how the issue was faced. On the contrary, I think it was in 1979, the State Committee adopted a resolution which tried to explain how we are to work in Keralam’s context. On the one hand it was saying that there is a revolutionary situation in Keralam just like the rest of India and on the other hand it was saying that to initiate armed struggle in Keralam one would first have to prepare the political context for that and for that one has to do mass activities and all that. These are contradictory ideas. If one accepts that there is a favourable material situation the task is not of preparing political conditions but of preparing subjective forces. The former cannot be put forward as a precondition. So if one looks at the ideological struggle in the organisation after that one can see that the two sides were simply catching hold of the two ends of this argument and struggling against each other. Though both were emerging from a single position, one side would hold on to one aspect and the other side to the other aspect and debate whether the military line or the mass line was important. And the most curious thing that was seen was that those who were vehement proponents of the military line at one time would turn into proponents of the mass line later. And then those who would come upholding the military line against them would again later on turn into proponents of the mass line. One could see a continuity in this topsy turvy business, right up till the 90s. So I think that the internal question here was the failure to define what exactly Keralam’s particularity was. The reorganisation we tried to carry out in the 90’s during the MUC period was precisely based on a review of all of this. And it is then that we started understanding these issues. So we came to understand that while it is correct to say that overall there is a revolutionary situation there is also the question of the ebbs and flows in that situation related to the particularities of the economic situation existing here. And there is the question of the impact, the influence, this creates on people’s consciousness. So there is a question regarding the extent to which a revolutionary movement can win over people to revolutionary positions. The Naxalites are acceptable to the masses but on the basis that they are honest and so on. But only up till the extent of carrying out reformist tasks. They were seen as some sort of a moral alternative. And at the same time their presence was utilised to gain some things by the masses. There are so many experiences like this. One can see a hesitation here to go beyond a level of reforms and to take up revolutionary positions. Because the material conditions did not demand that. On the other hand there are situations or contexts where that became a necessity. During the period of 2000-2004 Keralam passed through a very critical economic situation. And during that period we could see a striking difference in the response and approach of the masses. Compared to the situation of the 90’s where we had to fight hard to make even a small advance, in the new situation we were able to gain rank and file who were keen to advance on the basis of revolutionary positions itself very quickly. But the fact is that the necessity of deciding the party’s policies and so on keeping in mind all this was never taken up in the past. Naturally this would also reflect in practice. There would be a big advance. Then the question of the direction in which this is to be taken would come up. There was no such direction. On the one hand you are talking of revolution but on the other hand the ranks that you have gained are not having such a subjectivity, this sort of a consciousness.

Q. Isn’t such a situation continuing today also?

K.M: I don’t think it is continuing today because the difference is that of a revolutionary standpoint. Not only that, there is also the understanding of how that has to be applied in Keralam. Then there are the people who come forward with that understanding.

Q. In another sense if one is to put it, Keralam during the period of Emergency or in such a situation, whether Keralite society was ready for a revolution? I think it was not ready in that sense.

K.M: Yes that is true.

Q.Similarly if today we were to ask whether Keralite society is ready for an armed revolution what would be the answer?

K.M: This is not a question of a society as a whole. There is unevenness existing in this society. There are regions, places in this society where sharp poverty exists. I cannot speak with exactness about the present situation in Keralam so I am not able to give further information. But so far as I understand Keralam is moving towards a severe crisis because of the crash in rubber prices and other factors. All those factors that used to give expectations of a regular income are being lost. For example the shrivelling up of the Gulf opportunity. There is the crisis that is going to come about because of all this. Because, to a great extent, this society was not relying on its own impulses but on that of others. The demand for rubber was an external demand, it was not the industrial demand of Keralam. If that demand falls or if they are able to source their rubber from some other place at a cheaper price, then Keralam’s rubber is no longer necessary. So far as the Gulf is concerned we have been playing the role of a service sector. We have been supplying the labour required by them. Once their necessities are fulfilled then there is no longer any demand for that. The necessity they face of giving work to their own countrymen, the economic stagnation they face, all of this is naturally leading to a situation where we are getting pushed out. The solution being sought out by our rulers to all this are projects like the industrial corridor. They are never a solution. Such programmes only rehash dependence in a new form.

The stand on the national question of Keralam

Q. Some original studies related to the national question, the economic structure of Keralam, took place during the CRC period. Studies which unravelled that Keralam is a part of the neocolonial economy. These sorts of studies haven’t been carried out since then. It seems that everybody has abandoned that topic.

K.M: No, that’s not so. The stand which was taken in that period, this was later self-critically rejected. That was one of revolutions on the basis of nationalities. Whose revolution, which class’ revolution, this question was sticking out. If it’s a revolution to be carried out under proletarian leadership then it cannot be based on nationality. It’s a matter to be settled with the state. An Indian state exists here. Then it is a question of a revolution taking place within this country that is India. It’s a question of an Indian revolution itself. That was one of the issues. The other was that neocolonialism is eliminating feudalism. These two positions were rejected. But at the same time, the particularities of nationalities, cultural particularities, political particularities, specific economic relations, the awareness about all of this was retained. If you look at the articles that came in the Munnaniporali in that period you will see that they were retained. They were not abandoned. But that doesn’t amount to changing the party’s strategic line as such. It led to an investigation about how the strategic line of that party should be applied in this particular situation. There are some things that are common and things that are particular.

Continued in Part 8…

Youtube link to the interview:

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