Category Archives: Maoism

Multitude redux Empire: wrong way, don’t go back, we should leave too.

People got wishful thinking a lot, and I am always for breaking the borders, but as this can be read from afar, I reckon yes, but the prognosis offered below by Hardt and Negri back in the Empire day ends up objectively anti-communist – the wrong side is lauded as abandoning the discipline of the system. What if rather, all the exploited under capitalism had pushed at the wall the other way, the former soviet block might not be a pit of cowboy corruption and proto-fascist gangsterism, but rather a renewal – walls can fall both ways, and maybe H&N were pushing the wrong way. I don’t mean everyone should now move to Mexico, but abandoning the shopping centre queues in favour of a Leninist discipline supporting an organised alternative to empty glitz is a long term better solution for all rather than this multitude exodus which does tend to me to sound a bit like Pol Pot’s year zero as well.

“A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration. All the powers of the old world are allied in a merciless operation against it, but the movement is irresistible. Along with the flight from the so-called Third World there are flows of political refugees and transfers of intellectual labor power, in addition to the massive movements of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service proletariat. The legal and documented movements are dwarfed by clandestine migrations: the borders of national sovereignty are sieves, and every attempt at complete regulation runs up against violent pressure. Economists attempt to explain this phenomenon by presenting their equations and models, which even if they were complete would not explain that irrepressible desire for free movement. In effect, what pushes from behind is, negatively, desertion from the miserable cultural and material conditions of imperial reproduction; but positively, what pulls forward is the wealth of desire and the accumulation of expressive and productive capacities that the processes of globalization have determined in the consciousness of every individual and social group—and thus a certain hope. Desertion and exodus are a powerful form of class struggle within and against imperial postmodernity. This mobility, however, still constitutes a spontaneous level of struggle, and, as we noted earlier, it most often leads today to a new rootless condition of poverty and misery. A new nomad horde, a new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or evacuate Empire. Nietzsche was oddly prescient of their destiny in the nineteenth century. ‘‘Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises.’’ We cannot say exactly what Nietzsche foresaw in his lucid delirium, but indeed what recent event could be a stronger example of the power of desertion and exodus, the power of the nomad horde, than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the entire Soviet bloc? In the desertion from ‘‘socialist discipline,’’ savage mobility and mass migration contributed substantially to the collapse of the system. In fact, the desertion of productive cadres disorganized and struck at the heart of the disciplinary system of the bureaucratic Soviet world. The mass exodus of highly trained workers from Eastern Europe played a central role in provoking the collapse of the Wall. Even though it refers to the particularities of the socialist state system, this example demonstrates that the mobility of the labor force can indeed express an open political conflict and contribute to the destruction of the regime. What we need, however, is more. We need a force capable of not only organizing the destructive capacities of the multitude, but also constituting through the desires of the multitude an alternative. The counter-Empire must also be a new global vision, a new way of living in the world… If in a first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in a second moment it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radical insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography.”

Thanks J Adams for the reminder of this bit of Empire

My longe essay critiquing Empire is here

Innovations… Conference 4-5 October 2019, TDTU, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities

4th and 5th of October 2019.
Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist republic of Vietnam

Welcome to the website for the conference Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities, jointly organised by The University of Trieste, Italy; the Universität Leipzig, Germany; National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan; University of Warwick, UK; College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (CHESS) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), USA; and Ton Duc Thang University, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Conference Venue – Ton Duc Thang University

Address: 19 Nguyen Huu Tho Street, Tan Phong Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Invitation and Call for papers:

For the International Conference 4-5 October 2019 at Ton Duc Thang University, HCMC, Vietnam, we would like to hear from those working on innovative approaches to public engagement in the social sciences and humanities. Methodological, empirical, archival or conceptual-theoretical work is encouraged, especially where a keen interest in application, consequence, practice or outcome is involved. Sometimes this is called impact on the one side, or intervention on the other, but we are nevertheless interested in all inquiries and investigations which advance the emancipatory possibilities of scholarship in a radically changed global context.

Social and cultural practices in both modern life and in the preservation of historical memory, could suitably connect sociology, social work, history, ethno-anthropology (museums, exhibitions, fairs, monuments, collective ceremonies), cultural tourism, eco-preservation policies, and other urgent contemporary social issues. Comparative studies are welcome, but not the only focus. We are especially interested in deep and detailed studies which have wider significance and suggestions for ‘best practice’. After many years of ‘interdisciplinarity’, or at least talk about this, we are interested to see examples where this works well in practice. We can assume all studies are comparative and interdisciplinary in a way, and all certainly have consequences, implications…

We are especially keen to hear from those working in three overlapping areas of engaged activity: these may be people working as anthropologists, historians, museum and preservation/heritage studies; cultural geographers, sociologists and in cultural studies; or on border studies, migrant labor and workplace and institutional inquiries. Our themes will interact within the structure of the conference, but we are keen in particular to go deeply into each area.

With Innovations in Public Engagement we anticipate discussions of the ways scholarship might best go about communicating in public the experience of the past and of human, cultural and environmental diversity, including technological and bio-political innovations and their contemporary reshaping of pasts and presents. Challenges to questions of who produces scholarship and why, for whom and by whom, can apply to past and present uses of knowledge, where the models of research and inquiry are actively reworked in the face of new public demands.

With Historical/contemporary practices and policies we seek to address issues related to contemporary forms of social conflict, including unequal citizenship and new racisms, the rise of right-wing populist movements and infiltration of religious power in secular governmentality, migrant workers as neoliberal slavery, questions of human trafficking and refugees, developmentalism and environmental pollution, crony capitalism and geo-economic zoning politics.

With Innovations of methodology, training and new skills for the future it seems to us crucial that our work respond to rapid reconfigurations of the very possibility and consequences of engaged social sciences and humanities scholarship. Whether the changing context is imposed by governments by industry or by civil society, when we deal with institutional change and competitive and imperative demands, we do need to develop new tools for knowledge(s) and new sensibilities/sensitivities. Education, reform and responsiveness, new skills and objectives, new modes of investigation and teaching in general. An urgent and targeted focus on how scholarship might remain relevant and critical in the face of global trends – funding cuts, social constraints, new demands, new conservatism, and crises of certitude.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam will be our venue, but it need not necessarily be the context or focus of all papers, nor are comparative, or East-West or ‘post’ or neo-colonial framings always to be foregrounded in the papers. We are interested however in papers that encourage us to think anew about the implications of where we are and about how to re-orient humanities and social sciences scholarship in contexts where rising tensions in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia call on us to innovate and apply once more.

On acceptance of your paper, we will provide you a letter of acceptance or an invitation letter for your visa application to Vietnam or financial sponsorship from your institution. Therefore, you are encouraged to submit your paper at the earliest time possible.


The conference proceedings and papers will be in English.

Important dates:

  • Abstract Submission: By February 28th, 2019
  • Notification of Paper Acceptance: Before March 30th, 2019
  • Full Paper Submission: By May 30th, 2019
  • Registration and Payment by: August 20th, 2019 (early bird discounts apply)
  • Conference Dates: October 4th– 5th, 2019

We look forward to receiving your contributions and kindly ask you to disseminate the call to your colleagues who may be interested in participating the conference.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at if you need any further information.


Assoc. Prof. Le Thi Mai, Ph.D
Head of  Sociology Department


Screenshot 2018-11-26 at 16.03.23

Saibaba ‘given’ life = court takes life from a nice guy in awful #repressive state anti #maoist trumped up show trial. 

One of Indian Judicial Systems Most Shameful Decisions since 1947 : DU professor GN Saibaba and four others get life sentence for ‘Maoist links’

Democracy and Class Struggle says this must be one of the most shameful legal decisions since the Independence of India in 1947 a wheelchair bound professor given life Imprisonment 
The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014. He and five others were convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
DU professor GN Saibaba and four others get life sentence for ‘Maoist links’

The District and Sessions Court in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, on Tuesday sentenced Delhi University professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba and four others to life in prison under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Besides Saibaba, the five people convicted under the draconian law are journalist and social activist Prashant Rahi, Jawaharlal Nehru University student Hem Mishra and tribals Pandu Pora Narote, Mahesh Kareman Tirki and Vijay Tirki. While five have been sentenced to life term in prison, the court sentenced Vijay Tirki to 10 years in jail, reported ANI.
The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014 after the Gadchiroli police claimed that he had links with Maoists and was “likely to indulge in anti-national activities”. Saibaba was granted bail in April, 2016. The Supreme Court had cited his medical condition – he suffers from 90% disability after being struck with polio as a child – and the fact that all material witnesses in the trial had been examined.
On February 22, Saibaba had complained of chest pains and was taken to a local hospital, where he had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He was said to have a pancreas infection, besides stones in his gall bladder stones. Doctors had recommended he have surgery in three weeks, after recovering from the infection.
Between June 2015 and December 2015, he was out on interim bail for medical treatment.
Saibaba’s family said they had been expecting an acquittal. “It is shocking,” Vasantha Saibaba, his wife, told “There is barely any evidence against him – the trial proved this. We will definitely challenge the verdict.” She also claimed there was “state pressure” to have him convicted too.
His lawyer Rebecca John said they would appeal against this order. “There is absolutely no evidence against him. If the State trying to enter the mind of a person, into what his ideology is, we get these kind of orders under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.” She added that there was no evidence that he had “any role to play in any violence, or in incitement to violence, or any active participation at all.”
Saibaba had extensively campaigned against the Salwa Judum militia and the human rights violations that accompanied the Operation Green Hunt against Maoists launched under the previous United Progressive Alliance government.
Vasantha Saibaba’s statement to the media is as follows:
Our advocates will move High Court soon. This judgement is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra this is the first case in which all the persons charge sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment. Saibaba’s brother attended most of the arguments of our advocates before the hon. judge and found that the judgement has not taken those into consideration. No evidence has been proved by the prosecution, electronic evidence not sealed. It seems the state and Central governments have put a lot of pressure on the judiciary to implement anti people and undemocratic policies at the behest of corporates and MNCs. The governments have selectively chosen to suppress the voice of people to plunder the resources of this country. The BJP govt. wants to push nakedly the agenda of RSS through such people like Saibaba behind the bars.
The government has chosen this case through courts to silence the voice of Dr. Saibaba. By honoring the Court, Saibaba has been attending the Court all these years and today also despite his deteriorated health. As a wife, I will fight in the higher courts to seek justice. The government has been putting relentless pressure on my family for the last four years by raiding my house in Delhi. I appeal to Democrats, people’s organizations, intellectuals, students to condemn such undemocratic character of the government. After the pronouncement, judge has rejected to issue any order on the appeal of our advocate. Advocates asked to issue an order to direct the Jail authorities to give required medicines, help of assistants for Saibaba movement, operation to perform for gall bladder etc. The minimum requirements previous the Court has given when Saibaba was in jail as under trial are also not given. 

G. N. Saibaba’s Bail Cancelled, Contempt Notice Slapped On Arundhati Roy – 24 December, 2015

The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court cancelled the bail of Delhi University professor G. N. Saibaba and asked him to surrender before the police by 25th December. The Wheelchair-bound Saibaba who is over 90% disabled will celebrate Christmas in jail. A single judge bench of Justice Arun Choudhari also charged Author Arundhati Roy for criminal contempt for writing about Saibaba’s imprisonment and the court’s denial of bail in her article “Professor P.O.W.” in Outlook magazine in May. Arundhati Roy has to reply to the notice by January 25, 2016.

Prof. Saibaba was arrested by Maharashtra police in May 2015 for alleged Maoist links. On July 3, a two-judge bench of the Bombay High Court at Mumbai had granted Saibaba bail on reports that his health was deteriorated severely after 14 months in Nagpur jail. He has been paralysed from waist-downward since contracting polio in childhood. Since obtaining bail in July, Saibaba has been undergoing treatment at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in New Delhi. He had an angioplasty in August.

The order canceling Saibaba’s bail says that there is sufficient material for the court to consider that the allegations made against Saibaba under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as true and thus, to cancel his bail order. It states that the Revolutionary Democratic Front of which Saibaba is a member, though not banned by the central government, “could be called as frontal organization of the CPI (Maoist)”.

The order cites several pages of Roy’s article and notes that the article had a “mala fide motive to interfere in the administration of justice”.

“Instead of challenging the orders passed by Sessions Court and the learned Single Judge of this Court, the author appears to have invented a novel idea of bashing the Central Government, the State Government, the Police machinery so also judiciary and that was, prima facie, with a mala fide motive to interfere in the administration of justice.

The language used by the author in her article against the Government and the police machinery is as nasty as it could be and one really wonders whether the same would befit to the prestigious awards the author is said to have won. Calling the Government and police as being “afraid” of the applicant, “abductor” and “thief” and the Magistrate from a “small town”, demonstrate the surly, rude and boorish attitude of the author in the most tolerant country like India…

…The author has even gone to the extent of scandalizing and questioning the credibility of the higher judiciary by giving examples of the orders of bail granted to “Babu Bajrangi”, “Maya Kodnani” and “Amit Shah”.

Does the author know that the grant of bail depends on the facts and evidence in each case and there cannot be any such comparison. Is it not the fact that the Central Government, the State Government, the police machinery and the armed forces are fighting for prevention of unlawful and terrorist activities in the country when the Naxal plague has taken a pincer grip.”

Arundhati Roy said she will respond to the order in court.

Mapping (by) the Indian Express on Maoists in India

This Ashutosh Bhardwaj article from Indian Express is at least five months old (its a general page, so no date), but is maybe worth a look since a few people recently have mentioned the Maoist struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. The continuities between then and today are convoluted, but they exist.

Plus there is this map, somehow visualising what is going on today can better displace relegation of Maoist struggles to the past. Talk of a reaffirmation of the party and direction towards work in urban areas has been about of late too:

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 17.49.23

Five Maoists were arrested in the southern peninsula this month, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh said last week that incidents of Maoist violence were on the decline. How relevant is that claim? ASHUTOSH BHARDWAJ answers key questions on the activities of the CPI (Maoist), both in its forest strongholds and clandestine urban bases, and gives a status report on its operations.

Is the CPI (Maoist) on the decline?

Compared to the 2006-2010 period, attacks have been fewer in the last two-three years. But they remain entrenched in the forest zone across central India, and dominate a far wider territory in Dandakaranya now than they did in 2004, when the MCC and CPI (Maoist) merged. In Chhattisgarh, over 50,000 CRPF, BSF, ITBP and state police personnel are fighting the Maoists, but politicians and officials still cannot enter many areas. 2014 is considered among the calmest years in a decade, but it was also the year in which the CRPF suffered its second biggest casualty in a calendar year in Chhattisgarh.

According to Home Ministry figures, from 2008-14, 992 LWE cadres were killed, 13,657 were arrested, 2,608 surrendered. But the data does not distinguish between CPI (Maoist) and other groups, several of which are active in Jharkhand.

What is the Maoists’ urban network?

Underground cadres who operate from cities, sympathizers and supporters. Maoist documents stress on building a strong base in cities, and mention three kinds of urban mass organisations: secret, open and semi-open, and legal, the last including cover organisations and affiliated activists. The forest-based rebellion survives mostly on what Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao calls the “movement in urban areas”. From the urban network come logistics, moral and intellectual support, and the ideological argument for violence. The network is in several cities, and sympathisers occupy prominent positions. Central Committee member Malla Raji Reddy’s daughter Snehlata and son-in-law C Kasim live on the Osmania University campus in Hyderabad. Kasim teaches Telugu, Snehlata edits a journal on revolutionary politics. “We support the Maoist movement, the only path available for the poor and oppressed. There have been setbacks but the movement will go on,” says Kasim.

How does the CPI (Maoist) operate?

A mammoth hierarchical structure operates on a ‘need to know’ basis. At the top is a 20-member Central Committee headed by Muppala Laxmana Rao or Ganapathy. Other CC members include Nambala Keshava Rao or Ganganna who heads the Central Military Commission, military expert and Giridih resident Misir Besara, and Dalit Maharashtrian Milind Teltumbde whose brother is married to the sister of Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B R Ambedkar.

Under the CC are four regional bureaus, the most significant and active of which, the Central Regional Bureau, is headed by Katakam Sudarshan alias Anand. The CRB has three units: Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, North Telangana Special Zonal Committee and Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee. Slain leader Kishanji’s younger brother and CC member Mallojula Venugopal Rao or Bhupathi is in charge of the DKSZC, the headquarters of the CPI (Maoist), and home to some of the top leadership. CC member Akkiraju Haragopal, who led the talks with the YSR government in 2004, is in charge of AOBSZC. Its secretary is Modem Bala Krishna, also a CC member. CC member Pulluri Prasad Rao alias Chandanna heads the NTSZC. The North Regional Bureau comprises units in Delhi, Punjab, J&K, Himachal, Uttarakhand and UP, and is mostly defunct.

Zonal or state committees are divided into area committees, which form the Revolutionary People’s Council in villages. These have successfully replaced panchayats in many areas of Dandakaranya.

What is their military capacity?

Bastar has two major battalions, Jharkhand has a fledgling one. The South Bastar battalion, formed in 2009 and headed by Hidma, has the finest guerrillas and has carried out nearly all major attacks in recent years. The Abujhmaad battalion, headed by Ramdher, was formed in 2012 primarily to protect the top leadership soon after CRPF entered the area. Each battalion has formations of company, platoon and squad, but their numbers vary. Bombmaking capacity was hit after the head of the Technical Research Arms Manufacturing Unit Sadanala Ramkrishna was arrested in 2012. His aide Deepak Parghania, an award-winning technician from SAIL’s Bhilai plant, was arrested too. Units in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra manufacture artillery, rifle parts, pressure mines, rocket launchers.

Are there any fissures within?

Over the last decade, several senior cadres have questioned the preeminent focus on violence, to the exclusion of mass awakening, building bases in universities. Public executions in Jan Adalats have earned the wrath of tribals in many cases. “They are leading a necessary movement, but they need to review their violence,” surrendered CC member Lanka Papi Reddy has said. Former DKSZC spokesperson Gudsa Usendi alias Sukhdev has voiced reservations against highhandedness by cadres. Of late, the Maoists have issued several apologies for attacks.

Where has the state failed?

A democratic state functioning within the Constitution and law has a fundamental handicap in dealing with the challenge. There have been no killings in Andhra and Telangana of late, but teachers, writers and journalists in cities from Warangal to Guntur feed the movement many ways. Seminars in Hyderabad celebrated the 10th anniversary of the CPI (Maoist) last year. Spokesperson Azad lived in Delhi for years with his wife. There are enough disillusioned youth who are attracted to their ideology, and to the lure of the gun and romance of a forest life. In the end, the state must be able to demonstrate that the political system is not just for the moneyed, manipulative and powerful.

– See more at:

Sai Baba hunger strike

Often spoken as our guest in London. It was always difficult to get him a visa, and/or permission from his college to visit, and their shabby treatment of him in relation to accommodation… Now this… [he is in prison for having links with Maoists allegedly, and for being a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation – see link to mainstream press. More as I get it]


Dr, G N Saibaba, Delhi University Professor, who has been in incarceration since 9th May, 2014 has commenced an indefinite hunger strike from 11-04-2015 demanding proper medical treatment and food, both of which are being denied to him by the authorities of the Nagpur Central Prison.

 Dr. Saibaba, who is presently lodged in the notorious Anda Barrack of the Nagpur Prison has been denied bail twice by the Sessions Court, Gadchiroli and once by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. 

In the last order by the Sessions Court dated 4th March, 2015 the Sessions Judge referred to the reports of the Superintendent and the Chief Medical Officer of the Nagpur Central Prison which, while admitting the delicate medical condition of Saibaba, stated that he was being treated at the Government Medical College Hospital as well as the Super Speciality Hospital in Nagpur and that they were providing food supplements as per his medical requirements. 

It was on the basis of such reports that bail on medical grounds was denied to Saibaba.

However, despite such claims by the prison authorities made before the court, the prison administration has not only continued to deny him proper medical treatment and food supplements, but also now even stopped certain items that were earlier allowed to him.

Faced with a situation of a steady deterioration in his health condition, Saibaba has decided to protest and has completely stopped taking food from Saturday.

His lawyers, who met him on Monday, 13th April, 2015, immediately submitted a memorandum to the DIG (Prisons) East Region, the prison authority under whose jurisdiction the Nagpur Prison falls. 

The official however merely received the memorandum and refused to respond to the issues raised by Saibaba. He did not even indicate any willingness to allow the essentials that the prison report to the court has stated that they were providing.

Immediate action is called for to protect the life of Dr. G N Saibaba and obtain his release.



RELEASE JONATHAN BOARD – [Maoist] political prisoner in Kerala


India: Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners : An Appeal to International Community on behalf of Jonathan (Bold) Board

The Arrest of the Swiss citizen Jonathan Board who came to Kerala on tourist visa, by Kerala police on flimsy grounds, is highly discriminative and with ulterior motive.

After the arrest in order to justify the same Kerala police is fabricating canards, that Jonathan has link with Maoists and he has come to attend the memorial meeting organized by Maoists to show the respect towards the Maoist Guerilla fighter Sinoj who became martyr in an accidental explosion took place on june 16th of 2014.

The police also alleged that Jonathan addressed the meeting hence violated Foreigners Act.

The police has taken a case against him and incarcerated in the dungeon hole named Iringalakkuda Sub Jail,Thrissur District,Kerala.

I was the Chairperson of the Sinoj Memorial Committee that organized the meeting and was a main Speaker.

As the Chairperson I wish to state that Jonathan was neither an invitee to the meeting nor a speaker.

And he did not addressed the meeting as the police was trying to depict with a sinster view.

According to Jonathan, he came to the meeting only out of curiosity as he is a left lenient person.

He got the information of the meeting from an English Daily News Paper.

He listen to the speeches delivered in the meeting up to the end.

In the meantime he also purchased some English handbooks.

As the meeting was formerly over Jonathan himself approached the organizers and expressed his wish to introduce himself to the audience who was started disbursing.

Out of the same curiosity as the Chairperson I agreed to his longing.

He introduced himself and expressed that he also share our sorrow caused by Sinoj’s martyrdom. It was only a casual talk,any humanitarian from any corner of the World can express.

The police and the state which is a culprit in granting V.I.P treatment to the Italian marines who had violated the international water laws as well as Indian laws and shot two fishermen to death is now taking a different approach to meet their narrow political ends.

It is deplorable.

And I/We regret for the unfortunate faith met out with Jonathan, though created by state , and request to the progressive and democratic forces and personalities of International Community to intervene in Jonathan’s affair and put pressure on the India/Kerala governments and see that his release from the Jail unconditionally.

M.N Ravunni Vice President, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners
Kerala, India

‘The Advocate’ – screening and discussion [Uni of Westminster 23.10.2013]

You are invited to the screening of ‘The Advocate’ and to participate in the discussions on the role of civil liberties movements in the context of development, resistance and repression in India and elsewhere.

‘The Advocate’ documentary film on civil liberties, social movements and state in Andhra Pradesh, India

Wednesday 23 October 2013, 6.30-9pm

Venue: ‘The Pavilion’ University of Westminster, Cavendish Building
115 New Cavendish Street, London, W1W 6UW

The documentary film ‘The Advocate’ focuses on the life and work of late G. Kannabiran, India’s foremost lawyer and champion of civil liberties. The film highlights state repression including extra-judicial killings, political prisoners and violations of civil liberties of the Maoist movement that forms the context for his work in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The context includes the socio-economic causes for the insurgency and its repression and the role of civil liberties movement in India in engaging the wider social issues. The documentary comes at a time of widespread state repression of popular movements in India including use of death penalties, rejection of clemency petitions, high numbers of political prisoners including women political prisoners, extra judicial killings, widespread use of torture, custodial rape, deployment of armed forces and lack of fair trials. The film highlights the context to the resistance and repression which, in most cases, lie in socio-economic deprivations and social polarisations. The film opens up the spaces for debate on the state of civil liberties in India, seen as the most populous democracy in the world, and more widely, the assumptions about human rights, civil liberties, economic polarisation and socio-economic deprivations more generally in other Third World countries.

Chaired by Prof Penny Green, International State Crime Initiative, Kings College London

Panelists include

Dr Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster, School of Law
Saleh Mamon, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)
John Hutnyk, Professor of Cultural Studies, Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London

Organised by CAMPACC, Development & Conflict group, School of Law, University of Westminster; International State Crime Initiative; Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers


For information & RSVP contact: CAMPACC: Estella Schmid e-mail:
Tel 020 7586 5892 <>

Development and Conflict Group: R. Seenivasan –

Red Ant Dream 2:30 27.9.2013

Dear all

i would like to invite to the screening of Sanjay Kak’s new film “Red Ant Dream”
followed by a discussion with the filmmaker.

When: Friday 27th, 2.30pm
Where: NAB, LG01

Please spread this information amongst your students.
Maybe this is just the right event at the end of a very busy induction week.

More information on the film can be found here:
Red Ant Dream – Teaser 2
Red Ant Dream – Forest Walk

Many thanks and all best wishes ! Nicole

Nepal in 2006

Another bit of text that has to be chopped from my Pantomime Terror book – this time because its no longer news, though I do note that today the Maoists are reported to be actively boycotting the election. And we know what an active boycot can mean. Go!

Here is the cut, sadly now left to rot on the study floor…

And lets take a lesson from Nepal, which in the same week in which Aki Nawaz was identified by The Sun as the pantomime caricature of the ‘suicide rapper’, the Nepalese Government, amidst its own Maoist ‘insurgency’, still repealed some of its ‘anti-terror’ in the interests of civic freedoms. The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (TADO) earlier introduced by King Gyanendra in the wake of the 2002 killing of his brother Birendra and ten members of the ruling Rana Royal family. The King was forced to repeal the terror laws by popular pressure from the insurgent Maoist movement, heading (April 2008) towards democratic electoral victory at pace. Yet beyond Nepal (further discussed in a later chapter), the war on terror has contracted rather than opened up civic space. It is my view that any exposure of such strictures is to be supported. Where is the discussion of the repeal of the terror laws and other fear-mongering that is making life in Britain untenable?

Alpa Shah talk at LSE 17.5.2012

The Malinowski Memorial Lecture this year is by Goldsmiths own Alpa Shah.

Title: ‘The Muck of the Past’: Revolution, Social Transformation and the Maoists in India

Date: Thursday 17 May 2012, 6.00-7.00pm

Venue: Old Theatre, LSE

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

Dr Alpa Shah teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of ‘In the Shadows of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India’ and co-editor of ‘Windows into a Revolution: Ethnographies of Maoism in India and Nepal.’

For more information please see:

CPI(M): “Condemn the arrests and torture of Maoist activists in Kolkata and Mumbai!”

From Communist Party of India (Maoist) via A World to Win:


12 March 2012. A World to Win News Service. India has been on a fast track to playing a more major role in the global economy. Indian and international corporations are itching to tear up the land inhabited by tribal peoples to get their hands on the riches that lie under them, minerals like bauxite, coal and iron ore.  The Indian government cannot tolerate the fact that large swaths of the country are not under their control, and are determined to crush any resistance that stands in their way, especially the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the masses hungry for radical change who make up the army they lead. In late 2009, with an array of military forces and the utmost cruelty, the Indian government unleashed a war on the people called Operation Green Hunt. Following is a press release dated 2 March, 2012 from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), signed by its spokesman, Abhay.

 In the last week of February 2012, the police have arrested activists of our Party, including some senior cadres from Kolkata and Mumbai. On the specific intelligence inputs provided by the murderous Andra Pradesh Special Intelligence Bureau (APSIB), joint forces of police and Special Task Force (STF) of Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal have raided the shelters of our comrades in Kolkata and Mumbai suburbs and arrested at least nine comrades, including two women comrades. Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna, Deepak Kumar Pargania, Sukumar Mandal, Bapi Mudi and Sambhu Charan were arrested from Kolkata, while Comrades Dinesh Wankhede, Aasimkumar Bhattacharya, Suman Gawde and Paru Patel were picked up from Thane in Maharashtra.

 Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna alias Santosh (62) and Aasimkumar Bhattacharya (65) were the seniors among the arrested. Senior comrade Sadanala Ramakrishna has been working for the revolution for at least four decades. He has been ailing with serious health problems for so many years. A mechanical engineer graduated from the prestigious Regional Engineering College (REC) of Warangal where other martyred leaders like Surapaneni Janardhan and Azad emerged as great revolutionaries of their times, Comrade Ramakrishna sacrificed his bright life for the cause of the liberation of the downtrodden.

 Both the two women comrades arrested – Vijaya and Suman – have been undergoing medical treatment for some time, staying in the shelters outside the struggle zones. Particularly, comrade Vijaya has been suffering from serious heart problems.

 The police forces, known for worst kind of cruelty, have been torturing these comrades mentally and physically while in custody. They have foisted several false cases against these comrades so that they could be languished behind bars forever.

 On one hand the ruling classes are asserting that these arrests are a big success for them, and on the other hand, they are trying to portray our comrades as dangerous criminals, claiming that they have recovered huge amounts of cash and other material that is used for making arms.

 These arrests are nothing but a part of Operation Green Hunt (OGH), i.e. the “War on People” which has been underway since 2009. The comprador ruling classes, in connivance with their imperialist masters, particularly with the US imperialists, have unleashed this brutal war of suppression in the poorest parts of India so that their neo-liberal policies of plunder of resources could go unhindered. They are particularly targeting the revolutionary leadership and eliminating them. As the Pentagon itself claimed recently, the US Special Forces are not only actively involved, but also assisting their Indian counterparts on the ground in the counter-insurgency operations aimed at eliminating the revolutionary leadership. This fact also shows us that the US has been patronizing in the ongoing Operation Green Hunt, making the values such as the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of our country a joke. The exploiting rulers of our country are daydreaming that this movement can be suppressed if its leadership is wiped out.

 The revolutionary movement cannot be crushed with arrests and murders. The bars of the dungeons cannot restrict the revolutionary ideas from spreading among the vast masses.

 The CC of CPI (Maoist) strongly condemns these arrests and the inhuman torture being inflicted on them. We demand immediate and unconditional release of these comrades, as well as all of the political prisoners languishing in various jails in all corners of our land. We also demand the lifting of all the false cases foisted against these comrades.

            -end item-

The Middle East, North Africa: The prospects for Revolution. 30.5.2011

The Middle East, North Africa

The Prospects for Revolution!

The recent uprisings that have rocked regimes in the Middle East and North Africa showed how quickly people can shatter what Marx called the “belief in the permanence of existing conditions”. Yet the local and international centers of power are even now trying to tame and turn back these movements. The women gathered on March 8th Women’s Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were told, “Back to your kitchens – the revolution’s over!” And we have seen how over and over again powerful mass uprisings that topple tyrants are absorbed back into the system – in the Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, or think of Iran, where the overthrow of the Shah was followed by the Islamic Republic… – and for the great majority the wheels of oppression grind on … How can this be avoided? What kind of society is needed by the peoples of this region and people all over the world? This conference analyses the prospects for a thorough-going revolution that breaks free from the grip of imperialist domination. Join in a day of serious discussion and warm-hearted solidarity!


Nawal el-Saadawi, author of The Hidden Face of Eve, Daughter of Isis, Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, from Egypt

Amir Hassanpour, University of Toronto, Canada, from Iran

Raymond Lotta, revolutionary political economist, writer for Revolution newspaper, from the US

Shahrzad Mojab, academic-activist, Professor University of Toronto in gender studies, education & women and revolution, from Iran

Sami Ramadani, senior lecturer, London Metropolitan Uni, from Iraq

Aitemad Muhanna, researcher in gender issues in Gaza, Palestine

Panel Chair: John Hutnyk, Bad Marxism, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmith’s

Location: Conway Hall (Red Lion Square, Holborn tube)

Date: 30 May – Bank Holiday Monday

Time: 9:30 am to 5 pm (£9 – £7 concessions)

For more info, contact the Committee for a Revolutionary Alternative on facebook or email: lonconf2011[at] or call 07904 550 033

Arundhati Roy, Jan Myrdal, Basanta Indra Mohan 12.6.2011 Euston

Please join us for a public meeting and an audience with celebrated authors who will discuss their recent experiences in India with a special focus on the raging war against the poorest of the poor, the tribal people living in the heartland of India.

Arundhati Roy

From India and the author of recently published books
Walking with the Comrades” and “Broken Republic”  

Jan Myrdal

From Sweden and the author of
“Red Star Over India”

Basanta Indra Mohan

From Nepal and the author of
“Imperialism and Proletarian Revolution 21st Century”

Program includes:
Presentations by the speakers,
film and Q&A session

Sunday, June 12, 2011
1:30 pm till 5:00 pm

Friends House,  Main Hall,
173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ

Hosted by:
International Campaign Against War on People of India (ICAWPI)       info[at]  
c/o Gorki House, 70 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7PA   Tel: +44(0)20 7193 1605

Co-organised by: IWA (GB), UNF Europe, ACDA, AFPRISA, TKM, GIKDER, 100FCC, WPRM-Britain, UfSO, CCRC,… (To be updated)   

For further information and contact with the organizers, please mail:  june12-London[at]

all-Nepal shut

The Workers Dreadnought

For International Socialism

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) calls for all-Nepal shutdown on May 28th

Comrade Matrika Yadav, the fiery former UCPN(Maoist) leader, and his Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [a party that is a splinter from the UCPN(Maoist) and purportedly continues to grow with growing dissatisfaction and defections from that Party] have called for an all-Nepal shutdown on May 24th, and an indefinite shutdown starting on the 28th. Comrade Matrika Yadav has vociferously argued in the last few years that the UCPN(Maoist) has become a revisionist party, although he also maintains that the membership remains largely revolutionary in their orientation and has simply been misled by an increasingly opportunistic leadership. It has become increasingly clear, that it is unlike that there will be a people’s revolt in Nepal in just under 3 weeks [unless the political developments of the last few months since December have simply been a form of political theatre to distract the public about the Party’s true work, however, there is no evidence for this besides the development of the People’s Volunteer organization which have some have accused of developing a military structure] and that the Party is undergoing a political crisis, with senior leaders like Kiran and Gaurav openly attacking Prachanda in public, and attacks by Prachanda-supporters on pro-Kiran publications (it is very encouraging to see that Comrade Baburam Bhattarai has defended the Kiran-faction’s freedom of speech). Although, all sides continue seem to argue for unity and dismiss talk of a split, and the talk of a general convention seems to have died down once again. Indeed, this is further muddied by the Kiran-faction’s constant wrangling over ministerial posts which seems to fly in the face of his call for preparation for a people’s revolt.

However, something that I have been considering is whether a split, if it does occur, could possibly result in the merger of a Kiran-led wing of the UCPN(Maoist) and the Matrika Yadav-led CPN(Maoist) to form a Left alternative to the more mainstream Dahal-Bhattarai-led UCPN(Maoist) [which itself would be a very odd creature, although it too could merge with a section of the CPN(UML) led by current Prime Minister Khanal. I recognize that this seems odd because I have really not spent much time at all discussing CPN(UML) politics however, for those who are not aware, there has been a real and growing divide within that party with at least 2 clear factions: a “pro-Maoist” faction led by Khanal and an “anti-Maoist” led by senior party leader Oli]. Indeed, many argued that although they supported Comrade Matrika Yadav and shared his frustration at the developments in the Party, that believe that he he should not have left the Party when he did as his exit weakened the Party left. But the time may be soon approaching when the Kiran-faction may find itself inside a party that enjoys the name that first put them on the map. It is also possible that this could result in some other Maoist splinter groups reconstituting themselves within a revolutionary Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Journalism of a type.

IMG_2774Some may think the quality of – ehem – journalism about the Maoist struggles in India is somewhat lacking in style. Others may think that this over-worked topic really pushed a writer to find a unique angle, a way in to the jungle that is the Naxalite narrative tradition (of demonization and ‘counter). But I warn over hasty readers that a subtle use of dialectics (here to be distinguished from literary ping pong) is often hard to discern. OK OK, in this one its really just ping pong, and certainly not of a type sourced in Yenan. How could so many neat reversals (contradictions to be handled?) be crammed into the one piece? And I am only quoting the first few paragraphs, see the whole thing here for the amazing unfolding truths.

This excerpt is from – ( I have no details as to who they are – they say they are my ‘window on news analysis and features on Pakistan, South Asia and the world’ – fab.).

Want to hate Maoists? Start calling them Taliban.

Jawed Naqvi 
Monday, 12 Oct, 200

IN the mosquito-infested inaccessible forests of Chhattisgarh, Maoist guerrillas often carry an insect repellent cream called Odomos. God help you if the security forces hunting the guerrillas — now for the first time with the help of helicopter-borne commandos — ever catch you with a tube.

Other than that there is little to distinguish a Maoist from an ordinary tribal or a Dalit, the two major communities that form the bulwark of their revolt straddling 20 Indian states.

Very little is made known about the Maoists except that they are a bloody-minded lot. The gap in information about their worldview can be partly ascribed to their cultivated aloofness from, and suspicion of, the mainstream Indian media. Otherwise too it has become a risky proposition for journalists to venture to assess them objectively.

The rest of the piece goes on to survey such wildly varied themes as poverty, water, kidnappings, the views of the PM, and of [confused] chief ministers, the BJP, the Business Standard, the Taliban, beheadings, including that of the Norwegian tourist in Kashmir more than ten years ago, Roman crucifixion and the marital peccadilloes of Henry VIII. It really does deserve to be read as abstracted (dialectic?) poetics. And in the last paragraph, the killer punch that assures this journalist his Pulitzer is the phrase: ‘Shoring up the chorus of unrelated idioms are the security forces…’ As I said, read the rest here.

OR, you can find better writing on Naxalites here and maybe here.

Godard “British Sounds” pt 1

UntitledYou can find Jean-Luc Godard’s “British Sounds” in all its glory on You Tube now. It is worth watching all the way through (6 parts) – from the ‘petroleum of pop music’ and excerpts from the great Shiela Rowbothom to the “gestapo of the humanist university” (they mean LSE). ‘No end to class struggle’ in the centre of the jack. All Godard’s great themes are here – the pan across the line of cars (weekday this time, not ‘weekend’) through to militant Maoist students concocting a twisted sympathy for the devil (Lennon not Lenin) and more. Thanks for the reminder to Iain Sinclair and his great rambling Hackney(ed) dossier (if you haven’t got it yet, get it – and read Sukhdev’s review of Sinclair’s book here). As Sukhdev says: “here’s another reason why Sinclair is such an important writer: he offers readers the critical tools for looking anew at wherever it is that they live.”

The Very Idea of Communism.

draftprog-2tI am posting here this Open Letter from Raymond Lotta of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA to the attendees of the upcoming Birkbeck ‘On the Idea of Communism’ conference (see here) because I really like the critique implied in the phrase ‘back to the 18th century’ thinking. I can of course understand why the comm-fest programme could not be changed late in the day to accommodate BoB-thought. I mean, even Jean Luc Nancy seems to not have a formal place: in the program he just seems to be ‘in attendance’ – I hope he gets a chair to sit on, or maybe he has his own TV show and will do a roving reporter thing?? People have complained that its too expensive – 100 quid for a spot in a 900 seat hall, you do the math – but I think its a bargain just to be able to hear all these pundits, and to see letters like this appear as well. If we could just knock over a few of the big banks… [oops, the boards of directors of the banks already did that for themselves – 1.5 million a year ain’t a bad salary – gnnng]


13-15 Dear Colleagues, The convocation of an international conference on the Idea of Communism is certainly salutary.

The world cries out for revolution. It would only make sense that Bob Avakian’s new synthesis be part of a major discussion of the idea of communism. But thus far, a presentation about this new synthesis has been unacceptably excluded from the program of the conference.

Communism is at a crossroads.

In the face of the reversals of the revolutions in the Soviet Union and China, we have seen a range of political-ideological responses that tend to fall into three broad currents:

First, there are those who religiously cling to the experience and theory of the first wave of socialist revolution of the 20th century—not summing up problems and shortcomings, not moving forward, but circling the wagons.

Second, there are those who ignore or dismiss real scientific analysis of the contradictions of the socialist transition. They look for inspiration and orientation even further back into the past–to the 18th century and the proclaimed democratic and egalitarian ideals and social models of the bourgeois epoch. One has to ask what it signifies that at a conference ostensibly addressing the “idea of communism,” Rousseau, Kant, and Jefferson are defining reference points. Where does that take you in the world, and didn’t Marx (and Marxism) effect a rupture with all that already? The only difference is that now this is being labeled communism.

Third, there is what Bob Avakian has been doing. He is not only the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which has its sights set on the revolutionary seizure of power and the radical transformation of society, but also a visionary theorist. He has been acting on the understanding that communist revolution is the only way out of this madness and horror, and taking up the challenge of forging the path forward and further developing Marxism as a living and critical revolutionary science–so that communists are indeed a vanguard of the future, not a residue of the past. This involves a more scientific and visionary sense of communism, a reenvisioned model of socialist society and exercise of leadership, and related issues of epistemology and ethics.

For Avakian, there is both continuity with the first wave of socialist revolution in the 20th century, whose high water mark was the Cultural Revolution, and rupture with wrong conceptions and methodology. This includes continuation of Mao’s ruptures with Stalin but also, in some respects, rupture beyond the ways that Mao himself was influenced, though secondarily, by the dominant mode of thinking within the communist movement under the leadership of Stalin. Avakian’s writings and talks can be accessed at

Given that the Idea of Communism conference is very much within this “back to the 18th century” framework, it would be highly important that a presentation representing Bob Avakian’s new synthesis be heard at this conference. It would also be highly important that other theorizations be interrogated and contested from this standpoint.

Again, the world cries out for revolution and the emancipation of humanity. What is the actual content of communism? What is the necessary theoretical framework for going forward? It is in this spirit of gaining clarity that I call on the conference organizers to include a talk on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis as part the formal program. I would be quite willing to give such a presentation. I also call on speakers and participants to bring their influence to bear.

For a new world,

Raymond Lotta

Critique as Ideology: The Dissident Left and Maoists in India

A seminar organised by the Xenos Research Group, Department of Sociology, with the collaboration of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies, Department of Politics

The first of two talks on communalism, secularism and the Left in India by Saroj Giri, Xenos Visiting Fellow. (See also Thursday 13 November 2008).

Event Information

Location: Room 307, Richard Hoggart Building
Cost: Free – all are welcome
Time: 12 November 2008, 18:00 – 19:30

Eyeballs on the Rats

I played guitar (somewhere between competent and bad) in the 1970s. King Rat, a band of mates I rehearsed a bit with, took their name from the 1962 James Clavell novel about the wartime Prison Camp called Changi in Singapore (now name of the airport). (They eventually went on to Metal rock god fame as the Bengal Tigers, I went to work with Maoists in West Bengal). King Rat was also the name of the 1998 debut novel by China Miéville, and is also an up and coming band in the present day (see here). Cavell however, it seems, took the name King Rat from the pantomime “Dick Whittington“, which references rats as carriers of the plague.

Lets sing:

“Ring a ring a Rosie

A Pocket full of posie

a-tissue, a-tissue

We all fall down”.

– and they still sometimes say Pantomime is just for kids right. I got my eye on them (and the first pic for this post – above – is a picture of my eyeball, kindly provided by the optometrist who did my recent Glaucoma test – I think it looks not totally dissimilar, at least in colour, to the cover of Miéville’s book – and only one of these is guaranteed free of myopia/glaucoma). My sister – the older of the two – visited Kolkata while I was there and the first line of her diary records the fact that there were rats as big as cats in the dormitory I was staying in. Actually, I thought the 8 rupee dorm (it was 1988 by then) was pretty luxurious for the price. The bathrooms were a shooting gallery most days, there was a few crazies (the Mother T god-botherers, and a guy who lost it in room 2 I’ll never forget – the first death I saw up close). Some of this is documented in The Rumour of Calcutta, but a lot of it is not – it will go in the T8 file to be explained later.

Nepal turning red via ballots not bullets?

prachanda1.jpgComrade Prachanda addressing a mass rally in Backtapur, outside Kathmandu, on March 12. Nepal’s general election is on 10th of April and is more important than the cobra-mongoose death embrace that is the election most people seem presently obsessed about (Zizek, Kellner, the entire media, everyone except the residents of Florida who already know their result).

Oh, and did you hear there was an election in Malaysia where the opposition made massive gains despite the usual vote-tampering shenanigans (as illustrated on opposition blogs, for example by seat-winner Eli Wong – check here).

In the meantime, this picture of Prachanda says a lot about the moment of transition from feudal monarchy to modern Maoist state. Remains to be seen how the Maoists will fare, and exactly what modern Nepal will look like, but it has to be better than the Nepal that Michael Palin found so charming in his traveller’s trip (see here or here).

(pic nicked from APW – thanks)

armed struggle

Reading Hari Kunzru’s novel ‘My Revolutions’ and hearing him at Migrating University at Goldsmiths this weekend, tempts me to try and work out how I want to talk about struggles today (its not the 60s anymore). This is with the aim to offer a critique of how armed struggle in various theatres of the world is currently represented in the media, in the press, in books (like Hari’s, but assessing other novelistic imaginings as well) and in academic discussion, which so often seems to lose its way. Some first steps here might open up something, but I am not sure. More when I get back from the Maoism in India soiree in Preston no doubt.

Or maybe I shouldn’t even try. I see clearly that the trouble with academic discussions about revolutionary politics (aside from promoting the Open Book project insufficiently well) is not so much that any comment can only be part of a discussion, a talking shop, a glorified coffee chat, but rather that there is a necessary level of abstraction to anything that might be said by anyone at all. Involvement would suggest a certain reticence to discuss, discussion would suggest a requisite lack of involvement, or a recklessness from which everyone should steer well clear.

The first step of this is not some twisted version of William James’ problems of getting at the idea of a mystical state, but it is close to that where he says: ‘One must have musical ears to know the value of a symphony; one must have been in love one’s self to understand a lover’s state of mind. Lacking the heart or ear, we cannot interpret the musician or the lover justly’ (‘Varieties of Rel Exp’ Vol 16). I remember Marx swapping bibles for brandy (the word of the spirit for the spirit of life) such that I think its not too mischievous to think of the Angry Brigade type of provocation in these terms – a mystical violence which is strangely silent. Caught in a propaganda war of spin and censorship. If you can’t do, you can chit chat away to no avail. If you do, then I do not know you. This is the abstraction bound and gagged.

But I think there is another way to open up the question of armed struggle and that is in terms of adequacy, since without being able to discuss the practical requirements of violence we cannot comprehend the struggles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, or even Ireland in any relevant way. Sure, there are so many cautions and prevarications to be routinised first. Yes, its terrible, or no its not. Its all good, its all bad – positions that Mao already demolished in ‘”It’s Terrible!” or “It’s Fine”‘ (Selected Works Vol 1 p 26). But I want to find a way to restart a discussion in terms of adequacy of opposition to state power (tanks, helicopter gunships, cluster bombs, nuclear arsenals) and the question of what would be required to defeat an organised violence that might mean enacting a counter violence that is anathema to many – anathema to those caught in exactly that comfort zone that allows, even requires, complicity with state violence unleashed elsewhere and denied.

OK, that’s a tangle already, and so far I’ve said nothing – but I have just seen the section on ‘Riff Raff’ in Selected Works and so have decided I better reread all that first. Thus yet again the televised bit is delayed…

Dear Diary – Maoist Controversies

It has been a strangely volatile and entertaining day so far. First of all Academic board – a pretty dull looking agenda, but the high points were the student intervention by Hannah that crushed a badly thought out proposal on plagiarism (well, crushed isn’t exactly the word, since skillful meeting management deflected any visible crushing, but a victory for the students union in any case) and a report from Warden Geoff (on some Gang of Four-type committee) to advise on the reform of Uni of London that will do away with some superfluous uni-wide forums that probably were once pretty significant – well, if I heard it right amongst the clatter of refurbishment works, this seems like a quiet but major major coup. But that was just my admin stand-in responsibility. The day had started off strange, but it soon got very weird indeed.

So over lunch, a call from Bill Martin who is speaking at the Mao Workshop on friday…

[the details of which are:

Dec 1 2006 – Mao CCS 1-6pm

Centre for Cultural Studies and Department of Politics at Goldsmiths presents:

Mao workshop – Friday 1st Dec – Goldsmiths 1-6pm cinema – all welcome.

Why Mao? Why Now?

Why have a conference on Maoism in a heart of 21st century post-industrial post-colonial European Capitalism? What interest would Maoism hold for an Urban Bourgeois Institution of Intellectuals in an era in which Communism has been historically ‘surpassed’? Two decades after China itself began its ‘De-Maoification’? And why Maoism in particular out of all forms of Marxist-Leninism? Why does Maoism continue to inspire theory and revolutionary struggle far beyond the bounds of China and Chinese Culture, beyond the divisions of East and West, North and South? This small day conference attempts to address those and other questions by looking at different currents of Maoist thought and practice in the US, France, India, China and Nepal…. all welcome]

With Bill as keynote this will be good. He wrote “Humanism and its Aftermath” and very engagingly debated with Avakian in a recent volume that’s at home on my desk (and called “Marxism and the Call of the Future” – it has an intro by Zizek, which is amusing since as I mentioned on the links page of this blog, the human-print-industry that is S/Z is writing an intro now to Mao’s “On Contradiction” essay, from Verso in January). Expect Bill in fine form – come hear him tell the Zizek tale, and of the response they wrote to his forward – such that this workshop is gonna be much much fun. But as I was explaining to him, it is causing a bit of controversy, as well as gathering some enthusiasm.

The first example of enthusiasm today (there have been many) came from an email from a guy who’d been on a road building project with the CPN-M in Nepal. He has a 30 minute video about it that we will have to find time for – our breaks are too short, maybe another day – but his perspective on my rants about the Himalayas would have been good to hear. To be continued… but not now as then an interruption by phone again.

I got a call from a journalist in India who wants to know WHY WE ARE DOING A MAO CONFERENCE IN LONDON???

In response to this, when I told him, the head of the Dept of Politics (co-sponsor of our event) said, ‘well, no one would object if you did a conference on Hitler, so why not Mao?’.

Gulp. I anticipate an interesting day on friday for sure. Co-organiser Maude said that where she’s from a conference on Hitler would also raise eyebrows. Twitch, twitch. Enthusiasm and controversy indeed.

Then, the day got even better. Raymond Lotta got in touch (I think some parts of his informative letter can be shared here):

Dear John Hutnyk,
I will be attending the “Why Mao? Why Now?” conference at Goldsmiths and staying in London through the afternoon of December 6. I am a Maoist political economist based in Chicago. I have written and edited several books, including “America in Decline,” “Mao Makes Five,” and “Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism.” I promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, whose chairman is Bob Avakian. I wrote the preface to “Marxism and the Call of the Future” (the dialogue between Avakian and Bill Martin published by Open Court).I was hoping that after the conference—I’ll be staying in London through the afternoon of December 6–it might be possible to get together with you to talk. I have recently become familiar with your work (I am reading and very much enjoying “Bad Marxism”) and I also see from your blog that you have been reading Bob Avakian’s Memoir. It would be highly interesting for me to learn more
your work, your assessment of the radical intellectual-political scene in England, and more on your thinking about the relevance of Maoism to the 21st century. I would also like to share some of what Avakian has been speaking to in his writings and how he is enlarging the horizons of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

A little more about my work. My book “America in Decline” (1984) is an attempt to extend Lenin’s theorization of imperialism. I have written on issues of contemporary trends in the world economy (debt crisis in Latin America, famine in Niger, etc.) and recently done a critique of Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat”. I have written extensively on Mao’s approach to socialist planning (politics in command, centralization/decentralization and the “information problem,” and regulation and stability/experimentation and upheaval) and on why “market socialism” represents no alternative to capitalism.

For the last year I have been on a lecture tour entitled “Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be A Far Better World.” This is part of the “Set the Record Straight” project aimed at challenging conventional wisdom about the “first wave” of socialist revolutions (the Soviet Union 1917-56 and China 1949-76)—that is, the idea that these revolutions were utter failures, utopias gone mad, etc. I talk about the great achievements, as well as the shortcomings and problems, and how Bob Avakian, building on but also going beyond these experiences, is bringing forward a radically new model of the dictatorship of the proletariat (I have attached the concluding section of my speech that deals with aspects of this new model). I have spoken at Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford here in the U.S. The idea is to “reopen” what is considered a settled debate and to stir discussion about scholars and professors and the new generation of students. It’s been very exciting and controversial (at UCLA, the sponsoring departments came under attack from reactionaries associated with David Horowitz who has been spearheading a campaign to “purge” radicals from the academy).

I have also been taking on “Mao: The Unknown Story.” I been on the radio about the book; and last month, I presented a critique of the book at a graduate seminar lecture series at the University of Chicago. Part of the reason I am coming to England is to talk with people about the prospects of a high-profile debate with Chang/Halliday—either in London or New York, or both cities. I really hope to ratchet up the level of debate. .. What is most important…I look forward to attending the “Why Mao? Why Now” conference and meeting you and others who will be there.
Yours in solidarity,
Raymond Lotta

So, all in all friday for the Mao Workshop is going to be great – Sukant worries there will be too many mad Maoists; others worry there won’t be enough, or they won’t be mad enough; still others were concerned at the idea of glorification of it all. The line up is: Alpa Shah on Naxalites (see my take on them here), Michael Dutton on China, Alberto Toscano on French theory, Sukant Chandan on the Black Panther Party. Bill Martin as keynote, and a panel at the end. Maude’s intro is going to be great (I’ve seen a draft), so I am sure all the contributions, those from speakers as well as those from the floor, will provoke. In general I am looking forward to debate debate debate.

Then next week we are going to have lunch with Raymond and hear a talk from him on tuesday evening (to be confirmed, but probably 6.30 in the cinema). Slowly we are surrounding the city, a protracted insurgency, but a lively one…

Red Salute


As well as being the 150th anniversary of what is variously called the first all-India anti colonial war, or, in the words of English revisionists, the ‘mutiny’, 2007 will also be the 40th anniversary of Naxalbari. To remind myself and to follow up on the previous post about Mahasweta Devi, I’ve extracted a couple of pages from my Critique of Exotica (2000) – Lal Salaam.

Charu Mazumdar was born in 1918, studied at Edwards College at Pabna (now Bangladesh), and joined the CPI in 1938. He had been involved in the Tebhaga revolutionary movement and was arrested in its post-1947 phase (Banerjee 1984: 320). Later he worked as an organiser amongst tea plantation workers in Darjeeling’s Siliguri area where he was born. For several years before 1967 he and other then CPI(M) comrades had been building connections amongst the Santal peasantry. It was with these people, in Naxalbari, in the Darjeeling foothills, that the uprising began which was to give its name to a range of militant struggles over the next ten years. That the Naxalbari uprising, which first consisted of seizure of lands from rich landlords, destruction of debt records for bonded labour and hounding of money-lenders from the area, was soon put down by the police, is a matter of record (Ram 1972; Sen Gupta 1972). Debate over the subsequent consequences and importance of the uprising raged. The development of a Maoist political movement, the formation of a new communist party – Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), of which Mazumdar became the General Secretary – and the extension of agrarian struggles to other parts of India, especially Andhara Pradesh and the Panjab, were a greater legacy (see Chatterjee 1997a: 92).

The Naxalbari peasantry and tribal peoples had good cause to fight. Naxalite demands addressed frustration on the part of the peasantry with the years of ‘high sounding words, grandiose plans, reforms galore’ (Rai and Prasad 1973: 458) by the Nehru administration. While green revolution farming methods had opened opportunities for the middle and landowning classes, the tribal and peasant farmers had already been dispossessed of land and so also of the opportunity to invest in the fertilisers and seeds of the green revolution advance. Thus the disjunction between landowners and peasants led to a wider dissatisfaction. An early list of Naxalite demands was reported as:

The first priority is … forcible occupation of lands belonging to big landlords … overthrow of the existing big bourgeoisie rule of the country … and the immediate withdrawal of India from the Commonwealth … so that India would range herself against American and British imperialism. (in Ghose 1971: 447–8)

The swift retaliation of the police against Naxalbari did not prevent leaders like Charu Mazumdar continuing and extending the struggle through the politicisation of other regions, of peasant, tribal and student sectors. This entailed calling on students not to let the ‘electoral politics of the revisionist parties’ divert them like an ‘obscene film’ and for them to attend to the ‘century old cry of the landless poor peasantry’ and stand by their side, moving forward ‘with arms in our hands like the guerrillas of Vietnam’ (from a leaflet entitled ‘Students and Youth: Unite with Workers and Landless Peasants, Unite, Unite with Them’, reproduced in Damas 1991: 206–8). The formation of the All-India Coordinating Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) and subsequently the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in May 1969 were convoluted steps in this process. The new revolutionary party (CPI-ML) was announced by Kanu Sanyal from the rostrum of that year’s May Day rally in the large expanse of Calcutta’s Maidan park (Banerjee 1984: 131).

The extension of Maoist struggle to other areas did not proceed without internal tensions amongst the Naxalite cadres. The Andhara Naxalites, for example, did not join the new party formation because of a dispute over Mazumdar’s interpretation of Mao Zedong’s strategic principles (or MTTT: Mao Tse-Tung Thought [see Mohanty 1979]) – they were also possibly remembering the Central directive to capitulate at Telengana. It was reported that ‘the domineering attitude of the leading figures … from West Bengal alienated more and more Naxalite groups besides the Andhara Committee’ (Rai and Prasad 1973: 473). Sushital Ray Chaudhury, from the Andhara group said that ‘Mazumdar’s interpretation of the word annihilation was without doubt against Mao Tse-Tung thought’ (in Ghosh 1971: 136). The slogan of ‘annihilation of the class enemy’, celebrated in the war word khatam (see Banerjee 1984: 112; Seth 1995 [i]), was thought to have led to ‘indiscriminate killing [which] would only isolate the party from the masses by forfeiting their sympathy’ (Rai and Prasad 1973: 477). The criticism was raised that Mazumdar was not relying on the masses as Mao had prescribed, as, according to Chatterjee (himself a Birbhum Naxalite) much of the peasant support of the movement had turned into passive sympathy by the end of 1969 (Ghosh 1971: 147). Against this Mazumdar countered that ‘only after guerrilla squads had cleared an area of “class enemies” by annihilating some of them and forcing others to flee the countryside, should revolutionary peasant committees be formed’ (Rai and Prasad 1973: 475). [ii] The procedure of operating in small and secret cells was in part a necessity forced by the brutal response of the state as ‘mass actions were likely to expose the guerrilla fighters to the forces of law and order’ (Rai and Prasad 1973: 475). The move of the struggle into the urban metropolis of Calcutta after the decision of the Party in April 1970 to extend operations into industrial areas was designed to address the apparent failure of hartals (strikes) and other conventional methods of struggle which had been ‘largely blunted against organised capitalist attacks in the form of lock-out, lay-off, and closures’ (Ghosh 1971: 444). This change of programme born of ‘a certain suspicion of the communist preoccupation with trade unions’, of their ‘economism’ (Seth 1995: 493), meant increased mobilisation of student revolutionaries which necessarily complicated internal party relations. Mass action was also difficult in the city, but in the years of 1970 and 1971 more and more frequent incidents escalated the conflict with the police who, having faced a number of ‘annihilations’ themselves, adopted a ‘shoot to kill’ policy (Damas 1991: 97). In response, those students who had followed the call of the CPI(ML) to leave the city and live and work in the peasant areas, drew the anger of the police upon themselves, conspicuous as they were as students living in villages and in the apparent absence of the secretive guerrillas, they bore the brunt of the repressive reaction.

The Chinese Communist Party had welcomed the Naxalites with banner headlines in 1969 – it was the Peking Review of 14 July 1967 that declared ‘A peal of thunder has crashed over the land of India’ (reproduced in Damas 1991: 276–9). But their support for the CPI(ML) lasted only two and a half years, after which they intervened in the conflict between Mazumdar and the other leaders: ‘It was not until after Peking had indicated its serious reservations about Charu Mazumdar’s leadership and tactical line that dissent in the party began snowballing into revolt, leading to his virtual isolation before his arrest’ (Ram 1972). Mazumdar’s life came to an end on 28 July 1972 as a result of a heart attack in police custody a few days after his arrest in – he was refused adequate medical treatment and was not taken to hospital until 27 July, a mere 24 hours before his demise (Banerjee 1984: 321). In assessing the tactical line of the CPI(ML), it is of course difficult to sort out the factional squabbles and attribute cause and blame. Certainly the fragmentation of the Naxalites into several separate groups has persisted up to the present, but this factor is not a sufficient explanation of the decline of the movement. Rather, the role of the police in ‘conducting raids, tortures and indiscriminate arrests … in order to force people to make a choice in favour of the police against the Naxalites’ (Ghosh 1971: 155) was important alongside the conflict with the CPI(M). With its secret cell invisibility and displaced student cadres caught up in a factional war of attrition with other communists who should have been comrades, it is understandable that the ‘romance’ of the Naxalites faded under this pressure, as Duyker explains:

the movement was doomed because the CPI (M-L) was no match for the ruthless organised power of the state. When the cost to the [Santal] tribal community (in casualties, arrested menfolk, confiscated food supplies and disrupted cultivation) appeared too great to continue the struggle, Santal-Naxalite resistance crumbled. (Duyker 1981: 258–9)

When the movement ‘developed cracks’ the students and peasants on the fringe of the movement ‘opted for Congress because no other party could protect them from the police’ (Ghosh 1971: 129).

The role of the state in suppressing the Naxalite movement was one that extended across India, but in Bengal it was also fratricidal communist rivalries that had a hand in the slaughter. The received ‘official’ version has been distilled by Bandyopadhyay from Sumanta Banerjee’s excellent book In the Wake of Naxalbari: [iii]

With increasing help from the Centre and imported paramilitary and military forces, police retaliation against the CPI(M-L) urban guerrillas began to gain momentum from the last quarter of 1970. No mercy was shown to any CPI(M-L)cadre or supporter if caught … The CPI(M) felt threatened because of another reason. The mid-term poll was scheduled to be held in March 1971. While the CPI(M) was preparing for the elections, the CPI(M-L) urban actions were disrupting the status quo and threatening the electoral polls … To ensure smooth voting for its supporters, the CPI(M) sought to clear its strongholds of ‘Naxalite elements’ … A bloody cycle of interminable assaults and counter-assaults, murders and vendetta was initiated. The ranks of both the CPI(M) and CPI(M-L) dissipated their militancy in mutual fightings leading to the elimination of a large number of their activists, and leaving the field open to the police. (Banerjee, excerpted in Bandyopadhyay 1986: x–xi) (fn 3)[iv]

Does this story of factional strife, leadership squabble, and parliamentarist opportunism tell it how it was or is? Of course it is a partial account, and contestation by competing traditions makes any evaluation from afar difficult.[v]

[i] Charu Mazumdar proposed a liquidation of ‘the political, economic and social authority of the class enemy’ (Mazumdar 1969: 13, quoted in Seth 1995: 498), and this started:

only by liquidating the feudal classes in the countryside … this campaign for the annihilation of the class enemy can be carried out only by inspiring the poor and landless peasants with the politics of establishing the political power of the peasants in the countryside by destroying the dominant feudal classes. (Mazumdar Dec. 1969 quoted in Banerjee 1984: 112).

[ii] It is worth noting that these are interpretations of interpretations. Even to the extent that Charu Mazumdar can be considered representative of one kind of Naxalite, this has no chance but to be (mis)read through the thickets of sect and faction, and outsider commentary, that have accrued in the 30 years since the founding of the CPI(ML). This of course is the problem with all contested history – my interest here is only to note that my readings would also read in a particular and partial way, my interest being not merely to encourage informed attention to communist struggle.

[iii] This was first published in 1980 in Calcutta, but reissued in 1984 under the title: India’s Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising by Zed Books, London.

[iv] Sumanta Banerjee goes further than the excerpted passage quoted here. Referring to then Home Minister Jyoti Basu seeking assistance from the Eastern Frontier Rifles, a central force, to suppress the movement, he writes:

The party [CPI(M)] believed in controlled violence in rural areas aimed at minor goals, like wage increase for agricultural labourers or restitution of land … A certain amount of agitation, often bordering on violence, suited the CPI(M) or the other parliamentary leftist parties, as long as it was contained within limits and controlled by the leaders, and did not attack the roots of the prevailing system by trying to seize political power. Since they were members of a united front of heterogeneous classes, the CPI(M) wanted to make the peasants believe that they were carrying the flag of the revolution and were out to destroy the status quo, and the middle class believe that they were arresting the danger which threatened them, and the Centre that they were faithful to the Constitution. (Banerjee 1984: 140)

[v] For example, it is tempting to make a judgement as to the contemporary fortunes of the Basu-led CPI(M) Communists in Bengal. Mallick suggests their effort has failed, they themselves of course suggest a degree of success. Here, although the examples of communist struggle that might be cited do not always, or indeed primarily, refer to parliamentarism, it is true that a degree of electoral success, at least in terms of years in power, has long been the preserve of this section of the Communist movement in Bengal. Though it was not always so. Since 1967 CPI(M) Communists have dominated the state government for all but a few years of President’s rule (and Jyoti Basu has now been in charge for over 20 years). This context introduces specific conditions for any evaluation of struggles. Mallick writes:

The Indian Communist movement is unique in operating within the institutions of a parliamentary democracy not unlike that of the industrialised West, while trying to develop a base in conditions of extreme poverty and exploitation. India combines many of the institutions of an advanced capitalist state with cultural and economic conditions often not far removed from feudalism. (Mallick 1993: 21)

That these ‘feudal’ conditions were the main contradiction faced by activists in India is the most obvious context in which to evaluate parliamentarism. The poor, those in bonded labour, the landless peasantry, the disenfranchised labourers on tea estates, plantations, in rural agriculture and urban industry – formal and informal sectors – provides a massive constituency of a communist politics.

References are available in Critique of Exotica.

Birthday of Mao


I guess there was some sort of god-bothering festival yesterday, and as a consequence I got this really fine present (trink trink…). Actually, I am sure the giver already knew the 26th is the day of the Great Helmsman… See also Howard

Critique of Exotica

Critique of Exotica: Music, Politics and the Culture Industry

London: Pluto Press, 2000

In this innovative book, John Hutnyk questions the meaning of cultural hybridity. Using the growing popularity of Asian culture in the West as a case study, he looks at just who benefits from this intermingling of culture. /What does it mean when Madonna dons a bindi or Kula Shaker incorporate sitar music in their music? When Cherie Blair wears a sari to a public dinner? When the national dish in the UK is chicken tikka masala? Is this a celebration of multiculturalism or cultural appropriation?/Focusing on music, race and politics, Hutnyk offers a cogently theorised critique of the culture industry. He looks at artists such as Asian Dub Foundation, FunDaMental and Apache Indian to see how their music is both produced and received. He analyses ‘world’ music festivals, racist policing and the power of corporate pop stars to market exotica across the globe. Throughout, Hutnyk provides a searing critique of a world that sells exotica as race relations and visibility as redress