Volume 7, No. 3, March. 2006


Seminar on the “Contributions of Mao Tse-tung to the Progress of Human Civilization” held in Kolkata on 26 December 2005 - A Report:


The 112th birthday of Mao Tse-tung fell on 26 December 2005. It was a day worth celebrating. Mao was one of the greatest revolutionary-philosophers of all time and contributed in more ways than one not only to Marxism-Leninism, but also to the progress of human civilization. The day was celebrated by Mao Tse-tung Smaran Committee—a committee formed in fond remembrance of that great person by a number of Bengali little magazines of Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal and Shahid Saroj Datta Smritiraksha Committee with a day-long-seminar. In September 2005 a discussion was organized by Smritiraksha Committee on the ‘Relevance of Maoism’ on which there was a report in the December number of People’s March. The theme chosen this time by the Mao Tse-tung Smaran Committee was ‘The contribution of Mao Tse-tung to the Progress of Human Civilization’. It was held on 26th December at the Indian Association Hall in central Kolkata from 2 PM to 8 PM. The hall with a total sitting strength of 250 persons was packed to capacity most of the time. On the whole, it was a grand success.
The proceedings began with the garlanding of a picture of Mao Tse-tung. Mahasweta Devi, the eminent intellectual and social worker, who was due to inaugurate, could not do so because of her son’s illness. The opening song, ‘Meghla dine meghra abar haoay bhese bhese’( ‘Clouds float in the sky on a cloudy day’) was sung in honour of Mao by Sutapa Bandyopadhyay. The statement of Mao Tse-tung Smaran Committee (Committee in memory of Mao Tse-tung) was read out by Prof. Amit Bhattacharya, one of the conveners.
The Committee, in their statement as also in the folder circulated, referred to Mao as one of the foremost revolutionary leaders, philosophers, teachers, military strategists and tacticians. Fed by the direct experience of leading the Chinese revolution, Mao made significant contribution to Marxist-Leninist theories. In a world where imperialism, notably US imperialism, has been raining death and destruction on the people of the world, subverting their independence, sovereignty and trampling underfoot their legitimate rights, the people of China with Mao as the helmsman, had got a new direction to life and new vision of society where human values triumphed over the lust for profits. That struggle still serves as source of inspiration to the toiling people all over the world. It was also pointed out that during the Chinese revolution, Mao Tse-tung and the CPC-led revolutionaries were branded as ‘Red Bandits’ and ‘Terrorists’ by the Japanese aggressors and the Kuo Ming-tang. Later on, in the mid-1930s, the American journalist, Edgar Snow went to the red base areas of China, met the top leaders and recorded his observations in his classic account, ‘Red Star over China’. Thanks to him, the outside world could know for the first time the epic story of the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist just struggle of the people of China. In the same manner, in the present-day world, Mao’s revolutionary teachings and ideology are being branded as ‘terrorism’, ‘anarchism’ etc. by US imperialism, the Indian state and their ruling classes and government as justification of their policy of state repression.
Dr. Siddhartha Gupta, on behalf of the Committee, then presented a brief sketch of Mao’s life from his days in Shao Shan village from the late 1890s to 1921—the year the CPC was formed. Siddhartha Saha, another convenor, then read out a statement on Mao’s contribution by Suniti Kumar Ghosh.
The octogenarian Suniti Kumar Ghosh, one of the founder-leaders of the CPI(M-L) from 1969 and editor of Liberation, himself could not attend due to his physical inability. In his write-up, he highlighted two of Mao’s contributions to the progress of human civilization. First, he pointed out the process of the socialist transformation of China’s economy from the abolition of feudalism and the redistribution of land of the landlords and rich peasants among the peasants in 1950 to the formation of the mutual-aid-groups, cooperatives and the People’s Commune. The abolition of feudalism and the distribution of land meant that the peasants became free of the enormous burden of rent and debt and themselves became proprietors. But this did not help them much. The plots were small; most peasants had no tools; land improvement, the making of ditches and repairing of dykes, had to be done together. Thus there was the social need to improve upon mutual-aid-groups. So the elementary cooperatives were formed. There, land was still owned individually but worked collectively as one big farm; from this there developed the ‘advanced’ cooperatives, in which land and farm-implements were held in common and at harvest time surplus was divided among the families in proportion to the days of labour each family had contributed. Then the giant water conservation and irrigation programme outstripped the capabilities of the cooperatives and led to their voluntary merger and the formation of the People’s Commune in 1958. The People’s Commune combines farming, industry, forestry, animal husbandry, trade, education, culture, militia, military affairs etc. with all other functions affecting the lives of the people. Within the communes, there was no police force, judiciary or jails. There were people’s militia and young men and women received military training and became part of the People’s Militia. Thus in addition to the revolution in the organization of work, there was also an attempt to amalgamate state and society. This aspect of the revolutionary significance of the Commune was also noted by historian D.D.Kosambi. He observed that as a result of the abolition of local administration and the taking over of its power by the Commune, important parts of the state machinery have vanished altogether. “To that extent, the state mechanism has begun to wither away. Control over peoples has been replaced by the people’s control over things’. Thus the Commune as ‘an organ of the self-administration of the masses”, with its own militia, marked a significant initial phase in thetransformation of the state into a non-state. Ghosh writes that the Commune was invented by the people of China, thanks to Mao’s leadership, during the stage of socialist revolution. It was a great contribution to human civilization, unprecedented in the history of the world. Today, People’s Communes have disappeared, China has changed its colour; but this world-historic step would not go in vain.
Mao’s second major contribution, as pointed out by Ghosh, was related to the principle of “democratic centralism”. There is a contradiction between democracy and centralism. In order to resolve that contradiction, Lenin proposed “unity of action, freedom of discussion and criticism”. It implies that everyone has the democratic right of discussion and criticism; but once a decision is reached by the majority, it is the collective responsibility to implement that decision. Mao Tse-tung, as Ghosh writes, went one step ahead of Lenin. Be it social science or natural science, the truth is grasped first by one or two persons. After that other people grasp it. The truth of Marxism was grasped first by Marx and Engels. The truth arrived at by Copernicus or Galileo was realized only later by others. So no opinion should be suppressed inside the party. Any member should be allowed to present his views, fight for them, but organizationally he or she would have to implement the majority decision. Mao Tse-tung said that a selfless communist should brave any obstacle. He should have the courage of going against the tide. He should fear neither removal from posts, nor from the party, nor imprisonment nor divorce, nor death. Mao Tse-tung placed dedication to the people and revolution above the party and his own leadership. This was Mao’s new contribution.
With this the introductory part came to an end. After that, the main sessions—three in all—began. The first dealt with Pre-revolutionary China, the two speakers in this session being Prof. Amit Bhattacharya and Prof. Parimal Ghosh. The second session was on Post-revolutionary China, the two speakers being Prof. Siddhartha Guha Roy and Prof. Dipankar Chakraborty. The third session was on Ideology, the two speakers being Prof. Prahlad Sarkar and Kanchankumar, writer and cultural worker. In the end, a drama was performed jointly by Amal Roy and Bandana Roy. In between different sessions, poems were read out and songs sung by Sabyasachi Deb, Srijan Sen and Pratul Mukhopadhyay.
Amit Bhattacharya talked on “Mao Tse-tung and the New Democratic Revolution”. He started with the remark that the real assessment of Mao’s contribution could be made only by those who are themselves directly involved in revolutionary practice, and not academicians like him. In his lecture, he dealt with some of Mao’s contributions to the cause of people’s revolution and also to Marxist theories, which also provide guidelines to the people fighting for emancipation in other countries of the world.
Throughout the period of the Chinese revolution, Mao had to fight against both ‘left’ and right deviations and establish his political and military line inside the party through social practice. It was at the Sunyi Conference held in January 1935 during the Long March that Mao was elected Chairman of the CPC—a post he continued to hold till his death in 1976. Mao knew that in the colonies and semi-colonies, the bourgeoisie inevitably split up into two sections—comprador or agents of imperialism, and national. In the writings of both Lenin and Stalin, there is this hint of such a split. However, the existing European notion was that the comprador bourgeoisie was that section which is connected with backward economic relationships, i.e., the commercial bourgeoisie; and the industrial bourgeoisie which is connected with advanced economic relationships was national in character. Mao made a departure from notions such as these and maintained that compradors could be both commercial as also industrial bourgeoisie. The question is not whether commercial or industrial bourgeoisie took part in it, but whether they retained their imperialist connections despite their investments in industries. Bhattacharya pointed out that such as analysis has a universal application in colonies and semi-colonies like India. He held that the Party Congress of the CPI (M-L) described the Indian bourgeoisie as comprador. At a later period, Suniti Kumar Ghosh showed, with a wealth of detail, that the Indian bourgeoisie was split up the comprador bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie.
Second, Mao’s concept of the New Democratic Revolution was a new concept (On New Democracy). It is the concept of a bourgeois-democratic revolution — which is essentially an agrarian revolution—to be led not by the bourgeoisie but by the proletariat with the peasantry as the main and decisive force. This was a departure from the Soviet model which put stress on the industrially advanced zones and the cities and looked upon the proletariat both as the decisive and main force with the peasantry as auxiliary forces. From the cities, Mao thus shifted the scene of revolutionary warfare to the backward villages and also developed the military strategy of encirclement of the cities from the countryside.
Third, In the Hunan Report, Mao not only highlighted the emergence of a new revolutionary social force—the peasantry—but also stressed the need of revolutionary violence. ‘Red Terror’ to counter ‘white terror’ i.e., counter-revolutionary violence.
Fourth, Bhattacharya pointed out that the Long March(1934-35) from the south to the north of China covering a distance of 7,500 kms against Japanese aggression, of which Mao was the architect, was the first of its kind in history. It proved to be decisive in the history of China. Mao paid particular attention to the fact that each military unit consisted of Red soldiers from different provinces so that provincialism did not develop.
Fifth, there is no doubt that the Red Army was different from all previous armies. While the reactionary armies lived at the expense of the people, the People’s Army integrated with the peasants and helped them in their day-to-day activities. They were instructed not to ill-treat the prisoners of war.
Sixth, it was during the Yenan phase that Mao made fundamental social experiments never attempted before. His mass line principles, Yenan forum on literature and art, min pan schools to promote basic education, creation of village militia besides the regular army, ‘land-to-the-tiller’ programme, formation of mutual-aid-groups, bridging the gap between mental and manual labour, adoption of a new military strategy and tactics—all proved to be decisive for the victory of the Chinese revolution. These teachings could be applied to the colonies and semi-colonies in other parts of the world also.
Seventh, Mao adopted the policy of ‘unity-criticism-unity’ to resolve intra-party contradictions. He was opposed to the Soviet policy of purging practiced during Stalin’s times. This was an entirely new method _ democratic and educative _ quite befitting for those who had staked everything for a better place to live in.
Eighth, Mao’s philosophical thinking
_ his theories on contradiction and practice _ enriched Marxism-Leninism to a large extent.
Parimal Ghosh, the next speaker, spoke on ‘Mao’s Military Strategy and tactics’. He said that Mao’s theories on military affairs cannot be separated from his political thinking. In order to attain definite political goals, to defeat feudalism and imperialism, Mao adopted a certain military policy. Mao, in his opinion, was probably the foremost theorist on guerrilla warfare. “Liberated zones” are an important element in the Maoist strategy. These zones are created in areas where there was a long tradition of political and dissident movements. Mao, as always, took a dialectical approach when he said that without liberated zones, the Red Army could not extend its network; and without the Red Army, liberated zones or base areas could not also be established. In ancient societies, there was no difference between the warriors and the common people. At a later period, isolation between the two developed. Guerrilla warfare, to start with, was warfare on a small scale; it was conducted by the people either to fight oppressors or foreign enemies. So there is no difference between the people and the guerrillas. Ghosh referred to guerrilla wars waged by the Spanish people against Napoleonic aggression in the early 19th century. Mao time and again pointed out “Know yourself, know thy enemy; a hundred battles, a hundred victories”. The strategy and tactics are determined by the specific situation and, according to Mao, there was no single panacea to deal with all situations. Mao spoke of Positional Warfare as also Mobile Warfare. In the case of the latter, we have a shifting and indefinite, floating front, and the guerrilla army moves everywhere.
In Mao’s thinking, according to the speaker, there should be concentration of a larger forces to deal with numerically smaller enemy forces. Mao’s guerrillas number not just 10 or 20, but even 10,000. ‘Oppose guerrilla-ism of the Red Army while keeping the guerrilla character of it’, Mao pointed out. By ‘guerrilla-ism’, Mao meant brashness, adventurism, i.e., the decision to counter the enemy without taking the enemy situation into account; and ‘guerrilla character’ Mao referred to mobility and the ability to penetrate enemy strongholds smoothly and swiftly. Here Ghosh indirectly made a criticism of the Naxalites who mustered numerically only a handful of guerrillas to annihilate their class enemies.
The first session ended with the recitation of two poems each by Sabyasachi Deb and Srijan Sen.
The second session began with Siddhartha Guha Roy presenting his paper on “Socialist Construction in China”. He started with the Yenan model during the anti – Japanese war and pointed out that the socialist reconstruction movement started with that model in view. He argued that the classical idea of the different stages of social development was not applicable to China, as capitalism did not develop to that extent there as would be considered a capitalist country by classical theory. In fact, before the commencement of socialist construction, there were three intermediary stages: 1) 1949-53 Transition to the New Democratic Stage;2) 1953-56 Transition from New Democracy to Socialism; 3) Post-1956 Socialist construction. Guha Roy discussed in detail reforms in agriculture and industry and the process of transformation towards the formation of People’s Communes through mutual-aid-groups and the co-operatives. He drew the attention of the audience to the fact that Mao was in favour of the existence of parties other than the CPC so that they could air their views freely. Mao had always been against regimentation and in favour of democracy, he said.
The next speaker in this session was Dipankar Chakraborty, who spoke on ‘Mao’s economic thinking and the Cultural revolution’. He said that Mao was fortunate to have the Soviet example before him; if fact, Khruschev was a teacher by negative example.
Mao believed that socialism had a bright future and that the state would wither away through a long-drawn process. He wanted to give a concrete form to that. But in a socialist society, there was always the possibility of the restoration of capitalism, and in order to forestall that possibility, Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution—the first of its kind in the history of socialism and one of Mao’s major contributions. Planning should be central, but it should also be democratic. Unlike the Soviet leadership, Mao believed that development of human beings could be brought about mainly by ideologically arming the masses, and not just by developing technology (A Critique of Soviet Economics). Chakraborty referred to Engels’ statement that in capitalist society, labour was not the source of pleasure; but it was so in the socialist society. The Cultural Revolution failed because China could not produce hundreds and thousands of such self-less new men like Wang Hais. In fact, as Mao pointed out, more and more such cultural revolutions are necessary.
The speaker assailed the so-called ‘development’ policy of the present-day WB government which caters to the interests of the foreign capital and the rich. He ended his speech by pointing out that the Cultural Revolution is dead; long live the Cultural Revolution.
After his speech, the noted singer, Pratul Mukhopadhyay sang a number of songs such as “Jete hobe bohu dure”( we have to walk many miles), “Juddhake muchhe felte bhai, amra juddhe nemechhi tai”( we have started the war to efface war from this earth for ever), the song of the Long March and others. He symbolically sang a song and called upon the audience to continue to make struggle until final victory is achieved.
The third session commenced with a speech by Prahlad Sarkar on ‘Mao’s Philosophy’. He started with the philosophical contribution of Hegel and then came down to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao. I do not know whether Mao had the opportunity to read Engels’s dialectics and Greater and Lesser Logic, Sarkar said; but there is a clear continuity from Engels but there is a clear continuity from Engels to Mao. ‘On Contradiction’, ‘On Practice’, ‘Where do correct ideas come from’ and ‘On the correct handling on contradictions among the people’ are some of Mao’s major contributions to world philosophy, according to Sarkar.
The speech was followed by the enactment of a short drama by Amal Roy and Bandana Roy entitled ‘Prothom Juddha’( First Battle). It was concerned with Mao’s boyhood days and his fight against patriarchy.
Kanchankumar spoke at the fag end of the session on ‘Mao’s contribution to culture’. Mao’s writing on Yenan forum, in his opinion, was essentially the product of the summing up of the experience of the revolutionary movements in China and other parts of the world. This culture is for the workers, peasants and the Red Army. Then he referred to the role played by the writers, artists and other cultural workers of Andhra Pradesh who, in the true Maoist spirit, integrated themselves with the peasants of Dandakaranya, the coal miners of Singareni and reflected their rich experience in their creative works such as ‘Rago’, ‘Aranyakanya’ etc. Mao spoke of popularization and uplifting the standard of literature and these writers in parts of India integrated these two aspects in a creative manner. The roles played by Vempatapu Satyanarayanam, Subbarao Panigrahi, Sri Sri, Cherabanda Raju are notable examples. The speaker felt that works such as these should be done in Bengal also.
The session ended with thanksgiving on behalf of the committee by Siddhartha Saha with the promise that the proceedings of this day-long seminar would be published by the Mao Tse-tung Smaran Committee in future.



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