Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 will be bloodier if govt launches offensive: Maoist leader Kishanji

Deccan Herald

New Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS): If 2009 was bad, 2010 would be ”bloodier” if the government goes ahead with its planned offensive against the Maoist jungle bases, a top guerrilla leader has vowed while warning of more retaliatory violence in the months to come.

“Home Minister P. Chidambaram is a liar. At one level he says the offensive is a media creation but at the same time he is pumping in more troops in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. I understand there is going to be a major crackdown in March,” said Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which does not believe in parliamentary democracy and swears by the barrel of the gun.

“If they (security forces) begin their operations, I promise you 2010 will get bloodier. There will be no respite from violence,” Kishanji, in charge of operations in eastern India, said in a telephonic interview from an undisclosed location in West Bengal.

Till Nov 15 this year, over 770 civilians and security personnel were killed in Maoist violence, the largest number of casualties in four years. In Jharkhand alone – one of the worst affected states – there have been 1,885 incidents of violence since 2006.

Kishanji, 52, operates from the interiors of Lalgarh in West Bengal and is one of those fine-tuning the strategy of the Maoists. It was after considerable effort that IANS managed to track him down on one of the several mobile phones he uses through a chain of contacts. Reputed to be a military strategist and an advocate of tough tactics, Kishanji is said to be the mastermind behind recent killings of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) members in Lalgarh, West Bengal.

In his view, Operation Green Hunt, as the proposed offensive he says is labelled, will “backfire”. “This so-called assault against us will backfire. All this talk of war against its own people is humbug and carries no conviction,” said Kishanji, originally a resident of Andhra Pradesh. He is wanted in Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh for waging war against the state.

He had initially joined the movement for a separate Telangana state and then became a full-time member of the Maoist outfit way back in 1971.Kishanji, said to be responsible for the abduction of West Bengal policeman Atindranath Dutta and his subsequent release in October, said the Maoist leadership had changed its strategy after some top-rung leaders were arrested.
“We have learnt our lessons. Our tactics have changed and we won’t make similar mistakes again,” he said, speaking both in English and Hindi.In the last few months, police and security personnel have arrested several Maoist leaders, including Kobad Ghandy from an undisclosed place in Delhi, Chhatradhar Mahato from West Bengal and a couple, Ravi Sarma and B. Anuradha, who were nabbed in Jharkhand.

The arrests have come as Chidambaram has been stressing that civil society must stop romanticising the rebels and instead judge them in the context of the “mountain of violence”.Kishanji also lashed out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s lament that there had been a systemic failure in giving the tribals a stake in the economic processes and how authorities should change ways in dealing with them.

“Does he (Manmohan Singh) know what’s happening on the ground? State governments go around signing agreements for special economic zones and setting up more sponge iron factories at the cost of the tribals. Where is the healing touch? They are all hypocritical.” However, Kishanji did hold hope that there could be room for talks with the authorities.

“We can talk, if there is ceasefire and if there is a withdrawal of forces. But it has to be genuine. Otherwise it has no meaning at all.” Kishanji refused to comment on reports that a section of Maoists disapproved of methods of “indiscriminate killing” unleashed by him. Media reports have quoted unnamed rebels in the outfit’s state unit questioning Kishanji’s way of dealing with CPI-M sympathisers. “If that was true, then I would not be here. My ways are transparent and there for everyone to see,” he said, refusing to be drawn further into the debate.

Kerala: Maoist groups to fight against anti-naxal drive

The New Indian Express

M P Prashanth

KOZHIKODE: The CPI (Maoist) and the CPI-ML (Naxalbari) have decided to join hands against the massive drive launched by the UPA Government against the Maoists in different parts of the country.

After a meeting of the leaders of these organisations at an undisclosed place in Kerala on December 23, Kiran Kumar, the state secretary of the CPI-ML (Naxalbari) and Mohan, the state organising secretary of the CPI (Maoist), issued a joint statement exhorting the people to put up a militant resistance against the state repression.

Both these outfits, which uphold the path of armed struggle, have been working independently in the state.

The CPI-ML (Naxalbari) has prominent frontal organisations like Porattam, Viplava Yuvajana Prasthanam and Viplava Sthreevadi Prasthanam. Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) is the major frontal organisation of the CPI (Maoist).

There had been several rounds of discussion between the two outfits in the recent past to decide on possible merger. A need was felt among these groups that ‘revolutionary forces’ should merge to strengthen the people’s war in the country. The coming together of these two Maoist parties is seen as a first step towards merger.

Evenwhile upholding the Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, both these outfits had major difference of opinion, the most important being the stand on the developments in Nepal. The CPI (Maoist) has branded Nepal Maoist leader Prachanda’s stand as right deviation, while the Naxalbari believe that it is only tactical move.

Maoists eye Telangana comeback

Hindustan Times

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya,

The political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh over Telangana has rekindled Maoists’ hopes for a comeback in a state that was once their stronghold.

As a first step, Communist Party of India (Maoist) leaders are planning to initiate “peoples’ committees” to participate in democratic movements demanding a separate Telangana state.

Telangana is the traditional Naxalite heartland of Andhra Pradesh. But a savage counter-attack by the Greyhounds, a specialised anti-Naxal security force, in 2005 has weakened their dominance in this region.

“People want Telangana and we support it fully. Our cadres will participate in joint democratic movements along with other political parties,” said Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, a CPI(Maoist) politburo member, last seen publicly at a rally in the Telangana region in 1978.

He claimed to have spoken to some pro-Telangana politicians over telephone over the last couple of days but declined to reveal their identities.

“As the Maoists are planning to infiltrate the democratic mass movements, it has become necessary for us to keep vigil on activists with whom the Maoists may home some links,” a a senior intelligence officer told Hindustan Times on conditions of anonymity.

Four of the 13-member CPI(Maoist) politburo formed in 2007 are from Karimnagar district, a part of the proposed Telangana region. They are Ganapati (general secretary), Koteshwar Rao, Vasav Rao (alias Vasav Raj) and Cherkuri Rajakumar.

“We discussed formulating a common strategy for the movement,” said Kishenji, but refused to divulge further details.

“We made a strategic retreat in Andhra but it doesn’t mean we have no presence there. Though we lost several leaders our support-base has remained intact,” he added..

The Maoists have successfully employed the strategy Kishenji was hinting at.

In West Bengal’s Lalgarh, the Maoists engineered the formation of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities in November 2008 and then took its reins in their hands.

The Maoists dominate three districts in the state – West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.

State-sponsored lawlessness at Narayanpatna

Indian Express

Javed Iqbal

After the November 20 police firing at Narayanpatna, Orissa, which left two tribals dead and many injured, the situation has not only turned grim for the adivasis but a media blackout is helping to hide the complete militarisation of the area.

There are reports that around 73 adivasis and members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh have been beaten and arrested. While the jailer of Koraput was instructed not to allow the detainees to meet anyone, their lawyer, Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, claims that around 15 of the arrested are minors. Considering they are in Koraput jail, it is a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act for minors are meant to be held in a juvenile remand home.

Added to this was the recent attack on the all-India, all-women fact-finding team by the newly formed ‘Shanti Committee’ with the alleged patronage of the police.

The Shanti Committee itself consists of non-tribals such as the Sondis and Patnaiks and includes numerous Schedule Caste members of the Dom and Paidi Castes. It was formed to curtail the growing influence of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh which reclaimed vast areas of Fifth Schedule land from them. The burning of the homes of the Dalits by CMAS activists had taken place in the villages of Padapader, Tolagoomandi and Upurgoomandi in May this year. The administration had provided the displaced with makeshift shelters, and after the November 20 firing, there are only 329 Harijans out of 674 Harijans displaced at the shelter.

The liquor prohibition diktat of the CMAS had also seriously hampered the liquor mafia whose stranglehold over the Narayanpatna tribals had all but vanished. There are reports that the liquor mafia has reclaimed lost territory in Narayanpatna after the firing, after which the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh was suppressed and their members went into hiding.

When it came to the fact-finding team, the Shanti Committee was wary of the intentions of the fact-finding team, believing that they were there in support of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh. Superintendent of Police, Koraput, Deepak Chouhan Kumar, had no sympathy for the fact-finding team, “We didn’t beat this ‘so-called’ fact-finding team, we protected them from the mob.” The activists on the other hand claim that the mob was instigated by the police. Yet their case is not an isolated incident. There are many other activists and party workers who have been beaten, harassed, arrested and killed at Narayanpatna. A few members of the CPI (ML) (Liberation) and the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee who openly support the CMAS were beaten while returning from the funeral of the adivasis killed in the firing.

Tapan Mishra, an activist, who is associated with the CMAS, and is an official member of the legal CPI (ML) (Kanu Sanyal group), was arrested under Section 121 (waging war against the state) and 124A (sedition). Amnesty International has already condemned his arrest and called for his unconditional release stating that he has no links with the Maoists and he was only arrested after it became known that he accompanied a seven member fact-finding team to Narayanpatna. Along with him, a member of the legal UCCRI (ML) (Unity Centre of Communist Revolution in India), was also arrested.

The deceased adivasis themselves were activists. K. Singanna was one of the leaders of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh and was allegedly shot ten times in the back. On the day of the shooting, it was alleged that the adivasis had gathered to protest the mistreatment of adivasi women that was taking place during combing operations.

The police claimed that they had fired in self-defence after the adivasis tried to seize weapons. The local press was only allowed into the area, some two hours later. And when they arrived, they found the camp shot full of arrows. Interestingly, the police had also barged into adivasi homes and confiscated traditional weapons during their combing operations.

Yet the murder of activists is not new to Narayanpatna. On May 9, 2008, Narayan Hareka was allegedly murdered on the outskirts of Narayanpatna. The police claimed he was killed in an accident while his wife and his colleagues believe he was murdered.

His body was found brutally disfigured — his eye had been gouged out, his neck was gashed and his hand was smashed in multiple places. He was alive when they first found him but beyond recognition. He was taken to the local PHC around 8 p.m. but he had to be referred to Vishakapatnam. Yet the journey only commenced after a long delay around 11 p.m. Narayan Hareka died just 20 km from the PHC.

As an activist from the Kondh tribe, he struggled against the illegal liquor trade, land alienation of the tribals, the debt trap and he was, during his last few days, investigating irregularities in the implementation of NREGs. It was no secret that Hareka had made a lot of enemies amongst the powerful. Yet it was always the debt trap that led to the growing resentment between tribals and non-tribals at Narayanpatna. It was well known that the tribals often found themselves addicted to liquor, and would end up parting with their lands and their freedom to cover the debts that alcohol had brought on to them. Bonded labour was not a secret in Narayanpatna. Nachika Linga, leader of the Charsi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, himself was a bonded labourer who used to receive around Rs. 60 a year, just ten years ago.

When it came to legal or illegal acquisition of tribal land by the non-tribals, the Joint Commissioner (Settlements) was instructed to receive complaints regarding irregularities in the earlier 1961 settlement. However, no one approached him. He instead recommended that the adivasis take the matter to court. The recommendations were accepted by the collector who had informed the lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, president of the Bar Association, Koraput, to take up the matter.

However, he’s not able to visit the Tehsildar at Narayanpatna to collect land records considering allegations that his life is in danger. He is instead dealing with a flood of cases regarding the arrest of many activists and villagers from Narayanpatna.

Adding to the woes of the tribals and non-tribals, is the threat of rotting paddy as there is no one there to harvest it. Both the collector and the sub-collector have made numerous visits to the area to assess the situation.

Oddly, the Shanti Committee even called for the suspension of the collector of Koraput for his close association with the adivasis after the CMAS had burnt down their homes in May. Some have gone so far to condemn the fact that he speaks Jatapur, the local dialect. The collector, Gadhadhar Parida, had initially brought both communities together for a hearing after the initial burning of the village of Padepadar. He was eventually transferred for a period of four months during the elections, when the situation had escalated beyond reconciliation.

“90 per cent of the people of Narayanpatna are tribals, and I’m not supposed to listen their grievances? And if I don’t who will?” he asked in his office on the day of the attack on the fact-finding committee.

Addressing the socio-economic causes is now more difficult and many activists have raised the alarm concerning mass atrocities. The Maoists too have called for punishment to the parties concerned.

In a letter written to the press, Comrade Rumal, of the CPI (Maoist) Malkangiri Divisional Committee, has called for a ‘death sentence’ to be delivered to the MLAs and MPs of Malkangiri and Koraput if the atrocities did not stop.

Many observers believe this is just another attempt by the Maoists to hijack a people’s movement. Similarly, observers find that the story that the CMAS is a Maoist-front, suspect, while Pramod Samantaraya, an award-winning journalist of Dhariti newspaper, an Oriya Daily, has his own idea.

“Whether they’re supported by the Maoists or not, it’s irrelevant,” he says, “their grievances are all too real. What some people in the state want to do is to brand them as a Maoist front so that they can deal with the movement militarily.” Yet the police can justify their reason for a presence in the area.

Nine security personnel were killed in an IED blast at nearby Bandhugaun on June 18.

The explosives used were allegedly the same explosives stolen from the Nalco raid on April 12, that left nine CISF personnel and five Maoists dead.

Similarly at Bandugaum, the Maoists have killed Bhogi Ramesh of Kattulapet village, Bijoy Pigal of Sulupolamada village and Balram Sahukar from Nellawadi village over the last year and a half. In neighbouring Khumbari, they also killed Patra Khosla from Bagam village. In all the cases, the victims were described as police informers. In two cases the villagers were killed in completely arbitrary circumstances — without any knowledge of the allegations against them.

Bihar cops thrash Jamia professor, brand him ‘Naxal’

Bihar Times

Patna,(BiharTimes): The Bihar Police have done it again. On December 22 it brutally thrashed the Associate Professor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Rahul Ramagundam, in trouble-torn Amausi block of Khagaria district. Not only that he was abused and branded a Naxalite by them for daring to ask the police as to why the hutments belonging to Musahars were being demolished.

Ramagundam teaches at Dr K R Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies at JMI. His local companion was also manhandled and beaten up by lathi-wielding police constables and officers.

“How could asking just one question lead to such physical violence? How can one be called a Naxalite and assaulted and humiliated like this,” d Ramagundam asked while talking to the Times of India.

It was in a village under Amausi block that 16 villagers, mostly Kurmis, were killed allegedly by Musahars late on October 1 night. The village has some 300 Musahar families who live in thatched huts. Land dispute with Kurmis led to this massacre.

“On December 22, I rode pillion on the motorbike of Varun Choudhry, a grassroots activist with Khagaria-based NGO Samta, to go to Amausi. When we reached, the village was in turmoil. The cops were breaking thatched houses of people who were said to be absconding. Shankar Sada, whom
Varun met in the village, took us to the place where the police party had camped before taking up the rip-and-strip job,” Ramagundam told the daily.

“Just as we spoke, a police party arrived and pulled down the thatched roof and walls of a hut. I couldn’t control myself. I asked the cops if they had any written orders to pull down the houses of the absconding accused.

“A tall uniformed man stared at me. Instead of answering, he asked me my identity. I teach in Delhi, I told him. ‘Name?’ I told him. ‘Father’s name?’ I told him. But even before I could take out my identity card, he turned hostile. By then, I was surrounded by the rest of the cops. They roughed me up and thrashed my colleague, Varun, who suffered a fracture,” Ramagundam was quoted in the daily.

“They had guns. A constable in green fatigues called me a Naxalite and moved menacingly to break the cordon around me,” he said.

Ramagundam met Khagaria SP Anusya Rannsingh Sodhi and then lodged a complaint asking whether people had the right to ask police for written orders before dismantling houses of the “poorest of the poor.”

The Khagaria SP said she would conduct an inquiry and take appropriate action. She added that she would not take action against anyone merely on the basis of Ramagundam’s statement.

Ramagundam is author of two books, Defeated Innocence on the Adivasi struggle for land rights in Madhya Pradesh in 2001 and Gandhi’s Khadi: A History of Contention and Conciliation.

'The level of violence has gone up tremendously in Chhattisgarh'

Even after spending more than two years in prison on charges of being a Naxal supporter under the draconian Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act, Dr Binayak Sen's enthusiasm for speaking for the rights and the wellbeing of the tribals in Chhattisgarh has not diminished one bit.

Out on bail since May 25, 2009 -- he was arrested in May 2007 -- Dr Sen was in Mumbai recently to speak at a seminar organised by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on December 14. He spoke to Prasanna D Zore on a range of issues including his health, the ground situation in Chhattisgarh and threat to his life from "non-State actors".

"Please don't write anything about my itinerary," he asked this correspondent after discussing the same with him, for fear that it might alert those who are out there to eliminate him.

Dr Sen, first tell us about your health.

I feel good now. My friends at Vellore (in Tamil Nadu) took good care of me and I am feeling fine now. I'm on medication but I don't need any surgery for my heart condition.

Can you tell us what has changed in Chhattisgarh between 2007 and 2009, the time you were incarcerated?

I think the situation there is much more tense now than it was earlier. The tension level today has increased manifold because of the presence of large number of police personnel in Chhattisgarh. Hence the need for concerted efforts to appeal for peace and justice has also increased.

What makes you feel so? What's the ground situation there now?

There is a huge influx of armed police personnel not only in the so-called Naxalite areas but also across the state. I presume there is a variety of them including the Central Reserve Police Force, the CoBRAs (the elite anti-Naxal force, Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), and also extra-judicial forces like the Salwa Judum.

The fact is there are killings, beheadings, rape and murder happening all the time in the state and the government is not doing anything about it. Such kind of violence needs to be condemned and treated as criminal acts but the government has not taken any action to prosecute the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes.

In the given circumstances as they prevail in Chhattisgarh today, do social activists like you feel safe?

In my own case I've been told by a couple of senior police officers I know who work in other states that there is a definite risk to my life in the state. And in general the level of violence has gone up tremendously. So people who have been raising their voice against these issues (encounter killings and cases of forcible land grabbing by the Salwa Judum) may not be feeling safe.

Who poses a definite risk to your life? Is it the Salwa Judum or the government?

I think the risk is mainly from non-State actors. While I don't want to get into these details I can only say that the overall security situation in the state is not good.

Can we call this personal vendetta against all those people in Chhattisgarh who speak against the Salwa Judum? Even Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar's Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was razed under some pretext or the other.

I don't know if it's personal vendetta or not. I don't know what is personal or what is political. But certainly Raman Singh and his ruling party in Chhattisgarh have gone out of their way to build false cases against all those people who have stood against the atrocities of Salwa Judum.

I think the fact that people like me have raised their opposition to a large number of activities -- which we think are against the wider interest of the deprived sections of Chhattisgarh -- undertaken by the state government is what is prompting action against us. We are trying to expose the false police encounters, large-scale land grabbing undertaken by the Salwa Judum from the tribal communities, and this is what is forcing the state government to respond in the best way that they know.

How would you describe the plight of the tribals of Chhattisgarh?

Large proportions of tribal populations are severely malnourished there. Though the government claims that they have been distributing rice, objective data shows that 33 per cent of the tribals have a body mass index, BMI, of 18.5 (an average person who is 5'6" tall and weighs 65 kg has a BMI of 23), that a large section of the tribals there are malnourished. This is just one indicator of the kind of horrendous policies affecting the lives of tribals in Chhattisgarh.

What inspires you to speak for the rights of the tribals and the deprived in Chhattisgarh despite there being a threat to your life?

I think the people who are living under those circumstances are showing a higher degree of courage. The wish of the people who want to be associated with the resistance that the poor there are showing in living their ordinary existence is what inspires a lot of people to speak out for them.

What would be your appeal to all the stakeholders in the region: the tribals, the state government and the Naxalites ?

I think we all should appeal for peace and justice. The common people, the civil society should appeal for peace and justice and ask for implementation of the Directive Principles of State Policy that would bring in a greater degree of equality.

How optimistic would you be that your appeal will be heeded by everybody?

It's not my appeal. I am saying that the civil society should come together and make such an appeal. My appeal alone will have no significance but if I can enlist the support of a wider section of Indian people then perhaps there could be hope for the region.

Did you at any point during your imprisonment lose hope that you will ever come out of jail alive?

All the inmates in the jail with whom I interacted treated me very kindly. Everybody was kind to me and they gave me the courage to face life as it was inside the prison.

Were you subjected to physical or mental torture?

There was no physical torture at all but watching the way the inmates live and the conditions in which they lead their lives inside a prison was a very sad experience for me.

You are branded as a Naxalite by the state government. How do you respond to that?

I can say for sure that I am not a member of the Communist Party of India-Maoist. Apart from that the trial is in progress and I will await the court's decision.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Arundhati against Operation Green Hunt

Activist and writer Arundhati Roy shares her thoughts on the importance of the Naxalite uprising, Indian democracy. Watch Arundhati speaking on different occassions.


Human rights activists raise voice against operation greenhunt

The central government has launched operation greenhunt against the naxals in Chhattisgarh. But human rights activists in the region are stepping up their campaign against it, saying, the tribals face many atrocities. To watch a vedio on this please click

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Farmers, Mao, and Discontent in China

From the Great Leap Forward to the Present

Monthly Review

Dongping Han

There are widespread misconceptions about numerous aspects of the Chinese revolution. These include a misreading of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the “reforms” of the post-Mao era, and the reaction of the overwhelming mass of the peasantry to these movements. Although the revolutionary programs/movements resulted in significant hardships — on the rural population (the Great Leap Forward, 1958-61) or the intellectuals (the Cultural Revolution, 1966-76) — they both produced concrete achievements in the countryside that led to impressive gains in agricultural production and in people’s lives. In contrast, the post-Mao era “reforms” have resulted so far in a huge growth of inequality in China, with the rural population suffering greatly by the dismantling of public support for health and education. In addition, local and regional officials have sold farmland for development purposes, usually lining their own pockets, with inadequate compensation for the farmers. This has resulted in the current massive unrest in rural areas, involving literally hundreds of thousands of incidents with protesting farmers.1

The Great Leap Forward

The Great Leap Forward, the second five-year plan of the Chinese revolution, was an attempt to develop rapidly both industry and agriculture. This was the period during which the communes were formed and some 600,000 “backyard,” small-scale steel furnaces were built to supply local needs all over the country. This was also the era of massive irrigation projects — local, regional, and national in scope — that were to result in impressive gains in crop yields in subsequent years. However, the extra work burden that necessitated increased food consumption by the rural population was not accompanied by sufficient enhanced calorie intake.

The current widespread rural, as well as urban, discontent in China is in sharp contrast to the relative absence of unrest during the Great Leap Forward, when grain shortages led to severe hunger in some parts of rural China as a result of harsh weather conditions and mismanagement by various governmental levels. There is considerable disagreement as to whether or not mass starvation occurred and, if it did, how many people died. Nevertheless, it is clear that significant hardships were created by grain shortages induced, at least partially, by the policies of the Great Leap Forward. However, during my research in rural China over the past twenty-five years — including extensive interviews with farmers in Jimo County in Shandong Province — I have not come across a single farmer who believed that Mao lost popularity because of the Great Leap Forward. Nor have I encountered any farmer who contemplated rising up against the government during the Great Leap Forward, or any literature mentioning that there were serious peasant protests during this period. (However, a significant number of farmers, particularly younger ones, express their willingness to join a rebellion now if there was one against the government.) And, as difficult as conditions may have been during the Great Leap Forward, farmers were apparently not too emaciated or too weak to build a large number of national, provincial, regional, and local irrigation projects.

The Communist Party and the People

The Party compared its relationship with the Chinese people to that of fish and water. The Communists argued that water (people) can live without fish (Communist Party members). But fish cannot live without water, thus stressing the importance of popular support for the success of the revolution. This special relationship between the Chinese Communists and the Chinese people was built through a long process of trial and error, not always without failures. And there were many failures during the Great Leap Forward, leading to attempts at rectification through the Socialist Education Campaign in 1964 and the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

The argument that people might not have other recourse except to engage in individual and everyday types of resistance (or coping) in the social context of the Great Leap Forward seems convincing. Chinese farmers, like all other people, would not lightly rise to the serious undertaking of trying to overthrow the government. But between the choice of starving to death and rebellion, the choice should not be hard to make. If the death toll of millions claimed by the critics of the Great Leap Forward were true, then why would the Chinese farmers submit to death by slow starvation rather than rising up and giving themselves some hope of survival?

While civil society was disarmed throughout most of China’s history, this did not prevent Chinese farmers from rising up time and again with whatever they had in their hands. The Chinese term jiegan erqi (rise up with bamboo sticks) was created to describe the peasant rebellion during the Qin dynasty in particular and other peasant rebellions in general when Chinese farmers, under the duress of social injustice, rose up, using anything they could lay their hands on as weapons. However, during the Great Leap Forward, the Chinese population was more armed than ever. That was the time when Mao called for large-scale organization of militia divisions (daban minbingshi). Young villagers in production teams were organized into militia platoons. In each production brigade there was a militia company. At the commune level, there were militia battalions. The department of military affairs in the county government was in charge of arming and training the militia. Chinese farmers worked in the fields with their rifles stacked nearby during the Great Leap Forward years.2 How difficult would it have been for a farmer to pick up a rifle, shoot his or her leader and start a rebellion if that person so desired?

Past Accomplishments and Future Goals

There are a number of factors discussed below that led to acceptance and wide, active participation of farmers in the projects of the Great Leap Forward. One of the principal ones was that farmers knew that the projects were going to benefit them and their villages in the future. In addition, many farmers had received land and other assets during the land reform and felt a responsibility to the government. The majority of the Chinese farmers benefited from the revolution’s land reform. For example, in Jimo County, the landlords and rich peasants, who accounted for 4 percent of the population, lost over 11,000 hectares (165,732 mu) of land, 33,524 houses, 2,441 horses and other farming animals, 4,377 pieces of farming implements, and 6,891,715 kilos of grain because of land reform. But at the same time, poor peasant households, which accounted for 60 percent of the total population, got land, farming animals, and houses as a result of land reform.

Food Shortages

The Great Leap Forward got its name partly because of the unprecedented scale of its irrigation projects. These projects, which were designed to increase grain yield, contributed, ironically, to the short-term grain shortage of the Great Leap Forward.

Most agrarian societies work closely with the cycle of seasons. In Northern China, the seasonal cycle involves the following: a busy mid-spring planting season, followed by a less intense late spring and early summer season, followed by a busy mid-summer harvesting and planting season, followed again by a less intense late summer and early fall season, followed by a busy late fall harvesting and planting season, and finally by an idle winter and early spring season. In this region, fewer than three months are considered busy seasons, and the rest of the year is considered either a “slow” or “idle” season.

Until recently, rural households in China would budget their grain supplies according to the cycle of their work in the fields. They would eat more and better food when they had to work strenuously in the fields, and would eat much less and lower quality food during the slow and idle seasons. Most farmers in northern China would get up very late in winter and early spring, and go to bed very early at night to save energy. They only ate two meals a day, and the foods they ate were mostly porridge or sweet potatoes during the idle seasons. As a result, the food consumption was kept to a minimum during the winter and early spring seasons. During the busy seasons, when farmers had to engage in intensive manual labor, they would eat as much wheat or corn bread as they could possibly afford. As a result, the food consumption during these busy seasons could be three to four times higher than the idle and slow seasons.

The Great Leap Forward turned the idle and slow seasons of rural China into busy seasons. During the winter and spring of 1958, 1959, and 1960, rural people worked on building reservoirs, digging wells, dredging river bottoms, and building irrigation channels. There were national projects, provincial projects, regional projects, and local projects being built at the same time. Some of the more well-known examples of these projects are: the Shisanling Reservoir (The Ming Tombs Reservoir) in Beijing; the Hai River Project, which connected five major rivers in Northern China; the Yellow River Sanmenxia Project in Henan and Shanxi Province; and the Yellow River Liu Jiaxia Project. The world famous Red Flag Irrigation Channel in Lin County, Henan was started during the Great Leap Forward and was not finished until ten years later.3

In Jimo County, Shandong Province, the farmers put in several million days of labor to build four medium-size reservoirs and several other irrigation projects: Shipeng Reservoir in the southern part of Jimo County; Wangquan Reservoir in the central part; Songhuaquan Reservoir in the midwestern part; Yecheng Reservoir in the west; and the Chahe Irrigation Project in the north.

Apart from these big projects, there were also numerous minor projects launched by communes and villages in Jimo County. Among these were the Xiazhang Reservoir in Wangcun Commune; the Fangjia Reservoir in Woli Commune; and the Yushitou Reservoir in Duncun Commune. In 1959, Jimo County also dug, for the first time, thirty-three big and deep electric-powered irrigation wells.

There were undoubtedly very severe management problems during the Great Leap Forward. People were being asked to participate in physically demanding projects, but were not consistently provided with sufficient extra food rations. Without these gigantic irrigation projects, there would probably not have been any starvation in Jimo; the grain shortage and the aftermath would have been much less severe. It was, at the very least, overzealous to engage in such a gigantic investment of labor in such a short time and without sufficient food rations. Clearly, Jimo County government leaders were guilty of miscalculation and mismanagement of human and financial resources during the Great Leap Forward.

Looking back, the leaders might blame the fervid social environment created by the central government or the pressure they received for more and quicker results from their higher-ups in the provincial or central governments. The slogan of the time was: “duo kuai hao sheng de jianshe shehuizhuyi” (build up socialism in a faster, better, and more economic manner). But, at the grassroots level, leaders were supposed to know their local conditions better than the upper-level government, and they were ultimately responsible for the lives of the local people.

While we can fault the county leaders’ management, we cannot fault their intentions. There was a general consensus among local government leaders, local community leaders, and ordinary farmers that enhanced irrigation was needed in order to improve crop yields. Therefore, most farmers saw the connections between these irrigation projects and a better life for themselves in the near future. Even though they went through a great deal of hardship in constructing these projects at the time, farmers said they could not deny the fact that the purpose was to make their lives better in the future. This contrasts sharply with farmers’ attitudes toward many massive projects from earlier eras, such as when they were drafted to build palaces for the elite.

Farmers’ Means of Coping

We know that many farmers engaged in individual acts of coping during the Great Leap Forward, such as “moyanggong” (pretend to work but actually not working), and chiqing (eating green crops before they matured). As someone who worked on a collective farm for many years, moyanggong and chiqing appearto me to be a necessary part of dealing with daily life during the Great Leap Forward, rather than individual forms of resistance against government policies or officials. What else could people do, when they were exhausted from hard work but did not feel it was right to stop working completely while others worked on? It was appropriate to engage in moyanggong as a way of taking a break, and other farmers understood.

Chiqing was another accepted and widespread practice during the Great Leap Forward, necessitated by the long working hours and short supplies of food. Farmers ate whatever they could lay their hands on to satisfy their hunger, not to demonstrate their anger or resistance to the government’s policies and officials. When I was working on a collective farm after the Great Leap Forward, it was an acceptable practice to eat a limited amount of green wheat, green corn, tender sweet potatoes and tender peanuts, turnips, and cabbages. We sometimes cooked green corn, soybeans, and even sweet potatoes in the fields. Farmers in Shandong called this shao pohuo (build a small fire in the field). Afterwards, we would start a game of chi yao mohui (trying to darken each other’s face with our blackened hands). Boys tried that with girls, and girls tried that with boys. Production team leaders engaged in this game with ordinary villagers, as well. Without understanding the social context of these practices, it is easy to see them as everyday resistance.

Societal Support for Farmers

The social climate of the time also helped farmers make the connection between these irrigation projects and a better future. The government gave great attention to rural areas during the Great Leap Forward — the whole nation and Party members were told they should help agriculture, rural areas, and farmers. It was a common practice for local government, office and factory workers, army units, and high school and college students to come to help farmers during the busy seasons.

An old farmer I interviewed in Henan told me with great fondness how excited he and his fellow farmers were to see the nationally famous artists who came to perform for them on the irrigation sites during Great Leap Forward. He said that their work hours were long, and the food they ate was not particularly good. But the farmers persisted, because Chairman Mao and the government cared about farmers. “These artists,” he said: “were sent to us by Chairman Mao.” He heard these words from the artists at the time. Forty years later, he used these same words as his own. Only in Mao’s China, would nationally famous artists perform for farmers at an irrigation site.

Post-Mao publications branded these initiatives by the government to send artists and intellectuals to work with farmers and workers as part of the Maoist persecution of intellectuals. But these government initiatives served to enhance national solidarity and spirit. Farmers who were at the bottom of Chinese society acquired a sense of importance and empowerment when government officials, professors, and college students were working side by side with them. Mao and other national leaders worked on the Shisanling Reservoir on May 25, 1958, giving rise to waves of government officials participating in this kind of activity.4 On October 11, 1959, 12,000 college and high school students and professors from Qingdao City came to Jimo to help with fall harvesting and planting. In September 1960, 28,000 students and teachers from Qingdao City came to Jimo to help with harvesting and planting.

Another factor that helps explain the Chinese farmers’ behavior and attitude during the Great Leap Forward was the personal behavior of the leaders. From his recently published memoirs, we know that, once Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong realized the difficult situation of rural China during the Great Leap Forward, he gave up eating meat. He also refused to act upon the suggestions of people around him that he should allow his daughters to get a little more food. Some might argue that it was not a major sacrifice for Mao to give up his pork when hundreds of thousands of farmers were suffering because of his questionable policies and mismanagement. But most farmers at the time could not possibly know what Mao did or did not do. What farmers did know at the time was the behavior of county, commune, and village leaders.

Leadership by Local Officials

Farmers in Jimo believed that the quality of national leaders is defined by the quality of grassroots officials (guojia lingdai ren de pingde cong difang guanyuan de pingde zhong biaoxian chulai). During the Great Leap Forward, Jimo County leaders, including the head leader, County Party Secretary Xu Hua, Head of County government, Li Anshi, and other county government leaders, were busily traveling around the county to work with people at irrigation project sites. Each county and commune leader assumed responsibility for at least one village. Leaders came to visit and work in the “home” village regularly; villagers knew them and they knew the villagers well. More importantly, they ate the same food with ordinary villagers at their homes, and always paid the standard cost for the meals, which was often higher than the real value of the food. Song Wenying, who hosted the commune leaders a few times, said that Wang Shuchun, who was the head of Chengguan Commune Government, came to his village frequently. At lunchtime, he would eat at villagers’ houses randomly. At the time, farmers ate mostly sweet potatoes, and Wang Shuchun would eat the same food with them. After the meal he would leave thirty cents and a three-liang grain coupon for his meal.

Indeed, most village leaders during the Great Leap Forward were actively present in the daily lives of the people. They worked at the construction sites with the villagers most of the time, and ate the same kind of food as the ordinary villagers.

Maqiao Village Party Secretary, Wu Changxing, worked with farmers on the irrigation sites day and night during the Great Leap Forward. He refused to eat more than anybody else, and in the end he died of a combination of exhaustion and malnutrition — the only person to die on the construction site from Maqiao village. Other people driven by hunger began eating green crops, but he felt that, as a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member and the village party secretary, he could not lower himself to that level. Other people could cheat a little by taking longer bathroom breaks, but he felt that, as a leader, he had to be a role model for others. Wu Changxing left two children behind, and villagers in Maqiao took very good care of his children, out of their respect for their honest and hardworking leader.

In September 1960, with students, professors, and others, 2,100 provincial and city officials also came to work with farmers in Jimo. Most farmers I interviewed in Jimo were pleased to see government officials working side by side with them. “We were so happy to see officials of the people’s government and urban intellectuals eat the same food and do the same job with us. We felt close bonds with them at the time.” This often overlooked aspect of Chinese society and politics is an important factor behind people’s high morale during the Great Leap Forward.

During this period, most people were skinny, and the county and commune leaders were as skinny as everybody else. Based on their body size, it was almost impossible to tell these leaders apart from ordinary farmers. “County Party Secretary Xu,” Zhang Yingfa, a farmer from South River, said, “was as tall as I was, but he was definitely thinner than I was when he came to work with us in the village.” This, again, was sharp contrast with the traditional image of Chinese officials. Farmers said that it was very hard to perceive these Communist officials as oppressors and bad people. They simply did not arouse anger among farmers. This does not mean that there were not many bad and corrupt local officials at the time. But in the eyes of many rural people today, Mao’s officials were drastically different from the “younger and more educated” crop of Chinese government officials of the later “reform” era, who came to the village only in cars, and ate lavish banquets at the expense of the villagers. An important factor in preventing peasant rebellion during a period of severe hardship was the leadership style and personal integrity of the Communist officials.

There were very few differences in wealth or background between local leaders and the people being led. The village leaders of the 1950s understood the poor villagers much better than their preceding and succeeding counterparts in Chinese history. This understanding was a strength for the Communist Party, and it played a significant role in preventing government decay during the aftermath of Great Leap Forward. Farmers are likely to follow village leaders that come from the same socio-economic background as the overwhelming majority of villagers, and demonstrate concern for their needs. Mao became the great leader of Chinese people exactly because he was able to see the revolutionary potential of peasant leaders. It was these peasants and peasant leaders who accomplished the fundamental goals of the Chinese revolution and rejuvenated Chinese society.

During the Socialist Education Campaign of 1964, following the Great Leap Forward, many local village leaders were charged with petty corruption and misdemeanors, such as eating more than their fair share of food, stealing small amounts of money from the collective purse, and dividing a small amount of grain among themselves during the Great Leap Forward. In the eyes of the Communist Party, which demanded that its members suffer hardships first and enjoy benefits last (chi ku zai qian, xiangshou zai hou), this kind of devious behavior could not be allowed. But judging by today’s standards, or the standards of traditional China, the village leaders’ corruption was minor. It is natural that, amid a grain shortage, people who were closer to the food would eat a little more in order to survive.

From the Cultural Revolution to Rural “Reforms”

In light of the widespread minor corruption among village leaders during the Great Leap Forward, one of the important goals of the Cultural Revolution was to empower ordinary villagers to participate in village politics.5 Village leaders’ authority was greatly curbed as a result of the empowerment of ordinary villagers during this period, and local government became more legitimate in the eyes of people than during the Great Leap Forward. The central, provincial, regional, county, and commune governments gave a great amount of attention to agriculture, rural areas, and farmers. Many farmers were selected to participate in all levels of government. Officials were urged to work with farmers, and the urban population was urged to support the rural people. Seventeen million urban, educated youth were sent to live and work in rural areas during the Cultural Revolution years. Consequently, in the eyes of the farmers, the government cared about them.6

Contemporary Rural Unrest

Chinese media was filled with success stories about the rural reform ever since Deng Xiaoping’s government started the “reforms” in the early 1980s. Chinese and western scholars basically echoed the Chinese government’s claims about the successes of the rural reforms. According to the official story, crop yields increased dramatically, and farmers’ income rose significantly. (Crop yields did increase, partially because of the irrigation projects, crop breeding, and fertilizer factories built during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.) People who studied rural China postulated that the increase of grain yields was due to change from collective to private farming. It is also true that China has not experienced any serious natural disasters in the last twenty-five years that have had widespread effects on agricultural production, and farmers have in their possession more grain than ever before. In the villages I visited in Henan and Shandong Provinces, most rural families have around 1 to 1.5 metric tons (two or three thousand jin) of grain stored in their houses, which would usually be sufficient for two years’ consumption.

According to the standard view, the rural revolts occurring in China today are hard to explain. In 2001, Yu Jianrong’s Politics in Yue Village was published, documenting contemporary rural protests in Hunan Province. In 2004, Chen Guili and Chun Tao reported Chinese farmers’ anger at the government policies and CCP official conduct in rural China. (These writings made a big stir in China, because they caused a major lawsuit.) In fall 2004, two huge protests in Sichuan Province involving hundreds of thousands farmers shocked the world. In one incident, over one hundred thousand farmers surrounded local government buildings for three days; over a dozen police cars were set on fire, and the government sent over one hundred thousand armed police to pacify the crowd. In the other incident, the angry crowd held the Provincial Governor hostage for a few days. Since then, nobody has doubted that the Chinese government faces a serious crisis in the rural areas.

There has been a major shift in farmers’ perceptions of the CCP from the time of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. As discussed above, farmers then viewed the CCP and local, regional, and national officials as working in their best interests. But when I first interviewed farmers in Jimo regarding their reaction to rural reorganization in 1982, the most common response was that gongchandang bu guan women la (the Communist Party does not care about us anymore). “Women jiuyao cheng moniangde haozila” (we are going to become orphans) one farmer told me at the time. This simple answer is pregnant with many implications. It means that some farmers considered the government’s collective farming policy as an indicator that the Communist Party cared about their livelihood. But, as a result of the rural “reforms,” the government could not be seen as being on their side — it could, at best, be regarded as neutral. This change in the farmers’ perception of CCP policies and actions, together with a change in leadership styles of Communist officials at various levels of government, have had a huge impact on farmers’ perception of and interactions with the state.

Privatization, Corruption, Inequality, and Crime

In the process of rural reorganization, some collectively owned means of production ended up in the hands of former village leaders. In Jimo County, most collectively owned village industrial enterprises were first contracted to the managers and then sold to them. The village factory I managed before I went to college in 1978 was sold to its subsequent manager, Liu Dunxiao. In less than twenty years, Liu and his family acquired assets of over 200 million yuan (about US$30 million). Liu’s younger brother, with his help, controls the public transportation system in the county, and has assets of hundreds of millions yuan as well. The same process has transferred many state and collectively owned enterprises to private ownership by a system based on cronyism. The Chinese people now refer to this process as the original sin of the Chinese capitalist class that has arisen since the mid-1980s. This acquisition of collectively owned or state-owned assets was unconstitutional and illegal. It also violated the sense of social justice widely held by Chinese farmers. One capitalist told me in an interview that most of the Chinese capitalist class had a criminal beginning, which is like a sword hanging over their heads. Many villagers now call into question the political legitimacy of the government that has encouraged the criminal acquisition of collectively owned property and state-owned means of production.

Since the rural reforms, the different levels of government no longer organize large-scale irrigation projects in China, and the presence of the government in farmers’ lives has become minimal. Township governments now do only two things: collect the grain tax and enforce the family planning policies. Farmers believe that the township government only wants money (tax) and lives (family planning) from them (yao qian he yao ming). They do not believe that the township government does anything positive for them.

The retreat of the national government from rural areas is considered progressive by the liberal free market economic mindset. It appears that the state is giving society in general, and rural people in particular, the power to take control of their own livelihood. Farmers should have welcomed the rural reorganization. But the reality is more complicated.

During the collective era, commune leaders lived in the rural areas where they worked. They would come to the village on bikes. Today, the township government leaders are more educated and do not want to live in rural areas. They have built luxurious, western-style houses in the county government seats. Therefore, the township government has to buy a car for each of the top four government officials: township party secretary, deputy party secretary, township government head, and deputy township government head. They also need drivers to chauffeur them to work every day. Because they do not have much to do, they are often bored. Therefore, they visit restaurants and entertainment facilities. “Rural restaurants in the surrounding areas,” one farmer said, “have begun to provide xiaojie services (prostitutes) because township government leaders want them.”

As expenditures of the township government increase, the ways to extract money from farmers multiply, now that the agricultural tax has been eliminated. Many township governments use family planning as a way to get money from farmers. In order to get a permit to have a child, farmers have to bribe the village and township government officials. Some township and village leaders sell birth permits to farmers who have money. In some places, local officials even encourage rich farmers to have more children so that they can get “fines” from them. In such a social context, farmers question the political legitimacy of the central government, as well as county and village officials. Another way of making money is the confiscation of land by local and regional officials, who then sell the land at a profit for “development,” without adequately compensating the farmers — thus adding greatly to the rural ferment.

The change in farmers’ perception of government legitimacy and official conduct has transformed farmers’ interaction with the state. Interviewees in South River village, Jimo County, told me that farmers refused to storm the unguarded government granaries adjacent to their village during the grain shortage of the Great Leap Forward. But now, they have begun to engage in all kinds illegal and illicit activities. Several villagers have been in prison for stealing at markets and from other villagers. They fight with the tax collectors. In one incident, two brothers beat up a tax collector, and ended up in prison for two years.

Some daring individuals organized a gang of thieves, stealing on a large scale. They have built a network with collaborators in the big cities, who identify targets: mostly homes of corrupt officials and rich business owners. They come to the big city, commit their crimes with precision, and then return to their village to divide the spoils with their urban collaborators. This way, they are able to live a “good life,” and reduce the risk of being caught. Most people, even the local police, know how these people make their living.

Another group of villagers have organized a secret society that engages in smuggling and provides assassins for hire. They will kill or hurt people for the right price. Some of these farmers, who were timid and obedient during the Great Leap Forward, hard working but aggressively demanding during the Cultural Revolution, have become bandits, thieves, and thugs during the reform period.

Chinese society during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution was relatively poor. People barely had enough to eat and wear. But many farmers remember that time with fondness. There was a general equality of condition, very little corruption, very few crimes, no drugs and no prostitution

Today, most people in rural China have become more affluent. In Jimo County, the primary area of my research, some people have a lot of money. A number of households claim to own millions. But, at the same time, people’s lives are filled with crime, corruption, prostitution, drug abuse — and there is a huge gap between the rich and poor.

Government Response to Rural Conditions and Unrest

The Chinese government has begun to admit, for the first time since the rural reform of the 1980s, that it faces a serious, three-fold crisis regarding agriculture, rural areas, and farmers (san nong wenti). Scholars and government officials have started to discuss the crisis openly. Yu Jianrong’s Yucun Politics (Yuecun Zhengzhi) describes an incident in Hunan, in which over ten thousand farmers stormed the township government building. A sixty-two-year-old farmer broke six government signs, quoting Mao Zedong’s words: “rebellion is justified.” Cheng Guili and Chun Tao, in their Zhongguo Nongmin Diaocha (Investigating Chinese Farmers), record numerous cases of official oppression against farmers.

The number one Central Government directive in 2004 was aimed at increasing the rural population’s income. To this end, the Chinese government, by the summer of 2006, had completely eliminated agricultural taxes for the rural population.

However, the crisis that the Chinese government faces in rural China is not simply an issue of increasing farmers’ income. It is a very complex issue, involving government legitimacy, official conduct, and many other issues. While many people applaud the Chinese government’s elimination of agricultural taxes, this action is more sensational than effective, and may even be dangerous. The elimination of the agriculture taxes further weakens government presence in rural areas. But rural China today needs a stronger, not weaker, government presence. The rural areas need the government to provide free education and medical care. Farmers need the government to protect them from greedy developers — backed by local officials — who grab farmers’ land. Rural China needs progressive taxing — taxing the rich to protect the weak and poor. Simply eliminating all taxes leads to more corruption, as local officials devise other ways to gain income.

The Chinese central government has blamed local officials for the problems in rural China. Similarly, the Chinese media has made the township government officials the scapegoats for the rising problems in rural China. Chinese scholars in the West also tend to blame the local officials for the rising tension between government and farmers in China. One of the township government officials I interviewed told me he felt that it was both easy and dangerous to use township government officials as scapegoats: they are the symptom, not the cause of the problem, which is systemic, and much deeper than the central government realizes. Scapegoating township government officials will only conceal the real problem and lead to more social disturbances. And, once the rural people rise up, they will not think carefully about whom to rise up against. That is the nature of popular riots.

Looking Back at Mao

After the Third Plenary Meeting of the CCP Eleventh Central Committee (December 1978) passed the resolution to criticize Mao’s mistakes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese media, controlled by anti-Mao elites, have not hesitated to publish books and articles denouncing the Great Leap Forward as well as the Cultural Revolution. For the last thirty years, anti-Mao, anti-Great Leap Forward, and anti-Cultural Revolution sentiments have dominated Chinese intellectual discourse. However, many people have written their own memoirs under the auspices of the Chinese Political Consultation Committee, in an effort to gather cultural and historical memoirs of the Great Leap Forward. In essence, these authors — whose essays directly contradict the official denunciations — have protested the “rewriting of the history” by Mao’s opponents.

In December 2006, Deng Pufang responded to a Reuters reporter, saying that the Cultural Revolution brought disaster not only to himself and his family but also to the Chinese nation. However, this almost routine characterization of the era triggered an avalanche of comments from the Chinese people, eliciting, in little more than a month, over 35,000 Internet objections. The overwhelming majority of these comments praised Mao’s contribution to the Chinese people and criticized the serious consequences caused by the reform measures Deng Xiaoping introduced. Some people commented that the new elite should “stop lying about Chairman Mao. People are waking up, and it is no longer possible to deceive people with lies about Chairman Mao.” Many said that “history is written by the people, not by the elites.” For many Chinese, “Chairman Mao worked for Chinese people all his life, and he continues to live in the people’s heart.” It seems that the efforts of government and elite to discredit Mao’s legacies have backfired, with significant implications for Chinese politics in the future.

How is it possible to explain the high esteem in which Mao — long after his death — is held among many Chinese people, despite the official and semi-official onslaught on his legacy and image?7 Chinese elites and Mao’s enemies have produced numerous publications to discredit Mao. But if the sufferings and brutalities allegedly imposed on the Chinese farmers by Mao’s government were true, the farmers would have known them, first hand. Why do so many farmers still hang Mao’s picture in their houses, and hold his memories dear, and, in some places, build temples to worship him?

These farmers remind me of my U.S. colleagues and students, who came to China with me for my college’s worldwide experience courses. The long lines outside Mao’s Mausoleum on Tiananmen Square always surprised them. The workers and farmers who lost the benefits they received under Mao’s socialist policies came to show respect to their leader, often with tears in their eyes. This is another indicator of Mao’s continuing popularity among the Chinese working class.


How does one explain the change in state and society interaction from the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution to the reform era? Mencius once said: Yi shi dao shi min, sui ku er bu yuan, yi sheng dao sha ren, sui si er bu yuan (the people will not complain if the ruler employs the people with good intention, and people will not complain if the ruler causes the people to die with the intention to ensure their survival). That means that, when a government is considered legitimate, and official conduct resonates with that legitimacy, people will follow government policies and endure hardship. Thus, the government will survive tough challenges and difficulties. However, when government legitimacy is in question, or official conduct is repugnant, people will be less likely to follow government policies, and, when crises arise, will be more likely to rebel. The large amount of peasant unrest in China today is the result of a loss of government legitimacy. To reverse this trend, the government needs to do more than simply increase farmers’ income.

The Chinese Government can curb official corruption in the rural areas in two ways. It can resurrect the Communist Party’s self-criticism and disciplinary mechanism of the old days, in which party leaders and ordinary party members hold regular meetings to examine their own behavior, according to Party policies and regulations. At the same time, the government can empower ordinary farmers by encouraging them to criticize government officials and policies by different means, including big character posters, which were widely used during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and have proven effective in curbing official corruption. More importantly, the government needs to select more farmers to government positions, and encourage local officials to live and work with farmers whenever possible.

The gap between rich and poor has become a huge problem in China, particularly in the rural areas, and has caused many serious social problems, such as the increase of crime. Too big a gap between the rich and poor will tear the society apart and threaten China’s stability. More egalitarian practices will enhance China’s internal coherence and enable the country to deal more effectively with its challenges.


1.The extent of rural protests in China is rarely reported in a coherent fashion in the Western media. But, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua story published in People’s Daily (“China grapples with thorny issue of rural land rights,” there were “87,000 protests, riots and other ‘mass incidents’” related to land loss in 2005, up 6 percent from 2004, and 50 percent from 2003. Thus, in these three years alone, there were well over 100,000 such actions! The article points out, “Once the backbone of the Communist Party of China, which won widespread support in the countryside six decades ago on protecting the rights of farmers who joined its fight to overthrow the landlord class, many Chinese farmers now feel alienated from their own land, formerly the fruits of the revolution.” In the seven years before the January 2006 story was written, some 6.7 million hectares of farmland (5 percent of all of China’s farmland) had been converted into other uses — roads, factories, etc. People are also protesting industrial pollution of air, water, and soil. In 2007, the last year that the Chinese government released data on “mass incidents,” protests involving over one hundred people, there were 80,000 such incidents.
2.New China News Agency: “National Militia Work Conference was held in Beijing on February 8, to Discuss and Study the Experiences and Accomplishments of Large Scale Organization of Militia Divisions since 1958.” Zhonghua renmin gongheguo dashiji, The Chronology of People’s Republic of China, (Beijing: Xinhua Press, 1982), 282.
3.The Chronology of People’s Republic of China, 209, vol. one (Beijing: Xinhua Press, 1982), 210-14.
4.The Chronology of People’s Republic of China, 209, vol. one, 208.
5.For a detailed discussion of change and progress in rural areas during the Cultural Revolution, see Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2008).
6.See Dongping Han, “Hukou System and China’s Rural Development,” Journal of Developing Areas, Spring 1999, and “Impact of the Cultural Revolution on Rural Education and Economic Development,” Modern China 27, no. 1, January 2001.
7.Jacob Heibrunn, “Mao More than Ever,” New Republic, April 21, 1997, 20; and Orville Schell, “Once Again, Long Live Chairman Mao,” Atlantic, December 1992, 32.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kerala's So Called Dalit Terror: How A Dalit Minister Turns Against His Own Community

Counter Currents

By B.R.P Bhaskar
17 December, 2009
Gulf Today

The fate of a set of proposals sent to the Kerala government by the State Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission illustrates how the political establishment scuttles efforts to address the problems of the weaker sections.

The commission, headed by PK Sivanandan, a former IAS officer, received on Oct.6 a complaint from VV Selvaraj, chairman of Dalit Human Rights Movement, alleging police atrocities against the organisation's supporters in Varkala. It also received a petition signed by 536 Dalit women containing the same allegation.

The commission forwarded the complaints to the Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police and the Secretaries to the Home and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare departments. It received no response from any of them.

Varkala was the scene of a dastardly murder on Sept.23. The victim was a person named Sivaprasad with no known affiliation. Within hours of the murder, the police said DHRM members had killed him to proclaim the organisation's strength.

Police swooped on Dalit colonies and arrested many DHRM workers. However, it has still not filed a charge-sheet in the murder case.

On Oct.21, the commission visited Varkala and gathered evidence directly from all concerned. It went to the Dalit colonies and spoke to both supporters and opponents of DHRM. It found the police version of events suspect and the testimony of DHRM supporters credible.

In the report, approved on Oct.29, the commission specially drew attention to the evidence of two women. One of them was a pregnant woman, who said police had taken her in a jeep and abandoned her on the roadside. The other was the mother of Das, DHRM organising secretary. She said the deputy superintended of police (DySP), Attingal, had taken her son to the police station and tortured him after a magistrate had remanded him to judicial custody.

The commission referred to the high-handed action of the circle inspector in locking the house of an arrested person and walking away with the key, denying his mother and sister access to their dwelling.

The key was returned to the family a day before the commission's visit after the chairman took up the case with the superintendent of police.

During the visit to the Thoduve colony, noting the prevailing tension, the commission's chairman directed the police superintendent to set up a picket there to prevent anti-social elements from taking advantage of the situation.

The report pointed out that if the police had taken adequate security measures, the clash on Oct.27 in which several women were injured could have been averted.

To put an end to the continuing strife, the commission suggested a visit to the colony by a high-powered government team, preferably under the leadership of the Chief Minister. It also proposed the formation of a committee comprising officials and elected representatives at the local level to maintain constant vigil.

The commission asked the government to order an impartial inquiry into the charges against the police, keeping the DySP and the Circle Inspector and Sub-Inspector of Varkala away.

The commission noted that many residents of Thoduve were living in tenements put up on government land. It proposed that they be given preferential treatment under the EMS housing scheme and rehabilitated.

Seven weeks have passed since the report was sent to AK Balan, Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare, with copies to the Chief Minister, the Home Minister and a host of officials. So far there has been no action on the basis of its recommendations.

Inquiries have revealed that Balan, who is himself a Dalit, turned down the proposal for a visit to Thoduve by a team headed by the chief minister, saying it was impractical. He termed the proposal for rehabilitation of the colony residents also as impractical. He effectively killed the proposal for an impartial inquiry into the police conduct by referred it to the DGP.

The government's inaction reflects the ruling establishment's callous attitude towards the problems of the Dalits, who have been victims of discrimination for centuries. Since DHRM has been propagating the view that all established parties have betrayed the Dalits, it has invited the enmity of the entire political spectrum.

A campaign waged by DHRM has weaned away a large number of Dalits away from liquor and drugs. It has endeared the organisation to Dalit women but earned it the wrath of the drug mafia and those in its pay.-

Monday, December 21, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Summit Accord: A Crime Against the Planet

by Orpheus

The Copenhagen UN Summit talks on climate change are over and their message to the earth and humanity are clear: Drop Dead.

The accord that came out of this meeting was first called “an important (though modest) step” by U.S. and European Union leaders—despite the fact that no commitments of any kind were made to cut greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. A day later this farce of an agreement was being hailed by spokespeople as a “great step” and an “unprecedented accomplishment.” This is a complete cover-up and sham.

Barack Obama, who was in Copenhagen for all of 4 hours, and other U.S. officials rammed this agreement through at the last minute when the summit was facing breakdown. This summit was contentious. Poor nations had walked out of the meeting at one point due to the lack of any commitment to cut emissions by the main producers of greenhouse gases and other issues. Repeated mass protests outside of where the talks were held punctuated the atmosphere and broke into the international spotlight.

The U.S. Godfather Calls the Shots

Like the world-class gangsters they are, Obama and Hillary Clinton burst into a meeting held by China and other countries, according to the New York Times, announced that negotiations would not go on in secret, without the United States. This is blatant godfather thuggery and hypocrisy from a system known for conducting secret wars, criminal invasions and imperialist arm-twisting throughout history.

In fact, this agreement itself was pulled together by the U.S. in a closed door meeting of representatives from only 25 or so of the 190 countries represented and then imposed on the rest. And from now on, it appears the rich capitalist countries will solve the problem of the “contentiousness” of these summits by just totally barring the poor nations entirely. The New York Times wrote that according to a representative from the Council on Foreign Relations, that the world’s leading greenhouse polluters will instead meet only amongst themselves to, “tackle a narrower agenda of issues, such as technology sharing or the merging of carbon-trading markets, without the chaos and posturing of the U.N. process.”

At the summit, Obama used the promise of billions of dollars in aid to poor countries to supposedly deal with devastation from global warming as a bribe. Then he threatened that without an agreement there wouldn’t be any aid.

Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, a Sudanese diplomat who has been representing the Group of 77 developing countries, denounced the accord: “The developed countries have decided that damage to developing countries is acceptable,” he told reporters, saying that the 2-degree target would “result in massive devastation to Africa and small island states.” He and many other representatives of the most vulnerable countries wanted a target of 1.5 degrees.

“Today’s events, which really are a continuation of the history of the negotiations for the last two years, represent the worst development in climate change negotiations in history,” Mr. Di-Aping said. (New York Times, December 12, 2009)

Business As Usual in the Face of Ecological Crisis

The “Copenhagen Accord” that emerged contains absolutely no binding commitments to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases or deforestation that are warming the planet. The accord even dropped goals for cuts in previous agreements. And these agreements were already a sham because they contained no method of making or enforcing these cuts. The accord claims great concern about global warming and says world temperatures need to be kept from rising above 2 degrees, but says nothing about how this will actually take place. In other words—this agreement is just a continuation of business as usual—which is a death sentence for the environment and humanity.

A group of climate scientists ( came together to analyze the proposals on the table during the summit. Up until the day of the accord, they had been reporting that even if all the promises for greenhouse gas emission cuts were actually carried out by all these governments—the temperature of the planet would still rise 3.9 degrees Celsius (C) (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. (The scientific consensus says that temperatures must be kept below, 1.5-2 degees C or disaster will ensue.) After the accord was released, climate interactive stated the accord had too few quantifiable results to even analyze.

People around the globe desperately wanted something to come out of this summit. Many felt, with the eyes of the world on Copenhagen, with a new U.S. president… maybe something significant would finally be done to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. They told themselves that doing anything would be better than doing nothing. But what the world’s powers did was actually worse than doing nothing. This is because what came out of this summit does absolutely nothing to stop the planet from burning—while a BIG lie is being promoted that this summit has opened up the way to actually doing something about the environmental crisis.

The summit in Copenhagen never was an urgent gathering of scientists and people of good will from around the world to solve a global emergency. It was a gathering of government leaders, dominated by the capitalist-imperialist powers with the U.S. as the head godfather. It was about the leaders of different powerful countries advancing their own interests at the expense of each other—and to the detriment and destruction of humanity and the earth’s ecosystems. It was all about these powers trying to gain advantage over their rivals. It was about creating new markets—such as the carbon trading market—as a new way to use rights to pollute to generate more profit. It was about powerful imperialist countries enforcing their interests over poor countries and the world’s people, all while trying to “rebrand” themselves as eco friendly savers of the planet.

Author George Monbiot who writes on globalization and the environment compared the Copenhagen summit to meetings in 1884 in Berlin where the world was carved up between the colonial powers. This time, however, he said, it is the atmosphere that’s being carved up. The head of the G-77+China delegation (a grouping of poor nations and China), said for Africa, already facing massive drought fueled by global warming, the Copenhagen accord is akin to the Holocaust.

Global Warming and the Global Marketplace

Humanity is confronted with something humans have never confronted before—the possibility that life, or at least much of life, on earth, could be snuffed out by environmental destruction with global warming the leading threat. Disastrous things are already occurring due to this warming (see online article, “Global Warming in the Himalayas”). For 17 years, world powers and other governments have been talking about stopping climate change. World governments have held conferences, summits, even passed treaties among some—such as the Kyoto treaty of 1997. But with all this, and now with Copenhagen, the only thing that has actually happened is that greenhouse emissions have skyrocketed and the rate of growth of them is getting worse. From 2000-2008, greenhouse emissions increased 29 percent worldwide. This system and it’s approach to nature, means a death sentence for life on the planet. We need a revolution, and soon.


The capitalist system’s approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions is by bringing these issues “into the marketplace.” They plan to base emissions cuts on a global “carbon trading” system where greenhouse limits are supposedly set, and rights to pollute can be traded, generating tremendous profit. This is the logic and rules of operating-market profitability in command. This does not and can not really address the problem of rising carbon emissions—which to begin with come from putting profit in command. In fact, where this market system approach to the problem has been tried, it has totally failed to cut emissions.

The capitalists want to incorporate some new energy technologies into their profit making framework and are competing over who will benefit most from this, while their overall process of production remains completely locked in the framework of burning oil, coal and gas. In fact, as capitalist production is heating up the earth, the system seeks even more destructive and irrational means of grabbing up new reserves of oil and gas. In Alberta, Canada, huge reserves of dirty oil are being flushed out of tar sands—leaving massive pools of contaminated water in large open pits and threatening massive environmental destruction. As the arctic melts because of burning fossil fuels, the U.S., Norway, Canada, Russia and Denmark are vying to take advantage of the ice melting so they can do what? Drill for more oil in the regions of the northern seas that are becoming ice free.

Copenhagen showed once more that these summits are about different world powers vying to gain competitive advantage. U.S. negotiators, for example, tried to say that Obama’s pledge to cut U.S. emissions and a decision by the EPA to declare greenhouse gases a pollutant (cleverly timed to coincide with Copenhagen), were examples of the U.S. moving to the forefront of the “global fight against climate change.” In reality, the U.S. came with a pathetic proposal to cut emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This would mean only a 3-4 percent cut below 1990 levels. The accepted science says that industrialized countries must cut emissions 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Emissions in the world as a whole must be cut 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This is what must happen if there is to be any chance of saving the planet.

Obama came to Copenhagen fresh off escalating the war in Afghanistan and picking up a Nobel peace prize while advocating more war. This was a double hypocrisy, because the dirty secret is that the U.S. military is the largest single user of petroleum and the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Can anyone imagine U.S. tanks, bombers and drones warring on the planet powered by solar panels? Obama and U.S. officials came to Copenhagen representing the country that is by far the largest contributor in historical terms to the climate crisis. And yet had the audacity to demand concessions from China and other countries and then ram through a disastrous deal.

And the European countries meanwhile-posed as the “green capitalists,” while Danish police spied on, beat, pepper sprayed and preemptively arrested at least 1,500 people out to fight for a planet that is livable. These “green capitalists” floated out that they might agree to cut greenhouse emissions 20 percent or maybe more by 2020—if their rivals in the U.S. would also cut much more, and as they also sought to enforce stringent cuts on oppressed countries. All the time European Union countries tried to portray themselves as the real champions of the earth. The world press talked about how the Kyoto treaty has been the only treaty that set binding limits on developed nations to cut emissions. But the blinding and hardly mentioned reality is that over the time of Kyoto—from 1997 until today—emissions in the European countries as a whole, have actually risen 5 percent (UK Guardian)!

Meanwhile, China and India—countries still under the domination of imperialist powers but seeking to develop into modern capitalist powers—also refused to make any binding emissions cuts, precisely because of this need to expand and “grow their economies.” While China has surpassed the U.S. in global emissions, a central point is that this is largely because China is now the workshop and sweatshop of the world—integrated into a global network of capitalist production. Fully one-third of China’s emissions have been linked to production for export, overwhelmingly goods produced by cheap exploited masses of proletarians for consumption in the rich imperialist countries. What this means is that all the investments in China by the imperialist countries, taking advantage of the low wages and lack of safety and environmental standards amounts to just offloading pollution from the rich countries onto China.

And this production fueled by international capital has led to a situation where 7 of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in China. 80 percent of China’s major rivers are so degraded they don’t support aquatic life and 90 percent of all groundwater systems under the major cities are contaminated. Even with the surge of emissions in China, still 75 percent of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere is the result of emissions from the advanced capitalist countries. The U.S. with 5 percent of the world’s people, still produces 25 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide. This amount is 30 percent when the emissions from the U.S. military, which aren’t included in any of the account books, are added on. And the U.S. produces 4 times more greenhouse pollution per person than China.

The Cause... and the Barrier to Solving Global Warming

Copenhagen didn’t “fail” due to a “lack of will” on the part of the participants, or simply because there are just “too many divisions” that could be overcome by these leaders putting the planet first. Yes, the dominant forces in power are facing some very extreme environmental problems too—but they are, and showed themselves to be, only capable of addressing them within the confines of their systems of production which is the problem in the first place.

Capitalism is both the cause, and the barrier to solving, global warming.

Copenhagen’s decisions are the result of power being in the hands of a system that is driven to maximize profit, to continually grow and expand—and ruthlessly out-compete others seeking to do the same. And it is impossible for this system to rupture out of this without tremendous dislocation and an overturning of all its structures of accumulation of capital and unending growth. This was supposed to be the summit where—after science has made dramatically clear that global warming threatens life on the planet—that drastic and mandatory cuts to greenhouse emissions were finally made. Instead, this summit was, and could only be, about the dominant players seeking to force concessions on competitors while preserving their own economic advantage, letting the planet and its people go die.

Life on this planet faces a crossroads. We don’t have much time—the planet cannot be left in the hands of this system of capitalism-imperialism. This summit should go down in history as a meeting of historic criminality and shame further showing this system is simply incapable of doing anything but destroying the environment. But there is a way out. We have principles of socialist sustainable development that are capable of totally reorganizing society along different lines. And we have the more scientific and vibrant communism of Bob Avakian—a way to unleash the tremendous creativity and enthusiasm of masses on a scientific basis to tackle what would be extremely challenging environmental problems. These approaches offer real hope of preserving the ecosystems of the planet and humanity, and creating a world people could live and flourish in. We must confront the stakes of the global environmental emergency and have this fuel our determination and imagination. And we must work urgently to spread this revolution and to develop resistance to the crimes of this system on the environment and many other fronts as part of developing a revolutionary movement that can bury this system before it’s too late

Bengali People’s March Editor, Publisher Still Held in Jail

Express India, December 16 2009

Kolkata : The ban on the People’s March — a mouthpiece of the Maoists — was lifted by the Press & Registration Appellate Board (PRAB) over three months ago. But two persons arrested in Kolkata have been in jail since owing to their association with the publication. The state police officers plead ignorance about the lifting of the ban.

Swapan Dasgupta, editor of Bengali version of People’s March and Sadananda Singha, its publisher, were picked up from their homes in Garia by the Special Branch of Kolkata Police on October 7. The press in Maniktala Industrial Area was raided and all documents and equipment were seized. They were charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for publishing a banned periodical that allegedly contained “seditious matter”, even though the ban had been lifted. And they were remanded in judicial custody.

A senior officer of Kerala Police said: “The People’s March was proscribed in February 2008 after the Ernakulam District Collector banned it on January 15 on the ground that it indulged in publishing seditious matters, exhorting the public to take up arms for violent struggle and promoting divisive tendencies in the country.” But a ruling of the PRAB on August 7 this year set aside the Collector’s order and held that “the magazine regains its force and becomes operative with immediate effect.” The Board, comprising Chairman Justice K N Ray and member Ramesh Gupta, said as per Section 8(b) of the Press and Registration of Books Act, no publication could be banned on these grounds. The ruling stated: “Seditious offences may be taken cognizance of under the IPC or other relevant laws.”

Jacob Punnoose, Director General of Police, Kerala, said: “In December 2007, we arrested P Govindan Kutty, the editor, publisher and printer of the periodical.” Later, the state government decided to ban the publication after issuing an order. However, the PRAB has quashed the order. “But I cannot comment on why the ban was lifted by the PRAB,” he added.

Kutty, the 63-year-old editor, had appealed to the Board against the ban, and in August, after nine months, it allowed the publication to restart. “The PRAB has allowed me to come out with the magazine once again, the first issue has been published in November,” Kutty said on phone from Ernakulam, Kerala. The issue has an interview of Central Committee member of the CPI(Maoists), Ganapathi as its lead article.

“The West Bengal Government has taken a step worse than the Kerala government,” he said. “I was arrested by the Kerala Police and subsequently my magazine was banned.” But Swapan Dasgupta was arrested for publishing a banned magazine at a time when the ban had already been lifted, Kutty said. Dasgupta was slapped with a case under UAPA. “But where does the case stand if the ban does not exist? I have decided to appeal to the court for the release of two innocent persons.”

The DGP, Bhupindar Singh, said: “Dasgupta and Singha were arrested for publishing a banned magazine which is the mouthpiece of the Maoists. We are yet to receive any written order saying the ban has been lifted.” Ashok Bakshi, a senior Public Prosecutor of the state, however, said: “If the ban on the magazine does not exist then legally they should be released. But the case is pending in Sealdah court.”