Kunal Chattopadhyay has a really great piece on the development of Naxalism and strategies for theoretical engagement with them here.
A few notable lines from the piece:
The assumption that only the most exploited were revolutionary, meant the exclusion of the organised workers, those having a little better pay or working conditions. This of course ignored the reality that they had obtained those slight gains because of militant struggles, not because the ruling class was buying them up through bribes.
Another passage on how Maoism actually helped refocus attention on class struggle in India:
The party documents, the writings of several outstanding leaders of this current, or the party papers, like Deshabrati (Bangla), Liberation, all showed a refreshing return to the concept of class struggle. Ever since the dismissal of the 1957 Kerala government, the underlying content of the inner-party debate in the CPI was whether the “progressive bourgeoisie” were in the Congress or in the bourgeois opposition parties, and who should be the allies in the bid to form governments. This has of course been the recurrent debate in the mainstream Stalinist left all the way to the present. Prakash Karat’s Third Front was an attempt to patch together a bloc of regional forces, in opposition to the line advocated by others, such as Sobhanlal Datta Gupta in Mainstream. Stripping aside the veil of theory and polish, the Maoists of the 1960s revealed that debate for the opportunistic struggle for loaves and fishes by bureaucratic leaders that it really was. And by raising the slogan, “Never forget class struggle”, they made class struggle a reality, in a way it had not been for a considerable period.
And how Maoists have been responsible for empowering women:
Neither the party, nor its struggles, were often gendered. At the same time, the Maoist movement did provide an impetus for many young women as well as men. As Kalpana Sen points out, the inspiration provided by the movement was immense. Till the mid-sixties, in most women’s colleges, there were no directly elected unions. Girls nominated by the authorities ran the unions. The militant student-youth movement of the mid to late 1960s changed that picture. Women also took part in the ideological struggles around the Naxalbari peasant struggles. They fought in the jails, put up red flag, and confronted the jailers. Moreover, the path of Naxalbari meant challenging existing values in a way that the mainstream left had not been doing for a long time. Among these was a rebellion against domestic discipline and conservatism. That so many young women came to the new party was because, in Sen’s words, “the opportunity to breathe in free air”. Failure to identify patriarchy as a distinct enemy to be combated may have limited the endeavours of these cadres. But the call to immediately join the revolution was something that enabled them to overcome in practice many of the constraints of patriarchy.
Finally, an excellent critique of Maoist political theory:
The major problem that the legacy of the original path of Naxalbari left was however its rejection of the rality of bourgeois democracy and the need to work out a new strategy to fight for revolution in a country where a bourgeois democracy does exist. An idealisation of bourgeois democracy does no good. It is a very restricted democracy. Yet even that, by providing certain apparent alternatives, keeps a grip on masses. Secondly, the legacy of Stalinism, its distorted democratic centralism where the leadership has too little accountability to the party ranks, also has been a major problem. Moreover, the legacy of Stalinism has meant a legacy of the two-stage theory of revolution and popular frontism, or alliances with bourgeois partners, as revealed by the Trinamool-supporting Naxalites of 2009. Finally, if workers who demand democracy, or party members who form tendencies over ideological conflicts, are immediately branded capitalist roaders, or thrown out of the party, then one will forever split into two, two will never unite into one. Not “revolutionary authority”, but workers democracy is the answer here. But in order to carry this task to the end, to turn to revolutionary Marxism, one has to subject the path of Naxalbari to a more thoroughgoing critique, without giving up its revolutionary inspiration.