Revolution in Nepal: A Debate
By Stephen Mauldin at Jun 25, 2009
SUMMARY OF THE DISCUSSION HELD IN LONDON ON 09/05/09 ON THE POLITICAL LINE OF THE UNIFIED COMMUNIST PARTY OF NEPAL (MAOIST)
This post consists of the article replicated on the Kasama site by John Steele from its original location on Democracy and Class Struggle. I have pasted the content as well as John's commentary below - but first preceded by my own commentary on the article:
Commentary by Stephen David Mauldin
Just a few quick points – Good to see there was appropriate resistance to RCPUSA misunderstandings at this conference. A couple of glaring gaps : the thinking that participation in government was a main front is wrong and the militant capability of the YCL appears to be discounted along with no mention of that of the unions. In my recent interview with C P Gajurel he emphasized that withdrawal from government was withdrawal from the least significant of the three fronts.
The more important front is the use of the CA and far the most important is the front found on the streets. I also met with Ganesh Man Pun leader of the YCL and met with Ganesh Regmi who heads the All Nepal Federation of Unions. These two are somewhat frustrated that the UCPN (M) will not sanction their taking aggressive action against the NA. All the concern about the reactionaries now regaining control is unfounded. They government under UMLs government of NC directed Indian puppets cannot do anything without the Maobadi participation.
There is absolutely no fear of the NA and no government will be possible until they sack Katawal and PLA infiltration of the NA establishes civilian supremacy. The house and the normal functioning of all infrastructures can be shut down at will on the streets. The critical juncture is the CA where peaceful creation of the new constitution can continue albeit under pressure from the streets. The NC/UML government only exists by the whims of the Tarai faction support moving under the circumstances to consolidate their own new opportunity to gain power.
The revolution is very healthy and robust and so about the revolution occurring itself the RCP need not fret. However, as was pointed out by some in the article, to what extent this is a communist revolution is a real issue. The Maobadi leadership is well grounded in theory and working to reflect or engage theory with practice and practice with theory (as far as the state power issue is concerned through democratic centralism). Yet it is no doubt true that the great majority of Maoist supporters is simply oppressed classes sick of their condition and wave the hammer and sickle in ignorance of the communist hypothesis. The hope is that they are learning through practice and experience (the recent exposure of the real nature of the reactionaries in their SC manipulations, illegal presidential action, and moves against civilian supremacy have been very revealing to the populace – especially in their seeing the hand of India).
A return to open and swiftly successful violence is an option but one to be avoided if possible (it’s not a question of its potential). It is the Maobadi tactic to apply the pressure open on the streets to garner the 2/3 CA vote to create the constitution they want to see. Who in the meantime is trying to run the government is not that important. As for the government the thing that is important is that they be forced to give up their standing army in service to the reactionaries, to fire Katawal and give way to the integration in cooperation with the UCPN (M) and other anti-imperialist parties. Technocratic government functions can continue uncorrupted by feudalistic and imperialistic agendas.
Success via the use of the CA will create a New Nepal government of a specific nature. It is to be in effect a dictatorship of the proletariat. A democratic centralist government made up of a multi-party coalition excluding parties controlled by oppressor classes but including parties representing oppressed classes is the goal. The intent is to eliminate the reactionaries in a process which expressly leads to the withering away of that state. It is in that withering away that the greatest challenge will come. There are still relatively few who are actually communists.
The original article:
A presented the views of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA on the current political position of the UCPN(M). He said that fundamental political principles were at stake because the leadership of the UCPN(M) are taking steps to destroy the revolution in their country.
It is not simply a question of the correctness of the tactics being employed but a question of a change of strategy. Is the line of the party aimed at achieving a new democratic republic or a bourgeois democratic republic? During the People’s War a new revolutionary state emerged alongside the old reactionary state. Now the revolutionary state has been delegitimised and the reactionary state relegitimised.A said that some comrades who have concerns about the pronouncements and actions of the Maoist leaders are taking a wait and see attitude, of restraining from criticism and continuing to support the UCPN(M) leadership in the hope that errors will be rectified. He compared this to the stance of Maoists who after the reactionary coup in China in 1976 refrained from criticising the new leadership of the Communist Party of China although it was clear that they were deviating from the socialist road.
A particularly criticised the content of the article ‘The Question of Building a New Type of State’ by Baburam Bhattarai (The Worker, No. 9, Feb. 2004). He objected to what he said was Bhattarai’s suggestion that multi-party elections might be possible within a new state and that a phase of bourgeois democracy is required in Nepal. Bhattarai has overlooked the fact that the essence of the state is an army and bureaucracy. There seemed to be no awareness of or engagement with the important work of Bob Avakian (Chairman of the RCP, USA) on these key questions. Following on from the position put forward in this article in 2005 the Central Committee of the UCPN(M) adopted a plan for a “transitional state”. Since then there has been talk of a “joint dictatorship of the proletariat and bourgeoisie” which ignores the fact that the bourgeoisie will make no real concessions if they consider that their fundamental interests are threatened.
The Turkish comrades have with reference to their own party’s line in the past talked about how “tactics can eat up strategy”. This is what has happened in the Nepalese party with the tactic of standing in elections having become a strategic line. Instead of waging people’s war being the path to defeating the reactionary classes, winning seats in the Constituent Assembly and forming a government within the reactionary state became the main objective.
A said that Nepal does need a real new democratic revolution. It is necessary to outlaw imperialist and feudal property forms. Talk from some Maoist leaders about Nepal becoming “the Switzerland of Asia” is outright reactionary. What do they want: more capitalist development or socialism?
The leadership of the UCPN(M) are ignoring the dynamic role of theory, of the serious application of materialist dialectics, and have descended into ecclectics, trying to combine fundamentally incompatible elements into a coherent political line.
B criticised the claim by the UCPN(M) that multi-party competition in elections is possible within a new democratic republic or a socialist one without this leading to the full restoration of the rule of the reactionary classes. What is more, the UCPN(M) is putting forward the line of multi-party elections as not just appropriate for the specific conditions of Nepal but as one valid for the whole international revolutionary struggle. Multi-party competition is appropriate for the bourgeoisie which is divided into different factions but not for the proletariat which has developed its own organs for exercising state power such as the Soviets in Russia and the Revolutionary Committees in China. Multi-party elections under a revolutionary regime would provide an opportunity for the reactionary classes to regain power. The way in which proletarian power can be established and consolidated is by the members of this class actively exercising control at all levels of the different aspects of the state, economy and other aspects of society. The correct method for dealing with emergent bourgeois elements in the revolutionary party and state apparatus is by waging Cultural Revolution, not by holding periodic multi-party elections.
C reminded those present that Lenin had said that “the heart and soul of Marxism is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions” but the critique of the line of the UCPN(M) by the RCP, USA made little reference to the particularity of the extremely complex nexus of antagonistic contradictions present in Nepalese society – class, caste, national/ethnic, religious, gender, etc.. Some comrades overlook the necessity for careful handling of these contradictions in order to maintain and strengthen unity among the supporters of the revolution. This means that the path towards the establishment of New Democracy will not be straightforward. The Nepalese comrades are well aware that they have not destroyed the old reactionary state. On his visit to Nepal last autumn Comrade Bosanta said to him that “Although we have formed a government, we do yet have state power.” He explained that the old Nepalese Army still existed and that the old administrative bureaucracy was still in place.
Some comrades, including the RCP,USA, seem to embrace a very simple model of revolution. The way they see it is that a revolutionary party starts waging a people’s war which eventually results in the complete military defeat and destruction of the reactionary armed forces and the whole state of which they are a part. Then a completely new state based on the revolutionary classes is established. The historical reality of actual revolutions, both bourgeois and proletarian, is much more complex. If we examine the course of the Russian and Chinese revolutions then we see a complex process with many twists and turns. The same is true of Nepal.
Both Comrade Gajurel, on his visits to London, and the Divisional Commander of the People’s Liberation Army 5th. Division talking to C in Nepal, have explained that careful consideration was given, on several occasions, to the PLA attempting a military assault in the Kathmandu Valley, supported by popular insurrection within Kathmandu, with the objective of seizing the capital city, the seat of the reactionary state apparatus. Both in terms of personnel and weaponry, the former Royal (now Nepal Army) is far superior to the PLA. While the PLA was able to win control of eighty per cent of the country’s area by waging guerrilla warfare against the police and army, the Party and PLA leaders did not consider that they could win in a conventional, set piece battle around Kathmandu. In making this judgment they were mindful of the experience of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Thus it was decided that another, more indirect way would have to be found to deal with the army of the reactionary state.
Now the Maoist-led government has sacked the general commanding the Nepal Army who is refusing to go. This has provoked a political crisis with the government resigning. This development serves to make it clear to the masses that the old rulers will not go voluntarily. Also the other political parties are in chaos, both between and within themselves, so they are not likely to be able to form a viable government and this will further undermine their support.
C said that it certainly is correct for communists from different countries to criticise each other’s political actions but that in the case of the UCPN(M) our position should be first we support them and only secondarily do we criticise them. But the position of the RCP,USA is first we criticise them and only secondarily do we give some grudging support. This is incorrect.
D, (who spent a considerable period working for an NGO in Nepal), said that in his opinion a large section of the Nepalese people support the UCPN(M) even though he thought that there had been a certain amount of intimidation during the Constituent Assembly elections and subsequently some unnecessary violence between the Maoists and their political opponents. However, what the people were demanding in the mass protests of April 2006 was the end of King Gyanendra’s autocratic rule in place of the elected parliament. Most of the demonstrators had not been demanding a people’s republic leading to socialism and communism. Most of the supporters of the UCPN(M) were not very politically sophisticated and the Party would lose leadership of the masses if they try to move forward too rapidly. Also at that time many people had become weary of a continuing state of war and if the UCPN(M) had ignored these sentiments then they would have lost a lot of support.
E pointed out that the views of Nepalese comrades were not represented because no Nepalese were present. It may be necessary to criticize the political strategy of a fraternal party but for that we need an international centre where differing views can be debated. The RCP,USA is very dogmatic. There are no simple or readymade solutions to Nepal’s problems. It has taken eighty years for the Indian comrades to reject the appraisal that the Indian land system is a feudal one. The theoretical understanding by Marxists of democratic revolution is inadequate. Mao’s presentation of new democracy has not solved all of the problems. Most of the socialist societies in pre-semi-feudal countries have ended up in developing capitalism.
The international aspect of the struggle in Nepal is very important because the USA wants to control the whole of South Asia through India. As for the land question in Nepal, E is unsure if the land taken from the landlords is being returned to them or parallel administrations are being withdrawn
F said that it is not just tactical questions that are at stake but strategic ones as well. The Maoists in Nepal have become part of the bourgeois state and are not serving the cause of communism. It is not just comrades who have visited Nepal who have a right to speak. The achievements of the People’s War have been lost. Eighty per cent of the country is no longer under revolutionary rule and the Nepal Army come and go as they please. If she were to follow the logic of the Nepalese comrades then she should be supporting the bourgeoisie in her own country (Turkey). There must be a rupture with the logic of concentrating on making revolution in one’s own country. Making revolution is an international task.
G said that this issue is not just a debate between the RCP,USA and the UCPN(M). Nor is it one confined to comrades immediately involved in the struggle in Nepal as some comrades are suggesting. It is possible for comrades outside of Nepal to acquire objective knowledge of conditions inside Nepal and thus make an accurate assessment of the political situation there. Indeed, it is our duty as communists to do so and with we think the Nepalese comrades are making errors then we should say so. It is not true to say that the PLA could not defeat the Royal Army.
H said that the strategy of the UCPN(M) had been that of people’s war but now it has been reduced to being a tactic. They gave up the armed struggle because the enemy is bigger. If one takes up the position of saying that comrades in one country cannot criticise the actions of those in another then this is a nationalistic position and is incorrect. The parliamentary path that the UCPN(M) has taken is wrong.
I said that the UCPN(M) had adopted its present political line back at its National Congress in 2002. Since then the Turkish Maoists of the Maoist Communist Party of Turkey/North Kurdistan have been concerned about the tactics adopted by the Nepalese party and one and a half years ago issued a statement criticising these tactics. The new, incorrect political line of the UCPN(M) is being disguised as a change of tactics. (J emphasised that he was expressing a personal opinion rather than acting as a spokes person for his party.) A Khrushchev-type line of “peaceful coexistence” and “peaceful cooperation” is being applied in Nepal. Even so, it would still be possible for the Nepalese comrades to change this incorrect line.
A reiterated his earlier comments. Further, he pointed out that the UCPN(M) now say that the Nepal Army have two contradictory aspects, “pro-feudal” and “anti-imperialist”. This is clearly ridiculous.
B said that the UCPN(M) is negating the leading role of the communist party. Their lines on the question of democracy and the question of imperialism, especially as formulated by Bhattarai, are quite incorrect.
D reiterated his opinion that in 2006 the people were war weary and wanted to get rid of the king, not establish a socialist state. It would have been a grave mistake to continue with the military struggle at that time.
E said that revolutionary struggles in industrially backward countries such as Nepal cannot ultimately succeed without support from struggles by the working class in the imperialist countries. Therefore, it is essential that the RCP(USA) acts responsibly. He said that Comrade Gujurel had explained that on three separate occasions the Nepalese comrades had considered a military assault against the Royal Army forces in the Kathmandu Valley and each time had concluded that such an action would fail. We cannot decide from outside whether or not they were right not to proceed with such actions. K claimed that the political line of the UCPN(M) is essentially correct but that some of their tactics e.g. not involving the people during parliamentary negotiations is questionable and he had conveyed his worries to Cde Gajurel in this respect..
M said that if there is a military coup in Nepal then this could annihilate the revolutionary forces or they could prevail. We have no definite measure whereby we can decide if a party is revisionist or not but the RCP,USA method of debating questions of line is a correct approach. In 1945 in China there were negotiations between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang on forming a coalition government. Mao made concessions to Chiang Kai-shek. He agreed to reduce the size of the Chinese Red Army and this was not a bluff. However Chiang Kai-shek went back on the military offensive so the civil war resumed. However, if the coalition government had been formed there would not have been a revolution. In China after 1949 there existed a number of different political parties but they were cooperating with, not competing with, the Communist Party of China.
The important thing is according to which political line will the Nepalese revolution be realised. Also there is the real problem of Nepal’s geographical position between China and India.
Are we to be in solidarity with the Nepalese comrades or not? We should support them because matters have not yet reached the point where we should not.
B said that in terms of considering the issue of multi-party competition the Chinese model is not a good one to take. Multi-party elections within a revolutionary regime are essentially incorrect.
C took up the issue of who had a right to speak on the revolutionary struggle in Nepal. Some other speakers had claimed that some comrades are saying that if one is not in Nepal or has not visited there then one is not sufficiently formed to make an accurate analysis. H1 said that no one was making this claim. However the principle of “no investigation, no right to speak” should apply. M had claimed that 80% of Nepal was no longer under control of the revolutionary forces and that the Nepal Army came and went as they please. In fact the Village Development Committees (local government bodies) in the areas in question largely consist of Maoists. Both the Nepal Army and the PLA are confined to barracks and camps and cannot go outside as armed, military formations. Individual soldiers of both armies can move around on leave, for leisure, etc..
C took issue with the approach of the RCP,USA to the line of the UCPN(M). He said that the RCP,USA had played a very good international role back in the nineteen eighties when they took the lead in rallying Maoist parties and organisations around the world leading to the formation of RIM. However there was a negative side to a party based in the major imperialist country taking on this role. Culture runs deep and even among conscious communists some traits remain of the bourgeois culture in which they have been formed. In the case of the RCP,USA this comes through as a certain arrogance whereby they think that they are always right, especially with respect to assessing the political struggles of comrades in imperialistically-dominated countries. One example is that in the late nineteen eighties there was an issue of A World to Win devoted to describing and analysing the Naxalite uprising in India. After this issue came out the Indian comrades affiliated to RIM were outraged because they had not even been consulted on the writing of the articles, even though some of them were participants in this armed struggle. The same sort of know-all arrogance on the part of the RCP,USA is manifest in their approach to criticism of the UCPN(M).
Some comrades seem to think that a revolutionary communist party should keep itself completely apart from the institutions of a reactionary state. But the Bolsheviks participated in the Tsarist Duma and in 1936-7 the Communist Party of China formally subjugated itself to the Kuomintang Republic of China which just before had been trying to exterminate it. These were tactical moves that facilitated the implementation of the revolutionary strategies of these parties. Simply because the Nepalese Maoists have participate in the elections to the Constituent Assembly and formed a government does not necessarily mean that they have abandoned a revolutionary strategy.
C knows from what he saw and was told by the PLA during his visit last autumn and from recent, (rather ill-advised) communications from a current visitor that the PLA and the YCL are making preparations to fight again if it is necessary. H1 certainly has some reservations about some aspects of the policies of the UCPN(M). For example, Bhattarai’s plan to bring in foreign firms to carry out development projects such as building dams. Even so, now is not the time, at this crucial juncture, to publicly condemn the UCPN(M) as having abandoned the struggle for revolution. Firstly we should support our Nepalese comrades and only secondarily should we criticise them. The RCP,USA has taken the opposite position and thus the contradiction between it and the UCPN(M) has become antagonistic.
R said the UCPN(M) have dissolved the red political power that was established in Nepal. The Maoists in the Village Development Committees are applying the policies of the reactionary state. They are telling the people that real change can be brought about through the reactionary state and this is wrong.
John Steele's commentary:
The unfolding revolution in Nepal, led by the Maoists of the UCPN(M), posescpn-demonstration sharp questions for Maoists – and for revolutionaries generally in the world – in the following sense: Are revolutions made by following a recipe drawn up in advance? Have previous successful revolutions shown a path, and created a template, which must be followed if the revolution is not to be betrayed? Or does every new revolutionary process demand creative development and the rethinking of old lessons?
At Kasama we have made clear that we believe that revolutions are only made through seriously deep and creative interactions with the circumstances of particular places and times, and it is exactly this that we have seen in the practice of the Maoists of Nepal. And while we don’t know – can’t know – that their revolution will succeed, that all their tactics are free from error, or that this revolutionary process will forever remain truly revolutionary, we hail their breakthroughs in this world so sorely in need of revolutionary overturning, and we support their revolution.
These two opposing lines are sharply on display in the following report, along with some of the particularities of the revolution in Nepal. This is a report on discussion at a May 9 meeting in London, called by the RCPUSA, to discuss the political line of Nepal’s Maoist party.