Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Maoist Debate in Nepal - Part 3

Part 1 of this series of entries provided back ground on why there is fear the Maoists are merely engaging in a strategic process aimed at ending parliamentarian government and creating a communist party state. At the same time it was pointed out that in the ranks of the Maoists, is another fear of a reactionary or reformist “Maoist” controlled country that leaves Nepal subjected to an elite class within the coordinates of global capitalist power. The first aspect of my opinion was that those who are rebellious have already jumped to the conclusion that they have the right to rebel and it would be better to continue vigilance at this point about whether the path being proposed by Prachanda and Bhattarai is merely a quantitative accumulation based on the collaboration with existing parliamentary power or whether it engenders a qualitative leap in its application of Marxist theory (the theme of my analysis of current events in Nepal has been developed in the context of theoretical questions, specifically with reference to the ideas of Alain Badiou on Mao’s fidelity to the communist hypothesis).

Writing Part 2 coincided with a stunning development: announcement of a unified statement by the Maoist’s that, although they are participating in the institution of a democratic republic, the question of a single party people’s republic is to remain open. I went into some articles and opinion that were quite rancorous by those opposed to the Prachanda/Bhattarai line. The synthesis of the two sides of the debate, as I discussed, seemed a resounding defeat for these opponents. At the same time it was noted that the new position may prove problematic in garnering international support. As anticipated, the present entry is to take a closer look at the positions of those advocating an immediate move to a people’s republic, and also return to my thesis: the Nepal Maoist’s application of theory in contradiction with practice may prove to be an event ushering in a novel phase of Maoism, a new phase in evolution of the communist hypothesis that might be the kind of event anticipated by Badiou’s analysis of prior periods of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist history as indicative of needing a new manifestation of fidelity .

I will proceed in Part 3 by examining a series of articles by prominent Maoists who are to lesser or greater degree suggesting a theoretical argument counter to the new government’s performance, to the theory in practice as “Prachanda Path”. Most interestingly, we will see these propositions are not actually as “hardline” as they have been portrayed by many. In fact, it may become clearer why the recent synthesis has occurred. Finally, we may see the concept of “people’s republic” itself as subjected to a radical transformation.

The article below was written by Kul Prasad KC “Sonam”. He was one of 11 Maoists released from Indian prisons in 2006 during the negotiations of the ceasefire between the Royal Army and the Maoists insurgents at that time. Subsequently he has been the CPN (M) State Committee head for regional restructuring on the basis of ethnic autonomy for the Seti-Mahakali region. Excerpts are provided:

The CPN (M) Debate: Revolution or Reform

"Nepal is still in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal state. No drastic change has occurred; there can be no change in contradiction in the political situation until there is a fundamental change in the mode of production.. still the same solutions; national and sovereign independence against semi-colonial domination.. the feudalistic mechanism still exists.. everything is taking place under the global programme of imperialism.. we should.. build an anti-imperialist front.. strengthen the concept of Coordinating Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA).. against Indian intervention and for a comprehensive front against American Imperialism.. develop the concept of struggle for national liberation.. not only.. point of view of building a united front, but also from the point of view of an ideological and political united front.. we have established the Federal Republic of Nepal. However, it is not clear whom the republic serves.. increasing role of foreign powers.. show that the contradictions are not being solved; rather they are sharpening.. have already reached the theoretical decision that the proletarian class cannot be victorious until and unless it develops the best military and ideological tactics.. debate is on ideology.. debate.. over Marxism or reformism.. forms of tactics because the previous movements of the proletarian class have.. collapsed.. when they have obtained power.. to analyze and synthesize it from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.. does it fit with Marxism.. or has it served reformism.. continuation of the great debate between China and the USSR after the death of Stalin.. the dialectical process and method should be applied. ."

The analysis by “Sonam” is well balanced in my opinion because it does not condemn the prevailing Prachanda/Bhattarai line outright, yet it states clearly there has not as yet been a fundamental change in the mode of production. It is true, so far the contradiction is not being solved and the focus must be on this in the ideological debate and its dialectic with practice in the days to come. The first part of this series went into some detail on the nature of this dialectic according to Alain Badiou. Development of these ideas for the Nepal context is the objective of the present post. First, however, it is important to add to the context with some of the main concerns that have been voiced from among many text resources from those who, unlike “Sonam” have already concluded that the Prachanda/Bhattarai line is essentially corrupt – I summarize the points:

1. The policy of wooing support from the World Bank and other capitalist investors, including China, will ultimately go the way of many other neocolonial projects of the global elite class in many places in the rest of the world. Underdevelopment will be the result, not development: it will create the same result in Nepal – neoliberal colonization and preservation of semifeudal poverty.

2. Prachanda/Bhattarai practice is packaged as anti-feudal and in support of industrialization, but the real aim is to attract foreign investment in energy and other key sectors, only resulting in foreign, imperialist domination and exploitation rather than an anti-imperialist line.

3. Building infrastructure (roads, bridges, hydroelectric projects, etc.) will really be targeted to promote the colonial export of people, products and tourist services and to import foreign-made industrial goods to Nepal . Worse, better infrastructure will be employed militarily by imperialist powers to suppress the revolution.

4. The policies outlined in Bhattarai’s budget planning will result in the loss of revolutionary peasant advances in agrarian development initiated by their taking control of lands and property from comprador bourgeoisie and feudal landlords – a contradiction of the theory and practice demonstrated by Mao in China. Rather the new policy is about pooling domestic and foreign capital; about establishing credit-based capitalist debt and interest system that will serve instead institution of subjugated rural cooperatives.

5. These practices, Maoist in name only, will never lead to a people’s republic; they will entrench the democratic parliamentary republic of the reformist type with promotion of the purchase of foreign goods and consultancy – in short an elitist power system for the bourgeoisie class. This will be supplemented by an emphasis on technical education initiatives (though needed), but will neglect education of the proletariat about the imperialist roots of social problems.

Those points summarize pretty well I think the fears of the “hardliners”. Here is some of the kind of international press releases on which they base their condemnation:

Prachanda Seeks Mega Investment in Nepal

Prachanda: Public-Private partnership (PPP) Best Model for Economic Development

But wait. What is really interesting is if you look at what Mohan Baidya “Kiran” and Chandra Prakash Gajurel are actually saying in more detail. Kiran as you may recall is the prominent leader whose paper was synthesized with the position paper of Prachanda a few days ago – the result being a unified front which leaves open the question of an eventual people’s republic. Both Kiran and Gajurel had been pushing for an immediate move to the people’s republic rather than the continued collaboration in multi-party democratic republic development. Their leadership in this respect has fueled the “hardliner” perception and tagged them with this moniker. Further analysis shows that they do not consider themselves as “hardliners” in the sense they have been perceived. This may begin to make clear why the recent synthesis has been possible between sides of the debate.

First, consider the November 6 interview with Kiran I found published in Nepal Mountain News (excerpts provided):

Changing party tag an irrelevant issue: Mohan Baidya “Kiran”

"I feel that conspiracies are on to foil the Maoists’ established credentials.. specifically the revolutionary ideology of the Maoists is being targeted deliberately.. if one talks on ideological grounds he or she is labeled as a hardliner.. [There is a kind of competition among the Maoists and the UML in removing Maoist's name from the party tag].. As far as the UML is concerned, I personally feel that it is not even a Communist party.. However, in our case changing the party tag is irrelevant and illogical.. For us, Maoism is the party’s identity.. The political situation is such that it demands debates and discussions. That’s all.. we need to continuously rectify our mistakes as there is the concern among our supporters whether the party is deviating away from its prime ideological premises.. It is my belief that Democracy as such needs to be redefined in the Nepali context.. No compromise should be made on our ideology---this is what I believe.. [on his personal evaluation of the government performance].. It will only become a premature evaluation. We want to move ahead, yet we do not have the needed absolute majority. Old mindset prevails in the bureaucracy. Nevertheless we are determined in our set objectives."

Now consider what was said by Gajurel a week earlier. C.P. Gajurel, 59, is a politburo member and chief of the foreign affairs bureau of the CPN (Maoist) party. (excerpts):

Gajurel: on Multi-Party Democracy and Armies

"We feel that the performance of the government has not lived up to the party’s hopes. Because it is a coalition government, it hasn’t been able to work according to the policies of our party. . There is a mistaken belief that multi-party means parliament, the parliamentary system means democracy, and that no other form of democracy exists in the world.. But there are many political systems in the world that are not parliamentary but have multi-party competition.. In our multi-party system, there will be competition between parties.. It’s not necessary that, like in parliament, there has to be an opposition party and a ruling party. . In fact, there is no provision for an opposition in the interim constitution. Only after the Nepali Congress decided to stay in opposition did we decide to allow for it.. The state can’t just stop some parties from competing just because it wants to.. We haven’t deviated from our core ideology. . Our central committee took a decision to enter government.. it is true that this is a new exercise. Such an exercise hadn’t occurred in the world communist movement.. As communists, we define our party as one of unity in opposites. It is not monolithic. The different opinions in the party struggle against one another, and the party gains direction through this struggle.. The ‘Federal Democratic Republic’ line was definitely useful in bringing an end to the monarchy and establishing a republic. But do we now move forward or consolidate this form of republic?.. But has the Indian republic been able to solve its problems?.. We have to do better than that.. Now it is said that a ‘People’s Republic’ is a communist republic. But it is not communist. Neither is it socialist. It is basically a bourgeois republic, but it has many elements of socialism.. We want to move forward so that we don’t return to a feudal-type, capitalist-type of republic.. In that system not everything will be nationalized. Some elements will of course be nationalized, but private property and industry will exist.. bourgeoisie will be protected. The objective is to develop national capitalism. [on integration of the NPA and the PLA armies].. even though we had reached agreement in the past with the United Nations and other parties that integration would take place according to the Security Sector Reform (SSR) model, the Nepali Congress is bent on promoting the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation (DDR) model.. all verified Maoist combatants should be integrated into the Nepal Army (NA)."

Clearly, both Mohan Baidya “Kiran” and C.P. Gajurel in their recent statements demonstrate they are not Maoist “hardliners” in the sense they have been portrayed by those intent as Kiran says “to foil the Maoists’ established credentials.. specifically the revolutionary ideology of the Maoists”. Rather, as Gajurel says the Maoists lead by Prachanda “took a decision to enter government.. it is true that this is a new exercise. Such an exercise hadn’t occurred in the world communist movement.. ”. Yes, both Kirin and Gajurel are critical of the government’s performance so far, but Kirin has characterized this as nonetheless a “premature evaluation” – yet the “situation is such that it demands debates and discussions”. There is no dismissal of the fears of those who are indeed “hardliners” ready to revolt against Prachanda. As Kirin states “there is the concern among our supporters whether the party is deviating away from its prime ideological premises..”.; or Gajurel “different opinions in the party struggle against one another, and the party gains direction through this struggle..”. The real “hardliners” point to Kirin and Gajurel’s call for a “people’s republic” as soon as possible, to “move ahead” (Kirin), rather than “consolidate this [parliamentary]form of republic” (Gajurel). They are obviously thinking this call is a preservation of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line against Prachanda’s apparent reformism. How then are they to think of Gajurel saying the people’s republic called for “ not communist. Neither is it socialist. It is basically a bourgeois republic, but it has many elements of socialism.. ”? Instead, this explains the capacity for the Maoist leadership to form a unified front.

The point needs to be made, I think, that as Kirin says “Maoism is the party’s identity..”, that when Gajurel says the Nepali people’s republic is not to be communist, this is a kind of hyperbole. It is not communist in the sense of communism’s prior history. It is better characterized as a novel form of communism in which as he says “there are many political systems in the world that are not parliamentary but have multi-party competition.. In our multi-party system, there will be competition between parties.. It’s not necessary that, like in parliament, there has to be an opposition party and a ruling party. .”. Is there not the idea that communism should be both egalitarian and inclusive of all people. Does it really necessarily call for the elimination of the functions of the bourgeoisie in a form that is not exploitive of others? Consider the definition of the communist hypothesis as defined by Alain Badiou that was taken up in some detail in a prior post:

"What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto, ‘communist’ means, first, that the logic of class—the fundamental subordination of labour to a dominant class, the arrangement that has persisted since Antiquity—is not inevitable; it can be overcome. The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of massive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away."

The question remains. Will the Nepali Maoists manifest a novel form of communism in their vision of a people’s republic? There is nothing about this vision that a priori precludes the possibility of revolution against the logic of class despite the obvious dangers. We are in a completely different historical period calling not for a victory of the hypothesis as it existed and ultimately succumbed in prior phases, but as it calls for practice in the context of conflict between old and new theory in the modern context – Badiou:

"In many respects we are closer today to the questions of the 19th century than to the revolutionary history of the 20th. A wide variety of 19th-century phenomena are reappearing: vast zones of poverty, widening inequalities, politics dissolved into the ‘service of wealth’, the nihilism of large sections of the young, the servility of much of the intelligentsia; the cramped, besieged experimentalism of a few groups seeking ways to express the communist hypothesis . . . Which is no doubt why, as in the 19th century, it is not the victory of the hypothesis which is at stake today, but the conditions of its existence. This is our task, during the reactionary interlude that now prevails: through the combination of thought processes—always global, or universal, in character—and political experience, always local or singular, yet transmissible, to renew the existence of the communist hypothesis, in our consciousness and on the ground."

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