Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nepal: Revolution Reports (Prologue - Section 3)

I continue to set the scene for future reporting from Kathmandu. The initial section of this prologue essentially reviewed the nature and extent of prior blog entries on the Maoist revolution in Nepal and anticipated further orientation in subsequent prologue sections. In short, my interest in the Nepalese revolution deepened about four years ago, at which time I was concerned with the child-soldier issue and was also studying the early influence of anarchism on the Chinese in Paris who subsequently formed the Chinese communist party. I have in fact been based in China for almost 7 years, and about the same period of time before that in Central Asia, mainly Kazakhstan. At present I am transitioning out from Beijing and will go to Nepal, not knowing whether I will find grounds to follow my practice living there or not. It will be my second journey to Nepal, the last in early 2006 for a few weeks.

Thus it is that it has been just a few years that I have become a student of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism - and this primarily as a student of theory and one who has found a small scope of practice in "internet activism". There are two main elements in this practice: one has been to provide coverage and discussion of the evolving situation in Nepal, the other has been sharing my interest in the theories of the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou. Obviously I see some take on the practice of MLM in Nepal from the position of Badiou thought. I also follow closely discussion of the Nepal Maoist revolution by communist writers, most notable and active discussion has been taking place at the Kasama project. It was anticipated that I would begin to address that in this section of the prologue now, following an earlier section wherein I reviewed the decidedly non-communist evaluation and recommendations of the well known International Crisis Group.

The complex analysis of the theoretical and practical element in the Nepal Maoist's struggles by Mike Ely and the group of contributors at the Kasama project has been very interesting for me. I don't really have the deep knowledge of MLM to participate, but I certainly grok the spirit of the inquiry at the Kasama site inasmuch as it seems to invite an open and diverse set of opinions with the emphasis being "let's find out what's true together". I have commented a little on Mike Ely's writing on Alain Badiou, but he has not gone into it much other than to indicate an interest and appreciation of Badiou for further study. As I say, I mainly look to follow what is being discussed about Nepal. I can't help but be aware that Mike Ely leads a split from the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA.. but frankly I haven't had too much interest in commie vs commie party battles. I am a bit more into the continental communist philosophy debates such as the distinctions between Badiou and Deleuze - and of course the very recent Birkbeck conference where all the players were - Badiou, Zizek, Peter Hallward, Negri, Toscano, Bosteels et al. However, just in the last week I began to hear about and read that the RCPUSA has initiated a public polemic asserting the revisionism of the Nepal Maoists. The issue is also being taken up by the folks at Kasama. Practically at the same time the RCPUSA has issued a draft of a polemic stating Badiou's influence is a danger to world communism because he is essentially a throwback to Rousseau.

I will focus in the balance of this post on the latter RCP letters to the Maoists. A subsequent post will take up the Kasama discussion referencing the Maoist response as it provides a much deeper analysis of the issues beyond the rather simple refutation of the RCP polemic against the Nepal Maoist party. Later. in another post, I will address the Badiou polemic to similar effect.

The Kasama website provides the following link to a PDF of the RCP document: Two Lines Over Maoist Revolution in Nepal. There are several letters involved, only one of which was a response to the RCP by CPN (M) in 2006. The final letter early this year by the RCP is a public declaration against the Maoists. Then also the letter subsequent to the Maoist response. I will excerpt some major points from these first as they summarizes the series of letters and provide their critique of the Maoist response - later I will take up on the Maoist response letter itself, then finally outline the views from the Kasama project. Conclusion from the January 29 RCP letter to the Maoists:

"We are forced to conclude that this policy of keeping
our struggle internal is no longer appropriate under
the present circumstances. When the party leadership
has shown no interest in pursuing struggle over cardinal
questions of ideological and political line and where
the leading line and policies of the party itself are accelerating
in the wrong direction, to keep silent would
objectively represent acquiescence in this very path.
On the contrary, the circumstances require a vigorous
public discussion of the central ideological and political
questions involved.
We do not take this decision with joy of heart but
rather out of the deepest concern for the future of the
revolution in Nepal and its implications for the proletarian
revolutionary struggle internationally.
Just as we had decided that it is now correct to
take this course of action, an article written by Roshan
Kisson appeared in your English language journal Red
Star (#21) in which there is an open repudiation of the
whole of Marxism, beginning with Marx himself, an
open rejection of the whole experience of the proletarian
revolution up to this point, and an open proclamation
that the revolution in Nepal can do no more than
build a modern capitalist state, leaving the question of
the struggle for socialism and communism to future
As part of the anti-communist diatribe in Red Star
#21, Kisson launches a vicious and unprincipled attack
and personal slander on the leader of our party,
Chairman Bob Avakian, which is reprehensible and
unacceptable. We strongly protest the completely anticommunist
content of this article. To publish such an
article in a journal that is seen all over the world as a
vehicle for dissemination of your line and views constitutes
promoting views that are completely in opposition
to the goals and methods of communists that should
be upheld by the international communist movement.
We will proceed with publishing the three major
letters mentioned above along with the only response
we have received from you, unless we hear from you
by February 15, 2009 with a compelling reason for not
doing so."

Now from the RCP letter of November 2008:

".. the state system being established and consolidated
in Nepal is not New Democracy, the particular
form of the dictatorship of the proletariat appropriate
in countries like Nepal, but rather a bourgeois state, a
“federal democratic republic” which will preserve and
enforce the existing capitalist and semi‑feudal relations
of production prevalent in Nepal.
The People’s Liberation Army is to be destroyed
through “integration” into the reactionary state army
and/or dissolved by other means, land distributed by
the revolution to the peasantry is to be returned to
previous owners, Western imperialist powers and reactionary
states such as China and India are being hailed
as great friends of the Nepalese people, and astounding
theoretical propositions are being put forward such as
the “joint dictatorship of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie”.

Then later:

are not in a position to speculate or propose specific
tactical steps, and we do not see that as the role that
comrades in the international movement can or should
be playing. We must all focus our attention on major
matters of ideological and political line and not on secondary
matters of tactics or so-called “maneuvering”.
Most fundamentally this means reaffirming, ideologically
and in its political line and specific policies, that
the revolution in Nepal is seeking to establish socialist
relations in the country as part of the whole world
process by which the capitalist‑imperialist world order
will be overthrown and supplanted by socialism and
ultimately communism."


"This essential point – the need to maintain the
goal and orientation of fighting for New Democracy
and not substituting the goal of classless, “pure” democracy
(which can only mean bourgeois democracy,
whether federal and proportional or not) – was a major
theme of our October 2005 letter to the Party, which
the CPN(M) leadership dismissed as merely being
the “ABCs of Marxism” with no importance for analyzing
the specific questions of tactics and policy facing
the Party. But these “ABCs”, or more correctly put,
these basic truths of Marxism, confirmed in the course
of generations of revolutionary struggle all over the
world, remain crucial to the success or failure of the
revolution, and the rejection of these basic truths by the
CPN(M)leadership is what is leading the revolution
over the cliff."

After this the letter makes a nice presentation of how government of a truly new democratic republic should function and goes on to contrast the performance in Nepal of the Maoist led government with this standard:

"In all of these aspects the New Democratic system
represents something quite different from bourgeois
democracy. Bourgeois democracy accepts the capitalist
system in a given country and internationally. It offers
“equal rights” (especially the right to vote) to everyone
within the framework of the existing ownership system
and the existing relations of production. Bourgeois democracy
will always seek to demobilize the masses and
oppose and repress the efforts of the masses to assert
their own interests.. And we know that in a country like
Nepal, bourgeois rule, however “democratic”, inevitably
involves a great degree of compromise with semi-feudal
relations, as is seen so clearly in neighboring India.
The “rule of (bourgeois) law” so central to bourgeois
democracy means that government officials become
the agents and enforcers of bourgeois law. Isn’t this an
important lesson of the “Yadov affair”, when comrade
Matrika Yadov, the CPN(M) Minister of Land Reform
and Management in the new government, resigned over
his refusal to accept the use of state violence to evict
the peasantry off of land that had been redistributed to
them by the revolution? This shows quite clearly how
the government cannot help but function as an agent
of the reactionary production and social relations, and it
is a good illustration of Marx’s point that “the proletariat
cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state
machinery and wield it for its own purposes” but must
“smash it” and establish its own state."

The above is clearly something a "true communist" as they say would uphold. Yea, I like it, but it is not quite clear that the Maoist think otherwise.. in fact the RCP goes on to say the issue is still actually in question:

"The fundamental issue at stake in the debate over
the form of the state and the role of “multiparty democracy”
in Nepal today is actually about whether the
dictatorship of the proletariat (at the stage of New Democracy)
will be established. Indeed, as the Chinese
comrades pointed out during the epoch of Mao, all of
the great struggles between Marxism and revisionism
have been focused on the question of establishing and
persevering in the proletarian dictatorship, and this is
the case in Nepal today."

Some pages follow with some doctrine and history we can all appreciate. Again the implication not really substantiated is that somehow it is clearly the case that the Maoists in Nepal are following a contrary line.. if they are, then in still awaits in the rest of the letter to show that it is so. Next we see, the RCP has not exactly been correct is its prognostications regarding the Nepal Maoists:

"The most significant event that took place since
we sent our letter of March 19, 2008 has been the
Constituent Assembly elections, the emergence of the
CPN(M) as the largest party in the country and the
subsequent formation of a government with Comrade
Prachanda at its head.
One leading comrade of the CPN(M) described
this as “the election miracle”. And indeed, we ourselves,
like many other observers, were surprised by the result.
We had written in our March 19 letter: 'The most
likely result is that the CPN(M) will be defeated fairly
at the elections… If in the extremely unlikely event
that the Party did come to occupy the key positions
of government through this electoral process the very
alliance required, the entanglement in bourgeois political
institutions and with the international community
will ensure that there is no transfer of power to the
proletariat and the oppressed classes and no basis for
the state to carry out the revolutionary transformation
of society.'
What our party had predicted as 'extremely unlikely',
that is the emergence of a CPN(M)‑led government,
has come into being."

Oh, never mind.. it did not really mean anything:

"While it is true that the revolutionary
masses of Nepal voted for the CPN(M) out of
the love and respect won in the course of the People’s
War, the deferential treatment of the CPN(M) by the
bourgeoisie, imperialists and India came not from having
waged a People’s War but from having stopped one.
Any support from the middle classes and others for the
Party on this basis (having stopped the war) will not
further propel the Party toward completing the revolution
but act as a brake on it."

The RCP then develops the polemic with the prime example (which at this point as then remains an assumption) that the Maoist plan of integration of the NA and the PLA will result in essentially a reactionary army:

"All of Marxism as well
as contemporary social experience teaches again and
again that it is the armed forces that are the central and
decisive element of any state. The People’s Liberation
Army, which had been the pillar of the new state that
was being forged in the base areas, has been confined
to cantonments and is now threatened with liquidation
through the process of “integration” into the old reactionary
army. Without the PLA it will be impossible
to protect the transformations that have already taken
place in the base areas, to say nothing of extending
them throughout the whole country. We should never
forget Mao’s words that, “without a People’s Army, the
people have nothing”, nor the great sacrifices that were
required to build up a powerful PLA in Nepal.
Any idea that the Nepal Army, even if it swallows
up and digests part of the PLA, can be transformed
into a People’s Army, that it will become, in essence,
anything other than what it always has been, is worse
than ridiculous, it is extremely dangerous. As noted
earlier, the role of the Nepal Army will be to continue
to enforce the dominant social and production relations
that keep the masses enslaved."

Is this prognosis showing itself to be true? On the contrary, recent news has been centered on the Maoist moves outmaneuvering the reactionary parties by removing the top eight generals of the NA. The letter then goes on to admonish the Maoists for failing to see that the imperative at this point is to smash the state not to participate in its clearly bourgeois democracy. Again, however, current events see the Maoists issuing warning to the other parties against subterfuge, clearly putting forth the probability of renewed revolutionary violence and already establishing plans to develop the capacity of the masses to engage in armed resistance to Indian aggression.

The rest of the letter offers us the alternative to the supposed revisionist Nepal Maoist line - namely Bob's Communism:

"Now, when the first wave of proletarian revolution
that began with the Paris Commune and continued
through the Cultural Revolution in China has ended
and a new wave of proletarian revolution has yet to
break forth, questions of ideology have taken on a particular
importance. Bob Avakian has stepped forward
to the challenge of summing up the tremendous experience
of the first wave of proletarian revolution, its
grievous shortcomings as well as its heroic accomplishments,
and has brought forward a New Synthesis."

Those pesky Nepal Maoists however just seem to think and keep demonstrating they just may have their own working and workable tactics to reach the new democracy, a novel development in the communist hypothesis. They gave the RCP only one concise letter of reply and otherwise seem to be failing to appropriately respond to the RCP with its "actual communism of the twenty-first century":

"But unfortunately, the leadership of the CPN(M) has adopted an opposite approach that accepts the unscientific anti‑communist verdicts of the international bourgeoisie and renounces the dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transition toward socialism and communism. Instead, the very old ideology of bourgeois democracy is being presented as “Communism of the twenty-first Century” and the actual communism of the twenty-first century as it is concretely emerging is being ignored, belittled or opposed."

The next section is a criticism of the fact that the Maoists are studying the economic model of Switzerland. The implication is that this means the intention is to foster capitalist exploitation:

"A basic question is whether development must
come by being more integrated into the capitalist and
imperialist system – that is by welcoming and organizing
more capitalist exploitation – or whether the socialist
road is actually possible: building a viable and
emancipatory social and economic system that in a
fundamental sense is opposed to the world capitalist

This use of the study of Switzerland gets considerable play in the Kasama discussion outlined later. The exposition of the evils of China and others who allowed capitalism to consume the revolution is interesting, but in fact there is nothing to prove the Maoists actually intend to foster exploitation, only that they intend to participate in a period of capitalist development. This not a revision of Maoism, in fact it follows the line of Mao himself as can be seen here. The RCP however concludes the straw man attack with the wrong information about Mao's complete repudiation of capitalist methods for advancing productive forces:

"Despite the claims of the CPN(M) leaders that
they are aiming eventually to achieve a communist
society, in truth they completely confound democracy
and communism. They are themselves prisoners of
their own world outlook. Furthermore, the CPN(M)
leadership is falling into the age‑old revisionist error
that the achievement of communism depends primarily
on the further advance of the productive forces, to
be achieved by capitalist ends. This is precisely the line
that Mao and the revolutionaries in China fought out
in the course of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
against Liu Shao‑chi and later Deng Xiao‑ping."

There is no evidence that the Maoists are following the line of Deng Xiao-ping nor can it be said their planning is a revision of Mao's own policy of engaging capitalist modes of production under constraints preventing exploitation. Yes there is the danger of revisionism, but there is no evidence that this is the intention. The whole continuation of the RCP polemic vs the eclecticism
and centrism is rooted in the assumption that any engagement of capitalist modes is doomed:

"One of the particularities of centrism and eclecticism
is its refusal to make a clear‑cut demarcation between
Marxism and revisionism, but instead to try to
carve out a position “half‑way” between a revolutionary
communist ideology and politics and outright capitulation
and opportunism. In Nepal it is this form of centrist
revisionism that has become the greater danger,
not those who unabashedly proclaim their adhesion to
the ideology of multiparty democracy and the glories of
capitalism. The tired refrain is that there is the danger
of revisionism or rightism “on the one hand”, but there
is also the danger of “dogmatism” on the other, and that
by skillfully maneuvering between these two obstacles
the Party has gone from victory to victory. Or, there
is the recognition‑in-words of fundamental principles,
the “ABCs of Marxism”, such as the need to smash the
existing state apparatus, while the Party’s actual policy
goes completely contrary to this goal."

Reactionary forces are indeed involved in the state apparatus, in the UML and NC factions especially and in their influence in the National Army and the Supreme Court. Just because the Maoists have chosen to allow this as a tactical measure does not make them reactionary. Indeed even a cursory examination of the news shows the Maoists are clearly stating that if the reactionaries impede the decisions of the government under Maoist leadership they will indeed smash the apparatus. The point is this need not occur unless in fact exploitation cannot be eradicated and prevented following the present line. The fact is we don't know yet.

So I will follow in the next entry with commentary on the Maoist response to the RCP and the outline of the ongoing Kasama discussion.

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