Monday, June 29, 2009

Indian Maoists Speak: On Intern’l Controversies Among Communists - Kasama

This entry focuses on my comments on this letter from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) published here at the Kasama website. In addition to mine don't miss the very interesting comments of others regarding this letter. I am not myself going to replicate the entire document. First I will lift Kasama's Mike Ely's excerpts from the letter then follow with my own commentary.

Introduction by Mike Ely:

The following document is a major comment by the leading Politbureau of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on controversies within the international Maoist movement. It was sent to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on May 20, 2009, and has now been made public.

As the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has maneuvered on the doorstep of seizing state power, there have emerged a series of open letters from other communist parties — engaging the approach taken by the Nepali Maoists, and struggling over major controversies facing communist revolution internationally.

Previously Kasama published an exchange of letters between the RCP,USA and the UCPN(M). Now we are sharing this document by the Indian Maoists.

For now, we are also making this letter available in pdf format. We will be posting a more readable PDF version, in pamphlet format, Monday evening.

* * * * * * *

“…in the name of struggle against dogmatism, there have been serious deviations in the International Communist Movement (ICM), often going into an even greater, or at least equally dangerous, abyss of right deviation and revisionism. In the name of creative application of Marxism, communist parties have fallen into the trap of right opportunism, bourgeois pluralist Euro-Communism, rabid anti-Stalinism, anarchist post-modernism and outright revisionism…

“‘Fight against dogmatism‘ has become a fashionable phrase among many Maoist revolutionaries. They talk of discarding ‘outdated’ principles of Lenin and Mao and to develop MLM in the ‘new conditions‘ that are said to have emerged in the world of the 21st century. Some of them describe their endeavour to ‘enrich and develop‘ MLM as a new path or thought, and though this is initially described as something confined to revolution in their concerned country, it inexorably assumes a ‘universal character’ or ‘universal significance‘ in no time. And in this exercise individual leaders are glorified and even deified to the extent that they appear infallible. Such glorification does not help in collective functioning of Party committees and the Party as a whole and questions on line are hardly ever raised as they stem from an infallible individual leader. In such a situation it is extremely difficult on the part of the CC, not to speak of the cadres, to fight against a serious deviation in the ideological-political line, or in the basic strategy and tactics even when it is quite clear that it goes against the interests of revolution. The ‘cult of the individual’ promoted in the name of path and thought provides a certain degree of immunity to the deviation in line if it emanates from that individual leader.”

* * * * * * *

Commentary by Stephen David Mauldin

The excerpts provided by Mike Ely above do not entirely pertain to the Maobadi in Nepal. The main thrust of the letter is in its admonition of the Maobadi claim to be functioning in a localized form of 21st Century Communism that is supposed to have universal application. This is a straw man argument in itself. Instead they are emphasizing the objective conditions in Nepal requiring a particular mode of tactics in practice: the universal message is that particular modes of practice for particular objective conditions are needed not that the modes of practice of Nepal should be applied universally. The theoretical debate over strategy is of a completely different register.

My commentary is far short of a comprehensive response to the letter. Rather I point to a key weakness in its summary paragraphs at the end - to include the following quote:

Now that the government headed by comrade Prachanda has collapsed after the withdrawal of support by the UML and others at the behest of the Indian ruling classes, American imperialists and the local reactionaries, the Party leadership should be better placed to understand how the reactionaries can manage the show from the sidelines or outside and obstruct even moves such as sacking of the Army chief by a Prime Minister.

A lot that needs to be discussed regarding this entire letter – not to dismiss that at all, but this conclusion at the end is suspect. It demonstrates a very elementary mistake about current Maobadi tactics that any consistent following of the recent history and understanding of the theoretical line of Mao’s democratic centralism should make clearly visible.

Surprisingly it follows the propaganda of the NC/UML assertion that the Maoist government collapsed. In fact the PM and the rest of the Maoists made a decision to resign because they are confident that in actually running of the government is relatively an unimportant and unproductive front in the process of seizing state power. This move was done at the behest of no one other than themselves once the UML and the Tarai Parties succumbed to an opportunistic line.

The fact is the government of the UML is unable to effectively function without the Maoists and the latter nonetheless maintain power in the largest number of Constituent Assembly seats and even more significantly in the streets. The characterization of the Maoists as being on the sidelines rather than still in the position of greatest actual power by virtue of the more important fronts (the CA and the streets)is very ironic. Its as though the CPI writer(s) themselves are glorifying the importance of multi-party parliamentarian government over the revolutionary tactics of the Maobadi.

Furthermore it is necessary to remember the Maobadi possess a militant advantage in the combined arms of the PLA, the Unions and the YCL. The Maoists are by no means a power that has been vanquished by the reactionaries simply by virtue of the reactionaries having stymied civilian government control of the military though collusion of a corrupt Supreme Court and the illegal acts of a President. Blockage of the functioning of the house will continue and the people in the streets will also force the eventual reversal of the president’s reinstatement of Katawal. The option remains to resume armed rebellion as the quickest route to seize state power – the decision has been to not exercise that route as yet.

The UML led government is not in fact a led government. It is a squabble over gaining political advantages – the NC over the UML, the Tarai parties over the UML and NC and within the internal divisions in these parties. We are seeing the reconfigurations of the reactionaries that will be at play if the UCPN (M) chooses to return to participation in the government and to its actual leadership. Revolution is indeed through the barrel of a gun, that is how the Maobadi got to where it is and the gun is still in their hands when and if they use the fronts of the CA and the streets to return to government – if they must these guns will be used.

One last very important point: much has been made of the Maoists participation in multi-party politics involving power-sharing with reactionary parties, but this is not what they want as a strategy while engaging in such as a tactic. Be clear that democratic centralism is about a coalition of parties serving the oppressed classes in eliminating the power of parties of the oppressor classes.

When we hear the international influences and the NC and opportunists reacting to the establishment of civilian supremacy by the Maoist led coalition of oppressed classes, it is always the cry of “they want a dictatorship!”. They are right, but not in the sense they wish us to believe. Such a coalition is a dictatorship, a dictatorship of the proletariat. Such a state is to then to wither away as the position of the reactionaries becomes meaningless, powerless.

Thus can state power be seized, gun in hand but with as little blood spilled as possible. There is a unified front among the Maoists with regard to the reactionaries while there continues theoretical debate about how much militant force is applied in practice. Its clear how much the CPI writers are calling for. These calls for immediate full scale violence are unwise considering the economic and social conditions of Nepal. These need to be addressed for some time while the people learn through practice what the communist hypothesis actually entails.

There are really very few true communists in Nepal. The Maoist leadership are communists, but the great bulk of the people behind them are simply oppressed classes having been screwed since time out of mind. They want a life which is tolerable and will fight for it if necessary having no real comprehension of what Mr. Mao had to say. In time through practice they can learn, but the important thing is to get them fed and educated and benefiting from a tolerable national infrastructure using tactics that keep this in mind.

Yes, tactics that involve engagement of capitalist modes of production and the global “capitalo-parliamentarian’ (Badiou) coordinates of power means playing a dangerous game. The well known capacity for the acquisition of power by reactionary forces in such a game are well known. However, to label the Maobadi as revisionist and opportunist and to therefore in effect serve the reactionaries both counters the novel unfolding of 21st century communism in Nepal and seems to imply they are so stupid they don’t understand the lessons of history. They understand quite well and they have not forgotten to arm the people.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Revolution in Nepal: Presentation to Union of Iranian Progressives

I thought it telling somehow that my recent trip to Nepal, culminating in an interview with C.P. Gajurel (that receiving a wider audience mainly through its re-publication by the Kasama site and by the site Democracy and Class Struggle), resulted in interest and inquiry, not from American or British leftists, but from leftists in Turkey for example and particularly from Iranian progressives in the U.S. - by the time I arrived in San Francisco it had already been arranged that I would speak to the Union of Iranian Progressives in Los Angeles.

The presentation had been arranged prior to the astounding recent developments in Iran. Obviously the event was eclipsed by the more important need for an explosive emotional response from the members of the audience to the unfolding events. I did have an opportunity to get to my presentation (in a much truncated version) late in the evening's agenda and I did gain some recognition and appreciation of my main points in the context of the current revolt - especially from those present who experienced the revolutionary events in Iran in 1979.

Essentially my point was that the uprising and revolt in Iran today can be the seed of a revolution, or maybe the resurrection of the truly revolutionary cause of 1979, but it is not properly a revolution since this is not an armed rebellion. One cannot minimize the current revolt on the streets of Tehran , its important, but it is quite distinct from the very similar appearing struggle in the streets of Kathmandu. Among the questions afterward was the predictable one. The questioner pointed out that Gandhi made changes without a gun. Well, what to do but point out India today. More experienced listeners echoed the "hardliners" among the Maoists - questioning whether the Prachanda/Bhattarai line smacks of revisionism. Again, my response pointed to the fact that the real threat of armed rebellion was nonetheless the key leverage behind the tactics involved in engaging global capitalists and multi-party politics. This argument was the key message to the Iranian comrades about the Maobadi and what this portends for the long run of any true revolution in Iran.

I want to share some of the power point slides of the presentation and some notes for them. I have two reasons for this beyond simply information to all other readers of this entry. One is to give anyone who attended the presentation in LA a more fully developed concept of what I wanted to say. The other is in anticipating the content for those who have invited me to speak in Washington to the Iranian Leftists there - a presentation I am happy to say is being rescheduled for a couple of weeks later or longer, when as I will explain, it may be better for a situation residual to the ending of the active revolt at this time.

Let me say once more that the present revolt in Iran is an inspiring development for all who hope for world emancipation from elitist coordinates of power, religious or secular. However, the coordinates of power are not really in much danger of being undermined as long as there is no leadership or militant capacity of the people. As Savoj Zizek states in his new article replicated in this blog yesterday:

The future is uncertain – in all probability, those in power will contain the popular explosion, and the cat will not fall into the precipice, but regain ground. However, it will no longer be the same regime, but just one corrupted authoritarian rule among others.

True, if an increment of emancipatory change occurs following a few weeks of bloodshed it would be a kind of result, maybe even justifying result, but it would not be a solution to the systemic problem of class society, of the existence of an oppressor class. That takes a Revolution, something never allowed by elite classes with a standing army to protect their hegemony over the rest. Let me turn to the presentation.

The opening slide 1 (click to enlarge - back arrow to return to text):

Nepal: An Anti-Feudal and Anti-Imperialist Peoples Revolution

1. An individual perspective: the popular revolt and leadership of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

2. A brief historical overview: orientation to recent developments and factors in the current situation

3. The important possibilities of people power : “the revolutionary front on the streets”

4. Opinion: theoretical basis of the novel manifestation of the communist hypothesis by the Maoist Party

Slides 2 and 3 Why I am speaking and quotes that are key to the narratives that follow:

1. Brief on background to presentation: Personal and professional history in conflict resolution including work and life in former Soviet Union, Central Asia and China then tours in Nepal. Writing on the Maobadi and on study of modern continental philosophers on communism - Savoj Zizek and Alain Badiou. Recent interviews with Maoist leaders being published on a number of websites.

2. The Zizek quote on Lenin:

"Lenin's obsessive tirades against formal freedom worth saving today; when he underlines that there is no pure democracy, that we should always ask whom a freedom under consideration serves, his point is precisely to maintain the possibility of a true choice. Formal freedom is the freedom of choice within the coordinates of the existing power relations, while actual freedom designates the site of an intervention that undermines these very coordinates"

Narrative: It is important to ask if the revolt in Iran must be carried forward to armed revolution if in fact there is to be actual freedom by destroying the elitist coordinates of power. By this definition we can grasp that nothing but dictatorship exists even in the case of multi-party parliamentarian government. Because the Maoists of Nepal have fought an armed revolution and have the capacity to resurrect it, the revolt on nepal has a potential far more potent than what is present in Iran today and this is an important message for the Iranian people.

3. The Badiou quote on the communist hypothesis:

"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 labor 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 labor. 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.“

Narrative: The quote defines an egalitarian maxim, probably only approached with radical transformation of human nature. He suggests emergence of the hypothesis in evolving manifestations throughout history and the future. He also emphasizes the necessity of novelty in the character of each successive manifestation and that the process requires a revolutionary faith. The presentation speaks to the great experiment of Nepal as novel 21st century communism and how it informs revolutionary possibilities in the objective conditions of Iran.

Slides 4-6 A brief History of Imperialist Intervention and Peoples Revolution

Narrative: The slides will provide a more detailed outline of the history while I simply outline the major aspects and the most recent developments since 1990 - it is key to understand that revolutions are characterized by the specific objective conditions at hand, this is true for Iran as it has been for Nepal:

1. Parliamentary government replacing a monarchy with a constitutional monarchy began as early as 1990 – it proved to be completely ineffective in ending semi-feudal conditions and simply magnified the role of oppressor classes.

2. So violent revolution ensued 1996 for 10 years – essentially reaching a military stalemate between the RA and the PLA

3. Indian hegemony behind the RA made a turn in facilitating Maoist entry into multi-party politics in hope of a leftist buffer & resolving armed conflict

Narrative: This was the situation in 2005-6 when I made my first tour of Nepal. Again, I am aiming to illustrate the objective conditions which are no doubt very different from those in Iran while the dialectic of theory and practice there holds key lessons for the future of other nations.

4. Indians lost a large degree of control when surprisingly the Maoists won a major share of the CA and began to lead the government

5. The reactionaries provided as much impediment to the Maoists as possible, culminating in blocking Maoist’s mandatory requirement for civilian control over the NA and PLA integration

Narrative: The Maoists attempt to establish civilian supremacy and the subsequent resignation from government took place during my recent tour April to June 2009. The absolute necessity of putting an end to the standing army of the reactionaries is a major axiom of seizing actual state power anywhere be it Nepal or Iran.

6. Maobadi decided to withdraw from the government front but still controls the political situation from the CA and the streets

7. The newly formed government is locked in internal power struggles, the functioning of the house is blocked by Maoist insistence on civilian control, the streets are becoming increasingly violent

Narrative: Let me begin to recap in more detail the nature of the current situation. The objective conditions of Nepal are unique to Nepal; however, if Iran is to approach a republic of the peoples through multi-party parliamentary government, the story in Nepal can be very instructive:

1. The Nepali Congress party as you see has been supported by the Indians since 1951. Today the NC holds only 114 of the 601 seats in the constituent assembly, but they still effectively represent the landowners and a semi-feudal society as well as the imperialistic Indian hegemony.

2. In 1990 when popular uprising against the monarchy resulted in establishment of a constitutional monarchy, the next decade of so-called “democracy” was dominated by the NC.

3. In the struggle for land reform and other countering of Indian hegemony the United Marxist Leninist party has played a role, but the UML despite its apparent communist orientation is not revolutionary is revisionist and has demonstrated repeated collaboration with the reactionaries.

4. The UML holds 109 seats in the CA and with backing by the NC now participating in government following the resignation of the Maoists, are attempting to lead the new government.

5. The UCPN (M) controls 234 seats of the CA and alone cannot control the government with a majority of 301, though larger than NC/UML at 221.

6. More significantly must garner a 2/3 vote to pass even a single provision of the new constitution. So the task is to get support from UML defectors or from the balance of 144 in the total 601.

Slide 7 Current Socio-Economic Status of Nepal – The Legacy of Dictatorship of the Reactionaries

Narrative: While you read about conditions in Nepal illustrating the effects of rule by the oppressor classes I will fill in some details about the very recent history leading to the Maoist government resignation:

1. It is very significant that the Maoist support is drawn from the oppressed classes as opposed to the oppressor classes who support the NC along with the collaborators within the UML.

2. Maoist support is not predominantly hard core communist – the people are not theoretically grounded, but they are learning though practice. The Maoists are pursuing a tactic of democratic centralism (much more on this later)

3. The Indian hegemony concerns not just Indian imperialism but also a cultural oppression in the form of the class divisions formed by the caste system, which at – these comprise again the polarity of NC and Maobadi supporters.

4. The imperialist and cultural class divisions at the same time involve the division of landholders and landless peasants an issue which is numerically greater in the Tarai regions of Nepal.

Slide 8 The Constituent Assembly Tasked With Creating New Nepal’s Constitution

Narrative: I have put up the numbers I briefly introduced a few minutes ago. Its a complex picture. Now you can look these over a bit while I give you a thorough analysis:

1. The key seats in this scenario are 81seats of that remaining 144. These 81 are formed by a coalition of parties representing the objectives of the ethnic and regional objectives of the Tarai region, the border regions with India, with its own mix of oppressed classes and caste divisions.

2. The Maoists led the government less than a year. They did manage to collect a good amount of funds for development projects but there were obvious difficulties in implementing programs because of the political conditions.

3. Nonetheless considerable planning and evolution of the political infrastructure for development occurred with the help of the Tarai factions and some among the UML despite on-going hindrances of the NC and other international influences.

4. The Maobadi have struck a balance between the vested interests of the Indians and the Chinese while also seeking relationship with socialist countries who can serve as models and economic support.

5. Of particular note is the vast hydropower resources of Nepal (ironic given most of the country is currently without power and even Kathmandu experiences power shut downs several hours a day). Significant assistance from Norway has been a specific accomplishment of the Maoists.

6. There is no doubt the Maoists have had a long term sometimes collaborative relationship with the Indians themselves, but the relationship developing with the Chinese has also opened an avenue for leverage to remove and replace long standing treaties over-balanced in Indian favor.

7. A very important factor during recent years and particularly during the months in government leadership is the Maobadi increasing their militant strength. Once they entered the cities, especially in Kathmandu, they quickly infiltrated all the unions and student bodies. They have grown the YCL a lot. It is an open secret that the union members as well as the YCL are now well armed and are a significant addition to the PLA as a threat of armed revolt.

Narrative: Given the Maoists have been able to make some progress in solidifying their power and moving towards development of Nepal’s infrastructure and hydropower potential, why you may ask have they resigned from government?

1. The fact is actual state power does not exist without civilian supremacy over the standing army. The integration of the Peoples Liberation Army sequestered in a number of cantonments with the former Royal Army, now the National Army has made no progress.

2. The NA is de facto the standing army in service not to Nepal but to the reactionary parties, the NC in particular and even the still active royalists. The PLA still exists with easy access to weapons and to some extent the people supporting the Maobadi are armed.

3. Also the judiciary, the Supreme Court, its members having gained office during the prior decade under the king and the political influence of the NC, has hardly been a supportive element to the Maoist agenda. Corruption in Nepal is blatantly systemic.

4. The sequence leading to the present impasse began with the Maoist led government moving to prevent the extended tenure of 8 NA generals, insisting they be retired. The decision was effectively blocked by a stay order from the Supreme Court.

5. The Maobadi then sought removal of the Chief of the NA alleging that he had defied civilian control and breached the terms of a 2006 peace deal. The government fired him, but immediately the ceremonial President of the republic reversed the government’s order on a very flimsy legal basis.

6. In seeking to force the President to reverse his order the Maoists were deserted by their coalition allies in government, the UML as well as the factions from the Tarai.

7. PM Prachanda promptly resigned himself and the UCPN (M) from government rather than accept a situation of dual power with the Army backed by reactionary parties. An Indian puppet state was just as quickly instituted through the NC support of a government formally led by the UML.

8. The resignation occurred in early May initiating all kinds of dispute over interpretations of the interim constitution and the blockage of action in the house by the Maoists insisting on a debate within the CA over the president’s reinstatement of the army chief. Mass protests are underway by the people in support of the Maoist demands.

Slides 9 through 11 The Primary Front: The People Take the Streets (Frequently as Whenever Necessary)

Narrative: I'll be showing some slides taken during my participation in some of the mass protests. It looks a lot like what is happening in Iran these recent days. There is a big difference though. You will not see heavy handed interference form the police or the army. The fact is the reactionaries are helpless to stop the people from shutting down the infrastructure and rightfully fear an armed uprising from the combined militant power of the PLA, Unions and YCL.

1. As we speak, the UML and the NC have haggling factions over key leadership positions. The UML is in clear danger of a split. The three factions comprising the critical block of CA votes from the Tarai are in deep conflict with the UML over power positions and likewise experiencing their own internal rifts.

2. The Maoists are being cajoled daily by the all parties trying to administer the state to return to participation in government, but the Maoists will not budge on the requirement of removal of Katawal and civilian supremacy in the integration process. The Constituent Assembly is at a standstill and the only place where any power is being exercised is in the streets.

Narrative: I want to share what it was like to see first hand the energy and dedication of the people in revolt. One sees the spirit of this revolt everywhere. Everyone is reading the news and discussing the situation and practically every day there are marches and demonstrations like the ones shown above. Most important however in contrast to the situation in Iran is the degree of organization behind these struggles in the streets of Nepal. I interviewed several leaders at different levels of responsibility during May. Discussion about these interviews will clarify what I mean by the organizational quality of the peoples revolt in Nepal.

Slide 12 Grassroots of the Peoples Movement - The Union Affiliation with the Maobadi

1. Of particular note and not well known outside of Nepal is the revolutionary power that has grown within the union movement. A very typical example is the All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union. This is where I started making interviews. The discussion of my interactions with this union are chronicled at my website here.

2. I met Pushpa Kunwar, a young Maoist organizer in 2006. He is the manager of the Vaishali Hotel and has worked there 13 years. He has also been an international martial arts competitor an a leading organizer of the union activity in his district and area.

3. Puspa related a history of the union going back several years. Before it was affiliated with the the National Congress Party. They never helped the rank and file, they were focused on collecting money from the hotel owners. When the Maoists came to the city they very quickly recruited Puspa and young men like him and the union has become strong.

4. The objective of the Maobadi was to help the members in practice to begin ending their exploitation. Of course some like Puspa were drawn to the theory and membership in the Party. Most who gain rank in the Union have a rank also in the Party.

5. Prakash Shrestha is a central Committee Member of the UCPN (M), a former PLA combatant. Before joining the PLA he worked as a wage slave for a 5 star in India. He took an active role in organizing the Hotel and Reastraunt Workers when the Maoists left the jungles for the city. I will share some of our discussions.

6. Prakash Shrestha eloquently defended the Maobadi in its conscious attempt to understand and avoid the mistakes of 20th century communist revolutions while recovering and reenacting the positive strategies of the Paris Commune, Lenin's Soviets and Mao's Cultural Revolution.

7. Prakash Shrestha responded regarding the RCPUSA attacks (to paraphrase): "We carefully read their ideas, about 23 pages of their ideas. We felt Comrade Bob is a very smart man and should understand our position, so we prepared a detailed response".

I said something like: "Yes, many of us have read that response and understood and support your answers and clarifications and attempt to have the RCP understand and agree with the Maobadi line - but it seems they continued to send more instructions to the Maobadi which were not answered."

PS: "We will complete our revolution and this will be evidence that Comrade Bob is wrong."

8. I brought up the fact that standing army, the NA cannot continue if there is to be peoples supremacy - the growing possibility of a showdown. I wondered if should the NA stage a military coup that this a serious threat to the revolution. Would it therefore be a mistake to continue to provoke the NA such as with the dismissal of the generals and the call for resignation of Katawal?

PS: We don't think the NA would dare to do this. They are well aware of the people's support for the Maobadi and such a move would lead to a mass insurrection.

SDM: But isn't it true that the NA is a more powerful force than the PLA? The people may protest but they are not an army - plus wouldn't widespread insurrection simply lead to chaos and the possibility of intervention from India?

Puspa: If the Indians intervened directly what do you think the Chinese would do?

PS: There are reasons to say the Indians would not directly intervene. For one thing they have a problem within their own Army because a good percentage are of Ghurka ethnicity and loyal to Nepal. Then not only the Chinese, but also what may happen with Northern India's Naxalite Maoists. It is not just the PLA that would fight. There is the numbers of the union cadre, the YCL and others who would fight.

SDM: I understand that the goal would be to arm the people, but what about now. Are you saying the people have weapons now? Is there some supply of weapons for the people already?

This is when I first learned that in fact the Maobadi have made weapons available to the unions and the YCL. Some have questioned my saying so in print - but I assure you it's an open secret in Nepal.

Slide 13 - All Nepal Federation of Unions

Narrative: The information about the organized unions being armed was verified again when I interviewed Ganesh Regmi, General Secretary of the Maoists' affiliated All Nepal Federation of Trade Unions. I visited the headquarters and saw there were over 30 such trade unions.

1. The very day of my visit he was quoted in the papers saying "Katawal represents the remnants of the former past, to wipe him out we are ready to capture the Army Headquarters even". My meeting was covered in my blog entries here.

2. I pursued the question of whether the Unions present a militant stance in their close affiliation with the Maobadi. I discussed with him it being axiomatic in revolutionary theory that the people need to be armed. We discussed that a UML leader, Oli, had claimed to have evidence the Maobadi have secured arms with intention of a new uprising to take state power. I asked him directly "Are the people in your unions ready to fight if necessary?". He answered simply.

GR: It is our opinion that the people are ready.

Narrative: Following interactions with the Maoist affiliated unions I made arrangements with their help to meet the leadership of the Communist Youth League, the YCL. This happened at the end of a major rally in protest of the Katawal re-reinstatement by the President and prior to PM Prachanda's resignation over the issue of civilian supremacy over the National Army. After hearing from the unionleaders their indication of capacity and desire to attack the National Army I was curious to know more about the position of the YCL in this regard.

Slide 14 People Power: The PLA Plus the Youth Communist League and Unions

Narrative: My blog entry on the discussion with YCL leaders is posted here. Comrade Pun told me his basic story over the course of our talk. His relationship to the YCL spans twenty years and before it was affiliated as an organ of the Maobadi. When the Peoples War broke out his "team" executed successful attacks on the district police, which is how they got weapons. In time Comrade Pun was captured however. He spent four years incarcerated, escaped, and went totally underground were he continued to gain greater responsibility fighting in the PLA. About three years ago the Party decided he would begin to lead the YCL. At the time he was Commander of the PLA 4th Division. At this point he is no longer officially part of the PLA, but of course he has close ties.

The most significant exchange was:

SDM: One main question for me is whether the masses involved are not only concerned with their regional, cultural or other unique requirements but also aware and committed to the communist hypothesis we have been discussing - that they fully understand it.

GMP: We can't copy what was done by others before, by Lenin or Mao, but we can learn from mistakes made then and in more recent revolutionary movements. Our YCL people understand and I would say 60% of the people creating the New Nepal government fully understand.

SDM: Lately there has been the obvious possibility of a military coup. One wonders about the capacity of the people to resist takeover by the reactionaries. The PLA will need the help of the armed masses, particularly the YCL and the Union members and others. But are they ready?

GMP: Because we have been in government and in the majority the situation has given us greater access to the internal conditions of the NA.

SDM: Yes, this has been characterized by the reactionaries as trying to destroy the morale of the NA with lies about the "soft coup" and other politicization of the issues.

GMP: There are actually two factions in the NA and two levels at which this split is evident (he drew a diagram in my notepad). We see there is already a morale problem in the rank and file of the NA because of the existing class divisions.

SDM: You mean there are a significant number of lower ranked soldiers who feel oppressed by the traditions of the officer corps?

GMP: Yes, that, but also more. Among the officers, led by some generals is a faction counter to the royalist mindset. Among the reactionaries are those who I would call "progressive". They are very nationalistic.

SDM: Do you mean to say you think there is an inclination in the NA to cooperate with the Maobadi led government, to be more in compliance?

GMP: We believe that a political solution is still possible because of this division within the NA itself.

Slide 15 The Demand for Civilian Supremacy in the Army Integration Process

Narrative: It remains to be seen if Com. Pun’s optimism regarding the internal weakness of the reactionaries within the ranks of the NA will preclude a military confrontation with the combined forces of the PLA, YCL and the Unions.

Clearly there is no possibility of a communist revolution or any revolution succeeding as long as there is a standing army in opposition, so the integration and rehabilitation process had to be brought to a critical state of political confrontation. Soon after the interview with Com. Pun I attended a press conference as seen in these photos. This is May 4, the day PM Prachanda resigned. I will now outline in more detail the process leading to the Maobadi leaving government:

1. The first major step taken by the Maobadi was to head a government directive to not extend the tenure of 8 NA generals, in effect requiring that they were now eligible to retire and must do so.

2. The reactionary counter move was based on the emphasis in the interim constitution on major decisions being reached by consensus if at all possible and by majority if not by consensus. On that basis the Supreme Court, made up of judges appointed in previous regimes, issued a stay order to further consider the matter.

3. The Maobadi argued this was absurd: there should never be a question of civilian control over the military because as proven by history this always opens the door to military coup.

4. The NC, having chosen not to participate in the Maoist led government remember, were not only backing publicly the SC, but actively proclaiming the Maoist removal of the Generals as an attempt to seize state power and establish a communist authoritarian dictatorship.

5. At the same time there was an influx of Indian emissaries on the scene to meet with reactionary party leaders and Army Chief Katawal was taking clearly political positions, even proposing his own version of constitutional structure.

6. Katawal’s politicization of the military had been a growing concern and the increased support he was now getting from the Indian establishment through the NC and other parties led the Maoist’s government to fire him.

7. Immediately, however, even though the interim constitution clearly places executive power in the PM and the cabinet the PM controls, the President, a largely subservient role in the interim government arrangement and a leader of the UML, stepped in and reversed the order to fire Katawal.

8. The Maoists declared the Presidents move illegal but the coalition members led by the UML and followed by the Tarai based parties took the opportunity to not follow suit.

9. Rather than accept a situation of dual power with the opposition essentially forgoing civilian supremacy over the NA, the PM resigned and the UCPN (M) pulled out of government

Slide 16 Opinion on the theoretical basis of the novel manifestation of the communist hypothesis envisioned by the Party

1. All of the Maoist leaders are well versed in Marxism Leninism and Maoism and they were all experienced combatants. Mohan Baidya was in the late 80s the leader of one of the main communist parties. Baidya and Gajurel ended up for long periods in Indian prisons. Prachanda led the 1996 armed revolution from the jungles beginning in 1996.

2. But it is Dr. Bhattarai who has provided the deepest most insightful analysis of the objective conditions of the revolutionary situation in Nepal and who has brilliantly elucidated the importance of the models provided by the Paris Commune, Lenin’s Soviets and by the lessons of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

3. The most significant thing about Bhattarai’s theoretical stance, in my opinion – as I will discuss in more detail later, is the emphasis on Mao’s concept of democratic centralism. I think this is the cornerstone of the Nepal Maoist position and much misunderstood by critics of the Maobadi engagement of multi-party politics.

4. The nature of the internal debates within the CPN (M) is well understood by the events last November when the Maoists had a major conference of the cadre (my coverage of the debates is here). Much has been made of there being a serious threat of Part schism over the Prachanda/Bhattarai line of engagement with imperialist powers. But nothing could be more wrong I think.

5. Prachanda in particular has employed a tactic of emphasizing the policy of democratic engagement with all the parties in a vision of parliamentary government solving the nation’s semi-feudal conditions and infrastructural problems – especially in efforts to engage Norway in developing the immense potentials for hydro-power production.

6. In his tenure as Finance minister Bhattarai developed a plan of economic development which is both highly detailed and technical while at the same time deemed by most of the world as highly idealistic in its vision of solving the economic disparities of oppressed masses. It will also involve Nepal in close relations to imperialistic and global capitalistic dangers.

Slide 17 The Interview with C. P. Gajurel

Narrative: Just before I left Nepal my friends in the Union secured an interview for me with C.P. Gajurel one of the Maoist leaders. Comrade Gajurel, like Comrade Baidya did not participate in the running of the government. His role has been in leading the Party's International Relations Department, which also publishes the Party's main periodical organ "The Worker". The full interview is available on my website here.

1. In 2003 Comrade Gajurel was arrested India. Nepali and foreign supporters, including several international communist parties launched a campaign to have him released. In April 2005 a team of European human rights activists was allowed to meet Gajurel in prison. His supporters feared that he would be extradited to Nepal and tortured by Nepali authorities. After the CPN (M) and the government of Nepal signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, India dropped charges against Gajurel, of "conspiracy against India". He was released in November 2006 and returned to Nepal

2. SDM: So is was true that from the time of negotiations through Prachanda’s recent resignation there was initially a drawing back from an aggressive revolutionary process as before and a new and different way of building the mass base. Would you say those tactics are over now? What are the new tactics, will we see a renewed aggressive revolutionary movement?

3. CPG: The Prime Minister’s resignation was not a big thing for us. Our movement has been working on three fronts and the participation in government was the least important. The experience of being in government was not a failure; it contributed to our revolutionary process in many ways. The issue we raised of civilian supremacy over the army has demonstrated to the people the truth of the situation, the other parties are against supremacy of the people. More important is the Constituent Assembly front where more focus can be on creation of the New Nepal constitution. Our tactics remain the same as to the remaining two fronts, the CA and the streets. We boycotted the selection of the new PM and abandoned the government front for better political benefits from action in the more important and effective fronts. We will use our greater numbers in the CA to create a constitution that will transform Nepal, creating a socialist economy meeting the needs of all the oppressed populations.

4. 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:

Slide 18 Badiou Quote:

"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.“

1. It is certainly a good description of the world condition today with regard to hopes of an egalitarian society to say we are in a reactionary interlude. This interlude ha been manifest in Iran since 1979 in various phases just as it has been in Nepal since 1990. There is a big difference between the uprisings on the streets in Tehran and those in Kathmandu however.

2. The relatively rapid transitions in Nepal in the direction of ending oppressor classes have been a result of armed resurrection, plain and simple. Multi-party parliamentary participation by the Maoists instituted since 2006 still maintains a militant capacity. This is essentially why it is wrong to accuse the Maobadi of repeating the pattern of bourgeois democracy.

3. The coordinates of power in Iran can only provide the people with a formal choice between different oppressor class leaders. It was not that the election was stolen from anyone who was truly acceptable as a leader of a peoples democracy. The message of the Nepali Maoists is that a constituent assembly of multi-party interests representing oppressed classes may possibly create an interim state to wither away
over a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers. That part of the story is not over yet.

4. The people of Iran can gain from the experience of the people of Nepal: from the universal novel theoretical understanding of revolution that has evolved there while in considering the singular local conditions of Iranian society when putting theory into practice. At the moment those conditions include a standing army in service to the reactionaries and little in the way of militant capacity in the hands of the people.

5. The Maoists in Nepal have chosen to stand-down from armed rebellion though clearly it is that capacity which allows them to continue to apply pressure in demonstrations in the street and in blocking the functioning of the constituent assembly. This is how we will soon see them back in government having obtained civilian supremacy over the reactionary army. While in Iran more deaths will occur among dwindling protests, many will remain in jail, many will begin to simply disappear and until such time as there grows actual revolution in Iran there will be no actual freedom.

Blog Guide: A discussion of blog features and primary topic content may be found at the initial entry. The first few entries give a good idea of how best to use the blog, especially for the tagging and social bookmarking at my external Delicious site, and for instructions regarding the Stefandav TV widget.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Savoj Zizek: Will the Cat Above the Precipice Fall Down

Slavoj Žižek contributed to Support for the Iranian People 2009

When an authoritarian regime approaches its final crisis, its dissolution as a rule follows two steps. Before its actual collapse, a mysterious rupture takes place: all of a sudden people know that the game is over, they are simply no longer afraid. It is not only that the regime loses its legitimacy, its exercise of power itself is perceived as an impotent panic reaction. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice, but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. When it loses its authority, the regime is like a cat above the precipice: in order to fall, it only has to be reminded to look down…

In Shah of Shahs, a classic account of the Khomeini revolution, Ryszard Kapuscinski located the precise moment of this rupture: at a Tehran crossroad, a single demonstrator refused to budge when a policeman shouted at him to move, and the embarrassed policeman simply withdrew; in a couple of hours, all Tehran knew about this incident, and although there were street fights going on for weeks, everyone somehow knew the game is over. Is something similar going on now?

There are many versions of the events in Tehran. Some see in the protests the culmination of the pro-Western “reform movement” along the lines of the “orange” revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, etc. – a secular reaction to the Khomeini revolution. They support the protests as the first step towards a new liberal-democratic secular Iran freed of Muslim fundamentalism. They are counteracted by skeptics who think that Ahmadinejad really won: he is the voice of the majority, while the support of Mousavi comes from the middle classes and their gilded youth. In short: let’s drop the illusions and face the fact that, in Ahmadinejad, Iran has a president it deserves. Then there are those who dismiss Mousavi as a member of the cleric establishment with merely cosmetic differences from Ahmadinejad: Mousavi also wants to continue the atomic energy program, he is against recognizing Israel, plus he enjoyed the full support of Khomeini as a prime minister in the years of the war with Iraq.

Finally, the saddest of them all are the Leftist supporters of Ahmadinejad: what is really at stake for them is Iranian independence. Ahmadinejad won because he stood up for the country’s independence, exposed elite corruption and used oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority – this is, so we are told, the true Ahmadinejad beneath the Western-media image of a holocaust-denying fanatic. According to this view, what is effectively going on now in Iran is a repetition of the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh – a West-financed coup against the legitimate president. This view not only ignores facts: the high electoral participation – up from the usual 55% to 85% - can only be explained as a protest vote. It also displays its blindness for a genuine demonstration of popular will, patronizingly assuming that, for the backward Iranians, Ahmadinejad is good enough - they are not yet sufficiently mature to be ruled by a secular Left.

Opposed as they are, all these versions read the Iranian protests along the axis of Islamic hardliners versus pro-Western liberal reformists, which is why they find it so difficult to locate Mousavi: is he a Western-backed reformer who wants more personal freedom and market economy, or a member of the cleric establishment whose eventual victory would not affect in any serious way the nature of the regime? Such extreme oscillations demonstrate that they all miss the true nature of the protests.

The green color adopted by the Mousavi supporters, the cries of “Allah akbar!” that resonate from the roofs of Tehran in the evening darkness, clearly indicate that they see their activity as the repetition of the 1979 Khomeini revolution, as the return to its roots, the undoing of the revolution’s later corruption. This return to the roots is not only programmatic; it concerns even more the mode of activity of the crowds: the emphatic unity of the people, their all-encompassing solidarity, creative self-organization, improvising of the ways to articulate protest, the unique mixture of spontaneity and discipline, like the ominous march of thousands in complete silence. We are dealing with a genuine popular uprising of the deceived partisans of the Khomeini revolution.

There are a couple of crucial consequences to be drawn from this insight. First, Ahmadinejad is not the hero of the Islamist poor, but a genuine corrupted Islamo-Fascist populist, a kind of Iranian Berlusconi whose mixture of clownish posturing and ruthless power politics is causing unease even among the majority of ayatollahs. His demagogic distributing of crumbs to the poor should not deceive us: behind him are not only organs of police repression and a very Westernized PR apparatus, but also a strong new rich class, the result of the regime’s corruption (Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is not a working class militia, but a mega-corporation, the strongest center of wealth in the country).

Second, one should draw a clear difference between the two main candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad, Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi. Karroubi effectively is a reformist, basically proposing the Iranian version of identity politics, promising favors to all particular groups. Mousavi is something entirely different: his name stands for the genuine resuscitation of the popular dream which sustained the Khomeini revolution. Even if this dream was a utopia, one should recognize in it the genuine utopia of the revolution itself. What this means is that the 1979 Khomeini revolution cannot be reduced to a hard line Islamist takeover – it was much more. Now is the time to remember the incredible effervescence of the first year after the revolution, with the breath-taking explosion of political and social creativity, organizational experiments and debates among students and ordinary people. The very fact that this explosion had to be stifled demonstrates that the Khomeini revolution was an authentic political event, a momentary opening that unleashed unheard-of forces of social transformation, a moment in which “everything seemed possible.” What followed was a gradual closing through the take-over of political control by the Islam establishment. To put it in Freudian terms, today’s protest movement is the “return of the repressed” of the Khomeini revolution.

And, last but not least, what this means is that there is a genuine liberating potential in Islam – to find a “good” Islam, one doesn’t have to go back to the 10th century, we have it right here, in front of our eyes.

The future is uncertain – in all probability, those in power will contain the popular explosion, and the cat will not fall into the precipice, but regain ground. However, it will no longer be the same regime, but just one corrupted authoritarian rule among others. Whatever the outcome, it is vitally important to keep in mind that we are witnessing a great emancipatory event which doesn’t fit the frame of the struggle between pro-Western liberals and anti-Western fundamentalists. If our cynical pragmatism will make us lose the capacity to recognize this emancipatory dimension, then we in the West are effectively entering a post-democratic era, getting ready for our own Ahmadinejads. Italians already know his name: Berlusconi. Others are waiting in line.

Blog Guide: A discussion of blog features and primary topic content may be found at the initial entry. The first few entries give a good idea of how best to use the blog, especially for the tagging and social bookmarking at my external Delicious site, and for instructions regarding the Stefandav TV widget.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Question Over Iran: Can the People Make History or Not?

by Mike Ely at Kasama

There is a self-deceptive politics (among some leftists) that seeks to prettify all kinds of reactionary forces that (for one reason or another) are in opposition to U.S. imperialism — including Islamic reactionaries, Kim Jung Il, “hardline” revisionists of the Li Peng and Eric Honecker type and so on.

And in the process they have a real, almost startling, hostility toward sections of the people who rise up in important if still-inarticulate ways.

My sense is that such politics arise from a despair over actually developing our own revolutionary forces — and a resigned assumption that we have no other alternative but to fall behind any forces (ugly, oppressive, reactionary or not) who (one way or another) who seem to be on America’s shit list.

This is not a uni-polar world with only one defining contradiction. Yes, we understand (and must understand) that the U.S. acts as a central pillar of world capitalism… but it is hardly the only pillar or the only reactionary force.

As someone who remembers this Iranian regime murdering our comrades and drenching the people in blood, it is hard not have a far more nuanced sense of such events. I remember so vividly attended parties of celebration with our Iranian communist comrades, from the Iranian Student Association (ISA) at colleges in the U.S., as they went back to Iran (in 1979) to dive into the revolution — so full of hopes and energy.

And I know now, with real sadness that has never gone away, that many of them ended up in the prisons and torture cells of Khomenei, or wasted on the frontlines of the war with Iraq.

I suspect there is a whole generation of radical activists in the U.S. who don’t know how Iran’s Islamic Republic murdered and tortured communists and leftists in large numbers after the 1979 revolution — to consolidate a very conservative-reactionary god-state. And these victims including many who had based their politics (naively) on forming a “united front against imperialism” with those bloody mullahs-in-power.

The importance of revisiting such history is the importance of not repeating it — and not misunderstanding who the theocrats are, and what they are capable of. And at a moment when they are exposed, hated, de-legitimized, targetted among the people themselves, overwhelmingly because of their own crimes, it would be terrible politics to rally to the Islamic theocrats defense simply because they are also being targetted by the United States and Israel externally. In some ways, those external pressures are part of that “perfect storm” that may reawaken politics within Iran.

We have opposed (and must seek to oppose much more powerfully) the U.S. imperialist threats against Iran — and its whole long-term push to fully dominate the central oil fields of the Middle East. We know that the U.S. and Israel will pursue their geo-political strategies here. And we must understand and oppose those moves.

In many ways the only hope the U.S. has had for a “victory” in Iraq involved (somehow) causing a “regime change” in Iran. In the media, all the talk is about Israel’s fear of nuclear weapons, but there is another more-unspoken issue: the Iraq war has long ago morphed into a U.S.-Iranian power struggle over the control of Iraq (and of this region). And so for the U.S. there are very high stakes in the eruptions in Iran.

But our brains are capable of grasping more than one thread and dynamic at a time — it is not just possible (but inevitable) that great events draw into them the attentions of MANY and DIFFERENT players with many different interests. The U.S. hopes to have a pro-U.S. government emerge from all of this. We all know that. They are intevening in countless ways — seen and unseen. This is undoubtedly true.

But who says that a pro-U.S. outcome is the only possibility? Who says this means that the current government should be supported? Who decided that the people of Iran have no agency, no hopes, no possibility of upsetting that whole table of “choices”?

The world is full of very reactionary governments and forces who are in sharp hostility — but there is certainly no reason to believe that we (or the people generally) always just have to pick to side with one reactionary force over another. Sometimes the clash of oppressive forces create great openings through which radical, secular and even revolutionary forces can emerge, learn, organize and act.

The politics of “lesser evil” is often a politics of lowered sights — a politics so desparing of the possibility of revolution, that real, living, hairy, complex revolution possibilities don’t even enter the thinking. They are there, but you don’t even see them.

In essense, this simplistic approach is an approach that pulls toward a cynical view of people, for their ability to learn and develop politics in complex situations, and which seems rooted in a rather strange attraction to any ugly force in the Third World that seems somehow “hard line.” What kind of a world will that create? What kind of evaluation is that of the forces (who are actually in the field)?

Some have argued that supporting the people in Iran’s streets lack a certain “class understanding.”

Presumably that is because the demonstration in Iran have drawn in urban middle class (but not so many of Iran’s working class and even less of the peasantry). But is that how we understand class? If “the workers” support a U.S. war, and “privileged college students” oppose it — should we be confused by that? Is that kind of crude reductionist “class analysis” we want to uphold?

If Iranian students and urban middle classes are the first to strike out against a brutal and theocratic regime, even if they bring their prejudices and illusions with them — is that so bad or unusual?

History is packed with examples to discuss. (Is the Chinese revolution imaginable without the heavily-urban heavily-educated intellectual movement the 1919 May Fourth Movement. Were the trade union aparatuses automatically right in the French may 1968 events?)

It is a good thing when college students take to the streets against a repressive government (with or without some workers). It is a good thing when secular, urban youth and women march against a theocratic regime that enforces medieval morality, and the veil, and much more (with or without some peasants). It is a good thing when people find their voice in a society that stifled them. And such openings are the path by which radical politics stirs even more widely — including precisely among the working people (who are sometimes slower to move).

A class analysis has many components: One is to approach the countless political questions of our world from the communist point of view of ending all oppression (a view that ultimately is in the interest of those most oppressed and stripped of property). It also looks at the actions of all class in terms of the revolutionary process.

And, finally, what is the “class understanding” in a view that seems to say we are limited to a choice between various capitalist and feudal forces. I.e. that the people of Iran are forced to pick between U.S. or their own ugly, hated ruling class. Is that a “class analysis”?

Someone said to me:

“People opposing these demonstrations have no sense of how revolutions unfold in real life.”

I think there is a lot to this. Often revolution emerges from cracks like this. And revolutionary forces (that will have a role in the future) reach new audiences and forces in events like this. And the forces who drag the people into political life — the Rafsanjanis and Moussavis of history — aren’t always the one who inherit the results.

Will forces within the Iranian establishment try to tame this movement with compromises? Yes. Will they order that demands remain within frameworks of the current system? Yes. Will they send marshals in green armbands into the mass marches to isolate and threaten the more radical, secular and revolutionary forces? Of course.

A great movement is not defined by those who “called it into being.” It is not limited by the forces who officially or temporarily claim to lead it. Its course is not set by those who try to control it. And in all of this, we look for, we popularize the most radical, secular, revolutionary and intransigent forces who ultimately represent the best interests of the people.

In many ways, the people churn up their own interests and programs in great upheavals. They congeal into organizations and trends that will influence a whole generation for decades. They will form the kinds of verdicts (in their own hearts and minds) that forge “a revolutionary people” — for greater challenges and even more sophisticated actions in the future.

We have given up on that future if we were to adopt a narrow, shortsighted politics of always picking between this or that bourgeois player on the scene.

Kasama has just posted this from Reza Fiyouzat:

“The Iranian people sensed a deep fracture within the ruling establishment – something that was clearly expressed in astonishing language and tone, in the televised-for-the-first time live debates between the candidates – and they have ceased their chance to use the divide between their rulers to their own advantage.

“The people may have taken to the streets under the excuse of the elections, and may have been encouraged by the rhetoric of the ‘reformist’ camp in favor of some breathing room in the suffocating political and cultural atmosphere imposed on them, but they have forced the debate further. They are openly, and in millions across the country, questioning the legitimacy of the establishment, represented at the moment by Ahmadinejad. The people, in short, have moved beyond Mousavi and the reformists, but are still willing to go along with the tactics formulated by reformist leaders; for the moment.”

This jibes with both my impression of these events, and my hopes for these events — though we will all learn over time the details of what is happening far below the visible screen. But I do know this: If you look at Iran, any future hope for radical change lie among the people in the streets, not in the bloody military and religious forces running the government.

Blog Guide: A discussion of blog features and primary topic content may be found at the initial entry. The first few entries give a good idea of how best to use the blog, especially for the tagging and social bookmarking at my external Delicious site, and for instructions regarding the Stefandav TV widget.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Revolution in Nepal: A Debate


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.

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