One of the most active participants in current debates in the International Maoist movement is the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [Naxalbari]. The CPI(ML)[Naxalbari] was a member of the now defunct Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and has its roots in the Central Reorganization Centre, CPI(ML) led by K. Venu. The CPI(ML)[Naxalbari] was formed as a result of the merger of the Maoist Unity Centre, CPI(ML) [itself a merger of the Maharashtra Communist Party and Kerala Communist Party in 1997; both parties were State committees of the CRC,CPI(ML) when it dissolved itself in 1991) and a small section of the Andhra Pradesh State unit, led by Com. Rauf, of the CPI(ML)[Red Flag] (which itself is led by K.N. Ramachandran and split from the CRC,CPI(ML) in 1987 over issues including the formation of the RIM and the question of Maoism). The organization from what I can tell is quite small (even by Indian Maoist standards) and most people in the Indian Maoist movement seem to have never heard of it. They seem to largely play a propaganda role, although reportedly in the 1980’s they were involved in armed struggle in Andhra Pradesh.
The CPI(ML)[Naxalbari] was one of the first organizations to publicly critique the UCPN(Maoist)’s line and tactics in the last 5 years and have recently distributed two new documents in which they outline their differences with the UCPN(Maoist). The first document reproduced below is a recent statement by their spokesperson, Krantipriya, and the second document was published in a Nepalese journal in February (copied below, but also available as a Word document here). In the first document the CPI(ML)[Naxalbari] protest the slide towards revisionism by key sections of the leadership of the UCPN(Maoist), especially recent moves towards dismantling the PLA and demand that the revolutionary sections of the UCPN(Maoist) “raise the flag of open rebellion against the revisionist headquarters”. It must be noted that the question of PLA integration remains an issue that divides the international Maoist movement with many parties around the world regarding any attempt to merge the PLA and the Nepalese Army as a betrayal of the revolutionary masses and liken it to the disastrous liquidation of the Communist Party of China into the KMT; whereas others like myself would argue that the issue is not as clear cut as the historical allusion implies and simultaneously emphasise the corollary question about how such an integration may occur whilst ensuring the sustainability of an ideological and political coherency and unity that will then enable an effective infiltration of the Nepalese Army in order to overcome the military impasse that the UCPN(Maoist) continues to face. Furthermore, they point out that the 4-point deal with the Madheshi parties itself is a form of political capitulation to Indian expansionism as it is well-known that the Madheshi parties have largely represented Indian interests in Nepal.
However, it is the second document entitled, “Sadak, Sadan, Sarkar – Tactics of Struggle or Compliance?” that is truly interesting because Com. Ajith provides a very detailed analysis of the strategy that the UCPN(Maoist) has deployed in the last 5 years. Indeed, Com. Ajith convincingly argues that the “street-legislature-government” strategy that the UCPN(Maoist) speaks to a tension between the demands and possibilities afforded by a movement from the “streets” and wrangling in the “legislature-government”. Com. Ajith points out that there is an inevitable tension, something that many progressives in North America even experience in regards to President Obama and the Democratic Party in the USA and the New Democratic Party in Canada, between what the popular masses on the streets want and what the politicians in the ‘legislature-government’ deem possible. Often this is simply because of the parliamentary illusions that are fostered in elections which strongly suggest that by simply electing x, y, z politicians the desired political programme will be carried out and result post-election in the complete collapse of the movement in the “streets” or; despite all of the rhetoric from politicians about how they represent the voices of people in the “streets”, or need those very “streets” to hold their feet to the fire and “keep them honest”, it becomes abundantly clear to the progressive movement that any political action critiquing the activities of those elected representatives is deemed unwelcome, and are often told that they are undermining the parliamentary cause and weakening the “Left” as a whole. Often those who persist with demanding the original political programme are simply dismissed as being “utopians” or “ultra-Leftists”. In fact, one can easily see in the case of Nepal since 2006 that the movement in the “streets” has been subsumed under “parliamentary” and “governmental” concerns and that an independent programme for the “streets” has not been developed. As Com. Ajith notes, “Avoiding the concrete specificity of the situation, the contest of revolution and counter-revolution, it was restricting the revolutionary forces to a secondary issue, the matter of the Constituent Assembly. Instead of addressing and promoting the objective split in interests between the revolutionary and reactionary sections and making this the basis for new polarisation and mobilisation, it was papering over the split.”
Furthermore, as Com. Ajith correctly has pointed out, the desire for a “Constituent Assembly” (one that has been a mainstay demand for the Nepalese communist movement since its inception) reduces the contradictions to simply one between democracy and feudalism, and does not clearly see that a whole host of other politico-economic positions are able to similarly exploit the situation, such as the weak nascent Nepalese bourgeoisie that is hostile to both communism and feudalism alike (the tension between this nascent bourgeoisie and feudalism is something that Com. Mao wanted to exploit in his 4 class alliance and also was the reason that he emphasised the need for a strong Communist Party at the helm of the New Democratic Revolution). Additionally, Com. Ajith points out that it is unlikely, nigh impossible, for a constitution that would instrumentalise the New Democratic Revolution to be passed through the Constituent Assembly and that it is only through a real movement on the streets that this is possible. However, they note that this has resulted in the Left and the Right of the Party to simply emphasise one aspect of the SLG tactic, so the Left emphasises the streets whereas the Right emphasises the Legislature-Government, and neither is able to develop a strategy and tactics that is actually capable of dealing with the quandary that the the UCPN(Maoist) currently finds itself mired regarding the capacity to make the revolutionary change that is actually required through the dissolution of the State and the re-foundation of a dictatorship of the proletariat.
I really recommend that all revolutionaries and scholars interested in the current situation in Nepal read the article by Com. Ajith because I think that it is one of the most concise and useful documents that has been written in the last few years that actually explains the failure of the UCPN(Maoist) to take the revolutionary process forward, and firmly grounds their critique in a close and critical analysis of the post-2006 SLG tactic (something that to my knowledge has yet to be done by anyone). The article does not resolve any of the questions that I have pointed out regarding the possible economic isolation of Nepal, the apparent lack of desire in the urban classes to make a revolution, and the military impasse, but does provide a useful analysis by which to understand how the revolutionary process in Nepal has come to an end and addresses the tactical-strategic problems that the Left of the party has to overcome. Simultaneously, the article does not mindlessly cheerlead for any given faction, as many are given to do, but rather places the blame at the feet of both the Left and the Right, and is thus a far more honest appraisal of the situation in Nepal.
On the current situation in Nepal and the challenge before the Maoists
Participation in the Constitutional Assembly process, and in government, in Nepal has been used by the UCPN (Maoist) leadership to liquidate the revolutionary nature of the party and sink it in the morass of parliamentarism. For quite some time now, this has been the concrete political manifestation of revisionism, of the derailment of the party from the path of New Democratic Revolution. It has now been taken to a new depth with the recent appointment of Dr. Baburam Bhattarrai as the Prime Minister of Nepal through a deal with the Madheshi parties, known agents of the Indian expansionists. Following a script already given by the reactionaries and endorsed by the UCPN (Maoist) leadership, the new government promptly handed over the keys of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) stored weapons. Severely drained of its fighting qualities through the policies followed by the leadership of the UCPN(Maoist), it is now being prepared for formal elimination, to finish off the last remaining, and one of the most important, achievements of the 10 years of People’s War. Thus the people will have nothing to bank on and will be helplessly thrown back to the reactionary wolves.
10 years of heroic war of the masses and their immense sacrifices gave the tiny organisation CPN (Maoist) international fame and recognition. Once the emerging shining armour in the glorious history of the international communist movement, this party is now reduced to being ‘just another petty political party’, shamelessly bargaining for some space in the ruling class benches. Today the very leaders of this organisation are trading sacrifices and pains of the revolutionary masses for a few ministerial posts and recognition from the Indian expansionists, in the service of the imperialists. Every step taken by them is meant to prove to their aakkas (masters) that they are genuinely committed to abandoning the path of revolution.
When communists turn colour and rot the stench is far worse. The slogan ‘serve the masses’ is converted to ‘serve the imperialist-expansionist masters’. As the class nature of the party changes, it acquires the ‘most favoured status’ from the ruling classes. The veil of minimum bourgeois morality too is shorn off. Shameless degeneration, craving for consumer goods and luxuries replace communist plain living, revolutionary self-respect and modesty. Revisionists are the seeds of reactionaries and slaves of the imperialists in the revolutionary ranks. In no time they infect the whole organisation, decapitate its ideological strength and denude it of its revolutionary sheen. The first thing they do in order to liquidate a revolutionary organisation is by bringing in liberalism in place of firm and clear ideological position. They abhor Leninist party principles and convert the organisation into an open non-functional debating forum. Conspiracies and manipulations become the hallmark of functioning. All these features can now be seen in the UCPN (Maoist).
The Maoists had gained strategic advantage through the ten years of People’s War, which liberated vast regions of the country and established people’s power. The advance of revolution intensified the crisis within the ruling classes and pushed their imperialist, expansionist mentors into a quandary. This set the context for the Peace Accord of 2006 and the mass upheaval that eventually led to the ending of the hated Gyanendra monarchy. The Maoist party was propelled to a unique position of national leadership, gaining overwhelming support for the unfinished agenda of revolution. But instead of utilising these favourable factors and applying tactics suitable to the fulfilment of these aspirations of the people the leadership deviated from the strategic tasks of revolution. The ideological, political roots of this deviation, including the different trends contained in the turn to ‘peace tactics’, are already a matter of ideological struggle within the Nepalese and international Maoist movement. The views of our party on this matter, including correspondence with the UCPN (Maoist) leadership, can be seen in ‘Naxalbari’ No: 3 ( http://www.thenaxalbari.blogspot.com ). This ideological struggle must be certainly deepened, most importantly by the Nepali Maoists themselves. But the immediate task before the Maoists and the revolutionary masses in Nepal is to raise the flag of open rebellion against the revisionist headquarters and thus initiate the reconstruction of the party on solid Marxist-Leninist-Maoist bases, firmly united with the masses. They must get out off the revisionist swamp of Constitutional Assembly politicking and retake the road of revolution. The revolutionary heritage of the Maoists in Nepal, much enriched by the heroic People’s War they led and the glorious sacrifices made by thousands of the valiant daughters and sons of Nepal, along with the boundless solidarity of people all over the world with the Nepali revolution provide the bedrock basis for taking up this challenge. As called for in the Political Resolution of the CCOMPOSA, “People all over the world look up to the Maoists in Nepal to break out of all domestic and external conspiracies and advance determinedly towards the completion of new democratic revolution.”
6th September 2011
Sadak, Sadan, Sarkar – Tactics of Struggle or Compliance?
This was written in February 2011 for a Nepali Maoist journal as a contribution to the ideological struggle
When a great revolution marks time the silence is all the more ominous. The humdrum routines of peacetime often dull one from sensing it. But, no matter what, swords are being sharpened. Will the 5 years of peace end up liquidating the gains made through 10 years of people’s war or will it provide new resources for the revolution to once again rage on? Much depends on an accurate assessment of the present situation and tactics derived from it. This, obviously, is beyond the capacity of a spectator. But then, the outsider view is not without its benefits too. It allows a distancing, and its objectivity, denied to those on the stage. This is an opportunity for a broader view, a critiquing from outside. It also allows one to take liberties and indulge in wayward thinking. Having thus oiled my hands in anticipation of a sticky time (literally), let me get into the messy business of carving up the jackfruit.
Two cardinal principles of the Marxist understanding on tactics can be summarised as follows: (1) tactics should serve strategy; (2) they should address the concrete, specific demands of the given situation. As put by the master tactician Lenin, “Marxism requires of us a strictly exact and objectively verifiable analysis of the relations of classes and of the concrete features peculiar to each historical situation.” (‘Letter on Tactics’) Between the two the former is most important. Tactics that violate or deviate from the correct strategic orientation of any specific stage are of no use; no matter how ‘concrete’ they may appear to be. Regarding the second principle, the question of identifying ‘demands of the given situation’ also requires the guidance of the correct strategic orientation. Identifying what exactly they are, defining the ‘given situation’ is no straightforward, simple matter. It depends very much on one’s outlook. Moreover, the ‘specific demands’ of the situation must be grasped dynamically, focussed on the emerging aspect. In other words the concreteness of tactics should keep in mind, or address, not just the present but the emergent future too. This is how one ensures that tactics really serve strategy. Because the task of tactics is to promote objective and subjective factors that would assist in the fulfilment of strategic aims (or eliminate/weaken those that obstruct these aims). With this perspective, let’s now get on to an examination of the ‘sadak, sadan, sarkar’ (‘street-legislature-government’) tactic advanced by the UCPN (Maoist). I will term it the ‘SLG tactic’
This tactic was first put forward in 2007. Though a lot has happened since then, it is still retained as the main tactics by the UCPN (Maoist). Its latest CC document states: “The party has adopted a clear-cut policy of mobilizing the people for the mass insurrection to establish people’s federal republic or people’s republic through according priority to struggle from all fronts including the front of peace and constitution and the front of the government with especial focus on the front of street struggle on the basis of four preparations and four bases.” The context of the SLG tactic, in 2007, was the complexity of the Interim period leading to the Constituent Assembly. We need not get into all the details here. Reactionaries, domestic and foreign, were persistently trying to block the Maoists and subvert the revolution. The tactic of SLG was supposed to check this in an all-round manner. But could it really deliver?
First of all, though the idea of tackling the enemy at all levels looks quite attractive, its actual implication is a rather one-sided application. This is inevitable. One cannot mobilise the party or the masses for any meaningful fight in the streets while being in government. It is simply impossible to put up a real fight from the streets – 1. against one’s own government and 2. against a power structure one is planning to join or continue in, even if temporarily. All that can be done is some stage-managed business where both the ‘fighters’ and the ‘defenders’ stick to their pre-set roles; throw in a few broken bones on both sides for ‘effect’. In other words, though positioned at the end, getting into or hanging on in the ‘sarkar’ is the real center of this tactic. Sadak is meant to serve this center, a pressure point. The sadan part is an obvious corollary to sarkar.
One may object that this ‘sadan’ is qualitatively different since it is not the usual parliamentary pig-sty but a Constituent Assembly (CA). That much can certainly be admitted. But this is precisely where the SLG tactic is shown up at its worst. The alliance between the parliamentary parties and the Maoists continued in the form of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim government even after the monarchical dictatorship was ended. But, objectively, while still under the common banner of Interim Setup and Constituent Assembly, the interests of the two sides within the alliance had started diverging sharply. The outstanding feature of the post-Jan Andolan 2 period is the urge of the broad masses to push ahead towards a new society, towards revolution. In opposition to this stand the conspiracies of domestic and foreign reactionaries to prevent revolution at all costs. So far as they were concerned, the matter of retaining or disposing of the monarchy was secondary to this. The matter of Constituent Assembly too is secondary for them. It is useful to them to the extent it can be used to carry out some reforms in the state structure, widening its social base and thus making it more capable of ensuring domination and exploitation. But if counter-revolution so demands, they will not hesitate to shut it down, democracy be dammed!
So what exactly was the SLG tactic addressing? Avoiding the concrete specificity of the situation, the contest of revolution and counter-revolution, it was restricting the revolutionary forces to a secondary issue, the matter of the Constituent Assembly. Instead of addressing and promoting the objective split in interests between the revolutionary and reactionary sections and making this the basis for new polarisation and mobilisation, it was papering over the split. What was needed was tactics to translate the division into a formal split from the ruling classes. Instead SLG offered the illusion of struggle, strictly within the boundaries set by the outmoded alliance. In essence it was a guideline for manoeuvres in power play, not struggle. Hence the big mobilisations and mass protests could not but end tamely in new compromises and deals. Whether conscious or not, a strategic shift from revolution to reform was underway. The Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and completion of the constitution-making process through the CA came to be seen as an unavoidably necessary step, an aim in its own right.
The shifting of the tactical issue of CA into a strategic aim is evidently linked quite closely with an absolutising of the abolition of the monarchy. The monarchy, as an institution of the state and as a hegemonic ideological apparatus, was indeed the main lynchpin of feudalism in Nepal, one which has a centuries old suffocating grip on Nepali society. But once Nepal came under British imperialist domination and became a semi-colony, it no longer represented feudalism alone. It became the lynchpin of all reaction. The class character of the king and court nobles itself changed. They were increasingly tied up directly with the growing bureaucrat capitalism. Distinguishing between feudal forces and the comprador-bureaucrat bourgeoisie and targeting the monarchy in order to tactically utilise the contradiction among these two parts of the ruling classes was correct. But viewing and presenting the monarchy solely in relation to feudal forces was wrong. The monarchy was only a form of the existing Nepali state, a state which serves all the ruling classes. Lack of clarity on this promoted the danger of absolutising the struggle to end the monarchy. The form of a republic with parliamentary democracy resulting from an abolishment of the monarchy could thus be presented as a means of realising ‘bourgeois democracy’. It could be offered as a ‘realistic’ target; for some as a substitute for the strenuous task of destroying the existing state and completing the NDR, for others as a transitional, but inevitable, goal.
Given the centuries old existence of the Nepalese monarchy, its abolishment was no doubt a significant achievement of the revolutionary process led by the Maoists. It considerably weakened the institutions of the reactionary state and deepened divisions within the ruling classes. But the ending of the monarchy did not mean the abolishment of the state. Moreover, the ending of the monarchy was something that could be utilised by the enemies also. And that is what they did. They claimed that the tasks set forth by the 2006 mass movement had been mainly accomplished and that there was no further justification for the Maoists’ separate agenda. This possibility was already seen during the 2007 political crisis when the Nepal Congress hastily declared in favour of a republic.
Nepal needs a new, revolutionary constitution that will ensure inclusive democracy for the people. But this can never be realised under the Interim setup. So long as dual power existed within it, de facto if not de jure, this setup could at best serve as a launchpad for revolution. As part of an immediate plan for organising the revolutionary seizure of power, constitution making could have been a tool for exposing the enemies and mobilising a broad mass movement. In the absence of such a concrete plan (not vague calls for insurrection) the Constituent Assembly is a trap that ties down the revolutionary party. That the UCPN(Maoist) does not have the required majority to push through its constitutional proposals is well known. But there is an even more basic issue. The principles of any constitution are only as weighty as the force that can be employed to ensure their implementation. This much is clear from the basic teachings of Marxism on the matter of the state, constitutions and government. In the situation of Nepal, the old state is yet to be destroyed. Dual power no longer exists. Therefore, no matter how progressive a constitution may be presented in the Constituent Assembly by the UCPN(Maoist), it will be a dead letter. One didn’t have to wait for the results of the CA elections to come to this conclusion.
Our examination of tactics thus takes us to the realm of strategy. Revolution versus reform, this is the strategic issue at stake. Since reform, in the present world and geo-political context, will inevitably end up as service to Indian expansionism, this should be posed more precisely as revolution versus capitulation. It is self-explanatory that these opposing strategies cannot be served by the same set of tactics. There is a further problem. Rightism dressed up as realism, or for that matter centrism masquerading as cool-headed perseverance, invariably insist on sharing verbiage with revolution. The tactics of revolution must therefore shoulder the additional task of separating itself, even in words, from them. How is this being handled by the left in the two line struggle? The left has been crucial in keeping the prospects of revolution alive. If not for the determined fight it is putting up, (and the fortuitous dismissal of the Maoist led government!), things would have been in a very bad shape, revolution-wise. But has it really broken away from the premises of rightism and centrism?
The left has persistently argued the need for new tactics. But this is premised on the ‘new situation’ that emerged after the completion of the CA elections and abolishment of the monarchy. The separation from those who claim that the Chungwang process is not yet exhausted is evident. Yet doesn’t this argument, with its premises, still remain within the perceptual frame of those it wants to oppose? It locates the need for new tactics in the post-monarchy, post-CA election situation. Thus these events are made the indices of the completion of the Chungwang process. But in doing so isn’t it missing out the fact that the victory of Jan Andolan-2 had already inaugurated the completion of the Chungwang process by objectively causing a split in the immediate interests of the two sides in the anti-monarchy alliance? By taking the ending of monarchy and completion of the CA elections as indices it too acknowledges that they were essential. As a result, the shifting of tactical issues such as the CA and abolishment of monarchy into strategic aims, the role this has played in strengthening the grounds of ‘sub-stage’ views and promoting the deviation from the revolutionary road is missed.
New tactics had to be formulated, but premised on the reality that the Chungwang process was exhausted by mid-2007 itself. New tactics were needed; not because the CA elections are over and monarchy abolished, but because the party had made sufficient headway by 2007 in the tactical aims set by it in 2005, as part of preparing for the final assault for political power. After all, this was the declared aim of the Chungwang tactics. If this revolutionary frame of reference is not retaken, the left will not be able to break out of the frame set by rightism and centrism.
This apparently is the context of the continued support given by the left for going back to government and the SLG tactic as seen in the recent CC document. Inevitably, the distinction between the right and the left is blurred. The ranks of the party and the masses are left disarmed. Within the left, there is a strong tendency to see the abandoning of the ‘street’ part of SLG as the main error. It urges a ‘full’ application of the three pronged tactics. This begs the question, struggle for what? Rightists take to the streets when out of government. They need it … to get back into government and enjoy the crumbs of power. We in India are quite familiar with such revisionist ‘street-government’ tactics. Can anything different be expected in Nepal? A series of mass struggles were launched by UCPN (Maoist) in the period following its dismissal from government. But they have not led to any decisive, qualitative change. All that energy was finally pooled into pushing the ruling class parties towards a new compromise (yet to be actualised) that will allow the UCPN (Maoist) into government.
The argument for continuing the SLG tactics is bound up with thinking, still influential even within the left that the CA process must be taken to its logical end. The crucial need today is to regain the revolutionary road. The SLG tactic will block this. What are needed are tactics and plan to break out of the existing Interim setup and advance towards completing the NDR. These tactics must help expose the hard reality that the CA and Interim setup have become tools in the hands of reactionaries. The masses must be educated to see how reaction is trying to dissipate and destroy the revolution by prolonging the CA/Interim process. Today, posing as the true defenders of the CA is self-defeating. To argue that the CA is fine but the NC-UML combine, tutored by India, is blocking its functioning is nothing but disarming the people. The truth must be told to the people that the existing CA has been made into a mockery, a trap of reaction, that it can never deliver what the people aspire. Nothing less will do. Insurrections are not known to drop out of clear blue skies, all primed and set to go. You need the brooding clouds, the thunder and lightning. Insurrections must be prepared.
The Maoists in Nepal have to advance in a very complex and challenging situation. In fact it is almost similar to a new initiation. But one that is more complex and challenging. At the time of the initiation of the people’s war the party did not have to deal with diplomatic or other similar relations. Everything was a new beginning. But now it must handle a lot many more aspects and pay attention to properly handling their relations, so that the maximum gain can be retained while making the new leap. But what is decisive is the leap and gearing up the party to take it. Because, no matter how good a job is done in handling such complex relations and tasks, a restructuring of the present support base, the falling away of a substantial section particularly from among the middle classes, is inevitable. In fact this partial destruction is a necessary corollary to the leap. All this crucially hinges on the deepening of the line struggle and decisive rupture from rightism.
The Maoist movement in Nepal has a rich history of struggle against rightism. It has a powerful Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideological tradition. Political power enjoyed by vast sections of masses for the first time in the country, oppressed sections and regions of society living a life of dignity, backward Nepal being transformed into a beacon for the whole world, daring thinking and initial steps towards building up a self-reliant Nepal – these glorious achievements of the people’s war, realised through the sacrifice of innumerable martyrs, has added even more might to this heritage. The Nepali Maoists will surely succeed in drawing on it and regaining the revolutionary road.