Rebellion Is Justified!: On the Main Ideological Contributions of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

Friday, September 1

On the Main Ideological Contributions of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

[The following is a distillation of the content of three articles taken from issue number ten of The Worker, organ of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist): 1. “International Dimension of Prachanda Path,” by Comrade Basanta; 2. “Epochal Ten Years of Application and Development of Revolutionary Ideas,” by Comrade Baburam Bhattarai; 3. “Hoist the Revolutionary Flag on Mount Everest in the 21st Century,” an interview with CPN(Maoist) Comrade Chairman Prachanda. My aim in writing this article is to synopsize the contributions of the Nepalese Maoists to the international communist movement and to the development of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory. Any italics are mine. - K.G.]

The CPN(Maoist) refers to the application and development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in the flames of the Nepalese revolution as “Prachanda Path.” Comrade Basanta writes that the Nepalese Party “does not claim that Prachanda Path has already become universal. Nor do we think it is the time to debate whether or not it has attained universality. Nonetheless, we believe that the new concepts and ideas that it has put forward encompasses ideological and political strength to help develop revolutionary struggles all across the world.” There are several areas in which the Nepalese communists have made ideological breakthroughs, the validity of which have been tested, and will continue to be tested by practice.

Combat Revisionism… and Dogmatism

The CPN(Maoist) has stressed, that although revisionism of basic Marxist-Leninist-Maoist principles and right-wing opportunism are the main danger to the communist movement, there cannot be a qualitative leap forward without challenging certain ossified, dogmatic tendencies among the communists. Comrade Basanta says: “Our Party believes that although right revisionism is the main danger in the contemporary ICM, sectarianism and dogmatism also have been creating impediments for the smooth development of revolution from within the Maoist camp in the world”; however, it is clear that “(n)o ideology other than MLM and no form of struggle other than People's War can wipe out imperialism.”

It is understandable that sectarianism and dogmatism have emerged as problems, since the very future of the communist movement was endangered following the loss in China in 1976. After the death of Mao, says Comrade Prachanda, “the revolutionary Maoist movement, in the name of defending the basic principles of MLM against right revisionism, happened to fall prey to sectarian dogmato-revisionism that repeats old things only and overlooks the analysis of the development of an object.”

What is called for is the creative development of communist ideology. “Creative development” is a term that has been sullied by renegades like Khrushchev, but a reflexively dogmatic response to revisionism will not enable a leap forward in the world revolution. Comrade Basanta states that “the usual business of clinging on to what Lenin and Mao said in their life time will not help the Maoist revolutionaries change the face of the globe” and that “the analysis of imperialism made by Lenin and Mao in the twentieth century cannot scientifically guide the Maoist revolutionaries to develop correct strategy and tactic to fight in the twenty-first century.” He quotes Comrade Prachanda: “This February, Comrade Prachanda stressed the importance of ‘struggling against the problems like those of preferring to analyze and eulogize the experiences of old proletarian revolutions but hesitating to develop courageously the strategy and tactics based on mass line by carrying out concrete analysis of the concrete condition.’”

Specifically, Comrade Prachanda calls for ”struggle against Hoxhaite dogmato-revisionism that eulogizes even some of the metaphysical weaknesses of Comrade Stalin and its negative consequences.” This sort of contention has been a source of controversy, with Indian comrades in particular expressing opposition to criticism of Stalin. He further called for learning from Marxist thinkers that have been previously criticized by communists for their errors: “Our Party is definitely opposed to discarding the great revolutionaries like Rosa (Luxemburg) and Che (Guevara) into a different camp by distancing them from the mainstream Marxism and revolution; rather, we are for respecting them and learning from their contributions.” This is the communist broadmindedness that is characteristic of the giants of the revolutionary movement.

Strategy and Tactics

One of the hallmarks of the Nepalese Revolution has been its combination of strategic firmness and tactical flexibility. Comrade Prachanda says that “tactical flexibility without strategic firmness leads to a quagmire of reformism and revisionism and while strategic firmness without tactical flexibility leads to a marsh of mechanical tendency and dogmatism, only a proper implementation of dialectical interrelationship between strategic firmness and tactical flexibility can propel revolutionary movement in a proper and dynamic way.” Comrade Baburam Bhattarai affirms that “it is evident that the policy of strategic firmness and tactical flexibility practiced with success during the past ten years is an important component in the development of MLM and Prachanda Path.”

The CPN(Maoist) has been criticized by Indian comrades for some of its tactics, including utilizing peace talks as a route of war by other means. Answering critics, Comrade Basanta states that “(i)t is true, we had gone too far before and we should be ideologically prepared to go far again if necessary for revolution. We had united with parties which were revisionists. Our Party had 11 members in the parliament that can nowhere be seen in the history of revolutionary communists after Lenin's Dumas. We were in table with the enemy twice in the history of People's War. We declared unilateral ceasefire when we were achieving military victory one after another.” Yet the Nepalese Revolution has, in the process of implementing flexible tactics on the basis of strategic firmness, moved from one victory to the next.

It is the view of the Nepalese Maoists that a lack of tactical flexibility has been at the root of setbacks to the communist movement. Comrade Bhattarai proposes: “There has been discernible sectarian and mechanistic deviation from both the right and left perspectives in the understanding and application of the dialectical interrelationship between war and politics inherent in the scientific formulation of 'War is politics by other (i.e. violent) means' developed from Clausewitz through Marx and Lenin to Mao. Rectifying this, the PW was initiated and after the initiation various types of negotiations and political initiatives were constantly and successfully undertaken in the service of the war.

Comrade Prachanda points to the case of Peru, attributing what must be admitted to be the failure of the People’s War in Peru to “the imbalance in the use of strategic firmness and tactical flexibility (unilateral emphasis on strategy), in the question of developing ideas through concrete analysis of concrete condition in the changed context of today's world as well as idealistic thought of glorifying the leadership.”(1)

Party and Revolutionary State

The CPN(Maoist) aims to create a situation after nationwide victory in which revolutionary successors continuously regenerate the Party, and the revolution continues under the revolutionary class dictatorship. The fact that socialism was destroyed in the Soviet Union and in China following the demise of Stalin and Mao presents a serious problem for communists. Comrade Basanta asks: ”(W)hy does the absence (death or capture) of the main leadership, who personally had led the revolution, become the cause of counter-revolution? How can we generate revolutionary successors, who are capable of uninterruptedly sustaining and developing revolution, while the main leadership is still alive?” The Nepalese comrades have attempted to address this question through proposing new organizational frameworks for the proletarian dictatorship. Perhaps most provocatively, this February, Comrade Prachanda said that "the Party firmly believes that only by organizing Partywise competition, even in the socialist society, within the constitutional framework against feudalism and imperialism and making lively the supervision, control and intervention of the masses in the state power, can the proletarian dictatorship be consolidated and the counter-revolutionary force be prevented from raising its head.”

a. Multi-Party Competition

Comrade Bhattarai refers to the “historic Plenum of the CC of the Party was held in Rolpa in May-June 2003. This Plenum adopted a document of monumental significance on 'The Development of Democracy in the 21 It Century'. After making a critical review of the experiences of revolution and counter-revolution in the 20th century, the document advocated the need to ensure the supervision, intervention and control of the masses over the Party, army and the state in order to march along the path of continuous revolution after making the revolution, and for this advanced the concept of practicing a multi-party competitive system within the stipulated constitutional framework. This was a new milestone in the development of revolutionary ideas.” This decision, according to Comrade Prachanda “prepared the ground for concluding the 12-point understanding with other parliamentary political parties to spearhead the anti-monarchy mass movement.”

The rationale for this decision is laid out by Comrade Basanta: “(I)n the course of exercising dictatorship upon the class enemies, no constitutional provisions were developed to ensure people's democratic right to supervise, control and intervene upon the communist Party, people's army and the people's government if they turn against the people.” Comrade Prachanda elaborates, contending that “within the anti-feudal and anti-imperialistic constitutional framework, only through multi-Party competition even in a socialist society can counter-revolution be prevented and proletariat's rule be strengthened by making effective the people's control, monitoring and intervention in the governance.”

Delving into the practical implications of multiple parties under new democracy and socialism, Comrade Prachanda states that “the political parties that represent various classes and ideological beliefs will not need to set up separate armies because there interests will not be antagonistic. Instead, there begins a people's democratic competition under people's dictatorship, which only further strengthens people's state.” He makes clear that the competition between parties under socialism would be non-antagonistic in nature. It must be asked: What, from an institutional perspective, is to assure that this will be the case? While Comrade Prachanda makes clear that multiple parties must abide by the constitutional framework established by revolutionary victory, stating that “(n)o one should forget the limit of people's democratic and socialist constitutional system,” it is not clear how this multi-party system will look in practice - specifically, how it will differ from previous multi-party people’s democratic states. New China always had multiple parties, as did many East European states like the German Democratic Republic. In sum, it is unclear at this point what CPN(Maoist) means by multi-party competition. However, it should be pointed out that Comrade Prachanda stated that “UML's (the main revisionist party –K.G.)multi-party people's democracy expresses class coordination and a reformist line of bourgeois parliamentarianism while our slogan of democratic republic expresses transitional revolutionary slogan that helps propel class struggle in a special condition of power balance.”

b. Separation of Party Cadres from Administrative Work; No Life Tenure

Comrade Prachanda refers to the proposal “that the chief leader and the core team of the leadership should focus on ideological works by keeping themselves away from the day to day administrative works and provide a physical environment for the revolutionaries of the new generation to be trained as successors.” It is important to maintain a ruling Party as a revolutionary Party, and the experience of the socialist states has shown that parties may become bogged down with administrative work; in essence, the communist organizer can in such a case become a “technocrat,” removed from conscious political activity. The danger in separating Party and state work is that politics will not be the lifeblood of economic work; that is, “reds” will occupy the sphere of public opinion while “experts” will occupy the state management of the economy. While it is commendable that the Nepalese comrades seek to maintain their revolutionary character through defining the distinction between administrative and ideological spheres, in no case should the administrative sphere become “off-limits” to communist organizers. Quite the contrary, communists must play a leading role in the management of all spheres of state and economic work.

With regard to official tenure, Comrade Bhattarai refers to the Party decision that after nationwide victory it is important to ”handover responsibilities to the revolutionary successors in time, rather than the main authoritative leadership running the Party and the state throughout his life…”; thus, the Nepalese comrades have rejected the practice of life tenure in organizational leadership. The transition to new generations of revolutionary leaders must occur while the veteran comrades are still alive. Mao stressed the need for combining old, middle-aged, and young comrades in leadership, but did not break with the life tenure concept. The principal leadership must be periodically regenerated through measures adopted by state law and Party statute.

c. No Standing Army

Comrade Prachanda proclaims that a revolutionary Nepalese state will not require a formal standing army. After nationwide victory, “when the same people's liberation army, instead of being confined in the barracks; goes to the people and creates an ocean of armed people and dissolves itself in it, it will truly reflect the balance between people's democracy and dictatorship and dissolution of the state.” In view of the current realities and balance of military power in the world, the strongest national defense for a country like Nepal is indeed a people’s militia, both popular in character and disciplined, which is politically capable of waging people’s war. Imperialist aggression will not be repelled with conventional warfare in the case of countries like Nepal, but rather guerrilla warfare. As regards standing armies under socialism, Comrade Prachanda further says that in Russia and China, “the extremely powerful permanent armies could not ultimately prevent counterrevolutions, rather the permanent armies themselves turned into the police of the counterrevolution.” It is true that, after the revolution, the professional armies in many cases were never able to break with the culture and ideology of the defeated classes; instead, they were breading grounds for anti-socialist conspirators. For example, one may look to Marshall Zhukov in the Soviet Union, who enforced Khrushchev’s coup against revolutionaries like Molotov. In China, Marshall Ye Jianying provided logistical support to the coup by Deng Xiaoping and his puppets against the Maoist revolutionaries.

d. Right to Self-Determination

Nepal, like many countries, is a prison house of nations. The Maoists place a high premium of leading the liberation movements of the oppressed nations and peoples of Nepal - they recognize that the right to national self-determination is an indispensable prerequisite of national liberation. Comrade Prachanda states that Nepal “will not disintegrate because of right to self-determination or autonomy. Rather it will become a united and powerful,” and that “reactionary forces who spread such rumours that the nation will disintegrate because of right to self-determination and autonomy are people of no less feudal mindset than those who feel that 'all women will start leaving their husbands if they are given the right to divorce'.” On the other hand, it should be stressed that some wives who are abused by their husbands will indeed leave their husbands, especially if these men will not reform! Likewise, some oppressed nations will want independent states, particularly if the oppressor nation will not “reform” by changing its ways through revolution.

Imperialism and Revolution

a. Implications of Globalization

Comrade Basanta points out that the “counter-revolution in China in the 70s, the collapse of Soviet social imperialism in the 80s and inability of other imperialist powers to compete with the US military strength created a temporarily 'favorable' situation for the US to escalate its all-round and unchallenged offensive against the nations and people all across the world.” Formulating a correct understanding of the operation of imperialism is crucial to maximizing the capacity of communists to lead and develop revolutionary struggle.

Comrade Bhattarai spells out the need for new analysis of imperialism in the current period: “Following the Second World War, the inter-imperialist rivalry and Lenin's analysis on the nature of war that continues among them to divide and redivide a certain part of the world and the proletarian strategy built up on its basis, and following the Cold War, the situation of the analysis of Three Worlds made by Mao, even though in a tactical sense, do not basically exist. The condition of the US imperialism, which is advancing as a globalized form of state, has caused Lenin's and Mao's analyses on this to lag behind in the same manner as the development of imperialism in Lenin's time had made Marx's the then analysis and strategy, based on his analysis of capitalism, that revolution will take place firstly and simultaneously in the developed capitalist countries of Europe, to lag behind.”

The Nepalese communists have developed the view that imperialist globalization has necessited the closer integration of world revolutionary movements, while still recognizing that revolution may occur in one or several countries at a time. Comrade Basanta states that the “globalized imperialism developing in the form of a single state and unprecedented revolution in the information technology has now made this world a small unit.” Quoting Comrade Prachanda, he reiterates “Comrade Prachanda writes in the document of CC meeting, 2005, ‘The main specificity of today's imperialism has been to exploit and oppress the broad masses of people of the earth economically, politically, culturally and militarily in the form of a single globalized state.’”

Comrade Basanta makes two propositions: (1) “(R)evolution in any country must be carried out as a part and parcel of the world revolution,” and (2) “revolution in any country can neither be accomplished nor defended unless masses are mobilized internationally. In this regard, the Nepalese Maoists emphatically affirm that “(c)onstituting a new Communist International has definitely become essential for the proletariat to fight against globalized imperialism and globalized revisionism, especially in the context of today's world situation.”

b. United Front Against Imperialism

Comrade Prachanda calls for a broad international front against imperialism. Rather than making the main point of departure the criticism of revisionism or “social-fascism,” Comrade Prachanda states that “(a)s far as the question of Cuba is concerned, we have taken it in the form of a united front against US imperialism.” In the current period, the revisionist states like China, Vietnam, Laos, and the DPR Korea must be won over to a united from against imperialism. They are a part of the third world, are often in sharp contention with imperialism, and as such are in a position to support just democratic demands for national sovereignty and freedom from interference in the internal affairs of third world countries, regardless of social system. The CPN(Maoist) has taken this stand with regards to China (and India), and is engaging in diplomacy for the new, embryonic revolutionary state, assuring Nepal’s neighbors that it seeks peaceful relations on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, as upheld by Mao.

Modern People’s War

The Maoists of Nepal have sought to fuse the conception of protracted people’s war as developed by Mao with insurrection as a revolutionary military strategy. Comrade Bhattarai points out the problems faced by communists waging people’s wars: “(I)t is seen that the protracted PWs launched in different countries have faced obstacles or got liquidated after reaching the state of strategic offensive and imperialism has attempted to refine its interventionist counter-insurgency war strategy as a ‘long war.’ In this context, if the revolutionaries do mechanistically cling to the 'protracted' aspect of the PW at any cost, it would in essence play into the lands of imperialism and reaction.”

Comrade Prachanda criticized ”the tendency to narrow down the war by erecting a Chinese wall between the two 20th century military strategies (general armed struggle and a Protracted People's War) or being imprisoned in one or the other model. In the present contexts of the world that is getting smaller due to revolution in information technology and a modem, unified and centralized exploitation-oppression of globalized imperialism, the Party on the basis of an analysis of positive and negative experiences of the past century concluded that it is necessary to move ahead by having a fusion of the strategies of long-term People's War in armed struggle and the strategies of armed struggle in People's War.” As summarized by Comrade Bhattarai: “(I)n keeping with the ever changing world situation and the specificities of Nepal it was decided to fuse certain aspects of the strategy of armed insurrection to the military strategy of protracted PW from the very beginning.”

Further stressing the tactical flexibility of the Nepalese communists, Comrade Basanta says that the CPN(Maoist) has “put forward a new concept of fusion of two strategies - the protracted People's War and insurrection. But this fusion does not mean a mechanical amalgamation of two kinds of strategies and creation of a new mixture but what it means is to flexibly apply the one that goes well with the given condition. The essence of fusion is not to abide by specific model but to remain ideologically unrestrained to apply any suitable tactic to confront the pressing challenge in the given concrete condition.” In terms of developing revolutionary military tactics, this “ideological unrestraint” as regards tactical questions is fully in accord with the practice of Mao Zedong during the course of the Chinese Revolution. If Mao had instead followed the orthodox dictates, nationwide victory could never have been achieved.

(1). Comrade Prachanda specifically points to the case of the losses suffered in the Peruvian Revolution: the PCP made the mistake “of idealizing Comrade Gonzalo as a supernatural leader who never makes a mistake and of placing him above the whole Party and the Central Committee by asserting his leadership as Jefetura…” and, furthermore, there are “(s)ufficient indications that Chairman Gonzalo himself is the main spokesperson of the two-line struggle developed within the Party after his arrest, as well as of the right opportunist line that argues for peaceful conciliation with the enemy by abandoning war, reveal the seriousness of the situation."

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