Revolution #160, March 29, 2009
On Developments in Nepal and the Stakes for the Communist Movement: Letters to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2005-2008
(With a Reply from the CPN(M), 2006)
Many people in the world today are wondering how to evaluate the recent developments with the revolution in Nepal—where, after 10 years of an inspiring People’s War led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), that war has come to an end, the CPN(M) is now the leading party in the recently elected Constituent Assembly and the Party’s Chairman, Prachanda, is the Prime Minister of the government. Does the current trajectory in Nepal and the course taken by the CPN(M) represent an historic new thing, a victory and breakthrough in advancing the communist revolution in the 21st century, as some have claimed; or—as many others fear—does this represent a setback and betrayal of the goals of the revolution and of the heroic struggle waged to achieve them, and a serious departure from the communist cause that the CPN(M) claims to be fighting for?
The answer to this is of great importance, and can only be arrived at by going deeply into the key questions of ideological and political line that are involved; and this needs to be seen in the context of the crossroads that the international communist movement is facing, which focuses on the fundamental question, as posed in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA: whether to be a vanguard of the future or a residue of the past.
This article serves as an introduction to an exchange between the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP,USA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)1 (CPN[M]) over a period of several years between October 2005 and November 2008—three letters written during this period by the RCP,USA and one reply by the CPN(M)—which deal with mounting disagreements on key questions of communist principle and revolutionary strategy. (These letters can be found online at revcom.us.)
Some History and Background
Revolutions, and especially revolutions of the oppressed led by genuine communists, are all too rare in the world today—a world which cries out desperately for such revolutions. Whenever a struggle emerges that is aimed at opposing the hold of imperialism on even a small part of the globe, and when that revolution has the goal of transforming fundamental relations that have a grip on humanity today, the success or failure of that struggle is of great importance and has profound implications. In February 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) dared to begin such a struggle, launching a revolutionary People’s War and raising the red flag of communist revolution on “the roof of the world.” This raised the hopes of not only the people in Nepal and that region of the world, but of all those who are yearning for this kind of liberating struggle to be undertaken, and to achieve a new revolutionary state power, in many more places all over the world. At a time when people have been sold the lie that communism is dead, and that there is no real possibility of breaking free from the death-grip of imperialism (and relations of exploitation and oppression in general), when it is constantly repeated that there is no viable alternative to the monstrous system of capitalism-imperialism, many people were greatly inspired by the daring and lofty goals that these revolutionaries had taken up.
For 10 years battle raged back and forth in the Himalayan kingdom, but despite vicious repression, the revolutionary forces grew, as they drove the armed forces of the old state out of most of the countryside and set up red base areas where peasants, ethnic minorities, women and millions of other oppressed got a first taste of real liberation. The stated goal of the People’s War was to oppose the monarchy that had ruled Nepal for over 200 years, to establish a new democratic state—a state which would result from the overthrow and defeat of imperialism and feudalism, and other reactionary forces aligned with imperialism and feudalism, and which would represent and embody the rule of the proletariat, led by its communist vanguard, heading an alliance with the masses of the peasantry and other classes and groups that had been united in the struggle against imperialism and feudalism—and then to carry forward the revolution to socialism and communism. This was explicitly seen by the CPN(M) as part of, and as contributing to, the world revolution.
This was given political and ideological support by revolutionary communists through-out the world, including the RCP,USA. Our Party made significant efforts to popularize the heroic struggle and the communist aims of this rising of the most oppressed masses in Nepal, led by the comrades of the CPN(M). We followed closely the twists and turns of the People’s War and the revolutionary new things that the struggle brought forward. And we paid attention to how the leadership was applying the basic principles of Marxism to the concrete conditions they were confronting, with specific focus on the fact that they were popularizing the final goal of communism and the establishment of revolutionary state power as the necessary next step toward that final goal; how new democracy—as opposed to bourgeois democracy— was being aimed for; how they envisioned the united front under the leadership of the proletariat; and questions of strategy for winning the revolution and establishing a new, revolutionary state power.
As the revolution advanced, it not surprisingly encountered new difficulties and challenges that centered on how to actually accomplish winning state power, how to transform the economy of a backward country in a world dominated by imperialism and especially threatened by the powerful neighboring countries of India and China (the latter no longer a socialist country but a reactionary state ruled by communists in name but capitalists in fact), and how to forge a united front drawing in the middle strata of society while maintaining the focus on the revolutionary goals and continuing to provide communist leadership. These are the kinds of challenges that any genuine revolutionary struggle will encounter, and there are never simple solutions, or ready-made formulas, that can be applied to solving these complex problems. In this context, in the larger context of the defeat of the first stage of communist revolution in the world (which came to an end with the reversal of the revolution and the restoration of capitalism in China, shortly after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976), and in response to the need to further develop, in theory and practice, a new stage of communism capable of meeting these challenges, struggle emerged over what the actual goals of the revolution should be and how to achieve them.
Our Party paid attention to all of these developments, in accordance with our fundamental internationalist orientation—our understanding of the responsibilities of all communists to approach revolution as a process of world-historic struggle which must aim for, and finally achieve, communism on a world scale. From this standpoint we became increasingly alarmed at the direction the CPN(M) leadership was taking, both in its theoretical formulations and in the related abandoning of the original objectives of the revolution. These disagreements centered on: 1) the nature of the state, and specifically the need to establish a new state led by the proletariat and its communist vanguard, as opposed to a strategy centering on participating in, and what amounts to “perfecting,” the reactionary state (minus the monarchy, in the case of Nepal); 2) more specifically, the need to establish, as the first step, upon the overthrow of the old order, a new democratic state which would undertake the development of the economic base and corresponding institutions of the nation free from imperialist domination and feudal relations, based on new production and social relations brought forward through the course of the People’s War, as opposed to establishing a bourgeois republic which focuses on developing capitalism and finding a place within the world imperialist network; 3) the dynamic role of theory and two-line struggle (struggle within communist parties and among communists generally over questions of ideological and political line), vs. eclectics, pragmatism and attempts to rely on “tactical finesse” and what amounts to bourgeois realpolitik—maneuvering within the framework of domination by imperialism (and other major powers) and the existing relations of exploitation and oppression.
With regard to each of these three decisive dimensions, the leadership of the CPN(M) has increasingly insisted on the wrong view and approach, which has tragically led them to the abandonment and betrayal of the cause they were initially fighting for. In the face of these very disheartening developments, we have been faced with the need to carry out sharp struggle against this disastrous course, and we have consistently sought the best and most appropriate means to make our criticisms known to the CPN(M), and to the parties and organizations that make up the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM)—to carry out this struggle in a way that would actually be of political and ideological assistance to the revolution and would not aid the imperialists and reactionaries, who are the bitter enemies of the emancipation of the oppressed (and ultimately all humanity) and are constantly seeking to divide, defeat and crush the forces of revolution and communism.
In approaching this line struggle, the RCP has proceeded from the understanding that communists the world over not only have the responsibility to apply the science of communism to the problems of making revolution in “one’s own” country but also, to use Lenin’s words, to support “this struggle, this, and only this line in every country without exception.” It is the duty of communists to understand to the best of their ability the crucial questions of political and ideological line as they take place on an international level, and to do everything in their power to help the revolutionary communist line defeat the influence of revisionism (betrayal of communism in the name of communism) in every country, and all the more so when the outcome of the struggle over ideological and political line has so much immediate impact on a very advanced revolutionary struggle such as that taking place in Nepal.
This two-line struggle has been conducted in a serious and disciplined way. Even as the CPN(M) took further steps toward the destruction of the revolution it had been leading, the RCP,USA continued to carry out the struggle privately, in light of the fact that the CPN(M) had made clear it favored such an approach, and with the aim of limiting the ability of the imperialists and other enemies to speculate on differences in the communist ranks and of creating the most favorable conditions for the CPN(M) itself to debate and struggle out these line questions. Unfor-tunately, the CPN(M) leadership has failed to really respond to, or to engage in any substantive way with, the fundamental questions at issue during this whole period, instead insisting that the heart of the matter is tactics, and not basic principles and strategic orientation, from which tactics must and will flow. In effect, they have dismissed criticisms over these fundamental questions with a repeated message that was itself a gross expression of pragmatism and empiricism: We appreciate your concerns, but there is no need to worry—trust us—we have been successful so far, so what we are doing now must be right.
At this point, however, developments in the CPN(M), and in particular the further acceleration of the revisionist degeneration of its line, have made it necessary to conclude that the policy, so far carried out by the RCP, of only conducting this struggle privately, is no longer correct. We believe it is necessary at this point to make this struggle public, with the aim of enabling the revolutionary movement throughout the world, and people who support revolution and communism (or who are wrestling with the question of whether revolution and communism are not only necessary but possible), to have as accurate and full an understanding as possible of the nature and development of this crucial two-line struggle.
The Current Situation
Today, as a result of elections held in April 2008, the CPN(M) is the leading party of the newly formed Constituent Assembly in Nepal. The central Party leaders loudly promise to be faithful to the new “federal democratic republic,” i.e., a bourgeois state which is founded upon and protects the reactionary class relations in Nepal, and these leaders multiply their assurances to the “international community” (read: imperialist and reactionary states such as the U.S., Great Britain, India and China) of their intention to keep Nepal firmly cemented into the world imperialist system. The organs of people’s power built up in the countryside of Nepal through the revolutionary war have been dissolved, the old police forces have been brought back, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), although never defeated on the battlefield, has been disarmed and confined to “cantonments” while the old reactionary army (formerly the Royal Nepal Army, now renamed the Nepal Army) which previously feared to travel outside its barracks, except in large heavily armed convoys, is now free to patrol the country—with the blessing of a CPN(M) Defense Minister. The naked renunciation by the CPN(M) of communist principles—such as the need to smash the old bourgeois state and establish a new proletarian power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the actual goal of communism itself, to make a radical rupture with all traditional relations and traditional ideas, in both words and deeds—has shocked many inside and outside of Nepal. Within the CPN(M) itself many are recoiling at these open manifestations of revisionism—in which some communist slogans and verbiage are used to dress up what is essentially a capitalist worldview and political program. Outside of Nepal, revisionists all over the world, few of whom ever supported the People’s War, are overjoyed at the course of events and write article after article lauding the CPN(M) and the current line it is carrying out. On the other hand, those who had supported the People’s War, in the hopes that it would usher in a new social order and serve the advance of the world revolution, are increasingly frustrated and disheartened by developments in Nepal.
While there has been opposition within the CPN(M), it has unfortunately become increasingly evident, especially after the November 2008 National Convention (which will be addressed below), that the main opposition forces inside the CPN(M) who have been upset by the abandonment of the revolution have themselves been unable to develop a coherent critique of the revisionist line and, as a result, are deceiving themselves, and are at least objectively serving to deceive others, as to the actual program and nature of the CPN(M), a party headed for complete abandonment of the cause of communism in reality, while (at least for a time) upholding it in name.
The Turn to Revisionism, Its Roots and Implications
In fact, the bitter fruits that we see today in Nepal are not a sudden act of betrayal by a few Party leaders—they are the logical and foreseeable outcome of a process that has been emerging in the CPN(M) over a number of years, a process in which the revolutionary communist line that (with whatever weaknesses and shortcomings it may have had) led to the initiation and the advance of the People’s War, was replaced in the CPN(M) by a revisionist line on a whole series of questions. By “line” we mean the outlook and orientation, strategic conception and method which guide political activity in one direction or another. The decisive turn took place in October 2005 when a sharp struggle within the Party was “resolved” in a revisionist fashion, as we will discuss below. This whole experience shows once again how insightful Mao Tsetung was when he emphasized that ideological and political line is decisive. As Mao put it:
If one’s line is incorrect, one’s downfall is inevitable, even with the control of the central, local and army leadership. If one’s line is correct, even if one has not a single soldier at first, there will be soldiers, and even if there is no political power, political power will be gained. This is borne out by the historical experience of our Party and by that of the international communist movement since the time of Marx. The crux of the matter is line. This is an irrefutable truth.
When the line struggle first erupted in the CPN(M) it focused on what might have appeared to many as abstract questions of democracy and the experience of socialist revolution, and many communists in Nepal and around the world failed to understand the life and death implications of these questions for the direction and fate of the revolution. But the questions involved in the ideological struggle regarding the revolution in Nepal are, fundamentally and in the last analysis, a matter of whether to fight for a communist world, or to “make the best” of the existing imperialist-dominated world; whether to accept the proposition that society is, and will indefinitely be, organized on a capitalist basis, or whether to fight to overthrow that system and build a wholly different kind of society without classes and exploitation. Not surprisingly, the terms of struggle in Nepal did not express themselves openly in this way, and even less so at the early stages of the struggle. While a few leaders of the CPN(M), especially Baburam Bhattarai, have loudly proclaimed loyalty to “democracy”—meaning Western-style bourgeois democracy—and expressed a negative verdict on the whole first wave of proletarian revolution, most of the other central Party leaders proclaimed just as loudly their support for the goals of establishing new democracy, socialism and communism while insisting that limiting the struggle to a fight for a “transitional” (read bourgeois) republic was only a “tactic.” Indeed, CPN(M) leaders in general have continually tried to focus the debate on the question of “tactics,” as if the essential question were how to achieve a “federal democratic republic,” not what kind of state, and more fundamentally what kind of social system, was needed in Nepal and the world.
In its letters, the RCP,USA did not focus on the specific tactical questions involved, concentrating instead on the overall questions of line and general direction, while continually listening to and examining the arguments of the CPN(M) about how their tactics, in their concrete conditions, could lead to a revolutionary solution to the real problems the revolution faced. It is not that questions of ceasefire, negotiations, even participation in the Constituent Assembly elections were unimportant; the crucial point was that the correctness, or incorrectness, of such tactics could not be examined and evaluated outside of the fundamental framework of what the Party was seeking to accomplish and what outlook and orientation was guiding its actions. Those who opposed the direction the Party was taking but focused on the tactical questions as the decisive arena, as the CPN(M) leadership insisted on doing, were paralyzed, unable to develop a clear critique of the Party’s line, and thrown into disarray and confusion at every successive twist or turn in the political situation in Nepal or the latest political maneuver of the Party leadership.
Understanding the dangers facing the revolution in Nepal required really digging into the issues as things unfolded—being able to use the outlook and method of communism to penetrate beyond the surface phenomena to understand the essential questions involved. Even now, when it may appear easier—at least to those who have maintained a revolutionary orientation—to see the non-revolutionary conclusion of the CPN(M)’s course over the past few years, anyone content with a facile dismissal of the Party’s actions, without a serious examination of the political arguments justifying and rationalizing those actions, will risk falling into a similar trap in new forms in the future. For all of these reasons, and not merely or mainly out of a concern for the historical record, it is necessary for the important exchange between the RCP,USA and the CPN(M) to be examined by all who are concerned with the problems of making revolution.
What was the situation in 2005, when the line struggle first fully erupted? The forces led by the CPN(M) had liberated most of the countryside in Nepal and advanced to the point, both militarily and politically, where the prospect of nationwide victory began to loom on the horizon. Faced with this, the ruling monarch, King Gyanendra, had centralized all political power in his hands and dismissed parliament and suppressed the mainstream parliamentary parties in an effort to rally by force the entire ruling class of Nepal to smash the People’s War. The Royal Nepal Army under the command of Gyanendra was backed by the U.S., India, China, Great Britain and other reactionary states. On the battlefield, fierce fighting took place with mixed results: some battles were won by the People’s Liberation Army, but in other cases the Royal Nepal Army was able to withstand large-scale attacks and the PLA was forced to retreat with significant casualties. The question of who would win out—the old state, represented by the king, or the new state being built up in the liberated areas of Nepal—was very real and palpable. The question of what the intermediate classes in Nepal would do, especially the urban middle classes in the Kathmandu Valley, took on a particular importance as possible “end games” came into focus.
It is not surprising that the military and political struggle on the ground was helping to focus up a theoretical and ideological struggle in the Party itself. What kind of state system would the revolution put in power once the power of the king had been defeated? How would it be similar to and how would it be different from the socialist states of the 20th century, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and the People’s Republic of China under Mao? What type of democracy would be practiced in such a system? What would be the role of political parties and elections? What kind of economic and social transformations would be carried out, and by what means? What would be the relationship between a people’s revolutionary government in Nepal and the imperialist and reactionary states? How would a revolutionary Nepal serve the world revolution—or would it?
In February 2004, an article appeared in issue #9 of the English language organ of the CPN(M), The Worker, entitled “The Question of Building a New Type of State,” written by Baburam Bhattarai. “The New State” advanced a series of arguments about democracy and dictatorship and how they related to the struggle in Nepal that, the RCP argued, “…would, if followed, lead to not establishing a proletarian dictatorship or to abandoning it if it were established.” At the time this article appeared, there were also indications of an internal struggle between Bhattarai and a few others grouped around him, on one side, and, on the other side, the central Party leadership led by Chairman Prachanda. The RCP, alarmed by the positions put forward in the “New State” article but also hopeful that the inner party struggle could serve as a means for the CPN(M) to reaffirm and clarify its understanding of the goals of the struggle, called on the CPN(M) to “cast aside those aspects of its previous understanding and political line which go against the mainly correct orientation” which had characterized the CPN(M)’s line and leadership up to that point, and had enabled it to lead crucial and inspiring advances.
The “New State” article basically placed the extension of formal democracy (including elections with competing political parties) at the heart of the socialist transition and as some kind of supposed “guarantee” for the prevention of capitalist restoration, and proposed that upon reaching socialism the standing army could be dissolved and replaced by militias, and in general the model of the Paris Commune, with direct elections and recall of officials, was raised as a more positive model than the experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and China.
The October 2005 letter from RCP,USA challenged the views expressed in “New State” and its promotion of formal democracy as the key to a new state power. Quoting Bob Avakian, it pointed out:
In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about “democracy”—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no “democracy for all”: one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality.
The RCP Letters could not of course go deeply into the dynamics of the socialist transition, but instead referenced the works of Bob Avakian that have examined these issues in great depth and have brought forward a radical re-envisioning of communism that has addressed many of the weaknesses of the first wave of the world proletarian revolution. But it was vigorously pointed out that it was a serious mistake to make the most essential question in the socialist transition formal democracy (and its expression in elections, competing parties, and the like) and that this would strengthen tendencies toward the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The arguments advanced in “New State,” which came to characterize the CPN(M)’s overall approach, negated the need for a powerful proletarian state that could actually allow the masses to transform the world—and to transform themselves—as part of the larger battle to overthrow imperialism throughout the world, uproot and eradicate all relations of exploitation and oppression, and emancipate all humanity.
The RCP’s first letter drew the very correct and important conclusion that, “the proletarian dictatorship is portrayed in the New State as, at best, a ‘necessary evil.’” And the question inevitably arose: with an approach like this, would it really be possible for the CPN(M) to wage the arduous uphill battle required to shatter the old state and throw off the thousands-year old domination of society by exploiting classes and establish proletarian rule, with all the painful sacrifices that requires?
The Manifesto from the RCP,USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, published in September 2008, analyzes that while two opposing tendencies have arisen in the International Communist Movement (ICM)—“either to cling religiously to all of the previous experience and the theory and method associated with it or (in essence, if not in words) to throw that out altogether”—at the same time, “these ‘mirror opposite’ erroneous tendencies have in common being mired in, or retreating into, models of the past, of one kind or another (even if the particular models may differ): either clinging dogmatically to the past experience of the first stage of the communist revolution—or, rather, to an incomplete, one-sided, and ultimately erroneous understanding of that—or retreating into the whole past era of bourgeois revolution and its principles: going back to what are in essence 18th century theories of (bourgeois) democracy, in the guise, or in the name, of ‘21st-century communism,’ in effect equating this ‘21st-century communism’ with a democracy that is supposedly ‘pure’ or ‘classless’—a democracy which, in reality, as long as classes exist, can only mean bourgeois democracy, and bourgeois dictatorship.” 2
The reversals of the revolution in the Soviet Union (in the mid-1950s) and in China (20 years later), if correctly understood, should not, and do not, provide a justification for this kind of retreat into the past, in one form or another. As the RCP’s October 2005 Letter argued:
It is definitely true that the very existence of the proletarian state, a vanguard proletarian party, a standing army, etc., all can be transformed into their opposite—a state of the bourgeoisie oppressing the masses of the people. The same can be said for the revolution itself—there is no guarantee that it will continually advance toward communism—revolutions can be and unfortunately many have been aborted or turned into their opposites. But this is no argument not to make a revolution. Whether a state continues to advance toward the ultimate goal of communism, and its own eventual withering away, depends on whether and how that state is fighting to transform all of the objective material and ideological conditions that make the existence of the state still necessary. There is no easy way around this. Relying on the institutions and practice of formal democracy will not solve the problem—it will not remove the contradictions that make the dictatorship of the proletariat absolutely necessary, it will only strengthen the hand of those forces who are seeking to overthrow and abolish the dictatorship of the proletariat, and who can draw strength in these efforts from the remaining inequalities in socialist society and from the existence of reactionary and imperialist states, which for some time are likely to be in a position of “encircling” socialist states as they are brought into being through revolutionary struggle. Abolishing or undermining the monopoly of political power and, yes of armed power, by the proletariat, and its vanguard leadership—in whatever form this is done, including by having elections in which the vanguard party and its role is put up for decision in general elections—this will, for all the reasons we have spoken to here, lead to the loss of power by the proletariat and the restoration of reactionary state power, with everything that means.
The Resolution of the Line Struggle and the “Fusion” of Two into One
Unfortunately, the line struggle within the CPN(M) at that time was resolved on a very bad basis by the Central Committee (CC) meeting held in October of 2005, even as the RCP letter was arriving. Far from repudiating the arguments of Bhattarai’s “New State” article, the Central Committee adopted his core arguments. In a Communique of the CPN(M) CC, the line differences in the Party were dismissed as a “misunderstanding.” The plan to go for a “transitional republic” was adopted by the Party, with the proviso that this was only a “tactic” while it was asserted that the Party remained true to its long term goals of new democratic revolution, socialism and communism. Bhattarai was reincorporated into the leadership of the Party on this basis. This method of uniting two contradictory opinions was heralded as a great achievement and was upheld as a model for the whole international communist movement.
This particular form of revisionism—eclecticism, or the attempted reconciliation of irreconcilable opposites, the combination of Marxism (in words) with revisionism in essence—had long been a problem in the thinking of the CPN(M) leaders but became enshrined and defended as a principle in the aftermath of the 2005 “inner party struggle.” And it was this political line and orientation that piloted the CPN(M) through the next turbulent period of class struggle in Nepal.
The CPN(M) Answers the RCP,USA—in Practice and in Theory
The CPN(M) leadership did not answer the RCP’s October 2005 letter until July 2006; but, even before there was a response in the realm of theory to the arguments that had been raised, the practical consequences of the CPN(M)’s line came pouring out.
One of the key theses put forward by the 2005 CPN(M) Central Committee meeting that adopted core positions from “New State” was the notion that the immediate goal in Nepal was not new democratic revolution—the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat appropriate to the oppressed nations that Mao Tsetung pioneered—but instead a “transitional republic.” The CPN(M)’s July 2006 letter explained the thinking behind this:
“[O]ur Party has viewed the democratic republic neither as the bourgeois parliamentarian republic nor directly as the new-democratic one. This republic, with an extensive reorganization of the state power as to resolve the problems related with class, nationality, region and sex prevailing in the country, would play a role of transitional multiparty republic. Certainly, the reactionary class and their parties will try to transform this republic into a bourgeois parliamentarian one, whereas our Party of the proletarian class will try to transform it into a new-democratic republic.”
As the RCP letters explain in greater depth than can be gone into here, this concept of a “transitional republic,” and the underlying notion that it is some kind of neutral apparatus that can be transformed into a bourgeois state or a proletarian state, deny a basic truth of Marxism—one that is not a matter of some ossified dogma but has been established, and verified over and over, through the scientific summation of wide-ranging, profound and repeatedly acute experience in class society over the centuries: There is no state that is not ultimately an organ of the rule of one class or another. Which class will the army and the other organs of institutionalized power serve in this “transitional republic?” Will they serve the struggling masses to uproot the foundations of their oppression and to fight to advance the world revolution—or will they be in the hands of, and carry out and enforce the interests of, the reactionary classes? The RCP letters put emphasis on the class nature of the state and point out, from many different angles, that in the world today every state will have a class character and enforce definite class interests—those of the proletariat, or those of a reactionary class (or some combination of reactionary classes). In this light, the letters examine, and refute, the CPN(M)’s argument that the existence of a monarchy makes Nepal an exceptional case, which justifies not just a temporary united front against the monarchy but uniting anti-monarchy forces in the “transitional republic” and “restructur[ing] the state” in what amounts to a whole stage, which is separate from and not yet new democracy.
Once the CPN(M) had decided to accept the “New State” position and the goal of a “transitional republic,” it is not surprising that this orientation and commitment on its part became a major factor in the politics of Nepal. A series of agreements was reached with the reactionary political parties that had been frozen out of power by King Gyanendra’s dissolution of parliament on February 1, 2005. The RCP,USA has made clear that its orientation—and the substance of its criticism—does not involve an infantile approach that would rule out reaching agreements even with reactionary political parties to accomplish specific objectives, for example in opposition to the monarchy. However, in the case of the CPN(M) it can be seen that these agreements were based upon and reflected the theses that its leaders were adopting about the “transitional republic” and related questions. In other words, the agreements with the reactionary parties were based on the renunciation of communist objectives and principles, as expressed especially in the acceptance of a (bourgeois) “democratic republic” as the goal of the struggle, which again would actually correspond to a whole stage, separate from new democracy.
With these political agreements—and a developing broad opposition to the denial of democratic rights by the king along with the continuing progress of the People’s War centered in the countryside—as a backdrop, in April 2006 a huge mass movement took place in the urban centers of Nepal directed against the monarchy. This movement involved not only the proletariat and urban poor but large sections of students, intellectuals, shopkeepers and middle class elements generally in the cities. The main parliamentary political parties—such as the revisionist Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist Leninist) which, while communist in words, had been a vicious opponent of the People’s War, and the Nepal Congress Party, which had deep connections with the Indian ruling class and had been the historic political party of Nepal’s comprador bourgeoisie (a section of the local bourgeoisie that is tied to and serves imperialism and foreign powers)—also supported this movement and strived to lead it. Faced with the massive outpourings in the urban areas, and in particular the capital, Kathmandu, on top of the powerful People’s War, the ruling classes of Nepal and their foreign backers in the U.S., India and elsewhere, decided that it was necessary to abandon the policy of counting on the absolute monarchy to restore order. A ceasefire took place and negotiations began between the parliamentary parties and the CPN(M) which led in November of that same year to the Comprehensive Peace Accords, establishing an interim government with the participation of the CPN(M), restricting the PLA to cantonments, and setting the ground rules for elections for a Constituent Assembly charged with writing a new constitution for the country.
Clearly, the eruption of the urban mass movement and the end to the absolute monarchy created important new conditions for the revolutionary struggle in Nepal, and certainly it was necessary for the communists to take these new conditions into account, make necessary changes in their tactics and policies and strive to win over the vacillating urban sections who had risen up against the king but were full of illusions that the “return to democracy” would solve the problems of the country.
It was in this context of the end of the absolute monarchy that the CPN(M) leadership finally answered the RCP,USA in a letter dated 1 July 2006. The CPN(M) response indignantly dismissed the arguments of the RCP as being a mere repetition of “the ABCs of Marxism.” It’s true that the correct understanding of the class nature of the state is one of the “ABCs of Marxism”—that is, it is a fundamental truth established through scientific analysis and synthesis of vast, and all-too-often bitter, experience, with tragic consequences when this truth has been ignored. In this connection, the question sharply poses itself: Even if it were true—which it was not—that the RCP’s criticisms of the CPN(M) merely restated certain “ABCs” of Marxism, including on the basic nature of the state, how would that justify abandoning such basic principles (“ABCs”), as the CPN(M) has done?
In its response, the CPN(M) seeks to wriggle out of this by declaring that of course it agrees with the RCP that “strategically” it is class relations that determine the nature of the state, but then it goes on to argue that its demand for a transitional republic is really just a “tactical slogan.” But this argument is yet another self-exposure that only compounds the problem. Suddenly the goal of the revolutionary struggle is no longer to smash the old reactionary comprador-feudal imperialist-backed state and establish new democratic rule under the leadership of the proletariat, but instead to settle for some kind of democratic republic which supposedly has no clear class nature, a state which both bourgeoisie and proletariat alike will try to use. But, with classic eclectics, it is argued that this doesn’t revise the heart out of the Marxist understanding of the state because this is only a “tactic”! Events since 2005 demonstrate clearly that the eclectic, muddled understanding of the state reflected in this slogan (“transitional republic”) goes far beyond mere “tactics”—and it is no surprise to find articles in Red Star (the biweekly online newspaper that presents the views of the CPN[M] in English) a few years later insisting that the current state in Nepal is a “joint dictatorship of both the proletariat and the bourgeois class.” (Red Star #15, “Fall of Koirala Dynasty”) This is declared to be a great theoretical innovation. But in reality there is nothing great, or innovative, about a state that is based on the old society, with new faces in high places who claim they can use that state to fulfill the interests of “the people.” In fact, this conception of the state standing apart from the class divisions in society is the very same deception that exploiting classes always utilize to hide their class domination. In the communist movement as well, the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in favor of a “state of the whole people,” has also been a hallmark of revisionism. As with revisionist efforts of this kind in the past, the attempts in Nepal now to implement such conceptions, and the tactics that go along with this, can only lead to further and further setbacks for the revolutionary cause, disarm the revolutionary forces, and masses, ideologically as well as otherwise, and set them up for disaster. The fundamental truth, which no erroneously conceived “tactics” can change, or get around, is that proletarian rule can only be established by smashing and dismantling—and not seeking to “perfect,” or “restructure”—the old, reactionary state; and the interests of the masses of people can only be served by digging up the roots of class society, while the rule and the interests of the imperialists, and other reactionaries, can only exist and be served by reinforcing those very roots of exploitation and oppression.
In March 2008 the second major letter of the RCP,USA answered the arguments of the CPN(M) and further developed many of the themes of the RCP’s previous letter (of October 2005) in the context of the evolving political situation in Nepal. Through a whole course of maneuvers and attempts to carry out the agreements that had been reached between the CPN(M) and the other political parties, elections for the Constituent Assembly in Nepal were finally set to take place in April. The question of a “transitional republic” had gone from only being one of basic principle and theory, as it was in 2005, to becoming an immediate practical question as well, as the whole country was preparing to go to the polls for the April 2008 Constituent Assembly elections.
The RCP letter of March 2008 examines the CPN(M)’s call to “restructure the state” and argues that it amounts to a call to “perfect the existing state machinery”—which in fact serves the reactionary classes—rather than to smash the reactionary state (to borrow Marx’s formulation). Numerous historical examples are drawn on, in the RCP’s argument on this crucial point—bourgeois democratic revolutions in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, the 20th century revolutions (or regime changes) in Russia, Iran, Spain and other countries—to show that time and again revolutionary struggles have fallen short of liberating the oppressed because they have settled for ridding the state machinery of obsolescent aspects, like a monarchy, that no longer corresponded to historical developments—and/or to the needs of the reactionary classes at the time—rather than destroying the state machinery entirely and clearing the ground to establish the rule of those who were exploited and oppressed in the old society.
This RCP letter continues to examine why countries like Nepal, which of necessity must carry out the anti-feudal struggle (and which, in Nepal specifically, did involve uniting forces broadly against the monarchy), will require a form of “two stage” revolution but why the first stage—which corresponds to the achievement of bourgeois-democratic tasks, such as overthrowing feudalism (and, again, in the case of Nepal, abolishing the monarchy)—cannot be allowed to fall under the leadership of bourgeois forces, and to result in the establishment of a bourgeois-capitalist republic (in whatever guise and with whatever name), but instead must be led by communists, representing the fundamental interests of the proletariat, and must result in the establishment of a new democratic state, consciously built as part of the world proletarian revolution. In Nepal the capitalism that has developed under the impetus of the world imperialist system is intertwined with feudal forms of exploitation and oppression, and there cannot be any democracy of the capitalist type without the “stench of feudalism.” Thus, without new democratic revolution any half-measures will mean that the country and the masses of people will not only fail to break free of foreign domination and continuing subordination within the international network of imperialist relations, with all the terrible conse-quences of that, but significant aspects of feudalism will also remain—in reality and regardless of anyone’s professions or intentions. Along with that, whatever progress might be made in perfecting the reactionary state machinery will only lead to more fully establishing the bourgeois republic that Lenin described as being the “most suitable shell” for the growth of capitalism.
Here once again is the fundamental principle—yes, an “ABC” of Marxism, and one that it has repeatedly proven disastrous to ignore—that breaking free of the hold of the reactionary classes, and abolishing exploitation and oppression, cannot be accomplished through some gradual(ist) approach, but only through a radical rupture: an overthrowing and breaking up of the old organs of political power, serving the old society, and the establishment of radically new organs of political rule, serving and carrying forward the radical transformation of every sphere of society, as part of the overall world proletarian revolution.
As the RCP’s March 2008 letter argues:
One of the central political questions we raised in our debate with the CPN(M) was whether the current stage of the struggle is for the establishment of a New Democratic republic, that is, the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat appropriate in the conditions of Nepal, or whether the revolution must ‘pass through’ the process of consolidating a bourgeois democratic republic. This question that we were debating in theory has, over the last two years, taken on flesh and bones. Two states had emerged in the course of the ten year-long People’s War: the old reactionary comprador-bureaucrat-capitalist-feudal state led by the monarchy in league with imperialism, and the embryonic new democratic state that had emerged in the countryside on the basis of the strength of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The objective question facing Nepal is which of these states will emerge victorious and be consolidated on a nationwide level and which of them will be defeated. The great tragedy is that the political line and muddled thinking of the comrades of the CPN(M) has to a large degree delegitimized the revolutionary state that had emerged in the countryside and relegitimized the dictatorship of the reactionary classes linked to the world imperialist system…
Indeed, the People’s War had already succeeded in making real advances in transforming social and economic relations in the liberated areas, on the basis of the red political power established there. These changes showed in practice how it is only by clearing away the old state power through new democratic revolution that it is possible to carry out basic bourgeois democratic tasks, such as doing away with the caste system, making a genuine leap toward uprooting the inequality and oppression faced by women and the minority nationalities, distributing “land to the tiller,” and establishing genuine national independence from imperialist domination.
This last point is crucial: without a people’s army and a new democratic state led by the proletariat, it will be impossible to break free of imperialist domination. And, as the RCP letter of November 8, 2008 argues:
Time and again we have seen the inseparable link in the oppressed countries between achieving the social emancipation of the masses and waging the struggle against imperialism.... Exactly because imperialism is a world system that is ever more deeply penetrating all aspects of the social and economic structure, it is impossible for meaningful social transformation to take place without a radical rupture with imperialism....
Switzerland of South Asia, or Base Area of Revolution?
The RCP’s November 2008 letter argues sharply against the path being taken by the CPN(M), which is concentrated in its promise to make Nepal the “Switzerland of South Asia”—a promise that featured prominently in the Party’s election campaigning earlier that year. First, this promise is built on the illusion that Nepal’s problems could be solved by further integration into the world imperialist system (one key plank of this promise is making Nepal a “hub of trade” between China and India), rather than by rupturing Nepal out of the system in which it has suffered generations of domination and the distortion of its economy and society overall, in accordance with the interests and dictates of imperialists and other exploiters. And this is an illusion that is rapidly going up in smoke amidst the current global economic crisis, with Nepal suffering sharp rises in the prices of basic necessities such as energy and grain. Even more fundamentally, what does this vision have to do with communism in the first place? Switzerland is a small imperialist country that sits near the top of the imperialist food chain, feeding off the global plunder of this parasitical system. Is this the vision that should be inspiring communists—or should it not instead be the vision that Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA, has given such emphasis to: being “emancipators of humanity?”
Once again, the base areas in the People’s War in Nepal had vividly demonstrated some of the revolutionary transformations that the masses were capable of making once they had power in their own hands. Imagine what a contribution the establishment of a revolutionary state, even in a relatively small and poor country like Nepal, could make to breaking through the all-too-widespread view that there is no alternative in the world today to bourgeois democracy serving capitalism and imperialism.
The CPN(M) threw itself entirely into election campaigning, and against the expectations of almost all observers, including the RCP, it emerged from the elections as the leading party. Elated by its victory, the CPN(M) put itself at the head of a coalition government with a number of the other main parliamentary parties.
As already noted, this represented not a step towards liberation, but a step away from it, for these elections proved in fact to be a powerful way of giving new legitimacy to the old reactionary state, which was not smashed or defeated but only perfected by the whole Constituent Assembly process. More generally, the CPN(M)’s declaration that it is using the existing state in Nepal, shorn of its monarchical features, as a springboard for liberation is a dangerous illusion. As has been repeatedly stressed—but cannot be stressed too many times, given how much this is a source of deadly illusions—the reactionary state is not a classless instrument that can serve the proletariat or bourgeoisie alike, depending merely on who is holding it in their hands. The state is not the same as the government, and in particular parliaments—which, as Lenin pointedly noted, can be readily dissolved, if the core of the ruling class finds it in its interests to do so. The state, on the other hand, is an integrated, historically evolved machinery of military and bureaucratic power that reflects, embodies and serves the dominant social and economic relations and the ruling class (or classes) that sit atop them. The idea that the machinery of the exploiting classes can be taken over as it is, or “restructured”—but not smashed and dismantled—and then can be used for the ends of emancipating the oppressed, and ultimately humanity as a whole, goes against the scientific summation of the class character of every state and of countless experiences where the exact opposite has occurred instead: those who began with revolutionary aspirations but fell into these illusions about the state have been swallowed up time and again and transformed into upholders of the very system which oppresses the masses, and/or they have been ruthlessly crushed. The March 2008 letter from the RCP examines the bitter experiences of the communist movement in France and Italy, and concludes that, “once the basic framework of the bourgeois state institutions is accepted as legitimate, then the efforts of the communists to organize the proletariat and the masses to exert their interests within this framework (through both electoral and non-electoral means) has the objective effect of strengthening and perfecting these reactionary institutions themselves.”
It is no accident that one institution that has gone virtually untouched by any changes sought by the CPN(M)-led government is the Nepal Army (NA), the pillar on which the old state stands. But while the NA, which waged a vicious counter-revolutionary war for years, and racked up one of the worst human rights records in the world, still stands fully intact, the PLA has been disarmed and confined to UN-supervised cantonments for almost three years and is now threatened with liquidation through the process of being integrated into the NA. All too often, revolutionaries have indulged themselves in illusions rather than face the basic truth that Mao so incisively summed up: “Without a people’s army, the people have nothing.” On the other hand, the reactionaries and imperialists never fail to maintain an iron grip on this basic question of state power. While the CPN(M) constantly talks about the two armies as if they occupied an equivalent status, it speaks volumes about the reality of the situation that the idea of the NA being integrated into the PLA, instead of vice versa, is non-existent in public discourse, and in Kathmandu’s halls of power the only response this idea would provoke is bemused laughter.
A Compromise with Revisionism When a Radical Break is Needed
During the period since shortly after the CPN(M)’s electoral victory, a growing number of Party cadres began to recoil at the direction that the Party had taken. They launched struggle within the Party, and a sort of “opposition” coalesced around some senior figures in the Party who raised criticisms that the Party was settling into parliamentary politics in Kathmandu and forgetting about continuing the revolution, and other serious concerns.3 This struggle culminated at a National Convention held in mid-November 2008. Unfortunately, what did not happen at that Convention was a radical break with the dominant line in the Party and a rejection and repudiation of the bourgeois democracy and eclecticism which has come to characterize the Party’s line overall, and which had led it into the morass that had angered so many cadres.
Indeed, it seems that most of the opposition forces themselves remained trapped within this same approach of half-way measures, centrism (trying to find a compromise position between communism and revisionism) and eclecticism, and instead of a decisive struggle, wound up in an eclectic compromise (a classic case of combining “two into one,” as the RCP’s polemics examine). Basic points of the two papers presented by CPN(M) Chairman Prachanda and opposition leader Kiran were combined into a single common platform. Based on this common platform, the Party will continue to head up a coalition government, but the Party’s work will now be carried out through a three-pronged front, consisting of the “government, the Constituent Assembly, and the street.” (Even the new name they propose for the government—People’s Federal Democratic National Republic—reveals the eclectic resolution of this struggle.)
This compromise shows how little most of the opposition leaders have understood what is wrong with the current overall line of the CPN(M). However much one professes in words that “the street” will be principal, so long as state power continues to remain in the hands of the reactionary classes in Nepal and their imperialist backers, what will define Nepalese society and determine the country’s future development will not be “the street” but the workings of the capitalist-imperialist system worldwide and in Nepal. In this situation, “the street” can never be more than a pressure group on parliamentary politics, to be unleashed or reined in based on the workings of these more fundamental factors, and limited to achieving reforms within the overall reactionary framework. Even if one holds the position of Prime Minister, the rules that one will be forced to abide by, the agreements one will have to make, and the interests one will be forced to uphold and serve will prevent “the street” from being anything more than a pressure group used to tack and negotiate.
The RCP,USA letter of November 2008 notes:
One of the particularities of centrism and eclecticism is its refusal to make a clear‑cut demarcation between Marxism and revisionism, but instead to try to carve out a position “half‑way” between a revolutionary communist ideology and politics and outright capitulation and opportunism. In Nepal it is this form of centrist revisionism that has become the greater danger, not those who unabashedly proclaim their adhesion to the ideology of multiparty democracy and the glories of capitalism. The tired refrain is that there is the danger of revisionism or rightism “on the one hand,” but there is also the danger of “dogmatism” on the other, and that by skillfully maneuvering between these two obstacles the Party has gone from victory to victory. Or, there is the recognition‑in-words of fundamental principles, the “ABCs of Marxism,” such as the need to smash the existing state apparatus, while the Party’s actual policy goes completely contrary to this goal.
In particular, Baburam Bhattarai has been arguing openly for a long period of capitalist development in Nepal, and has been a target of dissatisfaction among broad ranks of the Party for some time now.4 But the greater obstacle recently is the eclecticism and half-measures that have come to characterize the line of Party Chairman Prachanda and the forces around him, who time and again combined verbal assurances, to the rank and file and discontented sections of the leadership, of the Party’s intentions to carry the revolution through to victory while continuing to carry out the basic revisionist line and policies advocated by Bhattarai. This “fusion” of two into one is heralded as a great contribution to Marxism, under the signboard of “avoiding splits,” but it actually amounts to avoiding the necessary sharp, decisive struggle and rupture to a fundamentally different and revolutionary line and uniting all who can be united through THAT line struggle. It is becoming increasingly clear in practice that this “avoiding splits,” and the more general eclecticism it is part of, really means abandoning the fundamental interests of the proletariat and other oppressed masses in the name of unity with exploiting classes, their political representatives and their ideology, and abandoning the mission of the proletariat to thoroughly sweep away imperialism and reaction in Nepal as part of advancing the world proletarian revolution.
In this situation, it was crucial, especially for those wanting to build the necessary opposition to the revisionist line now dominant in the CPN(M), to make a radical rupture with precisely this kind of half-stepping centrism and eclecticism and break with an orientation that was framed in terms of an illusory and classless democracy, which could only mean the kind of bourgeois democracy that the Party was settling into. To instead take half-measures and conciliate yet again with revisionism and with eclecticism means reinforcing this erroneous outlook, which had led to the situation that had provoked the rebellion in the first place.
In a situation that demanded decisively going after the causes of the illness, the opposition wound up confining attention once again simply to the symptoms. To take just one example, the “opposition” recoiled at the prospect of the Party being swamped in parliamentary reformism, but persisted in hailing the April 2008 election victory as a great success. The resulting compromise at the November National Convention was, like the April 2008 election “victory,” not a stepping stone towards setting the Party on a more revolutionary path, but instead represented reconciliation with revisionism, taking all the anger and rebellion that had erupted among a significant section of the Party and once again pulling it back within the orbit of an overall wrong line. As the RCP,USA letter of November 2008 put it, “We should remind comrades that every revisionist party always has a ‘left’ whose role objectively is to provide an outlet for the discontent of the masses and sections of the rank and file, while keeping these same sections bound to the political programme of the party leadership.”
Further evidence that there was no significant change in the Party’s trajectory came to light almost immediately, when in January 2009 the CPN(M) completed a process of uniting with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unity Centre (Mashal). This latter party was the product of an earlier split in the communist movement of Nepal before the People’s War was launched. Indeed, splitting with these and other revisionists had been a necessary and vital part of the process of preparing to launch the People’s War in the first place. The fact that the CPN(M) has now re-united with these die-hard revisionists, and has hailed this as a great accomplishment on the road to uniting “all Nepal’s communists,” represents a further step in putting the People’s War, and the revolution it embodied and spearheaded, into the museum of ancient history. In fact, the People’s War is increasingly treated as an action that, though it legitimated the Party among the poorest sections of society, has no relevance for the future.
A recent issue of Red Star gave another indication of where the path that the CPN(M) is taking will lead. Issue #21 featured an article by a Red Star reporter, Roshan Kissoon, entitled “Negation of the Negation,” which took the CPN(M)’s eclectics and revisionism to new depths. Kissoon’s article repudiates the whole history of the international communist movement and the pathbreaking contributions of its founding and leading figures, beginning with Marx. He reverses the verdict on almost every major struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. The result of Kissoon’s article is to effectively liquidate all dividing lines in the experience of the ICM—as if nothing whatsoever had been learned since the proletariat came onto the stage of history, as if the struggle and sacrifices of the hundreds of millions who fought heroically to wrench the beginnings of a new world out of the grip of the capitalist exploiters was all for nought.
This contempt for the achievements of the communist movement, historically and internationally, and the lessons learned at such great cost, is in service of outright capitulation, for Kissoon’s conclusion is that nothing can be done in Nepal today but to build capitalism, and he approvingly echoes a comment from Bhattarai that “communism should be left to our grandchildren.” The point, however, is that future generations will never achieve communism until and unless revolutionaries take the initial but decisive steps that go in the direction of socialism and ultimately communism. Going full steam toward capitalism will only retard and undermine the struggle for communism, and with regard to Nepal in particular it will mean throwing away the great opportunity that was wrenched through the process of People’s War—of opening the door to the socialist and communist future.
It is no wonder that Kissoon reserves his greatest bile for Bob Avakian, for it is the work that Avakian has done to rescue communism from being turned into a museum piece—and to revitalize and strengthen it as a scientific outlook and method capable of leading the masses to advance the revolutionary struggle toward the goal of communism—that poses the greatest danger to this brand of revisionist “cynical realism.” The CPN(M) itself has not—yet—adopted this kind of outright liquidationism but giving revisionists a platform to spew their venom in a Party-led newspaper, as they have done with Kissoon, is a reflection of a line that has already taken the Party a long way on the road to liquidating the communist content in the Party’s line.
The Stakes of This Struggle, and the Need Now to Take It Out Into the World
The RCP is making these letters public at this point based on its assessment of how best to carry the struggle forward to do whatever is possible to save the revolution in Nepal, and to assist others around the world in learning from this experience so as to sharpen the overall understanding of the diverging lines that are becoming evident in the international communist movement. This is no time to mince words: the revolution in Nepal has been sinking into quicksand and will not “self correct” unless and until there is a conscious and energetic repudiation of the ideological and political line that has led it to this disaster.
In deciding to make these letters public, the RCP is proceeding from the bedrock understanding that communists are not representatives of this or that nation, but of the world proletariat, and that their cause is the cause of emancipating all humanity. Pro-ceeding from this viewpoint, communists should pay particular attention to, and focus political and ideological support and assistance on, those struggles that offer the greatest chances for making revolutionary breakthroughs against imperialism. The RCP therefore has viewed the growth of revisionist views in the CPN(M) with the utmost seriousness and concern, and has worked hard to figure out how to conduct struggle with the CPN(M) in a way that is consistent with communist principle and would offer the greatest hope for a positive outcome.
Some critics have derided the RCP for its “silence” over Nepal up to this point. But the exchange of views between communist parties and organizations—including at times sharp disagreements over matters of principle—takes place in the context of extremely complex struggle, with monumental stakes, against ferocious enemies; this must be constantly kept in mind by anyone who is serious about advancing this struggle. The RCP has proceeded on the basis of the understanding that, “the work of communists and the revolutionary struggles they lead are matters of profound importance for the masses of people, not only in the particular country immediately involved but indeed in the world as a whole” and that the airing of differences has to be weighed and approached very carefully, because doing so “can easily be of aid to the imperialists and reactionaries who relentlessly seek to crush and annihilate revolutionary struggles and vanguard communist forces.” (From “Stuck in the ‘Awful Capitalist Present’ or Forging a Path to the Communist Future, Response to Mike Ely’s Nine Letters”)
The international communist movement must be full of vigorous debate and struggle, but it is not and should not be turned into a mere debating society. It is only when the RCP had become thoroughly convinced that it was not possible through the channels available to it to persuade the leadership of the CPN(M) to turn aside from the disastrous path it was pursuing that the decision was made to open up the struggle to the broad public.
It is undoubtedly true that the CPN(M) has dug itself a deep hole, and it is getting deeper. To speak frankly, it is very hard indeed for a party to extricate itself from such depths. But communism will never be reached without communists going up against great obstacles and overcoming tremendous difficulties, in order to make unprecedented breakthroughs—and this is what is called for today. The first thing that needs to be done is to accept the fact that the problem is the basic line of the Party. It is the revisionism, and the centrism and eclecticism and promotion of illusions of classless democracy that have led the Party into the swamp, and it is a radical rupture with this that is required. This means above all a reaffirmation of the basic principles and goals of communism, which in Nepal means carrying forward—through revolutionary means and not by attempting to rely on, and promote, gradualist illusions and reformist schemes—the struggle to complete the new democratic revolution as the first step toward socialism and the final aim of communism.
The comrades in Nepal are not alone in facing this challenge, but to make the necessary ruptures will require a definite break with nationalism, empiricism and pragmatism—and, as a particular expression of that, the elevation of one’s practice, with whatever successes it may have involved up to a certain point, as beyond criticism and as more important than the fundamental principles of communism, which are themselves the distillation and scientific synthesis of a vast range of human practice and struggle, in the realm of revolution and in many other dimensions of human thought and activity. As the November 2008 RCP Letter points out:
[T]he belief that the advanced practice of the Nepal revolution has made it unnecessary to learn from advanced understanding from other comrades is part of the pragmatism and empiricism that has, unfortunately, been a growing part of the CPN(M) leadership’s ideological orientation for some time now. Any effort to resolve the crisis in the CPN(M) only “on its own terms,” and on nationalist or empiricist grounds to ignore or resist the advanced revolutionary communist understanding developing elsewhere is to severely handicap the struggle for a correct line. In particular, we sincerely hope that the comrades of the CPN(M) will give serious attention to engaging with the body of work, method and approach, the new synthesis, that Bob Avakian has been bringing forward.
This introduction and overview of the polemical exchange between the RCP,USA and the CPN(M) has only touched on some of the many important points that were raised in the Letters, including the relation between strategy and tactics, the international dimension of the revolution in Nepal, the relation of new democracy to carrying out bourgeois democratic tasks, the role of formal democracy under socialism, the CPN(M)’s history, and many more. But one thing is clear: these polemical exchanges represent one of the most important two-line struggles that have taken place in the international communist movement in many years. Like other such major struggles, they involve profound stakes and far-reaching ramifications, and they are an important “school of revolution” that can help a new generation to learn what is involved in the inevitably complex process of revolution and what is required to actually carry revolution through all the way to victory—and on that basis to contribute to doing whatever is possible to save the revolution in Nepal. As the RCP’s March 2008 letter concluded:
This very important battle is part of a greater process of rescuing the communist project in the only way that it can be rescued, by confronting the ideological and political questions of revolution in the 21st century, daring to examine and reexamine our precepts and understandings and forging the solution to the problems of humanity. Our own steps along this process have convinced us, more than ever, of the viability and necessity of the communist revolution.
1 The CPN(M) has changed its name to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) following the merger in January 2009 with the revisionist Communist Party of Nepal-Unity Centre (Mashal). [back]
2 We would suggest our readers study Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA which situates the principal political tendencies within the international communist movement within the context of the summation of the whole first wave of communist revolution and the need to unfurl a whole new wave. [back]
3 See the articles by comrades Kiran and Gaurav among others in issues of Red Star published in September to November 2008. [back]
4 Bhattarai argues that Nepal must first develop the productive forces before the revolution can advance further, and that only capitalism can achieve this. While some compare him to China’s Deng Xiaoping, it could be said that to invoke the “theory of the productive forces” like this in Nepal, in conditions where, unlike in China, socialism has not even been achieved, is a classic example of Marx’s ironic phrase, first time tragedy, second time farce. [back]
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