Nepalese Maoists and the question of power - Does Prachanda offer a way out?

The Nepalese Maoist leaders, having dissolved their rebel army and entered parliamentary politics, are justifying their position with the idea that what faces the Nepalese masses is the bourgeois democratic revolution. This is encapsulated in the idea of the alliance of two classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In reality power remains in the hands of the bourgeois who exploit the authority of the former guerrilla leaders to hold the masses back from going the whole way.

The theory and practice applied by the leaders of Nepalese Maoism exposes to the hilt the essence of their programme of so-called New Democracy.Recent statements made by Prachanda, Bhattarai and other Nepalese Maoist leaders, have made it abundantly clear that they intend to “take power” in Nepal in direct and open collaboration with the capitalists, and not in opposition to them. The theory and practice applied by the leaders of Nepalese Maoism exposes to the hilt the essence of their programme of so-called “New Democracy”. It is nothing else but a bare blueprint for a bourgeois democracy.

A recent article by Laxman Pant, the Chief of Foreign Affairs of the CPN (Maoist), that appeared on September 21 under the title “Fall of Koirala Dynasty” is yet another curtain raiser of the Maoist platform in Nepal and precipitates the essence of the deceptive cocktail of this so-called “New Democracy”. The article states in no ambiguous terms that the present political regime in Nepal is the dictatorship of two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat:

“The new Maoist government in our country is also different in the sense that it is based on the joint dictatorship of both the proletariat and the bourgeois class. There are not any references of such kind of joint dictatorship in any of the Marxist thesis; the Marxist principle that the joint dictatorship of two antagonistic classes in the state is impossible. However, the experience of Nepal has shown it otherwise. The philosophical and theoretical base of the Nepali experience and experiment will have to be synthesized in the days to come. History has put the onus to justify dual dictatorship of the state on the shoulders of Maoists of the twenty first century.”

Thus, comrade Laxman Pant with just a few sentences has consciously written off the experience of 150 years of class struggle. What Marxist theory and the experience of the working class show is that it is not possible to reconcile the interests of the proletariat with those of the bourgeoisie.

Future of the Nepali revolution in danger

If the Nepali Maoist leaders do not turn back from this “Prachanda Path”, they will inevitably put in jeopardy the future of the Nepali revolution. Photo by red dart eskimo spy on Flickr.As we already explained in previous articles, once in power Prachanda and the Nepali Maoist leaders have to choose which interests they are going to serve. The first steps of the government have been in the direction of sacrificing the aspirations of the masses when these came into conflict with the needs of national capitalist development. If the Nepali Maoist leaders do not turn back from this “Prachanda Path”, they will inevitably put in jeopardy the future of the Nepali revolution.

This programme of collaboration between the hostile classes, which is being advanced under the banner of “New Democracy” in Nepal, is thoroughly reactionary and is an open betrayal of the aspirations of the people. On the pretext of the national peculiarities of Nepal, a roadmap for unbridled capitalist development has been prepared in the name of the “Prachanda Path”, with expresses support for local and international capitalists. Following this road, the Maoist leadership is behaving as the agency of these capitalist interests, equipped with an agenda of class conciliation to ensure the development of Nepal on a capitalist path. This will inevitably open up divisions within the Maoist party and even at a certain stage will open up conflict between the government and the masses.

The misfortune for the Maoist leaders is that their ideas have been taken over by history. Today the so-called “national bourgeoisie” is nothing but a national agency of world capitalism. The “national revolution” of Nepal, unfolding in the world of the 21st century, cannot take one further step forward, even an inch, in alliance with the bourgeois. In alliance with this class it can only advance in the opposite direction. The bogus and unrealisable slogan of the combined dictatorship of the “bourgeoisie and proletariat,” is nothing but the proclamation of the domination of the bourgeoisie, an outright betrayal of the revolution.

The bourgeoisie in Nepal, sandwiched between imperialism on the one side and local reaction on the other, finds itself in a position which does not permit it to move against any of them. In this condition of political paralysis, which has continued for more than half a century, the Nepali bourgeoisie could only aspire to taking power as an agency of world capitalism, while adapting to local reaction at the same time. After surrendering the struggle – the armed struggle they had taken up under the leadership of the Nepali Congress, more than half a century before – they had no alternative left to them but increased integration of Nepal into world capitalism and its total and complete dependence upon it for its existence and survival. This has weakened the national bourgeoisie to the core.

Power still in hands of bourgeois state apparatus

As history has shown, their greatest “achievement”, the fruits of their half-hearted struggles, such as the introduction of a Constitution and a Parliament, remained of no real importance, as they were soon found themselves under the yoke of the monarchy. While the king retained real power at his disposal and controlled the Royal Nepal Army, the Nepali bourgeoisie continued as a mere parliamentary opposition to the regime, imbued with the historic task of holding back the people from rising up against the now “constitutional” regime of the monarchy. Parliament remained a “talking shop”, at the mercy of the monarch.

Throughout this entire epoch, in more than half a century, the Stalinist parties ever since the days of the united communist party attempted to constitute themselves as the democratic left wing of this bourgeois democracy. Failing to make headway through parliamentary means, they resorted to arms in the name of the Maoist path, only to come full circle and return to their positions in support of bourgeois democracy a decade later.

History, however – and especially on the world arena   continued to move forward. The economy of Nepal for some time had become well integrated into the world market. The pre-capitalist forms of production, although still widespread especially in rural Nepal, had become subordinate to the capitalist economy.

Failing to make headway through parliamentary means, the Nepalese Maoists resorted to arms in the name of the Maoist path, only to come full circle and return to their positions in support of bourgeois democracy a decade later. Photo by Buddha's breakfast on Flickr.The adaptation of the monarchy to capitalism was perfected over a period of decades, the net result of which was the monopoly of the royal family over all significant capitalist enterprises in Nepal. In the meantime, the political regime was becoming obsolete, incompatible and outmoded for the world context in which modern Nepal existed. However, in the perception of the Maoist leaders, Nepal remained a feudal economy, where the struggle against the monarchy could be waged in collaboration with the national bourgeoisie, and the only way out for them – the “Prachanda Path” – was “New Democracy”, i.e. a combined dictatorship of the proletariat and the capitalists! The problem is that while paying lip service to the proletariat, for the Maoist leaders, the bourgeoisie in Nepal is the revolutionary force, while the working class is a non-entity!

Since the bourgeoisie was not in a position to dislodge the monarchy, the task of carrying out the democratic revolution essentially fell onto the working class, very small in numbers and concentrated mainly in and around Kathmandu. But the Stalinist and Maoist parties, deriving their false legitimacy from Russian and Chinese “socialist” powers, played a significant role in preventing the working class from realizing the need to organise and act independently as a class, with a socialist orientation towards the proletarian revolution. This was desperately needed to politically consolidate the small working class so that it could take the lead in the democratic revolution through mustering the support of the huge poor peasantry, lead the masses against both the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, and cross over to socialist tasks.

The Stalinists, and then the Maoists, opposed this perspective on the false pretext that the proletariat in Nepal is not capable of imposing its hegemony on the democratic revolution and taking power, because it is very small in numbers. They falsely assumed that the proletariat could not lead the agrarian revolution as the core of democratic overturn in Nepal. The communists of all shades and banners in Nepal, whether Stalinist or Maoist, thus never oriented themselves towards the working class. Like the Narodniks (Russian populists of the 1860s and 1870s who regarded the poor peasantry as the only revolutionary class), they remained oriented towards the rural peasantry and the communist parties in Nepal, which had naturally emerged from rural peasantry, had a peasant perspective.

However, the decisive failure of the bourgeoisie to carry out a successful revolutionary struggle, proved to be a boon in disguise for the Stalinist and Maoist parties in Nepal. Given the absence of a revolutionary party of the working class, these could successfully occupy the political vacuum left by the impotent bourgeois forces, and emerge as its left wing of bourgeois democracy.

These communist parties seized an opportunity to successfully present themselves as the harbinger of popular aspirations, chiefly that of the peasantry. They picked up the task of accomplishing the project of bourgeois democracy in Nepal. In the name of the “Prachanda Path” they developed a programme to take Nepal to the capitalist road – which they referred to as the “New Democracy”. As all recent developments show, this programme is nothing but the platform for a regime of capitalism in Nepal, a political manifestation of collaboration with the class enemies of the working class.

What the “Prachanda Path” has achieved is that in practice it has laid bare the bogus doctrines advanced by Stalin and Mao based on the combined dictatorship of several classes. Although history has more than once repudiated these doctrines and has shown that only one class can assert the “dictatorship”, either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, with the intermediary classes destined to follow one or the other. But the Stalinists, and later the Maoists, in Nepal have used this historically repudiated formula of the combined dictatorship of several classes as an excuse to sit in the lap of their national bourgeoisie and their parties.

The Mensheviks believed that the struggle to achieve the bourgeois tasks of the democratic revolution, such as land reform, the destruction of the Tsarist autocracy, full democratic rights, etc., should be led by the liberal bourgeoisie. Lenin, who agreed with them on the point that Russia was facing a revolution where the main tasks were of a bourgeois-democratic character, inflexibly defended the idea that the liberal bourgeoisie was unable and unwilling to lead the revolution, therefore the tasks of the democratic revolution fell upon the proletariat and the struggle could be won only if the proletariat succeeded in forging a revolutionary alliance with the poor peasantry. The mistaken Menshevik formula, of collaboration with the liberal bourgeois in the democratic revolution, led them inexorably into the camp of the counter-revolution, as the conditions for the October revolution were maturing.

Lesson of Russian Revolution

Lenin, severely rebuked the old Bolshevik leaders – Stalin, Kamenev and others, who in the name of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” supported the provisional government.The Russian October and all other revolutions since then, show that the bourgeoisie in the modern epoch is unable and unwilling to achieve the tasks of the democratic revolution. The bourgeoisie has much more in common with the other sections of the ruling elite and imperialism than the interests it shares with the workers and the poor masses who push the revolution forward. Inevitably the tasks of the democratic revolution tend to fall upon the proletariat. But once the working class is mobilised and succeeds in overthrowing the ruling elite and smashes the old order by revolutionary means, in other words when the workers have the possibility to seize power, they cannot constrain the revolution to carrying out only purely bourgeois measures at the cost of miserably failing to address the needs of the masses. Once political power is in the hands of the workers, they have to implement socialist measures and neutralise the counter-revolutionary resistance of the capitalist class that sides with the most reactionary elements of the old order. In other words, the democratic revolution “permanently” transcends into a socialist one. Marx himself observed this when drawing the lessons of the attitude of the German bourgeois towards the 1848 revolution. The theory of the “permanent revolution” was then developed by the co-leader of the Russian revolution along with Lenin, Leon Trotsky, in the light of the experience of the defeated 1905 revolution.

The events of the 1917 Russian revolution brilliantly confirmed this approach. But the mistakes of the local leadership of the Bolshevik party, the most revolutionary party in history, proved how strong the pressure of alien classes can be upon the leadership of the working class. At the outbreak of the February revolution the Bolshevik leaders inside Russia were putting forward a mistaken position of supporting the liberal bourgeoisie and the provisional government.

Lenin, severely rebuked the old Bolshevik leaders – Stalin, Kamenev and others, who in the name of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” supported the provisional government. Only his immense authority over the ranks of the Bolsheviks allowed him to win this battle and reorient the party on the correct track that led to the victory of October. With his famous “April Thesis” he called upon the Bolsheviks to take power. In order to do that they had to fight to conquer the proletariat and the masses in opposition to the bourgeois government and create the conditions for the working class to take power under the leadership of the Bolshevik party and establish the dictatorship of proletariat. The orientation of the party was summed up by the famous slogan “All power to the Soviets!” At that stage, Lenin clearly shared the same understanding of the revolutionary process with Trotsky and abandoned the old propagandistic slogan of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”. This old formulation was not up to the tasks posed by the real development of the revolution, once the working class had set up the instrument of its own democratic rule, the Soviets, which included the poor peasantry and the soldiers, and rallied all oppressed layers of society behind them.

So the Bolsheviks led by Lenin and Trotsky succeeded in overthrowing the fragile bourgeois regime of Kerensky and the workers seized power with the October 1917 insurrection through the Soviets and their revolutionary party, the Bolsheviks. What could be considered to be a doctrinaire debate had very serious implications for the Russian masses. It was literally a life or death question. Having failed to take power, the alternative facing the workers and the masses was not that of Kerensky, but the blackest Tsarist reaction of Kornilov that would have wiped away every single conquest of the revolution and smashed the revolutionary masses into passivity under the iron heel of the autocracy.

As we all know, the October Revolution in Russia, a predominantly peasant country, triumphed, but only as the dictatorship of proletariat. The poor peasants overwhelmingly welcomed, fought for and supported the revolution precisely because the Soviets after breaking the back of the bourgeoisie were able to do what Kerensky could not and did not want to do: stop Russian involvement in the imperialist war, seize and distribute the land of the landowners to the poor peasants and start a real agrarian reform.

So-called “progressive” national bourgeoisie

The Chinese bureaucracy proved to be no different from its Russian counterpart and became more and more a fetter on the revolution.Again it was Stalin, who after the demise of Lenin once again went back to the idea of forging an alliance with the so-called “progressive” national bourgeoisie. This idea was taken from the dustbin of history and applied it to China, Spain and elsewhere. The defeat of the proletarian revolution of 1925-27 in China and later the victory of Franco in Spain, were the offshoots of this bogus idea.

Mao further diluted this alliance, and tried to enrol the Chinese bourgeoisie as a partner in the “bloc of four classes”, but the bourgeoisie was defeated and fled the country together with Chang Kai Shek while the state collapsed. Real power was left in the hands of Mao and the communist leaders through the peasant guerrilla army. Although they had the perspective of a prolonged stage of capitalist development for China before socialism would become possible, in order to consolidate their power they were forced by the circumstances, to move towards the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and set up a planned economy, a step that was progressive, but it not the product of the conscious action of the working class in the revolution. The peasant army took power, under Stalinist leadership, while the working class was kept passive and if necessary even repressed. Because of that, the new regime that arose from the Chinese revolution was hugely distorted right from the beginning and assumed right from the beginning a bureaucratic character, following the model of the Stalinist Soviet Union.

The Maoist bureaucracy which took power in 1949 under the red banner, consolidated soon as a privileged caste that was benefiting from its control over the planned economy. The unprecedented growth of the productive forces thanks to the abolition of private property and economic planning guaranteed to the leaders of “Socialist” China a huge authority over the masses throughout South East Asia and well beyond. Later on, conflict with the USSR generated the illusion that Maoism was the real revolutionary force, but the Chinese bureaucracy proved to be no different from its Russian counterpart and became more and more a fetter on the revolution. Once again the “two stage” theory was put forward in order to defend the interests of the bureaucracy which, under Deng Xiao Ping, was introducing capitalist “reforms” in China and didn’t want workers’ revolutions to interfere with their call for foreign investment and other dealings with imperialist powers.

The Stalinist-Maoist parties thereafter swung from guerrilla war based on the peasant masses to open collaboration with the bourgeoisie.

In Nepal, Prachanda and co. have risen to power in collaboration with the bourgeois through peaceful means on the back of the April 2006 uprising. The Maoist leaders, the illegitimate bearers of the proletarian red flag, and held the peasantry under their control, as there existed no party of the working class, held back the peasantry from coming to the aid of the proletariat and aiding it to take power during the April 2006 uprising. The April uprising had rendered the monarchy completely powerless and the perplexed king restored parliament and the bourgeois order.

Betrayal of the April 2006 uprising

Betraying the April uprising of 2006   and on the back of it   the Maoist leaders struck a separate deal of their own with the Koirala government on 16th June, and entered into the interim government. The uprising thus failed to overturn the monarchy or the bourgeoisie. This was because the working class did not have a party of its own and thus could not muster the force of the peasantry behind it. The peasantry remained under the control of the Maoists who deliberately held it back from aiding the revolutionary assault in the cities, only to take power later through parliamentary means in collaboration with the bourgeoisie.

The electoral victory of Prachanda in April 2008, which Laxman Pant terms as historic, in fact revealed the aspirations of the masses for a revolutionary change. Forced to turn back from the threshold of victory, due to the Maoist leaders holding them back from insurrection in April 2006, the masses, from a weaker platform, saw in the elections of 2008, a way of giving vent to their aspirations. But by no means should this be mistaken as a blank cheque in the hands of Prachanda.

The article of Laxman Pant is not a deviation from the aims of the Maoist leaders, but a confirmation of their adaptation to the national bourgeois in the name of the Prachanda Path. The peculiarities of Nepal, distinct from other countries, are for them the justification for this collaboration, echoing a universal long-standing argument of the Stalinists/Maoists that is used to justify their deviation from revolution and to oppose the slogan of the dictatorship of proletariat. Nepal is not mature for the dictatorship of proletariat, say the Maoists, therefore we must join hands with bourgeoisie! This was the rhetoric of the Mensheviks, who said that Russia was not mature for a proletarian dictatorship and thus the bourgeoisie was to take power. In the same was as the Russian Mensheviks, the Nepali Maoists ended up taking power (in reality “office” not power) in partnership with the bourgeoisie. This is exactly what Laxman Pant terms as the “joint dictatorship of the bourgeois and proletariat”.

As we now know, through clear historical experience, there cannot be a dictatorship which is not based upon a single and definite class. There cannot be a political power, which is not a class dictatorship in essence, though it may assume different and varied forms. So what is the real essence of power in Nepal? This power, which pretends to be a revolutionary power based upon collaboration of hostile classes, in fact is bourgeois power in black and white, consolidating itself inside the shell of a deceptive “joint dictatorship”. The backwardness of Nepal and the impotence of the bourgeoisie prevented it from taking power on its own. The Maoist party has thus come forward as its reliable ally to hold the power for it, under the red banner.

Maoists in Nepal are now making out a clear case for a democratic republic i.e. a bourgeois democracy and from the rooftops they are proclaiming a capitalist heaven in Nepal, based upon co-existence of all social classes living in harmony. This is the essence of the Prachanda Path, of this “New Democracy”. All the rhetoric against intangible imperialism becomes a real fiction, in the background of their cherished alliance with its local agency – the national bourgeoisie in Nepal. As far as local reaction goes, the new mantra is to keep their hands off. After all, is the legal proclamation of the end of the monarchy not sufficient? The Crown is sent to the archives, Narayanhiti is vacated, and Nepal is proclaimed to be republic! What else is required?

The choice before the Maoist leaders

If the Maoist leaders follow the “Prachanda path” they will inevitably clash with the aspirations of the masses. Photo by red dart eskimo spy on Flickr.The problem facing the Maoist leaders is how to sell the new agenda to the masses, the workers and the peasants. How to prevent them from advancing onto the road of revolution and encroaching upon bourgeois rights? To do this, the Maoist leaders will have to stand between the workers and bourgeois property to guard it against the advance of the working class. In reply to a question in a meeting organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on his visit to India, Prachanda already made his intentions clear. He was asked as to the guarantee for security of investment in Nepal against the possible onslaught of rebel masses, to which Prachanda replied without hesitation that his government would guarantee surety to foreign capitalist investment in Nepal. Look at how the guerrilla rebels of yesterday have made the somersault into a “Party of Order”! Normalcy is to be restored at all costs, “New-Democracy” is to be consolidated, and for that revolution stands deleted from the agenda. This is. the path of Prachanda.

Nepal now finds itself peculiar political set up, a kind of political limbo. On the one hand the Maoists have given up the armed struggle and have dissolved their rebel army trying to integrate it into the bourgeois state apparatus. On the other hand they are the single largest party in the Constituent Assembly, but without a sufficient majority to act on their own. Meanwhile the real power continues to be vested in the old power centres, prime among them the former Royal Army. This is the essence of what Laxman Pant presents to us in Nepal as the unprecedented historical victory of the Prachanda Path!

Revolutionary advances aside, even the petty reforms allowed within this context are slipping off the agenda of the Maoists. Peaceful economic growth, i.e. the capitalist advance of the economy is becoming the only objective. They are striving to attract the investments of world capital to Nepal and are reassuring the imperialists that they are no longer those old-style Marxists of yesteryear to worry about, but pragmatic “Marxists of 21st Century”. The Maoist leaders are in fact issuing cynical warnings against any attempt to thwart this national progress, which according to them is the common agenda of all classes in Nepal.

What more could the bourgeoisie ask for? The bourgeoisie is interested in political power to advance its own class interests, to suppress the working people, to prevent the working class from riding to power, and ultimately as an instrument to protect and reassert its economic power. If all this can be achieved by exploiting the political authority the Maoist leaders gained through the struggle of the masses under the red banner, against the monarchy, specifically in a period when the bourgeoisie finds itself unable to woo the masses or is too weak to subjugate them, what else is required? It is very convenient indeed, for if masses have become disillusioned with the bourgeois parties, the Stalinists/Maoists are there with red flags in their hands!

If Prachanda and the Maoist leaders can be pressed into this political service, the bourgeoisie cannot really ask for anything more! But the misfortune of these Maoist leaders is that they are placing reliance upon the national bourgeois in Nepal precisely when the bourgeoisie has no national tasks on its agenda, when world capitalism as a whole has no national tasks before it and completely burnt out its revolutionary energy long ago. The Maoist leaders are thus not going to share anything with the bourgeoisie. What they are being called on is to manage the crisis in which the bourgeoisie find themselves engulfed in in all countries today. Their alliance with the bourgeoisie is too belated in the history of Nepal, to be able to embark upon the path of peaceful capitalist development. The interests of the capitalist exploiters and the Nepali masses are altready inevitably coming into conflict with each other. What position are the Maoist leaders are going to adopt in this conflict?

The Maoist-led government in Nepal has no intention of moving against the interests of the bourgeoisie, and stands as a guarantor for the bourgeois investments and property in Nepal. But guarantors against whom? Against the proletariat! By its selfsame logic, the Maoist power is standing between the poor toiling mass and bourgeois property. It is de facto holding back the working people from taking the revolution any further, using the deception of the red flag as far as is possible. And once the people become disillusioned from this “joint dictatorship” there is always the bourgeois state apparatus that is ready to step in with guns.

Is this what the revolutionary masses and the rebel army fought for? Are these policies preparing victory or paving the way to disaster? In spite of all this, revolutionary ferment in society is still powerful. The masses have only given their support to Prachanda because they believed that decisive change would soon be forthcoming. If Prachanda were to move against the vested interests of the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, he would receive the overwhelming support of the masses. If, on the contrary, as unfortunately it seems clearly their intention, the Maoist leaders follow the “Prachanda path” they will inevitably clash with the aspirations of the masses and divisions will develop within the Maoist movement itself on which way to go forward. Our advice to the Nepali revolutionaries that are looking for a way out of this dilemma is to orient towards the working class and build on the tradition of the 2006 uprising in opposition to those who want to capitulate to the bourgeoisie.

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