Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Ben Peterson: To My Dearest Detractors

Posted by Mike E on May 6, 2009

Ben Peterson (left) interviewing a commander of the Maoists' Peoples Liberation Army

Ben Peterson (left) interviewing a commander of the Maoists' Peoples Liberation Army

On this site, a number of comments went up from opponents of the Maoist revolution who  questioned Ben Peterson’s reports, insights and objectivity concerning events in Nepal.

To my dearest detractors.

Some would say that this is a lopsided view. And many would say that my “journalistic integrity” is compromised. I confess these things openly. But i only say this because if to have “journalistic integrity” means i need to echo the lies and propaganda that is printed every day in the medias mainstream then i want no part of it. I set out to find and tell the stories of the real Nepalis, the Nepalis who live in poverty, the Nepalis who are discriminated against just because of their sex, caste, nationality or profession. I pledge now to always be lopsided- i will always carry a bias- but the bias i carry will always be towards the toiling people of the World, and to give those without a voice a chance to tell their stories- the real stories of Nepal.

I have traveled widely in Nepal, I have been to Rolpa, Chitwan, Sindhapulchowk, Dang and of course Kathmandu. I have talked to people of all walks of life, from farmers, to workers, politicians and the unemployed. Men and women, Dalits, Cheteris and Bramins. I have seen the real Nepal. The real Nepal is one that is starving for change. That is why they SUPPORT the Maoists. Not because of intimidation, but because the Maoists, and only the Maoists, have gone to the people with a dream, a vision and a plan for creating a Nepal that is free from exploitation and poverty.

I have looked- but could not find- the people in fear of the Maoists cadre. I have looked for but have not found the intimidation that is daily described in the Media. What i have found, without even having to look are simple people that are willing to fight for a better life. I found people increasingly angry because the old elite and the political opposition delay and derail every single attempt by the government to bring relief to the people. I have found the people who have been beaten, raped and had their families killed by the (royal) Nepal Army. (which was described as the “National Savior” above)

This is the real Nepal. The real Nepal will not be found in the pages of the Himalayan times. The Real Nepal will not be found in the tourist quarter or the cocktail circuits of Kathmandu. The real Nepal is a elegant beast that has been shackled into a system that everyday exploits, brutalizes and violates it even more. The Nepali people have had enough of this and now refuse to take it any more. The chains that restrict them are bucking under the strain of an entire people rising for something better.

To those who cant see this, especially those from within the proud people of Nepal, i can only beg of you to open your eyes. You need only look as far as the women who will now look you in the eye, the dalits who can now be active in their communities and the workers with a new sense of pride in what they do, to see that the New Nepal- which is being built despite all the opposition tries to do- can be something more beautiful than we could possibly imagine.

Thank you- and for your own sake- wake up to the reality you are living in.
Ben Peterson

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10 Responses to “Ben Peterson: To My Dearest Detractors”

  1. Karl said

    This may sound a bit facile, but he’s in effect running an at least partisan-sympathetic blog. He’s not a reporter for the Times or BBC (putting aside their own questionably deserved reputation of journalistic impartiality). So why does he even need to defend himself against charges of bias? If this is what he finds in the course of his research, so much the better, especially if he’s using at least relatively “impartial” research methods.

  2. Green Red said

    i think that comrade Ben is in the politest manner possible telling them to shut up and, look at the matter realistically. As said by Bertold Brecht, those who not know are naturally ignorant, those who know and are indifferent are criminal of a sort. But those who try to have reality blurred are most likely the ones who have brought and established misery or, their speakers.

  3. Tell No Lies said

    Ben,

    First, let me say how much I appreciate the work you are doing. It is invaluable and many of us on the outside eagerly await each of your posts. You are our eyes and ears and we are depending on you. Second, don’t be put off by criticism. As somebody once said, “to be attacked by the enemy is a good thing.”

    All that said, let me offer a modest comradely criticism. The picture you paint above is of a revolution without contradictions among the people and as such I think it does a disservice to the difficulties and complexities that must be confronting the Maobadi. The masses of the Nepali people can no more be a monolith than any other and it undermines your credibility if you suggest that they are. Maybe you can’t find people to talk to who FEAR the Maobadi (or who are willing to say so to a Maoist sympathetic stranger) but surely you can find people who OPPOSE them who have something to say. Obviously the voices of opponents of the Maoists are already well represented in the international capitalist media, but that is precisely why we need to see them through your pro-Maoist eyes. Also, it would be useful, if it is possible, to look into some of the specific charges that are being made about “Maoist thuggery,” especially against teh YCL, either to debunk them or to draw out and examine the contradictions that inevitably exist in a revolutionary process.

    Please don’t use the obvious bad intentions of your detractors as an excuse to toss aside notions of “journalistic integrity.” You are, like it or not, a revolutionary journalist. Not to lay it on too thick, but you are our John Reed right now. Your standards of integrity should be HIGHER than those working for the capitalist press. Your role is not simply to balance out the capitalist media’s propaganda with our own, but to establish revolutionary sources of information as the MOST reliable and complete reporting out there. Your reporting should be so thorough that our enemies feel compelled to read and cite it! The revolution doesn’t need its warts airbrushed away, it needs them revealed and analyzed and explained. There is, of course, nothing wrong with conveying peoples genuine enthusiasm for the revolution. But these descriptions will only ring truer if it is evident that you aren’t afraid to also pass along the “inconvenient facts” that are always present. I think here of William Hinton’s “Fanshen” which derives much of its power precisely from its willingness to describe in excrutiating detail the errors, hubris, stupidity and venality of the party cadres and peasants alike engaged in the heroic work of making a real world revolution, and in so doing conveyed what was most important of all, that the awesome tasks of completely reorganizing society was being carried out not by saints but by ordinary men and women inspired by an extraordinary vision of a better world.

    I hope you will accept these comments in the spirit in which they are intended. I know that I am not in your shoes, that events are unfolding at a clip that makes it difficult to step back, and that you are being asked to do things for which nobody really has the proper training. But the work you are doing is too important for your comrades to be liberal with you.

    Lal Salaam.

  4. Thanks allot for the comments- and i really appreciate them.

    Firstly- I don’t want to create the illusion that the current political situation is perfect and without contradictions- because that is obviously false. There are many very obvious and very real flaws with the process here, which i wont go into now- (unless people want me too) but in the above piece i was just trying to just give the essence of what is happening here, which is after taking into account all the problems and limitations this is a still a profoundly inspiring situation.

    I only dismiss “journalistic integrity” in as far as this means repeating the same worn out phrases as all the other media. I will never- ever – publish bullshit or propaganda. I am here not as a story teller- but as a journalist- and i will only ever repeat what is actually being said and done here on the ground.

    As for some opposition voices- i agree that would be good to hear as well. I will endeavor to find them. (but it can be hard as they are so limited)

    cheers- and thanks allot
    ben

  5. Mike E said

    Thanks for writing ben, and thanks for your work.

    I think we should not concede “objectivity” or “journalistic integrity” to the bourgeoisie. Yes, they claim it, and make a mockery of their own claim. But for that reason, we should be all the more fearless in our stand which is to be objective and to speak truth with integrity and on that basis to be fiercely partisan. the truth is on our side. And we are not afraid of those truths which may seem (in the short run, or in some instrumentalist sense) to be “bad” for our side. An example of that is the open differences within the UCPN(M) —

    Mao pointed out the need to “expose our own dark side, and from below” at times. And the Nepali Maoists themselves have a serious dedication to that, and are proposing forms of politics under socialism that (they believe) will institutionalize the regular exposure (and correction!) of errors and problems of the revolutionary party. That said, I think the facts show (and will show) a difference “between Yenan and Sian” (i.e. between the revolutionary pole and the counterrevolutionary pole within the country).

    Differences in methods, goals, class nature, program, international ties etc. all of which need exposure. Some forces here represent revolution and liberation here, and others represent counterrevolution and continued oppression.

    We need a lot of information about the revolutionary people (their hopes and dreams, their personal histories, their view of what is to come, their relationship with those around them etc.) But (as a secondary aspect) it helps to also have contrary voices (as contrast and as reporting). Like TNL, I believe that we will discover that there is valuable information to be gleaned from opponents (and even from their incorrect ideas and views).

    It is worth remembering too that Ben did interview UML supporters in his recent rolpa report, published on this site, and those interviews were very interesting on a number of questions — including the question of fear, and the question of why people support other currents, and also in the ways people with previous loyalties to UML are supporting the radical changes that are happening. etc.)

  6. emil said

    ben and others,

    ben- it is good, carry on and write honestly. dont worry about detractors.

    ben and others- in nepal, would we consider the Red star, the main source of information from the Maoists, (and one of the ways i and many people discovered this Kasama site), as ‘objective’,with ‘journalistic integrity’ or is it maoist party propaganda? curious to know what others think, and Ben also? i dont know myself. some of the articles read as stalinist propaganda, but some are interesting, and others are way out there.

  7. Green Red said

    Hi Emil,

    Good to hear from you.
    Something is confusing in your above question my friend. That is due to the fact that you have not clearly defined neither Stalinist, nor clearly defined way out there.

    What is Stalinist? Is any sort of defense of Marxism Leninism (with or without Maoism for now,) defined as Stalinist or not?

    Presuming some equating Stalinism as as sort of system that kills x number of people (based upon west imperialist media, fed by anti communist writers and, due to its basis, unrelyable for revolutionary leftsits) that never lets others talk or oppose, having such trend in the same publication that has the latter two sort of opinions presented, makes your presentation absolutely confusing. I would call it Workers’ Democracy.

    If any Leninist of any sort (even those who suggest if Lenin was few years more alive a multi party socialist state would be created) is considered Stalinist, then would their letting opposing veiws in their publication occur grant a new definition to Stalinism? Or simply they’re not Stalinist maybe, but rather communist supporters?

    And who are those more likable ones in your opinion?
    To my understanding, even if one presumes Stalinism as anti democratic, then letting others (be it Mensheviks of the times, Trotskists plus perhaps SRs or Narodniks or even Anarchists, as long as they don’t go along the line of white Russians) have their opinions published in their periodical, then cool; I’m Stalinist all the way friend.

    But in the meantime if somebody considers Stalinism (with or without Leninism) as the wrong trend and is practically supporting either western propagandists or, extremely egotistic and judgmental anarchists whose great ideas are in practice undoable, then why bother supporting a communist revolution at all?

    Please explain and, thank you for giving the correct and honest positive credits to Red Star and Kasama for giving space to honest viewpoints.

  8. emil said

    sorry to use the term stalinist, probably incorrect. but i mean many of the red star articles are just standard communist propaganda, like the comintern style. i suppose i meant comintern and standard ML terminology etc. you are probably right about the term ‘stalinist’, so i will not use the term in the future. but what do people think of the red star? can it be considered objective?

  9. Mike E said

    Red Star is not a tightly controlled party newspaper. Some of the articles are translations from the Nepali maoist press — but Red Star itself has played a different role.

    For example in their January 2009 letter, the RCP makes a huge deal about an article by Roshan Kissoon from Red Star #21 (fuming over its open criticisms of avakian, and its views of previous socialist experiences). But that article (and Kissoon himself) do not reflect the line of the CPNM on any of this. Kisson (who was the editor of Red Star) is not Nepali, and had a different political line from the Nepali Maoists. (A line that this article revealed is pretty riddled with some crude anti-communism and the RCP was falsely associating the CPNM with that anti-communism).

  10. Maz said

    Was Kissoon editor of the Red Star? I thought he was listed as a copy editor and occasional contributor. At any rate, he’s no longer working for the newspaper.

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