Revolution in South Asia

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Nepal: A Situation of “Dual Power”

Posted by Sole on October 26, 2008

This report appears on Democracy and Class Struggle

Democratic Republic or People’s Republic?

by Harry Powell

Democracy and Class Struggle is pleased to publish a report from comrade Harry Powell in Nepal.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is engaged in a sharp two line struggle over the way forward for the Nepalese people. On one side are those, such as Comrade Kiran, who want to proceed rapidly to the establishment of a new democratic type of regime.

On the other side are those such as Comrade Prachanda, Party Chairman and Prime Minister, who seem to be envisaging a fairly long period of bourgeois parliamentary democracy which could eventually lead to some sort of new democracy.

Prachanda has been proposing that some of the other communist groupings, who opposed the People’s War, merge with the CPN(M) to form a new Communist Party of Nepal. Some other leading comrades are vigorously opposed to such amalgamations.

A Party Conference to debate these issues commences on 6th. November.We should be careful of trying to understand contemporary political developments in terms of making crude historical analogies with past conjunctures. But on this occasion it might be useful to make some comparisons with the situation in Russia in 1917.A prominent comrade said to me that while the Maoists have formed a government, they do not yet have state power.

One major issue is the question of the integration of the Nepal (formerly Royal) Army with the People’s Liberation Army. The Nepal Army commanders and the reactionary Nepali Congress party are opposing such a change. They say that PLA personnel could apply to join the Nepal Army. This is unacceptable to the CPN(M) who want full integration on a basis of equality.This particular issue highlights the fact that in Nepal today there is a situation of “dual power” rather like the one in Russia between February and October 1917.

Then there was a bourgeois liberal government presiding over the old Tsarist state apparatus but at the same time the Soviets (councils of soldiers, workers and peasants) had arisen and exercised considerable popular power. In Nepal although as a result of the Constituent Assembly elections the CPN(M) have formed a minority government, the rest of the old reactionary state apparatus remains in place. The Nepal Army, the police and the civil administration remain unreconstructed.

Counterposed to this is the continued existence of the PLA, the militant Young Communist League and strong Maoist-led trade unions. The key issue in Nepal is whether or not the old army and police can be neutralized or dismantled. Otherwise there is the danger of a military coup at some point.

Another parallel with 1917 is that “Menshevik” and “Bolshevik” factions seem to emerging within the CPN(M). On the one hand are those who see the future of Nepal in terms of a fairly long period of capitalist development which could eventually lay the basis for socialist transformation. On the other hand are comrades who want capitalist economic development to be closely supervised by the state and to fairly quickly start implementing socialist developments.

A positive feature of these controversies is that the Party’s two-line struggle is out in the open. There is no attempt to impose “monolithic unity”. Unity comes through struggle.

5 Responses to “Nepal: A Situation of “Dual Power””

  1. arthur said

    In “making some comparisons with the situation in Russia in 1917” it could be helpful to know that Mensheviks and Bolsheviks were not factions of one party in 1917.

  2. La Ligue de la Jeunesse Communiste au Népal : le front révolutionnaire en question

  3. Mike E said

    Arthur writes:

    “In “making some comparisons with the situation in Russia in 1917″ it could be helpful to know that Mensheviks and Bolsheviks were not factions of one party in 1917.”

    It depends on who you asked in 1917.

    I read a study that revealed that when delegates arrived to attend the congress of Soviets in 1917, a majority of delegates of the Social Democrats had not made up their minds whether they were Mensheviks or Bolsheviks. In other words, in Petrograd and among emigre circles, the two trends had separated into distinct parties (i.e. they had a distinct leadership, held separate congresses etc.) but among the rank-and-file (at the base) in many areas outside a few main cities, the movement still functioned as a single “Social Democratic” party.

    More the point: Many communists (and here i’m talking about the U.S.) think that the Bolsheviks formed as a party before 1905 (i.e. with What is To be done, and One Step Forward Two Steps Back) and then functioned that way for the next twelve years until the seizure of power. The fact that the two trends (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) had a complex relationship (sometimes rejoining, sometimes separating) is not generally known — because those historical details don’t match the “model” that some want to apply (i.e. of a small, distinct group that grows “in a telescoped way” to take leadership of the revolution). In Russia there was in fact a far more complex terrain (on the ground, in exile, in the Duma parliament, in the elections process) than has been widely known. (For example, in the Duma elections, the Bolsheviks had system for deciding who they blocked with and who they supported if their candidates didn’t make it to the runoffs — all in order to create the most radical Duma possible, and to isolate the far-right “Black Hundreds” as much as possible).

  4. Arthur said


    I broadly agree with the point you are making. It further emphasizes the absurdity of Harry’s crude attempt to characterize “Menshevik” and “Bolshevik” factions in the present differences. The complexities of “dual power” are also radically different not “rather like”.

    You wrote:

    The fact that the two trends (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) had a complex relationship (sometimes rejoining, sometimes separating) is not generally known — because those historical details don’t match the “model” that some want to apply (i.e. of a small, distinct group that grows “in a telescoped way” to take leadership of the revolution).

    That “model” is key. It is the hallmark of sectarians outside the real movement.

    Unfortunately intimate knowledge of details of the complexities of the Russian, Chinese or other revolutions is no antidote. There is a high correlation between detailed familiarity with revolutionary history and complete uselessness.

    People learn how to make revolution by rebelling, getting stuck and learning from mistakes. They then find it useful to study some history because often mistakes they made were completely unoriginal and could have been avoided if they had only known about earlier experience with roads that go nowhere, so people look for insights that could help avoid future avoidable mistakes so that at least they can introduce something original even if it is only an original mistake.

    The mistake of the sectarians with their “model” is so old and well known that it is no surprise they attract less support than superficially less attractice propositions like “let’s all drink poisoned cool aid together”. You can actually organize more people for an obviously loonie religious cults like Jonestown than for any of the groups pretending to be revolutionary in western countries.

    Nobody without rebel splirit ever acquired it by studying history first.

    About the only good “100% bolsheviks” do is force people to do some theoretical reading in order win arguments and overthrow them.

    BTW some other interesting examples of complexities include:

    1. In Duma elections, the Menshevik tactics were sometimes right and the Bolsheviks wrong (as Lenin subsequently acknowledged concerning an occasion when the Bolsheviks boycotted and the Mensheviks did not).

    2. Chiang Kai-shek was an honorary member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern.

    3. Karl Marx refused admission to the first international to organizations that required atheism from their members since that conflicted with the non-sectarian rules of the international workers movement.

    4. The split with anarchism centred around the anarchists organization of “elite cadre” secret fractions that caucused separately to control the association.

    Concerning the direct relevance of the fact that many still saw Bolsheviks and Mensheviks as wings of one party as late as 1917, I doubt that has any relevance in Nepal after 10 years of people’s war. (Those groups that were not in the enemy camp are now rejoining the party that proved the correctness of its political line by actually succeeding against their common enemy including the Mensheviks in the enemy camp).

    However I certainly see parallels with the situation in western countries like the USA and Australia.

    The overwhelming majority of people who consider themselves progressive in Western countries see “the left” as an eclectic mixture of various attitudes that they sometimes agree with, can’t quite put their finger on anything they strongly disagree with, but also reject as not having much to do with any real movement that could actually change things in a direction they want to go so they certainly don’t want to spend any time on them. So people simultaneously “support” indiscriminately and “avoid” indiscriminately.

    If you (collective plural) are hoping to break from the “tradition” you were part of for decades and join the real movement rather than founding another sect with the same “model” you will need to learn to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

    Try turning off that “awaiting moderation” power trip and tighten your scalp for some bombarding the headquarters.

  5. Behrooz Navaii said

    I wouldn’t be surprised if later we find out that in fact this “2 line” is an already agreed course of action. With the balance of power, there is always the chance of direct action from outside. AFter trying best to achieve from the world supplies necessitated in such seperate peak of the world, and meanwhile establishing mass organizations as actual powers of the country, then they can declare the democratic status, but for now what’s wrong at first to feed some of the hungriest?

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