Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Nepal: Ring The Bell Loudly

Posted by Mike E on January 24, 2010

By Mike Ely

To put this as bluntly as I can:

The Nepali Maoists are preparing right now (i mean over the next few weeks) for what-may-be a decisive military/political confrontation with the reactionary government and army.

The insurrection they have been preparing so carefully and so long may take place over the next two months.

The Maoists are seeking to mobilize the people (based on the understanding that their enemies will be wanting to act closely with Indian intrigues, and can be isolated by exposing those intrigues.) Their Indian, Nepali and American enemies understand this. Their revolutionary core base knows this. And we need to know it.

I will be ringing this bell loudly, and more loudly… and I want you to join me in ringing this bell.

Everyone we know and meet should start to consider how they can discuss and explain this important revolution in (what may be) its most bold and desperate hour.

The endgame is now taking shape in Nepal, perhaps in the next month or two, as the Maoists sum up their repeated “dress rehearsals” in Kathmandu and evaluate when (exactly) to go for a seizure of power.

It is possible that they will decide not to go for the final revolution this spring. But more likely (at this point) is that, through tremendous efforts and unexpected events, they will now rise in a test of strength — and fight for a peoples democratic Nepal — the birth of a Nepal on the socialist road. It may be the first serious (and potentially successful) attempt at communist revolution in decades.

With the utmost respect, I would like to disagree with the following claim:

“With the spearhead directed against India, the PLA [Maoist Peoples Liberation Army] is looking to the south, rather than being readied to do battle with the Nepal Army and the other repressive forces of the state.”

This misreads the situation. The reactionary/monarchist Nepali Army’s limited-but-real popular prestige in Nepal has been precisely based on their history of (supposedly) upholding Nepali independence against India.

In their moves to isolate and then defeat that National Army, the Maoists (and their Peoples Liberation Army) are politically claiming that national banner (AWAY from the monarchists’ army) in order to expose, divide and defeat that National army as Indian puppets and collaborators (which they are).

This is not some diversion from the preparations for power — It is one important way the Nepali Maoists are dividing  their enemies and winning over intermediate forces (including in and around that Army itself), precisely as the Maoists work to sum up a series of dress rehearsals for power.

We need to be preparing ourselves (here in the U.S.) for a political offensive of popularization and exposure — with teach-ins, outreach, and the active organization of all who can be won to such an effort. And for us to play our role, we need to clearly understand that we may (from now to spring) be facing the key time for “speaking on another plane” and to much wider audiences (as the Maoists own actions push them into the headlines).

10 Responses to “Nepal: Ring The Bell Loudly”

  1. Cedric said

    What about the cancellation of the indefinite bhanda ? Is this to show to people that there is definitely no hope of building something by conciliating class interest with UML and Nepali congress ? Or is this a step toward reformism, meaning a streghtening of the negotation line and a weakening of the insurection one (if the contradiction is to be put in this way) ?

    From outside, very difficult to understand and to judge what is happening there… I’m really interested about how you people see things.

    Cedric

  2. Mike E said

    Cedric writes:

    “What about the cancellation of the indefinite bhanda ? …. From outside, very difficult to understand and to judge what is happening there…”

    Cedric, you raise important and controversial questions.

    Here is what I think:

    From the outside it is often not only “very difficult” but impossible to sort through specific tactical moves and what they mean (why they were done). That is because the data needed to understand micro-events is not available to us.

    And, speaking for myself, I have no idea why a particular bandh was called or canceled. And i don’t have a particular opinion whether it was a good idea, or a bad idea, or whether it confirms or undermine particular views of the revolution in Nepal. And I don’t spend a lot of time trying to speculate on that.

    Anyone who has been involved in mass struggle (including calling strikes and ending strikes) knows that the reasons and dynamics are often complex (and invisible to outside people).

    If we had observant communist reporters on the ground it might be somewhat different — but it is not just a matter of distance…. I’m sure that even for “people on the street” in Nepal (including sophisticated communist observors) the rapid shifts of tactics and plans are confusing…. and will always be that way.

    (History flashback: Does anyone imagine that the fighters gathering to storm the Winter Palace had a full picture of what this meant, and what it implied for the Congress of Soviets, and what would emerge? They had rushed into battle in July, and then called back sharply. They had rushed into battle against Kornilov, in defense of the Kerensky government. And then in October, unleashed to overthrow that same Kerensky government. And does anyone imagine that all of that was fully worked out schematically in advance, based on pre-known principles, and that the leaders of these events “knew” in detail where it was all going at each of the many turning points? Or that those leaders didn’t, in fact, have radically different ideas, that would be fought out repeatedly as each crossroads presented itself?)

    * * * * * *

    And in fact, it would be a wrong method and wrong focus to be fixated in hailing or critiquing the micro-moves of a party involved in a complex struggle. It overestimates what can be known from afar, and it really crams each event into a preconceived structure (i.e. it uses a micro-event as “evidence” of a larger schema in a reverse engineered way).

    And it is, in someways, a problem with the very way our South Asia Revolution site has become structured — i.e. its great reliance on mini-articles lifted from the bourgeois press. This is valuable, of course. And we will keep doing it.

    But it also draws a lot of attention to micro-events, at a time when more and more people need a sense of the macro-politics here.

    How many really understand the Maoist idea of New Democracy in a semifeudal semicolonial country?
    How many understand how very radical it is to propose a federated republic in Nepal (after centuries of a theocratic centralized monarchy based on one dominant nationality)?
    How many people have a clue of how desire for “love matches” (the right of youth to date and marry the person they love) is one driving force in this revolutionary process?
    How many people have a sense of what a “Constituent Assembly” is, or what it means to argue between a bourgeois republic and a peoples republic (what does it mean? how are they different?)
    How many of us have thought deeply about how to “break a deadlock” — a problem so often encountered in revolutions, where you have a firm base of support but it is not yet enough to defeat the army and run the country>

    If anything, I want to urge people to spend more time on the bigger picture here, and less time on the rapid footfall of micro events.

    * * * * ** *
    Here is somethings about the “bigger picture”:

    The people wanted to overthrow the king, and did so (thanks to the Maoist peoples war and the social crisis the armed struggle unleashed). And the result has been a deadlocked, stalemated situation with elements of dual power — and a revolutionary party twisting and turning to get the traction to put the revolution through to a new leap.

    The “peace process” is popular in Nepal. People don’t want a second civil war (for obvious reasons). People never want unnecessary wars — and civil wars are particularly nasty and frightening and destructive. But, in fact, objectively, the advance of the people needs a new clash of armed forces (resolving the contradiction of dual power in favor of a more advanced revolutionary leap). And yet that can’t happen just because key revolutionary leaders want it, or see that need — or even just when their key social networks (the YCL etc.) are demanding that leap. Insurrection is an art, there is timing. Numbers matter.

    And there are intertwined struggles within a revolutionary movement (inevitably): there are people who want to postpone the revolution forever (i.e. they are willing to accept the status quo). There are people who want to go for it. And there are flowing through those debates, the very real, very materialist assessments of where the people are, where the contradictions are, and whether an uprising could win.

    * * * * * * *

    Living in the West generates clouds of illusion.

    1) People think they “know” what is happening — because of living in a constant “news environment” — when in fact that is an illusion. We need to train people not to be “whipped around” by this or that report or quote in the bourgeois press (which may or may not be invented, out of context, and which are certainly often presented to appear bizarre and confusion.)

    2) People think they can judge (from afar) this or that move of distant revolutionary forces — when in fact the information needed to understand (let alone judge) these moves are beyond our reach. We need to make our decisions and evaluation based on larger sweeping events — rather than trying to rush to “understand” and assimilate each mini-event or maneuver.

    3) People sometimes really think that the main job of revolutionaries (here) is to critique revolutionaries (there) — as if what they need from us is our (somehow) superior theoretical and strategic judgement.

    All of this flows from a rather reductionist sense of how reality works — and a real separation from what it means to actually lead millions of people through a revolutionary process. This is especially true if that revolutionary process is actually conceived (by its leadership) in a communist way — and the consciousness and initiative of the people is being actively encouraged and led, and the fight to win over complicated intermediate strata is tackled seriously.

    Revolutionary politics (like all politics) involves a fight for middle forces — and the political basis you win your core support is not the same as the political basis that you neutralize or attract newer forces outside that base. People who constantly say “what are they doing?” have often not thought through what political victory actually involves — and imagine revolutionary politics in a very simple, mechanical and even magical way…. “we say what we believe, people either embrace that or not, we identify our enemy then we fight them, we make our plans, carry them out, persevere, and win….” and so on.

    The fact that revolution is a tortuous road (with twists and turns), that people often advance and then retreat, that they push for a breakthrough, and then need to acknowledge a temporary setback (which has real-world consequences), that there are pausing points, treading water sometimes, special campaigns for side constituencies, moments of radical rupture in strategy, need for surprise tactics and deception…. etc. All that is a closed book for some.

    When I was an editor for the RCP’s newspaper, I often thought to myself

    “I must be in the only place in the world where people think you can tell what a political force is doing by looking at what it says it is doing.”

    What did the Democrats think about abortion? Look no further than their position statements, or their comments about “rare but legal” — isn’t that clear enough? Want to know what a distant revolutionary movement is doing and thinking, just look at the statements their public leaders make to the foreign press in English… why would that not be authoritative enough? (Even looking at a movement’s base documents — it is a better basis for judging than public press releases, but still need to be seen in context and development. )

    Once, when struggling over this, someone said to me “Well, how else can we know what to think about these events?”

    And (need i say) it is particularly strange to say “this is my only source of information, so however threadbare it is the basis on which I will make decisions.” Really?

    Well, you may not know what to think about specific events, specific tactics, specific quotes. You may never get the information needed to evaluate specifics — or that information may only come out decades later. (The example being the Soviet archives and what they reveal aobut the Stalin era etc.)

    Most people who talk like that have never led anything (example being the RCP)– and there is a dialectic here: Lack of experience allows you to think that way, and thinking that way will deny you any real experience leading people.

    Main point: We CAN in fact “understand…what is happening there” — but for that one needs to step back and look at the larger situation… the sweep and contradiction of their situation. What they are attempting… what they have accomplished… what they face… what difficult choices they are clashing over… what other forces are doing… etc.

    There are two things central to evaluations here: An appraisal of whether or not there is a mass revolutionary movement of the people that deserves active popularization around the world. A sense of the general line of the revolutionary forces (their trajectory and overall program), even given (obviously) that such things are always contradictory and contested (especially within massive, reallife movements).

    Our support for such a revolutionary movement does not imply (or require) support for this or that maneuver, or phase, or tactic.

    It is literally inevitable that a real revolution will produce tactics and maneuvers that appear odd (or wrong) when viewed from afar. And this has been true for every revolution (even when the histories are sometimes rewritten later to suggest a smooth sailing and simple unfolding of simple principles and pre-established strategies). People are always winging it. There is always an element of “trial and error” in complex events. The path is not laid out, and tremendous creative experimentation is needed to advance.

  3. Ka Frank said

    Redflags said on the Kasama comments on this article:

    Ka Frank: I’ve followed your commentary for some time on these matters and, while I respect your intentions, I think your method is dogmatic to the point of myopia. Consistently you seem to demand that actual political movements follow a script you found sometime in your youth, where each choice is clear and the results are obvious.

    Your method applied to ANY revolution, ever in the history of the world, would be a sort of backseat driving that is neither informative nor helpful.

    Have you been a part of large-scale social movements?

    Did they move according to the script of your own dreams, or were they more complicated?

    You want revolution without the exigencies of actual politics and mass participation.

    It’s like a platoon that confuses its own movements with the intention of an entire army – you confuse what is happening now with your own narrow perspective. We’ve seen too much of this from supposed allies of this movement. And how many times have your uncharitable observations been shown wrong by the march of events?

    Every observer in the world except dogmatic (and frankly older) Marxist-Leninists has been clear on what is happening. The US State Department, Indian government (and various parties; left, right and center) all agree: this is moving towards a decisive showdown. The time frame may prove protracted, or things could come to a head in the coming season.

    The UCPNM has released recent documents, as opposed to incident reports from partisan sources with their own agendas, affirming the Maoist commitment to general insurrection. Mass rallies and mobilizations test for weakness. Communist mass organizations assess relative strength among the advanced. “Allies” continue to act as if revolution were a doctrine and not a living organism.

    Communist revolution is a living thing, if it is to be; involving the conscious participation of the masses of people – or it is something else entirely. I’d rather a creative revolution break new ground than watch another orthodox revolution fail the people to justify the ideology.

    This isn’t about fidelity to a playbook.

    HERE’S MY RESPONSE:

    In Comment 9, Red Flags states that “the UCPNM has released recent documents… affirming the Maoist commitment to general insurrection.” If you have seen these documents, please post them so we can make an assessment.

    RF also says “Every observer in the world except dogmatic (and frankly older) Marxist-Leninists has been clear…. this is moving towards a decisive showdown.” Whether you realize it or not, you are dismissing the principled criticisms of the CPI (Maoist) as old and dogmatic. I have more confidence in their judgment, including their closeness to developments on the ground in Nepal, than Marxist-Leninists who think that “dogmatism” is a more serious problem that revisionism in the world today (and in Nepal particularly), and believe that the Nepal Maoists under Prachanda’s leadership are charting a new and creative path to liberation.

    Let’s look at some facts, which someone famous once said are stubborn things. Over the past month, the UCPN has:

    1- Announced a new political line of “defending national independence,” replacing the demand for civilian supremacy over the army

    2- Announced that the PLA is preparing to fight against foreign powers (not the NA)

    3- Called off the 4th phase of protests to intensify negotiations with the Congress and UML over the terms of army integration and the makeup of a national unity government

    Of course, if these negotiations break down, the 4th phase may continue with its focus at the Indian border, not Kathmandu where the decisive battle is supposed to take place. And a 5th and a 6th phase may be launched.

    All this points to the unfortunate reality that the UCPNM is centering its efforts, including turning the street actions on and off as needed, to reach a political accommodation with the NC-UML and the Nepal Army.

    There is not one piece of evidence that the UCPNM is actually preparing its mass base and the party for a “decisive showdown” with the Congress-UML government and the Nepal Army and other security forces.

    I’m in favor of building a campaign against Indian and U.S. intervention in Nepal, and against any moves against the Maoists by the Nepal Army, but the imperialists and reactionaries are not being forced to move in this direction due to the compromising political direction that is being taken by the Maoist leadership.

    If you look at the “bigger picture” as advocated by Mike, since it signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, the UCPNM has doggedly pursued a reformist path of attempting to push its way into government and wield it to restructure the bourgeois state–including the army–by periodically flexing its muscular mass base in the streets of Kathmandu.

    There have been occasional statements by party leaders, including Prachanda and Bhattarai, about preparing for insurrection. While such statements coming from the Kiran-Gajurel-Biplap camp may have been attempts to send a revolutionary message to the party and its mass base , on the whole these statements have turned out to be a verbal form of pressure tactics–”If you block the peace process, there will be a new people’s revolt” is Prachanda’s mantra.

    Because the UCPNM’s reformist political strategy and work is dressed up as Marxist-Leninist, it is correct to call it a revisionist political line that must be reversed if the Nepali people’s revolution is to advance to victory. It is our internationalist duty to oppose this line while we support the people’s continuing struggles, including seizures of land and factories, against the reactionaries and foreign intervention.

  4. Tell No Lies said

    While I disagree strongly with his analysis I am glad that we have Ka Frank here to push us on these questions. That said, what consistently strikes me in his comments is a highly schematic view of what political line means in a living rapidly unfolding political struggle. Ka Frank notes that the UPCN(M) recently:

    “1- Announced a new political line of “defending national independence,” replacing the demand for civilian supremacy over the army.”

    as evidence of their supposed reformism.

    Here I think the term “replace” suggests a static understanding of the relationship between the questions of civilian supremacy and national independence in the struggle over the NA. The way I read the shift towards an emphasis on national independence is that it is an effort to build on and broaden the popular support they have been able to consolidate so far around the fight for civilian supremacy and that doing this is critical in the run up to a major showdown with the NA. The line of defending national independence is ultimately about exposing the links between the NA, especially its officers, and the Indian military. If the fight for civilian supremacy exposed the anti-democratic nature of the NA, the campaign to defend national independence exposes its subordination to foreign interests. There are presumably a layer of “patriotic” Nepalis who while unwilling to rally around the question of civilian supremacy can be mobilized on a nationalist basis. The current campaign is a bid to bring them into the united front led by the UPCN(M).

    Real movements don’t generally advance in a straight line, but rather by zigs and zags. The UPCN(M) is waging a political struggle for the political allegiances of the urban masses especially in the capital, the active support of which is critical to the success of any insurrection. The main demand of a particular moment is a reflection of where they think they are in the process. The first demand was for a constituent assembly. When that was won and the Maoists won a plurality and the right to lead the government they were presented with a highly contradictory situation that provided a perfect opportunity for them to pursue a reformist line. Instead they used their position in the government to broadly educate the people on the question of the army and the state by forcing the question of civilian supremacy. In November and December we saw the fruits of that approach in the mass mobilizations, declarations of autonomous regions, and strikes, all linked to the demand for civilian supremacy. The new campaign around national independence both exposes the NA even further and prepares people politically for the possibility of more direct Indian or US intervention if it looks like the NA is unable to hold things together in the course of a confrontation. To my mind this campaign is the most compelling evidence so far of the seriousness of the Maobadi in carrying through their strategy of combining peoples war with urban insurrection. The idea that it is evidence of reformism makes no sense to me.

  5. Subways said

    Hey thanks for this, just wanted to say, this discussion is very informative.

  6. Cedric said

    When Mike talk about micro-event, I understand this. It is an outcome of looking at the media through internet. Anyway, this argument is correct generally if it is about the way people are looking to information. In this case, with many ‘watchers’ of the nepali revolution on this website, I don’t think it is so relevant. The thing is that some maoist leaders, like Bhattarai, said 2 days before withdrawing the bhanda that it was a joke on part of the leaders of UML and NC to ask for cancellation of the bhanda… Is this micro-event that pushed Mike to ring the bell loudely ? That even Bhattarai said they won’t bow down in front of theses corrupt leaders ?

    Anyway, it is a small thing, the important debate is somewhere else. It is not about this or that happening but about a political line. Comrade Frank is rightly speaking about this. We have to look and analyse the political line. I won’t go to the extent to say, as C. Frank does, that it is a revisionist line that the Party has taken. In my opinion, the day-to-day changing tactics of the maoists is the result of a 2 line struggle that ended in compromise. See, they already said that if national government will not work so they will go for ‘People’s revolt’. But when to firmly say that national government has not worked ? It is already possible to say it !

    I also think that it is not the same between saying and doing. If one talk about insurection, it won’t come like this. Insurection needs preparation. Are the maoists preparing for insurection ? Not possible to say fully ’cause they will not do it openly (except mass mobilisations), but some reports from the bourgeois press let presume that there are preparations. Actually, as many say, it is possible to consider the present movement as a part of the preparation. Now, is this only to put weight in the negociation balance or a real preparation for battle ? History of the nepali maoists show that during People’s War they knew to correctly use the negociation table. Are negociations becoming strategic or are they still considered as tactics ?

    Difficult to answer these questions. For me one thing is sure : the maoists in Nepal are in a complicated situation !

    I will stop here.

  7. red road said

    It is interesting that the argument to look at the bigger picture, and to not get enmeshed in the daily news, comes from the same people who have completely ignored the substantial polemic over the Big Picture, issued by the CPI (Maoist). Those who are interested in the Big Picture, and who wonder if critical and anti-revisionist perspectives have been mischaracterized by the advocates of the “creative” line of Prachanda and Bhattarai, would undoubtedly gain much from reading the substantial CPI (Maoist) polemic. It is available at: http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPI-Maoist-Docs/Nepal/OpenLetterToCPNM-090720.pdf (.pdf version) and http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPI-Maoist-Docs/Nepal/OpenLetterToCPNM-090720.doc (word or .doc version)

  8. Mike E said

    Red Road writes:

    “It is interesting that the argument to look at the bigger picture, and to not get enmeshed in the daily news, comes from the same people who have completely ignored the substantial polemic over the Big Picture, issued by the CPI (Maoist).

    Perhaps you are not aware that we posted the CPI(Maoist) polemic on this site, and then published it as a pamphlet, and have been distributing it on all our lit tables. We have created a website that is dedicated to the revolutions in both Nepal and India, and regularly report (and debate) on their achievements and their differences.

    Personally, I think we can do more. And that is the point of the “ring the bell” post.

    But perhaps you have specific proposals on what we should undertake?

  9. Mike E said

    Cedric writes:

    “Is this micro-event that pushed Mike to ring the bell loudly?

    No. It is because we have a problem — that many of the people supporting of the revolution in Nepal often do not see this as a specific revolutionary situation that is finite and unstable.

    These are not vague protests, and they are not mainly around their official demands. These are dress rehearsals for tests of strength, and the transition to power. And both sides are aware of this, even if too many observers are not.

    I am ringing a bell because my audience here needs to wake up a bit, and shake off some lethargy and timelessness. We have some responsibilities here, and are lagging way behind. And when things jump off, and the attention of millions is drawn to this revolution — it will be very difficult then to create the networks and materials we need from a cold start.

  10. red road said

    Mike,

    Has the CPI (Maoist) polemic against the post-2006 line and practice of the CPN(M) aka UCPN(M) has been examined, considered, and debated by the proponents of the Nepal party on Kasama? Or has the posting of the polemic been more like grudgingly admitting–and ignoring–the contrary uncle to the family gathering? I’ll leave this to the Kasama participants and observers to decide.

    In any event, given the way events have gone, many will find a reading of the polemic to have even greater relevance to understanding the situation today.

    Again: it is available at: http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPI-Maoist-Docs/Nepal/OpenLetterToCPNM-090720.pdf (.pdf version) and http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPI-Maoist-Docs/Nepal/OpenLetterToCPNM-090720.doc (word or .doc version)

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