Revolution in South Asia

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Nepal Maoists Call Off Protest Programme

Posted by Ka Frank on January 25, 2010

Maoist Vice-Chairman Narayan Shrestha

This article was published on eKantipur on January 22, 2010

Maoists call off agitation

KATHMANDU:  Hours after the High Level Political Mechanism (HLPM) asked the UCPN (Maoist) on Friday to withdraw its protests, the main opposition announced it had called off the entire protest programme, including the indefinite strike scheduled to begin from Sunday.

A meeting of Maoist party office bearers on Friday decided to put off its indefinite general strike for now, Maoist Vice Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha said. “We decided to suspend the agitation as efforts are being made to forge consensus,” he said.

Earlier, at the HLPM meeting, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML leaders had urged Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to call off the planned general strike to prepare a conducive environment to address Maoist demands. The meeting also agreed to give top priority to the current political deadlock. It also accorded priority to constitution drafting and the peace process.

“The HLPM has made the current political deadlock its prime agenda, so the party hopes that the current political deadlock will end soon. In this regard we have decided to call off the planned protest,” Dahal’s statement said. However, other nationwide programmes with national sovereignty and civilian supremacy as agendas will remain intact, said Dahal.

He also warned that if efforts to reach consensus fail due to conspiracies against the peace and constitution drafting processes and national sovereignty is endangered, his party would be compelled to go for protest again.

“Friday’s HLPM meeting finalised the Terms of Reference, working procedures and code of conduct of the mechanism to fulfill its objective of addressing the current political deadlock created by the president’s move,” Dahal said.

The ToR states that top leaders of other political parties will be included. Sources said that more than eight political parties in the Constituent Assembly, including Madhes-based ones, will be included in the mechanism. The mechanism will review all the processes from the 12-point understanding onward to improve the political atmosphere.

Meeting will be held every week to try to push for formation of commissions that were committed in past accords, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Disappearance Commission, and attempt to return seized properties.

The code of conduct says that cadre of political parties should be cautious when they speak or write so that they do not blame other political parties. “Parties will control all kinds of physical assaults and activities targeted against cadre of other parties,” the ToR further says.

13 Responses to “Nepal Maoists Call Off Protest Programme”

  1. Ka Frank said

    This decision by the UCPNM to call off its 4th phase of protests is not a sign that it is planning to capture state power in the period ahead. Their mass base is being told to stand down to await more fruitless political maneuvering with the NC and UML–not to step up for decisive revolutionary battle.

    It only lowers one’s credibility among supporters of the Nepal people’s revolution to issue ringing alarm bells about a coming uprising.

  2. Arthur said

    In the period since the Maoist led united front announced the establishment of autonomous republics and shut down the whole of Nepal for three days, with rallies like this proving that they are stronger than the government even within Kathmandu itself there has naturally already been quite a bit of “political maneuvering”.

    In particular there has suddenly been convergence towards the detailed Maoist proposals for provincial boundaries, the “High Level Political Mechanism” has been formed on the basis of intending to agree to end the deadlock by meeting the Maoists central demand for civilian supremacy over the Army, there are strong indications of the agreement for Army integration finally being carried out as demanded by the Maoists and resisted by the Army and the most reactionary politicians, and the Indians have been given a very clear message to butt out of interfering in Nepal’s affairs – which has much wider support in Nepal than even the other aspects of the Maoist program.

    All this can be dismissed as “fruitless” by those who won’t understand the ongoing shift in the balance of forces towards the Maoists that has been proceeding stage by stage as a result of brilliantly flexible strategy and tactics, ever since Prachanda announced “Our revolution won” more than 3 years ago.

    The simple fact is that the shift is continuing because the Maoists have not stood down but have continued to mobilize the only force that matters in the long run – the masses. They widen their support base each step they take, whether by confrontation or negotation since they know how to take an keep the initiative while their opponents just flounder around getting more and more isolated until their situation becomes untenable.

    There has already been not just an “uprising’, but a full scale People’s War. Whether there is another round of violence is entirely up to the enemy. Ringing alarm bells as though the Maoists rather than the enemy might choose another round of fighting runs directly opposite to what the Maoists are saying. In that respect Ka Frank’s hostility towards the fact that they prefer to consolidate their victory with as little further bloodshed as possible is actually more tactically helpful than Mike’s endorsement of the other side’s propaganda about Maoist plans for an uprising.

    Better still would be to study what they are doing, which is something quite new, and learn from it instead of imposing preconceived schemas on a rapidly unfolding reality.

  3. NHBK said

    As mentioned above, more futile diplomacy will simply create distance between the will of the Nepalese common people and the party.

  4. Alastair Reith said

    Arthur, you’ve made several posts saying you think it’s unhelpful to talk about a Maoist uprising, or to talk about how they have decieved and isolated their enemies over the past few years. I’d be keen to discuss this further. As I see it, we’ve got a few tasks in the West. We need to spread the news of what is happening in Nepal to people who know little or nothing about it. This is the most important aspect imho – we need to try and get people to appreciate the significance of a communist revolution in a very underdeveloped country on the other side of the world, and what it means for them, why it is important etc. The next most important task is closely watching the situation, reading media reports about it, and trying to sort out exactly what is really going on by discussing events with other people. The final task, which while I still think is necessary is the least important, is struggling with others on the revolutionary left who dogmatically dismiss the UCPN (M) and the Nepali revolution. I think this debate needs to happen and is worth engaging in, but as events move further ahead in Nepal it’s becoming increasingly obvious how irrelevant the dogmatic sectarians are and how little their opinion matters.

    The problem I see with your comments Arthur is that we can only discuss Nepal, if I’m understanding you correctly, in secret. We can’t discuss how they didn’t return the captured land like they said they would, we can’t discuss how they may well have fooled the UNMIN, we can’t discuss all these other brilliant and succesful tactics as to do so plays into the hands of the Nepali ruling class.

    There are some concrete examples of how solidarity work can cause problems for the Maoists. After Bhattarai gave the amazingly franky and revealing interview to the WPRM, the Nepali media saw it and went nuts, and the Maoists were attacked over it in the CA. It’s true that sometimes attempts at solidarity can cause problems. But I don’t think that our discussions on this site and elsewhere will make or break the Nepali revolution. Even if reactionaries in Nepal did read this website, we wouldn’t be saying anything they don’t already know or at least suspect, i.e. that the Maoists never abandoned their goal of state capture.

    We can’t just be quietly support the revolution from afar. We have to have a sharp, no holds barred and ceaseless discussion of what’s going on there and how we can best support it.

  5. NSPF said

    “The problem I see with your comments Arthur is that we can only discuss Nepal …. in secret.”

    “but as events move further ahead in Nepal it’s becoming increasingly obvious how irrelevant the dogmatic sectarians are and how little their opinion matters.”

    and in another comment on the main site: “Why are people so suspicious of the UCPN(M)?”

    Well, let me ask this first: why try to portray critics of the dominant line in that Party as irrational synical old fools beyond comprehension? Is that in your book,even if were true, worse than being a self professed pro imperialist who would have us believe the revolution was won in Nepal three years ago and thinks imperialists are the strategic allies of revolution in Nepal?
    Do you think “dogmatic sectarians” like CPI(M) and even RCP are irrelevant, and whatever you or Arthur represent relevant? Dividing lines aside, is there any sense of proportion from your vantage point?

    And why try to portray UCPN(M)as a monolithic party? Are those “dogmatic sectarians” inside that Party irrelevant and beyond comprehension too?

    Well, I choose quite rationally and consciously to side with all those “dogmatic sectarians” as opposed to Arthur et al. We are essentially birds of a feather despite having substantial differences.

    Where do you stand? In a united front with pro imperialist Arthur against irrelevant dogmatism?

  6. Arthur said

    Alastair, I certainly don’t think anything said here will make or break the Nepali revolution. I do think, and said that people here should do less imposing their preconceptions on the situation and more learning from how the Nepali comrades are working. In particular far better solidarity work could be done by seriously respecting what they are actually saying – ie that they insist on carrying out the peace agreement while some of their opponents are seeking to impose another round of civil war. That strikes me as both true and as rather obviously more likely to assist with actual solidarity work and less like hype from politically irrelevant sects.

    NSPF, it is clear that there are serious differences of opinion among the Maoist leadership in Nepal. I see no sign that ANY of them have views remotely similar to yours.

  7. Is this tactical, or is this opportunist ? The border is sometimes unclear, opportunism is nothing but tactic transformed in strategy.

    What is sure, is that in UCPN-M like ANY communist party there’s a line struggle. You have a conciliating, reformist way, a revolutionnary way and centrists.

    The revolutionnary way has to struggle hard against reformism, but it depends of many – objective – factors.

    For example, many centrists are – I think – going on conciliating positions because of fear of India, of Indian intervention (directly or indirectly), thinking the party and the masses are not ready and strong enough to face it.

    It’s why we have also to support strongly Indian people’s war. Because, even without seizure of power, a paralysis – by naxals – of Indian central power would greatly open the way to Nepal’s revolutionaries. (and Nepal would then become a Red Basis in South Asia)

    But I really think there’s nothing to hope from any “agreement” with nepalis bourgeois parties. In the world’s economic crisis, no reformist politic is now possible. Any “political mechanism” there would be, it would be betrayed before one year…

    Anywhere in the world, any wish for “change” or reform drives now immediatly to military coup – look at Honduras. People’s war is more than ever the only way.

  8. Nando said

    Servir writes:

    For example, many centrists are – I think – going on conciliating positions because of fear of India, of Indian intervention (directly or indirectly), thinking the party and the masses are not ready and strong enough to face it.”

    Is there not an important question here of analyzing when or whether the party and the masses are ready to face Indian invasion?

    India has one of the largest armies in the world. And, yet, historically no army has been able to conquer Nepal (because of the extreme difficulty of its terrain and the resistance of its people).

    However the lowland areas of southern Nepal are vulnerable to occupation from India — and it is the region where about half of Nepal’s people live, and where a great deal of its food is produced.

    It is quite possible for India to greatly destabilize Nepal through embargo, or severe the country’s stategic region by occupying the Terai.

    So, is it given that “the party and the people” are always “ready and strong enough” to face India’s army?

    The real question is specific, concrete and political — are the people conscious enough to resist? Are they organized in forms that would produce resistance?

    How do we know? Is it automatically “centrist” to ask such questions?

    Is it automatically cowardice if someone says “The people are not ready now, but may be in a few months after work by the communists have accomplished their goals?” Doesn’t a war of resistance require certain things… aren’t there some times when it is a bad idea to “pull on superman’s cape” and other times where you are in a better position to kick his ass?

    Why for example did Stalin try to postpone the german invasion of the USSR with a non-aggression pact in the late 1930s? Was it because he thought the party and the people needed more time to prepare to face the world’s strongest army? Was that inherently wrong and cowardly? I don’t think so.

    “It’s why we have also to support strongly Indian people’s war. Because, even without seizure of power, a paralysis – by naxals – of Indian central power would greatly open the way to Nepal’s revolutionaries. (and Nepal would then become a Red Basis in South Asia)”

    I think this is an important insight — that needs to be explored more. I think that there are potential synergies here between the revolutions of India and Nepal.

    However here too, nothing is inevitable. If the Indian government forces were focused on suppressing revolutionary areas in India, it would be a positive factor for revolutions on India’s periphery. Similarly, the fact that India has to keep deploying forces on its western border with Pakistan is also a positive factor (and that has been, so far, the main military focus of India’s forces).

    It is also true that India might decide that wiping out the Maoist contagion in Nepal is necessary to defeat that same contagion in India. Because the Indian government can see the possibilities and synergies as well as we can.

    “But I really think there’s nothing to hope from any “agreement” with nepalis bourgeois parties. In the world’s economic crisis, no reformist politic is now possible. Any “political mechanism” there would be, it would be betrayed before one year…Anywhere in the world, any wish for “change” or reform drives now immediatly to military coup – look at Honduras. People’s war is more than ever the only way.”

    This is the kind of “inevitabilist” thinking that never requires any specific analysis.

    Many times in the last century, communists have announced that the system was in such extreme crisis that reform was impossible. (This is the essense of the General Crisis theory promoted by the Comintern during the Great Depression.) It was argued that capitalism no longer had the room or the flexibility to change (or grant “reforms”) and so every struggle for the conditions of life had now become revolutionary. And any strategy of fighting for reforms was now ridiculous and counterrevolutionary.

    It was said that capitalism now tended toward fascism (in the 1930s) and was laying down the banner of bourgeois democracy. It was even said (by some) that the social-democrats of Europe had literally become social-fascists and were (because of the crisis and the logic of bourgeois politics) the twin of the actual fascists. All of this was a mistaken, mechanical and reductionist — and politics based on such thinking often proved disconnected with reality.

    In fact capitalism proved far more flexible and resiliant than the “theory of general crisis” allowed.

    You can’t base your politics on a highly schematic and mechanical series of deductions from a basic assumption (especially if that assumption is also a false one).

    It may or may not be possible to reach agreement or alliances with various non-communist parties in Nepal. But we can’t deduce such a verdict from general assumptions about the world’s economic crisis.

    It is also not true that no reformist politics is possible.

    Reformist politics will remain possible throughout the existance of capitalism (and reformist politics will even be possible after socialist revolution has captured power). I am not saying that reformist politics is correct — and i am not saying that reformist politics will successfully solve the problems of the people.

    But I’m just saying that it is highly mechanical to assume that the “ground has been cut out from under” reformism in some absolute way. Capitalism has proven capable of coopting people and granting concessions — even in the depths of crisis. (Look at the history of FDR’s New Deal. It is even true that under fascism, conditions have sometimes improved for people, and there have been cooptive mechanisms for drawing people into support of fascist regimes. I.e. fascist regimes have never been simply open terrorism by the state — They have always had more complex mechanisms and political dynamics.)

    If you base your politics on sweeping (and false) assumptions — if you assume that the people will “flop over on your plate” simply because of the objective conditions, if you assume that reformist politics will (in simple and inevitable ways) expose itself as counterrevolutionary…. you will quickly be frustrated and embarassed by the real-world functioning of politics and economics. and you will also (specifically) underestimate the real need for political work — exposure, analysis, organization, organizing and leading struggle, and more.

    Here is a final example of reductionist thinking:

    “Anywhere in the world, any wish for “change” or reform drives now immediatly to military coup – look at Honduras.”

    In fact this is simply not true — or even close to true.

    The world is full of wishes for change and reform movements that don’t immediately trigger military coups. IN some places, obviously, the ruling classes respond to large popular movements with repression (and in a few cases, with military coups). But that is not generally the case, and it is certainly not always the case.

    ” People’s war is more than ever the only way.”

    And it is not true that there is only one way.

    Society always faces different roads (both a capitalist road and a socialist road).

    And I would add that society often faces complex choices between several different kinds of capitalist road, and several different kinds of socialist road.

    Even revolutionary strategy is not simply a matter of protracted peoples war. There are other revolutionary strategic approaches to the preparation and seizure of power. In fact, the Nepali experience is a real lesson in both the tremendous transformative effect of peoples war and the value of other political methods, and the value of other forms of armed struggle (like insurrection or combinaitons of insurrection with protracted peoples war).

    I would love to dig into these matters some more — because i think that history has shown us there is great danger in assuming that capitalism has “painted itself in a corner” and so can’t maneuver or coopt or adapt. Our revolutionary work should generally not assume paralysis and inflexibility on the part of our quite resourceful and flexible enemies.

  9. Nando said

    NSPF writes:

    why try to portray critics of the dominant line in that [nepali] Party as irrational cynical old fools beyond comprehension?”

    No one suggests that all critics are fools. So it is a strawman argument.

    However, it is true that there are some currents among communists that are rather deeply mechanical and dogmatic — and that there are arguments made against the Nepalis that are rooted in deeply mechanicsl and dogmatic approaches to Marxism.

    More, one of the great contributions of the Nepali experience is that it has helped weaken the hold of such dogmatic and mechanical thinking — and done so globally. This is welcome, and is a hopeful sign both for the maturation of the world communist movement, and for the actual victory of some socialist revolutions.

    And it is not wrong to point that out.

    The anti-Nepali analysis of the RCP is a perfect example — but they are hardly the most dogmatic or mechanical. The RCP has written three polemics in the last couple years — against Kasama, against Badiou and against the Nepali Maoists — and all three make the same rather threadbare arguments using similar methods. And (frankly) no one cares — these are arguments with little interest or influence.

    “Is that in your book,even if were true, worse than being a self professed pro imperialist who would have us believe the revolution was won in Nepal three years ago and thinks imperialists are the strategic allies of revolution in Nepal?”

    It is well known that Arthur has terrible politics. He has been regularly banned from this site, and from Kasama. He is simply forbidden to express many of his awful views here — quite simply because pro-imperialist neocon politics are simply outside the allowed framework of this site.

    OK, so why smear anyone else here with his politics? Are those really our only choices? Dogmatic cinders or pro-imperialist neocons? Obviously not, so why pose things that way?

    “Do you think “dogmatic sectarians” like CPI(M) and even RCP are irrelevant…”

    No one thinks the CPI(M) is irrelevant — they are one of the most important revolutionary movements in the world — and they have (in both theory and practice) taken different approaches from the Nepali Maoists, and there is much to investigate in those differences. Their arguments and politics deserve study and respect (even when we may question some of them).

    The RCP (by contrast) is completely irrelevant at this point. there is some value in investigating the RCP’s past — its history, trajectory, and earlier contributions, before it went off the deep end.

    But as a political and theoretical force, they are completely spent — completely lost in fantasy and self-delusion. They are functionally irrelevant and crumbling in every conceivable way.

    The only people who imagine this party is relevant are outside the U.S., and somehow unfamiliar with the truly bizarre and self-destructive turns the RCP has taken.

    “And why try to portray UCPN(M)as a monolithic party? Are those “dogmatic sectarians” inside that Party irrelevant and beyond comprehension too?”

    Why pose strawman arguments?

    First: everyone knows that the Nepali Maoists are not monolithic.

    In fact, we are all learning the degree to which large parties contending for power are very far from monolithic. It has wings and factions — and they even speak publicly in their own name (occasionally, though often carefully in still shrouded ways).

    No one here (as far as I know) considers any of the forces iwthin the Nepali Party to be “dogmatic sectarians,” and certainly (because of the success of their party, and the intensity of the choices it faces) no one can seriously consider any of their factions to be “irrelevant and beyond comprehension” — so what are you implying?

    “Well, I choose quite rationally and consciously to side with all those “dogmatic sectarians” as opposed to Arthur et al. We are essentially birds of a feather despite having substantial differences. Where do you stand? In a united front with pro imperialist Arthur against irrelevant dogmatism?”

    What is the possible value of that kind of argument? Does it correspond with reality?

    Is that the way politics falls out among communists — that you are either in some neocon “united front” with imperialism (a la Arthur), or else you must be with a whole array of (very diverse) forces now labeled “dogmatic sectarians”?

    Let me propose something else: Revolutionary communism is finally shedding a particular kind of dogmatic insularity that has encrusted it for several decades. We have gone a generation without a revolution — and even this mighty, visionary Maoist current developed the habits and blemishes of isolated sects. Two great revolutions are stretching out their arms — in India and Nepal — and these events will literally recast revolutionary thinking and organization globally. The last thing we need is to allow the true “dogmatic sectarians” to be a banner in this period. Even spending this much time on them seems odd. Most are lost in an earlier era (as tired veterans with exhausted politics often are). Let them stay there.

    We need rather radically different allignments from what you imagine and propose. And I suspect that all of us find those prospects exciting and long over due. Let’s blow out the pipes.

  10. FDR’s new deal did not ‘re-start’ American capitalism – nor World’s. The new cycle of accumulation 1945-1975 was born… from the war and world re-divide it involved. As well as modernization of the imperialist domination (from colonialism to neocolonialism) and industrialization of the ‘third world’ (hitherto, especially agricultural and mining).

    1/ I do not believe that a new modernization of the imperialism is possible,
    2/ the war, if we could avoid it…

    The alternative is today: socialism or barbary, revolution or Fascism and war.

    Look at Latin bolivarians : they face this any day since the new (and I think final)crisis. They’re facing the limits of “radical reform”, their alternatives are now : 1/ be crushed (like Zelaya) 2/ become an Order’s party, accepting IMF’s and WTO’s directives (like are doing Correa or Morales) 3/ become Putin’s avant-garde against US hegemony on America 4/ accept People’s power and revolution (Chavez is between 3. end 4.)

    In Nepal it’s the same : 1/ be crushed by monarcho-fascist military coup 2/ betray and become an order’s party 3/ become the tool of China against India 4/ follow the people’s revolution way

    Nando, if every way is everytime open, if capitalism has infinite regeneration possibilities, if there’s no direction of history (even if the way is sinuous), where is your REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISM ? Is revolution, for you, an ‘option’ between others ?

  11. nando said

    I think SLP has raised an extremely important question quite sharply:

    “Nando, if every way is everytime open, if capitalism has infinite regeneration possibilities, if there’s no direction of history (even if the way is sinuous), where is your REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISM ? Is revolution, for you, an ‘option’ between others ?”

    This digs into a number of very basic questions about inherited Marxism, and reality. I think that we might excerpt these questions and post them on Kasama itself as its own post and thread…. to give SLP (and the rest of us) a chance to dig into this.

    I have grappled with this question (of the tendencies of history, directionality, whether communism is inevitable etc.) for a number of years now — starting with my own study of Stephen Jay Gould’s work on these questions in the field of biological evolution in the late 1980s. (I don’t quite agree with Gould on accident and contingency in Times Arrow, but i have certainly been deeply influenced by his lifelong challenge to the mechanical european-modernist thinking that emerged from the industrial and bourgeois democratic revolutions of the nineteenth century (and drawn from that general cultural mood into both natural science and social science).

    I am also influenced by Bob Avakian’s questioning of “inevitability” in our inherited Marxism (i.e. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but also in other forms). As in many inquisitions of existing Marxism, Avakian rather boldly raised key and important questions, and rather non-boldly retreated without articulating a satisfactory new synthesis.

    I can’t capsule the thinking and argumentation here in any depth. (But i think we SHOULD — on Kasama and Khukuri sites and elsewhere).

    But in answer (and respect) to SLP, let me simply list my conclusions so far (without pretending to actually argue for them here).

    I will break down the parts of what SLP wrote piece by piece:

    “Nando, if every way is everytime open, if capitalism has infinite regeneration possibilities, if there’s no direction of history (even if the way is sinuous), where is your REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISM ? Is revolution, for you, an ‘option’ between others ?”

    “if every way is everytime open…”

    I don’t think that “every way” is always open. In both nature and society, the “choices” open are dependent on what exists (on the material features and contradictions rooted in what now exists).

    That was the profound truth in Marx’s phrase:

    “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

    In other words, many ways are open — in the sense that “the future is unwritten.” Its specific forms and twists and moments are not pre-determined. They emerge with a great deal of accident, a great deal of intercession of unexpected factors, contingency, and they emerged with considerable influence from the actions of (what we have usually called) “the subjective factor.” As Mao emphasized his whole life, human beings have an important creative role on events (on what happens, on the shape and forms it takes, and on what doesn’t happen). We make our own history, especially if we have a clear sense of what exists (and have a clear sense of which factors are maliable from where we sit, and which factors are inflexible and non-malleable).

    The struggle between materialism and voluntarism is very real — and all around us. Avakian, for example, has openly mused that perhaps revolution happened in Russia and China because there were a couple of stubborn men who refused to accept anything but revolution — i.e. that the emergence and survival of men of the “caliber of a Mao and Lenin” were so decisive in the making of history that revolution happened where they are present, and not where they weren’t. That musing is a voluntarist departure from materialist dialectics in many ways (including its rather crude rejection of any sense of the people as makers of history.)

    “….if capitalism has infinite regeneration possibilities…”

    Mao said “if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. Where the broom doesn’t reach, the dust doesn’t disappear on its own.”

    The simple fact is that if we do not make revolution, capitalism will regroup from any crisis.

    There are some scenarios where humanity may be pushed back to pre-capitalist modes of existance (if nuclear war shattered industrial life, if some major ecological or epidemiological catastrophe killedlarge parts of humanity). But, in general (baring such possible apocalypse scenarios) it is modern capitalism, i.e. monopoly capitalism of some form, that will “pick up the pieces” of its own crises or war.

    So i’m not saying it has literally “infinite regeneration possibilities” — there are some scenario that capitalism may not be able to recover from. But in general, if huge parts of humanity and the modern human industrial base have not been destroyed, then even major crisis will produce a restructured (and even re-envigorated) capitalism. IF humans and movements don’t emerge to end this system.

    Revolution is not the product of some collapse of capitalism. It is the organized negation of capitalism emerging at extrme conjunctures (of war and other political moments of de-legitmizaition and mass de-coupling from the existing ruts).

    “…if there’s no direction of history (even if the way is sinuous)…”

    For most of human history there was little sign of direction. Homo erectus used the same technology (and probably social forms) for a million years with little innovation. Modern humans (for most of our existance) where hunter gatherers with relatively stable forms of existance.

    About 10,000 years ago agriculture and domestication of animals caused a great leap in human society (the neolithic revolution). It was a big change (a HUGE change). Did that imply or demonstrate a direcitonality to human society? I suspect not. It is what happened. But I am not convinced it was destined to happen, or inevitable. And if it had not happened, then we would not have developed class society. In other words, I don’t think the development of class society was inevitable in the nature of humans (or the nature of the material world).

    Peru’s Gonzalo is famous for giving a one day lecture where he starts with the big bang and ends with the world communist revolution — and implies that humans are the universe becoming conscious of itself, and that the contadictions of matter led us here, in a way that is determined.

    Matter gives rise to life, life gives rise to conscious life, conscious life gives rise to classes, class struggle gives rise to communism. Well, that may be how things happened. But I suspect there was no reasion that they had to happen this way. And each of those leaps are highly contingent, and could have gone some other way.

    Is communism inevitable? Well, I look at it like this: Human history has given rise to many “civilizations” — the Mayans, the Assyrians, the Malian empire, the Indus valley, the Yellow River civilizations, Egyptian Nile civilization, and so on. dozens of them. On the basis of agriculture, classes and early cities emerged.

    The majority of those “civilizations” rose and fell. They did not give rise to some “next” level of class society. They emerged from the plains and jungles — prospered for a while — and then melted back into the plains and jungles. Is there some diretionality to that? I don’t think so.

    some contradictions of early “civilizations” lead toward new forms of class society (slavery, feudalism or whatever). Some contradictions emerging from thos “early civilizations” lead back to scattered peasant agriulture and hunter gatherer life.

    There were (even then) “different roads” — posed by objective conditions, in ways that varied greatly from valley to valley — and there was no underlying “directionality” that tended to push them “up” from where they were.

    If there is a general direction (in this huge sweep of thousands of years) it appears to be an overall and general development of the productive forces. This is especially intense after the beginnings of regional and then world market emerges. Once knowledge and technique accumulates and is shared… these is an escalation in this, and the beginnings of a world culture. And with capitalism, the accumulation of productive forces is rocket-like (exponential)… especially over the last 500 years. Was that the result of some “directionality” to human society, or just “what happened”? could something else have happened? I believe that it was not inevitable, and that something else could have happened.

    And that it is philosophically dangerous to look at what DID happen, and assume it HAD TO HAPPEN.

    So, there IS directionality in the way human society has operated in the last short period (the last three thousand years, and especially the last 500 years) — in the sense that there is a clear growth in productive forces and technique. I think that is a tendency in the operating of the particular contradictions that emerged, not something inherent in human society.

    “…where is your REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISM…”

    This is arevealing question. Some currents of communism clutch at inevitability as the basis for their optimism. The 1930s comintern has a whole triumphalist spirit that was rooted in a belief that victory was certain. And others have picked that triumphalism and inevitability up (including the Shining Path in peru, as a major component of their belief system).

    I believe that was quasi religious and not materialism. It may have reaped political benefits — it may have encouraged the half-hearted, emboldened the downpressed, inspired the imprisoned etc. — messianic beliefs have power and impact.

    But i don’t believe the messianic or triumphalist belief in inevitability is rooted in materialism.

    I think we can build our optimism on our appraisal of reality, our options, our sense of possibilities. I don’t think we have to invent a non-existent inevitability in order to succeed.

    we need to be fearlessly materialist — and at this point, this includes fighting through to a critique of previous quasi-religious and determinist tendencies that modern marxism borrowed from 19th century european prejudices.

    “Is revolution, for you, an ‘option’ between others?”

    Yes. Humanity has a number of “options” facing it. Many are horrific, some are liberatory.

    Revolution and communism is the “option” i think we must advocate and fight for… and we cannot expect it to automatically emerge as the “only” option because of some metaphysical “collapse” of other options.

    If you don’t hit it, it won’t fall.

  12. nando said

    One more thought on the question:

    “If you don’t believe in inevitability of communism, where does your revolutionary optimism come from?”

    There is an analogy to the arguments of the religious believers. Christians have often said to me “If you don’t believe in god, how can you have morality?” Or, “If you don’t believe in god, where do you get the strength to overcome despair and adversity?” Or, “If you don’t believe in god, how do you find meaning in this awful and confusing world?”

    And when they ask these questions they are (sincerely) revealing where THEY have found morality, strength and meaning.

    Ok, they used the concept of god, and the traditions of christianity to give themselves morality, strength and meaning.

    But that doesn’t mean that is the only source of such things.

    And more, if you seek, morality, strength and meaning without the Christian God, you may come up with a difference sense of morality, strength and meaning. You won’t end up with THEIR sense of those things.

    this is an analogy, not an accusation towards comrades.

    However, some communists have found “revolutionary optimism” via a sense of political inevitability. they think capitalism has absolute limits, and that as we arrive at those limits, the choice becomes “barbarism or communism” — i.e. regression to previous forms of society or advance to new ones. Capitalism itself is (in their belief) not one of the options available — and that this is posed (in some objective and even absolute way).

    Well, history reveals that this is not so. Communists have said “barbarism or communism” for a century — and yet from each crisis of that century it was capitalism (not barbarism or communism) that ultimately emerged. It is just a false concept, disproven by events.

    But that doesn’t mean we must abandon revolutonary optimism. It just means that the optimism we forge will be based on something other than a false theory of inevitability. And it mayh prove to be a somewhat different sense of “optimism” — but so what?

  13. Mike E said

    [moderator note: an edited version of this exchange between Nando and Servir le Peuple has been posted on kasama in its own right.]

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