International Women’s Day 2010: Women’s Liberation Theory from Nepal Revolutionaries
Posted by n3wday on March 9, 2010
Compiled by Eric Ribellarsi and Toni Kim
Contributions to a New Communist Theory on Women’s Liberation
” Women being not only oppressed among all the oppressed groups, but also the last group to be liberated are the most reliable, stable, and basic force which needs to be tapped not only in winning the revolution but also in waging continuous revolution.”
” Being left behind in history by no fault of their own, they need to be given space to make mistakes and to learn from them.”
In 2006, the Nepali Maoist leader Hisila Yami (Comrade Parvati) published a new work, People’s War and Women’s Liberation in Nepal. This work discusses the experience of the Nepalese revolution and the new approach to women’s liberation that this revolution has developed. Sadly, very few in the West have had access to this work.
Today, on International Women’s Day, we would like to make available a few excerpts from this work which underscore the creativity and new approach being developed by Parvati and the Nepali comrades, as well as some the problems and questions that they are still grappling with in order to move forward in the revolutionary process.
This work has several theses which we have found helpful and interesting, including:
- The oppression of women rose with class society itself, and can only go out of existence with the abolition of class society. The oppression of women is a fundamental contradiction, as fundamental as the class struggle itself.
- Parvati believes that women’s struggle for liberation is fundamental to continuing the revolutionary struggle under socialism. Whereas, in China, emphasis was placed on the existence of equality between men and women with slogans like “women hold up half the sky” and “times have changed, men and women are the same,” Parvati places emphasis on the view that these goals can only be achieved in a communist future. She believes that the women’s struggle is central to carrying forward revolutionary struggle under socialism.
- Much time has been spent in her work to deal with the problems of the lack women’s leadership in revolutionary struggles. She argues that given thousands of years of class society and the way that women have been locked out of theory–not by any fault of their own–it is no surprise that many female comrades have not yet been able to develop as much theoretically. She argues that male comrades need to consciously create a space in the revolutionary struggle for female comrades to be able to step in and do theoretical work.
- Parvati believes that the legacy of Stalin and viewing things as singularities or monoliths (instead of viewing things as unities of opposites) continue to stand in the way of developing women’s leadership in the revolutionary struggle. She argues that many comrades have a tendency to prevent women from becoming leaders for fear that they will make mistakes. Certainly mistakes will be made, but this is part of the contradictory process of developing communist leadership, and not something we should be afraid of.
We are including an excerpt of the preface of this book, as well as one of the core chapters of the book. Soon we will try to make more of the content of this book available. It is also important to note that the book contained many typos, but we did not try to correct these, and instead tried to remain as true to the text as possible (though it is possible we made typos of our own). Happy International Women’s Day!
Excerpt from the Preface
“No oppression on this planet is as intense, as missive a world phenomenon and out-beating all extra-class oppressions (be it religious, racial, caste, nationality and regional oppressions) as the oppression of women. Of all the extra-class discriminations, perhaps women’s discrimination is the most complete one starting from womb to tomb. Move over, it is one of the oldest oppressions of all forms of oppressions. Hence, it may be called the mother of extra-class oppressions. No wonder that all the ruling classes of the society and their allies are busy to interpret this oppression but not change it. One can boldly assert that only revolution communists, with their scientific historical dialectical materialist outlook and immense sacrifices they are prepared to give, can dare to change this archaic oppression. Here it is important to make distinction between poor women and rich women. I am not referring to those few super-rich women who by virtue of being wives are wasteful consumers or very few rich capitalist women who compete with other rich capitalist men to exploit working class and who nevertheless cry foul of gender-discrimination when their privilege to exploit is taken away. Here I am talking of the poor working women belonging to all oppressed sections of society who are self-exploiting to hilt to keep their hearth burning. To be more specific, this book is about the Nepalese poor women, poorest of all poor women in the world, who struggling against poverty, rugged geography, without basic infrastructure, discriminatory Hindu feudal state by participating in People’s War [PW] led by Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)] since February 1996.
Nepalese society is undergoing the greatest upheaval in history in the form of PW. The most visible face of the Nepalese PW is that of women dressed in combat dress with guns slinging on their shoulders. One may ask why women in such a large scale are taking to violence to achieve liberation. There are objective and subjective reasons. The objective reason is: women have been the main stable and sustaining force in rural Nepal, where able-bodied male members used to mass-migrate to adjoining urban centers of Nepal and India. Before the PW started, these women could not even own the land and house that they ploughed, and inhabited, they were not protracted against polygamy while they were the sole sustainers of family. In addition, when they were raped they could not even abort. Their routine life, working as domestic slave in maternal house till marriage and after the marriage another rigorous domestic slave life coupled with early motherhood triggering early setting of old age, is so monotonous that they are dying for any change from this vicious circle of life. The position of women belonging to oppressed nationalities was no better, although they were relatively freer than the Aryan women. In the face of poverty and lack of opportunities, their freedom was manifested in multiple marriages, or being sold in flesh trade in urban centers of India. The position of urban women was no better, as they fell victim to consumerism and sweatshops run by the comprador bourgeoisie. It was this fury accumulated through centuries of feudal oppression that was waiting to burst out and it found expression in class war in the form of protracted PW. The subjective reason behind their mass participation in PW is the scientific outlook of the CPN(Maoist) on the question of Women’s Liberation. The Party is able to give correct fusion of gender oppression with class oppression pertaining to poor women belonging to all oppressed caste, nationalities and regions. By doing so, it is able to unleash the fury of women against the feudal state that is perpetuating women’s oppression ideologically, politically, militarily, economically, socially, and culturally. Secondly, it treats oppression women as strategic partner in not only in completing revolution, but also in preventing counter-revolution. Thirdly, it considers women’s force as the most reliable force that will push for continuous revolution until communist stateless system is achieved when complete Women’s Liberation can be achieved. Lastly, it has justified women’s violence as counter-violence against both state and domestic violence. Their multi-faceted participation in PW has greatly helped in sustaining, expanding, and consolidating PW. Their level of sacrifice, dedication, and commitment despite being tortured, maimed, raped and killed has greatly impressed the Party and society. Their role in mass mobilization, by establishing a close relation as that of nail and flesh has been well acknowledged. However, their political maturity still has a long ways to go…”
Ideological Synthesis and the Question of Women’s Liberation
“In the past, the focus of any talk on the question of women’s liberation would be more on the emotional aspect than the ideological on. It would be more analysis than synthesis; on the form that the content; on the women’s issue as a separate gender issue than the question of state power; in short, more on reformist line than revolutionary line. Emotional appeals would be made shouting on top of the roof while not going to the depth of the foundation to see how ideological development affects women’s liberation process. But with the initiation of People’s War, this tendency is coming to an end and increasing input of ideological synthesis is being fused with women’s issues, enriching both class and gender issues.
It is worth remembering the historic Unity Congress of the then Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Center) in December 1991 [now CPN(Maoist)], when it adopted the line of protracted people’s war [PPW] with a strategy of encircling the city from the countryside with the aim of launching New Democratic Revolution. Serious preparations were made to develop three instruments of revolution: the revolutionary party, the people’s army and the united front. The ideological foundation behind this line is the historic adoption of Maoism as the developed stage of Marxism-Leninism, which enabled the Party to prepare seriously for the PW. For the first time, with this synthesis, women’s liberation got the boost to break away from the reformist parliamentary illusions and to participate in all the three instruments of the revolution to strive for New Democratic state. Thereafter, the Third Expanded Meeting of the CC of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) help in March 1995, which adopted military line drawing strategy and tactics of armed struggle in Nepal, gave teeth to women’s liberation by seeking their mandatory participation in the armed force right from its field operation. The launching of PW in February 1996, unleashes the fury of rural oppressed masses hitherto neglected by the Communist parties. It particularly affected women who had been denied the role of professional cadre due to patriarchal values prevalent in Communist movement. Along with this ongoing process, the Second National Conference of CPN(Maoist) held in February 2001, needs special attention. It synthesized the experiences of five stormy years of PW and nomenclature it as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Prachanda Path [MLM and PP]. For the first time, strategic importance of women in completing the revolution was mentioned and rapid development of revolutionary women’s movement, their contribution in PW was acknowledged. It needs t0 be mentioned that in the same year, the First National convention of the Revolutionary United Front was held, which founded the United Revolutionary People’s Council (URPC). The Common Minimum Policy and Programme of URPC formulated code of practice on the rights of women and family in the new state. The passing of ‘Development of Democracy in the 21st Century’ in the CC meeting in June 2003 emphasizing on the importance of democratizing the three instruments of revolution holds possibilities of exploring ways whereby evolutionary women can become agents for preventing counter-revolution. The historic Party rectification and unity document passed by CC in September-October 2005 also needs special mention as it contains seeds for enriching MLM and PP which can enrich women’s liberation further.
Prachanda Path and the Question of Women’s Liberation
The distinctiveness of the People’s War in Nepal lies in its speedy development. Together with this, the other specificity of the PW is the participation of oppressed groups especially the participation of oppressed women. This is actually the outcome of the scientific principle followed by CPN(Maoist) which has been using the principles of MLM very creatively while recognizing the specificity of Nepal which it has nomenclature Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Prachanda Path. The hallmark of PP is that it is strategically firm and tactically flexible. It is not rooted in dogma, but is always daring to take up initiatives in all aspects of the revolution. Such flexibility and creativity when guided by revolutionary strategy can unleash force, so far locked up in the name of preserving archaic feudal patriarchal values the affect even revolutionary parties. This ideological synthesis together with its development holds various potentialities for women to draw out important lessons from the Party’s analysis of international situation, history of Nepal, mass-line, Stalin’s question, democracy question, rectification question, leadership question.
International Situation and Women’s Question
The specificity of MLM and PP is that while waging PW in Nepal, it has never abandoned analyzing the world situation, thereby expanding its horizon from Nepal to South Asian Federation (pass in the second National Conference in 2001), to the concept of World Federation (passed in the CC document in 2005). This has particular significance to the regionally, nationally, and sexually oppressed masses that the Party is trying to mobilize, as such expanding horizon helps in uplifting their narrow regional, national and gender outlook to a more universal proletarian outlook. Amongst all the oppress masses, it is important to note that there is real objective basis for oppressed women in particular to carry narrow outlook as they have historically been left behind from active public life much longer than the rest of other oppressed masses. Hence, such a universal outlook is all the more needed in breaking their limited horizon and women leaders and cadres should learn to capitalize from such analysis.
Analysis of Nepalese History and Women’s Question
The document passed by the Second National Conference has critically analyzed the history as interrupted by the reactionary forces that the King and monarchy are deep rooted in the Nepalese society, thereby justifying their rule. Instead, the document highlights how before the emergence of centralized feudal state (in 1769 AD), tribal democratic system prevailed with self-rule. Thus, it refuted the monarchist tradition and instead asserted the capitalize on democratic and autonomy-oriented tradition based on concrete analysis of concrete situation. It also capitalized on the tribal militarism to prepare for the PW and to enhance it. The Party has also emphasized that unlike in more developed countries, the class-division in Nepal is not very sharp. This is because the proletarian class here is weak and the national bourgeoisie was not allowed to develop fully. Hence, class exploitation is seen more in the form of nationality, sexuality and regional disparity than in direct form. Keeping this in mind, the CPN(Maoist) has adopted policy recognizing that the oppressed groups form a very important part of the struggle. In fact based on this, the Party under its united front policy has developed nine autonomous regional states based on different nationalities and oppressed regions, where women’s participation has been made mandatory. The tribal system being more egalitarian, in some places even matriarchal, the Party is principally able to tap tribal women’s active participation in the revolution. Secondly, it is also able to unleash the fury of Aryan women who have been living a dominated, insignificant vegetative life under the feudal patriarchal culture. Women are in fact more oppressed than the oppressed masses and poorer than the poor masses. Therefore, they form one of the basic masses on which the revolution must rely. Hence, it has been the policy of the Party to mobilize oppressed and poorer women in particular and other women in general. The increasing participation of women in the PW is the outcome of this policy.
Mass-Line and Women’s Participation
The Second National Conference has emphasized the importance of mass-line as an important methodology. It has been further reinforced in the CC document passed in 2005. It should be noted that the weakest point of the reactionary state is its so-called “mass-line” which can never be put to practice because of its anti-mass ideology. Whereas for those waging class war, the mass-line is a lifeline not only for practicing their theory but also to survive under harsh repression unleashed by the reactionary state. Mao has rightly said on this question, “Have firm faith on the masses even in the most tryst period of difficulties and remain firmly with them.” It is important to note that after taking the correct scientific ideological position, it is the correct scientific ideological position, it is the correct mass-line practiced by the Party and participation of women in the movement. In short, there the Party taking into consideration the local specificities, has consciously practiced mass-line, there has been phenomenal increase in the participation of women in the movement. And their enthusiastic participation in the movement has enriched the mass-line of the Party. Practice has time and again proved that where there is greater participation of women, the Party is able to entrench itself firmly in the localities of state repression. Where mass-line is neglected then bureaucratic, sectarian, mechanical, and dogmatic tendency seeps in within the Party, thereby slowly stifling women’s participation. In the Second National Conference document, it has been rightly stated: “Upholding more firmly the Marxist science that women’s participation is the measure rod for the success of any great revolution in the history, it is another significant aspect of the Party’s mass line to assist in elevating the process of this revolt to the consciousness of the proletariat. The basic policy in this regard of the Party would be to march forward by grasping the historical reality that the new democratic and socialist norms and values may be established only when patriarchal, feudal values, conceptions and norms, including bourgeoisie values on family, sex, marriage, personal property, are completely uprooted with participation of women in the revolution.”
The Stalin Question and the Question of Women’s Participation
In the present ideological analysis, attention has been brawn on Mao’s analysis of Stalin in the international communist movement, which calls for taking lesson from Stalin’s 30% shortcomings while defending his 70% positive contributions. Stalin’s monolithic outlook on the question of understanding the Party not as a unity of opposites but as monolithic unity has been drawn to attention. Such outlook negates the correct two-line struggle within the Party, thereby neglecting dialectics. Such tendency increases bureaucratic sectarian, mechanical and dogmatic tendencies, emboldening the already prevalent servile tendency prevalent in women. Such tendency discourages independent-minded, bold, rebellious women and kills the spirit of right to reel, the essence of Cultural Revolution. However, in the period of war one should also be careful against the rightist liquidation tendency that may come in the form of feminist post-modernism in the name of highlighting gender oppression at the cost of class oppression. It is to be noted that the highest practice of unity of opposites is to be found in the husband and wife relationship. Marriage of two individuals with different backgrounds itself proves that their union is the union of diversity. If union based on monolithic unity is forced upon relationship, such action either may lead to divorce, may increase tension, or out of the two one may be forced to remain suppressed. Perhaps this may have some reflections on Stalin’s strained relationship with his wife.
It is important to observe the increasing tendency of male and female cadres to get married voluntarily in the process of PW in Nepal. Such alliance if allowed to fruit to higher unity by taking care of their individual choice, interest, workplace within the framework of necessity will not only result in emboldening their commitment to the movement but also prepare ground for developing further the leadership quality of married women. It should be observed that they often seem to lose even the little initiative that they had before they got married after entering into marriage alliance. Such outlook encourages couples, particularly women to have their own political judgment and opinion when there is two-line struggle, encouraging them to become politically sharp. Being left behind in history by no fault of their own, they need to be given space to make mistakes and to learn from them. It is also important to correct the general tendency seen among women which, is to not see unity in struggle and struggle and unity. thereby not tolerating even shades of differences when two-line struggle takes place. They also forget that one divides into two, thus refusing to see events, persons, leaders, organizations, and developments dialectically, thus falling into subjective fixation. Rather than looking into the objective root cause of the split, subjective factors and individual persons, thus making political differences into personal differences. The rectification and unity document adopted in 2005 has pointed this out very sharply.
The Question of Continuous Democratization Process and Women’s Question
The CC document passed in June 2003 under the heading of “On the Experiences of History and Development of Democracy in the 21st Century” has a lot of strategic relevance to women’s complete liberation process. The question of continuous democratization process needed in running the Party, the people’s army and the state should be seen in the background of the continuous failure of socialist states after they came to power. It is seen that the Party, army and the state lost contact with the masses, lost flexibility, creativity and initiatives gradually after they came to power. Hence, correct revolutionary ideology by itself is not a guarantee to lead a revolution, particularly a continuous revolution. It needs to be backed b corresponding organizations mechanism in all the three instruments of revolution, so that masses can constantly supervise, control, and intervene in them. If such a mechanism is not developed in time, it will eat up ideological development, thus preparing ground for counter-revolution. Externally this means allowing the Party to rectify itself by subjecting itself to competition with other anti-feudal and anti-imperialist forces running the new state. Internally, this means to prepare continuous leadership team by subjecting them to rotation in all three instruments of revolution so that they do not start monopolizing their power. This mechanism not only helps in expanding women’s activity but also prepares ground for developing their leadership qualities. In the people’s army, it means not being hooked on to barracks, special trainings and over-centralization at the cost of losing political consciousness, mass contact and the production work. It must be noted that decentralization often gives space for women to learn new skills and to gradually assume leadership in the army. Decentralization also helps the people’s army to be in touch with the local masses. Hence, to be with the masses and under their control, supervision and intervention. They should be the torchbearer of revolution and should be engaged in militarizing the masses. In the specificity of Nepal, the Party has been successful in capitalizing the militant tribalism that is still prevalent in many parts of the country. Militarizing the Party and the masses ultimately helps in militarizing the other half of the population that has been subjected to domestic slavery, and this in turn helps in removing shave, inferiority complex and sense of helplessness they have about their own body. Also direct involvement in class struggle has made them learn philosophy, dialectics of life and death, thus enhancing higher political consciousness.
On the question of state power, the document has rightly pointed out that continuous democratization of the state, so that it prepares ground for withering of the state, is hundred times more difficult than capturing the state power. The new state must maintain correct balance between applying dictatorship over the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist elements and applying democracy on the masses so that continuous revolution can be facilitated. For this to happen, mass involvement in running the state affairs must be ensured so that it can be called back if it neglects mass duty. In Nepal’s specificity, where class division is not so sharp, where instead caste, nationality, gender, and regional division seem to influence the production relation, the united front under the leadership of the Party has the daunting task of mobilizing all sections of the oppressed masses against the main feudal monarchy (the main cause behind these oppressions). Thus the question of leading the front by taking into consideration all tendencies has important ramification in completing New Democratic Revolution in Nepal. The question of forming united alliance on various issues related to women, democracy, and national interest among various women groups and those affiliated to various Parties also becomes important for the women front of the CPN(Maoist). Thus, such scientific outlook ultimately helps in solving different contradictions that come in the way of a united struggle. Women, being oppressed within the various oppressed communities, when armed revolutionary ideology can play a leading role in solving various contradictions between various oppressed communities. Thus, high preference for involving women in various oppressed fronts such as nationality, Dalit and regional fronts has been sought by the Party. Similarly, their mandatory participation in united fronts has been sought so that their potentiality to tackle contradictions of the masses socially can be tapped. Also the specificity of the united front policy in Nepal has been to launch political offense centrally on the old state while launching military offense and building new state in the countryside. Thus, women’s mass front has been calling nation-wide bandh against liquor consumption, price rise and state violence at the central and national level while at the local level it has been helping the new state to implement new laws related to women and family. Thus by actively being agents for the destruction of the old state and the construction of the new state, they are able to assert their power through state functioning, thereby further sharpening their class instinct.
Question of Developing Leadership Qualities in Women
Leadership question is the key issue in any revolution. Ultimately the scientific line establishes leadership in the Party in the course of struggle against unscientific ones. Also, leadership question is the art, the art of handling different contradictions prevalent within the communist movement , including successfully mobilizing the cadres. Ultimately, it is the correct concrete analysis of concrete situation that makes the main leader amongst the group of leaders. In this respect, Com. Prachanda, the first amongst the group of leaders of the PCN(Maoist), has been sensitive to set higher priorities to women so as to give them opportunities in all instruments of revolution- the Party, the army and the united front. The conscious effort to develop communist leadership amongst the oppressed communities has been one of the hallmarks of PP; developing communist women leadership has been one of the most important priority, as they constitute the most oppressed amongst all oppressed sections of the society. It should be noted that the more the oppressed nationalities and regions get their rights to self-determination under the leadership of the proletarian Party, the more rights of women earned through struggle will be well protected. Hence oppressed women should instinctively side with oppressed community. Given the fact that women’s growth has been stunted since the emergence of private property, given that they alone will fight continuous war in order to do away with private property so as to achieve complete emancipation of women, given that true communist will only be achieved by completely abolishing private property, hence, the strategic importance of developing leadership qualities amongst women has been consciously sought, resulting in the formation of Women’s Department under the direction supervision of the Central Committee. One of its main aims was to transform the quantitative increase of women’s participation into qualitative leadership positions. Data forms addresses to women cadres of various levels within the Party, the army and the united front, asking them to pinpoint the areas of interest, limitations, possibilities, were distributed by the Women’s Department. Although such an exercise is first of its kind, and although very limited forms managed to arrive despite logistic difficulties and difficult terrain, it was found that most of them had very good potentiality to develop leadership qualities as they have pinpointed correct strategic steps needed to be established as leaders in all instruments of revolution. Hence, the main challenge for the Party is to prepare revolutionary women leadership which can be agent for preventing counter-revolution.
Rectification and the Role of Women
One of the main concerns shown by the masses, particularly women, is the fear of counter-revolution. So much gain achieved after hard sustained struggle has been whetted away after counter-revolution; women in particular look back with nostalgia at the gone days tasting liberation. It is but national for them to be very concerned to avoid such counter-revolution. As a result, they are most enthusiastic to carry out with great zeal any measures that come in the form of Party rectification to guard against the possibilities of counter-revolution. Take the example of giving up private properties, personal luxurious belongings. Women in Rolpa where the first ones to part away with precious ornamentals, they readily gave the collected ornamentals to be converted into cash so that the Party can invest money in nascent industries that are being gradually built. This they did before and higher leadership set such example, proving their greater attitude of sacrifice for the revolution. The strategic importance of waging continuous revolution constantly hammered into their consciousness, so that gains achieved through various stages of revolution are not reverted with counter-revolutions. They make sure that any slight gain in revolution prepares ground for higher revolutions so that more complete liberation can be achieved until state completely withers away. They are relatively more sincere, disciplined, less spend-thrift, less power hungry, more sociable, cooperative, have higher sense of commitment to their work, hard-working and have higher sacrifice feelings; all these qualities generally make them excellent agents, role models for rectifications campaigns. Since the campaign to do away with the private property, applicable within the Party members fist before applying in the field, has a lot to do with preparing the ground for the complete emancipation of women, they can become important ally for the revolutionary section within the Party.
It is worth recollecting Lenin’s famous saying, “unite the workers and the oppressed masses of the world.” Actually, the essence of PP lies in the fact that it is able to catch the essence of Lenin’s saying and apply it to Nepal’s specificity which finds expression in mobilizing various oppressed sections so as to run different nationality, regional autonomous united fronts, under which substantial participation of women is sought to run the new state. Women being not only oppressed among all the oppressed groups, but also the last group to be liberated are the most reliable, stable, and basic force which needs to be tapped not only in winning the revolution but also in waging continuous revolution. It is important to note that women’s contribution in PW has not only been well recognized but their strategic importance in preventing counter-revolution has also been well-noted in Party documents and articles. Similarly, revolutions women should undertake serious theoretical studies and sharpen analytical power to benefit from the periodic ideological syntheses that take place within the Party.
25 June 2006