Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

The Danger of Squandering a Revolutionary Moment

Posted by Mike E on May 2, 2010

A small U.S. left group (RCP) issued a denunciation of the Nepali Maoists as “revisionist.” We published their comment here. This is a response to NSPF who has laid out some views on this controversy.

by Mike Ely

NSPF: Thanks for writing. Because of May First it has taken me a few days to return to your comments.

” I have supported and continue to support your (and kasama’s) loud and clear opposition to U.S. and Indian imperialist/expansionist meddling. The fact that you and Kasama are trying to popularize the right of the oppressed in Nepal and South Asia in general to stand up against and overturn their oppression is beyond question…. Both of these are important aspects of our kind of internationalism…”

This is an important thing to agree on.

There is a view that believes each communist group should reach a detailed and specific evaluation of distant revolutionaries and then withdraw support. And particularly decline to mount any popularization of these revolutionary movements of millions or any opposition (sometimes not even symbolic lipservice!) to counter-revolutionary intervention.

Kasama is based inside the U.S. — and if one understanding has been in our very blood as communists — it has been a special responsibility to oppose the actions of U.S. imperialism against revolutionary movements. The disappearance of such basic principles and its replacement with diktats aimed at in partibus infidelium is disturbing.

The only international struggle the RCP trumpets is the fight of the Sarbedaran against the Iranian theocracy. And they do this in simple reciprocation for the Sarbedaran’s appreciation for Bob Avakian. At Kasama, we popularized the mass uprising against Iran’s bloody mullahs. and published the works of the Sarbedaran.  However…  what kind of  communist synthesis leads a political grouping to “challenge” Arundhati Roy as she steps out to defend the forest Maoists, or demands a split among the Nepali Maoists on the eve of May First, or mock Alain Badiou as a dangerous influence — and then organizes (as virtually their only visible work) a speaking tour aimed at denouncing the veil in Iran.

Opposing the shrouding of women is (obviously) a just and important struggle in conservative Muslim countries –but  it is (to put it mildly) hardly an act of political courage (in the U.S.!) to organize college speaking engagements denouncing the veil. After all, the U.S. and Israel are threatening Iran and waging war against conservative Muslims.

NSPF writes:

“Furthermore, my criticisms and concerns are not primarily related to your views on RCP per se, but, partly, how tightly you have ended up linking your defense of revolution in Nepal with your opposition to that Party.”

This is an important point. And I want to respond as sharply as I can:

There are a number of important two line struggles defining the development of the world communist movement. And they are bound up together in many ways.

The communist movement in the U.S. is not a particularly significant one. Avakian’s self-coup (that split and diminished the RCP) is not a particularly important event. However, it is precisely part of much larger two-line struggles happening world wide.

Is It Degrading Our Discussion to Mention Them?

There is constant debate within Kasama about whether to pay any attention to the RCP at all. Despite your use of the word “Party” to describe them — the RCP is not a party, but a very small, inwardly facing, and increasingly strange cult with virtually no political influence or prospects.There is good reason to simply ignore them (as everyone else in American society and politics does).

However, there remain two reasons to discuss the RCP:

The first is historical: This grouping was a major attempt at a revolutionary movement in the U.S. They were a failure (over and over) but they were a sincere and sometimes creative attempt.  I believe that there is value in a “debriefment” of the RCP — as part of a much larger “debriefment” of previous Maoism overall. This is why we are (for example) publishing and discussing Bill Martin‘s recent work on the RCP.

Meanwhile: the current RCP (its antics and pronouncements) are of far far less interest. Their intellectual and political quality has nose-dived. Their rambling talks, presentations and manifestos are virtually self-parody at this point. If we were only focused on radical politics within the U.S. there would be no reason to mention them. In fact, when we do mention this group, some people think we are nuts for wasting our time (and their time).

The second reason to engage current statements of the RCP is because of precisely that connection between their announcements and the situation in the international commmunist movement.

Let’s not be naive: the timing of the 2003 Avakian self-coup (that imposed his then-unarticulated and undiscussed “new syntheisis” as the view of his organization) was inseparable from two external events: the 9/11 attacks which through the RCP into a hysterical defensive crouch, and the rise of the revolution in Nepal (which Avakian feared would bolster opposing lines within his organization).

Again: these things are objectively tied together — because they are part of a larger (worldwide) process of struggle and summation among revolutionary communists.  Given the overall stagnation of revolution (and the inability of even peoples wars to break beyond of a certain level — to actually take the socialist road, and the sectification of Maoism in imperialist countries) that struggle should be welcomed and waged with great enthusiasm.

“And in doing so, you have ended up supporting things that should be opposed and opposed things that should be supported; in Nepal or anywhere else. In other words, some very fundamental principles and concepts that you appear upholding elsewhere and in other discussions end up being trampled upon or ignored when it comes to discussing Nepal.

I have to agree  that you should articulate this much more clearly.

I think we should uphold key communist principles and concepts — because of their truth and power. And as you mention, i have worked to do that. I don’t see why you would say that i have “trampled or ignored” them anywhere. But since you plan to write on this, I look forward to the discussion.

“So far as the immediate situation in Nepal is concerned, I personally encourage everyone who cares about ordinary people to be vigilant and ready to oppose a possible reactionary onslaught and attempt to crush the ordinary people’s aspirations thru decapitation and bloodbath. That the enemy might pounce on the people like a wounded beast should not be underestimated.

I agree. Though let’s be clear: the main way we can help “everyone be ready to oppose a possible reactionary onslaught” is to actually popularize the revolution in Nepal — certainly that is true in the U.S. No one can oppose anything if they know nothing about it. An energetic partisan popularization of these important revolutionary movements is needed — not a strange, garbled mixed-message that the people are in danger and their leaders are oblivious (which I don’t believe is true).

“That the line in command of UCPNM is incapable of and has no intention of winning a final victory (in the immediate future) as in a revolutionary People’s Republic, I’m certain of. A massive and concentrated show of force is the surest signal of intentions. But not of the kind that is being implied here at SAR or Kasama”.

I find such certainty bizarre — my mind wonders where such certainty comes from? What information are you working with?

Isn’t it the result of a particular method — that exaggerates a rigid “universality” in the interpretation of important Marxist insights, and suffers from a lack of materialist humility and communist imagination.

Speaking for myself, I honestly do not know what (precisely) the Nepali Maoists have planned. I don’t know (precisely) how their army and militia are deployed. I don’t know how they plan to deal with a military decapitation coup, or massacres. And, I don’t know whether their plans will succeed.

I think they are using demands for a new government, a new constitution, an end to Indian intrigues and domination, a new arrangement in land ownership as transitional demands to prepare mass forces for an actual seizure of power — forces that are (at last! finally!) capable, in a real material way, of engaging and defeating the Nepali Army. They have been stuck in a quandry where they have not had sufficient force — and they have squirmed and maneuvered, they have bought themselves time and painstakingly tried to shave off more support for themselves piece by piece. And it has brought them here — to this May First, with all that this May First has revealed.

Perhaps, in the end, you will be proven right.

But even so: does it help anyone for a few relatively small and unsuccessful communist forces in imperialist centers to NOW spend their time and energy denouncing the only communist movements that have sparked a living fusion of ideas and people? On what planet does that make sense?

Personally, I am quite impatient with the arrogant “yes, but” or “oh, I have concerns” of some communists.

Really? Who made your (too often cramped and half-baked) “concerns” the thing we all need to talk about over and over and over and over and over… in the absence of defining events?

I truly believe that many communists don’t know how previous revolutins happened — and have a simplistic and naive notion of how it went down. You think Lenin announced in the open that he planned to stage an uprising? do you think his armed Red Guards were openly mandated with “seizing power” (rather than beating back Kornilov)? Who has read Mao’s conciliatory statements at Chunking, and his request to enter and form a coalition government with his blood-soaked enemies?

We have (quite frankly) a communist movement where too many people are raised on magical thinking and romanticized histories (and far too little real political practice leading real people) — and where they can’t even recognize a real revolutionary process when they see one.

My Turn

I too have concerns, and one of them is that we will shamefully squander these movements in India and Nepal through complete ignorance, self-paralysis and shameful indifference.

And I dare say that I do know several things:

The Nepali Maoist plan (of creating a wave of popular uprising to supplement their own organized forces) may succeed in generating a force capable of shattering and defeating the government’s army.

Or it may not succeed.

It has to be said, their plan of consolidating rural and urban forces, exposing enemies among the people, isolating reactionaries, taking the high moral ground etc. has worked well politically. How that translates militarily remains to be seen — their deployments, configurations and preparations are submerged — and not there for our examination.

It may be that the enemy strikes, and the people are decapitated and defeated. This is always a danger in war (as the experience of Peru and Turkey reveal, or the 1976 coup in China for that matter). But I also have to convey a deep skepticism that you (a) know precisely what they are doing, and (b) that their politics is opposed to seizing power, and (c) that you have some vestpocket alternative plan that would solve the very difficult and very real problems of transitioning to power in Nepal.

Let me be candid: I have met lots of religious nuts who think their Bible enables them to know what every person should be doing. Their method conveys certainty. They proceed from the “absolute belief” in their own imagined principles and in a very rigid notion of “universality.” With that method they often can’t see what is right in front of their eyes — their own actions are riddled with the impact of their own blindness, and their critiques of others are not rooted in reality.

Why should we adopt such a stance in the name of communism and Marxism?

I think we should support these mass communist revolutionary movements in India and Nepal (which are, as you know, quite different from each other ideologically). I think we should all work to develop our understandings of what communist strategy and theory should now be, and engage each other in a larger international movement. And I think we should watch and learn — as people carry out startling and innovative approaches to problems that have repeatedly proven insoluable.

18 Responses to “The Danger of Squandering a Revolutionary Moment”

  1. Let’s look at two of Mike’s comments:

    ‘Personally, I am quite impatient with the arrogant “yes, but” or “oh, I have concerns” of some communists.

    Really? Who made your (too often cramped and half-baked) “concerns” the thing we all need to talk about over and over and over and over and over… in the absence of defining events?’

    So we should just go along with the UCPN(M) line wherever it goes without any kind of line struggle? But on what basis? Why not support any party anywhere that calls itself communist or socialist on the grounds that we can have no right or ability to analyse its line. It’s indeed magical thinking to suppose that a reasoning human being is incapable of political analysis of a party’s line unless they are a member of it. Why the hell not?

    ‘We have (quite frankly) a communist movement where too many people are raised on magical thinking and romanticized histories (and far too little real political practice leading real people) — and where they can’t even recognize a real revolutionary process when they see one.’

    Mike Ely’s alternative to the ‘romanticised history’ of the Russian revolution is accepting the ridiculous and dishonest criticisms of the Russian revolution by Trotsky, Khruschev and Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn believed that Stalin killed 100 million Soviet citizens! Let’s face it, Kasama has its roots in anti-communism. It’s the old tendency of leaders who have lost their faith in communism because of an uncritical acceptance of bourgeois anti-communist propaganda leading their followers into capitulation while vigourously waving the red flag.

  2. CPSA said

    In all fairness to Joe, Bob and other RCPists, Kasama is much smaller than the RCP. But we’re hopefully working on that.

  3. CPSA said

    And Joe you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. People like you would’ve told the protestors in Iran or Honduras last year, for example, to go home b/c they didn’t have Avakian’s 9 theses in their back pockets.

  4. Nat. W said

    Mike E says,

    “But even so: does it help anyone for a few relatively small and unsuccessful communist forces in imperialist centers to NOW spend their time and energy denouncing the only communist movements that have sparked a living fusion of ideas and people? On what planet does that make sense?”

    I agree with Kasama’s support for the revolutions in India in Nepal, which as Mike notes are very different ideologically, however I think your approach to this question is wrong and harmful to your project of reconception. ME continues to insist or imply that the size and level of “success” of communists in imerialists centers is a prerequisite for their right to have any constructive criticism of what’s happening in those revolutions. The reason the RCPs criticisms of the UCPN(M) should be frowned upon and criticisms is becuase the things they write don’t correspond to the facts on the ground, even that which we able to know and decipher through the available information from the bourgeois press and UCPN(M) documents. As I said in another post, I think it can be said, and ME can document this and make an evaluation of this, that communist forces outside of Nepal have made valid criticisms that have effected the development of the revolutionary process in Nepal and have led to certain shifts and adjustments in the strategy and tactics of the UCPN(M) leadership. If we take the approach that we have no write to speak on this because we havn’t ‘accomplished’ anything than we hold back potentially important perspectives and end up hurting the whole revolutionary process which should be looked at ultimately as an international one.

    Secondly, I don’t like to see your criticisms of the RCP turn into hyperbole, particularly because I am rooting for more important things to develop out of your project. For one, the challenge to A. Roy was amicable in tone, called her recent excursion into the central Indian forrests and her subsequent article “couragous” and challenged her basically to challenge her assumptions about Mao in general. The challenge compared to alot of what the RCP has put out lately was not that bad. Secondly, while the RCP has not been successful in buliding mass movements up to this point, it has some important influence and political ties to certain members of the left intelligentsia, be it through WCW or through some of the recent Revolution Books events with notable intellectuals including Cornel West, Wallace Shawn, Ngugu Wa Thiongo, and some others. The RCP is not isolated as you suggest, and has actually made some progress in its dealings with intellectuals, and being realistic about this can only help you to challenge their overall isolationists positions vis-a-vis the ICM and other radical movements in general; help you to fight even for some of this limited influence.

    Again, I like what your doing in supporting these revolutionary movements in the world and I hope for something good, even great to emerge out the work Kasama is engaged in that effects the revolutionary movement here in the US. In is in this regard that I feel the necessity to call out what I perceive to be some problematic approaches to how ME feels about criticising foriegn revolutions (even if your characterization of some particular criticisms are correct) and some unneccesary exaggerations when speaking to the insignificance of the RCP.

  5. According to one bourgeois source, the following is being negotiated during the general strike:

    ‘During the negotiations held in the past few days, the three parties [including UCPN(M)-Joseph Ball] have agreed to bring all cantoned Maoist combatants under control of Special Committee on Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and categorize them according to their interests — join security agencies, take voluntary retirement and or opt for rehabilitation — by May 24.

    Though there exist differences on the number of combatants to be integrated in security agencies, the three parties agree in principle to ensure integration on the basis of established standards of concerned security agencies and recommendations received from the technical committee. The parties have also agreed to keep the combatants in separate cantonments after categorizing them into three of the interest groups.

    Leaders said the Maoists agreed to return the properties that are still under the party´s control by May 24 and also form a commission in order to facilitate return of the seized properties that are no more under Maoist control with the help of administration.

    Among other things, the parties have also forged agreement to extend the term of Constituent Assembly that expires on May 28, form State Restructuring Commission and disband paramilitary structure of the Maoists´ Young Communist League before announcing the formation of national consensus government by May 24.’

    see http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=18200

    I know we shouldn’t trust bourgeois sources but it does seem like these are the kinds of things that are on the agenda. Many, many sources have indicated something of this nature, not least the text of agreements entered into by the Maoists themselves.

    Certainly everyone in the Party is talking about army integration and concluding the peace process. I really think that all talk of a ‘revolution’ in Nepal needs to be made in this context. I’m not saying that the UCPN(M) can’t get back from this point to being a revolutionary party but the available evidence is that the current agenda of the party is to integrate itself into the existing political and class structures.

    No-one outside Nepal is demanding a ‘return to war’, that’s not our call, but once a previously independent armed force joins the existing repressive state apparatus then it can only really mean class compromise is occurring , rather than revolution.

  6. CPSA said

    That article was referenced here weeks ago. It doesn’t sound very credible.

  7. CPSA said

    [Removed for violating site rules]

  8. Ka Frank said

    To Nat W and others, one very important way to join in the campaign against the Indian state’s attempt to crush the Maoists and the tens of thousands of adivasis they lead is to hook up with the International Campaign against the War on People in India at http://www.icawpi.org.

    I don’t find NSPF’s certainty that the UCPNM is not preparing to seize power “bizarre”, as Mike put it. Prachanda and his majority in the UCPNM leadership can be judged by what they say, and most importantly, by what they do. The most extensive analysis of this, as well as exploration of the danger of Indian intervention (and the Chungking negotiations that Mike refers to ) can be found on the website of the MLM Revolutionary Study Group.

    Along these lines, see my recent post of a Nepal News article about Prachanda’s continuing efforts to cobble together a coalition government with the reactionary Nepali Congress and UML parties.

  9. CPSA said

    Frank, to be very blunt, I don’t see the RCP or its sympathizers giving a crap about India. That’s maybe what pisses me off the most. I’ve been trying to point out for a while that there is at least a parallel basis of criticism of the Nepali Maoists between the CPI-M and the RCP, and frankly I’ve seen no one respond to that obvious fact. It is rather clear that this is simply a coincidental common stance. But I would go further and argue that I have never heard the RCP say a damn thing in favor of the CPI M, or PW. If memory serves correctly, MCC previously was in RIM and if you dig into the “Revolution” (the paper) archives you can find a statement or two of solidarity from YEARS ago. But that’s about it. The split (if you can call it that) between the UCPNM and the CPI-M goes back no further than 2006, at least in public. Alot has happened since then, but at least you can say these parties and their sister group in the Philippines remain committed to some sort of revolutionary project(s). All I find from Joe and Nat is alot of half truths, theoretical (frankly neo-Stalinist dogmatism) and a strong desire to pick on Mike and his followers (who are the latter anyway?). I’m not trying to tell you what to do or who to try to persuade, but with these two and anyone else I’ve discussed this w/from the RCP, you might be barking up the wrong tree.

  10. Nat. W said

    Quite frankly CPSA, you approach criticism very much like that of an RCPer. My intention was certainly not to pick on Mike and Kasama, in fact the overall thrust of what I was saying is supportive of the work being done on this SA Revolution website and I very much care about these revolutions and feel the RCP is wrong not to support them. I point out my differences with ME not to pick on him or Kasama but hopefully to contribute to the process of rethinking revolutionary strategy here in the US.

  11. CPSA said

    [Removed for violating site rules]

  12. CPSA said

    I should further add having been to the bookstore in NY several times you as well as to a few events on China the party co-sponsors, it’s patently apparent they know very little about China either. I do, having been there and having spent my academic career on it. And now I’m getting to know India pretty well too, and my knowledge of Nepal isn’t far behind. What you find at a RCP event is a bunch of people very similar to evangelical Chistians missionaries trying to persuade you to talk and then buy their damn paper or some other piece of propaganda. It’s all very bourgeois and fanatical, frankly a rather different tone than from what I and others find here. And the disconnect from the world outside the US in the present and via historical references is striking. How on earth they stay financially solvent boggles my mind.

  13. CPSA said

    I’ll give you Nat that your more nuanced than say Joe who I find has no clue what he’s talking about. But your defense of the RCP doesn’t make sense. I am not exaggerating, the party has gone off the deep end, ages ago and is a lost cause.

  14. Nat. W said

    I’m just trying to evaluate what I see going on in the movements here in general. There have been posts on this cite about the RCP moralizing political differences that ring true to my ears and my own experience. I watched them mischaracterize political opponents arguments and lines (the UCPN(M)being a prime example) in defense of their own positions. I think they can be criticized without exaggeration and with a serious analysis of what their significance is. That’s what I’m looking for and that’s why I posted what I did. I think defense is a pretty strong word and your attacks on me are close to the ‘essentialism’ and ‘moralizing’defensiveness of the RCP when they face criticism and disagreement; or perhaps I’m just full of myself.

  15. NSPF said

    “Personally, I am quite impatient with the arrogant “yes, but” or “oh, I have concerns” of some communists.

    Really? Who made your (too often cramped and half-baked) “concerns” the thing we all need to talk about over and over and over and over and over… in the absence of defining events?”

    Mike,
    If I could guess my publicly airing of my criticisms and concerns about your political line would upset you so much I would have certainly considered alternatives. What is done is done now and I can’t turn the clock back; all that is possible for me to do is to offer my sincere appology for the pain that I have caused and hope it will go some way in soothing it. I trust we can both learn to deal with our political differences in a comradely or at the very least in a freindly manner. I will continue engaging as best I can and know how.

  16. n3wday said

    [Moderators Note: Please don’t personalize the discussion. It lacks substance. Flaming is against our site rules. ]

  17. CPSA said

    I’m not sure what rules I’ve violated, but fine if you think those posts were too personal, I don’t really mind.

  18. n3wday said

    our site rules can be found and discussed here – http://z11.invisionfree.com/Kasama_Threads/index.php?showtopic=427

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