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.
“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.
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.