People's Uprising in Nepal and Debates among the Indian Left

– Lal Bahadur Singh

THE SPECTACULAR political developments in Nepal have provoked many interesting debates among the Left in India . But, instead of really learning necessary lessons from the historic people's uprising in our neighbouring country, where the Left played such a decisive role, attempts are usually being made to impose one's own thinking on the Nepalese communists or alternatively justify one's own political line in the light of developments taking place there, specially changes in the CPN(Maoist) tactics.

Interestingly, while Comrade Sitaram Yechury who mediates with the Left forces in Nepal, increasingly with the CPN(M), as an informal ambassador of the UPA government and the Indian state, has emerged as the most visible propagandist of the CPN(M) in India, the Indian Maoists who had all along been basking in the glory of the movement in Nepal finds it quite embarrassing and inconvenient to reconcile with the recent changes in CPN(M) tactics. A recent issue of the Economic and Political Weekly carried an article by Comrade Yechury in which he begins by citing a CPN(M) statement which he says could easily pass for a statement by the CPI(M) obviously to highlight the growing convergence of the wavelengths of the two parties. The latest issue of People's March , the undeclared journal of the Indian Maoists, on the other hand, carried a long interview by Comrade Azad, spokesperson of the Indian Maoists, disputing most of the changes being effected by the Nepali Maoists.

In what follows, we will take a quick look at this interesting turn in the Left discourse in India . Comrade Yechury's game plan is quite simple. He seeks to convince the Indian ruling classes that the success of the CPN(M) in Nepal would help India to overcome the Maoist challenge in India , identified by both the BJP and the Congress as the principal threat to India 's internal security. In a TV bite recently in Kathmandu, he openly said that the return of the CPN(M) to the 'mainstream' would signal the end of Left terrorism (Vampanthi Atankvad) in India . On his part, he uses the CPN(M) example and its successes as a contrast to the political bankruptcy of the Indian Maoists, hoping that this would liquidate the entire CPI(ML)/Naxalite tradition and give a new 'radical' legitimacy to the pragmatic and opportunist line of the CPI(M).

Let us start with his wisdom regarding the birth of the CPI(ML).

In his opinion, ‘After a prolonged ideological debate against revisionism within the Indian communist movement, the CPI(M) was formed in 1964, [and] the mass anger against the policies of the then ruling governments saw the establishment of a united front government in West Bengal in 1967and this further unleashed mighty popular struggles on the question of land reforms. The peasant movement organised in the village of Naxalbari was elevated as a struggle aimed at capturing State power in India by certain sections within the Party. These sections, who fell to such a deviation, went on to form the CPI(ML) in May 1969'.

Is Comrade Yechury really ignorant of the fact that the formation of the CPI(M) in 1964 did not signal any 'end of history' for communist revolutionaries in India ? Even after 1964, serious questions and unsettled issues regarding the basic formulations of the CPI(M) were left unresolved and kept haunting the minds of communist revolutionaries (CRs) within and beyond the CPI(M). Comrade Charu Mazumdar had started writing his path-breaking polemical documents in 1965, long before Naxalbari actually happened in 1967. The spark in Naxalbari lent credence to this new thinking on revolutionary lines and the brutal suppression of the fighting peasantry in Naxalbari by the then UF government of West Bengal in which Jyoti Basu held the Home portfolio and served as the deputy Chief Minister clinched the matter and convinced CRs all over the country that the CPI(M) too, like the CPI, was treading the parliamentary path and was not at all interested in revolutionising the peasantry, the most crucial task of Indian revolution. Naxalbari thus became a watershed in terms of integrating a mass movement of the landless labour and poor peasantry with the revolutionary agenda, which Yechury disparagingly describes as elevation of a village level struggle to a bid for capturing state power.

Had the formation of the CPI(ML) just been the product of a whimsical, 'extremist' elevation of a local village level struggle to an empty bid for capturing state power, or had the CPI(ML)'s analysis been "so divorced from the Indian realty", the ghost of Naxalism would not be still haunting the Indian ruling establishment, including the new aspirants from the left, even after 40 long years! Naxalbari and formation of the CPI(ML), in fact, were products of the continuing two-line struggle in search of a revolutionary line in the Indian communist movement, nothing less nothing more. It all is now common knowledge for any serious observer of the Indian communist movement.

As he appears to delve deeper, we find yet another gem: ‘Based on an erroneous understanding that the Indian ruling classes were a “comprador bourgeoisie”, i.e., that they were merely agents of imperialism and, hence, did not possess a social force or a mass following domestically, therefore, according to the Naxalites, it was only a matter of time to overthrow the ruling classes. There was, hence, no necessity to mobilise the people and organise a mass revolutionary party'.

Comrade Yechury may have his problems with the comprador formulation, but how does it lead to the conclusion that the Indian bourgeoisie had no social base and the CPI(ML) therefore thought it unnecessary to build a mass revolutionary party? Everybody knows that in its first appearance the CPI(ML) got no chance to build and consolidate itself because of the overwhelming intensity of the immediate movement and the severe state repression that led to the decimation of a good section of the leadership on different levels. Since its reorganisation in July 1974, the CPI(ML) has devoted itself seriously to the task of organising a mass Bolshevik or mass revolutionary party and surely it has achieved some success in areas where the CPI(M) never succeeded in making any dent despite all its hobnobbing with considerable sections of the Indian bourgeoisie and despite running the longest-surviving state government in India!

The debate regarding the character of the Indian bourgeoisie had an altogether different context and political implication. We have time and again explained the real sense in which the word comprador has essentially been used in our literature. By repeatedly questioning this one word, the CPI(M) actually wants to sidetrack the real debate over the characterisation of the Indian bourgeoisie. The CPI(M) essentially sees the Indian bourgeoisie as an anti-imperialist force with some occasional vacillations that can be corrected by slightly louder barks by the friendly watchdog! Even without directly participating in a bourgeois government at the Centre, the CPI(M) has no trouble in maintaining close coordination with the Congress in the running of the UPA government and in supporting and guiding the whole range of the government's policies, economic, law and order and foreign. And we can all see the kind of mass revolutionary party that is being built up on the basis of such opportunist politics of hobnobbing with increasingly wider sections of the bourgeoisie, the real corporate face of capital as well as the ideological-political representatives of the class.

Comrade Yechury, while hitting at his soft target, the CPI(Maoist), remembers Lenin's saying that 'A petty-bourgeois driven to frenzy by the horrors of capitalism, is a social phenomenon which like anarchism, is characteristic of all capitalist countries', but conveniently forgets his other famous saying that, 'Anarchism is often a punishment for the opportunist sins of working class movement in a country'.

Let us now turn to our Maoist friends and see how they assess the objective condition in the country, today. ‘In fact, hardly ever before has the revolutionary situation been so excellent and favourable as today. On the basis of this analysis, we decided to make the formation of our red army and base areas as basic, chief, central and immediate task and to advance in that direction with speed'. Now this understanding of revolutionary situation has nothing to do with the Marxist-Leninist understanding and analysis of a situation!

So, with this understanding of the objective situation, they want to transplant the Chinese revolutionary model of the first half of 20th century in today's India in the name of Maoism. However talking to the Latin American comrades in reference to the ‘left line' in China , Mao says “Their chief mistake at the time was dogmatism, transplanting foreign experience mechanically. Our party liquidated their erroneous lines and really found the way to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions of China . The experience of Chinese revolution, that is building rural base areas, encircling cities form countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism- Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own country – the two must be integrated (Vol. V, pp 3-6)”

So, this was Mao, who made the Chinese revolution victorious by firmly adhering to Marxism-Leninism and defeating the ‘left line' of transplanting other country's models to China, if need be even by defying the directives of the then Comintern, led by none else but Stalin, which were unsuited to Chinese conditions. This is Marxism-Leninism and Mao Thought.

In complete violation of the above spirit of Mao Thought, mechanically imitating the Chinese people's war model, Indian Maoists advocate boycottism. This generalized/strategic boycottism is obviously anti-Leninist which regards participation in elections an issue of tactics, to be decided according to concrete situation. Bolsheviks participated even in Tsar`s reactionary parliament and Lenin noted that it was not only useful but indispensable to participate in such parliaments for the success of the revolution. Nearly two decades ago, the CPI(ML) 4th Party Congress aptly noted, ‘Boycottism believes in the subjective rejection of the parliament on paper with the help of quotations, while in real life it keeps haunting them'

The recent founding conference of the Maoist-led People's Democratic Front of India ( Delhi , 30-31 July, 2006) is the latest example of their continuing non-political thought process and style of work. The new front called the PDFI is formed with an avowed aim of ‘Fighting against imperialism, Building a self-reliant people`s democratic India'. Though not said in so many words, the running theme of its draft programme seems to suggest that India has become a neo-colony. Let us not get into a debate here over the appropriateness and implication of such a formulation. But, if you are really serious about it, then you must pursue your agenda seriously and make efforts for an anti-imperialist front or a front ‘for fighting against imperialism and building a self-reliant people`s democratic India.' But instead once again anti-imperialism is subordinated to the precondition of boycottism. And then in your grandiose plan, you are left just in the company of some individual activists, non-party organisations and NGOs. Can it be deemed a serious revolutionary approach to address such a serious political task?

Some political observers see in the PDFI an attempt to replicate the IPF experiment conducted by our Party in the 1980s. Well, the IPF could become IPF precisely because it took the revolutionary peasant movement as its key-link, and the militant political assertion of the rural poor as its lifeblood. The PDFI project on the other hand is intended for areas and people that cannot find any direct role in the so-called armed struggle which remains the primary arena of the Maoist practice. The open platforms are designed to play just an auxiliary supportive role to help mobilise opinion against state repression rather than evolve as platforms of powerful mass struggles. Beyond a point the Gandhians, Sarvodayis, radical humanists who are initially attracted to such a platform cannot get along with this limited role and with the task of defending every armed action in the face of not only state repression but widespread democratic disapproval and criticism, like is currently happening with the Maoist campaign against Salwa Judum which involves mass killings and attacks on relief camps. The late Dr. Vinayan could not get along with the MKSS experiment for long in Bihar , and similarly many civil liberty campaigners have parted ways with the Maoists in Andhra Pradesh. It is anybody's guess if the PDFI experience can prove any different.

The Indian Maoists' discomfiture with the developments in Nepal and the changes in CPN(M) tactics, who were presented as role models till yesterday, is also quite revealing. It is one thing to disagree with certain formulations of Nepali Maoists or caution them against real intent of the people who are 'wooing' them into the so-called 'democratic mainstream', but it is altogether different matter to start crying foul as soon as one takes some new tactical initiatives, and that too, a communist party of another country.

In an interview, CPI(Maoist) spokesperson Azad says-

"In fact in the concrete situation in Nepal today the Maoists have really only two revolutionary options. Either they must intensify the mass upsurge, evolve the organizational forms of political power suitable for seizing political power at the national/all Nepal level or if that is not possible owing to an unfavourable balance of class forces the existing base areas should be consolidated and strengthened and steps taken to complete the democratic tasks and advance towards in the direction of the socialist tasks and strive to capture the cities leading to the final seizure of power at the opportune moment."

Now one really wonders as to why Nepali communists cannot think of any other manoeuvres including necessary compromises and retreats, if so required by the changed objective conditions or a new realization in the course of integrating the truth of MLM with Nepalese conditions, precisely in the interest of revolutionary advance? Is it because nothing similar ever happened in the Chinese revolution? Let us see what Lenin had to say in this regard: "The entire history of Bolshevism, both before and after October revolution, is full of instances of changes of tack, conciliatory tactics and compromises with other parties, including bourgeois parties'.

Unlike the two CPI(M)s in India we believe in studying the actual developments and political tactics adopted by various sections of Nepali communists, the Maoists included, with an open mind while extending full political and moral support to the onward march of Nepal hopefully towards a people's democratic republic.

Amidst the ever-growing assaults on our sovereignty, democracy and people's livelihood, what India really needs today is a powerful democratic political alternative, left constituting its core, which may unleash a mighty storm of people's movement, forging an effective coalition of all struggling forces. For all the dissimilarities between India and Nepal , the question of movement-based political intervention in a turbulent political situation is the most interesting and instructive aspect of the ongoing Left experiment in Nepal for every serious activist and well-wisher of the Left in India .