CPI(Marxist)'s aim is the same in both countries -
to pacify the Maoists in India with bullets and
the Nepalese Maoists with sugarcoated bullets.
Economic and Political Weekly July 22, 2006
Learning from Experience and Analysis
Contrasting Approaches of Maoists
in Nepal and India
In their decade long struggle, the Maoists of Nepal have shown a
creative approach in their politics. The latest is their decision to
enter the democratic mainstream and participate in competitive
politics. The Nepal experience demands a rethink by the
Indian Maoists of their own politics and understanding of
by SITARAM YECHURY
One has to be clear about one thing, that our party is talking
about the development of
people’s democracy in the 21st century
after having learnt from the experiences of the revolutions and
counter-revolutions of the 20th century, and accordingly has
accepted multiparty competition within an anti-feudal and
anti-imperialist constitutional frame.
No, this is not a quotation from any of the resolutions of the Communist
Party of India (Marxist). This is what the Chairman of the Communist
Party of Nepal (Maoist) or CPN(M), Pushpa
Kamal Dahal, known popularly as Prachanda, said on the 10th anniversary
of the launching of the people's war in
Nepal (Interview published in The Worker,
organ of the CPN(M), May 2006).
People's Movement in Nepal
Indeed, momentous developments are taking place in Nepal today.
In the biggest popular upsurge that south Asia has seen
since the days of the liberation of Bangladesh, the Nepali people have
overwhelmed and overpowered the nearly
two and a half century-old monarchy.
This has set in motion a transitory process towards the establishment
of a new democratic order. Surely, this process is beset
with many complications, some of which
we shall discuss below.
At this stage, it is important to underline that such a momentous
change in Nepal could not have been possible without an evolution of the
At this moment, one stage of this transition has been completed. The people's
upsurge forced the Nepali king to restore the dissolved Parliament.
An interim government consisting of the seven party alliance (SPA)
headed by the Nepali Congress leader G P Koirala has been formed.
Parliament, in its first sitting,
decided to establish, through election, a constituent assembly to
decide on the future democratic set-up in Nepal including a
decision on the future role of the monarchy.
Parliament also directed the interim government
to open formal talks with the Maoists.
Thus ended phase one.
The formal negotiations between the government and the Maoists
finally yielded an eight-point agreement along with a code
of conduct. This agreement includes the
decision to draw up an interim constitution; the establishment of an
interim government which will oversee the conduct of the
elections to the constituent assembly; and
the resolution of crucial issues concerning
the future of the Maoist army,
including its disarming. The code of conduct includes the issue of movement
by armed Maoists in rural areas, at times a cause for intimidation
and extortion. The code calls for a cessation
of such practices and the disbandment of parallel government
structures set up by the Maoists during the king's regime. On
its part, the interim government of the SPA has released all Maoist
prisoners, repealed all laws brought in place to repress Maoist
activities and facilitated the return of underground Maoist activists to open
On July 3, 2006, the Maoists' chairman, Prachanda, issued a direction to
his cadres to abide by the code of conduct and to dismantle the
parallel government's structures in all
In rural Nepal, the king's administrative apparatus virtually ceased
to function and the only avenue for popular redress was the structures
established by the Maoists. It is envisaged that by the time
the interim government with Maoist participation
is established, all parallel governmental functioning will come to an end
with the singular command and authority resting with the interim government.
As regards the issue of arms management, i e, the resolution of the situation
where Maoists openly go around with arms, different approaches exist as of now.
The SPA and the Maoists had, in their initial agreement in September
2005 and in the eight-point agreement in June 2006, spoke of a
management under the auspices of the United Nations. On July 4, 2006, prime
minister Koirala had, in fact, written to the
United Nations formally seeking its assistance. Other proposals
have also been floated - one is that both the Nepal and the Maoist armies
could merge into one; another is that they could exist separately,
but under the single command of the prime minister; yet another is
that the Maoist army would be converted into a paramilitary
force like the Indian CISF, etc.
Which of these options will be exercised is, of course, a decision that
the Nepali political leadership will have to finalise. One thing is for sure.
The political processes unleashed by the massive popular uprising and
the decision of the Maoists to enter the democratic mainstream and
participate in competitive politics have brought about a situation where
all such complex issues need to be resolved sooner
A failure to do so would be disastrous providing both the space and
opportunity for the king as well as other reactionary forces, both
domestic and international, to intervene in the consequent
anarchy that inevitably follows such a breakdown.
However, the current popular mood
in Nepal is one of hope and confidence.
Understanding of Indian StateAs noted above, such a big popular upsurge in Nepal would
not have been possible without the current positions, both
ideological and tactical, adopted by the
In order to understand these shifts in the CPN(M) positions,
it would be useful to briefly recapitulate the ideological
debates in the Indian communist movement which have had a
profound impact in all our neighbouring countries, if for no
other reason than the fact that the communist
movement was born and developed in its initial decades during
British rule which governed all these countries.
One of the major issues that led to serious ideological differences in
the Indian communist movement concerned the character
of the ruling classes in independent India.The origins of these differences,
in fact, go back to the early 1950s when the great Telangana people's armed
struggle was being withdrawn after independence.
In Nepal, however, the feudal monarchy remained the ruling class
after the British left. There was hence no scope for a need
to debate the character of or undertake an analysis of the ruling class.
Nevertheless, the divisions in the Indian communist
movement had their impact on the Nepali
The splits and divisions in India had a mirror image impact
in Nepal. It is, therefore, relevant to recollect the debates and divisions
in the Indian communist movement since they have had and continue
to have a profound impact on the communist movement in Nepal.
One assessment of the Indian ruling classes that emerged was that
they are led by the national bourgeoisie. From this followed
that since this bourgeoisie has a progressive character, which is
anti-imperialist, the communists would necessarily have to
support such efforts.
Further, it was conceived that in the post-second world war
period some newly independent colonies could bypass the stage of
capitalism and proceed towards socialism through various
The Indian national bourgeoisie, it was argued, was one such
in the world, which sought such a course. Following this, the strategy
and tactics for the Indian revolution would necessarily
have to be dovetailed to support such efforts of the national bourgeoisie.
Thus, emerged the line of class collaboration with the
Indian ruling classes, what in communist parlance is called “revisionism”.
The struggle against revisionism within the Communist Party of India (CPI)
eventually culminated in the establishment of
the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) in 1964.
The CPI(M) continues to adhere till date to its understanding that
the Indian ruling classes consist of an alliance between the bourgeoisie
and the landlords which is led by the big bourgeoisie.
Big bourgeoisie, in turn, increasingly collaborates with international
finance capital. At the same time, the CPI(M) noted that the Indian bourgeoisie,
as a whole, had a dual character. On the one hand, being part of the
world capitalist system and seeking to develop capitalism
in India, it collaborates with imperialism and international finance
capital. On the other hand, in order to preserve and expand
its economic domain from being encroached upon by global capital, it also has
conflicts with imperialism.
Such conflicts, however, will be resolved not through
confrontation but through compromise. This dual character found its
most visible expression in the bourgeois economic
and foreign policies.
Such being the character of the Indian ruling classes, it follows that a
revolutionary strategy in India will have to be based
upon sharpening the class struggles against
the Indian ruling classes and its policies.
This came in direct conflict with the assessment of revisionism which,
due to its analysis of the class character, spoke
in terms of collaboration and support to
the Indian ruling classes - a policy that was pursued until the CPI
support to Indira Gandhi's internal emergency.
The struggle against revisionism, as has been the experience of many
communist movements internationally, always gives
birth to Left adventurist trends as well.
(The vice-versa is also equally true.) The years following the formation
of the CPI(M) saw a massive outburst of popular anger
against the ruling class policies especially
As a result of these movements, a United Front government came
to office in 1967 in Bengal. This gave a fresh and
powerful impetus to people's movements, particularly to the peasants'
movement, on the issue of land. The ultra Left elements
aimed at the capture of state power in India through such peasant
movements. For two years, the struggle against such an erroneous
understanding took place within the CPI(M) and eventually
the CPI(Marxist- Leninist) was formed in May 1969.
The CPI(ML)'s understanding was that the Indian ruling class
was a "comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie". A comprador
bourgeoisie defined by the Communist International
(6th congress of the Comintern) is one which sub-serves imperialism
by exporting raw materials and importing
It is a bourgeoisie that does not seek an independent development
of capitalism in its country. Such a bourgeoisie, therefore, is one which
does not command a social base of its own. It is merely a puppet of
imperialism. From such an analysis followed their
Since the ruling classes do not have a solid powerful social base, it is easy to
overthrow them. All that is required is to arm the people who are
already in opposition to the ruling classes and hence seek their
liberation. Thus, arose the concept of people's
war. Since the lackeys of such a powerless
ruling classes, the landlords, also do not
have any substantive social following,
individual annihilation of such landlords
would eliminate the main source of misery
Thus emerged the theory of "individual annihilation".
Since parliament, under such circumstances, is used by
the bourgeoisie to spread illusions to lull the people, it should not
be given any legitimacy. Hence, the boycott of the
parliamentary system and democracy.
Clearly, the CPI(ML)'s analysis was far divorced from the actual
Indian reality and, hence, it is no wonder that within a period
of five years, this Naxalite movement split
into innumerable small groups. Many
have mapped such divisions and re-divisions,
which went on for a subsequent
The common thread running through all these groups, however,
was the attack on the CPI(M) which, they believe it to be the obstacle
for their advance. Hundreds of CPI(M) cadres continue to be
martyred in such attacks by them.
From among these groups and their internecine conflicts and clashes
emerged the CPI (People's War?) or what is called
the PWG in Andhra Pradesh, which
characterised one of the original Naxalite
leaders, Charu Majumdar, as its "pathfinder".
Another anti-Charu Majumdar group established the Maoist Communist
Centre (MCC) in parts of Bihar. These two, for decades from the
1980s, were locked in a hostile battle of attrition, but
they came together on September 21, 2004
to form the CPI(Maoist).
Their draft programme, however, continues to retain
its mistaken analysis and is far removed from the CPN(M)'s understanding
that we began this discussion with. Of the various
Naxalite groups in India, it is the Vinod Mishra-led group which returned
to the democratic mainstream, via the Indian People's Front,
to form the CPI(ML), which today participates in elections.
There is also another important and interesting debate that took place on the
path of the Indian revolution - whether it should be the Russian path
or the Chinese path. Naturally with the support of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the
CPI's advocacy of the Russian path gained
With the support of the Communist Party of China in the initial
years, to the Naxalite movement, the advocacy of the Chinese path
also gained prominence. The former laid emphasis on
the general strike of the working class as
the major weapon which, as it were, pulled
the backward peasantry into the revolutionary
The latter, given the specificities of the Chinese situation where
the working class was still a small dormant force, laid emphasis on
the liberated zones in rural areas which would encircle the
cities and, in turn, liberate them. The
CPI(M), on the other hand, continues to
advocate that the Indian revolution will be based on an Indian path
that will draw lessons and inspiration from Chinese,
Russian and other revolutions.
Ironically, as some may see, the CPI(M) is only reflecting what Mao
had once said. Mao had argued that a party which was
not able to analyse the situation evolving in its own country and
rather emulated experiences of another country (like the
local Maoists do), without analysis, was
a "hotchpotch of revisionism and sectarianism and could never be regarded as a
party driven by the principles of Marxism-
Leninism". In his own unique inimitable style of creating visual imagery
through words to explain an idea to illiterate people, Mao
characterised such tendencies as "seeking to catch the sparrow with
the eyes closed".
IIITo put the record straight, the Nepal Maoists have not
A historic Concept of Maoism
A historic Concept of Maoism
discarded their old slogans. Both the Indian and Nepali Maoists
talk in terms of Marxism-Leninism- Maoism. Strictly speaking,
there can be nothing like Maoism or Stalinism from the
viewpoint of the Marxist world outlook.
"Isms" are not suffixes of individuals. For Marxists, an ism is the
ideological construct that provides the basis for both
theory and praxis. For a given historical stage, Marxism is the world
outlook which provides the philosophical and ideological
analysis and the consequent revolutionary theory and praxis
for the overthrow of capitalism and the realisation of human
As capitalism developed beyond the times and work of Marx to the
stage of imperialism, Lenin provided the philosophical and
theoretical construct by extending and applying Marxism to
capitalism which had reached the stage of imperialism.
Insofar as imperialism is the last stage of capitalism, the prospect of any
further isms simply does not arise. The Communist Party of China (CPC)
never uses the word "Maoism". Instead, it uses the term
'Mao Zedong Thought'. The CPC says, "Mao Zedong Thought is
the integration of the universal principles
of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete
practice of the Chinese revolution". Clearly, the CPC warns against
any attempt to universalise Mao Zedong Thought. Maoists
seek to do precisely this. They seek to replicate pre-revolution
Chinese realities for present-day realities in their countries.
By referring to Mao Zedong Thought, the CPC repeatedly stresses
the role of Mao in applying Marxism-Leninism to the specific
Chinese situation and experience. Therefore, to speak of Maoism
as the enrichment of Marxism-Leninism, or, of a "new stage"
is both ahistoric and unscientific.
Evolution of Nepali Maoists' Position
Evolution of Nepali Maoists' Position
I am fully conscious of the severe limitations in revisiting so sketchily
these decades of intense ideological polemics
between the three streams - revisionism,
Marxism and the Left adventurism - represented by the CPI, CPI(M)
and the various groups of Naxalites and Maoists
in the Indian communist movement.
The relevance of recounting these debates here, however, is
because they have had a bearing on the communist movements
in all countries of the Indian sub-continent,
This is necessary to understand how the Maoists in Nepal have
evolved to hold their present positions.
The CPI(M), following the collapse of socialism in Soviet Union
and east European countries had set out its understanding
of these reverses in a resolution on ideological issues adopted
at its 14th congress in January 1992. There it said:
The living essence of the creative science
of Marxism is the concrete analysis of
Marxism-Leninism is inherently materialistic, creative and
intrinsically dialectical. It is hence supremely anti-dogmatic.
It is a world view that embraces the vision of liberation and
expresses emancipatory ideals. It is a tool for understanding and
analysing the multitude of phenomena that constitute changing
It is a guide to action that defines programmatic objectives
for the people's struggle for liberation, subject to the necessary
adaptations as required by changing historical situations.
Long ago, Lenin had said:
The irresistible attraction of this theory
(Marxism), which draws to itself the socialists of all countries lies
precisely in the fact that it combines the quality of
being strictly and supremely scientific with
that of being revolutionary. It does not combine them accidentally
and not only because the founder of the doctrine combined
in his own person the qualities of a scientist and a revolutionary,
but does so intrinsically and inseparably.
Thus, combining the scientific and revolutionary qualities of Marxism
and based upon the concrete analysis of concrete
conditions, the communist parties in each
country need to evolve their positions to achieve their strategic
objectives. A perusal of the documents of CPN(M) and their
analysis and assessments of the 10 years
since the launch of the people's war in
Nepal in 1996 shows a creative effort being made to pursue such
Recalling Lenin who in the early years of the Russian revolutionary
"We must bear in mind that any popular
movement assumes an infinite variety of
forms, is constantly developing new forms
and discarding the old, and effecting
modifications or new combinations of old and new forms.
It is our duty to participate actively in this process of working out
means and methods of struggle", the Nepal Maoists have evolved a
theme that appears like the running thread of the analysis and
experience of these 10 years.
This is what they call "strategic firmness and
tactical flexibility". At a plenum of the central committee of their
party in May/ June 2003, they adopted a resolution on
"The development of democracy in the 21st century".
This advanced the concept of working in a multiparty competitive
democratic system within the stipulated constitutional framework.
At another plenum in August 2004, the Nepal Maoists proceeded
further under the slogan "revolution within revolution" to
arrive at what they call "a new milestone in the development of
revolutionary ideas". In the central committee plenum in September/
October 2005, they concluded that keeping
in mind the prevailing political balance of
power in the country and the international situation, it was decided
to take a special initiative to implement the immediate
tactics of multiparty democratic republic,
which prepared the ground for concluding a 12-point understanding
with other parliamentary political parties to spearhead
the anti-monarchy mass movement.
The evolution of the Maoists in Nepal during the last 10 years with the
launching of the people's war against the king in 1996
by controlling vast tracks of rural Nepal as a consequence to the
landmark central committee plenum in September/October
2005 is characterised by them as a set of
ideas synthesised as "Prachanda Path".
This would merit a proper Marxist appreciation and analysis separately.
However, at this present juncture, in the shaping of Nepal's future
history, the Maoists, with their current positions are
playing an important role along with major
political parties. The shift from the underground
to the overground, the decision to give up arms and participate in
the democratic mainstream and competitive politics
appears, as of now, to be irrevocable.
Whether the entire Maoist cadre would embrace this radical shift
in positions and practice is a question that would only be
answered in the near future. However, Prachanda sums up the Maoist positions
at the moment by the following:
Our party has taken the 12-point understanding with the parliamentary
political parties very seriously. We consider it not
as a gameplan or an agreement of convenience
but as a historically essential and practical understanding required
to fulfil people's aspiration for peace and democracy
against feudal and tyrannical
monarchy. The ensuing protests against tyranny have not only
justified its significance but have also approved of it. As
a first milestone of the process of achieving complete democracy
(i e, democratic republic in our understanding) through a
constituent assembly election, the 12-point
understanding has a long-term importance.
Learning from Nepal's Maoists
The CPI(M)'s appeal in India to the ultra Left Maoists/Naxalites
has always been to shun the path of anarchic violence
and to rejoin the democratic mainstream.
Surely, with the Nepali Maoists - the
strongest in south Asia - adopting their current line which they
have arrived at from their own experience and analysis,
a rethink among the Indian Maoists
should be in order.
During the last few years, Naxalite violence in India has been
on the rise. During 2003, 515 people were killed; 566 in 2004,
669 in 2005 and 281 till April 30, 2006.
International experience and the tenets of the revolutionary science
of Marxism- Leninism demands that every communist
in every country, on the basis of the concrete
analysis of concrete conditions,
work out the strategy and tactics for the social transformation of
their country and people. If the Indian Maoists refuse to
study the evolution of their Nepali counterparts,
refuse to properly analyse the
present-day Indian realities and evolve
concrete tactics, and refuse to take positions
on major issues in the political mainstream like globalisation, communalism,
etc, then they will increasingly be seen as mercenaries donning the radical
cloak of Marxist politics. What the Indian Maoists/Naxalites will do,
however, is entirely their decision.
The ideological positions and debates within the Indian communist
movement and the consequent praxis, reflected in
its current role in Indian politics, have shown that the CPI(M)'s
analysis of both the class character of the Indian ruling
classes and the strategic advance to people's
democracy to be the more appropriate to
Social transformation in India can only be on the basis of the concrete
analysis of the concrete conditions that exist in India.
Likewise, as we began this discussion, the struggle for people's
democracy in Nepal is taking place according to the Nepali
Maoists on the basis of their own concrete
analysis of concrete conditions. The convergence,
at the moment, between the SPA and
Maoists is crucial for Nepal's survival and advance towards a
radical socio-economicpolitical sovereign state.