Daya Varma


Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), the Chairman of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or CPN (Maoist) discloses in London how his party is doing the correct thing and how he has a correct vision of 21st century developments. Does he?


Liberation News Service circulated (August 14, 2009) a partial transcribed speech of Prachanda delivered on August 10, 2009 at Woolwich Town Hall, London. Prachanda followed the Gandhian tradition of national pride and spoke mostly in Nepali language and only scantily in English. The transcriber (Kasama of Bay Area Indymedia: has only given what Prachanda said in English.


As to be expected Prachanda states that “we are completely aware that …we have real historical opportunity and challenge… Either it will go ahead …or it will deviate from fundamental theory and fundamental ideology.” The latter part is of course universally true. Let me look at his assertion that “we will not deviate because we are trying our best to apply this theory according the conditions of 21st century.”  Such statements are ritualistic without substance; Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) or CPN-UML says the same as do all left parties in India and the world over. Since there is no acceptable objective test of ascertaining whether or not a certain path is appropriate and scientific, each party continues to claim the correctness of its path.


Prachanda says: “We understand the whole dynamics of 21st century”. If he does he may be the only one who does. Left parties and intellectuals predicted that the present economic crisis proves the failure of capitalism but there is no sign that capitalism is collapsing.  So I am not sure Prachanda understands the whole dynamics of 21st century.


Does one have to assume that because Prachanda built an army by virtue of which his Party entered the mainstream politics, Prachanda has become wise? All kinds of revolutionaries carry this illusion and stick to it even if there is overwhelming evidence that their policies were quite wrong at least in the long run. How is it possible that Indian Maoists think that Nepalese Maoists have deviated from the true path of revolution, while both claim to  understand correctly the dynamics of their respective countries and of course the whole world?


At least Prachanda is candid in saying that “after 5 years of the initiation of people’s war, we tried to understand the whole lesson of 20th century, all the revolution and counter-revolution, all the positive and negative lesson of the revolution. And we came to a new understanding. We came to a new conclusion that, we had to develop some new strategy and tactics; we cannot copy the insurrectionist strategy of Lenin, and mechanically we cannot copy the whole theory of protracted people’s war according to our conditions.”


Five years is not too long. Indian Marxist-Leninists are still in the same boat as they were 42 years ago since Naxalbari, which itself may have been a reflection of the missed lessons of another 19 years since Telangana. The lesson that Prachanda learnt is that while it is possible, indeed it is easy, to build a People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and even create some kind of liberated areas, it is not that easy  to  overthrow the existing state and replace it with a new one. But is this the only path for communists to enter the mainstream politics? Perhaps, because it is easier to erect a PLA in a backward country than it is to mobilize masses? Poor disenfranchised youth get a sense of power by joining PLA.


In the subsequent part of his speech, Prachanda parrots what every revolutionary does, using words and phrases which are either wrong or obsolete. For example he says: “we tried to develop something new, and we tried something new although in fundamental sense, in basic sense. We are clear that we are fighting against feudalism and imperialism, and we are leading the New Democratic revolution. We have not any kinds of doubt in these basic questions. But to lead this revolution, we should have to develop some new strategy and new tactics according to the…situation, therefore we developed this competitive politics, you know? We developed some new kinds of military strategy at that time, and we with the fusion of this protracted people’s war and insurrectionist tactics. We tried to create something new, a series of tactics.”


What is new about Prachanda path? He built a people’s militia and army, recruited large number of peasants and unlike any other revolution, a large number of women, and then to every one’s surprise reduced his demands to an abolition of monarchy; because he did so, he was able to enter mainstream politics. One may ask, is abolition of monarchy a new democratic revolution and equivalent to abolition of feudalism? Shah of Iran was overthrown in a short period of mass peaceful protest without any people’s army despite all the backing of the USA and China. Was Ayatollah, sitting in Paris, applying Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and its new version Maoism? It is true that unlike CPN-UML, which believed that the King of Nepal occupies a special place among Nepalese people, Prachanda’s party was correct that it does not. But then there are more feudal countries without kings than there are with them.


And what does anti-imperialism mean in concrete? When leftists talk of neoliberalism, globalization and anti-imperialism, one has to understand what it implies in concrete. Let us assume that opposing neoliberalism means that all industries, or at the very least the heavy industries on  which other industries depend, should be nationalized; if so why talk  about neoliberalism rather than specifically demand for the alternative policy of state ownership of all major industries, more than was done by Nehru. Why not credit Nehru as the most effective opponent of neoliberalism?


What does anti-globalization slogan mean? Assuming we know at least as much as Naomi Klein, which is hardly difficult or Walden Bello, which is also possible, one must assume that international trade must be substituted by national markets, multinational monopolies should be replaced by national monopolies including in the USA, no Chinese cheap goods be permitted in the USA or India, no migration of labor or white collar workers and finally no single international currency, World Bank, IMF, etc. Again, why not specifically demand strict restriction on migration, on international trade and commerce, absolute dependence on internal markets and no capital inflow or outflow?


And finally what is anti-imperialism in concrete? In the case of pre-liberation China, it was defeating Japan. In the case of Vietnam, it was defeating US aggression. In colonial times, it was fighting for independence from the colonizing country. Along these lines, the anti-imperialism of Prachanda at best can be directed against India. But here the situation is a bit complex. Hostility between Nepal and India would be more detrimental to Nepal than it could be to India and worse than the hostility between Cuba and US is to Cuba. There are lots of Nepalese in India and a lot of Indians (Madesis; approx 5% of the population) in Nepal.  The existing treaty between India and Nepal favors India but a treaty is needed just the same for a landlocked country like Nepal. British want the privilege of recruiting Gurkha soldiers but they do not conscript them. Has Prachanda asked Gurkhas what they want? India has been friendlier to Prachanda than has been China. So it would be helpful if Prachanda spells out the specifics of his anti-imperialism.   


Prachanda says that “if Mao Zedong would not have been able to develop this ideology to the level of Mao Zedong Thought first and Maoism in the second period, mainly during the period of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese revolution could not succeed.” I am very delighted because it is for the first time I heard that Maoism is the ideology of Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong Thought the ideology of the liberation of China. There is nothing in the writings of Mao and even Lenin, which has a semblance of ideology beyond the writings of Marx; they contain profound political tactics, which specifically relate to how to build the party or how to lead an insurrection or protracted people’s war. Mao Zedong Thought is a gift of Lin Piao and the panacea of all parties and trends born during the Cultural Revolution.  My excitement is not about the loose usage of the term ideology, which too is an important question, but rather the distinction between two ideologies. Suppose Prachanda is correct, why should his party be following Maoism and not Mao Zedong Thought, when according to him and many others including Mao, the cultural revolution was about rejuvenating socialism and not defeating feudalism and imperialism?


I would patiently follow Prachanda and that is because he says he is developing “ideology according to the situations of the 21st century” and because his party is “fully confident that the 21st century will be the century of the world revolution.” Unfortunately I would not be able to witness the fruition of his prediction, but do I wish it for the future generation? I am not sure.  

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