Comrade Dr Baburam Bhattarai in his written interview in this paper (#51) has laid out the Maoist party line on important issues like the human casualties of the peoples' war, the new-born republic, human rights under the New Democracy. Allow me to respond to some of his points.
Ever since Maoists stormed the police post and looted the local bank in Dunai last year, those in power in Kathmandu have felt the growing power of the peoples' war. Since then, the Maoists have killed hundreds more policemen, looted police armouries, overrun the sub-periphery, and held sway over the people still there. They have used force and fear to curb social evils like alcoholism, gambling, instituted peoples' courts, and tried to redistribute land. They have involved women and indigenous groups in the struggle and tried to empower them.
After the royal massacre two months ago, Dr Bhattarai's party has seized on popular shock and dissatisfaction and the government's own confusion and indecisiveness to declare that the Peoples' Republic of Nepal has been born, that the revolution would achieve its success sooner than expected. How logical is this? Does Marxism accept such a hasty conclusion? Certainly, the Maoists have extended their organisational reach in the past six years. The political, ideological and cultural bankruptcy of the parliamentary parties, entrenched social inequities, have pushed disaffected Nepali youths into the Maoist fold. But how political is this sudden surge of support? Is there an ideological underpining? How disciplined is it? Is the support sustainable? Can the leadership cope with the future demands of an impatient people who have been promised utopia?
It is traditional in Nepal's left to be attracted to the most extreme and polarised views, and then to split due to personality differences. Such rigid either/or political structures can be easily put together, and equally easily demolished. But does Marxism recognise such instant and ephemeral power?
The Nepali Congress (NC) and the Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML) are the two best organised political entities in Nepal today. They may be wallowing in despair and apathy, but they have an organisational presence in every village and their support among mature Nepalis has not waned. Then there is the monarchy. We can only guess at the popularity (or lack thereof) of the monarchy among the youth, but the bigger political parties have already pledged to support the continuity of the constitutional monarchy. Proof is the waning discontent since King Gyanendra's ascension to the throne, in which the bigger parliamentary parties played a moderating role. True, the parties are raising questions about the palace's power, the rules of succession, and there is disagreement within the parties about the role of the constitutional monarchy, but not about the need for a constitutional monarch.
For his part, Dr Bhattarai maintains that the Nepali monarchy has "collapsed under its own weight and under the pressure of imperialist and expansionist forces." How valid is this? How strategic and Marxist is it to casually brush aside the objective reality of a potent force and declare it impotent? Ignoring the unity of all parliamentary parties behind the constitutional monarchy and exaggerating its own organisational capacity, Dr Bhattarai claims: "Our openly stated goal is total state power for the oppressed masses. Nothing more, nothing less."
What he is trying to say is that the parliamentary parties and the palace should quietly just hand over power to him. And he is will talk only if they are willing to do so. This defies logic. Can victory over a civilian police constitute a total victory of the peoples' war? By painting itself into a corner, the Maoists have shown they are not interested in compromise. It is total power, or nothing. This will take the party and the nation away from socio-economic and cultural transformation to direct confrontation. How can such a strategy, which alienates sympathetic forces who do not want full-scale war, be considered even remotely Marxist?
In his interview, Dr Bhattarai states that millions may die in a genuine revolution. What is a genuine revolution? The kind of revolution the Maoists are waging was successful only in China. But the reason for that victory was the split between forces of international imperialism during World War II, with Japan and Germany on one side, and the US and Britain on the other, with the Soviet Union supporting the Chinese revolution. Today, international imperialism is a monolithic entity lead by the US. International financial capital is helping imperialism take root in the farthest corners of the world. Instead of the international proletariat uniting, it is international capitalists who are uniting. After the failure of the Shining Path in Peru, what direction is the revolution going to take in Nepal? While experimenting with revolution, how can Marxist theory ever be used to justify a million deaths? What are the comrades trying to do: repeat the Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian and Cambodian revolutions where thousands of genuine communists were needlessly killed? The foundations of socialism do not become stronger because they are laid on mounds of corpses. Dr Bhattarai's party uses human shields in its attacks on police posts, isn't this an example of sacrificing the people for the peoples' war? Is this the ethics of armed struggle or the Geneva Convention he often appeals to? Did Mao ever use such tactics? No. Shouldn't our aim be to convince the masses that communists are not cruel and bloodthirsty, but are more humane and creative? Instead of trying to compete with the French Revolution in body count, shouldn't we be trying to find less violent and brutal methods of social transformation? Dr Bhattarai couldn't be more removed from Marxist thought.
By talking about "construction after destruction" the leaders of Nepal's peoples' war are bending Marxism to make it a theory of destruction rather than a creative scientific theory. Nepal's socio-economic conditions are no more dominated by a semi-feudal, semi-colonial production relationship in agriculture, industry and trade as Dr Bhattarai argues. Nepali society is now economically linked by trade and investments with the outside world-and not just with the US and India. Nepali household economies are run to a large extent from remittances provided by a globalised labour force in the Gulf, Japan and south-east Asia. This money already exceeds the government's revenues. These jobs will be jeopardised when employers in the Gulf and elsewhere are spooked by reports of an escalating war and that Nepali workers could be militants.
What the comrades should be thinking is how can we use these global changes to the country's benefit. Mao Zedong's own China is now in the WTO, allowing it to benefit from trade with Europe and the US. The world has changed, comrades, but your minds have not.
Modern Marxists have to reconstruct what Marx wrote for his time. A weakness of Marxist constructions to date, however, have been their insufficient cognition of the dialectical relationship between two parts of the capitalist universe: the metropolis and the Third World. Just look at the how the proletarian revolution has fared in the metropolises, and in the longevity and integrity of revolutions in the Third World.
Let's be clear about this: the kind of society that Dr Bhattarai envisages in Nepal post-revolution does not need a peoples' war. Political pluralism offers space and is a viable alternative: it would guarantee human rights (not just political, but economic and social rights) and a capitalist mode of production. Most Nepalis would vote with the left if it was united. The constitutional path still provides opportunities for peaceful transformation, land reform, addressing social justice and inequity, and even changes in the constitution itself. In fact many of the parliamentary parties are also seeking constitutional reform.
Dr Bhattarai: you don't need violence and killings to achieve your revolution. We have now become a part of the changing means of production in the global economy. Isolation will not develop this nation, it will lead us to destitution. That is why, comrade, I cannot accept a revolution built on the corpses of millions, and if that is your New Democracy then I'm sorry to say it has drifted a long way away from Marxist doctrine.
Hari Roka is an independent left analyst.