Brothers in arms?

Print edition : November 06, 2009

Prachanda, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), addressing a protest rally in Kathmandu on September 11, which was attended by thousands of people.-SHRUTI SHRESTHA/REUTERS Prachanda, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), addressing a protest rally in Kathmandu on September 11, which was attended by thousands of people.

THE Nepalese Maoists have fraternal relations with the Indian Maoists. This is an open secret, and neither of these parties ever concealed this fact though both have always denied any tie other than ideological. India also knows this although on some occasions in the past 10-12 years, especially when there was a monarchy in Nepal, intelligence sources claimed the involvement of the Indian Maoists in some of the armed actions inside Nepal. Nonetheless, they could not produce any evidence to substantiate their claim. From the very beginning, the Maoists of Nepal were in a position where they did not need material support from the Indian Maoists. Their closeness was reflected in the formation of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), a loose-knit organisation of South Asian Maoist parties. But this organisation has not made any impact in the current political situation.

Since the formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or the CPI (Maoist), with the merger of Peoples War and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in 2004, there has been a qualitative change in the Maoist movement in India. Immediately after the formation, many armed actions took place in Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and in some other places, where the pattern of attacks were the same as those witnessed in Nepal. Maoist guerillas now stopped attacking police stations or jails in the dead of night with a small band of armed persons. Instead, they came in big groups, shouting slogans in full public view, sometimes with public address systems, and announced their reasons for the action. After capturing arms and ammunitions from police stations, they carried them away, paralysing the administration a lesson they learnt from their counterparts in Nepal.

The unity congress in which the CPI (Maoist) was formed was reportedly prompted by the advice and achievements of the Nepalese Maoists. Some important delegates of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or the CPN(M), attended this congress.

However, there are major differences of opinion between the parties on the question of accomplishing a revolution in semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries such as Nepal and India. The differences were there from the very beginning but came to the surface as the Nepalese Maoists drew closer to capturing power. The Indian Maoists do not agree with the concept of multiparty competition propounded by the Nepalese Maoists. They consider it an ideological deviation and say that as long as the bourgeois parties are in existence, this practice will be suicidal and will eventually result in degeneration.

MEMBERS OF THE CPN(M)'s Mechi-Koshi regional bureau participating in the first public performance by Maoists, at the Biratnagar Shaheed stadium, some 400 km east of Kathmandu, on May 20, 2006.-BHIM GHIMIRE/REUTERS

CPI (Maoist) spokesperson Azad accused Prachanda of bringing a dangerous thesis to the fore the thesis of peaceful coexistence with the ruling class parties instead of overthrowing them through revolution. The party is critical of the overall policies of the Nepalese Maoists, particularly after the beginning of the peace process, and thinks that it could lead to a reversal of the gains made by the people of Nepal in the decade-long peoples war.

The Indian Maoists do not think that any basic change in the social system can be brought about without smashing the present state, no matter how democratic the new Constitution may seem to be. In their view, the goal of a new democratic revolution cannot be achieved by just writing a new Constitution.

Both the parties believe in the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), but surprisingly, on most issues, such as building a new type of state, class dictatorship and proletarian leadership, democracy, integration of armed forces, and a united front, there is a great divide between them.

Prachandas February 2006 interview to The Hindu added fuel to the fire. When he was asked what he would say if he were to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prachanda replied that he would say: If you release our comrades [from jail] and we are successful in establishing multiparty democracy in Nepal, this will be a very big message for the naxalite movement in India. In other words, the ground will be readied for them to think in a new political way. This statement infuriated the Indian Maoists. They were expecting Prachanda to demand that the the expansionist ruling classes stop all interference and meddling in Nepals internal affairs, but he talked of how their tactics would bring about a change in the outlook of the Maoists in India. Later, there were many occasions when, asked to comment on the tactics of the Indian Maoists, he said that it was up to them to decide what path they wanted to adopt. But it was perceived as a damage-management exercise.

This year, on May 20, the politburo of the CPI (Maoist) wrote an open letter to the Nepalese Maoists, which it made public on June 28. What prompted the party to make this letter public was also enunciated in the document: It was only when some of the ideological-political positions stated by your party publicly had deviated from MLM, or when open comments were made by your Chairman Prachanda on various occasions regarding our partys line and practice, or when open polemical debate was called for on international forums, that our party had gone into open ideological-political debates. This document has compared the tactics of the CPN(M) with the arguments put forth by the Khruschovite clique in the Soviet Union and concludes that in the name of fighting against dogmatism or orthodox communism the leadership of CPN(M) had landed into a Right opportunist line.

The trouble with the Indian Maoists is that they often forget that the CPN(M) is spearheading a revolution in Nepal not in India. The strategy and tactics adopted by it are in accordance with its assessment of the concrete situation of Nepal. CPN(M) leaders studied deeply the various revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th century and drew some lessons for Nepal. One cannot ignore their uniqueness in striking a balance and coordination between political and military interventions. Because of their ability to handle strategic firmness and tactical flexibility, they could use peace talks and ceasefire against the enemy in a new way. While doing this, they always placed their revolutionary political line at the centre. In 2005, when they made a 12-point understanding with the bourgeois political parties known as the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) against the monarchy, they were following the road map that was prepared by the historic central committee meeting in Chunwang (Rolpa).

The logical development of that line was the April 2006 mass movement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the formation of Interim Government, and the election of the Constituent Assembly. They had launched the armed struggle to get these demands fulfilled, particularly that for an elected Constituent Assembly. The Indian Maoists had no objection to these demands. In Constituent Assembly elections, the CPN(M) emerged as the single largest party and was entrusted to lead the government. What was wrong with that? Was it proper to expect the CPN(M) not to accept the responsibility of leading the government? The Constituent Assembly result was shocking for India, the United States and many Western countries as well as the feudal and reactionary elements of Nepal, but they had no option but to accept the verdict. India had to welcome Prachanda as Prime Minister.

Interestingly, the open letter, while criticising Prachandas opportunism, could not differentiate between Prime Minister Prachanda and Prachanda as chairman of the Communist Party or Prachanda as Commander-in-Chief of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Can a party that is spearheading the Indian revolution be so unaware of the intricacies of protocol? As a Prime Minister, he met many leaders of different political parties. The document describes these meetings in a very nasty way. During Prachandas official visit to India, it says, he also used the occasion to hobnob with comprador-feudal parties like JD(U) [Janata Dal-United], Nationalist Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD [Rashtriya Janata Dal], LJP [Lok Janshakti Party], etc., besides informal meetings with Sonia Gandhi, Digvijay Singh, and some BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] leaders like L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Murali Manohar Joshi. Perhaps his strategy was to cultivate good relations with the fascist BJP in case it wins the next parliamentary elections.

On the question of integrating the two armies in Nepal and disarming the PLA, the document builds a logic based on misrepresentation of facts. Citing the example of China, the document says that the Communist Party of China had kept intact its PLA and base areas in spite of repeated pressure by the Kuomintang, but Prachanda has disarmed the PLA and abandoned the base areas. Should we think that the politburo of the CPI (Maoist) has no knowledge of how Prachanda thwarted the conspiracy of international players to bring the PLA under the much-tested DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) scheme of the United Nations? He insisted that the DDR formula applies to defeated armies, which is not true in the case of the PLA. The party did not even agree to hand over to the U.N. the keys of the containers in which the guns of the PLA were kept in cantonments.

As for abandoning base areas, Prachanda recently said in an interview, published in the October issue of a Hindi journal: Our base areas are intact and the people in those areas are firm. The organisation in those areas is also strong. I in fact believe that we have succeeded in expanding our base areas. But the Indian Maoists hastily drew the conclusion that the CPN(M) deviated from the principle of proletarian internationalism and adopted a policy of appeasement towards imperialism, particularly American imperialism, and Indian expansionism.

No doubt, Nepal is passing through a transitional period and the party is confronting a situation that was never before witnessed by any revolution. The Nepalese Maoists refused to apply Marxism in a mechanical and dogmatic way and earned the wrath of their Indian friends.

Anand Swaroop Verma is a freelance journalist.

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