Maoist Debate in Nepal – Part 1

The Maoist revolution in Nepal is perhaps the most “developed”, in a sense, of the number of Maoist revolutions currently underway on the planet. Unlike the various movements in India, the Philippines and elsewhere the period of armed conflict has come to an end, we hope. In 2005-6 when I first went to Nepal, having for some time been interested and writing about the revolution there, the Nepal Maoists finally succeeded in forming a coalition with several of the parliamentarian factions. The Royal forces, now the nationalist army, as well as the armed Maoists have stayed in cantonment, the Nepal monarchy has been dismantled and a new Nepal Federation has been established with the Maoists in majority control of the new government. A key issue remains regarding the integration of the army with the Maoists insurgents. The question in my mind then in 2005, as now, is if and whether the radical socialist policies envisioned at the onset of armed conflict can and will be implemented. On the one hand are those who fear the Maoists are merely engaging in a strategic process aimed at ending parliamentarian government and creating a communist party state; while on the other hand, even in the ranks of the Maoists, is the fear of a reactionary or reformist “Maoist” controlled country that leaves Nepal subjected to an elite class within the coordinates of global capitalist power structures.

My interest here is to give a snapshot of the current events in Nepal in the context of theoretical questions, specifically with reference to the ideas of Alain Badiou on Mao’s fidelity to the communist hypothesis. I was set in motion on this blog entry upon reading the Maoist Prime Minister and leader of the armed revolution Prachanda’s latest comments about his party’s commitment to multi-party political system. He says that the ‘People’s Republic’ that the Maoist leaders are talking about is not similar to the system introduced by Chinese leader Mao in China 70 years ago – he has consistently stated that Maoism in Nepal is a novel development in communist theory. Also, the Maoists leading intellectual and co-leader of the revolution, Baburam Bhattarai, now the Finance Minister, just published his budget proposal with his theoretical commentary. I will be going into these articles and providing links later. I will also be analyzing some commentary and opposition to the Prachanda/Bhattarai line by other prominent Nepalese Maoists. Seeing this contradiction among theoretical lines, one may be concerned (or elated, if not a communist) about the latest developments of communism in Nepal. I am looking at it with reference to the thought of Alain Badiou. As often happens, when one is thinking about a particular issue and spending a lot of time reading on the net what you have found before and what others are finding, something presents itself. One of the Facebook Marxists posted a translation from Badiou which I found right to the mark:

An Essential Philosophical Thesis: "It Is Right to Rebel against the Reactionaries"

The first set of key concepts (I am providing excerpts from the article) proposed by Badiou concern the interpenetration of Marxist theory and practice, which I think go to the heart of the matter in the current debate within the school of Nepal’s Maoists:

“.. This phrase [Mao: ‘It is Right to Rebel against the Reactionaries’], which appears so simple, is at the same time rather mysterious: how is it conceivable that Marx’s enormous theoretical enterprise, with its ceaselessly and scrupulously reworked and recast analyses, can be concentrated in a single maxim.. And what is this maxim? Are we dealing with an observation, summarizing the Marxist analysis of objective contradictions, the ineluctable confrontation of revolution and counterrevolution? Is it a directive oriented toward the subjective mobilization of revolutionary forces? Is Marxist truth the following: one rebels, one is right? Or is it rather: one must rebel? The two, perhaps, and even more the spiraling movement from the one to the other, real rebellion (objective force) being enriched and returning on itself in the consciousness of its rightness or reason (subjective force).. every Marxist statement is—in a single, dividing movement—observation and directive. As a concentrate of real practice, it equals its movement in order to return to it. Since all that is draws its being only from its becoming, equally, theory as knowledge of what is has being only by moving toward that of which it is the theory.. Mao Zedong’s sentence clearly situates rebellion as the originary place of correct ideas, and reactionaries as those whose destruction is legitimated by theory. Mao’s sentence situates Marxist truth within the unity of theory and practice.."

Later, if you read the full articles I will briefly examine from the Maoist factions in Nepal, I think you will see that what is essentially at stake is the question of whether the line of “Prachanda Path” as it has come to be known is indeed an “objective force” interpenetrated with a novel theoretical development, a “subjective force” – or is the current course of action by the new government, as alleged by its internal critics, a revisionist or reformist infidelity to Maoist thought. Let’s continue with Badiou on the Marxist theory of knowledge in its historical development:

“.. There is hardly a truer and more profound statement in Hegel than the following: ‘The absolute Idea has turned out to be the identity of the theoretical Idea and the practical Idea. Each of these by itself is still one-sided’ It is the uninterrupted and divided process of being and the act. Lenin salutes this enthusiastically: ‘The unity of the theoretical idea (of knowledge) and of practice.. and this unity precisely in the theory of knowledge, for the resulting sum is the "absolute idea’ .. knowledge, as theory, is (dialectically) opposed to practice.. the inner nature of the process of knowledge is constituted by the theory/practice contradiction.. Consider Mao, ‘Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process . . . leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge’ ..To stabilize our vocabulary, and remain within the tradition, we will call ‘theory’ the term in the theory/practice contradiction whose overall movement will be the process of ‘knowledge’.."

Again, I am trying to apply Badiou’s thesis "It Is Right to Rebel against the Reactionaries" in examining what the theoretical debate in Nepal means. It must at least mean a process of determining whether or not the path of Prachanda is a revisionist or reformist deviation. Likewise it is a question of whether or not the critics of what they call the Prachanda-Bhattarai clique have the right to rebel. The situation suggested by the current internal Marxist debate in Nepal, if my analysis is to be accepted, is that those who are rebellious have already jumped to the conclusion that they have the right to rebel. I am asking, wouldn’t it be better to continue vigilance at this point about whether the path being proposed by Prachanda and Bhattarai is merely a quantitative accumulation based on the collaboration with existing parliamentary power or whether it engenders a qualitative leap in its application of Marxist theory. To understand what this suggestion means I conclude on Badiou:

“On this basis [Badiou’s definition of “theory” as the movement of theory/practice contradiction as a process of knowledge] we may expose the reactionary illusion entertained by those who imagine they can circumvent the strategic thesis of the primacy of practice. It is clear that whoever is not within the real revolutionary movement, whoever is not practically internal to the rebellion against the reactionaries, knows nothing, even if he theorizes.. Mao Zedong did indeed affirm that in the theory/practice contradiction—that is, in a phase of the real process—theory could temporarily play the main role: ‘The creation and advocacy of revolutionary theory plays the principal and decisive role in those times of which Lenin said, ‘Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement’ ‘ . Does this mean that, at that moment, theory amounts to an intrinsic revolutionary possibility, that pure "Marxist theoreticians" can and must emerge? Absolutely not. It means that, in the theory/practice contradiction that constitutes the process of knowledge, theory is the principal aspect of the contradiction; that the systematization of practical revolutionary experiences is what allows one to advance; that it is useless to continue quantitatively to accumulate these experiences, to repeat them, because what is on the agenda is the qualitative leap, the rational synthesis immediately followed by its application, that is, its verification..“

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