India, Nepal, and Left Praxis

In an earlier piece in the same space  (“India and Nepal”,  Znet, june 10) suggestions were made with respect to the implications of the Nepalese revolutionary upsurge for the idea of the theocratic State.

That upsurge also has an important bearing upon  the practice of Left politics in India.  It would be intellectually remiss of India’s  Maoists to simply ignore the enormous significance of the choice that their counterparts in Nepal have made. Just as it would also be somewhat snooty of the two main communist parties of India not to press the implications of the Nepal happening to strive for broader Left unity.

First:  it must be a question in many minds, although no enunciation of this is yet in evidence, as to why the Maoists in Nepal did not choose to push the revolution to its logical conclusion.  The relevance of the question seems obvious enough, given that the Prachanda-led revolutionaries are deemed to be already in physical control of more than  half of the territory of Nepal.  It might then have been a strong impulse to bypass any collaboration with bourgeois democratic forces, represented by the Parliamentary parties, whose clout among the masses has over the years been rather severely depleted both by their own internecine squabbles and their ambiguous stance on the feudal, theocratic monarchy.

Three primary considerations—one pertaining to objective, domestic conditions, and the other two to qualitative changes in international realities—may have weighed with the Maoist leadership in Nepal.

Considering Nepal’s current stage of social development, an astute leadership with its ear to the ground may have concluded that carrying the armed struggle rapidly forward in the face of a continued dominance of feudal cultural forms and of a long-standing superstructure of religious conditioning could have jeopardized the end result for lack of requisite ideological preparation among all sections of the Nepalese polity.  That  only a miniscule of labour power in that country could be characterized as   proletarian could also not but have been a factor. 

Let us recall what Lenin wrote on such matters in 1920:
  â€œWith regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind:
  first, that all communist parties must assist the bourgeois democratic liberation movement in those countries. . .
  second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;
  third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement. . .with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc;” (1)

Obviously, this needs gloss and caveat.  In the Nepalese context, the ‘liberation’ that Lenin speaks of did not originate from the bourgeois democratic parties but from the Maoists, although, for that reason, it would have been dangerously short-sighted of the Maoists to have disregarded the bourgeois-landlord parties altogether at the present stage of the struggle. Secondly, the upsurge was not   against western imperialism directly but first through its lackey, the monarchy. That said, Lenin’s  description of backwardness would seem to fit the Nepalese social situation quite handsomely still.  Secondly, in the case of Nepal, the ‘khans’ and the ‘mullahs’ would need to be substituted by the ‘purohit’(priesthood) and the ‘matts’ (Hindu religious institutions).

 On a wider scale, the Maoists would have made the evaluation that the international zeitgeist at the present historical moment diverges momentously from that which obtained either in the thirtees or forties or fifties of the last century when the revolutions were made in China and Cuba.  It might thus have been a pretty bad idea to provoke bedlam in an already  berserk American imperialism—and their obliging compradors next door—which nowadays seeks the least irrational reason to see red and drop the cluster bombs.

Most importantly, and this cannot be emphasized enough, the Nepalese Maoists seem to have grasped the far-reaching dividends of another kind of praxis now being increasingly adopted by Left forces worldwide.  Assured of wide-ranging mass support, thanks to the unprecedented oppression wrought by ‘globalisation,’ they seem to have recognized that the most effective way at the present juncture to counter and neutralize imperialist designs is to acquire overground legitimacy through the ballot box.  Clearly, American imperialism is most frustrated today by the fact that regime after regime in Latin America has successfully obtained such legitimacy, not to forget the Hamas in Palestine. Peoples’ Democratic Revolutions (what Chavez calls the ‘Bolivarian’ phenomenon) clearly thus represent a powerful Left response to a  zeitgeist wherein the coordinates of the ‘cold war’ stand off is no longer available to hold off American imperialism.  The latter is therefore best checkmated  upon its own much-trumpeted terms, namely, ‘democracy,’ even as its own democratic credentials everyday suffer terminal degradation at home.

The Nepalese Maoists have thus, for now at least, paid a compliment to India’s Communist Parties and taken the electoral/parliamentary route.  In consonance with Lenin’s stipulations, there is a recognition here that where social organization teeters on the feudal or the communal-fascist, communists have the all-important task of protecting the more progressive aspects of bourgeois development, while striving to forge mass awareness and mass movements that can promise further advances by bringing greater and more diverse numbers into the Peoples’ Democratic Revolution.  It is in this sense that the seventh continuous victory of the Left coalition in West Bengal carries a symbolic import that may otherwise fall   short of concrete socialistic transformations on the ground.

India’s Maoists, engaged in armed resistance to the State, then, must answer some hard questions to themselves.  There can be no gainsaying that their battles on behalf of the landless and the dispossessed tribal populations have been heroic.  In many areas where they exercise near-total hegemony, they have, apart from the forcible appropriation of land, affected exemplary social reconstruction.  They have established schools where none existed, and set up irrigation systems that the State has failed to provide six decades after national independence.

The larger question, however, remains.  Given a world-wide endorsement of the legitimacy of State violence and the paucity of regimes willing any longer to aid armed revolutions in other countries on the one hand, and, on the other, the deepening of democratic consciousness among India’s working people  and oppressed masses, coupled with their willingness to agitate, is it not perhaps time to join those others in many parts of the world who are opting for the Peoples  Democratic Revolutionary path?  At a time when the Left coalition wields some clout over governance in India, such a bold rethink would seem feasible for obvious reasons.

Were such an eventuality to come about, the task of all Left forces would be to understand what assets they bring to the Left collective—an exercise which would need to proceed without self-regard or any perceived loss of self-esteem. Clearly, large parts of the country, beyond West Bengal and Kerala, could become theatres of people’s participation towards the forging of a truly democratic politics.  A United Communist Party of India could genuinely aspire to transform the character of the Indian parliament, from whence much else could follow.  Let me conclude with some further wise words from Lenin:

  â€œComplete victory over capitalism cannot be won unless the
  proletariat, and following it, the mass of working people. . .
  voluntarily strive for alliance and unity”. (2)

After all, the last thing that India’s immiserated masses deserve is a communist movement fragmented in half a dozen different formations along diverse practices.

(1) â€œPreliminary Draft Theses on the National and the Colonial Questions” for the second Congress of the Comintern, published in Communist International, No.11, July 14, 1920)

     (2)  Ibid.,


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