Internal Debate within the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

This past winter we heard reports of a heated dispute within the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the guiding party of the revolutionary struggle in Nepal. The old regime in Nepal, a brutal military dictatorship under King Gyanendra Shah, on February 1st, 2005, carried out a coup against the remnants of legality within that part of the country it still controlled—the central valley of Nepal (containing the capital Kathmandu), and the area immediately surrounding the army’s fortified bases elsewhere, primarily in district towns. The rest of the country has been liberated, and is self-governing under revolutionary leadership, with the CPN(M) playing the leading role. But Nepal’s limited communication links with the rest of the world are concentrated in Kathmandu, and the royal military government was able to sever all links not under its control at the time of the February 1st coup. Under these circumstances it was not possible to determine the trustworthiness of the various reports of the dispute with the CPN(M) leadership.

Only recently, when Dr. Baburam Bhattarai was sent by the CPN(M) to India tasked with explaining the party’s position, was it possible to verify that the documents obtained by Monthly Review in fact represented the disputed positions, and that it was the wish of the CPN(M) that the documents be made public. We now set out the documents, but do not attempt to provide the commentary that is in all likelihood necessary to make them intelligible to most readers. This we regret, and offer as our excuse that we are unable to check with the authors of the documents as to any points as to which we are uncertain. Given our great respect for the exemplary revolutionary practice of the CPN(M) to date, we refuse to assume that, from this distance and without the necessary contact to make what is unclear clear, we know enough to give an absolutely accurate commentary and shall not settle for less. Suffice it to say that the issues of freedom of criticism and inner-party democracy raised by this debate are of the very highest importance.

The Baburam Bhattarai interview excerpts below therefore provide as adequate an introduction to the documents as we are able here to set out. The interview was conducted by the Indian weekly Tehelka and published in their issue of July 9, 2005.

Q: The Maoists say the movement has entered the last stage of strategic offensive. How true is it?

A: Even foreign observers have acknowledged that revolutionaries control the entire countryside and the State authority is confined to the capital city and district headquarters. Some internal problems of ideological, political orientation have occurred in recent times. If we can handle these questions correctly, nobody can stop the victory of revolution in Nepal.

Q: Is Prachanda Path a result of a collective thinking? If it is, why is the ideology named Prachanda Path?

A: According to Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (MLM) theory, all ideas are cumulative and interactive reflections of the material world, which include collective human activities, in the human consciousness. Hence nobody should have any doubt that Prachanda Path is a result of the collective thinking of the vanguard of the Nepalese working class.

Q: Prachanda Path is bandied about as an improvement on MLM ideology and suited to geo-specificities of Nepal. Why is it any different from that ideology?

A: Like any other science or thought, the science of proletarian revolution, namely MLM is also in constant motion and development. Hence Prachanda Path is a concrete expression of application and development of MLM in the Nepalese context. It would, therefore, be wrong to consider Prachanda Path as being different from MLM. Our party’s view is that MLM needs to be correctly defended, applied, and developed in keeping with the concrete conditions of the 21st century, and we should fight against both dogmatism and pragmatism in this process. One of the major issues in the current debate within the party is the question of grasping Prachanda Path. Is it a concrete expression of MLM in Nepal’s context or has it attained a universal character? My own view is that the development of Prachanda Path has not yet attained a universal character and it would be wrong to call it Prachanda Path.

Q: Before the takeover, political parties didn’t come to an understanding with the Maoists on a common minimum programme because they were not willing to go for a constituent assembly. Now that they have started to push for a constituent assembly, what are your demands?

A: If you see the latest political development in Nepal, particularly the appeal of the seven parliamentary parties to the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) issued on June 18 and the positive reply of the CPN(M) to it on June 19, there are strong chances that a common front will be forged soon to fight the autocratic monarchy on the basis of a common minimum programme. The CPN(M) is prepared to cooperate with the parliamentary parties to fight autocratic monarchy. For this, our party has declared complete cessation of all forms of violence against unarmed persons and leaders and members of other political parties, even if there are criminal charges against them.

Q: One of your differences with the party supremo (Prachanda) is on issues of centralisation…

A: As regards the debate on the question of centralisation, the debate is not whether there should be centralisation or not. The debate is on the nature and method of centralisation. The MLM position on the issue is that whereas there is autocratic centralisation in slavery and feudalism, and bureaucratic centralisation in capitalism, there is, or should be, democratic centralisation in socialism. After the bitter experiences of bureaucratic distortions in the practice of democratic centralism particularly during the later phase of Stalin, Mao reasserted the Leninist concept of democratic centralism as “centralisation on the basis of democracy and democracy under the guidance of centralism”. He also reformulated the concept of proletarian centralisation as “a centralisation of correct ideas, on the basis of which unity of understanding, policy, planning, command and action are achieved.”

Lenin, moreover, called the proletarian centralism as ‘voluntary centralism’, and not the forced or manipulated centralism of the feudals or the bourgeoisie. Drawing from the positive and negative experiences of the proletarian revolutions of the 20th century, the CPN(M) put forward a resolution for ‘development of democracy in the 21st century’ in May 2003. In this resolution it was categorically stated that, among others, the leadership of the party, army and State should not be centralised in one person as happened in most of the socialist countries in the past. Contrary to this historic resolution, when the Central Committee of the party in August 2004 sought to centralise the leadership of the party, army and state in a single individual, it was bound to raise a serious debate in the party.

A tendency that sees feudalism as more progressive than capitalism is found in the communist movement. It needs to be fought. The contradiction of the Nepalese people with the monarchy is sharper than with the Indian ruling classes. Any confusion on this will cause harm to the revolution.

Q: The party stripped you of your responsibilities allegedly for making public your differences. Now the party has declared it will make public all the debates within the party. Do you see it as a victory?

A: It is not true that action was taken against me for making public my differences with Comrade Prachanda. As will be known from the documents of both sides, which have now been made public, it is basically a case of a serious ideological, political dispute wrongly sought to be settled through administrative or organisational means by the politburo. It is ironic that all these years we attempted to learn from the mistakes of Stalin, particularly on the question of handling inner-party contradictions, and now the party has repeated the same mistakes and I have become its victim. My point of view is presented in the 13-point letter and the ‘note of dissent’, the essence of which is learning from the mistakes of Stalin and going beyond Mao particularly on the question of building a new type of party, army and State. I am happy that we are now attempting to go back to the days of Lenin and practising his well-known formulation of “freedom of criticism and unity in action”.

Q: You think the feudal monarchy poses greater threat to the Maoists than a capitalist democracy, India, but the party thinks just the opposite. How come the party sent you to India to talk with Indian leaders?

A: The debate about feudalism and capitalism does not necessarily concern monarchy and India alone. First, we have to differentiate the role of feudalism and capitalism in proletarian revolution in broader terms, and second, we have to see the contradiction of the Nepalese people with monarchy and Indian ruling classes in concrete terms. If we mix up the two aspects there will be utter confusion and a big deviation in the revolutionary movement. Though capitalism is more progressive than feudalism, the existence of bureaucratic capitalism, which is a hybrid if feudalism and imperialism, makes the matter more complicated and things cannot be taken at their face value. Even then a tendency that sees feudalism as more progressive than capitalism is consistently found in the communist movement since the days of Marx and needs to be fought against vigorously. In tactical terms contradiction of the Nepalese people with the monarchy is sharper now than with the Indian ruling classes and any confusion or vacillation on this question will cause great harm to the revolution. There is no need to read more than this in our current tactical line vis-a-vis the monarchy and the Indian ruling classes.

Q: Some experts link your India visit to CPN(M)’s desire to have India mediate…

A: Being a Marxist, we view India in class terms and not as a monolith. Hence when we talk of India, we do not see only the Indian State and the ruling classes but also, and more so, the revolutionary and progressive Indian people and different democratic and progressive political parties. Our India visit should be seen in this light. We are not asking for anybody’s mediation but the goodwill of all for the ongoing democratic struggle in the country.

Q: Can Nepal’s conflict resolve without third-party mediation?

A: We prefer that the conflict be resolved without any external mediation. However, we understand that a stable solution will require the goodwill of all major international players, particularly our immediate neighbours India and China.

Q: Are peace talks with the king possible at this moment?

A: After repeated betrayals by the king of the country and the people and our own bitter experiences of two rounds of talks earlier, we see no necessity and possibility of any peace talks with the king. The need of the hour is total abolition of the feudal autocratic monarchy and proclamation of a democratic republic in the country.

The most recent document is the Communiqué of May 27th, in which CPN(M) Central Committee Chairman Prachanda states the decision to make the internal debate public. It is followed by the document “On Comrade Laldhoj (Baburam Bhattarai)’s Letter And Other Activities” from early January 2005. “Note of Dissent Presented by Com. Laldhwaj” of January 30, 2005 and the 13 Points (“Basic Questions for Inner-Party Discussions”) of November 30, 2004 follow. As far as we can tell, the last two of these documents have not previously appeared on the internet.