Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Naxalbari on Nepal - Sadak, sadan, sarkar – tactics of struggle or compliance?

Text of an article written by com: Ajith in February 2011 for the Nepali revolutionary press, as a contribution to the 2ls.

Sadak, sadan, sarkar – tactics of
struggle or compliance?

When a great revolution marks time the
silence is all the more ominous. The humdrum routines of peacetime often dull
one from sensing it. But, no matter what, swords are being sharpened. Will the
5 years of peace end up liquidating the gains made through 10 years of people's
war or will it provide new resources for the revolution to once again rage on?
Much depends on an accurate assessment of the present situation and tactics
derived from it. This, obviously, is beyond the capacity of a spectator. But
then, the outsider view is not without its benefits too. It allows a
distancing, and its objectivity, denied to those on the stage. This is an
opportunity for a broader view, a critiquing from outside. It also allows one
to take liberties and indulge in wayward thinking. Having thus oiled my hands in
anticipation of a sticky time (literally), let me get into the messy business
of carving up the jackfruit.
Two cardinal principles of the Marxist understanding
on tactics can be summarised as follows: (1) tactics should serve strategy; (2)
they should address the concrete, specific demands of the given situation. As
put by the master tactician Lenin, "Marxism requires of us a strictly exact and objectively
verifiable analysis of the relations of classes and of the concrete features
peculiar to each historical situation."('Letter on Tactics') Between the two the former is most important.
Tactics that violate or deviate from the correct strategic orientation of any
specific stage are of no use; no matter how 'concrete' they may appear to be.
Regarding the second principle, the question of identifying 'demands of the
given situation' also requires the guidance of the correct strategic
orientation. Identifying what exactly they are, defining the 'given situation'
is no straightforward, simple matter. It depends very much on one's outlook.
Moreover, the 'specific demands' of the situation must be grasped dynamically,
focussed on the emerging aspect. In other words the concreteness of tactics
should keep in mind, or address, not just the present but the emergent future
too. This is how one ensures that tactics really serve strategy. Because the
task of tactics is to promote objective and subjective factors that would
assist in the fulfilment of strategic aims (or eliminate/weaken those that
obstruct these aims). With this perspective, let's now get on to an examination
of the 'sadak, sadan, sarkar' (‘street-legislature-government’) tactic advanced by the UCPN (Maoist).
I will term it the 'SLG tactic'.
This tactic was first put forward in
2007. Though a lot has happened since
then, it is still retained as the main tactics by the UCPN (Maoist). Its latest
CC document states: "The party has adopted a clear-cut
policy of mobilizing the people for the mass insurrection to establish people's
federal republic or people's republic through according priority to
struggle from all fronts including the front of peace and constitution and the
front of the government with especial focus on the front of street
struggle on the basis of four preparations and four bases." The context of the SLG tactic, in 2007, was
the complexity of the Interim period leading to the Constituent Assembly. We
need not get into all the details here. Reactionaries, domestic and foreign,
were persistently trying to block the Maoists and subvert the revolution. The
tactic of SLG was supposed to check this in an all-round manner. But could it
really deliver?
First of all, though the idea of tackling the
enemy at all levels looks quite attractive, its actual implication is a rather
one-sided application. This is inevitable. One cannot mobilise the party or the
masses for any meaningful fight in the streets while being in government. It is
simply impossible to put up a real fight from the streets – 1. against one's
own government and 2. against a power structure one is planning to join or
continue in, even if temporarily. All that can be done is some stage-managed
business where both the 'fighters' and the 'defenders' stick to their pre-set
roles; throw in a few broken bones on both sides for 'effect'. In other words,
though positioned at the end, getting into or hanging on in the 'sarkar' is the
real center of this tactic. Sadak is meant to serve this center, a pressure
point. The sadan part is an obvious corollary to sarkar.
One may object that this 'sadan' is
qualitatively different since it is not the usual parliamentary pig-sty but a
Constituent Assembly (CA). That much can certainly be admitted. But this is
precisely where the SLG tactic is shown up at its worst. The alliance between
the parliamentary parties and the Maoists continued in the form of the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim government even after the monarchical
dictatorship was ended. But, objectively, while still under the common banner
of Interim Setup and Constituent Assembly, the interests of the two sides
within the alliance had started diverging sharply. The outstanding feature of
the post-Jan Andolan 2 period is the urge of the broad masses to push ahead
towards a new society, towards revolution. In opposition to this stand the
conspiracies of domestic and foreign reactionaries to prevent revolution at all
costs. So far as they were concerned, the matter of retaining or disposing of
the monarchy was secondary to this. The matter of Constituent Assembly too is
secondary for them. It is useful to them
to the extent it can be used to carry out some reforms in the state structure,
widening its social base and thus making it more capable of ensuring domination
and exploitation. But if counter-revolution so demands, they will not hesitate
to shut it down, democracy be dammed!
So what exactly was the SLG tactic
addressing? Avoiding the concrete specificity of the situation, the contest of
revolution and counter-revolution, it was restricting the revolutionary forces
to a secondary issue, the matter of the Constituent Assembly. Instead of
addressing and promoting the objective split in interests between the revolutionary
and reactionary sections and making this the basis for new polarisation and
mobilisation, it was papering over the split. What was needed was tactics to
translate the division into a formal split from the ruling classes. Instead SLG
offered the illusion of struggle, strictly within the boundaries set by the
outmoded alliance. In essence it was a guideline for manoeuvres in power play,
not struggle. Hence the big mobilisations and mass protests could not but end tamely
in new compromises and deals. Whether conscious or not, a strategic shift from
revolution to reform was underway. The Constituent
Assembly (CA) elections and completion of the constitution-making process
through the CA came to be seen as an unavoidably necessary step, an aim in its
own right.
The shifting of the
tactical issue of CA into a strategic aim is evidently linked quite closely
with an absolutising of the abolition of the monarchy.The
monarchy, as an institution of the state and as a hegemonic ideological
apparatus, was indeed the main lynchpin of feudalism in Nepal, one which has a
centuries old suffocating grip on Nepali society. But once Nepal came under
British imperialist domination and became a semi-colony, it no longer
represented feudalism alone. It became the lynchpin of all reaction. The class
character of the king and court nobles itself changed. They were increasingly
tied up directly with the growing bureaucrat capitalism. Distinguishing between
feudal forces and the comprador-bureaucrat bourgeoisie and targeting the
monarchy in order to tactically utilise the contradiction among these two parts
of the ruling classes was correct. But
viewing and presenting the monarchy solely in relation to feudal forces was
wrong. The monarchy was only a form of the existing Nepali state, a
state which serves all the ruling classes. Lack of clarity on this
promoted the danger of absolutising the struggle to end the monarchy. The form
of a republic with parliamentary democracy resulting from an abolishment of the
monarchy could thus be presented as a means of realising ‘bourgeois democracy’.
It could be offered as a 'realistic' target; for some as a substitute for the
strenuous task of destroying the existing state and completing the NDR, for
others as a transitional, but inevitable, goal.
Given the centuries old existence of the
Nepalese monarchy, its abolishment was no doubt a significant achievement of
the revolutionary process led by the Maoists. It considerably weakened the
institutions of the reactionary state and deepened divisions within the ruling
classes. But the ending of the monarchy did not mean the abolishment of the
state. Moreover, the ending of the monarchy was something that could be utilised
by the enemies also. And that is what they did. They claimed that the tasks set
forth by the 2006 mass movement had been mainly accomplished and that there was
no further justification for the Maoists’ separate agenda. This possibility was
already seen during the 2007 political crisis when the Nepal Congress hastily
declared in favour of a republic.
Nepal needs a new, revolutionary constitution
that will ensure inclusive democracy for the people. But this can never be
realised under the Interim setup. So long as dual power existed within it, de
facto if not de jure, this setup could at best serve as a launchpad for
revolution. As part of an immediate plan for
organising the revolutionary seizure of power, constitution making could have
been a tool for exposing the enemies and mobilising a broad mass movement. In
the absence of such a concrete plan (not vague calls for insurrection) the Constituent
Assembly is a trap that ties down the revolutionary party. That the
UCPN(Maoist) does not have the required majority to push through its
constitutional proposals is well known. But there is an even more basic issue.
The principles of any constitution are only as weighty as the force that can be
employed to ensure their implementation. This much is clear from the basic
teachings of Marxism on the matter of the state, constitutions and government.
In the situation of Nepal, the old state is yet to be destroyed. Dual power no
longer exists. Therefore, no matter how progressive a constitution may be
presented in the Constituent Assembly by the UCPN(Maoist), it will be a dead
letter. One didn't have to wait for the results of the CA elections to come to
this conclusion.
Our examination of tactics thus takes us to
the realm of strategy. Revolution versus reform, this is the strategic issue at
stake. Since reform, in the present world and geo-political context, will inevitably
end up as service to Indian expansionism, this should be posed more precisely
as revolution versus capitulation. It is self-explanatory that these opposing
strategies cannot be served by the same set of tactics. There is a further
problem. Rightism dressed up as realism, or for that matter centrism
masquerading as cool-headed perseverance, invariably insist on sharing verbiage
with revolution. The tactics of revolution must therefore shoulder the
additional task of separating itself, even in words, from them. How is this
being handled by the left in the two line struggle? The left has been crucial
in keeping the prospects of revolution alive. If not for the determined fight
it is putting up, (and the fortuitous dismissal of the Maoist led government!),
things would have been in a very bad shape, revolution-wise. But has it really
broken away from the premises of rightism and centrism?
The left has persistently argued the need for
new tactics. But this is premised on the 'new situation' that emerged after the completion of the CA elections and abolishment of the monarchy. The
separation from those who claim that the Chungwang process is not yet exhausted
is evident. Yet doesn't this argument, with its premises, still remain within
the perceptual frame of those it wants to oppose? It locates the need for new
tactics in the post-monarchy, post-CA election situation. Thus these events are
made the indices of the completion of the Chungwang process. But in doing so
isn't it missing out the fact that the victory of Jan Andolan-2 had already
inaugurated the completion of the Chungwang process by objectively causing a split
in the immediate interests of the two sides in the anti-monarchy alliance? By
taking the ending of monarchy and completion of the CA elections as indices it
too acknowledges that they were essential. As a result, the shifting of
tactical issues such as the CA and abolishment of monarchy into strategic aims,
the role this has played in strengthening the grounds of ‘sub-stage’ views and
promoting the deviation from the revolutionary road is missed.
New tactics had to be formulated, but
premised on the reality that the Chungwang process was exhausted by mid-2007
itself. New tactics were needed; not because the CA elections are over and
monarchy abolished, but because the party had made sufficient headway by 2007
in the tactical aims set by it in 2005, as part of preparing for the final
assault for political power. After all, this was the declared aim of the
Chungwang tactics. If this revolutionary frame of reference is not retaken,
the left will not be able to break out of the frame set by rightism and
This apparently is the context of thecontinued
support given by the left for going back to government and the SLG tactic as
seen in the recent CC document. Inevitably, the distinction between the right
and the left is blurred. The ranks of the party and the masses are left disarmed. Within the left, there is a strong
tendency to see the abandoning of the ‘street’ part of SLG as the main error.
It urges a ‘full’ application of the three pronged tactics. This begs the
question, struggle for what? Rightists take to the streets when out of
government. They need it ... to get back into government and enjoy the crumbs
of power. We in India are quite familiar with such revisionist
‘street-government’ tactics. Can anything different be expected in Nepal? A
series of mass struggles were launched by UCPN (Maoist) in the period following
its dismissal from government. But they have not led to any decisive,
qualitative change. All that energy was finally pooled into pushing the ruling
class parties towards a new compromise (yet to be actualised) that will allow
the UCPN (Maoist) into government.
The argument for
continuing the SLG tactics is bound up with thinking, still influential even within
the left that the CA process must be taken to its logical end. The crucial need today is to
regain the revolutionary road. The SLG tactic will block this. What are needed are
tactics and plan to break out of the existing Interim setup and advance towards
completing the NDR. These tactics must help expose the hard reality that the CA
and Interim setup have become tools in the hands of reactionaries. The masses
must be educated to see how reaction is trying to dissipate and destroy the
revolution by prolonging the CA/Interim process. Today, posing as the true defenders
of the CA is self-defeating. To argue that the CA is fine but the NC-UML
combine, tutored by India, is blocking its functioning is nothing but disarming
the people. The truth must be told to the people that the existing CA has been
made into a mockery, a trap of reaction, that it can never deliver what the
people aspire. Nothing less will do. Insurrections
are not known to drop out of clear blue skies, all primed and set to go. You
need the brooding clouds, some thunder and lightning. Insurrections must be
The Maoists in
Nepal have to advance in a very complex and challenging situation. In fact it
is almost similar to a new initiation. But one that is more complex and
challenging. At the time of the initiation of the people's war the party did
not have to deal with diplomatic or other similar relations. Everything was a
new beginning. But now it must handle a lot many more aspects and pay attention
to properly handling their relations, so that the maximum gain can be retained
while making the new leap. But what is decisive is the leap and gearing up
the party to take it. Because, no matter how good a job is done in handling
such complex relations and tasks, a restructuring of the present support base,
the falling away of a substantial section particularly from among the middle
classes, is inevitable. In fact this partial destruction is a necessary
corollary to the leap. All this crucially hinges on the deepening of the line
struggle and decisive rupture from rightism.
The Maoist
movement in Nepal has a rich history of struggle against rightism. It has a
powerful Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideological tradition. Political power enjoyed
by vast sections of masses for the first time in the country, oppressed
sections and regions of society living a life of dignity, backward Nepal being
transformed into a beacon for the whole world, daring thinking and initial
steps towards building up a self-reliant Nepal - these glorious achievements of
the people's war, realised through the sacrifice of innumerable martyrs, has
added even more might to this heritage. The Nepali Maoists will surely succeed
in drawing on it and regaining the revolutionary road. (February 2011)


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