Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nepal under the Maoists

The election victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has created an acid test for socialists who claim to represent the interests of workers and the oppressed. There are many who welcome the victory as a progressive step forward to socialism. Some support the CPN (M) position that a period of capitalist development is necessary before a socialist revolution is possible in Nepal. Revolutionaries around the world have rejected this policy as the revival of the classic Stalinist theory of stages. They say that history proves that unless the workers and peasants reject a bloc with the national bourgeoisie and socialize the economy under a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, then the national democratic revolution will be driven back by counter-revolution. This is the situation that faces us in Nepal today.

Historic betrayal in the making

In Nepal, the CPN (M) which led an armed struggle for over a decade recently stood for parliamentary elections in April this year. The outcome of the elections saw the CPN (M) win 220 seats in a 601 seat Constituent Assembly. The CPN (M) leadership has stated that its objective is to make use of parliament to develop the backward capitalist economy of Nepal in collaboration with the national bourgeoisie and imperialism.

Maoists around the world hail the election results in Nepal and endorse the CPN (M) two-stage theory. The country has to develop modern capitalism before it can create the conditions for socialism.

Trotskyists have rejected this two-state theory as a Menshevik policy of class collaboration with an almost non-existent national bourgeoisie to boost the strength of that class in relation to imperialism. Yet in the epoch of imperialism the national bourgeoisies in former colonies and semi-colonies cannot be more than small junior partners of imperialism.

We agree. Given a Maoist mass movement that has overwhelming popularity and its own People’s Liberation Army, it is a crime not to nationalise the land and socialise all capitalist industry such as it is. Not only a crime against the people of Nepal but of India and all Asia, and Latin America, where workers and poor peasants will look to each and every socialist revolution as inspiration to drive them on to their own, and ultimately, world socialist revolution.

The only explanation for this betrayal can be that the Maoist leadership wants to position itself to become part of the Nepalese bourgeoisie, and do deals with the various capitalist and imperialist powers that may have an interest in exploiting the workers and peasants of Nepal. Thus the CPN (M) will become the new state bourgeoisie in alliance with the existing national bourgeoisie and the landlords. Removing the King is merely a smokescreen to hide the fact that the ruling class property will be left intact.

It is therefore necessary to condemn the Stalinist two-stage policy of the CPN (M) and call on the masses to break with this treacherous leadership. Only the overthrow of the national bourgeoisie and creation of a workers and peasants government can create the conditions for social development.

The Bolshevik Revolution proved that anything short of a socialist revolution would fail to complete the bourgeois revolution. Every other revolution since has confirmed this fundamental Marxist truth, either in victory like the Cuban revolution, or in defeat, like every other revolution.

History lessons

In Russia the Bolsheviks proved that the weak bourgeoisie sided with the counter-revolution of General Kornilov in the attempt to smash the soviets. Without the independence of the Soviets from the Bourgeois state the revolution would have failed.

In Germany in the following year, soldiers and sailors mutinied and formed armed councils throughout Germany. In a panic the ruling class forced the Kaiser to abdicate to allow a republic to be formed. After the assassination of their main leaders, Liebknecht and Luxemburg, the revolutionary Spartacists were too weak to take the leadership. The workers councils were bought off by the treacherous Social Democratic Party of the Second International with the promise of a bourgeois republic. The failure of the German revolution isolated and USSR and sealed its fate at the hands of the counter-revolution of the Stalinist bureaucracy in league with world capitalism.

In China after 1925, the Stalinist 3rd International, despite the warnings of the Left Opposition, imposed the “bloc of four classes” i.e. a popular front, based on the Menshevik theory of stages that all four classes should collaborate in the national democratic stage of the revolution. In this popular front the CCP was politically subordinated to the KMT of Chiang Kai-shek. The terrible result was the physical extermination of the working class leadership of the CCP by the Nationalists in 1927. Under the Stalinist/Maoist policy of class collaboration, the disorientated party then fought a national revolution based on a peasant army leading to the revolution of 1949. Mao invited the bourgeoisie to join his national revolution. They refused and the CCP had no option but to form a bureaucratic workers’ and peasants’ regime to develop the national economy. Far from being a socialist revolution in which the workers’ and peasants’ soviets ruled, the bureaucracy took power, failing to develop the economy successfully. Since the 1980s the bureaucracy has transformed itself into a new bourgeoisie by going down the capitalist road of ‘market socialism’.

In Spain in the 1930s, the extremely weak bourgeoisie was propped up by the Stalinists in the popular front government of the Republic. So weak was the bourgeoisie, the CP actually filled its shoes as the “shadow of the bourgeoisie”, to use Trotsky’s phrase. The failure of the anarchists and left communists to break out of this popular front again saw the revolution fall to bloody defeat. This betrayal was part of the Stalinist politics of the popular front of the 1930s that tied the hands of the workers of Europe behind their backs, preventing the independent revolutionary uprising of the proletariat as the only force that could smash fascism in its infancy.

In Algeria 1962, Chile 1973, Nicaragua 1979, and South Africa 1994, to cite some critical cases, national revolutionary struggles were sold out in the same way. The nationalists, Stalinists and Castroists, all played a role in blocking the formation of independent workers’ and poor peasants’ parties and militias capable of defeating not only imperialism, but also the treacherous national bourgeoisie.

In every case the national bourgeoisie, even as a tiny force, remained in control of the ‘patriotic front’ of all classes, and sooner or later disarmed and defeated the popular masses. In Algeria factions of the national bourgeoisie fell out over franchise to control the national economy on behalf of French imperialism. In Chile, social democracy, backed by Castro and the fake Trotskyists, refused to arm the workers against the military coup. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas formed a political alliance with sections of the national bourgeoisie and stopped the independent mobilization of the workers and peasants’ militias to fight the US-sponsored counter-military ‘Contras’.

Most recently, in South Africa, the ANC, controlled by the SACP, entered into an electoral alliance with the white bourgeois National Party. The result was the betrayal of the masses to a popular front that was inevitably dominated by the national capitalists in close collaboration with the imperialists.

A Republic under the Maoists

Unless the masses wake up to their betrayal by the CPN (M) leadership and fight to take over the leadership of the revolution, in the coming months and years the CPN (M) leadership will write a new bourgeois constitution, do deals with imperialist monopolies, and constitute itself a new state bourgeoisie. The only question left is which road to ‘market socialism’ will it take; the Chinese road, the Venezuelan road, the Cuban road, or the road of Indian or Malaysian ‘social democracy’?

The Nepalese revolution takes place at a time when the global capitalist economy is heading for a period of instability. The US depression is having flow-on effects into the colonial and semi-colonial world. Food and fuel prices are rocketing up due to increased demand and reduced supply as arable land is switched to production of biofuel. On top of these factors, increasing financial speculation in food and fuel commodity prices is driving up prices. It is clear then that the Maoist leadership’s road to capitalist development will have to make major concessions to imperialism.

In this global situation it appears to Maoists that one isolated and backward country cannot have a successful socialist revolution now. There is no developed industry, no majority working class, and so no possibility of the pre-conditions for socialism being present. This was also the situation in Russia in 1917, but as we will explain, Russia’s backwardness made a socialist revolution not only possible, but necessary. However, the building of socialism in Russia could only have been successful if a European revolution followed and united its industrial base to the Russian granary. The Russian revolution was driven back towards capitalism by the failure of the German Revolution in 1921. To defend ‘socialism in one country’ Stalin tried to convince the imperialist bourgeoisies to collaborate with the Red Army in Eastern Europe after World War 2. But imperialism chose deliberately to isolate and destroy the USSR in the Cold War from 1948.

The revolutions in China 1949, Vietnam 1954 and Cuba 1959, were all national revolutions that went further than their petty bourgeois or Stalinist leaders expected, because the imperialists and national bourgeois refused to collaborate with the new regimes in popular front governments. Today these regimes have been opened up to imperialism and in China and Vietnam capitalism has been restored, while in Cuba capitalist restoration is rapidly approaching completion.

So the Chinese road or the Cuban road would only be an option for Nepal if global capitalism rejected any compromise with the new regime. This might happen if the masses overthrew the CPN (M) leadership and nationalized the land, industry and banks, forming a Workers and Farmers Government and making a socialist plan.

But under the Maoists today, this is highly unlikely since imperialism is just as keen to exploit Nepal as an ‘emerging market’ as it is currently doing in China and Cuba, or has done in the past with South Africa and the ‘Asian Tigers’. Imperialism is willing to extract super-profits from self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ regimes because it knows that it can exploit the workers in ‘joint ventures’ in collaboration with these regimes.

What will the workers get out of such collaboration? Under Maoist rule, Nepal can’t follow the Venezuelan road unless it finds oil, gas or other mineral wealth that it can use as leverage to drive hard bargains with the imperialist monopolies.

This means Nepal will probably go down the road taken by other Maoist dominated regimes in India that are today closely collaborating with the neo-liberal policies of imperialism.

Inevitably, the National Democratic stage envisioned by Prachanda and will be a form of market socialism in which the market will be dominated by imperialism and the workers and poor peasants subjected to super-exploitation and oppression.

Permanent Revolution

The Menshevik theory of stages is an historical schema, an ideal model, a caricature of Marxism. Marxism claims that socialism cannot arrive before capitalism has exhausted all of its potential to develop the forces of production. However how do we know when this situation has been reached? The Mensheviks filled in the blanks with a checklist that said the working class must be the majority class which meant that capitalist agriculture and heavy industry must have developed.

When the Bolsheviks led a victorious revolution in Russia, lots of Western Marxists complained that the revolution was premature and could not succeed because it hadn’t checked off the list. Lenin disagreed, let’s make a distinction between the revolution itself, and the building of socialism that follows, he said. A revolution happens when capitalism in crisis creates a situation where the working class refuses to be ruled, and the ruling class cannot rule. Again, how do we know? Lenin’s answer, try it and see. In a backward country the national revolution is overdue, so try it.

When the February revolution succeeded in Russia, Lenin (and Trotsky before him) understood that the workers and poor peasants had substituted for the weak bourgeoisie and got rid of the Tsarists and imperialism. Having done this why would they submit to tiny bourgeoisie which was collaborating with the Tsarists to drive back the national revolution just because some Menshevik academics said this was a ‘Marxist law of history’? Why not take power in the name of the proletariat and create a launching pad for socialist revolutions in the more advanced capitalist countries? There was no law of Marxism that said…stop!

This breakthrough proved that in a backward country in the epoch of imperialism the national bourgeoisies were in bed with the imperialists so that only the workers and poor peasants could complete the bourgeois revolution in the form of a socialist revolution. Lenin called this the ‘uninterrupted’ revolution and Trotsky called it the ‘permanent’ revolution.

However, turning the national revolution into a socialist revolution was one thing, building socialism was another. The Bolsheviks always said that the revolution in Russia could not proceed to socialism without a revolution in Europe. Their best hope was the German revolution as discussed above. Even then the Mensheviks said, hang on, Germany has not exhausted the potential of capitalism. Let’s get rid of the emperor and have a republic. That will create the conditions for the further development of the forces of production and the pre-conditions for socialism.

But Lenin in ‘Imperialism’ had already explained that the epoch of imperialism was the last stage of capitalism in decline. The forces of production could not be developed further without massive crises, wars, colonial super-exploitation and oppression. How long must workers in the imperialist countries wait; how long must the oppressed colonial peoples wait? Until the Menshevik professors said capitalism’s time was up? NO! Revolt, try it, do it, you have nothing to loose. Even if the revolution fails and you die standing up, this inspires the next revolution!

Permanent Revolution in Nepal

The failure of the German revolution prevented the Russian revolution from building a socialist society. But the Bolshevik revolution, even as a degenerated Stalinist dictatorship, survived as workers’ property. It would take a political revolution to remove the bureaucracy to open the road to socialism, and that would not come without socialist revolution in the more advanced capitalist countries.

This still holds true today. In the epoch of imperialism, socialist revolution in any backward country, including Nepal, will start as a workers revolution, but to succeed and go on to socialism it must be supported by successful socialist revolutions in the imperialist countries.

What this means is that the Nepalese people do not have to tick off some Menshevik checklist of hoops they have to jump through to complete capitalist development in their own country to prepare for socialism.

Instead they must take the power, socialize the economy and spark the revolution in surrounding countries and in the imperialist powers.

The Nepalese Maoists look to capitalist China and capitalist India for capitalist investment to complete the transition to capitalism and prepare the way for socialism… sometime... never!

No! The Nepalese masses must look to China to win the support of the Chinese working class and the poor peasants to fight to overthrow capitalism now and provide the material aid to allow the socialist republic of Nepal to survive and prosper!

From Class Struggle 78 May-June 2008

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