Nepali Times Asian Paints
Guest Column
Maoism ina post-Mao world


Prachanda Path is the newest theory in creative Marxism." So said Maoist ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai, in his book Prachanda Path ka Adhar Haru (The Fundamentals of the Prachanda Path). Since that treatise came out last year, a lot has happened. It is interesting to try and find a correlation between the assassinations, attacks on elected village bodies, destruction of infrastructure, the latest posturing for dialogue, and Baburam's words.

For revolutionaries, there is an ideological explanation for every event. Everything can be explained by dogma, and the party line has a justification for all outcomes. Through the red-tinted glass of party ideology, there is a rationale for every action.

The same is true for the Prachanda Path. By evoking the Shining Path with the use of the word "path", Comrade Prachanda has tried to take his movement into the post-Mao world and make it a guiding philosophy for Nepal's Maoists. The idea would be to elevate the Prachanda Path to the status of Prachanda Thought, and ultimately a new "Prachandaism" that adapts Maoism to Nepali conditions. That is the logical growth cycle through which revolutionary ideas mature into political philosophy.

However, we cannot be too sure if the Prachanda Path will follow that route. Is it a creative outgrowth of Marxism-Leninsim-Maosim, or just an attempt to find an ideological mooring in revolutionary history for Nepal's "people's war"? The revolution has now degenerated into terrorism, especially if you don't happen to agree with it. If you disagree, you are a class enemy and this is a crime punishable by death. This terror tactic is hurting the Maoists' mass base, and is totally against Mao's philosophy of proletarian struggle.

Examples like the forcible recruitment of young boys and girls in Surkhet's Latikoili village and in Dang show that the comrades are not only deviating from Mao Zedong thought, but that they have also tried to tamper with the basic ideological underpinnings of Maoism. The Prachanda Path adds to a dangerous fuzziness at the ideological level. Even Nepali communists who idolise Mao have now begun to say the Prachanda-badis have disgraced the Great Helmsman.

Despite some disagreements, Mao's theory of knowledge, the rules for the great leap forward, the "new democratic" system of politics, the "new economic policy," and the principles of the continuity of revolution are integral to the study of Maoist philosophy.

Mao's tenets on guerrilla warfare, his assessment and analysis of imperialism, and the principles of the Three Worlds are considered astute. Needless to say, those who call themselves Maoists swear by these teachings, many even quote Mao's lines from memory as a pundit would the Gita.

Mao was a firm believer in "new cooperative democracy", but Comrade P prefers to call it "new competitive democracy", which is actually quite close to the CPN-UML's "multiparty democracy". What kind of "competition" there will be in the political sphere we don't know yet, but the use of the "c" word is intriguing.

A publication of the United Revolutionary People's Council of Nepal, the embryonic future Maoist state, does mention some economic and social programs. But the papers, which seem to have been plucked from an earlier publication of Baburam Bhattarai (The Politico-economic Rationale of the People's War in Nepal), do not explain where and how this "competition" is going to manifest itself in the political and economic sphere. The Prachanda Path may be really progressive, but until it is expressed more clearly, we just won't know. What we do know for certain is that it is not Maoism.

The Prachanda Path also makes a significant departure from Mao's political military strategy. Mao said revolutions in the Third World would be ultimately won through "long-term wars". However, our comrades depart from this doctrine and pin their hopes on a fusion of "long-term war" with "armed rebellion" to achieve their goal in a telescoped timeframe.

Prachanda said, "The new thought (the Prachanda Path) demands a new organisation. If a new idea is imposed on an existing organisation, the old organisation would defeat the new idea". These words appear to be a rationale for an adjusted approach for the Nepali situation in the 21st century. But what it also shows is a desperate hurry to wrap things up quickly.

Maoism's Nepali critics say that Mao waited too long (17 years) before launching his Cultural Revolution, and this is was one of the main reasons why socialism could not take firm root in the mainland. Our comrades say they have incorporated cultural changes into the revolution from Day One of the insurgency, and learning from the Shining Path experience are confident that they can accelerate this total social transformation.

But what type of cultural revolution are the Maobadi talking about? And what of Comrade Prachanda himself? When he said in an Indian newspaper interview last year that he had a secret crush on Nepali actress Karishma Manandhar, it was a dramatic departure from the communist doctrine that even art forms have a class basis, and matinee idols like Karishma reflect bourgeois decadence.

In contrast, the leadership disciplined "deviationists" who they say have undermined the cultural purity of the movement. Two years ago, Comrade Alok (Yan Prasad Gautam) was charged and punished for womanising, purging enemies within the party by murdering them and stealing money. Dinesh Sharma was charged with committing the cardinal sin of surrendering.

The more recent capture of large amounts of gold from the houses of Dev Gurung and Devendra Poudel in Pokhara show that greed could have begun to taint the revolution. The Maoist leadership has not yet commented on this episode. They abide by a strong "eight-three" moral code, and Gurung and Poudel appear to have broken them.

Prachanda's argument is that there is no absolute definition of terrorism in the course of the epic struggle between imperialism and proletarianism. On this, he may be right-one man's terrorist can be another's freedom fighter, as the saying goes. However, by using and justifying these tactics he is also undermining his own struggle as a political force. Mao said "Put politics in command", but by using terror as a weapon, the Prachanda Path goes against this commandment. In the post-11 September world, this also puts Nepal's Maoists in the same category as the al-Qaeda.

By their inability to portray a mature political culture, Nepal's Maoists are indirectly helping the cause of the full-intensity war that imperialist forces have launched on communism worldwide in the name of counter-terrorism.

I cannot find a parallel in Mao's books to many of the things that are taking place in Nepal today in the name of the Maobadi struggle. Irrespective of whether Mao's doctrines were purposefully dropped because they were irrelevant, or they were worked upon and adapted in the name of creativity, there doesn't seem to be much reason to call this Maoism any longer. To go by Mao's own reasoning, our Maoists by resorting to extremism and terror may be actually helping the imperialists.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)