Millennium Post

Waning of the Red tide

The poor performance of the Nepali Maoists in the recent elections in the country has confirmed that the ultra-left has no future either in revolutionary or in parliamentary politics.

 For all the zeal with which the Maoists commence their imitation of Mao Zedong’s village-based guerrilla warfare, whether in Nepal or in India, they soon realise that what was possible in China in the 1940s cannot be replicated now.

First of all, the modern armies are too well-equipped to be easily defeated. Although today’s revolutionaries are better armed than in Mao’s time, they still essentially remain a ragtag bunch, notwithstanding their ideological motivation, compared to the professional soldiers. Besides, the ideology is usually the preserve of a small group at the top while the rank and file from the poorer sections are guided mainly by adventurism and the lure of an assured meal.

Secondly, the revolutionaries cannot expect success if the country does not become a theatre of international conflict. This has been the lesson of history from both the Russian and Chinese revolutions. In Russia, World War I helped the cause of Lenin while in China, the Japanese invasion created enough chaos to enable the communists  establish their bases in a state of administrative vacuum.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the prevalence of democracy is big deterrent for the ultra-left to strike roots. Neither Russia nor China was a democracy when the uprisings took place. Nepal was a monarchy, but its opponents were inspired by the Gandhian struggle in India against British colonialism, not by Mao. The Nepali Congress even took its name from the Indian National Congress as did the African National Congress in South Africa. What the Nepali Maoists learnt, therefore, during their decade-long battle was the virtual impossibility of succeeding as long as Indian democracy next door provided an example of what can happen in Nepal. This hopelessness was something which their Indian counterparts also learnt during the first phase of their campaign against the government when they were known as Naxalites because the first skirmish took place in Naxalbari in West Bengal. While the Naxalites were mainly based in urban areas with the students of even prestigious institutions like Calcutta’s Presidency College falling under their spell, the Maoists of today appear to have realised how easy it is for the police to infiltrate into urban outfits. Hence, their decision to wage the war from jungle hideouts. In a way, they have been more successful than the Naxalites since their campaign has lasted longer. But, only the foolhardy will believe that they are destined for success. For a start, there are signs that the movement is flagging. While the Maoists had their footprints in 223 districts a decade ago, their presence has now fallen to 182. Of the 16 politbureau members, only seven are still alive. The setbacks have led to some like a senior Maoist leader of Odisha, Sabyasachi Panda, to question the people’s war tactics, saying that conditions in India are not ripe for them. He has been expelled, compelling him to form his own outfit. But, the episode recalls what happened to the Naxalite movement, which also saw sections disagreeing with Charu Mazumdar’s blood-stained line. The crisis faced by the Maoists has been acknowledged in an internal document, which has said that the ‘movement is facing critical situation as we have not formulated appropriate tactics’. As a result, there has been a ‘decrease in mass base and recruitment, increase in the number of persons leaving the movement and limitation in the fighting ability of the PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army)’. Prior to this decline, the Indian Maoists were disheartened by the decision of their Nepali comrades to give up their struggle and join the electoral process. They may not have known how to react when the Nepali Maoists became the first party in the 2008 elections although they did not get a majority. The subsequent fights between the different parties which prevented the drafting of the constitution must have convinced the Indian ultra-left that they were right in thinking that the Nepali Maoists had got themselves into a mess. The latter’s current setbacks might confirm this perception.

However, it is possible that the Nepali Maoists have fallen between two stools, as it were, by abandoning their revolutionary mission without faring well in the assembly because they were confused about which of the two lines to follow. To quote their foremost leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Prachanda (the fierce one), the Maoists wanted to ‘establish a people’s republic by institutionalising a democratic republic through legitimate means like elections’. What this weird formulation underlines is that the Nepali Maoists have been trying to square a circle by marrying two objectives which are diametrically opposite to one another. Not surprisingly, the party split last year breaking away after alleging that Prachanda had deviated from the revolutionary line. All this follows a pattern common to virtually most communist parties with a doctrinaire vision conflicting with the present-day realities, leading to organisational ruptures.

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