WPRM: Thank you for meeting with us today. In your article in The Worker #4 ‘The Political Economy of the People’s War’ you write that “the transformation of one social system into another, or the destruction of the old by the new, always involves force and a revolutionary leap. The People’s War is such a means of eliminating the old by a new force and of taking a leap towards a new and higher social system.” Why then did the Maoist party enter the peace process and attempt to change society through Constituent Assembly elections?
Baburam Bhattarai: This is a very important question related to the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). The basic motive force of history is the contradiction between the existing level of productive forces and the production relations within society. At a certain stage this contradiction sharpens and there is a break with the old relationship and a leap to the new one. We call this social revolution. That leap necessarily confronts a certain force, because every set of productive relations is backed by a state, and the state means basically the organised force of the army. To break with the old mode of production and leap into a new one, you have to break all the relations within the state backed by the army. And that inevitably requires the use of force. This is a law of history and a basic principle of MLM which nobody can revise. If you revise or abandon it then you are no longer a Marxist. There is no question of our party ever ending this basic principle.
By adhering to this basic principle we waged armed Protracted People’s War (PPW) from 1996 to 2006. But after 2006 we made a certain departure in our tactical line. Some people are confused about this and think we have abandoned PPW forever and adopted a peaceful path of social development. This confusion needs to be cleared. What we are saying is that People’s War is a multifaceted war where both the armed and political form of struggle needs to be combined.
Protracted People’s War (PPW) is a military strategy to be adopted in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial context, and, in the different context of imperialism, could be applied in a modified form even in imperialist countries. But basically the theory of PPW as developed by Mao was to be applied in semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries. That’s why the military line adopted in the case of Nepal was basically a line of Protracted People’s War, which we developed through the course of our struggle, applying it very creatively in Nepal for ten years. And we were successful in developing this war from the stage of strategic defensive to the stage of strategic equilibrium and on to the stage of strategic offensive. We basically established the strategic offensive, which means the final stage of capturing state power and which must be meticulously calculated and applied. If you don’t take note of the existing balance of forces, both politically and militarily in the country and outside, firstly it will be difficult to capture state power and secondly even after capturing state power it will be difficult to sustain it. That’s why we introduced certain new features.
People know only the negative part, but what they forget, or what we have been unable to propagate well since the beginning of the PPW, is the new context of world imperialism and the specific geopolitical context of Nepal. In this context, our party decided that we need to adopt some of the features of general insurrection within the strategy of PPW. Therefore the basic strategy will be PPW, but some of the features of general insurrection, which relies on people’s movement in the urban areas and leads to the final insurrection in the city, the tactics of the general insurrection, should also be incorporated within that strategy. This has been the basic question within our party, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [UCPN(M)]. This idea we first introduced in our national unity congress in 1991 and after that when we had our 2nd national conference in 2001. At that time we developed the theory of fusion of PPW and general insurrection to a new level, so that in the specific context of Nepal, while adhering to the basic path of PPW, the tactic of general insurrection should be fused within that strategy. That’s why at that conference we put emphasis on this aspect. But we thought that when we developed this new political line, developed through the course of the People’s War in Nepal, that it needed to be assessed more thoroughly in the international community of Maoists.
We called this one of the features of Prachanda Path, which we regarded as a new development in the theory of MLM. After 2001 we still adhered to the People’s War but we resorted to some of the tactics of general insurrection, that’s why when we were in the People’s War we always talked of political negotiations and we actually had two rounds of political negotiations. During that time we raised the issues of Constituent Assembly, abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a bourgeois democratic republic. These were the tactics we followed while we were in the PPW. Why we did that was because in the specific conditions of Nepal, though we are in the stage of transition from feudalism to capitalism, in our case the feudal system had been basically led by an autocratic monarchy for thousands of years. In most third world countries autocratic monarchy has already been abolished, and in those countries though the basic foundation of society is still semi-feudal, semi-colonial, the political superstructure was led by bourgeois democrats. But in our case even the political superstructure was dominated by the autocratic feudal monarchy, the national bourgeoisie was very weak and they could not carry forward the bourgeois democratic revolution. It was the proletarian party which had to take the lead to abolish the autocratic monarchy and introduce a bourgeois democracy, which could be again transformed through struggle into New Democracy, a proletarian democratic system.
Therefore we adopted these tactics, and after 2001 we followed these tactics and by 2005 we had reached the stage of strategic offensive in the PPW. Then we thought it was time to focus our activity, to shift our activities to the urban areas. By that time we had liberated most of the countryside, where the poor peasantry lives, and under 25% of our population lives in urban areas. There the petty bourgeoisie class and other classes needed to be mobilised if we were to complete the stage of strategic offensive and capture the state in a revolutionary manner. After 2005 we decided to shift our activity to the urban areas, because without mobilising the masses in urban areas we couldn’t complete our strategic offensive, capturing the state. With these tactics in mind we entered into the negotiation process with certain parliamentary parties who were all struggling with the monarchy but which were too weak, their class nature was too weak, they couldn’t struggle with the monarchy and complete the bourgeois democratic revolution. When the autocratic monarchy centralised all state power in a coup, it was easier for us to have an alliance with those bourgeois democratic parties and we made the 12-point understanding. On the basis of that 12-point understanding we launched a mass movement which we called the 2nd mass movement. After the 2nd mass movement there was a huge upsurge of the people and the autocratic monarchy was forced to accept the Constituent Assembly and to step down. After that we made the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in which we had to make certain compromises. Those compromises were made to abolish the monarchy, hold the Constituent Assembly elections and then move ahead to complete the bourgeois democratic revolution in the country.
There are some ambiguous features in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Our understanding, the revolutionary party’s understanding, was that after abolishing the monarchy and establishing a bourgeois democratic republic, the proletarian party would take the initiative and launch forward the struggle towards New Democratic Revolution. We knew the bourgeois forces, after the abolition of the monarchy, would try to resist, and our main contradiction then would be with the bourgeois democratic parties. This we had foreseen. So we have not said that after the abolition of the monarchy we’ll stop there. We never said that. What we have said is that we would align with the bourgeois democratic parties to abolish the monarchy, and after the abolition of the monarchy then the contention would be between the bourgeois forces and the proletarian forces. A new field of struggle would start. That was clearly stated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the subsequent interim constitution and other documents we passed.
After the Constituent Assembly elections, when our party emerged as the largest force and we abolished the monarchy, there was a lot of enthusiasm among the masses of the people. Our party’s tactical line had been correctly implemented. That gave a tremendous force to the basic masses of the people and our support greatly increased. For the time being we cooperated with the interim government also, because by participating in that coalition government we thought we could work within the bureaucracy, within the army, within the police and within the judiciary, in order to build our support base through those state structures, which would help us for future revolutionary activities. With that in mind we participated in the coalition government. After the abolition of the monarchy, when the main contradiction would start with the bourgeois democratic forces, then our struggle took a new turn.
After April 2009 [when Prachanda resigned from government], that phase of the Constituent Assembly and implementation of the bourgeois democratic republic was more or less complete. Our understanding is to now carry on the struggle forwards to complete the New Democratic Revolution. So again we made a tactical shift, showing that from now on our major fight would be with the bourgeois democrat parties who are backed by imperialism and the expansionist forces. With this thinking our party left the government and now we are focusing on the mass movement, so that now we could really practice what we have been preaching. That means the fusion of the strategy of PPW and the tactic of general insurrection. What we have been doing since 2005 is the path of preparation for general insurrection through our work in the urban areas and our participation in the coalition government.
But what one should not forget was that we had never ever surrendered the gains of the PPW, what we had gained during the ten years of struggle. We had formulated the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), we had our base areas, we had a lot of mass support, and all this we have been able to preserve. But we have not been able to convey to our comrades outside the country that the gains of the People’s War were never surrendered. The PLA is still with us, and the arms we collected during that war are still with us within the single-key system, monitored by the United Nations team, but basically the key is with us and the army is with us and we have never surrendered. This shows we have not abandoned the path of PPW. What we have done is suspended that part of the activity for some time and focused more on the urban activities so that we could make a correct balance between the military and political aspects of struggle. After some time we will be able to combine both aspects of PPW and general insurrection to mount a final insurrection to capture state power. We would like to stress that we are still continuing in the path of revolution, but the main features we tried to introduce were to make a fusion between the theory of PPW and the tactic of general insurrection. After coming to the peaceful phase I think whatever confusion there was has been mitigated and people realise we are still on the revolutionary path.
Now we are preparing for the final stage of the completion of the New Democratic Revolution. In a few months when the contradiction will sharpen between the proletarian and bourgeois forces, maybe there will be some intervention from the imperialist and expansionist forces. During that time we may again be forced to have another round of armed clashes. Our party is already aware of that and we have decided to again focus on the basic masses of the people both in urban and rural areas. To strengthen those mass bases we have formed the United National People’s Movement, which will be preparing for both struggle in the urban areas and to strengthen our mass base in the countryside. In the decisive stage of confrontation with the reactionary forces we could again combine our bases in the rural areas and our support in the urban areas for a final assault against the enemy to complete the revolution.
I would like to say we have never abandoned PPW, the only thing is that there has been a tactical shift within the strategy. This is one point. The other point is that being a Maoist we believe in continuous revolution. Revolution never stops. Even when one stage is completed, immediately the new stage should be continued. Only that way can we reach socialism and communism. That is a basic tenet of Maoism. Being a Maoist,….. Read more »