Thursday, January 8, 2009

Negation of the Negation by Roshan Kisson - Provocative piece in Red Star

The Nepali revolution has not won, but neither has it lost. There does not seem an imminent danger to the CPN Maoist led government, yet also the government does not seem completely safe. Some believe the Nepali revolution signals the first of a new cycle of revolutions inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Others believe the Nepali revolution signals the last of the cycle of revolutions inspired by the Bolsheviks in Russia. We may think of this cycle as starting in Russia, then China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc, through to Peru and Nepal. I think the latter correct-future revolutions must take a different form, and move away from the Bolshevik or Marxist Leninist model of revolution. Thus far, Marxist Leninist revolutions in the various countries have ended the 'feudal relations of production', and replaced it with 'capitalist relations of production'. Simply put, the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cuban etc revolutions have created modern capitalist nation states, not communism. I think the leaders of the CPN-Maoist implicitly recognise this, hence Dr.Bhattarai's statement in the US to 'leave communism to our grandchildren'. The limitations of the Nepali revolution show the limitations of the Marxist-Leninist theory as well as practice.

Contradictions in Historical Materialism

The science of Marxism has, indeed, discovered the laws of society that can explain how one form of society changes into another form of society. Marxist historians have revolutionised the study of history in every area, from the early origins of humanity to the modern world. Historical materialism can explain and shed light on all periods of human history. Historical materialism does not seem able, however, to explain itself. In those periods of history when Marxism itself played a decisive and dominant role; historical materialism does not seem able to explain nor understand. This seems a contradiction inside the Marxist system, and the inability to resolve this contradiction prevents the Communist movement from advancing ahead. For example, Marxists constantly say that the 'masses are the real creators of history', as an explicit challenge to the 'great man' hypothesis of bourgeois history. However, in all the Marxist-Leninist revolutions, we see again the 'great man'; the great Lenin, the great Stalin, the Great Mao etc, without whom the revolution would not have succeeded. This seems a glaring contradiction. Again, consider the following questions about the USSR

Did the revolution create a socialist state?

If so, when did the USSR turn into a capitalist state?
The Khrushchev line parties claim socialism ended when the USSR collapsed. Maoist and Hoxha line parties claim that Khrushchev ended socialism by turning away from the line of Stalin. Trotsky line parties claim that Stalin ended socialism, and Stalin himself represents the counter revolution by turning away from the line of Lenin. Nobody dares to criticise the great Lenin.
Marxists seem unable to analyse the USSR with any kind of objectivity, and instead of analysis we get a 'party line' that passes for analysis. If one reads or listens to an account of the Russian revolution by parties or historians that 'uphold' Stalin, the role of leaders such as Trotsky, Bukharin or Radek do not merit mention or study. They do not mention the Moscow trials of the 1930s. They tell a story of the 'good guy' Stalin saving the revolution from the 'bad guys' such as Trotsky, only for the evil Khrushchev to cunningly reverse all the gains made by Stalin.
Likewise, in Trotskyist accounts, they simply show us with the reverse picture; the 'good guy' Trotsky outwitted by the villainous Stalin. Just as the 'Stalinists' keep an ominous silence regarding the Moscow trials; likewise the Trotskyists keep an ominous silence regarding the Kronstadt rebellion against the Bolsheviks and Trotsky's role in this tragedy. It seems to me that Trotsky's criticisms against Stalin seem correct, but Stalin's criticisms of Trotsky also seem correct. They both seem correct and both seem incorrect. International revolution was impossible and socialism in one country was impossible, as socialism in one country turns into its opposite, state capitalism and finally just capitalism. Marxism-Leninism has not gone further in theory or practice.

Marxism-Leninism has not properly addressed the following problems:

1. The Bolsheviks smashed the Tsarist feudal state, and created a new 'workers state'. Why didn't the revisionists or bourgeoisie smash this so-called 'workers state' in turn when they reintroduced capitalism?
2. In China, the Communists also smashed the old feudal state and created a new 'workers state'. However, Deng Xiaoping and his successors seem quite able to use the 'workers state' for capitalism. How?
3. In the USSR, why did the masses seem unable to tell the difference between a revolutionary line and a counter revolutionary line, or the difference between the line of Lenin and that of Stalin, and the line of Stalin from that of Khrushchev?
4. Likewise in China, why did the masses seem unable to tell the difference between the revolutionary line of Mao Zedong and the gang of four, and the revisionist line of Deng Xiaoping?
The simplest and best explanation is simply that the Russian, Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese etc revolutions were bourgeois revolutions, and not proletarian revolutions. I think the Nepalese revolution can change the feudal relations of production and introduce capitalist relations through agrarian reform or revolution. If the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese etc revolutions created modern capitalist states, then why should the Nepalese Communists, following their examples, go further?

Party Vs Class

The bourgeois nature of all the forms of Marxism-Leninism seems clearest in the form of organisation. The Leninist idea of a centralised, hierarchal party led by professional revolutionaries, a party that seeks to centralise all power in one organisation, proves extremely effective for an underground struggle, such as an urban insurrection or a Peoples War. However, this form of party, a 'democratic centralist' party, does not belong exclusively to Marxist-Leninists. Any political ideology can use this form of organisation for any ends whatsoever. In Nepal, many of the Terai and Madhesi armed groups, some led by former Maoist commanders, use the 'democratic centralist' form of party.

The LTTE in Sri Lanka and many other nationalist and even Islamic groups across the world also use the 'democratic centralist' form of organisation. Even some NGOs and multi-national companies use this form of organisation. Undoubtedly, this form of organisation proves extremely effective for struggle. Otto Ruhle, a German Marxist of the early 20th century, in a provocative essay entitled ' The struggle against Fascism begins with the struggle against Bolshevism', argued that Hitler and Mussolini only copied the Bolshevik model for their Fascist ideology, because the party and state structure of Fascism bears remarkable similarities, in form, to the Bolshevik party and state. Mao Zedong seemed aware of this, as he often warned that if the political line of a Communist party changes, the party itself can turn into its opposite, a Social Fascist party, or Fascism presenting itself as Socialism.

A Fascist party and a Communist party share the same form of organisation, but the ideological content appear as opposite. Mao seemed aware that the 'democratic centralist' party would centralise not just power in one place, but also wealth in one place, in the party itself. Thus, after a revolution, the new bourgeoisie would emerge from inside the party. Mao did not seem able, however, to condemn the 'democratic centralist' form of the party, probably because he himself led such a party! Simply put, 'democratic centralism' is not very democratic, but very centralised.

The Marxist-Leninist tendency to centralise all power in one place, in one person, has proved both effective and ineffective. This tendency seems effective in countries like Nepal, where many people can neither read nor write, and the political tradition demands a single strong leader. In the leader, the people find a reflection of themselves, a leader who can say what they wish to say, and lead them to where they cannot go themselves. However, this form of leadership causes many problems, as the leader becomes more than human, and the person of the leader becomes inseparable from the political line. The tendency of the leader to put their own families and friends in positions of power and to not know 'when' to leave power presents a big problem. The failure of Cuba, after the long reign of Fidel Castro, to find another leader apart from Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, represents a failure of this tendency. The examples of North Korea and Zimbabwe also testify to this failure.

This tendency, taken to its extreme, such as with Chairman Gonzalo and the Shining Path of Peru, has proved tragic. When the Peruvian state captured Chairman Gonzalo and other central committee leaders of the PCP (Communist Party of Peru), their entire struggle collapsed. Even now, the remnants of the Shining Path go on and on about the great leader Chairman Gonzalo, even though Gonzalo now resides in a top security prison and cannot even lead himself to the toilet. From tragedy we move to farce, and the strange behaviour of Chairman Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA. Even though Chairman Avakian has not led any kind of Peoples War or any major revolutionary struggle in the US, he has declared a 'new synthesis' that goes beyond Marx, Lenin and Mao. Chairman Avakian claims to have a made a 'break in epistemology', yet seems to have never studied the works of Russell, Wittgenstein, Husserl, Heidegger and other philosophers of the 20th century, or even distinguished Marxist philosophers such as Lukacs, Gramsci, Ilyenkov etc. RCP USA comrades describe Chairman Avakian as 'the American Lenin' (which, I presume, would make Lenin the Russian Avakian...) and sometimes even praise god for Chairman Avakian.

Needless to say, nobody outside of the RCP USA actually believes this nonsense, and the RCP USA resembles a strange cult rather than a real Communist party. Ground Control to Chairman Bob...

Dr. Bhattarai, after the Maoist victory in the CA elections, compared Chairman Prachanda to Lenin and Napoleon. I think this seems correct, if we understand that both Lenin and Napoleon turned their countries into modern nation states. This is the limit of Marxism Leninism and this form of leadership. For a Proletarian revolution, I believe we need a new form of organisation.
I do not claim to know 'what' this new form of organisation should take, but I can say what form it should take:

1. The culture and practice of Marxist-Leninists seems stale and completely lacking in creativity. Consider the number of labels Marxists use to criticise other Marxists: 'opportunist', 'revisionist', ultra-leftist', 'rightist', 'dogmatist', 'pragmatist', 'Stalinist', 'Trotskyist' 'petit bourgeois anarchist' etc. If we do not like another's ideas, we can dismiss them as 'eclectic', metaphysical', 'idealist' etc. So many labels, so little thought. If we view the Marxist-Leninist system as a type of game, with certain rules, we observe the following: Comrade A says to Comrade B that X and Y must be done. Comrade B asks why. Comrade A then quotes from Lenin to justify his assertion. Comrade B says to Comrade A that he misunderstands Lenin, and accuses him of misquoting Lenin, taking Lenin out of context, and comes up with a counter quote from Lenin. Comrade A responds by giving the context in which Lenin said such and such thing. Comrade B accuses Comrade A of misunderstanding the context, and so on and so on and so on. Frankly, even though Marxists claim Marxism to be science, this kind of practice does not seem very scientific. Rather, it resembles the kind of theology practiced by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the 'peoples of the book'. An unquestioned assumption behind this kind of argumentation in the Communist movement is the belief that Marx and Lenin were unquestionably right, simply because Marx is Marx and Lenin is Lenin, and the Russian revolution 'succeeded'. Frankly speaking, the longer and longer the Bolshevik revolution fades into the past, the less and less convincing the tales and legends of the great Lenin will seem.

2. I believe that this emphasis on the great names, on forming a party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism etc seems completely ridiculous. Consider the number of Communist parties in Nepal; 1) CPN-ML 2) CPN-UML 3) CPN-MLM 4) CPN-MLM Prachanda Path 5) CPN workers and peasants party 5) CPN-ML unified 6) CPN-unity centre Masal 7)CPN-Masal revolutionary left wing 8) CPN-Masal etc. L & M, however, are a brand of cigarettes.

3. Marxists seem to already know, without studying, that Marx and Lenin defeated their opponents, and so do not revisit the old debates. The one-sidedness of this seems clear, as we have read what Marx said about the Gotha program, but few have actually read the Gotha program. We have read Marx's criticisms of Feuerbach, but we have never read Feuerbach. We have read Marx's criticisms of Bakunin and Proudhon, but have never read Bakunin or Proudhon. Let us take the last, Marx's criticisms of Bakunin, the Anarchist leader of the First International.

Marx argued that the working class in the advanced capitalist countries of England, France, and Germany would lead the revolution. Bakunin disagreed and argued that workers in these advanced countries would not revolt, and considered them as forming a 'labour aristocracy'. (Lenin took over Bakunin's idea of 'labour aristocracy', and developed it.) Bakunin believed that the revolution would take place in Russia, and peasants would play a major role. This is what happened, and the revolutionary role of the peasantry seems clear in Nepal. Marx argued that the First International should have a single line and program, his own line and program, and all the chapters of the First International should follow this line. Bakunin rejected this, and argued that individual chapters should have their own program and line, and that the International should not seek uniformity.

The demand for one and only one political line as the basis of unity does not allow for unity-this is clear enough when we consider the disunity of the various Communist parties and internationals. Marx argued that the proletariat needed a centralised party to represent their interests, while Bakunin argued that a centralised political party of the proletariat would simply turn into the new rulers over the proletariat. This happened in Russia, China and other places. Now, in the 21st century, we can see that Marx's criticisms of Bakunin were correct, but Bakunin's criticisms of Marx were also correct.

Comrades, if we want Communism for the 21st century, then let us drop the 19th century science and metaphysics.


Anonymous said...

I am shocked at this very bad article.

It repudiates Marxism-Leninism and is full of lies.

I don't find it "thought provoking" in any way, other than to wonder why a blatantly anti-Communist article is on this otherwise good site.

nickglais said...

Comrade this is from the CPN Maoist Paper Red Star which gives voice to full range of opinions within CPN Maoist and we should be made aware of range of these opinions.

Foe example Laxman Pant like Roshan Kisson reflect quite right opportunistic views in the CPN Maoist and we should not ptretend they do not exist has they do and publishing them will make people more aware of the two line struggle in CPN Maoist.

I personally am sympathetic to the views of Kiran and Gujurel and think I should have labelled this article provocative rather than thought provoking - thanks for your comment.

emil said...

this is a great essay. he is right about many things and gives a different perspective on events in nepal. it is very easy to label and condemn just because someone is not saying what they you want them to.

Jon said...

this is an attempt to smuggle in petit bourgeois anarchism into the communist movement, to replace marxism leninism. i do not agree that it is 'right opportunist', but rather ultra leftism,as criticised by Lenin in 'left wing communism-an infantile disorder'. long live marxism leninism.