By Jakob Stein
In the past week, the ‘Communist Party of Nepal’ led by Netra Bikram Chand, known by his nom de guerre Biplav, signed peace accords with the government’s ruling party, vowing to disarm and resolve any issues “peacefully” in exchange for the release of arrested cadres and leaders. Biplav’s betrayal mirrors that of his former chairman during the People’s War, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, and reveals the bare opportunism that permeates Biplav’s group and many of those who masquerade as revolutionaries in Nepal.
A Brief History of the Past 25 Years
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (M)) led by Prachanda waged a heroic People’s War from 1996 to 2006, capturing the majority of the country’s territory with strongholds in both the West and East. At the time, Prachanda claimed that they would fight until they seized power, with the goal of completing the new democratic revolution, overthrowing the reactionary parties of the Nepalese parliament, and moving toward socialism in service of the world proletarian revolution. The CPN (M) denounced participation in elections as well as all of the ruling parties, especially the revisionist Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (UML), which claimed to uphold Marxism in words but in deeds collaborated with other parts of the Nepalese government to carry out intense repression and massacres against Maoist insurgents and the villagers who supported them.
By 2001, however, the cracks in Prachanda’s resolve started to show. After King Birenda and other members of the royal family were killed by Birenda’s son in an apparent murder-suicide, Prachanda’s party ordered a ceasefire and a round of peace negotiations was held, which were ultimately unsuccessful. Over the course of the next few years, Prachanda increasingly showed a willingness to negotiate with the reactionary government to end the People’s War, moving the goalposts from new democratic revolution to an end of the monarchy (which he falsely equated with an end to feudalism) and replacing the total seizure of power with ‘multi-party democracy’ and coalitions with other reactionary parties within the Old State.
Ultimately, comprehensive peace accords were signed, the People’s Liberation Army turned in their weapons to the United Nations and integrated into the reactionary state’s army, and Prachanda’s party entered into elections in the First Constituent Assembly, winning a majority of seats and becoming the ruling party, with Prachanda himself as prime minister. After a series of mergers with other revisionist parties and several name changes, Prachanda’s party had lost any semblance of principles, and ultimately merged with UML, which it once denounced as bloodthirsty enemies and anti-people representatives of the Old State.
The capitulators had previously raised ‘Prachanda Path’ as an extension of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, characterizing it as the application of Maoism to the conditions of Nepal; however the modern Maoist movement recognizes it as a form of armed revisionism that uses armed struggle as a tool for reform and parliamentary entryism. With his signing of the peace agreement, Biplav himself has once again dove headfirst into the swamp of opportunism.
After the first capitulation and subsequent participation in elections, a breakaway faction of Prachanda’s party, led by Mohan Baidya (also known as Kiran), split, accusing the party of opportunism and of destroying the achievements of the People’s War. Two years later, Biplav, who had originally been one of the main militia commanders during the People’s War, led another split from this breakaway faction and formed his own party, charging Kiran with poor leadership and an unwillingness to advance the armed struggle.
Since then, Biplav’s group have carried out numerous armed actions, including annihilations, bombings, kidnappings, and armed strikes. While their militancy was noticed by many in the International Communist Movement, their muddled and eclectic political line gave reason for pause.
For instance, Biplav had replaced the universal military strategy of People’s War with the murky concept of ‘unified people’s revolution.’ He justifies this change by claiming that the People’s War in Nepal failed not due to the opportunism and capitulation of Prachanda Path but because the strategy and tactics of People’s War alone were allegedly not sufficient to guarantee victory. In this way, he subtly sides with Prachanda by laying the blame for capitulation not on bad leadership or opportunism within the Party, but on the premise that the People’s War had reached its limits and there was no other option without a new ideological breakthrough to capture power—excusing the peace agreement.
Biplav also references “capitalism in the 21st century” and the advance of information technology and subsequently claims that the character of imperialism has changed to the point where the teachings of Marx, Lenin, and Mao are insufficient due to imperialism’s “global” character. He says that the oppressed nations are not permitted to remain in traditional feudalism nor to develop into free market capitalism, ignoring both Mao and Chairman Gonzalo’s theses of bureaucratic capitalism and instead dubbing it the “comprador capitalist political system.” He refers to this new development of imperialism as “post-imperialism.”
Biplav claims that the strategy of ‘unified people’s revolution’ is neither short-term like the insurrection (which he characterizes as the method of revolution in imperialist countries), nor long-term like the People’s War, but is defined as “medium-term.” His entire description of this new ‘breakthrough’ of revolutionary science amounts to little more than combining aspects of both insurrection and People’s War without going into specifics. His theorization is a crude act of combining two into one, thinking he has outsmarted the rest of the ICM by naming aspects of semi-feudalism and capitalism present in the country and mechanically claiming that the ‘new form’ of revolution should take both into account. In fact, Chairman Gonzalo and the Communist Party of Peru had already defined the strategy of Unified People’s War years earlier, understanding that in semi-feudal countries the principal theater of armed struggle was in the countryside with a complementary aspect in the city preparing conditions for the strategic offensive and final insurrection to seize the city.
Aside from Biplav’s revisions of Marx, Lenin, and Mao, his party has also promoted a reactionary Nepalese cultural nationalism under the guise of combating Indian expansionism. While Nepal was been subject to US imperialism, Chinese social-imperialism, and attempts from India to expand into contested Nepalese territory, Biplav’s group have framed this fight as a struggle between cultures. One of the main activities carried out by the group aside from armed strikes have been campaigns against Indian media in the form of Bollywood films and Hindi-language music, attacking small vendors of such materials.
In March 2019, Biplav’s party was formally banned in Nepal and thousands of leaders and cadres were subsequently arrested as state repression ramped up. In January of this year, in response to the growing reactionization of the state and the dissolution of the Nepalese parliament, Biplav’s group entered into a ‘Strategic United Front’ with Kiran’s party as well as two other parties. In the jointly-signed press statement, they characterize the government and the parliamentary system as “reactionary” and comprador, as well as the current prime minister, KP Oli, as a “fascist” and “absolutist.”
Just two months later, however, Biplav and representatives of his party traveled from their stronghold in the western countryside to the capital, Kathmandu, to negotiate for peace with this fascist, comprador government. A picture of Biplav hand-in-hand with the prime minister, Oli, along with the final agreement for the insurgents to resolve matters through “peaceful dialogue” in exchange for the release of political prisoners, has cemented his identity as a revisionist in a display nearly identical to that of the mid-2000s with Prachanda.
The peace agreement, while finalized, is complicated by a vertical split within the ruling party between Oli, former leader of UML, and Prachanda, former leader of the CPN (M), as well as the Nepalese Supreme Court’s recent ruling which awarded the name “Nepal Communist Party” to another group under the leadership of Rishi Kattel (another signatory of the January joint statement). The internal struggle and court ruling has rendered the Oli-Prachanda party’s union as invalid from the start and now both groups are formally separate. In this context, Biplav is once again showing his opportunism, with both sides of the split claiming that he is playing one against the other for future parliamentary gain.
At the end of the day, this move is not as surprising as some may think when the context of Biplav’s revisionism is fully laid out. He was a major leader during the People’s War; however, he fell in line behind the traitor Prachanda in agreeing to the peace accords. He also split from the Party when it no longer suited him, further distorting the principles of Maoism and relying on reactionary populism to gain a base of support. Once faced with the difficulties of waging armed struggle against the reactionary state, he first sought an unprincipled peace with those he had once denounced and then came full circle into capitulation by giving up on the struggle altogether in the hopes of having a seat at the table with the Old State.
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