(This is the last of the two-part column, whose Part 1 appeared yesterday)
Last of two parts
In Southeast Asia, communist rebellions in Vietnam and Laos emerged victorious, with military coups with shades of socialist leanings prevailing in Cambodia and Myanmar.
From the Bolshevik experience, we see that seizure of political power by the proletariat need not involve a mass movement. What was needed was the ingenuity of accommodating into the purposes of the enemy and there to have the patience to wait for the right opportunity to strike.
Moreover, the Bolsheviks showed that the political power to install at the moment of seizure is not necessarily proletarian. What the Bolsheviks seized was bourgeois political power, and it was that very power which they used in bringing about the transformation of Russia into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
We see, then, that bourgeois political power is not demolished on the rubble of which to build proletarian political control. Far from that, it is on bourgeois political power that proletarian political control builds.
It should be considered however that the bourgeois Kerensky government was newly-installed from the just-concluded uprising against the Czarist regime and had not quite consolidated itself so as to be able to withstand brand new attacks, much more treachery; Kerensky had allied with the Bolsheviks in the seizure of power from Czar Nicolas II and Lenin had insisted in not putting up a separate Soviet government as proposed by the Mensheviks; his idea of accommodating themselves into the Kerensky government by sitting in the Duma prevailed. Most important of all, Trotsky was in complete control of the Red Army.
The Chinese experience presents a classic strategy for people’s war in times of global conflagration. But no more of such situation as China was in exists in present times and it is highly unlikely that the Chinese Communist Party strategy by which it defeated the Kuomintang will come in handy even if the current tension over the Scarborough Shoal erupts into a wider conflict in Asia Pacific.
But there is one significant fact about the Chinese experience which not many know about. During its inception, the Chinese Communist Party was a small group of twenty individuals, pioneers of the proletarian cause in China. The dominant party at the time was the Kuomintang, party of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China. When the Japanese invaded China in 1938 and a resistance must be put up against the invasion, the Chinese Communist Party was prevailed upon by the Soviet Union to just accommodate itself into the Kuomintang, which Russia was actually supporting.
It was while being integrated with the Kuomintang that the Chinese Communist Party embarked on building cells of political power in the countryside. These cells were called armed independent regimes – an application of Mao Tse Tung’s strategy of surrounding the cities through the countryside. Upon the outbreak of the Chinese civil war, those armed independent regimes became the backbone of the Chinese Communist Party in its war with the Kuomintang.
In the case of the Cuban Revolution, the fact that it won shows that armed revolution is a correct form of struggle by the workers against a bourgeois dictatorship. It further shows that the socialist aim of the revolution is not a factor for winning a workers’ struggle and that it is all right to conceal that aim while the revolution is ongoing. Most of all, the Cuban revolution proves that achieving political power by the proletariat right under the nose of the bourgeoisie can be done; Cuba is just at the backyard of America, the cradle of world bourgeois power.
The Vietnam struggle shatters the myth that size and weaponry decide the outcome of battle; the barefoot, cloth-garmented David Vietcong slew the heavily-armored Goliath Uncle Sam with virtually just a pebble fired from a slingshot. And the eventual successes of the rebellion in Laos and the military coups in Cambodia and Myanmar point to the advantage of establishing workers’ political power in contagious areas; this was the pattern Che Guevarra was following after the success of the Cuban revolution when he tried to push revolutionary movements in South America, culminating in his capture and execution in Bolivia.
Right now, the situation in Nepal is worth watching. Back in 2006, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) swept away the monarchy in popular elections that were part of the political settlement of the war it had been fighting with the Nepal military. Recently the Maoist coalition government which had been running the country since 2006 demanded the sacking of Nepal Army Chief General Kul Bahadur Katwal, who, backed by the Nepal president, defied that demand no matter that it is constitutional. Prime Minister Prachanda and the Maoist members of the coalition were forced to resign over the controversy. Now multitudes are pouring out once again into the streets of Nepal, damning the ruling bourgeois elite. Things are back to where they were in 2006.
Meanwhile socialist parties of Europe had taken to the road of parliamentary struggle in fighting for the workers. The Labor Party in the United Kingdom and the Communist Party in Italy had at one time or another exercised political control of society without having to disturb its bourgeois character. The latest to emerge in this genre is Francois Hollande, who recently won president of France as a candidate of the Socialist Party.
The foregoing citations of hard facts and insights on various past revolutions are meant to draw whatever enlightenment may be had from these events in terms of gaining a correct grasp of the problem at hand: How may the proletariat live communism in the here-and-now?
Summing up, we enumerate the lessons the citations pointed to:
1) From the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, seizure of political power by the workers need not be through a mass movement, much less be bloody.
It is important that a military component is in place.
There is the element of “accommodating into the enemy’s purpose” to work on in any case. The implication here is that a kind of secretive maneuver may be employed to get a communistic purpose accomplished.
2) From the Chinese experience, people’s war is effective in times of world war. Building cells of political power is a sly maneuver performing a dual task: as a defense of revolutionary gains, at the same time as a strategy for surrounding the enemy wave by wave. In form, the strategy is not likely to apply anymore, but it is the essence of the strategy that is important, and it can work.
Again, there is the element of “accommodating into the enemy’s purpose”. This is a very ingenious principle (actually a Sun Tzu tenet) which can work magic for the proletarian struggle in the present times.
In contemporary terms, the whole grim bloodiness of the Chinese civil war appears negated by the sliding back of China into not just capitalism but global capitalism. In simple words, the deaths of comrades had all been unnecessary sacrifices.
3) From the Cuban Revolution, two outstanding lessons are had. One, in struggling, workers don’t need to flaunt their communistic color. And two, workers can chip at bourgeois political power right in the bourgeoisie’s own turf.
As to the success of Castro’s armed struggle, it is history. Chances are it won’t come in handy anymore. Well and good, then. As Sun Tzu says, “The best general is one who wins a war without fighting a battle.”
4) The Vietnam experience epitomizes the dialectics of big and small, strong and weak, victory and defeat. And the spread of communism across South East Asia is an innovation on the “wave-by-wave build up of cells of political power” strategy employed by Mao Tse Tung in the Chinese experience.
5 ) The current turmoil in Nepal validates our earlier assertion that people’s war is unlikely to apply anymore in contemporary times. The NUCP-M did right by accommodating itself into the purpose of the Nepal ruling elite against the monarchy, but by demanding the replacement of the Nepal Army Chief, it did wrong. As we pointed out from the Bolshevik experience, in a workers’ seizure of political power within an alliance with the bourgeoisie, there must be a military component. The Bolshevik had that component absolutely under the control of Trotsky. The NUCP-M denied itself that component by sacking the very head of the Nepal military.
6) The workers’ parties in Europe accommodating themselves into the purposes of the bourgeoisie are to be encouraged. It is of no moment that, if at all, their espousal of workers’ interests is hypocritical. What is important is that we make good use of their hypocrisy.
How these lessons are to be applied in advancing proletarian revolutionary politics will depend on the obtaining specific concrete conditions. But whatever the conditions are, all that are needed to be done are in some way or another embodied in these lessons and, in any case, pose the ultimate challenge to the ingenuity of servants of the proletariat.