Originally posted at the Workers Dreadnought, this piece explores a valuable political debate.
In 1994 the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Center) split into two different organizations on roughly the same lines that it had split in the mid-1985: how should one implement the PPW strategy in Nepal?
On one side were those who argued for PPW in Nepal but felt like the conditions were inappropriate and thus any PPW would be in premature, and another faction felt that the time was ripe for the beginning of the PPW.
One of the pivotal documents in the split of 1994 was a document that was produced by Com. Prachanda (I am not sure whether the document has ever been made publicly available, nor have I seen it, but have been told about its existence and some of the elements of the document) that changed party history and the lessons learned till date. In 1971 a nascent Maoist movement in Nepal was comprised of numerous trends that understood the application of the PPW strategy in Nepal differently. One of these trends was heavily influenced by the Naxalbari uprising, especially the annihilation line, decided to reproduce the Naxalite movement in Nepal and led the Jhapa uprising and was quickly put down.
The entire communist movement unequivocally said that whilst the movement was well-intentioned that it was romantic, erroneous and ultra-left, and in effect denounced the youth that were part of the uprising. The Prachanda document which helped ferment the split overturned this analysis of the Jhapa uprising and whilst still arguing that the attempt was adventurist due to lack of preparation etc that it was an important step forward for the Nepalese communist movement. Needless to say, this re-appreciation of the Jhapa uprising allowed the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to launch its PPW in 1995.
In 1969/1970 the Students for a Democratic Society was splintering into three notable tendencies: 1) led by Progressive Labor Party (there is some debate as to whether the PLP was “kicked out” of the SDS – ostensibly on grounds that they held a counter-revolutionary position on black liberation due to their condemnation of the BPP - or whether the RYM I and II had split from the SDS and formed a parallel SDS under their leadership; and whether they comprised the majority faction or not); 2) led by the Revolutionary Youth Movement I (which became the Weathermen and subsequently the Weather Underground Organization); and 3) RYM II (which itself was comprised of many different tendencies but broadly constituted the New Communist Movement – for a very good history of the movement see Max Elbaum’s “Revolution in the Air”).
The RYM I took over several key positions of the SDS and ramped up the confrontations with police etc (similar to the ‘hard hats’ of the Japanese New Left), but soon began to prepare to go underground and a campaign of ‘armed propaganda’ which was influenced initially by Che’s foco strategy and later by Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. With the publication of Prairie-fire the WUO tried to rectify earlier errors by attempting to launch an above-ground mass movement under the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee which would provide support to the underground armed movement. Also, the WUO would undergo a self-criticism process, provoked by Jane Alpert and herMother Right Manifesto, regarding their orientation towards the feminist movement which tell then had been downplayed (this reorientation can be read in Sing a Battle Song, a collection of communiques, poetry and documents from the WUO).
The WUO subsequently itself would undergo a split in when some members like Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers would turn themselves in and leave the underground, and those who wished to continue to be part of the underground armed movement (this faction went onto form the May 19th Communist Organization).
I am not going to provide a more detailed history of the WUO because that would be a very long blog post and in the last few years there has been a plethora of new materials that have been produced regarding the group including some very good sources like the 2002 documentary by Sam Green and Bill Siegel called the “Weather Underground” (although I do believe that this documentary is too influenced by the Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn version of events and summation of experiences – which I find to be less compelling than David Gilbert’s), and the excellent study by Dr. Dan Berger entitled, “Outlaws of America”. Furthermore, several key members like Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, David Gilbert and Cathy Wilkerson have published their personal accounts of the movement; and in case of the Gilbert anthology documents that demonstrate his on-going involvement in the prison movement. Additionally there is the above mentioned anthology of communiques, poetry and documents entitled, “Sing a Battle Song”.
We on the revolutionary left can no longer simply dismiss or sum up the experience of the WUO as “assholes, but our assholes”. Rather, I think that the WUO although undoubtedly flawed, shrill and holier-than-thou, blanquist rather than Marxist-Leninist etc, was an important experience for the far left that needs to be properly summed up, and needs to be seen as a step forward – like the Jhapa uprising was for the CPN(Maoist) – for the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries. This has become a regular theme: the need for more study and comprehension of the history of the far left, but without it I think we will remain in the squalid state we have been in for so long.
I do not claim to have made such a summation myself and am still in the process of learning about this tendency and its successes/failures. Furthermore, at the same time we must expand our understanding of this armed struggle underground as it is not reducible to the WUO, as other groups like the George Jackson Brigade, the group led by Sam Melville, the Black Liberation Army (it’s membership included Assata Shakur, Sundiata Acoli, Albert ‘Nuh’ Washington, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim,Kuwasi Balagoon and Safiya Bukhari) etc. differed in ideology and in methods by which to conduct the struggle.
As Mao once said, “Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again . . . till their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic. This is another Marxist law. The Russian people’s revolution followed this law, and so has the Chinese people’s revolution.”