The struggle intensifies in Nepal

Red Star

The political conflict in Nepal is sharpening. The conflict between two different types of forces, one wants to go forward from the present transitional phase, and the other wants to stop things where they are at present. This conflict has emerged just before the process of drafting a new constitution.

Three years ago, the CPN (Maoist) and seven other political parties had reached an agreement to restructure the country through the Constituent Assembly (CA). Later, when the King surrendered and the seven parties came to power, the CPN (Maoist) agreed to a ceasefire and to hold negotiations. As the CPN (Maoist) is a Revolutionary Communist Party, its goals are clear; forward to a People’s Republic to Socialism and ultimately Communism. But the CPN (Maoist) had agreed to struggle peacefully and try to achieve its political goals according to the people. They had clearly stated that a Federal Democratic Republic will be a transitional phase and will proceed forward by peaceful means. A large majority of the Nepali people approved of the Maoist agendas and the CPN-(Maoist) wants to establish a more people’s oriented republic, a republic orientated towards the people.

The CPN (Maoist) have clearly stated that the party wants to write a constitution that is more accountable to the people. At the same time, Maoist leaders clarified that the Republic will not be a like previous and traditional Communist led states. The Maoist has agreed to multi-party competition. The Maoist wants to establish a Republic and parties can compete within the constitutional framework. The Nepali Congress and some other forces do not want to move a single inch from the failed British Westminster model. This model of ‘democracy’ had been exercised in Nepal for more than 15 years but has failed.

The Nepali Congress leaders are alleging that the Maoist want to establish a ‘totalitarian’ system. This is a common allegation of the bourgeois and the so-called ‘democrats’. In Nepal, the NC and some other parties do not even want to hear People’s Republic and Socialism. If the NC have the right to believe in ‘democracy’, then why do the NC leaders think that the CPN (Maoist) or any other forces do not have a right to follow a different ideology? The CPN (Maoist) has never said that the NC cannot believe in democracy. This single fact proves that the NC is really a totalitarian party that wants to stop others following any other ideology. They can argue about the means to achieve the goals but they can’t demand others to abandon their ideology and goals.

The capitalist economic system is facing a grave crisis worldwide at present. The crisis had raised questions about the capitalist system and ‘multi-party democracy.’ The economy of the US, the role model of capitalism, is on the brink of collapse. Slowly, large sections of the world population are beginning to see socialism as an alternative once again. The countries where socialist system were exercised are not affected so badly. Likewise, countries which are following some sort of socialist methods are also not gripped by the crisis. The Guardian daily (UK) reports that many Germans are attracted to Marx’s writings amidst the financial crisis in Germany too. Marx’s books have been sold a record high. The whole world is debating about the capitalist system, but the bourgeois in Nepal seem unable to learn anything. They don’t want the lesson-the capitalist system generates crisis periodically-but they demand the Communists abandon their ideology.

The NC leaders also oppose the agreement that has already been made about army integration. The essence of the 12-point understanding, as well as other political agreements made after that such as the Comprehensive Peace Accord and the Interim Constitution, is an agreement to restructure the state. The restructure of the security sector is fundamental to restructuring the state, and this demands the integration of the two different armies. But the NC and some other parties are demanding that the People’s Liberation Army that fought for the Republic be dissolved, while the Nepal Army that fought for the King and against the republic be strengthened. For the political change, the NA should be dissolved and the PLA be made the official military force. However, the Maoist didn’t demand this, instead they agreed to integrate both and develop a national army. The NC and other parties who are opposing army integration want to drag the country back to conflict.

Courtesy: Red Star

The king is gone, long live the kingdom’s old ways

Siddharth Varadarajan

By abandoning the principle of consensus in favour of arithmetical machinations, Nepal’s discredited establishment is betraying the aspirations of the young republic.

When the people of Nepal cast their votes in the elections to the Constituent Assembly in April, they did so not merely in order to abolish the monarchy. What they wanted was an end to the era of manipulated democracy in which political parties and politicians swung this way or that for no reason other than to grab or hold on to power. That is why they delivered a crushing blow to the two establishment parties most associated with this brand of crass parliamentarianism — the Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxists-Leninists. If the voters sealed the fate of the Shah dynasty by choosing candidates who were formally committed to the republic, they also sent a stern message to that lesser Nepali dynasty, the Koiralas, by defeating the daughter and virtually every close relative of its patriarch, Girija Prasad, barring one. As for the UML, there was no better measure of the public’s contempt for its opportunism of the past few years than the defeat handed out to its leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, from both the constituencies he contested.

By voting in the Maoists as the single largest party, the electorate also sent a clear message that it favoured the new. But voters tempered this message by denying the former rebels an absolute majority of their own. Under the rules of Nepal’s interim constitution as it stood at the time of the election, a two-thirds majority was needed for any major decision, including the election of Prime Minister and President. By giving the Maoists a little more than one-third of the seats in the 601-strong house, the electorate said it wanted the Maoists to keep alive the principle of consensus that had served Nepal’s parties so well in the struggle against the monarchy. And also that it considered the party’s manifesto to be so important to the constitutional development of Nepal that its views could not be ignored by the CA, even if the Old Establishment were to gang up against them.

Sadly for democracy, peace and the immediate future of the young republic, however, this fine balance that the electorate struck has now been cynically subverted by reactionary elements in the NC and the UML.

By stitching together an unprincipled coalition together with the UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum of Upendra Yadav, the NC managed to get one of its leaders, Ram Baran Yadav, a Madhesi politician, elected President. As part of the same bargain, the MJF’s Parmanand Jha was elected Vice-President. In both cases, the Maoist-backed nominees for President and VP — the independent Madhesi activist and intellectual, Rama Raja Prasad Singh, and the independent legislator, Shanta Shrestha, respectively — were defeated.

Sequence of betrayal

Once it was clear that the Maoists had emerged as the largest party in April, the NC and the UML more or less conceded that the party would have the right to lead the new government. At the same time, they kept raising procedural and policy obstacles in the way of the Maoist leader, Prachanda, becoming Prime Minister. In particular, they said the Maoists might never leave power if the two-thirds majority rule were not replaced by a simple majority. Mr. Prachanda warned that such a change would destroy the principle of consensus and bring in the power-play of majority and minority, but his concerns were brushed aside.

Even after amending the interim constitution to allow the President and Prime Minister to be chosen (and removed) by a simple majority, the political stalemate persisted. For the better part of the past two months, the question of who would become the republic’s first President paralysed the entire process of government formation. After initially staking a foolish claim for both the prime ministership and the presidency, the Maoists had quickly backed off from the latter and expressed their willingness to nominate any prominent non-political personality for the job of ceremonial head of state. But this proposal was immediately rejected by the NC, which proposed, instead, that the caretaker Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, be elevated to President and none else. Given Mr. Koirala’s age and indifferent health, as well as the well-founded fear that he would use the job to create an alternative power centre, the Maoists baulked at his nomination.

With deadlock at that end, the Maoists asked the UML to nominate someone other than Mr. Nepal — whom they judged to be unsuitable given that he lost both the seats he contested in the April elections — for the presidency. This time, it was the UML’s turn to be adamant. The party rejected the Maoist suggestion that its senior leader, Shahana Pradhan, or any woman, Dalit or janajati from its ranks be made President, and insisted instead that it wanted only Mr. Nepal for the job.

Rebuffed by the intransigence of both parties, the Maoists then turned to the fourth-largest formation in the CA, the MJF, with an offer they thought no self-respecting Madhesi group could refuse: the nomination of Rama Raja Prasad Singh as President. The MJF was unhappy with the choice of Mr. Singh but could not afford to openly reject him. So it insisted that one of its members be made Vice-President, something the Maoists were unwilling to accept since they had imagined the top four posts of President, VP, Prime Minister and Speaker would be equitably divided among different sections of the population in such a way that Madhesis, women, Pahadis and janajatis would all feel they had a stake in the new set-up.

As the Maoist agreement with the MJF broke down, the NC and the UML rushed to field their own Madhesi nominees for President. For two months, these parties had refused to come up with any names other than those of their top leaders. But now that it seemed the political stalemate could be broken in such a way as to isolate the Maoists, the two Establishment parties promptly withdrew their insistence on nominating Mr. Koirala or Mr. Nepal. With the MJF on board, a carve-up was effected wherein an NC leader with no credibility in the struggle of Madhesis became President (the UML helpfully withdrew its nominee, Ramprit Paswan), an MJF leader became the Vice-President and the UML’s Subhash Nemwang was chosen to be Speaker of the CA.

At the best of times, such unprincipled politics should have no place in a democracy. What makes the recent drama more sordid is that it is taking place in a country that has just freed itself from the yoke of monarchy and is trying to usher in a constitutional system that would genuinely empower its citizens.

Having demonstrated the viability of their unholy coalition, the NC and the UML are now saying they have no objection to the Maoists forming the government. It is clear, however, that any Maoist-led government would be subject to constant blackmail by the Old Establishment. That is why Mr. Prachanda has said he is still willing to enter and lead the new government but only on the basis of an understanding with all the parties in the CA about the broad policies to be followed and about the new set-up not being destabilised.

The present stalemate presents both an opportunity and a dilemma for the Maoists. By staying out of power and insisting that the Old Establishment run the country as it sees fit, the party will almost certainly ensure an even bigger vote share for itself when elections are next held. But staying out of power will vitiate the constitution writing process and perhaps even fatally imperil it. It will also raise questions about the smooth implementation of the peace process, since any NC-UML led government is unlikely to pursue the promised integration of the Peoples’ Liberation Army with the Nepal Army.

The presence of the MJF in the coalition alongside the NC and the UML will also open up a dangerous frontline. The latter two parties are reluctant federalists who embraced the concept of an inclusive Nepal only because the Maoists placed it squarely on the national agenda. Will they end up appeasing the more extremist elements of the MJF and provoke a backlash of the kind that has already started, thanks to Mr. Parmanand Jha taking his oath of office in Hindi rather than in his constitutionally-recognised mother tongue of Maithili? Or will the Pahadi chauvinists amongst their ranks prevail and push for a polarisation of the polity on ethnic lines?

Though the Maoists have every right to feel betrayed and cheated, they must make one last attempt to foster a consensus. For better or worse, the former rebels are the only party with the ability to manage the contradictions and faultlines which lie at the base of Nepali society. A government that is not led by them will find it hard to negotiate its way through the next 20 months during which the rising and sometimes contradictory aspirations of Nepal’s people must be bound together in the emerging Constitution.

Even at the eleventh hour, it is essential that democratic elements in the NC and the UML put an end to the dangerous course their parties have embarked upon. President Yadav should immediately invite Mr. Prachanda to form a government, swear him in and give him one month to demonstrate he has the support of the CA. Nepal has a unique opportunity to showcase its spirit of republicanism and peace at the SAARC summit in Sri Lanka next week. There can be no better way of doing so than for Kathmandu to be represented by Prime Minister Prachanda.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Maoist Approach in Nepal – Baburam Bhattarai

[A recent interview with Com Baburam Bhattarai clearly reminds us of Lenin’s defense of the independence of workers’ organisations:

“We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state.”]

1. The first step is, though we have won the election, the reactionary classes are hatching various conspiracies, especially the imperialists. They’re trying to instigate the monarchist forces and the bureaucratic bourgeois class, which is strongly aligned with the imperialists. They’re instigating them not to hand over power to the Maoists. So for that we may have to go through a process of struggle, for which the working class and all the oppressed masses should be prepared. If need be, we’ll have to go to the street to resist this reactionary backlash. Practically, we appealed to them to get prepared. And secondly, after we form the government under our leadership, then we’ll have to provide some immediate relief to the working class and the poor people, those who have suffered all along, they’re suffering from poverty, unemployment, and also discrimination. Families of those martyred. They’re poor people. Their sons and daughters were martyred so they will need immediate relief. And there are others who were disappeared, and those who were injured. That’s one aspect. The other aspect is the real basic poor people, working classes, who need economic relief, immediately. So we are thinking of providing a public distribution system, a network of cooperative stores whereby we can provide basic goods to the working class and the poor people. We want to provide some fund for that. And then, for education and health. Our position has been that education and health and employment should be — and also shelter and food security — these should be the fundamental right of the masses of the people. This we have already promised in our manifesto. And partially it has been written in the interim constitution also. So we’ll try to put it into practice. And for that, we’ll have to prepare a new budget, and appropriate new policy of the new government. The working class and the mass of the poor people should contribute to this process. They should advise our party and the future government, and they should be very vigilant to keep the government in line. If the public and the working class and the poor masses don’t put pressure, then the government may not be able to move in the right direction. There are very bad historical experiences in this regard, you see. So until and unless the working class is very vigilant and exercises its power to control the government from below, there are chances of the government deviating, not implementing what it has promised during the elections.

2. Firstly, our party recognizes that even when we participate in the government, this government is not a fully revolutionary government, it is a transitional government. So we’ll have to compromise with the other classes. But we would like to take the lead. We would like to transform the state from within. For that we have to create pressure from outside. For that our party’s position is that the whole leadership of the party won’t join the government. One section of the leadership will join the government, and the other section of the party leadership will remain outside and continue organizing and mobilizing the masses. So the party will take that route. Many of us will be [in the government]. The main form of struggle will be from within the government, to make the new constitution. But another section will remain outside the government. That’s why all of our central leaders didn’t participate in the elections. We want to organize and mobilize the masses so that they can put pressure on the government. So this is one aspect. And we want to develop certain institutions. Though we haven’t found the concrete form for them yet, we have made some policy decisions. When we put forth the concept of development of democracy in the 21st century, our slogan was that the government and the party should be constantly supervised by the masses, and the masses should intervene at times if need be. This is our policy. But we have not been able to find the concrete form. What will be the way of intervening in case the government deviates? What will be the form of putting pressure, apart from public demonstrations? How will they intervene in the state system? That mechanism we are trying to work out.

The Indo-Nepal People’s Solidarity Forum – A Concept Paper

Nepal is a land locked country situated in between two giants – China and India. It is surrounded by India in east, south and west and shares an open border of around 1800 kms. While on the north it is only the Himalayas that separate Nepal from China . Nepal’s landlocked status and especially its dependence on India for access to the outside world, vital products such as petroleum, investments by Indian corporate sector has been exploited by successive Indian governments to keep Nepal under their ‘sphere of influence’. However, since the emergence of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as the major political formation in Nepal, Indian ruling classes have become apprehensive whether they can keep Nepal under their tutelage, and have intensified their interference in Nepal’s internal affairs. Meanwhile India is emerging as the regional gendarme for US imperial interests and enabling US imperialism to interfere in the internal affairs of Nepal. The step up in US interference in south Asia and the presence of US led NATO troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan makes US role in Nepal all the more pernicious.

Propelled by the achievements of the ten years of the Peoples War, the joint mass movement reached a new height in the nineteen days of April 2006 mass uprising. Such was the appeal of the Maoist demand for an elected Constituent Assembly that this became the rallying cry of the ‘Jan Andolan’ and compelled the seven political parties leadership to accept this and unite with Maoists to establish a “Democratic Republic of Nepal”. Maoist slogan “For a Democratic Republic of Nepal” indeed became the popular slogan of the mass uprising against the autocratic monarchy. This uprising also taught that masses can defeat their oppressors and that it is people’s inalienable right to decide their destiny.

In their bid to keep the mass movement under their control, the Indian ruling classes first attempted to bring a rapprochement between the king and the parliamentary parties, and dispatched Karan Singh as their emissary to mediate. While this effort was emphatically rejected by the CPN (Maoist) and the ‘jan andolan’, the monarchy which was at the verge of collapse, nevertheless, managed to survive, because power was transferred to the seven political parties on April 24, 2006. With the formation of the seven parties government they called off the popular mass movement. But by January 2007 under public pressure the seven parties agreed to Maoist conditions for locking their weapons and to join the interim government.

Since then imperialists, expansionists and domestic reactionaries have tried to isolate the Maoists and employed different means to suppress them and reverse the achievements of the mass movement. It is significant that within less than 24 hours of the promulgation of interim constitution in January 2007 campaign began, directed against the CPN(M) cadres and supporters, particularly, in Terai or Madhesh, by using mercenaries. The massacre at Gaur is a gruesome instance in which the criminal gangs butchered 28 Maoist party members and/or sympathizers on April 4, 2007, who were gathered in an open field for an open mass meeting organized by Madhesi Mukti Morcha. Professional killer gangs were exported from adjoining part of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India to carry out this massacre. The India based Hindu communal-fascist groups have been directly involved in organising criminal activities. Yogi Adityanath of Gorakhpur , had hosted meetings in Gorakhpur in December 2006 for this very purpose. The state government of Bihar and UP as well as the central government knowing that such conspiracies were being hatched against the CPN(Maoist), from Indian soil using Indian criminals, did nothing to stop them. This is particularly striking because Indian security forces have deployed 35 battalions (or nearly 40,000 armed soldiers) of Sashastra Sena Bal (SSB) to monitor the border with Nepal and the distance between their check posts is barely 1.5 kms. Which is to say that it is difficult to believe that such criminal conspiracies can fructify without Indian government’s connivance. There are at least 22 armed gangs promoted by various outside agencies in Nepal. Most of them are patronized by the Indian establishment. It is also worth noting that on, 8 November 2007 , United Nation’s officials met leaders of some of these gangs in Muzzafarpur, Bihar.

Threat of Indian military intervention in Nepal , if Maoists come to power, is also no longer ruled out. Recently, in October 2007, a former head of Gurkha Regiment, (retd) Major General Ashok Mehta, and one of the several back channel ‘envoys’ used by the Indian government on Nepal told BBC Nepali recently that Indian army would not sit back if Maoists come to power in Kathmandu. While Indian officials denied any such plan, fact remains that such preparations are afoot. The US imperialists meanwhile have been downright hostile and supported the most malignant sections of the Nepal ‘s domestic reactionaries. And even when the whole world has recognized CPN(M)) as a principal political force in Nepal, US has carried on calling them ‘terrorists’. They have also tried to bring the Nepal Army under their tutelage through military aid and training. While imperialist conspiracies have not succeeded so far, neither have they stopped.

In this developing situation the postponement of elections to the CA in June 2007 and again in November 2007, has made the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 2007 virtually redundant. The demand voiced by CPN( Maoist) to declare Nepal a “Democratic Republic” and for full proportional representation system to elect the Constituent Assembly, therefore, was to ensure that the aspirations of the ‘jan andolan’ are not aborted. Let us recall that the principal slogan of Jan Andolan II was “For A Democratic Republic of Nepal “. And it is only a full proportional representation system which can ensure that local permutations and combinations, and first past the goalpost, which splits votes and strengthens local power wielders, do not rob the masses of their real representatives.

It is, therefore, need for a new alignment of Republican forces with a common democratic program has grown. The polarization between the Republicans and the Monarchists has indeed become sharp. This is manifest in the common stance adopted by the CPN(M), CPN(UML) and other left forces for instance on the important issue of declaring Nepal a republic, and of election to the Constituent Assembly to be based on Full Proportional Representation system. Inside the interim Assembly these parties have a majority as evident from the recent voting on this issue. It is the parties in a minority, including Nepali Congress, which are procrastinating and thwarting adoption of resolution declaring Nepal a Democratic Republic and for proportional representation system.

These developments, we believe, has brought Nepal to a new stage of a revolution and there is an immense possibility that Nepali people will become the harbingers of the first successful revolution of 21st century. However, there is also a threat that the foreign and domestic reactionaries will do their utmost to sabotage this from happening. Indian State is the main reactionary power in the region and the conduit through which much of the subversive activities directed against Nepali people, including the proxy war being waged by the US agencies, is being launched. Indian ruling classes have in the past annexed Sikkim, sent troops to Sri Lanka, played a role in emergence of Bangladesh. And now there are fears that the Indian ruling classes backed by US may try to partition Nepal by pushing for Madhesh/Terai secessionism. On the other hand, Indian people have both historical links with the Nepali people as well as there are more than 50 lakh Nepalese living and working amongst us. We have a shared history of helping each others struggles. It is thus natural that all those Indians who support the struggle of Nepali people for their emancipation must come together in solidarity with them.

Whereas success will give a boost to revolutionaries throughout the world a failure can send a negative message to the revolutionary and oppressed people of the world. In order to ensure the victory of the people’s revolution, solidarity with Nepalese people’s struggle to decide their own destiny is the need of the hour. Therefore, we have decided to set up an All India Indo-Nepal People’s Solidarity Forum to rally the revolutionary, progressive and genuine democratic forces of India in support of the Nepali people’s right to decide their destiny without any outside interference.

Slogans Adopted:
1. Oppose Indian Hegemony
2. No To US Imperialist Intervention in Nepal
3. Uphold the Nepalese People’s Right to Decide Their Own Destiny
4. Support ‘Democratic Republic of Nepal’

(Adopted on December 9, 2007 at the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the Indo-Nepal People’s Solidarity Forum, held at Faculty Centre, JNU, New Delhi.)

Appendix

The Indo-Nepal People’s Solidarity Forum (INPSF) has a three member presidium for the time, a general secretary, a treasurer along with 22 members of executive committee from different states of India. Professor Randhir Singh, a renowned Marxist thinker and scholar, is the forum’s patron.

The list of executive committee members are as following:

Anand Swaroop Verma, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya (member of presidium)
M. Raratnamala, Independent women rights activist (Member of presidium)
Prof. Amit Bhattacharya, Jadavpur University (Member of presidium)
Pavan Patel (General Secretary)
Abhishek Srivastav(Treasurer)
Anjani Kumar, Revolutionary Democratic Front
A. Mukundan, President, New Democratic Labout Front, Tamilnadu
Sheomangal Siddhantkar, General secretary CPI (ML) New Proletarian
Dhruv Narayan, PCC, CPI(ML)
Somnath Chatterjee, West Bengal State Organising Committee, CPI(ML)
Chandrabhan, Communist Gadar Party of India
Mrigank, Naujawan Bharat Sabha
Sidhartha, Struggle India
Amitava Bhattacharya, Gen. Secy. Majdoor Kranti Parishad
Justice Ajit Singh Bains, Chairman Punjab Human Rights Organisation
Ajayprakash, Anti-Inperialist Writer Forum
Harish, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangthan
Nagendra, Inqlabi Majdoor Kendra
Narain Dutt, Inqlabi Kendra Punjab
Prof. Vijay Singh, Revolutionary Democracy
Kavita Krishnan, (CPI(ML) Liberation
Laxman Pant, Nepali Janadhikar Suraksha Samiti, Bharat
Balwant Yadav, Indian Association of People’s Lawyer (IAPL)

Along with this Gautam Navalakha and Debojoti Basu are special invitees in the forum.

Pavan Patel, Gen. Secy., INPSF

People’s War in Nepal: Genesis and Development

Anand Swaroop Verma, Gautam Navlakha
Economic and Political Weekly

In Maoist understanding, People’s War (PW) is 80 per cent politics and 20 per cent warfare. The decisive factor in a war of this genre is not guns but the mobilisation of people for seizing power through protracted war. This is not to underplay the significance of armed struggle in Maoist politics or to delink one from the other, but to stress that the mark of Maoist success lies in their emergence as the dominant political and ideological force in Nepal. The remarkable political consistency and dexterity displayed by them in sticking to their strategic goals and making their agenda (a democratic republic through an elected constituent assembly, interim government, under an interim constitution, etc) the basis, if not the rallying point, for ending the civil war, and attempting to win the mandate to constitutionally transform the state, are its articulation. In this paper we confine ourselves to the period 1990 onwards, leading up to PW – the period from February 1996 to the “12-point agreement” of November 2005. We highlight the elements of continuity in the salient features of the strategy of PW implemented by the Maoists.

Degenerate Parliamentary Politics

It is worth recalling that the armed struggle of the Nepalese people against feudal monarchy is as old as the kingdom itself. Thus struggle persisted even after the 1950 overthrow of Rana autocracy, which had wielded state power until then. The 1950 Indian intervention, which restored the king’s power, was soon followed by several anti-feudal struggles in 1952-53, primarily in western Nepal. In these struggles, government officials were removed, feudal landlords were eliminated and foodgrains looted and redistributed. Failing to subdue this rebellion, the king sought the help of Indian troops. In 1959 when the Nepali Congress, then led by B P Koirala, signed Gandak agreement with India it triggered off violent protests against it. The Nepali Congress which was thrown out by the king on December 16, 1960, then initiated in 1962 and again in 1971 an armed uprising. In 1972-73, inspired by Naxalbari, an armed struggle broke out in Jhapa. The introduction of the multiparty system in 1991, as a sequel to the protracted struggle against partyless Panchayat regime, spurred the people’s aspirations at various levels.

In these 30 years, 1960-1990, the democratic forces went through lot of trials and tribulations. Since the Nepali Congress had at one time held the reins of power and had developed cordial foreign relations, particularly with the ruling classes of India, it did not bear the brunt of repression. Despite the fact that it took to arms in 1962 and 1971, its movement against the monarchical system remained qualitatively different from that launched by the left forces. Many communist formations were active during this time, the most powerful among them being the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) (CPN(ML)). The party, inspired by the Naxalbari movement in India, had carried out a peasant led anti-feudal movement in Jhapa in eastern Nepal.

Without going into the strategy and tactics adopted by the Jhapa peasant movement,it can certainly be said that the movement laid the traditions of communist struggle and sacrifice. Several activists of the CPN(ML) were killed, many more were put behind the bars, while the land and the properties of many others were attached by the state. In spite of repression, many young people left their home and hearth and dedicated their lives to the establishment of a genuinely democratic order. The CPN(ML), in its First National Convention (held between December 26, 1978 and January 1, 1979) had resolved that “(t)he party…shall unite and lead through a protracted peoples’ struggle all such progressive forces who are committed towards the victory of the ‘New Democratic Revolution’ in Nepal as a prerequisite for the eventual establishment of a socialist and communist society.”(1) The resolution identified the agrarian revolution as the kernel of the new democratic revolution and committed itself to uproot “the power of big landlords through armed struggle”.(2)

After the declaration of a multiparty system, the CPN(ML) which had so far been functioning underground started working as an open political party. They tried to unite other left formations and were successful to a considerable extent. The party in association with Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist), led by Manmohan Adhikari, formed the Unified Marxist-Leninist Party, which was christened CPN(UML).

The CPN(UML) participated in the first democratic elections held on May 12, 1991 after the establishment of the multiparty system. Although the party was a newcomer in the electoral arena, it scored major victories in various places as compared to the Nepali Congress, well steeped in the rituals of parliamentary democracy. In this election, the Nepali Congress won 110 seats, whereas CPN(UML) captured 69 seats. Undoubtedly, against all odds, it was a great achievement for the CPN(UML). In subsequent elections, the party forged ahead of the Nepali Congress and, for the first time in south Asia, a communist government took over the reins of power at the national level. Yet, once the party entered the realm of parliamentary politics, it jettisoned its historical legacy to bring about social transformation, beginning with radical land reforms. Instead, in order to remain in power it took recourse to the same means adopted by the Nepali Congress.

Thus if the Nepali Congress took the support of the pro-monarchy Rashtriya Prajatantrik Party (RPP), then the same means were adopted by the CPN(UML). The RPP was then led by Lokendra Bahadur Chand and Surya Bahadur Thapa who had earlier been prime ministers in the panchayat system. In fact, Lokendra Bahadur Chand was the prime minister at a time when a massive and unprecedented protest movement was taking place outside the Royal Palace in 1990. In September 1995, the Nepali Congress government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba had secured the support of RPP. In March 1997, CPN(UML) helped install RPP’s Lokendra Bahadur Chand as the PM in spite of the fact that the CPN(UML) had 90 members of Parliament (MPs), whereas RPP could boast of only 10. This was done to prevent Nepali Congress from forming the government.

Again in October 1997, the Nepali Congress helped in installing the RPP’s Surya Bahadur Thapa as PM. At that time, the RPP had only 17 MPs, whereas Nepali Congress could boast of a strength of 85 MPs. The Nepali Congress resorted to this ploy to prevent the communists from forming the government. In March 1998, there was a split in the CPN (UML) and 40 MPs walked out of the party to form CPN(ML). The same story was repeated when the new party also indulged in playing the same power brokering games as its predecessor. In August 1998, the new party, in collaboration with the Nepali Congress formed the government. In this descent towards degeneration, CPN(UML) could not be expected to be an exception. In December 1998, the coalition government of the Nepali Congress and the splinter group CPN(ML) collapsed. Immediately afterwards, as on cue, the CPN(UML) formed the government in alliance with the Nepali Congress.

Locating People’s War

It would not be far-fetched to say that to remain in power at any cost, the political parties betrayed the trust of the people.(3) It is against this background and resultant disenchantment of people with parliamentary brokering, in particular with the tactics of the parliamentary communist parties, that one can locate PW. First the 1990 transfer of power from the palace to the political parties gave wind to people’s expectations. Whereas in the Terai region, the people’s expectations were for ending feudal landlordism which was rampant, in the far-flung areas in the east as well as west, the popular demand was to end the neglect of these regions. On both counts, the political parties failed. Moreover, the shenanigans of the communists hastened the process of disenchantment. Also, while the international situation was unfavourable for the launch of social transformatory projects, conditions nationally were just the opposite. Nepal’s economy was in a crisis by 1994-95. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stipulates that any country whose foreign debt is 200-250 per cent of the value of exports and debtservicing ratio is 20 per cent of the same is in a “critical stage”. Nepal’s foreign debt jumped to 600 per cent of the total export trade and debt servicing to exports reached 35 per cent. Profligacy and scarcity, typical of a nascent capitalist country with strong feudal roots, not only contributed to low capital formation but also made it dependent on foreign donors for up to 70 per cent of its revenue needs. The migration of people in search of jobs had picked up in the 1970s and began to surge towards the end of the 1980s. The economic embargo imposed by India in 1989 brought home rather painfully the dependent nature of the relationship with India.

In initiating the PW, the Maoists were not simply engaging in combat; the very act of fighting was political. Acquisition of weapons by looting the armouries to arm themselves was as much a mark of their independence as of their awareness that any challenge to undermine the status quo would invite military suppression. It was increasingly realised that radical land reform, women’s liberation, the right of self-determination of nationalities and social justice could not be brought about through parliament under the 1990 constitution. Even the actual conduct of the
Maoists was pregnant with revolutionary tactics. Their secret parleys with Birendra (king of Nepal from 1972 until 2001), playing on his patriotism and Sihanouk like role, achieved its aim, even as they were able to maintain a line of communication with the political parties. Thereby the Maoists delayed the deployment of the army against them until they were prepared. They won this time by exploiting the contradictions between the palace and the political parties on the one hand, especially over the control exercised by the king over the army, and between the various political parties on the other. When the PW began on February 13, 1996, it was dismissed as being of no major consequence. And, as in the past, a “police action” was felt to be capable of quelling this problem.(4) However, by 2000 India and the US began pressurising the Nepal government to bring in the army. It was the attack on Dunai which was the headquarters of Dolpa district, on September 24, 2000, which brought home what it meant to keep the army out of the fighting. The army unit, based in the district headquarter watched while the Maoists destroyed the police station; it did not intervene. It was after this incident that the tussle between the king and the political parties for control and deployment of the army began in earnest. Although king Birendra gave in to international and national pressure by the end of April 2001 and agreed to an Integrated Security and Development Programme which was meant to bring in the army to the frontline in the fight against the Maoists. Nevertheless, following the assassination of king Birendra and his family on June 1, 2001, the situation changed dramatically.

Advantage of Hindsight

With the advantage of hindsight, it is worth a pause to consider how the Maoists expanded and consolidated their position during the PW. The People’s War did not emerge in a vacuum or out of simply exploiting opportunities that came the way of the Maoists. It emerged after long years of political work amongst the people, debating the failings of earlier struggles, including Jhapa. There was intense debate and differences over tactics and strategy amongst their top leadership as well as the rank and file, and above all, about creating the opportunities. The most endearing quality of the Maoists has been their willingness to learn from every crisis, of which they were witness to several. A crisis was turned into an opportunity. It is this which enabled them to overcome the near split in the party in 2004-05 and bounce back strongly so as to be able to reach an agreement with the seven political parties by November 2005. In the process the question of ‘democracy’ within the party got a boost. But, in 1995-96, the world was different. On December 13, 1995 in an interview given to The Independent, Baburam Bhattarai, a senior leader of the CPN(M) said that “every revolution appears as a dream before it is made…(and) appears like a nightmare for the reactionary classes before and after it is made”. And certainly, two months before the PW actually commenced this did appear to be a foolhardy enterprise. But commitment, perseverance and critical reflection pay. The Maoists leaders and leading cadres had been working underground long before the PW began. Some such as Kiran and Gaurav, from the 1960s, although most of the others began their journey from 1970 onwards. Prachanda and most of his other comrades began their political life in 1970s. When the first elections took place after the jan andolan of 1990 on May 12, 1991, the Samyukta Jan Morcha (United Peoples Front), headed by Baburam Bhattarai, won nine seats. The UPF was the open front of the communist group called Ekta Kendra (Unity Centre), which believed in armed struggle and was working underground. Though their seats were fewer than the seats won by the Nepali Congress or CPN(UML), the UPF secured the third position. Even as the UPF was taking part in the elections, the leaders of Ekta Kendra publicly campaigned that the Nepali people will not benefit from this parliament.

Meanwhile in December 1991, the Communist Party of Nepal (Ekta Kendra) which was reconstituted in 1986, changed its name to Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and after long deliberations and discussions, and some parting of ways, evolved the present line. Within this ideological context, the party came to the conclusion that PW is the only path for the successful completion of the New Democratic Revolution which would entail the encirclement of the cities from it villages, and, in this process, guerrilla warfare would play a strategic role. Following this the party carried out a large-scale survey in 1992 covering 18 districts. The objective of the survey was to identify the ways and means for initiating and carrying out PW. Several districts such as Rolpa, Rukum, Gorkha, Sindhuli, Dhanusha and Kavrepalanchowk were chosen for carrying out the preparatory work. In January 1994, when the CPN(UML) was in power, the Maoists had submitted a 38-point charter of demands concerning “nationalism, people’s democracy and people’s livelihood”.

Thus between 1990 and 1994, through public meetings, posters and pamphlets, the UPF leaders had been emphasising that the parliamentary system serves those who have been exploiting and tyrannising the common people. In 1994, mid-term elections took place in Nepal and the UPF boycotted it. The boycott of elections by them and the movement launched by Maoists against the local landlords and moneylenders was seen by the government as discarding parliamentary politics. As a result, large-scale repression was unleashed on the supporters of UPF and the Front had no other option but to go underground.

On February 4, 1996 the CPN(Maoist) submitted, through UPF a 40-point charter of demands to the then government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba, giving that government a two-week ultimatum. But, a few days before the ultimatum was to expire, on February 13, they declared protracted People’s War against the state. The charter of demands were no different than what UPF had been demanding since April 1992, related to nationalism, democracy and livelihood issues. Thus, the first demand under “Concerning Nationality” was for abrogating “(a)ll discriminatory treaties, including the 1950 Nepal-India Treaty”. Under “Concerning People’s Democracy” the first demand was for drafting a new “constitution…by representatives elected for the establishment of a people’s democracy”. And finally, the first item under “Concerning Livelihood” demanded that “(l)and should belong to ‘tenants’. Land under the control of the feudal system should be confiscated and distributed to the landless and the homeless.” Besides, the 40-point demand focused on women and dalits as the two most discriminated groups, even amongst the exploited classes/strata. And, they did so by mobilising them in the first instance. In other words, the 40-point demands were not a mere rhetorical device but were meant to be taken seriously, since these demands encapsulated their politics. That the charter of demands was dismissed in the first instance by the political parties had much to do with their bloated self-image, borne of being “mainstream” parties, either in power or as contenders for acquiring power.

In an atmosphere of repression and resistance, the Central Committee of the Party held its Fourth Extended Meeting in mid-1998. A “New Plan for New Stage” was chalked out in the meeting. Based on the experience of the past two and a half years, the party drew some important conclusions regarding this particular issue. At the ideological level, the party made an attempt to develop a clear perspective regarding the distinction between a guerrilla zone and a base area. According to the party, in a protracted PW, without a base area, there cannot be any surrounding of the cities by the countryside. Thus, whereas PW had established itself as a parallel power centre via-a-vis the state, the party’s assessment was that it was quite weak in terms of military strength. Therefore, augmentation of people’s military might was identified as the main task. Based on its own experience, the Party underscored the point that if people do not possess military strength then it would not be possible to protect and uphold their achievements. Besides, due to lack of military might, people tend to lose their initiative. Thus the speedy formation of the new state necessitated the augmentation of military strength.(5)

Development of People’s War

In order to augment their military capabilities, many qualitative changes were carried out in the third year of PW. And bigger armed actions had been initiated by the party. But the interesting thing to note is that simultaneously while the war was being waged between 1998 and 2003, the ongoing process of formation of the new state was sought to be based on democratic principles. And the party was engaged in discussing the strategic importance of democracy for the new Nepal in the making, as well as the question of dissent, discipline and centralisation during the war within the party. People’s rule was organised at the village, region and base area levels; the principle of democratic centralism was followed. In areas where people’s local governments were in operation, the entire population were brought under the fold of various organisations and the right to recall their elected representatives encouraged. Above all, the new political setup was expected to harness human resources for economic resuscitation while fulfilling essential economic, social and cultural needs of the people. In 10 years what the Maoists achieved appears modest, but looked at from where they began, it is a novel people-oriented development, a story yet to be written.

Within three months of king Birendra’s assassination, negotiations took place in August 2001 between the government and the Maoists. Arguably, both sides needed a breathing space and used the period to consolidate themselves. However, the difference lay in their stated position at the negotiations. The Maoists stuck to their stance in terms of their demand for a round-table conference, an interim government and formation of an elected constituent assembly (CA), whereas the government appeared to have no clear idea other than wanting the Maoists to capitulate. And, once the September 11, 2001 attack took place in the US and the “war on terror” began, the prospects of talks dimmed perceptibly. When the talks broke down in November 2001, a few days later, the Maoists overran a big army garrison in western Nepal. The message sent out was clear while they favoured a democratic closure of the civil war, they were prepared to engage in war. By 2002, the tussle between king Gyanendra and the political parties had reached a new crisis point with the king declaring a state of emergency, dissolving local government bodies and dismissing the Deuba government because it had failed to hold general elections. The demand for an elected CA, however, was gaining supporters, with elements within the political parties discovering that the CA was a means to undercut the monarchy. Thus the PW entered a new phase, in which debate over an elected CA was gaining adherents. This was carried on until January 29, 2003 when a ceasefire was reached once again, and negotiations were attempted for the second time. However, while the government of Lokendra Bahadur Chand appeared keen, it failed to live up to its commitments in releasing imprisoned Maoist leaders and non-implementation of the agreement to limit the army to within a five kilometre radius of the barracks. The last straw was the deliberate massacre of 19 unarmed Maoist cadres in Doramba by the RNA in August 2003. This compelled the Maoists to withdraw from the talks. While the talks derailed, by early 2005 it had become clear the king’s army could not deal a fatal blow to PW. This brought about a “tectonic shift”; by November 2005 the Indian authorities saw an advantage in encouraging the seven political parties to reach an understanding with the Maoists.

The remarkable thing, despite all the ups and downs, is that the two rounds of negotiations show the continuity in the Maoists’ position. In 2001 they had publicly proposed that if an elected CA was accepted by the government, then they were prepared to be part of the interim government and therefore favoured a roundtable conference. This remained their position as well in 2003. Indeed by 2005 and 2006 those very same demands became the common rallying point for the democratic movement in its entirety. Graduating from being a rag-tag band of revolutionaries to becoming the centre of people’s struggle was no mean achievement. This was the result of their creating as well as seizing opportunities. When they claim that they combine strategic firmness with tactical flexibility their politics testifies to that. It is this that catapulted them to become the leading political force in Nepal. Their success lies not only in gaining legitimacy for their transformatory project within Nepal, but also in their boldness to address failures of other socialist experiments in order to learn from the mistakes committed. In concrete terms, the Nepali Maoists have put the question of democracy within the party as well as in the new state in the making at the centre stage.

In an interview to The Worker (No10, May 2006) Prachanda had said that “(w)e know…that in today’s world the usefulness of the tactics to use parliament has come to an end. But continuous boycotting of a system without considering the situation of a country and its people is not Marxism”. Instead his party “believes that within the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist constitutional framework, only through multiparty competition…can counterrevolution be prevented”. Multiparty competition can also help realise people’s control, monitoring and intervention in governance. In another interview given in July 2006 Prachanda pointed out that if one looks at the “essence of that which we are calling democratic republic then… within that we’ve raised the class question, nationality question, gender question and the regional question. If all these four issues are solved then it amounts to having a new democratic republic…but since we are also talking about peaceful competition with the bourgeoisie, its form looks like bourgeois democracy, whereas it is new democratic in essence”.(6) Whether they will succeed, how exactly this democracy would function and what contradictions will this generate remain to be seen. But this cannot detract from acknowledging their advancement of revolutionary politics.

No sooner Maoists joined the interim government, they declared that they wanted Nepal, even in the interim period, to become a democratic federal republic. This is not a sign of their impetuosity or irresponsibility. In fact therein lies their relentless pursuit of their objective through mass struggle. If Nepal becomes a democratic federal republic, then each and every party, currently espousing the republican agenda, will have to spell out its vision of what in essence this means to them. This would provide a distinct advantage to the Maoists since they have a radical programme, some experience of running their own government, and suffer least from a popular trust deficit, which afflicts the seven political parties. For instance, since they had already begun introducing major reforms in their base areas, including land re-distribution, they are disinclined to roll them back. Apart from the immediate gain for them, this will restore democracy and boost the struggle for real democracy, which is right at the centre of the revolutionary project. The Maoists are seeking to gain legitimacy for their project by winning the mandate of the people through elections to restructure the state in such a way that real inequalities do not negate formal equality under law. This struggle for “real democracy” inspires hope because they have brought more than 20 million crore people in Nepal a historic opportunity to take a big leap forward in their fight for justice. It is this journey, or “transitional democracy” as Maoists characterise it, which rekindles hope that the revolutionary left in south Asia in general, and the Maoists in Nepal in particular, are capable of fusing armed and mass struggles as well as conceptualising a democratic egalitarian state and society. What remains to be seen is whether they realise what had appeared to them to be a “dream” in 1995.

Email: gautamnavlakha@hotmail.com

Notes

1 Political resolution of CPN(ML), party’s underground publication, 1979, p 20.

2 Ibid, p 27.

3 The sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) was held in January 1998 and it is apparent, if we look into the statements of party general secretary Madhav Nepal, politburo member C P Mainali and others on the eve of the Congress, that CPN(UML) was grappling with regression within the party. General secretary Madhav Nepal had said in an interview, “Bourgeois deviations are growing within the party. Corruption, misuse of office and charm for a luxurious lifestyle is on the rise. Petty bourgeois individualism and lust for power are acquiring deeper roots and a very large number of opportunists and self-seekers have become active in the party…anarchism, indiscipline and lumpenism are ever on the rise. There is no importance of party decisions and discipline. If a decision is favourable or to one’s liking, it is implemented, and if it is not, then there is an increasing tendency to defy it – either collectively or in a group mentality” (Interview of Madhav Nepal Mansir 2054, Mulyankan (Kathmandu), pp 5-7). A senior leader and ideologue of the party, C P Manali, was also of a similar view, that various deviations regarding the character of the party, its functional style and disciplinary matters have surfaced. He attributed it largely to the compulsions to contest elections. He said “the party has been, at many places, reduced to a front of the communists and communist sympathisers, giving rise to the dangers of the weakening of the party character” (op cit, pp 8-9).

4 Until 1999-2000, India’s ministry of home affairs (MHA) and the ministry of defence (MoD) in their annual reports, did not once refer to the presence of Maoists in Nepal. Their main concern then was Pakistan’s support for “anti-India activities from Nepal” and “growth of religious fundamentalist organisations” along the Indo-Nepal border. It was in 2000-01 that the reports begin to refer to Maoists. MoD annual report of 2000-01 spoke of a “development of concern… increasing intensity and spread of Maoist violence within Nepal”. After that there was no turning back. When MHA wrote in its annual report of 2001-02 of “the decision of the MCC [Maoist Communist Centre] and the CPIML-PW [Communist Party of India (Marxists Leninist) (People’s War)] to tie up with the CPN(M) to carve out a ‘Compact Revolutionary Zone’.” The MoD annual report of the same year claimed that “India has also offered such assistance as is desired by Nepal” to address Maoist extremism.

5 Report of the general secretary, CPN(Maoist), The Worker, No 4, 1998. Also see ‘Third Turbulant Year of People’s War: A General Review’, article by CPN(Maoist) general secretary Prachanda, February 1999. Also see, ‘Experiences of the People’s War and Some Important Questions’, Document of the Fourth Extended Meeting, August, 1998.

6 Interview of Prachanda by A S Verma, July 29, 2006. at www.insn.org

Nepal: Anything possible if the left unites

Interview with Com Mohan Baidya in Budhabar
May 9, 2007

Why did this talk about not returning the property seized during the ‘people’s war’ start after you entered government?

We believe that we should first develop a long-term strategy for land distribution. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is clear when he says that if land has been seized unfairly, it needs to go back to the [original] owner. But if they are feudal, it will not. The eight parties need to sit together to form policies on land reform, and new laws can be made through interim legislature. There will be no redistribution or return until these issues are settled. We believe in giving land to the poor, and we have to be careful that seized property does not go back to the rich again.

Discussions about left party unification have pushed back the elections to the constituent assembly and prevented eight-party meetings. If Girija (sic) and Deuba (sic) can talk about unification, why can’t we talk about a unified left? The left parties have a majority in parliament and feel that a united left will make the alliance stronger, though we can, of course, face the Nepali Congress as an independent entity. The NC is trying hard to disrupt the momentum we have created in our unification [plans].

What do you hope a united left will achieve?

Unity until the elections to the constituent assembly is most important, so we can work for equality and socialism. Right now, a republic is not possible either, without left party unification. Even the capitalists talk about a republic, but the NC is so influenced by foreign capitalist forces, that it refuses to join the discussion.

The left parties have contributed to the success of the two People’s Movements, and in forming the 12-point agreement. Together, the left parties can fight foreign interference and the royalist forces together. Anything is possible if the left parties unite.

Due to ideological and political differences with the CPN-UML there can be no immediate unification with them, but we could settle our differences through discussion.

Your party’s central committee meeting also decided to talk about nationalism.

Our political agendas have been hampered because of international interference. Look at what the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum is doing in the tarai, listen to [US ambassador] Moriarty’s speeches-it’s clear foreign forces do not want Nepal to be a republic. Who would call Nepal independent with all this interference? Nepal is being Sikkimised.

SOURCE: Nepali Times, Issue #348 (11 May 07 – 17 May 07)