Nepal: Maoists enter National Unity Government!

On March 31 the Nepalese Maoists joined a coalition government with bourgeois parties. From armed struggle they have gone to ministerial portfolios. Now the masses will be expecting something concrete for themselves, real economic and social improvement. But will this be possible in such a Popular Front coalition?

After the tremendous mass movement in April of last year, the leadership of the movement did everything within its powers to focus attention away from the streets to the negotiating tables. In December we reported that the Maoists had started negotiations to join an interim government. On March 31 the final agreement was reached.

Now the CPN-UML will have five ministers (they were the bigger force before parliament was dissolved by the king) and this is the same number of ministers as the CPN-M that was illegal until recently.

The new Prime Minister is again G.P. Koirala who has a tiny minority in the cabinet thanks to a very favourable division that gives his party, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D) - another bourgeois organisation that has the same class interests as the NC and is in the process of merging with it - a tiny majority over the CPN-UML and CPN-M. The trick has been to create an unstable equilibrium.

The meeting of the leaders on Friday had finalised the "five pacts". The five pacts include understanding on five different issues such as implementation of all earlier pacts; formulation of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP), which will be the government's policies and programmes; formulation of code of conduct for interim cabinet; formulation of working procedure; and formation of joint monitoring committee of the eight parties to steer the government. As per the first pact, the Maoists have agreed to return all seized properties - private or public - within 15 days, help return displaced persons respectfully and stop public display of weapons. The parties have also vowed to refrain from holding programmes like bandhs and strikes that cause inconvenience to the public (information from www.nepalnews.com, March 31, 2007).

PM Koirala took the oath in parliament following which he formed the interim cabinet and administered the oath to new ministers. The division of portfolios is as follows: "Nepali Congress, UML and Maoists will get five cabinet berths each; NC-Democratic will get three berths whereas People's Front (PF), United Leftist Front (ULF) and Nepal Sadbhavana Party - Anandidevi (NSP-A) will get one berth each. NC will keep the position of Prime Minister. NC, UML, Maoists and NC-Democratic will get one Minister of State each."

The NC is all set to re-capture Defence, Home, Finance and the newly created Peace and Rehabilitation portfolios along with Science and Technology. The UML will get Foreign Affairs, Education and Sports, Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Agriculture and Cooperatives and General Administration portfolios. NC-Democratic will get Labour and Transport Management; Water Resources and Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs portfolios.

The Maoists have Information and Communication, Local Development, Works and Physical Planning, Forest and Soil Conservation and Women, Children and Social Welfare portfolios. The NSP-A will get the Industry, Commerce and Supplies portfolio; ULF will get Land Reforms and Management; and PF will get Health portfolios. (www.nepalnews.com March 31, 2007)

What now?

In the run-up to this historic decision there has been mounting pressure within the communist ranks. The attacks of the pro-monarchy reactionary forces through their control of the Terai movement and also a number of actions (including a bomb attack against premises of the CPN-UML) forced the communist groups to accept an interim government that does not reflect the balance of forces that existed in Nepal during the mass movement. But this is the price that the masses have to pay for the complacency of the communist leaders.

Despite the mobilisations, strikes and protests of members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the last few months, their conditions are not improving, and the same situation applies to the rest of the country. The Maoist have made the question of the monarchy the fundamental issue for the future of Nepal without understanding that for imperialism the king is only a decorative figure that they would like to keep if possible, but they can do away with in any moment.

At the same time a section of the ruling class has been using anti-Maoist death squads such as the newly created Nepal Defence Army (who claimed responsibility for the blasts mentioned above). That is also the use that is being made of the Madhesi movement (Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, MJF). Clearly influenced by Hindu nationalism, and probably funded by a section of the Indian ruling class linked with the BJP, it is the usual tactic of the ruling class. Put as many obstacles as possible to the process of the Constituent Assembly.

Before the agreement the Maoists had threatened a bandh (a sort of general strike) but the fact is that they agree with the conditions posed by Koirala, who apparently has promised that the government of the next Assembly will take the issue of the king as a number one priority. The problem is that the Maoists are placing trust in the Nepalese ruling class that has a terrible track record in keeping promises. In any case, even if they do keep to their promises this time, all the old contradictions of Nepalese society still remain. Nothing fundamental will have changed.

How do they justify it? 

The Maoists have de facto joined a bourgeois government. They will now need to behave in a bourgeois manner, as they are not the driving force. This is a Popular Front government. Not so long ago the leader of the Maoists, Prachanda was pushing a very different line. They talked about the need to combine a popular army with a proletarian uprising. Now they have gone from that previous position to one of having nice cosy seats in the government.

In 1999 Li Onesto, an American Maoist-sympathiser interviewed Prachanda and asked him how important the struggle against revisionism was to him. The Maoist leader answered, "My main thrust is that I hate revisionism. I seriously hate revisionism and I never compromise with revisionism" (The Maoist Movement in Nepal, page 131).

He will have to perform some major political acrobatics to justify the entrance into a government with those same people who only nine months ago were sending the Army to kill Maoist fighters in the jungle. Has his hatred of revisionism mellowed somewhat?

He has also said that the main priority of his party after having joined the interim cabinet will be to ensure elections to a Constituent Assembly in a "free, fair and fearless environment." Speaking to the press, he added, "Let us not think that we have joined the old system. The formation of an interim cabinet has started new process."

Prachanda also revealed that the eight party leaders have signed an understanding whereby they have agreed to depose the monarchy if the latter is found engaged in conspiring to derail the Constituent Assembly polls - by a two-thirds majority of the legislative parliament. Prachanda said the Maoist ministers will now get security from the state. "There is no more two states now," he said. (www.nepalnews.com, April 1,2007)

Meanwhile the ex-girlfriend of Dyaendra has been to Nepal to meet Koirala and show off her new husband, the Indian Minister of Development and Human Resources. Some people will see this as a casual coincidence, but the Indian ruling class is aware of the need of a pro-active policy towards Nepal to deactivate the base of support of the Maoists. Therefore the Indian government has welcomed this development as well as the Chief of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), Ian Martin who has also declared support for the government.

This is a national coalition government where the Communists provide the bulk of the social base and the bourgeois parties hold all the important ministries. There is nothing new in this. It is the usual way of forming a classical Popular Front government. It is also seen as a means of "educating" the future respectable politicians to behave in the appropriate manner and also to ensure that no communist will ever get any strange ideas about key issues, such as private property, a serious land reform or a massive programme of social reforms that is so urgently needed in Nepal to start transforming the Himalayan country.

Instead of pushing for an independent revolutionary policy based on the working class and peasantry, the Communists will obediently wait until June, the proposed date for Constituent Assembly. Even after that date they will limit themselves to managing the best they can Nepalese capitalism and at the same time disbanding the system of communes that the Maoists had created in their areas of control. What an amazing turnaround for all those honest Nepalese communists who fought for a revolutionary transformation of society!

The future of the government

This new cabinet will be a crisis government. It is highly unlike that the cabinet will agree on anything, apart from the need for a Constituent Assembly. Therefore a government crisis is on the cards. Of course Koirala will delay any serious decisions, while at the same time involving the Maoists fully in the workings of government.

It is true that the masses are tired of war and they will therefore give some breathing space to this government, but how long this will last it is another question. The fact is that by retreating on all fronts, the Maoists have left the masses with no alternative. Thus even the coalition can now seem an option. But their problems will not be solved by this class collaboration. Therefore we are set for big changes and sudden developments in Nepal.

So far, thanks to this leadership, what we have seen is the mass movement achieving the reappointment of Koirala, while the Maoists have joined the government and are in the process of dissolving their 15,000-strong guerrilla force. This is a bleak balance sheet indeed, so they urgently need to give something to the masses that rose up during the April 2006 movement and, especially, to their own base of support.

The dilemma they face is that the ruling class will delay as much as possible the installation of the Constituent Assembly and in the meantime they will undermine with all sorts of tricks and manoeuvres the possible electoral victory of the communists.

Need for a Marxist perspective

It seems quite remarkable that the Maoists have joined the government and that the CPN-UML has five ministers. Until recently this would have seemed unthinkable. Although if one takes a moment to think things through it is not so remarkable. At the root of this whole situation is the old Stalinist theory of two stages, i.e. first the "democratic revolution" and only much later the socialist revolution. The Maoists are now convinced that they have achieved the "first stage" and now they must collaborate in building a modern capitalist state. They will find that this is not at all the case. A modern capitalist state in Nepal is not possible. Long-lasting democratic reforms cannot be achieved without moving immediately to the struggle for socialism.

The leaders of the Communist movement need to understand that the actual improvement of the living conditions of the masses is not possible under capitalism, with or without a king. If the conditions of the masses do not change, the entrance into the government, and even a Republic, will be without any serious content.

The leaders of the Communist movement need to re-think their tactics and engage in a United Front of all the communist groups and the trade unions, peasants' organisations and progressive student groups (the bulk of those that participated in the movement that re-instated the democratic parties) to draw up a programme of demands to immediately change the living conditions of the masses, socialist demands.

The idea of waiting for some mythical Republic at the end of the year is a trap that the communists should not fall into. They must break with the so-called "progressive bourgeoisie". There is in fact no such bourgeoisie in Nepal. It is an utterly reactionary bourgeoisie that is tightly linked to the imperialists in India and the US. In present day conditions this is the only kind of bourgeoisie that can exist in Nepal.

The leaders of the Maoists and of all the Communist and workers' organisations must adopt a clear socialist and internationalist approach. Anything else will lead to defeat of the movement.

The masses on the South Asian sub-continent will be looking at the formation of a government that has within it those same Maoists who until recently were leading an armed struggle. They will be expecting big changes to take place. Therefore although Nepal may be a small and relatively underdeveloped country, politically it can play a big role. It could provide an example. What kind of example is another matter. Will it be one of a victorious Communist movement leading the masses out of capitalism, or will it be yet another defeat that the bourgeoisie can use to convince workers and peasants that revolutionary struggle is not possible? The Nepalese Communists are at an important crossroads. They have already taken the wrong turning. It is not too late. They can turn back! If the leaders prove incapable of doing this, then the task will fall to the revolutionary elements within the Nepalese Communist movement who will draw the lessons and offer a different perspective to the masses.


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