On 18 September the CPN-Maoist announced their departure from the coalition government they had joined on 31 March after participating in the movement that had taken them out of ten years of underground work.
In these 6 months in a joint government, as we announced, the debates have been around the legitimacy and role of the monarchy, as well as the terms for the future Constituent Assembly. This Constituent Assembly has been repeatedly presented by the Maoists as a victory of the democracy movement. But in fact the "five pacts" that the interim Government agreed to were a total sell-out for the Maoists with nothing in return but promises.
The excuse for leaving the government is that "Prime Minister Koirala has rejected two key Maoist demands: announcement of republic before the polls and proportional representation-based election system" (nepalnews.com 18 September). Those issues have become the battlefield of political activity. How far away seem the days when the Maoists said they had joined the government to change things. Now they talk like any other professional bourgeois politician, about the borders of the constituencies and whether to declare the republic before or after the election. In fact, the CPN-M leaders declared that the 12-point agreement that brought them back into legality was still in place. They cannot afford to lose their legality only a few months ahead of the General Elections.
Of course, the issue of the republic is an important one, as it is a demand of the democratic movement, but we have to remember that the mass movement of last year allowed the king to stay on because, according to Maoist and other "Communist" leaders, Nepal needed a Constituent Assembly to abolish feudalism. These are the limits of reformism.
On the other hand, the King has been more or less blatantly using the Tarai movement, a national minority that professes Hinduism, to destabilise the situation. A two-day long bandh was called to protest the killing of Mohit Khan, the president of Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, in Kapilvastu in Terai. The communal unrest triggered by Khan's murder in Kapilvastu has claimed at least 31 lives. This is a clear attempt to create instability to reinforce the "party of order" in future elections. He was also manoeuvring with the Prime Minister, and we have to remember that Koirala was elected by a Parliament of self-appointed Maoists MP's with the support of the CPN-UML and the other "Communist" forces. Also the number of attacks and assassinations against leftists forces has increased rapidly.
Meanwhile, the Maoists have called for a nationwide protest movement since their departure from office. The protest programme included the burning of effigies of the monarchy today [September 18], door-to-door publicity campaigns on September 19-21, "people's demonstrations" on September 22, "exposure" of those implicated by the Rayamajhi commission report from September 29 to October 3, picketing the District Administration Offices on September 30, and political strike from October 4 -6.
This corresponds to the usual Maoist attitude of using the mass movement as a tap, which they are attempting to turn on and off at will. The street actions, according to Bhattarai (the Maoist leader who announced the demonstrations), will be peaceful and the People's Liberation Army will remain in cantonments.
However, members of the People's Liberation Army "came out of the cantonment of sixth division in Dasrathpur of Surkhet district on Monday and traveled to Birendranagar to picket the District Administration Office (DAO)". The combatants put forth a 9-point list of demands including payment of their salaries, rations, allowances, health services and proper management of the camps. They also demanded that they be treated on par with Nepali Army. (nepalnews.com 25 September). The ex-guerrilla fighters have been suffering terrible living conditions in the camps (not being paid, lack of food and water) as well as some attacks. This is a growing contradiction facing the Maoist leadership.
It is not clear whether this is part of an orchestrated policy on the part of the CPN-M of giving different messages in order to be in a strong position for negotiations or a movement from below that the leadership cannot control.
Nevertheless, the situation in the camps is creating a mood of discontent within the Maoists forces, which partly explains why the Maoists quit the government, to show that a decade of sacrifice and struggle of the rank-and-file is still taken into account by the leaders. But there are more worrying trends that show otherwise.
It is obvious that the Maoists are facing increasing pressure from the ranks to fight for the republic before the Constituent Assembly elections, and pressure on all other fronts to go to the polls and re-join the cabinet.
Most of the press claim that the Maoists will do badly in those elections. There is no doubt that until last week they had lost the political initiative and leaving the cabinet is an attempt to recover it. Another attempt to recover lost ground is the CPN-M merger with the CPN-MLM (Communist Party of Nepal- Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) a former member of the United Leftist Front, also part of the Seven Party Alliance. This is bourgeois politics at best as there is no debate on the fusion, no political documents, just a meeting of the tops and a division of armchairs.
The proposed electoral system is going to help the big electoral coalitions because it reinforces the two main parties of each constituency. We might see a race of mergers and fusions so that the various parties and alliances will be able to catch as many seats as possible. This would seem to indicate that quitting the government might be a bluff to mobilise support for the electoral contest. While being correct - mobilising your base of support at the time of an election - the Maoists switch on and off the mass movements according to the party's needs, something which has very little to do with Communist politics and a lot to do with the way reformists behave across the world.
The Maoists are telling everyone what they want to hear, and that is a dangerous policy. For instance, the Maoists declared that they have ruled out any return to the armed conflict. "Now we will focus on peaceful protests to meet our demands." (according to BBC news: please see http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7000252.stm). This of course is to calm the international community that has been working so closely with the government (Maoists included).
But they also announced that the CPN-M would boycott the Constituent Assembly elections if the government tried to hold the elections without declaring Nepal a republic (Kantipur Online, 18 September). The Maoist's second-in-command, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, also publicized three-week long protest programmes chalked out by the Maoist high command with an aim to disrupt the elections slated for November 22.
And again two days later, the Maoist chairman, Prachanda, said that the Maoists will not return to the government unless there is a "new political understanding" and that the "Maoists will return to govt if there's new political agreement' (nepalnews.com September 24). This means, in the obscure jargon of the Maoists, that another deal at the top would be acceptable to them.
While all this happens the other forces, more used to electoral contests and propped up by imperialism, are preparing for those elections, especially the Nepali Congress. The two Nepali Congresses, which split a few years ago, are merging and also moving towards a republican stance. The former staunch supports of the monarchy now fill their mouths with the need for a sovereign mandate of the Constituent Assembly. The prime minister says the constituent assembly itself must decide the monarchy's fate (BBC news http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7000252.stm )
We warned that the ruling class of Nepal would ditch the king if he became a nuisance to the capitalists. His stupid behaviour has meant that now the elite of Nepal will become republican. This will last as long as the masses are on the move. The Maoists and "Communists" have been playing with words and they are tiring out the movement, wasting its time and effort in achieving a nice little republic that will last as long as the masses are on the streets, which by the way cannot last indefinitely. As soon as the most rancid sections of society feel comfortable enough, they will attempt to destroy that republic. The shame is that millions of landless peasants and exploited workers will be asked by the Maoists to fight for a republic under capitalism, which would be ruled by the same class that fought against them under the monarchy.
They do not want to see the fact that there is no so-called progressive wing of the Nepalese ruling class to develop the country, establish this mythical republic and solve the national question.
The international repercussions
The situation in Nepal is rather strategically important for the imperialists, both on a regional and international level. Recently, the Indian Sub-continent has been exploding. The situation in Pakistan is one of deep crisis, as has been reported here and elsewhere. But also in India the Maoists, who have a considerable following in some areas, follow closely the situation in Nepal. Bhutanese Maoists have largely drawn their strategy and tactics from the Nepali Maoists and they have recently announced the beginning of a People's War. It is a pity that they might fight for a decade or more only to reach the conclusion that in the end they might actually join a bourgeois government. Bangladesh is also rife with instability, and the situation is spreading to Myanmar.
It is clear that the ruling elites of the Indian Sub-continent cannot provide the minimum standards of living to the masses, yet the Maoist and "Communist" movement in Nepal needs to draw the lessons of more than 50 years of Independence in India and Pakistan and the entire sub-continent and understand that in the epoch of imperialist decay, the ruling classes of the ex-colonial countries do not and cannot play a progressive role. The living conditions of the masses cannot improve under capitalism and a republic will not solve the need for water, food, decent communications, education, housing, etc. This has been concretely demonstrated over the past six months.
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, i.e. socialist demands. The merger of two "Communist" organisations is a step forward, but there is a clear need for a genuine revolutionary socialist programme and an appeal to the masses of the countries in the Indian sub-continent. The situation is now ripe in Nepal and the rest of the sub-continent. If they continue to wait for a mythical republic they will lose a historical opportunity.
- Nepal: Maoists enter National Unity Government! by Pablo Sanchez (April 5, 2007)
- Terai riots in Nepal a warning for the left by Pablo Sanchez and Fred Weston (February 8, 2007)
- Nepal - A revolution lost! Yet masses struggle on! by Adam Pal (October 30, 2007)
- Nepal: Is the game up? by Pablo Sanchez (May 2, 2006)
- Nepal: The end of the line for the King by Pablo Sanchez (April 20, 2006)
- Nepal: the Kingdom is hanging by a thread by Pablo Sanchez (December 15, 2005)
- Nepal after the coup – business as usual? by Pablo Sanchez and Fred Weston (February 10, 2005)
- The civil war in Nepal intensifies by Pablo Sanchez and Fred Weston (October 28, 2004)
- The impasse facing the Nepalese Communists by Pablo Sanchez (July 14, 2004)
- Nepal - The collapse of the "Peace Talks" and the impasse facing the workers and peasants
by Pablo Sanchez (October 3, 2003)
- Lessons from the history of the Nepalese Communist movement by Pablo Sanchez (June 23, 2003)