Nepal: Is the game up?

Faced with a mass revolutionary movement the king of Nepal has been forced to reinstate parliament. Now the movement is being channelled towards some form of bourgeois parliamentary rule. But much more could have been achieved had there been a genuine Marxist leadership.

The declaration of King Gyanendra of Nepal reinstating the House of Representatives was welcomed with relief by many of those who have been protesting on the streets of Nepalese towns. However, it must be said that this was only a partial victory. Had a genuine Marxist party led the movement, it could have gone much further than simply restoring Parliament. It could have abolished capitalism from Nepal. All the conditions existed for such an outcome. Now the lack of a revolutionary leadership will mean that the Nepalese masses will have to go through the experience of a long and painful parliamentary “solution” that will be no solution whatever.

The situation was reaching a very critical point, where power could have been taken by the masses. That is why the king had to make some concessions. It was either, make concessions or risk being toppled. The Seven Parties Alliance (SPA) was waiting for such concessions in order to call off the movement that had been on the streets of Kathmandu for over two weeks, with more than a dozen people being killed by the security forces.

As soon as the king announced the reinstatement of the House of Representatives, the SPA was quick in transforming the demonstrations and rallies into “victory rallies”. The Opposition leaders have called the restoration of parliament a "victory for the people's movement". (www.bbcnews.co.uk, April 25) In this way they have managed to keep the king on the throne while at the same time not enraging the masses, that were ready to remove of the parasitic monarch.

In Kathmandu, huge rallies were organised in different areas, which later converged into mass meetings. The main leaders of the seven parties led the rallies and some top leaders addressed the mass gatherings in Kalanki, Koteshwor, Sapdobato, Chabahil and Gongabu. Most speakers of the gatherings vowed to move ahead according to the spirit and the mandate of the people’s movement. Addressing a gathering in Kalanki, CPN (UML) leader general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal said the first priority of the reinstated parliament would be to announce elections to the constituent assembly and form of an interim government. (www.nepalnews.com April 25)

When a week earlier, the king had come on the TV and made an offer that was not really giving anything, the Nepali Congress – NC, the leading force within the SPA – was forced to refuse, because this would have been seen as a major betrayal. Then the US ambassador and the Indian Prime Minister intervened. They visited the king and the leaders of the SPA, especially the leader of the NC. They were desperate for some sort of agreement, and shortly after they had put pressure on him, the king caved in. Significantly, he had not received any support from China, while the major imperialist powers were demanding a less arrogant approach from him to stop a movement that was getting out of hand. He was completely isolated and realised that the only way to save his head was by making concessions to the leaders of the SPA that were more afraid of the masses than of the monarchy.

Who saved the king?

Now there are rivers of ink being written about how it was US diplomatic skills that saved the Nepali masses. However, if we read these carefully, we find that there are some interesting admissions, such as those of the US ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty, who said that Nepal was very close to a bloodbath as the people’s movement headed towards its climax. (www.nepalnews.com April 27). In the same interview he refers to the three-month-long unilateral ceasefire announced by the Maoists. He said: “The biggest question right now is the Maoist intention. The (new government) should try and hold the Maoists to ceasefire… They (the Maoists) should not be included in the interim government unless they lay down their weapons.” (www.nepalnews.com April 27). In simple language this translates as: we were on the brink of a successful revolution but with the new scenario, if the Maoists play by the rules, they can be brought into some form of government.

It is important to note that not a word is mentioned by the Maoists or any other left force about the needs of the workers and poor peasants. All they do is limit themselves to raising the prospect of a republic that will solve all their problems. In the eyes of the strategists of imperialism, the CPN-M leadership, which boasts control over 80% of the countryside, has shown its “maturity” by allowing the king to survive and by not launching an all-out attack to end his rule once and for all.

Even the US ambassador realises that the demands of the Maoists could be met by a nice little agreement and that will “solve” the problem. He stated, “The Parliament faces numerous challenges in coming weeks and months. Among other options, it may initiate a Constituent Assembly. This could prove an excellent avenue for the Maoists to join the political mainstream and peacefully help address Nepal’s problems, but to participate in any elections, the insurgents first must lay down their arms and renounce violence. The people of Nepal deserve nothing less.” This is similar to what imperialism tried to persuade Fatah and the PLO to do. There is an interesting analogy here, because the so-called realistic solution in Palestine eventually led to the election of Hamas and a dead-end as far as imperialism is concerned. It is not possible to keep everyone happy all the time when huge contradictions have built up over a long period of time.

The Maoists have been quick to respond. The CPN (Maoist) announced a unilateral ceasefire for three months with immediate effect. Now they are preparing themselves to be seen as part of the democratic process. This in and of itself is not a wrong move. But it is too little too late. Had this move been part of a plan to mobilise and lead the workers in the cities towards a general strike to overthrow the regime it would have been one thing, but that was not the intention, unfortunately. If the choice was between power and a bourgeois republic, the masses would have chosen power, but there was no party to lead them down this path. The CPN-M is quite open about its aims. In a recent statement, Maoist Chairman Prachanda said the truce was aimed at facilitating the ongoing “people’s struggle” for a constituent assembly and a democratic republic “so as to lead the struggle to a historic conclusion” and to encourage the parliamentary political parties to announce an unconditional constituent assembly. (www.nepalnews.com April 26). A few months ago the Maoists were talking about a strategy to take power; now they are promoting a constituent assembly.

It seems we have an abundance of political figures that are keen to call for Constituent assemblies in many parts of the world, whenever the bourgeoisie is on the verge of being overthrown. After the uprising in Bolivia important sections of the left claimed that a constituent assembly would solve the problems of the Bolivian masses. But is such a move viable in Nepal?

The country suffered a coup in February 2005 organised by the king when he dissolved the Parliament and assumed all powers. Previously Nepal had a House of Representatives that had been installed since 1990 when the revolutionary movement forced the Nepali royal family to concede a bourgeois democracy. What is the Constituent Assembly going to achieve? A Republic, the CPN-M would say, and this would be a step forward. But this ignores one very important question. In the epoch of senile imperialism, the Nepalese ruling class is not capable of taking the country forward. This is the task of the workers, in alliance with the poor peasants. The whole history of the twentieth century proves this point. A bourgeois President instead of a King is hardly a solution for a country that is seeped in semi-feudal relations.

Lack of leadership

The bourgeois elements within the SPA, that are there to make sure that the pro-democracy movement does not fall under the control of the millions that took to the streets, cannot believe their luck. This has been the best possible outcome for them, for they were completely isolated during the mobilisations. Now they are capitalising on all the talks and negotiations. In a meeting of the Nepali Congress the latest royal proclamation was hailed as being in favour of the country and the people. The Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) also hailed the royal proclamation and described it as a product of the pro-democracy movement of the country. A statement issued by the RJP chairman, Surya Bahadur Thapa, also urged everyone to work with patience to resolve the complex problems of the country. (www.nepalnews.com April 25). This is always what the bourgeois politicians ask us, whether it be in Nepal or in Buenos Aires.

The Maoists had been complaining that although what they wanted was simply a Republic and to be accepted as part of the establishment, this was almost impossible to do that with the king on the scene. Now the king is still there, but the door is being opened to them to take part in the “democratic” process. Now the unstable situation will continue, but – for now  not on the streets where the masses are powerful but at negotiating tables between bourgeois politicians, representatives of imperialism (who want stability and spheres of influence) and the guerrilla leaders (that sat on the fence during the mass movements in the cities). Clearly, both the Indian and US imperialists that are the main players here, and they want to see the Maoist guerrillas neutralised as much as possible, even if that means their involvement in a “peace process”.

The king’s offer, formally speaking, sets the clock back to when he was in command and Parliament was under the control of the NC. Thus a semi-insurrectional movement that could have abolished the monarchy has been derailed by the SPA into a survival option for the king. But the masses do perceive it as a victory. They see that it was their movement that has forced the king to back off and make concessions. However, it is the duty of genuine Marxists to explain that no long-lasting fundamental solution has been reached. The Maoist leaders cannot abandon their campaign for a Republic, while the masses will continue to experience what capitalism really means in Nepal today. There will be no concrete material improvement to their daily lives, with the king or without him.

Even the newly elected President of Nepal, Girija Prasad Koirala, admitted that this is only a partial solution, he state that “the reinstatement of the House alone will solve half of the problems facing the country,” (www.nepalnews.com, April 26). He knows full well that Nepal is not only in a Parliamentary crisis but a revolutionary one. The divisions that have appeared at the top confirm the deep internal divisions that the ruling class is facing.

On the other hand, the CPN-UML, the organisation that gives flesh to the unholy alliance of seven parties, seem to be having no input whatsoever. They also present the republican option as the solution to all problems. The CPN-UML unfortunately is locked into a popular front tactic that sees it in an alliance with bourgeois parties. Unless it breaks with these parties it will not be able to build up the huge potential support of the revolutionary movement that took to the streets of the main cities and villages during the two-week period of unrest.

In spite of his latest concessions, the king still has a very bleak future because a Constituent Assembly with the current mood in society will probably mean his departure. Although the political clock has been put back to early 2005, all the problems that the he faced then continue. The guerrillas are patiently waiting, the economic crisis has not gone away and his image is extremely damaged. In fact, if he becomes an obstacle in achieving some kind of “stability” in Nepal, imperialism and the ruling elite will push him out. However, now that the momentum has been partially lost, and the parliamentary game has started anew with the prospect of new elections he the king may survive for a little longer.

The masses in Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal will not be happy to watch passively as deals are made behind their back. They have had a taste of their own strength. There was no major political force organising local committees during the movement and linking them up nationally, and yet in spite of this the masses demonstrated what they are truly capable of. The recent events in Nepal have shown that the working class, even in one of the poorest and least developed countries in Asia, allied with the poor peasants in the countryside are an unstoppable force. The only thing missing was an organisation to lead them to victory. The next vital task facing the workers and youth of Nepal is to develop that organisation that will lead the movement to victory, removing not just the monarchy, but also feudalism and capitalism with it.

May 2006


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