Nepal - A revolution lost! Yet masses struggle on!

Monday, 30 October 2006
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In April 2006 the stage was set in Nepal for a revolution that could have not only done away with the centuries old monarchy, but also swept capitalism aside, laying the foundations of a socialist society.  However, due to the bankruptcy of the so-called Communist Parties this did not happen and the revolution in April did not fulfil its tasks.

Revolutionary movements are steadily ripening in a rapidly changing world where political and economic crises deepen with every passing hour. Though Latin America has caught the attention of the whole world due to the shift to the left taking place there, it is South Asia, where a revolutionary upsurge could take place at any time, that could astonish everyone.

In April 2006 the stage was set in Nepal for a revolution that could have not only done away with the centuries old monarchy, but also swept capitalism aside, laying the foundations of a socialist society. Beyond this, the revolution in Nepal, the home of Mount Everest, could have been the matchstick that lit the mountains of proletarian gunpowder in China and India.

However, due to the bankruptcy of the so-called Communist Parties this did not happen and the revolution in April (Lokantra Andolan), did not fulfil its tasks. Now all the political parties in Nepal are using the uprising of the people to further their own interests and steer the revolution farther off its course.

The current peace talks between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists is a farce which will decide nothing more other than who will exploit the masses in future.

Nepal, a small country with a population of just over 20 million, of which only 12% live in the cities, is surrounded by India and China. These two countries have always used Nepal in pursuit of their strategic interests. Today, Nepal is no more than a colony of India, which exploits its resources and its strategic geographic local in the pursuit of its interests.

India and China have always exerted a strong influence in the politics and economics of Nepal. The Nepali Congress Party is the child of the Indian National Congress while the Communist movement in Nepal was strongly influenced by the movement for independence in India as well as by the Chinese Revolution of 1949.

The Communist Party of Nepal was formed in April 1949. The long history of conflicts and factional struggles in the communist movement is largely due to the influence of the struggles and conflicts taking place in the Communist Parties of India and China. The communist movement in Nepal was also influenced by Stalinist Russia. The Sino-Soviet split, as well as the relations between India, China, and the Soviet Union had a big impact on the Communist Parties of Nepal, which continuously split on various ideological and organisational issues. There are currently more than 20 Communist Parties in Nepal.

The dominant theory of all these Communist Parties was the Stalinist two-stage theory. This was the idea that since the tasks of the revolution are those of the bourgeois national democratic revolution, the leadership of the revolution should be taken by the bourgeoisie. The goal of the proletariat, therefore, was to ally itself with the bourgeoisie in order to complete the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Then at some stage in the future, after the development of capitalism, there would be a socialist revolution led by the proletariat.

But the bourgeoisie, especially in the so-called Third World, is incapable of completing the tasks of the national democratic revolution. After the establishment of capitalism as a world system, the world was already divided up by the great imperialist powers. The bourgeoisie in the so-called Third World had come onto the stage of history too late. The bourgeoisie in countries like Russia in the early 20th century, or India and Nepal today, are too weak and reliant on imperialism and the landowners. They are wholly reactionary and are incapable of leading the revolutionary movement. It then falls to the revolutionary proletariat to complete the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. But in doing so, they will immediately pass over to the socialist tasks of the revolution.

Due to their blind obedience to the powerful bureaucracies in China and the Soviet Union, the communists in Nepal were unable to comprehend the economic and political development of the ex-colonial countries and the nature of the revolution.

The uprising in Nepal in the 1990s (called the Jana Andolan) forced the King to move from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary monarchy and a multi-party system.

The bankruptcy of the Communist Parties in India on the one hand and the Chinese government on the other left the Nepalese communists isolated. Not seeing any genuinely revolutionary way out, they failed to lead the mass movement towards the victory of socialism. Had a genuinely revolutionary organisation existed in Nepal the revolutionary movement could have been united around a socialist programme and capitalism and the feudal/tribal backwardness of Nepal would have been abolished.

The Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) was the biggest Communist Party in the country at that time. The organised workers were united in the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), a confederation of 17 national trade union federations. GEFONT is the trade union wing of the CPN-UML.

GEFONT was established in 1989 and its declared goal is "Socialism for the dignified working class and for a prosperous life." This confederation played a leading role in the Jana Andolan but the leadership of the CPN-UML settled for a role in the parliamentary monarchy and a share in the power and exploits of the government. After the collapse of the Congress government, the CPN-UML formed a minority government. CPN-UML general secretary Manmohan Adhikari became the Prime Minister while the King remained in command as the highest authority of the state. The government lasted for only nine months. The parliamentary system with the King at its head could not solve one single problem of the masses, who continued to suffer in misery.

In the meantime, in 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) appeared on the scene under the leadership of Prachanda (meaning "the fierce one"), who declared a "people's war" in Nepal.

CPN (Maoist) was organised along the lines of the Communist Party of Peru and engaged in guerrilla warfare to overthrow the ruling class of Nepal. Their aim was to establish a democratic state within the confines of capitalism. On the eve of the declaration of "the people's war" in February 1996, in a leaflet of which hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed, the CPN (Maoist) declared the following:

"We are fully conscious that this war to break the shackles of thousands of years of slavery and to establish a New Democratic state will be an uphill battle, full of twists and turns and of a protracted nature."

Some 5,000 armed actions were carried out in the first two weeks after the declaration of war, including armed assaults on police stations in rural districts, the confiscation of the property of oppressive landlords, and the punishment of local tyrants.

Prachanda's base of power was in the west of the country where the CPN (Maoist) gained strength, especially in Rolpa and Rukum. Prachanda called the villages the basin of revolution. In an interview in 2000 Prachanda said,

"We came to understand Mao's vision that the backward rural areas will be the basin of revolution - the real base of the revolution. We saw in Rolpa, Rukum, Gorkha, Sindhuli, Kabre the seeds of the new society, the examples to inspire people. Everywhere in the country, in the revolution, the masses feel proud of their Rolpa and Rukum. And we see, at the ground level, on the mass level, that the transformation process is not only in the party and mass organisations, but among the masses as a whole. The chains of feudal oppression, mainly feudal relations, are breaking."

Prachanda ignored the role of the working class in cities and relied on the peasants and downtrodden villagers. This brought him a mass following in the villages. However, in the cities his popularity was limited. This ignoring of the working class in the cities means that even though the Maoists control nearly 70 percent of the country, they are sitting at the negotiating table with the SPA on the holding of elections.

Early on in the struggle Prachanda had said that if the CPN (Maoist) controlled a considerable part of Nepal that the People's Republic of Nepal would be declared a power given to the people. In the same interview in 2000, Prachanda explained,

"We are thinking that when Rolpa, Rukum, Jarjarkot, Salyan become a liberated zone, then we will declare the People's Republic of Nepal - the government of the People's Republic of Nepal. That government will be in the centre, and there will also be base areas, guerrilla zones, some prospective base area zones, different kinds of zones. But when a base area is declared, then the People's Republic of Nepal will also be declared."

In April 2006, contrary to the perspectives of Prachanda, the Loktantra Andolan was concentrated in Kathmandu, the largest city of Nepal. The students and workers of Kathmandu came out on the streets demanding an end to the oppression and tyranny of the ruling class.

The CPN-M called for a strike, and the movement grew well beyond the expectations of the leadership of the party. The movement began by making the most basic of demands. They quickly began to challenge the system and rallied in front of the royal palace determined to overthrow the monarchy.

Just before the demonstration reached the palace, the leadership of the CPN-M intervened and called the strike off, because the King had agreed to call a new parliament. Once again the movement was derailed. The opportunity of overthrowing the monarchy and capitalism was lost due to the lack of a revolutionary leadership.

The Maoists have retreated from their demand for the establishment of People's Republic of Nepal. They are making inroads in parliament in order to better grab a piece of the pie.

The current peace talks are simply negotiations on how best to divide the spoils of the uprising in April. Prachanda, from being a guerrilla fighter, is now attempting to become a respected bourgeois politician. The topic of discussion at the negotiating table is not whether or not capitalism should be abolished or the emancipation of the working class, but simply whether or not the King should remain in Nepal.

It looks like the question of the disarming of the Maoist guerrillas will be solved by integrating the Maoist guerrillas in the Royal Army. It is, however, entirely possible that the rank and file of the CPN (Maoist) will not accept the proposal. The rank and file could revolt against the leadership.

According to Dev Gurung, one of the Maoist representatives in the negotiations, the issue of arms is a secondary matter:

"Management of Maoist arms is a technical issue and it would be resolved immediately after setting the political agendas."

He added that the Maoists would be prepared to disarm if the SPA could agree on the issue of the monarchy, a national referendum, and the establishment of a constituent assembly.

The Maoist leadership is prepared to reach a compromise with the SPA so that they can enjoy the perks and privileges of government.

The CPN - UML is in agreement with the Congress on the question of the fate of the King. They both agree that a decision should be made sometime next year. They are using delay tactics in order douse the flames of the revolution and sidetrack the movement. In a statement, Mahadev Kumar Nepal, general secretary of the CPN-UML, said,

"Our stand is that a referendum on the fate of the monarchy should be held alongside the constituent assembly."

If the SPA and the Maoists reach a compromise, which is likely, then elections will be held next year.

Strikes and demonstrations have become a daily norm. In August there was a two-week strike on tea plantations. There have also been national teachers' strikes and there was a garment workers' strike.

The political and economic crisis has meant increased misery for the masses. The closure of textile factories, due to the removal of international quotas and tariffs, meant a significant increase in unemployment. In the year 2000, Nepal's garment industry exported US$ 200 million worth of goods, which accounted for 30 percent of Nepal's total exports. Most of these garment factories closed after the expiry of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing on January 1, 2005. Of some 100 textile factories in Nepal only 12 are still operating.

This has caused an increase in unemployment in urban areas. Approximately 50 percent of working age people are unemployed. The loss of textile jobs means also that restaurants and similar services near the factories are also closed. People are going to India and other countries such as Malaysia to try to find jobs. Nepalese girls are a source of prostitution in India.

The living conditions for women and the lower castes are unbearable. The people are brutally oppressed. They have no option but to break the chains of capitalist oppression, but this is held back by the lack of a revolutionary party.

The task facing the Nepalese masses is to build a party capable of leading the revolution to victory and capable of abolishing capitalism and landlordism. However, a socialist revolution could not survive on its own, isolated within the confines of the state of Nepal. Revolutionary Nepal would link its struggle with the class struggle in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China. The salvation of Nepal, indeed of the whole of the subcontinent, will be found in the establishment of a Socialist Federation of Asia.