The calling of a general strike in Nepal is an important turning point in the situation. The Maoist leaders are using the classical method of the organised working class. It has the potential to go well beyond the drafting of a new constitution. The potential is there for the working class, backed by the peasants, to come to power.
The Nepalese Revolution that started with the overthrow of the monarchy in 2006 has not yet ended, as the call for an indefinite strike by the Maoists shows. After the mass mobilisations of four years ago that opened the way to the establishment of the first republic ever in the Himalayas, Nepal still faces a political struggle between the interests of the local bourgeoisie and the imperialists on the one side and the workers, peasants, students and oppressed minorities on the other.
The Maoists, the largest party in parliament, were ousted from office after having joined the government a year ago, but they warned that if by May 2010 a new Constitution was not written they would mobilise to overthrow the CPN-UML and Nepali Congress government. The UCPN-M [the Maoists] wants to lead a national unity government to rewrite a new Constitution.
The Maoists briefly led a coalition government in 2008 of the Seven Party Alliance, but the internal contradictions in this government forced them to resign. The main lesson of all those years of parliamentary struggle, since the beginning of the Nepalese Revolution, is that each time that the masses have taken action the process has advanced, but every time they leave it in the hands of the leaders of the Maoists and other left forces, all sorts of parliamentary obstacles are put in the way to slow down or stop the process.
The democratically-elected assembly charged with writing Nepal's new constitution has also been disrupted, leading to fears that it will not meet its May 2010 deadline, and therefore the Maoists have launched this mobilisation to get a Constitution drafted.
Crisis hits Nepal and the contradictions remain
In December, a Maoist-led land grab by thousands of workers in Nepal's far west led to clashes with armed-security forces. Four people were killed, including a policeman. This incident was widely reported in the international media, but the clashes between peasants and the old forces of the state apparatus and between bosses and workers (of the tourist industry, teachers...) are taking place on a daily basis. Nepal is not isolated from the world crisis (the remittances from emigrants have decreased; tourism is not on the rise….) so the contradictions are piling up. The time that the masses have been prepared to concede to the Maoists and other political parties is running out as we write these lines. The Maoists are channelling the aspirations of millions of Nepalese for a new society through this General Strike (banda in the local expression, which means total shut down) but their aims are far too legalistic and constitutional to solve the main problems of the masses. Simply limiting the aim of such a powerful movement to achieving a new Constitution means keeping that same movement within the confines of capitalism and not really tackling the real issues.
With the announcement of an indefinite strike from May 2, the Maoist leaders are demanding that the ruling parties come around to their agenda of a national government and draft a “people’s constitution”. Even if this strike were victorious and the Maoists returned to government, such a government would have to face an increasingly hostile position on the part of the Indian ruling class as well as the crude reality of the world economic crisis.
May Day and General Strike
The strike follows a mass May Day rally of tens of thousands on Saturday, when demonstrators demanded the resignation of Mr Nepal and his government. The Maoists have claimed that about 500,000 people took part in their programme of activities organised on the occasion of International May Day
The Maoist party in Nepal is enforcing what it says will be an indefinite strike, in an attempt to force the government to resign. (BBC NEWS May 2, Maoists' strike shuts down Nepal to topple government). The correct tactic of the Maoists to call on the masses to demonstrate to force the government to comply with its promises will send a positive message across South-East Asia and show the real power of the mobilisation of workers and peasants. But it will also set the alarm bells ringing in Mumbai, Islamabad and Dhaka.
"Revolution and major political changes in Nepal have come through street protests," AP quoted Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal addressing the crowd on Saturday (BBC NEWS May 2, ibid) .Once the force of the workers and peasants is put on show, once it is brought out in all its strength, then it must to be used to bring about a fundamental change in the balance of forces in Nepal. The Maoists have had a tendency in the recent past to use popular mobilisations as if they were a tap that one can open or close. This is the main lesson four years after the proclamation of the Republic, a Republic that has not been able to deal with the fundamental challenges that Nepalese society faces: agrarian reform, nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy to start a programme of poverty eradication and industrialisation, a genuine overhaul of the state apparatus, a literacy programme, etc, etc.
Prachanda has said that “Taking into account the whole political scenario and background, our party has reached a conclusion that massive pressure and intervention of the people is essential to safeguard national independence and people’s supremacy and for peace and constitution-drafting ". Once the pressure of the mass movement is brought to bear on the whole situation, the masses need to take control of their own destiny, and the Maoists need to understand that this cannot be done by building “alliances” and agreements with capitalists and imperialists within the Presidential Palace.
The Maoist leaders are very clear about the aim of this struggle, the Maoist vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai [the one that had previously talked about the need of a continental revolution along the lines of the Permanent Revolution] said that there is no alternative left than to continue with the indefinite strike unless there is guarantee of a pro-people constitution and peace. He also said that the nationwide movement his party is waging would be decisive and would topple the current government to replace it with a national unity government. Dr Bhattarai, however, said that the party is open to dialogue to resolve contentious issues and to find a way out of the current crisis (Nepal news.com). If the Maoists leaders call off the strike with the promise of another round of talks they will be committing a big mistake. This mobilisation can change the course of the history of Nepal and the South Asian subcontinent.
The mobilisation of the masses through a general strike is a huge step forward. It has within it the potential not only of bringing down the present government, but of radically changing Nepalese society. The theory of the Permanent Revolution explains that once the workers are mobilised in such a manner they cannot simply stop at the democratic demands, at the “phase” whereby the so-called progressive bourgeoisie is installed in power. There is no “democratic, progressive bourgeoisie” in Nepal. If the masses are held back within this logic, then at some stage the reactionary ruling class will use this to their advantage to derail the revolution.
The general strike has the potential to go beyond this and begin the process whereby the workers and peasants take power. That is the perspective the Maoist leaders should base themselves on.
Long live to the Nepalese General Strike!
No compromise with bourgeois parties and the capitalists!
The New Constitution must give the power to nationalise the big monopolies, expropriate the capitalists and distribute the land!
Long live the Nepalese Revolution!
(written May 3, 2010)