Nepal: Revolution at the brink

Alastair Reith
The Spark March 2010

“The People’s Democratic Revolution in Nepal is now passing objectively through a gateway of great victory accompanied by a danger of serious defeat… the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), has arrived at a serious and extraordinary juncture of possibilities and challenges… it is apparent that the forces of revolution and counterrevolution are going ahead towards the direction of decisive confrontation… Only by remaining united can the proletariat and the revolutionary masses, after completing the historical task of democratic revolution, open the way to go ahead towards socialism and communism.”

From the recent Unified CPN (Maoist) political document “Present Situation and Historical Task of the Proletariat”. In January 2009 the Spark carried an article entitled “Nepal: A revolution in progress”, which began with the following words; “Ever since the destruction of the Soviet Union, the capitalist class has told us that communism is dead. We are expected to believe that this is as good as it gets, that the inequality and oppression inherent within the capitalist system will be with us forever and there will be no more revolutions.

The ruling class declared the end of history. Unfortunately for them, the people of Nepal have decided not to listen. A communist revolution is unfolding in Nepal, a small Himalayan country just to the North of India. Led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the workers and peasants of Nepal are rising up and challenging the feudal oppression they face in their daily lives, and the neo-colonial domination they face as a nation.”

Now, over a year later, the revolution in Nepal is fast approaching the point of a decisive confrontation between the Maoist-led revolutionary forces and the forces of imperialist domination and counter-revolution. The Maoists waged a decade long armed struggle to overthrow the monarchy from 1996 to 2006. In 2006, mass protests toppled the King, and the Maoists signed a peace treaty. They took part in the elections held in 2008 and won a landslide victory, more than doubling their closest opponents and winning 40% of the seats in the Constituent Assembly. They then formed a coalition government with a variety of other smaller parties.

However, of all these parties the only one interested in radically transforming Nepali society was the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). After the chief of the military, General Katawal, refused to obey the civilian government’s orders, the Maoist-led coalition moved to dismiss him. However, despite the legitimacy of the government’s action even by capitalist legal standards, Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav used his position, which was supposed to be largely ceremonial, to override the sacking and ordered Katawal to remain in his position. President Yadav is from the opposition Nepal Congress Party, chief party of the reactionary feudalist forces in Nepal.

Prachanda

Outraged at this, Prachanda resigned as Prime Minister on the 4th of May, labelling Yadav’s move a “presidential coup.” Prachanda said he “will quit the government rather than remain in power by bowing down to the foreign elements and reactionary forces”. The Maoists left the government. A new government was formed out of a shaky coalition of 22 parties, united around nothing more than opposition to the Maoists and to social change. A politician named Madav Khumar Nepal became Prime Minister.

The new Prime Minister was beaten not once but twice in two separate constituencies during the elections, and both times by Maoist candidates. He and the party he represents were clearly rejected by the Nepali people, but this didn’t stop the ruling class from imposing him on the people anyway. As usual, the hand of Indian expansionism could be seen.

The Maoists had made a very clear point of moving Nepal out of India’s sphere of control, and had made efforts to develop a new relationship between the two nations based on equality. Traditionally the first overseas trip a Nepali PM makes is to New Delhi to seek the approval of his Indian masters, but Prachanda broke with this, travelling to India’s rival China and negotiating several diplomatic agreements with them.

There is a long history of India bringing down any Nepali government that tries to do this, with the 1989-1990 blockade being a perfect example of this. Most significantly of all, the Maoists had declared their intention to review and if necessary withdraw from the unequal treaties signed between India and Nepal. New Delhi was not going to tolerate this sort of insubordination.

After leaving government, the Maoists launched a massive and ongoing campaign against the presidential coup. Declaring that the military was not subject to civilian control and that until this changed Nepal could never be transformed for the better, they began a campaign of protests, strikes and demonstrations against the military, the ‘Indian puppet government’ and for ‘civilian supremacy’. The Maoist slogan of civilian supremacy and the struggle both for and against it has defined Nepali politics for the past year.

Since leaving government, the Maoists have launched and successfully concluded four massive waves of protests. A fifth is about to begin. The first wave followed immediately after the resignation, with street demonstrations, strikes, and door to door awareness raising actions. From the fall of their government up until the beginning of 2010, Maoist members of parliament staged protests in the Constituent Assembly and prevented the house from sitting.

Every time the parliament attempted to hold a session on anything, Maoist CA members stormed the stage and chanted slogans against military supremacy. The Maoist demands are not extreme – all they want is for the issue of civilian supremacy to be debated in the assembly, and for the President to apologise and admit his actions were wrong. They have a wider set of demands including the formation of a new national government under their leadership and the review of all unequal treaties with India, and they continue to push their general programme of land reform and radical social change, but their most basic demand for a debate about the issue of whether the military should have to obey civilian authority has been consistently refused by the government.

Their protests have rocked the nation and displayed the level of support they still hold among the masses. They staged sit-in demonstrations around all the government offices in the country, including the state headquarters in Kathmandu. They have mobilised hundreds of thousands for torchlit marches and mass rallies in the urban centres, and they have called a series of rolling general strikes including an all-Nepal general strike.

There have been several waves of land seizures carried out by their organisations of landless and poor peasants, and they staged a series of demonstrations along the border with India in protest at Indian intervention against their movement. Last year, they unilaterally declared thirteen autonomous states across Nepal for the oppressed nationalities such as the Magar people, the Sherpas, the Madhesis and so on.

They have launched a major campaign against Indian domination of Nepal, declaring their main enemy to be ‘Indian expansionism’ and that the struggle for civilian supremacy cannot be won without also winning the fight for genuine national independence. In short, the Maoist movement continues to grow and while they have been flexible, in some cases calling off protests to allow for further negotiation, they refuse to compromise on their core demands. These protests are about more than just the slogans they are called under. Thousands of people have learned how to march and manoeuvre against the police in the streets of Kathmandu, and the Maoists are using these as dress rehearsals for the decisive insurrection to come. They are displays of strength, and a way for the party to gauge its level of support amongst the masses.

Events are moving quickly. The Constituent Assembly was formed for one purpose, the writing of a new constitution, and the deadline for this constitution to be written is May 28th 2010. There are no clear guidelines in place for what will happen if the deadline passes and nothing has been prepared. At the very least, all existing government structures and certainly all positions such as Prime Minister, President and so on will be called into question. The government ministers were appointed on the basis of votes taken by members of the Constituent Assembly, which will have outlived the period it was supposed to exist for once the deadline passes.

Right wing forces in Nepal have been calling for Presidential rule backed up by the military. The Maoists have promised that if the deadline passes and a ‘People’s Constitution’ is not passed, they will launch a revolt. The world hasn’t seen a successful communist insurrection in a very long time. It’s in sore need of one, and this could be it. If you are inspired and filled with hope by the sight of millions of poor and oppressed people casting off their chains and standing up to seize control of their destinies, keep your eyes on Nepal. It’s on the road to revolution.

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