Thursday, November 19, 2009

Marx, Lenin, Mao, Nepal?

The recent political struggle in Nepal has taken a course that, ideologically, couldn't seem less possible in the 21st century: there the Maoist party (now called the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist) took up armed struggle in 1996 against the repression of Nepal's government, and in the last few years has brought down the monarchy and restored parliamentary democracy. Despite this, social struggle in Nepal has not drawn the same kind of attention that the Bolivarian Revolution has. There are few books about the subject, and even articles that are not ideologically loaded against the struggle are difficult to find (for the non-expert). For books, after some research, I chose Li Onesto's Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal (Pluto, 2004), which is written with much sympathy for the struggle, but not without some criticism.

Obviously, that book's story ends five years ago. For more recent developments, I recommend reading Gary Leupp's article "The Andolan in Kathmandu and the Revolution to Follow" (in Counterpunch), about the more recent political struggle in Nepal. By 2005, the Maoist party controlled 80 percent of the country, and, as Leupp summarizes,
agreed to the 2006 Comprehensive Agreement with the political parties whereby they would all jointly work to bring down the king, restoring parliamentary democracy, while the Maoists would lay down their arms under UN supervision, ending the war. A key provision of the Agreement was that the soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army be integrated into the Nepali Army (formerly the Royal Nepali Army).The Maoists also demanded the convening of a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution, and the proclamation of a republic. They won these demands, and in the April 2008 elections for the assembly, won 38% of the vote, twice the number of the next party.
To say that is was a surprise to many Western commentators that the Maoist party-- which, incidentally, is not on good terms with post-Maoist China-- won an election after setting down its arms would be an understatement.

However, when the Nepali army refused to integrate, the Maoists quit the government and returned to extra-parliamentary tactics with the goal of forcing the integration of the military. The basic idea behind this move is that without an integrated military, there is no possibility of true "civilian supremacy," because the military is not neutralized as a political force. According to Leupp, the UN Mission in Nepal, with very little ideological interest in doing so, has found that the government is at fault. Leupp concludes,
the Maoists who now boast they have all Kathmandu behind them can say much of the world as represented by the UN secretary general agrees with their goal of “civilian supremacy,” and that the 22-party coalition with the UML and Congress at its head, linked to the Army, India and ultimately U.S. imperialism is the isolated, marginalized force.

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