Friday, April 23, 2010

Revolutionary Horizons: Nepal

For some time, the revolutionary movement in Nepal has been of some interest to several of the contributors to The Notes Taken. As I wrote in a previous post, the Maoist movement (now called the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist) took up armed struggle in 1996 against the repression of Nepal's government, which, in 2008, brought down the the monarchy and instituted a parliamentary democracy and a Constituent Assembly to reorganize the country's political system. Then, in an unlikely move, for our political times, the UCPN-M quit parliament on the wager that popular support would be a more important force than parliamentary power. The intransigence of the unreformed Nepal Army, who refused to recognize civilian rule, prevented parliamentary reform.

According to Jed Brandt, writing for Counterpunch
The Maoists have used their days in this assembly to flesh out their plans for a New Nepal. They drafted and popularized constitutional provisions for a future people’s republic – including land reform, complete state restructuring, equality for women, autonomy for oppressed minorities and an end to Nepal’s stifling subordination to India.
All the kinds of things that the elite would not find so palatable. The result:
Nepal has two mutually-exclusive power structures: one is the revolutionary movement led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which has a powerful mass base among the people, a disciplined political militia in the YCL and its People’s Liberation Army. The other is the apparatus of Nepal’s state — held-over from the monarchy, unreconstructed, backed by the rifles of the Nepal Army and the heavy weight of feudal tradition.
Land seizures co-exist with plantations. Old judges still sit in their patronage chairs dispensing verdicts to the highest bidder while revolutionary courts turn off and on in the villages. The deposed king Gyanendra lost his crown, but retains vast tracts of land, a near monopoly on tobacco and a “personal” business empire. Large-scale infrastructure like hydropower remains largely under foreign ownership, but only operate when, and how, the Maoist-allied unions let them. In short, the semi-feudal, semi-colonial system of Nepal is in place but the organized workers and Maoist-led villagers hold a veto.
The two power structures, he argues, are on the fast track to collision, because the Nepalese constituent assembly has until May 28 to draft a new constitution, and its been deadlocked since the Maoists quit. As Brandt reports, seventy members of the ruling party have called on their own leader to step down so that the Maoists can form a national-unity government.

The UCPN-M, in the meantime, has been organizing the people to press their case, holding rallies across the country to demonstrate their popular power, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people. These rallies are preparation for a massive demonstration on May Day, which
call for workers and villagers to converge on Kathmandu for a “final conflict.” The Maoists are calling for a sustained mobilization, with the hope that an overwhelming showing can push the government out with a minimum of bloodshed and stay the hand of the Nepal Army.
This is good reason to keep an eye on Nepal for the next few months, even if good information is hard to come by. Counterpunch has been very reliable (although I must mention that Brandt's article really pushes the 'final conflict' line; the Maoist struggle  has been going for almost 15 years, one would think that it wouldn't disappear if their demands aren't met by the end of May). I recall, two years ago, a sitting at fellow contributor Joshua's apartment searching the net (and various online bookstores) for reliable-- that is, somewhat sympathetic-- books on Nepal, and finding very few options. The Nepal Maoists, as I've pointed out before, have not captured the imagination of internationalist leftists in the way that the Bolivarian Revolution has. While I can't say why specifically, I often wonder if it has to do with the Maoists' lack of concern with legal-parliamentary routes to power. Their use of violence and disregard for legalism puts them at odds with much of the established discourse on radical resistance. The use of violence is a difficult subject, as it should be; but ignoring it will not make it go away.

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