Join News Letter

Iraq War

Peak Oil

Climate Change

US Imperialism











Gujarat Pogrom



India Elections



Submission Policy

Contact Us

Fill out your
e-mail address
to receive our newsletter!




Democracy From Below

By Rana Bose

12 April, 2006

Something is happening in this post-Cold War era of struggles for social justice. There is a spectre once again haunting the world, when it comes to popular movements. It is the spectre of movements rooted in pragmatic thinking (as opposed to hidebound theory), enjoying significant popular support and more importantly aligned internationally with a global enthusiasm to counter the will and strong arm tactics of a failing empire known as the United States. These movements are firmly rooted in their people and at the same time they have an astounding maturity that combines the local and indigenous element with the global condition. They have a plan for the immediate and a plan for the future. They want to achieve what is achievable, today, taking the people along with them, make the necessary compromises and they have in certain cases the resources to fight the onslaught of finance and military muscle arranged against them, with their own resources.

The depression in the left-wing camp after the demise of the erstwhile Soviet Union has been put aside. It is a period of recovery. Whereas the media-savvy Chiapas-style movement combined a certain contemporariness with indigenous mass involvement in an era of combating “globalization”, the current condition is best described by two developments of a different nature. Nepal and Venezuela represent this new development and have basically drawn a “line in the terrain of the whole world” so as to speak.

The Maoists in Nepal have proven repeatedly that while they can operate with impunity in the jungles and mountains and have virtually surrounded all the major centers (and can even knock out military helicopters from the skies) they can also come out of their hideouts and give interviews to the BBC and many other mainstream media and eloquently present themselves as having consistently asked for a constituent assembly and a multi-party system. Their demand for Nepal to come out of an archaic monarchist-feudal era run by palace buffoons and military thugs, rings true. They have also successfully aligned themselves with mainstream opposition parties to form a classic United Front against backward elements and toadies.

Theirs is a genuine armed struggle whose end goal is to end the armed struggle. They have clearly advanced in forming a parallel society in the countryside and are already running it and defending it. The fabled Royal Nepalese Army can do very little except to confine themselves to city centers and launch occasional forays and cause civilian casualties. The Maoists also admit to their mistakes openly, do not have illusions of marching into Katmandu at the head of a column of tanks and also do not expect a communist regime to emerge out of such a feudal developmental stage that Nepal is in.

The Maoists in Nepal also know that the Indian government (and its so-called Left wing allies) would not like to see a successful Maoist movement in Nepal and its impact on Indian Maoists. They also know what the nearly hysterical rants of the US Ambassador to Nepal amount to and they also know what the totally misguided policies of the government of China amount to. They see their struggle for basic democracy as defending the rights of the poorest sections of the Nepalese people who form the majority of Nepal’s poverty–ridden population, while walking a very tight corridor of international intrigue and intrusion. They know how to negotiate. They know how to call a cease-fire and also go on the offensive. They know how to stick to their promises and they also expose the buffoon king every day, without much effort. Their maturity should be a lesson for those who in India have thumped their chests for nearly forty years announcing that liberation was imminent for the Indian peasantry. Their call for a democratic constitution born out of a constituent assembly-- no one should doubt.

Several continents away another story is emerging. Out of Latin America a spate of alliances and changes have started happening with Venezuela leading the foray with their Bolivarian revolution asserting the right of nations to develop their economies independent of the diktat of the policies of the US-led IMF and World Bank. Latin American nations are forming their own alliances regionally and no amount of demonizing and Hugo-bashing can detract from the fact that Venezuela is significantly more democratic and an open society, then the Latin America that the United States would like to see. In Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, and even in Uruguay, Brazil and Chile one can see a growing assertion of people and indigenous movements to come out of the centuries old stranglehold of US policies operating through tin-pot dictatorships and fascistic military putschists of the old era. The Monroe doctrine has been pitched and cannot be revived. Even the Sandinistas may soon be back in power. In Latin America, there is one important element to be recognized. For once, oil wealth is being turned into a resource to provide health, education, housing and food for the poor. In fact Venezuela even controls one of the largest oil companies operating in the US (Citgo) and has effectively offered discount gasoline to the poorer sections of the US population and it is actually a functional operation in many southern states, even though the United States hates to admit it.

The dilemma with pre-democratic (feudal Nepal) and “post-democratic”( post-feudal Venezuela and Latin America) is that both palace thugs and modern capitalists require the trappings of “democracy” to go about palace intrigue and capital accumulation. A subservient social class that can maintain this set-up for the kings and the Pinochets of the world have now been virtually made to run in both Nepal and Venezuela.

Methods of popular self-government (village people’s committees) and barrio assemblies have been developed to run civic society more and more. What has radicalized both Nepalese society and Venezuelan society is the “decommissioning” of these “middle-forces” (the petit-bourgeoisie representatives) and their “democratic” institutions. These institutions relied on the legacy of “aid” “loans” and the attendant dependence and corruption to completely paralyze these economies. This has all come to a head. In Nepal, by the assertion of the Maoists through their ten-year consistent armed self-defense and widespread popularization of their struggles and in Venezuela by the brash but thoughtful assertion of Hugo Chavez to tear up old arrangements where Venezuela’s oil billions went to a handful of wealthy families and instead use that wealth to fight poverty. Democracy from below is replacing democracy from above. The world is witnessing, in Nepal and Venezuela, a phenomena that is rare. Two different types of popular and pragmatic uprisings in a post-doctrinal era.

Rana Bose is a novelist, performance artist and engineer









Search Our Archive

Our Site