Nepal's Revolution At Crossroads
By Walter Smolarek
26 May, 2009
Nestled in the Himalayas, the little-known nation of Nepal has been set ablaze. Massive demonstrations, strikes, and the possibility of armed struggle characterize the tremendous upheaval that has come about in the world's newest republic. The peasants, the workers, the slum dwellers, and all other oppressed people are standing up in an effort to finish off what remains of the feudal system that has exploited them for so long. The past month has been a decisive period in Nepal's revolution, and it's important to cut through the ruling class distortions and understand what really went on. Before reading this, I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with the general situation by reading my last article on the subject (http://www.countercurrents.org/smolarek120509.htm) as this analysis does not include any background information.
UCPN (M)'s Time in Government
When Prachanda became Prime Minister of Nepal, many thought that the liberation they had struggled for had finally come. The Maoists' vision for New Nepal was crystallized in their budget, presented in late 2008. It included provisions for a literacy program, women's empowerment, building vital infrastructure, redistributing land to the peasantry, and eliminating poverty (1). In addition, one of UCPN (M)'s major goals was to integrate their People's Liberation Army into the Nepalese Army, in order to complete the peace process and neutralize the threat posed by this traditionally royalist force.
However, what transpired in the following months was, despite some significant positive steps, a disappointment for many. The blame for the government's inability to carry out their programs rests, however, not with the Maoists, but with the reactionary opposition and their weak-willed "ally", the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). The Nepali Congress, representing the views of the Nepalese capitalists who began moving closer and closer to the feudalists (with the support of Indian expansionism and US imperialism), obstructed the day-to-day activities of the new Republican government. The Maoists should have been able to overcome this impediment, but they relied on CPN (UML) for a majority in the Constituent Assembly. This vital partner, as the months went by, became more and more counter-revolutionary as the aggressively anti-Maoist K.P. Oli rose to a position of great influence within the party.
As the seemingly endless political deadlock ran on, many began to wonder if this frustrating period had eroded some of the mass support for UCPN (M). A definitive answer was given after the April 10th by-election held in six districts in Nepal. It turned out that confidence in Prachanda's government had increased rather than decreased. The Maoists previously held two of the six vacated seats and won three by prevailing in what used to be a Nepali Congress stronghold (2). With this renewed mandate, the revolutionary government went about tackling the issue of army integration, which had been delayed due to resistance by the right-wing leadership of the Nepalese Army.
The Soft Coup
Fed up with the Army's flagrant disregard for the constitution and commands from the Ministry of Defense, the Maoist government requested that Chief of Army Staff (the highest ranking officer in the armed forces) Rookmangud Katawal submit a written clarification explaining why he had disobeyed direct orders. In the most arrogant way, Katawal dragged his feet and gathered political support from right-wing political parties like the Nepali Congress and the Oli faction of the CPN (UML) as well as foreign powers, especially India. The capitalists, the feudalists, the military, and the imperialists began to unite to preserve the status-quo; the elites were closing ranks. In response to these outrageous political moves, Prachanda fired the insubordinate Katawal on May third.
The next day, the will of the democratically elected government was overturned in what many are calling a "soft" coup. President Yadav of the Nepali Congress, who occupies a largely ceremonial role that his party managed to acquire due to disunity between the two major communist parties, grossly overstepped his authority and instructed Katawal to continue as head of the Nepali Army. Stripped of the power vested in him by the people of Nepal, Prachanda resigned from his post and vowed to intensify the struggle against anti-change elements.
This was carried out, and is being carried out, simultaneously in both the Supreme Court and in the streets. The former is somewhat of a formality done in order to emphasize the anti-democratic nature of the Maoists' opponents. The demonstrations, however, are highly successful, with thousands of people turning out daily all over the nation and especially in the capital, Kathmandu. Participating are not only affiliates of UCPN (M) but workers and students of all stripes. In addition, the Maoist legislators held demonstrations in the Constituent Assembly itself, making it impossible for the state to function during this crisis. This set the backdrop for the political wrangling that ensued following the Prime Minister's resignation.
Forming a New Government
As high-level talks went on between the parties, three proposals emerged. First, there was the possibility of another Maoist-led government. Those backing this solution included (obviously) UCPN (M), the faction of the MJF loyal to party Chairman Upendra Yadav, and several small left-wing parties. The large and militant mobilizations also aided the drive for Maoist leadership.
The other main option was a CPN (UML) led government, a notion supported strongly and immediately by the Nepali Congress. Proponents persuaded the TMLP and Sadbhavana Party (two of the less progressive Terai-based parties) early on and began working on the MJF. It managed to split the party between those that supported Yadav and those that supported the pro-UML parliamentary leader Bijay Kumar Gachchhedar as well as ascertain the support of a few left-wing groups with grudges against the Maoists.
Finally, there had been talk of forming a national unity government including the UML, NC, UCPN (M), and the Madhesi parties. While this idea was supported tacitly by the faction of the UML aligned with the party's leader Jhalanath Khanal against Oli, it was largely the product of frustration at the political deadlock and panic at the outpouring of support for the Maoists.
After three weeks of negotiations and demonstrations, the political elite had managed to impose the second option, a UML-led government, on the nation. Having cajoled enough of the smaller parties into supporting their agenda and having been able to bypass the Maoist demonstrations within the Constituent Assembly, Madhav Kumar Nepal (an ally of K.P. Oli) was sworn in as the new Prime Minister on May 25th after a vote boycotted by UCPN (M) the previous day.
What Lies Ahead
And so the revolution is at a crossroads. The collapse, or more accurately the overthrow, of Prachanda's government is certainly a setback. On the one hand, there lies the path to demoralization and defeat, but along the other path is opportunity. The supporters of the new government are eclectic to an extreme, with very little ideological common ground. When taking the oath of office during the days of the monarchy, the Prime Minister would do so "in the name of God". When Prachanda took office, he took the oath "in the name of the people". M.K. Nepal skipped this section entirely, taking the oath in the name of nobody (3). Hardly anything is more emblematic of his government's politically destitute nature, held together by nothing more than an opportunist desire to derail the process of change. Provided that the Maoists maintain their pledge to not cooperate with this puppet regime, the UML administration will, in all likelihood, prove to be ineffectual and serve as a catalyst for an intensified struggle on the streets. The events of the last month have laid bare the dictatorial character of both the feudalists and the proponents of traditional parliamentarianism. It has become even clearer that if the impoverished and exploited majorities are to live a life with dignity, a fundamentally different society under a fundamentally different system is required. This society is called New Nepal; this system is called socialism.
Walter Smolarek is a student from Pennsylvania that supports the movement for Socialism in the 21st Century. He encourages you to send him your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org