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Nepal: Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) victory, a great step forward

By Farooq Tariq

April 13, 2008 -- The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) victory in the constituent assembly election held on April 10 is a great step forward for the forces of the left in the region and internationally. Not only the CPN (Maoist) but also the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) (UML) received more votes than the Nepal Congress. At the time of writing, the CPN (Maoist) has won 69 seats, UML 21, Nepal Congress 20 and the Peasant Workers Party 2 seats.

The Maoists are heading to become the single largest group in the 240 constituent assembly seats that are being decided on a first-past-the-post basis. Nearly 60 per cent of the 601 seats in the constitutional assembly will be decided by a complex proportional representative votes, whose final results will take a couple of weeks to be decided. The future of King Gyanedra and the Shah monarchy hangs by a thread straining under the weight of the Maoists' mandate.

The elections were due last year on November 12. But the Maoists walked out of the transitional government a month before the general election. They demanded that all parties agree before the elections that Nepal will become a republic and Shah had to lose the remaining few powers after the elections.

The elections had to be postponed and the after protracted discussions, the Nepal Congress and UML agreed to the Maoists' demands. This was a stunning victory for the CPN (Maoist). The UML had relied on its election experience and was of the view that the CPN (Maoist) would not be accepted as the main voice in the cities.

``They have no experience of general elections'', I heard from several main leaders and supporters of the UML while I was in Nepal in October 2007. The masses did just the opposite. They voted for those with no experience of elections but with full experience of fighting for basic rights.

The Maoist Youth launched a campaign all over Nepal after the success of the movement in 2006 against the corrupt officials in the bureaucracy. They would Gherao (picket) any government office for this purpose and sometimes they would kidnap the corrupt to be paraded in public later. These incidents happened while I was in Nepal.

This practice brought a very forceful message in a society that is in the grip of absolute poverty. There is no comparison with poverty of the people in Nepal with other part of South Asia. Nepal is well ahead in this category. The infrastructure is in very bad condition.

Earlier in 2006, a mass movement initiated by the various radical social movements was joined by hundreds of thousands people and forced the King to withdraw his dictatorial measures and to restore the parliament. He was deprived of all powers as head of the armed forces after the success of the movement.

Communist forces have been very strong in Nepal for a long time. They have fought the most repressive regimes in the past. At one point, the CPN (UML) was in power for a period of nine months while the King was still the head of the state. The UML became the largest communist party in Nepal. It has close relations with the Communist Party of India (CPI), the CPI(M) and the CPI(ML), the three main communist parties of India. The UML has some contacts with the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) through its mass organisations in the peasantry and trade unions.

There is absolute no basis for a counter-revolution after this stunning victory. The masses are very well aware and they will not accept any attempt. In fact, the military suffered a crushing defeat in 2006 by the mass movement. It will take long time for it to recover.

The victory of left forces, mainly the Maoists, will have a tremendous effect on the politics of the South Asian countries. It will radicalise a whole new layer, and particularly it will have a tremendous effect on the youth in Pakistan where a mass movement against the military dictatorship is still going on.

During the attacks by Pakistan's Musharraf dictatorship on the media after the imposition of emergency rule in November 2007, a Nepali trade union leader came to visit Pakistan at the invitation of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist. He was very warmly received all over and he spoke about Nepal's experience in fighting dictatorship. In one meeting, which I was also attending, he said, ``Do not give up the fight, it takes time but it will win, the dictatorship has to go, be united and fight together''.

How far the CPN (Maoist) will be able to solve the basic problems of the masses will have to be seen. But while I was in Nepal, there was a meeting of a World Bank official with the Maoist minister in charge of Kathmandu water. They were in negotiations for the privatisation of Kathmandu water. It seemed that the minister was not much worried about privatisation but more interested in the aid that will come through World Bank. There was some criticism on this meeting by activists in the meeting I was attending.

Would they go for nationalisation of the big institutions and cancel the privatised ones? I do not see that. They will more go along the lines of working with a shadow of capitalism rather breaking with capitalism. They will mainly copy their communist brothers and sisters in India. More like a West Bengal condition rather than a Venezuela-type development.

The victory of CPN (Maoist) is a massive step forward for the people of Nepal. Once and for all they will get rid of King and the Shah family. Nepal will start a new era. However, it can go at a much faster speed to development if it does away with capitalism as well as the Shah family. There is no basis for stages. This stage of capitalist development under a radical government has not much room to maneouver. The Maoists have to go further than the program they have at present if Nepal is to go further.

In Pakistan, we will all celebrate the victory of the CPN (Maoist) and other left forces of Nepal and will show our maximum solidarity with the new radical government.

[Farooq Tariq is spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan. Visit and]


Nepal's historic vote puts women in the running

4 April 2008

Inside Nepal’s sealed borders women are running for historic April 10 Constituent Assembly elections. As they take advantage of ambitious gender quotas they are learning how to vote and doing what they can to weather campaign violence.

KATMANDU, Nepal (WOMENSENEWS)—Nepal has sealed its borders as it tries to safely forge a new path after 240 years of autocratic monarchial rule, 10 years of a violent Maoist insurgency and two years of a wary stability under an interim government.

Tomorrow the country holds elections to form its first Constituent Assembly.

In addition to governing this tiny Himalayan kingdom, those elected on April 10 will draft a new constitution and hammer out the role of the king, who in 2006 relinquished powers to an interim parliament. Seven major parties and about 50 smaller groups are running candidates.

For women the day is particularly a landmark.

Last year, under the influence of a dominant Maoist faction, the interim parliament’s seven-party coalition framed an interim constitution that required parties’ candidates to be 33 percent female.

Of these, 50 percent have to be filed in the closed lists, which are selected by voting for parties rather than individuals. The rest are fielded for direct elections.

Those are high numbers for a society where educational gaps offer a glimpse at women’s longstanding subordinate role. The male literacy rate is 63 percent, according to statistics from the Nepal Election Commission; for women it’s 35 percent.

“I had to wait so many years and travel to India to complete my schooling in the 1940s because there was no school for girls in Nepal then,” Sahana Pradhan, the country’s interim minister of foreign affairs, told Women’s eNews in a recent interview.

Waiting for Results

While the quotas are high, Sharda Pokharel, a former member of parliament, is cautious about how they’ll translate into election results.

Pokharel now heads the Women Security Pressure Group, an umbrella group of women’s organizations across Nepal. She suspects parties, simply to fulfill legal requirements, are fielding weak female candidates in direct elections for seats where opponents are sure to win.

Pokharel has been running voter education and awareness programs since November in all parts of the country.

Women’s eNews caught up with her recently during the lunch break for a workshop with about a hundred female attendees.

Looking beyond the elections, Pokharel was circulating the list of demands her group wants the next assembly to incorporate into the constitution, including increased political participation by women and a 50-percent quota in parliament. The group also wants a recent law allowing women to inherit property from their parents to be implemented; a constitutional guarantee of equality; compulsory education; and greater security from interpersonal violence, assault, rape and trafficking.

The total number of women seeking direct election is only 367 out of a total of 3,947 candidates.

Nonetheless, many political participants here expect that the high quotas—33 percent overall and 50 percent in the closed list—should mean that women wind up taking more than 20 percent of the places in the assembly.

Maoist Legacy

To the extent women are enjoying new political rights in these elections Sapana Pradhan-Malla, a lawyer and president of a women’s advocacy group, concedes it is a legacy of the insurgency by the Maoists, as the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) here is popularly known.

While the Maoists are associated with armed conflict, totalitarian tactics and heavy death tolls, their role in the interim government is associated with pushing for greater political involvement for women, banning the “untouchable” status of some castes in the villages and giving women a stake in parental property.

“They had a more gender-friendly agenda,” says Pradhan-Malla, who is running for a seat in Parliament as part of the closed list of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist, the Maoists’ archrival party.

Female candidates are facing the same kind of ferocious intimidation afflicting men.

One woman’s house was burned by a party rival and another’s car was stoned and her volunteer workers attacked physically, according to recent press reports.

Ranjana Sarkar, running as an invisible member of Nepal’s United Marxist Leninist Party, told Women’s eNews she had received numerous threats over the phone telling her to withdraw her candidacy.

Sujata Koirala, the daughter of the current prime minister, who is running for direct election, was greeted with black flags when she went to campaign in her southern district. Her car was stoned and her workers physically attacked in violence that local news agencies linked to a rival regional party.

Workers for the Marxist Leninist party told Women’s eNews that the house of one of their candidates, Kamala Mahto, was set on fire.

Preparing Women to Vote

Nonetheless, Babita Basnet, the 36-year-old editor of a Nepali weekly and president of a national media monitoring forum of female journalists based in the capital, remains upbeat about the voting-related activity focused on women. Efforts are being organized by political parties and women’s groups jointly with international entities such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Oxfam, a British relief organization.

Basnet also says female candidates are exerting influence, even when they might not win.

As an example she points to Bhimkumari Beuda, an obscure female candidate with the Nepali Congress party who is running in direct elections against the Maoist leader, Prachanda, who is likely to win. Nonetheless Basnet says Beuda is giving her party a lot of help. Her husband and son were killed by Maoist insurgents and the candidate says that reminds voters of why they might want to support an opposing party.

Basnet’s monitoring group has been staging street theaters throughout Nepal’s high rocky terrain and its southern plains for the past year to teach women how to vote. Women who cannot read are taught how to put their indelible-ink stamp on a ballot and how to identify different party symbols. Women at polling stations on Thursday will also provide guidance to female voters.

To emphasize the importance of women’s participation in the elections they have come up with a jingle, “Sambidhan Sabha Laye, Mahila Ko Aka Le Hero,” which means “Look at the Constituent Assembly Through Women’s Eyes.”

The group is also helping to arrange for a substantial police presence at polling stations, including female officers. It plans to station 100 of its members alongside other observer groups at polling stations so that female voters, especially in rural areas, will feel safe.

Other groups that will observe the elections include the Nepal Election Monitoring Association and the Democratic Electoral Alliance of Nepal. International groups include the Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and the Bangkok, Thailand-based Asian Network for Free Elections with many female observers participating.

“I have worked with so many women, from the most urban to the most rural and I find that the woes of working women remain the same,” Basnet told Women’s eNews. “Irrespective of the work they are doing and the money they are earning, they are both questioned by their family if they ever happen to come home late. In both scenarios it is their sexuality that is under the family’s scanner.”
A Crumbling Kingdom

Nepal is a small landlocked kingdom sandwiched between China and India. Some semblance of democracy was introduced to Nepal in 1990, denting the totalitarian monarchy’s power.

In 1996 an insurgency led by Maoists broke out and fighting claimed thousands of lives. The current king, Gyanendra, came to the throne after his brother, Birendra, and most of the royal family were murdered by the crown prince in 2001. In 2005 King Gyanendra dissolved parliament and restored absolute rule.

His grip on power has been challenged by a nationwide people’s movement demanding the reinstatement of parliament. An uneasy peace reigned after the king acquiesced. The government and the Maoists signed an agreement and the Maoists entered parliament in January 2007.

Since then, the fragile peace has prevailed and the king’s power has been curtailed. After the election, the new parliament will draft a national constitution. In December 2007, a seven-party alliance controlling the government signed a 23-point agreement with the Maoists under which Nepal was declared a federal republic, a declaration that is subject to a vote by the new Constituent Assembly at the first meeting after the election. If the declaration is confirmed, the monarchy will be permanently dissolved.

* From

* Aditi Bhaduri, WeNews correspondent, is a gender consultant and a journalist based in India. She filed this story from Kathmandu, Nepal, and will participate in election observation as a member of the Asian Network for Free Elections.

Interview with Hisila Yami, Central Committeeof the CPN(M)

From Monthly Review Zine

by Johan Petter Andresen

The elections in Nepal on Thursday, April 10th, resulted in a victory for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), stunning the mainstream international press.

Hisila Yami was elected to the forthcoming Constituent Assembly from the constituency Kathmandu 3 -- "Asaan," the crowded ancient center of the city -- with 12,276 votes, as against 8,815 for her nearest competitor, Rajendra Prasad Shrestha of the "center left" Communist Party of Nepal (UML).

During the People's War (1996-2006) led by the CPN(Maoist), Hisila Yami was underground, taking the nom de guerre "Comrade Parvati." She wrote two articles in Monthly Review, "Women's Leadership and the Revolution in Nepal" and "People's Power in Nepal."

Sunday, April 13th, 2008.

JPA: What are the results after only a few days of counting up the votes?

HY: We have won 42, the CPN(UML) have only won 13 and the Nepali Congress have won 12 seats in the first past the post contest. We will get more in the proportional election.

As of the end of the day on Monday, April 14th, winners have been declared in 184 of the 240 "first past the post" constituencies. Of these the Maoists have won 105, the Nepal Congress 30, the UML 24, and the Madhesi Forum 16. The final results for the 335 proportional representation seats will not be known for several weeks, but it is now certain that in the forthcoming Constituent Assembly the Maoists will at minimum be the dominant bloc, with as many seats as the next three largest parties combined. -- Ed.

JPA: Why such great support?

HY: Because of the struggle that the Maoists have led. People are very conscious here in Nepal and they understood what was right.

JPA: It seems that this election has been a step forward for women?

HY: Amongst the Maoists the women performed very well. Women's power was phenomenal both in participation and in terms of winning seats. This also goes for the dalits and the minorities.

JPA: What do you think is the biggest challenge right now?

HY: The biggest challenge is to be prepared for how the biggest countries will react to the new reality where the Maoists are the leading party. Nationally the biggest challenge is the economic agenda. There has up until now been a big challenge because of the contradiction between the policies that have been decided on and the leadership for implementing these policies. There has been obstruction from the other side. After the results of the elections we can bargain for more seats in the government and we will be in a better position to implement our policies.

JPA: Is your organizational strength big enough to cope?

HY: We have enough organizational strength. We have observed during the peace process that we have equal organizational strength with the government organs.

JPA: Did the elections go as you had predicted?

HY: We were expecting that there was going to be heavy interference from national and international reaction. We were very scared that they were rigging the referendum. I think we had a good campaign. We sent a message to the masses about unity among all the parties, especially with the left. And when the CPN(UML) decided not to have an alliance with any parties it disappointed us. But at the same time it exposed them. We told our cadres to unite with the parties that are against the king. When the CPN(UML) at the last minute before the election, approached us in distress with suggestions we rejected them. I think that we had a good concrete analysis of the situation.

JPA: You did well in your constituency?

HY: My constituency was a CPN(UML) bastion and a very popular candidate from CPN(UML) was my main opponent. It was therefore an important victory to come in first.

JPA: How will the feudal class react?

HY: They rely on foreign forces. They are waiting for some signal. But we have been gradually reducing their power. They are now quite weakened.

JPA: Will it take many years to implement a land reform?

HY: I think we can have a land reform pretty soon. We have a commission already, so we can now push forward.

Johan Petter Andresen is a Norwegian friend of MRZine now in Nepal

Nepal: Interview with Shyam Shrestha, Editor of Mulyankan

From Monthly Review Zine

The Maoist Electoral Victory in Nepal: Interview with Shyam Shrestha, Former Chief Editor of Mulyankan Monthly Magazine

By Johan Petter Andresen

The elections in Nepal on Thursday, April 10th, resulted in a victory for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), stunning the mainstream international press.

Mulyankan monthly magazine is almost 18 years old.  It is the largest leftist monthly magazine of Nepal, with a circulation of 30 000 copies per month.  Shyam Shrestha has been actively seeking to promote a broad left unity in Nepal.

Sunday,13th of April, 2008.

JPA: What do we know about the results of the election to the Constituent Assembly, now three days after?

Shyam: To this date the Maoists have won 47 seats out of 84 in the first past the post part of the election, CPN(UML) 16, Nepali Congress 12, Madhesi  Forum 6, Nepal Workers' and Peasants' Party 2, DMDP 1 and the People's Front 1.  The Maoists will also win the proportional part of the election, maybe even by more.

As of the end of the day on Monday, April 14th, winners have been declared in 184 of the 240 "first past the post" constituencies. Of these the Maoists have won105, the Nepal Congress 30, the UML 24, and the Madhesi Forum 16. The final results for the 335 proportional representation seats will not be known for several weeks, but it is now certain that in the forthcoming Constituent Assembly the Maoists will at minimum be the dominant bloc with as many seats as the next three largest parties combined. -- Ed.

JPA: Can we say anything about the representation of Dalits, women, ethnic and national minorities in the forthcoming Constituent Assembly?

Shyam: The proportion of these groups will be increased significantly, because in the proportional system 50% should be women, 31% Madhesi and so on.  In the first past the post part this is not compulsory, so in totality the proportion of women will be minimum 33% instead of 6% which is the proportion in today's interim parliament.  This is an historic high. Janajati (ethnic minority) people will also increase their representation.  Not by exactly 37%, decided by the interim parliament, but it will increase.  A Madhesi party, MJF already have 6 representatives.  Dalits and backward regions will also increase their representation.  So all these groups will have a multiple increase of representation compared to the previous parliaments.

JPA: What do you think are the main consequences of the election for the parties in Nepal?

Shyam: The consequences are that the Maoists will emerge as the strongest political party in the Constituent Assembly.  It may get a clean majority, that is an historical record in Nepal.  Never before has a single party acquired a clean majority in Nepal.  If you add the votes of the CPN(UML) to the Maoist vote, they will have a two thirds majority.  And also this is historical. The consequence is that the CA can write a radical constitution.  Nepal will be a federal democratic republic for certain!  This is a political revolution through elections.  Three weeks from now the CA will come together and the first meeting will implement the decision to declare Nepal a federal republic.  This will be a tremendous revolution in the politics of Nepal.  And now that the Maoists and the CPN(UML) have over 66% it is quite certain that Nepal will be a republic for the first time in history.  Another consequence is that a new government will be formed and it will be headed by the Maoists.  This in itself is a significant event for the world as a whole. No Maoist has ever before led a government [installed by elections].  Major posts will be held by Maoists.

JPA: Even the defence ministry?

Shyam: Yes, the normal thing here is that the prime minister also heads the defence ministry.  The U.S. and Indians might protest against this, but the Nepali people have given their mandate.

The writing of the new constitution will be mainly influenced by the leftist forces, even though the Nepali Congress will have a significant representation.  They will also be represented in the government as it will be a coalition government.

JPA: Will the feudal class take this defeat lying down?

Shyam: They must.  They have no choice.  The Nepali people are rising, their level of arousal is amazing.  They are more ahead in consciousness than the leadership of the political parties.

The feudal class will try to resist change, but the CA composition and the level of awareness of the people is very high, they cannot withstand this pressure.

JPA: Which options do you think that the palace has?

Shyam: The palace has three options: 1. Accept the result happily and transform itself in accordance with the decisions of the CA.  The king would then become an ordinary citizen.  2. Flee from the country, as has happened in other countries.  3. Resist with the help of the army and face the blow of the people.  Today's king is a very foolish king, he may even go for the third option.  But he will not be successful if he tries a coup d'état.

JPA: Gyanendra and family are a very rich family.  Is it possible for the state to retrieve some of the money that the king has stowed away?

Shyam: The state has already decided that whatever property he has in banks around the world, except for his personal property, shall be expropriated.  All the land, palaces and money.  The state has retrieved the money from the banks in Kathmandu, but not from foreign banks.  The personal money of the king will not be touched but the money belonging to the former [murdered] king Birendra will be confiscated.  It's billions!  All the land, temple lands and palaces that belonged to Birendra will be confiscated.  This has been decided by law and now it is a matter of implementation.

JPA: The Maoist organization was small in 1996.  Now, 12 years later it is the strongest organization in Nepal.  Can you explain this explosive growth and the consequences of such an explosive growth on the organization itself?

Shyam: There are two reason.  

1. During the past 12 years the people's war encompassed the whole country.  The Maoist organization successfully multiplied reaching 72 of the 75 districts.  They built their organization through this war.  It was amazing, but they managed.  They formed organizations in all fields, like among peasants, workers, artists and so on during the civil war.  At the end of the war 80% of the country was under Maoist control.  Even the military accepted this high figure.  They could expand to such an extraordinary extent because they were popular at the time.  This again was because ordinary people were frustrated with all the political parties.  This gave the Maoists political advantages.  This also gave them an organizational advantage.  Many cadre of CPN(UML) and Nepali Congress also joined the Maoists.

2. The negative reason is that Maoists took the organizational line of taking everybody without screening into their ranks.  Even royalists and bad elements were taken into their organizations.  In Kirtipur, where I live, there are many royalists and bad elements in the Maoist organization. Criminals have also entered their organizations.  And back in my village in Kavre district, there are also reactionary elements in the Maoist organizations.  This is harming the Maoists and has decreased the popularity of the Maoists somewhat.  Because when the people see that the bad elements are with the Maoists they lose faith.  For example: Some people don't want to pay money they owe to the bank, so they join the Maoists to avoid it.  Some bad elements join the Maoists for personal revenge.  The organization has become so big that is beyond the control of the leadership now and then.  The Maoists put an emphasis on being the biggest party in Nepal.  And this is a consequence.  To win the election they also needed a bigger party.  This growth may bring very serious results in the future. It already has repercussions: When the Maoist leadership make a directive about something, now and again the opposite happens.

JPA: What other national repercussions do you foresee from the election result?

Shyam: Smaller parties may now try to join together and create a collective challenge to the Maoists.  The international community of the capitalist camp may create serious problems for the Maoists like they have for Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela.  I expect that their attitude will be the same.  This may suffocate the government.  Even the army and the civil machinery can resist changes that the Maoists try to bring in the political and economical fields.  But if the Maoists mobilize the whole of the people and tactically maintain the seven party unity, this challenge can be met. We can't of course know for sure if these will be the consequences.

JPA: What will be the effects on the rest of South Asia?

Shyam: In India the Maoist organizations there might be influenced by the events in Nepal. They may also start negotiating and follow the lines of the Nepali.  The moderate left, CPI and CPI(M) are half in the government, and now they have seen what has happened to CPN(UML), so maybe they will try and pressurise a Maoist government in Nepal to come over to their line.  Ties with China may be strengthened and ties with India may get more strained than before.  The U.S. may be more hostile to this government.

JPA: What will be the effect on China?

Shyam: The Chinese government will be pleased when the Maoists come to power.  There will not be much affect on the class struggle in China.  In the last two years the relationship between the Maoists and China has become amicable and the Chinese have invited the Maoists to China.  They are taking more interest in the development of the Maoists in Nepal. China will be a backing power for a Maoist government.  The Indians will also try and win over a Maoist government and transform them in their class interest.  We will have to wait and see what the Maoists will do.  The Maoists are no longer openly calling the Chinese Communist Party "revisionist."  In order to hold onto the government they must have support from China.  Maoists are also trying to make good relations with India.  Although they have not been able to have good relations with the U.S. government, they are now trying to change this through Jimmy Carter.  They want to make good relations with the U.S. government.  Perhaps if Obama becomes president, then the U.S. position will change toward the Maoists.  The hard stand may be softened.  The Democrats are somewhat different from the Republicans

JPA: Do you think that the Maoists can live up to the high expectations that their supporters have?

Shyam: It is not possible.  They have to maintain the coalition government.  The coalition will also contain Nepali Congress.  NC will try to drag them toward liberalism and "free market" economy and adapt them to status quo.  The future will show how far they will be able to resist this pressure.  If they can maintain the popular support of the people by launching land reform, industrial reform, change in the system of governance and meet the expectations of the people so that they see change in their lives and a lower level of corruption, they will have done well.  They can face these negative factors.

JPA: Prachanda stated yesterday that once the political structure is transformed and a federal republic is in place, that focus must turn to economic transformation.  He promised a huge leap forward economically the next ten years.  Can he deliver?

Shyam: They can if they wish.  Nepal is not a poor country when it comes to resources. The problem is the political system and leadership.  The water resources, land resources, forestry resources, herbal resources, biodiversity resources and so on are enormous.  We also have mineral resources: Gold, copper, iron, coal and maybe even uranium.  We also have oil and gas resources.  If the country can manage its resources it can become rich very soon.  I'd also like to mention that our soil is very fertile, we have three crops in a year.  And of course we have a beautiful country, so we can develop tourism too.  The Maoists should only give expectations to those dreams that can be realized, not those that cannot.  The Maoists have said that they can generate 10,000 MWs in ten years.  That may not be possible, but maybe 5,000 MWs.  They have said that all of Nepal will be electrified in ten years and that they will eradicate illiteracy in 5 years.  It may not be possible in 5 but in ten years.  The main thing is to see progress in the correct direction.

JPA: The intelligentsia had not expected such a wide support among the people for the Maoists.  Will this election change their attitude to the Maoists?

Shyam: Most of the intelligentsia will support the Maoists.  The liberals are now changing their attitude.  It depends on the behaviour of the Maoists.  If the Maoists stop coercion and extortion towards the middle class and ordinary people and they control and screen their cadres better and start taking positive steps, then attitude of the intelligentsia will change.  Of course the hard core reactionaries will not change, but the majority of the middle class intelligentsia will change.  The civil society in Nepal is one of the most active and influential in the world and they may be very positive if Maoists are not pompous, make social transformation and are not corrupt.  The civil society leaders are radical in Nepal and this may be a very positive factor.  They are not all communist, but they are radical.  They will be critical.  If the Maoists can achieve an inclusive state and really do something significant with poverty and bad governance they will come to their help.  But they are against extortion, coercion and extremism.

The majority of the intelligentsia voted for the Maoists now.  Even many that belonged to CPN(UML) voted for the Maoists.  They want change and the peace process to continue.

JPA: The Maoists say that they were compelled to start the People's War in 1996 as there was massive exclusion and repression, and that the peace deal in 2006 and the period after are a continuation of the same struggle that they have been fighting for since 1990.  Do you think that the ten years of civil war was necessary to achieve the democratically elected Constituent Assembly?

Shyam: My personal view is that they could have struggled peacefully to the last extent. But they did not.  The parliamentary system had only been in function for four years when they left it.  They did not have patience.  If they had exhausted all the options then they would have got more support in the beginning of the People's War.  I don't say that People's War was not needed,  But all the options should have been exhausted.  It might be that People's War was necessary.  There was a bit of suppression in 1994-95, but just after suppression began, they went to war.  But I do agree that the ten years of war became the determining factor for the holding of the Constituent Assembly elections.

JPA:  It looks like the Madeshi People's Forum (MJF) is doing well in areas in the south east.  What is your opinion of this organization?  Will it play a positive role in developing the class struggle in Nepal?

Shyam: MJF is the result of the weaknesses in the interim constitution and the peace accord.  The grievances of the Madhesi were not well addressed in these two documents.  Madhesi people rose against this.  Their demand was a federal state and proportional representation of the Madhesi people in the state structure and the CA.  If that provision had been there in the interim constitution and the peace accord then the uprising had not occurred.  If the Maoists [who had raised the same demands] had been firmer on these questions during negotiations then it would not have occurred.  And I believe that it was possible for them to be more firm back then in November 2006.  It was a Maoist mistake and they lost popular support in Madhesh because of this.  After two months of uprisings the parties had to accept the demands.  So in my analysis the success of the MJF is the result of the mistake of the Maoists.

We must be clear that the demands of MJF were just.  But the leadership of MJF is the Madhesi elite.  They are upper class, and this is a contradiction.  The leadership demanded a federal state.  But now they are demanding the opposite, that the whole Terai should be one province.  That means a centralized and unitary governance in the Terai. And the leadership was also against the proportional representation system.  They were also against a more inclusive candidate system.  The MJF were against including the lower Madhesi.  So this is a contradiction now.  The sentiment of the ordinary people is one thing, but the elite will not be helpful in making a radical land reform for example.

JPA: To conclude: Why did we get this election result?

Shyam: In my view there are two major and two minor reasons:

People wanted the peace process to succeed and not be broken.  If the Maoists had become small they would have been compelled to go to war again.  So most of the peace loving people of Nepal voted for the Maoists.  People of all classes voted for Maoists for this reason.

People want change.  Social, political and economic transformation.  They saw that this was not possible through the other parties that had already been tested.  The conservative parties had already been tested.  They wanted something new.  They saw that the agenda for a democratic republic was the agenda of the Maoists. The CA demand was also Maoist and socioeconomic transformation was brought forward by the Maoists.  Therefore they have probably considered that this could only be possible through the Maoist leadership.  So in order to get change they favour Maoist leadership.

The two minor reasons are:

The candidates filed by other parties were old people.  And old people that had ruled Nepal for many years.  People wanted new faces, because people were frustrated with the old leadership.  The candidates of the NC and UML were more than two thirds old people, over forty.  Of the Maoist candidates 52% were under forty.  Most of the youth voted for Maoists. 52% of the voters are young.

The oppressed people of the lower classes were tired of the upper class status quo corrupt government.  They are not heard in society, but through this vote they spoke.

These four factors joined together gave an amazing result!

Johan Petter Andresen is a Norwegian friend of MRZine now in Nepal.

CPN(M): ‘King should leave palace after CA’s first sitting’

From the
‘King should leave palace right after CA’s first sitting’

Maoist ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai has emerged as the real leader of this country after the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls. He defeated his Nepali Congress opponent Chandraprakash Neupane with a huge margin from Gorkha-2. He says the CPN (Maoist) will not dare to deviate from its political commitments nor will it ever betray the people. He thinks the Maoists have now taken upon their shoulders a greater responsibility, that of restructuring the country and steering it onto the track of economic prosperity.

Dr Bhattarai, a former student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, is not surprised by the results of the CA election. He argues that the CPN (Maoist) has changed the country’s ground realities. Dr Bhattarai spoke with Prateek Pradhan, Ghanashyam Ojha and Puran P Bista of The Kathmandu Post on how the CPN (Maoist) would proceed with its economic and political agenda.


Q: Your party appears to have emerged as the largest one. How would you proceed with your political agenda?
Dr Baburam Bhattarai: We had always pushed for the CA election, which was finally held last week. During the interim period, the Seven-Party Alliance government had already made certain political commitments. One of them was that we would reach a political consensus to form the government. All the political parties that have participated in the CA polls will join the government. Now, the question is who will head it. Obviously, the largest political party will lead the new government. So, naturally, the CPN (Maoist) has to head the coalition government.

Q: Who will head the CPN (Maoist)? Could you name the captain of your party?
Dr Bhattarai: I can’t tell you right now. We have to discuss and decide who should be the leader. We have to prepare a draft of the new political system. We have to decide the fate of the monarchy. And only then we can think of who will head the CPN (Maoist). Our intention is to establish a presidential system. But we can’t be sure as we have to discuss the matter with other political forces too. We must reach a political consensus because the constitution would need to be amended to set up a presidential system. Unless we have a political consensus, we can’t amend the constitution. So, we can’t simply go for an executive president. In case of political differences, we may have to follow the present form of governance.

Q: How would the CPN (Maoist), being the largest political force, approach other political parties in order to form the government, abolish monarchy and declare Nepal a republic?
Dr Bhattarai: First, we are going to hold discussions with the major political parties. We would need to seek their opinion and views before forming the government. We would have to work under the Interim Constitution for the time being which would require a political consensus. We shall move forward on this basis. The first sitting of the CA will declare this country a federal republic. For that, we have to develop a political consensus. After that the question would be forming the new government which will be done again on the basis of political consensus. And then we will proceed with the drafting of the new constitution of Nepal.

Besides these issues, there are other political commitments such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, rehabilitation of displaced persons and revamping and integration of the security forces. I think there will be several challenges and questions. We have to review four things immediately – security, political structure, the economy and international relation. Such issues require a national consensus.

Q: How do you assess the election results? Did you expect that you would make such a strong showing?
Dr Bhattarai: The people were looking for total change. We advanced the political agenda for total change during the decade-long people’s war. We have people from different castes, ethnicities, genders and people from different regions. The main agenda of the people’s war was to restructure the state. It took 10 years of the people’s war to establish our political agenda. The people felt that the country’s socio-political and economic structure needed a complete overhaul. So we couldn’t look at things through our old lenses. The media and the elite missed the picture. As a result, the CA results surprised many. The ground realities had changed and they helped us to emerge as the largest party.

Q: Do you think that the people’s support that you have garnered is more than what you expected?
Dr Bhattarai: We had thought that we would come out as the largest party, and that we might, if we reached a consensus, form the next government. But the manner in which we have clinched victory in the CA polls makes us feel that we have achieved more than what we expected to.

Nevertheless, we did think that the results would be in our favor. I have observed how people’s waves have swept parliamentary elections in India. In 1977, Indira Gandhi was defeated. Similarly, sympathy votes after her tragic death helped Rajiv Gandhi to sweep the 1985 parliamentary elections. I had seen such mass hysteria earlier. I personally visited 22 districts and assessed the situation three weeks before the CA polls. I could foresee a massive wave rising in our support. Unfortunately, the media saw things the opposite way. And we also could not convince the media until the CA results showed that the people had voted for us.

Q: You told a local FM station this morning that you have now been burdened by greater responsibilities. What do you mean by that?

Dr Bhattarai: I take it as a great responsibility because we have to restructure the 250-year-old feudal system. You cannot expect it to happen overnight. Secondly, while restructuring the state, we have to take into account different aspects such as poverty, illiteracy, health and others. We don’t have enough resources and skill to reorganize the country in a way we want to. It may take at least 10-15 years to do it. There are mounting challenges ahead.

Q: How can you restructure the state and achieve economic growth in a short span of time?
Dr Bhattarai: What we need right now is political stability. We cannot think of rapid economic growth sans political stability. Now the CA results have given some hope for political stability. Secondly, there must be a strong leadership. Above all, we have yet to start restructuring the state. So, how can we think of the economy? The 30-year-long panchayat system promised us that it would deliver the people’s needs, but it could not do so as it was a political system imposed by the royal regime to serve its own interests.

The post-1990 parliamentary system created a sort of anarchy. It neither had any clear political vision nor could it deliver anything. During this interim period, it would be difficult to think of economic prosperity. We can only think of economic growth in the post-CA period. This mandate has just opened the door to a future Nepal. Now the job is to garner the support of all the political parties and maintain political stability. This would be the beginning.

Second, the resources we have include land, water, jungle, herbs and people. I do not think that we run short of resources, but we need external support for technology and skills. We need foreign investments. I am sure if we really work together, we can achieve rapid economic growth in a short span of time.

Q: China has adopted a liberal economic policy. It has achieved remarkable economic growth in the past 30 years. To what extent do you think we can follow China’s model?
Dr Bhattarai: China eliminated the feudal system during Mao’s regime. It established a solid foundation for economic growth. We could have thought of making rapid economic progress had the country been liberated from the age-old feudal system. When you inject new technology after the foundation for economic growth has been established, you can achieve such development. We don’t have such a foundation now. Once we restructure the state and involve the private sector, it will be possible to achieve rapid economic growth. We would implement a transitional economic policy during such an interim period which involves public and private partnership.

Q: Currently we are seeing a pattern of capital flight. How are you going to halt this?
Dr Bhattarai: We can’t think of developing this country in the absence of domestic and foreign investments. Technological inputs are of equal importance. So, we will follow the policy of attracting domestic and foreign investments. For that to happen, we have to put an end to political instability. From our side, we have to provide security to investors and create a conducive environment for domestic and foreign financiers. And I also think that we will be able to resolve the differences between labor and management. Unless we resolve such issues, we cannot create a better investment atmosphere. In a nutshell, we recognize the legitimacy of management and the participation of labor in management.

Secondly, we have to identify areas for investment and create the necessary infrastructure. We have to focus on productive sectors. We don’t want to encourage assembly industries. Business activities should raise productivity and generate employment.

Q: You mean the state’s involvement in economic activities will increase from now on?
Dr Bhattarai: The state will play the role of facilitator. The state cannot intervene in business activities. It will encourage investors to raise productivity and generate employment opportunities.

Q: We have seen – especially after the restoration of democracy in 1990 – how political parties rewarded their cadres with jobs in the bureaucracy and other social sectors. How are you planning to restructure the bureaucracy and other sectors?
Dr Bhattarai: We have to, at all costs, restructure the bureaucracy and the judiciary as they have always been tools of the monarchy. But we have to follow certain norms. So let us leave it open. But we have to think of revamping the security forces as integrating the People’s Liberation Army and the Nepal Army is part of the peace process. We can think of starting the restructuring process only after the monarchy has been removed. But it will be open to discussion. We want to reform the bureaucracy and other sectors in a democratic manner.

Q: You once said that Nepal did not need a huge security force. But if you integrate the Maoist combatants and the army, you are going to have a huge security force. Do you think Nepal needs such a large army?
Dr Bhattarai: The strength of the security forces after the two are combined would be roughly over 100,000. Going by the country’s population, such a number may appear necessary. But we have to reduce the size of the army in the long term. I think that instead of having such a huge number of army, we could go for trained militias who would defend the country at times of war. I think it would be useful to train such a force. We should mobilize them during emergencies.

Q: The UML fared badly in the CA polls. Do you foresee a single communist party in the near future?
Dr Bhattarai: Until recently, there were three political forces – royalists, social democrats (who represent the bourgeoisie) and leftists. I think there will be only two forces in the future – the Nepali Congress, which represents the rich, and the left, which represents the poor. The NC has its own political stand. It’s not going to lose its identity as it has a clear vision and policy.

But the CPN-UML does not have any political position. It neither represents the rich nor the masses. It is a eunuch though it continues to be identified as a communist party. It has lost its identity. It can’t stand any longer. Now the CPN (Maoist) has established itself as a communist party. We welcome committed communist cadres of the CPN-UML to our party.

Q: How long will it take to draft the new constitution?
Dr Bhattarai: It will take roughly two years. But how we proceed will depend on other political forces as well. We must finish the new constitution as early as possible so that we can focus on the economy.

Q: Some still argue that the Maoists may retain the monarchy in a ceremonial form. What do you think?
Dr Bhattarai: What surprises us is why people think that we will retain the monarchy when it has ceased to exist. There is no question of retaining the monarchy.

We did approach some nationalist royalists to join us. That does not mean we are going to keep the monarchy. It is not possible to save it in any form. It has ceased to exist in our minds.

Q: When will the king move out of Narayanhiti Palace?
Dr Bhattarai: The king has to quit Narayanhiti Palace immediately after we declare Nepal a republic. This is the understanding of the Seven-Party Alliance. He should leave the palace immediately after the first sitting of the CA.

For more information visit: 

Socialist Unity blog on Nepal communist advance

16 April, 2008


nepal-cpnm.jpgElection results are still trickling in from Nepal, due to poor roads, and a complicated electoral system, but as its stands the former guerillas of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), have already won 116 seats of the 216 directly elected districts where counting has been completed. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress was trailing with only 32 seats, while the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) had 30.

Final results for the 601-seat Constituent Assembly, which will govern Nepal and rewrite the country’s constitution, are still a few weeks off, but confounding earlier predictions, the former Maoist guerillas look like they will be able to form a government.

As Achim Vanaik explains in New Left Review

“Starting from the early 1990s the Maoists had embarked, against all received wisdom, on a strategy of underground armed struggle which, within a decade, propelled it to the very forefront of Nepali politics. Militarily, it had fought to a stalemate—at the very least—the Royal Nepal Army. Politically, it had redefined the national agenda with its central demand for an elected Constituent Assembly, to draw up a constitution that would in turn ensure the formation of a new kind of Nepali state—republican, democratic, egalitarian, federal and secular.”

On 23 December 2007, Nepal’s interim parliament codified the abolition of the centuries-old Nepali monarchy and its replacement by a democratic federal republic. A remarkable achievement for the Maoists.

Nepal is a deeply divided country. The ruling class is drawn from the Newars, the indigenous elite of the hill region (5 per cent of the population, mainly based in Kathmandu) and from upper-caste Bahuns (Brahmins) and Chettris (Kshyatriyas), populations produced by the immigration to the region of Hindus from the south many centuries ago. The indigenous peoples, known as Janajatis, comprise just under half the population, and live mostly in the hills but also in the Tarai, and speak Tibeto-Burman languages.

Nepal still has a rigid caste system, and the janajatis are in the ‘middle’, below the Bahuns (12 per cent) and Chettris (19 per cent), and above the Dalits (‘untouchables’). After the 1999 elections, the literate Bahun/Chettri/Newar category occupied 75 per cent of all cabinet posts and 61 per cent of all parliamentary seats. There was virtually no representation for Dalits (13 per cent) or Muslims (4 per cent). The Bahun/Chettri/Newar also hold 90 per cent of all positions in the civil services.

Landholding patterns remain unequal: the richest 5 per cent of households own nearly 37 per cent of land, while some 47 per cent of landowning households own around 15 per cent of land, with an average size of 0.5 hectares.

The current political era really starts in 1990, after a massive pro-democracy movement was met by massacres in the streets by the Royal Nepalese Army, and in the ensuing destabilization, the King agreed to constitutional reform, and elections, but the three cornerstones of the state, Nepali linguistic dominance, the monarchy and state Hinduism remained. The difficult mix of poverty, caste and ethnic discrimination and feudal patterns of land ownership were quite impossible to solve within the framework of the monarchy.

As Achim Vanaik recounts, in the ensuing elections in 1991, The Maoists used the platform of the elections to expose the inability of parliamentary politics to resolve the basic problems of land reform, Dalit and gender discrimination and oppressed nationalities; they called for a new ‘democratic revolution’, based on the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, to do this. They won 9 seats (on 4 per cent of the vote), thus emerging as the third party in Parliament. But the group—which would change its name to cpn-Maoist in 1995—was already making political and organizational preparations, internally and externally, for a turn towards protracted people’s war, formally announced on 13 February 1996. The armed struggle started in the traditional Communist/Maoist strongholds of the Mid- and Far-West. The Maoists began by attacking local banks, burning loan papers to indebted farmers, stealing money, attacking police stations, accumulating small arms and making cross-border black market purchases of more sophisticated weaponry; later, they would assault Royal Nepal Army district headquarters and acquire machine guns and rocket-launchers. By 2000, they were emerging as a force at national level.

In November 2001, the King called a state of emergency. The USA provided $12 million for arms purchases. In the course of the civil war that followed, the Royal Nepal Army quadrupled in size, to over 90,000 troops, and spread to areas of the country where it had never ventured before. An estimated 13,000 have died in the civil war, of which 7,000 to 8,000 were probably civilian third parties. Though most of these deaths were caused by the Royal Nepal Army, the Maoists were far from blameless.

Despite this, by the beginning of 2005 the Maoists had spread to all but two of the country’s seventy-five districts, and claimed to control 80 per cent of the countryside.

In the regions they controlled, the Maoists set up base areas and people’s committees at the levels of ward, village, district and sub-region, and carried out local development work and social programmes of inter-caste marriage, widow remarriage and temperance campaigns, with varying degrees of effectiveness. From 2003 the Maoists moved into the Tarai border regions, where they spread like wildfire, since they more than any other political force had long articulated the demand for equality of ‘nationalities’ such as the Madhesis.

In 2005 the Maoists agreed to disarm, and enter the political process again. The party leader, Prachanda, gave two reasons for not seeking to seize state power militarily in 2005, when it seemed within their grasp, but instead turning to negotiate a permanent peace settlement, involving a long-term strategic alliance with the mainstream parties to fight for a democratic republic.

First, given the international balance of forces, the Maoist leadership believed that, while they might capture state power, they would not be able to retain it.

Second, by abandoning the path of armed struggle for peaceful mass mobilization they hoped to achieve a new legitimacy, domestically and internationally, that would afford them greater protection in the long run.

This caused considerable debate in the CPN(M), which had already had a serious crisis previously over whether to overthrow the monarchy (the position which prevailed), or use the King as a national patriotic figurehead. The party has decided that the new government is transitional and its success will be gauged by the extent to which the key tasks of overcoming class oppression (above all, the question of land reform), eliminating caste and gender oppression, and resolving the ‘nationalities’ question (federal restructuring of the state) are actually carried out.

There have certainly been problems with the transition. The Maoists’ Young Communist League, revived in late 2006, have found it hard to break from the military mindset, and have acted as intimidating thugs, and have extorted money to pay for the election. On 26 November 2007 in the Kathmandu Post, Prachanda had to give a public assurance that the YCL would change its behaviour and shed its negative image.

The unexpected electoral success of the Maoists may stem from them having full credit in the public mind for establishing a republic, and their whole hearted commitment to overcoming gender, caste and ethnic discrimination. It will be interesting to see what happens, as the party have come to power through democratic elections, and have a commitment to broad alliances with other parties and class forces. Yet nevertheless, they have a generally positive assessment of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and a commitment to deepening and extending social change.

Worth reading the 2006 BBC interview with Prachanda

Nepali Times interviews Comrade Baburam Bhattarai

Baburam Bhattarai pointed to a bouquet in his study and said: “People who never looked at us before are coming here to give me flowers.” Flanked by portraits of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the chief ideologue of the Maoists spoke to Nepali Times on Tuesday about sleepless nights, his party’s economic agenda and about whether he’d been offered the prime ministership.

Nepali Times: How does it feel to arrive here after the long journey from a village in Gorkha?

Baburam Bhattarai: There is a deep sense of responsibility, and that comes from the fact that I was born in an ordinary village family, my mother can’t read or write, my father is a farmer. As a child I used to tend livestock and help in the farm, and when I went to high school I had to carry water and cook for myself. From that to be able to go to a good school and be educated, and to have that contrast in one lifetime is fascinating in a way. But now we have been brought to this position where we have to try to resolve issues of national importance, there are enormous aspirations, there is lots to do but we have very little time and resources. It makes us somewhat anxious, thinking about whether we can do it or not. There are sleepless nights, getting up at three in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep.

But luckily we have a lot of experience, we engaged in open politics, then we went underground for ten years then we engaged in an armed struggle. This gives us the capacity to deal with challenges, and personally I have always been very committed and that is why I think we can handle the challenges before us.

Did you ever have a sense of destiny? That this is where you wanted to go.

No, I didn’t. You were born and raised here in the city, but as a child in my village there was no way I could imagine I would ever end up where I am now. Even the background of (my wife) Hisilaji is different, and when we take our daughter to my home village she is surprised at the conditions there. If I hadn’t had the chance to have the schooling I did, I am sure I would still be there.

I used to get very emotional back then when I saw the poverty, discrimination and disparities all around me in the village. And what was I going to do about it, those feelings did touch me at an early age. But what are the ways to deal with it, how can these problems be solved, I started thinking about those things in my college days when I finished architecture and started working on my PhD in JNU where I analysed the problems from a Marxist perspective.

Marx said there is always a combination of necessity and chance. I had a realization about the social conditions of my community, the poverty. I knew that the feudal monarchy had to be ended. But I never knew how it was going to happen, how we were going to go about it, who would come to the forefront to lead it.

This week when the first results started coming in, weren’t you surprised?

Not so much. You are all in the media, you do political analysis, I have the feeling you may have been a bit out of touch with the reality in the countryside. The ground had shifted in the past 10 years of conflict. The marginalized and deprived women, janjatis and Dalits were really suffering, and city-based people couldn’t really understand how bad things were. There was all this about how the Maoists were spreading terror and fear, but we understood what was happening in the hinterland. We used to go back and forth from Gorkha and Rolpa.

We were convinced the people wanted change, and we knew they would let us lead them. We knew we’d be the largest party, but we didn’t know exactly how many seats we would win. That is why we were surprised that everyone, including the media doubted us. The middle class and the city elite were shocked by the result because they’d never understood what was happening in the villages.

Everyone got it wrong. We have been meeting members of the diplomatic community this past week, and they have told us that there was intelligence failure. But we are people who fought a war, for us getting things wrong by a minute or by a metre was a question of life or death, so we had told our cadre to carry out a very concrete analysis for the elections.

The really oppressed groups like the Tamangs and Tharus voted for us in large numbers. In the Tamang belt we have won 24 of the 27 seats and in the Tharuwan, of the 22 seats we have won 20. Of the 24 women who have won, 20 are Maoist women. But even the traditionally-vacillating urban middle class, the 20-30 percent, who make up their minds at the last moment came over to our side.

Was the price the Nepali people had to pay in terms of lives lost and destruction, was the revolution worthwhile?

We are still in a revolution. The elections were part of our revolution. It’s not just an armed struggle that is a revolution. Revolution means a radical rapid change in the socio-economic structure, that can happen through violent or non-violent means. At some point in a revolution, violent means need to be adopted. This election was part of the revolution to end the feudal monarchy. If we hadn’t waged the People’s War to weaken the state and empower the masses, the conditions would not have been created for the elections alone to achieve the goal.

So, it’s not true that we abandoned the bullet to come to the ballot. We used both the bullet and the ballot in this revolution. You couldn’t win with only bullets, and you couldn’t win with only the ballot. Nepal’s revolution has been completed in this unique manner.

After a ten year war, 15,000 killed, don’t you think these elections were like coming back to square one?

No. If you don’t mind, that is where you are wrong. This was a constituent assembly election. Earlier elections were parliamentary elections granted by a king. There was no structural change, sovereignty was not with the people. This time we are drafting a new constitution. And it wasn’t possible without an armed struggle.

There are reports of widespread threats and intimidation by your cadre during the election camapaign?

It is possible that happened in some places. But it would not be possible to do it from Jhapa to Kanchanpur and from villages to the cities. The main factor is that the people wanted change, and they wanted relative change and to give a chance to a new party.

When are you going to turn your attention to the economy?

Our goal is economic development. For an economic revolution to succeed, we have to complete this political revolution by writing a new constitution. There is of course the need to provide immediate relief. There are the victims of the war, those affected by inflation, corruption those things needs to be addressed urgently. But the foundations also need to be laid for structural changes required for an economic transformation.

Can these things be achieved in two years? How will you deal with inflation?

Unless you pay attention to the structural reforms in the economy, superficial interventions won’t help. You can give subsidies and get over the immediate problem, but we also have to address the roots of the crisis which is that a subsistence agricultural economy on which two-thirds of our population depends. That will not lead to economic development. There has to be a total transformation of the economy.

Second, we need massive job creation for which we need investment in hydropower, tourism and its optimum utilization. This will lay the foundation for longterm economic development.

Your election manifesto also talks about land reform. What kind of land reform are you talking about?

The simple universal principle of land-reform is land to the tiller. In mountains, the owners are also tillers but in the tarai there is a lot of absentee landlordism and productivity is low. There has to be redistribution and modernization of the methods of cultivation.

But Mao’s collectivization and the kolkhozes of the Soviet Union which led to famines and were a disaster. Can we afford to experiment?

There has been some exaggeration here. In China and Russia there may have been some problems, but in other Third World countries it worked. And if the Chinese and the Russians hadn’t totally dismantled the feudal structures, they wouldn’t have achieved the growth that they have today.

When we say we want to end feudalism, we don’t mean we want to end private ownership. Our economic development is in our language bourgeoise democratic revolution, in other words, collectivization, socialisation and nationalisation is not our current agenda. All we mean to say is that for a weak and backward economy like ours the state must play a facilitating and regulatory role. Without monetary and tax policies foreign interests may be more dominant, so the state has to protect the domestic private sector and the free market.

Yet, the business community is not yet comfortable with the Maoist win mainly because of their experience over the past two years. Do you have words of assurance for them?

We would like to assure everyone that once the Maoists come (into government) the investment climate will be even more favourable. There shouldn’t be any unnecessary misunderstanding about that. The rumours in the press about our intention are wrong, there are reports of capital flight, but this shouldn’t happen. And the other aspect is that once there is political stability, the investment climate will be even better. Our other agenda is economic development and for this we want to mobilise domestic resources and capital, and also welcome private foreign direct investment. The only thing we ask is to be allowed to define our national priorities.

We want to fully assure international investors already in Nepal that we welcome them here, and we will work to make the investment climate even better than it is now. Just watch, the labour-mangement climate will improve in our time in office. What happened in the past two years with the unions happened during a transition phase, but the business sector also hasn’t identified the other factors that are cauing them losses.

What do you mean by national industrial capitalism?

Local development is important. Every state wants to give priority or protection to its own industry. Otherwise why have a state? When we allow foreign direct investment we will give priority to those who have a local partnership. That way the national entrepreneurial class will also develop and the national economy will benefit.

How about the hydropower deals that have already been agreed on?

The ones that have been signed needn’t have been done in a hush-hush manner, after all we were in an interim period and we could agreed on it collectively. By agreeing to these projects a day before we returned to government has aroused suspicions. But we understand that big hydro projects are not possible without foreign investment. The deals could have been negotiated in a more open manner. If there has been major irregularities, we need to investigate them, correct the decision-making process but we don’t want to discourage investors by shutting down projects.

The time has come to deliver on the promises. There are very high expectations.

That is true, but the bigger challenge is to maintain national unity. Let’s have political competition, but for the next 10-15 years let’s cooperate, let’s agree on a common minimum program. That will bring political stability, allow us to make optimum use of our domestic resources and bring in investment and make progress in the elimination of absolute poverty. If we can achieve these things in a fairly short timeframe, it will give the people patience and lay the groundwork for further development.

Our main worry now is the culture of disunity that results in political instability. All the parties must work together until the new constitution is written. The parties shouldn’t react emotionally and say they’ll leave the government.

Have you been offered the prime ministership?

(Laughs) Can’t say now. We have been advocating a presidential system, but need to make provision for that, and then we will divide up our work among us depending on who is more capable of completing the task at hand. As we say, it is everyone according to their need and their capacity. Because of my interest in development planning, maybe my work will be in that field.

Everything is reaching a crisis point. There are big expectations and hope, people need to see immediate changes?

The first thing we want to stop is corruption and leakage. That itself will bring big relief to the people. Like Marx said, if everyone lived in huts people are satisfied. It is when someone builds a village among the hovels that there is expectation. We have to meet basic needs of people first, that is our priority. Our economic agenda has growth with employment. Like our plans for infrastructure development, this creates immediate jobs and also gets things built.We have to take advantage of the fact that we are located between China and India. These two countries are the next two superpowers and we are in the middle. In the past we were seen as a buffer state, now we can be a vibrant bridge between them and benefit from the comparative advantage. For this we need infrastructure development and connectivity on both sides. For this we have the labour and for capital we can raise the money from the wasted investment in unproductive sectors. For large-scale investment we will have to rely on outside investors and for that we can use the BOOT model.

Your party has served in government in the interim period. You understand it from within, which aspects of it would you like to change?

One thing is that there is no coordination between ministries. Everyone is doing their own thing, that just won’t do. They should be operating according to the state’s main policies and coordinate activities. Secondly, the bureaucracy is lethargic and corruption-ridden. Unless that is changed the ministries won’t be effective. A lot of ministries overlap, and we need to restructure them.

Your own subject is urban planning. How are you going to control this unplanned centralized growth in Kathmandu?

You see on this map the various federal units, we need to spread out the economic activity so jobs are available outside Kathmandu. The fast track highway (to Hetauda) will shift the population out, and we have to plan the growth of Kathmandu properly with zooming and the outer ring road. No where in the world is urban growth as unplanned as it is here.

With all these problems, do you think the other parties just gave up and said let the Maoists handle it?

(Laughs). Maybe. Maybe they think let’s see how the Maoists do it. The cynical ones would probably say it.

Nepal: Left wins big victory

Nepal: Left wins big victory

Farooq Sulehria

18 April 2008 

The Nepalese left has stunned the world yet again. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), a US-designated “terrorist” outfit, won a landslide victory in April 9 general elections.

In a complex electoral process for 601 seats, the Maoists have bagged 112 out of 240 first-past-the-post seats at time of writing. With 30% of votes, they are likely to get a big chunk of 335 seats to be decided on a proportional representation basis. Another 26 seats are reserved for minorities.

Last time, it was the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) that surprised the world when it emerged as the largest party in 1994 elections at a time when, high on the heel of the demise of the Soviet Union, US academic Francis Fukuyama was triumphantly announcing the “end of history”.

For the first time in Asia, communists were voted into power at a national level. The CPN-UML victory, headline material for a while, was soon forgotten as the global focus was shifting to the Middle East .

While the Maoist landslide might have surprised even themselves — the media predicted a distant third place for them — a left victory in Nepal should not surprise anyone acquainted with this Himalayan state.

Communist forces have always been at the forefront in Nepal of democratic struggles. Formed in 1949, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) went through all the twists and turns of international communist movement. It split. It re-united. Then it split again.

It was a unification of the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist Leninist and Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist that led to the founding of the CPN-UML in 1991, while it a was a split in Samyukta Jana Morcha Nepal (SJMN) in late 1993 that gave birth to the CPN-M. At the time of split, SJMN was the third-largest party in the parliament with nine MPs.

After its birth, the CPN-M headed for the jungles and armed struggle, while the CPN-UML scored its electoral victory in 1994.

Poverty and feudalism

The success of communist ideas in Nepal underlines the crisis facing this impoverished land of 25 million peopl — almost 70% earn just US$2 per day. With an annual national income of just $241 per head, Nepal is the world’s 12th poorest country.

Despite some democratic reforms paving the way for multiparty elections in 1990, Nepal has remained a classic example of a feudal state, ruled by a powerful monarch supported by the upper-caste Hindu elite.

The masses have been looking to the communists to rid them of exploitation by the monarchy, its lackeys and the state apparatus. The communists of various hues were always in the forefront of the struggle for democracy and change, hence the CPN-UML victory in 1994.

However, the CPN-UML not only failed to deliver the land reform it had promised, it also disillusioned its cadres. An isolated CPN-UML government was easily removed by the monarchy in August 1995.

Meanwhile, the CPN-M provided the action the Nepali masses were seeking. As the CPN-UML was losing its electoral base in the towns, the Maoists were gaining ground in the countryside. An uprising launched in 1996 had soon won control of almost 70% of the countryside.

One reason for the rapid Maoist control of Nepal’s territory could be that the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) was poorly armed at the time the guerrilla struggle was launched. However, it was the Maoists’ radical ideas on land reform and negation of the caste system that won them support.

They began running the districts under their control through people’s committees and implemented land reform, also setting up “people’s courts”. Human Rights Watch, however, criticised these courts and accused the CPN-M of killing civilians suspected of informing, with most victims being members of opposing parties.

The Nepalese government was especially ruthless, and in the ensuing conflict, 13,000 lives were lost. Several attempts at peace talks between the government and the Maoists proved unsuccessful. On January 29, 2003, the government and the Maoists announced a ceasefire, but the talks soon reached an impasse over the justified Maoist demand for an elected constituent assembly.

Mass democratic uprising

In Feburary 2005, Kathmandu witnessed another government dismissal — the 14th government change in as many years.

However, the situation took a dramatic turn in April 2006 when a mass democracy movement caught hold of Nepal. Unlike US-sponsored “purple/cedar/velvet” revolutions, the Nepalese revolution was — to quote author Tariq Ali — no “ra ra revolution”.

A two-hundred–year-old monarchy was forced by a general strike and mass uprising to give up its hold over Nepal. Fresh elections for the future republic were agreed on by a coalition government.

Meanwhile, the Maoists’ growth in tiny Nepal was making the giants of the world nervous. Nepal, serving as a buffer zone between India and China, has been strategically very important. Landlocked Nepal has been in the sphere of Indian influence and is also desperately in need of Indian support and cooperation.

Traditionally, India and Britain supported the Nepalese monarchy, but, of late, the US has increasingly been extending its support too. The Bush administration put the CPN-M on its list of terrorist organisations on October 31, 2003, and also signed a five-year agreement “for co-operation in fighting terrorism and preventing possible terror attacks” with Nepal in 2002.

Washington may have concerns about the impact of instability in Nepal on the Indian subcontinent as a whole. However, the major reason for growing US military ties with Nepal is the country’s strategic position.

Washington has a series of military arrangements with countries bordering China, stretching from its new bases in the Central Asian republics through South-East Asia to its allies in north-east Asia — Japan and South Korea. The US became a major provider of military assistance to Nepal, allocating over $29 million in grants to Nepal to pay for US weapons, services and training from 2001 to 2004.

US military assistance to Nepal increased dramatically after 2001 and the justification offered was interesting — to “help its government cope with a brutal insurgency, restore enough stability to permit elections, and prevent the countryside from becoming a haven for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

The world’s only Hindu state becoming a haven for Muslim al-Qaeda!

Nepal could become a serious headache if it becomes a “Venezuela” in Asia. Though the Maoists uphold Stalin’s bankrupt “two-stage theory” on revolutions in underdeveloped nations (which argues that a “first stage” of capitalist development for an indeterminable number of years is required before a second, socialist, stage at some time in the future), the dynamics of the international situation may force them to go even further than the Venezuelan revolution.

Time to heed Saint Just’s stern warning — “Those who make half a revolution dig their own graves”.

Nepal Communist leader reassures investors

Nepal Maoists to embrace capitalism
18 Apr, 2008 TNN

NEW DELHI: Maoist supremo Prachanda, whose party is poised to form a
coalition government in Nepal, said capitalism will be the new
regime's tool for bringing economic advancement.

Reports from Kathmandu quoting Prachanda said Maoists will promote
capitalism and encourage foreign investment. This statement is
expected to soothe the frayed nerves of those who have invested in

Mr Prachanda assured industrialists that Maoists were not going to
nationalise industries at the moment. "We will allow private
investment and also promote foreign investment. Don't loose
confidence, we are not going to capture industries, but we need your
cooperation to gain economic prosperity," he said.

But industries will have to function under the gaze of the Maoists was
clear when he said that the new government will provide a force to
guard industrial establishments. He said the government will "create
conducive industrial environment to businesses by creating special
security force with the involvement of Maoist combatants stationed in

Prachanda also appealed to the private sector to trust them fully and
give them a chance saying the government will expand the tax base,
eliminate red tape and end culture of commissions and corruption.

Q: How can you restructure the state and achieve economic growth in a
short span of time?
Dr Bhattarai: What we need right now is political stability. We cannot
think of rapid economic growth sans political stability. Now the CA
results have given some hope for political stability. Secondly, there
must be a strong leadership. Above all, we have yet to start
restructuring the state. So, how can we think of the economy? The
30-year-long panchayat system promised us that it would deliver the
people's needs, but it could not do so as it was a political system
imposed by the royal regime to serve its own interests.

The post-1990 parliamentary system created a sort of anarchy. It
neither had any clear political vision nor could it deliver anything.
During this interim period, it would be difficult to think of economic
prosperity. We can only think of economic growth in the post-CA
period. This mandate has just opened the door to a future Nepal. Now
the job is to garner the support of all the political parties and
maintain political stability. This would be the beginning.

Second, the resources we have include land, water, jungle, herbs and
people. I do not think that we run short of resources, but we need
external support for technology and skills. We need foreign
investments. I am sure if we really work together, we can achieve
rapid economic growth in a short span of time.

Q: China has adopted a liberal economic policy. It has achieved
remarkable economic growth in the past 30 years. To what extent do you
think we can follow China's model?
Dr Bhattarai: China eliminated the feudal system during Mao's regime.
It established a solid foundation for economic growth. We could have
thought of making rapid economic progress had the country been
liberated from the age-old feudal system. When you inject new
technology after the foundation for economic growth has been
established, you can achieve such development. We don't have such a
foundation now. Once we restructure the state and involve the private
sector, it will be possible to achieve rapid economic growth. We would
implement a transitional economic policy during such an interim period
which involves public and private partnership.

Q: Currently we are seeing a pattern of capital flight. How are you
going to halt this?
Dr Bhattarai: We can't think of developing this country in the absence
of domestic and foreign investments. Technological inputs are of equal
importance. So, we will follow the policy of attracting domestic and
foreign investments. For that to happen, we have to put an end to
political instability. From our side, we have to provide security to
investors and create a conducive environment for domestic and foreign
financiers. And I also think that we will be able to resolve the
differences between labor and management. Unless we resolve such
issues, we cannot create a better investment atmosphere. In a
nutshell, we recognize the legitimacy of management and the
participation of labor in management.

Secondly, we have to identify areas for investment and create the
necessary infrastructure. We have to focus on productive sectors. We
don't want to encourage assembly industries. Business activities
should raise productivity and generate employment.

Q: You mean the state's involvement in economic activities will
increase from now on?
Dr Bhattarai: The state will play the role of facilitator. The state
cannot intervene in business activities. It will encourage investors
to raise productivity and generate employment opportunities.

Orientation of the CPN-Maoist upon electoral victory

Reading the statements of Dr. Bhattarai, the CPN-Maoist seems to be a non-Maoist or even anti-Maoist organization or is just vying time before implementing its national democratic program. The doctor's call for reliance on domestic and foreign investments is already an obvious deviation from the Maoist program of nationalization of industry. He is now more concerned with the foreign and domestic capitalists, promising them that their properties and business operations will continue to enjoy protection under Maoist-dominated coalition rule. He has forgotten the workers and the peasants who have been ground by the machines of foreign and local capitalista exploitation.

This means that trend in Nepal may be likened to the trend that followed the collapsed of Eastern Europe: the trand of replacing the old monarchial system with their bourgeois-democratic regime which will have a thousand connections with the multinationals and the local capitalists and even the WTO, WB, IMF, etc.. The worst thing about it will be their baptizing it with a communist or socialist name.

The people will soon find out that they have only wasted their thousands of their lives in a protracted people's war that now is establishing a government of the petty bourgeois Moists and other "communists" in collaboration with the capitalists and monopoly capitalists throughout Nepal.

Nepal: US subverting Nepal poll mandate;

U.S. subverting Nepal poll mandate

Siddharth Varadarajan

Nancy Powell "actively pushing" the idea that Koirala should remain

A section of Nepali Congress says Maoists must first oust Koirala to
stake claim to the top post
Amendment to interim constitution to allow PM to be removed by
simple majority proposed

KATHMANDU: After first "congratulating the people of Nepal on their
historic Constitutional Assembly election," the United States is now
seeking to subvert the electorate's mandate by lobbying against the
Maoists heading the next coalition government.

According to political and diplomatic sources, the U.S. ambassador
in Kathmandu, Nancy Powell, is "actively pushing" the idea that
Girija Prasad Koirala should continue as Prime Minister.

Under the interim constitution, all major decisions, including the
appointment or removal of the Prime Minister, must be taken by
consensus, failing which by a two-thirds majority. With the
encouragement of the Americans, a section of the Nepali Congress
(NC) leadership is now citing this provision to argue that the
Maoists will first have to oust Mr. Koirala before they can stake a
claim to the top post.

"Suicidal for party"

The American suggestion which one NC leader in an interview to The
Hindu described as "suicidal for the party" runs counter to the
belief of Indian and other diplomats here that a Maoist-led
government is inevitable given the scale of their victory.

The CA consists of 601 seats, 575 of which are elected. Of these,
the Maoists have 220, or 38.2 per cent, the NC only 110 and the
Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML) 103. The four Madhesi parties have
85 seats between them. A further 26 seats will be filled by
nomination on a pro rata basis.

In the current coalition based on the "interim legislature," the NC,
with 40 per cent of the seats, has not just the prime ministership
but also the defence, home and finance portfolios. In line with this
practice, Prachanda, chairman of the Nepali Maoists, says his party
will now head the coalition government and keep the three top
ministries to itself.

Though some observers feel the "GPK as PM" line is meant to pressure
the Maoists into yielding at least one top portfolio to the NC or
UML in an eventual coalition government, there is a fear that the
proposal will take on a life of its own as other players who feel
threatened by the Maoists such as the Palace and Army brass — latch
on to it.

Last week, the entire debate within the NC was over whether the
party should join the coalition led by the Maoists or not. But when
the Central Working Committee of the NC met on Thursday to take
stock of the party's defeat, senior leaders openly challenged the
Maoists' right to lead the government.

Second `proposal'

A second `proposal' that is being floated to prevent the Maoists
from forming a stable government is an amendment to the interim
constitution to allow the Prime Minister to be removed by simple

Since the Maoists will have more than one-third of the seats in the
CA, the argument goes, there will be no check should they refuse to
hold elections again. The Maoist leadership rejects these arguments.

"When the interim constitution itself spells out the lifespan of the
CA and mandates fresh elections within a maximum period of two years
and six months, where is the question of the Maoists delaying
elections?" Mr. Prachanda told The Hindu. "Would any of these
proposals or formulas have been made if the NC or UML had been in
our position?" he asked. "That is the true test of how valid these
proposals are."

The Maoists fear the new emphasis on the "politics of numbers" will
vitiate the consensual spirit that the CA needs to write Nepal's new

Mr. Prachanda says the electorate's mandate is for a coalition
government led by the Maoists. "This is a time when all the parties
have to work together the Maoists, the NC, UML, the [Madhesi
Janadhikar] Forum and others."

Role for Koirala

Asked what role he envisaged for Mr. Koirala, Mr. Prachanda said
the "guardianship" of the NC leader had been crucial in pushing the
peace process and ensuring that elections to the CA were held
properly. "At the same time, he has repeatedly said he wants to
retire from active politics and this must also be respected. And
yet, we feel some way must be found for him to continue to play the
role of a guardian. My view is that given his age and his own
sentiments, the proper way to honour him would not be to insist on
his involvement in the government or day-to-day politics. We have to
find another way of honouring him. But if he wants, we are open-
minded on this," said Mr. Prachanda. "I told him we are prepared to
talk about this."


Not giving up violence yet
24 APRIL 2008

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said his party is not yet
ready to formally renounce violence, one of the preconditions to the
US lifting the terrorist tag on the former guerrilla group that
swept Nepal's 10 April elections.

With all the results in, the Maoists are going to be the biggest
party in the constituent assembly elections. They have won exactly
half the seats in the first past the post ballot and one-third the
seats in the proportional representation segment. Still, the former
rebels don't have the majority to form a government on their own,and
will need to strike a deal with some of the other smaller parties.

Dahal and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai have been busy lobbying
political parties, the business community and Kathmandu-based donors
this week. The Maoist duo was invited to a regular monthly meeting
of the UN with the donor community. Present at the closed door
meeting were 20 diplomats, including American ambassador Nancy
Powell. But sources said she and the Maoist leaders didn't talk or
shake hands.

After the meeting, Dahal told the press he reassured donor
representatives about his party's commitment to multi-party
democracy and a mixed economy. He added: "We are not ready to give
up all kinds of violence yet."

Later, Baburam Bhattarai denied that the YCL was an armed group and
said there was no question of disbanding it. The remarks came even
as Nepali media reported continued threats and forced displacement
of NC and UML supporters from various parts of the country allegedly
by YCL cadre. "It's an insult to the people's mandate to question
our commitment to non-violent politics," Bhattarai said.

Meanwhile the NC has started a post mortem of its election defeat
with a central committee meeting Thursday. NC leaders blamed the
defeat on Maoist violence in the campaign period and the prime
minister's inability to ensure security for Congress candidates.

Nepal and India; Nepal and the Indian left

Maoists to scrap ‘unequal’ India pact

Kathmandu, April 24 (PTI): The Maoists plan to scrap the 58-year-old Indo-Nepal
peace and friendship treaty and replace it with a pact that will reflect new

They also decided to review all other bilateral agreements between the two

“Our past policy towards the 1950 treaty remains unchanged, we want to scrap
that treaty and replace it with a new one in the changed context,” Maoist chief
Prachanda said as the former rebels won the most seats in the country’s new
governing Assembly, taking more than double the number of their nearest rival.

“We also want to review all other treaties signed between Nepal and India,” the
54-year-old former school teacher said.

During the election campaign, the Maoists had said that the treaty was “unequal”
and needs to be repealed. The demand for an end of the agreement was raised in
Nepal eight years ago.

Under the pact, people living in India and Nepal can freely travel across the
border for employment.

There is a termination clause in the treaty and Nepal can do away with the
agreement, which is actually meant to address India’s security needs, if it is

“I think a new dimension has now been added to our relations with india,”
Prachanda said.

“If we consider the situation right from the signing of the 12-point agreement
with the seven-party alliance in Delhi in November 2005 and now when the
Constituent Assembly polls have been successfully concluded, an atmosphere has
been created to forging a new unity on a new basis with India,” he said.

“We believe that in this new context Nepal-India relation should be taken to a
new height in a more positive and constructive way,” the Maoist chief said.
However, Prachanda said he had no immediate plan to visit India. “I have not yet
decided about visiting India at the moment,” he said.

A hung House is the likely outcome of the Constituent Assembly polls after no
party secured a clear majority.

The overall Maoists’ seat tally is expected to be 218, more than double the
number of their nearest rival, Nepal Congress, after the counting of ballot
papers for 575 seats of the 601-strong Constituent Assembly was completed late
last night. The remaining 26 members in the Assembly will be nominated by the
new cabinet.

Under the proportionate or indirect voting for 335 seats, the Maoists received a
total of 3.14 million votes or 29.28 per cent of the 10.74 million votes cast.
The Nepali Congress came second with 2.27 million or 21.14 per cent votes while
the CPN-UML was in third position with 2.18 million or 20.33 per cent votes.


- The Indian Left is strangely quiet at the CPN(M)’s victory
Cutting Corners - Ashok Mitra

The only Hindu kingdom in the world is in the process of transforming itself
into the world’s only country where a communist party has come to power
vanquishing all others in a free, democratic, multi-party election. The
magnitude of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)’s victory is so breathtaking
that even last-ditch supporters of the country’s centuries-old monarchical
system have chosen to call it a day.

Many foreign entities are part of this crestfallen crowd, with the United States
of America department of state to the fore: after all, Nepal’s royalty has been
the jewel of its eye. The collapse of the ‘evil empire’ the Soviet Union
presided over had allowed the Americans an untrammelled entry into central Asia.
They had cherished clandestine hopes about the land-locked country. Those
daydreams would now need to be aborted. The Chinese leadership too could be —
who knows? — somewhat disheartened by the Nepal poll outcome. The colour of the
cat is still a crucial ideological issue with the Maoists; any cat will do for
the Dengites.

Reaction is similarly mixed in India, which in fact was strongly represented, by
proxy in the Nepal elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party naturally has a
proprietorial concern for the security and well-being of a Hindu monarchy. Some
among its creamy layer are also related by marriage to the Ranas, the most
powerful royalist coterie in Kathmandu, while a few others are known to have
fraternal links with business groups that provide financial assistance to
Madhesi factions supporting this or that Indian immigrant group. However, the
more important surrogate electoral presence was that of the Indian Congress and
the Left. The Nepali Congress, built in the image of the Indian National
Congress, is not only emotionally attached to the Indian party, it has,
according to rumours freely circulating, habituated itself to draw up its
strategy and programme in close consultation with its Indian counterpart.

The persistent ambition of policy-planners in New Delhi has been to present
India as south Asia’s natural leader, basking in the love and admiration of
neighbours, big and small, thereby appearing to the US as a credible strategic
partner in future jousts with the People’s Republic of China. To have Nepal
safely in its pocket would have strengthened this ambition. The eclipse of the
Nepali Congress will now set everything in disarray.

The Indian Left had a more limited field for furrowing. Let the Nepali Congress
emerge as the first party, it did not matter much; but the second accredited
political formation following the poll, the official Left in India had been
telling those within earshot, must be its ideological ally, the Communist Party
of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist). As in domestic politics, so too in
across-the-border political assessment: bourgeois parties have ceased to occupy
the place of the major adversary of the establishment Left in India; that
position now belongs to the deviant Left. Interestingly, India’s orthodox Left
seems of late to have acquired a certain respect for the Central Intelligence
Agency. For example, in the prolix listing of knaves and scoundrels who
allegedly took advantage of the temporary discomfiture of the Left in Nandigram
in West Bengal, the CIA was left out of the enumeration. On the contrary, the
CIA’s dissertation on a Maoist conspiracy, originating in Nepal, intending to
infiltrate India via West Bengal, and gradually spreading across to Jharkhand,
Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil
Nadu and Kerala, has reportedly greatly impressed the Indian Left; it is the
season of received wisdom: Maoists have naughty designs on India, they want to
exploit the poverty and land hunger of our people to foment revolutionary

The Nepali electorate has understandably let down India’s genteel Left
leadership; the CPN(UML) has been reduced to the position of a poor third while
the CPN(Maoist) has emerged supreme. Is this, however, not an occasion when
sectarian reasoning deserves to be discarded? What about the grandeur of what
has taken place in Nepal? In a free democratic poll, the deprived and
impoverished millions, led and inspired by a communist party, have marched to
the booths and asserted their will to get rid of the vestiges of feudalism and
semi-feudalism. Is this not a great historic occurrence?

Suspend for a moment other concerns, consider the suffrage in Nepal as a
phenomenon qua phenomenon. That little canton in Italy, San Marino, had, in free
elections, voted for a communist mayor for years on end in the post-World War II
period; the world was tantalised. Way back in 1957, Kerala voted the communists
to power in a multi-party electoral battle. That state was a puny constituent of
the Union of India. So what, it was an unprecedented achievement and the world’s
press made a beeline for Trivandrum. And the Left Front’s seven consecutive
electoral triumphs, stretching over 30 years, in West Bengal, another
hamstrung-by-constraints constituent unit of the Union of India, have been
accorded the accolade that was due. Is not the Nepal happening even more
epoch-making? Not a minor canton, not a relatively powerless province in a
federal set-up but an independent country, still a formal monarchy, where a
communist party participating in a multi-party election has won, single-handed,
an overwhelming majority of the seats that were at stake.

Should this not have been regarded an extraordinary event, calling for
celebration for Left forces everywhere? As the news of the CPN (M)’s stupendous
success started flashing across television channels, should not directives have
gone out from all Left party headquarters that cadre be immediately on the
march, throng roads, streets and thoroughfares of villages, towns and cities,
build victory arches, illuminate party offices, fly the Red Flag high and
organize rallies to hail the toiling masses of Nepal for their courage and
resoluteness? Instead, apart from issuing a brief statement expressing
satisfaction at the poll result, there has been deathly silence. Such lack of
generosity is saddening, and, cannot one add, asinine too?

The official Left, particularly in India, is worried; perhaps its adherents have
good reason to worry. Once they themselves withdraw into a cautious corner, a
radical initiative in any part of the world by any other group can make them
feel vulnerable. But this sense of vulnerability might one day spell doom. For
caution often leads to a breed of conservatism. And a morning arrives when
conservatism is no longer distinguishable from unalloyed reaction.

The Left in Nepal has experimented with a strategy of revolutionary activism
that has had a deep impact on the country’s masses, especially the youth.
Prachanda and his comrades realized the implications of this massive swing in
their favour, and confidently opted for participation in multi-party elections.
Their preoccupation for the present, common sense suggests, will be exclusively
on domestic matters. To imagine that thundering success on homeground would now
tempt them to infiltrate into the heartland of India is nothing more than
nervous speculation. Revolutions can be neither exported nor smuggled in. If
India falls prey to revolutionary turmoil, it would be on account of, as the
cliché goes, quantity on its own maturing into quality, not because of Maoist
infiltration from Nepal, with a population less than 2 per cent of India’s.

The CPN(M) should not feel daunted. For the experience of Fidel Castro and his
comrades with the then alive-and-very-much-kicking world communist movement was
no better: their revolution, the reproof was handed down, was not according to
grammar. Circumstances changed so rapidly that orthodoxy had soon to eat humble
pie; Castro and Che Guevara were invited to take over, lock, stock and barrel
the erstwhile communist party in Cuba. History is known sometimes to repeat

New blog: Welcome to Revolution in South Asia!

Welcome to Revolution in South Asia!

Posted by Mike E on April 27, 2008

This RevSA site ( will be developed, as rapidly as possible, as a lively and interesting resource focused on the Maoist revolutions of South Asia — including breaking news, documents, analysis, and key controversies.

Please join us in this internationalist informational effort! There are many ways you can help this effort around RevsA:

* Promote this new website — link to it from your own site,s email the url to interested people, post this announcement on relevant discussion boards/lists. All people interested in radical change need to know about these important revolutionary movements.
* Use this site to raise your own understanding of the issues and controversies surrounding of these Maoist “New Democratic” revolutions.
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Events are moving quickly in Nepal, in unpredictable ways. There are several armed forces in the field, and the broad Nepali populations is mobilized to transform Nepali society — with very high expectations. The future is unwritten.

The possibility of deepening revolutionary crisis and the danger of counterrevolutionary action all demand that we act quickly and boldly.

No constitution amendment, no sharing of key posts: Maoists

No constitution amendment, no sharing of key posts: Maoists


KATHMANDU, May 26 - The CPN (Maoist) has rejected the demand from other political parties to amend the interim constitution and share power for the three top government posts.

The Maoists, however, are set to propose to implement republic through the first meeting of Constituent Assembly on May 28.

“Implementing republic is the major issue of today. And our proposal has stressed this issue,” said senior Maoist leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai.

He termed the demands for amendment of constitution and sharing of power as against the spirit of peace accord and interim constitution.

“We will strictly adhere to the letter and spirit of the interim constitution,” Dr Bhattarai said. “It is meaningless to quarrel over the issue of power sharing.”

Earlier today, Maoist leaders in a meeting had assured leaders of Nepali Congress and CPN-UML to come up with a clear package proposal on Monday. The meeting of three largest parties had ended inconclusively as the Maoists didn’t submit a concrete proposal for formation of a new government.

A Maoist source said it will propose its chairman Prachanda as the next Prime Minister, who will exercise the authority of head of state as well.

On the issue of sharing power among major political parties, the Maoist proposal is open for ministerial portfolios only.

The source said Maoists are not ready to share the posts of President, deputy president, Prime Minister and Chairperson of the CA, as demanded by other political parties.

The Maoists will also propose three alternatives for government formation: firstly, a coalition government under the Maoist leadership; or a single-party government of Maoists; and if both options fail, they have proposed to stay away from the government.

“We are not desperate to go to government,” Dr Bhattarai who said. “The Maoist will choose to stay as opposition party if other political parties put conditions before the formation of the next government.”

Earlier today, the Maoists, during Sunday’s meeting with NC and UML pledged to present a proposal in writing on four issues — implementation of republic, grounds of government formation, scope and areas of constitutional amendment, and confidence-building measures.

Nepal: How to oust a king (Green Left Weekly)

By Ben Peterson

14 June 2008 -- Nepal, a small landlocked nation in the Himalayas wedged between China and India, is an incredibly poor and underdeveloped nation.

Thirty percent of people live in extreme poverty. It’s horrendous childhood mortality rate is on par with Iraq and the Palestinian West Bank. According to the CIA world fact book, 80% of the population is employed by agriculture, and its main industry is small sweatshops.

Most of the country is only accessible by foot or by air. There are few roads and health care and education are limited in quality and availability. The literacy rate is 48%, and drops as low as 35% for women.

Nepal was ruled by as an absolute monarchy until 1951. In the 1940s a democratic movement developed, lead by the Nepali Congress, which succeeded in creating a constitutional monarchy in 1951 lead by the NC.

In 1959, the government was overthrown by the royal family and replaced by a monarchy-led “party-less” system called panchayat, which lasted for the next three decades.

In 1989, a new democracy movement rose, known as jana andolan (the people’s movement), lead by the NC and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML). All sectors of society took to the streets and the king was forced to relinquish power again to a constitutional monarchy, with multiparty democracy.

People’s War

In 1996, due to the corruption of the government, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) stopped contesting elections and launched a “Peoples War” in the nation’s western hills.

Initially, this insurgency was small and localised, but it slowly gained popular support due to the failure of the government to help the rural poor. The government crackdown on rebels and perceived rebel sympathisers stirred unrest and the Maoist influence grew.

In 2001, the Nepali crown prince — while drunk and stoned — shot his parents and a large portion of the royal family, including himself, after an argument. This drastically undermined support and respect for the royal family and the government.

The new king, Gyanendra, began consolidating power in his own hands. In 2005, he dismissed the government on the basis that it could not deal with the now sizeable insurgency.

Gyanendra then used the Royal Nepalese Army, fresh with training and weapons from the US and Britain, to unleash a wave of violence against the population.

The insurgency exploded, and despite a massive RNA presence the CPN-M grew. By late 2005, the Maoists had effective control of 80% of the nation, and the government had little control outside of the capital, Kathmandu.

@question = Jana Andolan II

The CPN-M blockaded Kathmandu in late 2005. The parties that had formed the dissolved parliament formed the Seven Party Alliance (SPA).

The leaders of the SPA and the CPN-M negotiated a “12 point agreement”. The CPN-M committed to supporting a multiparty democracy and freedom of speech, while the SPA adopted the Maoists call for elections to create a new constitution.

Together, they called a boycott of the February 2006 local elections. There were waves of arrests of political activists, but less than 20% of the electorate voted.

The SPA and CPN-M called a 4-day strike from April 5-9, bringing the nation to a halt. On April 8, the government ordered a curfew, with orders that protesters be shot on sight. On April 9, the SPA announced the strike would continue indefinitely.

On April 21, after 14 days of massive street protests (involving as many as 500,000 people at any one time) the king relinquished power back to the SPA, and asked the SPA to designate a new prime minister.

The CPN-M did not initially join the government. The SPA broke its promises and did not immediately call for elections to a new constitutional assembly, but said that elections should simply be held for the parliament, with a parliamentary committee drafting a new constitution. The Maoists insisted on a constitutional assembly to form a republican state.

A settlement was reached, and the reinstated parliament, including a sizeable CPN-M delegation, passed a series of reforms in the interim to the constituent assembly elections, including declaring a secular state, removing the king’s powers and arresting members of the royal cabinet for breaches of human rights during the People’s War.

The elections where finally held on April 10, in a very tense atmosphere. Royalist groups carried out bombings across the nation, political parties clashed and some sections of Madehshi people in the lowland Terai region on the India border agitated for independence.

The result was a massive Maoist victory. The CPN-M recieved around 30% of the vote, winning 36% of the constituent assembly seats. The CPN-M polled more than a million votes more than their nearest competitors.

Who are the Maoists?

The Maoists mostly come from the rural poor. With very limited opportunity in the countryside, no work in the cities and no access to education, the rural peasantry have flocked to the CPN-M in droves.

The Maoists built their support with action rather than rhetoric. In the areas it controlled, the CPN-M conducted land reform, took over government buildings to be used as schools and created democratic local governing bodies. In contrast, parties like the CPN-UML won elections but achieved little. This was the basis for the CPN-M’s massive electoral support.

The Maoists also actively involve and fight for the rights of women. Of the 26 women elected to the assembly, 22 are Maoists. Around 40% of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are women. Many women became involved with the Maoists on the basis that it was the only way to have any opportunity of an independent life in a conservative, religous-dominated society.

The CPN-M also has a high proportion of youth. With no prospect of education or employment, the Maoists stood alone in actually working to provide opportunities for youth. The CPN-M youth wing, the Young Communist League, is extremely active in communities and during the election campaign was constantly active across the nation.

The Maoists also have an organisation for dalits. Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country, with a Hindu-inspired caste system. Dalits are at the bottom of this caste system, considered lower than cows and horribly discriminated against.

The CPN-M has gained the trust of the people of Nepal through hard work and reaching out to every sector of society.


The most pressing issue for the CPN-M is increasing and solidifying their support, both internally and internationally.

The established political elite within Nepal had predicted that the CPN-M would come a distant third behind the CPN-UML and the NC. The establishment is reeling in shock at their loss and are increasingly hostile to the Maoists.

Crucial to warding off reactionary attacks will be on the back of popular support. This will involve reaching out to even more layers of Nepali society.

This especially applies to the Terai region, an area with the most fertile land and agriculture. It has 48% of Nepal’s population, mostly Madheshi who have strong ethnic and cultural ties to India. While the Nepalese live in poverty as standard, the Madheshi are probably the most exploited. India, via its ambassador in Nepal, has sought to manipulate Madheshi grievances in order to destabilise the country.

While a movement for Madheshi rights developed last year, the SPA used the old electoral system in drawing up plans for the assembly vote, giving the region only 20% of the seats. Due to Maoist pressure, a system was adopted with more than half the seats were allocated by direct proportional representation, with a whereby 26 seats were set aside for minorities to be appointed by a government representative.

Within the SPA framework, all major parties made commitments to form the next government involving all key parties in the widest possible framework. While the CPN-M appear to want to carry this through, the CPN-UML and the NC both look like going back on these agreements to undermine the Maoists.

On May 28, the constituent assembly overwhelmingly voted to formally declare the Democratic Republic of Nepal, sparking three days of celebrations. All of the royal families assets have been nationalised. A June 11 Sydney Morning Herald article reported that the king, who is believed to have US$200 million stashed away, was still to hand over the crown and other valuable jewels.

The SMH reported on June 13 that the king finally vacated the palace. Hundreds gathered to watch, with shouts of “long live the republic!”

It’s yet to be seen what the royalists will do next. There is strong support for the monarchy among the military.

A potential flashpoint revolves around the PLA. Political agreements state the PLA will be merged into the conventional army. However this is being strongly resisted by the military that correctly fears that highly politicised and committed PLA cadre would sow dissent and erode the officers control over the rank-and-file.

Nepal has a long history of international intervention into its affairs, historically from the British but more recently from the US and India. There are no signs that this is going to change, as is evidenced by India’s role in the bordering Terai region.

The most critical challenge the Maoists face is to take a backwards and horribly underdeveloped country, torn apart by a ten year civil war, and drag it out of the feudal age. This is further complicated by the fact that it is situated on a rocky strip of land, with next to no natural resources and landlocked by two of the worlds emerging powers.

This is an incredible task, but not impossible. If the Nepalese people are able to make important social gains, such as access to health care and education, it could have an important inspirational effect on the poor in India.

If the Nepalese people can pull it off, it won’t be the first little rock under the nose of the powerful to do amazing things despite limited resources and isolation. There’s one of those in the Caribbean too.

[Ben Peterson is a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance. He will present a workshop on Nepal at the Resistance national conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Visit for more information.]

From International News, Green Left Weekly issue #755 18 June 2008.

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