Nepal: The great general strike – the permanent revolution
What way forward after the great mass movements of April 2006 and 2009
In May of this year the Nepali masses once again demonstrated their thirst for a revolutionary transformation of society, when they took to the streets in their tens of thousands. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN (M)) called for a general strike and protests on 1 May to demand the resignation of the new Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The general strike that followed brought the country to a standstill. Over half a million people are reported to have marched through the city of Kathmandu and participated in rallies. On 6 May the masses surrounded the capital city of Kathmandu in a human chain on the 27km ring road. On the same day the largest ever rally was held in the city. This major mobilisation once again demonstrated the desire for change and the support that the Maoists still enjoy among the nearly 30 million strong wider population.
This Bandth (general strike) was called by the Maoists after their year-long conflict with the interim government which was set up after the end of the 10 year long civil war in Nepal. The Maoists left the government after their leader and prime minister, Puspa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, resigned from office in May 2009. This was in protest against the overturning of his decision to dismiss the Nepalese army chief of staff, Rookmangud Katawal, who had been blocking attempts to integrate the Maoist armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the Nepalese army. These efforts continued to be derailed by the right wing within the army. The Nepalese army commanders, who had been very loyal to the royal family, had openly aligned themselves with the right-wing parties within the interim government. This strengthening of reactionary forces within the country, supported by the Indian, Chinese and right-wing governments in the world, poses a major threat to the interests of the working masses. The successful general strike and mass rallies pointed to how these threats can be overcome. Also this is not the first time the Nepali masses have shown their desire for revolutionary change.
Great mass movement of April 2006 and after
The major change in Nepal’s modern history began with the great mass movement of April 2006, which eventually led to the abolition of autocratic monarchic rule. Similar to the May 2010 movement, the great mass movement of April 2006 also showed the overwhelming and widespread desire for change. The masses sought, not just the abolition of the monarchy, but also genuine democracy and an end to poverty and inequality. The general strike of 2006 was called in early April by the pro-business Nepali Congress Party (NC), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), commonly known as UML, and others in the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) with the support of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN (M))-known as the Maoists. But none were prepared for, or expected, how explosive it was going to be. Class anger broke out through the general strike and galvanised the rest of the masses into action.
However, the parties in the SPA came out decisively in opposition to the king only after he turned against them, using the military to seize full control of the power. Prior to this some leaders in the SPA had served happily under the king and supported the attacks on the Maoists. But having seen the heightened discontent of the mass movement of the workers, the peasants and the poor people and their readiness to act, the right-wing SPA had no choice other than to metamorphose into a leading opponent of the king’s rule.
At this stage the Maoists, who had waged a bitter battle against the Royal Nepali Army (RNA) in the past decade, had control of significant parts of the countryside. They had consistently opposed the monarchy and enjoyed the support of the rural population and sections of the working class. With a correct perspective and programme and an able leadership this movement could have been taken to a socialist revolutionary conclusion as many classical revolutionary features existed. The mass movement included not only the workers and peasants, but a section of the intellectuals and middle class who also showed their readiness to push for the establishment of a new social order. While the ruling class was in confusion and stripped its powers, the king and the royal army was not in any way prepared for the general strike and the mass uprising. These favourable conditions do not automatically mean a direct transformation of society.
It must also be stated that a socialist revolution in one country will not survive for a lengthy period of time unless its spreads elsewhere. In the event of revolution, a small country like Nepal will face an onslaught of attacks from many capitalist governments, particularity from India. The socialist revolution cannot just be on a national plane but has to be on an international plane to survive. Therefore an appeal to the international working class is crucial.
Also the movement needed an organisation, a leadership to bring together the workers and peasants and others into committees led by workers to prepare the way to carry through the revolution. Unable to see how to develop this movement towards revolutionary change, the Maoists leaders wrongly opted to work with the right-wing SPA. The Maoist leaders’ reliance on the right wing, which in the past was responsible for maintaining the rule of the monarch for decades, weakened the movement. It also gave confidence to the pro-capitalists. The Maoists argue that bourgeois democracy should be achieved first, capitalism needs to be further developed and only then can the fight for a socialist transformation of society begin. This two stage theory ignores the question of how genuine democratic rights can be won and defended in the interest of workers, something that is even more true in this period of worldwide capitalist crisis. How can the first stage of capitalist development be achieved without any exploitation of the working class and poor?
The CWI has many times explained the bankruptcy of this ‘stages theory’. In neo-colonial countries the national bourgeois class is incapable of breaking with imperialism and genuinely carrying through its historic task of the bourgeois democratic revolution. Tasks such as that of the elimination of feudal and semi-feudal relations, solving the national question and the establishment of democratic structures to allow the development of industry and the economy cannot be achieved by the national bourgeoisies in neo-colonial countries. The Bourgeois democratic revolution in France that beheaded king Louis XVI in 1793, sounded the beginning of the end of feudalism in the world. In many industrialised countries in the west the capitalist class did carry through the revolt against feudalism to make way for the development of capitalism. The argument that this can be repeated in the modern epoch and that every country in the world has to go through this ‘stage’ before beginning the fight for a socialist transformation of society is completely false. The Russian revolution in 1917, and many revolutionary movements since then, have proved this theory wrong.
The Stalinist bureaucracy in the second half of the 1920s mistakenly directed the Chinese revolutionaries to form a so-called bloc of four classes – the workers, peasants, intellectuals and the anti-imperialist bourgeoisies – in order to lead the revolution. This helped Chang Kai-Shek, representing the bourgeois bloc to survive, only to brutally crush the revolution later in 1926-1927. The massacre that followed wiped out thousands of revolutionaries and thousands of workers. Later, with the defeat of Chang Kai-Shek in the Second World War, the capitalist class and landlords fled China. Into this vacuum entered the Red Army which was largely a peasant army with the Bonapartist Mao Zedong at its head. Mao Zedong manoeuvred between different classes and constructed a state not in the image of the 1917 workers’ democracy in Russia but of Stalinism. In a way, Mao Zedong began where Stalin had finished.
The character of the regime that took power was quickly clear. Despite the introduction of land reforms, and a planned economy due to the pressure from below, the establishment of workers’ democracy and a genuine development of the socialist revolution did not take place. Having based themselves on peasants and other feudal classes the bureaucracy was trapped and was soon struggling to carry through even some ‘democratic’ reforms. This forced Mao Zedong to criticise some of the Stalinist approaches and later to introduce his idea of so-called ‘continuous revolution’ in the late 1950s. This was a reaction in part to the contradiction that still existed within society and the stifling effect of an emerging bureaucracy in the image of the Stalinist bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. Mao Zedong zig-zagged between centralisation and decentralisation and different policies which also led to the emergence of regional or localised bureaucracies. But failure to make a real break with Stalinism cost the lives of millions of Chinese workers.
Wedded to international capitalism, the national bourgeoisies in under-developed countries will continue to play merely a subsidiary role, allowing only those reforms that will enable the international capitalists to loot the country’s resources to the full and blocking any attempt at land reform. The national bourgeoisie will continue to be an obstacle to the working and poor peoples’ interests. Without breaking with these forces, the genuine development of the economy and the establishment of genuine democracy are not possible. Thus the historic task of carrying through the democratic revolution falls in to the hands of the working class. This Marxist explanation of how a revolution can develop in a neo-colonial country is best expressed in Leon Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution. Trotsky explains that carrying through the stage of democratic development especially in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, is conceivable only by the proletariat who also rally behind them the poor peasant masses.
In a recent introduction to a new Urdu translation of Trotsky’s book Permanent Revolution Peter Taaffe of the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) describes these processes
“It was Karl Marx himself who first spoke about the ‘permanent’ character of the revolution drawing lessons from the 1848 revolutions. He wrote in 1850: ‘It is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions.’ But Trotsky went further and concluded that once having drawn the mass of the peasantry behind its banner and taken power, the working class would be compelled to go over to the socialist tasks, both on a national and an international scale.
“This brilliantly anticipated the October 1917 revolution. The working class took power in Petrograd, the seat of the revolutionary upheavals of the time, and Moscow. They then made an appeal to the rural masses, initiated ‘land to the tillers’, which won over the peasantry. But the dispossessed landlords joined hands with the capitalists, both the ‘liberal’ and reactionary wings, in an attempt to try to snuff out the Russian revolution. The peasantry through the travails of the three-year civil war rallied behind the workers and their party, the Bolsheviks, because they came to understand in action that they were the only ones who would give them the land. Even the intervention of 21 imperialist armies, which reduced the revolution at one stage to the old province of Muscovy, around Petrograd and Moscow, could not stop the revolution triumphing.” (The Permanent Revolution today, Peter Taaffe – http://socialistworld.net/eng/2010/02/1802.html)
This quote speaks of the kind of dilemma faced by the Maoist leadership in Nepal of whether a socialist revolution is possible in a country which does not have a numerically powerful working class and faces military action against them internally and externally in the event of revolution. But CWI material like the recent introduction by Tony Saunois to his book ‘Che Guevara. Symbol of Struggle’ (http://socialistworld.net/eng/2005/08/19che.html) has pointed out that the working class in Nepal, which is mainly employed in tertiary and mercantile services, is larger in percentage terms than in pre-revolutionary Russia. The composition and character of the work-force in pre-revolutionary Russia is different to that of Nepal as it does not have the industrial base that existed in Russia. However, the working class, regardless of its size, has the potential to lead a socialist transformation of society.
In Nepal the working class continues to play a decisive role, as demonstrated in the successful general strikes. The power of the working class to bring society to a halt, whatever its size continues to be demonstrated in these general strikes. It is not in anyway an underestimation of the role of the peasantry. Organising and mobilising peasants is a crucial ingredient in building the mass movement in Nepal. However it must be linked to the workers’ movement, including in urban areas, in order to carry through revolutionary change. Conducting a peasant war in countryside can give critical auxiliary support to the struggle for revolutionary change. But only through the working class taking control of organising society can genuine land reforms be implemented and defended. It is only they who are capable of completing the democratic revolution.
In the neo-colonial world the capitalist class, tied to the landlords, is totally incapable of carrying through genuine land reforms. Introducing land reform, for example, is impossible while participating in a coalition with the right wing who represent the land-owners. The so-called land reform that took place when the Maoists were in the interim government was limited only to the land that had been illegally retained by the landlords! These contradictions have so far been completely ignored by the Maoists who continue to believe they can form a government with a ‘socialist orientation’ with the most right-wing forces who, not so long ago, had no problem being loyal to the monarchy!
The belief that the workers movement can be strengthened by cross-class alliances is also false. The simple arithmetic of just adding up numbers will not directly result in strengthening the forces of revolution. ‘The law of the parallelogram of forces’ also applies to politics, as Trotsky explains. When political allies pull in opposite direction the result is often zero. Working class interests on basic questions diverge from those of capitalist and land owning classes at an angle of 180 degrees and an alliance is only capable of paralysing the revolutionary forces. In those circumstances interests of the masses will be more strongly represented by an independent organisation than a coalition with forces which pull in the opposite direction. The Stalinist theory of popular frontism and stages often gave an escape route to those leaders who argue for cross-class formations to disguise themselves with ‘Marxist’ rhetoric. But, in order to do this, supporters of the idea of “popular fronts” have to totally ignore the example of what Lenin and the Bolsheviks actually did in the months between February and October 1917.
The stages argument, of holding back the workers to allow the bourgeoisie to carry through the democratic revolution, resulted in the defeat of revolution in a number of countries. This argument justifies the workers’ collaboration with the capitalists in the name of achieving ‘democracy’, which in real terms is a democracy for the few and not democracy for the masses. The very same argument derailed the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 as we saw above. The current undemocratic and increasingly capitalist Chinese government, which still claims to follow the ideas of their great leader Mao, is doing all it can to suppress the Maoists in Nepal.
The very same stages argument derailed the development of genuine revolutionary forces in India. For decades the totally pro-capitalist leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)) play a rotten role of collaborating with local and international capitalism to attack workers’ rights. They are either directly responsible for or support the Indian government’s aggression against those who dare to fight back. This we saw in Nandigram, in CPI(M)- controlled West Bengal, where forces opened fired on the peasants, killing many and forcefully ejecting around 20,000 people who lived there to make way for the Indonesian-based multinational Salim Group. They voted for legislation brought in by the Indian government to set up SEZ (Special Economic Zones created to aid the super-exploitation of the multinational). They also support the Indian government’s policy against the Maoists in Nepal. They do this in the name of Marxism, also justifying it through the stages theory. The CPI(M) senior politburo member Jyoti Basu who recently died, openly stated, “Socialism is our political agenda and it was mentioned in our party document but capitalism will continue to be the compulsion for the future”. Now fewer and fewer workers, peasants and poor in India see the CPI(M) as their party capable of leading their struggle. This party, their leadership, their philosophy has nothing to do with Marxism. They are no use to those who want to fight for the emancipation of the oppressed. Ordinary members and genuine forces still in the party who are looking for an alternative and who are new to the genuine ideas of Marxism should break with CPI(M) anti-working class policies and join the true revolutionary forces such as those of New Socialist Alternative (The CWI section in India).
The Maoists in Nepal risk suffering the same fate as the CPI(M) in India if they follow the same line. The Maoists leaders claimed that Nepal needed to pass through a historical transition from feudalism to capitalism. To establish this so-called stage of parliamentary democracy which they described as ‘institutionalising changes’ they refrained from challenging the right wing forces sharing power with them. But the reality is that the SPA used this opportunity to stabilise themselves. Given the strength of the movement, the SPA also did not have any choice but to bring an end to the autocratic monarchy. However the hypocritical nature of the SPA was immediately exposed. The Maoists strongly demanded the abolition of the monarchy, but the SPA wanted to compromise and maintain a monarch in a ceremonial capacity. It must be noted that, against the SPA’s wishes, the Maoists’ insisted on complete abolition and this paved the way towards the establishment of a republic and a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.
However, the Maoists were not so decisive on other issues that would determine the nature of the new society. When the Maoists signed a 12-point agreement in June 2006 with the SPA to hold an election for a Constituent Assembly, they agreed on a number of points that helped to break the revolutionary movement and the Maoists themselves. They agreed that they were “firmly committed towards the protection of the independence, sovereignty, and the geographical integrity and the national unity of the country”. This reinforced the fear of national minorities, thus allowing the nationalist elements to turn against the Maoists. This led to the emergence of national liberation groups within one year, such as that of the Terai Liberation Front which came out as a force from 2007. While agreeing with national unity, it is crucial to make it clear that the rights of the minorities are respected and the right to self-determination of those minorities is safeguarded. Furthermore, the Maoists agreed to maintain “friendly relations based on the principle of co-existence with all countries of the world and a good neighbourhood relationship with neighbouring countries, especially with India and China”,-i.e. cooperation with capitalist governments, rather than the class appeal for the international solidarity of the workers and poor. This is a crucial mistake as regional western imperialism quite openly continues to seek an ally in the SPA to crush the Maoists as they see the Maoists coming to power as a threat to their interests.
The SPA leaders, who have met the Indian authorities many times, also wanted to prevent the Maoists taking any prominent positions within the government. The SPA used the Maoists’ compliance in the period running up to the first election to stabilise and consolidate their forces. They managed to stop the Maoists getting a majority and forming a government, even though the Maoists scored a major electoral success in the first election held in 2008. The Maoists’ election victory was not the complete surprise that the right-wing observers inside and outside the county portray it as. Voting for the Maoists was seen by many among the toiling masses as a way out of poverty and misery. However, having formed the interim government in coalition with pro-business parties after their first significant electoral victory in 2008, the Maoists were still unable to come to an agreement to draft a new constitution.
What was needed was the development of an independent political force to represent the workers, peasants and poor. Coalition with parties in the SPA who serve the interest of international and regional imperialism, would be an obstacle to pursuing the interests of the workers and poor. The Maoists leaders failed to foresee the deadlock they would run into, as their perspective was limited by their two stage theory, as indicated above.
However the ‘stages’ argument is constantly challenged by the masses themselves who see the pro-business parties within the interim government as their enemies. Pushed from below, the Maoist leaders have been forced to acknowledge the failure of some of their traditional arguments against proceeding to take power. In their latest party document they admit to the limitations they face while collaborating with the right wing in the interim government. It states:
“We must humbly admit that we could not attain the expected and possible achievements as a result of, on the one hand, the obligatory situation in which we had to work within the limitation of old reactionary state machinery …”.
While realising this limitation there should be a serious attempt to overcome it. The introduction of the ideas of the permanent revolution as we saw above is crucial to develop the movement. Maoists are now forced to examine the ideas of Trotskyism. The vice Chairman of UCPN(M) Baburam Bhattarai (also known as Laldhwaj) is reported to have stated that, “In this context, Marxist revolutionaries, should recognize that in fact in the current context, Trotskyism, has become more relevant than Stalinism to advance the cause of the proletariat”. If this had been taken seriously it would be an advanced step forward in their thinking and strategy. But it seems they are still afraid to take a ‘major leap’ in their thinking.
The victory of the Russian revolution in October 1917 was made possible by the Bolsheviks refusing to support the provisional government which was a coalition of some workers’ parties and bourgeois parties. This coalition was incapable of carrying through thoroughgoing land reform, the installation of real democracy and other bourgeois democratic demands. Reactionary, counter-revolutionary forces hoped to use this provisional government to hold back the working class and poor peasantry and thus gain time for them to attempt to regain power. While always in the forefront of the struggle against counter-revolution, the Bolsheviks did not cease explaining that the key to the revolution’s success depended on the working class and poor coming to power.
Before 1917 there had been much debate on the future revolution’s character. Trotsky and Lenin agreed that the workers and peasants were the main forces in the mass movement to complete the capitalist democratic revolution. Lenin however posed this as an ‘algebraic formula’ and left the question of which class will dominate in the alliance of the working class and the peasantry unanswered. But Trotsky took it further and pointed out that never in history had the peasantry played an independent role, and that they are always destined to seek leadership in the urban areas.
Lenin adopted Trotsky’s ideas when he counter-posed workers’ power to participation in the provisional government in 1917. He was faced with the responsibility of working out a programme to lead the revolution to victory in April. He outlined the programme for the proletariat which included:- no support for the provisional government, fight for the soviets to take power, end the war, confiscate the big estates, nationalise the banks, establish workers’ control of industry, the replacement of the police and army with a workers’ militia, replace the old state bureaucracy with a workers’ administration and the establishment of a new international. Lenin understood that none of this was possible without the working class taking power. Lenin wrote this at a time when some of Bolshevik leaders in the country, including Stalin, argued in favour of supporting the pro-capitalist Provisional Government so long as it was “fortifying” the conquests of the revolution and relegated to the distant future the idea of the working class coming to power. The ‘major leap’ of Lenin, shown in his April Thesis and his declaration of “no support whatsoever to the Provisional Government”, was an adaptation of Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution, worked out through the experience of the 1905 revolution. This is a crucial lesson for all revolutionaries.
The Maoists in Nepal are now at the crucial stage. However they are held back by their old perspective. Forced by the need to break from their traditional views the Maoists claim they have a Nepali version of Marxism – what they call the ‘Prachanda path’. (named after the Chairman of UCPN(M) Puspa Kamal Dahal also known as Prachanda) This type of so-called ‘localisation of Marxism’ such as that of Maoist groups in Peru is only used to justify the right ward shift of the leadership of the party. What brought workers to power in Russia was not a Russian version of Marxism rather a correct understanding and application of Marxism. More over this so-called new version is still struggling to solve the question of how to achieve revolution in Nepal. In an interview Baburam Bhattari, states: “We succeeded in abolishing feudal monarchy. Basically, the social economic system has not transformed radically. So the need to complete the democratic revolution is still there and our party is focusing on completing this democratic revolution in account of the specificities of Nepal and the current world situation.
“Accordingly, we want to ensure this radical transformation through a democratic and constitutional process but the option seems to be limited as the reactionary forces are galvanizing to fight against radical forces in the country. In that context, the option of peaceful development of revolution seems to be dating out”.
What this shows is that the Maoists leaders, while recognising the limitations are still not prepared to review their perspective and take action that would overcome these difficulties.
They are still hoping that the proletariat and the revolutionary masses will remain united while they collaborate with the bourgeoisies to establish a so-called democratic revolution in Nepal. On the contrary the right wing will do everything in their power to divide the movement to keep themselves in power which we are already beginning to see. They will not hesitate to use the military or to wage a constitutional coup such as drafting a constitution in such a way that it will keep the revolutionaries out of power. The more the Maoists hold back, the more the right wing and counter-revolutionary forces will strengthen their forces by exaggerating the divisions and creating more divisions among the working class on national, religious, ethnic, and caste lines and turning the middle layers against them. This will also have an effect on the UCPN(M). The question of how long it will remain a unified party is also now posed as reports of major rifts between the chairman and vice-chairman are widely reported. The emerging divisions, in a way, reflect the need to fight for the right policies.
During the April 2006 protest movement, the Maoists did not face the onslaught of the right-wing propaganda and divisive tactics because that movement spread as a cross-class union of opposition to the dictatorial monarch. Now they are beginning to lose the support of some workers and intellectuals with higher incomes. These middle and high income workers, however a tiny proportion they may be, still have huge weight in Nepali society. And the SPA is beginning to rely upon them. If there is a decisive step towards social change, then the middle layer and intellectuals can be won to the side of the workers. If there are no major steps taken, then they may lose heart and can be persuaded by the ruling capitalist class to side with them. This is why it is crucial to take decisive steps towards the socialist transformation of society, and reduce the opportunities for the capitalist class to gain any support.
‘Final push’ and after
The so-called ‘final push’, the call for a general strike in May this year, came to nothing after six days. 22 parties have come out in support of the newly-appointed prime minister, denouncing the Maoists and the general strike. The interim government ministers had even threatened to deploy the army to stop the strike. The Indian and western governments also gave their full support to the government. The right-wing media launched a massive propaganda campaign against the Maoists. The so-called ‘peace rally’ organised by the opposition attracted at most 25,000 people,but it consisted of highly-paid workers, small businesspeople and intellectuals.
As a result of this pressure and out of fear of exhaustion the Maoists called off the strike after the sixth day. However, the rallies continued and the Maoists say that they have not completely given up and that they may call a general strike again. They cannot carry on like this. The mass movement cannot be switched on and off like a tap. This will further exasperate the masses. Calling off the general strike without any victory is seen as a setback for the Maoists. During the general strike they maintained that they would negotiate only after the resignation of the Prime Minister. Now the pro-business parties demand that the Maoists dissolve their youth wing and the PLA and become a ‘citizens’ party’ as a precondition for the prime minister’s resignation. The likelihood is that they will become further locked into endless negotiations with the right wing and ‘tit for tat’ actions. The Maoists should move away from using the general strike as a tool for negotiation and instead use it to bring decisive change in the way society is run.
An indefinite general strike certainly poses the question of taking power. It shows who is in control of running society. It shows that even the tiniest work-force can still bring the whole country to a standstill. However, a general strike alone will not deliver power to the masses. Instead, only a clear leadership, with a revolutionary strategy, can lead the masses to seize power. The general strike should be used to educate and involve the workers and peasants to take power. Without a clear perspective they risk demoralising and exhausting the movement by continued strike action. In a country like Nepal, with no proper infrastructure and facilities to sustain the supply of food, the masses would face starvation if the strike had to continue for a long period of time. This is one reason why the general strike had to be called off after six days.
More over, for the working class to take power is a decisive step towards the abolition of class society. This is something that the ruling bourgeois class will resist at all cost, using every power at their disposal, including the military. The working class and the revolutionary party cannot succeed without a clear strategy to defeat this certain onslaught by arming the masses and preparing the revolutionary force to see through the revolution.
During the general strike rallies and cultural events were held across the capital city. However, there was no attempt made to set up strike committees – or workers’ committees to discuss the next step they should take and start organising the running of the society. There was no open discussion about what kind of a society the workers, peasants and poor wanted and how to achieve it and how to run it. Discussions that took place among the Maoist leaders about ‘whether a socialist revolution could survive in one country’, ‘can the bourgeoisie be relied upon to carry through the revolution’ etc. but these issues were not widely discussed among the masses. Mere rhetoric or minor criticisms of the interim government is not enough. During the April 2006 movement the Maoists demanded the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a Constituent Assembly. Now all they ask for is a new constitution which includes a federal structure, food cards etc. They were not able to achieve this earlier when they shared power with the SPA for nine months before they eventually pulled out of the government.
A genuine revolutionary party would have been able to foresee the incapability of the right wing to draft a revolutionary constitution and should have mobilised to set up a revolutionary Constituent Assembly, elected by and dedicated to acting in the interests of the workers, peasants and poor. The Constituent Assembly should not have been just a rainbow coalition to assist the bourgeoisie in assuming the role of the ruling power.
India and China
Another argument used to hold back the movement now is the threat of military aggression by the Chinese and Indian governments in the event of the Nepalese revolution breaking out. A year ago in May 2009 the Sri Lankan government brutally ended war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) South Asia’s longest-standing war, with help from both the Indian and Chinese governments. The violence of the final period of the war, largely seen as a ‘Chinese solution’ to armed conflict, created widespread fear among Maoists in India and in Nepal. This also answered the idea that Chinese state help would be forthcoming to the Maoists in contradistinction to Indian and western influence. Reliance on inter-imperialist rivalries to advance the working class’s interests as opposed to building the workers’ movement worldwide has not and will not result in any decisive victories for the working class.
Moreover the Chinese regime fears the mass movement of the working class, just as the fear of the contagion of the anti-Stalinist Hungarian workers’ revolution in 1956 was behind the brutal crushing of it by ‘soviet’ forces. The establishment of a genuine workers’ government in Hungary would have meant the death knell to both the Stalinist and Chinese governments. Out of this fear the Chinese regime played a crucial role in urging the Russian regime to crush the Hungarian revolution. Similarly they will fear the formation of any workers’ government as it would pose a major threat to their existence.
After centuries of domination by western powers, regional imperialist countries, such as India and China, are taking precedence in south Asia. We have seen a massive increase in Chinese and Indian government influence in many countries in the region. Nepal is a special case as one of the poorest countries in the world, it is sandwiched between two of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Both India and China have shown a keen interest in controlling Nepalese resources and politics.
Tibet, which shares a border with Nepal, could potentially provide cause for heightened tension between China and the US in the future. The recent meeting between Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama angered the Chinese government. The protests that broke out in Tibet in March 2008, a few months before China hosted the Olympics, spread to Nepal where thousands of Tibetans live. The Chinese government, expanding its control in the region, is following a similar strategy to that which they have pursued in Sri Lanka and Pakistan where it is building multibillion dollar harbours. The Chinese government wants a reliable and stable ally in Nepal to achieve its economic interests and control the Tibetan border. The right-wing Nepali parties are more than willing to comply. Kush Kumar Joshi, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, announced that they will try to establish special economic zones (SEZ) and encourage Chinese and Iranian investment. The Nepal interim government announced last year that for the first time it will station armed police officers in places like Mustang and Manang on the border with Tibet.
Just like the Chinese government, the Indian government also gives its full support to the right wing within the Nepalese interim government. The recent general strike of the Maoists alarmed the Indian government, which considers the ‘threat of Maoists’ to be the number one security issue within India. Further-more 55.4% of imports for Nepal come from India. Not so surprisingly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared his full support for the Nepalese government against the general strike.
If the revolution succeeded in Nepal it would have a major impact in India where there is widespread fighting going on against the SEZs in many states. India will see an eruption of struggle in the so-called Maoist belt leading up to Nepal. The Indian government has a huge influence within the Nepalese Congress Party and the UML. President Ram Baran Yadav, the former general secretary of the NC and prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, the general secretary of the UML, are believed to be very close to the Indian government. Madhav Nepal has made several visits to India prior to the signing of the 12-point agreement with the Maoists in June 2006. He is also believed to have discussed with the Indian authorities about the terms and conditions of the agreement with the Maoists.
Just like the CPI(M) in India, the UML has no revolutionary outlook and instead focuses on electoral-based, short-term goals. The Nepal Congress and Communist Party Alliance almost mirror the Indian Congress-Communist alliance. Both the NC and UML leaders have regular meetings with the Indian authorities and have wanted to continue a close relationship. In April the prime minister was forced to convene a late night cabinet meeting on a Sunday to cancel the controversial deal they hatched to print Nepali passports in India!
The Maoists are seen as an obstacle to Indian political and business interests in Nepal. On top of establishing strict borders with India and cutting its business ventures, the Maoists also want to scrap the so-called ‘peace and friendship’ treaty signed in 1950 for river water sharing. As the Maoists see Indian hostility towards them as their major problem, they continue to blame the Indian government for not being able to come to any agreement on drafting the new constitution. In fact one of the slogans in the general strike was ‘Puppet governments – return to India!’
In these circumstances the fear of military intervention is very real. However with a correct approach this can be defeated. To overcome the obstacle of possible interventions of regional powers it is necessary to appeal to the working and poor people in these countries to take solidarity action and to prepare to follow their example. If the revolution in Nepal is genuine then any military intervention by India or China will provoke a reaction in these countries. Particularly in India, where the struggle against the state and multinationals is waged all over the country, we will see an explosion of fight-back and mass movements developing to protect the interests of poor and working people, and the Nepali revolution. Revolutionary change in Nepal would be contagious and would inevitably spread to other countries in the region and beyond. Thus the call for a socialist federation of south Asia is crucial to defend the interests of the working class in Nepal and through out the region.