On 10 April 2008, historic elections for a new constituent assembly (CA) took place in Nepal. Having successfully combined a people’s war in the countryside with trade-union and mass-movement work in urban areas, giving outstanding leadership to, and directing the anti-feudal aspirations of, the downtrodden masses of rural and urban poor and successfully bringing the despotic monarchy to the brink of ruin, it was clear to all that the comrades of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) stood poised to do very well in these elections.
Given the secessionist sentiments being stirred up and the dirty tricks being played by the old guard from the palace, the royalist army, the comprador sections of the Nepali bourgeoisie and their backers in the US, Britain and India, however, it came as a shock to many just how many seats the Maoists were able to win.
Masses vote for ‘New Nepal’
Not only did they take half of the directly-elected seats and a third of the proportional ones, but, through their tactic of forming tactical alliances with the main ‘democratic’ parties, the Maoists successfully decimated support for their two main electoral rivals, the thoroughly bourgeois Nepali Congress (NC) and the revisionist Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) (UML).
In a country racked with poverty and unemployment, where many people live in remote mountainous areas with little transport and very few roads, and where the literacy rate is just 54 percent, it is notable that 60 percent of those eligible turned out to cast votes, many queuing for hours before the polls opened – the kind of enthusiasm for an election that British bourgeois parties can only dream about!
This was in spite of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and sabotage by vicious imperialist-backed feudal and comprador elements, who have made it clear that they do not intend to retire gracefully from the stage of their erstwhile tyrannies.
The slogan under which the Maoists fought the election, “New thought and new leadership for a new Nepal”, succinctly expressed their party’s revolutionary programme. Asked to elucidate the programme behind this slogan, Comrade Dr Baburam Bhattai, a senior member of the CPN(M)’s politburo, explained as follows:
“[B]y New Nepal, what we mean is, first, politically, we want to dismantle all the feudal political, economic, social and cultural relations. That will be one aspect of New Nepal.
“The other aspect of New Nepal will be making drastic socioeconomic transformation in a progressive way. The one is destruction of the old, the other will be construction of the new … our basic focus will be on economic activities: the transforming of the agricultural sector, and the developing of productive forces, industrial relations, so that the workers and the youth will be provided employment.
“And that will create a basis for going forward to socialism. Our economic slogan that we gave was ‘New transitional economic policy’. That means industrial capitalism – oriented towards socialism.” (Quoted in ‘The next step in Nepal’, interview by Stephen Mikesell and Mary Des Chene, mrzine.monthlyreview.org, 10 May 2008)
With a total of 37 percent of the total seats in the new assembly, the CPN(M) has emerged as by far the largest party, so that its much-revered leader, Comrade Prachanda, until recently the country’s most wanted rebel, is now the country’s undisputed senior political figure and de facto President-elect.
Although the Maoists do not have the majority required to easily dictate business there, they do have the power of veto over all decisions, since a two-thirds majority is required for any measure to be passed by the CA.
Out of a total of 601 seats, the CPN(M) has won 220, double the number of the party with the next-largest share, with 110 going to the Nepali Congress and 103 to the CPN(UML). The two main secessionist parties, Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, Nepal and the Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party, both of which have received much coverage in the imperialist media, won 52 and 20 seats respectively, with a further 20 parties each winning between 1 and 9 seats.
Thus it is with perfect legitimacy that the CPN(M) has claimed the right to form and lead a coalition government with whoever is prepared to cooperate in that endeavour.
Having assumed that they would continue as the largest parties in government, the two main opposition parties are now expressing ‘regrets’ regarding the alliance they and five other parties entered into with the Maoists two years ago in response to the rising anti-monarchy movement.
Forgetting that they had no option but to join the anti-feudal alliance if they wanted to retain any credibility in the eyes of a highly-politicised population, they are now tearing themselves apart with bitter internal recriminations and feuding.
In an article for The Red Star magazine in Nepal, the author points out that this infighting is speeding the two parties towards their own dissolution.
“Severe crisis in the leadership, serious disillusionment with their party policies and programmes, deepening dissatisfaction and frustration within the establishment parties have now come to light.
“The monarchy that ruled Nepal for 250 years is going and the pro-royalist forces have been washed away. Following the same path, the so-called big parties who claimed to be leaders of democracy seem to be liquidating. After their defeat, the Nepali Congress and the CPN UML are facing a crisis of leadership and severe internal contradictions.
“The Nepali Congress, the party that claims to be a champion of democracy, always served the monarchy. After the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1990, the Nepali Congress ruled the country and the life of the Nepali people deteriorated.” (‘NC and UML face liquidation’, 16 May 2008)
Having previously treated the party as its private property, the article explains, former prime minister Koirala’s faction has been decimated by the election results, but his supporters are unwilling to accept defeat and hand over control of the organisation.
Meanwhile, the rising faction of Sher Bahadur Deuba is rumoured now to be preferred by the US, and there is much dissatisfaction within the party, with at least one prominent leader resigning.
Meanwhile, the CPN(UML), which before the election had high hopes of becoming the largest party in the assembly and leading the new government, having had its hopes dashed, has fallen prey to similar infighting.
Having arrogantly rejected a proposed electoral alliance with the CPN(M), the UML was shocked when it failed to secure even one of the 10 Kathmandu district seats, which had previously been considered by all as being the party’s stronghold.
But the biggest shock to the party was the defeat of its general secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal, at the hands of the CPN(M)’s relatively unknown Jhakku Prasad Subedi. Following his defeat, M K Nepal submitted his resignation from the post he has held for more than 15 years, and now appears to have retired altogether from political life.
Meanwhile, various factions within the party are trying to capture power, each blaming the other for their disastrous showing at the polls. Several more important leadership figures have resigned, with a further 14 more registering their dissent, and it is reported that some party members are now suggesting that the party should drop its pretentions to communism and change its name and policies accordingly.
If the UML does indeed follow such a course, it will be a straightforward recognition of the fact that as a ‘left’ force the party has been utterly exposed and sidelined, and that its only chance of making some kind of recovery must now be at the expense not of the CPN(M) (the constituency it previously based itself in), but of the Nepali Congress. That is, it will have effectively given up trying to appeal to the poorest workers and peasants and will try instead to attract the support of the middle and upper classes.
Resistance from the streets
Speaking in an interview with two American anthropologists about the challenges the party currently faces in trying to build and lead a new government, Dr Bhattarai put the party’s short-term goals into context:
“First we want to do away with feudalism and the monarchy. Then the contention between bourgeois forces and the proletarian left forces will be sharpened in the days to come.
“In fact, we have prepared ourselves for that. In case they don’t allow us to assume the leadership and implement progressive measures, then we’ll resist. Our main weapon will be to mobilise the masses …
“We’ll try to intervene maximally from within the state. We’ll try to lead the state. We’ll try to implement progressive programmes. But we know there’ll be a lot of resistance. To counter that, we have to mobilise and organise the masses.
“We have already given instructions to the party, to the lower levels, that they should organise themselves and instruct the masses. At any time they may have to come to the street and resist.” (Quoted in mrzine interview, op cit)
Role of the youth
One factor that has been decisive over the last two years has been the Maoists’’ ability to mobilise the youth of Nepal. So successful has this been that there are now cries from the other large parties, echoed throughout the imperialist media, that the Young Communist League (YCL) has been guilty of ‘intimidation’ and must be disbanded.
In the interview cited above, however, Dr Bhattarai put quite another light on the matter:
“The reactionaries are very frightened of the YCL. They are right in [one] sense, because, though it is not true that they are using force, illegally or otherwise, it is a very dedicated political force.
“During the election and earlier they played a very important role in organising the masses and resisting the intimidating tactics of the reactionary classes. All these years, the reactionary classes have been intimidating the poor masses of the people, not letting them vote, you see … this time the YCL resisted that … the YCL didn’t intimidate, but [it] prevented the intimidation practised by the reactionary classes …
“[I]n the days to come, one of the functions of the YCL will be to resist any reactionary onslaught of the feudal, and monarchist, and the reactionary classes and to defend the masses of the people. The second part will be to mobilise and engage themselves in production activities and providing relief to the masses of the people.”
No wonder the opposition parties are bringing every possible pressure to bear in an attempt to suppress the newly-found confidence of the young revolutionary generation. The sight of the previously docile peasantry finally standing up for itself in a truly revolutionary and organised way has clearly put the fear of god into its former masters!
In fact, not only the thoroughly bourgeois NC, but also the ostensibly ‘progressive’ UML have made the disbandment of the YCL (which they term a ‘paramilitary’ organisation) a precondition to their supporting a coalition government led by the Maoists.
Other conditions include the disbanding of the People’s Liberation Army, the people’s court and all parallel state structures that have been set up in liberated areas during the course of the People’s War, as well as the surrender or destruction of arms and the return of seized property to its ‘rightful’ owners.
These demands, outrageous in the context of a clear mandate of support for the Maoists’ programme of land redistribution and People’s War, have been amplified by internal and external bourgeois and imperialist media, with plenty of commentators who never had a word to say about the daily violence meted out to Nepal’s superexploited masses indulging in much shaking of heads over the ‘violence’ of the revolutionary forces, quietly ignoring the fact that the PLA has kept rigidly to the terms of the ceasefire agreed two years ago and confined its forces to specified cantonments.
The two main opposition parties, after more than two weeks of continuous deliberations by their respective central committees, have now announced that they are not prepared to join a Maoist-led government and that the conditions enumerated above must be met before they will give support to Maoist-proposed measures – or even, in the case of the Nepali Congress, hand over the reins of power in the first place.
Speaking of these conditions, and of the YCL in particular, Comrade Bhattarai stated:
“[T]here is no chance of considering such a stupid and reactionary line. The YCL will defend the masses of the people. If they [the NC and UML parties] don’t want to, let them not join.
“We say, if you want to join a government, then join. We will lead the government as part of a coalition. If they are not ready for that, being the single largest party, we will form the government. If they don’t allow that, then we’ll go to the masses of the people and bring out another movement.
“Those are the three choices we have. But we won’t compromise on basic issues. No. Because people want change, they have given us a mandate for change. If the reactionary forces don’t allow us to put this mandate into practice, then we will go to the masses of the people, rather than succumbing to the pressure of the reactionaries.”
Meanwhile, YCL chairman Ganesh Man Pun told a mass rally in Kathmandu: “People have approved the YCL thought their votes. It will be dissolved once communism is achieved.” (Quoted in ‘Dedication to the nation!’ The Red Star, 16 May 2008)
Reinforcing the image of the CPN(M) as the party of the young generation, 10 YCL leaders were elected to the assembly, and a majority of the Maoists’ elected members are under the age of 40.
Emphasising the need to remain vigilant, the CPN(M)’s International Bureau leader Comrade Gajurel told an interviewer that “this is not the final victory and it doesn’t mean we don’t have any more challenges. We still have big challenges. In spite of our victory, the other parties are not ready to hand over power …
“[S]ome parties didn’t want the Maoist to be the single largest party; they didn’t want the Maoists to be victorious in the election. They are still trying to create hurdles, firstly on the formation of a government, and secondly, if the government is formed, they will try to create problems so that the Maoist government cannot run smoothly. Because of the scarcity of things, goods and materials, there will be discontent among the masses and the Maoists will not be able to run the government well.
“These are challenges before us. But … we have the support of the masses of Nepal and of billions of people around the world. We are confident that we will be able to meet these challenges.” (‘No compromise in ideology and politics’, The Red Star, 16 May 2008)
World’s newest republic
The first session of the new constituent assembly met on 28 May 2008. At this session, the historic decision was made to abolish the monarchy and to establish Nepal as “an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular and an inclusive democratic republic nation”, thereby bringing 240 years of regal despotism to a close.
Only four members of the 601-seat assembly opposed the change. The deposed king has been instructed to vacate the royal palace within two weeks.
The monarchy was so deeply unpopular that the announcement of the republic prompted wild celebrations in the streets of Kathmandu. These celebrations were very much encouraged by the CPN(M), not only because the declaration marks a historic victory for the Nepalese revolution, but also because the Maoist leadership is well aware that direct pressure from the masses will be required to make sure the decision to abolish the monarchy is actually seen through.
The Nepalese people understand that the abolition of the monarchy represents an important first step on the road to democracy, prosperity and socialism, and their presence on the streets is a reminder to the king and his supporters that if they do not now choose to accept the will of the people, they will be forced to submit by pressure from below.
Elucidating the main problems to be solved following the establishment of a republic, Comrade Gajurel pointed out:
“The question of livelihood and overall development of the society is very important because there is severe poverty in the society. We have to meet the necessity and basic requirements of the masses … the bourgeois will definitely try to sabotage this process; the class that has been defeated will try to return to power. They will create problems wherever they can …”
A pivotal role is being played by the YCL in all this, who are already mobilising their members to implement programmes of road-building, distribution of drinking water, traffic management, youth awareness, and controlling crime, especially fraud, against the people.
Despite the best efforts of the opposition parties, the Maoists have made it clear that they intend to push ahead with the economic and agrarian reforms that the Nepali masses have fought and voted for. Whilst warning of the very real threat of counterrevolution and preparing the people to meet it, the party has not shifted from its plans to implement their programme of land redistribution and rapid, planned industrialisation.
The following words of Comrade Bhattarai, written 10 years ago in the early days of the People’s War, still reflect precisely the vision and aims of the Maoists in government:
“It has become a historical necessity to establish a new kind of socialism-oriented capitalist, or New Democratic, system of production by destroying the old semi-feudal mode of production chained to imperialism and expansionism … The People’s War is the inevitable instrument of this historic New Democratic revolutionary transformation. The People’s War waged under the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and with the joint participation of all the progressive classes of society is aimed at building a New Democratic base after destroying the base of the old semi-feudal and semi-colonial society and ultimately at creating a classless and exploitationless society.”
“[T]he main policy of the revolution would be to confiscate the means of production that have been in the hands of the reactionary classes, mainly land which was in the hands of the comprador and bureaucratic capitalist classes, and then to hand them over to the progressive forces (ie, workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie) and to organise the mode of production in a new way. It is only by unleashing the revolutionary initiatives of the majority of the working and progressive masses that revolutionary transformation of a backward economy like that of Nepal would be possible. That is why it can be said that the slogan ‘Grasp revolution, promote production’ advanced by the great Mao would be relevant to Nepal as well.” (‘Politico-economic rationale of people’s war in Nepal’ by Baburam Bhattarai, The Worker, Nepal, 4 May 1998)
The main points of the Maoist programme are summed up below.
– The provision of a public distribution system, a network of cooperative stores, for immediate relief of the poorest unemployed and food insecure families, families of martyrs and of the disappeared.
– Upholding of the fundamental rights of the people through the provision of education, health care and employment provision, and the guarantee of shelter and food security.
– Facilitation and encouragement of the participation of the masses in the process of economic and agrarian reform. The Maoists have stated that they will rely on the masses to keep the government in line and are already mobilising and educating them for this role. To this end, a part of the party’s leadership is remaining outside the government so as to be able to provide extra-governmental leadership.
– The ‘urbanisation of the countryside’ through provision in the localities of all the necessary infrastructure and amenities (industries, banks, colleges, hospitals, electricity, motorable roads etc), as opposed to the current situation of ‘ruralisation of the cities’, whereby there has been an uncontrolled population expansion living in slum conditions due to mass migration of destitute peasants from the countryside.
– Seizure and redistribution of all land not currently worked by its owners (ie, the big landlords’ estates), combined with the cancellation of all labour services, usurious interest payments etc, and provision of irrigation, seeds, pesticides, machines, implements, credit etc to enable small farmers to increase production.
– Establishment of cooperatives to help poor peasants to join together to increase productivity and enable them to compete in the marketplace, as well as to prevent their plots being swallowed up again by a few remaining/emerging capitalist farmers.
– Creation of an adequate internal market for the products of industry by enriching the peasant masses.
– The ushering in of capitalist relations through complete destruction of all feudal, semi-feudal and bureaucratic capitalist (ie, comprador) relations currently prevailing in agriculture, thus providing the basis for an accumulation of capital that can be used to build the country’s industry.
– Facilitation of planned, rapid industrialisation, with the aim of increasing general social production and productivity of labour, providing jobs for the unemployed and underemployed peasants, preventing the flight out of the country of national capital, catering to the higher material and cultural needs of society, and laying the groundwork for a socialist society.
– Planned development of the economy that minimises wastage and maximises ability to meet the basic needs of the mass of the population, as well as ensuring balanced development between town and country and across all the regions.
– Confiscation and bringing under state control of large sums of capital lying idle or being used for conspicuous consumption by feudal landlords.
– Protection and encouragement for small and medium-sized traders and industrialists, as well as for small numbers of national bourgeois. Special attention to be given to development and use of indigenous technology, harnessing of hydropower etc, with the aim of becoming self-reliant and building a pollution-free, sustainable industrial base.
– Solving of the problem of oppressed regions and nationalities by granting regional and national autonomy.
– Mobilisation of internal resources so that Nepal can build a self-reliant economy that is no longer at the mercy of international capital. “We are not against productive and industrial capitalism, you know, which provides goods, provides jobs, creates value within the country, and at least resists the imperialist interventions within the country. That type of national capitalism we promote. We [have] tried to convince the nationalists and traders that we’ll create a favourable environment [for them].” (Comrade Bhattarai, quoted in interview for mrzine cited above)
The programme outlined above has been dubbed one of “transitional capitalism and continuous revolution”.
According to the paper cited above, “It is only through the process of a continuous revolution that it would be possible to solve the newly emerging problems and contradictions in society at a higher plane. The process of People’s War in Nepal is a link in a chain of such a continuous revolution to solve the problems of the society. The principle objective and rationale of the People’s War in Nepal is, thus, to develop the social productive forces and create a higher form of society …” (Ibid)
All the signs are that the comrades of the CPN(M) are doing an excellent job not only of mobilising the masses, but of raising their consciousness, and taking every opportunity to dispel their illusions in bourgeois parties and politics.
With such a steadfast and proven leadership, there is every reason for freedom-loving people throughout the world to be extremely optimistic about the CPN(M)’s chances of successfully steering a path through the treacherous waters of counterrevolutionary attempts, and of taking the people forward not only in destroying all vestiges of feudal backwardness, but also in building a solid economic foundation for the longed-for transition to a socialist society.
Long live the revolution in Nepal!