By Bill Templer, via LINKS
January 3, 2009 -- One remarkable laboratory that discussion in much of the world’s progressive press tends to neglect is the dynamic vortex of revolutionary change in Nepal. Since spring, Nepal has something that may be making genuine history: a Maoist people’s movement, that, led by the CPN (Maoist), and the struggle of the People’s Liberation Army over a decade, has come to state power through the ballot box. As Tufts University historian Gary Leupp wrote last April: “It ought to be the ballot heard 'round the world. It ought to be front page news. […] This moment may in the not distant future be seen as another 1917, another 1949.”
Leupp has been one of the very few in the left media in the geopolitical North to call attention to this momentous change, and its current developments, albeit with little echo. Editors of some well-known journals refuse to consider an article that mentions Maoism, however contemporary, in a favourable light. Washington-based trade union organiser David Hoskins has been one of the few on the Marxist left in the
That solidarity was also voiced by the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the
“The election of Prachanda is an achievement that deserves the support of revolutionaries around the world. A struggle over Nepal’s new constitution is bound to pit conflicting class interests against each other in the months to come. International solidarity will play a key role in facilitating the victory of Nepal’s workers and peasants.”
The present article assumes one can be critical of certain historical aspects of socialism under Mao while still keeping an open mind about the Maoist-led social and political transformation now going on in
Convergence in diversity
The recent mass anti-repression insurrection in Greece is one point of working-class upsurge, what really fuelled Barack Obama’s presidential victory from below is another. And the April 2008 election victory of the CPN (M)in Nepal is still another. These nodes of people’s ferment reflect that “convergence in diversity” of the oppressed and exploited from all walks and continents united in opposition to the neo-reactionary order which economist Samir Amin sees as the nucleus for a new stage in the revolutionary project today, “recognizing the diversity, not only of movements which are fragmented but of political forces which are operating with them, of ideologies and even visions of the future of those political forces.” In his projected scenario for grounded socialist change, he sees the Left finding a critical mass and “moving into the masses to defend, not in rhetoric but in fact in action and through action, their real economic and social interests”. That is at the core of the struggle in the street and inside the government in Nepal today.
Emergent dynamic agendas for struggle like Prachanda Path -- and the very vigorous internal party debate on how to move forward without sacrificing revolutionary vision -- belong more centrally on our own horizons of discussion. The revolution in Nepal faces what can threaten to become a quagmire of compromise, reformism and defeat. Internally, this is a struggle between hostile class enemies for control over the Nepalese state. It also is confronted with sustained efforts by political elites in Washington, Delhi and other quarters, and by opponents like the bourgeois Nepali Congress on its home turf (second-largest party), to undermine the revolutionary process. The other major Marxist party in the coalition, with some 15% of the National Assembly, the CPN-UML (United Marxist-Leninist) remains highly critical of the Maoist leadership, a long-standing rival, and could, in fierce rivalry, seek to topple the present government. The Madeshi civil rights movement in the southern plain remains a powerful divisive force struggling for ethnic rights and greater autonomy, and members of the Madeshi People’s Rights Forum were involved in heavy clashes with the CPN (M) in March 2007. Demands for more autonomy in the Terai/Madesh south continue. The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued The State of Human Rights in Nepal, which paints a complex picture in a highly diverse country with legacies of multiple ethnic oppression. Yet nowhere else in the world has a movement oriented to Marxism and contemporary Maoist thought achieved the effective reins of democratic power, projecting its visions of “21st century socialism”.
This article suggests some sources for looking more openly from afar at what's happening in
Revolution in a ‘least developed country’
The literacy NGO Room to Read is active in building village libraries: “A child growing up in
A steady torrent of migrant workers continues to pour into
Production for profit or for use?
Some fanciful neoliberal development speculation sees Nepal as the future entrepreneurial link between China and India, with trans-Himalayan highways, IT parks, vast investment in fibre optics, arguing that “The rising middle classes -- close to a billion -- in the two countries can be a bonanza for Nepal” -- at the same time turning the country into a huge Himalayan mega-resort, an illusory capitalist pipe dream. Revolutionaries in the CPN (M) are guided by alternative visions of economy, society and workers’ democracy. But whether they can move forward to a major break with the capitalist cash nexus and, beyond subsistence agriculture, an array of forms of production for use, not profit, remains to be seen. After decades of disdevelopment, for example,
Below I touch on some of the contemporary discussion inside the CPN (M) and suggest online material and web sites to explore the dynamic changes in Nepal, largely through indigenous voices in the struggle, refracted in part through the lens of socialist theorist Samir Amin, a chief architect of the 2006 Bamako Appeal, and in basic solidarity with revolutionary developments on the ground in Nepal.
Prachanda on the CPN (M) path
As a point of departure, instructive is the interview with CPN (M) chairperson Pushpal Kamal Dahal (aka ``Prachanda’’), conducted earlier in 2008 by people from the IPS in Washington, visiting in Kathmandu, on video as Part 1  and Part 2. Candid and concise, Dahal lays out the vision of the movement in the early weeks of its ascendance to state power. This is lived experience over a long struggle, with a powerful legacy of liberation that is distinctive to
`All the bases belong to the old class power’
Yet the compromises that now entails has deepened debate and divisions within the party on future anti-capitalist strategy in transforming Nepal and concrete tactics as the major formation in power, repeatedly frustrated by the actions and rhetoric of the Nepali Congress Party. Part of that discussion is on the dangers of succumbing to the pull of reformism. Netra Bikram Chand, aka ``Biplap’’, a member of the party’s central committee, provides critical analysis on “The differences of opinion within our party” in the biweekly English paper of the CPN (M), The Red Star. Biplap discusses the tactics necessary to destroy the existing “bases and the bodies of the comprador capitalist power and shatter them.” In his view:
The class character of the democratic republic is of a bourgeois class character. After the constituent assembly, the monarchy has been abolished and the republic has been established, however, there is no change in its class character. The party has reached up to the super structure of the state power, the constituent assembly government; but all of the bases belong to the old class power.
He differs with the party's leader on the shape of a road forward, and fears that if the CPN (M) follows the program proposed by Prachanda, “our party will be drowned into the swamp of reformism up over its head”.
`On the brink of the change of an age’
The debate on the future path forward in
Part of that struggle in the streets and villages is being carried forward by the CPN (M)’s Young Communist League, with nearly half a million members. It is organising neighborhood cleanup campaigns, programs to counter youth unemployment, communal development initiatives in agriculture, initiatives against corruption and crime. They remain controversial because accused of violence, and are often in a critical spotlight, but their mobilisation of the Nepalese young and hands-on contribution to social betterment cannot be denied. Agitating on campuses, the All Nepal National Independent Students Union (Revolutionary) is the student wing of the CPN (M), struggling to democratise education at all levels. It has also been involved in strike action against conservative university administrations on a number of campuses, and in clashes with other student organisations.
In early November 2008, Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced the government’s intention to put an end to private primary and secondary schools in
Through all this, the CPN (M) is determined to stick to its principles. Stressing the unwillingness of the party to participate in a coalition government that frustrates the basic promises of radical change made to the Nepalese people, Prime Minister Dahal threatened in December 2008 that his party might leave the government by mid-January to struggle in opposition rather than compromise its program: "Steps of struggle still remain to fulfill what we want. We are on the brink of the change of an age.” D. Bastola notes: “As long as the rooted feudalism and comprador bureaucrat capitalism is not abolished, the Nepalese people cannot be free, and the national economy cannot be built up.”
`Plain living, hard struggle’
In December 2008, the party prepared a battery of new “codes for simple living” for all Constituent Assembly members, with guidelines for type of vehicle (battery-driven Chinese bicycle preferred), simple clothing, use mainly of public transport, and a limit of two cell phones. The codes are in response to “criticisms that Maoist leaders were starting to lead opulent lifestyles opposed to their proletarian philosophy”.
A new democratic space
Writing that “Nepalese society is committed to fulfil the dream of a new Nepal through an epoch making ideological, political, economic, and cultural transformation, raising the banner of mass insurrection against semi-feudal and semi-colonial conditions in the country”, the new minister of culture and state restructuring, Gopal Kirati, issued a concept paper in late 2008 for public discussion detailing new ideas for a radical transformation of local and regional organisation, and ethnic autonomous structures, including an “Autonomous Sherpa State”. In this revolutionary design, 800 districts are proposed. Outlining a new concept of ethnic pluralism and national consciousness, Kirati notes: “By abandoning the renegade definition of
A new international?
Flanking a spectrum of debate and self-criticism inside the party, Roshan Kissoon and Chandra have a new two-part interview with Samir Amin, “We need a new international” and “Maoism is needed everywhere in the world”, first published in The Red Star. Samir Amin is current chair of the World Forum for Alternatives. The interview also echoes arguments from his new book The World We Wish to See.
In fundamental solidarity with the CPN (M), he stresses that:
the Nepalese have, at least, succeeded at the first chapter of basing their struggle in peasant revolt and then making, becoming, a force able to overthrow the regime, the King and his comprador servants; and then coming in to negotiation, agreement, with other possible partners in the building of a national, popular, democratic, hegemonic alternative block; alternative to the comprador ruling class submitting to imperialism and neo-liberalism.
He develops a strong argument for the need for the left in the West to look carefully at what is happening on the ground and inside the revolutionary echelon in
The Cultural Revolution revisited
Bastola stresses that the November 2008 national convention of the CNP(M) was an exercise in the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, bringing the masses back into the dynamic of transformation. Changing perspectives on the legacy of Mao’s vision of transformation for
Dongping provides an insider’s view of how farmers in
Revised views of the Cultural Revolution also emerge from the volume edited by X. Zhong, W. Zheng and Bai Di, Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era (Rutgers UP, 2001), here reviewed in depth by a Maoist-Third Worldist. ``Prarie Fire’’ stresses:
The Cultural Revolution, whether intentional or not, was the greatest instance of youth liberation in history. […] Authority at almost every level could find itself challenged by youth. This did not just affect the public realm, but also the private realm of the family. In the Manifesto Marx wrote, “Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.” The early Cultural Revolution, more than any other period, realized the communist goal of youth liberation. […] Some of Us, despite its own bourgeois outlook, challenges typical, one-sided bourgeois narratives.
Bai Di is director of Chinese and Asian Studies at
Staying better informed
Progressives interested in keeping informed about developments in
The website Revolution in South Asia provides a solidarity window onto the rapidly unfolding events in Nepal and the broader South Asian region. An Indian Maoist insurgency is spreading in Orissa and Chhattisgarh states, largely unreported outside India. Policy analyst Sean Deblieck, in a bourgeois analysis of how to cope with and neutralise Maoist insurgencies in South Asia, gives an overview of Naxalite movements in India and the CPM (N) in Nepal. He concludes:
The reason that Maoism was able to take root in
The activity of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), of which the CPN (M)is a part, is a broader frame in
Press freedom and social democracy
One recurrent flashpoint of controversy within
In any event, the level of militant popular protest by the people is remarkable. On
People are learning the power of acting collectively, to address critical grievances. Speaking to workers, Prime Minister Dahal stated that “pretty soon, the government will make an important announcement, which will help usher the nation in a new era”, stressing that the feudalistic mindset of political leaders had affected the performance of the Maoist-led government. He noted that previous political misrule was to blame for the prevailing power crisis: “During [their] 15-year-long rule, dishonest leaders never thought about the looming power crisis. People are suffering now because of their inaction.”
Progressive Nepali Forum in the
The newly formed PNEFA aims to “support activities intended to do away with unjust social, economic and political discriminations and exploitations upon the historically marginalized, working-class Nepalis”. centering in particular on eliminating caste-based discrimination against some 4.5-5.5 million Hindu Dalits (Untouchables) in the new Nepal. Their plight is extreme, and they may make up nearly 20% of the total population. They voted heavily for the CPN (M) in the April 2008 poll.
Other social hegemonies
However remote geographically,
conditions are ripe for the emergence of other social hegemonies that make possible a revival of development conceived as it should be: the indissociable combination of social progress, democratic advancement, and the affirmation of national independence within a negotiated multipolar globalisation. The possibility of these new social hegemonies is already visible on the horizon.
[Bill Templer is a linguist based in
1. G. Leupp, A Maoist sweep: Electoral revolution in
3. N. Hrizi, Revolutionary leader Prachanda elected Prime Minister of Nepal, Party for Socialism and Liberation, News and Analysis,
4. F. Goldstein, Low-wage capitalism.
http://www.lowwagecapitalism.com//Low-WageCapitalism-lores.pdf; see also Sharon Black, The road to build consciousness, fightback,
5. S. Amin, There is no alternative to socialism, Frontline, Nos. 25-26,
6. CPN-UML will back off if Maoist continues violent activities: MK Nepal, eKantipur.com,
7. TGW, Madhesi leader threatens ‘
8. Asian Human Rights Commission, The State of
9. N. Hrizi, op. cit.
10. Room to Read, Country report:
11. A study of trafficked Nepalese girls and women in Mumbai and
12. Z. S. Ahmed, Poverty, globalisation, social customs & South Asian children in prostitution, 2005.
13. A. K. Bohara, Localising globalisation, eKantipur.com,
14. Country may see 16-hr daily power cut; NEA to import additional electricity,
15. W. Rowell, An FAQ on the LETS system. http://www.gdrc.org/icm/lets-faq.html.
16. J. Sen et al., A political programme for the World Social Forum? January 2007. http://deletetheborder.org/node/1937.
17. Regenerate Film, An interview with Prachanda, Part 1, Youtube.,
18. Regenerate Film, An interview with Prachanda, Part 2, Youtube,
19. Editorial, Opening of the great debate., The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 19. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue19/pdf-19.pdf, p. 4
20. For the talks on
21. N. B. Chand, The differences of opinion within our party, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 18. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue18/biplav.htm.
22. I. M. Sigdel, National convention: beginning the great debate, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 19. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue19/basanta.htm.
23. D. Sapkota, National convention paves the way, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 19 http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue19/pdf-19.pdf.pdf , p. 8.
24. K. Dahal, Workers’ movement and new economic development. The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 20, December 2008. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue20/kumardahal.htm.
25. B. Peterson, Young people changing
27. TGW, Private schools in
28. PM Dahal says Maoists may withdraw from govt , eKantipur.com,
29. D. Bastola, Historic national convention – a milestone of revolution, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 19. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue19/bastola.htm.
30. Nepal: ‘Plain Living’ codes for Maoist politicians, Revolution in South Asia,
31. G. Kirpati, Perspectives on new state restructuring in Nepal, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 20, December 2008. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue20/gopalkirati.htm.
32. Interview with Samir Amin, We need a new International, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 18. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue18/interview.htm.
33. Interview with Samir Amin, Maoism is needed everywhere in the world, The Red Star, vol. 1, no. 19. http://www.krishnasenonline.org/theredstar/issues/issue19/interview-saminamin.htm.
34. About the World Forum for Alternatives. http://www.social-movements.org/en/book/print/285.
35. Amin, see fn. 5 above.
36. Amin, see fn. 32.
37. Report from groundbreaking NYC symposium. Rediscovering
39. Interview with Dongping Han, author of The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Set the Record Straight, MRZine,
40. Prarie Fire, book review (part 3), Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era. At Monkey Smashes Heaven,
41. See Li’s website http://www.lionesto.net/index.html.
42. The Red Star. http://www.krishnasenonline.org.
43. eKantipur.com (
44. Revolution in
45. K.S. Reddy, Maoists’ new strategy to revive movement, The Hindu,
46. S. Deblieck, Why Mao? Maoist insurgencies in
47. Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. http://cpnm.org/new/RIM/rim_index.htm.
48. Prarie Fire, Prachanda wins. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is dead. Maoism-Third Worldism lives. At Monkey Smashes Heaven. n.d. [April-May 2008]. http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/on-nepal-recent-analysis/. Prarie Fire argues: “If Prachanda’s way is really a Trojan horse for an imperialist reorganization of Nepalese society under leftist rhetoric, then Marxism-Leninism-Maoism will be rendered worthless as an oppositional force for other reasons. Imperialist finance capital’s reorganization of the economy and political system of
49. United We Blog! For a Democratic
51. Maoist attack on Himalmedia draws widespread condemnation, eKantipur.com,
52. The German Oriental Society maintains a major research facility, the Nepal Research Centre, in
54. D. R. Dahal, Democracy and peace-building in
55. Locals shut down Kirtipur, eKantipur.com,
56. PM wants end to protests. eKantipur.com,
57. Progressive Nepali Forum in the
59. Asian Human Rights Commission, The state of human rights in Nepal -- 2008. http://material.ahrchk.net/hrreport/2008/AHRC-SPR-013-2008-Nepal_AHRR2008.pdf.
60. S. Amin, The Millennium Development goals: A critique from the South, Monthly Review 57 (10)  https://www.monthlyreview.org/0306amin.php.61. Analytical Monthly Review, The global capitalist crisis and