Monday, November 9, 2009

Nepal update

In defence of Civilian Supremacy over the military and the democratic “New Nepal” process the revolutionary movement of Nepal, led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has initiated a nation wide “Peoples Movement” to topple the government and anti-people forces.

This comes after a Maoist led government resigned in May after it was proven to have executive power after what was essentially an unconstitutional coup by foreign powers, the political opposition and the military.

The root cause of this conflict comes from the clash between the established elite and the majority of Nepal’s poor. After the overthrow of the despised King in 2006 a process of re-founding and recreating Nepal was initiated. However when it came to challenge the old state and try and create new, democratic and pro people state structures, status-quoist forces sought to derail this process so as to protect their own power and privilege.

This was most evidently shown when the main parties of “responsible civil society” (the elites), the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) and the Nepali Congress, chose to back the Royalist Military over the democratically elected Government in May. After the NC President Ram Baran Yadav unconstitutionally reinstated the head of the Military in contrary to the governments orders, the Maoists decided to resign from government rather then stay in a hollow office.

Dipak Sakota, Journalist with Janadisha Daily in Kathmandu told Green Left Weekly “Unified CPN (Maoist) has now started the People's Movement. And this is quite serious. This is not just a movement but it's a kind of decisive battle to decide who will hold the real power of Nepali state.

“…most of the central leaders of the UCPN-M including Chairman Prachanda are in the field leading the movement… the leadership of King had been removed but had not been filled by other force… The Maoists are trying to turn Nepali state in favor of the majority of the poor and oppressed Nepali People.”

After spending an extended period of reaching out to the community across the nation, the Maoists have now launched a new mass movement to protect the revolutionary process.

Within the assembly they have blocked the new budget, until such a time that civilian supremacy has been assured. The ministries have already now run out of funding and the state is crawling to a stop for lack of resources.

Outside of the assembly, people are pouring into the streets. Already there have been blockades and occupations of different local administration offices across the country. In some areas there are reports of alternative local administrations being established.

The protests will build over the coming days to climax with a blockade of Kathmandu and the seat of Government, Singha Durbar.

In an attempt to find a peaceful way out of this conflict of interests the United Nations proposed to Nepals government that it open itself for a government of National unity. This suggestion was slammed by the current government however, suggesting that the current government already is a government of national unity, despite it being founded via unconstituional means and excluding the party that won the elections.

Nepals elite, faced with the prospects of being forced to back down by the mass movement has put the Police, Armed Police and Military on high alert. A meeting of High Level government members on Nov 3 declared that the Maoist's protest program was in breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2006 and that it "bypasses the jurisdiction of the Constituent Assembly". Information and Communications Minister Shanker Pokarel told reporters ¨The government is determined to ensure law and order with the help of the police force".

These threats were denounced by Chairman Prachanda, the leader of the UCPN(Maoist). He warned the current government against making such threats, as that mimics the actions of the now dethrowned King Gyanendra. He added that while they have put the armed forces on high alert, even if they wanted too the current government could not suppress the movement as it has such small support amongst the people of Nepal.

At any rate a colossal clash of interests is unfolding in Nepal, and the outcome of these struggle will directly affect the future direction of the New himalayan republic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nepal- New Peoples Movement Imminent?

If your one who's have paid allot of attention to Nepal in recent times, you may have noticed that the media isn't always, well, reliable in any way shape or form...

Between highly sensationalised non-events, out of context misquotes and an amazingly narrow Kathmandu centric view of the Himalayan Republic, its generally accepted that the Nepalese media (or at least the English language variety) is worth little more then the paper its written on.

However, today's top story from The Himalayan however hold more water then usual. *Maoist finalize 15-day protest programme, to go all out against govt from Nov 2.*

Admittedly, this is not the first time that the media has announced an impending Maoist uprising. To be fair, its not even the first time that the Maoists have announced an imminent peoples revolt but this time i think however there are allot more reasons to be taking this seriously.

Firstly, the long and tedious attempts to find a common ground with the illegitimate government have been thoroughly exhausted. It is obvious to all, even the most wavering liberal minded Nepali, that the illegitimate and unconstitutional government coup government that was set up on the back of the (royal) military and the Indian and American embassy's has no intention of making any compromise. The illegitimate government refuses to even debate the unconstitutional coup in the constituent Assembly. In the eyes of the everyone, legitimate channels have obviously failed, which opens up the way for more drastic measures.

The Maoists have now announced an extensive protest program- which is not just an idle threat, but have announced their intention to blockade the seats of government. How success full this new Jana Andolan (Peoples Movement) will be is yet to be seen, but it seems that the revolutionaries are going to roll the dice.

Secondly, the monsoon is now over. This means that not only is it a better time to strike politically, as people are now no longer hard at work cultivating fields, the transport system is in better running order, which makes a mass co-ordinated movement more logistically possible.

Thirdly, the actions and movements of the Maoists point towards this time. They have sent allot of organisers out into rural areas in the recent months to rebuild and strengthen their rural networks, which were a little bit neglected in some areas. They have had a massive propaganda push across the country (and internationally) to sure up support. They are now moving their cadre into building this movement. Conferences and other events have been cancelled or postponed to free up resources.

The word I'm getting back from contacts on the ground is that the party will throw its weight into this movement. Where will it go? How successful will it be? these are things that are impossible to answer in advance, and is purely in the hands of the Nepali people but at any rate this is going to be a significant movement, and the Maoists will be pulling out all stops to bring about some real changes in the political situation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nepal: Maoists prepare for new upsurge

From Green Left Weekly (

10 October 2009

The government formed in the aftermath of an elite-backed de facto coup against the Maoist-led government in May continues in power — although without moral or popular support.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), with mass support among the poor majority and the largest number of seats in parliament, are insisting the government resign.

UCPN-M head and former prime minister Prachanda has given the government until the Nepali festival of Tihar in mid-October to stand aside and allow a new pro-people government led by the UCPN-M to be formed again. He said if not, the Maoists would launch a new people’s movement to restore democracy.

The UCPN-M has been preparing for an upsurge by strengthening its organisation, links and dialogue with the poor communities.

The current government, a coalition of diverse parties united only by their opposition to the Maoists, came to power after the elected government led by the UCPN-M resigned.

The Maoist-led government had sacked the head of the military, General Katawal, after he refused to accept the government’s authority. However, the president, from the right-wing Nepali Congress (NC), ordered Katawal’s reinstatement.

Abandoned over the Katawal issue by its coalition partners, which it needed to form a majority government, the UCPN-M resigned from the government rather than accept military supremacy.

Nepal was shaken by ongoing demonstrations across the country in support of the Maoists, but the right-wing forces held on and a new coalition government, minus the Maoists, was cobbled together.

At stake in the battle to sack Katawal was the peace process that ended a decade of civil war between the Maoist-led People’s Liberation Army and the feudal monarchy. Katawal, a royalist, refused to implement key parts of the peace agreement that ended the monarchy and allowed Nepal to become a republic last year.

In the lead up to this soft coup, the Indian and US embassies played key roles in bringing together opposition forces against the legitimate government. Along with the Nepali elite, the US and India viewed the Maoists’ pro-poor policies as a threat to their interests.

As well as organising street protests, the UCPN-M disrupted sittings of the constituent assembly demanding that civilian supremacy over the military and foreign powers be restored. The NC and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified-Marxist-Leninist, which heads the new government, refused to even discuss the topic in the assembly.

Since then, a series of by-elections have increased the Maoist vote. The UCPN-M has used the time to open broad discussions among its activists on how to go forward in its struggle to build a “New Nepal”.

The UCPN-M has sent more activists into rural areas to strengthen its rural support networks. The party plans to use these discussions as the basis of a party congress early next year.

Other progressive mass organisations are also using this period for discussion. National peasant, women, youth and student conferences are all expected in the coming months.

To spearhead the campaign to restore civilian supremacy, the UCPN-M has launched the United National People’s Movement, led by Maoist leader and ex-finance minister Baburam Bahttarai, to coordinate the democratic and anti-imperialist movement.

In the absence of a legitimate government, the Maoist-led Revolutionary Joint Front has been setting up local administrations to help meet the needs of communities.

The UCPN-M has set up regional departments as the basis of an alternative government. These are providing services and development works where resources allow.

Prateek, a UCPN-M activist working in western districts of Nepal and Kathmandu, told Green Left Weekly: “At the moment we are spreading our message to the masses. The current government has to fall to protect civilian supremacy and the people.

“If not we will have a new massive Janan Andolan (“Peoples Movement”) and take control ourselves!”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On the Nepal Debate.

A sorta extended response to some of the common misconceptions about Nepal for the debate internationally.

The revolution in Nepal has been nothing if not controversial, and naturally as it has evolved and found its own way to progress in response to the conditions it faced then there has been an increasing amount of debate, and confusion, about this process. In this debate there are a number of people who have, most probably unintentionally, come to incorrect conclusions, based on certain myths and misunderstandings that surround the situation in Nepal.

A revolution is and will always be the organic expression of the oppressed classes within a given situation. For revolutionaries on the outside of a revolution looking in, to see the revolution we need to look at the concrete situation it is in, look at the forces in play, find overall trajectories and only then make an analysis based on this. Revolutions look different in different situations. Russia, China, Cuba and Vietnam all had very different paths to power, but they were all revolutions, and we know this because of the class forces being mobilized, the nature of the leadership and the final outcomes of these struggles.

We know these were revolutions, thus they have certain similarities. In looking at new revolutions, we look for these similarities, we do not denounce them because of the naturally occurring differences which will always out of them facing different situations.

Which brings us to Nepal. There is allot of confusion about the process that is unfolding there. There is agreement that in 1996 the Communist Party Nepal (Maoist) left the parliament an launched a peoples war, this was able to gain significant momentum. Within a few years hundreds of thousands, if not millions of the rural poor joined the Maoist movement and they were able to control the vast majority of the country, inflicting many defeats on the army an the police. In 2005 they made alliances with the now illegal mainstream parties against the monarchy, and after a massive peoples uprising in 2006 joined a peace process. Here there are some common misunderstandings.

Incorrect analysis of Nepal states that the leadership has embraced reformist politics by abandoning "Red Power" in 80% of the country to be allowed into a petit bourgeois electoral system. It clearly goes against the traditional Maoist strategy of surrounding the cities with the Peoples army and then invading. Thus, the revolutionary leadership in Nepal have betrayed the peoples sacrifices made in the Peoples War to be integrated into the bureaucracy and for personal gain of the leadership at the expense of the revolution.

This analysis is based largely on myths and has to totally ignore the reality of the situation. It is incompatible with the actual balance of forces and in total contradiction to the processes at play. Further it totally ignores the actions and policies of the party leadership.

The first myth that this is based on is that by 2005 the Maoists and their People's Liberation Army had complete control over 80% of Nepal. This is not true. By 2005 the PLA had De Facto control over 80% of the country. The difference is seemingly small, but significant. The Maoists did control a new pro people local administration, they did set up peoples councils, they did have the peoples courts ect. However all of these things needed to exist at very least semi underground. The central Royalist state was still superior. While it wasn't strong enough to be able to continue raising taxes or maintain its apparatus on a permanent basis in most of the country, it was still in control. It controlled the major urban centers, and the majority of the transportation system, and therefore, controlled the economy. The situation was therefore not one of two separate and relatively equal states struggling against each other, but rather, there was a new state emerging, but it was in every way except politically inferior to its counterpart. There was no fully permanent alternative state.

This state was still weak and not fully mature. They were unable to make significant development projects, the political leadership of the peoples state had to lived underground was was in constant danger of being murdered at the hands of the army/police. Even the communes had been burned down at different times. The revolutionaries needed to find a way to move forward, to strengthen their forces and overcome the royalist state.

In no way should the Peoples State in Nepal be dismissed, it was a highly significant part of the peoples war, and was able to make significant gains for women, people of low caste, ethnic nationalities and local governance, however this state simply was not strong enough to be able to stand on its own against the central Kathmandu government. In time, it may have been able to develop into such a state, however this would have been a long and bloody process, and events transpired which fast tracked the revolution and brought urban areas and across the country. This was conquest of one state over the other but it was political and not physical or military.

This all ties in with another myth, that the PLA was militarily equal to or greater then the Royal Nepalese Army. This is not the case. The PLA was politically and tactically far superior to the RNA, and this was the root of its success. The PLA was able to attack the RNA at its weakest points, or too pool its resources to overcome RNA bases or capture some large towns temporarily, but in set piece battles, or on permanent front lines, the PLA was inferior. Even by this late stage in the war, if they got together enough armed men, there was nowhere that the RNA could not go. Some places would be guaranteed to be expensive and for them to take heavy casualties, but there was not one inch of ground that was absolutely liberated. If the Peoples Army could have stormed Kathmandu, or been able to have done so in the foreseeable future, they would have done so.

In 2005 this was the situation. The revolutionary forces had defacto control of the nation. They were totally politically superior, and had the army well and truly on the defensive, a new peoples state was in existence. This said, there was still a long road to victory. The Central state was shaken but still stable. The end was not in sight.

Enter the Jana Andolan (Peoples Movement) in 2006. There are two particularly common misunderstandings relating to the Jana Adolan. First, that after the Jana Andolan the Maoists gave up aspirations of capturing Kathmandu. Secondly, that the Maoists did not display sufficient political leadership to this revolutionary situation and "sold out" at the expense of the people in the street.

Jana Andolan did in a way signal the end of the Peoples War, but this was not because the Maoists gave up on the war, the Jana Andolan was a direct result of the Peoples War- its most decisive and final battle. The people of Kathmandu stood up for a republic, for the end of the monarchy and corruption, and for a new Nepal- these are the demands of the Maoists. It is true that the Maoists didn't conquer Kathmandu by the might of its PLA, but this was the wave of the Revolution crashing into Kathmandu all the same. The revolution did conquer Kathmandu- not by might of arms, but through the might of revolutionary political ideas.

There has been some criticism of the revolutionary leadership during the Jana Andolan, and if they had been "more red" the Jana Andolan uprising could have completed the revolution then and there. At this stage public revolutionary consciousness was not yet high enough to complete a revolutionary process. People were united by a common hatred of the autocratic monarchy, but other then that the movement was very divided, liberals, soft monarchists, democrats and social-democrats all had considerable influence on the movement, as well as revolutionaries. The need to radically reorganize society, the economy and the state was not- and still is not quite yet, recognized by the mass of the population.

To reach this level of consciousness there needs to be a party-mass dynamic. The party provides revolutionary leadership, and is constantly in contact with its mass base, working with them, taking up their struggles and their suggestions. The mass- if convinced by the situation and the politics of the party- will follow it. The party ultimately aims to lead the mass, but can only ever go as far or as fast as the situation permits. In the end, the revolutionary leadership" must take its directions from the base. Any revolutionary party that tries to do otherwise immediately loses the support of the people, and its ability to influence the political situation evaporates.

During the Jana Andolan it meant that the Maoists pushed for- and got a constituent assembly. Without the revolutionary leadership it is likely that the "mainstream" political parties would have just amended the old constitution to limit the monarchs powers further, it was only the revolutionary leadership of the Maoists that pushed the other parties to ensuring that a new constitution was written by elected representatives. This increased popular support for the revolutionaries, which gives them a greater ability to push for bigger goals. The Maoists have taken a consistent revolutionary stand.

The Maoists entered into government not because they have abandoned revolutionary goals but in response to public opinion and to show the need for revolutionary goals. After winning the election, they had the right- by the logic of the bourgeois state- to form government and create legislation. As Marxists, we understand that the state has a class basis, however no-one is born with that knowledge. The Maoists time in government showed in practice that no matter what people vote for, a revolution can not be simply elected. More then any speeches the experience of a peoples government in a bourgeois state has shown the mass of people that radical change is necessary, where as previously many had illusions in the prospects of a peaceful gradual change. It has become apparent that imperialism is central to the state to the people of Nepal, not because the Maoists said so, but because of the role of the India and American governments in overthrowing the elected government. With only propaganda revolutionaries would have struggled to convince a majority of people, but but taking principled decisions, more and more people have been pushed into the revolutionary camp, and then become open to revolutionary ideas.

At this stage there has not been a revolution, and a revolutionary peoples state has not been created, but the party is still very clear that this is still its objective, and is currently in a lengthy process of discussion as to how best to achieve this aim.

So it is also important to talk about the Maoists stated goals for the post-revolutionary state. In some circles they have caused considerable controversy particularly, with their statements that the future peoples state and their belief that the new revolutionary state can be a multi-party state. This comes from the UCPN(M) coming to a new synthesis based on their own experience during their own revolution, and by analyzing the historic examples of socialism and their downfall.

The impetus for this came from their analysis of the collapse of the Soviet Union and China. In short, the party came to the agreement that both these revolutions, despite the active involvement of the oppressed working classes, these revolutions still succumbed to bureaucratic degeneration, and thus were eventually overthrown. Therefore, it becomes obvious that future revolutions need to find ways to prevent these kinds of outcomes from happening again. The idea of Multi party elections in a workers and peasants state is an attempt to allow room for working people to be able to have the space to overcome corruption and errors in the revolution and the revolutionary party, should they occur.

First it needs to be recognized that having multiple parties within a peoples state, is not an oxymoron, and in fact has historical precedent. At the beginning of the USSR after the October revolution, the Bolshevik party was initially in coalition with the left Socialist Revolutionaries, and certain factions of the mensheviks were tolerated as well. These separate parties were under no restrictions within the workers state initially and were only removed from it after they degenerated and started acting against the interests of the state itself. During the revolution in Cuba there was no a single revolutionary party, there were in fact three, the July 26th Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate and the Popular Socialist Party. There eventually merged into a single party, but the fact is that the idea that within each situation there is and will only ever be one party that is absolutely "correct", is not true.

The role of the revolutionary is to destroy the old state (of the bourgeois class) and replace it with state structures that represent the working class (proletariat). State structure include the laws and court systems, education systems ect. Once the state has been set up and secured, firmly in the hands of the proletariat, then the proletariat has every right to organise and be active within the boundaries of that state, especially around questions of the running that state. Exceptions can be foreseen, such as the situation in the civil war in Russia, or the current situation in Cuba, where external forces and pressure make this desirable situation impossible. There is no contradictions, historically or ideologically, that mean that the revolution at all times is a monoparty affair.

Within Nepal revolutionaries have already used this tactic within their parallel state structures during the peoples war. Elections were held, and what forces for the opposition parties were left in these areas were allowed to participate. It opened a way for the revolutionaries to get feedback from the grassroots. In some areas these opposition groups did quite well in these elections, and this showed the Maoist party in which areas they were not fulfilling their tasks well, in which areas there had developed a bureaucracy or an automatic way of doing things, and in which areas they needed to improve. In this way they were able to build more responsive party, with closer links to the masses.

Finally, there has been much speculation as too the role that a Nepalese revolution plays in the international situation.

When looking at Nepal and the international situation, the limitations of Nepal are immediately apparent. It is a landlocked nation, with an unbelievably underdeveloped economy, land lock and wedged between two superpowers, in a region with relatively weak socialist movements- and in a time where the socialist block is gone and Communist China exists only in name. The whole situation is pretty overwhelming for such a tiny Himalayan country.

So what are the responsibilities and possibilities for an revolutionary and internationalist force in Nepal.

By no means should we think the revolution is doomed. While USSR and China's support was very welcome, it also brought with it distortions of their own, and sometimes limited the creativity of organic revolutionary movements, so on one level it does free up the Nepali comrades politically- albeit to limitations economically. Further the emerging revolutions in Latin America can provide a potential source of diplomatic and economic support, however limited it may be as these are also largely impoverished countries.

They do have an enormous responsibility to international revolution. Revolutions spread. Revolutions give an example that give evidence to revolutionaries claims for what is possible, can give ideological and logistical support to their comrades overseas and challenge the status quo in one country, which entices people to challenge the elite in their own. Historically we can see this, the situations in Europe following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 (Germany in particular), The role China had in inspiring revolutionaries in Vietnam and the Naxalites in India. The international phenomenon of 1968. Things spread. It is no coincidence that Latin America is now a hotbed of revolution, as there has been a socialist state, existing and providing an alternative example for the last 5 decades. In this time Cuba providing diplomatic, economic, ideological and even military support for revolutions despite its own economic limitations.

Nepal's has an opportunity to take state power and create a peoples state. Its first responsibility to international revolutions is to do that, and create state systems that are more representative, and re gear the economy to focus on peoples needs rather then the needs of bureaucrats and monarchists. In doing so that provides an example- and proof to people, particularly in the subcontinent, that there is an alternative. The subcontinent has never had a revolutionary organization as successful as the Nepali Maoists. Even the Naxalite movement in its hey-day was nowhere near the level of challenging for state power. The power of example is enormous.

At any rate, the revolution is ongoing. It is by no means guaranteed success, the challenges are enormous, but the struggle has not yet come to its conclusion. Where it will go we do not know, but at this stage there is no reason to abandon hope for the direction of that struggle.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nepal- Back to Business for the Elite, for Revolutionaries its Back on the Street.

Photos of Recent Events to come.

Now that the Maoists have been removed from power- the elites of Nepal have collectively let out a sigh of relief. As they see it, they had a nasty scare, but now those pesky revolutionaries have been dealt with. Out of government- out of sight- out of mind. The elite feel they can go back to 'the good old days' of bureaucracy, corruption and petty political infighting and factional horsetrading in Nepal's power structures.

These conclusions however are somewhat premature. While the Maoists government has fallen, the Maoists power was not, is not and never will be based in a parliament or in governmental posts. The Maobadis (as they are locally known) are a movement of people, based in and coming from the popular classes in Nepal in response to the crushing poverty that plagues this tiny nation. The Maoists come from and represent those in Nepal who have historically been excluded from society on the basis of race, region, religion, caste or gender. Paradoxically this is the vast majority of the population.

The people of Nepal are now looking at the current "mainstream" political situation with a growing sense of disbelief and amazement. The new Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal and the new Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala were both beaten in the elections to the Constituent Assembly not once- but twice- in separate constituencies. These politicians come from the grand old parties of Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepali Congress party.

Almost a month after this new government was created, it is still let to fill all the ministries. Coalition partners have already left, and all parties to the new government, especially the fourth biggest party the Madheshi Peoples Rights Forum, are sharply divided of have had splits.

While the old order is discrediting itself within the assembly with petty infighting, the Maoists are taking the opportunity to focus all their energies on the grassroots networks and organisation.

The Maoists and their front organisations have launched a series of strikes or 'Bandas' across the country through their front organisations to make sure that their demands for a New Federal State are not ignored, and so that the unconstitutional coup by the president, and the loss of civilian supremacy over the military is not forgotten.

It is clearly evident the strength of the Maoists grassroots support and organisation. On June 14th the Maoist youth organisation the Young Communist league called a Banda for the following day in the capitol Kathmandu in response to the murder of one of their leaders, allegedly by the rival "Youth Force" of the CPN(UML). Within just 12 hours, without the support of any of the media, the Maoists were able to completely shut down the capital. Contrary to media reports, the YCL are highly disciplined, and there was next to no violence against political opponents, the media, or essential services that were exempt from the banda.

This reflects the overwhelming support that the Maoists have. While the Maoists are in the communities working amongst the people, all the other parties are increasingly seen as unprincipled. Where as the Maoists formed government with clear political programs and plans, and then left when it became apparent that they could not complete them, the UML/NC government has no common platform, and especially after a month of ongoing political infighting- is perceived to be just a continuation of the old corrupt politics that Nepal had supposedly seen the end of due to the Peoples War and the Massive Peoples Movement in 2006.

At any rate the situation remains unsustainable. The rift between peoples aspirations and the reality of the current government, is enormous, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that no government is sustainable without the Maoists, the party that won the elections.. But the whole process is proving to the people of Nepal something else- the need for radical change. The Failure of peoples aspirations to be respected in a peaceful process of change is making it increasingly obvious to the people of Nepal that the entrenched oligarchic elites of Nepal will not simply give up their comfortable lifestyles in Kathmandu, but rather will fight tooth and nail to defend them, even going as far as to override the Constitution.

While the political elite has returned to their preferred way of doing things- the political situation as a whole has not returned to a state of "normalcy". The process in Nepal is ongoing, and while recent moves have added a hurdle to popular demands, they have not derailed them yet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Interview With Student Leader

Below is an Interview with Manushi Bhattarai. She is part of the Maoist Ticket that swept the student elections at Tribhuvan University- Nepals largest. She discusses the revolution, recent political developments, the international situation and the role of youth.

Ben Peterson: Thanks allot for meeting with me. The All Nepal National Independent Student union (Revolutionary) (ANNISU(R))* won the student elections at Tribhuvan University. What did the campaign involve, and what are some of your policies as a revolutionary student union?
Manushi Bhattarai: The student union elections was a very historically important process for our organisation and for the Maoist party. there has been student elections for many years, but for some time the revolutionary student movement has not been able, or allowed to participate. We were banned. Also we did not look at these elections simply from the point of view as elections to the student representative bodies but as part of the whole ongoing political process in Nepal. So in those terms, we has a real breakthrough. we were not contesting for the offices as such, but linking the student struggles to the political process. While we were campaigning we always had this in mind. We campaigned around the issues on this campaign, but also around the entire education system across the country. And in these terms it all came back to the political issues that our party has been addressing for many years now. That was how we campaigned, and i think we were successful in spreading our message to the other students. We were coming back into open student politics after a long time. We were new faces, with a new agenda. People knew about our commitment and the gains our party have been able to make during the People's War. People can actually see the gains, we are now the Republic of Nepal.
BP: So the revolutionary students were very clear about putting the elections in the context of the wider political context, the revolution. Can you elaborate a little bit on this political process and the role of students within it?
MB: As you know, the People's War was initiated in 1996 and since its beginning students were at the forefront of the revolutionary process. Many thousands of students have sacrificed their education and their lives. They left their homes, their families to participate in the revolution. In those terms, weather it was withing the People's Army, or in our party organisation students have been playing key roles in all fields. In terms of the student organisation it has been in an interesting position. In the schools we were able to maintain our own committees and continued our organisational work. we took up agendas and fought for them, and on certain campuses we have been very successful. We especially try to work on the public institutions. In Nepal there is unequal education. Public institutions are in very bad condition, but this is where poor people, people from rural areas, or people from marginalised groups must go to study. These areas is where our student organisation is focusing. At a national level, we have been addressing how we should move towards ending the privatisation of education and empowering the public institutions. This is all linked up with the social economic reality of Nepal, and pulling Nepal away from feudalism. Uprooting the old system.
BP: In recent days the Maoist led government has been basically overthrown by the unconstitutional actions of the President, and a new government has been formed by Madhav Kumar Nepal from the UML. Has this disrupted the political process and your plans for education?
MB: Of course! This is disrupting everything. It needs to also be analyzed in the context of the political processes. The coming of Madhav Kumar Nepal, the people now understand this government exists as a puppet government only, backed by certain forces which do not want the Maoists to be successful in implementing revolutionary programs and policies. Since this is a puppet government, it is aimed at pushing back the Maoists, what they have achieved and trying to get them to go back to the peoples war in Nepal. There are those that would like Nepal to become like another Sri Lanka. It is all simply against our agenda, it is against making public institutions a better place, against having an equal education for all and in a way that people from all regions of Nepal can have a primary and secondary education in their own language, as they want and according to their own priorities and the necessities of Nepal, not in a way that is determined and dependant on private institutions. So eventually, a person like Madhav Kumar Nepal- or any other person, its not about a new person becoming Prime Minister- but anyone who comes to power in this way is bound to backtrack on our revolutionary policies. In the education sector it will mean re-empowering the private sector. The Maoist government had started to gain some control over the private education sector, through a new tax policy. The new government will backtrack on this.
BP: The new government is made up of 22 parties, and doesn't have the support of the party that won the elections- how long can it last?
MB: There is no basis for this government to exist for any significant time. The way it has been formed without any coherent agenda or program or common ground. For a government to be formed it should have some sort of common political ideal that is binding. For these parties it is like some invisible hand is holding them together. how long it will last, i don't know. In the Constituent Assembly when Koirala (of the Nepali congress) proposed M.K Nepal as the Prime Minister you could clearly see problems already. All the parties came forward to support the new government, but all of them had ifs, buts and maybes. All the parties came forward with their own baggage and agenda, which can be very different to what the UML stands for. So it is like some invisible hand is holding them together and it cant last long. There is no common agenda, policy, ideology- except for the one reason, which seems to be to "teach the Maoists a lesson". Time will tell how this all pans out.
BP: So now there is this contradiction between the direction of the government and the aspirations of the people, as we saw in the Peoples War, the Jana Andolan and in the election results. How will this struggle between the revolution and the status-quo be played out?
MB:The whole thing is about contradictions, that's what justifies us, our party. That's why we waged the Peoples War, and we have not abandoned the Peoples War. There is a continuation of the same process and struggle we started more than 12 years ago with the Peoples War. We have made some achievements, and we need to sustain those. We need to always keep in mind the international situation, the national situation, we need Marxism Leninism Maoism and need to be thinking about what that means in the 21st century world. We need to keep all this in mind and we are faced with what is definitely a very challenging situation. We have all these radical agendas, and that's how we have been able to mobilise so many people, the whole country and now we have to do so once again. We have worked with forces that are status quoist, that still have an attachment to feudalism, still have a tendency to look to expansionists and imperialists. This was to do away with the monarchy in Nepal and make Nepal a Democratic Republic. That was what the process was about. Now Nepal is a republic, and this is a big thing. Some times people forget that Nepal is now a Republic and minimize the significance of it but this is a big achievement keeping in mind the history of Nepal. Having said that now we must move ahead. Just because the Monarchy is gone doesn't mean feudal elements have all been uprooted. That is the situation right now. We have removed the Monarchy, and to do that we had some kind of alliance with what are status quo forces, so i guess now there is a huge challenge for out party. Now what? Where do we go from here? For us it is still a fight to establish a Democratic Republic for establishing a socialist system in Nepal. We have to be oriented towards socialism, our party has said very clearly that we are oriented to socialism. For this we have wage the whole struggle for the sovereignty of the people of Nepal. The army issue was never about one general Katawal, it was all about the sovereignty of Nepal. For Nepal, right now, the challenge is to internally fight with the status quo forces and externally fight against expansionist and imperialist forces. As i said there are many fronts, there are many challenges, but challenges always come with possibilities. So we are confident. We have had many fronts, Peoples War was one front we fought on, this is just another.
BP: You mentioned the international situation. It is a very difficult situation for revolution, there is no more USSR and China has well and truly abandoned the revolution. So what do you make of the international situation, and in particular, are you looking to Latin America, where there are revolutions also happening?
MB: Our party, as far as, i know has some links with the parties and people there. Personally i have been following these situations like in Venezuela and Cuba. I would certainly like my party to have more serious links with Latin America. I think our party hasn't had as close links as we should have, but this is largely because there are so many differences between our situations. There are certainly similarities, in terms of our goals and our ideals and we are all waging an anti-imperialist struggle, but we are in a very specific situation. The geopolitics of Nepal is very specific and different to Latin America. Having deep links with Latin American revolutionaries is a longer term goal. We should have those links, ideologically. We should be having a discussion and learning from what they have been able to do, their policies and programs, but at a diplomatic level having strong links with Latin America doesn't make much sense because of our geopolitical situation. We are landlocked between India and China. Diplomatic links are important, but maybe in the longer term, but the policies, programs and leadership of Latin American revolutions we have allot we can learn from.
BP: In Nepal the youth are playing a very big role in the revolution, but at least within Kathmandu there are also many westernised youth who look more towards Europe, the US and India for their culture, and then also politics. Is there a cultural clash between westernised youths in Urban areas, and revolutionary youth?
MB:I wouldn't say there is a culture clash, but as you say there is a community of upper class pro western kids. I think its not their fault., its nobodies fault really, its just where they come from. They are more likely to look to the USA, the UK or India for their education. It all really starts with education, and then becomes cultural, so i think its more of an issue of class background. There isn't so much a cultural clash, but a clash of class interests. This is bound to happen as they tend to look to the west, and we the Maoists, look to ourselves and the lower classes. At some level there is bound to be a clash because they are in favour of more privatisation of schools and institutions where as we stand against that and for the betterment of public institutions. But i don't think... i think we are quite cabal e to talk to these youth and at least get them to listen to our agenda. There are some westernised youth on this campus, and thee people really just want stability and peace. They have everything else, money, cars. They have no problems, except for peace and stability. So if the Maoists can give them that, then for the time being there wont be such clashes. These youth are basically the product of the whole system, and we should try to avoid antagonism between our generation at this time given to political situation.
BP: There are allot of Nepalis who go internationally for education.Does the student union have international organisations and try and organise Nepali students abroad?
MB: Our student unions does have an international department which looks into this aspect and establishes links with Nepali Students studying abroad. We believe it is not the fault of the students who leave, they just want a good education in a good environment and we know our country right now is not able to give that. Keeping that in mind and being practical we look to make links with these students so we can encourage them to come back and use their expertise to develop the country.
BP: Are you optimistic about the future of Nepal?
MB: Definitely! Otherwise i wouldn't be where i am right now!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interview With Radio Adelade.

Did an interview with Radio Adelade last week. For anyone interested it is available online here. (youll need to scroll down to see it)

May be interesting.