Friday, October 24, 2008

The Internal Struggle of the Maoists in the Lead up to the National Cadre conference

Anyone watching Nepal would probably have read that at the moment there is a very intense internal struggle is playing out within the CPN(M). From what ive read this is my take on the internal struggle. That being said it is hard to find good information, and especially only having access to the english speaking press...

In any healthy revolutionary organisation there is nessiarily a strong culture of debate and discussion. But also any healthy party organisation has to have a firm commitment to democratic centralism. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is no exception to this rule.

In the corporate press there is all sorts of talk about deep and even ireconcilable differences within he Maoist camp as to the direction of the party in the new post CA election context. Any rumours of bidding splits, I belive are false. The CPN(M) has gone through some very momentus and incredibly intense ideological struggles and challenges over its life. The creation of the idea of "Prachanda Path" was not a simple process, but involved a simmilar intense debate and struggle within the Maoist party. Internal struggles have even got to the point where Baburam Bhattarai the defacto number 2 of the CPN(M) was even breifly expelled from the CPN(M) in 2005. Importantly while the CPN(M) has had very intense internal politics, even since before the peoples war began, the intensity of the internal struggles have been matched by a passionate commitment to the party and democratic socialism, and all factions have been able to come behind the party line when all is said and done.

The current debate and disscussion needs to be understood in the context of the situation in Nepal. The CPN(M) finds itself in a very precarious position at present. While they have form and control government it would be false to say that the Maoists have completely captured state power at this stage. The Maoists have found themselves leading what is left of a feudal/bourgeois state. Nepal is a country with 2 armies, the Nepalese Army, which despite dropping Royal from its name is very much still a bastion of the old state, and and the Peoples Liberation Army of the Maoists. Nepal is still crippled by underdevelopment, which simply must be allieviated. Due to a lack of resources and capital any development will have to be tied to foriegn investment, which with the lack of any "soviet bloc" means that this new (potentially) socialist government could need to be open and relatively cooperative with forces such as the IMF or the World Bank. It is this context that the debate within the Maoist Party is happening. The current strategy of the Maoists goes back to when they were still in the jungles during the Peoples war. The peoples war, the co-operation with the other parties and the truly massive Peoples movement of 2006 have brought this strategy to its logical conclusion. The monarchy has been defeated, the constituent assembly is sitting and the Maoists lead the government. Their stragegy was the right one, and they have the success to prove it, and so now they are in the middle of forging the new blueprint for the next stage of the struggle.

Within the party their has emerged two lines and factions within this debate. The first which i will term the "Orthodox" faction from my understanding hold a more traditional Maoist viewpoint and are lead by Mohan Baidya, CP Gajurel, Ram Bahdur Thapa and Matrika Yadav. The second, the "21st Maoists" are more flexible and have been more open to creating a new and dynamic party line, is lead by Babburam Bhattarai and his wife Hasila Yami (and Prachanda has recently shown inclinations to this side of debate).

The Orthodox faction is calling for a "Peoples Republic" in the more tradishional sense. They are calling for the immeadiate controll of the economy and political life. They think that the revolutionary events of the 2006 peoples movement are in danger unless there is an immeadiate and intense puch forward for socialism. They would like to imeadiately try and build a state simmilar to a Cuba or (apparently) North Korea and do away with the constituent assembley (ala Bolsheviks in 1917). Interestingly both sides of the debate maintain that they are for multi party democracy, however the orthodox faction would only allow other parties to function within the political space allocated by the state. The "21st centurary Maoists" are less ambitious but just as revolutionary. This faction recognises that Nepal is impoverished and needs to be able to interact with the rest of the capitalist world in order to obtain capital to develope the country. They are for creating a "people oriented constituion" through the constiuent assembly (simmilar to a Venezeula) and consolidating their own control and the gains of the 2006 peoples movement, before trying to push to a more obviously socialist system. They are for a multi party democracy, but want to change the context of that democracy. (eg they argue that in a capitalist context, the political parties all advcated the same ruling class ideology just different means to that end, but in the context of a socialist revolution, the parties would all be for socialist revolution, but with different means to that end ect). I

n my honest and humble opinion, both these lines have some serious strengths and weaknesses. The 'Orthodox' faction will always be correct in saying that the quickest road to socialism is the best road to socialism, I mean if a socialist party isnt striving for socialism, then it isnt a socialist party is it? But to put your party, and now the nation of Nepal on such a public crash course with the might of international imperialism, especially while the country is so underdeveloped, international solidarity still in its infancy, and your trading partners so limited seems risky, if not suicidal. While it would be nice to have a south asia Cuba, there is no USSR to take the heat off while the New Nepal is being born, and whats more Cuba is struggling under a blockade that makes it difficult for socialism to breathe there, Nepal being landlocked, at this stage could easily be smothered by India closing the border.

That being said the "21st Centuray Maoists" can be cutting a fine line in the race to develop the countryside. They only need to look across the border to West Bengal to see that a "communist" government means shit if they are just communist in name, and not in actions. Particually the bending over backwards to get money off the WTO and the IMF can naturally lead to the seeping in of some less than revolutionary ideas. However if you can keep the outside corrupting influences out and develope the country, then the working classes of Nepal will be in an infinately better posistion to spread the revolution as time goes on. T

hese two lines are currently being debated out, allong with many other issues, in the lead up to a National Cadre Conference in November, to decide on Maoist stratgy going forward. There are two important things to remember more than anything else however. For one, which ever line gets up and what ever happens at the conference, the fundamental thing about the revolution in Nepal will not change, and that is there are millions of oppressed peoples who are actively involved in the changes of that country, who know the power of their class and are already far better off for the relativly small changes so far. The monarchy -gone, the caste system, largely gone, developement- seriously being challenged, sexism- seriously being challenged, feudal land relations- seriously being challenged or already gone. On top of this the Young Communist League with half a million members is not going to be any less active against corruption, the revolutionary women are not going to stop uplifting women. At this stage the machine has enough juice to keep it ticking over.

Secondly, nothing i can say is of any consequence, and i would like to stress that this are my own ramblings from my analysis with only a few limited contacts in Nepal and then jsut what i read on a few email lists and websites. Take note that this party is a party that since its creation has consistently read the political lay of the land and found the best way to go forward with truly amazing results. If anyone is going to find the best possible way to enhance the revolution in Nepal and spread it to the world, the CPN(M) are the people to do it. At every twist and turn they have made the most of every situation based on the very best concrete analysis of the concrete situation. There is no reason to start doubting them now, and im sure that the exciting developements in Nepal are going to continue for the forseable future.

Bhutanese Refugees

If you’ve read what the mainstream media has had to say about Bhutan in the last year then you would probably have a pretty decent impression of Bhutan and its government. A monarchy that has “given up its power” and embraced democracy, and a government that has chosen to strive for “gross national happiness” instead of production or straining towards a western style consumer society.

However looking past this highly successful public relations campaign by the Bhutanese government shows a very different picture.

According to the CIA handbook Bhutan has a population of around 680,000 people. however according to the UNHCR 100,000 of those are ethnic Nepalese who have been forced to live in refugee camps in Nepal since the early 1990’s. On top of the Royal Bhutanese Government systematically discriminates against the remaining ethnic Nepali population. The last government census (in 2005) labeled 13% of the population within Bhutan as “non-nationals” and thus denied them any rights, including the right to vote.

In 1985 pro democratic uprisings, largely in the southern Nepali population were suppressed by the Royal Bhutan government. The Nepali population was viewed as a threat to the monarchy and systematically discriminated against. The Hindu religion was outlawed and only the Bhutanese dress, dialect and customs were legal. The entire Nepali cultural identity was outlawed. On top of this, freedom of the press was closed and foreign tourism was curtailed to try and limit outside influences.

To the concern to the Bhutanese monarchy the Nepali population continued to grow, and at a faster rate then that of the ethnic Bhutanese, and despite the Monarchy’s best efforts, a radical democratic movement was still active and growing in strength, fueled now by civil rights claims as the ethnic Nepali’s demanded the right to their own culture and language. The Royal Bhutanese government changed the citizenship requirements and only granted citizenship to Nepalis who could prove their citizenship with “registration” papers from the ministry of home affairs dating back prior to 1958, despite that ministry not being in existence until 1968.

After a nationwide census in 1988 the Royal Government began a crack down on the Nepali population. Especially political activists were targeted, any more than 100,000 people, more than 15% of the Nations total population was expelled, imprisoned or even in some cases killed. It was an ethnic cleansing operation of epic proportion, and one of the most underreported events of our generation.

The western media had always ignored the plight of the Bhutanese refugees, which made its reporting of the “elections” this year even more insulting. The accepted line was that this was an encouraging and refreshing to see a “benevolent dictator” king give up some of his powers for the good of modernizing the country. It is absolutely laughable that these elections had any credibility at all. On top of almost a 6th of the country living in exile, and another 13% being disenfranchised, only two political parties, both staunchly royalist were registered and allowed to participate in the election. The king and a number of his representatives automatically gain entry to the assembly’s without being elected. The upper house was only open to people with a higher education qualification, and in a country such as Bhutan where public education at an elementary level is largely unavailable then this just serves to drastically limit the members of the assembly to the narrow and privileged grouping around the monarchy.

In the end while there was an election, and on Election Day there was no vote rigging or tampering, it does not mean that these elections were not rigged as the media has reported. The voting system in Bhutan was so flawed that the outcome was already a foregone conclusion and the oppression of the Nepali and other minorities, as well as the true democratic movement was always going to continue unchallenged.

The elections of this year in Bhutan were nothing more than a Public Relations exercise to change the impression of Bhutan in the international community, and sadly it has been very successful.
It seems that after almost 20 years the refugees languishing in Nepal are finally having their problems dealt with, but unfortunately the solution that the UN has come up with is not the ideal solution for the refugees. A third party resettlement program has been formulated where the governments of the United States, Australia and a handful of European countries have agreed to resettle the refugees in their respective countries. While this is obviously far better that the refugees continuing to stay and rot in their camps, and the standard of living in these countries is somewhat higher than in Bhutan or in Nepal, the desire of the overwhelming majority of the refugees is the want to return to Bhutan and their communities, relatives and homeland, but one that is free from discrimination and democratic.

The Power of Youth

Coming from Australia its hard to imagine any power in young people. We are constantly belittled in the media as being interested in nothing more than “sex drugs and rock and roll”, and young people are excluded from any positions of power. Even the few places where youth have a voice such as in university student unions have been systematically attacked by the government (ie VSU) to further marginalize us.

The powers would be would have us believe that there is no power in youth, and you cant possibly achieve anything, unless you sell your soul to the bureaucracy. It’s only after you completely give up your beliefs and become a cog in the machine before you can ever “be something”.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. In the tiny and impoverished nation of Nepal, the youth are taking their lives and futures into their own hands. Nepal is currently in the middle of a radical transformation and leading from the front of this revolutionary wave are the youth. The Young Communist League which is the youth organization of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has as many as 500,000 members and is active for change across the country.

Nepal is an incredibly underdeveloped nation, and due to this options for youth in Nepal have historically been very limited. 80% of the Nation is employed in agriculture and education has never been readily available. For young men, the only other options have been foreign employment in either the middle east on dangerous construction jobs for almost slave wages or alternatively to sign up for the “Gorkha Battalions” in the British and Indian militaries where they have to fight and die for foreign nations for often with less pay and/or rights then the rest of those armies.

For women the historical options have been even bleaker. The only work available for young Women is sex work, mostly in India, and many women and girls have been either tricked into prostitution with the promise of other decent work only to be forced into sex slavery on arrival, or girls as young as 7-8 have been abducted and sold to brothels. It is believed that of the 250,000 prostitutes in Mumbai, India, most are Nepalese. Alternatively, women were often forced into arranged marriages in line with the Hindu traditions that dominate the country. Young women have historically never had option or a say in their futures.

But this is all changing in the “New Nepal”. During the 10 year peoples war and the April 2006 “peoples movement” uprising young people have discovered their voice. Young people lead the struggle against the Monarchy and its oppressive state forces which collapsed under the pressure of a massive peoples movement in 2006.

But while from the ashes of the old régime the new Nepal might be arising, it is still riddled with many of the problems that crippled the old. Corruption in the police and local officials is still common, unemployment is still widespread and communities are mostly still without important necessities, like running water or garbage collection.