Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Nepal headed for more turmoil?

On the Green Left Weekly discussion list an questions was recently posted, "Is Nepal Headed for More Turmoil?". This is a response to that question.

Is Nepal heading for Fresh turmoil? That’s an interesting question. The current political situation in Nepal is very turbulent, tense, polarised and volatile. It is very possible, even very likely, that more "turmoil" is on the horizon. At any rate the current situation cannot continue. The Maoist government has struggled to carry out its election promises, particularly the budget by and large remains unimplemented in many of its respects. The coalition partners, while taking part in government, talk and act more like opposition, and align more closely with the opposition. Something has to give.

Within the parliament it appears that moves are being made to try and derail the Maoist led government. The Nepali Congress, with the backing of international forces and the elite in the Nepali Army, is trying to build a broad "democratic alliance" within the parliament against the Maoist led government. The NC justifies this move by accusing the Maoists of "authoritarian" and "anti-democratic" practices. In these accusations and attempts to undermine the government they are getting increasing amounts of support from parties within the government.

Both the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN(UML)) and the Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum (MJF) while being minor parties in the government, have shamelessly been getting closer to the NC's efforts to undermine it. Recently leaders in the UML has referred to the Peoples Liberation Army, which waits in cantonments under the supervision of the United Nations to be integrated with the old Royalist Military into a new National Army, as being criminal elements. This goes against the spirit of the peace agreement, and one of the very first obligations of the government, which is to carry out the ongoing peace process to a conclusion.

Increasingly the UML, the MJF and the NC are adopting the talk of the need to protect “democracy” and are talking more and more blatantly about displacing the Maoist government, despite its clear electoral victory in April last year.

The fact of the matter is that these parties could have the numbers to be able to topple the government within the current government. It is not in the class interests of the NC to allow the Maoist government to continue, and the bureaucratic UML and the MJF feel much more secure in a coalition that will simply maintain the status quo, and therefore maintain their positions in the political elite.

This would be tragic if the real power was in the parliament but Nepal, in the last ten years has proven more graphically than anywhere else that the power in any society lies not in any parliamentary institution, but rather with the masses of people in the streets.

All of the major changes in Nepal in the last few years have been on the back of massive peoples movement. The Parliamentary system set up after the 1990 peoples movement in the more than 10 years of its existence proved unable to achieve the secular and republican aspirations of the people. Even with a government led by the UML in 1994, supposedly "communists", was completely and totally incapable of taking any action to bring about radical change. In contrast to this the People's War led by the Maoists, and the Peoples Movement of 2006 which was led by the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance was able to completely change the political reality of Nepal. The most democratic event in Nepal’s history didn’t involve a vote! It has only been through "turmoil" that the people of Nepal have been able to realise their aspirations.

And this will be the nature of any "turmoil" that may break out in Nepal. As I said earlier, something has to give in the political situation there, but the tragedy would not necessarily be a change in the form of government and another peoples movement. There is no point to a stable government when the government is unable to institute even the most basic of their plans and therefore it would be more tragic if the current static situation continued. If there are moves by the opposition NC and its allies to topple the government, or if the plans and programs of the Maoists continue to be held back by either the state apparatus or their government partners, the UCPN(M) leaders are now talking about the need for a new peoples movement.

Late last year the UCPN(M) had an extensive set of meetings which devised a new party strategy to progress the revolution. As they see it, they must struggle on three fronts. One, in the government and parliament, to provide relief to the people and to begin the development of the country. Two, in the writing of the new constitution, so to set up a pro-peoples constitution, in the interest of the workers and peasants. The third front, and most important one, is the street struggle, to provide the pressure necessary to bring about the changes that the people of desperately want and need, and to overcome the resistance of all the right wing forces.

In this context, more “turmoil” is very likely. Ruling classes have yet to roll over and give up their power, privilege and position in a society without a fight, and the “turmoil” of the last few years has resulted in far more progress to an equal, socially just, democratic and secular nation than any other period of stability and peace.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Matrika Yadav Splits From United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

It seems that there has been a split in the Maoist Party in Nepal. While splits are not necessarily a bad thing or a major obstacle, this does seem to be a major split. Matrika Yadav has left the party to "reconstitute the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)". For more info see:

This split is obviously significant because Matrika Yadav is a major fish in the Maoist party (and government). Yadav was originally the minister for land reform, but resigned from that post last year after a controversy around the redistribution of land. It is very important also because Matrika Yadav is the foremost Madhesi spokesperson in the UCPN(M). To have the major Madehsi leader very publically split from the party is of immense importance, especially with the problems in the Terai ongoing. It will make it increasingly difficult for the UCPN(M) to gain the trust of the Madheshi people.

The reasons for the split given by Yadav were:
a) The leadership of the UCPN(M) is now dominated by corrupt and power hungry individuals who have forgotten their revolutionary convictions.
b) The UCPN(M)'s position on the Madheshi/Terai questions is unsatisfactory and not in line with the aspirations of the Madhesi peoples.

In regards to a) I find it hard to believe, at least at this stage. From all I have read I haven’t as yet seen any reason to believe that this is the case. If anything the evidence of what I have read has been to the contrary, that the leadership is actively trying to prevent the bureaucratization of the party, as they brought in limits of what their party members in the assembly can own use ect, just a few month ago. Furth if this sell out has occurred, when did it occur? I can’t see any defining point where the party "changed" and the leadership changed from a revolutionary one to a corrupt one. Nor have I seen any major changes of policy which would suggest this change occurred within the current leadership. I can’t say beyond doubt that this is the case. I am starting to hear complaints of nepotism by some members of the party, but the majority of what I have heard come my way does not seem to back up Mr. Yadavs claims.

Point b) also seems strange. Personally I am satisfied with the UCPN(M)'s position in the Terai, and across Nepal, is that all national minorities and oppressed groups will have regional autonomy and the New Nepal will have a federal structure. The UCPN(M) however does not support the slogan of "One Madhes- One Province" where the entire Terai would become one autonomous province, because the Terai is not one homogenous mass, there are various ethnicities and the region needs to be administered accordingly.

This brings us to the real causes of this split. Firstly, it is the success of the "Madhesi movement" in splitting the revolutionary forces. The Madhesi movement is based on the legitimate demands of the Madhesi people, who have for years been oppressed by the central government in Kathmandu. However the "Madheshi movement" did not start with the strikes and protests in 2007, and its leadership did not start with the Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum and the Madhesh/Terai Democratic Party. The Madhesi Movement comes out of the Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist), the people’s war they started and the 2006 Peoples Movement, which was led in large part by the CPN(M).

The Madhesi Movement from 2007 onwards was the usurpation of this struggle from the people who made it possible to a new conservative leadership. This new leadership has taken legitimate demands for self determination and replaced it with a counterproductive Madhesi chauvinism. Furthermore it has sidelined the most important thing that will change the lives of the Madhesi people, that being land reform. This usurpation of the Madhesi movement was actively pursued by international imperialist forces, and has been amazingly successful in splitting revolutionary classes and forces, which adds pressure to the Maoist lead government. This pressure is even more so on the Madhesi members of this party and this has apparently caused Matrika Yadav has chosen to split.

The second and larger issue behind this split is that to this point the Maoist government has not been able to bring about much in the way of real change. This is due to mainly due to the hesitance and resistance to change brought by opposition forces. The Nepali Congress represent these forces first and foremost, but the forces hostile to the new government and to any progress it may bring. The old army fears the Maoists government as its ideological opposite and as a threat to its position in society, the CPN(UML) and the Madhesi parties fear their bureaucratic positions are threatened and their support base amongst the people will be threatened, and the state bureaucracy is feeling the heat as the government tries to crack down on corruption.

The combination of these forces means that to this point the UCPN(M) has by and large not been able to implement the budget, and provide small but significant relief to the poorest in society. Moves are being made and the Maoists now appear allot closer to being able to implement their promises. Further after a sharp criticism from the rank and file of the party, the UCPN(M) has renewed its efforts to mobilize the people and its cadre, which will counter allot of the pressure by the reactionaries. However despite this, as long as the budget goes unimplemented, the Maoists will lose influence and support as in the eyes of the people they look more and more like the previous political elite and lose their credibility as they fail to follow up on their promises.

Most important of the promised changes is the need to implement a meaningful land reform. At this point there has been no redistribution of land, and the land question is of fundamental importance. 80% of the population is agrarian based, and a land reform policy will bring an instant and meaningful change to the people, which would sure up beyond doubt the support of the mass of the peasantry. This is especially important because the area likely to be most affected by any meaningful land reform is the Terai and for the Madhesi people. A land reform would bring the Madhesi back under the revolutionary political leadership, and open the road to develop the revolution further.

This (in my honest and humble opinion) is the real cause of this split, the justifiable complaint that the government despite being led by revolutionaries has made little headway in implementing the promised change.

It is too early to come to a conclusion on the affects this split will have. It will undoubtedly make it difficult for the Maoists to reach into the Madhesi areas, but the Maoists will easily do so with one sweep if they implement a land reform. Such a move will sure up unparalleled support for the Maoists and, to use a worn out phrase, sweep Matrika Yadav into the dustbin of history.

However, if conditions with the UCPN(M) has deteriorated so much already, then Matrika may just be saving some revolutionary cadre to struggle for another day, of which revolutionaries everywhere would be thankful.

In all this episode just shows that the revolution in Nepal is perched at an important make-or-break moment. Either it will push on through all the resistance to deepen the revolution, or the Revolution will stagnate, fail and the struggle will wait to be taken up another day.