Sunday, March 8, 2009

The PLA recruits- What is the future of the Peace Process?

On March the third the People's Liberation Army of Nepal, which fought a ten year war against what was then the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal started recruiting new soldiers to fill vacancies within this force. This has been hailed by the media and political opposition (both inside and outside of the government) as a major hit to the ongoing issue of the integration of the armies and has been said to put the peace process in jeopardy.

However to come to these conclusions one has to disregard the facts and the real issues surrounding this recent controversy. This recruitment has been in response to a recruitment by the (ex Royal) Nepali Army. The recruitment by the army took place against the instructions and orders of the Defense Ministry, the government, the Supreme Court, yet did not receive the same condemnation from the various political parties in opposition.

The political opposition, lead by the Nepali Congress, has called for this recruitment to be stopped, and has demanded the United Communist Party (Maoist) halt the recruitment. However the UCPN (M) is not in a position to do so, as the People's Liberation Army is not longer the military wing of that party. It has been repeatedly been stressed by both the UCPN (M) and the PLA that the PLA now takes its directions from and is loyal to the civilian government.

The PLA and the UCPN (M) both continue to reconfirm their commitment to the ongoing peace process and the process of creating the New Nepal. It is the army, with the political support of the opposition, which is putting the peace process in jeopardy and continues to move against the spirit of the People's Movement of 2006 and the mandate given to the government in the constituent assembly elections last year.

When placed in a position where despite its commitment to the peace process and the government, its opponent in the Nepali Army continued to grow and build its strength, the PLA was left with no option but to follow suit.

The peace process only can be brought to a logical conclusion when the two forces are integrated into a new, democratized national army, loyal only to the New Nepal. Contrary to the opinion of the political opposition, the most pressing need in this matter is not to rehabilitate the PLA into the community, but (as this whole episode shows) firstly to bring the rogue army back under the control of the civilian government, and secondly dissolve both of these forces, and then reintegrate them into a New National Army for the New Nepal.

This however will be a struggle for the Maoist led government as those inside and out of the army will fight tooth and nail to preserve it in its current state as insurance of the status quo. IT is clear to most observers that while the King may be gone and the constitution is still being written, the shape and form of the New Nepal is anything but certain, and is still to be played out in the future.


Mike Ely said...

This is a thoughtful and informative piece -- but I think it somewhat mechanically takes the public statements of various kinds and assumes "this is what is happening, this is what their motives are."

We need to base our analysis on what is happening, not merely on what is said.

Is it true that the PLA was "forced" to recruit by others? I don't believe that.

Isn't it more of a case that the aggressive actions of the reactionary army gives the PLA the public space to do what it is wanting to do (prepare for a showdown)?

Isn't it true that the expansion of the royalist army will enrage progressives and encourage more of them to join the PLA.... so that this is an opening and an opportunity?

this piece writes: "The peace process only can be brought to a logical conclusion when the two forces are integrated into a new, democratized national army, loyal only to the New Nepal."

I don't think this is true at all. The peace process can be brought to a conclusion in many different ways. It may end in a royalist military coup. It may end with a maoist insurrection. I suppose it is possible that there may be an integration of the two armies, but it is certainly not the only conclusoin (and I'm not sure why it is considered a "logical" conclusion.)

This article says:

"Contrary to the opinion of the political opposition, the most pressing need in this matter is not to rehabilitate the PLA into the community, but (as this whole episode shows) firstly to bring the rogue army back under the control of the civilian government, and secondly dissolve both of these forces, and then reintegrate them into a New National Army for the New Nepal."

This is (again) what is being said. But is this true?

Is the most pressing need to "bring the rogue army back under the control of the civilian government"? Or is the most pressing need to expand and prepare the revolutionary armed forces to be able to defeat this reactionary army?

In fact the talk of recruiting to the PLA suggests that the Maoists are "sharpening their sword" -- and while there is talk of pressing the peace process forward, there are clearly preparations for ending the stalemate by other means.

Why report on one aspect and downplay the other?

To give an example: Prachanda has announced that the PLA is no longer controled by the party. And the PLA has announced that their recruitment plans were not dependent on Prachanda's views.

Do you believe that? I don't. In fact, I don't think anyone can or does believe that.

So we can't repeat statements as if they were simply and literally intended at face value.

Ben Peterson said...

(please excuse spelling)
Well Mike i dont nessisarily agree with what your saying.

I think that you are underestimating the importance of the Constituent assembly and the process of creating the New Nepal.

At the moment the Maoists hold the political initiative. The new Contituent assembly came about because of the hard work and sacrifice of the Maoists, and this is recognised by the broad masses of people. All political players at the present moment are shackled to the Constituent Assembly and the New Nepal, and this includes the Maoists.

The assembly puts the Maosits at an advantage in two ways, firstly, it was their demand since the start of the peoples war, so now that all the parties took it up they have in effect endorsed the Maoists and the PW. Secondly, the Maoists won over a third in the elections, meaning that they have an effective veto over any part of the contitution. The New constituion will by default, be the minimum program of the Maoists.

So to say that that it is essential to bring the Army under the government is correct, because the Army would then be under the controll of the Maoists.

And my disscussions with people here confirm this. While there are alot of Maoists, there are more people here on the streets, in my interactiosn, who dont nessisarily support the Maoists as such, due largely to the immense propaganda machine run by the elites, but there is enormous support for the constituion writing process and the "New Nepal", which is in effect a backwards endorsement of the Maoists.

Now the PLA will of course play a role. The PLA will be the insurance to stop the situation from becoming another Chile (ect) and does provide a backbone to the Maoists and the process, but i dont think that the PLA will play the decisive role in the "showdown" that i think (like you) is comming.

Firstly i dont think that the Maoists can or would pull out of the processes that are happening to revert back to the PW. For one, they would have to give up the political high ground, and walk away from the "New Nepal" and the constiuent assembley they have championed for years. This would then leave this space, and the political legitimacy, to the reactionary parties.

Further, that would then provide a open political window for foriegn intervention into Nepal from international forces, in the name of suppressing the Maoist threat that walked away from the peace process.

Finally The PLA even if they were to recruit double what they are doing now, would still be millitarily inferior to the Nepali Army. They still dont have helicopters and armourded cars or the training ect that the NA has. The PLA's strength was (is) inits superior knowlegde of the land, the people and its political superiority. They wouldnt be defeated by the NA, but it would require a qualitative increase in their capabilities to millitarily defeat the Nepali Army.

But still, in essence, we are in agreement. I think that there will be a "showdown" of sorts, i think that it is obvious that there NEEDS to be a showdown.

The question is State Power, the Maoists have the political upperhand, and the "government, but as we can see from the failure to implement the budget and the episode with the Army, they do not have State Power.

I think that this question needs to be resolved and shorty, but i think that the form of this struggle will take will be simmilar to an uprising, and possibly as a result of a coup attempt (which would involve the opposition trying to unhinge themselves from the "New Nepal, which would expose thempolitically), and maybe simmilar to the Venezuelan Coup Attempt in 2001, which afterwood greatly freed the hands of the revolutionary forces there. Or' maybe wimmilar to teh take over in Russia. I dont think it will be on Chinese lines, with teh PLA rolling into the cities.

But either way, we will soon see.

Stephen Mauldin said...

Yea, the PLA used the NA recruitment as a window to do the same, but the unanswered question is what's the result to be if the fact is the PLA cannot match the NA in a showdown. Wouldn't it then ultimately depend on the people refusing to accept an NA led coup? If they don't its defeat for the Maoists at that point. If on the other hand there ensues a peoples resurrection what are the chances for that succeeding - I am wondering about that essential question.

It seems therefore that if it is not possible to prepare the PLA to defeat the NA then the tactics of dismantling the NA would be the most promising way to avoid bloodshed. In short rather the reverse of the disarmament and reintegration of the PLA advocated by the internationals by applying DDR exclusively to the NA.

I think we must agree the new constitution will by default be the minimum program of the Maoists because of their endorsement by the people in the elections. So it seems hopeful that the NA could be controlled if the constitutional process is allowed. That's it will the reactionaries allow it or is the coup coming. Then if the coup comes will there be a peoples resurrection.

If there is a resurrection would it be strong enough in combination with the PLA to defeat the NA? Even if it was, would that not then mean the reactionary forces would seek and obtain the assistance of the Indian Army? I am asking, I don't know. It was Prachanda's prognostication some time ago that ultimately the people of Nepal may have the fight the Indian army - he said this would offer an opportunity to capture a lot of weapons. Atheistic or not let's all pray for the constitutional process.