Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Their Own Words- The People of Rolpa (Part 2)

Part 2 of my trip to Rolpa. For part one- see below.

The hills of Rolpa.

This is Gaurav Sharma. He is 26 years old and a captain in the Peoples liberation army. In his own words- here is his story:

I joined the Maoists movement when I was 15. Because i was still young i wasn't allowed to be a fighter at first, so i joined and became and actor and a dancer in one of the cultural troupes. It was good, i got to travel widely all across Nepal.

I came from a farming family, peasants in Rolpa. I joined through another member of my extended family who had joined the movement, however my close family, my parents, were against me joining the movement initially.

Once i was older i joined the PLA. In the early days there was no PLA training, everyone just had to learn by doing. Many people died just from inexperience, simple things like crouching and crawling when under fire, and often we would have to leave good and sophisticated weapons and equipment behind because we did not know how to use it. After a while though, we got more experienced, and then as our movement grew, we also received training from people who were ex-Gurkha soldiers in the British and Indian armies...

Conditions in the camp are not good, however they are better then they were initially. We want there to be integration into the new army. The political parties all signed agreements, but now they are trying to go back on them. We want the agreements implemented, and Nepal needs a New National Army, so we can develop the nation, and fight against anyone who challenges it. We have no problems with most people in the Army and the police, more then 50% are OK. But there are those in the police and army- the officers especially, who are against the PLA and want to destroy it. We don't want them in the New Army.

Rolpa is incredibly impoverished. For most people here, there has been in effect no development and change in their situation in their lifetimes. This has changed for many recently, who have been able to get access to better drinking water and electricity as they were provided to the PLA cantonments, and then the surrounding areas.

In the village of Tila I met one youth, Dilip Mahendra (no photo). Dilip is 21 an has lived in Rolpa his whole life.
Lal Salam Blog: Has there been many changes since the end of the Peoples War?
Dilip Mahendra: Lots of changes, Electricity is now here, the youth employment scheme* will start soon- which i am very hopeful for. Also there is now an old age pension, and some money has come for the martyrs families, so many good changes.
LSB: So you support the Maoists?

DM: Yes I am an activist with the YCL (Young Communist League- the Maoists youth movement) and have helped to organise many activities. I am a little inactive at present but i will always support the Maoists.
LSB: SO why did you join the Maoists?
DM: The Maoists would come to my school and talk to the students. They would come and urge all the youth to unite to help develop the country. So that is why i joined the Maoists....
LSB: The Maoists restricted alcohol during the war. Is this still a Maoist policy?
DM: No that ban is no longer in place.
LSB: Do you and other YCL drink? Is Alcohol a problem in Rolpa?
DM: I do not drink, others do. Alcohol is not a major problem here. If people drink and people are drunk it is not a problem, unless you get drunk and disruptive. If you are disruptive the YCL cadre will come and talk to you and the YCL makes sure there are no problems.
LSB: Are young people here all thinking about and involved in politics?
DM: I think so. There are many people in YCL, and even some in Youth Force (Youth Force is the UML youth/muscle). There was a small dissagreement between the groups during the recent elections. But we are all friends. There are some UML people in youth force, but i want a strong developed and united Nepal, so im with the Maoists and YCL.

*The youth employment scheme is a scheme from the government where i think more than a hundred thousand Nepali youths will be given loans to start tourist agricultural and other businesses across the country in an attempt to both kick start development and cut down on youth unemployment.

A Woman on guard at the 5th Division headquarters. Unfortunately i wasnt able to get access inside the camps- due to hightened security for the elections, the commander being off base, and having not made appropriate contacts with the local party.

Gate- 5th Division Headquarters- Durhaban, Rolpa

I did however get access to their hospital- which is new and open to the public. Although it is very basic facilities, it is better anf more than the people in the area have ever had. They deal mostly with diareah type diseases, and although it is the PLA hospital, mostly with the general public.

This old woman ran a small store in Durhaban that made most of its buisness with the people from the PLA cantonment in the vilage. She was a local UML supporter, and did not talk much when i tried to interview her; however she did say this:

"The changes that have happened and are happening dont belong to any political party, they belong to the poor people. We are the ones who have made the sacrifices for change, and we are the ones who deserve it."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

In Their Own Words- The People of Rolpa (part 1)

I recently spent a week living with and talking to the the people of Rolpa. Rolpa is a very underdeveloped hilly district in Nepal's mid-western region where the Maoists launched their People's War in 1996- which went on to change Nepal in almost every aspect of its politics and culture. Because of this however Rolpa was also the scene for some of the worst police/army repression and violence. These are their stories in their own words.

The Martyrs Gate built by the Maoists during the War period that welcomes people as you cross into Rolpa.

Liwang- The District Capital of Rolpa

I Met Swedah Dukesi (no Picture-Sorry!) on the side of the road waiting for a bus. He was a 53 year old man who was actually from Rukkum which was the next district north of Rolpa, however it too was the Maoist base area, and had many similar experiences to Rolpa. He had a badge of a red communist flag on his shirt.

Lal Salam Blog: I see that badge, are you a Maoist?
Mr Dukesi: No i am with the UML. The Communist party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist).
LSB: Did that mean you had a hard time during the People's War? Did you have many troubles from the Maoists?
Mr Dukesi: It was a dangerous time. The Maoists would come into the village and ask for food and shelter, and talk politics and leave. The Army however would come- then beat us, abuse us, accuse us all of being Maoists. The Army would kill people. In comparison the Army and the police where always far worse then the Maoists...

The Divisional headquarters of the Peoples Liberation Army- 5th Division the day after the by-elections. In the foreground a UML flag flies. The UML and other political parties repeatedly have claimed that the Maoists do not allow them to operate in Maoist strongholds. Across the road from the UML flag there is a local UML family- and proudly and vocally so, and much f the village was plastered by UML posters and stickers (they still lost the election). If 50 meters from a PLA the UML can operate very publicly without feeling threatened, i find these allegations hard to believe (especially seeing as all the local UML members denied them).

Terrace farming in Rolpa.

This Man- A Dalit- lived in a small village in Rolpa. He missed most of the brutal times during the Peoples War as he was working in India. It is common for people in rural Nepal to leave Nepal for employment, particularly to India, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Malaysia due to lack of opportunities at home.

LSB: So are you hopefully for the future?
Man: We are from a Dalit family, so there have already been many changes. Before the peoples war we faced many problems and discrimination. We would be humiliated for being Dalits, but since the Maoist movement, things have changed here. Attitudes are different.
LSB: Do you support the Maoists?
Man: Yes, we support the Maoists. They are doing good things, they are bringing change.

What was said was backed up, as while we were interviewing this man; other locals of other castes were in his home, and eating and drinking with him, behavior that simply would not have been possible just a few years ago.

The Martyrs Road in Rolpa. The road was constructed by the Maoists during the Peoples War. The Party organised local communities and the peoples army to build the road. As well some locals who had been found of various crimes were sentenced by the "Peoples Courts" to work a set hour of time on the road as punishment. There was even "international brigades" of foreign Maoists supporters who came to work on the road. It seems like a very simple and basic thing, but this rocky and rough dirt track made a real difference to peoples lives and made the movement of goods and people much quicker and easier for many people.

This is Nongna- a 26 year old woman who currently lives in the village of Tila. She was in Rolpa throughout the Peoples War. She is a new mother. Rolpa- particularly near the PLA cantonments, has many children as the peace process and the end of the war has created an atmosphere where raising children has become possible again.
LSB: Was it dangerous to be in Rolpa during the Peoples War?
Nongna: Well, when the Maoists would come they would just ask for food and shelter, but when the army would come they would kill and torture people. This would happen every day. So for this reason I joined the Maoists. The village was very difficult, there were always many problems with the police and the army. But i didn't just join because of this, the Maoists had visions for the future, and for liberation.

: What did you do for the party?
N: I used to go to peoples homes and explain to people the politics of the Maoists and try to convince others to support and join the Maoist movement.
LSB: What is it like from women in Nepal?
N: Well if i was a man i would not have so many of the problems I have had. Every household has issues, but as a maobadi these issues are not as profound.
LSB: So the Maoists are good for women?
N: Yes very much. In the party it is much more equal between men and women, and women are able to participate freely.
LSB:And is this changing all of society?
N:Yes, there have been changes in broader society. People have seen the benefits of not having this divide and discrimination and people are learning.

It is worth nothing that you can physically see a difference between Maoist women and women who have not joined the Maoists. The Maoist women stand straight and tall, are much more confident, will look a man in the eye and confidently interact with men in the life of the village. Women who have not yet become a Maoist or in Areas that are less Maoist affected will tend to be quiet, reclusive and be hidden and smothered by the men in the Village.

This is Kahldi Magar Pun, who is an old man who has lived in Rolpa all his life. He is currently living in the village of Tila. He is staunch UML.
LSB: Do you support a political party?
KMP: Yes i support the UML. But i support them because i have family connects with the UML, not for any political reasons.
LSB: Was it difficult to be a UML supporter during the Peoples War?
KMP: At that time there was no police or army in my village, and when the Maoists came they would just want to talk and have some food and shelter, so for me it was easy.
LSB: So never any problems with the Maoists?
KMP: No the Maoists would have cultural programs and shows, and all the people would come and enjoy. They were good, I enjoyed the Maoists programs.
LSB: So you like the Maoists?
KMP: I support the UML...
LSB: So what do you think of the UML's actions in government?
KMP: The politicians just come here for votes, and then go to Kathmandu. It doesnt matter what we think. All the same the NC, UML the maobadi...
LSB: Do you think the Maoists are the same as the other parties?
KMP:Well the Maoists have done well, facilities have improved here, there are roads and electricity and we didnt have that before.
LSB: So do you have high hopes for the New Nepal and the new Constitution?
KMP: UML governments in the past have done nothing, but in the same amount of time in government the Maoists have done a little bit, so we think that the new Constitution and the new Constitution will do good things for us.

This is what a "Terrorist" looks like...

Her name is Diti Thapa. She is 28 years old. In her own words this is why she joined the Maoists:
Diti Thapa:... One day the Army came to my village. My family were not Maoists, we were not such a political family, but the army accused us of being Maoists anyway. They accused us of being Maoists and they were abusing us, and then they took my brother, my husband and my father, and they shot them. And then they raped me....
...I just hate those people who have done this to me. Because of them I have many problems, mental problems. It always comes back what happened. The killing of my father, and brother and husband, and the rest, it is always coming back. I am always crying.

Some say that these aren't political reasons for joining the movement, but nothing could be further from the truth. This was the true politics about the old Nepal- it was a bureaucratic order, that just didn't give a fuck about its people, and had no limits to the brutality that it showed to its opponents.
It is also worth nothing that the guns that killed her family where likely supplied by the US. The soldiers that raped her likewise were likely trained by the USA. But because she had the strength to resist this brutality- she is a terrorist.

If fighting against this kind of brutality- that is just incomprehensible to any reasonable person- means that your are on the side of terrorism- i know where i stand....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Less than 2 weeks after the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won by-elections across Nepal, they have renewed their efforts to create the New Nepal. On Sunday 19Th the Maoist led government made the first steps towards removing the Chief of Army Staff after a long dispute between the Nations military and the elected civilian government.

The by-elections have proven without doubt that the Maoists and their agenda for the creation of a New Nepal has popular support across the country, and the Maoists have taken this opportunity to press on with their plans in restructuring the state. This has sparked fierce resistance from the political opposition, the embassy's of foreign nations and the army itself, and the ongoing peace process and the process of the creation of a new Nepal seems to be in jeopardy.

The core of the issue is the need for there to be civilian control over all aspects of the state- especially the military. In recent months the military has repeatedly proved either unwilling or unable to take directives from the civilian government and especially from the Ministry of Defence headed by the Maoist Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal.

There have been multiple controversies from the (ex-royal) Nepal Army. Firstly, in February the National Army recruited several thousand soldiers against the orders of the Government, the Defense Ministry, the supreme court and the Interim Constitution. The army again challenged the civilian government when it reinstated 8 generals who where retired by the defense ministry on March 16th, and finally recently staged a political boycott of the National Games went the Peoples Liberation Army of the Maoists were allowed to compete.

A military that repeatedly undermines the popularly elected government is an obviously enormous threat to democracy, especially in a developing nation like Nepal. Thus for the ongoing security and prosperity of Nepal it is essential that the military be restructured and brought back under the control of the legitimately elected civilian government.

The creation of the New Nepal will also require the National army to be reconstructed and realigned to match the new reality of the new Nepali state. The Nepali Army has changed only in name from when it was previously the Royal Nepali Army, and has backed an anti-democratic coup to reinstate absolute royal rule in 2005. The retirement of the head of the Army, the Chief of Army Staff would be the first step in a process of creating the democratic new Nepali Army, and is thus essential for the ongoing peace, progress and democratic rule in Nepal.

This is the core of the current issues around the army, the creation of new state structures in Nepal. The sacking of the Chief of Army Staff should not be seen as a political question. The politics is obvious and beyond doubt- the chief of the Army has put himself outside of civilian control and therefor should be removed. The basis of the opposition to these moves is motivated instead by the question of power. People in positions of state power in Nepal, be it in the bureaucracy, in the judiciary and in the military, feel threatened by the process of change. The political opposition has no common politics, but unites those within the fabric of the old society to prevent the cultivation of the new. Resistance to change in the military is the struggle of those who are rich and powerful who see the military as their armed gang to insure against radical change.

However Nepal has shown repeatedly in its recent history that the real power in a society doesn't come from those at the top of that society, but rather from those within that society. There has been many demonstrations everyday by Maoist supporters calling for the retirement of the Chief of Army Staff, and these demonstrations coupled with the by-election results has put beyond doubt that the popular sentiment is behind the government and desires change.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The By-elections: The revolution STILL going strong- and now we have the stats to prove it!

Apologies its been a while since there has been an update. For the last week or so i have been in Rolpa- to see the bi elections and to meet the people there, as this was the base area for the Maoists during the peoples war. There are many pictures and interviews to come, but for now, here is an analysis of the election outcome.

On April 10 across the country bi-elections were held in 6 constituencies that had been left vacant in the last 12 months. These elections took place in a range of areas, in different parts of the country, in areas where different ethnic groups and where political parties were powerful so in effect these elections gave a good reflection in the political mood amongst the people. While only a fraction of people could vote, and the small amount of seats at stake would not affect the balance of power within the parliament, these elections were incredibly important because of the role they take in the wider political struggle in the country.

In these elections, the Maoists (again) won considerably.

Of the 6 constituencies 2 were previously held by the Maoists, which they retained, and they also picked up another seat- previously held by the Nepali Congress. The other seats went one each to the Nepali Congress, the CPN(UML) and the Madeshi Peoples Rights Forum. Despite what was widely predicted, rather then Maoist support dropping in the last year, it has increased. This is further despite the constant media attacks and the inability for their government to carry out most of their programs in a meaningful way.

This is because the Maoists are still a party that has deep connections within the communities of Nepal. Its work in local areas , and its work in the youth, women's, trade unions, peasants, low caste and poor peoples movements means that there is a link with the average Nepalis that has proven to be strong, and hasn't yet been severed, despite the constant media attacks and co-ordinated attempts by the opposition to destroy or usurp this revolutionary base.

Also the Maoists polled well in the Terai areas, and finished second in one of the Madhesh constituencies. This is even more surprising due to the departure from the Maoists of Matrika Yadav, who was their most publicised Madheshi leader. Even despite this very public split and the very publicised criticisms of the Maoists from Yadav, the Maoists have been able to increase their support in the Madheshi areas, which are so crucial in the current situation. If the balance of power tips back in favour of the Maoists in the Madhesh, then it will help to overcome a major challenge to the ongoing revolutionary process.

This election is more than just a simple vote but is in essence an important part of the wider political power struggle that is still playing out. These results are encouraging for the revolutionaries, and strengthens their hands, and gives them more strength and ability to push forward with the plans and programs of the revolution. Conversely- the political opposition, was looking to these elections, to provide them with an opportunity to discredit and overthrow the government. The Nepali Congress leads this political opposition- including elements of parties within government and the Army, with the support of the international players in the embassy. The Congress opposition was hoping that this election would result in defeat for the Maoists, which would give them an opportunity to claim that that government had lost the support of the people, and try to overthrow it. The elections have instead, removed this possibility and rather will lead to renewed attacks on the state power that their class base still holds.

As I have said that these polls should not be looked at not just as polls, but as part of the political processes that is ongoing. They are important because the revolution, and the counter revolution are both progressing, and trying to gather strength to do away with the other. It is easy to see, for the political opposition has been very active in the army recruitment, disrupting the assembly and protests in different parts of the country, but the progressive forces have not simply stood back and done nothing, they have had mobilisations, they have retiring more and more officials, and now they have won this election. All these are just parleys. There are two fundamentally opposed forces vying for control and naturally there will need to be a confrontation at some point between these two poles. The old- the army and bureaucrats desperately trying to crush the new- a inclusive and equitable Nepal. The prize is the power to enforce and create the New Nepal in their image, and while this election, this small skirmish has been won by those with a very new vision for Nepal, the decisive battles are yet to be played out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The New Nepal- revolution in the 21st centuary.

The constituent assembly elections of last year were won in outstanding fashion by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The received almost a million votes more than their nearest competitor, and have more seats in the assembly than the next largest 2 parties combined. While the UCPN(M) does not have an outright majority in the assembly, it holds almost 40% of the seats, and thus seeing as the new constitution needs to be approved by a two thirds majority, by definition this means that the new Constitution for the "New Nepal" will be the minimum vision of the Maoist party.

So what does this mean? In concrete terms what can we expect for the new Nepali State. The Maoist vision of this new state. A secular Republic has already been achieved- Nepal will no longer be a "Hindu kingdom" and the despised monarchy has been given its marching orders, but while this is significant, the real changes are yet to come.

A New National democratised army, the basis of which will be both the (ex Royal) Nepali Army and the People's Liberation Army previously of the Maoists. The new army needs to be democratised, and loyal only to the new state and democracy rather the monarchy or political factions.

Nepals diverse culture will be protected and developed. It will be developed and modernised to remove any old fuedal influences that discriminate, but be protected from the cultural imperialism of Hindi and the West that threatens to destroy Nepals own identity and replace it with a sexist consumer culture.

The New Nepal will actively seek to fight oppression against all the discriminated people of Nepal. It will be a federal state that gives the right of autonomy and self determination to all the many nations of people within the borders of Nepal. It will also fight discrimination against women and that of Dalits, who were "untouchable" under the old Hindu Caste system. It will do so with more than just words, special rights will be given to Dalits and Women to insure that discrimination against them is brought to an end.

The social and political changes will also be coupled with new economic practices. National industrial projects will be prioritised to create the basis for an economic development that can bring real improvements to the people of Nepal. Employment will be guaranteed and a minimum wage has already been set (and raised) by the government. Workers can even be given the right to be involved in industrial management.

The education system will be revolutionized. Private educational facilities that charge high fees from minimum gain will be regulated- taxed and phased out to be incorporated into a new education system that will provide a relevant and reformed service to people. Ethnic minorities will have the right to receive lessons in their mother tongue, and the service will be made free to lower levels, and much cheaper and more access able to the community as a whole. This has been coupled with a literacy campaign that is already beginning which will involve thousands of volunteers and eradicate illiteracy in this country were currently as many as 50% of people cant read or write.

This new system goes far beyond the accepted norms of western "democracy". The vision for a new Nepal is not something that is modelled on current existing examples. The vision for a New Nepal is a vision that provides the only way for Nepal to develop and grow and provide the respect and decency that its people deserve. This is not a worn out "bourgeois democratic" revolution, this is a new revolutionary democracy of the 21st century!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Interview with Com. Suresh Kumar Ale Magar- Member of the Constituent Assembly for the Unified Communist Party Nepal (Maoist)

"We would like to call on the progressive and leftist forces of the world... to support us so revolution and be accomplished."

On April 2nd i had the opportunity to interview Mr. Suresh Kumar Ale Magar, who is a member of the Constituent Assembly for the UCPN(Maoist). It is an interesting interview- with some very interesting comments about Latin America. There was some minor editing for clarity.

Ben Peterson: Mr Suresh thank you very much for meeting with me.
Suresh Kumar Ale: Thank you, and welcome to Nepal
BP: Thank you very much. So you are a member of the Constituent Assembly...
SKA: Correct.
BP:... and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). How long have you been part of the Maoist movement here?
SKA: The Maoist movement? About 30 years, three decades.
BP: Thats a considerable amount of time. So you were with the party throughout the war period?
SKA: When i joined this movement it was not the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), it was named at that time the CPN(Masal). But later there were many separations, separate factions and then we became the CPN(Maoist). It is now after a reintegration with the CPN(Mashal) and the CPN(Maoist) that the party is now the Unified CPN(Maoist)
BP:And you were elected to the assembly in the First Past the Post system?(1)
SKA: Yes
BP: From which district?
SKA: From the first past the post not the proportional representation, from constituency number one Tanahun district.
BP: Now there has been allot of talk from the party leadership about leading the revolution from the government, this is very new and a very different tactic that hasn't really been explored by revolutionaries before, and it is a very different tactics to the Peoples War that went for over 10 years. So it is obvious that the tactics of the party has changed, but has the overall goals and overall aims of the party changed as well?
SKA: No the overall goal of the party has not changed at all and shall not ever change at all. Our ultimate goal will remain the same, of course there will be different tactics, tactical change. This is what we have done in the context of Nepal. No revolution ever repeats, what can be done is revolutions can be developed after taking into account the particular context, particular situation in a society. We need a marxist and leninist model for the particular context of Nepal. Thats what we need to develop. We have to chart a new path, a new phase. that's what we have done, and our vision is that in our revolution the reactionaries of Nepal are trapped in a very critical situation. Because of the contradictions between them they had to change sides, and because of our interpretations of the contradictions in the reactionary classes one group of the reactionary class was compelled to make a kind of compromise or coalition (with the revolutionaries). Certain parliamentary parties were compelled to do so because of the autocratic rule of the then monarchy of King Gyanendra. This is what happened and this is why we had to refine our practices in this way. And s there were elections to the Constituent Assembly in which we, in which our party the UCPN(M) emerged as the largest political force. And later our party had to lead the government. (2)
BP: Now there is the situation where there is both the Peoples Liberation Army, and the (ex Royal) Nepali Army, and this is a big point of different between the Maoist led government and the political opposition(3), how to integrate these armies and implement security sector reform- so what is the Maoist plans for the Security Sector Reform and the integration of the armies?
SKA: As you know that until now two armies existed, one Peoples Liberation Army, one Nepal Army. What needs to happen is the merger of the two armies, and the creation of a new Army. Of course there will be a sort of "process" as the comprehensive peace accord stipulates- supervision, integration and rehabilitation of the maoist combatants. It is the responsibility of the government. So we must respect it, respect both armies and build a new army. Of course if anybody from the PLA wouldn't like to join the army, they can leave safe, maybe they would prefer to join the police force or other security sector- then ok. But in the end all the soldiers, the whole PLA must be able to join the Army.
BP:This has all been complicated recently by the actions of the Nepali Army with the support of the political opposition in the recruitment issue in the army and the retirement of 8 generals being resisted. At present the army really is renegade, so is this and the actions of the Nepali Congress a threat to democracy and the future of Nepal?
SKA: Well yes, there are serious challenges to the ongoing peace process, but i think in the end this will not be a problem. After all in the interim constitution and the comprehensive peace accords it is clear that integration will happen, so no one can go back from that and those understandings and agreements.
BP: I think it is fair to say that the situation in Nepal is currently one of re founding the nation. As a new beginning for a "New Nepal". "New Nepal" has been talked about allot by the leadership, such as Prachanda and Dr Bhattarai and others, so what will the "New Nepal" look like, and what will the new constitution include?
SKA: Well it will be a republic, this has already been achieved. "New Nepal" for us, for Maoists and revolutionaries "New Nepal" means a Nepal on the way to socialism. On the road to socialism. New Democratic Nepal. Of course for other people "New Nepal" may not mean this. Some want "New Nepal" to be like what the old Nepal already is. Or other people may say "Healthy Nepal" or "Democratised Nepal" but not a Nepal that is on the road to socialism.
BP: That's very interesting. I have a document here "A Brief Introduction to the Policies of the C.P.N (Maoist)" written by Prachanda in 2004 i think, and it talks about the Maoists minimum program. It talks allot about what would be bourgeois democratic norms, such as sovereignty of the people, secular sate, press freedom ect, but there are things here that are very interesting and go beyond a normal western democracy. It talks about special rights for women and dalits (4), a revolutionary land reform and it also talks about "the guarantee of minimum wages and workers participation in industrial management" Is that something that is still a part of the Maoist program, new economic practices?
SKA: This is all part of the Maoist program of course. Until now we have taken government, but state powers are not in our hand and this problem has to be rectified. The revolution has not been completed, it continues, but of course as the revolution is completed a new kind of economy will be here on top of the world(5). A new economy will exist or there can be no victory in Nepal without that.
BP: So workers involvement in the economy and the state?
SKA:Oh yes.
BP: Well that's very interesting for many observers of Nepal. So while Nepal is at the front of what could be a new socialist revival, there are also other countries around the world undergoing similar processes, also rewriting their constitutions with new provisions in them. Namely Venezuela and Bolivia, so have the Maoists in Nepal been looking at the experiences in Latin America?
SKA:One difference. We are interested at looking to Venezuela, Bolivia and the Others, but still, but we think our party is better as we consider Marxism Leninism Maoism as our guiding principle and we use this influence and follow the path of Mao Tse Tung indefinitely, which means New Democratic Revolution. (For) the accomplishment of the revolution it is critical to follow the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we follow and therefore our policies will be better suited to opposing our class enemies. But we see the policies and the struggle of the people in Venezuela, Bolivia and the Latin American Countries against imperialism, particularly against US imperialism. They stand against this, which we strongly appreciate, and i strongly believe that in the future that's there could be an international anti-imperialist organisation, of which those countries would be a major part.
BP: So the revolution in Nepal would be looking to make international anti-imperialist allies in Latin America?
SKA: Not only that but we think that that is a must. To accomplish revolution in a particular country against the reactionary forces of that country is not enough. Today's world is such that every ruling class of any country is completely supported by imperialist forces. No ruling class can sustain by itself. So for that matter the fight against a particular ruling class in a particular country much develop into a fight against imperialism. In any struggle it would be typical for foreign intervention to come and support their interests. So not only do we need relations with these Latin American countries, but to be able to properly handle the international contradictions some kind of international anti-imperialist organisation is a must. This is something we hope we can build with the Latin American countries.(6)
BP: So speaking of foreign intervention,there has been allot of opposition leaders, such as G.P Koirala (Nepali Congress), the Ex King Gyanendra and K.P. Oli (CPN(UML)) all congregating in Dehli under different pretexts. Also in the Constituent Assembly there has been increasing pressure on the Maoists. It has widely been speculated that there may be attempts to overthrown the government. If this was to happen what would be the response of the Maoists?
SKA:This is a risk, an we are aware that they may try to do so, but they have a problem, they are not in a position to do so. They want to run the government, they want to run the agenda, they want to form their own government, they want to run the country themselves, but it is not easy for them to do so. People have a consciousness. People have supported communist forces. This government has come to power not by means of insurrection or gun or means they do not like but through a process of elections, which our party was a part. So, constitutionally and legally they are not able to overthrow us. This is why India wants to be involved to endanger the Maoist led government. We know very well what they want, we are thinking only what we must do. We know what they want and we only worry about what we should do. I don't think they will be able to threaten toe government. I don't think so. (7)
BP: This can tie in with the situation where it is clear that while you have government you do not have state power. The army does what it wants to do, the bureaucracy has been either unwilling or unable to implement the budget, so does the party aspire to challenge for state power?
SKA:We hope to do so. We plan to do that as we know very well that the old bureaucracy is seeped in the "status quoist" mindset and we have new and fresh ideas. There can be no link with the past and its conflicting thinking. At the moment we are helpless to move forward, but we are looking for ways that we can tackle this kind of thing. Smash the old bureaucracy and create a new one. We are looking for ways.
BP: So for one final question, are you optimistic for the "New Nepal" and what are you dreams| what do you want to sons and daughters of Nepal to inherit from the current generation?
SKA: Definitely, why not!?! we are optimistic, if we were not, why join the revolution? We may as well not have joined the party! There are many challenges, which for revolutionaries and our movement, we have to face them, we believe that, we are confident that the strong lead of marxism leninism maoist will be successful. We will be successful in climbing all the obstacles and challenges and ultimately we will be victorious, accomplish the revolution. Not by taking old paths but by taking a new one, because this is the 21st century. For this reason we would like to call upon progressive and leftist forces of the world- like you people from Australia- to support us so that the revolution can be accomplished.

1. Nepal's election to the constituent assembly was a mixed electoral system, firstly direct elections in electorates, and then a direct proportional representation system as well.
2. This passage might not be particularly clear unless your familiar with the processes in Nepal. In short the Maoist led peoples war came to an end when the Maoists made a peace agreement with parliamentary parties after they adopted the Maoist calls for a Constituent assembly. They were compelled to do so after the monarchy ousted them from their limited parliamentary powers and created a police state. Now however they are "trapped in a very critical situation", the writing of a new constitution where the Maoists have the final say on the constitution.
3. The political opposition is lead by the Nepali Congress who have remained outside of the government, however it also includes forces within the government, particularly the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). If talking about the political opposition it refere's to all these parties.
4. Dalits are people from the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system which existed in Nepal. Also known as untouchables.
5. "on top of the world" refers to that fact that Nepal has Sagarmatha (Mt Everist) and 8 of the top 10 highest mountains in the world within its borders. People in Nepal often talk about Nepal being on top of the world, or the roof of the world.
6. These comments on Latin America are obviously very interesting. I just think I should add that there is a bit of difference of opinion between the Maoists as to what to make of Latin America. Some see it as a revolution, others as (such as these comments) as a anti-imperialist uprising in need of "marxist leninist maoist thought", so the party in my opinion hasn't totally defined how it relates to the Latin Americans. What is standard however is a recognition that these are significant events and the need for greater intercontinental links.
7. This passage is a little confusing, the essence of what is being said that because the Maoists have taken government in a process that has the support of the vast majority of people and was supported by the reactionary powers in India and the parties of the political opposition, now these political parties are not left with a leg to stand on and are unable to remove the Maosits from power, and a consciousness of the people means that the political opposition is unable to go use extra constitutional means without rousing the mass of the people.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Festival of the Oppressed.

Lenin once said that the Revolution looks like the festival of the oppressed. And its some festival. The last couple of days I have had some amazing experiences.
On Monday as I was walking back to my room I by chance happened to come upon a political program being set up by the Maoists. It is common to see the Maoist flags and graffiti- they are all over the city (and the countryside as well) but this was the first chance I had to witness their mass oriented programs since i had arrived.
It was pretty amazing. There were various speakers who talked on a range of topics, from international imperialism to the national problems and the economy- all mixed up with traditional song and dance.
Several women spoke- most strikingly was this woman- dressed completely in red. It was really good to see- some people were obviously new to public speaking and as well as women there were people from class and caste backgrounds that normally wouldn't be entitled to be involved in politics.

He chaired the meeting.
The cultural dancers. I have video, but its proving difficult to get online. They were really enthusiastic and it was a very interesting aspect of the program. I can't really recall a radical political program in Australia where dance was incorporated into the session. Maybe it something we should look into? (as long as i don't have to do tit its cool with me).

This was a much more militant dance that the first, with kicks and punches and salutes. I presume something about the peoples war or fighting the peoples enemies, but i wasn't near anyone who spoke English at the time, so im not certain.
More dancers- as you can see the crowd was pretty big. There was at least a couple of thousand I would say- although people came and went throughout and many walked past, so many thousands would have seen it.
Also this is just one of many similar programs that are happening to maximise the turn out of the National day of rallies happening on April 6. Ill be at the Kathmandu mass rally keep an eye out here for the report.

And then to make things even more interesting yesterday I went to Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, where the Maoist student Union had just won the student union elections. While the Maoists results were a little bit mixed elsewhere for various reasons- the atmosphere at TU- the largest and oldest uni in Nepal was electric.

Beating the red drum of victory.

Thousands of students stuck around in the rain for the result- and the victory rally and celebrations.

Durga Dheni- the now treasurer of the Union and one of the women on the Maoist ticket.
The campaign went for about 2 weeks, but planning had been going for months, they had cultural shows, magazines and the whole campus is covered in posters and graffiti. They worked hard and it had paid off.

It was- as a socialist- impossible not to get a little involved in what was going on- especially in a Lenin shirt and with a hammer and sickle tattoo.

The leaders who had just been elected carrying a banner through the neighbouring town of Kirtipur at about 10 at night after the result was finally announced. Power shedding and rain shortened the celebrations considerably. Locals lined the streets and cheered as well as the students marched by.
These rallies- and the others that i haven't seen are occurring in a situation that is becoming increasingly tense. The winter session of the parliament has just been called,and the opposition (inside and out of the government) is putting the heat on the Maoists. With the mass rallies and bi-elections in the next couple of weeks it can all change very quickly and very intensely.
so in a shameless self plug- watch this space for the latest on the ground information and analysis.