Saturday, May 23, 2009

Interview with Comrade Sushil from the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist-Maoists

The following Interview was conducted with Comrade Sushil of the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) at some point in the previous few weeks. It occurred somewhere in the area of the Indian-Bhutan border. There are minor edits for clarity, and also as they are an underground party, minor editing for the security of Comrade Sushil.

Lal Salam Blog: Thank you very much for meeting with me. So are you from Bhutan?

Comrade Sushil: Yes, from Bhutan.

Lal Salam Blog:From the Bhutanese refugee camps?

Comrade Sushil:Uhh, actually people think that all our party are from the refugees, but i am from Bhutan. I have spent allot of time in India, working, but then also in Bhutan and then in Nepal working for the party as well.

Lal Salam Blog: So you are a cadre of the Communist Party Bhutan (Marxist Leninist Maoists)?

Comrade Sushil: Yes i am a member of the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist Leninist Maoist). I have been a member since 2003 and i have worked actively as a whole timer since the same year. I joined the party from within Bhutan.

Lal Salam Blog: What is the history of the Party?

Comrade Sushil: The CPB(MLM) was established on the 7th of November 2001, and the announcement of the Party was on the 22nd of April 2003. From this time the party has been working with the exploited people in Bhutan. The people are all exploited by the regime, so our party has been working with all the people, mainly in rural areas, but in urban areas also. Mostly we work with the people in the villages.

Lal Salam Blog: So what are the problems in Bhutan? What sort of oppressions are forced on the people of Bhutan?

Comrade Sushil: The biggest problem is the feudal Monarchy. Because of this monarchy the problems are created. Peoples standard of living has been kept backwards because of the Monarchy. In a third world country like Bhutan, this is because of feudalism. This feudalism is the main problem of Bhutan. This is why the Communist Party, our glorious party, is working to overthrow the regime, and to overthrow feudalism.

Lal Salam Blog: So the goal of the Party for now is to throw out feudalism from Bhutan?

Comrade Sushil: Definitely. The main aim of our party is to overthrow feudalism and to establish the peoples rule in Bhutan.

Lal Salam Blog: So you would like to establish a People's State in Bhutan? Is that what you would have replace the King?

Comrade Sushil: We should not understand like this. We should replace the king with a Proletarian Dictatorship. Our aim, our hope, no our dream is to establish a New Democratic Socialism. Only after that can we achieve our ultimate goal, which is to achieve communism. It is not only our goal to throw out the king and overthrow feudalism in Bhutan, but to establish a peaceful society that can achieve socialism and communism.

Lal Salam Blog: Last year your party started a Peoples War in Bhutan...

Comrade Sushil: No. We have not initiated a protracted peoples war in Bhutan. Since our parties establishment we have however had many rural peoples class struggles and these struggles have used different means. In different ways we have launched many struggles and programs, and we have the aim of reaching a level where we can launch a Protracted Peoples War. Last year we did initiate some armed struggles, which is only a factor of the rural class struggle. Much of the media proclaimed this as the beginning of the Peoples War, but we are not at that phase. We are trying to reach the level of Peoples War, but we have not yet reached it, and are preparing for it. We do not know how long this will take, it will depend on many factors.

Lal Salam Blog: So there will be more attacks, more bombs and more armed actions in the future?

Comrade Sushil: Certainly. We are preparing for this. There will be more armed struggle. Without the armed struggle, we cannot change the situation in our country. We cannot change the state power. We will one day take the state power, but for now we are in preparation, making networks with the peasants and in the cities, training, preparing for the struggle.

Lal Salam Blog: Do you think Peoples War can be successful? Bhutan is already a very brutal state. As many as a sixth of the population lives in exile and the state has beaten, attacked, arrested and even raped and murdered those it perceives to be political activists?

Comrade Sushil: Our parties thought is that only by waging the armed struggle and the Peoples War can we win the liberation of our exploited people. I believe so. Thousands of people have been evicted from Bhutan, we are very aware of this. Why were they evicted? They were evicted after political activism and movements. They were evicted because the people in the southern belt had a high political consciousness. This is totally not a refugee problem, this is a political problem. It is a problem of a brutal monarchy and a restrictive feudal system. Without destroying these institutions we cannot solve these problems. Our party is launching this armed struggle to liberate the exploited people and we know that one day we will be successful. This is a long term plan, it will take many preparations, and without this and without correct politics we cannot be successful. We have this ideology, the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist and this is a political weapon. With this weapon we believe that one day we will be successful.

Lal Salam Blog: So have you learnt much from the experiences of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and their experiences in Nepal? Are there close or special links between your parties?

Comrade Sushil: We do not have special or direct links with this party. But, and also like communists all around the world, in Peru, India or the Philippians we have ideological links. These places all have communist parties leading revolution through the armed struggle, and with all of them we have ideological links and an ideological relationship. That means we support them ideologically and they support us ideologically. We have a relationship with the CP Nepal(Maoist), but also with the CP India (Maoist) who are also waging an armed struggle. We don't receive any physical support, or anything like that, but we should understand that we are all communists, and we are all internationalists, and we receive and give moral support.

Lal Salam Blog: What does your party think about Prachanda Path and the Nepali Maoists synthesis? It has been controversial to some international communists.

Comrade Sushil: About this Prachanda Path. It is something we should study. And also it is not only a thing to be studied, it has shown it has the ability to guide workers actions. I don't want to comment more because the ideological things i have had not sufficiently studied, and till now our party has not discussed at length Prachanda Path.

Lal Salam Blog: The Maoists in Nepal have given up their Peoples War and taken a new tactic in pursuing the Constituent Assembly elections. Is this a correct tactic in your parties opinion?

Comrade Sushil: In regards to the UCPN(M) we do not think that they have given up their goals. We think they are pursuing another way, another tactic to establish a peoples state. We don't think they have established the proletarian dictatorship. So we, our party, does not think that they have achieve state power. We too will go for a Constituent Assembly at first, and only after that can we step or jump or leap forward to a New Democratic revolution. In the context of the Maoists we don't think they have state power, and are still struggling for it. It is a fact that the future shows you which path you must take, you can only pick your path depending on the concrete situation you face. We will also move for a constituent assembly elections and a new state, but without establishing the proletarian people at the center of this new state then it cannot reach higher and improve the lives of the people. We think that the Maoists of Nepal face similar situations to us, and have similar actions, so we will continue to watch closely.

Lal Salam Blog: So a Constituent Assembly is a tactic that you are interested in for change in Bhutan?

Comrade Sushil: Actually it is the tactics and strategy of communist parties in the third world. Third world countries are semi-colonial and semi-feudal. So without a New Democratic Socialism stage we cannot reach socialism. So we are in this revolution, it is a peasant revolution we can say. So to reach our aims, to some extent we should aim for a Constituent Assembly, and this is our main slogan and the main aim of the present situation in our revolution. That is not our only slogan, and out only goal, and it isn't the only thing that we campaign around with the peasants and people of Bhutan. And we don't want or aspire to another bourgeois constitution, but we need a constitution that is in favor of the oppressed and poor people of Bhutan.

Lal Salam Blog: Last year the government of Bhutan held elections, in a very restricted and controlled way, but the western media still presented this as a opening up and of "democracy". If there was to be a more open electoral system, would the CPB(MLM) pursue peaceful politics through elections?

Comrade Sushil: WE think there is only one path to real democracy in Bhutan. We don't believe in the current "democracy" this is well known. And we don't think that this system can lead to real democracy. The international community has its formula and they see votes and call it democracy- but there is no such thing in Bhutan and it is not possible to impose a real democracy from the outside into Bhutan. Any "democracy" that the regime brings into practice itself will be done in such a way so that real power continues to be restricted and kept in the hands of the old order, and not in the hands of the mass of exploited people, so that this "democracy" could not be used against the regime. Even if the regime cast out the king, it would not fundamentally change it. Our party will not make compromises with that order. We wont co-operate with their agenda, we have another agenda that is contradiction to theirs. We are going to establish the rule of all the people while they just want to exploit them. There is this contradiction between the people and the regime. Our party struggles because of that. If they were to try and set up a "democracy" for then when we should not be a part of it. When i say this it does not mean that we are militarists. The people want peace, and don't want to live in terror but this regime suppresses and exploits the people, they already live in terror. It is not a hobby to carry out armed struggle, it is our only option the liberation of our people.

Lal Salam Blog: Bhutan is such a tiny country, and it has very close relations, with India in particular. If you care to reach peoples war, do you think India would interfere to defend its interests?

Comrade Sushil: On this the whole party is very much conscious. But in the present situation India is not so dangerous to Bhutan. China is quite dangerous. 11,500 square kilometers of Bhutan's lands have been occupied and taken by China. So we are surrounded by two very large and powerful countries, who are always looking to interfere into Bhutan. They have two ways of interfering. Political intervention and direct intervention. There are Indian Army camps established in Bhutan. There are several big barracks. We have known this but we don't think they will intervene directly. Maybe at some point in the future. There will be political intervention, and we can try to counter this with our allies by rousing grassroots support for our cause in India. We are already doing this. If they try to intervene militarily it will be a heavy cost for them, a bloody and long civil war. Also the regime and the fuedalists don't want this. They want to defend their borders, protect his kingdom. We also want to establish the sovereignty of Bhutan, so we will always fight foreign influence, from India as well as China.

Lal Salam Blog: I understand that your party has allot of support amongst the refugees in Nepal.

Comrade Sushil: We are not just a party for the refugees. We have support where ever our people are.

Lal Salam Blog: So in India, Nepal and Bhutan?

Comrade Sushil: Yes.

Lal Salam Blog: And your party does work amongst all the commuities of Bhutan and across the whole country, not just in the southern Belt that is largely Nepali speaking?

Comrade Sushil: The southern belt is not only Nepali speaking, but there are people from many communites there as well. Myself i haven't been to the north as yet, our party does work there, but i have been working in the south and also in the east. In allot of people, and in the media there is allot of confusion. The CPB(MLM) is not just a party in the refugee camps, and not just Nepali speaking. We have cadres of many ethnic backgrounds, and our party works all over Bhutan.

Lal Salam Blog: For the refugees in Nepal is it true your party favors repatriation in Bhutan rather then resettlement in third countries?

Comrade Sushil: It is not that our party policy is just to return people to Bhutan. It is not a solution. Liberating the people of Bhutan is the only real and long term solution to this problem. We are not for resettlement, and we are not for repatriation in Bhutan without changing anything else. Moving people around like they are animals is not a solution. That is our position. There needs to be a political solution to this, and only then can the refugees get their rights. Some people have said our party was created to agitate for the repatriation of refugees, this is not the case. Our party was established within Bhutan and amongst the people. We are in favour of all the oppressed people. Only understanding the problem of the refugees as a problem of the political structure of Bhutan that we can find a solution. Our party was not established for the refugees, but for all the Bhutanese.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Democracy, The "Democrats" and the LTTE- Big Risks in the Future of Nepal's Republic.

The stalemate of sorts continues.

The Maoists refuse to let the constitution be cast aside and the military be put above civilian rule and the "Democratic Alliance" refuses to back down and insists they have thwarted an attempt by the Maoists to "capture the state and establish a one party authoritarian dictatorship".

The assembly has not been able to conduct business since May 4th with the Maoist lawmakers disrupting the sittings by chanting slogans and blockading the rostrum. Outside the assembly, the Maoists have turned to the streets, with daily rallies and protests, culminating with a 300,000+ rally on the 17th in Kathmandu, with smaller programs in other major cities across the country. Even these massive showings of popular support however were not enough to budge the "Democrats" who have retreated behind the media to scream to all that they only have the interests of the country in mind. Despite this judging by the turnout to the mass rallies, the people aren't convinced.

The "Democratic Alliance" is the alliance between the CPN(UML) and the Congress, plus an array of smaller parties ranging from hardcore royalists, to ethnic chauvinists, to smaller parties on the hard left. Because of this the "Democratic Alliance" is riddled with limitations and contradictions. Firstly- it has no political basis at all. To get a majority the opposition has had to cobble together a whopping coalition of 22 different parties. While some try to champion this as a step forward and a government of consensus, the fact of the matter is that there is no political basis for this coalition at all. If this coalition does form government, it will by definition be totally incapable. There is no common, or even predominant position on any issue, and Nepal has many issues to overcome. Federalism, state restructuring, economic growth, the new Constitution, the monarchy, Hinduism and secularism, the peace process and the army integration issue. This government simply cannot function, as it is dependant on both far left and far right parties with contradtictory objectives and visions.

The one common point for this coalition is that they are not the Maoists. But this raises the question- how can they be a "democratic alliance" when it is created to intentionally exclude the party that won the elections. This is made even more ridiculous when their candidate for Prime Minister is Madhav Kumar Nepal who was beaten in the First past the post section of the Constituent Assembly elections not once but twice. Both times he was beaten by Maoists- who are now excluded from the government!

It should be clear that this opposition coalition is anything but democratic- without mentioning that they actively supported the unconstitutional moves of the president to protect a General who has been quoted as saying "enlightened despotism is preferable to chaotic democracy; the masses require protection from themselves." (General Katawal- October 2002). It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

But Nepal doesn't exist in a vacuum, and world events will inevitably affect the situation in Nepal s well. Some recent events from the south have given those in power a new found courage and confidence to push on to protect their place and privileges in Nepali society from that great unwashed horde that is the Maoist movement. Interference from the south is nothing new in Nepal, but this time I am not referring to India, but rather the recent events in Sri Lanka/Tamil Elam with the demise of the LTTE.

For three decades the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam waged a national liberation struggle in the North and East of that country, and at its height controlled vast parts of the country and ran in essence a parallel state. This has recently all come to an end however after a massive military campaign by the Sri Lankan government the LTTE has now been defeated. While most of the world is looking at this situation and seeing the horriffic bloodbath and humanitarian crisis that it has caused, the elite look to the destruction of the LTTE (and often the destruction of the Tamils) and see inspiration for their own political problems.

Now that the elite are trapped in a peace process and constituion writing process that they cant control- they are desperately looking for ways to get out of it, or alter it to tilt the balance of power back in their favour. Now that they are close to getting governmen they will first attempt to redefine the interim constitution and the peace process. This can be seen with the congress already calling for the Peoples Liberation Army to be reverified and its number reduced to 4,000. When they cant do this, they will move outside of the consituion (like with the Presidents move) and in light of the demise of the LTTE are now more confident that should they need too they can crush this "maoist problem".

Thus the Maoists are facing a steep task- with very real risks on the road ahead.

The first and for most objective of the Maoists at this point is too protect democracy, the peace process and the interim constitution. All of the political parties came to the agreements, and after winning the elections they have the right to lead the way in he creation of the New Nepal. To defend the Constitution and the peace process is to defend the revolution.

It is very important for the Maoists to resist provocation. The ruling elite have been trying to provoke the Maoists to withdraw from the peace process and the assembly. It is very important that they do not so so, firstly because the peace and the constitution writing process is very popular, and if they walked away from that, then the public would leave them in droves. Secondly after winning the elections they are inherently have the political legitimacy, and when it is the opposition that has to go outside of the constitution to achieve its shady ends, then public support floods to the revolutionary pole.

Defending the constituion and the process will be no easy feat. Within the parliament the Maoists have disrupted the assembly for two weeks in protest. However they are likely to end this disruption shortly to try and pass a binding resolution that the presidents actions were unconstitutional and must be revoked. On the street the protests have been getting larger and larger, the peak so far has been the May 17th rallies of 300,000 in Kathmandu. They will continue, and maybe even get bigger, until the civilian supremacy over the military and the supremacy of the Constitution is restored. There is even rumours of a banda (general strike).

At any rate- the same contradictions are still in play. The situation in its fundamentals is unchanged. But something that has changed in the last two weeks, is where public support lies, and that's with the Maoists. So far problems are not being resolved but in fact becoming more polarised. People are getting angrier at what has happened to their democracy and the peace process- and the final result of this is yet to be seen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Piece I wrote for JanaDisha

This is just something i wrote for the Daily Newspaper- JanaDisha. It was translated into Nepali- so i'm not sure how it read for them, but here it is.

Now im heading down into the eastern Terai/Madhesh . Ill be gone a few days- so there wont be anythign between now and then- but i should have a range more views and perspectives when i return.


As a foreigner, a journalist and especially as someone who is concerned about the people of Nepal I am deeply worried about the recent moves by the President Ram Baran Yadav and the political opposition to go against the government and stage what has to be seen as an anti-democratic coup.

It has shown to me, and i think the whole world, that even though the Nepali people have removed their king and fought so hard for democracy, the rich and powerful in Nepal have no interest in respecting the democratic will of the people. The Martyrs of Janandolan 1, Janandolan 2, the peoples war, and all the movements did not sacrifice their lives, so that the ceremonial President could over rule the executive government to save a General who threatens the very idea of democracy. It is an insult to every Nepali to see your political "leaders" in the UML and the Congress putting their own interests (and the interests of India) above the interests and the desire of the Nepali people they claim to represent.

I do not understand how these people can look themselves in the mirror. How can they justify their actions? This General Katawal has not only played a key role in suppressing the people in the past, not only has he supported anti-democratic coups by the ex-King Gyanendra, but now, then he is generously given the opportunity by the Nepali people to play a progressive role in the New Nepal, he refuses to follow the direction of the government, that legitimately has the support of a majority of people. How can the UML and the Congress defend their actions to defend this man. This man who has no respect for the people and democracy. how can they be the saviors of democracy- when they protect those who would strangle the Nepali Republic while it is still a baby in the crib?

But while in parliament I see bureaucrats and corrupt politicians acting for themselves, on the streets and in the eyes of the people the real democracy is still strong. The real democracy in Nepal was not created by the bureaucrat, and it was not dreamt in the minds of the powerful people in Delhi and Washington. The birth of Nepali democracy has been the reward for the hard work and sacrifice of all the people of Nepal. Democracy was born in every village, every town and every city. Democracy shines in the eyes of every average Nepali i have met- and now this shine is a fire- as the Nepali people are rightfully disgusted that their democratically elected government has been overthrown by the same elites who have run this country for all time. To add insult to injury, they do this in the name of "Democracy".

The one thing I have learnt the Nepali people more than anything is that Democracy is not in an assembly and democracy is not limited to just a vote. Democracy means that power must come from the people. Nepal has proven this- and the waves of real democracy- democracy from the streets has already smashed the monarchy and opened the door to a better- and a socialist- future for Nepal.

Many governments around the world will support the opposition. The great "democracies" on India and America has already played a key role in attacking the Revolution of the Nepali people. But while the "international community" may be against you- the worlds progressive people will always be on your side. Everywhere working people and oppressed people have been impressed by your struggle for democracy and national sovereignty. Your struggle gives an example to the whole world, that even in a small and impoverished country, you can fight for your rights- and you can win!

For me I see an interesting time ahead for the people in Nepal. There are both great ricks, and great opportunities. But the one thing is certain, that justice does not lay on the side of the President in his coup. Justice will never be on the side of those who sit in Delhi and Washington and try to interfere with the sovereignty of proud nations. Justice in Nepal will always be on the side of the people, and no matter what the so called "democrats" say or do. When the people of Nepal cry out against injustice and autocracy then their voices will always carry with it the power of democracy and revolution.

Another Analysis of the events and th situation.

For a swiss mob- bit of background again- esecially if you havent been following the situaion may be of use.

The recent political clashes in the tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal have been well publicized- even in the western press. How ever the events on the surface can be misleading, as there are political undercurrents and forces which are not as obvious to the casual observer, yet are the root cause of the current political "crisis".

The real issue at the center of the recent political events is the question of power and the creation of a new Nepali state.

Up until in one way or another 2006 Nepal had been ruled by a autocratic monarchy. A mass movement in 1990 known as the Jana Andolan had won limited democratic reforms- but in essence the King still retained much of his power. This finally came crashing down when in 2006 when the pressures of a rural "Peoples War" launched by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in 1996 combined with urban discontent led mostly by the "Seven Party Alliance", which was made up of the Parliamentary parties of the political mainstream.

These fores combined to launch the "Jana Andolan II" - the second peoples movement. This 19 day movement which paralyzed the nation brought a final end to the monarchy. The slate was wiped clean, the old was destroyed, and the "Jana Andolan II" was supposed to be the point where a new and - finally - a democratic Nepal was ushered into reality.

But the process of creating the new is proving to be much more difficult then destroying the old. While this process initially moved swiftly, it has now stalled, and is now deeply divided in the road forward.

Early agreements were reached. It was agreed that a Constituent Assembly would be elected- and for the first time in Nepal the sovereignty of the people would be absolute. The civil war in the countryside was brought to an end. The Maoist combatants moved into
UN monitored camps and it was agreed that they would be rehabilitated and integrated into the (new and no longer Royal) National Army. But while these agreements were reached, and allot of preliminary progress has been made, nothing concrete has happened yet. It was exactly when decisions of real importance were to be made- that the problems started to occur.

In 2008 the elections were finally held to the Constituent Assembly and it after the results of these elections the culture of consensus that had existed prior came crashing to an end. The Movement that had been cobbled together against the king but now that the king was gone, so was the "common enemy". The movement for a New Nepal fostered very different and mutually exclusive visions for what the New Nepal should look like.

The forces led by the Maoists are calling for a radically different Nepal. The Maoists are pushing for drastic institutional change and wish to set up the New Nepal on the basis of federalism, to give rights to various ethnic minorities, as well as special rights for women and people of low caste, as well as a Constitution that as well as political rights, enshrines the economic and cultural rights of the people. This would require a drastic reshuffle of the Nepali state and society- which is particularly dangerous to those political parties and people currently in positions of power within the status quo particular the two "major parties", the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (UML). These political parties in context of the post 1990 limited democracy, fused themselves into Nepal's extensive bureaucracies and power structures- neglecting the vast majority of Nepal's rural poor.

In theory any disagreements about Nepal's future should have been decided by the people of Nepal in the constituent assembly elections, held in April last year. In these elections the Maoists received a broad mandate for their agenda and the two "mainstream parties" the NC and UML were deserted by voters. While the Maoists did not win an absolute majority of the assembly, they won a million votes more than their nearest competitor, and make up 40% of the Assembly. Further, the Maoists, when couple with ethnic parties that split from them and other smaller leftist parties make up more than 60% of the assembly. The vote was decisive and the people endorsed a broad and radical vision for their future.

This vision has been impeded at every step by the bureaucracy, military, media, local elite and international power centers. The Maoist government was toothless and all of its decisions have been scuttled, including the budget which remains largely unimplemented due to the other parties and the uncooperative bureaucracy. This came to a head over the issues around the Chief of Army Staff. The CoAS General Katawal repeatedly disobeyed the directives of the Defence Ministry, placing himself and the military outside of civilian control. Especially seeing as Nepal has a history of military coups, the government then made the moves within the Constitution to sack him. After doing so, the ceremonial President Ram Baran Yadav of the right wing Congress party went outside of his constitutional role to reinstate him. This caused the Maoists to resign from government, as it was abundantly clear to everyone that while they had government, the power remained in the hands of the opposition.

Probably the decisive role in this decision however was not played by any forces within Nepal. Foreign ambassadors played a central role in pressurizing politicians and the Maoist government against taking action against Katawal. In particular the Indian embassy feels threatened by radical change due to its security and economic interests in Nepal. They blatantly backed the opposition and limited the government course of action with the threat of economic sanctions.

These moves by the opposition have created large amounts of public discontent. It has made perfectly clear to the Nepali people the difference between the Elected Government and the state power- and now they are demanding that the anti-democratic actions of the president be repealed. This has also created a dilemma for those within the elite within the NC and the UML. The agreements that they signed before the election, are now at the advantage of the Maoists- and while they have temporarily been able to protect their bureaucratic/military support- they have paid the price in their political legitimacy. Further to continue to protect their power bases they will have to continue to move outside of the Constitution and agreements, which is then complicated again by the existence of the Peoples Liberation Army- which drastically limits the chances of a traditional military coup.

At any rate the current political situation is one of uncertainty. The opposition has shown the entire nation that they will not relinquish power even to a democratically elected government. This has sparked protests across the country- with more to come- demanding the Maoists be returned to government. The Maoists have publicly stated that they will not enter another government that is impotent. The process can only progress with the Maoists involved, but the Maoists will only be involved if executive power is rightfully placed in the civilian government, a demand the opposition will not give into without a fight. Rather than resolving- the recent actions have just exacerbated the contradictions and power struggles within Nepal, and the winners and losers will be seen

Friday, May 8, 2009

Video: Nepal's Coup

I recently teamed up with Austrian radical anarco-maoist-trotskyist Dave who put together a video of some of the recent event- with a bit of a commentary by yours truly.

I have tried to embed here- but if it doesn't work the link is this:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pictures from the last few Days.

The last week in Nepal has been one of intensifying social struggles. Here is a some pictures that Lal Salam Blog has been able to get from Kathmandu.

A pro-government Rally before as the "crisis" began. They were calling for the removal of the Chief of Army Staff Katawal. The Maoist led government removed Katwal after his repeated refusal to recognize the supremacy of the civilian government and his disobedience of the orders of the defence ministry.

When Katawal was removed, despite it being well within the governments power in the constitution, and being necessary for the protection of democracy, the opposition Nepali Congress called on its student supporters to protest, and the in small groups took to the streets to burn tires and cause disruption.

Above is Congress supporters burning tires near the Janadisha (the Maoists daily paper) offices. There was a nervous couple of hours at Janadisha at one point as their phones died, and there were rumours of an imminent military coup, however it turned out (thankfully) to just be a legitimate fault in the phone network.

More congress supporters burning tires. Note the difference between the Congress rally above, and the Maoists rally below.

Despite the obvious public support for the sacking of Katawal, the president went outside his constitutional role to reinstate him- rendering the Maoist government ceremonial. This was essentially a "soft coup" against the democratic government in Nepal, engineered largely outside of the country by the USA and India.

Above Minister of Information and Communications Mahara makes the last announcement of the Maoist led government- declaring that it is the decision of the rightful government of Nepal that the actions of the President is nothing short of illegal.

Below Prime Minister Prachanda announces his resignation due to the inability of the government to implement any of its promises due to the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of the opposition and international forces.

Below a rally protesting against the Coup proceeding through the tourist area. For the tourists looking to get to Nepal for the peace, serenity and "shangri-la" it put their world upside down.

The front page of "Jana Disha" the Maoists daily paper. It shows the President on the shoulders of the Indian Prime Minster and wearing the crown of the (now defunct) monarchy. Behind him are the leaders of the opposition all carrying the Indian flag.

As close as any of the royals got to being a maoist....

Speaks for itself.

Below: the protests are not all on the street- this is a program organised by civil society and hundred packed the auditorium. The support for the Maoists actions is even bigger then just the Maobadi- members of the UML and the head of the Nepali Bar Association spoke at this program.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Coup in Nepal.

The last 48 hours in Nepal has seen a flurry of activity and has created the illusion of a political situation has been rapidly changing. While there has been a series of developments withing the parliament and within the government, and the alliances and support of different political parties has been removed and realigned- the essence of the political situation remains unchanged. The real political situation has remained stagnant for some months now. The actual reality of the political situation is that there is a new revolutionary force with an overwhelming support amongst the people of Nepal is pushing to radically change the institutions of the Nation and to create a more developed and just society. Opposed to these changes are an elite minority within the established power structures that resisting this struggle by any means necessary. This was made abundantly clear on May 3rd when the ceremonial President went outside his constitutional role to defy the democratically elected government. In essence this was a coup. The rightful political power of the government was usurped by an unlawful and outside force. In response to this blatant illegal move, the revolutionary Prime Minister Prachanda, and the Maoist government chose to resign- rather then remain in a position where in reality they had no political power, despite a clear mandate from the people of Nepal and clear constitutional and political legitimacy.

The mainstream press will tell you that the current political crisis started 2 weeks ago when the revolutionary Maoist government asked for "clarification" from the Chief of Army Staff- the constitutional first step in removing him from his post. Instead of trying to provide a clarification and justification for his actions and disobedience of the government the CoAS Katawal questioned the right of the government to seek his clarification. For the next two weeks the Maoists tried frantically to gain support from the other political parties to take action against the CoAS for his repeated insubordination, but when this was not possible, they took actions themselves to remove General Katawal from his post- sparking protests from the opposition, and parties to resign from government, sparking the current political crisis. This does not tell the full story. The fact is that the Army had been disobeying the government for months. The budget was still largely unimplemented due to political resistance. Every move of the government was resisted and every decision was made impotent. The crisis is not one revolving around the question of the army, but a crisis due to the gap between the democratic government and the power they should legitimately hold.

The last few days has made perfectly clear to anyone watching Nepal the real balance of forces within the country. The elected government is in no position of power, even on a question as elementary to any democracy such as civilian control over the military. The real power brokers are 1) those in a position of power within the country. The bureaucrats, the military, the rich, ex-royals and the feudal land lords- largely grouped behind the political leadership of the Nepali Congress and 2) those international forces that wish to preserve the status quo in Nepal as it serves their interests, namely India and the United States of America. The established political parties are all firmly integrated into this system as well which the current political crisis clearly proves. The CPN(UML) while initially giving its approval to the government, backed down and joined the opposition under the pressure of these international forces.

This basic situation within Nepal is unchanged still today. Even though the Maoists have withdrawn from government, the basic and fundamental political situation in the country is that the great majority of Nepalis desperately want real and radical change, and the current political institutions are neither willing nor capable of fulfilling these demands. The form of this struggle has now changed, in light of the coup by the Nepali Congress President. The struggle now is outside of the government, and will be led by the struggle on the streets, and the struggle for the people in Nepal is for a meaningful government that is capable of bring about the changes that they demand.

These demands fly in direct contradiction to anyone in a position of power. The entire economic and political set up of Nepal is geared towards ensuring the dominance of international power centers and the local powers that do their bidding. Creating a Nepal that is truly democratic, and that will create real economic development within Nepal (and geared towards the whole people of Nepal- not just an elite) needs to go against this power structure. This struggle continues to be played out. The struggle now for the Maoists not just for government, but for meaningful power that can really start to build the New Nepal- and fulfill the modest dreams of the Nepali people- democracy, development, equality and justice.

Monday, May 4, 2009

UPDATE- May 4 - 4:00PM

The Maoist led government is not more.

I have just come from a press conference at the Prime Ministers office where Prime Minister Prachanda was to address the nation.

The Meeting was first addressed by Minister of Communications and Information, and spokesperson of the Government, Krishna Mahara. He informed those present that the just completed cabinet meeting has declared that the actions of the President in reinstating the Chief of Army Staff was illegal, and sent him a letter demanding he revoke his decision. He also informed that the cabinet meeting has also accepted the resignations that had been presented by the ministers from the UML and the Sabdhavana party.

After this Prachanda addressed the Nation. He announced that he has resigned from his position as Prime Minister. This has naturally completely changed the political situation in Nepal. It seems, my early analysis would be, that this is to open it up to the opposition to try and create a government without the Maoists, which would be extremely difficult and have no political basis- apart from being "anti-Maoists".

It is hard to tell at present the exact course of events, however, when i have more information i will pass it on. There again has been protests from both sides all day, which without doubt would have had some clashes.

Still a situation of tremendous uncertainty. things are changing by the moment, sorry for short post...

UPDATE: May 4 9:30 AM

Kathmandu this morning- at least for now is still in an uneasy calm.

The breaking News is that late last night the President (of the Nepali Congress Party) went way outside his role as stipulated in the interim Constitution and contacted the ex-General Katawal and requested that he continue at his post. The implications of this are unclear- weather the legitimate CoAS Khadka has stepped aside or, the much more probable scenario, there are now two people claiming to be the legitimate head of the Armed Forces. It seems that there is now a dual power, with the Prime Minister being challenged (unconstitutionally) by the president.

This will just further disrupt the situation and lead to further instability. The Major political parties of the UML and the MJF are still divided, and are likely to remain. However the UML has definitely left government, although with real reservations from certain key leaders. Yesterday there were clashes between Maoists and Congress Cadres, and occasionally the Congress and the police, and it is likely that the same will occur again. Today is likely to be another hectic and fast paced day- will give more details as i have them.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ongoing Events: May 3rd 6:00PM

While an uneasy haze surrounds Kathmandu, things for the moment have returned to a relative normality.

Things are a little clearer now, but still things are changing at present, and especially without access to the Nepali Language news it is hard to tell exactly what is going on.

To recap this morning after a final last ditch attempt at consensus- the Maoists removed the Chief of Army Staff General Katawal from his post. This has brought into the open divisions with in the government, within the Military and within many political parties.

The Madheshi Peoples Rights Forum (MJF) passed a note of decent against the procedure that the Maoists used to sack Katawal. They are deeply divided about the action, and split vertically, with key leaders on both sides of the debate. The CPN(UML) boycotted the cabinet meeting after the motion to sack Katawal passed. It seems that they have left the government, but they too are split vertically, with key leaders being very vocal on both sides of the issue. It is yet to be seen for certain what stance these parties will take in the coming days, they have both had emergency meetings this afternoon. It does appear however the at least factions of the UML are teaming up with the Nepali Congress to try and create a new Government.

Naturally the Nepali Congress lead the opposition to the Maoists. They have been trying to disrupt the capital and create protests all afternoon with little success. Further, the nations ceremonial President is a member of the Nepali Congress and has increasingly been trying to overstep his role. The interim Constitution clearly states that the President takes his directives from the executive- however President Ram Baran Yadav is now choosing to "consult other stake holders" before endorsing any decision on the matter.

At present the risk of a Military Coup appears small (although not insignificant). The now acting Chief of Staff General Khadka appears to have consolidated control within the military. That being said EX-General Katawal was attempting to meet with his supporters in the military, and i have not seen the outcome of this meeting yet.

It will however all come down to the streets. So far the NC are the only ones who have tried to call people to the streets against the decision. All after noon NC members created fires and disrupted traffic. These were counted however by the Maoists- led by the YCL, who have organised rallies across Kathmandu, and then dispersed opposition groups and removed traffic hazards, put out fires ect. Within less than 12 hours of the decision, a Maoist rally of More than 10,000 has been held in central Kathmandu, with smaller rallies elsewhere.

These events are of course unlikely to be over today, and it also needs to be stressed that we are yet to see a response from the "international community". It is still essential that International watchers be on guard for the possible necessity of Solidarity actions.

More as i know it.

Events Unfolding As We Speak: 3rd May 3:00PM

This morning the Maoists in government made the decision to remove Gen. Katawal from his position of Chief of Army Staff after his repeated political based insubordination. This was done after 10 days of trying to reach consensus with the other political parties, up until a final cross party meeting this morning. This consensus was not possible to come too, and due to this the Maoists have made this decision on their own.

As a result of this, reactionary and anti-democractic forces are trying to unseat the overwhelmingly elected government. The major coalitio parteners in government, the Madheshi Peoples Right Forum and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninst) have reportedly left government, and supporters of the major opposition party the Nepali Congress has small groups of supporters in the streets, disrupting traffic and burning tires. Also and alarmingly, the Chief of Army Staff has not accepted his removal, and is attempting to meet with other members of the millitary.

It is becoming clear that the political opposition, including parties previously within the government, are trying to find ways to destroy the Maoist government and to remove them from any form of power. This situaion is chaning by the minute, but it is clear that very important and decisive struggles are playing out as we speak.

At the same time, there are rallies in various places by the supports of the government to support the government and the Maoist party in its decision. The support for this decision and the government as a whole is widespread and while life is generally un affected away from the major roads, a increasingly tense situation is comming about in Kathmandu. In likelyhood across the country as well. Supporters of Nepal and its revolution SHOULD BE ALERT AND AWARE TO THE SITUATION AS IT DEVELOPS. MORE DETAILS FROM KATHMANDU WILL BE PROVIDED WHEN AVAILABLE. The role of international forces is yet to be seen, and i am yet to see or hear any response from India or the USA. However, both of these powers have made serious threats (unofficially) to the Maoist government. INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTS AND SUPPORTING GROUPS SHOULD BE READY FOR SOLIDARITY ACTIONS< IF THE SITUATION WAS TO DEVELOP.

More as it becomes available to me.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dr Babburam Bhattarrai's May Day Speech

Firstly, from myself and the people of Nepal, happy International Workers Day 2009!

For those interested- below is the key speech given by Dr Baburam Bhattarai at the Maoists major rally in central Kathmandu.

IMPORTANT: This is not an official translation- rather a paraphrase. It was translated to me by a fellow spectator, and i have reconstructed it from those notes. This should be useful to get the essence of the speech, but may be incorrect in emphasis and in content, and should not be quoted as fact. For these reasons responsibility for this should remain with Lal Salam Blog and not be totally associated with Dr Baburam Bhattarai or the United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist)

Hello and Happy May Day to all! Today May 1st is a day of huge historical significance. For 120 years the international working class has celebrated May Day as the international workers day. For over a hundred years now workers have been fighting, for their liberation through the only means that this is possible- through revolution. For 120 years now International Workers Day has been commemorated, originally to remember the Haymarket Martyrs, who bravely sacrificed their lives in Chicago while fighting for their rights and the rights of all the worlds working people. Today's rally is a real tribute to these hero's.

And In Nepal we have our own history of labour struggles and sacrifices. We should remember the workers who took the first ever industrial action in Nepal in 1949 against the autocratic regime of the Rana's. More recently there have been many martyrs in the Labour movement, particularly during the time of the 10years people's war and our struggle against the Monarchy in Nepal. Today we pay tribute to those people who have made sacrifices for the peoples cause.

So today in Nepal the United Communist Party of Nepal wants to establish a New Nepal under the rule of the proletariat. In the new Constitution we will make sure that the rights of labourers are guaranteed. To do this we recognise that the Revolution is not over, but simply its form has changed. We are not in the peoples war anymore, but we are still in revolution, and we will continue the revolution until the rights of the working proletariat are recognised and guaranteed! This New Nepali Republic should be a Republic for the People, and not for the counterrevolutionaries and feudalists and our party is as determined as ever to continue to fight for all of the peasants and workers.

As a minister i have to admit that we have not been able to solve all of the problems we have faced yet. I confess this, we don't have total power. Things like an unemployment allowance are things that we have planned, but not been able to achieve. Many people here work, but work in terrible conditions. There are people who work in clothes factories, but they themselves have only rags to wear. To fight this we need to continue to struggle, and the United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist) will continue this struggle from the government, from the assembly and from the street!

I would like to announce i will be trying to raise the minimum wage to 10,000 rupees* due to the recent price rises. When prices rise it is important to rise the minimum wage accordingly. Those who work should not starve and the current price wages are causing this.

It may be difficult for me to do this however because of our coalition partners. The other parties in government are constantly causing trouble for the government, and are always trying to pull our legs out from underneath us. For example our revenue collection has been very high, and the government has been able to collect a vast amount of money, but we have not been able to mobilise this money for the good of the people. We have been unable to mobilise these funds because of the absence of local governments. The budget is very ambitious but due to the opposition parties we have not been able to use the structures excising or create new structures for implementing the budget.

But we will overcome these problems, and find ways around them. As most of you know we have launched the youth employment scheme to create employment and growth within Nepal. Loans of up to 200,000 rupees will be given to 100,000 youths to help them create enterprises at their local level and to stimulate development across Nepal and to battle against unemployment in our country. On top of this in the Next year we will create jobs and employment opportunities for a million Nepalis. This is essential for us to begin to end our dependence on foreign nations and to stop the trend of Nepalis being forced to look overseas to find employment.

This is complicated because feudalism has not been completely eliminated in Nepal. To improve out economic position we need to focus on industrial development. We are doing our best to foster Public Private Partnerships to develop Nepal. We will work to end the need to protest in industries, and try to foster a working relationship between industrialists and the workforce. They are not our enemies right now, our enemies are the feudalists, the expansionists and the imperialists. We want the support from industrialists.

At present the government is encircled by the parliamentary parties, by feudal forces and royalists. There is a polarisation between the progressive republicans and the supposed "democrats". Despite this we will be successful. This government has a huge mandate from the people, and everybody, the Bureaucracy and the military MUST be made to follow the government. If a soldier can be punished for not obeying his superior, why not a general? We will sack Katawal, we will not go back on this decision. We Will transform the army, and involve it in development projects.

But we must be aware of possible threats. We must be aware of the threat of social-democrats who want to politicise the army. Disciplinary action must be taken against Katawal. The military must be under civilian control. It is essential for democracy. Look at Pakistan and Bangladesh, where there have been many military coups because the army is not under the control of the civilian government. Why does the Nepali Congress refuse to learn from history and protect the army?

It is not our agenda to capture state power and put it under the control of our party. Democracy means the civilian control of the state, and the army especially. This is what we are trying to do, institutionalise a Democratic New Nepali state.

If the Nepali Congress refuses to support the government in these important decisions, then it is they who will lose. They will lose all support of the people, they will leave them in droves, and in the next election., they will be decimated.

The UML needs to take a stand. The UML is refusing to be for or against anything. It is like trying to be a third sex. It is useless. And because of this indecision the processes have been delayed. The UML is suffering from a profound identity crisis. They are trying to be a third option, when the only options to the people of Nepal are revolution or reaction. There needs to be leftist unity so we can break the deadlocks and achieve progress in Nepal. If the UML chooses not to do this then they too will be swept into oblivion by the progressive waves of the Maoist movement.

Some parties have been pressuring the President to intervene at the present time. But how can he, the President is only ceremonial. If he tries to overstep his constitutional responsibilities and support the army then it will be a suicidal decision for him. If he goes outside his role, then he will suffer the same fate as the king. I respect him and do not think this will happen, he will respect the Constitution, and therefore remain ceremonial.

We have come to the point where every decision made about Nepal in the past has been decided elsewhere, whether it be London, Washington or Delhi. We will not accept this anymore. We will not accept any interference any longer. We want to foster a mutual relationship with international powers, to respect Nepal's sovereignty. Foreign powers should be careful not to interfere with a sovereign Nepal, because if you interfere it will start a great revolution amongst the people.

We, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have chosen the peaceful and progressive path for social and economic change and we will end ALL forms of discrimination, whether it be based on gender, caste, religion, national minorities or region. no one should question our commitment to peace and to the process of making these changes. There were rumours that today we would use the mass of people to try and take power by force. This is false. We will win the popular support, but we will not force change on Nepal. We will bring about change by completing the peace process and writing the new constituion.

If there are obsticles put in our way on this peaceful path, then it would leave us no choice but to then persue the path of revolution. Army integration will happen and the new Constitution will be written no matter what. We will have peace, federalism and development. We will make Nepal properous. The United Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist) is committed to this cause.

We want a broad consensus on the current issues that face the government to solve the existing problems, but if all paths are blocked then we will turn to the street! We do not want to be in government for the sake of being in Government, we don't have a love for the chair. If people want and if it is necessary then we are prepared to make any sacrifice for the people, we will leave the government and fight alongside the people. So I want to put our government at stake, we will either sack Katawal, or we will leave government. If we cannot establish civilian supremacy then we cannot remain in government.

The United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist) will always be with the people. We will never forget you or betray your sacrifices. We will never betray your dreams!

*I am not sure over what time period the 10,000 rupee minimum wage is- 10,000 rupees translates to about 120$USD.