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.


Stuart Munckton said...

I was struck by different the outcome in Nepal has been to similar battles in different Latin American countries in recent times. There, the right haven't won a victory of this sort. I don;t want to exaggerate the victory for the right or defeat for the Maoists - it is still playing out and in some ways this reveals the real institutional relationship of forces. Whether the social force of the poor, mobilised by the Maoists, can impose themselves more decisively we will see in coming days I guess.

But, as it stands, it is still obviously a defeat.

Obviously there are many differences in the situation and relationship of forces with LA, but the big one seems to me to be international. The regional relationship of forces in Latin America are much less favourable for imperialism, there is a hetergenous bloc pushing for greater degree of independence, there are the powerful movements taking government in several countries.

There is nothing like this in South Asia. To get some sort of similar situation, you would have to imagine the FMLN winning government in El Salvador *without* the Chavez government in Venezuela, much less all the other factors favrouable for a left-shift even in a country as small, impoverished and utterly devestated coutnry as El Salvador.

Like Nepal, a large percentage of the working class actually lives outside the country and the economy depends on remittances.

Possibly the biggest problem facing the Maoists in Nepal is their international isolation. This was a major factor, that they seemed very concerned about, when they were in government and no doubt contributed to the unfavourable relationship of forces that compelled them to leave it.

As a very underdeveloped and poor country, this is a major factor. The Maoists in government were surrounded - surrounded within the Nepalese state but also internationally. Neighbouring India has enormous power in relation to Nepal - without trade occuring acorss that border, the Nepalese economy is screwed. They depend on petrol from across that border.

And India appeared to throw its not insignificant weight on the opponents of the Maoists. The king and leaders of other parties like Congress and the CPN-UML all visited India under various pretexts.

There is no counter-balance to India's position in relation to Nepal. The Maoists were alone in the region. This doesn't make their situation hopeless, just much more difficult. Far from hopeless, their struggle is a crucial part of the struggle to alter the relationship of forces.The difficulty of their situation makes the gains won all the more impressive.

I raise this as more evidence of the signficant of the gains and shifts that have occurred across Latin America over the last few years — gains that should be viewed first within an anti-imperialist axis.

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