by Derek Rosin
This November 1st, Nepal’s Maoist revolutionaries initiated a new mass movement aimed at bringing down the current government in Nepal. This potentially history-making movement is unfolding as we go to press.
The Maoists of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) began their rise to power and influence in 1996 by initiating a decade-long armed rebellion they called the “People’s War”. Starting off small, the Maoist movement was able to strengthen and grow by relying on and leading mostly-poor Nepali peasants to fight and overthrow the forces of government in the countryside, then represented by an absolute monarchy. In their place, they began constructing a new society by taking steps to end gender and caste oppression, introducing forms of popular democratic government, and providing for people’s basics needs like health care and education.
In November 2006, the UCPN(M) decided to end one phase of the revolution by signing a peace treaty with the country’s mainstream political parties – who for their own particular reasons could no longer tolerate the monarchist system.
As part of this agreement, an election was held for a Constituent Assembly to decide on the new structure of Nepalese government and society. In the April 2008 vote, Maoists emerged as the biggest and most influential party. This shocked nearly everyone except the Maoists themselves, who knew the huge support they had been building throughout Nepal. In May 2008, the monarchy was abolished. Shortly after that, Prachanda, leader of the UCPN(M), was elected Prime Minister.
The Maoists’ tactics of jumping from the armed to the unarmed movement, then from working in the government to building massive street movements may seem confusing at first, but it is consistent with their overall strategic approach. Since the inception of their movement, Maoist tactical considerations have been girded to two key stated beliefs: First, that the success of the social revolution they want to carry out will ultimately rest on the use of armed force; and second, that their revolution must, if it to be truly liberating, be carried out by the Nepalese people themselves.
As senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai has said, “To break with the old mode of production and leap into a new one, you have to break all the relations within the state backed by the army.”
In May of this year Prachanda, before he stepped down as Prime Minister, tried to fire the head of the Nepalese Army, General Katawal, for refusing to consider the integration of the state’s armed forces with the Maoist-led People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Katawal refused to step down, and was supported by Nepal’s two biggest mainstream political parties.
Subsequently, Prachanda immediately resigned as Prime Minister, explaining to the Nepalese people that the Army was illegally refusing a government directive and that the mainstream parties were colluding to prop up this anti-democratic move. Now the Maoists could show clearly to people the limitations and obstacles of trying to make change purely through electoral and government channels. They proved that a fresh round of struggle was needed to advance the new democratic movement.
Fast forward a few months to today, and the Maoists are leading huge numbers of Nepalese in the streets of the capital Kathmandu to demand that “civilian supremacy” (democratic people’s control) over the Army be implemented.
Leading members of the Unified Communist Party Maoist march with the people during the torch rally of November 1, the first of a series of mass actions planned for the next two weeks. The Maoists are rallying the people to bring down the current government of Nepal.
The situation is tense, and for good reason. Having balked at civilian supremacy in May, the mainstream parties look unwilling to budge, and have hinted at mobilizing army units to repress the new uprising. The Maoists, who have never disarmed their armed-wing, the People’s Liberation Army, are now mobilizing people in the urban and rural areas, readying themselves for a final insurrection that they have long-maintained would be an inevitable component of their revolution.
Should this movement succeed, it would be just the beginning of a long road of transformation. The Nepalese revolutionaries have acknowledged that they are a small, undeveloped, and isolated country, and it will be very difficult to sustain their revolution surrounded by powerful enemies.
On the other hand, the very existence of the Nepalese movement is proving that it is possible to make revolution in the 21st century. Further advances in Nepal could have an electrifying effect on people and movements opposed to the current world set-up – those who want to break out of the established order but are unable to articulate how. In other words, after a long absence, the idea of “communism” may once again find its way into the thoughts of the oppressed.
To learn more about the situation in Nepal, visit the website of Lal Salaam! Canada Nepal Solidarity Group.