Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Basics of the Nepalese Revolution (part 2)

The Opposition and Their Politics

The last issue I discussed the Maoist party and its leaders in brief. Since this article will be about the opposition and those parties it is important to mention the the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won elections in the Constituent Assembly (in charge of writing a constitution) winning 29.28% of the popular vote and thus 229 seats in the assembly coming one seat shy of having double the seats as the next party.

Nepali Congress

While the name may not suggest it, the Nepali Congress (NC) is a political party and not the congress of Nepal. They describe themselves as Democratic Socialist and they uphold liberalism. They believe in a mix between neo-liberalism and a welfare state. They are in opposition to the Maoist in the UCPN and see market socialism as a good thing and support outright liberalism. The party is guilty of supporting the monarchy in the past. They stopped support opportunistically only when the king declared direct rule but were supporters of his constitutional monarchy until this point. Even then the party remained "open on the issue" of constitutional monarchy after direct rule was implemented(1). In the 2008 election the Nepali Congress won 21.14% of the votes and got 115 seats on the Constituent Assembly making it the second largest party in the assembly. The NC is a member of the Socialist International.

Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist)

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) (CPN-UML) Describes itself as "firmly committed to nationalism, democracy, equality and justice and to enhance progress and prosperity of the people." They came up with an idea that has been coined "Peoples Multi-Party Democracy" which the party itself describes as "a creative application of Marxism and Leninism in the Nepalese condition"(2).
In February of 2011 with the support of the Maoist, the CPN-UML won the seat of prime minister of the assembly With 368 out of 601 votes approving the prime minister(3). This was seen as a compromise from the Maoist to show they were willing to share power but at the same time were committed to building socialism above being in charge of the nation. The party is the third largest holder of seats in the Constituent Assembly. Having won 20.33% of the vote the CPN-UML was awarded 108 seats in the assembly.

Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum

The forth largest party in the Constituent Assembly will also be the last party we discuss as no other party got more than five percent of the vote nor holds more than twenty five seats after the Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum (MJF). (The parties web site is currently down and has been for at least two weeks so unfortunately all this information comes from their Wikipedia page.) The MJF is a party that is dedicated to creating a federalist state in Nepal with autonomy for the Madhesh (Terai as it is more popularly known) region. The party has declared Social Democracy as its guiding principle. The MJF won 6.32% of the popular vote and earned 54 seats on the Constituent Assembly.


From the information provided here, we see that even the non-communist parties of Nepal uphold social-democracy and left of SD ideologies. The largest conservative party (also label themselves as monarchist and nationalist) the Rastriya Prajatantra Party only won 2.45% of the popular vote and holds 8 seats. Second largest conservative party? The Sadbhavana Party (also conservative monarchist but Hinduism instead of nationalism) won 1.56% of the vote. So I think it is a fair conclusion to announce that by far the people of Nepal are very progressive and the masses voted over overwhelmingly for at least some form of socialism to be built in Nepal.

It goes without saying that the revolution in Nepal is worth supporting, with all of its faults and its successes. In Nepal we are seeing something new. Multiple communist and left-wing parties competing in a democratic battlefield for the support of the masses. But what can we on the outside realistically do? Who do we support? That is easy, we should support any of the parties who are dedicated to advancing socialism! We should support Nepali independence from Chinese and Indian intervention and we should support them against Indian expansionism and imperialism. It is not important that we support one single party but that we support self-determination for the Nepalese people.

*For more information on all the parties visit the Wikipedia page "Napalese Constituent Assembly election, 2008" as a starting point to learn more about the election numbers and the different parties involved. It is interesting to see just how many communist/socialist parties won seats.

All claims supported:(1) "Nepali Congress An Introduction". n.d. Web. Jan/22/2012.

(2) "Ideology and Peoples Movement." n.d. Web. Jan 31 2012.

(3) Walter Smolarek. "New Coalition of Forces Emerges in Nepal's Revolution" Liberation news. Feb/10/2011. Web. Jan/31/2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Basics of the Nepalese Revolution.

This is something I wrote for The Proletarian Sun newsletter which can be found here.

The Basics of the Nepalese Revolution (part one)

The Toppling of a King
The people of Nepal were under the rule of a Monarchy/feudal system until a civil war that lasted from February 13 1996 til November 21st 2006 and was led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal liberated the masses of Nepal from the old systems. The Maoist declared a three month cease fire in September 2005 to try and sway other political parties towards the overthrow of the government by showing that reformism was a dead end in Nepal. The King initially allowed elections but in 2005 but he sacked the government and decided to have direct rule over the country on his own. This brought on the wrath of all opposition forces. In early April 2006 the Maoist organized a general strike and promised to keep it a peaceful one. The next day on the 7th of April there is a huge clash between the police and the protesters on strike. Hundreds are arrested by the loyalist forces and a couple handful of people are injured. The day after the clashes the by now afraid king who has "direct rule" powers declares a curfew on Kathmandu and he gives the order that all people violating the curfew to be "shot on sight" (1). On April the ninth it is reported that three are dead, the curfew was popularly opposed as thousands defied the curfew and filled into the streets to demand more democracy (2). The king was forced to allow a new government to form and his throne was demoted to a mere ceremonial position until it was completely abolished by the government on May 28th 2008 and the now former king was given 15 days to vacate the palace.

The Names to Know in the UCPN
There are generally three names that ones needs to know in order to understand the UCPN and the different lines that are struggling with in the party at this current time. When reading about Nepal's UCPN leaders it can get confusing because two of these three leaders have nicknames of sorts and hopefully by the end of this section the reader will be able to tell the difference.

The Chairman of the UCPN is (most popularly known as) "Prachanda" (his nickname). His real name is Puspa Kamal Dahal. He used to be considered the middle line or the more moderate political line in the UCPN. More recently and more increasingly he has been seen as the conservative/right wing line in the party. He has been accused by the left-wing of the party of betraying the guerrillas and people's army (who fought for the liberation of Nepal) when he turned over the keys to the weapons cache's in the UN camps built to house the Maoist rebels. He did this without approval of the UCPN and has been accused of ignoring democratic process within the party. He has also been accused of compromising too much with the opposition and enemies of the UCPN. Giving too many concessions with out getting any demands in return. The left opposition within the party recently released a document critiquing the Chairman and his line and should and can be read here. This was not always the case as Puspa Kamal Dahal was once seen as the middle road and the hero of the Nepalese revolution. The chairman comes from a landlord peasant family which is the most oppressive position one can hold in a peasant society*. But there is no reason to believe that Pachanda carries this way with him in his politics.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is seen as more of the right wing line in the party and is the vice chairman of the UCPN. His relationship with the chairman has been through a lot of ups and downs but recently he has been siding with the chairman against the left wings call to continue the people's war to install a peoples government with a pro-peoples constitution. He has been accused by the left wing of misusing funds and using party money for personal gains and favors. Dr. Bhattarai was born to a lower middle class peasant family, meaning that most likely his family owned little land and little farming equipment but not enough possessions to feed their family all year and probably had to sell some of their labor*. Most middle peasants still live very hard lives and should not be compared to what we in the states call "middle class" workers. (I will refrain from writing too much about Dr. Bhattarai as I out right oppose his line and do not want to compromise the integrity of keeping this article un-biased). He is also the current prime minister of Nepal.

Mohan Baidya is the leader of the left-wing radical line and huge supporter of re-starting the people's war if the opposition parties refuse to sign a pro peoples constitution. His nickname is "Kiran", he is also vice chairman of the UCPN. Baidya saw a rise in support among the masses after he raised alarm to money issues and abuses in the party (3). He has even called for demonstrations against the chairman's decision to hand over the keys of the weapons cache in the peoples army cantonments. Baidya has even threatened to split the party if the UCPN continues down the path of revisionism, reformism and consession without demands being met. He has stated that he believes that the party on its current path is betraying the people of Nepal and he aims to put it back on the right path to revolution and serving the people. (I will also refrain from writing too much on Baidya because I support his line in the UCPN outright.)

Next month we will discuss the opposition leaders and the general politics of all the major parties.

Written by; Dustin Slagle

* these examples are taken from the class analogy of peasants given by Jen Pi-Shih in the book "several problems regarding land reform" written in 1948. translated and explained by William Hinton in his book "Fanshen" in the re-published version (2008) paperback page 27

(1) Gurubacharya, Binaj. "anti-monarchy rallies spread in Nepal". Boston Globe April 8th 2006. print

(2) "Violent Clashes Amid Nepal Curfew". BBCNEWS. BBC, Web. April 10 2006.

(3) B, Basnet, Kiran Pun. "Money issues boost Mohan Baidya faction". Web. 12/21/2011