Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Nepal: Expectations for profound change soar

Posted by Mike E on May 2, 2008

14 April 2008. A World to Win News Service. On April 10 elections were held in Nepal for the first time in nine years. Final results are not yet available, but initial returns show that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is doing very well, with a real possibility of winning a majority in the Constituent Assembly (CA) that is being elected. There is widespread jubilation at the victory of the CPN(M) in many corners of the country among the people who are hoping that this election victory will open the door to a “new Nepal” and a way out of poverty and oppression. The voters clearly rejected the main political parties of the ruling classes in Nepal, especially the Nepal Congress Party which headed most of the governments that fought viciously against the people’s war in that country, and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), a party which despite its name long ago gave up on communism and also participated in fighting against the revolution. The few forces openly supporting the continuation of the monarchy also did very poorly.

The role of the Constituent Assembly is to begin a process of drafting a new constitution for a republic, a process which is expected to last one or two years. This was not an ordinary election.

For ten years, beginning in 1996, the CPN(M) waged a people’s war centred in the countryside of Nepal whose goal was to carry out a New Democratic Revolution and free the country from imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Two years ago a massive movement swept the urban areas of the country as well, forcing the widely hated King Gyanendra to step back from absolute power and reconvene parliament into which a significant representation of CPN(M) was co-opted.

International observers from many countries, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Ian Martin, head of the UN mission to Nepal, were fulsome in their praise for the electoral process, particularly that it was more “peaceful” than expected. First reactions to the elections from the “international community” hailed them as the definitive end of the people’s war. How they will react to a resounding electrical victory of the CPN(M) is not yet clear.

In fact, there were quite a few killings in the period leading up to the elections and on election day itself. Maoists and their supporters were almost always the victims. The most outrageous incident took place in Dang in western Nepal, where police killed seven unarmed Maoist supporters and wounded more than 25 others. (See accompanying article).

The question on everyone’s mind now is what will happen next. Pre-election agreements called for a joint government by the three main political parties in the country, the CPN(M), the NCP and the UML. The CPN(M), which has played only a minor role in the present government, is now expected to play the leading role in the new government to be formed following the Constituent Assembly elections.

A new government will be formed, but the underlying question facing the country is not which parties are in government but what the nature of the state power itself will be. As pointed out in an earlier AWTWNS article (11 February 2008), the basic question facing the country in the aftermath of ten years of people’s war is what regime will be consolidated on a nationwide level. The old state has been fighting to preserve the interests of the exploiting class and enforce Nepalese subordination to foreign imperialism and India. On whose power will rest the Nepal state that emerges from the Constituent Assembly process? What will be the future of the Nepal Army and the militarised police force that has done nothing but hunt down and murder revolutionaries and rape, terrorize and rob the masses? What will happen to the People’s Liberation Army that earned the love and respect of the poor peasants making up the majority of the country? Will Nepal be a base area for world revolution or will it continue to be locked into the spider-web of imperialist and foreign domination?

The king is almost certain to be sent packing, but will the state that emerges from the Constituent Assembly process be free from the feudalism the king represented? During the people’s war the caste system with its horrific “untouchability” and other outrages was severely battered in the areas where the PLA had power. The same is true of child marriage, wife beating and other anti-women practices. Will the Constituent Assembly process be able to institutionalise these and many other such advances throughout the country?

In the countryside the revolution had ushered in a new system of “people’s courts” that enforced revolutionary order, and a different type of political power had been established. Will such institutions have a place in the new regime? What will be the role of the court system and government bureaucracy that served the old state?

It is certainly clear that there are powerful forces, and most especially the imperialist powers and the Indian ruling classes, as well as the exploiters in Nepal itself, who will be doing everything they can to make sure that no real revolution takes place in Nepal.

During the ten years of people’s war the CPN(M) called for distributing “land to the tiller” and the thorough destruction of the reactionary system led by the king, which kept the working class and the peasantry exploited and impoverished and enforced all sorts of medieval oppression on women, national minorities and the oppressed castes. The masses in Nepal have been demanding revolutionary transformation, and this is one of the main reasons for the massive electoral victory of the CPN(M). The burning desire for a “new Nepal” is vividly etched in the exuberant faces of the thousands of youth and others who have been taking to the streets across the land in all-day celebration rallies. As many of those who for years were the public face of the old state have resigned in humiliation, expectations of profound change soar to the sky.

The most important question is what type of social system the new republic in Nepal will represent and enforce. In Nepal and around the world supporters and friends of the revolution will be closely observing the coming weeks and months as the new republic is formed
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4 Responses to “Nepal: Expectations for profound change soar”

  1. Mike E said

    This article ends with the following words:

    “The most important question is what type of social system the new republic in Nepal will represent and enforce. In Nepal and around the world, supporters and friends of the revolution will be closely observing the coming weeks and months as the new republic is formed.”

    Is that really true?

    Certainly the whole world will be “closely observing” these events. But isn’t something more expected of “supporters and friends of the revolution” ?

    Events will show whether the revolution can actually push its way through — and whether what emerges is a bourgeois democratic republic or a revolutionary new-democratic one. That is a key question for the revolution and the people — and such questions are key and sharply fought out within ALL revolutions.

    But isn’t there a real question facing us — about whether to respond in an internationalist and energetic way — spreading information and preparing revolutionary-minded people to understand the importance of a possible communist base area in the world?

  2. Sam said

    That’s been characteristic of all the AWTW articles that I’ve seen recently. Passively wait and see.

    I disagree strongly with that analysis, we can be actively supportive and still skeptical. Anything less would be shirking our duty as Communists.

  3. zerohour said

    I’ve seen a lot of posts reflecting on the electoral process which attempts to view the recent Nepalese elections through the experience of Chile and other electoral “roads to socialism.” Besides ignoring significant historical differences, which reflects a bad argument by analogy, I think there is too much of a hangup on form. I posted the below question on revleft. People here might not agree with my formulation but I wanted to be a bit provocative:

    What if they did seize power through armed struggle? How would this change the fact that Nepal needs a hydroelectric plant, has a puny bourgeoisie, and needs capital investment to improve its infrastucture? What would be different from what they are facing now? As it is the CPN[M] has mass support, political initiative, base areas in the countryside and their own armed force. The monarchist system is over. Have they not fundamentally seized state power?

  4. Mike E said

    the core differences between chile and nepal are rather major. In nepal there is a leading party armed with advanced communist theory, there is a broad united front, and there is a army developed over a decade of revolutionary warfare.

    None of those things were present in chile — and the ruling class army was essentially unopposed (except by people who were largely unarmed, and led by forces disinclined to make revolution).

    This does not mean that this whole process will “automatically” turn out in a revolutionary way. Clearly the future is unwritten, and this is a risky road (in fact, all choices in the process of revolution are by their nature a risky road).

    The revolutionary army may be ambushed in their cantonments. they may lose in coming contests. The line struggle within the revolutionary party may take unfortunate turns….. and so on. But those are not the only possibilities.

    Making a facile comparison to chile (because the left participated in elections in both cases) misses the significant differences. (And in many cases rests on a shallow pessimism that assumed — despite evidence — that the revolutionaries were abandoning their independence and armed forces because they were negotiating a protracted ceasefire and a period of open political struggle.)

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