Revolution in South Asia

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Glimpse into Nepali Communes

Posted by n3wday on May 29, 2008

This article originally appeared in the Nepali Times newspaper. This author starts in a confused way (that assumes there is a conflict between the Maoist plans for New Democracy “bourgeois democratic anti-feudal revolution” under communist revolution — and the plans for agrarian revolution and collective organization among the poor farmers). Despite this confusion, the article contains some interesting reporting about revolutionary change happening at the grassroots level.

Experimenting with commune-ism: The Maoists can’t decide whether to keep communes or scrap them

PRAKASH MAHATARA in RUKUM

While their leaders say the revolution will follow the path of “bourgeoise capitalism”, here in the Maoist heartland party faithful are planning to expand existing communes.

During the conflict, the Maoists set up four communes in Jajarkot, Rukum and Rolpa. Each has between 30-40 families, there is no private property, labour and harvests are shared. Marx’s famous dictum, ‘from each according to their ability and for each according to their need’, is the credo here, and for the most part members of the communes seem happy with it.

“Life is easier living in a commune, work in the farm is easier since everyone helps out and agricultural productivity is higher,” says Dipak Khadka, the head of the ‘Balidan’ commune in Rukum.

The ‘Juni’ commune in Jajarkot was set up after the police killed 20 farmers in two separate massacres in 1999 to take care of surviving family members, widows and orphans. Farmers handed over all their land and property to the commune.

In Thawang, the ‘Ajambari’ commune was set up by the survivors of an army helicopter raid which destroyed most of the buildings in the town. ( ‘Rolpa is waiting’, #389 and ‘From Maoism to tourism’, #340.)

The communes all have departments looking after health, education, culture, development and security. All the members have to take part in physical exercise and there is military discipline. Alcohol is banned, as is untouchability. There are no religious festivals and 15 Feburary, People’s War Day is celebrated as the new Dasain. Funerals are marked by draping the body in red cloth and commemorating the dead with social service.

Another famous member of the ‘Balidan’ commune is the head of the YCL, Ganesh Man Pun. “Everyone shares the burden, and that makes it easier to bear the hardships,” Pun says. This is especially true of elderly parents who can’t do back-breaking work. “The senior citizen department of the commune looks after us, and life is a lot easier,” says 80-year-old Mangal Roka in Thawang.

Besides communes, there are more than 50 cooperatives that run eateries, manufacturing units, farms, schools and health posts in the Midwest. The big question in the Maoist party now is whether to convert cooperatives into communes, or the other way around, and there have been some contradictory statements.

“We have seen communes just as models, we will not try to replicate them, but will promote cooperatives,” explains Maoist ideologue, Baburam Bhattarai. But Ganesh Man Pun thinks cooperatives should all be turned into communes, and there should be more communes.

Last year the Maoists organised a commune conference in Thawang in which they passed a resolution to ‘preserve communes forever’. However, the prospects aren’t good. The French Commune in 1871 didn’t last more than 72 days and the Chinese communes didn’t survive past Mao’s death in 1975.

In last year’s comprehensive peace accord, the Maoists agreed to disband their communes along with their local people’s governments. After an election in which they emerged as the largest party, the Maoists now have to reconcile their commitment to a capitalist free market with the legacy of the communes here in the cradle of their revolution.

2 Responses to “Glimpse into Nepali Communes”

  1. el otro said

    Journalism? Covering the rural areas of the country that have been the cauldron of the revolution?

    What is this?

  2. n3wday said

    Hmmm, I’m not sure I understand your question.

    It’s a news article that appeared in the Nepali Times recently. So yes it is journalism.

    Can you elaborate on what you’re asking?

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