Bhattarai’s May First Speech
Posted by Mike E on May 2, 2009
“So today in Nepal the United Communist Party of Nepal wants to establish a New Nepal under the rule of the proletariat. In the new Constitution we will make sure that the rights of laborers are guaranteed. To do this we recognise that the revolution is not over, but simply its form has changed. We are not in the peoples war anymore, but we are still in revolution, and we will continue the revolution until the rights of the working proletariat are recognised and guaranteed! This new Nepali Republic should be a Republic for the people, and not for the counterrevolutionaries and feudalists and our party is as determined as ever to continue to fight for all of the peasants and workers.”
“There were rumors that today we would use the mass of people to try and take power by force. This is false. We will win the popular support, but we will not force change on Nepal. We will bring about change by completing the peace process and writing the new Constitution. If there are obstacles put in our way on this peaceful path, then it would leave us no choice but to then pursue the path of revolution.”
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Ben Peterson has sent out the following rough initial translation of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s speech to the huge revolutionary rally held in Kathmandu on May first. Bhattarai is one of the central leaders of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
This speech came as a crisis has been intensifying within Nepal — as the most powerful institution of the old order, the Nepalese National Army and its high command, have been openly defying the new anti-monarchist government. In particular General Rookmangud Katawalthe, head of the Army, has refused to step down from his post or submit to civilian control.
Within the government the Maoists have been spearheading the demand for his resignation — as a key part of their demands for the political and social transformation of the old army, and the injection of Maoist commanders from the Peoples Liberation Army. Meanwhile the parliamentary parties (including the Congress party and the UML) have opposed the removal of this notorious royalist commander. In the background are the intrigues of foreign powers: India’s ambassador has openly expressed support for the military high command (which is an outrageous interference in Nepal’s internal affairs), and the U.S. Obama government has announced that it still considers the Nepali Maoist party to be “terrorist.”
In short, there are heavy threats of a counterrevolutionary military coup with powerful internal and international backing. And faced with this lethal danger, the revolutionary forces are openly speaking about the possibility of pressing ahead to a new revolution.
Ben includes a warning that the following must not be taken as an authoritative or fully accurate rendering of this speech:
“IMPORTANT: This is not an official translation- rather a paraphrase. It was translated to me by a fellow spectator, and I have reconstructed it from those notes. This should be useful to get the essence of the speech, but may be incorrect in emphasis and in content, and should not be quoted as fact. For these reasons responsibility for this should remain with Lal Salam Blog and not be totally associated with Dr Baburam Bhattarai or the United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist)”
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Hello and Happy May Day to all!
Today May 1st is a day of huge historical significance. For 120 years the international working class has celebrated May Day as the international workers day. For over a hundred years now workers have been fighting, for their liberation through the only means that this is possible- through revolution.
For 120 years now International Workers Day has been commemorated, originally to remember the Haymarket Martyrs, who bravely sacrificed their lives in Chicago while fighting for their rights and the rights of all the worlds working people. Today’s rally is a real tribute to these heroes.
And in Nepal we have our own history of labor struggles and sacrifices. We should remember the workers who took the first-ever industrial action in Nepal in 1949 again i the autocratic regime of the Rana’s. More recently there have been many martyrs in the working class movement, particularly during the time of the 10 years people’s war and our struggle against the Monarchy in Nepal. Today we pay tribute to those people who have made sacrifices for the peoples cause.
So today in Nepal the United Communist Party of Nepal wants to establish a New Nepal under the rule of the proletariat. In the new Constitution we will make sure that the rights of laborers are guaranteed. To do this we recognise that the revolution is not over, but simply its form has changed. We are not in the peoples war anymore, but we are still in revolution, and we will continue the revolution until the rights of the working proletariat are recognised and guaranteed! This New Nepali Republic should be a Republic for the People, and not for the counterrevolutionaries and feudalists and our party is as determined as ever to continue to fight for all of the peasants and workers.
As a minister i have to admit that we have not been able to solve all of the problems we have faced yet. I confess this, we don’t have total power. Things like an unemployment allowance are things that we have planned, but not been able to achieve. Many people here work, but work in terrible conditions. There are people who work in clothes factories, but they themselves have only rags to wear. To fight this we need to continue to struggle, and the United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist) will continue this struggle from the government, from the assembly and from the street!
I would like to announce I will be trying to raise the minimum wage to 10,000 rupees* due to the recent price rises. When prices rise it is important to rise the minimum wage accordingly. Those who work should not starve and the current price wages are causing this.
It may be difficult for me to do this however because of our coalition partners. The other parties in government are constantly causing trouble for the government, and are always trying to pull our legs out from underneath us. For example our revenue collection has been very high, and the government has been able to collect a vast amount of money, but we have not been able to mobilise this money for the good of the people. We have been unable to mobilise these funds because of the absence of local governments. The budget is very ambitious but due to the opposition parties we have not been able to use the structures excising or create new structures for implementing the budget.
But we will overcome these problems, and find ways around them. As most of you know we have launched the youth employment scheme to create employment and growth within Nepal. Loans of up to 200,000 rupees will be given to 100,000 youths to help them create enterprises at their local level and to stimulate development across Nepal and to battle against unemployment in our country. On top of this in the Next year we will create jobs and employment opportunities for a million Nepalis. This is essential for us to begin to end our dependence on foreign nations and to stop the trend of Nepalis being forced to look overseas to find employment.
This is complicated because feudalism has not been completely eliminated in Nepal. To improve out economic position we need to focus on industrial development. We are doing our best to foster public-private partnerships to develop Nepal. We will work to end the need to protest in industries, and try to foster a working relationship between industrialists and the workforce. They are not our enemies right now, our enemies are the feudalists, the expansionists and the imperialists. We want the support from industrialists.
At present the government is encircled by the parliamentary parties, by feudal forces and royalists. There is a polarisation between the progressive republicans** and the supposed “democrats”. Despite this we will be successful. This government has a huge mandate from the people, and everybody — the bureaucracy and the military MUST be made to follow the government.
If a soldier can be punished for not obeying his superior, why not a general? We will fire Katawal. We will not go back on this decision. We will transform the army, and involve it in development projects.
But we must be aware of possible threats.
We must be aware of the threat of social-democrats who want to politicise the army. Disciplinary action must be taken against Katawal. The military must be under civilian control. It is essential for democracy. Look at Pakistan and Bangladesh, where there have been many military coups because the army is not under the control of the civilian government.
Why does the Nepali Congress refuse to learn from history and why does it protect the army?
It is not our agenda to capture state power and put it under the control of our party. Democracy means the civilian control of the state, and the army especially. This is what we are trying to do, institutionalise a Democratic New Nepali state.
If the Nepali Congress refuses to support the government in these important decisions, then it is they who will lose. They will lose all support of the people, they will leave them in droves, and in the next election., they will be decimated.
The UML*** needs to take a stand. The UML is refusing to be for or against anything. It is like trying to be a third sex. It is useless. And because of this indecision the processes have been delayed. The UML is suffering from a profound identity crisis. They are trying to be a third option, when the only options to the people of Nepal are revolution or reaction. There needs to be leftist unity so we can break the deadlocks and achieve progress in Nepal.
If the UML chooses not to do this then they too will be swept into oblivion by the progressive waves of the Maoist movement.
Some parties have been pressuring the President to intervene at the present time. But how can he? The presidency is only ceremonial. If he tries to overstep his constitutional responsibilities and support the Army then it will be a suicidal decision for him. If he goes outside his role, then he will suffer the same fate as the king. I respect him and do not think this will happen. He will respect the Constitution, and therefore remain ceremonial.
We have come to the point where every decision made about Nepal in the past has been decided elsewhere, whether it be London, Washington or Delhi. We will not accept this anymore. We will not accept any interference any longer. We want to foster a mutual relationship with international powers, to respect Nepal’s sovereignty. Foreign powers should be careful not to interfere with a sovereign Nepal, because if you interfere it will start a great revolution amongst the people.
We, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have chosen the peaceful and progressive path for social and economic change and we will end ALL forms of discrimination, whether it be based on gender, caste, religion, national minorities or region. No one should question our commitment to peace and to the process of making these changes.
There were rumours that today we would use the mass of people to try and take power by force. This is false. We will win the popular support, but we will not force change on Nepal. We will bring about change by completing the peace process and writing the new Constitution.
If there are obsticles put in our way on this peaceful path, then it would leave us no choice but to then persue the path of revolution. Army integration will happen and the new Constitution will be written no matter what. We will have peace, federalism and development. We will make Nepal properous. The United Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist) is committed to this cause.
We want a broad consensus on the current issues that face the government to solve the existing problems, but if all paths are blocked then we will turn to the street! We do not want to be in government for the sake of being in Government, we don’t have a love for the chair. If people want and if it is necessary then we are prepared to make any sacrifice for the people, we will leave the government and fight alongside the people. So I want to put our government at stake, we will either sack Katawal, or we will leave government. If we cannot establish civilian supremacy then we cannot remain in government.
The United Communist Party Nepal (Maoist) will always be with the people. We will never forget you or betray your sacrifices. We will never betray your dreams!
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* Ben writes, “I am not sure over what time period the 10,000 rupee minimum wage is- 10,000 rupees translates to about US$120.”
** In Nepal’s context, a republican is someone who opposes a monarchy and wants a republic — being a republican (of this kind) has been a revolutionary position of opposing the historic government form of Nepal’s feudal system.
*** The UML is a major political party that calls itself communist but that has historically been one of the pillars of existing Nepali society and an advocate of timid reforms in a situation calling out for radical ones.