New Pamphlet: A Revolution at the Brink – Stand With Nepal
Posted by Mike E on October 18, 2009
The FIRE Collective has produced a pamphlet on the revolution in Nepal — describing its emergence and importance.
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A Revolution at the Brink: Stand With Nepal
by the FIRE Collective
Today, seemingly a world away, the population of a small, oppressed nation is engaged in an ongoing revolution that is straining and maneuvering for a decisive victory. Rather than pursuing a rigid path in a sterile and dogmatic way, these revolutionaries have employed a diversity of tactics — from a people’s war to political negotiation to mass protests — aimed at freeing the country’s people. Their thinking is fresh, and they’ve wedded creative innovation with a movement committed to socialism and worldwide liberation from capitalism and imperialism.
They deserve our active political work. We need to help break through the mainstream media whiteout — so more people here in the U.S. can see the ways this revolution is radically changing society, and so we can stop the U.S. government from intervening in Nepal while falsely branding revolutionaries there as terrorists.
Nepal: Toppling Kings and Castes
Nepal is a small country bordered on three sides by India and by China on its fourth frontier. The country is predominantly rural. Exploited peasants of many ethnicities and cultures represent 90 percent of the total population.
Nepal’s monarchy emerged in 1768 to unify the country as a kingdom. This autocratic and theocratic royal family and military force ruled the largely feudal society until revolution arose to oppose it. Through compromises the monarchy made in the face of first the British colonialists, and later the Indian state, the country functioned as a semi-feudal, semi-colonial system in which most Nepalis suffered the worst indignities and crushing poverty. The country was an absolute monarchy until 1990, and even then, the poverty and oppression of the feudal system and the monarchy remained through the slightly varied form of a parliament subordinate to both the king and Indian expansionist interests.
On February 13, 1996, guided by its leader Prachanda, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched a planned countrywide military insurrection. The Maobadi, as they are called in Nepal, started their revolution with thousands of initial actions, liberating Rolpa and Rukum, two extremely impoverished neighboring districts in Nepal that are home to the Kham Magar nationality. Nepal’s ruling class, royals and the police responded with repression against peasant populations.
As the revolution continued to advance through this repression, deep divisions within the monarchy and between political parties emerged. King Birendra did not send the royal army against the Maobadi, and resisted those in his own family who (with Indian backing) demanded intervention. And then he (and most of the royal family) died in a palace massacre in 2001 that brought his brother, Gyanendrah, to the throne. Kings in Nepal have historically made claims of divine right, but this new king claimed to be the re-incarnated Hindu god, Vishnu, with an openness that was shocking and extremely anti-democratic. The king sent in the Royal Nepal Army (RNA), terrorizing the people in ways that had not been seen.
Over ten years, the people’s war won many victories, liberating 80 percent of the country’s land, developing new forms of people’s power, people’s courts, new forms of cooperation like the people’s communes, and much more. They formed new autonomous people’s governments in the countryside with deep roots among the poor farmers. In response, the monarchy, police and military burned peasant villages, committed mass rape, censored the press, dissolved the toothless parliament, and, at times, disconnected mobile phones and the Internet — and carried out numerous other repressive measures.
Through an intense struggle over how to confront this situation, the Maobadi decided they had a unique possible opening to unite with broad new forces entering the struggle. They helped turn the revolt against this particularly hated king into a revolutionary challenge to the ideas and institutions of the monarchy itself. The Maobadi called for a ceasefire, and they went into the cities to organize the people there who had previously been kept away from their revolution. They negotiated temporary alliances with parliamentary forces who had opposed the revolution, but who had since come under attack by the monarchy.
And shortly after, in April 2006, people hit the streets demanding an end to the monarchy, even while the king issued orders for protesters to be shot on sight. That movement shook the entire country, and forced Gyanendrah to restore the parliament he had previously dissolved and step down from power. Nepal became the world’s youngest republic. The monarchy was toppled by a combination of the ten-year people’s war and a loose and diverse alliance of progressive people in the urban areas.
The Maobadi launched a process (since 2006) where the struggle has focused on what the new Nepal would be — a parliamentary republic integrated in a corrupt Indian-style parliamentary system subordinate to the world capitalist system, or a people’s democratic republic on the socialist road with an electoral system. This struggle has been waged through sharp political offensives and contestation, but without armed struggle, while the whole process has rested on the existence of a People’s Liberation Army, representing a fundamental challenge to the military and the reactionary plans for the future. The effort has also forwarded the very radical concept of a Constituent Assembly — a historic gathering of elected representatives to envision and create a New Nepal, to fight through which future would replace the monarchist past — as a special and temporary and potentially revolutionary institution for debating and choosing between bourgeois democracy and people’s democracy.
Elections to this Constituent Assembly were held, and the Maobadi took part in these as a tactical step, winning a plurality in the elections. People celebrated in the streets.
The elections and the Constituent Assembly were part of solving the ongoing Nepali crisis by pushing forward the revolutionary process under new conditions. However, the army remains, and forms the basis for the current state (and for the current government in Kathmandu). Although the monarchy is now abolished, the army refuses to bow to civilian control. The current (inevitable and foreseeable) stalemate has not been mainly “a failure” of that process, but the way people would learn, through living experience, who stood for what. The Royal Nepal Army (now renamed the Nepal Army) has contested fundamental change in feudal relations and it has continued to repress the people. And Barack Obama and the U.S. have supported the army’s defiance of legitimate civilian control, encouraged a military/royalist coup, labeled the Maobadi “terrorists,” sent trainers for commando units and the officer corps, and most likely conducted other intrigues that have not yet been exposed, despite the fact it is clear the Maobadi are leading a major struggle against injustice with the support of millions of people, and are not terrorists at all.
The Resistance, The Revolution
Nepal’s revolutionaries say they are applying the Maoist strategy of New Democratic Revolution and they say they innovate in tactics. They have broken with orthodoxy, but not their radicalism. They have created a sub-stage within the larger strategy — alternating the armed offensive with political offensive. They were able to quickly move from a countrywide insurrection to revolutionary people’s war, and then to mass political mobilizations, quickly shifting their tactics while openly debating their strategy of New Democratic Revolution.
Around the country, the Maobadi advocate for women’s equality in Nepal, including reproductive freedom and property rights, condemning the sex trade, and an end to arranged child marriages that were happening. The revolution is challenging the ways traditional society has oppressed young people through arranged marriages, harsh discrimination by caste and forbidding of inter-caste marriages. Taking to heart’s Lenin’s idea that “the measure of any revolution is the degree to which it liberates women,” and saying “without the participation of women, no revolutionary movement in this world has succeeded nor will succeed in the future,” the Maobadi organize campaigns against domestic violence and educational programs intended to orient women to see themselves as full participants in society and struggles. In addition, a new generation is demanding a right to have love matches (to choose its own marriage partners). Such revolutionary changes to the culture, as well as breaking down the caste system, have won wide support for the Maobadi. Here we have a society where it has historically been illegal for women in some areas to eat before their husbands, where women were legally the property of their husbands, and where women are now playing leading roles in the revolution and its party.
The Maobadi were a critical part of the diverse 2006 People’s Movement or Jana Andolan, a broad coalition movement that ended monarchic rule. The effort also put into place a peace accord and the ascension of Maobadi to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly. However, while they were in the assembly, the Maobadi have been kept out of control over the actual state apparatus because a hostile feudal army existed undefeated. Nepal will remain oppressed by imperialism until the Maobadi and the people end this army’s power.
The people’s war and the emergence of the People’s Liberation Army made possible the mass movement that toppled the monarchy in 2006. However even as elected representatives of the people debated how to form a New Nepal – it has become clearer the still-undefeated Nepal Army remains a key obstacle to radical change. That army high command has refused to accept civilian control. And while the Maobadi were for a while heading the elected government — they were acutely aware they did not yet dominate the state (or control the army forming the key remaining institution of that old state.)
From the essay “No Revolution Can Be Replicated, But Developed,” Basanta of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [new name of the CPN(M)] explained the organization believes, while there are general truths governing revolution, each revolutionary struggle also has its own character and needs.
“Comrade Mao has taught us that ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ It is a general truth for any revolution and a revolutionary party. In due course, gun is decisive to make a revolution victorious. But it is possible only when the party of the proletariat fights ideologically and politically in all fronts and crushes all the strategies that the imperialism and domestic reaction enforce to prevent revolution in the given country. In the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, the enemy strategy has been to make use of various measures that can prevent the development of revolutionary consciousness among the masses. To abort revolution in its embryo, the measures that the imperialist system has been making use of are psychological warfare, cultural war, enemy infiltration to carry out destructive activities in the party of the proletariat, economic and political reforms to confuse the revolutionary masses, network of NGOs and INGOs to entrap petty bourgeois circle in the reformist mirage, foreign employment, religious superstition etc. Armed suppression and genocide is its final resort after the revolution is born. In short, the enemy fights a total war. Unless one can revolutionize masses by waging ideological war to crush such measures, no people’s war, even if initiated, can attain its goal.” [NGOs are non-governmental organizations that perform social services and develop political networks with international funding.]
The Maobadi resigned from the national government in May, 2009 (i.e. from government posts heading key ministries and the post of prime minister) when the army refused to obey their commands to reorganize its high command. The Maobadi wanted to help make it clear to the people that government office, without control over the army, would be a farce or worse, and would be courting a coup. And the UCPN(M) openly started to organize new mass protests and talk about preparing a communist insurrection.
From the beginning of the 2006 peace process, the Maobadi organized their ongoing struggle at two levels (from the streets and villages, and from within their elected posts in the assembly and government) while the People’s Liberation Army awaits and trains in camps scattered throughout the country. In this complex and rapidly developing position, which has all along had elements of highly contested “dual power,” the Maobadi have been fighting to create the conditions for a successful seizure of overall power – so the revolution can press through, and the uprooting of ancient oppressions can take place. This is necessarily taking the form of preparing the people (and the People’s Liberation Army fighters) for new storms, and in particular new uprisings focused on overall countrywide victory and state power.
Why Nepal Matters
The Maobadi have put forward a vision in which a new socialist Nepal could be the catalyst for world revolution and a struggle uniting South Asia.
This is a time when far too many progressive people have lost hope over the very idea of a radically new society. The Nepali revolution speaks to and leads millions. It confirms a real-but-radical revolutionary mass movement is possible.
Through the revolution, the Maobadi are challenging unequal power relations in South Asia, in ways destined to impact imperialism and capital worldwide. Western powers sense the revolution’s popular power, and have supported pro-monarchy and pro-U.S. forces with weapons and aid to India. Will Nepal be the next victim of U.S.-supported destabilization? Support for the revolution is important to defending this remarkable movement.
What You Can Do
Stay informed. Nepal’s revolution is still in process, and is threatened by forces opposed to the liberation of Nepal’s people. Websites like Revolution in South Asia are sharing news as it happens.
Share this material. Pass the word about the revolution in Nepal by sharing this information with others.
Educate yourself & others. As revolutionary organizer from the Kasama Project, Mike Ely, writes,
“Here it is: A little-known revolution in Nepal. Who will we tell about it? What will we learn from it? What will we do about it?”
There need to be teach-ins and solidarity campaigns that go up against the media white-out surrounding this struggle. Our collective wants to be part of organizing that, and encourages others to take up new solidarity work as well.
Defend this revolution. As the U.S. calls these revolutionaries terrorists, politically conscious people should be here to defeat those lies. When more repression comes down on the revolutionaries of Nepal, there should be mass mobilization in the country orchestrating it. Let’s unapologetically stand with the struggle of the Nepali people.
Revolutionaries are Not Terrorists! Take Nepal’s Maobadi off the U.S. Terrorist Lists!
Victory to Nepal’s Communist Revolution! All Power to the People!