Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

PSL: On the General Strike in Nepal

Posted by Mike E on January 4, 2010

The following was published by the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Red Side suggested we post this and was curious to know what others thought of the ideological and political line expressed here.

General strike shuts down Nepal

By: Walter Smolarek, Dec. 29, 2009

Communists and masses engaged in struggle with military and country’s elite

On Dec. 22, well over 100 thousand people in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, attended the closing rally of a three-day general strike called by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The strike shut down virtually all business, schools and public transportation.

This event was the capstone of the latest round of mass protests called by the communists in their campaign against the attempted seizure of the government in May by the allied forces of the Nepal Army and the country’s elite.

In May, the UCPN-M resigned from the government. It led the government as a result of a landside electoral victory. The walkout came in response to the Nepal Army’s disavowal of peace agreements and illegal defiance of the coalition government led by the UCPN-M.

Since May, the UCPN-M has blockaded and shut down parliament in response to attempts by the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepali Congress to run the government. Both parties have sided with the Nepal Army in the current struggle. The Nepal Army is notoriously reactionary and bloody. The NA is loyal to the country’s tiny elite and guilty of widespread brutality and torture.

The struggle of the Nepalese people is long and heroic. From 1768 until May 28, 2008, Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom ruled by the Shah and Rana dynasties. The current period of upheaval can be traced back to 1996, when revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) established the People’s Liberation Army and launched a guerilla war against the government.

The People’s War gradually gained momentum and enjoyed a broad base of support in rural areas. By 2006, discontent had reached a boiling point, and what became known as People’s Movement 2 (the first People’s Movement occurred in 1990) was launched. The monarchy was overthrown and after several postponements, an election for the Constituent Assembly, the legislative body tasked with drafting a republican constitution, was held on April 10, 2008.

The Maoists won by far the greatest number of seats (over 38 percent) and formed a coalition with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), a social democratic party, and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum.

The Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre, Prachanda, became Prime Minister. A few months into his tenure Prachanda sought to have the insubordinate leader of the traditionally royalist Nepal Army, Rookmangud Katawal, replaced for violating the terms of the U.N. brokered peace treaty between the PLA and the Nepal Army. In a gross violation of the interim constitution, President Ram Baran Yadav, from the capitalist Nepali Congress Party, instructed Katawal to remain in his position.

In response to this act of military subversion of the elected government, UCPN-M (“unified” was added to the name after a merger in January) withdrew from the government. A new administration led by the CPN (UML) with the support of the NCP was formed amidst a series of actions called by the Maoists to re-establish civilian supremacy.

After a long period of political deadlock the UCPN-M decided to initiate an umbrella organization of revolutionary, nationalist, and republican forces called the United National People’s Movement to launch a two week-long second phase of protests.

Beginning Nov. 2, municipal and regional government offices were shut down on designated days by communist-led forces throughout the country. A general strike was then called in Katmandu, and the campaign climaxed with a two-day encirclement of Singha Durbar, the complex that houses all main state institutions.

After the government ignored the Nov. 20 deadline to rectify Yadav’s move, the UNPM announced third phase protests, the centerpiece of which would be a general strike from Dec. 20 through 22.

Sixteen days before the beginning of the strike, landless farmers organized by the Maoists that had been occupying parts of the Dudejhari jungle in the Kailali district of Nepal were violently evicted. When the dust cleared, at least four squatters had been killed and hundreds of others wounded by security forces. A highly successful nationwide strike was called in outraged response two days later.

Despite threats and maneuvering by the U.S. and Indian governments, the general strike began as scheduled, bringing the country to a complete commercial standstill. A significant amount of violence broke out as police attempted to repress the demonstrations and protesters defended themselves. Scores were arrested or injured, and the deputy superintendent of police, Dilip Chaudhary, was nearly killed.

Their very existence threatened, elements of the Nepalese elite have grown more militant. Sukhdev Shah, ex-ambassador to the United States and an American citizen, recently wrote, without a hint of sarcasm, “Another big uncertainty is if Nepal has the good fortune of some strongmen rising to the occasion—the likes of Korea’s Park Chung-He, Chile’s Pinochet, Indonesia’s Suharto—to take up the challenge of suppressing dissent. …” (myrepublica.com, Dec. 20). All three of the leaders mentioned were brutal dictators responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people.

The struggle for the future of Nepal continues. The communists have led the struggle to defend the interests of the Nepalese masses in the fight against the combined forces of the Nepalese elite, India and U.S. imperialism. The unfolding revolutionary struggle in Nepal requires our attention and solidarity.

9 Responses to “PSL: On the General Strike in Nepal”

  1. CPSA said

    I’m just intrigued that you’re starting to have a dialogue w/PSL, or maybe the makings of one. I thought Villar was the most interesting candidate to run for mayor in NY last year and I’m basically in agreement w/the bulk of their platform. It seems simply to be a more radical version of SWP, that is primarily a party of people of color, that’s also Latin American-centric, whereas Kasama is some emerging post-Maoist hybrid whose leading foreign focus is south asia. That’s probably a crude summary, but I hope your ties deepen and strengthen over time. :)

  2. Ka Frank said

    The PSL really doesn’t lay out its political line on Nepal in this article. Its dry recitation of the events since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2006 seems to say that the PSL is in general agreement with the UCPN-M’s strategy and that it just has to “continue the struggle.” This is not very edifying.

  3. Alastair Reith said

    //Its dry recitation of the events since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2006 seems to say that the PSL is in general agreement with the UCPN-M’s strategy and that it just has to “continue the struggle.”//

    Should it not say that?

  4. Red Side said

    “I’m just intrigued that you’re starting to have a dialogue w/PSL, or maybe the makings of one.” – CPSA

    I am not a member of the PSL and this does not represent a “dialogue” b/w the PSL and Kasama.

    I suggested this to Mike Ely and another Comrade b/c I am trying to make sense of the PSL’s stance visavis the revolution(s) in Nepal (and India).

    This article, however, was pointed out to me by a supporter of the PSL and I thought it appropriate to share it considering the rarity of such an item.

  5. Mike E said

    Alastair: Obviously Ka Frank is not arguing with the “general agreement.” He is saying that it is a bit hard to tease out (and engage) the PSL approach to this revolution — precisely because their line and approach leads them to speak about world movements in a relatively generic way. (They could have written a similar article about half a dozen other struggles of different complexions around the world.)

    Their line is embedded in the article, the article expresses their line – but it actually has to be extracted from a piece that makes no effort to articulate their line-as line.

  6. sam said

    Not their best article, but not bad in terms of keeping their regular readers abreast of some of the more recent developments in Nepal. Not every group is going to give the same sustained day-to-day attention and intricate analysis of the struggle there. And sense the struggle in Nepal is clearly a day-to-day one, with frequent twists and turns, I would consider it irresponsible for them to come up with some sophisticated theoretical lessons. Stating the basics, expressing solidarity, and generally acknowledging the leadership of the Maoists (without exploring the “line questions” inside their ranks) seems to me to be acceptable for a U.S.-based group at the moment. PSL usually offers more detailed stuff on Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

  7. Yeah, what I noticed about this piece was that it expressed a general support for the Nepali revolution while making a point of not mentioning any of it’s particular political innovation or line. It tries to put the Nepali revolution into the framework of PSL’s own politics, which it feels are good enough.

    It kind of reminds of WWP’s old stuff on the cultural revolution in China, where the cultural revolution was supported, but devoid of any content (or it’s content was replaced by Sam Marcy’s politics). Questions to two line struggle over the socialist road and the capitalist road were removed, the beginnings of problematizing the party-state and the events in Shanghai were ignored, and instead the cultural revolution was a not-so-important “struggle against bureaucracy” in the context of Sam Marcy’s assumption that China was a “deformed worker’s state.”

    So, in the same way here there is an expression of support for the events and struggle itself, but a rejection of the Nepali comrades’ actual politics.

  8. Mike E said

    That is how i read it too, Eric.

    Now, to be fair, it is quite fine to support a revolution, even if you don’t support the “actual politics” of its leading party.

    And a large part of the criticism we have had against the RCP is precisely that they have decided only to support those international movements that have precisely their own (highly peculiar) politics (which is dangerously close to zero, leading to a virtual abandonment of internationalist support for such revolutionary movements, of a kind they once expressed toward the Peruvian Maoists.)

    So, it is worth saying that the PSL (as the WWP before it) has at least the ability to support revolutions (at least in words, which do matter).

    If anything, the issue with the PSL (and WWP, and Sam Marcy’s theoretical analysis) is that their overall method can be applied so very broadly to such diverse forces — that PSL/WWP also support (and seem to prefer) highly repressive and anti-people governments.

    But that is, after all, not the issue here — with this specific PSL article. And in this instance their method and line does lead them to support this important revolution in Nepal (and not support UML).

    And I think we should acknowledge that, while we struggle to understand more deeply what the underlying PSL line and argumentation are.

  9. Sam said

    Questions to two line struggle over the socialist road and the capitalist road were removed, the beginnings of problematizing the party-state and the events in Shanghai were ignored, and instead the cultural revolution was a not-so-important “struggle against bureaucracy” in the context of Sam Marcy’s assumption that China was a “deformed worker’s state.”

    I don’t think this is a fair assessment of Marcy’s position at all.

    His formulations were not Maoist per se in terms of “two-line struggle,” but he supported the Cultural Revolution precisely because it represented a real political revolution, and a stand to preserve socialist methods of development against capitalist methods of development. He gave credence to the notion of “capitalist-roaders” but expressed it in terminology of Thermidorian reaction (i.e., a reaction that would destroy the initial revolutionary leadership and impulse but not destroy its overall social gains.)

    He also did talk about Shanghai quite a bit. Here are the more important works

    China: End of the Revolutionary Mao Era (Initially called “Suppression of the Left”)
    http://www.workers.org/marcy/china/index.html

    and China: The Struggle Within
    http://www.workers.org/marcy/china/2_index.html

    By the way, I still have a comment awaiting moderation from before the above posts.

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