Alistair Reith The Spark October 2009
Since the resignation of the Maoists from government earlier this year, Nepal has been engulfed in political turmoil. Maoist members of the Constituent Assembly have been protesting and preventing the parliament from operating. Rallies, strikes and clashes between supporters of different parties have become a part of everyday life, and the leadership of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been making increasingly loud and frequent threats of a ‘people’s revolt’.
The Maoists continue to alternate demands for a national government to be formed under the leadership of their party with threats of revolt if this does not happen. They also assure that the formation of a new national government will be a means for them to move towards full-blown popular revolt. Vice-Chair of the party (which has recently adopted a system of multiple vice-chairs and a more collective form of leadership) Baburam Bhattarai stated that there is “no alternative” to a Maoist-led government. He said that if this does not happen, it will be impossible to move forward with the peace process and the drafting of a new constitution.
However, he also stressed that the formation of such a government will be impossible unless President Yadav is “corrected” for blocking the previous Maoist-led government’s move to fire General Katawal, the head of the army. The Maoists have described Yadav’s blocking as unconstitutional and anti-people, and it led them to resign from the government.
The Maoists have recently issued the government with a set of 45 demands, in a move echoing the Maoist’s issuing of 40 demands shortly before they launched the People’s War in 1996. So far there do not appear to be any concrete details about what these demands are, but the very fact that they have been issued is significant. In a recent speech to a Maoist rally, Bhattarai reportedly made a statement reminding the current government that when the Maoist’s original 40 demands were ignored, the People’s War began and the monarchy was destroyed, and therefore “If they ignore our fresh 45 point demands it is certain that the fate of the parties will be akin to the institution of monarchy.” A major political struggle is also beginning in Nepal over how the judiciary will be organised once the constitution is written.
The Maoists have successfully sought the support of the Madhesi parties to win a majority vote in a committee set up to put together a document proposing how the judicial system should operate in the New Nepal. In their proposal, they have put forward “parliament as the final interpreter of the constitution besides also proposing appointment of the chief justice by parliament from outside the judicial service.” Various reactionary parties are aghast at this, claiming that an “independent” judiciary is necessary and that this would open up the judiciary to political manipulation.
However, this is a move to ensure democracy. In a nation of extreme poverty very few people are able to attain the education and experience necessary to qualify as a lawyer, let alone a judge, and therefore the judiciary is overwhelmingly made up of people from a privileged, upper class background.
By allowing for the elected representatives of the people to appoint (and presumably recall from their position) judges, the Maoists are struggling to ensure that the nations laws and the application of these laws will reflect the will and class interests of the working masses, not the privileged few. There is also a major internal struggle unfolding within the conservative Unified Marxist-Leninist party.
It should be kept in mind that what knowledge The Spark has of this struggle has been gained through scattered, unclear reports translated into English and filtered through the bourgeois media, but from what it is possible to gather, the struggle appears to be between, on the one hand, a grouping gathered around party Chairman Khanal and Vice-Chair Gautam, who are both seen as being relatively friendly to the Maoists, and on the other hand, senior party leader Oli, who is closer to the reactionary Nepal Congress party and bitterly hostile to the Maoists.
There has been a round of purges and reorganisations as Khanal tries to undermine Oli’s faction, and there is the possibility of a split between those UML leaders and cadre who lean towards supporting the Maoists and their revolutionary agenda, and those UML leaders and cadre that do not. The major struggles in Nepal at the moment would appear to be over the writing of the country’s new constitution and integration of the Maoist armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, with the Nepal Army.
Senior Maoist leader Kiran has said that his party is fundamentally opposed to the capitalist parliamentary system and will ensure that the new constitution does not adopt it. Kiran was quoted as saying “Parliamentary democracy is merely the platform for people to chat… We won’t accept the system and will write the constitution to establish the people’s federal republic instead.” He concluded by saying that “Maoists are for establishing the rights of the oppressed rather than those of the ruling class. Our model of constitution will include revolutionary land reforms, national economic management and state restructuring on the basis of ethnicity with right to self-determination.” As for the PLA, senior Nepal Army generals have said that they will not allow integration to take place. Army integration was a key part of the peace agreement between the Maoists and the capitalist parties, and if it does not take place the Maoists are not likely to take it lying down.
The current government has declared that the PLA is now under its control and is moving to ban Maoist flags, logos and so on from the cantonments in which the PLA fighters are currently living. It remains to be seen whether the revolutionary army will allow the state to succeed in its obvious attempts to disconnect the Maoist party from the people’s army. Maoist leaders have repeatedly stated that after the upcoming festival of Tihar, a “final and decisive” revolt will begin that will, in the recent words of Baburam Bhattarai, “sweep away all the reactionaries”.
The Spark will be following events in Nepal as they unfold - what we are witnessing may be the birth of the first communist revolution of the 21st century.