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Hobson’s Imperialism And The Desperate Uncle Sam As Naked As Ever

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Countercurrents
March 29, 2006

John Atkinson Hobson (1858-1940) was an ‘economist’ who conceptualised modern imperialism for the first time. Though never formally accepted in academia, he could never be ignored, as he overwhelmed the discipline of economics by writing vociferously and touching every field of economic analysis. Although never consistent in his own political conviction, he influenced many diehard revolutionary internationalists and radical pacifists before, during and after the World War I. He is better known as a precursor to the Marxist interpreters of economic internationalisation, finance capital and European politics, despite his avowed liberalism. It is in line with this fact that we generally see him as an economist, giving ‘objective’ analyses of economic processes leading to the world war.

However, any cursory reading of his classic work, ‘Imperialism: A Study’ (1902) shows that he was far more than an ‘objectivist’. The tenor in his work on imperialism makes him a great persuader against the imperialist motivation of the British state, its policy of colonisation and militarism, and the interest groups driving these policies. The economic analysis is simply a part of this overall project. Even if his economic analysis runs out of gas in the changed circumstances today, and seems to be timed without much contemporary relevance, his powerful indictment of jingoism, militarism and “economic parasites of imperialism” makes him immortal.

Hobson photographs the whole imperial machine instituted by finance capital vividly where we find philanthropists, media and politicians complementing the military’s work. He notes the blurring of nationalism/patriotism and expansionism. His description in this regard vividly captures even the post-Cold War imperialist rage today.

THE SAME ROTTEN ‘IMPERIAL ENGINE’

Hobson was not a supporter of the pure economic interpretation of the imperialist expansionist drive. At least on this issue, he ‘dialectically’ linked up the ‘economic’ with the ‘political’, countering today’s reductionist interpretation – so prominent even within the left circles who reduce the recent wars in the Middle East to mere ‘oil politics’. It is true that oil politics is an important “determination” in shaping the direction of the imperialist moves and wars, but reducing the latter to the former is erroneous. Moreover, why only oil? It is still finance capital – an integration of industrial and banking capitals – that feeds into oil politics etc as in the days of Hobson, Hilferding and Lenin. But none of these ‘economic’ analysts at the morn of modern imperialism sought to reduce the imperialist politics to its economic elements.

For Hobson finance was not the “motor-power of Imperialism”, rather “the governor of the imperial engine, directing the energy and determining its work: it does not constitute the fuel of the engine, nor does it directly generate the power.” On the contrary, the question of hegemony in international relations is at the centre of imperialism and its coercive-consensual apparatuses. In our days, one radical Iranian political economist, Cyrus Bina has aptly described the genesis of the post-cold war conflicts in the Middle East in his 2004 essay, “The American Tragedy: The Quagmire of War, Rhetoric of Oil, and the Conundrum of Hegemony” in the Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis:

“History has proven that capitalism is not about self-sufficiency, security, and independence, much less energy and oil independence. It is rather about discursive mutuality and contradictory interdependence. The war-for-oil scenario obtains its lineage from an old, speculative, and ahistorical right-wing economic theory where the right relies on its anachronistic application of oil monopoly and the theory-less and clue-less left on its petty bourgeois interpretation. The oil, however, is the effect—not the cause—of the U.S. war in Iraq. The cause is the collapse of the Pax Americana, the loss of American hegemony, and the self-limiting conundrum of U.S. reactions, which so far the Bush administration portrayed most nakedly and which is a million times more dangerous for global peace and stability than the flimsy oil motive.”

Similarly, Hobson in his analysis notes that “the enthusiasm for expansion” issues from “the patriotic forces which politicians, soldiers, philanthropists, and traders generate”, and finance (and the “merged” industrial interests) harnesses this irregular and blind enthusiasm – “the financial interest has those qualities of concentration and clear-sighted calculation which are needed to set Imperialism to work”. The financial power is the “final determination” which invisibly rides and motivates the horses that “an ambitious statesman, a frontier soldier, an overzealous missionary, a pushing trader” ride.

Even the phraseology of imperialism is hardly different from Hobson’s days. “In the mouths of their representatives are noble phrase, expressive of their desire to extend the area of civilisation, to establish good government, promote Christianity, extirpate slavery, and elevate the lower races.” Of course, the open avowal of Christianity and racism in the official imperialist rhetoric is difficult today but it is self-evident in the eulogy of “ideals that have inspired our [the US’] history” (The National Security Strategy of the USA 2006) that in turn inspire every US leader even today to raise a medieval war cry “God Save America”. It is evident also in Bush’s “crusades”, in the rhetoric of “free nations” advancing “liberty” by occupying the “slave” nations. However, what seems restricted or covert in politics gets free vent and consistency in the media. Hobson was clear about the instrumentalisation of the media and the role that it acquires in the imperialist project:

“The direct influence exercised by great financial houses in “high politics” is supported by the control which they exercise over the body of public opinion through the Press, which, in every “civilised” country, is becoming more and more their obedient instrument. While the specifically financial newspaper imposes “facts” and “opinions” on the business classes, the general body of the Press comes more and more under the conscious or unconscious domination of financiers.”

As, in Hobson’s days, “Her Majesty’s Flag” was “the greatest commercial asset in the world”, so is the “Star-Spangled Banner” today. And the wars that we witness today are nothing but the desperation to preserve this status. Here lies the unity of the economic and the political in the imperialist campaigns.

THE SAME ‘RACIAL ENDOWMENT’

The second part of Hobson’s book starts with an exposé of the “political significance of imperialism”. Here his main target is the myth that “Britons are a race endowed, like the Romans, with a genius for government, that our colonial and imperial policy is animated by a resolve to spread throughout the world the arts of free self-government which we enjoy at home, and that in truth we are accomplishing this work.” We must admit that a century later, this sense of racial responsibility has not died down, except that it has now been transferred to the Americans. An official document, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America” that was issued on March 16, 2006 confirms:

“There was a time when two oceans seemed to provide protection from problems in other lands, leaving America to lead by example alone. That time has long since passed. America cannot know peace, security, and prosperity by retreating from the world. America must lead by deed
as well as by example. This is how we plan to lead, and this is the legacy we will leave to those who follow.”

And Bush prefaces the document:

“America is at war…America also has an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace. The ideals that have inspired our history — freedom, democracy, and human dignity — are increasingly inspiring individuals and nations throughout the world. And because free nations tend toward peace, the advance of liberty will make America more secure.”

AND THE SAME KILLERS…

BBC recently reported on March 22, 2006, “US army dog handler Sgt Michael Smith has been jailed for six months for abusing detainees in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison from 2003 to 2004. Smith, 24, was convicted of using his black Belgian shepherd to menace prisoners for his own amusement. He expressed no remorse for his actions at the court martial, saying soldiers were not meant to be “soft and cuddly”. Prosecutors said he had competed with another handler to see who could make a detainee soil himself out of fear.”

Similarly, the Guardian reported on January 14, 2005 about another accused in Abu Ghraib case, Specialist Charles Graner, sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. Graner said, “I feel fantastic. I’m still smiling,” during his trial. “Asked on the opening day of his trial if he felt any remorse for what went on at Abu Ghraib, the soldier rolled his eyes and smirked.”

What else do all these abuses demonstrate about the state of the American youth pushed into the war, if not that imperialism necessarily dehumanises its own citizens? They are transformed into Full Metal Jacketed soldiers, or as Hobson told more than a century ago:

“There exists an absolute antagonism between the activity of the good citizen and that of the soldier. The end of the soldier is not, as is sometimes falsely said, to die for his country; it is to kill for his country. In as far as he dies he is a failure; his work is to kill, and he attains perfection as a soldier when he becomes a perfect killer. This end, the slaughter of one’s fellow-men, forms a professional character, alien from, and antagonistic to, the character of our ordinary citizen, whose work conduces to the preservation of his fellow-men. If it be contended that this final purpose, though informing and moulding the structure and functions of an army, operates but seldom and slightly upon the consciousness of the individual soldier, save upon the battlefield, the answer is that, in the absence from consciousness of this end, the entire routine of the soldier’s life, his drill, parades, and whole military exercise, is a useless, purposeless activity, and that these qualities exercise a hardly less degrading influence on character than the conscious intention of killing his fellow-men.”

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 30, 2006 at 4:31 am

Nepal & Venezuela

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Pratyush Chandra

INSN, DISSIDENT VOICE, COUNTERCURRENTS, ZNET

Any serious and honest survey of the Maoist movement in Nepal can convey the truth that its main agenda has been to establish the essential democratic institutions that will allow a devolvement of political economic power to the masses. The Maoists can challengingly claim that in every negotiation they have indulged, with the King and the parliamentary forces, they have asked for an unconditional constituent assembly, during whose election different political forces can go with their respective choice of political structure and ask for the people’s mandate. And, of course, they have demanded a subservience of the national army to the democratic government. Only a democratically elected constituent assembly having representatives from the exploited and oppressed majority has the capacity to provide a democratic constitution. Otherwise a constitution is bound to be an eclectic compromise between the already empowered vested interests, as it has happened many times in Nepal, and in many other ‘democratic’ countries. On the other hand, which modern nation can openly deny the ‘professionalisation’ of the armed forces, their ability to harm the democratic interests incapacitated and their subservience to those interests?

The Maoists have time and again emphasised their sufficiently theorised commitment to multi-party republican democracy and to ‘political competition’ that it represents. They know that the fight for their maximal goal, for socialism and communism has to be long drawn, taking into consideration “the balance in the class struggle and international situation”. But as Prachanda simultaneously stresses, this position “is a policy, not tactics”.(1) Does this stress diminish the revolutionary agenda of the Maoists? Not at all. When Mao called for putting politics in command and guns under this command, he meant the readiness of the revolutionary forces to change according to the exigencies of class struggle and revolution. What the Maoists are struggling for is the establishment of the basic political structure that will release the energy of the Nepalese exploited and oppressed masses towards an intensified class struggle, creating conditions for an unhindered process of self-organisation of the working class.

In this regard, well-known Indian Marxist Randhir Singh’s assessment of the place of the Nepalese movement among the post-Cold War revolutionary movements is quite apt: “Latin America is in fact emerging as a particularly important zone of class struggle against international capital. Just as, far away, on another continent, Nepal exemplifies that, odds notwithstanding, people will continue fighting for life beyond the established capitalist or feudal social orders. In this revived revolutionary process, the Chavez-led Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela apart, the Communist Party (Maoist)-led movement in Nepal – popularly known as People’s War – is undoubtedly the most significant popular struggle for freedom and democracy in the world today.”(2)

This comparison between Latin American experiences and Nepal’s Maoist movement is quite meaningful. Both aim towards political exercises unprecedented in the world revolutionary movement. In Latin America (Venezuela, Argentina and others) and Nepal, we are literally witnessing, what Marx hypothesized, “the whole superincumbent strata of official society [of global capitalism] being sprung into the air”.(3)

In Venezuela (and Latin America, in general), the complexity of the revolutionary transformation is engendered by the lingering of the capitalist state machinery and hegemony, on the one hand, and on the other, the contradiction of bourgeois democracy, which has put revolutionary forces at its helm. In this situation, there exists a tremendous pressure within the capitalist state and society o de-radicalise the social forces behind the upheaval by accommodating their leadership. The strength of the revolutionary forces, on the other hand, will be determined by their ability to challenge the lingering hegemony and the danger of their own accommodation by facilitating the task of building and sustaining alternative radical democratic organisations (“self-government of the producers”), while subordinating the state to them. “Only insofar as the state is converted from an organ standing above society into one completely subordinate to it’ can the working class ‘succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew’.”(4) Asambleas Barriales (neighbourhood assemblies) in Argentina and the practice of co-management (a partnership between the workers of an enterprise and society) in Venezuela seek to transcend the officialised practice of statist socialism and ‘sectionalist’ self-management by establishing an incipient ‘social’ control over production.

Modern capitalism relies mainly on representative democracy as the political system to reproduce the general conditions of capitalist accumulation. Therefore, “the crucial problem for the people in charge of affairs is to be able to get on with the business in hand, without undue interference from below, yet at the same time to provide sufficient opportunities for political participation to place the legitimacy of the system beyond serious question… Parliamentarism makes this possible: for it simultaneously enshrines the principle of popular inclusion and that of popular exclusion.” It ‘de-popularises’ policy-making and limits the impact of class contradiction at the workplace and market place upon the conduct of affairs.(5)

Hence, the practice of “participative and protagonistic democracy in society as a whole, the idea of people communally deciding on their needs and communally deciding on their productive activity” is definitely a grave crisis for global capitalism. This practice shoos all ‘metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties’ that characterise market relations (presenting the capitalist reality in distorted manner), dividing the collective worker into various identities (consumers, citizens, unemployed, formal and informal sector workers) and devise competition among them. It reclaims the right of determining one’s own destiny, to realise the “creative potential of every human being and the full exercise of his or her personality in a democratic society”, as envisaged in the Bolivarian constitution of Venezuela.(6)

In Nepal, on the other hand, regular betrayals of the democratic movement by Monarchy and democrats have time and again scuttled the potential emergence of even the minimum semblance of popular democracy. Therefore, the movement was restricted to petty bourgeoisie, who were heavily fed by international aid and its ‘cut and commission’ regime. Whenever the movement seemed to integrate with the struggle for the basic needs of the poor peasantry, landless and proletarians, a compromise was forged curbing the radical potential of the movement.

The success of the Maoists lies in the fact that they integrated the remotest corner of the Nepalese society with the mainstream struggle for popular democracy. They exposed the class content of the formal democratic exercises undertaken in the 1990s. They demonstrated how the formal democratic institutions that emerged in Nepal with the arrangement between the royalty, landlords and the upper crust of petty bourgeoisie along with global imperialism were designed to integrate the neo-hegemonic interests, the local agencies of commercialisation, dependency and primitive accumulation.

In this regard, we must not forget that the armed struggle was the major catalyst in the achievements of the Maoist movement. Firstly, it was a veritable boost to self-confidence and self-defence of the oppressed and exploited in Nepal. Secondly, it allowed sustaining politicisation and democratic practice of the downtrodden undiluted by the hegemonic coercive and consensual influences. The virtual emergence of dual power could become possible only if it had its own defence mechanism. The decade long people’s war and radical land reforms undertaken in the countryside with alternative incipient democratic institutions have radicalised the Nepalese society. It halted the continuous drainage of the Nepalese natural and human resources for economic profit, leisure and security of the external hegemonic forces, buffered by the Nepalese landlords, merchants and corporates under the leadership of the royalty. Time and again all these forces combined to scuttle the democratic aspirations of the Nepalese society in the name of maintaining stability, however allowing a “controlled transformation of the economy to suit the imperialist calculus”.(7) The Maoist upsurge liberated the potentialities in the Nepalese polity and economy.

The recent alliance between the Maoist and other democratic forces in Nepal can be seen, on the one hand, as winning back of the “middle forces” (using Mao’s phrase) and on the other, it signifies a nationwide unity among the exploited and oppressed sections of the society. Further, it marks the willingness to challenge the formal ‘democracy from above’ by the incipient ‘democracy from below’, to allow a “political competition” between them. It is in this respect we can understand the Maoist movement as part of the global struggle for freedom, democracy and socialism. We will have to wait and see, what specificities the Nepalese struggle would acquire. Or, will it be another saga of historic betrayal forged by the imperialist forces and the local ruling coalition?

Seeing the way global imperialism has been once again hyperactive with its ideologies and armies, one can only rely upon the working classes of the world to defend these movements for social transformation with their “fraternal concurrence”. They must realise their “duty to master themselves the mysteries of international politics; to watch the diplomatic acts of their respective governments; to counteract them, if necessary, by all means in their power; when unable to prevent, to combine in simultaneous denunciations, and to vindicate the simple laws or morals and justice, which ought to govern the relations of private individuals, as the rules paramount of the intercourse of nations. The fight for such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes.”(8)

Notes:

(1) Interview with Prachanda, The Hindu (excerpts published on February 8, 9 and 10, 2006)

(2) Randhir Singh (2005), Foreword in Baburam Bhattarai, Monarchy Vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya, New Delhi, pp.vii.

(3) Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels (1848), The Manifesto of the Communist Party (Chapter 1).

(4) Michael Lebowitz (2003), Beyond Capital (2nd Edition), Palgrave, pp.196

(5) Ralph Miliband (1982), Capitalist Democracy in Britain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp.38

(6) Michael Lebowitz (2005), Constructing Co-Management in Venezuela: Contradictions along the Path.

(7) Baburam Bhattarai (2003), The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis, Adroit Publishers, Delhi, pp.46

(8) Karl Marx (1864), Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 20, 2006 at 2:37 pm

Bush’s Ports Affair

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Countercurrents

Finally Dubai Ports World has decided to transfer US ports business to a “US entity”. Bush must have felt relieved along with his colleagues (both for and against the ports deal). They must have patted each other for effectively creating a drama around the deal that achieved two ends – it has homogenised and ‘jingoised’ the American opinion to a certain degree, while giving a softening touch to the warrior image of Bush.

Full Text: click COUNTERCURRENTS

Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 13, 2006 at 11:09 am

Dinner with George and Manmohan: Bush in India

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COUNTERPUNCH

The Joint US-India statement issued after the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Singh on March 2 clearly reflects the Indian approval of the principles on which the US hegemony is established globally. The five sections, in which the statement is divided, to summarize the broad areas of cooperation, enumerate the basic concerns of the US hegemony, and India’s willingness to cooperate.

Full Text: http://counterpunch.org/chandra03032006.html

Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 3, 2006 at 6:40 pm

Recent Developments in Nepal: Problems and Prospects

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Pratyush Chandra

ML INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER, MARCH-APRIL 2005

Nepal is in a state of continuous flux. On February 1, Gyanendra celebrated the first anniversary of his “royal coup”, while democratic forces denounced it with ever greater strength and unity among themselves. Since the beginning of this year, there has been a tremendous expression and repression of democratic voices; arrests, police vandalism, demonstrations, strikes and street fights have become a daily routine; elections to local bodies turned out to be farcical (“hollow”, as the US Department of State prefers to call them), because of the boycott by the democratic parties reinforced by a general strike imposed by the Maoists… What exact shape this fluidity will take is still unclear, however one can trace the pattern.

The Naked King and the Imperial Dilemma

The Maoists withdrew their unilateral 3+1 month ceasefire on January 2 this year. Since then we have seen curfews, elections, boycotts and a general strike, which provided us the opportunity to assess the relative strength of monarchy and the democratic forces. The King tried to block rallies and demonstrations, but his brutality could not match the tide of the democratic aspirations of the Nepalese people. Immediately, the strength of the opposition forces too was tested. The King planned an institutionalised demonstration of his strength with the Panchayat (local bodies) elections. The popular defiance reinforced by a general strike called by the only concrete people’s power existing in Nepal fizzled out the charm of the royal fanfare, and there he found himself naked before the whole world – this way they knew him and he knew himself!!!

The US and India wailed. Not for the fate of the Nepalese royalty, but for being forced into an impossible situation, to make an impossible choice. Their inability to convince the King of his “illegitimate” games and their consequences has been stark. They are afraid of making any clear choice, since the two clear choices available before them will bring crisis to the global imperial regime.

They know that supporting monarchy, on the one hand, will de-legitimise the post-Cold War ideology of ‘democracy propagation’, which they cannot afford to do just for Nepal and South Asia. On the other hand, at least for India, which is presently the newest member in the US-led imperialist consortium, this choice is devastating as the unpredictable nature of the Nepalese monarchy is not at all beneficial for its political economic interests.

But a clear-cut support to republican democracy too is equally untenable for them, if not more. Because of the level of political consciousness among the oppressed and exploited masses of Nepal, any free leverage to them will sweep away the Nepalese dependence. Further, the imperialists are aware of the limited capacity, reach and influence of the ‘democratic’ political elites in Nepal. These elites are under constant pressure from their own mass base, which has been in direct interaction with the revolutionary forces in the country. This fact considerably reduces the manoeuvring capacities of the Nepalese parliamentary forces in comparison to the elites in other democracies. Hence, the global imperial strategy is stuck.

The Ceasefire, 12-point Agreement and Democracy from Below

The political elites in Nepal have traditionally been nurtured through global aid politics in its aided pedagogical institutions. Aid has been a major post-World War II instrument of finance capital geared towards “creating an extraordinarily dense and widespread network of relationships and connections which subordinates not only the small and medium, but also the very small capitalists and small masters” (1). In the 1990s, through a quasi-democratic exercise, the Nepalese neo-rich and petty bourgeois clienteles and contractors could choose their own delegates for official negotiations with the global corporate regime.

The petty bourgeois democrats’ relationship with the institution of monarchy has always been of awe and reverence, but it instantly led to hatred whenever they tried to get near it. They were forced to feel their own smallness before the arrogant royalty and its indifference. Throughout the history of post-1990 Nepal, and more intensively after Gyanendra’s enthronement, various sections of democrats competed for the royal affection finding themselves more and more isolated and divided. The February coup of 2005 marked a decisive break in this relationship.

The faithful lower-rank leadership directly dealing with the grassroots of the democratic parties were already disillusioned by the opportunism of the upper-rank party bureaucracies. The coup consolidated this disillusionment. These democratic aspirations of the radicalised sections of the petty bourgeoisie and the urban proletarians opened the dialogic avenue with the ongoing-armed class struggle in the countryside and beyond Kathmandu.

The Maoists, on the other hand, have always been resilient to these dialogues. In fact, deaf ears to their own innumerable calls for democratic unity have not discouraged them. They have understood through their experience what Mao told, while criticising Stalin: “the main blow of the revolution should be directed at the chief enemy and to isolate him, whereas with the middle forces, a policy of both uniting with them and struggling against them should be adopted, so that they are at least neutralized; and as circumstances permit, efforts should be made to shift them from their position of neutrality to one of alliance with us in order to facilitate the development of the revolution.” (2)

In return to these genuine calls the Maoists as a proof for their commitment announced a unilateral ceasefire for three months. This ceasefire along with pressure from their own mass base forced the democratic parties and their leaders to seal a historic alliance with the Maoists – the 12-point agreement. And the Maoists extended their ceasefire for another month.

Imperialist Forces Operating in Tandem

This ceasefire humbled all the poles of global imperialism, who faced a danger to their own credibility if they continued supporting the royalty in all its arrogant, repressive and intransigent gymnastics. However, the US and India remained persistent in their efforts to call for the isolation of the Maoists and thought that the King eventually would come to his mind. They kept on advising him and the parliamentary forces to re-establish the harmony between the “constitutional forces”. As indicated earlier, this persistence came from their need to have a full grip over the Nepalese political economy. This control is dependent upon their ability to moderate the royal and status quoist intransigence with the help of various nodes in the commercialised and monetised political economy of Nepal, while negating the ‘anarchy’ of the latter by the overseeing authority of the royalty. Of course, the February coup and later, the alliance between the Maoists and 7-parliamentary parties posed a definite crisis in this regard, but the imperialist forces have been consistently trying to rebuild a situation amenable for themselves. And in this task, they have shown remarkable mutual coordination, both in deeds and words. The striking similarity between the American and Indian messages in this regard is unprecedented.

For example, on the end of the ceasefire none of these two countries asked why this ceasefire remained unilateral. Instead, for Indians its normal expiry was “an unfortunate decision” and they passed their moral judgement on the Maoists’ “path of violence and terror”(3). Similarly, the US too moralised saying that it has “consistently called upon the Maoists to abandon violence and rejoin the political mainstream. The end of the ceasefire at this time is unhelpful and contrary to that goal. There can be no excuse for the resumption of violence” (4).

Again, on January 19, 2006 after the royal crackdown over democratic leaders, the US called for “a dialogue between the King and the parties and a return to democracy” in order to effectively “address the Maoist insurgency in Nepal”, without taking note of the fact that the parties are already in agreement with the Maoists (5). Similarly, the UK asked the King “urgently to release those arrested, and to find ways to resume dialogue with the political parties.”(6) And India regretted that its “wish to see the constitutional forces in Nepal working together to achieve peace and stability in the country” remains unfulfilled.(7) Taking into consideration their mutual understanding in other international affairs, it is definite that these imperial states are pronouncing all these decisions and opinions in tandem. Even the press releases of one seem to be mere paraphrasing of others’.

The Danger

The humiliation of the King in his own Panchayat elections is a big blow to his self-confidence, and the confidence of the interventionist forces in him and their own capacity to manoeuvre. The US is forced to admit that the elections “represented a hollow attempt to legitimize his power”. But we will have to wait in order to see the full implications of these results.

The moral boost to republican sentiments is evident. The imperialists are anxious, but they know that they are incapable of undertaking any aggressive activist step in this regard. Their game plan has to be subtle and nuanced, but the pattern is quite evident. The US in the same post-elections message blamed “Maoist intimidation and killing of candidates during the campaign” for the failure of the elections, and refused to note the unanimity between the parliamentary forces and the Maoists on the illegitimacy of the elections. It once again insisted on the need to have a dialogue between the King and the “political parties” in order to “effectively deal with the threat posed by the Maoists” (8). How will this dialogue happen when the “parties” and the Maoists are already in alliance? Where is this hope for a royalty-parties alliance against the “Maoist threat” coming from? And herein lies the danger.

The success of the Maoists’ General Strike is bound to make the inconsistent upper crust of the petty bourgeois leadership epileptic because of the immense fluidity and uncertainty of the aftermath. If this is not complemented by more intensive consolidation on the part of the radicalised masses and their consistent leadership, it will lead to horse-trading between the inconsistent democrats and the King mediated by the imperialists, especially India and the US. US Ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty in his recent speech clearly indicated this. He called upon the Democrats and the King to be ready for “hard compromise, tough give and take”. In return, the United States “would look eagerly for ways to assist a new Nepal government that respects and supports democracy, human rights, and freedom. This also could include renewing assistance for the Royal Nepalese Army.” (9)

The Maoists are aware of this danger, as Prachanda informed in one of his recent interviews: “We have gotten an indication, through the UN people or other international agencies, that they [government] are trying to propose in a roundabout way a conditional constituent assembly. Obviously, the Maoists will “reject it outright because “conditional” means “compromise”” (10), but as the intensity of the movement increases, the leaders who have tasted proximity to the royalty and enjoyed it while in government are used to such compromises. They are bound to vacillate. In such a situation the only resort will be closing the ranks at the bottom level on the basis of the rapport which the Maoists and other radical democratic forces have built between the rural and urban working classes, peasantry and petty bourgeoisie across party lines. Only a vigilant and conscious check and assault from below on such tendencies will guarantee a political transformation that goes at least an inch beyond the replay of democratic farce in the name of attaining peace among the “constitutional forces”.


References

1. V.I. Lenin (1916-17), Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

2. Mao Tse-tung (1956), “Stalin’s place in history” (1956), Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. 7.

3. “In response to a question on the withdrawal of ceasefire by the Maoists in Nepal”, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (January 2, 2006)

4. “Nepal: Maoists End Cease-fire”, US Department of State (January 3, 2006)

5. “Nepal: Arrests of Opposition Leaders”, US Department of State (January 19, 2006)

6. “Foreign Office Minister condemns political arrests in Nepal” (January 19, 2006), UK Foreign Office

7. “In response to a question on developments in Nepal”, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (January 19, 2006)

8. “Nepal Municipal Elections Lack Public Support”, US Department of State (February 8, 2006)

9. James F Moriarty, “Nepal’s Political Crisis: A Look Back, A Look Forward

10. “Interview with Prachanda”, The Kathmandu Post (posted on February 7, 2006)

Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 3, 2006 at 11:33 am

Posted in Imperialism, Nepal

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