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 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”.
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)