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Whose puppet is the Nepal govt and what for?

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Leave aside this talk about puppet, colonial, expansionist etc. They are mere rhetorics. India is clearly an imperialist country – a country which controls around 45 percent of FDI in Nepal has much on stake. You cannot appeal to India’s good conscience and put it on the ‘right’ track by sarcasm (just asking for “a paradigm shift in relations with India by recognizing the changed political context in Nepal”) . Only a popular unity of the working masses across boundaries can defeat this South Asian imperialism. However, this would require inculcating a Zimmerwaldian spirit among Indian comrades – and that is the most difficult task, indeed!!!

http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?679967

Ahead of their planned massive show of strength against the “puppet” regime of Madhav Nepal on May 1, Nepalese Maoists have intensified their anti-India campaign by releasing posters and pamphlets against New Delhi.

The former rebels are planning a major rally on May 1 to demand the ouster of the 22-party coalition government headed by Madhav Kumar Nepal, calling it a “puppet” regime, coinciding with the International Labour Day.

Ten days before the rally, walls in capital Kathmandu adorn posters and paintings against India, which authorities feel would further fan anti-India sentiments in Nepal.

“Get rid of the puppet government”, “abrogate the Nepal India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950” and “Indian Army vacate Kalapani and Susta” are some of the slogans that have made way into the posters.

Some posters say the May one agitation is to protect “national independence and fight against colonial and expansionist forces.”

Maoists have been accusing India of interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs, but New Delhi has rejected it.

Last week, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood had met Maoist chief Prachanda to express concern that the rally would further fan anti-India sentiments in Nepal.

CPN-Maoist leader say the May 1 rally is to “fight against those forces which have been conspiring against the peace process and the process of drafting the constitution.”

The party has also appealed to labourers to participate in the rally.

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 22, 2010 at 12:55 am

Nepali Maoism

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Very interesting interview with Baburam Bhattarai

Excerpts

Continuous revolution

1) “being a Maoist we believe in continuous revolution. Revolution never stops. Even when one stage is completed, immediately the new stage should be continued. Only that way can we reach socialism and communism. That is a basic tenet of Maoism. Being a Maoist, this reasoning of continuous revolution can never be abandoned.”

Transitional state

2) “The nature of the transitional state is, to put it very concisely, in principle a dictatorship of the reactionary forces. But in practice, since the proletarian forces played a leading and decisive role in dismantling the autocratic monarchy and creating this transitional state, the political authority of the progressive, patriotic and proletarian forces is high. So this interim state won’t be very stable and if we can correctly mobilise the masses of people it can easily be overthrown and replaced by a New Democratic state”.

New Democracy and Socialism

3) “we want to do away with this bureaucratic and comprador capital and convert it into national industrial capital which can subsequently be organised in a socialistic manner. With this policy in mind, we intend after the completion of the revolution to confiscate all this bureaucratic and comprador capital and convert it into national capital which can be reorganised into a socialist mode of production”.

Socialism and Democracy

4) “Our conclusion was that basically we need more room for the masses of the people to supervise and intervene in the state. If that will not happen then after the revolution the initiative of the masses will be diminished, and only the few of the bureaucratic elite will rule over the state in the name of the proletariat and the revolution would not be carried further.
To check this we have to create certain mechanisms whereby the constant mobilising of the masses and the constant vigilance and intervention of the masses is ensured so the state doesn’t turn into a bureaucratic state. To create such an institution one of the ideas is to provide democracy as was practiced during the Paris Commune days, or to again go towards the Soviet model of democracy, or draw lessons from the Cultural Revolution.”

Uneven proletarian consciousness and politics

5) “Why do we need many parties? Though the proletarian class is one class, the proletarian consciousness is different, there is uneven consciousness.”

Written by Pratyush Chandra

October 30, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Nepal, Politics

“When Nepal finds its voice”

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ET has published a good editorial on the changing tenor of Indo-Nepal relationship:

Fortunes have a propensity to swiftly change sides. And what seems to be the given order of things can swiftly come to be transformed. Witness the heartburn in India when news emerged that the new Nepali Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was headed to Beijing instead of paying obeisance to New Delhi first.

If there’s one thing we haven’t yet gotten used to in our neighbourhood, it’s the sudden and complete transformation within Nepal. We were quite happy while we could treat Nepal like a province, a wee bit like a colony, and while their leaders would first and foremost be careful about our big brotherly concerns.

It was quite all right as long as the image of ordinary Nepalis only meant thinking of a pliable servant at home. Things were just fine as long as we could head up there without any restriction and virtually run the economy. Until the Maoists came along.

It is as if Nepal has discovered a new identity, an ability to stand up and speak for itself. After dumping the monarchy, which again irked us as the kings were quite part of our own royal families, the new Nepal now seems like it wants to talk on equal terms.

This could be a painful process, since as old habits die hard. And then, we were quite used to, say, a certain degree of extra attention. Now, when a Nepalese official ‘reassures’ us that India should not worry about the Nepali PM’s China visit since his nation will now pursue a policy of ‘equidistance’ with its two neighbours, it doesn’t cause much assurance.

Indeed, there’s a certain galling element to the whole notion of not being preferentially treated. And this could well reflect in ‘new’ issues being talked about when officials of the two nations meet. Already, Nepal is speaking of tricky issues like the thousands of Bhutanese refugees in its territory. What it will be like when it comes to stomach-churning things like water-sharing can only be surmised. Sigh! But for the good old days.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

August 29, 2008 at 1:01 am

The Constituent Assembly for Stable ‘Democracy’ or for uninterrupted Democratisation?

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A substantial portion of the following reflections on Nepal was jotted down several days ago, but they seem still relevant.

1

Stable democracy is the end of democratisation. This statement is ambiguous – on the one hand, it means that democratisation leads to stable democracy, but on the other it also means that the latter actually ends the process of democratisation. Isn’t it true that all stable formal democracies are realisation of particular processes of democratisation? Isn’t it also true that the stability of these democracies depends on how much the ritual of elections and the cacophony of parliamentary halls and senates are able to control the popular assertion on the streets and in every walk of life?

2

In Nepal, this tussle between democracy and democratisation is very intensive. Till recently especially during the phase of the people’s war the forces representing each of them were easily identifiable since they were generally mutually exclusive, but after April 2006 both are on the same turf trying to overpower one another. The only consistent forces are the royalty and the imperialists – the former is waging an existential struggle, while the latter have to make best out of the worst situation. And all others are inconsistent in varying degrees. The non-communist forces of democracy are evidently still afraid of any drastic break from the past – the royalty and their own past practices. The royal nostalgia looms heavily on the election manifestos of the Nepali Congress and UML, even when they officially declare themselves as republicans. They are afraid of any radical change in the legitimation process. They are unable to give away the ritualism and ceremonialism that characterised the polity which they profess to challenge. They still need a ceremonial patriarch in whose name they will rule.

3

Everybody knows that it was the mass agitation that forced the royalty and foreign interests on defensive. Even after the restoration of the old parliament it was the continued presence of masses on the streets that coerced the restored leadership to inch forward to further democracy.

4

By becoming part of the government that is non-committal to any radical change unless forced, the Maoists perhaps became vulnerable to all the pitfalls of power politics in a competitive set-up. However the greatest strength or safeguard for them is their recognition and commitment to two-line struggle within their own ranks – between the tendencies of compromise and of uninterrupted transformation. They are aware that their radicalism lies in intensifying this struggle at every level. If we find today an apparent inconsistency between the Maoists in the government and those on the streets, it is the open realisation of this two-line struggle, which tempers one another not allowing the former to settle with status quoism. Recent statements by Prachanda, Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Baidya, where they stressed on the need for giving “top priority to the street struggle at this juncture”, reflect the Maoists’ resolution to remain as forces of democratisation, rather than a stability factor for a democracy of an elitist minority and the depoliticised majority.

5

Definitely, this does not go well with the scheme for democracy as visualised by the hegemonic forces. They need stability; democracy too is needed just to have a stable environment, as a scheme to bribe away the representatives of those who shout on the streets. If democracy goes beyond this scheme, it is an aberration and anarchy – if workers assert themselves on their workplace or the landless demand their share on the resources, they are harming the property rights of the individuals. Democracy is a privilege, which must not be practiced everyday and everywhere. It is in this sense we can understand the conflict between the forces of democracy and those of democratisation. Democratisation in this regard can be understood as perpetual expansion of democracy beyond the confines of established institutions.

6

It was expected that after locking up the arms of the Maoist army, the Maoists would be “disarmed” and locked up in barracks. It is forgotten that a revolutionary army is first and foremost politically armed and always on watch out. The recent controversies on the activities of the Young Communist League are symptomatic of the impossible demands posed by the status quo on the revolutionary forces. Another controversy that has come up is regarding the issue of returning land to the deposed landlords. It is part of the hegemonic expectations, which seek to do away with any impact of the previous parallel revolutionary government on the future political economy of Nepal. Even if the Maoists officially may agree to it, the popular energy that they have unleashed in their decade-long people’s war will obviously reassert itself, despite all odds. This popular energy is evident in various self-determination movements, which have startled all the political forces in the country with their vigour.

7

Among these movements, the Madheshi (Terai) struggle clearly stands out, not only for its vigour but also for its peculiar constitution. Evidently, the various Madheshi identities have long been oppressed and suppressed in the overall Nepali set-up. But the recent attempt to homogenize Madheshi as a singular regional identity beyond divisions – caste and class – is a phenomenon that can only be understood by revealing the interplay of class, national and international forces behind it.

8

The Madheshi (Terai) region is agriculturally the most productive region in the country. Historically there has been a strong section of landed and propertied gentry in this region which has continued to oppose any systematic land redistribution efforts. Until now this section has been able to preclude such possibility through their opportunist lobbying and support to various political formations. It has time and again resisted any efforts to decrease the land ceilings. Unsurprisingly, it will see the Maoists with their commitment to radical land reforms as a grave threat. With the genuine federalist self-determination movements rising throughout the country to hasten and shape up the future Nepal, this section along with other Indo-Nepali businessmen with evident backing from the mellowed down monarchy supporters utilized sections of the Terai movement to turn anti-Maoist. In order to homogenise the Madheshi sentiment against the Maoists, the Terai ruling class and political elites have been utilising the apprehension that the radical land reforms might relocate non-Terai landless into the region. The following quote from Sarita Giri of Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi), one of the political parties claiming to fight for the Madheshi rights reveals much of the class-fear among the leadership of the Madheshis:

“As a consequence of [the] 1990 movement, Communists (led by hill elites) emerged as a formidable new force. [The] Revolutionary land reform agenda has been now their political agenda. But it would be naive to say that it was no more the agenda of Nepali Congress. Prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba ha[d] agreed to reduce the ceiling to 4 to 5 bighas from 11 bighas in Madhesh. It was due to the movement led by Nepal Sadbhawana Party and supported by madheshi elites across parties that the government dropped its agenda. And now in 2007 they are the Maoists who have designed to march ahead with their agenda of revolutionary land reform. It has explicitly been mentioned in the Interim Constitution. This time too, Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi) has written note of dissent against the revolutionary land reform program. The aim behind such an agenda is obviously to enhance the control of hill centric state over madhesh. This is the context against which the current Madheshi movement and its demands of republicanism, autonomy, self determination and federalism should be understood.”

Even Jwala Singh, a militant Madhesi leader demanded that, “The land of Madheshis captured by Maoists should be given back”.

Obviously these sections of the Terai leadership will be all the more anxious, as the Maoists have already included the demand for ‘land to the tiller’ in their Commitment Document for the Constituent Assembly elections.

9

Furthermore, the Terai region being geographically, culturally and economically closer to the only immediate imperialist force and agency in the region, India, is also open to various kinds of imperialist manipulation. In recent years, India with its rising economic interests beyond its territory has used all sorts of “identities” to assert a diasporic homogeny under the garb of which it can support its cross-border political economic expansion. It is not very surprising that this expansionist tenor was firmly and vocally established by the Rightist forces in India. It can in fact be comfortably said that the rightists became a legitimate force in India only with the rise of neoliberalism, when Indian capital found Indianness, Hinduism etc to be effective in its “free” market consolidation and operation globally. One needs to cursorily go through the widely circulated weekly of Hindu fascists, Organiser and its chatterbox journalism to grasp the confident obscenity of Indian expansionism in its extreme. Recently it invented “The Western-Christian agenda in Kathmandu” and “the Christian leadership of the Maoists”, lamenting the threat to the “Hindu civilisation”:

“The bells are tolling, not just for the Nepalese monarchy, but also for the Hindu culture and civilisation of the nation.”

It is a known fact that the Hindu rightists in India have been outspoken against the republican and democratisation processes in Nepal, and have been very active recently in the Terai region. It is this transnational unity among Hindu fascists with its base in India, which acts as a major weapon of active imperialist intervention, besides the usual economic threat of the flight of capital and the diplomatic diatribes.

10

It is evident that delays that marred the implementation of the anti-royalist agenda to which various democratic forces agreed have given a significant time for the reactionary forces to consolidate. It will be interesting to observe the various political realignments before, during and after the Constituent Assembly elections.

11

The Maoists claim that the main basis of the new constitution will be “the mandate of the 10 years People’s War and 19 days people’s Movement”. They see, as Maoist leader Badal explains, the Constituent Assembly as “the process of building new Nepal. We are advancing through the Constituent Assembly as the process of institutionalising new Nepal by the representatives elected directly in the participation of the people.[sic!] We raised the agenda of the CA through revolt and movement; institutionalized it and we are in the stage of its implementation. The process has been advanced ahead to carry out movement up to conclusion.” Obviously this reinterpretation of the CA as a process, if legitimised through elections and if the Maoists continue to adher to it, will be a death knell for the reactionary forces in and around Nepal.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

March 14, 2008 at 4:39 am

Posted in Democracy, Nepal

Indian expansionism’s ugly face – Hindu Fascism

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For legitimising any imperialist and expansionist design, a State needs a particular ideology of “interests” that can mobilise opinion behind it within its territory, and also identify agencies outside which can justify its “cross-border” intervention. India with its rising economic interests beyond its territory has used all sorts of “identities” to create such diasporic homogeny under the garb of which it can operate. It is not very surprising that this expansionist tenor was firmly and vocally established by the Rightist forces. It can in fact be comfortably said that the rightists became a legitimate force in India only with the rise of neolliberalism, when Indian capital found Indianness, Hinduism etc to be effective in its “free” market consolidation and operation globally. One needs to cursorily go through the widely circulated weekly of Hindu fascists, Organiser and its chatterbox journalism to grasp the confident obscenity of Indian expansionism in its extreme. Recently it invented “The Western-Christian agenda in Kathmandu” and “the Christian leadership of the Maoists”, lamenting the threat to the “Hindu civilisation”:

“The bells are tolling, not just for the Nepalese monarchy, but also for the Hindu culture and civilisation of the nation.”

So embrace your khaki-nickers and oiled lathis to save monarchy, save Hinduism… while the Nepali resources – human and natural – are plundered by Indian interests in the name of “economics above politics”. Similarly, it was the leader of opposition, the instigator of the Babri Mosque demolition LK Advani who first petitioned the Indian government to “save Indians” in Uganda, where the Ugandan people are struggling against the Mehta group’s acquisition of Mabira forests.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Progressive Regression in Nepal

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Pratyush Chandra

Only one aspect of Nepal’s Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat’s budgetary speech delivered on July 12, 2006 is stunningly consistent: its ceremonial mentioning of people’s movement, their aspirations and their martyrdom. Along with references to “rural empowerment”, “peace” and “sharp cuts in royal palace allocations”, these incantations are intended to provide new discursive “instruments of legitimation” for the Nepali state, or as the World Bank Country Director for Nepal, Ken Ohashi, says, all these are necessary for “establishing the credibility of the state” (“Seizing the open moment”, Nepali Times, 7-13 July 2006). Only time will tell if radical forces are able to expose the new regime’s opportunism under cute baubles: the progression of regression in Nepal.

Let us first ponder briefly over the present state of Nepal’s economy to understand the full meaning and implications of the budget. In 2004, Nepal’s population was around 25.2 millions, of which around 85% resided in the rural areas, suggesting their dependence on agriculture. The per capita income in 2004 was US$260, which is far below the average per capita income in low-income countries ($510) and in South Asia ($590). Particularly revealing is the structure of the economy according to the sectoral shares in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP):


Source: World Bank (2006), “Nepal at a glance”.


Source: World Bank (2006), “Nepal at a glance”.

As Table 1 shows, there has been a continuous decline in the share of agriculture in the GDP. The industrial sector’s share definitely did expand from 1984 to 1994. However, since 1994, at least, its share has been stagnant, while the manufacturing industries’ share is on the decline. It seems that the non-manufacturing industries and services sector have been compensating the decreasing share of agriculture in the GDP, but as evident from Table 2, none of these sectors have been promising in their self-expansion. In fact, the average annual growth rate in the industrial sector has drastically reduced in the period 1994-2004.

Even though the increasing share of non-agricultural sectors in the GDP is a universal trend, in Nepal, like in other South Asian countries, this has not been accompanied by a proportionate shift in the labour force from agriculture to the other two sectors. According to the estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, the percentage of agricultural labour force in total labour force in Nepal remains almost unchanged since 1979 – it was 94% during 1979-91, while for several years now it is stuck to 93%.

All these indicate a huge rural/urban divide – an immense sea of rural poverty encircling a few islands of urban affluence. Taking into consideration the inequitable distribution of land holdings (Table 3) and semi-feudal forms of exploitation in an increasingly monetised rural setting, one can only imagine the state of the poor peasantry, semi-proletarians and the landless.


Source: Devendra Chhetry, “Understanding Rural Poverty in Nepal”, in Christopher Edmonds and Sara Medina (ed.), Defining an Agenda for Poverty Reduction (Vol. 1), Asian Development Bank (Manila, 2002). The figures are drawn from National Sample Census of Agriculture Nepal, 1991/92, Analysis of Results, Central Bureau of Statistics (Kathmandu, 1994). Ha= hectares

Even the World Bank admits (Economic Update 2002) that poverty could not be reduced in Nepal since “growth has been concentrated primarily in the urban areas and particularly in Kathmandu valley, largely excluding 86 percent of the population who live in rural areas, where per capita agricultural production has grown minimally and the overall level of economic activity has been sluggish”.

The disproportion between the share of the non-agricultural sectors in the GDP and the amount of employment generated in these sectors indicates that whatever growth we find in these sectors are either in capital-intensive industries controlled by foreign capital collaborating with a handful of Nepali mercantilist corporates, or in the informal economy where the circulatory migrants from rural Nepal toil with no job security and very low wages.

Moreover, impoverishment in rural (also in urban areas) has resulted in sluggishness in domestic demand for industrial goods, which has further eroded the possibility of an increased industrial growth in Nepal. This fact coupled with the backlash of liberalisation (export-oriented production) has made the industries in Nepal increasingly dependent on external markets – depleting internal resources to feed external demand. This further perpetuates the need for capital-intensity and an import of technologies to compete globally, thus making the dependency total, and the goal of employment-generating industrialisation a chimera.

In this situation, it is expected from any post-April 2006 government, which draws its power from popular radicalism that has enwrapped Nepal today, that it will represent the aspirations of the masses and address their basic problems – rural poverty, inequitable land distribution, unbridled commercialisation, profit-motivated industrialisation, lack of economic activities induced by popular needs, etc. The figures in Tables 1-2 testify the reality of neoliberalism as practiced in the Nepali setting.

It was in 1984 when the Nepali State accepted the IMF/WB liberalisation package, and never deterred from the neoliberal course despite the so-called 1990 democratic achievements. The Maoist revolt was a challenge to this path, and it was obviously expected that a post-April 2006 government would rethink the model of economic management that the Nepali State has been pursuing till now. But this was not to be, at least if we go by Mahat’s budgetary exercise.

In the introductory paragraphs of the speech, the Finance Minister talks about the need to “form a common vision of socio-economic development through dialogue among political and social forces active in the country” and asserts that “the dialogue between Government of Nepal and Nepal Communist Party (Maoist)” is most certainly a formidable step in this regard. In his zeal to make this point, he goes to the extent of visualising the fantastic possibility “to end all forms of conflict prevalent in the country”. However, the revolutionaries would never claim to negotiate for such a utopia, not with the democrats who are still uncomfortable with the possibility of sweeping away the most blatant point of contention: the burden of royalty.

But the Finance Minister himself betrays his and his colleagues’ conscious design of which all this wordiness is an important characteristic. This blueprint becomes clear in the following sentences: “The national debate today has surely centered on determining the future political system and process to achieve sustainable peace. This does not mean that the issue of economic development should be pushed to back burner. Democracy cannot flourish on the foundation of a weak economy. The economy is in crisis for over half a decade. It is looking for a new momentum.”

This statement contains all the essential ideological elements that characterise global neoliberalism, the weaning diet of the leadership of developing countries. First and foremost, the will to separate the economic from the political, that is, to ensure the complete depoliticisation of the former, is expressed in clear terms. To present that the “national debate” is only about politics is not only a gross misrepresentation of Nepali politics, but more importantly, it is a ploy to ensure that “the issue of economic development” does not become part of this “national debate”. Of course, economic development should not “be pushed to back burner”; rather with Mahat it must compete with political development more vigorously. But what will be the course of this economic development? The immediate answer that we seem to get is: No politics, please.

Economic development, for Mahat and his ilk, is unilinear along a neoliberal trajectory, or whichever one set by the global and regional masters. And the fundamental duty of any “national” leadership under the global neoliberal regime today is to police this unilinearity so that politics does not contaminate economics. This is the redefinition of the cherished “rule of law” today. If all conflicts in the politics of economic development are systematically ruled out, then, of course, the fantastic vision that Mahat has about ending “all forms of conflict prevalent in the country” will become real and there will be everlasting “sustainable peace”.

Consider provisions of the budget. As usual, there is an overabundance of promises, allocations and words as proof of the government’s commitment to the people in Mahat’s budgetary speech. All these are duly balanced by its fidelity to “investment-friendly atmosphere” for agro-businesses and “commercial farming”, “to encourage private investment” in every sector and, of course, faithfulness to its donors.

In the name of the pro-poor programme, the government will formulate an agriculture business promotion policy for “enhancing private sector participation in agriculture, market infrastructure development and agro-industries”. “As per the concept of public-private partnership, a policy will be adopted to encourage private sector in the expansion of technology and seeds under agriculture extension programme”. Then, there will be interest subsidy in tea farming, floriculture and milk chilling centres. The “One-Village-One-Product” programme “under public-private partnership will be initiated to increase production of commodities, which have adequate export potentials in foreign countries”. “Assistance will be provided for improved seeds, fertilisers and technology to jute producing farmers”. And the clincher – “concessional credit facility will be provided to the landless people for the purchase of land”.

Thus, the government will alleviate rural poverty, to ensure food security and implement land reforms. Market is the magic wand. What if there is no food, no land? Market will resolve everything.

Is it too demanding to realise the implications of these budgetary provisions? Where do they locate rural Nepal and its toiling masses in the global agro-industrial complex by excessive commodification of their lives? They are milled into “a new division of labour in agriculture”, where “the centre has specialised in capital-intensive production of grains and dumped them in the periphery, while peripheral states have battled for saturated markets for traditional exports, or have discovered ‘comparative advantage’ in various ‘non-traditional’ goods and land uses, namely ‘exotic’ fruits, cut flowers and vegetable, as well as ostrich husbandry and ‘wildlife’ management (ecotourism). In turn, all of these have been biased towards large-scale landholding, controlled by corporate capital, and destined for luxury peripheral and metropolitan consumption.”(Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros (ed), Reclaiming the Land: The Resurgence of Rural Movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Zed Books, London, 2005, p.18)

In the industrial sector too, Mahat has all his recipes ready for resolving industrial difficulties. He dips straight into undergrad textbooks on Economics to derive his recipes. For private sector there is a development and rehabilitation programme. “An Industrial Rehabilitation Fund will be established with the participation of the government, central bank, financial institutions and interested industrialists and entrepreneurs in order to rehabilitate the conflict-affected sick industries”. There will be a new labour law too, amenable to the needs of new industries, special economic zones and export processing zones.

This means the institutionalisation of the already informal labour market with no security for the workers. And, if these workers organise themselves and agitate, they will be accused of serving “the narrow interests of a small group”, as World Bank Country Director Ken Ohashi (“Seizing the open moment”, Nepali Times, 7-13 July 2006, p. 4) puts in an article published on the eve of the budget submission, since “peace, social and political inclusiveness, and economic growth” can be attained only if energy is directed “away from self interests to a collective purpose”. Strikingly, it seems either Mahat has literally lifted phrases from this article, or else the budget was drafted in the WB’s office. He too pleads for “a balance between the collective wishes and collective means”.

It is not very hard to identify the nature of this collectivity. In a class-divided society, the hegemonic collectivity is that of the ruling class, and the State is a definite instrument to serve its purpose. Hence, to meet this ‘collective purpose’, the Koirala government has everything to offer to their rich protégé-protectors, even a complete tax holiday for the newly-established industries in 22 remote districts for ten years. But for the same ‘collective purpose’, the workers and poor peasantry must understand that all “goals cannot possibly be met by this budget” (Ohashi) and that “the state does not have adequate resources to immediately fulfill unlimited needs of the people” (Mahat).

All this should definitely encourage foreign investors and their local agencies, but Mahat draws something more from the free market of ideas. This time around he desires to satiate the swadeshi and patriotic spirit. For this, he has a Swadeshi Jutta (national shoe) formula: “In order to promote the domestic production, the existing legal provision to purchase the domestic products by the government agencies even in cases where such goods are costlier by 10 percent than the foreign products will be implemented strictly. It is believed that the use of indigenous shoes and clothes by agencies like Nepal Army, Armed Police and Nepal Police under this program will encourage the domestic industries to a great extent.”

While all these development and rehabilitation programmes will be implemented to boost the private sector, the classical medicine is in store for “public enterprises”: Liquidation. It is not very difficult for even a newspaper-reading or TV-watching layperson to decipher the neoliberal ideological character of these budgetary measures, squeezed between the wordy paragraphs on “inclusive society and economy” and poverty-alleviation rhetoric.

The Nepali leadership, which has been historically compliant to the needs of the global masters, literally as their security guards, has never found neoliberal lessons very difficult to learn. Like in other countries, Nepal’s balance of payments crisis in 1982-85 gave the country’s leadership the classical rationale to ride the IMF/WB led neoliberal wave. Thus, they negotiated “a standby credit arrangement with the IMF. Accordingly, Nepal implemented an economic stabilisation programme in 1984/85. This was followed by the Structural Adjustment programme of IMF and the World Bank in 1986/87”. (“Understanding Reforms in Nepal”, Institute for Policy Research and Development, 2005). The political economy of Nepal, which had been a guinea pig in the hands of international finance capital for testing strategic panaceas, was once again brought to the operating table for yet another surgery. When the side effects started showing up in the shape of the democratic uprising, a patchwork was arranged in 1990.

The 1990 political arrangement broadened the experience and reach of this leadership in renting out the local natural and human resources for the benefits of the global machinery of capitalism. The localised elements of the ruling class that were nurtured by the aid regime and extensive commercialisation of the economy were brought into the fold of the State power. The limited democratic “political competition” established in 1990 provided a mechanism to attune the composition of the State to the changes in the ruling class composition. It was visualised that formal democracy would reduce all inter- and intra-class conflicts to competition between lobbies and dissipate any fundamental challenge to the economic structure, while the process of neoliberalism intensified.

The standard remedy in neo-classical bourgeois economics for any crisis due to marketisation is more marketisation with peripheral superstructural arrangements. Thus in Nepal too, “Economic liberalisation and privatisation policies were intensified from 1992 onward with the implementation of the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) programme. Given the open border and special trade relations with the southern neighbour, the speed and direction of reforms were also affected by the reform drive pursued in India. Since then reforms have either been continued or deepened in the modern economic sphere of trade, industry, finance, exchange rate, and monetary and fiscal policies. As a result, Nepal now stands as one of the most liberalised and open economies in the South Asian region” (ibid). A least developed country has been blessed by the most liberalised economy in the region; such is the endowment of neoliberalism.

This reckless and continuous compliance to the needs of global capitalist accumulation and its political regime nurtured radicalism in the consciousness of the Nepali downtrodden. Before 1984, this was spontaneous and sporadic. Under neoliberalism, it became general and organised, reaching its zenith in the form of Nepali Maoism. In 1990, it was thought that electoral games and formal democracy will keep this radicalism at bay and the Nepali downtrodden playful. On the contrary, it helped in rooting out the local elements of the Nepali ruling classes and neo-rich, revelling in their newfound proximity to Kathmandu and royal institutions. Thus the prism of caste, ethnic and local consciousness that inverted the reality and united the downtrodden with their oppressors was shattered.

As wealth and growth concentrated in few urban areas in a few hands close to power, close to local political linkages of international investment and finance, the rural-urban divide sharpened. There was an unprecedented intensification in vertical and horizontal inequalities leading to the unity of class war and autonomous identity movements under People’s War. The rural poor and migrant workers united with all the other marginalised forces to challenge the basic structure.

The alternative that emerged in the Maoist practice sought for “land to the tillers”, endogenous development geared towards the popular need and political institutions best suited to facilitate such development. The energy that this practice unleashed rocked the fragile 1990 arrangement despite the consistent neoliberal pursuit by all the governments that were formed thereafter. However, there could never be a clear unity within the political elite due to increased competition for commissions in administering the aid regime and proximity to global and regional players. At the wake of the parallel governments under the Maoists, this competition was further accentuated as the formal structure’s reach of influence narrowed spatially. This overcrowding wrecked the political arrangement that was inaugurated with so much fanfare with the blessings of the global powers. This led to the royal regression, while the democrats for the first time had the time to listen to the radical voices outside the parliament, and thereby allied with the Maoists.

The Koirala government formed after the reinstatement of Parliament in Nepal was, however, quick to realise the significance of the depoliticisation of the economic in order to sustain the Nepali State’s role as the local agency for global and regional capital. Negotiations with the Maoists are making the international forces, especially India and the US, increasingly nervous. The rushed visit to India and Mahat’s presentation before Indian capitalists was to assure Indian and other ‘donors’ that they have not deviated from the neoliberal path. The act of presenting the budget without consulting the Maoists is part of this design. What else could be the reason to overload any future regime with so many prior obligations, but to reassure the supremacy of global capitalist interests after the post-April fluidity?

This brings us to another neoliberal ideological element, which is subtly evident in Mahat’s statement quoted in the first section, where he seeks to pose democracy as the end not the means to attain economic development. This is intrinsically part of the same project of depoliticisation of the economic. If democracy is the end, you do not need to practise democracy in deciding and pursuing the course of economic development. On the contrary, the elite push for liberalisation will itself engender democracy. So wait and suffer!

Of course, this is the ideal of bourgeois democracy: a system of elite decision and public ratification, as Chomsky defines it. But did Nepali people really come on the streets and suffer bullets for this brand of democracy? Royal regression can go, but the Nepali leadership continues to serve the neo-liberal counter-revolution, that leaves the lives of the labouring majority at the mercy of the ups and downs of the globalising market.

Under the neoliberal regime, capital effectively dodges every regulation and controls politics by threatening to fly away in the wake of any uncomfortable circumstances, while the political elite rationalises its anti-labour policies in the name of making the environment investment-friendly. In the name of removing market imperfections caused by “extra-economic” factors, a new authoritarianism is perpetuated, which Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel calls, “economic authoritarianism”. This renders the democratic control over human and natural resources impossible, while it instrumentalises the state in favour of the hegemonic market interests. As Rangel further says in his address to the 13th Meeting of the Latin American Economic System (SELA) Council in 2003, “Authoritarianism that is dressed in democratic forms is difficult to fight. The neoliberal model and economic decisions, which sustain and reproduce it, need a democratic façade to feign legitimacy.” Hence, the fetish of elections, as “the beginning and the end of democracy”, while economic authoritarianism continues.

(This is a slightly modified version of the article originally published in Combat Law, September-October, 2006)

Written by Pratyush Chandra

August 30, 2006 at 4:51 pm

Ambush Journalism

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Pratyush Chandra & Bela Malik
International Nepal Solidarity Network

A spate of print media reports, mainly in the Times of India, but also elsewhere (kantipuronline.com), point to tendencies in the media that have their provenance in geopolitical games. All the reports taken up here have the Maoists as their point of reference. Many of the articles are just sniper-style attacks, absolutely lacking in substance or authenticity. They are remarkable also for the uniformity of screaming sensationalist headlines.

The Wadhwa affair

On 1 August 2006, Times of India (ToI) carried a series of reports about the plight of Indians in Nepal. The shocking headlines are modified for the Delhi, Mumbai and online editions of the newspaper:

1. Mumbai Edition (page 1) “Maoists force Indians to leave Nepal” (print edition)
2. Delhi Edition (page 1) “Maoists are hounding out Indians: A New Threat emerges in Nepal”
3. Maoists: “We shoot those who don’t listen to us” (print edition)
4. “We were very scared
5. “Trouble for Nepalis here?”

All these reports have been authored or co-authored by Indrani Bagchi, a reporter who talked about India’s “nasty neighbourhood” not very long ago (ToI, August 21, 2005). These reports all bear the stamp of a new breed of journalists who are trying hard to graduate into the growing ranks of jingoist security intellectuals in India, tawdry imitations of the American breed of all-purpose experts, whose essential job is to compete with one another for the patronising approval of the imperialist mafia.

Bagchi has a short “page-13” eyewash about the possible backlash on the Nepalis toiling in India, if the Maoists target Indians (“Trouble for Nepalis here?”). The report is supposed to be based on unnamed sources, who only the writer, from all the journalists in India, has access to. But the tenor of the “report” betrays rabid jingoism, warning the Nepalis in Nepal to “behave” themselves.

It pointedly draws the readers’ attention to the Indian government’s patient tolerance. “Thus far, the Indian government has been remarkably lenient, confining themselves to talking to the Nepalese government quietly on these thorny issues. But if things take an ugly turn, the government in Delhi will have to react, particularly as it affects Indian interests.” So, the interests of sleazy businessmen in the gambling trade are to be identified as “Indian interests”. Bagchi also introduces the Chinese factor, obviously, to exploit the Indian elite’s perpetual fear of China: “If Indian trade and business is threatened, said some business interests in Nepal, it is not inconceivable that Chinese could be used to fill the gap”.

As if this weren’t enough, in “Nepal Maoists are hounding out Indians”, Bagchi writes:

“Indians are being hounded out of Nepal by the Maoists. Death threats, 24-hour deadlines for leaving with bag and baggage have been received by Indian hospitality sector employees and businessmen, creating a sense of deep fear in the community.

“The frightened community leaders have gone to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu for protection. Although the foreign office here confirmed that chauvinistic Maoists are driving out Indians, it has surprisingly not taken a public position on the issue — apparently, it will when the threat triggers a deluge.”

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA, India)’s spokesperson clarified on the same day (August 1),
“I have seen the press report in question. I can only confirm to you that we have received a specific complaint in our Embassy by Mr. Rakesh Wadhwa who is the Executive Director of Nepal Recreation Centre Pvt. Limited about the threat received from the Maoist affiliated, All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union. On receipt of this complaint, we have taken up the matter strongly with the Government of Nepal through our Embassy.”

The MEA official statement went to add, “It is not correct to say, as I have heard, that community leaders are rushing to the Embassy etc. That is factually incorrect.” Aside from the obvious fact that Wadhwa is clearly seeking to utilise diplomatic pressure to resolve labour dispute, possibly in his recreation centre (casino?), is the question of reporting.

The “reporters” did not check with the Indian Embassy, an obvious port of call. Neither did they check the facts with the concerned trade union and workers involved in the dispute to get a balanced report.

Salik Ram Jamarkattel, President of the All Nepal Trade Union Federation (Revolutionary) clarified on a phone interview to Nepal 1 (a TV on Nepal channel run by Nalini Singh) that they have not threatened anybody (Indian business class or otherwise) and that they have no such policy/programme of getting Indian citizens out of Nepal. Further, regarding the threat to the Indian workers about which the reports talk, Jamarkatel said that there was some debate between the management and the workers regarding two Indian employees, and eventually 586 workers voted against them and 27 in favour of them. Then they were removed through a democratic process.

As in May this year, when industrial disputes in Birgunj were projected as extortions, once again the above-mentioned sensational reports about industrial matters dub the Maoist’s labour activism as threats to Indian interests. This time too, the Ministry of External Affairs statement said that there “…have been incidents of extortion against businessmen and industrial units including Indian joint ventures in Hetauda-Birgunj area…” and went on to clarify, “I would not like to characterize these as a pattern and to give (say) anything that leads to an alarmist situation.”

Obviously, first page news items with such titles in a national newspaper proud of its “pulp” status are bound to be sensational, and we all know why and when such news is placed in such manner. These items follow the pattern of analyses that informed the US-Indian diplomatic exercises ever since the Maoists-Seven Party Alliance (SPA) understanding erupted into an unanticipated popular revolution in April this year. The motivation has been to force a convergence in the mentality of the paranoiac “national” middle classes in India and Nepal, reiterating the illegitimacy of the Maoist by tainting them with new “sins” both against Indians and against their property. This move is also designed to give a handle to opportunists in the SPA’s rank-and-file to repudiate the Maoists on the pretext of both Maoism’s incorrigibly violent nature as well as the need to desist from displeasing India. They only served to sensationalise the issue and exploit the rising neo-liberal jingoist paranoia in India and to keep the Maoists on the back foot always having to issue clarifications.

Axis of evil: a case of two news reports

On 26 July 2006, an article “Nepal Maoists aiding the underworld?” filed by Pradeep Thakur in Delhi appeared in the Times of India.

It claimed to be based on information “leaked” from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), India. The said DRI report finds threats from every corner of the “nasty neighbourhood”. Apart from Nepal, the report mentions Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Myanmar borders used for smuggling arms and ammunition into the country. The 1,800-km Indo-Nepal border which touches Uttaranchal, UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim is at present the most active and vulnerable sector from the smuggling point of view, the report adds. The Indo-Bangladesh border, stretching over 2,650 km along Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and West Bengal, is an open border and illegal cross-border movement of people through it is extensive. Another sensitive sector used for smuggling arms and ammunition is India’s 2,896-km-long border with Pakistan across the states of J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. “Smuggling by residents of border villages is suspected despite heavy patrolling by the armed forces,” the report notes.

There is again no corroboration.

Then a news report appeared in Kantipuronline on 2 August (server time 9:12:26) by a “Special Correspondent” that claimed that (Nepali) Maoists have links with (Indian) Naxalites. It said that the Indian Minister of State for Home Prakash Jaiswal gave a written reply to the lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, dated 1 August that Indian Naxals are “reported” to “have ideological and logistic links with Nepalese Maoists. The Naxals, in turn, have links with Islamic organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba, he is quoted to have added.” The links between Indian and Nepali Maoists are news, while the Naxals are assumed to have links with Lashkar-e-Taiba. Thus, by transitivity Nepali Maoists are part of the “terrorist network” and ultimately part of the ISI and Al Qaeda operation to destabilise the “civilised” societies. The report concludes with

“Over 200 districts in 14 Indian states are grappling with the menace of Naxal activities such as bombings of railway and other infrastructures and attacks on security patrols. India has adopted a two-pronged approach –counter insurgency and economic development — to deal with the crisis described as number one threat to national security.”

With such predictably Indian intelligence-speak, it appears that indeed one department of the great Indian State went out on a limb and shot off its mouth.

But that was not the case here. The Government of India’s official Press Information Bureau, had put up a press release on 1 August 2006, 4:27 p.m. IST, began clearly:

“Indian naxal outfits are reported to have ideological and logistic links with Nepalese Maoists. There are no reports to suggest links between Indian naxalites and Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

And concluded:

“This information was given by the Minister of State for Home, Shri Sriprakash Jaiswal in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.”

How does one then explain the Kantipuronline report? Is it a simply a grave mistake, or is it mischief, or, worse, malafide?

Written by Pratyush Chandra

August 6, 2006 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Media, Nepal

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