May First: High Noon in Nepal

This eyewitness reporting  first appeared on jedbrandt.net. Its importance speaks for itself. Join us in circulating this account widely -- starting today online. (Jed's previous report is also online.)

by Jed Brandt

“You must come to Kathmandu with shroud cloth wrapped around your heads and flour in your bags. It will be our last battle. If we succeed, we survive, else it will be the end of our party."

— General Secretary Badal of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

APRIL 21 — There are moments when Kathmandu does not feel like a city on the edge of revolution.

People go about all the normal business of life. Venders sell vegetables, nail-clippers and bootleg Bollywood from the dirt, cramping the already crowded streets. Uniformed school kids tumble out of schools with neat ties in the hot weather. Municipal police loiter at the intersections while traffic ignores them, their armed counter-parts patrol in platoons through the city with wood-stocked rifles and dust-masks as they have for years. New slogans are painted over the old, almost all in Maoist red. Daily blackouts and dry-season water shortages are the normal daily of Nepal’s primitive infrastructure, not the sign of crisis. Revolutions don’t happen outside of life, like an asteroid from space – but from right up the middle, out of the people themselves.

Passing through Kathmandu’s Trichandra college campus after meeting with students in a nearby media program, I walked into the aftermath of bloody attack. Thugs allied with the Congress party student group had cut up leaders of a rival student group with khukuri knives leaving one in critical condition. Hundreds of technical students were clustered in the street when I arrived by chance. The conflict most often described through the positioning of political leaders is breaking out everywhere.

Indefinite bandhs are paralyzing large parts of the country after the arrest of Young Communist League (YCL) cadre in the isolated far west and Maoist student leaders in Pokhora, the central gateway to the Annapurna mountain range. The southern Terai is in chaos, with several power centers competing and basic security has broken down with banditry, extortion and kidnapping  now endemic. Government ministers cannot appear anywhere without Maoist pickets waving black flags and throwing rocks.

With no central authority, all sides are claiming the ground they stand on and preparing their base. It’s messy, confused and coming to a sharp point as the May 28 deadline for a new constitution draws near with no consensus in sight. The weak government holding court in the Constituent Assembly can’t command a majority, not even of their own parties. Seventy assembly representatives of the status quo UML party signed a letter calling on their own leader to step down from the prime minister’s chair to make way for a Maoist national-unity government. He refuses, repeating demands that the Maoists dissolve their popular organizations and return lands seized by the people who farm them.

The Maoists have more pressing concerns than the legalism of the parliamentary parties. If they can’t restructure the state, by constitutional means or otherwise, the enthusiasm that brought their revolutionary movement this far may turn to disillusionment. With no progress in the assembly, and the leaders of the status quo parties now say there will be no resolution on time. The Maoists have rejected any extension as a stalling tactic and are turning to the people. With now-or-never urgency, they are mobilizing all their forces for a decisive showdown in Kathmandu.

 

 

 

Young Communist League

 

 

Nepal braces for May First

 

Posters for May First appeared overnight announcing the Maoist call for workers and villagers to converge on Kathmandu for a “final conflict.” The Maoists are calling for a sustained mobilization, with the hope that an overwhelming showing can push the government out with a minimum of bloodshed and stay the hand of the Nepal Army.

May First is International Workers Day, the traditional day of action for communists around the world, but the mobilization has already begun.

Thousands of recruits are being trained by YCL cadre in districts throughout the country, drilling with bamboo sticks in place of rifles. With threats from Nepal Army commanders to put these protests down with force, the Maoists are preparing to defend their mass organizations, the marches, the party and the people from attempts at counter-revolution. Their meetings include political orientations and anti-disinformation training to combat the confusing fog of manufactured rumors and lies that are already in the air.

National assemblies of radical students, artists, intellectuals, ethnic federations, women, unions and trade organizations convened widely during the month of April All sectors are receiving the same message: The Maoists will not return to the jungle, or replay a guerrilla struggle. They will not retreat. The conflict will be decided frontally in the cities.

 

 

 

Nepal Army

 

 

Dual Power – Class Struggle at the Tipping Point

 

Nepal has two mutually-exclusive power structures: one is the revolutionary movement led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which has a powerful mass base among the people, a disciplined political militia in the YCL and its People’s Liberation Army. The other is the apparatus of Nepal’s state — held-over from the monarchy, unreconstructed, backed by the rifles of the Nepal Army and the heavy weight of feudal tradition.

Land seizures co-exist with plantations. Old judges still sit in their patronage chairs dispensing verdicts to the highest bidder while revolutionary courts turn off and on in the villages. The deposed king Gyanendra lost his crown, but retains vast tracts of land, a near monopoly on tobacco and a “personal” business empire. Large-scale infrastructure like hydro-power remains largely under foreign ownership, but only operate when, and how, the Maoist-allied unions let them. In short, the semi-feudal, semi-colonial system of Nepal is in place but the organized workers and Maoist-led villagers hold a veto.

In Nepal, people were taught: the poor would always be poor. They long believed it. There would always be kings, lords, myriad deities and foreign patrons to look over them. Caste dictated behavior and expectations for most, justifying dull cruelty and vast human waste. The tolerance and fatalism so beloved by British travel writers were also consigning the people of Nepal to isolation, ignorance and the lowest life expectancies in Asia. But the world doesn’t actually stand still, or turn in circles, as some would have it. Things do change.

When urban civil uprisings wrested a parliamentary system from King Birendra in 1990 nothing changed for the people after, save those whose hands got greased for government services. When rising expectations crashed into the closed doors of realpolitik of elite “democracy” – the Maoists blew them open, building an army up from the basic people themselves. From bases of support in Rolpa and Rukum, the People’s War spread to 80 percent of the country in ten lightning years. Over 10,000 lost their lives in the greatest uprising in Nepal’s history.

Yubaraj Lama, a prominent actor/director thrust into radical politics by the movement against the king, put it simple: "It was the failure of the political parties to bring democracy, any real social change for the masses of people that fueled the People's War. This is what the Maoists changed. People were very fatalistic, looking up to politicians like princes. That is over."

People who had never thought social change is possible now believe they can end their poverty. Kings are not gods and their crown can fall. Women and girls are more than a way to have male children. The heavy hand of foreign domination and its imposed backwardness can be challenged. The Maoists changed the concept of politics from appeal-if-you-dare to revolution from the ground up.

Everyone isn’t happy with the way the wind is blowing. It is easy to find haughty conservatives that think any hope from the poor comes at their expense and who want to see the Maoists crushed.

Talking with the owner of an English-language bookstore, an outspoken supporter of UML’s embattled prime minister, he insisted that people only attended the Maoist rallies because they were forced to. This plainly isn't true, but I asked why they won the elections. He told me “these people are stupid” and “believe the Maoist lies that they can live in the big house.” When I noted that all the unions in the neighborhood were Maoist and they hardly seemed forced into it, he laughed. “Of course they are, they want to take all the money from people who own them.”

With all the paranoia of America’s white-fright militias, Nepal’s reactionaries conflate rudimentary democracy, let alone the communist program of the Maoists, with the very end of the world.

Nepal’s embattled elites also can’t simply be brushed aside or nuanced into reform. They too have an army, the former Royal Nepal Army (NA), renamed but unreconstructed. The officer corps is steeped in caste ideology and disdain for the common people, supplied with modern weapons and not-so-secret Indian and American advisers.

The PLA is training and waiting within UN-supervised cantonments – military bases scattered across the countryside. The YCL, led by former PLA commanders is training new militias throughout the country. And for its part, the Nepal Army is confined to its barracks, concentrated in and around Kathmandu.

The politics of this moment are intricate. Many forces parry and maneuver for advantage. But the basic situation is this: Dual power has produced a highly unstable stalemate between a revolutionary people and a weakened regime – a paper tiger with real claws — and the moment of decision is fast approaching.

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy is just a word

 

Over the last twenty years, passion has only grown to see the people decide Nepal’s future, to have some form of genuine popular. This desire fueled the People's War that started in 1996. It animated the powerful mass movement that toppled the king in 2008.

One of the fruits of that struggle was the current Constituent Assembly – where elected representatives of the grassroots were supposed to craft a new framework for a new society, with both open election to seats and sectoral representation to ensure that women, minorities and workers had direct representation. The very idea of such a constituent assembly comes from communist demands – it was their answer to bourgeois democracy.

Maoists made 40 demands of the King in the mid-1990s before launching their rural guerrilla war. Despite consistent flexibility on almost everything, a constituent assembly was the only demand that was never negotiable. It’s profound, the idea of an empowered assembly drawn from every corner– including elected representatives of the poor, women and minorities – for the purpose of remaking the very basis of government and society. This was to be the workshop of a New Nepal.

In a short-lived alliance with the parliamentary parties brokered in 2006, a popular uprising in Kathmandu forced the king out and secularism was established. Elections where held in 2008, and the Maoists emerged the largest party, with more delegates than the old standbys UML and Congress combined. The rest of the seats went to a score of minor parties.

This unprecedented assembly has been gridlocked since it convened. On one side, the old political parties want an Indian-style parliamentary system that is quite compatible with rural feudalism and caste oppression. And opposing those parties, stand the Maoists who speak of a radical new peoples democracy where those excluded from politics will now set the terms.

The Maoists have used their days in this assembly to flesh out their plans for a New Nepal. They drafted and popularized constitutional provisions for a future people’s republic – including land reform, complete state restructuring, equality for women, autonomy for oppressed minorities and an end to Nepal’s stifling subordination to India. Ambitious plans to redirect government investment in basic infrastructure like roads, sanitation and vastly expanded public education were all scuttled when the Nepal Army refused to recognize civilian control after the Maoist victory. Then-Prime Minister Prachanda resigned, leading the Maoists out of government and leaving the Constituent Assembly in gridlock.

The same callous ruling classes, who ignored the bitter poverty of people for decades, now claim to be Nepal’s only “democratic” alternative to the Maoists.

Yet everyone knows: It was those Maoists who went deep among the people, who fought with guns, braved torture and sacrificed many lives for constitutional elections — winning a popular mandate in that voting. Who, then, are the true democrats here? Who really speaks for the people and their aspirations for power?

Time itself is accelerating

All the political forces in the country have now spent the last years in slow-mo maneuvering. They have revealed their programs and exposed their natures – before a closely watching population.

The Maoists are refusing to wait any longer. Leaders of Congress and UML parties admit a constitution can't be delivered by May 28. The Maoists reject any postponement of that May 28 deadline. No more stalling, they say.

Hundreds of thousands have been mobilized in peaceful mass marches over the last months. Such marches have been a vehicle for intensive mass organizing. They have been used as a gauge of growing partisan strength. The logistics of moving people through the streets to each of the main government offices is practice for seizure. In short, they can be understood as dress rehearsals for a revolution.

On April 6, 2010, Maoists held powerful rallies in all of Nepal's 75 districts -- demanding that the unelected prime minister resign to make way for a new Maoist-led government. Further rallies are scheduled leading up to May First.

Maoist demands are unlikely to be met by parliamentary procedure and they know it. Maoists have discussed a double-barreled approach: build on the base areas and social transformation of the People's War to launch popular insurrection in the city. Nepali revolutionaries have been incredibly patient, refusing to over-extend their hand. They are seeking to apply one of Mao Zedong’s most famous principles, the mass line:

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  • This is a great report. I have to ask though what the quote "You must come to Kathmandu with shroud cloth wrapped around your heads and flour in your bags" means exactly. Does the shroud cloth signify a readiness to die? What about the flour?

  • Guest - Radical-Eyes

    Great work, Jed. I will forward this as widely as possible.

  • Guest - Green Red

    Indeed comprehensive writting comrade jed.

    After reading news about how they were successful on the "passport" non bidding affair, i became much more hopeful but, does it really mean the very, very final countdown?

    i ain't there, i have no say but, thanks again comrade and, for those who did not follow up the no bid and yielding to Indian state see the whole thing at:

    http://www.telegraphnepal.com/news_det.php?news_id=7489

    India took Nepali Maoists as a political leverage, the policy has
    backfired: Dr. Lohani
    Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani
    Ex- Foreign Minister, Nepal

    <>

    Dr. Lohani please tell us what were the observations of Public Account
    Committee to Prime Minister’s Madhav Kumar Nepal’s claim that the MRP
    printing right was awarded to India due to excessive political and
    diplomatic pressure?

    Lohani: To be fair, Prime Minister did not tell that there were
    political and diplomatic pressures to award the printing rights to
    India, yet what he told us was that the already awarded printing
    rights could not be withdrawn due to political and diplomatic
    pressures.

    Let me tell you that we cannot link business deals as such to politics
    and diplomacy. These are two different domains. However, the
    government in doing so has ignored the Public Procurement Policies. It
    is in this background the PAC exhibited its serious concerns.
    ..............................

    One more thing Brad, your writing is outstanding and lucid.
    thanks again and i guess i have to put Sister Roy's meeting folks in Indian forests on hold and do your thing.

    sincerely....
    one of the small Kasama servicemen

  • Guest - Gary

    And for its party, the Nepal Army is confined to its barracks, concentrated in and around Kathmandu.

    typo should be corrected, "for its part"

  • Guest - Andre C

    The quote by Mao was true. And the CA has apparently expanded these mass line questions and put what is possible on the forefront. All those who dream of a qualitatively better world should be spreading this wide!

  • Guest - CWM

    This is a well-written report and conveys the dynamism of the situation.

    I have three questions. . .

    first, you say that the Maoists are preparing for “the final seizure of power” and yet also write that they are fighting “make way for a new Maoist-led government.”

    These seem like two different things to me (a single party government versus a multi-party government). Or are you suggesting that they will seize power in order to govern with other parties? Is that your argument?

    Second, it seems that the Maoists' program resembles that the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s--a multi-party government, increased social spending, and land reform, but integration into the global capitalist economy and an attempt to cultivate foreign investment. Is that comparison accurate? Is there talk of more aggressive nationalizations or attempts to outlaw their opponents?

    Third, can you say more about the proposed land reform? What does it consist of?

  • No, there is no talk of attempting to outlaw their opponents, though they have said that army commanders and the former king should keep their mouths shut. They have been outspoken in their belief that single-party states paved the way for capitalist restoration by taking power away from the people. They hold that a multi-party government is possible, and desirable.

    Aggressive nationalization of what? I'm not sure what that means. Of the land? No, they call for land reform based on "land to those who farm it" and not the Cuban-style state takeover of plantations that left millions in roughly the same relationship to work as before the revolution. This is related to their position on a multi-party government. People must have a stake in their society and not just be lectured by the state "for their own good".

    I think they will have an uneven experience of land reform. In the hill country, much of the land is held by small farmers already. In the Terai, large-scale plantations exist. I'm not sure what there plan is for that. They think they should be reformed, but there are many factors at play beyond their wishes – and I expect they will be judicious in that as they have in just about everything else. You can't fight everyone at once. In the meantime, much land has already been seized from abstentee landlords. That is the start.

    Integration into the gloabal capitalist economy? Again, I'm not sure what that means. In practice, virtually all trade is with India, on terms that distort Nepal's economy and ensure its backwardness. The Maoists have said they are quite open to international investment on terms that benefit Nepal's people. So for example, with hydropower – they actually can't develop it without large scale machinery only made in a handful of countries. I don't see why that would be bad, or what the option would be.

    They want a national-unity government now, under their leadership – to push through a radical constitution that institutionalizes their program. They want the other parties to come in on that, so it can't be claimed that this was simply their party acting like autocrats (as with the king, who claimed to be developing the country for egalitarian ends, btw) and not a social revolution, which is actually happening. That's my understanding.

    Put another way: they are not arguing to have the state run everything and enforce it through police means. No doubt some think this Breznev-era model is attractive and defines communism. It doesn't define this communist party or this revolution. A state that runs the whole society like a plantation with red flags on top is not their program, culture or intention. Nor is something I've heard anyone wanting. For more on that question, the Maoists have written quite a bit. Check it out.

  • Guest - lostboy07

    I want to echo what everyone else has said about this being an excellent article. Unfortunately it's not easy to find good info on what's going on in Nepal.

    However, I do agree with CWM that there are several questions, even if I don't agree with the way that he poses his questions.

    First, the article says that they are attempting to "seize power" and also talks about a leading a multi-party government. Are they just attempting to seize power within the current governmental system? I think that we can all agree that this is currently a bourgois/capitalist government with capitalist structures. So are they going to simply use the popular pressure to lead this government (the way the "socialist" Kerensky led the capitalist Provisional gov't) or are they going to help lead a revolution which will replace the capitalist gov't with something else? Posing the question as sinlge party of multi-party is missing the point. You can have a multi-party gov't in a Workers and Peasants state and you can have a single party gov't in a capitalist state. The larger question is whether the Maoists are fighting for an overthrow of the capitalist regime, or merely attempting to take over the capitalist regime to fight for constitutional reform (which may still considered by some a step forward, but very different from the former).

    Second, I also have a question about land reform. I agree that at this stage a whole-sale nationalization would be misplaced, and that "those that work the land" should have control over it. But, again, this misses the point. Is this land reform going to be a bourgois land-reform, where the property is divided and parceled out to individual farmers? Or, where possible, are the Maoists going to help peasants form collectives, with gov't funding for crops, improvements, and technology? One type of reform pushes to transform former peasants into capitalist style farmers, selling their produce to the market and competing amongst themselves. The second type works toward the creation of collective ownership and a planned economy. Both are land reform, neither involve nationalization, but again they are FUNDAMENTALLY different.

    Third, I feel like the question about integrating into the global capitalist economy is a valid one. If they are simply integrating into the capitalist economy, then they will try and entice private capital to come into Nepal and help with industrialization. What this would mean is that the control of the industrialization will remain in the hands of private capital, with private corporations retaining control of infrastructure and technology and land. Another way would be for the Maoists to establish state-run cooporations (under the democratic control of its workers councils and the national democratically elected assemblies) to control this industrialization. If other countries or businesses want to invest they could still do this, but the decisions, as well as the vast majority of the profits would be directed by, and for the benefit of, the people of Nepal. So again, which is it going to be? It's not necessarily foreign investment or no foreign investment, but control and direction.

    Unfortunately I know very little about the Nepalese struggle, even though i try and educate myself. So I would be very grateful if others could enlighten and educate me on what's going on.

  • Guest - critic

    For an entirely different perspective on this, see, "On the Critical Crossroads in the Nepal Revolution, and the Urgent Need for a Real Rupture with Revisionism, Observations by a Supporter of that Revolution From a Communist Internationalist Perspective" at this <a href="/http://www.rwor.org/a/200/Nepal_crossroads-en.html" rel="nofollow">link</a>:

    [<strong>Moderator note: </strong>This RCP document is <a href="/http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/u-s-left-group-accuses-nepali-maoists-of-revisionism/" rel="nofollow">available here</a>. To enable readers to compare and contrast: the denounced Nepali Leadership document is <a href="/http://kasamaproject.org/2010/04/22/nepal-maoists-an-overview-of-situation-and-tasks/" rel="nofollow">available here</a>.]

  • Guest - David_D

    Redflags said: "No, there is no talk of attempting to outlaw their opponents, though they have said that army commanders and the former king should keep their mouths shut. They have been outspoken in their belief that single-party states paved the way for capitalist restoration by taking power away from the people. They hold that a multi-party government is possible, and desirable."

    Is this true? I believe the UCPNM position has for several years been that only "anti-feudal, anti-imperialist" political parties should be allowed to compete. I very much doubt that UCPNM considers Congress to be "anti-feudal, anti-imperialist." They may see elements of UML as "anti-feudal, anti-imperialist," but would they say the same of the leadership that is defining its political role overall? I do not think if UCPNM grasped state power, as distinct from ministerial power, that it would hesitate to smash Congress and to neutralize UML. In fact, I suspect there would be little difference between the Nepalese "multi-party competition" and the Chinese "multi-party cooperation under the leadership of the CPC" that Mao oversaw until it was decided the non-communist parties should disband in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution (indeed, the Cultural Revolution heralded single-party rule in China).

  • David writes:

    <blockquote>"I believe the UCPNM position has for several years been that only “anti-feudal, anti-imperialist” political parties should be allowed to compete. I very much doubt that UCPNM considers Congress to be “anti-feudal, anti-imperialist.” They may see elements of UML as “anti-feudal, anti-imperialist,” but would they say the same of the leadership that is defining its political role overall? I do not think if UCPNM grasped state power, as distinct from ministerial power, that it would hesitate to smash Congress and to neutralize UML."</blockquote>

    This is also my understanding of what they have been saying. That is the point of a "new mainstream" as a quantum leap from the "old mainstream."

    I defer to Jed, of course, who is in a position to pin a lot of things down with much greater clarity.

    CWM writes:

    <blockquote>"first, you say that the Maoists are preparing for “the final seizure of power” and yet also write that they are fighting “make way for a new Maoist-led government.” </blockquote>

    These are two different things:

    First, in a strategic sense, the UCPN(M) is fighting to create a revolutionary transition to New Democracy (which is a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat). This is a leap in society, in who holds power in the most basic sense -- and it rests also on radical changes in property relation (including especially the agrarian revolution, and the development of beginnings of both socialist cooperation in the countryside, plus the beginnings of socialist planning and socialist "ownership by the whole people" within the economy.)

    As part of that transition, the Maoists have been making a series of very radical demands <em>within</em> the current society (under conditions of the current dictatorship of the feudal and comprador capitalist classes). Those demands include: civilian control of the old army, no military coup, no intervention or domination or border encroachment by India, Maoist control of the civilian government, a constitution that reflects the needs of the broad masses (not the old order and its ruling classes), equality for women, land for the peasants, a federal republic (meaning a nonmonarchical system with autonomy for the oppressed minorities) and so on.

    These demands (which are made under the <em>current</em> society) are a form of transitional demands -- they foreshadow the programmatic demands around which the revolutionaries are rallying the people <em>for revolution</em>.

    It is the way, in a living revolutionary process, the felt needs and wants of the people are connected (more and more openly) with the programmatic plans for making a new leap in revolution -- defeating, dispersing and dislodging class enemies.

  • Guest - CWM

    Mike,

    You say that Nepalese Maoists are preparing for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but how could that be? There is really no proletariat in Nepal and they calling for a multi-party democracy not a dictatorship.

    As a predominantly agrarian country, land reform is a big deal. You say that the Nepalese Maoists want “land for the peasants” but what does that mean exactly? Do you know what their program is? I asked Jed about this, but he didn’t really answer the question.

  • New Democracy is a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat -- in which communist political forces lead an democratic revolution carrying out "tasks" that historically had been part of the bourgeois democratic revolution in other places -- but doing so in a radically different way, as part of a transition to socialism.

    It involves targeting the main forms of ruling class exploitation in colonized and economically backward countries -- rural feudalism, comprador capitalism (serving exploitation by foreign capitalists) and bureaucrat capitalism (the accumulation of great wealth on the part of corrupt government officials using their stranglehold on society's power and economy).

    The New Democratic revolution combines (1) agrarian revolution (overthrowing rural feudalism) with (2) anti-imperialist fight against external domination, and (3) the establishment of beginnings of planned socialist economy in major industries, and (4) a plan for overcoming underdevelopment through reliance on unleashing the tremendous creative power of the people.

    This is the form Mao developed for initiating communist revolution in a country where semifeudal relations dominated much of the country and had not yet been replaced by capitalist agriculture. In this case Mao's formulation was "peasants as the main force, workers (in the form of communist organization) as the leading force.)

    The society is a dictatorship in the sense that it is the interests of the broad masses of people who dominate the direction and policies of society, not the interests of the former exploiters and oppressors. The Nepali Maoists don't see why a proletarian dictatorship cannot take the form of a multiparty competitive elections. And certainly, <em>bourgeois</em> democracy has proven quite compatible with <em>bourgeois</em> dictatorship over society. We have debated this question in beginning ways on this site -- for example on <a href="/http://kasamaproject.org/2010/03/19/new-forms-of-democracy-for-a-new-socialist-mainstream/" rel="nofollow"> this thread</a> on the idea of a new socialist mainstream . And I believe there is value in exploring this question more -- both theoretically, and in the course of a partisan,ncritical evaluation of the Nepali experiment as it unfolds.

    * * * * * * *

    The program of the Maoists gives great importance to agrarian revolution -- for obvious reasons: the great majority of the Nepali people are bitterly poor farmers, and the hopes of this whole nation is tied up with the liberation and elevation of the rural working people.

    Their program has two basic components: in some of the wealthier agricultural parts of the country you have feudalism in the form of large landholdings exploiting peasants. Under those conditions, the Maoists have led land seizures by the farmers -- taking the land of the exploiters and giving the land to the people. It creates a basis for ending many forms of feudal oppression. In poorer parts of the country (in the highlands that cover much of Nepal) the farmers often work very infertile land or small terraced patches along steep hillsides. In many of those places the people are too poor to even sustain wealthy land owners -- and feudal exploitation often takes the form of usury (where feudal loan merchants keep impoverished farmers in debt draining what little they have). In those areas in particular, peasants often have land... and the suffering of the people is tied up with the incredible lack of development and infrastructure (lack of irrigation, roads, electification, communication, schools etc.) The program of the maoists is to organize the farmers, eliminate the hold of feudal forces, and organize cooperatives.

    The key importance of cooperative labor in such rural areas is that it enables the farmer collectively to undertake infrastructural projects (digging wells, building roads etc.) while also (together) taking care of their common food needs. The Martyrs' road built in the early Maoist base areas is one example of these socialist methods -- in a highly backward feudal countryside. There have been several examples of <a href="/http://kasamaproject.org/2009/09/13/wprm-eyewitness-maoist-practice-in-the-heartland-of-the-revolution/" rel="nofollow">rural communes organized</a> -- serving as important models of what becomes possible with communist organization in the midst of armed agrarian revolution and the seizure of power.

  • Guest - Ka Frank

    Three points on Jed's report from Nepal.

    (1) The claim that a "final conflict" is coming on May 1 is being thrown around by UCPNM leaders. But what are the aims of this showdown? Seizure of state power and completion of the new democratic revolution, or the setting up of another Maoist-led coalition government with the bourgeois-feudal Nepali Congress and UML parties?

    The answer to this question--the second alternative--is found in the February 4 Central Committee statement of the UCPNM. Read it for yourself and see what you think.

    (2) This long article ignores the actual negotiations that are going on in Kathmandu over the fate of the 19,000 members of the PLA remaining in the cantonments, with their arms under UN supervision. (The pictures of arms you see are from PLA members designated to patrol the cantonment perimeters.) Most estimates are that 5-7,000 soldiers will be integrated into the 96,000 Nepal Army (talk about entering the lion's den!), with the balance to be split among border,industrial, forest and other security forces, and with some who want to leave getting "rehabilitation" packages. If a "final conflict" takes place on May 1, the outcome will be disastrous for the people and the UCNPM. That's why the party is not headed in that direction.

    (3) Jed claims that, "Hundreds of thousands have been mobilized in peaceful mass marches over the last months. Such marches have been a vehicle for intensive mass organizing. They have been used as a gauge of growing partisan strength. The logistics of moving people through the streets to each of the main government offices is practice for seizure. In short, they can be understood as dress rehearsals for a revolution."

    Where are the news reports of these "hundreds and thousands" in the streets? The reality is that in the past three months the UCPNM leadership has stopped the land seizures that were on the rise in December and January, and has chilled out mass demonstrations in Kathmandu in order to facilitate the negotiations in the High Level Political Mechanism. The plans for May 1 are meant to break the logjam at the HLPM and bring Prachanda back as PM in an ineffective government that will not have the capability to bring the Nepal Army under control. d

  • Guest - Green Red

    Ks Frank,

    I know your great contributions and, i know your age and being there before i knew an epsilon of a thing and probably you still think i am less than an epsilon but,

    Comrade Frank, today is not yesterday and China's Culture and everything else have changed and today we have globalization and many, many things different.

    You are of course our great older and wiser comrade but, i still can recall that we for a year or so we conversed from distance while for whatever medical reason i was writing more confusing things once. And you never told me on the direct conversation, comrade, you did this and this incoherently whatever mistakes or misconceptions i might have done.... i really don't mind, or even care how you saw me then or look upon me and other less minded people but, as said before, it is correct to be old and wise but, more than once i have learnt from other older and wiser people a simple fact that is; Patience is a Virtue. Patience is a virtue comrade and, hopefully i will see your happy face someday when even you kindly will smile and say that perhaps i could have been more optimistic.

    We are not Nepalese, we are outsiders and, we have have not sweat and feared and lost and won and tried and died and lived the way they are doing in poorest ... not third world, fourth you can call it or whatever. patient is, it is, a virtue.

  • Guest - Andrei Kuznetsov

    Off-topic, but I couldn't help but be intrigued by Comrade Bahal's call for the people of Nepal to come to Kathmandu "with shroud cloth wrapped around your heads and flour in your bags."

    If anyone knows about Hindu rituals, that's powerful imagery actually. The shroud cloth represents the burial shroud a body is wrapped in before being put on the funeral pyre, and the flour could possibly be an allusion to the white powder Hindus often put on their foreheads (sometimes flour, sometimes it's ashes) before major religious rituals. Translation: Comrade Bahal is saying "come prepared to die" and "be prepared for a life-changing experience".

  • Guest - Green Red

    Next day point:

    Sorry Ka Frank, i failed to point out in the preceeding note that, was the most stressful thing to write as i can recall in many years, make one point clear, that we used to converse, in conversations you never gently mentioned my failures, then when we are talking about something that we - on a 'democratic level' disagred upon, suddenly you stop picking up a communicating device saying your irritation had grew and, our conversations were not going anywhere.

    you could have made a comradely productive criticism on the phone and i could have switched certain medication or... mood of mind

    and maybe you never even grasped what i really meant re what can could be done - perhaps - if planned in a rational matter, in states that are not semi feudal - semi colonial.

    Took me a year to gather how to answer in a humane manner the ruthless course of reaction of throwing a comrade in a garbage can.

    For Maoists in Nepal also, took many years of watching a world from a literally higher horizon to act more mature than anybody's idol whose photo being on our T shirts was a game of its own in another decade.

    Patience and, i guess i have to read what our other wiseman have posted that appeared to be pointing out that it does not have to be a duel or, go through shotguns, necessarily.

  • Lostboy07 said,

    "But, again, this misses the point. Is this land reform going to be a bourgois land-reform, where the property is divided and parceled out to individual farmers? Or, where possible, are the Maoists going to help peasants form collectives, with gov’t funding for crops, improvements, and technology? One type of reform pushes to transform former peasants into capitalist style farmers, selling their produce to the market and competing amongst themselves. The second type works toward the creation of collective ownership and a planned economy. Both are land reform, neither involve nationalization, but again they are FUNDAMENTALLY different."

    On top of Mike's point about the different forms of land reform occurring in different area, I'd like to make a brief one about Mao's agrarian program.

    In much of China the initial land reform program consisted of dividing the land into individual plots that operated around largely capitalist principles. However, this was part of a program to teach peasants why socialism was desirable. Along with the land to the tiller program involving the division of land to individual it was encouraged that the peasants take up programs with "socialist elements". These consisted of "mutual aid teams", which were smaller associations of peasants that would do things like share tools, possibly collectively work some plots of land while maintaining their own personal areas, etc. Then, when demonstrated the benefits of cooperative labor, if they desired they could form cooperatives, and eventually the commune form.

    The point of these transitional agrarian programs was pedagogical. The Chinese were working with the peasants consciousness as it was(which was coming out a of feudal society rather than capitalist) rather than trying to force a more advanced form than they were willing to take up themselves. This was the mass line and was why land reform was so much less violent than in Russia. Eventually it lead to the communization of much of the country side. But, to emphasize, it certainly didn't start out with communes (except in the most advanced areas) and looked liked agrarian capitalism in many places.

  • Guest - Alan Clinton

    Reconstruction 10.3: Inventions of Activism

    Edited by Michael Benton, Alan Clinton, Wes Houp and Danny Mayer

    "Creative acts of social justice fulfill every function that can be asked of a work of art. They inspire us, make us think in new ways, and birth new beauty and dignity in our world."--Rebecca Alban Hofberger, "True Visions”

    "Screw Hope; Let's Act"--Walker Lane "Nope to Hope: False Capital and the Spectacle Triumphant"

    This issue of Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture solicits a variety of work which looks to activism as a broad array of creative practices yet to be defined. We seek not to revisit debates between theory and practice, but to view activism as a form of invention which may lead to new cultural formations.

    What challenges do activists face as practicing utopians? What more or less local examples of activism can be looked to as models for further practice? How can activism as performance, as technology, as art lead to the production of new political and social theory? How is activism the art of the possible?

    We would like this issue itself to be a form of activism inasmuch as it brings together a set of theorized practices in the form of case studies from the present and the past, a community of minds in both its contributors and subsequent readers. We also encourage contributors to look to problem areas that have not yet been addressed or not addressed sufficiently, and to propose new models of cultural intervention.
    Some areas of particular interest expressed by editors should serve as a starting point:

    1. Testimonials of individuals and/or groups that document the structures of collective action and resistances (both external and internal) to these movements.
    2. Activism as a form of social and political creativity. Considerations of how theory can promote or become activism, or how theories of political and social invention derive, post facto, from such activities.
    3. The rhetoric of activism in its statements and endeavors.
    4. Narration and development of (potential) actions with respect to labor (broadly defined).
    5. Activism as a form of education, as supplement to or alternative for traditional educational theories. Educating activists. Activating educators. Theoretical and practical issues within "the academy."
    6. Resistance to resistance: fatigue, Bruce Robbins' "sweatshop sublime," institutional reprisals from the most oppressive (violence, termination) to the most frustrating (hypocrisy and lip service from those in power, mainstream media misinformation, public indifference), mythologies (of the American dream, of freedom of choice, of the free market, etc.)
    7. Reform from within the institution vs. revolution from without.
    8. What is (non)violence and what roles do violence or nonviolence play in activism?
    9. Issues of activism in different social and historical contexts, what can we learn (from Obama's vision of service to the most dangerous underground resistance movements)?
    10. Psychologies of activism. For instance, do activists and/or organizers of activism benefit more from an openness to depaysement (the process by which the ethnographer/observer becomes altered and/or mediated by the culture under investigation) or dissociation/dispassion (the idea of "objective" or "critical" distance from the subject under study as providing a "better" vantage point).
    11. What are the benefits or disadvantages of “traditions” in activism? Marx notoriously stated that he was not a Marxist, with that in mind, what kind of problems derive from the institution of founders and followers in activism? Even more fundamental, what is the problem of what Eric Hobsbawm called the “inner conflict of traditions,” the inevitable conflict between universal rules and specific, ever-changing circumstances/situations.
    12. J.K. Gibson Graham asks in Postcapitalist Politics “If we want other worlds and other economies, how do we make ourselves a condition of possibility for their emergence (7)?”

    We hope that activists of all kinds will view this issue as a form of potlatch that may lead to new practice and theory, new activist communities. While we encourage the use of anecdote as example and extended narratives as models for inventing activism, we do not want this issue to be primarily about smoking guns and personal beefs. In the light of the sensitive nature of this endeavor we will consider a variety of approaches to publication--including anonymity and/or "fictocritical" accounts which do not name names or present a situation with altered details.

    Please send completed papers and abstracts to the editors at reconstruction.submissions@gmail.com no later than July 1, 2010. Earlier submissions and queries are welcome as we may be able to collaborate with authors in order to produce work that not only fits with the intent of the issue but with the standards of Reconstruction. Also, we encourage you to forward this CFP to interested parties and lists.