Open Threads is an open blogging platform, for debate and exploration of ideas among communists and radicals. Content presented here is contributed by Kasama site users.
by Mike Ely
In our world, it is rare that defiance overruns despair.
The spread of revolutionary dreams among the planet's poorest people is a precious and welcome development. And the poor of Nepal have such dreams.The large revolutionary movement in Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, is almost unknown in the U.S. It is invisible in the world’s mainstream news reporting. It is treated as unimportant, marginal and even (most unfair of all) as "terrorist."We ask you to take a moment to learn about it. We ask you to help spread the word.Millions of people in Nepal have sacrificed for radical change – acting together in waves of uprisings across the last twenty years.
They have faced armed suppression. They have been betrayed. They have been threatened from abroad (by both India and the U.S.). Their fighters have been murdered, imprisoned and raped. Their leaders have been targeted for neutralization – either by repression or cooptation.In 2006, after winning broad popular support during years of guerrilla warfare, Nepal’s revolutionaries agreed to enter negotiations for a radically new society. The hated and corrupt king of Nepal was overthrown. A constitutional convention was convened to decide how power would be structured. And the people waited for change to come.Now, seven years later, a new quite-heroic wave of revolutionary uprising is about to break out.
It has a specific date: November 19.The world must know about this. Those of us who hear about it must not be silent.
Struggle, Betrayal, New Struggle
Nepal is a land-locked highly diverse country of 27 million people living along the southern slopes of the great Himalayan mountain range.
The vast majority of people live in deep poverty on the land as farmers, most of them in villages without roads, electricity, schools or access to modern medicine. The young often travel to distant cities to the south in India or to the remote Persian Gulf, to make a living and send back money – and for many this has meant bitter exploitation in vast factory districts or in the sex trade.
In the 1990s, a movement rose up and grew -- led at its core by Maoist revolutionaries -- that demanded a rapid development of the country, conducted in ways that liberated those held in poverty and powerlessness.
They armed the poorest people in the villages and attracted the brightest youth from the urban areas. They demanded an end to the monarchy, and power for the people. They said people’s armed forces, people’s courts, radical parallel governments involving women and the poor could clear away the dead weight of the upper classes – and enable the people to create education, roads, jobs and equality between men and women. The peasant farmers demanded an end to the rip-off by corrupt government tax-collectors and vicious money-lenders. And the poor wanted land – they wanted the big plantations on the best fertile land to be divided up – that those who farm the land should own the land – so that the wealth would not be drained away from their villages to the leisure lives of the rich.
In short, the revolutionary movement wanted people’s power and liberation. And millions of people supported this: first in the years of people’s war from 1996 to 2005, then in the urban uprisings of 2006 and subsequent constitutional elections when the Maoists emerged as the single largest party in Nepal, then in the great May Day mobilization and general strike of 2010 when the Maoists came close to taking power.
Change without liberation
However, today, after years of struggle and sacrifice, Nepal’s people have gotten change without liberation.After the excitement of uprisings and the promising signs of victory, four painful disappointments have come down on a hopeful people:
First, the just and fundamental demands of farmers for land have been rejected. And so the poor are being locked back into lives of exploitation by the rich.
Second, instead of a new self-sufficient and independent Nepal, the country remains dominated by India in a virtually colonial way: Bullied by the Indian military, dominated by Indian investors, and awash with Indian agents (with the U.S., its CIA agents and military trainers operating behind the scenes).
Third, the changes in political structures have not produced people’s power. The hated monarchy was overthrown, and there a process started for writing a radical new constitution which would create a new power structure in a new society. But after seven years of deadlock and empty rhetoric, the people have clearly been blocked from real power. The people’s liberation army (a powerful engine for breaking up the old order) was systematically dismantled by those who betrayed the movement. Meanwhile, the revolutionary base areas and radical cooperatives in the countryside have been returned to the old ways. The hopes of equality for women, sexual minorities and diverse Nepali ethnicities – all have started to fade.
The government army has been built up and modernized – including by U.S. arms and military trainers. These killers with guns now cast a shadow over the whole society, threatening anyone who dreams of change.
The people needed a people’s democracy – where the poor and oppressed had the power to change their lives (and where the rich and conservative have lost their previous power). What Nepal has gotten instead is a classic and corrupt western-style electoral democracy – where old political hacks and wealthy lobbyists stage election charades, but where all real power is held in the hands of the wealthy and the agents of foreign money (and where the real decisions are made in corrupt backroom deals). In Nepal today, the people are told they must vote for one of these corrupt political forces – while directly threatened by the guns of the government’s army and police.
After decades of revolution, change and talk of democracy -- the vast majority still have zero power over the direction of their country or their own lives.
The fourth painful disappointment: Major leaders of the revolutionary movement played a key role in calling off the revolution and imposing this heart-breaking state of “change without liberation.” Two leaders of the people’s war in particular (Prachanda and Bhattarai) agreed to become dominant figures in the new government – but in exchange they dissolved the revolutionary army, abandoned the demands for revolutionary land reform, and adopted a classic neo-colonial plan for development (by promising foreign powers cheap resources and labor). They said change could only come slowly, and that foreign investors had to be appeased.
Retaking a road to liberation
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore….? Or does it explode?
Usually, when great movements suffer setbacks, division, and especially betrayal – the result can be a terrible demoralization. It can be very hard to bounce back and retake the offensive against the forces of conservatism.
In Nepal, however, there are signs that the revolutionary forces (with deep support among the people) are regrouping for another great wave of resistance. Already, general strikes organized by the Maoists’ revolutionary trade union federation have repeatedly shut down the country and proven broad popular support and involvement.
This renewed courage is not being reported in the main media. And many more people need to know about it.
Last year, a large section of Nepal’s Maoist movement formed themselves into a new party to challenge the government (which now includes some of their own former leaders). They formed as the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), and pledged to carry forward the most basic needs and demands of the oppressed people. Since then, the government has been preparing to crush them, and a great power struggle is building.
November 19: All eyes on Nepal
November 19 is going to be a test of strength.
The government forces want to stage a rigged election to legitimize their corrupt rule. And a broad coalition of opposition forces (led by the CPN-M, involving over 30 different parties) is calling for boycott, mass resistance, and disruption to deny them legitimacy. Journalists are being driven underground for criticizing the electoral farce.
Millions of people in Nepal don’t want a society that is an extension of India – where life is marked by the extremes of rich and poor, where a corrupt electoral system serves the rule by the super-rich, and where their lives and resources are just commodities for foreign corporations.
The demands of the November 19 uprising will be a revolutionary constitution and a realization of the revolutionary hopes of the people. There is open talk among the revolutionary forces for retaking the road of armed struggle – this time centering on Nepal’s urban centers – to achieve the liberation that Nepal’s poor dream of.
Everyday, truckloads of Nepali youth (often not even in their teens) are driven across the border into India -- to be sold as servants, or workers in vast sweatshops or as sexual slaves. Their families are impoverished farmers without power. Their country is dominated by worldwide capitalism and Indian intrusion. Their society is marked by a deep patriarchy – even the idea of girls marrying the boys they love is considered shocking and radical.
The hopes of these youth and millions more in Nepal rest on the events of November 19. Many millions more around the world (especially in the villages of nearby India) will be watching – to see if Nepal’s great movement is crushed, or if it is alive.
We urge you to support the November 19 uprisings in Nepal.
Our Kasama network will be staging actions of support, together with others, in the U.S.. We urge you to spread the word, and join us if you can.
Nepal's crossroads: Without a people's army, the people have nothing
People's Voice: a new Nepali Maoist journal
It's on: revolutionary openings in Nepal
"May Day in Nepal: if they use arms we'll do the same"
Life and Death for Nepal's Coup Regime