May 7, 2008

Nepal: Constitution as the Stepping Stone for Revolution?

▪ Freedom is the understanding of necessity and the transformation of necessity.
- Mao Tse-tung

The main characteristic feature of revisionists and opportunists in the history of international communist movement has been to exaggerate or idealise the immediate necessity and to minimise or negate the journey towards the realm of freedom or a communist world.
- Baburam Bhattarai
This Friday on the 25th of April the election commission of Nepal has declared the final results of the recently concluded election to the Constituent Assembly. According to the final tally, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has emerged as the largest party winning 220 seats, whereas the Nepali Congress won 110 and Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) won 103 from a total of 601 seats. With this, one phase in moving towards building a new Nepal has been completed. There had been many postponements of the CA election in the past, and there were apprehensions that this time too it would be sabotaged. However due to the efforts of the revolutionary masses of Nepal all such possibilities were firmly repulsed, and the results are finally out for the whole world to see. The CPN (M) has been given the mandate by the people to lead the process of writing a new constitution for a new Nepal. It is a mandate which has yet again expressed the aspiration of the workers and peasants of Nepal for a revolutionary social transformation. The country being at a historic juncture, this is a time for an attempt to analyse the past, present and look towards the future of the revolutionary movement in Nepal and the subcontinent in general.

The primary contradiction within Nepal society, with its semi-feudal and semi-colonial character, has been with feudalism represented by the autocratic monarchy. US imperialism and the expansionist Indian ruling classes have till very recently been supporting it politically as well as militarily. Monarchy as an institution has been more than 250 years old, a period in which feudal social relations took firm roots in Nepal. In the mid-twentieth century, the fear of a social upsurge in Nepal similar to the anti-colonial movements of India, China and other third world countries sweeping away the existing system led the king to prop-up a ‘constitutional monarchy’ and allowed political parties to contest elections after a bitter fight, when even the now royalist NC was forced to wage an armed struggle against the monarchy and thereby to go underground. Again during 1990-91 due to popular movements some more reforms were initiated.

However, people knew that all these reforms were mere eyewash, aimed at maintaining the feudal system. Neither the feudal relations of production nor its most visible symbol the autocratic monarchy could be done away with, and the class contradictions in the Nepali society, particularly in the vast rural areas, remained as sharp as ever. The continuation of ruthless feudal exploitation is evident from the fact that the kamainyan system (bonded labour) was abolished by the king as late as in February 2000 under pressure of the rapidly advancing people’s war. It was very clear that none of the political formations including the revisionist CPN (UML) were interested in or capable of altering the existing status-quo. While the Nepali Congress was rabidly pro-monarchist, even the so-called communists settled for a peaceful coexistence with the monarchy by participating in the old state. Whatever changes have occurred from 1950 till now in the management of the reactionary state have been in essence only the in the shares of partnership in state power between the feudal, bureaucratic and comprador classes. The toiling people were craving for a total overhaul of the existing system, and the program of the CPN (Maoist) for the first time promised of such a possibility. Not surprisingly, the rejection of the CPN (UML) in this election is also a rejection of its conciliatory and pro-monarchy policy, reflected by the prostration of Madhav Nepal in front of King Gyanendra at his coronation.

Birth of CPN (Maoist) and ten years of the glorious Protracted People’s War: CPN (Maoist) rejected the path of parliamentarism and embarked on the path of capturing state power through armed struggle. On 3 February 1996 the Party submitted a list of forty demands and gave the government an ultimatum to respond positively by 17 February. Not surprisingly, the government could not respond satisfactorily to the democratic demands of the party, and the Protracted People’s War was launched on 13 February from the district of Rolpa in western Nepal. The People’s War made swift and decisive advances across the length and breadth of Nepal in the subsequent ten years, destroying the old state and its organs and creating new forms of people’s political power. Within a decade of the beginning of the civil war, the revolutionaries gained control of almost 80 percent of Nepalese territory, forcing the monarchy to retreat to the urban areas. During this period the toiling masses of Nepal endured untold oppression, and carried forward the revolutionary class struggle with the sacrifice of thousands of martyrs. According to a recent study, the Royal Nepal Army is responsible for causing more than two-thirds of the 15,000 deaths during this civil war.

Establishment of People’s Democratic Dictatorship and organs of People’s Power at local level: Significant gains were made by the revolution in destroying the existing structures of the feudal society through areawise seizure of power, building base areas, and constructing new forms of people’s government. Revolutionary village committees were organised at the local level according to the principle of democratic centralism, which paved the way for unleashing the creative potential of the oppressed masses. Through the class struggle, the dormant collective energy of the oppressed sections such as the workers, small and middle peasants, landless agricultural labourers, dalits, women, ethnic minorities and oppressed nationalities were released which went into creating the foundations for a new Nepali society. The CPN (Maoist) and PLA as vanguard of the revolution received unconditional support of the oppressed classes in its fight for the New Democratic Revolution.

The Ceasefire and the agreement with the ruling class political parties: The CPN (Maoist) identified that the immediate goal of the revolution is the abolition of the autocratic monarchy, and with this understanding resolved to isolate it from the support it was getting from the ruling class parties such as the Nepali Congress and CPN (UML). The party declared a ceasefire and entered into an agreement with the parliamentary Seven Party Alliance in 2006. The principal agreement was on the abolition of monarchy and the election to the CA. The historic 17 day people’s movement planned and led by the Maoist party further isolated the monarchy even in the urban areas, its stronghold. The king and the feudal state machinery responded by unleashing brutal repression on the unarmed masses through the mercenary RNA. The king with the backing of the US as well as the tacit support of the Indian ruling classes tried several times to sabotage the Constituent Assembly elections, but was eventually forced to concede to the new balance of power in favour of the revolution.

The present context: The results of the recently concluded elections have surprised many who were unaware of the present reality in Nepal, or those who willfully refused to acknowledge the sweeping changes that the country has undergone in the last decade under the leadership of the CPN (M). For those who have looked upto the revolution in Nepal, it is a confirmation of the revolutionary agenda. The CPN (Maoist) has emerged as the largest party, and will lead the process of writing a new constitution which is expected to take nearly two years to complete. This is not the same as taking part in a parliamentary election as has been done by CPN (UML) in Nepal or their revisionist counterparts in India such as CPI, CPM and CPI (ML) Liberation. The Indian parliamentary left’s hailing of the Nepali Maoist party’s joining the ‘mainstream’ which they called ‘terrorists’ and put in jails in India till recently, or celebrating the election results smack of utter opportunism. The CPN (Maoist) has redefined the mainstream itself through the decade long People’s War, which CPI, CPM and CPI (ML) Liberation criticised.

Being in a coalition, however, the CPN (Maoist) have expressed its willingness to work with the reactionary ruling class parties like Nepali Congress and CPN (United Marxist-Leninist), who till recently was a part of the old feudal state. The long-standing allegiance to the monarchy has established the leadership of these parties as the enemy of the toiling classes. The prostration of these parties in front of the King or the expansionist policies of Indian ruling classes has also made them the subject of hatred among the Nepali people in general. This has been amply reflected in the results of the recent election. These parties had betrayed people’s democratic aspirations repeatedly in the past and tried their best till very recently to retain the monarchy by any means. But for them too defending the old state is no longer possible. However, they would still pursue and seek to protect the interests of the feudal and the comprador bureaucratic classes, thereby trying to sabotage the process of ushering in of a new Nepal. In what waysl the revolutionary party and people of the country will fight against such tendencies in the near future will be keenly observed.

On the question of revolution in Nepal: A revolution cannot succeed until it transform the society from the realm of necessity, which is full of exploitation and repression of human beings by human beings, to the realm of freedom, which is possible only in a classless society, or in the stage of communism. The nascent revolutionary movement in Nepal is today at a historic juncture, and the path it follows from now on will have a direct impact on not only the future Nepal society but on the future of the subcontinent at large. And from the perspective of the international communist movement too, Nepal is bound to provide new lessons. The challenge of transforming the 250 year old feudal system is enormous and daunting. As for now, the goals as set by the CPN (Maoist) are to completely dismantle the old state and to establish the People’s Federal Republic of Nepal under a presidential system. Another important task is the ‘integration’ of the PLA and RNA into one single army. There is also the proposal of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ aimed at reconciling the contradictions among the people. All these measures will have to be oriented towards meeting the expectations of the oppressed peoples of Nepal, and particularly the aspirations of the proletariat as a class. The danger of right deviation from the revolutionary path is always present in any ongoing communist movement. Therefore an uncompromising adherence by the CPN (Maoist) as the vanguard party of the working class to the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is of utmost importance.

The capture of state power through force: The debate as to its validity still continues within the communist camp. Also, whether a peaceful transition from constituent assembly to the phase of New Democratic Revolution is possible in a semi-feudal semi –colonial country is an open question. The CPN (Maoist) has participated in elections even before crushing the old state and seizing state power through armed struggle. As the history of international communist movement has repeatedly demonstrated, attempts to seize political power through parliament have decisively failed. With such experience in the past, one has to seriously introspect whether organs of the old state machinery, be parliament or constituent assembly, can be used to create a new society. Moreover, the real struggle in Nepal is not only against the autocratic monarchy, which is only one symbol of the existing feudal-imperialist structure. The task of the revolution in Nepal is not complete until the feudal forces, the imperialists, the Indian expansionists and their local compradors are completely overthrown. The adherence to multiparty competition by CPN (Maoist) as a strategy in the name of 21 Century democracy has the danger of harming the revolution in Nepal. As the CPN (Maoist) has itself pointed out in 2004 in one of its documents, “in the background of political developments particularly after the palace massacre, the idea of seeing either the monarchical or parliamentary forces of Nepal as more democratic or more nationalistic than the other, will be specially harmful and wrong.” In such a context, whether the policy of sharing state power with ruling class parties like Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) and accommodating of diametrically opposed class interests under one formation allow for the completion of the revolutionary tasks is for the future to tell. The reversal of the revolution in USSR in the phase of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with capitalism/imperialism has conclusively shown the pitfalls of hobnobbing with the ruling classes which will never agree to be in peaceful coexistence with the toiling masses for long, and will fight back at the first opportune moment. Defeat of revolutions in Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, Greece etc. and the brutal massacre of communists after the counter-revolution should be a reminder to all genuine revolutionaries.

A few more unanswered questions: Why have the organs of people’s power in the countryside such as the revolutionary people’s governments been dissolved instead of being further strengthened? Rather than building on the 25,000 strong PLA the policy adopted has been to integrate it with the reactionary and ruthless RNA who have so far been repressing the revolutionary forces with utter contempt. Can the two armies representing two opposite class interests and fighting a bloody class war till very recently seamlessly merge? Can there be reconciliation of the rulers and the ruled through any ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’? How do we understand the recent assertion by the Maoist leaders of Nepal that they will invite foreign (read imperialist) investment in order to help in the economic reconstruction? Can there be a peaceful defense against the counter-revolutionary attacks that will be inevitable when the new state in Nepal tries to redistribute land, nationalise imperial and comprador financial institutions, foreign trade, etc? We know for sure that India, as well as the imperialist countries will intervene in every manner to protect its interests in Nepal. In view of all these, are we not to be cautious of the possibility of a process of losing the gains that the revolution in Nepal has achieved till now?

This however in no way can negate the achievements of the 12 year old revolutionary struggle in Nepal, carried forward by the blood and sweat of the thousands. As Nepal enters a new phase in history, we are confident that the bitter class struggle for achieving the realm of freedom will be uncompromisingly carried forward by the revolutionary masses and its party, the CPN (Maoist).

May 5, 2008

The Debate on Tibet: Looking Through the Imperialist Propaganda

On March 14th widespread protests broke out all across Tibet against the long-standing national oppression of the Tibetans by the reactionary Chinese government. After the restoration of capitalism in China subsequent to the death of Mao Tse-tung in 1976, the Chinese state under the leadership of the revisionist Communist Party of China (CPC) conveniently abandoned the Marxist-Leninist position with respect to the nationality question. Rather than recognising and upholding the right of nations for self-determination –the Tibetans in the present case– the pseudo-communists embarked on the path of national oppression in Tibet. This was a reversal of the Tibet policy pursued by the revolutionary Chinese government under Mao between 1950s and 1970s.

The current reality within Tibet is made particularly difficult to grasp since the available sources are either from the Chinese government which are concocted, or unverified individual accounts. Moreover, the situation in Tibet is a complex one, as it involves multiple class forces on both sides of the battle line. The most visible “face” of the current Tibet movement too is not entirely unproblematic, which include religious groups that support the Dalai Lama-led feudal theocracy and are backed by US imperialist interests. But without doubt, the present struggle of Tibetan people is for national liberation, which must be upheld and hailed in accordance with Marxist-Leninist principles. We also know that the oppressor nation in this case, contrary to its ideological pretensions, is no longer ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’. And this phase of struggle in the context of the upcoming Beijing Olympics is one of the most assertive in recent history against the oppressive Chinese government.

The movement is also taking place in the larger international context
where the US imperialist interests are intrinsically involved. Tibet’s crucial geo-political location as well as its rich natural resources makes it important for US imperialism. Moreover, supporting the Tibet movement also helps US to score against its long standing rival China in an international scenario. It is ludicrous to see same Uncle Sam, who has on his hands the blood of millions of people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Chile, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Greece, Peru, Bolivia and so on, suddenly shading crocodile’s tears for the rights of Tibetans; the same country which is killing and torturing prisoners in its illegal prisons like Guantanamo Bay is crying out for the human rights of Tibetans! The US in fact has a long history of involvement in Tibet. The CIA had openly supported Dalai Lama in the past, and even organised a military coup against the revolutionary people’s government in Tibet in 1962 which was defeated, resulting in the flight of Dalai Lama and his clique to India.

Tibet movement in the past: Before 1949, unlike what the present capitalist propaganda would like us to believe, Tibet was not a heaven of peace and harmony. It was ruled by a reactionary, pro-imperialist feudal theocracy. The religious doctrine reinforced the dominant class order and social oppression. During 1951-76 after the victory of the Chinese Revolution attempts were made to initiate social and economic transformation in Tibet. As a result the representation of common Tibetans in government and in the conduct of their everyday affairs was increased. The economic planning, The Great Leap Forward, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and other such movements introduced by the CPC of that time, despite its many limitations, carried forward the struggle of the Tibetan masses against feudalism and theocracy. With the restoration of capitalism in China, however, the process of democratisation of the Tibetan society was reversed. Tibet has since been subjugated by the Chinese with the domination over its society, economy and culture, imposing anti-people policies and social engineering.

The propaganda run by imperialist interests and their lackeys in India the sangh giroh portrays the current situation in Tibet as the subjugation of religious freedom and democracy by communists. That is highly fallible, as first, China with its present economic policies does not uphold any communist principle. Secondly, this propaganda completely erases the facts of imperialist interests and the suppression of the aspirations of Tibetans for an independent nation. In the US vision of Tibet, it will have to remain as a military base controlled by US foreign policies coupled with a complete sell out of its resources to the interests of the MNCs. That surely will not ‘liberate’ Tibet in any way.

The present struggle:
Although the international press harps only on the aspect of Dalai Lama and his religious movement, the angry protesting mass of Tibet, which consisted mainly of discontented unemployed youths, had other targets of attack too. They attacked the symbols of capitalism like the Bank of China, the hotels that promote tourism etc. The Tibetans have a distinct resentment for the Han Chinese who not only flock Tibet in thousands but also reside in the neighboring provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan. The Hans look down upon the Tibetans racially and are also extremely exploitative. Backed by the Chinese economic policies as well as the state subsidies for capitalist ventures, they exploit Tibet in every possible way. The Tibetans are the most disprivilleged and impoverished sections who are caught in the nightmare of ‘modernization and development’ of Tibet. One such instance is the much celebrated Tibet-China railroad, which was completed in 2006 and cost $4.1 billion. Contrary to Tibetan hope that it would generate employment and lower the prices, the project has only served to capitalist interests as it is mainly used to ferry minerals out of Tibet to be used for the big enterprises in mainland China. Not surprisingly, Gabriel Laffitte, a close cohort of Dalai Lama and Tibetans in exile has also openly and blatantly supported the extraction of Tibetan minerals to be used by big MNCs in China and the rest of the world. Nor has the Dalai Lama ever raised any objection to the exploitative economic policies pursued by China in Tibet. It is thus the same story of exploitation, of ‘development’ at the cost of people, of privileging imperialism over the impoverished masses.

One thus needs to take sides in the Tibet question, but carefully.
The long standing exploitation of common Tibetans by China and the brutal repression must be condemned and opposed. The pro-Chinese state position of the Indian official left such as the Social Fascist CPI(M) is equally condemnable. But one must remain equally vigilant to the sham of ‘support’ rendered to the Tibet issue by the brutal imperial forces like US, Britain and their Indian apologists such as BJP and Congress. Both the Indian state and the US have their own interests at stake in the Tibet question. Their complete and criminal silence on the demand of the Hui Muslims in Tibet for a separate province reflects clearly how calculated and motivated their support to the Tibet movement is.

We need to stand by the movement of common Tibetans for their own homeland as well as their fight against national oppression. We must at the same time also expose the nature of imperialist interventions in Tibet, whether it be directly or through its lackeys the Tibetan theocracy or the Indian State.

Join JNUSU’s May Day March with Workers-Students-Teachers

In JNU the workers’ movement started in Nov 2006. it started as it came to the notice of JNUSU that 15 contract workers’ had been retrenched from JNU by the contractors because they dared to demand a meager rise of Rs.5 in their daily wage, which was already almost half of the legally stipulated minimum wage.

After its inception the movement went ahead to expose the nefarious nexus between contractors, engineering branch and the entire administration. The students found out that none of the workers, be it the construction labourers, the mess workers, the malis, or the safai Karamcharis etc were paid minimum wages in a campus which aims to be ‘world class’. Illegal contracts that quoted less than minimum wages were also procured by the students through RTIs. This proved the direct involvement of the administration in the exploitation of the workers. Moreover the JNU administration being the Principal Employer, it could not evade its direct role in depriving the workers of minimum wage and other legal entitlements.

As a result of the growing agitation, the contractor constructing the School of Physical Sciences stopped the work. The students and workers with the help of the teachers ran a community kitchen for the workers who were out of work for over a fortnight. As the movement intensified an assertive protest demonstration took place in the ad-block where an impasse with the registrar was followed by suspension and subsequent rustication of the students who had been involved in the workers’ movements. With escalated agitation by the students, the rustications were revoked. The administration was forced to ensure minimum wages to the workers and form a committee to supervise any case of violation of the legal provisions.
Almost a year has passed since the last agitation ended. During the course of the movement the workers and students came together. Many joint demonstrations and protest marches took place. The bubble of JNU’s world class image was busted ruefully to expose the naked and cruel face of the corrupted administration. The movement also exposed the real character of SFI, the self-proclaimed champions of labour cause! They were virtually absent in the initial phase of the movement, they formally ‘disassociated’ when it intensified, scuttled a UGBM held on the issue and recommended proctorial enquiry and punishment of the students who were involved in the movement!

The workers’ movement is still continuing. Although it has clinched the major demand of minimum wages for a section of contract workers, other problems persist. Even legal minimum wages are still denied to the construction workers. The construction sites are fortified to make them out-of –bounds for students, so that they can not intervene in the legal flouting. Medical facilities in the work site and crèche facility for the children of the workers are still denied. Even the areas where legal minimum wages had been ensured, other illegalities are often seen. Retrenchment of workers, unjust and inhuman victimization of a worker by a certain faculty and warden, regular shuffling of workers within JNU so that they can not unite has taken place. Along with that the trend to deduct a certain amount of money from the wages in the name of ESI/PF also took place. The contractor however refused to show any receipt or provide any valid documentation for the so called ESI/PF accounts.

Some of these problems were resolved through the intervention of workers and students. However, the aim of the workers’ movements when it started was not just to ‘help’ them achieve sporadic gains, but for progressive unification. The contract labourers are after all the most marginalized sections of the country. Most of them are migrant labourers who have been either displaced or were rendered jobless in their original homeland. On top of that are the hindrances and lack of regular facilities of the unorganized sector.

However, the way this workers movement had progressed there is no question of back-paddling. The trend of the current AISA-led JNUSU to mould the movement in an NGO-ised manner is a cause of concern as well as condemnable. The students, teachers and workers must ensure the gradual unionization of the workers so that they emerge as strong assertive independent body which can fight for their own rights and demands. Unionisation after all is no gift of altruism of the owning class but is a hard earned right of century-long movement of the working class, of which May Day is a significant milestone.

April 26, 2008

Intensify the Ongoing JNUSU Struggle!

The hunger strike called by JNUSU at the administration block has entered its tenth day today. Many of the demands raised through this strike are very crucial for democratising the nature of higher education imparted in the campus, which include the demand for implementation of 27% OBC reservation at one go, as well as for the recognition of Aleem-Fazil certificates by JNU. Another important demand is the implementation of 3% reservation in teaching posts for PH category students according to the roster system. The present agitation acquires more significance in light of the upcoming Academic Council meeting of 30 April where decisions on many of these demands will be taken. All the above demands, if implemented in letter and spirit, will go a long way in making JNU much more democratic than it presently is.

The strike also incorporates the long-standing demand from the student community at large to punish the perpetrators of repeated violence and vandalism after a free and fair enquiry. They have so far been protected by the administration simply because they belong to the ABVP who has strong clout in the administration. No disciplinary action has been taken on these right-wing criminals who were previously involved in the last Presidential Debate attack, and many other counts of violence against common students, the latest being the beating up of Chandrashekhar during the Chandrabhaga Hostel Night. The administration must reconstitute the present Proctorial Board which looking into the last incident. Mr. Sanjay Bharadwaj, who was an ABVP activist in his JNU student days and was implicated in many cases of sexual harassment and faced disciplinary action, is today a member of this Proctorial Board! It is for everybody to guess what will be the outcome of this enquiry if people with such credentials are given the responsibility to judge these culprits. The administration therefore must reconstitute the Proctorial Board by throwing out Mr. Bharadwaj from the Board, and ensure an impartial enquiry.

There are also the other important demands in the JNUSU Charter of Demands on which the administration is yet to give any concrete and written commitment. The demand for opening the JNU Health Centre for 24-hours and on Sundays has been raised on several occasions in the past without any positive result. The administration have been passing the buck to UGC, claiming that there is not enough funds to dispense the UGC Scholarship from July 2005. When the administration has no dearth of funds to spend on unnecessary heads such as benches and gardening etc in its drive to make JNU a ‘world-class’ university, it is strange that it does not show any seriousness to meet the genuine demands of the student community. In fact the administration started the first formal negotiation with the Union only yesterday, on the 9th Day of the strike. This attitude of the administration is nothing new for the student’s movement of JNU, which has confronted and fought for every genuine issue and clinched victories in the past by forcing an unwilling administration. We have seen from our experience in the past that only with active mobilisation and participation of large numbers of students rallying behind the JNUSU could we force the administration to accept our demands.
But unfortunately in the present struggle the JNUSU have so far failed to ensure a larger involvement and active participation of the student community. It might at first appear that on most of the demands the administration has no real difference of opinion with the JNUSU. However, yesterday’s meeting has shown that the administration is reluctant to favourably consider and give commitments on the demands of the agitation, especially on the demand for reconstituting the biased Proctorial Board. Even after acknowledging the mounting academic pressure in this time of the semester, given the very crucial nature of the demands raised, DSU calls upon the student community to rally behind JNUSU and participate in large numbers in the ongoing struggle to ensure that the demands raised are decisively clinched.