Forwarded from imprekorr at (left politics in Nepal)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Nov 6 14:41:07 MST 2002

1. there are really only three left forces (note forces, not parties
necessarily) in nepal which mean anything (in no particular order):

a. communist party of nepal-maoist (cpn-m)

b. communist party of nepal-united marxist-leninist (cpn-uml) and their
trade union arm gefont

c. nepal trade union congress (ntuc)--trade union arm of the congress party

2. other than the first two, anyone in the country calling themselves a
marxist party is in a fairly deluded state, since they are all pretty
much splinters from cpn-uml with no base larger than a few disgruntled
cardes in katmandu.

3. the unimportant left in nepal has compeltely run out of ideas on how
to proceed now that the royal class is attempting to reimpose
absolutism.  this is why all the tiny left grouplets are getting
together. their personality-led politics meant they were completely
deserted in the last elections and short of support from/front-work with
cpn-uml they will be consigned to oblivion (barring the odd pamphlet of
interest to sect watchers).

4. cpn-uml, although they have been able to build a party on the ground
with less authoritarian tendencies than cpn-m, is without doubt more
bureaucratic.  cpn-uml have had much of their left political agenda
taken over by the maoists and issues which they once thought they would
be able to mobilise exclusively around to oppose congress have been
usurped by cpn-m.

5. on women’s rights, peasant rights, land reform, food security,
education the maoists have set all the agendas in nepal over the last
four years. every change in these areas has been as a direct result of
the maoists raising the issues and the congress government being forced
to respond, albeit with watered-down versions of the maoists’ demands.
this has been cpn-uml’s biggest problem, the maoists have been a more
effective opposition than they have.

6. where cpn-m has been weak is its position with the urban working
class, which is where the ntuc and gefont remain significant strength,
although in varying degrees—gefont probably, although this is very hard
to tell, having a higher membership and being much more visible on the
ground. there is a third trade union centre, decont, but they are
marginal to working class struggles at present.

7. for the moment outside intervention has been rumoured, but not
materialised.  all progressive forces in nepal are, on paper, opposed,
but in practice things could get messy.  while cpn-uml and cpn-m will of
course oppose intervention from the west, it is unclear what cpn-uml’s
real position would be on indirect intervention (arms etc) from north of
the border (ie china) or what the maoists would do if such a thing
eventuated.  the recently dismissed congress government sounded out the
chinese exactly on their opinion of intervention in nepal—one can only
hypothesise, but the chinese would probably be opposed to direct western
intervention, but happy to agree with indirect.

8. currently, there are debates within the leadership of cpn-m on
whether to sue for peace. had the previous king, in his drug-fuelled
rampage, not killed himself and the senior ‘cadre’ of the royal family
it’s somewhat likely a peace agreement would have been reached.  not
because the king was a wonderful guy, he was a psychopath, but mainly
because the right-nationalists/royalists did not feel in such crisis as
they currently do—it seems in fact that they have become weaker and
correspondingly have become more brutal in their agendas to preserve
their status.  however, it is unclear of the extent to which the
right-nationalist forces are truly destabilised (eg will the abrogation
of parliamentary government be a sign of weakness or strength?), which
is probably one aspect fuelling the debates in cpn-m over whether to sue
for peace.

9. although not totally impossible, it is unlikely cpn-m can win over
all of nepal militarily, despite the appallingly poor condition of the
nepalese army, which is probably also adding to the debate about peace
moves.  while cpn-m have made gains outside of their original bases in
the remote western parts of the country, strategic areas necessary for
‘victory’, viz the terrai and the urban centres of katmandu and pokra,
will remain strongholds of the state without significantly increased
activities in the former (which would come with a great drain on cpn-m
resources), and significant working class support in the latter (which
doesn’t exist at the moment).

10.  nepal’s position sandwiched between three nuclear powers is one
factor why outside intervention has so far remained limited.  the US is
stuck because, while it can openly sabre-rattle, it realises that
pakistan and india both want future nepali governments favourable to
themselves and will tend to support only intervention which would lead
to a pliant government.  in the case of trying to achieve a pro-india
government this is currently an impossibility because the nepali
population is vehemently anti-indian.  moreover, the indians would not
accept anything which was pro-pakistani.  the pakistanis would probably
accept something neutral—which is the position now, so the pakistanis
probably prefer the situation to stay as it is (ie a destabilised nepal
causes more trouble for the indians than it does for pakistan).  yet the
US can only get aid in with the connivance of the indians, who would
only come to the table if they were to get a government favourable to
india. such a position puts the US in a difficult position because it is
strenuously trying to stabilise south asia (but with all the subtlety,
and none of the success it should be noted, of a benny hill
skit—rumsfeld’s recent intervention/trip to south asia would have been
one of the most comic international missions ever conducted had it not
been for the fact that the two countries were close to nuclear war).
the chinese would love to get rid of the maoists quickly (it’s like one
of those tiny pebbles in the shoe), but realise the effort to do so
would  be more trouble than it was worth since any resulting
destabilision of their own making would upset the indians in particular,
and the US in general.

11. so the big question: where will the left go in nepal?  i don’t have
an answer, but the key it seems is the position of the urban working
class and the future of a peace process. it is important to note that,
generally, the urban working class oppose the armed struggle of cpn-m
because their consciousness was formed through the somewhat successful
mass-based struggle for democracy in the late-80s.   if the urban
working class were to choose to side with the maoists, they would
probably only do so after the maoists agree to a peace deal.  cpn-uml
has no time for cpn-m, and as long as the armed rebellion continues
cpn-uml are secure to an extent because of their status as loyal
opposition and the support they receive from the urban working class.
if the maoist military strategy cannot completely succeed (and IMHO it
can’t, although i’d emphasise that they are not about to be beaten) then
securing all the gains from cpn-m’s underground period via a peace
settlement with the idea of winning over the urban working class as a
result of establishing a peace settlement would be potentially the most
rewarding way forward. of course, this assumes the
rightists/uml/congress will accept such a peace deal. the group with the
least problem for such an arrangement would be congress (since they wish
to take over the position of the right as 'true' rulers of the country),
it’s the rightists and uml which will have the hardest time with a peace
settlement with cpn-m since they have the most to loose.  sadly, if the
rightists/uml can’t agree to peace then nepal will probably go the way
of colombia, irealand, sri lanka—ie forces in opposition to each other
using tactics which cause significant damage but which ultimately will
never overcome the other side.


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