[Marxism] Tariq Ali on Nepal

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 25 07:19:34 MDT 2006


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1760683,00.html
This is no rah-rah revolt

Nepalese have lost their fear of repression and are making a genuine, 
old-fashioned revolution

Tariq Ali
Tuesday April 25, 2006
The Guardian

There is something refreshingly old-fashioned taking place in the Himalayan 
kingdom of Nepal: a genuine revolution. In recognition of this, the US has 
told citizens except for "essential diplomats" to leave the country, 
usually a good sign. Since April 6, Nepal has been paralysed by a general 
strike called by the political parties and backed by Maoist guerrillas. 
Hundreds of thousands are out on the streets - several have been shot dead 
and more than 200 wounded. A curfew is in force and the army has been given 
shoot-to-kill orders.

But the people have lost their fear and it is this that makes them 
invincible. If a single platoon refuses to obey orders, the Bastille will 
fall and the palace will be stormed. Another crowned head will fall very 
soon. A caretaker government will organise free elections to a constituent 
assembly, and this will determine the future shape of the country.

The lawyers, journalists, students and the poor demonstrating in Kathmandu 
also know that if they are massacred, the armed guerrillas who control 80% 
of the countryside will take the country. This is not one of those 
carefully orchestrated "orange" affairs with its mass-produced placards, 
rah-rah gals and giant PR firms to aid media coverage, so loved by the 
"international community". Nor does the turbulence have anything to do with 
religion. What is taking place in Nepal is different: it is the culmination 
of decades of social, cultural and economic oppression. This is an old 
story. Nepal's upper-caste Hindu rulers have institutionalised ancient 
customs to preserve their own privileges. Only last year was the custom of 
locking up menstruating women in cowsheds declared illegal.

The Nepalese monarchy, established more than two centuries ago, has held 
the country in an iron grip, usually by entering into alliances with 
dominant powers - Britain, the US and, lately, India - and keeping them 
supplied with cheap mercenaries. It is a two-way trade and ever since the 
declaration of the "war on terror", the corrupt and brutal royal apparatus 
has been supplied with weaponry by its friends: 20,000 M-16 rifles from 
Washington, 20,000 rifles from Delhi and 100 helicopters from London. 
Meanwhile, half the country's 28 million people have no access to 
electricity or running water, let alone healthcare and education, according 
to the UN.

In 2005, King Gyanendra suspended all civil liberties and outlawed 
politics. To deal with a problem that was essentially structural, but which 
in the global context of neoliberalism could not be solved through state 
intervention, he decided on mass repression: physical attacks on the poor, 
concerted attempts to stamp out dissident political organisations and 
blanket social repression. The chronicle of shootings, beatings, 
imprisonments, purges and provocations is staggering. The sheer ferocity of 
his assault took the tiny middle class by surprise and isolated the 
politicians.

Will the triumvirate - the US, the EU and the UN security council - try to 
keep the king in power? If it does, it will have to add Kathmandu to a 
growing list of disasters. Recent newspaper editorials indicate that the 
west fears the disease may spread to neighbouring India. A top-level summit 
between the Naxalites and civil servants after the defeat of the BJP 
government revealed a remarkably pragmatic Maoist leadership: all it wanted 
was for the government to implement the constitution and pledges contained 
in successive Congress manifestos.

What the uprising in Nepal reveals is that while democracy is being 
hollowed out in the west, it means more than regular elections to many 
people in the other continents. The Nepalese want a republic and an end to 
the systemic poverty that breeds violence and to achieve these moderate 
demands they are making a revolution.

· Tariq Ali is an editor of New Left Review
tariq.ali3 at btinternet.com

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