[Marxism] Maoists agree to coalition government in Nepal

Wayne S. Rossi felianan at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 10 14:57:00 MST 2006

I have to wonder what Walter's point in this story was; it was a regurgitation of that one SWP editorial that he is now convinced is the "original sin" of all Trotskyism, and it's frankly ridiculous in this particular iteration.  Nepal's situation is nowhere near Cuba in 1959, and frankly this constant grinding of the same axe is boring.

Now, I don't want to start the Stalin-Trotsky debate here, because it's Louis's list and we all know that this is verboten.  But I want to say -- if the IMT's approach ("Socialist Federation of Asia" -- one has to laugh) is cookie-cutter, well, the CPN(M)'s decision to join the government is as well.  Before the revolutionary wave of April and May, the CPN(M) cadres were pretty much broadcasting their plans on the issue, which were to join the government once the king's power was broken.  And they went ahead with it.  Now, clearly on the ground, the CPN(M) is a tactically responsive and flexible, but in terms of strategy it's pure old-school Stalinism.

Nepal itself is a difficult kettle of fish.  Most of the modern economy, as it is, is focused around Kathmandu; most of that is in the tourism industry.  Outside of Kathmandu, most of the people are either involved in agriculture or work for the government.  The system of patronage jobs is extremely dense; the government is the largest employer outside of the city, which is why the civil servants' participation during the April general strike was particularly noteworthy.  The majority of the country is involved in agriculture, and there is a sizeable minority who are migrant at any given time.  This sort of rootless and completely backward situation is the classic ground for a Maoist party; they have a very strong tendency to develop around peasantries.

Except for the Maoists, who have a pretty substantial peasant following, the political parties are based in Kathmandu and the political scene there.  Nepal has made shaky moves toward democracy repeatedly in the second half of the twentieth century, but each time the democratic government was unable to solve the severe problems of underdevelopment, and the monarchy has interceded.  The 1996-2006 civil war was fought in the context of the failure of the 1991-1992 democratic period to create land reform or solve the economic crisis of the country; it was actually not an intense conflict until King Gyanendra tried to put out the rebellion and found it escalating beyond his ability to fight.  There had been great hope in the 1991 elections, but it was all pretty thoroughly and rapidly dashed.  (I don't think you can understand what's going on now outside the context of the defeat suffered in 1992.)

The dynamic between Kathmandu and the rest of the country played out in what I think could accurately be called a revolutionary wave in April.  I know they're not the best source, but there was actually a very interesting and lengthy report from the International Crisis Group on the immediate background of the April mobilizations, which had considerable detail on how both the seven parliamentary parties and the Maoists had an agreement to work together going into them as the preliminary to negotiations afterward.  The Maoists had an excellent propaganda machine, and were generally considered pretty instrumental in ensuring the success of the April demonstrations and general strike.

When you come right down to it, the Stalinist outlook of the leftist parties in Nepal -- and the varieties of Stalinism are more or less all present there -- made the return to parliamentary democracy the inevitable outcome of April.  No one had an eye toward leading the mass wave of resistance anywhere but to a constituent assembly, and it's sort of settled back down; the Maoists, the other Stalinist parties and the Congress party were all surprised and a bit frightened of the mass and militant character of the protests.  And it's a tragedy, because the likelihood of the parliament actually fixing the structural problems holding Nepalese society back is slim, and a genuine mass movement that could have started to build an alternative was left to die on the vine.

 - Wayne

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