Where is the ‘peace process’ heading?
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) will join a new interim coalition government within a month. This was announced on Friday 16 June, following a meeting between the Maoist commander, Prachanda, and the Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, from the Seven Party Alliance.
It was the April revolutionary movement that created an entirely new political situation in Nepal. King Gyanendra’s road towards dictatorship – dissolving parliament in 2002 and governments in 2004-2005, holding full power and declaring a state of emergency from February 2005 – ended in a mass revolt, which came close to overthrowing the king.
All parties, including the Maoists, were taken unaware by the mass movement, whose backbone was a general strike in the capital, Kathmandu. Only in the last week, did traditional parties, such as Congress, Congress (D) and the CPN (UML), attempt to play a role. They formed a security net for the king, by forming, on 28 April, an interim government. This was a move strongly advocated by the Indian government and supported by Western imperialist powers.
The deal on 16 June, between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists, calls for the dissolving of the present parliament and constitution (including the changes made since April). It also contains timetables for a new interim government, including the Maoists, within a month; an interim constitution within 15 days; and to set a date for election for a constituent assembly.
To achieve these concessions from the SPA, Prachanda and the Maoists promised to dissolve all the “people’s governments” in villages, districts and nationally it established since the start of the conflict in 1996.
The Maoists also said they agreed to invite the United Nations to monitor its armed forces and weapons in the run-up to the elections. The UN would also monitor the Nepalese Army (formerly ‘Royal’ Nepalese Army).
Several commentators praised Prachanda after the deal. ”I was deeply impressed… he demonstrated admirable nationalist sentiment”, commented Ramesh Nath Pandey, Foreign Minister in the king’s government. Other right-wingers and foreign diplomats, however, warned that the Maoists, “Didn’t renounce violence, and they didn’t give a timetable for decommissioning their weapons” (Kunda Dixit, ‘Nepal Times’).
The Maoists undoubtedly have a big following, and they have been the party gaining most from the April revolution. Their People’s Army has 10-12,000 soldiers in arms and control 75 per cent of the country. Following the spring mass movement, the Maoists advanced their position in the cities.
In May, the CPN (Maoist) held mass rallies all over the country, culminating in a mass rally of at least 200,000 in Kathmandu, on 2 June. Maoist slogans were plastered on walls around the city and traffic was blocked when their supporters gathered. They even planted a Maoist flag on a military pavilion.
When he met Koirala, the Maoist leader Prachanda repeated his movement’s promises of support for “multiparty democracy” and claimed that he was ‘out in the open’ for good. The Maoists say that the breakdown of previous talks in 2001 and 2003 was due to previous governments’ refusal to accept elections for a constituent assembly.
It is unclear, however, to what degree the Maoists will be able to go along this path, as up until now they stated their support was based on the struggle to improve everyday life for poor peasants, women, lower castes, and oppressed ethnic minorities etc.
Maoism, in short, is a variant of Stalinism. Its perspective is a revolution in two stages; first, a ‘democratic stage’ and, later, sometime in the future, a ‘socialist stage’. In the struggle for the “first democratic stage” Maoists strive for alliances with “progressive” and national wings of the bourgeoisie (capitalist ruling class). This is the case also when Maoists form an armed peasant-based guerrilla struggle. All historic experience, however, shows that the democratic and socialist tasks are interlinked. Democratic gains are won as part of a struggle to fundamentally change society and democratic rights won through mass struggle will be threatened again if the capitalists and big landlords are allowed to hold on to power. In the 1917 Russian Revolution, it was only after the working class took power, in October, that key democratic tasks, such as national liberation and land reform, were achieved.
When Mao Zedong came to power in the late 1940s, he was forced to abandon his perspective of 50 years of capitalism in China. The peasant Red Army entered China’s cities and balanced between different sections of society – peasants, workers, sections of the capitalists – and gradually ended capitalism and landlordism. Land and most of industry was nationalised but workers’ democracy was not introduced. To stay in power, Mao Zedong modelled his regime on Stalinist Russia.
Prachanda’s movement in Nepal modelled itself on the Maoism struggle of a peasant-based army. It was able to win widespread support by fighting for democratic rights and for land to the peasants against a despotic regime. Prachanda’s Maoism meant emphasising nationalism and alliances with the supposedly ‘progressive’ wings of the bourgeoisie. The Nepalese Maoists put all emphasis on the democratic tasks of the revolution. Dev Gurung, a leading central committee member of the CPN (Maoist), was recently interviewed by ‘Asia Times’ online. “According to Gurung, his party’s objective is to make Nepal a democratic country with a civilized society. It should have room for all of Nepal’s ethnic and regional groups, developing a federal structure if necessary.”
"If elected to power, according to Gurung, his party would adopt an economic policy that could transform the present subsistence-level economy into an industrial one. Nepal must not be allowed to remain a captive market for Indian products. Gurung said there was absolutely no truth to the rumour that his party’s policy is to end private ownership of land and other properties.”
So, what will change then? The Maoists envisage a kind of national capitalist road in a situation where Indian and Western capitalism already dominates the economy, without preparing the masses for a struggle against capitalism. Maoists in a government with parties well known for their cooperation with imperialism, as well as the King, will not be able to implement any substantial changes.
A peace process?
It was the mass revolutionary movement of April that forced through a political sea change. In one sense, the mass movement was supported by the Maoist guerrillas, which had weakened the regime.
In absence of a mass revolutionary party, based on the working class in the cities, the Maoists emerged as the force to which the masses attach their expectations. For the moment, statements by the Maoist leaders, like Gurung, will confuse sections of the masses, who are given no other role but as supporters of the Maoists.
The present peace process of Nepal has, unfortunately, no better prospects than its predecessors in, for example, Palestine and East Timor. From different class positions, both the masses of the April revolution, and the feudal-capitalist reactionaries in Nepal, will understand that the power cannot be shared between them. Imperialism and the Nepalese ruling elite are, so far, prepared to wait and see.
For the moment, Prachanda seems determined to establish himself in Kathmandu. On 27 June, he and the second Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai, returned to Kathmandu for more talks with SPA leaders. This process can now go on for a while. But, in the long term, the Maoist leaders could either face rebellion from below or again decide to leave the central political stage for a new round of rural war.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and, therefore, in acute need of a socialist movement that can improve the lives and conditions of workers, youth and poor peasants. It needs not nationalism, but an internationalist approach, turning to workers in the region for support and common struggle.