At the beginning of February, King Gyanendra of Nepal, supposedly a constitutional monarch, dismissed the country’s government and arrogated to himself absolute power for what he proclaimed would be a period of 3 years, after which he claimed democracy would be restored! All democratic rights of Nepalese citizens, such as they were – freedom of press, speech and assembly, were formally abolished. Parliament was disbanded. All political parties are illegal. Even before the coup Nepal’s democracy left a lot to be desired. Nepal had the highest rate of ‘disappearances’ of dissidents in the world, and the Royal Nepalese army is specially famed for its callous brutality towards civilians. All this repression was and is attributable to the king’s and Nepal’s tiny aristocracy’s desperate attempts to hang on to their vast property and privileges in the face of the unstoppable determination of the Nepalese people to overthrow them. The whole idea that the King would restore democracy at any time is ludicrous. The only basis for ‘democracy’ under a feudal relic such as Gyanendra is that all opposition to his rule were wiped out, something that it is impossible to achieve, even if he does not realise that.
Since the royal coup, internal repression, which was already severe, has escalated. Hundreds people more than usual ‘disappeared’ last month, and are believed dead, having last been seen in the custody of government forces.
Naturally, the politics of Nepal cannot be understood without taking into account the interests of imperialism. Nepal is an important country for imperialism, in particular in relation to its strategic geographic positioning vis-à-vis both India and more especially China. This is why no less than the might US of A has been involving itself in the affairs of tiny Nepal. For years it has, along with Britain, Belgium and India, been supplying arms to the Nepalese government in the vain hope that this would enable it to wipe out the Maoist guerrillas who now control most of the country. These arms have been supplied by Britain despite the fact that Foreign Office guidelines provide no export licences for arms should be supplied by the government where there is a “clear risk that the proposed exports might be used for internal repression” or where the exports would prolong armed conflict or aggravate existing tension – in other words, arms have been supplied to the Nepalese government in contravention of the British government’s own guidelines. Furthermore, successive annual Foreign Office reports have concluded that both sides in Nepal had committed gross and widespread abuses, according to the LibDem Foreign Affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell in a letter to The Times published on 15 February 2005. One takes for granted that all bourgeois politicians will attribute ‘abuses’ to the Maoists since they regard them as the enemy, but to admit their puppets are committing abuses indicates the puppets’ abuses must be very serious indeed! Yet, the British ‘Labour’ government has been regaling these abusers with armaments! Why is nobody surprised?
In return for the supply of weaponry King Gyanendra was supposed to exterminate the Maoist led resistance in Nepal, but he has been entirely unable to do so. Quite apart from the fact that he is deeply unpopular among the Nepalese masses who believe he was responsible for the murder of the relatively popular royal family whose place he has taken, all the brutality that he unleashes on the Nepalese population simply strengthens the guerrillas, who have now set up liberated areas over most of the country, and who, while they are not in control of Kathmandu, are nevertheless able to call general strikes there which are universally respected. It thus became clear to imperialism some time ago that if they were to advance their interests in Nepal, King Gyanandra was probably not the best instrument for achieving this. The Independent of 5 February (Justin Huggler) asserts that “Diplomats from Britain, the US and India have been trying to persuade the King that there is no military solution to the Maoist insurgency, and that he has to cut a deal with the Maoists”. There are, however, two insuperable obstacles to King Gyanendra seeing the good sense in this imperialist advice: on the one hand the Maoists are demanding an end to the monarchy and the establishment of a republic; on the other hand their programme essentially involves land redistribution to the peasantry, and it is above all the King’s land that has been, is being and will be redistributed since he owns most of the land anyway. Not unsurprisingly, King Gyanendra can see no point in negotiating with the guerrilla. It is therefore quite possible that his coup may well have been provoked by his suspicion, almost certainly well-founded, that his imperialist backers were preparing to sacrifice him in such negotiations. His coup was intended to ensure that he could not be sidelined, and to tell the imperialists that they will have to choose between either continuing to back him in his futile attempts to defeat the people’s movement or to abandon him, in which case the Maoist victory will be considerably hastened. For imperialism this is a Lose Lose situation which they are unlikely to accept.
Their immediate response, apart from simple condemnation of the coup, is to withdraw military aid. Britain has recalled its ambassador to Nepal. It is possible that this is mere window dressing – dissimulating the fact that imperialism is backing a last ditch attempt by Gyanendra, through intensified fascist repression, to make headway in defeating the guerrillas. However, it seems so improbable that the coup will do anything other than strengthen the hand of the guerrillas that it seems safe to assume that imperialism is in fact genuine in its condemnation of the coup, even if they are also determined to do nothing that will ‘help the Maoists’. If so one would expect King Gyanendra to fall victim in the not too distant future to “friendly fire”, and for imperialism to bestow its support on a “popular” choice from among the reactionaries, perhaps somebody the King had imprisoned for “dissent”. The imperialists’ hope will then be that elements can be found among the guerrillas who would be prepared, after the demands of the popular masses were met through distribution of the king’s landed estates, to accommodate imperialist interests, in which case considerable funding could be directed by imperialism towards securing popular support for these people. It is a strategy fraught with danger for the imperialists, and we certainly hope that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is leading Nepal’s democratic revolution, will be able to thwart all imperialism’s manoeuvres.
The victory of the democratic revolution in Nepal is every day looking more and more certain, and it will enable to people of Nepal to take a giant step forward in history.