Much to the amazement and consternation of the capitalist world, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)] has won the Constituency Assembly elections in Nepal, leaving its opponents trailing far behind in its wake. Of the 218 (out of 240) directly elected seats finalised by 18 April 2008, CPN(M) had won 116, compared to 34 for the Nepali Congress, 31 for the Nepali Communist Party – United Marxist Leninist [NCP(UML)], and 24 for the Madhasi People’s Rights Forum (a ruling class party from an oppressed region of the country, relying on regionalism for its support).
The Constituent Assembly has a total of 601 seats, with 335 to be decided by proportional representation (as opposed to first-past-the-post), with quotas to ensure a strong representation of women, lower castes and ethnic minorities. 26 seats are to be appointed by the interim cabinet which will obviously now be dominated by the CPN(M). The Maoists are expected to do even better in the proportional part of the ballot than in the directly-elected seats, as a result of which there is at the time of going to press (29 April 2008) a chance that the Maoists will in fact secure an overall majority in the Constituent Assembly.
The Maoists are also seeking alliance with other parties, in particular those that seek to represent the working masses. It is reportedly close to reaching a unity accord with Janamorcha, the mass front of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre) which has so far secured the 8th highest count in the voting. It is also anxious to win over the NCP(UML), a party which disagreed with them on the appropriateness in the conditions of Nepal of engaging in armed struggle, but which nevertheless aspires to be Marxist-Leninist. The argument over whether armed struggle was appropriate or not for Nepal has been won clearly and demonstrably by the Maoists, leaving no basis for the NCP(UML) to continue to exist as a separate party. Assuming that the NCP(UML) do not succumb to sectarianism, but do in fact accept the Maoists’ hand of friendship, the strength of the left in the Constituent Assembly will be unassailable. Although the NCP(UML) reacted in a panic-stricken manner to its poor electoral showing, pulling its members out of the government, it is much to be hoped that it will overcome these difficulties and respond to the call of the Maoists to return to its post. As Comrade Prachanda says, if it fails to do so, the people will not forgive such a betrayal.
The road ahead is fraught with difficulties, but for the immediate future at least there is one clear task for the new government: to depose the king and declare a Republic. This is what the people of Nepal have voted for by an overwhelming majority. Indeed, the Maoists’ election victory is in great measure down to the fact that on this issue they have been the only party to be absolutely steadfast and insistent.
There is some possibility that troops loyal to the king will try to prevent his removal from the palace and demotion to the status of an ordinary citizen living from running his businesses, but the Maoists have made it clear that no nonsense will be tolerated and the king would be risking his life if he tried anything of the sort. It is therefore doubtful that he would be so stupid.
However, declaring the Republic is the easy bit. More difficult is to keep faith with the millions of people who have placed their faith in the Maoists to lead them in the elimination of feudalism and the grinding poverty and misery which that system entailed, a cause for which thousands have given their lives. Nepal is a very small country with powerful enemies. The United States still has the CPN(M) on its list of terrorist organisations. India just next door, although it was instrumental in helping to broker the peace deal which led to the current Nepalese elections, certainly did not expect the Maoists’ overwhelming victory and will not be happy about the boost this will give to the Maoist insurrection in India itself. Within Nepal itself, reactionaries are whipping up the regionalism of the Madhesis with a view to Balkanising what is already quite a small country (about the size of England). On top of all that, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 158 out of 179 in per capital GDP according to the World Bank. Its per capita GDP is only a fifth of China’s and less than half that of India. The state budget is $1.2 billion (and 30% comes from western aid). There is rampant unemployment and very little industry. One third of the population, i.e., some 10 million people, live on less than $1 a day. And on top of that, the class enemies who tried to eliminate them by force, with the help of overwhelming firepower supplied by Nepal’s then western allies, are still for the most part alive and kicking and represented in the Constituent Assembly, where they will undoubtedly try to do their worst.
The size of the mountain that has to be climbed is dizzying, just as daunting in fact when some 13 years ago the CPN(M), which was a party of really insignificant size at that time, took up the armed struggle to depose Nepal’s feudal relics. Anybody would have said the task was totally impossible, yet today they are well on the way to achieving this goal throughout the whole country, having achieved it already in the two-thirds of the country that was liberated and ruled by them before the peace process began.
Needless to say, the Maoists have not achieved what they have by never compromising – on the contrary – and every time they have compromised they have been denounced in various so-called ‘left’ quarters as having ‘sold out’ the revolution, etc. Yet somehow in the course of these supposed sell-outs the Maoists have always advanced steadily towards their democratic anti-feudal goals. In the liberated areas they transformed the lives of the poor, brought huge advances in the position of women and people of so-called low castes, brought education and medical care. Now they want to bring electricity to the whole country, industrialisation and jobs for all, and they want to achieve this goal as quickly as is possible.
To do so, they are prepared to compromise, just as they have always been prepared to compromise in the past. They want to encourage foreign investment so that their country can progress, and are prepared to give guarantees to any potential investors for that purpose, guarantees that they will undoubtedly honour. They are prepared to let the soon-to-be ex-king, never mind less noxious persons, set up businesses. Already the howls of betrayal from the pseudo left are deafening: K Ratnayake and Peter Symonds, writing on behalf of an internet Trotskyite outfit, WSWS on 18 April 2008 (‘After election landslide, Nepalese Maoists reassure investors and major powers’), for example, say:
“Many voters supported the Maoists in the hope they will usher in a new period of democratic rule, peace and prosperity. These illusions will soon be dashed, however. Maoists have promised all things to all people, but at the centre of their program is a commitment to retain capitalism. For anyone familiar with the Stalinist two-stage theory [i.e., the Leninist two-stage theory, as set out by Lenin in Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (1905)], the declarations of the Maoist leaders come as no surprise. The CPN(M) bases its ‘bourgeois peasant revolution’ on the poorest rural layers, not the working class. The stated objective of the ‘first stage’ is to clear away the remnants of feudalism including the monarchy and the caste system – not abolish capitalism. Socialism is relegated to the distant future.”
However, the two-stage theory is merely a common sense approach for a relatively weak force to set about defeating a stronger one. It involves, first and foremost, facing your enemies one at a time, while safeguarding the unity of your own forces and maintaining the highest standards of discipline and ideological and theoretical training. These are tactics which give the working masses a good chance of success which will certainly not be secured by any Trotskyite outfit trying to build socialism overnight in the conditions now prevailing in Nepal, with all the powerful internal and external enemies of the revolution.
The watchword for the Maoists is dialogue and negotiation. It will offer business opportunities, but it will also demand much better conditions for workers than those they have been used to. It will accept multi-party democracy, but this will be alongside a system which involves the masses directly in decision-making. It will incorporate its freedom fighters into a professional army which includes soldiers and officers of the Nepalese army, and it proposes the army should become both smaller and more professional, but only on the basis of (a) democratising the army, (b) finding work for unneeded combatants and (c) keeping the masses of the people armed in militias in case of need. It will keep the border with India open, but it will regulate who crosses it and who doesn’t. And yes, these are all dangerous policies, but in making revolution there are no policies that are safe or that lead to guaranteed success. There is no magic formula for making the class enemy disappear overnight, and that enemy will be putting all its energies into frustrating the Maoists’ plans, especially the plans to move forward at a later stage to socialism. There is no chance of defeating the enemy without putting the brain into gear. That is what the Communist Party is for.
For our part we wish the Maoists every success. They have made a very great beginning, which is an inspiration to communists all over the world. We have not the slightest doubt that they will advance to ever-greater victories in the future and that the masses of the Nepali people will forever bless the day that they came to power in Nepal.
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