The class struggle in Nepal

Submitted by AWL on 18 February, 2013 - 10:11

Class struggle in Nepal is in a period of “democratic reaction”. The masses feel betrayed. After the 2006 revolution, there has been no change in land and production relations. The revolutionary fervour has receded, and the revolution has been held back both by the opportunist leadership of the Maoists and the reactionary forces.

Nepal is a country where almost 75-80% of the population are engaged in agriculture, mainly subsistence farming. Most of them own only small pieces of land, or no land at all. Over the years, the question of revolutionary land reform has been raised during every progressive/revolutionary movement, but in vain.

The working class makes up about 5% of the population. But despite the tiny number, they hold the key to the revolution as they are placed in some of the strategically important parts of the country. Their importance was also visible during the 2006 revolution where they paralysed the regime of King Gyanendra and brought it to its knees.

Around 10% of the population are involved in service sector. Besides these, there's also a large number of transnational proletariat, the migrant workers, who mostly are in India and the Middle East.

There is no independent labour movement in Nepal. The trade unions are affiliated to one party or another. They are just rubber stamps of their mother parties. The unions are full of bureaucrats and the movement here lacks militancy.

I’m not involved in any of the leftist organisations. I’m pretty much an independent at the moment. I briefly got involved in a students’ union affiliated to a Maoist party, but quit after seeing the nature of the union, which is full of careerism and bureaucratism.

There’s a large presence of students’ unions with a very rich history in this country. These unions have played a very significant role not only in mobilising the masses, but also leading them and acting as vanguard of the various uprisings and revolutions. During the time of autocratic monarchy, when all the political parties were banned, all the political activities were carried out through the students’ unions. The background to the first “People's Movement” (Jana-Andolan) in 1990 was the students’ uprising 10 years earlier. The students had organized a peaceful protest against the decision to hang former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. But the police intervened and soon the protest grew up to an uprising, demanding the restoration of democracy. We can see currently that all the major students’ unions are affiliated to major political parties.

The organised left consists of Stalinist-Maoist parties. There are more than a dozen so-called “communist” parties. All of them are Stalinist-Maoist. They all share the same Stalinist root in the Communist Party of Nepal, formed in 1949, when Stalinism was at its peak. The biggest party is Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) which led the decade-long “People’s War”. Recently, a “hardline” faction of the party split off, accusing the leadership of revisionism, and formed a new party named PN (Maoist). The other major party is the reformist CPN (Unified Marxist-Leninist). Besides these, there are other fringe parties which have no major ideological differences. Maoists have a large base in the peasantry, owing to their “People’s War”, which was based in the rural areas. CPN (UML) have a major hold in the trade unions, while the Maoists have their stronghold in the students’ union. In the last election, about 65% of those elected to the Constituent Assembly were from “communist” parties. The masses have, over time, tilted to the left but what they lack is a revolutionary party with a revolutionary programme.

During the “People’s War”, the Maoists had links with CCOMPOSA (Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia) as well as RIM (Revolutionary International Movement). They had pretty much an internationalist perspective as far as the future was concerned, with their call for a socialist South Asia. But if you look at their tactics and strategies, they've always had a “nationalist” approach, which is not so surprising given their Stalinist-Maoist background. UCPN (Maoist) split from RIM, but we’ve heard that the newly-formed CPN (Maoist) has re-established its links with RIM.

There’s no any independent left outside the Stalinist-Maoist movement. A few Trotskyists from International Marxist Tendency (IMT – Socialist Appeal in Britain) are working inside the Maoist party with their entryist tactic. Trotskyism, one of the alternatives to Stalinism-Maoism, is very new here and is in its diapers. Due to the dominance of Stalinists and Maoists in the leftist movement, there’s no genuine revolutionary alternative at the moment. But I think the future is doomed for Stalinists and Maoists because time and again, they’ve handed down the power to the reactionary bourgeoisie, betrayed the revolution, and are being discredited by the masses.

Gender violence has been one of the major problems in South Asia. The “Occupy Baluwatar” protest in Nepal has a huge importance, not only nationally but internationally. We can see a direct link between the protests in New Delhi and the one here. It has aroused the consciousness of the masses and has been independent of political parties, who seek to capitalise in these situations. We can also see the class character of the protest in Nepal. The woman who was raped was a migrant worker returning home after selling her labour-power in the Middle East to earn a living.

The protests seems to be a spontaneous one, with people not only from the working class but also from other walks of life voicing their concerns. What is surprising is that none of the communist parties or their trade unions and “revolutionary” women’s organizations have spoken a word denouncing the rape, let alone protested. But I think this protest will eventually take a bourgeois feminist outlook due to the lack of a radical socialist-feminist alternative.

The 2006 revolution was a classic case, where, as Lenin put it, the “lower classes” did not want the old way and the “upper classes” could not carry on in the old way. It was a spontaneous revolt, pretty much like the February Revolution in Russia in 1917. People from all walks of life joined the revolution. They all expressed their dissatisfaction and misery, which had been accumulating over a long period of time. The masses clearly wanted to beyond the reinstatement of the parliament. The students, who acted as the vanguard of the revolution, called for a republic and led the masses towards the royal palace. Hastily, the Seven Party Alliance (a coalition involving the main Maoist parties and others) and the king reached a backroom deal and called it a “victory.” Thus, the revolutionary tide was held back. A clear pre-revolutionary situation had arisen. But the fate of the revolution had been already decided by the Indian bourgeoisie and the Seven Party Alliance.

This betrayal by the Maoists directly stems from their Stalinist two-stage, Menshevik theory which calls for a democratic revolution in alliance with the bourgeoisie as the immediate goal, while pushing the question of the socialist revolution to the unknown future, as opposed to the permanent revolution - according to which in a backward country like Nepal, where the bourgeoisie has long ago extinguished its revolutionary flames, the bourgeois-democratic tasks of the revolution can only be achieved through a socialist revolution. Thus the democratic revolution is inseparably tied to the socialist revolution.

The Maoists, who once represented the revolutionary wing of the left, are being discredited by the masses. The newly formed Maoist party, CPN (Maoist) are pretty unclear of their tactics. They are too rigid in their approach towards concrete analyses of concrete situations. I think there’s a huge potential for a Trotskyist/anti-Stalinist movement here in Nepal. But since the ideas of Trotsky are fairly new here, we’ve got a long way to go. There’s an absence of Trotskyist literature here. The first thing we require to do is get few of his works and start a sort of reading group and build a party around that. We’ve got a long way to but I’m very optimistic about the future.

Like Trotsky said, “The reformists have a good sense of what the audience wants... But that is not serious revolutionary activity. We must have the courage to be unpopular, to say ‘you are stupid’, ‘you are fools’, ‘they betray you’ and every once in a while with a scandal launch our ideas with passion.”