Angels and Demons in Nepal
Today, the talk of people’s power in Nepal is the order of the day. Even the Mainstream Media, Moriarty, Manmohan and their intellectual goons are full of that. Evidently they are having hysterical fits intensified by the return of the Cold War paranoia. The possibility of the Maoists’ coming over ground and their revolutionary agenda — targeting the Nepali dependency — being constitutionalized is definitely a grave crisis for Indo-American imperialism in South Asia. And in order to have a scope for diplomatic engineering, they need sanitized expressions like people’s movement, people’s power etc without identifying who the people are and without detailing their demands.
Definitely the mainstream hatred against the Maoists knows no bound. The media campaign to denigrate the Maoists has never been so vigorous as now, showing the crisis and desperation in the imperialist camp — its failure to color and control the democratic upsurge in Nepal as in East Europe and other parts of the world. As one of the coup organizers against Chavez in Venezuela, Vice Admiral Ramírez Pérez told a private channel just after the coup on April 11, 2002, "We had a deadly weapon: the media." And as Pablo Neruda, once reminded us, "He’s the skulking coward hired to praise dirty hands. He’s an orator or journalist. Suddenly he surfaces in the palace enthusiastically masticating the sovereign’s dejections".
1. People’s Movement: a New Phase in the People’s War?
Just a cursory reading of the mainstream media headlines on Nepal and the Maoists today show that they increasingly concentrate on Maoist "extortions" and other "criminal" activities. One needs to just go through the reports under those headlines to have a glimpse of the conscious game plan. Only to cite a couple of examples:
1. As reported, recently, Indian company Dabur suspended its operations in Nepal. The headline and the first paragraph of the report in Telegraph (May 20), one of the mainstream newspapers in India, told it was because the company refused "to buckle under the extortion threats of the Maoist rebels". But the same report subsequently went on: "The Maoist-affiliated trade union, All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF), on May 15 issued a 22-point charter of demands to all the units in the Bara-Parsa-Birgunj industrial belt. They demanded scrapping of the labour contract system, payment of a minimum monthly wage of Rs 5,000 and provisions of housing, medicare and education facilities to the workers and their families. The union warned of dire consequences if its demands were not met within a week." So the genuine workers movement and its demands in the Nepali sweatshops controlled by Indian imperialists are extortions.
2. The prestigious International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a media release on May 19, where a subheading said – "Maoists attack radio station" (later "attack" was changed to "threaten"). It is obvious that many people who have the habit of reading just headlines will interpret — Oh! These gun-trotting "polpotists" must have raided the radio station. But no! "The Maoist-aligned All Nepal Trade Union Federation issued a letter on May 12, 2006 accusing the two FM radio stations of exploiting their respective staffs, dismissing staff without reason, extreme excesses and mental torture of the staff, and called for the immediate termination of the Kalika FM station director, alleging him to be a pro-royalist." So, this was an attack!
In order to understand the impact of such unambiguous media reports, one needs to remember how even a great novelist from the Left Jose Saramago went on to dub the great guerrilla movement under the Frente Armada Revolucionaria de Colombia (FARC) as an "armed gang" dedicated "to kidnapping, murdering, violating human rights." One can only imagine what will happen in the case of Nepal.
The international left movement divided into innumerable sects is taking its toll on the Nepali movement too. So we find even sober Marxist analysts indulging in subjective analyses of the peasant movement in Nepal displaying their rich repertoire of inter-sect abuses ready for the Maoists just because they have learnt from the Chinese peasant movement and call themselves Maoists. The irresponsible reactive armchair leftism ever online enamored of the rights discourse and neutrality too in its efforts to justify its own passivity is increasingly involved in this media redbaiting. As James Petras noted in his open letter to Saramago (Counterpunch, December 22, 2004):
"[T]here are many types of "communists" today: Those who stole the public patrimony of Russia and became notable oligarchs; Those who collaborate with the US colonial regime in Iraq; Those who have struggled for forty years in the factories, jungles and countryside of Colombia for a society without classes; And those "communists" who fear the problem (imperialism) and fear the solution (popular revolution) and make it all a question of personal preferences."
All kinds of media and ideological manipulations are going on endeavoring to disrupt the New Phase of People’s War in Nepal — its extension to the urban streets with its own peculiarities, to the urban proletarian struggle – with the increased Maoist interventions in urban mobilization and trade union activities. We find rosy words being showered on the People, while denigrating their War. The rightists, "leftists" and imperialists are all united in this propaganda campaign.
Personalities who were never on the streets to suffer police beatings and face bullets were the first ones to declare victory of the People’s Movement with the King’s pronouncements. The desperate Indo-US imperialism and its media touts were booed when they prematurely partied after the King’s April 21 invitation to the parties to name the prime minister, which every force in the movement duly rejected, including the nervous parliamentary leaders. However the panicky US-EU-India interests ultimately found loyal agency in this "responsible leadership" when it unilaterally accepted the April 24 declaration restoring the defunct parliament.
And thus started the sanitization program — of talking about People’s War vs. People’s Movement, of the failure of the first against the successes of the latter as proof of the virtue of non-violence. The hidden agenda is very apparent, that is to restore the sanctified institutions of State Terror while disarming the People by preaching them non-violence. The neutral apostles of Human Rights do this by treating the State’s offence at par with the Popular defense. Imperialisms do this via their "Community Faces" too – through well funded "Civil Society" groups and NGOs, who specialize in administering and selling the social agenda of Neoliberalism, providing "Social Cushion" in the face of the growing marginalization and social unrest. As perfect plainclothesmen, all these apostles of non-violence can be spotted here and there in the Nepali unrest with their clear job of policing the movement from within. After the so-called "victory" of April 24, their additional job has been to write anecdotes about their participation in the "Turn-the-other-cheek-Revolution" with the mainstream and "civil society" media ever ready to channel the processes of sanitization and betrayal.
In this regard, it suffices to quote Black revolutionary Malcolm X who was himself the epitome of Popular Suffering, Anger and Movement right in the belly of the beast:
"I don’t go for anything that’s non-violent and turn-the-other-cheekish. I don’t see how any revolution-I’ve never heard of a non-violent revolution or a revolution that was brought about by turning the other cheek, and so I believe that it is a crime for anyone to teach a person who is being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself. If this is what the Christian-Gandhian philosophy teaches then it is criminal-a criminal philosophy."
2. The Nepali Movement Beyond Sectism
There is far more to a movement than just its personalities and ideologico-cultural labels – Zapatistas, Chavistas and Maoists. However, there is always a mainstream tendency to relegate these movements to a few personalities, symbols and ideological lineages. This definitely benefits the status quo as the movements are effectively portrayed as sects with some innate pathological tendencies. The failures and problems of the older movements whose idioms the present movements have adopted and adapted to mobilize and organize the masses are extrapolated to vilify the latter. The fundamental issues of the changed conjuncture and the composition of the movements are effectively swept aside through this exercise, ideologically arming the status quo to contravene the ‘subversive’ forces.
Feeding to this is the widespread sectism prevalent within the Left, which aids the hegemonic forces in this regard. The leftist dissection, labeling and libeling are more effective than any repression and mainstream media propaganda in forming and deforming the opinion, as they can be projected as internal dissensions. Karl Marx while summarizing his experience in the First International rightly notes in his letter to Friedrich Bolte (November 23, 1871):
"The development of the system of Socialist sects and that of the real workers’ movement always stand in inverse ratio to each other. So long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary."
The recent upheaval in Nepal has once again brought this sectism to the center-stage as people everywhere are trying to cope up with the Maoist element in it. We find Mao’s failures and Pol Pot’s barbarism discussed more than what the Nepali Maoists have done in Nepal – how they have energized the issues of land, land reforms, decadent forms of gender, national and ethnic oppressions, neo-liberal commercialization, distress migration etc as their central concerns.
In the hands of the Maoists, the issue of the constituent assembly, which was forgotten by the democrats, became a rallying point for uniting the rural and urban downtrodden. It was the Maoists’ strength with the growing influence of their slogans and radicalism on the lower leadership and the mass base of the petty bourgeois parliamentary parties that shattered the Nepali ruling machinery’s ability to control the growing rage of the people’s war. Eventually the 1990 historic "compromise" between the royalty and the democrats brokered by the imperialist interests in the region collapsed leading to the latter’s historic alliance with the Maoists in 2005.
This alliance triggered the mass upsurge that we witnessed throughout April this year. The imperialist onlookers were awe-stricken by the response to the General Strike called by the Seven Party Alliance facilitated by the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Maoists in the Kathmandu region with an increased armed assault on the (then Royal) Nepalese Army in other regions. US Ambassador went on with his rumor mongering and presented the situation as "pre-revolutionary" in one of his interviews, which was correct but was meant to terrorize the Nepali petty bourgeois leaders and mobilize international opinion against the revolutionaries. India, who has the history of utilizing the unequal treaties with Nepal for changing the internal political arrangement that best suited India’s interests that necessarily used to include a cosmetic democracy, this time was (and is) desperate to preserve the monarchy. However the Indian response has been moderated due to the immense mobilization within India in solidarity with the Nepali democracy movement.
The petty bourgeois leaders of the parliamentary parties feared direct action in the rocking streets and burning fields of Nepal destroying every institution that mothered them. Instead of the path of revolution, they chose the path of legislation, which allows manipulation and compromise. Afraid of the revolutionary ‘uncertainty’ they found a ready opportunity to withdraw their support to the movement when the King restored their parliamentary privileges. But the movement continued as the Maoists and the grassroots of these parties rejected this compromise and sustained the spontaneous upsurge in popular consciousness, ever vigilant of the old leadership returning to its old habits and forcing some concrete progressive "concessions" that we hear in the news today.
3. Hands Off Nepal: Rebuff the possible ‘Plan Nepal’
Today, most dangerously, all imperialist manipulations, media propaganda and the parliamentary drunkenness in Nepal might prepare the background for something like Plan Colombia, which derailed the similar process of overgrounding of the peasant and people’s upsurge in Colombia under the leadership of the FARC. The FARC in 1999-2001 suspended their armed struggle and negotiated with the Pastrana regime, insisting on a demilitarized zone, putting forth "a political program of agrarian reform, national public control of strategic resources, and massive public works programs to generate jobs". All these radical measures were destined to destroy the reactionary political economic institutions that allowed the imperialist network to operate in the country, devastating the peasantry, indebting the economy and entrenching corruption in the state structure. Therefore, "with the backing of the US government the Pastrana regime abruptly broke off negotiations and launched an attack on the demilitarized zone" and restarted funding, training and arming the drug traffickers and private armies of the landlords as para-military forces to harass and destroy the people’s movement.
There are well-documented evidences of the drug mafia network under the CIA of which "The King of Nepal" has been an important part. Last year there were reports that Crown Prince Paras "has been allegedly in the drug business for seven years, but his stakes and that of the Nepali royal family have grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years[T]he crown prince is now reported to be operating his network beyond South Asia." (Newsinsight.net, July 6, 2005) With the history of the linkages between the drug trade and the US’ counter-insurgency drive, one cannot ignore the possibility of a Plan Nepal in the pipeline until and unless the revolutionary Nepali people are vigilant enough forcing the country’s ever shaky "democratic" leadership to facilitate the ‘overgrounding’ of the Maoists and the crushing of the military leadership trained for imperialist wars, thus thwarting the danger of any imperialist manipulation.
Remember the US insists to keep the Maoists on their terror list, which allows it to intervene and manipulate regimes beyond the seven seas for their domestic security interests. The first thing that the US did after "welcoming" the April 24 proclamation was to sit with the military leaders, not even with the King. The parliamentary forces might remove R(oyalty) from the name of every institution, might add Secular in the official name of Nepal, but the country needs the negation of the whole system nurtured by 200 years of semi-colonialism, that allowed the imperialist powers to use the Nepali people, army and resources as reserve for crushing liberation struggles internationally (in India, Afghanistan among others), as canon-fodder. And all these in exchange with a promise that the Nepali royalty and elite could handshake and dine with the White Royalty, while the Nepali people suffered dual exploitation, and later, in exchange with rents in the form of foreign aid.
In the age of neo-liberalism, when the Nepali soldiers are not sent for killing, they can be used as guinea pigs too for pharmaceutical researches. Recently, there was news about "the American government’s exploitation of Nepali soldiers as human guinea pigs to find a Hepatitis vaccine." As Jason Andrews wrote in The American Journal of Bioethics:
"Noting the millions of dollars, military training, and arms that the State Department and Military have been giving to the RNA to help them put down the Maoist rebellion, it seems plausible that the resultant military and economic dependence of the host institution/population (RNA) upon the research sponsor (the U.S. Military) threatened the voluntary nature of the institutional and individual participation in the trial. That is, the RNA probably was not in a good position to say ‘no’ to the small request by their generous benefactor."
Servility and loyalty towards global imperialism entrenched in the Nepali state structure and elites can never be removed only by legislations — it needs a complete structural transformation, it needs a revolution, which has just begun and can go anywhere from here. With the growing imperialist counseling to the newly formed Nepali government, and the consensual ideological campaign endeavoring to alienate the movement from its revolutionary leadership through ‘neutral’ rights discourse and by media, any complacency on the part of the revolutionary masses of Nepal at this juncture will curb the process of democratization of the Nepali society and state.
PRATYUSH CHANDRA can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org