In a historic vote on 15 August 2008 in Kathmandu, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Prachanda), chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), was elected first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, where now a “Maoist leads from the top of the world.” Prachanda garnered 80% of the votes cast in the Constituent Assembly. This turn came on the heels of the surprise election of Ram Baran Yadav of the Congress Party as new President of the Republic on 22 July, a move then regarded as a momentary serious blow to the CPN-M.
In elections on 10 April 2008, the CPN-M gained a clear popular mandate (40% of all elected delegates to the Constituent Assembly) after a decade-long armed struggle by the CPN-M against the recently deposed monarchy. As Shyam Shrestha stressed after the elections: “The Nepali people are rising, their level of arousal is amazing. They are more ahead in consciousness than the leadership of the political parties. The feudal class will try to resist change, but the CA composition and the level of awareness of the people is very high, they cannot withstand this pressure.”
With Prachanda now at the helm of state, the CPN-M is expected to gain ministerial control of a number of key ministries, as the CPN-M and its movement are given a chance to prove themselves: “to show they are serious about the social transformations in whose name they went to war. They have a very strong presence in the villages, and many now long for them to be able to build on the starts they have made at eroding caste and gender discrimination. They also promise a more equitable system of land ownership.”
Yet Prachanda and his party, even after the landslide electoral victory and now a democratically chosen Prime Minister, still rank high on Washington’s Terrorist Exclusion list. The DoS and the US Embassy in Kathmandu are juggling various definitions of ‘terrorism’ which they can try to apply to the CPN-M. U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell is cautious in a recent interview in expressing how Washington really views the transformation in Nepal and underscores neoliberal concerns for promoting “the private sector, the free market and foreign direct investment” in the country: “We strongly hope that the new government will recognise that the private sector is by far the most powerful engine for economic growth.” Roshan Kissoon stresses: “When groups on the ‘terrorist’ list start winning elections, another curious thing takes place. The very term’ terrorist’ becomes inverted, its utter falsity is seen through, and a kind of moral collapse of the US and what it represents take place. There is a kind of moral reversal.”
It’s really important for progressives everywhere to better grasp the significance of what is happening in Nepal. Reportage on these pretty momentous developments is generally eclipsed in both the corporate and independent media, including much of the socialist press. As Gary Leupp commented last April, “It ought to be the ballot heard ’round the world. It ought to be front page news.” But it hasn’t been. You can read The Red Star, the English bi-weekly of the CPN-M, for firsthand reporting and views. A broad spectrum of local opinion on the Revolution and the challenges ahead in Nepal is reflected on a unique blog, well worth exploring.
The CPN-M is a major party within the Coordination Committee of the Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), made up of parties from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Communist Party of Iran (ML-M). CCOMPOSA also needs to be better known outside the region, however we may critique particular positions or tactics. Its Declaration was adopted in August 2002 and can help us to better understand the orientation of revolutionary socialists in South (and West) Asia who see themselves as part of a Maoist movement.
In Europe, the (n)PCI (nuovo Partito Comunista Italiano) in Italy, founded in Oct. 2004, has been especially outspoken in its support for the people’s struggle in Nepal. Its Founding Declaration sets out a new vision for revolutionary socialist reconstruction and mass mobilization in Italy and beyond. An article “The First Great Victory of the International Communist Movement in the 21st Century,” published in Italian in the party paper La Voce (1 July 2008), stresses the historic importance of what is happening in Nepal. The Party of the Committees to Support Resistance — for Communism (CARC) in Italy, closely allied since 2005 with the (n)PCI, issued an article on the Nepali Revolution in the current edition of The Red Star, drawing on the earlier article in La Voce. It is reprinted below, and raises important points for the broader international workers’ struggle.
The article notes the strong support for the Nepali revolutionary upsurge inside the International League of People’s Struggle. The ILPS, formed in 2001, is an umbrella organization of many NGOs. It recently mobilized activists to assist Dave Pugh in connection with his detention in India for his fact-finding work on the anti-displacement movement. Jose Maria Sison, ILPS chairperson, issued a “Letter of congratulations to Comrade Prachanda on his election as Prime Minister.” Few socialist parties or organizations have done so.
The Nepali Revolution deserves international solidarity. It can be a source of direct inspiration for people’s resistance hands-on along the southern face of the Himalaya and well beyond. In the region, it is feasible that “given the extreme and intensifying contradictions in Indian society, a real revolutionary regime in Nepal will have immediate and deep reverberations throughout India, especially the north and northeast. Furthermore, although it has no common border with Bangladesh, Nepal is only a few dozen kilometers from that country, most of whose 150 million people live in conditions of great hardship.” Writing in The Red Star, Kissoon is apprehensive but confident: “we have seen how a coup was engineered to stop Hamas becoming the government of Palestine. There is every reason to believe that the US is trying to plan something similar in Nepal. [. . .] Here, the CPN Maoist has planned accordingly, and prepared for any necessity.” The gains now being achieved and on the pathway forward need to be protected.
I worked many years in Nepal, but I and my students then never thought we would see the day of a Federal Democratic Republic dawning on Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest), now a reality. Roshan Kissoon, who taught English and much else to men and women of the People’s Liberation Army in the countryside, and who knows the people’s movement at the grassroots, puts it well: “For the masses of people in Nepal, the poor and the oppressed, the destitute and the landless, history is only just beginning.”
The ongoing revolution in Nepal is provoking many reactions within the international communist movement. Many are positive, others positive with reservations, and some negative. These many reactions demonstrate the importance of the Nepali revolution, and it is best if they develop and relate to each other and an open and frank debate develop within the many forces of the international communist movement. An open and frank debate is a necessary means for overcoming sectarianism, that is, in this case, the attitude to ignore each other, each shut in its own ideological or national ambit.
Sectarianism is a weakness of the international communist movement, persisting in this beginning of the new wave of proletarian revolution. A concomitant expression of this weakness is the attitude of the great aggregations of the international communist movement towards the Nepali revolution.
In fact, for decades, some great aggregations have been in existence, constituted in contrast with modern revisionism, which collect communist parties and organizations all around the world. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) itself is a member of one of these aggregations, and our party is one of another. These aggregations have not yet clearly expressed themselves on the meaning of the Nepali revolution. The only one that did so was the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), which, however, is an aggregation of mass organizations, not of political parties and organizations.
The fact that the existing aggregations of the international communist movement have not yet expressed themselves on the meaning of the Nepali revolution is important. In our view, it shows their limit.
All these aggregations, in fact, set themselves up and gained significance as means of struggle against modern revisionism. They have been useful in fighting this enemy of the communist movement, whose days, however, have come to an end in many countries. It maintains its strength in the international ambit and in some nations (i.e. in India, where it slaughters the popular masses, as it did in Nandigram, or in China, where it rules the country). However, elsewhere, revisionists no longer, or hardly, exist. Some disappeared with the collapse of the first socialist countries. Some in the imperialist countries practically vanished, as it happened in Italy with the latest elections. Some keep on existing but they have already been crushed, as it happened in the elections for the Constituent Assembly in Nepal. The more revisionists withdraw, the less anti-revisionism serves as a sufficient means to unite the various communist forces.
The many existing international aggregations are ideologically different among them (Marxist-Leninist, Marxist-Leninist with a positive attitude towards Mao Tse-tung’s thought, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). Still, they have had anti-revisionism as the common character and strong point. The more this character loses importance, the more they lose it as a strong point around which they can rally.
Today, the various international aggregations of communist parties and organizations cannot say only what they are fighting against (revisionism, imperialism, etc.), but they have to say what they are fighting for. They have to mark out a course for advance. The fact that they can denounce revisionists’ lies and imperialists’ crimes, but they are unable to give their opinion or stutter about the situation in Nepal where Communists are advancing, is a sign of their difficulties.
None of the various aggregations of communist parties and organizations can set itself even as an embryo of a new International if it does not overcome this difficulty, if it just restricts itself to denouncing revisionism and imperialism, if it does not propose a course that could lead communists to victory, in the imperialist countries and the semi-colonial and oppressed ones, according to their respective specific conditions.
Such proposals do not arise from some individual genius, nor from the particular qualities of a single party or organization. They arise from an open and frank debate among the various communist parties and organizations on the international level. This debate, then, must be united to the practical organizations on all the struggle fronts (against imperialism, for defending the conquests of the working class and the masses, the oppressed peoples and nations, women, young people, environment, etc.) and to mutual solidarity. Then, the debate cannot be reduced to an empty and abstract talk: the common practice will confirm which positions are right and which are not.
Open and frank debate, common practice, and solidarity are the pillars that support the main road of the unity of the International Communist Movement.
CARC, International Relations Dept., July 2008
Bill Templer is a linguist based in Southeast Asia.