This is the 2nd part of Peter Tobin’s excellent essay, India and Nepal – Big Brother Little Brother. He is a fine writer and I am honored to present his work on my site.
This post is very long, running to 115 pages on the Web. Nevertheless, it is not a difficult read, as I have read it several times already. Still, it would be best to print it out and read it at your leisure.
This article deals with the recent history of India and Nepal in a manner in which most of us are not familiar.
He also ties in Indian nationalism with Irish nationalism and compares and contrasts the two movements. Tobin’s analysis is interesting for a Marxist, as he negates the notion that the IRA is taking a progressive stance in calling for the unification of all of Ireland.
Instead, he sees it as opposed to the progressive axiom of self-determination. A proper Marxist POV, says, Tobin, would be for Irish nationalists to allow the right of self-determination to the counties of Northern Ireland. He compares this reluctance on the part of Irish nationalists to Indian nationalists’ refusal to grant the right of self-determination to Muslims on the subcontinent, a fascist project that led the violent partition of India, endless war in Kashmir and a very hostile reality between India and Pakistan.
Hence, Irish national unification nationalism, like Indian national unification nationalism, is a fascist project as is the case with most national unification or nation-building projects, not a progressive or Left one.
There are many other interesting tidbits here. Tobin notes that the Hindutva movement actually has its roots in normative Indian nationalism and the Congress Party itself and such heroes as Gandhi and Nehru can be seen as Hindutvas themselves. That India has always dominated Nepal in a brutal and callous way shows that India itself, like Israel, must now be recognized as an imperialist power in its own right.
I made quite a few edits in the text, but for style, punctuation, grammar and spelling only.
1947 INDIA SPRINGS FROM THE HEAD OF MARS
Over the past generation India has shed its non-aligned status and has formally placed itself in the Anglo-Saxon camp. For a number of reasons, some of which I will outline below, it has become a fully active member of the ‘War on Terror’.
To a large extent this has laid bare that which was previously obscured by the radical rhetoric and sometimes practice of the Congress leaders of the pre and post independence movement: that is the phenomenon of a Hindu Great Power chauvinism which lays claim to the entire subcontinent including the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas and what is now Pakistan.
It was initially conceived in the first decades of the twentieth century by the nationalist ideologue Savarkar who introduced the concept of Hindutva (Hinduness) to describe all movements and parties under the umbrella of Indian nationalism.
It is there in Nehru’s Discovery of India written from 1942 onwards while interned by the British. Published in 1946, it formed the Hindu response to those who would challenge the territorial assertions of Indian nationalists. The extreme form of Hindutva can presently be seen in the murderous cretinism of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian People’s Party) founded in 1980 and now the second largest party in the Lok Sabha.
It is salutary to note that Modi, the leading BJP minister in the Gujarat regional government, personally organized the massacre of over 2,000 Muslims in that state in 2002. The BJP is also pro-American and committed to the neo-liberal project.
There is therefore no substantial ideological or political difference between the BJP and the CI Establishment in this claim to the entire subcontinent. What they have, they hold; where they don’t have control, they have consistently followed expansionist policies of economic and military penetration to achieve that end.
Following independence, initial animus was directed against what were held to be the pretensions of Jinnah’s Muslim League in claiming national rights based upon majority Muslim populations in the North West and East of India. Jinnah rightly claimed that in a few years he had turned:
Muslims from a crowd into a nation.
The emergence of Muslim nationalism provoked the Indian Congress politicians and ideologues into the corrupt, anti-democratic inveigling of a large chunk of Kashmir into the nascent Indian state completely disregarding the wishes of the vast majority of the population there for integration with their coreligionists in an equally nascent Pakistani state.
It reflects, like Irish nationalists in their continued refusal to accept self-determination for the Loyalist population in the six counties, their rejection of a ‘two nation’ theory applying on the subcontinent.
That and the seizure of Hyderabad began India’s first, but by no means last, war of aggression in 1948.
As the largest power on subcontinent, India has always acted with impunity in defending and extending its border and influence. Besides the wars with Pakistan which culminated in the dismantling of that state in 1972 with the detachment of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), it had the arrogance to launch a war against China in the Askhai Chin in 1962.
Its military caste, inflated with hubris inherited from its former imperial master, expected a walkover. The military ignoramus, Mountbatten, who had been parachuted into the high command of SEAC (South East Asia Command) in 1943 over the head of the more competent General Slim, through his royal connections, claimed that India had:
A magnificent army, a capable air force, and a good navy brought up by the British. Look at the terrain and tell me how the Chinese can invade. (sic) I would hate to plan that campaign.
The only correct statement in the above was that the Indian Army was a British creation; its officer class was comprised of Koi Hais (Anglo-Indian Blimps) who, emboldened by all their wars and particularly the walk-over in annexing Portuguese Goa in 1961, were gung ho for war against China. L’appetite vient en mangeant.
In the final event, their army was outmaneuvered, outfought and outclassed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and the Indian government was forced to withdraw its troops and territorial claims which, significantly, were based on the British unilaterally imposed McMahon line. (Vide: India’s China War, Neville Maxwell, 1969.)
These territorial assertions were partly based on the fact that the Askai Chin is part of Kashmir, the whole of which Indian nationalists lay claim to, as detailed earlier, but significantly also on the basis that the new line was a secret provision of the 1914 Simla Agreement between the then Dalai Lama and Britain and followed upon the British invasion of Tibet a decade earlier. British historians euphemistically refer to this event as the ‘Younghusband Expedition’.
It was inspired by the adventurist Viceroy, Curzon, seeking to exploit the growing weakness of Manchu China by encouraging Tibetan separatism and to forestall the Russians from gaining influence in that region, reflecting the anti-Russian ‘forward’ school of Raj expansionism that had been evident in Afghanistan and North India throughout the 19th century.
The Chinese had never accepted this invasion or the agreement that resulted from it and which changed British policy, a policy which up to 1904 had recognised that Tibet was under the suzerainty of the Court of the Middle Kingdom. The emerging Kuomintang, from its progressive beginnings under Sun Yat Sen to the later years of the Bonapartist reaction of Chiang Kai Shek, upheld the ‘One China’ policy.
After China ‘stood up’ with the 1949 Liberation, there was even less likelihood of it accepting the spurious legacy of Curzon’s geopolitical cartography. It was not, therefore, as the deluded Mountbatten stated, an ‘invasion’ but a consistent policy of refusing to acknowledge imperialist borders aimed at fragmenting China. The Chinese Communists fought a defensive war against India in order to re-assert the acknowledged historical unity of their country.
Delhi’s aim of enforcing what had begun as a British land grab emphasizes how completely Nehru’s Congress government adopted the reactionary politics and territorial parameters of their former colonial masters. In this sense the war of aggression against the People’s Republic was not an aberration but was entirely consistent with India’s general expansionist policies on the subcontinent and particularly consistent with its attitude towards China.
A long standing animus towards the Communist country was previously seen in the comfort and aid given to the Tibetan Yellow Hat clique and their post 1914 attempts to secede Tibet from China.
Despite all the rhetoric of Third World solidarity that came out of Bandung in 1954 and the Panch Sheel (five points) agreement, where the two countries had agreed not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs, India allowed these separatists, fronted by the youth Gyatso, the Dalai Lama (a CIA creature then as now), a haven after the failure of their American-backed armed uprising in 1959 which the Indian government allowed to be organised from Kalimpong (Nehru himself admitted that the place was ‘a nest of spies’).
After the defeat of this Tibetan ‘Bay of Pigs’, they were allowed to resettle in Dharmsala, which was said to be the biggest CIA base in the world outside of Langley at that time. India essentially allowed the US to pursue its proxy war against China from its territory.
Its anti-colonial soul was further betrayed to a new, but equally expansionist, superpower, when Congress accepted its British inheritance from the instance of independence. For example, it took over with alacrity the policy of keeping Hindu rulers in majority Muslim areas; the British had pioneered this stratagem after the success of the first Sikh wars in 1846 in Jammu and Kashmir based on the principle of divide and rule.
Independent India inherited directly these petty princelings and through them disenfranchised the Muslim populations in those states.
Only lip service was paid to Gandhi’s pacifism. For years before his assassination, he had already been marginalized by the radical group around Menon and Nehru who were the real powers in formulating policy and strategy. Like the Dalai Lama, he has since become a saint to sections of a gullible, dim, historically ignorant Western petit-bourgeoisie.
Nehru put this more aggressive and hardheaded projection of the national interest very clearly in the Lok Sabha in 1959 in relation to the border dispute with China:
But where national prestige and dignity is involved, it is not the two miles of territory, it is the nation’s dignity and self-respect that becomes involved. And therefore this happens.
Yet he continued to delude himself, invoking Gandhi, that “basically we are a gentle people” who “emotionally disliked war,” that had been forced on them by the “warlike Chinese.”
The controversial but perceptive Bengali writer Chauduri, (Inter alia he argued that the Indians were originally Europeans who had been corrupted and denatured by an exotic, tropical environment.) in an acclaimed series of essays, saw through the hypocritical rhetoric, and penetratingly observed a few years after the war:
Hindu militarism is a genuine and powerful force, influencing Indian foreign policy…the conflict with China was inspired almost wholly by Hindu jingoism with the Hindu possessiveness as a second underlying factor. (The Continent of Circe, Niraud C. Chauduri, 1965. p. 107. Circe was a sorceress and weaver of spells from Greek legend.)
This bellicose militarism swept the country, reactivating the concept of the Dharma Yuddha (righteous war) but in a degraded and incompetent form. It demonstrated what a powerful force militarism had become since independence.
However the defeat in the Indian-Chinese War not only strengthened the position of the ‘capitalist roaders’ within Congress but led to one of the biggest defeats of the Party in the history of elections anywhere, when it was swept away in Jaipur in 1962 by a the victory in a ballot by the Swatantra party which championed the free market and was backed by business and many of the former princes.
It proved to be Nehru’s ‘last hurrah’ and effectively ended his political dominance. It was also the end of the experiment with socialism, and India began the sad trajectory that has culminated in its present junior partnership in transnational capitalism.
What this jingoist war did reveal was that the imagined form of an herbivorous Orientalized humanism could not conceal the real substance of a carnivorous and hegemonic bourgeois nationalism. The Gandhian hiatus was a thin varnish which tried to cover an historic Hindu martial spirit, that had as its ideological lodestone the aggressive ardor and warlike tales of the Mahabharata.
1950 INDIAN INTERVENTION IN NEPAL
This newly emergent Indian imperial policy can be clearly seen in the response to the crisis in Nepal in 1950 which saw an alliance of Nepal Congress and King Tribhuvan against the hundred and fifty year rule of the Ranas.
The Ranas were a feudal dynasty that controlled Nepal for that historical period. Unlike their earlier homologues, the Russian Boyars, they did not face a Ivan the Terrible until Tribhuvan, and they exercised a firm grip with a succession of Kings being more or less figureheads. After they seized power with the help of the British in 1846, they remained firmly allied to the East Indian Company and post 1857 Raj in defending British interests in Nepal.
It was the Ranas who facilitated the recruitment of Gurkha mercenaries into the British Indian army, for which they received a payment per head.
During the 1930’s and 40’s, Nepal was swept up in the growing and powerful campaign for independence in India, and there were attempts to set up a Nepalese Congress Party which drew support from primarily the Hindu populations in the Kathmandu Valley and the other major urban centers and from the Terai, which borders India.
The Ranas’ response was brutal suppression – activists were hung or imprisoned, and many driven into exile; principally to India, where they received asylum and support from the Congress Party and the government it subsequently formed in 1948. Nepali Congress was therefore launched in India in 1950 under the auspices of the Congress government.
It is of some significance that at its first conference, NC repudiated non-violence as a tactic in the struggle against the Ranas and began agitating for an armed invasion from India to coincide with an internal uprising in the towns and cities.
Though they were dependent on support from India, such was the situation in Nepal that they were prepared to take a position on the application of Gandhian passivity and its obvious uselessness to the Nepalese situation. The ‘saintly’ pacifist Mohindas consistently held firm to the principle of non-violence and had little sympathy for those who advocated armed struggle.
Thus he refused to intervene to save Baghat Singh, a revolutionary Communist who advocated and engaged in armed struggle, from execution in 1931. By his silence, Gandhi colluded in his execution. Gandhi also retained a dislike for the martial pretensions of Subhas Chandra Bose. For all his vaunted humanism, he was a social reactionary who resolutely defended the caste system.
This militant stand reflected the radicalism of the new born NC. Many of its early leaders, such as GP Koirala and his brother, BP Koirala had cut their teeth in the brutal struggles to establish trade unions in the jute mills of Biratnagar, Nepal’s largest industrial concentration close by the Indian border. GP became the first Prime Minister after the 1990 Andolan and remains an influential NC leader at the present time.
NC’s militancy was in stark contrast to the Congress Party of India which had undergone a process of embourgeoisiement and a growing attachment to Hindu chauvinism. This was reflected in its subcontinental strategy as regards to Nepal and similar neighboring states, as they were all considered as being within India’s sphere of influence.
The unruly Nepalese infant party was to find its interests subordinated to this world view, and this was clearly shown in the events between 1950/2. Nehru initially encouraged and assisted in preparing NC for an armed incursion into Nepal. The current Ranas, the Shamshers, were regarded by Indian nationalists as having been British clients and, as noted earlier, had proved ruthless in persecuting the embryonic nationalist movement. Nehru stated in the Lok Sabha in 1950:
In the inner context of Nepal it is desirable to pay attention to the forces that are moving in the world – the democratic forces, the forces of freedom and to put oneself in line with them, because not to do so is not only wrong according to modern ideas but unwise according to what is happening in the world today.
By late 1950, preparations for an incursion by the Mukti Sena (Liberation Army), as the armed wing of NC styled itself, were well advanced. Though its rank and file were mainly Nepalese, stiffened by a core of recently demobbed Gurkhas, it was largely officered by ex-Indian National Army Boseites.
That this was facilitated by an Indian Congress government demonstrated the schizophrenic attitude to Bose and his forty thousand strong Indian National Army (INA) recruited from Japanese prisoners of war. When they launched an invasion of India in alliance with their Japanese allies in 1944, their cry was ‘Chalo Delhi‘ (on to Delhi), the cry of the 1857 rebels. This consciously emphasized the continuity of the ‘long revolution’.
By declaring for armed struggle against the British, Bose repudiated the Satyagraha strategy (literal translation: ‘to maintain the truth’.) This was the name given to the program of civil resistance. Gandhi used this definition because he wanted to distinguish it from Thoreau’s concept of civil disobedience. That Bose allied himself with Japanese expansionism was a logical step; “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
It was the same conclusion that Irish nationalists, such as Pearse, Connolly and Casement, reached prior to 1916, in respect to Germany, and indeed a policy the rump of the IRA continued during the 1939-45 war. In respect to the struggle for Irish independence, this line of march succeeded in the years immediately following the 1916 Easter Rising and reasserted the physical force tradition over the parliamentary wing of Irish nationalism.
The charismatic Bose, however, while remaining on the margins of nationalist agitation and not able to shake the grip of the Gandhian Congress Party over the movement, nevertheless engendered, at least, posthumous respect for his patriotism and commitment. Such was his popularity with Indians in the closing years of the war that Gandhi and Nehru, albeit from different positions, were forced to oppose the British proposal to try ex-members of the INA. (Bose died in a plane crash in 1945 and so was beyond British lynch law.)
He became a hero, revered because he had frightened the British not just with the INA as a direct military threat but with the prospect that its very existence provided a mutinous pole of attraction to its own Indian Army. This reflected the nervousness evinced by the British that followed the first great War for Independence in 1857 with respect to internal security and, for example, was the reason the Raj refused to send Indian Army regiments to the Mesopotamia campaign in 1915 during the First War.
Eventually his martial spirit proved more attractive to Indians than the pacifist pieties of Mohindas. Satyagraha was replaced by Duragraha (to hold by force). The former, in the eyes of militant nationalists, demanded too much Dhairya (forbearance) in the face of the enemy. It was not surprising that Gandhi’s assassin, Godse, was a leading Hindutva militarist fanatic.
The incursion into Nepal from India succeeded in linking up with internal opposition forces, and within a month, the Ranas were destabilized. But India at this stage was concerned with stability on its border, and complete victory was snatched away from NC with India forcing a three way agreement between the Ranas, the King and NC.
The NP leader, GP Koirala’s, aim of a constitutional monarchy was dropped, and the issue of a promised constituent assembly was kicked into the long grass, Tribhuvan, his successor, Mahendra and the Indian government all reneged on it. Monarchical absolutism asserted itself, and within a few years the prisons were filled with Congress activists along with many Communists whose movement had grown since the founding of the CPN in 1949, a response to the failure of NC and its lack of radicalism.
The Party’s launch coincided with the first translation of the Communist Manifesto into Nepalese by its first leader, Pushpa Lal (also a veteran of the Biratnagar trade union struggle). The work had an immediate resonance among the radical intelligentsia, especially the sections on pre-capitalist social formations that were immediately relevant to the Nepalese situation.
In addition, there were the Manifesto’s political demands, many of which had already been achieved in developed bourgeois democracies, e.g. progressive taxation, free education and elections, which were revolutionary demands in the context of a authoritarian, feudal state.
In 1960, Tribhuvan’s successor, Mahendra, consummated this process by declaring an end to political parties and parliamentary government and instituting the Panchayaat system, a feudal talking shop convened under the King. This lasted until the first great Andolan in 1990 which relegalized the parties and reintroduced a Parliament complemented by, what was intended to be, a constitutional monarchy.
Thus for forty years, successive Indian governments did little to assist Nepalese democrats in their struggle against monarchical absolutism.
Nehru’s government had in fact used the crisis of 1950 to extract yet another unequal treaty, the first of which had been initiated by the British in 1816 with the imposition of the Sugauli Treaty, which made Nepal a captive market for industrial goods produced in India, followed by the later Nepali-India Trade Agreement of 1923 which created a ‘common market’ between the two countries.
The 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty extended that grip and gave the Indians monopoly control over Nepal’s commercial, industrial and finance sectors. This was reviewed every ten years, and the events from 1990 onwards have seen no change in India’s economic domination; it is presently estimated that 80% of Nepal’s industry and commerce is in the hands of Indian capitalists.
They also took over from the British the process of exploiting Nepal’s huge water resources initiated by the 1920 Sherada Dam Agreement and cemented by the further exploitation of the 1954 Kosi Agreement and 1959 Gandaki Agreement.
The Indian ruling class took further advantage of the 1990 upheaval to have all the Nepalese rivers declared a ‘common resource’ for Nepal and India in a ‘Joint Communique’ between the two governments. They added a qualitative twist in 1996 with the Integrated Mahakali Development Agreement which assumed control of the entire Mahakali River for India’s power and irrigation needs.
As Bhatterai, (now number two in the leadership of UCPN(M) after Prachanda) noted:
The Mahakali Treaty, however, has adopted a more devastating form of neocolonial exploitation and oppression by talking equality in theory but in practice ensuring monopoly in the use of water and electricity to the Indian expansionists and imposing trillions of rupees of foreign debt upon Nepal. (B. R. Bhatterai, The Political Economy of the People’s War, 1998, published in The People’s War in Nepal – Left Perspectives, editors A. Karki & D Seddon, p.128)
All of these agreements have progressively dispossessed Nepal of its greatest natural resource. They have particularly affected the Terai, the southern plains contiguous to India and Nepal’s ‘grain basket,’ in order to benefit Indian industrial and agricultural interests.
From the outset India has used its geographical, political and economic position over Nepal to ensure that its hegemonic interests predominated.
When it suited, they allowed Mahendra and his successor, Birendra, to expand and consolidate power, but when the latter attempted to take an independent position specifically by ‘playing the China card’ by buying and importing arms from the People’s Republic in the late 1980’s, they responded with a refusal to renew a trade and transit treaty in 1989 and effectively launched a economic blockade on Nepal.
This, on a country that by this time could not produce enough to feed its population, was devastating, and it caused tremendous deprivation in Nepal.
This crucially weakened Birendra’s Panchaayat and provided the nexus for the 1990 Andolan. (This was as important as the People’s War from 1996 to 2006 proved in creating the conditions for the second Andolan.) The thinking in Delhi with respect to the uprising was that Nepal was now so dependent on India they could manage and control any resulting democratic change as they had always done.
Not only was the major Nepalese party, NC, completely in their pocket by this time, but there was a growing Hindu comprador capitalist class which which would automatically respond to their influence without being urged to.
In the nineties and the first years of the new century they were content to allow the fledgling democracy under NC and its principal ally, the CPN(UML) to attempt to turn Birendra into a constitutional monarch. This changed when the PW grew in influence, and there emerged a strong connection with the Indian Maoists.
The crucial event which propelled them, yet again, to back monarchical despotism was the beginning therefore of the PW in 1996. There was a hitch with the murder of Birendra and his family, allegedly by the Crown Prince, Dipendra, in 2001. He somehow managed to shoot himself in the back of the head with an assault rifle and took two days to die. Thereafter he was referred a the ‘King in a coma’.
It has since emerged that the attack was carried out by an American trained special forces unit organised through RAW (cf. the CIA murder of Ngo Dinh Diem, the Vietnamese President, in 1963; of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1960; of Panama’s Torrijos in 1968; and the numerous bungled but hilarious attempts to assassinate Castro.)
It led to the accession of Gyanendra, who after 9/11 gave the US a pledge to reinvigorate the war against the Maoists, which Birendra had shirked, provoking American fury and his subsequent assassination. Gyanendra in return received armaments and dollars from the US. The fact that he could act autonomously in giving this assurance emphasized the crucial flaw in the 1990 settlement which had left the RNA subject to unilateral, monarchical control.
After a visit by Powell in February 2002 where this understanding was cemented between the Americans and Gyanendra, the Indian government found itself in a bidding war with Uncle Sam and their faithful British ally.
It was keen to see its previous influence restored with the belief that the Anglo-Saxons would undermine their former neocolonial control ceded to American interests and particularly their desire to encircle and monitor the growing power of China. The inclusion of the secular Maobaadi as ‘terrorists’ can be seen in this light.
The Indian government had been to the fore in supplying the regime with arms and logistical support. The supply of armaments was, however, suspended after Gyanendra’s dismissal of his government and the restoration of monarchical absolutism. Indian policy from 2002 onwards represented a break from the ‘two pillar’ strategy which supported both the parliamentary forces and that of the King. At the heel of the hunt, they did not care “what color the cat was as long as it caught the mouse.”
The reasons successive Indian governments had failed to make a objective evaluation of the Maoist movement related to the threat they represented to stability in the region and particularly their threat to abrogate such Indo-Nepalese agreements as the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, the 1996 Mahakali Treaty along with all similar unequal treaties.
Also of significance to them was the Maobaadi’s networking with India’s own Maoists, which had finally led to the establishment of the Coordinating Committee of Maoist Groups in South Asia in 2001, creating a formal structure to expand revolutionary armed struggle in that region. It only confirmed Indian paranoia.
India had, from 1996 onwards, identified with the monarchy and the parliamentary forces, and along with the US, UK and Belgium poured in armaments to equip the growing Royal Nepalese Army, which by 2006 was approximately 70,000 strong. India provided 25,000 Insas combat rifles, the US 20,000 M16 carbines, South Africa and Belgium 2,000 machine-guns.
Britain further provided two Islander STOL (Short Take-off Or Landing) reconnaissance aircraft, which were adapted and fitted with 50mm heavy machine guns and 200mm mortar bomb racks which, along with two Russian M17 large helicopters, were used to massacre villagers in Maoist held territory as they gathered for political meetings.
The RNA was up against the PLA of 30,000 that had grown from half a dozen Maoist urban refugees which had gone “into the jungle” in 1996 armed with a couple of rusty Lee Enfields but which had built offensive and defensive capacity by expropriating arms and munitions from the police and the RNA.
The Indian government during this period abandoned its previous pragmatic policies which sought a stable Nepal. Their backing of Gyanendra and the reactionary parliamentary forces only exacerbated the crisis. The CPN(Maoist)s’ call for the ending of all the unequal treaties was not unique; it was shared by many in Nepal. The shrinking strata of national capitalists supported this policy as they resented the expansion of Indian domination of the Nepalese economy with the attendant rise of a comprador class.
On the question of solidarity among the Maoist parties on the subcontinent, the Indian government wrongly saw them as a monolithic and undifferentiated entity, which precluded them from showing any flexibility. Instead they resolutely refused to talk to the Nepalese Maobaadi. This was despite the fact the influence of CPN(Maoist) was on the rise (by the time of Jana Andolan in 2006 they controlled nearly 80% of the countryside).
If the Indians wanted a stability on their northern border, there was a necessity to engage with the Maoists at either a formal or informal level.
There is some evidence that CPN(M) recognised the strategic threat that India presented and were concerned that at some stage they would send in their army to forestall or overthrow any regime with pretensions to independence. They were also worried that the fall-out from 9/11 had placed them on the US list of ‘terrorists’ and were prepared to try and reduce their growing list of foreign enemies by exploiting contradictions among them and by attempting to detach India from the Anglo-Saxons.
To this end, the anti-Indian rhetoric of the Party was toned down in the few years after 2001 as they tried to establish some form of dialogue with the Indian government. They were comprehensively rebuffed.
India chose to stay aligned with the US, which regarded the Nepalese Maoists as a bloody and inflexible party; the US Embassy even raised the specter of a Khmer Rouge style takeover in Nepal. They accepted therefore Gyanendra’s argument that they should be included in the War Against Terror the US launched in 2001. What was significant in their inclusion was that the Maoists were secular and thus did not qualify for the nomenclature of Jihadist.
The Americans, with the acquiescence of the Indian government, therefore extended the original criteria to define a terrorist entity as where “…two or more people combine to threaten existing property rights.” This was a active policy which included US military ‘advisers’ training and equipping the RNA and flooding Nepal with CIA operatives.
Like the global phenomena of AIDS, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Avian flu, the Americans were everywhere in Nepal and so became hated by the Nepalese. I witnessed this first hand on both my visits to Nepal. They were so unpopular that many visiting American students used to stitch a Maple Leaf decal on their backpacks in a pathetic attempt to pass as Canadians.
Despite Indian worries regarding potential threats to subcontinental hegemony from outside powers, they looked on as the Americans and Gyanendra sabotaged the peace talks in January 2003 between the Maoists and the then Prime Minister Deuba. They even expressed anger at being marginalized by not being consulted beforehand by either of the two parties engaging in the talks exploring the possibility of peace.
The Maoists were acting in good faith, as they had long indicated a desire to ‘leave the jungle’ and enter the multi-party system.
Apart from suspending arms shipments, which by that time were surplus to the RNA’s requirement, they never seriously challenged Gyanendra’s suppression of all political parties in 2002 until 2005 when, alarmed at the growing success of the Maoists and the impact any victory would have in India, they relinquished the ‘Two Pillar’ policy in favour of the parliamentary parties.
Sotto voce they were equally perturbed at the growing US presence and influence in Nepal which threatened their traditional hegemony. At this juncture they ceased calling the Maoists ‘terrorists’ and facilitated peace talks between the seven parliamentary parties and the Maoists in India. It was obvious to them by now that Gyanendra was a busted flush.
How had a secular republic born in a bitter struggle against imperialism, within only sixty years, reached a fundamentally reactionary and chauvinist polity? This is I want to address in the next section – that and to contrast India’s weaknesses and strengths in the successful struggle against the Raj and the failure after 1947.
IRISH AND INDIAN NATIONALISM – A COMPARISON
The duplicities, antidemocratic maneuvering and aggression shown towards the Muslim League and Pakistan were underpinned by hostility to Muslim claims to self-determination wherever on the subcontinent they formed a majority.
Muslims were not granted any rights to a national identity, as they were seen as Indians under the skin (there is little racial difference) who needed to have their ‘false national consciousness’ stripped away to reveal their ‘true’ Indian identity.
It is very similar the ideological position that Irish nationalists use to deny Protestants in the six counties of Ireland a right to a national identity. Irish and Indian nationalists saw their respective Protestant and Muslim communities as settlements through conquest.
This concept of a national essence is bourgeois metaphysics; it falls into the category of historical idealism. From a materialist position, a nation is first and foremost an historically constituted stable community of people who share a common culture, language and mode of production from which arises a national consciousness. It is where an ideology becomes a material weight.
The other striking similarity between Hindu Indian and Irish nationalist assertions is the claim to hegemony over a defined geographical territory. In the case of the former, it is to the whole subcontinent, including the retaining arc of the Himalayas, and in the latter to all the island of Ireland.
In the case of the former, it arose from a determination to hold on to the territorial parameters established by the British and fortified by the ancestral Hindu belief that the ‘Land of Snows’ was in mystical counterbalance to the Gangetic Plains and Mount Olympus of the Indian gods.
For Irish nationalists, it was the myth that there had been an ‘historic Irish Nation’ prior to the arrival of the British. But the defeat of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 by the armies of Leinster and Dublin effectively ended any maturation of the embryonic nation. Thereafter until the Anglo-Normans arrived in 1170, the island was a patchwork of petty tribal families engaged in semi-permanent warfare. It was these divisions which facilitated Strongbow’s incursion.
The failure of the Irish tribes to establish a recognized central kingship was noted four hundred years later by a Tudor agent, who reported to Henry VIII:
There be more than sixty countries inhabited by the King’s Irish enemies, where reigneth more than sixty chief captains, whereof some calleth themselves kings, some kings peers, and every one of the said captains makes war and peace for himself, and holds by sword and hath imperial jurisdiction, and obeys no other person.
That much is to the debit, and it exposes the ideological and political limitations of bourgeois nationalism, but it has to be set against the fact that whatever the negative features, the Irish and Indian struggles for independence were genuine anti-imperialist movements against their British imperial masters.
Each was an heroic and ultimately successful trailblazer for many subsequent anti-colonial struggles.
The tactics that eventually achieved the final expulsions of their respective British occupiers differed: the Irish, after the late 19th century parliamentary Home Rule campaign which collapsed in ignominy after 1916, successfully pursued a strategy of guerrilla war with the mass support of the agrarian Catholic population, while the Indian movement under Gandhi’s leadership pursued a policy of mass agitation and civil disobedience purportedly based on Ashima (non-violence).
Nevertheless, each of these national liberation struggles were bitter and bloody in strikingly similar ways. In the case of the former, for all the subsequent pacifist gloss emerging from the secular beatification of ‘Gandhiji’ about the campaign to drive out the British, we know that for every Robert Emmet, James Connolly or Kevin Barry there was a Mangal Pandey, Lala Lajpat Rai or Bhagat Singh.
The ‘Quit India’ movement organised at the height of the British empire’s life and death struggle with the Japanese Empire was no tea party. The notion that Congress achieved independence through nonviolence was a myth, fostered by the Congress Party and particularly Nehru to bolster his credentials as a principled international statesman working working for world peace and nuclear disarmament – India became a nuclear power post-Nehru.
There was genuine political and ideological support from Irish nationalists with the Indian struggle, a genuine sympathy with fellow anti-colonialists based upon the assessment that what the British first practiced in Ireland – famine, war, dispossession, exploitation, ethnic cleansing and genocide – they then visited on the rest of the World.
de Valera underlined that solidarity when he took George Washington’s words:
Patriots of Ireland , your cause is mine.
and in 1920 said that
the cause of Ireland is the cause of India, Egypt and Persia.
Fittingly he was an honored guest at the Indian independence ceremony in 1948.*
Stalin, the CPSU’s principal spokesman on the national question, noted the link between the two struggles:
Not only has bourgeois society proved incapable of solving the national problem, but its attempts to “solve it has inflated it and turned the national problem into a colonial problem and has created against itself a new front stretching from Ireland to Hindustan. (Marxism and the National Question, Tenth Congress CPSU, J.V. Stalin,1921, pp. 106/7)
In the postwar years, the two new states followed a similar domestic and foreign policy, and in this lay the seeds of their present vicissitudes. Early attempts by the Irish to develop an agrarian based economy free from dependence on British capitalism proved abortive. The endeavors of the newly elected Fianna Fial government of 1932 to pursue policies to protect and stimulate Irish agriculture and industry behind import taxes led to a tariff war with Britain.
This reflected the need of all newly independent countries, whether nationalist or Communist, to pragmatically follow the advice of the great German empirical economist, Frederick List. In opposition to the theology of Smith and his ‘hidden hand,’ he observed that newly emerging nations needed to protect their home markets and their fledgling home industries with tariffs against the predations of the existing dominant world economic powers of finance capital.
He further argued that the ‘visible hand’ of the state is necessary to stimulate and oversee the process. His prognostications led to establishment of the Zollverein, which drew the many German states and principalities into a customs union that laid the economic basis for Germany’s political unification in 1871.
Thus India and Ireland came to the conclusion that if they continued to allow unfettered access to their home market by more powerful and technologically advanced free trading imperialists, then so long would they be economically dependent, as they could not hope to compete on a level playing field.
In its own way, India initially followed List’s principles, with a socialist twist. Encouraged by the Congress leadership around Menon and Nehru, it launched a programme of nationalization and attempted to lay the basis of a planned economy with a series of five year plans.
Although they achieved a growth in GDP of 4%, it was not sustained, as there was no corresponding revolution in social and property relations as had happened in the Soviet Union and China, and which unleashed the energy and productive genius of their emancipated masses and led to the subsequent industrial take-offs in those countries.
As Lenin pointed out clearly and as was later developed by Mao, there needed to be both a cultural revolution and a radical transformation of extant property relations following the political seizure of power which involved the masses in a complete revolutionary challenge to the existing order.
The newly empowered Indian Congress government failed to grasp this post-imperial axiom, and thus the caste and the feudal land systems were left untouched.
In the intense political and ideological rivalry that existed between the two newly liberated countries of Communist China and Congress India, it was, however, the former who succeeded economically and lifted their people out of absolute poverty and immiseration with a commitment to the ‘cradle to grave,’ ‘iron rice bowl’ policy and by comprehensively taking the socialist road.
It was the Chinese Communists who saw that in Stalin words that:
…the national and colonial questions are inseparable from the question of emancipation from the power of capital… (Ibid, The National Question Presented, J.V. Stalin, p. 114)
It can be argued that in the final analysis, China has integrated itself into world capitalism, but its socialist, autarkic period up to the late 1970’s enabled it to do so on its own state capitalist terms.
Compare China, even in its Maoist period, to the squalor and degradation that the majority of Indians, both in town and country, continue to live in, and only a fool or a reactionary would not conclude that India has failed by any measurable criteria.
India, under the growth and influence of a bourgeois comprador class, has integrated itself into the economic neoliberalism of the Anglo-Saxon world.
Chaudari predicted with remarkable foresight this eventuality earlier when he wrote:
Working within the emerging polity of the larger Europe, the Anglo-Saxon can be expected to lay claim to a special association with India on historical grounds. In plain words I expect either the United States singly or a combination of the United States and the British Commonwealth to re-establish and rejuvenate the foreign domination of India. (Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, N.C. Chauduri, 1951.)
Later, in 1962, he observed:
In the fulfillment of their destiny the American People will become the greatest imperial Power the world has seen, and they will repeat their history by having the blood of the Dark Indian on their head as they have that of the Red. (The Continent of Circe, N.C. Chauduri, 1965, p. 85)
THE STRUGGLE FOR INDIA & NEPAL
This revolution has now reached India and here the minerals which it stands in need of are found for the most part in the territories of the aboriginals. Very powerful forces stand behind the movement: the policies, interests, money and technical skills of nearly all Western nations: and, above all, the all-consuming Hindu avarice.
All this in combination is breaking down the isolation of the aboriginal, threatening not only his security but existence. There is a Hindu push towards the wilds, which never existed before, and very large vested interests are being created for the Hindus in the homelands of the primitives. The white ants are on the march. (Ibid, N.C Chauduri, 1965, p. 76)
Given the failure of autarkism, India has increasingly adopted neoliberal economic policies, making India safe for international capital and expanding the wealth of the Hindu ruling class. This process was cemented during the 2006 meeting with Bush by the commitment of the Indian government where India agreed to ‘liberalize’ their economy by opening it to multinational companies looking for cheap labor and expanding the extraction of India’s natural resources.
Although as can be seen in the prescient quote above, notwithstanding that it was written in terms that would now be termed as passé or non-PC, the seeds were planted a generation ago. In doing so they have heightened the contradictions within Indian society and have led to campaigns of resistance springing up in opposition to a reactionary economic strategy enforced by state terror which is accurately defined as fascist by revolutionary Communists on the subcontinent.
In this respect the much heralded ‘economic miracle’ of the past few years is only confined to 10% of the population, mainly the city dwelling middle classes. It is based on hi-tech industries and insourced cheap labor through bilateral agreements for international companies seeking increases in absolute surplus value.
For the rest of the population in both town and country, living conditions have worsened considerably over this period. The majority of unfortunate rural Indians still eke out a primitive existence in Stone Age conditions. Most of these peoples live in conditions of deprivation, without regular access to decent nutrition, health care, education, clean water, etc.
The manic need of transnational imperialism to seize India’s resources to feed wasteful overconsumption in the developed Western World, as was noted earlier, has led to land wars against the indigenous Adivasis in India’s poorer regions like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Madya Pradesh and Jharkand.
To enforce these policies, gangs of rightwing vigilantes, goondas, licensed by the regional and central authorities, are conducting what at best can be described as ethnic cleansing and genocide against these tribal peoples. The process noted by Chauduri in the 1960s has considerably accelerated over the past decade.
The three major parliamentary parties, CI, BJP and the CPI(M) or Communist Party of India(Marxist), are committed to expanding this reactionary program further, which can be clearly seen in the states where one or the other of them is in power. In Chhattisgarh, for example, where the BJP hold sway, there is an attempt to fast-track this process and allow voracious extractive monopolies to plunder resources following the dispossession of the tribal ethnics at the hands of vicious paramilitary Salwa Judum (Freedom Marchers, sic).
The only serious opposition to this neoliberal capitalist strategy are principally the Maoist groups, in alliance with the affected Adivasis, who are engaging in armed struggle in many states, forming a red belt that runs down the spine of India.
They have an armed presence in over 180 of the 600 departments of the country, and they have been described by the Indian CoS as presenting the ‘greatest menace to India’s internal security.’
The Indian ruling class is agitated by the threat of Maoists exercising any sort of power and enacting a radical programme in Nepal, which they have hitherto dominated and where their ‘mini-me’ Nepalese counterpart has so slavishly followed their path into even deeper reaction.
It is true that during the struggle against the King, culminating in his defeat, India facilitated peace talks between the Maoists and NP and the UML, which led to the Maoists declaring a cease fire. The alliance that arose between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists worked to overthrow the monarchy.
The Delhi government, for example, released Guarev, a UCPN(M) politburo member, and its principal spokesman on foreign policy, so that he could participate in these talks. But the depth of the ongoing hostility to the Maoists is reflected in the fact that he was interned along with thousands of indigenous Maoists and tribal resisters, without charge or trial for three years, under the draconian State Security laws inherited from the British. These are the same laws under which they martyred Baghat Singh.
The motives for this temporary change lie not in India reconfiguring its policy towards Nepal but because they expected that the Maoists would not prove up to the task of operating within a multi-party democracy and would fail any substantial electoral test.
They were not alone in this assessment; internal and external observers thought the Maoists would come a poor third in any such contest. To some extent this was not entirely a complete fantasy, as in the 1994 elections an earlier incarnation of the Maoists, the UPFN (United People’s Front Nepal) failed to win a single seat in a contest where the UML emerged as the winner with 88 seats, followed closely by NC with 83 seats.
What went against their 2008 expectations was the fact that the inspiration brought about by the PW dramatically increased the electoral appeal of the Maoists among a critical mass of the population. So it was that the Maoists confounded all the pundits gathered in Kathmandu by winning 40% of the electorate and emerging as the single largest party, with NP coming second with 30% of the vote and the UML in third place with around 20% in the April 2008 election.**
The key to the present crisis is the refusal to accept that the CPN(M) had a mandate for change and this is what provoked the subsequent plotting against the Prachanda led government.
The Americans played a strong role in the orchestration of the anti-Maoist campaign. The US has steadfastly refused to remove the designation of ‘terrorist’ from them, unlike Delhi which had not used the description since 2002.
The US State Department reinforced this scheming with a recently commissioned survey on the 2008 election in order to undermine the credibility of the electoral success of the UCPN(M) by alleging that it was the product of brute force and intimidation. They specifically singled out the Young Communist League for vilification and cited their defensive campaign against Indian inspired and separatist agitations in the Madesh bordering India.
Although the Party honored its word given during the peace talks with the SPA and put the 30,000 strong PLA into UN supervised cantonments, it had in reserve almost 300,000 YCL cadre for the electoral battle which for a number of reasons proved crucial to electoral ascendancy. A prominent bourgeois journal claimed that:
The YCL is just another name for Maoist guerrillas not openly carrying guns. (An Armless Army, The Nepali Times, 20/27th April, 2007)
Their relative numerical strength in a population of just over 23 million is a reflection of the appeal of the Maoists to the youth of a country where nearly 60% of people are under 30.
This US policy parallels with their policy towards Hamas in Gaza which had, at the behest of the West, called a cease-fire in 2006 and similarly entered an electoral battle.
When it proved similarly successful, it was similarly rubbished, and the goals for lifting the isolation of Hamas were moved further away. Here too, the leadership of the US was determinate and expressed the message to those it still regards as ‘terrorists’ that “however you play the game – you will lose!”
‘WAVING THE RED FLAG’ – THE CPI(M) & CPN(UML)
I have covered so far the role that India has displayed in relation to Nepal. I have also tried to outline how the NCs’ development and present objectives either coincide with or are determined by this neocolonial power. I now wish to turn to the UML, ostensibly a ‘left’ party, and show how it came to campaign in this ‘orgy of reaction’ that saw the Maoists driven from power. Although it was precipitated by right wing Army officers, the final blow against Prachanda and the UCPN(M) was the UML’s withdrawal from the coalition government and subsequent open support of Katawal’s actions.
How did this happen?
That a Communist party should sabotage a left government committed to radical policies in alliance with internal and external reaction came, initially, as a shock to many.
Notwithstanding the fact that many of members I was privileged to meet were sincere, dedicated comrades and which made the critical analysis I eventually reached all the more difficult, though I was impelled to do so by a sense of Communist commitment.
What misplaced use of dialectics by the UML leadership led them to such a clearly reactionary pass?
Was it unique, or did it mirror the drift of the CPI(M) away from revolutionary Communism and a capitulation to a pro-capitalist position?
I will argue the latter; that each party reached similar political and theoretical positions and modified, or even abandoned, socialism under the dead weight of reaction on the subcontinent and beyond. Their mentors and paymasters are drawn from those sources.
I first got involved in Nepalese politics through GEFONT/UML.
In October 2005 I went to Nepal for two reasons; the first to trek up the Khumbu to Everest Base Camp, and secondly, as a Communist, I had become interested because the People’s War had been raging there since 1996 against the unpopular American, British and Indian backed feudal monarchy and the supine, corrupt parliament.
I did not have to go far to establish contact, as UML’s trade union wing GEFONT was organised at the hotel where I stayed on arrival (which was owned by the King’s sister) and I met their shop steward – who was also its Maître’d’. Through him I visited their head office in Kathmandu on the wonderfully named Putali Sadak (Butterfly Road) and there met Chairperson Neupane and other members of the executive, among whom were Bishnu Rimal and Binda Pandey, and their research and international officer, Budhi Acharya.
I found myself more at home than in the UK, where Communists have to work within a single Laborite trade union movement, the TUC. The Nepali trade unions are organized like their French counterparts, with the main political parties each having their own union centre. The Nepali Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was, for example the trade union face of NC. GEFONT, in this respect, has the same relationship with the UML as the CGT has with the PCF, although, unlike the CGT, GEFONT’s 300,000 members are also Party members.
I was particularly impressed that pride of place, in a very busy, comprehensive and dedicated research department, was given to a shelf with Progress Publishers‘ forty two volume editions of Lenin. I could not imagine a British trade union head office being so equipped. I had a similar frisson when I visited the UML office in Pokhara and saw, proudly displayed, on the wall of the Regional Secretary’s office, posters of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.
The division between the two Communist parties is not parallel with the splits in the West: there is no anti-Stalinist crawling to petit-bourgeois liberalism or any reflection of the Sino-Soviet split in their mutual opposition. Trotskyism, as in any genuine revolutionary struggle in the developing world, has no purchase or relevance. Disagreements are fundamental and are not based on what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences.”
I was also struck by the wide range of activities GEFONT was engaged in; they were fighting battles against child labor, for literacy and numeracy programmes, campaigns to eliminate bonded labor (Kamaiyas), women’s rights, etc., battles which in the West we had long ago won. Alongside these endeavors, they were also occupied with the more recognizable free collective bargaining activities on behalf of diverse industrial and service groups that is part of our normal warp and weave.
In addition, health and safety is taken very seriously in a country where life is cheap, hard and short. For example: as a carpenter and ex-building worker for most of my working life, it was a shock to see masons and their laborers manhandling large blocks of dressed natural stone in flip-flops! The quality, however, of their tradesmen, including carpenters and joiners, was really outstanding, especially given the primitive conditions they work under.
The quality of GEFONT’S propaganda and research on this range of issues was excellent, detailed and exhaustive, equal if not superior to that of any UK union.
I was also informed that the following April, the population led by the SPA in the urban centre – principally in the Kathmandu Valley – together with the Maoists who were dominant in over 80% of the rural areas, were going to rise up against the monarchy by means of a nationwide Bandh in a repeat of the 1990 Andolan that had challenged Birendra. The fact that they could predict this six months in advance demonstrated how far and well the peace talks between the SPA and the Maobaadi, which were ongoing in India, were going.
I went home, but with my appetite whetted, and I resolved to come back the following April. I continued learning the language, studying its history and writing, and wrote what in retrospect was a naïve article which the Labour & Trade Union Review was good enough to print. In this piece I drew on the spirit of unity that was evident across the political spectrum and was particularly pronounced between the two Communist parties previously and literally at war over the difference in their respective strategies of armed or electoral struggle.
I also attempted to get my union, UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades & Technicians), to establish fraternal links, but as with any labor organisation it balked at association with ‘Communists.’
I finally counted at least seven serious Communist parties, CPN(M) and the UML being the biggest, as opposed to the UK where the various organisations laying claim to being Communists amount in relative terms to three men and a dog, as opposed to these Nepalese parties which could count on the support of 60% of the population and which, if unity was maintained and developed, I opined, would make Communist advance unstoppable.
To this end, I went through dialectical contortions, arguing that the two principal parties, despite the profound differences between them over strategy, were each correct from the positions they occupied in a society where the unequal development between the urban and the rural was strongly pronounced.
Hence the UML flourished in the strong civil society of the towns and cities because they reflected the objective economic and political needs of the urban masses against the relatively advanced, though increasingly comprador, capitalist system which applied there. In any event, the Maoists proved surprisingly strong in the urban centers as the 2008 election showed. They even defeated the UML General Secretary of Nepal in the two Kathmandu seats where he stood!
The Maobaadi, advancing People’s War on the other hand, reflected those values of the rural masses in a struggle against a residual but still strong martial feudalism that had received a new lease of life from the backing of the Anglo-Saxon and Indian governments who advocated and promoted increased military repression against the ‘terrorist’ threat in the countryside.
That was then and this is now: with the alliance between the bourgeois parliamentary parties and CPN(Maoist) shattered and with the former backing the military against the political authority of the Prachanda government.
The UML support for the Katawal coup places them firmly in the camp of bourgeois reaction and counterrevolution. It provides a classic case that it is not what you call yourself but what you do that counts.
Neither is that position an aberration in respect of the UML but instead reflects a process that has been ongoing since the 1990 Andolan.
This was a turbulent period, with twelve changes of government in eleven years. The UML were enthusiastic participants in this parliamentary game and even provided a Prime Minister for nine months in 1994 with the UML General Secretary Adikhari replacing GP Koirala, the leader of an increasingly fractious NC.
This decade long charivari did much to discredit the parliamentary parties as more and more Nepalese became increasingly disenchanted with these displacement politics activated in lieu of necessary radical action. They had had high hopes that, following the success of the Andolan and the humbling of Birendra, Nepal would go through a transformation where the many problems that had gestated under the monarchy would be swept away with measures that, for the first time in Nepalese history, would favour the masses.
They expected programs to tackle poverty (Nepal is the 17th poorest country in the World), to deal with illiteracy, child labor and the caste system, to enact justice and equity for the Janjatis; of these, ending feudalism (especially on the question of land ownership) being the most prominent. It was also hoped this new democracy would expand and modernize Nepal’s lamentably underdeveloped infrastructure.
That these problems were not dealt with was not, however, solely due to the narcissistic political squabbling during these wasted years.
Another crucial factor limiting any room for a radical program was that from the launch of the ‘new democracy’ in 1990, GP Koirala’s NC government continued and expanded Birendra’s initiative in 1985, admitting the IMF and the World Bank as arbiters of Nepal’s economic and social destiny. These multilateral bodies are the economic arm of American imperialism and enforce neoliberal capitalist nostrums through the comprador class in whatever particular country they have either a foothold or full control.
The mechanism used is the euphemistically named the ‘Structural Adjustment Program,’ (I have retained the American spelling) which implements privatization and price-dictated market policies.
What semblance there was in Nepal of a mixed economy was dismantled; a process overseen by economic hit men dispatched there as IMF/WB enforcers. Thus subsidies on fertilizer, essential goods and services were abolished, and the few enterprises that were state controlled were privatized.
This meant that prices on such items as petroleum doubled overnight, causing tremendous hardship for the majority of the Nepalese people who were reliant on that commodity for domestic use and transportation. Privatization in its turn led to redundancies, closures, asset stripping and the slashing of wages and conditions for the employees kept on by their new masters.
This latter was carried out for purely ideological reasons even if the enterprise was a thriving, going concern. They were sold off at four or five times less than their extant value in the face of any commercial logic. It was similar to the legalized theft that was initiated during the corrupt, philistine Thatcherite period in the UK, although no scraps were thrown to the Nepalese masses as a bribe as happened there. All the plunder went either to Nepalese compradors or Indian capitalists.
The SAP also terminated the licensing system which had assisted those enterprises which were export-led and left them at the mercy of more powerful and developed external economic interests which have successfully penetrated the Nepalese market.
Also drastically affected were state expenditures in health and education. Even the minimum welfare provisions that did exist were reduced, and tariffs that protected Nepalese industries, particularly small scale manufactures, were ended.
These policies were enacted during the high water mark of triumphalist free market capitalism, and they were no different to those forced upon the countries of the former Soviet Bloc or indeed anywhere else the tentacles of this global octopus envelops. A similar breed of carpetbaggers to those that swept over Eastern Europe after 1989 poured into Nepal, with Indian capitalists to the fore.
In Nepal, as elsewhere, these destructive ‘Year Zero’ economics caused tremendous hardships for the respective peoples who fell under their aegis.
THE UML AND THE STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM
As has been noted, the NC government that took power in 1990 was an enthusiastic participant in the SAP, demonstrating the growing influence of a comprador bourgeois in its ranks. Politically and ideologically, it demonstrated that NC had become the Nepalese wing of CI.
How then did the newly formed UML respond to the SAP and its harsh effects on the mass of population? How did it respond to the phenomenon of globalized capital out of which the SAP stratagem emerged?
How did it address the fact that the dominance of international capital intensified the socioeconomic disparities between the developed and the developing world?
The answers to those questions reveal the crucial dilemma that lies at the heart of its political theory and practice and show how it occupies the same terrain already inhabited by its Indian homologue, the CPI(M). It also demonstrates the gulf between it and the CPN(M).
In regard to the first question, they did not fail to note the deleterious impact on the living and working standards of the Nepalese masses.
A prominent UML commentator summed up the results:
…the State after 1990 haphazardly followed neoliberal economic policy which did not actually suit Nepal’s constitutional vision and socio-economic reality. This produced a systematic race to the bottom dynamics, poverty, inequality, social alienation and political protest.
Analyzing the mistake of policy makers, a social scientist says – “The post 1991 governments, however, deviated from the welfare state and sought to create a subsidiary state where poorer people subsidized the rich and the powerful. It was actually the outcome of heavily increased pressure of Globalization in our national scenario.” (Challenging Globalization, World of Work, B. Rimal, 2005 p.214)
Given this recognition, what policies did the UML advance to oppose the negative effects of IMF/World Bank diktats on Nepal?
In this respect, I will concentrate on one major policy advanced in response to the demand of the IMF under the SAP for privatization of sixteen publicly owned enterprises, as it is indicative of the UML’s general politico/economic strategy. I will quote below from GEFONT policy statements, given that its policies are interchangeable with those of the UML.
In the first place, it acknowledges the role of transnational capital’s liberalization of the Nepalese economy but gives some role to the pressure from the indigenous capitalist class:
The business class, basically the big house bosses has high influence on the state power now. This kind of influence, although it was limited before 1990, highly expanded after the restoration of multiparty democracy. With a high volt emphasis on privatization after 1991, lobbying of big houses has increased manifold. (Study & Research, 2004, Section 14)
The principle driving this demand is that:
Instead of taking a long and arduous route for a new company, eases the prospective investors into a ready-made business enterprise. (Ibid, Section 4)
It also complains that:
With the blind and haphazard privatization of public enterprises, both production and employment have been adversely affected. (World of Work, 2005, p. 215)
However, this did not mean that there was a root and branch opposition to this reactionary program and its clear deleterious effects on Nepal’s people; instead, it promoted a policy of attempting to minimize those effects and making the process more efficient. The slogan therefore was:
Selective liberalization – selective privatization. (Ibid, p.47)
In other words; rather than the ‘blind and haphazard’ approach, it wanted one targeted on enterprises that needed ‘restructuring’ so they could compete better in the world market. So, for example, loss making, unproductive and technologically backward jute mills were among those where privatization was supported. It was even suggested that the Hetaunda cotton mill be added to the list; despite the fact that it had an adequate capital structure and modern machinery, it was ‘operationally inefficient’.
There was a complaint against privatization where enterprises were profit making and also when new private owners did not deliver the promised benefits or even where they were closed down; as in the case of an agricultural tool factory. They also complained where blatant asset stripping was evident, as in the case of the Bansbari Leather and Shoe Factory.
Generally they were concerned that the program, whether it showed successes or failures, had no provisions for either retraining or redeployment for the increased unemployment it created.
The most significant privatization that was supported was that of Nepal’s existing water utilities. The reasons given were that it was severely undercapitalized and operating with antiquated technology. It also had meager coverage of the country with 70% of Nepalese not having access to clean water. (This is one the principal causes of the high infant mortality rates.) I recall describing the privatization of our utilities, including water, in the UK as adding a qualitative twist to the legalized theft of all our nationalized and public enterprises and comparing it to the fate of Nepal’s water.
My GEFONT/UML comrades were extremely defensive and noted that it only contributed 15% of Nepal’s nugatory publicly owned industrial assets (which accounted for only 2% of the country’s GDP and 3% of its employment). Because I, along with nearly Nepalese, was swept up at that time in the spirit of the ‘Andolan,’ I accepted the argument at face value.
Later, in a spirit of ’emotion recollected in tranquility,’ it became clear that while it was an extant severely underdeveloped utility, it was perhaps Nepal’s greatest natural resource, with a truly massive developmental potential. Vide my earlier section on India’s long established recognition and exploitation of this resource through successive unequal treaties.
Furthermore, I noted that its commodification gave it an exchange value that overrode its use value as a basic necessity for all life, human or otherwise. It had instantly become a source of profit that devalued its crucial importance for day to day existence.
In the final analysis, however, the overarching criticism of privatization was that it was ideologically driven and not based on any economic rationality. The main reason that the entire program of liberalization was failing, GEFONT/UML argued, was because there was a failure to give an adequate role to the state.
It was argued that where SAP’s had been extremely successful, government intervention had played a dominant role, as in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, where these programs had produced ‘high growth with equity’. (Ibid, p.47)
But these were singular exceptions in long established social and economic formations which were contrary to the anti-statist presupposition behind the neoliberal phenomenon which originated in the US and the UK during the Reagan/Thatcher years and was thereafter imposed on the rest of the world through the IMF, WB and WTO.
The state was, therefore, not a mechanism for solving social and economic problems; it was, as Reagan asserted, the problem. So the governments of developing countries were there to serve principally as facilitators of international finance capital.
This even applied within the imperial heartlands, as was noted by the Washington insider, Robert Reich, in his book, Supercapitalism :
Democracy and capitalism have been turned upside down.
In short, the political institutions of bourgeois society no longer regulate capitalism, but instead market forces regulate the political institutions. It is they who say what is and is not possible.
This naivete regarding prospects for the utilitarian state in the face of the dominance of monopoly capitalism ran through the UML like the print in a stick of rock. It informed their desire for tripartism, for industrial democracy, a mixed economy, Keynesian deficit spending and for an expanded welfare state when these have become anathema to the major world capitalist powers.
What they wanted was the type of social democratic settlement that had marked the postwar years in Europe until the 1970s, not realizing that this was a tactical contingency that Western capitalism had conceded to its labor movements and working classes not because it was some inevitable evolution of a humane economic consensus but simply to make the system more attractive to the peoples of the ‘Free World’ in the face of competition from a planned, ‘cradle to grave,’ full employed, socialist Eastern bloc.
America, while supporting this social democratic settlement among its European allies through, e.g., the Marshall Plan, was able to avoid these stratagems because its labor movement was comparatively weak, and its working class consciousness was underdeveloped and fragmented.
Therefore, despite the fact that the immiseration of the 1930’s was as pronounced in the US as it was in Europe, there was no equivalent pressure there to follow a similar course. This, plus the fact that the rapid expansion of its consumer culture began shortly after it switched to a fully employed wartime economy, as opposed to Western Europe where conspicuous consumption started fitfully and differentially, began a good fifteen or twenty years after the war.
What social change did come to the US as a implicit result of the existence of a USSR Soviet Bloc was in the granting of civil rights as demanded by a powerful national lobby, led by the NAACP, to the descendants of its black slaves. Similarly, the struggle against Apartheid only succeeded because of the direct support of the USSR.
With the gradual erosion of socialism following the de-Stalinization initiated by Khrushchev in 1956, free market capitalism began a process of reassertion. It was spurred on by the fact that the Keynesian solution to the problems of underconsumption and unemployment, which had distinguished capitalism before the postwar social democratic consensus, was coming to the end of its useful life as it had led to the rapid increase in the rate of inflation, creating social and economic instability.
Monetarism became one of the main free marketeers’ instruments for addressing this problem – a brutal policy of restricting the money supply would increase its value, not just by making it scarcer as a commodity in itself but by reducing government expenditures, specifically on welfare provisions. It also decreased overall consumption, although Thatcher’s regime added the additional measure of rolling back the hitherto strong British trade union movement that had flourished during the war and after.
It was, however, the suicide of the USSR in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Bloc that finally saw the end of this historically contingent postwar settlement. Capital now saw no need to keep its working classes mollified through the mechanisms of full employment and welfare statism. Social democracy proved to be a comparatively short hiatus in the history of capitalism and was replaced by the predatory neoliberal model which finds crude, brutal expression in contemporary world capitalism.
In the developing world, which had been drawn into the world market and where a growing proletariat is increasingly becoming the source of increased absolute value to expansionist transnational monopolies, the neoliberal model’s dominance could be maintained through either the neocolonial stratagems of creating and supporting comprador bourgeoisies in these super-exploited countries or by using the model’s superior military might either directly or indirectly by Western invasion or arming it’s comprador stooges to crush any progressive resistance to the hegemony of Western imperialism, or where necessary, an admixture of these modalities.
Iraq is an example of the former, Nepal of the latter.
The UML, like its sister party, the CPI(M), has not understood, therefore, that the social democratic dog has barked but the caravan of finance capital has moved on.
There is a similar naivete in the UML’s self-image on offering a middle way between the Scylla of capitalist imperialism and the Charbydis of Communist revolution. In this sense, its propaganda is replete with condemning the excesses of these oppositional forces, e.g.:
Today’s Nepal is in the quagmire of extreme Leftist and Rightist ideologies and, as such, (is) caught in the crossfire of violence and counter violence (of) these extremist ideologies. (Ibid , p.iii)
The “People’s War” launched by the CPN(Maoists), the Communist faction heavily marred with ultra Leftist thinking and terrorist activities, has been a serious concern of Nepali politics. The state is still under the control of reactionary and anti-worker forces. And the movement for the democratization of Nepali society still continues. (One Union, 2005, p.2)
The UML too thought that it could beat the Maoists electorally following the 2006 ceasefire and the subsequent April Andolan. In fact, it was humiliated and lost a third of its electoral support.
The UML has also promoted extreme military measures against the Maobaadi both before and after it became a member of Koirala’s NC government when it launched in the 1998 ‘Killer Sierra Two’ operation; a brutal army crackdown under the guidance of American and Israeli military advisers against the Maoists and their supporters over a more extended geographical area than Operation Romeo in 1996.
Throughout the period of the PW, it backed any repressive legislation against the Communist revolutionaries. Though still steeped in the idea of Communist opposition, the leadership was determined to play the role of a respectable parliamentary opposition, and the glaring contradiction gave it problems with its rank and file. It maintained this posture despite a drain of cadre who take their Leninism seriously which continues to this day. It has also led to a fierce debate withing the leadership.
The leadership’s re-branding has been described as an attempt to become a Eurocommunist style party and to move away from Leninist insurrectionist vanguardism. Gramsci, a great original Marxist thinker, became widely read among leading cadre. I was asked to send an English edition of Prison Notebooks to a Central Committee member, as it was difficult to obtain anywhere on the subcontinent. I was only too pleased to do so, and it made me realise how much we in the West take easy access to such theoretical works for granted.
The UML was attempting to give intellectual ballast within a Marxist spectrum as a means of justifying its embrace of reactionary politics. As was noted earlier, unequal development between the urban centers, particularly the Kathmandu Valley, and the countryside, particularly in the West where the Maoists flourished, was pronounced.
It meant that a strong civil society existed in the former, and therefore using a Gramscian conceptual framework was no mere fanciful affectation but could be accurately used as a tool of descriptive critical analysis.
The Maoists implicitly recognised how developed this urban civil society was. It was one of the reasons they modified Mao’s original PPW strategy in the context of Chinese conditions of “letting the countryside encircle the city,” realizing that any attempt to take urban areas by force would lead to a Pyrrhic victory at best and therefore a political defeat. The UML’s problem was the political line that was grafted onto this matrix that left it open to a charge of opportunism.
Whatever the new strategy, it steadily lost electoral support from the highpoint of 1994 when it emerged as the largest party with 31% of the vote, the biggest number of seats, and formed a short lived government under Man Mohan Adikhari, to the electoral humiliation of 2008.
The most crucial problem the UML faces is not its participation in parliamentary politics but its attempt to find a middle ground between two irreconcilable forces. In the developing world, the contradiction exists in its most antagonist form as the privileges of the Western World depend upon the increasing deprivation of the populations of the former.
War, famine, hunger, dispossession and superexploitation is the lot of the majority of the peoples in this Third World. The stark choice facing the twenty-first century is, to paraphrase Luxembourg, “Socialism or capitalist barbarism,” or as Arundhati Roy, the writer and activist, put it in relation to India, “either justice or civil war.”
There is no halfway house, and attempting to inhabit one will not only fail but implicitly gives support to a reactionary status quo.
It has also led increasingly to the UML, like the CPI(M), giving explicit support to, if not actually initiating, retrograde policies and stratagems. The Maoists have gone as far as claiming that the UML is in thrall to US and Indian interests, and that is borne out with its participation in the coup that provoked the resignation of Prachanda and the withdrawal of the then CPN(M) from government. It openly backed the CoS, Katawal, with one of its rewards being the installing of UML leader as Prime Minister.
What is also illustrative of the UML’s subservience to Indian interests is the failure to ever criticize the policies of successive Delhi governments. I have previously detailed, for example, how Indian administrations have used their economic and geographic dominance to force a series of unequal treaties on Nepal, following the example of their previous British masters. The Maoists have consistently called for their repeal, and this is a popular Nepalese demand.
Yet the UML is silent on the issue for the most part. In one instance referred to earlier, they were actually the government that facilitated and signed the 1996 Mahakali River Treaty (Mahakali River Integrated Development Treaty). This marked a new low, even by the standards of previous treaties, in giving India full control of the river in return for next to nothing. When it was ratified by the Parliament, it outraged many Nepalese who concluded all the parliamentary parties involved were Indian stooges, and rumors even circulated that the UML lead negotiators had taken money under the table.
Another measure which brought UML further opprobrium, especially from the Janjatis, was the decision to broadcast news in Sanskrit, which is spoken by no one in Nepal. This further fueled the resentment among those tribal groups already aggravated by the imposition of Nepali as the national language and the introduction of compulsory Sanskrit in schools which were controversial features of the 1990 Constitution.
Nepali, like Hindi, is a member of the Indo-Aryan group of languages which have their roots in Sanskrit (similar to the role that Latin played in Europe in relation to the evolution of the romance languages). Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual society with over sixty ethnic groups, each with its own language, customs and religions.
For over two hundred years, these groups were excluded from political and economic power by dominant Brahmin castes who established Hindu dominance and sought to impose cultural and linguistic homogeneity upon all the peoples of Nepal.
In the Panchaayat era of Mahendra and Birendra, the slogan “One people – one language – one religion,” only intensified the resentment of the Janjatis against the phenomenon of Hindu domination. Unlike their Indian counterparts, the Adivasis, they form a sizable part of the population, and they supported the first Andolan by way of challenging Hindu hegemonic chauvinism. They felt betrayed however by the policies of the new democratic parliament which actually took steps to consolidate Hindu power.
This was especially true of the first NC government who dominated the shape of the new constitution and was controlled by the upper Hindu castes. What was surprising was the notionally progressive UML continued and even intensified the entrenchment of Hindu cultural and political control when they took over the reins of government from NC in 1994. The issue of the Sanskrit radio news emphasized this reactionary policy.
Consequently, many Janjatis flocked to the Maoist banner after the PW was launched in 1996 as the Maoists offered to reverse the domination of the minority Hindus in favour not only of the tribals but of the Dalits and the Terai Madeshi. The campaign against Sanskritism and the demand for cultural, political and economic freedom was an important part of the CPN(M) program.
It served to underline the fact that the UML, despite its residual Leftist rhetoric, was firmly set on a path of reaction first trodden by the CPI(M). How far this has taken the latter is shown by the recent events in West Bengal where a ‘Left Front’ government has been in power for over thirty years and now openly represents monopoly capitalist interests. It has gone, in the words of one local critic, “from Marxism to marketeering.”
This has been dramatically shown by its attempts to ethnically cleanse Adivasis from a 40 km square area around Nandigram, designated by the government as a Special Development Zone (SEZ), so that Salim, an Indonesian based multinational, can establish a huge chemical complex there.
Local resistance has been so fierce that the government dispatched 4,000 armed police, cadre and goondas to crush it. The violence and terror of this campaign led, in one notorious instance, to a massacre of 14 unarmed demonstrators. Consequently, leading CPI(M) cadre have been targeted and assassinated by Maoist guerrillas, acting as the armed wing of the CPI(Maoist).
It was mentioned earlier that this is prompted by the central government as part of the accommodation to a neoliberal strategy and is replicated in the individual states selected by whatever party is in power. The Left Front regime’s ruthless behaviour is in this sense no different from that of the BJP in Chhattisgarh, even to the extent of sending in CPI(M) cadre leading gangs of armed goondas against the Adivasi resisters.
That the UML is capable of such reactionary extremities is not in doubt; in its brief period of government, it proved that, far from establishing a progressive hiatus, it was indistinguishable from its NC predecessor, not only continuing its reactionary policies but formulating new ones of its own.
Like the NC, the UML has become a creature of Indian interests, and while each has developed by a different political route, they have arrived at the same destination. As they each largely draw support and membership from the Hindu segment of the population, they are culturally and linguistically homogeneous to India. Consequently they each find no great difficulty in pragmatically deferring to India’s economic and strategic power.
Like the Maoists, they recognize that, for example, Nepal is not self sufficient and is dependent on Indian imports to feed its population. Unlike the Maoists, however, this serves to bolster their pragmatism in the face of that power. Generally, again unlike the Maoists, they have no fear of Indian expansionism and would not even recognize the term. They rather see the growth of India’s influence as a natural reflection of its overall dominance in all the important spheres alluded to above, including its geographical position in relation to landlocked Nepal.
They are each willing agents, even if unconsciously, of the ‘Sikkimisation’ of Nepal. Sikkim voted in 1948 to stay out of India but gradually succumbed to Indian influence, a process stimulated by failure to produce an efficient government under its monarchy and which culminated in the 1975 occupation by the Indian Army and the subsequent referendum which a majority of the Sikkimese voted to ditch their King and become the 22nd state of the Indian republic.
They are each what could be termed ‘Indo-pendent’ parties, and thus, along with the reactionary pro-Indian officer class of the Nepalese Army, they found no difficulty in collaborating and scheming with primarily the Indian government but also with those of the US and UK in a campaign of sabotage against the Prachanda-led administration which culminated in the military coup recounted at the beginning of this article.
The weight of India’s actual and potential leverage on Nepal has also been implicitly recognised by the UCPN(M) and is one of the principal reasons behind its decision to move from the strategy of protracted People’s War and to the arena of multiparty democracy. It is, like freedom, a recognition of necessity; the realization that India could strangle any Nepalese revolutionary government at best or crush it by military intervention at worst.
It the understanding that there is no Socialist Bloc that can aid and support it, as was evident in the case of the Chinese Revolution, which could rely on the solidarity of the USSR to pursue its People’s War against a comprador Bonapartist Kuomintang clique and which led to victory in 1949.
Prachanda, in a recent meeting in London, said, in this respect:
The UCPN(M) cannot copy either the Bolshevik insurrectionist 1917 seizure of power in Russia or that of the CPC’s victory in China in 1949 but has to ‘develop’ its own strategy based on a concrete analysis of existing Nepalese conditions.
The looming and threatening power of Indian reaction is one of those conditions. The UCPN(M) has upset dogmatic Western Maoists by this adaptation to the existing reality and has developed a strategy to recognize the particularity of Nepal in the 21st century.
The acceptance of multi-party democracy by the UCPN(M) is such a ‘development’ and is not an opportunist stratagem to achieve power but is a long-standing principled policy to establish a ‘new democratic state’ in place of the present bureaucratic/comprador structure. It does not contemplate, therefore, establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat following a Protracted People’s War, Prachanda in a speech in 2002 articulated this position:
…we want to clarify once again we are committed to guarantee party freedom in the new state power to be constructed after the destruction of feudal autocracy. The state envisaged by us will not be a one-party dictatorship. The freedom to operate political parties according to one’s ideological convictions and contest elections will be guaranteed.
There only the activities of such elements upholding feudalism and inviting foreign domination will be curbed. We are committed to establish and develop a people’s democratic system of the twenty-first century. Such a democratic system won’t be a mechanical imitation of the traditional kind but will be guided by the people’s needs of the twenty-first century.
In this light the commitment to draw the previously oppressed and excluded classes and castes within Nepalese into this process is a part of extending and deepening this ‘new democracy.’
It also accepted that this stage of political transition will be dominated, in the words of Bhatterai in a 2008 interview, by a “capitalist revolution”who further gave the assurance that, “We will not nationalize large scale industry and we will respect free enterprise.” That this is not in contradiction with orthodox Marxist-Leninism, as he further said:
Marx, Engels and Lenin have already addressed this question. Between feudalism and socialism there is capitalism. But we have not yet had a capitalist stage in Nepal. It is therefore necessary to develop one.
The desire of the UCPN(M) was:
To go beyond Mao. We need to elaborate our own model. Marxism is not a religion, it is a science. We want to develop Marxism. (Le Monde, 11/04/2008, Author’s translation)
This capitalism will not be a comprador but a national one. It is a distinction that Mao himself made:
In the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the people’s republic will not expropriate private property other than imperialist and feudal private property, and so far from confiscating the national bourgeoisie’s industrial and commercial enterprises, it will encourage their development. We shall protect every national capitalist who does not support the imperialists or the Chinese traitors. In the stage of democratic revolution there are limits to the struggle between labour and capital.
The labour laws of the people’s republic will protect the interests of the workers but will not prevent the national bourgeoisie from making profits or developing their industrial and commercial enterprises, because such development is bad for imperialism and good for the Chinese people. (On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism , Mao Tse-Tung, 1935, pp. 168/9 Selected Works, Vol.1)
Following a recent Central Committee meeting which produced unity after a party sanctioned ‘two line struggle’ regarding this position, a member of the UCPN(M) politburo wrote:
And those who were in favour of restructuring the state explained that they too were engaged in a struggle, but it was a different type of struggle which may look Rightist and reformist in form but that in essence it was neither Rightist or reformist. This is because all these steps are being taken not to consolidate the old feudal and comprador/bureaucratic set-up but to achieve a new restructured state. (Thesis, Antithesis & Synthesis, Hsila Yami, Kantipur Times, August 2009)
This is a classic exposition of the “negation of the negation.” It demonstrates the subtlety and sophistication of the Nepalese party cleaving closely to Mao’s analytical methodology. It has been criticized by the Communist Party of India(Maoist) as Rightist deviation from the strategy of PPW which intends to culminate in the smashing of the existing state. They are rightly engaged in armed resistance the length and breadth of India against the forces of a social-fascist comprador state.
But they will find it even harder than in Nepal for the “countryside to encircle the city”, as civil society is even more entrenched in Indian urban centers than in Nepal.
It is certainly a qualitatively different application from the religio-dogmatic, karaoke forms that pass for Maoism among some Western anoraks.
Finally, there is no inevitability that the strategy of the UCPN(M) will be successful, any more than there is about the victory of the worldwide proletarian revolution, but it is certainly better equipped, intellectually and politically, to handle the twists and turns that are distinctly manifest and unique in Nepal as they are indeed in all revolutions.
*My grandfather,Gabriel Byrne, was typical in this respect; he was a volunteer with the 6th Battalion of the Irish Republican Army during the 1918-21 War of Independence. He took the Republican side in the civil war that followed and for a while was de Valera’s driver. He was interned for a time in the Curragh and remained a ‘Dev’ man until his death in 1969.
He came from the Dun Laoghaire working class and started life as a railwayman at the station there, from which many Volunteer operations were launched including a famous ambush on the Marine Parade, two hundred yards from Dun Laoghaire station, where several Black and Tans died in a bomb attack on their Crossley Tender. In peacetime, through hard work combined with a shrewd business sense he became a newsagent in Monkstown next door.
He never lost his republican radicalism or his antipathy to British imperialism. When I was twelve, he thrust E.M. Forster’s Passage to India into my hands and said: “If you want to know what the British were like in India – read this!”
**I was not surprised by the results, as during April 2006, I went on a solo trek around the villages off the Annapurna Trail, a region that was supposed to be one of the few rural areas left under the control of the God-King’s army. Equipped with some Nepalese language, I found ubiquitous evidence of Maoist activity and propaganda and that they had almost total support from the people thereabouts.
One of the few exceptions was an ex-Ghurka shopkeeper who by coincidence had been quartered at barracks in Aldershot where I had worked as a carpenter during the late sixties. The CPN(M) opposes the recruitment of Ghurka mercenaries into either the British or Indian armies.
If I gave the Maoist greeting, Lal Salam (Red Salute), to peoples in fields or villages, it was readily returned, and I made many friends. The commitment was genuine and heartfelt and shaped by years of oppression from a state which was only visible in a repressive military form. The PLA was stood down in that area as part of the CPA.
If you Google: “Peter Tobin – Bishnu Rimal,” you will find an interview I conducted with the latter (a UML Central Committee member) a few days after the victory of the Andolan which will confirm that I guessed right on the depth of Maoist support.
REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bhattarai, B. Monarchy versus Democracy.
Chauduri, N.C. The Continent of Circe.
Hegel, G.W.F. The Philosophy of History.
Karki, A & Seddon, D. The People’s War in Nepal – Left Perspectives.
Mao Tse Tung. On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism, Selected Works, Vol. 1.
Marx, K. The Future Results of British Rule in India, Selected Works, Vol.1.
Maxwell, N. India’s China War.
Misra, A. War of Civilizations – The Long Revolution (India AD 1857).
Muni, S.D. Maoist Insurgency in Nepal.
Rimal, B. Challenging Globalization.
Stalin, J.V. Marxism and the National Question.
Thapa, D. A Kingdom Under Siege.
Yami, H. Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis.
PERIODICALS & JOURNALS
Himal – Southasian
The Worker, Journal of the UCPN(M)
Study & Research
Trade Union Rights
World of Work
I would like to thank Kumar Sarkhar for his explanation of the term Bhadralok, and also for drawing my attention that any description of Indian civil society that does not represent its multiethnic, multilingual and multifaceted political culture and therefore exaggerates Hindu hegemony will be unbalanced. While I do not therefore resign myself from the ‘Two Nations’ theory in respect of Ireland, I do need to study the Indian experience further – after all comparisons might be odious.
He has also provided me with details of the position of the CPI(M) with regard to partition and their discussions with Stalin and Zhdanov representing the CPSU. This has pointed to a gap in the article relating to early history and development of the Indian CP.
I would like to thank Tongogara Tewodros for drawing my attention to Hegel’s views on slavery.
I would also like to thank Sudeshna Sarkar for correcting a Tourette’s grammatical tic I had developed by correcting my spelling of Hindu names, and by pointing out that KP Bhatterai was the first PM following the 1990 Andolan, and not GP Koirala. Her article on a sacred Hindu relic was helpful because it detailed the section of the Mahabharata where the Pandavas brothers flee to the Himalayas racked with guilt at the enormity of their victory over the Kuaravas brothers following the mythic battle of Kurukshetra.
This episode both bears out and challenges the notion of a historical martial Hindu spirit (which is proposed by Chauduri and which this article tries to confirm with the history since Independence); it confirms it in the battle, which although one among many, is pivotal, it modifies it with the anguished withdrawal of the victors. This rejection of the world finds its echoes throughout Hindu literature and history where powerful figures step down, practice virtue and find spiritual solace.
It was not particularly confined to Hindu myth – we have the historical figure of Siddhartha Gautama who relinquished his princely status in order to ‘become one with himself and the universe’ and become Buddha in the process.
Finally, I would like to thank her generally for a vigorous exchange on issues raised in the article.