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Political deadlock shows a deeper crisis in Nepal

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Rajash Thapa reports from Kathmandu on the political deadlock in Nepali politics

Nepal has seen mass movements almost every year for the past decade. Along with these mass uprisings has come huge shifts in the balance of power among the political forces. Governments have changed frequently, most of which proved unable to complete their tenure or achieve a serious mandate from Nepali people.

Poverty in Nepal
Despite these changes and upheavals, the condition of the millions of Nepalese workers and peasants remains the same. The vast majority of the population is still dependent upon agriculture. More than 30 per cent of the population earns less than $1 a day.

The difference between the rich minority and the great majority of the poor is widening year after year. Similarly, thousands of young people and workers go abroad in search of better work, education or just a livelihood.

Impasse after Madhav Kumar's resignation
After the resignation of the Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on 30 June 2010, the main political parties in Nepal remain locked in a prolonged and intense conflict with each other over who is to form the next government. The current government is a coalition of several parties headed by the Nepal Congress party. It is in a crisis after four recent attempts to elect a new Prime Minister ended in failure.

None of the three major parties that dominate Nepali politics have been able to break the impasse. The Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) cannot come to an agreement with the Maoist party – the Unified Communist party of Nepal (Maoist).

The main political parties in Nepal
Congress is modeled loosely on the Congress party of India and simply represents the interests of the capitalists and big landowners in Nepal. It supported a constitutional monarchy in Nepal before 2005 and is intent on making Nepal attractive to investment from Indian and western capitalism.

The CPN (UML) despite its name is a reformist party, and occupies the political centre ground in the Constituent Assembly. In a recent interview their leader argued that he was not against foreign direct investment in Nepal per se, as long as it benefited the Nepali people. Instead of calling for working class control of industry the CPN (UML) said it was in favour of a strong judiciary to keep the corporations in check.

Disarming the Maoists
One of the major sticking points is over the role of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the largest party in the Constituent Assembly in the new post civil war phase in Nepal.

The three parties made an agreement in May but the most significant issues remain unfulfilled: the disarming of the UCPN-M military wing, the dismantling of their Young Communist League’s paramilitary structures, the returning of the property seized during the revolutionary struggles in 2006 against the monarchy, and a commitment to become a “normal democratic party.”

The rival parties wish to use these measures to disarm the Maoists and give the Nepalese Army the monopoly of repressive power. The Maoists understandably are reluctant to do this and put themselves at the mercy of the monarchist officers and high command.

Maoists: caught between military and parliamentary road
Nevertheless the Maoists claim to want to become a normal parliamentary party, but are holding back - one foot in the parliamentary camp, one foot still in their military camps in the countryside.

The Maoists are in a difficult position too after the failed “general strike” call in May where the UCPN-M flooded Katmandu with YCL members armed with bats and sticks to bring the city to a standstill. Without the working class of the cities behind them this was not a revolutionary general strike. But neither was it the actions of a normal parliamentary party.

The UCPN-M has fatally contradictory objectives. They want to force the other parties to form a coalition government under their leadership, arguing that since they have the most seats in the Constituent Assembly, but not an overall majority, they should naturally lead the government.

The fundamental problem was revealed when the Maoists led just such a government in 2008. Their leader, Prachanda, resigned after his attempted reforms of the Army high command were blocked by the army, supported by the capitalists in Kathmandu and the reformist parties. Many commentators thought the Maoists might return to their “peoples war” strategy, but they solidly declined to return to the guerrilla struggle and instead focused on trying to get a new constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly.

Maoists flawed strategy
The Maoists strategy has several major flaws.

First, they clearly cannot reform the system as there are powerful vested interests in the state and upper classes who want to keep things the way they are. Their parties as well as the permanent state machine can block the Maoists key political and economic reforms.

Second, the Maoists need a coalition with outright capitalist parties who will never support their more radical demands, and would break the government apart if it “went too far”.

Finally, since the Maoists have no intention of overthrowing capitalism in Nepal (instead they want to introduce reforms in the countryside to abolish feudalism and free the country from imperialist domination and undertake capitalist modernization), they intend leave the means of production in the hands of the capitalist class and their market mechanisms intact. This can only mean that the class struggle will continue regardless of any Maoist-led governments best efforts and they will be forced to choose which side they are on.

We saw recently in West Bengal what happened when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) sent its members into villages to beat up and rape villagers who were resisting the attempts by multinational corporations to take their land.

A revolutionary strategy for Nepal
In short, for all their earlier verbal radicalism and their armed struggle, the Maoists are in fact pursuing a reformist political project that cannot succeed. Nepal needs a workers’ and poor peasants’ revolution which will abolish the property of the big landowners and the nationalise the large factories and banks under workers’ control.

The Maoist struggle for a ‘democratic capitalist stage ’ before socialism will fail to solve the problems of the people. Socialists must fight to take state power and form a workers and peasants government.

Part of this struggle means proposing a revolutionary constitution to the Assembly, one that places power in the hands of mass working class and peasant councils. Building these councils as part of the struggle against capitalism, landlordism and the interventions of imperialist capital is a crucial part of the revolutionary struggle.

In order to fight for this we need a revolutionary party with a programme for socialism in Nepal. A victorious workers revolution would spark a series of similar revolutions in rest of the South Asia and world as a whole. This is what we are fighting for.

Forward to the Fifth international.
Forward to a revolutionary youth international.
For socialism in Nepal as part of a socialist federation of South Asia
For world revolution.