Syzygy Revolutionary Liberation Gospel
“You must come to Kathmandu with shroud cloth wrapped around your heads and flour in your bags.
It will be our last battle. If we succeed, we survive, else it will be the end of our party.” —
General Secretary Badal of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
Though we are not Maoist in orientation, nevertheless there has evolved a real opportunity for a
working class based egalitarian economy as a result of a general
strike that has shut down the entire country of Nepal. This is the
first step necessary to wrest the whole of the productive machinery
out of the hands of the rulers and capitalist robber barons. The
people are adamant and stubborn in their quest for justice and a life
other than poverty and super-exploitation. As a result, we must
support this bid for proletarian power and hope that what started
here, spreads to places of turmoil like Greece where the Friedman
shock doctrine is now being implemented as pay back for the 100
billion dollar Euro bail out. It is the poor, the unemployed worker,
the government worker, the senior citizen that is going to bail out
the banks, government and the rich. Portugal and Spain are also in
the sights of the IMF and the workers are expected to take huge cuts
to bail out international bourgeois gamblers. The people of Nepal
have chosen another direction than the one Greece is being forced
marched down. At one time, Greece was on the verge of revolution, and
some in Greece are still fighting, but nothing like what is unfolding
Nepal has a strong Maoist vanguard that has spurred the people into a general strike that is now in the stage
of dual power. This is an open challenge to the rulers, who are now
forced to consider abdicating their power to a revolutionary council
of the proletariat. The violence has been played up on the bourgeois
media, but let us not forget that the bourgeoisie has maintained its
hegemony around the planet through violence and terror; so they are
not the ones to be preaching to worker's about violence. In fact,
with all the bourgeois bullying tactics, they have taught their
victims about violence that is now being returned in some cases.
Revolution is often born in blood, and as Lenin stated, “You have
to break a few eggs if you're going to make an omlette.” The
struggle has resulted in a condition where no central authority
exists. Clearly, it is the people who are in charge as many former
authorities running for cover and attempting to emigrate. Those
remaining behind are demanding that the places seized and under
occupation be given up and returned to their “rightful owners”.
We quote an article by a witness in the area.
“There are moments when Kathmandu does not feel like a city on the edge of revolution. People go
about all the normal business of life. Venders sell vegetables, nail-clippers and bootleg Bollywood
from the dirt, cramping the already crowded streets. Uniformed kids tumble out of schools with neat
ties in the hot weather. Municipal police loiter at the intersections while traffic ignores them, their
armed counter-parts patrol in platoons through the city with
wood-stocked rifles and dust-masks as they have for years. New
slogans are painted over the old, almost all in Maoist red. Daily
blackouts and dry-season water shortages are the normal daily of
Nepal's primitive infrastructure, not the sign of crisis. Revolutions
don't happen outside of life, like an asteroid from space, but from
right up the middle, out of the people themselves.
Passing through Kathmandu's Trichandra college campus after meeting with students in a nearby media
program, I walked into the aftermath of bloody attack. Thugs allied with the Congress party student
group had cut up leaders of a rival student group with khukuri knives leaving one in critical condition.
Hundreds of technical students were clustered in the street when I
arrived by chance. The conflict most often described through the
positioning of political leaders is breaking out everywhere.
Indefinite bandhs [strikes] are paralyzing large parts of the country after the arrest of Young
Communist League (YCL) cadre in the isolated far west and Maoist
student leaders in Pokhora, the
central gateway to the Annapurna mountain range. The southern Terai is in chaos, with several power
centers competing and basic security has broken down with banditry, extortion and kidnapping are
now endemic. Government ministers cannot appear anywhere without Maoist pickets waving black flags and throwing rocks.
With no central authority, all sides are claiming the ground they stand on and preparing their base. It's
messy, confused and coming to a sharp point as the May 28 deadline
for a new constitution draws near with no consensus in sight. The
weak government holding court in the Constituent Assembly can't
command a majority, not even of their own parties. Seventy assembly
representatives of the status quo Communist Party of Nepal (United
Marxist-Leninist) party signed a letter calling on their own leader
to step down from the prime minister's chair to make way for a
Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – UCPN (M), known simply
as the Maoists national-unity government. He refuses, repeating
demands that the Maoists dissolve their popular organizations and
return lands seized by the people who farm them.
The Maoists have more pressing concerns than the legalism of the parliamentary parties. If they can't
restructure the state, by constitutional means or otherwise, the
enthusiasm that brought their revolutionary movement this far may
turn to disillusionment. With no progress in the assembly, and the
leaders of the status quo parties now say there will be no resolution
on time. The Maoists have rejected any extension as a stalling tactic
and are turning to the people. With now-or-never urgency, they are
mobilizing all their forces for a decisive showdown in Kathmandu.
Nepal Braces for May First
“Posters for May First appeared overnight announcing the Maoist call for workers and villagers to
converge on Kathmandu for a “final conflict.” The Maoists are calling for a sustained mobilization,
with the hope that an overwhelming showing can push the government out with a minimum of bloodshed and stay the hand of the Nepal Army.
May First is International Workers' Day, the traditional day of action for communists around the world, but the mobilization has already begun.”
News on May 1st showed that there was a showdown in the form of a general strike that shut down
the entire economy and country, with masses of people on the move
anywhere except to work.
“Thousands of recruits are being trained by YCL cadre in districts throughout the country, drilling
with bamboo sticks in place of rifles. With threats from Nepal Army
commanders to put these protests down with force, the Maoists are
preparing to defend their mass organizations, the marches, the party
and the people from attempts at counter-revolution. Their meetings
include political orientations and anti-disinformation training to
combat the confusing fog of manufactured rumors and lies that are
already in the air.
National assemblies of radical students, artists, intellectuals, ethnic federations, women, unions
and trade organizations convened widely during the month of April.
All sectors are receiving the same message: The Maoists will not
return to the jungle, or replay a guerilla struggle. They will not
retreat. The conflict will be decided frontally in the cities.
Dual Power – Class Struggle at the Tipping Point
“Nepal has two mutually-exclusive power structures: one is the revolutionary movement led by the
Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which has a powerful mass base among the people, a
disciplined political militia in the YCL and its People's Liberation Army. The other is the apparatus of
Nepal's state, held-over from the monarchy, unreconstructed, backed
by the rifles of the Nepal Army and the heavy weight of feudal
We add at this point that there is the international backing of the world bourgeoisie, like those in the US
and UK who would rather have a feudal aristocracy than the
dictatorship of the proletariat. They are busy with other region
applying the shock doctrine to control the masses with a deliberately
ruined economy that profits the few.
“Land seizures co-exist with plantations. Old judges still sit in their patronage chairs
dispensing verdicts to the highest bidder while revolutionary courts
turn off and on in the villages. The deposed king Gyanendra lost his
crown, but retains vast tracts of land, a near monopoly on tobacco
and a “personal” business empire. Large-scale infrastructure like
hydropower remains largely under foreign ownership, but only operate
when, and how, the Maoist-allied unions let them. In short, the
semi-feudal, semi-colonial system of Nepal is in place but the
organized workers and Maoist-led villagers hold a veto.
In Nepal, people were taught that the poor would always be poor. They long believed it. There would always
be kings, lords, myriad deities and foreign patrons to look over
them. Caste dictated behavior and expectations for most, justifying
dull cruelty and vast human waste. The tolerance and fatalism so
beloved by British travel writers were also consigning the people of
Nepal to isolation, ignorance and the lowest life expectancies in
Asia. But the world doesn't actually stand still, or turn in circles,
as some would have it. Things do change.
When urban civil uprisings wrested a parliamentary system from King Birendra in 1990 nothing changed for
the people after, save whose hands got greased for government
services. When rising expectations crashed into the closed doors of
realpolitik of elite “democracy” – the Maoists blew it open,
building an army up from the basic people themselves. From bases of
support in Rolpa and
Rukum, the People's War spread to 80% of the country in ten lightening years. Over 10,000 lost their lives in the greatest uprising in Nepal's history.
Yubaraj Lama, a prominent actor/director thrust into radical politics by the movement against
the king, put it simple: "It was the failure of the political
parties to bring democracy, any real social change for the masses of
people that fueled the People's War. This is what the Maoists
changed. People were very fatalistic, looking up to politicians like
princes. That is over."
People who had never thought social change is possible now believe they can end their poverty. Kings are
not gods and their crown can fall. Women and girls are more than a
way to have male children. The heavy hand of foreign domination and
its imposed backwardness can be challenged. The Maoists changed the
concept of politics from appeal-if-you-dare to revolution from the
One of the other prerequisites of a proletarian dictatorship is that it is built from the bottom up
instead of the top down as we see in our so called democracies in the
US and UK. We say, there is no democracy without economic democracy.
When the poor have to bail out the rich at the cost of their lives;
it is past due time for a radical change.
“Everyone isn't happy with the way the wind is blowing. It is easy to find haughty conservatives that
think any hope from the poor comes at their expense and who want to
see the Maoists crushed.
Talking with the owner of an English-language bookstore, an outspoken supporter of UML's embattled
prime minister, he insisted that people only attended the Maoist rallies because they were forced to. This
plainly isn't true, but I asked why they won the elections. He told
me “these people are stupid” and “believe the Maoist lies that
they can live in the big house.” When I noted that all the unions
in the neighbourhood were Maoist and they hardly seemed forced into
it, he laughed. “Of course they are, they want to take all the
money from people who own them.”
With all the paranoia of America's white-fright militias, Nepal's reactionaries conflate rudimentary
democracy, let alone the communist program of the Maoists, with the
very end of the world.
Nepal's embattled elites also can't simply be brushed aside or nuanced into reform. They to have an
army, the former Royal Nepal Army (NA), renamed but unreconstructed. The officer corps is steeped
in caste ideology and disdain for the common people, supplied with modern weapons and not-so-secret
Indian and American advisers.
The PLA is training and waiting within UN-supervised cantonments – military bases scattered across
the countryside. The YCL, led by former PLA commanders is training new militias throughout the
country. And for its part, the Nepal Army is confined to its barracks, concentrated in and around
The politics of this moment are intricate. Many forces parry and manoeuvre for advantage. But the
basic situation is this: Dual power has produced a highly unstable stalemate between a
revolutionary people and a weakened regime (emphasis ours) –
a paper tiger with real claws – and the moment of decision is fast
Democracy is Just a Word
“Over the last twenty years, passion has only grown to see the people decide Nepal's future, to have some
form of genuine popular democracy. It erupted first in the 1990 Jana
Andolan civil uprising. It fueled the People's War that started in
1996 and animated the powerful mass movement that toppled the king in
One of the fruits of that sustained struggle was the current Constituent Assembly – where elected
representatives of the grassroots were supposed to craft a new
framework for a new society, with both open election to seats and
sectoral representation to ensure that women, minorities and workers
had direct representation. The very idea of such a constituent
assembly comes from communist demands – it was their answer to
Maoists made 40 demands of the King in the mid-1990s before launching their guerrilla war. Despite
consistent flexibility on almost everything, a constituent assembly
was the only demand that was never negotiable. It's profound, the
idea of an empowered assembly drawn from every corner including
elected representatives of the poor, women and minorities – for the
purpose of remaking the very basis of government and society. This
was to be the workshop of a New Nepal.
In a short-lived alliance with the parliamentary parties brokered in 2006, a popular uprising in
Kathmandu forced the king out and secularism was established.
Elections where held in 2008, and the
Maoists emerged the largest party, with more delegates than the old standbys UML and Congress combined. The rest of the seats went to a score of minor parties.
This unprecedented assembly has been gridlocked since it convened. On one side, the old political
parties want an Indian-style parliamentary system that is quite compatible with rural feudalism
and caste oppression. And opposing those parties, stand the Maoists
who speak of a radical new peoples
democracy where those excluded from politics will now set the terms.
The Maoists have used their days in this assembly to flesh out their plans for a New Nepal. They drafted
and popularized constitutional provisions for a future people's
republic – including land reform, complete state restructuring,
equality for women, autonomy for oppressed minorities and an end to
Nepal's stifling subordination to India. Ambitious plans to redirect
government investment in basic infrastructure like roads, sanitation
and vastly expanded public education were all scuttled when the Nepal
Army refused to recognize civilian control after the Maoist victory.
Then-Prime Minister Prachanda resigned, leading the Maoists out of
government and leaving the Constituent Assembly in gridlock. They are
the largest party, the legal and extra-legal opposition.
The same callous ruling classes, who ignored the bitter poverty of people for decades, now claim to
be Nepal's only “democratic” alternative to the Maoists.”
We witness the same empty promises in the developed world, election after election and thereafter, we see
breaks for the rich and cut backs for the workers and poor. So called
representational democracy represents only themselves and not the
people they claim to represent.
“Yet everyone knows: It was those Maoists who went deep among the people, who fought with guns,
braved torture and sacrificed many lives for constitutional elections – winning a popular mandate in
that voting. Who, then, are the true democrats here? Who really
speaks for the people and their
aspirations for power?
Time Itself is Accelerating
All the political forces in the country have now spent the last years in slow-mo manoeuvring. They
have revealed their programs and exposed their natures – before a closely watching population.
The Maoists are refusing to wait any longer. Leaders of Congress and UML parties admit a constitution
can't be delivered by May 28. The Maoists reject any postponement of
that May 28 deadline. No more stalling, they say.
Hundreds of thousands have been mobilized in peaceful mass marches over the last months. Such marches
have been a vehicle for intensive mass organizing. They have been
used as a gauge of growing partisan strength. The logistics of moving
people through the streets to each of the main government offices is
practice for seizure. In short, they can be understood as dress
rehearsals for a revolution.
On April 6, 2010, Maoists held powerful rallies in all of Nepal's 75 districts demanding that the unelected
prime minister resign to make way for a new Maoist-led government.
Further rallies are scheduled leading up to May First.
The Maoists program is unlikely to be met by parliamentary procedure and they know it. Maoists have
discussed a double-barreled approach: build on the base areas and social transformation of the People's War
to launch popular insurrection in the city. Nepali revolutionaries
have been incredibly patient, refusing to over-extend their hand.
They are seeking to apply one of Mao Zedong's most famous principles,
the mass line:
“It often happens that objectively the masses need a certain change, but subjectively they
are not yet conscious of the need, not yet willing or determined to
make the change. In such cases, we should not make the change until,
through our work, most of the masses have become conscious of the
need and are willing and determined to carry it out. Otherwise we
shall isolate ourselves from the masses. Unless they are conscious
and willing, any kind of work that requires their participation will
turn out to be a mere formality and will fail.”
This is what Prabhakar, Deputy Commander of the PLA, meant when he said: “We will not take any
action against this government. People at large will decide the fate of this government”
The Maoists have been working hard to make the next push – for the final seizure of power – an act of the people, not a self-isolating putsch by the communists alone.
On April 15, YCL commander Sonam was arrested in Kathmandu on weapons charges. Thousands of people
mobilized within the hour for a torchlight march to the jail. Sonam
was released. Backed by the Defense ministry, commanders of the
96,000-man Nepal Army began new recruitment this week in direct
violation of prior agreements. UCPNM leader Ashok calls this
“conspiracy to invite civil war.”
For all its complexity, dual power in Nepal rests on two armies. The middle ground is disintegrating under
the pressure. Splits are appearing within all kinds of political
forces – including the moderate leftist UML and reportedly among
the army rank-and-file. The UCPN(M) openly says it is seeking to make
its case “directly to the soldiers.”
“If the army acts against democracy, the people won't stand for it,” said Bishnu Pukar. A human
rights activist and former leader of the revolutionary teacher's union, Pukar was arrested twice in
the fight for a new Nepal by the military. “Too many lives have been lost. There will be general rebellion.”
In short: The Maoists are forcing a question of ultimate power that the people of Nepal will have
to decide. Look to May First and the days that follow. •
Jed Brandt is the author of the JedBrandt.net blog where this article first appeared.