Archive for Nepal
Umer A. Chaudhry
More than 125 years after his death and 150 years after he wrote his most famous piece of work, Karl Marx seems to have managed his return from Highgate Cemetery of London. His specter is no longer haunting merely Europe, rather it has expanded its reach to every corner of the world. All this when only a few years back it was declared and uncritically accepted that there can be no alternative to new-liberal capitalism, history was stated to have ended, and even the human capacity to observe and understand the world was questioned based on, amongst other things, the limitations of language. On the other hand, the world also saw, with the alleged ‘death of Communism,’ a sharp revival of the politics and militancy in the name of religion. Set against this backdrop, even the modest re-emergence of Karl Marx in the political and social discourse is highly remarkable. After all, the modern capitalist class structure, upon whose criticism Marxism proudly stands, did not collapse along with the Berlin Wall.
The return of Marxist discourse is not unaccompanied by a noticeable global upsurge in the political presence of the Left. The victory of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in the Himalayas early in 2008 gave a major boost to the Leftist political activists around the world. The history and strategy of the Nepali Maoists were critically discussed and appreciated with reference to all accessible records and statements of the Party via various Internet forums and meetings around the globe. The out-pouring of Chinese students in opposition to Free-Tibet protests in many parts of the world just before the Beijing Olympics compelled many to have their first look at the history of China and the Chinese revolution. The mounting strength of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales added by their increasing confrontations with U.S. Imperialism in Latin America became another source of inspiration for the world’s Left. The communist parties in India entered into a major struggle with the Congress Party, conducting mass demonstrations against the Indo-U.S. nuclear deals. Even in Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has maintained itself as the country’s second largest party and its largest opposition party. All in all, the global recovery of the Left, though not at a very grand scale, is apparent to every perceptive eye.
In Pakistan, the Left has also made a modest yet a noteworthy reappearance. It was mostly due to the movement against the unconstitutional and illegal imposition of emergency that the Left has been able to gain visibility at a larger scale. Many journalists expressed their surprise at activists robustly raising the traditional slogans of the Left during major rallies of the lawyers’ movement. Many lawyers, who had any past association with the Left, were instantly attracted towards the sight of the red flag and the octagonal Mao caps. Young students, out of curiosity, inquired about the new crimson element on the streets and got to know about the strong tradition of resistance and struggle that Left carries forward. They were even more astonished to know that Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, whose poetry also returned and was received with great appreciation, were also leading figures of the Left in their times.
Many people, however, are still not clear regarding why the Left engaged with the lawyers’ movement in the first place. It was not a knee-jerk reaction and obviously not an ignorance of the fact that the lawyers’ movement hosts a whole lot of forces, including the staunch right-wing elements of mainstream political parties- traditional foes of the Left. On the other hand, the Left participated in the lawyers’ movement to connect it with other anti-dictatorship movements that occurred in the past eight years, in order to help in building a larger movement for democracy, secularism, social justice, and rule of law – something running contrary to the goals of the religious right-wing. The Left made attempts within its capacity to build a movement that could address the basic question of the Pakistani State and society, and efforts were made to invite groups like Anjumen-e-Mazareen Punjab (AMP), Railway Workers’ Union (RWU), and the striking PTCL workers to the lawyers’ processions. However, it can be a criticism of the Left at the lawyers’ movement that it did not build any bridges with mass working class organizations, as was done during the anti-Ayub movement of the 60’s, though heavy focus was laid on traders’ organizations. The Left may not have succeeded in giving a more progressive and inclusive shape to the lawyers’ movement, despite all out efforts to do so. Notwithstanding, the Left stood staunch as to its goal and, at the very least, floated the right idea.
Nevertheless, a degree of confusion did exist during the course of the lawyers’ movement when many parties of the Left -including Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP) and National Workers’ Party (NWP)- decided to join the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) and boycotted the elections early in 2008. One of the parties of the Left that did not join the APDM, a noteworthy exception, was the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP), which held that the Left must unite itself as a secular-democratic force in efforts to distinguish itself as a progressive force in the democratic movement, refraining from partaking in an alliance that has known reactionary right-wingers as its leading faces. The APDM-Left, conversely, either argued that the APDM was not dominated by the right wing, or that the alliance helped them in expanding the scope of their political activity. Be that as it may, the Left managed to make unified calls for the struggle against the Army dictatorship and its political cronies during the vital days of the February elections; only to have been responded by threats by elements of the State as a witness to their efficacy.
Another debate that was waged with passion in the circles of the Left, which are accessible to intellectuals and students through Internet forums, was the position regarding the conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Left that mingled with APDM called for an immediate stoppage of the military operation for the reasons that it targeted civilians, lacked efficiency due to double-dealings of the ISI and was conducted under the directions of the U.S. Imperialism. The CMKP, finding itself alone here as well, took a different stance. Vehemently opposing the civilian casualties, the double-dealings of the ISI, and the U.S. drone attacks, the CMKP argued that history and circumstances have led Pakistan to such a stage where extremism cannot be rooted out through peaceful dialogues and negotiations. Such means, it is believed, have a negative outcome as they allow the militants to get back on the offensive. Hence, it is essential to use force to deal with the threat of religious fanaticism. There are many other arguments, with varying degrees of sophistication, made for or against the afore-mentioned positions; what was most awe-inspiring was the level of thoroughness of some of the debates.
The aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks has appeared as a great challenge for Pakistan’s Leftists. To understand the predicament faced by them, it must be understood that the Left has always directed its efforts against the Military-Mullah alliance: the elements of quintessential mainstream politics in Pakistan. These two institutions have always stood in the path of even the smallest transition of our country towards democracy- both feed on jingoism and excessively anti-Indian hate-mongering, in order to conceal their retrogressive and narrow political stance.
The distressing tragedy of Mumbai was followed by astute chauvinist nationalism, employing the electronic and print media to further its cause. The image of retrogressive forces is being resurrected, in a planned manner, and zealous calls of “unity” are being given. This is responded to with indifference and total underestimation of the unjust and negative politics of the Army and religious fundamentalists. Television channels are opened for people like Hameed Gul to beat their jingoistic drums in the name of religion and false patriotism. The Left, in these circumstances, is left with no option but to end its year by placing a struggle on the cards against the politics of hate-mongering and jingoism. In this, so far with some formal engagement, the Left appears to stand united.
All in all, the politics of the Left has generated great interest fresh circles. The youth and the oppressed, thoroughly disgusted with military dictatorship, religious extremism and the mainstream parties of Pakistan, are eagerly seeking a new alternative on the political scenario. The Left appears as a major hope. The Left must maintain clarity with regards to its political position while becoming as accessible as possible towards those who are willing to struggle for the solution that guarantees democracy, progress, and social justice. The Left must stand steadfastly with its commitment towards peoples’ democracy, secularism, land-reforms, independence from Imperialism, equal rights and opportunities for women, minorities, oppressed nations, and most notably, the emancipation of the workers and peasants.
This article was published in The Friday Times on 26th December, 2008.
– Florentino A. Iniego, JR
Another way of understanding the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist’s victory is to study its revolutionary literature. As a researcher from the Philippines, I have been struggling to learn the Nepali language to grasp the poems and songs of the Maoist movement. For months of exposure, interaction, and reading translations of works from the books published by writers of the All-Nepal Cultural Association, I realized that from the turbulent thirteen years of the people’s war the Maoist literature stands out to be one of the dynamic dimensions of Nepali literature.
There is no doubt that the CPN-Maoist’s victory in the CA election had shocked the monarchy, the traditional politicians (e.g. Nepali Congress), and revisionist parties (e.g. Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist). Even the mass media were extremely wrong in insisting that the Maoist will loose because of the high-handedness of the Youth Communist League. A “hardly surprised” columnist was a Johny-come-lately to found out that the Maoist triumph was due to their organizing skills. Others say it is because of their “catchy” slogans. While some “gave the Maoist a chance” because of the guaranteed vision of achieving a rapid economic growth within a decade.
Actually, there exist an unholy alliance among the monarchy, bureaucrat capitalists, mass media moguls, bourgeois academic intellectuals, and imperialist funded INGO/NGO to launch an open campaign in discrediting and maligning the Maoist. But shocked and awed by their victory, they then resort to false reasons to belittle the Maoist triumph and the given mandate from the people. Now they must apologize to the Maoist and should take the advice of one of their media buddy: “This must force us to re-examine some of our basic assumptions about political changes over the past few years and take what the Maoist say seriously.” (Nepali Times, 18-24 April 2008 )
Even some writers and critics neither confirm nor deny their concern or distanced themselves away to study the Maoist literature. A known critic observed that Maoist writers are `structurally monotonous’. They tend to become abstract and usually make artless generalisation meant to serve the purpose of Party propaganda. But conscious of its historical and literary significance another critic attested that : “Whatever be the case, the Maoist writing remains a novel and untouched area for researchers, creative writers and scholars interested in knowing the fate of contemporary Nepal’s turbulence and any attempt to brush it aside would mean ignoring crucial dimension of contemporary Nepalese literature and society.” (The Kathmandu Post, 10 August 2003)
Beyond their organizing skills, new slogans, a sound economic program, and the hidden power of its literature, the CPN-Maoist owed its victory to the systematic processes of “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” vis-à-vis the strategic and tactical formulation of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism on the prevailing semi-colonial and semi-feudal situation in Nepal. In these processes, the Prachanda Path was affirmed to unite completely the Party machinery, people’s army, people’s organizations from ethnic groups, women/gender and other marginalized groups, and the whole people in the advancement of people’s war.
Prachanda Path laid down the themes and contents of the CPN-Maoist revolutionary literature. It was formulated in the historical Second National Conference of C.P.N. (Maoist) as an ideological synthesis of rich experiences of five years of the great People’s War. The Party, in this conference, has taken up Prachanda Path as an inseparable dialectical unity between international content and national expression, universality and particularity, whole and part, general and particular, and has comprehended that this synthesis of experiences of Nepalese revolution would serve world proletarian revolution and proletarian internationalism. (The Great Leap Forward: An Inevitable Need of History, p.79).
To infuse the Prachanda Path among its writers, the Maoist adheres to the classic “Talks at the Yean Forum” of Mao Zedong written while the people’s war in China advanced forward in 1942. Mao defined literature as the reflection of economics and politics. It has a dialectical relationship with these. In his theory of art and literature, he called for the reflection of the revolutionary class struggle and for the revolutionary workers, peasants and soldiers to serve the people. He declared that art and literature are important methods to educate the masses and should serve a weapon for social change.
By applying Prachanda Path and the Maoist revolutionary line in literature, I believed that the CPN-Maoist has achieved the victory of the 21st century as what Mao Zedong had accomplished to the Chinese revolution in 1949. To get a closer look on the nexus of literature and revolution is to read the “Journey of Prachanda Path” by Ishwor Chandra Gyanwali.
It’s a journey of intense fire, how can it be obstructed?
No one can stop it from advancing
Who can resist the seasons from rotating?
And who can halt the change of the time?
Let the jail and shackles be cold but our mind won’t be freeze
A blunt bayonet can’t stab the revolution
The more the bullets are fired at the chest of a revolutionist
The more his blood blooms into flower
When a comrade dies and became a martyr one day
The next morning he rises up like a sun.
(translated to English by Gaurav Chandra Gyawali)
This poem reflects the revolutionary optimism of comrades who have offered their dear life to the cause of the revolution. Guided by Prachanda Path no one can impede the desire of the people to liberate themselves from the chains of feudal and imperialist bandages. Confronted by hardships and sacrifices, the symbolic figure of the rising sun resurrects the eternal vision of martyrs whose blood had nourished the people’s thirst for freedom and democracy. And where is this journey heading? In the song “Red Salute to Republic of Nepal” (from the CD Titled- Lal Salaam Ganatantra Nepal lai), the destination of the people’s struggle is lyrically visible.
With the uproar of people from towns and village
Red salute to Republic of Nepal.
Flag is waving, there is bliss inside,
Like a heart in a beautiful garden.
Rhododendron is blooming with redness.
Revolutionary thought can’t be repressed.
People’s movement, red rising sun makes us feel good.
The people’s army march with great thought
And presenting them proudly,
Waves of struggle has made Republic of Nepal smile.
(translated to English by Gaurav Chandra Gyawali)
Along with the people’s army, we can see the whole nation marching, singing, chanting and waving the flag of the revolution towards its goal – the establishment of the people’s republic.
These poem and song above are just a representative of volumes of literature written and published during the course of the people’s war. They emphasized the need and relevance of class struggle, the necessity of people’s war, glorifying the martyrs of the revolution, and to strengthen the faith in achieving victory. Overall, they played an important role to reap comprehensive success not only in the economic, political, and ideological field but also in the cultural field.
Out from my quarter here in Kathmandu, before the election I have visited the cantonment of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Rolpa. I have met and interviewed some division and brigade commanders, soldiers, and writers. Their warm welcome and comradely salute have moved me. I was so surprised on the situation of the revolution in the heartland of the people’s war. With their daily collective drills, exercises, chores, and classes, the PLA stands out to be a well-disciplined and professional army of the people. I have witnessed their cultural programs and admired the great talent of PLA soldiers. Female comrades with their neat uniforms represent the equality of gender inside the camp. Their poems, songs, dances combine with the traditional and ethnic culture. Their voices and body movements compliments the tune of their drums, organ and guitar. So graceful and meaningful in conveying the language and hymn of the revolution.
Before I left Rolpa, Comrade Bir Bahadur K.C. gave me his book of poetry titled Rata Phulharu (2063). Back at Kathmandu, I asked the help of one teacher from Tribhuvan University (Gaurav K.C.) to translate the poem commemorating the ninth anniversary of the people’s war:
This precious moment is a day for proletariats
Heralding the revolution against the enemy
and the day reflecting the image of justice
and emancipation of pure heart.
It’s is unique than the usual morning of rising
For it has carried its glorious history
taking the courage to kiss the Mt. Everest of success.
With these powerful verses, I can feel the simplicity but intense sensitivity of the revolutionary imagination of comrades in the PLA. I can gaze at the agony and sorrow but these were overpowered by the will to conquer the highest tip of the symbolic triumph of human endeavour.
Along with philosophers and politicians, writers have interpreted and reflected the reality of Nepal in so many ways. However, the important point is how to change it? So back in the 1950’s anti-monarchy movement to the Jana Andolan of 1990 and 2006, writers had actively pushed on the role of literature as a weapon to achieve genuine social change in Nepal. Although they are called “protest literature” which is “progressive” and “radical,” essentially they are reformist by nature. What their works have failed to attain, the Maoist writers came in to fill-in the breaks and gaps. Along with their arms and pen, they bravely wave the red flag of the revolution to inscribe and accomplish the historic mission of the proletariat. By creating revolutionary verses, metaphors, lyrics, tunes, and choruses to arouse, mobilize, and organize the people, the CPN-Maoist had successfully lead the struggle towards the building of the New People’s Democratic Republic of Nepal.
(Iniego is a Fellow of the Asian Scholarship Foundation and presently affiliated with the Center for Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University (CNAS-TU).