This morning Comrade Rajan Prasad Pokhrel, a senior member of the Maoist-affiliated National University Teachers Association of Nepal, met with me and discussed the role of intellectuals in the revolution. His organization is a year old, and currently has 2000 members across Nepal. It is a brach of the Nepal National Intellectuals Organization that was started some 20 years ago by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. He has been involved in the revolutionary moment for 30 years now.
He first wanted to make it clear that a large section of the intelligentsia of Nepal indeed did support and involve themselves in the Nepal bandh that started on May 1st and ended on May 8th, despite the media’s highlighting of those intellectuals against the bandh (especially the so-called ‘peace rally’). I then asked him what he considered the role of intellectuals to be in the revolution, especially since there are many in North America and Europe that consider the Maoist movement to be anti-intellectual. He replied that Mao said that there were four elements of any revolutionary movement: 1) workers; 2) peasants; 3) students and; 4) intellectuals. These together are the vanguard of the revolution. For any revolution to be successful he said that there needs to be a fusion of force and intellect, as the intellectuals influence the media. The more intellectuals there are involved in the revolution, the better the publicity there would be of the revolution. Indeed, intellectuals create an environment for revolution as they are working to change the culture from a conservative one to a progressive/revolutionary one.
He says that he believes in violence, but not bloodshed. He made it clear that any system whether it be patriarchy, ideology or values they are violent, and thus there needs to be counter-violence to break the old traditions. I then asked him where does his new culture come from and he replied from reading, intuition and of course the movement. He then made it clear that there are two kinds of teaching: 1) classroom teaching and 2) mass teaching which occurs at political programs or in informal/formal meetings with students, workers etc. The intellectual environment, he said, in Nepal is vibrant within the revolutionary left, especially since they have many intellectuals journals (all in Nepali) in which they debate out ideas, politics etc. We then briefly turned to the question of the need for Cultural Revolutions. He said that unlike China where Mao launched the GPCR after the political revolution of 1949 has been completed, the Nepali party believes that cultural and political revolution must co-exist and occur side by side.
Finally, we turned back to his association of university teachers. He made it very clear that not all of the people associated with the organization accept the party line completely, and that it was a free and loose association. Indeed, due to this looseness and flexability they have been able to attract many independent and neutral university professors, who have slowly been transformed into revolutionaries. They do this through involving themselves in the university teachers struggles for better wages, job security, facilities, and allowances such as leaves etc (these are all concerns that we in North America and Europe share), and also by providing political schooling to their members. He said one could influence professors by one’s actions and then ideology. Thus, through history they have been able to prove to the university teachers that they are the most progressive force in Nepal as they have fought for their particular demands, and nationally have raised issues like the need for Nepal to be a republic, and have struggled for class, gender, racial, regional and social rights for all.