Goodbye PLA? Is the Nepalese Revolution Over?

In the last few years the Kiran faction has been repeatedly been accused of wanting to split the UCPN(Maoist). The Kiran faction has repeatedly denied such plans are underway. Indeed, a few months ago, in the throes of the line struggle, there were regular reports that the different factions were meeting in isolation from one another and a real split was in the offing. However, the split that many of us anticipated, and may have even hoped for, did not happen and the Kiran faction was organizationally defeated and the line of people’s revolt was shelved. The argument that we heard at the time was that the Kiran faction needed to bide its time. A premature split would only result in greater confusion and without a clear theoretical, political and military basis there was no way forwards anyways. Fair enough. I once read that the Chairman Mao warned us all of petit-bourgeois impatience, reminding us that the working class and peasantry had been oppressed for a thousand years and would patiently wait another day, and that it was only those of us from petit-bourgeois backgrounds who never had to wait for anything that could not wait. Thus, I tempered myself and decided to wait patiently. If the every day peasants and workers of Nepal, the Party cadre and PLA soldiers who bravely fought in the People’s War were willing to wait, then who was I not to.

There was a temporary moment of exuberance when Chairman Dahal’s leadership was challenged by the Kiran and Bhattarai factions and a more equitable sharing of power in the Party occurred, that was a good thing and I continue to believe so. Over-centralization of power is always a bad thing and cannot lead to any kind of proper democratic centralist process. I continue to believe that there needs to be greater devolution of power outside of the Standing Committee and Central Committee to lower and lower levels of the Party, so that village level cadres and committees can develop and put into practice programs that will further revolutionize the relations of production, the productive forces, and the revolutionary subjectivity of the peasants and the working classes. But instead we continuously hear reports that the different Party institutions like the People’s Volunteers, the Youth Communist League, the Party newspaper, and the People’s Commune are slowly falling apart due to the lack of basic resources, whilst top leaders ride around in fancy cars and lived in large homes in Kathmandu.

Then in the last few days there was the elation of a return of the UCPN(Maoist) to power with the election of Dr. Bhattarai to the Prime Ministerial seat. In my last post I said that I thought that Dr. Bhattarai was a capable and intelligent leader, and well-suited to lead the country at this current conjuncture because a revolution was not in the offing. I stand by the position. If Nepal is to only see reformist change in the coming months and years, then there is no one better to lead the country than Dr. Bhattarai. When I wrote that blog post (less than 48 hours ago) I had no illusions about the kinds of policies that he would pursue  and have none now. I knew that he would make serious compromises to restart the peace process that has been stalled for months. Thus, am I surprised that he and Chairman Dahal have decided to restart the peace process through perhaps the biggest symbolic and political gesture possible, handing over the keys to the cantonments (but notably not disarming the PLA itself and that remains a significant difference, although perhaps the line between the two is quickly fading)? No I am not. I am perhaps surprised as to how quickly this happened. I thought that there would be at least a few public dances with the Kiran faction and the obligatory note of dissent being registered. But, this time even the Kiran faction seems to have been caught unaware. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to hear news from Nepal that for the first time Party cadres and the Kiran faction has made its opposition public and launched a mass movement to oppose the capitulationist policies of the Prachanda-Bhattarai camp. It is truly heartening to hear that there have been rallies called and blockades of Kathmandu have started, and PLA soldiers and cadres have refused to turn over they keys, which has caused Chairman Dahal to publicly attack the Kiran faction and to send the PLA commanders back to the cantonment to restore order. I agree with the Kiran faction that such a gesture is basically “tantamount to surrender” and an effective end to the PLA. There are those who are again calling for patience and correctly pointing out that integration of the PLA into the Royal Nepalese Army could be a good thing. And I must make it clear that I am not opposed to an integration of the PLA into the RNA. I never have been. In fact, one of the main reasons for the stalemate in the peace process has been differences about how such an integration could occur because the RNA and the bourgeois parties are extremely uncomfortable with the possibility of having an integrated PLA that could have ideological and political influence on the RNA as a whole, which would actually deal with one the problems that I will identify below i.e. how to actually capture Kathmandu and other urban centres. However, the reason why this is “tantamount to surrender” is because turning over the keys of the cantonments, prior to an agreement about the modality of integration, means that the UCPN(Maoist) has lost a major card in the modality debate which would allow for the kind of integration that would allow for a maximum political and ideological impact in the RNA.

A dear comrade of mine asked me in light of the elections why I thought that Dr. Bhattarai’s election was a good thing. And I pointed out as I stated above, that in the context when a revolution is not going to happen that a progressive reformist would be welcome. He, of course, irritated, said that was not what he meant and demanded to know whether I thought that the UCPN(Maoist) remained a revolutionary Party. Till date I have always argued that the Party ostensibly remains a revolutionary Party. I continue to believe that the majority of the Party’s rank-and-filers, especially those who joined prior to the 2006 peace deal, want a revolution, as do majority of its supporters in the countryside. Thus, yes the Party remains a revolutionary Party at that level. But, if one is to look at its leadership, the answer is “no”. It is true that there are elements in the leadership that remain revolutionary however, the leadership as a whole has become reformist. Furthermore, increasingly I have come to believe that the Kiran faction itself is completely confused politically, militarily and theoretically, and do not have a clear way forward. For example, just days after relaunching the political front under the leadership of C.P Gajurel (Kiran’s #2), he was reported as vying for a top ministerial seat in the government and competing with another top Party leader for it.

Kiran faction documents that have been made available, either penned by himself or those close to him (like those by Com. Basanta), demonstrate a complete lack of political clarity about how to proceed and are unable to provide answers to real structural problems that the Party faces in completing the revolutionary process, however, they point to the serious political problems that the Party faces. Without answers to these basic problems a revolution in Nepal is unlikely, if not impossible. What are these problems? How to organize the urban working classes and influence the middle-classes in favour of a people’s revolt? 5 years since the peace deal the answer to this question remains elusive. The classical solution provided by some in the Maoist movement has been that the PLA should have captured Kathmandu, but this is a completely idealist position as it had become clear to all-concerned that a military capture of Kathmandu was not possible and that the PPW had reached an impasse, this relates to the aforementioned integration solution, as those who argue for this position would still have to explain how they would capture the cities or have an urban revolt. I mean its clear that any relaunching of the people’s war would probably get support from much of the 80% of the country that they got support from earlier, but the stalemate remains in Kathmandu and other urban centres which are too heavily concentrated with military forces to be taken militarily and only an insurrection from within could dislodge them. The second problem that remains is that Nepal continues to be economically dependent on its neighbours, especially India, and there is no short-term solution to this problem. In fact, this is why Dr. Bhattarai has emphasized the development of productive forces in Nepal. Thus, even if such an insurrection was to occur, any economic viability for the country remains elusive and difficult to imagine in the near future. These are the real problems that revolutionaries in Nepal continue to face and cannot simply be skirted over by bold statements from “revolutionaries” from afar or who simply jet into Nepal for a few weeks/months and then return to their comfortable lives abroad where basic hunger is not a problem that they have to deal with.

The days of a “gotcha” moment seem to have passed us by and replaced by the cruel realism of realpolitik. There are no easy solutions to the two basic problems that the Nepalese revolution faces, and it feels like the political and theoretical weight of these problems has crushed the Party and hopes for a revolution in the near future. I cannot but hope against hope that I am wrong. I would be glad to say that I am wrong. I will be the first person to publish an apology and self-criticism.  Indeed, my heart breaks for the people of Nepal who so valiantly fought and sang songs about revolution and their martyrs. I miss the heady days when one could say that there is a revolution underway in Nepal and a red flag flies on top of the world. I cannot but choke on the harsh bitter taste of defeat. Our only hope is that the Kiran faction, led by a new generation of leaders, will lead a split within the Party and start the revolutionary process afresh in the coming days. But I must implore Com. Kiran, Com. Gaurav, Com. Basanta and the rest of the Kiran faction, enough is enough. Split the Party and give the revolution a new hope. The Nepalese revolution of 1996-2006 is over. A new revolutionary sequence must start. The time for patiently waiting is over, and the time for rebuilding has to begin.

Dahal sends PLA commanders to cantonments

KATHMANDU, Sept 3: Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Friday sent all the seven divisional commanders to their cantonments, cutting short their stay in Kathmandu in view of the likely untoward incidents in cantonments in the wake of the row in the party over the key handover issue. The divisional commanders had arrived in the capital for a general staff meeting of the Maoist PLA on Thursday and were supposed to attend a two-day discussion on technical aspects of integration. But the meetings have been cancelled as they had to return to their respective cantonments on Friday.

“We returned to our respective cantonments following the party chairman´s directive,” Suk Bahadur Roka Magar, division commander at the second division of the PLA Cantonment, told Republica. On Thursday, the division commanders had grilled Dahal about their future, pressing the party leadership to come up with a concrete plan on integration and rehabilitation. According to Magar, their meeting on Saturday was to take a concrete decision on the technical aspects of integration. “The meeting was called on Saturday to take concrete decision on the technical aspects –ranking, fixing responsibilities of commanders who would not opt for integration,” Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, divisional commander at the sixth division of the PLA told Republica.

Rift widens in Maoist party on peace process

KATHMANDU, Sept 3: The intra-party rift in the UCPN (M) has widened further with the faction led by Senior Vice Chairman Mohan Baidya on Friday announcing a nationwide campaign against the party decision to hand over the keys of arms containers to the Special Committee. Defying calls by the party leadership, the Baidya faction decided to launch a “national awareness campaign” starting Saturday.

Leaders from the faction told Republica that they would paint walls and hold corner meetings to protest the party establishment´s decision to hand over the keys of the arms containers to the Special Committee. Baidya and General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa on Friday evening issued a statement demanding that the party chairman and the government scrap the decision. As the feud intensifies, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Friday morning issuing a statement appealed to the party rank and file and the general public not be provoked by the activities of Baidya faction and instead support the party decision. Dahal said the party´s decision is legitimate and termed the activities of Baidya as being against the party system. “The statement issued by Vice-chairman Kiran (Baidya) that the Special Committee´s decision (to accept the keys of the containers) is against the party decision has left us stunned,” Dahal said in the statement. The intra-party rift, which was brewing after the Dhobighat meeting in June, burst out after Baidya issued the statement on Thursday protesting the keys handover. But Chairman Dahal said on Friday that Baidya´s move was against the “party system and decision”. “The chairman had proposed keys handover at the party´s meeting and we did not accept the proposal despite discussions for four hours. Therefore, it was not included in the agreement,” said Netra Bikram Chand, who is close to Baidya, to make the point that the decision on handing over the keys was never taken. The party establishment and the Baidya faction have put forward differing interpretations of the August 25 agreement in the party on keys handover. Dahal, in the statement, quoting the agreement said the party had “unanimously decided to hand over the keys of the arms containers to the Special Committee if a government under the party´s leadership was formed.” But Baidya has contested the agreement. The Baidya faction, which launched a nationwide transportation strike for an hour Friday morning, held torch rallies in the evening and boycotted the standing committee meeting called by Chairman Dahal. The Maoist chairman issued the statement after the meeting could not take place.

Though the standing committee members close Dahal and party Vice chairman and Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai had reached to the party headquarters for the meeting, they did not take any decision due to absence of the leaders from the Baidya faction and General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, according to standing committee member Amik Serchan. Meanwhile, a meeting of the standing committee has been called for Saturday afternoon to discuss the differences within the party. The Baidya faction is likely to demand a meeting of the central committee. Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai is meeting both Dahal and Baidya Saturday morning before the standing committee meeting.

KATHMANDU, Sept 2: Taking strong exception to the decision to hand over the arms container keys to the Special Committee, the Maoist hardline faction led by Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya has demanded scrapping of the decision which is “suicidal” for the party.

“We strongly condemn — and object to — the decision and call on all the authorities concerned to immediately scrap the suicidal decision,” reads a statement signed by Baidya.

The party hardliners, in the statement, alleged that the “sudden and surprising decision” to hand over the keys of the weapons containers to the Special Committee by 5 p.m. Thursday was an attempt to dissolve the PLA.

They have argued that the Special Committee decision goes against the mandate of the party Standing Committee and Central Committee, which have decided to take the process of combatant categorization forward only after reaching consensus on the modality for integration and on rehabilitation packages.

The Baidya faction, in the statement, argued however that he was not against PLA integration, an integral part of the peace process, but he wanted the integration to be completed in a “dignified” manner.

The faction held a meeting at Baidya´s residence at Gangabu Thursday evening before issuing the statement. According to sources, party General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa and Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha were present during the meeting.

“The decision to hand over the keys to the Special Committee is against the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the party´s policy and its ideals. It is also capitulation to regressive forces,” said party leader Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma, who is close to Baidya and attended the meeting.

According to him, the group will enforce a vehicle strike for one hour from 9.30 a.m. Friday and hold a torch rally from 6.30 p.m. to protest the party´s decision.

Talking to Republica, Baidya said he is not against the integration process, but the party chairman and the prime minister should have informed him and general secretary Thapa, who is now in the security department, about the decision.

“Why did they lie to us when we asked them? It is not the party´s decision to hand over the weapons containers at this juncture. It should have taken a due course,” said Baidya. He said the party would go ahead united, “correcting the mistake.”

The Bhattarai faction has stated that protest by the Baidya group was the outcome of its political line.

“There are no basic differences between us on how to move ahead in the present situation. The dispute is only on methods and procedures, and it´s an old disease in Nepal´s communist movement,” said Maoist leader Ram Karki, who is close to Bhattarai. He, however, said the misunderstanding would be removed and the party would move ahead united.

PLA brass pose Dahal tough questions

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal faced a tough time on Thursday when PLA personnel expressed doubts over the party´s move to integrate them in a “dignified manner”, and asked the chairman what roles he planned for them.

“We abide by the party´s decision. You should chart out a concrete plan of action for us; what roles would we play in future,” Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, sixth division commander, quoted all the commanders as saying to the chairman.

The party had held a meeting at Dahal´s residence at Nayabazar to give directives to the commanders to comply with the party decision to hand over the weapons container keys to the Special Committee.

Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya were present at the meeting.

“You have already made compromises on revolution and on our future. So why don´t you tell us directly about the compromises you have made instead of being roundabout?” a commander stated at the meeting.

“The party has taken your concerns seriously. You can believe me, your future will be secure. And we have not forgotten the ideals of the revolution,” a commander quoted Dahal as saying.

According to him, Dahal said that the party is committed to the peace process and made the move to complete the peace process unilaterally.

Baidya had kept mum most of the time and left the meeting before it was over.

But Bhattarai told the commanders that handing over of the keys was the maximum flexibility the party has adopted for the sake of peace and constitution.

“They have been accusing us that we are not sincere about peace and constitution. Handing over of the keys to the Special Committee is our sacrifice. Now they will be responsible for anything bad that happens to the peace process,” a commander quoted Bhattarai as saying.

Keys handed over in six cantonments

KATHMANDU, Sept 2: The Maoist party handed over the keys of arms containers in six cantonments to arms monitors under the Special Committee while the commanders in one cantonment did not do so.

According to reports from our correspondents, Maoists handed over the keys of arms containers at the cantonments in Sindhuli, Nawalparasi, Chulachuli, Rolpa, Surkhet and Chitwan.

But the commanders at the cantonment in Kailali did not hand over their arms container keys, saying they had not received any formal directive from the party.

Vice-commander Net Bahadur Chaudhari of the PLA seventh division cantonment in Kailai said they did not receive any formal correspondence from the party and so did not hand over the keys of the arms containers.

“How can we hand over the keys in the absence of a formal directive?” said Chaudhary.

There are seven main cantonments and 21 satellite cantonments. The arms containers are located in the main cantonments.

Meanwhile, Kul Prasad KC, a member of the secretariat under the Special Committee, said that the keys were handed over under a “grand design” and without discussion in the party.

“The move is tentamount to surrender,” he said, objecting to the keys handover. He was of the view that the keys should have been handed over only after finalizing all the issues related to integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants.

Gajurel, Shrestha both want Finance Ministry

KATHMANDU, Sept 1: Newly-elected Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai could not expand his cabinet on Wednesday also due to factional disputes in his party over the plum ministries and also differences with the coalition partner, United Democratic Madhes Front (UMDF).

According to sources, party Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha and Secretary CP Gajurel have staked claim to a combined post of deputy prime minister and finance minister. “There are multiple complications in settling the issue in the party as each faction has its own choice of plum ministries,” said a senior Maoist leader.

Party insiders say Gajurel, who is from the party hard-line faction, has said he wants charge of the finance ministry, not the foreign ministry the party establishment has offered him.

Similarly, Shrestha has argued that he wants a powerful ministry at his disposal as he is becoming deputy prime minister. “As the home ministry which he had charge of during the last cabinet has already been taken by another party, he wants the powerful finance ministry,” said a party leader.

Dev Gurung, who had also staked claim to the home ministry, has opted out of the race and thrown his weight behind Gajurel.

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is holding consultations with the leaders of all the factions to settle the issue. “One solution could be that Shrestha becomes deputy prime minister and foreign minister and Gajurel takes charge of the finance ministry without becoming deputy prime minister,” said the leader.

Similarly, there have been complications in the appointment of deputy prime ministers. Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) has threatened to stay out of the government if MPRF-Republican President JP Gupta is given the post of deputy prime minister. The party has argued that Hridayesh Tripathi is senior to JP Gupta and so Tripathi should also be given that post.

Similarly, MPRF-Nepal has demanded the post of deputy prime minister for party Chairman Upendra Yadav, who wants to be senior to Deputy Prime Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar in the cabinet hierarchy.

There is a question why the party would join the government without getting that position. But it is still likely that the party may send other leaders if it gets some plum ministries.

Maoists to hand over arms container keys Thursday

KATHMANDU, Sept 1 : In a new development on the peace process, the UCPN (Maoist) has agreed to hand over the keys of the weapons containers to the arms monitors deployed by the Special Committee at the 28 combatant cantonments.

The Maoists agreed to hand over the keys in the very first meeting of the Special Committee under the leadership of newly appointed Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, held at Baneshwar on Wednesday evening.

“The meeting decided that the keys to the weapons containers and the command of all the cantonments should come under the arms monitors,” said JP Gupta, who is a member of the Special Committee.

The decision is expected to give a fresh push to the peace process that has remained stagnant since June after the parties failed to resolve the differences over modality of integration and rehabilitation.

“Though it has come late, it is a positive step. Let us wait and see how they will implement the decision,” said Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, a special committee member representing the Nepali Congress.

Earlier, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had expressed his agreement on handing over the keys during a meeting of the top leaders of three major parties–UCPN (Maoist), NC and CPN-UML–held at the residence of Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai.

At the meeting, the NC President Sushil Koirala had asked Dahal to hand over the arms instead of just the keys to the containers, according to Mahat.

“But Dahal declined to hand over the arms, saying it would be difficult to take such a decision immediately. Though Dahal said that the party will do so after one and half months,” said Mahat.

The Maoist representative on the Special Committee Barshaman Pun termed the decision as momentous for the peace process.

Most leaders applauded the decision considering it a step toward bringing the Maoist ex-combatants and their arms practically under the command and control of the Special Committee.

The Special Committee, according to Gupta, also decided to begin the process of categorizing the ex-Maoist combatants in the next couple of days.

But Mahat refuted Gupta´s claim. “It is nonsense. How can the categorization begin before all the outstanding issues are resolved?” Mahat said.

In another decision, the Special Committee also decided to recruit experts who will work as surveyors for categorization. According to Balananda Sharma, the convener of the secretariat under the Special Committee, the secretariat has already short listed the experts but has held their formal appointments as the decisions about their deployment were yet to be made. Gupta said the Special Committee will start discussions on the core issues of the peace process like the modality of integration and rehabilitation and the number in the next meeting slated for Sunday.


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