NEPAL : Revival of Socialism through Rural Co Operative Movement

Written by Prabir Ghosh Translation : Sumitra Padmanavan (First published on May 18, 2006 at this website (old design)).

Nepal: Some relevant facts

Nepal is a Monarchy. Situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, Nepal is bordered by Tibet,China on the North; Sikkim and West Bengal on the East; Bihar and U.P. on the South and Uttaranchal on its West. Area: 147,181 Population: 246,00,000. Rate of population increase-2.3% Language: Nepali, Maithir, Bhojpuri. Literacy: (15 yrs of age and above) 43% State Religion: Hinduism. Also Buddhism and Islam. Currency: Nepali Rupee Capital: Kathmandu. Main Cities: Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Lalitpur. Important Rivers: Karnali, Narayani, Koshi. Important Mountain-peak: Mount Everest. Natural Wealth: Forest 40.8%, Agricultural Land 16.5%. Minerals: Mica, Lignite, Copper, Iron, Cobalt, Magnetite, Zinc and Lead. Cottage Industries: Blanket, cotton fabric, jute, carpet, paper, vegetable oil, bricks, tiles and beer. Tourism is developed only in and around Kathmandu. Government Expenditure on Education: 3.7% Government Expenditure on Health: 0.9%. Average life span: 60 years. Occupation: Related to forest products, agriculture and fishing.

Nepal and Human Development

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has classified the countries of the world into three divisions.1) High Human Development, 2) Medium Human Development and 3) Low Human Development countries. This classification is made according to the human development index. The per capita income cannot indicate the real development of a country, the reason being its economic disparity. Up to the year 1990, the average per capita income was considered to be the criterion for measuring a country’s development. But the fallacy was noted by economists soon. In the Arab countries, a handful of oil-tycoons hold the major part of its wealth, while the standard of life of the common man is quite low. So, now for classification of the nations, data on distribution of income, education, health etc. are taken into account. Nepal comes under ‘Lower Human Development’ countries. Out of 175 nations, Nepal’s position is 143. The king and the elite class alone hold a tremendous amount of wealth, whereas the common masses do not get two square meals a day. Only an eyewitness can fathom the stark reality.

History of Nepal

In the past, Nepal was a cluster of ethnic states under king’s rule. Even before that, in ancient times during the Vedic period, a form of collective rule known as ‘gana-rajya’ was prevalent. These ‘gana-rajya’s were the centers of power. The heads of various ethnic states used to meet periodically for discussions and solutions to various problems. These meets of the representatives were known as ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’. It may be noted that even today, these meets of the highest representatives of state are known as ‘Pratinidhi-Sabha’ (as ‘the Parliament’ in India). The chairperson of this ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’ was elected as the king. The post of the king was not inherited; the king was one among the representatives or pratinidhis. Discussions and debates were part of these meets. If there were no unanimity, voting was practiced. Social and political power was vested in the hands of the elected king and the members of the Pratinidhi-Sabha. Even after a few thousand years, the basic structure of the democracy or ‘gana-rajya’ still revolves around the king and the pratinidhi sabha. The members of the Pratinidhi Sabha still come from the elite class, the aristocrats. The difference is that earlier, there were debates and arguments in these meets, but not any more. Now the king has the last word. And the common members are the king’s blind followers or sycophants. Another point of difference is that now The King’s post is inherited from generation to generation, thanks to the impotency of the members. Now the prevailing system is known as a combination of ‘Multiparty Democracy’ and ‘Constitutional Monarchy’. This ‘Constitutional monarchy’ has certain uniqueness, the peculiarities of which may not be found anywhere in the world. Peculiarity no.1) The army of the state does not belong to the state of Nepal. No.2) The army belongs personally to the King. No.3) The soldiers of the army are not loyal to the country; they are loyal to the King. No.4) The democratic government has no control over the army. No.5) The king can dissolve the ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’ at any time, under any pretext or without any pretext at all. No.6) Elections are held under the total supervision of the Royal Nepal Army. The king’s favorites are selected as members of the ‘Rashtriya Sabha’ (equivalent to our Rajya Sabha). No.7) This ‘Constitutional Monarchy’ of Nepal is not like the ‘rubber-stamp’ Monarchy of the United Kingdom or of Japan. There the king or queen unhesitatingly signs the decisions taken by the elected people’s representatives, unless in exceptional cases. Rather, the King’s word is the last word in Nepal. Here the representatives toe the line of the King, and not the other way round. So we can call it ‘Dictatorial Monarchy’ rather than ‘Constitutional Monarchy’ (at present, total no.of seats in ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’ is 205 and that of ‘Rashtriya Sabha’ is 60) Around 250 years ago, among various clans of Nepal, the Gorkhas were the most powerful. The Gorkhas had a close relationship and understanding with the British rulers of India. During the 4th decade of the last century, the Nepali Congress Party put king Tribhuvan on the throne. Since then, from king Tribhuvan onwards, monarchy is being inherited through generations. After Tribhuvan came Mahendra ; after Mahendra there was Birendra. After king Birendra came king Gyanendra. The people of Nepal did not take the coming to power of King Gyanandra with ease. According to popular feeling, the killing of King Birendra, queen Aiswariya, prince Dipendra and many others of the royal family, on the night of 1 June 2001, points the finger of suspicion towards Gyanendra. They also sensed that the Royal Nepal Army was his collaborator and a partner in this entire conspiracy was the Government of India. King Birendra was not in good terms with the Indian Govt. for some time; his intimacy with China was the point of contention. It was necessary to put a cipher king in his place. This sentiment still haunts the minds of almost the entire populace of Nepal today. Since 1959 there were many elections, and many a time government was formed. Within months, these governments were dissolved by autocratic rulers. Even though the aristocrats were the ones to form the Government, and they were over- eager to please the king at any cost, the kings lost no time in finding fault and wantonly played their game of dissolution.

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist): their dream showed the way

We have seen so far, that in Nepal we have Monarchy, we have semi-feudalism, we have semi-colonialism too. In this confusion, India acted like its guardian, trying to control its policies and allegiances. India, just like the U.S.A is an Imperialist nation. Indian constitution, in its Article 1 (3) (C) has clearly empowered India to take over any country or part of it at any time. ‘Parliamentary Democracy’ or ‘Monarchy’, by whatever name you call it, the ruler of Nepal has miserably failed to provide food or roof, water or clothes to the vast majority of his countrymen. The basic amenities like road, education or healthcare are still beyond   reach of the common man. Despair of the downtrodden gave way to struggle for emancipation—‘Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)’ was formed on February 13, 1996. Chairman was ‘Prachand’, alias Pushpkamal Dahel. The ideological leader of the party was Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. He did his studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University of India and joined the People’s War against the exploitation of the masses. According to government records, 13000 people died during the last ten years of People’s war. As a result of the combing operations conducted by the Royal Nepal Army, many more were missing. And ‘missing’ means ‘dead’.

The Maoists Learn to change their strategies

The people’s war, under the leadership of the Maoists was an armed battle to snatch power from the ruling party. But about 3 years back, the central committee of the Maoist group of Nepal took a few important decisions. Some of their aims and steps were as follows:- 1) To improve the lot of the poorest of the poor, and to make these rural areas self-sufficient by forming communes. 2) These communes and co-operatives would be run by commonly elected adult members of the community. This kind of democracy was known as Revolutionary People’s Democracy. 3) In this democracy, natural resources like crops, minerals or the forest products were equally distributed among the people. They learnt to live like independent human beings and therefore, took care to keep vigil over the maintenance of their hard-earned self-government. 4) This kind of democracy, by its very nature makes corruption and nepotism non-viable. The people who have tasted self-respect and independence would not hesitate to identify and eradicate any sign of corruption. 5) People’s revolution can be complete, not through armed battle; but through self-ruled rural development. In the present day it is impossible to win an armed battle against the imperialistic forces and take over the state power. But by successful implementation of the co-operative concept, by forming communes and making their own villages self-reliant, these poor underdogs can achieve independence. 6) So, the logical aim is not to ‘surrender’ the arms, but to ‘control’ the use of arms. Arms would be for self-defense; so that the feudal powers or the king’s army could not further oppress the historically oppressed communities of this area. This latest revolutionary technique is a legacy from Venezuela and the vast undeveloped areas of India. Everywhere we see a steady revival of democracy through the rural co-operative movement. About two decades ago, all the dreams to establish socialism were brutally crushed under the ‘brain war’ launched by the capitalist countries. Despair had set in; any hope to restart a struggle to bring about neo-socialism was a far cry.
That was the time when the Rationalist Association, to make the villages self-reliant as a first step towards Neo-Socialism, offered a new thought, a new guideline. In the line of Jesus-Gandhi-Rabindranath Tagore-Marx-Lenin-Mao, a new concept or rather a brain wave of community living, of the co-operative movement emerged. To make small, self reliant, self-ruled villages was the new idea that spread from village to village like wild fire. We have seen how the young couple-- Mahesh and Sarita dedicated their lives to spread this revolution in Bihar. From one village-- forty villages joined together in co-operative farming; started living like human beings.
These villagers were untouchable ‘Harijans’, detested and oppressed socially and politically. They learnt to live with self-respect, had clean drinking water, schools for their children, clothes. Now in India, from North Bengal to Andhra Pradesh, there are some 4000 such villages. These poverty-stricken, illiterate rural masses do not know what is ‘Maoism’, whether it is food or medicine! All they know is that if any method can bring them out of their vicious circle of tyranny, they would be ready to embrace it. Those who are killed, raped and looted at the slightest pretext, whose hutments are burnt down in a row, women stripped and manhandled at the mildest of protests, at the hint of a demand for justice, have nothing more to lose. To regain self-respect and get back their democratic rights they are ready to take any name. Their aim is not to fight with tanks and machine guns against the global capitalist forces (they hardly know what that is!). Their aim is to regain human dignity. For this reason, if the state develops a fear-complex, it would be a shame; if the rich feudal landlords spend sleepless nights, the corrupt leaders, ministers or movie stars get caught in the process it cannot be helped. Now with the healthy competition between the visual media and their positive intervention, nobody is being spared. No big shot with political clout or money power can get away as easily as before. In the beginning of the 21st century, Venezuela gave the first true shape to a comprehensive democratic movement. It came out of its feudal snare and improved the lot of its masses socially, and culturally too. Soon, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina followed suit in realizing their dreams. No, it is not only a dream any longer. In accurate implementation, the masses of these countries will show the way to the rest of the world. The people of Nepal have rendered the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal successful by 80%. The remaining 20% is a matter of time.

The seven-party coalition and the Maoists

November 2005. The seven political parties of Nepal turned their back to the autocratic rule of the monarch and signed a joint memorandum of understanding. These seven parties are:- 1) Nepali Congress, 2) Nepali Congress (Democratic), 3) Communist Party of Nepal( Marxist-Leninist), 4) Janmorcha Nepal, 5) Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, 6) Nepali Satbhavna Party, 7) United People’s Front(Party of Nepal). All these city-based political parties understood that without the support of the Maoists they could not succeed, because in 80% of rural Nepal, Maoists had a strong support. As soon as the eighth name was added to the erstwhile seven, the revolution gathered momentum. The farsighted Maoists proved the king wrong. Hardly could king Gyanendra ever imagine that the seven elite-class parties would join hands with the poor Maoists! Now, cornered from all sides, the king is yet to play his last card, his only support being the foreign powers. Can he win the end game?

The International Powers

Countries like the USA, UK, India and the European countries are known as the ‘Upholders of Democracy’. All of them reacted to the overwhelming situation in Nepal. They all stood in a row in support of the king and voiced their opinion against this historical people’s revolution. They assured the king of sending their military forces whenever needed. China, Russia, Pakistan and Bangladesh took a different stand. They were less enthusiastic and did not wish to interfere in the ‘internal affairs’ of Nepal. In other words; their silence only meant ‘King Gyanendra, we are with you’.

We shall overcome some day

This overwhelming rush of the people’s democratic movement has gathered such a momentum, that it is not easy to stop its flow at this juncture. With able leadership and intelligent guidance, it is moving at a remarkable pace, and the United States and its allies would find it more and more difficult to gain ground and win over.
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One Response to “NEPAL : Revival of Socialism through Rural Co Operative Movement”

  1. rationalistbiplab 17 April 2010 at 1:01 PM #

    oofff.what an article.

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