By Theo Russell
A NEW Maoist party emerged last week in Nepal which has adopted the name of the party that led the people’s war from 1996 to 2006. The split comes after months of tension and protests within the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPNM), led by Prachanda and current premier Baburam Bhattarai, following the 2006 peace agreement.
The new party is led by general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa (“Badal”) and chair Kiran Bhaidya, the former leader of the People’s Liberation Army.
And at a meeting last week in London Peter Tobin, the editor of a new English-language Nepali magazine Red Front, who now lives in Kathmandu, explained what led to the foundation of the new Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist (CPNM).
CP Gajurel, a leader of the new party, accused Prachanda and Bhattarai of: “Abandoning all the achievements of the revolution: the base areas, the people’s communes, the people’s courts, and finally giving up the People’s Liberation Army.”
In addition land seized from feudal landowners and tilled by peasant communes has been returned to its former owners, another humiliating agreement has been signed with India, squatters settlements have been bulldozed, and anti-China activities have multiplied.
The Maoists had led the struggle against the feudal monarchy and by 2006 the Maoist guerrillas had gained control of 80 per cent of Nepal. Under the peace agreement 19,000 PLA fighters were held under UN auspices in “cantonments” to be integrated into the Nepalese Army as an equal and distinct force, and 7,000 weapons were put into storage.
But when the UN peacekeeping mission departed on 10th April the Nepalese Army entered the camps and, in Gajurel’s words: “They forced a humiliating surrender of the PLA combatants”. Their weapons ended up in the army’s hands and, all but a handful of the PLA fighters have returned to the rural areas.
In response the “Red Faction” Maoists took to the streets across Nepal, denouncing and burning effigies of Prachanda and Bhattarai. In an example of growing repression a torchlight protest in Kathmandu was baton-charged by police who targeted the leader, Badal.
Tobin said: “Prachanda presented the peace agreement, which led to PLA fighters leaving the ‘Red Base’ areas in the countryside, as a tactical and temporary measure. The rationale was that there was a military stalemate, the People’s Liberation Army could not break into the urban centres, and that the agreement was the only way to gain access to the masses in the cities.
“But the lack of inner party democracy in the UCPNM and the cult around the ‘Prachanda Path’ have led to the collapse of the agreement, and to a situation where Prachanda lost all credibility with many party members. Prachanda, now known as ‘Mr India’ has dismissed the Red Faction as ‘anarchists’ but many cadres have deserted his ranks to join the new party.
“Out of 130 members of the central committee of the UCPNM, 44 have joined the new party. The leadership of the new party has is committed to restoring collective leadership and democratic centralism,” Tobin said.
“The establishment may have all the money and all the properties, but they don’t have the cadres. On May Day this year the Red Faction held two separate large-scale celebrations in Kathmandu while Prachanda’s party had to resort to bussing supporters into the capital.
“In my estimate one in three people in Kathmandu are Maoists. Nepali communism and Maoism have brought a hope to the people for the future of many classes and castes.”
Tobin pointed out: “India controls 80 per cent of Nepal’s financial sector and 70 per cent of manufacturing industry, and almost all Nepali parties including the mass communist parties have close ties with Delhi, apart from some small royalist nationalist parties.
“But the new CPNM is the only party to take a stand against Indian expansionism, and to recognise that China is not expansionist.”
An agreement to promote investment signed by Bhattarai on his first visit to Delhi caused a huge a backlash across the political spectrum due to a clause promising compensation to Indian investors for losses resulting from “war, armed conflict, national emergency, insurrection or riots”.
Only the UCPNM and the Nepali Congress (closely tied to the ruling Indian Congress Party) supported it.
In addition to India’s strong influence, the US presence has steadily grown. Tobin said: “In 2009 the CIA set up a daily English language newspaper and slick website, República, which is linked to the Washington Post.
“The US has played a growing role in Nepal since 2002 when it bankrolled the recruitment of an extra 20,000 troops for the Nepalese Army. This greatly angered India and was a major reason for New Delhi’s decision to abandon King Gyanendra leading to the fall of the monarchy in 2008.”