Nepalese Maoists restate intention to ban strikes and other news

Maoists take aim at the working class

Reports of recent developments in Nepal and the Maoist-led government's proposed crackdown on workers' struggle.

Several months ago we reported public statements by Maoist government ministers that they intended to legislate to ban strikes (see http://libcom.org/news/nepal-victory-turns-sour-22012009). This was received badly by some pro-Maoist internet leftists; on more than one site it was falsely insinuated that we were dishonest and/or inaccurate (though they failed to show any evidence of this), that we had misinterpreted the meaning of these statements or their motive etc. With quite desperate and convoluted argument, some even tried to defend a strike ban as part of the 'building of socialism' in the interests of the working class.

As previously reported, to encourage foreign capitalist investment the Maoists have already passed legislation to restrict workers' rights to defend their interests in the proposed Economic Processing Zones (EPZs).

Quote:
KATHMANDU, Jan 22: After four years of finalizing the draft, the cabinet on Thursday endorsed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, paving way for the implementation of the SEZ projects in the country. [...]
...the Act treats SEZ as a land where other domestic laws related to labor and industries would not be applicable. It has mooted an autonomous SEZ Authority to oversee its operations.

The source stated that the ratification of the Act, which had so far lingered due to the differences over the tighter labor provisions, had became possible after the seven parties recently agreed not to launch strikes in the industries or disturb productions.

“The Act allows workers to unite and practice collective bargaining, but prohibits them from undertaking activities that affect production and normal operations of industries,” said the source. It also allows the entrepreneurs to hire workers on a contract basis. [Our emphasis.] http://myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=1357

Now Maoist finance minister Dr Bhattrai has told Nepal's International Chamber of Commerce that the promised strike ban will soon be operational;

Quote:
"We are in a new political set-up and it demands a new outlook in business and industries also," said Bhattrai. He assured entrepreneurs that the private sector would remain a key economic player in the country. He asked business communities to explore fields of competitive advantage.

Nepal is in political transition and there are many problems in trade and commerce sector. "The government knows the problems and is working to solve them," Dr Bhattarai said. The government has been providing subsidies in fuel to industries from the second half of March.

Furthermore, the government is planning to restrict bandhs [street protests] and strikes in industries and essential commodities. "Such regulations will come soon," he assured.
(Himalayan Times online - Apr 10 2009)

That seems clear enough, even for pro-Maoist leftists.


Other news;

Masters and slaves - bonded labourers return to masters for support.
The Maoist-led government in 2008 officially abolished the Haliya system of bonded labour that survived in the more remote parts of Nepal. "Haliya also refers to the bonded labourers and the literal translation means 'one who ploughs'. Labourers have to work as haliya to pay off loans to their moneylender-landlord. Once in debt they lose all control over their conditions and through exorbitant interest rates and other charges become trapped and unable to pay off their debt." (Anti-Slavery International.) The Haliyas largely belong to three categories: the traditional ones, born into Haliya families; Haliyas who spend their lives trying to pay off debt inherited from their forefathers; and those who till their masters’ land. A majority belong to the second category. Haliya predominantly affects the Dalit untouchable Hindu caste of western Nepal.

But since abolition the government have provided no infrastructure to replace the former means of subsistence, leaving the 'Haliyas' (bonded labourers) and their dependents with no means of support.

Quote:
“The government did precious little to ensure our rehabilitation,” said a frustrated Dhani, who had little option but to opt for servility to fend for a large family of 10 members.
His life story resonates with social ills that are yet to be weeded out in this day and age.
Dhani was released from Gore Saud’s household last year. Subsequently, he submitted a plea in the District Office, Doti, claiming his freedom.
But, in retrospect, the longing for a better secured future has backfired.
“I’ve to depend on my old master again since the government has failed to come up alternative means of livelihood for me,” lamented Dhani.

For some, things are even worse;

Quote:
Dhani has a brother-in-arms in Tula Ram Mul of Barbata of Doti, who, too, is seeking a bonded existence all over again. He had gained freedom a good three years ago. But, even human bondage is not finding any taker these days as Tula Ram found out to his dismay.
Nar Bahadur Sarki, a freed Haliya from Chhatiban, is also in the horns of a dilemma. He has been denied an opportunity to serve his old master.
(Himalayan Times online - Apr 9 2009)

Inter-Maoist bloodletting
Matrika Yadav, a former leading Maoist, has split from the ruling Unified CPN (Maoist) party - claiming that leader Prachanda/Kamal and co have abandoned socialist principles and are living in luxurious corruption. (Maoist ministers have chauffeur driven cars and salaries 40 times the average Nepali wage.) He has organised a new party - CPN-Maoist - with other disaffected Maoists.

On Wednesday night (8th Apr) these two factions clashed in Biratnagar bazaar, south-east Nepal. Matrika's faction torched a bus in which the Unified Maoist cadres were travellng. Shots were fired, with some casualties including police. Since then the police are patrolling in large numbers and have had to use baton charges and tear gas to break up clashes. Things are now reported to have quietened down.

Across Nepal such clashes are occurring regularly between different political rivals - disputing various political, ethnic, separatist and other territorial claims. One legacy of the Maoist civil war is that the gun is becoming the first resort in settling rival claims - bullets have become the dominant mode of political discourse.

Posted By

Red Marriott
Apr 10 2009 12:48

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Barry Kade
Apr 11 2009 04:51

That's because Maoism is an anti-feudalist movement / ideology centred on modernising society. In the west feudalism was smashed under the leadership of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, a process leading onto capitalist development. Elsewhere, there has been no revolutionary bourgeoisie to fulfil this task (for various reasons we wont go into here). Thus Maoism represents another force substituting itself for the revolutionary bourgeoisie, which carries out its tasks of destroying feudalism and building capitalism. Which 'other force'? A layer of middle class intellectuals, building and leading a peasant insurgency - i.e Maoists! Maoism is progressive, insofar as the destruction of feudalism by (state) capitalist modernity is 'progressive'. But was never a movement of the working class. Thus of course it will repress the workers. Strikes are an obstacle to (state) capitalist modernisation.

However, to be concrete - what is the size and relative power of the Nepalese working class in relation to the peasantry? Are there any strikes and/or trades unions? Have the Maoists repressed any strikes yet?

Yorkie Bar
Apr 11 2009 07:44
Quote:
However, to be concrete - what is the size and relative power of the Nepalese working class in relation to the peasantry? Are there any strikes and/or trades unions? Have the Maoists repressed any strikes yet?

I'll answer as best I can, since I'm "on the ground" here so to speak. As to the size of the Nepalese proletariat, it is still small but has grown exponentially in recent years and looks set to continue to do so: during the civil war many peasants were dispossessed by both sides and many more were forced to flee, the net result being that the urban proletariat around Kathmandu has swollen tremendously. There are numerous trades unions and strikes (and bandhs) are very frequent. General Strikes played a key role in the civil war. The Nepalese working class is generally split between the various capitalist factions - the Maoists, the CPN-UML, the various ethnic 'fronts' and the conservative Congress Party - with the different unions affiliated to these different factions. I'd say from my observations here that the Nepalese working class are very, very militant, but not autonomously so.

The CPN-Maoist, which began as a peasant based movement against the government of Kathmandu's urban bourgeoisie, has now been integrated into that government. As such, it is no longer really a Maoist movement in the sense that you describe, and the conflicts within the CPN-Maoist are largely due to this uncomfortable fact.

But the reality is that Nepal has been capitalist for a long time now. Commodity production long ago penetrated to its furthest extremes. Feudal hangovers exist, but only in the sense that the Queen of England and Scotland exists. They do not represent a system that could challenge capitalism in Nepal.

I believe that this is the reason that the CPN-Maoist has turned to bourgeois parliamentary methods: in China there was no suitable bourgeoisie to lead a capitalist nation-state; in Nepal there is.

That being the case, you could ask what the CPN-Maoist actually is? I guess I would say that it's a result of the weakness of Kathmandu's urban bourgeoisie, and their fundamental failure to unite the country effectively as a bourgeois constitutional monarchy centered on the Kathmandu valley. The Maoists' current program of an ethnic, federal republic (not a state-capitalist republic, mark you) is an attempt to re-structure the nation-state in Nepal. 'Ethnic' i.e. tribal or caste loyalties are now being appealed to. Ethnic cleansing is already taking place in some regions, with people who are not of the right caste being moved out, or choosing to go. By transforming ideas of caste or tribe or racism into a form of nationalism within a federal nation-state, they hope to recuperate them within the framework of bourgeois ideas and provide a basis for a unified, federal nation-state in Nepal. I'd say their chances of success are good, but that it will be a long and possibly bloody road. If recent events in the south-east are anything to go by, very bloody indeed.

That's my two cents.

~J.

Red Marriott
Apr 11 2009 09:42

Barry K; I believe approx. 80% of the population is still rural, but as BLJ says, the move into the cities has been growing for some years.

To my knowledge, so far no strikes have been suppressed, but the legislation is already passed for the Special Economic Zones when they become operational and further legislation for essential industries is promised. This is at least the second time Bhattrai has promised this.

BLJ; I agree with your analysis of Nepal as an 'underdeveloped' capitalist society with Maoism functioning as substitute for a historically weak merchant bourgeoisie and have consistently argued that in earlier articles and against maoist critics. See, eg, http://libcom.org/news/nepal-victory-turns-sour-22012009 , http://libcom.org/news/article.php/nepal-maoists-protests-analysis-2006

What do you think are the chances of a new civil war between ethnic, separatist etc factions, with possible fragmentation of the nation state?

Yorkie Bar
Apr 11 2009 15:56
Quote:
What do you think are the chances of a new civil war between ethnic, separatist etc factions, with possible fragmentation of the nation state?

Well that's a big question. My gut feeling would be 'no', but it's really just a feeling. I think that the various bourgeois factions are more interested in peace at this point, and wary of plunging into another war. The CPN-Maoist have won a war, and now it's in their interests to show it wasn't won in vain. The peasants in the far West mainly fought in that war, and that's now the most stable part of the country. If there is more violence it'll be in the Southeast, and that's the most industrialised part of Nepal - full of Indian owned factories and that. I've not been there, but somehow their breaking away or attempting so to do seems unlikely. Maybe that's just the impression the authorities like to give. But I don't think the Madhesi ethnic fronts could really make a viable bid for their own nation state, which would be tiny, fragmented and have shit infrastructure, whereas they could quite concievably have semi-autonomous federal states under a federal republic of Nepal (presided over by CPN-Maoist from Kathmandu) and be better off for it.

Though to be honest I'm more interested in the prospects for a working-class movement against all this shit than the various shitty parties and 'fronts' jostling for a place in the new bourgeois republic.

~J.

Red Marriott
Apr 12 2009 08:17

Thanks, BLJ.

Steven.
Jan 23 2010 03:27

as a related update, now that the Maoists are out of government there are happy to use strikes again. They have just called off an indefinite general strike:
http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_nepal-maoists-withdraw-indefinite-strike-report_1338082