Saturday, December 29, 2007

Book review - Monarchy vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal

Some months ago, I ordered Baburam Bhattarai's collection of articles and interviews, Monarchy vs. Democracy online from Vedams Books in India ( ).

The book was published in 2005, and so predates the ceasefire between the Peoples Liberation Army and the Royal Nepalese Army and the decision by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to suspend the people's war and engage in parliamentary tactics.

That suspension was made from a position of military strength by the CPN(M) which had established effective control over the Nepalese countryside, inflicting countless defeats on the royalist army and police.

The book remains, however, an essential read in understanding the programme and strategy of the CPN(M).

The choice of title is quite deliberate. In an "Appeal to Friends in India" (June 22, 2002), Bhattarai states that "…the real fight in the country is between monarchy and democracy." On this basis, the CPN(M) had advanced three demands: "an interim government, election to a constituent assembly and institutionalisation of the republic". This Appeal followed the dissolution of parliament in May 2002 by King Gyanendra. This in turn led to the dismissal of Nepal's elected Prime Minister and assumption of executive powers by the King in October 2002 which culminated in the imposition of absolute monarchy on February 1, 2005.
Bhattarai makes quite clear that the monarchy in a country such as Nepal can only be a bastion of reaction and an obstacle to progress.

On July 3, 2001, in The Question of Outlook on Monarchy, he described the differences between the capitalist constitutional monarchies and those of the Third World: "There are two types of monarchies in existence in the present-day world. The first types are the capitalist monarchies, as in England, Japan and several other European and Scandinavian countries, which are surviving as powerless, living museums. And the second types are the pre-capitalist monarchies in several Third World countries, which are still powerful and active as in the past. In the present era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, such historically outdated monarchies are merely being utilised by imperialism and comprador and bureaucratic capitalism for their own counter-revolutionary ends."

In A Rejoinder on Some Current Issues on September 4, 2002, Bhattarai states "The feudal aristocratic monarchy has been principally targeted because it is the historical bulwark of all class, gender, national, regional and religious oppression and main impediment to all round democratization of the polity, economy, society and culture."

Bhattarai (right) sees Nepal as caught between two triangular contentions - internally, between the "revolutionary democratic, parliamentary democratic and monarchistic forces", and externally between "the USA, India and China". In 2004, it was still the case that the monarchy was able to play off these contradictions to its own advantage, but that era closed with Parliament's vote, on December 28 2007 to abolish the monarchy after elections the next April.

Bhattarai also deals convincingly with the attempt by opponents of the people's war waged under the leadership of the CPN(M) to portray the PLA as a 'terrorist' group.

Speaking at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on March 24, 2002, Bhattarai observed that "in the aftermath of September 11, it has been fashionable for any unpopular and anti-people ruler of any country to brand all the dissenting movements against his/her rule as 'terrorism' and invite international military or otherwise intervention against it. Following this by now hackneyed tradition, (then Prime Minister) Deuba as a loyal stooge of Gyanendra has begged for massive Indian military intervention or aid against the people's democratic movement led by the CPN (Maoist). No genuine people's democrat would ever vouch for terrorism, as it is a sinister disease that destroys the people's democratic movement."

And in a letter to "Our Friends in America" on May 6, 2002, Bhattarai explains that "history has always made a clear distinction between a legitimate 'revolutionary war' with a progressive ideological/political mooring and the lunatic acts of terrorism with a regressive intent."

The revolution in landlocked Nepal is now entering a new era, the era of the bourgeois democratic or new people's democracy in which the oppressed classes and people will seek to lift the level of struggle to that of the socialist stage of the revolution.

Comrade Baburam Bhattarai's book is essential reading for all who empathise with and support the cause of the Nepalese people.For regular updates on developments in Nepal, bookmark The Red Star, the first volume of which appeared last November, here.

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