Saturday, 19 May 2018

Amidst Pledges to Build Capitalism, Promoting Industrial Peace and Imposing Strike Bans, Stalinist and Maoist Parties in Nepal, Merge into One!

- Rajesh Tyagi/ 19.5.2018 

On May 17, 2018, two major leftwing parties in Nepal- CPN UML and CPN Maoist Centre, got merged into one, launching the new Communist Party of Nepal. The two parties declared the unification at a press conference in City Hall on Thursday evening.

The unification has come at the end of months’ long negotiations between the two parties.

CPN-UML Chairman K.P. Sharma Oli and Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal signed the agreement and declared the merger and formation of a single communist party in the Himalayan country.

The new party has been registered at the Election Commission after the CPN-UML and the CPN Maoist Centre dissolved their respective central committees.

The Unification is a sequel to the seven point deal signed between the two parties on February 20, this year, paving the way for merger.

As per the deal, there will be 43 standing committee members in the new party which includes 25 from CPN-UML and 18 from CPN Maoist Centre.

The unified party will have 441 members in its central committee, out of which CPN-UML would have 241 members and CPN Maoist Centre would have 200 members. As per the terms of the unification agreement, Oli and Dahal will lead the unified party with a nine-member secretariat and enjoy equal power.

After merger, the unified party will control 63% of the seats in the Nepal Parliament giving it a clear and absolute two-third majority and control of the National Assembly.

Addressing the event, the leaders of unified party, claimed that the unification will create an environment conducive to fulfillment of the aspiration of people for sustainable peace and country's development.

"It's a historical day for Nepal. It has entered to a new era of prosperity. The party unification will help Nepal in uplifting itself from the least developed country and to achieve sustainable development goals and poverty alleviation, among others," said Prime Minister Oli, the leader of CPN UML.

Echoing Oli, Prachanda, the leader of CPN Maoist Centre, reiterated "A new era of prosperity and good governance has started in the country. The major motive of this unification is to lead the country towards socialism and economic prosperity with social justice," said Dahal.

Behind the rhetoric of socialism and prosperity, there lie however the real commitments of Stalinists and Maoists to the building of capitalism as part of their proclaimed program of ‘two stage revolution’ in Nepal while suppressing the working class and its class struggle as necessary pre-condition to this development.

Immediately before this unification, the Stalinist government, jointly run by CPN UML and CPN Maoist Centre, had issued a proclamation on the eve of May Day, completely banning the workers’ strikes in major industrial and service sectors in Nepal. This ban flies in the face of all demagogy of Nepali Stalinists that they have continued for long, alongside the pledges of promoting capitalism.

In 2006, Maoists had signed a 10-point Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), with seven other bourgeois parties putting an end to the decade-old guerrilla war to join an interim coalition government. Point 7 of the agreement declared in no ambiguous terms: “Both sides believe in the fact that the industrial climate in the country should not be disturbed and production should be given continuity and that the right of collective bargaining and social security should be respected. Any disputes with employers however should be solved in a peaceful manner”.

As Maoists fell short of the sufficient majority in the National Assembly in 2008, before entering the coalition government, they made it clear in advance that they were happy to sign up a policy to repress militancy in the workplace and discourage strikes.

As they inched closer to power in Nepal, Maoist leader Prachanda, assuring the Nepali Capitalists, declared: “We are not fighting for socialism. We are just fighting against feudalism. We are fighting for a capitalistic mode of production. We are trying to give more profit to the capitalists and industrialists." (Telegraph, Oct 31, 2006)

In September 2011, i.e. just a month after UCPN (Maoist) began to run the government again, Maoist leader and Prime Minister, Baburam Bhattarai, who was looking after Labour Ministry too, in a meeting of the National Labour Advisory Council under his Chairmanship and.with the aid of Maoist led All Nepal Trade Union Centre (ANTUF), brokered and endorsed a four point pact- ‘Industrial Peace Year Declaration’- imposing a total strike ban for four years and the policy of ‘No Work No Pay’. This put an end to the April 16 pact between the Trade Unions and the Government with favourable terms to workers, that was already notified in the Gazette.

Nepal’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FNCCI hailed the deal, “Employers are happy with the deal”, said a jubilant Pashupati Murarka, President of FNCCI’s Employers Council.

In January and April 2009, the government under the Maoists had armed itself with two legislations that empowered it to ban strikes in core sectors. First in January ‘The Special Economic Zones Act’ was promulgated. The law was drafted by the earlier government but could not be ratified. Coming to power, Maoists gave life to it. They passed the law empowering themselves to ban the strikes.

The SEZ Act, with an avowed goal of attracting FDI to Nepal, provided- strict labour discipline, total exemption from operation of all labour laws, banning of strikes, hire and fire policy of short term perpetual contracts, tax free heavens for investors etc.

Contrary to their own anti-imperialist rhetoric, once in power, the Maoists pioneered a drive to attract foreign and local investment to Nepal offering low-wage cheap labour for cruel exploitation to foreign capital.

In implementing this exploitative industrial regime, Maoists in Nepal drew inspiration from their Chinese counterparts who have pioneered this move since establishment of such first industrial ghetto in Shenzhen in 1980s. In 1982, Chinese Communist Party had amended its Constitution to impart a legal cover to the loot in the SEZs. Growth story of China after 1980’s can be directly traced to this colossal loot and exploitation of the Chinese working class by the industry oriented to exports needs of the developed West.

The Chinese labour ghettos have continued to be exposed for their sweatshop working conditions. The Shenzhen SEZ was the focal centre of newsflash in 2010 when more than a dozen workers in their teens, committed suicide due to stress of overtime work and bad living conditions in the Foxconn factory. Workers were being forced to sign affidavits waiving the employers liability for 36 hours work, banned from taking rest during long and continuous innings of factory work and even talking to their colleagues. In average work of more than 80 hours per week, workers are made to sit on wooden stools without backrests. While offering bounty of tax incentives and large pool of cheap labour, the workers are fined even for being one minute late on job.

These Chinese sweatshops are the source of inspiration for Nepali Maoists who pledge to promote Chinese style SEZs in Nepal.

In their party manifesto, published by the Maoists for the 2008 elections to the Constituent Assembly, clearly stating their programme of capitalist development centred around attracting foreign investment in SEZs, Maoists declared: “Foreign investors who specially invest in industries that provide substitutes for import shall be welcomed. Joint investment with 51% national investment shall be highly emphasized. Keeping in mind the large market in India and China, `special economic area’ shall be established in major Southern and Northern border areas to establish export-oriented industries”. (New ideology and New leadership for a New Nepal: Commitment Paper of the CPN(M) for the CA election, March 2008.

As Maoists came to lead the coalition government, the development of SEZs was made the core of the economic policy. Maoist party chief and new Prime Minister Prachanda made clear that the Chinese model of hyper-exploitation of the working class is the preferred path to 'socialism' for the Maoists:

“We will build special economic zones like China. The special economic zones stimulated China’s economic development, and we want to learn from China. China’s experience is really helpful for us.” (Nanfang Daily, June 30 2008).

When the Maoist-led government put its first Budget in October 2008, it stated: "... The Act relating to the special economic zones will be enacted in this Fiscal Year. Necessary provisions are made in the accompanying Finance Act for providing customs and income tax exemption facilities in the special economic zones." (Oct 6 2008).

Finally the law for establishment of the zones of hyper-exploitation of the workers was mooted in January 2009 by the Maoists in such a haste and excitement that they introduced it through unilateral ordinance, bypassing even the ordinary legislative process.

The Maoist adventure was however doomed as the political instability of the country and the militancy of the working class repelled the investors.

In April 2007, Maoists tried their hand over another law to ban the strikes, i.e. Essential Services Act. After the capitalist bosses of the Nepali Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FNCCI, protested against the strikes and bandhs in March 2007, the Maoists who were going for poll politics, negotiated a joint committee with them to find solution to the strike menace, terming it a ‘revolutionary tactic’.

After their election victory in April 2008, Maoists reassured the Nepali capitalists of their intentions of letting the capitalist business as usual. In a TV interview, Baburam Bhattarai, the deputy chief of the Maoists,declared: “Our party has no plans to confiscate private property,We promise full security to private ownership, property and investment.” “The new vision for a ‘new, affluent and developed’ Nepal included transforming the current agro-based economy into an industrial one. We envision a pro-industry, capitalist economy with more investment in tourism, hydropower, medicinal herb-based industries and agro-based industries,” Bhattarai said. He said that the government led by his party would encourage private investment in productive sectors so that more jobs were created while discouraging investment in non-productive sectors. He also tried to allay fears of labour militancy under a Maoist government: “The government will bring together labourers and owners and the tripartite negotiations will come up with a new Labour Act,” he said. (April 20th, 2008).

On March 18, 2010, representatives of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Nepalese Chambers of Commerce had met PM ‘Prachanda’ and submitted a memorandum urging the government to address various issues related to industrial sector. In the meeting, ‘Prachanda’ reiterated to capitalists that the government was committed towards resolving problems being faced by the industrial sector of the country as the industrial sectors are backbones of the nation economy. He declared in categoric terms that the government was going to prohibit all kinds of strikes in industrial sector declaring the sector as bandh free zone.

Three weeks later, Maoist Minister Baburam Bhattrai repeated Prachanda's strike ban announcement: "The private sector would remain a key economic player in the country.The government knows the problems and is working to solve them. The government has been providing subsidies in fuel to industries from the second half of March.Furthermore, the government is planning to restrict bandhs and strikes in industries and essential commodities. Such regulations will come soon," Bhattari said. (Himalayan Times Online Apr 9 and 10 2009.

On April 7, 2014, the Essential Services Act was promulgated by Maoist Government that outlawed strikes in many core sectors of economy with penal provisions of fine and jail terms of 6 months and one year for striking and inciting to strike.

Before Maoists could implement the strike ban and oversee its implementation, they were thrown out of the power.

After their ouster from the power, Maoist leaders took a volte-face when the Trade Union of Petrol pump workers went on strike and they had to support it for political compulsions.

With Maoist leaders falling in line, the government seriously mulled the proposals to completely ban the strikes in April 2010.

Maoists argued that it was in the interests of the workers themselves to have their strikes banned through anti-strike penal laws promulgated by their savior Maoists. This obviously leads to absurdity: Workers being jailed for 'counter-revolutionary disruption of the socialist construction of Maoist bosses'.

Experience of Maoism in Nepal has demonstrated beyond doubt that Maoism is not an inheritor of socialism or an alternative to capitalism but just another way of capitalist organization of production and society. Outdation of classical forms of bourgeois democracies and capitalist management of societies, has led to many such deformed paths coming to fill the void as socialist revolutions get delayed. Maoism in no way ventures to end the class society but on the contrary, perpetuates it. Maoist project of development of capitalism is nothing but development of capitalist exploitation of working class. Maoism is not the road ‘leading to’ socialism but in fact the road ‘leading away’ from socialism.

Appeal of the Maoists to the workers that till capitalist development becomes ripe in Nepal, they must sheepishly remain bystanders and silent onlookers of the their exploitation, is absurd to the core. We must reject it instantly and mobilize the working class to lead the multimillion toilers behind them in a combined broad offensive against capitalism and its state power.

Maoists agree with their bourgeois counterparts that the socio-economic production relations of capitalism must not be abolished but preserved, intensified and broadened. They agree that the economic and political power of capitalists must be kept intact. Maoists take unto themselves the coolie service for bourgeoisie, i.e. to remove the thorns from their way, from the path of capitalist development. Lingering feudal roots, caste based social relations, imperialist pressure, bureaucratic controls and such relics of the past are according to them the chief hurdles in the path of development of capitalism which need be removed by communists.

To Maoists, thus, the task of the Marxists is not to prepare the working class for revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, but to assist the advance of capitalists against all odds. The task is thus not a revolution but the reform of society and the state in a radical way.

In follow-up to Mao’s proposition of a period of ‘new democracy’, the Maoists have deluded themselves in all countries alongside Nepal and have destroyed revolutions one after the other.

While figuring themselves as agent to change in Nepal on their illusive road to socialism, the Maoists in fact are real fetters on it and are thus doomed. Neither they can give political and economic stability to capitalist Nepal for their compulsion to bear a red flag over their shoulders, nor they can lead Nepal on the road to socialism for its impossibility in context of geo-politics and economics of South Asia. All of their hitherto attempts- to smother the working class and even imposition of SEZs and Anti-strike laws- have utterly failed to inspire the confidence among the foreign and domestic investors.

76% of the workforce of Nepal is employed in rural and agricultural sectors, 18% in service and 6% in Industrial, manufacturing and craft sector. 10% i.e. about three million work abroad. Carpet and garment industry has suffered huge setback in recent past.

In context of the backwardness of Nepal inside the over-ripened imperialist world, the illusive dream of catching up with the advanced countries only means hyper-exploitation of workers and peasants to fulfill capitalist aspirations based on super profiteering by capital and heavy public taxation by the state under them. Maoist program of ‘development of capitalism’, cannot be understood in any way other than capitalist exploitation in motion and consequent devastation of the working and toiling masses in Nepal.

Behind the economic policy of Maoists in Nepal, stands this project of development of capitalism in the country, which they deem as the necessary pre-condition and the first stage to development of socialism in Nepal. Based on this, they tell the working class to toil for capitalist profits today silently and without resistance. Development of capitalism, flip side of which is extreme exploitation of the working class, is the avowed goal of Maoists in Nepal like elsewhere.

Revolution in Nepal is part of the revolution in South Asia which in turn is part of the world socialist revolution. In its objective conditions, revolution is more developed in Nepal than elsewhere in Asia because of the abominable conditions of its toiling masses and the maturity of the contradictions inside its belly. The content of revolution in Nepal despite being primarily agrarian in nature, the revolution cannot fruition except as part of a socialist revolution in South Asia leading to establishment of proletarian dictatorship.

The merger of Nepali Stalinists and Maoists means nothing other than more resolute future march by them on the road to capitalism!

Working class in Nepal must not permit itself to be hoodwinked by the banners and demagogy of the torchbearers of capitalism in Nepal. It must take a decisive break from Maoists and must gear up to fight and defeat capitalism. 

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