I had a chat with Ben Peterson last night as we are Facebook friends. That’s his photo above. As stated at a Kasama article about Ben, he "traveled from Australia to Nepal to report directly about the revolutionary events there. He has made a special point of interviewing a wide range of people — to give a real sense of the impact of the Maoist revolution, and also the intense contradictions at this particular moment. Ben’s pieces will appear on Kasama’s South Asian Revolution site, and also on his own blog Lal Salam."
Ben told me "Well i was just an activist in Australia, and my first introduction to Nepal was the Jana Andolan, that propped up on the news for a couple of days when i was first getting active in politics. and i just started reading more and more, and basically came to the conclusion that this was something with amazing potential- which leftists should be paying more attention too"
In the article linked above we hear how Ben went to one of the “cantonments” — bases where the Peoples Liberation Army fighters are sequestered in accord to U.N. agreements.
So Ben is a vanguard element in this set. He’s a bright young guy with a very engaging writing style and method of investigation. As an old soldier, I look forward to meeting him in Nepal soon. So what am I writing about here. I am pretty sure it has to do with the need and desire for communists outside Nepal to exit their armchairs, or at least take indirect action in the Nepal arena. I liked Tell No Lies comment at the Kasama discussion where I think he got to the point:
"Actually, I think that we need a whole bunch of people to follow Peterson’s example. We need a whole layer of people with some genuine on the ground experience in Nepal to ground our discussions. We need to organize two-week delegations, encourage students to spend a semester or a summer studying what is happening there, and support individuals who are willing to relocate there on a more long-term basis. We need people who can write and go on speaking tours to inform people and build solidarity."
Well, let’s go for it. In the conversation with Ben there were a couple of key points. I expressed my desire to interview some leaders that may be accessible – particularly C.P Gajurel as he is the international relations guy. Ben is already on that track and may be seeing him within a couple of weeks. My idea is to get ready for that with some of the key questions being aired at Kasama by Mike Ely and others. Perhaps Ben is open to some leads in this direction. I am posting below what I see from the inquiry at Kasama.
The other key point has to do with establishing infrastructure. What I said to Ben is "I think to explore the infrastructural possibilities with you and others and possible assistance from Gajurel is best." Ben said: "When I talk to him, I have to talk to him about some other stuff, but I will bridge the idea with him also." What I have in mind should be presented transparently. I would hope for some support from the Maoist international relations department. Ben thinks it would be a way for foreign socialists etc. to coordinate solidarity efforts. I think they could provide volunteers, especially for translation and interpreting. Another key element would be a visa support system for expats. C.P. Gajurel is key as he heads the international department. It would be a labor of love but proceed as a mutual aid concept. To establish a base a matching funds method should be employed. I would put up a few thousand USD and maybe others would too and this could be a beginning for an international activist setting.
The following begins with my response to discussion at Ben’s site:
Yea, the PLA used the NA recruitment as a window to do the same, but the unanswered question is what’s the result to be if the fact is the PLA cannot match the NA in a showdown. Wouldn’t it then ultimately depend on the people refusing to accept an NA led coupe? If they don’t its defeat for the Maoists at that point. If on the other hand there ensues a peoples resurrection what are the chances for that succeeding – I am wondering about that essential question.
It seems therefore that if it is not possible to prepare the PLA to defeat the NA then the tactics of dismantling the NA would be the most promising way to avoid bloodshed. In short rather the reverse of the disarmament and reintegration of the PLA advocated by the internationals by applying DDR exclusively to the NA.
I think we must agree the new constitution will by default be the minimum program of the Maoists because of their endorsement by the people in the elections. So it seems hopeful that the NA could be controlled if the constitutional process is allowed. That’s it will the reactionaries allow it or is the coup coming. Then if the coup comes will there be a peoples resurrection.
If there is a resurrection would it be strong enough in combination with the PLA to defeat the NA? Even if it was, would that not then mean the reactionary forces would seek and obtain the assistance of the Indian Army? I am asking, I don’t know. It was Prachanda’s prognostication some time ago that ultimately the people of Nepal may have the fight the Indian army – he said this would offer an opportunity to capture a lot of weapons. Atheistic or not let’s all pray for the constitutional process.
The above was in response to Ben who is responding to Mike Ely:
"Well Mike i don’t necessarily agree with what your saying.
I think that you are underestimating the importance of the Constituent assembly and the process of creating the New Nepal.
At the moment the Maoists hold the political initiative. The new Contituent assembly came about because of the hard work and sacrifice of the Maoists, and this is recognized by the broad masses of people. All political players at the present moment are shackled to the Constituent Assembly and the New Nepal, and this includes the Maoists.
The assembly puts the Maoists at an advantage in two ways, firstly, it was their demand since the start of the peoples war, so now that all the parties took it up they have in effect endorsed the Maoists and the PW. Secondly, the Maoists won over a third in the elections, meaning that they have an effective veto over any part of the constitution. The New constitution will by default, be the minimum program of the Maoists.
So to say that that it is essential to bring the Army under the government is correct, because the Army would then be under the control of the Maoists.
And my discussions with people here confirm this. While there are a lot of Maoists, there are more people here on the streets, in my interactions, who don’t necessarily support the Maoists as such, due largely to the immense propaganda machine run by the elites, but there is enormous support for the constitution writing process and the "New Nepal", which is in effect a backwards endorsement of the Maoists
Now the PLA will of course play a role. The PLA will be the insurance to stop the situation from becoming another Chile (ect) and does provide a backbone to the Maoists and the process, but i don’t think that the PLA will play the decisive role in the "showdown" that i think (like you) is coming.
Firstly i don’t think that the Maoists can or would pull out of the processes that are happening to revert back to the PW. For one, they would have to give up the political high ground, and walk away from the "New Nepal" and the constituent assembly they have championed for years. This would then leave this space, and the political legitimacy, to the reactionary parties.
Further, that would then provide a open political window for foriegn intervention into Nepal from international forces, in the name of suppressing the Maoist threat that walked away from the peace process.
Finally The PLA even if they were to recruit double what they are doing now, would still be militarily inferior to the Nepali Army. They still don’t have helicopters and armourded cars or the training ect that the NA has. The PLA’s strength was (is) inits superior knowlegde of the land, the people and its political superiority. They wouldn’t be defeated by the NA, but it would require a qualitative increase in their capabilities to militarily defeat the Nepali Army.
But still, in essence, we are in agreement. I think that there will be a "showdown" of sorts, i think that it is obvious that there NEEDS to be a showdown.
The question is State Power, the Maoists have the political upperhand, and the "government, but as we can see from the failure to implement the budget and the episode with the Army, they do not have State Power.
I think that this question needs to be resolved and shorty, but i think that the form of this struggle will take will be similar to an uprising, and possibly as a result of a coup attempt (which would involve the opposition trying to unhinge themselves from the "New Nepal, which would expose them politically), and maybe similar to the Venezuelan Coup Attempt in 2001, which afterwood greatly freed the hands of the revolutionary forces there. Or’ maybe similar to the take over in Russia. I don’t think it will be on Chinese lines, with the PLA rolling into the cities.
Mike Ely’s comment referred to above by my and Ben’s reply:
This is a thoughtful and informative piece — but I think it somewhat mechanically takes the public statements of various kinds and assumes "this is what is happening, this is what their motives are."
We need to base our analysis on what is happening, not merely on what is said.
Is it true that the PLA was "forced" to recruit by others? I don’t believe that.
Isn’t it more of a case that the aggressive actions of the reactionary army gives the PLA the public space to do what it is wanting to do (prepare for a showdown)?
Isn’t it true that the expansion of the royalist army will enrage progressives and encourage more of them to join the PLA…. so that this is an opening and an opportunity?
this piece writes: "The peace process only can be brought to a logical conclusion when the two forces are integrated into a new, democratized national army, loyal only to the New Nepal."
I don’t think this is true at all. The peace process can be brought to a conclusion in many different ways. It may end in a royalist military coup. It may end with a maoist insurrection. I suppose it is possible that there may be an integration of the two armies, but it is certainly not the only conclusoin (and I’m not sure why it is considered a "logical" conclusion.)
This article says:
"Contrary to the opinion of the political opposition, the most pressing need in this matter is not to rehabilitate the PLA into the community, but (as this whole episode shows) firstly to bring the rogue army back under the control of the civilian government, and secondly dissolve both of these forces, and then reintegrate them into a New National Army for the New Nepal."
This is (again) what is being said. But is this true?
Is the most pressing need to "bring the rogue army back under the control of the civilian government"? Or is the most pressing need to expand and prepare the revolutionary armed forces to be able to defeat this reactionary army?
In fact the talk of recruiting to the PLA suggests that the Maoists are "sharpening their sword" — and while there is talk of pressing the peace process forward, there are clearly preparations for ending the stalemate by other means.
Why report on one aspect and downplay the other?
To give an example: Prachanda has announced that the PLA is no longer controled by the party. And the PLA has announced that their recruitment plans were not dependent on Prachanda’s views.
Do you believe that? I don’t. In fact, I don’t think anyone can or does believe that.
So we can’t repeat statements as if they were simply and literally intended at face value.
I also caught Mike Ely’s comment at Kasama where he out lines some important questions to ask – part of this below:
In fact, if you read the agreement signed in 2006, you can see that it explicitly allows the fighting forces to maintain (in operation) weapons for the guarding and defense of their encampments — which means that they also have the means for continued training and readiness.
Also the weapons themselve are “stored” — right near the fighters themselves reportedly under conditions where they can be gotten very easily. (They are “under lock,” have some outside observers and the camp commander has the key.)
Also it is worth thinking about this study that the fighters are engaged in….
The study can have several purposes: If they were going to be “reintegrated” into society, they would need education — because many of them can’t go home to their villages. If they are going to be “integrated” into a fused new army (together with the former-royalist army), they will need high levels of literacy to deal with the existing reactionary officer corps.
And if a new round of insurrection breaks out, study is needed to prepare an army of peasant guerrillas to lead a larger revolution and then create a new state.
Mao’s Yenan became a “university” for its soldiers in the 40s…. as the Maoist army was preparing for an opening to seize power.
Some reports have said that the study of the Maoist fighters includes a lot of political and military theory.
Also, it seems to stand out from this report that the Maoist army is hardly demoralized, indisciplined from the confinement to these bases.
I’m curious about some other questions:
* is there more to know about the content of their study?
* is this cantonment similar to others? Is there any way of knowing what the conditions and morale are at other bases?
* are the Maoist fighters able to go in and out of these cantonments?
* do they do political work among the surrounding areas? (I have heard this was a big issue in the Terai, where the cantonments became centers for organizing previously unreached peasants…. is this true?)