Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Nepal: 'We are trying our best to understand democracy'

Prachanda, which means "awesome" or "the fierce one", came out of the jungle two years ago, but his journey from insurgent commander to mainstream politician is far from complete. As if to emphasise his distance from the Kathmandu political establishment, which he calls "feudal", he lives in a run-down area of the city, close to a rubbish-strewn canal. His house, with sandbagged emplacements at each corner, is guarded by unsmiling male and female cadres in camouflage fatigues and caps with a red star on the peak.

The presence of these guerrillas in the heart of the capital is chilling for Kathmandu's people. If they were able to shut out thoughts of the Maoists' 10-year rural rebellion, in which more than 13,000 people died, they cannot do so any longer. One of the most difficult issues in the new Nepal – with which Britain may be asked to help – is how to integrate more than 23,000 Maoist fighters into an army whose generals refuse to have anything to do with them.

"We are trying our best to understand democracy," he says. "Even in socialism, multi-party competition is a must. I derive this conclusion from Comrade Lenin. Just before he died, he introduced a bourgeois economic policy. If he had lived another five years, Lenin would have introduced multi-party competition." Even more heretically, he insists that the author of Soviet Communism "made many mistakes". As for the Shining Path, its way was "too one-sided – it could not mobilise the masses".

In 1996 the bloody Nepalese civil war began, sparking fighting that went on for 10 years which was believed to have killed at least 13,000 people. The Maoist rebels' multiple demands included land redistribution, equal rights for women and a communist republic.

Based in Nepal's mountains and jungles, the rebel army included both female soldiers as well as children, for which they were condemned in 2005 by the EU. A peace deal was brokered in 2006, with the rebels' arms monitored by the UN, and Prachanda declared that it marked "the end of the 238-year-old feudal system".

Despite the rebels' admiration for Chairman Mao, the Chinese Communist Party had shunned the revolution, choosing to arm the Royal Nepalese Army. Chinese officials are now more eager to forge ties with the Maoists and Prachanda has praised China's pragmatic approach to capitalism.

The Maoists have to convince non-supporters that they have transformed from guerrilla fighters into a working, democratic party. They remain on the US list of terrorist organisations.

Their youth wing, the Young Communist League, has been blamed for abduction and torture. Around 19,000 ex-rebels still live in UN-monitored camps created by Nepal's 2006 peace deal. The Maoists want them to become part of the Nepal army but the its chief disagrees.

This is what they call a bloodless revolution? Only 13,000 dead?

And why is it that all the news sites keep carefully ignoring what every single communist regime has turned out to be in the past, however nice the noises they made at the start?

Hat tip: World of Royalty.

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