Here is another article from Peter Tobin, this time on the situation in Nepal. As of now, the PLA has been integrated into the Nepalese Army, so the article is moot, as it was written over the summer before this happened. Nevertheless, it gives you a good view of what is happening on the ground in Nepal. As I mentioned before, Peter is real Communist, and his articles at the least give you a chance to see things from a Communist point of view.
The groups that I read on the Net are all screaming that the integration of the PLA into the Nepalese Army was a “betrayal.” I am not sure it was, and I generally support integration of rebel armies into the main national army as part of a peace agreement.
Balance of Military Forces in Nepal – in Relation to PLA Integration into the NA
Before reporting on arguments around the integration into NA, (as per terms of 2005 CPA) of approximately 20,000 PLA cadre, it is necessary to understand the overwhelming logistical and numerical apparent superiority of the military available to the reactionary parties through the state apparatus.
The Nepalese Army has 95,000 active personal. It has been well-armed by India, US, UK, Russia and Israel. Its officer caste is trained in India, the US and the UK, and its high command is profoundly anti-Maobaadi (viz the 2008 coup against the Prachanda-led coalition).
Last year the PM of Nepal – the unelected UML, GS, and Delhi’s placeman after Prachanda - threatened to unleash the forces at his disposal against any “Maoist attempt to seize state power” during the May manifestations. There is no doubt that the NA general staff would have complied.
It receives $1.7 billion from US though the EMET program which is jointly funded by Defense/State Departments, and funneled through the euphemistically titled: EIPC (Enhanced International Peacekeeping Capabilities).
Further military networking and synching occurs through OCD (Office for Defense Co-operation) convened under CINCPAC (US Commander-in Chief – Pacific).
The OCD office is in the American Embassy - I have tried to take a picture of this Reich Protector’s bunker – it is architecturally the projection of ugly American power, and I wanted to attach it to my comments, but was taken in by Nepalese embassy police – jointly controlled by the Americans, and questioned for an hour, photos copied and then deleted, mobile phone numbers taken and personal details and photo taken.
I was told it was against the law, but was shown no proof, was read no rights, and was not offered legal representation. (I tried to tell them of my construction background, and how, aesthetically, I was interested in grotesque, fascist-brutalist architecture, but to little effect).
Initially, this growing post 9/11 relationship with the US compromised Nepal’s ‘traditional’ neo-colonial subservience to India, but as each share an equal detestation and fear of Maoism, and so, along with the Nepalese quislings form a unholy triumvirate, in opposition, by fair means or foul, to Maoist advance.
Add to the NA figures another 40,000 heavily armed paramilitaries - ’Armed Police Force’ and potentially, the reactionary static classes have access to approximately 150,000 active military/para-military personal – equipped with new and well-tried weaponry – a huge superiority of man-, and fire-power, over about 20,000 PLA fighters.
It is almost certain that there is a contingency plan in Washington and Delhi, should all means and stratagems fail, of imposing a Chilean-style solution in the event of Maoists taking state power through a People’s revolt.
Right now Kathmandu has the formal appearance of a city under a military dictatorship; it is an armed camp, soldiers or paras, bristling with guns, are either on every street corner, patrolling, or charging about in personnel carriers. Every government, or significant, building is guarded and fortified.
There are dozens of military barracks – large and small – scattered throughout Kathmandu – like chocolate chips in a cookie, and holding thousands of soldiers and police.
After obviously noting the traditional Lee Enfield, Sterling, and AK 47s, I can now spot Heckler-Kochs, Galils, and Insas; Katmandu must be one of the most heavily military infested cities in the world, with troops, paras, primed, preened, and ubiquitous.
Many among NA ranks have combat experience, not just against the PLA from 1996 to 2005, but as UN ‘peacekeepers’ and US mercenaries in Iraq and Somalia. Sending a further contingent to NATO-occupied Afghanistan is now being given strong government consideration. The High Command is in favor, as it develops their policy of building a flat up Washington’s ass.
All these forces fall under the remit of the NDC (National Defense Counsel), which the principal members are the PM, the Home Minister and the CoS. Its recommendations go to the President – who has replaced the King – since 2008 as the ultimate Commander.
(That’s ‘democracy’ folks – replacing the rule of one man and his advisers by another man and his. It was, in fact, a functional and symbolic a change of class power, the feudal succumbing to the Bhradralok dressed up in the forms of democracy, and the latter, for the second time since 1990, both riding on, and betraying, the Peoples’ revolutions of 1990 and 2006).
All this looks bleak on paper - so needs to be heavily qualified: The NA is not completely homogenous, demographically Nepal is a young country, youth unemployment is high, in the cities and countryside; the army is therefore an attractive magnet.
They held a recruitment rally in one of gardens in Tudikhel Park near city-center, and thousands turned up last Friday.
Many of recruits are, like their peer group, naive, friendly, and curious. (I get asked the same question by bored sentries, as I do everywhere: ‘kun desh aaunuhuncha? kina Nepalma basnuhuncha? – “Where from? Why Nepal?” etc. Always in the polite form.)
It reflects the diversity of communities and ethnic groups in Nepal, and the question of whether it would follow a bloodthirsty, anti-Maoist, officer caste through whatever gates of hell they might choose to open up, is moot; tragically, dozens were shot by the RNA and AP, during both Andolans, but it could have been much higher.
One of the reasons CoS, Thapa, ran to the King after 19 days of popular, determined agitation to tell him the war was lost, was said to be significant rank-and-file revulsion at what killings had occurred and definite reluctance to be active butchers in further killings of their own people.
In the short-term they might well participate in a ‘crackdown’ or, indeed, a coup. But whether they are capable of the sustained murderous sadism that all ranks showed following Kissinger’s 1972 coup in the CIA trained Chilean army is doubtful.
Uncertainty regarding the unswerving loyalty of the NA’s lower ranks is one reason its officer caste, through the high command, have prevaricated over integrating committed PLA cadre into its ranks. The fear of ‘Bolshevik’ contagion spreading among the NA rank-and-file is great.
It is worth noting that UPCN(M) Politburo member CP Gajurel was quoted as saying to the effect that the paramilitary Armed Police Force was a greater threat than the NA.
But the biggest reason not to over-awed by the raw statistics is this was the same military machine that, despite complying with the axiom of warfare that requires those attacking a fortified, or entrenched position to possess, no less than a 3 to 1 majority over a defender, could not defeat, or even out-maneuver, the PLA, for the best of a decade. Despite $20 billion US aid, swelling its ranks from 50,000 to 70,000, in the few years following 2002, it signally failed to defeat or roll-back the Mobaadi.
To the contrary, it was pushed out of more and more of the countryside and into its city strongholds, where the Maoists now faced the attacker’s dilemma. A few attempts, around 2002, to break into Katmandu had been costly and easily repulsed – to send the PLA in frontally, or even to try insert them into urban areas, would have been military suicide.
This stalemate led the Maoists to adapt the PPW and move from an armed phase to a political one, by making a tactical alliance with reactionary parties against the, by now, common monarchical enemy, in order first to overthrow feudalism, and second, equally important, to gain access to the urban masses and bring them into the revolution.
The balance of forces is exactly the same today as it was in 2006, except that the PLA – still in brigade structure and still with access to weapons – is relocated in cantonments as per the CPA, and it underlines the importance of the PLA to the Party and the People.It is
why the UCPN(M) has consistently refused the demands of the political/military reactionaries; to dilute, dismantle or disarm this crucial armed section of the proletariat.
It should also be noted that the bare figures of declared PLA combatants are far less than the numbers of committed, experienced warriors. The PLA is the beating heart of a strong cardiovascular system. The people were, and remain, the blood that flows through its ventricles.
PLA/NA Integration – No Middle Way
The apparent decision by the Dahal/Bhatterai axis to change party policy on integration and a new constitution by going in step and agreeing in ‘modalities’ to integration first, has further alarmed the axis around Baidya/Gajurel.
The ‘Dual Step’ policy has always been a practical proposition, that, as in the last analysis - political power comes out of the barrel of a gun, and that if the PLA disarmed before a new constitution was agreed to, the Bhadralok/quislings classes, then with absolute monopoly of violence through the state’s repressive apparatus, would force through governmental arrangements to continue the Katmandu centralized ancien regime, with superficial concessions to ‘democratic’ forms and furbelows.
There was also concern that decisions were being made by party leaders contrary to party policy and outside party structures. This was apparent over ending the ‘dual security’ arrangements for the UCPN(M) leadership, where 200 PLA cadre gave them round-the-clock protection. The security personnel guarding the Baidya group are still refusing to hand over their weapons.
It was reported that this was part of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ – a 5 point plan, to extend the CA for 3 months and conclude the peace process simultaneously with a new statute, was reached party leaders of CPN-UML, NC and UCPN(M) on May 28th.
The Baidya group claimed this was a further violation of party norms and should have been put before the Central Committee, and many of PLA combatants were reported to have been shocked by the precipitate nature of the decision and rued the “humiliation” of being dispatched, with their weapons, back to their cantonments.
The press photo of the first batch to go on May 6 (Katmandu Post) taken at Dahal’s residence, shows a solemn farewell, with Dahal looking impassive in the centre of what best can be described as a stone-faced group.
The five-point deal has widened the fissure within the Party, the standing-down of the security unit is its latest crack. The Baidya/Gajurel have specifically rejected the DDR proposals, cited above, and fear that the Dahal/Bhatterai leadership are making too many compromises, that amount to a ‘surrender’ of the PLA’s moral and military integrity, to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘reformism’ and ‘parliamentary cretinism.’
Therefore, the NA suggestion that 10,000, approximately, PLA combatants be subsumed in a new unit, which they would form 50%, the other shared between NA, APC and Nepal Police. This would be under NA officer command. There are further suggestions that it could be unarmed, either as a forest guard, or assigned to the currently fashionable, and expanding, area of ‘disaster management.’
Regarding the latter; there was huge meeting of top military and civil officers of the “Nepal-US Military Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Table Top Exercise” (Phew!), where top brass from the NA and US Marines plus some politicos and the usual NGO stooges, were present. But, ‘Marines’ – ‘humanitarian’ – even Pentagon PR (oxy)morons can’t get traction from such an unlikely combination.)
The 5 PP rejectionists have argued for maintaining the PLA as a single cohesive armed force, suggesting they be assigned as border security, as there is none at present, while Indian maintains an active border force that encroaches into Nepal when it chooses, with impunity and without challenge.
National self-respect and territorial integrity demand no less, and with the PLA: ‘cometh the hour – cometh the man’.
However, the press-labeled soi dissant ‘hardliners’ have said, following the rejection of the above Maoist proposal, that they might consider the NA one, if, and only if, it is under PLA command, Otherwise, the PLA’s identity would be compromised, as this was their sole presence in the armed forces, whereas the others would retain theirs, due to their presence throughout the security apparatus.
Another reason for seeing positive aspects to the NA proposal is that the NA have abandoned the completely unacceptable proposal for individual integration under NA aegis and now recognize the PLA is a force and can be integrated as such (albeit they might have just moved from dissolving it completely and will try to disarm it completely.)
As Party secretary Gajurel has acknowledged, it is a “positive development,” especially set against the UML quisling hoodlum faction around Oli and the Nepal NC and NA officer caste, who have always claimed it was a private army, therefore, could not be integrated.
But there is a strong feeling that if Dahal agrees to NA command of an integrated PLA force, whatever its shape, it will not ensure a stable peace.
This concern is shared in PLA ranks. At a meeting between the commanders and Party leaders, they stated their united opposition to surrendering their weaponry, presently in containers located in the seven cantonments, and demanded the weapons be put back in the ‘process of integration.’ They further insisted on adhering to Party policy on unit/brigade integration and not on individual selection. They also raised the question of a ceiling on PLA cadre promotion and the related command structure of the proposed unit.
On the numbers of 10,000 PLA combatants, there is broad consensus – the exception being the opportunist Madhesi MJF-L, which calls for only 6,000 to be in the process - with the remaining 9,600 getting rehabilitation packages, funded by the peace-loving, conflict-resolving USA and the EU.
Political points were made to the effect that, as the active division commander of 5th Rolpa said, “They fought for the revolution, not for the sake of the leaders.”
They further expressed concern at vacillations in the party line, and wanted to know if they were for peace and constitution or for people’s revolt, which had been put on hold.
But in fact there is a division in the ranks, with most of the commanders close to the Dahal camp, while the majority of lower rung commanders and rank and file are close to the Baidya faction.
So when the latter said that Dahal was preparing to sacrifice the PLA to continue the ‘march through the corridors’; there was a strong rebuttal from the PLA’s deputy commander Sharma, who stressed that the Dahal/Bhatterai faction was equally worried about the PLA’s combatants future. He was reported as saying, “We formed the PLA. I am one of its deputy commanders. So, we love our party’s army more than Kiranji (Baidya)”.
Yet there is still general concern, across the PLA that the leadership have not given convincing counter-arguments against the allegations of the Baidya group. This is focused on the central role played by its charismatic, pressured Chairman.
Up to the Palungtar plenum late last year, the Party had sanctioned a ‘two-line struggle’ between what first appeared to be a tactical difference regarding whether to seize state power through a third Andolan sooner or later. This hardened into a more fundamental division between continuing the revolution or consolidating its gains, hitherto, through an ‘historic compromise.’ A third position emerged around Dahal which appeared to be a perfectly laudable attempt to finesse a compromise position between the two factions.
It did not prove possible, so when Dahal sided with the Baidya camp at the plenum, calling for preparation for an uprising, Bhatterai put in a dissenting note. Since then the Dahal leadership did little practical preparation to enforce this decision, and has in fact now formally declared it to be ‘impractical, in the present circumstances.’ In the last month it has been buried with Dahal’s decisive move towards the Bhatterai position for peace and as new constitution.
Arriving at a consensus has always been a difficult, but it is an essential feature of the Maoists’ political endeavors in Nepal.
While the bourgeois press and the hireling petit bourgeois ‘commentariat’ for obvious reasons are always screaming about ‘splits’, the Party has never conferred that much importance on them.
Internal arguments, struggles, divisions are intrinsic, and distinctive, among adherents of Mao’s political philosophy; thus the conflict between the Bhatterai-Baidya factions is seen a ’unity of opposites,’ where each position encapsulates a different visionary approach, and that far from being a potential party-breaker, these are just different routes to a remaining common goal.
The weakness in this argument could be said to Dahal’s position, which is more of being a political fixer than ‘visionary,’ and where he is forced to be ‘all things to all men.’ Facing threatening, unbending, incorrigible static forces, principally embodied by NC and UML (that’s Unified Marxist-Leninists – you have to pinch yourself sometimes, when confronting such blatantly contradictory nomenclature), backed and paid by India and US, he has reacted by palming them off, buying time, and trying to hold an increasingly factious party together.
This had led to charges of ‘opportunism,’ ’revisionism’ and ‘reformism’ from the so-called ‘hardliners’, there is also suspicion that Dahal is being groomed as a ‘Statesmen’, with reactionaries describing him as an architect of the peace process, along with the late, unlamented, GP Koirala!
It should be noted that the ‘march through the corridors’ has not been completely unproductive, as Maoists have recently ensured that their nominee, Mahara, got the crucial post of Home Secretary, and the cops, reactionary parties, and the lackey media are still screaming about it.
Conclusion (For Now)
The present aim is to conclude the outstanding differences between the parties in the CA within the 3 month extension, not just in terms of PLA/NA integration, but the constitution – will it be a People’s Federal Democracy, as the UCPN(M) want, or just another western-style parliamentary charade?
These, the positions of the 300,000 strong formidable YCL, the return of property expropriated during the armed phase of PPW, the termination of the process of Maoist combatants being hounded for alleged ‘Human Rights’ violations, are all among 70 or so issues to be resolved.
The Party factions have further agreed to work together to prevent a split, by allowing open discussion and dissent with their ranks and agreeing to convene a party congress – the first for eighteen years - later this year, to hammer out a unified position.
On the bright side, the party, in both the country, the CA and the government, has declared its total unity against allowing an Indian multinational, GMR, to run the Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, declaring it an ‘anti-national move’ and saying the party is ‘prepared to shed blood’ in resisting it if the government sends in the NA to guard the site. It is seen as a continuation of India stealing Nepal’s vital water resources through unequal treaties and economic domination.
The government, for its part, is determined to see GMR run the project and have stated they will put in the NA to protect the site.
Thus there is the possibility of a flashpoint, as the Maoists, and indeed many non-communist patriotic Nepalese, are not prepared to see another repeat of the 1996 scandal of the Mahakali Project (brilliantly documented and exposed by Dr. Bhatterai), where the UML-led government gave way completely to Indian interests, with the hoodlum faction around Oli lining its pockets.
Regarding the present outstanding differences, the position is that Chairman Dahal is preparing a ‘bottom line’ on NA/PLA integration and an acceptable constitution.
Whatever consensual talks UCPN(M) leaders enter into with the reactionary parties; UML, NC etc., these parties are unlikely to change their stance on these issues.
The Baidya group want Dahal to ‘correct’ his mistake of accepting the NA’s proposal of setting up a separate force of the PLA, whereas he counters that he only agreed to the ‘spirit of the suggestion’ and not to the modalities. He has therefore said that should be bulk integration and that Maoists should command its directorate.
The Baidya and Bhatterai factions, indeed the whole Party and PLA, want to maintain this position.
The NC, predictably, has rejected both bulk integration and Maoist command, and has also refused, along with Oli the UML hoodlum dadagiri (boss), to give it a military mandate, as required by the Maoists.
The UCPN(M) is also proposing that the new constitution should be “anti-expansionist and anti-imperialist” and should guarantee the rights of the marginalized, the Dalits and the oppressed Janjatis, and should be a Federal People’s Democracy.
PS. I would like to thank Comrades Guarev and Kanchan, and latterly some of the Lazimpath (Katmandu suburb where I live) comrades for their information and opinions in compiling the above. I have also extracted information from the bourgeois English language press.