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Communist leader: ‘We will construct a new Nepal’

Published Oct 4, 2008 7:27 AM

Prachanda, the new prime minister of Nepal and chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), spoke to a meeting of progressives here on Sept. 25. He was visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly opening.

From left to right, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Nepali Prime Minister Prachanda, Sara Flounders of the International Action Center and LeiLani Dowell of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together
WW photo: John Catalinotto

Comrade Prachanda (born Pushpa Kamal Dahal) led the 10-year people’s war that ousted Nepal’s monarchy and old parliamentary system. The CPN(M) came in first in Constituent Assembly elections held earlier this year with 37 percent of the vote.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and the International Action Center hosted the by-invitation event, which was attended by a broad representation of progressive forces in New York. The program was co-chaired by Sara Flounders of the IAC and LeiLani Dowell of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST).

In her opening remarks, Flounders emphasized the importance of the people’s war in opening up avenues for real democratic and social change in Nepal by going outside the corrupt structure of the parliament and refusing to accommodate the monarchy. This has helped not only to displace the royalty, but to lay the basis for a Constituent Assembly to create new democratic structures and rewrite Nepal’s constitution. Flounders said this was a powerful example of how the struggle of poor and working people, coming from the grassroots, was the fundamental condition for social change.

Ramsey Clark introduced Prime Minister Prachanda, whose name translates as “the fierce one.” Prachanda’s ferocity, said Clark, is for social, political and economic justice for his people.

Standing ovation greets Prachanda

Prime Minister Prachanda was greeted with a standing ovation and raised fists. He spoke to the gathering in English and afterwards answered questions from the audience.

Comrade Prachanda explained that the CPN(M) has tried to understand the lessons of the international communist movement, of the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th century. He briefly reviewed the history of the people’s war, which began in 1996 after the monarchy’s violent repression of mass demonstrations in both the capital city, Katmandu, and in rural areas where the CPN(M) was strong. Prachanda said that his party worked to explain to the people that it was not opposed to peaceful change, but that all avenues had been closed and armed struggle was necessary.

After five years of civil war, the CPN(M) embarked on a serious internal discussion of the lessons of previous revolutions, including the 1917 socialist revolution in Russia. At this time the party adopted the idea that a multiparty system and political competition should exist even under socialism.

They determined that this is what Lenin would have done had he lived another five or 10 years, in the process of trying to build the basis for a socialist economic system in Russia. Lenin would not have followed the same path as Stalin, who made “serious mistakes in his understanding of philosophy and dialectical materialism,” according to Prachanda.

Following this internal discussion, the CPN(M) initiated negotiations with the Nepali government. However, the talks failed because the government rejected the minimum condition of a constituent assembly.

The democratic revolution must be completed to carry through the socialist revolution, Prachanda said. He explained that through its stupidity and intransigence, the monarchy played a very important part in how the revolution developed. The result was an understanding between those carrying out people’s war and other parties involved in the mass struggle.

Bourgeois democratic and people’s movements fought side by side, including armed struggle in the countryside. This culminated in 19 days of mass actions that brought about the beginning of the end for the monarchy in 2006.

Prachanda commented on the “confusion of some people” when the Maoists became the leading party in Nepal. He said the CPN(M)-led government’s mandate consists of three tasks: 1) drafting a new constitution; 2) carrying through the peace process, termed the “rehabilitation and integration” of the Nepali armed forces; and 3) initiating new economic development.

When he visited China for the closing of the Olympic Games, Prachanda explained, he tried to convey that “we are making a big experiment—not only for Nepal, not only for South Asia, but for the people of the world. We communists are more flexible and dynamic. We try to develop our ideology according to new conditions. We understand the dynamic of change.”

Just three years ago, Prachanda said, he was labeled a terrorist by the U.S. and had a price on his head of 55 million rupees (about $1.2 million). The CPN(M) is still on the U.S. “terrorism watch list,” even though he is now representing Nepal at the General Assembly. Prachanda joked about the leaders of the U.S. being the ones who are truly “sectarian and dogmatic,” not the communists. He thanked the audience for the opportunity to address the “socialists of the USA.”

Prime Minister Prachanda briefly answered questions from the audience. Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN USA asked about the future of the peasantry and land reform in Nepal. Prachanda responded that this was a key question facing the coalition government, which is undertaking the study of “a scientific land reform.”

A Venezuelan representative asked about the role of the Nepali army and the dangers they might present to the revolutionary process. Prachanda replied to this “very serious question” that Nepal was developing “our own model for rehabilitation and reintegration” different from the one espoused by the U.N. One of his first tasks upon returning from the U.N. General Assembly will be the formation of a special cabinet-level committee to oversee this process.

Comrade Shahid of the Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum asked about the role of youth in Nepal. Prachanda explained that Nepal has a very high percentage of youth compared to most countries so this has great significance. He said youth are being mobilized under the popular slogan to “Construct a New Nepal.”

Ardeshir Ommani of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee asked about the role of the united front. Prachanda said that previously there was a united front of seven anti-royalist parties. Since the big developments that took place between 2006 and 2008, the front has changed and is now represented by the current governing coalition, which includes the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and others. He predicted that the front will go through even more changes with the drafting of a new constitution. Prachanda added, “We want to have a front even with the Nepali Congress Party” against foreign intervention, although it is outside the government.

An audience member asked about Nepal’s economic future, given the country’s past reliance on tourism. Prachanda stated that the 21st century has been called the “century of water resources” and Nepal has huge water resources. His goal is to develop hydro projects at small, medium and large levels. “Through these water resources we will have an economic revolution.” He said there could also be a qualitative development in the tourism industry, as his country is very beautiful and is “the roof of the world” with Mt. Everest.

Monica Moorehead of Workers World Party asked about the role of women in the revolutionary process. Prachanda explained that the Maoists have always given the highest priority to integration of women at all levels of the struggle. He said he was proud to point out that 33 percent of the elected representatives of the Constituent Assembly are women, a higher percentage than in most “democratic” countries. Other parties have been forced to give opportunities to women because of the CPN(M)’s example.

Deirdre Griswold of Workers World Party and newspaper asked whether the Maoists’ experiences with land reform carried out in liberated areas of the countryside during the people’s war could now be applied on a nationwide level.

Comrade Prachanda termed this a “delicate question.” During the civil war there were liberated base areas in much of the country. Now, however, he said, “We had to make some compromises with other political parties” and this is the basis of the “scientific land reform” process. He compared this to China’s struggle against Japanese imperialism, when Mao had to make compromises with Chiang Kai-shek in the interests of the anti-colonial struggle.

Prime Minister Prachanda concluded by noting the he would address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 26, “where we will put forward Nepal’s struggle as an example for the world.” Smiling, he predicted that would “generate some controversy.”

Besides those mentioned above, representatives of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Nodutdol, the Bolivarian Circle, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), May 1st Coalition for Immigrant Rights, New York Free Mumia Coalition, Palestinian and Puerto Rican organizations, and others attended. The Venezuelan and Algerian U.N. delegations also sent representatives.