Archive for December 3, 2010

A new peasant revolution – is China learning from its past?

By Thu-Trang Tran

“Every dynasty in China’s imperial history was destroyed by discontented peasants and drifters”

Tuesday 16 May marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Cultural Revolution. Forty years since China has emerged the world’s fourth largest economy and is predicted to be the world’s largest economy in 20 years.

Although the Chinese government may not wish to confront nor discuss the social unrest and violence of the Cultural Revolution, it seems the government is wary of history repeating itself. The government is concerned about the simmering social tension resulting from the widening wealth gap as the giant economy powers its way to the top spot. Over the years, the discontent of the farmers and migrant workers has started to manifest. In response the Chinese government recently launched a campaign to build a ‘new Socialist countryside’ with the aim of eliminating social inequality a key priority for the coming five years.

The class struggle continues…
China’s economy has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year for at least the past decade. The impressive pace of growth can easily be seen in the explosion of mega-metropolises the likes of Shanghai and Guangdong. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report projected that China will grow so fast that it could outstrip all developed nations by 2050 (based on purchasing power parity).

However, the fruits of such new market pragmatism have not been delivered to the rural population. In 2005, the per capita net income of Chinese farmers rose by 6.2 percent to 3,255 yuan (US$405), while the disposable income of urban dwellers rose by 9.6 percent to 10,493 yuan (US$1,304), 3.22 times over their rural counterparts. Furthermore, according to the China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the richest 10% of the country’s urban population control 45% of urban assets while the poorest 10% hold only 1.4%.

Another peasant uprising?
The 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution is a timely reminder of the possible violence and brutality that can descend upon a nation when the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ reaches its tipping point.

Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in response to the increasing capitalist trend and class struggle believing the Cultural Revolution would ultimately create a new society without gap between urban and rural regions. The result? The bourgeoisie were overthrown, millions forced into manual labour, tens of thousands executed, and the wealth gap continued to widen to date.

In China’s new economic revolution, there is no cult of Mao. However, class struggles remain and parallels may be drawn. The 21st century capitalists are the old bourgeoisie and intellectuals of the Cultural Revolution; corrupt Party officials are the old party enemies of Mao; and the farmers and workers are the old student Red Guards. If 800 million rural dwellers – that is 70% of the population – continue to be left out of the economic boom, then one can expect the worse unless actions are taken to temper their discontent.

In the last decade, two developments have exacerbated the tension between the city and the countryside: the urban shift and land grabs.

Impoverished rural dwellers are flocking to the country’s eastern cities seeking opportunities. Unfortunately, due to the hukou system of household registration (‘a system akin to South Africa’s apartheid’), rural dwellers are treated as second class citizens. Compared to their urban counterparts, they are deprived of the benefits of housing and schooling for their children and struggle to find employment, compounding the urban unemployment problem. Furthermore, the mass migration of abled-bodies to the cities means that there is lack of potential for productive growth in the rural region due to fewer workers being available.

The rural dwellers are also losing their precious farmland to corrupt officials and urban developers. Although such land is communally owned, for farmers, the land is a means of making their living. Farmers all over China now see ‘their’ land taken away, bought by developers from corrupt local government officers. Land on the outer-edge of the cities are then converted to McMansions or factories that earn millions for the developers and entrepreneurs. The money however, does not reach the hands of the farmers.

Unable to reap the rewards of economic growth that their privileged urban peers have reaped, and angered by the land grabs by officials, farmers are staging protests around the country and demanding government attention. In January 2006, the Ministry of Public Security announced that there were 87,000 such incidents in 2005, a 6.6 percent increase over the previous year. For example, in June last year, in the village of Dingzhou, local residents clashed violently with security officers over the local government’s seizure of land for a power plant and low compensation paid to residents.

It appears the government is taking heed of the social discontent and is responding with policy actions to relieve the social tensions.

One of the goals in China’s 11th five-year plan is to build a ‘new Socialist countryside’. The aim is to promote coordinated urban and rural development, to promote agricultural productivity, to deepen rural reform, to develop rural public services and to increase farmers’ income.

One recent policy announcement in favour of the rural dwellers is the proposed abolition of the hukou system in 11 of China’s 23 provinces, mainly along the developed eastern coast. The aim is to encourage a new influx of labour from poorer western regions and to stabilize the protests. However, there are concerns that such reform will strain the local cities’ resources and municipal governments may object the proposed change on such grounds.

Furthermore, as of March this year, the government has made plans to increase spending on rural health care and schools. The government aims to spend 4 percent of GDP on education (up from 2.7 percent) with the aim of improving rural schooling. Other measures include cutting basic agricultural taxes and increasing farm subsidies to support the farmers and close income disparity. In relation to land requisitions, Premier Wen Jiabao suggested more efforts would be made to protect farmers.

If one remembers that every dynasty in China’s imperial history was destroyed by discontented peasants and drifters, the threat of a ‘peasant uprising’ posed by the ever-widening wealth gap between urbanites and rural-dwellers is a real one and should not be underestimated. Therefore, any policies formalised at the National People’s Congress (China’s parliament) in March need to make real inroads in elevating the rural dwellers out of poverty and not be mere token policies.

Further readings:
BBC – Chinese communist revolution
Time Asia – The next cultural revolution
Voice of America – Rural revolt – growing unrest in China
Seeds of Revolt in Rural China: ‘Farmers’ Heroes’ give a voice to besieged taxpayers, By John Pomfret, The Washington Post, Tuesday 8 May 2001; Page A01
Transformation of rural China – by Jonathan Unger
Villagers and popular resistance in contemporary China – Lian Jiang Li & Kevin J. O’Brien

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December 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm

What percentage of students from Nepal who go abroad for their studies return back?

I have delved on this question for quite some time now. I would guess at most 5-10%. This is a pretty random guess. But it’s an upper bound and shouldn’t be more than that in my view.

I came from Nepal to the US quite some time ago. I had not intended to come to the US for my studies. I came because of peer-pressure, and because of the lack of having anything substantial back home. When I had been rejected by most of my top choice colleges, I had felt like crying. When I finally got into one of the colleges of my choice, tears rolled down my eyes- so desperate I was to leave, to come to the US.

When I came here my plan was to return back as soon as I graduated. With time, I have realized that it is not a sensible thing to do. I get a year to do OPT here – get some work experience and make some good money (perhaps if I get a good job). I now want to use that option. Then I realize that I cannot possibly go to a graduate school in Nepal – what would be the use of my rigorous education here if I were to return to Nepal for my highest degree? I want to stay here for graduate school.

This makes me wonder about how many people who come here with a determination to return as soon as they graduate fare when they actually graduate. There are always those who leave Nepal and know that they have no plans to return permanently. I’m taking the case of those who want to initially. What are the reasons they choose to stay here? IS it the society back home? I get this fear at times – if I were to return without achieving something substantial – how would the society view me? I know – FAILURE. That is how our society has been used to thinking about people who go abroad. You return – and it’s mostly because you weren’t able to stay abroad. Why would you come back to a place – from where everyone is trying to flee? (Excuse my use of “everyone” here – pretty close to everyone, nonetheless, I think)

I would like to delve deeper into this sometime in the near future. I would love to hear what you have to say, so please comment!

December 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Why Social Democracy in Nepal Now?

There is, among the political actors in Nepal, i.e. leaders of political parties, leaders of the multitude of ‘sister organization’ of political parties and many other active political-party sympathizers, a huge and dangerous problem of comprehending history and historical process. Indeed, this problem has shaped and colored, to various degrees, the political thinking of most politically-inclined citizens and voters. It is the very narrow present, the immediate, the most concrete, and the most local that occupy their attention. As such, they often miss the opportunity to seize the specificity of a historical moment or an entire flow of historical sequences. Or else, and obversely, they also often miss seizing the specificity of a historical moment because they are given to sweepingly large-scale and long-term ideological and political-economic generalizations. An emphasis on the long term and the large scale, of course, is good by itself. But over-generalized historical and spatial interpretation–and political programming-misses the specificity of the present historical moment. In either case, there is a huge chance that the actors miss acting upon a specific and historically structured world, regional and ‘local’ state system. Both over-concretization and over-generalization whether in terms of history or space or peoples or whatever, leads to an ahistorical conception of the present which, in turn, contributes to unwarranted world view and political programming.

This, of course, is not merely a problem that uniquely afflicts political leaders and activists in Nepal. This problem has had many global, regional and local editions. As we can see, the fundamentalist-Islamization in Pakistan, which began right after 1947 and which, in fact, was ‘seeded’ in the 1930s, is a glaring regional instance. On the other hand, there have been spectacularly successful instances of seizing history in all its specificity and linking it continuously-up to a long stretch, which is probably all that can be done within the limits of historical-structural dialectics–to the flow of history. The spectacular and continuing success of China–and India to a large extent–attests to the extreme astuteness with which local, regional and global history was seized there. The republican turn in Nepal four years ago was also, locally, an instance how history was seized both by the political parties and the youth who were facing a rapidly changing landscape, i.e. a crisis, of production and generation of livelihood. As hinted, this is not merely or primarily a matter of a particular psychology that afflicts political leaders. It is, as any other social process, historically and socially constructed-although its most visible manifestation may be more easily fathomable, for some, in terms of individual action.

Let me begin by dividing political party and political leaders along the conventional right, center-left and communist divide. The communist parties across the world often cannot comprehend the historical process because they cultivate a false ‘history’ based on the fake death of capitalism. This was, of course, very largely based on late-Lenin’s false diagnosis of an imperialism which, according to him, had already reached its peak by 1914. Capitalism, as such, had nowhere to go but down. This false historical diagnosis provided the basis for the ‘Soviet workers’ state’ and for a pre-mature socialist program. No matter the fact that many, even at that time, saw the ‘Soviet state’ not as one of owned and operated by workers but of the power-hungry and autocratic communist party, the war-weary military, the petty-bourgeois and loyalist bureaucracy and the landless peasants who had been promised farm prior to the Stalinist collective. During the post-WW II and post-Mao period and, in particular, after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1990, an increasingly defensive but vocal communist parties kept alive the appearance of the ‘imminent demise of capitalism and thus the political and moral duty of the communist party to immediately throw capitalism to the dustbin of history’ alive. Relevant instances of such rhetoric includes till the British labor party’s rhetoric of nationalization of private enterprise before Tony Blair, i.e. till just two decades ago. Even centrist parties have, at times, threatened of ‘nationalization’ in India. In Nepal, one can bring to notice rhetoric such as the undefined, expedient, archaic-sounding agragami (i.e. ‘forward moving’). There is a far more popularly known and accepted-indeed venerated in some circles in the manner of a sacred–terminology of pragatisheel (i.e. progressive). This of course, is also more politically transparent and universally comprehensible. But this is precisely why this would not do: The term is tainted because it is known to refer to a relatively known class of political, economic and cultural changes. Thus, communist leaders and sympathizers in Nepal are agragami but not pragatisheel. Then there are other rhetorical devices, e.g. ‘krantikari bhumi sudhar’ (which convolutes both the notions of revolution and reform), janabadi sikshya (which apparently negates ‘bourgeois education system’). Despite the rhetoric of ekkaisaun shatabdiko janabad, the UCPNM incessantly threatens to go back to the Stalinist era, e.g. vide the definition of janata (i.e. ‘people’) in UCPNM Chairman Prachanda’s presentation in the recent FNCCI-organized program.

In the world-historical context that Nepal is currently located, the programs of ‘socialism,’ ‘new democracy,’ ‘worker-led-capitalism’ (which apparently implies state capitalism), etc. are similar rhetoric and political programs which lead to a dangerous incomprehension of history. It is noteworthy, on the other hand, that everything about capitalism is progressive (or janabadi-if this is a proper translation) in comparison to the pre-capitalist forms-except for private property and, of course, its large-scale and deep consequences. The preceding rhetoric and political programs, on the other hand, and foundationally, are expressions of denial that capitalism is revolutionary in itself in particular historical circumstances, i.e. in pre-capitalist political economies. These rhetoric and political programs, on the other hand, deny the basic logic of historical and dialectical reasoning: That capitalism needs maturing before contradictions within it can mature and begins the process of bursting at the seams. Capitalism, as a specific historical construction, will wane and give rise to a new political economic system. But it needs to rise first before it enters a process of waning.

Most (capitalist) bourgeois-democratic political parties hide behind another from of ahistoric comprehension and acting. Such parties acknowledge and fully appreciate the nature of the past and the transitions that have taken place since. Such parties and leaders, in association with the underclass, led to the global demise of hereditary rule and heralded the era of bourgeois democracy. But they also tend to think that there will be large-scale, foundational or structural changes any more. For them the present is the future; the future has already arrived. Bourgeois democracy is not only the final peak but also the endless plateau of history. Thus, bourgeois democracy, as reckoned by one author-and celebrated by a great many bourgeois-democratic parties and leaders–is the end of history. Tomorrow will be one more today and so on and on. The economy might change and grow. There might be political changes to be sure but these will remain under the ambit of bourgeois democracy. The future, in any case, will remain structurally constant.

Both of the readings are, of course, ahistorical. The end of the world-capitalist system-proclaimed nearly one full century ago–is as false as the final victory of world-capitalist bourgeois democracy. Political programs based on such readings are almost certain to lead to unwarrantedly subjective, romantic and false. Such programs are also likely to inflict unwarranted contradiction into the body politic, obstruct transition of the mode of production and distribution and inflict unwarranted hardship and pain on citizens, workers, consumers, students, family persons and so on.

Both the communist and the classical capitalist bourgeois-democratic roads are, therefore, closed for the present. There must be some other tried and tested model that we can rely on. No model, of course, is perfect. But the weight of history and political and economic structure would necessarily privilege one model over all others. I argue there that the privileged model is social democracy.

II

If the historical and dialectical reasoning made in the preceding section is valid, we are forced to recognize one more fact: Social democracy, subject to historical-dialectical laws as it is, is not a universal and cross-historical panacea. As everything else, social democracy is a specific historical construction and is, therefore, ‘appropriate’ for certain specific historical political economies and not for others. It is most appropriate within a political-economic form which is capitalist and democratic. It rounds out the very rough and painful edges of runaway classical capitalist bourgeois capitalism by means of democratic political, economic, legal, military and popular control. In doing so it makes tames capitalist development and growth and, in so doing, makes capitalism more resilient and durable. Capitalism and democracy, in specific historical political economies, can become sharply antithetical. One tames and supports the other. Social democracy, in such settings, can provide, for a long but not interminable term, a mechanism of resolving contradictions within capitalist democracy. In the longer run, as is the case with all other political-economic systems, contradictions within a social democratic set up become irresolvable. But social democracy itself can evolve over a period of time such that resolutions can be sought in a progressive manner with a social democratic set up. However, within the bourgeois democratic setup, the social-democratic strand may well enjoy a longevity that other strands may not. Eventually, however, social democracy will certainly devour itself and make way from some other political-economic system. It is more possible-among many other possibilities-that a self-devoured social democratic system will be some form of socialism. Bit this is by no means certain. The preparation and execution of political activism may well play a key role in deciding the ‘final’ outcome.

III

What is the essence of social democracy?

* A social democratic set up is one in which capital, labor and the state become partners in an evolving and contradiction-prone compact. The state is vested, unlike in the strictest Marxist sense, with an autonomy which it utilizes to mediate between labor and capital-two forces which are antithetical but also one, within a capitalist system, which cannot realize one’s potential without the other. The two are congenitally in conflict. But their conflict can be managed to more or less extent during a specific historical period. The state acquires autonomy, first, by virtue of the fact that its executive body, the government is periodically elected both by capitalist but also by labor in order to oversee their interests. The state can waver and fluctuate in particular instances vis-à-vis labor and capital with respect to particular disputes but it participates in and legitimizes a process of collective bargaining by means of broader bourgeois democratic and social democratic principles, rules that are established during the practice of such a regime and various other national, regional and global exigencies. But it cannot waver and take a consistent and sustained stand in favor of one and against the other. Second, the state also acquires autonomy because it acquires a strong financial base which it utilizes to enhance the capability and welfare of its citizens. And, third, the state also acquires autonomy because it implements legislations promptly and without partiality.
* Universal ownership of and access to a minimal set of private and public political, economic and cultural resources is a prerequisite to effective citizenship within a social democratic system. Social democracy implies not only, among others, the right to expression and vote but also the right to vote independently based on self decision without fear or favor. Ownership and access to resources, access to a minimal level of living and opportunities to enhance capability for self and one’s dependents, thus, is fundamental free and fearless exercise of democracy. It is also the highway to the expansion and deepening of democracy within capitalism. This is what leads to loyalty, trust and solidarity within the citizenry and in relation to the state.
* Social democracy goes beyond the minimum wage, etc provisions. It visualizes citizens not only as workers but as human beings who require means to support themselves over their lifetime (as well as those of their dependents). A social democratic set up, thus, provisions for lifetime capability enhancement and welfare. Thus, citizens in a social democratic set up have claims to support whenever such support is warranted. On the other hand, this support is financially based on taxes-usually fairly progressive taxes–on income earned by the workers themselves and their employers. In addition, there are a host of corporate and other taxes. The taxes, in effect, are utilized both to reproduce labor power and to create a market for goods and services that the capitalist entrepreneurs produce. The state, thus, is an independent channel of income support to the citizens. This is what encourages workers and other citizens to see that the state is, in part, their ally.
* Within a capitalist system, social democracy valorizes labor better than any other political form. This in turn implies a minimum level of wages, fair job and job performance practices-with tactically flexible definitions of what constitutes fairness and adequate performance, and collective bargaining.
* Social democracy, however, is not only about the ‘social’ i.e. economic, financial, etc. redistribution. It is also about democracy, about rule by all citizens and voters and their representatives. Strengthening democracy, fundamental rights, oversight capability of legitimate popular bodies, thus, is fundamental to social democracy. Economic and financial enabling of all citizens, of course, helps much in expanding and strengthening democracy.
* Social democracy, because it insists on universalized economic, political and cultural enabled democracy, removes barriers to effective citizenship and selfhood and self respect faced by various subordinated and marginalized groups, e.g. women, Dalits, marginalized ethnic and regional groups and so forth and expands and deepens democracy. Social democracy can play an extremely powerful role in removing and weakening ascribed and ‘inherited’ inequality. It can be effective instrument to promote equity.
* Social democracy goes beyond all inherited privileges except for private property and investments (which can be reasonably taxed, however). It negates subordination and discrimination on the bases of caste, ethnicity, gender, faith, location of residence, ‘indigeneity’ and ‘newcomer-ness,’ various ‘orientations’ and so forth. It defines citizenship inclusively and promotes equity and equality among all citizens. No citizen is legally privileged over another. Customary privileges, except those related to private property, are systematically and consciously weakened down and eroded.
* Social justice: The above 3 points are about what social justice is about within a capitalist system.
* Social justice is not only about social justice, however. It is also about successively enabling capitalism and promoting economic growth as well as public revenues and utilizing the revenue to promote both capitalism and democracy. Social democracy, as noted, tames runaway capitalism but also gives it durability and resilience. Lack of democracy and production of low-capability youth and workers produces uncompetitive and low-quality capitalism. Social democracy, in contrast, by redistributing resources and investing in education, health, etc. produces high-capability citizens and youth.
* Social democracy also ensures a relatively peaceful political, economic and cultural climate which is both an objective of human society and life as well as an instrument to promote economy, employment and income, give citizens the dignity that they deserve and to reduce violence. It is likely to ensure a more stable future in which individuals and groups can plan ahead without being forced to consistently react to powerful forces. It allows, therefore, a measure of self control and self initiative.

IV

Why should Nepali political parties and leaders push for it at this juncture? Why the present and specific historical and structural juncture is an opportune period to begin instituting social democracy?

* For one, it is, at least for the present, the only possible common political ground both in relation to political parties as well as the electoral distribution across the right-left-communist divide. The rightist political forces are at the weakest ever, even though there are rightist elements in all political parties. Monarchist, religious fundamentalist, militarist, etc. tendencies are the weakest ever. The center-left and communist alliance, in turn, is potentially the strongest ever. And this is a period in which a new constitution is being drafted. This is the time when key elements of the social democratic elements will have to be enshrined in the constitution.
* As long as we are talking about political parties, it should be noted that the UML has definitely transitioned from its Leninist days of the 1970 and the 1980s. In 1990 it transitioned from the radical left to one which championed ‘multiparty people’s democracy’. Man Mohan Adhikari noted in the early 1990s that the UML was not a communist but a social-democratic polity party. He was derided for that by some within his own party. But that was an astute and daring characterization. The risk now, on the other hand, is that many UML stalwarts may veer to the right of social democracy. Nonetheless, nominally a communist party, it may, as a non-official party line, well be expected it to broadly pursue a social democratic line. The Nepali Congress Party has a long history of nominal democratic socialism, a notion which was more familiar prior to the 1980s and one which has a stronger kinship ties to non-Marxist socialism. The party leadership apparently spans from the mild right to the center and left. At times it has espoused a stronger version of land reform than other left and communist parties. Its political center may fall somewhere along the center, making it well amenable to a softer version of social democracy and a relatively hard line version of bourgeois democracy. The left-of-center electoral pull in the country would not allow it to decisively move to the right of the center. The UCPNM, to the extent that it adopts a strategy or even a tactic of working with a democratic and capitalist system may, like the UML in the past, well see that its future-or at ;east medium-run future-lies in social democracy. If this does come true, this would constitute a potent victory for social democracy. Bit then the UCPNM is in the midst of a large-scale ideological and political transition itself and it is therefore uncertain the course it will take. It may emphasize the social but push democracy to the backburner. It may, for example, also very well opt for mildly redistributive state capitalism, which is where its inclinations have been for a long time. This course would, of course, be bad news for democracy inasmuch as it would lead towards one-party state. Finally, ethnicist, regionalist, faith-based fundamentalist forces, and forces which encourage militarist tendencies may well block the path to a social democratic set up.
* The present is a highly politicized moment in history and moving toward social democracy requires a politicized citizenry. A politicized but democratic and ‘capitalist citizenry’ is a ‘natural’ ally of social democracy.
* The present is the historical moment when a republic has been born. But it is not only the birth of a republic that is the signature of the present. The present is also characterized by large-scale social transition and a rejection of some of the crucial ways of making a living, believing and relating. These include changes in the mode of generation of livelihood. Just witness the significance of the slide of the rural, the agricultural, the subsistent, and the in the GNP, the family budget and the life-preparation and inclination of the youth. Witness the huge number of the youth involved in labor migration from the interiors to the district headquarters the Tarai and other cities and towns, to cities and towns in India and to southeast and west Asia and beyond. The global recession may mean that the rate of labor emigration may not increase. It is unlikely, however, that the size of the outward bound labor migration will substantially decrease. The high rate of growth in India, in particular, implies that capitalist enterprises as well as the upper and middle classes in India will increase the demand of labor, including of those from Nepal. Growth in China may have a similar consequence across the northern border. More organized expansion of labor migration in Chinese manufacturing and service establishments, of course, will have to wait major diplomatic initiatives. Similar initiatives may open up several other Asian and other countries as well. It is not only the number involved that is of significance from the point of view of social democracy. The uprooting from land and the rural implies an immense impetus for the rise of the public and of the democratic. It also implies both the opportunity and the obligation to draw resources from the enlarged pool of income earners and to address the needs of the inept and the subordinated, dispossessed and marginalized.
* To supplement the above, the rapidly rising differentiation and diversification of the economy and the increasing disassociation of the youth from older forms of social relationship-including family relationships, implies the need to bind them into newer forms of economic, political and cultural relationship. It is best that these new relationships be founded on social democracy.
* Several agreements entered into by the currently dominant political parties, e.g. the 12-point agreement; possess a social-democratic content.
* The interim constitution, which is an agreement among political parties on how to run the new state, has pronounced social democratic features.
* The debates in the constitutional assembly and the reports of the various committees also can provide a platform for social democracy. The existing bones of contention in the constituent assembly, except for those related to land reform, are not frontally related to the substance of political economy but to other political, administrative, and ‘cultural’ issues.
* The large size and the globally historically unprecedented economic growth in India and China, Nepal’s immediate neighbors demand that Nepal match or at least come close to their growth rates. The growth in India and China may well help Nepal’s growth as well-to the extent that appropriate policies are adopted. This growth, in turn, will quicken the adoption of the social democratic agenda in Nepal.

V

To conclude, there is a widespread recognition in Nepal now that the classical capitalist road will turn to a dead end without the ownership of the political system by the relatively dispossessed and the less capable. Keeping ownership of the state, in turn, requires that the workers are entitled to part of the profit earned by the capitalists in the form of support and subsides funded by public revenues generated through progressive taxes. Bourgeois democratic parties, which often ally themselves more to capitalism than democracy, cannot afford to do so. They have to cease seeing nothing but democracy in capitalism even as the communist parties must see than capitalism and democracy can go at least some way, may be even a long way, forward.

It is necessary to arrive at a historically and structurally appropriate delimitation of dimensions of social democracy. It is an appropriate historical moment to adopt an evolutionary, gradual initiative on social democracy. Now that, in Nepal, politics is far ahead of economics, e.g. democracy way ahead of employment creation, the latter deserves relatively more emphasis in the short run. Nepal cannot rival relatively full-blown social democracies for several decades. Nepali political leaders, instead, and like political leaders immediately after World War II, have to begin building social democracy instead

By
Chaitanya Mishra
Tribhuvan University
mishrachaitanya@gmail.com

December 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Nepali Youth And Tomorrows’ Politics

In December 2006, I had a chance to attend two seminars organised by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German think tank based in Kathmandu, on the role of the youth in the democratisation and social transformation process in Nepal. Both seminars placed important emphasis on the role of the youth in driving the nation ahead by shelving the recurrent political instability and deconstructing the existing social bias in the country or by straightening the political as well as social health of the country for that matter. The seminars were attended by a good number of youths and would-be politicians.

Patriotism

What was observed from the interaction with the youngsters is that the Nepali state can certainly bank on this generation for the overall upliftment of the country provided an opportunity is given to them to serve the nation. In the words of Dev Raj Dahal, a noted political scientist and head of the FES in Nepal, the young generation has a better sense of belonging, patriotism and is more learned compared to the generation that has been at the helm of governance for generations and has staged multiple political movements in the country.

This generation can meet the demand generated by modernity factors such as globalisation and its undercurrent effects that are noticed in every sector of human governance. But the problem in Nepal, as Dahal pointed out, is that there is no proper acumen – policies and programmes – to tap the potential of this generation in the national mainstream. Neither is there an established culture to introduce youths in the politics ?that makes decisions for the nation? instead of engaging them in ?street politics? to consolidate the vested interests of the political elite.

The contribution of the Nepali youth in the democratisation process is immense. In fact, all the yesteryear political movements – anti-Rana movement of 2007 B.S., student movement of 2036 B.S. against the Panchayat regime which ultimately pushed for a referendum in the country, the people?s movement of 2046 B.S. and the April uprising of 2063 – are classic examples in this regard. In contrast, successive generations of Nepali youngsters have been used and abused by the politicians and ruling elite to fulfil their own mundane objectives right from the time of its unification some 240 years ago.

As a result, to our dismay, all the past political movements remained only in ?movement? to be recalled in political history as they have failed to bring about necessary changes in the political culture of the nation. In Nepal, all national policies and programmes are influenced by politics not by national demand. And the state and society both have only understood the language of nepotism, favouritism rather than civility. This practice has instilled a feeling of being more fatalistic than pragmatist in nature among the Nepali youth. But this is bound to change in the days to come.

Nepal is going through various highs and lows – be it in political, economic or social issues. Every comfort, discomfort, approval, disapproval or breach of law either by a governmental or non-governmental sector is being challenged through severe street protests. The protests are largely participated or led by youngsters and show the major concern of the nation dwellers about the state?s affairs. It clearly reflects their anger against the ?oldies? polices? and exhibits the youngsters? ability to judge between right and wrong.

In fact, the level of consciousness in the new generation has increased by leaps and bound, and it appears that the existing practice of ruling the nation by sidelining the youths will change and will have to change for the better in a new Nepal. There have been many occasions, in addition to the protests for the cause of democracy per se, in which the youth have been showing their disapproval by actively participating in the rallies and demonstrations. They?ve been in the streets to protest price hikes of basic commodities like petroleum products, electricity tariff and consumable commodities. It is good to show concern about day to day affairs, otherwise the state would turn anarchic.

Having said this, however, the biggest challenge that lies ahead for the Nepali youth is to change the existing form of governance that does not allow them to take active part in the institutional life of the nation (decision making process). Perhaps, the barrier that comes on the way in this regard is the ?partisan student wings? that have been patronised heavily by the central party leadership of the political parties for ages.

Vertical division

The party leadership has created ranks and files in the student wings deliberately to consolidate their political future. This practice, in contrast, has vertically divided the Nepali youth and has produced twin repercussions in them. First the ?politicisation of youths? and second the ?political youths? – who bred on party patrimony – have failed to assimilate non-political youths (secular youths) in the mainstream.

Hence, the simple analysis of the situation is that as long as this vertical division remains in place, the youth organisations can neither claim their writ on governance nor can they make vibrant organisation(s) of their own which can bail this country out from the intermittent political instability.

December 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Nepal awaits WikiLeaks dossiers

Whistleblower WikiLeaks’ disclosure of confidential US documents could cause Nepal’s history of its 10-year insurgency and the transition from monarchy to a republic to be rewritten, once – or if – over 2,000 confidential documents relating to the country are made public.
The Himalayan nation began a vigil yesterday, awaiting revelations about its own behind-the-scene terrorist, political and diplomatic deals following the discovery that the website had also obtained 2,278 memos sent by the US embassy in Kathmandu to the US State Department in Washington through a lengthy period of 1996 to February this year.
The Nepal documents are not among the initial 251,287 cables posted by WikiLeaks despite a warning by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the leaks were an attack on the international
community.
The WikiLeaks memos on Nepal mainly revolve around the Maoist insurgency, the political upheaval followed by king Gyanendra’s attempt to grab power with the help of an army-backed coup and the subsequent overthrow of his government due to a nationwide uprising.
Also featuring are the issues of the Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and Nepal’s relations with India, its most influential neighbour.
While about 800 of the Nepal documents are unclassified, the rest are confidential with 84 labelled secret.
Nepal’s politics remains shrouded with the deals cut by the parties, the then Maoist guerrillas, the deposed king and even foreign governments remaining mostly secret.
The Nepal documents could throw some light on the opaque deals.
The US embassy in Nepal has declined to comment on WikiLeaks’ move.
However, the leaks dominated Nepal’s media yesterday, even the tabloids.
They also sparked a vigil for further details despite the political turbulence at home, including an upcoming meeting of the Maoist party to finalise their future battle strategy.

December 3, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Nepal’s Rekha Thapa Brings New Look To The Maoist Party

Rekha Thapa who is known as a sex symbol in her country Nepal is said to have become a part of the Maoist party.

This hot and beautiful lady has many controversies attached to her because of her scanty outfits and backless blouses. She is said to have become the new weapon of the Maoists to bring publicity in order to improve their public image.

In 2009, after joining the party she has been a major attraction of the party for her ability to pull crowds and she did that by dancing with a Maoist chief along with the ex- prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in November last year in front of the media and the PM’s wife Sita Dahal.

Rekha has reportedly signed a movie, the director of which is said to be close to the Maoists. A film critic from Nepal, Bishnu Gautam said, “There are few celebrities flocking to the Maoists. The former rebels want to endear themselves to the masses, to bury their earlier image of violence and bloodshed. The presence of artistes, especially someone considered to be the reigning actor, would definitely enhance their public image.”

Regarding Rekha joining the red party Gautam said, “It’s more likely due to vested interests. Her husband is a film distributor and joining the Maoists is one way of ensuring his business goes unhindered. In the past, many Nepali stars flocked to the palace, when it was the source of power. But now that monarchy has been abolished, some of them went over to the Maoists. But if monarchy is ever restored, they are likely to abandon the Maoists and curry favour with the new dispensation.”

December 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

READ Nepal IN NEPAL

Nepal is a geographically and culturally diverse country located between India and China. The mountainous northern section of the country includes eight of the world’s ten highest mountains including Mt. Everest. The United Nations classifies Nepal as one of the least developed countries in the world, stemming from its landlocked geography, rugged terrain, lack of natural resources, and poor infrastructure. Nepal is one of the poorest nations in the world and about a third of its population lives below the poverty line.

In response to this extreme need, READ Nepal was established in 1991. That year, eight porters carried 900 books and a card catalog over 11,800-foot Lamajura Pass down into the tiny village of Junbesi. These villagers had never even seen 900 books before! This first READ project laid the foundation for a rural network of 45 READ Community Library and Resource Centers (to date) that are located across the entire country.

During READ’s growth, a Maoist revolution shook Nepal for 13 years, paralyzed the economy and killed thousands of people. Many large foreign aid organizations suspended operations during this period of civil unrest. READ, however, thrived in both Maoist and non-Maoist rural villages due to its apolitical and grassroots-based model. Its success during this turbulent time shows just how strong the READ model is.

In 2006, READ Nepal won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award. This prestigious and competitive award included $1M to further expand READ’s sustainable rural development model and to extend its capacity to provide information technology throughout remote regions of Nepal. When rural villagers heard about this award, they celebrated in their Centers as if they had won it themselves, and in large part, they had

December 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

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