Nepal; a nice little earner for the Maoist ruling class - in Lenin's footsteps

"First time as tragedy, second time as farce" - Lenin & Prachanda

Nepal's Maoist Party has won around 220 seats in the recent Constituent Assembly (CA) election, about one-third of the total. Though the largest party, they don't have an overall majority; they have stated their wish to lead a coalition government.

But as the result became clear Maoist leader Prachanda told journalists “I will be declared the acting President of this country very soon…which will be followed by occupying the post of the all powerful President of New Nepal…this is the peoples’ mandate…no force on earth can disobey this mandate”. (Telegraphnepal.com 26/4/2008); the man who has long talked of his wish to 'abolish royal autocracy' now speaks of his "all powerful" role.

Recent news reports reveal the wages and expenses of the newly elected members of the Assembly. While they spend an indefinite period drawing up a new national Constitution they will be paid - by Nepali standards - enormous wages;
each CA member will receive net salaries of 23 thousand one hundred rupees per month [£176/$345/Eur224]. On top of this they'll get expenses for drinking water, electricity, telephone, rent, newspapers & "miscellaneous". These expense allowances bring the total income of a CA member to 45 thousand 98 rupees [£345/$674/Eur437] each per month.

The CA President (probably Maoist Party boss Prachanda) will have a monthly salary/expenses income of 60,600 rupees [£463/$905/Eur588] - plus a petrol allowance of 24,500 rupees [£187/$366/Eur237]. The vice president will scrape by on a few thousand less.

So the ruling class, led by the Maoist 'proletarian vanguard', feather their nest. These salaries must be compared with the Nepali average wage of just $200 a year [£102/Eur129]; Nepal is the poorest country in Asia. Around 10% of the population takes 50% of the wealth, the bottom 40% takes 10%. 85% of Nepalese people don’t have access to health care. So the monthly income of a CA politician is well over three times the annual national average wage! Jobs within the CA are already being allocated by all the various member parties to their friends and family.

In a public appearance last week Maoist leader Prachanda said, “I had the opportunity to play the role of Lenin itself in Nepal”. With his fat salary and perks he is certainly following in Bolshevik footsteps; Lenin travelled in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, as did other government officials. "Autocracy’s main enemy, Vladimir Lenin, had no reservations about inheriting the hated old regime’s automobile collection. Lenin used the Tsar’s Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost to drive around town while his colleagues divided up the rest of the collection among them. But two revolutions and a civil war had taken their toll on the cars, and in 1919 [during a time of famine and extreme hardships for the poor] the Council of People’s Commissars had to order 70 more from London." (Aeroflot site). Lenin moved into a dacha (country house) previously owned by a millionaire, while much of the other Bolshevik leadership took occupation of the luxurious Lux hotel in Petrograd,dining on preferential food rations.[1] Then and now, for those who inherit the State, its perks and luxuries are clearly irresistable and seen as just reward for their conquest and devotion to power. And so the new Nepalese republic is born - the furniture and faces at the top have been shifted around a little, and that is all.

There's another interpretation (though less likely) of the reference to Lenin - as a coded pointer towards a historical precedent; that Prachanda's long-term plan is for the Constituent Assembly in Nepal to share the same fate as it did in Russia. When the Bolsheviks were ready to seize sole power for themselves, a revolutionary guard (led by Anatoli Zhelezniakov[2], an anarchist sailor[3]) dismissed the CA, dominated as it was by indecisive bourgeois moderate politicians. The Bolsheviks saw its dissolution as a decisive step in the progress from a bourgeois to a proletarian revolution (though the fact that, unlike Nepal's Maoists, the Bolsheviks did not emerge victorious from the CA elections may have influenced their choices too). The Maoists might, ideally, like to achieve a neat Leninist orthodoxy by replicating this state of affairs, but they know the necessities of 'realpolitik'. External geo-political pressures and economic realities mean that - for the moment, at least - they need to play the democratic game in order to attract foreign investment, so as to try and build up a sound politico-economic base. A strong and stable State power is always a class relation based on efficient exploitation and its rewards.

=========

NOTES

[1] "Ante Ciliga described what he called the state capitalists' 'morals on the morrow of the October revolution' as follows:

From the first days of the October revolution, the Communist [sic] leaders had shown a great lack of shame in these matters. Having occupied the building, they furnished it with the best furniture from shops that had been nationalized. From the same source their wives had procured themselves fur coats, each taking two or three at a time. All the rest was in keeping. (Ciliga, 1979, p. 121)

Far from the emergence of the privileged consumption enjoyed by the state capitalist class coinciding with Stalin's rise to power, some of the state capitalists of Stalin's day looked back with nostalgia to the comfortable life they had experienced during the early years of Bolshevik rule:

During the winter of 1930 fuel ran short and we had to do without hot water for a few days. The wife of a high official who lived at the Party House was full of indignation. `What a disaster to have this man Kirov! True, Zinoviev is guilty 'fractionism' but in his day central heating always functioned properly and we were never short of hot water. Even in 1920, when they had to stop the factories in Leningrad for lack of coal, we could always have our hot baths with the greatest comfort.' (Ibid., pp. 121-2)

Another illustration that Stalin was not personally responsible for establishing state capitalist privilege in Russia is that during the period 1923-5, when Stalin had only an old car at his disposal 'Kamenev had already appropriated a magnificent Rolls' (Medvedev - 1979, p. 33)."

( State Capitalism - the wages system under new management, Buick & Crump.)

[2] On Zhelezniakov, see; http://libcom.org/library/zhelezniakov-biography-avrich-1917

[3] The Ukrainian anarchist "Makhno defended that action and explained that Zhelezniakov, a Black Sea sailor and delegate to Kronstadt, had played one of the most active roles in 1917. Makhno merely expressed regret that the fiery sailor, who enjoyed great prestige among his colleagues, had not simultaneously seen fit to dismiss Lenin and his "Soviet of People's Commissars" which "would have been historically vital and would have helped unmask the stranglers of the revolution in good time." "
http://libcom.org/library/makhno-bibliographical-afterword-skirda

Comments

Sean Siberio
May 13 2008 21:58

The remnants of the Maoist left in America have been falling over themselves to "analyze" this very serious "revolution". Inevitably we will get a bunch of dross about how they represent the new upswing of "anti-imperialism" in the world.

OliverTwister
May 14 2008 09:50

I'm genuinely curious to see what those who split from the RCP will say... it seemed like they wanted to be more pro-Nepal than the RCP...

Sean Siberio
May 14 2008 18:52

That seems to be the gist, though other factors play into it I think (disillusionment after spending years in group is one). I find it interesting, because it seems like the Trotskyist crowd is latching onto Iraqi "resistance" in order to bolster it third-world-ism, whilst old Maoists cling to Nepal (and to a lesser extent, the Philippines) in order to bolster the status of its ideas. Either way, they all look like rubes.

fnbrill
May 14 2008 21:35

There have been no updates to the RCP(USA)'s Nepal website since Feb.

http://rwor.org/s/nepal.htm

Sean Siberio
May 15 2008 01:03

Another big lie that the Nepali Maoists promote (and which many of their cheerleaders nod in agreement to) is the necessity of "foreign capital" and capital in general in order to lead to "development". As I pointed out to people on Kasama, development is never neutral, and the shape in which it takes is the way social relations will be reproduced. You cannot use capital to build the means for a socialist country/area/economy/whatever. Its impossible. The fact that the Nepalese Maoists either ignorantly believe, or more likely, are disingenuously trying to sell this as "realistic practice" is ridiculous.

And of course the kind of "Children starving in X country" scenario is teased out, where anyone who criticizes is a western imperialist who wants small brown babies to have cholera. But thats not the case, and as indicated by the capitalist "miracle" in India it doesn't really help solve those problems anyways. It does not take foreign exchange, or large scale hydroelectric projects (which the Maoists have already promised) to make substantial public health and food security gains after abolishing feudal landlords.