In January and April 2009 two libcom news articles were published reporting that the Maoist-led government had expressed their intention to use legislation to ban strikes in some industries. These articles were quite widely reproduced on various websites and caused some controversy; online pro-maoists were particularly upset. So much so that some of them used a combination of inaccuracy and distortion in an attempt to discredit the articles. We have refuted these dishonesties wherever possible, but as they have continued we have decided to restate the facts here for convenient reference.
Since the articles were written we have also found some additional proof of the Maoists' intentions to ban strikes and we present it here.
Part 2 is a more general commentary on the political role of Maoism in Nepal and its function in promoting capitalist development.
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"We are not fighting for socialism," he said ... "We are just fighting against feudalism. We are fighting for a capitalistic mode of production. We are trying to give more profit to the capitalists and industrialists." (Prachanda, Nepalese Maoist Party leader - Daily Telegraph, 31 Oct 2006. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1532891/Nepals-fierce-one-spurns-Chairman-Mao-and-claims-centre-ground-in-peace-talks.html)
Having won the most seats, but without an absolute majority, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) became the leading party in a coalition government in 2008. Even before they entered government the Maoists made it clear they were happy to sign up to a policy to repress militancy in the workplace and discourage strikes; in 2006 they signed a 10-point agreement with other parties to end the decade-old guerilla war and join an interim coalition government. Known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Point 7 of the agreement declares:
“Both sides believe in the fact that the industrial climate in the country should not be disturbed and production should be given continuity and that the right of collective bargaining and social security should be respected.” Any disputes with employers should be solved “in a peaceful manner”. (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/dec2006/nepa-d11.shtml)
The Maoist position on how state power should be used to deal with strikes is one of the few issues they have remained consistent on since a governmental role became a possibility. This shows that the claim that this attitude originated as a response only to "reactionary strikes" by other rival parties is false.
The libcom articles made clear that the Maoists had expressed clear intentions to ban strikes, not that they had actually banned any strikes. The article was republished elsewhere by others unknown with the changed title "Maoists ban strikes"; some pro-maoists have used this fact to try to distort the issues. They split these hairs to deny that their Maoist heroes ever did ban any actual strikes so as to distract from the fact that, regardless, they clearly expressed an intention to do so and legislated a strike ban to give their government the power to do so. The Maoists headed the Ministry of Labour when the legislation described below was introduced.
But the Maoist-led government did enact legislation to ban strikes. This came into force during their rule; so, under their rule, strikes became illegal, having been banned by their legislation. Most rational people would accept that, once that legal ban became operational and striking became illegal, that a strike ban was then in place. By some strange logic, pro-maoist apologists claim that in the case of Nepal this was not so. We suspect that if any Western non-leftist government enacted similar legislation that the pro-maoists would have a different view. So if the article was republished by others with the title "Maoists ban strikes" this is anyway hardly a distortion.
There has therefore been confusion made, sometimes deliberately, when describing what strike ban proposals and what actual legislation the Maoists made when leading the government. We will try to clarify the process here. Two different pieces of legislation were invoked to give anti-strike powers. Firstly, in January 2009 the Special Economic Zone Act was ratified.
Background to the SEZ Act
The Special Economic Zones Act had been drafted four years before by an earlier government and had lain dormant until the Maoist-led government revived and endorsed it as an anti-strike weapon. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are geographical regions where production and export-import activities are concentrated. They are governed by specific economic laws giving preferential tax concessions/exemptions to investors. A defining characteristic of SEZs and their attraction to potential investors is their stricter labour discipline, usually including laws banning strikes. Workers are employed on perpetual short-term contracts and so vulnerable to dismissal at short notice with little or no compensation. The goal is usually for less-developed poorer nations to attract an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country.
Though areas have been designated for the Zones, there are no operational SEZs in Nepal at present (the planned opening of the first in Feb 2009 was postponed but the first is due to open in 2012(?) at Bhairahawa). But the implementing of the SEZ Act was clearly an attempt to pave the way for attracting both foreign and local investment in future SEZs. This is the method now commonly used in Asian countries for stimulating industrial development; to utilise their plentiful supply of low-wage labour power to produce for export markets in richer countries. The Chinese model is typical of SEZs, and one very influential on Nepalese Maoists;
Not surprisingly, some of the most successful SEZs in China were actually totally exempt from national labor laws when they were first created in the 1980s. (http://www.uiowa.edu/ifdebook/faq/faq_docs/SEZ.shtml Feb 2010)
The formation of the first SEZ in Shenzhen in May 1980 and their rapid growth was followed by the removal of any right to strike from the revised Chinese Constitution in 1982. (This was apparently also influenced by the independent Solidarnosc union movement in Poland at the time, which the Chinese state saw as a disturbing example of workers challenging the domination of Stalinist-type state capitalist regimes.)
A recent 2010 report describes the kind of labour conditions common to the Chinese SEZs that have so inspired the Nepalese Maoists;
A recent spate of stories focusing on electronics companies with manufacturing operations in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have highlighted poor labour standards and reputational risks relevant to all multinational corporations with subsidiaries and supply chains in China. [...]
During 2010, various sources raised concerns about the working conditions for young workers at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, where it is reported that 12 workers, aged around 20 years old, have committed suicide since the beginning of this year. [...]
An undercover investigation by a journalist into the suicides at Foxconn found that most employees “do not make a living,” so are forced to work overtime.
Every month each employee would sign a “voluntary overtime affidavit” waiving the 36-hours legal overtime limit, per month, so that they could earn a living wage. [...]
A report published in January 2009 by the US-based NGO National Labour Committee (NLC), entitled “High Tech Misery,” also reveals sub-standard working conditions in plastics and electronics factories in Dongguan.
The report claims that employees are forbidden from going to the restroom or talking to colleagues.
Workers are also fined for being one minute late and work an average of 81 hours per week, sitting on wooden stools with no backrests. According to Maplecroft’s report, the SEZs are well-known for their ability to attract foreign investors because of tax incentives and a large pool of cheap labour.
However, SEZs are also subject to a prevalence of labour rights violations due to weak enforcement of labour laws. [...] (China Labour Standards; http://chriswhiteonline.org/2010/08/china-labour-standards/ - 28/07/2010)
In March the Maoists published their party manifesto for the upcoming Constituent Assembly governmental election, clearly stating their programme of capitalist development centred around attracting foreign investment in SEZs;
Foreign investors who specially invest in industries that provide substitutes for import shall be welcomed. Joint investment with 51% national investment shall be highly emphasized. Keeping in mind the large market in India and China, `special economic area’ shall be established in major Southern and Northern border areas to establish export-oriented industries. (New ideology & new leadership for a new Nepal: commitment paper of the CPN(M) for the CA election, March 2008; http://www.cffn.ca/historicdocs/0803-CPNM-Manifesto-EN.php)
After the Constituent Assembly election of April 2008 the Maoists became the leading party of the coalition government. The development of SEZs were again emphasised as a key part of Maoist economic policy. As Maoist party chief and new Prime Minister Prachanda made clear, the Chinese model of hyper-exploitation of the working class is the preferred path to 'socialism' for the Maoists;
“We will build special economic zones like China,” Prachanda said. “The special economic zones stimulated China’s economic development, and we want to learn from China. China’s experience is really helpful for us.” In the interview, Prachanda emphasized the geographic proximity between China and Nepal, and the high respect that Nepalese people have for China and Chinese people. “For Nepal’s national independence, it is critically important for Nepal to maintain intimate relations with China” (Nanfang Daily, June 30 2008). (http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=5029&tx_ttnews[backPid]=168&no_cache=1)
When the Maoist-led government set their first Budget in October they stated;
"... The Act relating to the special economic zones will be enacted in this Fiscal Year. Necessary provisions are made in the accompanying Finance Act for providing customs and income tax exemption facilities in the special economic zones." (Oct 6 2008) (http://neilsnepal.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/maoists-new-nepal-industrial-capitalism-covered-by-socialism/)
So despite their regular 'anti-imperialist' rhetoric the Maoists were bending over backwards to invite foreign capital to exploit the cheap labour of the country (and in the process make the Nepali ruling political and economic elite richer).
As promised, the SEZ Act was then endorsed in January 2009 to pass into law;
KATHMANDU, Jan 22: After four years of finalizing the draft, the cabinet on Thursday endorsed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, paving way for the implementation of the SEZ projects in the country. [...]
...the Act treats SEZ as a land where other domestic laws related to labor and industries would not be applicable. It has mooted an autonomous SEZ Authority to oversee its operations.
The source stated that the ratification of the Act, which had so far lingered due to the differences over the tighter labor provisions, had became possible after the seven parties recently agreed not to launch strikes in the industries or disturb productions.
“The Act allows workers to unite and practice collective bargaining, but prohibits them from undertaking activities that affect production and normal operations of industries,” said the source. It also allows the entrepreneurs to hire workers on a contract basis. [Our emphasis.] http://myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=1357
So eager were the Maoists to get the SEZ zones of hyper-exploitation up and running that opposition leaders were complaining that in their haste the Maoists had bypassed normal parliamentary legislative procedure by unilaterally using an "ordinance" mechanism to activate laws onto the statute books, rather than the normal legislative route, so as to avoid wider scrutiny by other parliamentary parties in the Constituent Assembly;
... the Nepali Congress (NC) leader Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat has deplored the government for bringing out ordinances ”by sidelining the parliament.”
He said that the introduction of ordinances instead of legislations at the parliament smacked of Maoists” totalitarian attitude. (thaindian.com - 29th Jan 09 http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/south-asia/nepal-cabinet-approves-ordinances-on-investment-board-and-sez_100148513.html)
The intention of the Maoists to attract investment by offering a potentially strike-free SEZ environment are clearly shown in the above reports and Maoist statements. But due to the general political instability (making investment unattractive) and changes of government in recent years, no SEZs have opened for business and the SEZ Act was apparently stalled in the final stages of its implementation into the law books; it has gathered dust in legal limbo since the Maoists left government. (The Act had suffered a similar fate in the hands of the government that preceded the Maoist-led regime.) Recent reports in 2010 suggest that SEZs may soon finally become operational and the Act receive its final passage into the law books.
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All the above only gives additional proof that the various excuses made by Western pro-maoists - that there is no available evidence that the Nepali Maoists intended to legislate for anti-strike powers or had any intentions to ban strikes etc - are false. The invented excuse that a strike ban proposal was only made in response to disruption caused by strikes organised by "reactionary parties" to "undermin[e] the Maoist-led government" is also shown above to be false; the SEZs were part of the Maoist economic program from before they entered government and the 4-year-old SEZ Act of an earlier government was revived to facilitate establishing SEZs.
The population of Nepal is presently around 80% rural and agricultural, though migration to the towns continues to grow. About three million Nepalese - over 10% of the population - have also gone abroad seeking work for varying periods. But wage labourers are only a small minority in Nepal; agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 6%. Most of the non-agricultural manual workers work in the informal craft sector, mainly in small workshops. The garment and carpet industries, once employing several hundred thousand workers, with substantial exports, have suffered a recent drastic decline - partly due to the phasing out of the World Trade Organisation quota system in 2005. For those who see increasing capital accumulation encouraged by appropriate state policy as their political agenda - and all the main parties are in principle agreed on this - industrial development aided by foreign investment remain key goals.
The development of capitalism and of an exploited proletariat is the goal of Nepali Maoism - they claim it is an essential part of the building of 'socialism/communism'. If the workers don't know what's good for them and that they must not defend their conditions with strikes then a future Maoist state would soon teach them by force of law. For the Maoists, the 'liberation of the proletariat' will apparently be advanced by submission to the investment opportunities and preferences of international capital. As one of the world's poorest countries, Nepal's investment appeal is in the cheapness of its surplus labour force - and a government willing to keep wages at an "attractively" low level. A quick look elsewhere in Asia shows what this means for workers; eg, this is the basis of the "success" story of the Bangladesh garment export industry (paying the lowest industrial wages in the world to an often malnutritious workforce) and other poor countries; and these are the countries Nepal's Maoists (or whichever other bourgeois party is in power) must compete with in a race to bottom to attract SEZ investors.
One might have thought that a Party claiming to represent the most oppressed would have made a political issue of the existence of anti-strike legislation and demanded its abolition when it was in a position to do so. But quite the contrary - as well as the SEZ Act, there is also a second piece of anti-worker legislation the Maoists armed themselves with...
8 8 8
Another anti-strike law invoked - background to the Essential Services Act
The second legislation used by the Maoist-led government to arm themselves with strike ban powers was the Essential Services Act. The 1957 Essential Services Maintenance Act allows governments to ban strikes for six months at a time. The Maoist government Ministers were coming under increasing pressure from Nepali capitalists to restore order on the streets and in the workplace. The Maoists, as an opposition party, had popularised the 'bandh culture' of strikes, shutdowns and street blockades; in government they were now facing its use by various competing groups with diverse demands.
By March 2007 - after the Maoist ceasefire and in the approach leading to the election for the Constituent Assembly - the Nepali bosses were so exasperated by the economic disruption that they even conducted their own bandh to pressure the government and the Maoists to stop the widespread bandhs that had been disrupting commerce. Ten days later the Maoist leaders - eager to show Nepali capitalists and potential foreign investors that they were prioritising capital accumulation as a potential future government - met with representatives of Nepali businessmen and agreed to form a joint committee to deal with the problem;
Maoist chairman Prachanda, senior Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattrai and president of Maoist-affiliated trade union Shalik Ram Jamarkattel met with president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) Chandi Raj Dhakal, president of Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) Surendra Bir Malakar and president of Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), Binod Chaudhari where the two sides agreed to form the committee. (http://www.nepalbiznews.com/newsdata/Biz-News/moistbusinessmetting.html March 28,2007)
One can imagine how loudly Western pro-maoists would denounce it as a 'sell-out' if left party and union leaders in Western countries formed joint committees with their local Chambers of Commerce. But when the Nepal Maoists do it, it magically becomes its opposite - part of a 'revolutionary' process.
In a TV interview a week after their election victory in April 2008, the Maoists again reassured the Nepali ruling class it would be business as usual;
Baburam Bhattarai, the deputy chief of the Maoists, ... “Our party has no plans to confiscate private property,” Bhattarai said, marking a change in the philosophy of an armed party that had in the past said it would seize the excess land of capitalists and aristocracy and distribute it among the landless in a revolutionary land reformation measure.
“We promise full security to private ownership, property and investment.”
The architect-turned-revolutionary said the new vision for a “new, affluent and developed” Nepal included transforming the current agro-based economy into an industrial one.
“We envision a pro-industry, capitalist economy with more investment in tourism, hydropower, medicinal herb-based industries and agro-based industries,” Bhattarai said.
He said the government led by his party would encourage private investment in productive sectors so that more jobs were created while discouraging investment in non-productive sectors.
He also tried to allay fears of labour militancy under a Maoist government.
“The government will bring together labourers and owners and the tripartite negotiations will come up with a new labour act,” he said. (http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/south-asia/nepal-market-rebounds-as-maoists-pledge-economic-revolution_10039967.html - April 20th, 2008)
On trips abroad PM Prachanda tried to encourage foreign investment in Nepal. After nearly a year of governing - and two months after the anti-strike SEZ Act was endorsed - the Maoists' message to capitalists and the working class on the undesireability of strikes remained the same;
PM ‘Prachanda’ assures to solve industrial sector’s problem
By Biz Correspondent on March 18, 2009
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on Wednesday said the government was committed towards resolving problems being faced by the industrial sector of the country.
Saying that the industrial sectors are backbones of the nation economy, PM Prachanda during a meeting with representatives from business community, said that government was going to prohibit all kinds of strikes in industrial sector declaring the sector as banda free zone.
Representatives of from Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Nepalese Chambers of Commerce had met the PM ‘Prachanda’ and submitted a memorandum urging the government to address various issues related with industrial sector... [Our emphasis] (http://www.nepalbiznews.com/newsdata/Biz-News/pm_meets_business_community.html - nepalbiznews.com 18 Mar 2010)
Three weeks later, fellow Maoist Minister Bhattrai echoed Prachanda's strike ban desires;
"We are in a new political set-up and it demands a new outlook in business and industries also," said Bhattrai. He assured entrepreneurs that the private sector would remain a key economic player in the country. He asked business communities to explore fields of competitive advantage.
Nepal is in political transition and there are many problems in trade and commerce sector. "The government knows the problems and is working to solve them," Dr Bhattarai said. The government has been providing subsidies in fuel to industries from the second half of March.
Furthermore, the government is planning to restrict bandhs and strikes in industries and essential commodities. "Such regulations will come soon," he assured. (Himalayan Times online - Apr 10 2009 - also; Apr 9, http://hamropalo.com/nepal_news/dr-bhattarai-seeks-pvt-sector-s-cooperation.html)
And come soon they did - in the same week it was reported that;
KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, April 7: The government has invoked the Essential Services Act (ESA) 2014 B.S, which bans strikes, in 16 various crucial service areas, starting Monday.
Among other things, the ESA bans all manner of strikes in the import and distribution of petroleum products including LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).
This latest move by the government comes in the face of growing instances of strike in various essential areas and just a week after petroleum dealers and tanker operators launched nationwide strikes, causing acute shortage of petroleum products in Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country.
Home Ministry spokesperson Nabin Ghimire said the import and distribution of petroleum products has been recognized as an essential service and strikes in this service banned, at the request of the Ministry of Commerce and Supply. “We hope that enforcement of the act (ESA) will do away with the tendency of organizing strikes in the critical services area,” he added.
As per the Essential Service Act 2014 BS, those directly involved in strikes against essential services are subject to a six-month jail term or a Rs 200 fine or both. Likewise, those inciting strikes or tacitly supporting the strike organizers are liable to a one-year jail term or a Rs 1,000 fine or both.
Last year also, the Home Ministry had enforced the ESA to ensure the availability of essential services. However, the ESA then did not recognize the import and distribution of petroleum products as an essential service. “We have also included internal security-related services as an essential service,” spokesperson Ghimire said.
The ESA remains in force for six months from the date of its notification through the Nepal Gazette [an official government legal publication].
According to a notice published in the Nepal Gazette, the government has recognized drinking water supply, electricity supply, hotels, hospitals and drugs manufacturing, garbage collection and disposal, and banking and insurance as essential services. Surface and air transport services, communications services including the post and telephones, airports and government printing and publication services are also included under the ESA. [Our emphasis]
Published on 2009-04-07 09:41:00 http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=3480
So the Maoist-led government had invoked the ESA to enforce what is a virtual blanket ban on strikes. As far as we know they only appear to have used this law against oil tanker operators; but a spokesperson for the Maoist-led government is quoted explicitly referring to its wider application; ' “We hope that enforcement of the act (ESA) will do away with the tendency of organizing strikes in the critical services area,” '. The ESA was activated in the same week that Maoist finance minister Dr Bhattrai told Nepal's International Chamber of Commerce that the promised strike ban would soon be operational, and could clearly be used to deliver what he promised to bosses; "the government is planning to restrict bandhs and strikes in industries and essential commodities. "Such regulations will come soon," he assured." (Himalayan Times online - Apr 10 2009)
The Maoists left government before they got much chance to use these powers more widely - on 4th May 2009 Maoist Party Chairman and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as Prachanda) resigned over a dispute with the President regarding the sacking of an army General. But the legislation that the Maoist-led government had revived and implemented is clearly a provision for an almost blanket ban on workers' strikes.
Some may claim the ESA strike ban was only done 'for the sake of the public good' to relieve shortages of basic goods and services - but this rings hollow when one sees that after leaving government Maoist-led disruption of essential services such as fuel was considered fine as a tactic - as in Nov 09;
KATHMANDU: Unified CPN-Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Petroleum Workers’ Union (ANPWU) on Monday lived up to its threat, shutting down all private petrol pumps in the Kathmandu Valley for an indefinite period.
The closure comes in the wake of the Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ Association’s (NPDA) ‘failure to fulfil’ ANPWU’s 16-point charter of demands.
The Maoist union’s stir has spread beyond the Kathmandu Valley as well. ANPWU members today picketed at all nine Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) depots across the nation for the fifth consecutive day. NOC depots are located in Amlekhgunj, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Nepalgunj, Surkhet, Dipayal, Janakpur,
Birtamod and Thankot.
The fuel crisis is likely to deepen in the coming days.
The All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) — the workers’ front of the Maoists — today announced that it would lead the ongoing agitation. http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullTodays.php?headline=ANPWU+warning+for+indefinite+strike&NewsID=197167
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The Western pro-maoists have invented the claim - with no supporting evidence - that “The Maoists briefly put forward a proposal to temporarily ban strikes in certain key sectors. This was at a time when the country had no electricity for most of the day, there was a food shortage and strikes and bandhs called by reactionary parties were causing chaos and undermining the Maoist-led government.” (http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/refuting-the-lie-that-the-maoists-banned-strikes-in-nepal/) In fact in the period preceding the introduction of the ESA blanket strike ban the main rival governmental parties were not involved in organising most of the strikes and bandhs. The most common strikes and bandhs were by transport personnel and businessmen (protesting against bandh blockades and shutdowns disrupting their business), students (including Maoist groups), regional ethnic movements, low-caste rights groups and local people agitating for compensation or better services. Further, these same types of strikes by the same groups carried on at a similarly high level for months after the Maoists left government (as did the oil tanker strikes) - so the claim that the Maoists were only reacting with their anti-strike policies and legislation to strikes designed to target and discredit their government is false, another fiction invented by Western Maoist apologists to excuse the embarassing anti-working class policies of the Nepali Maoists.
To attempt to justify the strike ban proposals as 'necessary for the public good' is to take the vantage point of bourgeois parliamentary politicians against the interests of those workers who would be threatened by jail by these legislations.Yet as soon as they were out of government the Maoists were happy to return to bandhs and strikes that impeded the distribution of basic goods - these political demonstrations were in their Party interests and its pursuit of power, while workers' strikes for working class economic interests would have clearly been against the interests of a Maoist government and its goal of capitalist accumulation; ie, its exploitation of the working class.
When in power, strikes become increasingly undesirable for the Maoists - when out of power they again become a political weapon. So we can conclude; shortly before they decided to leave government the Maoists stated that they wanted to stop workers' strikes, and they then invoked/activated legislation giving them the legal power to do so. While in power the Maoists revived and endorsed legislation for SEZs incorporating anti-strike clauses - and also invoked and activated the blanket anti-strike law The Essential Services Act. Two pieces of anti-strike legislation prepared for use under their rule. That's pretty good going for the self-appointed champions of the exploited masses.
Yet the Western pro-maoist cheerleaders and excusers have expressed a 3rd Worldist leftism with typical double standards. If anyone proposed any banning of strikes in the West these Western leftists would be the first to talk of class oppression – but clearly, in places like Nepal it’s supposedly in the interests of the workers themselves to have their strikes banned. We've been here before and we know where it leads... to workers being jailed for 'counter-revolutionary disruption of socialist construction'.
In 2010, strikes and bandhs have remained a problem disrupting the smooth functioning of commerce. And recently there have been proposals for a new strike ban. As in the past, the Maoist leaders are reported to be in agreement with the other bourgeois politicians for a ban;
KATHMANDU, April 3: The government is mulling over banning forceful closure of industries and restricting all forms of strike that affect productions at the export-oriented industries for six months.
The new provision that the government is seriously contemplating to address the long-running demand of the private sector, however, will allow trade unions to place professional demands and stage protests like working with black bands. [..]
To enforce the new rule, the government is currently discussing on two options: declaring state of ´industrial emergency´ or activate Essential Service Act, listing export-oriented industries as one of the essential sectors. These options were recommended to the cabinet by a high-level government committee, involving secretaries from various ministries.
"Both these options can be implemented and can help keep export-oriented industries free from strikes,” the source added.
But since the implementation of the provision will need strong commitment from all political parties, the committee, in coordination with the private sector, also held a series of interactions with senior political leaders, including the UCPN (Maoist) leaders, to forge consensus on it.
"The leaders were concerned that the step might curb workers´ rights to push professional demands and pursue collective bargain. But once we informed them about formation of an all party mechanism to uphold them, they agreed to it," said Kush Kumar Joshi, president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
FNCCI that is elated by the positive response from the leaders has even urged the government to enforce the new provision within 15 days.
However, given the experiences of political leaders easily disowning the commitments they made in the past, sources said that the government is still not satisfied with the level of consultations and is soon holding talks with the trade unions as well. [Our emphasis]. (Apr 3rd 2010 http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=16994)
Considering their present hostility to rival parties, some leftists might have expected the Maoists to have exploited this anti-working class proposal to show to the working class the true interests of their rival parties. But that would be to call the Maoists' own bluff - as their previous activities show they are in agreement with banning strikes when having the state power to do so.
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"[b]Bolshevism will remain formidable as long as it can maintain its monopoly on the interpretation of revolution." (Cronin & Seltzer - [/b]Call It Sleep)
Maoism retains the conception of socialism and communism inherited from 19th century social democracy; the myth that it's simply a form of administration of production, politically administrated by leftist politicians on behalf of the workers who are now "freed" in their labour by being "represented" in government by those who rule over them in their name.
As we have said previously; "Maoism is another form of management of class society, not the abolition of class society nor a road leading to it." Developing capitalism means developing the exploitation of a proletariat; whether this exploitation is directed primarily by a one-party state that calls itself 'communist', or (often more efficiently and with greater concessions) by parliamentary democracy in alliance with private capital, the relationship between state, ruling class and working class remains one of class exploitation..
As we replied to some pro-maoists who tried to excuse/defend the strike bans on the basis that with such policies the Nepal Maoists were building socialism;
You are in effect saying that until Nepal has developed sufficient infrastructure to a certain level, the workers must postpone their class struggle and so leave themselves defenceless - and you are trying to justify that by saying that the advancement of that class struggle is secured by the presence of the maoists in the ruling class, who must be free to exploit the workers as part of ‘the building of/struggle for socialism’. Nothing could be more absurd, anti-working class and counter-revolutionary. (http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/prachanda-nepalese-people-will-seize-power/#comment-11628
- our intervention begins at comment 33.)
The Maoists still hope to eventually re-enter government as the leading party; perhaps then we will finally see the full flowering of the Maoists' policy on labour relations in practice.
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Building capitalism is not a 'revolutionary road' to communism
It is clear from the various Maoist statements on economic and governmental policy that their primary conflict with rival sections of the ruling class are political - while they agree with them that socio-economic class relations of capitalism must not be abolished but developed and intensified. The Maoists see the Nepali bourgeoisie as hindered by their lingering 'feudal' roots, this so-called 'semi-feudalism' making them incapable of developing the productive forces. The entrenched caste-ridden political bureaucracy, land-owning class and merchant capitalists have been a fetter on industrial development. Therefore the Maoists seek to play the role of surrogate bourgeoisie and remodel the political system so the traditional vested interests no longer hamper industrial expansion and modernisation - so "concluding the capitalist people’s revolution", as they put it! Alongside this accumulation through expoitation of the working class a certain level of 'social wage' - benefits, pensions, rising living standards etc - might at some point be generated to satisfy the Maoists' voter base, stabilise society and encourage local consumerism. That is the extent of the radical nature of the Maoist project. Other unashamedly capitalist powers have achieved the same elsewhere, whilst more stagnant 'underdeveloped' economies sometimes achieve (generally more modest) reform via more drastic leftist political maneouvres and interventions. The Nepalese Maoist project is intended to use the state to develop 'public-private investment partnerships', a modernised variation from traditional leftist state-capitalism; that this is wrongly associated with real communism - the self-emancipation of the working class and abolition of class society - is only a continuation of a mythology that remains one of the most illusory lies of the 20th century - thankfully, with generally diminishing appeal.
The great delusion of 3rd Worldist leftism is to believe that the bourgeois state can be used to impose capitalism's relations of production and political structures with the intention of abolishing them later. The processes of wage slavery, commodity production, class rule, bourgeois ideology and state power are thereby reinforced by the assimilation into the mechanism of class society of what claims to be its enemy.
This strategy - using Mao's description of a period of "New Democracy" - is couched in traditional Maoist terms; but this is not China 1949 and a Maoist seizure of sole state power in Nepal now is far less likely. Unlike Mao's victory in 1949, in Nepal the traditional bourgeoisie is not defeated politically or militarily and must be dealt with in the parliamentary arena. The Maoists could not win but only achieve an indefinite stalemate in the guerilla war that ended in 2006; the Nepal Army, closely tied to its Indian counterpart, remains a decisive force. The traditional dominance of Nepali politics by southern neighbour India's diplomacy and intelligence services, the growing economic influence of northern neighbour China, the wider geo-political influences of the US and EU; all make Nepal a sideshow in a much bigger geo-political Great Game. So a traditional Bolshevik state-capitalist regime (though still desired by one Maoist faction) hardly seems feasible here.
After leaving government in May 2009 a video was released showing Prachanda telling a Maoist gathering how he had fooled the UN monitors of the ceasefire peace agreement (UNMIN) over the numbers of former Maoist combatants. He revealed that the real active strength of his People's Liberation Army at the end of the guerilla war was not the official figure of 20,000, but really only 7,000 (not many from a population of 30 million); since 2006 ex-soldiers have been stuck in cantonments awaiting resolution of an elusive political deal as to how they might be integrated into the national Army. Bored and wanting to get on with their lives, numbers have dwindled further as some have drifted away, a few have been discharged and there has been the occasional suicide; so the ability to reignite a "People's War" appears remote, unpopular and with even less chance of advancing the Maoist project.
Considering the relatively small numbers engaged in Maoist military activity and the Party's failure, after 15 years, to have engineered 'the masses' to join them in a revolutionary overthrow of the state, one can conclude that the remaining popular support for the Maoists is much more a mandate for political reform than for revolution. The recent May 2010 demonstrations in the capital Kathmandu - repeatedly promoted by the Maoists as the 'final push' that would continue until the government was toppled - were a miserable flop, as most of the bussed-in peasants (some complaining of Maoist pressure to attend) drifted away after a few days to hurry back for the planting season. This inability to sustain the protests exposed further the limits of the Maoists' support.
* * *
"But the transformation, either into joint-stock companies, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies this is obvious. And the modern state, again, is only the organisation that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the general external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with." (Engels - Anti-Duhring, 1878)
"We do not believe that private property should be abolished" (Prachanda, Chairman of the UCPN(Maoist) - interview with BBC news, 3rd Sep 2008) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7596523.stm
"... In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. " (Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1847)
"... property turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others, and to be the impossibility, on the part of the labourer, of appropriating his own product." (Marx, Capital, 1867)
For the Maoists, and leftism in general, the difference between capitalism and socialism/communism is only a difference of political administration; who runs the state and how. This reductionism fails to see (or masks with a 'socialist/communist' ideology and phraseology) that capitalism is the social organisation of extracting surplus value out of those directly producing - and is the particular forms that this exploitation of labour takes in its historical evolution. The state administration is one mechanism to facilitate this process. In societies like Nepal with more stagnant and unresolved political structures, rooted in longstanding historical factional ruling class rivalries, leftist state-capitalist regimes can attempt to resolve certain contradictions of political structure and function for underdeveloped capitals and so prepare the conditions for a more efficient, modernised and profitable phase of accumulation. This is an underlying reality of what the political conflicts in Nepal are based on - whether the state and its political mechanisms can be used to transcend the various fragmented political and economic interests that have prevented socio-economic development and innovation. Added to the mix are the geo-political implications of Nepal's traditional role as buffer state between the two emerging industrial giants of India and China, and all the external pressures, limits and necessary diplomacy this brings.
The underlying contest between the two ideological forces in Nepal (broadly characterised as the Indo-centric and the proto-liberational formations) has largely determined the contours of Nepali political life over the past fifty years, and will continue do so. (A Himalyan Red Herring? - Saubhagya Shah; Himalayan 'People's War', Ed. Michael Hutt, Hurst & Co., London 2004.)
This "underlying contest" applies as much to the Maoists, their changing positions and their own internal factional divisions as to their political rivals. Whoever is in power in Nepal is there largely at the grace and tolerance of Indian political strategy and its regional imperial role; and must also accomodate China's increasing economic and infrastructural investment which will buy them deeper long-term political penetration.
There is a fundamental false consciousness at work; while the Maoists believe themselves the masters of historical progress, leading society through the necessary linear stages of economic development prior to communism - they are in fact as much the historical tools of the global expansion of capitalism. International capital has so far found Nepal of little attraction to invest in; the proposed SEZs and anti-strike legislation is an attempt to attract the capital investment necessary to kickstart the economy. The fact that political power has become an end in itself, for Maoist leaders Prachanda (who sees himself as Nepal's Lenin) and co, is actually an obstacle to the political resolutions that would bring the stability necessary to make Nepal an attractive investment option. So the anti-strike legislation will probably eventually be used to try to bring an end to the bandh culture popularised by the Maoists. This will occur either when the Maoists have achieved power (or a leading role in power-sharing) and no longer need to mobilise their supporters towards that end - or when the Maoists have been decisively defeated and the political system has been restructured by other forces.
Nationalism and class struggle are irreconcilably opposed. A nation is a bourgeois reality: it is capitalism with all its exploitation and alienation, parcelled out in a single geographical unit. It doesn't matter whether the nation is 'small, 'colonial', 'semi-colonial' or 'non-imperialist'. All nationalisms are reactionary because they inevitably clash with class consciousness and poison it with chauvinism and racialism. (Third Worldism or Socialism; Solidarity - http://libcom.org/library/third-worldism-or-socialism-solidarity-group)
If one can only conceive of 'revolution' as a political programme of Party policies of capital accumulation pursued and implemented within the framework of the nation state, commodity exchange and private property - then one is not talking about a process of the self-emancipation of the exploited or any challenge to the social relations of capitalism. (And one has learnt nothing from the historical tragedies of 20th century Bolshevik counter-revolution.) We remain unconvinced that using 'underdevelopment' as an excuse for strengthening and generalising capitalism brings communism closer - to think so, one's conception of communism must be nationalistic, and fixated on accumulation of surplus value and commodity exchange as the measure of the possibilities for communism. From this political perspective, communism is at present too expensive for the leftist nation-state to 'buy into', so accumulation must be intensified until communism can affordably be 'purchased' by sufficient capitalist development! No room in that quantitative capitalist logic for the abolition of wage labour, state, classes, commodities etc - as part of the process of revolutionary struggle of the exploited in their qualitative transformation of social relations. 'The masses' remain mere components of the accumulation process; the footsoldiers, cannon, farm and factory fodder of the Maoist party elite (who quickly began to live as well as other politicians; "the monthly income of a CA politician is well over three times the annual national average wage!" (http://libcom.org/news/nepal-a-nice-little-earner-maoist-ruling-class-lenins-footsteps-12052008)). The political horse-trading, 'court intrigues' and diplomatic double-dealing that have dominated Maoist activity in recent years - both in international diplomacy and the parliamentary arena and also internally between the Party's rival factions - are not class struggle, but only political competition within the political elite for possession of the state.
Nepal is sandwiched between two of the largest and expanding Asian industrial economies, India and China. If one rejects the notion of necessary/inevitable historical stages within narrowly national frameworks one can see that advanced means of production are present in the region – and their artificial scarcity imposed by present social relations could readily be overcome, and so communised and spread by a revolutionary social movement that refused to be bound by nationalist ideology, national borders or particular state interests and forms. That is more difficult than a vanguard party seizure of national political power (i.e., a mere change of administration rather than proletarian revolution of social relations and conditions – leftist bureaucratic power v proletarian insurgency), but in our opinion is the only realistic means of self-emancipation for the working classes (both urban workers and poor peasantry); i.e. the abolition of class society. But proletarian self-organisation and communisation is all very far from the public/private partnerships, state capitalist and/or SEZ pretentions of the Nepali state, Maoist-led or otherwise. Capitalist development is capitalist exploitation in motion and it is an error to equate the presence of leftist parties within the state and their increased bureaucratic power with an actual seizure and transformation of productive forces and social relations by an insurgent proletariat themselves.
Even if that is off the agenda, the immediate interests and confidence of the working classes can only be defended and advanced by recognising the reality of their class relations in Nepali society; that there is a ruling class that seeks to exploit them, and that some of them will call themselves Maoists.
2) Perhaps the most ridiculous of all these attempted smears and lies is the most recent, where we are accused of launching; "what seemed to have become a clear attack against the UCPN-M by an Anarchist organization known as Libcom" ... "This of course struck waves of anger by those on the left, ranging from anarchists & leftist-communists." ... "the selected reporting by Libcom was used in nothing more than a propaganda campaign in order to demonize the Maoist-led government." The author appears to compare (or equate?) our criticisms with the propaganda campaigns of bourgeois states - a typical Stalinist amalgam technique that tries to discredit all criticism by conflating the radical with the conservative - a sign of the absence of any more credible defence;
"The propaganda campaign continues
Through out each separate region, which similar resistance being waged by Maoist rebels, & similar counter-resistance being waged by the bourgeois states, a propaganda campaign has been used with no mercy in order to try & dismantle what oppositional forces stands in the way of the ruling elite. These campaigns are not coincidental, they are not unintentional. These are campaigns, in which are merely waged by capitalist/imperialist forces ..." (The War on Truth Against the Maoist Rebels; August 16, 2010 by BJ Murphy http://redviolence.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/the-war-on-truth-against-the-maoist-rebels/)
The rest of the article is a simple repeat of earlier Western pro-maoist inaccuracies and excuses.
Other examples of pro-maoist responses and distortions; http://kasamaproject.org/2010/01/05/unraveling-a-lie-no-nepals-maoists-didnt-ban-strikes/ - followed by some excellent critical comments by 'kdog'.
http://www.revleft.com/vb/did-nepals-maoists-t125960/index3.html - our comments begin at post #42.
http://kasamaproject.org/2009/01/29/prachanda-nepalese-people-will-seize-power/#comment-11628 - comments correcting various slurs and untruths begin in comments beneath article at post #33. The debate here was at least, for the most part, reasoned and not merely dismissive.
http://www.revleft.com/vb/maoists-nepal-propose-t99880/index.html - a longish debate between left-communists and anarchists against pro-maoists.
http://www.indymedia.org.nz/article/78374/eyewitness-revolution-nepal-touring-nz - see comments beneath article.
3) For some curious effects of malnutrition on Bangladeshi workers, see; http://libcom.org/news/bangladesh-militarized-factory-visions-devouring-demons-capital-15092008
4)http://www.nepalbiznews.com/newsdata/Biz-News/industryclosure.html March 19,2007
5) The scope of the Act is extremely wide;
The Essential Services Act (ESA), 1957, bans strikes and protests in 16 sensitive service sectors that are essential for the public. They are as follows:
Banking services, Postal service, Electronic and print media, Telecommunication service, Transportation service including road, air and marine transport, Work related to civil aviation and maintenance of aircraft, Public security, Services on railway station and government storages, Mint and government print service, Manufacture of defense goods, Electricity supply, Drinking water supply, Hotel, motel, restaurant, resort and tourist accommodation and other similar kinds of service, Import and distribution of petroleum goods, Hospital, health centres and manufacturing establishment of medicine and distribution, Garbage collection, transfer and recycling services. (http://thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=Half++forgotten+Act+&NewsID=36391)
6) See the nepalbandh site; http://www.nepalbandh.com/index.php
7) For further evidence see; http://libcom.org/news/maoists-win-election-nepal-17042008?page=1
But guerilla war is not at all a uniquely radical tactic of the Maoists - all the main Parliamentary bourgeois parties today have had periods of armed struggle in their history in pursuit of bourgeois democracy. That the Maoists regularly make various contradictory statements about the extent of their commitment to parliamentary politics as an end in itself is partly a reflection of factional differences within the party - and of the distance between any Maoist-desired one party state-capitalist regime and what greater global powers (India, China, US, EU) will tolerate.
8) A term describing the pre-capitalist social relations emerging in Europe in the Middle Ages, unsurprisingly, has limited application in Nepal today. It appears to be more a clumsy application of standard Leninist phraseology rather than striving for historical and materialist precision in categorisation. So it is somewhat misleading to talk of the 'semi-feudal social relations' of the countryside; land tenure in Nepal is not a static relic of "feudal" times. There have been modern land reform policies since the short-lived democratic governments of the 1950s. These were continued by the monarchy. Land is a valuable and appreciating commodity in Nepal; agricultural fertility, urban development, proximity to tourist locations and transport networks determine value and create a lucrative real estate market. One can talk more accurately of "the persistence of semi-feudal forms of exploitation in an increasingly monetised rural setting" - and the conditions "of the poor peasantry, the semi-proletarians and the landless" (P Chandra). But subsistence farming of peasant smallholdings alongside some larger estates and tenant farming - rather than vassals and serfdom - are the characteristic forms of land tenure. There is also a semi-proletarian character to many of the young villagers; they will often travel to towns for seasonal waged work during quieter farming periods, while others travel abroad to work for sometimes lengthy periods before often returning to farming. The money they return with and send back as "remittance" is changing the economic relations of the rural areas through acquisition of land, housebuilding, youth migration creating farm labour shortages and so higher wages etc. It is these forces - the relations of a mobile working class to global labour markets - that are now changing rural social relations rather than the ideological claims of political parties to be 'abolishing feudalism'.
"The Maoists continue to analyse and represent the Nepali political economy largely as a feudal enterprise. For instance, Baburam Bhattarai recently described Nepal as being within 'precapitalist socioeconomic relations' (Bhattarai 2002a). However, some economists have argued that 'the Nepali state is no longer ruled by feudals: it has long since passed, especially since the 1980s, into the hands of the trading class comprador bourgeoisie' (Gyawali 2002: 37). The Maoists are, in effect, 'trying to overthrow feudalism in a country already ruled by merchants' (ibid.)." (A Himalyan Red Herring? - Saubhagya Shah; Himalayan 'People's War', Ed. Michael Hutt, Hurst & Co., London 2004. http://libcom.org/library/himalayan-red-herring-maoist-revolution-shadow-legacy-raj-saubhagya-shah)
This 'feudal' analysis allows the Maoists to present themselves as the most progressive, visionary historical force and 'validates' (or excuses) their pro-capitalist program.
9) See; http://libcom.org/news/fierce-one-speaks-forked-tongue-nepalese-maoists-leave-government-sackings-lies-videotape-1
10) India's domination of south Asian geo-politics and its continued central role in Nepal cannot be underestimated. Shah's article illustrates well the divide and rule policies of Indian regional diplomacy, their hegemonic grip and the Nepali Maoists' accomodation to it. Despite Prachanda periodically playing the anti-India nationalist card against overbearing Indian political interference, communication lines are kept open at diplomatic levels. This 'defending the nation' pose was during the civil war presented to the Nepali public even as Prachanda and co. were secretly comfortable guests of the imperial big brother India and operating out of Indian bases. The predominantly well-educated and high-caste Maoist leaders might pose in combat fatigues on occasion; but while rank'n'file Maoist combatants were dying for the 'revolutionary cause', some Maoist leaders were for several years given supplies and shelter in India as part of the negotiations and manipulations of the Indian intelligence services - even as India supplied the Nepal Army with military hardware to combat the Maoist insurgency and shoot 'the comrades' down.
"By supporting and supplying both sides of the civil war in Nepal, new Delhi has perfected the imperial art of divide and rule." ... "These contradictory moves from India, especially after 11 September 2001, can perhaps be explained by the possibility that the various organs of the Indian state, viz. the foreign ministry, defence establishment and the intelligence services, were pursuing different sets of objectives within the same policy framework towards Nepal, and not necessarily working at cross-purposes." ... "A month after the Indian foreign minister had labelled Nepali Maoists 'terrorists' and publicly pledged support to the Nepali government in the conflict, the senior Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara flew in from New Delhi on an Indian Airlines flight to lead the Maoist delegation in the third round of talks with the government held in Kathmandu. Subsequently, many of the Maoist leaders continued to provide regular statements and interviews to various media from different Indian cities." (A Himalyan Red Herring? - Saubhagya Shah; Himalayan 'People's War', Ed. Michael Hutt, Hurst & Co., London 2004.)
This is not to deny that there exists genuine conflicts of interest between the various competing factions in the Nepali political arena; but the apparent issue of nationalistic conflicts has at times been used by both Maoists and the Indian state as a convenient smokescreen for collaboration and manipulation where their paths intersect in pursuit of their respective strategic goals.