On Sept. 25, the International Action Center had the unique honor of hosting a reception for revolutionary activists in the New York area to welcome Prachanda, the new prime minister of Nepal, who is visiting the city for the United Nations General Assembly.
Comrade Prachanda is chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and led the people's war that ousted Nepal's monarchy and old parliamentary system. The CPN(M) won a decisive victory in constitutent assembly elections held earlier this year.
The by-invitation event was attended by representatives of the International Action Center, Workers World Party, BAYAN-USA, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Nodutdol, FIST (Fight Imperialism - Stand Together), the Bolivarian Circle, DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), American-Iranian Friendship Committee, Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum, May 1st Coalition for Immigrant Rights, New York Free Mumia Coalition, Palestinian and Puerto Rican organizations, and others. Representatives of the Venezuelan and Algerian UN delegations were also present.
The program was co-chaired by Sara Flounders of the IAC and LeiLani Dowell of FIST.
In her opening remarks, Flounders emphasized the importance of the peoples war in opening up avenues for real democratic and social change in Nepal by going outside the corrupt structure of the parliament and refusing to accomodate the monarchy. This has helped to not only displace the royalty, but to lay the basis for a constitutent assembly to create new democratic structures and rewrite the constitution of Nepal. She said this was a powerful example of how the struggle of poor and working people coming from the grassroots was the fundamental condition for social change.
Former U.S. Attorney General and IAC co-founder Ramsey Clark introduced Prime Minister Prachanda, whose name translates as "the fierce one." Prachanda's ferocity, said Clark, is for social, political and economic justice for his people.
Prime Minister Prachanda was greeted with a standing ovation and raised fists. He spoke to the gathering in English and afterwards answered questions from the audience. What follows are rough notes on some of the major points he covered.
Comrade Prachanda explained that the CPN(M) has tried to understand the lessons of the international communist movement, of the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th Century.
He briefly reviewed the history of the peoples war, which began in 1996 after the Nepali government's violent repression of mass demonstrations. Prachanda said that his party worked to explain to the people that they were not opposed to peaceful change, but that all avenues had been closed and armed struggle was necessary.
After five years of civil war, the CPN(M) embarked on a serious internal discussion of the lessons of previous revolutions, including the socialist revolution in Russia. At this time the party adopted the idea that a multi-party system and political competition should exist even under socialism. They determined that this is what Lenin would have done had he lived another five or 10 years, in the process of trying to build the basis for a socialist economic system in Russia. Lenin would not have followed the same path as Stalin, who made "serious mistakes in his understanding of philosophy and dialectical materialism," according to Prachanda.
Following this internal discussion, the CPN(M) initiated negotiations with the Nepali government. However, the talks did not succeed because the government would not agree to the minimum conditions of a constituent assembly.
Saying that the democratic revolution must be completed to carry through the socialist revolution, Prachanda explained that the monarchy had played a very important role in how the revolution developed through its stupidity and intransigence. The result was an understanding between the peoples war and other parties involved in the mass struggle, of bourgeois democratic and peoples movements side-by-side. This culminated in 19 days of mass actions that brought about the beginning of the end to the monarchy in 2006.
Prachanda commented on the "confusion of some people" when the Maoists became the leading party in Nepal. He said the CPN(M)-led government's mandate consists of three tasks: 1) drafting a new constitution; 2) carrying through the peace process, termed the "rehabilitation and integration" of armed forces; and 3)
initiating new economic development.
When he appeared at the closing of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Prachanda explained, he tried to convey that "we are making a big experiment -- not only for Nepal, not only for South Asia, but for the people of the world. We communists are more flexible and dynamic. We try to develop our ideology according to new
conditions. We understand the dynamic of change."
Recalling that just three years ago he was labeled at terrorist by the U.S. and had a price on his head, and the CPN(M) is still on the U.S. "terrorism watch list," Prachanda joked about the leaders of the U.S. being the ones who are truly "sectarian and dogmatic," not the communists.
He thanked the audience for the opportunity to address the "socialists of the USA."
Prime Minister Prachanda briefly answered questions from the audience.
Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN asked about the future of the peasantry and land reform in Nepal. Prachanda responded that this was a key question facing the coalition government, which as undertaking the study of "a scientific land reform."
A Venezuelan representative asked about the role of the Nepali army and the dangers they might present to the revolutionary process. Prachanda replied to this "very serious question" that they were developing "our own model for rehabilitation and reintegration" different from the one espoused by the UN. One of his first tasks upon returning from the General Assembly will be the formation of a special cabinet-level committee to oversee this process.
Comrade Shahid of the Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum asked about the role of youth in Nepal. Prachanda explained that Nepal has a very high percentage of youth compared to most countries so this has great significance. He said youth are being mobilized under the popular slogan to "construct a New Nepal."
Ardeshir Ommani of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee asked about the role of the united front. Prachanda said that previously there was a united front of seven anti-royalist parties. After the big changes of 2006-2008, that front has changed and is now represented by the current governing coalition, which includes the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and others. Although they are outside the government, "we want to have a front even with the Nepali Congress Party" against foreign intervention. The front will go though even more changes with the drafting of a new constitution.
An audience member asked about Nepal's economic future, given the country's past reliance on tourism. Prachanda stated that the 21st Century has been called the "century of water resources." Nepal has huge water resources, and his goal is to develop hydro projects at small, medium and large levels. "Through these water resources we will have an economic revolution." He said there could also be a qualitative development in the tourism industry.
Monica Moorehead of Workers World Party asked about the role of women in the revolutionary process. Prachanda explained that the Maoists have always given the highest priority to integration of women at all levels of the struggle. He pointed out that 33 percent of the elected representatives of the constitutent assembly are women, a higher percentage than most "democratic" countries. Even other parties were forced to give opportunities to women because of the CPN(M)'s example.
Deirdre Griswold of Workers World Party asked about the status of liberated areas of the countryside where land reform had been carried out during the peoples war. Comrade Prachanda termed this a "delicate question." During the civil war it was clear there were liberated base areas in much of the country. Now,
however, some compromises have to be made with other parties, and this is the basis of the "scientific land reform" process. He compared this to China's struggle against Japanese imperialism, when Mao had to make compromises with Chiang Kai-Shek in the interests of the anti-colonial struggle.
Prime Minister Prachanda concluded by noting the he will address the UN General Assembly tomorrow (Sept. 26), where we will put forward Nepal's struggle as an example for the world, which he humorously predicted would "generate some controversy."