Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Maoist Supremo's Confessions
All Smiles: Prachanda(left)and Dr. Baburam
Pic courtesy: Narayan Wagle/Kantipur
As usual, today I started my day with morning newspaper. But, today turned out to be different. Morning shows the day, they say. There was an interview of elusive Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda. The interview taken by two Kantipur journos Narayan Wagle and Prateek Pradhan, made my day. It made me optimistic, ponder over the fate of nation. Here's the full text from The Kathmandu Post. Note the leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai at times retorting and thereby interfering the chairman.
We want to stop bloodshed: Prachanda
The Kathmandu Post: What is your bottom line for restoring peace in the country?
Prachanda: The understanding we have reached with the seven political parties is the bottom line at the moment. The 12-point understanding is the minimum base that democratic powers all over the world can accept and the country's crises can have an exit. After reaching the understanding, we extended the cease-fire by a month. Taking the people's verdict is the best democratic process. Once all are committed to move forward with the outcomes of the people's verdict, a political solution won't be distant. The events and history are testimony to the fact that the king and the palace don't want this.
Post: What about your goals?
Prachanda: Since we belong to a communist party, our maximum goals are socialism and communism. Those are the maximum goals of all those accepting Marxism, Leninism and Maoism as philosophical and ideological assumptions. Given the international power balance and the overall economic, political and social realities of the country, we can't attain those goals at the moment. We must accept this ground reality. We have mentioned democratic republic and constituent assembly, with the understanding that we should be flexible given the balance in the class struggle and international situation. This is a policy, not tactics. This is a necessary process for the bourgeoisie and the national capitalists alike, let alone the middle-class.
Post: Constituent assembly?
Prachanda: Yes. Constituent assembly is not a demand of the communists. It's a democratic process established by the capitalists a long time back.
We are not saying this as a tactic. We have adopted this policy due to today's balance in class powers and today's world situation so that the Nepali people won't have to endure any more troubles. On the one hand, those elites in the feudal palace, despite knowing it, call our policy just a tactic.
On the other, the Maoist movement has become the main fear of foreign powers - especially American imperialism. [They] have termed us a "momentary challenge". They have been looking at us strategically, saying that a "Maoist movement is flaring up in a land between giant countries
China and India, it can strike the whole world tomorrow." They are cautiously trying to give out a wrong message in this regard.
Post: What is the process?
Prachanda: We are even ready to accept restoration of the dissolved House of Representatives if the seven parties say so. The only condition is: don't try to restore the authoritarian power. There are also shadows in the Supreme Court, so don't turn to that either. Restore the House by coming to the people, and we are ready to change the People's Army in a jiffy.
Post: Changing the army?
Prachanda: We have told the seven parties, let's form a common army by including your people. One of the bases of confusion about us is that we have an army, we have guns. There are confusions about to what extent we are committed to democracy. Let's sit together with all including the seven parties; let's decide together who should be commanders, commissars, chief of the army; let's make a common army. Let's make a national army. We have made this proposal to both Girija and Madhav, saying that this will make clear our understanding on democracy and constituent assembly. Maybe, on the one hand, we haven't been able to clarify the depth and meaning of the issue; and on the other hand, the imperialists and palace elements have spread propaganda against us, thereby creating confusions.
Post: Isn't this proposal of making a common army a ploy to push the parties into the "People's War"?
Prachanda: [laughing…]. The parties always continued to be hopeful of the palace right since 2007 B.S. , they kept on making compromises with the palace. They should have more trust in the people, more trust in the people's power, should have led a people's decisive movement against feudal elements. We say, let's make a common army for constituent assembly and a democratic republic. Let's form a parallel government of the parties and the Maoists. You restore the House, we will support you; invite us for dialogue, we will come; let's make the army common by including all; that will make for an official and legitimate government. That will represent the majority people - the government of the [seven] parties and a party that rebelled. After forming such a government, we can approach the United Nations and the international community, saying 'this is the legitimate government of Nepal'. Since we have this kind of a proposal, how can it be about bringing the parties into the "People's War"? Rather, it's about us going for the parties' politics. It's about us going for a constituent assembly and a democratic republic. [It's about] us going for bourgeois democracy.
Post: How will you manage your arms?
Prachanda: If all are ready to go for a constituent assembly, an interim government will be formed; the country will head towards elections for the constituent assembly; a ceasefire is undoubtedly attached to this; and it will create a climate for political debate. With the process of holding election by the interim government under way, there will be interaction with the parties and all the political forces in the country including the monarchists. As the election looms, let's maintain reliable international vigil on the Royal Army and the People's Liberation Army. The country will get a direction after the results of the election are out. Once it is clear, let's change the army and the weapons into a national army and national weapons respectively. The weapons of both sides should be put together and both the armies should be transformed into one under the supervision of the United Nations or another reliable agency. That will result in the national army.
Post: Is it your proposal to keep both the armies under international supervision until the election to the constituent assembly and formation later of a common army?
Prachanda: The army will be formed according to the results of the election. This is what you should be clear about. We will accept it if the constituent assembly says we want monarchy. We are flexible even that far. We will accept it even if the people say we want an active monarch. If the people say 'republic', all should accept that. If the people go for, as has been said, a constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy, we are ready for that. We value people's votes, nobody else's. The army will be reformed as per the people's decision.
Post: So, you want to keep the conflict on to force the king to compromise?
Prachanda: Flexible words are not enough to pressure the king. If it is thought that the king would agree to revive the House, it is a thought of seeking the king's mercy. What we want to tell the parties is let's directly go for republic. A section of middle-class intellectuals still wants the king to remain in a ceremonial capacity. Even if you want the king to remain in such a capacity, only the call for a republic will create enough pressure for that. The king must come to that point.
Post: Have you received any conditional proposal for a constituent assembly from the government?
Prachanda: Since February 1 last, we have had no contact whatsoever with the palace or the palace people, hence we haven't received any proposal. We have gotten an indication, through the UN people or other international agencies, that they [government] are trying to propose in a roundabout way a conditional constituent assembly. We reject it outright because "conditional" means "compromise", which is not a constituent assembly. A constituent assembly is without any conditions. Before February 1, we had said we would talk to the king, not the parties. We had said we wanted to talk [with him] for progress. After he started to go towards regression with all the powers, there was no room for holding talks with him.
Post: Isn't it self-contradictory to say 'we will talk only with the real power, not with the parties and their government', and later to say 'we won't talk with the king after he announced taking over power'?
Prachanda: The power of the old regime rested in the king because the main organ of the regime, the army, was under him. He termed us "deviated" and "terrorists" when he staged the February 1 coup. It was proven that he didn't want to solve the problems even after taking absolute powers, by telling the parties off. The doors for talks were closed.
Bhattarai: He should have said 'okay I have come, let's solve the problems together'! He started saying 'I won't give you the rights you enjoyed till yesterday'.
Prachanda: That's the logic. The situation would have altered had he said 'Nobody did really work out, now the Maoists also come for dialogue, I want to give a try for a way out'.
Post: But, don't you think you have been aiding the king's "war against terror" in the name of "entering the city"?
Prachanda: America has been saying this. The biggest terrorist of the world today is America, and its ruling class. They gave birth to Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Iraq is in the making of another Vietnam, Afghanistan is on the way. They call us terrorist? They have been giving impetus to the purely traditional force of calling the people subjects. You must have met [US Ambassador] Moriarty several times. He exaggerates while talking about us. As if the Maoists will take over, as if they will surround Kathmandu when we are not in that position. What they have been saying in a roundabout way is that the army is nice, but the king didn't understand. Has America tried to make the people sovereign anywhere? Why is America afraid of us? Because it is in an ideological crisis.
Post: Isn't there an ideological crisis within your party?
Prachanda: We are investigating what mistakes our classes have made in the 20th century. We reviewed three years ago that the mechanism of running the state was not that democratic, was more mechanical, the people started to become monotonous in the 20th century communist movement, especially after the demise of Lenin. We passed a decision that we will go for a new people's democracy consistent with the 21st century. We aren't just saying democratic republic. The think tanks of American imperialism have well understood, though Nepal is a small country they have been forced to say, that this is the most successful revolution of the 21st century. If it's successful in Nepal, it has and will have direct impact on the one billion people of India, and it will also spill over into China. When it affects two or two and a half billion people, it means it will have impact all over the world. American intellectuals have understood this. That's why, they are of the opinion that the Maoists shouldn't prevail, rather it's alright to have an autocratic regime. Don't we know who made Marcos? Who brought Pinochet forward in Chile?
Post: Do you mean to say America is the real support behind the king?
Prachanda: We think so. Facts substantiate that. Even the parties are in confusion about whether we will prevail. Sometimes, we feel sad. We have told the parties, you take the leadership role, we don't need it. The only thing is that the country should find a way out. We have said that the party leaders can lead the democracy. We are not in a hurry to lead the nation.
Post: You want international mediation. Don't you think Nepal can solve the problems itself?
Prachanda: On the one hand, the political forces within the country are not able to convince one another. Secondly, it is the geopolitics between two giant countries - China and India. International mediation is essential due to these reasons. We think that the UN is the best option, but we don't stick to that alone. The UN or any other reliable organization will work. It should be agreeable to China, India and the United States. We want no bloodshed. We want the bloodshed to stop and go for a solution, but if we don't take action, he won't give us the rights. Obviously the three-month cease-fire was for finding an exit. The king has said that the "momentary cease-fire" was a ploy to intensify violence. We didn't have that intention. The cease-fire was a pressure for a peaceful way out, not a tactic. Later, we added one more month so as to further pressurize the king for a peaceful way out. He thought - their backbone has been broken, they have announced cease-fire for power accumulation!
Post: Will you go for talks if the government declares a unilateral cease-fire now?
Prachanda: We can't go for talks only with a ceasefire. We should look into the intention behind the truce. If the ceasefire comes as a card with the intention of defusing the movement, we won't accept it.
Post: Then, what should happen?
Prachanda: We are open to holding unconditional discussions on all issues including constituent assembly. We will reciprocate positively if the ceasefire seems to be leading to meaningful dialogue. But, we don't see that possibility.
Post: When will this series of violence end?
Prachanda: I can't answer this question like an astrologer. If things go as we have said, it should end in two to three months. We want to see things crystal clear by April 6. We have been trying to see the civil war has an outlet.
Post: Your armed insurgency is close to reaching 10 years. Have you spotted your mistakes in this period?
Prachanda: The base of feudalism has been uprooted in the villages. The people are in the forefront of the world population when it comes to political consciousness. When we started the movement, there were not more than 70 full-time members in the party. Our movement grew in multiples wherever there was suppression. Within five years, it became a big power at the national level. So many people came to join us that it became like a people's movement.
Post: Lack of discipline was also a big issue?
Prachanda: Yes, that's absolutely true. People of all kinds came to join us. A little bit of freedom, anarchy and conservativeness started to become visible. Militarily, after we successfully carried out big operations in Dang, Gam, Achham, Arghakhanchi, Jumla, Satbariya, we had thought the army would lose faster than the police, maybe within a year or two. There was increase in multiples in the military prowess in preparation for capturing Kathmandu. Before that, the rulers of America and India got too serious. Weapons came from America, training from America, American fortification came and American money came. All the things came from America and India. They got strong fortifications. On the one hand, the war got prolonged. There was too much propaganda against us, which we couldn't stop. On the other, we couldn't provide ideological and political training to the new recruits. They came as they were. When we were getting over all these shortcomings, you saw internal rift within us.
Post: Internal rift within your party surfaced around the time February One happened?
Prachanda: Yes, along with February One, which was the irony.
Post: Have you seen any policy shift by India towards the Maoists?
Prachanda: We have thought there are certain changes post-February 1. But, India and America don't want to finish the monarchy off. They want the monarchy to come to a compromise. Maybe they are bargaining.