Sunday, March 02, 2008

Those The Revolution Left Behind

Growling over sustained howls of derision, Maoist chairman Prachanda has set his eyes firmly on the presidency – and beyond. A Maoist-led Nepal, the Fierce One recently told a western journalist, would prove to the world that the extreme leftists were right from the outset.
Not that Prachanda has stopped speaking from all sides of his mouth. Days after affirming his abiding faith in multiparty democratic elections to the western reporter, the ex-rebel in chief promised his flock a political spectacle of a different kind.
The Maoists have not entered the democratic process to join the old parliamentary system they fought to overthrow with the monarchy, the comrade in chief told the faithful. For this one time, the Maoists have deigned to submit to the democratic test in the interest of their larger cause.
Despite the latest agreements with the Madhesi and other agitators seeking greater representation, Prachanda still has doubts about the constituent assembly elections. If the polls were not held as scheduled on April 10, the Maoists would gain power through “alternative means”.
In one sense, at least, there aren’t any contradictions in Prachanda’s assertions to different audiences. Power at all costs is the new battle cry. A Prachanda presidency would not only be the apotheosis of the People’s War. It would be its ultimate vindication as well.
But his rank and file don’t seem too impressed. Hundreds former rebel soldiers and activists now seem to regret having dropped out of school to chase a communist utopia. With warfare in the name of the masses passé, these lads and lasses fear a massive layoff.
A wholesale merger with the professional army wasn’t as attractive as it sounded. In the given circumstances, a donor-funded mass recruitment of orderlies would have been desirable. But which general in his right mind would want to bark orders to ex-Maoists after each meal?
Not that opportunities are shrinking in the emerging new Nepal. In peacetime, men and women with saleable skills and academic agility are in demand. For those left behind, a Nepali version of the Trotskyite permanent revolution remains a perpetual ideal. Unfortunately, it will be just that for a while.
True, the Maoists have glamorized the art of articulating grievances. The ballot is still no match for the bullet when it comes to making the high and mighty sit up and take notice. The post-April Uprising era has proved to be a boom time as far as the enunciation of resentments is concerned.
Yet armed action has acquired a distinctly southern dimension. Simply put, battle-tested Maoist men and women don’t have the right looks to offer their expertise in the current climate.
As for mercenary service, the only international employers are the same western imperialists the ex-rebels railed against for over a decade. Let’s say the recruiters somehow became inexplicably magnanimous. How can you fight the Taliban when you feel the real traitors to the cause are your commanders?
The Maoist ex-soldiers lament how late converts to the Great Helmsman have seen their fortunes rise with the advent of peace. Going back to school is not an option for many. Member of the party and its allied organizations don’t want to play the academic adviser when total power seems so tantalizingly close.
So this is a time for these sullen men and women to sulk quietly, which undoubtedly exacerbates their pain. In their eagerness to learn, they surely don’t want to get into re-education camps.