REBELLION IN NEPAL – Deuba meets Dubya

In early May, at the White House in Washington DC, Deuba met Dubya. The Nepalese prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba met President George W Bush in the Oval Office to discuss how the US could help Nepalese security forces in their six year conflict with the country’s Maoist rebels.

Deuba, who also met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condleeza Rice, had every reason to come away smiling, commenting “…President Bush…is very much supportive of our campaign against terrorism and he has assured us he will help in many ways.” Bush promised him $21 million in military aid and doubled US development aid to Nepal to $38 million in 2003.

Defending the deal, one White House spokesman observed: “Nepal is an example, again, of a democracy and the US is committed to helping Nepal.”

Colin Powell had said pretty much the same when he was the first US Secretary of State to visit Nepal in January of this year. Thanking Dueba for his war against the ‘terrorists’ he said: “You have a Maoist insurgency that is trying to overthrow the government and that is really the kind of thing we are fighting throughout the world .”

Nepal has a population of 23 million, made up largely of impoverished subsistence farmers who lend the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) much support and who feel the rebels represent a voice that their government all but ignores. It is this grassroots resentment of the government that the Maoists have tried to tap into since 1996.

Although the guerrilla campaign is 6 years old, commencing when a Dr Baburam Bhattrai, went underground to begin the Maoist insurgency, much of the current wave unrest can be traced to that fateful night last June, when the crown prince murdered most of his family including the “liberal-minded” King Birendra. Birendra had been reluctant to use the army against the Maoists fearing the situation would escalate. This changed when his brother Gyanendra took the throne. The mourning over, the rebels launched an offensive that was cruelly repulsed by the army. Although the conflict has raged for 6 years, half of the deaths have occurred in the past year, since Gyanendra began relying on the army instead of the police

Rebel leader and one time university academic ‘Comrade’ Prachando (otherwise known as Pushpe Kamal Dahal) is a great admirer of Chairman Mao, modelling his insurrection on that carried out by Peru’s Shining Path movement and intent on establishing a “communist state” a “people’s republic” in Nepal and, indeed, holding out much hope for the alleged inherent revolutionary potential of his peasant fighters.

The unrest has destroyed the country’s tourist industry, a primary source of income. What few civil rights the Nepalese enjoyed have been suspended. Newspapers have been censored, thousands have been arrested and detained without trial, there have been widespread human rights abuses, and many disappearances, and political corruption is rampant. In the rebel controlled areas of the country, the Maoists have established their own courts and banks, press-ganged children as soldiers and targeted teachers. To sustain their activity, the rebels extract taxes from businesses, not only in the areas they control however, but right under the noses of the security forces in the capital.

Deuba flatly refuses to negotiate with the rebels who, in their anger, target with explosives, bridges and power stations and kill political opponents. Not so two years ago when Deuba was all for negotiations, even chairing the Consensus Seeking Committee – a body set up to seek a peaceful political solution and supported by the government – until it concluded that the uprising had its roots in grave societal inequality. A month ago the rebels were pressing for negotiations, negotiations turned down by Deuba who was far more responsive to US overtures, keen to expand their “war on terrorism”.

To label the rebels ‘terrorists’ and to announce a state of emergency has thus become a convenient way for the Nepalese rulers to avoid addressing the cause of the unrest. Supplying guns to aid the Royal Nepalese Army is much cheaper than trying to reform their corrupt and unworkable system or to address any of the grievances of the impoverished majority. The situation is also favourable to the US. Evidently since Bush’s “War on Terrorism” State of the Union Address of that same month, the US has been focusing increasingly on states and organisations with no connection at all to Al-Qaeda, spreading its tentacles and influence ever wider, and always on the pretext that this is part of the ’war on terror’ and blind to the fact that this is another conflict rooted in injustice and inequality.

The ‘People’s War’ in Nepal is ostensibly a war of liberation, but it is led by people inspired by Mao Tse Tung, only hopeful of establishing a system of state capitalism in an economically backward country, a system the US is obviously going to welcome with open arms. Though we are on the side of impoverished workers everywhere, this is quite simply another instance of a ‘revolutionary’ group attempting to lead the masses from capitalism and down the road to capitalism under a different name


Media Musings

Through the media, the working class is constantly exposed to a significant flow of mind-numbing dribble and mis-information. Important issues of the day are distorted, totally ignored or relegated to the margins of page eleven or broadcast as minor news items on the TV. Sensationalism is used to increase market shares and sell adverts, which thus brings in profits. In this latter regards newspapers can be said not to be a vehicle for telling us what we need to know but rather a means of exposing us to advertisers. The market for a newspaper is advertisers - other business out to make a profit - and the product us! It would be no bold assertion to say that the editor of a daily tabloid is far more interested in the number of advertisers he attracts than the news he reports – though the latter pulls in the former. Thus the never ending hunt by tabloid hacks for the latest sex scandal to feed a readership hungry for insignificant gossip and trivia, a readership consequently bare to hundreds of adverts a day.

It is easy to despair at endless streams of workers leaving their newsagents in the morning clutching the Sun or the Daily Star, knowing the news they will be reading during their lunch break will be that regarding the love life of a soap star, instead of a piece on US foreign policy or the situation in Israel. A recent issue of The Sun carried a full page photograph of David Beckham’s injured foot and readers were asked to put their hand on the foot at 12.00 midday and pray for its speedy recovery because the English football team were so dependent upon it. Reportedly many workers did just that in the belief that a concerted countrywide focus on the injury would miraculously heal it. If things were that easy, they could have printed a photo of the Queen Mum and asked for readers to place their hands on it and pray for her resurrection.
The fact that so many workers are prepared to buy such newspapers each day reveals how big the task facing socialists is. All these workers need a real education they will never receive via the press or TV. The capitalist are wonderfully aware of this - an uneducated working class is hardly going to pose a threat to their interests; the real threat comes from a class conscious majority, hungry for useful information, who don’t give a shit about how many hamsters Freddy Starr eats or how many women Jack-the-lad from Coronation street has bedded.
Everyday, British people are subject to the media for an estimated 4 hours a day, either via newspapers, radio or TV, so it is important for the master class that they can control and manipulate the media for their own ends. Major media corporations in Britain are enjoying a growing monopoly. Just five companies account for 85% of all newspaper sales, with Murdoch’s News Corporation controlling over 60% of newspaper circulation. As well as this it also has vast shares in Twentieth Century Fox, Harper Collins publishers, BskyB and StarTV, which covers most of Asia and the Middle East, numerous newspapers and TV stations in Australia, Stream in Italy and Sky Perfect TV in Japan – giving it access to the minds of almost two-thirds of the global population. AOLTimeWarner – the world’s largest media company – owns CNN, 40% of US cable TV, 50 record labels, countless magazines, as well as being the world’s largest Internet Service Provider.

Needless to say, such media corporations and the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing media mogul, have interests that conflict with those of the workers. Thus it is in their interests that news and important issues we should know about are distorted and kept from us, or presented to us in such a way that we end up with tunnel and distorted vision, unable to make informed decisions or engage in intelligent discussion. Thus, the media is very much a part of the doctrinal system, reinforcing the basic social values that ensures the survival of capitalism – passivity and submissiveness to authority, the virtue of greed and personal gain, lack of concern for others, fear of real or illusory enemies, a suspicion of anything outlandish or threatening to the status quo and national pride etc.

Because people are misinformed, they are oblivious as to the real nature of the system that exploits them. This further makes it easy for the media to confuse the workers by hiding real power from view. The result is – and this is intentional – they blame governments, their allegiance to political parties often switching overnight because of a newspaper’s slanted coverage of certain policies and social conditions. A newspaper like The Sun can make all the difference to a political party’s electoral chances – Hence Tony Blair’s visit to Australia to prostrate himself in front of Rupert Murdoch in 1997, fully aware that the Sun can run post election headlines such as “It was the Sun that won it” (which followed one Tory election victory)” The fact that it is the capitalist system that is seriously faltering, creating problems governments just can’t cope with (because it is the system controlling them, not vice versa) would be too dangerous to print or report.

With the arrival and popularity of the internet and the consequent boom in computer use, opportunities for access to real information are now at an unprecedented high, giving anyone interested a chance to find out for themselves the real story behind news that the media otherwise would have us believe is inconsequential. The ‘information revolution’ has placed a wonderful tool at the disposal of the working class. But a tool is only useful if used correctly. If we fail to use this tool to help us pursue our own class interests, then this ‘revolution’ becomes just so much mind-numbing entertainment the masses will get addicted to and which the ‘powers that be’ will eventually use to steer our thoughts away from the pressing matters of the day. Maybe there is more to Tony Blair’s plans to get a computer in every home by 2005 than we think! Would he really promote computer use if he thought the masses would be accessing informative websites in their spare time?


Death of the Queen Mum

‘We will never see her like again’, was just one of the much quoted sentiments that politicians, newspaper editors and royalists mouthed, parrot fashion, when the Queen Mother died at the end of March. Newspapers published tens of thousands of column inches to commemorate her ‘service’ to the British public and TV stations ran no end of documentaries about the royal family, convinced the nation was’ united in mourning’.

Socialists undoubtedly found the whole episode nauseating and were relieved when the official ten days of mourning were over. For one thing, more pressing news – for instance the crisis in the Middle East – was marginalized and there was no call for a minute’s silence for the 400,000 children under the age of five who died from hunger and related diseases during this period.

For ten days we were asked to close down our critical faculties and mourn the passing of someone who had lived 101 years and 238 days of uninterrupted luxury. Make no mistake about it; the Queen Mum was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, into a family that owned 3 luxurious homes at a time when 99% of the British public lived in various degrees of poverty. At her death she had 80 staff taking care of her in 5 residences – a fact not wasted on a friend of the present writer who works in a care home, where the average shift sees 10 carers and domestics looking after 42 elderly people in various stages of mental and physical deterioration. Mourning the Queen Mum

thus became a time when we were asked to forget the aged of our own class who have endured lives of misery, only to end up forgotten in care homes or on the corridors of hospitals. Was her life worth more than any one of these?

As could have been anticipated, no mention was made to aspects of the Queen Mum’s life that royalists would wish we would forget. For instance that she supported white minority rule in Rhodesia, that she called coloured people ‘nig nogs’, that she opposed immigration or that she had physically challenged relatives put into mental institutions, later telling the public they had died. Her residence in Scotland was situated in 25,000 acres of luscious Scottish countryside and was valued at £20 million. It cost £500.000 a year to run and she stayed there only six weeks a year. No mention of this little extravagance in the press.

And where was the mention about her being the guardian of the captured German war documents that summarised the Royal visit to Nazi Germany in 1937, of her influence with successive British governments to prevent these documents coming to public light? Sending a copy of Mein Kampf to a friend, she commented: “Even a skip through gives a good idea of his obvious sincerity.”

Instead we were treated to tales of the royal family’s visit’s to London during the Blitz – negligent of the return trips to Windsor and the evening meal of swan – and let in on endearing little family secrets such as the Queen Mum doing Ali G impressions.

It is estimated the Queen Mum was ‘worth’ £60 million, yet still managed to sponge of her relatives and receive £650,000 from the civil list, while being £4 million overdrawn. The crown that lay on top of her coffin was encrusted with 2,500 diamonds, any one of which could have given the average pensioner years of relative luxury.

What socialists did find saddening was the number of our class who felt moved to tears by the event, who stood for up to ten hours to file past her coffin, who stood with solemn expressions as she was carried to her final resting place. We are saddened that so many allowed themselves to be duped by the confidence trick of letting royal spectacles stir us to a near hysterical and unashamed jingoistic emotionalism which runs counter to our true class interests.

While groups like Movement Against the Monarchy boasted about celebrating two royal deaths in two months by ‘getting pissed’, socialists took a more considered view. The morning after The Queen Mum departed, we all woke up to find we were still sadly members of the working class, and we would wake up tomorrow to find the same if the entire house of Windsor shuffled off its collective mortal coil overnight! Though we would certainly not boo the abolition of the monarchy, we would hardly find much to celebrate. For we would simply exist in a republic as wage slaves, every aspect of our life still subordinated to the worst excesses of the profit system.
The sole purpose of this parasitical and unscrupulous family is to serve as a repository for ‘history’ and ‘tradition’ which together with that other stronghold of anti-working class mythology – religion – provides the glaring iniquities of capitalism with some form of moral authority.

Honestly considered, the contribution made to society by the Queen Mother and her greedy and incestuous clan is zilch. Each one is happy to consume in a day as much resources and commodities than a 100 members of the working class, indeed 10000 times as much as a small African village. Yet we are encouraged to bow with suppliant’s before this bunch of indifferent, self-seeking leaches like imbeciles, crying and sobbing at their misfortune, negligent of the immense global suffering of our own class?

If the injustices that plague our world were given one tenth the media coverage the Queen Mum’s funeral did, then the case for world socialism would have been well publicised and our ranks greatly swollen

In this golden jubilee year – in which we have twice been brow beaten with royal sentimentality by the media (the death of princess Margaret also) – isn’t it time we snapped out of our hypnotic vulnerability to such garbage and threw the whole sorry spectacle back in our masters’ teeth?