Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nepal : Maoist Strike in Kathmandu Valley : The Provenance of 'Boycott' a letter to Republica by Peter Tobin

Democracy and Class Struggle
are pleased to publish report on Maoist Strike in Kathmandu Valley has part of CPN Maoist boycott strategy for upcoming Elections from our comrade Peter Tobin.
Friends, Comrades,
Below is letter from me published in today's Republica - a Nepalese national daily.  I sent it to coincide with today's Maoist strike (bhanda) in Katmandu and Valley area as part of the boycott strategy. The shutdown was complete and thousands of young Maobaadi manned the picket-lines.

The photos above show the normally busy ring road deserted and others show it being enforced in a small town in the hills (even the children joined in and I too was invited to hold a red flag on the line.

The first picture at top is from today's paper showing a march and rally yesterday in Kavre - a town outside Kmandu.

The fouth photo shows me with cde Prankanda (Khadka Bahadur Bishwakarma) one of the leading proponents of a militant boycott and a successful PW battlefield commissar -who has stated:

"We sustained a People's War - a boycott will not be difficult." 

Lal salaam,

To the Editor,

As an Irish visitor to your country I have noted with interest the 'boycott' campaign against the election scheduled for November. If you forget the confusing names of the many and various parties involved, from what I have gathered, it is a straightforward battle between the forces of the left against those of the right to do one as opposed to the other.

However, my reason for writing is to offer some background to the provenance of the word itself
It is rooted in Irish history and arose during the course of a struggle for the land against colonial, feudal landlords - who at time during the 19th century had achieved almost complete rural hegemony with the mass of the peasantry existing either as tied labour to their big estates, wrack-rented or itinerant, homeless and generally suffering terrible immiseration.

One response - as in Nepal - was mass emigration searching for work and survival; the other was to stay and fight this unjust system. The latter led the militant Irish nationalist organisation - the Fenians - to organise a Land League,  in 1889, and launch a Land War with the principal slogan:

"Land to the Tiller!" 

All wars see battles and the following year - 1880 -  saw one of the first and the biggest of this campaign when the land agent/manager for Lord Eme - an 'absentee landlord' with a huge estate in County Mayo refused to lower rents following a period of severe agricultural depression, exacerbated by its Irish corollary - famine. (As in the Bengal famine of 1943 - the British often used famine in Ireland as a means of social and political control.)

The agent was from the British military caste, (as an aside; it is worth noting  that the feudal caste-system - which was on the decline in the face of an emerging fully capitalist class-system - is very similar to the one that tacitly exists in Nepal now.) The response of the League - with the enthusiastic participation of local people - was to isolate him completely from the surrounding community. Nobody would speak to him, no shopkeeper would serve him, no blacksmith would shoe his horse &c. And what was really decisive was that nobody would work for him, his produce rotted in the fields - unharvested. Despite his desperate efforts to pay over and above the going rate the people stood firm and eventually defeat led him to flee the country.

The agent was Boycott - Captain Boycott - and because of these events his name has passed into history. He was a particularly egregious example of an oppressive system which within twenty-five years finished with victory to the Irish peasantry when under the 1906 Wyndmondham Land Acts they took ownership of the soil of Ireland.

This victory emboldened the national movement against all forms of colonial occupation and the subsequent War of Independence -1916-21 - began our march towards a Republic. 

In my opinion - although as an historian I am always open to discussion - the questions relating to the land remain unresolved in Nepal with feudalism still a pervading mode with the attendant bonded labour and oppressed landless minorities. (e.g.I am told that even your appointed Prime Minister - Mr. Regmi - is a feudal landowner?)

And with my Irish rebel heart I can see the logic of a left-wing boycott of a soi disant election that really seems designed to ratify the existing system not just of rural injustice and inefficiency but of all  manifest forms of oppression, discrimination and exploitation that obtain in Nepalese society. (and indeed many societies in SE Asia.)

Therefore, through this historical link  I feel a great empathy with the Nepalese people in the present situation and  hope that by this medium they do not object to my sharing information and opinion.


No comments: