Saturday, April 25, 2009

Revolution Reports from Nepal - 2

With All Nepal Trade Union Federation General Secretary Ganesh Regmi (That's my gas mask hanging on my neck)

I want to say from the outset what kind of writing I am doing. This is essentially relationship building experiences being recounted in the manner of a first person witness. Things here are moving quickly all the time. I don't know much in advance who or under what circumstances I have an opportunity to talk to an important involved party. I write what happens in these conversations. Probably it has "color" value as a story, but more importantly it can lead to ongoing relationships. In time, deeper analysis of issues and proper recorded interviews preceded by careful research and questions preparation will be possible. Maybe my accounts are not on par with that level and type of reporting, but I think they are nonetheless interesting and give some insight into things as they happen on the ground. This action is by nature chaotic, quickly planned and executed. For example:

I had expressed to Puspa that if possible I would like to get his introduction to the YCL in addition to continuing to explore the situation and role of the unions. At best I have a very basic grasp of a number, not too extensive a number, of the many elements at play in this situation. I am not yet deeply grounded in what the unions and the YCL elements have been, are and may be to the revolution. To some extent I am sharing the learning process taking place on the stage itself. I had a couple of important new contacts on Thursday 23rd.

Having got the first post out in the early morning hours while the net traffic was low, I didn't check in with Puspa till about 10. Ben Peterson had called to say he was trying to set up a meet at 1:00 with a common Facebook friend who works in the Communications Ministry, Narendra Jung Pitar. Ben and I are going piggy-back on each others contacts and sharing what we are learning as we go. Puspa said a blood drive was occurring at the Union Federation offices and I could go with him there around noon. It would be a variety of leaders making appearances there no doubt including folks from the YCL. By the time I got things sorted out with Ben, delaying my meet with him and Pitar I missed my ride with Puspa.

Fighting a faulty cell phone connection (most often I could hear, he couldn't.. connections are spotty all the time at best) and a couple of lost taxi drivers, I made it across mid-day traffic madness to the blood-drive. It was held at the headquarters of the All Nepal Trade Union Federation.

Headquarters All Nepal Trade Union Federation

The blood drive at the ANTUF in front of offices of 30 Maobadi affiliated unions

I met several of my new friends here again after locating Puspa who was in line with his donor's blood pouch. I said I would not be able to contribute blood. When I was in the Vietnam war, I had contracted a form of hepatitis that precludes my being a blood donor. I spoke again briefly with CCM Prakash Shrestha who was there, and let him know to check my website as I had posted a description of our meeting a couple of days earlier. I sought out whether any YCL leaders were in attendance. I found out this way that there was a meeting of the YCL going on elsewhere but that there would be a demonstration march and rally later that afternoon where I might be able to meet YCL leader Ganesh Man Pun.

I approached security at the ANFTU to inquire if CCM Badri Prasad Bajgai was available. It may be recalled I met with him briefly at the Vaishali Hotel a couple of days ago. He is Vice-President of ANTUF Central Committee. As an aside, I have been trying to sort out the various designations such as Central, District and Area Committee Member. There is simply Party Member, PM; then in ascending responsibility DCM, ACM and CCM. This is a chain of command structure. The relationship between the Unions and the UCPN (M) is one of close affiliation rather than explicit control by the latter. The PM to CCM range is a Party structure but it is also a Union Organization structure - but it is not a mirror image.

For example, Puspa is a PM of UCPN (M) who has progressed through DCM to ACM responsibility. In the All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union however, he is at CCM level. This gets confusing because given individuals in the Unions may have membership designations lower than their Party designation or not even have official membership in the Party. I think it can be said that higher level Union designations are likely to be paired with some actual Party membership at a lower level.

Though Comrade Bajgai was unavailable I was nonetheless ushered upstairs and put in a chair. I was famished and was suggesting I could go find some food and come back when Ganesh Regmi, General Secretary of ANFTU arrived and promptly ordered I be served some soup. Here is a headline article published the same day with a provocative quote from Comrade Regmi:

Nepal: "We are ready to capture Nepal Army HQ" « Revolution in South Asia

"Katawal represents the remnants of the former past, to wipe him out we are ready to capture the Army Headquarters even", Ganesh Regmi General Secretary of the Maoists' affiliate Trade Union said.

My talk with Comrade Regmi began on a different note with a question of me by Ganesh Regmi:

GR: What is your religion?

SDM: I am an atheist which I say is profoundly spiritual.. how about you?

GR: I am a Brahmin.

SDM: You are of the Brahmin caste, a feature of Hindu society, but in what way religious? In my understanding the basic distinctions are non-duelist, qualified non-duelist and dualistic.

I actually used the Sanskrit for these concepts which lead to some smiles of surprise. A little conversation followed in which I explained that many in my generation during the late 60s and early 70s had either became politically radical hippies or they went deeply into Eastern spiritual traditions (I was of the later case, but now I have come full circle). I expressed the idea that revolution is a spiritual endeavor. About that time my soup arrived.

Comrade Regmi was of course busy. I asked about seeing him again when we could have a prepared interview. There was some discussion about my position and affiliations and I gave him the sketch of my mission with which a reader of these accounts should already be familiar. After the bit where I posit the opinion that the Maoists line follows that of Mao's concept of Democratic Centralism we had some clarifications of that briefly, during which I was unable to capture his words directly. The comrade is open to further discussion but he needed to leave. One last question:

SDM: Obviously the Unions present a militant stance in their close affiliation with the Maobadi. There could be a showdown with the NA. It is generally known the NA is better equipped and more powerful than the PLA, so this means union members and other non-PLA peoples would be involved in military resistance. It is axiomatic in revolutionary theory that the people need to be armed. Recently UMLs Oli has claimed to have evidence the Maobadi have secured arms with intention of a new uprising to take state power. I am asking: "Are the people in your unions ready to fight if necessary?"

R: It is our opinion that the people are ready.

This was all the time I had with Comrade Regmi. I think of it as a good beginning and a personal connection has been made. Its also all the time for this blog posting. Next time I will relate what happened at the YCL rally and with my meeting the YCL leadership.

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