Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

April 22, 2006

Revolutions in Nepal and Venezuela?

For a decade or so, the media has been talking about new color and flower revolutions with colorful revolutionaries like "orange" ones in Ukraine. But, after so many sponsored, colored and sanitized revolutions, as additions in the market of "a series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, politics without politics the other deprived of its otherness", once again we are witnessing pure-and-simple revolutions and revolutionaries, in Latin America and Asia (and of course, there are many in the streets of Paris, and among the immigrants in the US, too). Nepal and Venezuela are two hot centers of pure-and-simple revolutions.

The parallel between the Nepalese and the Venezuelan movements that I draw rests upon some of their basic commonalities. There might be people for whom such comparisons would be outrageous--how can one compare the sophisticated experiments in Latin America with a violent and uncompromising movement of Nepal? Although it is not my purpose here to make the Nepalese movement palatable, but this parallel allows me to expose some of its basic facets.

Broadly, I attempt to understand the Nepalese experience as part of the global struggle for democracy, self-determination and socialism. As I see, both the Maoist movement in Nepal and the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela (along with other Latin American movements), evolve as continuous critiques of capitalism and its political forms, especially formal bourgeois democracy, from the perspective of the downtrodden classes and communities in the respective countries. The element of negativity defines the basic unity between them.

In the Americas, there are many "sui generis" laboratories of revolution, where people in their daily practice of "humanist and cooperative logic" transform themselves colliding at every step "with the capitalist logic of profit" and their own exploited existence. In this daily experience they find their own power and political expression. "Rather than putting the Venezuelan people asleep in order to enslave by making the act of voting 'into the beginning and end of democracy,' Chávez wrote in 1993 that 'sovereign people must transform itself into the object and the subject of power. This option is not negotiable for revolutionaries.'"

On the other side of the global south, who understands better than the Nepalese, the farce of voting as "the beginning and end of democracy"? They also know the various ways in which this farce could be enacted. Each time their grassroots consciousness become a decisive challenge to the status quo, a newer version of this farce has been enacted in Nepal to distract them, co-opt a few representatives, de-popularize policy-making and dissipate whatever energy is left in the streets.

Even the day, which is celebrated as the "Democracy Day", was the day when Indians re-instated the Shah Dynasty on the throne with an arrangement with the Nepali Congress to preempt the radicalization of the uprising in the countryside. Eight years after that, when the unrest on the unfulfilled promises seemed simmering again, elections were held in 1959. B.P. Koirala won on the plank of providing 'land to the tiller'. But in December 1960, King Mahendra banned all parties for dividing the country and found, on the basis of researches probably done in the US' universities, that the parliamentary system, being a foreign creation, was not much in "step with the history and traditions of the country". The homegrown panchayat 'democracy' institutionalized the indigenous Hindu hierarchy as a political system with the King on its top as the reincarnation of Vishnu. Destroying commons, unprecedented commercialization, uprooting the people and growing unemployment radicalized the youth and forced the rural poor to self-organize in the 1970s; and the political elite--the royalty, with the democrats' assent--needed to stage another 'democratic' farce--a referendum on the panchayat system, with far more ballots than registered votes. Finally, right at the time when global imperialism was full of expectations for its hegemonic stability in the late 1980s with the crumbling of East Europe, a new compromise in Nepal was reached in 1990 to preempt the organized revolutionary tide that seemed certain.

From CounterPunch.

Berlusconi is still..Berlusconi

"At this stage it's become his decision. It's become a matter of institutional etiquette. If he makes it, he makes it. If however he doesn't, the institutions have their powers, democracy goes ahead": with these words the Union leader Romano Prodi, arriving at Santi Apostoli, responded to journalists in connection with the fact that Silvio Berlusconi, despite the definite announcement made by the Supreme Court on the centre left's victory, had not yet admitted defeat and telephoned him to recognise his victory, Prodi said that the missing phone call from Berlusconi "is a pity, because these traditions and customs strengthen the democratic system, they're not indispensable but - Prodi concluded - give a sense of style".

Democracy and the King in Nepal

At times diplomacy at local level does work. King Gyanendra of Nepal seems to be finally bowing to international/domestic pressure to restore democracy in his picturesque mountain country, home to the legendary Mt Everest, and trekkers' paradise, now stricken with Maoist rebellion and pro-democracy bloody agitations.

Indeed, prior to the king's television appearance, US Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty warned that Gyanendra could be forced to abdicate in the next few days were he to refuse to step down.

"His time is running out," the Moriarty told reporters. "Ultimately the king will have to leave if he doesn't compromise. And by 'ultimately' I mean sooner rather than later."

The Friday compromise offered by the Nepali king may end up being enough. "With the help of elections," Gyanendra said, "we want to revitalize the electoral bodies according to the 1990 constitution of the kingdom of Nepal. We invite the political parties to forward the name of a prime ministry candidate as soon as they can."

More here.

April 07, 2006

Turkey vows to fight Kurds

Turkey's leaders promised a tough fight against Kurdish militants but said Thursday that would not mean backtracking on reforms critical to their bid to join the European Union.

Hours later the European Commission demanded an investigation into ongoing violence that has left 16 dead after a week of the worst street clashes in decades. Two EU legislators accused Turkey of breaking international law by using pistol fire to disperse pro-Kurdish demonstrators.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul vowed Thursday that Turkey was determined to fight rebels without sacrificing democratic reforms.

He promised a "sharper struggle against terrorism" but said: "Turkey's democratic standards will increase and strengthen; there will be no question of going back from democratic steps taken."

Kurds have said the government response to the demonstrations has been excessive and failed to deal with the roots of the problem.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the problems in Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast would be solved through democracy, but he has refused to meet with the leading pro-Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party.

Kurdish politicians say that Erdogan's government met with leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian group that is on many countries' lists of terrorist organizations, and should be willing to meet with the pro-Kurdish party, which swept local elections in much of the southeast.

A court in southeast Turkey on Thursday ordered the arrests of four Kurdish politicians from the Democratic Society Party suspected of taking part in the funerals of 14 Kurdish rebels last week. The funerals were the spark for the riots.

The arrests came amid continued violence across the country. A Kurdish militant group on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the bombing of an Istanbul office of Erdogan's party that wounded two party workers. Separately, officials in the southeast on Wednesday reported the deaths of six more security officers.

The Democratic Society Party called in a statement for greater cultural and linguistic rights for Kurds, as well as a general amnesty for the rebels.

The government often accuses the Democratic Society Party of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, the banned rebel group considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The fight with the autonomy-seeking PKK has left some 37,000 dead in Turkey since the group took up arms in 1984.

A violent offshoot of the PKK, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, has promised more bombings in response to the unrest and has claimed responsibility for two bombings since Friday.

More here.

April 01, 2006

Defend Peruvian Democracy

Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala asserted he fostered the democracy of his nation because people are irritated with the policies of traditional parties, which only take them into account in times of elections.

In a news conference Friday, Humala, candidate for the Union por el Peru Party (UPP), and currently leading intention of votes, said those spearheading criticism and attacks against him are afraid of the elimination of their privileges by a possible UPP government.

However, people are exasperated with the corruption and social injustice previous administrations have pushed them into, Humala pointed out.

The candidate said Peruvians wanted and needed profound changes because explosive situations similar to those in Bolivia and Ecuador would be created in the near future if the nation is unable to implement a serious policy in education and health.

He condemned homophobia and made it clear all people committed to work and with moral principles, irrespective of their sexual leanings, can participate in his governmental project.

My policy is neither inclined to the left nor to the right, but to the grassroots, near people, to fight for their rights, said Humala.