Nepali Times
Moving Target
You owe me


The term 'Maoist Economic Policy' does not easily trip off the tongue. There is something ungainly or farcical about the phrase that suggests a lurking oxymoron (or some kind of moron). Is this a trick question, or maybe another joke about the shortest book in the world?

Considering such policies have the potential to make our lives miserable, the Hand finds it curious that few are well-versed in the subject. Since the comrades aren't volunteering any information and nobody's asking the right questions, perhaps history can lend some insight.

In Mao Zedong's China, all economic interests were seized and nationalised, property became theft, and even thinking about making an extra yuan or two on the side was tantamount to treason and a ticket for a one-way trip to the re-education camp.

Democratic Kampuchea, Cambodia's misnomer under the Maoist Khmer Rouge, abolished currency in its deluded goal of returning to a utopian, pre-capitalist 'golden age'. The borders were sealed, cities emptied, and economic activity arrested, as citizens of all ages were put to work in the rice fields. The purges and starvation resulting from Maoist Economics killed over 1.5 million Cambodians-a third of the population-in a Five Year Plan gone terribly wrong.

With such sobering precedents, one wonders what to expect from our Maoists. Despite their claim-and our burning desire to believe it-that they are 'different' from previous communists, students of history will find their methodology eerily familiar. In the districts, a form of nationalisation has already taken place, with land owners murdered or forced to flee and their holdings seized by the Party.

Currency has clearly not been abolished (only cash, please, if you're extorted), but the gun has replaced banknotes as the more common medium of exchange.

Relations between the CPN (Maoist) and commerce have been defined by extortion under threat, strikes and forced closures. The Party has poisoned relations further by forcibly placing its cadre as union leaders in all kinds of businesses. To gain worker support, Maoist-affiliated unions adopt a 'more radical than thou' approach featuring escalating demands and aggressive confrontation with management. Most companies have been forced to hire loyal underlings who spy on the commercial activities and report back to their Party bosses. The workers set their own wages and, if positions are unavailable, company owners must nonetheless pay salaries.

Maoist relations with the business community appear to be governed by jealousy and revenge, echoing the Khmer Rouge hatred of bourgeois city dwellers. Despite the collapsing economy due to their war, the ideologues imagine huge profits are constantly accumulated at the workers' expense.

When extortion is termed 'voluntary donation' on Maoist Party receipts, we can assume reality and truth play minimal roles in their economic strategy.

(Incidentally, the Party has stopped issuing proof of payment now that they have promised to stop doing what they continue to do.) The explicit clause in the recent Peace Agreement stating that commercial activity is free to function without harassment and arbitrary 'taxes' has not changed the parasitical attitude to extracting 'donations'. The proviso allowing displaced persons to re-occupy their property and homes is ignored by district commanders, while Deb Gurung, central politburo member and Maoist 'financial advisor', recently declared that much of the seized land would never be returned. The xenophobia so typical of Mao Zedong's China and Pol Pot's Kampuchea manifests itself in threats and agitations directed against Indian companies, despite declarations by Maoist luminaries that foreign investment is welcome.

The business community of Nepal, barely hanging on as it is, desperately hopes for a peace dividend. God knows they deserve it, but whether the gods are still paying attention remains to be seen. Should the Maoists wrest control of the Finance Ministry in the scuffle for interim government posts, the governing slogan of the New Nepal could be 'You Owe Me', and Maoist Economic Policy will be an oxymoron with a future.. Jai Nepal.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)